It has been a week since I left Tampa and the AOPA Aviation Summit. But, with some down time today, I enjoyed replaying some of the highlights thanks to AOPA LIVE. We have so many program segments available…check it out…just CLICK HERE.
Archive for 2009
A visit to Tucson this past week meant that I could finally accept the invitation from Phil Kislak to go for a glider flight.
Phil is part of the fine people who make up the Tucson Soaring Club. The group operates the El Tiro Gliderport and owns all the club buildings and equipment, but leases the land from the BLM.
I enjoyed two flights with Phil on a beautiful day outside of Tucson.
The El Tiro Gliderport is a beautiful field that is actually inside the Ironwood Forest National Monument. The sites are spectacular aloft and the experience is one I will long remember. Phil Kislak gave me not only a memorable afternoon of flying, he reminded me of how wide our AOPA’s members’ interests are when it comes to aviation. I met some great aviators last week who regularly go aloft looking for thermals and never consider where they will land if they lose an engine!
There is a remarkable new development occurring around the anticipated aviation User Fee promised by the Obama Administration in next year’s budget proposal. Leaders in Congress were reported last week to be circulating a letter to The President suggesting the $9 billion User Fee proposal is not wanted nor warranted and would be rejected by Capitol Hill if it is contained within the budget (SEE STORY).
Even though the Administration’s budget is months away from being sent to Congress next February or March, leaders in Congress know that budget deliberations are underway inside the Administration. While support for User Fees has long existed inside the Office of Management and Budget, we have reason to believe that others in the Administration have serious reservations wanting instead to focus on the important mission of modernizing our air traffic control system and other priorities. Looks like there is now a clear signal emerging among key Members of Congress.
Our view: this could not come at a better time!
We will have more to say once the letter with what we understand will be many signatures from a bipartisan group Congressmen is sent to the White House.
This past week I flew into Pittsfield Municipal Airport to speak to the Massachusetts Airport Management Association (MAMA). The airport is located in beautiful Berkshire County, Massachusetts, and it was a great opportunity to combine business and pleasure as I flew my Bonanza above the early fall foliage and terrific scenery.
Massachusetts is home to 37 general aviation airports, and the approximately 100 officials attending the conference serve in roles that are vital to preserving those airports–including positions as airport managers, members of the Massachusetts Aeronautical Commission, and area FAA representatives.
I love getting out and speaking to groups like this one because it gives me a great opportunity to hear about local concerns. While the details differ, the underlying issues are universal–airport encroachment, misguided legislation or taxation efforts, infrastructure needs.
This particular conference had a relaxed, informal atmosphere, and I was pleased by the excitement the audience showed over the General Aviation Serves America campaign–both our early successes and the work that remains ahead of us.
I left this event, as I do so many gatherings, with an acute awareness of the challenges ahead, and a profound optimism that the passion and cooperative spirit of the general aviation community will allow us to overcome any obstacles to ensuring a bright and vibrant future for GA.
I got quite a surprise this morning when what I thought was an 8 a.m. meeting turned out to be an opportunity to do a little formation flying and aerobatics with the AeroShell team in their North American AT-6 “Texans”. It was an unforgettable experience. The team flew through spectacular maneuvers including loops and an amazing bomb burst with the smoke on. It could only happen at Oshkosh.
My morning began with savoring the thrill of flight and ended with working on the serious business of protecting our freedom to fly. Just a couple of hours after the adrenaline rush of flying with the AeroShell team, I found myself in a meeting with EAA’s Tom Poberezny, other association heads, and a delegation of congressional leaders.
I am at Oshkosh this week for EAA AirVenture, and it’s a whirlwind as always. It just isn’t possible to fit in all the many things I want to do and people I want to see. But it’s a fun place to try.
AOPA has a much-expanded presence this year, and I am using the opportunity of being on site all week to accomplish a great deal of work, and have some fun, too.
I got to take a walk around the show at the beginning of the week and, as always, I was tremendously impressed by the sheer variety of aircraft, and businesses, taking part. If you ever want to see aviation in its full, diverse glory, spend a few days at AirVenture.
I also had the chance to be part of a panel of general aviation leaders invited to speak about the issues that concern our future. The panel was headed by EAA President Tom Poberezny and my fellow participants included Pete Bunce of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, Matt Zuccaro of Helicopter Association International, and Ed Bolen of the National Business Aviation Association.
One thing was abundantly clear—although we each represent a slightly different segment of the general aviation community, we all agree that working together is pivotal to ensuring our future.
To help formalize that spirit of cooperation, AOPA and EAA today signed a memo of understanding saying that we will collaborate on a whole range of things from growing the pilot population through EAA’s wonderful Young Eagles program to using AOPA’s expert advocacy team to defend our freedom to fly on Capitol Hill and in states nationwide.
This agreement marks a major milestone for both associations, but I believe it’s just the start. I am really excited to see a new spirit of cooperation taking wing in GA. When we work together, the sky’s the limit!
From the beginning of the year, AOPA has urged the adoption of an FAA reauthorization measure to ensure the stable funding needed for important modernization efforts to move forward. Now Senators Rockefeller, Hutchison, Dorgan, and Demint have introduced legislation in the Senate that would fund the FAA for two years. We applaud Senator Rockefeller, the Senate Commerce Committee leadership, and all committee members for taking action, and we look forward to participating in discussions about the ultimate direction this legislation takes.
During discussions earlier this year, Senator Rockefeller expressed his strong desire to advance modernization of the air traffic control system in the United States. AOPA supports modernization and believes that there are near-term actions available to the FAA that will improve access to airports throughout the country by more fully utilizing the satellite based technology available now. We also believe in developing a realistic timetable for deploying ground-based receivers that are the foundation for making best use of satellite-based navigation and air traffic control technologies. Deployment of this ground-based equipment, combined with swift certification of ADS-B equipment for aircraft, will put us on course for meaningful modernization over the course of the next few years.
While this legislation clearly moves us closer to achieving much-needed modernization, AOPA believes that a longer term funding package based firmly on existing, proven funding mechanisms offers the best assurance of achieving modernization swiftly and efficiently.
Because full modernization is unlikely to be completed within two years, the need to seek funding could delay or derail modernization efforts midstream, ultimately raising the price tag for completing needed improvements. At the same time, leaving open the possibility of creating and implementing new funding mechanisms, as proposed by budget officials within the Administration, could destabilize funding just when a steady source of revenue is needed most. One need only observe the uncertain nature of funding in countries that employ user fee-based mechanisms to see how easily economic fluctuations can destabilize funding for air traffic control.
We look forward to discussing these concerns and hope that this measure can be advanced quickly, allowing time for a Conference Committee to reconcile the Senate and House measures and the full Congress to pass an FAA reauthorization measure this year.
This week finds me on the road, or rather in the sky, again to spread the General Aviation Serves America message to an ever widening audience.
But last week I enjoyed seeing just how diverse the spectrum of general aviation is when I spoke at two events in two very different places. The first group I addressed was the Flying Physicians Association at their annual convention held in Washington, D.C. This association is made up of doctors who also fly, and much of the gathering was devoted to discussions of various medical issues and technologies as they relate to aviation.
It’s hard to imagine a group of individuals who are more focused or intense about their passions than these highly trained professionals. And many are combining their medical training with their love for flying by working as aviation medical examiners, generally in addition to their primary field of practice.
They asked some tough questions and showed sincere interest in how they can play a role in promoting the General Aviation Serves America campaign to educate policy makers and opinion leaders about the value of GA.
The very next day, I traveled to Tarkio, Mo., to participate in a completely different sort of event—a great grassroots fly-in and airshow held at a grass airfield in this rural community. The event is put together by Congressman Sam Graves, a Tarkio native, pilot, and friend to general aviation in the House of Representatives.
Here the non-flying community joined pilots who fly in from around the region to be part of a wonderful day spent among aircraft, watching aerobatics, and seeing classic aircraft of all types. Families come out to see the show and kids look in wonder at the airplanes and dream of flying. It’s the sort of event that might have taken place 50 years ago, and it’s just as relevant and refreshing today.
Here too, to this diverse audience, I had the chance to speak about issues affecting general aviation and the ways we are addressing them through the General Aviation Serves America Campaign.
This audience, too, was intensely interested in what’s going on in GA and all that general aviation does to serve America.
And it was then that I realized just how much general aviation really does bring people together, ideologically as well as literally. These two completely different audiences in wildly differing locations shared a powerful interest in preserving general aviation. And while these groups use GA differently in many ways, both could clearly see the value in protecting it for themselves, for their communities, and for future generations.
The whole experience has been a wonderful chance for me to talk face-to-face with AOPA’s members about how they fly and why general aviation is important to their business and personal lives. It’s also been a wonderful validation of the efficient use of general aviation aircraft.
Last month, in a 48-hour period I was able to travel to California, New Mexico, Ohio, and Maryland. In that same time frame I was able to give a commencement address to UCLA’s political science graduates, participate in fundraising event for General Aviation Serves America, attend an important business meeting, and get back into the office in time to put in a full afternoon’s work. I could never have managed all that on such a tight timeline if I had been forced to follow airline schedules.
And I do it all the time. If I have a long trip to make, I try to plan my fuel stops around airports, pilot groups, or events I need to visit. Can’t do that on the airlines, either.
Almost every day I personally take advantage of the freedom general aviation gives me to get where I need to go, get the job done, and get back into the office. And I’ve done it for years. Long before becoming president of AOPA, I relied on general aviation to maximize my most limited resource—time.
I am sure many of you have had similar experiences—discovering that general aviation allows you to “warp” time and do things that simply wouldn’t be possible by any other means. That’s a story worth sharing, and I hope it’s one you’ll tell every chance you get.
I hope you’ll also take a look at this amazing YouTube video developed from pictures taken by general aviation pilots—it just may remind you of how extraordinary our freedom to fly really is. Share it with a non-flying friend to give them a unique insight into the world of general aviation flying, and consider inviting them up for a flight. And, this Independence Day weekend join me and thousands of general aviation pilots in exercising one of the greatest freedoms we share—the freedom to fly!