Eighteen members of the General Aviation Caucus of the U.S. House of Representatives on May 25 sent a letter to congressional conferees trying to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the highway authorization bill, urging the conference committee members to reject an amendment that would take control of airspace over national parks away from the FAA and give it to the National Park Service.
“Marginalizing the role of the FAA in air tour operations because they occur over park and tribal airspace is a mistake,” states the letter, signed by bipartisan co-chairmen Reps. Sam Graves (R-MO) and John Barrow (D-GA), and 16 others, including Rep. Don Young (R-AK), one of general aviation’s most vocal longtime supporters in the House. “This is a step backward in aviation safety and should be rejected in any surface transportation conference agreement.”
HAI said in a news release that the letter goes on to remind the conferees that Congress, following a midair collision over a national park, directed the two agencies to work together on airspace issues, noting that the FAA is responsible for air safety. It also notes that the language currently in the bill would effectively legislate an entire industry – air tourism – out of existence, costing thousands of jobs: pilots, mechanics and technicians, as well as support service providers, such as parts suppliers, tour bus drivers, and even local businesses that will be adversely affected by the closure of air tour operations.
The amendment, the co-signers write, “is nothing more than a biased judgment on how best to experience our national parks. While the title [of the amendment] merely claims to make ‘technical corrections’ to the oversight of the air tour industry, it is nothing short of a full-scale, twenty-six page rewrite of existing law. We strongly urge you to reject this provision.”