Dec. 12, 2013

A Dec. 12 House committee hearing focused on aviation planning also provided a welcome opportunity for NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen to acknowledge the need for continuing congressional engagement on two issues with serious potential ramifications for the general aviation community: one affecting pilots certificated in the United States, the other international in scope.

In written testimony submitted for before the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure Committee’s Aviation Subcommittee on “The State of American Aviation,” Bolen pointed to the industry’s alarm over the FAA’s new plan to mandate obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) screening for some pilots prior to receiving a medical certificate. He also highlighted continuing concerns over the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (EU-ETS).

Bolen’s testimony recognized subcommittee chairman Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-2-NJ) for introducing H.R. 3578, a measure compelling the FAA to follow established rulemaking processes before implementing its new screening requirement for OSA – the planned mandate was outlined last month by the FAA’s Federal Air Surgeon.

“There appears to be no causal link between OSA and flying accidents, and no clear indication that the additional screening requirement would improve aviation safety,” Bolen’s testimony noted. “Equally troubling, the vast majority of pilots have neither been provided an opportunity to learn of the FAA’s plans, nor been given a mechanism for providing feedback on the proposal.”

The Transportation Committee has approved H.R. 3578, clearing the path for consideration of the bill by the full House of Representatives.

In his written remarks, Bolen went on to thank lawmakers for their action against unilateral imposition of the EU-ETS against U.S. operators.

Last year, President Obama signed into law the EU-ETS Prohibition Act, granting the Department of Transportation authority to prohibit U.S.-based aircraft operators from participating in the emissions scheme. Following that development, the EU implemented a “stop-the-clock” policy, which suspended implementation of EU-ETS for flights originating from outside the EU. The move provided the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) time to consider and advance a framework for international aviation emissions policies that pivots away from the EU-ETS in several ways.

“Although far from perfect, and certainly not everything we have worked for, [the ICAO framework] promotes an international dialogue that is focused on simple, more workable measures for addressing aircraft emissions – measures that can be built around various types and sizes of operators,” Bolen’s testimony stated, before cautioning that the EU’s “stop-the-clock” reprieve on ETS is due to expire next April.

“While the ICAO work will continue on the this issue, it is unclear if – when the EU’s ‘stop-the-clock’ policy expires in April 2014 – the applicability of EU-ETS will once again be expanded to flights entering Europe’s airspace from foreign departure points, including the U.S,” he said, urging lawmakers to “remain engaged on this issue.”

Bolen reiterated that continued attention and support from lawmakers is essential to addressing the business aviation community’s apprehension over both matters.

“As we consider our broad, current and future aviation needs, it is clear that continued congressional engagement in specific aviation policies will also remain essential,” he told subcommittee members. “In both cases, the active involvement by Congress has been of critical importance.”

Review Bolen’s written testimony.