Silo talk
AOPA team heads to the plains to get action for members

Medical certificates. GPS databases. Instrument approaches. Pilot certificates. Practical test standards.

The strategy on all of these issues may be decided in Washington, but much of the nitty-gritty is worked out in offices in the FAA's Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center in Oklahoma City.

So this week, an AOPA team led by President Phil Boyer, flew into Will Rogers World (OKC) to facilitate progress on many issues important to AOPA members.

"Two things impressed me there," said Boyer. "Many of the FAA employees and managers in Oklahoma City are AOPA members and have their hearts in general aviation.

"And the FAA has really gone digital. In a few short years, they've leapt from paper to bits and bytes, and that means good things for GA pilots."

But the FAA, like just about any large organization, sometimes gets trapped in organizational silos, with one office not communicating as well as it might with another.

Precision approaches to GA airports

Approach plate"I think part of what we did in Oklahoma City was to break through some of those silos," said Boyer, "and help some people see things with a GA focus."

For example, AOPA has been pushing for more satellite-based precision instrument approaches to GA airports. These GPS-WAAS LPV approaches fly just like an ILS but cost about $50,000 to implement, as opposed to the $1.3 million to install and certify a traditional ILS, not to mention the continuing costs to maintain and flight check the system.

But current FAA airport design standards require a full ILS infrastructure wide runways, parallel taxiways, large clear zones, approach lights, etc. to get the full benefits of an LPV approach to a smaller GA airport. That means many GA airports that could use LPV approaches can't get them because they can't afford the infrastructure.

"Our smaller, slower aircraft don't need the kind of margins that the airliners do," said Melissa Rudinger, AOPA vice president of regulatory and certification policy. "One size really doesn't fit all."

And the FAA folks who design the approaches in Oklahoma City agree. "It's the airport standards holding us up," they told the AOPA group.

So AOPA also met with the FAA's airport standards folks and talked a little GA reality. "I think they'd been too focused on big airports for too long," said Boyer, "but I think we may now see some changes in the future."

Next:
Instrument PTS-proficiency
GPS databases
Medicals
Pilot certificates

August 10, 2006