Washington, D.C. — The Federal Aviation Administration plans to extend its temporary order limiting the number of flights at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. Officials soon will issue a notice of proposed rule making to set a specific length of time these limits will be in place. The present order expires April 30, unless extended.
So what does that have to do with general aviation? Only this: what affects one usually, sooner or later, affect all.
All the FAA asked for in its proposal to extend the current limitations was temporary extension, not long-range suggestions. Yet, several comments to the proposal took off on long-range proposals. One person urged the FAA to let the marketplace determine the users. Another suggested the FAA open the slots for bids by the airlines and hold 5% of the slots for general aviation, with GA paying the median price for a slot. “”Those who don’t want to or can’t pay the amount can go someplace else,”" the comment writer declared.
Another suggests limiting arrivals and departures by the distance from the airport and where rail service is available. No one should be allowed to use the airport for flights less than 150 miles away if rail service is available in less than three hours, suggested this writer. He also proposed that no arrivals or departures be allowed from less than 500 miles away if rail service is available in less than five hours.
Ridiculous? Sure, but it reveals the problems the FAA faces in trying to fit a 10-pound load of aviation into a five-pound capacity bag of both airports and air traffic control. General aviation is flying about one-fourth fewer hours now than it did 25 years ago, but the pressures for operations continue to increase. Changes to any regulations can affect every user of the airspace.
Preliminary figures from the National Transportation Safety Board indicate that safety in general aviation was good last year, with total and fatal accidents the lowest in years.
Unfortunately, the recent high-profile accidents of corporate jets take away from the true picture. The alphabet organizations have been trying valiantly to portray their individual constituencies as safer than the other groups.
Of course, statistics can prove anything. As the organizations struggle to show their records, I think of a study that revealed graduates of an all-male college had an average of 2.1 babies, while graduates of an all-female college averaged only 1.6 babies. The conclusion was that men have more babies than women.
Congress has started taking a look at its role in regulating commercial space travel. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held a hearing to express views on the subject. Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.), who noted the success of SpaceShipOne has brought the commercial transportation sector under the jurisdiction of his committee, said “”supporting the industry would be in the best interests of the United States.”"
FAA Administrator Marion Blakey told the committee that safety remains a prime concern, but “”government regulations should not be the enemy of innovation.
Charles Spence is GAN’s Washington, D.C., correspondent.