by Kyle Lewis
Regional Manager / Government Affairs & Airport Advocacy /
Great Lakes / Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association
Published in Midwest Flyer – August/September 2019 issue
There are some new and important laws that have been signed into effect since my last column, all positive for general aviation and deserve some attention by our members, and the general aviation community. There has been one amendment attached to a bill in Ohio that AOPA is opposing that deserves mentioning as well.
Minnesota Airport Zoning Updates: AOPA collaborated with the MnDOT Office of Aeronautics in 2015 to work on language that would bring common sense updates to the state’s airport zoning statutes. The bill was pushed in recent years, but 2019 proved to be the year it would be signed into law (5/30/2019). It was attached as an amendment to DOT’s budget appropriations bill and garnered the support and votes to be sent to the Governor. The bill updated some language in the existing zoning laws, gives airports the ability to take part in “custom zoning” that would be cleared by a regional joint zoning board, and mandate MnDOT Aeronautics to respond to zoning permits from a jurisdiction or joint zoning board within 90 days, as currently there is no set time for the agency to respond. Language was also added to allow for web-based formats of public hearing notifications. Airport safety areas must be illustrated on official zoning control maps updated after August 1, 2019. The appropriations bill also funds MnDOT Aeronautics at just over $25 million each year, 2020 and 2021.
Indiana Abandoned and Derelict Aircraft: AOPA, along with EAA, assisted in providing support and language for a bill that deals directly with aircraft that have been determined to be derelict or abandoned in the state of Indiana. The issues stemmed from airports and fixed base operators that have limited legal recourse to dispense aircraft that fit these categories. Aircraft were taking up ramp and/or hangar space that could otherwise be providing income for airports. There are certain criteria that need to be met before the removal process can begin, such as non-payment of rents for at least 60 days and the aircraft is determined to be “wrecked, partially dismantled, or inoperative.” This does not include aircraft that are undergoing maintenance by a person legally authorized to do so, and does not apply to unmanned or ultralight aircraft. There is a notification process before the airport or fixed base operator can begin action to recover fees and remove the aircraft. This law takes effect on July 1, 2019.
Ohio Airport Improvement Grant Program: At the time of writing, a contested amendment in Ohio was submitted that would allow for commercial service and cargo dedicated airports to participate in the state funded airport improvement grant program. The amendment was placed into the overall state budget bill, House Bill 166. There were no caps or other protections for general aviation airports, and as written, these commercial service airports would compete on the same grant award matrix as smaller airports. Ohio DOT – Office of Aviation administers this grant program. AOPA provided testimony to the Senate Finance Committee on June 17, 2019 opposing the amendment. Our core reasons for opposition were that AOPA has historically opposed commercial service airports participating in state level grant funding. Commercial service airports have separate funding streams that general aviation airports do not have, like passenger enplanement fee revenues, concessions, and larger leaseholds. In 2018, over $20 million had been requested by general aviation airports for eligible projects. The state only awarded approximately $2 million due to limited funding. If commercial airports became eligible for these funds, the competition would be even tougher for small airports. AOPA expects the amendment to be dropped and the status quo maintained. A vote in the Senate Finance Committee has yet to occur, but the budget must be approved by June 30, 2019.
Late spring and early summer also provided AOPA opportunities to participate in regional events, such as the Minnesota Seaplane Pilots Association (MSPA) Safety Seminar. This event is well organized, well attended by the seaplane pilot community, and truly has an impact on float flying in Minnesota. Steve Guetter, MSPA president, has done a fantastic job bringing this community together in recent years. Steve also provides insight and support to AOPA in our work regarding Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) issues for general aviation and the unique situations surrounding border crossings in seaplanes.
In June of 2019, Southwest Ohio Flyers hosted an event at Cincinnati Lunken Airport in which I was able to present on legislative and airport advocacy issues. AOPA has an all-new seminar for our national events, entitled “Will Your Airport Be Here Tomorrow?” The seminar is an overview of the airport system in the United States and the threats that general aviation airports face on a daily basis. There is also a strong focus on what can be done on the local level to help protect airports, including the role of the AOPA Airport Support Network Volunteer. If you did not get to participate in the 2019 seminar at an AOPA event, look for it again at 2020 AOPA Fly-Ins, Sun ‘n Fun and EAA AirVenture Oshkosh programming.
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