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

General Aviation Serves America AOPA has kept membership dues low, just $39 a year for the past 19 years. We’re proud of that record, but it also means we need to ask for your help when we face major challenges, as we do today.

General Aviation Serves America

AOPA has kept membership dues low, just $39 a year for the past 19 years. We’re proud of that record, but it also means we need to ask for your help when we face major challenges, as we do today.

AOPA is devoting considerable funds to develop a campaign to block user fees and promote an understanding of the important role general aviation plays in our economy. This program, General Aviation Serves America, is one of the most far-reaching lobbying and public relations efforts in our 70-year history. General aviation, cherished by those who fly, is neither understood nor appreciated by some decision makers around the country, especially when it comes to GA’s contributions to our nation’s economy. A footnote on page 131 of President Barack Obama’s budget summary signals a drastic change in the history of aviation funding.

The administration believes the time has come to force user fees on GA. With the economy in trouble, lawmakers are looking at every avenue for raising money—even if it means crippling GA. The budget Obama sent to Congress proposes a user charge for those who fly—a charge expected to generate more than $7 billion at our expense.

We have no choice. We must defend GA. We have many strong allies in Congress in both parties; however, senators and congressmen will be under tremendous pressure to support the president’s budget without changes. The GA Serves America campaign will boost our allies and convert our skeptics, making them understand that, in these difficult economic times, GA provides far too much economic benefit to America to be compromised.

Help us serve America

Times are tough, but user fees imposed in a bad economy don’t go away when the economy improves. Experience in other countries has shown that once user fees are part of the aviation funding system, they continue to expand, eventually crushing GA under their weight.

We can win this fight, and the sooner we act, the more effective we’ll be. But we cannot expand this initiative without your financial help. Please consider supporting this campaign. You can contribute online or, if you prefer, send a check to the AOPA GA Serves America Fund, 421 Aviation Way, Frederick, Maryland 21701. All funds raised for the GA Serves America Fund will be used solely for this important education effort. (Contributions or gifts to AOPA/GA Serves America are not deductible as charitable contributions or ordinary and necessary business expenses for federal income tax purposes.)

Share your story

Every day in America, pilots play a vital role in helping their communities. As part of the campaign to educate policymakers and opinion leaders, we are compiling stories that show how vitally important general aviation is to America’s economy and local communities. We need to hear your personal story.

Whether you’re a businessperson creating jobs in your community, a physician piloting your airplane to treat patients, or you simply have a good example of how GA is the life-blood of a community, we need your story—please send it to us via e-mail to [email protected]. Make a difference today.


Bill postpones FAA funding debate

President Barack Obama has signed into law a bill authorizing an extension of funding for the FAA through the end of the fiscal year. The extension gives Congress another six months to pass an FAA reauthorization bill by extending the current aviation taxes and the FAA’s authority to spend money.

AOPA supports the proposed Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2009, which would authorize nearly $70 billion for the agency for four years.

Speaking before the House aviation subcommittee, AOPA President Craig Fuller said that AOPA members strongly support the bill introduced by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman James Oberstar (D-Minn.) and aviation subcommittee chairman Jerry Costello (D-Ill.).

The committee should approve legislation according to “The time-tested system of passenger transportation and GA fuel taxes in combination with general fund revenues to support the FAA and the aviation system,” Fuller said.

Fuller has met privately with several influential members of Congress, including Oberstar and Costello of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and aviation subcommittee Chairman Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) of the Senate Commerce Committee.

Pilots unhappy with TSA security directive

As reports of new security badge requirements and background checks continue to surface at airports across the country, pilots have cried out to AOPA, expressing their concerns over the surprise requirements and demanding answers from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

One member recently wrote to AOPA, saying, “The bigger issue is the TSA/DHS and the ‘secret’ security directives being implemented with very little publicity.”

The lack of publicity is a result of the directive’s classification as “sensitive security information.” Because of this classification, information about it has been coming to pilots piecemeal in the form of unexplained mandates at their airports. The mandate is not required to go through the public comment period.

Under the current version of the directive, pilots based at air carrier airports are required to undergo a security threat assessment and receive a security badge in order to continue to have unescorted access to their airports.

AOPA has been working with the TSA since the security directive, known as Security Directive 8F (SD-08F), was first released in December 2008 and has urged the agency to work with those in the general aviation industry to develop a better plan that is less burdensome and restrictive on pilots.

As a result, the agency has pushed back the deadline for compliance to June 1 and has said that it would address industry concerns.

TSA, GA industry open dialog on security proposal

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials met recently with AOPA and other general aviation industry representatives to begin talking about concerns and alternatives to the Large Aircraft Security Program (LASP) proposal.

“This meeting was a good first step toward coming up with more appropriate ways to handle general aviation security concerns,” said AOPA President Craig Fuller. “But we still have a lot of work to do to come up with a viable solution.”

The initial proposal would have imposed air-carrier-style security restrictions on general aviation aircraft weighing more than 12,500 pounds. AOPA’s discussions with the TSA suggest that there is considerable rethinking under way, and the proposed rule is likely to be reworked in several important areas. AOPA and the other general aviation organizations will stay fully engaged over what is probably a process stretching over several months.


Town votes to secure airport’s future

Voters in Plainville, Connecticut, elected to “save Robertson Field” by voting yes on a referendum that allows the town to purchase the airport, a move that will ensure its continued operation as an airport. Transferring the property from private to public ownership will preserve open space, and head off potentially burdensome residential development, and using federal funds for the purchase binds the field to operate as an airport in perpetuity.

Robertson Field, established in 1911, is the state’s oldest airport. To support the airfield, AOPA purchased ads in local newspapers and notified area pilots of the upcoming vote. As an additional gesture of support, the Let’s Go Flying SR22 traveled to the airport and took center stage at an open house designed to show Plainville residents the types of aircraft and future economic benefits they can expect by preserving the airport. More than 2,000 people attended the open house (see “ Let’s Go Flying Sweepstakes: On the Road,” page 79).

Alaska reverses course on rate increases

In response to objections from local pilots, AOPA, and the Alaska Airmen’s Association, the state’s Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT&PF) has decided to scale back plans to raise land rental lease rates at rural airports.

The next aviation-use increase will be 4 percent and will not take effect until January 2013, with future increases limited to 4 percent. A 4-percent increase beginning January 2010 will apply only to auxiliary and nonaviation usage.

The department had planned last year to institute up to 50-percent increases at the 256 rural airports it owns. AOPA fought the proposal, arguing that the move would harm general aviation during the economic downturn. DOT&PF then decided to suspend any rate increases and to limit future increases to 10 percent, which AOPA also opposed.

Threat to ban aircraft at North Las Vegas thwarted

A Nevada resolution that would have asked Congress to award precedent-setting authority to a local aviation agency to preempt the FAA and ban any general aviation flight activity deemed “high risk” at North Las Vegas Airport has been reworked.

Thanks to the collabor-ative efforts of the Clark County Aviation Association, key state legislators, and AOPA, the Nevada Senate’s Energy, Infrastructure, and Transportation Committee instead unanimously passed a resolution to support a stakeholders group of FAA officials, AOPA staff, local pilots, and the Clark County Department of Aviation to develop meaningful solutions to improve safety at the airport.

At airports around the country, good news for hard times

The general aviation apron at Charlotte County Airport in Punta Gorda, Florida, is 67 years old. Even though the pavement is cracked and worn, the apron never seemed to rank high enough on the list of priorities to warrant federal funding for rehabilitation. But the airport authority worked quickly when Congress began considering an economic stimulus package, and Charlotte County secured a grant for $2.5 million.

As the stimulus plan was first being developed by the administration and congressional leaders late last year, AOPA sprang to action, urging state and local officials across the country to organize and present GA airport projects that would qualify for infrastructure funding. As a result, several states increased their lists of GA airport projects ready to begin construction immediately—and now GA projects such as the one at Charlotte County are ready to break ground.


ASF launches eAPIS course

What’s eAPIS, you ask? It’s short for Electronic Advance Passenger Information System. Why eAPIS? In 2008, the Department of Homeland Security passed a final rule requiring pilots of private aircraft to electronically submit passenger/crew manifests and flight information if the flight departs or enters the United States. Will the rule affect you? If you plan an international flight, you’d better sharpen your e-skills because effective May 18, 2009, you must provide passenger information to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) using the eAPIS system.

The AOPA Air Safety Foundation’s latest course, Understanding eAPIS: A Pilot’s Guide to Online Customs Reporting, offers step-by-step guidance on using eAPIS, including helpful screen images to familiarize you with the look and feel of the system. The ASF course uses Microsoft Flight Simulator to provide a realistic view of arrival, departure, and diversion scenarios. And, the frequently asked questions section should provide ample information for you to tackle the e-forms easily.

Fire up your PC and take the course. Then log in to eAPIS before your next flight across the border and remember to submit information at least 60 minutes before departure. It cannot be submitted by telephone. And failure to comply can severely hurt your pocketbook with fines for a first offense at $5,000 and subsequent infractions at $10,000 each.

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire

If you think flames in the cockpit will be your first indication of a fire, you’re wrong. Smoke or a burning odor might be the first sign of big trouble lurking, an emergency that can turn tragic.

July 17, 2000: A Beech 58 Baron crashed in a lake near Hernando, Mississippi, after the pilot radioed ATC he had an electrical fire. Witnesses reported smoke or what was described as “vapor trail” or “dust” trailing the airplane before it impacted the water. The NTSB determined the probable cause to be arcing of an electrical wire behind the instrument panel and the associated cracking of fuel and oil lines. Also causal was the pilot’s inappropriate remedial action not in accordance with the emergency checklist. The airplane was destroyed and the commercial-rated pilot, the sole occupant, was killed.

August 11, 2008: An in-flight fire substantially damaged an amateur-built Lancair IV-P shortly after takeoff from Stafford Regional Airport (RMN) in Virginia. Smoke appeared in the cockpit about 12 miles after departure, and the pilot elected to return for landing. The pilot and his passenger were uninjured.

June 27, 1997: A cabin fire substantially damaged a Beech F33A Bonanza during initial climb following departure from Monroe Regional Airport (MLU) in Louisiana. The pilot noticed an odor similar to an electrical burnout, but he detected no onboard problems and decided the smell came from outside. Approximately 45 seconds later a flame ignited from behind the fuel selector valve. The NTSB determined the probable cause to be an electrical short, which burned a hole in a fuel line, and subsequent fire from the burning fuel. The pilot, the sole occupant, was not injured.

ASF’s new In-Flight Electrical Fires Safety Brief helps you mitigate the risks. Recognize the culprits; know what to do. In-flight electrical fires can happen at any time and spell great danger—even a fatal outcome—if not dealt with immediately (see “ Safety Pilot Landmark Accidents: Something’s Burning,” AOPA Pilot, May 2009).


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.

Commercial lease issue

Florida: Earlier this year, the owner of a glider training and rental business at the Homestead, Florida, airport got an unpleasant surprise: His updated lease agreement included a requirement to maintain a $2 million liability policy for “hazardous fluids” (e.g., avgas). The problem? His business didn’t sell or store fuel, and maintaining such a policy would cost $20,000 per year. Unaltered, the requirement would force him to shut down, likely ending 50 years of soaring in the area, leaving pilots without a source for glider tows, training, or rental.

ASN volunteer Stuart Grant—an avid glider pilot—contacted AOPA. Then he moved forward locally, spreading the word with area pilots and working with airport officials in an attempt to learn more about the origins of the requirement. Meanwhile, AOPA staff researched the issue and found that there was no federal or state requirement for the glider business to carry such a policy.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough to resolve the issue: Even when bound by federal grant assurances, individual airports have broad discretion to set minimum standards for commercial operators, so long as they are not deemed unreasonable or discriminatory by the FAA (which can be reluctant to get involved in such disputes).

In the end, a compromise solution was reached. Although not willing to drop the insurance requirement entirely, the airport authority agreed to reduce the amount to $500,000. The corresponding premium decrease was enough to allow the glider operator to stay at the airport.

ASN volunteers are not expected to act as advocates for businesses. However in this case the possible loss posed a threat to the airport’s health. By promptly contacting AOPA, Grant set in motion a coordinated approach in which the association worked the issue from a high level while providing direction for his local efforts. “The lesson I’ve learned,” he says, “is that it’s really about working with the local people. It raised awareness for a lot of different local agencies and politicians and improved communication.”

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Airport lease terms aren’t written in stone: Negotiation is often an option. Also remember that it’s helpful to communicate the real-world impact of new requirements to local officials.

Volunteer Spotlight

Connecticut: Woody Allen once said that 80 percent of success is showing up. When it comes to saving airports, though, the most important part is often getting others to show up.

ASN volunteer Neal Witkin can testify to that. A lifelong aviation enthusiast, Witkin watched apprehensively as his home airport (privately owned Robertson Field in Plainville, Connecticut) reached a critical juncture: Its owner was ready to sell. Fortunately, the owner also wanted the airport to stay open, and approached town officials about the possibility of a purchase. That led to a feasibility study, which determined that—with the federal and state governments together willing to shoulder almost 99 percent of the $7.7 million cost—purchasing the airport was a viable option. There was still a major hurdle, however: Voters would have to approve the purchase in a special referendum.

To give them a chance to see the airport firsthand, an open house was scheduled prior to the vote. That’s where Witkin stepped in, recognizing it as a “one-shot chance to show what a local airport was all about.” Despite being relatively new to his position as an ASN volunteer, he immediately launched an all-out effort to educate a skeptical public about the value of Robertson Field. Using information from AOPA resources, he answered questions at town meetings, spoke to local civic clubs, and encouraged aviation businesses and other groups to have a presence at the open house. In the meantime, AOPA put its weight behind the effort with a visit from the Let’s Go Flying Cirrus SR22 sweepstakes airplane, an ad campaign in the local newspaper, and a mailing to registered voters.

The result: More than 2,000 people attended the open house, and a few days later voters approved the purchase of the airport by a margin of nearly two-to-one.

All in all, it was a case study in effective cooperation and public relations “on the fly,” but it’s worth noting that such last-minute action isn’t ideal. If possible, it’s best to get involved early and work to educate the community about the value of GA before there’s an issue.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: An open house is a great way to help the public understand the value of your airport. To learn more, check out AOPA’s Complete Guide to Holding an Airport Open House.


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