The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association has named Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi, the majority leader of the U.S. Senate, as this year's winner of the Hartranft Award recognizing the government official who made the greatest contribution this year to the cause of general aviation.
"The most significant issue in Washington this year was passage of landmark AIR-21 legislation reauthorizing FAA programs and reviewing treatment of airspace users' contributions to the aviation trust fund," said AOPA President Phil Boyer.
"When the AIR-21 process stalled in late 1999, Senator Lott shouldered the challenge, pulled the conferees together, and addressed concerns regarding the legislation in the Senate. AIR-21 succeeded in committee, and in the Senate, because of Trent Lott's leadership."
A major provision of the AIR-21 FAA reauthorization bill was resolution of longstanding issues over treatment of $6 billion a year in airspace users' taxes feeding the Airport and Airway Trust Fund. The fund finances new air traffic control equipment and airport safety and capacity improvements.
Despite being funded by an independent source of revenue, not "April 15th" taxes, FAA modernization and airport improvement projects remained subject to the competition for funding among all federal spending.
A second major issue was the withdrawal of general taxpayer funding for the portion of the FAA operating budget associated with government and military use of air traffic control and for the general public benefit of the system.
The consensus that allowed AIR-21 to win conferee and Senate approval involved language assuring that full use of the aviation trust fund would not be impeded under the federal unified budget process. As a result, spending for airport improvement grants from the aviation trust fund immediately increased to over $3 billion a year.
Moreover, the general taxpayer contribution to the FAA's operations budget remained the law of the land. "The passage of AIR-21 dramatized that money is not the FAA's problem," said AOPA President Boyer. "Airline passengers and general aviation aircraft owners and operators have poured billions of dollars in special taxes into the trust fund.
"The challenge was for Congress and the administration to use it honestly. AIR-21 accomplishes this task."
Senator Lott is the sixteenth Senate majority leader and the first Mississippian ever to hold the Senate's top leadership post. The senator entered Congress after his 1972 election to the U.S House of Representatives. He was elected to the Senate in 1988 and reelected to a second term in 1994. He became majority leader in 1996.
His election campaign this year precludes his attendance at AOPA Expo 2000. His Hartranft Award acceptance speech will be presented to the Sunday, October 22, Expo closing banquet via videotape.
The AOPA award for government service and attention to the needs of general aviation honors AOPA's "sixth founder" and longtime president, Doc Hartranft.
Involved in early groundwork in 1938 to create an effective, national pilots' association, Hartranft was AOPA's first employee upon its founding in 1939. He retired in 1977 and is enjoying retirement in Maine.
The AOPA Hartranft Award is one of the pilots association's two highest awards of the year. As with the annual AOPA Sharples Award, the honoree is selected by vote of the AOPA Board of Trustees.
October 22, 2000