Photo courtesy of Austin Levin.

Mike Ginter, Vice President of AOPA’s Airports and State Advocacy anchored an RAF “Fire Hub Chat” session with State Liaisons, Ambassadors and the RAF Board on February 16.

AOPA organizes its US membership into seven multi-state regions in order to focus on specific issues. (Only the Alaska region is comprised of a single state.) All told, there are 19,300 US landing facilities, both public and private. Each regional manager oversees their Airport Support Network volunteers, of which there are currently 1,879, many of whom are RAF members. See www.aopa.org/ASN

Each AOPA regional manager is a registered lobbyist with the credentials to advocate in state legislatures. In fact, Western Pacific manager Melissa McCaffrey was in meetings during Hawaii’s legislative session, and could not join the RAF/AOPA call.

Regional managers are vigilant about potential airport and airspace issues, such as funding, threats of closures, fees and taxes, encroachments to airspace, and drone regulation; with the overarching emphasis on safety and retaining GA access and affordable services. Ginter said that currently these professionals are working on over 100 cases.

RAF and AOPA missions intersect and reinforce one another, especially on preserving access and improving safety.

“Our approach is to find ways to mutually co-exist with those who could affect safety or access with things like wind turbines and towers,” Ginter said. Many airports face pressure to close from developers. Industrial parks, affordable housing, and other uses of airport property appear lucrative to those who perceive that an airport is not economically productive. Midwest Regional Manager Kyle Lewis noted RAF’s collaborative efforts with AOPA and the Minnesota Pilots Association in saving Isle Airport in Minnesota.

Noise is another issue, when residents are annoyed by frequent low flying aircraft, especially helicopters. “Anti-aircraft groups are small, but vocal,” Ginter said, acknowledging challenges that RAF state liaisons have encountered, as well.

The RAF team regularly interfaces with AOPA on a variety of fronts, and has enjoyed great collaboration over the years.

“My interaction with AOPA on behalf of the RAF over the past couple of years has been absolutely great,” RAF Director Jeff Russell said. “AOPA has been very helpful promoting adjacent turf runways, and finding creative solutions on airport ownership models when a municipality or county fears liability exposure.”

A recent example of collaboration was during the Death Valley National Park Stovepipe Wells public comment period, promoted by both RAF and the AOPA. AOPA is in dialog with the NPS about improving Furnace Creek, another Death Valley National Park recreational airport.

“AOPA has connections with the FAA, with Congress, and has generations of valuable knowledge. Mike Ginter and his team of regional managers have been a great partner with the RAF,” Russell added. Find the “State Advocacy” link at aopa.org.

Submitted on February 23, 2021.

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