By Jim Coon
As a result of the November 2022 elections, we have the most closely divided government in recent memory.
Historically, the party controlling the White House loses seats in midterm elections, and this election was no different. With a new majority party leading the House of Representatives we’ve witnessed an enormous amount of behind-the-scenes shuffling and scuffling of leadership positions, committee assignments, rules changes, new representatives, and new staff. It’s always hectic from November through January in the halls of Congress, especially during an election year, and even more so when the balance of power shifts. Throw in retiring members moving out of their offices and newly elected members moving in, and it’s a little chaotic. Now that some of the dust has settled, it’s time to pursue our priorities for pilots and aircraft owners as the legislative season gets underway.
As you know, each Congress consists of a two-year cycle, and we are entering the 118th Congress since the founding of the republic. Freedom is sometimes tumultuous and messy, but it must be cherished and treasured. We are so fortunate to be able to wake up, head to the airport, and take off to virtually anywhere we want to go. What an amazing privilege. I have written before, and I cannot stress enough, the importance of the work that goes into protecting this freedom of flying we have. We can’t take it for granted—not for one second—because if we do, we may very well lose it. Just take a look around the world at what general aviation faces in other countries and you will understand. Heck, we can look right here in our own country and recall the multiple efforts over the years to hand over our aviation system to the airlines, or impose user fees on pilots, or impose burdensome and unnecessary regulations on pilots. We have to fight for this privilege every day.
A friend recently mentioned that he’d heard what it’s like being a lobbyist in Washington: “If you aren’t at the table, you’re probably on the menu.” That about sums up reality in the world of Washington politics. While I hear these kinds of phrases often, I don’t mind them as they are usually pretty accurate and often humorous—and we all need humor to survive.
As lobbyists, we must work with those whom Americans elected to represent them in Washington, whether Republican, Democrat, or independent. Other than voting in my respective state and congressional district, I don’t get to choose whom we work with in Congress. In order to move legislation through the process, one needs support from both sides of the aisle. There’s a reason why only one percent of the bills introduced were sent to the president in the last Congress. One must have consensus.
This will be the case for the upcoming aviation legislation, commonly referred to as the FAA reauthorization bill, which comes around every four or five years. That process has already begun. The legislation addresses all programs and policies administered by the FAA. It also includes provisions that affect every sector of the aviation industry, including airports, airlines, general aviation, business aviation, helicopters, aviation businesses, manufacturers, autonomous vehicles, drones, air traffic controllers, and more. In short, it is comprehensive and sets the path for the FAA and aviation for the coming years.
With this opportunity, we will advocate to improve the current federal program that helps fund airside projects at airports by ensuring the dollars intended for small GA airports are actually received by those airports. We want to address the hangar shortage at many airports across the country, ensure that fees and prices are transparent for pilots and that transient ramps are available at airports should you not need the services of an FBO, and secure fuel reimbursements for volunteer pilots, medical process reforms, designated pilot examiner program reforms, ADS-B privacy, aircraft registration improvements, new and improved aircraft certification rules, STEM aviation curriculum, and much more.
Aviation is not so much partisan as it is ensuring that it is a priority for Congress. If all the players in aviation are willing to pull up a seat at the table and are determined to get something done, it can happen. And while the world of politics is often winding and unpredictable, it’s crucial that we get a comprehensive aviation bill to the president’s desk. Your passion for flying, your love of aviation, and your AOPA membership are more vital to our advocacy efforts than you probably know.