Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta announced on November 3 that he directed the FAA to extend the comment period to February 6 and hold an AOPA-requested public meeting on its plan to make the Washington, D.C., Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) permanent. Mineta's announcement, made during the opening general session of AOPA Expo 2005 in Tampa, came one day after the close of the original comment period.
Mineta thanked pilots for their comments and pledged to pay attention to their concerns, but he also urged them to be accountable for their actions in the air and do a better job of understanding and following security requirements that are in place.
"Americans expect us to do a better job," he said. "It is an issue of accountability, and the general aviation community needs to work harder to police its members."
Mineta also addressed an issue that is top of mind for many general aviation pilots — user fees. Answering a question from an audience member, Mineta said that solving the FAA's future funding problems "is not going to be a one-size-fits-all solution."
"I can tell you right now from my perspective [the solution] will not be user fees," Mineta added. He also said he would support AOPA's recommendation to continue using fuel taxes as the most effective and fair means of funding the FAA.
At that point AOPA President Phil Boyer jumped in, asking if he could tell his staff working on the user-fee issue to stand down. Mineta smiled, acknowledging that the battle is not yet won and encouraging AOPA to stay vigilant.
Even so, Mineta said he expects all users of the aviation system, including GA, to experience "some pain" as the FAA finds ways to cut costs, ensure its future funding, and modernize the aviation infrastructure. But he promised that any changes would not sacrifice safety or the quality of services aviators rely on.
The Washington, D.C., Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) is ineffective, operationally and financially burdensome, a threat to aviation safety, and unnecessary in light of advances in security; it should be eliminated or dramatically modified, AOPA told the FAA in comments filed November 2 on the agency's proposal to make the ADIZ permanent.
AOPA also expressed its opposition to the idea of making permanent a "temporary" security measure that was created with no analysis or public comment — a security measure that turns the same tactics used to protect U.S. borders during the Cold War against law-abiding citizens in the heart of the nation's capital.
"It raises the very serious question for pilots across the country, 'Have the terrorists won when we apply security requirements internally that are designed to protect our borders?'" AOPA President Phil Boyer wrote on behalf of the association.
AOPA's formal comments present carefully reasoned, legally based arguments against making the ADIZ permanent, including: The ADIZ was intended to be temporary and was enacted with no public comment or review; it has never been subjected to rigorous analysis; it doesn't meet the legal requirements for review and analysis of alternatives; it creates significant safety hazards and operational concerns for pilots; it adversely affects the economic interests of airports and businesses that rely on light aircraft; there has never been a detailed analysis of the true threat level or consideration of appropriate responses; and there have been dramatic improvements in general aviation security since 9/11.
In its comments, AOPA urged the FAA to take a hard look at the ADIZ — and consider whether it can be eliminated or less burdensome alternatives can be put in place to maintain an equivalent level of security. The comments also reiterate AOPA's request for public meetings with the FAA, Department of Homeland Security, and other security agencies so officials can hear firsthand about the problems caused by the ADIZ.
"For those pilots who live and work in the area, the existing ADIZ flight restrictions are a daily problem," Boyer wrote. "For members who live outside of Washington, D.C., the proposal to make the flight restrictions permanent raises a substantial concern that the FAA will use them as a template for establishing similar restrictions in the airspace around other major cities."
A better solution, AOPA suggested, would be to maintain the existing flight-restricted-zone requirements and eliminate the ADIZ entirely or modify it so that procedural requirements apply only to larger, faster aircraft and not light GA airplanes — all without making the ADIZ permanent.
Boyer pointed out that the thousands of comments filed by individuals demonstrate the real day-to-day problems with the ADIZ. Those problems include compromised safety as overworked air traffic controllers struggle to deal with requirements the system was never designed to handle, long wait times for transponder codes and clearances, complex communication requirements, and the threat of being shot down for an unintentional airspace violation or equipment malfunction.
The FAA's proposal also doesn't take into account the many security improvements that have been implemented since 9/11 — improvements that AOPA believes provide greater security than the ADIZ. Those improvements include the installation of ground-based missile systems, more nimble air interdiction capability, the creation of an interagency air security coordination center, and new pilot screening requirements, as well as a host of voluntary programs, such as AOPA's Airport Watch and the Transportation Security Administration's general aviation security guidelines.
The FAA answers to a higher power — Congress — but user fees and privatization of air traffic control (ATC) services could remove that important oversight function from the hands of elected officials, AOPA warned. AOPA made its comments in response to an FAA document on funding ATC and other critical components of the nation's aviation system.
But loss of accountability isn't the only problem with user fees, which AOPA has repeatedly told the FAA are not an acceptable means of funding the agency in the future.
"The FAA must be very careful not to advance funding policies that would dismantle the air transportation network," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "Virtually all citizens in the country benefit from this system that is so crucial to the nation's economy — whether or not they ever fly."
That's why AOPA supports using contributions from the general fund to cover at least 25 percent of the FAA's budget — a method used to support the marine transportation infrastructure. AOPA also supports using excise taxes on fuel, like those already in place, to fund the FAA and ensure that it remains accountable to Congress and taxpayers.
"Instead of imposing user fees to fill perceived shortfalls, the FAA should work with the aviation community to find cost savings by eliminating FAA services that are no longer needed and to identify creative ways to fund the capital improvements needed to modernize the air traffic control system," Boyer said.
AOPA has argued that user fees would disproportionately impact general aviation pilots, who are the only system users who must pay out of their own pockets, while the airlines can transfer their costs to passengers.
For almost a year, the FAA has increasingly voiced concern that the Airport and Airway Trust Fund is running out of money, even though the Office of Management and Budget says otherwise.
The media is notorious for using scare tactics that portray general aviation in a negative light. Even reports that don't seek to frighten often are just plain wrong. But there are print, radio, and television journalists who uphold their duty to produce fair, accurate, and insightful reporting, and AOPA honored some of them November 3 at AOPA Expo 2005 in Tampa with the association's prestigious 2005 Max Karant Awards for Excellence in Aviation Journalism. And for the first time, AOPA presented a Special Citation for Excellence "for promoting general aviation through the art of filmmaking," to Brian Terwilliger for his documentary film on California's Van Nuys Airport, One Six Right: The Romance of Flying.
"In an age of sensationalized news reports about aviation security and safety, this is an opportunity to recognize members of the media who instead provided the truth about general aviation to the nonflying public," said AOPA President Phil Boyer.
Richard Murphy Werry of KIMN-FM in Denver took his listeners on a journey through history in "Salute to Aurora Airpark" as he told the story of a private airport near Denver International Airport that dated back to World War II.
Devon Hubbard Sorlie, a reporter for Soundings, a weekly military publication in Norfolk, Virginia, captured the thrill, the challenge, and most of all, the joy that come with learning to fly in "Wild Blue Yonder." Sorlie got a taste of that joy during an introductory flight lesson with an instructor from the Langley Aero Club. In accepting her award, Sorlie announced that she would donate part of her honorarium to Angel Flight.
Chris Dunn of KDVR-TV in Denver produced an insightful story about the Colorado Wing of Angel Flight West that showed the importance of the volunteer flights flown by "angels in the sky." And Dunn elected to support that work by donating half of his cash award to Angel Flight West and half to the AOPA Air Safety Foundation in support of its safety programs.
GA security is a controversial issue, but Marissa Tejada and Jarrod Miller of WOFL-TV in Lake Mary, Florida, fairly and accurately tackled airport security in "Too Close for Comfort." The story detailed the procedures in place at GA airports in Florida and what can be done to ensure that aircraft and airports remain secure.
David Marshall and William Lang, of WPBS and WXXI in Watertown and Rochester, New York, respectively, produced Flight Plan — an aviation travel show. The winning episode featured a flying adventure through central and upstate New York, taking viewers to a pancake breakfast, a warplane museum, and Lake Pleasant in the Adirondacks.
The Karant awards honor the best of "fair, accurate, and insightful" reporting on GA in the general (nonaviation) media. The awards are named for the late Max Karant, founder of AOPA Pilot magazine and the association's first senior vice president.
Thousands of pilots and aviation enthusiasts spent three glorious days in sunny Tampa, taking in everything GA.
More than 8,500 people attended AOPA Expo 2005 with some 1,200 airplanes flying in for the event. Expo-goers attended more than 70 hours of seminars, got up close to more than 100 aircraft on display, and purchased everything from headsets to actual airplanes. Couldn't attend Expo this year? See " AOPA Expo 2005: A Pilot's Oasis," page 78 and check out Virtual Expo 2005 on AOPA Online, and get ready for Expo 2006.
Expo 2006 will be on the West Coast in Palm Springs, California, from November 9 through 11. The stunning scenery — think desert oasis surrounded by dramatic mountain peaks — makes the perfect backdrop for the parade of planes, so come a day early to see general aviation aircraft taxi from the airport through the streets of Palm Springs and to the convention center, where they will remain on display throughout the event. More details are available online.
AOPA announced November 1 that it has passed the 80,000-enrollee milestone for its AOPA Legal Services Plan. AOPA has been providing legal services and representation for its members through its legal services plan since 1983.
The AOPA Legal Services Plan helps protect members against FAA enforcement actions that can suspend or even revoke pilot certificates. Enrolled members have the choice of using one of the more than 600 AOPA panel attorneys, or the plan will pay for a nonpanel attorney. In addition to legal representation in case of an FAA enforcement action, the plan will provide reviews of aircraft tiedown agreements, leasebacks, and rental contracts. The plan also will help with reviews of purchase documents.
"AOPA continues to see dramatic increases in enrollees in the AOPA Legal Services Plan," said AOPA Executive Vice President of Non-dues Revenue Karen Gebhart. "Since 2000 AOPA has seen more than a 50-percent growth in enrolled members, going from just over 50,000 to the new milestone of 80,000. We believe that this service is invaluable and has proven itself over and over again when helping members protect their certificates."
The AOPA Legal Services Plan is a product offered to AOPA members only. For less than $30 per year, members can enroll in the private-pilot-privileges coverage of the plan and gain easy, affordable access to attorneys versed in aviation law. For more information, visit AOPA Online or call 800/USA-AOPA.
See what airline transport pilots are learning about runway safety in the AOPA Air Safety Foundation's airline version of the "Runway Safety" online course. The FAA and the Air Line Pilots Association asked the foundation to partner with them to produce the course.
"This reinforces the fact that runway safety is important at every level, from the general aviation student pilot to the airline transport pilot," said ASF Executive Director Bruce Landsberg.
Learn about some of the major runway accidents in aviation history, including the 1977 accident at Tenerife in the Canary Islands, in which two Boeing 747s collided on the middle of the runway, killing 583 people. And brush up on runway signage and markings and situational awareness — all from the captain's seat of an airliner.
Learn how to properly care for and manage problems with the heart of your aircraft — the engine — with the AOPA Air Safety Foundation's Engine Operations Safety Advisor.
"Not all pilots know as much as they should about the operation and care of engines, even though such knowledge directly impacts safety and cost of flying," said ASF Executive Director Bruce Landsberg.
The Safety Advisor provides tips to help you correctly identify and overcome carburetor ice and engine fires, manage engine temperatures, and successfully start a hot engine. It includes information on engine overhauls and answers to questions such as, "Can I take off if the engine temperature isn't in the green?" or "Is it OK to lean below 3,000 feet?"
Pilots can download the Safety Advisor for free online. To learn more about carbureted and fuel-injected engine operation, check out ASF's "Engine and Propeller" online course, which is approved for the FAA Wings program.
Tom Haas, of New Hampshire, and Lessing Stern, of Arizona, have accepted the national co-chairmanship of the Development Committee for the AOPA Air Safety Foundation. Working with AOPA President Phil Boyer and ASF Executive Director Bruce Landsberg, Haas and Stern are committed to raising the necessary dollars to fuel the general aviation safety programs provided by ASF.
A little-known change in the federal aviation regulations allows flight instructors to renew certificates up to four months early, while still keeping their original expiration date.
Instructors can renew their certificates through AOPA ASF Flight Instructor Refresher Clinics (ASF FIRCs) in person or online with the ASF-Jeppesen interactive program.
FIRCs include training on the Transportation Security Administration's Alien Flight Training/Citizenship Validation Rule, GPS, aeronautical decision making, weather, airspace, basic flight instruction, and recurrent and transition training for technically advanced aircraft. Plus, instructors will learn how to match their teaching style to each student's individual learning style.
The two-day in-person FIRCs cost $180 in advance or $195 at the door and are given at 90 locations across the United States. The online ASF-Jeppesen FIRCs cost $119 and can be taken anytime at the instructor's pace. To sign up or for more information, visit the Web site.
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.
Washington. Eatonville, Blaine, Anacortes: During the past few months, developers have targeted Swanson (in Eatonville), Blaine Municipal, and Anacortes airports. Thanks to the efforts of AOPA Airport Support Network volunteers Steve van Cleve at Swanson, Clarence Ranck at Blaine, and Anni Brogan at Anacortes, AOPA sent letters to all three local governments, advising elected leaders and members of the community of the economic importance of these airports. The association also educated them about the vital role each plays within the state of Washington. The volunteers have been informing voters and elected officials in their communities that airports are not disposable commodities.
Montana. Plains: Airport Support Network volunteer Dan Lilja, who also serves on the Plains Airport Board, reports that the airport sponsor purchased land from three adjoining landowners. This will allow the airport to build a new, longer runway. The Montana Department of State Lands and the U.S. Forest Service base fire-retardant bombers and helicopters at the airport during the summer. And the community hospital, which sits across the road from the airport, will be able to use the new runway for its air ambulance service.
As AOPA celebrated the eighth anniversary of the Airport Support Network (ASN) in October, ASN staff and volunteers also ushered in a new era. Our new mission statement — promote, protect, and defend America's community airports — reinforces the work we've done and gives us a goal for the future as we strive to achieve our Vision 2010 objectives, which include increasing the number of ASN volunteers.
ASN volunteers are the first line of defense and often are on the front lines promoting their local airports. Our ultimate goal for the future is to have a volunteer at each public-use airport. What better way to foster the success we've had and solidify general aviation's role in our nation's future than to have this kind of activism and visibility?
The ASN staff will host volunteer regional meetings in more areas across the country including: Atlanta, Phoenix, and the Northeast. Additionally, we'll host another get-together during AOPA's Fly-In and Open House on Saturday, June 3, and our annual Expo meeting tradition will continue this year in Palm Springs, California, on Friday, November 10. We also will be returning to EAA AirVenture this year for our second ASN meeting in Oshkosh. AOPA President Phil Boyer will continue to host private dinners, when possible, for ASN volunteers during his Pilot Town Meeting tours.
To learn more about the ASN program, visit our Web site or call 301/695-2200.
You probably remember the highly publicized October incident in which a Cessna Citation VII jet was stolen from St. Augustine Airport in Florida and flown to Gwinnett County-Briscoe Field in Lawrenceville, Georgia. But what you may not have heard about were the efforts of the AOPA Airport Support Network (ASN) volunteers who had been trying to establish AOPA's Airport Watch program at both airports.
Prior to this incident, both airports' management teams were reluctant to embrace Airport Watch when approached by ASN volunteers. After news of the stolen jet spread nationwide, ASN volunteers Robert "Mike" Thompson at St. Augustine and Emory Geiger at Gwinnett County-Briscoe Field immediately sprang into action, obtaining a large supply of Airport Watch materials and meeting with the airport management, tenants, and users to promote local airport security awareness and deflect attacks on their airports by anti-airport groups and leaders.
Geiger, a member of the Gwinnett County Airport Commission, and Thompson have attended local meetings since the incident and report favorable reception to Airport Watch. Both worked with AOPA's media relations department to correct the numerous factual inaccuracies in the early news reports and informed the local media, leaders, and citizens that the stolen aircraft was not a threat to national security.
If your airport is reluctant to implement Airport Watch, remind the airport staff that it is better to be safe and secure than sorry, as those at these two airports learned the hard way. By educating airport management, the media, and community leaders, we may be able to avoid these incidents in the future.