A new Congressional Research Service report, "Securing General Aviation," adds considerable ammunition to AOPA's lobbying efforts to make sure GA is treated fairly and rationally in any new security legislation.
"This report from Congress' highly respected research agency provides an unbiased, realistic view of both the minimal threat that light GA aircraft represent and the significant social and economic impacts of ill-considered security regulations," said Andy Cebula, AOPA executive vice president of government affairs. "While we might take issue with some points, the report must be carefully reviewed by policy makers before considering any new security restrictions on GA — including making the Washington, D.C., ADIZ [Air Defense Identification Zone] permanent."
The report makes extensive use of AOPA resources and notes that "the diversity of GA aircraft types and operations flown suggests that a one-size-fits-all approach to security is not practical — a tenet that both the GA industry and the TSA [Transportation Security Administration] agree on."
"Securing General Aviation" carefully analyzes the limited capability of the typical GA aircraft to carry conventional explosives, noting that even the 1,300-pound device involved in the February 1993 World Trade Center bombing would be beyond the carrying capability of a light GA aircraft. "Thus, at least with regard to being used as a platform for conventional explosives, the threat posed by light GA aircraft is relatively small compared to trucks, which have significantly larger payload capacities," the report states.
"Securing General Aviation" also says that airspace restrictions, in and of themselves, "are not particularly useful tools unless a coordinated response to protect critical assets with those protected areas are effective. Merely relying on enforcement tools is not likely to be of significant benefit because terrorists are likely to care little that they are violating airspace restrictions in carrying out an attack."
Voluntary industry efforts to improve GA security are highlighted in the report, which specifically references AOPA's Airport Watch program. It also reminds Congress that AOPA alone has spent more than $1 million to promote GA security.
Many of the nation's biggest airlines are the strongest advocates for user fees. But a white paper released in December, "Turbulence ahead: How user fees could ground the FAA," by aviation industry expert Darryl Jenkins, shows that user fees could hurt both consumers and the airlines.
"Jenkins' research adds to the evidence that AOPA has been presenting against user fees," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "A user-fee-funded aviation system is bad public policy, strongly opposed by general aviation pilots, and, ironically, potentially harmful to the very people that it is supposed to benefit."
Jenkins, a visiting professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and recognized expert on airline economics, reiterated AOPA's position that the current FAA funding system works just fine.
"There is no evidence to justify radical changes in the aviation tax and fee system," Jenkins wrote. "Every available industry indicator relating to the FAA — including passenger volume and yield — are on the rise." (Boyer said the same thing before Congress last May.)
The bulk of the money flowing into the aviation trust fund comes from airline passenger-ticket taxes, while fuel taxes help pay for GA's use of the system. And Jenkins noted that while there was a short revenue downfall after 9/11, the trends are back up, with record-level revenues predicted for the immediate future.
"One thing all those who are publicly supporting user fees have in common is the mistaken belief that fares are going down," Jenkins said. "This argument is categorically wrong. Prices have been rising over the last year and with increases in the price of jet fuel, there is pressure...to raise prices further." (A portion of the ticket tax is directly tied to the price of tickets.)
Jenkins said user fees would be "financial disaster" for U.S. airlines. "The reason is that when revenue from user fees decreases for any reason (typically, a soft economy), airlines and other stakeholders will have to make up the shortfall. The result will be an increase in operating expenses when airlines are least able to afford it, and such scenarios have already occurred in Canada and Germany."
Airlines also could legally avoid paying user fees. Considering that several of the so-called "legacy" carriers (who are among the most vocal user-fee proponents) are today operating under the protection of bankruptcy laws, Jenkins said, "airlines in financial difficulty could avoid paying millions of dollars in user fees by filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The resulting shortfall would have to be made up by other users." In contrast, a bankruptcy filing does not excuse payment of excise taxes.
Jenkins was commissioned by the National Air Traffic Controllers Association to prepare the white paper.
The city of Pompano Beach, Florida, must stop its efforts to unfairly restrict general aviation use of Pompano Beach Airpark, the FAA has decreed. Acting on a formal complaint filed by AOPA and its local members, the FAA determined in December that city regulations prohibiting, for example, touch and goes, stop and goes, and intersection takeoffs have violated federal obligations to make the airport available to the public on reasonable terms without unjust discrimination.
"This should send a clear message to airport sponsors everywhere. Treat every user fairly, and don't try to stop legal operations with illegal regulations," said Bill Dunn, AOPA vice president of airports.
The federal government deeded what became Pompano Beach Airpark to the city as war surplus following World War II. Part of the deal was that the city must use the land as an airport without undue restrictions or unjust discrimination, or the federal government could take back the land.
If the city fails to comply, the FAA warned that it might declare the city in default. That could cost the city millions of dollars that it now draws from the airport and deposits into the general fund. And if the FAA finds the city in default, the federal government also could take back all of the land it gave to the city in 1947.
The FAA began strictly enforcing its aircraft registration regulations on February 1. Aircraft owners who fly an aircraft with "questionable registration" could receive a notice from the FAA, be cited with a deviation, and possibly be denied access to the National Airspace System. (See " Pilot Counsel: Is Your Aircraft Properly Registered?" page 48.)
"Any address change that you fail to report, any aircraft sale or pending registration that isn't followed up, or any triennial form that is returned because of a bad mailing address could flag an aircraft as 'questionable,'" said Melissa Rudinger, AOPA vice president of regulatory affairs. "The FAA has assured AOPA that it will not seek any type of enforcement action against a pilot who has rented an aircraft that isn't properly registered."
This crackdown is an effort by the FAA and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to increase national security by making sure that only properly registered aircraft are operating in the air traffic control system.
The best thing aircraft owners can do right now is check to see if their aircraft is listed in the FAA's online database of aircraft with incorrect registration.
But what can renters expect? If a renter files a flight plan, and the aircraft is flagged as questionable, the air traffic control tower or local facility will have the renter contact it to be connected to the FAA's Domestic Events Network. The renter will need to provide some information, such as the owner's name and the aircraft's home base, before continuing on to his or her destination. The FAA then will follow up with the owner.
AOPA has met with the FAA and TSA several times over the past two years to discuss the problems with outdated information in the FAA's aircraft registry. At the time of the most recent meeting, 33,000 aircraft were flagged as questionable.
A pilot who is diagnosed with a complex medical condition is no longer automatically grounded indefinitely. And now it is even simpler for a pilot with bladder cancer, melanoma, renal (kidney) cancer, breast cancer, or certain cardiovascular conditions to renew his or her special issuance medical certificate. That's because under the AME Assisted Special Issuance (AASI) program, these conditions now can be cleared by the aviation medical examiner (AME) after the FAA has initially authorized the special issuance.
"This is another progressive step for the FAA, and great news for AOPA members who have heart or cancer conditions and must go through the time-consuming, and often frustrating, special issuance process each year. Starting in early 2006, they can take the required medical documentation to their AME and have their medical reissued in the office," said Gary Crump, AOPA director of medical certification. "AASI was the FAA's response to an AOPA Board of Aviation Medical Advisors proposal dating back to 2001."
To learn more about the AASI program, call AOPA's Pilot Information Center (800/USA-AOPA) weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern time.
AOPA is now accepting entries for the 2006 AOPA Max Karant Awards for Excellence in Aviation Journalism. Now in its seventeenth year, the competition recognizes fair, insightful, and accurate reporting on GA (nonscheduled, nonmilitary, civilian aviation) in four categories: print, TV-news or short feature, TV-program length, and radio.
News stories published or broadcast from January 1, 2005, through December 31, 2005, are eligible for the 2006 competition. A panel of aviation and media professionals will judge entries. There is no entry fee. All entries must be postmarked by April 15.
An honorarium of $1,000 per category is provided to winners, along with airfare and accommodations to attend the awards presentation. This year, the awards will be presented on November 9 at the opening luncheon of AOPA Expo in Palm Springs, California.
During the competition's 16-year history, winning stories have run the gamut from public-benefit pilot work to airborne law enforcement; technological advances to high-profile accidents; women in aviation to pilot profiles; and milestones of flight to the future of GA.
Downloadable entry forms are available online.
For more information, contact Patricia L. Rishel at 301/695-2157 or [email protected].
AOPA members who subscribe to Aviation Safety, published by AOPA Member Products partner Belvoir Aviation Group, may have noticed something colorful about the January 2006 newsletter. Belvoir Aviation Group has announced that beginning with the January issue, the newsletter will be printed in color.
Aviation Safety is packed with useful, timely information on technique, accident analysis, and, most important, practical articles on how to develop proper aeronautical judgment. When AOPA members subscribe to Aviation Safety, they will receive a free issue. To subscribe to Aviation Safety or for more information about subscription discounts on other Belvoir Aviation Group publications, visit AOPA Online.
Want to be one of the first AOPA members to inspect this year's 1967 Piper Cherokee Six sweepstakes airplane? It will make its first public appearance at Sun 'n Fun Fly-In, from April 4 through 10, in Lakeland, Florida. You won't be able to miss it — the Six will be parked right in front of AOPA's big yellow tent.
You will get to see exactly how far along the aircraft is in its "transformation from a well-used family wagon to a luxury travel machine with the latest in avionics, engine, and airframe speed mods," said Thomas A. Horne, AOPA Pilot editor at large and this year's sweepstakes project manager.
While admiring the Six, swing through the big yellow tent and pick up an AOPA sticker. On AOPA Day, Friday, April 7, the AOPA Sticker Squad might pull you over for a surprise giveaway. Help AOPA President Phil Boyer kick off AOPA Day the night before with a Pilot Town Meeting.
The excitement and thrill of flying bring with them serious responsibilities. That is why every pilot needs access to skilled legal assistance and advice.
AOPA's Legal Services Plan offers affordable, convenient legal protection that helps protect you against FAA violations, aircraft accidents, alcohol or drug tests, state or local actions, civil penalty court cases, or U.S. Customs cases. Also use the plan for help with aircraft rental agreements, leaseback agreements, and hangar and tiedown documents. To learn more or enroll in the plan, see AOPA Online.
A good pilot is always learning, and the many free interactive safety courses in the AOPA Air Safety Foundation Online Safety Center make the learning easy. Learn to minimize weather risks in "Weather Wise," an informative course that concentrates on low ceilings and restricted visibilities, one of aviation's deadliest killers.
Know what TFR, SFAR, ADIZ, MOA, and SUA mean? "Mission: Possible — Navigating Today's Special Use Airspace" and "Know Before You Go" are designed to help pilots understand special-use airspace. Knowing about it will help pilots avoid that up-close-and-personal view of an F-16 in flight.
Uncomfortable operating at a "big" airport? "Runway Safety" teaches ways to avoid runway incursions. The course is so good that airline pilots asked ASF to develop a special version for them.
All pilots must keep in mind that air traffic control can be their best ally when they get into trouble because help can be just a mic click away. "Say Intentions" explains how to use ATC to get out of a jam.
Finally, give pilots a heads-up on the weather by filing pilot reports. The "SkySpotter" course makes it easy to learn how to file information-rich weather observations.
The AOPA Air Safety Foundation has created new airspace flashcards that explain everything from the different classes of airspace to special conservation areas. Each of the 20 cards provides a color depiction of a type of airspace, a description of the airspace, and a single-question quiz. Download and print them for a handy refresher. Also, check out the supplemental discussion questions online.
Looking for some aviation safety tips and techniques? Now they are easier to find with the AOPA Air Safety Foundation's redesigned home page.
The foundation's popular online courses are right up front in the online safety center, along with the world's largest searchable general aviation accident database and the ASF-Jeppesen CFI online renewal course. The Sporty's Safety Quiz is also up front — check back frequently, as the quiz changes every two weeks. Safety techniques are identified and explained in the Hot Topics section.
A section is devoted to the ASF library, which includes free downloadable versions of the foundation's safety publications, from Safety Advisors to accident reports.
A navigation button at the top right of the redesigned home page allows pilots to browse the information by topic. Find information on fuel awareness, technically advanced aircraft, mountain flying, the latest navigation technology, and more — all from one easy location.
This update, along with ASF online courses, free live safety seminars, and many other services, is provided in part by pilot donations. A section at the bottom of the home page describes how pilots can provide donations to help ASF develop programs to ensure GA's safety record continues to improve.
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.
Nebraska. Hastings: When a group of promoters targeted Hastings Municipal Airport as a potential site for a new automobile racetrack, Airport Support Network volunteer Charlie Bourg, who serves on the Airport Zoning Board by county appointment, was able to work with officials from the FAA and the Nebraska Department of Aviation, as well as alert local elected officials and city staff to the possible ramifications of such a proposal, including penalties associated with violating the airport's grant assurance contracts. During public hearings, neighbors spoke out against the racetrack, citing noise, dust, and odor issues. Ultimately, Bourg credits the FAA and Nebraska aviation officials' political finesse as well as local leaders' education efforts for protecting the airport.
New York. South Bethlehem: The FAA's pilot "purchase development rights" (PDR) program is gaining momentum in New York, specifically at South Albany Airport. Airport Support Network volunteer David Russo reports that the airport board members, who represent the current airport owners, are working with the town of Bethlehem to determine if it is possible to proceed with the PDR. Under the PDR agreement, the airport board would sell the field to a local sponsor, and in exchange for FAA funds, the sponsor would have to agree that the property remain an airport in perpetuity.
Washington. Ephrata: Ephrata Municipal Airport is a surplus property, which means the airport land was conveyed to the sponsor by the federal government and thus the land must continue to be used as an airport. Airport Support Network volunteer Randy Tyler and his fellow pilots called foul when a windmill company wanted to usurp the only remaining large general aviation hangar for its business expansion. An airframe and powerplant shop and other pilots currently rent the hangar. The sponsor, the Port of Ephrata, tried to raise the rent on the hangar to an exorbitant amount so that it could facilitate the request by the windmill company. But local pilots contacted the FAA Airports District Office and Washington State Department of Aviation, both of which had invested money in the airport in the past. The agencies encouraged the Port of Ephrata to keep this hangar for GA aircraft, and thanks to the pilots' activism, the sponsor agreed.
As we flip our calendars to March and many airports begin to see more activity with the warmer weather, regional and state aviation conferences also are buzzing. By the end of February, AOPA will have made formal presentations at conferences in St. Louis; Puyallup, Washington; and Lansing, Michigan.
This year, the ASN staff is introducing something new — seminars for all conference attendees. While we will continue to tour the country each year hosting regional meetings just for our Airport Support Network volunteers, we want to expand the program's visibility and reach. Hundreds and sometimes thousands of pilots attend these events, as do state and local government officials such as aviation directors and airport managers, so they are ideal locations to make airport issues public.
Getting volunteers in the same room with aviation managers and officials from their communities, as well as educating all parties on the importance of promoting, protecting, and defending our community airports, serves all AOPA members well. By expanding the number of ASN volunteers as well as the knowledge base, AOPA can better help members preserve their airports.
To learn more about the ASN program, visit our Web site or call 301/695-2200.
Fernandina Beach Municipal Airport Support Network volunteer Jack Healan might be described as being between a rock and a hard place when it comes to promoting, protecting, and defending his airport. Healan understands that compatible land use and encroachment are key issues at general aviation airports, which might make it seem puzzling that during his day job as a developer he is putting in a development on Crane Island adjacent to the Florida airport.
But there is more to the story. The property in question is located northwest of the airport along the Intracoastal Waterway and is prime real estate. It was offered to Fernandina Beach, but the city declined to purchase it. Healan and the Amelia Island Co. partnered with the property owners and intend to put residences on it. Here's the difference: Healan has put together an iron-clad avigation easement that will protect the airport from potential restrictions by residents who might seek to limit airport operations based on safety or noise concerns. The airport is key to the larger community, according to Healan, because it brings in tourists and serves as an access point to the National Airspace System. He should know — he bases his own airplanes on the airport and is vocal about any possible limitations on operations at the airport.