The following is a sample of some of the issues the Airmen Association is advocating for or against on your behalf. We are working several issues that are behind the scenes and could become public shortly. Look for updates in the next Transponder, in eBulletins and on our Facebook page.
If you have questions, comments or know of new issues please contact Adam White. As always, when you file your public comments please copy the Alaska Airmen Association. This helps us know and understand your needs and opinions.
State DOT&PF Aircraft Registration program
State DOT has once again proposed new regulations for a $150 Aircraft Registration Fee for noncommercial aircraft and $250 for commercial aircraft. They are doing this to try and raise revenue as dictated by the Legislators in Juneau. There are provision for exemptions for unairworthy aircraft but there is no enforcement scheme mentioned. Some in DOT claim that this is not about raising revenue as much as it is about gathering data for the FAA on based aircraft locations.
DOT has asked for a fuel tax increase to try and raise revenue but that must be approved by Juneau. We know Juneau can’t make a decision about how to get anything done right now. As a result DOT feels the A/C Registration is the only hope they have because they can by-pass Juneau (the legislative process) and do this through their own regulatory process.
DOT has put out for public comment the proposal to implement a State registration program we need to get our membership rallied. When we surveyed Alaska pilots, 67% favored an increase in fuel taxes to generate more revenue while only 20% favored an aircraft registration tax. The Alaska Airmen Association understands the need and requirement for DOT to report based aircraft numbers the FAA for grant compliance but agrees with the survey that a fuel tax increase is the most equitable means and the most cost effective method to increase revenue.
If the DOT Registration Program is implemented we will need to remove our support for the fuel tax increase.
This new program will impose new administrative loads on DOT, where the Fuel Tax Increase would require zero startup and no additional overhead by any division of State Government or of the private sector.
Comments are due by 5pm AST, January 5th 2018.
For more information, please view the Alaska Airmen Briefing and supporting documents below.
Birchwood Airport Sponsorship
Alaska DOT and the Eklutna Native Corporation have started talking about how best to develop and operate the Birchwood airport outside Anchorage. These talks have primarily focused on transferring sponsorship (ownership) of the airport from Alaska DOT to the Eklutna Native Corporation.
The Alaska Airmen Association supports the Birchwood Airport Association in their efforts to insure transparency in those discussions. While there is a possibility for better development and maintenance at Birchwood we have concerns that DOT’s divestment of airports around Alaska to other municipalities or corporations would be detrimental to Alaska’s aviation system and would place an untenable burden on others that the state itself is hardpressed to bear.
The process of transferring sponsorship of an airport is a very lengthy process that could take years and will require public input and comment periods. Most often sponsorship transfers are to other governmental agencies, state or municipal, and while there are some provisions for private entities serving in that role, it is rare.
The Alaska Airmen Association will continue to follow this issue.
We are following the efforts of the Birchwood Airport Association and have offered our advice and support. We encourage our members who are based out of or regularly use the Birchwood Airport to become involved with the Birchwood Airport Association.
Fairbanks International Ski Strip
Several Members are complaining about the continued closure NOTAMs for the ski strip, especially in light of the amount of snow Fairbanks has received. Field Maintenance is short staffed and has had difficulty getting to the strip before snow levels got too deep to compact.
Continued use by aircraft at the pilot’s own risk has also blown snow off the strip at the departure ends. As a result Field Maintenance had to plow off most of the accumulated snow to try and start over to compact a base. This has not been very successful.
Operations understands our desire to have a safe and usable surface. I have spoken to the Airport and encouraged them to put more resources to getting a snow base established then to the importance to maintain it this season.
The Trump administration is pushing for modernization and giving the ATC functions of the FAA over to a not-for-profit corporation. The Alaska Airmen are very much in favor of modernization but strongly oppose privatization.
General Aviation interest would not be served by an organization controlled by major airline interest. Alaska has a hard enough time getting the help we need from a distant government as it is. Privatization is a very dynamic issue and changes by the minute.
Rep. Young is on the fence. He has been promised concessions for Alaska that might exempt us from some of privatization. He has also been promised funding to keep essential air service.
Keep a close watch on our social media outlets for calls to action. We have joined up with over 100 other groups in signing an open letter to Congress opposing privatization.
This link will help you understand some of the finer points of the issue.
The House vote keeps getting pushed on the calendar because of the lack of votes. I continue to meet with other GA leaders from around the country on a weekly telecon to talk strategy and get/give updates.
Don Young is still kind of a wildcard and reportedly trying to work some deals in exchange for his vote. I have been encouraging members to contact him and tell him that if ATC Privatization is not good for Alaska it is not good for anywhere in the US. We are reaching out to members via social media and email to give them details on the issue. The ATC Not For Sale website is a great place to go for more information. http://www.atcnotforsale.com
Fairbanks Approach Control and ATIS coverage
This summer the antennas were moved for the Fairbanks Approach Control and ATIS. Coverage has dramatically dropped to the west. I have been working with Tom George, Rod Comebllick, and Ken Kokjer to map the coverage area and help the FAA come up with a plan.
AK DOT&PF Drone Policy
DOT has released a Drone use policy for contractors and employees. Rich Sewell states that it is written specifically to be adaptable and responsive as the technology evolves. Policy can be read at this link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B6fYUgdA3yagWHNuQzM4RXNZQkk/view?usp=sharing
State of Alaska DOT Funding
UPDATE: Fuel taxes were not on the agenda for the second special session in Juneau. SB91 (crime) and a personal head/income tax are the only things the Governor wants the legislators to work on this time.
Since the proposed fuel tax increase was not approved in Juneau, DOT is once again talking about additional revenue streams. Landing Fees and Aircraft Registration Fees are once again being talked about. DOT is trying to make up a $40M deficit.
Tiedown fees, Transient Parking and lease rates have already gone up around the state.
Today revenues from airport leasing, permits and other fees generate about $5.1 million annually. State aviation fuel taxes account for an additional $4.7 million, for a total revenue of $9.8 million. In FY 2017, it cost DOT about $35.6 million to operate and maintain the system. Presently, DOT is looking to increase revenues to approximately $19 million, which would have to be supplemented with an additional $16 million from the General Fund.
The State’s budget problem has been tedious to try and resolve to say the least. We have been advocating for a fair, balanced, and non-draconian way to help. Of all the options put out there, a moderate increase in the fuel tax was the best choice. An increase (HB 60 and SB 25) was not approved this session, but the Bills are still alive for next year’s session.
Fuel Tax Survey
The Alaska Airmen in partnership with AOPA has commissioned a survey asking which of the three revenue streams (Landing Fees, Aircraft Registration or Fuel Tax Increase) our members like the least and which one they would prefer. In previous queries, our members overwhelming favored the fuel tax increase. The issue now stands at whether we should push to have the aviation fuel tax increase separated from the highway fuel tax bill in Juneau. DOT is really pushing hard for landing fees and a registration because they do not trust Juneau to get the tax increase accomplished.
Revision to the Airmen’s Information Manual
After some pushing it looks like the FAA is going to revise the language in the AIM to describe “Temporary Restricted Areas.” These areas are not depicted on charts and are only published via NOTAM. This revised language is a step in the right direction but I will continue to push for charting on the same sites and methods as TFRs.
There is also a revision that will include a detailed section about Special Use Airspace Information Service (SUAIS). This is an Alaska only service by the Military that makes it much easier to get “near real-time” information about the status of Special Use Airspace.
RTCA Final report delivered to FAA 8/27/2017
After an 8 month delay due to some procedural setbacks with the new presidential administration the 99 page final report for the Performance Based Navigation System was delivered to the FAA. I was part of the committee that came up with this document and it has great potential to help improve Alaska’s navigation system. The recommendations address a wide range of issues including the following:
- Industry perspectives on the future desired state of PBN RS operations for both high and low altitude operations
- Criteria and decision trees to determine where and when structure is required
- Operator preferences for point-to-point operations, including the key distinctions between the needs of low and high altitude operators
- Resiliency concerns in the High altitude, CONUS low altitude and Alaska low altitude
- Approaches for implementation of PBN RS for the entire US
- Alaska-specific concerns including, but not limited to, terminal deficiencies, future considerations for VORs and NDBs in Alaska and unique GPS requirements
The full document can be read at this link. https://www.rtca.org/sites/default/files/pbn_rs_report_fnl.pdf
Joint AWOS Letter
On August 22, 2017 we sent a joint letter with AOPA and twelve other organizations to FAA Headquarters expressing our frustration at the lack of dissemination of some weather information to pilots and dispatchers. This issue is a case of two different Federal Agencies and their maintenance requirements. Our goal with the letter was to provide support for a waiver on some of the requirements and to get a lot more weather data into the system at a significant savings. Kerry Long, the FAA’s Alaska Regional Administrator and Sen. Sullivan have reached out to me about the letter and have thanked us for the support.
The letter can be read at this link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B6fYUgdA3yagWEMtaDJ6QVNtaXc/view?usp=sharing
US DOT Sec. Chao visit.
Upon request from Senator Sullivan, Department of Transportation Secretary Chao has agreed to visit Alaska and has agreed to attend a Transportation Summit organized by the Senator on August 24th in Anchorage.
The purpose of the summit is to present a mix of statewide interests in order to give the Secretary a flavor of Alaska. I have been invited and have been asked to give a short 3-5 minute statement. Other individuals/entities invited will be representing the State DOT, Associated General Contractors of Alaska, Building & Construction Trades Council of South Central Alaska, Alaska Municipal League, tribal transportation interests, air carrier interests, and maritime operation interests. Following our short statements, there will be a chance for a group discussion. This is an excellent opportunity to talk about the needs and issues facing aviation in Alaska.
See written report for more information: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B6fYUgdA3yagREZsR2NoS3JLd0k/view?usp=sharing
Our participation in the Safety Risk Management panel for R-2201 and R-2205 resulted in a 40+% reduction in the size of R-2201 and an increase in the buffer along the Alaska Pipeline. The Army is pushing the changes up the chain of command and should give them to the FAA by the end of August. Our joint letter with AOPA to the Army outlining our needs and willingness to work together with the Army to come up with a workable compromise made quite the waves in the military and with our congressional delegation. I was told by several Army personnel that they were forbidden to talk with us by their superiors and that they wished we could have worked out a compromise before the SRM Panel. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1zoYurB_OUqHhyQ_Vi4J6xJ0hOoxkFlfeIoVYC0KR5q0/edit?usp=sharing
GPS Testing (AKA Jamming) is becoming more prevalent in Alaska. We are working with the FAA and Military to reduce the impact to civilian aviation and to get more accurate NOTAMs about the real ramifications. The latest rounds of jamming has cause quite a stir with planes being denied the use of their GPS units. The FAA has taken notice and is not happy with the impacts. There are high level meetings between the FAA and Military to see what can be done to minimize the effects of the testing on the civilian aviation community. All of this should remind us that we should stay brushed up on our other forms of navigation and not put all of our eggs in one basket.
Airspace needs and management is a constantly evolving matrix. From Military training to IFR and SVFR access, to TFRs, or CTAF changes we are continually advocating your needs and trying our best to ensure continued safe access to our great state. Make sure you are briefed on these changes by making keeping your charts and supplement current and that you check NOTAMs before you fly.
The expanded Fox and the new Paxon MOAs could become active this fall but most likely won’t be ready till next Spring.
There have been changes to the SVFR procedures getting into the Anchorage bowl; we offered some suggestions during the planning stages. Healy (north end of Windy Pass) has new Class E airspace to protect a soon to be published approach. We are always working with BLM and the Fire Service to reduce the impact of fire related TFRs. Hopefully, you are aware of numerous CTAF changes around the state. These changes have been done to reduce confusion and increase safety, look for more CTAF changes to come.
At August’s FAA Industry Council meeting there were several folks from FAA headquarters DC. There was a 2+ hours open discussion on Alaska’s needs and issues. Weather data was a major topic of conversation. It was “leaked” that the FAA is looking for funding to put more AWOS stations in Alaska (maybe 30) and they are also looking for funding to put more ADS-B ground stations in the state. No promises but the frankness of the conversations and the caliber of the folks in the room gives me hope that our message is getting heard in DC.
Alaska Aviation System Plan
The FAA and the State of Alaska have been working on a complete system plan for Alaska. This plan sets the vision for the Alaska aviation network by addressing Alaska’s aviation infrastructure, and policy needs The Airmen Association has been active participants in the process especially with the Backcountry Working Group and the Weather Working Group. For more information about the plan, visit: http://www.alaskaasp.com There is a pamphlet going to the printer July 21st explaining the importance of backcountry airstrips to Alaska’s Aviation System.
The Alaska Weather Equipment Needs Survey draft results can be viewed here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B6fYUgdA3yagUDVNSmhXYkhHNGM/view?usp=sharing
Elodea and the invasive species in Alaska’s waters
Elodea is an aquatic weed that is not native to Alaska and is choking off some of our waterways. The Airmen in conjunction with other industry group and the Soil and Water Conservation Districts in Alaska have been trying to educate floatplane pilots about the dangers and mitigations of this hazard. http://dnr.alaska.gov/ag/ag_Elodea.htm
There are continuing surveys of Alaska’s waterway happening this summer. I am unaware of any new locations where Elodea has been found but several existing infestations are getting worse in the Interior.
Weather Camera Program Test Group
Have you used the new Weather Camera Site yet? http://avcamsplus.faa.gov It is still under development, and new features are coming online as you read this. It is becoming the “one stop shop” for your planning needs. Some of the future improvements are better refresh rates, optimization for mobile devices, and better satellite data. The Airmen have been a significant contributor to the beta test program, and we are excited to see the improvements that have been implemented and are anxious about the upcoming features. Please offer feedback on the new site via the blue “Pilot Feedback” button on the site.
There has been some changes in the Weather Camera improvement program. There are funding issues and personnel challenges. The timeline of anticipated new features to the site and the mobile app are delayed as a result.
Incompatible Land Use
This problem has been a bigger issue in the Lower 48 but is starting to surface more and more here in Alaska. Problems have ranged from building encroachments to right of way issues, and neighbors uncomfortable about the level of activities. The Airmen will continue to be a staunch supporter of landing sites and push for a proactive approach to solving incompatible land use issues.
Fairbanks is working on a Joint Land Use Study (JLUS) to try and keep incompatible land use from becoming more of a problem. For more information go to the study’s website. http://co.fairbanks.ak.us/cp/Pages/JLUS.aspx
Rural Airport Safety
AK DOT&PF is trying to raise awareness about rural airport safety and is encouraging everyone to help spread the word that runways are for airplanes, not four wheels or snow machines. The Airmen have been partnering with the State and Commercial Operators around the state in this public information campaign. http://dot.alaska.gov/documents/aviation/Plane_Talk_summer2017.pdf
ADS-B $500 Rebate
The rebate expired September 19th. We are hearing good reports from members that have participated in this program. It was turbulent at the beginning, but the process has improved, and folks are quickly getting their rebate checks. Remember that the 2020 equipage deadline is not that far away. For more information visit: https://www.faa.gov/NextGen/equipadsb/rebate/faq/
Wrangell, St. Elias Backcountry Management Plan
The National Park Service is reviewing their management strategies. Part of this includes evaluating how people access and use the “backcountry.” Aviation is a major component of this access. The Alaska Airmen along with the RAF, AOPA and other groups continue to advocate for aviation (recreational and commercial) use in and around our National Parks.
The Alaska Aviation Weather Unit is a stellar source of weather information. Recently there has a national mandate that government website meets certain accessibility and format standards. This order has forced a major redesign of the entire AAWU site. We have been working with the AAWU to help test some of the recent changes before they went live and provided feedback to help improve the site. As it is with any change, it will take awhile to get used to the new format and some of the products we have valued over the years may be hard to find on the new site. Please offer the NWS constructive feedback on the changes via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
PIREP Improvement Working Group
As pilots, we all appreciate Pilot Reports. Having real world information and not just forecasted weather for our flight is a significant benefit to safety. The NWS treasures PIREPs so they can validate or amend forecasts. However, we need more pilot reports, we need better pilot reports, and we need easier ways to submit and receive them. The Alaska Airmen has been participating with the FAA and other industry groups to work on the means to improve the PIREP system. PIREP counts are up over the past year, the quality is improving, and we hope to be able to be more proactive with types and locations of reports in the future. Keep filing those PIREPs!
Monthly Collaboration Meetings
Every second Wednesday different parts of the Federal Agencies, Military, State Government, Aviation Industry groups and Aviation User groups gather in Anchorage for briefings and updates on issues. The FAA hosts the meetings on even months and Industry hosts the meeting on odd months. These meetings have proven to be an excellent way to share information, to update others on needs and or problems in the system, it has also been a tremendous opportunity to learn how the other half operates. This type of cooperation and collaboration is somewhat unique to Alaska, other parts of the US doesn’t always have this partnership mentality.
Much like the monthly meetings previously mentioned there are semi-annual meetings of the Alaska Civil/Military Aviation Council. These sessions focus on the Military and Civilian aviation communities understanding the needs and issues of each other.
3rd Class Medical Reform (Basic Med)
Basic Med went into effect in May, but this has been a long fought for issue that we have been working. For most folks able to keep a 3rd Class Medical, Basic Med isn’t much help but for pilots wanting to continue flying that have waivers and other conditions that require expensive additional test Basic Med could be a great option. Our suggestion is for you to do your homework and talk to you family Doctor about their willingness to help you meet the Basic Med requirements. Over 15,000 pilots nationwide have participated in the program.
Better IFR Access for GA
The Alaska Airmen are members of the Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics. Participation in this group allows us to engage in the formation of FAA regulatory requirements formally; The Commission’s policy advice informs the FAA’s prioritization and investment decisions, and our tactical advice helps resolve real-world impediments to air transportation today. The most tangible way we have been doing that is by participating in the Performance Based Navigation Route Structure Task Group. We have finished our recommendations to the FAA for modernizing yet trying to improve access for GA in Alaska. The FAA will start working through those recommendations soon.
Fuel Access and Availability
Fuel in bush Alaska has always been a difficult situation. We have advocated for new fueling locations around the state and have tried to keep fuel from going away at other places with mixed success. We are also involved with the 100LL replacement issue on a national level and are curious how some of the top contenders will perform in an Arctic environment.
eSRS Working Group
The Alaska Airmen were part of the Alaska Flight Services pioneering work of including satellite tracking devices (Spot, Spidertracks, InReach, etc…) into flight plans. This program has the benefit of dramatically reducing search times for overdue/missing aircraft. We continue to work towards improving the system and increasing its capabilities. For more information talk to your Alaska Flight Service Briefer.
Towers seem to be popping up all over the state, all along the river systems, in remote sections of Rural Alaska, in villages and cities, and even on Point Mackenzie. The Alaska Airmen is raising the safety issue that some of these towers pose great hazards to VFR navigation. We deal with the FAA, Municipalities, the State, Tribal Corporations and other land owners. Your voice is essential to getting the word out on these threats.
Airport Vehicle/Pedestrian Deviations
Along the same line as rural airport safety, there has been an effort at towered airports around the US to reduce the occurrences of people and vehicles operating where they shouldn’t. Some of the efforts to curb these dangers have been reactionary and would likely cause more problem than they would solve. Other efforts have been very successful. The Airmen has been participating in these processes and voicing your concerns. We all want a safe environment, and none of us want an accident. Look for changes in traffic flow on controlled ramps around the state and if unsure of routing or instructions ask gourd control for clarification. A big way to help solve these problems is to educate non-aviators about where and how to get around your airport.
If you have questions, comments or know of new issues please contact Adam White at email@example.com or call our office at 907-245-1251. As always, when you file your public comments please copy the Alaska Airmen Association. This helps us know and understand your needs and opinions. Keep a close watch on the Airmen’s Facebook page for the latest information on how we are advocating for Aviation in Alaska on your behalf.