President's signature delivers AOPA wish-list for FAA funding
Selected provisions of the $13.3 billion budget for the FAA in fiscal year 2002, which were championed by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, will help the general aviation industry improve upon its contribution to American commerce and safer flying. President Bush signed the transportation appropriations bill December 18.
"Congress and the President are helping to improve GA safety and its future by specifically funding improved dissemination of crucial operational information, the installation of new FSS computer equipment, and development of alternative aviation fuels," said AOPA President Phil Boyer.
AOPA specifically lobbied Congress for an new flight service station computers as well as additional funds for nonprecision GPS instrument approaches, improved notam distribution, research to find a substitute for leaded aviation fuel, and the Capstone project.
The transportation appropriations legislation (H.R.2299), first approved in the House on November 30, then in the Senate on December 4, grants the FAA 5.7 percent more than 2001's budgeted $12.5 billion. The funding is consistent with levels prescribed by AIR-21 legislation that became law in April 2000 to unlock the airport and airway trust fund, AOPA said.
"It was a long and hard battle to put that trust fund money to use as intended for all aviation interests," Boyer said. "It's especially pleasing to see noteworthy sums spent in areas that directly benefit GA."
Improve the notam distribution system
One million dollars will be spent to transfer the central notice to airmen (notam) processing function onto the special-use airspace management system (SAMS) to ensure that pilots can more easily obtain all the notams that pertain to their flight.
"Since September 11 we've seen that immediate dissemination of notams is crucial to safe and legal flying," said Melissa Bailey, AOPA vice president for air traffic services. "Flight service stations are loaded down with so many notams that it's next to impossible to keep track of them, and in some cases, a pilot might have to call several FSSs to obtain all notams for a cross-country flight.
"Rehosting notams to SAMS will offer much greater capacity for quicker dissemination of information in Web-based formats," Bailey said. AOPA will work with the FAA to ensure implementation of the system in a timely fashion.
Flight service station computers
Computers that are 20 and 30 years old and still in use at the FAA's 61 flight service stations will be replaced by the Operation and Supportability Implementation System, also known as OASIS. Full funding for the project is $33.943 million. The Windows-based, expandable platform that integrates flight data processing with upgraded weather graphics is behind schedule due to budget cuts and technical delays.
"Now that money and technology have come together for OASIS, AOPA will keep pushing for aggressive implementation to make up for lost time and preserve the viability of weather services," said Andrew Cebula, AOPA executive vice president for government and technical affairs.
Leaded fuel alternatives
The General Aviation Propulsion-Compression Ignition Test and Evaluation Program (GAP-CITEP), which is a joint FAA and NASA effort to evaluate alternative fuels including the transition away from leaded fuels for general aviation, will receive an additional $400,000. Total FAA funding for propulsion and fuel research is $8.568 million in fiscal year 2002, or $3.4 million more than the funds requested by the President.
"We are especially interested in the continuing research for a 100 low-lead replacement because we need to find a high-octane unleaded avgas to satisfy the existing fleet of aircraft without expensive retrofits," Cebula said.
While AOPA has assurances that availability of the tetraethyl lead additive will continue for the near term, only two suppliers in the world produce it, and they are outside the United States. AOPA provides input to ongoing oil-industry research and closely monitors that research to better prepare for future developments and provide up-to-date information to the membership.
GPS approaches, WAAS, and Safe Flight 21
Other budget provisions advocated by AOPA include more nonprecision GPS instrument approaches, another Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) satellite, and more studies for advanced electronics in the cockpit.
FAA funding in 2002 includes $5 million for development of new GPS approaches at non-airline airports and to establish more GPS routes that will complement today's VOR-based airway routes, which will provide better accessibility to more airports, AOPA said.
Total funding for ongoing development of WAAS rose $5 million to $80.9 million in fiscal year 2002. This finances a third WAAS satellite to back up East- and West Coast spacecraft. WAAS enhances GPS signals that can then be used for precision instrument approaches.
And funding for Safe Flight 21, a government and industry initiative to prove capabilities of advanced radar systems and air traffic procedures, will be $39.3 million, a dramatic $13.3 million more than the President's budget requested. These efforts would ultimately put airport maps on cockpit moving-map displays in airplanes to help reduce the number of runway incursions.
"The safety benefits of Safe Flight 21 for general aviation will easily dovetail into future airspace capacity and efficiency issues that concern the FAA," Cebula said.
Safe Flight 21 also supports the Capstone project, which brings terrain avoidance, traffic alerting, and weather information into emerging multifunction displays in the GA cockpit. "This preserves a continuation of the crucial research and evaluation that's required to study and improve technologies that will be standard equipment in future airplanes," said Cebula.
The 375,000-member Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association is the world's largest civil aviation organization. More than one half of the nation's pilots are AOPA members.
December 20, 2001