Begich discusses Alaska Aviation Priorities with FAA Administrator
Huerta pledges to work with Begich and Alaska aviators on AvGas issue
U.S. Sen. Mark Begich today discussed Alaska aviation priorities with FAA Acting Administrator Michael Huerta. Huerta has served as the FAA’s Acting Administrator since December and has been nominated by President Obama to serve for a full five-year term.
During Huerta’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, of which Begich is a member, the Senator reiterated his opposition to the Administration’s proposal to institute a new $100 user fee on certain General Aviation (GA) aircraft and users. As co-chair of the Senate General Aviation Caucus, Begich led 28 senators in opposing this proposal earlier in the year. Begich criticized the proposal as burdensome.
“It’s going to create another bureaucracy within the FAA, when the reality is we already have a per-gallon tax system that General Aviation supports,” Begich said.
Begich also stressed Alaska’s reliance on small aircraft and pressed Huerta for an assurance the FAA would not make any effort to phase out leaded AvGas unless an economical and readily available drop-in substitute is available. The EPA issued a proposed rulemaking to phase out AvGas in 2010.
Huerta responded, “The FAA completely understands the importance of having reasonable alternatives before any effort is made to phase out AvGas. I’m very committed to working with EPA so as to insure that doesn’t happen.”
In a private courtesy visit with Huerta yesterday, Begich also discussed the University of Alaska’s interest in being designated as a test range for the integration of unmanned aerial vehicles into the national airspace. The recently-passed FAA Reauthorization bill directs the FAA to establish six test ranges before the end of the year.
“Just as Alaska was the proving ground for the technology at the heart of our NextGen air traffic control modernization with the Capstone program, I am convinced we can lead the way in the safe integration of UAVs,” Begich said. “I’m very encouraged the Alaska Legislature supported the University of Alaska efforts in the capital budget.”
Begich hosted a roundtable with aviation stakeholders in Anchorage last month to discuss the expanding role of UAVs for research and commercial purposes. The FAA plans to issue additional guidance for the test range selection in the coming weeks.
During his meeting on Wednesday, Begich also invited Huerta to Alaska to meet with aviation stakeholders and see Alaska’s unique reliance on aviation firsthand.