Archive for June, 2011

Turning up the heat on the FCC

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

This morning I’m at Concord Airport in New Hampshire taking part in a news conference with Congressman Charlie Bass, who’s really turning up the heat on the FCC.

Congressman Charlie Bass

Congressman Charlie Bass talking to the press about the importance of saving GPS.

By now you’ve probably heard about the unprecedented battle for the future of GPS. The FCC has granted waivers to LightSquared to build a communications network that interferes with, and even blocks, GPS signals. As pilots, we all know how critical GPS is to our safety, to our all-weather access to thousands of airports, and to the FAA’s NextGen modernization program. But apparently, the FCC doesn’t get it.

That’s why Congressman Bass has gathered representatives of numerous groups who depend on GPS to alert the media and the public to our very serious concerns. Sometimes you have to turn up the heat to get folks in Washington to see the light. And I want to thank Congressman Bass for doing just that.

It seems we may have to keep raising the temperature if we’re going to put a stop to this project.

Last week, I testified before Congress about the dangers of allowing LightSquared to continue, asked that FCC rescind its waivers, and urged Congress to investigate how one agency could be allowed to single-handedly undermine our entire national transportation network.  And I wasn’t alone. Representatives from DOD, DOT, and the Coast Guard all had similar stories to tell. And yet, so far, LightSquared is being allowed to proceed with its plans.

And months ago, before the waivers were granted, AOPA and others warned the FCC of the potential for dire consequences if this project was approved. Since then, numerous studies have demonstrated, unequivocally, that LightSquared’s planned network cannot coexist with GPS. And yet, LightSquared is being allowed to proceed.

I am incredulous that this whole debacle could have been allowed to advance so far—and you can bet that we’ll make it uncomfortably hot for the FCC until we can be certain that GPS is available now and for decades to come. Maybe if they feel the heat, they’ll finally see the light.

After a Long Week, the RAF Fly-In to Ryan Field, MT Was the Place to Be!

Monday, June 27th, 2011

My friends at the Recreational Aviation Foundation (RAF) invited me to their annual fly-in at a grass airstrip that sits just outside of Glacier National Park in Montana.  The weekend corresponded to another meeting in the West and so some months ago, I accepted.

I really could not have imagined just how fantastic the two days would be with fellow aviators who share a strong passion for flying.

In addition to spending time at Ryan Field — where I had the very good fortune to meet Ben and Butchie Ryan who created this unique place — I took some folks up on an offer to fly to Meadow Creek to the South and visit another favorite RAF strip where people had flown in for a working weekend of tending to the airstrip and the surrounding grounds.

I could try to tell you more….but, I took a number of pictures and this slideshow probably does a better job.  And, if you click on a link below the slideshow, there are captions for the pictures. 

Hope you enjoy the show!  CLICK HERE.


LightSquared plan toxic to GPS

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

We’ve all heard about “toxic drugs”—medications that are brought to market, only to have the FDA discover that they have dangerous side effects. When that happens, the FDA recalls the drugs to protect the public. Today I testified before members of Congress about a different kind of toxicity—a plan that would cripple the GPS system that our national transportation network relies on. We use GPS in our airplanes every day for everything from basic navigation to precision approaches. GPS is critical to search and rescue operations, business and personal aviation, agricultural flying, law enforcement, and much more.

LightSquared’s plan to create a broadband network has been proven to interfere with GPS signals—in some cases making GPS completely unavailable. Multiple studies have concluded that LightSquared’s plan is “incompatible” with GPS use. Having been compelled to recognize the interference problem, LightSquared has proposed a series of ad hoc fixes, ranging from installing filters on GPS units to using only a portion of its allotted bandwidth—at least for now.

The fact is that these aren’t real solutions. Why not? Well, for one thing, there are absolutely no filters in existence that can do the job. Then just imagine the cost and difficulty of certifying and equipping the entire aviation fleet. And as for voluntarily limiting frequency—well, let’s just say I have my doubts about how long that would last.

The real problem here isn’t LightSquared—this is a company that wants to find innovative ways to deliver broadband nationwide. The real problem is with the FCC—the agency that granted the waiver for LightSquared to begin this program in the first place. The FCC fast-tracked LightSquared’s application and granted waivers without adequate research or testing.

Now that the problems are painfully clear, the FCC needs to withdraw its waivers—just as the FDA would withdraw a toxic drug from the market. For 28 years, since GPS was first opened to civilian use—a conversation I was directly involved in as part of the Reagan administration, by the way—the goal has been to do no harm. This plan would do irreparable harm.

It would harm aviation safety and efficiency, and completely undermine NextGen modernization efforts that are so completely dependent on GPS.

Today, speaking on behalf of many GA organizations, including EAA, NATA, and GAMA, I asked Congress to investigate the policy making process that has allowed LightSquared’s dangerous proposal to progress so far with so little understanding of the hazards.

This issue is critically important to everyone who flies—and it’s not over yet. Count on AOPA and our fellow GA organizations to stay on top of this issue. And be sure to stay informed through, AOPA Aviation eBrief, ePilot, and our other communication tools. Your engagement with this issue is critical to our ability to protect GPS.

We’ve Joined NBAA in Court to Block DOT’s Dismantling of the BARR Privacy Program

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

A short while ago we filed a formal notice of appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to protect important and valued privacy rights from an ill-conceived Department of Transportation regulatory action. 

Here’s the full press release that has just been issued:

June 22, 2011

For Immediate Release            

Contacts: Dan Hubbard, NBAA (202) 783-9360, [email protected]
               Chris Dancy, AOPA (301) 695-2159, [email protected]
               Dick Knapinski, EAA (920) 426-6523, [email protected]

General Aviation Operator Groups Take Fight to Protect the BARR to Court;
Responding to industry’s request, legal fund offers avenue for supporting the battle

Frederick, Md. – Leading organizations representing general aviation (GA) operators today moved ahead with a court challenge to the Department of Transportation’s (DOT’s) decision to dismantle the Block Aircraft Registration Request (BARR) program, and announced the establishment of a fund to support the legal fight.   

On behalf of GA operators, a formal notice of appeal has been filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit; that notice will be followed by a motion to prevent the DOT from making any changes in current practice pending the court’s consideration of the appeal. Government officials put forth their plan for severely curtailing the BARR in a June 3 filing in the Federal Register.

The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) and Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) said the legal filing is needed to preserve the BARR program, which was enabled by congress so that GA aircraft owners and operators could “opt out” of having their aviation movements broadcast over the internet. The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), recognizing the threat to personal privacy, plans to support the legal challenge being mounted by NBAA and AOPA.

“As we have said, the DOT has chosen to look past the overwhelming number of principled objections to its plans for eliminating a program that has reliably served the general aviation community for more than a decade,” said NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen. “The government’s plan sets the stage for anyone with an internet connection – terrorists, cyber-stalkers, paparazzi, criminals, business competitors – to follow the movements of citizens and companies in real time. The situation represents an unwarranted invasion of the privacy of aircraft owners and operators, a threat to the competitiveness of U.S. companies and a potential security risk to the persons aboard the aircraft, and we are confident the court will agree with this assessment.”

“The government’s position is akin to saying anyone with an internet connection has more of a right to know when you go through a toll booth using a Fast Pass-type device than you do to privacy,” added AOPA President and CEO Craig Fuller. “This is not about whether or not we pilots can hide our aircrafts’ whereabouts from the government. We can’t, nor do we wish to. Aviation and security officials have always had real-time access to aircraft movements. Rather, it’s about whether a privately owned vehicle can move freely about a transportation system held in public trust without broadcasting its exact location to the entire world against the will of the owner and operator.”

EAA President and CEO Rod Hightower agreed, adding: “Many EAA members fly primarily recreationally, and they also have made clear to us that they view the government’s action as an unwarranted intrusion and a dangerous precedent. Therefore, we fully support the legal efforts of our fellow aviators and associations.”

Bolen and Fuller also announced that in response to requests from NBAA and AOPA Members, a fund has been established for the industry to demonstrate its support to the legal challenge.

“A large number of people from the GA community have asked for ways they can support this effort, and the creation of this fund provides another means for them to do so,” Bolen said.

“Our members have made clear that they want to be involved, and they want AOPA to be involved,” added Fuller. “This fight will require the coordinated efforts and collective resources of the broad general aviation community, and anyone else who is interested in preserving a right to privacy.”

Contributions to the BARR Legal Defense Fund can be made by sending a check made out to BARR Legal Defense Fund via postal delivery to:

BARR Legal Defense Fund
c/o NBAA and AOPA
P.O. Box 33788
Washington, DC 20033-3788

Please direct inquiries about the fund to:

                                        NBAA: (202) 783-9266, [email protected]
[email protected]       AOPA: (800) 872-2672, [email protected]

“We are dedicated to doing everything we can to stop the DOT’s plan to disable the BARR, and today, we’re taking another step to honor that commitment,” Bolen said. “We know that getting on an airplane shouldn’t be tantamount to forfeiting basic privacy protections, and on behalf of the general aviation community, that’s the case we’re going to make with the court. We look forward to having the support of those in the industry who likewise view privacy as a fundamental right.”

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