On June 18, 2012, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley signed into law a major revision to the Aeronautics Code of Laws- Title 55, updating the code to reflect advancements in the industry over the last 50 years. Many of the aeronautical laws in the outdated code predated the Civil Aeronautics Administration and conflicted with current Federal Aviation Administrative (FAA) regulations. The South Carolina Aeronautics Commission (SCAC) revised many technical documents and evaluated case laws to be sure the new Code meets current aviation requirements.
"This is a major accomplishment for the South Carolina Aeronautics Commission and for those who were part of its development over the past eight –ten years," said Paul Werts, Executive Director for the South Carolina Aeronautics Commission. "Especially when we dealt with land use zoning around airports." Werts (shown at right) said overhauling a 94 page bill related to aviation law was challenging, "but the air transportation system in South Carolina will see many direct and indirect benefits from this endeavor."
To initiate such an endeavor, SCAC started the process of updating the Code by initiating a South Carolina System Plan (the System Plan). The System Plan was an extensive overview of the aviation network and the economic impacts associated with each of the current laws along with new laws and regulations that needed adjusting or should to be added to the Code. A taskforce was appointed to review and make recommendations associated with the System Plan.
The members who served on the taskforce were regional representatives from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) and National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), a South Carolina Department of Commerce representative, a South Carolina Chamber of Commerce representative, general aviation and commercial service airport managers, airport and aerospace consultants, South Carolina Aeronautics Commissioners and SCAC staff. Werts said that after a two year discussion and evaluation, the System Plan was finalized, the Code updated and made ready for submittal to the legislature.
However, according to Werts, SCAC encountered a major reorganization change when the Division of Aeronautics/SCAC was moved from the South Carolina Department of Commerce to the State Budget and Control Board (B&CB) July 1, 2009. This delayed the process for presenting Title 55 for consideration of revision/passage to the legislature.
Over the next two years Werts said SCAC attorneys, staff, and commissioners met with the Association of Counties, Municipal Associations, the Insurance Commission, county airport commissions, regional airport districts, and key government and business leaders to educate and communicate the reasons for updating the Code. In 2011, the Code was introduced in the House (H3918) and submitted to the Judiciary Committee for review and study. Bill H3918 was tabled in 2011 but directed by committee to be addressed during the 2012 legislative session. During the 2012 legislative session both the House and Senate adopted additional amendments and passed Title 55 for the Governor’s signature. The following highlights list the major revisions to Title 55:
· Clarify the statutory powers and duties of SCAC;
· Ensure the consistency of definitions; remove outdated regulations and codes throughout the Statute and conform definitions to FAA definitions;
· Ensure conformity with the South Carolina Administrative Procedures Act;
· Legally establishes a flight department and stipulated the use of state aircraft;
· Ensure constitutionality of procedures and consistency with FARs for enforcement and penalties related to suspected alcohol or drug use by crew members;
· Add penalties for misuse of laser devices directed at aircraft;
· Provide legal authority of SCAC to take action to abate or prevent the creation of an imminent or foreseeable hazard to aviation safety;
· Provide legal definitions for cooperation between county or municipal planning and land use departments and SCAC in the sharing of information regarding land use decisions in the vicinity of public use airports;
· Set forth requirements for zoning authorities to review and consider the adverse impact of land use decisions on airports and aviation safety;
· Provide for a right of seaplanes to operate on public waterways;
· Ensure funds derived from airports are not diverted by airports and sponsors for non-aeronautical purposes;
· Increase penalties for acts such as damaging airport facilities or equipment;
· Set forth defined criteria for the funding of airport improvements and maintenance activities from the State Aviation Fund and provides SCAC additional revenue resources to fund and maintain statewide aeronautical infrastructure.
"This is a landmark accomplishment for SCAC and will provide direct benefits to all aviation users in South Carolina," said Werts. "It provides a code to navigate a regulation in providing valuable resources to the aeronautical policy-makers and removes unessential cumbersome codes, which are not applicable for South Carolina."
During the commission meeting on July 19th, there will be a victory celebration.