December 1, 2010
By Kathy Dondzila
AOPA President Craig Fuller joined other key aviation decision makers at FAA headquarters to help shape the industry’s vision of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen), which encompasses modernization of the air traffic control system and the transition from ground- to satellite-based navigation and surveillance. The NextGen Advisory Committee was created to bring together top-level officials representing a range of aviation interests to reach a consensus on priorities for the process from now through 2018. The group looked at the business of NextGen so that it can provide a set of joint recommendations to the FAA on issues critical to its implementation.
“NextGen has enormous implications for all aspects of aviation. It’s vital for the FAA to hear directly from those who will use the system for decades to come,” Fuller said. “AOPA is pleased to be part of this advisory committee; we will ensure that the group’s recommendations are informed by the needs and realities of GA flying.”
FAA Deputy Administrator Michael Huerta welcomed participants to the meeting and tasked them with looking at “the business of NextGen.” Many of the technologies that will form the basis of the modernized system are already available; the challenge now is to implement them throughout the National Airspace System.
“The science, while always evolving, is already here,” said committee chairman David Barger, president and CEO of JetBlue Airways. He stressed the importance of collaboration in the implementation of NextGen.
The most visible components of NextGen are in the cockpit—hardware such as GPS units and Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B). But modernization requires an overhaul of the entire system that will have wide-ranging effects. The advisory committee comprises representatives from many stakeholders, including air traffic management, aircraft and avionics manufacturers, airports, defense and security, environmental groups, finance, labor, and operators—including GA.
The group is convened under the auspices of RTCA, a not-for-profit organization that develops consensus-based recommendations regarding communications, navigation, surveillance, and air traffic management system issues. It is designed to provide a platform for government/industry collaboration; the FAA will use recommendations from the committee to guide its planning and execution of NextGen. The meeting laid the groundwork for collaboration that will include subcommittees working on specific issues.
The future of general aviation depends on a steady flow of new pilots. But with 70 to 80 percent of student pilots dropping out of training before they earn a certificate, it’s clear that attrition is a major contributing factor to the serious decline in the pilot population.
AOPA is leading an effort to stop the outflow of students from the flight training pipeline. Earlier this year AOPA commissioned an ambitious research project aimed at figuring out why many student pilots don’t complete training. Many in the industry believe they know the reasons, yet no one has ever conducted a comprehensive study to validate assumptions. The research covered four main audiences to ensure a well-rounded perspective—student pilots (current and lapsed), pilots, flight instructors, and flight school managers.
“Once the research is complete, it’s up to us as an industry to come up with concrete solutions to the problem,” said AOPA President Craig Fuller.
AOPA recently invited a group of industry stakeholders to discuss specific issues and formulate initial solutions to address the massive attrition rate. “There is no quick fix and we must work together to create a new training paradigm that will allow more student pilots to fulfill their aviation dreams,” Fuller said.
AOPA has joined with other aviation and aviation-related organizations to press for action on a long-overdue measure to authorize funding for the FAA. The House passed its version of the reauthorization bill last year.
In a letter to members of the Senate, the groups say that after three full years without an FAA reauthorization bill, “It is time for Congress to move forward decisively and pass [a] bill.”
The letter says that failure to pass a bill has both safety and infrastructure implications. “We, as aviation community members, will not stop pushing for this bill because the safety and the future of the [National Airspace System], as well as the vital investments in our airports and aviation infrastructure, are far too important to ignore.”
AOPA joined with the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), the National Air Transportation Association (NATA), and the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) to place an advertisement in several influential newspapers read by members of Congress and their staffs.
The ad, produced on behalf of the four associations by GAMA, tells senators, “We’re ready to fly,” noting that FAA reauthorization has been delayed 15 times since the last authorization expired three years ago. It notes the significant economic impact on GA and urges the Senate to, “Pass FAA reauthorization now.”
The FAA has taken great strides toward a more enlightened policy on permitting residential through-the-fence (TTF) access for airparks at public-use airports, AOPA President Craig Fuller told the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in a statement prepared for a hearing on those operations.
But, Fuller continued, the agency needs to be careful not to limit its options in the future. And it needs to focus on an even more pressing issue: airport sponsors that allow incompatible land use, such as nonaviation residential communities, immediately adjacent to airports.
At issue are existing residential airparks at about 75 public-use airports that are either eligible for or already have received federal aviation grant money. An FAA policy determination in 2009 found that airport sponsors must either take immediate action to terminate existing TTF agreements or risk being cited for grant obligation violations. Since that initial decision, the FAA has met with AOPA and numerous others in the aviation community to better understand the issue.
“We are pleased to see that the newly issued FAA policy recognizes the need to maintain these airports and a willingness to accept existing access agreements. We also believe that the agency must work with each airport sponsor to implement a plan to ensure the safety and security of the airport and the public,” Fuller wrote.
The hearing looked into the FAA’s new policy, which allows current access agreements to continue but shuts the door to possible future arrangements.
“We are seeking a balance between the interests of homeowners who own and operate aircraft, and the interests of the government and the public at large who have invested substantial sums to develop the airports involved,” said Committee Chairman James Oberstar (D-Minn.).
Rep. Tom Petri (R-Wis.), ranking member of the aviation subcommittee, and Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), who has introduced legislation relevant to the hearing, expressed concern about the revised policy’s prohibition of the development of any future residential airparks at public-use airports eligible to receive federal grants.
“Residential through-the-fence agreements may not make sense at every airport, but they do make sense at many locations and in some communities provide much-needed aviation and local property tax revenue,” Petri said. “While there may be isolated issues at some locations, in general hangar homes are owned by aviation enthusiasts who love the industry and lifestyle. What better neighbors could a general aviation airport ask for?”
Graves said that the door should remain open to future agreements. He explained that “decisions made about existing and potential agreements are carefully deliberated by local communities, and rightfully so. I’m not saying every airport should or should not have residential TTF agreements, I’m just saying it should be their right to choose.”
“The committee members showed extensive knowledge and understanding of through-the-fence agreements” said Lorraine Howerton, AOPA vice president of legislative affairs, who attended the hearing. “As a result of this hearing, I believe Congress will continue to be engaged on this issue.”
Fuller suggested that such an inflexible edict may be short-sighted. “AOPA believes that the agency should not close the door completely to [residential through-the-fence access] proposals,” he said. “There may be circumstances in the future where an agreement to allow such access would bring significant economic development opportunities to the airport without the need for significant federal investment in the airport infrastructure. Such opportunities could be valuable in ensuring the financial health of the airport, and allow it to make its highest contribution to the community.
Numbers: 800 Number of pages in the main California budget bill (Senate Bill 870) signed into law this year. 136,600 The total number of new bills expected to be introduced in state legislatures across the country next year. 1 The number of bills it takes to raise state taxes on aircraft sales, aircraft registration, fuel, and/or maintenance. The AOPA Government Affairs division has already reviewed hundreds of aviation-related bills filed for 2011 as 39 states permit prefiling of legislation prior to the start of session.
On October 19, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger officially signed Senate Bill 856 into law to delay implementation of costly flight school regulations in the California Private Postsecondary Act of 2009 until July 1, 2011. That gives AOPA, the National Air Transportation Association, and state allies time to work with the legislature to hash out a more reasonable way to protect students without crippling the flight training industry. “This bill signing marks an important day for GA in California as it will keep countless student pilots in the air and, importantly, keep thousands of instructors, mechanics, and other aviation personnel working in this troubled economy,” said AOPA Director of State Government Affairs Mark Kimberling. “AOPA—and our allies—will continue to move forward aggressively to see this issue through to completion.”
AOPA has notified the Rhode Island Airport Corporation (RIAC)—a quasi-governmental agency that oversees the state’s aviation system—that its proposed aeronautics regulations include numerous provisions that exceed the state’s jurisdiction, intrude on private property rights, or impose paperwork burdens that could expose pilots to identity theft. Greg Pecoraro, AOPA vice president of airports and state advocacy, expressed concern in a letter to the RIAC that the agency “appears to be attempting to preempt federal regulations and promulgate other proposed rules that may have unintended consequences.” Commenting on 10 individual sections of the proposed regulations, which range from 24-hour advance notification of flights out of private fields to aircraft inspections by RAIC personnel, Pecoraro urged the state agency to first see that the “appropriate offices of the FAA be asked to review them from a compliance standpoint.”
Move the runway; don’t close the airport. That’s what AOPA and local supporters are telling officials in Huron County, Ohio, where county commissioners have been trying to shut down Norwalk-Huron County Airport and use the land for expansion of a drag-racing enterprise. The racing strip owner, Summit Motorsports Park, wants Huron County to close the airport and let it buy the land. The owner hopes to expand the operation to include a hotel, possibly an oval track, and other amenities. For next year’s racing, the facility seeks use of the runway, and temporary closing of the airport, for up to five days. That proposal is under consideration by the airport authority. The FAA would also have to approve. Working with Airport Support Network volunteer Debbie Wagner and other local pilots and supporters, AOPA sent a letter to the county commissioners, strenuously objecting to the proposed closing. The letter urged that the raceway and the airport be seen as compatible attractions for Huron County. The current airport layout plan depicts a future shifting of the 4,210-foot-long Runway 10-28 to the west. That would better accommodate the drag strip, and provide safety for airport and drag strip users. “That is the plan the county commissioners should be working on,” AOPA said.
Efforts by St. Clair, Missouri, to renege on its obligation to maintain St. Clair Regional Airport will run up against AOPA, the FAA, and the law, AOPA told the city. St. Clair received federal grant money to develop the airport and is bound to maintain it for 20 years from the last grant, but Mayor Ron Blum has been looking into options for closing the airport since he took office. AOPA Vice President of Airport Advocacy Bill Dunn told Blum that AOPA is prepared to take whatever action is necessary to ensure that doesn’t happen. “Attempting to change the rules of a contract with the FAA and state post-agreement simply isn’t acceptable,” Dunn wrote. He added that AOPA intends to ensure the FAA does everything in its power to enforce federal grant assurances and the law—and that the FAA has never approved a request for airport closure and release of grant assurances from the sponsor of an airport such as St. Clair. The city has allowed its transportation asset to fall into disrepair despite federal investments, and now the state of Missouri is looking into concerns that the city may be diverting airport revenue for nonaviation purposes. Dunn saw the neglected facilities and lack of maintenance when he visited the airport in 2009, and he said in the letter that St. Clair’s treatment of its airport defies its motto, “We’re open for business!”
Ask Mark Bragg what he likes most about AOPA’s Legal Services Plan and he says, “I ask a question and I get a direct answer with no messing around.” Although Bragg has been an AOPA member for 30 years, it wasn’t until he bought his latest airplane, a Piper Chieftain, two years ago that he signed up for AOPA’s Legal Services Plan.
Bragg is president of U.S. Investment Company, an investment banking firm that helps start-ups in technology find capital and management. As such, he says, “Legalities are such an overwhelming part of my business life. I need to have knowledgeable people and that’s why I count on AOPA.”
He flies right seat in the Chieftain out of his Palm Springs, California, base, accompanied by his chief pilot Didier Mutate, for both business and personal reasons—and he also put the Chieftain on leaseback with a Part 135 company. “I needed to make sure the leaseback was staying within the restrictions of the law. I have relied on AOPA Legal Services, and they are fabulous,” he says.
Most pilots don’t think they’ll need legal assistance because they’re good, careful, and experienced pilots, or because they don’t fly frequently. But there are other legal services most pilots and aircraft owners need—help with hangar leases, partnership contracts, or, as with Bragg, navigating a fair and legal leaseback agreement.
Bragg adds that it’s not unusual for him to employ lawyers charging up to $650 an hour and says that, as a result, “The AOPA Legal Services Plan is the best legal value I’ve ever run across. It’s a service to pilots everyone should know about.”
Why rely on a lawyer who knows nothing about general aviation when you can put the power of AOPA’s lawyers to work for you? For just $33 a year, you can be part of AOPA’s Legal Services Plan and enjoy peace of mind knowing that you have a first-class legal team at your call to help you with any legal situation that may develop with your flying and your airplane.
Take a moment to enroll in the Legal Services Plan online or call 800-USA-AOPA (800-872-2672). Just $33 a year puts the aviation legal assistance you need on your side all year long.
More than 11 million Americans had their identity stolen last year and pilots are at even greater risk —up until a few years ago, a pilot’s certificate number was your social security number and any time that you rented an aircraft the FBO photocopied your pilot certificate and driver’s license. If you were a CFI, you signed the logbook and included your social security number. LifeLock—the leader in proactive identity theft protection—helps prevent identity theft before it happens.
LifeLock’s $1 Million Service Guarantee means that if you are a victim of identity theft while you are a member, LifeLock will spend up to $1 million on your behalf to pay for lawyers, investigators, and consultants to restore your good name.
AOPA has worked closely with LifeLock to ensure its services meet the specific and unique needs of pilots, and special protocols have been created to assist pilots in the event of lost or stolen airman documentation.
M2 Benefit Solutions, a Certified LifeLock partner, offers a 10-percent discount that allows AOPA members, along with their family and friends, to protect themselves from the risk of identity theft for $99 per year or $9 per month. Part of the revenue goes to AOPA to protect your freedom to fly.
For more information, go online.
hop•per (hop r), n. 1. Box on the clerk’s desk where legislators deposit bills and resolutions to officially introduce them. The term derives from a funnel-shaped storage bin filled from the top and emptied from the bottom, which is often used to house grain or coal.
The Airport Support Network was born in 1998, and the first appointed ASN volunteer was Jim Gates at Torrance Municipal Airport (TOA) in California. Through the years, Gates has been a leading advocate for pilots in California, and has been the recipient of many honors including the AOPA Laurence P. Sharples Perpetual Award and AOPA’s Joseph R. Crotti Award. Now, after 50 years of certificated flying, Gates has been presented the FAA’s Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award in recognition of his years of safe flight operations. Congratulations on this prestigious award, it’s quite an accomplishment!
As we close out 2010, the ASN staff would like to give a sincere thank you to all of our volunteers. Your willingness to stay involved and resolve problems at your home airport ensures that fellow pilots throughout the country continue to have many safe places to land.
Looking toward 2011, the ASN will be bringing new opportunities to get involved to ASN volunteers such as becoming a volunteer safety seminar presenter! Sound interesting to you? Learn more by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on learning how to volunteer for AOPA, visit AOPA Online.
It was a nice VFR day with not a cloud in the sky as the twin climbed out of the pattern at Casa Grande, Arizona, just 50 miles south of Phoenix. The owner/pilot was settling down on the last leg of a long cross-country flight bringing back his newly purchased 1973 Beechcraft Baron from Bartow, Florida, to Camarillo, California.
Climbing out at 130 knots and 1,000 feet per minute, the airplane quickly reached 3,500 feet when the pilot noticed a bird about 150 feet away. A split second later, a four-pound red-tailed hawk collided with the Baron.
Watch this latest installment of the AOPA Air Safety Institute’s Real Pilot Stories to find out how the pilot found himself eye to eye with the bird and how he dealt with the ensuing mayhem his uninvited passenger caused. As you listen to the pilot tell his story you’ll take away tips and an understanding of how to prepare and protect against bird-strike encounters, and what to do should an unexpected feathered guest enter your cabin. Watch the video.
How do you handle a bird strike? Since it’s impractical to practice a bird strike, how do you arm yourself and prepare for it?
The Air Safety Institute’s Bird Strike Safety Brief is the answer! It complements lessons learned in ASI’s latest Real Pilot Story on this subject. And with practical tips, a bird-migration route map, and links to reference materials, you will have a strategy in the event a bird crosses your altitude. Download the brief.
When icy drizzle chills the sky and grounds you, it might be a good idea to fire up the computer and hone your knowledge on the subject matter. Enter the Air Safety Institute’s Weather Wise: Precipitation and Icing online course, where you’ll find everything you ever wanted to know—from basic weather theory to debilitating precipitation and icing phenomena to how to stay out of it.
How do you detect ice and what do you do when rain turns into icy precipitation while you’re flying? What are the equipment and regulatory requirements you should be aware of? You may already know why any amount of structural icing is dangerous—even a little bit—or that the tops of the clouds may hold the worst icing.
But, did you know that almost half of all icing-related accidents happened to pilots with more than 1,000 hours total time? Heed the warning: Experience grants no immunization when it comes to icing.
Don’t pass up the opportunity to bolster your knowledge online.
Look for the latest edition of the Air Safety Institute’s Joseph T. Nall Report to be released online. Check ASI’s home page for an announcement in January.
This brand-new safety tome includes an annual review of general aviation aircraft accidents that occurred during the previous year. As a supplement to the information contained in the report, ASI offers its accident database online.
The report is dedicated to the memory of Joe Nall, a member of the NTSB who died as a passenger in an airplane accident in Caracas, Venezuela, in 1989.
Air Safety Institute,
Safety and Education,
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AOPA thanks our members for their continued support in protecting the freedom to fly.