Illustration by John Holm
A pilot from Delaware got more than he bargained for last summer when he made a fuel stop in Pennsylvania in his Cessna 210N. A month after the flight, the pilot received a bill from Pennsylvania demanding payment of a tax equal to six percent of the value of his airplane—unless he could prove to them that he had paid it elsewhere.
It took months of wrangling and legal assistance to get the tax-demand letters to stop, but the pilot’s uncertainty remained.
AOPA’s government affairs team contacted the state’s aviation and revenue agencies and was able to get assurances that the case was closed.
At the time, aviation officials, along with the state’s community and economic development agency, were working on a project to build the state’s reputation as aviation-friendly. The pilot said, “There was a ‘watcher’ at the airport recording aircraft tail numbers and reporting the numbers to the state taxation department on the day I landed.”
“This was a surprise to them, and they do try to keep Pennsylvania aviation- friendly,” said Jared Esselman, AOPA’s director of state government affairs. “If anything like this happens, we want to know about it so we can do something. We don’t want to see trends like this in the states.”
Like several other states, Pennsylvania had adopted AOPA-supported legislation to eliminate its tax on the sale and use of aircraft parts and services in a bid to make its business climate for aircraft repair and maintenance operations more competitive. Pennsylvania also had taken an additional step by actively promoting its new business environment with a media campaign, outreach, and interactive Internet tools.
“AOPA works to protect members from adverse or harmful policies and taxation. If and when our members run into issues with states regarding taxes or anything else, they can contact AOPA through the Pilot Information Center, and the state advocacy team will help them,” Esselman said.
Survey: 65% of AOPA members believe the economic environment for GA is “not so good.”
Alabama: Mobile-based Continental Motors has announced FAA certification of its IO-360-AF engine—a six-cylinder engine that can operate on avgas or unleaded 91UL fuel. Alaska: AOPA is commenting on the Air Force proposal to expand MOA airspace in Alaska. Arizona: Hundreds of people took part in Arizona Aviation Day at the Capitol, where legislators discussed issues with members of the aviation community. Arkansas: AOPA President Mark Baker hosted a Pilot Town Hall in Bentonville. He discussed opportunities to build the general aviation community and the association’s advocacy efforts. California: AOPA Ambassador Kay Sundaram visited Palomar and other San Diego airports to discuss AOPA initiatives to make flying more affordable and grow the pilot population. Colorado: Regional Manager David Ulane will take part in the Colorado Pilots Association’s annual meet and greet, where representatives from aviation groups statewide talk about key issues. Connecticut: Regional Manager Sean Collins met with Connecticut Airport Authority officials to discuss opportunities for boosting economic activity at the state’s GA airports. Delaware: When an AOPA member in Delaware received a tax bill for his aircraft from Pennsylvania for landing at an airport in the state, AOPA worked with Pennsylvania transportation and revenue officials to resolve the issue. Florida: After learning that a tax exemption was being applied unevenly, AOPA worked with state revenue officials and the governor’s office to ensure that the aviation community understands what parts and services qualify for the exemption and that no tax is charged on exempt items. Georgia: The Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame honors new inductees at an April 18 banquet. Hawaii: The Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor hosted its sixth annual Discover Your Future in Aviation event, designed to help young people who are interested in aviation learn more about flying. Idaho: AOPA continues to work with Idaho Falls Airport ASN volunteer Roger Blew on master planning issues, including the future of the airport’s crosswind runway. Illinois: AOPA sent a letter to legislators supporting passage of Senate Bill 1280 that would reduce general aviation operators’ fuel tax liability and expand the state’s aircraft maintenance sales tax exemption. Indiana: AOPA met with key legislators to discuss a bill impacting aircraft liability. Iowa: AOPA took part in Iowa Trans-portation Day at the capitol to discuss legislation to eliminate unnecessary costs for flight training providers and ensure obstruction-free development around airports. Kansas: The 2015 Kansas Air Tour has been scheduled for September 28 through 30 and a route has been published. Kentucky: AOPA is supporting H.J.R.100, which would produce an economic impact study for GA in the state. Louisiana: AOPA is working with officials to update the definition of “aviation gasoline” in the state’s tax laws to include future unleaded aviation fuels. Maine: Regional Manager Sean Collins spoke at the Maine Aviation Forum, held at Red Oak Municipal Airport. Maryland: AOPA is working with state lawmakers to amend the Forest Conservation Act to give the Maryland Aviation Administration the power to remove hazards to air navigation. Massachusetts: The AOPA Air Safety Institute offered a seminar on preventing loss of control accidents at the Aero Club of New England’s annual Crash Course safety event in Bedford. Michigan: Regional Manager Bryan Budds spoke to a group of 200 airport managers at the Michigan Airports Conference about the association’s airport preservation and pilot growth initiatives. Minnesota: AOPA visited St. Paul to advocate for passage of legislation that would permit taxes collected on “mogas” used for aircraft be used for airport infrastructure investment. Mississippi: The Women of the Mississippi Agricultural Aviation Association (MAAA) is holding an essay contest for a $1,000 scholarship. The topic is “Why Agricultural Aviation Supports the Marking of MET Towers” and essays must be submitted by July 1. Missouri: AOPA Regional Manager Yasmina Platt testified in favor of S.B.377 to create a fly-away exemption at the Senate Ways and Means Committee hearing on March 12. Montana: AOPA is continuing to monitor legislation that could exceed the state’s authority to regulate unmanned aircraft system (UAS) operations. Nebraska: Regional Manager Yasmina Platt supported the annual Nebraska Aviation Symposium by giving a safety presentation on airspace and hosting a discussion of the sport pilot certificate and Light Sport aircraft. Nevada: An AOPA-supported bill to authorize partial abatements of property taxes or sales and use taxes for aircraft maintenance and repair businesses has passed out of committee and now goes to the full Senate. New Hampshire: Gov. Maggie Hassan declared March Aviation Appreciation Month. New Jersey: Regional Manager Sean Collins worked with folks from the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Coalition (MAAC) on becoming a co-sponsor for the May 1 and 2 event. New Mexico: AOPA is opposing a series of bills that could increase aviation fuel taxes and use aviation-generated funding for nonaviation purposes. New York: Representatives from AOPA, NATA, and NBAA met recently with officials from the Town of East Hampton to discuss proposed operational restrictions at East Hampton Airport. North Carolina: The AOPA Air Safety Institute traveled around the state to bring pilots a free safety seminar on surviving aircraft accidents. The presentation was offered in Raleigh, Charlotte, and Greensboro. North Dakota: AOPA exhibited at the Upper Midwest Aviation Symposium in Fargo and later advocated for pro-GA policies during North Dakota Aviation Day in Bismarck. Ohio: AOPA met with the Ohio Aviation Association to discuss modification to bills that would eliminate the sales tax on aviation fuel, impose a lesser excise tax, and dedicate the funding to the state airport funds to ensure no aviation user is unfairly treated. Oklahoma: AOPA supports House Bill 1041 to make 100 percent of the fees collected from aircraft dealer licenses go the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission’s Revolving Fund, for use by airports and aeronautics. Oregon: Regional Manager David Ulane attended the Oregon Airport Management Association’s annual spring conference and legislative reception. Pennsylvania: The Department of Community and Economic Development added an aviation page to its website to explain how take advantage of a sales and use tax exemption on aircraft parts, services, and components. Rhode Island: The state Department of Transportation provides training to middle and high school teachers to help them bring transportation and civil engineering topics into the classroom, and encourage students to explore transportation-related careers. South Carolina: The ninth National Aviation System Planning Symposium is scheduled for May 17 through 19 in Charleston. The theme is developing the twenty-first century aviation system. South Dakota: AOPA discussed ways to promote Lake Area Technical Institute’s Teacher Aviation Education Workshop with school leadership. Tennessee: Tennessee is expanding its aviation education opportunities through the Northeast Tennessee Aviation Education Initiative, founded by Tennessee State Representative Tony Shipley, AOPA member Henry Somers, and Bell Helicopter’s Richard Blevins. Texas: A bill to include “aviation activities” in the state’s existing recreational use statute has been introduced in the state legislature. The change would limit the liability of landowners who allow the public to use their property for aviation activities. Virginia: Samantha Reed, an aviation student from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, is the 2015 recipient of the $3,000 AOPA Women in Aviation International student pilot scholarship. Vermont: The New England Aerobatic Club will be sponsoring the Green Mountain Aerobatic Contest at Hartness State Airport July 17 through 19. Washington: AOPA is working with lawmakers and local pilot groups to push for legislation that would allocate 100 percent of the state’s existing aircraft excise tax revenues to aviation use. West Virginia: Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signed into law H.B.2138, AOPA-backed legislation to amend the state’s recreational use statutes to include aircraft operations. The new law provides liability protection to landowners who open their property to public use. Wisconsin: Looking for ways to grow and strengthen the state’s pilot population, AOPA is seeking input from a variety of education programs in Wisconsin. Wyoming: AOPA is helping pilots at the Greater Green River Intergalactic Spaceport demonstrate the value an airport can deliver to the community as the Green River City Council considers possible improvements.
UTAH: The Utah Backcountry Pilots Association planned a day of giving back by spending April 18 cleaning up the runway, removing weeds and rocks, and installing a new windsock at Happy Canyon Airstrip.
Support continues to grow for the Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2 (PBR2), which would reform the third class medical process and provide a wide range of protections for pilots. As of March 18, AOPA members had sent 32,434 letters asking their members of Congress to cosponsor PBR2, and 16 senators and 27 members of the House had signed on as cosponsors. The legislation also includes other protections for pilots, particularly those involved in FAA investigations or enforcement actions:
• Extends the protections contained in the original Pilot’s Bill of Rights to all FAA certificate holders.
• Clarifies that pilots who are facing an FAA enforcement or certificate action can choose to appeal directly to either a federal district court or to the NTSB for a full hearing and trial.
• Requires the FAA provide a specific description of the incident being investigated, making it easier to understand the nature of the issues under consideration and respond appropriately.
• If the FAA fails to provide timely notification that it is initiating an investigation, the agency cannot move forward with any enforcement action or retain any records related to the case.
• Allows the FAA to only demand documents from the certificate holder that relate directly to the issues being investigated.
• Prohibits the FAA from retaining investigative records for more than 90 days.
• Gives the FAA more flexibility to resolve cases administratively, through actions such as warning letters or letters of correction.
• Prohibits the FAA from requiring pilots to submit to reexamination of their pilot certificate unless there is clear evidence of unsafe behavior or the pilot has obtained his or her certificate through fraudulent means.
• Includes provisions to expedite improvements to the notam system.
• Makes flight data records maintained by contract towers, FSS, and other contractors subject to the Freedom of Information Act.
• Provides immunity from civil liability for designees who are carrying out their duties, provided they exercise reasonable care.
• Pilots who fly for public benefit or who fly for humanitarian or charitable purposes receive protection from civil liability.
Red Oak Municipal Airport (RDK) in Iowa has a close-knit pilot community, which gives Airport Support Network volunteer Duane Harris a fun and easy assignment. Harris has been an AOPA member for 35 years and an instrumental advocate at the airport. Throughout a runway extension project, Harris engaged his elected officials to properly motivate the FAA in completing the project. The week after the extension project was finished, a new jet arrived with a local business that was based further away—an instant and real-life example of the power of GA airports’ economic impact to communities across the country.
Each and every based pilot at Red Oak is a true aviation promoter. From Norm Yeager—whose name is on the building in honor of his many years of flight instructing and bringing people into aviation—to Gail Ernst, airport manager, pilot, and husband of U.S. Senator Joni Ernst, everyone is an active participant.
Depending on your route to EAA AirVenture, Red Oak could serve as a stop—and rest assured you will be greeted by some of the best airport advocates in the country.
AOPA Pilot Protection Services
By Mike Yodice
“Trust, but verify” is an adage that was used famously by President Ronald Reagan during arms-control negotiations with the Soviet Union toward the end of the Cold War. In the context of aircraft transactions, it is worthwhile guidance.
Aircraft transactions are sometimes handled in a rather casual manner, with the parties relying on verbal arrangements or inexact terms written on the back of a napkin. I think an airplane transaction demands a higher level of care, attention, and documentation. Following these basic tips will help to reduce the risks.
1. Execute a written agreement. It needn’t be a 30-page tome full of legalese to be effective. Its length and content should relate to the complexity of the transaction. At a minimum, the agreement should identify the aircraft; the parties to the transaction; and the agreed-upon terms such as price, inspection, and closing conditions. The terms, of course, are negotiable and should reflect a mutual understanding between the buyer and seller. AOPA has a Sample Aircraft Purchase/Sales Agreement posted on its website along with numerous other transaction-related resources. Also, Pilot Protection Services/Legal Services Plan members may utilize the benefits of the plan to consult with an attorney.
2. Inspect the aircraft and verify equipment and records. It’s advisable to perform a thorough prepurchase inspection. The inspector should not only assess the mechanical condition of the aircraft, but also scrutinize the log records and aircraft paperwork. It’s important, for instance, to verify that the registration mark on the airplane matches what’s listed in the logs and displayed on the registration and airworthiness certificates. Attention should also be paid to airframe and engine serial numbers. Also, don’t rely solely on the spec sheet; verify that the equipment listed is actually installed.
3. Conduct an FAA title search. Hire a title and escrow company to conduct the search to ensure the aircraft title is clear of recorded liens or encumbrances. It’s far better to discover a problem before a purchase than to try and fix it afterwards. If you’re financing the purchase, your lender likely will require a title search.
4. Consider an escrow closing. Having an independent title and escrow company orchestrate the closing will provide a professional level of oversight at a critical time, and benefit both the buyer and seller. This might be of particular importance if you’re involved in a high-dollar and/or complex transaction. The escrow agent will ensure that all the necessary documents and funds are in place; they will coordinate the closing and hand-deliver vital documents to the FAA.
These tips should help you avoid Cold War-like drama at closing (and beyond). Be prepared and fly away happy.
Mike Yodice counsels Legal Services Plan/Pilot Protection Services members on such issues as FAA compliance and enforcement.
AOPA Insurance Services Pilot Loss of Medical Certificate Disability Insurance offers financial protection to pilots whose livelihood depends on a valid medical certificate. This financial safety net covers loss of income caused by injury or illness, whether it occurs on or off the job, and is unique as it defines disability as the loss or suspension of your FAA medical certificate. Medical certificate disability policies are now available to the broader aviation public, and are priced to be affordable, portable, and they also can be used to fill in gaps left by policies already on the market. The policy can be “stacked” with other coverage an employer might provide. This allows the pilot to receive combined coverage up to 100 percent of his income if needed. The new policy is portable, meaning it is purchased independent of the employer and a job change does not affect the coverage; the coverage applies to the pilot, not the position. The policy also precludes rate changes based on individual claims, so no customer will be singled out for a rate increase or nonrenewal. Renewal is guaranteed. Disability that leaves the pilot unable to fly will trigger coverage even if the pilot is still able to perform other nonflying duties. Benefits from the policy typically are tax-free, another distinction from most employer-provided coverage.
To learn more about AOPA Pilot Protection Services, visit the website.
Educating pilots on improving their skills and enhancing GA safety is a core tenet of the AOPA Air Safety Institute (ASI) and its educational programs. Your contribution funds these activities and ensures ASI continues to address the needs of pilots everywhere. Show your support today.
General aviation pilots of all experience and certificate levels account for the majority of runway incursions each year, causing airport surface accidents and incidents because of a single miscalculation—or a host of slip-ups coming together at the wrong time. These mishaps are often the result of communication mistakes, unfamiliarity with an airport layout or its operations, poor weather, and pilot inattentiveness.
To improve our chances of avoiding such predicaments we should observe a sterile cockpit procedure, watch what’s going on outside the cockpit windows, and complete checklists before moving on the airport surface areas—this pays dividends in better situational awareness during taxi, takeoff, and landing. But we also need improved communication between pilots, air traffic control, and ground vehicle crews, based on a profound understanding of ramp, runway, and taxiway systems and signage, and air traffic clearances issued at towered airports.
Enter the Air Safety Institute’s new Runway Safety online course. Building off 14 years of educating pilots on runway safety through its original online course, the Air Safety Institute takes a fresh look at the subject that will challenge pilots of all skill levels. The course is chock-full of tips, exercises, and realistic interactive scenarios where you decide the best outcome. You are in control at all times, and you are able to change your decision to improve the outcome if you’re not happy with the result.
Could you use a runway safety refresher? Test your knowledge right from your desktop or tablet, and come prepared to cope with tricky situations the next time you maneuver on the airport surface and communicate with other traffic and ATC (www.airsafetyinstitute.org/runwaysafety).
Negotiating turbulence that produces moderate up- and downdrafts en route might be uncomfortable at times. However, a wake turbulence encounter in the pattern, on landing, or on takeoff can be literally upsetting and even ruin your day.
Although wake turbulence encounters are rare, they are potentially dangerous, particularly when the wake in question is made by a heavy aircraft flying slow. Make sure you don’t get taken for a ride: Check your understanding of how wake turbulence propagates and the time required for it to dissipate with the Air Safety Institute’s Wake Turbulence Avoidance quiz (www.airsafetyinstitute.org/waketurbulencequiz).
Note: Rotor wash from helicopters is similar to wake turbulence, though it behaves differently. Both result directly from creation of lift, and even a light aircraft can produce a dangerous amount of it under certain circumstances.
This course was made possible with the generous support of the FAA Runway Safety Group.
AOPA now offers flight training financing through an innovative new program developed by the AOPA Aviation Finance Company. The funds can be used for everything from starting and finishing primary training to advanced training, such as an instrument rating or obtaining a commercial certificate. It can be used for the kind of fun flying that so many AOPA members enjoy, such as earning a tailwheel endorsement or seaplane rating.
Unique features of AOPA flight training financing include the ability to borrow up to $100,000 over a 24- to 84-month period with no money down, no loan minimum, and minimal paperwork. When compared to other flight training loans, these interest rates are competitive at 7.74 to 12.99 percent.
“AOPA wants to remove the financial barriers that keep some pilots from being able to complete their flight training,” said Adam Meredith, president of AOPA Aviation Finance Company. “Whether they want to pursue flying as a career or just for fun, this flight training loan is designed to be simple, so our members can move ahead with their flying.”
Through the association’s Flight Training Initiative, AOPA is dedicated to increasing the number of students who earn a pilot certificate or certificated pilots who add ratings and experience to their logbooks.
The loans are designed not just for new students, but also for those already in flight training who pay for one flight hour at a time. Financing flight training at a highly competitive rate can mean completing training sooner, and without the interruptions that can degrade flying skills.
The loans are available only to AOPA members and feature a simple online application and a loan decision within one business day, with approved loans funded within just two business days.
AOPA Aviation Finance is a brokerage focused on arranging financing for AOPA members’ aviation-related needs.