Phil Boyer will step down as president of AOPA at the end of the year. Succeeding Boyer will be Craig L. Fuller, an association, public affairs, and government relations executive, who has held top positions in the White House.
He is a passionate pilot and aircraft owner for 40 years.
Boyer has led the association since 1991 and is only the third president of the 69-year-old general aviation association, the world’s largest. Enhancing AOPA management skills and member service, Boyer engineered a 40-percent growth in membership despite the declining U.S. pilot population. His many new ventures funded novel GA advocacy and member benefits, all while holding AOPA annual dues at $39.
The AOPA board of trustees’ search committee began looking for AOPA’s new leader last year.
“I have made no secret in the aviation community that I have had a retirement plan for several years,” said Boyer. “And I wanted to make sure prior to stepping down that I was leaving a world-class set of AOPA organizations and the best management team to continue our leadership position in GA advocacy, information, and education.”
Fuller is to take office on January 1, 2009, following formal election at the trustee’s September annual meeting. He and Boyer will be working together on the transition for the remainder of this year.
User fees are like a weed you can never kill. That became readily apparent when the Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently issued Federal User Fees: A Design Guide, a 49-page instruction manual to Congress and federal agencies on how to charge for government “services.”
“The clear message here is that no matter how many times we beat back user fees for those aviation services that benefit the entire public, the ground remains fertile for fee attempts to spring up again,” said Andy Cebula, AOPA executive vice president of government affairs. “But our 415,000 members help us stay ahead.”
User fees are out of the FAA funding legislation pending before Congress, but if that bill passes, the limited protection against fees would only last for the duration of the bill—about four years.
The GAO created the user fee guide in response to a request from two House committees—Ways and Means (taxes) and Homeland Security. And it’s clear why they asked for it. As the GAO itself noted, “our current long-term simulations of the federal budget show ever-larger deficits. As funds become increasingly scarce and new priorities emerge, policymakers have demonstrated interest in user fees as a means of financing new and existing services.”
The GAO said that federal user fee collections have grown some 69 percent since 1999, now accounting for $233 billion into the government’s budget.
The guide says that if use of a service is “voluntary” (e.g., entrance to a national park) and the benefits of the service accrue to a specific user, then a user fee is appropriate. If the program primarily benefits the public, it should be supported by general revenue (taxes). And if the program benefits both users and the public, fees and general revenues should be the funding source.
The distinction between a tax and a user fee is not always clear-cut, according to the GAO. The aviation fuel tax could also be considered a user fee, because there is a correlation between the degree of “service” used, and how much the user pays. Along these lines, if you fly a bigger aircraft, you pay more to the government because you use more fuel.
The GAO guide did not specifically address the issue of FAA funding. And one of the committees that requested the guide—Ways and Means—has rejected aviation user fees on multiple occasions. “Nevertheless, user fees are a threat that will never die,” said Cebula.
Instead of feeling compelled to fly around charted military operations areas (MOAs) and restricted areas, soon you’ll be able to gather real-time information in the air to determine if you can safely fly through the airspace.
The U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard have worked with the FAA to provide contact frequencies for an FAA center controller, military air traffic controller, or range control officer for each MOA and restricted area, so pilots can make radio calls to see if the airspace is active, and if so, at what altitudes.
The frequencies will appear with new charting cycles and be completed by the August cycle. For more information, take the AOPA Air Safety Foundation’s Know Before You Go online course.
In an ongoing effort to improve runway safety, the FAA is requiring air traffic controllers to provide detailed taxi directions to pilots and airport vehicle operators.
“Instead of receiving clearance to a specific point, pilots will now be given the actual route they should take,” said Melissa Rudinger, AOPA vice president of regulatory affairs. “This is similar to the progressive taxi requests that pilots can make.”
The FAA implemented the rule after a recommendation by the agency’s Runway Safety Call to Action Committee. As a committee member, AOPA evaluated the proposal and studied risk factors such as pilot and controller miscommunication.
Brush up on taxiway and runway signage with the AOPA Air Safety Foundation’s Runway Safety online course.
The FAA’s proposal to make aircraft registrations expire every three years isn’t sitting well with AOPA members, leading AOPA to propose an alternate plan.
The FAA proposal replaces existing aircraft registrations that do not expire with ones that would expire after three years. They also require renewal every three years. Aircraft owners who do not re-new or re-register their aircraft in the time specified may be denied access to the National Airspace System or lose their registration number.
AOPA’s plan would not require re-registration but instead registration verification every three years. The verification could be completed online through the FAA’s aircraft registry database. Aircraft registration would not expire, but would instead become “inactive.”
Because AOPA’s plan would make use of the FAA’s current infrastructure for the Triennial Aircraft Registry Report, it could be implemented without imposing any additional fees or fee increases on aircraft owners.
The FAA has raised the stakes to a new high, saying it will involve the Department of Transportation in the ongoing contest over the future of California’s Santa Monica Municipal Airport.
The battle over the airport has been going on for years, but a recent move by the city to create new restrictions at the airport has the FAA taking aggressive measures. The FAA has said that it will take the extraordinary step of having the Department of Transportation withhold all federal transportation funding—not just airport money—from the city if it continues to pursue the restrictions and intention to close the airport.
After reviewing the city’s arguments for restricting jet traffic at the airport, the FAA issued its determination. The document notes that the city’s contention that it can close the airport in 2015 is invalid. Not only is the airport obligated to remain open through 2023, because of rules connected with the federal funding it has accepted in the past, but the airport also sits on federal surplus property, meaning it must remain an airport in perpetuity, regardless of whether it continues to accept federal funding.
It took unprecedented dedication and cooperation from politicians, pilots, and communities at large to create what some involved have called a miracle—the reopening of a general aviation airport four years after it closed.
A ceremony reopening Lanett Airport in Alabama was recently held, thanks to residents and political leaders in four cities and two states. AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer Mike Ballard was involved in raising community awareness and support for the airport and working with city and FAA officials.
Lanett Mayor Oscar Crowley campaigned on a promise to reopen the airport—a promise he was able to fulfill. Leaders from the cities of Lanett, Valley, and Lafayette in Alabama, and West Point in Georgia banded together to promote the airport and keep the project on track.
Valley Mayor Arnold Leak recognized the exceptional cooperation that brought the airport “back from the dead” and looked to the construction of an additional runway.
AOPA is continuing to fight hard to retain an aviation exemption from the Massachusetts 5-percent sales and use tax, recently meeting with lawmakers who are likely to decide the fate of the tax exemption.
AOPA Manager of Legislative Affairs Joey Colleran and Regional Representative Craig Dotlo worked to educate key lawmakers about the negative impact of repealing the exemption.
“The tax exemption has saved pilots and aircraft owners money and allowed aviation in Massachusetts to grow,” said Dotlo. “Ending that exemption could raise costs and even force pilots to travel to other states for aircraft maintenance, or to buy or sell an airplane.”
The Massachusetts House recently passed a budget bill that would end the tax exemption for aircraft and parts. The Senate is now working on its version of the bill, which is expected to retain the tax exemption, thanks in part to AOPA members who contacted their senators to support it.
In a letter to city officials, the FAA warned that the city cannot shorten the runways or restrict the size of aircraft using them at Venice Municipal Airport in Venice, Florida. The letter, which came in response to the city’s draft plan to modify the airport, notes numerous inconsistencies between federal requirements and the city’s proposal, including the size and location of runway protection zones, object free areas, and runway safety areas.
By accepting the grant money, Venice agreed to keep the airport operating for at least another 20 years, but the airport was already obligated for an even longer period. Because it sits on federal surplus property, it must remain an airport in perpetuity.
AOPA knows how important aviation is in your life, and believes your credit card should reward your commitment to GA by earning double points for many aviation expenses. This includes purchases at more than 4,700 participating FBOs listed in AOPA’s Airport Directory Online, as well as select aviation retailers, including Sporty’s Pilot Shop, Aircraft Spruce and Specialty, Gulf Coast Avionics, Pacific Coast Avionics, and King Schools.
You’ll also earn double points for supporting AOPA when you use your credit card to pay for membership, AOPA Expo registration, and AOPA’s Legal Services Plan.
There’s no limit to the points you can earn or the opportunities to redeem them. And every time you make a purchase with your AOPA WorldPoints credit card, you support general aviation by sending a percentage of your spending back to AOPA—all at no cost to you. That’s revenue AOPA uses to keep dues low and fight for general aviation on issues ranging from user fees to airspace access.
To learn more or to apply for a card, visit AOPA Online.
Members of AOPA’s government affairs team recently spoke in Kansas City, Missouri, to members of the FAA’s Small Airplane Directorate’s management staff about critical issues affecting general aviation.
Among the topics under discussion was an upcoming advisory circular on aging aircraft. AOPA and the AOPA Air Safety Foundation have been actively involved in educating both pilots and aircraft owners about the realities of an aging general aviation fleet. “We need pilots and owners to recognize and be alert for special maintenance issues, taking into consideration a number of variables, including usage, maintenance history, and other factors that may arise as aircraft age,” said Rob Hackman, AOPA senior director of regulatory affairs. “But we also need to be sure that we have a good line of communication with regulators to deal with issues when they arise. Older airplanes can and do fly safely every day.”
To learn more about flying older aircraft, take the AOPA Air Safety Foundation’s interactive online course, Aging Aircraft.
AOPA Expo 2008 will be held in San Jose, California, from November 6 through 8 at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center and the Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport.
More than 550 exhibits and product demonstrations will be located in the exhibit hall, where the newest technology, and aviation products and services, will be on display. Plan to attend some of the many seminars on a variety of topics scheduled throughout the three days. (See “ Exploring New Horizons,” page 107.)
Explore more than 60 aircraft at the static display located at the Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport. Join other pilots at the fun-filled special events, and mix with friends at the Opening Luncheon, Welcome Reception, Friday Night Party at The Tech Museum of Innovation, and the Closing Banquet.
New this year for non-pilots is the Invitation to Fly session. This is open and free to the public. Members are encouraged to bring a friend, colleague, or neighbor who might be interested in learning to fly. Information can be found online, at the registration area of the San Jose McEnery Convention Center, or by calling 888-462-3976.
In 2007, more than 50 percent of all pilot-related accidents occurred during takeoff or landing—clear evidence that despite all the educational efforts over the decades, the basics are still giving us fits. Evidence, too, that the timing is right for the AOPA Air Safety Foundation’s latest safety seminar, Mastering Takeoffs and Landings.
Why do pilots have so much trouble with such fundamental skills? It’s no real mystery: Takeoffs and landings require us to fly close to the ground, near the edges of the airplane’s performance envelope. The margin for error is less than in cruise flight, and good judgment and stick-and-rudder skills are a must—especially when crosswinds, obstructions, and short runways enter the picture. Pilots who don’t have the basic skills (or haven’t maintained those skills) are especially at risk.
Mastering Takeoffs and Landings takes a practical, real-world approach to the techniques that will help you make smooth, trouble-free departures and arrivals. From short-field takeoffs to crosswind landings and everything in between, our expert presenters cover the basics of getting up and down safely, while also giving plenty of tips on doing it gracefully. There’s something for everyone here, and pilots of all experience levels will leave with some valuable “take-home” tidbits.
The seminar is free, and no registration is required. Look for the flyer in the mail, or find the nearest location online.
Look back at general aviation accident statistics over the years and you’ll notice some recurring themes. For example, year after year, pilots crash three perfectly good airplanes a week (on average) because they run out of gas. And, year after year, maneuvering flight—buzzing, stalls, and spins—is the single largest cause of pilot-related fatal accidents.
Last year, ASF tried out a new tactic in the fight against such stubborn safety problems. Taking a cue from television, our series of “pilot safety announcements” (PSAs) aimed to use humor and a non-lecturing tone in an attempt to reach pilots outside our traditional audience. Fittingly, the first PSAs dealt with fuel exhaustion.
Now we’ve turned our sights on maneuvering flight. If you haven’t seen the two new “spots” we unveiled this summer, we won’t spoil the fun...but suffice it to say that if you’ve ever seen the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, or one of Budweiser’s “Real Men of Genius” ads, the new PSAs should seem strangely familiar.
To check them out, go online. Be sure to pass the link along to your pilot friends—and especially any who’ve been known to spread maneuvering mayhem.
For non-pilots, riding in a light GA aircraft can sometimes be an intimidating, or even frightening, experience. That’s why ASF developed its Pinch-Hitter® program. Designed to give non-pilots a simple, jargon-free introduction to flight, Pinch-Hitter provides flying companions the knowledge they need to overcome their fears and become more active participants in the cockpit.
The free Pinch-Hitter online course is the first step toward a new perspective on aviation. In about 45 minutes, the fun multimedia presentation takes non-pilots through the fundamentals of aircraft control and basic emergency procedures. We also offer a Pinch-Hitter DVD that aims to impart a “hands-on” feel for basic attitude flying and landing procedures, as well as two training manuals. The student manual digs more deeply into the topics discussed in the online course and video, while the instructor manual provides a syllabus for CFIs giving introductory flight training to Pinch-Hitter students.
The Pinch-Hitter program is a great way for your flying companion to become more comfortable in the cockpit—and have a lot more fun. Go online to view the free course. You can order the video and student/instructor manuals from ASF’s online store.
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 in helping AOPA slow that trend. For more information on how you can help support your airport, visit AOPA Online.
AOPA’s airport preservation efforts extend beyond the 48 states comprising the “lower” continental union thanks in great part to the dedication of members serving as ASN volunteers in Alaska and Hawaii. While airports in both of these states face some of the same challenges AOPA sees daily at airports from California to the Northeast, there are several unique challenges in our forty-ninth and fiftieth states.
In Hawaii, 10-year ASN volunteer Henry “Hank” Bruckner provides AOPA with vast local knowledge as a Hawaii resident and pilot, and most recently, as the state’s newly appointed general aviation officer. In preceding years, Bruckner served on the General Aviation Council of Hawaii, where he was a vocal advocate for general aviation at Honolulu International, working to ensure fair access and treatment.
In his new role, Bruckner will continue to provide AOPA with reports and “on the ground” assistance at HNL as our Airport Support Network Volunteer and now has a new platform for promoting GA in the fiftieth state.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: General aviation airports provide American’s with vital services, supplies, and conveniences. Unfortunately, the majority of the United States population does not understand general aviation and how it contributes to our nation’s economy. You can help educate your community about the value of general aviation through AOPA’s sister Web site.
When your airport’s Class D airspace occupies the 1,800 feet under the New York City area Class B ring, piston-driven aircraft do not top the list of concerns for business, aviation, and community leaders. However, nine-year ASN volunteer Steve Riethof of New Jersey’s Teterboro Airport (TEB) has been one of general aviation’s biggest proponents.
Riethof was inducted into the New Jersey Aviation Hall of Fame earlier this year. A retired USAF Lt. Colonel, he was recognized for his contributions to aviation as a FAASTeam Lead Representative, three-time Master Instructor, and twice FAA Eastern region CFI of the Year.
Riethof’s efforts to ensure general aviation access at Teterboro have been an uphill battle but his passion and the respect he has earned in the aviation community have been key factors in his successes.
Working with AOPA’s government affairs division via the ASN program, Riethof monitors a plethora of membership interest issues including relaying information on proposed changes to access, reporting on committee studies related to the airport’s effect on the local environment, and ensuring AOPA’s Airport Watch remains an active program at TEB.
In the local community, Riethof has been a long-time volunteer and trustee for the New Jersey Aviation Hall of Fame and Museum, and served as director during a period of reorganization and growth. His efforts also include reaching out to schools and introducing aviation to area students.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: You can help promote and protect your local airport by helping AOPA boost the pilot population. Whether you introduce flying to school children like Steve Riethof does; help new student pilots earn their wings through mentoring; or go out and actively recruit new pilots in your community by speaking to local clubs, civic groups, and other organizations; increasing the pilot population is another means of supporting your local airport. Spread the word about flying.
When airports close, pilots lose. We lose a place to land, a place to visit, and a place to teach a new generation about the glory of flight. Perhaps most importantly though, we lose a valuable community resource.
When AOPA fights to protect local airports, we rely on AOPA members who have signed up to be Airport Support Network (ASN) volunteers to help prevent threats such as houses being built under the traffic pattern, office buildings obstructing navigable airspace, or elected officials grandstanding that an airport is a playground for the wealthy.
Since the best defense is a good offense, AOPA provides ASN volunteers and all airport supporters with stacks of guidebooks, advocacy briefs, and articles on how to take action early. A key offensive move is to become an ASN volunteer. Whether your airport is under threat today or not, learning what you can do to ensure it is protected is the first and most important step to keeping your local airport open and accessible.
With nearly 2,000 volunteers, the ASN program reaches all 50 states but there are still more than 3,000 airports nationwide that need AOPA members’ help. Visit the ASN Web site and learn how you can protect your local airport.