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Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2011

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. OBERSTAR. The gentleman from Missouri, a strong advocate of general aviation, a great member of our committee, has expressed a very genuine concern and has introduced legislation; a bill that was introduced in March of this year, referred to our committee. We have asked for comments from the administration; that is, from DOT and FAA. Meanwhile, the FAA in January of this year initiated a process to address the issues created by the so-called ``through-the-fence'' agreements. They formed a policy review team to gather information, evaluate the concerns, decide what kind of action could be taken to address the concerns.

And what are these concerns? Well, I know the former president of the Airport Owners and Pilots Association, Phil Boyer, retired, I think, to Florida, to a place where he has an airplane literally in his garage. He can roll it out onto a runway and fly wherever he needs to go. That's the kind of thing we're talking about here.

Under these agreements, people have total access to runways, taxiways, sensitive operational parts of the airport. But people and pets have ventured onto airport property. Homeowners have hunted. They've thrown parties. They have buried pets on airport grounds. These are the reports we got from the FAA. These agreements have hamstrung airports in planning for the future, planning for safety and improving safety. With airport land encumbered by such agreements, airports may not be free to make the necessary safety improvements they require.

I would propose to the gentleman that we allow the FAA to continue its policy review team, bring forth recommendations; I would schedule a hearing in the Aviation Subcommittee, with the concurrence of the gentleman from Illinois (Mr. Costello), the chairman of the subcommittee; and the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. Petri), schedule a hearing in committee, and air the issues.

The provisions that the gentleman, Mr. Chairman, has included in the bill he has introduced are very beneficial suggestions. They don't deal specifically with the issues that I just cited but those will be the subject of this review by the FAA. We'll give them a deadline of reporting to us in mid September, schedule a hearing and fashion a legislative proposal which we could then bring to the floor on suspension of the rules pending an agreement. But I think the gentleman's introduced bill is a much more thoughtful approach to the issue than just a bludgeoning of the FAA, cutting off and saying they can't take action.


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