News & Notes: New generation of pilots

Airport playground welcomes all

December 24, 2013

aopa pilot newsA new aviation-themed playground at Massachusetts’ New Bedford Regional Airport exemplifies AOPA President Mark Baker’s wish to make general aviation airports welcoming and inspirational for a new generation of pilots.

The idea for the playground came from AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer Donald Velozo and was implemented by Atlantic Aviators, a chapter of Women in Aviation International. “When I became the new ASN volunteer, my predecessor gave me a video of the movie One Six Right about general aviation airports,” he said. “In the movie, there was a scene with a playground at the airport. I remember doing that as a kid. It inspired me to become a pilot.”

Velozo said he sees the playground as a seed program for pilots. “I see this as a way to get kids interested in flying,” he said. “Flying is a spectator event. People fly, but more are watching.”

The first challenge was the price tag, which was $165,000, said Atlantic Aviators chapter President Tammie Irwin. “When we first started, we had no idea what it would cost,” she said. “But that’s a staggering amount for a small group. The challenge was how we raise that money without overextending those who help us regularly.” Atlantic Aviators found the money by applying for private and corporate grants and holding fundraisers, said Irwin. “We also customized pieces on the playground that were purchased by individuals, organizations, and companies.”

“I want kids to come with their fingers in the fence and want to be on the other side of it and become pilots,” said Velozo. “That’s the end game.”

Extra: The welcome mat is out

DeKalb-Peachtree (PDK), Atlanta, Georgia

Home of Georgia’s first aviation park—featuring a mini-airport, the park provides educational and recreational opportunities for individuals and families to learn about aviation or just watch airplanes while playing or picnicking.

Van Nuys (VNY), California

Visitors are welcome to visit Van Nuy’s “Propeller Park” on the third Sunday of every month for Airport Display Day, sponsored by the airport’s Propeller Aircraft Association. The airport runs frequent tours for children and adults.

Albert Whitted (SPG), St. Petersburg, Florida

In 2008 the city opened Albert Whitted Park, located on the north side of the airport, with observation areas and an aviation-themed playground featuring miniature historical aviation and airport replicas for public viewing.

Oceano County (L52), California

The pilot association at this beachfront airport sponsors many community events, including on-airport movie nights, a Toys for Tots party, and on-field camping.

Lake Hood (LHD), Anchorage, Alaska

This unique seaplane base and gravel strip is open to the public with access to lakes Hood and Spenard, and walking paths throughout the airport into Anchorage International. Have a picnic or just hang out at the Lake Hood Swimming Beach.

Greenville Downtown Airport (GMU), South Carolina

The airport’s new public aviation-themed park includes an educational amphitheater, paved exercise “Perimeter Taxiway,” and walking “runways” as well as aviation-themed playground equipment for children two to five years old, a swing set, and an airplane “climber.” Coming soon is a Cessna 310 that will be “flying” over the park.


AOPA Action: What AOPA is doing to keep you flying

Stop the application backlog

FAA inefficiency contributes to its backlog of work. AOPA is weighing in with ways to improve the process. The FAA has a backlog of 1,029 air agency certificate applications, which are required for FAA repair stations, Part 141 flight schools, and charter operations, according to Jeff Guzzetti of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Of that backlog, 138 applications have been awaiting approval for more than three years and one has been stalled since 2006. Such delays prevent new businesses from opening and existing businesses from updating their roster of pilots or aircraft. AOPA is helping to identify ways to streamline the certification process with the goal of delivering “twice the safety at half the cost.” While the FAA cited lack of resources and personnel as key reasons for the ongoing problems, Guzzetti noted that the system of allocating available resources also is to blame. He suggested that the FAA move away from a first-come-first-serve model and triage incoming certification requests, allowing the agency to reduce the backlog by handling simple matters quickly rather than forcing them to wait behind complex issues that could take months or years to resolve.

Pilot testing should be based on real-world situations, aopa says: An industry-led working group co-chaired by AOPA has released its recommendations for creating an integrated airman certification system for pilot training, testing, and certification. The recommendations focus on integrating the knowledge, skills, and risk management elements in each task of the existing practical test standards into a single airman certification standard used for both the knowledge and practical tests. They also propose ways to streamline and consolidate FAA handbooks and other guidance materials to align with the new certification standards. The report includes a recommendation on the adoption and implementation of an integrated airman certification system that will contain revised standards, guidance, and testing.

aopa pilot newsSuspend Sleep Apnea Policy, AOPA insists: AOPA is welcoming legislative efforts to keep the FAA from unilaterally implementing a new policy that would require some pilots to be screened and, if necessary, treated for obstructive sleep apnea before receiving or renewing a medical cerificate. The screening would initially apply to pilots with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 and above. Over time, the FAA would lower the BMI requirement, compelling more pilots to be screened by a board-certified sleep specialist (see “Waypoints: Last Day to Fly,” page 16). The policy is the result of NTSB recommendations, but AOPA argues that there is no evidence to support the need for such screenings among GA pilots.

A ‘Great win for GA,’ says Baker: The U.S. Congress has given final approval to a bill that requires the FAA to streamline the certification methods for smaller general aviation aircraft, advancing an initiative that should reduce the cost of upgrading existing aircraft and bringing new aircraft to market. “This bill is such a great win for general aviation,” said Mark Baker, president and CEO of AOPA. “Not only will it spur innovation in the design of new aircraft, it will make it easier for owners to upgrade the existing fleet. There’s no reason pilots should be priced out of better and safer flying by burdensome government regulations.” The Small Airplane Revitalization Act gives the FAA until December 31, 2015, to adopt changes to FAR Part 23, which governs the certification of many general aviation aircraft. Manufacturers say that a streamlined Part 23 will reduce certification costs and thus the price of new aircraft. The changes also should reduce the certification cost and price of modifications of all types, from avionics to airbags and seats to restraints, making it more affordable for owners to install modern safety equipment in older aircraft. “I am heartened to see strong bipartisan support for this important step forward for aviation,” Baker said. “We at AOPA are looking to the FAA to adopt the changes as soon as possible.”


On the web: AOPA Strategic Partner Spotlight: Alamo Rent A Car, Enterprise Rent-A-Car and National Car Rental

Alamo, Enterprise, and National support AOPA members by offering car rental discounts, which save members up to 25 percent on car rentals. These Strategic Partners sponsor AOPA Outreach Events, AOPA Airports, and the “Fly-Outs” feature in AOPA Pilot. They also provide financial support that helps AOPA promote, protect, and defend GA. (www.aopa.org/cars)


Donations to the AOPA Foundation help fund the webinars, online courses, and other safety education products the Air Safety Institute is known for. Consider a donation today and help keep these free resources available for pilots everywhere (aopafoundation.org/donate).


‘Accident Case Study: Delayed Reaction’ probes a tragic aircraft icing accident

aopa pilot news“The airplane’s encounter with unforecast severe icing conditions, which were characterized by high ice accretion rates, and the pilot’s failure…to depart the icing conditions in an expeditious manner, resulted in a loss of airplane control.” Those were the National Transportation Safety Board’s sobering findings, which concluded its investigation of an ill-fated flight that ended a few short minutes after takeoff, ending the lives of a pilot, his wife, two children, and a business colleague. It is a chilling testimony to just how quickly things can go wrong in certain weather situations—even for an experienced, well-trained pilot flying a capable aircraft.

At the time of the accident, the most prominent weather feature in the area was a cold front that had moved south across the region earlier that morning. Behind it lay a band of moisture that, in combination with freezing temperatures aloft, created the potential for dangerous icing conditions. The pilot and his passengers had departed New Jersey’s Teterboro Airport in a Socata TBM 700, a high-performance aircraft that can cruise at nearly 300 knots and up to 30,000 feet—well above most weather. The aircraft should have landed safely in Atlanta a few hours later—but instead it plummeted to the ground from nearly 18,000 feet, impacting the southbound lanes of nearby Interstate 287. Witnesses reported seeing pieces of the airplane separating during flight, and NTSB examination of the wreckage confirmed that the outboard section of the right wing had separated in flight at a relatively low altitude.

How could things have gone so badly wrong? The events leading up to this terrible tragedy are the subject of the Air Safety Institute’s Accident Case Study: Delayed Reaction. Using audio of the pilot’s discussions with air traffic control and factual information from the NTSB, the Air Safety Institute has pieced together the story of this tragic flight and examined the factors that led to its sudden, shocking end in the hopes that we as pilots can learn from them (www.airsafetyinstitute.org/acsreaction).

New seminar casts you as investigator

aopa pilot newsTo the average person, it might seem a bit morbid that pilots pay so much attention to aircraft accidents. After all, when was the last time you saw an article about an accident in a car magazine? But flying isn’t like driving, and accidents deserve attention: They let us learn from others’ mistakes, help us think critically about our skills, and provide a mental “nudge” if we find ourselves in similar situations. Accident Case Study: Live aims to put a new spin on safety-oriented accident analysis. Working with several compelling real-life cases, presenter and audience will play the role of accident investigator—starting at the crash scene and working backward through physical evidence, eyewitness testimony, and other leads to figure out exactly what went wrong, and why. Visit the website (www.airsafetyinstitute.org/seminars) for dates and locations near you.

Test your icing knowledge with ASI’s Safety Quiz

Do you know how to anticipate areas of probable icing, which can accumulate quickly, decreasing lift and increasing drag to the point where continued flight is impossible? Consider what you would do when faced with icing conditions in the Air Safety Institute’s new Ice Flight safety quiz (www.airsafetyinstitute.org/iceflightquiz).


Balancing law and aviation

Important to preserving our freedom to fly

By Kathy Yodice, AOPA Pilot Protection Services

It certainly seems to me that there are many legal issues in aviation these days. For example, Congress passed the Pilot’s Bill of Rights, intending to right a system that was way out of whack in favor of the FAA, and against those of us in the industry. We had been squawking about the unfairness for years, even decades, but the FAA wouldn’t hear any of it. So, the changes brought about by the Pilot’s Bill of Rights were long overdue, and they change the legal landscape for all of us with fixes to the system that give back rights to airmen and justice to the system, while still supporting the ultimate goal shared by all of us: safety in flying.

Also, AOPA and EAA submitted a petition for exemption from the FAA’s rules to allow a limited group of aviators to operate aircraft without being required to hold an FAA-issued medical certificate, provided the airman has completed a medical education program and is able to consciously assess his or her medical fitness to fly. The petition asks the FAA to make an exception to the rule without changing the rule altogether, which the FAA has repeatedly refused to do. The petition states that the requested relief would provide an equivalent level of safety to that currently provided in the regulations—maybe even a higher level of safety, because of the ongoing educational component—and it is based in part on established experience with other operations not requiring a medical certificate.

And, we came to find out that Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents were stopping domestically flown general aviation aircraft for no apparent reason, other than being general aviation aircraft operating at general aviation airports. But, there wasn’t any authority to be found that permitted the stops and the searches that we were hearing about. We made requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), we asked CBP to explain, we invoked the threat of legal process, and Congress got involved. CBP answered one of our FOIA requests saying that no records existed regarding the stops, or if they did exist, the record would be exempt from disclosure to either the individual or the public. CBP also said that it had authority to stop an aircraft based on the FAA’s statute and regulations, which require us to present our documents upon request of law enforcement, but the agency is not authorized to be stopping, asking, and searching us in the first place.

The legal issues continue to build and we continue to advocate. It’s important to preserving our freedom to fly.

Kathy Yodice is an aviation attorney for AOPA’s Pilot Protection Services and Legal Services Plan. She’s assisted AOPA members for more than 13 years and is a former FAA attorney. Kathy owns a Piper Cherokee 180.


Answers for Pilots: Aching Joints?

A decade ago, it was an easy step up to the toe hold on the side of a Cessna to check the fuel. Now many of us use a step ladder. Remember swinging easily under the tail to unknot the tie-down rope? Let’s just say it’s not so fluid a motion for some of us anymore. What’s the problem? It may be too many birthdays and the stiffness that typically comes with them. Or it may be that you suffer from arthritis. Read about how the disease may affect your airman medical certificate and what you can do to mitigate the symptoms in January’s Answers for Pilots (www.aopa.org/Pilot-Resources/Answers-for-Pilots.aspx).


Insurance file: Flying with angels

By Bill Snead

So, you can’t find a new place to go for that $100 hamburger, or perhaps you’re just looking for a new mission for your trusty bird? Why not take flight with angels? Consider joining a growing number of AOPA members who together make an estimated 10,000 charity flights each year. There are many excellent organizations that can offer you the opportunity to participate in this rewarding activity, and you can reach most of them through the Air Care Alliance (www.aircareall.org) and the Air Charity Network (www.aircharitynetwork.org). But what about the risks associated with such flights?

First, charitable-flight organizations have very clear requirements concerning how and when you are permitted to conduct charitable flight operations. Passengers are required to sign a waiver of liability form prior to flight, and by carefully following the rules of the organization—and staying well within your piloting abilities—you will have gone a long way towards reducing your liability exposure. The Air Safety Institute provides an excellent online program for volunteer pilots (http://flash.aopa.org/asf/volunteerpilots/).

Second, since the flight will be a noncommercial pleasure flight, such use is already approved under Part 91 of the Federal Aviation Regulations and you are protected under your aircraft owners or your non-owner’s policy.

Third, the AOPA Insurance Agency and the six largest aviation insurance companies have agreed such flight operations should be encouraged, and a certificate of insurance can be provided upon request. If additional-insured status is also required, your insurance broker can request it for you.

I think I speak for aviation insurance brokers and insurance companies alike when I say—as President Lincoln did when speaking of the connections we share with veterans, their families, and our fellow Americans—we are all “touched…by the better angels of our nature” when we volunteer to help our veterans, their families, and others in need. I encourage pilots to reach out, and use their talents and their aircraft to help others this year.

Bill Snead was named president of AOPA Insurance Services in 2013.