October 1, 2011
By Kathy Dondzila
What affects one segment of the aviation industry ultimately affects everyone involved in aviation, be they business jet owners, helicopter pilots, or airport operators, said leaders of the industry associations in a recent roundtable discussion.
“We are, in fact, all part of the general aviation community, and anything that affects one segment affects us all,” said Ed Bolen, president and CEO of the National Business Aviation Association. Bolen was joined by Pete Bunce, president and CEO of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association; James Coyne, president of the National Air Transportation Association; AOPA President Craig Fuller; Experimental Aircraft Association President Rod Hightower; and Matthew Zuccaro, president of Helicopter Association International.
The organizations have joined together to fight the issues that threaten aviation, and the group leaders agreed that a united front has helped them gain a stronger voice on Capitol Hill.
Some of the issues facing the industry include privacy rights for personal aircraft, user fees, and the dwindling pilot population. High-tower said EAA is poised to sharpen its focus on nurturing the next generation of aviators by helping Young Eagles participants—some 77,000 per year—progress beyond first flights to actually completing pilot certificates. Financial support and mentoring are approaches that will be used, he said.
AOPA’s Flight Training Retention Initiative is working to pinpoint successful and not-so-successful practices within the training community to improve the student pilot retention rate, Fuller said. User fees, once thought to be off the table, cropped back up in the most recent round of budget negotiations, Fuller added. “That is not the way to raise [revenue]. It creates a new bureaucracy.” Unless we convince Congress now that it doesn’t raise money in the proper way, we’ll be at risk, he explained.
Bunce pointed to President Barack Obama’s recent statement that accelerated depreciation, which makes it more cost-effective to purchase a new aircraft, is too generous and that owners can afford to pay more. The president’s declaration came only several months after he had proposed to accelerate the depreciation schedule in an effort to encourage businesses to invest by reducing their tax burden on new purchases.
Challenges facing the helicopter industry include administrative and regulatory agencies that misdirect their attention to a small percentage of helicopter accidents—those involving emergency medical transport, Zuccaro said. “We’re not targeting the real issue and the real problem,” Zuccaro said. “The majority of accidents are Part 91 [operations]—personal flying and training.”
Full rulemaking process urged in LightSquared case
The Federal Communications Commission, now in possession of clear evidence that a proposed mobile communications network jams GPS signals, should recall approval it granted network venture LightSquared, and begin a full rulemaking process in the case, said AOPA and the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA).
The two associations, participants in a technical working group in the case through their representatives on the Program Management Committee of RTCA Inc., recently filed formal comments with the FCC. AOPA and GAMA strongly urged the FCC to recall the waiver granted in January to LightSquared conditional on tests and solutions to now-confirmed interference with GPS. LightSquared has “entirely failed” to solve interference problems, which threaten the future of a GPS-based air traffic system—and no technology exists to provide a remedy, they said in the joint filing.
“The evidence is clear: LightSquared’s proposal puts the entire GPS system at risk,” said AOPA President Craig Fuller. “Study after study has shown that LightSquared’s plan is simply ‘incompatible’ with GPS. At the same time, the company’s proposed solutions rely heavily on technology that doesn’t exist. That’s why we are joining with GAMA to ask the FCC to revoke LightSquared’s waiver immediately, and to begin a rulemaking process that will protect the integrity of the GPS system into the future.”
After the adverse test results emerged, LightSquared acknowledged the problems but blamed the present conflict on past GPS designs. The company publicized an offer of a six-month “standstill” period—while also insisting that modification of existing and future GPS receivers to filter out extraneous signals be part of the solution.
LightSquared “assumes that suitable filters will soon become available. No evidence suggests that will be the case. Absolutely no filters exist today that can reliably protect GPS from LightSquared interference,” wrote Melissa Rudinger, AOPA senior vice president of government affairs, and Jens Hennig, GAMA vice president of operations. The FAA’s impact statement concluded that “no realistic chance exists that a suitable interference solution can be invented, qualified for aviation use, and certified for installation across the fleet in less than 10 to 15 years.”
The FAA has adopted many of AOPA’s recommendations for its new policy to clarify the term “actively engaged” as it is used for purposes of airframe and powerplant mechanics’ inspector authorizations (IA). The clarification will affect IA renewals as of the March 2013 renewal cycle.
The FAA said it accepted AOPA’s request for the clarification to specifically address individuals engaged in personal aircraft maintenance, as well as retired mechanics providing occasional or relief maintenance; individuals providing maintenance in rural areas; and those offering specialized expertise in electrical, composites, and rare or vintage aircraft.
“The FAA also values the experience of individuals who are available on a part-time or occasional basis to inspect vintage or rare aircraft or aircraft that may be located in rural areas of the country not serviced by an abundance of IAs. The FAA does not intend to eliminate eligibility or renewal opportunities of these individuals. Accordingly, the FAA has adopted a broad definition of ‘actively engaged’ to include not only part-time employment but also occasional activity, which does not require employment and can occur on an infrequent basis,” said the notice of policy.
The FAA also accepted the position that supervision must meet the recency of experience requirements for an airframe and powerplant (A&P) certificate.
AOPA's ability to provide a strong voice for general aviation depends on its members. Member engagement is vital to the association's mission to protect GA, and purchasing AOPA Member Products plays a significant role in supporting that effort.
A significant portion of financial support for AOPA's mission is directly attributed to Member Products.
Funding from AOPA Member Products has provided the means necessary for AOPA's government affairs division to fight and win important GA issues for members—and all pilots.
AOPA is creating alliances within the aviation industry and across others to negotiate the best possible outcome for GA. The association also has campaigns to educate opinion and thought leaders about the value of GA. It is developing programs to grow the pilot population and introduce GA to the next generation of aviators. AOPA is also creating campaigns to improve the public's perception of GA. AOPA is partnering with others to reduce the cost of aircraft ownership and continues to create high-quality safety education programs for all pilots, many absolutely free. The list goes on.
Keeping GA strong and protecting the freedom to fly continues to be AOPA's mission, and AOPA Member Products will continue to be one of the significant ways AOPA members can support that mission.
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San Jose (SJC), California—Since the 1980s, SJC seemed determined to discourage light general aviation aircraft from basing at San Jose. Existing GA hangars and tiedowns were left vacant, and the airport refused to rent empty facilities despite the demand by GA. With a single FBO on the airport, fuel prices have been among the costliest in the area. ASN volunteer Douglas Rice and AOPA member Tom Poulter have been on a crusade to change this trend. Local decision-makers and many other airport stakeholders know of their passion, and they have been successful in their efforts. Attending numerous meetings and even conducting a needs-based survey at their personal expense, they are seeing change. The aviation director advised that the airport will begin renting existing GA facilities to interested individuals. Additionally, a recent re-configuration of facilities with a consolidated rental car facility and relocation of parking lots has opened up a significant amount of space for GA. And there may be another FBO in the future as well. All of these plans are evolving but moving in a direction that will see light GA aircraft once again welcomed at San Jose.
"AOPA's work protecting airports and pilot access are important to members, and the Airport Support Network provides a vehicle for early mobilization of our resources when an airport is targeted." —Joey Colleran, ASN program director
Pressure on public and privately owned airports continues to mount. This pressure takes many forms, including curfews, noise restrictions, lack of improvements, residential encroachment, and even calls to close the airport.
Often, the general aviation community is unaware of what's boiling in the pot concerning their airport—until it is too late to turn down the heat. Knowing what's happening in the political environment surrounding a local airport is critical if we are going to preserve GA's infrastructure into the future. The more time available in which to counter negatives about a local airport, the higher the possibility for preserving the airport or avoiding restrictions.
The AOPA Airport Support Network provides the vehicle for AOPA members to work in concert with AOPA to establish that early warning system.
Willow Run Airport (YIP), Michigan—ASN volunteer Elgene Doindis joined the program a year ago, and what a year it has been. Soon after becoming a volunteer, she created a superb website that lets her share news about the airport and her activities as the ASN volunteer. Through the website she announces upcoming events, posts aviation news, and most important, she asks people interested in staying informed about airport issues to sign up for her email list. This is critical in her efforts to serve the pilot community as the ASN volunteer—Doindis understood from the beginning that engaging the whole pilot community was essential. Now, when an issue arises, she will have a network of pilots ready to work.
Because if we don't, who will protect America's GA airports?" —Howard Kave, SWF, New York
Doindis' encouragement of the community's participation, motivation to promote Willow Run, and energetic readiness to combat negative issues at the airport make her a top-notch ASN volunteer.
See her blog.
When the ASN program started I saw it as a way to give back to the airport that gave so much to me by making my dream of becoming a pilot a reality." —Cheryl Popp, ISZ, Ohio
Serve as the eyes and ears of an airport, notify AOPA headquarters when issues arise. Be a liaison to local pilot and local pilot groups, airport management, and other stakeholders. Engage in promotion of local airport activity to enhance a favorable image of the airport. Help educate local officials and community neighbors about the value of their airport. Monitor and report to AOPA on airport sponsor meetings.
ASN program staff meet with volunteer across the country, participates in aviation events, and spreads the word about ASN to keep the program running in high gear. From the Arlington Fly-in and Sport Aviation Convention to EAA AirVenture, Sun 'n Fun and airports in between, ASN staff and volunteers discuss issues and plan for the future. At AOPA Aviation Summit, more than 100 guests attended the ASN meeting where AOPA President Craig Fuller addressed the crowd.
Take the interactive online course. This self-paced course provides and introduction to what you need to know to become an airport advocate and ultumately an ASN volunteer.
To learn more or volunteer, visit the website .
Find out what happens when the certificated flight instructor realizes he has only seconds to land the airplane in this latest installment of ASI's popular Real Pilot Stories series.
Join the flight in progress and ask yourself how you would handle this frightening in-flight emergency: Your feet are on fire and the cockpit is full of smoke; you need to find a place to land—right now. Learn how flight instructor Jade Schiewe coped with this routine training flight as it became a desperate struggle for survival. (Sponsored by the AOPA Insurance Agency, Inc.)
Although in-flight electrical fires are rare, they can happen at any time—and they can be disastrous. Check out this Safety Brief, which looks at ways you can minimize the chances of a fire, and be better prepared in the event one occurs. Even if the data say in-flight fires are rare, statistics are cold comfort when it happens to you.
Practice, planning, and good judgment can improve the odds tremendously, but despite our best intentions, sometimes things just go wrong.
In this Safety Advisor, you'll examine ways to handle those critical "up here, wishing you were down there" situations as safely as possible.
Do you like taking a quiz now and then? ASI has a creative lineup for you from "ATC Terminology" to "Collision Avoidance" to "Airspace Review," just to name a few topics. Sharpen your knowledge while you exercise your brain with ASI's online quizzes, underwritten by the AOPA Insurance Agency, Inc.
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AOPA thanks our members for their continued support in protecting the freedom to fly.