While attending the AOPA Summit in Ft Worth, the most frequent question I received was “what is AOPA’s government affairs doing if the federal government is shut down?” A lot more than you’d think.
The government was only sort of closed
Even while the government was “shut down,” roughly 60% of all federal employees continued working. These folks are deemed essential or exempt. Most of the FAA’s lines of business are considered essential and were largely unaffected, leaving pilots to fly as usual. While flight operations were not directly impacted, the regulatory and “backroom” work was paused. Most rank and file employees involved in non-operational capacities were furloughed.
The shutdown presented a unique challenge for continuing our advocacy efforts. AOPA participates, and chairs, many industry committees which make recommendations to the FAA regarding policy and regulatory issues. In most cases, these committees continued to operate. However, submission of final reports and input from FAA subject matter experts delayed the progress or completion of some activities. Despite the government shutdown, AOPA’s advocacy work continued and over the past few weeks, we made significant strides on several issues.
Advocacy efforts continue
AOPA supported the Small Airplane Revitalization Act, which recently passed by unanimous consent in the Senate. The Act mirrors recommendations made to the FAA by industry, to streamline and simplify the certification process for GA aircraft and avionics. This will drive down costs and pave the way for innovation and safety enhancement for new and existing aircraft.
The 16 day government shutdown resulted in closure of the aircraft registration office in Oklahoma City. AOPA, along with several other associations, requested the FAA reopen the aircraft registration branch, citing legal authority based on the FAA’s past characterization of the office as an “essential function for public safety, security and compliance with international treaty obligations.”
AOPA staff and industry partners met with Customs and Border Protection Field Operations staff to discuss improvements to the border crossing process, including the Advanced Passenger Information System (APIS). The group secured a commitment from customs to improve consistency amongst officers and procedures from airport to airport.
AOPA submitted a letter to the San Francisco Mayor’s office, expressing concern with an ordinance being considered which would prohibit aerial advertising over the city. AOPA’s letter urged the Mayor’s office cease moving forward with any ordinance that would restrict aerial advertising, and recognize the FAA’s sole authority to regulate navigable airspace.
During the AOPA Summit, government affairs staff met with industry counterparts, learned about new technologies, and led several educational seminars. My favorite part about Summit, though, is engaging directly with AOPA members. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the day to day activities and forget that there are real, live pilots that I am serving. Meeting members face to face and finding out what is important to them is my top priority at Summit and other outreach activities. So while I am sad to see Summit suspended, I am looking forward to meeting even more members through our regional outreach events.
Speaking of Summit
The second most-frequently discussed topic was the suspension of Summit and questions about the future regional outreach efforts. Where will these smaller events be held? Will there be vendors, static displays, seminars? The bottom line is that we really don’t know yet. This is an exciting new development for the organization and the details are still being ironed out.
What would you like to see? Where should these events be held, and what should be included? This is a clean sheet design, so we’re looking for lots of input on how best to meet our members, literally and figuratively. Share your thoughts in the comment section below!