Although the U.S. Senate has yet to pass final FAA funding legislation, the agency’s bills still have to be paid. So, the congressional committees that actually write the annual check have started working on the FAA’s budget for 2009, assuming that when the time comes the money will be there. And AOPA has strong opinions on what should be in that budget. First and foremost, no user fees.
“AOPA supports language prohibiting the FAA from finalizing or implementing any regulation that would promulgate new aviation user fees not specifically authorized by law,” AOPA President Phil Boyer wrote in letters to the leaders of the appropriations transportation subcommittees in both the House and Senate. (AOPA has successfully lobbied for such a prohibition in previous appropriations bills to block the FAA from implementing “back door” user fees.)
Boyer told lawmakers that AOPA members want Congress to make sure that the FAA stays on top of the automated flight service station system with an aggressive quality assurance program. He noted that the system had been plagued with outages, excessive hold times, lost flight plans, dropped calls, and poor service.
Airports should get all of the funding allowed by law, AOPA said. The Bush administration proposed cutting Airport Improvement Program funding by more than $1 billion in 2009. “Elimination of this funding would adversely affect communities’ ability to maintain and improve their airports,” Boyer told lawmakers.
While AOPA supported funding for continued development of the Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) system, AOPA takes issue with the FAA’s proposal to mandate ADS-B equipage, particularly since under the FAA proposal, aircraft owners would have to have both ADS-B and a transponder to continue to fly in Class B airspace.
AOPA asked Congress to make sure a sufficient amount of money is devoted to adding wide area augmentation system (WAAS) instrument approaches into GA airports that don’t have ILS approaches. AOPA also supported continued funding for FAA research into technologies to enable existing GA engines to operate on unleaded aviation fuel, and asked Congress to direct the FAA to come up with a comprehensive plan to safely integrate unmanned aerial vehicles into the airspace system.
In an effort to bring the U.S. aircraft registry up to date, the FAA is proposing a three-year aircraft “re-registration” requirement that would replace the current triennial registration report. Seems harmless at the surface. But AOPA has found that the proposal includes a discussion about the FAA’s ill-fated user fee proposal and the potential for large increases in the registration fee.
Right now, the one-time aircraft registration fee is $5. The re-registration proposal applies the $5 fee to its recurrent renewal; however, the agency has made it clear that it wants to increase the fee. That could be a $130 initial registration fee and a $130 renewal fee every three years.
“The FAA wants to bring the aircraft registry up to date for a number of reasons, including some security-related, but the move shouldn’t be linked to a dramatic increase in registration fees or the implementation of user fees,” said Andy Cebula, AOPA executive vice president of government affairs. “Aircraft owners also shouldn’t be expected to bear the burden of immediately correcting a system that has deteriorated over time.”
Aircraft re-registration hasn’t been required for three decades. From 1970 to 1978, the FAA had an annual aircraft re-registration cycle. Because the registry was up to date at the end of that period, the FAA lifted the mandate and a few years later adopted the triennial report. However, poor triennial completion rates have caused the registry to languish. Now, nearly one-third of the 343,000 U.S. aircraft registrations are possibly invalid.
According to the proposal, pilots flying an aircraft with expired registration could be denied access to the National Airspace System, under the FAA Strategic Operations Security program.
“An aircraft seeking to operate in U.S. airspace will have its identification checked. If the information found is sufficiently inconsistent with the profile of a properly registered aircraft, a pilot deviation will be filed on the operator, and the operator may be denied access to the national airspace,” according to the re-registration proposal.
The FAA is seeking comments on its proposal by May 28. AOPA will continue to sort through the proposed rule and will solicit member input in the coming months. Right now, members should also take a look at the proposal and consider how it could affect their ownership plans.
AOPA recently raised significant concerns in its formal comments on the FAA’s plan for implementing ADS-B (automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast), the backbone technology for the Next Generation air traffic control system.
“No one has championed ADS-B more than AOPA,” said AOPA President Phil Boyer. “After all the time, effort, and energy that AOPA has put into promoting ADS-B and working closely with the FAA to make sure it develops in a way that’s useful to general aviation, I’m deeply disappointed with the agency’s implementation plan.”
The FAA proposal requires that all aircraft operating in Class A, B, and C airspace, plus all airspace above 10,000 feet msl, be equipped with ADS-B datalink equipment that transmits the aircraft’s position, altitude, speed, and aircraft ID.
“But the FAA fails to provide an affordable transition from today’s radar-based system to tomorrow’s satellite-based system,” Boyer said. “The implementation plan offers little benefit to general aviation operators. The performance requirements for ADS-B are excessive for low-altitude operations. The requirement to keep Mode C transponders is unacceptable. The FAA’s contract for ADS-B services leaves general aviation wanting; incentives are needed for ADS-B equipage. So we have no choice but to urge the agency to go back to the drawing board. If there is any good news in the FAA plan, it is just this: Pilots still have 12 years to comply.”
ADS-B-equipped aircraft update and digitally broadcast their GPS-derived position once every second to ground stations and other similarly equipped aircraft. This capability is known as ADS-B Out. Using a universal access transceiver developed specifically for use in GA aircraft, ADS-B has the potential to provide pilots with in-cockpit displays of weather and traffic (known as ADS-B In).
AOPA has maintained for nearly a decade that the best way to encourage GA aircraft owners to purchase ADS-B In avionics is to supply all available graphical and textual real-time weather, airspace, and traffic data in the cockpit at no additional charge.
“That is why AOPA is concerned the FAA’s contract with ITT limits the number of traffic targets broadcast via traffic information service-broadcast (TIS-B). This means that pilots will not be able to see the locations of all known traffic, reducing the effectiveness of TIS-B for the safe and efficient operation of GA aircraft,”he said.
The FAA’s proposal for implementing ADS-B basically emulates today’s radar coverage instead of taking advantage of the system’s lower infrastructure cost and expanding coverage. This results in little more than a warmed-over version of the Mode S transponder proposal from the 1980s. This approach to implementing ADS-B raises serious questions about the scope and magnitude of the mandate.
The proposal’s mandate for GA to equip with ADS-B Out without providing ADS-B In benefits, coupled with the mandate to maintain Mode C transponders rather than replacing them with ADS-B equipment, means a more expensive system for GA that is little better than the current system. Additional cost factors for GA aircraft owners include a requirement for dual ADS-B antennas and higher transmit power requirements than are necessary for the low altitudes, where the overwhelming majority of GA pilots fly.
Boyer concluded, “The suggested rule is not acceptable in its current form. It is a high-cost plan that offers few if any benefits for general aviation. We believe the current proposed rule is so unworkable that the FAA needs to abandon plans to publish a final rule, go back to the drawing board, and issue a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking.”
Lawmakers in Pennsylvania want to require not one, but two, locks for all general aviation aircraft and create criminal penalties for those who fail to use them.
In a recent letter to the House Transportation Committee, AOPA reminded lawmakers that the federal government has determined that GA is not a threat and that GA aircraft are rarely stolen.
AOPA and the Transportation Security Administration have partnered to promote GA security using the “Lock Up, Look Out” message of the Airport Watch program. The program recommends, but does not mandate, that pilots lock their aircraft.
AOPA representatives have written letters, met with city officials, and testified before the city council, but the fate of Maine’s Biddeford Municipal Airport remains uncertain.
AOPA Vice President of Airports Bill Dunn testified against a resolution that would have prevented the airport from accepting any more federal funding—the first step toward closing the field, which now must remain open because it has accepted federal grants for improvements.
The resolution, which was tabled on a 5-to-4 vote, is just the latest in a long line of attacks on the airport. The Biddeford mayor and city council already are considering a petition for a referendum to close the airport over the objections of the FAA. The FAA has said it is prepared to sue the city to keep the field open.
The money in South Dakota’s aeronautics fund is needed for airport maintenance and improvements, AOPA told state lawmakers who proposed using the money to buy new airplanes for the University of South Dakota and South Dakota State University.
Money in the state aeronautics fund, by law, should be used primarily for airport improvements and maintenance, and to provide matching funds required by federal airport grants, AOPA warned. If the money is diverted for the purchase of new aircraft, many airports won’t be able to make needed improvements to ramps, runways, lighting, and other infrastructure. AOPA is asking state officials to use other funding sources to purchase the aircraft. AOPA members are encouraged to contact their state legislators or Gov. Mike Rounds to express their support.
AOPA has asked that the proposed Paseo Bridge near Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport in Kansas City, Missouri, be deemed a hazard to air navigation because it would violate the FAA’s obstruction standards and move the VFR traffic pattern, creating new noise and environmental concerns. Currently, the airport does not generate noise complaints because the traffic pattern lies over industrial areas and rail yards. Noise complaints can escalate to calls for airport closure, so AOPA wants to head off the threat before the bridge is built. The association also has called for a supplemental environmental impact statement.
When Gary Robertson of Tempe, Arizona, wanted a new airplane, he turned to the AOPA Aircraft Financing Program, a partner program with Bank of America. Robertson applied for the loan online, had an answer within 12 hours, and even got help dealing with the seller.
“It was easier than buying a car,” Robertson said. “There was no smoke and mirrors. It was up front. They told me what I needed to do and what the seller needed to do. They even called him and explained it to him.”
Robertson was so happy with the service that he has used it for three aircraft purchases.
Larry Jones of Bay City, Texas, has used the AOPA Aircraft Financing Program four times and, as a flight instructor, recommends it to his students who want to purchase their own airplanes.
“Even if they don’t need a loan, I always tell them to go through AOPA,” Jones said. “It’s cash in hand, and it’s easier and safer because they get the paperwork right. The people handling the loans are very efficient in what they do.”
For more information about AOPA’s Aircraft Financing Program, call 800-62-PLANE or go online.
Because of an influx of pilot requests for new plastic pilot certificates, the FAA has delayed the deadline by one year for complying with the International Civil Aviation Organization’s language proficiency standards for operating internationally. Pilots, flight engineers, and navigators who fly internationally now have until March 5, 2009, to get a plastic pilot certificate with an “English Proficient” endorsement on it. The increase in requests for new pilot certificates is due in part to the FAA’s announcement that it will require all pilots to carry a plastic certificate by 2010. To help you sort through what certificate you need and by which deadline, AOPA has compiled an online subject report.
General aviation pilots who fly internationally have a sympathetic ear on Capitol Hill.
AOPA Executive Vice President of Government Affairs Andy Cebula and AOPA member Jim Turner met with Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) recently to discuss proposed changes in procedures for GA aircraft flying to and from the United States.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) wants to require pilots to submit arrival/departure notification and passenger lists electronically before leaving or returning to the United States. This would be done through CBP’s electronic Advance Passenger Information System (eAPIS), which is already used by charter companies to screen GA passengers against terrorist watch lists.
Representative Broun, who is a pilot and AOPA member, agreed that the proposal could have harmful effects on international GA flights. In particular, he emphasized that the requirement for pilots to electronically submit information via an Internet-based system is simply unworkable. Pilots often don’t have universal Internet access inside the United States, much less from a Baja airstrip, Bahamian Cay, or Canadian lake.
And, as AOPA has maintained, it’s impractical to require pilots to land at another airport with Internet access before crossing the border just to be able to file an arrival notification and passenger list. AOPA is seeking common-sense alternatives.
Learning weather is a little like learning algebra: Once you’ve mastered the fundamentals, it’s really not that hard to grasp. Miss some of the building blocks, though, and it’s a lot tougher to make sense of what’s going on.
If you’re one of the many pilots for whom the weather fundamentals never quite gelled, don’t worry: The AOPA Air Safety Foundation is here to help. If you’ve visited the ASF Web site over the past few years, you might have seen our Weather Wise series of interactive courses. The idea behind them is simple—getting weather education for pilots out of the textbook and into the cockpit, teaching the need-to-know theory while keeping everything rooted in practical application.
The third and most recent addition to the series, Weather Wise: Air Masses and Fronts, takes a step back from more localized weather phenomena to look at the forces that drive the weather on a grand scale—high and low pressure systems, air mass characteristics, and fronts. Using animated graphics and plain-language explanations, the new course aims to help you understand how these elements interact to create weather, in the process giving you a better grasp of the “big picture” and the knowledge you need to make better decisions about flying in it. In addition, the course includes a season-by-season overview of regional weather and a look at the various sources of online weather information.
This fun, free course takes approximately 45 to 60 minutes to complete, but since your progress is automatically saved it’s easy to stop and pick up right where you left off. Find it online.
On its own, a chart is just a piece of paper, but integrated into the larger world of procedures and practical situations, a chart becomes a critical tool in a pilot's toolbox. The AOPA Air Safety Foundation's new online course IFR Insights: Charts helps pilots get the most from their charts by showing how they fit into the overall profile of an instrument flight. The course takes 60 to 90 minutes to complete and covers NACO and Jeppesen products. In addition to detailed coverage of chart symbology, the course includes a gripping re-creation of a historic chart-related accident, interactive quizzes, and numerous real-world flying tips.
The theme of last month’s AOPA Pilot was thunderstorm avoidance. Did you find your copy of the Thunderstorm Quick Reference Card, and visit the Web site to learn more about operating safely around convective activity? If not, you’re missing out on some really important information.
When you visit ASF’s thunderstorm awareness Web page, you’ll find a wealth of resources aimed at helping you get where you’re going safely when convective activity is in the forecast. In addition to a printable version of the quick reference card, you’ll find a fact-packed Safety Advisor on ATC weather avoidance services, as well as a great interactive course— Weather Wise: Thunderstorms and ATC. It’s all free, and it’s a great way to get in shape for one of the biggest weather challenges you’ll face this year.
While you’re at it, take a look at our other course, Weather Wise: Ceilings and Visibility. Aimed squarely at the dangers that accompany low ceilings and visibilities, the course is a practical look at the conditions that can put you “in the soup,” and strategies for dealing with them. It’s fun and free, and it might save your life some day. Check it out online.
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.
California: Earlier this year, a deadly midair collision placed Corona Municipal Airport (AJO) in Southern California under the media’s harsh spotlight, fueling public outcry against the airport’s current non-towered operations, with some calling for the airport’s closure.
Having dealt with the media several years ago when flooding and mudslides devastated Corona and surrounding cities, leaving many airports under water, ASN Volunteer Woodrow Anselen dusted off his media relations skills. Starting with a telephone call to AOPA’s media relations (301-695-2162), Anselen approached the media armed with talking points crafted by AOPA’s staff and offered to serve as a local resource to help them get their stories correct from the onset. Anselen’s outreach efforts enabled the media to report facts, such as general aviation’s exemplary safety record.
Putting his words into action, Anselen worked with his local airport support group, the Corona Pilots Association, to host a Traffic Pattern Safety Seminar and invited the press to attend.
The airport support group reached out to Corona’s mayor to create an Airport Safety Taskforce to investigate possible safety issues and, with the help of the pilots’ group, made recommendations to the city council.
Anselen’s multi-pronged approach of writing editorials and a column that appeared in the Press Enterprise, educating the community, and working with elected officials, has placed general aviation on the same stage as safety.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Learning how to market yourself as an aviation resource rather than an opponent or proponent of a news story opens doors for you with the media to help mitigate the potential fallout that stems from a simple lack of understanding.
The AOPA Guide to Talking to Reporters is a 10-minute online course that teaches the basics of media relations to help you avoid common pitfalls. You can also visit the AOPA News Room for background information that you can provide to misinformed reporters.
New York: Over the past year, with the help of AOPA resources including materials from the Airport Support Network, Bill O’Connell, ASN volunteer at Cattaraugus Olean Municipal Airport in western New York, worked with fellow pilots to form an airport support group to create a new future for the once-dilapidated field.
As grass grew through the cracks in the runway, anti-airport sentiment also grew among elected officials and the public in Cattaraugus County and the town of Olean. Misconceptions about the airport’s value to the community and its costs fueled the political fire as the local economy faltered. Rather than allow the airport to fall victim to the pressures, O’Connell and his friends formed the Cattaraugus/Olean Airport Support Group. Using AOPA’s online materials, the group adopted bylaws, agreed to a mission statement, elected officers with Carey Litteer serving as its first president, and created subcommittees to assess how to help educate the public on the airport’s true value as an economic engine.
The group also held an open house and airshow and focused its public outreach efforts on defining the benefits of general aviation to the public as well as addressing common security concerns. Pilots and nonpilots donated time and money to revitalize the terminal and hangars as well as provide maintenance.
With grants from the FAA and state, and county funding, Cattaraugus Olean Municipal Airport upgraded its technologies and has more improvements planned in the coming year.
As one local businessman who is not a pilot noted, “The airport is an intimate part of the current and future economic success of the greater Olean area.”
WHAT YOU CAN DO: As Bill O’Connell and the Cattaraugus/Olean Airport Support Group said, “The best way to convert opposition to support is through education.” AOPA offers members an array of tools and resources to help educate your community about the value of your airport through the ASN program. Learn more by visiting AOPA Online.
As pilots, we learn the three steps in the initial stages of flight training—aviate, navigate, communicate. What we are not taught, though, is how to protect our airports. Fortunately, the same three steps are applicable. First and foremost, set your goals or mission statement, as Bill O’Connell and his Airport Support Group did in Olean, New York (see above). Next, plan your route. And finally, educate the public and media through effective communication. The volunteers featured on these pages are educators about their local airports in their communities, but they need support to be successful. Learn how you can help education through communication.