Panel Includes Congressman Tom Petri (R-WI), Chair Of The Aviation Subcommittee, Pilot And Congressman Sam Graves (R-MO)
Four members of congress appeared at Forum Pavilion 4 at AirVenture Friday, answering questions from a small audience about issues important to the general aviation community.
The panel consisted of (pictured L-R) Congressmen Tom Petri, chair of the House Transportation Subcommittee aviation subcommittee, Missouri Republican Congressman Sam Graves, Wisconsin Republican Congressman Reid Ribble, and Texas Republican Congressman Blake Farenthold. Congressman Graves, who took the lead in getting the Pilot's Bill of Rights through the U.S. House, said it was very gratifying to have the measure pass with bi-partisan support on a voice vote.
Graves also said that the Obama administration is "hell bent" on imposing new fees on aviation. "You've seen proposals all the way from any time you file a flight plan for anybody to what they pared it back down to exempt out piston aircraft. And to say that anybody who had a turbine engine or flies a turboprop will have to do this is just as ridiculous. An that's what I was talking about earlier working through the General Aviation Caucus is ... they feel that if they can exempt out anything piston that they'll be able to get this done and we'll all say 'it's not affecting us' ... they eventually want every person out there who files a flight plan, has access to flight service, in fact gets any weather, get your NOTAMS, what ever you want to do ... they want to be able to charge you."
Graves said the user fee proposal would "destroy" general aviation "because you wouldn't be able to afford to fly. And that is exactly what's happened in Europe. And we don't want to see that happen in the United States."
Petri said there seems to be an "almost intentional effort to come up with onerous, broad, inappropriate, overly restrictive regulations that would basically force people out of General Aviation."
Graves said there has not been any specific indication whether President Obama will sign the Pilot's Bill of Rights. He did say that the Department of Transportation has put up some resistance to the bill. "An we never know," Graves said.
The panel said they understood that there are concerns about the use of UAV's in the National Airspace. Congressman Blake Farenthold said his district includes areas of the border with Mexico, and UAVs fly from NAS Corpus Cristi to patrol the border. "From a safety concern, there working on that, and I think safety is the foremost concern. Now we can talk a lot about the privacy issues and using these issues. I've also got a very rural and agricultural district, and you're seeing the Department of Agriculture start to look at them. But there's some legislation that is being developed now to protect the privacy of American citizens."
But Farenthold said he thinks UAV provide needed resources for border patrol, as well as dealing with natural disasters. Graves said he has serious concerns about UAVs operation in the same airspace a general aviation airplanes. "It's a problem, it's a real problem. And it has to be addressed before something happens," Graves said.
Another issue the panel addressed was lead in aviation fuel. Petri said that there was language in the FAA reauthorization bill that encourages public private partnerships to work on the issue. "Something will have begun in terms of an omnibus bill by the end of the year. But there are earmarks in there (appropriations bills being written in Washington, D.C.) of $6 million dollars for research on alternative fuels to deal with this problem. So it would seem that this is not being ignored." Petri said more could be done, but it is at least a start.
On another fuel issue, the panelists said that they are aware of the harmful aspects of ethanol in automotive fuel, preclude its use in aviation engines which are approved for MoGas.
The panel was to have included several other members of the House, including some Democrats, but they reportedly had scheduling conflicts and were unable to make the trip to Wisconsin for the session.