March 31, 2012
By Elvia Malagon
LAKELAND | A group of aviation enthusiasts took a break from flying and watching aircraft Saturday morning to discuss issues affecting the industry.
Among the experts was U.S. Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., who is on the aviation subcommittee of the federal Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Graves led a town hall meeting at the Federal Aviation Administration building on the grounds of the Sun ‘n Fun Fly-In.
More than 30 people listened to Graves and others comment on upcoming legislation that will affect the aviation industry.
The issues that arose included a proposed user fee for general aircraft, increasing the number of student pilots and regulations over investigations.
The proposed user fee was mentioned several times and Graves told the crowd he will continue to fight against the proposal.
According to a news release from the Alliance for Aviation Across America, a $100 per flight fee was proposed for general aviation in the 2013 budget.
“This is an issue that we will continue to fight,” he said. “It will destroy general aviation.”
Graves is a pilot and a member of the general aviation caucus. Members of the Antique Airplane Association, the Helicopter Association International, the Recreational Aviation Foundation and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association spoke during the town hall meeting.
Graves also spoke about an upcoming bill he would like to see passed by Congress that would provide more transparency for pilots who are under investigation.
Others spoke about the importance of preserving aviation history and older aircraft.
Ed Dicampli, the executive vice president and corporate secretary for Helicopter Association International, said he is worried by proposed state bills targeting smaller airports because of noise complaints from what he described as a small group of residents.
He said bills derived from noise complaints pose a threat to the futures of smaller airports all across the country.
John McKenna from the Recreational Aviation Foundation said he is also concerned about smaller airports and grass airstrips. He encouraged people to use them and help preserve them for the future.
“We want people to have a good time with an airplane,” he said.
Craig Fuller of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association warned the audience that the number of pilots and students pilots has been on a decline for years.
Fuller said in the mid 1980s, there were about 825,000 pilots throughout the country. The number of pilots has decreased to about 600,000, he said.
“One thing that concerns me is that the is shrinking,” he said.
He said a recent study was released that stated about 70 percent of students studying to be pilots never receive their private pilot license. He said his group is looking at training programs pilots enroll in and promoting those that have a high percentage of students who become pilots.
The plan is part of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association Flight Training Retention Initiative, which is aiming to increase the number of students who receive pilot licenses, according to the group’s website.
He also said niche aviation organizations and events like Sun ‘n Fun Fly-In can help the aviation industry grow.
“We build our aviation community,” he said. “A sense of community is very important.”
Source: THE LEDGER