AOPA’s government affairs team, made up of regulatory and legislative experts, works diligently each day to keep flying safe, fun, and affordable.
It’s no surprise that AOPA was named a top advocacy association by the respected magazine The Hill for the eighth year in a row during AOPA President Mark Baker’s tenure.
Let’s look back at some of the team’s top advocacy accomplishments of 2021.
AOPA’s industry-led effort to encourage FBO pricing and ramp fee transparency has started to gain momentum since its inception a few years ago. Hundreds of general aviation organizations have signed on to support the effort dubbed Know Before You Go, which led to several FBO chains becoming more transparent with customers by posting fees online. Thanks to AOPA’s airport advocacy team, 44 airports have updated airport diagrams to reflect GA parking, while 34 percent of chain FBOs have become fully transparent—including Atlantic Aviation, Centric Aviation, Wilson Air Center, ACI Jet, Cutter Aviation, and Meridian.
Our airports advocacy team was also hard at work protecting several of our nation’s 5,000 public-use airports from threat of closure. While pilots understand the value of GA airports as treasured infrastructure, not all feel the same, as was the case at Dillingham Airfield on Oahu’s North Shore.
AOPA was able to rally support for Dillingham Airfield (also known as Kawaihāpai Airfield) soon after the Hawaii Department of Transportation confirmed to AOPA in April 2020 that it would move to terminate its lease of the airport property from the U.S. Army ahead of that agreement’s 2024 end date. The state ordered tenants to vacate the airport long used for flight training, skydiving, sightseeing, and glider operations, putting businesses and tourism resources at risk.
AOPA and local airport supporters built a grassroots campaign that earned support for continued civilian use of the airport from local residents and lawmakers. The reprieve from early termination buys stakeholders time and opportunity to find solutions to existing problems and sets a foundation for a growing GA community for years to come. To sum it up, Dillingham Airfield lives another day! Dillingham was just one of nine airports saved and 200 airport cases that AOPA helped resolve in 2021.
In November, AOPA’s regulatory affairs team successfully pushed for a change to the National Beacon Code Allocation Plan, allowing gliders to use transponder code 1202 regardless of whether they are in contact with air traffic control. AOPA had originally pushed for the change in March, saying that while powered VFR aircraft typically fly in straight, predictable paths, gliders often make abrupt changes in direction and/or altitude. This makes it very important for ATC to be able to differentiate gliders from other aircraft. The result is a significant improvement to air safety for glider pilots and other air traffic especially near busy airspace.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a flight school or aviation business excited to learn of a temporary flight restriction (TFR) surrounding its home airport. AOPA has been working with the FAA and other agencies to gather information about how future presidential TFRs might impact GA operations, part of a yearslong effort, spanning many administrations, to mitigate the economic damage and inconvenience that these restrictions can cause.
AOPA successfully advocated for a reduced size and increased number of cut-outs in the Wilmington, Delaware, presidential TFR allowing for increased GA access while the TFR is active. The measure was implemented in April.
AOPA worked closely with the FAA to change the publication cycle of VFR charts to every 56 days, coinciding with the publication dates of other en route, terminal, and supplemental chart products. AOPA advocated for the chart-cycle change, and noted that based on pilot surveys, approximately 90 percent of pilots were primarily using electronic charts.
The alteration, which was implemented in February, allows for changes to be charted more quickly, reduces the number of permanent notices to air missions, and eliminates the need for chart bulletins.
These key wins are just a fraction of the work our government affairs team does on a daily basis. And while we are proud to check these accomplishments off the list, there are several key advocacy initiatives in the works for 2022. AOPA anticipates more challenges, including the ongoing flight training debacle, protecting radar altimeters from interference from the 5G C-band rollout by the telecommunications industry, the rising cost of insurance premiums, and the issue on top of everyone’s mind—the rushed decision by two California airports to ban 100LL.
Hats off to our advocacy team for ensuring your membership is going a long way in protecting and preserving the freedom to fly.