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Pilots Bill of Rights 2: Medical Exemptions, Due Process & NOTAMs

by Sarina Houston 2. March 2015 22:42
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Photo © Robert Couse-Baker/Flickr

In a move that is being applauded by the general aviation community, Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.) last week introduced two new GA-friendly bills. The new laws– the General Aviation Pilot Protection Act and the Pilots Bill of Rights 2 (PBOR-2) - could have a significant impact on general aviation operations if they move through congress.

Sen. Inhofe successfully led the first Pilot’s Bill of Rights through Congress in 2012. PBOR-2 expands upon the pilot protections offered by the initial PBOR.

"The first Pilot’s Bill of Rights was a victory for the aviation community and made possible by the support of pilots and industry leaders across the nation,” Inhofe said. “Since being signed into law, more issues facing the general aviation (GA) community have surfaced. The Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2 addresses these concerns and builds on the success of my previous legislation.”

Twelve sponsors, including Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), House General Aviation Caucus co-chair Sam Graves (R-Mo.), and a variety of industry stakeholders, such as AOPA, EAA, and GAMA, supported Sen. Inhofe’s Pilot Bill of Rights.

Mark Barker, President of AOPA, released this statement: “The introduction of the Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2 is great news for the general aviation community and we are grateful to Sen. Inhofe for putting forward this legislation that would do so much to help grow and support general aviation activity. Pilots have already waited too long for medical reform, so we’re particularly pleased to see it included in this important measure. We will actively work with Congress to build support for this legislation that is so vital to the future of GA and the 1.1 million jobs that depend on it.”

The General Aviation Pilot Protection Act was first introduced in 2013. The 2015 version intends to expand the medical exemption requirement for pilots, and the PBOR-2 addresses the same medical exemption requirements, along with a handful of other issues.

According to Sen. Inhofe’s website, highlights of the new bill will include the following:

  • Medical Certificate Exemption:
    Allows more pilots to operate without obtaining an aviation medical certificate. Under the new law, private pilots would be able to fly VFR or IFR in aircraft under 6,000 pounds, below 14,000 feet MSL, and under 250 knots.
  • Due Process:
    PBOR-2 will maintain the rights set forth in the first PBOR from 2012, and will extend those rights to all FAA certificate holders instead of just pilots. This means that maintainers, dispatchers and other certificate holders will also be granted due process rights along with the right to appeal an FAA decision through a merit-based trial in Federal Court.
  • Violation Transparency:
    The new bill will require the FAA to notify pilots of any pending enforcement action, as well as provide specific documentation.
  • Flight Data Accessibility:
    Under the new bill, pilots will be able to access data from contractors, including flight service stations, contract controllers and controller training programs in order to defend themselves from enforcement action.
  • Protection for Volunteer Pilots:
    PBOR-2 will establish a Good Samaritan Law to protect volunteer pilots from liability.
  • Protection for individuals performing federal tasks:
    PBOR-2 will establish liability protections for individuals performing federal tasks, such as designated examiners, medical examiners and airworthiness inspectors.
  • NOTAMs:
    PBOR-2 will require the FAA to develop a better NOTAM (Notice to Airman) system, and maintains that the FAA will not be allowed to bring about enforcement action on pilots until they complete the NOTAM Improvement Program

The FAA has 180 days to weigh in on the regulations. If the organization doesn’t respond, the bills will automatically become laws.

The Danger of Windshear

by GlobalAir.com 2. March 2015 14:29
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Writen by: David W. Thornton
Aviation Examiner

The copilot accepted the approach clearance and I turned the Lear 45 toward the initial fix for the approach.

We were flying into Victoria, Texas to pick up two members of the family that owned the airplane for a trip to sunny Florida. Sunny was something Victoria was not today. The ATIS, the recorded weather broadcast for the airport, reported low ceilings, heavy rain, gusty winds and limited visibility. Our airborne weather radar indicated a band of rain just south of the airport. We had been enveloped in clouds for the entire short flight from Houston.

We descended to 2,000 feet to start the instrument approach, a GPS-based approach to runway 31 right. We configured the airplane for landing and began the descent along the electronic glide path toward the runway.

We had only descended about 200 feet when the airspeed went crazy. First, the speed increased by 30 knots, almost reaching the maximum speed for the flaps. Then, just as quickly, it reversed and dropped rapidly into the red, low-speed tape on the primary flight display.

“STALL… STALL,” the electronic voice of the Learjet’s warning system called out.

I advanced the throttles to maximum thrust and called out, “windshear, flaps eight,” to begin the missed approach procedure. We “cleaned up” the airplane from landing configuration, retracted the flaps and landing gear, and climbed to the missed approach altitude. Or rather, we climbed through the missed approach altitude. With the airspeed in safe territory but still fluctuating, we ballooned several hundred feet high. Even with reduced power and pointing the nose down, the Learjet did not want to descend.

Shortly after, the controller assigned us a climb and vectored us around for another try. With the weather rapidly moving through the area, we were able to fly behind the squall and land successfully and without experiencing anything abnormal other than rain so heavy that it partially obscured the view through the windshield.

What we had experienced was the worst windshear of my career. Windshear is any sudden change in wind speed or direction over a short distance. It can occur either horizontally or vertically. While windshear can occur at any altitude, it is more dangerous when the aircraft is close to the ground.

In 1985, Delta Air Lines Flight 191 crashed when it encountered windshear on approach at Dallas - Fort Worth International Airport (KDFW). The Lockheed L1011 was flying through the rain shaft of a thunderstorm while on an ILS approach when the headwind suddenly decreased by 25 knots and ultimately increased to a 30 knot tailwind while the downdraft increased from 18 to more than 30 feet per second according to an FAA analysis. In spite of applying full power to all three engines, the aircraft hit an open field just short of the runway then became airborne again to strike a light pole and car on a road near the approach end. The airplane ultimately hit two water towers on the airport property and exploded. The accident killed 136 of the 163 passengers and crew plus the driver of the car.

An analysis of the accident showed that the plane likely flew through a microburst, a very intense downdraft that is localized to an area about two miles in radius. The airplane first encountered increasing performance as it flew through the updraft at the periphery of the microburst, causing it to go high on the glideslope. Then, as the airplane entered the downdraft, the airspeed slowed dramatically and the airplane went below the glideslope, triggering an alert from the plane’s ground proximity warning system (GPWS). In spite of going to full power, it was too late for the airplane to successfully fly out of the windshear.

Although windshear was known in 1985, it wasn’t well understood. According to the FAA, the Delta 191 crash resulted in changes to training to help pilots better recognize the danger of windshear and make a decision to use an escape maneuver early rather than continuing the approach. New technology, such as airport low level windshear alert systems (LLWSAS), better radar, and enhanced GPWS with a windshear protection mode have contributed to safety as well. There are limitations though. In my windshear incident, the GPWS windshear alert was not triggered because the airplane was above 1,500 feet, outside the danger zone for takeoff and landing.

The windshear escape maneuver can vary from airplane to airplane, but is typically similar. The flying pilot should advance the throttles to maximum power and pitch the airplane nose up sharply. It should go without saying that the autopilot should be disconnected for this. No configuration changes, such as retracting or extending flaps and landing gear, should be made while the airplane is in windshear. Once the airplane has gained the safety of altitude and airspeed, flaps and gear should be retracted.

If windshear is likely on takeoff, the pilot can choose to delay rotation. Delayed rotation means extra airspeed in the early stages of the climb that can be very helpful if the airplane encounters windshear shortly after takeoff. Rotation speed (Vr) can generally be increased by 10 percent to a maximum of 20 knots (check your aircraft guidelines and limitations). This speed should be briefed, but should not be set with an airspeed bug. Consider the extra runway that will be needed due to the longer acceleration time as well.

Similarly, the landing reference speed (Vref) can be increased as well. An old rule of thumb is that landing speeds can be increased by half the gust factor. If the wind speed is reported as “10, gusting to 20 knots,” Vref can be increased by five knots. Stable approaches typically require that the airspeed on approach be no more than 20 knots faster than Vref, so this should be considered a limit for increasing the landing speed. Again, consider the runway since a higher landing speed means that more stopping distance is required.

Ultimately, avoidance is the best tool for surviving windshear. The Flight Safety Foundation identifies several warning signs for windshear. These include thunderstorms, gusty frontal passages, blowing dust, rings of dust, whirlwinds, mountain waves, and, of course, warnings from airport windshear alert systems or pilot reports. If conditions are ripe for windshear, be prepared to go around. In some cases, a delay or diversion might be the best course of action. Microbursts often only last for about 15 minutes so a short delay can make a big difference in safety.


A Beginners Guide to General Aviation Aircraft Identification

by Tori Williams 1. March 2015 23:13
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If you are the type of person who can visit an airport on any given day and accurately identify the make, model, year, and flight characteristics of any aircraft that you happen to see, this article is not for you. This article is for the good-hearted airplane enthusiast who is just starting out, or the student pilot who feels inadequate when their pilot friends rattle off airplane facts like nobody’s business.

I took a poll of my friends at school, asking them how confident they are in their airplane identification skills. The majority of sophomores and juniors said they were extremely confident, and could identify most military or civilian aircraft with ease. Some freshmen had grown up around aircraft, and felt mildly confident. However, I found a surprising amount of new student pilots who felt they would not know the difference between a Diamond and Cirrus, and referred to the majority of single-engine aircraft as simply “Cessna.”

This article is designed to give an overview of the most common single-engine aircraft, and to give a new airplane enthusiast a good starting point for their upcoming years of impressing friends with their aviation knowledge. After all, even the most experienced plane-spotter had to start somewhere.

Stepping out onto a busy tarmac, one has a very high chance of seeing any combination of the following aircraft. The hope is that by the end of this list you will be able to easily pick out the subtle differences of each and take your first steps at being an airplane guru.

Cessna - The most popular single-engine general aviation aircraft has to be the Cessna 172. The four-seater aircraft has high wings, and the imaginary line from the bottom of the fuselage to the tail is almost perfectly straight. They are very angular and boxy, but have a classic look that is easily recognized. Cessna also has the 150, 152, 180, 182, and several other models, all of which have the same basic shape. Overall a very recognizable aircraft, and 80% of the time if there is a high winged aircraft on the ramp at the airport or flying around, it is a Cessna.

Diamond -The Diamond DA20 is a low-wing, curvy aircraft with a very large wingspan that could be mistaken for a powerful motor-glider. The fuselage is oval shaped, which flows into a skinny tail section and T-tail (position of vertical and horizontal stabilizers resemble an uppercase T) that makes me think of this aircraft as having a dolphin tail. The canopy opens upward, encasing the pilot and passenger in a bubble with great visibility. This aircraft also has four-seat model, the DA40.

Cirrus - Often confused with the Diamond DA40, a Cirrus SR20 is similarly shaped, but much less curvy and thin. The low-wing aircraft has a roomy interior, and features sporty doors that open upwards with a forward-pivoting hinge. The horizontal stabilizer is positioned similarly on the tail as a Cessna 172. These are not to be confused with a Cessna Columbia, which has a very similar shape but a perfectly straight nose gear.

Mooney - One of my favorite aircraft is the Mooney. These are easily identified by the vertical stabilizer, which appears to have been put on backward. It forms a sharp L-shape in the tail. This is also a low-wing aircraft, known for its speed. Another interesting feature is how the leading edge of the wing is perpendicular to the fuselage while the trailing edge is angled forward, giving it the appearance that the wings have been put on backward as well.

Piper Cherokee – Another popular training aircraft is the Piper Cherokee. They have chunky low-wings, and appear to sit closer to the ground. It seats four passengers and the majority of models have a fixed gear. This is the Cessna of low-wing aircraft. They are sometimes confused with the Beechcraft Bonanza, but are much smaller and less bulky looking.

Beechcraft Bonanza – A popular personal aircraft, this six-seat beast has been in continuous production longer than any other airplane in history. The oldest models have an easily recognizable V-shaped tail, but newer models sport a conventional tail, and all models have a trapezoidal gear leg fairing. They have a rather beefy fuselage, and occupy a lot of space.

I hope that this basic guide to identifying the most widely known and flown aircraft has been helpful. Next time you visit an airport, see how many of these legendary planes you can recognize. The more practice you have recognizing the different models, the better you will be.


Aviation History | Flying | Tori Williams

Disconnected: A Business Aircraft without Wi-Fi is not a True Business Aircraft

by GlobalAir.com 26. February 2015 10:59
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By Mark Wilken

There is no excuse for productivity loss in today’s business world, as it’s almost impossible to go anywhere without Wi-Fi—including the sky.

Currently about 6,500 business aircraft are equipped with something more than a dial up connection according to GoGo, a broadband technology that makes inflight Wi-Fi a reality. This is a significant increase of in-flight Wi-Fi installations compared to the only handful of business aircraft equipped with it in 2008.

Commercially, fifty-two airlines now have Wi-Fi available and two-thirds of the miles offered by U.S. airlines provide passengers a chance for Wi-Fi signal, according to a recent study conducted by Routehappy, which rates flights based on their amenities for passengers.

 Business Man Works Over Cloud Photo courtesy bplanet at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Aircraft passengers are rapidly gaining the ability to work in flight. According to Routehappy’s study, the number of U.S. domestic flights with at least some chance of Wi-Fi grew by nearly 1,600 in the last 18 months. That amount is only going to continue to grow. With such a large amount of flights offering connectivity, Americans have the opportunity to be more productive than ever.

The expansion of Wi-Fi on airlines has been remarkable, causing Routehappy to name 2014 as the year inflight Wi-Fi took off. This is carrying into 2015 as well. Gogo, the leading provider of inflight Internet and voice equipment in the United States, already has a backlog of 1,000 commercial aircraft installations for the year.

About 40 business aircraft types have GoGo’s business aviation products certified and, in 2014, the company’s revenues totaled roughly $400 million. Approximately 40 percent of that came from business aviation and 60 percent from commercial aviation income.

If your private plane is not yet equipped with Wi-Fi, your employees are missing out on that chance for extra productivity. There are multiple inflight Wi-Fi options available through GoGo and select avionics facilities can install it.

Imagine how many hours a company’s middle and upper management spend in the air. Take the number of people in the aircraft, multiply it by the average hourly salary rate times the number of hours flown in the month and you will see how much that loss of productivity cost the company. In most cases, you are spending thousands of dollars of lost productivity each month by not being connected with technology that is available for a fraction of that cost. Just one four-hour round trip for three managers equals twelve hours of inflight time, and twelve hours of their salary, that without Wi-Fi is productivity loss.

There are always emails to respond to, presentations to prepare for and research to conduct. For those business travel necessities, in-flight Wi-Fi is critical. Thanks to technology advancements like inflight Wi-Fi, travel time is no longer synonymous with lost productivity. It’s easier than ever to make your aircraft as efficient as your office. After all, your business aircraft should be more productive than a commercial flight.

Mark Wilken joined Elliott Aviation in 1989 as an Avionics Bench Technician. He was promoted to Avionics Manager in 1996 and joined the sales team in 2003. Mark has led many highly successful avionics programs such as the King Air Garmin G1000 avionics retrofit program. He recently led efforts for Wi-Fi solutions in Hawkers, King Airs and Phenom 300’s. Mark holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Aviation Management from Southern Illinois University and is a licensed Pilot.

Elliott Aviation is a second-generation, family-owned business aviation company offering a complete menu of high quality products and services including aircraft sales, avionics service & installations, aircraft maintenance, accessory repair & overhaul, paint and interior, charter and aircraft management. Serving the business aviation industry nationally and internationally, they have facilities in Moline, IL, Des Moines, IA, and Minneapolis, MN. The company is a member of the Pinnacle Air Network, National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), National Air Transportation Association (NATA), and National Aircraft Resale Association (NARA). More information can be found at www.elliottaviation.com

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Aviation Technology | Flying

Legendary Designer Burt Rutan Returns to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh in 2015 for VariEze Anniversary

by GlobalAir.com 20. February 2015 09:42
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All Rutan designs and canard aircraft invited to Oshkosh for VariEze’s 40th

Photo courtesy Scaled Composites

EAA AVIATION CENTER, OSHKOSH, Wisconsin — (February 19, 2015) — Burt Rutan, the visionary aircraft designer whose innovations made history and changed the aviation world, will be back at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh in 2015 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of his iconic VariEze aircraft.

EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015, the 63rd annual Experimental Aircraft Association fly-in convention, will be held July 20-26 at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh.

Rutan’s designs have been groundbreaking for more than 40 years, beginning with the VariViggen in the early 1970s through the concepts that became the SpaceShipOne and SpaceShipTwo vehicles that are launching the era of space tourism. His use of canard wings and composite materials changed the look and efficiency of homebuilt aircraft, with more than 1,000 airplanes based on his designs now flying in the U.S. alone.

“There are few individuals in the history of aviation who can match Burt Rutan’s imagination and accomplishments,” said Jack Pelton, EAA chairman of the board. “His presentations are eagerly anticipated whenever he is in Oshkosh. Although he officially ‘retired’ several years ago, his innovative mind continues to push forward with new concepts and ideas that he’ll share at EAA AirVenture in 2015.”

Rutan is perhaps publicly known best for his SpaceShipOne design, which in 2004 won the $10 million Ansari XPRIZE as the first successful private spacecraft. He also designed the Voyager, which in 1986 became the first aircraft to fly around-the-world nonstop on a single tank of fuel. That accomplishment earned him, along with pilots Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager, the Presidential Citizen’s Medal. Burt Rutan was also named to the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1995 and EAA Homebuilders Hall of Fame in 1998.

His VariEze aircraft first flew in May 1975, with the prototype causing a sensation at that year’s EAA fly-in. That canard design evolved into other Rutan aircraft innovations, such as the Long-EZ, that are still being built today. Rutan’s multitude of interests has also led him into successfully exploring space flight and into electric flight.

In honor of the VariEze anniversary, EAA is inviting all Rutan and canard aircraft owners to come to Oshkosh and participate in the festivities. More details on specific dates and events will be released as they are finalized.

About EAA AirVenture Oshkosh

EAA AirVenture Oshkosh is “The World’s Greatest Aviation Celebration” and EAA’s yearly membership convention. Additional EAA AirVenture information, including advance ticket and camping purchase, is available online at www.eaa.org/airventure. EAA members receive lowest prices on admission rates. For more information on EAA and its programs, call 1-800-JOIN-EAA (1-800-564-6322) or visit www.eaa.org. Immediate news is available at www.twitter.com/EAA.

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