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EAA AirVenture Today is published by the Experimental Aircraft Association for EAA AirVenture from July 27 - August 3. It is distributed free on the convention grounds as well as other locations in Oshkosh and surrounding communities. Stories and photos are copyrighted 2008 by EAA AirVenture Today and EAA. Reproduction by any means is prohibited without written consent.

  

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The official daily newspaper of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh


Volume 9, Number 5 July 31, 2008     

Little meetings sometimes big
By David Sakrison

John Duncan, 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 Hilary Lawrence

Lots 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 one-to-one basis.

Situated 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.

Through 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.

Two 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.

Morgan 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."

When 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

FAA 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.

Sturgell’s 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 grassroots aviation.

Meet the FAA chief

FAA 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 Today.

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