AIN Blog: Senators Want a Second Bite at GA

AINonline
March 12, 2012 - 7:21am

The Senate likely will take up a pair of amendments to the $52 billion federal highway bill (S.1813) beginning tomorrow that, if passed, would negatively affect the helicopter taxi and tour business nationwide. Attempts at this sort of mischief-making were stripped from the recently enacted FAA reauthorization bill, so now, U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) are attempting to “Christmas tree” them onto the highway legislation.

Schumer’s attempts to mandate potentially dangerous offshore helicopter routing over Long Island has been ongoing for several years now. But his latest gambit also incorporates language from legislation previously offered by California congressmen and senators to regulate civil helicopter traffic over the Los Angeles basin more stringently.

Alexander’s amendment would give the director of the National Park Service (NPS) broad authority to regulate helicopter and fixed-wing tour flights over land under its administration, a move that is widely seen as being debilitating to the air-tour business nationwide.  Specifically, Alexander’s amendment would give the NPS director the authority to establish air-tour management plans and issue air-tour permits. Alexander’s local concern appears to be about helicopter tours over the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in his home state.

Given the sorry state of many of our national parks at present, the NPS appears to have enough on its plate without trying to regulate airspace and airspace usage, which is the purview of another federal agency that actually knows something about the issue—it’s called the FAA. The FAA has well established and effective practices in place for this sort of thing and the process works well in large part because it gives all the stakeholders the opportunity for input and balances the needs of airspace users with public safety. What Schumer and Alexander are proposing is to disregard the needs of airspace users and ignore their positive economic impact to score political points with small slices of their constituencies.  This is more than bad public policy. It’s unsafe, and it needs to stop now.

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Mark F Sullivan
on March 13, 2012 - 3:04pm

The last thing a regulatory-bound USA needs is Balkanization of regulation of airspace. This should be done exclusively by the FAA. If the NPS gets to regulate airspace over national parks, what's next? NPS jurisdiction over the vast areas of Utah, Arizona and Nevada that President Clinton elevated to National Monument status? Do state parks then get the same power. Does USDA get to determine if overflight frightens corn? Leave us alone, Government! One regulator is enough.

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Sean
on March 14, 2012 - 8:16am

The NPS already regulates its airspace over all NPS units. 36 CFR 2.17 adopts all FAA regulations which sounds like any pilot can by cited by the NPS if they bust any FAR's over/in a park unit. Also, any commercial tour operator conducting tours over a park unit, must file a permit with the National Park Service...including all those monuments, recreation areas, lakeshores, seashores, memorials, etc.

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terry O'Malley
on March 13, 2012 - 3:35pm

It is obvious that highway ground control and rotary aircraft air control have nothing in common except for the legislator who tried to slip in a bill, on its own, would not pass, if fact, on its own, couldn't get in committee.

Hoo-Ra to the scout that caught this one.

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Stephen P. Moore
on March 13, 2012 - 5:06pm

This is another example of Obama stripping away the rights of all of us. Thursday night a law was signed that protesting the Pres., or anyone assigned Secret Service protection is now a Felony, punishable by a minimum of 1 year in jail. I'm glad I found about this as I wouldn't want to go to prison for voiceing my opinion of any of our elected officials.

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Chad Trautvetter
on March 13, 2012 - 9:28pm

Stephen,

I infer that you’re talking about H.R. 347, which was passed last week by Congress, not Obama. Yes, the President signed the bill this past weekend, but without Congress it wouldn’t have even been sent to his desk. Anyways, it was meant as an “anti-Occupy” law, but it was written so broadly that it could have many unintended consequences (big surprise, I know). In fact, one analyst said that under the way the law was writtten that it would be illegal to boo Rick Santorum since he currently has Secret Service protection. Let’s just hope that the third (judicial) branch isn’t asleep at the wheel when it eventually is tapped to look at whether the law is or isn’t constitutional.

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Antoni Deighton
on March 13, 2012 - 5:58pm

The FAA have already handed over jurisdiction of certain airspace to NOAA. So it shouldn't be a surprise that they're willing to hand over more to other agencies. After the FAA have delegated responsibility for airspace, they'll be nothing more than a licensing organization: aviation's version of the DMV.
So why are they doing this? Well, it's the first step to user-fees. After the FAA no longer control federal airspace, those other departments, NOAA, National Parks, etc, will begin to levy user fees. The FAA will claim that they have no authority in that airspace and are unable to do anything about it. The administration will have successfully effecting its ultimate goal by sidelining congress. Is it Constitutional? Unlikely, but by then it will be in place and we have all seen how successful the government is at cutting bureaucracy!

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Tigerpilot
on March 13, 2012 - 8:10pm

The man who never met a TV camera he didn't like is now trying to regulate aviation-something he has shown in the past he knows nothing about. The FAA does a fine job of overseeing aviation without the help of any other federal (or state) agency. Schumer and a few of his buddies need to retire while we still have a country to save.

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WILLIAM PICKERINGBUFF
on March 13, 2012 - 10:40pm

THE USPS, ALREADY LIMITS NUMEROUS ACTIVITIES GIVEN BY THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION. AIR SPACE IS NOT THEIR JURISDICTION ...NOR CAN THE FAA LIMIT THE NUMBER OF ROTORWING AIRCRAFT OR FIXED WING AIRCRAFT ANYWHERE, EXCEPT ONTO RUNWAYS AT CONTROLLED FIELDS OR THOSE IN CONTROLLED AIRSPACE..FLY LOW FLY SLOW AND THEY WILL NOT SEE YOU....AIRCRAFT NOISE IS THE SOUND OF FREEDOM.. TELL SCHUMMER TO TAKE A HIKE TO HELL....SEMPER FI...

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