Archive for March, 2011

A pancake breakfast with a twist

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011
serving pancakes

Pete Bunce (left), Matt Zuccaro (right), and I discovered new talents as we served pancakes to our members at an appreciation breakfast.

As president of AOPA I am fortunate to take part in plenty of pancake breakfasts at airports around the nation. They’re a tradition as old as aviation, and they’re a great way to get to know your fellow pilots. Today, at Sun ‘n Fun it was my turn to be one of the hosts. This morning GAMA’s Pete Bunce, HAI’s Matt Zuccaro, and I served pancakes to members of our associations at a member appreciation breakfast. We couldn’t have enjoyed it more and I look forward to doing it again. I think with some practice I could get good at flipping pancakes. I hope you’ll come out to our next event and find out for yourself!

AOPA’s newest member

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011


Craig Fuller and Robert Goyer

Flying magazine Editor-in-Chief Robert Goyer becomes AOPA's newest member at Sun 'n Fun.

AOPA really does have something to offer every pilot. That’s what Flying magazine Editor-in-Chief Robert Goyer discovered today as we visited at Sun ‘N Fun. Before the end of our meeting, he joined me at AOPA’s Membership Information Center in the AOPA tent to become AOPA’s newest member. He even signed up for automatic annual renewal–a great way to get extra chances to win this year’s Crossover Classic Sweepstakes, a versatile Cessna 182 with all the trimmings.If you’re at Sun ‘n Fun be sure to come by the AOPA tent. Not only can you join or renew your membership, meet with our partners, and learn more about how AOPA can make your flying easier and more enjoyable, you can also go for a “flight” in the full-motion Redbird simulator. Looks like fun!

Redbird simulator at AOPA tent

Members line up to take flight in the full-motion Redbird simulator at the AOPA tent.

RAF Reunion

Friday, March 25th, 2011

There are so many things to do at Sun ‘n Fun, but I am looking forward to a reunion with my friends at the Recreational Aviation Foundation.  They’ve told me that many of you AOPA NOW readers have checked out their incredible new video and their new website already, but if you have not, you can see both by clicking here: .

Better yet, come to Sun ‘n Fun and see the whole gang in Lakeland, Florida next week.

DOT Sec. LaHood “gets it”, he tells Wichita audience

Monday, March 21st, 2011

This morning I was fortunate to be in the audience as U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood spoke to more than 2,000 general aviation workers and supporters at an event in Wichita hosted by Cessna.

Shortly before he took the stage, I had a chance speak privately with Sec. LaHood. The enthusiasm he expressed for the GA industry and its workers was encouraging.

More than 2,000 people from numerous GA manufacturers gathered in Wichita to hear Transportation Sec. Ray LaHood speak.

During the event, Sec. LaHood told the enthusiastic crowd that, “GA will be one of the leaders as the economy picks up…we get it.” He even told the audience he would do all he could to encourage President Obama to visit Wichita and “thank you for all you are doing to make this country what it is by manufacturing these fantastic airplanes that are made in America.  It doesn’t get any better.”

Of course, that’s exactly what all of us who care about GA want to hear—that the leaders who make so many decisions affecting the future of our industry and our freedom to fly really “get it,” really understand the economic, transportation, business, personal, and humanitarian value that only general aviation can deliver.

For the workers assembled from Cessna, Bombardier, Beech, Garmin, FlightSafety, Rockwell Collins, and others, the secretary’s remarks were good news indeed. “The work you do will win the future for America,” he told the crowd.

Secretary LaHood's plane as seen from the cockpit of N4GA.

Other speakers, including Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, Sen. Jerry Moran, and Congressman Mike Pompeo expressed similar sentiments, focusing on the importance of keeping and creating jobs in general aviation. GA directly employs more than 17,000 people in Kansas and the industry contributes more than $7 billion annually to the state’s economy, according to the General Aviation Manufacturer’s Association.

Sen. Moran emphasized that the large audience had gathered to say, “We want our jobs. We want to keep our jobs. And we want to expand jobs.” He added that general aviation connects Kansas to the rest of the world.

Rep. Pompeo was equally enthusiastic, telling the crowd, “I’ve only been in Washington a few months, but it didn’t take long for me to find that this industry is the envy of the world.”

Cessna CEO Jack Pelton

Cessna CEO Jack Pelton, who hosted the gathering, talks to the media.

The event was a great start at expressing and building support for the general aviation industry. Now all of us who value GA will have to work together to keep that momentum going and ensure that these positive expressions become concrete actions that will support the recovery of the general aviation industry and protect our freedom to fly.

Experience Flying with The Recreational Aviation Foundation

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

My day began with a note from our friend John McKenna sending me a new video produced by the RAF which will be shown at Sun ‘n Fun at the end of the month.  I asked to share it with our readers.  You will see why we are so enthusiastic about the fine work being done by John and Team RAF.  You will want to watch this video!  Enjoy…. .

DOT’s Distracted Policy Making

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

I want to say right up front that I applaud DOT’s campaign against distracted driving…..we ought to get distracted drivers off the road.

But, someone is engaging in distracted policy making when it comes to removing privacy options related to tracking aircraft.  I just don’t get it!

There has not been a problem, and now the clock is ticking with about 25 days to send comments to DOT or they will not allow individuals who have a privacy concern to protect the identity of their aircraft from anyone who may wish to follow its movements.  What’s more preposterous, there is a sense that citizens who own the plane and fly the plane must justify their right to privacy.  Since when has this become a standard?  Will we need to justify why we might prefer not to have EZ Pass information released about where our private automobiles travel??

Our friend Ed Bolen, President of NBAA, dropped by for an interview with Warren Morningstar this week…it’s a message well worth watching: !

PS:  I should add that as a membership organization, AOPA does not block its aircraft registration numbers.  But, our members do have a clear right to privacy which is why we raise this issue in the event they wish to take advantage of a program that has existed for several years.

Helicopter heaven

Sunday, March 6th, 2011

Today I had the chance to spend some time at what can only be described as “helicopter heaven”—the Helicopter Association International’s “Heli-Expo 2011” show in Orlando, Florida. I am not a helicopter pilot—yet. But it is definitely on my bucket list, so I always feel a surge of excitement when I come to this show where I can see all of the newest products, avionics, and, of course, helicopters on the market.

GA Association CEO panel at Heli-Expo 2011

I was honored to speak at Heli-Expo 2011 as part of a panel made up general aviation association leaders.

HAI President Matt Zuccaro is a terrific host, and every time we talk I realize that, in many ways, the distinctions we draw between fixed-wing and rotary-wing pilots are entirely artificial. We’re all pilots and we all want the same things—access to airspace and landing facilities, reasonable and appropriate regulations, cost savings, and so on. That’s probably why AOPA has 15,300 members who are helicopter rated. It’s probably also why some of the most loyal supporters of AOPA and the AOPA Foundation happen to be helicopter pilots—they understand that your choice of aircraft matters a whole lot less than having the freedom to fly it.

A solution in search of a problem… is a BIG problem

Friday, March 4th, 2011

You should always be concerned about new federal regulations that reach your desk on a Friday afternoon! Like the one that came across my desk today to remove a privacy provision for flights by private aircraft.

Honestly, this is one of those end-of-the-week ideas that is so stunning I was at a loss about how to respond.  Then, I imagined the kind of discussion that might have occurred between the Department of Transportation and the Office of Management and Budget. Could it have happened like this?


OMB:  Hello,  Office of Regulatory Review.

DOT:  Hey, DOT here. We’ve got an idea to kick around with you.

OMB:  OK. Do you want to create a new regulation or get rid of one?

DOT:  Well, we kind of want to get rid of one….

OMB:  That’s great! We are trying to eliminate regulations!

DOT:  Well, this one is tricky, because what we want to do is eliminate some people’s right to privacy when they travel, but we think it is really in the government’s interest.

OMB:  Wait a minute….who are these people? Terrorists? Criminals? Tax evaders?

DOT:  No.  We’re talking about pilots who fly planes.

OMB:  What kind of planes?

DOT:  Well, all kinds really.  You see we require these pilots in private planes to give us a lot of information if they are going to make a flight using their instruments.

OMB:  I guess that’s a good thing. So, the problem is that they don’t like to do that?

DOT:  No, they are happy to do that. But, then what we do is make agreements with companies that want to track those planes, and we release the information about the aircraft and where it is going.

OMB:  Is this for some kind of historical reason?

DOT:  Not really. Actually, it’s released in almost real time so that, if you know the number on the tail of a plane, really anyone can track it around the country.

OMB:  You lost me. You take this information about private pilots flying private planes that they own and you make it available to everyone?  Why would people give you this information in the first place?

DOT:  Well, we’re DOT. They have to give it to us to file a flight plan.

OMB:  So, you want to get rid of this program?

DOT:  No, no. We like the program.  In fact, over at the FAA we are going to modernize the air traffic control system and collect even more information on more aircraft.  What we want to eliminate is a provision that allows people to protect their privacy!

OMB:  You mean, you have people who allow you at DOT to track their aircraft….they are OK with that…..but, they have privacy concerns about the federal government turning that information over to companies who then make it available to anyone!!??  I guess I am not surprised that they would want to protect their privacy.

DOT:  Well, we’ll let people maintain their privacy if they have death threats against them or if they are flying into areas where terrorists have been active.

OMB:  What was that? How would you determine this?  What if someone just wants to protect their privacy?

DOT:  Well….why is that our problem?  I mean, we are talking about someone who is flying a plane….

OMB:  But, you said it is their own airplane. Shouldn’t we consider their privacy concerns?

DOT:  That’s not really our concern.

OMB:  Seems like there are a whole lot of implications we should be looking into. I mean, what are you going to do with all the data you have on automobiles traveling through EZ Pass toll gates?

DOT:  Wow! There’s a thought. That opens up a whole new opportunity, sharing information on who uses EZ Pass…. I’ll get back to you on that. 

If this concerns you– and it does me – send a comment to the Department of Transportation at the address below.

By the way, at AOPA we do not block our registration numbers and I do not block the number on my personal aircraft.  As a membership organization, it’s appropriate for our members to know where we are going and how we are using our private aircraft.  However, I do believe that those same members have every right to privacy with regard to their aircraft.  It should be their decision to take advantage of a program that has worked just fine and about which no one seems to have complaints….except, apparently, someone at DOT.

Send comments to: 

US Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140
Washington, D.C.  20590

Or, fax in a comment to:  202/493-2251

Be sure to include Docket Number FAA-2011-0183 at the top of your comments.

I should tell you, DOT says it will post all comments received, without change, including any personal information you provide. (At least they are consistent in their enthusiasm for disclosure).