Don't make the Washington, D.C., Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) permanent. AOPA and its members have made that position against the ADIZ loud and clear to government officials in the Secret Service, Department of Defense, Customs Service and Border Patrol, Homeland Security, Transportation Security Administration, and the FAA.
"Our members are the real asset," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "I am proud of the way they stepped up to present their personal, passionate, well-researched comments against a permanent Washington, D.C., ADIZ."
By the end of the comment period, which AOPA managed to get extended until February 6, more than 21,300 comments — including those from powerful congressmen, air traffic controllers, airport managers, and pilots — had been filed on the FAA's proposal for a permanent ADIZ. And 90 percent of those came from outside the Washington, D.C., area, mainly because pilots fear that the same thing that was done to Class B airspace in this area could happen to 29 other places around the country.
More than 600 pilots attended two ADIZ public meetings during which government officials heard personal accounts of the ADIZ's operational nightmares, safety hazards, and negative economic impacts. AOPA had fought for the public meetings, which Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta announced at AOPA Expo 2005 in Tampa in November.
Boyer spoke before the 11-member ADIZ panel on January 18, detailing all of the steps that have been taken to improve general aviation security since the 9/11 attacks and urging the agencies to reevaluate whether the ADIZ was still needed.
"The Department of Homeland Security has been touting its risk-based approach to the security restrictions that it employs," Boyer said. "The department needs to look at GA security improvements and adjust the restrictions accordingly. Several government reports verify that GA is not a threat."
One of the security measures that the GA community has adopted is AOPA's Airport Watch program.
"And don't just credit AOPA," Boyer said. "Credit the more than 600,000 pilots in this country who, like a neighborhood watch, are looking around the airport for untoward things happening."
GA pilots weren't the only ones expressing their opposition to the ADIZ. Presidents of the Helicopter Association International and National Air Transportation Association also spoke.
One speaker compared the destructive capability of a Boeing 767 and Cessna 172: It would take about 600 Cessna 172s to pose the same amount of threat as a single 767.
Several speakers referenced "circles of death" that have developed just outside the ADIZ. These are areas where pilots circle between 2,000 and 3,000 feet agl, trying to obtain their discrete transponder code to enter the ADIZ.
"The ADIZ should be abolished," said Scott Proudfoot, who was speaking for the controllers union, NATCA. "The ADIZ is nothing but a burden on the users and the controllers."
Because of radar limitations, fighters have been scrambled to "intercept" a flock of geese and a truck on Interstate 395.
Meanwhile, pilots didn't realize that an ADIZ clearance wasn't the same thing as radar identification, so that even though they were talking to ATC, they weren't receiving traffic advisories.
During the Washington, D.C., ADIZ public meetings, AOPA President Phil Boyer revealed how he and his wife had been victims of the operational problems of the ADIZ.
"Let me go off script here. I've not told this story before publicly," said Boyer. On a Sunday afternoon in the summer of 2003, Boyer and his wife flew their Cessna 172 for a short pleasure flight between Frederick Municipal Airport in Frederick, Maryland, and Carroll County Regional Airport in Westminster, Maryland. Both airports are well outside the ADIZ.
But upon returning to Frederick, the Boyers were instructed to call air traffic control, and Lois Boyer, the pilot in command, was accused of violating the ADIZ.
"She went through hell," Boyer said. "And the next day, the FAA was still going to pursue an enforcement action."
Fortunately for the Boyers, their aircraft was equipped with ADS-B (automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast), meaning that even though they were squawking VFR, the aircraft could be uniquely identified on the radarscope. They were able to obtain the radar tapes and prove conclusively that they weren't near the ADIZ. Very few aircraft currently have ADS-B, so for most pilots, it's their word against the FAA's.
"The FAA assured us they would take steps to make sure this kind of mistaken identity never happened again," Boyer told the security officials. "It still happens all the time."
But more damaging was the effect the incident had on Lois. "She has flown maybe 10 hours total since then," said Boyer.
When dealing with the government, sometimes it's like talking to a brick wall. And during the Washington, D.C., ADIZ public meetings, the 11-member panel composed of representatives from six government agencies seemed unresponsive. But the FAA has assured AOPA that the agency is listening.
"We appreciate all the thought that people have put into their comments — the 20,000 submissions to the docket and live testimony," said an FAA spokeswoman. "We appreciate the time they took to come to the public meetings to offer their recommendations, alternate ideas, and suggestions of how to protect the airspace around the capital region but still allow the aviation community to thrive. We will look at all the comments and consider the many creative recommendations we have."
The MU-2B turboprop is a challenging aircraft to fly, and it can be more than a handful in an emergency. However, it is safe, meeting all of the applicable certification requirements. Pilots don't need a type rating to fly it.
But they do need specific, standardized training to fly it safely, and they need to repeat that training, the FAA has concluded following an exhaustive safety evaluation.
"The FAA heeded our recommendation and will likely issue a special federal aviation regulation (SFAR) to require specific MU-2B training," said Luis Gutierrez, AOPA director of regulatory and certification policy. "We think this is the right result and a much better solution than issuing an airworthiness directive."
AOPA had argued against that approach and urged the FAA to talk to the people who know the aircraft the best to determine how to respond to recent accidents.
The FAA's investigation led it to conclude that pilot and maintenance training were issues with the MU-2B. The agency also determined that it should approve a standardized pilot checklist. And it decided an SFAR would be the best way to do it.
In January, the FAA issued temporary flight restrictions (TFRs) along the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona and New Mexico for U.S. Customs Service and Border Patrol unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) operations.
But the TFRs aren't so "temporary." Even though the TFRs are only active during the evening and nighttime hours, they are scheduled to be in effect through December 31, and they are expected to be renewed again next year. The TFRs stretch across 100 miles of Arizona and may be expanded periodically to 300 miles, reaching into New Mexico. The TFR originally was slated to extend from 12,000 to 14,000 feet; however, it is possible that the altitudes will change from 14,000 to 16,000 feet.
"We certainly recognize the security necessary to patrol our borders," said Andy Cebula, AOPA executive vice president of government affairs. "But we also believe that before the government takes large chunks of airspace for the long term, the public should have that chance to make comments."
The FAA doesn't have to solicit public input for a TFR because it is supposed to be a temporary response to an unforeseen situation. When the government wants airspace for long-term official operations or security protection, the FAA will usually establish a restricted or prohibited area, which must go through a public comment period.
Another issue is the ability of UAVs to operate safely in the National Airspace System. UAV technology hasn't yet advanced to the point where the unmanned flying robots can reliably "sense and avoid" other aircraft.
"Frankly, we don't believe that airspace should be walled off simply because UAVs can't play with the rest of us," Cebula said.
AOPA continues to work with the FAA and the UAV community to resolve these problems and set reasonable certification standards for UAV operations in civilian airspace.
Airspace restrictions won't be coming to Frankfort, Kentucky — the state's capital — anytime soon. Former Kentucky governor and state Sen. Julian Carroll has dropped a measure that would have asked the FAA to examine flight paths to Frankfort's Capital City Airport and to restrict air traffic around the grounds of the state's Capitol.
And that 180-degree turn is due in large part to AOPA members nationwide who contacted Carroll's office to express their opposition to the proposed airspace restrictions. AOPA also worked with Carroll to educate him about security procedures already in place, like AOPA's Airport Watch.
Carroll originally cited security issues as justification for the restrictions, saying that terrorists might consider acts outside major cities. However, the senator later said his primary motivation for withdrawing the proposal was to protect GA at Frankfort.
A number of aviation insurers were hit hard by last year's hurricanes and, while the start of the 2006 hurricane season is a few months away, one insurance company is taking steps now to limit its future losses.
Aviation insurer Global Aerospace recently announced that it will now reimburse its light aircraft insureds up to $500 for the cost of relocating their aircraft out of a hurricane warning or watch area. Along with this new coverage, however, comes a potentially expensive catch: There will be a significant increase in the deductible insureds must pay if they choose not to relocate the aircraft and it sustains damage.
"Global's standard ground damage deductible is only $50," said AOPA Insurance Agency Executive Vice President and General Manager Greg Sterling. "However, under the new provisions, this amount will jump to 5 percent of the aircraft's insured value while based in an area falling under a hurricane warning or watch. That's $5,000 for the owner of a $100,000 aircraft — 100 times higher than normal."
While high windstorm deductibles have been commonplace in insurance policies covering property in hurricane-prone areas for years, Sterling noted this is the first such move made by an aviation insurer.
As of February no other companies had announced similar moves, but at least one other insurer, AIG Aviation, offers similar hurricane relocation coverage without the big increase in deductibles.
"Aircraft owners always should read and understand their insurance policy," Sterling said, "but now it is more important than ever for owners located in hurricane-prone areas."
Pilots can contact the AOPA Insurance Agency Inc. at 800/622-2672 or online.
Kick off the flying season this year with thousands of pilots at the Sun 'n Fun Fly-In, from April 4 through 10, in Lakeland, Florida, and at the AOPA Fly-In and Open House on Saturday, June 3, at AOPA headquarters in Frederick, Maryland.
Look for AOPA's Big Yellow Tent at Sun 'n Fun. AOPA staff can help members with a range of questions from insurance policies to resources available on AOPA Online. Swing by on AOPA Day, Friday, April 7, and wear an AOPA sticker. AOPA's Sticker Squad will be looking for people to surprise with prizes including a handheld Garmin 396 and an AOPA watch.
During AOPA's sixteenth annual fly-in on June 3, pilots can brush up on flying and safety techniques with AOPA Air Safety Foundation seminars, buy pilot products from 100 exhibitors, and walk around 40 of the hottest aircraft on the market at the aircraft display.
AOPA's 2006 sweepstakes Piper Cherokee Six will be on display at both events for AOPA members to give a thorough inspection.
AOPA has confirmed the dates and locations for AOPA Expo for the next four years. The association's Expo is the only aviation convention to regularly visit all four corners of the country, reaching the majority of U.S. pilots close to where they live.
This year's Expo will be in the Southwest, in Palm Springs, California, from November 9 through 11. In subsequent years, the Expo will be held in the Northeast (in Hartford, Connecticut), from October 4 through 6, 2007, and in Northern California (in San Jose), within reach of the entire Northwest, from November 6 through 8, 2008, before returning to Tampa, host of AOPA Expo 2005, from November 5 through 7, 2009.
General aviation pilots continued to fly safely in 2004, a fact confirmed in the recently released AOPA Air Safety Foundation's 2005 Joseph T. Nall Report. The report, which analyzes GA accidents from the previous year, shows that the total GA accident rate for 2004 reached a historic low of 6.22 accidents per 100,000 flight hours. There were only 1.2 fatal accidents per 100,000 flight hours.
GA accident rates have declined more than 85 percent since the 1950s, from a high of nearly 50 accidents per 100,000 flight hours. The rate has hovered in the range of six to eight total accidents per 100,000 flight hours for more than a decade.
"Improving technology, training, and pilots' attitudes have helped achieve this remarkable improvement," said AOPA Air Safety Foundation Executive Director Bruce Landsberg. "But let's not stop now."
GA still achieved a record safety rate in 2004, even though the FAA estimates that GA flight hours have increased by about 200,000 hours in each of the past three years.
The report can be downloaded or ordered by calling the AOPA Pilot Information Center at 800/USA-AOPA.
The AOPA Air Safety Foundation's popular Seminar-in-a-Box kits are now packed with even more information for pilots to use when conducting local safety meetings.
Now the kits also will include a complete set of ASF Airspace Flash Cards, the latest Nall Report on general aviation safety, a Safety Brief on aircraft misfueling, and two Safety Advisors: Collision Avoidance and Spatial Disorientation. Each Seminar-in-a-Box already includes a full safety program on DVD, VHS, or CD, along with multiple Safety Advisors on the safety topic and a complete presenter's guide.
ASF Seminar-in-a-Box programs are available to any local pilot group and cost $24.95 for shipping and handling. To see a list of available subjects, or to order a kit, visit the ASF Web site.
As pilots get back into the swing of flying this spring, the AOPA Air Safety Foundation's Flight Planner form and top-ranked Safety Advisors are tools that can help knock off the dust.
"Last year during March, April, and May alone, more than 10,000 pilots downloaded ASF's Flight Planner form, and another 7,000 or 8,000 used the Airspace for Everyone and Operations at Nontowered Airports Safety Advisors to brush up on their skills," said ASF Executive Director Bruce Landsberg.
Visit the ASF online library for free access to Safety Advisors, Safety Briefs, in-depth special reports based on detailed analysis of the ASF Accident Database, airspace and runway flashcards, and taxiway diagrams for many airports. An intercept procedures card that can be printed and carried in the cockpit also is available.
The 2005 Joseph T. Nall Report, which analyzes general aviation accidents for the previous year, shows a spike in the number of fatal accidents caused by pilots flying into thunderstorms in 2004. The AOPA Air Safety Foundation's "Say Intentions" online course can help pilots avoid encounters with thunderstorms by teaching them skills needed to communicate effectively with air traffic control.
"In 2004, nearly 25 percent of fatal weather-related accidents were due to encounters with thunderstorms (10 total fatal accidents). All involved pilots were in contact with ATC and under positive control, but still flew into severe conditions," the report said. "These accidents highlight the importance of pilots and controllers sharing an understanding of what thunderstorm-avoidance services are, or are not, being provided."
Take the online course " Say Intentions" to learn how to prevent a potentially hazardous miscommunication with ATC.
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.
North Carolina. Currituck: Within two weeks of being appointed Airport Support Network (ASN) volunteer at Currituck County Airport, Benjamin Landron attended his first airport advisory authority meeting, where he distributed AOPA's Aircraft Hangar Development Guide. He attended a pilots breakfast, during which he pitched the idea of starting a Currituck County Pilots Association and AOPA's Airport Watch program. Landron gave a Cirrus aircraft safety training DVD to his county's fire chief to help rescue personnel learn how to safely respond to a downed Cirrus or any other aircraft with an undeployed ballistic parachute.
New York. Montgomery: Orange County ASN volunteer Howard Kave, also a member of the ASN Board of Advisors, has been successfully promoting his airport to the local media. Kave met with 10 writers and editors in his community, encouraging them to use AOPA's Newsroom online. He also gave them AOPA's What Is GA? and GA Serving America brochures. Additionally, in his efforts to "demystify" his airport, Kave invited reporters to listen to the locally broadcast advisory frequency for the airport on 88.1 MHz and to attend the airport's AviationExpo06 event on May 20.
Arizona. Mesa: Falcon Field is not under an immediate threat — in fact, it is thriving — and ASN volunteer Ross Frazier wants to keep it that way. He is using the momentum and positive publicity to form an airport group. AOPA can provide volunteers who are interested in starting an airport support group. For more information, see AOPA's Guide to Obtaining Community Support for Your Local Airport.
Charlotte County Airport in Punta Gorda, Florida, has bounced back after being hit by four hurricanes in 2004, in large part thanks to support from the city of Punta Gorda and an active airport support community, led by Airport Support Network volunteer Lionel Schuman.
Recently, the Charlotte County Airport Authority (CCAA) donated five acres of land to construct a new 40,000-square-foot Military Heritage and Aviation Museum. Schuman, who also chairs the museum's board of directors, is working to make the new facility a year-round attraction for the airport, showcasing the best of our nation's aviation heritage as well as what he calls the "living museum." This will feature modern fleets and services provided by Civil Air Patrol squadrons, rescue mission and coastal patrol units, and a theater space capable of projecting IMAX films.
Schuman also has worked with AOPA and county commissioners to prevent incompatible land-use rezoning initiatives over the years. He brought the Florida Aviation Expo to the airport in January, once again showcasing the economic value of the airport to Charlotte County. Schuman's efforts prove that promoting your airport truly makes a difference when it comes to community and political support.
You can learn how to promote your airport by viewing the PowerPoint presentation that accompanies the ASN seminar "Promoting Your Airport 101." The presentation is available on the ASN private Web page to those with an ASN volunteer user name and password.