In computer parlance, AOPA is an "early adopter" in finding new and better ways to use computers to provide you with information, services, and education.
Now AOPA has developed two new applications exclusively for members: AOPA's Airport eDirectory and the interactive TurboMedical® form.
"AOPA's Web site [www.aopa.org] offers more resources to pilots than any other aviation site on the Internet," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "These powerful new computer tools can make flying easier and more fun."
AOPA's TurboMedical® is a new Web-based tool to help pilots prepare to obtain their medical certificates. TurboMedical® is the first of an AOPA series of "intelligent" online forms.
Pilots using TurboMedical® will be less likely to suffer delay or denial of their medical certificate.
The innovative online form "interviews" the pilot to ensure that all of the information on FAA Form 8500-8 (application for an airman medical certificate or student pilot certificate) is filled in correctly.
TurboMedical® checks the pilot's answers, flagging anything that might cause problems in issuing a medical certificate.
"The FAA's Aeromedical Certification Division is currently taking up to three months to review medical applications," said Gary Crump, AOPA director of medical certification. "Some 30 percent of those delays are caused by simple errors on the application form."
TurboMedical® checks for those errors.
The online form takes pilots step by step through the 20 question areas on the medical application form. For each question, the form explains exactly what the FAA is looking for and why it is asking the question. And there are links to AOPA's expansive online medical data for more information.
The form provides advice on the best way to answer each question. For example, TurboMedical® advises a pilot that it is usually best to apply for the lowest class of medical actually needed. Under FAA regulations, even CFIs need just a third class medical certificate to provide flight instruction for compensation, although employers may require a higher class of medical.
TurboMedical® is particularly useful in helping the pilot answer the medication, medical history, and medical visit questions.
When a pilot answers the question, "Do you currently use any medications?" TurboMedical® checks the answer against AOPA's list of FAA-accepted drugs. For example, TurboMedical® will tell a pilot that the popular over-the-counter drug Benadryl is acceptable to the FAA as long as the pilot waits 24 hours after taking it before flying.
But if the drug isn't on the list, TurboMedical® will flag it and provide links to more information. There is even a direct e-mail link to AOPA's medical experts so the pilot can ask specific questions.
If a pilot answers "yes" to one of the medical history questions, TurboMedical® will search for key words in the explanation to be able to provide more information to the pilot.
A pilot can skip a question and return to it later. TurboMedical® will temporarily store the answers. A pilot can choose how long TurboMedical® will store the answers.
All of a pilot's answers on the TurboMedical® form remain absolutely confidential. No one but the pilot will ever have access to the data. Data is stored on a secured server and data transmissions are encrypted.
Once a pilot has completed all of the questions, TurboMedical® will review the form for completeness and accuracy. The pilot can then print out a copy to take to the medical examiner's office. Pilots should also keep a copy in their personal records.
"TurboMedical® is an educational, self-help tool to help pilots prepare to complete the medical form in the doctor's office," said Crump. "But for the future, we're working on an 'FAA-approved' version of TurboMedical® that you can complete online and e-mail to your FAA designated medical examiner prior to the examination."
FAA changes to regulations governing certification of aircraft repair stations, which will become effective in April 2003, will not add the heavy costs that had been feared by aircraft owners.
"Under the FAA's original proposal, maintenance costs could have increased by 30 percent or more," said Andy Cebula, AOPA senior vice president of government and technical affairs. "Fortunately, the FAA responded to most of AOPA's concerns."
The revised FAR Part 145 rules for certificated repair stations set new standards for everything from personnel training to required facilities to recordkeeping. With the changes won by AOPA, the new rules are expected to add only about 5 percent to the cost of maintenance.
Not all aircraft owners will be affected by the changes to FAR Part 145, because they affect only certificated repair stations.
When the FAA first proposed the rule changes in 1999, AOPA objected to bureaucratic overkill that would have had the FAA micromanaging such things as the personnel organization chart or tasks as simple as changing a light fixture.
"These rules might make sense for large repair stations working on Transport category aircraft, but they're overkill for the typical GA maintenance shop employing five or six technicians," AOPA said at the time.
AOPA and 12 other aviation organizations attending a one-day Aviation Capacity Summit meeting in July urged President George W. Bush to make "aviation capacity enhancements a top national priority."
In a letter to the president, the attendees noted that while it took only eight years to put a man on the moon, "today's bureaucracy and regulatory red tape can delay more modest, yet crucial, runway construction projects at airports for up to 15 years."
AOPA noted the fact that many GA airports acting as relievers for major airline airports are threatened and need to be protected with better land use laws.
The group said ATC modernization programs should be given high priority, including full-scale implementation of GPS navigation and continued development of Safe Flight 21 initiatives such as ADS-B (automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast).
The U.S. Customs Service has announced plans to make the GATE (General Aviation Telephonic Entry) program permanent.
That program, advocated by AOPA for nearly a decade, allows approved pilots and passengers to fly directly from Canada to an approved U.S. airport of entry (frequently the pilot's home field) and avoid long delays for Customs inspections at designated Customs Service airports. In most cases, no inspection at all is required.
GATE was implemented as a pilot program in 1996. In 1998, the program was improved and expanded, following input from AOPA and AOPA members who completed surveys on AOPA Online. Based on member input, AOPA will be making additional recommendations for improvements as the program is made permanent.
AOPA is challenging an FAA proposal to eliminate two contract weather observers in south-central Alaska, at Allen Army Airfield (Big Delta) and Gulkana airports.
The FAA says that automated surface observation system (ASOS) facilities at the two locations provide adequate weather reporting. But AOPA contends that human weather observers are necessary because of the sparse network of reporting stations and the numerous VFR routes through mountainous terrain. AOPA is working with the Alaska Airmen's Association and the Alaskan Aviation Safety Foundation to coordinate pilot comments to the FAA.
Following a series of meetings with AOPA, Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R-Ill.) added an amendment to an appropriations bill requiring that reliever and GA airports such as Meigs be part of a plan to solve congestion at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago.
The amendment "encourages" Chicago and Illinois to jointly develop a plan for O'Hare and a new third commercial service airport, and threatens federal intervention if the city and state don't develop a satisfactory solution to area airport congestion problems.
AOPA helped craft the language of the amendment.
Meigs is slated to close in February 2002, to be replaced by another lakefront park. Closing Meigs would add some 48,000 flights per year to the next-closest airports to downtown Chicago — Midway, Palwaukee, and O'Hare.
"Closure of this airport is like closing a viable off-ramp from a congested highway system," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "We should be doing everything we can to develop more airport capacity in the Chicago area."
AOPA is warning mayoral candidates in Cleveland to keep their hands off of Burke Lakefront Airport.
"AOPA will work diligently to defeat any attempts to close this valuable community resource," wrote AOPA President Phil Boyer in a letter to all the candidates. "With the recent focus on the need for additional airport and runway capacity, closing Burke (a designated FAA reliever airport) could have a detrimental impact on delays at Cleveland's Hopkins International Airport. We doubt the FAA will be willing to accept the negative consequences associated with allowing Burke Lakefront to close."
At least five candidates running for mayor of Cleveland want to close the airport and develop the property or turn it into a lakefront park.
More than 100,000 flights a year operate out of Burke airport. A 1995 study by the Ohio Department of Transportation concluded that more than 1,700 area jobs were directly related to Burke and that the airport generated an economic impact of more than $61 million a year.
AOPA's efforts to save GA airports will be showcased in an exciting Friday, November 9, multimedia event at AOPA Expo 2001, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The session is being sponsored by The New Piper Aircraft.
The fast-paced session will kick off the second day of activities at AOPA Expo, which runs from November 8 through 10 at the newly expanded Fort Lauderdale Convention Center.
The hour-long general session will provide an inside look at how AOPA and the nearly 1,000 Airport Support Network volunteers work to prevent access restrictions, curfews, or excessive fees at local airports around the nation. True "behind the scenes" stories of AOPA and ASN volunteer work will be presented, including intriguing information on recent fights for a new GA airport in the Austin, Texas, area and the ongoing battle to save the high-profile Meigs Field in Chicago.
AOPA efforts to save GA airports throughout the country have helped slow the rate of GA airport loss to about two per month. At one time, public-use GA airports were being lost at the rate of more than one per week.
A successful campaign by the Arizona Pilots Association (APA) and AOPA has saved two GA airports in north-central Arizona.
Responding to widespread support for the airports in the Prescott-Flagstaff area, the Verde Valley Transportation Commission in August voted unanimously to reject a proposal to close Sedona and Cottonwood airports and build a regional airport at an undetermined location.
APA President Arvin Schultz presented the case for preserving the two airports. Many others at the board meeting, including AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer David Swarthout, supported his arguments.
Public-use airports in the United States are closing at the rate of more than one every two weeks. The AOPA Airport Support Network, launched in 1997, designates one volunteer per airport to watch for threats and encourage favorable public perception of general aviation. For more information on how you can help support your airport, visit AOPA Online.
Connecticut. Oxford: State legislators recently passed legislation mandating study of hazards posed by the Towantic Energy Project, planned for just one-half mile from Runway 36 at Waterbury-Oxford Airport. AOPA ASN volunteer Dr. Brian Peck has been helping to mobilize area pilots to fight the proposal.
Florida. New Smyrna: A course in aircraft crash investigation for first responders taken by AOPA ASN volunteer Joe Johanson in May is expected to help officials at New Smyrna Beach Municipal Airport better respond to aircraft accidents. Titusville: Plans for a condominium development under the traffic pattern for Runway 11 at Merritt Island Airport are on hold, thanks to efforts by AOPA ASN volunteer Tony Yacono.
Kansas. Gardner: Although failing to prevent construction of a housing development near Gardner Municipal Airport, AOPA ASN volunteer Richard McNett won developer agreement to avoid construction of homes directly under the flight path and inclusion of a deed covenant warning potential home buyers of aircraft taking off and landing nearby. Residential encroachment is a leading cause of restrictions at airports, in some cases resulting in closure of the airport.
Maine. Rockland: Local antiairport activists are continuing a campaign to block improvements and impose flight restrictions at Knox County Regional Airport, reports AOPA ASN volunteer Edward Sleeper. He is helping to coordinate a letter-writing campaign against proposed landing fees.
Massachusetts. North Andover: A proposal to sell airport property for development of an industrial park was opposed by AOPA ASN volunteer Anthony Marmiani, who spoke against the plan at a June 21 meeting of the Lawrence Airport Enterprise Commission. AOPA has officially suggested leasing, rather than selling, the property.
Michigan. New Hudson: A meeting between pilots based at New Hudson Airport and Oakland County Airport Manager Karl Randall helped resolve longstanding questions from pilots about airport operations. The meeting was arranged by AOPA ASN volunteer Eric Marshall.
Oregon. Newberg: A road proposed by the Oregon Department of Transportation that would have cut through the middle of Sportsman Airpark may be rerouted, according to AOPA ASN volunteer Jerry Dale, who helped organize opposition to the proposal.
South Carolina. Lake City: Years of neglect and vandalism at the Cliff J. Evans Airport have been turned around, reports AOPA ASN volunteer Dusan Fridl. Airport improvements include repaired runway and VASI lights, renovated parking and ramp areas, and obstruction removal.
Texas. Galveston: AOPA ASN volunteer George Gould is working with the FAA for lighting on 17 towers built in June, just three miles west of Scholes International Airport. The towers, up to 130 feet agl, are a hazard because of the frequency of low-level flights spraying for mosquitoes in the area.
Washington. Puyallup: A Wal-Mart Superstore planned for just northeast of Pierce County-Thun Airport could throw a monkey wrench into the proposed improvements for Runway 16. AOPA ASN volunteer Victor Young discovered in June that the superstore site, while compatible with the existing airport configuration, would be within the runway protection zone outlined in the just-approved airport master plan. AOPA has officially protested approval of the store.
Wyoming. Jackson Hole: AOPA ASN volunteer Jeffrey L. Crabtree appeared at a July meeting of the Jackson Hole Airport Board to protest new landing fees at that airport.
AOPA ASN volunteer Gordon Feingold, 48, has been particularly effective in protecting Santa Barbara Municipal Airport in California.
When Feingold learned in March 2000 that the local cable access channel for Santa Barbara was producing a "news magazine" about airport noise, he contacted the program's producer, using AOPA-provided information to ensure accuracy and adding details applicable to Santa Barbara Municipal Airport. In addition, Feingold took the program host for a flight in his Beech Bonanza to demonstrate the efficacy of existing noise-abatement flight paths and procedures at Santa Barbara Municipal Airport.
More recently, Feingold led the fight for additional T-hangars on the airport, instituting a letter-writing campaign and encouraging pilots to show up for a city planning board meeting. At the meeting, some 20 Feingold-supplied, bright-red clothes hangers waved on cue when the hangar issue was introduced, bringing much favorable attention from TV cameras and other media. While city council approval for T-hangar construction is still needed, the airport development director told airport commissioners at a June meeting that he'd received more input on the need for T-hangars than on any other issue in recent memory.
AOPA President Phil Boyer gave a $5,000 check to Alaska Aviation Safety Foundation Chairman Tom Wardleigh during an AOPA Pilot Town Meeting in Anchorage, Alaska.
"We recognize that what works in the 'lower 48' doesn't always fit the problems in Alaska," said Boyer. "AASF programs are tailored to the special flying environment found here."
The latest AOPA Air Safety Foundation Safety Highlights publication, featuring the Beechcraft Bonanza and Debonair model aircraft, is now available. Underwritten by a grant from the United States Aircraft Insurance Group (USAIG), it is the last of four ASF-produced studies on the safety record of specific GA aircraft types.
Earlier USAIG-funded Safety Highlights have examined accident histories of the Cessna 172, the Cessna 182, and the Piper PA-28 series; all are available without cost from ASF. Each study provides type-specific accident history and detailed operating suggestions for improved safety.
As with previous USAIG-sponsored studies, copies of the new Beechcraft Bonanza/Debonair Safety Highlights will be sent free of charge to all registered owners of the aircraft models studied.
The new study compares the accident history of Beechcraft Bonanza and Debonair models (both share the same basic design) to a group of similar aircraft, including the Cessna 182RG Skylane, Cessna 210 Centurion, Mooney M20, Piper PA-24 Comanche, Piper PA-32 Saratoga, and the Rockwell 112 and 114 models. The Beech types were found to be slightly more likely than similar aircraft types to be involved in serious accidents, but less likely to suffer minor accidents.
The latest ASF Safety Highlights also showed Beech models 33 and 36 (Debonair and Bonanza models with a conventional vertical tail) to be involved in significantly fewer accidents because of mechanical problems than similar aircraft, while the Beech Model 35 (the classic V-tail configuration) suffered a mechanical-failure mishap rate approximately the same as the comparison group of aircraft.
"We must remember that the V-tail Model 35 was first produced in 1947 and last made in 1982, and older aircraft put additional maintenance burdens on their owners," said ASF Executive Director Bruce Landsberg. "Pilots of early model Bonanzas need to be especially careful about maintenance and have their aircraft inspected at appropriate intervals."
ASF's Beechcraft Bonanza/Debonair Safety Highlights found differences in pilot-related causes of serious accidents for both the V-tail Model 35 and the conventional-tail models 33 and 36, compared to the group of similar aircraft. For both Beech types, the serious-accident rate varied noticeably from the comparison group in areas of fuel management, descents, VFR approaches, and go-arounds. For the conventional-empennage models, there were also differences in the accident rate during takeoff operations and IFR approaches.
The newest ASF Safety Highlights publication also includes a familiarization quiz (with answers) and a complete training course outline that can be used by pilots for initial checkout or recurrency training in the Bonanza and Debonair models.
All ASF Safety Topics are available without cost on the AOPA Web site. Single-copy printed versions are also available by request from the AOPA Air Safety Foundation, 421 Aviation Way, Frederick, Maryland 21701.