AOPA Action

April 1, 1997

Congress Reinstates Aviation Taxes

The federal government's reinstatement of aviation excise taxes on February 28 was "the right thing to do," said AOPA Legislative Action President Phil Boyer.

"It's not often that taxpayers are pleased to be taxed," said Boyer. "But in this case, it's a vastly more fair and efficient system than the user fees suggested as an alternative method of funding."

Excise taxes feed the Airport and Airways Trust Fund, which pays 100 percent of critical FAA safety programs and airport improvements — and much of other FAA operations, including ATC.

When aviation user taxes expired at the end of last year, the FAA began spending the aviation trust fund surplus. The fund was forecast to be bankrupt by April.

Boyer urged Congress to support a multiyear extension of the current aviation excise tax structure as part of the upcoming budget reconciliation. The current tax expires on October 1. "With the safety of millions of air travelers and the future of the aviation industry at stake, we can't allow this traditional, reliable, well-accepted source of revenue to fall by the wayside," Boyer said.

AOPALA Blasts User Fees in FAA Budget

Meanwhile, the Fiscal Year 1998 budget submitted by President Clinton includes direct user fees of $300 million.

"This administration seems determined to impose destructive new fees on the aviation industry before finding any evidence that they are needed," said Boyer.

President Clinton proposed an $8.46 billion budget for the FAA, a 1.2-percent reduction from 1997, but including new user fees.

Boyer accused the administration of "stacking the deck" by prejudging the results of an FAA audit and recommendations from the National Civil Aviation Review Commission. Deputy Transportation Secretary Mortimer Downey has reportedly admitted as much, telling the Aviation Daily industry newsletter that the administration wanted to "signal a direction toward user fees."

The administration plans to eliminate current aviation user taxes entirely by 1999, instead raising more than $8 billion from direct charges for individual FAA services.

"We should finish the congressionally mandated FAA studies before making any changes in the funding system," said Boyer. "We should also give the FAA's new personnel and procurement reforms a chance to work."

FAA Delays Grand Canyon Airspace Changes

The FAA has delayed implementing new special flight rules over Grand Canyon National Park. The new rules would have more than doubled the size of no-fly zones over the park.

In February AOPA had filed a petition asking for reconsideration of the new rules, saying that the airspace regulations were discriminatory and unfairly penalized general aviation. An FAA official told AOPA that the decision to delay is due in part to concerns raised in AOPA petitions, testimony, and letters. The final decision on new Grand Canyon airspace regulations is pending until next winter in order to "explore creative solutions and alternatives."

"While we are pleased that this airspace grab has been delayed, we are still very concerned that the final decision may be driven by land managers, rather than [by] the FAA," said Boyer.

AOPA Sweeps '97 Ultimate Arrow at Sun 'N Fun

Drop in and see the "still-in-progress" restoration of AOPA's 1997 Sweepstakes aircraft, The Ultimate Arrow, at the Mod Works, Inc., outdoor exhibit (near Exhibit Buildings B and C) at the Sun 'n Fun EAA Fly-In in Lakeland, Florida, from April 6 through 12.

Mod Works is one of more than 30 vendors contributing to the project. AOPA staff will be on hand to explain how the panel, aerodynamic mods, and interior are coming together. And don't forget to visit AOPA in Exhibit Building B (booths 94-95) to meet Project Pilot's Ralph Hood, visit with AOPA staff, or get one of the new $35 Introductory Flight Coupons.

The AOPA Air Safety Foundation will conduct eight free seminars at Sun 'n Fun from Sunday to Wednesday, April 6 through 9.

AOPALA Objects to 'Raid' on Arizona Aviation Fund

A plan to divert a substantial amount of Arizona's aviation revenues to the state's general fund has drawn a sharp response from AOPA Legislative Action.

"Governor Symington's proposed budget amounts to a raid on the dedicated Arizona State Aviation Fund," said AOPA Vice President for Regional Affairs Bill Dunn. "This tax diversion would jeopardize planned improvements to Arizona's airports well into the twenty-first century. Aviation users are taxed to pay for Arizona's needed airports. Their taxes should not be diverted to nonaviation purposes."

The proposal would channel about $45 million from Arizona's airline flight property tax to the state's general fund to pay for "high priority special projects," such as new computers for the administration.

Aviation taxes diverted would equal about 57 percent of the $78.7 million budgeted for the state's 5-year airport improvement program.

In a letter to members of the Arizona Senate Appropriations Committee, Dunn wrote, "The proposed tax diversion would adversely impact the efficient manner in which ADOT's Aeronautics Division has been addressing the needs and management of the state's aviation infrastructure."

The loss of revenue to the Arizona aviation fund could jeopardize not only current airport projects, but future improvements as well. AOPA Legislative Action noted that funding shortfalls could also affect the state's ability to obtain federal Airport Improvement Program grants.

General aviation in Arizona contributes more than $700 million in annual economic activity, employing more than 11,000 people.

AOPALA Supports Proposed Alabama Airport Funding Increase

AOPA Legislative Action has endorsed an Alabama House bill that would raise the cap on revenue collections from aviation excise taxes and eliminate hub airport exemptions on the state jet fuel tax. Alabama's airport funding level, unchanged since 1979, ranks among the lowest in the nation.

In a letter to the chairman of the Alabama House Ways and Means Committee, AOPA Vice President for Regional Affairs Bill Dunn said, "Current authorized collections of $600,000 per year for Alabama's Department of Aeronautics is totally insufficient. And the hub exemption on the jet fuel tax denies Alabama the tax revenue from approximately 17 million gallons of jet fuel every year."

Dunn noted that in Alabama, general aviation contributes more than $123 million in annual earnings, resulting in $360 million in annual economic activity. "The enactment of H.B.212 will help expand the airport infrastructure in Ala-bama, a necessity for the twenty-first century. We strongly endorse H.B.212 and urge its swift passage," he said.

AOPA Online Moves to Internet

In response to thousands of member requests, AOPA's dual online offerings have been combined into one "super site."

AOPA Online is now available exclusively on the Internet's World Wide Web (www.aopa.org). The CompuServe site was closed on March 7, allowing AOPA to focus its resources on providing the finest electronic aviation information resource available anywhere. An article explaining features available through AOPA Online on the Web begins on page 95.

The newly consolidated site may be accessed via any Internet service provider, including CompuServe.

AOPA Analysis Indicates General Aviation Regaining Health

General aviation is growing slowly, according to an AOPA analysis of recently released FAA data. The 1995 statistics (the latest full-year stats available) show GA flights up by 2.6 percent to 35.8 million from 1994 to 1995. Flight hours rose by 6.3 percent to 25.4 million.

The general aviation fleet increased from 170,600 to 181,341. The fleet of single-engine piston aircraft increased 4.4 percent, multiengine piston aircraft were up 7 percent, and turbojet numbers grew by 12.4 percent.

Personal flying in 1995 increased 12.3 percent over 1994. Business flying rose 6.5 percent, and corporate flying increased 20 percent. But instructional flying dropped 9.5 percent, down to the lowest level since the FAA started collecting the data in 1977 — a cause for concern, because the decline in instructional flying must be reversed to ensure general aviation's future.

GA Team 2000, the new industry-wide effort to increase student starts, will kick off its national campaign this spring to reverse the decline in student starts. It is supported by nearly 100 founding members from all segments of the aviation industry. AOPA President Phil Boyer serves as the first president of GA Team 2000.

AOPA Proposes Alternatives to Changes in Washington-Baltimore Class B Airspace

AOPA has proposed alternatives to the FAA's plan to modify Class B airspace surrounding the Washington-Baltimore area.

The FAA's preliminary "non-rule proposal" would lower the east-west VFR corridor underlying airspace between Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI) and Andrews Air Force Base, forcing aircraft in the corridor to fly below 2,000 feet msl (about 1,800 feet agl) in this urbanizing area.

The proposal would also lower open VFR airspace 15 to 20 nautical miles from BWI, forcing transiting aircraft to cross the Chesapeake Bay below 3,000 feet. The same proposal would reduce to just 650 feet the minimum safe altitude usable over several tall broadcast antennas northwest of Baltimore.

AOPA counterproposals include lowering the 10,000-foot top of the Washington-Baltimore Class B airspace structure to 7,000 feet msl, allowing more traffic to transit at cruising altitude instead of beneath Class B approach/departure areas.

AOPA also seeks a decrease in the lateral extent of this unusually large, multi-hub Class B area, which spans 110 miles from Maryland's Eastern Shore to the Blue Ridge Mountains and the West Virginia border. That western boundary, for instance, forces circumnavigating traffic up against the mountains at relatively low altitude, exposing aircraft to strong turbulence under certain weather conditions.

AOPA also suggested reconfiguring some approach and departure routes for Dulles, Washington National, and BWI airports, and reducing the size of the Andrews Air Force Base traffic pattern; in addition, the association asked the FAA to publish preferred routes for traffic inside the Class B area not landing at one of the four major airports.

AOPA Says Commercial Single-Engine IFR Rule Could Improve Safety

Research on safety statistics has led AOPA to support an FAA proposal that would allow single-engine commercial passenger-carrying operations under instrument flight rules.

Current regulations mandate multiengine aircraft for passenger-carrying air taxi operators in conditions that require an IFR flight plan and navigation primarily on instruments.

"AOPA examined single-engine accident data and found the incidence of controlled flight into terrain under marginal visibility conditions greatly exceeds the rate of engine failure," said Doug Macnair, AOPA director of aviation standards. "We therefore believe that permitting single-engine IFR air taxi operations may well result in an increase in safety."

In its comments, AOPA supported proposed single-engine air taxi requirements for a standby vacuum source and an autopilot or copilot.

AOPA Calls For Better Information on Military Airspace Use

AOPA is calling on the FAA to improve communication about flight activity in special use airspace (SUA). SUA includes alert areas, restricted areas, military operations areas, and coastal warning areas.

The recent close encounter between an Air National Guard F-16 and a commercial jetliner off the New Jersey coast showed a communication breakdown among the FAA, the military, and the civilian pilots. While this was an isolated incident, AOPA sees a larger problem with the way the FAA informs pilots about military activities in shared airspace.

There are 923 special use airspace areas across the United States, encompassing a total area equivalent to all of the airspace east of the Mississippi. Without current information, pilots frequently are forced to circumnavigate inactive special use airspace, needlessly increasing flight time and costs.

Aeronautical charts show all the times a special use area may be in use, but the military uses most areas only a fraction of the time during which they are charted as active. Actual use times are supposed to be disseminated through flight service stations within a 100-nm radius of the SUA, but the FSS isn't always notified.

ATC centers do have current information on SUA status, but they communicate that information to VFR pilots only on a workload-permitting basis.

NTSB Issues Dubroff Report

The final NTSB report on the Cheyenne, Wyoming, accident that killed 7-year-old Jessica Dubroff, her father, and CFI Joe Reid confirmed the position held by AOPA and most pilots: It was pilot error.

Pending media appointments for the would-be "youngest pilot to fly across the United States" may have factored into Reid's decision to take off. AOPA-backed legislation now prevents nonpilot aviation record attempts but preserves long-established introductory flight programs such as the Aviation Explorer Scouts, Young Eagles, and CAP.

In its recommendations, the NTSB asked AOPA and other aviation organizations for increased emphasis on aeronautical decision making. "The AOPA Air Safety Foundation already has numerous programs doing just that," said Bruce Landsberg, ASF executive director. "Immediately following the accident, for example, we expanded the segment on pilot judgment in ASF Flight Instructor Refresher Clinics."

ASF's program of more than 300 free pilot safety seminars every year emphasizes aeronautical decision making. Two seminars — Never Again and Tactical Weather — specifically deal with weather decisions. A record number of pilots attended Air Safety Foundation seminars in 1996, the safest GA year ever.

Annual Fly-In to AOPA HQ Slated for June 7

AOPA's seventh annual summer fly-in to association headquarters on the Frederick (Maryland) Municipal Airport (FDK) is set for Saturday, June 7.

The fly-in offers AOPA members a chance to tour their headquarters and talk directly with AOPA President Phil Boyer and other association officials. Scores of companies will exhibit aviation equipment and aviation-theme items, and AOPA Air Safety Foundation experts will offer exciting seminars and refresher courses. A large static display will feature aircraft ranging from warbirds to sailplanes, including new aircraft from major and emerging manufacturers.

Breakfast and lunch will be available, with special events for children and guests.

Last year, more than 400 aircraft and 4,000 pilots, family members, and friends attended the fly-in. As in years past, a temporary control tower will be operational for the event.

Record Exhibit Space Slated for AOPA Expo '97 in Orlando

A record 425 exhibit booths will be available at this year's AOPA Expo, slated for the Marriott World Center in Orlando, Florida, October 23 through 25.

"It's the biggest in Expo history," said Ann Kilian, AOPA's convention and meetings director. "Pilots and their friends and families will have a cornucopia of aviation products to investigate and enjoy."

A prospectus for potential exhibitors is still available by calling 301/695-2052. Complete information for the convention, including registration options and fly-in procedures, will be available after April 15 by calling 800/942-4269.

AOPA'S Medical Certification Department Answers Record 20,000 Questions in 1996

AOPA's Medical Certification Department answered more than 20,000 member inquiries in 1996 — a 15-percent increase from 1995.

"FAA's new policy permitting certification of pilots with insulin-dependent diabetes and the new Part 67 medical standards prompted many of our calls," said Gary Crump, AOPA's director of medical certification.

The AOPA Medical Certification department helps members with FAA rules and procedures; medical application review; revoked or denied medicals; or locating a medical examiner.

"A pilot shouldn't give up the first time the FAA denies his medical," said Crump. "Out of some 442,000 applications in 1995, the FAA issued only 2,150 final denials after appeal. About 1,900 pilots who received initial denials failed to counter with additional information and were dropped. But undoubtedly, many of these pilots could have successfully appealed their denials with AOPA's assistance."

AOPA-Sponsored Deposit Accounts Ranked Tops by National Financial Publications

An investment program for AOPA members only has been rated among the highest yields in the country by two nationally recognized financial publications.

The AOPA-sponsored 6-, 12-, and 30-month CDs offered by MBNA America Bank beat the top yields in the country as listed by 100 Highest Yields for the week of January 20, 1997. And the yield on the AOPA-sponsored money market from MBNA America has been ranked among the top five bank money market accounts every week for the past 2 years as rated in the national survey Jumbo Flash.

These exceptional yields are among the many reasons why AOPA members have more than $125 million on deposit at MBNA.

The AOPA money market account and the AOPA CD are FDIC insured up to $100,000 per depositor. AOPA members receive special interest rates even higher than MBNA deposit accounts offered to the general public.

For more information about this AOPA member benefit, call 800/900-6653 (ext. 6257) Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Eastern time)

AOPA'S Escrow Service Handles Record $115 Million in Transactions

The AOPA Title and Escrow Service posted a record number of aircraft purchase transactions in 1996, handling more than $115 million in deposits and 287 closings last year.

The service acts as an independent third party at the FAA Registry on behalf of the buyer and seller. Typically, AOPA receives the purchase funds from the buyer, along with any documents required to complete the sale. The seller sends a bill of sale, and if necessary, a lien release.

AOPA files the appropriate paperwork with the FAA Registry and transfers the funds as instructed by the buyer and seller. "A settlement, much like a real estate closing, helps protect both buyer and seller," said Ann Lennon, vice president of AOPA Title and Escrow Service.

AOPA title and escrow services are available to everyone, but AOPA members receive a discount on most services. Also offered are FAA title searches, aircraft title insurance, aircraft-specific accident/incident reports, and FAA Form 337 alteration reports, along with other services to facilitate an aircraft purchase or sale.

For more information on AOPA Escrow Service, call 800/711-0087 .

Legislative ACTION Asks Congress to Block FAA Plan For User Fees on International GA Operations

AOPA Legislative action has asked Congress to stop an FAA plan to charge overflight fees on international general aviation operations. The proposed user fees would have a heavy impact, particularly on Canadian pilots, and could affect aviation safety.

It's dangerous policy to impose air traffic control user fees on international general aviation," said AOPA President Phil Boyer, speaking for AOPA Legislative Action. "It discourages pilots from using U.S. safety services and invites retaliation.

"If the FAA charges for general aviation overflights, then Nav Canada will surely reciprocate with user fees for U.S. general aviation operations to and from Canada, Alaska, and Europe," Boyer said.

The 1996 FAA Reauthorization Act directed the FAA to impose up to $75 million in new fees for air traffic control services to commercial airlines overflying the United States. But the FAA has reportedly interpreted the law to mean it must charge for all international overflights and that every aircraft — including small, privately owned airplanes — must pay the same fee.

"We don't believe it was the intent of Congress to charge general aviation aircraft for overflights," Boyer said.

The fees would hit hardest near the Canada-U.S. border where Canadian pilots frequently overfly U.S. territory en route between cities in Canada. The border area is also frequently plagued by adverse weather.

AOPA recently appointed its first national representative for Canada to better serve the needs of AOPA members in Canada.

IAOPA Endorses Call For A Stronger Eurocontrol

The International Council of Aircraft Owner and Pilot Associations has endorsed the IAOPA European Region's call for a stronger Eurocontrol with full authority for airspace planning and design.

"A transnational air traffic control system can only operate efficiently under a strong central agency," said IAOPA President Phil Boyer. "That agency should have the authority to design and implement necessary changes to the air route system."

Eurocontrol is the European Union organization charged with promoting air navigation safety, overseeing upper airspace air traffic control, and developing a coordinated air traffic control system.

IAOPA is the international organization representing the pilots and aircraft owners of 40 national AOPA organizations on international issues.