All posts tagged 'FAA' - Page 17

A look at the increasing trend of shining lasers at aircraft

FAA images via

Although government officials have tried to do more to prevent people from pointing lasers at aircraft, the number of reported incidents in America and elsewhere continues to grow.

Aviators need keep the issue in mind, especially when flying at night and when taking off or landing at airports near residential areas. When the intense, pulsing light of a laser hits the window of a cockpit, it can temporarily blind a pilot and compromise safety of the flight.

A 2004 FAA study showed that 75 percent of pilots exposed to a laser beam in the cockpit reported difficultly operating the aircraft (study pictured above). The shorter the distance and stronger the light, the more likely a pilot may have to abort a landing or take evasive action to get away from the beam.

Though Congress has yet to pass successfully a law to criminalize the act on a federal level (bills died in 2005 and 2007), many states have passed laws making it illegal to point a laser at an aircraft or have charged offenders under welfare endangerment or criminal mischief statutes. Other countries, including Britain and parts of Australia, have outright banned the use of some lasers in order to protect those in aircraft.

Despite the actions, however, the number of incidents and arrests continue to grow.

Just today, police in El Cajon, Calif., charged a 20-year-old man with a felony of pointing a laser at an aircraft. Officers say the man directed a beam into the windows of a police helicopter. The suspect’s friends reportedly said he wanted to see if officers would arrive if he pointed it at them. Well, he got his wish and then some.

Meanwhile in Atlantic City, N.J., pilots have filed 10 complaints this summer, stating they were targeted with lasers while flying into the airport there. Boardwalk venders in nearby Ocean City reluctantly agreed to stop selling high-powered pointers, which local government officials think are the culprit. [more]

North of the U.S. border, a man in Calgary, Canada, was charged this week after an incident similar to the California case, also involving an idiot, a laser and a police helicopter. The newspaper report, linked here, said the officers involved will remain grounded until doctors determine whether any long-term damage resulted from the exposure. After seeing the beam, the police donned protective eye gear and circled the area until they determined a location of the laser. Ground units then moved in and arrested the man, who said he merely pointed the laser at a mirror in his house and it accidentally reflected into the chopper’s windows.

Other notable incidents include several aircraft targeted near Seattle-Tacoma in 2009, prompting initial fears that the actions may have been be related to terrorist groups, though that was unfounded. A coordinated laser attack in Sydney, Australia in 2008 involved four laser beams that honed in on approaching planes, which led to the provincial government there outright banning the devices.   

A decade ago, when the FAA first looked into the issue of lasers and aircraft, the Western-Pacific regional field office reported 150 incidents between 1996 and 1999. By 2009, at the time of the Seattle-Tacoma incident, the agency said 150 laser-aircraft cases were reported in the first two months of the year alone.

Canada has seen a similar trend, reporting only a handful of cases a few years ago. Pilots filed more than 100 reports in each of the last three years, with the total for 2010 looking like it will be even higher.


The issue has become so widespread that it has been lampooned. The tech web site once offered a fictional “PlaneTag” laser device on its site as an April Fool’s gag, even offering to cover the first $25,000 of a user's fine.

However, lasers can also be an aviator’s friend, as well, warning them not to fly into restricted airspace, possibly mark areas for holding patterns, or to potentially be used as a military tool to track and destroy enemy missiles.

Additional tools soon will help pilots identify and track a laser beam. Earlier this summer, the FBI contracted the laser company Optra to develop a Laser Event Recorder tracking system to be installed on aircraft to capture a laser signal and pinpoint it with GPS, creating evidence on a USB drive to help convict a culprit.

In the meantime, perhaps, pilots can replace their traditional aviator sunglasses with this pair of laser-resistant shades. At least then, they can still look cool and not get blinded when flying.

Will Congress Ever Pass the FAA Reauthorization Bill?

Congress is still not getting the job done with the FAA Reauthorization bill.

In previous posts  on Plane Conversations I have discussed the issues surrounding all of the different provisions of the bill and why it still hasnt passed into law.

I still don’t know why Congress has to pile in all these controversial provisions that deal with Unionization of FedEx and landing slots at a couple airports into a major funding bill that has been in a stall for years.

The only reason I can think of is good old fashioned politics and game playing on the hill, and in the mean time issues with safety, upgrade of a severely outdated air traffic control infrastructure and long term funding to run the FAA gets postponed again.   

If those of us who run businesses and make payroll every week ran our business like these guys do business on “The Hill” we would have been out of business a long time ago.

Reporting from the Los Angeles Times by Julia Love, Tribune Washington Bureau in a July 30 article:

 Responding to the deaths of 50 people in the crash last year of a Continental Airlines flight near Buffalo, N.Y., Congress passed legislation Friday requiring increased training and experience for regional airline pilots.
The House passed the measure, which also extends Federal Aviation Administration funding, on a voice vote just before midnight Thursday, and the Senate approved identical legislation Friday morning. No member of either chamber objected.
The legislation requires all airline pilots to log at least 1,500 hours of flight time before flying passengers, up from the current 250-hour minimum for newly hired copilots. The bill also boosts training, mandates the creation of a national database of pilot records and aims to reduce pilot fatigue by directing the FAA to update rules on pilot duty hours.

So under political pressure from the families who suffered loss from the crash in Buffalo congress has passed a special bill dealing with pilot requirements and training for airlines.

 The target for the FAA long term funding reauthorization is now set for September 30.

 Any bets on whether they get it done before election time in November?

Vital Information regarding your FAA Registered Aircraft

I am writing to inform you of a new Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rule that establishes a ‘three-year life-limit’ for an Aircraft Registration. This means that starting in October of this year, you will be required to renew your aircraft registration every three years.  It is estimated that one third of the 357,000 aircraft registrations in the FAA’s database are inaccurate, therefore the FAA’s goal is to increase its accuracy to over 95%. This information is then going to be more useful to safety and security agencies throughout the U.S. government, and of course individual U.S. States, that will get a windfall from new-found State Tax Evaders.


To implement the rule, the FAA has established a schedule according to which Aircraft Registrations issued prior to October 1, 2010, will expire no later than December 31, 2013.  You should receive a notice in the mail from the FAA six months prior to the expiration of your current registration notifying you of when you should submit an application to re-register your airplane.  That notice will be sent to the address in the FAA database.  You may wish to verify that the address is correct by looking up your N# for free on here

If there are no changes required to your contact information, there will be an online process available to comply with the rule.  Unfortunately, the FAA has not made this online process available yet and it has not released the application form required to re-register your airplane.


I will monitor developments as the FAA’s new rule is implemented and I would of course be very happy to provide you with any additional information or assistance to comply with this rule.


Okay let’s review what this rule is actually all-about (sorry for repeating myself, but this is Vital Information regarding your FAA Registered Aircraft.)


My great friend, and colleague, Tim Keeney, wrote the following piece that explains this rule, very nicely indeed, and will be printed in the JetBrokers Market Up-Date Newsletter, which is in-work as you read this.. All credit for the brevity of this nice piece, goes to him:


All N#’s Set to Expire by December 31, 2013


Your aircraft Registration (your N#) will expire in the next three years; possibly as early as March 31, 2011.  The FAA has issued a final rule that will take effect on October 1, 2010, that requires you to renew your registration by December 31, 2013 and then re-register every three years thereafter.  The purpose of the rule is to maintain an accurate aircraft registry database; a goal not achieved by the Triennial Aircraft Registration Report.  The FAA estimates that one third of the 357,000 aircraft registrations currently on file are inaccurate.  The FAA uses the database for ownership determination and response to an overdue flight or downed aircraft report.  Law enforcement and other government agencies use the database for their own purposes.  The Federal Register’s summary of the rule mentions inclusion of registry information and status on a display depicting each flight operating on a flight plan in the National Airspace System.


So, how will you know when your registration expires, when to re-register your airplane and how to do it?  For aircraft registered before October 1, 2010, consult the following chart for your scheduled expiration:


If the certificate was issued in:                   The certificate expires on:               Application window:

March of any year                                      March 31, 2011                               11/1/2010 – 1/31/2011

April of any year                                         June 30, 2011                                   2/1/2011 – 4/30/2011

May of any year                                         September 30, 2011                         5/1/2011 – 7/31/2011

June of any year                                          December 31, 2011                          8/1/2011 – 10/31/2011

July of any year                                           March 31, 2012                                11/1/2011 – 1/31/2012

August of any year                                      June 30, 2012                                   2/1/2012 – 4/30/2012

September of any year                                September 30, 2012                        5/1/2012 – 7/31/2012

October of any year                                    December 31, 2012                          8/1/2012 – 10/31/2012

November of any year                                March 31, 2013                                11/1/2012 – 1/31/2013

December of any year                                 June 30, 2013                                    2/1/2013 – 4/30/2013

January of any year                                    September 30, 2013                          5/1/2013 – 7/31/2013

February of any year                                  December 31, 2013                           8/1/2013 – 10/31/2013


Aircraft registered after October 1, 2010, will have an expiration date on their registration document.   Also, the FAA will mail you an expiration reminder six months prior to your current registration’s expiration so it would behove you to check that the FAA has your correct address.  You may do this by looking up your N# for free on here
You must submit an application form (coming to the web site soon) during the proper filing window to ensure that your new registration arrives prior to the expiration of your current document which would result in your airplane being grounded.  Re-registrations that do not require changing information (i.e. names, addresses) may be completed online via a system not yet implemented.  The cost identified in the rule is $5.00 but there is concern among some groups that there is nothing to prevent the FAA increasing the renewal fee to raise revenue for the agency.  Finally, be advised that obtaining a replacement registration does not satisfy the requirement to re-register your airplane.


Tim Keeney, VP-Sales, JetBrokers, Inc.

[email protected]


Understanding The FAA's New Aircraft Re-Registration And Renewal Requirements

On July 20, 2010 the FAA published a Final Rule amending the FAA's regulations regarding aircraft registration. As a result, if you own an aircraft that is registered with the FAA's Aircraft Registry (the "Registry") you are going to have to renew the registration for your aircraft.


The Registry is responsible for developing and maintaining the system of registration for United States civil aircraft. One of the Registry's primary responsibilities is to maintain an electronic database for all U.S. registered aircraft. The database identifies each registered aircraft by its registration number (N- number), its complete description, and the name and address of its registered owner.

According to the FAA, "approximately one-third of the 357,000 registered aircraft records it maintains are inaccurate and that many aircraft associated with those records are likely ineligible for United States registration." Although the current regulations require aircraft owners to report the sale of an aircraft, the scrapping or destruction of an aircraft, or a change in the aircraft owner's mailing address, apparently many aircraft owners have not complied with these requirements. As a result, the FAA has implemented its Final Rule to improve the currency and accuracy of the Registry's database.

The Final Rule requires re-registration of all U.S. civil aircraft over a 3 year period in order to update the Registry's database and to enable the Registry to cancel the registrations of those aircraft that are not re-registered. Thereafter, aircraft owners will need to renew their aircraft registrations every 3 years.

The Re-Registration/Renewal Process

Under the Final Rule, aircraft registrations will now be limited to a 3-year period. At the end of each 3-year interval, an aircraft's registration will expire and the aircraft will need to be re-registered. This rule establishes the expiration of registration for all aircraft registered before October 1, 2010, and provides for the re- registration of all aircraft over a 3-year period according a schedule contained in the rule.

For aircraft registered on or after October 1, 2010, the aircraft registration's expiration date will be printed on the registration certificate and will be 3 years from the last day of the month in which registration or re-registration occurred. Once renewed, an aircraft's registration will expire 3 years from the previous expiration date. Replacement registration certificates issued on or after October 1, 2010, will display the same expiration date that was shown on the replaced registration certificate. If the replaced registration certificate did not display an expiration date, the replacement certificate will display an expiration date from the above-schedule based on the month of issue of the replaced registration certificate.

The FAA will issue replacement certificates after an address update, an N-number change, or when a certificate is reported as lost or mutilated. However, it is important to note that a replacement registration certificate will not constitute re-registration or renewal. Similarly, the replacement certificate will not change the registration expiration date applicable to the aircraft at the time the replacement registration certificate is issued.

When an aircraft's registration is approaching expiration, the Registry will send an aircraft owner two reminder notices. The first reminder notice will be sent 180 days before an aircraft's registration is scheduled to expire. This notice will identify the aircraft, its expiration date, and the 3-month filing window during which a registration or renewal application should be submitted. It will also provide instructions for completing the registration or renewal process.

In order to receive a new registration certificate before the old certificate expires, an aircraft owner will need to file the re-registration or renewal application within the assigned window. However, once an aircraft has completed re-registration and is approaching a required renewal, the aircraft owner may submit the required renewal information as soon as the first reminder notice is received.

The Registry will send a second reminder notice at the end of the 3-month filing window if the aircraft owner has not yet re-registered or renewed the aircraft's registration. The 3- month filing window will close 2 months prior to the scheduled expiration date for the aircraft's registration to allow the Registry sufficient time to process the application and mail the new certificate. If an aircraft owner files an applications after the filing window has closed, the application will still be processed; however, the new certificate may not arrive until after the current certificate has expired.

To avoid confusion between the normal registration process and the re-registration process, the Aircraft Registration Application, AC Form 8050-1, will not be used for re-registration. The Registry has created a separate application form that will be available online, here. Aircraft owners should be aware that the re-registration/renewal application does not grant any temporary authority for operation of an aircraft, unlike that provided by retaining the pink copy of Form 8050-1. As a result, if a re-registration/renewal application is filed late and a new registration certificate is not received by the time the current registration certificate expires, the aircraft owner would not be able to operate the aircraft between the time when the current certificate expires and when the new certificate is received.

The Final Rule provides for both online re-registration and renewal when no changes are required. However, if changes to the registration are required (e.g. address change, etc.), then the re-registration/renewal application may not be submitted online and must be mailed to the Registry. According to the Final Rule, the Registry will post information on its website identifying aircraft as they move through the various stages of re-registration and renewal so aircraft owners and other interested parties can track the process.

Aircraft owners will need to pay $5.00 to re-register their aircraft and then another $5.00 each time the aircraft's registration is renewed. (Although this doesn't seem like a lot of money, unfortunately the registration and administrative fees may increase over time, depending upon whether the latest version of the FAA reauthorization bill passes. Under that bill, the FAA would be required to increase fees to $130 for initial registration and $45 for renewals.)

Consequences For Failure To Re-Register/Renew

If an aircraft owner fails to re-register or renew an aircraft's registration, the registration will not end immediately. Rather, the Registry will wait 30 days to ensure that any late filed requests from the aircraft owner have been processed. In the absence of such requests, and assuming the Registry has a good address on file for the aircraft owner, the Registry will then send a letter to the aircraft owner providing notice of the pending cancellation of the aircraft's registration. The aircraft owner will then have 60 days within which to reserve the N-number or register the aircraft. If the Registry does not receive a reply within 60 days, the aircraft's registration will then be cancelled. If the Registry does not have a good address for the aircraft owner, cancellation of the aircraft's registration will be scheduled for no sooner than 90 days from the date of expiration. Once an aircraft's registration is cancelled, the N-number will be unavailable for assignment for a period of 5 years.


The Final Rule is effective October 1, 2010. Thus, all aircraft owners will need to comply. How can you minimize the hassle associated with the Final Rule? First, since the re-registration notice will be sent to the address on file with the Registry, verify now that your address in the Registry is correct. If you need to update the information, you can do that directly with the Registry or through an aviation attorney. Second, submit your application as early as possible once you receive your first reminder notice to allow the Registry time to process and mail your new registration.

If you follow these steps, hopefully the re-registration/renewal process will be nothing more than a minor inconvenience. And, as always, if you have problems contact an aviation attorney for help.

D.C. Circuit Affirms NTSB's Rejection Of EAJA Fees When FAA Dismisses Its Complaint Before A Hearing

In a recent decision, Turner and Coonan v. National Transportation Safety Board, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed the NTSB's refusal to allow two airmen to recover under the Equal Access to Justice Act ("EAJA") when the FAA dismissed its complaints before the cases can be heard by an NTSB administrative law judge ("ALJ"). The case began when the FAA suspended the airmen's airline transport certificates for their alleged operation of an aircraft that was in an unairworthy condition in violation of FAR 91.7(a). The airmen appealed the suspensions and their cases were assigned to the same ALJ who scheduled hearings for June 2008.

In April 2008 the ALJ granted motions to continue the cases and re-scheduled the hearings for August. However, after the continuance was granted, the FAA withdrew the complaints against the airmen, stating only: "The Administrator hereby withdraws its [sic] complaint in this matter." The ALJ then terminated the proceedings against the pilots with an short order that, unfortunately, did not specify whether the termination was with or without prejudice. The airmen then applied for an award of attorney's fees and expenses under EAJA.

The Equal Access to Justice Act

The EAJA is found at 5 U.S.C. 504 and is implemented in 49 CFR 826. According to 49 CFR 826.1, "The Equal Access to Justice Act, 5 U.S.C. 504 (the Act), provides for the award of attorney fees and other expenses to eligible individuals and entities who are parties to certain administrative proceedings (adversary adjudications) before the National Transportation Safety Board (Board). An eligible party may receive an award when it prevails over the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), unless the Government agency's position in the proceeding was substantially justified or special circumstances make an award unjust." In order to determine whether EAJA fees are available, the key inquiries for an "applicant" (a certificate holder or target of a civil penalty action who is applying for an award of fees) are: (1) Is the Applicant a "prevailing party"? (2) Was the Applicant involved in an "adversary adjudication"? (3) Was the FAA’s position "substantially justified"? and (4) Were the fees actually "incurred" by the Applicant?

The Case Before The ALJ And The Board

The ALJ granted the airmen's EAJA requests finding that the airmen were prevailing parties as a result of the FAA's total withdrawal of all of the charges against the airmen. He also determined that the FAA was not substantially justified because it had "proceeded on a weak and tenuous basis with a flawed investigation bereft of any meaningful evidence." The FAA then appealed the decision to the full Board who reversed the ALJ's award. The Board concluded that the airmen did not satisfy the prevailing party standard because the airmen did not receive an enforceable judgment on the merits of their case, nor did they obtain a court-ordered consent decree that resulted in a change in the legal relationship between the airmen and the FAA.

Specifically, the Board found that the airmen did not prevail on any portion of the merits of the case because the FAA withdrew the charges before the ALJ could hold a hearing. It further noted that the ALJ's order dismissing the case merely accepted the FAA's withdrawal of the charges against the airmen and was not the same as a court-supervised consent decree. Finally, the Board observed that the ALJ did not dismiss the case with prejudice or in any way alter the relationship between the FAA and the airmen. The Board then concluded that "[w]e believe ourselves compelled to find that the Administrator’s withdrawal of the complaint does not confer prevailing party status on applicants under the EAJA."

The Court Of Appeals Affirms

On appeal to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, the airmen argued that they were, in fact, the prevailing parties and entitled to the EAJA award granted by the ALJ. However, the Court concurred with the Board and concluded that the airmen were not prevailing parties. The Court found that the ALJ dismissed the cases without prejudice (meaning that the withdrawal did not prevent the FAA from trying to pursue its cases against the airmen at a later time). As a result, the Court held that the airmen did not receive any sort of "judicial relief." According to the Court, when the FAA unilaterally withdrew its complaints, the FAA ended its adversarial relationship with the airmen and the airmen were left in the same position they were in before the enforcement actions began.


In my opinion, this case is bad law. It places procedure before substance and is contrary to the legislative intent behind EAJA. Rather than deterring frivolous and unsubstantiated litigation by the FAA, the Court's decision certainly makes it more difficult to ensure that the FAA is justified in pursuing its cases. The decision also ignores the realities of litigation. To say that the airmen were simply in the same positions after withdrawal as they were before initiation of the action overlooks the time and expense necessarily incurred by the airmen in defending themselves in the case.

EAJA was enacted to allow recovery of those attorney's fees and expenses. Unfortunately, both the Board and the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals have significantly impaired EAJA's deterrent effect, for now.

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