left, FAA General Aviation and Commercial Division manager,
Randy Hansen, EAA Government Affairs officer, talk with Kay
Morgan, EAA Chapter 512, Placerville, California. Photo by
of work groups, councils, type clubs, and other aviation groups meet
at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, the epicenter of sport aviation.
AirVenture provides a unique opportunity for grassroots aviators,
manufacturers, and local, state, and federal officials to meet,
exchange views and ideas, and work on collaborative solutions. Most
often, these meetings involve groups of people—sometimes very
diverse groups. But EAA’s government advocacy also works on a
in the gold fields of California’s 1848 gold rush, Placerville was
once called "Hangtown." And Placerville Airport is home to
EAA Chapter 512, the Hangtown Chapter. About a third of its 75
members have built their own airplanes. Not too long ago, one of the
chapter members was completing the FAA-mandated phase one test
flights of his new homebuilt, when he learned from the local FSDO
(FAA flight standards district office) that homebuilt first flights
and phase one test flights are prohibited at Placerville. The
official reason given for the FSDO’s decision was "public
safety." But the airport is in a sparsely populated area, no
safety study had been done there, and absolutely no one, on or off
the airport, had raised any safety concerns—except the FSDO.
channels, Chapter President Kay Morgan learned that the local FSDO
had issued the restriction out of concern that, if a homebuilt
aircraft’s engine quit during a test flight, the pilot might not
be able to find a safe spot to land in the rugged terrain that
surrounds the airport. "That’s not a public safety
issue," says Morgan. "It’s a pilot safety issue, and if
you follow the FSDO’s logic, you’d have to restrict all flights
from Placerville." Morgan is a member of the National
Association of Flight Instructors—an affiliate of EAA—and
sometimes flies in and out of Placerville with her flight students.
other EAA chapter members are building aircraft at Placerville.
Unless the airport’s first-flight prohibition is lifted, they will
have to finish their aircraft projects somewhere else. That would
mean 20- or 30-mile commutes to work on their aircraft and test
flights at an airport with worse terrain, more populated
surroundings, or both.
met with the FSDO manager and "hit a brick wall." She then
contacted EAA headquarters and spoke with Randy Hansen, in EAA’s
industry and regulatory affairs department. Hansen arranged a
meeting for Morgan with the manager of the FAA’s Western Pacific
Flight Standards Division and advised her on preparing for that
meeting, with maps, aerial photos, and other documentation. "I
want to keep this on a professional level," says Morgan.
"The FAA moves at a certain pace, and we’re not trying to
rush that. We just want a fair decision."
she received no response from the division manager, she and Hansen
decided it was time to go to Washington. Morgan was already planning
to come to AirVenture. So was John Duncan, manager of the FAA’s
General Aviation & Commercial Division. Hansen arranged a
meeting, and on Tuesday afternoon, Morgan met with Duncan and Hansen
to present her case for Placerville. She and Duncan spent about half
an hour going over her maps and aerial photos and her correspondence
with the local and regional FAA offices. Duncan told Morgan he
appreciated having the matter brought to his attention, and he
promised to look into it. Afterward, Morgan called it "a good
meeting" and noted that EAA was instrumental in making it
happen. "Meeting face to face with John [Duncan], with Randy
here to help—that could only happen at AirVenture," she said.
"This is where it all comes together."
FAA top brass land
Acting Administrator Robert Sturgell arrived at Wittman Regional
Airport late yesterday afternoon. Before he leaves on Friday, he’ll
meet with EAA officials and leaders of other aviation groups, to
listen and talk about issues affecting general aviation.
plane followed the morning arrival of a planeload of FAA officials,
including Associate Administrator Nick Sabatini, Acting Assistant
Administrator for International Aviation Dorothy "Di"
Reimold, Vice President for System Operations Nancy Kalinowski, Mark
Warren of the General Counsel’s office, and Jana Murphy, Sturgell’s
chief of staff. Their presence in Oshkosh is testimony to the
importance of AirVenture, the world’s largest gathering of
Meet the FAA chief
Acting Administrator Robert Sturgell and other top FAA officials
will hold their annual Meet the Administrator forum at 11:30 this
morning in Pavilion 7. The forum will be broadcast live on EAA Radio
and as a podcast at www.EAA.org. If you still manage to miss it, don’t
say we didn’t try; read about it in Friday’s edition of AirVenture