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Sometimes the experts are wrong

When you’re working toward earning your private pilot’s license, and you’re not sure you’re gonna have the time or the cash flow to make it happen, most of the self-proclaimed experts will give you one piece of advice.

Whether it’s a column in a flying magazine, a message thread on a Facebook aviation fan page or a couple of CFIs opining on your favorite podcast, they all chant the same mantra:

If you don’t have the money to fly regularly – at least once a week -- then stop.

Quit floundering in the wind.

Take a break from flying.

Save up your money. For weeks. Months. Years, even. However long it takes to build a cash mountain that will keep fuel flowing in the tanks on a continual basis. THEN start back up again.

If you can’t go weekly, don’t go at all.

At least that’s what they say.

Travis first flightMy first flight was on June 11, 1994. My parents had a rule:  Until I graduated high school, no motorcycles and no airplanes. Well, I was now a brand new high school grad – and I still remember my first flight that hot, humid, hazy Saturday morning with instructor Mark Loring. According to my logbook, we were up for 0.7 hours in a Piper Warrior (I’ll always love you N9886K), and we practiced climbs and descents, level turns and dutch rolls out of Bowman Field (KLOU) in Louisville, Kentucky. When it was over, I celebrated with deep-dish sausage pizza at the Bearno’s across the street from the airport.

I couldn’t believe I had my first entry in my Pilot Logbook.

I couldn’t believe I had a Pilot Logbook.

Eventually, my family got into the flight school business. I had easy access to aircraft and flight instructors. Looking back, I can’t believe how spoiled I was. I was allowed to work the desk at the flight school in exchange for flight time – and soon I was well on my way toward getting my PPL ticket. My first solo was on July 31, 1997. Then came my solo cross countries. My long solo-cross country.

But then, suddenly, things changed.

Our family got out of the flight school business. I moved out of the house. Graduated from college. Launched a new career. Gas prices went up – and my disposable income went down. In the meantime, a handful of evil, selfish people decided to fly airliners into buildings in New York. I changed careers again.

I didn’t get my PPL.

Instead, I took a break from flying. In fact, the very idea of spending money on flying airplanes was laughable. I would still look back on flying wistfully, but as far as I was concerned, it wasn’t in the cards. My medical expired, my sectionals and FAR/AIM s were WAY out of date, and my Jeppesen flight manual gathered dust on my bookshelf.

MY break lasted 16 years.

If you look at my logbook, you’ll see two entries right next to each other. They’re only centimeters apart, but the time they span is breathtaking: one reads Feb. 20, 1999. The next reads June 13, 2015.

I can’t really point to one single thing that brought me back to flying. I guess it started during a 6 a.m. Thursday morning men’s Bible study group at Southeast Christian Church. One week I was asked to summarize my life – from birth until the present day – and flying came up.  The guys at my table asked if I was still doing it. I wasn’t.

Then I read “Jungle Pilot” by Nathaniel Hitt, about the life of missionary pilot Nate Saint. I started volunteering for Mission Aviation Fellowship – an evangelical Christian organization that sends general aviation pilots to serve unreached people in isolated regions. I became friends with some of our missionary pilots – and helped some of them move overseas. I even got the opportunity to visit some of them out in the field.

Ultimately I realized that maybe the experts were wrong. Maybe I didn’t have to go once a week. Maybe I could just go once a month. Maybe once every six weeks. Even if I never got my license, at least I would be in an airplane again. At least I would be flying.

Do you want to fly?

Do you have cable TV? Take my advice:  cancel it.

That’s one flight lesson. One flight lesson a month right there!

The experts are wrong. Don’t do what I did and take 16 years off, thinking flying is out of your reach. If you love flying, and you can only afford to go once a month, then just go once a month. Or once every six months. Or once a year.

Here is a link with Flight Schools and Recurrent Training facilities all around the world, tell the experts to take a hike.

Yes, I know you won’t progress very far toward getting your certificate on a once-a-month regimen. Yes, I know students who go more frequently will get their PPL much faster. And yes, I know every expert says you’re wasting your time. But at least you won’t be giving up entirely.

And it’s not wasting your time if you simply love flying.

Travis PIC

As I write this, I’m looking at my shiny blue private pilot certificate. I passed my check ride – at Sporty’s no less! – on Sept. 1, 2018. Ultimately, I did have to increase the frequency of my flight lessons, but that wasn’t always an option. I’m glad I hung in there, even during the dry spells.

I’m working on my Instrument Rating now. My goal is to eventually get my commercial ticket, and my CFI. Then my flying will finance itself.

Maybe I’ll get there and maybe I won’t. What I do know is I hope to keep flying a part of my life some way – even if it’s only volunteering or reading a book about it – for many years to come.

Sixteen years is far too long.

TRAVIS K. KIRCHER is a private pilot – as well as a lifetime student – based in Louisville, Kentucky. His home airport is Bowman Field (KLOU). He is always ready and willing to tell you about Mission Aviation Fellowship – and you can find out more about it by visiting www.MAF.org

 

 

 

The Regulated Airport

As most of my readers will know, regulatory compliance is a HUGE deal in the aviation industry. This becomes apparent as soon as flight training begins. Someone outside of aviation may imagine that learning to fly is just learning which buttons to push and levers to pull to operate an aircraft, but the reality is that a large chunk of pilot training involves learning regulations and how to comply with them. The same goes for airports. A phrase that is thrown around a lot in Airport Operations curriculum is “The Regulated Airport.” Truly, an airport is under constant scrutiny and oversight by several different regulatory agencies.

When faced with a problem in aviation you must always ask yourself, “is there a regulation that applies to this?” Next, you think “where can I find this regulation?” Finally, “Does this comply with the regulation? If not, how can I fix it?” Since moving from the flight side to the airport side, it has always been surprising to me the variety of regulatory agencies that could be involved at any one time for any one problem.

Today I would like to provide an overview of some of the major regulations that airports must comply with, as both an exercise for myself and hopefully an interesting read for those outside of the aviation industry. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but will look at some of the regulations that come up most frequently.

Regulated Airport

Part 139
For the day to day operations of an airport with commercial service, the Federal Aviation Administration’s 14 CFR Part 139 is the governing regulation. This includes instruction on employee training, record keeping, wildlife management, airfield inspections, Airport Emergency Plans, and hundreds of other topics relating to airport operations. The most interesting thing about Part 139 is that an airport looking to earn certification writes their own Airport Certification Manual (ACM) outlining how they will comply with the different sections of Part 139, and it is signed and approved by an FAA inspector. The airport's ACM then becomes the regulatory document. 

Part 1542
The Department of Homeland Security has issued Transport Security Regulations (TSRs) that require airports to maintain certain security measures. This includes background checks on individuals that have access to secure areas, badging and access control, and a variety of other regulations regarding the security of airport property. One of the major security regulations that airports with commercial service must comply with is Title 49 CFR Part 1542. Similar to Part 139 and the ACM, airports write their own Airport Security Plan (ASP) which is then approved and becomes their unique regulating document. 

Grant Assurances
Any airport that accepts federal funding for a project is subject to the Grant Assurances for up to 20 years, depending on the lifetime of the project. These sets of regulations can also apply to a General Aviation airport that does not have to comply with Part 139, if they accept money from the Federal Government. Grant Assurances are obligations for the airport to keep itself in the best possible condition and properly operated. There are a total of 39 Grant Assurances, and they cover topics such as Economic Nondiscrimination, Compatible Land Use, and Planning Projects. 

Environmental Regulations
There are several environmental regulations that airports must comply with, both with the FAA and the EPA. The environmental issues that the FAA governs mostly relate to Airport Noise. For example, 14 CFR Part 150 “Airport Noise Compatibility Planning” and 14 CFR Part 161 “Airport Noise and Access Restrictions.” Airplane Noise has been a hot topic since well before the Jet Age, and the FAA has precise rules for how airports plan for and handle it. 

Airports also handle a variety of hazardous and toxic materials, so it is vital that proper quarantine and drainage protocols are in place to protect the local water supply. Many airports work closely with the Environmental Protection Agency to identify and avoid possible water pollution. 

Financial Regulations
Airports are subject to a variety of financial regulations, determining what they charge and how they use their funds. This is especially important when they accept Federal funding, and should be taken very seriously. 

Self-Implemented Regulations
In addition to all of the external regulations that airports must comply with, airports make their own internal rules as well. These rules are called Minimum Standards, and are required under Grant Assurance 19, Operations and Maintenance. Minimum Standards are used so that the relationship and expectations between the airport operator and airport users are clear and understood. 

This concludes my overview of some of the regulations that commercial airports must be aware of and comply with in their daily operations. Hopefully you learned something or had a nice refresher. Let me know in the comments below if you've had experience with any of these! 

Looking for Airport and FBO information?  Try Globalair.com's Airport Resource Center (ARC).  Packed with all the United States Airports Aeronautical information from the FAA and updated ever 56 days and over 3,200 FBO's and fuel prices.

 

 

Tips For Renting Your Aircraft

If you own an aircraft and are not utilizing it as much as you would like or if you would like to try and recover some of the cost of owning the aircraft, you may have thought about renting your aircraft to other pilots. As a practical matter, that makes some sense. But before you actually rent your aircraft to another pilot, here are a few things you should consider.

Aircraft Owners May Rent Their Aircraft To Third Parties

Tips for Renting your aircraftIt is important to understand that the FAA does not prohibit aircraft owners from renting their aircraft. In fact, the regulations specifically contemplate rental arrangements. So, renting your aircraft is permitted, provided that you comply with applicable regulations. The FAA provides guidance on what is and isn't a permissible rental arrangement in Advisory Circular 91-37B Truth in Leasing (although truth in leasing requirements only apply to large civil aircraft, the general lease concepts discussed in the AC apply to leasing arrangements for all aircraft).

Make Sure Your Insurance Permits Aircraft Rental

Most aircraft insurance policies will extend coverage to other pilots who fly your aircraft provided that the pilots are either expressly identified in your policy or if they have the necessary experience/qualifications to meet the "open pilot" clause of the policy. However, if you are going to charge the pilot for use of your aircraft, you need to confirm that your policy allows you to rent or lease your aircraft to a third-party. Most aircraft policies issued to owners for personal/business flying do allow aircraft leasing, but it is important to confirm this with your insurance underwriter.

Also, rather than paying to obtain their own insurance policy or renter's insurance to cover their use of your aircraft, most renter pilots will want to be named as an additional insured under your policy as this can oftentimes be done at no cost to you or the renter pilot. In that case, renters will typically ask for a certificate of insurance that reflects not only that they are added to your policy, but that they are covered for their operation and use of their aircraft. This is important because it doesn't do the renter pilot any good if he or she is added to the owner's policy but only covered for the owner's operation of the aircraft, rather than his or her own use.

Renting Your Aircraft Can Trigger Tax Consequences

In most states, when an aircraft owner rents an aircraft to a third-party the owner is required to collect and remit sales tax on the rent paid by the third-party for the aircraft. If you are in one of those states, in order to rent your aircraft you will need to obtain a sales tax number so you can collect and remit sales tax to the taxing authority. This is the aircraft owner's obligation and the taxing authority will hold the aircraft owner responsible for any sales tax the taxing authority believes the aircraft owner should have collected and remitted, regardless of whether the renter pilot actually paid the sales tax to the aircraft owner.

Also, when you rent your aircraft many taxing authorities view that activity as commercial activity which then means your aircraft could be subject to assessment of personal property tax on the value of the aircraft, or some portion of the value based upon the pro-rata rental versus personal use of the aircraft. Although not all states assess personal property tax on aircraft, if you are in a state that does you will want to determine your potential property tax exposure before you decide to rent your aircraft.

Conclusion

Although you will also have other things to consider as you decide whether to rent your aircraft to other pilots, these three issues should be near the top of your list. And if you understand and address these issues up front that will help ensure a successful aircraft rental experience for both you, the aircraft owner, and your renter pilot.

Greg can be reached at:

Greg Reigel
Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, LLP
9201 N. Central Expressway, 4th Floor, Dallas, Texas 75231
Direct: (214) 780-1482 - Fax: (214) 780-1401
E-mail:  greigel@shackelford.law
Website:  www.shackelford.law

5 Surprising New Uses for Drones

Unmanned Arial Systems, or "drones," have been steadily increasing in popularity for years now. As engineers are able to design smaller drones with better cameras, sensors, and features at lower prices, it is only natural that new applications for drones are being thought of every day. As we begin the New Year I would like to take a look at some of the upcoming applications for drones that may surprise you in their genius or weirdness. 2019 might be the Year of the Drone! 

This article was inspired in part by research I did last summer over the current usage of drones in state Departments of Transportation. There are dozens of state DOTs that use drones for bridge inspections, traffic monitoring, and construction progress documentation. Over the course of this research, I also discovered this incredible website that hosts a database of U.S. public safety agencies that own and use drones. current as of May 2018, this database estimates that at least 910 state and local police, sheriff, fire, and emergency services agencies in the U.S. have acquired drones. They also estimate an 82% increase in the number of public safety agencies that own drones from the previous year. 

Interesting drone facts aside, let's get on to the list of my top 5 surprising new uses for drones! 

1. Car Accident/Crime Scene Documentation

An interesting application that the North Carolina Department of Transportation has for their drones is documenting car crashes and crime scenes. It is particularly useful for car accidents, as it severely cuts down on the time required to record pictures and evidence so that the Highway Patrol can clear the accident and reopen roads quicker. Authorities in Asheville simulated a head-on collision and then used their drone with a laser scanner to take pictures of the scene and create a 3D model. 

Work that usually takes state troopers about two hours to complete took only 25 minutes with a drone. They are then able to take the data and recreate the accident to better understand what happened. Now that's innovation! 

2. Food Delivery 

This application still has a lot of logistical kinks to work out, but I would not be surprised if food delivery via drones becomes a popular venture in the next few years. The novelty of the experience of having a drone delivery your meal will attract countless customers. Transportation giant Uber is already jumping on this idea, sharing their vision to have a fleet of food delivery drones by the year 2021. This one makes me stop and think, is life getting too fast-paced? Can we not wait the typical 30 minutes for food delivery via automobile? We will have to see how this one plays out! 

3. Fishing Aid

In what is perhaps one of the most creative fishing technologies I've ever seen, the company AguaDrone has created a drone that can not only detect fish with their wireless sonar pod, but also carry bait to the fish to catch it. The waterproof design can land and take off from fresh or saltwater and features a detachable camera to record all of your fishing adventures. I imagine this would be particularly useful for fishing in crowded areas, where you could reach further than any other lines. 

The drone and accessories currently only say "coming soon" on the websites's shopping page, but hopefully this genius invention will be manufactured and sold soon to fishers everywhere. 

4. For Hospice Patients

This one tugged at my heartstrings when I heard about it. A small company in Ohio is using their drones to bring happiness and comfort to those in their final days of life. The Flight To Remember Foundation flies drones to capture videos of meaningful places so that hospice patients can see them for one last time. These can be shared via live stream or video complication for repeated viewing. I can only imagine how special this would be for a loved one. According to their website they are currently looking for more volunteer drone pilots, so that is a cause worth checking out! 

5. Help with Cooking 

This one is more satirical in nature than the others, but check out that video! Someone found a great way to use their drone for several common cooking tasks. The blades peed the potatoes with such ease, and you won't even have to leave your kitchen to safely fry your turkey! 

All jokes aside, I hope this article has helped you to see the possibilities of drones in a new way. What is your favorite drone application? Have you thought of one that doesn't exist yet? Let me know in the comments below! 

Closing Aircraft Purchase/Sale Transactions

 

Aircraft Purchase/Sale Transactions

As we get to the end of the year, many aircraft purchasers and sellers are trying to get their deals closed. Whether for tax or other reasons, year end is a busy time for aircraft transactions. Many transactions are closed using escrow agents located in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (home of the FAA Aircraft Registry). If you have never been involved in an aircraft transaction, you may wonder what happens at an aircraft closing.

In a typical (if such a thing exists) aircraft closing, here are the steps an escrow agent takes to help aircraft sellers and purchasers close a transaction once all of the necessary funds and documents are in escrow:

  • The escrow agent will pay off any liens, mortgages, security interests or other interests held by third parties against the aircraft ("Liens");

  • The escrow agent will disburse to the seller the purchase price, plus any unpaid amounts due from purchaser to seller for flight costs associated with moving the aircraft to the inspection facility or the delivery location, and less one-half of the escrow agent's fee;

  • Once the seller confirms receipt of the funds, the escrow agent (a) dates and files with the FAA releases of any Liens the FAA Aircraft Bill of Sale (FAA Form 8050-2), the Aircraft Registration Application (FAA Form 8050-1) and statement in support (for example, if the purchaser is a limited liability company); and (b) dates and releases the Warranty Bill of Sale and Assignment of Warranties and Other Rights (if applicable) out of escrow to purchaser;

  • Purchaser executes and delivers the delivery receipt to the seller which confirms the aircraft is in the delivery condition and is accepted by the purchaser;

  • If the aircraft is subject to the Capetown Convention, the escrow agent, as purchaser’s professional user entity, registers the sale of the aircraft to the purchaser with the International Registry; and

  • The escrow agent, as the seller’s professional user entity, discharges any registration by seller with the International Registry of any international interest or prospective international interest registered with respect to the aircraft, and consents to the registration of the sale of the aircraft to the purchaser.

The seller and purchaser usually intend that each of these actions is interdependent with each of the others, but that upon completion they are considered to have occurred simultaneously. When all of these steps are completed, the seller delivers physical possession of the aircraft to the purchaser at the closing location.

This closing process may occur via a telephone call with all of the interested parties on the line, or simply after each of the interested parties has provided authorization (usually via e-mail) for the escrow agent to perform these steps and close the transaction. And, of course, depending upon the transaction, these steps may vary. But this is generally how the process occurs.

If you ever have questions or need assistance with an aircraft transaction or closing, I would be happy to help. And in the meantime, Happy New Year.

Greg can be reached at:

Greg Reigel
Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, LLP
9201 N. Central Expressway, 4th Floor, Dallas, Texas 75231
Direct: (214) 780-1482 - Fax: (214) 780-1401
E-mail:  greigel@shackelford.law
Website:  www.shackelford.law

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