AOPA: Advisory Group Lacks GA Reps

 - March 19, 2008, 1:21 PM

The FAA Management Advisory Council (MAC) should have more representation from general aviation, AOPA told Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta early last month. The MAC counsels FAA Administrator Marion Blakey and senior agency leadership on management, policy, spending and regulatory matters.

Mineta named six new members to the MAC in late September. They are Angela Gittens, director of Miami International Airport; Alan Mulally, executive v-p of the Boeing Co. and president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes; David Neeleman, CEO of JetBlue Airways; Robert Crandall, retired president and CEO of American Airlines; Paul Schoelhammer, retired partner/ director of government affairs at Zuckert, Scoutt and Rasenberger; and Jim Smith, executive director of Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport and a Peninsula Airport Commission member.

“These appointments represent a collection of aviation all-stars for the FAA to draw upon,” said Mineta. “These individuals are highly respected within aviation and can offer the insight and innovative ideas to help us shape a safer and more efficient airspace system for the 21st century.”

Currently, the only GA representative on the panel is Ed Bolen, president of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, who serves as MAC chairman. The other incumbents are Randy Babbitt, senior partner in Eclat Consulting and former president of the Air Line Pilots Association; and Geoff Crowley, president and CEO of Air Wisconsin.

The MAC is tasked with helping the FAA achieve its goal of becoming a performance-based organization, which the National Civil Aviation Review Commission recommended in 1997. That commission was chaired by Mineta, who at the time was an executive with Lockheed Martin.

“The FAA is fortunate to have such a strong, deep source of aviation experience to guide us toward a more performance-based organization,” said Blakey. “The MAC will be reviewing our work to meet the quarterly targets of the FAA’s strategic plan and helping us develop an ever safer next-generation aviation system.”

Created by the FAA Reauthorization Act of 1996, the MAC meets quarterly to assess and advise the FAA on its performance. The panel members serve in a volunteer capacity and retain their private-sector positions.

But AOPA chastised Mineta for failing to include any GA representatives among the latest nominees for the MAC. “Ninety-five percent of the U.S. civilian fleet, more than three-quarters of all flights in the U.S., and two-thirds of all U.S. pilots are general aviation,” said AOPA president Phil Boyer. “And yet not one of this year’s six nominees to the committee that guides and advises the [FAA] represents GA pilots and aircraft owners.’”

AOPA and other general aviation organizations championed the legislation that created the MAC, and Boyer was one of the original nominees. But his appointment was blocked by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, based on AOPA’s position against a user-funded ATC system.

“But this is not about me or about AOPA,” said Boyer. “There are any number of highly qualified business leaders in this country who are active in general aviation and who could bring both management experience and an understanding of GA to the table.”

In his letter to Mineta, Boyer wrote, “So far, only one member of the 18-member council has ties to the general aviation community, and that is from the manufacturing industry, not the consumer, pilot or owner.” He requested that future appointments include individuals who are from the general aviation community. Because various government officials are included on the MAC, there are only four vacancies remaining.

President Clinton nominated Boyer in April 2000. At a hearing before McCain’s committee that May, the senator tore into Boyer over his position on user fees for ATC services, which the senator supported for corporate operators and AOPA vehemently opposes. The animosity between the two dates back to 1995 and AOPA’s efforts to stonewall any and all user fees. McCain successfully blocked Boyer’s confirmation to the MAC.