November 1, 2010
By Kathy Dondzila
For almost 20 years, AOPA and other general aviation associations have actively been involved in the issue of un-leading avgas. But this year, the issue took on a new urgency, and a SWAT team of AOPA communications and government relations professionals has focused intently on federal developments that will now likely lead to unleaded avgas in our future. Our focus has been on representing the interests of all our members in regulatory proceedings and keeping you informed. Most of our work has been behind the scenes, but increasingly, as developments warranted, we’ve stepped up our communications, education, and advocacy on the leaded avgas issue. And with the new ePilot Special Report series, we are taking another step toward keeping you informed and involved in a process that will surely impact all of our flying for years to come.
This transition process is already complicated—and confusing. Consider the many organizations and factors that will be involved: at least two major federal agencies, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the FAA; possibly Congress; several GA and petroleum industry associations and companies; new fuel and engine technologies; critical safety considerations; economics; and important infrastructure issues.
There are many aspects of this process that will be unclear for some time to come. But some are clear now:
‘Not sufficient data for an endangerment finding...’
A major benchmark in the avgas transition process occurred recently, with the submission of formal comments to the EPA by the General Aviation Avgas Coalition.
AOPA is a leader in the coalition, which includes both aviation and petroleum industry representatives. The coalition affirmed its commitment to finding a single unleaded fuel that will be acceptable to the entire GA fleet and industry infrastructure, explained what the industry has already done to reduce lead emissions, and discussed plans for the future in its comments. The key focus was on the need for a careful study of the issue.
“There is not enough data nor is there a requirement for the Environmental Protection Agency to find that avgas represents an ‘endangerment’ under the Clean Air Act, and careful study is needed before any decision about an alternative to leaded fuel can be reached,” the coalition wrote.
The coalition’s comments, written in response to an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) on avgas lead emissions, reiterated the EPA’s point from the ANPR that more study is needed on the impacts of GA’s existing use of leaded fuel before the EPA can make an informed decision on the issue. The GA coalition asked the EPA to continue to work with the industry and increase the FAA’s involvement to gather the best possible data. The EPA’s ANPR was published in response to a Friends of the Earth petition that asked for either an endangerment finding under the Clean Air Act or further study into the effects of emissions from leaded avgas on health and the environment.
“The entire general aviation community took a very hard look at the data the EPA presented and the questions they asked and concluded that our best input to EPA is to suggest that neither the situation nor their own findings suggest an endangerment finding is warranted,” said AOPA President Craig Fuller.
GA Avgas Coalition members include AOPA, the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), the National Air Transportation Association (NATA), the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), the American Petroleum Institute (API), and the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association (NPRA).
“The technical challenges of removing lead from aviation gasoline are formidable,” said Rob Hackman, AOPA vice president of regulatory affairs and liaison to the General Aviation Avgas Coalition. “Given the widespread impact of the actions described in the ANPR—particularly how they might affect the safety of flight—any determination related to lead emissions from piston-engine aircraft must be supported by sound and complete data.” —Tom Gibson
Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, made infamous in March 2003 when he ordered huge trenches dug across the Meigs Field runway at night, has announced that he will not seek reelection. Although the airport was closed and turned into a park, AOPA President Craig Fuller has pledged to seek every opportunity to bring back Meigs Field.
“More than seven years have passed since Chicago’s Meigs Field was bulldozed under cover of darkness, but the airport has not been forgotten,” Fuller said. “Grassroots support for Meigs is still alive and many in the aviation community view Daley’s decision not to run for reelection as a hopeful sign that the field could be restored.
“It would be premature for me to say that Meigs will be reopened,” Fuller continued, “but I can make this commitment on behalf of all those who have fought, and continue to fight: AOPA will fully investigate any opportunity to bring Meigs Field back.”
Daley announced his plans to close the airport, located on Northerly Island, in 1994, but AOPA led a campaign to save the airport and was one of many plaintiffs to file suits in federal and state courts to protect it. For five years, the association successfully worked with the Illinois legislature to prevent its closure. The airport was a solid revenue source for the city, generating $57 million a year in economic activity.
“Reopening Meigs Field, with its easy access to Chicago’s Loop, would make businesses in ‘the city that works’—as Mayor Daley’s father liked to refer to Chicago—work even more efficiently,” said Fuller. “AOPA fought hard first to prevent the closure of Meigs Field, and then to pressure the mayor to reopen it. With new leadership coming to Chicago, we will work just as diligently to explore every opportunity that may bring Meigs back.”
AOPA works to open doors for future operations
The roughly 75 airports nationwide with residential through-the-fence access may continue those operations and remain in compliance with FAA regulations, according to the agency’s new through-the-fence policy. Airport operators, pilots, and AOPA had weighed in on the issue when the agency proposed to eliminate through-the-fence access in 2009.
“This is a major victory for pilots nationwide. AOPA has been working hard to persuade the FAA that their RTTF access policy announcements from last year were significant departures from the past, and needed to be reevaluated. We are very pleased that the FAA listened and responded positively to our concerns,” said Greg Pecoraro, AOPA vice president of airports and state advocacy. “But we still have some work cut out for us. The FAA wants to prohibit any future through-the-fence access. We oppose a blanket prohibition and will work with the agency to try to develop a more flexible policy for future access.”
The new policy allows an airport sponsor to extend the legal rights for through-the-fence access when they expire as long as the FAA concurs. At airports with many through-the-fence access points, the sponsor will need to implement formal measures to ensure that it maintains the proprietary powers and mitigates adverse effects on the airport.
Oklahoma pilots talked about user fees, avgas, and more with AOPA President Craig Fuller and U.S. Sen. James Inhofe, an AOPA member, during a recent General Aviation Serves America community event at Wiley Post Airport in Oklahoma City.
The event, designed to give pilots the opportunity to talk to their public officials about aviation topics that matter most to them, drew more than 100 AOPA members, local officials, airport personnel, and community residents. Fellow AOPA members, state Sen. Harry Coates and state Rep. Danny Morgan, also attended.
Fuller spoke about the defeat of user fees for 2011, but warned that the possibility exists that the threat will come back in future years. Inhofe credited AOPA in large part for the defeat of user fees.
AOPA has supported several initiatives designed to educate lawmakers about the value of general aviation, including community events such as the one in Oklahoma and the GA Serves America campaign, which has utilized celebrities Harrison Ford and Morgan Freeman to draw attention to the cause on Capitol Hill.
Congress also is stepping up to do its part to better understand GA. The House and Senate have formed GA caucuses. Inhofe is one of the 25 senators on the Senate GA Caucus, and 123 representatives comprise the House GA Caucus. During the community event, Fuller presented Inhofe with a Friends of Aviation award for his support of the caucus and stance against user fees.
Keep an eye on Congress and check the current tax law details.
Although the 2008 and 2009 Federal stimulus programs have expired (except for 2010 placed-in-service aircraft that were percentage manufactured and purchased in 2009), in early September one bill remained pending in the Senate to renew the extra business incentives, again, for 2010. President Obama’s Labor Day weekend proposal of new small-business 2010 100-percent write offs for job creation might also get further airing and become a business aircraft purchase aid.
The one sure benefit for the purchase of both personal and business-use aircraft, however, is the current low interest rate on financing, along with the lowest purchase prices on used aircraft in a decade. Visit the website for information on financing an aircraft.
Potential owners may want to consider renting their aircraft to two or three named pilots at market-price rates. This may help trim the ownership costs substantially. Not all insurance companies provide this coverage, so contact the AOPA Insurance Agency at 800-622-2672 for details.
AOPA’s online publication, The Pilot’s Guide to Taxes , provides a conceptual starting point or a basic review for your tax understanding. As always, we must state that AOPA is not licensed to give tax advice—you are urged to contact your tax advisor for your own unique financial circumstances. If you need help finding a tax professional with aviation experience in your area, call AOPA’s Pilot Information Center at 800-USA-AOPA (800-872-2672).
AOPA is launching a series of limited-edition holiday ornaments that will become treasured family keepsakes. For this year’s ornament, the 1939 Lockheed Electra Junior has been selected. Known by many as an aircraft similar to what Amelia Earhart flew on her infamous final journey, the Electra Junior was a popular aircraft in 1939—the same year AOPA was founded. Measuring 2.5 inches high by 3 inches wide, the AOPA holiday ornament is made of stamped metal and has a three-dimensional effect. As with all AOPA merchandise, the proceeds from the sale of the holiday ornament go toward protecting and championing general aviation. Visit the AOPA Store online to purchase yours today.
What is the Airport Support Network?
It allows me to keep in touch with my home airport...and being an ASN volunteer lets me do a small part in keeping us flying. Plus, the hats we receive are pretty darn sharp too.” —Jim Cieplak, KMRI, Alaska
ASN volunteers are on the front line in the ongoing effort to save our nation’s treasured GA airports. Established in 1998 in response to a troubling increase in the number of GA airport closures, the Airport Support Network now serves as “the eyes and ears” for AOPA to promote, protect, and defend America’s community airports. Over the years, the network has grown to more than 2,000 volunteers, yet more than half of the nation’s public-use airports are currently without a volunteer. Is your airport being protected?
Scholes Airport recovers from Hurricane Ike
Following the September 9, 2008, landfall of Hurricane Ike, the prognosis for Scholes Airport in Galveston, Texas, was grim. Forty aircraft and hangars, the GA terminal, the Lone Star Flight Museum—and the airport’s navigations aids, lighting systems and equipment—were severely damaged or destroyed.
AOPA ASN Volunteer George Gould was not going to let GLS succumb to its wounds. As the storm surge began to retreat, Gould worked closely with airport staff, Texas DOT, local pilots, and the Navy “Seabees” Amphibious Construction Battalion in the process of rebuilding.
Two years later, the resurgence is nearing completion. Local funds, combined with FAA and stimulus grants, allowed the airport to rebuild. Gould noted, “It has been a slow process rebuilding our airport. Thankfully, the Galveston community, TxDOT, and GLS airport staff recognized the airport’s importance and never gave up on us.”
I felt the need to be more involved in something I feel passionate about.”—Mitch Anderson, KFCM, Minnesota
When flight training increased at Falcon Field in Mesa, Arizona, airport neighbors expressed concern about community safety and increased noise. Upon learning of the strained community relations, ASN volunteer Otto Shill quickly got involved.
To address the increased concern of airport noise, Shill and AOPA staff helped form the Falcon Field Task Force, a seven-member citizen group that was created to develop voluntary measures to help resolve complaints. With a leadership role on the task force, Shill was instrumental in ensuring its recommendations provided the most reasonable solution to the concerns of both airport users and the surrounding community.
Because of the combined efforts of Shill, the task force, and airport management to improve relations with the community, noise complaints have dropped to their lowest level in more than two years. In recognition of the significant improvements at Falcon Field, the Arizona Department of Transportation has named it the 2010 Airport of the Year.
Come join the ASN annual meeting during AOPA Aviation Summit in Long Beach—it is open to everyone. The meeting will be on Friday, November 12, at 10:30 a.m. at the Hyatt Regency Long Beach Hotel, meeting room Seaview C. It’s a great way to meet the ASN staff and current volunteers, and learn more about the program.
The ASN webpage is now up and running and much more user-friendly! In addition to providing members with great resources for airport advocacy, the focus is to recruit more volunteers.
Are you a current ASN volunteer? Check out the website to learn more about the recruitment challenge. Help recruit new volunteers and earn a prize. Sign up now and join in the fun! The top five recruiters will receive a $100 gift certificate.
Treat yourself to the 2010-2011 AOPA Foundation Calendar and relish stunning aerial photography and valuable safety tips a s you jot down important dates and reminders.
While you may recognize the invaluable enjoyment that general aviation provides, and understand the challenges ahead to protect your freedom to fly, you may not be aware that the AOPA Air Safety Institute’s safety education programs have had a significant impact on reducing GA accidents—by 68 percent over 60 years.
And, those programs are just one example of the many ways the AOPA Foundation is able to protect your freedom. Your support and contribution will help ensure needed resources to continue to fund Air Safety Institute courses, accident case studies, Real Pilot Stories, quizzes, and webinars as well as provide additional support for protecting airports, building the pilot population and improving the image of general aviation. To make a donation to the AOPA Foundation and receive your calendar, please call 800-USA-AOPA (872-2672).
You wouldn’t willingly fly through a tornado, would you? Then beware of an equally powerful force—wake turbulence generated by larger aircraft and heavy jets. Test your understanding of wing tip vortex paths and danger zones for arriving and departing airplanes. Ask yourself what to do at the onset of wake turbulence on final approach.
See if you can answer the questions and share the quiz with other pilots. The quiz is underwritten by the AOPA Insurance Agency, Inc.
When you contemplate flying VFR at night, planning takes on another dimension—well beyond your usual VFR daytime flight planning; if not, it should. The GA night VFR accident record—as revealed by the AOPA Air Safety Institute’s accident database—clearly shows proportionately many more VFR accidents at night than during the day. This is not to scare you away from enjoying an exhilarating night flight—quite the opposite.
But please be safe. When ground lights are sparse or the night is pitch-dark without a brilliant moon, your flight can become more challenging than you expected. Conditions may even resemble IMC and it could be difficult to distinguish landmarks, terrain, and weather. This is a good time to carefully plan and review ASI’s Night VFR Flight Safety Spotlight, which offers plenty night flying resources all in one convenient place. Fully brief your flight and understand weather conditions that can produce marginal visibility leading up to IMC levels. At night marginal VMC should be considered a no-go for VFR operations.
Bolster your knowledge, and fly prepared—brush up now, go online.
Air Safety Institute,
Aircraft Power and Fuel,
The Senate has joined the effort to expand the FAA's third-class medical exemption to more pilots and aircraft.
The International Society of Women Airline Pilots champions and supports women in the cockpit.
On any route, the current combination of flight conditions and airspace can present a myriad of decisions to ponder.
AOPA thanks our members for their continued support in protecting the freedom to fly.