The US Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) is calling on the US Federal Aviation Administration to abolish its plan to force all commercial air tours to operate under tougher Part 135 air carrier regulations. The association accuses the government agency of not considering the impact of the regulation.

The Washington-based association says although the FAA has extended the comment period on its notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to 19 April, as demanded by AOPA, it is refusing to hold face to face talks with the operators, and plans to establish a "virtual" online forum instead.

The FAA claims so many people are affected by this proposed rule that holding a real meeting would deny most the ability to comment. AOPA president Phil Boyer says: "Before sentencing a person to death, you should look him in the eye and tell him why." The FAA estimates that the proposed rule could affect around 1,670 operators with 3,100 aircraft that now provide commercial air tour flights under Part 91, and lead to the closure of around 700 businesses.

The proposals also include raising the minimum number of hours required for private pilots conducting charity fundraising flights from 200 to 500 and removing an exemption that allows Part 91 sightseeing flights within 25 miles (40km) of the departure airport.

"The data used to justify the proposals are a jumble of Part 135 and Part 91 accident reports," says Melissa Bailey, AOPA vice-president of regulatory affairs. "But of the 11 accidents cited in the NPRM, eight occurred in Hawaii, and most were apparently already operating as Part 135 flights."

Source: Flight International