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A stable FAA can secure the future of GA; industry leaders testify before Congress

General Aviation leaders stood before the Aviation Subcommittee of the House Transportation Infrastructure Committee in Washington D.C. on Thursday. While the FAA faces reauthorization this fall, GA leaders noted that it is important for the future of the industry to have a stable organization to rely on, notably with big changes like a safe transition to unleaded fuel and the nation's need for GA handers. Leaders like EAA CEO/Chairman Jack Pelton, AOPA President and CEO Mark Baker, and National Air Transportation Association (NATA) President and CEO Curt Castagna testified before the committee that in order to secure the future of the industry, it is imperative to be inclusive with the upcoming reauthorization bill and factor all aspects of aviation into the reauthorization bill, from private to commercial to general.RELATED STORY:Aviation leaders call on Congress to do more for FAA A topic of the hearing was the introduction of the first GA title within an FAA reauthorization bill. Leaders noted multiple points of interest like the pilot examiner shortage, the nationwide need for GA hangar construction and a transition to unleaded fuel. This is not the first time industry leaders have addressed officials about the upcoming reauthorization bill and spoken of the need to bring stability back to the organization that is meant to lead and guide the industry in safety and technology. "The title of today's hearing, ‘Securing the Future of General Aviation,' is particularly apt for the current state of our vital industry, as high activity levels coupled with rapid innovation in aircraft design, safety systems, and alternative fuel sources signal an ever-evolving, growing, and relevant general aviation sector," Castagna said. The FAA has faced scrutiny from the public and government and has not had a permanent leader in over a year, since former FAA Administrator Steve Dickson resigned. Billy Nolen stepped in as acting FAA Admin and has sat before congress to discuss the return of the FAA to a gold standard of safety in aviation. Nominee Phillip A. Washington sat before Congress on March 1, facing criticism for his lack of aviation experience and alleged legal troubles. He has still not been confirmed into the permanent position.RELATED STORIES:Nominee for FAA Administrator faces scrutiny at Senate hearingReturning to 'gold standard for aviation safety' top priority at Senate committee hearing with FAA's Billy Nolen This lack of permanent leadership has been cited as one of the reasons for the current instability within the organization. As the industry deals with pilot shortages, supply chain issues, certification backlogs and outdated technology, stability is paramount. "General aviation is stymied by delays for processing certificates for pilots, mechanics, and aircraft, and the current shortage of designated pilot examiners is a growing crisis that has been addressed by a recent DPE working group that recommended reforms," Pelton said. "We also ask for congressional support of critical rulemaking, including the current MOSAIC (Modernization of Special Airworthiness Certificates) initiative to ensure it can be completed in a timely manner." The AOPA felt that the shortages highlight the importance of the need for additional workforce development programs like the organization's High School Aviation STEM Curriculum, which includes six courses across two pathways to prepare high school students for a career in the industry.Curt Castagna of NATA The future of GA needs the FAA reauthorization bill to factor in the outdated GA programs, airports and rules. The public has been made aware how outdated some of the infrastructure within the FAA is. In January the NOTAM system went down and caused the first nationwide ground stop since 9/11, a technology that has needed and been working on modernization for over a decade and is still not close to being finished. Castagna noted the need to modernize the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) with modern operating environments in mind since airports need both a federal investment and public/private partnership opportunities to meet the growing demand for usage as well as create job opportunities and support burgeoning aviation technology and sustainability. "Much in our industry has changed since Congress set the $150,000 general aviation AIP entitlement more than twenty years ago," Castagna said. "It is time for this Congress to take action to not only account for inflation but also for the changing needs of general aviation airports by adjusting the entitlement for all GA airports and by introducing a formula to further increase grants for larger GA airports based on flight activity." Castagna noted that the grants have the potential to bolster change for the workforce but will not meet "a fraction of the demand." "We ask the Subcommittee to include similar provisions in this year's Reauthorization and encourage Congress to allocate sufficient funding and resources for FAA to administer the grants more efficiently and effectively," he said.Mark Baker of the AOPA Airports across the country have been given funding to make infrastructure changes and improvements while many GA or private-use airports face closure, shifting the demand onto already busy airports. With the reauthorization bill on the table, the GA industry reminds Congress not to leave an integral part of aviation behind. "We have an opportunity with this year's FAA Reauthorization to set the course for securing the future for general aviation," Baker said in written testimony. Baker's biggest concern for the bill is the need to require public-use airports to provide a transient ramp space for pilots when they have not requested FBO services. "I want to be clear, this is a national problem," Baker said. "All of these airports should be required to treat all users the same when it comes to public access." The AOPA said that thousands of pilots have been impacted by a lack of ramp space at public-use airports and often have to pay fees for unwanted services like tiedown, infrastructure, facility, access, security, handling and ramp fees. "Not a day goes by that I don't hear from pilots about this," Baker said. "I've been in business all my life and I've never known anyone that charges a customer for services a person never wanted or asked for." The GA industry has been facing backlash for the use of leaded fuel while urging the public to allow them to work with the EPA on a safe and timely transition. The industry as a whole has been working to achieve net zero by 2050, increasing sustainability efforts and advances in unleaded fuel and the reduction of aircraft emissions. NATA stated that Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) has the potential to reduce the environmental impact of the industry and maintain leadership for the U.S. on the global scale for aviation. "Together, we will secure a sustainable, safe, and successful future for our nation's general aviation industry and the countless communities it serves," Castagna said. Leaders are continuing to work to maintain safety, security and superiority in the industry and keep the GA industry at the forefront amidst change in the industry.
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