A recent decision by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed a lawsuit brought by Friends of the Earth seeking to compel the Environmental Protection Agency to determine that lead emissions from aircraft using 100LL fuel pose a danger to public health as defined by the Clean Air Act of 1970. The lawsuit effectively halted the development and testing of 100LL alternatives, which is a priority for the general aviation industry. The court dismissed the case on jurisdictional grounds, finding that the EPA’s denial of a citizen’s petition for rulemaking is properly reviewed by the Court of Appeals. Although groups such as EAA and AOPA have long advocated for the development of alternative lead-free fuels for general aviation aircraft without EPA rulemaking or litigation, no lead-free alternative has been certificated for use in general aviation aircraft to date. Accordingly, the Friends of the Earth case might not be the final lawsuit filed on this issue.
The FAA has released it schedule of tower closings due to federal sequestration. According to statistics provided by AOPA, the FAA is being forced to cut $600 million, about 5 percent of its budget, and the Contract Tower Program is slated to take a 75-percent cut. On the list of tower closings is Trenton Mercer Airport (TTN) in Ewing, New Jersey. Situated on the edge of the Philadelphia Class B airspace, Trenton Mercer Tower provides key coordination and separation services for both air carrier and general aviation operations. Pilots should check the tower closing list and call ahead to verify whether ATC services will be available at their destination. For safety and compliance, pilots who do not regularly operate at uncontrolled airports should review non-towered airport procedures prior to departure.
In a recent opinion, the FAA Office of the Chief Counsel reiterated the agency’s broad interpretation of 14 C.F.R. 61.113, which governs the compensation of private pilots for flight activities. The requestor posed a hypothetical situation where an aircraft owner would loan his airplane to a private pilot friend and require the friend to only pay for the cost of fuel actually used by the friend. The FAA noted that under this scenario, the owner failed to charge his friend the actual pro rata cost of operating the aircraft (including maintenance and incidentals), instead only requiring his friend to purchase fuel. Therefore, the FAA concluded that the friend received some financial benefit by avoiding the full cost associated with his operation of the aircraft which could violate the regulatory prohibition on private pilot compensation.
It is important for private pilots to remember that monetary benefits which violate 14 C.F.R. 61.113 encompass more than just the receipt of cash. To avoid possible enforcement actions, pilots should consult with an experienced aviation attorney before entering into financial or quid pro quo arrangements involving the operation of aircraft.