AOPA Pilot Magazine - July 2013 - 18
All in the family
BY THOMAS B. HAINES
Editor in Chief
GA and the airlines working together
JUST AS IT’S IMPORTANT to check in with those whacky
relatives in your extended family from time to time, it’s
good that general aviation keeps tabs on what is happening in our extended aviation family. What crazy
Aunt Mary says to Cousin Suzie can sometimes have
widespread consequences in the family.
With that in mind, I spent a day in Washington,
D.C., attending the U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Aviation Summit 2013. While the event was dominated
by the airlines, their associations, and suppliers, AOPA
and the National Business Aviation Association were
These days airlines oppose user fees, which has
helped keep them at bay; but it hasn’t kept the
president from proposing them year after year.
The owner of a
A36, Editor in Chief
TOM HAINES has
been reporting on
for 28 years.
18 | AOPA PILOT July 2013
As you’ve no doubt noticed, general aviation and
the airlines have a love/hate relationship with one
another—there’s that family resemblance again. On
some issues at some times, GA and the airlines are arm
in arm. At other times, not so much. And sometimes
it depends on what else is swirling around aviation as
a whole. In 2007, with one or two exceptions, the airlines were definitely in the user-fee camp, willing to
accept user fees as a way to stick it to GA in an attempt
to “level the playing field” in regard to fees paid to support the air traffic system.
However, after the economic collapse in 2008 that
led to a dramatic reduction in both airline and GA
operations, the major carriers quickly recognized that
reduced traffic counts would require a big boost in user
fees to support an ATC system that does not shrink
in relationship to reduced traffic counts. You’ll notice
that these days airlines oppose user fees, which has
helped keep them at bay; but it hasn’t kept the president from proposing them year after year.
One of the reasons for a user fee is to prop up government spending. With neither the executive nor
legislative branches able to responsibly manage costs,
Congress passed and the president signed sequester
legislation—a poison pill that would put in place automatic spending cuts if certain thresholds were not met.
Surprise, surprise, the spending reductions were not met
and the sequester legislation kicked in early this year. As
U.S. Chamber President Thomas Donohue said at the
summit, “All assumed that sequestration was so scary
it would never be implemented, but here we are, even
though it’s a silly way to go after cutting the budget.”
Later at the summit, W. James McNerney Jr., chairman, president, and CEO of Boeing, told Donohue the
number of flight segments will double in the next
20 years. With that he encouraged full funding for
NextGen, the next generation of air traffic control,
which relies heavily on ADS-B, required navigation
performance (RNP), and a host of other technologies
to improve air traffic management and efficiency. “The
return is infinite,” he said.
Interesting that an airliner manufacturer would say
that at the same time that some airlines and some GA
advocates are calling for the FAA to redeploy funds
slated for NextGen to satisfy more immediate needs
during the 10-year sequestration period—when even
more cuts are scheduled to kick in year after year for
a decade. Some airlines are debating their ability to
continue funding aircraft equipage for RNP—which
promises efficient curved approaches, for example—
unless the FAA more quickly implements NextGen.
Later in the summit, Clayton Jones, chairman and CEO
of Rockwell Collins, which makes some of that RNP
gear, suggested that full implementation of NextGen
would save some 1,000 pounds of fuel per flight.
Jeffrey Smisek, the chairman, president, and CEO
of United Continental Holdings, declared that his airline is not seeing a pilot shortage, but he expects the
regional carriers will experience it first. Meanwhile,
he expressed little belief that the 1,500-hour rule and
ATP requirement that is about to go into place for airline pilots means anything. “It isn’t related to quality.
It’s just a number.”
A big employer of pilots is FedEx. AOPA President
and CEO Craig Fuller presented the Carol B. Hallett
Award to Fred Smith, founder of FedEx. The award
recognizes “an individual who has demonstrated
outstanding leadership and has provided significant
contributions in advancing the aviation industry.” Given
that FedEx started a whole new airline segment—at first
flying Falcon business jets, by the way—Smith certainly
is well qualified for the award.
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