AOPA Action

What AOPA is doing to keep you flying

February 1, 2012

Keep flying: Free online course, no AME

Imagine if every time you completed a flight review you also took a free online course about medical self-certification that allowed you to continue flying—using your driver’s license as the baseline of health.

That could become a reality if the FAA accepts a request that would allow pilots to use their driver’s license and medical self-certification to fly aircraft of 180 horsepower or less and carry one passenger. AOPA and the Experimental Aircraft Association are working to extend the driver’s license medical from sport pilot privileges to include pilots flying recreationally in slightly larger aircraft.

In order to use a driver’s license, AOPA and EAA are proposing that pilots would have to complete a medical self-certification online course every 24 calendar months in addition to determining that they are medically fit before every flight. To make it easy to remember to take the course, pilots could align it with their flight review dates.

The online course, which would be developed by the Air Safety Institute, would be open to all pilots and explain the self-certification steps along with the pilot’s responsibilities associated with certifying fitness for flight.

“Pilots visit the aviation medical examiner every six months to five years, depending on the class of medical and age of the pilot. The rest of the time they self-certify prior to each flight that they are medically qualified,” said Kristine Hartzell, AOPA manager of regulatory affairs. “This would follow the same principle, using a driver’s license, completion of the online course, and self-certification in lieu of the medical certificate.”

NATIONAL ACTION

BARR is back: Privacy rights restored

Pilots can again protect private data about aircraft movements from being publicly released.

Congress restored the Block Aircraft Registration Request (BARR) program in November. Privacy advocates in Congress and the general aviation industry had been fighting for the restoration of BARR since the announcement earlier this year that the program—which allows participants to block their N number and associated flight information when flying IFR—would be limited to those who could prove a “valid security concern.”

“On behalf of our AOPA members, we thank those in Congress and the administration who recognize the importance of assuring a measure of privacy protection to individuals operating their own aircraft,” said AOPA President Craig Fuller. “We are pleased to have the BARR program back in operation.”

The dismantling of BARR was met with bipartisan opposition in Congress. Many representatives and senators voiced their opposition to the change in letters to the Department of Transportation, and two bills to restore the program began making their way through each house of Congress. The appropriations bill that led to the program’s reinstatement cut off funding to anything that would limit an operator’s ability to request that his or her aircraft’s information be blocked from public dissemination.

Proponents of BARR argued that releasing information to the public such as the aircraft’s altitude, airspeed, destination, and estimated time of arrival invades privacy, poses a security risk to those on board, and threatens the competitiveness of U.S. companies.

NBAA led the initiative to restore BARR, and AOPA joined the association in taking the fight to court, petitioning the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to invalidate the new limitations on BARR.

“NBAA and its members thank the leaders in Congress for taking action to address our industry’s long-standing concern that curtailment of the BARR program represents an invasion of privacy, a competitive threat to businesses, and a potential security risk,” said NBAA President Ed Bolen.

EAA filed a friend of the court brief in support of the suit. EAA President and CEO Rod Hightower said, “We appreciate the efforts of those in Congress who acted to preserve the privacy rights of aviators within the BARR program. We also applaud the efforts of those within the aviation community who worked together on this important issue.”

Study seeks clearer picture of GA airports

AOPA and other industry groups are working with the FAA as it develops a new classification system for general aviation airports. The agency is conducting a year-long study that seeks new, expanded GA airport categories for use in a national integrated systems plan.

The study, which began in January 2011, is considering replacing the two current classifications—general aviation and reliever—with as many as five that would provide more definition of airport services and activities in the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS). Airports included in the NPIAS are considered significant to national air transportation and therefore eligible for federal airport improvement grants.

“Adopting additional classifications would parallel the method by which the FAA categorizes commercial-service airports,” said Greg Pecoraro, AOPA vice president of airports and state advocacy.

A final report is expected to contain a complete and categorized list of almost 3,000 airports, and detailed descriptions of the new categories. That information also will appear in the 2012 NPIAS report to Congress, to be published in the fall.

AOPA’s focus in discussing the study with the FAA has been to emphasize the importance of every kind of GA airport in the national airports system. AOPA staff told the FAA that it is important for the report’s final version to make clear that each of these airports makes an important contribution to aviation and its home community.

“The FAA intends for this to be a useful tool to help tell an individual airport’s story as well as explain what GA provides for the nation,” Pecoraro said. “AOPA has appreciated the FAA Airports team’s willingness to include us in their discussions and provide us with opportunities to comment on the study as it takes shape.”

State and Local Action

The 2012 state legislative session: by the numbers…
46
The number of state legislatures scheduled to go into session this year. Texas, Montana, Nevada, and North Dakota only convene every other year.

1. Maine: Tax repeal quickly reaps rewards

Word has gotten around that pilots flying to Maine need no longer fear the taxman, and aviation business is booming. The 2011 repeal of a notorious aircraft use tax that once targeted out-of-state visitors, along with adoption of full exemptions to taxes on aircraft parts and service, has begun to change lives. In November, New Mexico A&P mechanic Lee Bitsilly’s 13-month drought of aviation employment ended with a call from Oxford Aviation President Jim Horowitz. “I wanted to get back to work so bad that when Jim offered to bring me up, I packed my work clothes and other things and just took off,” Bitsilly recalled. In December, Bitsilly, 48, was hard at work on a Cessna 340A restoration project, giving the pressurized twin turbo a new lease on life just as Horowitz gave the veteran mechanic a new lease on his aviation career. Bitsilly is among eight professionals who recently landed new jobs at Oxford Aviation in Oxford, Maine. Horowitz currently employs 48 mechanics and artisans, with plans to hire 20 more. The line of aircraft awaiting restoration and overhaul in the company’s 45,000-square-foot shop has doubled since the depth of the recession, with work now scheduled five months out instead of two. Horowitz, who joined forces with AOPA in a long-running battle to repeal the taxes that drove pilots, business, and jobs out of the state, said the tax repeal turbocharged an industry recovery now in progress. “It takes away the disincentive to have more work done while the plane’s in Maine,” Horowitz said. With the tax law changes, Maine vaulted from being among the most hostile states toward aviation to being “as competitive as anywhere else in the United States.”

2. Ohio: Cincinnati warned against closing Blue Ash Airport

93,525
The estimated total number of state bills to be filed across the country throughout the year.

Fast and Furious

24
The number of days the Wyoming legislature is scheduled to be in session. This is the nation’s shortest scheduled state legislative session. Several states will convene for the entire year.

News reports that the city of Cincinnati may abandon its support of Blue Ash Airport—and possibly defy FAA warnings about use of funds from a sale—are meeting a strong response from AOPA and local pilots. “This is just wrong. Cincinnati made commitments, and now they’re backpedaling,” said Bill Dunn, AOPA vice president of airport advocacy. “The aviation community is going to fight this.” Dunn, in a letter to Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory, noted continuing news reports suggesting that the city “is seriously considering closing” the airport on the northeast side of the Cincinnati area. The airport is located beneath a Class B airspace segment with a floor of 5,000 feet msl and a ceiling of 10,000 feet. One report by an area television outlet attributed to City Manager Milton Dohoney comments to the effect that the decision about the airport turned on low revenue production. Dunn’s letter, as well as pilots interviewed by local news media, countered that claim, citing a 2006 economic impact report crediting the airport with contributing $6.9 million annually to the area’s economy. Additionally, the city of Blue Ash has set aside $2 million to assist with funding the airport’s reconfiguration. Cincinnati has also refused to accept nearly $500,000 of FAA Non-Primary Airport Entitlement funds allocated to Blue Ash Airport. AOPA “will take any and all action we deem necessary to protect this important general aviation airport,” Dunn said in his letter to Cincinnati’s mayor. “It’s unfortunate that Cincinnati apparently doesn’t see the overall transportation and economic impact value of Blue Ash Airport.”

3. Washington: Aircraft ‘luxury’ tax resurfaces in Washington state, not among governor’s recommendations

“Luxury tax proposals may take aim at so-called corporate fat cats, but actually hit middle-income mechanics and others the hardest.”

As Washington state lawmakers grappled in a special session with another huge budget shortfall, numerous revenue ideas have surfaced from various groups and organizations—including a luxury tax on aircraft—to bring the budget into balance. During the fall special session, Gov. Chris Gregoire presented lawmakers with a supplemental state budget containing “more than $2 billion in spending cuts, reductions to local revenue sharing and fund transfers to leave a $600 million reserve.” Gregoire’s three-phase fiscal plan does not include a tax on aircraft. However, a 10-percent luxury tax on GA aircraft was on the list of revenue proposals that have been reviewed, but not recommended at this time. In the current charged atmosphere of street protests and continued economic stagnation, local news coverage has speculated that while possible broad tax increases—such as a half-cent increase in the sales tax to ease the shortfall—might ultimately pass, multiple grassroots organizations are still pushing targeted taxes on the wealthy. One such group, the Economic Policy Institute, is reported to be urging scrutiny of “luxury taxes” on yachts and private aircraft. “Private aircraft have, unfortunately, been caught up in a lot of symbolic rhetoric emanating out of recent protests and discussions regarding income inequality. Yet, the irony is that luxury tax proposals like these may take aim at so-called corporate fat cats, but at closer glance actually hit middle-income aircraft mechanics and other middle-class industry workers the hardest,” said Mark Kimberling, AOPA director of state legislative affairs. The special session concluded with more than $500 million in budget cuts, and no tax increases yet agreed upon. The legislature will continue to take aim at the remaining $1.5 billion shortfall during this year’s regular session.

Airport Support Network

More than just airports

Pilots have come to expect AOPA’s advocacy on behalf of America’s 5,300 public-use airports. As part of that effort we have recruited a corps of Airport Support Network volunteers nearly 2,500 strong to aid in that effort. But in recent years, AOPA has gone beyond the pavement to help champion very different landing places. Working with other allies in general aviation, our work on behalf of backcountry airstrips, seaplane access to a variety of waterways, and heliports has broadened AOPA’s horizons. It has given us the chance to apply what we have learned with traditional airports to other exciting public-use landing sites—places where many of our members fly.

It is hard to appoint an ASN volunteer for a place where you cannot base an aircraft, but that doesn’t mean we don’t get plenty of help from pilots who care about accessing these locations. All we need are some local allies who are familiar with the site and passionate about protecting it to make a difference.

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

MEMBERSHIP PRODUCTS

Emergency Assistance Plus not just for dire emergencies

EA+ helps in many ‘routine’ emergencies

When you’re away from home, anything that disrupts travel can be an emergency, but you don’t have to be critically ill to take advantage of the many benefits of EA+. EA+ comes to the rescue for serious medical situations and death while away from home, but EA+ does so much more for those emergencies that could best be described as simply annoying. EA+ is on your side to help track down lost luggage. EA+ also helps with lost documents: passport, driver’s license, visa, and lost or stolen credit cards.

EA+ will also smooth the way with a “no limit” emergency cash transfer assistance—against a valid credit card. This service is particularly valuable when outside the country, where toll-free numbers may not work.

With EA+ on your side, an “annoying” emergency will be solved as simply as making one phone call.

There’s no better time to join EA+. It’s simple, and you can apply online. For just $89 for an individual and $109 for a family plan, you can’t go wrong. You may not control when an emergency strikes, but you can be prepared when it does.

AOPA’s Medical Services Plan comes to member’s aid

When prostate cancer grounded Jim Anderson, the impact was great. He is an aerial photographer, so he lost his flying privileges as well as the way he earns his living. His surgery had gone well, he was on his way to a full recovery, his tests were clean, and it was time to get his medical back.

When his doctor told Anderson he was fit to fly, he contacted AOPA as a member of the Medical Services Plan. A staff member told him she would check on his status. At that time, she also gave him a phone number so he could call as well. According to Anderson, he “badgered” the FAA a few times while several weeks went by. Anderson called AOPA again. That day, he was told by an AOPA Medical Specialist, “Let me make a call and I’ll get back to you.” He reports, “In less than a half-hour, my fax machine rang, and there was my medical. Without a doubt, AOPA knew the right person to call to get my medical cleared so I could fly again.

“I don’t know how much longer I would have had to wait without AOPA’s Medical Services Plan.” His advice for other pilots? Anderson says, “I tell them about AOPA and the Medical Services Plan. I’ve been healthy all my life, but things happen.” Anderson is back to playing basketball three days a week and he’s back flying—and earning a living.

AIR SAFETY INSTITUTE

FREE AOPA ASF
SAFETY SEMINARS

February 6

Little Rock, AR

February 6

Germantown, TN

February 7

Nashville, TN

February 7

Fayetteville, AR

February 8

Bethany, OK

February 8

Maryville, TN

February 9

Wichita, KS

February 13

North Las Vegas, NV

February 15

Northglenn, CO

February 16

Colorado Springs, CO

February 20

Ocala, FL

February 20

Eugene, OR

February 21

Portland, OR

February 21

Tampa, FL

February 22

Ft. Lauderdale, FL

February 22

Seattle, WA

February 23

Melbourne, FL

February 23

Spokane, WA

February 25

Puyallup, WA

February 26

Puyallup, WA

February 28

Greenville, SC

February 29

Peachtree City, GA

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.

Are you a pilot-philanthropist?

What if you woke up one day to hear that general aviation as we know it had ceased to exist? What if it was not a terrible nightmare, but indeed a fact—too late to fix? With a declining pilot population, a student dropout rate of 70 to 80 percent, airport closures, declining funding, and a media that sensationalizes accidents, it’s no surprise that GA is threatened now more than ever before.

Enter the AOPA Foundation. Through dedicated pilot philanthropists—and you can be one of them—the AOPA Foundation is able to fund efforts to address the four key initiatives critical to the future of GA:

  • Improving GA’s safety
  • Preserving and improving community airports
  • Growing the pilot population
  • Educating the public on the benefits of GA

As an individual pilot philanthropist, your support of these strategic initiatives provides an opportunity to ensure your legacy—GA’s legacy—is a strong and vibrant one. Don’t wake up when it’s too late. Make a tax-deductible charitable contribution in support of the AOPA Foundation’s initiatives now; you can also become a life member of AOPA.

Show me how I can help

Just about one year ago at the Grand Strand North Myrtle Beach Airport in South Carolina, a new, instrument-rated pilot missed an approach, clipped a tree, and crashed into a local mobile home park, killing both the pilot and a woman in an RV.

Within days of the accident, the tragedy was compounded by media and the public, who got in the game calling for the airport’s closure. A region well served by GA for years was at risk of losing an important airport.

The AOPA Foundation—responding immediately to the accident—held a safety seminar open to all local pilots and the media. Through this effort, the foundation dispelled the sensationalist claims being made by non-aviation experts in the media, preserved a local airport, and provided valuable safety resources to the area’s pilot population.

Improve GA’s safety: Share ASI’s safety programs

Safety education and research are paramount to help support every aspect of the AOPA Foundation’s initiative to improve GA’s safety. Through your generous contributions, the nonprofit pilot education and safety organization known as the Air Safety Institute (ASI), a division of the AOPA Foundation, can fund important work serving all pilots—not just AOPA members. You’ve come to know these free or low-cost programs as award-winning interactive online safety courses, safety webinars and seminars, Flight Instructor Renewal Courses, safety quizzes, Real Pilot Stories, Accident Case Studies, the ASI accident database, and analytical reports—the list goes on. ASI’s programs are created to help nurture safer pilots and an enhanced GA safety culture; please spread GA safety education by sharing ASI’s programs with fellow aviators and student pilots.

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.