Calling it "a big loss" to the organization, on Friday the Aircraft
Owners and Pilots Association issued the following statement on the
resignation -- announced earlier in the day and effective July
7 -- of Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta.
"During the 16 years I have been the president of AOPA, Norman
Mineta always had an open door for us,” said AOPA President
Phil Boyer. "Whether it was during his tenure as a U.S.
Representative for San Jose, the chairman of the House aviation
subcommittee and the House Public Works and Transportation
Committee, or as the Secretary of Transportation, he always
welcomed and valued what we had to say regarding GA.
"If he saw a friend across a crowded room, he’d always
reach out with a warm greeting and treat you like the only person
in that room. Too often those in politics or government are only
looking for all the right hands to shake or ears to bend. Norm
truly valued personal relationships -- and I will miss that," Boyer
"It is critical that the Bush Administration chooses a successor
who has the same level of understanding of the value of general
aviation as Norm consistently displayed. He understood the
importance of GA pilots and promoting safety. That’s one
reason he has repeatedly opposed user fees on GA."
The first time Mineta directly told AOPA members that he would
not fund the FAA with user fees was at AOPA Expo in Tampa, FL this
past November. "I can tell you right now from my perspective [the
solution] will not be user fees," he said. Mineta has been the only
Secretary of Transportation to speak live to AOPA members at AOPA
He reiterated his stance
on FAA funding again during a House Appropriations Committee
hearing in March, saying, "there would not be any user fees,"
further explaining, "User fees impact safety. Our department is all
Mineta worked closely with AOPA to protect GA immediately after
the 9/11 terror attacks. "He called us right after 9/11 to tell us
how the government was going to get the National Airspace System
back up and running," Boyer said. "He talked to us about getting GA
back in the air and sought our input."
Mineta also understood the importance of funding GA airports
through the Airport Improvement Program (AIP), which gives federal
money to airports in the form of grants for maintenance and
While he was a member of Congress, he led the charge that made
privately owned, public-use airports eligible for AIP funds.
But there is something Mineta told AOPA members he
couldn’t understand: Encroachment, and why airports that
existed before new houses ended up getting the short end of the
"A person buys a house next to a busy airport, and in two days
complains about that airport," he told members at AOPA Expo 2005.
"That’s something I’ve never understood." He explained
that while GA pilots worked to educate their elected officials, he
would do his part by having the Department of Transportation put
pressure on local agencies and withhold funding from airports that
didn’t comply with land-use requirements.
Mineta’s recognized role in support of GA goes back more
than two decades. In 1987, AOPA honored Mineta’s ongoing
contributions to the advancement of general aviation by awarding
him with AOPA’s prestigious Hartranft Award. And the
association worked with him in 1997 when he chaired the National
Civil Aviation Review Commission.
"Norm has spent a career working extremely hard to advance
aviation," Boyer said. "On a professional level -- as well as
personal -- his departure is a major loss. He always sought me out
in a crowd, offering a warm handshake and smile. In that regard, he
was unique -- especially given the stature of his position. We wish
him the best as he enters this next phase of his remarkable