Looking ahead to 2013

2013 will be a pivotal year for AOPA, with issues to address that will affect members’ flying in the short and long term, according to AOPA President Craig Fuller.

“For 2013, AOPA has developed priorities that help us advance our freedom to fly: protecting the freedom to fly through our unflagging commitment to advocacy; sharing the freedom to fly by providing information and extending knowledge through our print and electronic media outlets; and building on the freedom to fly by inspiring and engaging the next generation of pilots, while helping today’s pilots find cost effective ways to spend more time flying,” said Fuller. Below, key AOPA executives outline their priorities in 2013.

Melissa Rudinger, senior vice president of government affairs, said that since the Obama administration is continuing, she expects 2013 will look a lot like 2012. “But with the looming debt crisis, the challenges become greater because there’s more pressure on the federal government to find new revenue streams,” she said. “The government will look at all possibilities to raise revenue, including possibly calling for user fees.”

AOPA also faces cuts in programs that are vital to general aviation, said Rudinger. The big issues the government affairs team sees in 2013 are making sure the transition to NextGen continues for the viability of the system; fighting off user fees; continuing to push the FAA to reduce regulatory barriers on GA; hoping for positive news on the exemption for a third class medical; working on the Part 23 Aviation Rulemaking Committee; and continuing to move ahead on an alternative fuel to 100LL.

Lorraine Howerton, vice president of government affairs and the face of AOPA on Capitol Hill, said her main priority is to ensure that the community is not assessed user fees. “If we have to come up with ways to participate in our fair share of deficit reduction, we want to ensure that it won’t adversely affect the freedom to fly or the pilot population,” she stated.

The current climate in Washington is that no matter how hard you try, you can’t always avert participating in cost cutting, said Howerton. “So if we have to do this, we want to do it in a way that will have the least amount of harm to GA. We want to make sure key members of Congress know the impact of cuts to GA,” she said. “The fiscal cliff is scary. Sequestration is scarier.”

Another priority is to boost the numbers of the House GA Caucus, which lost 44 members, said Howerton. “These members are critical to ensuring that Congress act responsibly when it comes to GA issues. Most importantly, we need to educate members on what GA is—and is not,” she stated. “We need to be aware of these and mobilize our members to avoid legislative malfeasance.”

Greg Pecoraro, vice president, regional affairs, noted that while the economy continues to recover from the recession, pressure on state and local government budgets remains. “My priority is twofold—to ensure the cost of aviation is not increased by state action, while making sure there’s adequate funding for states’ roles in aviation,” he said.

On the local level, financial pressures remain on airports, said Pecoraro. “Airports are facing scarce dollars, with less revenue generated by airports because of the decline of the economy and aviation activities,” he said. “Ideally, we want airports open, but budget constraints are creating challenges, including neighborhood pressures to close them or restrict operations and developers seeing facilities as prime real estate.”

Local governments are looking for ways to generate more revenue, said Pecoraro. “In some cases, airports that are self-sufficient are being eyed as a way to balance budgets,” he said. “They can’t do it, but it doesn’t mean they won’t try. In 2013, we will continue our efforts to show the value that airports bring to the community.”

2012 was a busy year for AOPA’s efforts to grow the pilot population, including the hiring of Adam Smith as senior vice president of the new Center to Advance the Pilot Community. “In 2013, we will fully staff the center so it can see what works, share the information widely, and use it to improve every aspect of the aviation experience,” he said.

A major initiative under the center is the AOPA Flying Club Network, a key part of growing the pilot population, said Smith. “In 2013, the network will offer marketing and promotion to existing flying clubs, help new clubs get going with starter kits that include examples of standard operating procedures and sample legal documents, and create a national network of flying clubs,” he said.

The center will also continue its work in helping student pilots complete their training through the Flight Training Student Retention Initiative, continue to oversee the Flight Training Excellence Awards, and ensure that it continues to distribute Flight Training Field Guides to help schools, instructors, and students create the kind of collaborative training environment that engenders success, said Smith.

Heidi Williams, vice president of air traffic services and modernization, said a big priority in 2013 is the FAA’s cost recovery plan for digital charting products. “The FAA has indicated that they plan on having a proposal in January 2013, and have it implemented by October 2013,” she said. “They say they will go through the rulemaking process, but it’s still an aggressive timeline. And it means changes in fee structures for our members.”

Also of importance in 2013 covers NextGen, with new and emerging products being delivered to the market, said Williams. “There are implications to the FAA’s budget and how that will impact NextGen and NextGen technologies. The big unknown is what the fiscal cliff will mean for NextGen,” she said.

Tied in with the FAA’s budget is the legacy versus NextGen technology, said Williams. “There are costs to maintain legacy and new services like WASS, and FAA can’t continue to do both,” she stated. “FAA is in the process of developing criteria to decommission certain navigational aids. It plans to hold public discussion and release the criteria and that will be of great interest to AOPA and its members.”

Craig Spence, director-general of IAOPA, said his major priority for 2013 will be to solidify the regional base for the organization. “Look at European region -- they are best organized of all. As ICAO begins to look at implementation of its global air navigation plan and what’s known as Aviation System Block Upgrades, it will be implementing these on a universal, but more important regional basis,” he said. What is good for CESAR and NextGen may not be good for Asian region. So solidifying IAOPA in those regions in order to discuss the issue with ICAO regional staff will be extremely important.”

Greater GA representation at key events is also going to be important, said Spence. “Many of worldwide aviation events are commercial in nature, and show organizers want to have GA as part of their forum,” he said. “Presenting GA’s case to the world will be another priority in 2013.”

Finally, Spence, in his role as vice president of operations and international affairs, said he expects the supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking for the Large Aircraft Security Program to be released in 2013. “We’ll be working closely with the Transportation Security Administration and the industry to minimize the impact on GA,” he said. “We also plan on joining with other industry stakeholders to address the problem of TFRs and the impact they are having on GA.”