Shouldn't a national policy be established to protect general aviation landing strips, especially in rural areas, from neglect or sudden closure while preserving Federal Aviation Administration jurisdiction over aviation?
The question is a reasonable one because more and more remote landing strips are facing closure, and it would receive a ringing answer in the affirmative with passage of the "General Aviation Access Act." Also known as H.R. 3661, it has been introduced in the U.S. House by Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah.
An overdue Capitol Hill hearing was held Thursday on Hansen's bill, which bars the secretaries of the Interior or Agriculture from taking any action or inaction, including neglect, which would close any airstrip unless:
The Federal Aviation Commission administrator or the head of the aviation department of each state in which the landing strip is located have OK'd such action.
The notice of the proposed action has been published in The Federal Register.
A 90-day public comment period on the action has been provided. (Any comments must be taken into consideration by the FAA and the affected state.)
H.R. 3661 would also direct the two presidential cabinet-level secretaries to adopt a national policy for governing general aviation issues related to the management of federal land. This legislation also recognizes that "backcountry" aircraft landing strips serve as an essential safety role as emergency landing areas, and are extremely useful in search and rescue operations, firefighting, ecological management and aerial mapping.
It's significant that the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association support H.R. 3661, emphasizing that it rolls back efforts by federal agencies to restrict or prohibit general aviation use of back-country airstrips. Hopefully, both the House and Senate will pass this common-sense legislation in coming months.