Photo by Hilary
Tom Petri (R-WI), Leonard Boswell (IA) and Sam Graves (MO) at the
August 2, 2009 - Oshkosh, Wisconsin
- Security regulations and user-fee issues dominated the
Congressional Forum Saturday afternoon at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh.
Congressmen Tom Petri (R-WI), Leonard Boswell
(D-IA), and Sam Graves (R-MO) responded to questions from EAA members and
members of the GA community. (Jerry Costello [D-IL], and Vern Ehlers
[R-MI], were unable to attend.) Petri is the ranking member of the House
Aviation subcommittee; Boswell and Graves, are both certificated pilots
and members of the 66-member bipartisan General Aviation Caucus in the
U.S. House of Representatives.
All three emphasized the need for all of GA to
stick together to counter those who would impose unreasonable taxes or
destructive regulations on general aviation. EAA, AOPA, GAMA (General
Aviation Manufacturers Association), and others “all come together here
at Oshkosh like a family,” said Boswell. “We [GA] are getting walked
on and we need to stand up together.”
GA industry groups “are working hard to
protect general aviation,” Graves added.
“There are a lot of attacks on GA now and we
need to work hard to educate legislators who just don’t understand GA.”
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
is mounting multiple attacks on GA, Graves said. TSA’s Large Aircraft
Security Program, or LASP, proposes to impose airlinestyle security rules
on any aircraft over 12,500 pounds gross weight including screening
passengers and restrictions on what can be carried onboard.
Such rules would kill operations like the EAA’s
Tri-Motor rides because EAA would have to screen every passenger. “The
Tri-Motor is not a threat to national security,” he said. And some
companies use private aircraft precisely because the products they sell
and carry onboard cannot be carried on a commercial flight.
“TSA is trying to confront threats to
security,” Graves said, “but they are not using any common sense.
“EAA and AOPA are working with TSA to bring
some common sense to the issue, but it’s difficult.”
Asked if it would help to invite TSA officials
to visit GA airports, Graves responded, “That’s a great suggestion;
the problem is getting them to do it. We are arguing that GA is not a
threat, but they aren’t buying it.
“They’re just not listening.”
“The thousands of letters the TSA received
during the comment period [on LASP] had a significant impact” on the
discussions between TSA and GA, said Boswell. “We need to stay on that
EAA President Tom Poberezny told the
congressmen, “Freedom is important. And security is important.
“But where is the balance? Security at what
price? Please remember that.”
“Where is TSA?” one audience member asked.
“Why aren’t they here answering our questions?”
“TSA officials have been here on the field
this week,” Poberezny responded, and they have met with EAA, AOPA, and
other GA groups. “We will invite them to a forum next year.”
On user fees, Graves said that that fight is
not over. “It’s all about money” and who should pay for the air
traffic control system and other aviation infrastructure—the airlines or
GA, he said. “It’s an argument as old as commercial aviation.”
Boswell added, “I’ll be blunt; the
airlines want GA to pay for it.” Responding to an audience member’s
comment that user fees would destroy GA, Petri said, “It’s not just
fees, it’s also misunderstood and destructive regulations.”
TSA, he said, is “trying to impose rules
based on a fundamental misunderstanding of risk and impact.”
“I’ve seen lots of stupid regulations in
my years in Congress,” said Petri, quoting Congressman Vern Ehlers
(R-MI), founder and co-chairman of the GA Caucus, “but I’ve never seen
a stupider regulation than what TSA has proposed for GA.”
“One of the tactics GA opponents is
using,” said Graves, “is to try to split off the smaller, piston-engined,
weekend fliers from business aviation.
“All of GA has got to stick together, or we
are going to lose.”
GA has a lot of hard work to do, said Boswell,
“But I believe that if we stand together, we’ll be okay.”