Third class medical reform through the General Aviation Pilot Protection Act (GAPPA) is critical to growing general aviation, AOPA President Mark Baker told the House General Aviation Caucus during a briefing in June. The briefing focused on current aviation policy and included Baker and leaders of GAMA, HAI, NATA, and NBAA.
GAPPA is “vitally important” to growing the pilot community because it will save money and time, and free pilots from an outdated and cumbersome medical certification process, Baker said. He urged the GA Caucus members to sign up to co-sponsor the bill, which has 117 House co-sponsors. Under the act, pilots who make noncommercial VFR flights in aircraft weighing up to 6,000 pounds with no more than six seats would be exempt from the third class medical certification process. Pilots would be allowed to carry up to five passengers, fly at altitudes below 14,000 feet msl, and fly no faster than 250 knots. The FAA would be required to report on the safety consequences of the new rule after five years.
AOPA members Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.) and Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) introduced the bill in December 2013. Sens. John Boozman (R-Ark.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), all members of the Senate General Aviation Caucus, introduced an identical measure in the Senate in March. The Senate measure has 15 co-sponsors.
Baker also told the caucus that user fees are a major contributor to the high cost of flying in Europe and a primary reason why GA activity there is so much lower than in the United States. He added that the fuel tax system used in the United States is efficient and effective without stifling GA activity.
87% of AOPA members support third class medical reform.
NOTICE OF ANNUAL MEETING OF MEMBERS. The annual meeting of the Members of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association will be held at 12 noon on Friday, September 5, 2014, at the headquarters of AOPA, 421 Aviation Way, Frederick, Maryland, 21701, located on the Frederick Municipal Airport (FDK), for the purpose of receiving reports and transacting such other business as may properly come before the meeting, specifically including the election of trustees.
“America’s airports are the true backbone of aviation, and without a robust airport network, aviation cannot grow,” AOPA President Mark Baker recently told the House Aviation Subcommittee. General aviation airports rely on federal money, making it important that Congress maintain Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funding at least at current levels, he said.
Baker said that the need is high for safety, expansion, improvement, and environmental projects at general aviation airports. According to the FAA’s most recent National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS) report to Congress, airport infrastructure needs far exceed the funding available. From 2013 through 2017, the FAA estimates that airports will require some $42.5 billion to meet all AIP-eligible infrastructure development demands. That’s significantly more than the roughly $3.35 billion annual allotment.
The availability of non-primary entitlement funds depends on maintaining at least $3.2 billion in annual AIP funding. Non-primary entitlement funds are available to GA airports and non-primary commercial service airports listed in the NPIAS that show a demonstrated need for airfield development. GA airports that qualify are eligible to receive up to $150,000, making the entitlement a significant funding source for many small airports.
As many state legislatures wind down their session for the year, here’s a recap of some of the issues your state government affairs team has been working on across the country.
Flying into someone’s backyard
For many pilots, owning an airstrip is a dream. But letting other people use it can be a nightmare. One reason opening private property for public use can be such a headache is liability. All states have recreational use statutes (RU) that protect landowners when they allow the public to use their land for many recreational purposes. However, noncommercial aviation uses were rarely included in the definition of recreational activity. In a joint effort with the Recreational Aviation Foundation and many state aviation associations, AOPA regional managers Bob Minter (Southern Region), John Pfeifer (Western Pacific Region), and Bryan Budds (Great Lakes Region) have helped promote legislation so private airstrip owners in South Carolina, Georgia, California, and Wisconsin can breathe a little easier when allowing other pilots to use their land. Similar legislation has been passed by the Michigan House of Representatives and is waiting to be debated by the Senate. AOPA Regional Manager Yasmina Platt (Central Southwest) is also looking for recreational use statutes to be discussed in the Texas legislature next year. In all, more than 20 states have amended their RUs to include aviation.
Safer airspace: Below 200 agl
AOPA is working across the nation with state aviation agencies and agricultural aviation associations to pass legislation that would require towers below 200 feet to be marked according to FAA guidelines. Meteorological Evaluation Towers (MET) often are 198 feet or less and are used to measure wind speed and direction for the development of wind energy facilities. They can be erected quickly and, depending on their location, without notice. In 2011 the FAA issued guidance on the voluntary marking of METs but did not mandate MET marking. AOPA regional managers Dave Ulane and Yasmina Platt have helped state legislators in Colorado, Oklahoma, and Washington pass legislation requiring METs and other communications towers (including guy wires) to be marked in such a way as to be visible from 2,000 feet away. AOPA is set to promote similar legislation in Nebraska and Texas in 2015.
AOPA: Working down to the wire
The last hours of a legislative session can be a whirlwind of excitement and chaos as legislators try to pass bills in the last few minutes they’re allowed. For AOPA Regional Manager Bob Minter (Southern Region), representing AOPA members in these intense moments is a source of pride and excitement. In the Tennessee Senate, a last-minute floor amendment would have ended the Transportation Equity Fund, the state’s dedicated aviation fund. Minter jumped into action by calling, emailing, and texting key aviation administrators across the state. “I have no idea how many contacts I really made but it was an action-packed 15 minutes,” he said. As the senator proposing the amendment took the floor he stated, “The airports people are in the halls and are very upset.” The senator withdrew his amendment and AOPA members across Tennessee let out a cheer—and a sigh of relief.
Fighting for reform As AOPA continues to fight for reform of the FAA’s medical certification system, the association’s Airport Support Network volunteers have joined the fight. In mid-May, AOPA called on ASN volunteers to help gain support in Congress for the General Aviation Pilot Protection Act (GAPPA).
Since then, ASN volunteers have been contacting their members of Congress, asking them to co-sponsor GAPPA. They have also been reaching out to pilot friends and other aviation supporters to engage them in the effort as well. AOPA provided the ASNVs with background on the issue, which they could use and share with others. Volunteers reported they had talked with Congressional office staffs, and seen their representatives on district visits. AOPA’s Congressional Affairs team was able to follow up with legislators to discuss the legislation. As a result of this effort, members of Congress are signing on to co-sponsor the bill.
ASN volunteers are among the most engaged pilots at their airports, and understand that third class medical reform addresses the number-one concern of pilots, will save pilots and the FAA time and money, will do a lot to keep current pilots flying, and help encourage others to get into aviation.
Have you told your member of Congress you want third class medical reform? And have you thought about becoming an ASN volunteer? It’s a great way to help AOPA protect your freedom to fly.
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.
Weather is the single biggest variable in flying. It can turn a long-awaited vacation into a long wait at the FBO, a quick two-hour flight into a tedious four-hour slog, or a stress-free jaunt into a skill-testing ordeal. The variations are infinite, but for pilots it all boils down to two questions: What’s really going on out there, and what does it mean for me?
The day-to-day challenge of answering those questions is the focus of the Air Safety Institute’s new fall seminar, Real World Weather. The seminar, which debuts on September 2, takes a no-nonsense look at how you can get better, more complete weather information—and make better, more informed decisions as a result. You’ll examine:
• The best weather resources, and when to use them
• Situations that tempt smart pilots to make dumb choices
• Weather-related accidents and the factors that led to them
• Knowing what’s safe and what isn’t when things get “complicated”
Visit the website (www.airsafetyinstitute.org/seminars) for dates and locations near you.
This seminar is brought to you in part by AOPA Insurance Services and, in part, by Jeppesen, a Boeing company.
What pilots are saying about ASI’s safety seminars
• “A very potent presentation. Left me with a few, but powerful, tools that I feel I could stick to in an emergency.”
• “The best I have been to—this was extremely beneficial.”
• “Good, fast-moving presentation—very practical with varied examples.”
• “Very good presentation! The instructor had the audience thinking through the entire evening.”
Flying the weather: ‘t-storm toolbox’
When flying near convective weather it’s best to not rely on just one source of information for steering clear of the dangerous forces of the storm. It could get you in serious trouble—and a potentially life-threatening situation—from which you may not be able to escape or recover. Instead, consider ahead of time what available resources you may have in the cockpit, and use them to paint a complete picture of what you’re up against. Watch T-storm Toolbox, a recent installment of ASI’s popular “Flying the Weather” video series (www.airsafetyinstitute.org/T-stormtoolbox). In the video, AOPA President Mark Baker and AOPA Foundation President Bruce Landsberg discuss the tools they had in their weather toolbox and on which they relied to get a good picture of where not to go—and keep themselves safe—while flying near some very active convective weather during a trip from St. Louis, Missouri, to Frederick, Maryland.
Take ASI’s IFR Insights: Cockpit Weather online course (www.airsafetyinstitute.org/cockpitweather). It provides additional tips and a practical look at using cockpit weather products, and how they fit into your decision-making process.
Flying through precip? Get help from ATC
Pilots sometimes avoid—or ignore—discussing inflight weather with ATC when it would be most helpful to them. For example, when precipitation is mercilessly pounding the airplane’s windshield, and airframe, it would be a good time to check in with your air traffic controller for assistance. Watch Ask ATC: Precipitation Intensity to see how controllers can help in such situations, and learn how they will collaborate with you when you’d like to get out of the weather—fast (www.airsafetyinstitute.org/askatcprecip).
According to FAR 91.183, pilots operating under IFR in controlled airspace must ensure that a continuous watch is maintained on the appropriate frequency. It’s notable that many pilots are hearing from the FAA about lapses in radio contact. Often, a lapse is the result of a missed hand-off or a pilot’s neglect to check in with the next controller after receiving a hand-off. The FAA gets pretty testy about these lost-communication-type events, especially if radio contact is lost for more than 20 minutes. If such an event occurs, ATC will catalogue it as a possible pilot deviation and you can expect to hear from an FAA inspector. It may not lead to certificate action, but we should work to avoid such issues in the first place.
Many of us have developed our own practices and procedures for switching radios. Your particular technique may depend on the type of radios or audio panel you use and your experience level. Whatever your method, be sure to remain vigilant. If it seems a little too quiet, go ahead and give ATC a call to verify contact. Although it’s not a regulatory requirement, it’s also a good idea to monitor 121.5 MHz during cruise operations and when otherwise practical. ATC will appreciate the ability to raise you on an alternate frequency, if needed, and you might appreciate not being the subject of an investigation.
In fairness to us pilots, lost-com issues are not always the result of our inattention. ATC makes mistakes, and radios and electrical systems fail. It’s a good idea to review FAR 91.185, IFR operations: Two-way radio communications failure, as well as sections 6-4-1 to 6-4-3 in the Aeronautical Information Manual that address this subject. Remember, if two-way com is lost under IFR in VMC, the FAA wants us to continue the flight under VFR and land as soon as practicable. In such instances they don’t want us to continue IFR and “unnecessarily as well as adversely affect other users of the airspace.”
Mike Yodice counsels AOPA Pilot Protection Services members on such issues as FAA compliance and enforcement. He is an active pilot and regularly flies a Piper J–3 Cub and Cherokee 180.
Learn more about AOPA Pilot Protection Services (www.aopa.org/pps)
Reserve your copy of the 2015 AOPA Foundation calendar by making a donation to support the future of general aviation. This 14-month calendar is filled from front to back with spectacular aviation images to remind you of the fun you’ve had, the places you’ve been, and the friends you’ve made along the way—and of the personal impact you’re having on general aviation’s future through your generous AOPA Foundation support.
Webinar: buying aircraft solutions
Struggling with whether you should buy and which make and model would be best for you? Join Tom Haines, AOPA senior vice president and editor in chief, along with Rodney Martz, senior aviation technical specialist, AOPA Pilot Information Center in July, for a discussion on prepurchase considerations, financing options, types of insurance, title searches, escrow services, and much more. Sign up for the webinar online (https://goto.webcasts.com/starthere.jsp?ei=1036747). You can watch the recording afterward at your convenience. Also, check out AOPA’s short new video on the prepurchase inspection and a new podcast on insurance. All brought to you by AOPA Insurance Services and AOPA Aviation Finance Company, LLC. Read more in August Answers for Pilots .
Questions? Give the aviation specialists in AOPA’s Pilot Information Center a call, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern Time, 800-USA-AOPA (872-2672).
Buying Renter’s Insurance doesn’t have to be complicated, but it helps to understand the insurance language and what it means to you.
Required coverage is the coverage you need to protect against claims for bodily injury and property damage that occur while you’re operating a rented aircraft. It does not cover damage to the rented aircraft; that’s covered under optional coverage.
Most insurers recommend that you should protect yourself with the highest amount of required coverage you can afford. The amount of optional coverage you need depends on the estimated value of the aircraft you typically fly, as well as your rental agreement and what that rental agreement says you are responsible for. Repair costs can be very high, so you really need your own coverage.
Let’s say you make an emergency landing in your rented airplane on a golf course and, while landing, you tear up the turf, clip a golfer, and your passenger suffers a neck injury. Required coverage covers the damage to the course and the golfer, up to amount of chosen coverage, with your passenger’s injuries covered by your per- passenger sub-limit amount. Your optional coverage covers damage to the rented airplane.
If you had a $1 million policy with a per-passenger sub-limit of $100,000 and optional coverage of $80,000, treatment of your passenger would be limited to $100,000. The remaining $900,000 could be used to cover damage to the course and medical care of the golfer. The $80,000 optional coverage would cover damage to your rented airplane, including loss of use.
Some policies have per-person sub-limits instead of per-passenger sub-limits. These policies are the most restrictive, as they consider any person involved in the accident to be under the required coverage sub-limits (in this case only $100,000)— instead of making the total policy amount available for anyone outside the plane. There are no related premium savings with this policy, so they should be avoided.
AOPA Insurance Services is available to answer all your questions and help you make a decision that is right for your needs. AOPA Insurance Services is celebrating 20 years of serving the aviation insurance needs of our customers. Visit us online (www.aopainsurance.org) or call 800-622-2672 for information on how AOPA can get you the best deal on aviation and life insurance.
Bill Snead is an aviation insurance professional with more than 35 years of experience.
Visit the website to learn about upgrading to the AOPA Premier membership.
AOPA Insurance Services is available to answer all your questions and help you make a decision that is right for your needs. AOPA Insurance Services is celebrating 20 years of serving the aviation insurance needs of our customers. Visit us online (www.aopainsurance.org) or call 800-622-2672 for information on how AOPA Insurance Services can help you get the best coverage at the very best price.