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None of Us Want to Be Dinosaurs

by Jeremy Cox 1. February 2010 00:00
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Let's not lose sight of where this wonderful industry is heading.

I am sorry to have to tell you this, but most of you reading this article are no longer the future of aviation. You may be fully entwined and engrossed as a current player within the aviation industry today, but all too soon some day off in the future, you will have to slow it down and enact your exit strategy with the hope that you will have suitably prepared yourself for a long, comfortable and happy retirement before you make your last flight.

No; the future of aviation lay's in the hands of today's youth, and unless you work at an aviation school, you have probably noticed that there are not too many young people hanging out at your airport, like they did when you were first bitten by the love of aviation bug. This is a gathering storm that will eventually turn into a cataclysm that will consume the industry that we all love, if none of us make the time to give a leg-up to youngsters that are our future.

Part of the problem is the fact that airports have now become impenetrable fortresses where it is impossible for any young person to have any kind of personal - hands on experience (touch/feel) with an aircraft up-close. Razor-wire topped fences, cameras, no-parking signs and airport security personnel has effectively killed any hope of parents packing a picnic lunch and loading it and their children up in the family car to go an watch aeroplanes at the local airport.

Years ago it was commonplace for pilots and their aviation friends to invite an excited boy or girl who had been eagerly watching aircraft movements' car-side, to hop over the fence and "come take a look at my aeroplane." Sometimes after obtaining mum or dad's approval, they might have even strapped the youngster in and taken them for a quick hop around the pattern. Regardless of what act of random kindness someone on the air-side of the fence decided to bestow upon an awestruck youngster, it was the spark that ignited a raging fire that burned in the belly of that youngster that caused he or she to pursue a career within the aviation industry.

If we didn't have the EAA's Young Eagle Program, the Scouts Aviation Badge System, and the Air Cadet Organization thankfully out there plugging away on our behalf trying to give young people their first taste of aviation, our industry would have already been long-ago relegated to near extinction. Obviously there will always be a need for air transportation; however the new-world order of anti-terrorism-security programs and other societal-saving mandates has slowed the air transportation system down to a crawl, and subsequently what little glamour or mysticism that our industry was barely clutching onto in its wizened hands, has now been lost. Why would a youngster aspire to join an industry that is inaccessible, officious and inconvenient?

There was a time when Glenn Curtiss was building airports all-across the United States to allow the dots of commerce to be rapidly connected. There was a time when aerospace was synonymous with everything that was new, slick and advanced in the world. Men and women like Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart, through their record-breaking aviation exploits and feats of daring provided immense inspiration as positive role models to young people in the twentieth century. Where are the aviation role models in this second century of aviation?

Hopefully this is where you come in. Yes you; I'm not talking to anyone else so please don't ignore my message to you in this vital matter. Now is the time for you to start sharing your love of aviation with the younger generation. How can you do this? To start with, why don't you talk to your neighbours where you live and ask if any of the children in the neighbourhood would like to come to the airport with you to look around and get up-close to some aircraft? I promise you that the first time that you make a move in this effort; your heart shall be gripped with an overwhelming sense of good. If your own passion for aviation might have been flagging of late, the joy of aviation that the young people find thanks to this, your first effort shall, I am certain, encourage you to do more of this aviation experience sharing. If you fly, take the youngsters up. Maybe later you will become so enamoured by the way that this benevolent new side of you makes you feel, you might start speaking at local schools in your area?

It takes a massive amount of people to make our national aviation system work. The pilots often take most, if not all of the spotlight and glory; but think of the number of aviation maintenance technicians, line service personnel, engineers, designers, detailers, sales people, air traffic controllers, handlers, administrators, painters, upholsterers, inspectors, regulators, and entrepreneurs that are right behind the pilot, thus making his role possible within this marvellous system. If we can't inspire the next and future generations of people to elect to fill these roles, where will we all end-up? I don't plan on ever walking in the long-cold and dead footprints made by dinosaurs, and I pretty sure you don't either too.

Please become an inspiration to others by sharing your love of aviation, because you are mainly all that this industry has, and unless you have found a way to live forever, you will soon be retiring.

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Jeremy Cox

One Disqualifying Condition - All It Takes To Be Denied Medical Certificate

by Greg Reigel 1. February 2010 00:00
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A recent National Transportation Safety Board ("NTSB") opinion highlights the need for an airman involved in a medical dispute with the FAA to "pick your battles carefully" based upon the facts and proper procedure. The case, Petition of Cooper, involved an airman's appeal of the FAA's denial of his application for a first class medical certificate. The airman applied for a first class medical certificate and, based upon the airman's "history and clinical diagnosis of diabetes mellitus requiring oral hypoglycemic medication for control and bipolar disorder," the FAA denied the airman's application. In support of its denial, the FAA cited FARs 67.113(a)(b)(c), 67.213(a)(b)(c), and 67.313(a)(b)(c) in support of its denial (all three regulations identify diabetes mellitus as a disqualifying condition, although FAR 67.113(a)(b)(c) is the regulation specifically applicable to a first class medical certificate). However, the FAA did not cite FARs 67.107, 67.207, nor 67.307 even though those regulations identify bipolar disorder as a disqualifying condition.

The airman appealed the FAA's denial of his medical application by submitting a petition to the NTSB asking the Board to order the FAA to issue him a medical certificate. However, the NTSB administrative law judge ("ALJ") dismissed the airman's petition and terminated the case on his own accord, without holding a hearing and without any request from the FAA for such a dismissal. The ALJ concluded that a hearing "would serve no useful purpose" because the Board did not have the discretion to reverse the FAA's denial. The ALJ also rejected the airman's argument that he did not have bipolar disorder as moot because the airman had admitted to having diabetes mellitus, a specifically disqualifying condition. Of course the airman then appealed the dismissal to the full Board.

In his appeal to the full Board, the airman argued that the ALJ made a mistake when he determined that the FAA's denial of his application based on bipolar disorder was moot, in spite of the airman's concurrent diagnosis of, and treatment for, diabetes mellitus. The airman contended that whether he had bipolar disorder was a factual issue that the ALJ must resolve after a hearing, and that bipolar disorder is the only condition that might disqualify him since he would otherwise meet the criteria for a special issuance medical certificate under FAR 67.401 in spite of his diabetes mellitus.

The Board agreed with the ALJ. It determined that the diabetes mellitus was a specifically disqualifying condition and that condition alone, regardless of the alleged bipolar disorder, justified the FAA's denial of the airman's application for a first class medical certificate. The Board noted that whether the airman qualified for a special issuance in spite of the diabetes mellitus was not an issue before it. Finally, the Board concluded that although the airman had presented evidence that potentially refuted the allegation that he suffered from bipolar disorder, the issue was moot in light of the diabetes mellitus.

The Board's decision is not a surprise. When an airman is denied a medical based upon an admitted disqualifying condition, an appeal will, in almost all cases, be unsuccessful. In that situation, the airman has the burden of proving that the airman is qualified to hold a medical certificate. That's a tough thing to accomplish if you have already admitted that you have a disqualifying condition.

If an airman is denied based upon a disqualifying condition, but the airman believes he or she is otherwise qualified, the airman should request that the FAA grant a special issuance medical certificate. A special issuance is a medical certificate that has limitations and/or conditions with which the airman must comply in order for the certificate to be valid. The conditions/limitations will often include regular testing, test results within acceptable ranges, no changes in medication etc.

If the FAA refuses to grant an airman's request for a special issuance, the airman may appeal that denial to the NTSB. However, since the Board defers to the FAA's discretion in denying a special issuance, the only way to be successful is to show that the FAA's refusal is arbitrary or capricious. For example, if a denied airman can prove that the FAA has granted a special issuance in circumstances that are very similar to or identical with those of the airman, then an ALJ may be convinced that the FAA's denial in the airman's case is arbitrary or capricious. As a practical matter, however, this can be a difficult task.

Fortunately for the airman in this case, he can still apply to the FAA for a special issuance and, if he meets the criteria, the FAA may grant a special issuance in spite of his diabetes mellitus. (This is what he should have done before appealing the initial denial). However, the airman may, unfortunately, still have to fight the FAA's determination that he has bipolar disorder. But if the airman is able to present evidence and facts that convince an ALJ that he does not suffer from bipolar disorder, the airman may ultimately be able to receive a medical certificate.

If you have a medical condition that may disqualify you from obtaining a medical certificate, get help. Talk to an aviation attorney or the medical certification professionals at AOPA or NBAA. By taking a pro-active approach and getting help, you will be able to "pick your battles" wisely to maximize your chances of successfully obtaining a medical certificate.

For more information regarding aviation law, safety and security, e-mail Greg at greigel@aerolegalservices.com or visit his website at www.aerolegalservices.com.

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Greg Reigel

Pros and Cons of Placing Your Aircraft On Someone Else's Charter Certificate

by David Wyndham 1. February 2010 00:00
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If you are like many business aircraft operators, your aircraft is not being used as much as in the past. Your costs are up and utilization is down, and you are under pressure to keep the budget under control. Your friendly local charter operator suggests having you place your aircraft on their Part 135 charter certificate to gain income from charter.

Why Would You Want To?

To off set your operating costs. A typical charter agreement has the owner paying for all the operating costs. The owner gets the revenue from the charter less a 15% commission to the certificate holder. This is the basic cost/revenue structure, but there are variations.

You will not make money doing this. If this were the case, wouldn't charter operators always own their aircraft? The charter revenues should exceed the variable expenses of operating the aircraft leaving the excess amounts to offset the fixed expenses, thus lowering the total cost to the aircraft owner.

Other benefits may include:

Reduced liability to the owner if all flights are flown under the charter operator's certificate. If your own flights are under Part 135 then the operational control for the flight rests with the charter operator, not the aircraft owner. Although if this is a big issue, don't even own an aircraft in the first place, just charter.

Access to lower costs. Bulk fuel, reduced hangar rates, possible fleet discounts on insurance, and lower personnel costs if you fly with the charter operator's crew.

Why Shouldn't You?

One is control. If you are a control freak, then you should own your aircraft and hire and manage the crew. Then you have 100% control over who flies, and when and where the aircraft is used.

Depending on the aircraft, conformity to Part 135 may increase your costs. Additional maintenance may be required, plus you will have more stringent crew rest regulations. Seating needing to meet current fire-blocking rules may be an issue as well. These costs are dependent on the aircraft type and configuration.

Increased utilization (especially by others) will increase the wear and tear on the aircraft. Plan on refurbishing the interior more often.

Decreased values. The more hours an aircraft flies the greater decrease in value at the time of sale (other factors being equal). A 10-year old airframe with 6,000 hours will have a reduced value and take longer to sell than one in the same overall condition, but with 4,000 hours.

Increased aircraft management and operational issues if operating both Part 91 and Part 135. The FAA adds restrictions on how the aircraft agreements (and contracts for crew) can be structured and can affect how easy it is for you to fly under both Part 91 and Part 135. Flying all Part 135 is easier, but you may want the flexibility that Part 91 offers. .

However, the biggest reason not to place your aircraft on someone's charter certificate is if you already use your aircraft a substantial amount, then there will be little opportunity for offsetting charter revenues.

If you have infrequent use and a predictable schedule, then you might want to look into charter. If you have a constantly changing flight schedule, and take the aircraft on the road for long trips, the charter operator won't have access to your aircraft and you won't get much revenue.

There are also issues that involve legal, tax and FAA. Rental income is generally considered as a passive income. Passive income (and losses) may impact the ability to fully tax depreciate the aircraft. State and local taxes are often different for commercial operations. You need tax guidance from an aviation-tax specialist to full understand the ramifications.

If done under the correct circumstances, placing an aircraft on an operator's charter certificate can be a win-win situation. The owner gets revenues to offset costs, and the charter provider gets an aircraft to charter without having to fully support the costs of owning and operating the aircraft with charter revenues. However, don't go into it without carefully researching all the requirements and conditions, especially legal and tax.

Have you experience with placing an aircraft on someone else's charter certificate? Click reply and let me know your experiences.

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David Wyndham



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