Transportation Secretary Mary Peters voiced disapproval of the recently passed House FAA Reauthorization Bill at the opening ceremonies of the 60th Annual NBAA Convention here yesterday. The House bill, approved on September 20, relies on fuel taxes rather than user fees to fund the FAA, and Secretary Peters said the Bush Administration was “concerned the bill doesn’t have a cost-based system to fund the FAA.”
After the gathering, NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen, who hosted the ceremony, told NBAA Convention News it is unclear whether the President Bush would veto a final version of the Reauthorization Bill that failed to incorporate some form of user fees.
Secretary Peters noted that demand for business aircraft has never been higher but said the limits of the current aviation system endanger the future of aviation. She added that while aircraft have advanced dramatically in recent years, “the technology has not changed” in the ATC system.
In his opening remarks, Bolen noted this is the 100th anniversary of powered flight in Georgia. NBAA marked that milestone by staging a flight aboard a Cessna Mustang from New York, birthplace of the NBAA, to Atlanta, carrying, among others, Pat Epps of Atlanta-based Epps Aviation, whose father, Ben, made that first powered flight.
Also joining Bolen and Peters onstage were Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue and Jimmy Hayes, president and COO of Atlanta-based Cox Enterprises, who extended down-home Southern welcomes to attendees.
Perdue, a longtime aviation enthusiast, said, “As a pilot, it’s doubly pleasurable” to welcome the convention. “I’m like a kid waiting for Christmas to see all the new things” showcased at the convention,” he said. He noted he was celebrating his 40th anniversary of becoming a licensed pilot and related how he used his Bellanca Viking to fly around the state meeting voters during his 2002 campaign. Perdue had only $3 million to spend on his campaign while his opponent had $25 million, spent blanketing the state with advertising. “So I put the value of the Bellanca at $22 million,” the governor said.
Hayes related how he learned to fly at South Fulton Airport, and soon had his pilot’s certificate, often sharing the traffic pattern with a Gulfstream owned by Cox Enterprises, the company he would later work for. Hayes provided a brief history of the company’s extensive use of aviation, and its role in the company’s growth. He also bemoaned the “disinformation” being spread about general aviation during the current battle over the FAA’s funding reauthorization.
Also at the ceremony, Ron Kaplan, executive director of the National Aviation Hall of Fame, presided over the presentation of the Combs Gates Award to Jane Gardner Birch, author of the newly published They Flew Proud, a history of the World War II Civilian Pilot Training program.
The opening ceremonies concluded with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, with numerous dignitaries and industry leaders, including Bob Hoover and astronaut Gene Cernan, onstage to assist in the symbolic scissor-snipping.