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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!

What Is Compensation According To The FAA?

FAA’s policy regarding “compensationPilots and aircraft operators frequently misunderstand the FAA’s policy regarding “compensation” in the context of the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs). And this concept appears frequently in the FARs.

For example, under 14 C.F.R. 61.113(a), a private pilot may not carry persons or property for compensation or hire, or act as pilot in command for compensation or hire. Additionally, if a flight or operation is conducted for compensation or hire, that flight or operation may be subject to operational requirements and/or limitations under 14 C.F.R. Parts 91, 135 or 121. Such a flight or operation may also have additional medical certification prohibitions or requirements.

So, what then is “compensation” according to the FAA?

The FAA’s longstanding policy and perspective views “compensation” very broadly. Compensation isn’t just the exchange of cash. Rather, it can be receipt of anything of value that is conditioned upon or in exchange for operation of the aircraft. And the exchange of value does not require a profit or profit motive. A beneficial economic relationship will qualify as compensation.

According to the FAA, compensation may include, but is not limited to:

  • Reimbursement of expenses (e.g. fuel, oil, transportation, airport expenditures, aircraft rental fees, lodging, costs of ownership etc.);

  • A free meal;

  • Logging of flight time when the pilot does not have to pay for the costs of operating the aircraft;

  • Salary or wages; and

  • Goodwill in the form of expected future economic benefit.

While some of these items can readily be understood to be compensation, the FAA determines whether an operator is receiving something of value in exchange for operating an aircraft on a case-by-case basis and its decision will depend greatly on the purpose and objective of the flight or operation.

So, pilots and operators need to analyze their flights and operations to determine whether they are, in fact, receiving compensation for those flights and operations and, if so, what impact that compensation may have on whether such flights and operations comply with the regulations. Failure to comply could subject the pilots and/or operator to legal enforcement action that could result in suspension or revocation of airman certificates or a civil penalty.

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

 

 

 

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