January 1, 2008
By AOPA Communications staff
Much of the FAA funding debate has centered on general aviation and the airlines. But there’s another key player: airports. The FAA funding debate will determine the amount of federal grant money available for airports.
The FAA bill that Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters was pushing in the Senate would cut Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grant funding by nearly $1 billion.
During the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) General Aviation Issues Conference in Naples, Florida, AOPA told hundreds of airport executives how important the FAA funding issue should be to them.
“Airports depend on AIP grants to pave runways and taxiways, build hangars, and expand. It’s critical that these airport executives understand the positive and negative aspects of the different FAA funding bills in Congress,” said AOPA Vice President of Airports Bill Dunn. “They can’t afford to have their funding cut by $1 billion as the FAA bill proposes. The airports that would be hurt the most by such a cut would be rural general aviation airports—the ones that need it most.”
Dunn joined representatives from AAAE, General Aviation Manufacturers Association, National Business Aviation Association, National Air Transportation Association, and National Association of State Aviation Officials for a panel discussion on the latest developments in the FAA funding debate.
One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to aviation security. And Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff seemed to acknowledge that during a speech to the NATA Business Aviation Roundtable in Washington, D.C. While he argued for greater security controls on general aviation, his focus was on “jets” and larger aircraft.
“But Secretary Chertoff did not draw an explicit distinction between small piston-powered aircraft and larger aircraft, and we believe that he should,” said AOPA President Phil Boyer. “AOPA has always argued that security measures taken should be predicated on the actual risk, and our small aircraft present minimal risk.”
Chertoff acknowledged that he supports a “risk-based” approach to security that does not unduly burden GA or impede the “fluidity” of the industry. And he praised the cooperation between the GA industry and federal security agencies. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has called AOPA’s Airport Watch Program the “blueprint” for cooperative efforts. However, at the end of the day, Chertoff’s concern for security would trump any business arguments.
DHS doesn’t want to harm business, but it remains concerned that terrorists could use GA aircraft to enter the country or smuggle in a weapon of mass destruction. And the biggest concern is over large business jets. From the department’s point of view, GA security needs to catch up with airline security. “The front door is locked, but the back door is wide open,” said Chertoff, referring to what he believes is a security discrepancy between the airlines and large GA aircraft.
What would you do if your city approved a residential development 500 feet from the end of your airport’s crosswind runway that could lead to that runway’s closure? Or if an anonymous rant full of mistruths was published in a newspaper attacking the airport’s planned runway expansion?
In the case of Florida’s New Smyrna Beach Municipal Airport, AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer Paul Rooy is fighting both attacks. AOPA has been working with Rooy, guiding him on how to approach the attacks.
To counter a developer’s proposal to build houses so close to the runway, Rooy started a 40-plus-member airport support group, Friends of New Smyrna Beach Airport (FONSBA). The state stepped in, raising concerns about the safety of locating homes off the end of the runway.
Now the developers are considering alternatives and are scheduled to meet with the airport advisory board at a workshop later this month.
Rooy is responding to an anti-airport rant that appeared in his local newspaper about frequent airport noise that residents near the airport fear will increase if the proposed runway expansion occurs. He has sent a rebuttal to the Hometown News to get the facts out to the public.
“This is a critical challenge for an important airport, and Paul is doing an excellent job leading the charge to protect it,” said Greg Pecoraro, AOPA vice president of regional affairs. “But the battle is just beginning, and we will be there to support local pilots every step of the way.”
AOPA shows importance of GA in Colorado
Although Colorado’s state legislature is in session only four months per year, legislators return to Denver throughout the year for committee meetings. That’s why AOPA Central Regional Representative Bill Hamilton appeared before the Joint Transportation Legislative Review Committee recently at the capitol. Hamilton testified about the importance of general aviation to Colorado, where more than 10,970 AOPA members—about 78 percent of the state’s pilot population—reside. Hamilton distributed the AOPA Airport Support Network video Local Airports: Access to America, which helps build public appreciation for local airports. “The best time to talk to legislators about issues important to pilots is outside the pressures of the legislative session,” said Hamilton.
When the general aviation accident numbers decline, as they have in the past year, you know that pilots and the aviation industry are working together to make flying safe. Key aviation insurer AIG Aviation is rewarding those efforts with a donation to the AOPA Air Safety Foundation.
“The Air Safety Foundation’s work plays a key role in the improving GA accident rate, and we’re pleased to support them,” said AIG Aviation President Dave Hupp as he presented a $5,000 check to AOPA President Phil Boyer. “Fewer accidents mean fewer insurance claims, and that translates into lower insurance rates for GA pilots.”
The donation, presented at AOPA Expo 2007, is only one way that AIG is rewarding the GA community for flying safely. Pilots who purchase select AIG insurance policies through the AOPA Insurance Agency can receive accident forgiveness just by taking at least one approved course from the ASF every six months.
The free courses may be taken online or in person, and pilots who participate in the program won’t face higher insurance rates as a result of most accidents, regardless of who was at fault. Participating pilots also can save up to $100 off their deductible. Visit the AOPA Insurance Agency online or call 800-622-2672 for your complimentary quote.
AOPA members who are passionate about flying now have a new way to make everyday spending work harder for them also while supporting AOPA.
Now, for the first time, members can sign up for an AOPA personal checking account from Bank of America. When you open a new checking account, and each time you make a purchase with your AOPA check card, Bank of America will provide revenue to AOPA—at no additional cost to you. What’s more, your AOPA-branded checks and check card will allow you to let your everyday banking say something about you while you help fight user fees and support AOPA’s daily effort to maintain the safety and freedom of flying.
Another benefit of being a supporter of AOPA is access to special high-yield pricing on AOPA CDs, money market savings accounts, and IRAs. Visit the Web site to view current rates.
Heeding the industry’s call, the FAA is allowing more time to weigh in on its ADS-B (automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast) proposal.
In its petition for a 60-day extension, AOPA said that there were questions regarding the financial feasibility for general aviation as the FAA shifts to a satellite-based navigation and air traffic control system. Also, AOPA wanted to make sure that the proposal would improve ATC services at GA airports while enhancing safety.
In addition to AOPA, several other industry groups weighed in and the FAA moved the comment deadline to March 3. AOPA will use the extra time to formulate and disseminate information to members.
The FAA estimates that aircraft owners will invest between $1.27 billion and $7.46 billion in avionics equipment. ADS-B offers a lot of potential benefits; however, Congress is already skeptical about the FAA’s ability to keep tabs on the new ADS-B contractor.
On August 30, the FAA awarded a contract to ITT Corp. to build and operate the ADS-B ground infrastructure and supply aircraft position data to the FAA. One month later, the FAA issued the proposed rules that would require all aircraft to add ADS-B equipment by 2020 to be able to fly within Class B and C airspace and above 10,000 feet.
It’s one of the sad facts about general aviation: In an average year, approximately three quarters of all accidents are caused by pilot error. And the mistakes that lead to those accidents? As the old saying goes, there’s nothing new under the sun: “We continue to see pilots making the same mistakes that lead to fatalities,” says Bruce Landsberg, executive director of the AOPA Air Safety Foundation.
Those same old errors are the targets of ASF’s newest live safety seminar: Top 5 Mistakes Pilots Make. Using accident data from the annual Joseph T. Nall Report on GA safety, foundation staff identified the top five pilot-related fatal accident categories—in short, the things within pilots’ control that are most likely to end up killing them. We’re not talking about small numbers here: If those five accident categories were eliminated, there would be 80 percent fewer pilot-related fatal accidents.
The upshot? Seminar attendees looking to minimize the likelihood of being involved in a fatal accident will get the biggest bang for their buck here. The lessons learned from decades of ASF accident research and analysis have gone into a neat two-hour program that covers the really big errors and provides simple, practical tips for avoiding them. ASF’s experienced presenters will give you valuable insights on maneuvering safety, avoiding weather problems, managing fuel properly (failure to do so being one of the top fatal accident causes, believe it or not), and much more.
So, how much would you pay to attend a seminar that might just save your life someday? Fifty dollars? One hundred dollars? How about zero dollars? The free, no-registration-required seminar begins its national tour in January and continues through May. Check the online schedule for a location near you, and look for a reminder in the mail.
With IFR-certified GPS receivers increasingly common in general aviation cockpits, and with new area navigation (RNAV) approaches popping up all over, poor-weather access to the nation’s airports has never been better. However, taking advantage of that increased access means becoming familiar with approaches that are a little different from the traditional ILS, VOR, and NDB procedures most pilots “grew up with.”
The AOPA Air Safety Foundation’s latest minicourse, IFR Chart Challenge: RNAV Approach, is a brand-new resource for pilots looking to make the transition. The second in a series of interactive courses aimed at helping pilots grasp the finer points of aeronautical charts and the procedures connected to them, the course is based on the RNAV (GPS) X RWY 1 approach at Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Surrounded by high terrain, and incorporating an unusual design element, it’s one approach you don’t want to fly without having spent some quality time with the chart.
And that’s probably what you’ll need to do if you want to answer all the questions correctly. From how much to adjust visibility minimums with out-of-service approach lighting to GPS CDI scaling and the different types of RNAV approach minima, everything’s fair game.
Whether you want to learn more about RNAV approaches or just feel like putting your approach chart knowledge to the test, the course is a fun, free way to do it. Check it out online.
In the 1990s, public-use airports were closing at an average rate of two per week. Over the past 10 years, thanks to the efforts of the AOPA Airport Support Network, AOPA member volunteers at almost 2,000 airports across the country have played an integral role helping AOPA slow that trend. For more information on how you can help support your airport, visit AOPA Online .
Airport Support Network Volunteer for Blue Ridge Airport in southern Virginia, Dennis Reeves, notified AOPA of a proposal to build a cell phone tower five nautical miles east of the airport on the approach end of the primary runway. With recently lowered IFR minimums, Reeves and the airport manager, Jason Davis, were concerned the tower would negate this positive development. AOPA worked with Reeves and submitted comments opposing the proposed location of the tower because of the significant increase in minimums that would result. The FAA ultimately ruled it a “presumed hazard” to air navigation. An FAA determination of presumed hazard often carries with it a suggested remedy. In many cases, this is a reduction to the height of the structure or simply advising it should be moved. In this case, the FAA was clear: The only acceptable height for a tower in this location is zero feet.
The FAA’s determination does not prevent the structure from being built because the FAA does not have legal or any other enforcement authority to prevent it. It may be difficult for the tower’s sponsor to obtain insurance on it owing to this ruling by the FAA, but that is subjective in each instance. Reeves’ early warning has made a significant impact, because allowing the FAA to identify the tower as a presumed hazard before its construction may prove to be the key to prevention.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: AOPA recommends members sign up to receive notices of proposed airspace obstructions such as cell phone towers, wind farms, buildings, and other hazards. Visit the Web site.
In 2006, Calhoun County (Texas) Airport’s ASN volunteer, Dianna Stanger, contacted AOPA for assistance in educating her local county commissioners and fellow airport advisory board members on the airport’s economic and intrinsic values.
Recently she again turned to AOPA, this time asking where she could find information on obtaining funding for an instrument landing system (ILS). AOPA’s airport experts provided Stanger with direction, including contacting her local FAA airports district office and reviewing the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program Handbook. Stanger’s self-education will be a beneficial resource to Calhoun County as it proceeds to invest in the future of their local airport.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Learn the economic impact value of your airport in your community and be armed with facts when talking to your elected officials. Go online to find out whether your state has a study. If not, you can do a rough estimate based on AOPA’s “What’s Your Airport Worth?” guide online.
Many of us have spent time on a rainy Saturday morning hangar flying with our fellow pilots while waiting for the weather to break, or to just enjoy the company. These are the best times to get caught up on the latest news at the airport. The Airport Support Network recognizes the intrinsic value of hangar flying, so we adapted the setting a little bit and provided a little extra motivation to get involved through our ASN Volunteer Regional Meetings.
Each year, ASN holds meetings in various parts of the country to bring volunteers together to discuss airport issues and share solutions or best practices and resources. Some of these meetings are held in conjunction with larger events such as AOPA Fly-In and AOPA Expo, EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Montana’s annual aviation conference, and Aviation North Expo in Fairbanks, Alaska.
Surprisingly, in a state where general aviation is so pivotal to conducting daily life, Alaska’s GA population is still learning the importance of forming local and statewide groups to promote and protect airports. With the help of the Alaska Airmen’s Association and AOPA’s Alaska Regional Representative Tom George, the state’s ASN volunteers have been opening the lines of communication across the vast northern lands and providing each other with ideas and support for their only means of connection: airports.
In Alaska, California, and every part of the country, airport support is often an overlooked part of general aviation’s challenges. If your airport doesn’t have a support group, learn how you can start one with AOPA’s online resources (www.aopa.org/asn/apsup01.html). The first thing you can do is get together with your local airport supporters and do some hangar flying, talking about your airport. For more help or to learn more about the Airport Support Network, visit the Web site and sign up today.
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