Paul Lowe AIN Online
Sequestration, User Fees and Regulation Rewrite on GAMA Issues List
October 25, 2012
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  • By Paul Lowe

    General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) president and CEO Pete Bunce credits the No Plane No Gain program with helping to emphasize to policy makers the importance of business and general aviation to this nation.

    “Recently we had another keen example where we had all four associations [GAMA, NBAA, AOPA and NATA] together in Anchorage talking to an assemblage of general aviation and a lot of the industry heads in Alaska,” Bunce said. He added that the state proclamations and initiatives like No Plane No Gain, GA Serves America and the Alliance for Aviation Across America will all be invaluable during the deal making after the presidential election.

    According to Bunce, the deal making that has to occur to either avoid the fiscal cliff or sequestration will require marshaling the friends that GA has created through these programs, and also the general aviation public, which has to react on short notice.

    Asked to comment about the Obama Administration’s plan to institute a $100 per-departure tax on turbine-powered, fixed-wing aircraft, Bunce expects that to be a big topic here in Orlando. He and NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen plan to talk about it extensively during the NBAA show. “It gets back to what potentially could happen during a lame duck session [of Congress before the new president takes office], where we have a little time to react,” Bunce said. “You know, we’ve been talking about user fees for five years. But it’s really telling, with some recent things that have happened with governments.”

    He noted that one federal agency recently came out with a 300-percent increase in user fees for new applicants for different services in just one year. Meanwhile, the British government is planning to administer the European Union’s emissions trading scheme and send the bills to all of the participants they expect to charge for emitting over the Atlantic Ocean until they land in UK airspace. This takes what the fee would be for the carbon emission and triples that number because two thirds of the expense is administering the program.

    Graveyard Spiral

    “So the government has to come up with a bureaucracy to send out the bills, industry has to come up with added manpower to be able to handle the bills, and what are we doing?” Bunce asked rhetorically. “What we’re doing is replacing an extremely efficient system that works, which is fuel taxes. But that’s not the biggest danger out there. That’s a huge danger, but here’s the biggest danger: We feed the beast, and the beast is more bureaucracy and more government.”

    Bunce posits what happens when that fee is tripled, and then tripled again. All of a sudden the economy goes south, and fewer people fly. “So now we start this big downward spiral, where they have to jack up the fees continually because fewer and fewer people are flying, and eventually that spiral is a graveyard spiral that drives you into the ground,” he predicted. That is what has happened in Europe, he said, where pilots who want to practice touch-and-goes to stay safe are charged each time their wheels touch the runway, so they don’t do it. “You sit there and say, ‘What kind of madness do we have going out there?’”

    Twice the Safety

    Asked about the current rewrite of Part 23 small aircraft certification regulations, Bunce said this is one of the initiatives in general aviation that he is most excited about because, “if we look for a revitalization in the way we look at bringing product to market and how we rulemake on a global level, this is it.” The exciting thing, he said, is that it’s starting with Part 23, but because it has so much energy behind it and support from the FAA and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), as well as seven or eight different national authorities involved, the group is actually looking at doing rulemaking on a global level. He said it could expand to other types of aircraft.

    According to Bunce, it would use the FAA’s resources during the certification process, but placethe safety burden on industry. This would makeit a moreefficient process,a much more commonsense approach, where products do not need to be certifiedto the highestcommon denominator and category. He said aviation regulators have come up with the term, “Twice the safety at half the cost.”

    Recently, EASA backed a general aviation safety strategy that could amend the European aviation safety framework, which is largely based upon requirements for transport airline operations. “If you try to regulate general aviation anywhere on the planet like you regulate commercial aviation,” he asserted, “what you are going to do is cripple general aviation, because they are two different cats sharing the same airspace.”

    Bunce also touched on the controversy surrounding long-running efforts to enact a security program for foreign repair stations, which prompted a recent letter from general aviation interests urging action. Eight years ago Congress directed the Transportation Security Administration to come up with a program, which Bunce said is being stonewalled at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

    “It is just absolutely frustrating beyond belief that the Department of Homeland Security–when there is general agreement on the principles of this security rule–would just sit on it and not move it forward,” he said, because it is impacting jobs in the U.S. and causing problems with counterparts in the EU.

    He revealed that at least one of the congressional appropriations committees has threatened to dock the general counsel’s office at DHS if they don’t get the rule out by the end of the year. “It’s just absolutely a failure of government,” Bunce declared.