Reauthorization Bill Scrutiny Begins

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The controversial FAA reauthorization bill that includes privatizing the air traffic control system will begin its journey through what is expected to be a tough legislative process Wednesday with a hearing. Four witnesses, including representatives of Airlines 4 America, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, the Reason Foundation and NBAA President Ed Bolen will testify. In a way, the makeup of the hearing mirrors the primary concern of GA groups who have generally opposed the bill. The overriding worry is that the makeup of the board of directors is heavily weighted toward the airline industry and that other aviation sectors will not get the same access and benefits from the system. The National Air Transport Association added its concern about that Tuesday in a news release. After Wednesday's hearing, the bill heads to committee markup where it will be amended in preparation for presentation in the House.

While all the alphabet groups have seen something to support in the 270-page bill, especially the liberal take on third class medical reform (the bill, as presented, would create the so-called drivers license medical for most private pilots), there are plenty of concerns, too. Many in Congress have concerns, also so the final version of the bill is expected to be much different from the one presented last week. Jim Coon, AOPA's senior vice president of government affairs, said the bill has a long way to go before it is passed, if it is ever passed. "This is the first step in a long and arduous process and we will work to ensure that any legislation protects the interests of general aviation," Coon said in a statement to AVweb. He said AOPA will never accept user fees for GA operators but he also said the system needs change. "I believe most folks would agree that the status quo is difficult to defend," he said. "Having said that, we do have concerns about how ATC reforms in other countries have negatively impacted GA and we want to make sure that those mistakes are not made here in the United States."