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EAA AirVenture Oshkosh RSS FeedTSA proposals and user fees dominate congressional forum
By David Sakrison, EAA AirVenture Today

Photo by Hilary Lawrence
Tom Petri (R-WI), Leonard Boswell (IA) and Sam Graves (MO) at the congressional forum.

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 effort.”

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.”

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