The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association is taking action against legislation that could limit government provision of basic weather information to pilots.
A section of the National Weather Service Reauthorization Act ( H.R.1553) states that "NWS shall not provide or assist other entities to provide a service if that service is currently provided or can be provided by commercial enterprises."
In personal letters to House and Senate committee members who will shape the final bill in conference, AOPA President Phil Boyer protested Section 3(c)(2) of the House bill saying, "If enacted, this section could result in the privatization of basic weather services and products used by the public and paid for through general tax revenue."
Boyer told legislators that the section "could create gaps in weather data dissemination that would pose serious safety concerns for general aviation pilots."
The Senate has not yet passed its version of a National Weather Service reauthorization bill. At last report, the Senate bill did not contain the service restriction. When the Senate bill passes, a Senate-House conference committee will work out a final version. With Congress hastening to finish up urgent business and hit the campaign trail, that action is expected soon.
Boyer pointed out to committee members that, "because 40 percent of all aviation accidents are weather-related, nothing is more important to a general aviation pilot than preflight and in-flight weather forecasts and warnings...."
He reminded lawmakers that, because the private vendors who market enhanced weather products use NWS data, denial of NWS source data could result in loss of safety and NWS oversight.
"Aviation weather is a niche market," Boyer concluded. "Private vendors have the right to discontinue service to a small or unprofitable market segment. A gap in general aviation weather service could result."
The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, based outside Washington, D.C., represents more than 360,000 pilots who own or fly three quarters of the nation's 206,000 general aviation aircraft. General aviation aircraft comprise 96 percent of the total U.S. civilian air fleet.
September 12, 2000