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Membership News & Notes: Final call

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AOPA Action

What AOPA is doing to keep you flying

AOPA is among 33 organizations calling on the FAA to step up its plans for integration of small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into the national airspace system—action that in the first decade could create 100,000 jobs and $82 billion in economic activity.

Publication of the notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) for UAS remains a missing and critical piece of the puzzle. In March, the FAA asked the NTSB to review an administrative judge’s ruling that threw out a $10,000 fine the FAA levied against photographer Raphael Pirker for flying a drone commercially near the University of Virginia to gather video. The NTSB judge ruled that the FAA had no regulations covering the UAS flight, contrary to the agency’s position. The judge’s decision cast doubt on the FAA’s power to regulate UAS and underscores the need for a safety framework for the flights, said the group of organizations in a letter to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.

The organizations said “the current regulatory void” has left UAS operators “operating in the absence of appropriate safety guidelines.” They urged the FAA “to allow the UAS industry to establish appropriate standards for safe operation.” The letter also urged the FAA to expedite rulemaking for UAS—an area where “the technology is advancing faster than the regulations to govern it.”

AOPA welcomed the FAA’s announcement that it will launch a rulemaking process that could result in expanding the number of pilots allowed to fly without obtaining a third class medical certificate. The “Private Pilot Privileges without a Medical Certificate” project will consider whether to allow private pilots to fly without a third class medical certificate in certain circumstances. Pilots would be able to use other criteria, including a valid driver’s license, to demonstrate their fitness to fly. 

The announcement comes two years after AOPA and EAA jointly petitioned the FAA to expand the third class medical exemption to cover more pilots and aircraft. The FAA said it is still considering the AOPA-EAA petition, which received 16,000 positive comments. The FAA also said it will consider whether it can safely provide any relief to the medical requirement before the rulemaking process is complete.

Expand your passenger safety briefing

Go beyond ‘fasten your seat belts’

As pilot in command you are responsible for your passengers’ safety. And a key safety item is a thorough passenger briefing. You know what is required by the FARs: Before moving the aircraft, you must ensure that all passengers are secured with safety belts (and shoulder harnesses, if installed) and instruct them on how to fasten and unfasten these. But don’t stop there!

A little more information can make a big difference in an emergency situation. You don’t want to scare your passengers, but it is wise to be prepared and take your PIC responsibility seriously. For example, you should demonstrate how to unlatch doors, work the com radio and enter the emergency frequency, and activate a handheld radio to alert ATC or rescue services in the event of an emergency. For flights over water, explain where the life vests are stowed and how to don one—and demonstrate this before leaving the ground. Take a moment to discuss what might happen in the unlikely event of an emergency and how your passengers can be of assistance. You’d want to be rescued quickly, and rescuers will need to know where to look.

To help you create or improve your own safety briefing, watch the Air Safety Institute’s video, Critical Information: The Passenger Safety Briefing, which covers often-overlooked items that should be part of every preflight safety briefing. The video includes helpful tips from NTSB and CAP experts, and imparts important knowledge that increases everyone’s odds of survival and rescue. Once you’ve watched the video, download the customizable briefing card to carry in your airplane and share with your passengers. The card shows the location of emergency equipment onboard the airplane and how to get help and be rescued.

Storm Week is June 8-14

As the convective season looms, the Air Safety Institute has just what you need to safely circumnavigate threatening weather: ASI’s Storm Week returns from June 8 through June 14. Tune into ASI each day during Storm Week for new convective-weather related products, a new webinar with renowned subject experts and panelists, a new safety video about thunderstorm avoidance, Facebook discussions, and more.

IFR Quiz:Obstacle departure procedures

Do you consult ODPs for each IFR departure?

MNNInstrument approaches may receive all the glory, but an obstacle departure procedure (ODP) is your friend when you find yourself departing an unfamiliar airport in low visibility and with no radar coverage. That’s when you’ll be glad to know what’s lurking to snag you on climbout. Too many accidents have occurred because pilots have ignored published ODPs or failed to adhere to them correctly. Learn more in ASI’s latest IFR quiz about this often overlooked procedure and why you should consider making it standard for every IFR departure.

This quiz is made possible by AOPA Insurance Services.


Action in the states

Tower marking bills advance across the country

At least three accidents involving meteorological evaluation towers (MET) have occurred over the past decade, resulting in four fatalities. These accidents, involving both agricultural operators and private aircraft, prompted the NTSB in 2011 to issue a safety alert, and in 2013 to call on the states to require marking and registering these towers in a directory.

METs are used for evaluating wind conditions to determine the suitability of a given location for wind turbine installation. With the recent growth in wind energy development, the towers have proliferated and are hard to spot. According to the NTSB, METs can be put up quickly, and often are erected without notice to the aviation community. In a matter of hours, the navigable airspace for low-flying aircraft can change without notice—and with potentially disastrous results.

AOPA, the National Agricultural Aviation Association, and many state agriculture and pilot groups joined an effort to pass legislation that would follow the NTSB recommendations and mitigate this risk to low-altitude flying. In March, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed legislation that requires lighting and high-visibility markings on the towers, joining Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, California, Missouri, and South Dakota with some tower marking requirements. Legislation is under consideration in Colorado and Oklahoma, and in development in several other states.

Aviation uses advance with recreational use statutes

Wisconsin lawmakers have joined a growing movement to promote recreational use of private landing strips by protecting private airfield owners from liability under the state’s recreational use statute. More than 20 states have enacted similar legislation, thanks to grassroots support driven nationally by AOPA and the Recreational Aviation Foundation.

The national effort to protect private landowners from liability related to aircraft use is driven by the need to keep as many backcountry strips and private fields available as possible. While campgrounds, parks, and similar recreation facilities have long enjoyed such protection, the extension of liability protection to property owners who welcome airplanes is a more recent phenomenon. By adding aviation to the list of covered sites, these states now provide the same level of liability protection for private landowners whose property is used by pilots flying recreationally as it does for private land used by skiers, hikers, people riding ATVs, and other uses.

Airport support network

Colorado Springs pilots win local tax exemption

At Colorado Springs Municipal Airport in Colorado, Airport Support Network volunteer Steve Ducoff spearheaded 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.

With help from AOPA and ASN, Ducoff began educating the local community and leaders in 2013 and, in April 2014, the city passed the new legislation. “The effort to develop this legislation, gather support, and see its passage was a concerted effort of the entire aviation community at the Colorado Springs Airport. The group also worked to support the interim director of aviation, Dan Gallagher, to see him confirmed as the permanent director. These two positive efforts have unified the aviation community more than ever. It has strengthened the economic base and will make the Colorado Springs Airport more enticing to general aviation, more competitive to attract aviation related businesses, and welcome guests to visit the Pikes Peak Region,” said Ducoff.

On the web: “AOPA Resources for You” is ideal for educating community groups such as city officials, fraternal organizations, community groups, or the media. The presentation describes general aviation, its impact on the community, and how airports help local areas thrive.

Rusty pilot shares story of return to the skies

MNNMark Luetkemeyer of Plano, Texas, could be the poster child of AOPA’s new Rusty Pilot initiative. After seeing an article about the effort to get pilots back into the cockpit, he sent an email to share the story about how he began flying again after a 25-year hiatus.

“My dad used to take us to the Jefferson City airport in Missouri,” Luetkemeyer said. “I got my certificate when I was 24 while in the Navy.” While in the military, he also earned his instrument, multiengine, and commercial certificates. He had accumulated almost 1,500 hours when he stopped flying.

“When I was in the military, I flew with military flying clubs, which were very reasonable. When I became a civilian in the early 1980s, there wasn’t a good military flying club nearby and other things took up my time.” Last spring Luetkemeyer told his wife he was either going to retire or keep working and start to fly again. “If you want to talk about rusty pilots, that’s me,” Luetkemeyer said.

He started flight training in July and finished in December. “It takes persistence, especially if you’re over 60 like me and have medical problems. But if you want it you can do it.”

Pilots and Placards

Placards are prominently displayed on the panels of many general aviation aircraft, and for good reason—compliance with the message they relate is mandatory. FAR 91.9(a) says, in part, that no person may operate a civil aircraft without complying with the operating limitations specified in the approved airplane or rotorcraft flight manual, markings, and placards. The limitations are generally set forth in the manufacturer’s flight manual or owner’s handbook for a particular aircraft. Some placards are directed by airworthiness directives.

FAR 91.213 addresses the conditions under which pilots may take off with inoperative instruments or equipment. You may operate most light aircraft with inoperative instruments or equipment so long as they are not part of the VFR day type certification or otherwise required for a particular type of operation (day, night, IFR; see FAR 91.205) and they are deactivated and placarded “inoperative” or removed from the aircraft and the cockpit control placarded. Sometimes, this requires maintenance. And, in all cases, the pilot or the mechanic must make a determination that the inoperative instrument or equipment does not pose “a hazard to the aircraft.”

On the maintenance side of things, there is shared responsibility between pilots and mechanics. FAR 91.405 requires owners or operators to have inoperative instruments or equipment repaired, replaced, removed, or inspected at the next required inspection and ensure that placards are installed, as required. FAR 43.11 stipulates that the person performing required maintenance must placard items permitted to be inoperative under 91.213(d)(2) and shall add the items to the signed and dated list of discrepancies given to the owner or lessee.

AOPA PilotProtection Services

AOPA’s Rusty Pilot program allows lapsed pilots a way to return to flying in a matter of hours through a free session of ground school that fulfills the FAA flight review for ground instruction. Flight schools and flying clubs may request to host a Rusty Pilot program by clicking “Learn more” at

Web: Learn more about AOPA Pilot ProtectionServices

Mike Yodice is the director of legal services plans at Yodice Associates and counsels LSP/PPS members on such issues as FAA compliance and enforcement. 

Answers for pilots

Time to buy?  With the arrival of spring, pilots are calling AOPA’s Pilot Information Center with questions about buying an aircraft. We have answers for all of your questions, as well as several helpful resources. Check out this month’s Answers for Pilots (, which discusses basic aircraft purchasing information. Of course, if you have additional questions, please call us again. 800-USA-AOPA (872-2672).

Insurance Services

Advocating for our members

Providing pilots with the best protection possible

AOPA Insurance Services extends coverage beyond aviation aircraft and renter’s insurance in order to provide pilots with the most complete protection possible. The following are additional coverage worth considering when it’s time to insure.

• AOPA Term Life Insurance: Be sure your family is protected with coverage designed specifically for active pilots and their families—it’s one of the few policies with no aviation exclusions limiting your coverage. AOPA also offers 10- and 20-year group level term life, which provides long-term financial security for your loved ones by locking in budget-friendly rates on coverage that can deliver up to $1 million in benefits for periods of 10 or 20 years. AOPA 50-Plus Term Life gives extra protection for your golden years with up to $50,000 in benefits. There’s no medical exam required, and because it’s designed specifically for active pilots age 50 and above, there are no aviation exclusions limiting your coverage.

• AOPA Accidental Death and Dismemberment Protection: Provides 24/7 guaranteed protection on your personal flying activities that pays up to $300,000 in added benefits—all at low group rates.

• Emergency Assistance Plus: Gives you access to more than 20 emergency and medical services, and assistance in paying for things your health insurance or travel insurance typically won’t cover.

• Aircraft Return Service Benefit: If you are an aircraft owner you can add this benefit, which will return your aircraft to your home airport should you be unable to do so because of a medical emergency.

AOPA Insurance Services is an advocate for its members. We support pilots with the very best in aviation and life insurance coverage, risk education, and claims advocacy. A full-service aviation insurance brokerage, we protect all types of pilots and their families at all stages of life. We’re experts at handling insurance for the entire general aviation community, including personal aircraft, flight schools, flying clubs, airports, FBOs, maintenance providers, and other general aviation groups.

On the web: AOPA Insurance Services is celebrating 20 years of serving the aviation insurance needs of our customers. Visit us online ( or call 800-622-2672 for information on how AOPA can get you the best deal on aviation and life insurance.

AOPA Strategic Partner Spotlight

Car Rental Discounts for AOPA Members Alamo, Enterprise, and National offer AOPA members car rental discounts of up to 25 percent off. These partners also support AOPA through sponsorship of AOPA Events, AOPA Airports, and the “Fly-Outs” feature in AOPA Pilot, along with financial support that helps AOPA promote, protect, and defend GA. Go online ( to learn more.

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