May 11, 2004 - From the day the notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) was first published, AOPA has fought the charity/sightseeing rule because it harms both general aviation businesses and charities. And to make sure that members of Congress and regulators understood the impact the rule would have on real people, AOPA produced a special videotape profiling a husband and wife whose livelihood is threatened by the proposed rule.
"When the NPRM first came out, some of our friends in the aviation community wondered why AOPA was getting so upset - until they looked more closely," said AOPA Senior Vice President of Government and Technical Affairs Andy Cebula. "They realized that it wouldn't be just 'small-time operators' who would be hurt. It would hit people whose only income is from offering sightseeing rides in vintage planes. And it would hit charities."
In its own proposal, the FAA acknowledged that it would be driving nearly 700 businesses out of business. But AOPA did its own survey and found that the government had grossly underestimated the impact - nearly double that number would have to shutter their businesses if the rule went into effect.
AOPA began pressuring the FAA to listen to the pilots and hear the kinds of comments AOPA was getting. But for months, the FAA refused, instead opting to hold a "virtual" public meeting, which was really nothing more than a glorified Internet chat room in which pilots could vent their frustration and the FAA might or might not respond.
After the Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy, relying heavily on AOPA's survey data as well as its own research, issued a scathing report urging the NPRM be withdrawn, the FAA finally consented to hold two public meetings, the first of which was held on Tuesday, May 11, 2004.
"The FAA's insistence on pushing this rule through is puzzling," said Cebula. "The safety data just does not support it or justify the harm it would do to the industry. AOPA has fought hard against this rule's implementation and will continue to do so until the FAA finally sees the light and pulls it."