AOPA is lead plaintiff in a suit against the city of Chicago and the Chicago Park District to prevent closure of Meigs Field.
Also supporting the action are the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, the National Business Aircraft Association, and other business and political interests. "AOPA, GAMA, NBAA, and others are supporting the suit filed in mid- September," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "We believe there has been a violation of the agreements between the federal government and the state of Illinois with the city of Chicago."
Meanwhile, the state of Illinois issued to Chicago an ultimatum saying that if the city continues its efforts to close the airport, the state would take control of Meigs.
In a letter to the Chicago Aviation Department and the Chicago Park District, Illinois Transportation Secretary Kirk Brown notified Chicago that it had until September 10 to assure state officials that Meigs would remain open. If Chicago does not respond or refuses, the state would exercise its legal right to take over the property and assume operation of the airport.
"Let me emphasize that our first choice — by far — is to have Chicago retain and operate Meigs," said Secretary Brown. "But if Chicago refuses to honor its contractual commitment to keep the airport in operation, the state must step in to ensure continued operation of Meigs by making it a state airport."
"Illinois' strong action demonstrates once again the value of Meigs to the region and the nation," said AOPA's Boyer.
AOPA took its "Save Meigs Field Airport" campaign to the nation's top political figures gathered in Chicago for the Democratic National Convention, August 26 to 29.
AOPA flew a 100-foot-long aerial banner over Chicago on August 27, protesting the impending closure of Meigs. During convention week, AOPA also distributed hundreds of campaign buttons. Banners and buttons bore the message "Decision '96? Keep Meigs Airport Open."
The message referred to Mayor Daley's apparent rejection of the people's choice as measured in recent newspaper polls. Surveys show more area residents favor keeping Meigs open than favor closing it.
The campaign buttons, given to everyone who landed at Meigs, were also popular with Chicago police. The Chicago Police Department maintained a convention command post at the airport, and working officers, recognizing Meigs' value to the city, took several hundred buttons.
Last-minute airspace restrictions imposed by a White House request prevented AOPA's banner airplane from its planned overflight of Meigs Field. Airspace restrictions covering the United Center, site of the convention, also prohibited traffic over Meigs except for takeoff and landing operations.
AOPA made morning and afternoon flights along the Chicago lakefront, diverting inland to the Midway Airport neighborhood to avoid the 6-mile-radius restricted area.
The size of airspace affected by temporary flight restriction (TFR) areas over and near Long Island, New York, has been reduced following AOPA intervention. The FBI had declared a large area off-limits following the TWA 800 crash.
AOPA requested the change because the off-limits airspace unnecessarily affected legitimate flight operations at relatively great distances from the crash site, especially along a 50-mile portion of the south shore flyway from the Kennedy International Airport area to the Hamptons.
The revised TFR opens a half-mile-wide corridor paralleling Long Island's southern shoreline. The top of the TFR was lowered from 6,000 to 3,000 feet.
The revised TFR still places off-limits an area within a 20-mile radius of the TWA offshore crash site to within one-half mile of land. Other TFRs still in effect include smaller areas near Shinnecock and East Moriches, New York. A fourth TFR restricts airspace within a 3-nm radius of the Calverton VOR.
All four temporary restricted areas cover an area from the surface to 3,000 feet msl and are effective until further notice.
AOPA is opposing a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that would change the special flight rules area (SFRA) over Grand Canyon National Park. The proposed changes would dramatically increase the airspace "off-limits" to general aviation.
"This proposal almost doubles the size of so-called 'flight-free zones' and would restrict flight over 87 percent of the park," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "It adds two new flight-free zones, expands existing zones, and eliminates an existing flight corridor."
Boyer said that the changes to a 1988 Special Federal Aviation Regulation (SFAR 50-2) would create a 190-mile-long barrier to many general aviation aircraft and force most noncommercial traffic into five narrow corridors.
"The National Park Service says it needs these new regulations to 'enhance the park experience' and 'restore natural quiet,'" said Boyer. "But the NPRM doesn't show that transient general aviation aircraft cause any significant noise problem."
A copy of the proposed NPRM is available on AOPA Online on CompuServe (library 16: Active Rulemaking; filename: GCN.TXT).
AOPA has responded to Senator John McCain of Arizona, who during a recent Senate Commerce Committee hearing accused AOPA of "lying" about his position on user fees. McCain claimed that Senate Bill S.1239 would exempt "sport and recreation aircraft" from user fees and admonished AOPA for its continued attacks against the legislation.
"You seem convinced that this exemption applies to all of general aviation, and furthermore that it is an exemption from any and all new user fees which would be imposed by FAA under the authority of your proposed legislation," wrote AOPA President Phil Boyer. "You may intend to exempt all of general aviation, and you may in fact believe that such an exemption is built into your proposal. If so, you are mistaken."
Boyer said McCain's proposed exemption — as it stands now — would apply only to air traffic control fees on "sport and recreation aircraft." The exemption would not apply when a pilot flies for business purposes. Some 60 percent of AOPA members use general aviation for business some or all of the time. And the exemption would not apply to new training, licensing, and regulatory fees that also would be imposed under the bill.
"Please accept my assurance that our words and deeds are motivated exclusively by a commitment to vigorously represent the interests of our members to the best of our abilities," Boyer told McCain.
"You may disagree with us. But I doubt you would question our right to defend our strongly held convictions," Boyer told the respected former Naval aviator and Vietnam prisoner of war. "Few Americans in history have a better appreciation of that right than you."
Well-known aviation attorney and AOPA General Counsel John S. Yodice will be the guest speaker for the Tuesday evening, October 1, conference on AOPA Online on CompuServe. His subject will be, "Is The FAA Pilot Enforcement Noose Really Tightening, and If It Isn't, Then What Are Those Rope Burns Around My Neck?"
Yodice helped to represent Bob Hoover in his 1995 fight to regain medical certification.
The conference will be in Room 1 of the AOPA Online Forum on CompuServe from 9 to 10 p.m. Eastern time. To join the conference and ask questions, type GO AOPA on CompuServe and enter the members-only Forum, then click on "Conference."
The new U.S. Customs system for clearance of general aviation flights from Canada into U.S. airports of entry encompasses many features advocated to Customs by AOPA.
Responding to concerns from members, AOPA approached officials in Washington in 1992 proposing easier facilitation of general aviation aircraft clearing Customs from Canada. It was then that AOPA first proposed an international toll-free 800 number to reach a single Customs clearinghouse with Adcus (advise customs) messages on routes and estimated arrival times.
To move the process forward, AOPA President Phil Boyer and Senior Vice President Steven J. Brown met with Customs Commissioner Carol Hallett in 1993.
AOPA supplied Customs with additional research in 1993 to facilitate its design of a new system.
In 1995, AOPA appealed to U.S. Representative Jim Lightfoot (R-IA), who communicated his support for new procedures to new Customs Commissioner George Weise. Lightfoot was again instrumental in the final implementation of Customs changes last April during Customs appropriations hearings before Congress.
Pilots may now apply for participation in the General Aviation Telephonic Entry (GATE) program by completing Customs Form 442 and sending it to the U.S. Customs port of entry nearest the applicant's most frequently used arrival airport.
Approved applicants may begin using GATE on November 4.
A provision drafted by AOPA Legislative Action that simplifies collection of aviation fuel taxes and directs revenues to the Airport and Airway Trust Fund has been enacted with the reinstatement of aviation excise taxes.
The stopgap reinstatement, effective from August 28 to December 31, was included in the minimum wage law signed by President Clinton on August 20.
With the assistance and legislative sponsorship of Representative Mel Hancock (R-MO), AOPA Legislative Action drafted the technical provision in H.R.3448 that separates the aviation gasoline tax from the highway transportation levy.
When aviation excise taxes expired last year, collection of 18.3 cents of the 19.3-cent avgas tax continued. But since January 1, 1996, those avgas taxes accrued to the highway, not the aviation, trust fund.
Under the AOPA-drafted legislation now adopted, the aviation trust fund portion of these taxes will go to the trust fund and will be collected at the manufacturing level, thus relieving FBOs of tax collection costs and complexities.
AOPA says the FAA failed to consider general aviation before implementing new airliner wake turbulence criteria. By reclassifying most business jets and some regional airliners into the "small" aircraft category, the FAA has reduced allowable air traffic control separation between most general aviation aircraft and most business jets and small airliners.
New FAA standards, effective August 17, set a minimum in-trail distance for "small" aircraft at 3 miles behind another small aircraft, 4 miles behind a "large" aircraft, 5 miles behind a Boeing 757, and 6 miles behind a "heavy" aircraft.
The controversy surrounds the agency's change of its top limit for the "small" aircraft category from 12,500 pounds maximum gross takeoff weight to 41,000 pounds and under.
Aircraft in the lower end of the former "large" category, such as a medium business jet like the Citation X or a 40-seat regional airliner like the ATR-42, are now considered "small" for air traffic control purposes. Therefore, a light 2,400- pound aircraft could now find itself sequenced 3 miles behind a 41,000-pound business jet or airliner.
AOPA's Medical Certification Department has corrected its Summary of New Part 67 Medical Standards that became effective on September 16.
A new intermediate vision requirement of 20/40 at 32 inches, with or without correction, will be required for first- and second-class certificated airmen over age 50.
Contact the AOPA Medical Certification Department at 800/872-2672 for additional information about the new medical requirements.
Some 10,000 aviators and their guests will gather in San Jose, California, from Thursday, October 17, through Saturday, October 19, as AOPA Expo '96 honors renowned Bay Area flight school operator Amelia Reid and rallies to the defense of her home base, Reid-Hillview Airport. Expo '96 is AOPA's first convention and trade show in northern California.
Expo events begin at 9 a.m. Thursday with the Team AOPA report to the membership. AOPA President Phil Boyer and top association managers will brief the membership on government relations, media relations, member service, and AOPA Pilot magazine. AOPA Air Safety Foundation Executive Director Bruce Landsberg will outline ASF efforts to continue general aviation's improvement in safety.
The October 17 Expo '96 Opening Luncheon will begin with a tribute to the decades-long defense of Reid-Hillview, long threatened with closure by county politicians as Silicon Valley and San Jose urbanization encroached on the once- pastoral East San Jose airport.
Also at the 12:30 p.m. Thursday opener, the AOPA Air Safety Foundation will honor hero air traffic controller and AOPA member David Littlefield of Renton, Washington. Littlefield talked a nonpilot passenger to a safe landing after the pilot at the controls was stricken by a heart attack.
General aviation leaders and manufacturer CEOs will gather at 9 a.m. on Friday, October 18, to preview the upcoming industry-wide GA Team 2000 national promotional campaign, the first since 1981 to involve the entire general aviation community including the aircraft manufacturers. Aircraft manufacturers and association leaders will discuss their outlook for the industry.
FAA Administrator David Hinson will appear on Saturday, October 19, at 9 a.m. to look back on his tenure at the FAA, including this year's turmoil over the future roles of the FAA and the Department of Transportation.
At the October 19 awards banquet, U.S. Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska will be honored with AOPA's 1996 Hartranft Award for the year's greatest service to general aviation by an elected official.
The awards banquet culminates with presentation of AOPA's prestigious Sharples Award to Amelia Reid for 1996 honors as the American whose career in aviation best represents a lifelong devotion to the preservation and defense of general aviation.
Aside from daily general sessions at 9 a.m., Expo's three days will be filled with some 90 hours of educational seminars for pilots. New this year are seminar "tracks" that identify seminars targeted for six interest areas: 1) high-time pilots, 2) aircraft owners, 3) all pilots, 4) safety, 5) medical, and 6) general interest.
Among this year's seminar lineup:
1995 CFI of the Year Lyn Carlson of Costa Mesa, California, will teach the popular Air Safety Foundation Pinch-Hitter Course for nonpilot spouses and frequent passengers.
Kit Darby of the career advisor firm AIR, Inc. will discuss job opportunities as we approach the mass retirement of Korea- and Vietnam-era pilots from top airline jobs.
Gary Crump, director of AOPA's Medical Department, will hold seminars on new Part 67 medical requirements and "Close to Your Heart: Keeping Your Medical Certificate."
The AOPA Air Safety Foundation will offer its new hands-on training for IFR use of GPS in "Flying GPS Approaches." There will also be sessions on high-altitude flying, mountain flying, and survival.
Regulatory issues will be addressed by AOPA General Counsel John S. Yodice and others in such seminars as "How to Handle a Ramp Check" and in sessions on aircraft insurance and financing.
Ralph Hood, AOPA's popular and entertaining Project Pilot CFI mentor, will talk to flight instructors about "The Business of Being a CFI."
A special presentation on "Skydiving in the National Airspace" will be conducted by the U.S. Parachute Association. AOPA and USPA want to make pilots more aware of safe operating practices in the vicinity of skydiving operations.
The massive Expo Exhibit Hall in the San Jose Convention Center will feature more than 360 displays on the latest in products and services for the general aviation pilot. Special Exhibit Hall demonstrations will allow up-close-and-personal exposure to new product offerings.
Some 60 new aircraft will be on static display at nearby Reid-Hillview Airport, a short ride on the free shuttle bus service from the San Jose Convention Center.
No one misses the fun at Expo. The opening reception kicks it all off on Thursday evening. And on Friday night, it's AOPA Night at the nearby Great America Theme Park, where Expo attendees will have the place all to themselves.
Some 30 aviation groups will hold their annual meetings or special meetings for nearly 2,000 of their members at AOPA Expo '96. On Saturday at 10 a.m., the Civil Air Patrol will hold a Commander's Call for the CAP California Wing.
The AOPA Expo exhibit hall at the San Jose Convention Center will be open from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Thursday, October 17, and Friday, October 18. Exhibits close at 4 p.m. on Saturday, October 19, to prepare for the gala Expo awards banquet.
The Expo '96 aircraft display at Reid-Hillview Airport will be open during the same hours.
For more information, call 800/942-4269.
Special VFR arrival and departure procedures will be in effect October 16 through 20, for both San Jose International and Reid-Hillview airports.
Detailed procedures and requirements, plus graphic and tabular data on routes, frequencies, and checkpoints, are available from: AOPA at 800/USA-AOPA; AOPA Online on CompuServe; AOPA World Wide Web home page (www.aopa.org); and FAA notam publications.