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Michigan bill stifles aviation

Officials in Michigan are once again moving forward with a bill that would negatively impact aviation by placing unnecessary restrictions on aeronautical activities in the state.

Introduced by Rep. Jeff Yaroch (R-District 33), H.B. 6361 aims to change the definitions of private airports and private landing areas, place burdensome regulations on flying clubs, and regulate skydive drop zones.

In a letter to the Michigan House Transportation Committee, AOPA urged the department not to take up the bill—expressing concern over its overreaching language. "It is clear that Rep. Yaroch did not consult any Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) representatives, industry or professional aviation association, airport management organization, skydive operation, or any private airport owner or operator before introducing HB 6361. While there are needed updates and clarifications to the Michigan Aeronautics Code, the language in the bill is overreaching and will have a negative impact on the aviation system in Michigan," the letter stated.

A previous bill similar to H.B.6361 originally surfaced in 2018, drawing strong criticism from aviation advocates who were especially concerned with language to designate flying clubs as commercial entities and limit combined takeoffs and landings to 10 per day at private landing areas.

AOPA argued that by incorporating flying clubs into commercial operations, the bill's proposed definitions directly conflict with FAA policy and the state aeronautics code.

The new legislation is also vehemently opposed by the U.S. Parachute Association, as it includes language to implement an unprecedented rule on skydive drop zones that would require any drop zone to be located 1,000 feet from residences. In its letter, AOPA argued that the rule would negatively impact safety and the ability of an airport to accommodate skydiving operations. Additionally, the bill sponsor has not provided any research or documentation into the reasoning behind the arbitrary 1,000-foot rule.

What's more, there was an exemption given to balloon operators, who by nature have a higher chance of landing off-airport on private property than skydivers.

The bill also includes changes to the definitions of private airports and private landing, which serves no purpose but to curtail certain aeronautic activities in the state and restrict commercial activities such as skydiving, paid flight instruction, and flying clubs.

As written, H.B. 6361 has the potential to negatively impact federally obligated public-use airports across the state. AOPA wrote, "It is an overreach to limit what a private citizen can do with their private property. There are well over 400 private airports or landing areas in Michigan, and these definition changes would cause an uproar in that community. AOPA does support the licensing of private airports open to the public, for obvious safety reasons, and we do believe that there should be reasonable accommodating language proposed to satisfy any safety concerns."

No hearing date is set yet, but AOPA members are encouraged to call their state representative or contact the transportation committee with concerns on the bill.

AOPA expressed a willingness to work with the transportation committee on solutions to enhance and stabilize the funding stream for aviation and airports in Michigan.

Amelia Walsh
Communications and Research Specialist
AOPA Comms and Research Specialist Amelia Walsh joined AOPA in 2017. Named after the famous aviatrix, she's a private pilot working on her instrument rating in a Colombia 350.
Topics: State Legislation, Airport Advocacy

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