Advocacy Success in Louisiana
Regulations associated with the huge TFR imposed over the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has had major financial impacts on commercial seaplane operators in coastal Lousiana and Mississippi. Some seaplane operators reported that press access to the spill zone was being denied by BP through the regulations of the TFR.
After intense advocacy efforts by aviation businesses, U.S. congressmen and senators, and SPA officials, the FAA has taken action to assist local air charter operators affected by the TFR due to the Oil Spill in the Gulf. (See previous blog entries for the background on unreasonable restrictions imposed by BP on flights into the TFR.)
On Friday, May 28, the terms of the TFR were changed to allow other flights besides those directly related to the oilfield or the oil spill response to enter the TFR with a 24-hour notice.
On Tuesday, June 1, an aviation safety meeting was held at the Houma, LA, Airport. All pilots routinely operating within the TFR and those affected by the TFR were invited to attend. The FAA as well as the Coast Guard addressed the attendees. Comments were taken from the floor and concerns were addressed openly.
FAA has began working with local charter operators to assist them with operating their business as usual within the limts of the TFR. If a request is neeeded in less time than the 24-hour requirement, and the air traffic volume is not too great at that time, then permission is being granted to obtain a discrete code. This has certainly been seen as a welcome change for the local charter operators, considering the challenges they faced during the first four weeks of the oil spill.
As far as BP is concerned, there are no changes in their policy to ban the use of single engine aircraft. SPA and the local seaplane community will continue to engage BP to attempt to persuade them that seaplane floats provide an equivalent safety margin as does a second engine.
Sincere appreciation to the FAA for these changes, and to SPA Board member and Louisiana Field Director, Lyle Panepinto, for leading the effort.