by Kyle Lewis
Regional Manager / Government Affairs & Airport Advocacy /
Great Lakes / Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association
Published in Midwest Flyer – April/May 2019 issue
I am sure that many of you are somewhat familiar with your home state’s legislative process; nearly all 50 states vary slightly in their session length or hearing processes. There is much more a citizen can do to become involved in that process, aside from voting for a candidate. I am tasked with representing AOPA membership in that process, but individual voices carry weight too.
State legislators are much like you and me – some are retired from industry, and some still have day jobs representing a wide variety of occupations.
I have been lucky enough to meet with state legislators from nearly eight states I represent for AOPA, and they all want to do right by their constituents.
I have met a few who are misguided or misinformed on aviation-related issues. In my experience, being misguided or misinformed is not driven by malice or bad intentions…just lack of education and information on the way aviation works.
For example, in late January of 2019, a “Blue Ribbon Commission for Infrastructure and Transportation” was formed by newly elected Governor Mike DeWine of Ohio. WOW! This commission sounds like a great thing! After reading the media release and confirming with the Ohio Aviation Association (OAA), aviation of any form was left out of representation on this new committee. Luckily, a representative of OAA was able to testify before the committee during its first meeting.
Stacey Heaton, OAA’s Executive Director, penned the testimony, while Kristen Easterday of the Columbus Regional Airport Authority delivered the message to the committee. OAA applauded the administration for taking steps to study Ohio’s transportation infrastructure, but also reminded the committee of the role aviation plays in Ohio, to the tune of a $13-billion economic impact.
In any state, aviation is a strategic part to the overall transportation planning. How does this relate to what you as a tax-paying citizen can do?
State-level aviation associations, whether it be a pilot association, airport association, or a multitude of others, host “aviation days” at their respective state capitols. If you recall, AOPA hosted an aviation day at the Ohio Statehouse in September 2018, parking a Cirrus SR-22 on the front lawn. These events are meant to draw attention to aviation, but also educate and inform lawmakers on the role aviation plays in that important big picture of transportation. These are not closed off sessions, privy to only lobbyists and campaign donors…these are open to you, the public, and our membership.
At AOPA’s Ohio event, Airport Support Network Volunteers and AOPA members were on hand to speak with Department of Transportation officials, legislators, and legislative staffers. The legislative process can seem murky, dark, and unwelcoming. The truth is, the process is available to any citizen to have their voice heard. Don’t feel intimidated to reach out to your representative. Plan to attend the aviation legislative day in your state. Here are some upcoming events:
• The Minnesota Business Aviation Association, Minnesota Council of Airports and Minnesota Aviation Trades Association are hosting “Minnesota Aviation Day at the Capitol” on April 10th beginning at 10:00 a.m. at the historic terminal building in St. Paul Downtown Airport, then moving to the State Capitol at 2:00 p.m.
• The Wisconsin Airport Management Association is hosting “Wisconsin Aviation Day at the Capitol” in Madison on March 29th.
• The Michigan Business Aviation Association is hosting “Michigan Aviation Day at the Capitol” on April 17, 8:00 – 11:00 a.m. at GCSI, 120 N. Washington Square, 2nd Floor, Lansing, Michigan.
At the time of writing, some events have already been held – or will soon be held – in Ohio, North Dakota and Indiana. I encourage not only our AOPA membership, but the aviation community as a whole to actively participate in these events and become involved in the local state association hosting these events.
Plan ahead for 2020, use local airport associations or EAA Chapters to attend these events as groups. Use AOPA’s “Communicating With Your Legislator” guide to help prepare for your visit, found here: http://download.aopa.org/advocacy/GuideToCommunicatingWithYourLegislator.pdf
On the topic of ongoing legislation, I have been working on language for a bill in Ohio that would create a stand-alone “aviation commission.” Some of you may be familiar with the Michigan Aeronautics Commission and its function within the Michigan Department of Transportation. The Ohio bill is modeled after similar language and functionality used in Michigan, and other states with aviation or aeronautics commissions. The objective of the bill is to provide a quasi-government body that can report directly to the Ohio Department of Transportation, and Executive and Legislative bodies on aviation-related topics, including funding, safety programming, education, and Unmanned Aircraft Systems. The commission will use subcommittees comprised of industry experts for insight on best practices and forecasting the aviation system in Ohio. Seven (7) commission members will be appointed with the governor choosing five (5), speaker of the house choosing one (1), and the president of the senate choosing one (1). The bill is currently in draft form while I reach out to other state-level organizations for input.
Indiana is looking at a bill to deal with derelict and abandoned aircraft. AOPA and EAA were consulted with language in the bill, as aviation is complex in terminology, like what airworthiness really means, and who can be considered an authority in making active repairs or restorations (remember, anyone can turn wrenches on an experimental aircraft).
Airports across the country deal with aircraft that have become abandoned, in some way or another. In some cases, current statutes do not cover abandoned aircraft like they do road vehicles. The airport or fixed base operator is left to track down the owners, which can become a time-consuming process. The derelict aircraft take up usable tie-down or hangar space, space that could be used as funding sources for the airport. Indiana House Bill 1330 aims to make the process reasonable and fair to all parties that may be involved, allowing ample notifications and a court process.
As the 2019 flying season ramps up, look for AOPA at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh where I will be part of an all new seminar for airports and advocacy. The new seminar will also be available at Sun ‘n Fun in Lakeland, Fla., and at each AOPA Fly-In around the country (see listing below). The seminar will be geared toward AOPA’s Airport Support Network Volunteers, but we are encouraging anyone who has interest in airports or advocacy to attend.
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 at firstname.lastname@example.org.