Deer Valley Pilots Association
Local group makes the Airpark a great place to fly
By Bridgette Redman
epresenting the interests of Deer Valley Airpark tenants is no small task.
The Airpark has more than 1,100 aircraft based in its 779 t-hangars, which is 100% occupied. It is the world’s largest general aviation airport in the world. General aviation is everything not represented by commercial air transportation. It includes corporate aviation, private aircraft, air tourism, recreational flying and air sports.
Since 1978, the Deer Valley Pilots Association has worked to ensure the airport’s safety, the availability of mechanics and flight instructors, and the appropriateness of city regulations. It also provides social opportunities for its members and participates in opportunities for the neighboring community to engage in special events at the airport.
Six-year DVPA director Richard Schmidt says the association’s goal is to represent and support the people who own aircraft at Deer Valley Airpark. This involves a lot of negotiation with the city of Phoenix.
“Our job is to work with the city to make sure the regulations they impose on the tenants are good ones so the tenants have a satisfactory and pleasant experience housing their airplanes there,” Schmidt says.
Two of the major areas they focus on are:
• Adequate maintenance. Aircraft need to be properly maintained so they are safe to operate and are quiet. The DVPA works to make sure the city’s regulations are conducive to providing adequate maintainers and maintenance facilities.
• Flight instructors. The FAA mandates pilots take regular safety training and refresher training to be allowed to fly. They have to get retraining and pass check rides frequently. So, an airport needs flight instructors and the DVPA negotiates with the city to provide adequate flight instruction at the airport.
“Both areas, we think, are really important to the health and safety of the airport and the pilots, but also of the neighbors, because we want everyone to be operating safely and in compliance,” Schmidt says.
Over the years, this has meant involvement in renovation projects and everything the airport undertakes to improve its conditions and stay updated. Schmidt says the airport represents a major investment for the city and the Airpark generated substantial revenue for the city, as have the companies around the Airpark that also support its operations.
The DVPA has been working on two major projects with the city.
The first is an update of the regulations applying to the tenant’s use of the hangars. In 2017, the FAA modified its regulations, expanding the way hangars can be used for general aviation. The city’s regulations do not yet conform to those new regulations, called the General Aviation Handbook.
“The FAA broadened and liberalized a lot of the things you can do with hangars and what you can store in the hangar,” Schmidt says. “The city’s regulations need to get in compliance with that.”
The second project is working out a disagreement on how the city interprets its current service provider regulations. These regulations affect the mechanics working at the airport and flight instructors who provide flight instruction.
“We’re working with the city to update the regulations for that,” Schmidt says. “They’ve had them in place for about 15 years and are in need of updating. There have been some challenges between the tenants and the city over some interpretations over the past six to eight months. We’re working our way through it and are optimistic we’ll get to a reasonable solution.”
The association wants to be sure there is a broad range of flight instructors and mechanics available to work on the 1,000-plus airplanes without undue intrusion by the city, Schmidt says. The association feels the current interpretation of regulations constrain those services at the airport and unrealistically tax those services.
“We’re working with the city to update the hangar use and the availability of mechanics and flight instructors to expand in line with the needs and requests of our members,” Schmidt says.
All these efforts, he says, adds to the airport’s safety and the revenue generated for the city and its neighbors by the operation.
However, the association isn’t all about regulations and negotiations. They also like to have fun.
There are hundreds of pilots at the airport and the association attempts to foster ways for them to get together and share their experiences.
“We have pancake breakfasts for our members,” Schmidt says. “We share ideas on how to make the airport greater and fun things to do with your airplane.”
The next pancake breakfast is in March. Past events have included raffles, talks by airport personnel, and a chance for pilots to show off their planes.
They also participate in airport events designed to welcome people to visit the airport to see interesting airplanes of various types such as historical craft or warbirds of World War I and World War II.
Last Christmas, they hosted an annual Christmas Cookie event, during which they distributed treats to the city Operations Desk, Cutter Aviation, the police hangar, Fish & Game and the ATC tower.
Schmidt says it is important for them to have good relations with the people at the airport as well as their neighbors. They want to ensure they have safe operations and a great environment for the airport.
“We’re always looking for ways to make the airport better and safer,” Schmidt says. “That’s our primary goal and objective to get that done. We’re always looking for suggestions. We’ve certainly appreciated the interest of the folks around the airport to what is going on.”