The alphabets are angry. Reflecting the growing frustration of their members, presidents of the trade associations tasked with representing general aviation interests showed up at this year’s EAA AirVenture with both barrels loaded full of criticism for the FAA and for the congressional oversight of the agency. The rhetoric was a marked shift from the traditional message of cooperation with the FAA. Other than controllers and their supervisors, top FAA officials, including agency Administrator Michael Huerta, were conspicuously absent from this year’s AirVenture, allegedly because of federal budget sequestration. It was the first time an FAA Administrator has skipped the event in many years.
EAA chairman Jack Pelton set the tone at his opening-day news conference sporting a button reading “It’s Not Over,” in reference to the EAA’s pending federal court challenge of the $479,000 in fees that the FAA assessed AirVenture for ATC services.
Pelton has also enlisted U.S. senator, pilot and long-time EAA member James Inhofe (R-Okla.) to broach the topic with incoming U.S. transportation secretary Anthony Foxx.
The assessment of those fees appears to have been the tipping point for many GA groups, persuading them to take a more combative stand toward the FAA in defense of GA interests. At a “stronger together” forum of GA group presidents the day after Pelton’s press conference, both NBAA president Ed Bolen and General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) president Pete Bunce invoked red-meat rhetoric usually reserved for gatherings of the National Rifle Association, doing everything but holding propellers over their heads and saying “from my cold, dead hands” will government take these.
Bolen warned that “the ability to tax is the ability to destroy.” He sees a clear and present danger in that ability being shifted from elected officials, who are accountable to the public, to non-elected bureaucrats. “These are dangerous precedents,” he emphasized, in clear reference to the FAA’s new fees on AirVenture and other airshows.
Bunce advocated that Congress “beat the FAA on the head and say ‘stop this madness,’” referring to the obstacles for certification of new light aircraft.
The message resonated with attendees. During the week, the crowd pinned on “It’s Not Over” buttons, and thousands signed EAA petition boards in opposition to the new fees.
Fifty-year pilot and EAA member Bob Evans seemed typical of EAA members AIN encountered over the course of the week. Evans said the controversy is motivating him to get more involved in the political process and talk to other pilots about it. “There needs to be pressure from the grass roots” and from the trade associations, Evans said. “There is a definite response and a backlash to this.”
There was little evidence that EAA members were venting their animus on air traffic controllers working the show, although there did seem to be an absence of controllers in their hallmark pink shirts roaming the grounds during their off hours as in years past.
A controller staffing the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (Natca) tent said that EAA hospitality shown controllers at the show “was great, just as in years past,” but that a few people had stopped by the Natca tent to voice complaint. “We understand the frustration on both sides of the issue. [Due to federal budget sequestration] we’re getting hammered. They’ve [the FAA] slowed modernization and stopped hiring. Most of our training has gone back to nothing and there are facilities that live on overtime because they are short-staffed. It’s been pretty rough.”
Aside from the operational issues caused by sequestration, the political calculus may need to change before the atmospherics for GA improve measurably in Washington. At the “stronger together” forum, Bolen noted the growing membership of the General Aviation Caucus on Capitol Hill, whose members typically oppose things such as FAA user fees. However, Bolen acknowledged that caucus membership is nearly, but still short of, 50 percent in the House of Representatives and 30 percent in the Senate. “That’s a lot of support,” Bolen noted, but shy of the majority in each body required to reliably block measures that would impede GA and advance measures to strengthen it, now and in the future.
SkyKing (not verified)
September 3, 2013 - 2:49pm
I am a pilot. I am also an American taxpayer.
I don't believe American taxpayers should be bearing specific cost for specific groups like the aviators attending Airventure in Oshkosh.
It is reasonable that the users of the short term ATC staffing of the event should bear the cost of the staffing and not all the American taxpayers.
It is just part of the cost of the private aviation hobby or pastime.
Stan (not verified)
September 4, 2013 - 1:04pm
SkyKing is absolutely right. I am also an American pilot and taxpayer. My local property taxes pay for police protection, trash pickup, etc. in my municipality. However, if I decide to throw a block party and invite 20,000 of my closest friends - especially if I decide to CHARGE ADMISSION to my friends for this party - then it's only fair for my town to bill me for the extra police, crowd control, and trash pickup required as a result of my event.
EAA and the alphabet groups want to have their cake and eat it too. They want to hold the most popular aviation event in the world - an event that results in CONCENTRATED demand and high levels of traffic in a very small area - but expect the FAA to comp them the costs of all the ATC services.
We live in a time when most Americans are screaming for the government to get its fiscal house in order. Well, guess what? Your fuel taxes pay for the ATC system as it is on a normal, status quo day. If you want to have a SPECIAL event that draws thousands of aircraft to a small area, then this isn't "normal" ATC services you already pay for with your tax dollars. Shut up and pay the fee.
Lloyd Emberland (not verified)
September 3, 2013 - 3:55pm
Not mentioned was the stonewalling by the FAA of the 3rd class medical exemption approval that would expand the types of aircraft that would be allowed pilots flying under LSA rules. The reasoning and thought and evidence that went into the proposal by EAA and AOPA would make it a slam dunk decision for the FAA or anyone using common sense.
Richard Hewgley (not verified)
September 3, 2013 - 11:47pm
I agree with Mr. Emberland. Why has the FAA refused to consider the EAA and AOPA proposed new ruling that has received more comments ( over 17,000) than all other proposed new rule making proposals in total, since the CAA/FAA were ever formed?
The FAA's approval of this new rule would revive GA and bring it swiftly back to the way we were. If this new rule is not passed, It will result in the death of GA!
At Oshkosh 2013, I went to the FAA Medical Standards booth and waited in line to ask an FAA person what was the status of the FAA making it's decision on the AOPA/EAA proposed new ruling. He look at me with hostility, as if I were invading his privacy, and answered back very sarcastically, "Why are you asking a question that is unanswerable?" I kept my cool, and ask him to please check the status of the proposal. He acted perturbed and said that due the very larger number of comments, that the FAA was going to take a very long time to make a ruling, because they were going to have to read everyone of the thousands of comments, individually to determine their authenticity and if they were legitimacy.
In other words, because GA has made so many comments, it may take years to consider the approval process, due to the time it is going to take to read every comment individually.
I was appalled! I walked away thinking that if this FAA person is an example of the entire FAA, then our problem starts form the top of the administration and that means they can't drop any lower!
The flying freedom that we used to take for granted in the United States is gone. We have voted for and put the people in power that are taking our freedoms away and replacing them with their laws of control.
Earl Pilgrim (not verified)
September 4, 2013 - 2:27pm
They are also making everything more difficult by their electronic BS . Aircraft registration , and Medical pre registration are now a nightmare for those of us who either don't have a computer or are computer illiterate . It took three tries to register my plane with the help? of AOPA . Have been flying since 1943 , but not sure it is worth the effort . EP
Solusipse (not verified)
September 3, 2013 - 4:04pm
The UNTAXED income of ONE Wall Street financier would pay for all of the controllers for a year!
matt (not verified)
September 3, 2013 - 6:22pm
Long overdue. It's about time the various GA groups stop screwing around and started playing hardball like the NRA does. Maybe then some things will actually get done!
Ron Baklarz (not verified)
September 3, 2013 - 6:33pm
The Fed has the ability to cut their overall costs by 15-20 percent without losing the ability to provide for the economic and political security of the nation.
However, the Fed does not have the _____ to proceed on this course. But the Fed continues to play parlor games with the health of the nation.
David Pavlich (not verified)
September 3, 2013 - 7:39pm
And the Wall Street financier is the guy that can buy a Citation or Meridian and I'll bet that the guys and gals that build said aircraft are very happy that there are wealthy people out there so that they can remain employed building those gorgeous machines. A reminder; remember what happened to the domestic yacht industry when our government decided to tax the bejesus out of them? Those wealthy people went overseas to buy their yachts and the domestic yacht industry had to fire people because NOBODY WAS BUYING AMERICAN YACHTS. Be careful what you wish for. GA is in bad enough shape as it is. We don't need to be eating our own.
JR (not verified)
September 3, 2013 - 7:59pm
The FAA isn't the only culprit in the mix of issues that are stagnating and killing general aviation. Many of us non-current older Private and Commercial pilots would love to fly again with a passenger in LSA's. But good luck on finding one to rent in your area. Cessna pushed the 162 Skycatcher for 5 years as we waited, and waited, and waited. And what did we get? An inferior product with a useless load that is sooo anemic, and a laughable stick design. Cessna's over-hype was on steroids. What the heck were they thinking? And to make matters worse, word "on the street" has it that Cessna will yank their dealership from any Cessna flight school that commits the "despicable act" of including any other LSA in their school, rather than purchasing the 162 or more expensive 172's. Isn't that kind of like extortion? Nobody wants a $150,000 failure, so Cessna is going to cram it down dealers' throats? Unbelievable. Cessna, you USED to have my respect, when I got my private in 1967 and a commercial in 1971, in the 150 and 172's. But sadly, you have let us down and abandoned a lot of old friends who were once your base. Cessna - lead, follow, or get out of the damn way!
Jay (not verified)
September 3, 2013 - 8:55pm
Wouldn't one less Obama trip on Air Force One to play golf pay for the controllers?
Wouldn't passage of the Third Class Medical Exemption save the FAA enough money to pay for the controllers?
GoodEssence (not verified)
September 4, 2013 - 1:05am
You misunderstand. The mission of the FAA includes the promotion and safety of aviation. I do not attend Oshkosh and I am not in th EAA, but what better place for the promotion of aviation than Oshkosh? How does the FAA promote aviation safety by refusing ATC services to an airshow that promotes aviation so well, especially one that has been around for about half the period of federal regulation of aviation? Further, most of the FAA operating money comes directly from the aviation community in the form of fuel taxes. If more money is needed, that simple, straightforward system should be used rather than ad hoc (extortive) demands for payment. It may be "just part of the cost, but it is a very normal and predictable cost that does not call for ad hoc solutions and resultant bureaucracy.
Please forgive me if this double posts--very slow to appear.
Ray DeForge (not verified)
September 4, 2013 - 3:49am
OK, "SkyKing". Your argument would be legitimate IF - IF 1.) the FAA charged EAA for ATC services on day#1 of Fly-in #1 back in Rockford, and - 2.) ALL COSTS related to aviation were borne exclusively and only by those with a direct operational interest in aviation (including pax flying under Part 121), and NO ONE ELSE.
This could be expanded to ALL services provided with tax dollars, including:
- National Defense
- All Infrastructure
- Police, Fire & Emergency Services
"If you can't pay - you can't play". (that is why I no longer "play").
greg w (not verified)
September 4, 2013 - 8:45am
SkyKing, I do not entirely disagree with paying for extra service out of the ordinary. The problem to me is that a fee for additional controllers was never assessed until last year, the demand was made shortly before the event. Most important however was that the statement was made that EAA pay the fee for controllers or the special use airspace wavers would be withheld ending the air shows that require them. That smacks of extortion as during the airshows, (special use permits closing the airport and creating the aerobatic box) the controllers are not needed used or required. To me it was the "strong arm" tactics not the idea of additional fee for additional controllers.
Richard Hewgley (not verified)
September 4, 2013 - 9:49pm
I have copied from www.faa.gov, the following FAA Mission Statement and their only Mandate, SAFETY. The promotion of aviation has been removed. They are only mandated to insure just Safety.
Our continuing mission is to provide the safest, most efficient aerospace system in the world.
We strive to reach the next level of safety, efficiency, environmental responsibility and global leadership. We are accountable to the American public and our stakeholders.
Safety is our passion. We work so all air and space travelers arrive safely at their destinations.
Excellence is our promise. We seek results that embody professionalism, transparency and accountability.
Integrity is our touchstone. We perform our duties honestly, with moral soundness, and with the highest level of ethics.
People are our strength. Our success depends on the respect, diversity, collaboration, and commitment of our workforce.
Innovation is our signature. We foster creativity and vision to provide solutions beyond today's boundaries.
We need to remind the FAA to stop operating outside of their boundaries. The FAA has gained the power that they normally do not have, because our Congress can not work together and make the decisions, reflecting the desires of their constituents (us, the US citizens), needed to direct and guide the FAA.
Because our Congress can not work together and make the decisions needed to direct the FAA, the FAA is relishing in the new power they have received by default and have started making decisions on their course of action without the approval of the people.
The FAA are out of control, because our Congress has loss control. The FAA has become a rouge force and have lost touch with their true mission. The can conduct business without a check and balance and have turned in to a true political wild animal.
Unless the people and the nation wake-up, all of the freedoms we were used to, will soon be memories of the past. After a few generations the people forget what was and start believing what is. I want my Flying Freedom Back Now, while I live.
FAA, if your political ears have not yet grown closed, Please hear the General Aviation People's cry and start working with us again!!!