AOPA Pressing FAA To Drop Charity/Sightseeing Rule
The FAA's proposal to force small
sightseeing businesses to meet the requirements for large air tour
operators and increase flight-time requirements for pilots who fly
charity fund-raisers is neither justified nor supported by safety
data and should be withdrawn, AOPA told the agency on Monday.
In AOPA's formal response, filed on what was to have been the
last day of public comment, Senior Vice President of Government and
Technical Affairs Andy Cebula said that by combining sightseeing,
air tours, and charity flights, the FAA has made the proposal
"impractical, if not impossible, to implement.
"This also reflects a failure by the FAA to understand the uses
of general aviation aircraft."
AOPA says the FAA's claims that the proposed rule will improve
safety are suspect.
"Nothing in the original Federal Register notice or the
information that has been made available during the comment period
indicates that there is a significant safety issue with sightseeing
flights," Cebula wrote. The AOPA Air Safety Foundation reviewed the
73 accidents mentioned in supporting documents for the NPRM and
found that in 92 percent of those cases, the proposed rule would
not have prevented the accidents. The other eight percent only
might have been prevented if operated as Part 135 flights.
The proposal to increase the minimum
number of hours a private pilot must have in order to provide
sightseeing flights to help charities raise money is arbitrary and
would do little to improve safety, argued AOPA. Raising the minimum
from 200 to 500 hours would mean 22% fewer pilots would be
available to help charities raise money. Private pilots are limited
to four such events per year. The flights must be conducted in day
VFR conditions and are typically flown near the pilot's home in an
area with which they're thoroughly familiar.
As Cebula noted in AOPA's comments, more than a dozen members of
Congress expressed concerns about the proposed rule's adverse
economic impact on the GA community in letters to the FAA. And the
Office of Advocacy at the government's own Small Business
Administration also found the FAA's economic data seriously flawed
and recommended that the NPRM be withdrawn.
After the FAA initially published its notice of proposed
rulemaking (NPRM), AOPA conducted its own survey and analysis of
the proposal's safety and economic impact and found the agency
grossly underestimated the true effects. AOPA petitioned the FAA to
hold public meetings and hear directly from the pilots who would be
harmed. Late last week, five months after the initial petition, the
FAA finally granted AOPA's petition and announced that it would
hold two public meetings in May.
The NPRM not only harms Part 91 sightseeing businesses and
charity fund-raiser flights, it also imposes significant hardships
on existing Part 135 air tour operators. The proposal would require
expensive new equipment and adopt standards that would result in
far more frequent weather cancellations.
"One Alaska operator estimates the cost to their company at $15
million to $18 million over a 10-year period," wrote Cebula.
"AOPA strongly opposes the NPRM and requests that the FAA
withdraw the NPRM immediately," he concluded.