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AOPA says be ‘safe and smart’

Aviation groups call out ‘rushed decision’ banning 100LL at Santa Clara County airports

General aviation leaders have expressed safety concerns about the rushed decision by Santa Clara County officials to prevent the sale of 100LL fuel at California’s Reid-Hillview Airport and San Martin Airport.

“The need to remove lead from aviation fuel is something everyone is behind,” said AOPA President Mark Baker. “What’s happening at Reid-Hillview Airport in California is having a chilling effect in moving forward with a safe and smart transition.”

In a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen, aviation groups outlined the crucial need for 100LL fuel to be available at all public-use airports across the country while the industry works to find a fleetwide fuel solution as quickly as possible. The letter was signed by the more than 110 members of the Avgas Coalition, a group of aviation stakeholders aligned on the need for a smart and safe transition to an unleaded fuel solution that works for the entire GA fleet.

The letter explained that the action to suddenly not offer fuel that had been available by an obligated airport to the aircraft and engines that require it “could pose a violation of federal grant obligations by creating an access restriction to that airport and unjust discrimination.”

“Allowing the county’s unilateral action to unfairly discriminate against certain users of our public-use airport system is wrong and if not addressed could exacerbate the situation by causing a domino effect at airports across the nation,” the letter stated.

The letter also reminded government officials that the industry—refiners, producers, distributors, engine manufacturers, pilots, airports, and FBOs—is working closely with the Biden administration to find a fleetwide unleaded replacement fuel no later than 2030.

aopa.org/100UL

Of note

Medical applications: The FAA added a new feature to its online MedXPress process, allowing pilots to track their medical applications in real time—a sign that the agency is working to modernize its outdated systems. All new applicants signing into MedXPress accounts will be able to see their real-time application status on a dashboard. The system is designed so that pilots will no longer need to call the Office of Aerospace Medicine for updates. Those with applications prior to April 15 will be able to see any new activity on the dashboard when new action is taken on their case. This process will not alleviate the current backlog of applications.

Drug testing: AOPA submitted comments in response to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s proposed changes to its drug testing program, including the use of oral fluid samples (saliva test) as an alternative to urine testing. While the change continues to uphold the safety goals of the program, AOPA cautioned the agency to keep privacy top of mind in its testing protocols. AOPA also encouraged the DOT to retain its one-year retention period for non-negative specimens. AOPA argued that the proposed 90-day period may pass before a pilot is able to retain legal counsel or expert witnesses, and ultimately make the decision to have additional testing of the sample performed for litigation purposes. The proposal mostly affects pilots for commercial airlines, cargo operators, or charter operators.

Regulatory affairs

When right-of-way isn’t always right

By Christopher Cooper, AOPA senior director of regulatory affairs

AOPA ActionThe past decade has brought many regulatory and technological changes to the remote pilot aircraft community. In 2016, the FAA addressed rules for non-recreational unmanned aircraft systems (drones) under 55 pounds. Among other things, the Part 107 rule requires drone flights to occur within the visual line of sight of the operator and to yield the right of way to all other aircraft, including GA aircraft.

As drone use has increased, significant interest in operating drones beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) has also grown.

The FAA established the BVLOS Operations Aviation Rulemaking Committee in 2021, comprising primarily of individuals representing the drone industry, but also including AOPA and legacy aviation stakeholders. The committee submitted 70 recommendations to the FAA on integrating BVLOS drones into U.S. airspace. Unfortunately, some of these recommendations have safety implications for low level aircraft operators.

The committee recommended that aircraft not equipped with ADS-B Out give way to BVLOS drones below 500 feet agl. This also means BVLOS drones, typically more maneuverable, would have no responsibility to see and avoid these unequipped aircraft. AOPA strongly disagreed with this radical change and recommended that the safest way to integrate BVLOS drones is to ensure they can “see” and avoid a range of aircraft that may or may not have ADS-B Out.

AOPA supports the safe integration of these operations; however, such growth cannot come at the safety or expense of additional equipment mandates to general aviation. The FAA aims to propose rules for BVLOS operations by the end of the year.

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On the front lines

Staying on glideslope

By Mike Ginter, vice president of airports and state advocacy

Thanks to a growing network of 2,000 Airport Support Network volunteers, AOPA’s airport advocacy team has engaged with and resolved member issues at 73 airports this year across the country. We are currently engaged with 67 open issues. When a member calls us with an issue at an airport, we strive to learn all the facts and then determine how to engage most effectively. The most important factor in successfully resolving an airport issue is to engage with the right organization with the right message; in other words, stay on the glideslope.

If a local community complains of noise near your airport, we don’t necessarily focus on the complainers. We focus on collecting and analyzing the right data, so that the airport manager can engage the community using the facts and implement the right actions that benefit all.

If the county commission or city council has published harsh enforcement language in the minimum standards document, we do not harass the airport manager, we focus on informing the council about best practices seen at airports around the nation and ask them to revise those standards accordingly.

To promote and protect your airport, consider volunteering for our Airport Support Network at aopa.org/asn or call 800-USA-AOPA.

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