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EAA Government Advocacy

Losing Our GPS Signal?

EAA Fights to Ensure Satellite Navigation Stays Safe and Available - Are we facing a choice between safe aviation navigation and wireless broadband Internet availability? That’s one potential scenario in the continuing high-level controversy over the use of GPS satellite frequencies and a proposed ground-based nationwide network of Internet transmitters.

Federal entities, including Congress and the FCC, are now involved in a debate that could greatly impact GPS navigation, which is now commonplace for many, including aviators, hikers, boaters, and motorists.

EAA is involved in the issue as a member of the Save Our GPS Coalition for some very important reasons. First, GPS has become a mainstay of modern navigation for 75 percent of all aviators. While other piloting skills remain important, today’s airborne GPS equipment offers greater accuracy and reliability than ever before.

Second, GPS has made nearly 10,000 new instrument approaches available, many at airports that previously had no access during instrument conditions. Third, GPS is the major component of the FAA’s future air traffic management system, including ADS-B. Without a consistent and reliable GPS signal nationwide, the ability to implement the NextGen system would be severely hampered.

“While EAA’s primary focus is aviation use, it’s enlightening to see the broad alliance that is part of the Save Our GPS Coalition,” said Doug Macnair, EAA’s vice president of government relations. “As part of the coalition, EAA has been able to bring our concerns before a large number of congressional members who in turn also share our reservations about the LightSquared proposal and its effect on everything from law-enforcement capabilities to national security.”

A report released in early July by the United States GPS Industry Council, which co-chaired FCC’s technical working group on the issue, noted the LightSquared broadband communications system caused significant GPS interference across every sector and application area. The high-power LightSquared signals overwhelmed the lower-powered GPS signals.

“In the end, the laws of physics won out,” noted Charles Trimble of the industry council. “There is no single, simple solution that can eliminate interference for all classes of GPS receivers in the near term.”

LightSquared countered that older GPS models would be most affected and that the GPS industry is to blame in major part for not supplying the proper shielding technology—a claim rejected by the industry.

The FCC comment period on this matter closes July 30. Click here for EAA’s briefing paper on this subject.

EAA Helps Gather Senate Support for BARR

Congressional GA Caucus proves value once again - EAA and other GA organizations found bipartisan support in Washington when asking U.S. senators to sign a letter expressing concern over the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) plan to dismantle the Block Aircraft Registration Request (BARR) program and invade the privacy of thousands of aircraft owners.

The June 29 letter to DOT Secretary Ray LaHood included the signatures of 26 senators—more than one-quarter of the entire body—who questioned the plan to end the BARR program, which allows pilots to block public display of their flight information but still sends it to appropriate law enforcement and security agencies.

“For reasons of individual security, privacy, and business competitiveness, this program is essential,” noted the letter from the senators, led by Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) and Mark Begich (D-Alaska). The senators also noted that the BARR program is part of the discussions of the FAA reauthorization bill before a House-Senate conference committee, and the DOT is premature to implement such a decision while the issue is still before Congress.

“These types of situations again emphasize why EAA has worked so hard to help foster the GA Caucus in both the House and Senate,” Macnair said. “The caucus provides information to lawmakers in rapid fashion, allowing them to take appropriate action that protects EAA members and other aviators.”

AOPA and NBAA have filed a legal challenge to the DOT plan. EAA is supporting their effort with an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief.

EAA Partners with NTSB

Comprehensive study of amateur-built aircraft underway - Safety, particularly in experimental amateur-built (E-AB) aircraft, is one of EAA’s highest priorities, and we continue to partner with government and industry to improve the safety record. EAA is supporting a project launched by the NTSB to study accidents involving E-AB aircraft to evaluate the safety of this growing and innovative segment of aviation. The study will look at a range of issues, including builder assistance programs, transition training for pilot-builders, flight test and certification requirements, maintenance of E-AB aircraft, and the performance and failures of systems, structures, and powerplants.

The NTSB is sending postcard invitations to E-AB operators, encouraging participation in the anonymous online survey. EAA members who own and operate E-AB aircraft may take the survey by visiting www.EAA.org/AB-Survey. The completed safety study is expected to be published by the fall of 2012.

Pilot's Bill of Rights Introduced in Senate

EAA supports measure co-sponsored by 23 senators - A bipartisan group of U.S. senators are co-sponsoring legislation called the “Pilot’s Bill of Rights.” The measure is supported by EAA, which joined with AOPA to supply information for the text used in the bill.

“It is always our goal to keep pilots flying and to lower barriers to aviation, whether they are regulatory, legislative or economic,” said Rod Hightower, EAA president/CEO. “EAA supports any legislative actions that enhance pilots’ opportunities for legal due process in FAA enforcement cases.”

Among the bill’s provisions:

  • The FAA must grant the pilot all relevant evidence 30 days prior to a decision to proceed with an enforcement action.
  • Clarifies statutory deference as it relates to NTSB reviews of FAA actions that diminish the appeals process.
  • Allows for an option for federal district court review of appeals of FAA actions.
  • Requires a NOTAM Improvement Program, requiring simplification and central archival of NOTAMs.
  • Makes flight service station communications available to all pilots.
  • Includes a review of the FAA’s medical certification process and forms.

The bill’s co-sponsors include Sen. James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), the primary author of the bill, as well as Senators Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Mike Johanns (R-Nebraska), co-chairs of the Senate GA Caucus.

The Importance of Airports

New Classification System Proposed - Airports are complex and vital components of aviation and certainly key to a healthy transportation infrastructure. The welcoming atmosphere that many airports project is paramount to the future health of aviation as a whole. Understanding the importance of airports as well as their diversity is something all of us should undertake and help spread the good word.

I recently attended an airport system workshop in Washington, D.C., hosted by the newly appointed FAA Associate Administrator for Airports Christa Fornarotto and key FAA Airports staff members. The purpose of the one-day meeting was to introduce a new airport classification system that will better explain the relevance of all types of airports across the country. In addition to the current three levels of classification—primary, reliever, and GA—Fornarotto’s team proposes to expand the system to five groups of airport types. Each classification will explain what the public’s benefit is from these airports and how they fit in an overall national airport system. The proposed system will ultimately provide a better explanation of the value that all airports bring to their communities. It will give us a new tool to help express the good things that local airports, regardless of size and complexity, mean to everyone.

EAA Vice President of Government Relations Doug Macnair and I had a great meeting with Christa and her staff after the workshop to discuss EAA’s relevant airport issues such as through-the-fence access. The dialogue was both healthy and engaging. EAA and FAA are clearly on the right path of working together to solve airport issues and ensure that vibrant airports with great community participation are a significant part of the future of aviation.

Government Relations Briefings

Read more about out what else is happening in the world of EAA's government relations.

EAA's Government Relations department works to preserve the freedom of flight and reduce the regulatory barriers affecting affordability and access to EAA members’ participation in aviation. Protecting the freedom to fly is the foundation on which all of the organization’s advocacy initiatives are built. EAA fights to preserve this freedom by providing clear solutions and practical alternatives backed by hard work and dedication. EAA’s 55-year history of success is a testament to that philosophy.

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