For the first time in contemporary campaign history, the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates have responded to direct questions from AOPA regarding their support of general aviation.
Vice President Al Gore and Texas Governor George W. Bush answered specific questions ranging from user fees to their use of GA aircraft.
"Who we elect to the White House and Congress will have a deep impact on general aviation for years to come," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "The responses from Governor Bush and Vice President Gore give us some insight into who is more likely to protect your right to fly. But as is always the case with politics, you have to 'read between the lines' of their answers."
Vice President Gore said the most important thing he has done for general aviation was his support for product liability reform. He urged President Clinton to sign the General Aviation Revitalization Act.
In response to a question about continued funding for the FAA from the general fund (to pay for government and military use of the air traffic control system), Gore said that Congress had not provided guaranteed funding for FAA operations, and that "in order to adequately fund the safe and efficient operation of the nation's air traffic control system, the FAA will be forced to compete for scarce discretionary resources."
Gore said that he would work with Congress "to define funding mechanisms that would ensure the FAA has the resources" to fund the air transportation system in America.
Gore said that he was opposed to privatizing the air traffic control system, but that he supported efforts to "identify cost-based charges on commercial airlines." He said he would not advocate extending cost-based charges to general aviation.
Governor Bush said, "Air safety regulation is a responsibility of the federal government and should be paid for out of general fund revenues. The federal government should also pay for the use of air traffic services by military and civil-government aircraft."
Bush said that the current fuel tax "assesses equitable charges to general aviation users," and that the passenger ticket tax is an "efficient way for commercial aviation passengers to pay for their use of the system."
Noting the important safety information provided by FAA flight service stations (FSS), Bush said those services should continue to be provided at no charge to pilots. "In no way should the system be made unaffordable for the hundreds of thousands of private pilots in America," said Bush.
As both a businessman and politician, Bush said that he has made extensive use of GA to visit cities not served by commercial airlines. He also noted his strong support for general aviation airports, saying that state funding for Texas airports had increased by 500 percent during his term in office.
Meanwhile, both candidates stated that they support the historic efforts put forth in the AIR-21 legislation passed by Congress earlier this year. Both feel that this step, and its provision to increase the size of the Airport Improvement Program to help build more runways, will go a long way toward improving the current state of the airport and airway system.
The full responses from both candidates, along with profiles of selected U.S. senators and representatives who are strong supporters of general aviation, are in the October issue of AOPA Pilot and on AOPA Online. A comprehensive list of lawmakers who are "GA friendly" is also available on the AOPA Web site.
The 360,000-member Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association is the world's largest civil aviation organization. More than one half of the nation's pilots are AOPA members.
September 25, 2000