The Senate commerce committee has taken to heart much of what AOPA members have told Congress about FAA funding. Aviation subcommittee Chairman John D. Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Ranking Member Trent Lott (R-Miss.) have introduced an FAA bill, called the Aviation Investment and Modernization Act of 2007, that responds to many members' concerns but misses the fundamental AOPA principle of "no user fees for any segment of aviation."
Rockefeller and Lott are proposing to the Senate Finance Committee (responsible for taxes) that the tax on aviation gasoline remain at 19.4 cents per gallon. There would be no user fees for piston general aviation, nor would there be any increase in the existing fees the FAA charges for some services such as aircraft registration or pilot certificates. The bill would eliminate the FAA's proposed "congestion fee" for operations in Class B airspace. Unlike the FAA's legislation, which would drastically affect GA airports by cutting airport funding by almost $1 billion a year, the Senate bill would increase spending on airports above current levels.
FAR Part 91 turbine owners and pilots would get a tax increase and an IFR user fee.
There would be a $25-per-flight "Air Traffic Modernization" surcharge imposed on all flights. AOPA members are opposed to the idea of a $25-per-flight user fee for turbine-powered aircraft, AOPA President Phil Boyer told members of the Senate commerce committee in May. Piston-engine general aviation aircraft, turboprop aircraft "operating outside of controlled airspace," military and public service aircraft, and air ambulances would be exempt from the user fee.
Rockefeller and Lott also propose an increase in the jet fuel tax from 24 to 49 cents per gallon. The increase would be phased in over the next five years.
"AOPA remains very concerned about the precedent-setting introduction of user fees and the impact on our members who fly turbine-engine aircraft," said Boyer.
The House transportation committee will be writing its own FAA funding and reauthorization bill. Differences between the Senate and House bills ultimately will be reconciled in a joint conference committee.
More than 22,500 pilots and aviation enthusiasts rushed to sign AOPA's petition opposing the FAA's funding proposal during Sun 'n Fun Fly-In in Lakeland, Florida. The FAA's proposal would increase general aviation fuel taxes by nearly fourfold and, for the first time in U.S. history, impose a pay-to-fly user-fee system.
"This overwhelming response is hard evidence from the pilot community of what AOPA and the other aviation associations have been saying for two years — the vast silent majority of the aviation community does not and will not support the FAA scheme," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "We've had to order more of the petition forms because of the demand and the passion this issue has generated."
Problems with the flight service station system are not getting better and, in many cases, seem to be getting worse. AOPA is calling on the FAA and Lockheed Martin to address everything from technical glitches to briefer misinformation, issues that are now affecting safety.
"In short, the FS21 (twenty-first century) system is in crisis and failing pilots. Based on the hundreds of complaints that AOPA has received, it is clear that the technical and operational problems plaguing FS21 are now affecting safety," said AOPA President Phil Boyer in a letter to FAA Administrator Marion Blakey.
AOPA has met several times with Lockheed officials, including high-level executives, but service has continued to deteriorate. The most significant problems are total system outages (the longest lasted more than an hour), computer glitches, excessive hold times, dropped calls, and poor-quality briefings and service. When pilots do get through, the specialists have no "local knowledge" and cannot provide basic service, such as weather products and the filing of flight plans and providing of critical notams.
AOPA expects the FAA to hold Lockheed to at least the minimum standards of its contract, even during the transition period. Pilots cannot wait until the consolidation is completed in August.
If you're having trouble reaching flight service, here are some options:
States and communities continue to recognize the importance of GA and the detrimental effect user fees and a 50-cent avgas tax hike would have not only on the GA industry but also the economy. For example, the Kansas State University Student Governing Association passed a resolution specifically opposing an avgas tax hike and user fees, citing its long-standing tradition of flight training and efforts to keep the cost of education affordable. The students then sent the statement to FAA Administrator Marion Blakey and Kansas senators and representatives, among others. In Alaska, the House passed a resolution that opposed the FAA's funding proposal, and the Alaska Senate is currently considering a similar resolution. The city of Cordova, Alaska, also adopted its own measure against the proposal. Meanwhile, both the Florida House and Senate honored GA with its own week, stating the industry accounted for 85 percent of all aircraft operations in Florida; its airports provide nearly $90 billion annually in economic activity; and the state has the largest flight training industry in the United States.
The FAA is realigning the airport/facility directory regions to match those of the terminal procedures publications. Only three A/FD regions — the southwest, south central, and southeast — will be affected by the change. The changes are scheduled to take effect on August 30. Pilots who currently subscribe to A/FD regions that will be losing a state will receive supplementary A/FDs free (until the end of their subscription) to complete the coverage area. IFR en route low altitude charts will be changing in October because the FAA wants to reduce chart clutter and provide better chart resolution. Eight new charts will be added to the existing 28, and all of the charts will be renumbered. The FAA is still finalizing details to ensure coverage to chart subscribers during this transition.
After the outcry from AOPA and the general aviation industry about a June 2006 legal interpretation that changed the definition of known icing conditions, the FAA has issued a new letter of interpretation that removes a burdensome concept. The interpretation that had caused outrage in the GA community added "high relative humidity" to the definition of known icing, which would have grounded most GA aircraft for the winter. AOPA had requested that the interpretation be rescinded. AOPA remains concerned that the FAA could pursue enforcement action against any pilot who encounters ice. AOPA said the actual encounter of ice should not be the sole factor in determining whether the pilot violated regulations. AOPA asked that the FAA evaluate all information, including the pilot's preflight and in-flight actions and decisions.
Alaskans know general aviation. As AOPA President Phil Boyer said in a video address to the Alaska Airmen's Association in May, Alaskan's lives "quite literally depend upon the single- and twin-engine piston aircraft that are the majority of the general aviation fleet." More than 1,700 Alaskans signed a petition to their representatives in Congress stating, "There is no place for user fees for flight in the air traffic control system on any segment of the aviation industry in the world's largest, safest, most efficient air transportation system." The Alaska airmen said that excise taxes were the best way for all aviation users to support the system. They also said that Congress must continue to exercise oversight of the FAA and not allow it to become a monopoly with the sole power to set its budget and the fees charged to aviation system users.
The FAA is proposing to decommission the automated weather observation system (AWOS), ILS, and visual approach slope indicator lights at Edward G. Pitka Sr. Airport in Galena once the Air Force discontinues operations at the airport as part of the Base Realignment and Closure Act. Taking them away would essentially turn the airport into a VFR-only facility, degrade pilot safety, and negatively impact several villages in the area, AOPA wrote to the FAA. Decommissioning the AWOS also would have a regional impact because there are few weather reporting stations in the area.
Two bills that will help private- and public-use airports in Montana have been signed into law by Gov. Brian Schweitzer. The first law, created by House Bill 122, corrects a mistake in the law, allowing state-owned airports to lease airport property for up to 40 years instead of the previous 10 years. The former language had made it difficult to get financing for development. The second law, a limited-liability law, created by Senate Bill 318, now protects private landowners who don't charge the public to use their airstrips for recreational purposes. The law adds landowners of airstrips for "private, noncommercial flying" to the protections under the state's recreational-use statute.
AOPA has requested that the Mojave County Board of Supervisors ratify a county planning and zoning commission's decision blocking the construction of about 800 residential units near Kingman Airport. "The planning and zoning commission recognized the importance of compatible land use and rejected the proposal," said AOPA Vice President of Airports Bill Dunn. "The commission pointed out that other land away from the airport's flight path is sufficient to meet demand for residential units." The city of Kingman also has plans with the FAA for extending the airport's runway 3,000 feet toward the area of the proposed development, which would place aircraft overflights even closer to the proposed homes.
AOPA is partnering with Orbitz, a leading online travel company, which offers leisure and business travelers a wide selection of low airfares, as well as deals on lodging, cruises, and vacation packages, from more than 400 airlines and 65,000 lodging properties worldwide.
AOPA Online Travel allows AOPA members to get Orbitz's great rates, while providing vital revenue to AOPA to support AOPA's advocacy efforts to maintain the freedom, safety, and affordability of general aviation. Bookmark www.aopa.org/travel/ for all your travel needs.
AOPA Expo, taking place for the first time in Hartford, Connecticut, from October 4 through 6, 2007, is going to be as spectacular as the fall foliage surrounding it, in Hartford's new state-of-the-art convention center. The latest aircraft models will be displayed, allowing you a close-up look, and you will enjoy comparison shopping for new aviation products in the exhibit hall. General sessions will address aviation issues such as user fees, fuel taxes, airports, and growing the pilot population. More than 60 hours of educational sessions will cover topics on GPS approaches, navigation databases, and charts; flying to Canada; and flying with glass cockpits in general aviation. Share your passion for flying with other pilots at the Friday Night Party at the New England Air Museum, the Opening Luncheon, the Welcome Reception, and the Closing Banquet. Visit the Web site for more information.
Pilots who fly rented aircraft often rely on the FBO to supply insurance coverage in the event of an incident or accident. Unfortunately, AOPA research has shown that pilots are not covered by most FBO insurance policies. Pilots can protect themselves, their families, and their passengers with affordable, comprehensive renters insurance from the AOPA Insurance Agency, usually available for considerably less than they pay for auto insurance. AOPA members receive a 5-percent discount and may qualify for a 10-percent renewal discount. To learn more about renters insurance or get a free quote, visit the AOPA Insurance Agency online or call 800/662-2672.
There's something special about getting checked out in a new airplane. Settling into an unfamiliar cockpit; getting attuned to new sounds and sensations; feeling challenged during the first landing.
But any checkout worth its salt involves some homework, which is why the AOPA Air Safety Foundation has added a third installment to its series of aviation flashcards. Available both online and in print, the foundation's new Aircraft Flash Cards give pilots a fun, easy way to learn the items they need to know when it's time to climb into a new cockpit — or prep for a checkride. From maximum ramp weight to minimum oil quantity, from V SO to V NE, the 35 cards cover the aircraft-specific facts that are important to commit to memory. Just use the pilot's operating handbook to fill in the details for your aircraft, and then find a study partner (or quiz yourself).
In addition to important memory items, the flashcards include helpful tips from the ASF staff. (For example: "Electrical component amperage is listed on the face of circuit breakers. Turning off the components with the largest draw will lengthen the life of the battery during an alternator failure.") Download the cards from the ASF Web site, or request a printed copy by calling 800/USA-AOPA (872-2672).
With EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2007 just around the corner, now is a great time for pilots planning a pilgrimage to Oshkosh to visit the AOPA Air Safety Foundation Web site. On its new Fly-In Safety: 2007 EAA AirVenture Oshkosh page, ASF has put together a collection of resources pilots need to operate safely at the world's busiest airport (for one week in July, anyway).
"Even for seasoned GA pilots used to operating from towered airports, the extremely crowded environment of a busy fly-in can be unnerving," said Bruce Landsberg, ASF executive director. "The information available in the Fly-In Safety section can help a pilot prepare for, and stay ahead of, both the airplane and the situation."
The centerpiece of the page is ASF's Fly-In Safety Checkup, which contains practical tips on getting to and from the show without incident. For example: practicing slow flight ahead of time to prepare for wide variances in aircraft speed during the arrival, using passengers to help watch for traffic and assist with other tasks, and utilizing sterile-cockpit procedures within the busy airport environment. The checkup is also available in a PDF file so you can print it out and bring it along.
In addition, the page offers a link to the AirVenture notam — required reading for anyone flying to or from Oshkosh's Wittman Regional Airport during the show — as well as to video and audio clips that give pilots a taste of what awaits upon arrival. To check it out, go online.
Up for a challenge? Taking a Safety Quiz on the AOPA Air Safety Foundation Web site is a fun way to find out how much you know (and maybe learn a few things you didn't). You can choose from topics as diverse as medical certification, thunderstorms, fuel awareness, preventive maintenance, and night operations. Each 10-question quiz is graded and scored instantly, and detailed-answer explanations (often with links to related information) are provided for those who want to learn more.
A new quiz is featured every other week online. Challenge yourself with another topic in the Previous Quizzes section. Anyone who completes a quiz can register to win a Sporty's Air-Scan V Aviation Radio/Scanner.
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.
Ohio. Huron: Obstructions to aerial navigation such as cell-phone or radio towers are threatening to an airport's safety, as Benjamin Gleason, ASN volunteer at Hinde Airport, learned. Several months ago, Gleason read on the FAA's obstruction-evaluation Web site that a railroad switching tower was being proposed 212 feet off the centerline and just over 1,000 feet from Runway 11. The FAA often approves towers not in the glideslope, such as this one, since it does not have local knowledge. Gleason made sure the FAA did have knowledge about the negative impact of this tower. He rallied most of the pilots in the area to write letters to the railroad and the FAA opposing the tower, providing valuable facts that eventually led to the FAA's determining the tower a presumed hazard. The tower location was moved to an area that did not affect air navigation at Hinde Airport.
New Hampshire. Lebanon: According to the Lebanon, New Hampshire, city charter, Lebanon Municipal Airport is an "enterprise account," meaning that the airport must support itself with fees generated on the field rather than depend on taxpayer subsidy. Several years of increasing deficits are causing some city councilors and residents to criticize the airport's fiscal status and the community's need to subsidize this so-called "playground for the wealthy." ASN volunteer Steve Christy has alerted AOPA, local pilots, and the business community to this reinvigorated community threat to Lebanon Municipal.
Washington. Shelton: The city of Shelton, like nearly 50 percent of the other communities in the state, did not comply with the state's 1996 land-use overlay ordinance when it allowed a residential development within an area already designated protected by the overlay ordinance that had been developed by the county. ASN volunteer John E. Krause and the Association of Sanderson Pilots developed a multimedia presentation highlighting the airport's value to the community, which has been presented to the airport owners, Port of Shelton; a joint meeting of county, city, and port commissioners; a local Kiwanis International Club; and the county association of real estate agents.
Each month, AOPA Pilot features stories of AOPA Airport Support Network (ASN) volunteers who work hard to promote, protect, and defend their community airports. AOPA provides volunteers with tool kits that include numerous resources to help them with these efforts. But the success stories virtually always include local support from the entire pilot community. Volunteers cannot do it all alone and they need your help. ASN volunteers are asked to engage fellow pilots because airports need community support to survive and thrive. If you do not know your airport's ASN volunteer, you may contact him or her by visiting the ASN Web site and clicking on the link, Find Your Airport Volunteer. Enter your airport's three-character identifier and you will be able to e-mail your volunteer directly. Simply say hello and let him or her know you are interested in helping. If your airport does not have a volunteer, the Web site will tell you, and you can apply or nominate a fellow pilot.
Who says that meeting delays are bad? The AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer of the month Bill Craft at Cape May County Airport in Wildwood, New Jersey, may not agree; he used the months of delays for a zoning board vote on a proposed residential encroachment to the airport's favor.
The town's zoning board was slated to hold a hearing early in 2007 on a developer's request for a variance in an industrial zone on the south side of the airport to build 23 housing units. With the help of Craft, AOPA wrote a letter to the town planner advising him that allowing a development in the airport's runway protection zone (RPZ) would be not only a violation of federal grant assurances but also a violation of prudent public safety. Over the next four months, the developer's attorney attempted to convince the board that the airport's low number of operations invalidated the safety concerns raised. The developer, who operates an aircraft restoration business on the field, claimed the RPZ argument was bogus since the "putt-putt" aircraft flown into Cape May County Airport could land and take off three times on the 5,000-foot runway. He also warned that the town "better reimburse" him if it denied the variance.
AOPA turned to the state Department of Transportation's Aviation Division to weigh in to help protect the airport. Craft garnered greater amounts of support from local pilots with each delayed hearing. He also involved the Delaware River Bay Authority, which leases the airport from the county, in the issue. The DRBA brought its lawyers and expert design witnesses to the hearing to rebut the developer's engineering experts. After months of delays, the zoning board heard the arguments concerning the safety issues and voted 5-2 to deny the variance.