EAA Headquarters, Oshkosh, Wis. – Feb. 14, 2007 – Following a thorough analysis of the many issues addressed in FAA’s new Air Tour Rule unveiled last Friday, EAA is particularly alarmed at several elements of the rule that threaten the future of the Young Eagles Program.
Earl Lawrence, EAA’s vice president of industry and regulatory affairs, immediately contacted senior FAA officials Monday morning to explain how certain elements of the rule’s preamble - not the rule itself - could be interpreted in a way that would severely limit what aircraft could be used for Young Eagles flights, with additional restrictions on pilot qualifications and frequency of Young Eagles activities. After several days of talks with FAA officials, however, there were no immediate solutions to EAA’s concerns forthcoming from the agency.
“While we’re sure FAA did not intend to create a major hindrance to introducing young people to flight, this unexpected language in the rule’s preamble could place severe restrictions on the Young Eagles program,” said EAA President Tom Poberezny. “Since Young Eagles pilots do not receive compensation, this language does not belong in a rule that focuses on commercial air tours.
“If there had been any inclination that such language would be included in the rule’s preamble, we would have immediately and vigorously defended Young Eagles against such a threat.”
The Air Tour Rule was published in the Federal Register on Tuesday, Feb. 13, with an effective date of March 15, 2007. EAA is continuing its regular communication with FAA, advocating that the agency immediately and publicly clarify the preamble language to remove the threat to the Young Eagles program, followed by a rulemaking process that provides a permanent solution.
Most surprising and troubling are aspects that could limit Young Eagles flights to standard-category aircraft by pilots with 500 or more total flight hours. Provisions that would require advance notice of Young Eagles flights with local Flight Standards District Offices are also extremely restrictive.
“The language of a rule’s preamble, which is not subject to the public comment process, should not establish law or policy. However, such was the case here,” Lawrence said. “FAA has worked with EAA through the years and provided the environment where nearly 1.3 million young people have discovered the world of flight through Young Eagles. We will continue to work with them to preserve the vitality and reach of the Young Eagles program. The support of this program throughout the aviation community, including within the top levels of FAA, is unquestioned and cannot be threatened.”
Poberezny is personally leading EAA’s efforts to solve this situation and also asked that EAA members be ready, if called upon, to show support for Young Eagles and the future of aviation.
EAA’s Young Eagles program was founded in 1992 and has provided nearly 1.3 million free demonstration flights to young people around the world, through the efforts of 40,000 volunteer pilots and 50,000 ground volunteers.