August 1, 2003
By AOPA Communications staff
More often than not, AOPA's high-profile battles are fought on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., such as when AOPA President Phil Boyer went to Congress to denounce the destruction of Chicago's Meigs Field (see " AOPA Action: Counterattack: AOPA Strikes Back After Daley's Midnight Assault on Meigs," June Pilot). But much of the day-to-day effort to protect general aviation happens in the statehouses, city council chambers, and governors' and mayors' offices around the country.
"It might surprise our members to know just how much time and effort goes in to dealing with situations at the state and local level," said Boyer. "Our regional representatives and Airport Support Network volunteers help us stay on top of what's going on around the country, and give us time to develop a strategy when state or local action threatens general aviation."
One of the most pressing issues has been in Michigan, where AOPA has been fighting to get rid of an onerous state law requiring anyone who receives any kind of flight training to undergo a criminal background check. AOPA representatives spent the better part of two weeks in Michigan's capital helping AOPA member and state Rep. Steve Ehardt (R-Dist. 83) shepherd a bill to repeal the law through committee.
At the same time, AOPA was pressing forward with its federal lawsuit claiming the Michigan law was unconstitutional. At press time, the association was awaiting a hearing on its request for summary judgment in the case. If the judge grants AOPA's motion, the law will be declared unconstitutional on the grounds that it is preempted by federal law. A decision was expected shortly after the hearing, and may already have been issued by the time this magazine is delivered. Visit AOPA Online ( www.aopa.org/advocacy/) for the latest information on the Michigan lawsuit.
In South Dakota, a friend in high places was enough to overturn an unnecessary regulation.
The state had passed a law requiring South Dakota pilots to carry a state-issued photo registration card. But AOPA member and newly elected Gov. Michael Rounds said that since the FAA adopted AOPA's suggestion to require all pilots nationwide to carry a government-issued photo ID such as a driver's license, the South Dakota law is a duplication of effort and would be eliminated.
In Pompano Beach, Florida, where a developer has city support for two high-rise condominium developments that could have negatively impacted Pompano Airpark, AOPA Vice President of Regional Affairs Bill Dunn and Regional Representative Nelson Rhodes hosted a meeting with the development company for airport business tenants and air traffic controllers. "The developer's proposed mitigation measures created some safety concerns," said Dunn. "Working together, we came up with proposals that addressed the concerns that everyone could support."
And in Alaska, AOPA worked with local pilots to try to head off a National Park Service proposal that would ban virtually all GA access to more than 1.5 million acres of Denali National Park. AOPA filed comments opposing the plan and called on pilots to do the same.
"The Park Service proposal was outrageous," said AOPA Senior Vice President of Government and Technical Affairs Andy Cebula. "Most of that area is inaccessible by any means except air. There was a definite need to keep it open to GA."
"If all we did was deal with Congress, then we wouldn't be doing even half our job," said Boyer. "It's actions like these at the state or county or city level, coupled with the willingness of our members to get involved, that make AOPA such an effective organization."
AOPA's strong presence on Capitol Hill helped ensure that several measures good for general aviation made it into the House version of the FAA Reauthorization Bill.
Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, inserted a fix for the "pilot insecurity rule," guaranteeing a third-party appeals process for pilots facing certificate revocation if they are suspected of being a "security risk." The legislation also reverses an FAA classification of air traffic control that would have made ATC vulnerable to privatization efforts. It also includes a "Meigs Field legacy provision" establishing a $10,000-per-day fine for failing to give 30-days notice before closing an airport listed in the FAA's National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems.
"The leadership on the House Aviation Committee has proved again that they understand and support the needs of the general aviation community," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "I'm pleased by the comprehensive approach to some of the most difficult issues aviation is currently facing."
More than 3,000 people turned out for the thirteenth annual AOPA Fly-In and Open House on June 7 at the association's headquarters at Frederick Municipal Airport in Maryland despite weather that remained stubbornly IFR.
"The enthusiasm of the general aviation community never ceases to amaze me," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "We were thrilled to see so many pilots and flying enthusiasts drive in when the weather refused to cooperate. It just goes to show how vibrant general aviation really is."
Once there, visitors braved the rain to look at the 33 aircraft on static display at AOPA's ramp. The star of the show, AOPA's Centennial of Flight Sweepstakes giveaway aircraft, a fully restored 1940 Waco UPF-7 biplane, had to stay inside because of the weather. But the hangar doors were thrown open, and members were able to get an up-close look at "their" new airplane.
The 14 hours of seminars offered at this year's fly-in were a big draw, as always. And every seminar was filled to capacity.
Boyer took on the issue of national security and airspace restrictions when he hosted his first-ever fly-in seminar. Boyer warned the standing-room-only crowd of more than 300 that the Washington ADIZ (Air Defense Identification Zone) is not going away, based on what federal officials have said.
"During a meeting with the head of the Transportation Security Administration, Adm. James Loy, we were told that getting back to the way things were September 10, 2001, will be a long way away," Boyer said. But he also relayed some promising developments from that meeting. "One official told us, 'There were some things done in the wake of 9/11 that need rethinking,'" said Boyer.
But no matter the concerns over temporary flight restrictions and ADIZs, pilot attendance at the fly-in helped demonstrate that GA is still alive and kicking. Exhibitors reported a good volume of traffic in the big tent behind AOPA's headquarters building.
Many of the aviation businesses exhibiting at the fly-in said that business has been fairly good since the September 11 terrorist attacks, although the market's grown softer since the war with Iraq began. That information supports AOPA's position that general aviation, at least the part that supports small single-engine aircraft owners and pilots, is weathering the current soft economy better than the rest of the aviation industry.
General aviation continues to be targeted as a potential terrorist threat, even though nearly two years have passed since the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Beginning this spring, security officials responsible for the president's safety began demanding and getting 30-nm temporary flight restrictions (TFRs) whenever and wherever he travels. AOPA fought those restrictions all the way to the highest levels of the Homeland Security Department (HSD), holding a meeting with Deputy Secretary Gordon England and communicating directly with HSD Secretary Tom Ridge.
"Absent a specific and credible threat, we see absolutely no justification for expanding beyond the 10-nm radius that has adequately protected the president until now," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "For the time being, security officials are winning the argument because, let's face it, the job of the people protecting the president is to ignore everything else and do whatever they believe is necessary for his safety. But that doesn't mean we give up. AOPA will keep trying to convince them that 30 nm goes beyond what is necessary."
In his letter to Ridge, Boyer warned of the severe airspace and economic impact such large TFRs would have.
"Security officials, who have shown little interest in understanding the general aviation flight environment, are pushing for this increase (and in fact have been pushing for it for more than a year) simply because they want it, without any justification or even support from the Transportation Security Administration and the Federal Aviation Administration," he wrote.
Boyer has also written to FAA Administrator Marion Blakey regarding the large presidential-movement TFRs. "The most troubling question is why does the security community feel such restrictions are needed? I urge you to take action to educate the Secret Service about the effects that TFRs have on aviation."
But AOPA has done more than voice dissatisfaction. In a letter to Steve Brown, the head of the FAA's Air Traffic Service, AOPA Senior Vice President of Government and Technical Affairs Andy Cebula offered a two-pronged approach to reduce the size of presidential-movement TFRs.
"First, the FAA must work with security officials to reduce the size and scope of presidential and other security TFRs," wrote Cebula. "Second, the FAA must improve communication of the TFRs to local pilots."
"The people who protect the president have a critical, thankless job to do," concluded Boyer. "But they must be made to understand that their security decisions can have serious negative economic impacts."
Thousands of general aviation pilots and enthusiasts are expected in Philadelphia for AOPA Expo 2003 from October 30 through November 1.
"AOPA Expo 2003 is quite simply the best show in general aviation," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "It's an opportunity to see the latest in everything from avionics to airframes."
AOPA Expo 2003 will offer more than 80 hours of seminars addressing the issues that are on pilots' minds. More than 500 exhibitors will pack the Philadelphia Convention Center. And at nearby Philadelphia International Airport, at the nation's largest GA ramp, some 60 aircraft will be on display.
It all gets under way on Thursday, October 30, when FAA Administrator Marion Blakey addresses the opening general session.
For more information or to register, visit AOPA Online ( www.aopa.org/expo/). To learn more about things to do in the Philadelphia area when traveling to AOPA Expo, see " Postcards: GA, Ghosts, and Great Steaks," page 99.
For David Altman, AOPA 1422563, the letter from AOPA was like a dream come true...a chance to go flying in a Waco biplane and a chance to visit his old stomping grounds (see " AOPA Centennial of Flight Sweepstakes: Making Dreams Come True," page 83).
Altman is the latest monthly winner in AOPA's Centennial of Flight Sweepstakes to claim his prize. Altman won a trip to Sedona, Arizona (an area he had recently moved away from), and a flight with Mike Potts of Red Rock Biplanes.
"It was apparent that Mike knew a whole lot about these machines and really loved flying them," Altman said. "Weather from the previous day had blown through, and that big red Waco looked beautiful against the blue sky and red rocks of Sedona."
Each month during the two-year sweepstakes period, one winner is selected for the opportunity to go flying in a Waco. Each monthly winner also gets a beautiful leather bomber jacket with a Centennial of Flight Sweepstakes emblem on the back.
"What a fantastic way to spend the day — flying a big classic biplane over the Wild West terrain," said Altman. "Thank you, AOPA! Thank you, Mike Potts and Red Rock Biplanes!"
Early in 2004, the winner of the grand prize, a Waco UPF-7 painstakingly restored by Rare Aircraft Ltd., of Owatonna, Minnesota, will be selected. Everyone who joins or renews membership in AOPA during the sweepstakes period is automatically entered. No purchase is necessary to enter. Visit the AOPA Centennial of Flight Sweepstakes rules page for complete rules and eligibility requirements ( www.aopa.org/sweeps/).
AOPA Certified partner MBNA America Bank has lowered the fixed interest rates for the AOPA Aircraft Financing Program by as much as three-quarters of a percent on some loan amounts.
The lower rates coupled with long repayment terms make purchasing an aircraft easier and more affordable than it has been in years. Because there are no restrictions on the age of the aircraft being purchased, most general aviation aircraft will qualify for financing.
For more information, visit the AOPA Aircraft Financing Program Web site ( www.aopa.org/info/certified/).
"Is it legal for me to fly while taking this prescription medicine?" It's a question often heard by AOPA's Medical Certification specialists.
FAA regulations say a pilot may not fly with a known medical deficiency or while taking a disallowed drug. But there is no FAA-published list of drugs that an airman can review to determine if a particular drug is disqualifying. That's why AOPA created its FAA medication database.
AOPA has made several improvements to the drug database so pilots can find the answers online. Members may search for a prescription medicine by trade name, generic name, drug category, or by what symptoms the drug is prescribed to treat. The database will report whether the FAA allows the use of the medication while flying.
The FAA relies on organizations like AOPA to provide drug information to pilots, according to AOPA Medical Certification Director Gary Crump.
"Many of our members have questions concerning prescription medications. The database allows pilots to find which medications might cost them their medical certificate," said Crump.
Since the database upgrades went online, Crump has noticed a difference in the calls from pilots with medication questions.
"Pilots are asking more detailed questions. They're doing their homework when it comes to medical concerns. The improvements to the database are helping pilots to be more proactive concerning medical issues they may have," he said.
The FAA medication database is located on AOPA Online in the members section ( www.aopa.org/members/databases/medical/search_faa_meds.cfm). There is also a subject report on medication usage ( www.aopa.org/members/files/medical/med_use.html).
Although AOPA maintains the medications list as accurately as possible, there may be drugs that do not appear in the database. For questions about a particular medication that doesn't appear, contact the medical certification specialists on the AOPA Pilot Information Center, 800/872-2672.
The day of your flight dawned bright and clear, but now the clouds have closed in and you're going to have to launch into instrument meteorological conditions.
The AOPA Air Safety Foundation's IFR Adventure: Rules to Live By offers both IFR pilots and VFR pilots who are training for their instrument rating an opportunity to bone up on what they absolutely must know.
"There's a big difference between being current and being proficient," said ASF Executive Director Bruce Landsberg. "Operating in the IFR environment is one of the most demanding things a GA pilot will ever do. IFR Adventure: Rules to Live By is designed to help a pilot who might be a little rusty on procedures."
IFR Adventure: Rules to Live By uses Flash technology to take pilots through a realistic IFR cross-country flight, exploring how specific IFR regulations apply to real-life instrument-flying scenarios.
Before taking off on the virtual flight, pilots are presented with an electronic "flight bag" that contains weather information, a copy of the Federal Aviation Regulations, pilot and aircraft logbooks, and other items. Pilots may dig into their flight bag at any time for help in answering quiz questions that are used as teaching tools in many of the scenarios.
Completing IFR Adventure: Rules to Live By with a score of 80 percent or better allows the pilot to print out a completion certificate that may be used to satisfy the ground instruction requirement for the FAA Wings safety program.
The course was developed with a grant from the William H. Donner Foundation. IFR Adventure: Rules to Live By is part of the growing library of ASF online courses ( www.aopa.org/asf/), which includes Runway Safety, SkySpotter, CFI Renewal Online, and the newest, Know Before You Go, an interactive lesson in operating in today's complicated airspace.
Lee Gilbert, AOPA 287077, has been appointed to serve as the first national chairman of the AOPA Air Safety Foundation's Hat in the Ring Society. Gilbert, an active member of ASF's Board of Visitors and a major donor to ASF safety programs, will oversee carefully selected cochairs who will actively seek out new donor members for the Hat in the Ring Society.
"Lee's aviation expertise has been invaluable to me and to the board of visitors," said ASF Executive Director Bruce Landsberg. "Lee takes an active interest in GA safety and is willing to help support it."
Donors of $1,000 or more become Hat in the Ring members. Donations allow ASF to expand its research into pilot safety and its outreach efforts to educate pilots through safety seminars and online courses.
For more information on becoming a member of the Hat in the Ring Society or other donation-related inquiries, contact Anne Torgerson at 301/695-2225, or visit the Web site ( www.aopa.org/asf/development/).
To paraphrase the old saying, it takes a village to support an airport. Or in the case of Crivitz, Wisconsin, a township. ASN volunteer Lou McAbee has led in the development of the Friends of Crivitz Airport Corporation (FoCA) to support and protect Crivitz Municipal Airport.
The group is a nonprofit corporation and is open to anyone, pilot or not, who is interested in protecting the airport. The organization uses volunteer labor and donated materials and equipment to remove the burden of day-to-day airport maintenance from township taxpayers. The group's dedication is already evident at the airport. Several volunteer members of the group, led by local resident Mark Galbraith, spent more than a week cutting the grass using donated equipment and fuel. Another project involved a dozen or so volunteers from the immediate area and from as far away as Illinois and Minnesota who painted runway markers and upgraded the tiedown areas.
Because the airport benefits the entire community, the group is committed to drawing in interested people from Crivitz, as well as the nearby town of Stephenson, Michigan, and the outlying areas of Marinette County in Wisconsin.
This is the kind of local support and teamwork that ensures that the local airport will be around for a long time.
By Mark Lowdermilk, AOPA ASN program manager
In the two years since the September 11 terrorist attacks, airports and pilots across the country have faced more restrictions because of security and safety than ever before. AOPA is fighting hard on the national level to keep airports open. Unfortunately, members are telling us on a daily basis that the new restrictions are effectively closing the doors on GA operations. More and more frequently, pilots are turning to AOPA and the Airport Support Network (ASN) program for help fighting these problems where they have to be fought, at the local level. We have more than 1,400 ASN volunteers around the country. But there are more than 5,400 public-use airports. Simple math tells you we need another 4,000 of you to step up and protect GA in your community.
When you receive this issue of AOPA Pilot, the annual gathering at Oshkosh will be drawing near. If you're going to be there, stop by the AOPA tent and visit us. A member of the ASN staff will be there throughout the show. Tell us about what's going on at your airport. Find out who your airport's ASN volunteer is and what you can do to offer support. And for heaven's sake, if there isn't a volunteer, sign up!
We'll show you what AOPA can do to support your efforts to protect your airport. We've got videos and handout materials to help you make your case in your community.
If you're not going to be at Oshkosh, get involved anyway. Visit the Web site ( www.aopa.org/asn/) to find out who your local volunteer is and what you can do to help. If there is no volunteer, nominate someone. Or better yet, nominate yourself. AOPA will be there to back you up. And by helping your airport, you help all of GA.
Public-use airports in the United States are closing at the rate of about one every two weeks. The AOPA Airport Support Network 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/).
Massachusetts. North Adams: A tree-clearing project at Harriman-And-West Airport, located between North Adams and Williamstown, has hit a snag. The work on the North Adams side of the field is nearly complete, but in Williamstown, residents are using inflammatory terms such as clear-cut and eminent domain to describe the plan to clear the runway approach paths. AOPA and ASN volunteer Ronald James have provided information to local AOPA members and residents, and the airport commission is considering a public relations campaign.
Michigan. Allegan: The Allegan Airport Advisory Board is hosting its first-ever Airport Business Summit this summer to bring local businesses to Padgham Field Airport and show them what GA can do for them. Work on new hangars at the airport will get under way this summer. ASN volunteer Douglas Kuhl says proceeds from hangar rentals will go into a special account that will be used strictly to fund additional hangars.
Pennsylvania. Pottstown: Pottstown Municipal Airport ASN volunteer Mark Santangelo is working with other area pilots to address concerns about plans to raise the height of a local landfill. The increased height of the landfill would make it tall enough to be an "object affecting navigable airspace" under FAR Part 77. Working with Santangelo, AOPA has filed official comments on the impending obstruction. On the plus side, the airport has recently completed construction of 20 new T-hangars.
Washington. Renton: The Airport Advisory Committee at Renton Municipal Airport is facing compatible land use and zoning issues. The City of Renton refuses to modify its zoning code to create an airport zone, so the airport is currently a nonconforming land use. The city is also considering four proposals by Boeing Aircraft, which builds 737s and 757s there. Two of those proposals have Boeing leaving its 280-acre facility, which would be replaced by condos, retail and office space, and waterfront parks. At the request of ASN volunteer David Kotker, AOPA has written to the mayor expressing opposition to the development plans.
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