News & Information You’ll Want To Know In Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota & South Dakota
by Bryan Budds
Manager, AOPA Great Lakes Region
Just a few weeks ago, I was joined by nearly 50 of my colleagues from AOPA headquarters at AOPA’s Great Lakes Regional Fly-In, August 21-22, 2015 at Anoka County – Blaine Airport in Blaine, Minnesota (KANE). Having worked in Minnesota for nearly 4 years in my position with AOPA, I am well aware of the amazing aviation community that exists in the state, but being able to show this amazing community to my Maryland-based colleagues was a true pleasure.
On Thursday evening, several AOPA colleagues and I were able to spend time with the Minnesota Aviation Trades Association (MATA) at Twin Cities Aviation, also at the Anoka County – Blaine Airport. Current MATA officers Greg Reigel, Alison Wynne, Dave Weiman, and Nancy Grazzini-Olson have done an incredible job strengthening the association’s reach, not only across the state, but also across the country with their outreach to policymakers at all levels of government on behalf of Minnesota’s aviation companies and service providers. AOPA proudly renewed its membership with MATA and looks forward to deepening our relationship as issues impacting our members arise. You can find more information at www.mata-online.org.
Also on Thursday evening, I was able to spend time with leaders from the Minnesota Department of Transportation Office of Aeronautics who joined us and spent time talking about MNDOT’s proactive approach to growing aviation in the state. I left that discussion with an even greater respect and admiration for their staff in how they administer the state’s airport grant funds, but also how they ensure proper zoning protections near airports, maintain a network of aviation weather stations, and even conduct outreach to elementary and high schools to promote aviation careers among the state’s students, and much more. I cannot say enough positive things about the entire team at MNDOT-Aero and their dedication to pilots across the state.
On Saturday, a pancake breakfast was served by members of EAA Chapter 237, followed by AOPA President Mark Baker and Golden Wings Museum Founder Greg Herrick who described some of the amazing aviation history represented in Greg’s hangar. Throughout the day, visitors learned about AOPA’s You Can Fly programs aimed at getting more people flying by reinvigorating lapsed pilots and barriers to entry, seaplane training, aviation decision-making, flight service station operations and many other great seminars and exhibits.
Wrapping up the day, I was able to join Mark Baker on stage for a Pilot Town Hall update on state and local issues around the region. In case you were unable to join us in Blaine, I wanted to share with Midwest Flyer Magazine readers some of those topics as well.
First, I described a recent uptick in attempts by airport management to drive away or limit access to several federally-funded, public-use airports. AOPA and the FAA find most of these situations completely unacceptable and AOPA is going to bat for the aviation communities in Michigan, Minnesota, and Illinois that are improperly being denied access to public airports.
Second, I was able to describe our ongoing work before state legislatures in the region. So far this year, AOPA has been instrumental in preventing an aircraft registration fee increase of nearly 50% annually in North Dakota. In Ohio, AOPA and the Ohio Aviation Association secured an increase of more than $5 million annually for the state airport grant program, while preventing attempts to divert that additional allocation to non-aeronautical uses.
Finally, I was able to share some insight into ongoing aviation issues in the Michigan Legislature, as several committees are debating the future of airport funding, marking of Meteorological Evaluation Towers, and liability relief for private airport owners. AOPA remains optimistic that lawmakers will approve these measures prior to adjournment in December.
Also worth mentioning is the creation of several new airports in the region – something you don’t hear much of lately.
In Minnesota, the Lake in the Woods County Board unanimously approved a resolution to formally select a new site for a proposed new paved runway in the Northwest Angle area of Minnesota. Earlier this year, I traveled with MNDOT officials, Recreational Aviation Foundation Minnesota Liaison Kirk Hiner, Albert Lea Airport Manager Jim Hanson, and others to Baudette to discuss not only the economic development and tourism potential for a new airport, but also the emergency medical and law enforcement needs the airport would support.
In Michigan, Lake Michigan is home to a newly opened airfield on North Fox Island. The airstrip, which had previously been open to the public but later sold to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and was closed recently, saw its first general aviation aircraft return to the airport in several years. The new public-use airstrip identified as 6Y3 is the result of tireless work by Recreational Aviation Foundation Michigan Liaison Brad Frederick and many volunteers that supported the opening and continued maintenance of the airstrip. When you visit, remember anything that comes with you, has to leave with you as well!
Right now, it is an exciting time in the Great Lakes Region. We have lawmakers taking an interest in aviation policy, state aviation offices expanding their work, aviation organizations strengthening the industry, and I am pleased AOPA can play its role in bolstering the thing we love so much – aviation!
If you have any questions on these issues or issues in your area, please let me know! firstname.lastname@example.org