GA And The Aviation Bill

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Beyond The Spinů

Aside from what various alphabet groups, trade associations and unions would like to take credit for, H.R. 2115, Flight 100 -- Century of Aviation Reauthorization Act offers important measures that could shape the way we fly for decades to come. Sec. 416, through privatization of the aircraft certification process, may do nothing less than create a fundamental shift in the FAA's function and mandate. Another section of the bill calls on the president to appoint a task force of representatives of airlines, GA, pilots, air traffic controllers as well as the FAA and at least five other government departments. Their task will be to "transform the nation's air traffic control system and air transportation system to meet its future needs." Creating new methods to certify new aircraft might be easier and according to the current wording will go something like this: Within three years, the FAA must have a plan that would when executed grant the FAA the ability to certificate "design organizations." Such organizations would (seven years from the enactment of this legislative package) be endowed the power to sign off on new aircraft without the involvement of FAA inspectors. Another forward-looking section of the bill establishes the Next Generation Air Transportation System Joint Program Office. The task force will have one year to report back to the president and Congress on its findings.

...Addressing Headlines And Bottom Lines...

The current debate over missile defense systems on airliners may seems apparent in Sec. 427, which creates a task force to speed up the transfer of military technology to civilian aircraft. There are perhaps other innovations developed for military aircraft that would improve civilian aircraft and the task force, again appointed by the president, will have a year to make its recommendations. The motives behind some sections are not quite as clear. If H.R. 2115 passes intact, Sec. 41722, Notice concerning aircraft assembly will mandate airlines to tell passengers, by way of placard, where the aircraft was built, be it the U.S., Canada, Brazil, Britain or, dare we say, France. While some might speculate such information may affect a pilot's decision to engage in forceful rudder reversals during an encounter with wake turbulence, it's a bigger stretch to comprehend what impact the information would have on a passenger who just wants to get from Cleveland to Boston on time. Our sifting of the details also uncovered a provision that would encourage airlines to offer their lowest discount fares to military personnel without all the advanced booking requirements the rest of us must go through. The bill suggests it is the airlines' "patriotic duty" to accommodate the "unique demands of military service" that might keep soldiers from keeping an eye out for the best rates.

...Maintenance Oversight And Progress

In some cases, the proposed bill fixes an established or emerging problem. Sec. 419 clarifies a long-standing rule requiring aircraft manufacturers to provide essential maintenance information on their products to any and all who might need them. According to the Aeronautical Repair Station Association, some manufacturers have tried to limit competition for maintenance services by withholding the information, known as Instructions for Continued Airworthiness (ICAs), or by charging exorbitant rates for the material. The proposed bill compels manufacturers to make ICAs available at cost. And then there are the ongoing problems like airport congestion. H.R. 2115 contains dozens of sections aimed at revving up the airport-expansion process. One key section calls for all the various approvals processes to be carried out at the same time, rather than one after another. And since environmental considerations have a way of delaying airport progress, the bill grants far reaching power to the Secretary of Transportation in that regard. Under Sec. 47172, the secretary has 120 days to draw up a list of airports exempt from the normal environmental reviews required under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 for projects at airports. And while the focus is primarily mega-hub airports, there are some far-flung facilities that are getting some attention. Take, for example, Midway Island Airport in the South Pacific. The 6.2 square miles of coral atoll, a U.S.-owned dot in the ocean, has no roads, no farms, no industry and only 40 permanent residents, but the bill sets aside more than $5 million for capital improvements to the airport over the next four years to maintain it at commercial airport standards. The bill says Midway is "critical to the safety of commercial, military and general aviation in the mid-Pacific Ocean region."