The nation’s vote to elect Sen. Barack Obama as the forty-fourth president of the United States made history.
“AOPA congratulates Senator Obama on this historic victory,” said AOPA President Phil Boyer. “We’ve already begun putting our top general aviation issues in front of Obama, starting with the presidential candidate questionnaire that we sent earlier this fall.”
AOPA brought issues such as FAA funding, aviation safety, air traffic control modernization, and GA security to the forefront during the campaign season because Obama will be picking new leadership for the Department of Transportation and Department of Homeland Security. Both departments have a direct influence on GA.
Obama also will play a key role in selecting the next FAA administrator. Bobby Sturgell has served as acting administrator since Marion Blakey completed her five-year term in September 2007. Obama’s nominee will have to be confirmed by Congress.
“AOPA has started identifying who might comprise the Obama team, and we’ve been making them aware of issues important to our members,” Boyer said.
Regarding user fees, Obama has not explicitly dismissed the possibility of future charges. “I believe we must continue to use an appropriate mixture of reasonable taxes and fees to fund the FAA,” Obama wrote in response to AOPA’s presidential candidate questionnaire.
While it is not known whether the new administration will push for user fees as heavily as the Bush administration did, it is certain that AOPA and the general aviation community will be competing for limited federal funds in the wake of a huge federal deficit.
Some of that funding is needed for ATC modernization, and Obama’s administration will play a critical role in that process. He told AOPA, “I am firmly opposed to privatizing the air traffic control system, and I believe that air traffic control is a government function.”
Obama applauded pilots’ voluntary use of AOPA’s Airport Watch program to enhance GA security.
“I believe that our country must continue to be vigilant in strengthening our homeland security, and I applaud the efforts of general aviation users to ensure that our airports and skies remain safe through efforts such as Airport Watch,” Obama wrote. “As president, I will work with the general aviation community to ensure that security regulations are implemented in partnership with aircraft users and that we do not implement one-size-fits-all policies that undermine the strength of the general aviation industry.”
“It’s a positive sign that Obama recognizes the value of Airport Watch and pilots’ efforts to keep the skies safe,” said Boyer. “But AOPA won’t let its guard down. We will oppose any proposed security action from the administration that could unfairly restrict general aviation or create an undue burden for pilots.”
AOPA will continue to advocate on behalf of its 415,000 members and establish and strengthen relationships as the Obama team is announced.