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What AOPA is doing to keep you flyingWhat AOPA is doing to keep you flying

FAA funding debate: No user fees this year On the very day that FAA funding was set to expire, President Bush signed the Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2008, which means the FAA has the money to continue operating until March 31, 2009. “We’ve won the battle against user fees for now,” said AOPA President Phil Boyer.

FAA funding debate: No user fees this year

On the very day that FAA funding was set to expire, President Bush signed the Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2008, which means the FAA has the money to continue operating until March 31, 2009. “We’ve won the battle against user fees for now,” said AOPA President Phil Boyer. “This extension means that aviation fuel taxes remain at their current levels, and the FAA can’t charge any new fees for the length of this act.” But that also means that the FAA funding issue starts anew when the new Congress convenes next year. Both the House and Senate will have to start drafting new legislation to determine how the FAA will be funded and what its budget will be.

NATIONAL ACTION

AOPA members troubled by TSA Large Aircraft Security Program

AOPA has expressed concern that the Large Aircraft Security Program proposal recently announced by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) could have serious negative implications on general aviation.

“This proposed rule is an unprecedented imposition of security requirements on the general aviation community, affecting 10,000 individual operators and hundreds of airports,” said Andy Cebula, AOPA executive vice president of government affairs. “An overwhelming majority of our members surveyed expressed strong concerns about the proposal.”

Members questioned the limits on personal freedom, financial impacts, and potential implications of the rule for the broader GA community, seeing this as a start for the federal government to regulate all noncommercial operations.

AOPA has successfully worked with the TSA to develop security guidance, practices, and procedures for GA that do not place unrealistic or impractical burdens on operations. However, this proposed rule includes a number of initiatives—flight crewmember criminal history records checks, watch list matching of passenger manifests, biennial third-party audits of each aircraft operator, and new airport security requirements—that could be problematic for GA.

FAA’s ADS-B plan needs changes, committee says

Almost one year after the FAA released its implementation plan for replacing today’s radar system with a satellite-based surveillance system known as ADS-B (automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast), the aviation rulemaking committee formed to review the proposal has called for sweeping changes that reflect many of AOPA’s earlier recommendations.

The ADS-B rulemaking committee said that the FAA’s plan creates a cost burden for aircraft owners and squelches the technology’s potential benefits, which AOPA has been pointing out for a year. Under the current proposal, GA aircraft would have to be equipped with ADS-B transmitters by 2020 in order to fly in airspace where a Mode C transponder is required today.

Under the FAA’s implementation plan, pilots would need ADS-B to fly above 10,000 feet msl or within Class B or C terminal airspace. Except for flights over the Gulf of Mexico, traditional radar services such as flight following or radar-like vectoring in new airspace or new airports would not be offered to ADS-B-equipped aircraft.

AOPA and the rulemaking committee recommended that air traffic services be expanded to nonradar airspace and airports that have at least one instrument approach and runways longer than 3,000 feet. Additionally, the FAA was told that it should provide enhanced search and rescue services for ADS-B, enhance FSS airborne services with ADS-B aircraft locations, enable a feature to allow flight plans to be automatically closed for aircraft with ADS-B, and reduce separation to the three-nautical-mile minimum separation for all nonradar airspace. The FAA needs to allow an anonymity feature for VFR aircraft not using air traffic services—it is a privacy issue that is important to many pilots.

Foreign flight students get alternative to J-1 visa

In an effort to allow foreign flight school students to continue flight training in the United States, the Department of Homeland Security said that it will create a new visa category, M, to replace the J-1 visa, which is set to end in June 2010.

“AOPA has been pressing for an alternative to the current visa being phased out,” said Craig Spence, AOPA vice president of security. “As things currently stand, the M visa will have all of the characteristics of the J-1 visa, so our expectation is the transition should be seamless for students and flight schools.”

The new visa will be administered under the DHS instead of the State Department, which had been granting J-1 visas, and the Transportation Security Administration will conduct criminal history checks on all applicants before visa issuance.

AOPA will continue to meet with industry leaders and government representatives to iron out the details for the flight schools that can train foreign flight students.

AOPA supports small knowledge-testing centers

AOPA is continuing to put pressure on the FAA to reinstate knowledge-test privileges at certain CATS and LaserGrade testing facilities across the country.

The FAA made a policy change that revoked the privileges at roughly 160 centers because they gave fewer than 25 tests last year. The policy also stated that testing centers had to be a certain distance apart.

AOPA is concerned that the FAA policy punishes existing testing providers and does not support the ongoing industry effort to grow the pilot population. Besides the financial investments that testing centers have made in equipment purchases, many flight schools rely on their testing centers to provide the full range of training to students.

AOPA explains airport protection at conference

An audience of more than 400 regulators and airspace users gained insight into AOPA’s advocacy and airport protection efforts as part of an FAA-sponsored conference on airspace.

The Competition for the Sky conference brought together a wide range of FAA departments as well as military, commercial, and private airspace users to discuss the best ways to manage competing demands on the National Airspace System.

“We understand that the National Airspace System and airports are finite resources that must be protected,” said Heidi Williams, AOPA senior director of airports and a speaker at the conference. “That’s why AOPA fights so hard to preserve general aviation access and why collaborative events like these can be so productive. This was the first conference of its kind and proved to be a great forum to set out the issues, establish priorities, and bring divergent perspectives together in one place.”

REGIONAL ACTION

FAA needs to break down hurdles to ADIZ training

With the FAA’s mandate that all pilots who might fly within a 60-nautical-mile radius of the Washington, D.C., VOR/DME take awareness training for the area’s air defense identification zone, one would think the agency would make it easy to take. Not so.

Instead, the agency’s online course, Navigating the New DC ADIZ, is buried behind multiple layers, including a registration section, making it difficult for pilots to even find the course.

“With the compliance deadline only a few months away, these obstacles need to be quickly removed,” wrote AOPA Government Affairs Chief of Staff Randy Kenagy in a letter to the FAA. Pilots who plan to fly within 60 nm of the Washington, D.C., VOR/DME must complete the training by February 9, 2009.

Boyer advocates for GA, airports in Alaska

AOPA President Phil Boyer received standing ovations for his presentations to Alaskan pilots in Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Juneau during late September and early October. Boyer also spent a considerable amount of time lobbying on behalf of general aviation.

Boyer addressed more than 150 state aviation officials at the annual convention of the National Association of State Aviation Officials. He reminded the officials of the importance of GA to their communities and of AOPA’s strong support for GA airports. He urged them to continue to partner with AOPA to fight against the threats to airports, including residential encroachment and unwarranted security regulations.

Boyer also met with key Alaskan aviation officials to update them on the FAA funding issue and the latest information on the proposed deployment of ADS-B. Alaska was a test bed for the technology under the Capstone program, and Alaskan pilots are eager for the FAA to build out the system in a useful way.

AOPA opposes changes to Chicago Class B

Planned changes to Chicago’s Class B airspace encompass unnecessary airspace and could create new safety problems, AOPA recently told the FAA.

AOPA questioned the need for such a large expansion of the eastern half of the Class B airspace, arguing that data presented by the FAA to an ad hoc committee of airspace users indicated the need for a smaller airspace area.

Association officials also pointed out that the committee recommended a 5,000-foot floor for an extension of the airspace to the west. Instead, the FAA proposes lowering that floor to 4,000 feet—a move that could compromise arriving traffic and create safety hazards. In its comments, AOPA offered a number of alternatives that would allow the FAA to raise the floor.

Finally, AOPA questioned the need for a 10,000-foot ceiling for the Class B airspace, noting that other busy terminal areas, including the New York City and Boston Class B airspace, use ceilings of 7,000 feet.

AOPA is asking the FAA to consider implementing the alternative expansion proposal generated by the ad hoc committee of airspace users.

Houses and airports ‘don’t mix,’ AOPA says

For the second time in a year, AOPA is asking officials in Sacramento County not to allow development of 208 homes less than 700 feet from the runway at Rancho Murieta Airport.

In a recent letter, AOPA asked the county not to grant a rezoning request for the proposed Murieta Gardens II development. Instead, the association wants the county to develop a compatible land-use plan specifically for the airport, rather than relying on general countywide policies to guide future development.

AOPA’s letter points out that building homes so close to an airport inevitably leads to problems for both residents, who object to noise and low-flying aircraft, and airport users, who come under pressure to restrict operations.

AOPA topples power plant threat at California airport

The California Energy Commission recently denied a permit that would have allowed a Texas energy company to build two energy plants less than two miles from Hayward Executive Airport.

AOPA, the local aviation community, residents, and environmentalists had opposed the Eastshore Energy Center.

AOPA first objected to the proposed power plants in July 2007 and continued its case in December that year and most recently in June. AOPA told the commission that smoke and vapor plumes from the proposed power plant could pose a hazard to aircraft using Hayward Executive.

FAA issues final rule for Adirondack Airspace Complex

The FAA has finalized a special-use airspace complex near Fort Drum, New York. The new Adirondack Airspace Complex reconfigures and renames military operations areas and restricted areas, slightly expanding the restricted airspace.

AOPA had objected to the new complex on the grounds that the U.S. Air Force had previously submitted a proposal for almost identical airspace nearby. Although the final rule encompasses the same airspace as the original proposal, the FAA did respond to some of AOPA’s requests.

The FAA agreed to chart the frequencies and phone numbers for the managing agencies, Boston Center and the Eastern Air Defense Sector, to allow pilots to get the most up-to-date information for flight planning. The FAA also agreed to manage the airspace using a system that lets pilots log on to a Web site containing the planned schedules for special-use airspace.

MEMBERSHIP ACTION

Tax deductions still available for business aircraft purchases

If you’ve been thinking of owning an airplane for business use, there may be no better time than now to make your move. There are excellent tax benefits for those who use an airplane for business and, if you’ve got good credit, you can find some real bargains.

Slow sales of piston aircraft combined with worries about economic conditions have created strong availability at reasonable prices. And, with insurance and fuel costs declining recently, your cost to own is falling.

Under the 2008 economic stimulus package, buyers of aircraft that will be used at least 51 percent for business can benefit from Section 179 expensing up to $250,000, and you can take 50-percent bonus depreciation in the first year of ownership for new aircraft costing at least $200,000—an amount that does not count toward the threshold for the alternative minimum tax. And, in some cases, you can take full advantage of these benefits if you sign a purchase contract this year, even if you won’t take delivery of your new airplane until 2009. The IRS also is proposing improvement to leasing business passive activity revenue grouping. Ask your tax professional how current tax laws would apply to your purchase.

To learn about how AOPA can help you with the purchase of a new or used aircraft, visit AOPA Ownership Services. Find out more about current tax advantages by calling the experts in AOPA’s Pilot Information Center at 800-USA-AOPA (872-2672).

AOPA AIR SAFETY FOUNDATION

Increase your icing IQ with new ASF course

If you’ve visited the AOPA Air Safety Foundation Web site over the past few years, you’ve probably seen our Weather Wise series of interactive courses. Funded in part by the National Weather Service, the courses have a simple aim: getting weather education for pilots out of the textbook and into the cockpit—teaching need-to-know theory while keeping everything rooted in practical application.

The newest installment in the series, Weather Wise: Precipitation and Icing, continues that tradition. Starting with the basics, the course takes a look at the different types of precipitation pilots encounter—rain, freezing rain, sleet, snow—and explains why they can pose serious hazards to light aircraft. Then it’s on to a look at the many dangers of airframe icing, a discussion of weather patterns commonly associated with ice, and practical guidance for making sound preflight and in-flight decisions. In addition, the course explores the benefits and limitations of anti-icing equipment, addresses IFR- and VFR-specific ice avoidance issues, and discusses exit strategies for inadvertent icing encounters.

If the thought of an iced-up airplane makes you nervous (and it should), be sure to check out the free course. It takes approximately 45 to 60 minutes to complete, but your progress is automatically saved, so there’s no need to finish in one sitting. Visit the Web site.

ASF SAFETY SEMINARS

Tentative schedule; visit the Web site for confirmed information.

December 2 Towson, MD

ASF cold weather resources

Cold temperatures, low clouds, snow, and ice present unique difficulties and dangers, but don’t be discouraged: Winter flying can be tremendously rewarding for the well-prepared pilot. And to help you get that way, ASF has gathered its cold-weather flying resources together on one page. Go online and you’ll find a wealth of information aimed at helping you get where you’re going safely now that the mercury’s dropping. In addition to the new Weather Wise course, there’s a fact-packed safety advisor on airframe icing, as well as other publications on topics such as aircraft deicing and anti-icing equipment, wing surface contamination, and braking action reports. It’s free, and it’s a great way to get prepared for the special challenges of winter operations.

GA-themed holiday cards promote safety

By sending AOPA Air Safety Foundation aviation-themed holiday cards, you can spread holiday cheer while helping fund safety education programs that benefit thousands of pilots. A portion of the proceeds from the holiday cards helps ASF provide important online courses, seminars, and publications to all pilots, free of charge.

The cards are available in 26 different designs.Prices vary, but are generally around $25 for a box of 25 cards. To order, visit the ASF Holiday Card Center.

Triple play challenge

In 2008, as in 2007, AOPA members have a unique opportunity to enlarge the permanent endowment of the AOPA Air Safety Foundation, thanks to member Glenn Plymate of Oregon. All member donations made to the Erral Lea Plymate Memorial Endowment for air safety education will be matched in the Triple Play Challenge with equal contributions from Plymate and ASF. Plymate, a volunteer ASF safety lecturer, seeks to continue to enlarge the fund named in memory of his wife and flying partner, and has offered up to a $100,000 donation in 2008 if members do their share. Members wishing to learn more about Erral Lea Plymate and her family can visit the Web site. Or request the Erral Lea Plymate Challenge brochure by calling 800-955-9115 or by e-mailing Debbie McCauley.

AOPA AIRPORT SUPPORT NETWORK

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.

Special thanks to ASN volunteers

As 2008 draws to a close, AOPA would like to thank every ASN volunteer for another year of dedicated service to promoting, protecting, and defending America’s community airports. Without you as our “eyes and ears” on the front line, AOPA’s ability to proactively address issues would certainly be limited. To help expand the service and benefits you provide, AOPA is asking volunteers to visit AOPA Online (http://www.aopa.org/asn/find) to ensure other airports in their area have an ASN volunteer. If you don’t find one listed, consider nominating a local pilot to play a key part in the nation’s critical airport advocacy efforts.

Public Relations: GA Serving America

Just a few years ago, the future of New Jersey’s Lakewood Airport was uncertain. The airport owner, Township of Lakewood, supported the airport’s operations until discussions about closing the airport to make way for low-income housing surfaced.

ASN volunteer Frank Fine worked with pilots, local officials, and the Lakewood Airport Authority to communicate the airport’s value to the nonpilot community and welcome the public. Airport Authority Director Bert Albert also obtained grants to improve the safety and security of the airport.

Although the development threat has subsided, Fine knows this situation deserves a watchful eye. “Even though we’re past that particular battle, I still attend nearly every meeting. You never know when housing developers will come back to challenge us,” Fine said.

Fine is also a part of the airport’s active Monmouth Area Flying Cub (MAFC). The club provides cost savings and safety information to member pilots, and works to get local youth interested in aviation.

In late August, MAFC member Jacob Gottlieb was flying the club’s Cessna Skyhawk when he spotted something dangerous—something no one on the ground would have noticed. A fire behind two houses was spreading to an adjacent wooded area. Gottlieb quickly called the Lakewood Airport unicom operator, who alerted a local 911 dispatcher. The fire department was able to contain the blaze before it spread to nearby residential properties. Neighbors were thankful for Gottlieb’s quick thinking because the fire was not visible from the street. Without the benefit of his call, the damage would have been considerably worse. Gottlieb was humble about the part he played in protecting the community and insisted any other pilot would have done the same thing. He was most pleased to know his response demonstrated the unique utility of general aviation to local citizens.

What you can do

Share the AOPA-sponsored GA Serving America Web site with nonpilots in your community to help them learn more about the value of community airports.

VOLUNTEER SPOTLIGHT: BILL AUSTIN

Bill Austin, ASN volunteer for Jackson County Airport in western North Carolina, successfully championed an effort to save the airport nicknamed the “little jewel atop the Great Smoky Mountains.”

In 2006, state legislation passed that permitted the merger of airport authorities from Jackson and neighboring Macon County, which opened the door for the closure of Jackson County Airport. Austin recognized the seriousness of the situation and energized the local pilot base to launch an organized community relations effort.

With regular presentations at community meetings and a number of carefully worded letters to the editor in the local newspaper, Austin worked tirelessly to convince nonpilot residents that the airport’s economic, educational, medical, and basic transportation benefits extended beyond just the pilot base.

Unfortunately, another hurdle emerged. Two airport neighbors contended the airport grounds were unstable after runoff from a major rainstorm damaged their properties. Fearing the airport may ultimately be closed, the county would not accept previously approved federal dollars for airport improvements, which would obligate them to keep the airport operational.

After an engineering firm determined the addition of a few water retention features would prevent future runoff, the county agreed to match federal funds and move forward with badly needed—and much delayed—safety and security improvements.

As he watched the community enjoy the airport at the annual Western Carolina Regional Fly-in and Family Fun Day this fall, Austin reveled in the fact the airport was now “on the hook.”

Visit AOPA Online for community and media relation resources.

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