by Kyle Lewis
Regional Manager for Government Affairs & Airport Advocacy / Great Lakes / AOPA
Published in Midwest Flyer – February/March 2019 issue
The old saying “Strength in Numbers” is still very valid. In mid-November 2018, a bill was introduced and put before the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in the Michigan House of Representatives. This proposed legislation would have impacted private landing areas and flying clubs in a negative way. House Bill 6436, sponsored by Representative Jeff Yaroch (R-MI 33rd), set out to limit the number of operations on private landing areas to 10 operations per day. Remember that an operation is defined as a takeoff or a landing. The bill also has language that would change the definition of flying clubs from non-commercial aeronautical operations to commercial aeronautical operations. This is in direct conflict with FAA guidance and already established Michigan Aeronautics Code (259.91). For reference, FAA Order 5190.6B, Chapter 10.6, defines flying clubs and their intended use. AOPA is a strong supporter of the continued use and formation of flying clubs. AOPA is so enthused about flying clubs, we dedicate a segment of our “You Can Fly” program to the formation and consultation of flying clubs across the country.
As I prepared testimony for the hearing on the bill, AOPA reached out to flying clubs and other affected aeronautical users across the state to help oppose the bill. Back to my opening statement, the numbers made a presence at the hearing. Members of flying clubs, the Michigan Aerial Applicator Association, United States Parachute Association, AOPA, Recreational Aviation Foundation supporters, and representatives of Cameron Balloons were in attendance to oppose the bill. No one other than Representative Yaroch spoke in favor of the bill, and he faced many pointed questions by members of the committee. The representative referenced the legislation as a fix to land usage, but the bill would have affected aeronautical users across the state. In very short order, the aviation community answered the call to action and had their voices heard.
I hope you are asking yourself what detrimental issue precipitated the proposed legislation…what problem caused this? The specific issue trying to be resolved here is mitigating complaints of a skydive operation located in Ray Township, near Romeo, Michigan. The skydive operation utilizes a private landing area that has been in existence since World War II. Midwest Freefall operates as a skydiving club, evoking Rep. Yaroch to lump all flying clubs into language of the bill, since he cannot single out one skydiving club. Midwest Freefall has been involved in past litigation, which resulted in a favorable decision, and a review by the FAA and MIDOT Aeronautics gave the operation a clean bill to operate as is.
The bill did not fare well in the hearing. There was no obvious support from any committee members. In fact, Rep. Leslie Love (D-MI 10th) is a fan of skydiving, and she made it known through her questioning that limiting certain types of operations could have negative impacts across the state. Other committee members asked if this should be handled at the local level, to which Rep. Yaroch had no strong answer. The bill has yet to have any action taken by the committee, so at this time, the bill was expected to die in committee at the end of 2018. It is a possibility that another version will be introduced sometime in 2019 when the House reconvenes. For further reading and access to the archived video of the hearing, visit the following link: http://legislature.mi.gov/doc.aspx?2018-HB-6436
As 2018 ended, all seven (7) of AOPA’s Regional Managers were able to meet at AOPA headquarters in Frederick, Maryland for the annual Airport Support Network Board of Advisors meeting. This group helps AOPA focus our resources for the ASN Volunteer program, and this year we have been tasked with recruiting efforts. When I say we, it is not just the Advisors or AOPA staff, but every current ASN should be promoting and recruiting other members to participate in this important role.
AOPA’s airport advocacy work cannot be completed without devout volunteers at airports across the country. At EAA AirVenture, over 150 ASN Volunteers attended the ASN Meet and Greet held at the AOPA Pavilion. This was a record turnout for the event. Another exciting announcement is the roll-out of the redesigned website for the ASN Program. AOPA’s IT staff have been working on the project for nearly a year, and the mobile ready webpage should be unveiled at some point in 2019.
Looking further ahead in 2019, I will be representing AOPA at the North Dakota Aviation Conference and State Legislative Day to be held March 6th, and the South Dakota Aviation Conference later that month. In May of 2019, AOPA staff will be a part of Powder River Council 3. This gathering of aviation stakeholders to include AOPA, NBAA, airports across Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota, FBOs and other operators will convene in Bismarck to discuss the Powder River SUA operations with FAA and Air Force officials. As the meetings have progressed over the last three years, discussions are now focused on solutions for timely notification of airspace usage. Airlines will also be represented this year, as a result of the airspace now reaching Flight Level 50 and above.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org).