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Tue, May 01, 2012

Conference Committee On Highway Bill Set To Meet

Alexander Amendment Would Shift Some FAA Responsibility To The National Parks Service

The U.S. House of Representatives has now selected its conferees to iron out differences with the Senate over competing versions of the Highway Reauthorization Bill. Embedded in the Senate version, S. 1813, is language inserted by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) that would shift FAA authority to regulate air tour operators over national parks to the National Park Service. HAI issued a statement saying it believes that the Alexander amendment is unacceptable and would dangerously marginalize the FAA’s statutory role in overseeing air safety.

Senator Alexander (pictured) developed his amendment without the participation of the affected stakeholders and without any consultation from the air tour industry. This dangerous, precedent-setting amendment jeopardizes passenger safety and thousands of air tour-related jobs during a time of high unemployment, in addition to threatening the very existence of a vital tourism-based industry.
HAI says that anyone with an interest in the issue may contact the conference committee members, but your help is particularly needed if you reside in a district state represented by one of the House conferees.

When communicating with a member of the committee, or any member on this issue, HAI says some of the important issues to point out include:

  • The Alexander amendment is not germane to a highway trust fund reauthorization bill because it would impact an aviation safety issue.
  • The Alexander amendment contradicts Congressional intent when it established the FAA to create a unified National Airspace System overseen by a single authority.
  • The FAA must not be allowed to relinquish its authority or abandon its responsibility to maintain the safe and efficient use of the National Airspace System.
  • The Alexander amendment would facilitate the National Park Service in being able to inappropriately influence the selection of air tour routes when the NPS has no expertise in the regulation of air carriers or airspace management, and has been openly hostile to the air tour operators.
  • The Alexander amendment would inappropriately give the Director of the National Park Service full unilateral authority over airspace above national parks, allowing him to eliminate the air tour industry from our national parks.
  • The last time the National Park Service exerted undue influence on air routes over a National Park, a mid-air collision between a fixed-wing aircraft and a helicopter resulted. The National Transportation Safety Board’s final report listed as contributing factors, failure by the FAA to exercise its oversight responsibility and the National Park Service’s influence over the selection or routes.
  • This amendment would lead to lost jobs for pilots, drivers, guides, and support staff of air tour providers and the local businesses that rely on them, but will cause a ripple effect of lower manufacturing employment through the helicopter parts and maintenance industry.
  • The air tour operators’ willingness and eagerness to be “early adopters” of quiet technologies supports manufacturers’ development of those technologies, benefiting the entire industry and the people we fly over.



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