The House voted 223-196 to approve a bill that would reauthorize the FAA’s operations and programs for four years at an overall funding level of $59.7 billion. The House bill essentially rolls back FAA spending authorization to 2008 levels, but requires the FAA administrator to identify significant cost savings without cutting activities critical to safety.
The bill streamlines processes and provides funding for priority NextGen air traffic control modernization projects planned in the next four years. It sets deadlines and establishes metrics for evaluating progress.
AOPA successfully advocated several provisions being modified or added that protect pilots’ freedom to fly without undue regulatory or monetary burdens. The association was successful in obtaining language that will ensure that the FAA administrator cannot complete an Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) “In” equipage rulemaking proceeding or issue an interim or final rule until a chief NextGen officer verifies that the necessary ground infrastructure is installed and functioning properly, certification standards have been approved, and appropriate operational platforms interact safely and efficiently.
In congressional testimony earlier this year, AOPA President Craig Fuller emphasized the importance of providing the FAA with the planning assurances provided by long-term reauthorization for modernization projects such as NextGen. “A four-year FAA reauthorization bill and the certainty it provides are vital for federal investments in safety, modernizing the air traffic control system, FAA operations, airport improvements, and aviation research efforts,” he said at a February hearing of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. He urged Congress to continue to maintain and improve the nation’s airport infrastructure—assuring that the full benefits of NextGen can be realized.
AOPA joined with other aviation stakeholders to defeat an amendment that would have imposed a nighttime ban on all aircraft operations at the Bob Hope and Van Nuys airports in Southern California.
AOPA worked with key members of Congress to ensure that the bill authorizes the FAA to conduct research and development of an unleaded aviation fuel for piston aircraft, and directs the FAA to collaborate with industry groups representing aviation consumers, manufacturers, fuel producers and distributors, and other federal agencies.
“This is an important issue to our members which received added traction when our House GA Caucus co-chairs, representatives Sam Graves [R-Mo.] and John Barrow [D-Ga.], circulated a letter encouraging the inclusion of the provision,” said AOPA Vice President of Legislative Affairs Lorraine Howerton.
AOPA joined with other aviation stakeholders to defeat an amendment that would have imposed a nighttime ban on all aircraft operations at the Bob Hope and Van Nuys airports in Southern California. That amendment would have had a devastating impact on local businesses as well as widespread adverse impacts on aviation.
The bill authorizes $3.1 billion in Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funding for fiscal year 2011, and $3 billion per year from fiscal years 2012 to 2014. Although that decreases funding from current levels, general aviation airports will still receive 20 percent of total AIP funds.
Other provisions favorable to general aviation include language AOPA advocated that would allow the continued inspection of aircraft at foreign repair stations. Another provision supported by AOPA protects the privacy of aircraft owners or operators by preserving the Block Aircraft Registration Request program, and directs the FAA to allow aircraft owners and operators to opt out of having their flight information published by flight-tracking services. AOPA also supported an amendment that would improve FAA rulemaking activities by requiring the FAA to recognize different segments of the aviation industry when applying regulatory standards, and only enact regulations after concluding that the costs are justified by the benefits.
Previously, the Senate voted 87-8 to approve a two-year, $34.5 billion reauthorization bill. While there are many similarities between the two bills, there are also differences that a conference committee must address before the bill can be presented to the president for his signature.
“We are optimistic that the House and Senate are very close to completing work on this much-needed bill, and we will continue to be vigilant in ensuring that general aviation interests are included,” Howerton said.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) failed to balance a satellite network operator's claim of public interest against the "massive problems" that expansion of its network could cause for the aviation industry and other GPS users.
AOPA, working with a multi-industry coalition, is urging the FCC to reverse a waiver it granted to communications network operator LightSquared to "repurpose" a portion of the satellite spectrum adjacent to that used by GPS. By granting the waiver, the FCC failed to give proper weight to the "substantial evidence" in the record that the network expansion—with its 40,000 required ground stations—could cause "significant desensitization" of GPS receivers "and massive problems that issue would create for the aviation industry," AOPA said.
Concern has been growing about the threat to GPS in the aviation community and other industries since LightSquared applied for the waiver. AOPA announced recently that it has joined the Coalition to Save Our GPS, whose goal is to protect the national utility that GPS represents against the threat of signal degradation or interference. Federal officials have also expressed concerns about the impact on GPS, as well as the working group set up by the FCC.
AOPA is urging the FAA to reconsider plans to curtail pilots' use of a program that shields information about their flights from public view. National security and personal privacy will suffer if the FAA proceeds with its plan to limit access to the Block Aircraft Registration Request (BARR) program, said AOPA Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Melissa Rudinger.
"The proposed changes are dangerous, invasive, and noncompetitive, and the implications are far reaching," she said.
The FAA had solicited comments on its proposal to restrict BARR use to operators who can submit written certification of a "valid security concern"—defined as "a verifiable threat to person, property, or company, including a threat of death, kidnapping, or serious bodily harm against an individual, a recent history of violent terrorist activity in the geographic area in which the transportation is provided, or a threat against a company."
Currently, operators with privacy or security concerns can block flight information from being made available to several vendors via Aircraft Situation Display to Industry (ASDI) data, provided by the FAA.
Summer is nearly here and for many pilots that means less time on the ground and more time in the air. Unfortunately, in today's climate for general aviation, every flight you take could put you at risk of violating any one of at least 700 relevant federal aviation regulations with which pilots are required to comply.
Fortunately, as the thousands of AOPA members enrolled in the Legal Services Plan already know, for as little as $33 per year you can enjoy peace of mind every time you fly, knowing that if the FAA initiates an enforcement action against you, you'll have the best legal advice and support available anywhere. Enroll today.
As a flight instructor you can be held liable for incidents involving your students, even if you weren't on board the aircraft at the time. This startling fact makes having the right insurance policy a necessity.
The AOPA Insurance Agency understands that your needs as a CFI are unique and without the right policy you could be putting your livelihood on the line. That's why, when you get your CFI nonowned policy through the AOPA Insurance Agency, you can rest assured that you are personally protected during flight instruction. And unlike many other policies that have tricky sublimits that can restrict coverage for your spouse, children, and other family members, a CFI liability nonowned policy through the AOPA Insurance Agency offers family coverage without sublimits.
You'll even be provided with defense coverage (legal fees) should the need arise. Plus, your coverage is based on when the claim is made, not when the incident occurred—so your policy will cover you for any claims made during the policy period, even if the incident happened prior to your coverage.
The AOPA Insurance Agency can also put money back in your pocket by offering a 5-percent AOPA member discount and a 10-percent discount at renewal if you have maintained a good flying record and have had no claims.
When it comes to your livelihood, don't take chances. Contact the AOPA Insurance Agency for your free quote at 800-622-AOPA or visit the website.
As with all AOPA-endorsed products, a portion of the revenue generated is returned to AOPA and reinvested to fund our efforts to maintain the freedom, safety, and affordability of general aviation.
The Los Angeles City Council recently passed a resolution to build support for legislative or administrative action to alter the departure path because of safety and air pollution concerns and close flight schools at Santa Monica Municipal Airport. AOPA weighed in with its opposition saying, that the airport has an "impressive safety record" along with operational limitations that mitigate noise, safety, and environmental concerns. "We are disappointed that the Los Angeles City Council has chosen the path of political grandstanding over an opportunity to engage in a serious discussion about resolving community concerns in a way that allows Santa Monica Airport to continue to serve legitimate aeronautical uses, as it is obligated to do," said Greg Pecoraro, AOPA vice president of airports and state advocacy. The resolution claims that the departure path for Santa Monica Airport intersects with those used at Los Angeles International Airport, creating delays in which jets at Santa Monica idle on the airport and "spew high concentrations of air emissions into neighboring West Los Angeles communities." It also cites safety concerns of having six flight schools at the airport, claiming that they "expose the densely populated local neighborhoods to potential safety hazards of pilot errors or inexperience in aircraft overhead." AOPA asked to take part in discussion regarding the future of the airport and its operations and encouraged the Los Angeles City Council to take some time to examine the airport's impact and value before taking any action. AOPA has come to the airport's defense before when the city tried to ban Category C and D jets and blocked efforts in the California legislature to require additional environmental studies aimed at fostering more operational restrictions.
In the wake of the Los Angeles City Council's decision to seek legislation to close flight schools at Santa Monica Municipal Airport and alter departure paths at the airport, AOPA President Craig Fuller met with the airport support group Friends of Santa Monica Airport. "Santa Monica and this group represent the hope for general aviation," Fuller told more than 100 group members at Santa Monica Aviation. "We will work with you, stand with you so that the airport will continue to function as is. When we fight hard, define clear objectives, and stand together, we will protect the freedom to fly." Fuller shared steps that the group can take to help build support for the airport in the local area. Involving opinion leaders and educating the public on the value of general aviation and the airport to Santa Monica and Southern California are critical, Fuller said.
1979: Santa Monica votes to ban jets larger than Category B-II from the airport.
1984: Santa Monica settles a federal lawsuit with the FAA, AOPA, and others resulting from the ban. As part of the settlement, the city agrees to keep the airport open and accessible through 2015.
2000: Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) first proposes reducing the length of Runway 03/21 to establish a full 1,000-foot RSA. The FAA responded, "A reduction of the runway length to 4,000 feet would restrict the ability of certain types of aircraft to operate at the airport and would be contrary to the city's commitment under the  agreement."
2005: City of Santa Monica negotiates new landing fees with the FAA to be imposed on transient aircraft. The city had tried to impose much higher fees in an attempt to discourage larger, louder aircraft. The FAA said that was unjustly discriminatory and prohibited by federal grant agreements.
2006/2007: Then-State Assemblyman Ted Lieu introduces state legislation in two consecutive sessions to require the monitoring of taxi and holding times of aircraft flying out of Santa Monica Airport for supposed environmental concerns. The legislation is voted down both times.
2007: The city of Santa Monica passed a resolution to shorten the runway by a total of 1,200 feet—600 feet at each end. The FAA urges the city to instead consider enhancing the runway's safety through the use of an engineered material arresting system (EMAS). The city rejects this proposal.
2008: Santa Monica City Council unanimously passes an ordinance banning Category C and D jets from Santa Monica Municipal.
2010: In response to an official repeal by the City of Santa Monica before the U.S. Court of Appeals, AOPA files a legal brief in support of the FAA position.
2011: Court upholds FAA position and
denies the city request for review.
2011: Los Angeles City Council passes a resolution April 20 to build support for legislative or administrative action to alter the departure path because of safety and air pollution concerns, and close flight schools at Santa Monica Municipal Airport. AOPA immediately responds.
Massachusetts pilot Steve Kahn can breathe a sigh of relief. After four years of fighting a nearly $26,000 tax bill from the Maine Revenue Service, the Supreme Judicial Court of Maine on April 26 vacated the ruling of a lower court, ordering the state tax assessor "to reverse all use tax and interest assessed" on Kahn. "It's a big relief and a huge vindication," Kahn told AOPA. "It's been four long years. I am only sorry that it wasn't a more decisive victory for the general aviation community. The court has left the door open to interpretation about how many days one can fly into the state before it becomes 'sufficiently substantial' from a taxing perspective."
AOPA is working on a more permanent solution in the state legislature. A Maine law enacted in 2007 allows the Maine Revenue Service to charge a use tax to nonresident aircraft owners who purchased their aircraft within the previous 12 months of their visits to the state; whose airplanes weigh less than 6,000 pounds; and were purchased in a state without a sales tax, or a sales tax less than Maine's 5 percent. AOPA is working with the state legislature to repeal the tax.
State Sen. Stan Gerzofsky, a Democrat from Brunswick, and the Senate's new president, Kevin Raye, a Republican, have filed two separate bills that would repeal the tax. AOPA has been in Maine working on the issue; AOPA Director of State Government Affairs Mark Kimberling testified in support of both bills before the legislature's Joint Standing Committee on Taxation in late April.
When local officials sought to expand Ann Arbor Municipal Airport (ARB) to improve the safety of operations, public opposition quickly began to surface. The proposed 800-foot extension and realignment of the runway intends to address elevated occurrences of runway overruns and to increase the air traffic control tower's visibility of airport surfaces. However, public discontent and misunderstanding of the proposed expansion began to threaten the airport's future.
To address these concerns, AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer Mark Perry quickly organized ARB's supporters to promote this Southeastern Michigan airport. In addition to his role as an AOPA ASN volunteer, Perry is also chairman of the Ann Arbor Airport Advisory Committee, which provides recommendations to the city council on all airport-related matters. In both roles, Perry was in an excellent position to inform decision makers, journalists, and airport opponents of the important role the airport plays in the local community. "Being engaged with city leadership, airport management, and the community is an absolute necessity when facing challenges at an airport," Perry said.
While the city council continues to debate the runway extension, Perry continues to advocate on behalf of the airport, its benefits to the community, and the important role it plays in the region. To learn how you can help protect and promote your local airport visit www.aopa.org/asn.
For more information on learning how to volunteer for AOPA, visit AOPA Online.
The Air Safety Institute (ASI), a division of the AOPA Foundation, is a nonprofit pilot education and safety organization serving all pilots—not just AOPA members—with free or low-cost education programs, while it examines safety data and conducts safety research. You've come to know these programs as award-winning interactive online safety courses, safety webinars and seminars, Flight Instructor Renewal Courses, safety quizzes, Real Pilot Stories, Accident Case Studies, the ASI accident database and analytical reports—the list goes on. But how does ASI fund this important work?
Enter AOPA's philanthropic arm, the AOPA Foundation. Through dedicated pilot philanthropists —and you can be one of them—the foundation is able to fund efforts to address these four key initiatives critical to the future of GA:
As you can see, keeping pilots safe while safeguarding the future of general aviation are paramount to the Foundation's cause. Why not make a tax-deductible charitable contribution in support of this effort? Any and all donations are welcome. You can even become a life member in AOPA.
Weather is the most critical and complex variable affecting your flying. An official weather briefing is indispensable to good flight planning, but can you read between the lines? Skillful interpretation of weather charts depicting frontal movements and associated weather patterns will help in effective preflight and in-flight decision making. Get a clear picture of what's going to affect your intended flight path with ASI's Weather Wise: Air Masses and Fronts online course (www.airsafetyinstitute.org/wxwisefronts). Take in the interactive scenes and visual cues, which explain what to expect when frontal boundaries collide. Tackle the subject before your next flight, and complete the course to qualify for AOPA Accident Forgiveness and the FAA Wings program.
Will you be able to integrate official reports and forecasts with what you can see outside? Download and print “ Weather Wise: Practical Tips and Tactical Tricks” to help you navigate weather and cope with changing flight conditions in the real world.