July 2017

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Subscribers Only - First, it’s important to distinguish between fees an airport may levy and those of the FBO use of its facilities. Airports often levy their own fees but depend on the FBO to collect them. To pilots, this can be a distinction without a difference, and the FBO can come off as the bad guy. Meanwhile, pilots need to know before they land how much they should expect to pay for the privilege of using the airport’s and FBO’s facilities, especially if it’s a single-FBO monopoly. They also should have the option of paying a minimal fee for minimal service. So, two things should happen, in my view.

FBO And Landing Fees

The subject of fees charged by airports and FBOs recently cam under industry scrutiny. Airports and FBOs naturally need revenue, but operators need value in proportion to the costs and better information on them, in order to make informed decisions. I wanted to offer a couple of thoughts.

BasicMed Goes Live

I found the article on BasicMed (“BasicMed Takes Effect,” May 2017) very interesting. I’m a big promoter of BasicMed and of AMEs doing BasicMed exams. I fully realize the article was written prior to the FAA issuing its final checklist (Form 8700-2), but allow me to share some observations.

Regulatory Traps

Pilots have been complaining about FAA regulations (and those of its predecessor agencies) since the first aviation rules were issued in the 1920s. A lot of that complaining stems from the aviation media constantly bombarding us with horror stories of over-regulation and how it’s killing general aviation. The reality is very different, at least for pilot certification under FAR Part 61 and flight operations under Part 91.

Constant Contact

There’s really no question that maintaining radio and radar contact with ATC significantly adds to flight safety, whether you’re IFR or VFR, and whether you’re going somewhere or just boring holes. But it’s vitally important to remember that when your communications are lost, airplanes fly on physics discovered by Bernouli, not on communications pioneered by Marconi.

Soaring School

Subscribers Only - The first years and hours I spent aloft weren’t really loggable toward an FAA pilot certificate. That’s because I was doing it from a hang glider, jumping off the side of a mountain, wearing a helmet and strapped to a wing. I was the landing gear. It was more of a sport than a form of transportation, but that early exposure to flight taught some lessons that were easily transferred to powered airplanes. I went on to earn my private and an instrument rating, and have flown some interesting airplanes along the way.

Smooth Transitions

At some point in your flying career, you likely graduated from your trainer to flying different aircraft. Maybe you gained access to a fleet of aircraft through a club or flight school, an FBO or a Part 135 charter company. Or you moved to light sport aircraft, a plane you built or a plane you bought. Perhaps you stepped up quickly to higher-performance aircraft, those with more horsepower that can swing gear or have two engines.

Maintenance Safety

Many of us recognize one of the ingredients to making our flying less risky and safer is good maintenance. At the same time, sometimes we give little thought to ways to make aircraft maintenance itself less risky and safer. The fact is the typical private-pilot-or-better performing preventive maintenance under FAR 43, Annex A doesn’t pay enough attention to safety while working on aircraft. Some “professionals” don’t either.

More On Pireps

Subscribers Only - Last month in this space, we reported on a Special Investigative Report (SIR-17/02) from the NTSB, “Improving Pilot Weather Report Submission and Dissemination to Benefit Safety in the National Airspace System.” It’s a 68-page collection of everything that’s wrong with the Pireps system. We also highlighted as “most interesting” one of the NTSB’s recommendations: for the FAA to “provide a reliable means of electronically accepting pilot weather reports directly from all users.”

Window Of Opportunity

Subscribers Only - Engine-out training teaches us to maneuver the airplane to a position from which a more-or-less normal landing can be made on an open surface. Among the elements to this training are that there’s a finite amount of time and energy, in the form of altitude, available to get the airplane to the landing area. Maneuver the airplane to a key position abeam the runway at a certain altitude and airspeed, and it will have enough energy to glide to the “runway” as the pilot manages airspeed and turns.

NTSB Reports: July 2017

At about 0842 Eastern time, the two airplanes were destroyed in an in-flight collision. The airline transport pilot flying the Cessna and the airline transport pilot flying the Grumman were both fatally injured. Visual conditions prevailed.

Two Levers Over

Hanging upside down in a three-point harness certainly gives you a new perspective on flying. Especially if you are on the ground, in the grass, beside the runway. My first thought was unprintable, but my second thought was, “How did that just happen?”


The tailwheel could not be steered during an annual inspection. The tailwheel had been painted; its grease fitting had been completely covered. The owner stated a technician told him not to grease the tailwheel and to tighten the nut on the bottom of the steering pivot bolt as tight as possible. Disassembly revealed all parts inside the tailwheel unit were extremely worn.