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Managing Aviation Fuel Costs in a Changing Environment

by Sarina Houston 15. September 2014 17:04
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As the cost of aviation fuel continues to rise, owners and operators of general aviation and business aircraft are faced with the unrelenting task of revamping their aviation fuel cost management initiatives - over and over again.

For aircraft owners, the rising prices are nothing new. On the contrary, it’s surely getting old. The ever-increasing operating costs associated with owning or renting an airplane affects businessmen and aviation enthusiasts alike. It affects owners, flight schools and FBOs. And it’s a problem that doesn’t seem to want to go away.

What do you do to keep fuel costs down? What can you do? For many, it seems like the options have been exhausted. Maybe you’ve invested in the most efficient aircraft for your type of operation: Maybe you’ve condensed multiple business trips into a single trip and longer days to save on jet fuel. Maybe you’ve even downsized the fleet.

Below are a few basic tips for saving money on aviation fuel. Perhaps you’ve implemented some or all of them already; maybe not.

According to the National Business Aircraft Association, a survey from an aviation consulting group found that 98% of aircraft owners and operators said fuel cost was a concern, and they responded with a variety of actions: Requesting more direct routes, tankering fuel, flying slower, or flying less often. And seventy-six percent said they had switched FBOs for lower-priced fuel elsewhere. Here are a few other ways to save money on fuel:

Slow Down: Conserving fuel by flying slower can be a good option for those who can allow a little bit of extra time in their travel plans, according to aviation consultant website Conklin & de Decker. “In a business jet, fuel is half to two-thirds of your variable cost. While the whole purpose of the aircraft is to save time, a bit slower speed and careful trip planning can keep your costs down.” Reducing aircraft weight and drag can save on aircraft fuel, as well. Keeping the aircraft clean, using minimal takeoff flaps and installing winglets can all help decrease drag and improve efficiency.

Get Equipped for NextGen: The whole purpose of the FAA’s NextGen program is to increase efficiency throughout the air traffic system. Pilots and operators can take advantage of more direct routing by equipping their aircraft for NextGen. Depending on the aircraft and avionics already installed (or not installed) this can be a significant investment, but should save money in the long run.

Fuel Tankering: Some operators have experimented with fuel tinkering, which means buying fuel for cheap (such as at a home airport) and bringing it with you on board the aircraft to avoid high-cost fuel elsewhere. This only works if the added weight to the aircraft doesn’t decrease efficiency to the point where more fuel is used in flight than is saved by tankering, according to Conklin & de Decker.

Fuel Card Discount programs: Obviously shopping around for the best fuel discount program is an easy way to save cash – as long as you aren’t flying out of your way too much to get to an FBO that takes your card. These days, it’s not usually a problem.

Flight Planning: Perhaps the most easily controlled fuel-savings option is careful flight planning. By using resources like Max-Trax, which helps pilots search for the lowest-priced fuel along a route of flight or within a certain radius of an airport, users can easily identify the most efficient fuels stops, including airport and FBO information associated with that particular fuel stop. Over time, the fuel savings from this approach will add up.

As any pilot or operator knows, minimizing fuel costs is a weekly, monthly and yearly struggle. There are a variety of ways for aircraft owners and operators to be efficient, but the fuel industry an unpredictable and fluid one that constantly keeps us on our toes!

Do you have any cost-saving tips or tricks to share with other aircraft owners? Share them with us in the comments section below!

Drug Impairment Not Just an Aviation or Medical Certification Issue

by GlobalAir.com 10. September 2014 16:06
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EAA AVIATION CENTER, OSHKOSH, Wisconsin – (September 10, 2014) – The National Transportation Safety Board on Tuesday adopted recommendations to educate pilots on the potential impairment risks in prescription and over-the-counter medications, as use of such medications grows among the entire U.S. population.

NTSB also made six recommendations, four to the Federal Aviation Administration and two to state governments, on how to widen education efforts on impairment by such drugs as well as risks regarding marijuana use. NTSB will also issue a safety alert to pilots regarding the impairment risks of prescription and over-the-counter medications.

“The study focuses on general aviation pilots as a basis for considering the impact of medications on all transportation modes, because it is about the only data set available thanks to mandatory post mortem toxicological screening following fatal accidents. Other modes of personal and recreational transportation are not subject to these requirements,” said Doug Macnair, EAA’s vice president of government relations. “This initial step does not single general aviation out from other transportation modes. NTSB researchers told the Board several times that there is still much to learn before any conclusions can be made. The aircraft accident rate has continued to fall over the 22-year period of the study, and accidents where impairment by medications or drugs are determined to be a causal factor have not increased over that period of time.”

The recommendations came after a Board study showed that since 1990, the number of pilot fatalities involving impairment continued to be a minimal percentage. The most common drug found was diphenhydramine, often found in cold and allergy medications. The findings also showed, unsurprisingly, that prescription and over-the-counter medication use grew with the age of the pilots studied.

“Read the label and find information about these medications,” responded Dr. Loren Groff, one of the NTSB researchers, when asked by Board member Mark Rosekind what pilots should take away from the study.

The researchers also mentioned that the findings do not cast any particular conclusion on those without medical certification, such as sport pilots, who were involved in fatal accidents. Board member Robert Sumwalt asked how the study might affect the push for third-class medical certification reform, but researchers agreed that more information was needed to establish any connection.

Among the recommendations made by the NTSB were four to the FAA:

  • Develop educational information for pilots about potentially impairing drugs, and make pilots aware of less impairing alternatives if they are available;
  • Gather more information about the flying activity of pilots not subject to medical certification;
  • Study the prevalence of drug use among pilots who are not involved in accidents;
  • Develop and distribute a clear policy regarding any marijuana use by airmen regardless of the type of flight operations.

NTSB also made two recommendations to states:

  • Medical providers make available much-needed information about the impairing effects of drugs – not only to pilots, but to operators of vehicles in any mode of transportation;
  • Use existing newsletters for doctors, pharmacists, and any other health professionals to help educate operators in all modes of transportation.

“We agree that there needs to be more education on the effects of medications and drugs in all modes of transportation,” Macnair said. “We also believe that the medical education requirement included as part of the EAA/AOPA proposal for aeromedical reform addresses the knowledge gap that exists in the pilot population on the impairing effects of prescription and over-the-counter medications. Nothing in the medical certification process that exists today effectively accomplishes that.

“The goal of the EAA/AOPA medical reform effort is to reduce unnecessary cost and complexity of medical certification, while improving the education of pilots in a manner allowing them to make smart, informed decisions and thus enhance overall safety.”

About EAA

EAA embodies the spirit of aviation through the world’s most engaged community of aviation enthusiasts. EAA’s 185,000 members and 1,000 local chapters enjoy the fun and camaraderie of sharing their passion for flying, building and restoring recreational aircraft. For more information on EAA and its programs, call 800-JOIN-EAA (800-564-6322) or go to www.eaa.org . For continual news updates, connect with www.twitter.com/EAAupdate .

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Aviation Medical | Flying | News | Press Release

Recruiting in Aviation

by GlobalAir.com 9. September 2014 09:45
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By Becky Meyer
Director of HR for Elliott Aviation

www.elliottaviation.com

Recruiting

In our growing industry, many aviation companies struggle with recruiting top talent. While various challenges and factors exist, the biggest hindrance is attributed to lack of experience in positions, especially maintenance and avionics technicians. According to a survey issued by AIN , they show that 96% of the corporate aviation companies are looking to grow their staff while only 1 percent is forecasting a decline. With such a competitive market, it forces companies to look at many different ways to attract talent.

From a recruiting standpoint, we focus on our history and values. As a second-generation, family owned company, Elliott Aviation has been buying, selling and working on aircraft since 1936. Our values of unmatched quality, uncompromising integrity and unbeatable customer service serve as checks and balances for all of our employees. This simplifies our ability to make key tough decisions. If you come to work focused on those three key values, you are doing the right thing every day.

One of our successful strategies is hiring active and retired military veterans. Hiring from the military has proven to be fruitful for the aviation industry as well as Elliott Aviation. Military personnel bring a strong worth ethic, experience, and positive attitude to the industry. With on-the-job training and experience shown on their DD Form 214, we are able to help them obtain their A & P Certificate. This program allows us to build and retain a solid workforce.

Another pipeline of talent derives from graduates with an Airframe & Powerplant Certificate from colleges throughout the United States. However, location becomes a factor because many of the students attend local colleges to complete their degree. After school, employers battle with trying to relocate potential candidates. This presents employers with the challenge of creating lucrative incentives and benefits programs to attract and relocate talent to a new town.

>p>An area of long-range opportunity is high school students enrolled in auto mechanic courses. Currently, students and academic programs are pushing towards the diesel mechanic or auto mechanic profession without exploring aviation as a possibility. Our HR department connects with local schools to educate students about the possibilities of working in aviation. Additionally, we have conducted presentations and communicated with the Boy Scouts of America for an Aviation Explorers program.

Not only is recruiting key to this industry, but retention is also a priority. Having a well-thought out and educational onboarding program is crucial. Is it impetrative that companies establish a solid onboarding program because it presents the tools to help the employees succeed. Because of this, we are always building and expanding our program. Onboarding covers all paperwork, safety and technical training for the first week of employment. The employee is then assigned to a mentor for on-the-job training to ensure the proper skills and techniques are learned.

Currently our Quality Control Manager is working with the FAA to inquire about becoming a DME in order for employees to take their Oral and Practical testing onsite.

Becky Meyer comes to Elliott with 15+ years of Human Resource Management experience. Her career began working for the first Riverboat Casino business in Iowa where she specialized in Payroll. She then expanded her career and knowledge to the HR field in manufacturing and now aviation.

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General Aviation's Avgas Problem: Low Lead to No Lead?

by Sarina Houston 1. September 2014 15:01
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The general aviation industry is searching for an alternative for 100 low lead avgas (100LL). But it is really necessary?

By now we all know that human exposure to lead is unhealthy – most commonly, exposure to lead causes neurological problems in children and cardiovascular problems in adults. We’ve probably all made sure that our walls weren’t once painted with leaded paint and our lead pipes aren’t corroding and contaminating our drinking water. But have you considered that general aviation aircraft operations are the main source of lead pollution today? Those who work in and around small piston aircraft might be exposed to harmful lead pollution – and the EPA and FAA are ready to do something about it.

“Emissions of lead from piston-engine aircraft using leaded avgas comprise approximately half of the national inventory of lead emitted to air,” claims the EPA. The organization estimates that about 41,000 tons of lead from avgas was emitted between 1970 and 2007. And, According to an EPA factsheet, the concentration of lead in the air increases near general aviation airports due to the use of 100LL fuel.

But our air quality is fine, right? And people have been using 100LL for years without adverse health affects…right? This might be true, but general aviation’s lead problem, while seemingly minor, is not a small problem at all.

Lead emitted from general aviation flight operations not only pollutes the air in and around airports, but it’s capable of traveling great distances before accumulating on the ground and in ground water. And, because there is no level of lead that is said to be safe when it comes to human exposure, the EPA and other environmental groups are pushing for the aviation community to adopt a lead-free fuel.

While many in the industry agree that it’s time to make the switch to an alternative fuel, others aren’t quite sure it’ll be worth the price. To the author’s knowledge, there have been no studies regarding the amount of lead in humans that work or live around general aviation airports, nor has there been any actual emissions testing on aircraft that operate with 100LL fuel. The EPA and other organizations have assumed that the hazard exists based on the amount of lead in avgas, and the fact that avgas is the only leaded fuel out there, leaving some people wondering if the problem even exists at all.

Regardless of the lack of information, the FAA has declared its agreement with the EPA and is taking steps toward a lead-free future, noting that general aviation aircraft are the only type of fuel-burning transportation that still uses leaded fuel.

In July 2014, the FAA received nine proposals for alternative fuels that would replace 100LL avgas, including proposals from Afton Chemical Company, Avgas LLC, Shell, Swift Fuels, BP, TOTAL, and Hjelmco. For the next few years, the FAA will be testing and evaluating these fuels during a two-phase, six million dollar per year program called the Piston Aviation Fuels Initiative (PAFI). They hope to have a solution that satisfies the entire general aviation fleet of 100LL users by December 2018.

As an aircraft owner, you might not be worried about air quality around airports or exposure to lead through your own piston aircraft use. But the transition to lead-free fuel is happening, and the bigger problem here is that an alternative fuel will affect all 100LL users in the not-so-distant future. Before long, aircraft owners could be faced with buying a new engine or at the very least, a certification process for a new fuel type. While the FAA hopes to find a fuel that will keep all aircraft flying, there is bound to be a cost associated with keeping 100LL aircraft in the air in the post-100LL days. And if you thought today’s avgas is expensive, a new type will probably cost even more.

Diesel might be the way to go, after all.

What are your thoughts? Is the creation of a lead-free fuel a necessary step into the future for GA, or have environmentalist organizations created a problem that doesn’t really exist? Comment and let us know!

FAA Takes a More Sensible Approach to First-Time, Inadvertent TFR Violations

by Greg Reigel 27. August 2014 14:59
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The FAA recently amended its enforcement guidelines for dealing with airmen who violate temporary flight restriction ("TFR") airspace. In the past, when the FAA alleged that an airman violated a TFR, and the incident was a first-time, inadvertent violation by the airman, that airman would receive a Notice of Proposed Certificate Action ("Notice") proposing suspension of his or her airman certificate for 30 days for violation of a variety of regulations. This was the FAA's "shoot from the hip", no questions asked approach. And once the Notice was issued, the FAA conceded very little, if anything, from that 30 day suspension.

Now, however, it appears the FAA may have recognized that this approach wasn't necessarily the best way of dealing with these types of violations. In June of this year, the FAA amended Order 2150.3(b), the FAA's compliance and enforcement program, to change its approach to dealing with first-time, inadvertent TFR violators. According to the FAA, it is modifying its policy to provide more flexibility in dealing with TFR violators with the intent of reducing "the number of violations occurring in security airspace by using remedial training in appropriate circumstances to prevent repeated inadvertent violations." I'm not sure why it took the FAA this long to figure out that remedial training might be a better alternative to a suspension, but better late than never, I guess.

Under the amended guidelines, the FAA will apply the following sanction policy to TFR violations:

  1. A single, first-time, inadvertent violation will result in a 30 day suspension EXCEPT in circumstances involving:

    1. Inadvertent, first-time violations resulting from aircraft intruding one mile or less into the security airspace and then turning and exiting directly when there are no resulting complications for air traffic control or other aircraft; or

    2. Inadvertent, first time violations resulting from aircraft briefly (two minutes or less) squawking a 1200 code or failing to squawk an assigned discrete code, in security airspace that requires the aircraft to squawk a discrete code when there are no resulting complications for air traffic control or other aircraft.

    3. In situations 1(a) and (b), the FAA will use remedial training, assuming the airman has no prior history of violations. This means the airman would receive a warning letter, remedial training and the airman would not have a finding of violation placed in his or her airman record. (In my opinion, a more appropriate response to this type of situation rather than preventing an airman from staying current and competent by suspending his or her airman certificate, as was the case in the past.)
  2. A new inadvertent violation and a history of 1 prior inadvertent TFR violation will result in a 45 to 90 day suspension of the airman's certificate.

  3. A new inadvertent violation and a history of 2 prior inadvertent TFR violations will result in a 90 to 150 day suspension of the airman's certificate.

  4. A new inadvertent violation and a history of 3 or more inadvertent TFR violations will result in revocation of the airman's certificate.

  5. If the facts and circumstances surrounding the TFR violation call into question the qualifications of the airman, the FAA may also issue the airman a request for re-examination under 49 U.S.C. § 44709 (a "709 Ride").

  6. Intentional TFR violations or "aggravated" violations (which isn't defined or explained in the amended policy) will result in revocation of the airman's certificate.

Unfortunately, informal counseling, whether oral or written, is not a permitted alternative for the FAA to deal with TFR violations. However, at least now the FAA has the option of remedial training to educate, rather than punish, inadvertent violators. Of course, this amended policy begs the question of what constitutes an "inadvertent" violation. Depending upon the FAA's interpretation of "inadvertent", which in the past hasn't always been the most reasonable, the amended policy may be for naught.

But the amended policy definitely appears to be a step in the right direction. Hopefully, this more enlightened approach, and the voice of reason, will prevail in the future. In any event, airmen should continue to check for NOTAMS, understand the scope of any TFR NOTAMS issued for their route of flight, obtain appropriate flight service briefings and updates, and either avoid TFRs or comply with the applicable requirements for operation within the TFR.

Fly smart and stay safe.

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Greg Reigel





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