September 1, 2008
By Kathy Dondzila
Congress has once again extended the current FAA funding system, preserving the status quo on aviation taxes until September 30.
“The good news is that aviation fuel taxes won’t change during the summer flying season, and there are no new user fees,” said AOPA President Phil Boyer. “And this extension will let airports spend all of their Airport Improvement Program grants during this construction season.
“The bad news is that user fees still remain a possibility,” Boyer said. “The administration and the airlines have not given up, and until Congress passes and the president signs a new FAA funding bill without fees, we remain at risk.”
The FAA has been operating under a series of budget extensions since the previous FAA funding legislation lapsed. The House passed a new funding bill (H.R.2881) last year. That bill has no user fees but modestly increases aviation fuel taxes to account for inflation and funding for NextGen (next generation) air traffic control modernization.
The Senate, however, has been wrangling over two FAA bills—one with fees, one without. But, in April, the leaders of the Finance and Commerce committees (both have jurisdiction on different aspects of FAA funding and taxes) reached a compromise and presented a bill to the full Senate that increased jet fuel taxes but excluded user fees. The full Senate couldn’t come to agreement on the compromise bill because of contention over some nonaviation-related issues that had been included in the legislation.
With avgas prices hovering between $5 and $7 a gallon and auto gas prices double that of a year ago, nearly three-quarters of AOPA members have scaled back their flight time.
Looking for any way to assist members in what is becoming an aviation fuel crisis, AOPA joined a new, rapidly growing coalition that is led by the transportation industry to do just that: Stop Oil Speculation Now (S.O.S. Now).
The coalition acknowledges, “We need to increase domestic supply, oil exploration, alternative energy sources, and conservation. But we also need fair markets, curbing excessive speculation with tough, fair rules that protect consumers and lower prices.”
“It’s obvious that something needs to be done to lower the cost of fuel,” said AOPA President Phil Boyer. “We’ve joined this effort that is quickly gaining momentum, and we hope that it ultimately creates a national energy policy that Congress can adopt.”
AOPA is supporting a National Transportation Safety Board proposal that would allow the investigative body to collect unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) accident/incident data.
“The FAA is working on developing regulations that would allow UAVs to operate seamlessly in the National Airspace System,” said Melissa Rudinger, AOPA vice president of regulatory affairs. “This step proposed by the NTSB would help the industry better understand how UAVs operate and what goes wrong in an accident or incident.”
AOPA is a part of the FAA’s rulemaking committee that is making recommendations for UAVs’ seamless access to the National Airspace System. Once regulations have been established for UAVs operating in U.S. airspace, AOPA suggests that the NTSB revisit its proposal to ensure it is still up to date.
U.S. pilots who have flown in Canada are now being told they have to pay taxes on the Nav Canada user fees they’ve already paid, retroactively, going back five years.
“We have always opposed user fees, and this latest insult shows just how flawed and inefficient the system is,” said AOPA President Phil Boyer. “How much is Nav Canada now going to spend to attempt to track down the pilot of the aircraft to collect this tax? A simple fuel tax makes so much more sense.”
AOPA is asking Nav Canada to waive the tax collection for U.S. aircraft operators.
“Chasing after customers who have paid for services in full is poor business practice,” said Boyer. “This burden shouldn’t be placed on the backs of pilots who rightfully believed that they had completely fulfilled their financial obligations to Nav Canada.”
Boyer said that the logistical effort necessary to collect the service tax on air traffic service charges was “an excellent example of how fee for service or privatized air traffic control systems are flawed. The expenses incurred by Nav Canada just to collect revenues are much higher than the truly minor cost of collecting revenues through a fuel tax.”
“And the very idea of a tax on top of a fee. AOPA will continue to fight to make sure the United States never tries to go down that airway,” Boyer vowed.
In a victory for the aviation community, the aviation sales tax exemption will remain law in Massachusetts.
For months, AOPA and local aviation groups have worked tirelessly to demonstrate the value of retaining the tax exemption in the face of opposition from Gov. Deval Patrick, who wanted to repeal the exemption from the state’s 5-percent sales-and-use tax for aircraft and parts.
“This is great news for pilots and aircraft owners because keeping the tax exemption helps keep the cost of flying down,” said AOPA Regional Representative Craig Dotlo, who made numerous trips to Boston to discuss the exemption with lawmakers. “And it’s good for the economy of Massachusetts because it helps keep aviation business within the state.”
Senate President Therese Murray, along with Rep. Don Humason and the members of the budget conference committee, showed tremendous leadership in protecting this important tax exemption for the aviation community.
AOPA’s effort was successful, thanks to important help from members who contacted their elected representatives to urge continuation of the tax exemption.
AOPA has asked the California Energy Commission to suspend planned construction on the first of two energy plants to be built less than two miles from Hayward Executive Airport and evaluate the combined impact of the two plants on aviation in the region.
In a recent letter, AOPA told the commission that smoke and vapor plumes from the proposed power plant could pose a hazard to aircraft using Hayward Executive. The association also asked the commission to suspend all future construction on the plant and conduct an evaluation of the combined impact of the two proposed power plants.
Hard on the heels of a decision not to increase lease rates at Alaska’s international airports, the state has issued an emergency rule suspending a lease rate increase at rural airports through the end of the year.
AOPA and other aviation groups had asked the state to re-evaluate the increases, which took effect in March, on the grounds that the sudden increase in lease rates combined with rising fuel and energy costs would make aviation more expensive for Alaska pilots, and could damage the state’s vital aviation industry.
Privately owned airports in New Jersey are one step closer to getting protection from condemnation by municipalities after a bill supported by the New Jersey aviation community and AOPA passed the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee. The measure, S.B.559, now moves to the full senate. “Because 28 of the state’s 43 public-use airports are privately owned, this kind of protection is particularly important for New Jersey,” said Joey Colleran, AOPA manager of legislative affairs. “That’s why we’ve spent so much time in Trenton, working with lawmakers to find ways to protect privately owned fields from eminent domain proceedings.” Private airports in the state are threatened by encroaching commercial and residential development, and without legal protection, local governments can seize privately owned airport property and convert it to nonaviation uses.
AOPA is supporting a measure before the North Carolina legislature that could be the first step to the creation of a new airport in Orange County.
S.B.1925, which is now before the state House, would give the University of North Carolina (UNC) system the power to create airport authorities, a move that could pave the way for a new airport near Chapel Hill.
Despite active opposition from AOPA and local pilots, UNC Chapel Hill has long planned to close Horace Williams Airport. “We believe keeping Horace Williams open has always been the best option for the university and the aviation community, and have insisted a replacement facility should be built if UNC ultimately closes the airport,” said Greg Pecoraro, AOPA vice president of regional affairs. “If this legislation is enacted into law, it would be an important step to making that replacement possible.”
“Fifteen years ago AOPA made the decision to form an agency that members would own (along with our partner, AON), rather than the traditional association model of endorsing an agency or underwriter and getting a small royalty,” said AOPA President Phil Boyer. “AOPA members now have an equity interest in this very successful agency—the largest light aircraft insurance agency in the world. Annual profit from the venture helps to fund AOPA projects such as Airport Watch, Airport Support Network, Let’s Go Flying, and other efforts that depend so heavily on AOPA Member Products.”
Five years ago, the AOPA Insurance Agency introduced special AOPA member-only discounts for owners, renters, and CFIs. AOPA members may qualify for a 5-percent AOPA-member-only discount when their owned policy is placed with AIG Aviation. AOPA members with renter and CFI policies through AOPA Insurance Agency may qualify for a 10-percent AOPA-member-only discount at renewal if the pilot has maintained a good flying record during the policy year. Now there’s another great advantage for safety-minded pilots—the AOPA Accident Forgiveness and Deductible Waiver Enhancement—improving pilot safety consciousness while helping to lower a pilot’s out-of-pocket expenses in the event of an accident.
“Our goal has always been to offer the best possible policy at the right price,” said Greg Sterling, AOPA executive vice president of non-dues revenue. “Over the course of 15 years, we’ve built a reputation for helping pilots keep their costs down.”
Whether you need owners, renters, or CFI coverage, the AOPA Insurance Agency will provide you with the best advice on aviation insurance, as well as a quick, easy, no-obligation way to get quotes on policies from multiple “A”-rated underwriters. And once you have the coverage you need, the AOPA Insurance Agency will deliver the outstanding personal service you deserve, year after year. To learn more about the AOPA Insurance Agency, visit the Web site and get a quote. You can also speak with an aviation insurance specialist by calling 800-622-2672.
Sharing the expenses of owning an aircraft is an effective way to stay in the air and minimize the impact of rising fuel costs. Many AOPA members belong to local flying clubs and enjoy being able to fly their aircraft for much less than it would cost to rent from an FBO. You’ll find information on organizational structure, suggestions for building membership, tips on taxes and insurance, and ideas for day-to-day operations, as well as flying events.
The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association’s annual Expo will be returning to Northern California this year, arriving in San Jose on November 6, 7, and 8.
“Expo is the aviation event for serious pilots,” said AOPA President Phil Boyer. “And it’s a great chance for you to share your passion with someone who might be interested in flying, too. Bring a friend to Expo so they can learn what it’s all about.” AOPA will offer free “Let’s Go Flying” seminars, and every attendee may qualify for a $99 rebate on their introductory flight.
AOPA Expo is the perfect location to visit with AOPA staff, view the latest general aviation aircraft, browse more than 550 exhibits in the spacious San Jose McEnery Convention Center, attend more than 60 hours of seminars, and talk directly with industry leaders, fellow pilots, and aircraft owners.
San Jose has a unique pedestrian-friendly downtown area, adjacent to the convention center, packed with restaurants, cultural sights and shopping districts.
Register now—pre-register by October 6 and save up to 29 percent. To register and reserve hotel rooms, visit the Web site.
If you’ve been flying long, you’ve probably read (or at least heard of) Stick and Rudder, Wolfgang Langewiesche’s classic introduction to aerodynamics and aircraft control. More than 60 years after its original publication, it remains one of the least intimidating introductions to a topic that can be dauntingly complex.
So when it came time for the AOPA Air Safety Foundation to develop a pilot-friendly tutorial on aerodynamics, you can probably guess where we looked for inspiration. Like Langewiesche’s masterpiece, ASF’s brand-new interactive course, Essential Aerodynamics: Stalls, Spins, and Safety, aims to give pilots a practical, plain-language guide to the topic, helping them to understand how wings fly, and connect that understanding to the maneuvering mistakes that cause roughly one-third of fatal pilot-related accidents every year.
With the help of some state-of-the-art animation and a dedication to simplicity, Essential Aerodynamics walks participants through basic aerodynamic concepts, and then ties them to real-world issues. Among other things, we investigate what makes airplanes fly (no, it’s not money), how weight and G forces affect the wing, why angle of attack, airspeed and pitch don’t have a fixed relationship, why stalls and spins really happen, and much more.
The course is fun and free, so be sure to give it a try—and forward the link to your pilot friends. Completion takes roughly 45 to 60 minutes, but your progress is automatically saved, so there’s no need to finish in one sitting. Find it online.
Longtime Cessna Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Russell W. Meyer recently became the new chairman of the AOPA Air Safety Foundation’s board of visitors, a panel whose members help guide and promote the foundation in its safety mission.
Meyer’s accession followed the departure of board of visitors chairman and former FAA administrator David R. Hinson.
“It has been my privilege to work with you and witness the phenomenal growth and quality of ASF programs and outreach,” Hinson said at the transition ceremony.
Continuing that growth and seeking opportunities to reach even more pilots will be part of Meyer’s mission as well. “Russ’s selection will bring new opportunities to expand visibility of ASF to the industry and GA pilots,” said ASF Executive Director Bruce Landsberg. “Up until a few years ago, ASF was one of the better kept secrets for helping new and experienced pilots in safety education. That has changed with the advent of the Internet and a marked increase in funding.”
That funding has allowed the foundation to produce more than 20 online courses while continuing to offer more than 200 free safety seminars nationwide. ASF relies on tax-deductible contributions from pilots like you to fund its education programs and improve general aviation safety. To donate, visit the Web site.
Imagine yourself on a cross-country flight. All’s well until, suddenly, a menacing shape creeps into your peripheral vision. Soon your eyes confirm what the sinking feeling in your stomach has already told you: You’ve been intercepted.
Pilots who plan their flights carefully are unlikely to find themselves in such situations. Still, it’s important to be familiar with intercept procedures and be prepared to respond appropriately—which is why it’s a good time to take ASF’s intercept procedures safety quiz. The 10-question quiz covers all the need-to-know information, and gives detailed answer explanations for those who want to learn more. And as a bonus, anyone who completes a quiz can register to win a Sporty’s Air-Scan V Aviation Radio/Scanner. Find the quiz online.
While you’re at it, be sure to download ASF’s handy intercept procedures quick-reference card and take it with you when you fly.
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.
Since Randy Burdette’s appointment to director of the Virginia Department of Aviation (VDOA), he has worked closely with AOPA to support the state’s airports and the interests of advancing general aviation. As a former ASN volunteer, Burdette understands the tremendous value in proactively watching out for any threats to an airport, helping local residents understand its importance to the community, and helping rally pilots and other aviation supporters in case of a threat. During his tenure he has frequently called on AOPA for help in the state.
But a few months ago, he made the best offer so far. Burdette told AOPA that he wanted to make Virginia the first state to have an ASN volunteer at all of its public use airports. ASN staff worked with Burdette and his staff to put together a “first-to-100-percent event” which was held June 28 at the Virginia Aviation Museum in Richmond. During the meeting, participants received briefings from VDOA staff about the value of aviation in Virginia, and how the state is actively working to promote and improve its airport system. They also heard from AOPA staff on the top issues affecting airports and aviation nationwide, as well as the issues that can threaten their local airports.
More than a dozen current ASN volunteers were joined by a several more individuals interested in becoming volunteers. Four new ASN volunteers signed up for the program, bringing ASN representation to 48 of Virginia’s 66 public-use airports, and Burdette promised there are more to come.
What you can do: The ASN program was founded 10 years ago to help AOPA “Promote, Protect, and Defend” America’s public-use airports. ASN volunteers learn how to watch for threats that could lead to restricted operations or attempts to close the airport, and help rally local support for their airport. Today, the ASN volunteer corps has grown to nearly 2,000 members. That leaves more than 3,000 airports that don’t participate in AOPA’s “early warning system.”
Every state should take up Virginia’s challenge to be the first to 100-percent ASN coverage. Does your airport have a volunteer? If not, can you help, or do you know someone who might like to be a volunteer? Go to the ASN Web site to check on your airport and nominate someone to be a volunteer.
What should have been a routine update to an airport master plan has turned into a battle over the future of Venice Municipal Airport.
The city received a grant in 2005 to update the plan, and engaged consultants to help. In developing their draft, the consultants used current FAA standards to draw the runway protection zones (RPZ) and safety zones, which created a different picture than the existing dimensions.
That’s where the conflict began. The protection and safety zones would impact some residences to the northwest of the airport in the RPZ for Runway 13/31 and also impact the Venice Municipal Golf Course.
A key component of the conflict is that the golf course has been and continues to be on airport property leased to the Venice Golf Association. In maintaining the proper safety standards at the airport, several holes would be impacted, and two buildings would need to be removed from the runway safety areas for Runway 4/22. The course is one of only two municipal courses in the county open to the general public. Many in the community want to preserve the course as it is, and instead shrink Runway 4/22 and the associated RPZs and RSAs. The FAA objects and the master plan update is at a standstill.
Fortunately, Venice Municipal has a longtime volunteer, John Yurosko, who has kept AOPA informed and has worked closely with the Venice Aviation Society and the Venice Aviation Business Association. With the early notice from Yurosko, AOPA has had the opportunity to support the local pilot groups and was able to weigh in with the city and the FAA to prevent shortsighted actions that would have caused even bigger headaches for airport neighbors in the future and would have lost the airport a vital runway designated as the noise abatement runway (Runway 4/22) in the voluntary noise abatement procedures, which sends traffic out over the water away from residential districts.
As the city tries to develop alternatives to satisfy airport needs and local neighborhood organizations, the airport sits in need of important repairs. The city must close out the grant for the master plan update before it can get funding for additional repairs.
What you can do: Check with county or city planners to learn about the zoning and land use designations around your airport. Make sure you know what property belongs at the airport, and how it’s being used. Find out who owns the property adjacent to the airport, and what the owner and local governments have planned for those properties. Visit AOPA’s ASN Web site and download our newest resource, Participating in the Planning Process: A Guide for Airport Advocates.
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AOPA thanks our members for their continued support in protecting the freedom to fly.