Despite all the gloom and doom about piston-powered general aviations future youve probably heard lately around the FBOs coffee pot, the industry actually isnt doing too badly. Three data points that became available late in 2017 bear this out.
When it does, that new generation of personal aircraft likely will include technologies designed to prevent accidents. Things like envelope protection, where the machine doesnt allow its pilot to put it into an unsafe situation. Technologies like GPS and ADS-B are a given, along with a networked operating environment where it and all other nearby aircraft talk to each other to manage collision avoidance, sequencing and efficient routing. Operator certification wont be nearly as complex, time-consuming or expensive as it is today.
Im not a native Floridian, so I generally pay great attention to local weather forecasts when they include the words tropical storm or hurricane followed by someones first name. And because Ive never seen such weather-beyond the occasional tropical low that spreads relatively benign wind and rain across the state-Ive decided its a life experience I can do without. So it was in September with Hurricane Irma.
Everything that can be invented has been invented is a popular quote attributed to Charles H. Duell, commissioner of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office from 1898 to 1901. Today, the quote often is used to ridicule those who refuse to embrace the latest technology or believe nothing new will be forthcoming. The thing is, Duell never said that. He said quite the opposite instead: In my opinion, all previous advances in the various lines of invention will appear totally insignificant when compared with those which the present century will witness. Yet, hes not remembered for that statement, only the former, erroneous one.
On the off chance youve forgotten, heres a helpful reminder: ATC privatization is still a thing. Its baked into a bill being considered in the U.S. House of Representatives to reauthorize the FAA. The legislation-or something like it that continues the agencys programs-needs to be enacted by September 30, 2017. Current U.S. Senate legislation to accomplish the same basic task doesnt have ATC privatization in it at this writing.
First, its 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 airports and FBOs facilities, especially if its 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.
Its that time of year again in North America: Summer is upon us and theres nothing we can do about itwithout a passport, even if we want- ed to. The good news is we no longer have to deal with freezing precipitation, cold, low clouds hugging a run- way for warmth or preheating our engines. More good news is that the number of reasons to hop in an air- plane and go somewhere will grow. Options will include small y-ins and pancake breakfasts to the large, name-brand events, and everything in between. There is other stuff going on with the change of seasons, which may or may not be good.
For almost as long as Ive been flying, the general aviation industry has been in upheaval. By the mid-1980s, product liability concerns and tax law changes helped remove what was propping up things, and the bottom fell out. Among other outcomes, Cessna stopped making piston-powered airplanes altogether while other manufacturers discontinued numerous models, preferring to concentrate on one or two.
There is a fundamental reason we perform preflight run-ups and engine checks before takeoff: It is a whole lot better to find problems at 1G, 0 feet agl and 0 knots airspeed than it is while airborne. Making sure a power- plant will work as we intend before taking off is just good airmanship. A good run-up doesnt mean every- thing is perfect, however, and we train for airborne engine problems, including full use of its controls and instruments. Sometimes, though, the problems were looking for dont reveal themselves when it is convenient for us, and we have to diagnose engine issues in the air. Urgently. And fly the airplane at the same time. It is not a comfortable experience.
At this writing, its impossible to know what ongoing investigations will determine, and whether either the flight crew or the controller will face consequences. This and other incidents, however, highlight a longstanding problem: air traffic control is designed by and comprised of humans, and its therefore imperfect. Controllers make mistakes just like the rest of us, pilots included. The challenge is to recognize those mistakes when they happen and take action appropriate to resolve the issue. A recent encounter I had at a towered airport reinforces the old, bad joke that the controller likely will feel really bad after an accident. The pilot likely wont feel a thing.
Until recently, the constituency comprising LBA operations was paid little attention by the major aviation organizations. Most general aviation pilots affiliated themselves with either the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) or the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA). Most of those organizations members, especially in EAA, often do not fly for personal or business transportation purposes. The heavy-iron two-pilot corporate jets already were well represented by the NBAA.
Most modern comm radios can tune frequencies with 8.33 kHz channel spacing, which currently is required only in high altitude airspace in Europe (Code Y). It would not be necessary to indicate that in the U.S. Further, Im not sure we can file a performance-based navigation (PBN) code as they require FAA approval. The closet reference is AC 90-100A-maybe someone can interpret this for Part 91 (non 91K) operations.