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Fri, Nov 07, 2008

Election's Impact On GA Subject Of First AOPA General Session

Panel Discusses Impact Of Election To GA

by ANN Associate Editor Scott Evans

Themed "The Day Before Yesterday," Thursday's panel discussion at the first General Session of AOPA Expo 2008 brought together four industry experts to analyze the impact of the recent US presidential election, and what it could mean to general aviation.

 

Outgoing AOPA President Phil Boyer received a standing ovation as he welcomed a full house to the 2008 AOPA Expo. Introductions of panelists followed -- each respected members of the aviation community -- including Jane Garvey, former FAA Administrator; James Coyne, president of the National Air Transportation Association and former congressman from Pennsylvania; Steve Alterman, president of the Cargo Airline Association; and Ken Mead, former Department of Transportation Inspector General.

Moderated by AOPA Executive VP of Governmental Affairs Andy Cebula, the discussion centered on key topics critical to GA, beginning with changes in presidential and congressional leadership. Coyne (below) felt the electorate is seeking a real "communicator" in the office of President, something he said has been lacking in recent years.

"We've got a new democratic administration and a democratic congress and there's a lot of concern," Garvey said. "Does this mean a new shift toward liberal policies? I think if you look at some of the new members (of congress), even the new democratic members, what you see is a much more moderate position, so I'm not sure that we will see a real shift to the left as some are predicting."

Citing other national concerns like the economy taking precedence, Alterman (below) described an overall indifferent attitude toward general aviation by lawmakers. "It's a real challenge to energize the new congress and administration with the importance of getting things done" for aviation, adding that congress will likely benefit from an "increased level of discipline exerted by the new administration."

Mead (below) said, "We are entering an era of great expectations. People voted on the basis of hope and change," but he also predicted that President-elect Obama's honeymoon with the country would be a short one.

Other noteworthy topics included the renewal of FAA funding, aviation safety and TSA standards, and implementation of NextGen.

Former FAA Administrator Garvey (below) was asked what qualities should be looked for in a new Administrator. "Leadership, management, the ability to pull people together and determine a path forward are really critical," she said.

A surprise pre-recorded video clip from Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR, shown on screen below) suggested Boyer, stepping down at the end of the year from 18 years as president of AOPA, would be an excellent choice for the position of FAA Administrator.

After fielding Cebula's questions, panelists responded to topics raised by the audience. Via text messaging to a phone number provided on a large viewscreen, attendees were invited to submit their questions, which were in turn presented to the panel by Phil Boyer.

A pilot from Oregon asked, "How do we get more involved in some of these things that are being talked about?"

"I think a great way is through this organization... plugging in through AOPA," Garvey responded.

Boyer's final question from the audience hit at the heart of AOPA's mission. "Will anti-special interest sentiment, which seems to be running rampant in Washington, affect AOPA lobbying efforts?" he asked.

Alterman was quick with his response. "If you really think about the way things work, if you took away all the special interests and left congressmen to their own devices, what the hell would they know?"

FMI: www.aopa.org

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