Baker Testifies on GA Airports, Safety, Pilot Community 

By Dan Namowitz  (AOPA)

AOPA President Mark Baker speaking before the Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. (Photo courtesy of John Harrington and AOPA) The nation’s 2,950 federally funded general aviation airports boost local economies and can serve as a community’s lifeline in a natural disaster or other emergency—but billions of dollars from the federal program that funds most GA airport projects has been reallocated to other projects in the past 10 years, AOPA President Mark Baker testified April 6 before a Senate subcommittee.

Baker appeared before the Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation during a hearing on FAA Reauthorization: Perspectives on Rural Air Service and the General Aviation Community. The session focused on federal efforts to improve access and safety, and initiatives “that could bolster rural air service and the general aviation (GA) community.”

Baker urged reform of the Non-Primary Entitlement Program, which provides most of the funding for GA airports but no longer functions as intended because of low funding levels and the reallocation of some funds for other uses.

He highlighted the role general aviation airports play—despite the funding gaps—in humanitarian efforts and providing assistance in areas prone to natural disasters, often transforming a small rural airport into a community lifeline brought to life by pilots volunteering their time and their personal aircraft for rescue operations and humanitarian missions.

The active pilot community, however, has declined by about 30 percent between 1980 and 2015. To combat that trend, Baker explained that AOPA has introduced the You Can Fly program—a series of initiatives “to build a more vibrant and resilient pilot community.”

Baker fielded several questions from committee members on the ineffectiveness of the Non-Primary Entitlement Program, which he said is constrained by the program’s low level of funding in any year—$150,000 per non-primary airport for capital improvements—and by the struggle faced by many airport sponsors to put up the 10 percent local match.

In 2016, total program funds were roughly $440 million dollars—but $329 million was carried over to the FAA’s discretionary fund, and reallocated to other non-NPE airport projects across the country, a problem that Baker set out in detail in written testimony submitted to the panel.

During the past ten years more than $2 billion dollars in NPE funds has been placed into the FAA discretionary fund and used for other airport projects around the country. Baker emphasized that AOPA stands ready to help develop solutions to the program’s shortcomings.

One of the most important factors in the declining numbers of active pilots is costs. AOPA credits Congress, and specifically the Committee, Baker said, with taking a major step to reduce costs by passing the medical reform legislation known as BasicMed, which was signed into law last July and will permit eligible pilots to fly without a third class medical certificate beginning May 1.

AOPA launched the You Can Fly program, consisting of a series of initiatives to support flying clubs, encourage best practices in flight training, get lapsed pilots back in the air, bring AOPA’s resources and expertise to pilot groups across the country, and invite high school students to learn more about careers in aviation and aerospace, to revitalize GA activity.

In response to senators’ questions, Baker noted that AOPA has not heard complaints from pilots about the current air traffic control system, which has been proposed for privatization in a budget outline released last month. (A similar proposal last year was supported by some major airlines and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, but failed to make it to the House floor.)

He added that he serves on the federal NextGen Advisory Committee, which he said functions well addressing the priorities outlined for the ATC system.

Baker reiterated AOPA’s continued and strong opposition to user fees, noting AOPA’s longstanding support for the current system by which Congress funds the FAA with excise taxes on fuel.

Safety is general aviation’s top priority, he said—as indicated by general aviation experiencing the safest year in history.

AOPA will work with the FAA, National Transportation Safety Board, and other stakeholders to promote safety and develop an even safer aviation system, Baker said.


GAMA Board Member Testifies on U.S. Aviation Manufacturing Before Senate Commerce Committee

General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) Board Member and Sabreliner Aviation President and Innova Aerospace Executive Vice President of Corporate Development Greg Fedele testified on March 23 before the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Aviation Operations about the regulatory and certification processes at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and reforms to improve U.S. competitiveness in the global marketplace for aviation products and manufacturing.

In his testimony, Fedele explained the incredibly competitive nature of the global aviation marketplace and how being first to market is essential for many of his company’s projects. Any unforeseen delay in the certification of a product can be devastating for a business.

“A good idea can be squandered if the implementation of that solution is not timely,” he said. “As one solution is being certified, others may enter the market, and for many different reasons get to market faster if their certification program is completed more efficiently.”

Citing inefficiencies with the FAA’s use of the Organization Designation Authorization (ODA) program, Fedele said manufacturers and the FAA have invested significant resources in establishing and qualifying ODA organizations, but the utilization of the ODA program has been inconsistent, adding significant delay and cost to certification programs.

“We look forward to working with the Committee on this important issue,” he told the Subcommittee, which is chaired by U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO). “If you can help us bring efficiencies through reform, the industry will respond with growth and improved safety technology.”

Discussing improvement of the efficiency and effectiveness of the certification process, Fedele said he believes risk analysis tools and techniques need to be incorporated to inform the level of involvement of the FAA’s limited resources. This will drive consistent decision making and eliminate redundant activities throughout the system.

“The demand for validations of the FAA Type Certification from other countries and turn times can be very long and costly,” said Fedele. “This is a high priority for the industry and a focus of the FAA and we would appreciate any support you can give us to address these challenges.”

Fedele stressed the importance of the development of the ODA scorecard, the implementation of the Aircraft Certification Service (AIR) transformation initiative, and he expressed support for the certification title the Senate passed in 2016 as part of its FAA Reauthorization bill.

“This would help support FAA certification reform by addressing key issues I have discussed in my testimony – fully embracing the ODA authorization to the benefit of industry and the FAA, directing FAA engagement and leadership with other aviation authorities to help facilitate efficient validation and acceptance of FAA safety standards and product approvals globally, and ensuring an effective risk-based aviation safety system,” he said.

Fedele’s full testimony can be found at


FAA Forecasts Continued Growth in Air Travel

The FAA on March 21 released its annual Aerospace Forecast Report Fiscal Years 2017 to 2037, which projects sustained and continued growth in nearly every aspect of air transportation from general aviation private flying to large commercial airline passenger levels.

In commercial air travel, Revenue Passenger Miles (RPMs) are considered the benchmark for measuring aviation growth. An RPM represents one revenue passenger traveling one mile. The FAA forecast calls for system RPMs by mainline and regional air carriers to grow at an average rate of 2.4 percent per year between 2016 and 2037, with international RPMs projected for average annual increases of 3.4 percent per year. System RPMs are forecast to increase 65 percent during the 20-year forecast. The general aviation fleet increases from 209,905 aircraft in 2016 to 213,420 in 2037, growing an average of 0.1 percent a year. Fixed-wing turbine aircraft grow at a rate of 1.9 percent per year, fixed-wing piston aircraft–decline at a rate of 0.8 percent per year, and rotorcraft grow at a rate of 1.6 percent per year.  General aviation hours flown are forecast to increase from 24.6 million in 2016 to 29.9 million in 2037, an average annual growth rate of 0.9 percent a year.

Fixed-wing turbine aircraft hours flown grow at a rate of 2.5 percent per year, fixed-wing piston aircraft hours flown decline at a rate of 0.8 percent per year, and rotorcraft hours flown grow at a rate of 2.0 percent per year.

A key new portion of the forecast focuses on the growth in the use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), also known as drones. The FAA projects the small model hobbyist UAS fleet to more than triple in size from an estimated 1.1 million vehicles at the end of 2016 to more than 3.5 million units by 2021. The commercial, non-hobbyist UAS fleet is forecast to grow from 42,000 at the end of 2016 to about 442,000 aircraft by 2021, with an upside possibility of as many as 1.6 million UAS in use by 2021. Pilots of these UAS vehicles are expected to increase from 20,000 at the end of 2016 to a range of 10 to 20 times as many by 2021.

Predictions for small UAS are more difficult to develop given the dynamic, quickly-evolving market. The FAA has provided high and low ranges around the hobbyist forecast, reflecting uncertainty about the public’s continued adoption of this new technology. The FAA’s non-hobbyist (commercial) UAS fleet size forecasts contain certain broad assumptions about operating limitations for small UAS during the next five years based on the basic constraints of the existing regulations: daytime operations, within visual line of sight, and a single pilot operating only one small UAS at a time.  he main difference in the high and low end of the forecasts is differing assumptions about how quickly the regulatory environment will evolve, enabling more widespread routine uses of UAS for commercial purposes.

The FAA utilizes a variety of economic data and projections to develop its annual forecast, such as generally accepted projections for the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The FAA annual forecast is consistently considered the industry-wide standard of U.S. aviation-related activities. The report looks at all facets of air travel including commercial airlines, air cargo, private general aviation, and fleet sizes. Read the FAA Aviation Forecast Fact Sheet. To read the entire report, visit or link directly at





AOPA Backs Santa Monica In Court

By Jim Moore, AOPA

AOPA has sought court recognition to support future intervention as the nation’s second-highest court weighs the fate of Santa Monica Municipal Airport in California.

The association on March 15 filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit a notice of intent to participate as a “friend of the court” in a case brought by the National Business Aviation Association and five individual petitioners in February challenging the FAA settlement with the city. That controversial deal took many by surprise in January (including airport tenants and advocacy groups), and while it does require the city to operate the long-embattled airport through 2028, it also allows the city to shorten the runway from 4,973 feet to 3,500 feet.

  The latest AOPA legal action is effectively a request for recognition by federal courts that will allow any airport user to enforce the city’s various obligations under the agreement, establishing with certainty that the agreement leaves intact a process through which the public can seek relief should an airport host community fail to live up to its responsibilities and obligations under federal law. AOPA has asked the federal court to affirm that airport users will have legal standing to oppose the city in the event Santa Monica violates any of the terms of its agreement with the FAA in the years ahead. The ruling AOPA seeks will affirm that the public has a well-established legal interest in the safe and efficient functioning of the entire transportation system, including public-use airports.

“The FAA and the city should not be allowed to bargain away this public right, and AOPA believes its participation in this case will help to prevent the loss of this ability to preserve our nation’s airports,” said AOPA General Counsel Ken Mead.

The settlement between the FAA and Santa Monica city officials was a surprise twist in a battle that has raged for decades, the FAA having consistently sided with airport tenants and advocates against the city’s repeated efforts to strangle and close the airport, which was once a point of civic pride.

NBAA challenged the validity of the agreement in February, and asked the D.C. Circuit to delay implementation of the settlement—and with that, any attempt to alter what is almost certainly now America’s most litigated runway—while the court reviews the challenge to the agreement. The FAA in February asked the D.C. Circuit to dismiss the challenge, putting the agency on the opposite side of airport tenants and advocates.

By joining the D.C. Circuit case through the filing of an amicus brief, AOPA is positioning all airport users to take action if the city violates any provisions in the FAA agreement, including stipulations that require the city to provide fuel and other aviation services through 2028. Mead explained that the legal move also positions AOPA to act if the federal government does not.

“We want enforcement rights to ensure the city lives up to its obligations,” Mead said. “If the city does not live up to its obligations and the FAA and Justice Department do not step up to enforce this agreement, AOPA wants users to have the right to enforce it in court.”

This latest legal move is part of the association’s long-term strategy to build support for extending the airport’s life far beyond 2028. That will require a coordinated effort by pilots, business leaders, and advocacy groups to shift deeply entrenched opposition stemming from a vocal minority of city residents who oppose the airport and have elected politicians sympathetic to their cause.

“Santa Monica Airport is an economic engine for the city, but it also touches people in ways they may not realize,” AOPA President Mark Baker said in February. “From organ donation transportation to emergency preparedness, the airport is an enormous asset, and over the next 12 years we will ensure everyone knows what they will be giving up if it goes away.”  

With many election cycles to come, AOPA hopes that a combination of education and persuasion will build recognition in the community of all the benefits the airport provides.



China General Aviation Business Conference March 25-31 

Inaugural U.S. – China General Aviation Business Conference Scheduled for March 25-31

Many officials from China who are tasked with growing that country’s burgeoning general aviation market will attend this event


China is poised to become one of the largest markets in the world for general aviation. The country’s growing wealth, huge population, dynamic economy, and vast size makes it fertile ground for the unique travel solutions provided by general and business aviation. 


China for the first time has moved towards loosening its restrictions on general aviation, especially with the latest announcement of the opening of newly increased flying area of 200- kilometer radius (108 nautical or 125 statute miles). The Chinese Government has also announced ambitious plans to take advantage of the economic and job creation opportunities that general aviation represents. 


“This is a first opportunity for U.S.-based companies to meet the people in China who are responsible to a great extent to grow the aviation business in China,” said Dr. Yuanyang Gao Director, General Aviation Industry Research Center, Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Deputy Secretary General, AOPA-China. “And represents an opportunity for U.S. companies to share their expertise in an area that is new to China––general aviation.”


If China is to grow its general aviation industry, it literally needs assistance with everything involved in the infrastructure and the supply chain. The U.S. China General Aviation Business Conference will take place from March 25 – 31 in Southern California and already has confirmed the participation of more than 30 representatives from Chinese Government agencies, investment, airport operations, and academia who have been tasked with growing that country’s general and business aviation sector.


There are two main opportunities for U.S. Companies to interact with Chinese attendees: the conference day at the Embassy Suites in Brea, Calif. on March 27 and the Aviation Expo at Threshold Aviation at Chino Airport, Calif. on March 28.


Threshold is very pleased to be hosting this important event and we look forward to having many of our friends and other stake-holders in the industry attend and exhibit, to take advantage of this amazing opportunity to develop business ties with the Chinese people in aviation.” Said Mark DiLullo, Founder and CEO of Threshold Aviation.


For information on the event please visit and click on the link for the General Aviation Business Conference.


About Threshold Aviation Group

Based in Chino, Calif., Threshold Aviation Group is one of the largest providers of maintenance, operational and related services to aircraft owners, operators, manufacturers, lenders, governments, fractional operators, insurance companies, airlines, jet charter companies, and individuals throughout the world. Services encompass private jet management, aircraft charter, aircraft maintenance, inspections and overhaul, AOG services, business jet completions both interior and exterior and inspections, modifications, avionics, full FBO services, acquisitions, and operational management.

A market niche that Threshold has utilized for more than 15 years is that of purchasing Business Jet Aircraft that need maintenance inspections, repairs, avionics, engine modifications, or interior upgrades. During the last 15 years, we have purchased more than 50 aircraft from around the world. These aircraft were purchased and re-positioned to our Chino facility where we utilize our full-service maintenance team to conduct the required repairs or upgrades, after which the aircraft are sold.

Threshold’s fuel, 150,000 square feet of hangar and significant ramp storage, maintenance, and related costs are among the lowest on the west coast. This has resulted in a loyal following of customers and clients for more than 25 years.

Threshold is a philanthropic minded company who benefits the surround community with an annual Christmas gathering for thousands of children and their families with hot food and many presents for all ages. Threshold participates in numerous other community events throughout the year as well. Please see for more information.


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