Air Tour Final Rule Due Soon, Says EAA

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When the FAA published its proposed Air Tour Safety rule back in 2003, it was met with just about universal opposition from the aviation community. Comments and hearings went on through 2004, and since then, the FAA has quietly been working on its final version of the rule. EAA has been carefully watching the progress of the rule through the bureaucratic maze, and says it should be published sometime in the next month or so. The FAA is not giving any hints about what to expect. “We usually get some sort of an indication as to what a final rule will look like, but not this time,” says EAA's Earl Lawrence, vice president for industry and regulatory affairs. In its original Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the FAA proposed sweeping changes to commercial and noncommercial passenger-carrying operations that EAA contended are not justified by safety data and would not enhance safety. EAA also says the FAA failed to consider the dramatic costs of the proposed rule. Several public hearings and a slew of comments demonstrated virtually unanimous opposition to the proposal from the aviation community. “As written, the FAA went much farther than the original Congressional mandate requested,” said Lawrence. “It would destroy many areas of general aviation that have been created strictly for historic or demonstration purposes.” Opponents to the rule said it would put 700 companies out of the sightseeing business, curtail charity sightseeing flights and increase costs for air-tour companies that do manage to stay in business.