Private Turbine Operators Present United Front

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Just how Mineta and his department define GA will shape the debate from here on. If GA means piston-powered, the DOT has cleared a huge political hurdle by ensuring the support of more than 400,000 pilots who rarely, if ever, see five digits on their altimeters. But if the definition of GA excludes business aviation then the much smaller but financially fortified voice of the turbine set may be ready to offer sound opposition. As AVweb reported on Thursday, the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) and National Air Transportation Association (NATA), which are predominantly fueled by Jet A, held a teleconference last week to express concern over the Air Transportation Association's push toward user fees. AOPA and EAA seem to feel a little more secure. "Secretary Mineta is a good friend of general aviation, and we have no doubt that as long as he has any power over the issue, he will oppose user fees on piston-engine general aviation," Boyer said in a news release. EAA hasn't even mentioned the current developments on its Web site.

Aviation groups appear to agree that the heart of the current discussion is control. And from the side of a business aviation group, it may appear the airlines are forming a cartel that seeks to dominate the decision-making process on aviation issues. NATA President Jim Coyne, a former Congressman, said the apparent attempt to impinge or eliminate Congressional oversight from the FAA will likely backfire. He told the Wednesday teleconference that sitting members he's talked to consider the aviation system to be a national resource and are offended at the suggestion that Congress's role in shaping that system be diminished. And, since it will be Congress's decision on how to reshape the FAA's funding formula, he's wondering about the wisdom of annoying members with this proposal. In recent weeks, there have been published interviews with key aviation bureaucrats who have mentioned the effect of political interference on the operational realities of the FAA. Chief Operating Officer Russ Chew referred to a Congressional order that requires the FAA to pay $3 million a year to monitor volcanoes in Hawaii. There's also been mention of the parochialism of members when modernization or cost-cutting affects facilities or jobs in their constituencies.