Responding to member concerns, AOPA and the Experimental Aircraft Association will request an exemption that would allow many pilots flying the most common single-engine aircraft recreationally to use a driver’s license and self-certification medical standard.
Some members have asked, “If a third class medical certificate, with its costs and burdens, isn’t necessary for pilots who fly small, single-engine aircraft for recreational purposes, why not request that it be eliminated?”
The FAA’s negative responses to past requests to modify the requirement for pilots to hold a third class medical certificate clearly demonstrate that doing away with it is a large leap that the agency is not ready to take. The industry has had success, however, in seeking incremental changes, such as allowing pilots under the age of 40 to obtain a third class medical certificate that expires 60 months after the date of examination instead of 36 months.
The FAA also had at one time considered allowing pilots flying for recreational purposes to fly without a medical. When the FAA proposed the recreational pilot certificate in the mid-1980s, an option for self-certification was included in the proposal; however, when the rule was implemented, the agency decided to require a third class medical certificate. AOPA’s proposal builds upon later action taken by the FAA to allow the driver’s license medical for sport pilots by extending the same privileges, with the addition of an educational course, to pilots flying recreationally, which is the next logical step.
Petitioning for an exemption also offers a potentially quicker process of FAA review than would a full rulemaking effort to abolish the third class medical certificate. And there is history to suggest that the chances for a positive outcome are greater: In recent years, the FAA granted exemptions from drug-testing requirements for pilots of charity sightseeing flights, and allowed training in some Beechcraft Bonanza aircraft equipped with throw-over yokes—exemptions later codified as rules.
With statistics indicating that medical incapacitation is virtually nonexistent as an accident cause among self-certified pilots of light sport aircraft, balloons, or gliders, the associations hope that the petition will prevail, strengthening the case for further self-certification.
The Coalition to Save Our GPS is seeking the immediate revocation of LightSquared’s ability to transmit in its upper band of the mobile satellite spectrum. The company’s proposed telecommunications network has become a bureaucratic battleground over signal interference with aviation navigation and other GPS users.
The coalition recently filed its request with the Federal Communications Commission, citing test evidence that it said shows that LightSquared could never be able to use the upper band for the terrestrial operations portion of its network. The FCC should issue a “prompt ruling” that forecloses the option of using the upper band, an action that would “also create a much more constructive and solutions-oriented process for completion of consideration of LightSquared’s proposed lower band operations,” the coalition said in a news release.
AOPA is a member of the multi-industry coalition that was formed to resolve the “serious threat” posed by the network to the reliability of GPS, described as a national utility used daily by millions of Americans. Those users include “federal agencies, state and local governments, first responders, airlines, mariners, civil engineering, construction and surveying, agriculture, and everyday consumers in their cars and on handheld devices.”
Much of the opposition to LightSquared has focused on its plan to “repurpose” its allocated spectrum to accommodate ground-based signals. Tests ordered by the FCC as a condition of its January 2011 grant of a waiver for the terrestrial component of the network have shown that such use can overwhelm the much-lower-powered adjacent GPS transmissions.
In its filing, the coalition told the FCC that LightSquared has “offered no solution—because none exists—for resolving interference” from upper-band transmissions.
The FAA’s decision to begin charging for digital chart products and only distribute them to individuals and companies that have an agreement with the agency’s AeroNav Products branch beginning April 5, 2012, has sparked concern throughout the general aviation industry.
AOPA has been following the FAA’s plans and working with data providers to assess the potential impacts on the GA community.
“We are anxious to see the FAA’s proposal and will work to mitigate any impact on our members,” said Heidi Williams, AOPA senior director of airspace and modernization.
Congress has given the FAA authority to charge for its products in order to recoup investment costs associated with producing and distributing the materials. The agency has long charged for its paper products. When digital aviation products were introduced to the industry, the agency gave them away for free. However, with the explosive growth of the products’ use, the agency plans to apply its model for charging for paper products to its digital ones.
Pilots are concerned about how much they would have to pay to use digital products from providers who currently get the aeronautical information for free from the FAA. But Congress has set some boundaries: The FAA isn’t allowed to turn a profit on its products.
Debt-reduction proposals that would hike fees on all aviation “would lead to significant job loss across all sectors of the industry and the nation,” a coalition of nearly 30 aviation organizations recently told Congress.
AOPA and organizations representing all aspects of aviation urged Congress to reject two proposals that would add significant cost to users of the National Airspace System: a $100-per-flight departure fee, and an increase in the passenger security fee to $5 per one-way trip in 2012 and $7.50 by 2017. The White House proposed the two charges, and the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction is now considering them.
AOPA has long maintained that the current system of supporting the aviation system with per-gallon fuel charges works and that per-flight fees would put an unnecessary burden on operators while creating a costly new government bureaucracy.
At a new website, visitors can urge Congress to reject punitive taxes and fees on aviation and, at the same time, “save American jobs and air service to their communities,” the groups said.
Medical reinstated within two weeks
Gould “Stretch” Ryder is director of operations for Ventura Air Services Inc. He described his job this way: “I’m a professional pilot who flies helicopters in and out of Manhattan and throughout the Northeast Corridor.” He’s belonged to AOPA since 1973 in an effort to support AOPA’s lobbying efforts on behalf of general aviation.
Although the need has never arisen, a few years back, Ryder enrolled in AOPA’s Legal Services Plan. “I believe that anyone who is flying should have this legal service,” he said. He believes the Legal Services Plan is the best investment to prepare for any number of legal situations, and since he is flying daily in some of the most complex airspace in the country, it is a must. Ryder said he’s witnessed some colleagues encounter flying issues, and AOPA’s panel attorneys defended them.
A recent medical issue provided an occasion for Ryder to take advantage of another AOPA member service: AOPA’s Medical Services Plan. A diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes required a waiver that called for periodic medical exams. That waiver also required him to report any medical situations that could affect his flying. He developed kidney stones, grounded himself, and reported it to the FAA. Stretch was told by the FAA that it could take up to three months to reinstate his medical. He contacted an industry consultant who said he could help him for about $1,000.
That’s when he remembered AOPA’s Medical Services Plan.
For only $99, AOPA’s medical services team got his information, according to Ryder, “to the right people with the right forms, in the best way.” He went on to say, “AOPA knew how to work with the meticulous FAA. For example, they told me to put my name and case number on every faxed page of my medical records.”
Within two weeks, Ryder was flying again. “AOPA got me my medical back for a lot less time and a lot less money,” he said. AOPA’s Medical Services Plan is an option available to all members who are experiencing difficulty with their FAA medicals. What’s more, membership entitles you to access resources on maintaining good health. For information on how to enroll in this affordable program that just may keep you flying, see the website.
Did you know the general aviation fatal accident rate is not dropping? That’s why the Air Safety Institute is calling on you to combat this alarming trend. And what better way to do this than participating in ASI’s latest safety seminar, “Wanted: Alive!”
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.
Joining the ranks of ASI’s well-known programs that are packed with exciting and educative content—including interactive online courses, accident case studies, real pilot stories, and webinars—“Wanted: Alive” explores why despite advancements in technology designed to keep general aviation safer, pilots continue to find themselves in the same accident-causing scenarios that have plagued GA for years
Participate in the safety conversation as the Air Safety Institute discusses the top categories of fatal pilot-related crashes, and digs a little deeper into why those are still happening.
And the take-away: You’ll have a chance to learn from those mistakes.
Accident prevention is fundamental to improved safety: Please mark your calendar and register for the free seminar held in a location near you. See the website for information.
Do you ever wonder what ATC thinks when you need to deviate because of weather (or for any other reason)? Hear the controller’s viewpoint in a short video. Visit the site for additional answers to common ATC questions.
You may be young at heart, but time does march on and eventually the question arises whether you should be flying the same way you did when you were younger. Aging Gracefully—Flying Safely , ASI’s latest interactive course, examines how we can help ourselves by evaluating our mental and physical abilities—as well as learning techniques to improve both.
Do you worry about hearing and copying ATC clearances when in busy airspace? Or are you having trouble reading the chart at night in a dimly lit cockpit? What about your physique—can you still fly those long trips without getting fatigued or muscle cramps?
To help you understand the issues that affect older pilots, and how to best deal with them, ASI contacted several pilots who have worked successfully through the process of flying and understanding how the aging process is affecting them. You can hear their interviews and techniques for coping with age-related issues in the course.
Regardless of your age, delve in, download several handy exercise tips, and take a look at what you can do to enjoy flying as you get older.
One development is adjacent to and underneath a highly used reporting point for aircraft arriving at the airport.
The City of Scottsdale is considering three residential developments that would bracket its airport. Local pilots and airport supporters are concerned that the developments will have a negative impact on the busy airport, even though attorneys for the developer state that the developer is going beyond requirements to ensure that the airport and the developments are compatible. One development is adjacent to and underneath a highly used reporting point for aircraft arriving at the airport. AOPA ASN volunteer Art Rosen voiced opposition to the developments.
Several tenants have decided to move.
Local tenants at Saline County Regional Airport had a bombshell dropped on them when they received new leases for their tenancy. While airport sponsors issuing new leases is nothing new, receiving your new lease two days before it’s scheduled to be returned to the airport and including a rental increase might seem like an April Fool’s joke—but it wasn’t. AOPA’s ASN volunteer Bobby Waymire is in the middle of the issue, attending airport commission meetings in an attempt to mitigate local aviation concerns. Several tenants have decided to move to an alternate airport.
A small GA airport in north-central Ohio, Norwalk-Huron County, is struggling for survival in a tough economy and amid competing land interests. With a county commission that is reluctant to spend money on necessary safety and airport improvement projects—even rejecting a donation of matching funds for an FAA grant—and a neighboring drag strip’s annual requests to utilize the runway as an egress avenue for a handful of major events each year, supporters of Norwalk-Huron County Airport valiantly continue to raise public awareness of the economic value and community benefit of the airport. Local agriculture depends on the airport as a staging ground for aerial applicators and several local businesses use the airport as a means of increasing their reach and ability to quickly conduct business statewide.
There is a small but fierce opposition to any runway and aircraft parking ramp expansion.
A former non-hub commercial service airport in North Carolina’s Sandhill region and surrounded by golf courses and communities, Moore County Airport has several challenges. First it is preparing to host the men’s and women’s PGA Tournaments in 2014 and, second, it is fighting a renewed proposal for an apartment complex under the crosswind-to-downwind turn for Runway 23. The adjacent community college supports the apartment complex, and there is a small but fierce opposition to any runway and aircraft parking ramp expansion. The apartment proposal was withdrawn in April but has recently reappeared in a modified but still incompatible form. Recent land purchases necessary to ensure appropriate safety zones are being miscategorized as land grabs for expansion under eminent domain. Local airport supporters are countering the misinformation at various local government meetings and in the media. AOPA has weighed in on the encroachment concerns with a letter to the city council.
AOPA continues to press Cincinnati to honor its commitment to GA.
Owned by the city of Cincinnati, Blue Ash Airport sits squarely in the center of the city of Blue Ash. FAA grant assurances expired at the airport years ago, and there has been an ongoing struggle to determine its future viability. Five years ago, Cincinnati sold roughly half of the airport to Blue Ash for use as a city park facility. As part of that deal, Cincinnati agreed (and committed to the aviation industry) that the airport would be reconfigured to the south side of the property and continue to operate as a GA airport. A new master plan has been submitted to the FAA. However, to date, Cincinnati has made no effort to actually begin construction. Under terms of the park land sale to Blue Ash, the project is to be completed by August. AOPA continues to press Cincinnati to honor its commitment to GA.
“AOPA will continue to vigorously protect our nation’s GA airports—large and small.” — Greg Pecoraro, vice president airports and state advocacy
Facing pressure from economic factors, Sutter County Airport’s donation from the county general fund has increased over the years. Several years ago, the airport generated a surplus of $180,000 each year. That surplus has evaporated with the airport no longer enjoying self-sufficiency. The sponsor is looking to increase revenues at the airport, and this could lead to increases in rates and charges. In this economic downturn, doing so could force tenants to seek alternative facilities, which would be counterproductive and cause additional losses of income to the airport.
Need information on activities at your local airport? Have an issue you’d like AOPA’s advice on? Want more information on protecting and preserving airports? Contact AOPA at [email protected] or 800-872-2672.
AOPA’s Airport Support Network volunteers are engaged in their airport communities in a lot of different ways. One ASN volunteer took a big step and went well beyond the airport to take on a county-wide leadership role. Al Ambrosini, volunteer at Joseph A. Hardy Connellsville Airport (VVS) in Connellsville, Pennsylvania, has had a successful career as an engineer, manager, and small business owner. A longtime pilot, he has been the ASN volunteer since 1998 and had been very involved with his local community. In 2011, Ambrosini decided to run for Fayette County commissioner in southwest Pennsylvania.
Although the airport was not one of the major issues in the campaign, Ambrosini proudly included his aviation credentials and pilot community support as part of his campaign. He was the top vote getter in the primary and went on to lead the polls in the general election as well.
Not everyone has the opportunity to be a candidate for local office. However encouraging aviation-friendly candidates or even fellow pilots to be candidates is a great way to promote the value of aviation to your community and help protect your airport. As this year’s elections approach, take a look at AOPA’s Guide to Hosting a Candidate Forum as a tool to increase the visibility of your community airport.
For more information on learning how to volunteer for AOPA, visit AOPA Online.