February 1, 2009
By Kathy Dondzila
If Congress were to include the aviation sector in its economic stimulus packages, more than 40,000 high-paying jobs would be created, aviation safety would be improved, and there would be positive effects for the environment, according to a coalition of aviation organizations.
The group of 12, including AOPA, told Senate and House leaders that the industry’s proposals would “not only achieve short-term economic stimulus goals, but would also lead to long-term efficiencies and economic growth.” The proposals also would improve environmental stewardship.
“Investing in the aviation infrastructure will put people to work, help local communities across the country, and encourage additional economic investment,” said AOPA President Craig Fuller. “The group proposals incorporate many of the ideas that AOPA discussed recently in a private meeting with President-elect Barack Obama’s transportation planning transition team.”
Included in the industry proposals were more funds for airport construction and incentives to aircraft owners and airlines for installing equipment allowing them to take full advantage of the NextGen air traffic control system. The group proposed that some $3 billion be spent on NextGen infrastructure, which would reduce airline delays, improve aviation safety, and reduce emissions. Included in the proposal is some $2.5 billion to support aircraft equipage, including ADS-B (automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast) transceivers.
The aviation organizations proposed that the current Airport Improvement Program receive an additional $1 billion in funding. There are more than 5,000 public-use airports in the United States, but only about 500 have commercial service. General aviation airports are the transportation life-links for the majority of America’s communities.
“There are improvement projects that would increase the utility and safety of these vital airports that could go to contract within 30 days if the money were available,” said Fuller. The aviation groups predicated that this proposed infrastructure funding could create some 35,000 jobs.
While the aviation industry is feeling the current economic pain like everyone else, “all forecasts point to robust growth in the civil aviation sector in the coming years,” the group said. The aviation industry directly or indirectly generates more than 10 million jobs and $1.2 trillion in annual economic activity, representing some 5.6 percent of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product.
Despite congressional inquiries, economic studies, pilot opposition, and AOPA’s all-out effort to convince officials that the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Area Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) was an unreasonable, burdensome security restriction, the FAA has announced its permanence as a special flight rules area (SFRA).
The government created the SFRA despite overwhelming opposition from general aviation pilots. More than 22,000 pilots wrote to the FAA opposing the rule.
“It’s extremely disappointing that the ADIZ—something that was hastily implemented as a temporary measure—has become federal regulation,” said Andy Cebula, AOPA executive vice president of government affairs. “We never gave up trying to eliminate the ADIZ, working with security officials, members of Congress, the White House, and the FAA.”
The ADIZ, which has been in effect by notam since 2003, will be under 14 CFR Part 93 as the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Area Special Flight Rules Area starting in February. The 30-nautical-mile-radius ADIZ remains the same, extending from the surface up to 18,000 feet msl, as does the 60-nm speed ring. Anyone planning to fly within 60 nm of the special flight rules area must complete the FAA’s online ADIZ training course, Navigating the New DC ADIZ.
During a recent aviation security summit in Washington, D.C., with airport officials and representatives from the Transportation Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security, AOPA expressed members’ concerns about the proposed Large Aircraft Security Program.
The proposal applies to aircraft weighing more than 12,500 pounds and calls for flight crewmember criminal history records checks, watch list matching of passenger manifests, aircraft security, biennial third-party audits of each aircraft operator, and new airport security requirements.
AOPA Vice President of Security Craig Spence participated on a general aviation security panel during the summit and addressed the rule’s unprecedented intrusion on general aviation by applying commercial standards. He also discussed the fact that no justification has been provided for setting the aircraft weight requirement at 12,500 pounds, concerns that the rule could expand to all sizes of GA aircraft, and the requirement to use and pay for third-party auditors to perform a government function.
“This proposal represents an unprecedented move to regulate general aviation security,” said Spence. “It fails to take into account the inherent differences between general aviation and commercial flying and imposes a set of comprehensive and costly security regulations without justification.”
An FAA plan to cut costs could end up costing pilots. The agency wants to reduce the number of chart vendors to only those selling at least $5,000 worth of charts annually. Currently, businesses need to sell more than $500 worth each year to be a charting agent. The new threshold became effective October 1, 2009.
According to an AOPA survey of 30 randomly selected aviation businesses that sell charts, only six would be qualified to continue.
“AOPA’s primary concern is a potential loss of access to safety materials, and potentially increased costs to end users,” wrote Randy Kenagy, AOPA government affairs chief of staff, in a recent letter to the FAA. He later explained, “Pilots in outlying areas should not be required to purchase charts online as this would necessitate planning chart purchases weeks in advance, or be faced with expedited shipping costs. This represents degradation in service, which would result in pilots not having the tools required for safety of flight.”
The FAA has said that larger chart distributors could ship charts to smaller businesses, but has so far neglected to provide specific information on how that plan would work.
AOPA filed formal comments in response to an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) notice concerning greenhouse gas emissions, pointing out that piston-powered aircraft account for approximately one-tenth of 1 percent of total emissions. AOPA added that the figure could fall further as technological changes make GA increasingly environmentally friendly.
“General aviation greenhouse gas emissions pale in comparison to other transportation sources,” said Andy Cebula, AOPA executive vice president of government affairs. “The EPA should carefully consider aviation safety and the cost to comply before initiating any future rulemaking on such a small greenhouse gas emitter.”
AOPA told the EPA that imposing new regulations, equipment requirements, or operational changes on general aviation would be difficult to justify since GA is not a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions. The EPA’s advance notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) followed a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that compels the agency to regulate greenhouse gases.
AOPA’s involvement in this issue is critical. While the EPA notice will not cause any immediate changes to general aviation aircraft or operations, the issue of emissions is expected to be an area of interest for the new Congress.
On the heels of approving a major long-term development agreement for Oceanside Municipal Airport, the city is taking action to prevent the sale of airport land, asking a federal judge to sort out the controversy.
Oceanside purchased the land in 2003 using federal Airport Improvement Program funds. At the time, the city agreed to develop the land for aeronautical purposes within five years and not to sell the land without FAA approval. But under the purchase agreement with Deutsch Co., the city also agreed that if it had not developed the land within five years, Deutsch Co. could buy it back at the same price the city paid—a right Deutsch’s successor company, AELD, now wants to exercise.
Earlier this year, the FAA told the city that it could not sell the land back to Deutsch because it used federal money for the purchase. Now Oceanside wants to sort out the mess in light of a 50-year “development lease” approved by the city council last month. That lease would allow Airport Property Ventures, a Los Angeles-based company that includes former executives of the agency that runs Los Angeles International Airport, to spend $21 million on airport improvements over the next 25 years.
“It is encouraging that the city of Oceanside recognizes the need to retain this land for airport development and is taking proactive steps to resolve the conflicts surrounding its ownership,” said Bill Dunn, AOPA vice president of local airport advocacy.
AOPA has worked actively with Oceanside users and the Oceanside Airport Association against attempts to sell airport property and restrict airport use.
AOPA is asking Michigan legislators not to increase aviation fuel taxes by changing the tax calculation from three cents per gallon to 3 percent of the wholesale price of a gallon. At current fuel prices, the proposed calculation method could double the amount of fuel tax pilots pay.
AOPA warned that increasing the fuel tax, which is levied in addition to a 6-percent sales tax on aviation fuel, aircraft, and aircraft parts, would further increase the cost of flying at a time when aviation is already suffering from high fuel prices and a slumping economy. Additionally, higher taxes could hurt the state’s transportation industry and economy by pushing business to neighboring states with more aviation-friendly policies. AOPA asked legislators to consider alternative means of raising revenues before upping the fuel tax.
AOPA has been closely monitoring Michigan’s aviation tax legislation, and AOPA has testified at hearings held by the state’s Transportation Funding Task Force. That task force presented several funding options to lawmakers, including the current tax increase proposal.
Nevada’s Clark County Commission recently passed a resolution declaring its intent to ask Congress for unique powers to restrict access to county airports, including North Las Vegas and five other airports. But AOPA is warning that letting local governments decide who can and can’t use an airport could undermine the national air transportation system.
“One of the big reasons the aviation system in this country is so effective is that the federal government makes the rules, so they are consistent across local jurisdictions,” said Heidi Williams, AOPA senior director of airports. “It would be a mistake for the federal government to cede some of that authority to local governments.”
AOPA wrote commissioners, asking them to defer action on the resolution and offering to continue to work with the county and local pilots to improve safety at the airport, which has been the scene of recent high-profile accidents.
The association also met with the Clark County Department of Aviation earlier this year to advise the panel that it does not have the authority to restrict access to North Las Vegas, which has accepted federal airport improvement grants and associated obligations to keep the airport open without discrimination. AOPA staff shared several recommendations on working collaboratively with the local pilot community and residents to help resolve concerns about airport safety. In addition, the AOPA Air Safety Foundation developed a special seminar on flying safely at urban airports, which was recently presented in North Las Vegas at the Texas Station Gambling Hall and Hotel.
As part of an effort to increase public understanding of general aviation, the Clark County Aviation Association, with the help of AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer Kathleen Snaper, hosted an open house at North Las Vegas in January.
Have you ever found yourself stuck in a long line of traffic inching your way toward a toll plaza, wasting time and gas with every minute that passes? Chances are you have, and you know just how inconvenient it can be. A recent study surveying Avis frequent business travelers has found that the amount of time spent waiting in cash toll lines has doubled since last year.
Imagine being able to avoid the lines by driving through the electronic toll payment lanes. Avis renters are able to do just that with eToll, an electronic toll collection program. This program allows you to skip the cash toll lines and reach your destination faster. So the next time you need to rent a car, take advantage of Avis eToll and enjoy the ride.
Don’t forget to use your AOPA discount code, A451348, and save up to 25 percent when you visit online. Plus you’ll be providing AOPA valuable revenue, which is reinvested to fund our daily advocacy efforts to maintain the freedom, safety, and affordability of general aviation.
Instrument-rated pilots know it’s important to be familiar with the regulations that govern IFR flight. But when it comes time to actually crack open the FAR/AIM and wade through the rules, enthusiasm understandably tends to wane.
That’s why the AOPA Air Safety Foundation has developed a practical, plain-language guide to the regulations that matter when you’re flying in the system. The latest addition to ASF’s ongoing series on instrument flight, IFR Insights: Regulations spells out what pilots need to know to stay legal, while connecting that knowledge to the real world of flight planning, fuel, weather, and air traffic control (ATC).
With the help of scenarios, quizzes, practical tips, and an interactive 1970’s-era game show, the course covers the bases while keeping everything in context and stressing that “legal” doesn’t necessarily equal “safe.” Among other things, it takes a comprehensive look at the regulations that govern pilot and aircraft currency, flight planning, ATC interactions, and instrument approaches.
Whether you’re instrument rated or just hoping to be someday, be sure to give the course a try. Completion takes about 45 to 60 minutes, but your progress is automatically saved, so there’s no need to finish in one sitting. Find it online.
Last summer’s tragic back-to-back accidents at the North Las Vegas Airport—one of which took the lives of two people on the ground—led to an outpouring of local concern about the potential dangers of flight operations at community airports.
In an effort to allay those concerns and educate pilots about techniques for safe flying in urban areas, ASF presented a special live safety seminar at the Texas Station Gambling Hall and Hotel in North Las Vegas on January 14.
Titled “Safe Skies, Good Neighbors,” the seminar covered a number of relevant topics, from traffic pattern issues to maneuvering flight, emergency procedures, and neighborhood-friendly flying.
“The number of fatal general aviation accidents is very low, and it is rare that anyone on the ground is injured or killed when an aircraft crashes,” said ASF Executive Director Bruce Landsberg. “A situation like this, in which two aircraft crashed into houses in the same area less than one week apart, is extremely rare. But we can’t discount even rare incidents. That’s why we reached out to pilots in the area.”
Earlier, the foundation had sent an e-mail to nearly 3,000 pilots in the North Las Vegas area, encouraging them to demonstrate their commitment to safety by completing ASF online courses.
At the AOPA Air Safety Foundation, we’re always working to develop new safety resources for pilots. In the next few months, keep an eye out for two brand-new interactive courses. Say It Right: Mastering Radio Communication will help you fly the microphone as skillfully as you do the airplane, and Runway Safety will investigate techniques for getting safely to and from the runway every time.
Tentative schedule; visit the Web site for confirmed information.
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.
Georgia: The grand opening of Paulding County Regional on November 14, 2008, represents another success for general aviation. Located northwest of Atlanta, the first airport to be built in Georgia in more than 30 years opened for business with a 5,500-foot runway following a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) and other state and local officials.
“The addition of this airport will have a positive economic impact on the county, with the creation of business opportunities, jobs, and the associated revenues from same,” said ASN volunteer John Betsill. “I and other aircraft owners in Paulding can now base our aircraft where we live. The Atlanta area has long needed another general aviation airport, and Paulding County Regional is it.”
The award-winning comprehensive master plan for the 750-acre airport includes a business park and room for future runway expansion up to 6,500 feet. Other capabilities, such as ILS and GPS approaches, are in development.
“It is always exciting to see a new airport opening, especially when it is accompanied by good land-use planning to fend off the noise and encroachment problems that so often lead to airport closures,” said Heidi Williams, AOPA senior director of airports.
What you can do: Read the resource Betsill shared with local officials— AOPA’s Guide for Airport Advocates: Participating in the Planning Process.
Missouri: Thanks to the work of ASN volunteer Terry Propst and the Citizens for Airport Economic Expansion (CAEE), Festus Memorial Airport will remain open.
The Festus City Council unanimously voted in December 2008 to accept a bid from CAEE to purchase the only public-use airport in one of Missouri’s fastest growing counties.
“With the city wanting to sell the airport, we put together an investor group and offered $2.3 million for the property,” said Terry Propst.
For the last four years, CAEE has handled airport operations at its own expense while it desperately explored alternatives to avoid an airport closure. The City of Festus (which owns the airport) had been leasing it to CAEE, but recently hired a real estate firm with the intention of selling it.
In collaboration with the Missouri Department of Transportation, an economic impact study was conducted to identify how the airport could benefit the community. Based on the findings, CAEE set its sights on adding an industrial park and expanding the 2,200-foot runway to 5,000 feet.
The group has its work cut out for it in order to recoup the investment.
But Propst said, “Our group is excited to move forward with development of the airport. We believe it can be a thriving commercial, industrial, and recreational area.”
What you can do: For information on determining an airport’s economic impact, check out AOPA’s Guide to Obtaining Community Support for Your Local Airport.
When the Friends of Iowa City Airport (FOICA) learned a cell tower was proposed for construction right off the departure end of Runway 30 at Iowa City Municipal in Johnson County, Iowa, they acted immediately to prevent its approval.
In September 2008, many of the 300 FOICA members were concerned about this safety issue. “We went to the airport commission and explained the problems the cell tower would cause,” said ASN volunteer Jay Honeck.
Honeck was able to proactively address the issue because he had signed up for proposed obstruction e-mail notifications from the FAA. Although not all proposed structures require review, those that do go through the FAA’s obstruction evaluation process to determine its impact on the safe and efficient use of airspace.
When the proposal was opened for public comment, Honeck rallied local pilots to submit comments on the obstruction’s impact on airport operations.
Honeck is no stranger to airport protection efforts. Five years ago, he and FOICA united to prevent the Iowa City Council from disbanding the airport commission with the intention of closing the airport.
Today, Honeck is attending community meetings to ensure the public is aware of the airport’s value and keeping local pilots engaged with regular e-mail updates.
What you can do: Learn more about the FAA obstruction evaluation process from AOPA’s education brief and create an account to receive FAA e-mail alerts when an obstacle is proposed in your area.
Technical Communications Manager, Kathy Dondzila, joined AOPA in 1990 and is an instrument-rated private pilot.
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