December 1, 2004
By AOPA Communications staff
America's general aviation community won a bittersweet victory in the fight over Meigs Field when the FAA announced that it would seek the maximum penalty allowable against the City of Chicago over the city's 2003 closure of the airport. The agency has also begun an investigation to see if the administration of Mayor Richard M. Daley improperly diverted approximately $1.5 million in airport revenues by taking money from the O'Hare Airport Development Fund and using it for the Meigs demolition and conversion to a city park.
"When I first heard the news, I smiled," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "But almost immediately, it struck me that all the fines and investigations in the world aren't going to bring back that gem of an airport on Chicago's lakefront."
AOPA filed the formal complaint alleging that Daley and the City of Chicago violated both the U.S. Code and federal aviation regulations by not providing proper notice before deactivating Meigs Field. The FAA concurred, saying the city was required to provide 30 days notice before deactivating the airport. Because the city did not, the agency proposed fining Chicago the maximum $1,100 per day for each of the 30 days required — a total of $33,000.
Almost immediately after the FAA proposed the fine, Daley administration officials tried to claim that the regulations did not apply because the mayor had closed the airport for security reasons. But as the Chicago Sun-Times reported under the headline "Daley's Meigs Alibi Crumbles" on April 9, 2003, barely a week after the demolition took place, "Daley dropped all pretenses about fears of a private plane flying into a Chicago skyscraper and acknowledged his real motive was to create more open space as envisioned by planner Daniel Burnham and others some 100 years ago."
The article also noted that the Department of Homeland Security had not been consulted about a possible threat, and that DHS Secretary Tom Ridge had said, "I know that the decision to close the field was made prior to September 11, 2001."
While Meigs Field may have been relegated to aviation history, the debacle spurred Congress to action. The Meigs Legacy provision of the FAA reauthorization act passed at the end of last year provides for heavy fines if an airport sponsor fails to give proper notification before closing an airport.
"The Meigs Legacy provision is small comfort in the case of Meigs itself," said Boyer. "But it gives the FAA an important and powerful tool to protect America's remaining general aviation airports."
While other aviation associations were giving a thumbs-up to a new rule governing flight training for foreign nationals, AOPA raised a red flag, warning that the rule, as written, could be interpreted to require every pilot — U.S. citizen or not — to undergo an expensive security check by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
The association filed a formal petition to suspend the October compliance date for training in aircraft weighing 12,500 pounds or less. AOPA also warned that flight instructors were being turned into de facto border agents because the TSA would require them to validate students' nationalities. On the day the rule went into effect, the TSA issued amendments that delayed its effective date until December 19 for U.S. citizens and foreign nationals who already hold U.S. pilot certificates, and that changed the recordkeeping requirement to allow flight instructors to endorse a pilot's log- book to say that the pilot's nationality had been validated.
Rear Adm. David Stone, the head of the TSA, appeared at AOPA Expo 2004 two days later and got an earful from some of the 1,200 pilots who attended his presentation.
"Frankly, I don't believe that TSA understood the flight training industry for small general aviation aircraft, the impact this rule would have on that industry, and the depth of feelings about it in the GA community," said AOPA President Phil Boyer.
Less than two weeks after AOPA Expo, Boyer and members of AOPA's senior staff met again with Stone to start working together to solve the problems with the alien flight training rule.
"It makes no sense for TSA, with all of its security knowledge, and AOPA, with all of its knowledge of GA, not to work together," said Boyer. "That's obviously the best way for us to achieve our common goals of a safe country and a healthy, growing GA community."
AOPA Expo is a great celebration of general aviation, and AOPA Expo 2004 in Long Beach, California, was no exception (see " Maximum Expo-sure," page 96). But it's also an opportunity to pay tribute to those who have aided GA over the previous year.
Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) received the 2004 J. B. "Doc" Hartranft Award, given to the elected or appointed official who has done the most for GA. He is chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives' Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and was a driving force behind several pro-GA measures that were included in the FAA reauthorization bill, known as the Vision 100 — Century of Aviation Reauthorization Act. President Bush signed that bill into law in December 2003.
"Throughout his career on Capitol Hill, Rep. Young has shown a deep understanding of general aviation and has worked to ensure that GA remains a vital and integral part of the nation's aviation system," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "We're honored that he looks to AOPA as an important source of information and input from the GA pilot community."
Jack Tunstill of St. Petersburg, Florida, is the 2004 recipient of the Laurence P. Sharples Perpetual Award, given annually to recognize the greatest selfless commitment to general aviation by a private citizen.
Tunstill is the Airport Support Network volunteer for Albert Whitted Airport. His ceaseless efforts and leadership helped rescue the airport from the brink of destruction and guaranteed the people of St. Petersburg much-needed green space by keeping the waterfront airport.
"Jack epitomizes the ASN volunteer," said Boyer. "He spoke out in strong defense of Albert Whitted in the face of apparently overwhelming odds. He helped St. Petersburg residents understand the true consequences of the anti-airport ballot initiative. In short, he supported his airport and he never gave up."
AOPA also pays tribute annually to reporters in the general news media whose fair, accurate, and insightful reporting helps their audiences better understand GA.
This year's winners of the Max Karant Journalism Awards include: John Bowman and Eric Simons of the San Mateo County Times for a special pull-out section on the Centennial of Flight; John Miller and Tom Bishop of KING-TV in Seattle for a story on troubled youth rebuilding their lives while helping to restore old aircraft; and Hal Cannon and Taki Telonidis of the Western Folklife Center for a story that ran on National Public Radio about the Wright brothers using rare recordings of the brothers' family members and friends.
AOPA has stepped in to stop an increase in the price of aviation gasoline brought about by an international dispute over, of all things, rice.
The U.S. government contends that the European Union (EU) has raised its tariffs on U.S. rice more than allowed by world trade agreements. That hurts U.S. farmers, so the United States wanted to impose similar tariffs on EU products to penalize European producers, including a new 45-percent tariff on tetraethyl lead (TEL), the octane-enhancing additive in 100LL avgas.
"There is only one source of TEL in the entire world, and that's in the United Kingdom," said Luis Gutierrez, AOPA director of regulatory and certification policy. "That means that U.S. refineries would have to pay more for their only source of TEL, and that means they would have to raise the price of avgas."
AOPA petitioned the U.S. trade representative to remove TEL from the proposed list of European products scheduled for tariff increases because it would have an adverse impact on U.S. general aviation while having no impact on EU nations (because the only source of TEL is in Europe, Europeans wouldn't be affected by the tariff).
"The proposed policy would have a significant adverse financial impact on general aviation aircraft owners," AOPA told the U.S. trade representative. "An increase in the tariff on TEL would be of no penalty to the EU nations but would present a significant burden to the U.S. general aviation industry."
AOPA is one of the first to offer its members the new MBNA Rewards American Express Credit Card. The new card allows AOPA members to get the benefits associated with the American Express brand while continuing to proudly demonstrate their AOPA membership with MBNA credit cards.
"We're delighted to expand our relationship with MBNA," said AOPA Senior Vice President of Products and Services Karen Gebhart. "Our members can now enjoy the travel and merchant benefits associated with American Express combined with MBNA's rewards program and customer service.
"And we'll continue to offer our members the AOPA FBO Rebate MasterCard and WorldPoint Visa card, providing a wide range of solutions for everyone."
Bruce Hammonds, chief executive officer of MBNA America, added, "For the first time in history, we are able to offer our valued customers at AOPA the choice of American Express, Visa, and MasterCard. They now have the freedom to choose from a variety of cards while still showing their support for AOPA through a unique and tailored design."
"Best of all," concluded Gebhart, "because using any of these products brings critical revenue back to AOPA, members can help fund important AOPA initiatives, such as Airport Watch, the Airport Support Network, and GA Serving America."
An AOPA review of current U.S. tax law shows that if you're considering buying a new aircraft, this could be the year to do it.
In order to stimulate the economy, the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003 included a powerful incentive for businesses to buy new capital equipment, including business aircraft. The incentive, known as "bonus depreciation," changes the timing of the standard depreciation schedule to give more depreciation in year one but less depreciation in all future years (the total amount of depreciation remains unchanged).
In addition, many buyers, regardless of whether the aircraft is new or used, may be able to claim a tax deduction under Section 179 of up to $100,000 against the cost of the aircraft.
"Obviously each person's financial situation is different, so anyone buying an aircraft should speak with their tax consultant to figure out the best course of action," said AOPA Vice President of Aviation Services Woody Cahall. "But if you've made the decision to go ahead with a purchase, you should seriously consider closing the deal before the year is out to get the maximum tax benefit."
AOPA Member Products can help with every phase of an aircraft purchase, from aircraft financing and title services to aircraft insurance. Visit the Web site ( www.aopa.org/info/ownership/) for more information.
With the new year almost upon us, time is rapidly running out to enter AOPA's 2004 Win-A-Twin Sweepstakes for a chance to win a modernized 1965 Piper Twin Comanche ( www.aopa.org/pilot/twin/). Anyone who joins or renews membership in AOPA before midnight on December 31, 2004, is automatically entered. Complete rules, eligibility requirements, and alternate methods of entry are available online ( www.aopa.org/sweeps/rules.html).
The 2005-2006 print edition of AOPA's Airport Directory is in production now and will begin reaching members' homes in February. The AOPA directory contains all the airport information you'd find in the FAA's airport/facility directory — and more.
AOPA's Airport Directory provides the most comprehensive FBO information available from any airport directory, as well as information on rental cars and local restaurants and hotels. The directory also includes data on hundreds of private-use landing facilities around the country.
"We stay in continual contact with the FAA, airport managers, and FBOs," said AOPA Senior Vice President of Publications Thomas B. Haines. "The directory is a comprehensive snapshot of the nation's public-use airports.
"And everything we learn also goes into the online version of the directory [ www.aopa.org/members/airports/]. Online you'll find other benefits, such as taxi diagrams and complete, up-to-date instrument approach procedures that can be downloaded and printed in kneeboard format. In addition, the airport directory data can be accessed from within AOPA's Real-Time Flight Planner."
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/).
Connecticut. Bridgeport: The FAA rescinded its determination that an inflatable sports arena proposed for near Igor I. Sikorsky Memorial Airport posed no hazard. The action was the result of a letter from AOPA appealing the determination, sent at the urging of and with information provided by ASN volunteer David Faile. The agency directed its New England Region to do another evaluation based on the new information provided in AOPA's letter.
Florida. Naples: At Naples Municipal Airport, ASN volunteer Scott Cameron was able to clear up some concerns about a proposed development near the airport. He worked with airport staff to ensure that all compatible land use requirements were met, including proper FAA notification and the inclusion of an avigation easement. Airport staff analysis of the development determined that it wouldn't be a problem for the airport.
Michigan. Troy: When the Ryder Cup came to Troy, airport authorities at Oakland/Troy Airport tried to impose a curfew for the duration of the tournament. But ASN volunteer Chuck Griswold and other local AOPA members contacted AOPA immediately. Working with AOPA, they were able to convince the airport authority not to go ahead with the curfew.
New Mexico. Los Alamos: David Carroll, the ASN volunteer at Los Alamos Airport, alerted AOPA to a plan by the U.S. Department of Energy, which currently owns the airport, to exhume the landfill on airport property and construct a berm parallel to the runway with treated fill. AOPA wrote a letter supporting the state Department of Transportation's request to suspend the project for a period of time to figure out a better method of dealing with the landfill. The Department of Energy agreed to suspend it for 90 days and says it will come up with an alternative plan.
New York. Montgomery: Orange County Airport ASN volunteer Howard Kave says that the newly formed Orange County Pilots Association (OCPA) has helped the airport manager regain control of the fuel prices at the airport. OCPA is also setting up regular meetings with the county executive to provide user input into county decisions regarding the airport. Kave says that he would like to see the OCPA become a "mini-AOPA" and advocate for GA on the local level.
Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.) lauded the work of the AOPA Air Safety Foundation recently in Washington, D.C.
Oberstar was the featured speaker at a dinner honoring the members of ASF's elite "Hat in the Ring Society," who, through their philanthropic contributions to the Air Safety Foundation, are helping to significantly improve general aviation safety.
"General aviation, through the Air Safety Foundation, has taken upon itself to raise the bar of safety," said Oberstar. "The Air Safety Foundation raises three times as much money for aviation safety as does the Flight Safety Foundation, founded by the airlines."
Oberstar is one of the most respected aviation experts in Congress. Now serving his fifteenth term, he has long been a champion of general aviation during his time as chairman of the House aviation subcommittee, and in his position as ranking member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Air Safety Foundation Executive Director Bruce Landsberg noted that general aviation accident rates have continued to decline. But he said there is another number that his organization is equally proud of — the number of ASF safety "contacts" with pilots. "If we can talk to pilots and help them make the right decisions, we can drive the accident rates to even lower levels," he said.
A decade ago, the Air Safety Foundation averaged some 50,000 pilot contacts annually. This year ASF expects to make some 230,000 pilot contacts through its online safety programs, free pilot seminars, and safety publications.
AOPA President Phil Boyer, master of ceremonies for the event, also made a special presentation to Hat in the Ring Society member Tom Haas.
"Tom Haas and I became acquainted when I first became AOPA president in 1991, and he has provided both generous financial support and invaluable guidance for the Air Safety Foundation ever since," said Boyer.
In recognition of his help in "plotting the course" for ASF, Boyer gave Haas the original E6B plotter that Boyer used as he earned his private certificate in 1967.
Pilots who believe an expensive new deicing system makes it legal and safe to tackle icy winter skies could be dangerously wrong, a just-released ASF Safety Advisor says.
"Deicing equipment now being installed as a factory option on many new airplanes can be a wonderful safety enhancement, but unless it's FAA certified for flight in known icing conditions, the margin of safety a pilot thinks he's getting might not really be there," said ASF Executive Director Bruce Landsberg. "In addition, an illegal icy-weather flight might very well land the pilot in hot water with the FAA."
The new 24-page ASF Aircraft Deicing and Anti-icing Equipment Safety Advisor explains the difference between deicing and anti-icing systems that are FAA certified and those that simply meet the FAA's "nonhazard" standards. In some cases, the new advisor says, the "nonhazard" systems are not even required to prove they can shed ice, and may not have ever been tested in actual icing conditions.
In addition to thorough explanations of the certification process for both FAA-certified and nonhazard systems, the ASF advisor provides detailed guidance for pilots not certain about the status of their system.
Aircraft Deicing and Anti-icing Equipment is available online ( www.aopa.org/asf/publications/sa22.pdf) to all pilots without cost or obligation. Publication was funded by the FAA's Flight Safety Branch, which provides aviation research and engineering for various flight safety issues, including icing. For pilots without Web access, single-copy paper versions of the publication are available by calling ASF at 800/638-3101.
A dozen classic and contemporary aircraft, caught in flight and on the runway by AOPA Pilot magazine photographers, are featured in the just-released 2004-2005 AOPA Air Safety Foundation calendar. The calendar features 14 aircraft, one for each of the last two months of 2004 and all 12 months of 2005.
Among the aircraft featured are the grand prize in AOPA's 2004 Win-A-Twin Sweepstakes, a modernized 1965 Piper Twin Comanche, and a "Bamboo Bomber," the Cessna Bobcat, as well as two of the newer entries into the GA market, the Lancair Columbia 400 and Cirrus SR20.
The calendar is an annual fund-raising effort for ASF, which uses proceeds for new safety research and education for general aviation pilots.
The calendar is available to any pilot who donates $10 or more to ASF, but quantities are limited. The gift may be mailed to the Air Safety Foundation, 421 Aviation Way, Frederick, Maryland 21701, or contributed via the ASF Web site ( www.aopa.org/asf/).
Department of Transportation,
The FAA on Feb. 23 issued a special airworthiness information bulletin recommending preflight inspection of Robinson R44 and R44 II main rotors.
AOPA told lawmakers that a tax-abatement bill introduced in Nevada would stimulate aviation business and make more services available to members.
The FAA has released an eight-minute video providing aviation medical examiners with guidance on the agency's new obstructive sleep apnea policy, which takes effect March 2.
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