An affable Marion Blakey greeted
several hundred Oshkosh visitors Wednesday for EAA's annual "Meet
The Administrator" session. An unprecedented security presence that
included a police dog and handler as well as some two dozen
security personnel from various agencies, however, struck a
discordant note as the event got underway. No reason was given for
the heightened security presence at this year's event, but the
aviation community's dissatisfaction with the FAA's position on
future funding issues may have made Blakey's security
handlers a mite nervous.
A rare opportunity for the Administrator to speak to the grass
roots of aviation, the session usually begins with what used to be
a short statement from the admin to set the tone and concludes with
a number of opportunities for attendees to question the FAA's boss
These sessions have, though, lately been dominated by long
statements from the Administrator that often used half the time
allotted for the session -- this time was no exception. Blakey
seemed pleased with progress in both the LSA and VLJ
industries and often seemed more than willing to credit their
presence and growth on FAA and EAA efforts and cooperation.
It wasn't all just crowing, though. Blakey announced that a
proposal was under consideration to allow most pilots to use their
medical certificates for a longer period than authorized in the
past. First Class medicals may receive an extension to a full
year and for those pilots who have avoided hitting age 40, their
third class certificates may soon be good for as much as five
Blakey alluded to the better safety record she had seen in a
number of GA and Sport Aviation indices and once again credited the
lesser accident rate to the FAA and EAA.
The questions this year were a mite mild, until one of the last.
Questions covered the gamut of topics from the Age 60 rule, to the
ADIZ, to airspace issues, to sport pilot, to, finally, User Fees.
THAT's when the tone of the event took a turn for the serious when
Aero-News Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Jim Campbell asked the only
"hard" question about the FAA's lobbying campaign for user fees,
and their apparent promise to keep GA from suffering the brunt of
the cost that may be imposed on the aero-industry.
Campbell questioned Blakey's attempt to minimize the potential
of User Fees impact on GA by noting that biz-av is still a part of
GA (in apparent reference to a number of suspicions that the
primary target for civilian user fees may be laid upon the business
aviation community) and that rumors of additional certification
costs have been floated by various sources close to the FAA.
Campbell then asked about the seemingly cozy relationship
between the FAA and the ATA, while recalling that a senior FAA
official who had worked on the campaign had just jumped ship to the
Air Transport Association. The ATA's members are the airlines who
stand to benefit from the proposal. Campbell asked as to whether GA
might be able to get a fair shake from the FAA as this process
reached a decision point.
Blakey denied any undue "coziness" between the FAA and any other
organization, for that matter, and said that former FAA staffers
could go to work for whom they pleased... noting that a number of
former FAA staffers were now working for the EAA... while
neglecting to note the various federal guidelines in place for
government employees who transition to the civilian sector in those
circumstances where their new employment may have a relationship to
their former efforts for Uncle Sam. She did not, however, answer
All in all, it was a fairly friendly affair, even though little
news was made. Blakey's upcoming last year of her current term is
sure to be one that offers opportunities for aviation progress. For
the time being, the FAA seems content to hint at user fees in
prepared leaks and between the lines of official speeches. But at
some point the Administration will have to move the whole process
into the light of open disclosure. As always, ANN looks forward to
the fair and open discourse that should result.