As general aviation faces increasing challenges at all levels, the need for grass roots advocacy becomes more important than ever. For AOPA, that means increased reliance on our regional representative program.
"The program is a powerful and effective way to advocate local member interests at the regional, state, and local levels," explained Bill Dunn, AOPA's vice president for regional affairs. "I'd refer to the representatives as local ambassadors for the association."
AOPA currently has 11 regional reps addressing issues in every state. Their primary responsibilities include monitoring airport issues, such as closures, restrictions, planning, and noise; changes in airspace and air traffic procedures, including obstructions and special use airspace; and state legislative initiatives. Other duties include developing and maintaining relationships with AOPA members and the pilot community, state aviation leadership, and elected and appointed officials at the state and local levels. The reps are often called upon to represent AOPA and general aviation under a variety of circumstances.
The program was instituted in late 1978 to provide an extension of AOPA resources to members in local communities. Rep activity is coordinated by the office of regional affairs at AOPA headquarters in Frederick, Maryland. "The number of phone calls we receive has increased substantially every year," Dunn said.
In California, which boasts more than 47,000 AOPA members among the state's 90,000 airmen, activity levels increased so much that in March the state was removed from AOPA's Western Region to become a separate region with its own rep.
Another change implemented recently to help meet increasing demands is a quarterly bulletin faxed to a network of local advocates working with the representative program in each region. Organized local pilot groups and other aviation organizations can request the bulletin for their region by calling AOPA's office of regional affairs.
The following pages offer a sampling of our reps' hot topics.
Former Western Region Representative Jack Kemmerly now works exclusively on California issues. AOPA has more members in California than in any other region.
Kemmerly said the California legislature is requiring compatible land use planning around public airports. "There are a number of individual airports that we've been involved with, primarily regarding noise," observed Kemmerly, who was appointed last year to the California Transportation Commission's Technical Advisory Committee on Aeronautics. The organization of aviation leaders is working to develop a strategic grass roots revitalization of general aviation in California.
A plan by the Environmental Protection Agency to impose impact fees on general aviation takeoffs in California was recently defeated. "That really was a big win, and I think that's a really important one," Kemmerly said. During the process, he added, AOPA made the point that it is encouraging its members to reduce aviation's impact on the environment while protecting the interests of pilots.
Other hot topics in California include the diversion of revenue from Los Angeles International Airport by the city and Orange County's efforts to privatize John Wayne Airport. Kemmerly is well qualified to represent AOPA on those issues; he was head of the California Division of Aeronautics for 10 years — out of a 32-year career with the state Department of Transportation — before beginning work with AOPA in April 1994.
Carl E. Smith was named to head the revised Western Region in April. He previously served the California Division of Aeronautics for 25 years as a civil engineer and as an aviation consultant. During this time Smith was involved in airport environmental issues as well as airport and heliport planning, development, and operation.
Already, Smith has been involved with restrictive hangar leases with unreasonable insurance liability requirements at Arizona's Chandler Municipal Airport. He is also investigating a contract air traffic control tower that recently opened at the airport, even though current traffic levels do not appear to justify such a facility.
Smith holds a degree in aeronautical engineering. A pilot since 1948, he is also a certificated flight instructor.
Kemmerly's and Smith's state aviation experience makes them well suited to their jobs, said Northwest Region Representative Ray Costello. "State aeronautics directors are a rep's major strength," he said. "And the AOPA rep is the one source they have for getting things done that they are unable to do in their organizational structures."
Costello should know. He was an assistant administrator of the Oregon Aeronautics Division for 14 years prior to becoming an AOPA rep in 1986.
"One of my major interests now is in establishing aviation alliances in all of my states. This has come about from the recognition that we're all in this together," he said. "At the local and state levels, the issues are completely different than at the national level."
Alaska faces unique challenges, Costello said. "Aviation is the primary mode of transportation in Alaska, which has only 5,000 miles of road. You cannot drive to the capital of the largest state of the Union. It's incomprehensible to people in the lower 48 states."
That — and unique weather conditions that can change rapidly — are the reason that AOPA has steadfastly and consistently fought for preservation of local weather briefing facilities in Alaska, Costello explained. "Flight service stations are absolutely vital," he said. "Alaskan pilots are dependent on them."
A native of the Pacific Northwest born in British Columbia, Canada, Costello was a career officer and pilot in the U.S. Air Force. He has been involved in aviation for 55 years.
Southeast Region Rep Bob Minter has been thinking about sports — specifically, the 1996 Summer Olympics. "For three years now, the Atlanta Regional Commission has been the focal point for coordination of all Olympic planning," said Minter, who has been working with the commission and the FAA on aviation planning for the games. "We were invited to be in on the planning process. There have been a lot of meetings, and there has been an extraordinary amount of effort put into planning the aviation side."
Minter's primary concern was that GA airplanes, pilots, and passengers be able to ingress and egress the Atlanta area as easily as possible during the Olympics.
"I'm really pleased with the way the whole thing is turning out," he said. "The Olympics won't be a 'pick up and decide you're going to go' kind of thing. But it's going to be pretty easy to get into and get out of the area if you do your planning ahead of time."
Minter said pilots will have to make arrangements as soon as possible with an FBO at their desired airport of landing. "There's going to be a lot of traffic," he explained. "There will be a reservation system for both VFR and IFR flights, in which the pilot making a reservation will talk to a real person on the other end of the phone. The volume of traffic is going to make that a necessity.
"The good news is that the restricted airspace is going to be minimal in the Atlanta area, because all of the venues are pretty much centered downtown."
In Kentucky, Minter is monitoring the health of Bowman Field, the state's oldest airport. He said the GA reliever for Louisville's Standiford Field has become a stepchild of sorts; most of the city's emphasis — and money — has been going to the air carrier airport.
Minter has worked in the aviation industry for nearly 30 years and has been a rep for more than a decade.
Norm Scroggins became AOPA's Southwest Region representative following his retirement in March 1990 as manager of the FAA air traffic control tower and approach control facility at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. In addition to his 37-year career in air traffic control, Scroggins has been a pilot, flight instructor, and aircraft owner for more than 30 years.
His background led him to a year-long effort championing the survival of Texas flight schools. At an AOPA Pilot Town Meeting in March 1994, the operators of five flight schools in San Antonio sought help with inequitable taxation of FAR Part 141 and Part 91 flight schools. The larger Part 141 schools had been exempted from collecting and remitting sales and use taxes.
Scroggins helped Part 91 schools achieve the same exemption. "I compare the experience to departing in an airplane from a short strip on a hot summer day," he said. "All factors indicate that such should be possible — but one is never really sure until the obstruction is cleared at the end of the runway." Scroggins noted that the state comptroller's office, which was attacked initially in the effort, became an ally of AOPA after several months of negotiation.
Florida Region Rep John Reid has been tracking cruise missiles as part of his AOPA duties. The Navy wants to launch Tomahawk missiles in the Atlantic Ocean and fly them across Florida, following military Instrument Routes (IRs) 31 and 32, into a test range at Eglin Air Force Base. The Navy's initial plan has been revised significantly.
"At no time over land areas will their altitude be less than 4,800 feet," Reid said. "Originally, the Navy planned to have these missiles fly over the panhandle of Florida as low as 500 feet." Reid said the current plan was much less objectionable than the Navy's initial proposal.
The Navy will notify Florida officials four days in advance of launches, Reid noted, adding that this also represented an improvement from the Navy's original plan.
Reid is also preparing to counter a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration proposal to establish a marine sanctuary that would stretch from Key Biscayne, Florida, west through the Florida Keys to the Dry Tortuga islands. The initial proposal did not include airspace restrictions, but NOAA contends it can regulate aircraft up to 2,000 feet above the surface of wildlife and marine sanctuaries.
A certificated pilot with multiengine and instrument ratings, Reid owned an FBO in Tennessee; he served on the Tennessee Aeronautics Commission and later as director of the state's Bureau of Aeronautics. He became AOPA's Florida rep in 1988.
Chris Hudson, AOPA's Mid-Atlantic Region representative, is also watching military airspace. Hudson is involved in opposing an Air Force proposal to establish a new military operations area in North Carolina above Restricted Area 5314J; when active, the Phelps MOA would raise the special-use airspace's ceiling from 6,000 feet to Flight Level 180. The Marine Corps has also proposed a new MOA, which would be located south and west of Marine Corps Air Station New River in Camp Lejeune.
"As a casual perusal of the Charlotte Sectional will show, a huge portion of eastern North Carolina airspace is already dedicated to military use," Hudson said. Officials at the Dare County Regional Airport in Manteo are concerned that GA traffic operating to and from North Carolina's Outer Banks has been substantially choked off by restricted areas and MOAs that surround the airport in all directions except east, Hudson added.
An attorney and a 4,600-hour pilot who managed a corporate flight department for 12 years, Hudson was named AOPA's Mid- Atlantic Region representative in February.
Top priority for Northeast Region Rep William R. "Rol" Murrow is his ongoing work with pilots, aviation associations, and other groups within the region to champion their causes in preserving airports and maintaining airspace. "The most important thing is giving folks out in the local aviation communities the idea that they can be effective, that they can make a difference," he said. "That's what we're trying to teach people out in the field, so that they can advocate on behalf of the aviation community."
Communication can be a stumbling block in such efforts, however. "Probably one of the hardest things for this whole area of advocacy is communications and being able to reach out to provide pilots with the information they need." Murrow believes effective means of communication — from Pilot magazine to AOPA Online — simplify this task. In fact, he was the first regional rep to check in on Online after it moved to CompuServe (See "Digital Departure," p. 103). "I've been a proponent of that kind of system for a long time," he explained.
Murrow also devotes considerable time to working on airport, airspace, and tall tower issues with local and regional advocacy groups. "Last year, we managed to successfully guide a group of users at Lake Placid, New York, to initiate improvements such as runway lights to a mountain airport." Obtaining the necessary permits from the Adirondack Park Agency was challenging, he said. "I think that the local community was well able to use our materials and guidance to carry the issue to the park agency, which voted for the permit."
Murrow has been a rep since 1989, when he became an assistant to the late Joe Crotti, then the Western Region rep based in California. "It came out of my work as president of the Santa Monica Airport Association," said Murrow, who also was involved with the Southern California Airspace Users Working Group. A founder and officer of the Air Care Alliance, Murrow became the Northeast Region rep in 1991.
Dr. William L. "Bill" Hamilton has served as AOPA's Central Region representative since 1987. A nationally syndicated columnist and author, he began flying general aviation aircraft in 1968. Hamilton has served on the Nebraska Aeronautics Commission.
Hamilton represented AOPA and general aviation interests in the ad hoc committee that helped design the Class B airspace for the new Denver International Airport. The group's design saved the Brighton Van-Aire Estates residential airpark, which was threatened with closure, and every other satellite airport that wished to remain open. "The FAA is suggesting we reconvene the ad hoc committee for a look at any adjustments desired by the users," Hamilton said.
The Nebraska legislature has made privately owned, public-use airports eligible for state aid. "This corrects the inequity of state aviation fuel taxes being paid from sales at such airports without any chance of those airports receiving any portion of those funds for improvements," he commented. "Sometimes justice prevails."
In AOPA's Midwest Region, Bob Acker is busy challenging the city of Chicago in its quest to close Merrill C. Meigs Airport. Meigs is a general aviation reliever located adjacent to the city's downtown, but Mayor Richard Daley wants to convert the facility into a park. Acker described the battle to save the airport as "ongoing."
That's not all Acker is doing, however. "I'm on the Missouri Aviation Advisory Committee, and we're producing a film to promote general aviation in Missouri." Filming was recently completed, and the product will be introduced this fall. "It's been my opinion for some years now that aviation isn't promoted the way that it should be," he said.
Acker is also serving on an Illinois committee that is conducting a study that will determine what FBOs and airports in the state need to promote their facilities. The work is being done in conjunction with Lewis University in Wheaton, Illinois.
In Hartford, Wisconsin, he helped obtain a waiver from state commercial building codes that were adding more than $5,000 to the cost of a small hangar. "It's an isolated case, but it's important to that city," explained Acker, a former naval aviator who has served as an AOPA representative for more than 10 years.
"There seems never to be a cessation of issues," observed Eastern Region Rep John L. Luce. Recently his attention has been directed toward airport issues.
"The Queen City Airport, which is located inside the Allentown, Pennsylvania, city limits, is an airport that the city has never really wanted," Luce explained. "The city would prefer something that would contribute more to its tax base. Airports all around the country have been under this kind of scrutiny and attack."
The city wants to transfer the airport to the authority that operates the Allentown Bethlehem-Easton International Airport. "The problem is that in transferring the property to the operating authority, the city wants to excise from the airport and keep for itself a sizable portion of the airport, in violation of federal grant obligations."
Luce has helped a users' group to work out with the city an agreement that would allow transfer of the land — but in exchange, funds would be transferred to the airport to offset the loss. "What remains of the airport will be funded to the point that the users won't have to replace the revenues with user fees and other charges later," he explained.
"We are working in Indiana and Ohio to attempt to prevent the closing and conversion of airports in state parks to non-aeronautical use," Luce said.
"I always joke with people that the biggest things I do are airports, airports, and airports," he said. "Even when the issue is airspace, it's often over an airport. But it isn't always like that. I often act as an information handler and steer members with questions to the right resource."
For more information on AOPA's regional rep program or to contact one of the representatives, call AOPA's office of regional affairs at 301/695-2201.