Sun 'n Fun Vice President Gregory
Harbaugh (left) and President
John Burton accept a grant from
AOPA President Phil Boyer (right).
Boyer and AOPA's 2004
Sweepstakes winner Roy Wilbanks
Boyer talked about the FAA's budget crisis, ADS-B, and the recent announcement
that TSA chief Stone will step down.
AOPA President Phil Boyer kicked off AOPA Day at Sun 'n Fun Thursday night with about 425 pilots during a Pilot Town Meeting by presenting a $5,000 check to John Burton, president of Sun 'n Fun, for the group's new Florida Air Museum - Tom Davis Center. ( View a video of the presentation.) The grant will be used for the purchase and maintenance of computer equipment in the center that can house 50 students. Internet-enabled computers will be dedicated to carrying Air Safety Foundation safety courses from the AOPA Online Safety Center.
Those in attendance also received a special treat. Boyer showed a video of the awarding of AOPA's 2004 Sweepstakes Twin Comanche to winner Roy Wilbanks. But instead of updating the crowd on Wilbanks' progress with multi training, Boyer invited him to talk to the crowd himself. During Wilbanks' surprise personal visit, he provided the inside scoop on his training - he now has 13 hours under his belt, along with some night and cross-country time. ( View a video of Roy's talk.)
But Boyer quickly got down to business, talking to pilots about the FAA's budget crisis and how GA can help, ADS-B (automatic dependent surveillance - broadcast), and the recent announcement that Transportation Security Administration chief Adm. David M. Stone will step down.
Boyer focused on the FAA's budget crisis, informing pilots of AOPA's campaign that the FAA must be funded in a manner that avoids user fees on general aviation pilots.
"AOPA is working to make a sound business case to help the FAA save money," Boyer said. Three avenues that could help the FAA cut costs include eliminating redundant NDB approaches, consolidating flight service stations (FSSs), and scaling back some tower operations at GA airports in the middle of the night.
The FAA had proposed eliminating some 479 NDB approaches that it considered redundant, but AOPA wanted to be sure that the agency wouldn't be shutting down frequently used approaches.
"According to a recent survey, about 80 percent of our members are concerned about this but would go along with the elimination of some redundant approaches," Boyer said. AOPA specialists have researched each one to try to prevent needed approaches that are used often from being eliminated. As a result, AOPA has given the FAA a list of 57 NDB approaches that should be kept active because they provide the lowest minimums or are important to AOPA members.
Consolidating and modernizing FSS also can save money - going about that in the right manner is near the top of most pilots' mind. "The one service almost all of us use is some form of flight service," Boyer said.
The FAA selected Lockheed Martin from the government's bidding process (called an A-76 study) to take over operation of the agency's 58 automated flight service stations (AFSSs) in the lower 48 states, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. The stations will be consolidated into 20 facilities - three hubs and 17 satellite stations.
The FAA will pay Lockheed $1.9 billion over the course of 10 years, an estimated savings of $2.2 billion over what it would have cost for the FAA to continue providing the service using its existing infrastructure and procedures. Lockheed Martin will have a customer service guarantee, and pilots can talk to a live briefer, have interactive briefings, receive e-mail or PDA alerts on notams and weather changes, and more. But AOPA is going to keep an eye on the changes. "We are going to watch this very closely because they didn't have answers to all of our questions," Boyer said.
Reducing tower operations during the late night and early morning hours also can cut costs. About 60 towers that have two to three operations during those hours could be scaled back. Their usage is being reviewed now, and the FAA will keep the user community, including AOPA, informed.
Boyer talked about the emergence of ADS-B (automatic dependent surveillance - broadcast) along the East Coast from Florida to New Jersey. Ground-based transceivers are located up and down the coast, with two in Florida. (The system is on display at Sun 'n Fun at the Garmin and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University aircraft displays.)
Aircraft equipped with ADS-B use a datalink transceiver coupled with a GPS receiver to broadcast their GPS-derived position to other ADS-B equipped aircraft and to ground stations that send that information to air traffic controllers. The datalink is a two-way connection, so pilots can call up traffic and weather information on their multifunction display.
Boyer also addressed the step down of TSA chief Adm. David M. Stone, who spoke to members at AOPA Expo in Long Beach, California, last year. "This is the third head of the TSA now to step down," Boyer said. "We had a very good relationship him, and AOPA staff will work to build a positive relationship with the next chief."
To emphasize the association's dedication to safety, Boyer demonstrated portions of the Air Safety Foundation's Runway Safety online course in the AOPA Online Safety Center. The center provides access to interactive online courses that count toward FAA Wings credit, printed safety publications from AOPA Pilot and Safety Advisors, Safety Hot Spot topics, and more.
Those in the Florida area who missed Boyer's PTM will have another chance to learn about AOPA's efforts. For the first time ever, AOPA Expo will be in Tampa this year at the Peter O. Knight Airport, November 3 through 5.
April 15, 2005