AOPA President Craig Fuller recently met with a group of Democratic governors in Philadelphia to encourage the leaders to invest in their states’ aviation infrastructure. The governors came together from as far west as Montana and as far east as New Hampshire to discuss critical infrastructure investment, the importance of small airports, and the role of states in supporting the national air transportation system.
“The airports that dot the countryside from coast to coast in America are not just isolated fields,” Fuller said, explaining afterward why he reached out to governors to help support general aviation. “Each one is part of a national network, and together they add up to the world’s best aviation system. By investing in airports and other aviation infrastructure at the state level, governors can do their part to make sure the air transportation system continues to serve Americans in communities of all sizes, in their states and beyond.”
While many airports receive grants from the federal government for maintenance and infrastructure improvements, states play an important role in matching those grants and making their own investments. Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell, who participated in the forum, said that he is committed to investing in his state’s GA assets.
“General aviation airports are a vital component of Pennsylvania’s transportation infrastructure,” Rendell said. “These important assets help attract new business and create jobs. We will continue to make smart infrastructure investments necessary to increase economic vitality and facilitate the more than $12 billion in state revenue the aviation industry yields each year. By investing in our aviation assets we can help sustain our communities and retain jobs across Pennsylvania.”
Investing in GA helps ensure people in all parts of the country have access to airports and the services they provide. Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who also participated in the discussion, said GA airports are an important asset to his state.
“Maryland’s general aviation airports provide convenient, efficient access to the world for our residents and businesses,” O’Malley said. “Our citizens depend on those airports for the facilities they provide for public safety, Medevac flights, point-to-point personal transportation, and greater economic opportunity directly to their community.”
More than 100 members of the U.S. House of Representatives urged President Barack Obama to reject user fees as a way to fund the FAA, and instead retain the efficient fuel excise and ticket taxes currently used to fund the Airport and Airway Trust Fund. In supporting documents sent to Congress with the fiscal year 2010 budget proposal, the White House indicated its intention to raise some $9 billion through “direct user charges” in the FY 2011 budget.
In the letter, 118 members—representing more than a quarter of the entire House of Representatives—told President Obama, “The House has opposed this approach in legislation to reauthorize the FAA in both the 110th and 111th Congresses. Therefore, proposing user fees to finance the FAA would be a non-starter in the House.”
“The message from the House of Representatives to the White House in this truly bipartisan letter is unmistakable, and we appreciate the members staking out their position so unequivocally,” said AOPA President Craig Fuller. “They have heard not only general aviation’s concerns, but also the assurances of both the Government Accountability Office and the Department of Transportation’s Inspector General that the current funding mechanism is more than adequate to pay for both day-to-day operations and development of NextGen [the Next Generation Air Transportation System].”
The FAA must take advantage of existing technologies, continue to work with stakeholders, and act quickly to establish the equipment and procedures necessary to modernize the air transportation system, AOPA President Craig Fuller said in recently submitted testimony to the House aviation subcommittee.
The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s aviation subcommittee heard from representatives of government and industry in a hearing to review the recommendations in a NextGen air transportation system task force report. In his submitted testimony, Fuller emphasized the importance of working together on air traffic control modernization, embracing new technology through a building-block approach, and expanding surveillance services for general aviation.
“In order to work, NextGen will require the implementation of new technology, both in terms of cockpit equipage and infrastructure,” Fuller wrote. “General aviation pilots have always been quick to adopt new technology, particularly when the safety and utility of that technology is evident.”
After some of its recent general aviation security proposals were met with opposition from pilots and legislators, the Transportation Security Administration is reaching out to industry groups to better understand concerns of the GA community.
AOPA and other industry organizations participated in a research focus group designed to help the TSA understand the GA community and its perspective on security issues. The TSA has hired a firm to host this and other focus groups to provide recommendations for improving the agency’s relationship with the GA community.
The group discussed methods of bridging the gap between the TSA and GA, including AOPA’s Airport Watch and the TSA’s GA Secure hotline. With Airport Watch the aviation community serves as the eyes and ears of airports, and pilots can call the hotline (866/GA-SECURE) to report suspicious activity.
More focus groups are planned as part of the TSA’s outreach campaign, and AOPA will continue to provide knowledge and background to ensure the campaign results in security policies that work for GA.
Thanks to the FAA’s willingness to consider industry input early in the airworthiness directive process, AOPA was able to gather data and work with the agency to prevent an AD that would have affected more than half of the GA fleet.
The issue centers around float-type carburetors on 127,000 aircraft. During the past two decades, float-type carburetors have been a contributing or causal factor in accidents. Because of that, the FAA issued an airworthiness concern sheet earlier this year addressing that issue and officially starting the AD process.
Through data collected by the AOPA Air Safety Foundation, AOPA was able to show that while float-type carburetors were a contributing or causal factor, the problems with the carburetors that caused those accidents were not the same. For example, in some cases the wrong float-type carburetor was installed on the engine; in others, it was a gasket problem.
Because of AOPA’s research, the FAA has instead issued a special airworthiness information bulletin (SAIB) that alerts pilots of the potential hazards associated with float-type carburetors. The FAA recommends that pilots examine the engine area for fuel leaks during preflight; watch out for carburetor flooding during engine start; monitor fuel consumption; and be vigilant of difficulty shutting down the engine when the mixture is pulled to idle cutoff.
A North Las Vegas stakeholder group of aviation officials, pilots, and community residents formed by Nevada Senate Joint Resolution 3 submitted 13 recommendations to the state legislature in an effort to increase safety at North Las Vegas Airport. AOPA worked with SJR3 sponsors State Sen. Steven A. Horsford and Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick to turn the resolution from a call for a ban on experimental and “high risk” flights at the airport to one encouraging aviation stakeholders to work together to ensure safety. The recommendations call for increased safety education outreach and training for pilots and for laws preventing further residential and commercial encroachment around the airport.
AOPA Executive Vice President of Communications Karen Gebhart flew to Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport to recognize pilots’ work to grow activity at the airport. She also presented Mid-Ohio Valley Aviation Association (MOVAA) President Jim Bennon, who was recently appointed as the AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer for the airport, with a volunteer welcome kit. Bennon has spearheaded an effort to re-energize the MOVAA, which has grown to about 100 pilots who are interested in supporting GA in the region.
A proposed wind farm within two miles of two Ohio public-use airports would pose a hazard for inbound pilots, AOPA recently told the Ohio Power Siting Board. The Ohio state aviation office also has advised the board against allowing this project to proceed. “By placing obstructions so close to airports, the Buckeye Wind Project would raise an instrument approach 300 feet and introduce a hazard to the airspace,” said AOPA Airport Support Network Director Jesse Romo.
AOPA is working with local pilots to ensure Arkansas airports continue to thrive and encourage economic development throughout the state. On a recent visit to Arkansas airports, AOPA Director of Advocacy Joey Colleran addressed pilots about AOPA’s efforts to promote general aviation and support airports around the country. At Saline County Regional Airport, where Colleran hosted a meeting and breakfast for local pilots, officials are adding safety improvements and planning to expand services.
Local allies working with AOPA can play a vital role in successfully protecting aviation, and AOPA Aviation Summit provided a perfect opportunity to establish a better working relationship with those at the state level. AOPA’s airports and state advocacy team met with a group of state aviation association representatives from around the country to discuss opportunities to enhance cooperation within the aviation community. AOPA President Craig Fuller has emphasized the importance of building a coalition of general aviation advocates at the national and local levels. During the meeting, state leaders agreed to meet with AOPA at national events, and the association pledged to meet with the state officials while traveling in their areas.
It’s a terrible statistic: Hundreds of runway incursions occur every year, and unfortunately, most are caused by general aviation pilots. That’s why the AOPA Air Safety Foundation has stepped up to the plate and completely redesigned and expanded its acclaimed Runway Safety online course. Produced with the support of the FAA Office of Runway Safety, the course provides best airport operation practices every pilot should incorporate in their flight plan—whether at home base or an unfamiliar airport with a complex layout.
For example, Runway Safety identifies confusing airport signs, pavement markings, and lighting including night versus daytime views. Chock full of ATC communication and sensible cockpit procedures tips, the course includes everything you need to know to get to and from the runway safely at towered and nontowered fields. And using the latest Flash animation technology, Runway Safety presents engaging interactive exercises and games to bolster your just-earned knowledge.
Ever shrugged off a close call while taxiing or inadvertently crossed the hold-short line while programming the GPS? Then it’s time you pay attention to several gripping video case studies re-creating well-known runway incidents and accidents—you’ll come away with a newfound respect for cautious runway operations.
Don’t wait until you are caught off guard and directed to call the tower—take Runway Safety , and avoid an incident that could turn into an accident!
FREE AOPA ASF
|January 11||Reno, NV|
|January 11||Mesa, AZ|
|January 12||Sacramento, CA|
|January 12||Tucson, AZ|
|January 13||Milpitas, CA|
|January 14||Santa Rosa, CA|
|January 20||Austin, TX|
|January 25||Fort Worth, TX|
|January 25||San Diego, CA|
|January 26||Costa Mesa, CA|
|January 26||W. Houston, TX|
|January 27||Ontario, CA|
|January 27||San Antonio, TX|
|January 28||Burbank, CA|
|These programs are made possible by gifts from individual pilot donors to the AOPA Air Safety Foundation. Seminar dates are tentative. For final dates, please visit the Web site.|
Situational awareness is critical in avoiding incursions and collisions. But it’s not just pilots who need to be vigilant.
On November 17, 2006, a Columbia 400 (now Cessna 400) collided with an aircraft tug at Somerset Airport in Somerville, New Jersey. The pilot, a sales demo pilot and CFI, flew from the right seat and made all the radio calls during the 30-minute sales demonstration flight. The prospective customer, a student pilot, was in the left seat. The pilot did not notice the airplane in tow until the nose wheel touched down. Both he and the student pilot applied brakes and tried to steer behind the towed airplane.
The student pilot flew a normal left-hand pattern, with the instructor assisting. He did not see anything on the runway during final approach and flare. When the nosewheel touched down he saw the towed airplane’s nose to the right and the tail to the left of the runway.
The tug driver stated he did not see any aircraft when he was about to tow the airplane across the runway. However, he saw a “small plane landing out of nowhere” as he crossed the runway. He was unable to clear the runway and jumped off the tug. The Columbia impacted the tail of the towed airplane.
According to the pilots, the tug driver wore hearing protection and did not carry a radio when the collision occurred. A witness flying in the traffic pattern heard the Columbia’s radio transmission. He did not locate the airplane at first, but then saw it on short final. He subsequently reiterated only recalling the Columbia’s initial position report. He also mentioned the airport was relatively quiet, with little traffic.
The National Transportation Safety Board determined the accident’s probable cause to be the tug driver’s inadequate lookout for landing traffic before crossing the runway. The Columbia was substantially damaged, but luckily no one was injured.
Safety Brief: Combating Carb Ice
Carburetor ice has contributed to more than 200 accidents and 13 fatalities in less than a decade. If your airplane’s engine is susceptible, be aware of carb icing’s
“danger zone.” Be prepared: Arm yourself with ASF’s newest Safety Brief.
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.
National: On November 6, 2009, members of AOPA’s airport team met with nearly 50 ASN volunteers at the association’s annual Aviation Summit in Tampa. Staff members discussed common issues encountered by volunteers and provided advice on how to address threats.
ASN Director Jesse Romo urged volunteers to engage with their communities, get to know local officials, and take advantage of the many resources available to them though AOPA and state aviation offices. “You don’t have to be the one who knows everything,” he said. “Just know the people who do, and then leverage your resources.”
Romo also acknowledged the vital service many volunteers provide for their airports, and encouraged them to remember that they don’t always have to “fly solo”—other volunteers face many of the same issues, and they can be a great source of advice and assistance. As an example of such shared issues, Romo pointed to the thousands of new cellular towers, wind turbines, and buildings proposed every year, many of which pose a threat to safe airport operations. Following his lead, AOPA Manager of Airport Policy John Collins explained how to receive notifications when builders file paperwork for proposed obstructions, and noted that volunteers are often best positioned to determine whether construction will lead to problems.
Volunteers are encouraged to engage in positive public relations and be familiar with the economic contributions of their airports, as well as the critical services they make possible. Building relationships with airport neighbors is one of the best things a volunteer can do, Romo said. “Make your airport a part of the community—not just located in one.”
California: Tip O’Neill’s famous dictum that “all politics is local” holds true for airport issues. Although they face broadly similar challenges, airports come with their own unique circumstances, personalities, and local concerns.
In the case of the Palo Alto, California, airport (PAO), those concerns were recently centered on grass clippings, leftover food, and sewer sludge—in other words, compost. Early last year, the city appointed a task force to search out a location for a large new composting operation, and after an extended search they found the perfect spot, or so it seemed. Even though four acres of undeveloped airport property appeared to be an ideal location, the group didn’t bother to consult airport users before moving forward, so it was an unwelcome surprise to ASN volunteer Bob Lenox and other pilots when news broke that the plan would be put before the city council in just a few days.
Fortunately, that was enough time to mount a defense. In his many years at the field, Lenox—a former president of the local airport association, as well as a member of the ASN board of advisors—has helped build a solid network of airport backers, and they were able to mobilize quickly to voice their concerns before the city council. Faced with conflicting opinions, the council asked the composting group to work with airport users to arrive at a solution. As that process got under way, Lenox contacted AOPA staff, who pointed him toward a helpful advisory circular on hazardous wildlife attractions, and persuaded the FAA Airport District Office to send the city a letter outlining the main arguments against the site (incompatible land use and interference with airport operations).
Meanwhile, efforts at reconciliation met with little success, and the stance of the task force remained largely unchanged. “They basically went to the city council and said ‘Our recommendation stands, and we’ll redesign the airport for you,’” says Lenox.
Fortunately, that didn’t fly. The council voted 6 to 3 against the proposed location, and stipulated that future proposals for airport land would only be considered if they did not impact operations or pose a threat to the financial well-being of the field. It was a victory for the airport, one that showed the value of quick action and cooperation. “This was a team effort,” Lenox says. “It’s easier to respond in a crisis when you have a contact list ready to go ahead of time.”
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Keep a careful eye out for issues that could impact your airport, be prepared to act quickly, and keep AOPA up to date on any developments.
Every pilot knows that having a current medical certificate is often essential to their ability to fly, and with so much hinging on a successful application the process can be quite intimidating. The good news is that you don’t have to go it alone. AOPA has developed an exciting new program, the AOPA Medical Services Program, which will provide you with support from our medical certification specialists who are in regular contact with the FAA Aerospace Medical Certification Division. These specialists will act as your advocate and offer a thorough review of your complete medical record package before you send the file to the FAA. Our specialists will even check the status of your application and provide you updates on its progress.
You will also benefit from WorldDoc, a comprehensive health Web site where you’ll find personalized risk assessments for pilots, a pharmacy finder, details on specific medical conditions, and a database of FAA-allowed medications. The program also provides you with access to HealthVault, a secure online medical record storage program that allows you to store your medical records in one convenient place. HealthVault enables you to access and manage your records anytime from anyplace. You can even share your records with your health care providers.
Members also enjoy a free prescription drug discount card offering potential savings of 15 percent to 60 percent for you and your family. Comprehensive Level enrollment in the AOPA Medical Services Program is only $99 and will give you full access to all the benefits and services offered by the program. You can also enroll at the Essential Level for $37 and receive the same valuable benefits of the Comprehensive Level, with the exception of the medical records review service. Let AOPA help keep you flying; enroll in the AOPA Medical Services Program today.