Why would a pilot risk flying with a medical condition that could potentially impair the ability to manage the fight? What barriers exist that inhibit open communication between a pilot and his or her aviation medical examiner? AOPA, acting on a safety enhancement initiative proposed by the General Aviation Joint Steering Committee, has created a survey (to be completed by pilots anonymously) to provide answers. “The results will help develop strategies to encourage airmen to use professional risk assessment about medical conditions,” said Rob Hackman, AOPA vice president of regulatory affairs.
Rockefeller presses FAA to explain tower closings
Aviation’s strong safety record “did not happen overnight,” but now the federal budget sequester is putting that progress at risk, said Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. “Sequestration is affecting every aspect of the FAA’s operations.” Rockefeller said in opening remarks at his committee’s April 16 hearing to review FAA safety initiatives. Rockefeller’s concern about erosion of safety extends to the announced closing of 149 federal contract control towers, and he expressed frustration over “the lack of transparency on how the agency made this decision.”
Fuller: Dialog could ‘move the needle’
For the National Transportation Safety Board, identifying accidents causes, designing prevention strategies, and educating pilots are priorities for improving general aviation safety. But safety initiatives now confront budget cuts “aimed squarely at general aviation,” wrote AOPA President Craig Fuller in a letter to NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman. Fuller extended an invitation for a meeting of the two organizations to continue a dialog that could “move the needle” on safety. He also urged the NTSB to persuade policymakers of the potential adverse impact of those budget cuts.
Customs in Florida update
After a few trying days for pilots when clearing U.S. Customs at airports of entry in Florida in March, AOPA is continuing to work with Customs and Border Protection to minimize the effects of new operational constraints including reduced overtime for staff of the region’s offices. Customs has committed to working with general aviation to manage and deploy its resources in a way that best meets the demand at specific airports. AOPA will continue to update members on the dynamic situation.
Legislatures wind down—but for how long?
When AOPA goes to bat for general aviation in State Houses across the country, the association testifies and rallies support for bills on issues from liability protections for owners of private airstrips to tax measures improving states’ aviation business climate. As of early April, 34 state legislatures remained in session, with many soon to wind down for the year. Some may reconvene later to address fiscal issues that could include revisiting the impact of the federal budget sequester, says Greg Pecoraro, AOPA vice president of airports and state advocacy. AOPA will continue to monitor the situation.
AOPA, a click away
The aviation bureau of the New York State Department of Transportation has a mission “to provide responsive and responsible leadership in addressing New York’s diverse aviation needs.” One way the bureau does that is to provide links on its home page to information pilots need before flight.
Airport Support Network: 2,509 volunteers strong
When a local airport issue requires a rapid response, AOPA’s Airport Support Network volunteer often is the point person, focusing the association’s effort. ASN volunteers are the link between the local airport community and AOPA’s headquarters staff; for example, ASN volunteers at airports where contract control towers are scheduled to close will serve as key contacts as the dynamic situation develops. With 10 new members recently added, the ASN now numbers 2,509 volunteers. “Every new member strengthens the entire network. Please consider becoming a volunteer, or spread the word to an interested fellow pilot!” says ASN Director Joey Colleran.
States’ aviation updates
State aviation departments are a crucial focus of AOPA’s work to make sure general aviation’s voice is heard by policymakers. That’s especially important when long term planning initiatives are under way. As Louisiana moves forward on a state aviation system plan, AOPA will provide input, starting by surveying Airport Support Network volunteers about their airports’ needs. In Washington State, AOPA welcomed Lynn Peterson to her new post as director of the state’s Department of Transportation.
With some contract control towers closing under sequestration and most air traffic controllers girding for related pay reductions of 20 percent, it was only a matter of time before the news media asked Jay Carney, the presidential press secretary, whether anyone in that shop faced curtailment of employment. Not directly, countered Carney in a pointedly parsed reply, but 480 workers of the Office of Management and Budget were notified of furloughs. (Read the full exchange from the April 1 White House press briefing, here.) On April 3, The Washington Post reported that President Barack Obama opted for a five-percent pay cut, in “solidarity” with workers.
You say ‘drone,’ I say ‘unmanned aircraft’
The word “drone” is getting a lot of use in Washington, D.C., these days—the noun, not the verb. Whether you call them drones or unmanned aerial vehicles, the FAA has forecast that there may be 30,000 UAVs flying later this decade. The Senate Judiciary Committee pondered the implications of that in a March 20 hearing, voicing concerns on a variety of subjects including personal privacy and data gathering applications. AOPA has long maintained that critical issues about UAVs need to be addressed long before unmanned aircraft become a common sight overhead—such as how to fully test their safety and functionality without making more airspace off limits to manned aircraft.
Sequester and the FAA
How is the FAA faring under the sequester? The Senate Commerce Committee will have a chance to put the question to an impressive list of official witnesses at an April 16 hearing to “examine the consequences of sequestration” on the agency, as well as to evaluate FAA efforts “to implement safety provisions in recent FAA reauthorizations.” In an interesting bit of timing, the hearing date comes at the approximate midpoint of the phased closings of 149 contract control towers—a decision AOPA had urged the FAA to call off before the sequester went into effect.
GAMA hosts EASA meeting with industry
What is the focus of aviation rulemaking in Europe? How do those rules interact with the FAA’s regulatory policies? Those issues were among topics discussed when European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) Rulemaking Director Jules Kneepkens met with the International Council of Aircraft Owner and Pilot Associations (IAOPA) and other industry members recently at the headquarters of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association. IAOPA represents 71 nongovernmental national general aviation associations, with a total of 470,000 members. Craig Spence, AOPA’s vice president of operations and international affairs, serves as IAOPA’s general secretary.
The future of airway modifications
When AOPA notified members on March 28 that the FAA proposed to modify a Victor airway in Wisconsin because a VOR marking an end point was out of service, pilots in other areas were well advised to note the proceedings. “With drastic FAA budget cuts now taking effect under sequestration, this type of route elimination may become more prevalent because of the FAA’s reduced capacity to maintain VORs and associated procedures and airways,” explained Heidi Williams, AOPA vice president of air traffic services and modernization.