AOPA Action

What AOPA is doing to keep you flying

April 1, 2011

No user fees

NextGen and AIP funding, but no user fees, in president’s new budget

The White House budget avoids user fees, provides funding to advance NextGen modernization, and sets aside money for improvement projects at GA airports.

“Our initial reading indicates that the president has recognized the need to modernize our aviation system while maintaining critical infrastructure—all funded by a tried-and-true system of excise taxes and general fund contributions,” said AOPA President Craig Fuller.

The budget sets aside $1.24 billion for NextGen modernization, an increase of $370 million over 2010. At the heart of NextGen is the transition from a ground-based to a satellite-based air traffic control system, as well as new in-cockpit technologies that will help pilots improve their situational awareness of everything from traffic to weather.

The budget preserves Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funding for smaller airports—money that provides federal matching grants for critical infrastructure improvements such as runway resurfacing and extensions, taxiway construction, and airport lighting. The budget reduces overall AIP funding from $3.5 billion to $2.4 billion, but it specifies that the cuts are to come from large and medium hub airports, preserving monies for smaller commercial and GA airports that do not have alternative means of raising outside capital. The budget frees those larger airports to raise passenger facility charges, increasing their flexibility to generate their own revenue.

The budget also apportions $50 billion for “roads, railways, and runways.” Of that money, $250 million would be in the form of mandatory general fund contributions to advance NextGen and make near-term improvements in air traffic control infrastructure. Of that, $200 million would be used to accelerate research, advance development, and implement engineering solutions for NextGen technologies, applications, and procedures. The remaining $50 million would be used to upgrade FAA infrastructure such as power systems and air traffic control centers. The budget provides a one-time boost of $3.1 billion to the AIP for runway construction and other improvements

“We are grateful to the bipartisan action of the House of Representatives in telling the president that user fees are not an acceptable funding option,” said Fuller, referring to a letter to President Barack Obama signed by 116 members of the House. That letter stated that user fees “would be a step backward in our efforts to modernize our air traffic control system and fund FAA operations.”

Much of the proposed budget looks positive for GA; however, the availability of guaranteed low-interest loans to help aircraft operators equip for NextGen, remains in doubt.

“For NextGen to really work, the industry needs to ensure that the maximum number of aircraft are participating,” said Melissa Rudinger, AOPA senior vice president of government affairs. “Mixed equipage will diminish the value of NextGen for everyone, so it’s imperative that all types of system users get the help they need to invest in the necessary technology. I can think of no other initiative whose success has depended so heavily on investment by the end users—and that can be a heavy burden for individual operators who have no means to offset their investment.”

“This 2012 budget proposal comes even as we are looking at revisions to 2011 spending plans now being developed in the House and Senate, where both bodies are seeking ways to be responsive to voters who expect spending reductions. In this environment, a great deal can change between now and the time a final budget is approved,” said Fuller.

NATIONAL ACTION

Committee to advise on avgas transition

FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt has signed a charter establishing an aviation rulemaking committee (ARC) to advise the agency on the move toward an unleaded fuel.

The ARC will be a joint government/industry committee tasked with identifying key issues relating to, and providing recommendations for, the development and deployment of an unleaded avgas. The move comes in response to a request by the General Aviation Avgas Coalition, which includes AOPA, the American Petroleum Institute (API), the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), the National Air Transportation Association (NATA), the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), and the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association (NPRA).

“This is a much-needed step in the process that will ultimately determine how the aviation industry reaches an unleaded fuel solution,” said Rob Hackman, AOPA vice president of regulatory affairs and liaison to the GA Avgas Coalition. “Essentially, while the EPA can regulate what comes out of the tailpipe, the FAA has to regulate what goes in the fill pipe.”

The Avgas Transition ARC will help the FAA and industry design the process by which potential solutions will be approved for use in aircraft and identify tasks necessary to support a transition to an unleaded avgas. The charter is valid for six months with an option for a six-month extension.

Sanctuary overflight rule seen usurping airspace authority

A proposed rule that would impose penalties on pilots presumed to have committed airspace violations when overflying marine wildlife sanctuaries usurps the FAA’s authority to regulate airspace, improperly creates a new class of airspace restrictions, and would make it difficult or impossible for a pilot to defend against an alleged violation, AOPA said in formal comments on the proposal.

AOPA has consulted legal counsel, met with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and requested a position statement from the FAA on the rule that seeks to sidestep the normal rulemaking process and remove authority to regulate airspace from the FAA.

NOAA has proposed taking on unprecedented authority to restrict low-altitude flights over the Channel Islands, Monterey Bay, and Gulf of the Farallones national marine sanctuaries in California, and the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary in Washington.

AOPA has said the rule offers no workable method of notifying pilots of proposed nonstandard airspace restrictions. The proposal also would enact the troubling presumption that any pilot observed flying lower than the established altitude within a particular zone had violated sanctuary regulations. The minimum altitude for overflying marine sanctuaries is a recommendation, not a restriction.

“If the FAA permits other agencies to regulate airspace, to what end will pilots be expected to know, understand, and follow regulations of countless other agencies? Such an action would create a patchwork quilt of overlapping and potentially contradictory regulations from federal, state, and local agencies,” said Heidi Williams, AOPA senior director of airspace and modernization.

The FAA “has sole authority to regulate the use of the National Air Space System,” Williams said.

STATE AND LOCAL ACTION

NUMBERS:

$4 Billion
The total economic impact of general aviation in Massachusetts.

0%
The percentage of revenue from the Washington aircraft tax increase to be reinvested in the aviation system.

$11,130
Amount in new, annual personal property taxes a 1989 Cessna Caravan owner would have to pay in Connecticut under the governor’s new proposal (in addition to the $1,500 annual registration fee).

Yearly cost for the same airplane in:
New York: $0,
Massachusetts: $175,
Rhode Island: $160.

Massachusetts: Aircraft tax exemption repeal returns, now in House

After previous attempts to remove the commonwealth’s aircraft sales tax exemption were defeated in the legislature, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick opted not to include the proposal in this year’s budget. But the proposal is still alive in the state legislature, where a representative has introduced a bill to repeal the exemption. Rep. Cory Atkins proposed a bill that would make aircraft maintenance labor and parts subject to the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax. “Massachusetts’ aircraft tax exemption has made it competitive with neighboring states and has attracted new jobs, investment, and revenue into the commonwealth,” said AOPA Director of State Government Affairs Mark Kimberling. “We’re pleased that Governor Patrick chose not to include the repeal in his budget this year, but as long as states face significant budget deficits, we’ll continue to see short-term proposed revenue grabs of this nature—sometimes at the inadvertent expense of critical sectors of the economy.”

Washington: AOPA, local pilots rally to oppose proposed aircraft tax…again

AOPA has called on select members in certain districts in the state of Washington to help defeat a proposed excise tax on aircraft that is similar to a taxation plan dropped by lawmakers last year after a vigorous effort by the aviation community. H.B.1847, which would impose an annual half-percent levy “for the privilege of using any aircraft in the state,” was introduced in early February, followed by an identical companion bill a few weeks later in the Senate. The bill would impose the levy of 5 percent of an aircraft’s taxable value as part of a process of ending “tax preferences” that the sponsor describes as “obsolete and inefficient.” “This bill description is certainly a mischaracterization as it applies to the new aircraft tax provision, because there are no real existing tax exemptions or ‘preferences’ for GA aircraft based in the state,” said AOPA Director of State Government Affairs Mark Kimberling, “and the current cumulative tax liability to own, maintain, and operate an aircraft in Washington is already among the highest in the nation. However well-intentioned the effort is to find increased revenue to support the state health care plan, there is a point of diminishing return, and this excessive tax would inflict significant damage on an already fragile industry with a likely resultant net long-term loss in overall revenue collection.”

Connecticut: Connecticut governor’s tax bills take aim at GA

Two proposed bills in Connecticut—a hefty annual tax on aircraft owners and the elimination of the sales tax exemption for labor on repairs on small aircraft—could devastate the state’s aviation industry and drive business to neighboring states, AOPA is warning lawmakers. Gov. Daniel P. Malloy proposed the legislation as part of an effort to close a budget gap of about $3.2 billion to $3.5 billion. AOPA has joined with other aviation organizations to explain to legislators and senior administration officials that the proposals will harm Connecticut businesses and the state’s aviation industry.

“Given the low aviation tax environment of the region and the small size of the state, these twin tax increases are likely to cause a mass migration of aircraft out of the state, and a huge loss of aviation business activity,” said AOPA Vice President of Airports and State Advocacy Greg Pecoraro. “The impact of this literal flight of aviation from Connecticut will result in an almost immediate net loss in revenue to the state, which will only worsen its fiscal situation.”

Currently, aircraft based in Connecticut are required to pay a yearly aircraft registration fee. H.B.6387 would impose a 2-percent tax on the first 70 percent of the assessed value of all aircraft based in the state every year, resulting in a significantly higher tax liability for based aircraft. No states in the region currently impose a personal property tax on aircraft, and no other state in the nation charges both a registration fee and a personal property tax. S.B.1007 would essentially eliminate Connecticut’s current sales tax exemption for general aviation aircraft repair services: It would remove the exemption from the state’s 6-percent sales tax on repair services for aircraft with a maximum certificated takeoff weight of less than 6,000 pounds. (The exemption would remain in place for larger aircraft repair services and for aircraft repair or replacement parts.)

More than 100 repair stations are located in Connecticut. “For its size, Connecticut has a large number of private aircraft and a huge aviation services industry,” Pecoraro said. “If these tax changes are enacted, the loss of competitiveness with neighboring states that have more favorable tax policies would be devastating—in terms of business, revenue, and, certainly, jobs.”

AOPA MEMBERSHIP PRODUCTS

Looking forward to your tax return?

So are identity thieves

Protect yourself this tax season with these simple steps from AOPA and LifeLock, the trusted leader in proactive identity theft protection:

  • Never respond to unsolicited e-mails from the IRS. The IRS never initiates communication with taxpayers through e-mail. If you receive an e-mail claiming to be from the IRS, forward it to phishing@irs.gov.
  • Choose your tax preparer carefully. Be wary of individuals who claim to be able to find all sorts of tax loopholes. They may only be after your sensitive financial information. Instead, choose a tax preparer that is recommended or from a reputable company.
  • Shred, shred, shred. Be on the safe side—shred every piece of paper you place in the trash—regardless of whether you think it contains personal information or not.

Don’t wait for identity thieves to steal from you. Visit www.aopa.org/lifelock and try LifeLock® service for $9 a month. The AOPA LifeLock program provides vital revenue to maintain the freedom, safety, and affordability of general aviation.

AOPA term life insurance: No aviation exclusions

You may have been frustrated shopping for life insurance for you and your family—divulge that you are a pilot and many policies are closed to you. Luckily, AOPA has done all the research for you and is able to offer great policies at affordable rates with no aviation exclusions.

Three distinct forms of term life insurance are offered to AOPA members: Group Term Life, Level Term Life, and Senior Term Life. The Senior Term Life is designed for members aged 50 to 75 years and is an ideal “add on” for older members. No medical exam is required for the Senior Term Life. Providing protection for your family in case of your absence is at the core of your responsibilities to your family. With AOPA, affordable term life insurance is within your budget. If something in your life has recently changed—if you received pay increases or promotions, got married, purchased a bigger home, or had a child—you probably need to add to your insurance coverage. Visit www.aopainsuranceproducts.com.

Spring break for pilots

Join the aviation community at the thirty-seventh Annual Sun ’n Fun Fly-In March 29 through April 3 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 around the show grounds throughout the week. For show details, highlights, and ticket information, visit www.sun-n-fun.org.

AOPA Airport Support Network

Betty EasleyShe wears many hats

Unicom operator, journalist, aircraft photographer, statistician, airport advocate. These are just some of the many hats AOPA Airport Support Network Volunteer Betty Easley wears as the “Airport Greeter” at Hawthorne Industrial Airport located in western Nevada. Easley doesn’t like to tout her many contributions, but just looking around the airport gives you a sense of her dedication. You’ll find the latest aviation publications (even a few stories on visiting pilots that Easley writes for the local paper), a fully stocked pilot lounge, and three crew cars—all paid for out of Easley’s pocket. And to top off these creature comforts, Easley is always willing to lend a helping hand at the tiedowns and fuel pumps.

While Easley enjoys tending to the pilots as airport greeter, she also enjoys protecting the airport’s future as Hawthorne’s AOPA Airport Support Network Volunteer. By maintaining a close relationship with airport management, pilots, and local businesses, Hawthorne Airport has grown into an integral part of the community. “Probably one of the most important things I do is promote the airport and to create interest in the community about the airport and GA,” said Easley. “And AOPA’s Airport Support Network is a great resource in gaining that community interest.”

For more information on learning how to volunteer for AOPA, visit AOPA Online.

Air Safety Institute

FREE AOPA ASI SAFETY SEMINARS

April 1

Lakeland, FL

April 4

Pittsburgh, PA

April 5

Harrisburg, PA

April 5

Lynchburg, VA

April 6

Allentown, PA

April 7

King of Prussia, PA

April 12

Russellville, KY

April 13

Cynthiana, KY

April 20

Timonium, MD

April 21

Morris Plains, NJ

April 25

Blacksburg, VA

April 26

Danville, VA

April 27

Richmond, VA

April 28

Hampton, VA

These programs are made possible by gifts from individual pilot donors to the AOPA Air Safety Foundation. Seminar dates are tentative. For final dates, please visit the Web site.

Sun-n-FunVisit ASI at Sun ’n Fun

Are you ready to make the annual trek to Sun ’n Fun, March 29 through April 3? The Air Safety Institute (ASI), a division of the AOPA Foundation, is looking forward to meeting you at its booth, located in the AOPA tent at Florida’s Lakeland Linder Regional Airport. You’ll enjoy first-hand demonstrations of ASI’s latest online courses and programs, including the debut of ASI’s brand-new Real Pilot Story. Get answers to any questions you may have on ASI’s mission or how to contribute to help develop and sustain its award-winning safety education programs. Mark your Sun ’n Fun calendar to attend an ASI seminar and hear AOPA Foundation President Bruce Landsberg speak. Before you go, make sure to check out the event’s website for fly-in procedures and notams.

Now online: Spring Preflight Safety Spotlight

With the spring season upon us you may want to brush up on your spring preflight knowledge with ASI’s freshly updated Safety Spotlight. Like people, flying machines need regular exercise to stay in shape. Unfortunately, the cold, ice, snow, and darkness of winter mean that many airplanes sit idle for months at a time, and bad things tend to befall pilots who just “kick the tires and light the fires” on the first warm day of the year.

“Spring Preflight” gathers in one place essential courses, quizzes, publications, and links so you don’t have to hunt for these items throughout the vast ASI website. Check out this Safety Spotlight today to get you and your airplane ready for the spring flying season.

Spot airport hot spots quickly

Runway layouts change from time to time, and complex taxiway and runway intersections at busy airports can be confusing and even dangerous to someone unfamiliar with the airport layout. The statistics speak for themselves: Hundreds of runway incursions occur every year. But runway incursions and collisions on the ground are avoidable.

The Air Safety Institute, in conjunction with the FAA Runway Safety Program Office, provides some 600 airport taxi diagrams for the busiest U.S. towered airports. Several airports are notorious for having “hot spot” areas. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) defines a hot spot as “a location on an aerodrome movement area with a history or potential risk of collision or runway incursion.”

Diagrams for airports currently on the “hot spot” list are available. The diagrams depict the areas and describe the potential problems associated with the trouble spots. Check before each flight to be sure you have the most current layout, take the opportunity to study the diagram before you arrive and depart, and be aware of your position while moving on ramps and taxiways—especially at the more complex towered airports where you’ll be mixing with large aircraft and ground vehicles moving in close proximity.

After you study the diagrams, you may also want to review ASI’s Runway Safety course.

Visit AOPA online and scroll down the page where the mini-courses are presented.