AOPA opposes an FAA proposal released in August that would codify flight restrictions in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. The restricted area would be designated as "national defense airspace" and would replace the current Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ).
"AOPA recognizes the necessity to protect the national assets in the nation's capital. The 15-nautical-mile-radius no-fly zone known as the 'Flight Restricted Zone' (FRZ) does that," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "But we take strong exception to the FAA's proposal to make the temporary outer ring of Washington's defensive airspace — the ADIZ — permanent."
The FAA proposal also reiterated the agency's statutory authority to pursue, with the appropriate evidence, criminal prosecution against anyone who "knowingly or willfully violates" national defense airspace. Current law provides for fines or imprisonment for up to one year.
Since the September 11, 2001, attacks, the government has made numerous upgrades to security systems around the nation's capital, including a new visual warning system (VWS) that uses lasers to warn pilots away from restricted airspace, anti-aircraft missile batteries, and greatly improved radar coverage. Such measures significantly enhance the protection offered by the FRZ, making the ADIZ unnecessary.
AOPA has proposed various ways the airspace could be altered without threatening national security and without eliminating the FRZ. For example, AOPA proposed allowing smaller, slower aircraft to operate without the flight plan or identifier beacon requirements currently in place. Such general aviation aircraft do not pose a significant threat because they have neither the mass nor cargo-carrying capacity to cause large-scale damage.
Pilots are encouraged to submit comments on the proposal before November 2 to the Docket Management Facility, U.S. Department of Transportation, 400 Seventh Street, Southwest, Nassif Building, Room PL-401, Washington, D.C. 20590.
Comments also can be submitted online via the U.S. Department of Transportation's Docket Management System ( http://dms.dot.gov).
The FAA is contemplating new security-related airspace training for all pilots. But why wait to take the training? AOPA has the training resources available right now for pilots all across the country.
Pilots who fly within about 200 miles of Washington, D.C., should take the AOPA Air Safety Foundation's "Visual Warning System" minicourse in the AOPA Online Safety Center ( www.aopa.org/safetycenter/courses/vws/). It contains everything pilots need to know should they inadvertently enter the Washington, D.C., Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ).
For those who intend to fly in the Washington, D.C., ADIZ, AOPA offers an online course about how to operate within that airspace — file an ADIZ flight plan, get a clearance, talk to controllers, and set the transponder.
Keep in mind that security-related temporary flight restrictions can pop up anywhere in the country that VIPs such as the president or vice president travel. Pilots who never get closer than 2,500 miles to Washington, D.C., still need to know about restricted airspace and intercept procedures. Check out ASF's "Know Before You Go" course online ( www.aopa.org/asf/online_courses/know_before/). And use AOPA's Real-Time Flight Planner, which depicts restricted airspace.
The airspace around Washington, D.C., is undeniably complex. Likewise pilots can face a "pop-up" temporary flight restriction (TFR) in any part of the country. But with recent incursions leading to the evacuation of the Capitol and the White House, lawmakers are unwilling to settle for the status quo.
That's why AOPA has invested hundreds of hours in working with lawmakers to turn the focus of the discussion from onerous mandates and harsh punishments to education. Those efforts received a boost when the FAA announced a new training program to educate pilots nationwide about the Washington, D.C., Flight Restricted Zone (FRZ), Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), and other security-related airspace restrictions.
"It's not surprising that lawmakers are frustrated with airspace incursions that disrupt Congress and send staffers running for cover," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "But we've been working directly with key lawmakers, including congressional aviation security expert Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.) and AOPA member Rep. Robin Hayes (R-N.C.), to ensure that any response actually helps solve the problem by teaching pilots how to keep out of trouble instead of just penalizing them."
The FAA's proposed training program, announced during a security hearing before the House Committee on Government Reform, could do that while making legislation imposing such stiff penalties as $100,000 fines, airplane confiscation, and criminal prosecution unnecessary.
The proposal would require pilots to complete an FRZ/ADIZ and security TFR awareness training program, such as the AOPA online ADIZ course or an FAA safety seminar. Pilots would need to make a logbook endorsement and would receive a completion certificate that they'd be required to carry with them during flights into the national capital region. Pilots living within 100 miles of the ADIZ would have 30 days to comply, while pilots elsewhere would be given 120 days.
The training requirements will be detailed in a special federal aviation regulation (SFAR), though no timetable has yet been set for issuing such a rule.
In addition to the new training requirements, the FAA could increase civil penalties for violating the FRZ/ADIZ, raising the certificate suspension from 30 days to 120 days and revoking the certificates of repeat offenders.
"This kind of approach is far more reasonable than some of the reactionary proposals we've heard recently," Boyer said. "It just makes sense to educate pilots so they can avoid making a mistake. Tough penalties without education won't solve anything, but they will turn otherwise-law-abiding citizens into criminals, strangle general aviation, and cause serious economic harm to communities around the nation's capital and possibly across the country."
But the FAA's announcement may not be enough to preempt other security legislation focusing on GA in the national capital area. AOPA will continue to work with lawmakers in both houses of Congress to protect the balance between security and freedom for GA pilots.
The modernization of the antiquated flight service station (FSS) system is moving forward. The next big step is scheduled for October 4 when Lockheed Martin takes over operations under a contract paid for and supervised by the FAA.
AOPA supports this change to the FSS program because "after more than five years of detailed AOPA investigations into the costs of the FSS system and attempts to provide modernization funds, and concurrent work by several government agencies, we are convinced that this is the right thing at the right time for the benefit of GA pilots," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "And we will get these significantly improved services funded by aviation taxes, not user fees."
AOPA has insisted from the beginning that customer service should be the priority. The Lockheed Martin contract guarantees phone calls will be answered within 20 seconds and radio calls acknowledged within 5 seconds. Briefers also will have access to an integrated database, so that every briefer can get every piece of information a pilot needs. Pilots also are guaranteed that no matter when they call the new flight service system, they can get a briefer who's been trained and certified on local area weather patterns and operations.
However, there may be some service glitches during the "ramp up" phase as FAA employees transfer to Lockheed Martin and the contractor upgrades equipment. AOPA members should e-mail AOPA ( [email protected]) to report any problems.
"We look forward to working with Mr. Hawley and educating him about GA, as we have his predecessors," said Boyer. "AOPA has developed positive working relationships with past TSA heads and won their support for important programs like AOPA's Airport Watch. We'll continue to do all we can to ensure that security issues affecting GA are handled with common sense and the recognition that one size does not fit all."
School has been in session for a few weeks, and the annual back-to-school night is approaching fast. This year, bring your child's teacher a copy of AOPA's new PATH to Aviation. (PATH stands for "pilot and teacher handbook.") This new resource guide for AOPA members and secondary-school teachers connects subjects such as math, physics, history, and science to the basics of general aviation.
Share your knowledge and your joy of aviation with a middle school or high school class. The guide provides you with what it takes to arrange a classroom visit, organize a field trip to your local airport, and impress the next generation of pilots with your flying experience.
Are you a pilot and a teacher? Share PATH to Aviation with your fellow teachers and principal. Easy-to-follow modules will help you — and your colleagues with no aviation experience — inject aviation into your lesson plans that are already in progress.
Contact AOPA (800/USA-AOPA) for a copy of AOPA's PATH to Aviation. The entire guide or individual activities can be downloaded from AOPA Online ( www.aopa.org/pathtoaviation/).
Don't miss AOPA Expo 2005 from November 3 through 5 at Peter O. Knight Airport and the Tampa Convention Center in Tampa. This year's event boasts a dynamic lineup of aviation speakers leading 75 hours of seminars. Plus there are more than 530 exhibit booths to browse through and a revamped aircraft display that will include the latest light sport aircraft.
Seminar speakers include general aviation experts John and Martha King, aviation humorist and writer Rod Machado, AOPA Air Safety Foundation Executive Director Bruce Landsberg, and some of AOPA Pilot's editors: Tom Haines, Julie Boatman, Tom Horne, and Steve Ells. Don't forget, Expo attendees also will have the chance to listen to AOPA President Phil Boyer.
Need a new pair of headsets, a door seal, new interior for the old bird, or how about a brand-new airplane? All that and more will be available in the exhibit hall. For those considering the purchase of a new aircraft, some exhibitors will be giving demonstration flights at the aircraft display. (Demo flights must be arranged with the company prior to Expo.)
To register or for more information about AOPA Expo, visit AOPA Online ( www.aopa.org/expo/).
AOPA has enlisted the help of the United Flying Octogenarians in its Aging Pilot Study, an effort to learn more about what kinds of accidents older pilots are having, what causes them, and what actually happens to pilots' skills as they age. Members of the United Flying Octogenarians, all of whom are at least 80 years of age and actively flying, have been asked to complete a questionnaire pertaining to their individual flight experience, claims record (if any), and insurance coverage and premiums. AOPA's Aging Pilot Study was prompted, in part, by the escalating surcharges — ranging from 30 to 160 percent — some insurance companies are charging pilots over the age of 60. "AOPA members tell us that the cost and safety of flying are extremely important to them," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "This study is directly related to both of those issues. We want to know if the accident record for older pilots justifies the surcharges insurance companies are imposing on them."
AOPA members now can view up to 12 months of their AOPA FBO Rebate Credit Card statements online. AOPA Member Products partner MBNA America Bank, N.A., doubled the number of monthly statements that cardholders can view to make the rebate-request process less complicated. Now with a few simple clicks online, members can submit all of their rebates for the calendar year in one session. AOPA members can use their FBO Rebate Credit Card to save up to 5 percent of their qualified fixed-base operation purchases, up to a total of $250 per year. FBO rebate rules and details for redeeming the rebate are available on AOPA Online ( www.aopa.org/info/certified/financial.html).
Looking for a quick refresher to keep those flying skills up to date? The AOPA Air Safety Foundation has created free online minicourses in the AOPA Online Safety Center ( www.aopa.org/asf/online_courses/) that run from 4 to 15 minutes each. These courses are open to everyone and provide the same high-quality information as the foundation's full-length online courses.
"Avoiding Thunderstorms" contains actual air traffic control (ATC) transmissions between controllers and a pilot who flew into a Level 6 thunderstorm with tragic results. The course also covers ATC services, the enhancements in controllers' weather radar displays, and the importance of giving pilot reports.
"VFR GPS Guide: Garmin 430/530" focuses on the basic functions used by a typical pilot in VFR flight. The course helps pilots gain a better understanding of the basics, including how to enter communication and VOR frequencies, add GPS waypoints, and use the basic moving-map functions. The course also includes a free PDF quick-reference card to carry in the cockpit.
The "Visual Warning System" (VWS) minicourse explains the new laser warning system that is used to alert pilots who have strayed into the Washington, D.C., Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). The course demonstrates what the flashing red-red-green light looks like when an aircraft infringes on the ADIZ, instructs pilots on what to do if they are illuminated, and reminds them of the intercept procedures.
No pilot takes off thinking that he or she will run out of fuel during that flight, but running the tanks dry happens more often than most pilots think. The 2004 Joseph T. Nall Report revealed that improper fuel management has contributed to an average of more than three accidents per week over the past 10 years. That is why the AOPA Air Safety Foundation created the Fuel Management Safety Hot Spot, which includes links to video clips, accident reports, related safety publications, and even a handy "safety checkup" list that can be printed in kneeboard format.
Learn from accident reports about fuel starvation, exhaustion, and contamination, and read NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) reports from pilots who lived to tell about their fuel-management mistakes.
Video clips from ASF's Fuel Awareness DVD, the Fuel Awareness Safety Advisor, and the Misfueling Safety Brief, along with access to related AOPA Pilot and AOPA Flight Training magazine articles provide pilots with additional information. The Fuel Awareness Seminar-in-a-Box is also available.
More than 1,000 pilots have attended the AOPA Air Safety Foundation's popular "The Last Five Miles" safety seminar, which teaches three reasons why pilots should descend early (and one instance in which that would be a mistake), when a straight-in approach can be safe and legal, how to safely handle traffic pattern conflicts, and more.
The free seminar is in full swing through January 2006. Visit the AOPA Online Safety Center ( www.aopa.org/asf/seminars/seminar.cfm) for a complete schedule.
The AOPA Air Safety Foundation's popular calendar should be arriving soon.
The calendar is one of ASF's fund-raising campaigns to support free aviation safety seminar programs, Safety Advisors, and the AOPA Online Safety Center ( www.aopa.org/safetycenter/). Receive the calendar by becoming a donor with a gift of $10 or more.
Public-use airports in the United States are closing at the rate of about one every two weeks. The AOPA Airport Support Network 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 ( www.aopa.org/asn/).
Massachusetts. Fitchburg and Washington. Arlington: David Reinhart, AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer at Fitchburg Municipal Airport, contacted AOPA about creating a firefighting training event at his airport. The event came about in the wake of the first meeting of the airport's safety committee, which was formed at the suggestion of the Massachusetts Aeronautics Committee (MAC). (Reinhart is on the safety committee.) The ASN staff directed him to a listing of related advisory circulars ( www.faa.gov/arp/150acs.cfm) and put him in touch with Bruce Angell, ASN volunteer at Arlington Municipal Airport, who has coordinated more than three years' worth of firefighter training events at his airport, including aircraft identification and structural training for emergency extrication and application of chemicals.
Michigan. Marquette: For more than two years, the fuel flowage fee at Sawyer International Airport had been set at 25 cents per gallon, averaging 18 to 22 cents more per gallon than any other place in the state. ASN volunteer Lynn T. Sykes, along with local pilots and airport tenants, began a campaign to explain to county commissioners the fuel flowage fee and its current incongruence, which led to immediate financial concerns for the county and fixed-based operation as pilots began going elsewhere to buy fuel. Once presented with the facts, the County Commission voted to drop the fuel flowage fee to 6 cents per gallon, which is in line with most of the country. The 6-cent-per-gallon fee is only valid until December 31, 2005, at which time the county will reevaluate its position. The reduction in the fee also brought the price of fuel below $3 per gallon at Sawyer, which in turn has increased the number of customers.
Washington. Eatonville: Thanks to pressure from Swanson ASN volunteer Steven Van Cleve, AOPA, the Washington State Department of Transportation, and local pilots, the town of Eatonville adopted a comprehensive plan that includes the goals necessary to prevent incompatible land use. However, the town has not yet adopted the appropriate development regulations. Van Cleve continues to work on the issue.
The AOPA Airport Support Network staff has been asked numerous times to review leases for ASN volunteers at airports nationwide. Remember, we are not attorneys, so the first question we ask is: Do you have the AOPA Legal Services Plan?
For $26 per year, AOPA members can sign up for private pilot coverage, which includes unlimited consultation with the plan's legal staff on covered matters, and payment for most or all attorney fees for many aviation-related legal matters: FAA enforcement actions; U.S. Customs enforcement actions; aircraft accidents involving you or any aircraft you own; aviation-related federal tax issues; and aircraft purchase and sale agreements. The plan also provides coverage for review of aircraft rental and leaseback agreements, and review of hangar and tiedown agreements.
AOPA Legal Services Plan members are entitled to a free hangar lease review each year. The ASN staff may not provide legal advice and is only versed on grant assurance compliance issues, so when it comes to lease reviews, our ability to comment is limited. That's why we recommend turning to a professional, legally trained staff to answer your questions and provide you with thorough reviews.
Sign up for the plan online ( www.aopa.org/info/certified/lsp.html) or by calling 800/USA-AOPA.
To learn more about the ASN program, visit our Web site ( www.aopa.org/asn/) or call 301/695-2200.
Less than a year ago, Kevin Rebman took over the reins as the AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer at Crystal Airport, one of the six general aviation reliever airports in the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport system, and landed in the heat of controversy with the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC). The MAC was receiving pressure from local city and county officials to consider closure of the airport for redevelopment. Rebman has been trying to educate local residents and elected officials in Hennepin County as well as in those cities bordering the airport that derive economic and "green space" benefits from the airport's location. Rebman also created the Crystal Airport Community Group in the course of a few days to counter efforts by a Hennepin County commissioner to challenge testimony given by AOPA Vice President of Airports Bill Dunn last fall. The group has the backing of many of the airport's 200-plus residents. The group has collected hundreds of signatures to keep the airport open, and they will be presented to the local City Council and MAC at an upcoming meeting. Rebman and the Crystal Airport Community Group also have had a town hall meeting with the MAC executive director, Jeff Hamiel, to discuss the future of the airport and other MAC relievers.