AASF expands reach of Annual Seaplane Seminar

For the past thirty years, the Alaskan Aviation Safety Foundation (AASF) has organized a spring safety seminar for float plane pilots in Anchorage.  The day-long seminar is held in the spring normally before the ice goes out on the float ponds. It has always been well attended, and covers a variety of topics.  This year, AASF upped their game and decided to offer the event both in Anchorage and Fairbanks at the same time. The aviation programs at University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) and University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) hosted the session, aided by the wonders of web-conferencing, with presentations conducted by speakers located at both sites.

The Seaplane Pilots Association provided patches for people attending the seminar.

The Seaplane Pilots Association provided patches for people attending the seminar.

Topics included presentations on aeronautical judgement and decision making, as well as engine troubleshooting, satellite tracking devices and seaplane maintenance.  But it wasn’t all safety lectures.  Participants were briefed on efforts to contain the invasive weed, Elodea and the safety foundation presented their Right Stuff Award to Missionary Aviation Repair Center in Soldotna.  The award recognized that in spite of challenging circumstances, an off-airport landing was executed without the benefit of engine power, yet every one made it safely home at the end of the day.  Eventually including the aircraft!

Harry Kieling, AASF, welcomes participants to the 31st Annual Seaplane Seminar, at the UAA Aviation Program’s auditorium.

Harry Kieling, AASF, welcomes participants to the 31st Annual Seaplane Seminar, at the UAA Aviation Program’s auditorium.

For the first time ever the seminar was shared with pilots in Fairbanks, at UAF’s Aviation Center.

For the first time ever the seminar was shared with pilots in Fairbanks, at UAF’s Aviation Center.

The highlight of the day for most participants was an aviation scenario, or “dinner theater” as AASF Chairman (and scenario pilot) Harry Kieling, termed it.  For the past several years AASF has presented a scenario where a pair of pilots sets out to go flying. The audience is given the nature of the mission, equipment and weather, and at key points along the way invited to vote for what they would have done, based on what they know so far, and their aeronautical comfort level.  Roger Motzko, with FAA’s Air Traffic Organization’s Safety and Technical Training group, creates animations of these flights including terrain and weather, to visually bring the participant along on the flight.  This year, through the use of an online polling tool, participants with a smart phone in both Anchorage and Fairbanks could text their votes as to whether to take off, or wait for better conditions, and when to turn around.  The results were shared on the screen for all to see. That was pretty impressive!

Weather coming down survey response

Participants from both locations were able to vote via text message on options from the float plane scenario, and see how where their answers fell relative to the entire group.

Feedback desired:
As with any new innovation or change in the paradigm, there were some challenges. Audio quality for some sessions was poor in Fairbanks. We also found that it was difficult to ask a question if the person asking was not at the presenter’s site.  AASF will be reviewing the sessions, and figuring out if this “meeting architecture” is a good way to expand the reach of the seminar. This year, in addition to the 100+ attendees at UAA there were over 30 people that participated at UAF’s facility in Fairbanks.  If you were a participant at either location, AASF would like to hear from you. What did you like? What wasn’t effective?  How did you like the mix of topics?  What would you like to see or hear about in the future? Any recommendations for future formats? Please share your thoughts by email with the foundation.  Please help them shape the future of aviation education in Alaska!

New graphic tools to view PIREPs

Pilot Reports represent an important source of weather information for pilots.  Recently some new tools have been provided making it easier to access these observations.

PIREPs on AAWU
Just released today, the National Weather Service’s Alaska Aviation Weather Unit (AAWU) has upgraded the Pilot Report map on their website.  They have provided a PIREP map for a number of years, but only at a fixed state-wide scale.  The improved version features an interactive map display, which may be zoomed and panned to provide more detail on the exact area you are interested in.  This is particularly helpful when there are a cluster of reports that one wants to study in detail.  The default value on the PIREP page displays reports from the last three hours, however the AAWU also provides the ability to change the time window in several increments ranging from one to twenty four hours, to be able to look at trends.  They also still provide a text list at the bottom of the page listing the reports received in the last hour, if you want to go read them old school.  Here is the link to their PIREP page: http://aawu.arh.noaa.gov/index.php?tab=4

New PIREP display on the AAWU website. Hovering over the icon provides the details of the report.

New PIREP display on the AAWU website. Hovering over the icon provides the details of the report.

Adjustable map scale allows users to zoom in on a specific area of interest.

Adjustable map scale allows users to zoom in on a specific area of interest. And to more easily see that there is a second report nearby.

SkyVector adds PIREPs
Another recent development is that PIREPs have been added as an optional layer to display on SkyVector.com.  A free-online flight planning and online mapping service, Seattle based SkyVector.com has since 2006 provided products combining flight charts and airport data along with weather and other information.  If you select the “layers” option at the top right corner of their main page, PIREPs are now an option that appears under the weather tab.  They not only display PIREPs graphically on their zoomable map, but the icon itself indicates something about the content of the report. Hovering over the PIREP provides more significant information about the report and how long ago it was submitted. Clicking on the icon brings up the entire report.  While I haven’t read formal documentation, it is clear that their icons are designed to provide information about the intensity of the report. In the example below, two PIPEPs indicating turbulence are shown, one reporting light and the other indicating moderate turbulence.  The full report provides the additional information including aircraft type, and altitude.

SkyVector.com uses icons regarding the type of conditions in the report.

SkyVector.com uses icons regarding the type of conditions in the report. Hovering over the icon (in the example above) provides additional details, and clicking it displays the entire report.

PIREPs on the FAA Weather Camera Website
Although not a new feature, PIREPs are also available on the FAA’s Weather Camera website: http://avcams.faa.gov/   After toggling them on under the Options choices listed on the left side of the page, PIREPs are displayed as a yellow filled circle on the zoomable map.   Unlike the AAWU site, there is no ability to select a time range to display, so reports age off the system after three hours.  Clicking on the icon brings up the entire report.

The FAA's Aviation Weather Camera website also offers PIREPs as a feature along with camera data and other weather information.

The FAA’s Aviation Weather Camera website also offers PIREPs as a feature along with camera data and other weather information. Yellow filled circles indicate pilot reports. Clicking the icon brings up the full report.

Thanks to all of these organizations for providing these tools to access PIPEPs.  I hope to see more developments in the display of this data in the future. It would be useful to see a graphic depiction of a “route report” that covers conditions between two or more points, such as a mountain pass.

Given these new resources, I hope there is an added incentive for each of us to take the extra minute to file a PIREP as we fly, and share with those behind the conditions we encountered along our route of flight!

Alaska Weather Camera Program needs a few pilots to test…

The FAA is looking for a few serious users of mobile devices to help test a new weather camera application.  If you are willing to devote some of your time over the next couple months to help test this new capability, consider volunteering to be part of the beta testing team and help put the new application through the ringer.

Background:
The FAA Aviation Weather Camera Program has by all accounts been a great addition to evaluating weather in Alaska. It grew from a University of Alaska Fairbanks graduate student program with three camera sites in 1999, to an operational system run by the FAA with over 220 sites across the state. Today it provides pilots, Flight Service and NWS Forecasters an important tool to help determine when it is safe to fly.  In addition to being able to see the weather within the last ten minutes (during daylight hours), the weather camera website includes additional information helpful to pilots, such as METARs and TAFs (where available), and more recently Pilot Reports.

A screenshot from the web-based version of the Weather Camera site. Green circles are camera sites, yellow are pilot reports and blue are third-party camera locations.  Features may be toggled on and off by the users.

A screenshot from the web-based version of the Weather Camera site. Green circles are camera sites, yellow are pilot reports and blue are third-party camera locations. Features may be toggled on and off by the users.

A further enhancement has been the addition of third party camera sites (provided by other than the FAA).  These now include cameras in Western Canada, that should help pilots flying the Alaska Highway.

Testers Needed:
Currently the FAA is preparing to add an improved mobile app to expand our ability to access these data.  The Weather Camera Program is looking for a handful of users willing to test the system prior to release to the public. Volunteers will be asked not only to use the system, but to participate in a few meetings to provide feedback for developers.  FAA would specifically like to have some members of the team based in rural parts of the state, to provide feedback on connectivity outside the urban areas.

If you are interested in volunteering for this assignment, please send an email to: [email protected] expressing interest, and letting them know (1) what platform (tablet or phone) you are using, (2) where you based, and (3) which mobile operating system you use.

Increase situational awareness – Consider filing a NOTAM before your next glider event

Gliders aren’t as popular in Alaska as in some other places, but there are locations where they do fly. The gliders and the tow planes that launch them can keep the airspace very busy. Paragliding also has quite a following, and is a popular form of aviation in some parts of the state. These lightweight, foot-launched gliders have a pilot suspended below a fabric wing. Despite having no engine, they can fly for hours, cover many miles and climb thousands of feet and thus end up far away from the launch site. As powered aircraft pilots, we need to do our best to avoid conflicts with these aircraft; one way to do that is to look for Notices to Airmen (NOTAMs) describing glider operations during our pre-flight planning.  And if you are the person scheduling a glider—or paraglider—“gathering” or event, consider giving Flight Service a call to file a NOTAM, as a heads-up for your fellow aviators.  Flight Service will help you describe the operation you are planning, get a NOTAM in the system, and help alert all pilots to your activities when you are operating in and around busy airspace.

Cessna 170B with glider in tow off the Denali airstrip (AK06).  Photo by Rob Stapleton

Cessna 170B with glider in tow off the Denali airstrip (AK06). Photo by Rob Stapleton

Background
Over the past year, the Mat Su Mid-Air Collision Avoidance Working Group has been looking at the flight corridor along the Glenn Highway, on the eastern edge of the Anchorage bowl.  The group, comprised of government and industry stakeholders, spent considerable time exploring the range of flying activities that take place along the Glenn, from Palmer south to Turnagain Arm.  In addition to the flow of GA traffic that comes and goes from the Anchorage airports, and aircraft skirting the Restricted Areas, Class C and D airspace, we learned about a range of glider and paraglider operations that occur along this busy corridor.

Activities
Civil Air Patrol (CAP) often launches glider operations out of Bryant Army Airfield or Birchwood—and on occasion Palmer. When flying out of Bryant, they will normally operate in the Bryant Class D and Restricted Area 2203, operating typically between 3,000 and 5,000 feet.  When launching from Birchwood, glider tow operations typically range from the surface to 3,000 feet, but under good “lift” conditions, the gliders themselves may attain altitudes as high as 14,000 feet between Cook Inlet and the mountains. Glider operations are not limited just to Anchorage. The Interior Alaska, CAP holds a summer glider camp out of the Clear Airport, south of Nenana, and sometimes operates from Ladd Field at Ft. Wainwright.

Paragliders and hang gliders are another source of traffic along the Glenn Highway. With a locally active club containing about 60 pilots, they may fly on weekends and during week-days in the Eagle River area, typically up to 6,000 feet, between April and June. During July through October, operations shift to Hatcher Pass and/or Girdwood, although some hardcore types fly year-around. Paragliders will occasionally make cross country flights from Turnagain Arm to Palmer, achieving altitudes of up to 10,000 feet! Thompson Pass, near Valdez, is the location of an April Snowkiting event.

Paragliding in Eagle River Valley. Photo by

Scott Amy paragliding in Eagle River Valley. Photo by Matt Bonney

NOTAMs
Given the speed disparity between gliders, paragliders and faster powered aircraft, it helps to be aware of the location of their operations.  In the course of the group discussions, NOTAMs were identified as an additional tool—beyond see-and-avoid, lighting and CTAF usage, to help improve situational awareness between gliders and other powered aircraft sharing the airspace.

Filing a NOTAM
Recently, the Alaska Flight Service Program developed a two-page document that tells glider operators how to file a NOTAM.  The key details include the location where the operations are planned to occur, range of altitudes expected to be used and the block of time scheduled for flight operations.  The document also provides contact information for the three full-time Flight Service Stations in Kenai, Fairbanks and Juneau. They can help get you started or answer any questions about filing a NOTAM.

Finding the NOTAM
As summer and warmer temperatures near, pilots should be on the lookout for NOTAMs describing glider activities associated with an airport where gliders are launching. In the case of paragliders, launch locations are typically not tied to an airport, but rather a ridge top, with Eagle River Valley being one of the most popular areas to fly. If a NOTAM is in the system, it should show up if your route of flight comes close to the area defined in the notice. When you call Flight Service for a pre-flight briefing—or go online to use some of our favorite flight planning software—take an extra minute to look for NOTAMs that describe glider operations, as we all share the airspace.

Everyone wants to come home with a smile on their face at the end of their flight – so please use this additional tool to help make that happen!

PIREPs make the news

Pilot Reports (PIREPs) are an important source of aviation weather information for pilots and weather forecasters alike. Recently a TV news story was aired across Alaska explaining the role PIREPs play, and encouraging pilots to take the time to file—even if just to confirm good flying conditions.

Take a minute, and check out the story, which aired on Your Alaska Aviation Link http://www.youralaskalink.com/news/pilots-help-predict-weather/article_63ab6832-d5ee-11e5-b3a3-47c3dc34641d.html

AOPA, the Alaska Airmen’s Association and other aviation stakeholders are working with FAA to improve the PIREP system, and increase its utilization. Flight Service reported a 32% increase in PIREPs filed in Alaska in 2015 over the previous year. Please help continue that trend!

 

For more info on Alaska PIREPs, see: http://blog.aopa.org/vfr/?p=2524

or take the AOPA SkySpotter online course. skyspotter graphic

Volunteers needed to test Alaska PIREP website

The National Weather Service is looking for pilots willing to test a new enhanced Pilot Report page on the Alaska Aviation Weather Unit’s (AAWU) website.   The AAWU has displayed PIREPs graphically for many years, however recent technical problems lead them to upgrade the page. Fortunately for us, instead of just fixing the current PIREP map, NWS decided to significantly enhance the page. Presently, a “beta” version is available at the link below, with live data. Please take some time over the next two weeks to give it a try and let both NWS and AOPA know how you like it. Most importantly, let us know if the new page does not work on the devices you use.

http://aawu.arh.noaa.gov/index2.php?tab=4

aawu pirep page graphic

A sample showing the new PIREP page, with a zoomable map, and the ability to choose a time-range from one to as much as 24 hours. PIREPs above FL180 are displayed in blue, while lower altitude reports are green.

What’s Different?
The existing PIREP webpage contained a fixed scale map, which covers the entire state. Where there were multiple PIREPs at a single location, it was often challenging to select a specific report. The new site has a map that zooms to larger scales, giving a far more detailed depiction of the report location. NWS kept the ability to filter reports by time. If there are lots of PIREPs in the system, a user can display just the most recent reports. Conversely, you may choose to look at reports over the past 24 hours to evaluate trends. There are still a few refinements that could be made, and we appreciate the NWS inviting us to provide feedback before they declare the site operational.

More on PIREPs
This is one part of a larger aviation community effort to increase the number and quality of PIREPs in Alaska. These reports are a vital component of the information pilots rely on for aviation decision making, and NWS uses to validate aviation forecasts. AOPA and other Alaska aviation organizations are working with the FAA and NWS to examine the PIREP system and to encourage pilots to file more PIREPs. If you haven’t already done so, consider taking the AOPA Air Safety Institute’s online SkySpotter: PIREPs made easy (go to: http://www.aopa.org/Education/Online-Courses/Pireps-Made-Easy), for a refresher on this topic. It is free, available to all pilots.

Expect to see more on this topic in the months ahead, but for now, try out the AAWU’s new PIREP page. Please send your feedback to the AAWU at: [email protected]  and copy AOPA at [email protected].

Cold Temperature Correction Procedures Meeting in Alaska

The FAA’s update to the list of cold temperature restricted airports has generated questions from Alaska pilots about the process. Initially raised at a meeting of the Interior Alaska Flight Instructors Association in Fairbanks, the FAA is sending an official to Alaska from Washington DC to explain and discuss the procedures. Kel Christianson, from Flight Standards Performance Based Flight Systems Branch (AFS-470), will meet with pilots on Wednesday, January 20 at 7 p.m. Mr. Christianson will cover the background on why and how cold temperature correction procedures have been instituted in the National Airspace System, and provide detailed examples on making altitude corrections to instrument approach procedures.

Cold Temperature Correction Procedures apply to nearly 100 airports in Alaska.

Cold Temperature Correction Procedures apply to nearly 100 airports in Alaska.

The Fairbanks based CFI association compiled specific questions from Alaska operators in advance and supplied them to the FAA. A question and answer session will follow the briefing. FAA Air Traffic Control staff will also be on hand to answer questions. The meeting is being sponsored by the FAA Safety Team, and will take place at the Fairbanks International Airport Operations Center, 5195 Brumbaugh Blvd, on the west side of the airport.

Since almost a hundred Alaska airports are on the list, and winter tends to be our dominant season, these procedures may have a major impact on those pilots who fly IFR. Consider taking advantage of this meeting to learn more about this topic.

Possible increase in Alaska aviation motor fuel tax

Alaska is facing a budget crisis due to the low price of crude oil, which will impact all Alaskans, most likely in multiple ways. Focusing on the impact to the 247 state operated airports, the Alaska Aviation Advisory Board (AAB) worked with the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities (DOT) to look at ways to provide additional revenue to support the airports, while having minimal impact on aviation system users. This discussion started back in February this year, when DOT initially announced a proposal to establish landing fees at Deadhorse, a move that many feared would spread to other airports across the state system. In a meeting with Governor Walker, the AAB expressed concerns about landing fees, and asked to work with DOT to look at other options before any changes were made. The Governor indicated he would welcome the board’s input, which kicked off a series of meetings with DOT.

At the spring and summer AAB meetings, DOT presented both the costs to operate the Rural Alaska Airport System, and three alternative methods to increase revenues. DOT also discussed several possible measures to reduce operating costs. These ranged from handing some airports over to local communities to operate, to streamlining the aviation functions of the department into a single division.   Establishing a true division of aviation within DOT is something that a number of aviation organizations, including AOPA and the Alaska Airmen’s Association, have advocated for a number of years. While we believe that streamlining the management of DOT airports will help manage costs in the long run, this doesn’t address the immediate need to keep the airports operating.

What does it cost to operate state airports? Funding for airports comes in two distinct flavors: capital funding, which is used to build and improve airports, primarily comes from the federal government; and operating funding, which covers staffing, supplies and other costs associated with operations and maintenance, which is typically supplied by the airport owner.

Capital Funding:  The State of Alaska, like other states, receives grant money directly from the FAA through the Airport Improvement Program (AIP), to build and expand airports. Alaska has received over $200 million/year for the past several years from this program. The FAA’s contribution is typically about 90% of the grant, with a requirement for the state to match the federal funding. The state’s contribution comes from the airport owner, called the sponsor, in FAA terms. This AIP funding mechanism allows for the construction and improvements of airports nationwide, but comes with strings attached. One of the strings is that the sponsor (airport owner) agrees to pay for operation of the facilities, and to keep them in good working order.

Operational Funding: Funding the operation and maintenance of airports is the challenge. The FAA expects airport sponsors (owners) to pay for operations, and airports typically charge fees to help cover some of those costs. Airport lease fees, tie down fees, and other revenue streams help offset operational costs. In Alaska, even though we rely on aviation for basic transportation, our low population base often doesn’t provide the volume of fees that would be needed for our airports to truly be self-sustaining. Here are the figures for the state-operated airports (not including Anchorage and Fairbanks International, which are operated as a separate enterprise fund). The cost to operate the Rural Alaska Aviation System in FY 2014 was $33.8 million dollars. Revenues received by the state included $5.3 million from airport leasing, tie down permits, etc. and $4.6 million in aviation motor fuels taxes, for a total revenue of $9.9 million. These revenues go into the General Fund. Each year the Legislature appropriates money from the General Fund to DOT, which includes the resources to operate the rural airports.

Revenue Options  DOT presented three options to increase revenues: Implement landing fees, initially at the regional hub (Part 139) airports; implement a state-wide airport user fee, and; increase motor fuel taxes. The AAB looked at these from the standpoint of how much they would cost to implement, the projected amount of revenue generated, what they would cost the users, and how equitable they seemed both to different segments of the aviation community and to the public, which in many cases relies on aviation for the delivery of goods and services, in addition to their own transportation. After considerable deliberation, the AAB recommended that the state increase the aviation motor fuel tax from the current levels (4.7 cents/gal for avgas and 3.2 cents/gal for jet fuel), to 10 cents/gal for both fuel types. Based on projections provided by the state, this would raise about $9 million additional revenue per year. Combined with the current revenue streams, it would provide approximately $19 million of the $34 million needed to operate the rural airports.

A significant motivation for this recommendation is that a change in motor fuel tax doesn’t create any additional cost to state government to collect. Both landing fees and airport user fees require additional administrative efforts to collect, as well as burden the user with tracking and payment. It was also felt that the motor fuel tax was more equitable because cost is proportional to use. Adam White, Government Affairs Manager for the Alaska Airmen’s Association, provided the following information to show the impact to some typical GA users:

Adam White fuel tax table

At a recent meeting in Fairbanks, Governor Walker acknowledged the AAB recommendation. It will take legislative action, however, to make a change to the motor fuel tax. While no one wants to see an increase in operating cost, the motor fuel tax increase option appears to be the best choice to address this issue. We will certainly be discussing it more in the months ahead, and we are interested in hearing your thoughts on funding to keep our airports open, maintained and safe for all aviation operations.

 

This article is reprinted from the January-March, 2016 issue of the Alaska Airmen’s Association Transponder.

2015’s Year-End Review –> Central Southwest Region

Note: The AOPA Central Southwest Region covers NM, TX, LA, OK, AR, KS, MO, NE, and IA.

Addressing the big issues that will affect the way we fly for decades to come requires a big commitment, and 2015 has been a year marked by steady progress on some of the biggest issues of all.

National Issues and Initiatives

Some of the federal issues AOPA worked on in 2015 include addressing barriers to Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) equipage, introducing the Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2 to include third class medical reform as well as protections for pilots facing enforcement actions, integrating Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) or “drones” into the National Airspace System (NAS), and identifying a replacement for unleaded avgas (100LL). AOPA was also a key player in growing the General Aviation Caucuses on both houses, with the House one reaching an all-time membership record of 274 representatives.

State and Local Issues and Initiatives

When it comes to making an impact on the way we fly, it’s not just national issues that make a difference. AOPA is equally hard at work on the state level and at local airports to keep GA flying.

In 2015, we monitored over 750 bills across the regions, taking an active advocacy role on many of them. Among the state legislative victories racked up in the Central Southwest Region were:

  • Airport improvement funding/appropriations in all the states,
  • Texas: 1) A requirement to mark, register and enforce the marking and registration of Meteorological Evaluation Towers (MET towers) to mitigate safety-of-flight hazard for pilots, 2) clarification of how GA aircraft leasing and business practices operate so that sales and use tax changes do not affect the industry’s positive contribution to the state’s economy, 3) the ability for repossession agents to file a petition in a justice court for a writ of assistance to receive help from law enforcement officials when repossessing an aircraft, and 4) allow anybody to obtain a copy of the TxDOT Airport Directory for free,
  • Louisiana: A fly-away sales/use tax exemption on Louisiana-manufactured or Louisiana-assembled passenger aircraft with a maximum capacity of 8 people.
  • Oklahoma: Setting a minimum mile-and-a-half distance between the construction of new wind-energy turbines and any public-use and private-use airport. Although the state’s 2010 law known as the Aircraft Pilot and Passenger Protection Act only applies to public-use airports, this new law also applies this safety protection to Oklahoma’s 245 private-use airports.
  • Arkansas: 1) A partial fly-away sales/use tax exemption on aircraft, 2) a sales/use tax exemption on maintenance (labor and parts) for aircraft 12,500 lbs or more, and 3) a law that authorizes the State Highway Commission to maintain and repair roads leading up to qualifying airports.
  • Missouri: A fly-away sales/use tax exemption on aircraft,
  • Nebraska: 1) Property tax cuts on business aircraft and 2) an improved law regarding the marking and registration of MET towers as well as an enforcement provision of those two requirements, and
  • Iowa: Legislation to 1) protect GA education and flight instruction providers, 2) promote good land-use and protect navigable airspace in the form of the Airport Zoning Act, and 3) preserve the process for closing airports and repaying open state grants.

In addition, if you are watching the news, you may also know that the states and several local municipalities are considering and drafting rules and legislation addressing UAS use. We have been tracking these to ensure they understand the FAA’s safety reasons and responsibility for federal oversight of aviation and airspace (such as restrictions on flight altitude or flight paths, regulation of the navigable airspace, or mandating UAS-specific equipment or training). UAS laws likely to fall under state/local authority involve requirements for police to obtain a warrant prior to using UAS for surveillance, prohibitions on the use of UAS for voyeurism, exclusions on using UAS for hunting or fishing, and prohibitions on attaching firearms or other weapons to a UAS.

And, sometimes in politics, the good news is that bad news won’t happen. This year, we had to fight the reversion, diversion, and/or elimination of aviation-generated funds from state aviation funds in several states, most notably in New Mexico, Missouri and Louisiana. We also fought against aviation (mostly aviation fuel) tax increases, especially if those additional taxes were not scheduled to go back to the state’s aviation division for aviation uses.

Louisiana Speaker Kleckley

Louisiana Speaker Kleckley

Aviation Days at the Capitol

New Mexico, Kansas, Missouri, and Iowa all had Aviation/Transportation Days at the Capitols, providing a great opportunity for pilots, aviation organizations (like AOPA), and legislators to meet and chat about our agenda and the importance and benefit of general aviation to each respective state.

Glider designer George Applebay being honored on the House floor during New Mexico's Aviation Day at the Capitol.

Glider designer George Applebay being honored on the House floor during New Mexico’s Aviation Day at the Capitol.

With Kansas State Representatives Seiwert (L) and Carmichael (R)

Kansas State Representatives Seiwert (L) and Carmichael (R)

With Kansas Governor Sam Brownback

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback

State Aviation Caucuses

Arkansas and Texas are the two states within our region with State Aviation Caucuses and both had meetings in 2015. Several members of the Texas General Aviation Caucus met for a couple of presentations on March 5th and the Arkansas Aerospace and Aviation Caucus learned about airspace and air traffic in their respective communities as well toured the Little Rock ATCT/TRACON on January 21st.

Texas Rep Kuempel welcoming members of the Texas General Aviation Caucus as well as aviation stakeholders to the annual meeting

Texas Rep Kuempel welcoming members of the Texas General Aviation Caucus and aviation stakeholders to the annual meeting

With members of the Arkansas Aerospace and Aviation Caucus and two FAA controllers

With members of the Arkansas Aerospace and Aviation Caucus and two FAA controllers

Aviation Proclamations

The majority of the states – and several communities within some of those states, such as mayors in Baton Rouge, Hammond, New Iberia, and Ruston – issued Governor proclamations recognizing the value of aviation and the jobs and opportunities it creates, among other benefits.

Member Engagement and Outreach

As part of a Regional Manager’s job, we also get to engage with our members and future pilots. In 2015, I represented AOPA at over 50 events across the region, ranging from flying club meetings to flying events (like a poker run or an air tour) and everything in between (meetings with our Airport Support Network Volunteers, visits to Universities and other entities, seminars, Pinch Hitter courses, fly-ins, fly-outs, airshows, conferences…).

You can also engage with me via Twitter or any of the media outlets I contribute to (like the regional website, Midwest Flyer Magazine, or TxDOT’s Wingtips newsletter, for example).

I looking forward to another productive year in 2016! Stay tuned for ways you can contribute and engage with us but keep in mind several of the states will only have tax-related sessions and the Texas Legislature will not meet.

 

(in collaboration with Elizabeth Tennyson)

Holiday Volunteer Pilots Needed in Michigan

Have you ever wanted to play Santa Claus in your personal Cessna, Piper, or Beech sled? Well here’s your opportunity to spread Christmas cheer across the State of Michigan!

For more than 40 years, Operation Good Cheer has made a difference in the lives of foster care children living in all corners of Michigan.  “OGC” as it is referred to locally has brightened the holiday season for more than 5,200 children using 70 social service agencies, 290 sponsoring individuals, families, and companies, 20 trucking companies and 25 community airports. And — nearly 300 aircraft and hundred of general aviation pilots!

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If you happen to be one of the goodhearted pilots with an interest in serving the community on Saturday, December 5th — read on! Your help is needed for the “Spirit of Good Cheer” flight which brings the gifts from Oakland County International Airport to airports and deserving children across the State. Does your plane have a turbine? Maybe a propeller? Are you instrument rated? Or not?  Those are all minor details as all licensed pilots of any aircraft are welcome to join the team!  If you are interested, take a look here for information on the airport, the procedure, and to RSVP to give the team a heads up that you are coming: http://www.cfsm.org/spirit-of-good-cheer

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I have participated in OGC several times and I can say its one of the best times I’ve had while flying.  The team, the pilots, and the children are all upbeat, happy, and helpful.  So, if you have some time considering donating some of your time — you won’t be disappointed!