Fly more with March Saving Daylight Challenge

Get rewarded for most daily airport check-ins

February 25, 2021

As the days get longer with the approach of daylight saving time March 14, pilots can put the extra daylight hours to good use by flying to more airports each day and by checking in upon arrival with the AOPA app’s Pilot Passport feature.

The author and AOPA Social Media Marketer Kevin Cortes fly near the Chicago skyline before landing at Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland, Ohio, and checking in with the AOPA app’s Pilot Passport feature. Photo by David Tulis.

The top three participants with the most daily airport check-ins will each win an Instrument Rating Course from Sporty’s Pilot Shop, valued at $249. Sporty’s IFR course includes more than 12 hours of HD video and animations that help explain and reinforce concepts and procedures to prepare pilots for flying in the clouds. Quizzes following each video segment reinforce the training material for better comprehension and retention in advance of the written test.

Just make sure to check in with the AOPA app’s Pilot Passport feature after you land, and don’t forget to add photos of your experience, or airfield tips that other pilots can use on their journeys.

If you don’t have the AOPA app, download it from the Apple App Store or Google Play so that you can take part in the March Saving Daylight Challenge (see the official rules).


David Tulis

David Tulis

Associate Editor Web/ePilot

AOPA Associate Editor Web/ePilot David Tulis joined AOPA in 2015 and is a private pilot with single-engine land and sea ratings and a tailwheel endorsement. He is also a certificated remote pilot and co-host of the award-winning AOPA Hangar Talk podcast. David enjoys vintage aircraft and photography.

Working group making progress on DPE system reforms

The Designated Pilot Examiner Reforms Working Group, established in 2019, expects to bring its recommendations to the second quarter meeting of the FAA’s Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee, said Christopher Cooper, AOPA senior director of regulatory affairs who chairs one of the working group’s three subcommittees. 

The working group met in mid-February, focusing on goals of improving the selection, training, and deployment of the FAA’s DPEs. It approached the tasks with a blend of systemic innovations and enhancements of the system’s existing framework, he said.

Cooper noted that although progress on the working group’s agenda was slowed by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic throughout 2020, the panel nonetheless “made great strides” working virtually toward its 2021 completion.

AOPA has long advocated upgrading the DPE system, and supports the measures the FAA is taking to modernize the examination-administration process that the majority of pilots depend on for practical tests.

In 2020, we established a six-member AOPA Designated Pilot Examiner Advisory Board to guide AOPA’s evaluation of the recommendations on which the system’s overhaul will be based. Cooper chairs the panel, whose other members include Catherine Cavagnaro, an aerobatics instructor and professor of mathematics at Sewanee: The University of the South; David St. George, a master flight instructor, working charter pilot, and executive director of the Society of Aviation and Flight Educators; Alan Miller, an Airbus A320 pilot with Delta Air Lines; Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Adjunct Assistant Professor Janeen Kochan, who holds a doctorate in applied experimental and human factors psychology from the University of Central Florida in Orlando and is a former Boeing 767 captain and human-factors instructor for a major U.S. airline; and Doug Rozendaal, a veteran warbird and aerobatic pilot.

Professional standards and guidelines for safety and ethical behavior were also the focus of a recently announced Designated Pilot Examiners Model Code of Conduct,  the latest in a series of such documents released by the Aviators Code Initiative, which noted that the codes are “living documents intended to be updated periodically to reflect changes in aviation practices and the aviation environment.”

GAO report reviews FAA’s flight sharing policies

The GAO—the auditing and investigative arm of Congress—interviewed AOPA and 14 other private-sector stakeholders for the report, which was mandated by the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018. Another mandate of the law was for the FAA to publish advisory guidance clarifying how pilots may share expenses, which resulted in the FAA publishing Advisory Circular 61-142.  

Pilots have found the advisory circular “clear and useful” as a guide to staying within the regulatory guardrails for flight sharing, the GAO report said.  

AOPA has long maintained that “safety first” must be the basis for flight sharing operations. When reporting on the new advisory circular in March 2020, we noted that the 12-page document presents scenarios that help pilots interpret key regulatory terms such as “sharing expenses” and “compensation,” and avoid the peril of “holding out” an offer of air transportation. (The FAA said it has “no specific rule or criteria” to determine what constitutes holding out but noted actions it would consider indications of the practice.)

The GAO report also provided examples of actions the FAA permits as expense sharing and those that it forbids as “holding out” an offer of air transportation. It also listed actions the FAA could take against pilots who violate expense sharing regulations.

An emerging concern for the FAA in recent years, the report said, has been the safety implications of proliferating internet-based sites offering to match up pilots and prospective passengers. Some of those startups have provoked enforcement letters and litigation from the regulatory agency.

“According to FAA, the public expects a higher level of safety when they have provided money or other compensation in exchange for transportation, and therefore, FAA regulates air carriers to higher levels of safety than general aviation,” the report noted. “FAA officials told us that members of the public who participate in internet-based expense-sharing flights may expect the pilots who operate these flights to meet the same safety standards as air carriers. Data we reviewed from the National Transportation Safety Board showed that while general aviation safety has improved over the past 10 years, it continues to have a significantly higher fatal accident rate than commercial aviation. For example, in 2018 general aviation flights had a fatal accident rate of about 1.02 fatal accidents per 100,000 flight hours, compared with 0.03 for commercial aviation.”

The report added that the FAA recognizes that “private pilots flying in general aviation environments cannot meet the higher levels of safety required of air carriers,” so the agency “set policies that generally limit pilots to seeking expense sharing passengers from among the group of people with whom the pilot has a pre-existing relationship.”

Until the advisory circular was published, the lack of a single source of information on FAA policies “made it difficult for pilots to develop a comprehensive understanding of the ways pilots are allowed to share expenses with passengers,” it said.

The report also summarized the positions of the 15 stakeholders interviewed on big-picture aspects of flight sharing.

Twelve of the 15 stakeholders said expense sharing allows pilots to fly more, with nine noting reductions of significant costs of aircraft ownership and operation, and seven noting increased flying opportunities that “could help attract more people to the general aviation industry.”

Although most stakeholders said the advisory circular was “clear and useful,” seven of 15—including four from expense sharing companies interviewed—disagreed that expense sharing constituted compensation.

Eight stakeholders expressed the view that pilots should not be permitted to use the internet to find expense sharing passengers; seven supported internet use.

Nine stakeholders noted concern that passenger expectations could pressure private pilots. “For example, these stakeholders said members of the public who respond to an internet solicitation for an expense sharing flight may not understand the differences between general aviation and commercial aviation. Therefore, they might not understand that the pilots of an expense-sharing flight may cancel for any reason, including that their purpose for making the flight no longer exists or the weather is worse than their comfort level—even though the weather may be good enough for the flight to be legally permissible,” the report said.

Airpark community fights railroad corporation over land dispute

Residents of Flying Crown Airpark, located just south of Anchorage, Alaska, are battling a lawsuit over property rights. Photo by Barry Byne.

Since its founding in the early 1950s, Flying Crown Airpark, just south of Anchorage, has been a dream community for pilots and aviation lovers. Nestled adjacent to a railroad track, residents of the airpark can land and park in their backyards. A longstanding land dispute between the airpark’s homeowners association and the railroad is taking a new turn. Its residents are being sued by the Alaska Railroad Corp. (ARRC) in a quiet title action.

If ARRC prevails in its lawsuit, it would have exclusive control over the property and long-term viability of the airstrip. It would also set a precedent for other rights of way on other railroad properties across the state, and negatively impact thousands of recreational users of Alaska’s great outdoors.

Property owners say they were never notified of any changes in their ownership interest, depriving them of due process under the law. ARRC is a legacy corporation with substantial funds and minimal oversight that is now taking on a small private airpark community.

Despite the uphill battle, Flying Crown residents are fighting back. According to the homeowners, “If the lawsuit is won by the railroad because no one defends this assault on the rights of Alaskans, we will all suffer from this new and uncontrolled taxing authority.”

FAA urged to release delayed airman certification standards

It’s a bureaucratic snarl that has flown mostly beneath the flight training public’s radar since the first of six published ACS volumes made its debut in 2016: In 2019, ACS publication was “brought to a halt due to the reinterpretation of the FAA’s responsibilities with regard to standards publication,” the Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee’s Airman Certification System Working Group wrote in a February 23 letter to top officials and legal advisors at the Department of Transportation and the FAA.

The policy question that stopped the modernization effort to replace legacy practical test standards volumes with updated airman certification standards occurred shortly after changes to the DOT’s administrative rulemaking procedures in 2019.

In brief, if pending ACS volumes would be regarded as a “‘back door’ to rulemaking” or would impose “undue burdens on regulated entities” by establishing mandatory testing standards without going through a lengthy federal rulemaking process—as would be required, for example, if the FAA were to propose a new regulation—it would scuttle a much-needed overhaul that has been in progress since 2011. During the ACS rollout, many FAA handbooks and training texts have also been updated to meet the needs of modern applicants and integrate more efficiently with the new standards.

The impact of the delay on flight training has been “vast,” the letter said, noting that the snafu has left training and testing providers to rely on outdated standards or in some cases, “no published standard at all.”

“With the rapid proliferation of new entrants (e.g., drones, powered lift, vertical takeoff and landing, and urban air mobility), the ACS framework is needed now, yet the regulator continues to fall further and further behind industry innovations and opportunities to improve safety,” it said.

“A common sense approach is that the ACS should not be considered rulemaking or guidance, but instead a framework for internal agency governance of certification processes,” the group wrote.

It added, “We understand that the need for a nimbler approach to FAA document publication is not limited to the ACS, and that officials are actively working to identify a solution for issues we’ve raised here.”

“AOPA has long supported and participated in the development of the ACS through the joint working group effort between the FAA and aviation industry. Requiring the ACS to be published through a rulemaking process would limit the flexibility to provide timely updates to these safety-critical documents and would jeopardize the collaboration and trust built between the FAA and aviation industry,” said Christopher Cooper, AOPA senior director of regulatory affairs and AOPA’s representative to the working group.

Before the ACS publication schedule was put on hold, volumes went into effect for private pilot—airplane, instrument rating—airplane, commercial pilot—airplane, commercial pilot—military competence, airline transport pilot and type rating for airplane, and remote pilot—small unmanned aircraft systems. These current ACS and PTS volumes remain valid at this time. 

EASA defines PAL-V Liberty roadable gyrocopter certification pathway

“Getting a flying car to the market is hard. It takes at least 10 years,” said PAL-V CEO Robert Dingemanse. The company has been working toward certification with EASA since 2009 using certification specifications for small rotorcraft (CS-27) as a starting point for the flying car’s development.

The firm “worked together with EASA to amend the complete list of over 1,500 criteria to make it applicable” for the new vehicle. A list of safety and design items was previously reviewed by industry experts and the final version was recently published. “The final phase is compliance demonstration before CarFlying becomes reality for PAL-V’s customers,” the company said, emphasizing “the confidence of the European authorities and the maturity of the design and the company.”

“More than 10 years of analysis, test data, flight tests, and drive tests, led to this important milestone,” said PAL-V Head of Airworthiness Cees Borsboom. “In parallel, we already started compliance demonstration to obtain the type certificate, which will be followed by delivery of vehicles to our customers.”

Be prepared to pay $399,000 for the Sport Edition or $599,000 for the Pioneer Edition, which is limited to the first 90 vehicles and is distinguished by “hand-laid carbon parts” and additional special features that “create a unique blend of raw performance and stylish details.”

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency defined a certification pathway for the PAL-V Liberty gyrocopter, which could be expected in the United States a year after EASA approval. Photo courtesy of PAL-V.

The Italian-designed two-person, dual-engine “car that flies” and “plane that drives” can achieve a high-speed cruise of 100 mph powered by a 100-horsepower aircraft engine, a maximum endurance of 4.3 hours, and fuel economy of 6.9 gph with unleaded fuel. Useful load is 542 pounds and with a range of up to 310 miles with 30 minutes of reserve. Takeoff roll is said to be 590 feet and landing roll is 100 feet; the aircraft is designed to reach an altitude of 11,500 feet.

Converting from drive to fly mode or vice versa is expected to take between 5 and 10 minutes. However, prospective aviators will need to earn a gyroplane certificate. PAL-V offers a five-day training course through the PAL-V FlyDrive Academy with hands-on flying and simulator training.

Drivers can expect 31 mpg on the road and a range of 817 miles via a separate 100-hp engine, though roadable fuel economy is likely to be less at the vehicle’s top speed of 100 mph. Acceleration is a respectable zero to 62 mph in less than nine seconds. A Dynamic Curve Stabilizer system for the tricycle gear/wheels was developed to counteract the high center of gravity from overhead blades and lifting surfaces.

There are plans in place to enter the United States with the Liberty, spokesperson Joris Wolters said in an email. “This will, of course, require us to pass the FAA certification. The type certificate of EASA is accepted in 80% of the world including the U.S.,” he explained. “Therefore, we expect to commence the deliveries to our U.S.-customers, who have already ordered their PAL-V Liberty, one year after obtaining the type certificate in Europe.”

Matt Desch named chair of AOPA President’s Council

Members of the President’s Council represent a high level of commitment to aviation philanthropy, with their annual gift of $10,000 or more.

Desch has been an AOPA member since graduating high school, and has served on AOPA’s Board of Trustees for the past 10 years.

“Over time, it became important for me to protect, support and expand this amazing privilege we have in general aviation. [AOPA President] Mark Baker and [AOPA Foundation Executive Director] Melissa Rudinger asked me to take on this role, and I am here to help AOPA and aviation grow and thrive,” he said. “We have a lot of opportunities in front of us and I believe the organization is in the best place I’ve seen over my 20 years of direct involvement. We have all the right people and programs in place for success.”

Desch serves as CEO of Iridium, a leading global mobile voice and data satellite communications company. He has led the company since 2009 and served as CEO of the company’s predecessor, Iridium Holdings LLC, from 2006 to 2009. Desch has also served on the President’s National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee.

“There is nobody better suited for this role than Matt,” said Baker. “Leading the President’s Council and providing a strong voice with our leadership is the perfect match with his professional and aviation background. We look forward to great results with Matt at the helm.”

Desch has an extensive aviation résumé. He “fell in love with aviation” at 9 years old when he took a $5 ride in a Piper Cherokee 6 in Dayton, Ohio. He was an Aviation Explorer (part of Boy Scouts of America’s Learning for Life program) in his teens, serving as president, and completed ground school while in high school. Desch soloed at 16, got his private certification at 18, and earned an instrument rating in his thirties.

Desch proudly owned and flew a Cessna T210 for almost 18 years, primarily from his home base in Texas, and in other places around the world while his career progressed. With more than 2,400 hours, now a commercial pilot with multiengine and seaplane ratings, he flies a Daher TBM 910 out of Northern Virginia.

Desch is looking forward to the role with great anticipation.

“I hope my passion for aviation and enthusiasm for AOPA rubs off on others,” he added. “I wouldn’t ask anyone to do something I wouldn’t. And what I ask is that my fellow pilots and AOPA members look back at how aviation changed their lives, and join me in protecting this wonderful passion.”

To learn more about the AOPA Foundation and the myriad ways to help protect the freedom to fly, please visit https://foundation.aopa.org/.

Down year, bright future?

Industry leaders voiced expectations of a transformative recovery—not to a future that returns to the status quo—but to one electrified by new aircraft technologies, sustainably fueled, and with career opportunities that expand and diversify a high-skills workforce.

The General Aviation Manufacturers Association’s State of the Industry media event on February 24 marked the first time the annual announcement of shipment and billing statistics was conducted virtually, said GAMA Chairman Nicolas Chabbert, CEO of Daher Aircraft and Kodiak Aircraft. He added, “I sure miss you all.”

GAMA released figures showing aircraft deliveries for the year valued at $22.8 billion, down from $27.8 billion in 2019.

“As expected, in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic negatively impacted general aviation and stifled the industry’s growth. While we continue to face headwinds globally, all signs point to strong demand for our products and services that are unfortunately being constrained by pandemic induced supply chain limitations and a vast array of disjointed barriers to air travel across national borders,” GAMA President Pete Bunce said in a news release.

The 2,399 airplanes shipped in 2020 marked a 9.7-percent decline from 2019, with $20 billion in total billings, down 14.8 percent.

Piston airplane deliveries (1,312) remained nearly stable from 2019 (1,324). However, turboprops took a 15.6-percent hit with 443 shipments, down from 525, and the 644 business jet deliveries skidded 20.4 percent from 809 in 2019.

A bright spot was seen in the business-jet segment’s performance, however, because the decline was less than the 25-percent dip that had been forecast.

Helicopter shipments were down 17.7 percent, and billings slipped 16.2 percent—a caveat being that Italian manufacturer Leonardo had yet to report year-end figures.

Bunce contrasted the emptiness of the National Press Club during the press conference with the packed-room flavor of the previous year’s event, and he lamented the lack of human contact that normally marks gatherings of the close-knit industry.

“When we were here together a year ago none of us could have predicted that factories would be closed down for up to six weeks, that business aircraft, jets, and turboprops couldn’t be used to conduct business—they either couldn’t get across national borders or simply there wasn’t business to conduct,” he said, adding that the energy sector’s troubles dealt a similar blow to rotorcraft operations.

But aviation quickly began to “crawl our way back,” he went on, noting that companies that faced essentially a closed-down second quarter made tough decisions from shutdowns to pay cuts and layoffs and other “extraordinary actions to get this industry back running.”

Despite challenges, the year held some reasons for optimism. GAMA added members “across the spectrum of products” the association represents. Aircraft with electric propulsion are on a path toward certification, Bunce said, holding the promise of a period of technological innovation as exciting as the dawn of the jet age must have been.

With the Lockheed Martin supersonic X–59 aircraft in development, and states like Kansas on board for collaboration, the time will come when public response can be gauged to overflights at speeds of Mach 1 or greater that are noiseless or “not above ambient noise,” he noted.

Panel discussion focused on several visions of the future of GA and business aviation.

Tony Lefebvre, CEO of Signature Flight Support and chairman of GAMA’s Environment Committee, noted the support FBOs have provided for distribution of personal protective equipment during the pandemic—and now, vaccine movement. FBOs are serving customers new to GA who are “now part of the family and will continue to fly private in the future.” He demurred on discussing ongoing takeover activity in the FBO segment focused on his company and reportedly on a major competitor, Atlantic Aviation.

Roei Ganzarski, CEO of MagniX, maker of electric motors for aircraft, and executive chairman of sustainable aircraft pioneer Eviation, said the pandemic may be shifting public preferences toward GA aircraft and flights from smaller airports, allowing passengers to avoid “large TSA lines and a lot of people.”

“Maybe they want to have a smaller environmental impact when they fly,” he said.

Electric aircraft are aviation’s future, he added, “because we as an industry can’t keep creating emissions when we fly. It’s just not acceptable anymore and we have to stop that.”

David Paddock, president of Jet Aviation and GAMA’s immediate past chairman, attended the conference remotely from Switzerland, noting the growing acceptance of sustainable aviation fuel and his company’s efforts to promote its availability at FBOs in Geneva and Zurich. He said sustainability practices were “commonplace” in Europe.

Embraer Executive Jets CEO Michael Amalfitano, the panel moderator, turned the topical spotlight on the importance to the industry of showcasing diverse and highly skilled aviation workforce opportunities.

“It’s more than pilots, it’s more than mechanics, and technicians. It’s engineers, it’s accountants, it’s specialists, programmers, public relations, management,” he said, inviting feedback from panelists.

Paddock concurred, touting the industry’s resources for promoting workforce diversity as a core strength of aviation.

Ganzarski also agreed. He noted that “every day in aerospace we defy the laws of gravity,” as companies combine in one product multiple disciplines of engineering, making aerospace “one of the most high-tech, exciting, dynamic, ever-changing industries anyone could dream of working in.”

He urged that the message be taught to the younger generation, emphasizing that tech careers were about more than opportunities at Amazon, Microsoft, or Google—all “great companies,” but “very single product or single-aspect software.”

One instrument, many possible faces

The Wichita, Kansas, company billed the new Flex MD23 Series as a “first-of-its-kind” Custom Function Display in a February 22 product announcement, noting the CFD is not to be confused with a multifunction display. The Flex is designed to be customized for factory installation or retrofit, enabling a huge range of installation options, rather than being preprogrammed to serve particular functions, as MFDs generally are.

“Flex is a two-part solution: the base hardware and software are fixed, while the configuration and digital display are flexible. Each unit is customized through a unique code, specific to the application,” said Mid-Continent Vice President of Engineering Brett Williams, in the news release.

The hardware and software are certified via multiple technical standard order approvals and the unit, which fits in a standard 2-inch cutout, also meets the RTCA Inc. standards for avionics software (specifically, RTCA DO-178C, Design Assurance Level A), the company said.

The MD23 Custom Function Display comes with a 26-pin data port on the back, and optional pitot-static connectors (left). Photo courtesy of Mid-Continent Instruments and Avionics.

The Flex MD23 accepts a broad range of standard data inputs, including ARINC 429, RS-232, analog, absolute and differential pressure (direct pitot-static inputs are optional), and temperature. That means it can be programmed to display just about anything, and serve as almost any instrument, ranging from a basic annunciator (landing gear, master caution) to sophisticated instruments such as a radar altimeter display, angle of attack indicator, altimeter, or airspeed indicator, to name just a few of the “virtually limitless” options. It has a daylight-readable, high-definition LCD display and a push-and-turn control knob. A USB interface allows software updates in the field.

Mid-Continent Director of Communications Julie Lowrance said in an email exchange that pricing is highly dependent on configuration. The hardware, including base software, will range between $2,000 and $4,000, though a Custom Instrument Definition file is also required to fully implement an installation, and that can cost a great deal more, “from $12,000 to six figures, depending on the complexity of the instrument,” Lowrance wrote. The Flex can even serve as multiple instruments in one, depending on wiring requirements and other installation details. The company does not plan to market the device directly to pilots or individual aircraft owners, at least not initially. Instead, the company expects to sell the Flex to aircraft makers or avionics installers who can work with the company’s engineers to craft specific installations.

“This is next-level glass technology for creative avionics solutions,” said Matthew Harrah, the company’s senior vice president of technology and products, in the news release. “We set out to improve systems integration and effectively eliminated the complex and costly product development process for aircraft manufacturers and fleet upgrades.”

These are just a few of the many possible configurations of the MD23 Custom Function Display. Image courtesy of Mid-Continent Instruments and Avionics.

Training Tip: A pitch for no-flap landings

Ideally, those pilots in training will receive enough exposure to flap-free flying to become comfortable slipping into your world in the event that someday they find their flaps frozen, failed, or forbidden.

They will learn that what they are training to achieve in flap-equipped aircraft by mechanical as well as aerodynamic means are skills you accomplish exclusively by subtle combinations of power and pitch and the artful manipulation of drag.

Of course, flaps are fantastic when functioning, but they do fail, so it’s worthwhile to fly frequent flaps-up approaches to fine-tune your faculties.

More than one failure mode is possible. Flaps might simply fail to extend, or—more challenging for aircraft control—they might extend asymmetrically. If you are successful retracting them, continuing to a no-flaps landing would likely be the best option.

Absent mechanical or electrical difficulties with the flaps, aerodynamic scenarios could arise when a pilot flying a flaps-equipped aircraft would find it favorable to forego flap extension. An inadvertent encounter with freezing rain or another form of airframe icing could call for deferring the use of flaps, for instance.

Why leave flaps up? According to Step 8 of the emergency checklist for an inadvertent icing encounter in a Cessna 152: “Leave wing flaps retracted. With a severe ice build-up on the horizontal tail, the change in wing wake airflow direction caused by wing flap extension could result in a loss of elevator effectiveness.”

That hazard—a change in airflow over the horizontal tail—is also why some manufacturers recommend avoiding the use of flaps when performing a forward slip to a landing, which is a maneuver you can expect to demonstrate on your private pilot practical test. On the checkride, your designated pilot examiner will be pleased to note that you are familiar with the task’s risk-management elements, including understanding that the slip can affect “fuel flowage, tail stalls with flaps, and lack of airspeed control.”

Making the adjustment to unfamiliar pitch attitudes and sight pictures during landing can be the most pronounced part of the transition for pilots of flap-equipped aircraft working to master no-flaps landings.

Fix that flaw and find your way to finesse.