by Dave Weiman
Published in Midwest Flyer – December 2018/January 2019 issue
Armed with a nationally acclaimed aviation program, the students and faculty of Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois, provided the enthusiasm, leadership and energy the Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association (AOPA) needed to host its third regional fly-in of the year, October 5-6, 2018. Southern Illinois Airport (KMDH) provided the facilities, and AOPA’s staff provided the expertise needed to inform and educate attendees.
Friday afternoon and all day Saturday, members attended seminars and visited the exhibit hall, AOPA Village and admired the many airplanes on static display.
Among the many seminar speakers was flight instructor, Max Trescott, who shared his insights on flying with modern GPS receivers at Friday’s IFR workshop. During the owner-performed maintenance workshop on Friday, Mike Busch of Savvy Aviation, advocated for reliability-centered maintenance (RCM) – maintaining aircraft based on their condition, and not because of the calendar or a schedule.
Guests spent Friday evening under the stars enjoying good food and live entertainment at the famous Barnstormers Party presented by Jeppesen.
There were plenty of hotels in the area, and attendees had the option of camping out beneath their wings.
Saturday started off with an early-morning pancake breakfast, ongoing educational safety seminars and informational workshops.
Included among the activities on Saturday was the third annual Southern Illinois Plane Pull. The Monsta Squad, composed of correctional officers and sergeants, won the event, which raised more than $10,000 for Special Olympics Illinois.
A reception was held for AOPA Airport Support Network volunteers on Saturday afternoon, hosted by AOPA Great Lakes Regional Manager, Kyle Lewis, and AOPA Vice President of Airports and State Advocacy, Mike Ginter.
A Pilot Town Hall Meeting wrapped up the fly-in featuring AOPA President & CEO Mark Baker, members of AOPA’s executive staff, and special guests including EAA Chairman Jack Pelton, U.S. Representative Mike Bost (Illinois 12th District), and the Chairman of the Southern Illinois Airport Authority, David M. Ardrey, who is also an AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer.
The biggest announcement made at the Pilot Town Hall Meeting came when Mark Baker informed members that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was reauthorized for five years without privatization of the air traffic control system, thanks in large part to some 200,000 members who took the time to contact their elected officials on a moment’s notice, as did the members of other major general aviation organizations. Baker further announced that the Federal Aviation Administration reinstated its $500 rebate program to equip aircraft with Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast (ADS–B) Out equipment, and increased the maximum weight for light sport aircraft from 1320 lbs. to 3600 lbs.
The ADS-B rebate program that ended on September 18, 2017 will now close October 11, 2019. The agency is making $4.9 million available under the new rebate program, which will help fund 9,792 new ADS-B Out installations before the January 2, 2020 deadline. After that date, aircraft flying in airspace where a transponder is necessary today will be required to be equipped with compliant ADS-B Out equipment.
In a statement provided to AOPA prior to the fly-in, FAA Acting Administrator Daniel Elwell said that the ADS-B mandate for aircraft to be equipped by January 2, 2020 is not going away. Reiterating that comment, Baker stated that this is the last opportunity for aircraft owners to take advantage of the FAA rebate program, and encouraged members not to wait any longer to install the equipment. The previous rebate program, which ran from Sept. 19, 2016 to Sept. 18, 2017, issued more than 10,000 rebates.
AOPA has worked with the FAA and manufacturers through the “Equip 2020 Working Group” to develop lower cost solutions, especially for legacy aircraft, which often are not equipped with a Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) GPS sensor, a necessary component for ADS-B Out. As a result of this collaboration, the cost of equipment has been reduced from more than $5,000 a few years ago to less than $2,000 today.
As before, there are five steps aircraft owners must follow to meet the mandate and receive the $500 rebate: 1) Purchase the equipment and schedule installation. 2) Get a Rebate Reservation Code by reserving a position online. 3) Install the equipment. 4) Conduct the required equipment performance validation flight and get an Incentive Code. 5) Claim the $500 rebate online using the Rebate Reservation Code and Incentive Code. Full rebate rules are available on the FAA website: www.faa.gov. To help determine which ADS-B products might be best for your aircraft, see the AOPA ADS-B Selection Tool available online (https://www.aopa.org/go-fly/aircraft-and-ownership/ads-b/ads-b-selector).
The other huge announcement at the fly-in was FAA’s decision to increase the maximum weight of light sport aircraft (LSA) from 1320 lbs. to 3600 lbs. effective in January 2019. Light sport aircraft can be flown by persons holding a Sport Pilot Certificate, in which the qualifications are less stringent than those of the Private Pilot Certificate.
The new weight limit will include a wide range of aircraft, such as the Cessna 150-152 series, which have a maximum gross weight ranging from 1500 lbs. for Cessna 150s to 1670 lbs. for Cessna 152s, as well as the Cessna 172 Skyhawk and Piper Archer II that can weigh as much as 2550 lbs.
Many pilots were critical of the FAA for not allowing these more durable and affordable training aircraft to be approved under LSA standards from the get-go. Instead, the FAA’s decision to limit the weight of light sport aircraft promoted the sales of new aircraft that cost considerably more than used legacy aircraft. Until the new rule goes into effect, pilots are required to hold at least a Private Pilot Certificate to fly any aircraft that weighs more than 1320 lbs. The increases in weight limits will enable pilots holding a Sport Pilot Certificate to fly aircraft weighing 3600 lbs.
Baker added that over the past two years, AOPA has been working with the FAA, the ASTM International Light-Sport Committee and other general aviation organizations to improve and advance light sport aircraft, including increasing the weight limit and incorporating new technologies that make flying safer. The FAA is on track to publish a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) in early 2019, which will include many of the suggestions for improvement.
Baker was joined on stage by EAA Chairman Jack Pelton, who reinforced EAA’s and AOPA’s strong working relationship, and emphasized their collaborative efforts on general aviation initiatives, such as increasing the weight of light sport aircraft, and getting lower cost avionics approved for both experimental and certified aircraft. Pelton added that there are also plans to allow professional builders to assemble homebuilt aircraft.
Southern Illinois Airport (KMDH), originally known as Murdale Airport, was founded in 1946, and opened on June 1, 1950 with one runway, one business, two buildings and eight employees. Traffic and business have grown considerably over the past six decades, particularly after Southern Illinois University started its aviation program in 1960. Today, Southern Illinois Airport ranks as the fourth busiest airport in the state with 27 buildings and more than 220 employees working for 11 tenants with an annual payroll exceeding $5.6 million and yearly expenditures of $2.5 million which is spent locally. Additionally, according to a study commissioned by the Illinois Division of Aeronautics, the airport contributes more than $82 million in direct and indirect benefits to the region on an annual basis (https://www.siairport.com). Airport manager, Gary Shafer, was on hand at the fly-in to ensure there was ample aircraft and automobile parking and ramp space for displays. SIU Aviation was the presenting sponsor of the event.
Carbondale, Illinois is a favorite destination for sightseers, hikers, bicyclists, and fishermen as the city is surrounded by the beautiful Shawnee Hills. There is also a vibrant music scene, gourmet cuisine, educational museums, and spectacular wineries and breweries.
The two-day fly-in attracted 179 aircraft and nearly 7,000 people.
Look for AOPA to announce its 2019 fly-in schedule in a future issue of Midwest Flyer Magazine.