Take Back The Sky – MAAC Reporter

MAAC and the New Jersey Aviation Association have been attempting to make some sense of the ‘presidential’ Temporary Flight Restrictions that have so bedeviled general aviation through the past year. As this is being written, the latest TFR has been announced – running for twelve full days. This is wholly unacceptable. It seems that general aviation bears the sole burden of any VIP visit to the area.

We have long made the argument that we are not the enemy. We are not crazy. Our little airplanes would do virtually no damage if they could be weaponized. We are patriots and we love our country too much to do anything stupid. We are serious pilots and would not deliberately do anything to put aviation in a bad light. There is probably enough artillery at the Bedminster golf course to deal with any airborne terrorist. There is every much of a potential threat from Rt. 78 that passes within a few hundred feet.

When flight restrictions are imposed, the whole economy of northern New Jersey suffers. TFRs hurt much more than the private owners of our public use airports. Businesses use those airports to engage in commerce. Business activity generates revenue to pay workers and shareholders. The state collects taxes on that economic activity.

To this point, whining and common sense do absolutely no good when dealing with the authorities charged with ensuring the safety and security of the site. The Secret Service has a very important job to do and they have all the power and authority they need to ensure that we small aircraft pilots comply with their rules. An F-16 makes a strong argument against aerial stupidity. But it turns out we have been pleading our case to the wrong people.

The Secret Service does have a boss and that boss happens to work for you and me. There is a higher authority that allocates their funding. Congressional elections are in November and the Members are generally in a mood to listen to their constituents right now. Your job, dear reader, is to make calm and rational arguments to your U.S. Senators and your Member of Congress. This battle has been fought and won before. But we need you in the fight.

After September 11, 2001, permanent flight restrictions were established around the nation’s capitol. Three airports, College Park, Washington Executive (Hyde) and Potomac were completely closed. It took many years of negotiations and reasoned discourse, but some very determined individuals worked to re-open the ‘Maryland 3’ airports for public use. MAAC and NJAA argue that the same procedures and protocols can be adopted here so that Somerset and Solberg airports can remain open to serve the public.

Tell your congressman or senator you support common sense reform to mitigate the burden of Presidential TFRs. Tell them you support legislation extending the “Maryland-Three” rules to any airport under a recurring Presidential TFRs.

This allows pilots who are screened to be given a PIN code and operate within the inner 10 mile ring of the TFR. This program is already successfully in place and has allowed these airports to continue to operate despite their proximity to the Capitol and White House.

This program already exists, nothing needs to be invented, and it affords protection for our nation’s leaders while allowing law-abiding pilots access to their aircraft and airports.

Call your Congress Member and tell them you support this common sense legislation. “North Jersey is bearing a tremendous burden when the President visits his golf course. Private aviation and the airports that serve pilots are severely impaired by forced closure. I support legislation extending the ‘Maryland-Three’ rules to airports under a recurring Presidential TFR. Allow law-abiding, screened pilots access to their airplanes and airports using rules and programs that already exist and have been proven safe and effective. Support general aviation. That program has allowed the three DC area airports to continue operating and providing public air transportation. Thanks in advance for any help in adopting rational security practices.”

Google Senator Corey Booker and Senator Robert Menendez for contact information.

Follow this link to find your Member of Congress:
https://www.house.gov/representatives/findyour-representative

Support Mid Atlantic Aviation Coalition (MAAC) today. Your membership in this organization allows us to educate lawmakers on behalf of general aviation in New Jersey.

Let’s Get NJ Airports Into the 21st Century

The Directors of MAAC and the New Jersey Aviation Association combined forces and ideas in a ‘white paper’ submitted late last year to Governor Murphy’s Transportation Transition Team. We very much want to make the Murphy administration aware of the promises and problems of general aviation. Personal flight is too important to New Jersey’s economy to ignore any longer. This is our joint effort:

MEMORANDUM REGARDING NJDOT FROM THE NEW JERSEY AVIATION ASSOCIATION AND THE MID-ATLANTIC AVIATION COALITION, JOINTLY, TO GOVERNOR MURPHY’S TRANSITION TEAM

A capable and dynamic transportation system is a critical driver of economic activity. As recognized by most of the states with which New Jersey competes for business growth, a well-supported system of airports is a critical component of a state’s overall transportation infrastructure. While New Jersey’s public use air transportation system remains in crisis, suffering from years of neglect and a lack of high-level government support, it can be returned to vibrancy with an understanding of the important role that it plays in our state economy and policy-level attention.

New Jersey remains home to just 42 public use airports – we have lost more than 50 over the last five decades. Of these, three facilities provide scheduled airline service. The rest are general aviation airports that provide corporate and charter aviation, traffic reporting, flight training, medical services, cargo transport, aircraft rental and sales, fueling and maintenance, repair services, aircraft storage and more. Half our public use airports are privately owned, the highest percentage in the nation, and these pay the nation’s highest property taxes on their public use facilities.

Airports are economic engines that create commercial hotspots, notably when they are located or improved in economically depressed areas. The 2017 update to the New Jersey Statewide Aviation Economic Study shows that New Jersey airports generate the following total impacts:

  • Over 60,000 commercial service jobs
  • Over 12,800 aviation jobs – more than $4.6 billion in commercial service payroll
  • Over $890 million in General Aviation payroll
  • Over $15.5 billion in total commercial service output and over $2.8 billion in total aviation output

Two decades ago, our Legislature ordained by statute a Commission to study the problem of New Jersey’s decaying air transportation infrastructure. [PL 1993 – Ch 336].The Report of the New Jersey General Aviation Study Commission (“NJGASC”) comprehensively analyzed our air transportation system and made a number of practical recommendations to cure its systemic ills. Unfortunately, many of the old problems remain and new ones have emerged:

  • Regional airport capacity planning lacks consistency with Smart Growth principles.
  • State investment in airport safety improvements, aircraft parking and hangar capacity is inadequate.
  • NJDOT has had a de facto policy of ineffective enforcement of municipal airport zoning ordinances, ceding the DOT Commissioner’s statutory authority to local interests. This thwarts needed safety and capacity improvements and compromises airport operations. For example; trees that interfere with aircraft approaching the runway are not being cut down.
  • Annual funding for airport projects has declined by more than 70% over the last 20 years, from $14 million to $4 million in the latest budget, despite increasing facility operating costs and aging infrastructure (e.g.: our sister states are spending up to $100 million/year).
  • New Jersey is nearly 50th out of the 50 states in the return of Federal tax dollars. We are also dead last in Federal Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funding. Under the AIP program the federal government will pay up to 90% of the cost of targeted airport improvements.
  • By statute, Aviation should hold Division status within DOT. However, it has been administratively downgraded to the Bureau of Aeronautics. Albeit its current personnel are excellent, the Bureau is seriously understaffed and faces the prospect of losing most of its experienced employees within the upcoming gubernatorial term.
  • Staffing is sufficient for only the bare minimum of licensing and inspection functions. The potential explosion in private drone and autonomous air vehicle traffic will soon overwhelm current capacity. Funding to maintain and improve public use airports now receives minimal attention. For the long run, the Bureau is unable to do almost anything to fulfill its statutory mandate to promote aviation as a critical element of New Jersey’s transportation system.
  • The Federal Aviation Administration, which governs air traffic flow, looks to Morristown and Teterboro Airports (the only airports north of Trenton with 6,000± foot runways) to relieve general aviation traffic congestion at Newark Liberty. However, due to FAA Instrument Flight Rule procedures, the airspace surrounding these airports is presently so congested that aircraft operators and passengers suffer enormous ground delays. The ‘land side’ of these airports is also over crowded due to NJDEP regulations that prohibit new hangar construction.

As a result, corporate aviation in New Jersey has not been able to achieve the security, efficiency and productivity afforded by modern business aviation. This only encourages an outmigration to our sister states of high paying executive and middle management jobs from New Jersey’s mobile, high value, high-tech economy. These issues call for bold action by the new administration. Recognizing the problems, we recommend the following actions:

  1. The Bureau of Aeronautics should be reinstated to its statutory Division status, and structured and staffed to meet the needs of its current statutory responsibilities. Its most important responsibility is to develop a State Airport System Plan designed to make all our airports economically self-sustaining. The reinvigorated Division of Aeronautics must refocus its mission on aviation’s potential to contribute to economic growth. The first priority should be to increase funding from the N.J. Transportation Trust and to expand funding from other sources. It should actively seek increased Federal Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funding to supplement the state’s own investment in aeronautical facilities. It should design airports capable of accommodating modern business jet aircraft.
  2. The sales tax on aircraft sales, parts, and maintenance should be repealed. We are literally surrounded by competitor states that levy no sales tax on these goods and services, giving them a 6.875% competitive advantage over NJ businesses. As a result, NJ has little left in the way of paint shops, radio shops, and overhaul facilities. Most of that big-ticket work goes to DE, PA, and NY.
  3. The Commissioner of Transportation must be a person who understands aviation. He or she must emphasize to the Division of Aeronautics that airport advocacy and public outreach is a critical core mission. In bruising battles during the last decade, the state has been notably absent from the public fray. This has caused confusion and public angst among municipal officials and the air traveler. A strong Division of Aeronautics would help to eliminate this.
  4. The Division of Aeronautics should ensure that required municipal ordinances enacted under the Airport Safety and Zoning Act are promptly and effectively enforced. Under current practice, the state relies solely on municipalities to enact and enforce the required zoning ordinances. Municipal inaction often reflects local parochial interests. Aviation safety and airport utility suffer as a result.
  5. DOT should forcefully engage with federal officials to find practical solutions to the crippling flight restrictions that are in effect whenever President Trump is in Bedminster, as happened many times this past year. These Presidential Temporary Flight Restrictions caused severe economic harm to 31 public use airports and heliports. Fuel sales – the best metric of aviation activity – have declined more than 10% since 2016.
  6. The illegal diversion of state aviation fuel taxes to the general fund must be ended to comply with FAA regulations (79 CFR 66282).
  7. The volunteer General Aviation Advisory Council should be reinstated. That group played an important role as consultant to NJDOT for air transportation planning, reflecting the collective knowledge of the users of the system. A reconvened Council should meet quarterly with the Commissioner.
  8. Privately owned, public use airports are precisely the kind of assets that New Jersey should want to keep and encourage because the state does not have to pay for them. Our system is an ideal public – private partnership: the private sector airport owner pays most of the cost to provide and operate an important part of the state’s public transportation system. However state government must do its part to keep the system functioning and undertake necessary improvements over time.
  9. Thus, the legislature should implement the long standing recommendation of the NJGASC to eliminate real estate taxes on the public use portions of privately owned airports.

In closing, the harm created by the years of neglect suffered by New Jersey’s state system of airports can be reversed. Our aviation facilities can become a much better asset for attracting business investment. The first step is for leadership to recognize the need for a capable and dynamic air transportation system. With strong support from the administration and legislature, New Jersey can restore a vital system of airports that will drive economic activity, enhance business growth and better utilize a critical component of the nation’s overall transportation system.

Note: There is nothing new in the foregoing. We have been making these same arguments for the past three decades. We will continue to present our case to the Administration and to the Legislature. Much anti-airport activity has been stopped. But it is long past time that New Jersey became pro-airport.

FROM MAAC’S PRESIDENT – Frank Steinberg, esq.

The burden of repetitive TFRs on GA in NJ has become intolerable. Family owned airports and their aviation business tenants are suffering financially. Pilots are losing money by repeatedly having to reposition their aircraft. Presidential security is certainly a legitimate national concern. MAAC does not advocate putting any president at risk. What is lost in the discussion, though, is any sense of proportion or balance about the threat that GA poses, and, more importantly, the rights of the public. We believe that GA poses no realistic threat to the president. The defining principle of America is freedom – the freedom to do business, use your personal aircraft when and as you wish in travel. These are being compromised by repetitive TFRs that simply say “no.” And that is a big and dangerous thing.

Over the past two years MAAC representatives have been spreading the gospel of general aviation in the press. We have been on television, radio, interviewed at NorthJersey.com, and in local and national newspapers, most recently the New York Times. MAAC’s Facebook page and website at njaviation.com provide current information that affects your rights as pilots. Do take advantage of these resources.

Senators Jim Inhofe and Tammy Duckworth have introduced a bill in the Senate called SARA, acronymic for the Securing and Revitalizing Aviation Act of 2018. We applaud them for their work on behalf of aviation. From the release statement, some of the goals are to create the Aircraft Pilot Education Program to encourage the creation and delivery of aviation curriculum to high school students. Cut through the red tape by reviewing and rewriting existing regulations that limit the availability of pilot examiners. Enact needed reforms to ensure that new and experienced pilots have consistent access to designated pilot examiners to accommodate their recurring skills training requirements. The bill enhances protections for the aviation community including giving NTSB the authority to review the denial of an airman medial certificate by the FAA. Let your Congressman know you support this bill.

MAAC can only work for you if our membership remains strong. We need your participation and your dues. Individual dues are only $15 — unchanged for many years. We have had great success over the years protecting your airports and your right to fly. We know NJ, its legislators, and its government officials. We spend a lot of time educating them about the unique interests and needs of aviators. Please help us to help you by renewing your membership or joining us if not already a member.

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