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Flight Into Known Icing Conditions: An Update

by Greg Reigel 1. March 2009 00:00
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Although we are, hopefully, finished with the worst of the winter here in the north woods, this also signifies a time of year when airman must exercise additional vigilance regarding the dangers presented by icing conditions. A recent Legal Interpretation issued by the FAA's Office of Chief Counsel attempts to clarify some of the past uncertainty regarding "known icing conditions" and discloses the FAA's current position on the issue.

Background

Before discussing the Legal Interpretation, it is helpful to understand why the FAA issued the Legal Interpretation. Back in 2006, the FAA's Counsel for the Eastern Region issued a legal interpretation defined "known icing conditions" in a manner that would have resulted in severe constraints on when individuals in aircraft without deicing equipment could fly. The Eastern Region stated that "high relative humidity" constitutes known icing conditions, which meant that in high relative humidity conditions when the temperature is near or below freezing, pilots would have to fly an aircraft with deicing equipment, or not fly at all.

Recognizing the problems with this legal interpretation, both in application and in the impact upon general aviation operations, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association demanded that the Office of Chief Counsel rescind the Eastern Region's letter of interpretation. Rather than rescinding the letter, on April 7, 2007 the Chief Counsel published a Notice of Draft Letter of Interpretation on Known Icing Conditions in the Federal Register. Later, on September 22, 2008, the Chief Counsel withdrew the Eastern Region's letter of interpretation in its entirety. Subsequently, after considering the comments submitted in response to the Eastern Region's letter and the draft letter of interpretation, on January 16, 2009 the Chief Counsel issued the current Legal Interpretation.

The Legal Interpretation

The Legal Interpretation begins by observing that flight into known ice is not directly referenced in FAR Part 91. (Although FAR 91.527 discusses operating in icing conditions, it only applies to large and turbine multi-engine aircraft.) However, several Part 91 regulations require a pilot to consider the consequences of flying in such conditions. For example,

FAR 91.9(a) states that "no person may operate a civil aircraft without complying with the operating limitations specified in the approved Airplane or Rotorcraft Flight Manual" and many aircraft manuals state that a particular aircraft type is not approved for flight in known icing conditions:

FAR 91.13(a) states that "[n]o person may operate an aircraft in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another" and;

FAR 91.103 specifies that "each pilot in command shall, before beginning a night become familiar with all available information concerning that flight: including weather reports and forecasts for flights under IFR or not in the vicinity of the airport.

The Legal Interpretation then states that "known ice" is the same as "known or observed or detected ice accretion" which is defined in paragraph 7-1-22 of the Aeronautical Information Manual as "[a]ctual ice observed visually to be on the aircraft by the flight crew or identified by on-board sensors." That is, the ice must actually stick to the surface of the aircraft.

Next, the Legal Interpretation distinguishes "known ice" from the term "known icing conditions" that is used in most flight manuals. "Known icing conditions" involve "circumstances where a reasonable pilot would expect a substantial likelihood of ice formation on the aircraft based upon all information available to that pilot." Absent a specific regulation defining "known icing conditions", over the years, National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) decisions have held that such conditions exist "when a pilot knows or reasonably should know about weather reports in which icing conditions arc reported or forecast." The Chief Counsel observes that the NTSB decisions are "consistent with the FAA's long-held position in enforcement actions that a pilot must consider the reasonable likelihood or encountering ice when operating an aircraft."

As has always been the case, assessments of "known icing conditions" are fact-specific and will depend upon the circumstances in each case. The Legal Interpretation states that "[w]hether a pilot has operated into known icing condition…will depend upon the total information available to the pilot, and his or her proper analysis of that information in evaluating the risk of encountering known icing conditions during a particular operation."

What The Legal Interpretation Means For Pilots

Simply because ice forms on an aircraft during a flight, that fact in and of itself will not necessarily result in enforcement action by the FAA. The FAA will evaluate the pilot's actions, both pre-flight and during the flight, to determine whether they were reasonable in light of FARs 91.9(a), 91.13(a}, and 91.103. The evaluation will specifically include a review of all weather information available to the pilot and will determine whether the pilot's pre-flight planning took into account the possibility of ice formation, alternative courses of action to avoid known icing conditions and, what steps were taken by the pilot to exit known icing conditions once they were encountered.

As a result, pilots must carefully evaluate all of the available meteorological information relevant to a proposed flight. This should include applicable surface observations, temperatures aloft, terminal and area forecasts, AIRMETs. SIGMETs, and pilot reports (PIREPs). If a reasonable and prudent evaluation of all of the information together indicates that the proposed flight will occur under conditions that will cause ice to adhere to the aircraft along the proposed route and altitude of flight, then it is a good bet that "known icing conditions" probably exist and that the FAA would take that position in a subsequent enforcement proceeding.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, this Legal Interpretation does not give pilots a "bright-line" test to use a lot of help. However, it makes clear that pilots will still need to evaluate all available information both before and during a flight in order to make a reasonable determination as to whether "known icing conditions" are present along the proposed route of flight. Pilots will also need to be able to prove that they performed this evaluation if they find themselves defending against an alleged violation arising from an icing situation.

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Greg Reigel

The Not-So-Great Depression

by Jeremy Cox 1. March 2009 00:00
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THE NOT SO GREAT DEPRESSION.

 

Much of the data contained in this article is very courteously and kindly provided by the folks from AMSTAT CORPORATION http://www.amstatcorp.com/. For this I would like to especially thank Mr. Andrew Young, AMSTAT Sales Director, for the use of their data in the production of this article.

 

Sadly none of us could have predicted what I now like to term, the "Not so great, depression" of 2008 and 2009. There were possibly a few wispy clouds noticed way off above the horizon (Inordinately high prices for new and large, transcontinental capable aircraft; extremely low cost financing options; and extremely high petroleum prices); these clouds gave no real notice of the rapidly approaching storm front that carried with it, bank and finance institution insolvency on an unprecedented scale, a cliff diving stock market, inept industry chief executives, corrupt and morally lacking elected officials, politically fed - airline spun - open public derision of the general aviation industry, and worst of all, mass unemployment. No, I defy anyone to have been able to predict any of this, so truly virtually no-one has escaped the vicious claws of this global financial collapse.

 

Speaking from the trenches within the turbine and jet used aircraft sales industry, everything was extraordinarily good until mid August, and then everything screeched to a halt. Many of us adopted the position that the traditional summer holiday slowdown was the real cause. People had been working so fast and furious that maybe the movers and shakers were finally taking a good long overdue rest. Once the schools went back to work, we started believing that the lack of activity was wholly due to the up-coming presidential election that was on our early November horizon. No matter where you looked or listened, the entire planet was election mad. Well this too passed us by, but before any oaths were sworn by our first African American President, the banks went poof! The automotive manufacturing industry went zap! And before we could catch our breath and even begin to understand what was happening, we were in an economic depression so big, that all anyone could do was compare it to 1929.

 

During the first week of December, 2008 many of us were aghast to see the 4th and the 7th from the top, of the Fortune 100 list (GM and Ford) closing both of their flight departments, after they had travelled to Washington, caps in hand to ask Congress for money out of the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) that had passed into law after the election, by the outgoing administration. By early January the general aviation industry was breathing a sigh of relief after the political attacks that were being focused against us all, seemed to have been silenced when the highly damaging language against corporate ownership of business aircraft was removed from the proposed 'government to corporate aid program' before our 44th commander and chief was sworn-in. Unfortunately though, there were still some surprising big names from industry being added to an ever growing list of companies that are were still choosing to close their corporate flight departments because of self enforced austerity out of fear of public and investor backlash. Unfortunately this disjointed 'knee-jerk' mentality appears to show a complete lack of common sense, or even anything close to the expected level of intelligence quotient, that the men and women, who are the top industry management figures in this country, should have. I won't even mention the outrageous legislation that the Gestapo-like Department of Homeland Securities, Transportation Security Administration is attempting to foist upon the general aviation industry with their ill-conceived Large Aircraft Security Program. The threat of user fees being introduced to fund the Federal Aviation Administration is minor compared to this latest serious of threats laid on the doorstep of our general aviation industry.

 

While all of this was taking place, sales of aircraft mostly dried up. Even the manufacturers, who before the whole world had jumped off the prosperity rock into the abyss of darkness and pain, had been enjoying a burgeoning order book that had them pre-paid for deliveries several years out, were now seeing their pre-order clients bailing out of their new aircraft positions, left and right, faster than rats leaving a sinking ship. Cessna, Hawker-Beechcraft, and Bombardier Learjet all announced lay-offs. Eclipse, which was the unconventional leading light of the groovy light jet business, was forced to shut its doors for good, thus abruptly ending the publically perceived viability of this exciting new sector of general aviation.

 

With this overnight bag full of woes rapidly filling up to take on the proportions of international-travel-steamer-trunks, we started seeing a significant number of lowering values and asking prices all across the board. New, mid-size and larger aircraft that were the bleeding edge of demand and premium pricing all slumped. A normal, every-day healthy market exists when about 10% of each aircraft model is available for purchase on the used market (number available / total number of the model in existence X 100 should = 10%.) The bleeding edge aircraft that are in high-demand usually see 1% to 2% in a normal market. Today we now see half of the market (147 models out of 301 models) above 15.5% for sale. While the bleeding edge aircraft, for example:

As a comparison, the worst selling propositions today, ordered by worse to worst:

What does all of this mean? Well generally speaking, if it is 'old', 'burns a lot of fuel', has a 'high maintenance cost', and/or is 'noisy', it will either not sell, or at best, it will sell for a very low price.

Surprisingly, low prices are not the exclusive domain of the 'old' and 'loud.' In fact some of the largest value drops (percentage wise) seen, have all been with the bleeding edge - top echelon aircraft. The following are examples of this phenomenon (Percentage drops are from April 3rd, 2008 to mid January, 2009) are:

  • GV, average was $45,000,000, it is now $26,000,000 which equates to a 42% drop.

  • Falcon 7X, average was $62,000,000, it is now $45,000 which equates to a 27% drop.

  • Falcon 900EX, average was $40,000,000, it is now $30,000,000 which equates to a 25% drop.

  • GIVSP, average was $30,000,000, it is now $24,000,000 which equates to a 20% drop.

"Cash is King!" Sellers are only looking for offers, not condolences; asking prices are now pretty much becoming obsolete.

 

At the end of the second week of January, 2009, we in the used aircraft market, I firmly believe, hit-bottom. This was signified by the sudden entry of many opportunist buyers who decided that the all-time low prices were too juicy for them to resist any longer. It is factual to state that any commodity like an aircraft is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. Obviously the lower price-bottom buyers (some call them 'bottom-feeders') chose in mid January to enter the market after a very long wait, and have been making offers ever since. Some aircraft models are still seeing their prices dropping as we enter the last month of this years-first quarter. However I believe that they are only truly 'right-pricing' themselves. There will be other aircraft models that will still drop, but again this is because they are over-priced and over-valued (my opinion, again.) So if you really have the need to sell for whatever reason, don't scoff at the low offers, instead be glad that there are actually offers coming in now.

 

Are there still deals out there? Absolutely! In fact it stands to reason that this buyers market will stay like this more at least another quarter or more, unless of course the market players that are sitting and waiting due to the fear that they feel is waiting for them in June/July, don't do anything until they have crossed this mental barrier, then we shall see this buyers market live to the last quarter of 2009.

 

More aircraft are still being poured onto the market; as of the middle of February there was a grand total of 4,659 turbine/jet, business aircraft that were available for purchase, worldwide. However under the new set of ethical rules that have been vocalized by our new commander and chief, President Obama, I have to seriously ask the sensitive question of whether 'Are all of these aircraft really for sale?' I am now questioning this because both the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) and H.R. 1 which is the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act both have language that is detrimental to business aviation, thus making personal and business jet aircraft ownership passé. It now appears that the politically correct thing to do is to at least put the aircraft onto the market and pretend that it is for sale. Others who have had their aircraft on the market for a long period of time are now either 'biting the bullet' and taking their sometimes 50%+ loss/drop in value from 18 months ago, by selling today. In some less painful instances they are buying down their debt, which is possibly 75% less than what it was when they first took the debt on, eliminating it all with the proceeds from the sale of their aircraft, regardless of how paltry the sale price may be.

Like have stated in this article above, in mid-January our activity within the business aircraft sales marketplace, quite literally 'across the board' has jumped from 'nought to sixty in all of five seconds.' The deals have been popping, and buyers have once and for all, stepped off the fence. I will again reiterate the physical fact that in mid-January we hit bottom.  More interestingly since the beginning of 2009, almost 200 aircraft have been withdrawn from sale. This statistic might seem pathetic especially when it is held up against the 332 additional aircraft that have all come onto the market as 'new-for-sale' regardless of their physical age. However when a longer term analysis of the 'Withdrawn From Sale' statistics is performed, it is easy to see that we are in a 'higher-than-normal' situation with respect to withdrawns', or no-sales. The actual number is 25% than normal. Normal can be defined as follows: Between January 1st, 2006 to December 31st, 2008, there were a total of 2,586 aircraft that were withdrawn from sale. This equates to 862 aircraft per year, or 72 aircraft per month. We are now averaging about 100 per month which is 25% more than the past.

This seems to further support the theory that we are at the bottom, as 25% more people have left the marketplace because their threshold of acceptable pain has been crossed by the highly depressed, current market pricing that is en vogue today. One broker made me laugh with his advertising today, as I will try to quote his work: "....Our prices have hit bottom, and yet they keep on getting lower and lower..." I guess that if we all wait long enough we should be able to buy his aircraft for the equivalent of the price for a cup of old, stewed and merely luke-warm coffee? Actually no, because this broker may find that many of his sellers might take the alternative route by with-drawing their aircraft from the marketplace.

 

Let's hope that the 'Not So Great Depression' is short lived and does not instead, grow horns and manifests it into the father of all Depressions. Let's all drink to that from our commiseration cups! What is your opinion? Any input that you care to make will be of great interest to all of the readers here at Globalair.com. So please don't be bashful and go ahead and write your comments and suggestions here. Please don't forget that whatever you write here, can be seen publicly by everyone that visits this page, so please be funny, be inspired, but most importantly of all, please be nice.

 

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Jeremy Cox

Those Who Participate Make The Rules

by Greg Reigel 1. March 2009 00:00
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Aviation is one of the most highly regulated industries in this great country of ours. The United States Code legislates aviation generally and the Federal Aviation Regulations ("FARs") govern aviation more specifically. A variety of federal agencies oversee, both directly and indirectly, aviation including the Department of Transportation, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Transportation Security Administration, and Customs and Border Patrol, to name a few. State and local governments also exercise authority over aviation within their jurisdictions.

As a result, we in the aviation industry are continually facing existing and proposed laws, rules and regulations that tell us what we may and may not do, how we must do the things we do, when we may do them, where we may do them etc. At times, the plethora of regulation feels oppressive and compliance can be daunting. However, we as participants in this industry we love are not simply subject to the whims of those who have the authority to regulate aviation. We have the opportunity and, indeed, the obligation, to influence how we as an industry are regulated.

What Can We Do?

First and foremost, all of us must take advantage of every available opportunity to influence those who have the authority to regulate our industry. How do we do that? Well, it will depend upon who we are trying to influence.

The FAA. The primary agency regulating the aviation industry is the FAA. The FAA regulates our industry in a number of ways. The most obvious method of regulation, and the one with which people are most familiar, is the creation/issuing of the FARs. These regulations are created through a rulemaking process governed by the Administrative Procedures Act ("APA"). This process usually requires that the FAA issue a "notice of proposed rulemaking" that includes the language of the regulation being proposed as well as an explanation of the reason(s) why the FAA feels the regulation is necessary.

The notice of proposed rulemaking also provides the opportunity for, and requests that people submit, comments on the proposed rule. Comments may be submitted to the FAA online or in writing. Once submitted, the APA requires that the FAA review all comments and take them into consideration when it determines whether to issue a final rule and, if so, what language will be included in the final rule.

Thus, it is essential that participants in the aviation industry take advantage of this opportunity to submit comments to influence proposed regulation. The more comments the FAA receives, the greater the influence those comments will have on the FAA's decision-making process. (This same opportunity is available for rulemaking by other agencies and was used quite effectively recently when the TSA proposed its Large Aircraft Security Program.)

Congress. The United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives collectively pass legislation that governs or affects the aviation industry. (The inclusion of user fees in the FAA's authorization/budget is a good example of pending legislation that will impact aviation in a significant way if it is passed). These legislative bodies are comprised of individual senators and representatives who are elected by you. These individuals are supposed to, at least in theory, represent the views and opinions of you, their constituents. However, they can't do that unless they know your positions on proposed legislation upon which their vote may be required.

You can and should contact your senators (NBAA) (AOPA) and representatives to voice your concerns and let these elected officials know how their constituents want them to vote on bills that will affect the aviation industry. Write to them. Call them. Talk to them in person if you have the opportunity. They will listen to you. And the more input they receive from their constituents, the greater the likelihood that they will vote consistent with your wishes. (After all, your vote in future elections will determine whether they remain in their elected positions.)

State and Local Government. Although state and local governments do not regulate the aviation industry as extensively as the federal government, they do still consider and pass laws and regulations that impact aviation within their jurisdictions. Similar to congress and federal agencies, you also have opportunities to influence legislation and rulemaking by state or local governments. Send your comments. Contact your elected officials. Speak at public meetings. Only by making your voices heard can you influence these state and local lawmakers.

Trade Associations. The aviation industry is championed collectively by many organizations who are often affectionately referred to as the alphabet groups: Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, National Business Aviation Association, National Aviation Trades Association, Experimental Aircraft Association, Helicopter Association International, General Aviation Manufacturers Association, to name a few. These organizations specifically serve their members who are involved in a particular aspect of the industry, as well as the aviation industry as a whole.

The existence of the alphabet groups is due in no small part to the complex and comprehensive regulation that affects their constituent members. These organizations help their members understand and comply with the regulations applicable to their specific part of the industry. Additionally, the organizations provide a unified voice on behalf of their members to provide input and influence in the legislative and rulemaking processes.

By joining and supporting these organizations, you can benefit from their knowledge and expertise and you can amplify your voice to make sure your views and opinions, which are likely consistent with those of the other members of the organization(s), heard by those who pass the laws and issue the regulations.

Conclusion.

At a time when the aviation industry is under attack, and onerous and oppressive regulations are being proposed, your action is needed to save the industry. Take advantage of the opportunities available to you to make your voice heard. Only by participating can you help make the rules.

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Greg Reigel

General Aviation Needs a Few Good Men (and Women)

by David Wyndham 1. March 2009 00:00
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If you haven't read Jeremy Cox's article this month, please do so. He states very eloquently both the passion that exists in General Aviation and the threats to its continued growth.

 

When times get rough, we look for reasons why it is happening. Oft times this can devolve into "blameology" - the search for a scapegoat or "other" to blame. John Q and Joan Q Public have plenty of fodder and unfortunately, GA fits in nicely: See the rich banker; see the rich banker drive his company into financial ruin; see the rich banker fly away in his jet with the multi-million dollar bonus. That is mostly wrong, but has enough half-truths and fits in with a simplistic explanation of "what went wrong."

 

In order to turn the tables, GA needs a few of its own champions. While NBAA, GAMA, NATA, AOPA and many others are all doing their very best to counter the black eye general aviation has received, what we need is really someone else. We need someone who's life isn't directly involved in aviation. Of course I want aviation to flourish, it's fun, I love the business and why would I be foolish to shoot my own occupation down? What we need are a few good men and women whose lives and businesses are bettered by aviation. Here is my shortlist.

 

First and most important, we need some of the folks in the back of the plane to stand up and be heard. I've not seem much news copy save for Warren Buffet and JP Morgan stated they are keeping their respective aircraft. What about the other 3,500 plus NBAA member companies? What would help if congress, the President and the newspapers heard from the legion of mid-size businesses that depend on aircraft to effectively manage and grow their companies. I'm surprised (and a little P'd off!) that more business leaders haven't shown that leadership and defended GA.

 

Most business aircraft consist of pistons, turboprops and light jets. While global jets are effective business tools too, the public is not in a frame of mind to hear from anyone about how that aircraft is such a business tool. Better to hear from the business owner who rides around in a 25-year old King Air how they couldn't grow and manage their company without that plane.

 

Second, we need to hear from the business owner-pilots. What about some Alaska bush pilot who would be out of business without his floatplane? The construction company that uses a Mooney to keep tabs on projects across the state? The doctor who uses a plane to see patients in remote areas that otherwise might not get medical care? We need "Joe the Flying Plummer."

 

Write a letter to the editor, your congressperson, our President. Tell them how important GA is to your business, how much in taxes you pay and remind folks that 90% of GA is Made In America. You have more Chinese made sneakers in your closet than any GA airport in America has aircraft with no US made parts.

 

Better a letter to the Des Moines Register that gets published than one to USA Today that doesn't. So don't worry about thinking you won't get published. Send the letter to you local paper and GA to our economy.

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Time to Update Your Aircraft Plan!

by David Wyndham 1. March 2009 00:00
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There seems to be a perfect storm underway that is hitting business aviation quite hard. Even in a normal business down cycle, the business aircraft becomes a target for elimination. This is due to the aircraft being a ready source of quick cash and the image that the top execs are cutting back along with everyone else. But in today's economy, it is worse in part to the debacle of the auto executives, Congress, and Wall Street firms running away from their business aircraft.

 

This also presents an opportunity to stand up and be counted. If the business aircraft really is nothing more than a perk, then yes, in this economy that perk may not be justified. But I believe that an aircraft can be an essential business tool to a well run company. No one suggests getting rid of the company computers because folks check their Facebook and Twitter accounts during work hours.

 

A big part of this is to have a strategic plan in place that clearly defines the business justification of the aircraft. If you don't have one, then I suggest you get one going! Depending on the size of your operation it can be a few pages or a substantial document. Regardless, here are some things to include.

 

Define and Update Your Mission. Do you know what your mission is? I don't mean just the general "safe and efficient transportation" statement but something the aircraft enables you or your company to do that directly ties into the mission statement of your firm. If your mission statement discusses innovation and expansion of your market, then how does the aircraft enable that to be done more effectively?

 

Does your aircraft fit the mission? Does your aircraft have the capability to get into those short runways near the other operating locations? Does it carry the number of people that make up your marketing, sales, or crisis management team? Did you analyze of all the transportation tools available such as whole aircraft, shared ownership, fractional ownership and charter in order to present a cost effective solution to accomplishing your mission?

 

Do you periodically review and revise your plan? Do you need to reduce capability? Do you have enough capacity, or too much? What about the strategic vision of your company? Where is the focus and how can the business aircraft effectively empower your company to make the maximum use of the people who need to make the future happen? Rather than panic and get rid of the aircraft, the first move should be to adjust the plan to meet the new realities.

 

All too often we take favor short term gain over the long term. This is the case with the aircraft. As your competitors dump their planes and "take the bus," are you ready to fly in, make a deal, and fly out? You may not see any results for a year or two, but those that truly use their aircraft wisely and don't bend to the latest whims can meet the future in much better condition.

 

We've worked on strategic plans like this for several companies.  If you've never done one, it can seem like a daunting task. However, you just take it a piece at a time, get your data and if possible, get senior management to sign off on it. The pay off is in being able to better anticipate and adjust to changes without "shooting from the hip." Like the Scouts always say, be prepared.

 

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David Wyndham



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