AOPA's Baker: FAA Must Address Critical GA Issues

Three key areas in general aviation need attention.

Mark Baker AOPA
Mark Baker at the AOPA Fly-In earlier this year.Mark Baker AOPA

AOPA president Mark Baker told members of Congress on Tuesday the FAA must do a better job supporting the general aviation community in three key areas: third-class medical reform, aircraft certification and the ADS-B mandate.

Testifying before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on November 18 about the FAA's upcoming Congressional reauthorization, Baker said GA is under stress made worse by "outdated and cumbersome" FAA regulations that are preventing aircraft manufacturers from keeping pace with rapidly changing technology.

"While the FAA's desire to create a 'gold standard' for safety is admirable, in practice this approach has had the opposite effect," Baker said, speaking about the Part 23 rewrite of aircraft certification rules, which has been pushed back from 2015 to 2017. "Allowing products that offer incremental safety improvements to reach the market more quickly would lower costs, simplify flying, and ultimately improve safety for folks flying today and into the future."

He also stressed that third-class medical reform is long overdue given that the proposed changes would simply expand the existing FAA standard used by Sport pilots for more than a decade. He said medical reform remains a priority for AOPA members, and the association will press for legislative changes in the next session of Congress.

As for the ADS-B Out mandate, Baker said the rule, scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1, 2020, is too expensive and threatens to ground tens of thousands of airplanes. Telling Committee members that more than 81,000 of 188,000 certified piston-powered airplanes on the FAA registry are worth $40,000 or less (with a weighted average value of $25,800), Baker said the $5,000-$6,000 cost to comply is beyond the reach of many light aircraft owners.

AOPA recently announced it is seeking a low-cost fix to the ADS-B issue, recommending to the FAA a number of technical changes the association said would reduced the price of required avionics. AOPA is also recommending that the FAA rewrite the ADS-B mandate to exclude "low-altitude operators," arguing the financial benefits of ADS-B are better suited to high-altitude operations.

"AOPA is pleased the FAA is prepared to address the barriers to compliance with the mandate and confident the cost issue can be effectively addressed so that all segments of the general aviation community can participate in ADS-B Out and the FAA can meet its goal of modernizing the nation's air traffic system," the association said in a statement.

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