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Congressmen talk GA at OshkoshCongressmen talk GA at Oshkosh

AOPA President Phil Boyer (right)

Several members of the House aviation subcommittee, led by Chairman Jerry Costello (D-Ill.), attended AirVenture on July 28 to hear from pilots and update them on key issues in Washington affecting general aviation, including the status of the FAA reauthorization bill, security issues, and fuel prices.

“Every day, we hope the Senate will come together and pass (an FAA reauthorization) bill,” said Costello in his opening remarks, noting that until the Senate acts, no bill can move forward.

He predicted that there would be a continuation of current funding extensions into the foreseeable future, but Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.) echoed the need for a bill. “I’m very determined to do what I can to get an FAA reauthorization bill passed,” Ehlers said.

Ranking Member Tom Petri (R-Wis.), whose district includes the Oshkosh area, emphasized the need to get the next generation (NextGen) air traffic control system on track. “We’ve got to get this right and get it moving so that the support industry in general aviation can keep its leadership,” he said.

Petri also underscored that the subcommittee is working together across party lines to help modernize the nation’s air transportation system.

Throughout the session, AOPA’s leadership in representing general aviation’s interests in Congress was enthusiastically recognized. “Organizations you belong to are vitally important,” Sam Graves (R-Mo.) told the audience. “These folks represent you and they represent you well.”

Rep. Robin Hayes (left)

Of AOPA and President Phil Boyer, North Carolina Republican and experienced pilot and aircraft owner Robin Hayes noted, “None are more respected; none are more knowledgeable.”

Representative Ehlers, a student pilot flying out of a small airport in Michigan, expressed bewilderment at that the government’s concern with general aviation security, especially at smaller fields.

“I’ve never seen the justification for the (security) requirements for small airports,” Ehlers said. “We need to use some common sense and some reason.”

The need for common sense was a recurring theme, particularly when the rising cost of fuel was discussed. “We’re as concerned as you are,” said Costello, acknowledging the frustration many members are feeling.

Resolving the problem through common-sense approaches, including expansion of production and looking at all alternative energy methods, were advocated by all the members at the session.

But it was Graves, a private pilot who owns a Piper Cub, who had the quip of the day, noting that when it comes to common sense, “Washington, D.C., is 17 square miles of logic-free environment.”

AOPA Communications staff

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