March 2016 Aviation Articles

The New & Improved Student Pilot Certificate

As a student pilot or Certified Flight Instructor (CFI), you might have heard about the new changes for the student pilot certificate process.  With any change in aviation regulations, it is important that we examine them carefully.  


So, let’s start with the basics of obtaining your student pilot certificate.  As a student, you would have taken a trip to the aeromedical examiner to obtain your 3rd-Class Medical Certificate which then meant you could now solo – your 3rd Class Medical also doubled as your Student Pilot Certificate (SPC).  The rules are changing as of April 1st, 2016 to a new and improved process that I will break into the following sections: the application, flight privileges and future impacts.


The Application

According to, a student pilot certificate is not needed until you fly solo – you can start your flying lessons right away.   While this is not different than the previous rule, the medical certificate and the SPC are now two separate documents.  According to the, AMEs no longer will issue a combination medical certificate and student pilot certificate or accept an application for a student pilot certificate. An applicant must appear in person to apply for a student pilot certificate at a FSDO, through a DPE, with an ACR associated with a part 141 pilot school, or with a CFI.  While you do not have to obtain your medical certificate in order to start flying, you are still required to obtain it separately.  It is important to note that if you already have a paper SPC, you can use that until it expires – you are “grandfathered” into the process.

Once you, or your student, has applied for the certificate, it will take about 3 weeks to arrive in the mail – the IACRA application online should minimize the time it takes to arrive.  The IACRA application is vetted by the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) and when approved is sent to the student through the Civil Aviation Registry.   In addition, instead of a flimsy piece of paper, new applicants will now receive a plastic certificate, very similar to the ones received for Private Pilot and beyond.  If something happens to the certificate, a student can request a new certificate for a $2 fee.  There is speculation on how long it will take the TSA to vet applications, but the FAA still predicts an average of 3 weeks.


Flight Privileges

As I mentioned earlier, students are allowed to start flight training without having the actual piece of plastic, however, CFIs and students are encouraged to apply as soon as possible.  Additionally, “Receipt of a student pilot certificate is required prior to exercising the privileges of a student pilot certificate” (  In other words, you need the certificate to fly solo.

Another point of interest is that under this new rule, CFIs are only required to endorse the students’ logbooks – instead of certificates and logbooks.  For you seasoned students or pilots, you might remember the scribbled endorsements on your Student Pilot Certificate in addition to those in your logbook.  Now, all endorsements will be in one place near all of your own flight hour entries. 


Future Impacts for the Industry

Recently, I inquired about the effects of this new rule with a Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE), Woody Minar – Minar is based out of Osceola, WI and has been giving check rides for the last 3 years in addition to being a seasoned pilot with several thousand hours.  Woody points out that “From a homeland security standpoint, the student pilot gets vetted by TSA at the beginning of the process instead of at the end. While the days of getting a private pilot through accelerated training or soloing on their eligible birthday are over, it shouldn't hinder their training process as long as TSA and FAA come through with their promise to get the plastic student pilot certificate in the mail in three weeks. The flight instructor will no longer need to endorse the logbook AND medical certificate, just the logbook which will simplify things.”

Additionally, Mark Baker, President of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), states that “AOPA will continue to monitor the implementation of these new regulations and work with the FAA to ensure students are not being held back from soloing and completing their flight training.”

As this rule is only a few weeks old, it’s hard to say what effect it will have on the industry and the number of new student pilot applicants.  However, I believe that allowing a student to receive dual training while waiting for the certificate to arrive is a great benefit.  As for a CFI, only endorsing logbooks makes the paperwork significantly easier without having to keep track of endorsing the medical certificate.  Additionally, not having to renew your student pilot certificate means you are able to finish your training without having to reapply.

Overall, I believe this new process for the SPC will allow students to navigate their first few months as a student pilot in a more efficient manner – CFIs will also appreciate few steps in giving endorsements to their students.  While this rule is very young, it will be interesting to see if any additional facets of Student Pilot rules change and evolve. 

Images courtesy of GoogleImages and the writer.


FOD on Your Ramp

Who is responsible for FOD detection at your facility? Do they really pay attention to the usually brief training given to them? Why should FOD awareness go all the way to the top of your organization?

Well, let’s take the last question first. If there is an incident as a result of FOD on your ramp the investigation will go all the way to the post holders/managers/CEO. Any such incident will result in expense, probably considerable being aviation related, maybe even go to court. And then there’s the inevitable increase in insurance premium to be paid. And that pretty much answers the first question too, “Who is responsible for FOD detection”. The second question “do they really pay attention” has several answers. During safety training most, but not all, will listen and some will learn. Few will put their training into practice for an extended period of time, especially if they do not see ownership of the FOD problem at all levels of an organization.

Ask yourself this question, is the marshaller expected to be the only person to carry out FOD checks? No, every single person using the ramp should be eagle eyed to the danger! Even when FOD is included in training, people tend to become more relaxed about FOD awareness as time goes by. To keep the ever present danger of FOD to the forefront of every staff members mind there needs to be visible and continuous leadership from all levels of management. Some FBOs, MROs and airports do this via a variety of methods, safety posters (move around often so they get noticed), weekly FOD sweeps by all staff lead by senior manager, circulating FOD reports, provision of FOD bins, to name a few.

So what is FOD, Foreign Object Debris or Foreign Object Damage?

You can’t have Foreign Object Damage without Foreign Object Debris!

FOD is taken to mean the debris itself and the resulting damage is referred to as FOD Damage.

FOD is an acronym used in aviation to describe both the damage done to aircraft by foreign objects, and the foreign objects themselves.

Foreign Object Debris (FOD) is a substance, debris or article alien to an aircraft or system which would potentially cause damage. Foreign Object Damage is any damage attributed to a foreign object (i.e. any object that is not part of the aircraft) that can be expressed in physical or economic terms and may or may not degrade the product's required safety or performance characteristics.

Some common and not-so-common examples of FOD I have come across:

  • Engineers tools
  • Screws, Locking Wire, Electrical Wire, Tape, Aircraft Parts
  • GSE and GSE Parts
  • Clothing, Uniform Items
  • Shotgun Cartridge
  • Trash Bags, Catering
  • Loose pavement & tarmac (especially after severe WX)


Airborne debris including: Bubble Wrap, Bailing Wire and Plastic Wrapping


Live FOD including: Rabbits, Hares, Dogs, Snakes and even a Cow

What damage can these do to an aircraft? Well, an Air France Concorde crashed in July 2000 following a tyre striking a thin strip of metal from a preceding DC-10 aircraft leading to a tyre blow out with sections of that tyre puncturing a fuel tank leading to the loss of all 109 souls onboard and four on the ground. In March of this year an EasyJet flight returned to the gate after a passenger alerted cabin crew to a spanner on the wing. This tool could have dropped onto the runway or become wedged in the flaps or ailerons. An explosion which grounded the last remaining airworthy Vulcan Bomber just prior to take off destroying two of the aircraft’s engine was due to ingestion of silica gel desiccant bags into the one of the engines on the port side of the aircraft. Debris was then sucked into a second engine. The silica gel bags are used to reduce moisture and were apparently left inside the engine by mistake.

So, even small items in the wrong place can cause death, injury or serious damage. All FOD comes from somewhere. People can take it directly onto the ramp, it can come in on the wind, blown from one area to another by jet blast or helicopter downwash, fall from an aircraft and can even be left there by aircrew. And then there is GSE left in the wrong place or not secured during high winds or the ever present menace, black chocks on black tarmac, in the rain, at night just waiting to trip up a marshaller or for an aircraft to taxi over them!

Let us not forget wandering aircraft. On shared ramps, if tying down aircraft in your charge in anticipation of high winds, do you check if the other FBOs plan to do the same? I witnessed on a ramp I work a few years back, a ramp agent securing aircraft ahead of an approaching storm. Running out of chocks he took a set from an impounded aircraft (not his FBOs responsibility), thereby leaving that aircraft free to wander the ramp once the storm got up, like a canon ball on the deck of one of the old sailing frigates! Needless to say myself and a colleague sources chocks for the aircraft elsewhere.

In conclusion, FOD is such an ever present danger and so often overlooked or ignored that specialist equipment has been developed to help control the problem. We will all have seen large vacuum sweeper truck patrolling ramps sucking up surface FOD, mostly these are basic road sweepers. Purpose built equipment for the aviation industry offer faster and more efficient methods of FOD detection and collection as they are specifically designed to collect all kinds of debris with airport ramps in mind. However, the best method of detection is still the Mk. 1 Eyeball. Back it up with mechanical equipment by all means, but every FBO or airport needs an all stakeholders FOD prevention and detection policy combined with a robust, ongoing reporting and accountability system.


Chocks with reflective bands are less of a ramp hazard but should be kept in a chock cage.


Signage is very important


FOD Bins should be plentiful

"Whatever Lola Wants"

Most of the consulting my company does focuses on making recommendations for the getting most cost effective aircraft for the mission. As part of that we look at many different things, all quantifiable. What is the primary, or key mission for the aircraft?  What must this aircraft do to be considered successful? We work with the aircraft owner, the major users, and, with input from the flight department, develop the measurements of success.

We translate that key mission into quantifiable measures like range, cabin size, speed, payload, take-off and landing performance and many other measures. The mission (VIP transport, EMS, wildlife management, you name it) defines the criteria. We look for the aircraft capable of meeting or exceeding these requirements. Next comes the financial analysis. We know to look at more than just the cost to acquire the aircraft. We take into account all the costs associated with the aircraft . We look at the operating costs of the options. We estimate a residual value at the end of a predicted ownership term. We may look at new versus used, or leases, financing, and cash purchases. And don't forget the ownership structure and tax considerations. 

All this time we work to translate the needs of the customer (aircraft owner) into quantifiable items that we can compare, rank order, and look for a best value option. Some owners state outright that they never lease, or that the aircraft must be in a separate legal entity to mitigate some of the ownership risk. Some will not consider chartering their aircraft while they are not flying. At all times, we seek the middle way between cost and performance.

Business aircraft are business tools whose main return on investment is maximizing the use of time by minimizing the travel time. We look to show the benefits of this "time machine" along with the costs to use it. Sometimes this means a single-engine piston. Other times it can work all the way into a global business jet. Again, the mission defines the requirements which define the aircraft types. 

At the end of our analysis, we present a report with supporting documentation.  We avoid jargon so that the CEO, the CFO, and the aviation manager can all understand the analysis. The report ends with a summary and recommendation. We always aim to show several options and the costs of those options. Option one may be the most cost-effective aircraft. That aircraft may do what is required, but not a lot more. A second option may exceed many of the performance criteria but at a higher total cost. It feels good when discussing the report to see agreement and nods of approval.

But, every once in a while...

Anyone involved in the acquisition process has seen this. You do the analysis, get the charts and photos and spreadsheets ready. The numbers are clear, Aircraft A is the best option. Aircraft B would be a good second choice. Its all there in black and white. A few days or weeks later you get the news. The owner decided on Aircraft D! In your analysis, Aircraft D was not even a third option. What happened! What did we fail to take into account.

Emotion. Our analysis and recommendations are all based on quantifiable measures that take into account the stated mission of the aircraft. It did not account for how  gorgeous Aircraft D looks, especially with that optional interior and paint job! It did't account for the fact that the owner's golf partner has Aircraft A, which is smaller than Aircraft D. Maybe the sales person for Aircraft D really hit it off the with owner. There are many emotional "reasons" that the top choices are not selected. We did our job and presented the facts. I'm not the one writing the check.

Remember, Lola gets what Lola wants


Happy Flying






Safety Management Systems - The Future of Aviation

Unless you’re working in an airline, you probably haven’t heard too much about Safety Management Systems, otherwise known as SMS.  While everyone in the industry is mostly likely focused on safety or has some kind of safety program, SMS is becoming the standard throughout the world.

What is SMS?

SMS was first conceived by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).  Specifically, SMS is the formal, top-down, business-like approach to managing safety risk, which includes a systemic approach to managing safety, including the necessary organization structures, accountabilities, policies and procedures (  The whole idea behind SMS is to treat safety as an equally important component of a company, such as an airline or flight school.  To explain SMS a little further, I’ll break SMS down into its four components:  Safety Policy, Safety Risk Management, Safety Assurance, and Safety Promotion.

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Safety Policy

Safety Policy is the foundation on which the other four components are built – it’s specifically strategic in nature.  A safety policy means there is a documented commitment to safety by the certificate holder whether it be a flight school like the University of North Dakota (UND) Aerospace that holds a Part 141 certificate, or an airline like Delta that holds a Part 121 certificate.  Now, this Safety Policy isn’t merely a piece of paper – it’s a document that outlines the company’s safety objectives in addition to the accountabilities and responsibilities of the employees with regards to safety.

Before you think that a Safety Policy is a “one-and-done” type of document, think again.  This first portion of SMS is the most crucial for an organization because it not only creates an accountable executive who is ultimately responsible, but also makes the connection between the “how” with the “what”.  For instance, organizations like UND Aerospace and Delta have some sort of SMS Standard or Manual that shows “how” the organization will fulfill that commitment to safety – these are the policies that make the other components of SMS possible.  After putting a Safety Policy into place, the next component is Safety Risk Management.

Safety Risk Management

The Safety Risk Management component, or SRM, is designed to describe the system (i.e., the organization), identify hazards, analyze, assess, and control risk (SMS Voluntary Program Edition 1, Rev. 2).  This description is somewhat vague, so let’s define this more. 

SRM is about creating a set of actions that has the end goal of reducing risk to the lowest, practical level.  Even though we’re reducing that risk to the lowest level, this doesn’t mean we can totally eliminate risk.  The point behind SRM is to still accomplish the mission, but with the risk that is low enough to the point where management is willing to accept whatever risk remains.

The graph below is a good representation of what SRM might look like for an organization.  This process might be triggered for implementation of new systems, revising existing systems, developing new operational procedures, and identifying hazards or risk controls that are no longer effective.  Now, when we think of SRM, we might tend to fixate specifically just on the actual risk instead of all of the other parts of managing safety.  So, let’s focus a little on Risk Assessment in the SRM process for the moment.

Image provided by

Image provided by

In the graph above is an example of a risk matrix tool.  This tool provides a way for an organization to make the connection between the effect of the severity of the outcome and the probability of the occurrence.  This allows a person to assess risks, compare effectiveness of possible risk controls, and prioritize risks when there are more than one present.  This matrix is often used at UND as tool that students employ before they fly – it could have variables built in for how much sleep they had the night before, how many hours since they last ate, how long since the last time they flew, and more.   While Risk Assessment is just portion of the SRM process, we should remember not to fixate on that part alone – as in the graph I showed earlier, there are portions such as Risk Control, Risk Acceptance, and Risk Analysis that all figure into the SRM equation.

For now, we’ll move on to the third SMS component: Safety Assurance.

Safety Assurance

A component that works in tandem with SRM is Safety Assurance, or SA.  This is defined as the processes within the SMS that function systematically to ensure the performance and effectiveness of safety risk controls and that the organization meets or exceeds its safety objectives through the collection analysis and assessment of information (SMSVP Edition 1, Rev. 2).

So, let’s break down SA a little:  first we start with system operation/monitoring, then we move on to data acquisition and processes which are analyzed, and then the system is assessed, and a preventive/corrective action is applied.  The graph below shows how SA process is integrated with the SRM process. 

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While the SA process may seem benign, the last step scares most people – no matter what level of the organization they are at.  Each organization should really strive to impress the importance of every employee being involved in an SMS program.   In addition, it is the responsibility of all employees to follow the procedures and policies that are put into place.  When everyone is not complying, the risk is increased and it’s difficult to determine if our controls are functioning as we planned or if they are ineffective.  This process of SA leads us into the final component of SMS: Safety Promotion.

Safety Promotion

Our last component, Safety Promotion, is the most important – it’s the glue that holds SMS together.  This includes the training, communication, and anything else that is used to create a positive safety culture throughout your organization as a whole. 

For instance, organizations like UND and Delta Airlines have whole manuals detailing how everyday business (i.e., operations) is carried out in relation to safety.  UND has certain airports that students are approved to land at in certain weather – similarly, Delta has weather and visibility minimums.  Students, instructors, and flight crews learn this through company publications, safety seminars and bulletins, emails, and initial and recurrent training.  New information, policies, and procedures are passed throughout the organization to create a constant stream of communication and promotion.  This is often the minimum that publications from the FAA and ICAO require, but organizations can tailor their programs to offer the former and more.

The SMS Program in Harmony

It’s important to note that SMS can’t simply be “done” by focusing on one part more than the other.  The program relies on the interdependency of all four components in order to be effective.  In addition, the beauty of SMS is that it is scalable meaning each organization can make it as big or as small as the needs of their organization.  What Delta does for their company isn’t often the best model for a school like UND or even a different organization such as an airport.

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While SMS is a relatively new program, the potential for what it could become for many areas of the aerospace industry is astounding.  Again, while many areas of the industry aren’t required to be in compliance, we know it’s only a matter of time before the FAA mandates it. 

So, what about you, reader?  Does your organization have an SMS program?  If so, what does it look like?

Please feel free to leave comments about your organization and how you’re applying SMS.





Anthony Kioussis, A National Aircraft Resale Association Member and President of Asset Insight, recently wrote an article for Professional Pilot Magazine spelling out the market forces at work to determine prices for new and used aircraft. It is reprinted here with permission of Professional Pilot.

I was listening to an experienced, NARA-certified aircraft broker recently, who told me about how sellers unrealistically keep hoping to secure values they achieved during “the good old days,” while prospective buyers continue to sit on the sidelines not wishing to overpay for aircraft whose prices appear to be continuously decreasing. After thinking about this market phenomenon, I concluded that both buyers and sellers need a reality check.

Sellers: No matter how enamored you are with your aircraft, your machine is a depreciating asset. Get over it!

You may have spent a ton of money to make your aircraft perfect for your operational needs, but buyers will not pay you for what you have enjoyed. They will only pay you for what they hope to enjoy—and only if they cannot obtain it for less through another source. This is capitalism at its core, where the laws of supply and demand rule.

Buyers: No matter how long you wait, prices for high quality aircraft will never reach bottom. Get over it! It’s true that prices have dropped on many models, and still continue to do so. But if you want to acquire an aircraft at today’s lowest price, it’s up to you to create the lowest priced transaction by locating a desperate seller. It may not be fair to both sides, but the rules of capitalism do not cover “fairness”—that is unless your proposed acquisition requires you to sell an existing asset, at which point the “do onto others” adage is likely to apply.

The reality is that the good old days are actually here. Granted, our industry did experience a couple of memorable delivery and pricing peaks during the past 20 years, but those spikes were due to “irrational exuberance.” Remember that phrase? They were not the norm!

As quantitative proof, let’s examine new aircraft deliveries between 1994 and 2014. The black line in the Total Units Delivered graph is the trend line for aircraft delivered during the 21-year period. The red line represents the trend excluding figures for 5 “peak years.” Shown in lighter blue, those 5 years are 1999 through 2001, along with 2007 and 2008. Not only are the trend lines close to each other but, more significantly, the red line—which excludes the 5 peak years—is actually a bit steeper, possibly signifying the trend is improving. The same can be said about new aircraft in terms of total dollars delivered, except that the red trend line here is steeper. This is not surprising considering the high prices achieved by some of the large corporate jets during the past few years.

Could the statistics be telling us that the good old days are actually here? Could the information be telling us the market is improving? The answer to both questions is yes. Then what is the problem? There is none really. We’re simply back to that nagging supply and demand equation forced upon us by capitalism.

Consider the number of new aircraft models available to prospective buyers. It’s not as if everyone can afford to buy a new aircraft, and the group financially able to do so is not growing as quickly as production figures. Additionally, many potential buyers are availing themselves to block charter and jet cards because simplicity sells, further culling the purchasing pack.

The effect: OEMs have to sharpen their pencils in order to sell new aircraft, placing downward pressure on used aircraft values. Further complicating the market are owners who used financing to acquire their aircraft during the boom years, and are now unable to absorb the difference between what they owe and the price they can attain. Remember the housing boom? How many aircraft owners would like to “short-sell” their aircraft? Does anyone think if that were possible it would help aircraft values?

The reality is that there is nothing wrong with the current market. Based on the laws of supply and demand, it is behaving as it should. Will there be spikes in the future? Possibly. In fact, if one examines the Total Dollars Delivered chart figures for 2013 and 2014, one might conclude that we’re in another boom market right now—if it wasn’t for used aircraft prices.

Anthony “Tony” Kioussis is president of Asset Insight. He is a licensed pilot, an active industry association member and a published author who has provided marketing, sales and financial consulting services to companies in the Americas and Europe. Tony developed JSSI’s Airframe HCMP and Asset Insight’s proprietary Asset Grading System Process tool for evaluating and grading an aircraft’s maintenance condition.


Anthony Kioussis, A National Aircraft Resale Association Member and President of Asset Insight, recently wrote an article for Professional Pilot Magazine. It is reprinted here with the permission of Professional Pilot.

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