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

Electronic Customs notification unworkable, AOPA says A Customs proposal that would require electronic filing of passenger manifests “places an incredibly large and wholly unnecessary burden on general aviation that will result in negligible security benefits,” AOPA told the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in formal comments.

Electronic Customs notification unworkable, AOPA says

A Customs proposal that would require electronic filing of passenger manifests “places an incredibly large and wholly unnecessary burden on general aviation that will result in negligible security benefits,” AOPA told the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in formal comments.

“We strongly oppose the electronic transmission mandate in the proposed rule and have identified significant problems with other requirements,” wrote AOPA Executive Vice President of Government Affairs Andy Cebula. Electronic filing “does not mitigate any threat, vulnerability, or consequence. It is merely shifting a burden from the government to an industry that is ill-equipped to bear it.”

CBP wants GA pilots to log onto the Internet and provide the government with the names, birth dates, and Social Security numbers of every person in the aircraft at least one hour before the flight crosses a U.S. border. The requirement would apply to flights leaving the United States as well as to return flights.

But AOPA argued that Internet access is far from universal, even in the United States. In fact, some 63 percent of AOPA members who fly internationally report that the Internet is not available from any of their departure points outside the United States.

And CBP’s proposed solution to that problem—flying to another location where Internet access is available before returning to the United States—is unworkable, costly, and in some cases, dangerous for GA pilots.

AOPA said that current rules and procedures for light GA aircraft entering the United States are adequate. Pilots already must notify CBP of their intended arrival time at a port of entry, along with the pilot’s name and number and the nationalities of passengers. However, under current rules, pilots can provide that notification by telephone, radio, or relay through air traffic control or flight service. And small GA aircraft aren’t likely to be transporting unknown individuals. Some 95 percent of AOPA members report that when they fly internationally, only family, friends, or business acquaintances are on board the aircraft.

CBP now must consider all of the comments received on its proposed regulations before issuing a final rule.

FAA Funding Debate delayed into 2008

Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison has replaced Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) as ranking member on the Commerce Committee aviation subcommittee. That adds an interesting new wrinkle to the FAA funding battle and the question of user fees.

That’s because Lott and Sen. John D. Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) are the authors of S.1300, the FAA funding bill that includes a $25-per-flight user fee on all turbine-powered flights in controlled airspace. While Lott sponsored user fees, Sen. Hutchison voted for the Nelson/Sununu amendment that would have removed fees from the bill. The amendment failed by only one vote.

“We’ve had an excellent relationship with Sen. Hutchison in the past,” said AOPA President Phil Boyer, noting that she had served as chairman of the aviation subcommittee in 2001 when the Republicans had control of the Senate. “And she stood firmly with GA on the user fee issue earlier this year.”

However, three major airlines—American, Southwest, and Continental—are headquartered in Texas, meaning Hutchison must at least consider their concerns. Further complicating the issue, most observers believe that Hutchison intends to run for governor of Texas in 2010. Her current and future positions on FAA funding are clearly important to the more than 29,000 AOPA members in Texas. There are more pilots in Texas than any other state except California and Florida.

But don’t expect the aviation subcommittee to take action on FAA funding soon. Capitol Hill sources have told AOPA that Sen. Rockefeller is working on other issues that have a higher priority for him than S.1300, so FAA funding will be held over well into 2008.

Airplanes age differently, no fleet-wide mandates

AOPA is making sure the FAA understands that safety measures addressing fatigue in aging aircraft should be specific to the type of aircraft and the kind of flight stress each endures.

The FAA has proposed a draft advisory circular (AC), Fatigue Management Programs for Airplanes with Demonstrated Risk of Catastrophic Failure Due to Fatigue, that provides guidance on how to develop and implement a fatigue management program for GA aircraft and transport category aircraft.

AOPA has told the FAA that a fatigue management program would be one acceptable way to address the problem. However, the association wants the FAA to be prepared to provide tailored guidance to the GA community on a case-specific basis. AOPA also hopes the FAA will continue to base airworthiness directives on aircraft usage and known fatigue issues instead of issuing fleet-wide mandates.

No criminal penalties for accidental TFR violations

If you inadvertently fly into a temporary flight restriction (TFR), you could still be escorted from the area by a military aircraft and face FAA certificate action, but you won’t face criminal penalties.

Because of a change in wording in security notams, AOPA had feared that the FAA would seek criminal penalties against anyone who violated a TFR—even if the incursion was accidental—and called on the FAA for clarification.

FAA Acting Administrator Bobby Sturgell has set the record straight. In a letter to AOPA President Phil Boyer, Sturgell wrote, “I want to reassure you that pilots who commit inadvertent violations of TFRs protecting security airspace are not subject to criminal charges and fines under 49 U.S.C. 46307. The FAA will refer to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution only TFR violations of National Defense Airspace that involve knowing or willful conduct.”

Sturgell explained that enforcement actions for unintentional TFR incursions have not changed much since 2002 and that criminal penalties have always been a possibility for those who knowingly or willfully violate a TFR.


AOPA, EAA partner on new Airport Watch DVD

AOPA President Phil Boyer and EAA President Tom Poberezny have worked together to videotape a new introduction to AOPA’s updated Airport Watch DVD.

The DVD incorporates Airport Watch’s slogan, “Lock up, look out,” as a reminder that the vigilance of GA pilots is critical to keeping airports secure from terrorist use.

The Airport Watch DVDs, brochures, posters, and decals, have been distributed to all 990 EAA chapters as part of a cooperative program between the Transportation Security Administration and AOPA to continue to enhance GA security.

The updated Airport Watch materials will be sent to the Civil Air Patrol units and airport businesses affiliated with the Aircraft Electronics Association. Boyer and National Air Transportation Association (NATA) President Jim Coyne earlier taped a special introduction for a DVD that will be sent to FBOs and charter companies that are NATA members.

The custom introduction for the EAA version of the DVD was taped in Waukesha, Wisconsin, in the hangar of Dr. Tony Buechler in front of his P-51, Petie 2nd. A Piper J-3 Cub and a Pitts S-2B also share hangar space with the P-51. Buechler is a member of both EAA and AOPA.

AOPA renews call for UAV regulations

Pilot attention has focused on the issue of small, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) after news reports of a test by the Houston Police Department.

Numerous public safety agencies have been experimenting with small (under 35 pounds) remotely controlled aircraft to provide aerial surveillance of crime or disaster scenes. Some of the tests have been in clear violation of current FAA regulations, but the Houston test was conducted under FAA supervision.

“The police department applied for and got an FAA Certificate of Authorization (COA) for the flight,” said Heidi Williams, AOPA director of air traffic services. “The COA required the drone to fly VFR below 1,200 feet agl within the line of sight of the operator, and remain well clear of Class B airspace.” Miami is considering a similar test, which also would be flown under a COA and with similar restrictions.

AOPA has been fighting for years to ensure that unmanned aircraft—or more recently, unmanned aircraft systems (UAS)—operate within the National Airspace System with an equivalent level of safety as manned aircraft (in other words, the ability to “sense and avoid” other aircraft). AOPA serves on the industry advisory committee that is developing recommendations for all unmanned systems operating in civilian airspace.


Plan vital for Minnesota airport’s future

Crystal Airport could soon have a plan in place that will help ensure that the airport continues to play an important role as a reliever in the Twin Cities area.

The Finance, Development, and Environmental Committee of the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) voted 9 to 2 to approve the Crystal Airport Comprehensive Plan and send it to the full commission for a vote. AOPA has urged MAC members to adopt the plan.

Bill Dunn, AOPA vice president of airports, noted that the mayor of Crystal wants to close the airport, claiming that it is unsafe, but neither the FAA nor the NTSB have data suggesting that is the case. Additionally, 61 percent of respondents to a survey said Crystal Airport was an important asset to the city. Crystal serves as a general aviation reliever airport for Minneapolis-St. Paul International Wold-Chamberlain Airport (see “America’s Airports: Promote, Protect, Defend,” October 2007 Pilot).

Antenna tower a hazard to aerial navigation

AOPA is opposing the proposed height (1,695 feet msl) of an antenna tower near Saratoga County Airport in Saratoga Springs, New York. With the tower at that height, the airport’s takeoff minimums would have to be increased, which would negatively affect the ability of pilots to depart in poor weather. AOPA wants the FAA to lower the antenna tower to 1,611 feet msl.

Ethanol not a good additive for aviation fuel

Most GA aircraft are not able to burn fuel that is blended with ethanol. That’s why AOPA told the Oregon Department of Agriculture to be careful as it writes rules that mandate that all gasoline sold or offered for sale must include at least 10 percent ethanol.

Ethanol deteriorates seals in aircraft engines, harms fuel bladders and hoses, and attracts water, which promotes rust that can damage cylinders and pistons. It also can lead to problems in electric fuel pumps and cause inaccurate indications on fuel gauges, according to studies by the FAA.

AOPA educates rep on Utah GA tax issue

Like the public, many legislators don’t understand the important role GA plays in the U.S. economy.

That’s why AOPA Manager of Legislative Affairs Joey Colleran and AOPA Western Regional Representative Stacy Howard made it a point to discuss a Utah GA tax issue with Utah House Majority Leader David Clark during the National Conference of State Legislators Fall Forum in Phoenix. AOPA worked last year to prevent a proposed increase in the Utah aviation fuel tax from 9 cents to 18 cents a gallon and has participated in meetings to help reorganize the aviation tax structure in the state. A new proposal that will be introduced during the 2008 legislature will not have the fuel tax increase and will allow for the majority of aviation taxes in Utah to go into the state aviation fund instead of into county general funds.

Lease at Pellston should protect airport’s future

Releasing 37 percent of Pellston Regional Airport property for nonaviation development without appropriate safeguards could limit the future of the Michigan airport.

Emmet County officials have proposed a long-term lease of 621.46 acres to a single tenant in a move that may bring hundreds of jobs to the area, but at a potential cost to the airport’s growth.

AOPA is encouraging local officials and the FAA to ensure that the airport protects its rights and retains the ability to meet future aviation needs. AOPA is concerned that handing over control of so much of the airport’s developable area could limit its value to pilots and potential as the community grows.

AOPA has requested that the FAA, through the Airports District Office, work with the airport sponsor to determine the minimum amount of land needed to accommodate the planned nonaviation development and retain its control over the additional acreage.

Pilot, PR pro heads up AOPA media team

Seasoned pilot and public relations professional Greg Romano has joined AOPA as its vice president of public relations.

Romano brings more than 20 years of public relations experience, most recently at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

“We have worked with Greg during his tenure at NOAA on weather issues related to aviation,” said AOPA President Phil Boyer. “His depth of knowledge and passion for his work makes him an asset to AOPA. In addition, he is an instrument-rated private pilot with a true understanding of general aviation.”

Romano oversees AOPA’s media and public relations department, with responsibility for promoting a positive image of AOPA and GA to the public, presenting AOPA’s position on issues through media interviews and outreach, and managing AOPA Project Pilot and AOPA’s presence at events and airshows.

Romano reports to Karen Gebhart, AOPA executive vice president of communications. “He looks forward to putting his public relations skills to work in the aviation industry, and considers his new position at AOPA a ‘dream job,’” Gebhart said. “We’re certainly glad to add his talents to our already strong team.”

Prior to joining AOPA, Romano was director of public affairs at NOAA’s National Weather Service, where his responsibilities included working with aviation organizations on weather-related issues; serving as the National Weather Service’s spokesman to national and local media; and managing crisis communications, news conferences, and other media events.

His public relations career spans more than two decades, working primarily with major public relations firms in Los Angeles before relocating to the Washington, D.C., area in 2003.


ASF updates airspace flash cards

The AOPA Air Safety Foundation’s airspace flash cards have always been a fun, easy way to learn about the National Airspace System. And now that the cards have been updated with the latest airspace changes (including the modified Washington, D.C., ADIZ and the new “speed ring” that surrounds it), it’s a great time to give them a look.

The front of each card features a VFR aeronautical chart excerpt highlighting a particular type of airspace, while the flip side includes a summary of all the important facts you need to know—operating rules and characteristics, pilot/aircraft requirements, and more. To aid study partners, the flash cards also include pertinent questions for discussion. And, of course, they cover the full range of security-related airspace: TFRs, FRZ, NSAs, and prohibited areas.

If you’re already sharp on airspace, be sure to try one of our other types of flash cards. The runway safety cards can help you brush up on airport signage and pavement markings before your next flight, and the aircraft cards are a great way to memorize all the airplane-specific facts you need to know for a checkout in a new type.

To download the free cards, visit the ASF Web site, or request a printed copy by calling 800-USA-AOPA (800-872-2672).

ASF Accident Database: Learn from others’ mistakes

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Nineteenth-century philosopher George Santayana wasn’t thinking about aviation when he wrote those words, but he may as well have been: Learning from others’ mistakes is one of the keys to a long, safe flying career.

The AOPA Air Safety Foundation’s Accident Database is a great tool for pilots seeking to do just that. Containing a quarter-century’s worth of NTSB accident reports on fixed-wing aircraft under 12,500 pounds, the database is searchable by several different criteria, including aircraft type and common keywords, such as “VFR into IMC,” “fuel management,” and “medical.” And to help you plan your next flight, it’s also cross-referenced with AOPA’s Airport Directory Online: Just find your destination in the directory, then click “ASF Accident Reports” to see the kinds of mishaps that have taken place there—and get a better idea of what to look out for. Find the database online.

ASF offers paid summer internship

Looking for a rewarding way to spend the summer? The AOPA Air Safety Foundation summer internship is a rare paid opportunity to gain real-world experience while getting a leg up on an aviation career.

You’ll be assisting in the development of new online courses, print publications, and live safety seminars. You’ll also put your aviation knowledge to good use working on the popular ASF Safety Quiz online.

In the words of recent intern Greg Reeves, “You’ll experience the GA industry in a unique way, and participate in the creation of safety education that reaches thousands of pilots around the world.”

In addition to hourly pay, ASF provides a stipend to cover the costs of moving, housing, and/or maintaining flight proficiency. Required qualifications include a private pilot certificate with instrument rating (CFI preferred), excellent written and verbal communication skills, and a GPA of 3.0 or higher. For details on how to apply, visit the Web site. The application deadline is March 17, 2008.


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.

Airport Development: Florida

Developing support for your local airport is a key factor in ensuring its preservation, and one way to develop interest and support is to lead a grass-roots effort that encourages investment in the airport’s accessibility and sustainability.

ASN Volunteer for Okeechobee County Airport Joe Papasso did just that as he led a charge to obtain an instrument approach at his airport. While not all airports qualify for the type of technology and funding the airport was granted, Papasso looked at the potential for the airport as well as the community. He then energized local aviation supporters as well as the Okeechobee community to back the effort. Papasso then reached out to the FAA and coordinated a massive outpouring of support from the community to encourage the agency to place the airport on a survey list to determine whether an instrument approach was viable.

After the FAA agreed, Airport Manager Vernon Gray coordinated communication with the FAA; Papasso continued communicating with airport supporters and the community. Without the support of the community, Papasso would not have been able to attract the FAA’s interest: A community that wants to improve its airport is more attractive during the FAA’s budget development process than a community in opposition.

Today, Okeechobee County Airport boasts RNAV (GPS) approaches on both ends of its primary 5,000-foot Runway 5/23.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Instrument approaches can increase the value of your airport in your community, but obtaining an instrument approach procedure is a complex, multidisciplinary effort requiring a great deal of collaboration as seen in the story here about Joe Papasso at Okeechobee County Airport. To learn more about the process and whether your airport could be eligible, see AOPA’s Position Paper on establishing an instrument approach on AOPA Online under the Government Advocacy tab.

Encroachment: Texas

Proposed residential and retail encroachment near Kestrel Airpark is nothing new; in fact, there already are homes located on the approach to the privately owned airport’s runway. Now, a proposal to allow additional homes and a large retail store near the airport is under review, and the existing encroachment sets a dangerous precedent. But several AOPA members, including ASN volunteer Monroe Frerich, are taking proactive steps to help mitigate some of the potential negative impacts of this proposal on the airpark. They established a relationship with the developer’s representative and provided him with ideas and compromises; they also met with the city’s planning and zoning committee and city council to explain their concerns. Airports that are not part of the FAA’s national transportation plan and thus do not have federal funds invested in them, like Kestrel, add a greater degree of incline to the already steep uphill battle. Frerich and his friends are hoping their willingness to work with the developer will result in a win-win situation, to the best extent possible, for both sides.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Some privately owned/public-use airports may be eligible for federal and/or state funds, but many choose not to apply or accept them so that when it comes time to sell the airport land, there are no encumbrances preventing the transaction. It is simply a private real estate transaction. Local activism can make a difference, though, as Frerich’s efforts are doing at Kestrel Airpark. For more information, see AOPA Online and click the “Airport closures at privately owned/public-use airports” link.

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