The fourth draft of recommendations from the National Civil Aviation Review Commission (NCARC) suggests that general aviation pilots should pay higher fuel taxes. The final report is expected shortly.
The draft also recommends direct user fees for other aviation users. The Clinton administration has already said that it would continue to push for user fees for all segments of aviation, despite rejection of the concept by Congress earlier this year.
"We're concerned about the system as a whole," said AOPA Legislative Action President Phil Boyer. "There is already a solid, proven financing system in place for the FAA, and user fees would be the wrong 'solution' for all of aviation."
The NCARC draft also recommends:
NCARC was formed to study FAA funding, budget priorities, and aviation safety. Membership is comprised almost exclusively of airline and airport interests, despite a congressional mandate for the commission to represent all segments of aviation.
Proposed changes to FAA aircraft certification regulations, although aimed at airline aviation, would probably cripple the GA supplemental type certificate (STC) market, block safety improvements to existing aircraft, and prevent manufacturers from restarting production of proven aircraft.
The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to FAR parts 21 and 25 would require aircraft to meet current standards after any change. "In the worst case, it could require recertification of the entire aircraft," said Douglas Macnair, AOPA director of aviation standards.
For example, an aftermarket supplier seeking an STC for an improved aircraft seat would have to comply with the expensive current 26-G standards. "But there are safe designs that, while not meeting 26 Gs, would be a quantum improvement over the original. These regulations would block that kind of safety improvement," said Macnair.
"We understand the concept as it applies to airline standards," said Macnair, "but the FAA gave scant consideration to the effect on general aviation."
AOPA will ask for revisions to the proposed certification standards.
AOPA is applauding new FAA regulations that will permit commercial passenger-carrying operations under IFR in single-engine aircraft. The changes become effective on May 3, 1998.
In addition, the FAA will soon publish a special FAR allowing operators who have already satisfied the new requirements to begin operating under IFR prior to the 1998 effective date.
Many air taxi operators, particularly in Alaska, fly only single-engine aircraft. In marginal weather, some operators have to fly at low altitudes beneath the clouds to comply with current regulations mandating visual operations only. "Because it will improve safety and utility, AOPA has been a longtime champion of single-engine IFR commercial operations," said Doug Helton, AOPA vice president for regulatory policy.
In February, AOPA filed comments supporting the change, citing accident data showing VFR controlled flight into terrain under marginal visibility conditions a far greater danger than engine failure for single-engine airplanes under IFR.
The new regulations will require standby vacuum and backup electrical sources, as well as an autopilot or second pilot. Operators must also have an engine trend monitoring program (such as oil analysis) to further reduce the chance of engine failure, and must establish specific training and proficiency programs for their pilots.
FAA Administrator Jane Garvey will make one of her first in-depth appearances with the pilot community at AOPA Expo '97, to be held in Orlando, Florida, from October 23 through 25 (see schedule, page 18). The FAA chief will join Phil Boyer and the AOPA membership in a morning general session on Friday, October 24. AOPA's relaxed format will include interaction between Garvey and Boyer, and questioning by members from the floor.
Two other Expo general sessions will feature the "Team AOPA" report to members and the announcement of a major new AOPA program of member involvement. Expo's spectacular opening luncheon on Thursday, October 23, showcases aviation's favorite humorist and educator, Rod Machado. Expo ends on Saturday night, October 25, with the closing banquet and presentation of AOPA's top annual awards.
Add in 90 hours of educational seminars, 360 companies in the exhibit hall and aircraft static display, receptions, and Friday's special event, and there's plenty of reason to call 800/942-4269 for more information about attending AOPA Expo '97.
Members unable to attend can get a feel for AOPA's world-class once-a-year gathering by visiting "Virtual Expo '97" on the AOPA Web site (www.aopa.org) for daily reports about goings-on in Orlando during the event.
A thoughtful look at the cost to pilots and inefficiency of the entire FAA medical certification process should be high on the "to do" list of new FAA Administrator Jane Garvey.
But until that review can be accomplished, AOPA has requested four policy changes to reduce delays with "special issuance" medical certificates, those that allow pilots with normally disqualifying medical conditions to continue flying.
"It's not uncommon for a pilot trying to renew a special issuance to spend six months of the normal 12-month valid period in the renewal process," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "And the cost to the individual pilot can exceed $3,000 each year. This is an unconscionable burden for an individual who just wants to fly."
Most special issuance certificates are for heart and circulatory problems, such as heart attacks or cardiovascular disease. If a pilot's medical exam discloses any condition requiring a special issuance, the local medical examiner must defer all reports to the FAA. More than 6,000 special issuance certificates are granted annually.
AOPA is asking the FAA to allow:
"We also urge the FAA to get started on the long-term process of implementing revised medical standards overall that are both reasonable and cost-effective," said Boyer.
A bill in the New York legislature that would require a specific act of the legislature to extend a runway beyond 5,000 feet is opposed by AOPA Legislative Action.
In a letter to Joseph Bruno, chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, AOPALA told New York legislators that the measure would provide for "undue and unnecessary interference" with existing laws and powers and would drastically affect coordination with the FAA concerning airport development, improvement, and funding. "A local community has the right to recognize the need to improve its air transportation infrastructure and take appropriate action," said AOPA Vice President for Regional Affairs Bill Dunn, speaking for AOPALA.
AOPALA said that the proposal would "effectively hold local communities hostage to outside and unrelated state interests" and called the measure "an unfair step against local governments' ability to govern themselves."
AOPA is cautioning Alaska state authorities not to overstep their authority by attempting to regulate aircraft flying through federally controlled airspace.
Recently, some Alaskan officials have reportedly threatened to seize aircraft to enforce a regulation prohibiting commercial fisherman from using aerial "fish spotters" to locate salmon in Bristol Bay, in southwestern Alaska about 400 miles west of Anchorage.
"The state may have authority to regulate commercial exploitation of a natural resource," said AOPA's Dunn, "but some of our members have been told that Alaska state troopers will seize the aircraft of anyone caught flying over Bristol Bay during a commercial salmon fishing period — fish spotter or not.
"The majority of aircraft overflying Bristol Bay are not involved in fish spotting," said Dunn. "Those pilots have every right to transit federal airspace, unimpeded by the State of Alaska."
Eric Gertz, AOPA 997763, was a happy pilot when his September AOPA MasterCard statement arrived, showing a rebate of $11.82 for the previous month's aircraft rental.
The Ringoes, New Jersey, member was the first to claim his rebate under the AOPA FBO Rebate Program announced in August.
Under the program, AOPA MasterCard and Visa issuer MBNA America credits back a full 3 percent of any purchase made with an AOPA credit card at any FBO that sells fuel or rents airplanes. Any such FBO listed in AOPA's Airport Directory is automatically qualified for the program. Others may register for purchases at their FBO to be eligible for the rebate.
"It's a great program," said Gertz, a 46-year-old computer support engineer who flies a Grumman Tiger. "Any time someone wants to give me money, I'm delighted!"
AOPA credit card users claim the rebate by highlighting purchases at qualifying FBOs and returning a copy of the statement to the FBO rebate program address. The rebate appears on the following month's MBNA credit card statement.
"There are no strings, no hooks, no minimums, no maximums, and no gimmicks," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. MBNA underwrites all expenses. There is no contribution from AOPA or membership dues, and no cost to any FBO.
AOPA's Favorite Fly-Outs Contest congratulates these members who have won one week's lodging and meals at Pittstown Point Landings in the Bahamas after AOPA Expo '97 in Orlando, courtesy of Sporty's Pilot Shop:
Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire
Brian H. Corliss, Derry, New Hampshire
Killarney Mountain Lodge, Ontario
Ken Kellner, Neenah, Wisconsin
Gaston's White River Resort, Arkansas
Randy Harmon, Brentwood, Tennessee
Alternate: Ellsworth G. Dutton, Niwot, Colorado
Saratoga, Wyoming's Flying S Ranch
Sandra Brown, Corvallis, Oregon
Marble Canyon Airport, Arizona
John and Sylvia Archer, Voiron, France
Watch for full details on these and other great places, including runners-up and honorable mentions, in an upcoming AOPA Pilot.
The 1998 edition of AOPA's Airport Directory is almost ready for publication. Shipping of the book is scheduled for November 1. AOPA members who requested the book when they renewed and all members who renew by Automatic Annual Renewal should receive their copies by the end of November.
Three highly acclaimed AOPA Air Safety Foundation safety seminars are now conveniently packaged for use by local pilot groups on their own schedules.
"We call it 'Seminar In A Box,' and it's a new way for ASF to provide needed safety information to more pilots, more conveniently," said Bob Cathers, ASF director of seminars and field activities.
Seminars now available to any flying club or other aeronautical organization include:
"Collision Avoidance," emphasizing safe flight at nontowered airports. It includes copies of the new ASF Safety Advisor "Operation at Nontowered Airports," acclaimed by the NTSB as the finest guidance available on the subject.
Two "Trigger Tapes," each with six short videos of seemingly routine flights. Each video leaves pilots on the edge of their seats, with the videotaped scenarios ending just before an apparent disaster. Seminar participants are then invited to probe decision-making details of the flight.
Other seminars, including the bright and graphical "Airspace," which helps to uncomplicate new U.S. airspace classifications, are expected to be available as kits before the end of the year.
Each "Seminar In A Box" is free, made possible by individual ASF donors. Each kit contains all materials used at ASF presentations, including videotapes, instructor guide, door prizes, and handout materials for participants.
Requirements to use the "Seminar In A Box" include:
For more details, call ASF's Linda Milburn at 301/695-2175.
Aviation-theme holiday greeting cards will go on sale this month, with proceeds supporting ASF's nationally recognized free safety seminars nationwide.
Purchases of a half-million cards last year allowed thousands more pilots access to aviation safety information this year. Some of this year's holiday card designs include:
There are 10 designs from which to choose, and all cards feature an air safety message on the back. A box of 25 cards with envelopes ranges in price from $22 to $27. Personalized imprinting is free when ordering three or more boxes.
For each box ordered, ASF supporters receive two free gifts — a set of return address labels and a sheet of decorative seals. The last day to order in time for the holidays is Friday, December 5. To order, call 800/308-4285, 24 hours day.