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EAA Strongly Opposes Vegas Airports Resolution

County wants local control of civilian airspace

North Las Vegas Airport

December 2, 2008 — Nevada’s Clark County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution on Tuesday, December 2, calling on the state’s Congressional delegation to introduce legislation that would essentially remove federal authority over the nation’s civilian airspace. The county’s director of aviation, Randall H. Walker, petitioned the board in response to recent fatal airplane crashes in the vicinity of North Las Vegas Airport (VGT). Meanwhile, EAA’s regulatory-affairs representatives are in discussions with key federal lawmakers aimed at warding off the threats to airspace access, and the safe and orderly management of civilian air traffic, that the Clark County proposal would present.

The August 22 crash of a Velocity amateur-built aircraft, which struck a house shortly after takeoff from VGT and resulted in the death of the pilot and two people on the ground, sparked debate. In the crash’s immediate aftermath, Walker called on FAA and Congress to allow metropolitan airports to bar experimental-category operations at their facilities, including amateur-built aircraft.

Tuesday’s meeting and the resolution approval prompted this reaction from FAA Western-Pacific Region spokesman Ian Gregor: “We believe Congress acted wisely in giving the FAA sole authority over civilian airspace throughout the United States. It would cause tremendous disruption—even chaos—to air traffic operations nationwide if every local community were allowed to arbitrarily decide which aircraft could and could not land at local airports.”

Nevada’s Congressional delegation includes U.S. Senators Harry Reid (D) and John Ensign (R); and U.S. Representatives Shelley Berkley (D-1st); Dean Heller (R-2nd); and Jon C. Porter (R-3rd).

In a story published last Sunday in the Las Vegas Review Journal, EAA’s Earl Lawrence, vice president of industry and regulatory affairs, gave the proposal little chance of succeeding. “You would be allowing an airport manager to determine on his own what could come and go,” he said. “What he is asking is that Congress, the President, and the administration give up the authority. That’s a pretty good stretch.”

Nonetheless, Lawrence said his team is prepared to roll out strong opposition if such a proposal should make its way to the Hill. In such circumstances, the EAA team would assert that the FAA’s authority should be left intact so that the agency’s thousands of employees charged with ensuring the safety of pilots, aircraft, and people on the ground can continue to perform their jobs nationwide without interference from a local authority.

Lawrence added that passing legislation as Walker envisions would have a cascading effect, with airport managers in other urban areas seeking similar measures to usurp FAA authority on what type of planes can fly where and when.

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