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Wed, May 12, 2004

AOPA Makes Its Case At FAA Meeting On Charity Sightseeing Rule

The FAA's proposed charity/sightseeing rule — what they call the National Air Tour Standards proposal — is bad policy, is not justified by safety data, and should be withdrawn. Plain and simple, that was the message AOPA presented on Tuesday at the first of two public meetings the FAA held to hear from pilots on the proposal.

The FAA gave in and agreed to hold public meetings after months of pressure by AOPA, members of Congress, and other aviation groups. The proposed rule would drive nearly all Part 91 sightseeing operators out of business and deplete the pool of pilots available to help charities with fundraising flights by nearly 22%. "The FAA is trying to force a rule into place that doesn't make sense," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "AOPA exists to protect the interests of general aviation, and those interests are definitely under attack with this proposed rule."

"AOPA's own research showed that the FAA grossly underestimated the effects of this rule," said AOPA Senior Vice President of Government and Technical Affairs Andy Cebula, who made AOPA's presentation. "The FAA's own estimates indicated that the rule change would drive approximately 700 of the estimated 1,670 Part 91 sightseeing operations out of business. That alone is an awful toll, but our numbers show the actual number of businesses forced to close would be nearly double that — more than 80% of all Part 91 sightseeing businesses!"

Using data compiled by the AOPA Air Safety Foundation, Cebula demonstrated that the safety justification for the proposed rule is based on false premises. The data included a mixture of Part 135 and Part 91 sightseeing accidents and was not a true reflection of Part 91 operators' safety record. And the Air Safety Foundation analysis of accidents that did involve fixed-wing Part 91 aircraft found that the rule change might have prevented only a very small handful.

Cebula noted that more than a dozen members from both houses of Congress and both parties have written to the FAA expressing concerns about the proposed rule change. He also talked about serious shortcomings that a report by the Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy brought to light.

Echoing AOPA's formal comments on the proposed rule, Cebula told the FAA that it would be impractical and nearly impossible to implement and does not reflect an understanding of general aviation.

The second and final meeting will be held on May 21 in Las Vegas, Nevada, in the Commission Chamber at the Clark County Government Center, 500 S. Grand Central Parkway, Las Vegas, Nevada 89155.

FMI: www.faa.gov, www.aopa.org

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