It has been quite a productive couple of weeks for certain members of Congress. Despite their complete inability to do anything related to the major issues, it is comforting to see that they can take care of at least some of the smaller ones.
Maybe I only noticed because these actions are related to a smaller area I care about, but either way it is great to see action being taken that should help out aviation. I am glad to see that the General Aviation Caucus is doing their jobs to promote an industry that is essential to the people they represent.
Last month the Small Airplane Revitalization Act was signed into law. As I understand it, this law will help make it easier, and thus cheaper, to bring new planes to market. This is an important step in the direction of making flying cheaper and more accessible. The law is designed to give manufacturers an incentive to develop new aircraft to bring to market that will include newer technologies, while not having so much red tape to gut through to get there. The fact that the bill passed unanimously in both the House and the Senate says a lot about how badly this law was needed, and hopefully the impact for good that it will have.
The second piece of legislation, which was brought forward this week, is the General Aviation Pilot Protection Act which I have somewhat mixed feelings about. On the surface, I think it is a great bill as it also aims to eliminate the some of the bureaucracy and general hoop jumping that the government seems to enjoy.
In short, the law would make it legal for a pilot to fly an aircraft weighing less than 6,000 pounds, with six seats or less, below 14,000 feet, and at speeds less than 250 knots as long as they possess a current state driver’s license and meet the medical standards involved in attaining that license. It all sounds pretty reasonable to me.
In an article from AOPA, who initially petitioned for the law along with EAA, they make the comparison to driving a car, and that many large SUVs are in the same weight and passenger range so the risk should be viewed similarly. I would generally agree, though I would say there are inherent risks of flying that make it more dangerous, or at least make it bear a little more scrutiny. The act will be brought before Congress in January so it will be interesting to see how it plays out.
In keeping with my recent theme of growing the pilot population I can’t help but think that this will have a positive impact on that movement, however, I think it is still just another short-term fix. This bill will definitely benefit much of the older pilot population who either is unable to obtain a Class III medical, or is just tired of the hassle of doing so, and that is great.
However, I don’t think it will really make that much of a difference for the young population, which is where we need to see the growth more than ever. I haven’t talked to a single peer who said they didn’t fly because of obtaining, or retaining, their medical. I am sure there are some out there, and it is great to be able to help them, but I just don’t see the long-term impact that it will have.
That being said, anything that we can do to reduce costs, and probably equally important, to reduce BS is good for the industry. The young generation is not very patient and understanding, so streamlining all of the processes from aircraft certification to obtaining a medical certificate is going to help.
But the challenge still remains of getting them out to the airport and interested to get the whole thing started.