May 1, 2012
By Kathy Dondzila
Another letter is headed to the White House to tell the president that the administration’s proposed $100-per-flight user fee faces a cold welcome on Capitol Hill.
Sens. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), co-chairs of the Senate General Aviation Caucus, spearheaded a letter to President Barack Obama, publicly stating their strong opposition to the administration’s fiscal year 2013 budget proposal to establish a new $100 user fee on certain GA operations. In total, 28 senators—mostly members of the GA Caucus—signed the letter to Obama.
“The administration’s proposal would bypass the existing per-gallon system and create a new bureaucratic regime within the FAA to collect a new user fee,” they wrote. “We believe the per-gallon tax assessed on aviation gasoline and jet fuel is the most efficient and effective way to generate revenue from aviation users.”
The senators also raised safety concerns. User fees proposed in the fiscal 2013 budget could create a “disincentive for pilots and aircraft to use air traffic control services or fly in controlled airspace.” That could result in a less safe flight environment, they said.
The new letter’s Senate signers offered the recently passed multiyear FAA reauthorization bill as a policy framework for funding the nation’s aviation system. “This bipartisan bill was able to pass Congress in part because it did not assess new user fees on GA,” they wrote.
“We applaud the senators who have signed this letter, as it demonstrates that they clearly recognize the value of general aviation. On behalf of our 400,000 members, we are grateful for their leadership and steadfast support,” said Lorraine Howerton, AOPA vice president of legislative affairs.
The letter was the second strong and early signal from Congress that, just as in years past, the administration’s user fee proposal would go nowhere in 2013. AOPA reported previously that 195 House members had signed a letter to Obama noting growing opposition to the new proposal and the failed history of past attempts to impose the charge.
The environmental group Friends of the Earth has made good on a May 2011 threat when it announced it had filed suit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over piston aircraft use of leaded avgas.
The lawsuit alleges that the EPA unreasonably delayed responding to a 2006 petition asking it to make an “endangerment” finding and propose emissions standards for lead emissions from aircraft. If successful, the lawsuit would force the EPA’s process for a potential endangerment finding onto a court-ordered timeline. An endangerment finding could then start a multistep regulatory process toward lead emissions standards. But GA groups deeply involved in mapping out the transition to an unleaded fuel point to multiple actions the EPA has taken, in conjunction with industry, to assess and minimize the impact of leaded avgas as it moves toward an unleaded alternative.
“Despite the lawsuit, the near-term availability of leaded aviation fuel is not threatened in any way,” said AOPA Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Rob Hackman. “Members of industry, along with the FAA and EPA, will continue our diligent efforts toward a high-octane unleaded alternative to leaded avgas, with safety of flight as our foremost consideration.” AOPA, the Experimental Aircraft Association, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, the National Business Aviation Association, and the National Air Transportation Association—the aviation members of the GA Avgas Coalition—also stressed that the FAA, not EPA, has final regulatory authority over all changes in aviation fuel because of critical safety-of-flight considerations.
The Friends of the Earth petition asked the EPA to find that lead emissions from GA aircraft endanger public health and welfare or, if it doesn’t have enough information to do so, study the health and environmental impacts of those emissions. The lawsuit trivializes multiple efforts under way to study the emissions and to develop a safe alternative to leaded avgas.
Since the 2006 petition was filed, the EPA has issued new rules that increase the stringency of the national ambient air quality standards for lead by tenfold. The new EPA rules also mandate monitoring of lead measurements near selected sources, even though the vast majority of areas with GA airports do not exceed the new stringent air quality standards for lead.
In response to the petition, the EPA issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) in 2010, acknowledging the need to collect more information about the issue and asking a series of questions. The agency also established new lead monitoring at 15 specific airports and is an active participant in the FAA’s Unleaded Avgas Transition Aviation Rulemaking Committee, a group formed at the urging of the GA Avgas Coalition that is tasked with producing recommendations to further the development and deployment of unleaded avgas.
Although the EPA is charged with establishing aircraft emissions standards, it must consult with the FAA and cannot establish standards that would adversely affect safety. If the EPA establishes emissions standards, the FAA has responsibility for actually implementing those standards.
The FAA has presented a broad outline of a future national airspace system with half of the current VOR network decommissioned by 2020, and AOPA is urging the agency to make sure GA pilots—and current equipment—have a place there.
AOPA has long supported the concept of satellite (performance-based) navigation, a system built on GPS signals and RNAV that will allow safe, point-to-point navigation—even in instrument meteorological conditions. The FAA must also plan a back-up system that is able to function in case of satellite outages. AOPA Vice President of Air Traffic Services and Modernization Heidi Williams urged the FAA to utilize existing GA equipment for the alternative position, navigation, and timing (APNT) system, and not rely on solutions based on distance measuring equipment (DME) technology.
AOPA urged the FAA to avoid wholesale replacement of the current Victor airway network with T-routes, and instead utilize the point-to-point navigation capabilities supported by WAAS and RNAV whenever possible.
Registration for AOPA Aviation Summit 2012 is now open. Summit will be held in Palm Springs, California, October 11 through 13 at the Palm Springs Convention Center. One of the highlights of Summit at Palm Springs—the Parade of Planes—will take place. Make your plans now by registering online. Additional information is also available online. You don’t want to miss this event.
Before you make your next purchase, make sure you check out the deals available exclusively to you as an AOPA member. You may be surprised at the money you’ll save by going to www.aopa.org/lifestyles first.
In the market for pilot supplies? You’ll find discounts offered by Sporty’s Pilot Shop, PilotMall.com, and Aircraft Spruce and Specialty. Other aviation discounts are available from Spidertracks, WingX, and more. You can use any or all of these discounts to make your flying more affordable.
But it’s not just aviation products where you’ll find discounts. Buying or selling a home? Look at the deal offered by Prudential Douglas Elliman. If you are the type who loves to find the best bang for your buck, checking out AOPA Lifestyles is a must when you’re renting a car. What’s the better deal? It may be the free additional driver offered by Alamo, the free membership in the Hertz #1 Club, the $35 off a weekly rental at Avis, or the $10 off for every $200 spent with Enterprise. All those discounts are yours as an AOPA member.
New discounts are added to the current list, so stop by to see the wide range of discounts, benefits, and bonuses that are available to you.
The AOPA Foundation recently announced it will expand its Hat in the Ring Society to honor achievements in enhancing aviation safety, preserving airports, growing the pilot population, and improving the image of general aviation. What does this new challenge mean? The Hat in the Ring Society will present four awards to those in the industry who have made significant strides in each of those categories, showcasing the contributions of general aviation’s leaders, pioneers, and practitioners. At the same time, the society is challenged with building a network of advocates with the means and enthusiasm to expand the foundation’s mission.
1918, France: Pilots of the 94th squadron created their unit’s insignia to commemorate the entry of the United States into World War I. They adopted the phrase of tossing one’s “hat in the ring”—a boxing expression to signify one’s willingness to become a challenger—and symbolized it with a red, white, and blue top hat in a ring. The AOPA Foundation’s Hat in the Ring Society is named for the World War I fighter squadron led by Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker, the legendary ace who flew his famous Spad with the Hat in the Ring symbol painted on the fuselage. The society recognizes its members who “toss their hat in the ring” through contributions to the AOPA Foundation in support of GA.
Mark your calendar: The AOPA Foundation will select the winners and present the awards on October 11 during the Night for Flight event at AOPA Aviation Summit in Palm Springs, California.
So here is a question for you: Do you like a challenge and support the future of general aviation? Then toss your hat in the ring to become a dedicated pilot philanthropist member of the Hat in the Ring Society. Chaired by actor and GA advocate Morgan Freeman and co-chaired by author Stuart Woods, aerobatic pilot Mike Goulian, celebrity chef Alton Brown, and actor Dave Coulier, this elite group recognizes members who contribute financial support to the AOPA Foundation of $1,000 or more in a calendar year. The Bronze Hat level recognizes gifts of $2,500, the Silver Hat level recognizes gifts of $5,000, and the Gold Hat Level recognizes $10,000 in a giving year.
All proceeds support the foundation’s mission to improve aviation safety through the Air Safety Institute, preserve community airports, and encourage learning to fly for career and personal benefit.
In addition to special communications from AOPA, Hat in the Ring Society members receive VIP invitations to designated AOPA and AOPA Foundation activities, including AOPA Aviation Roundtables to discuss issues facing the industry with AOPA leadership. Members also are recognized in AOPA’s Annual Report.
$12.3 million The amount in maintenance sales taxes on parts and labor, that GA aircraft owners will save per year as a result of Florida's new legislation.
The business climate looks brighter for general aviation in Florida now that the state House and Senate have agreed on an economic-development package with sales-tax exemptions for aircraft repairs and equipment.
House Bill 7087, backed by AOPA and the Florida Aviation Trades Association (FATA), makes aircraft with a maximum certificated takeoff weight of more than 2,000 pounds eligible for a tax exemption previously available only to airplanes weighing more than 15,000 pounds, and rotary wing aircraft weighing more than 10,000 pounds maximum certificated takeoff weight. The House-committee-sponsored bill cleared the Senate on one of the last days of the session, and was recently signed by Gov. Rick Scott. Lighter single- and multiengine aircraft make up the majority of the aircraft undergoing maintenance in Florida, giving the bill a far-reaching and beneficial potential economic impact, said Mark Kimberling, AOPA director of state government affairs. Kimberling’s on-the-scene advocacy for the bill, in tandem with FATA, and with help from aircraft manufacturer Embraer, provided much of the momentum as the bill moved through the legislative process. “This bill passage marks a great day for general aviation in Florida,” he said. “I commend the leadership in both the House and Senate for working with us on this important issue.” He credited Sen. Michael Bennett (R-District 21) for championing the legislation in the Senate. Bennett, in a statement, said he expected the measure to provide new employment opportunities for Florida aviation businesses. “The passage of this important legislation will now allow Florida’s numerous world-class maintenance and repair stations to better compete in attracting and retaining business, thereby protecting and creating countless family-sustaining jobs in this vital industry,””he said. Kimberling added that AOPA, along with the FATA, will continue to work with the legislature to protect and grow GA” in Florida.
Legislation in Illinois that AOPA warned could further depress the state’s aviation economy will move forward without its most onerous provisions after a recent House vote.
In a victory for pilots and aviation businesses in Illinois, the state House of Representatives unanimously passed House Bill 4444 minus provisions that would have doubled aircraft and pilot certificate registration fees, pushing some pilots to relocate based aircraft to less costly states. The measure now moves to the state senate with Aeronautics Office funding to maintain and upgrade aviation infrastructure and secure FAA Airport Improvement Program grants still intact—provisions that are supported by AOPA. AOPA Great Lakes Regional Manager Bryan Budds traveled to Springfield to explain the negative impact of the original bill’s fee increases on behalf of AOPA members from across the state. The association will continue to support the bill as it moves ahead.
“Illinois aircraft owners and pilots already pay the second highest cumulative state and local tax rate in the country. The fee increases that were contained in the bill, no matter how small or incremental, would only have added to that high burden,” said Mark Kimberling, AOPA director of state government affairs.
Aircraft owners in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough of Alaska will save $75 to $125 a year on registration fees now that the Borough Assembly has voted to repeal a registration tax. The unopposed vote came as a result of the Mat-Su Aviation Advisory Board’s efforts to call attention to the tax as a drag on the area’s aviation economy. The committee had passed a resolution advocating repeal, and assembly member Darcie Salmon introduced legislation proposing the registration fee’s repeal. Nine of 10 residents who spoke at a public hearing before the vote supported repeal. Owners of single-engine aircraft in the borough will save $75 a year; twin owners will save $125, with the savings drawing other aircraft to be based in the borough. AOPA supported the tax repeal in a letter from Alaska Regional Manager Tom George; Airport Support Network volunteers Dave Earl of Palmer Municipal Airport and Jane Dale of Willow also rallied support.
451 The number of jobs Embraer alone has created in Florida in recent years.
The city-owned airport in Las Cruces, New Mexico, has weathered the economic downturn and is poised for resurgence, thanks in large part to municipal leaders with their eye on the future, and the benefits the airport provides to the community.
Las Cruces International Airport has taken its lumps during the economic downturn, losing an FBO and a restaurant, but the city’s commitment has not been shaken. Federal grants, which the city sought from the FAA Airport Improvement Program, are funding a $5.5 million taxiway reconstruction now under way. The city is planning construction of a firefighter training facility, along with a new fire station, on the field.
The airport is used by general aviation operators and the U.S. Navy (which conducts flight training there during winter months), and serves as a destination for light cargo carriers. In the not-too-distant future, the construction of Spaceport America promises another lift. City Transportation Director Lisa Murphy told the Las Cruces Sun-News that the dedication of the spaceport drew a crowd, with more than 20 business jets parked on the ramp for the occasion. City officials are working to capitalize on the location.—Las Cruces is the closest airport to the new spaceport. The boom in activity caught the attention of AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer Jim Rosell, who personally delivered a letter of thanks from AOPA Manager of Airport Policy John Collins to Mayor Kenneth Miyagishima during a recent city council meeting.
Back row, left to right: Laura Hermann, Joey Colleran (ASN director), Mary Wunder, Rebecca Duggan, Jolie Lucas. Front row: Amanda Griffith, Marjy Leggett, Mary Latimer, and Elgene Doindis.
Garden City, NY
The twenty-third annual International Women in Aviation (WAI) Conference provided the opportunity for female ASN volunteers from around the country to gather for the first all-female ASN volunteer meeting. The volunteers were able to learn from each other about the challenges they face at their airports. Those challenges are the same many AOPA members and airport advocates face at airports across the county—encroachment, educating airport sponsors on the value of the airport, and tree growth or obstacles affecting airport safety. The volunteers also discussed the difficulties they have faced, and the lessons they learned in getting the local pilot community working together with the neighbors to create support.
The meeting also provided the chance to learn about some of the exciting initiatives these dedicated pilots are involved in. Hosting airport open house events, inviting kindergarteners to a day at the airport, running for airport boards, hosting a free week-long female flight academy, and being involved in the Air Race Classic—this group of volunteers is exciting to be around!
With more than 2,400 ASN volunteers nationwide, there are only 137 female volunteers. If you are a female AOPA member or know one who might be interested in becoming a volunteer, contact us.
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AOPA thanks our members for their continued support in protecting the freedom to fly.