Mark your calendar for 2020. The FAA recently awarded an ITT Corporation team the $1.8 billion contract to build and operate the automatic dependent surveillance broadcast (ADS-B) ground infrastructure. Unlike traditional FAA projects where the contractor builds the equipment and turns it over to the agency, ITT will own the infrastructure and supply aircraft position data to the FAA.
While the FAA calls ADS-B the "backbone" of the NextGen air traffic control modernization program. "This is really just phase one of a project that extends out more than a decade," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. The open question about when and what will be required remains because the FAA rushed the ADS-B contract without much consultation with the industry. The notice of proposed rulemaking, setting the regulations and procedures on the transition to ADS-B for air traffic control, was released shortly after the contract rewarding.
AOPA believes one of the benefits to aircraft owners would be replacing the currently mandated Mode C transponder with the infinitely more capable ADS-B equipment. But it hasn't been determined whether ADS-B will ultimately replace transponders for such things as traffic alert and collision avoidance systems (TCAS).
After standards are set and avionics manufacturers start building in volume, it may be worth the cost for some owners to equip their aircraft with ADS-B voluntarily, if the FAA holds to its promise to provide nationwide free uplinked weather and traffic data (FIS-B and TIS-B; see "What Is ADS-B?" below) in the cockpit as early as 2013.
AOPA has demonstrated ADS-B technology in its aircraft since 1999 and currently houses an ADS-B ground station at its headquarters.
Some 75 percent of AOPA members have said they would be willing to equip their aircraft with ADS-B if free weather and traffic information were provided, and if the equipment cost was about the same as a transponder, which it could also replace.
In an industry already swimming with abbreviations, ADS-B is one you should get to know. You'll be hearing a lot about it over the coming years.
It's a lot simpler when you break it down, letter by letter. The A stands for "automatic." That's good. It means you don't have to do anything except turn on the unit. The D stands for "dependent." Unlike something you might claim on tax forms, here dependent means that it relies on a positioning source.
The S, as in "surveillance," means that air traffic control can see you, even when there's no radar coverage, such as in remote parts of Alaska. Finally, the B stands for "broadcast." Because it's polite to reciprocate, your aircraft is not only receiving information but also sending information to other ADS-B-equipped aircraft and to controllers.
Put it all together and you get the impressive sounding "automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast."
Now let's throw two more abbreviations at you: TIS-B and FIS-B.
The first one stands for "traffic information service broadcast." ATC radar picks traffic positions, thanks to Mode C transponder reports, and sends it to your aircraft via ground-based stations. FIS-B stands for "flight information service broadcast" and provides the graphical and textual weather information, also from ground-based stations.
So what are the benefits? It means a huge cost savings for the FAA because the agency can invest its money in inexpensive ground-based transceivers rather than multi-million-dollar radar systems. In contrast, AOPA hopes pilots will benefit from free access to weather and traffic data, which would increase safety and efficiency. Also, AOPA wants to make sure the equipage requirements are not excessive.
Planning to fly internationally? If U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has its way, you'll have to submit a passenger manifest electronically at least 60 minutes prior to leaving or entering the United States. Yes, this applies to short trips across the border with your family or friends in your Cessna 172.
The CBP's proposed rule is based on concerns of executives from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that the passengers on private aircraft should be checked against terrorist watch lists before arriving in or exiting the United States.
Currently, general aviation pilots entering the United States give CBP 60 minutes' notice by phone. Upon landing, pilots provide passenger information during a face-to-face meeting with CBP officials.
"The idea of moving the reporting requirement for general aviation flight to pre-departure rather than upon arrival was included in the recently enacted 9/11 Commission law," said Andy Cebula, AOPA executive vice president of government affairs. "AOPA opposes making electronic filing the only means for submitting this information. We will send comments against the proposal to Customs."
CBP would require GA pilots to file a passenger manifest and other information via its electronic Advance Passenger Information System (eAPIS). (Pilots operating charter and commercial flights are already required to submit this information through eAPIS.)
"GA pilots must be able to file their passenger manifest in other ways in addition to eAPIS," said Cebula. "CBP is not providing a realistic alternative for GA pilots who can take off from remote areas that might not have Internet access. The CBP simply plans to require pilots leaving these remote areas to land at another airport with Internet service and complete the information before entering or leaving the United States. That's not practical."
There also are questions about the requirement to submit a passenger manifest and other data before leaving the United States. Currently, pilots leaving the United States are not required to submit any information to CBP.
The passenger manifest would be checked against a no-fly list, but the proposal doesn't address how passengers whose names match those on the list will be handled.
GPS isn't perfect. During outages pilots need a suitable backup. While most pilots use VORs, the FAA plans to decommission them in the next 15 to 20 years. Enter long-range navigation (loran). Or, should we say, reenter loran.
Last year, the U.S. Coast Guard, which operates and maintains loran transmitting stations, proposed to pull the plug on this technology. AOPA pointed out that loran may still play an important role in the nation's navigation and airspace surveillance system.
In its recent comments to the Coast Guard, AOPA laid out various performance parameters for a backup system—such as being available for instrument operations throughout North America and the Caribbean; providing uninterrupted service for 30 minutes after a GPS outage; and adding no more than 10 percent to the cost of a navigation or dependent surveillance system.
"While loran appears to be a viable option—among other options—many questions and policy issues remain," said AOPA senior director of advanced technology Randy Kenagy. "Those questions would have to be resolved before the FAA, Coast Guard, and the aviation industry can develop an implementation strategy."
Opinions about very light jets (VLJs) entering the National Airspace System run the gamut, but one fact is clear: VLJs aren't a factor in the FAA funding debate. Too many uncertainties in the VLJ market make it impossible to accurately compare associated FAA costs, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report commissioned by Congress. The report compares eight VLJ forecasts.
GAO states that most of the forecasts examined predict an average of about 5,000 VLJ deliveries within 10 years worldwide. This means the impact on airspace will be minimal at best.
The FAA is proposing an airworthiness directive (AD) that would affect nearly 11,000 aircraft—more than a dozen aircraft models from Hawker Beechcraft Corporation and Raytheon Aircraft Company. The AD stems from a problem with circuit breakers overheating in the Baron 58. AOPA has recommended the FAA limit the scope of the AD to four models, the Beechcraft Baron 58, 58G, 58P, and 58TC. AOPA also said the proposed AD should require only the replacement of circuit breakers tied to high-draw electric components such as the propeller anti-icing system and the landing light. In some cases, overheated circuit breakers could lead to smoke in the cockpit and the inability to turn off the electric component.
Dozens of local pilots. Six hours of debate. And $10 million in airport improvements on the line. That was the case in Valkaria, Florida, when local pilots joined together in support of a master plan update for Valkaria Airport. The pilots finally prevailed when the Brevard County Commission unanimously adopted the plan.
"This act of support reinforces the influence pilots can have at a local level," said John Collins, AOPA airports senior liaison.
Local pilots convinced the Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport) to take a second look at its stringent security proposal for two GA airports. AOPA had encouraged the GA community to attend a public hearing about proposed security measures at Laurence G. Hanscom Field and Worcester Regional Airport. Massport agreed to rework the current draft regulations after hearing from AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer Ford von Weise, local pilots, and AOPA.
AOPA is exploring every avenue to save Horace Williams Airport in North Carolina.
Because State House Speaker Rep. Joe Hackney has left it up to the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill to decide the fate of the airport, AOPA is turning to other North Carolina legislators for help. AOPA wrote members of the House Committee on Appropriations as well as the Appropriations subcommittees on education and health and human services. The association reminded the subcommittees of their obligation to uphold their recommendations presented at a joint hearing. The subcommittees recommended that the airport remain open until a replacement facility is accessible and operational. AOPA is opposed to UNC-Chapel Hill's suggested alternative, Raleigh Durham International Airport. Despite the university's determination to close the airport, the association will continue working to keep Horace Williams open.
The AOPA Insurance Agency reports that insurance rates on a number of aircraft have fallen significantly in recent months, thanks to increased competition and a solid GA safety record.
"We've seen an easing in rates from a number of carriers on certain aircraft and we would expect other carriers to follow this trend," according to Greg Sterling, AOPA executive vice president of non-dues revenue. "New carriers are entering the GA insurance market," Sterling said, "bringing new competition. At the same time, GA continues to show a solid safety record. The combination of those factors is creating downward pressure on prices-great news for pilots who are concerned about the cost of flying."
To learn more about lower rates and to see if you qualify, contact the AOPA Insurance Agency at 800-622-2672. For more information, visit the Web site.
The 2007 Karant Awards were awarded at AOPA Expo to three recipients for their fair, insightful, accurate coverage of general aviation.
Jennifer Manley, of WVII-TV in Bangor, Maine, won for her short television feature that captured the interest of both pilots and nonpilots. In her first flight lesson, Manley showed viewers the ease with which she flew the airplane. With her instructor at her side, Manley took control of the aircraft in this inspiring story.
When Dave Hirschman's mom bought an airplane and needed to ferry it from Oklahoma to California, she invited her son to join her. Not only did Hirschman embrace the challenge of flying with his mom, but he also served as her flight instructor during the trip. He won a Karant Award for his article, published in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which includes a lesson many pilots learn the hard way—it's not always easy to fly with family.
The San Diego Union-Tribune's David Hasemyer won a Karant Award for his series of articles about a building that was constructed near San Diego's Montgomery Field, even after the FAA issued a hazard determination on the building because of its height. The City of San Diego eventually issued a stop work order on the construction and ordered that the top two floors of the building be removed. Hasemyer's research and ongoing coverage of the issue, city politics, and miscommunication that led to the construction have been a nationwide example to cities that favor development near their airports.
The following journalists received honorable mentions in the 2007 Karant Awards: Tom Mayer, Sun Journal, New Bern, North Carolina, "First Flight: On a Wing and a Pair"; Maggie FitzRoy, The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville Beach, Florida, "A Passion for Flight"; and Klint Lowry, The News-Herald, Southgate, Michigan, "Winging It: Program Aims to Encourage Would-Be Pilots."
The Karant Awards honor the best of "fair, accurate, and insightful" reporting on GA in the general (nonaviation) media. They include categories for print, TV, or video. The awards are named for the late Max Karant, founder of AOPA Pilot and the association's first senior vice president.
It's a moment of pure terror. Jotting a routine "John Doe, CFI 123456 Exp. 11/07" in a student's logbook, you stop and stare down at the page, gripped by the sudden, appalling sensation that there's something you've forgotten. And then it hits you: "It's already 11/07, and I haven't renewed my flight instructor certificate!"
Not exactly a warm-and-fuzzy feeling. But while you're scrambling for a calendar and performing your desperate calculations ("OK: I'll work 20 hours straight, then drive an hour to the city and overnight the paperwork"), take a moment to count your blessings. Why? Because the AOPA Air Safety Foundation offers the most comprehensive range of CFI renewal options available. We may not be able to extend the FAA's deadline, but we can help you get renewed ASAP.
As the original Flight Instructor Refresher Clinic (FIRC) provider (we've been doing it for more than 30 years), ASF has a lot of experience working with CFIs to make the renewal process as painless as possible. We understand, for example, that there are two distinct "camps" of CFIs out there: those who prefer the interaction and camaraderie of a live presentation, and those who just want to work at their own pace in their own home.
That's why we offer both in-person and online renewal options. CFIs can choose to renew their certificates at more than 90 weekend seminars across the country, sharing professional insights and experiences with their fellow instructors. Those who prefer to renew online can opt to take an engaging, multimedia program that combines the strengths of our live FIRC with the best of Jeppesen's home-study course. Nonprocrastinators take note: Both options allow you to renew up to four months early while keeping your original certificate expiration date.
The online FIRC costs only $119, while the live program costs $190 with pre-registration. Unlike some other providers, ASF includes the cost of issuing a temporary certificate in the up-front price. For more information, visit the Web site.
It's getting to be that time of year again—that cold, dark time of year. You know the routine: Wake up in the dark; drive to work in the dark; drive home in the dark (see " Flying Seasons: The Darkest Hours," page 119).
What about flying in the dark? It's funny how the end of daylight savings time and the shrinking autumn days have a way of sneaking up on pilots (usually the ones who've scheduled trips with passengers but haven't made a night landing since March). There's the last-minute realization, followed by a rush to do three quick circuits of the traffic pattern—one of those situations where the old saying about the difference between "legal" and "safe" comes to mind.
With that in mind, now is a great time to check out the AOPA Air Safety Foundation's Flying Night VFR Safety Hot Spot. Hot Spots are a collection of resources on a specific topic, designed to give pilots all the information they need in one convenient location. In this case, there's a quick "checkup" document that covers the need-to-know information, as well as streaming videos, a collection of articles from Pilot magazine, ASF Safety Advisors, accident reports, and quizzes. Check it out online before your next night flight. (Scroll to the bottom of the page.)
In the 1990s, public-use airports were closing at an average rate of two per week. Over the past 10 years, thanks to the efforts of the AOPA Airport Support Network, AOPA member volunteers at almost 2,000 airports across the country have played an integral role helping AOPA slow that trend. For more information on how you can help support your airport, visit AOPA Online.
Wisconsin. Waupaca: When Airport Support Network volunteer Trevor Janz was appointed to the City of Waupaca's Economic Development Committee, he showcased the value of Waupaca Municipal Airport by creating a presentation to encourage the city to attract businesses to the airport and its surrounding area. Using AOPA's DVD, Local Airports: Access to America, Janz was able to get the city's attention. He is now using other AOPA resources, such as Obtaining Community Support for Your Local Airport and the aviation resources on the Web site, in response to the city's now-piqued interest in the airport.
Maine. Rockland: When Knox County Regional Airport expanded its runway to accommodate jet traffic in 1995, anti-airport opposition swelled. ASN volunteer Clement Woodhull attributes most of that opposition to lack of education on how to be good neighbors in both the aviation and nonaviation communities. So in 2003, when additional airport growth was planned, Woodhull and members of the airport community engaged airport opponents in the decisions affecting the airport, appointing some to the airport advisory committee and encouraging education and participation. Today, Woodhull proudly reports many of the former opponents are now airport supporters. Thanks to outreach and involvement, airport supporters were able to work together with former detractors to build a better, safer, and more neighborhood-friendly community airport.
The FAA's Airport Improvement Program offers certain airports money for designated improvements and projects. The amount of the allowance depends on numerous factors, but the very first requirement is that the airport applying be in the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS). The guidelines and rules for airport eligibility in the NPIAS, and thus eligibility for federal funding, are defined in FAA Order 5090.3: Field Formulation of the NPIAS, which is available on the FAA's Web site. Only the airport's sponsor—whether a private or public entity—may make application to be included in the NPIAS. The eligibility requirements are extremely stringent, and making application is not a guarantee of being added and included in the next update of the NPIAS. Congress has in the past told the FAA there are too many airports in the system.
Once an airport is in the NPIAS, the sponsor may apply for federal funds, called grants. These grants are administered by the FAA when submitted in conjunction with an approved airport master plan and airport layout plan detailing the airport sponsor's intentions for using the money, as well as projecting the airport's future. If approved, the funds are disbursed either to the airport sponsor or, in some states, to the aviation division of the state DOT, which administers the money to each airport. (These are called block grant states.)
In most cases, when grants are conveyed, the sponsor signs a contract agreeing to specific obligations with the FAA. While the majority of the obligations carry 20-year contracts, some, such as funds used for land acquisition, endure in perpetuity. There also are a few that come with 10-year obligations. You can find a layperson's interpretation of these obligations in AOPA's Guide to FAA Airport Compliance at AOPA Online.
Located in western Georgia, Callaway Gardens-Harris County Airport offers vacationers and local residents a 5,000-foot runway, just minutes from the famous Callaway Gardens golf resort. Unfortunately, the airport land was seen as prime property for additional development, and an offer was made to repay the FAA $13,000 in outstanding grant obligations to acquire the land. Although the FAA said, "No, thank you," airport supporters began to see that the county could let those grants expire and then close the airport.
Greg Hadley joined the charge to convince the county to maintain the airport in 2004 as AOPA's Airport Support Network volunteer. Since then, Hadley has been working with AOPA's Southeastern Regional Representative Bob Minter not only to keep the airport open, but also to convince the county to accept more federal funding. Minter worked at the state level, garnering support from the state aviation programs division and the FAA's Airport District Office in Atlanta. Hadley worked on the local level and hosted an ASN meeting last spring to help generate support and expand outreach.
Clearly, these combined efforts worked. Recently, the Harris County Commission voted to accept $324,000 in federal funds from the FAA—funds that come with grant obligations requiring the airport sponsor to keep the airport open and operating safely for the next 20 years.
Thanks to Hadley's vigilance and the joint efforts of AOPA, its members, and ASN volunteers, the future of Callaway Gardens-Harris County Airport seems secure.