Jan. 15, 2004 - The FAA is still refusing to talk face-to-face with the people it's going to put out of business. The agency has extended the comment period on its proposed charity/sightseeing rule, as AOPA had demanded. But the agency won't hold public hearings. Instead, it plans to hold online "virtual" meetings.
"Before you sentence a person to death, you should personally look him in the eye and tell him why," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "By FAA's own admission, this rule would put some 700 people out of business, most of them small businesses who have found a way to make a little money by sharing their passion for aviation."
"These folks deserve a hearing, even if we have to ask Congress to do it," Boyer said.
The FAA claims the people affected by the proposed rule are so widespread that holding a real meeting in a physical location would deny most the ability to comment. That's why the agency wants meetings on the Internet, with people typing their comments in real time.
"But in fact, most of these Part 91 operators who conduct sightseeing flights are concentrated in good-weather or tourist areas," said Boyer. "FAA says it's a customer-oriented organization, but its refusal to actually talk with its customers sends the message that small general aviation operators don't matter."
Earlier this week, AOPA again asked the FAA to extend the comment period for an additional 90 days and reiterated the request for face-to-face public meetings. Representatives Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Sam Graves (R-Mo.), and Ginny Brown-Waite (R-Fla.) have each written to FAA Administrator Marion Blakey, supporting AOPA's request urging the agency to hold public meetings so it can better understand the impact of the proposal.
"We'll ask some of general aviation's friends in Congress, like Rep. Don Young of Alaska, the chairman of the House Transportation Committee, and Rep. John Mica of Florida, chairman of the aviation subcommittee, to hold hearings if the FAA won't," said Boyer. "They'll certainly understand the impact this rule would have on the lives and livelihoods of GA pilots."
AOPA contends that these small operators provide a valuable community service. Sightseeing rides provided at local airports promote tourism and boost local economies. These same operators serve as ambassadors between the general aviation community and the general public promoting goodwill between these often opposing groups.
"It is especially important now in these times of growing security concerns and anti-airport sentiment that groups promoting general aviation to the general public be supported instead of regulated out of business," said Boyer.
Pilots who conduct charity flights or sightseeing rides should contact the FAA and demand public meetings. You can do so by submitting your comments to the Department of Transportation's Docket Management System and entering docket number 4521.