Pro-aviation legislators fight for GA relief bill

 - April 9, 2008, 6:39 AM

Supporters of federal government reparations for general aviation small businesses have vowed to continue their fight to compensate those companies victimized by the events of last September.

Although the Senate passed a $31.4 billion supplemental appropriations bill early last month, it failed to adopt two amendments that would have provided relief for GA small businesses. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), who introduced a version of the House’s General Aviation Industry Reparations Act in the Senate, tried unsuccessfully to have his measure included in the supplemental spending legislation that provides emergency funds for the nation’s war on terrorism.

The Senate also defeated an amendment by Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.) to compensate his state’s College Park Airport, Hyde Field and Potomac Airfield $5 million to offset losses incurred since September 11. Those three facilities were closed longer than any others in the nation, and are still off limits to all transient aircraft.

The House version of the GA reparations act was introduced by aviation subcommittee chairman John Mica (R-Fla.), whose district includes Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. It was passed by the full House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, as well as by the Budget Committee.

But the Bush Administration cast a cloud over the future of the measure because the estimated cost has increased from $450 million to more than $5.5 billion. The White House is also unhappy that the supplemental appropriations bill approved by the Senate exceeds its requested spending amount of $29.2 billion.

Several senators, including Inhofe and Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), pledged to continue the fight for compensation for GA small businesses that suffered financial losses– through no fault of their own– because of the airspace shutdown and continuing restrictions after September 11.

In the House, leaders asked for support from AOPA’s more than 380,000 members, who represent almost 60 percent of all U.S. licensed pilots. They said the airlines are receiving help through the $15 billion Air Transportation and Stabilization Act, but general aviation has become “a forgotten victim” of the post-September 11 realities.