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Boyer visits Colorado, Arizona pilots during Pilot Town Meeting swingBoyer visits Colorado, Arizona pilots during Pilot Town Meeting swing

Boyer brings AOPA's Airport Watch message to key Midwest event

On Saturday, Missouri Representative Sam Graves (R-6th District) held an important press conference on the subject of homeland security. With New York Governor George Pataki and AOPA President Phil Boyer at his side, Graves reinforced the need for enhanced community efforts to safeguard against terrorism.

Aviation was certainly front and center with Rep. Graves holding the event at the Kansas City Downtown airport, directly in front of the Lifeflight Eagle Air Ambulance chopper. Governor Pataki, widely lauded - along with Mayor Rudy Guilani - for his handling of the response to the New York City 9-11 attacks, underscored the need to keep terrorism in check at the local level.   More on Rep. Graves' press conference...

Boyer visits Colorado, Arizona pilots during Pilot Town Meeting swing

AOPA President Phil Boyer flew to the mountains of the West this week to speak to pilots and assess the state of general aviation in Colorado and Arizona.

First stop was Adam Aircraft in Englewood, Colorado, near Denver. Boyer saw a greatly expanded facility from his previous visit two years ago. The company now has some 225 employees, and serial number 6 of the A500 - the first customer airplane - is moving down the assembly line. The company hopes to have final certification for the centerline-thrust twin by the end of year.

"Adam appears to be well on the way to getting this unique aircraft into customers' hands," said Boyer. Both the A500 and the A700, a very light jet being developed from the A500 design, will be at AOPA Expo in Long Beach, California October 21-23.

Trying to get to Adam Aircraft, Boyer felt some of the TFR pain being inflicted upon GA pilots; a last-minute Denver-area Presidential TFR forced him to reschedule his business meetings, just as so many AOPA members have had to do in recent months. "This TFR, like so many, was issued less than 24 hours in advance. We continue to try to impress upon the federal government the kind of disruption that causes for people trying to plan their business and personal flying," said Boyer.

More than 425 Denver-area pilots attended the Pilot Town Meeting Tuesday night. "I'm always impressed by the energy and passion of Colorado pilots," said Boyer. "I think the weather and terrain challenges of mountain flying, particularly in non-turbocharged aircraft, appeals to a feisty group."

Congressman Bob Beauprez (R-District 7) addressed the meeting via video [ high resolution | low resolution; broadband connection recommended]. The House aviation subcommittee member said he knew "firsthand the success as well as the importance of general aviation in Colorado." He talked about his pride in the growing and innovative general aviation industry in the state. "Phil, I really enjoy working with you and your organization to help continue improving the general aviation infrastructure. You and your members are truly on the leading edge of the next generation of general aviation."

But it was the technology of a previous era, specifically the antiquated flight service station (FSS) system, that drew some of the questions from the Colorado pilots. Boyer explained the association's position that FSS modernization is critical but must be handled efficiently and without imposing user fees, and he asked how many of the pilots in the audience still used walk-up briefings. Only two of the 425 in attendance raised their hands. The majority of the audience indicated that they thought with today's technology, the number of flight service stations could be reduced while still providing equal service to pilots.

Click for larger image
Colorado State Sen.
Lew Entz, Gov. Bill
Owens, and AOPA
President Phil Boyer
Click for larger image
Arizona State Sen. Marsh Arzberger and Phil Boyer

The next morning, Boyer presented an AOPA Presidential Citation to Colorado Gov. Bill Owens for spearheading the state's program to install 12 AWOSs (automated weather observation stations) in the state's high mountain passes and at key weather formation locations west of the Continental Divide.

It was literally a bump on the head that started the program. Owens was bounced off the ceiling of the state's King Air when it encountered clear air turbulence. He called AOPA Regional Representative Bill Hamilton to ask what could be done about it. Hamilton said better weather reporting would help, particularly at the mountain passes. (Colorado has more terrain above 10,000 feet than any other state except Alaska. Flying through mountain passes is the only option for many aircraft flying through the Rockies.)

The Colorado Pilots Association and State Representative (now State Senator) Lew Entz helped push funding for the program through the legislature. Six AWOS stations are already operational. The state is now working on additional funding to tie the stations into the national system so that the weather data will be available through any flight service station and on the Internet.

It was then on to Tucson, Arizona, and a Pilot Town Meeting audience of more than 300. There Boyer honored Arizona State Senator Marsh Arzberger who was instrumental in passing bill that reduced taxes for many aircraft owners by redefining what constituted antique and classic aircraft under Arizona law. She also worked to restore state aviation trust fund monies that were being siphoned off to the general fund.

Arizona Congressman Jim Kolbe spoke to the pilots by video [ high resolution | low resolution; broadband connection recommended]. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, Kolbe has helped ensure funding for FAA programs to further general aviation. Kolbe is also a 25-year trustee for Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU), which has a campus in Prescott, Arizona.

"Through programs like AOPA Project Pilot and the AOPA Flight Training magazine, you and your programs are helping to increase the number of flight training students here in Arizona, and you're to be commended for that," Kolbe said.

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AOPA President Phil Boyer (center) and Embry-Riddle students Laura Peterson, Aeronautical Science Jr, SGA Rep., Northfield, Minn.; Elliot Pesut, Aeronautical Science SO, FLSAB Rep., Carmel, Ind.; Chris Dedmon, Aeronautical Science SO, FLSAB Rep., Fort Worth, Tex.; Robert Hentshcel, Aeronautical Science SR, FLSAB Rep., Sugarland, Tex.

In fact, AOPA and Embry-Riddle are going into their fifth year of a landmark alliance that provides AOPA benefits and services to complement the aviation education of ERAU students.

During his meeting with Embry-Riddle students and faculty, as well as other pilots from around Prescott, Boyer outlined the bright future for the aviation students.

"AOPA analysis shows that just due to the 'age 60' rule alone, 50 percent of all airline transport pilots (ATPs) will likely retire within the next 15 years," said Boyer. "And airline hiring is already the highest it's been since September 2001."

Boyer also talked about the developing use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in the National Airspace System. That's of particular interest to Arizona pilots because the military and security agencies want to use UAVs regularly to patrol the U.S.-Mexico border.

"They're not ready to share our airspace yet," said Boyer. AOPA is leading the body that will set the standards for UAVs (see " AOPA to protect member interests on UAV certification panel"). "Only when they can fit into the system with the ability to effectively detect and avoid other aircraft will they be allowed in the air with us. And we won't allow their use to cost pilots time and money; we won't accept any changes to equipment, airspace, or regulations to accommodate UAVs."

The top four ERAU aviation students also got an opportunity to build some right-seat flight time in AOPA's CitationJet. Each student had the opportunity to perform either a landing or a takeoff, and for some, it was a life-changing event. "I've had some students tell me they were ready to quit aviation before getting a chance to fly the CJ," said Boyer. "For them, it revitalized their desire to make aviation a career."

Boyer also took advantage of a longstanding invitation from Air Traffic Manager Kevin Harrington to visit the Prescott Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS). During the visit, he had the opportunity to hear from briefers about how important having local knowledge can be to giving quality briefings, especially when it comes to monsoon conditions that sometimes affect the region. The AFSS had been slated to upgrade to the FAA's new OASIS computer system, which integrates flight data processing with upgraded weather graphics, but budget cutbacks have changed those plans, meaning the station will have to be content with outdated the 1980s-era Model One system for at least two more years.

Later in the day, Boyer visited the Prescott Tower, which has fared better when it comes to technology upgrades. The tower receives composite long-range radar information over the Internet, allowing controllers to see the radar without the added expense of installing radar antennas. The availability of this kind of high-quality information at relatively low cost has been a boon to safety at an airport that's home to so many training operations.

Update: September 19, 2004

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