Seaplanes & Legislation To Protect Them, As Well As Aviation Fuel Sales Tax Distribution

by Kyle Lewis
Regional Manager for Government Affairs & Airport Advocacy/Great Lakes/AOPA
Published in Midwest Flyer – August/September 2018 issue             

I would like to take this opportunity to say “Thank You” to two groups AOPA has had the opportunity to work with this spring. First, the Minnesota Pilots Association (MNPA) has again hosted the Great Minnesota Aviation Gathering (GMAG), April 27-28, 2018, at Minneapolis Anoka County – Blaine Airport (KANE). GMAG has become a focal point of spring aviation activities in Minnesota, and AOPA has been proud to be a part of the event.

Andy Miller, the AOPA Great Lakes “You Can Fly” Ambassador, held a Rusty Pilot Seminar at GMAG, presenting to nearly 100 pilots. Our new vice president of Airports and State Advocacy, Mike Ginter, and I met with members from all over Minnesota and beyond.

Dennis Oliver of Williamsburg, Iowa, gave us great insight to the historical value of AOPA. He should know…he has been an active member of AOPA since 1956!

Dennis told us that AOPA is something bigger than any individual…that the organization’s value is in its overall membership…and that is better than any insurance. Passion of the greater good.

If it were not for events like GMAG, or groups like MNPA, connections like this could not happen. Local pilot groups are what keep general aviation flowing from one generation to the next.

AOPA President & CEO Mark Baker held a townhall meeting at GMAG, speaking on the defeat of ATC Privatization and ongoing work with the FBO pricing initiative. Mark also thanked Randle Corfman, MNPA President, for an outstanding event, and Greg Herrick for hosting the event at his amazing museum, The Golden Wings Aviation Museum.

I also wish to thank the Minnesota Seaplane Pilots Association (MSPA) for hosting its annual seaplane pilots safety seminar, May 18-20, 2018, at Madden’s on Gull Lake near Brainerd, Minnesota. (Do you see a Minnesota theme here!)

This event, which was organized by MSPA President Steve Guetter and the MSPA Board of Directors, is focused on safety, and each seminar speaker brought their own personal flavor of what that truly means.

Richard McSpadden, Executive Director of AOPA’s Air Safety Institute, spoke on “Why Good Pilots Make Bad Decisions.” While the content is not directly aimed at seaplane operations, the message was clear: operate within the boundaries of your personal limitations, and don’t be pressured to make the flight if the conditions are not right. Other speakers focused on aircraft maintenance (Mark Schreier) and lessons learned over a career of flying seaplanes in the Canadian bush (Pete Firlotte). MNDOT and FAA representatives also presented on issues related to seaplane operations in Minnesota.

The safety themes are paying off for Minnesota seaplane operators as there has been zero fatal accidents in recent years. Richard McSpadden was happy to point that out during his presentation.

The keynote banquet speaker at the Minnesota Seaplane Pilots Association Safety Seminar was Jeff Skiles, copilot of the U.S. Airways Airbus A320-214 in which he and Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger landed safely on the Hudson River on January 15, 2009 (Flight 1549, “Miracle on the Hudson”). I spent some time with Jeff over the course of the weekend, and he is a true friend to general aviation.

Planning for the 2019 Minnesota Seaplane Pilots Association Safety Seminar has already begun, and all pilots are welcome to attend whether they call Minnesota home or not, and whether or not they hold a seaplane pilot certificate.

The two groups mentioned above are perfect examples of what local aviation groups can do if they put forth a little effort. Not all states have a concentric pilots association, but that does not mean your local airport group cannot reach out and make a difference. Host a safety seminar or create an aviation safety day at your local airport. Bring the community to the airport and reaffirm that aviation is a safe hobby and business tool. AOPA’s Airport Support Network (ASN) offers resources that can help you do just that. ASN volunteers have the ability to work with AOPA directly on hosting such an event.

In addition to the events like those in Minnesota, springtime has brought some legislative actions that will hopefully make a positive impact on general aviation.

Michigan Senate Bill 626/627: The floatplane protection bills AOPA has been supporting were voted out of committee on May 29, 2018. This is a major positive movement for the bills as there had been some questions raised on what safety aspects would be impacted by the legislation. I submitted a letter to the bill’s sponsor outlining AOPA’s stance on the positive safety impact by allowing the Michigan Aeronautics Commission the ability to standardize the regulation process for floatplanes on inland waters.

Illinois Senate Bill 482: This legislation aimed at aviation fuel sales tax distribution was initially thought to be a non-mover, but an amendment was placed into the language that would distribute aviation fuel sales tax unfairly to GA. The collected sales tax would be distributed via state grants based on commercial airline enplanements, allowing 97% of the funding to go to the large commercial service airports like O’Hare and Midway. AOPA put out a call to action on May 31, 2018 urging our Illinois membership to oppose the legislation as amended. After a third reading on the house floor, Illinois Senate Bill 482 would be eligible for a full vote. During discussions on the house floor, the language was pulled and replaced with an option to provide a percentage of the sales tax to be placed in an “aviation lockbox” and no specific distribution model proposed at this time. I will be monitoring the bill for any other unwanted changes as negotiations occur over the summer.

Most of my states in the Great Lakes Region have recessed for summer and will pick back up in the fall.        

As always, please fly safe and do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns! I am here to serve you! Kyle Lewis (

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