AOPA President Phil Boyer
and Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.)
June 2, 2004 - The leader of the Democratic Party in the U.S. Senate, Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), joined AOPA President Phil Boyer in the cockpit this week. During a three-hour flight, the two discussed a wide range of issues important to general aviation pilots, such as privatization of the air traffic control system, post-9/11 security restrictions like the Baltimore-Washington Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) and the "rolling" TFRs (temporary flight restrictions) that cover Presidential campaign swings, and GA's own efforts to make local airports more secure.
"Senator Daschle is a longtime GA pilot and AOPA member," said Boyer. "He truly understands the impact of government actions and regulations from a pilot's perspective and pledged to assist the association as we develop agreed-upon legislative remedies."
Daschle has been a vocal opponent of efforts to privatize air traffic control. During their flight, Boyer outlined the renewed interest in learning to fly, with a two-percent increase in student pilots from 2002 to 2003. The increase is all the more dramatic because many foreign pilots have been unable to take flight training in the United States since 9/11.
Daschle expressed interest in the delivery of new GA piston airplanes and was pleased to learn 2004 continues to match the successes of the previous year. Using the panel in AOPA's plane, Boyer demonstrated the on-board datalink, explained AOPA's position on ADS-B (automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast), and showed the enhanced situational awareness now available for lightplanes.
The two discussed AOPA's efforts to keep pilots informed of constantly shifting TFRs that have become part of the "new normal" since the September 11 terrorist attacks. Boyer noted that the association has sent literally millions of e-mail airspace alerts to pilots affected by security-related TFRs since the attacks. In addition he described AOPA Online's depiction of "anticipated" Presidential movements and the Real-Time Flight Planner developed with Jeppesen to assist pilots with planning around constantly changing airspace restrictions.
The two discussed the government enforcement actions against innocent pilots with inadvertent airspace violations and the tremendous work load it was placing on controllers and the FAA enforcement staff. During the heavy IFR portion of the flight into Washington's Dulles airport, Daschle heard firsthand the busy air traffic controllers working IFR airline traffic and trying to handle lower level ADIZ clearances.
He also explained general aviation's own efforts to enhance security at GA airports. Recommendations from a GA working group convened by the Transportation Security Administration form the heart of TSA guidelines for GA airport security. AOPA's Airport Watch and the toll-free nationwide hotline that TSA set up in support of the program are an integral part of those recommendations.
Boyer asked Daschle to press the FAA for the report it is required by law to file with Congress on whether there is a continuing need for the Baltimore-Washington ADIZ - now nearly five months overdue. He told the senator that AOPA has tried to do its part, developing an online course to help pilots understand how to operate in and near the ADIZ. The two also discussed the AOPA Air Safety Foundation's Know Before You Go online airspace course and other free online offerings. Daschle said he had taken, enjoyed, and learned from several. He said he'd also attended a live ASF safety seminar early in his flying career and found it very informative.
Daschle joined Boyer on a flight from Aberdeen, S.D., where the senator had been to vote in both a special election to fill a vacant congressional seat and a primary to fill the seat permanently in November, to the nation's capital. Daschle's reelection campaign reimbursed AOPA for the flight in accordance with federal election law.
"Having the undivided attention of the de facto leader of the Democratic Party to discuss important aviation issues was a real benefit for our members and for GA," said Boyer. "Having the discussion while doing something we both love to do was icing on the cake."