November 1, 2008
By Kathy Dondzila
During an aviation security hearing recently before the House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee on aviation, Transportation Security Administration chief Kip Hawley said that there is a strong general aviation community that is security conscious and is cognizant of its security responsibilities. Airport Watch, the AOPA/TSA initiative, encourages GA pilots to “Lock Up. Look Out.” Pilots voluntarily lock their aircraft and hangars and report any suspicious activity or persons at their airport. “Hawley’s comment that the GA community is security conscious is a tremendous compliment to all of the pilots who follow the Airport Watch program,” said Andy Cebula, AOPA executive vice president of government affairs. “Our industry-wide concerted effort is paying off. Continue to lock up and look out!”
The FAA has confirmed to AOPA that it is making plans to reduce the network of VORs across the country, beginning in 2010.
However, AOPA members are not quite convinced that a widespread VOR reduction is acceptable. Survey information shows that only about half of AOPA members believe a significant number of VORs can be eliminated without affecting their flight operations.
“Clearly this marks a big step forward in pilot acceptance of GPS and reduced reliance on VORs, but members are still saying ‘not yet,’” said Andy Cebula, AOPA executive vice president of government affairs.
Despite high levels of GPS use, FAA regulations require pilots who use GPS to also carry a primary navigation system, and for general aviation the primary system available for regulatory compliance is VOR. Second-generation GPS systems that incorporate the Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) do not require VOR as a backup, but the current state of equipage in the GA fleet is about 15 percent.
In a letter to the FAA, AOPA cautioned the FAA against making plans to reduce VORs because there are several key issues currently preventing the dismantling of the VOR infrastructure. Barriers include pilot confidence in relying solely on GPS signals and the lack of systematic implementation of area navigation. AOPA pointed out that the FAA should broaden its focus to ensure that all IFR flights can be conducted from takeoff to touchdown with an IFR GPS, regardless of the airports involved.
AOPA members are angry and confused about the new ADIZ training rule. The new rule applies to any pilot flying VFR within 60 nautical miles of the Washington, D.C., (DCA) VOR/DME, even though they may not intend to fly into the Air Defense Identification Zone itself.
Pilots must complete the FAA’s “special awareness training” by February 9, 2009, if they will be flying anywhere near Baltimore or Washington.
“Our members are telling us that it makes no sense to mandate training for pilots who’ll never fly in the ADIZ. And they can’t see the logic of forcing pilots who are already flying in the ADIZ or have been cleared for the flight restricted zone to take a course to teach them what they already know,” said Andy Cebula, AOPA executive vice president of government affairs. “Some pilots are also confused about which course they have to take, and whether they’ve already met the requirement.”
As to the first point, AOPA agreed and had argued forcefully against the mandatory training when it was first proposed in 2006. But because of the number of inadvertent ADIZ penetrations through the years, security and national defense officials wanted to ensure that any pilot who might come close to the ADIZ knows about it.
“Our sources tell us that security agencies pushed the FAA pretty hard on this,” said Cebula.
Now, as to the training itself, there are two online courses that meet the requirements of the rule. Some pilots may have already taken an older FAA course, Navigating the DC ADIZ, TFRs, and Special Use Airspace. While no longer offered, the course still qualifies, and pilots who have taken it can retrieve a copy of their completion certificate from the “My Courses” section of the FAA’s FAASTeam Web site.
The current course is Navigating the New DC ADIZ. It takes about 90 minutes to complete. If you’ve taken the course before, you don’t need to repeat it, just download a copy of your completion certificate.
Pilots could also complete the special awareness training by attending an FAA Safety Program seminar and obtaining an ADIZ training certificate. You don’t have to carry the certificate with you, but you will have to produce it “within a reasonable time” if asked by a law enforcement officer, FAA inspector, or TSA agent.
And even if you always file IFR near Washington, D.C., you’ll still want to take the course because if you’re within the 60-nm “speed ring” of DCA and you cancel IFR before you touch down, you’d then be VFR and subject to the rule. Gotcha.
Sen. John McCain’s running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, has a positive association with general aviation.
Considering that GA is the primary form of long-distance transportation in the forty-ninth state, it’s not surprising that Governor Palin has taken a stand on the user fee issue. In May 2007, she signed a resolution in opposition to the FAA’s plan to increase avgas taxes, impose user fees, and slash airport funding. AOPA and the Alaska Airmen’s Association had worked together to move the resolution through the Alaska legislature.
There is a family connection as well. Palin’s husband, Todd, is an AOPA member and Piper Super Cub owner.
AOPA recently sent each candidate a questionnaire concerning his position on general aviation issues. Responses from senators McCain and Obama about FAA funding, air traffic control, general aviation security, the environment, and their personal experiences with general aviation are published in this issue of AOPA Pilot.
“AOPA doesn’t endorse presidential candidates, but we do give you as much information as possible so that you can weigh the candidates’ stands on general aviation with the other issues that are important to you,” said AOPA President Phil Boyer.
Santa Clara County officials have backed off on their attempt to close California’s Reid-Hillview Airport.
The board of supervisors voted four to one to take no further action toward closure, and to accept a county counsel report that outlined the legal options relating to the airport. As AOPA had pointed out in a letter to the board, the only real option was to keep the airport open.
“This vote puts to rest the latest attempt to close Reid-Hillview,” said Bill Dunn, AOPA vice president of local airport advocacy. “The airport is such an important part of the transportation system, and we were prepared to do whatever necessary to keep it that way.”
AOPA had analyzed the counsel’s memo and found some of the data incomplete, misleading, or inaccurate. One statement AOPA did agree with was the counsel’s conclusion: “Should the board determine that it wishes to pursue the sale or lease of the Reid-Hillview Airport, the legal procedures would be extremely complex and lengthy.”
Among other things, the airport is under federal grant assurances to keep the airport open in perpetuity. Only under extremely rare circumstances does the FAA grant an exception, and Reid-Hillview would have to meet the criteria, which it doesn’t.
Both AOPA and the FAA are committed to ensuring that the airport continues to be operated as a publicly owned, public-use airport.
Pilots flying in southern New Mexico will have access to some military airspace in the White Sands Missile Range and Fort Bliss areas. The Army has decided that it isn’t effectively using some of the special-use airspace in the area and will replace part of Restricted Area 5107A with R-5107K, which is in effect from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. local, Monday through Friday, and could be activated at other times by notam. “R-5107A had been in effect continuously, so replacing it with this new restricted area that is time limited will help GA traffic transiting the area, especially along U.S. Route 54,” said Pete Lehmann, AOPA director of air traffic services. “AOPA will be asking the Army to consider reconfiguring R-5107C to eliminate a tight corridor in that area as well.”
As the economy and fuel prices force pilots to look for ways to lower the cost of flying, there is good news on the aviation insurance front.
Recognizing the improving general aviation safety record on a large number of GA aircraft types, aviation insurance underwriters are offering rate reductions. While not all aircraft will see rate reductions, and certain state restrictions may apply, many GA piston aircraft owners could see savings.
“An improved safety record with a decrease in accidents allows underwriters to offer lower rates on many GA aircraft,” said Brenda Jennings, branch manager and senior vice president of the AOPA Insurance Agency. “And those aircraft that have seen the best experience will see the greatest reductions in rates.”
Now would be an opportune time to shop the market for lower rates and the AOPA Insurance Agency can quickly quote the right policy at the best price for your unique needs. Call 800-622-AOPA (2672) to speak with an aviation insurance specialist, or visit the Web site.
AOPA recently launched the AOPA Legacy Society to allow pilots and aviation enthusiasts to give back to general aviation through a charitable bequest or other qualifying deferred donation.
Through these donations, members of the AOPA Legacy Society establish a permanent endowment fund for the betterment of general aviation.
“Many of the victories we have achieved in general aviation, from keeping airports open to the regulations we’ve kept to a minimum, have been accomplished by generous support from our members,” said AOPA President Phil Boyer. “The AOPA Legacy Society is another force in our fight to keep general aviation alive for future generations.”
Hal Shevers, founder and chairman of Sporty’s, is serving as honorary chairman and charter member of the AOPA Legacy Society. Call 800-955-9115 for more information.
AOPA has worked with the FAA equivalent in Mexico to offer an alternative to equipping U.S. aircraft in Mexico with a 406-MHz ELT. Mexican officials have indicated that a U.S. aircraft using an automatic portable 406-MHz ELT that has a technical standard order authorization could meet the requirements of the regulation. However, the association continues to work on other possible alternatives. Pilots operating U.S. aircraft would need to have the automatic portable 406-MHz ELT on board for all flights in Mexico starting July 1, 2009.
U.S. aircraft owners are stuck in the middle, so to speak, of three different stances from the United States, Canada, and Mexico on whether to mandate that aircraft be equipped with 406-MHz ELTs.
Currently, the FAA is not planning to mandate the 406-MHz ELT. Canada and Mexico plan to require the unit, although Mexico has agreed to an alternative for U.S.-registered aircraft. AOPA opposes any mandate for the 406-MHz ELT, believing that the option should be left to pilots.
The issue is heightened because satellites will stop monitoring 121.5 MHz, which most ELTs transmit, on February 1, 2009. Recently, U.S. aircraft owners received postcards from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that recommends switching to the 406-MHz ELT before that date. The NOAA effort is just a recommendation, not a requirement. (See “ Blind to the Satellites,” October AOPA Pilot.)The 121.5-MHz ELTs will still work after that date, and ATC and pilots will continue to monitor 121.5 MHz for distress calls.
“Members do not need to switch ELTs if they fly in the United States,” said Rob Hackman, AOPA senior director of regulatory affairs. “But if they fly internationally to Mexico or Canada, they will need to equip appropriately based on the individual country’s requirement.”
A basic 406-MHz ELT starts at about $900 but increases with the level of sophistication and cost of installation in the aircraft. Because of the expense, AOPA is recommending alternatives to Canada and Mexico that would allow U.S. pilots to carry a more affordable device on board the aircraft.
Canada is currently proposing to mandate the switch by February 1, 2009. Under the current proposal, any aircraft, regardless of the country of registry, would need to have a 406-MHz ELT installed on board in order to enter Canadian airspace. Under the current proposal, portable 406-MHz ELTs and personal locator beacons could not be used in lieu of an installed 406-MHz ELT.
Pilots are encouraged to explain how the rule would affect the frequency of their flights into Canada, the financial impact fewer flights would have on Canadian communities near airports, and alternatives to carrying the 406-MHz ELT.
“AOPA opposes any attempt to mandate 406-MHz ELTs,” Hackman explained. “We recognize the benefits that can be derived from the advanced ELTs available today, but the benefits must be balanced against cost and the needs of individual aircraft owners.
Pilots can e-mail comments on the Canadian proposal by October 23. Specify “To the Civil Aviation Regulatory Affairs Division” in the salutation.
The Sunset Sky Ranch Pilots Association at Elk Grove Airport in central California is going to the state Supreme Court in an attempt to keep the airport open, and AOPA is supporting their efforts. The privately owned, public-use airport had applied for the renewal of its conditional use permit, which the Sacramento Planning Commission renewed in 2005. However, adjacent property owners appealed the decision to the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors, which denied the request. The Court of Appeals for the Third Judicial District upheld the county’s decision. AOPA has requested that the state Supreme Court review the case.
If you’ve taken any of the AOPA Air Safety Foundation’s interactive online courses, you know they’re a fun way to become a safer, more knowledgeable pilot. But if you haven’t, there are a few things you should know.
First, the free courses are quick to complete. Most fall in the 45-minute range, and even the longest takes less than 90 minutes. And if you can’t find the time to finish in one sitting, don’t worry: Your progress is automatically saved, so you can pick right up where you left off.
Second, we realize that nobody wants to watch the online equivalent of a boring ground school lecture, so we stick to the important information and use cutting-edge graphics, video, and interactivity to keep things fun and fast-paced. In addition, many courses qualify for credit in the FAA Wings program and meet the “accident forgiveness” requirements of certain aviation insurance providers.
So check out the interactive courses area of the ASF Web site and see what catches your eye. With 25 topics to choose from (GPS, real-life accident case studies, aerodynamics, and IFR approach charts, to name just a few) you’re sure to find something interesting.
For a couple of months now, the AOPA Air Safety Foundation’s newest safety seminar, Mastering Takeoffs and Landings, has been drawing crowds of pilots eager for tips on getting to and from terra firma. But if you haven’t caught it yet, don’t worry: The free seminar’s run continues through early December, so there’s a good chance it’s still headed for your area. Look for a flyer in the mail, or find the nearest location by visiting the Web site.
At the seminar, our expert presenters take a practical, real-world approach to techniques that will help you make smooth, trouble-free takeoffs and landings. From short-field takeoffs to crosswind landings and everything in between, we cover the basics of getting up and down safely, while giving plenty of tips on doing it gracefully. There’s something for everyone here, and pilots of all experience levels will leave with some “take-home” tidbits.
Pilots headed for AOPA Expo in San Jose (November 6 through 8) can catch the seminar there as well. They’ll also have a chance to see several other ASF seminars on topics ranging from radio communications to single-pilot IFR. If you make it to the show, be sure to stop by our booth, where you can chat with ASF staff and see demonstrations of our online courses and other exciting products. Visit the Web site for more information.
You might recognize this scenario: the evening flight; the passengers waiting; the realization that it’s been six months since your last night landing; the rush to do three circuits of the traffic pattern. It’s one of those situations where the oft-noted distinction between “legal” and “safe” comes to mind.
So with the days getting shorter, now is a great time to check out the AOPA Air Safety Foundation’s Flying Night VFR Safety Hot Spot. Hot Spots are collections of resources on specific topics, designed to give pilots all the info they need in one convenient location. You’ll find a quick “checkup” document that covers the need-to-know information, as well as streaming videos, a collection of articles from AOPA Pilot magazine, ASF Safety Advisors, accident reports, and quizzes. Check it out online (scroll to the bottom of the page). (See “ Technique: City Lights,” page 116.)
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 in helping AOPA slow that trend. For more information on how you can help support your airport, visit AOPA Online.
In September, AOPA staff and the Airport Support Network (ASN) board of advisors held its annual meeting to plot a course for the program as it enters its eleventh year of promoting, protecting, and defending America’s community airports.
AOPA President Phil Boyer created the board four years ago to help guide the ASN program. “The ASN program is at the heart of our efforts to protect airports,” Boyer said. “That’s why we continue to aim for an ASN volunteer at every public-use airport in the country.”
Boyer and Executive Vice President of Government Affairs Andy Cebula led the day-long meeting, along with Jennifer Storm, the new director of ASN.
To help prepare for a successful 2009, the 15 board members were divided into working groups that covered three topics: ASN Volunteer Recruitment and Retention, Turning Volunteers into Advocates, and Using Social Networking in the ASN Program. “The working group topics were well focused and very pertinent to the continued health and growth of the ASN program,” said board member Howard Kave, ASN volunteer for Orange County Airport in New York.
The meeting identified previously untried strategies to assist in recruiting new members and enhancing the effectiveness of the existing base of volunteers.
Visit AOPA Online to ensure your airport has an ASN volunteer. If one is not listed, learn more about how you can play a key part of critical airport advocacy efforts by becoming an ASN volunteer.
Early last year, Al Lyscars, ASN volunteer at Biddeford Municipal Airport in Maine, notified AOPA that a referendum to close the Biddeford Airport would be appearing on the ballot this November. Lyscars worked with local pilots and AOPA to form the Friends of Biddeford Airport (FOBA) group as a proactive defense against the closure.
Lyscars continued the “save-the-airport” efforts by working with FOBA to hold the airport’s first-ever open house over Labor Day weekend.
The event featured an aircraft display, helicopter and biplane rides, an aerial banner towing demonstration, a Biddeford Fire Department Response Team demonstration, a 195th U.S. Army Band concert, and a rock-climbing wall, as well as great food, raffles, and prizes.
Admission was free and Cumberland and York Aviation offered a discount on fuel for pilots flying in to the event. Portions of sponsor donations benefited Angel Flight Northeast.
More than 2,000 visitors came out to help keep the airport open for future generations of aviators. As a member of the open house committee, Lyscars was satisfied with the results. “We wanted to show the citizens of Biddeford there are no secrets about what happens at the airport. They walked away with a better understanding of the airport’s importance to the community,” Lyscars said.
Review The Complete Guide to Holding an Airport Open House on AOPA Online to get step-by-step instructions and helpful tips for staging an airport open house that will engage pilots and help non-pilot neighbors appreciate the value of a convenient community airport.
Airport Support Network volunteer for North Las Vegas Airport, Kathleen Snaper, has been an outstanding advocate for general aviation. Snaper has worked closely with AOPA for nearly three years on issues ranging from a proposed development near the airport to runway safety education for local pilots.
As a flight instructor, she has taken a special interest in the safety record of the airport. Her expertise and assistance were especially helpful to AOPA in late August when two accidents occurred within a week near the airport.
When the Clark County Aviation director made public comments about restricting general aviation access to the airport, Snaper contacted AOPA right away. She kept AOPA’s media relations and government affairs departments up to speed on the informal discussions and community meetings that were held in the wake of the accidents.
Snaper worked with the Clark County Aviation Association to get an accurate message out to the nonflying public, including the local media.
“Kathleen Snaper has done everything we could ask an ASN volunteer to do to help the media and the public understand general aviation’s point of view,” said Chris Dancy, AOPA director of media relations. “She’s made good use of the resources AOPA has to offer.” For more information, visit AOPA Online for The AOPA Guide to Talking to Reporters. If an unfortunate tragedy occurs at your airport, contact AOPA at 800-872-2672 and ask for Media Relations, or call 301-695-2162 direct.
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AOPA thanks our members for their continued support in protecting the freedom to fly.