Thu, Jun 21, 2012
Legislation Still Contains Alexander Amendment Which Could Threaten The Air Tour Industry
House and Senate conferees are reportedly close to an agreement to move forward on a federal highway bill which could have broad implications for the National Airspace System and be particularly harmful to air tour operators, according to the Helicopter Association International.
The amendment is sponsored by Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN). It would give regulatory authority for some portions of the NAS to the National Park Service — an agency whose only previous experience with airspace management was a contributing factor in a fatal midair collision between a helicopter and a fixed-wing aircraft.
“Congress gave sole authority for managing aviation and aviation safety in America to the FAA,” says HAI President Matt Zuccaro. “If enacted, the Alexander amendment would give a third party with no expertise in aviation — the National Park Service — the responsibility to manage portions of U.S. airspace, and would give them the authority to deny pilots access to airspace and to give preferential treatment to some operators over others — something the FAA is specifically prohibited from doing.”
While the agreement to “do a bill” does not mean the final language has been agreed to, it does make the danger of the Alexander amendment being included more imminent, Zuccaro said.
HAI is urging its members whether or not they are air tour operators to call the members of the conference committee immediately and urge them to block the Alexander amendment to the highway bill. The association says members should remind lawmakers that if it is included, agencies other than the FAA would be given sole authority to determine who may and may not use certain airspace, and that Congress deemed a cohesive National Airspace System vital to national interests. The Alexander amendment breaks that system into separate pieces with different overseers, and sets a dangerous precedent which opens the door to any government or government agency – federal, state or local – demanding control of “its” airspace.
The amendment has received no Congressional review. It has been opposed by the House General Aviation Caucus, which has sent a letter to the conferees urging them to reject the amendment.
Additional "talking points" are available from HAI.
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