by Kyle Lewis
Regional Manager / Government Affairs & Airport Advocacy / Great Lakes
Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association
Published in Midwest Flyer – February/March 2018 issue
In my last column, I touched on the importance of AOPA’s Airport Support Network (ASN) and the volunteers that are the keystone of the program. Our volunteers come from many walks of life – professional pilots, doctors, lawyers, factory workers, farmers, retirees and college students. The common goal for all is keeping America’s airports open, safe, and viable. We have volunteers looking out for airports like Chicago O’Hare; Van Nuys, California; and small grass strips in the UP of Michigan.
2018 is bringing new life into the program. AOPA has reestablished the ASN Board of Advisors to help put the program back on strong footing. These seven (7) advisors are comprised of AOPA ASN volunteers from our seven (7) regions. They are tasked with looking at the program and offering advice on how to make the ASN program vibrant. AOPA is also providing resources to highlight the program in various ways. As a regional manager for AOPA, I oversee the program in the Great Lakes Region. I have been communicating directly with our volunteers via monthly newsletters and reaching out for assistance in our efforts regarding FBO pricing and our opposition to ATC Privatization. In return, our volunteers have provided substantial information on both fronts.
Our volunteers share information on their local airports that is proof GA is alive and well in the Midwest. Communities are investing in their airports, runways are being rehabbed, fuel farms are being installed that offer 24-hour self-serve, new and updated terminal buildings are being constructed, and helipads are being constructed to meet the growing demand for air ambulance service. These are just a few examples of progress that has been accomplished.
AOPA’s ASN volunteers are instrumental in educating elected officials and the public on the value of their local airport. Some of these projects could not have happened without the work of our ASN volunteers. Along with the good news from around the country, AOPA can maintain a quick response to detrimental actions from local governments, or unfriendly airport administration toward GA. Our ASN volunteers provide local insight to these usually highly political and often emotional situations. AOPA takes these complaints in the sincerest fashion, and works through various sources to achieve due diligence when confronting the various parties at play. Our volunteers play a key role in gathering information that may otherwise not be attainable without their eyes and ears on the ground.
If this sounds like a program that you may wish to participate in, the requirements are that you must be an AOPA member, communicate efficiently via email, have a basic understanding of airport operations, attend or participate in local airport board/authority/oversight meetings, and promote the airport and AOPA to the local aviation community. Visit the AOPA webpage and look for the ASN link under our “Advocacy” tab on the main webpage, or email me directly for additional information at email@example.com.
Here’s what has been happening lately on the legislative side of things:
• Michigan House Bill 4350/4351: At press time, the bills were still waiting a full vote in the Senate. The Michigan Business Aviation Association (MBAA) is in discussion with Governor Snyder’s office to eliminate any chance of a veto after passage in the Senate. This legislation would provide sales tax exemptions for parts and labor on aircraft registered in the state of Michigan.
• Michigan Senate Bills 626/627: This is the seaplane protection legislation introduced in October by Sen. Jim Marleau (MI 12th District). At press time, the legislation has been introduced and assigned to the Senate Transportation Committee and I provided testimony in early November supporting the bill. As Michigan enjoys an open water policy, local jurisdictions, over past years, have been restricting or eliminating seaplane operations. This legislation would allow the Michigan Aeronautics Commission the ability to maintain the open water policy by providing a mechanism for local ordinances to go through a regulatory process before shutting off seaplane use. Uniformity is key when regulating seaplane operations, and this would be a viable avenue for that. At press time, the legislation is expected to be passed out of committee and sent to the full Senate for a vote in 2018. The Seaplane Pilots Association (SPA) is supportive of the legislation, as is AOPA.
• I have now had two planning meetings with officials from the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), Office of Aviation, regarding a “state aviation day” which is being planned for September of 2018 at the Ohio State Capital in Columbus. ODOT officials and aviation groups within Ohio are enthusiastic about such an event. Details are being drawn up as I write.
Not legislative, but high on our radar, is planning for “Powder River Council 2.” Powder River Council 1 was held in November 2016 and focused on GA operations and interactions within the massive Powder River Special Use Airspace (SUA) that crosses four states (Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota). AOPA will again be hosting stakeholders and users within the SUA at Ellsworth AFB. The goal of the meeting will be to identify ways for stronger and more reliable communications across the SUA that will promote safety and lessen the impact of military operations to GA traffic. If you are an affected pilot or airport, please let me know the circumstances and what you think would help. A meeting date has not been scheduled, but early April is looking promising.
As always, please fly safe and do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns. I am here to serve you: firstname.lastname@example.org