March 1, 2010
By Kathy Dondzila
For the past year, AOPA and the general aviation community have made it clear that user fees are not the best way to fund the nation’s aviation system. That message was repeated loud and clear by aviation supporters in the House and Senate, including more than 100 members of Congress who declared that user fees would be a “non-starter.”
The budget proposal released February 1 makes it evident that aviation’s voices were heard. Someone in the Obama administration decided to hit “pause” when they came to the aviation user fee option.
“The decision not to include user fees in the 2011 budget is encouraging,” said AOPA President Craig Fuller, “and it allows all of us in the aviation community to focus on important priorities like air traffic control modernization, keeping airports open, and growing the pilot population. We are especially focused on any and all actions that will encourage the return to growth in the GA sector.”
AOPA is gratified that the Obama administration has heeded the GA community’s concerns, however the association remains vigilant to ensure the user fee idea remains on hold. “We will continue to promote an agenda that supports GA today and into the future, while increasing our efforts to show opinion leaders and policymakers the value that GA delivers to all Americans,” said Fuller.
The Transportation Security Administration recently distributed airport vulnerability assessments to 3,000 general aviation airports nationwide, focusing on those facilities with a runway of at least 2,000 feet and those near major metropolitan or prohibited areas.
The survey stems from a congressional mandate, the 9/11 Commission Recommendation Act of 2007, and is not based on any “specific, credible information to suggest an imminent threat to the homeland or general aviation,” according to TSA.
“AOPA expressed concerns to the TSA early in the process of the need for the information collected by the TSA to remain confidential and not be used against an airport,” said Brittney Miculka, AOPA manager of security. “AOPA supports dedicated funding for those airports choosing to make their facilities more secure but remains strongly opposed to the mandatory requirements being unilaterally imposed.”
Airport managers have 60 days to complete the survey, and the results will be made available to participating airports approximately 30 days after the survey’s closing period. It is intended to help TSA stakeholders and planners assess security needs and vulnerabilities and provide funding to improve security.
The FAA should narrow the scope of a proposed airworthiness directive (AD) that would affect nearly 42,000 Piper aircraft, AOPA told the agency recently.
The proposed AD would require an inspection of the control wheel shaft for both the pilot and copilot sides and, if necessary, replacement of the shaft in Piper PA–28, PA–32, PA–34, and PA–44 series airplanes. It results from two reports of incorrectly assembled control wheel shafts on PA–34-220Ts; if left uncorrected, this could lead to separation of the control wheel shaft, resulting in loss of pitch and roll control. In comments on the proposal, AOPA asked the FAA to limit the scope of the AD and realistically determine the cost of compliance.
“AOPA believes the FAA needs to work diligently to refine the number of aircraft affected by this proposed AD,” wrote AOPA Director of Aircraft and Environment Leisha Bell. “While failures of the control wheel shaft have occurred in the fleet, they are incredibly rare. Additionally, the FAA needs to appropriately address variations in the Piper fleet affected by the proposed AD in the cost of compliance section.”
The FAA estimated that the cost of an inspection would be $40 for half an hour of labor. Based on member reports to AOPA, the time to complete the proposed inspection greatly exceeds the FAA’s estimates on many aircraft due to variations in assemblies.
To refine the number of aircraft affected by the AD, AOPA recommended that the FAA work with Piper to analyze the control yoke assembly process and determine when errors were most likely to have occurred. This could limit the AD to aircraft manufactured during a specific time frame.
The FAA’s proposed “one size fits all” approach to airparks and other residential through-the-fence (TTF) operations at public-use airports should be more flexible to accommodate existing TTF deeds and agreements, AOPA recently told the agency.
Aircraft operations involving homes and businesses on private property that have access to airport taxiways or runways are called “through the fence” operations. In the past, the FAA has approved residential TTF access, but set a very high standard for what constituted an acceptable agreement. The FAA invited AOPA and other aviation organizations to comment on a draft letter of guidance that would call for phasing out all existing residential TTF access at public-use airports. The new guidance would apply only to public-use airports that have accepted or are eligible for FAA airport development funding, and would require airport sponsors to negate or modify deeds for existing arrangements, some of them decades old—an action that could burden airports with the costs of litigation.
Florida sounds pretty good to most of us right about now—especially those of us in the chilly north. It’s a few more weeks until the official start of spring, but we have spring break on the mind! Join AOPA under the Big Yellow Tent at the thirty-sixth annual Sun ’n Fun Fly-In from April 13 through 18 in Lakeland, Florida, and celebrate “Spring Break for Pilots.” AOPA is once again the Platinum Sun ’n Fun sponsor and will have many exciting activities going on under the Big Yellow Tent and around the Sun ’n Fun grounds throughout the week. Make your travel plans now, and we’ll see you there! For show details, highlights, and ticket information go online.
The number of aviation-related state bills reviewed by AOPA Government Affairs last year.
Georgia governor, GA governor
He may be the governor of Georgia now, but a few decades ago Sonny Perdue was commuting home from veterinary school in a J–5 Cub, landing on Georgia Highway 96. Read how he used his Bellanca Super Viking to defy the electoral odds in the governor’s race online.
In Alaska, health care relies on aviation
An association dedicated to improving health for Alaskans has passed a resolution recognizing aviation’s contributions to medical services in the state and supporting the Alliance for Aviation Across America (AAAA). The Alaska Public Health Association voted unanimously at its convention to support and join the alliance, which includes individuals and organizations—among them AOPA—that support general aviation.
Lorain County, Ohio, closure would flout federal obligations
When an airport receives funding from the federal government, it agrees to remain fully operational and open to the public. Lorain County, Ohio, announced in December that it was abandoning that responsibility and closing Lorain County Regional Airport. The FAA’s response was a definitive “no.” In violation of its grant obligations, the county still plans to move forward with closing the airport.
In a letter to county officials, AOPA Vice President of Local Airport Advocacy Bill Dunn reiterated that, “Airports play an important role in providing economic development to the local area.”
The FAA has invested more than $9.2 million in Lorain County Regional Airport because it plays a critical role as a reliever airport and contributes over $37 million to the state economy. The FAA notified the county that closure was not an option and that a court order may be utilized to keep the airport operating. After meeting with FAA airport officials in January, the county said it would consider other options for the airport.
‘General Aviation Appreciation Month’ opens 2010 in West Virginia
Governor Joe Manchin III, a pilot and AOPA member, began the year by proclaiming January “General Aviation Appreciation Month.”
“Governor Manchin and the state of West Virginia are committed to aviation,” said Greg Pecoraro, AOPA vice president of airports and state advocacy, who attended the proclamation signing January 7. “AOPA appreciates the support general aviation receives in the state. West Virginia’s efforts are a model for other states.”
“Given our state’s geography, a great many businesses and communities depend upon general aviation for access to medical treatment, mobility, economic opportunity, disaster relief, and a wide range of critical resources,” the proclamation noted.
Manchin is a strong GA advocate and led AOPA’s GA Serves America Rally in November 2009 at the association’s Aviation Summit in Tampa, Florida. Watch the rally on AOPA Live.
Did you know? Only 522 out of 5,190 public-use airports nationwide currently have airline service.
Baby steps: Long way to go on presidential TFRs
While the FAA and Secret Service have made changes to temporary flight restrictions (TFRs), granting pilots more access to restricted airspace, the latest two-week TFR over Hawaii for the Obama family’s vacation proves there’s still a long way to go.
Although certain operations were allowed, the 30-nm-radius TFR shut down flight training operations at four area airports.
AOPA continues to work with the FAA to mitigate the impact TFRs have on local operations. “Our next step will be to encourage the agency and Secret Service to solicit and incorporate feedback from pilots so that a more workable solution can be developed,” said Brittney Miculka, AOPA manager of security.
No pilot can predict when his or her medical certificate will be at risk. Even a routine visit to the doctor could quickly and unexpectedly turn to a situation where your medical is in jeopardy. AOPA provides a solution that, should a threatening situation develop, allows you to have a team of experts working for you.
Let’s say you temporarily lose your medical because you are taking a prohibited prescription drug. You’ve discontinued the medication and appealed the denial with a request for reconsideration, and waited. And waited. And waited. You know your appeal is mixed in with hundreds of others at the FAA in Oklahoma City. But in the meantime, you’re grounded. Now what? If you’re a member of the AOPA Medical Services Program, AOPA will make the necessary inquiry with the FAA to follow up on your case and keep it moving through the system.
Many pilots think that losing their medical will involve a catastrophic injury or illness, but that’s just not the case. Routine medication therapy for common conditions, including high blood pressure, can impact your medical. In fact, having a medical application deferred because of blood pressure medication is a common surprise to uninformed pilots. However, any medical condition you report to the FAA for the first time without proper medical documentation can cause a problem.
In addition to having experts to consult with, enrollment in the AOPA Medical Services Program will provide you with access to numerous services designed to help you reach your health goals, such as:
There are two levels of membership: Comprehensive enrollment in the AOPA Medical Services Program is only $99 and will give you full access to all the benefits and services offered by the program, including a review of your medical records by an AOPA medical certification specialist before they are sent to the FAA. At the Essential level, AOPA will make inquiries with the FAA as needed to track the progress of your medical application (medical record review is not included). Take control of your health; enroll online in the AOPA Medical Services Program or call 800-872-2672. The program runs concurrently with your membership.
The 2009 Joseph T. Nall Report marks the twentieth edition of the country’s most comprehensive analysis of general aviation accidents. In honor of this milestone, the AOPA Air Safety Foundation has broadened the scope of its traditional focus to cover two important areas not treated by earlier reports—helicopters and on-demand flights made for hire under FAR Part 135. Together with noncommercial fixed-wing accidents, these activities made up more than 99 percent of all general aviation flight activity in 2008.
On the fixed-wing side, the accident rate for noncommercial flights declined slightly, while the commercial-flight accident rate hit its highest level in five years—which was still one-third lower than the accident rate under FAR Part 91. Helicopter accident rates have decreased sharply since 2003 and were similar to fixed-wing rates in 2008; commercial helicopter flights actually had the lowest rate of fatal accidents in all of general aviation.
Pilots continued to be their own worst enemies; even on commercial flights, more than 60 percent of all accidents and a full 80 percent of fatal accidents were deemed to be pilot-related. Go online to download the current report and review previous editions.
Why wait for your next flight review to be tested and scored on your aeronautical knowledge? The AOPA Air Safety Foundation quizmaster challenges you to test your aviation savvy now. With timely topics and creative interaction, an Online ASF Safety Quiz of your choice will have you click your way to a perfect score. Beware, however—the quizmaster has upped the ante with some tricky questions, so read the questions and answers carefully before submitting your choice.
The quizzes use graphics and interactivity to test and expand your knowledge. The standard multiple-choice and true/false questions are augmented by drag-and-drop matching exercises and fill-in-the-blank brainteasers. A new quiz is featured every month. Do you think you’re a radio communications expert? Find out online with the new Radio Communication Quiz. Need a quick brush-up on nontowered airport operations or airport lighting? Then browse through previous ASF Safety Quizzes ranging in topics from emergency procedures to electrical fires to runway safety. Before you know it, you’ll be dazzling your pilot friends with critical insight into serious subjects. ASF Safety Quizzes are underwritten by the AOPA Insurance Agency, Inc.
Are you interested in learning from other pilots’ encounters with a good flight gone bad? See the Real Pilot Stories presentations on the ASF Web site. Every story puts you in the cockpit with the pilot, who recounts the harrowing events that unfolded and shares important lessons learned.
Real Pilot Stories incorporate interactive visual and audio—even live ATC audio—to present a realistic reenactment of the flight. The pilot discusses the problems and solutions with the goal of helping you avoid similar situations and become a better pilot. Look for a new installment of a Real Pilot Story in March. You can track presentations you have reviewed as they become part of your ASF course transcript file online.
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.
National: “FAA, taxpayers prop up small, little-used airports.” Sound familiar? If so, it’s probably because that misleading headline recently showed up in USA Today. When such stories appear in major media outlets, AOPA is always ready to fire back—but what about you? How would you respond if you saw a similar headline in your hometown newspaper?
Right now there’s a booming market for exposés of wasteful government spending, and to reporters who don’t understand general aviation, airports often look like easy targets. Common themes? Small airports only help the rich, but they’re subsidized by your tax dollars. They’re noisy. They take up land that could be used for other purposes.
In truth, of course, airports are essential public facilities that contribute enormously to the vitality and economic success of communities. But you don’t need to be a media relations expert (or an ASN volunteer, for that matter) to help set the record straight: All you need is a little time and a keyboard. Check out the table at right for some resources and tactics that will help you write more effectively in defense of your airport.
New Jersey: As property values have risen and cities have started rubbing shoulders with formerly rural airports, the owners of many private airfields have come under pressure to shut down. But pilots don’t like being left high and dry, and in some places they’ve banded together to buy their home airports rather than see them turned into shopping malls. Such efforts have met with varying degrees of success, but the pilots of Sky Manor Airport in Pittstown, New Jersey, think they’ve found a better way—one pilots elsewhere might be able to use as a model.
With rumors swirling that their airport was about to be sold, a handful of pilots (among them ASN volunteer Paul Ruo) started looking into the possibility of a purchase. After initial inquiries, the group turned to a larger question: how to structure the deal. The hope was to meet three main goals. First, they wanted a chance to operate profitably, or at least save members money compared to continued hangar rental. Second, they wanted to provide an exit strategy—a reasonable way for members to sell. Finally, they wanted to give members an active say in the running of the airport.
They settled on a limited liability corporation (LLC) in which members would own shares. As part of the deal, each member would have the use of a hangar for a small maintenance fee, and would be able to sell his or her share at market value. Overhead costs would be limited, and revenue would come primarily from rentals, fuel sales, and other business operations.
On the strength of that concept, the group was able to pull together sufficient funds to complete the purchase. “In the beginning this was basically a handshake deal, which says a lot about the strength of our pilot community,” Ruo says. Now, a year after the deal, the LLC has over 30 members and the airport has undergone major physical improvements—and even turned a profit. “It took some work up front,” Ruo stresses, “But we were able to save the airport while offering people a chance to make money. You don’t see deals like that in aviation every day.”
WHAT YOU CAN DO: If your home airport is facing a sale, consider the possibility of a group purchase. For more information on the method described here, see the Sky Manor Airport Web site.
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AOPA thanks our members for their continued support in protecting the freedom to fly.