Air Traffic System

Digital Charts & AFD for Free (No Kidding and No Strings)

I don't know about everyone else out there, but I'm not a fan of paying $8 or $9 a piece for sectionals and other publications that expire every few months. The worst is when I'm taking a long cross country flight and have to buy pubs that I'll probably only ever use on that trip. Thanks to ever-improving technology and some much appreciated support from the FAA, we now have some options in these situations.

We can now download digital copies of Sectionals, IFR Low Enroute Charts, Airport/Facility Directories and more for free from the FAA's own website!

ADS-B For Gliders? Dangerous Attitudes and Uninformed Media

When I first heard about the FAA's new rule for ADS-B, I didn't even think to check and see if it made exceptions to allow certain aircraft to operate in controlled airspace without ADS-B. I assumed it would be that way because that's how the current rules regarding transponders work. (This affects gliders, hot air balloons, airplanes not originally equipped with electrical systems and some others.) It turns out that this exemption did carry over into 91.225(e) of the new ADS-B rule (page 140.)

While that makes plenty of sense to someone with an aviation background, it apparently doesn't compute with someone who has little (if any) understanding of the subject. I just realized that fact when I read an editorial in the Washington Examiner yesterday. I'm disturbed and offended that The Examiner would publish such an alarmist story by an author unfamiliar with the subject who didn't bother to do any in-depth research to improve his or her knowledge in the area. However, I'll let that be for a moment.

This article highlights some potential attitudes regarding ADS-B that could prove extremely hazardous to everyone in our country - pilots or not. I want to address these attitudes first.

Specific Recommendations: How to Integrate UAVs into the National Airspace System

I just wrote about the pressure the FAA is feeling to allow UAV operations in the National Airspace System. Although I'm not a fan of the idea in general, I realize it's going to happen some day. As such, I'd like to present some of what I think should end up as regulations for UAV operations. I don't mean this to be a complete list. Please take a minute to read through them and leave a comment with your feedback.

The FAA has contracted the RTCA Special Committee 203 as the body to help them figure out this issue. I don't presume to think any of them read AviationBull, but I hope these points make it to them. As someone who's shared plenty of airspace with UAVs, here are some things we need before we let them into our national airspace system:

"Pressure" on FAA to Approve UAV Operations in Civilian Airspace

AviationBull has been covering developments in Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) issues for some time. The operational and economic benefits offered by UAVs are enormous - they can fly longer and cheaper than equivalent manned aircraft in most cases. Most importantly, they can operate in dangerous conditions that would otherwise put a pilot at risk.

Though these benefits are great, there is one key fact preventing UAVs from flooding our skies: Right now, UAVs are completely incapable of operating safely in the same airspace as manned aircraft.

As Google and the AP report, the FAA is thankfully taking the careful approach to UAV certification in spite of growing pressure.

ADS-B Rule Finalized, What's to Become of GA?

The FAA just took the next step on their inexorable push toward the NextGen air traffic control system. The latest development is that they've mandated ADS-B Out equipage for most types of airspace by 2020. (See Avweb for the article.)

When i say 'most types of airspace,' I mean those in which a Mode C transponder is currently required. Class A, B, C, E above 10,000 ft and a couple others. In a way, it seems like this can't be too bad. I'm sure there was push-back when the FAA started requiring Mode C transponders even though they significantly increased safety.

However, I'm still not convinced that ADS-B represents such a significant increase in safety or anything else good for General Aviation in America.

Potential Downgrade of Columbus Airspace...Complaints?

Columbus, GA, has a pretty nice airport (KCSG). It has a long runway and a crosswind runway. It has several thriving flying operations and even gets a few regional airline flights each day. There's a pretty big EAA chapter at the airport which seems like a great idea except for one thing: Columbus' airspace is Class C and aircraft without transponders have to jump through special hoops to get in. That's especially a problem for Jon who owns an old Champ that doesn't even have an electrical system. While chatting with some people at Thunder in the Valley this weekend we learned that this might not be a problem much longer.

Northwest Pilots Cut a Deal

In case you forgot about the two Northwest Airlines pilots who overflew their destination by 150 miles, read our post about it here. According to CNN.com, the pilots of that aircraft have cut a deal with the FAA. They won't protest the revocation of their licenses. In return, they can apply for new ones in 10 months instead of 12.

What Would You Want?

Paine Field in Seattle suburb Everett, Washington, is definitely a unique airport. It's home to many GA aircraft and historical planes...to include an extremely rare Me-262. It's also the production and test facility for many of Boeing's big jets (the 787 just made news by flying there.)

It has a 3 runways (one big enough for the 747 and 777,) a control tower and sees 144,000 operations (takeoffs and landings) a year. It seems only natural that a couple of airlines would start running a few flights out of there every day, right?

Natural or not, over 400 locals vocalized their severe disapproval of airline operations from Paine Field at a recent FAA hearing.

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