An unusual rash of activity has come out of Washington, D.C., this year that affects all pilots. Changes in regulations, aviation services, airspace and even outer space have, thus far, been the hallmark of 2005.
Starting January 20, new high-altitude aeronautical charts became effective, reducing the vertical separation minimums (RVSM) from 2,000 feet to just 1,000 feet. Pilots and aircraft operating between FL290 and FL410 must now be RVSM-certified. Compliant aircraft need not one, but two new altimeters, since standard altimeters aren’t accurate enough in thin air to ensure pilots remain at precisely the required altitude. RVSM is intended to allow more aircraft to occupy airways.
Operating at between FL290 and FL410 requires filing flight plans. A new Aircraft Equipment Suffix Table creates an aircraft type and special equipment designation of Q (/Q=RVSM plus /R or /E or /F or /G), indicating the airman has both RVSM and advanced RNAV capabilities. A simple “/W” indicates RVSM authorization only.
Also in January of this year, the FAA completed its first designated pilot examiner course for the new sport-pilot license. A dozen such courses are scheduled across the country throughout the year. Additionally, practical test standards for a sport-pilot airplane, gyroplane, glider, airship, balloon, weight-shift control and flight instructor now are up on the FAA’s Website at http://afs600.faa.gov.
Student pilots and instructors now are complying with a new ruling that requires Transportation Security Administration clearance of any non-U.S. citizen who starts training for a new certificate or rating in any powered aircraft. The Alien Flight Training Rule also requires flight instructors and flight schools to check a student’s citizenship before providing training.
Starting in March of this year, pilots who own or operate turbine aircraft that carry six passengers or more (not including pilot and copilot) are required to have terrain awareness and warning systems (TAWS) on board. The rule (FAR 91.223) actually went into effect in March 2002, but came with a three-year grace period.
A new bill signed into law by President Bush will require pilot licenses to include a picture. The regulation doesn’t require pilots to get a new license, but before the year’s end, all new ratings will include a photo. New certificates will be tamper- and counterfeit-resistant and may have the ability to store biometric information.
Congress also passed the Commer-cial Space Launch Amendments Act. The bill gives the FAA some jurisdiction over the flights, but essentially strives to protect the “uninvolved public.” The legislation establishes regulatory parameters and limits the liability on commercial space ventures over the next eight years while giving the agency little authority over regulating passengers and crew. The bill’s sponsor, California Representative Dana Rohr-abacher, explained that restrained regulation was important so as not to “strangle this industry and drive these entrepreneurs offshore.”
This year also may see some significant changes in pilot services. The FAA and the National Association of Air Traffic Specialists (NAATS), the union that operates the nation’s flight service stations (FSS), have squared off for some serious discussion. Under the Bush Administration, the government is looking for a minimum 22% budget belt-tightening and has put the contract for operating the Flight Service system out to bid. Included in the move is a plan to reduce the number of automated flight service stations by almost two-thirds. The overall result could very well be the privatization of America’s FSS network.
“Flight service controller duties will be sold to the lowest bidder with no system announced as yet to monitor the safety and security,” notes the NAATS Website.
FAA administrator Marion Blakey acknowledges, “We don’t know whether it’s something that ultimately will be staffed by federal specialists or by specialists in the area who are under private contract.”
The two sides are far from an agreement on what it costs to operate the system now, much less how much money could be saved under any new scheme. The FAA contends that each time a pilot contacts an FSS, it currently costs the government $25.
The union disagrees, saying, “Flight Service costs an average of $12 per contact until you factor in the cost of all the technical and administrative support. These support personnel are not included in any privatization or job elimination study,” claims NAATS.
On the other hand, the FAA has announced plans to hire as many as 12,500 new air traffic controllers and expedite their training to get them on the job more quickly. In 1981, President Reagan fired more than 10,000 controllers, and their replacements will begin retiring at record levels over the next few years. The FAA also is considering the possibility of allowing select controllers to work beyond the current mandatory retirement age of 56.
|Beriev Be 103|
|Liberty Belle B-17|
The FAA has trained air traffic controllers all over the world, but recently signed on for a job no one saw coming—working with China to open Chinese airspace. Experts estimate the country will be the second largest aviation market within the next one to two decades.
Two years ago, all but three of China’s air routes were controlled by the People’s Liberation Army Air Force, and the country boasted only a single privately owned jet. In January this year, China officially sanctioned the ownership of private aircraft. By 2008, when Beijing hosts the Olympics, hundreds of private aircraft are expected to dock and rest at a new VIP terminal, where the country hopes to have the world’s largest service facility for private aircraft.
A changing point of view from Chinese leadership now is welcoming general aviation as a means of opening up the country’s vast state interior, and U.S. companies have been quick to respond. Cirrus Design ferried an SR22 from Duluth, Minn., to Zhuhai to display and offer demo rides at Air Show China. “People were blown away,” says Cirrus’ vice president of marketing, Randy Bolinger. For more information, contact Cirrus Design at (218) 727-2737 or log on to www.cirrusdesign.com.
Diamond Aircraft recently announced the Chinese certification of both the DA40 four-place and DA20-C1 two-place, and company CEO Christian Dries says he expects China to potentially become a “significant portion of our future business.” Beijing PanAm is the first independent commercial flight-training facility to operate in China and already has placed firm orders for a total of 60 aircraft over three years, including 41 DA40 Diamond Stars and 19 DA42 TwinStars, all with Garmin G1000 all-glass cockpits. For more information, call Diamond at (519) 457-4000 or log on to www.diamondair.com.
The new year has been kind to Albuquerque, N.M.-based aviation. After an almost two-year time-out, the Eclipse 500 very light jet is flying again, this time with its long-awaited Pratt & Whitney 601F jet engines. The flight testing for certification is scheduled over the next 15 months and will ultimately include a total of seven airframes. Eclipse CEO Vern Raburn says the company is on track to certify the small jet by March of next year. For more info, contact Eclipse at (505) 245-7555 or log on to www.eclipseaviation.com.
Meanwhile, Colorado-based Aviation Technology Group (ATG) finally is under way building a demonstrator prototype of its Javelin Executive Jet. The company hired former Cessna president Charlie Johnson as the vice president overseeing engineering, manufacturing, supply-chain management and flight ops. The tandem seater expects its first test flight in the first half of this year, with certification coming in 2007. The Javelin projects a cruise speed of 528 KTAS with a ceiling of 45,000 feet. For more info, call ATG at (303) 799-4197 or log on to www.avtechgroup.com.
It’s a boat! It’s a plane! Yes, it is. The Russians are back, this time, with the Be103, a twin amphib designed for multi-tasking. Two 210-hp Continental IO-360ES4 sit on the aft fuselage behind a pilot and five passengers, but the aluminum-alloyed floater can easily be rearranged for commercial applications, ranging from air ambulance to freight hauling. The airplane comes standard with a Bendix/King navcom package and is IFR-capable. The Be103 has a max cruise of about 150 knots and a range of approxi-mately 600 miles. Contact (908) 996-4200 or log on to www.beriev-usa.com for more information.
Quest Aircraft Company in Sandpoint, Idaho, is test-flying a new turbine single. The fixed-gear Kodiak uses a Pratt & Whitney PT6A-34 to develop a maximum of 750 hp and can be configured to carry heavy loads or up to 10 passengers. Quest plans for the certification to occur during the first quarter of 2006. The Kodiak will come with a price tag of about $1 million. For more, call Quest Aircraft at (208) 263-1111 or visit www.questaircraft.com.
After 14 years and 80,000 hours of restoration, the B-17, called Liberty Belle, flew for the first time in nearly four decades in Kissimmee, Fla. The historic bomber has undergone several major face-lifts since her roll-out from the Lockheed-Vega plant in Burbank, Calif., in May 1945. The B-17 now is the flagship for Liberty Foundation, a nonprofit organization whose purpose is to give history a future by honoring our veterans, educating our youth and preserving our aviation heritage. The Liberty Foundation is making plans for its National Tour of the 14th Flying Fortress this year. Call the Liberty Foundation at (912) 384-1068 or log on to www.libertyfoundation.org.
But only one new airplane shows just how fun it is to be a virgin—the GlobalFlyer. While Richard Branson waits for Scaled Composites to deliver the civilian spacecraft, Virgin Atlantic executive Steve Fossett expects to take the Rutan-designed Model 311 around the world in 80 hours. Like its predecessor, the Voyager, and its cousin, the White Knight, the GlobalFlyer is a trimaran with two huge external booms that hold the landing gear and 5,454 pounds of fuel on either side of the pilot’s cockpit. The powerplant is a single Williams jet engine. Thanks to computer innovation since the round-the-world flight of the Voyager, the GlobalFlyer is said to be so aerodynamically perfect that the only practical way it can descend is with the use of drag ’chutes. The flight is scheduled to begin and end from a 12,000-foot runway in Salina, Kan. Visit www.globalflyer.com for more info.
Magic In A Box
Garmin’s 500-series panel-mounted GPS has added one more item to its list of talents, thanks to a recent nod from the FAA. The GNS 530 and GNS 500 now feature TAWS. Current owners can up-grade their systems for $8,000. A new GNS 500 with terrain capability costs $22,500. The Garmin system graphically depicts the surrounding terrain and obstacles in bright yellow and red, relative to the aircraft’s position.
The GNS 530 box also is WAAS-upgradable and now includes IFR GPS, COM, VOR, LOC, glideslope and a color moving map, all rolled into one. A huge Jeppesen database (which can be updated with a front-loading data card) contains all airport, VOR, NDB, intersection, FSS, approach, DP, STAR and SUA information. The boxes get even better when coupled with traffic, lightning detection and weather interfaces, like the Ryan TCAD, TIS from the Garmin GTX 330 mode-S transponder or the Goodrich SkyWatch, Stormscope WX-500 as well as the Garmin GDL 49 datalink transceiver. With the use of the FDE prediction program, the Garmin GNS 530 may be used for oceanic or remote operations. For more information, contact Garmin International at (913) 397-8200 or see www.garmin.com.
Are You Sirius?
In-flight entertainment just gets better all the time, and the new PXE7300 is the perfect testament. The single unit from PS Engineering combines a CD, MP3, and AM and FM radio all at the touch of just a finger. If you add the Sirius Satellite Radio remote receiver, you’ll have cross-country access to 100 commercial-free channels of streamed digital audio.
The PME7300 is certified for installation in more than 400 aircraft. The CD, MP3, and AM and FM radio package costs $1,495, and the Sirius receiver (PSM7390) adds another $800. The satellite reception requires an additional antenna (AT2300) for $309, while a Sirius radio subscription is about $10 a month. It’s worth a “Sirius” look if you spend time in a cockpit. For more information about the product, contact PS Engineering at (800) ICS-AERO or log on to www.ps-engineering.com.