The Preservation & Promotion of Our Nation’s Airports

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

As a pilot, you learn to expect certain things. One of those expectations is finding an airport under your wings when completing a long cross-country. Navigation methods have changed over the years from ground markers to radio beacons (NDB and VOR) to the latest and greatest GPS. Airports have generally stayed in the same spot, with a few exceptions. Most of our nation’s airports have been in service for generations, name changes have occurred, but the asphalt and concrete are still there. AOPA has an entire department dedicated to the preservation and promotion of our nation’s airports. I am part of that team and would like to share some ideas on how you can take action on a local level.

Airports are complex ecosystems with their own set of rules and standards governed by the FAA and state-level departments. These standards apply to local community airports and large commercial-service airports. Airport zoning, minimum commercial operating standards, compatible land use, runway safety areas, aircraft movement areas, FBO leasing, land leases, and hangar leasing are just a few of the duties airport administration deals with daily. Larger airports have a full-time staff overseeing operations, while small airports have a sometimes-part-time manager who is lucky to get the grass cut every week.  In either case, airports are the first impression on an outside visitor.

I have mentioned it before in this column, but I want to stress how important the Airport Support Network (ASN) is to the overall mission of AOPA. Our ASN Volunteers are our eyes and ears for their airports. They promote airport activities and many sit on advisory boards or airport commission boards that oversee airport operations.

You, as an airport user or tenant, can take an active role. Attend airport board meetings, and city council, township, or county commission meetings. This is where the decisions on airport operations are made. Those decisions may affect you as a hangar tenant or airport user. It has become my experience that in many cases, airport decisions are being made with little input from airport users. Having your voice heard and becoming an AOPA ASN Volunteer is a great way to start becoming involved.

AOPA provides resources that allow our ASN Volunteers to stay informed and educated. Our volunteers help educate community leaders about the airport. The ASN program is a tool for any airport administration to take advantage of for the benefit of their tenants and users. Become involved and stay involved.

We ask our volunteers to promote their airport. It can be something as simple as showing a kid an airplane and sparking interest in the next generation.

If you expect our airports to stay under the wings of general aviation, please consider becoming active in your airport community and help us protect your freedom to fly!

EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2018 is now behind us and it was a very successful event for AOPA. Mark Baker, AOPA President and CEO, held two pilot townhall meetings and sat on a panel discussing our FBO pricing initiative. One of AOPA’s core missions is to improve the economy of flying — not in terms of fuel consumption, but in terms of keeping aviation accessible and affordable.

I spent most of the week at AirVenture speaking with members in the AOPA Campus and the topic of conversation centered around our work on the FBO issues. It is not about setting fuel prices, but about non-discriminatory access and transparency. This is an issue that every pilot should be well educated on, and AOPA provides those resources on our webpage (see and click on the “FBO Fees” at the top of the page).    

In September, I and my fellow AOPA Regional Managers attended the annual National Association of State Aviation Officials (NASAO) conference held in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. NASAO is a network of state aviation directors and staff who work together on national aviation policy including topics of funding, aviation growth, aviation safety, and airport standards. Our duties with AOPA put us in contact with state department of transportation aviation officials frequently and this conference is a way to show our support and continue the good working relationships we have at the state level.

The summer legislative recess has little updates to offer, but I will highlight a bill that was introduced in Ohio just before the legislature adjourned for summer.

• OH House Bill 685: Regulate Operation of Drones Near Airports (Rep. Barnes – D, OH 12th).

This bill strictly prohibits the operation of a UAS (unmanned aerial system) within 5 miles of any airport that has a control tower, within 3 miles of an airport that has an instrument approach but no control tower, within 2 miles from an airport that has neither a control tower or instrument approach. Penalties recommended include a charge of 1st degree felony, fines up to $20,000 and an 11-year jail term. There are no provisions for FAA Part 101 or Part 107 operators. The bill lacks any understanding or concurrency with current federal law or regulations. There are also provisions in the bill for retailers to collect data on purchasers of drones, but little direction is given as to how the information would be used. The bill has been introduced and assigned to the House Transportation and Public Safety Committee with no hearing date set as of this writing. AOPA, along with other organizations such as the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA), are opposing the bill as written. It is expected that this bill will not get out of committee, but we are monitoring it.

It is always a privilege to be able to communicate my work with you and as always, please do not hesitate to contact me with questions or concerns (

This entry was posted in AOPA Great Lakes Report, Columns, Columns, October/November 2018 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.