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Those Who Participate Make The Rules

by Greg Reigel 1. March 2009 00:00
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Aviation is one of the most highly regulated industries in this great country of ours. The United States Code legislates aviation generally and the Federal Aviation Regulations ("FARs") govern aviation more specifically. A variety of federal agencies oversee, both directly and indirectly, aviation including the Department of Transportation, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Transportation Security Administration, and Customs and Border Patrol, to name a few. State and local governments also exercise authority over aviation within their jurisdictions.

As a result, we in the aviation industry are continually facing existing and proposed laws, rules and regulations that tell us what we may and may not do, how we must do the things we do, when we may do them, where we may do them etc. At times, the plethora of regulation feels oppressive and compliance can be daunting. However, we as participants in this industry we love are not simply subject to the whims of those who have the authority to regulate aviation. We have the opportunity and, indeed, the obligation, to influence how we as an industry are regulated.

What Can We Do?

First and foremost, all of us must take advantage of every available opportunity to influence those who have the authority to regulate our industry. How do we do that? Well, it will depend upon who we are trying to influence.

The FAA. The primary agency regulating the aviation industry is the FAA. The FAA regulates our industry in a number of ways. The most obvious method of regulation, and the one with which people are most familiar, is the creation/issuing of the FARs. These regulations are created through a rulemaking process governed by the Administrative Procedures Act ("APA"). This process usually requires that the FAA issue a "notice of proposed rulemaking" that includes the language of the regulation being proposed as well as an explanation of the reason(s) why the FAA feels the regulation is necessary.

The notice of proposed rulemaking also provides the opportunity for, and requests that people submit, comments on the proposed rule. Comments may be submitted to the FAA online or in writing. Once submitted, the APA requires that the FAA review all comments and take them into consideration when it determines whether to issue a final rule and, if so, what language will be included in the final rule.

Thus, it is essential that participants in the aviation industry take advantage of this opportunity to submit comments to influence proposed regulation. The more comments the FAA receives, the greater the influence those comments will have on the FAA's decision-making process. (This same opportunity is available for rulemaking by other agencies and was used quite effectively recently when the TSA proposed its Large Aircraft Security Program.)

Congress. The United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives collectively pass legislation that governs or affects the aviation industry. (The inclusion of user fees in the FAA's authorization/budget is a good example of pending legislation that will impact aviation in a significant way if it is passed). These legislative bodies are comprised of individual senators and representatives who are elected by you. These individuals are supposed to, at least in theory, represent the views and opinions of you, their constituents. However, they can't do that unless they know your positions on proposed legislation upon which their vote may be required.

You can and should contact your senators (NBAA) (AOPA) and representatives to voice your concerns and let these elected officials know how their constituents want them to vote on bills that will affect the aviation industry. Write to them. Call them. Talk to them in person if you have the opportunity. They will listen to you. And the more input they receive from their constituents, the greater the likelihood that they will vote consistent with your wishes. (After all, your vote in future elections will determine whether they remain in their elected positions.)

State and Local Government. Although state and local governments do not regulate the aviation industry as extensively as the federal government, they do still consider and pass laws and regulations that impact aviation within their jurisdictions. Similar to congress and federal agencies, you also have opportunities to influence legislation and rulemaking by state or local governments. Send your comments. Contact your elected officials. Speak at public meetings. Only by making your voices heard can you influence these state and local lawmakers.

Trade Associations. The aviation industry is championed collectively by many organizations who are often affectionately referred to as the alphabet groups: Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, National Business Aviation Association, National Aviation Trades Association, Experimental Aircraft Association, Helicopter Association International, General Aviation Manufacturers Association, to name a few. These organizations specifically serve their members who are involved in a particular aspect of the industry, as well as the aviation industry as a whole.

The existence of the alphabet groups is due in no small part to the complex and comprehensive regulation that affects their constituent members. These organizations help their members understand and comply with the regulations applicable to their specific part of the industry. Additionally, the organizations provide a unified voice on behalf of their members to provide input and influence in the legislative and rulemaking processes.

By joining and supporting these organizations, you can benefit from their knowledge and expertise and you can amplify your voice to make sure your views and opinions, which are likely consistent with those of the other members of the organization(s), heard by those who pass the laws and issue the regulations.


At a time when the aviation industry is under attack, and onerous and oppressive regulations are being proposed, your action is needed to save the industry. Take advantage of the opportunities available to you to make your voice heard. Only by participating can you help make the rules.

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Greg Reigel


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