March 27, 2014
By Dan Namowitz
From action on Capitol Hill to state legislative initiatives, airport protection, and a new engagement initiative to bring pilots together at fly-ins, learning sessions, and other events, AOPA is working to keep pilots flying—and in some cases, draw them back to their airports—AOPA President Mark Baker told an annual gathering of aviation community members in Tennessee.
It was also a time for those in attendance at the 2014 Tennessee Airports Conference to honor significant contributions to Tennessee aviation, including special recognition for the 41 years of service of Larry D. Cox on his retirement as president and CEO of the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority.
The annual conference was held March 17 through 19 in Murfreesboro. Joining Baker at the event was Bob Minter, AOPA Southern regional manager.
The progress of bills pending in Congress to open the path to medical self-certification on the basis of a driver’s license for many pilots is always on the minds of aviators, and Baker told the group that the Senate version of the bill, the General Aviation Pilot Protection Act, now has 62 sponsors.
Once again user fees have surfaced in annual budgets proposals, but once again they face the resistance in Congress. AOPA continues to demand explanations about the nearly 50 unwarranted stops of general aviation pilots by Customs and Border Protection agents and has sent a letter to the agency’s new chief, R. Gil Kerlikowske, requesting that he investigate.
Good news for general aviation was the passage of a small airplane certification-reform measure.
The House passed a bill that would stop an FAA effort to enact—without following the usual rulemaking process—sleep apnea testing for up to 120,000 pilots.
In state-level action, AOPA is currently tracking approximately 400 bills, and is actively participating in the lawmaking process on 100 of them in 39 states where legislative bodies are now in session.
In Tennessee, the important process of protecting airports is being aided by 58 AOPA Airport Support Network volunteers, whose combined coverage accounts for 75 percent of the state’s airports.
Baker discussed AOPA’s initiatives to engage pilots at the grass roots level by encouraging the formation and operation of flying clubs, for which AOPA has recently released a new guide, and on March 27 launched a new program to motivate "rusty pilots" to return to flying.
Regional events are high on AOPA’s agenda for 2014, with six regional fly-ins scheduled, along with a homecoming at the Frederick, Md., Municipal Airport to celebrate the association’s seventy-fifth anniversary.
Among awards bestowed by Tennessee Division of Aeronautics Director Bill Orellana was special recognition for Cox on the occasion of his retirement from his post as president and CEO of the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority.
"His long-term leadership at Memphis—where he grew the airport into the largest volume cargo hub in the United States, handling over nine billion pounds per year—has been a superb testimonial to his astute planning and program execution. And without this development of Memphis’ cargo efficiencies, logistics around the world may have been much, much different," Orellana said.
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor.
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