The FAA won’t be able to spend any money to implement new user fees if the Department of Transportation appropriations bill, now pending in the Senate, passes.
Thanks to Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the appropriations aviation subcommittee once again inserted language decreeing, “None of the funds in this Act shall be available for the Federal Aviation Administration to finalize or implement any regulation that would promulgate new aviation user fees not specifically authorized by law after the date of the enactment of this Act.”
But the subcommittee went even farther in its report on the bill (S.3162), specifically challenging assertions by the Bush administration and the FAA that the agency would run out of money without a change in the funding system.
“The Appropriations Committee has played a central role in ensuring that the FAA has the resources it needs to conduct its missions,” the report says. “The committee has also sought to protect the investment of taxpayer dollars in the FAA by making sure that the agency spends its resources efficiently. Not only has the committee cut wasteful spending on ineffective programs, it has also provided additional resources for critically important activities that the agency or the Office of Management and Budget [OMB] had overlooked in its budget requests.”
“This report revalidates AOPA’s argument that the interests of airspace users and the taxpayers are best served with Congress serving as the ‘board of directors’ for the FAA,” said Andy Cebula, AOPA executive vice president of government affairs. “Oversight by our elected officials is critical, and the administration’s user fee proposals remove Congress from the mix.”
AOPA is fighting an FAA proposal to include VFR operations in a planned slot reservation system at John F. Kennedy and Newark Liberty International airports in the New York area, arguing that the plan unjustly punishes general aviation for the scheduling practices of the airlines and raises concerns for the future of any slot restriction programs.
Despite almost universal objection to the landing slot auction plan, the FAA pushed ahead and announced it would auction two slots at Newark Liberty International Airport. That brought a stinging rebuke from the lawmakers who write the checks to fund the FAA.
“There is no question that your insistence on moving forward these controversial efforts will subject the Department [of Transportation] and the FAA to extensive and costly litigation that will benefit neither the taxpayer nor the air traveler,” wrote Senators Patty Murray (D-Wash.), chairman of the appropriation transportation subcommittee, and Christopher “Kit” Bond (R-Mo.), ranking member, to DOT Secretary Mary Peters. They said that diverting millions of dollars of FAA funds for this “untried, controversial, and illegal auction exercise” would exacerbate the FAA’s “many challenges in maintaining the appropriate levels of safety in our national aviation system.”
The senators’ letter reiterated many of AOPA’s arguments against the FAA selling landing rights.
And the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns Newark airport, said it would ban any airliner that used an auctioned landing slot. “When you get on the ground, you’ll have to turn around and go back,” Port Authority Director of Aviation William R. DeCota told The New York Times.
General aviation has come a long way, but the journey will never end, AOPA President Phil Boyer told the members of the Southwest chapter of the American Association of Airport Executives in Mesa, Arizona.
“While the threat of user fees remains the most critical near-term issue, the environment and security are clearly the next big challenges for both general aviation pilots and for airports,” Boyer said during his keynote speech.
He cited leaded avgas as an environmental issue that will have to be resolved soon. “Today there is no alternative octane booster that will work for all piston engines flying,” said Boyer, “but we must continue our research into alternative fuels and propulsion technologies.”
Boyer said that AOPA was an active partner with industry and government to find ways to enable existing GA aircraft to continue flying in a lead-free environment. AOPA has also successfully lobbied Congress for funds to continue the FAA’s research into non-leaded fuel and engine technologies.
The FAA has extended the duration of third class medicals from 36 calendar months to 60 calendar months (five years) and first class medicals from six calendar months to 12 calendar months for pilots under age 40.
Current and expired medical certificates are grandfathered under this rule.
For example, a pilot under age 40 whose third class medical that expired at the end of July 2008 under the three-year limit is now good for another two years. In other words, the medical won’t expire until the last day of July 2010. If you are under age 40, and your certificate was issued less than five years ago, it is now valid until the last day of the month, five years from its original issuance date.
Pilots under 40 who have first class medicals won’t need to renew theirs for one year after the original date of issuance. After one year, it will revert to a third class medical.
So, what if you turn 40 during this new one- or five-year window? That won’t impact the duration of your medical. If you get your first or third-class medical the day before you turn 40, it will still be valid for one year or five years, respectively.
AOPA has been harshly critical of the FAA’s ADS-B implementation plan. Now a key committee in Congress agrees with the association’s concerns.
The FAA’s plan to mandate ADS-B “out” equipage by 2020 “provides no significant benefit for general aviation, just another box that the aircraft owner will have to buy and install as the ‘price of admission’ to Class A, B, and C airspace,” said Andy Cebula, AOPA executive vice president of government affairs.
The Senate Appropriations Committee, in its report to accompany the fiscal year 2009 Department of Transportation appropriations bill, came to a similar conclusion. The committee said that it “remains concerned that the FAA defines its objectives for the ADS-B program too narrowly.
The FAA has designed the base program for ADS-B so that the technology will merely replicate the capabilities that radar technology already provides.”
AOPA has argued that if the benefits are there, pilots will voluntarily equip with new technology, just as they did with GPS.
The report continues, “The committee believes that the FAA can effectively compel the aviation industry to invest in ADS-B voluntarily by proffering benefits that can be attained only through such equipage.
“If fuel prices continue at their current levels, then the FAA will have an especially hard time convincing the aviation community to invest in new technologies sooner than the regulated deadlines. Before equipping with ADS-B, the industry will not only want to see that the FAA is paying its share of the expense, it will also want to see what benefits will accrue to their operations.”
AOPA and members of Congress are opposing an Air Force proposal that would create the Powder River Military Training Complex and take up airspace over four states: Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, and South Dakota.
The military operations areas (MOAs) would contain bomber aircraft flying at high speeds and low altitudes, along with the release of chaff and flares, a combination that AOPA says poses a danger to general aviation aircraft.
“Because the proposed airspace will be accessible to nonparticipating VFR aircraft, there are increased risks associated with the release of chaff and flares that the USAF may not have identified,” said Melissa Rudinger, AOPA vice president of regulatory affairs. AOPA has submitted formal comments to the Air Force.
“Because the flares burn in excess of 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and for at least 500 feet vertically, there is a risk of the flare embers coming into contact with non-participating aircraft.”
It is also possible that chaff, which must form a cloud of metallic fibers 30 meters in diameter, could come into contact with other aircraft and cover the windscreen, damage the engine or propeller, contaminate environmental systems, and interfere with navigation and communication equipment.
AOPA noted that most GA pilots deviate around MOAs, even though they are permitted to fly through the special-use airspace. The proposed complex is so large, though, it would significantly raise the cost of deviating.
Montana senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester also weighed in, explaining the negative economic impact the proposal would have in the southeastern part of the state. The senators also expressed concern that the airspace could cause delays for critical emergency medical flights.
In addition, flight schools and FBOs located under the complex could suffer a loss of business. Because of the dramatic negative impact this complex would have over a four-state area, AOPA has reminded the Air Force that it is bound to consider all of the economic impacts associated with it before proceeding.
AOPA is supporting a recommendation that the California Energy Commission deny certification to a proposed power plant near Hayward Executive Airport on the grounds that it would pose a significant hazard to aviation.
AOPA has long opposed construction of the Eastshore Energy Plant, which would be located adjacent to the downwind departure route for Runway 10R/28L at Hayward Executive, an important general aviation reliever airport for the San Francisco area. In addition, the power plant’s location directly under the extremely congested airspace for Oakland International Airport would give pilots flying into and out of Hayward nowhere to go to avoid the power plant’s plumes.
At least one member of the California Energy Commission agrees with that assessment. In a document known as the “Presiding Member’s Proposed Decision,” Commissioner Jeffrey Byron recommends denying certification to the power plant because of the hazard it poses to aircraft.
In a recent letter to the commission, AOPA expressed support for that recommendation, reminding the panel that the proposed power plant does not comply with California airport land-use guidelines and urging commissioners to deny the necessary certification for its construction.
Purchasing or upgrading an aircraft with the latest technology may also help save you money on your aircraft insurance. There are two parts to the TAA equation that will qualify for a 10-percent premium discount: the aircraft equipment and the pilot’s proficiency.
Most new production aircraft are equipped with technologically advanced electronics. Retrofitted aircraft must meet the basic requirements for a technologically advanced aircraft (TAA), which include an IFR-approved GPS navigator, a multifunction display, and an autopilot. Pilots must be proficient in using the equipment and must complete an instrument proficiency check (IPC) and one of five AOPA Air Safety Foundation courses each year to qualify for the discount.
So if you are looking for good reasons to get those new gadgets for your aircraft, lower insurance premiums may be one of them. The AOPA Insurance Agency will quote the appropriate policy for your needs. Call toll-free 800-622-AOPA (2672) to speak with an aviation insurance specialist today for a complete list of TAA requirements, or visit the Web site.
You know that you automatically earn reward points every time you use your AOPA WorldPoints credit card from Bank of America. But do you know how easy it is redeem them?
You can do it in five minutes or less with a phone call to 800-434-8313 or a visit to the WorldPoints Web site. In fact, many rewards, including cash, can be redeemed 24/7.
Of course, if you want to use your points for something special, such as a family vacation, you may want to talk to a WorldPoints rewards expert. These experts are a phone call away Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. through 9 p.m. Eastern time.
Just how many ways can you use your reward points? You can get cash, of course, or use them for travel all over the world with no blackout dates. Or you might want to exchange points for gift cards to your favorite retailers—shipped to you free of charge. Perhaps you’d rather just shop with your points—again the merchandise you buy will be shipped to you free. Or, if special experiences are more to your taste, you can get concert, sports, or other event tickets, as well as adventure opportunities available exclusively to WorldPoints members.
You can begin redeeming rewards with as few as 2,500 points or earn more valuable rewards as you spend more. You’ll earn double points for most aviation purchases.
To get started earning, or redeeming, points today, visit AOPA Online.
It probably won’t come as a surprise that the ultimate cause of many (if not most) aircraft accidents is poor judgment on the pilot’s part. In the 1970s, the FAA attempted to remedy the problem by developing the concept of aeronautical decision making (ADM)—a systematic approach to making better choices in the cockpit.
Despite a lot of time and effort, however, ADM never quite lived up to its promise. Many pilots found it difficult to understand, and hard to apply in the real world. So when the AOPA Air Safety Foundation decided to try a different approach, the overarching goals were simplicity and practicality.
ASF’s new interactive course, Do the Right Thing: Decision Making for Pilots, starts from the premise that making consistently good aeronautical decisions doesn’t require tons of experience or exceptional judgment—just the ability to anticipate and recognize basic problems, and then take timely action to correct them. The course provides practical advice to help, as well as guidance and recommendations for developing your own set of personal minimums.
But the highlight is undoubtedly the interactive scenarios. Created using Microsoft Flight Simulator, the five video scenarios (three VFR, two IFR) let you “choose your own adventure,” making choices for fictional pilots, seeing where those choiwces lead, and hearing feedback on how you did.
Do the Right Thing: Decision Making for Pilots is a fun, free way to gain insight into your own decision making process, and learn how you might improve it. The course takes approximately 45 to 60 minutes to complete, but your progress is automatically saved, so there’s no need to finish in one sitting. Check it out online.
Imagine yourself as a non-instrument-rated pilot on a cross-country flight through mountainous terrain. Things start off looking good, but ATC and flight service soon warn you of nasty weather ahead. You’re confident you can make it, and you stubbornly push forward through worsening conditions—until you find yourself at 100 feet agl, surrounded by terrain, and struggling to follow a highway through the middle of a blinding snowstorm.
Sadly, this is not a fictional scenario. It’s the real-life basis for the first installment in a new series of ASF online minicourses. Accident Case Study: VFR into IMC uses Microsoft Flight Simulator and actual ATC audio to vividly re-create the events leading up to a fatal 2006 accident near Heber City, Utah. It’s a gripping look at one pilot’s choices and his tragic results.
We delve deep into the causes of the crash, looking at the many bad choices and ignored warnings. By highlighting the numerous opportunities the pilot had to reverse his fate, we hope to keep others from sharing it.
If you’d like to learn from another pilot’s mistakes, and watch a real-life “accident chain” as it forms, be sure to check out the course (and forward it to your pilot friends). Find it 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.
Idaho: Teamwork is key to success in aviation. General aviation airports thrive because of cooperation between the airport, its supporters and constituents, the immediate surrounding community, and the larger encompassing region. Continuing success depends on consistent communication of the benefits that GA brings to the area, and this is particularly important when the airport faces a conflict of interest, such as residential encroachment. Developing a neighborhood too close to airport property usually results in disgruntled new homeowners whose complaints can cause airport operations to be modified or restricted, resulting in lost revenue for the airport and the surrounding community, and diminished service for the region.
Through its team of Airport Support Network volunteers across the country, AOPA encourages local airport advocates to proactively engage in stopping encroachment before it begins.
Pilots in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, enlisted help from AOPA when they became aware of plans to build a housing development about one mile from the Coeur d’Alene airport, an incompatible land use that was likely to create problems for both the airport and residents of the planned Hayden Canyon subdivision.
AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer Greg Gfeller and Coeur d’Alene Airport Association President Frank O’Connell worked together to rally area pilots to oppose the development.
AOPA weighed in with a letter to the mayor of Hayden, warning that allowing residential development so close to the airport would violate the county’s federal grant assurances, which specify the importance of protecting the airport from incompatible land uses. The letter also points out that with 174 based aircraft and some 123,000 annual operations, the airport is a vital transportation asset for the region.
The team efforts of Greg Gfeller, Frank O’Connell, AOPA, and local aviation supporters and residents were successful—the Hayden City Council denied the annexation of the Hayden Canyon subdivision.
Tennessee: If you’re fortunate enough to fly over the beautiful Smoky Mountains, you may want to schedule a visit to Elizabethton Municipal Airport (OA9) and enjoy its outstanding new service facility for general aviation pilots. Airport Support Network volunteer Jon Lane Smith reports an inspiring story of a struggling small airport that faced a survival challenge common to many others and prevailed with great success. A few years back, the airport lost one of its prime operators, Moody Aviation, which decided to move its operation because of financial considerations. The vacant facilities presented a serious budget deficit, but thanks to persistent, sometimes difficult, negotiations with the city of Elizabethton, the city agreed to purchase the empty space and has revamped it into a first-class operation. The new facilities boast exercise machines, classrooms, office space, and sleeping quarters for visitors. The airfield manager has also enticed a local helicopter maintenance facility to occupy some of new available space and has brought the local medical helicopter provider to the field. Thanks to the teamwork of Smith, the airport manager, airport supporters, and the city, Tennessee now boasts a beautifully upgraded, vibrant general aviation facility.
Many pilots fell in love with flying as children, watching airplanes come and go from their vantage points on airport fences. Today, fence watchers are often chased away, and easy access to airports is confounded by security concerns.
However, young pilots can be reached in other ways. The Friends of Iowa City Airport (FOICA) recently showed how tremendously successful outreach efforts can be. In 2005, FOICA offered the Iowa Children’s Museum the prospect of being the featured charity for a children’s airport event called “The Eastern Iowa Big Kids Toy Show.” It was a great opportunity, as the proceeds from the event were slated for the museum to construct an aviation exhibit for youth. The museum decided to support the activity, which was a great success, generating nearly $10,000. The Friends then constructed a Kiwi Flight Simulator—a hands-on simulator that children can “fly”—to show the museum the high level of interest young people have in aviation. The success of the Kiwi sim spurred the construction of eight more simulators, and a dedicated push to secure grants for a full-blown aviation exhibit.
Recently, The Institute of Museum and Library Services granted the museum nearly $100,000 to develop an aviation exhibit called “Take Flight!” Scheduled to open in June 2009, the exhibit is geared for children 8 to 12 years old and will offer interactive activities involving all aspects of flight. This is an excellent example of what a dedicated group of aviation enthusiasts can contribute to aviation, reaping benefits both now and in the future.