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AOPA Action

What AOPA is doing to keep you flying

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.


Odds are good to quash user fees in 2012, Fuller says

AOPA President Craig Fuller addressed a crowd of about 150 at a Pilot Town Hall meeting, held during the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring, Florida.

The first question Fuller fielded from the audience was about user fees.

What are the chances of stopping the latest push, an attendee wanted to know. The odds are good, Fuller said—this year, at least.

The White House is backing a $100-per-flight user fee for aviators using air traffic services, despite a petition that gathered nearly 9,000 signatures from opponents of the budget-balancing maneuver. AOPA is working to mobilize congressional opposition to a burden on GA that could compromise safety by discouraging pilots from utilizing flight following and other air traffic services.

Fuller said safety is among the arguments being marshaled against the latest threat to the nation’s freedom to fly. The FAA currently draws about two thirds of its funding from a tax on aviation fuel, a more equitable—and “progressive”—way for aviators to pay their share, Fuller said, noting that aircraft owners and operators pay according to the fuel they burn. While the remaining third of the FAA budget comes from general revenue, Fuller noted that all Americans, aviators or not, benefit from aviation. Air cargo, medical flights, public safety, and agricultural flights are just a few examples.

“The aviation community serves the nation, whether you’re flying on those airplanes or not,” Fuller said. AOPA is counting on its many friends in Congress to block the fees, and Fuller expects to succeed—this year, at least.

“I don’t believe in a national election year, that Congress will go for this,” Fuller said. “My bigger concern is next year.”

Whether President Barack Obama wins reelection, or a new administration begins in the White House, lawmakers will be seeking new revenue sources, and it will take the effort of all 400,000 AOPA members and staff to win the battle to come, he said. Fuller noted that AOPA has members in every congressional district in the country, and lawmakers pay attention to pilots who speak up.

“They know our size,” Fuller said. “Our strength, in all honesty, is in our numbers. It’s with all of you.”

Fuller told the crowd AOPA will continue to work with industry partners to build aviation communities, protect the freedom to fly, protect airports, and support flight education and pilot retention.


FAA proposes plan for navigation in NextGen environment

By 2020, all IFR traffic will rely on satellites for navigation under an FAA proposal now open to comment

A 50-percent reduction to the existing VOR network, part of the transition to NextGen, is planned by 2020, with a scaled-down VOR network retained as a backup to GPS. According to the notice, the FAA plans to transition from defining airways, routes, and procedures using VORs and other legacy navaids toward a National Airspace System based on area navigation (RNAV) everywhere, and required navigation performance (RNP) where beneficial. In addition, the proposed plan would require IFR aircraft to use high-precision Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS)-enabled GPS as the primary navigation system, consistent with other NextGen requirements including the Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B) Out mandate that utilizes WAAS-like technology.

Heidi Williams, AOPA senior director of airspace and modernization, said AOPA members have upgraded to WAAS technology at a rate of 5,000 to 10,000 aircraft per year since WAAS was introduced in 2003. Membership surveys show GPS is the navigation system of choice for 78 percent of AOPA pilots.

“GA has embraced WAAS technology because of the benefits,” Williams said, adding that current FAA policy does not require pilots to maintain backup navigation systems while flying with WAAS. “That is the plan for the future as well: You will still not have to carry an onboard backup if WAAS equipped.”

FAA proposes retaining all existing VOR stations in the Northwest Mountain Region, Alaska, Hawaii, and U.S. islands and territories as the current infrastructure of 945 FAA-maintained VOR stations is reduced to 483 (the minimum operational network) by 2020. The remaining network would allow safe ILS and VOR approaches virtually nationwide—without radar vectors, DME, or ADF equipment—in the event of a GPS outage. VOR coverage would be maintained at and above 5,000 feet agl across most of the continental United States.

Comments on the proposed navigation policy, including the reduction to the existing VOR infrastructure, are being accepted through March 7. AOPA encourages members to share their input with the FAA and copy AOPA on those comments as well.

121.5 ELT proposal would not affect availability of units

A recently published FAA proposal would stop approvals of new 121.5 MHz emergency locator transmitter (ELT) models, but would not affect availability of units already on the market.

By cancelling the technical standard order (TSO) for 121.5 MHz units, the proposal would establish the TSO for more accurate and reliable 406 MHz ELTs as the standard for bringing new models to market. All existing units that were approved under the 121.5 MHz TSO could continue to be manufactured, sold, installed, and used—an assurance AOPA maintains is critical for pilots who cannot afford or choose not to invest in the newer, more expensive ELTs.

“Advanced ELTs offer many advantages, but individual aircraft owners must be allowed to weigh the costs and benefits and decide on their own whether it makes sense to equip for the way they fly,” said AOPA Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Rob Hackman. “121.5 MHz ELTs still meet the regulatory requirement for ELT equipage.”

State and Local Action

The number of aviation maintenance, repair, and overhaul workers currently working in Florida at the state’s 509 repair stations.

1. Nebraska: Bill to protect IFR pilots clears hurdle

Nebraska Legislature Bill 352—“to expand hazard areas around airports preventing obstacle construction”—was approved by the General File and placed on the Select File for final consideration and passage. The bill, which has been spearheaded by Blair Municipal Airport Manager Rod Storm and supported by AOPA, would extend the approach hazard areas from three to 10 miles, to protect pilots on IFR approaches.

2. Florida: Maintenance tax bill clears key committee

Two Florida lawmakers, seeking to boost the competitiveness of the state’s aviation maintenance industry, have introduced bills that would greatly expand existing sales-tax exemptions on parts, equipment, and labor used in aircraft repairs. Bills introduced in the House by Rep. Steve Crisafulli (R-Merritt Island) and in the Senate by Sen. Mike Bennett (R-District 21) would expand current sales and use tax exemptions to most general aviation aircraft by exempting airplanes weighing more than 2,000 pounds. Airplanes weighing more than 15,000 pounds already are exempt. AOPA and the Florida Aviation Trades Association have worked to extend that sales tax exemption, emphasizing that the measure would better enable the state to attract and retain aviation maintenance businesses and jobs.

AOPA’s director of state government affairs, Mark Kimberling, recently spoke in favor of the bill before the Senate Transportation Committee, which passed the bill unanimously. “The need for this legislation is apparent, not only because of the decline in out-of-state aircraft maintenance business, but certainly demonstrated by the fact that some Florida aircraft owners are now actually bypassing countless world-class facilities to fly out of state for their maintenance work,” said Kimberling.

3. Pennsylvania: Aviation business owners support tax reform bill

Legislators from both sides of the aisle joined together with Pennsylvania aviation businesses at a press conference at the state capital in Harrisburg to promote House Bill 1100, a measure to eliminate the sales tax on aircraft maintenance and sales. Proponents of the measure point out the vital importance of this bill to allow state aviation businesses to better compete with those in other states, where exemptions already are in place, in attracting new aviation business, investment, and jobs. “Plain and simple, this bill is about creating jobs,” bill sponsor Rep. Peter J. Daley (R-Dist. 49)said. “If it is enacted, it would open the door for the aviation industry to set up shop at Pennsylvania’s airports, with businesses that service aircraft, sell parts, perform routine inspections, and even build and sell aircraft. We are looking at the creation of thousands of jobs right here in Pennsylvania.” Among the business representatives in attendance at the conference were Jim DeLong of Bun Air Corp. in Bedford; Craig Stephan of Cheyenne Air Service Inc. in Washington, Pennsylvania; and John Graham III, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics.

The year Essex Skypark first began operating as an airport

4. Maryland: Baltimore airpark faces closure bid

Pilots and supporters of a general aviation airport that has operated in Baltimore County, Maryland, since 1942 have launched an effort to resist a county government bid to close the facility. Essex Skypark (W48), a publicly owned airport southeast of Baltimore with a 2,084-foot runway and a landing area for seaplanes, faces closure after officials notified tenants of plans to remove the runway and hangars and replant the area with trees, according to a newspaper account. “Essex Skypark is under serious threat from Baltimore County for eventual closure, but local pilots are rallying to fight this challenge, and AOPA stands with them,” said Greg Pecoraro, AOPA vice president of airports and state advocacy.

5. Washington: Park Service preserves Ross Lake seaplane access recommendations

Aviators were cheered by the National Park Service decision to change course and include seaplane access to Ross Lake in Washington state’s Cascades in the preferred alternative of its master plan update to the final general management plan and environmental impact statement for the Ross Lake National Recreational Area. AOPA commended the NPS for meeting with the association and the Washington Seaplane Pilots Association, and for following up by incorporating the organizations’ ideas into the park service’s preferred alternative for the recreation area’s future management. That decision eliminated concerns registered by AOPA and others in September 2010 about a prior version of the plan that would have sharply curtailed seaplane access to the recreation area near Seattle. The new plan gives seaplanes access to several prime camping areas. It will also give the seaplane community the opportunity to develop voluntary noise-abatement procedures while educating pilots about the area, and keeping track of seaplane usage.

6. South Dakota: Builders beware

Homebuilt aircraft owners are facing double taxation in South Dakota. Currently, all aircraft registered in the state pay an initial registration fee of 4 percent of the aircraft’s value in lieu of sales or use taxes. However, owners of homebuilt aircraft that have paid the aircraft registration fee are now being pursued by the Department of Revenue (DOR) for back sales and use taxes on their aircraft’s individual components. AOPA is working in support of House Bill 1209, which would provide a clear sales and use tax exemption for all components of a homebuilt aircraft. “Conventionally built aircraft don’t receive sales or use tax bills for their engines or propellers, so why is the DOR pursuing homebuilders?” Regional Manager Bryan Budds said. “We need the Department of Revenue to see homebuilt aircraft are no different than their conventionally built counterparts.”

Airport Support Network

Small success for safety

Even in Alaska’s wide-open spaces, a badly placed cell tower can create problems for aviators. On the Talkeetna Spur Road, a cell tower under construction posed a potential hazard. This is on the busy air route into Talkeetna—the premier gateway airport providing access to Denali National Park and Reserve, and near an active floatplane lake.

At 120 feet in height, the tower was not tall enough to meet FAA requirements for lighting. But Dave Earl, Airport Support Network volunteer at Palmer Municipal Airport, decided that conditions near Talkeetna warranted a higher standard. So he spearheaded an effort to persuade the local government authority—the Matanuska-Susitna Borough—to require the cellular company to light the tower.

Enlisting the aid of Jane Dale, ASN volunteer at Willow Airport, the Mat-Su Aviation Advisory Board adopted a resolution that recommended lighting the tower. With that in hand, the borough’s Planning and Land Use Department made lighting a condition of the permit it issued for the project. Specifically, it required an aviation hazard beacon that conformed to FAA marking requirements.

Earl’s concern for the safety of pilots was a driving force in being proactive, and is a great example of how a small success can make a big difference. Even when the law won’t require safety, as an ASN volunteer or as a concerned pilot, you can educate local decision makers to do the right thing.


Plan ahead: AOPA’s Medical Services program

Medical certification challenges are nothing new to pilots. The problem is that most pilots really don’t pay much attention to the formality of renewing their periodic medical certification until the first time the aviation medical examiner cannot issue a medical certificate at the time of the examination. Then, it’s too late to be proactive, and a deferral of your medical application can result in a delay that could ground you for three months or more. Planning ahead for your next medical application makes a lot of sense, especially because we are an aging pilot population and medical challenges can sometimes snowball as we age.

The AOPA Medical Services Program provides a wide spectrum of services that can be a real asset for those who develop a medical issue that could lead to a problem with the FAA. The program includes a preliminary review of medical records before they go to the FAA to determine that all required information is included, and that the application is favorable for the issuance of a medical. Remember, pilots whose most recent medical application is denied are not eligible to self-certify for flying a Light Sport aircraft, so the AOPA Medical Services Plan is a cost-effective way to provide the best chance at medical certification the first time around. Enroll in the AOPA Medical Services Program online.

New, improved AD&D insurance plan offers 24/7 coverage

AOPA members who enroll in the AOPA Accidental Death and Dismemberment Insurance Plan will now benefit from new, expanded offerings and 24/7 coverage, all available at no additional cost.

In addition to providing coverage for general aviation-related activities, this new, expanded coverage now offers protection 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and for all types of accidents.

Other new enhancements include exposure and disappearance, safe driver, coma, education, training, transportation, child care, elder care, common carrier, burn disfigurement, rehabilitation, and total and permanent disability.

Up to $300,000 worth of coverage is available, with no health questions asked. Members can take advantage of these great benefits by enrolling in the AOPA Accidental Death and Dismemberment Insurance Plan at any time during their membership year. Those already enrolled will be automatically upgraded to the new coverages at the time of renewal and can upgrade their coverage at any time.




March 1

Huntsville, AL

March 5

Bedford, MA

March 14

Frederick, MD

March 20

Birmingham, AL

March 21

Marietta, GA

March 22

Pensacola, FL

March 26

Northbrook, IL

March 26

Rochester, MN

March 26

Ypsilanti, MI

March 27

Bolingbrook, IL

March 27

Cedar Rapids, IA

March 27

Independence, OH

March 27

Lynchburg, VA

March 28

Bellevue, NE

March 28

Columbus, OH

March 28

Peoria, IL

March 29

Indianapolis, IN

March 29

Rockford, IL

March 29

Olathe, KS

Tentative schedule,   visit the Web site for more information.

Now online: Gripping accident case study

Rescue gone wrong

You’ve probably heard of the term “mission mindset” within the context of aeronautical decision making. This debilitating thought process can be so hypnotizing that even seasoned professional pilots can fall prey to it. When sound aeronautical decision making has been infected by this state of mind, it is difficult to cure, and often prestages a dire outcome for those who allow its grip to take hold. Witness the Air Safety Institute’s latest accident case study, which recounts a pilot’s deadly decision—a mistake that holds lessons for all pilots.

Come along on this gripping tale of a tragic 2009 crash of a New Mexico State Police helicopter in the mountains near Santa Fe. As you follow ASI’s re-creation of the pilot’s final mission, you’ll seek to understand the circumstances that led the pilot down a path to disaster.

ASI publishes latest TAA accident findings

What’s TAA, you ask? It stands for “technologically advanced aircraft”—typically, new production aircraft that sport glass-panel cockpits and advanced electronic instrumentation.

Whether you’re tired of scanning an analog “six pack” panel or simply in the market to transition to glass, you will find this updated ASI report helpful in bringing to light a comparison of the types of problems pilots have encountered in glass and analog aircraft.

ASI’s “The Accident Record of Technologically Advanced Aircraft” delves into flight conditions, aircraft design, and patterns of use. Easy-to-peruse graphs and tables are accompanied by careful analysis and discussion. Download the report to discover how glass and analog cockpit panels stack up.

Spotlight on aeronautical decision making

Making good decisions, all the time, is a difficult process—but a critical one. As you can see from the accompanying “Rescue gone wrong” accident case study (and learn from numerous NTSB accident reports), poor decision making is at the root of many—if not most—aviation accidents. Good decision making, on the other hand, is about avoiding the circumstances that lead to really tough choices.

Easier said than done? Sure! That’s where ASI’s wealth of information gathered in this safety spotlight can be of help. You’ll learn to avoid making poor choices and hone this single most important safety skill—good judgment. Visit the spotlight online.

Gold star flight schools

New program lets you nominate the best

If your flight school or flying club is top-notch, wouldn’t you want the world to know?

Our nonflying friends and family don’t hesitate to share their views on restaurants, entertainment venues, or other services. It’s time we took a page from that book.

We still are grappling with a shrinking pilot population and declining student starts. It’s becoming ever more important to recognize the successful flight schools and flying clubs—the ones that get it right—as well as help others get better at what they do. That’s one of the ways we help others make it through the flight training process, and in turn bolster our pilot population.

AOPA has launched the AOPA Flight Training Excellence Awards—a new component of the ongoing Flight Training Retention Initiative. The annual awards will recognize training professionals who bring their A-game every day.

Nominations are being accepted online. Use the online survey to nominate a flight school, flying club, or independent training professional.

The AOPA Flight Training Excellence Awards are brought to you by Flight Training magazine, which will report on some of the programs being nominated. Multiple winners of the award will be announced in October at AOPA Aviation Summit in Palm Springs, California.

“We are going to focus on examples of programs that work today,” AOPA President Craig Fuller said in announcing the program. “We find them all over the country. All too often these success stories are not shared widely—and that’s something we can change.”

Also on the horizon is a new online personalized flight training support system. MyFlightTraining will help students set and achieve flight-training milestones and foster a sense of accomplishment at every step of the journey to a pilot certificate.

The AOPA program will enable students to track their progress online from the first flight—when they can receive a free logbook—right up to checkride day. They’ll receive a first solo T-shirt and recognition certificates for other events—and Facebook integration means they’ll be able to share photos and updates easily. Enrollees also will be eligible for a monthly $1,000 sweepstakes.

These are just some of the features of this robust new system. You’ll get a chance to test-drive it at the Sun ’n Fun Fly-In, March 27 to April 1 in Lakeland, Florida. More details about MyFlightTraining will be made available as we get closer to launching it.

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