September 1, 2005
AOPA COMMUNICATIONS DIVISION
It doesn't take much to ignite public fears about terrorism, and all too often those fears seem to center around general aviation. So when two small airplanes were stolen and taken for joyrides this summer, it garnered a lot of negative attention from the media, the public, and the politicians. AOPA urges all pilots to be more vigilant than ever about GA security.
In a letter, AOPA President Phil Boyer reminded flight instructors and fixed-base operators how important it is to secure every airplane, all the time.
"What's hurting us doesn't have to happen. And you are an important key in stopping the threat to GA," Boyer wrote.
That threat comes, in part, in the form of additional regulation that could make it more difficult and more expensive to fly. In response to those events this summer, several members of Congress already have asked if more security is needed, and they are calling for an investigation into the possibility of GA aircraft being used for criminal or terrorist acts. At least one state, Connecticut, has ordered a "security audit" of all GA airports, and other states are considering similar actions. The state also requested that the Department of Homeland Security review security standards for GA airports nationwide and provide further security guidance.
"We know from recent surveys that virtually all AOPA members secure their aircraft," said Boyer. "Unfortunately, that's not good enough. We need all pilots — renters and owners alike — to secure their airplanes. Politicians and the public already fear GA — largely because they don't understand it — and we just can't afford to give them any more reasons to impose security restrictions on us."
GA already has done much as an industry to mitigate security issues. Information about how each pilot can help protect GA by keeping his or her aircraft and airport secure is available through AOPA's Airport Watch program ( www.aopa.org/airportwatch/). The program provides recommendations on how to secure aircraft, along with educational materials and warning signs for airports. An Airport Watch toll-free hotline (866/GA-SECUR[E]) also is available for pilots to report questionable activity.
"AOPA members are very concerned about security requirements adversely affecting their ability to fly by reducing their access to airports and airspace," AOPA Senior Vice President of Government and Technical Affairs Andy Cebula told the Senate Commerce Committee during a hearing in June.
Cebula reiterated that light general aviation aircraft are not a major threat, and committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) agreed. But ranking member Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) expressed concerns about GA.
"GA has gone through some pretty phenomenal changes since 9/11," Cebula replied. "There has been a significant increase in awareness about security, about the need for pilots to be alert and vigilant. More than 80 percent of our members are aware of and participate in the Airport Watch program."
Cebula also pointed out that Congress' own watchdog agency, the Government Accountability Office, had concluded that "the small size, lack of fuel capacity, and minimal destructive power of most general aviation aircraft make them unattractive to terrorists and, thereby, reduce the possibility of threat associated with their misuse."
A simple one-line amendment to the FAA's appropriations bill could kill improved flight service station (FSS) services for general aviation pilots. The amendment reads, "None of the funds made available in this Act may be used to provide for the competitive sourcing of flight service stations." In June, the House passed the Transportation-Treasury-Housing Appropriations bill with the amendment, sponsored by Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). This means the FAA would be forced to terminate the FSS modernization contract with Lockheed Martin, the taxpayers would pay a $350 million penalty to Lockheed, and pilots would continue to suffer through interminable hold times and briefers who don't have access to all the data in the system.
"It's incredible that in an atmosphere of concerns for FAA funding, more businesslike air traffic operations — and wise use of taxpayers' dollars — that Congress even considered, much less accepted, this amendment," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "We've worked with the FAA for three long years to get a better safety-of-flight information system for GA pilots that will also save $2.1 billion over 10 years. It would be a travesty for all of that to be undone now to return to a labor-intensive, antiquated, expensive system that can't meet the modern needs."
But it's not a done deal. The Senate would have to pass the bill with that amendment before it could become law, and there is strong opposition to it on that side of Congress. The FAA and the Bush administration are strongly opposed to the amendment as well, and President Bush has threatened to veto the bill if it crosses his desk with the amendment still attached.
The bill also includes more money for the FAA and directs the agency to spend more on improving airports and adding Wide Area Augmentation System instrument approaches to GA airports that don't have an ILS. The bill also provides more money for Safeflight 21 and automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast, the program that will bring traffic and weather information into every equipped GA cockpit.
What would happen if the funding bill, complete with the amendment halting the FSS modernization contract, became law? Things wouldn't get any better, and they could get a lot worse. "Everything that AOPA has worked for — improved services, performance guarantees, Internet access to briefings, and $2.1 billion in cost savings over the next decade — would be lost," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. Maintaining the status quo would be costly and inefficient, and some legal experts believe the FAA would be forced to honor the bid that was submitted by current FSS employees during the A-76 bidding process. That bid would cut the number of FSS facilities from 58 to four, forcing more than 900 employees to relocate and possibly resulting in even more job losses. Lockheed Martin's bid keeps 20 facilities in place with 1,000 employees, while the FSS employees' bid would build new facilities and keep only 966 workers. "Many services must be provided by government employees for reasons of coordination, security, and safety," said Boyer. "But FSS functions provided by private industry under government supervision don't compromise that."
Airplanes made in Italy, Australia, the Czech Republic, and the United States lined AOPA's ramp during a special light-sport-aircraft event in June at the Frederick Municipal Airport in Maryland (see " Sport Planes Are Here!" page 74).
"AOPA represents pilots and owners, from airline pilots to J-3 Cub owners, and we are here to keep their flying safe, fun, and affordable," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "These airplanes open a wider door into general aviation flying. They cater not only to new students who are looking for a more affordable way to learn to fly but also to veteran pilots who may want to get back to the joys of flying a simple, easy-to-handle airplane."
The event, organized in conjunction with the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association (LAMA), was designed to help AOPA staffers learn about this new category of aircraft to aid them in their ongoing advocacy and education efforts on behalf of all GA pilots and aircraft owners. Manufacturers and representatives also got a better understanding of the many assets that AOPA can provide to their customers.
Participating companies included B Bar D Aviation, Flightstar Sportsplanes, IndUS Aviation, Kappa Aircraft, Rollison LSA, Sportair USA, Legend Aircraft, Jabiru USA, Tecnam, Sport Aircraft International, and SportsPlanes.com.
Pilots who want to see light sport aircraft for themselves should plan to visit the expansive flight line at AOPA Expo 2005, from November 3 through 5, at Tampa's Peter O. Knight Airport.
AOPA President Phil Boyer reminded aviation leaders that the greatest technology in the world will fail unless the end users understand and accept it in the first place.
During a special ceremony in June at Danville, Virginia, to publicly unveil NASA and the FAA's bold technology initiative, the Small Aircraft Transportation System (SATS), Boyer said, "If SATS is to succeed on a national scale as planned, this industry needs to wake up to the fact that passengers, pilots, and landing facilities for small aircraft could all be in short supply. We all have a lot of work to do to educate the general public about general aviation. This will be a long and difficult journey — I would maintain much more difficult than the technology advancements that make up the wonderful SATS program."
SATS would help create a transportation alternative to crowded highways and commercial airports by leveraging the nation's thousands of GA airports and aircraft, using new technologies to make GA aircraft easier to fly, and providing advanced instrument approaches — without the need for radar or controllers — into more airports.
From aircraft renters to owners, low-time student pilots to veterans, and the technologically savvy to artistic, AOPA Expo 2005 can meet any pilot's desire for equipment, aircraft, or know-how.
The 500-plus exhibits in the Tampa Convention Center range from the latest cockpit gadgets to aviation apparel — there are even exhibits to satisfy the nonpilot husband or wife.
More than 75 hours of seminars cover topics on the latest cockpit technology, aerial photography, medical issues, flying techniques, weather, airspace, aircraft insurance, aircraft painting, and more.
Light sport aircraft, personal jets, and everything in between come together in AOPA's aircraft display at Peter O. Knight Airport in Tampa.
AOPA Expo 2005 takes place from November 3 through 5 at the convention center and airport. Register before October to receive discounts of 10 to 30 percent.
Bank of America announced at the end of June that it had agreed to buy MBNA Corp., which provides a wide variety of financial products to AOPA members, including the AOPA credit cards featuring a 5-percent FBO rebate and 5-percent Sporty's discount.
"The acquisition of MBNA by Bank of America will provide AOPA members access to the nationwide convenience and resources of two leading financial institutions," said Karen Gebhart, AOPA senior vice president of products and services. "AOPA members will have unmatched access to a vast array of the finest financial and investment products available, offered through the country's largest consumer bank. The bank is committed to the AOPA program. Members will still enjoy all the benefits of the AOPA financial products and services, plus access in the future to new benefits from Bank of America."
Bank of America said the purchase would make it the world's largest issuer of Visa and MasterCard credit, debit, and prepaid cards. The boards of directors of both banks have approved the acquisition. The deal must now be approved by regulators. The acquisition is expected to be completed sometime in the fourth quarter of this year.
Just about every pilot knows someone who has dreamed of flying, but who hasn't yet acted on that dream. This year, AOPA wants pilots to extend a special invitation to the future pilots they know — a friend, family member, or co-worker — to come to AOPA Expo 2005.
"What better way to share the joy of flying than to help launch a new pilot?" said Jeff Myers, AOPA executive vice president of communications. "These future pilots will have not only your support, but also the full services and support of AOPA."
The prospective-pilot guest will discover all the steps needed to go from zero flight time to a pilot certificate during free sessions designed just for them. Each session will cover such topics as flight-school and instructor options, ground school, solo, cross-country flying, and the checkride. Participants also will find out how much money and time they'll need to invest in learning to fly.
Mountain flying provides a unique set of challenges and dangers. Knowing about these obstacles and planning accordingly are essential for a safe and enjoyable flight. The AOPA Air Safety Foundation's new free online "Mountain Flying" course and Mountain Flying Safety Advisor ( www.aopa.org/asf/publications/sa23.pdf) focuses on high-density-altitude operations, night flying, weather, terrain avoidance, and emergency landing areas.
The course includes an interactive flight-planning activity, in which the user chooses what route to fly, the time of day, and navigation technique. The program also discusses how to keep a flight log, how to pick alternative routes in the event of weather changes, and how to find a suitable forced-landing area.
Wind is one of the most challenging obstacles of mountain flying, but pilots can use it to their advantage. The course points out where updrafts and downdrafts most commonly occur and how to safely cross a mountain ridge.
Aviation-theme holiday cards are offered again this year by the AOPA Air Safety Foundation to help pilots share their love of aviation while they spread the holiday cheer.
Select from 29 cards in four categories: holiday airplane, holiday scene, Santa, and Chanukah. The cards range from Christmas Eve Flight, a cartoon drawing of Santa loading his biplane, to CAVU Christmas, which depicts a biplane parked on the snow-covered front lawn of a farmhouse on a clear winter night.
Some cards feature gold or silver embossing and foil edging. Boxes come with 25 cards and 26 envelops (just in case an address is written wrong), 25 return-address labels, and 25 decorative seals. With orders of three or more boxes, pilots can get a free personalized name imprint inside the card.
The cards range from $23 to $27, and a portion of the proceeds goes to ASF to help support its efforts to improve general aviation safety. To see the card designs or order online, visit the AOPA Online Safety Center ( www.aopa.org/safetycenter/). Orders also can be placed by calling 800/308-4285.
The start of fall means shorter days and more time spent flying after dark. Now is the time to brush up on those night-flying skills. The AOPA Online Safety Center offers a Night Flying Safety Topic and a night-VFR Safety Hot Spot ( www.aopa.org/asf/safety_topic.html#night) complete with quizzes, videos, Safety Advisors, and links to AOPA Pilot and AOPA Flight Training magazine articles that describe the nuances of night flying.
Learn about terrain avoidance, spatial disorientation, and night-VFR accidents. Watch video of a night takeoff in mountainous terrain and a recreation of John F. Kennedy Jr.'s accident.
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/).
Arizona. Phoenix: Phoenix Deer Valley Airport received approval this summer from the City of Phoenix Aviation Department to install departure signs at the airport. The signs are located at each departure point on the field and direct VFR pilots who are flying west to contact Luke Approach on 120.5 MHz. Airport Support Network volunteer Arthur Rosen, with the support of AOPA, worked with local pilots and officials at Luke Air Force Base, air traffic control, and the Phoenix Deer Valley Pilots Association to gain the approval and make the airspace around Luke Air Force Base safer. Rosen also took some officials for a flight, giving them a firsthand look at the busy airspace.
Indiana. Lake Village: Patrick Carron, the Airport Support Network volunteer at Lake Village, a privately owned, public-use airpark, alerted AOPA that a developer was planning to build a 30-lot subdivision approximately one mile south of Runway 18/36. Carron has gathered a group to attend a building commission meeting in opposition to the project and is mounting a campaign to educate local decision makers on the possible negative ramifications of situating homes in this dense part of the traffic pattern. Carron also is trying to have disclosure notices attached to property sales should the development be approved.
Maryland. Odenton: The challenges of the Washington, D.C., Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) might chase some pilots away from airports located within its boundaries, but that was not the case during the Tipton Airport Open House and Fly-In this summer. One of the key organizers was Tipton's Airport Support Network volunteer Eric Flamino, who brought local recognition to the airport and its location in the ADIZ by working with the Capital Newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland, to show that general aviation is nonthreatening and a valuable economic engine in local communities across the country, even in the back yard of the nation's capital. Using AOPA's guide to hosting an open house, Flamino and his fellow aviators introduced hundreds of local residents, particularly area children, to GA.
The AOPA Airport Support Network relies on the local activism of AOPA members to protect airports nationwide. ASN volunteers keep a watchful eye over their airports, and when they see potential issues arise, they raise the red flag.
That's why the ASN program was created — to be an early warning system. But it doesn't end there. Volunteers have become local leaders, organizers, and cheerleaders. They are the catalysts for success.
AOPA has an array of resources and vast expertise to help protect and preserve our nation's airports, but the association also depends upon the passion and dedication of the ASN volunteers who consistently prove to be the key to victory. Remember, AOPA is a national association, and that conveys power, but you have the power in your hometown when it comes to talking to your elected representatives — just like ASN volunteer of the month Euel Kinsey did in Detroit. Kinsey stood up, used his voice, and was heard. Because of Kinsey's hometown roots, voting interests, and local knowledge, the City Council members listened. Kinsey was instrumental in convincing the council to overrule the mayor's budget that would have excluded airport funding.
To learn more about the ASN program and/or find out if your airport has a volunteer, visit our Web site ( www.aopa.org/asn/) or call 301/695-2200.
It's the local activism by AOPA Airport Support Network (ASN) volunteers that often proves to be the key to protecting airports. That was the case with Euel Kinsey, ASN volunteer at Detroit's Coleman A. Young Municipal Airport. Kinsey mounted an educational campaign to protect the airport after Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick cut $2.5 million from the city's annual budget for the airport and the airport director announced his intention to lay off all 16 of the employees responsible for maintenance and operations. As part of that effort, Kinsey teamed with airport workers and tenants, talked with City Council members, and educated the local community through National Public Radio and The Detroit News. He cited the airport's role as a gateway to the city for the thousands who attended the Major League Baseball 2005 All-Star game and will flock to the 2006 Super Bowl. The City Council later submitted a budget, which included the $2.5 million, and overrode the mayor's veto. However, the previously announced layoff notices were issued to airport employees. The council pressed the airport director and mayor's office about the layoffs — they agreed to reinstate eight positions and announced they soon would be presenting a new plan to expand revenue. Kinsey's local ties to the city — his business and aircraft are located in Detroit — undoubtedly contributed to his successful effort.
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AOPA thanks our members for their continued support in protecting the freedom to fly.