by Kyle Lewis
Manager, Great Lakes Region – Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association
Published in Midwest Flyer – October/November 2017 issue
Summertime is usually filled with aviation activities, but all are overshadowed by EAA AirVenture Oshkosh in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, held July 24-30. I was fortunate to fly to Oshkosh with co-workers Les Smith (You Can Fly Program) and Joe Kildea (Communications). Les and Joe were planning to depart Frederick, Maryland in AOPA’s Cessna 182 workhorse, and stop in Jackson, Ohio to pick me up. Of course, on the day of departure, weather happened! A slow moving low pressure system brought rain and wind from western Ohio, and the James A. Rhodes Airport (I43) where I’m based, was weathered in. So, I drove to Parkersburg, West Virginia (PKB) and met up with the guys, and we took off from there.
Our flight proved uneventful. We flew the lakeshore VFR corridor around Chicago using flight following with Chicago Approach. Chicago Approach handed us off to Kenosha tower (KENW) in Wisconsin, where we stayed the night due to weather further north.
The overnight in Kenosha proved beneficial. We spent some time the next morning with fellow aviators who fly motor gliders out of Detroit City Airport (KDET), who were on their own Oshkosh adventure. I had some insightful conversations with them on their opinions on the Detroit airport, and FBOs they visited across the region.
Around noon, the ceilings had improved enough for VFR and it was wheels up again heading for Juneau, Wis., where we met up with the “C2O” (Cessnas to OSH) mass arrival group. As luck would have it, we were 35 minutes late for the safety briefing, so we were unable to join them, as were others who were delayed by the weather. Although we were disappointed, we understood and applauded the organizers for running a tight ship.
With clear skies ahead, we made course for the “FISK” arrival into Oshkosh. If you have never flown into KOSH, this is basically an invasion plan. Traffic coming from the south flies to a town called Ripon, then follows railroad tracks to another small town called Fisk. All the while, maintaining 90 knots and 1800 feet MSL. Of course, we weren’t the only ones flying in, so it was all eyes looking out for traffic. At Fisk, controllers on the ground gave runway assignments splitting the line of traffic into two groups. We were able to touch down on the green dot on Runway 27 at Wittman Regional Airport.
This was my first year working for AOPA at AirVenture, and a rewarding one, meeting and assisting members and non-members on a wide range of issues in the AOPA Pavilion. While at Oshkosh, the number of BasicMed completion certificates passed 15,000, which is a strong number for only 100 days into the program.
At Oshkosh, members were able to file complaints with AOPA against fixed base operators for egregious pricing and fees, now totaling over 600 nationwide.
At the forefront was “ATC Privatization.” Opposing ATC Privatization has been a battle for some time, but recently, there has been a very organized effort by U.S. Representative Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania for privatization. The White House is also behind this, albeit on very erroneous and misguided information. This is not privatization as we usually know it. This is giving the airlines and large commercial operators a monopoly in controlling the skies. Here are some quick bullet points on what privatization of the air traffic control system will mean to general aviation and taxpayers:
• Would cost tens of billions of dollars to implement.
• Would hurt general aviation airports in rural America.
• Would create a “too-big-to-fail” monopoly that would require taxpayer bailouts.
• Would not be effective in decreasing airline delays. Eighty percent (80%) are caused by airline scheduling and weather.
• Would be giving away a national asset that our tax dollars have already paid for.
AOPA likes the term “modernize,” and we want the funding stream for FAA/ATC stronger so delays in implementing new technologies like NextGen can happen quicker and more efficient. The government does a good job with ATC as our current system is the most complex and safest in the world. I hope that by the time this is in print, GA will have won this battle. If, however, the issue is still on the table, please contact your representatives and urge them to oppose “ATC Privatization.” Over 4,000 attendees signed our petition at the AOPA Pavilion during AirVenture.
On Tuesday evening during AirVenture, our Airport Support Network (ASN) volunteer “happy hour” event kicked off with updates from Melissa Rudinger, Justin Barkowski (both from our D.C. office regulatory side), Tom Chandler of the Central Southwest Region and myself. If you attended, thanks again! We want a strong ASN volunteer program, so if you are interested in volunteering at an airport, please let me know.
Being in the region, visiting different airports and speaking with pilots gives me a good perspective on local issues. Sometimes the large national issues get the attention, but what matters to most fellow pilots is what happens next door.
On a regional level, the legislative season is over and I am happy to report that in Ohio, funding for GA airports remained stable and for 2018 and 2019, $12 million will be invested in Ohio’s GA airports. Also in Ohio, there is legislation to create an “Aviation Hall of Fame,” and being the home of the Wright Brothers, I expect full support in the statehouse this next session.
In Michigan, the sales tax exemption for parts and labor on aircraft stalled in committee, but the outlook is positive for the next session. This will be a welcomed sight for maintenance shops to rejuvenate their businesses. If you live in Michigan, I urge you to contact your state representatives and ask them to support MI HB 4350 and HB 4351.
A coalition (Coleman A. Young International Airport Education Association) at Detroit City Airport (KDET) has formed to educate the public and city officials on the value of the airport. KDET has been shunned by current and former city administrations, leaving the door open to speculation of what could become of the airport. Aside from upkeep concerns, the City of Detroit has hired a consulting firm, GRA, to conduct a study on the value of the airport. The coalition’s goal is to keep the airport open and viable. As of now, a majority of Detroit City Council members are in favor of the airport, but cannot commit to making a large investment until this study is completed in December. AOPA and the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) are providing resources to the group. If you have an interest in KDET, please contact me and I will get you in touch with the coalition leadership.
As part of my duties as an AOPA regional manager, I, along with Eastern Regional Manager Sean Collins, attended the National Conference of State Legislators in Boston, Massachusetts. This was a great networking opportunity, and we were able to seek out legislators from across the nation and have discussions on AOPA initiatives.
Following the conference, we made time to visit a gem of an airport in Stow, Mass., called Minuteman Airfield (6B6). Privately owned, but open to the public, this airport personifies homegrown aviation. If you are ever around Boston, stop in and see it for yourself. Nearly 80 based aircraft and airport improvement projects underway, makes this airport the envy of everyone. Oh yeah, there is a great little diner on the field, as well.
I will be busy gearing up for the 2018 legislative sessions and attending conferences in Michigan, Wisconsin, and hopefully NBAA in Las Vegas. Of course, I will be looking forward to the autumn flying season and the opportunities that await, including the pumpkin pie at Urbana-Grimes Field (I74), Urbana, Ohio. Again, please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or for assistance. I am here to serve you!