A new congressional caucus to help ensure the future of general aviation, founded and co-chaired by Reps. Allen Boyd (D-Fla.) and Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.), is picking up steam as members of Congress in key aviation-related committees add their names to the ranks of those supporting GA. The General Aviation Caucus was formed to educate lawmakers about the importance of GA to our economy and transportation system, and its growing membership includes House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman James Oberstar (D-Minn.).
Since the recent launch of AOPA’s General Aviation Serves America campaign and the formation of the General Aviation Caucus, the message that GA is an important economic asset and vital component of the transportation system is spreading throughout Congress. In the first month, 45 representatives had joined the caucus to help their colleagues better understand GA’s importance.
“This caucus provides a great opportunity to help educate members of Congress and their staffs about the current issues facing AOPA members,” said AOPA Vice President of Legislative Affairs Lorraine Howerton. “It will help us in our efforts to protect general aviation on all fronts, including public perception, user fees, and security.” It is important that the caucus gains support from as many members of Congress as possible. AOPA encourages members to check AOPA’s Web site to see if their representative is a part of the caucus (keyword: GA Caucus). If your representative is a member, send him or her a note of thanks for taking a stand for GA. If your representative hasn’t signed up, let him or her know the value of joining this group. You can get your representative’s contact information online. Because GA supports more than a million jobs and $150 billion in economic activity, each representative’s district depends on the industry.
The Obama administration’s budget proposal for the FAA makes it clear that the White House seeks a fundamental change in the funding of our nation’s aviation system. While seeking authority to spend billions of dollars from the general fund for other modes of transportation, the new administration seems determined to radically reduce general fund support for aviation in America.
Budget documents expose the administration’s desire to shift to a user fee-funded system. Equally alarming for pilots is language laying the groundwork for debate over whether general aviation should pay a much larger share of the FAA’s budget. Starting in 2011, the administration proposal envisions $9.6 billion coming from user fees—up more than $2 billion from the initial estimate just two months ago. That figure rises to $11 billion by 2014.
Congress should pass a four-year FAA funding bill that is based on aviation fuel taxes, ticket taxes, and general fund contributions, AOPA President Craig Fuller said in testimony submitted to the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. The hearing allowed aviation stakeholders to share their views on FAA reauthorization.
“The existing financing mechanism has served the nation well, providing a stable and reliable aviation system during good and difficult times over the last 50 years,” Fuller said. “Aviation fuel taxes collected at the pump and ticket taxes collected at the counter, combined with a healthy contribution from the general tax fund, remain the best way to pay for the nation’s aviation system and avoid an unfair burden on general aviation and costly new bureaucracy.”
For the time being, pilots who fly to Canada don’t need to worry about being forced to upgrade to a 406-MHz emergency locator transmitter in order to continue flying in that country. Canadian Minister of Transport John Baird suspended the controversial rule, which would have required all aircraft flying in Canada to be equipped with the 406-MHz ELT starting this year.
Canadian Owners and Pilots Association President Kevin Psutka has confirmed for AOPA that the minister refused to sign the rule because it did not include any viable alternatives to equipping with the 406-MHz ELTs. A new rule is to be drafted that includes alternatives and gives the acceptance of the new 406-MHz ELTs a shot.
AOPA has been opposed to any proposal that would require the switch to a 406-MHz ELT, believing that such a decision should be left to the pilot’s discretion based on the type of flight operations and areas in which he or she frequently flies.
On a recent trip to Texas for the American Association of Airport Executives General Aviation Issues Conference, AOPA took stock of the GA industry, presented members’ concerns to other industry professionals, and planned for the future with officials at a thriving local airport.
The conference brought industry groups to Addison, Texas, to discuss issues affecting GA today and the challenges that will face the industry in the future. Representatives from AOPA spoke about GA security, protecting airports, and the GA Serves America initiative. The association’s airport advocacy team also used the trip to check in on airports and touch base with Airport Support Network volunteers.
AOPA Executive Vice President of Government Affairs Andy Cebula discussed top concerns for AOPA members and the association’s efforts to address them, particularly the GA Serves America initiative, in comments during a roundtable on the state of GA.
In a panel discussion titled “General Aviation Security: Regulating an Unregulated Industry,” AOPA Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Craig Spence took exception to the panel’s name, pointing out that the aviation industry, including GA, is one of the most regulated industries out there. He emphasized that AOPA continues to work and collaborate with the Transportation Security Administration on recent security initiatives such as the Large Aircraft Security Program (LASP), Security Directive 8F (SD-08F), and the Electronic Advance Passenger Information System (eAPIS) to mitigate their impact on GA operations.
As part of its ongoing efforts to address general aviation issues at the state level, AOPA met with key transportation policy influencers recently at a national meeting of state legislators in Washington, D.C. AOPA Manager of State Legislative Affairs Mark Kimberling met with state legislators and legislative staff from all over the country as they discussed their experience shaping public policy and crafting laws—many of which have a significant impact on the viability of GA.
“AOPA is very active at the state level in protecting GA—as we have already reviewed more than 1,000 GA-related bills in state legislatures in 2009, and have taken material action on several hundred of them,” Kimberling said. He added that the GA Serves America initiative will now be a key component of this effort at the state level.
At a time when it would be tempting for states to reduce funding for general aviation airports, Iowa lawmakers instead invested in general aviation.
As of the end of the state legislative session, the state had allocated $750,000 for airport infrastructure projects and an estimated $2.2 million for the state aviation fund. Those funds will come from aircraft registration and aviation fuel taxes. Another $1.5 million has been earmarked for commercial-service airports. In addition, the state also received $10.1 million in federal stimulus grants.
During the legislative session, the only threat to GA was a state senate bill that would have eliminated the sales tax exemption on some aircraft parts. AOPA opposed the bill, which ultimately lost traction and failed to get out of committee.
A Nevada resolution that urges the FAA to work with stakeholders to improve safety at North Las Vegas Airport was reported favorably out of a state assembly committee—a step that further removes the state legislature from an earlier effort to ban certain general aviation aircraft at the airport.
An earlier incarnation of the resolution would have asked Congress to award dangerous precedent-setting authority to the Clark County Department of Aviation to preempt the FAA and ban any GA flight activity deemed “high risk” at the airport. AOPA and key state legislators worked out a positive alternative that calls for a stakeholders’ group to find meaningful solutions for airport safety at the local level. AOPA is named in the resolution as a member of the stakeholders’ group.
General aviation serves all Americans, and nowhere is that truer than in Alaska, AOPA President Craig Fuller told attendees at the Alaska Aviation Trade Show and Conference as he brought them up to date on AOPA’s new General Aviation Serves America Campaign, launched to educate decision makers and the public about the true value of GA.
Top issues for many conference attendees were the Large Aircraft Security Program and the SD-8F security directive that would impose strict security requirements at airports that offer even limited commercial service.
Fuller also addressed issues of special concern to Alaska pilots, including the Delta Junction temporary military operations area that cuts access to a key IFR route between Fairbanks and points east and the challenges being raised by arbitrary noise standards for Denali National Park.
With hurricane season fully under way, AOPA members who live and/or plan to travel in hurricane-prone areas should have a plan to relocate their aircraft in the event of a storm.
While you are developing your plan, check your insurance policy to see if it covers any costs for relocating your aircraft. Some policies cover the cost of hiring an evacuation pilot, relocating, and storing an aircraft. Others will reimburse policyholders for relocating their aircraft outside of a hurricane watch or warning area.
In the event you are faced with relocation, the AOPA Insurance Agency offers the following tips to make the process go more smoothly:
For more information on hurricane preparedness, call the AOPA Insurance Agency (800-622-2672).
You will find a pilot’s paradise in Tampa, Florida, at the AOPA Aviation Summit on November 5, 6, and 7. Come for the Summit, and stay for everything Tampa has to offer—fabulous beaches, art museums, and dinner cruises. Extend your stay to Sunday and attend a Tampa Buccaneers game. Be sure to plan a visit to the Fantasy of Flight where you can experience the fun and adventure of flight at the world’s greatest aviation attraction. Climb into the cockpits of vintage aircraft, take a ride for yourself, or enjoy the daily airshow where you can see vintage aircraft roar to life. Tampa has something to offer every member of your family. Make your vacation one the entire family will remember for years to come.
If you’ve been itching to chat with air traffic controllers on practical matters, now you can. Ask ATC, developed in collaboration between the AOPA Air Safety Foundation and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), offers you a first-hand glimpse into ATC’s workings and protocol. No more guessing games—you’ll know what to do when you have a stuck microphone or what to expect when you bust a clearance and hear the dreaded words, “Call the tower after landing.”
Remember, the controllers want to help you. If you’ve got a fuel emergency, say so. The reassuring voice at the other side of the mic will provide priority handling and immediate assistance such as diverting you to a closer airport. Search this handy knowledge base of ATC-related questions and answers to lift the curtain on things you always wanted to know, but were afraid to ask. Ask ATC allows you to fully explore available ATC services for VFR and IFR flights.
Here’s how it works:
Ask ATC! You’ll be glad you did.
So, you think you’ve got the jargon down and your radio etiquette is up to snuff? Count on the AOPA Air Safety Foundation to test your mettle when you take ASF’s newest interactive online course, Say It Right: Mastering Radio Communications.
Built on the foundation of the extremely successful live safety seminar, Say It Right: Radio Communications in Today’s Airspace, the Air Safety Foundation collaborated with NATCA in developing this latest course to help you kick bad habits and learn new techniques. Audio examples cover many specific in-flight scenarios, and video advice from NATCA controllers provide the insight and knowledge you need to communicate effectively and overcome any bouts of mic fright. To fully benefit from the course, be sure to visit the Ask ATC Web site, developed in collaboration with NATCA. Who to give better advice on ATC radio communications than the controllers themselves?
Relax, kick back, and master the radio like the pro you are.
The pilot, who had flown the route in mountainous terrain many times before, took off at night without a weather briefing. He might have reasoned that years of experience flying over familiar territory would keep him out of harm’s way. Yet on a fateful January night in 2007, the inevitable happened: The 2,900-hour pilot flew his airplane into a snow-covered hillside. The pilot and his passenger paid the ultimate price—both perished in the accident.
The NTSB determined the probable cause of the accident to be the pilot’s continued VFR flight into instrument meteorological conditions and failure to maintain terrain clearance, resulting in controlled flight into terrain. Contributing factors included improper preflight and in-flight planning, snow, and reduced visibility.
Daytime or night, winter or summer: Unfortunately, too many such flights end up inking the pages of accident reports and newspaper headlines. In 2008 ASF developed the online course Accident Analysis: VFR into IMC that reenacted a VFR into IMC accident with actual ATC audio and Microsoft Flight Simulator flight scenario re-creations. The message is clear—continued VFR flight into IMC is not recommended.
Tentative schedule; visit the Web site for confirmed information.
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 .
Montana: At a time when the threats to community airports seem to come from all directions and AOPA Airport Support Network volunteers often find themselves on the defensive, it can be easy to forget that the first word of the ASN mission is “Promote.” Although it’s obviously critical to defend airports from short-term threats, over the long term there may be no more important role for a volunteer than working to enhance the general public’s understanding of the airport and its value.
It’s a point that’s certainly not lost on Fred Lark, longtime ASN volunteer at the Lewistown, Montana, airport, which was recently named 2009 Airport of the Year by the Montana State Aeronautics Division. The award recognizes the airport that best combines excellence in facilities and operations with outstanding service to the community and state. Feeling that Lewistown had a strong claim on the prize, Lark took it upon himself to develop a 22-page application document detailing the airport’s extensive facilities and services.
The judges were impressed, and the award was a coup for the airport—not only for the honor of winning, but because it generated positive press and helped educate the public about the value of general aviation. There was another benefit as well. As he put together the application, Lark realized that it didn’t have to be a single-use document; rather, he came to see it as a public relations tool, a living document to be updated as the airport grows and changes. “That way,” he says, “when a company makes initial inquiries about a new development on the field, or someone in the community just wants to learn more about the airport, you’ve got something you can hand them on the spot.” He encourages other volunteers to consider speaking with airport management about developing similar documents for their airports.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: For ideas on improving your airport’s public image, read AOPA’s Guide to Obtaining Community Support for Your Local Airport. Also, spread the word about AOPA’s GA Serves America campaign, which is designed to increase public understanding of general aviation.
Georgia: You don’t need a pilot certificate to understand that putting up 50-foot-tall concrete poles less than a hundred feet from the end of a runway could create a hazard to landing aircraft. Yet that’s exactly what happened recently at the Griffin-Spalding County Airport in Griffin, Georgia.
Thanks in large part to the timely action of ASN volunteer Dan Gryder, however, the situation was resolved before tragedy could strike.
Things could easily have ended very differently. The two steel-reinforced concrete utility poles, one of which stood almost exactly on the extended centerline of Runway 32, went up in less than a day. Situated on airport property, they were just waiting to snag the first airplane unlucky enough to dip slightly below the VASI glidepath on short final. And with no obstruction lighting to warn pilots what lay ahead, the problem was even worse at night.
As soon as he heard about the situation, Gryder spoke with the airport manager, who issued a notam alerting pilots to the obstructions. Then, feeling that it was important to get the poles removed as soon as possible, Gryder took matters into his own hands: He contacted AOPA for information and advice, then got in touch with the FAA. It soon became clear that the FAA had never been notified about the project (which likely would not have been approved under its obstruction evaluation process). Spurred by Gryder’s insistence that the poles presented an immediate hazard, and further motivated by follow-up calls from AOPA, the FAA urged the organization that erected the poles to take action.
They did. The next day, a bulldozer was sent to raze the poles. “Dan’s quick action and his willingness to reach out to key players were major factors in bringing about a successful outcome in a short period of time,” said AOPA Senior Director of Airports Heidi Williams. For his part, Gryder stresses that although it’s important to first check with AOPA for guidance, volunteers should be prepared to take action themselves in truly time-critical situations: “In some cases it’s really important to take the initiative to get these things stopped.”
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Read AOPA’s advocacy brief on the FAA obstruction evaluation process, and sign up for FAA e-mail alerts on proposed obstructions near your airport. Remember: Only obstacles of which the FAA has been notified will trigger an alert.