By Joseph E. (Jeb) Burnside
July 27, 2013 - Even if a do-nothing Congress and ongoing budget uncertainties translate into a federal government unable to do much more than track citizens' phone calls, industry and the FAA continue contemplating changes to aviation policy.
And despite the agency's sharply reduced presence this week during EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2013, industry participants are gathering to meet and develop responses to the many challenges they face.
Seemingly far removed from this week's AirVenture, D.C. is contemplating many changes to existing policies and regulations. These proposed changes can potentially affect not only how AirVenture attendees fly their airborne creations but the rules under which pilots and the aircraft themselves are certificated. Here's a quick overview of some of the issues being discussed this week, many of which AirVenture Today will cover in greater detail.
Less than three short months ago, the FAA announced EAA must pay for air traffic control services during AirVenture. The agency's decision came after decades of cooperation with the association to ensure the safety and efficiency of operations during the show, without any new fees. Eventually and under protest, EAA agreed in mid-June to pay the FAA some $447,000 to cover controllers' expenses. But that's not the end of the episode.
Since then, the association has filed a petition in federal court, seeking formal review of the FAA's demand for payment, return of the fees already paid, and reimbursement of attorney's fees and other costs. Additionally, Congress last week got into the act, with a growing list of senators and representatives expressing to the FAA their concern-and their opposition to the fees.
The avgas most of us burned flying to AirVenture contains tetraethyl lead (TEL), a toxic substance. Environmental, health, and economic concerns have created increasing pressure to find a replacement for 100LL. But simply removing TEL from existing avgas formulations isn't enough-and some octane-enhancing substances don't work and play well with aircraft fuel systems, for example. And other options may sharply increase the already too-high cost of avgas.
Industry and the FAA have known for some time that a 100LL replacement is necessary. But a consensus on how to develop and certify a new fuel proved elusive.
Until recently, that is.
Over the last couple of years, an aviation rulemaking committee was formed and made several specific recommendations on how to proceed. Those recommendations are being implemented, with 2018 as a target date by which the FAA intends to designate a fuel replacing 100LL.
Medical Certificate Exemption
Why do pilots of uncomplicated personal aircraft need to undergo a medical examination and obtain an FAA certificate? EAA and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) raised that fundamental question in a formal exemption petition submitted more than a year ago. In turn, the FAA sought public comments.
The petition basically seeks to expand the success of the sport pilot medical certification framework and allow pilots flying fixed-gear, single-engine airplanes of 180 hp or less to carry no more than one passenger in day VFR with a valid driver's license as evidence of medical qualification.
Despite widespread support throughout general aviation, the FAA has missed a deadline to respond to the petition.
Consideration of these and a host of other issues continues, despite the FAA's intransigence on ATC fees during AirVenture, among other issues. Look for in-depth coverage of these issues and how they're being handled throughout the week.