Apr. 6, 2004 - AOPA President Phil Boyer has been pressing the concerns of pilots on user fees, airport security, and airports with key members of Congress during a series of meetings over the past week. Legislators are working on the federal budget for fiscal year 2005 and the associated policies.
Most recently, Boyer met with Senate Assistant Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the second ranking Democrat in the U.S. Senate and a member of the Senate transportation appropriations subcommittee. Boyer stressed the importance of protecting the core functions of the FAA's ATC system from privatization and the creation of a user fee-funded system for general aviation.
"Preventing user fees remains a core issue for AOPA members across the country," said Boyer. "AOPA's members see privatizing ATC as the first step towards a costly user fee system that could severely restrict the accessibility of flying for general aviation pilots."
Boyer also met with Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), the most senior Democrat on the House aviation subcommittee, raising similar concerns. Boyer was joined by Jon Hixson, vice president of Legislative Affairs and head of AOPA's Washington, D.C., office. The meeting served as a follow-up to a March House aviation subcommittee hearing led by Rep. DeFazio and aviation subcommittee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.). That hearing focused on reopening Washington, D.C.'s Reagan National Airport (DCA) to general aviation and eliminating the Baltimore-Washington Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ).
Boyer and DeFazio also talked about protecting local airports. Specifically, they discussed a plan at Eugene, Oregon's Mahlon Sweet Field that calls for closing the crosswind runway. GA pilots who operate there are strongly opposed to the plan, saying it will have a significant negative impact on safety there. Boyer's meeting with DeFazio followed a local meeting earlier last week in which AOPA Regional Representative Mike Ferguson met with local pilots and local and state officials.
"We want to ensure that general aviation is not saddled with user fees, overzealous security initiatives, or initiatives that adversely affect local airports," explained Boyer. "When we go to the Hill, we do so as the representatives of more than 400,000 members, and that gives what we say added weight."