Urge Supporters To Contact President, Representatives In
Seven members of the House of Representatives attended a public
meeting on Saturday, July 28 during AirVenture 2007 at Oshkosh to
answer questions and discuss the next steps for the Aviation
Reauthorization Bill. Six of the seven Representatives in
attendance were members of the House Aviation Subcommittee.
Their message was clear -- every member of the general aviation
community needs to be proactive in supporting the efforts of
industry associations and take personal responsibility for sending
the message to their representatives in Congress and the President
of the United States -- "No User Fees."
The Representatives each gave praise to industry associations such
as Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), National Business
Aircraft Association (NBAA), General Aviation Manufacturers
Association (GAMA), and Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) on
their efforts. There also appeared to be consensus amongst the
participants that the General Aviation industry is not well
understood by the public and is therefore not very high on the
radar screen in Congress. While the existing legislation expires
September 30, 2007, Representatives offered candid observations
that the plethora a bills which are on the Congressional agenda,
combined with the lack of awareness suggests that pressure from the
GA community needs to be relentless over the next two months.
Subcommittee Chair, Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Illinois (above),
relayed there was unanimous rejection of the general aviation user
fee issue at the House Aviation Subcommittee level, and that he is
optimistic the House will pass its version of the bill (H.R.2881)
-- which does not include user fees or major tax breaks for the
airlines. The Senate bill, S.1300, currently contains a $25-per-leg
fee for many turbine-powered aircraft flying IFR, and gives a major
break in the fuel tax to the airlines.
The Representative from the District that includes Oshkosh, Rep.
Tom Petri, R-Wisconsin (below), referred to general aviation as "an
aspect of freedom we have that others in the world don't." Petri is
the Senior Republican on the House Aviation Subcommittee and will
be sitting with Rep. Costello when the House and Senate versions of
Aviation Bill are being negotiated into a compromise bill that will
go to President Bush.
When asked about the timing, Costello gave it a 50/50 chance
that H.R. 2881 would make it through Ways and Means before the
August recess of Congress.
Rep. Candace Miller, R-Michigan (below) offered her observation,
"the GA types don't get involved in politics and that the user fee
issue may have a silver lining, bringing more attention to GA
issues and more involvement by the GA community." While not a
member of the aviation subcommittee, Rep. Miller serves on the full
Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and her husband is a
former military aviator and AOPA member.
Representative Vernon Ehlers, R-Michigan -- and the only Nuclear
Physicist in Congress -- strongly urged attendees to contact their
representatives, including President Bush, to express support of
H.R. 2881 and to emphasize that they vote. Ehlers suggested
individuals express their personal perspective on the potential
impacts of user fees, mandatory retirement, and other issues, such
as the closure of general aviation airports.
Ehlers (above) also suggested that individuals contact
Congressional staffers based in the local offices, talk to them
about concerns and invite them to participate in discussions or
events where they can be educated about General Aviation.
Local media could also be invited to participate in similar
A number of attendees expressed concern about the age 60
mandatory retirement issue, and were real live examples of what is
estimated to be driving a loss of 200 pilots, per month. Rep.
Costello indicated H.R. 2881 includes a proposed increase the cap
to age 65, matching provisions of international standards (ICAO)
and that given the workload of Congress -- and the apathy of
Congressional Leaders -- the retirement issue was unlikely to be
proposed as a separate bill.
One attendee who expressed his concern was both a GA and an
airline pilot who had a 60th birthday coming up in less than two
months. He relayed his concern about the increasing number of
non-U.S. carriers who were recruiting U.S. pilots that are being
forced to retire.
A number of industry associations have on their websites,
examples of letters which individuals can send to their
Congressional representatives along with links to their email and