CategoryAviation Law

FAA’s Proposed Changes to Flight Training

According to this article (http://www.avweb.com/eletter/archives/avflash/1452-full.html#201085) on Avweb, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is proposing several changes to its pilot, flight instructor, and pilot school certification rules.  Among other things, it is proposing the following changes:

  • The definition of “complex airplane” would include airplanes equipped with Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC) engines
  • Pilots of single-pilot-certified light jets would be required to pass a proficiency check
  • Efforts to make it easier to issue U.S. certificates to foreign pilots
  • Commercial pilot requirements, both single-engine and multi-engine, would be changed by replacing 10 hours of complex airplane aeronautical experience with 10 hours of advanced instrument training
  • Flight schools would be excused from having ground school space if they offer internet-based ground school training
  • Students would be allowed to apply for a private pilot certificate and an instrument rating at the same time

These are just a few of the proposed changes mentioned in the article.  You can read the proposed changes in there entirety here (http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2009/E9-20957.htm).  As these are only proposed changes, it will be interesting to follow them to see what comments are made and what eventually ends up making the final changes.

Some hope for general aviation on emission standards

Several general aviation (GA) organizations have advocated for the exemption of aircraft from the fuel-emissions standards proposed in the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (H.R. 2454).  Avweb reports that it looks much better for GA, as the bill passed the house on June 26, 2009, with the exemption for aircraft in place.  Although the bill must still be approved by the Senate, word is that the Senate is not going to push for limits on aviation emissions (according to Helicopter Association International).

Personally, I am very pleased to see the exemption and I hope it stays when passed by the Senate.  Despite the current economic woes and the accompanying drop in aircraft values, the operational cost of flying does not seem to have gone down much.  The standards proposed in this bill could have driven the cost of Avgas up significantly, sidelining many pilots and an important part of commerce in our great country.  I am no fan of Avgas from an environmental standpoint, but regulation is not the way to deal with it at this time.  There are many promising alternatives to Avgas being developed that would require little, if any, changes to engines or airframes.  I’m hopefuly that those alternatives will prove fruitful soon enough to stay the government’s regulatory hands.

TSA Security Directive Effecting General Aviation – Effective June 1, 2009

UPDATE: As stated in this Avweb article, it appears that several airports on the list were surprised to find themselves there. Apparently, these airports have instituted security measures that independently meet the TSA’s requirements. Needless to say, the saga continues. I will continue to update my blog as more comes out.

The Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) new directive, SD-8G, became effective June 1, 2009. It requires transient pilots flying into commercial-service airports to remain close to their aircraft, leaving it only to walk to and from the fixed-base operator, service provider, or airport exit. Hard to believe, but this is a relaxation of the initial version which would have required those same pilots to undergo a background check and receive a security badge in order to have unescorted access to their airports.

The Michigan airports on the list (http://eaa.org/news/2009/2009-06-09_tsa_airportlist.pdf) are listed below. Needless to say, there are a few that I find very surprising, as I have flown to them and cannot figure out why they would be on the list. Keep the list in mind when you plan your next flight to any of these airports – you do not want to find yourself on the wrong end of any enforcement action. If you have any questions, please let me know.

APN Alpena County Regional
AZO Kalamazoo Municipal
CIU Chippewa County International
CMX Houghton County Memorial
DTW Detroit Metro Wayne County
ESC Delta County
FNT Bishop International
GRR Kent County International
IMT Ford
IWD Gogebic County
LAN Capital City
MBL Manistee County Blacker
MBS MBS International
MKG Muskegon County International
PLN Pellston Regional
SAW Sawyer International
TVC Cherry Capital

The Future – Regulation of Roadable Airplanes?

Over the past year or so I’ve been following the progression of a couple roadable airplanes – fly and drive, you might say.  The Transition by Terrafugia (http://www.terrafugia.com/index.html), a car/plane, and the SkyBike (http://www.samsonmotorworks.com/), a motorcycle/plane.  The Transition is further along in development, already completing several test flights (videos available on the company’s website), while the SkyBike is still in the design phase (although Samson Motorworks intends to have a some form of prototype at Airventure 2009).  Both are being built under the FAA’s Light Sport Airplane (“LSA”) regulations.

We all know that myriad regulations will apply to these hybrid machines: FAA LSA regulations, FAA operational regulations for both plane and pilot, State motorvehicle codes, National Highway Traffic Safety Adminstration regulations, and more.  I find myself wondering if the various regulatory agencies will hold these machines to the same regulatory standard as the single-function vehicles the agencies already regulate.  Will those regulations be amended/adapted to make any exceptions?  Will a new entity be created to regulate these machines?  Will I one day need to research the Federal Roadable Aviation Regulations (my own inventiveness on the title)?

I surmise that the answers to these questions will, in large part, depend on whether and to what extent the machines become commercially successful.  I’m curious to know what others think on this topic so please share your thoughts.

FAA’s Most Recent View on Flight Into Known Icing

On January 16, 2009, the FAA released a letter explaining its view on Flight Into Known Icing (FIKI).  As a VFR-only pilot, I don’t deal too much with FIKI – its presence anywhere in the vicinity of my flight path would mean I would not be flying anyway.  However, the letter provides some guidance on what has become an ephemeral ideal – one that has left many pilots wondering whether or not FIKI would be cause for a certificate action against them.

As stated in the letter, FIKI is not directly referenced in part 91 and the only reference to known icing conditions (subpart F) applies to large and turbine-powered multiengine airplanes and fractional ownership progam aircraft – so what about us single-engine and small multi-engine folk?  Let’s read on.

The letter points to the usual Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs )suspects for the basis for an enforcement action: 91.9 (compliance with the POH), 91.13 (careless and reckless operation), and 91.103 (flight planning responsibilities).  The definition of “known ice” in 7-1-22 of the Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM) references actual ice visually observed on the aircraft.  Note that it does not reference conditions as a determinitive factor – only ACTUAL ice present on the aircraft itself.  The letter specifically excludes the commonly held belief that the presence of visible moisture (clouds) at below-freezing temperatures constitutes known icing conditions (I can hear the collective sigh of relief from here!).

It appears that the general rule going forward is that the FAA will consider the facts and circumstances surrounding an incident or accident in determining whether enforcement action is warranted – a more “holistic” approach, if you will.  Common facts considered will include: available weather information, pre-flight planning, alternative pilot actions, actual ice formation, the pilot’s steps to exit such conditions, etc.).

Although the FAA left itself some “wiggle room,” I am encouraged by its move to a  more practical approach to these situations.  Only time (and enforcement actions) will tell how FIKI will develop in light of this letter.