August 1, 2010
By Kathy Dondzila
There is a hole in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) draft five-year plan, says AOPA. The plan, which covers the period from 2010 to 2015, almost completely ignores general aviation and its economic importance to the nation.
“In its current form the plan places more emphasis on travel by bicycle than on GA,” wrote AOPA President Craig Fuller in comments sent to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. The plan seems to reintroduce user fees as the preferred way to fund the FAA.
The draft contains six broad goals that cut across all modes of transportation: Safety; State of Good Repair (Airports); Economic Competitiveness; Livable Communities; Environmental Sustainability; and U.S. DOT Organizational Excellence.
“The draft plan seems to almost completely ignore the economic importance of GA as well as the relevance of GA to five of the six strategic goals,“ Fuller wrote.
Fuller notes that the DOT revives user fees as “the policy model of choice,” lifting language from the Fiscal Year 2010 budget support documents sent to Congress by the Obama administration. Aviation is the only mode of transportation for which a funding “solution” is proposed. That proposal, says AOPA, ignores both the reauthorization bill currently pending in Congress and the administration’s FY2011 budget proposal, neither of which includes user fees.
“AOPA strongly opposes a policy direction that suggests user fees,” said Fuller. “User fees are divisive, inefficient, and inequitable—and are likely to have a crippling effect on the GA community, which is already struggling.”
Environmental sustainability is one of the six strategic goals listed in the draft plan. But once again, there is no mention of GA, which is faced with the eventual demise of leaded aviation gasoline (avgas).
AOPA, as part of a coalition of aviation associations dealing with the avgas issue, believes the FAA should develop an integrated program to reduce lead emissions from piston-engine aircraft that balances environmental improvements with aviation safety, technical feasibility, and economic impact. The general aviation industry can and should be a part of the program.
The DOT draft plan contains a new strategic goal: livable communities. But even here, the plan ignores GA’s potential contributions. GA’s role in connecting communities—the large, the small, and the very remote—is in ensuring access to essential services and providing emergency medical transportation and disaster relief. GA serves as an engine that powers the growth of small communities and rural regions.
“AOPA’s goal in providing this input is to ensure that the final plan recognizes the role and contributions of GA to the nation’s transportation system,” said Fuller.
When it comes to adhering to the laws and regulations governing aviation, pilots follow them to the letter. But pilots also make their dissatisfaction known, which has been the case with Customs and Border Protection’s Electronic Advance Passenger Information System (eAPIS). Because pilots have complied with eAPIS requirements, Customs officials are listening to their suggestions and developing enhancements to make the online filing application easier to use.
Customs has more than 39,000 eAPIS user accounts and receives thousands of manifests each week. Pilots flying internationally are required to submit passenger manifest and flight information through eAPIS at least 60 minutes before their departure, whether inbound to or outbound from the U.S.
After a year of eAPIS operation, very few pilots have received letters indicating that they had failed to follow proper procedures. It turns out that almost all of these incidents were honest mistakes made by pilots truly trying to comply.
Customs officials are incorporating changes based on feedback from the original eAPIS comment period in 2007 and from critiques pilots have made while using eAPIS during the past year. Upcoming enhancements should be completed this year. In the meantime, take the AOPA Air Safety Foundation’s free online course on the topic.
As the FAA continues to work toward NextGen implementation, AOPA is reminding the agency and industry leaders that the cost burden to equip general aviation aircraft with new technology must be taken into consideration.
AOPA President Craig Fuller and other association staff met with leaders from various GA associations in May to learn more about the research and development and technical aspects of NextGen, including Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B). ADS-B technology would allow aircraft equipped with GPS receivers to transmit their location and altitude to other nearby aircraft and to ATC (see “Next Step Toward NextGen,”).
“ADS-B is a critical component of NextGen, but it must be affordable for all users of the national airspace system,” said Melissa Rudinger, AOPA senior vice president of government affairs.
Currently, more than 80 percent of the GA fleet has GPS, and 20 percent is equipped to use Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) instrument approaches, meaning that much of GA is well into the transition to NextGen. Although AOPA has long advocated this overhaul of the air traffic control system—switching from ground-based to satellite-based navigation—the association maintains that any mandate to equip for NextGen be made affordable to pilots.
The FAA recently published its final rule mandating what equipment owners will be required to have on board their aircraft in order to operate in the new satellite-based air traffic control system. By 2020, ADS-B Out will be required in all airspace that currently requires a transponder. The ADS-B Out equipment will cost the individual general aviation aircraft owner thousands of dollars but only duplicates what already exists with today’s radar transponder. AOPA is conducting a detailed analysis of the rule to further understand its impact on GA.
“We are encouraged that the FAA has rejected the unrealistic five-year implementation plan that some have called for in favor of a 10-year timeframe,” said Rudinger. “That gives the FAA and industry a decade to work together to find low-cost solutions, such as permitting portable options to display available traffic and weather data information.”
Of the 37 gubernatorial races up for grabs this November, 24 states have open seats (no incumbents). Regardless of party affiliation, AOPA actively works to educate candidates and incumbents alike about the value and importance of GA.
In the final days of the legislative session, Louisiana House and Senate lawmakers passed legislation, supported by AOPA, that would strengthen land-use planning around airports by requiring airport sponsors to ensure that they are in compliance with FAA and Department of Transportation guidance on land-use planning. “This is a great forward-thinking initiative to help protect airports in Louisiana,” said AOPA Southwest Regional Representative Shelly DeZevallos, who met with the legislative offices about the bills. “These are vital assets in the state that need protection.”
Nestled in a valley between mountain ridges west of Great Falls, Montana, Benchmark Airport serves as a trailhead to the Bob Marshall Wilderness. The airport, built as a backcountry strip in the 1960s by the Forest Service, FAA, and Montana Aeronautics Commission, features a camp site on the south end complete with picnic tables, campfire grills, tent sites, and a pitcher pump well providing fresh water. The airport needs regular maintenance and upkeep because of the harsh winters and other weather conditions that wear on the facility. So, AOPA Regional Representative Mike Ferguson joined members of the Montana Pilots Association, the Recreational Aviation Foundation, and the Montana Aeronautics Division to help. These work sessions hold a special part in Ferguson’s heart: He started the sessions during his 27-year stint as the administrator of the Montana Aeronautics Division. “I work on them every year,” said Ferguson. “The way the Forest Service, state, and pilots work together to maintain these strips is an example other areas with backcountry airports should follow.”
The development of six lots adjacent to Taunton Municipal-King Field in Massachusetts was previously off limits because the land had no access to a public street—but a “land swap” negotiated without consulting the airport commission would open the door to incompatible development “within and under the traffic pattern” by granting access to the land from a private airport drive, according to AOPA Manager of Airport Policy John Collins. AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer Joseph Lawlor first alerted AOPA about the impending deal—and joined members of the airport community, including airport users, airport commission members, and airport manager Dan Raposa, to oppose the variance at a board meeting June 10, but the board granted a continuance and will take up the issue again.
Sport and recreational pilots carrying a passenger in Ohio have been breaking the law for years, according to an outdated statute created in the 1950s. But AOPA Eastern Regional Representative Greg Winton worked with the legislature to have the code amended. Ohio Code 4561.15 prohibited pilots who did not have a “private pilot or higher” certificate from carrying one or more passengers in the aircraft. Those in violation of the law could have been fined not more than $500, be imprisoned not more than six months, or both. The code changed June 8, when Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland signed House Bill 50 into law with an amendment sponsored by AOPA member and pilot State Senator Jason Wilson allowing those with a sport or recreational pilot to legally carry a passenger. “In addition to correcting this antiquated law, this was really an opportunity to educate lawmakers about the advent of sport pilot—a growing segment of GA,” said Mark Kimberling, AOPA director of state government affairs.
Strength in numbers: Membership action has been critical to countless state and local advocacy efforts. Look for targeted e-mail AOPA Action Alerts in your inbox and get involved: it makes all the difference.
A little planning can save a lot of headaches and lost funds when it comes to developing the land around airports. The California aviation community and state and city officials know that all too well. That’s why the California Senate passed a bill June 2—authored by Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod-—that would require airport land-use commissions in each county that has a public-use general aviation airport. A law was enacted in the 1960s that did just that, but over the decades changes and exemptions had been made to the law allowing some counties to operate airports without having an airport land-use commission. AOPA will now work with the Assembly to try and pass the bill and restore protection to the state’s public-use airports.
Summer is here, and for many pilots that means less time on the ground and more time in the air. Unfortunately, in today’s climate for general aviation, any flight you take could put you at risk of violating any one of at least 700 relevant federal aviation regulations with which pilots are required to comply.
Fortunately, as the thousands of AOPA members enrolled in the Legal Services Plan already know, for as little as $33 per year you can enjoy peace of mind every time you fly knowing that if a federal enforcement action comes your way, you’ll have the best legal advice and support available anywhere. Read case studies about how the Legal Services Plan has helped your fellow AOPA members.
Don’t put your certificate at risk. Enroll in the Legal Services Plan today, online or by phone at 800-872-2672. See the program description for complete plan coverage and exclusions.
You would be hard-pressed to find a credit card that works as hard as AOPA WorldPoints. In addition to earning points, which are redeemable for cash, travel, and merchandise, using the AOPA WorldPoints credit card also helps general aviation.
The AOPA WorldPoints credit card benefits you in two ways. You earn points for every dollar spent that you can redeem for a host of rewards. And what’s more, part of each purchase you make is returned to AOPA to use to advance GA’s cause. Thank you for using the card!
If you’re not yet a cardholder, check out the AOPA WorldPoints credit card details.
This year AOPA is hosting its Aviation Summit in sunny Long Beach, California. With exciting forums, captivating speakers, and the latest and greatest in aviation technology on display, attending Summit is a natural for any pilot. But it’s not only pilots who should attend.
Summit offers a variety of entertaining events that are fun for the whole family, including Airportfest, a Friday-night Block Party, an AOPA Foundation event aboard the Queen Mary, and exclusive Thursday night dinners with aviation celebrities.
There are special one-of-a-kind forums on fly-in destinations, learning to fly, and inspirational flying stories that aviators and nonaviators alike can enjoy.
Stay at one of the many beautiful Long Beach hotels and enjoy miles of white sandy beach, fine dining, and shopping. Take a short 45-minute journey to Disneyland and Universal Studios or hop aboard a boat for a relaxing one-hour cruise to Catalina Island. And that’s just a sample of all the exciting activities Long Beach has to offer.
Your Summit guest is sure to have a fantastic time. Register today.
Airline pilots consult company guidelines when it comes to go/no-go decisions for any given departure. But general aviation pilots are mostly left to their own judgment when deciding about an upcoming flight. And pressure from work or passenger schedules can influence that decision and make it difficult to adequately assess the flight’s safety. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to tap into a knowledge base to sort out the risk factors?
Enter the AOPA Air Safety Foundation’s Flight Risk Evaluator, recently launched on ASF’s website. This nifty application provides general aviation pilots with a formal approach to judge the safety of a proposed flight. The go/no-go choices are still up to the pilot—and because the feedback is based on the pilot’s profile and expected flight conditions, the decisions are meaningful to the planned flight operation.
The Flight Risk Evaluator is made up of three sections: an entertaining introduction to learn about flight risk elements; a quick evaluation and personalized list of guidelines based on just a few details; and a detailed evaluation, which rates the flight’s safety across several areas based on more extensive information about the runway, airport environment, weather, aircraft, and pilot proficiency.
Risk evaluation and management is crucial to the safety of every flight, whether you have logged thousands of hours or recently began learning to fly. Use this new tool before your next flight.
Tenative schedule; visit the website for confirmed information.
The AOPA Air Safety Foundation has its own Facebook page with a steady following of more than 2,900 fans. Here’s your chance to join the foundation’s safety fan club and keep up with the latest products, share ideas with other fans, and find out about upcoming events and safety seminars. The page brings together links to the foundation’s award-winning online courses, safety quizzes, Real Pilot Stories, blogs, Pilot Safety Announcements (PSAs), safety articles, and other valuable safety products.
But that’s not all! It’s a great place for pilots to exchange ideas about flying. Share stories of first solos, exciting trips, close calls, lessons learned, and more. Have fun writing on ASF’s Facebook Wall and read what other aviation enthusiasts have posted— become a fan today!
You may be able to quickly recite the four forces of flight, but do you really understand the concepts? Are you always on top of your airspeed, and do you recognize and respond correctly when behind the power curve on final approach? It is one thing to discuss aerodynamic theory, but it’s quite another to apply that theory in flight—every time. If you’ve ever felt slightly dragged down, not fully grasping aerodynamics, then get a lift with this quiz. It’s a quick test of your knowledge and short refresher of aerodynamics theory and real-world decision making. You’ll even have a chance to watch a spin from the pilot’s perspective and decide how to recover. ASF Safety Quizzes are underwritten by the AOPA Insurance Agency Inc.
Technical Communications Manager, Kathy Dondzila, joined AOPA in 1990 and is an instrument-rated private pilot.
FAA Information and Services,
Department of Transportation,
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.
Are you planning to attend the AOPA Homecoming Fly-in on Oct. 4 at Maryland’s Frederick Municipal Airport? Here's what you'll need to know.
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