In the aftermath of last fall’s California wildfires–the state’s most destructive ever–a “blue ribbon” commission last month heard tacit admission that a state rule requiring firefighting aircraft to land a half-hour before sunset may have allowed a controllable blaze to become a huge, deadly conflagration.
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News about governmental decisions affecting aviation and aerospace.
Congress bailed out of Washington in early December and was scheduled to land back in place on January 20. The recess provided ample time for reviewing legislative accomplishments and failures during the first session of the 108th Congress and for taking a look at what might happen in the second session.
Transport Canada found no violations of Federal Aviation Regulations during a special-purpose audit of Georgian Express, and on January 27 returned the operator certificate to the Toronto-based airline. The certificate was suspended on January 22, five days after a fatal crash of one of the company’s Cessna 208B Caravans in which the pilot and all nine passengers were killed.
The National Air Traffic Controllers Association filed a lawsuit in late January asking a federal court to order the Federal Service Impasses Panel to resolve a bargaining issue between NATCA and the FAA that affects employees at 11 facilities. NATCA also named the Federal Labor Relations Authority in its suit.
Nearly three months after being directed by Congress to develop a plan for giving pilots and mechanics a “third party” review process if they lose their FAA certificates for alleged security reasons, the Transportation Security Administration has yet to propose such a plan. To date, there have been no FAA certificates pulled under the regulation, according to AOPA.
At about the same time Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta was announcing plans for a “next-generation air transportation system” to the Washington Aero Club in late January, word was filtering out of the White House that the Bush Administration wanted to cut the FAA’s facilities and equipment (F&E) budget for fiscal year 2005 by almost half a billion dollars.
After more than 15 years and $200 million in development effort, the FAA in late January canceled further expenditures on the GPS Category I local-area augmentation system (LAAS), dropped its proposed 2006 initial introduction and reclassified the project as merely research and development.
“The greatest flaw in the current system is the corporate jet versus the airline,” said FAA Administrator Marion Blakey.
Ed Bolen, president of the National Business Aviation Association, described the recently released FAA funding proposal as “one of the greatest threats business aviation has ever faced.” According to Matthew Zuccaro, president of HAI, it is an even bigger threat to the helicopter industry.
California has amended its aircraft sales and use tax law, essentially closing a loophole that allowed buyers of aircraft and other big-ticket items to escape paying sales taxes.