Each day, the HAI staff share a common focus: how do we help our members keep the rotors turning around the world? Our mission is to help you to maintain an operating environment that is safe, free of burdensome regulations and laws, operationally efficient, economically viable, and sustainable.
Matt Zuccaro, President, HAIA critical way HAI does this is to identify threats that could restrict or eliminate our members’ ability to conduct, grow, and sustain their operations. I’m sorry to report, there are now two issues that pose serious threats to general aviation and, in particular, the helicopter industry.
The airlines and their allies in the U.S. Congress are pushing legislation that would remove the air traffic control (ATC) organization from the FAA and hand it over to a private corporation dominated by airline-related representatives. If they succeed, the new ATC organization could restrict our industry’s access to certain airspace and facilities, and reduce or eliminate helicopter-oriented initiatives.
Supporters of this effort say a privatized ATC is necessary to advance technological programs such as NextGen. I have an even better idea: why don’t we remove the governmental restrictions that hobble the FAA and let it get on with doing its job. We do not need to give taxpayer-funded programs — including millions in infrastructure — to private corporations for free.
Everyone acknowledges that the U.S. ATC system is the safest and most efficient in the world. This being the case, just what is the problem that ATC proponents are trying to solve?
Erosion of FAA Authority
As far back as I can remember, the FAA has controlled the airspace from the ground up, as well as all related aviation activities. Legislation such as the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 (ADA) was intended to protect us from the negative effects of multiple, confusing, and conflicting local and state aviation regulations. The FAA, as sole aviation authority, oversaw a unified, safe, and efficient National Airspace System.
In the future, this may no longer be true. The FAA’s authority and oversight over aviation is being challenged on different fronts. Missions such as helicopter air ambulance are facing potential requirements from several state governments that want to operationally and economically control aviation activities within their borders.
When it comes to the new technology of unmanned aircraft systems or drones, numerous local and state governments have already established laws for drone operations in their jurisdiction, in direct conflict with the ADA and the authority of the FAA.
Where does the FAA stand on this erosion of its authority? The agency has stated that local and state governments have a place at the table when discussing aviation regulatory initiatives.