AOPA Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Jim Coon participated in a panel discussion about general aviation with other industry representatives and members of the House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies on May 2.
The panel discussion in Washington, D.C., was moderated by subcommittee Chairman Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.). The session was intended to help subcommittee members understand GA’s needs when setting priorities for fiscal year 2018.
AOPA members have not expressed concerns about the air traffic control system, he said, noting that the system works well for GA despite calls from other segments of aviation for an ATC privatization effort.
AOPA does not believe the FAA has a funding problem. At $16.1 billion, the committee has provided the agency with adequate resources to complete its mission, he said.
He reiterated AOPA’s long-held view that GA sees no need for additional revenues being extracted from users, and remains strongly opposed to user fees of any kind, on any segment of GA. The current fuel tax structure for funding aviation programs is fair and efficient, he said.
Coon added that AOPA President Mark Baker serves on the NextGen Advisory Committee, and believes that the group, made up of airline, general aviation, government, and other representatives has done a good job helping direct the FAA in setting priorities and time lines for deployment of NextGen technologies.
He urged the subcommittee to recognize the importance of protecting and funding the nation’s “ecosystem of airports” that serve as “economic engines for many communities, provide GA access, and serve as gateways for companies to locate in small communities, creating job opportunities.”
Another example of the value of community airports is the role they play helping save lives and property in times of disaster, when airports quickly become transformed to staging areas for relief efforts, he said.
He added that with many community airports served by a full or part-time air traffic control tower, the Contract Tower Program maintains a proven, cost effective solution for maintaining air safety.
Coon explained how under Baker’s leadership, AOPA in 2015 launched multiple efforts to help grow the pilot population with the You Can Fly initiative. You Can Fly is AOPA’s umbrella program that pursues targeted efforts to build the pilot population by supporting flying clubs and flight schools; advancing high school science, technology, engineering, and math education; and getting lapsed aviators flying again through the seminars of the Rusty Pilots program.
AOPA will examine all proposals to make sure they help the FAA become more efficient, less bureaucratic, and at the same time help GA grow, and will comment on specific proposals when they are available for review, he said.
Other aviation associations participating in the roundtable included the National Business Aviation Association; the National Air Transportation Association; the Experimental Aircraft Association; Helicopter Association International; and the General Aviation Manufacturers Association.