Friday, October 08, 2004
Kerry and Bush on General Aviation
I'm a pilot and a member of the Aircraft Owners and Pilot's Association, a terrific lobbying and service organization dedicated to general aviation. This month's AOPA Pilot (the monthly magazine for members) contains a Q&A with Bush and Kerry on issues related to general aviation. It's telling. I wish I could link the text of the article, but it's not online. If you're interested in direct quotes rather than the paraphrase here, leave a comment and I'll transcribe. Each candidate was asked the same questions. When asked about their experience with GA, Bush notes his ANG flight time, then explains how as a private businessman he used GA to build his business, and how as governor of Texas he used the state's air fleet to help him get around the vast state. Good, detailed answer that shows he understands the benefits of general aviation. Kerry just says, "I've been a pilot for thirty years, so I'm obviously very familiar with general aviation." Riiight. No mention of his ratings or experience. Just trust him when he says he's very familiar with GA. Both candidates agree that the current system of how GA services are funded (a combination of fuel taxes and general revenues supporting the FAA, with some other things thrown in) should not be changed. (There's a move afoot in some quarters to move to a pay-for-service scheme, where pilots would be charged for getting a weather briefing or to file a flight plan. That would have a truly chilling effect on safety.) Bush's answer is much more detailed, laying out the different funding avenues of the current system. Asked to list some recent pro-aviation government activity they've been a part of, Bush lists a bill he signed this year that ups the federal budget for needed improvements at small airports, and supports upgrades to the Flight Service System. Kerry notes the 1994 General Aviation Revitalization Act, which he says he supported. (We should fact-check that claim, since the Act limited tort exposure for airplane manufacturers.) He also mentions his support for a more recent bill that has some tenuous connection to aviation. Again, Bush gives a clear, detailed answer. Kerry speaks in non-sequiturs. On the subject of privatizing air traffic control, Kerry just says he's against it. Bush again lays out the issues, notes that there are no plans to "privatize" ATC, but that the current system of contracting for services at low-volume airfields would continue. As to who would lead the FAA, Bush praises current FAA boss Marion Blakely, who by all acocunts has indeed done a superb job over the past several years. Kerry gives the ususal spiel about the position requiring someone with experience, integrity, blah, blah, blah. Overall: For a nuanced fellow pilot, Kerry gives the impression that he doesn't know a whole lot about GA. Bush comes across as a thoroughly competent administrator who has a good grasp of the issues related to this small-but-important part of the enterprise he leads.