December 1, 2001
By AOPA Communications staff
AOPA's efforts to restore general aviation flying across America took an extraordinary turn last month with the establishment of the General Aviation Restoration Fund. AOPA is asking members to dig deep during this crisis to institute a sweeping education campaign to inform the public and government officials about general aviation's positive contributions and significant economic impact that stretches nationwide.
"This is an unprecedented call to action for members and we need your immediate support," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "At no time in our history has our freedom of flight been so threatened. It is up to each of us to contribute and do something about it."
Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, the dissemination of misinformation caused many Americans and high-level government officials to needlessly fear and restrict general aviation. As a result, general aviation continues to face a major backlash that may forever alter our ability to fly in this country — a backlash that also is harmful to our national economy.
"Now is the time to educate Americans about the true facts of general aviation," said Boyer. "The American public must learn of general aviation's importance to each of them, the nation's air transportation system, and the American economy. We also must reassure the public that general aviation is responsible and safe. We can do it with your help."
In the past month, AOPA has continued to work with Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, FAA Administrator Jane Garvey, and Capitol Hill to provide viable solutions that assist in protecting our country's national security, while also striving to preserve our freedom to fly. By raising a minimum of $1 million in the next 60 days, AOPA will be able to reach out with radio and television commercials, print advertisements, and public relations, and will organize a grass roots campaign among pilots to counter misinformation about general aviation. AOPA's goal is to restore all aspects of general aviation to as close to "normal" as feasible. Our message will portray the true face of general aviation, the businesses that rely on it, the charitable work our pilots perform, and the safety of our aircraft and airports.
"The timing of this effort and the message it will carry are vital to the future of general aviation," said Boyer. "The tragic events of September 11 have given general aviation a wake-up call, and AOPA is responding to this call by taking on a proactive initiative that has been needed for years."
All members in the United States received additional information about the General Aviation Restoration Fund through an extensive mailing. We also established a means to contribute to the fund directly through our Web site . Members received patriotic decals (pictured above) to display on their aircraft and automobiles as a symbol of their support of general aviation.
The General Aviation Restoration Fund was announced October 28 to an enthusiastic audience of 400 people during a Wing's Weekend Banquet speech given by Boyer at the Greenville Downtown Airport, in South Carolina.
Resources and capabilities developed by your association — including contacts in government, communications with members via the Web and AOPA ePilot, and public advocacy — came together following the September 11 crisis and subsequent grounding of all general aviation pilots. All AOPA departments pitched in to restore your right to fly, with employees working an estimated 8,000 hours of overtime.
Extra AOPA staff efforts included preparing information for a presentation to the National Security Council, nearly all-night sessions to produce special issues of AOPA's e-mail newsletter, AOPA ePilot, and establishment of an office at the FAA for an AOPA staff member.
Answering member questions on the crisis was a high priority for your association; in an unprecedented move, AOPA's toll-free Pilot Information Center was opened on Saturdays. During the month of September alone, aviation technical specialists answered some 14,846 member calls, nearly double the usual call volume. Most were questions related to the crisis.
Electronic communications also set new records: Nearly 4,000 e-mails from members (again, mostly related to the crisis) were answered in September, compared to just 870 one year before.
The AOPA Web site's continuous updates became the information resource of choice for thousands of pilots. From September 11 to the end of the month, literally millions of Web page requests were served.
As America's aviation crisis extended into its eighth week, AOPA continued to pursue the same goals: to be your advocate before the government to restore all general aviation flying privileges, to keep you informed, and to tell the public and public officials about the importance of general aviation to the nation.
AOPA's Web site turned into a 24/7 news operation. While AOPA staff was working 'round the clock to get you back in the air, staff members were also gathering and reporting the news. AOPA's Web site became the prime news source not only for pilots, but for the national news media as well.
And when there were changes that affected your flying, AOPA sent out special ePilot alerts to let you know.
Just as this issue was going to press, the FAA issued the "nuclear notam," restricting airspace around nuclear power plants and other sites, and closing some 85 public-use airports, stranding more than 6,200 aircraft. AOPA sent ePilot alerts to some 200,000 pilots.
That notam caused considerable confusion when the FAA told pilots to remain 10 nm away from the sites but did not provide their exact locations. In addition, some of the FAA data was inaccurate or incomplete.
AOPA immediately went to work to provide you with an accurate list of the closed airports. Working with Jeppesen, the leader in charting, AOPA provided Web links to clear and concise VFR maps of the affected areas. It was tough to do, since the FAA location data was very imprecise.
AOPA staff contacted local airports to obtain more accurate descriptions. Using that information along with feedback from members, we continuously refined the charts and lists to give you the most accurate information possible.
Meanwhile, AOPA continued to keep general aviation's plight in front of lawmakers and the news media.
After the FAA reopened half of the enhanced Class B areas to VFR flight, AOPA Senior Vice President of Government and Technical Affairs Andy Cebula testified before Congress, "The problem is not yet solved. With each day that passes, some 65,000 pilots and nearly 21,000 aircraft at 132 airports, and the businesses that support them, continue to be affected in 15 areas. These VFR operations must be restored." And AOPA continued to keep general aviation in the news with numerous interviews and stories in national media such as CNN, CBS, NBC, ABC, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times.
When media in Florida last fall described three forced landings as a "rash" of aircraft accidents and worried publicly about "airplanes falling out of the sky," AOPA rushed to set the record straight.
In October, during interviews with major media such as WTVJ-TV and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, AOPA explained that the chance of someone on the ground being injured in a GA accident is one in 50 million — less than the chance of being struck by lightning. Using the AOPA Air Safety Foundation's Nall Report, AOPA Vice President of Communications Warren Morningstar was able to show that there were only four minor injuries to people on the ground from GA accidents in the previous year.
Your association also explained how pilots are trained to handle engine failures and noted that mechanical failures are rare — fewer than 15 percent of GA accidents result from a mechanical failure.
AOPA President Phil Boyer fired off an angry letter to top FAA officials after GA pilots were slammed in a Dallas newspaper article about a runway incursion between two airline jets.
The Dallas Morning News article quoted the airport's FAA runway safety program manager as blaming GA pilots for incursions at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, saying (among other things) that GA pilots were "never as experienced as airline pilots."
"I am annoyed and insulted by his statement," Boyer said in a letter to the head of the FAA's Runway Safety Office in Washington, D.C. "Pilots with as few as 1,200 to 1,500 hours total time are being hired by the airlines, paling in comparison to the logbooks of many general aviation pilots flying for both pleasure and business. This type of speculation does a disservice to the public, spreading misconceptions by the very agency charged with overseeing safety."
Boyer also pointed out that the FAA's own statistics show that the number of GA incursions is proportional to the number of GA operations. More important, most GA incursions are classified as being less serious and present little or no risk of causing an accident.
"I must relay to you the extreme disappointment our AOPA membership feels over the mischaracterization of GA," Boyer wrote.
City councilors in San Diego, California, have voted unanimously to retain local control of the city's Brown Field Municipal Airport, rejecting a privatization plan.
More than 1,000 opponents of the plan attended the public meeting. AOPA had fought the privatization proposal for two years.
Brown Field was one of five airports nationwide scheduled to be sold or leased to a private developer under a congressionally ordered demonstration program. But the plan for Brown Field would have relegated GA pilots to a small patch of the airport, with no plans for improvement, while turning the rest of the airport into a large cargo facility.
"This vote helps secure the future of general aviation at Brown Field," said Bill Dunn, AOPA vice president of regional affairs.
The FAA has agreed to at least consider less restrictive alternatives to new Class C airspace around the island of Nantucket south of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Previously, the FAA had said that Class C airspace was the only option for dealing with increased aviation activity during the summer.
But at informal airspace meetings in Hyannis and Nantucket in August, FAA officials conceded they had not followed through on less restrictive options proposed by AOPA more than a year ago.
The FAA promised that it will publish the boundaries, altitudes, and radio frequencies for "Cape Approach" on VFR charts so that transient pilots can take advantage of radar traffic advisories. FAA officials also said they hadn't realized they could use a less-restrictive terminal radar service area (TRSA). Although radio participation in a TRSA is voluntary, most pilots do choose to participate, and TRSA boundaries and frequencies are clearly depicted on aviation charts.
A term life insurance plan offered by AOPA Certified partner Minnesota Life allows up to $10 million of protection for AOPA members who hold at least an FAA private pilot certificate.
The Preferred Select Individual Advantage Life Insurance plan was formerly available only to commercial pilots. Now private pilots and their spouses are eligible.
Minnesota Life announced, "It's the best-priced pilot product for our members in the marketplace today," and AOPA Senior Vice President of Products and Services Karen Gebhart quotes the company as saying, "Not only is there no aviation surcharge, but it features lower hour requirements than most providers."
To qualify for the new plan, a private pilot must have an instrument rating and at least 250 total hours, be under 70 years old, and fly an average of two to 20 hours per month. No history of aviation accidents or violations is allowed, and the pilot must meet certain health requirements.
Additional information is available on the Web site ( www.aopa.org/termlife.html) or by calling 888/TRY-AOPA (888/879-2672). Minnesota Life has partnered with AOPA for insurance services for more than 50 years and pioneered the first life insurance policies available for private pilots with no aviation surcharges.
For the first time ever, aircraft owners, renters, and CFIs can obtain real-time aviation insurance quotes and bind policies online on the AOPA Insurance Agency Web site.
The new AOPA Insurance Agency offering — the first such Web-based service in the United States — allows multiple quotes from several "A" rated underwriters to be retrieved within minutes and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. After quotes are reviewed, an online application form allows coverage to be bound immediately. Existing customers can also review the policy information.
"With intelligent use of technology, the AOPA Insurance Agency is taking the mystery out of buying aviation insurance and putting you back in the pilot's seat," said Greg Sterling, executive vice president and general manager of the AOPA Insurance Agency. "We treat customers like valued members because they are valued members."
For more information, contact the AOPA Insurance Agency at 800/622-AOPA (800/622-2672) or visit the new Web site ( www.aopaia.com).
Public-use airports in the United States are closing at the rate of more than one every two weeks. The AOPA Airport Support Network, launched in 1997, designates one volunteer per airport to watch for threats and encourage favorable public perception of general aviation. For more information on how you can help support your airport, visit AOPA Online ( www.aopa.org/asn/ ).
California. Goleta: An article in the Santa Barbara News Press on runway incursions and near misses featured AOPA ASN volunteer Gordon Feingold. He pointed out the low risk of such near misses at Santa Barbara Municipal Airport.
Florida. Titusville: A sample notice that could be used to warn potential homebuyers of their proximity to an airport was sent to Brevard County Commissioners by AOPA ASN volunteer Tony Yacono in September. The effort was prompted by a proposal for condominiums directly under the downwind leg for Runway 11 at Merritt Island Airport.
Iowa. Davenport: IOPA ASN volunteer Wayne Henry Zemelka was featured in an article in the Quad City Times in July. The article explained AOPA's Airport Support Network and the need for GA airports.
Massachusetts. Bedford: A well-funded antiairport group refused to let airline representatives speak at an April public meeting on noise at the Laurence G. Hanscom Field Airport. AOPA ASN volunteer Bradford L. von Weise, who attended the meeting, reports that the Save Our Heritage group is planning continued protests against GA operations at the airport.
Missouri. Excelsior Springs: The new Friends of Excelsior Springs Airport support group has initiated a newsletter and a Web site ( www.epsi.net/eainc/) devoted to its activities. AOPA ASN volunteer Art Gentry helped form the group. Jefferson City: AOPA ASN volunteer John K. Kennedy attended a public meeting in September on a softball complex planned just 1,500 feet from the approach end of Runway 12 at Jefferson City Memorial Airport, raising concerns about noise and lighting.
Montana. Hamilton: AOPA ASN volunteer Wendy Ross Beye is rallying supporters following a surprise decision by county commissioners in July to dissolve the one-year-old Ravalli Airport Authority Board. Among other things, supporters bought a full-page advertisement in the local newspaper showing the airport's value to the community, then convinced the editor to donate a second full-page advertisement.
New Jersey. Pittstown: Based on research by AOPA ASN volunteer Salvatore Staiano, AOPA in August wrote a letter opposing a planned housing development just 2,500 feet from the centerline of Runway 26 at Alexandria Airport.
North Carolina. Jefferson: AOPA ASN volunteer James Judson in September showed Ashe County Airport Advisory Board members the AOPA Local Airports: Access to America and provide copies of AOPA's Guide to Land Use.
Pennsylvania. Butler: AOPA's ASN program received a boost in the September/October issue of the Western Pennsylvania Chapter of the Short Wing Piper Club's Newsjournal. A story in the issue explained the ASN program and featured Butler County-KW Scholter Field ASN volunteer Jerry Roberts.
Oregon. Bend: Since the January departure of the acting Bend Municipal Airport manager, FAA grant applications have been assigned to inexperienced city employees already burdened with other duties. AOPA ASN volunteer Dale R. Evans in September reminded Bend city council members that the funds could be lost if an airport manager is not hired soon.
Wisconsin. Hartford: A proposal for a 168-foot cellular telephone tower under the final approach leg for Runway 18 at Hartford Municipal Airport was defeated in August. AOPA ASN volunteer Don Muehlbauer had testified against that construction before both the airport advisory committee and the Hartford Zoning Commission.
December AOPA ASN volunteer of the month Simeon Hitzel has been fighting a unique battle to save Solberg-Hunterdon Airport near Readington, New Jersey.
The popular airport was founded in 1939 by Thor Solberg Sr. and today features a 3,000-foot paved runway and two turf runways. Current owners Thor Solberg Jr., Suzie Solberg-Nagle, and Lorraine Solberg have proposed improvements that include lengthening one runway and adding hangars and taxiways.
But some Readington leaders who oppose those improvements have mounted a legal battle, using governmental powers of eminent domain to condemn the property.
As the AOPA ASN volunteer for Solberg-Hunterdon Airport, Hitzel rallied area pilots, organizing a letter-writing campaign and orchestrating a coalition of airport supporters, farmers, and local taxpayers at public hearings on the airport. As the township's plan to take the property proceeded, Hitzel led an effort that resulted in more than 5,000 signatures on a petition opposing the condemnation.
With fellow pilot Kevin Whitehead, Hitzel also formed the airport support group Pilots and Residents Together Negotiating Effective Reasonable Solutions (PARTNERS) to provide information and to educate people about GA's benefits to the community. Visit the Web site ( www.partners-solberg.org).
An ambitious AOPA Air Safety Foundation Online education program dubbed SkySpotter is helping to increase the number of pilot reports (pireps), improving both the quality and quantity of weather information for pilots and the accuracy of forecasts.
The program teaches pilots how to formulate and deliver the highest-value pireps, and successful completion includes a graduation certificate suitable for framing. Pilots pledge to provide at least one pirep on every cross-country flight.
Cosponsored by the FAA and the National Weather Service, SkySpotter is available on the Web site ( www.aopa.org/asf/online_courses/skyspotter/).
In introducing SkySpotter, ASF Executive Director Bruce Landsberg noted that in 1999, ASF's Nall Report on GA safety listed weather as a primary factor in more than one-fifth of all fatal pilot-related GA accidents.
"If every pilot on a cross-country flight submitted just one pirep, we would likely see a decrease in the weather accident rate," said Landsberg. "At the very least, pilots would have an easier go/no-go decision to make."
Among other things, SkySpotter includes instruction on the easiest ways to submit a pirep. Links to official icing and turbulence reporting criteria are included.
Since its introduction in March, more than 9,900 pilots have completed ASF's innovative, Web-based Runway Safety Program. "We expect well over 10,000 completions before the end of the year," said Bruce Landsberg, ASF executive director. "And we've built a solid foundation for additional free ASF online courses."
The free ASF Runway Safety Program features a review of proper pilot procedures for arrival and departure, followed by a quiz. The arrival and departure sections feature active-motion 3-D graphics and audio of ATC communications for a realistic airport environment.
Pilots who successfully complete the quiz may print out a graduation certificate suitable for framing, and flight instructors may accept that certificate as satisfying the ground-operations knowledge portion of a biennial flight review. Successful program completion also satisfies the ground-instruction requirements of the FAA's Wings Program.
All ASF online courses are available through its Web site ( www.aopa.org/asf/).
A new two-hour ASF spatial disorientation seminar, complete with an ASF instructor and fast-paced videos, began its national tour on November 26 in New York State.
An abbreviated version of the seminar made its debut at AOPA Expo 2001 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, from November 8 through 10.
"Continuing under visual flight rules into instrument meteorological conditions has been proven lethal time and time again," said Bruce Landsberg, ASF executive director. "This new seminar will equip pilots with a thorough understanding of this potential killer."
The two-hour seminar covers the physiology of orientation and equilibrium, illusions, several accident reports, flying from visual conditions to instrument conditions, recovery techniques, and a checklist of how to avoid spatial disorientation.
The ASF Spatial Disorientation Safety Advisor, which is included with the free seminar, comes punched for easy stor.age and reference in a three-ring binder. The Safety Advisor is also available on ASF's Web site ( www.aopa.org/asf/publications/advisors.html).
A schedule of the new spatial disorientation seminar is available online ( www.aopa.org/asf/seminars/seminar.cfm).
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