California Senator Jean Fuller Receives AOPA Award

Presenting AOPA Award to Senator Fuller

Presenting AOPA Award to Senator Fuller

On April 24, I had the privilege of presenting California State Senator Jean Fuller (R-18) an AOPA “Friend of Aviation Award” in her office at the Capitol. Senator Fuller and her husband Russ are pilots and own a Bonanza.
Senator Fuller has been a strong supporter of general aviation. In 2010 she was the Keynote Speaker at the Association of California Airports Fall Conference. She tells fascinating stories about when she and Russ were newlyweds and chose to buy a Cessna 172 instead of a second car.
Many of the readers will recall the potentially disastrous AB 48 legislation passed in 2009 with no notice to or input from the aviation community. AB 48 would have subjected all flight training professionals in California to regulation by the state’s Bureau of Private Postsecondary Education. It is widely believed that the fees and processes specified in AB 48 would have put most California flight instructors out of business. In 2011, Senator Fuller, in collaboration with AOPA and NATA, authored SB 619. SB 619 provided a specific exemption from the AB 48 provisions for FAA certified flight instructors. The bill passed both houses of the legislature with overwhelming majorities and was signed by the Governor. It became effective January 1, 2012.
We heartily thank Senator Fuller and her staff for their continued support of general aviation.

California Aviation Awareness Day

Aviation Awareness Day Underway

Aviation Awareness Day Underway

Aviation organizations, especially the Association of California Airports (ACA) and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), for years have discussed the possibility of holding an aviation day at the State Capitol. After the ACA Fall Conference in September, an informal organizing committee was formed to seriously plan for such an event.

After a number of meetings, details began to coalesce. And on April 24, 2013, the first annual California Aviation Awareness Day at the Capitol became a reality. This is the first time that a broad spectrum of aviation organizations have come together to host an event to inform California legislators, legislative staffs, and the general public about the importance of aviation to the welfare of the California economy and to raise the level of awareness of the benefits of aviation to all Californians.

The event began with a by-invitation reception on the evening of April 23 at a local restaurant. The reception was well attended by event organizers, sponsors, legislators, and legislative staff members.

The next day the main event was conducted on the north lawn of the Capitol in a large tent enclosing displays and educational materials. Approximately 20 aviation organizations participated and interacted with visitors. There were many interesting exhibits to attract attention.

The event kicked off with a welcome and remarks by Senator Jean Fuller, a strong supported of aviation. In the afternoon after the lawn event, many of the organizers visited their legislators’ offices, and small teams distributed educational materials to the offices of all 120 legislators.

We feel that the event was a complete success. It was estimated that the event had at least 500 visitors. It was covered on local television news.

The Association of California Airports was the official sponsor. I representated AOPA on the organizing committee and also served as the event spokesperson. Other collaborating organizations, in no particular order of mention, included: Alliance for Aviation Across America; California Airports Council; California Department of Transportation; California Pilots Association; National Business Aviation Association; Seaplane Pilots Association; Southwest Chapter American Association of Airport Executives; California State University Los Angeles AAAE Chapter; Sacramento City College Department of Aviation; McClellan Air Museum; Experimental Aircraft Association; Aeroplex/Aerolease Group; Reach Air Medical; Napa Valley Balloons; Northern California Business Aviation Association; Paramount Citrus; Mead and Hunt; Parsons Brinkerhoff; Tartaglia Engineering: Southern California Aviation Association; National Association of Flight Instructors; C&S Engineering; Truckee Tahoe Airport District; and others.

We have already begun planning for second annual California Aviation Day at the Capitol, tentatively scheduled for April 24, 2014.

Youth Interest In Aviation Careers Holds Promise


I have a personal history of involvement in introducing youngsters to aviation and encouraging aviation careers. It is probably driven by my own career, one that I would not trade for anything. I have always loved my work.

I began working with young people some years ago while employed by a large flight training organization. We did college accredited pilot training in South Florida. I was also involved with training Civil Air Patrol cadets and later worked as a volunteer in Aviation Exploring, a Boy Scouts of America program. I am proud to say that there are a bunch of people in aviation today that I was able to mentor. I know that because so many stay in touch with me. That’s the best part.

As we struggle with a declining pilot population and concerns about pilot and AMT shortages in the years to come, I find plenty of reasons to be optimistic about youth interested in aviation careers. One of them comes from an event I attended this week in Kentucky – “WING DESIGN CHALLENGE” – sponsored by NASA/Kentucky, The University of Kentucky Dept. of Engineering and the Kentucky Institute for Aerospace Education (KIAE).

An estimated 250 high school students representing 25 aviation teams from more than 20 school districts in The Commonwealth participated. The KIAE supplies each team with a standard complete RC model fuselage and engine. The team designs and builds a wing; documents what they have done and why – then submits their paper for judging. At the event they are judged further on an oral interview and rigorous flight testing of their wing design. I sat through a number of interviews and observed the flight testing, done by AMA licensed pilots. I can personally attest that these youngsters are “into” this program. Among this many high school students you’d think there would be some “goof-offs”, but I saw none. These teams are serious, learning a lot and clearly having a lot of fun in the process.


Judges Doing The Oral Presentation


Group Photo (but many are in the background)

During the day I was able to talk with some of the participants about their career interests. One of the initial assignments when they begin KIAE aviation classes is to sign up for our AOPA “AV8RS”- Pilots of Tomorrow program. This special AOPA membership is FREE for teens between 13 and 18 and is loaded with benefits, all designed to feed and foster their interest in aviation.

Next week I am speaking to a group of high school students interested in aviation and I am actively initiating an outreach to members who share my interest in promoting aviation careers. As summer nears and schools are out for a few months there are even more opportunities to get kids out to the airport and in the air. I am gratified to know how many AOPA members are getting involved with teens and becoming mentors themselves.

Mat Su Area Traffic Frequencies: Your input needed

A group of industry and government stakeholders is working to reduce the risk of mid-air collisions in the Mat Su Valley, but they need your help to reach that objective.  Over the past five months, the working group has taken the results of last summer’s AOPA pilot survey and inputs from pilots who fly in and through the area.  The goal is to clarify the use of radio frequencies used to maintain situational awareness when operating in this busy airspace.

Home to over two hundred private and public use airports, airstrips, lakes and landing areas, the Mat Su experiences a wide range of aviation uses.  The airspace in the valley sees everything from private pilots heading to cabins or hunting and fishing areas, to commercial operators hauling visitors, groceries and supplies to remote lodges and mines. It is also used for military training flights at low-level by helicopters and C-17s, and student flight training from Anchorage and valley airports. Add to the list, those of us that fly through the Mat Su headed to more distant destinations.  One of the tools we use to share the airspace is reporting our location and listening for nearby aircraft, but on what frequency?

Rex Gray's map showing overlapping CTAF frequencies.

Rex Gray’s map showing overlapping CTAF frequencies.

During the “inventory” phase of this project, it became apparent there was a lack of agreement even among seasoned professionals on what radio frequency to use for situational awareness in different parts of this airspace.  Rex Gray, a valley resident who also serves as the President of the Alaska Airmen’s Association, took the time to sit down with the Anchorage Sectional and the Alaska Supplement and map out overlaps in CTAF coverage in the valley.  According to the AIM, a Common Traffic Advisory Frequency serves an area 10 miles around its assigned airport.  This map, coupled with other area frequency guidance in different publications highlighted the problem. Pilots who consciously used the CTAF for the airport they were headed to were often sharing airspace with aircraft on other frequencies enroute to adjacent landing areas.  A priority was identified within the working group to reduce this confusion, and promote the use of defined area frequencies, as has been done on a case by case basis in other parts of the state.

Developing a plan that would address the diversity of users is a challenge.  Over the past two months, using Google Earth as a tool, the group developed a number of scenarios to identify areas that might share a common frequency.  Subsequently, these were reduced to two scenarios which are still in need of refinement before focusing on a final course of action.

Scenario which assigns frequencies to different zones in the Mat Su Valley.

Scenario which assigns frequencies to different zones in the Mat Su Valley.

Area Frequency Scenario: This option would assign the frequency 122.9 to the zone west of the Susitna River, to the flanks of the Alaska Range. It also cuts across the lower valley, to accommodate traffic that departs Anchorage headed northwest.  A second zone, running along the Parks Highway toward Talkeetna under this scenario would use 122.8.  The zones around Palmer and Talkeetna, with part time Flight Service Stations, would use the FSS Advisory Frequency, 123.6.  These proposed zones would connect to other areas, such as the Cook Inlet Area Frequency to the west and the Knik Glacier advisory frequency, both of which use 122.7.  Northwest of Talkeetna, a Mountain Traffic Frequency of 123.65 has been in use for years to accommodate the aircraft hauling climbers and flightseeing visitors between Talkeetna and the Alaska Range.

Scenario that provides a discrete frequency above 2,000 ft to reduce congestion on 122.8.

Scenario that provides a discrete frequency above 2,000 ft to reduce congestion on 122.8.

Vertical Area Frequency Scenario:  In the second case, the zones to the west and around Palmer and Talkeetna (described above), would remain the same. The frequency 122.8 would still serve the area along the Parks Highway, but aircraft operating between 2,000 and 5,000 feet MSL would have the option to use a discrete frequency, we’ll call it 122.XX, to reduce the frequency congestion from the traffic flying in airport traffic patterns and at lower altitudes in the zone.

What happens after I leave a zone?  Several people have raised the question of what happens once you leave one of these zones. At that point, pilots would resort to the standard rules involving CTAF’s.  Chapter Four in the AIM addresses this topic. Section 4-1-9 defines the protocol for traffic advisory practices for airports without facilities:  Within 10 miles of the airport or landing area, monitor and communicate on the designated CTAF.  Section 4-1-11 indicates that an airport with no tower, FSS or Unicom should use the multi-com frequency 122.9.  Table 4-1-2 indicates that for air-to-air communication, the FCC has authorized the use of 122.75, which helps keep the chatter down on the other frequencies in congested airspace. Checking the Alaska Supplement Notices Section is a good idea, as a number of areas around the state have had special area frequencies assigned.

These scenarios are still taking shape. AOPA would like to hear your thoughts on these approaches to reducing the confusion on radio frequency usage in the Mat Su Valley. Please email your comments to: [email protected].  If you attend the Alaska Airmen’s Great Alaskan Aviation Gathering this weekend in Anchorage, stop by the AOPA booth and look at these scenarios in more detail.  While this work continues, fly with your lights on, keep your eyes out of the cockpit and fly safe!