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General aviation healthy, Boyer tells Pilot Town MeetingsGeneral aviation healthy, Boyer tells Pilot Town Meetings

General aviation healthy, Boyer tells Pilot Town Meetings

Click for larger image
Waco winner Mark Zeller told the Houston
Pilot Town Meeting about his experiences
flying the UPF-7 across the heartland.
Click for larger image
This chart from AOPA's Real-Time Flight
shows Mark Zeller's five-day odyssey
in the Centennial of Flight Sweepstakes Waco.
Click for larger image
U.S. student pilot trend
Click for larger image
While in Houston, Boyer visited the 1940
Air Terminal Museum
at William P. Hobby
Airport. One of the few Art Deco airport
terminals left, the Houston Aeronautical
Heritage Society is restoring the building and
creating a first-class museum, preserving
an important piece of Houston's history for future
generations. Pictured in front of the museum
are Jeffrey Weiss (museum benefactor), Drew Coats
(HAHS President), Phil Boyer and Ron Henriksen.

AOPA President Phil Boyer spread the good news about the improving health of general aviation at a series of Pilot Town Meetings this week in Texas and Ohio. More than 800 pilots attended the meetings in Houston, Dallas, and Columbus. He also addressed issues of specific concern to pilots in those areas and described AOPA's fight to preserve general aviation airports. And a highlight of the Houston meeting was Mark Zeller, winner of AOPA's Centennial of Flight Sweepstakes Waco, describing his open-cockpit cross-country flight to deliver the aircraft to its new owner in Minneapolis.

A leading indicator of the state of general aviation is the number of new students starting flight training. In 2003, the number of new students increased two percent, more than offsetting the decline in foreign flight students since the 9/11 attacks and change in security rules, Boyer told the audiences. More than 16,000 new pilots are expected to be added to the rolls by 2005. Sales of new single-engine aircraft, the backbone of the industry, were up by 11 percent in 2003, and growth continues strong in 2004.

There is even greater activity in the avionics market as owners upgrade their aircraft. Shops are booked-up three months in advance, and owners are spending an average of $27,000 on new avionics. And WAAS (the GPS wide area augmentation system) is bringing new benefits to general aviation first, allowing GPS to be used as the primary source of navigation and providing ILS-like instrument approaches to virtually every airport. AOPA has championed WAAS for more than half a decade.

In each city, Boyer highlighted AOPA's ongoing efforts to save airports, particularly the extraordinary win last year in Florida with Albert Whitted Airport.

In Dallas, a top issue concerned Addison Airport (ADS), where AOPA is challenging the way the city is running the airport. AOPA contends the city is diverting revenue from the airport, and that is causing higher costs for pilots. AOPA has filed a Part 13 complaint with FAA against the city, and FAA is beginning an investigation. (FAA Southwest Regional Administrator Ava Wilkerson introduced Boyer at the beginning of the meeting.)

U.S. Representative Michael C. Burgess (R-Texas), a pilot and AOPA member, addressed the Dallas meeting via video, and stressed the importance of general aviation to the Texas economy. Rep. Burgess sits on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

In Houston, Boyer introduced Mark Zeller, winner of AOPA's Centennial of Flight Sweepstakes UPF-7 Waco. Zeller described his "adventure of lifetime" last March as he and Ben Redman of Rare Aircraft (who restored the classic red biplane) flew open-cockpit some 1,000 nautical miles from his home field of Lone Star Regional Airport in Conroe, Texas, to the aircraft's new owner in Minneapolis.

The five-day adventure started with a sunrise departure and included flight through March snowshowers. Zeller said he didn't really understand the complexities of flying an open-cockpit aircraft cross country. They spent one-and-half days in Tyler, Texas, waiting for the winds to die down and another in Springfield, Missouri, due to low ceilings. But at every stop, they were surrounded by pilots admiring the aircraft.

With the proceeds from the sale of the Waco, Zeller is establishing college funds for his two children. He is also quitting his job to return to school and become a real estate broker.

(Earlier in the week, Boyer spotted AOPA's 1995 sweepstakes aircraft, the Better Than New 172, when he stopped at Cleburne, south of Dallas, to meet with a candidate for Congress at her local airport.)

In a video address to the Houston meeting, U.S. Representative Nicholas V. Lampson (D-Texas) praised AOPA's work in defending pilots' right to fly. A pilot and AOPA member, Lampson sits on the House aviation subcommittee. Dave Fulton, director of the Texas Department of Transportation, opened the Houston Pilot Town Meeting.

Flying up to the center of the country, Boyer addressed pilots in Columbus, Ohio. A top issue there was the ongoing battle to save Kent State Airport. The university trustees have voted to close the airport and move the school's flight training operations to Portage County Airport. But Kent State has accepted federal grants, and that obligates the university to keep the airport open. AOPA has advised the university of its obligation and has asked FAA to enforce the grant obligations.

U.S. Senator George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio) spoke to the audience on video, stressing the importance of general aviation airports, including Kent State, Burke Lake Front, and Blue Ash airports. Gus Ubaldi, president of the Ohio Aviation Association, introduced Boyer.

Boyer's busy week ended back in Washington, D.C., where he made a presentation to the FAA administrator on general aviation safety and the "broken" TFR notam process.

June 18, 2004

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