On March 9, the Aviation Subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee met to address "Securing the Future of General Aviation," as the committee works on the next FAA reauthorization bill.
The topic of the hearing and its contents are in line with an initiative by T&I Chairman Sam Graves (R-Mo.), a GA pilot and advocate, to bring more attention to the general aviation sector by introducing the first GA title within an FAA reauthorization bill.
In his opening statement and throughout the hearing, AOPA President Mark Baker addressed several primary points of interest to AOPA including the FAA’s designated pilot examiner shortage, the urgent nationwide need for GA hangar construction, needed investments in modernizing agency systems and technology, and a safe and smart transition to a fleetwide unleaded fuel no later than 2030.
“We have an opportunity with this year’s FAA Reauthorization to set the course for securing the future for general aviation,” Baker said in written testimony. “AOPA looks forward to working with the Committee on the upcoming FAA Reauthorization bill on the issues outlined today and others that impact pilots and aircraft owners.”
The most pressing point raised by Baker for inclusion into the reauthorization bill was the need for a requirement that public-use airports provide transient ramp space to pilots when they do not need or request the services of an FBO.
“I want to be clear, this is a national problem,” Baker said. “All of these airports should be required to treat all users the same when it comes to public access.”
Thousands of pilots have been impacted by the lack of ramp space at public-use airports and find themselves in many cases paying fees for services they did not use or request, including tiedown fees, facility fees, infrastructure fees, access fees, security fees, handling fees, and ramp fees.
“Not a day goes by that I don’t hear from pilots about this,” Baker said. “I’ve been in business all my life and I’ve never known anyone that charges a customer for services a person never wanted or asked for.”
Baker submitted a letter to the committee, signed by more than 300 aviation organizations from across the country, in support of requiring airports to provide transient ramp space at public-use airports.
“On behalf of all these organizations and pilots across the country, we strongly support and request the committee to include a provision in the FAA reauthorization bill that addresses access to public-use airports in the following three areas: 1) a requirement that all federally obligated airports provide transient ramp space for privately operated aircraft, regardless of make or model, when the pilot does not request or need the services of an FBO; 2) ensure federally obligated airports retain the ability to either waive a transient fee or impose a transient fee—but the fee must be fair and reasonable (whatever it cost the airport to operate and maintain the ramp); and 3) in order to address TSA security related issues at some airports, the Part 139 airports in particular, there needs to be the ability for private pilots to apply for a SIDA badge in order to escort themselves and passengers to the terminal,” said Baker. “On behalf of AOPA and our fellow aviators across the country, we believe addressing this issue and others will go a long way in securing and growing the future of general aviation.”
One issue of importance to the committee was the need for additional workforce development programs to address looming shortages in aviation. Baker spotlighted AOPA’s initiative to increase the aviation workforce through its High School Aviation STEM Curriculum. Several members praised AOPA for its commitment to this endeavor.
Baker also expressed strong support for legislation to establish a National Center for the Advancement of Aviation (NCAA) to address the workforce challenges. During the hearing, Rep. Pete Stauber (R-Minn.) announced he will join Rep. Andre Carson (D-Ind.) to introduce the NCAA bill and work toward its inclusion in the FAA reauthorization legislation.
Baker was joined by Jack Pelton, CEO of the Experimental Aircraft Association; Rick Crider, second vice chair of the American Association of Airport Executives; and Curt Castagna, CEO of the National Air Transportation Association.