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    Read More: FAA Reauthorization Bill: What's In and What's Out
    November 14, 2018

    Reauthorized for the next five years, the FAA can tackle new programs and priorities

    Well, it’s done. Congress finally passed the FAA reauthorization bill (H.R.302) and only needed one little extension of a few days to wrap it up. A five-year reauthorization hasn’t happened in 36 years—since 1982. We are on a roll!

    Let’s talk about what is in, and just as importantly, what is not in the bill. But first, what exactly is a reauthorization bill, is it different than funding, and why am I making such a big deal about it?

    Quite simply, congressional authorization authority is what gives a federal agency the legal authority to exist and operate. The FAA is now authorized to exist and operate for the next five years.

    The reauthorization bill does not, however, give it the money to operate. In a separate funding process, Congress will provide the necessary (or what Congress deems to be appropriate) finances for the FAA to perform its authorized duties. Congress is currently working on the funding levels for the FAA; those decisions were punted until after the November elections.

    So why is reauthorization a big deal? It’s not like Congress would cancel the FAA. But as we have seen in the past, the FAA hasn’t always had access to a stable operating and funding environment. The last time the agency came up for reauthorization, there were 23 short-term extensions before a four-year authorization bill was passed in 2012. Many believe that the agency was ill served by the short-term operating environment, leading to a lack of progress on several long-term initiatives.

    In addition to providing the legal authority for an agency to operate, Congress uses reauthorization bills to set new priorities and initiatives for an agency. Whatever your view is on Congress, I’m sure you can appreciate that there are complex issues raised when you invite 535 legislators to participate in setting aviation policy for our country. All types of new ideas come flooding into the process; some good, some bad. Add in the legislative process, with all its nuances and strange bedfellows, and sometimes you can open a real can of worms. Reauthorization can be a gamble!

    Speaking of bad gambles, let’s mention what is NOT in the bill: privatization of the US air traffic control (ATC) system. This tremendous victory is a testament to all HAI members who worked hand in hand with the rest of the general aviation (GA) to oppose this provision. HAI advocated for the industry on Capitol Hill, and our members flooded their elected officials’ in-boxes with their advice on this issue.

    It was a hard-fought battle, but we won, and we couldn’t have done it without you, our members. Thank you for your involvement! However, don’t think that proponents of ATC privatization won’t try again. (Are you already dreading the columns that I will be writing five years from now, as we discuss the next reauthorization bill?) My advice is to always watch the can of worms.

    This wonderful little FAA bill is 1,200 pages long. You’ll get through a lot of Diet Pepsi and brownies before you get to the last page. Trust me. However, because I did that, you don’t have to. HAI has compiled a summary of provisions important to GA and the helicopter industry. You can find both a copy of the bill and our 14-page summary of it on the advocacy page of our website: rotor.org/initiatives/advocacy. For those of you who want the Reader’s Digest version, read on.

    The FAA reauthorization bill contains a number of good, even great, provisions that provide long-term stability to the FAA and advance important priorities for GA. Like many in our industry, HAI has expressed concern over the aviation workforce shortage. We recently conducted a study with the University of North Dakota that conclusively demonstrates that the helicopter industry faces a severe pilot and mechanic shortage. The FAA reauthorization bill provides important solutions to tackle this critical industry issue. Additionally, the bill addresses needed reform to FAA regulations pertaining to training programs at aviation maintenance technician schools.

    H.R. 302 also provides needed clarity on the safe integration of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into the national airspace, allowing that sector to move forward with exciting commercial opportunities. HAI views safety as priority No. 1, and we have long advocated for the safe integration of UAS. Our perspective is unique, as our members are the ones operating in the same airspace as UAS for most of our flight profiles—and in some cases, our members are also the ones who are flying the UAS. The FAA’s ability to fully regulate all aircraft, including UAS, in the National Airspace System is paramount for safety, and H.R. 302 confirms that authority to the FAA, including standards for remotely identifying UAS.

    The bill also addresses an important helicopter safety issue with crash-resistant fuel systems by adopting the recommendations of the Rotorcraft Occupant Protection Working Group. HAI worked closely with Congress to ensure that the recommendations of the Working Group were fully captured and incorporated in the legislative text.

    H.R. 302 contains a host of regulatory opportunities for the industry. The bill directs the FAA to conduct numerous studies and collaborative outreach for new initiatives. The FAA has literally been directed by Congress to reach out to aviation stakeholders—us—for input. HAI will be deeply involved in this process, but don’t forgo the opportunity that may exist for your company by participating in such research and outreach.

    The FAA reauthorization bill was a lot of work for everyone. I realize that reading, or even just skimming, 1,200 pages of legislative prose may not be your definition of fun. But this can of worms brings new ideas, initiatives, solutions, and opportunities to the industry. Making sure those opportunities exist is exactly why you have a trade association representing your interests.

    Thank you again for your involvement in our advocacy efforts to ensure this reauthorization bill advances the helicopter industry. Congress incorporated your voice and positions in H.R. 302. Keep up the active participation, as the industry and the FAA move to tackle our next challenges.

    Read More: Before Google Could Translate
    August 03, 2018

    My first trip abroad was to the Soviet Union. As a youngster growing up at the end of the Cold War, I was not sure what to expect.

    My stay with a host family was wonderful, and it turned out that the Russian family was a lot like mine: the kids complained about doing chores and didn’t like vegetables, but everyone loved Grandma’s cooking. It was eye-opening to see firsthand how many similarities we had.

    My Soviet summer came to an end too soon, and I headed home … just missing the real excitement a couple of weeks later when, on August 18, 1991, Russian president Boris Yeltsin lead the resistance to an attempted coup. The coup was unsuccessful — but it set the stage for the breakup of the Soviet Union by the end of the year.

    It was such a fascinating adventure, I had to go back. A few years later I returned, this time to the Russian Federation. By this time, I was a private fixed-wing pilot and had been working for some time with my dad at a small FBO that he ran at a local general aviation airport.

    Along with other operations, we ran some cargo flights in Piper Navajos and Beech 99s. I don’t recall why, but at the time there was a lot of chatter in our area about the Soviet Antonov An-2 and its possible use in cargo missions. Naturally, when I returned to Russia, I was determined to discover if and how this single-engine biplane could be used in our operations.

    I told my host family of my quest to talk to some pilots. A few weeks later, I found myself packed into their little Lada, headed out to a “surprise.” We drove through the beautiful wooded Russian countryside until suddenly, we pulled up at a little airstrip where members of an aero club were critiquing the aerobatic flight skills of their fellow pilots.

    I was introduced to a number of the pilots and immediately hit it off. Several proudly introduced themselves as former members of the Soviet Air Forces, noting with a grin that they were trained to shoot down my country’s aircraft. I told them of my respect for their flying ability and remarked how great it was that we could all now come together as friends with a shared love of aviation.

    When I stop to think about it, this was quite a moment. What really separated me from my new friends?

    We grew up under two opposite political systems and, as they dryly remarked, we had considered each other to be enemies, trained to shoot each other down. But once we got over that minor historical speed bump, it was apparent that, just like my Soviet host family, we were more alike than different. We enjoyed talking about aviation and adventures, like any long-lost friends.

    While watching the club members go through their aerobatic practice, I noticed a couple of An-2s parked on the far side of the grass strip. I asked all about them and the commercial prospects of bringing an An-2 to America. At least that’s what I think I said. I might have said, “I like chocolate ice cream” or even, in my rudimentary Russian, “Ice cream like chocolate me.” There’s really no way to be sure.

    There was a commotion behind me and suddenly, a large pack was slapped on my back — a parachute, as it turns out. I was led to a Yak-52, the primary Soviet trainer aircraft, and promptly secured in the back seat.

    At that point, my mind was racing, trying to remember exactly what I said about the An-2. I was hoping I hadn’t agreed to purchase a fleet of the aircraft. I was also thinking I didn’t catch a word about how to use the parachute. One of my new buddies bounded in and asked if I was ready to go. I wasn’t sure where we were going, but the only right answer at that point was “Da!”

    Next thing I knew we were over the Gulf of Finland, an arm of the Baltic Sea. Then I heard over the headset the Russian equivalent of “Get ready.” My friend then took me through my first aerobatic experience. To say I was having the time of my life would be an understatement. I squealed like a little kid with such joy that my new friend burst into laughter as he took us through one aerobatic maneuver after another. He even let me do a few loops.

    I was wishing we would stay up forever, but alas we headed back to the field and he let me land, which was a new experience from my perch in the back. We rolled up to the ramp and relived our flight, talking till it was finally time to leave. I stayed in touch with my friends for quite some time until addresses changed and mail was lost. (This was, after all, before email.)

    Why this trip down memory lane and how does it relate to HAI? Well, at HAI we work on your behalf to keep the rotors turning. We connect people and ideas to advance the industry. No matter where you live in the world, as HAI members we are connected by our love of aviation.

    We may have grown up in different political systems, countries, and cultures, but we share a unique bond. Who knew that, just like me, Soviet kids didn’t like vegetables? It wasn’t until I was there, speaking and connecting with people, that I realized that we had many similarities we could build on — similarities that formed a bridge over our differences.

    Flipping through the air over the beautiful Gulf of Finland with my new Russian buddy, the one trained to shoot down American aviators, we shared laughter and the sheer joy of the freedom of flight. It was an incredible experience brought about by a host family seeking to connect a kid and his crazy scheme for a Russian aircraft with the local Russian aviation community.

    HAI, located just across the river from Washington, D.C., frequently works with regulators and legislators on issues important to our industry. But frankly, they wouldn’t be interested in working with us if we didn’t work for you.

    Elected officials put a high priority on helping their constituents back home, and they know that HAI connects them with issues and solutions for those voters. Our power in advocacy comes from the grassroots strength of our members.

    Advocacy works the same way in any country in which our members live. HAI is a resource for you to connect people and ideas. We have many affiliates throughout the world who can furnish expert analysis on local operational issues and opportunities. HAI is ready to help you make that connection.

    This coming October, HAI will be attending and exhibiting at Helitech International in Amsterdam. If you are planning to be there, stop by our booth and let’s chat. Building networks and relationships is how we strengthen this industry and move it forward. We can all learn and build from each other’s experiences.

    To craft common-sense aviation polices, our elected officials, no matter the country, need the expertise our industry can provide. Let’s learn from each other about how effective education and advocacy campaigns can be built. How have you been able to influence your government’s legislative or regulatory decision-making process? Share your victories as well as defeats. We can all learn, refine, and improve our approach in sharing our message about the positive contributions of the helicopter industry.

    Finally, get involved politically. For HAI members in America, don’t forget that Congress has an August recess and the House is scheduled to be home in the districts campaigning. This is the perfect time for you to schedule a visit with your elected official. Invite them to your place of business and show them the good work you are doing for your community.

    HAI international members, look for the same opportunities according to the openings in your elected officials’ calendars. Become a resource to your elected officials on aviation issues. Help them develop the best aviation policies possible.

    By building stronger networks among the aviation community — and inviting others to understand our contributions to a healthy economy and safe communities — we will build a successful, united helicopter industry. In English, we call that “keeping the rotors turning.” How do you say it in your language? Let me know at cade.clark@rotor.org.

    Read More: Victory!
    May 13, 2018

    At HAI HELI‑EXPO in Vegas, we celebrated the stunning news that the proponents of air traffic control (ATC) privatization were standing down. We won. I send a sincere thank-you to all who heard our call to action and acted.

    Before we move on to new legislative issues, however, I want to discuss our lessons learned from the campaign.

    First, how did we win? Our success was by no means a given. The proponents of the bill had deeper pockets and more resources than the helicopter industry. They were well respected, politically savvy, and the ultimate professionals. This was a legislative fight for the ages.

    To boil it down to the simplest explanation, we won because of you. HAI members flooded Capitol Hill with letters, tweets, Facebook posts, visits, and calls. Your voices combined with the tens of thousands of calls from other general aviation (GA) professionals and backers to demand that we modernize, not privatize ATC.

    It is easy to be cynical about Congress. However, elected officials really do care about their constituents’ concerns. When that many people reach out on the same issue, they get their representatives’ attention.

    We also had numerous GA organizations working together to oppose this legislation. In fact, we had almost 300 GA organizations sign an industry letter expressing opposition to ATC privatization. So many different groups uniting to oppose an issue attracts a great deal of attention from the media, elected officials, and their leaders.

    The individual associations also made hundreds of visits to Congress during this legislative battle. HAI was in the middle of it, reaching out to the committees of jurisdiction, leadership, and rank-and-file members. HAI educated them about the legislation’s negative impacts on the helicopter industry and why passing the bill would not be in the best interest of their constituents. This message was reinforced when HAI members flooded the offices with their individual outreach.

    This old-fashioned advocacy work was important in raising awareness among undecided representatives as well as in securing supporters who eventually became advocates for our industry. It was also critical to raise the issue among the congressional committees. These committees would have been directly affected by this legislation, with some losing jurisdiction and oversight authority — an outcome rarely favored by committee members.

    An important part of my job is developing relationships and becoming part of the everyday legislative environment, so I’ll be able to read the signals when something is about to happen. Because of everyone’s hard work, time and time again, votes were scheduled on the ATC privatization proposal and then pulled back because proponents did not have the votes necessary to pass.

    Finally, the White House looked at the level of opposition in the House and the Senate and determined there was not enough votes to prevail. Once administration support evaporated, proponents of the bill were forced to pull it. Our industry won the day because we stood united, voiced our position, and educated our elected officials about why we opposed the bill.

    What does this mean moving forward? First, the GA community must never forget our collective power. Yes, we often have different perspectives on legislative issues. Certainly, we will disagree in the future, but there will be just as many times when we can unite, just as we did around ATC privatization. When we find consensus within our community, we must stand together and push forward those policies.

    Second, we must continue to foster our relationships with elected officials. Your representatives heard and understood your position on ATC privatization and as a result acted. You now have a very powerful connection to them — work to keep it going. Reach out to your elected officials and thank them for their actions. Politics is all about relationships. Don’t be that friend who only calls when they need something.

    In a stroke of good luck, this is an election year. Politicians are out campaigning, some to keep their job and others to get a job. They are especially attuned to listen to voters. The congressional schedule allows for multiple recesses throughout the year, including a long stretch in August, for officials to get back home and campaign.

    Make plans today to set up a visit with your elected representatives. If you have a business, bring them out, show them around, and let them see the value you bring to the local community. If you don’t have a business, reach out to the local office and schedule a visit to talk about the issues important to you. The stronger the relationship you have with your elected officials, the more power you wield in future legislative battles.

    Our advocacy campaign against ATC privatization is a political action model for any HAI member, wherever you are in the world. Step up, reach out, get involved. The power of the individual, the clout of the association, the impact of our industry standing united. It’s a beautiful thing.