Cover Photo: At the US Drug Enforcement Administration’s Phoenix hangar, Cade visited with (left) Steven Blatus, assistant special agent in charge, and (right) Gary Hill, special agent in charge.

HAI members: HAI is here for you! Contact advocacy@rotor.org with your legislative challenges.

A new decade, a new year, a new issue of ROTOR, and a new way of presenting the advocacy message for HAI members—one that will help you better understand:

  • WHAT legislation is on the horizon that will affect general aviation and the helicopter and drone industries
  • WHY that legislation will affect you and your business
  • HOW HAI supports our members through information and advocacy.

In the new approach to Advocating for You, Cade Clark, HAI vice president of government affairs, and John Shea, HAI director of government affairs, will cover critical legislation, updates to previously reported bills, any applicable calls to action (and how to contact Congress), and our grassroots outreach and member visits. They’ll also be providing more coverage of legislation and government affairs issues occurring around the world. Throughout, the HAI Government Affairs Department will provide its insider perspective into the legislative machine.

HAI has also launched its new members-only Legislative Action Center, rotor.org/initiatives/advocacy. Visit the center often for greater insight into current legislation, tools that make it easier for you to take action, and helpful resources such as updates on appropriations and elections.

We hope this new reporting format provides better value to you. Let us know what you think at advocacy@rotor.org!

Legislative Spotlight: H.R. 5423, Aircraft Noise Reduction Act (ANRA)

What’s in the Bill. Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO-2) recently introduced this bill, which would give general aviation (GA) airports the authority to impose certain operational restrictions relating to noise concerns, such as limiting the number and type of aircraft that could operate and setting curfews or specific hours in which they could fly.

Background. In 1990, Congress enacted the Airport Noise and Capacity Act (ANCA), which provided a process for scrutinizing noise and other access restrictions managed by the FAA. ANCA and other laws and regulations currently in place have proven to be successful over the past 30 years in allowing the public to have input on aircraft operations, and for airports, air carriers, and GA operators to thrive in the safest, most-efficient national airspace system in the world.

In addition, H.R. 5423 would overturn a current regulation that requires airports that receive federal funding to accept all aviation operations that are compliant with FAA regulations. Under the new bill, airports could restrict or limit operations for entire classes of aircraft.

What the Bill Would Do. H.R. 5423 would dismantle the national system of airports while undermining ANCA and nearly a century of precedent. It would undercut the utility and safety of thousands of airports across the United States and reverse course on a basic principle of US aviation: the need to regulate aviation matters at the federal level, which Congress has recognized since the 1920s.

Thumbs Up or Down? HAI is strongly opposed to this legislation. We’ve sent a joint letter, signed by HAI and other industry groups, to the congressional committees of jurisdiction outlining our opposition. In the meantime, we’ll continue to track the bill’s progress.

Legislative Updates

Major Victory in FY2020 Appropriations

Congress recently passed legislation funding the US government for FY 2020. In the legislation, lawmakers fully funded the new aviation technician and pilot workforce grant programs that HAI had successfully lobbied to be included in the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018.

During the appropriations process, the House provided full funding for the program while the Senate appropriated half the amount. HAI worked in concert with other interested organizations to advocate for full funding. We’re very pleased to report that the aviation technician and pilot workforce development program is now fully funded at $10 million.

Under the program, grants of up to $500,000 may be used to:

  • Establish new educational programs that teach technical skills used in aviation maintenance, including purchasing equipment or improving existing programs
  • Establish scholarships or apprenticeships for individuals pursuing work in the aviation maintenance industry
  • Support outreach about careers in the aviation maintenance industry to primary, secondary, and postsecondary school students or to communities underrepresented in the industry
  • Support educational opportunities related to aviation maintenance in economically disadvantaged geographic areas
  • Support transition to careers in aviation maintenance, including for members of the US armed forces
  • Otherwise enhance aviation maintenance technical education or the aviation maintenance industry workforce.

The FAA hasn’t yet released information about the grant application process. However, to encourage the aviation community to work together, all grants must be supported by an aviation business or union, a school, or a government agency.

Public Aircraft and Logging Flight Times

HAI advocated in support of Sec. 517 of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018. This provision states that the FAA administrator shall issue regulations modifying 14 CFR 61.51(j)(4) to include aircraft under the direct operational control of forestry and fire protection agencies as public aircraft eligible for logging flight times.

The implications of Sec. 517 are important for pilots who are currently flying public aircraft but are unable to log their flight time. While the legislative text is straightforward and a win for our industry, which has long pushed for this change, the FAA hasn’t yet prioritized the task of writing the regulation that will implement the language in the reauthorization bill.

HAI has been in regular communication with the committees of jurisdiction as well as other congressional offices regarding the FAA’s implementation of Sec. 517. The House Transportation Infrastructure Committee recently held a hearing on the progress of implementing provisions from the reauthorization bill. A question was submitted to FAA inquiring about the status of Sec. 517, but a response hasn’t yet been provided.

HAI will continue to work with Congress to ensure this issue is addressed and implementation is prioritized with the FAA.

David Dolenar (left), director of business development at MD Helicopters, gave John (right) and Cade a tour of MD’s assembly plant in Mesa, Arizona.

Outside the Beltway

We recently attended the National Conference of State Legislatures Capitol Forum in Phoenix, Arizona, an event that brings together numerous US state legislators to discuss policies and legislative concepts. It’s an ideal place for HAI staff to have in-depth conversations about the initiatives that states plan to explore in 2020.

While we were in Phoenix, and on a trip to Dallas, we also met with HAI members (see photos). Whenever we meet with state legislators, manufacturers, operators, or chambers of commerce, a common topic we hear is the helicopter industry’s struggles to train and retain enough pilots and mechanics/engineers.

Luckily, we have a bright spot to point to in workforce development: the Utah Rotor Pathway Program. This statewide initiative by government, industry, and educators has been showing some successes, such as opening a rotor-­specific aviation education program—aptly named the Aviators—in the new Cedar Valley High School, in Eagle Mountain, Utah. Industry partners are setting up work-based learning opportunities for Cedar Valley students, and the Pathway Program is looking to bring aboard another high school partner in August of this year.

HAI believes the Utah program can be a template for similar initiatives in other states. Throughout our recent travels, we’ve found great enthusiasm for the concept, with numerous potential partners wanting to replicate the program and its successes.

HAI is exploring these opportunities and looking for additional partners. If you’re interested in learning more about the Utah Rotor Pathway Program and setting up a similar initiative in your state, please contact us at advocacy@rotor.org!

– Cade Clark and John Shea