AOPA supports the FAA’s proposal to expand BasicMed for those who want to serve as safety pilots and to change medical certificate requirements for individuals completing medical flight tests. The changes would alleviate confusion and burdens for individuals operating under BasicMed and those obtaining medical flight tests. The FAA proposes allowing pilots who operate under BasicMed to serve as a required pilot flight crewmember when not acting as pilot in command, and toallow individuals to receive medical flight tests while not holding a medical certificate.
Currently, pilots may operate under BasicMed while operating as PIC; however, they cannot use the same privilege as a required flight crewmember when not acting as PIC. This change would allow an individual who takes advantage of BasicMed to serve as a safety pilot.
More than 70,000 pilots have used BasicMed privileges since the program’s inception, and many who are currently operating under BasicMed could easily serve as a safety pilot for any of the 316,000 instrument-rated pilots, not including the unknown number of instrument applicants-in-training. AOPA also supports removing the requirement for pilots receiving a medical flight test (e.g., statement of demonstrated ability or special issuance) to hold a medical certificate. The FAA determined that requiring an aviation safety inspector to act as PIC during medical flight tests put an unnecessary burden on the inspector.
AOPA also recommended the FAA allow designated pilot examiners (DPEs) to perform exams while utilizing BasicMed. Doing so would significantly reduce turnover and training, create a wider pool of well-qualified DPE applicants, and increase use of DPEs for pilot applicants.
Virginia: AOPA is working with the Virginia Aviation Business Association and state officials to uphold Virginia’s aircraft maintenance sales tax exemption, in the face of an impending expiration. Virginia’s sales tax exemption was introduced nearly five years ago, saving pilots and aircraft owners money on maintenance and repair costs. Virginia-based aviation businesses have been able to compete with neighboring states such as Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina that offer similar incentives. Should the exemption expire, the cost of maintenance would increase for both owners and renters. Additionally, airports and aviation service providers would see a competitive disadvantage as jobs would be lost to neighboring states. According to the Virginia Airport System Economic Impact Study of 2018, the Commonwealth’s 66 public-use airports support more than 146,000 jobs and generate $23 billion in annual economic activity.
Texas: In a win for local pilots, tenants, and nearby businesses, the city of Midland abandoned its plans to close Midland Airpark (MDD) in West Texas. AOPA learned of the closure threat thanks to Vicki Hurt—a pilot and AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer at the field. Together, AOPA and Hurt worked to get more than 200 pilots, tenants, and local business leaders to oppose the airport’s closure. “Local pilots, including myself, are so fortunate to have the use of such a fine facility with all the advantages of the nearby towered airport. I believe we all see the economic impact with the daily arrivals of people doing business in Midland,” said Hurt.
New York: The fate of New York’s East Hampton Airport was sealed on January 20 after the town board voted to close the airport and reopen it under private control. Under the new framework, East Hampton will operate as a publicly owned private-use facility for which prior permission is required. Consequently, the town has the authority to impose noise limitations, prohibit certain users, and restrict takeoffs and landings during certain times of the day. Permanent closure of East Hampton also remains on the table. AOPA hoped the town board would see the value of East Hampton Airport as an economic asset to the community and local businesses it serves. The airport is a staging area for distributing emergency medical supplies during natural disasters and facilitates lifesaving medical transportation. A study commissioned by the East Hampton Community Alliance shows that East Hampton generates $77 million for the local economy and supports 800 jobs. It has served the eastern end of Long Island for more than eight decades.
What’s happening in your state? AOPA’s seven regional managers advocate for you and report their activities online.
The AOPA Airport Support Network, now with nearly 2,000 volunteers, has successfully engaged with, promoted, and protected airports for 25 years. Our news archives are filled with airport success stories that highlight the effectiveness of ASN volunteers such as Jack Tunstill, who orchestrated the 2003 effort to save Albert Whitted Airport (SPG) in St. Petersburg, Florida.
A memorable victory was initiated by Rick Beech, who alerted AOPA to the construction of a tall building near Montgomery-Gibbs Executive Airport (MYF) in San Diego, which resulted in a years-long court battle and deconstruction of the top two floors of the building. Another notable victory was led by Euel Kinsey in 2005, when he successfully waged a political and media campaign against Detroit’s city hall to protect millions in funding for the Coleman A. Young Municipal Airport (DET). Recently, Vicki Hurt organized the effort to save Midland Airpark (MDD) in Texas, from redevelopment.
AOPA is celebrating these successes with special ASN volunteer events around the country including: Sun ’n Fun April 5 through 10; the Great Alaska Aviation Gathering May 6 and 7; Utah Aeronautics Conference May 9 through 11; at Sporty’s Pilot Shop May 14; EAA AirVenture July 25 through 31; the Stihl National Championship Air Races September 14 through 18; as well as many others. There will be two AOPA ASN gatherings in Dallas and Kansas City, dates to be announced.
By Mike Ginter, AOPA vice president, airports and state advocacy
General aviation is still under threat at many airports across the country, and these threats inspire pilots to fight back. We see this right now in Scottsdale, Arizona, where GA hangars and shades are targeted for redevelopment; in Alabama and Utah, where planned developments on or near airports are clearly incompatible; and in California, where airports are under direct closure threat from politicians.
AOPA’s team of airport advocates have helped many pilot groups successfully oppose these threats. The winning strategy common to these efforts has four parts: identify the problem early, organize local pilots and businesses, gather all relevant info, and engage with one common goal and a unified voice.
In some cases, local pilots have raised funds to hire a qualified state aviation attorney. In other cases, pilots have initiated very successful social media campaigns to educate the local community and leaders about the benefits of GA. And, in other cases, pilots have engaged persistently with the local airport authority leaders to improve their “GA experience.”
Common mistakes include waiting too long to get involved or letting emotion guide your strategy. We’re all passionate about flying, but cooler heads usually do prevail.
Learn more about joining the Airport Support Network at aopa.org/asn and click “Get Involved” or call 800/USA-AOPA.