June 1, 2003
By AOPA Communications staff
When Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley destroyed the runway at Merrill C. Meigs Field in an audacious midnight raid, AOPA moved quickly to denounce his actions, begin the long fight to reopen the airport, and help the stranded pilots (see " President's Position: The Whole World Is Watching Meigs," May Pilot). "Drastic times call for drastic actions," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "And these are indeed drastic times when a mayor can, under the guise of homeland security, rip up the runway at an airport that is part of a federal integrated air transportation plan.
"Even while we were still digesting the news of Meigs' closure, we began formulating and implementing a 12-point plan of attack to reopen the airport."
Immediate actions included filing for an injunction to prevent further destruction of the airport, and filing formal complaints with the FAA and the Illinois Department of Transportation. These complaints addressed Daley's violation of federal regulations requiring advance notice of an airport's closure and of state statutes requiring a certificate of approval before altering an airport. AOPA also called on its nearly 400,000 members to boycott the City of Chicago.
At the same time, AOPA helped coordinate efforts to rescue the 16 pilots stranded by the closure, communicating with all the parties involved and ensuring the orderly flow of information in an otherwise confused situation.
In Washington, D.C., AOPA's legislative affairs staff began a multi-pronged effort on Capitol Hill, lobbying Congress for legislation to reopen Meigs and vowing to fight the use of federal funds at O'Hare and Midway airports until Meigs is reopened.
At a congressional hearing less than two weeks after Daley's action, Boyer told the House aviation subcommittee that AOPA plans to use every legislative and legal option available to reopen the airport. During an audiovisual presentation to the panel, Boyer showed video of Daley shaking hands on the deal that should have saved Meigs, and an audio clip of the mayor saying only nine days before the demolition that homeland security claims would not be used to close the airport. And Boyer made clear that AOPA's members want Meigs reopened. "We have received a higher volume of e-mails and phone calls about Meigs than about the closure of the entire National Airspace System in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks," he told the subcommittee members. Many of them expressed concerns about Meigs, and Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) issued a veiled warning about funding other projects in Chicago when he said, "It is pretty difficult to sit up here and listen to requests for additional infrastructure when destruction like that is taking place."
The legislative affairs staff also prepared to thwart any attempt by Daley to use federal funds to develop the $27 million park he wants to build in place of Meigs Field. And in Illinois, AOPA lobbied the state legislature to allow the state to purchase the airport from Chicago.
Boyer also joined the five other members of the General Aviation Coalition in sending a letter to President Bush, asking him to "reaffirm federal authority over security matters affecting the nation's air transportation system."
At the same time, AOPA lobbied the Homeland Security Department to issue an order prohibiting restrictions or closures of public-use airports for security reasons without the HSD's concurrence and a specific threat.
In Chicago, AOPA published an open letter to Daley as full-page ads in the two major daily newspapers, the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times, explaining to him and to city residents the outrage of America's pilots at Daley's actions. "It is easy for us to wonder," said Boyer in the letter, "as do so many of your supporters, how you could ever be trusted again. So, today, as president of AOPA, I'm giving you something you do not have the decency to give us: fair warning. We will use every legitimate tactic in the book to do whatever we have to do to restore Meigs Field to the service of general aviation."
On the legal front, AOPA's general counsel met with the chief legal officer of the FAA to seek relief. AOPA also called on the more than 600 panel attorneys who are part of the AOPA Legal Services Plan to act as a "brain bank" to develop other possible legal strategies.
"Mayor Daley's preemptive strike admittedly makes reopening Meigs a significant challenge," said Boyer. "But it is a challenge that AOPA is ready and willing to take on."
As Congress began work on the FAA's spending authorization, AOPA pressed members to force the FAA to live up to a promise made to the general aviation community more than a year ago.
The agency pledged to provide not only preflight briefers, but also pilots with accurate graphical depictions of temporary flight restrictions (TFRs). FAA Administrator Marion Blakey herself reiterated that promise to a roomful of pilots at last October's AOPA Expo, "You need a good picture. You're going to get it."
Congress directed the FAA to provide graphical notams in this year's omnibus spending bill, but that has not happened.
In a letter to a key congressional committee chairman, AOPA President Phil Boyer asked, "During a period of time when pilots are subject to multiple airspace restrictions, how can the FAA fail past instruction by Congress to provide airmen with graphical TFRs?"
AOPA is now pressing Congress to hold the FAA accountable as members work on the agency's 2004 appropriation.
An FAA proposal to require a new type of aircraft transponder drew quick, strong opposition from AOPA. The proposal calls for a "one button" method for airliners to activate the "hijacked" transponder code, which could then not be disabled for the duration of the flight. The agency has asked for comments about extending that requirement to general aviation.
AOPA says that's too expensive and unneeded. If the proposal were to include GA, it would require replacing all of today's transponders.
"Unlike commercial air carrier operations, GA pilots know the passengers on board and what they are carrying," said Melissa Bailey, AOPA vice president of airspace, regulatory, and certification policy. "Also, GA aircraft are used for personal and business transportation, just like an automobile, and the nature of these operations makes the application of this rule to Part 91 operations unnecessary."
Other comments filed with the FAA by virtually every segment of the aviation industry were nearly universal in their opposition to the proposed rule.
AOPA's Airport Watch program received a big boost this spring when Maj. Gen. Richard Bowling, the national commander of the Civil Air Patrol, announced that all 63,000 CAP pilots would undergo Airport Watch training. "The training provided by AOPA's Airport Watch dovetails with our own CAP training to provide significant protection for general aviation in our country," he said.
"AOPA is pleased that CAP is supporting the Airport Watch program," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "Their participation and willingness to draw on the depth of their membership are important in our community-wide effort to report potential terrorist and criminal activities at our community airports to law enforcement. The more eyes we have focused on our country's flight lines, the more effective AOPA's Airport Watch will become."
The Civil Air Patrol, the official Air Force Auxiliary, performs search-and-rescue operations, disaster relief, and homeland security missions at the request of federal, state, and local agencies. CAP members also serve as mentors to almost 27,000 young people participating in CAP cadet programs.
Under AOPA's Airport Watch program, pilots, airport staff, and now CAP members are trained to report suspicious activities at their home airports. Airport Watch is supported by a government-provided toll-free hotline: 866/GA-SECUR[E] (866/427-3287).
The thirteenth annual AOPA Fly-In and Open House is almost here. The largest one-day event of its kind takes place on June 7. AOPA has invited FAA Administrator Marion Blakey.
The star of the static display line will be AOPA's Centennial of Flight Sweepstakes giveaway aircraft, a beautifully restored 1940 Waco UPF-7 biplane. Visitors also can talk with scores of aviation vendors or attend more than a dozen seminars.
It is now easier than ever for AOPA credit cardholders to claim their 5-percent FBO rebates. AOPA and MBNA America Bank, N.A., have developed an online request form allowing cardholders to request their credit rebates via the Internet.
"This new benefit greatly enhances the FBO Rebate Program that includes more than 4,500 qualified FBOs around the country," said Karen Gebhart, AOPA senior vice president of products and services. "Now our cardholding AOPA members can easily request their rebate using this new online feature. We developed this program to help in AOPA's mission to keep flying affordable. Since the program's inception, MBNA has returned over $10 million in rebates to our members."
Cardholders can now log in online and only need to follow a few simple steps. The FBO Rebate Program, which began in 1997, offers a 5-percent credit rebate up to $250 per year on purchases at qualified FBOs.
AOPA cardholders must register for online account access. When logged into their online credit card account, they will find a link to the rebate request form in three places: the Statements page, the Account Services page, and the Account Snapshot page. Only three simple steps are required to submit their request for a credit rebate on qualified FBO purchases.
Cardholders are also eligible to receive an immediate 5-percent discount on purchases from Sporty's Pilot Shop when they use their AOPA credit card. For more information about the rates, fees, costs, and benefits associated with the use of the AOPA credit card program, or to apply online, visit the Web site ( www.aopa.org/info/cconline/) or call 800/932-2775.
Revenue generated from members' use of the AOPA credit card and participation in other AOPA Certified programs helps support programs such as AOPA's Airport Watch, GA Serving America Web site, and Project Pilot. It also has allowed the association to hold the annual membership dues at $39 for the past 13 years.
When pilots are finally ready to take the plunge and become aircraft owners, AOPA's Title and Escrow Service stands ready to help them avoid making a costly mistake.
The AOPA Comprehensive Plan, formerly known as the Umbrella Protection Plan, offers a title search, damage history reports (NTSB accident/incident reports and FAA 337 reports of aircraft repairs and modifications), airworthiness directive reports, and service difficulty reports for the prospective purchase, all for $199. Separately, those reports would cost $295.
One AOPA member recently discovered the true value of the service. "I was moments away from placing $21,000 in escrow when your report revealed an unexpected 'substantial' accident many years ago," said the member. "This turned out to be the best $199 I have ever spent."
The AOPA Title and Escrow Service also offers The Essential Plan, which includes a title search and damage history report for $139.
For more information on the AOPA Title and Escrow Service, visit the Web site ( www.aopa.org/info/te10/).
AOPA Insurance Agency Inc. announced the addition of new optional coverage for the Civil Air Patrol. A recent change in CAP regulations creates a possible liability exposure for CAP pilots.
The new coverage is available as an add-on to the AOPA Nonowned Aircraft and Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) Liability policies. It provides coverage for CAP pilots while on flights in conjunction with, or on behalf of, the Civil Air Patrol. Current policyholders may have the coverage added to their policy for an additional annual premium of $50. If the coverage is added in the middle of a policy term, the cost is prorated for the remainder of the term.
"Ensuring CAP pilots could obtain the coverage they need to perform their important missions in support of general aviation is a top priority for the AOPA Insurance Agency," said Greg Sterling, executive vice president and general manager of the AOPA Insurance Agency.
Official CAP missions may include search and rescue, aerial photography, courier flights, and aerial surveillance flights.
For complete policy information and a complete description of the scope and limitations of coverage or to obtain coverage, contact the AOPA Insurance Agency at 800/622-2672 or online ( www.aopaia.com).
Bradford "Ford" von Weise says he has the best job in the world, serving as the AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer for Laurence G. Hanscom Field in Bedford, Massachusetts. Since he became an ASN volunteer in June 1998, he has learned more about airports than he ever thought possible. For his "day job," von Weise finances aircraft for GMAC from an office located at the airport, which allows him to keep an eye on the many enemies facing Hanscom.
Almost daily, the airport is engaged with organized neighborhood groups wanting to close the field because of noise complaints. The groups have rented office space, hired an attorney and lobbyist, and are generally making life difficult for the airport's pilots and customers. Last year, airport opponents organized pickets at the fixed-base operators.
The national group "Scenic America" has joined the fray. The group that says it aims to preserve America's scenic character put the historic towns of Concord, Lexington, Lincoln, and Bedford on its annual list of the 10 most threatened landscapes. The group has the backing of people such as recording artist Don Henley, documentarian Ken Burns, and actor Christopher Reeve.
But von Weise is encouraged by the growing support from the newly formed Massachusetts Business Aviation Association (MBAA), made up of pilots and businesses that depend on the airport. MBAA recently met with Massport, which owns Hanscom field, as well as Boston's Logan International Airport, to discuss proposed Draconian security restrictions for Hanscom. While a final resolution is still pending, von Weise called the meeting "encouraging."
By Mark Lowdermilk, AOPA ASN program manager
Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley's overnight attack on Merrill C. Meigs Field in March took everyone by surprise. George Bullwinkel, our longtime ASN volunteer for Meigs and well-known Chicago attorney, has fought alongside AOPA to keep Meigs open since 1998. Despite his efforts, this is one event that not even he could foresee. Sometimes that happens, but not often. Since then, ASN volunteers and AOPA members from across the country have asked, "How can I help prevent this from happening to my airport?" You can help by becoming more vigilant and more involved with the overall management and operations of your airport. Publicly funded public-use airports are generally managed by a board appointed by the airport sponsor or the sponsor itself, such as a city- or county council. As such, the business of managing the airport is no different than any other official business and must be conducted in open public meetings.
Go to the meetings! And don't just go to just one. Go to each one where the airport is on the agenda. Listen to the discussions and learn who the supporters are and who the detractors are. Discover their motivations and why they feel the way they do about your airport. Hear what your manager is really telling them about the finances, the operations, and the users. It's the only way you'll ever be able to keep ahead of the game and not be taken by surprise. Let your local ASN volunteer know you will be there. Offer to go with them or in their place. Your ASN volunteer will in turn relay the information to us; we keep a history on airports, so when needed we have the ability to react quickly and accurately.
No ASN volunteer for your airport? Nominate someone or become one yourself. Your efforts will help protect you and the other GA pilots at your airport. Visit www.aopa.org/asn/ to learn more.
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/).
Alabama. Bessemer: Tim Rakes, ASN volunteer at Bessemer Airport, and the pilots association on the field provided a three-month program for 14 Boy Scouts from Troop 533 to earn their Aviation Merit Badges. The pilots also "took 'em flying" as a reward for their efforts. In early May, the group sponsored an FAA Air Safety Seminar on single-pilot IFR operations.
Colorado. Durango: Runway resurfacing at Durango-La Plata County Airport is going to close the runway for a period. During that time, the FAA has approved the use of the taxiway as a runway for most operations. ASN volunteer Donovan Schardt has asked the airport manager to see if there will be any changes to instrument approach minimums and availability during the runway closure.
Florida. Naples: Flight schools at Naples Municipal Airport were temporarily forced to close recently when they were found to be out of compliance with state workers compensation rules. ASN volunteer R. Scott Cameron, working with the AOPA Airport Support Network, determined that flight schools must comply with Florida's workers compensation laws and that flight instructors must be covered.
New York. Albany: ASN volunteer Bernard Schmelz has contacted leaders in the New York State Assembly and Senate on behalf of the Capital Region Aviation Association to oppose legislation that would require criminal background checks for anyone seeking flight instruction in an aircraft or simulator, and another bill to make it illegal for anyone younger than 17 to fly. At Albany International Airport, Schmelz says two of three proposed GA hangars are complete, with the third to be done over the summer.
The latest multimedia AOPA Air Safety Foundation seminar is earning rave reviews, with many participants saying they never before understood many of the services ATC can offer to pilots in distress.
ASF's "Say Intentions When You Need ATC's Help" live seminar debuted last month in New York and New Jersey, and is scheduled for the rest of the country during the remainder of the year. The free two-hour seminar takes a penetrating look at what ATC can and can't do to help pilots in distress, and it explains how pilots can benefit from the services available.
"When things go wrong in the sky, what could be more comforting than to know you're not alone?" asked Bruce Landsberg, ASF executive director. "But for the most effective use of all available services, pilots have to know how the system works. This seminar will equip you with that knowledge."
Using brightly illustrated graphics, video clips of actual controllers, and realistic scenarios, the new program clears up common misconceptions about asking for assistance. Among other things, participants in this new ASF seminar learn why calling for help on the emergency frequency of 121.5 MHz isn't necessarily the smartest thing to do, and you will also learn the real truth about the rumored paperwork blizzard following declaration of an emergency. The new seminar is designed to help pilots in the decision-making process.
AOPA Air Safety Foundation's premier live safety seminars are available without cost to all pilots. A searchable schedule for the seminars is available on the ASF Web site ( www.aopa.org/asf/seminars/).
John and Martha King, developers and hosts of the popular King Schools pilot education videos, in April joined the ranks of ASF Life Associates.
Life Associates are those who donate at least $2,500 toward ASF safety research and education. They enjoy numerous special benefits, including lifetime membership in AOPA, a special identification card, and a $2,000 charitable tax deduction.
To contribute at any level to the AOPA Air Safety Foundation, visit the Web site ( www.aopa.org/asf/) and select "Support" from the menu on the right. ASF's safety seminars, online courses, publications, and videos are funded largely by donations from individuals and companies interested in promoting general aviation safety. Since the foundation's establishment in 1950, GA safety has improved by some 90 percent.
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