Now is the Time to Invest in GA

9:50 PM

I wanted very much to headline this post as "Good Times for GA" because everywhere I look this week, we see forward progress on many fronts. Sure, GA deliveries were still down 41.1 percent in 1Q09 according to GAMA, but in this post, I am resisting the temptation to always focus every bit of GA news on our pathetic economy.

If you take dismal sales and student start numbers out of the picture, GA's future has to look bright, no way to dispute that. Here are a few examples courtesy of AOPA, which by the way operates one of the web's best aviation news operations:

TSA lessens security restrictions on transient pilots

"The Transportation Security Administration confirmed that is has a new security directive signed by TSA Acting Administrator Gale Rossides that tones down proposed security restrictions for transient pilots flying into commercial-service airports. The new directive, called SD-8G, clarifies and corrects some of the issues that AOPA and the GA community objected to in SD-8F. The new directive will go into effect June 1. As AOPA has previously reported, SD-8F would have required pilots based at or flying into commercial-service airports to undergo a background check and receive a security badge in order to continue to have unescorted access to their airports."
This is great news, because this ridiculous TSA badging requirement was being rammed down our throats in secret. Sure, pilots like me who base at a field being served by the regionals will have to use a badge to get through a gate, but it's always been that way, no changes here. So kudos to all the GA acronym groups who helped TSA come back to this party.

Next up, we see serious forward progress on FAA funding reauthorization, again, from AOPA:
House passes FAA authorization, no user fees

"The House of Representatives on May 21 passed the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2009 (H.R.915). The bill is a four-year authorization that would fund the FAA through 2012 with aviation fuel taxes, ticket taxes, and a general fund contribution. AOPA strongly supports H.R.915, which is nearly identical to a bill that passed the House of Representatives but stalled in the Senate last year. The bill includes a moderate increase in taxes on GA fuel but would not impose user fees."
This still has to go through the Senate, but that is a different body these days then when the Bush/Cheney White House and the GOP held that chamber hostage to keep their brethren in Corporate America satisfied. Now that Arlen Specter has cut the GOP off at the ankles in that room, expect a more logical, sensible vote on FAA funding.

And last, there is finally a new Captain at the helm of the Good Ship FAA:
New FAA chief confirmed

"The U.S. Senate on May 21 confirmed Randy Babbitt, former president of the Airline Pilots Association, as the head of the FAA. The position has been filled by acting administrators since the term of the previous administrator, Marion Blakey, expired at the end of fiscal year 2007."
Babbitt has a full plate as he takes over at FAA, including design and implementation of the NextGen ATC system, and solving the months-long labor dispute with our NATCA-member Air Traffic Controllers. But since Babbitt is very much a "union man", NATCA's President, Patrick Forrey, could not be happier with the confirmation:
“On behalf of the air traffic controller workforce and the aviation safety professionals that NATCA represents, I want to congratulate Randy Babbitt on his confirmation. He takes over an agency that certainly has its share of challenges and problems to fix, but also has dedicated, highly skilled and professional employees on the front lines of the National Airspace System that are represented by an organization – NATCA – which puts safety above all. Randy has the world’s most skilled and dedicated workforce of aviation safety professionals and subject matter experts ready to work with him to put safety first and modernize our system to meet the demands of the FAA’s true customers, the flying public. But first, this workforce must be assured that its help is wanted and not ignored like the last several years. It is time for a restoration of fairness to FAA labor relations and the opening of the door of collaboration and mutual respect. We wish Randy well as he takes on these great challenges."
Any way you slice all this, the stock is definitely rising for GA. Now if we can get the economy turned around and sell a few planes and get a few new faces to darken the doorways at America's flight schools, we'll be on the road to recovery.

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