General aviation now seems to be getting more attention in Congress and from the FAA. This observation comes from the appearance of a Congressman and a deputy administrator of the FAA at the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association Homecoming Fly-In earlier this month.
Michael Whitaker, FAA deputy administrator with the primary responsibility of developing the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen), told a crowd of several hundred that he is getting his pilot’s license “to better understand my job and general aviation issues.”
He began taking flight lessons this past April and expects to take the test before the end of October. Whitaker stressed how important the FAA considers NextGen to be for the future of all aviation, including its importance to general aviation.
“And besides that, I’m enjoying it,” he happily told the crowd.
He noted that he started flying lessons early in his career, but quit after a few hours because of costs and other duties at the time.
Reauthorization of the FAA is due and Congressman Sam Graves (R-Mo.), a pilot and aircraft owner, said he is going out and listening to pilots everywhere so he and the committee “can hit the ground running” in January.
Air traffic control in other nations is being studied to adapt the best of all for continued improvement in the United States. Changes will be made. Maybe one of these, he commented, should be to get the government out of the way.
Reauthorization includes funding. Graves cautioned that fees are — and will be in the future — a subject to contend with as funding for government continues through the years. The current House still opposes user fees, but Graves cautioned pilots not to let up on their opposition. Contacting their members of Congress is something he urged all pilots to do to encourage their elected representatives to enact legislation to help general aviation.
Remotely Piloted Vehicles — usually known as Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), but RPVs at General Aviation News — is another important issue facing the committee. Graves said RPVs are going to be strong in the future and that he considers the manner the FAA is currently handling the integration of them into the airspace as proper.
The General Aviation Caucus in the House has now reached 253 members, Graves reported, adding the goal is to get to 300 members. The caucus lets non-pilot members better understand issues general aviation faces and to see ways to help them. Graves told the pilots at the AOPA Fly-In that they can help by asking their Congressional representatives if they are members of the caucus and, if not, to urge them to join. “Just ask them to contact me or my office and we will welcome them,” he said.
AOPA President Mark Baker spoke first at the session reporting on some of the association’s work and achievements of the year. A question and answer period brought numerous written questions from the crowd, the majority of which focused on the proposal to eliminate the third class medical certificate. The answer to all was the same as in the past: It is at the Department of Transportation going through the long process of review by various departments of government.