March 2019 Aviation Articles

Flying with Dogs

Something that has been on my mind a lot lately is the topic of flying with dogs, and how to make it the best experience for both human and animal. I’ve flown with my dog on a number of occasions, and have often wondered how the altitude changes and flying sensations translated to my four-legged friend. I’ve done some researching into what to consider when flying with your dog, and if maybe they should be left on the ground.

I’ve found that taking your dog flying is a bucket list item for many private pilots. Being able to take your dog on flying trips with you can be very appealing, but please consider the following before heading to the airport.

Legally, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has the final say in the transportation of pets by aircraft. The general requirements say the pet must be at least 8 weeks old and have a clean bill of health. Further, if a pet is going to cross state borders it must have a rabies immunization and a valid health certificate issued by a licensed veterinarian within 30 days of travel. Additional considerations must be made if you plan to fly outside of the country, so contact the foreign office of your destination country to get more information.

The health of your dog is the next thing to consider. It is a good idea to take them to a veterinarian within 30 days of the flight, and specifically ask if there are any issues that may make it unsafe for your pet to fly. Certain medications may be an issue or extra stress from the flying experience may be too much for some dogs. Most veterinarians agree that it is completely unnecessary to sedate a dog for air travel, and careful planning and patience can make it a good experience for everyone.

Once you have determined your dog is legally and physically fit to fly, you must consider how to accommodate them in the aircraft. Avoid excessive amounts of food and water during the hours leading up to the flight, especially if you plan to have a long flight. An anxious dog may benefit from a walk or run shortly before the trip. Dogs can sense your levels of stress, so try to make the moments leading up to the flight fun and enjoyable so they do not get scared.

Just as humans need to be buckled in, dogs need to be secured in the aircraft as well. This can be done by putting them in a crate in the back seat or baggage compartment, or using securing straps on their harness. The worst feeling is worrying about your dog wandering around the back of the airplane on takeoff, so eliminate any undue stress by securing them.

The next step is to make your dog as comfortable during the flight as possible, by providing them with any combination of hearing protection, toys from home, water to drink, or stress-eliminators for their anxiety. You must remember that this is a very loud and strange experience, so they will likely be quite scared at first. We have found that our dog does a lot better on flights where she has her Mutt Muffs as ear protection. Not only does it help block out the noise of the engine, but it provides gentle pressure to her head that has a calming effect.

Be sure to check in on your dog every few minutes to make sure they are not too scared. This is where patience can go a long way, as the dog will likely need comforting the first few times they go flying.

After landing, be sure to take the dog on a walk to get out any stiffness they may feel after being stuck in the plane. This is also a good time for you to reflect on what went right and what could be improved on for the next time you travel with your furry friend. Our biggest challenge was getting dog hair in the plane, but we make an effort to vacuum and lint roll the whole aircraft afterwards.

Do you have any tips for flying with animals? What was your favorite flight with your animal? Let me know in the comments below!

Arguing Aggravating And Mitigating Circumstances In Civil Penalty Cases

When the FAA assesses a civil penalty for regulatory violations, it is required to take into account both aggravating and mitigating circumstances when it calculates the penalty. Typically the FAA focuses on aggravating circumstances to support assessment of a higher civil penalty. On the other hand, respondents argue that mitigating circumstances are present that justify a lower civil penalty. But if the case ends up going to hearing, it then becomes the administrative law judge's ("ALJ") responsibility to decide (1) whether any aggravating or mitigating circumstances are present, and (2) how/whether those circumstances may impact the civil penalty assessed by the FAA.FAA

As an initial matter, the FAA has the burden of justifying the amount of the civil penalty. The ALJ must then look at the totality of the circumstances surrounding the violation to determine whether the civil penalty is sufficient to serve as a deterrent to both the respondent and the industry as a whole. As guidance, the ALJ may consider the following factors the FAA is supposed to consider per FAA Order 2150.3C FAA Compliance and Enforcement Program:

  • The nature of the violation;

  • Whether the violation was inadvertent or not deliberate. This is typically a mitigating factor, and the absence of inadvertence isn't automatically an aggravating factor;

  • If the respondent is a certificate holder, the certificate holder's level of experience;

  • The attitude or "compliance disposition" of the respondent;

  • The degree of hazard posed by the violation;

  • Any action taken by an employer or other authority;

  • The respondent's use of a certificate;

  • The respondent's violation history, if any. This is only an aggravating factor. A violation-free history is expected and is not a mitigating factor;

  • Decisional law;

  • The respondent's financial ability to absorb a sanction;

  • Consistency of sanction;

  • Whether the respondent reported the violation voluntarily; and

  • What, if any, corrective action the respondent may have taken as a result of the violation.

If you are facing a proposed civil penalty or appealing an assessed civil penalty, you should definitely determine whether any of the circumstances of your situation support any of these mitigating factors and then argue those facts to the FAA or ALJ to try and reduce the civil penalty. You can find read a good example of how this works in a recent case - In re Star Helicopters.

On the other hand, if any of your circumstances could be characterized as aggravating factors, you will also want to identify those facts, because you know the FAA will. You can then determine how best to argue against and minimize the impact those aggravating circumstances may have on the civil penalty.

Your Airplane Emergency Kit

One of the most important things for a pilot to be is PREPARED. No matter what circumstances arise during a flight, a pilot has to be ready to respond quickly and efficiently. A big part of being prepared is having the tools that you need with you at all times. In this article, I would like to look at what items every pilot should keep in an emergency kit in their aircraft. Depending on the purpose of your flight, a more robust emergency kit may be required (for example, flying in the mountains or in freezing climates) however, most fair weather flying only requires a few essentials to cover emergencies that may come up.

There are several airplane emergency kits available online, but there are some downsides to purchasing them. First, they can be very expensive. They charge a premium for the convenience of having it all prepackaged together, sometimes up to several hundreds of dollars. Another downside to purchasing a kit online is that some items will expire, and you will be forced to tear it apart the kit to find and replace the expired product.

The solution to this is to analyze the type of flying you intend to do and plan for any emergencies that could arise based on that. l am basing this list off of an individual flying a small personal aircraft, as the emergency kit for a commercial flight may look quite different. Having a personalized survival kit that contains items you know how to use could make all the difference in a critical situation.

The most major piece of equipment that you want to make sure is with you and functioning properly is the ELT (emergency locator transmitter.) Having one of these significantly increases your chances of being found and rescued if you have an unexpected landing in a secluded area. Check on your ELT to ensure it’s functioning properly and is ready when you need it.

A few other items that are worth including in your emergency kit:

Medical Supplies
This includes bandages, medical tape, ointments, medications, and any instructions for use for each product. It is equally as important to have medical items as it is to have a basic understanding of how to use it. Review instructions on each product and practice using them if needed. 

Food and Water

Depending on where you're flying, you may be secluded enough that it takes quite some time for rescue crews to reach you. In this case, it is important to have food and water rations that will last you at least a couple days. Beyond this, it is a good idea to include a water purification device in case rations run out. 

General Survival Gear

You can get a good idea of what survival gear you might need by visiting an outdoors store or searching the web for what other pilots are using. Generally, you'll want items for both sheltering yourself and signaling for help. Sheltering items include blankets, a canopy, duct tape, rope, a knife, insect repellant, and sun protection. Signaling items include flares, whistles, mirrors, and fire sticks. 

All of these can be packed into a backpack or duffle bag and easily carried with you. What’s in your airplane emergency kit? Any items you hadn’t thought about including but will now? Let me know in the comments!

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