Archive for May, 2013

End of a Runway? Build those houses!

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

aerial viewYou just have to wonder about the sanity of some people charged with developing communities. This article appeared in the Island Packet newspaper in Hilton Head, S.C. (bold print is added):

Hilton Head Committee to Consider Rezoning Near Airport
by Brian Heffernan

Owners of a failed 8.56-acre housing development off Beach City Road, not far from the Hilton Head Island Airport runway, are seeking a zoning change to allow for higher density residential redevelopment. The Planning and Development Standards Committee, which includes Town Council members, will review the rezoning application at 3 p.m. Wednesday at Town Hall.

The land is about 3,000 feet from the north end of the runway, within the airport’s approach path and partially within the outer hazard zone.

The Federal Aviation Administration, S.C. Aeronautics Commission, Beaufort County government, and town staff have all advised against increasing the property’s allowable density from the current four homes per acre to up to 12 homes per acre.

The town Planning Commission, however, voted 5-3 earlier this month to recommend the rezoning.

The owners, 217 Beach City Road LLC, say their lender will foreclose on the property if they are unable to rezone the development, called Beach City Place. Only one house has been built on the 32 planned lots since 2009. Rezoning for higher density could make it more economically viable, a Planning Commission member has said. The State Aeronautics Commission said a denser residential development that close to the runway would subject its tenants to “major safety and quality-of-life risks” and might make it difficult for the airport to get funding and permission for runway extensions. Some Planning Commission members, however, doubted whether the risk of chronic noise or an airplane crash on the property should keep the land from being rezoned.

Wanna bet that none of the planning commission members who voted on this incredibly ill-conceived idea will live in the affected area? The risk of a crash is small, but it’s there, and the noise impact is guaranteed! When the complaints invariably come in from residents who are foolish enough to move into such a development, do you think the developer or the planning commission members will take responsibility? They will be long gone, and somebody will say, “Mistakes were made—we’re sorry.” Wonder if “Errors and Omissions” insurance covers greed and economic self-interest? Hilton Head pilots and responsible residents, you need to speak up—now!

AOPA, through its Airports Division, works hard to block this lunacy nationwide, but we can’t do it without local support. The AOPA Foundation, working with the Airports division and local pilots, supports education programs showing that airports can be huge community assets and good neighbors, but building residential housing off the end of runways is just a bad idea no matter how much it may appear to help the tax base.

Watch your own community around the airport closely. AOPA’s Airport Support Network (ASN) volunteer program is the place to assist the existing volunteer or to become one yourself. Donations to the Foundation support these activities. It’s a good investment!

Common Sense Hardware

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

dialsThere’s a management mantra that has served me well over the years that says, “If something is a good idea, and it deserves to succeed, the sixth time you present it, there’s a 75% chance of getting it approved.” Your exact mileage may vary but the concept is sound.

There are two good ideas that I’ve been a strong proponent of for years and have fussed about in various meetings: putting angle of attack (AOA) indicators in light GA aircraft and adding front seat airbags. Both ideas are so completely obvious that you have to wonder why it’s taken this long to begin implementation. (Cue the mantra.)

As the industry co-chair of the obtusely-named GA Joint Steering Committee (GAJSC to our friends), an FAA-industry initiative to study and implement GA safety efforts, it’s been on my agenda for some time. In Washington, D.C., in addition to committees, there are also subcommittees who actually do the work. Our subcommittee focused on loss of control which is one of the leading fatality producers. Not many fatal accidents occur when the pilot is in control, but I digress.

What’s good about this breakthrough is that both pieces of equipment are relatively simple and they work; one makes the pilot aware that he’s asking the wing to do something impossible, and the second helps to save the bacon if the first one is ignored. Here’s another big breakthrough: none of this is a perfect solution that too often leads to bureaucratic gridlock when a good solution will get us far better results than the status quo. But we’re moving on it anyway!

blogAnother bit of good news is that the FAA Small Airplane Directorate has said they will make it much easier to retrofit both of these devices to old aircraft. Many new airplanes have had airbags for years, and older ones can be equipped, in some cases, more easily than with shoulder harnesses. Good for them—let’s see safety equipment become integrated into old airframes quickly to encourage owners to make a good choice. An aside: shoulder harnesses are very cheap if there is an attach point. Rather expensive if one has to be fabricated.

The AOA indicator can be used to good effect with more precise takeoffs and landings. Some of us are, shall we say, somewhat lacking in those areas. The turns which seem so benign can occasionally bite very quickly. The airbags are pure insurance and worth more than any earthly object when needed—otherwise they’re worthless, but then that’s how it is with insurance. Do you feel lucky?

A double-pronged approach to stall prevention and survivability in many accidents—what a concept! And it’s not mandated but should stand on its own merits.

Giving Back

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

able flight“To those whom much is given, much is expected.”

So said President John F. Kennedy. As pilots we have been given much—the ability to move more freely than most in a country that still allows it (mostly). We get to see and do things that most of our citizens can only dream of. And if we are to continue, the story must be told more widely to bring new people into this wonderful world of GA and to appreciate it even if they don’t fly. This isn’t easy, and there are barriers—some of the largest being the economic ones. But opportunity resides in crisis, and we’re pleased to be taking steps to help those truly deserving.

If you are a GA charitable organization, a student pilot in need of a scholarship, a teen interested in aviation, or a military member interested in joining AOPA, read on for some big news.

The AOPA Foundation is giving money away! 

Perhaps it’s better put that we’re investing in the future. (I sometimes get carried away!) Thanks to the generosity of pilots like you, the AOPA Foundation is able to provide some much needed financial support in two key areas: growing the pilot population, and improving the image of general aviation. There are many groups doing great work such as disaster relief, transportation by volunteer pilots, medical flights, and so much more. This week the Foundation launched the Giving Back program to provide just a little extra lift to those who will help carry the message of the benefits of flight. We’re giving back to those who give back to the GA community. “No one has ever become poor by giving.” So said Anne Frank.

Here’s an overview:

Nonprofit organizations doing charitable work through GA can apply for grants to support their mission. Grant applications are being accepted now through July 1. Ten grants of up to $10,000 each will be awarded at the AOPA Aviation Summit in Fort Worth, Texas, in October.

Ten flight training scholarships will be awarded to deserving student pilots. Not only will that add pilots to our ranks, but scholarship winners are natural ambassadors for GA, helping to improve our image as perceived by the general public. Do you remember when you first became a pilot? It was ALL you talked about—at least I did.

Lastly, we will provide 2,500 free AOPA memberships to teens through the AOPA AV8RS program and to active military members in order to introduce these segments of the population to the world of general aviation.

He has a right to criticize, who has a heart to help.” So said President Abraham Lincoln. In the pilot community these days there’s no shortage of critical opinion. Some pilots even have more than one! Add some weight to it by making a contribution; click here to make a donation directly to the Foundation’s Giving Back project. It will be invested wisely, and it’s tax deductible!

And I’ll be waiting to hear from you.

Safe Flights.