AOPA honored Rep. John Barrow (D-Ga.) with the Joseph B. Hartranft Jr. Award—one of the association’s two highest honors—for his unparalleled work on behalf of general aviation in the House of Representatives. The award is presented annually to an elected or appointed government official, whether federal, state, local, or foreign, who has made significant contributions to the advancement of general aviation. Barrow is the co-chair of the House General Aviation Caucus, and an avid GA supporter who has adamantly opposed user fees. A member of the caucus since it was founded in 2009, Barrow and leaders of the House aviation subcommittee spearheaded the effort to oppose the inclusion of aviation user fees in the president’s fiscal year 2014 budget.
Barrow voted in favor of the Reducing Flight Delays Act of 2013 to end air traffic controller furloughs and give the FAA enough flexibility to keep 149 air traffic control contract towers open past the June closure deadline. He is a co-sponsor of the Small Aircraft Revitalization Act of 2013; its goal is to advance the safety and continued development of small airplanes by reorganizing the certification requirements to streamline the approval of safety advancements.
In the 112th Congress, Barrow signed multiple letters on behalf of GA issues, including all four letters opposing user fees that were sent to President Obama and the Super Committee. Barrow also signed a letter to Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in support of the Block Aircraft Registration Request (BARR) program, two letters to the Federal Communications Commission regarding LightSquared and GPS interference, and a letter to House leadership regarding GA aircraft depreciation.
EXTRA: Laurence P. Sharples Perpetual Award
Colorado airport advocates Dave Shepard and Steve Wood are the 2013 winners of the Laurence P. Sharples Perpetual Award. The award is AOPA’s highest honor for individuals and is presented annually to the person (or persons) who have made the most significant contributions to the advancement of general aviation, which characterized the life of Laurence P. Sharples, one of AOPA’s founding fathers and its first chairman. Shepard is the chairman and catalyst behind the recently organized Grand Junction Airport Users and Tenants Association (GJAUTA). Wood has been an influential and effective force on GA issues at Grand Junction, particularly in his role as a member of the Airport’s Security Solutions Committee. Shepard and Wood brought airport users together, transforming them into an effective and unified voice and compelling the airport administration and TSA to reconsider ill-advised actions in an open and public environment.
With so many terrific reasons to buy an airplane—from making your own schedule to seeing the world from a unique perspective—there are sound financial reasons for aircraft ownership, as well. More than money saved on overnight trips, delays caused by airlines, and other miscellaneous expenses, owning an airplane has definite tax advantages.
Of course, the best tax advice and counsel comes from your own tax professional, but some of the tax advantages of aircraft ownership are mentioned here so that you will know what questions to ask and be able to guide the discussion when it’s tax time.
If your business is the owner of an aircraft, you are entitled to MACRS depreciation. MACRS stands for Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System which is the current tax depreciation system in the United States for tangible property, including airplanes. The benefit lies in the A, for “accelerated.” MACRS benefits an aircraft owner because the faster depreciation allows aircraft owners to deduct greater amounts during the first few years of aircraft ownership. This is the IRS code, so there are lots of exceptions and fine print—but as an aircraft owner, it’s likely that MACRS impacts you in a positive way.
It’s not just your aircraft itself that can ease your tax burden; some of the expenses associated with aircraft ownership and usage are deductible. That means fuel, maintenance, charts, et cetera. Those items are all part of a business’ deductions. If you own your aircraft as an individual, you can still benefit from these deductions when your aircraft is used in pursuit of business. Again, your tax professional is your best friend here to make sure you can maximize the deductions your aircraft creates.
Owning an airplane is a job in itself, and one that requires specific knowledge of your responsibilities. In addition to the tax advantages, understand other legal and financial issues that can affect you. For example, forming an LLC as the legal owner of your personal airplane can protect you in a liability situation, even though there are no particular tax advantages to doing so. In addition to the safe flying of your aircraft as a pilot, you are tasked with understanding all the repercussions of operating your airplane.
When it comes time to buy an airplane, you want to deal with people who know their way around a cockpit. The staff of AOPA Finance wants to make your purchase experience as smooth as possible, and that starts with being able to speak aviation. Call 800-62-PLANE (800-627-5263). In a rush? Email email@example.com to begin the application process today.
The information presented in this article should not be relied upon as legal or financial advice. For the precise tax advantages for you, consult an aviation-savvy lawyer and tax professional who will be able to provide you with advice tailored for your state, regulatory requirements, and your unique circumstances.
During the holidays, many of us who fly take time to reflect on our many blessings: Our loved ones, our health, our homes, and our freedom to fly. Many of us have shared the joy of flying with our children, grandchildren, and friends—and some of them have gone on to earn certification. As our hair grays, some of us look around the holiday table to see a new pilot or two eating his or her pumpkin pie. This is something to celebrate! Now, it may be time to move to the next level of sharing by participating in charitable flying events in your community.
Read December’s Answers for Pilots (www.aopa.org/Pilot-Resources/Answers-for-Pilots.aspx) for information on how to get involved.
The AOPA Foundation relies on donations to preserve our freedom to fly. And, together we can make a difference. Join other AOPA member philanthropists who have funded AOPA Foundation initiatives this year (www.aopafoundation.org/donate).
Taking a cue from televised public service announcements, the Air Safety Institute has published various Pilot Safety Announcements meant to raise awareness of common accident causes.
ASI’s Vacation PSA recognizes that easier vacation and holiday travel is one of the major benefits of general aviation. We get to do something we enjoy, accomplish a “mission,” and avoid that eight-hour drive to our destination. Sometimes, though, things go horribly wrong—as attested by the grim headlines that follow nearly every holiday weekend.
The Air Safety Institute’s latest PSA is a darkly humorous reminder of the various ills that can befall careless or unwary vacation fliers. View the video, and make sure that your name isn’t next on the list.
View the Vacation PSA online (www.airsafetyinstitute.org/psavacation).
You’ve probably heard of pilots who have taken foolish weather risks and placed their passengers and themselves in terrible danger by flying into deteriorating visual meteorological conditions (VMC) while lacking an instrument rating or proficiency to deal with instrument weather. Why would anyone take such a risk?
Unfortunately, every year, more general aviation pilots perish in accidents caused by low ceilings and visibility than all other weather phenomena combined. It’s a major safety issue, and surprisingly not just for visual flight rules (VFR) pilots—30 percent of the accidents involve instrument-rated pilots. Even pilots with the best intentions can get into trouble when they fail to recognize a deteriorating situation and don’t take corrective action.
How can we learn to anticipate conditions that spell trouble, and recognize common scenarios that can lead us to go against our better judgment? Enter the Air Safety Institute’s latest Weather Wise online course, aptly named Weather Wise: VFR into IMC, which takes a new approach to the problem.
Rather than just pointing out the dangers of low ceilings and visibility, the new course prepares pilots for the real world by providing the basic weather knowledge it takes to anticipate poor conditions, explaining common weather scenarios that can trap unsuspecting pilots, and helping them understand the complexity of decision making and pilot judgment and how these can be compromised.
Weather Wise: VFR into IMC was developed with funding from the National Weather Service. It features several videos, including commentary by Rod Machado and AOPA Pilot’s Tom Horne. This is ASI’s first course optimized for use on the iPad and designed for touchscreen use, making it easier than ever to navigate.
Reserve your copy of the 2014 AOPA Foundation calendar by making a donation to support the future of general aviation. This 14-month calendar features spectacular aviation photography. Call 800-872-2672 to reserve your copy.
The 2013 AOPA Foundation Holiday Card collection is available (www.holidaycardcenter.org/aopa5). Each box of 25 cards comes with free personalized address labels and festive holiday-themed envelope seals. You may also add convenient personalized messages to the inside greetings—free with every order of three or more boxes. Additional fun gifts are available, as well. Fill stockings with fun-for-all-ages jigsaw puzzles, beautiful keepsake ornaments, and year-round note card collections. Your purchase helps support the AOPA Foundation’s critical work preserving the future of general aviation.
By Warren Silberman, D.O., AOPA Pilot Protection Services
The famous aviator, Wiley Post, was from Oklahoma and was the first pilot to fly around the world. Post developed one of the first pressure suits and discovered the existence of the jet stream. On August 15, 1935, Post and American humorist Will Rogers were killed when Post’s aircraft crashed on takeoff from a lagoon near Point Barrow in Alaska. Post had previously lost vision in one of his eyes, so that brings me to the reason for my article.
All pilots are required to have periodic eye examinations, usually at the time of the FAA physical exam. The name of the chart that has the numbers in rows is called a Snellen chart. What does it mean when your physician informs you that your vision is 20/20? It means that you can see at 20 feet what a normal person sees at 20 feet. 20/20 Snellen visual acuity is considered normal, although many people can see better than that. The FAA requires a person to be able to correct to the vision standard appropriate for the class of medical applied for, meaning there are no uncorrected vision acuity standards. Being able to correct to a vision standard simply means that your eyes are being assisted by contact lenses or eyeglasses.
An aviator who can only see at 20 feet in one eye what a normal person sees at 200 feet is considered by the FAA to be “monocular”—even if the pilot was wearing glasses or contacts.
The brain uses the eyes to be able to discern the spatial difference between objects. The experts say that this is only adequate up to about a 50-foot distance. The medical term for this is “stereopsis.” This is the ability to tell that an airplane is parked next to another airplane and is not only next to but one row in front of the other airplane. This is important when you are taxiing or having to make an emergency landing in a field of trees.
A person can become monocular in a short period of time, such as developing a tumor in the eye that requires surgical removal of the globe, or in a much slower process such as hemorrhage into the retina. The FAA requires a six-month period of adjustment to allow time for the brain to adjust to what the physicians call the “monocular clues.” A person who either suddenly goes from normal visual acuity in the one eye to something worse than 20/200 must wait six months before applying for a waiver so the brain can adjust to seeing objects out of the single eye. If the visual acuity is lost over a gradual period of time, greater than six months, the waiver application process can begin as soon as the monocular vision diagnosis is established. The type of waiver is called a SODA or Statement of Demonstrated Ability, and is issued following the successful completion of a medical flight test, conducted through the local Flight Standards District Office.
Dr. Warren Silberman is the former manager of FAA Aerospace Medical Certification and a doctor of osteopathic medicine. A pilot since 1986, he is recognized nationally as an expert in aerospace/preventative medicine, and is a regular writer for AOPA’s Pilot Protection Services.
You’ll help support AOPA’s mission and all-important membership drive.
Increasing our membership means AOPA can more effectively face down the growing threats to general aviation, enabling us to preserve our freedom to fly for generations to come, and strengthening our voice in Washington, D.C.
Share the benefits of AOPA membership with the ones you love. Gift recipients receive invaluable member benefits including 12 issues of AOPA Pilot or Flight Training magazine, exclusive access to a suite of online flight planning tools and resources, help and advice from our aviation experts through the AOPA Pilot Information Center, and more (www.aopa.org/Membership).
When Phil Corman took on the role of AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer at California’s Paso Robles Airport in 2009, he intended to make a real difference at the airport. That year, he founded the Paso Robles Airport Association (PRAA), now a 270-member-strong group of airport users and supporters. Corman understood that being inclusive was the key. “Membership consists of pilots, business people, and community leaders, which makes it a balanced approach,” says Corman, and that has been the foundation for a strong alliance with the city, leading to significant progress for airport improvements.
Corman’s commitment to building strong ties with all community stakeholders paid off when the city manager asked him to develop an airport business plan. The 10-year Paso Robles Airport Business Plan recently won unanimous city council approval, and focuses on the airport’s growth and integration with local businesses. The plan specifies new hangars, streamlined processes to develop and operate businesses on airport, a pilot career school, and a new fuel depot.
Corman and the PRAA members also understood they needed to be part of the larger Paso Robles community. As part of that outreach, they adopted the main roads into the airport, and currently clean litter from about five miles of those roads. Other, smaller projects include the development of a brochure for pilots that provides airport, hotel, car, restaurant, winery, and other local attraction information; it also highlights the public services provided by the airport; including a Cal Fire aerial firefighting unit, California Highway Patrol helicopters, and Angel Flights.
Being the AOPA ASN volunteer airport can be both personally rewarding and very important to your airport. Are you up for the challenge? Your airport is waiting for a leader like Phil Corman.
Flight training for women: Mary Latimer, ASN volunteer at Wilbarger County Airport in Texas, is also a designated flight examiner and a driven advocate for GA. Latimer was featured in AOPA’s Flight Training magazine as the founder of an all-women’s flight camp she calls GIFT—Girls in Flight Training (“Women with Wings,” March 2013 Flight Training).
Making aviation more affordable: At Colorado Springs Municipal Airport in Colorado, ASN volunteer Steve Ducoff is spearheading an effort to win a local sales tax exemption for aircraft materials and parts installed on an aircraft in the city’s current airport commercial zone, a great way to help lower costs for aircraft owners while supporting airport businesses.
Promoting their state: Ed and Ellie Block are a husband-and-wife team from “all over Texas” but mostly Port Aransas, where they live the majority of the time. They cover Aransas County Airport in Rockport, and McCampbell-Porter Airport in Aransas Pass. The couple created a quick reference card template for airports that pilots could use. They promote all Texas airports as they fly around the state, and maintain good relationships with airport management at a number of those they visit.
AOPA resources for ASN volunteers
AOPA’s ASN staff has developed a number of valuable guides to help volunteers with issues at their airports, no matter what the challenges. With publications such as AOPA’s Guide for Airport Advocates, Organizing Your Airport Group, Guide to Candidate Forums, Guide to Airport Noise and Compatible Land Use, and many others, ASN volunteers are always able to find the help they need. Look for these guides online (http://www.aopa.org/Advocacy/Get-Involved/AOPA-Resources-for-You.aspx).
Understandably, the lending institute that helped fund your aircraft purchase wants to ensure your loan will be repaid in the event of an accident in which your insurance company denies the hull claim for some reason (usually because you violated certain policy requirements).
The most common example of such a violation would be a loss arising when your aircraft is being operated by a non-approved pilot. If, following an accident, it’s discovered a pilot not approved by your policy was operating the aircraft when the loss occurred, coverage could be voided and you’d be obligated to pay the lending institute the entire amount owed on the aircraft yourself.
If your policy includes breach of warranty coverage, however, the insurance company would pay the lender the proceeds from the claim in the event of such an accident. Keep in mind, breach of warranty coverage must be specifically requested, and is often added at little to no extra cost.
A good question to ask potential lienholders before you sign on the dotted line is whether they’re willing to amend your coverage to “Ground Not In Motion” if your aircraft is laid up for an extended period of time (you’ll need their permission to avoid violating your loan agreement). Many lenders will flatly refuse (usually the larger ones). Some will consider the request on a case-by-case basis to help you minimize insurance costs when your aircraft is not in service.
Brenda J. Jennings is an aviation insurance professional with more than 35 years of experience.