AOPA Action

What AOPA is doing to keep you flying

August 1, 2011

Secret Service agents flank Air Force One as members of the presidential entourage deplane.

GA leaders seek relief for losses from TFRs

Six association presidents have requested that the Transportation Security Administration work with general aviation on ways to reduce business losses sustained under airspace restrictions during presidential travel.

In a letter to TSA Administrator John H. Pistole, the association leaders called for a joint effort to minimize the effects of temporary flight restrictions (TFRs) that have been imposed—sometimes to a radius of 30 nm from airports used during the president’s travel. The letter offered examples of aviation businesses suffering extensive revenue losses while their operations were curtailed because of the TFRs.

“This has been a continuing issue and we believe that we now are at a stage where practical and pragmatic steps can be identified to improve TFR design and implementation without compromising the security of the president,” said the letter, signed by AOPA President Craig Fuller, EAA President Rod Hightower, General Aviation Manufacturers Association President Pete Bunce, Helicopter Association International President Matthew S. Zuccaro, National Air Transportation Association President James K. Coyne, and National Business Aviation Association President Ed Bolen.

Examples of financial losses by GA businesses from TFRs included a fixed-base operator at Chicago Midway Airport losing an average of $60,000 a day in revenue when President Barack Obama visits the area. “Also helicopter air tour operators in Hawaii and Las Vegas experience losses in excess of $150,000 during each presidential visit,” the letter said.

The association leaders noted that TSA and other agencies worked with aviation businesses last summer to keep flight operations running during a TFR at Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.

That precedent could become the basis for the TSA to consult with industry on developing procedures that would let aviation businesses continue to operate “at near-normal levels” while addressing security needs during presidential travel.

The leaders offered the DCA Access Standard Security Program as a functioning example and a possible path toward allowing improved operational access to airspace during a TFR. “Already today, the DASSP allows qualified operators to conduct flights to and from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport,” the letter said.


NATIONAL

Study: LightSquared network ‘incompatible’ with GPS

A special advisory committee has issued a summary of its report that validates concerns about threats to GPS by a proposed broadband communications network.

Elements of the cellular network proposal by LightSquared are “incompatible” with aviation because of potential GPS signal interference. And that modifications could be made “to allow the LightSquared system to coexist with aviation use of GPS.”

“This confirms our message that the concerns expressed by the aviation community and other industries dependent on GPS are warranted, and are now helping to shape the review process,” said Melissa Rudinger, AOPA senior vice president of government affairs.

The report called for more study to determine frequency limits versus power for the network’s base stations, taking into consideration the effects of altitude on signal interference and the “lowest path loss for the low-altitude en route scenario.” The report, which discussed operation at the low and high channel, said the impact of LightSquared’s deployment of upper-channel spectrum is expected to be “complete loss of GPS receiver function.”

Members of Congress also recently weighed in on the side of the GPS community. A letter signed by 33 senators, including 13 members of the Senate General Aviation Caucus, called on FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski to rescind LightSquared’s conditional approval and bring the full FCC into the review process.


Avgas research funding support urged

A $2 million FAA budget request for research into an alternative to leaded avgas is an “absolutely critical part of the process” of switching the GA fleet to a lead-free fuel. That’s the message leaders of five GA associations sent in a letter to members on the Appropriations Committee’s transportation subcommittee to support the funding proposal in the FAA’s fiscal 2012 budget. The funds would support research on the safety of different avgas formulations and development of airworthiness standards for engine modifications.

“This is an absolutely critical part of the process to identify and transition the GA piston fleet to a new unleaded avgas. This FAA activity is needed to ensure technical and safety cooperation with EPA as it pursues regulatory actions to address lead emissions from general aviation under the Clean Air Act,” said the letter.

Support from the committee would ensure that the transition effectively balances environmental improvements with aviation safety, technical challenges, and economic impacts.

“We were successful in getting a provision into the House-passed FAA reauthorization bill that would authorize the FAA to continue research and development activities of an unleaded aviation fuel and safe transition for the fleet of piston-engine aircraft,” said AOPA Vice President of Legislative Affairs Lorraine Howerton. “Now the funding is needed to continue these activities and keep the momentum going in our efforts to transition to a new unleaded avgas.”


Backcountry aviation ‘essential’ in national forests

Backcountry airstrips provide a key gateway to special places, making them “an essential part of a forest transportation system,” AOPA said in comments submitted recently on the U.S. Forest Service’s proposed Forest Service Planning Rule.

The association’s comments capped AOPA’s participation in a year-long dialog on the proposed rule. The association has worked closely with the Recreational Aviation Foundation.

Recognition of the standout value of recreational aviation and backcountry airstrips located on public lands came in the form of a U.S. House resolution passed on September 14, 2010.

AOPA proposed that the Forest Service add specific language referring to airstrips to a section of the rule that defines multiple uses that must be provided in the national forests.

Planning officials will evaluate all of the formal comments received, with publication of a final rule expected by late 2011. Recreational aviation is one of many uses of the national forests, and we want to continue to see that access to the national forest airstrips be available to our members, AOPA has said.

STATE AND LOCAL ACTION

1. Maine: GA-friendly budget repeals notorious Maine use tax

Flying into Maine just went from a costly tax gamble to an enticing proposition under a bipartisan budget signed by Gov. Paul LePage June 20. The budget repeals a use tax that can slap out-of-state owners of new aircraft with bills for up to 5 percent of the aircraft's value. The budget also adds a complete sales tax exemption on aircraft sales and parts for all aircraft owners. The Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee agreed on the budget in the early hours of June 10, and the legislature approved it the following week. The agreement is a dramatic shift for Maine, which notoriously hit one out-of-state aircraft owner with a nearly $26,000 bill for visiting the state in his Cirrus SR22.

"Maine's use tax had long deterred pilots from visiting the state and put it at a complete competitive disadvantage with neighboring states in attracting new business and investment," said Mark Kimberling AOPA director of state government affairs. "Now, with the governor's signature, it has swiftly become one of the most GA business-friendly states in the nation. Maine is officially open for business."

AOPA has been working for years to convince state leaders to take action against the use tax, which went into effect in 2007. Kimberling and AOPA Northeast Regional Representative Craig Dotlo worked with the Senate's new president, Kevin Raye, a Republican, along with key Democrats in the House and Senate, to renew the effort to repeal the economic impediment. Bipartisan support, and a focus in both houses of the legislature on creating a more business-friendly tax climate, helped the repeal and exemptions make it into the budget agreement.

"I am very pleased that we succeeded in removing Maine's unconscionable aviation tax policy in the stste budget," said Raye. "This reform sends a clear message to out-of-state aviators: We welcome you back to visit and conduct business in our beautiful state. It also opens up tremendous opportunities for aviation businesses, especially aviation repair and refurbishing businesses, to locate and
invest in Maine."

Highest avgas taxes per gallon by state* ($):

  1. Indiana: 0.62
  2. Maine: 0.54
  3. Washington: 0.52
  4. Louisiana: 0.45
  5. Michigan: 0.40

*Based on an average fuel price of $6.146

2. Oregon: Airport resists inquiries on new fees

After initially receiving information through Airport Support Network Volunteer Pat Elliott about the introduction of seemingly arbitrary new user fees at the Southwest Oregon Regional Airport, AOPA has sent two letters to the operator in an effort to determine whether the new set of use and overnight charges was developed in compliance with FAA policy. The association has also made the FAA aware that the initial faxed response of the airport's management to the initial letter from Bill Dunn, AOPA vice president of airport advocacy, failed to provide "answers to the very specific questions which we posed to the Coos County Airport District." Dunn reiterated his request for information in a second letter to the management of the North Bend, Oregon, airport. AOPA plans to analyze the method used by the airport management in establishing the fees when considering further action. "While the airport clearly has the authority to implement a rate and fee structure that will make the airport as self-sufficient as possible under the current airport conditions as provided under the FAA grant assurances, such fees must be fair and reasonable without any unjust discrimination," Dunn wrote.

"AOPA is seeking to change the conversation—in Michigan and in statehouses across the country—about the role of GA in the economy and the effects of over-taxation on an already stressed industry."

3. Michigan: Bill would reform aviation funding

AOPA is supporting a Michigan bill— introduced by Rep. Dave Agema—that would strengthen the state's aviation industry by dedicating aviation-derived fuel tax revenue to a fund for reinvestment in the statewide aviation system. The bill would change the current system whereby aviation-derived tax revenues go directly to the state's general fund, providing little benefit to the aviation system. It would ensure not only that aviation fuel tax revenue is reinvested in aviation infrastructure, but also that the future of the overall aviation system remains healthy. The legislation marks a departure from past legislative sessions in which attempts were made to raise the already high aviation fuel tax rates—replaced now by a positive effort to preserve Michigan's vibrant general aviation industry.

9 Different types of state taxes currently imposed on aircraft owners*

  • Excise Tax
  • Fuel Sales Tax
  • Aircraft Sales Tax
  • Registration Fees
  • Aircraft Use Tax
  • Aircraft Personal Property Taxes
  • Fuel Excise Tax
  • Aircraft Parts Sales Tax

*Does not include defeated past state tax proposals such as the Illinois state luxury tax on GA aircaft.

"AOPA is seeking to change the conversation—in Michigan and in statehouses across the country—about the role of GA in the economy and the effects of over-taxation on an already stressed industry," said Mark Kimberling, AOPA director of state government affairs. "The first inclination in this case was to increase the excise tax on fuel, despite the fact that avgas prices are sky-high and the 6-percent sales tax they also impose on fuel amounts to one of the highest aviation fuel tax rates in the nation: about 40 cents a gallon. Now, with this bill, we're urging the legislature to instead direct a portion of the existing tax back into aviation and keep airplanes flying, businesses and goods moving—and, most important, keep people working."

AIRPORT SUPPORT NETWORK

AOPA Airport Support Network Volunteer Gary FoxDo we really need this airport?

This was the sentiment offered by some airport opponents during recent discussions to expand Northwest Missouri's Lee's Summit Municipal Airport (LXT). Public opposition to the airport skyrocketed following the 2009 release of the airport's business plan, which called for the expansion of the facility to further stimulate aeronautic and economic activity in the region.

Unfortunately, community members who were unaware of the airport's contribution to the local economy began to call for closure of LXT, citing what they thought was minimal airport-derived benefit. But AOPA's Airport Support Network Volunteer at LXT, Gary Fox, began to shed light on the airport's positive community impacts. "Knowing the many ways your local airport supports your town goes a long way," said Fox, who is also a member of the airport board and vice president of the Missouri Pilots Association. "Providing local leaders and community members with hard economic data showing the airport's contribution can have an amazing effect."

After more than two years of uncertainty, local officials—equipped with a full understanding of the airport's impact—approved requests to begin the airport's expansion. "Not surprisingly, the airport, and its potential to further develop its $8.4 million impact on the local economy ultimately won the support of the community," Fox said.

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

AOPA MEMBERSHIP PRODUCTS

Get maximum coverage with AOPA Legal Services Plan Plus

AOPA works hard to protect the rights of pilots and as a way of helping pilots on an individual basis, the association created the AOPA Legal Services Plan. The plan was designed to help protect pilots from FAA enforcement actions and to provide aviation legal assistance should the need arise.

Developing new key enhancements for this important coverage has been a central goal of AOPA, and this has led to the enhanced coverage of our new AOPA Legal Services Plan Plus. While the essential level of protection is still available for only $33, members now have the flexibility to choose the level of coverage that best suits their needs.

Members who opt to maximize their protection with the AOPA Legal Services Plan Plus will receive the highest level of coverage available and get more representation hours for FAA enforcement actions, aircraft accidents, alcohol or drug tests, aircraft sales and purchases advice, and more. Current participants with the standard level of coverage can upgrade their coverage at any time and those not enrolled in the plan are encouraged to read some case studies for real-life examples of how the plan has assisted countless AOPA members.

Please visit the website or call 800-872-2672.


Hurricane preparedness: Keeping you covered

AOPA members who live and/or plan to travel in hurricane-prone areas should have a plan to relocate their aircraft in the event of a storm. Check your insurance policy to see if it covers any costs for relocating your aircraft. Some policies cover the cost of hiring an evacuation pilot, relocating, and storing an aircraft. Others will reimburse policyholders for relocating their aircraft outside of a hurricane watch or warning area.

  • Choose evacuation airports that are comfortably within the range of your aircraft, are out of the hurricane watch or warning area, have scheduled airline service or rental car availability to get you and/or your evacuation pilot back home, and have temporary hangar or tiedown space available.
  • If you plan to have an evacuation pilot fly your aircraft, make sure you check your policy. It will state the required minimum qualifications for your pilot. For many common single-engine aircraft, it is simply "private pilot or better" and when looking for pilots in your area, check flight schools and aviation colleges, as well as local airports.

For more information, visit the AOPA Insurance Agency online or call (800-622-2672).

Aviation seminars at AOPA Aviation Summit

AIR SAFETY INSTITUTE

AOPA Aviation Summit forums focus on safety

With forum titles such as Engine Failure After Takeoff, Spin Myths, What Went Wrong?, Real World IFR, and Night Flying Safety, it's obvious safety is the name of the game at this year's AOPA Aviation Summit held September 22 to 24 in Hartford, Connecticut.

Pilot safety starts with education, and we invite you to join AOPA Foundation President Bruce Landsberg and Air Safety Institute Chief Flight Instructor JJ Greenway, together with a variety of speakers such as Adrian Eichhorn, Andy Miller, and AOPA Pilot Editor at Large Tom Horne, as they tackle key safety topics designed to help you fly smart and stay safe.

Check out the full schedule online. Haven't registered for Summit yet? Don't wait! Register and book your hotel now to take advantage of show discounts.


Discover ASI's live and recorded webinars

Do you want to learn a thing or two beyond the PTS, flight review, and flight training manuals? Join fellow pilots who have attended the Air Safety Institute webinars and heard from experts in the aviation community about topics that are important to every pilot. Ever wondered how aeronautical decision making or aerodynamics principles affect real-world flying? Or, maybe you'd like to know how to get help when the clouds ahead of you start looking ominous?

Live events provide the ability to ask questions of the presenter and panelists, and help make the webinar even more interactive. Can't make the live show? Each webinar is recorded and posted online so you can watch the entire hour-long session—complete with questions and answers. ASI webinars qualify toward AOPA Accident Forgiveness and the FAA WINGS program.


New online!: Aerodynamics Safety Spotlight

ASI Aerodynamics Safety Spotlight Getting a handle on aerodynamics doesn't have to involve dry textbooks and dense equations. But it does require a thorough understanding of aerodynamic performance during critical phases in flight.

You may know an airplane can stall at any airspeed or pitch attitude, but do you really understand why?

Enter the Aerodynamics safety spotlight to discover the true meaning of "Alpha" and "critical AOA" with ASI's recorded Aerodynamics webinar. Explore the "Essential Aerodynamics: Stalls, Spins, and Safety" online course, and learn need-to-know concepts explained in safety advisors, quizzes, and pilot safety announcements that will help you avoid unintentional stalls and spins.

AOPA AVIATION SUMMIT

AOPA Aviation Summit
Hartford, Connecticut September 22-24, 2011

The insiders' recommendations

What can you not miss at AOPA Aviation Summit 2011 in Hartford, Connecticut, September 22 through 24? Here's what Editor in Chief Tom Haines, AOPA Foundation President Bruce Landsberg, and Flight Training Deputy Editor Ian Twombly recommend:

Tom Haines

  • Swing by the AOPA Live Studio on the Exhibit Hall floor to watch the news in the making. We'll be webcasting every day from the studio. See your favorite newsmakers interviewed live and tell your friends at home to tune in via the Web.
  • Make sure you tear yourself away from all of the great seminars to visit the exhibit hall and Airportfest in order to see and touch all of the latest gear, gadgets, and aircraft in GA. AOPA Summit is your place to become a better, safer pilot and part of that is knowing what new gear is there to help.
  • Come by my session,"Buying Your First Airplane." I'll be offering insights to consider as you shop for an airplane; and with values still low, it's a buyer's market.

Night for Flight auctionBruce Landsberg

  • Join us for "A Night for Flight," a very special benefit for the AOPA Foundation. This charitable event includes a reception, three-course dinner, and an exciting acrobatic show—and half of the cost of each ticket is a tax-deductible contribution to the AOPA Foundation.
  • Attend my must-see Air Safety Institute seminar, "Mastering Takeoffs and Landings," for practical, real-world techniques that will help you make (mostly) smooth, trouble-free departures and arrivals.
  • Visit the aircraft display and the AOPA Learn-to-Fly Center at "Airportfest"—open each day at Hartford-Brainard Airport.

Ian Twombly

  • Summit is a great place for student pilots and flight instructors. We'll have aviation's top career experts giving an overview of hiring, as well as personal advice for you.
  • One of the highlights of Summit is the Dine-Arounds. Dine-Arounds are intimate dinners with any number of aviation's top people, including pilot authors, aerobatic legends, women leaders, and of course, editors of AOPA's publications.
  • Come to Controller's Corner and put faces to ATC voices. Controllers offer seminars, answer any and all of your questions, and generally take the fear out of radio work. 

AOPA Summit celebrates the centennial of U.S. Naval Aviation

From a special luncheon program featuring naval aviators to the Wings of Gold Dine-Around event, Friday, September 23, at AOPA Aviation Summit will be full of stories about the pilots who launched off of catapults at night in bad weather, flew missions in war zones, and who carry on the legacy of the United States Navy. Each naval aviator at Summit contributes to GA and has benefitted from GA throughout their lives. Don't miss the opportunity to hear their stories.

Kathy Dondzila

Kathy Dondzila | Manager, Technical Communications, Pilot Information Center

Technical Communications Manager, Kathy Dondzila, joined AOPA in 1990 and is an instrument-rated private pilot.