Jan. 26, 2004 - A member of the U.S. House of Representatives Republican leadership and House Aviation subcommittee has joined AOPA's call for public meetings on a sightseeing and charity flight rule change. That proposal would prevent many AOPA members from conducting flights for charity and put many small sightseeing operations out of business. Assistant Majority Whip Stevan Pearce (R-N.M.) told FAA Administrator Marion Blakey that he is "concerned" that the agency has "failed to consider the true impact" of its rule change.
The proposed new rule would require any pilot to have at least 500 hours total time to conduct charity fundraising flights, and it would require Part 91 sightseeing operators to convert to the more stringent Part 135 operations.
Pearce was especially concerned with the sightseeing provisions. "Rural tourism contributes largely to New Mexico's economy," he wrote. "The vitality of New Mexico's rural tourism industry depends heavily on the aviation sightseeing industry."
He continued, "As a licensed general aviation pilot, I have a keen understanding of the potential adverse impact of this proposed rulemaking on thousands of general aviation pilots and businesses. As a United States Congressman representing many of these pilots and businesses, I urge you to ensure that the proposed rule and its impact are thoroughly evaluated through a series of public meetings."
"The FAA has extended the comment period on this NPRM," said AOPA Senior Vice President of Government and Technical Affairs Andy Cebula. "But they will only commit to holding a 'virtual' meeting online with pilots. Such a meeting might be acceptable in addition to live, face-to-face meetings, but by itself does nothing to make the FAA understand the true impact of its decision. Representative Pearce's letter helps drive that message home to the agency."