March 1, 2009
By Kathy Dondzila
Plans for a proposed economic stimulus package will include money for aviation infrastructure, specifically for airport improvements, according to an executive summary of the House Democrats’ stimulus legislation recently released by House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.).
AOPA has strongly encouraged lawmakers to include general aviation in any economic stimulus proposal, raising the issue with President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team as far back as November of last year. At that time, AOPA noted that each year, general aviation contributes more than $150 billion to U.S. economic output and employs nearly 1.3 million people whose collective annual earnings exceed $53 billion.
“This investment in airports is important,” said AOPA President Craig Fuller. “We know from experience that general aviation creates jobs and fuels growth, so money invested in aviation will be well spent. But this legislation still has a long way to go, and we would like to see the final measure expand to include funding for air traffic control modernization as well.”
The stimulus package, which is intended to spur economic growth and is separate from the government’s bailout programs for troubled corporations, is expected to include $3 billion for airport improvements, with money allotted to projects to improve safety and reduce congestion. Typically, about 38 percent of money slated for airports is spent on general aviation fields. While that’s not a guarantee, it could mean more than $1 billion for GA airports.
If the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) had any illusions about how strongly the aviation community feels about its proposed Large Aircraft Security Program, those illusions were dispelled before a recent public hearing—the first of five—ever began. The hearing room, with seating for more than 100, was filled to standing-room-only capacity.
From the outset, the TSA panel members stated that they were there to listen. Except to answer three very specific questions, they did not respond to participants’ comments.
AOPA Northeast Regional Representative Craig Dotlo told the TSA that AOPA has some significant concerns with the proposed rule: It outsources what should be an inherently government function—security oversight; it applies commercial standards to general aviation; and, its weight threshold captures very small aircraft, especially when compared to the aircraft used in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The association is also concerned that the program could be applied to all aircraft and all airports in the future.
National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) President Ed Bolen emphasized those points as well, and recommended that the TSA establish an aviation rulemaking committee.
“We believe that by working together, we can harden business aviation against attack without destroying it in the process,” Bolen said. “We deserve a dialog about how best to do this.”
Speaker after speaker reiterated AOPA’s main points and NBAA’s call for an aviation rulemaking committee.
“Whether it’s through an aviation rulemaking committee or some other mechanism, AOPA remains committed to working with the TSA to enhance general aviation security in the way that is least burdensome to our members,” said Craig Spence, AOPA vice president of aviation security.
With a new administration having recently taken office, AOPA is seizing a key opportunity to educate new White House staff and cabinet members, as well as members of Congress and their staffs, about the value of general aviation. So, the association is creating a powerhouse in its Washington, D.C., lobbying office.
Lorraine C. Howerton, AOPA’s new vice president of legislative affairs, will work with AOPA President Craig Fuller and AOPA Executive Vice President of Government Affairs Andy Cebula to bring general aviation infrastructure—airports, navigation network, and air traffic control modernization—to the forefront of discussions regarding funding, research, and regulation.
Howerton has more than 25 years of experience in government relations, with key responsibilities in the transportation sector. She was deputy director for the Program Operations Division within the Department of Transportation, Office of Inspector General. She also was the vice president of planning and transportation funding for the Air Transport Association for two years in the 1990s.
Howerton’s career in Washington, D.C., took off in the late 1970s when she worked for the late Rep. Lawrence Coughlin for 14 years.
“I’m excited about serving AOPA members on Capitol Hill and using every opportunity to promote the value of general aviation with congressional leaders,” Howerton said. “My goal is to convey how important it is to reserve funds for general aviation airports, navigation systems, and the National Airspace System.”
Beginning in May, pilots who fly internationally will have to provide passenger information to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) using a new electronic reporting system. But CBP’s Electronic Advance Passenger Information System, better known as eAPIS, is available now, and pilots may begin using it on a voluntary basis to file passenger manifests before launching on any international flight.
In order to use the system, pilots must register for an online account. Once the account is approved—a process that CBP officials say will take about one week—the pilot will be able to use the system to file passenger manifests electronically. Under the new rule, those manifests must be filed at least one hour before departing from or arriving the United States, but the new system allows pilots to file as far in advance as they wish, giving them the freedom to provide information for their return trip before leaving home, where they have Internet access.
“We were pleased that security officials acted on many of the concerns we raised about this rule, including the fact that Internet access isn’t always available, especially at remote destinations in other countries,” said Craig Spence, AOPA vice president of security. “Now we will be working closely with CBP during the implementation process to ensure that no undue burden is placed on GA and the process becomes transparent to the user.”
Through May 17, 2009, pilots may choose to use either the existing Form 178 or the eAPIS system. Pilots should note that, while using eAPIS is voluntary for now, those who choose to use it should treat it with the same gravity as filing a Form 178. The system is active and passenger information filed through it must be accurate. More detailed information about how the system works is available online.
Beginning May 18, 2009, use of eAPIS will become mandatory. For more information about the new CBP rules and how they will affect general aviation, see AOPA’s issue brief or call the experts in AOPA’s Pilot Information Center at 800/USA-AOPA (872-2672).
The work of the FAA’s Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Aviation Rulemaking Committee, which includes AOPA, continues as the panel develops recommendations for how best to regulate and integrate small, unmanned aircraft into the National Airspace System.
The group, which is examining everything from flight crew requirements and operations to system certification and integration into the airspace system, has been meeting regularly since May 2008 to develop a set of recommendations for the FAA.
“Being part of this committee is important for our members because it allows us to advocate for their interests from the very beginning,” said Rob Hackman, AOPA senior director of regulatory affairs and the association’s representative on the panel. “We are especially concerned that any new regulations integrate UAS seamlessly into the National Airspace System and don’t impose any restrictions on GA users.”
The committee hopes to complete its work and deliver recommendations to the FAA in the spring. The FAA can then accept any, all, or none of those recommendations as it develops notams for the use of “small” UAS. Although “small” has not yet been fully defined, it is likely to include UAS similar in size to remote control model aircraft, rather than larger aircraft such as Predators or Global Hawks.
When the Yakima Air Terminal Board in Washington wanted to update its airport protection ordinances, it invited AOPA to review the proposal and make suggestions. So AOPA staff members sat down with board members to go over the draft Airport Overlay Ordinance and Primary Airport Overlay Zone, and discuss the best ways to protect the airport.
“We are excited to see Yakima being proactive about protecting its airport from inappropriate development and appreciate its outreach to the aviation community,” said John Collins, AOPA manager of airport policy. “We hope the city’s efforts will be a model for other communities. This kind of planning is good for everyone; It protects the airport from encroachment, and it protects the surrounding community from noise and safety hazards.”
The board’s overlay plans bring the airport into compliance with Washington state and federal laws while increasing the distance required between the runway and any new development. The plans also take into account usage and height restrictions for neighboring developments, remind developers of the need to seek obstruction evaluations from the FAA for certain projects, and put final approval of any new development in the hands of the city, even if the FAA determines a proposed structure is not a hazard.
The FAA has completed a necessary airspace study that marks the next step in progress toward a reconfigured and revitalized Blue Ash Airport.
The FAA recently sent comments and a request for minor changes to the proposed airport layout plan to the city of Cincinnati. The city must now finalize and certify the plan by obtaining necessary signatures and returning them to the FAA. Once that is done, the airport will be able to seek federal Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grants.
“AOPA and local pilots have worked extremely diligently to get to this point,” said AOPA Vice President of Local Airport Advocacy Bill Dunn. “The expected finalization of the airport layout plan will open the door for approval of needed grant money, bringing a redesigned Blue Ash closer to reality.”
The city of Cincinnati is seeking $9 million in AIP funding to reconfigure the airport, which was long under threat of closure. Current plans call for a new airport layout as well as an aviation museum, park, and other community facilities nearby. But no AIP money can be approved until an FAA-approved airport layout plan is in place.
AOPA has been actively involved in the long struggle to protect Blue Ash Airport, which is located in the city of Blue Ash but owned and operated by the city of Cincinnati. Most recently, the association has worked closely with the FAA and the airport district office in Detroit to expedite approval of the layout plan.
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Two years ago, the AOPA Air Safety Foundation rolled out a live safety seminar called Say It Right: Radio Communication in Today’s Airspace. It was a great success, setting attendance records everywhere it went and showing that there were plenty of pilots eager to learn techniques for clear, concise, and confident radio communications. It also marked the beginning of an ongoing collaboration with the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), which arranged for pilot-controller Q&A sessions at nearly all the seminars. But not everyone can attend live events, so ASF decided to create an online course.
Now that course is complete. Say It Right: Mastering Radio Communication will help you fly the microphone as skillfully as you do the airplane. Featuring audio examples covering many specific in-flight scenarios, and video advice from NATCA controllers, the course gives straightforward advice on handling all the communication challenges pilots face. If (like a lot of us) you suffer from a touch of “mic fright,” be sure to check it out: You’ll be on your way to sounding like a radio pro! Find the course online.
For the past couple of months, ASF’s new safety seminar, GPS from the Ground Up, has been drawing crowds of pilots eager to learn more about GPS technology and how to use it safely in the cockpit. The free seminar continues through May, so there’s a good chance it’s headed for your area. Look for a flyer in the mail, or find the nearest location by going online.
Expert presenters take an in-depth look at GPS in the context of overall flight management, giving practical tips and advice for every phase of flight. They also examine some of the operational gotchas that sometimes trip up pilots. Even if your GPS experience is limited to hitting “Direct-to” and following the magenta line, this is one seminar you shouldn’t miss.
On August 10, 2008, a Beechcraft Baron crashed in mountainous terrain near Sitka, Alaska. Although the NTSB’s report is still preliminary, it appears that the pilot stopped for fuel at Gustavus, Alaska, only to discover that no fuel was available there. He then departed again, hoping to reach Sitka (95 miles away), but didn’t make it. In the ensuing crash, the pilot and his passenger were killed. A state trooper who inspected the wreckage reported that the fuel tanks were empty.
Fuel exhaustion and starvation accidents are easily preventable—and yet there were nearly 90 of them in 2007. Why? There are lots of reasons, but the pilot of this Baron made a mistake that’s more common than you might guess: stopping for fuel, finding none, and departing again.
If there’s no fuel at your fuel stop, think long and hard before you climb back into the cockpit. Is there a phone number you can call for service? How much fuel is really left in the tanks? How close is the next fuel stop? What’s the weather like? Dire circumstances aside, if there’s any real doubt about making it to the next airport, it’s better to stay on the ground and figure out some way to get gas in the tanks—or arrange alternate transportation.
In 2008, ASF’s Accident Case Study: VFR into IMC online course used actual ATC audio and dramatic Microsoft Flight Simulator recreations to let pilots ride along on an ill-fated flight into inclement weather. Because of the overwhelmingly positive response to that course, ASF has started work on a new one: Accident Case Study: Airframe Icing will use the same approach to investigate a 2005 accident in California. Look for it to debut in the next few months .
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.
NEW YORK: The Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) proposed Large Aircraft Security Program (LASP) would hurt general aviation. That’s why local pilots, including ASN Volunteer Suzanne Loricchio at New Jersey’s Newark International Airport, have rallied to speak out against the proposed rule.
Concerned by the attempt to make GA aircraft weighing more than 12,500 pounds flown under Part 91 comply with the same security requirements as commercial carriers, Loricchio testified during a TSA public hearing on January 6 in White Plains, New York—the first of a series of meetings held in January to hear how the proposed rule would affect GA operations.
Under the current LASP proposal, the plan would require criminal history record checks for crew members, matching passengers to TSA watch and no-fly lists, checking passengers and baggage for dangerous weapons or prohibited items, and paying for biennial third-party security audits.
ASN volunteers have mobilized to spread the word that other programs, such as AOPA’s Airport Watch, can be expanded instead of implementing a costly new rule.
“We called on ASN volunteers to get the word out to local pilots about this important issue,” said Craig Spence, AOPA vice president of security. “It was critical for the TSA and Congress to hear from pilots, like Suzanne who did a great job, during the public comment period.”
What you can do: Take the free AOPA General Aviation Security online course and order AOPA’s Airport Watch materials online.
WASHINGTON: When ASN Volunteer Dennis Klingele learned the Yakima Air Terminal Board wanted to update its airport protection ordinances, he contacted AOPA for help to ensure the current and future protection of the Yakima Air Terminal-McAllister Field.
Klingele’s effort to keep AOPA informed and involved gave the association the opportunity to weigh in on the draft Airport Overlay Ordinance and Primary Airport Overlay Zone. AOPA and the board met during AOPA Expo in San Jose, California, in November 2008. AOPA wrote to the board to express its support for the plans, which bring the airport into compliance with Washington state and federal laws.
While increasing the distance required between the runway and any new development, the plans also take into account usage and height restrictions for neighboring developments, remind developers of the need to seek obstruction evaluations from the FAA for certain projects, and put final approval of any new development in the hands of the city—even if the FAA determines a proposed structure is not a hazard.
What you can do: For more information, read AOPA’s Guide to Airport Noise and Compatible Land Use.
What you can do: Work together and get involved—check out AOPA’s Guide for Airport Advocates: Participating in the Planning Process.
Encroachment—it’s one of the top threats to general aviation airports nationwide. And ASN volunteer Jack Krause played a key role in protecting his local airport, Sanderson Field in Shelton, Washington.
Krause rallied local pilots to attend public meetings with the airport sponsor and city officials to express concerns about a proposal that would have allowed high-density residential development near the airport. The proposed rezoning request—withdrawn by a developer on January 12—would have conflicted with the airport’s overlay zoning plan, which was introduced in 2006 and supported by AOPA.
“This is a perfect example of how advocates across the nation can make things happen with persistence and well-prepared comments,” said Krause.
The combined efforts of Krause, Washington Pilots Association President John Dobson, state aviation officials, and AOPA have been instrumental in helping state and local government enact compatible land-use requirements.
In addition to this recent victory, Krause’s contributions include establishment of the Association of Sanderson Pilots in 2005 (now the local Washington Pilots Association chapter), which helped to preserve several nondirectional radio beacons by submitting a letter to the FAA asking them to reconsider.
To provide better aviation representation, Krause developed a 30-minute PowerPoint presentation to educate local residents and 14 different organizations about the economic impact the airport has on the community.
Today, Krause continues to make an impression upon governing entities to fight for the protection of the airport.
Technical Communications Manager, Kathy Dondzila, joined AOPA in 1990 and is an instrument-rated private pilot.
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The AOPA Medical Advisory Board is the latest group to urge quick action on the proposed FAA rule that would allow thousands more pilots to fly without the need for a third class medical certificate.
The Perlan Project is less than a year away from the first flight of a glider being built to ride waves near the edge of space. While construction continues in Oregon, the team’s pilots are staying proficient in more ordinary aircraft.
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