What Would You Do? Avoiding the Unexpected in Flight

When it comes to avoiding the unexpected, the key is to seeing potential problems before they arise. That means not only interpreting what’s out your window, but also having the tools to see hundreds of miles in advance to allow you to make strategic decisions early.

Read through the unexpected scenarios that arise below, think through your options, then click the links to join the conversation.

Scenario #No. 1: Avoiding Hazardous Weather

You’re about an hour from your destination and there’s an area of yellow precipitation depicted on your route of flight. Is this rain, or possibly an area of convection? How can you find out from a distance?

Arguably the most important tool at your disposal is SiriusXM’s Storm Cell Attributes. Not only can you see areas and types of precipitation along your intended route of flight, you can see telling features like echo tops, direction of movement, and speed of movement. Most importantly, SiriusXM includes Cloud-to-Cloud lighting which is common in the initial phase of developing thunderstorms allowing you to determine whether the radar is depicting rain, or convective activity.

What does this mean for you? Think through your options, then click here to join the conversation.

Scenario #No. 2: Destination Weather

You’re on a long cross-country and keeping an eye on the weather at your destination. You see some unexpected weather in and around the airport. But you’re too far away to get ADS-B METARS to load. What are some in-flight ways to check METARS at your destination and your alternate?

Every SiriusXM Aviation Weather product, including METARs, TAFs, AIRMET/SIGMETs, and PIREPs, are available across the country from takeoff to landing.

If you are flying with SiriusXM Aviation Weather you can receive important weather information whenever you want it. If you are flying with ADS-B you will need to wait until you’re at the right altitude and distance to request weather information like METARs for your destination or alternate airports.

What does this mean for you? Think through your options, then click here to join the conversation.

Scenario #No. 3: Loss of Signal

Planning a trip to the mountains this fall? What weather information would you have if you suddenly lost your ADS-B signal because of a limitation from its ground based network?

SiriusXM Aviation Weather is a satellite-delivered service with no line-of-sight restrictions. It is reliable at any altitude regardless of terrain.

When flying with ADS-B in areas with changing terrain, there may be interruptions in critical weather information needed to make the best weather decisions possible. This is particularly noticeable near mountainous areas or valleys–and you won’t have any warning from the system when the data will be unavailable or when it will resume.

What does this mean for you? Think through your options, then click here to join the conversation.

Drone rules on final approach

The FAA submitted two final rules to the president’s Office of Management and Budget on October 5, proposals for remote identification of unmanned aircraft and operation of small unmanned aircraft over people. The White House budget office has 90 days to review the new regulations, meaning they could be published before the end of the year. AOPA is hopeful that the final rules will reflect suggested changes we argued for on behalf of the general aviation community when the rules were proposed.

AOPA has been actively engaged in a collaborative approach with government and industry to safely integrate unmanned aircraft into our shared national airspace for many years. An original member of the FAA Drone Advisory Committee, as well as the FAA Unmanned Aircraft Safety Team and various national and international organizations developing standards for the industry, AOPA has worked to support realizing the benefits that unmanned aircraft can provide without increasing the level of risk to manned aviation.

The FAA proposed a risk-based approach to allowing drones to fly over people and at night without a waiver in January 2019, though the agency made clear at the time that having a regulated capability to remotely identify unmanned aircraft was a prerequisite. Nearly two years later, both final rules are approaching publication.

Certification policy welcomed

FAA approval of Amazon Prime Air’s petition for exemption in August  brought to three the number of applicants granted preliminary permission to conduct unmanned package delivery operations at designated test sites. Similar exemptions granted to UPS Inc. and Wing still leave the front-runners in the race to scale up drone delivery with additional hurdles to clear: type certification of their aircraft, and air carrier certification under Part 119.

AOPA Senior Director of Regulatory Affairs Christopher Cooper welcomed the recent FAA policy announcement on UAS certification published in September because an aircraft certification process for UAS used for commercial package delivery will help assure incumbent airspace users that these drones can operate safely among us.

“The proprietary and varied nature of this emerging technology has caused concerns of reliability and safety, none more important than how package delivery drones will detect other objects in the airspace and maneuver to avoid them,” Cooper said. “While we cannot evaluate a waiver or exemption application in any meaningful way without knowing the details of how the systems work, we can at least have some assurance that a type certification process adapted from the procedures used for existing aircraft would include validation of detect-and-avoid capability, as well as other systems critical to safe operation.”

Concern over ‘corridors’

As unmanned aviation scales up to people-moving capability on a routine basis (still a few years away, at least), there are early indications that the FAA aims to manage such flights differently than UAS that are not carrying people.

Earl Lawrence, executive director of the FAA’s Aircraft Certification Service, recently told a virtual gathering of the Air Traffic Control Association to expect the first examples of this new generation of vertical lift aircraft created to enable routine taxi service between city rooftops to be certified within two years. Lawrence also said to expect those aircraft to operate along set routes that will be “more segregated than integrated,” among many troubling signals the FAA has given about airspace segregation.

While many operational concepts have been drafted that anticipate the kind of integrated airspace that AOPA has long supported, an Urban Air Mobility Concept of Operations version 1.0 published in June uses the word “corridor” 143 times, suggesting segregation rather than integration of air traffic. While the draft anticipates that UAM would begin “within the current regulatory and operational environment,” it states that “higher tempo UAM operations are supported through regulatory evolution and UAM Corridors that leverage collaborative separation methodologies.”

AOPA opposes airspace segregation because it would exclude many current aircraft operations and render large swaths of airspace off-limits to current users. Integration of these aircraft in dense and complex airspace using robust onboard and/or ground collision avoidance capabilities is a far better approach to mitigate the risk of collision while retaining access to all users. For successful integration of unmanned aircraft, all aircraft, Cooper said, must have a validated see-and-avoid capability, whether by means of human pilots, ground observers, or technology that has proved capable of reliably detecting and avoiding other aircraft. AOPA will continue to advocate for safe integration of all aircraft without undue airspace restrictions, and closely monitor further development of these concepts.

Hurricane Delta closes in on Gulf Coast

Hurricane Delta over the Gulf of Mexico. Photo courtesy of NOAA GOES.

The hurricane was expected to make landfall October 9 as at least a Category 2 storm and possibly maintain the Category 3 strength it regained during the afternoon of October 8, before crashing ashore and spreading storm surge, rain, and wind damage through the central Gulf Coast and lower Mississippi Valley during the weekend.

Steve Thompson, a CFII who runs PlaneSimple, a small flight school at Lake Charles Regional Airport, estimated “about half” of the aircraft based at the southern Louisiana airfield were previously damaged by Hurricane Laura when that Category 4 storm swept through with 150-mph winds on August 27, taking many of the airport’s structures along with it.

According to FAA data, 56 piston aircraft, three jets, and 41 helicopters are based at Lake Charles Regional Airport.

“Hangars were completely destroyed, but we got lucky,” Thompson explained. One of the flight school’s two aircraft was at an Arkansas paint shop and another was repositioned at a nearby airport. “It was just dumb luck because our aircraft was OK and the one parked right next to it wasn’t. If we get another direct hit like that it could be bad.”

Hurricane Laura also damaged aircraft and property at Southland Field to the west.

The National Hurricane Center predicted tropical-storm-force winds would begin to batter the Gulf Coast from Texas to the Florida Panhandle by 8 p.m. on October 8. Forecasters warned of potential storm surge flooding from High Island, Texas, to Ocean Springs, Mississippi, with peak surges up to 11 feet near Vermilion Bay, Louisiana, south of the Lake Charles Regional Airport.

Hurricane-force winds were expected to arrive in the afternoon and evening of October 9 between High Island, Texas, and Morgan City, Louisiana, before spreading inland with “significant flash flooding” and minor to moderate river flooding, the weather service said.

GA gathers data on Hurricane Delta

In the days before landfall, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration “hurricane hunter” overflights included daily missions piercing parts of Hurricane Delta after departing from Florida’s Lakeland Linder International Airport, where a team of weather specialists and their aircraft are based.

A high-altitude Gulfstream IV–SP jet monitored upper atmosphere weather systems surrounding the developing hurricane while crews aboard a pair of four-engine turboprop Lockheed WP–3D Orion hurricane hunter aircraft named Kermit and Miss Piggy flew missions between 15,000 and 18,000 feet above the Gulf of Mexico.

The Orions are equipped with tail Doppler radar and lower fuselage radar systems to scan the storm vertically and horizontally, and also to perform reconnaissance missions into the storm’s center to measure central pressure and surface winds around the eye. The information is critical for authorities determining which communities need to evacuate in advance of the storm.

NOAA flight specialists can deploy weather data-gathering probes called dropwindsondes to support atmospheric and air chemistry studies. The devices report pressure, humidity, temperature, wind direction, and speed as they fall toward the sea and create a detailed picture of the storm’s intensity and structure. 

The U.S. Air Force Reserve’s 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron flies Lockheed WC–130J aircraft from Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi in support of similar missions. One aircraft flew into the Hurricane Delta eyewall as it made landfall on Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula while another evacuated to Texas, the service tweeted.

When winds increased by 85 mph in 24 hours during storm development it “more than doubled the criteria for the rapid intensification of a tropical cyclone, which is a wind speed increase of at least 35 mph in 24 hours or less,” The Weather Channel reported.

The “highest ocean heat content in the tropical Atlantic basin, low wind shear, and sufficiently moist air” contributed to the hurricane’s rapid intensification, the station’s meteorologists explained.

Hurricane Delta was expected to make a right turn to the northeast after landfall, but its future track was uncertain because of upper wind influences from another tropical storm system named Gamma.

“We’re hoping tomorrow we’ll have a place to bring the planes back to because people still want to learn how to fly and there’s still a shortage of flight instructors,” Thompson said.

Manufacturers praise FAA action on standards

The FAA issued a notice to the Federal Register accepting 63 means of compliance (MOC) developed by industry under ASTM International, paving the way for easier general aviation aircraft certifications. This action eases the pathway for new entrant, advanced technology aircraft by bringing in performance-based certification methodologies.

The impetus for the FAA’s approval of the consensus standards as “acceptable means of compliance” with airworthiness requirements for normal category airplanes contained in Part 23 of the Code of Federal Regulations came from a broad rewrite of those regulations completed in 2016. The reforms gave manufacturers more flexibility for accomplishing design safety goals.  The aviation industry’s advocacy for the revised rule was led by the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, with support from AOPA.

In a September 29 news release, GAMA welcomed the FAA’s announcement making the consensus standards available for use as certification methods—some as-written, others including provisions added by the FAA—noting that they “will enable and encourage safety and innovation in general aviation airplanes and further developments in advanced air mobility (AAM) and electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft.

“All throughout the [Part 23] rewrite, GAMA championed the priorities of the general aviation industry. We applaud the FAA’s work to accept the latest set of important means of compliance standards,” added GAMA CEO Pete Bunce.

Publication of the FAA’s notice of the standards’ availability marks the second notice permitting use of performance-based rules for Part 23 airplane certification, GAMA said, adding that “there has been an extended period of time since the last Accepted Means of Compliance document was published, which was in May 2018.”

AOPA reported that the industry had welcomed the first set of consensus standards with enthusiasm.  “These pivotal changes will bring new and safer technologies into the cockpit and reduce costs for pilots and operators,” AOPA President Mark Baker said at the time. “The entire general aviation industry worked hard to bring about these reforms and we applaud Congress and the FAA for enacting smart regulations that preserve safety and promote innovation.”

The FAA should continue to refine the acceptance process, Bunce said, adding that “this effort is about being Future Ready for the opportunities that await this vital and vibrant industry.”

Reno Air Races cope with COVID-19

Had plans continued for the September races, RARA almost certainly would have faced a much more costly, last-minute cancellation when smoke from California wildfires shrouded the course at Reno/Stead Airport in Reno, Nevada, for most of race week.

“As I’ve come to say to people, God works in mysterious ways. Had we not been canceled by [COVID-19], it would have been worse for us,” said Fred Telling, RARA board chairman and a veteran North American T–6 racer at Reno. He flew in to Reno during what would have been race week, and had to shoot the ILS because visibility was less than two miles. “I’ve never done that in Reno,” he said. “On Friday morning it cleared up enough that there was seven or eight miles of visibility.”

“From a race standpoint we wouldn’t have been able to practice Sunday the week prior, or do our qualifications Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday morning,” said Tony Logoteta, RARA’s chief operating officer, noting that heat races normally begin on Wednesday afternoon—and conditions didn’t improve until Friday afternoon. “We have such an emphasis on safety that I can’t imagine we would have proceeded with no practice and no quals.”

This embroidered face mask captures the sentiments of many in the Reno Air Races community. The 2020 races were canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. Photo by Joanne Murray.

The decision to cancel was made because of state restrictions on the size of public gatherings, implemented to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus—which also led to cancellation of the Sun ’n Fun Aerospace Expo, EAA AirVenture, AOPA’s regional fly-ins, and almost every airshow scheduled during 2020. RARA had spent eight or nine months planning for this year’s races when COVID-19 hit and the organization lost admission, vendor, and sponsor income, Logoteta said. “If we’d just stubbornly gone forward, we wouldn’t be talking about the future. As painful as it was to make the decision, we know it was the right one.”

“The aviation community in 2020 was a wash. There isn’t a museum or event that isn’t struggling. We realize we’re not alone,” said Telling, adding that it’s even worse in Reno, which normally hosts numerous special events. “The Reno community itself has been hit hard. Air races make a significant contribution to the local economy.”

To help fill the void left by the canceled races and keep its audience engaged, RARA streamed race footage from previous years. Its social media sites tallied nearly 200,000 video views during September, with more than 2,000 hours of video watched. Some 150,000 social media views were logged just on September 19 and 20, which would have been the 2020 race weekend. Most popular of the archived races streamed were the 2018 Formula 1 heat races, the 2018 Biplane Class heat races, and the 2019 Formula 1 heat races, Logoteta said.

“Air racing really started with the Formula 1, so it makes sense they have such a long-term following,” he noted. “We had a lot of positive comments from people thanking us for putting up the races [online], and many said they are looking forward to next year. We’re definitely happy with how it went. We’re still working on some more programming through the rest of the year.”

“One of the things I heard that people particularly liked was we aired a lot of the raw footage with the commentators who were doing it live during the race,” Telling added. It was more extensive commentary than after the races were edited for broadcast. “Formula and biplane attracted a whole bunch of people.”

Some members of the Reno air racing community held an informal “September Family Race Reunion 2020” at the airport during what would have been race weekend in Reno, drawing between 70 and 100 people who gathered in small groups.

Logoteta said veteran racer Dennis Sanders told him that he’s been coming to Reno every September for years, and he wasn’t going to miss this year. Sanders did come for the reunion weekend—and he and his crew from Sanders Aeronautics in nearby Ione, California, brought not one but three Hawker Sea Fury airplanes.

<img alt="Sanders Aeronautics' Reno Unlimited Gold Class winner and perennial crowd favorite Dreadnought starts on the Reno/Stead Airport ramp. It was among a handful of race aircraft that visited on what would have been the 2020 race weekend. Photo by Joanne Murray.” src=”http://lewistownflyingclub.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/reno-air-races-cope-with-covid-19-1.jpg”>

“My dad took my brother and I, and my mom, and we all went to the Reno Air Races in 1968,” said Sanders, who won the 2019 Unlimited Gold Class championship in Dreadnought, a modified Sea Fury—the same aircraft in which his son-in-law, Joel Swager, won the same title the year before. Sanders was almost 10 years old on that first visit, and has returned to Reno every September since then. He began crewing for racers in 1977; his family took Dreadnought for the first time in 1983—and it’s gone every year since, he said.

A Super Corsair with a Pratt & Whitney R-4360 Wasp Major engine won in 1982. “My dad said, ‘We’ve got to put a 4360 in the Sea Fury.’ We had a family meeting, and the question was, how long are the Reno air races going to survive? We thought, five more years.”

Sanders said he’s glad their assessment was incorrect. “I’ve gone to Reno so long, it’s kind of like duck hunting—we’re going to go,” he laughed. At first he was going to fly one airplane, then decided to take three Sea Fury airplanes—Dreadnought, 924, and Argonaut. Mike Brown, his next-door neighbor who races the North American P–51 Mustang Goldfinger, also flew to Reno, albeit not in his race airplane. “We went up there and we parked on the ramp where we always park. There must have been 50 people—it was just like Reno.”

On the ramp Sanders met a man who told him he was among 12 groups camping in the nearby Valley of Speed, like they always do during race week. He didn’t expect to see any aircraft. “It’s a fraternity, it’s a friendship. It’s what you do,” Sanders said.

The pandemic gave everyone concern. “The whole family has been involved in [Reno] for so long, Fred Telling called to talk to us about what we thought. I said, ‘Man, if I were you, I think I’d call the races early and save your money for next year.’ I breathed a sigh of relief that my little event that I cherish called the event, and capitalized on saving their money, to hopefully go air racing again another day. We’ll see everybody next year in 2021,” Sanders said.

RARA is kicking off a donation campaign, Logoteta said, and contributions to “Preserving our Legacy” can be made online now. While 2019 was a good year, the races lost money, he noted. “We still have a very large gap between where we need to be and where we are, financially.”

There’s a lot to look forward to in 2021, Logoteta added. It will be the debut of the STOL competition, which was demonstrated in 2019 and has been officially accredited by the FAA; it would have debuted this year. “We’re really excited about that,” he said. “The fans really seem to dig it. It’s all right in front of them.

“We have the [U.S. Air Force] Thunderbirds coming back in 2021, and we’re excited to have them back. We basically rolled our performers from 2020 over to 2021. It will be a nice, full performer lineup in addition to seven racing classes.” Logoteta also expects a big racing school in June, based on interest from new pilots and everyone else’s need to requalify. He expects a full field next September. “We know people are just itching to see some racing and we look forward to putting on a good show for them.”

“I’m very heartened by the support we’ve had, more by the racing community broadly, and we’re going to keep up the virtual activity through the fall,” said Telling, adding that he also wants to show continued progress in introducing young people to aviation. RARA’s educational efforts reached more than 7,000 kids in 2019, he said.

The 2021 Stihl National Championship Air Races are scheduled to take place September 15 through 19.

Momentum grows for creation of National Center for the Advancement of Aviation

The National Center for the Advancement of Aviation (NCAA) Act of 2020, H.R.8532, would create an independent center to facilitate collaboration among commercial, general, and military aviation sectors to address the mounting workforce challenges facing the industry.

The NCAA would help develop and deploy a workforce of pilots, aerospace engineers, unmanned aircraft systems operators, aviation maintenance technicians, and others. The center would provide resources to curriculum developers working to integrate science, technology, engineering, and math, leveraging knowledge and expertise among industry sectors. The center would also serve as a central repository for economic and safety data research. In addition, the NCAA would enable greater opportunities for apprenticeships, and help military veterans and others transition to well-paying technical jobs in the aviation industry.

H.R. 8532 was introduced in the House by Reps. André Carson (D-Ind.), Don Young (R-Alaska), and House Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Rick Larsen (D-Wash.). Carson and Young also serve on the Aviation Subcommittee.

An identical, bipartisan bill was introduced in the Senate earlier this year by Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), both pilots. The bill is co-sponsored by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.).

“AOPA is proud to join the aviation and aerospace industries in support of this legislation,” said AOPA President Mark Baker. “As an industry, we must ensure that we are prepared to meet the demands for highly qualified professionals in all sectors of general, commercial, and military aviation—including pilots, mechanics, and technicians. All are needed and vital to ensure the U.S. aviation industry remains competitive and prepared for the future.”

Rep. André Carson (D-Ind.). Photo courtesy of Office of Rep. André Carson.

“I am honored to join my colleagues in introducing this common-sense, yet bold piece of legislation,” Carson said. “Indiana is known as the crossroads of America. And thanks to our world-class airports, that nickname applies to our state’s skyways, as well. We need to keep growing and improving this sector, but obstacles persist. Too often in the past, innovation and lessons learned in various aviation sectors have not been shared in a collaborative or timely manner, especially in the face of rapid developments in new technology. Our bill helps break down silos across commercial aviation, general aviation and military aviation sectors that will not only improve safety and best practices, but also expand opportunities for those interested in the aviation workforce—the young and not so young, from those just starting out, to those with experience who want to move into other types of aviation work. I urge all of my congressional colleagues to support this bill, so we can ensure this industry creates opportunities and sparks passions for years to come.”

Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska). Photo courtesy of Office of Rep. Don Young.

Young added: “Alaska’s geography is incredibly unique. Because of this, aviation has become a central part of our state’s culture and transportation needs. The need for pilots in our state will continue to grow, and if Alaska’s aviation sector is to succeed, we must ensure that the next generation of aviators, mechanics, and other professionals have the training and support necessary to succeed. As a pilot myself, I am proud to introduce this crucial legislation alongside Representatives André Carson and Rick Larsen. Our bill takes important steps to promote aerospace education, develop our next generation aviation workforce, and improve the safety of our skies. This legislation is urgently needed, and I will continue working to get it across the finish line so that the dreams of Alaska’s future pilots can take flight.”

Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.). Photo courtesy of Office of Rep. Rick Larsen.

“In Washington state and across the country, aviation and aerospace mean jobs,” said Larsen. “A National Center for the Advancement of Aviation would foster greater collaboration and technological innovation in U.S. airspace, help improve aviation safety, boost U.S. competitiveness in the global marketplace, and prepare the next generation workforce to meet the demands of the 21st century aviation economy. As Chair of the House Aviation Subcommittee, I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure the future of aviation remains bright.”

Even as the airlines continue to struggle in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the commercial aviation industry still faces a long-term shortage of qualified professionals, encompassing pilots, technicians, and maintenance professionals.

More than 130 organizations representing all segments of aviation support the legislation.

Baker explains why GA is soaring in ‘Forbes’ video interview

Baker has found no shortage of platforms to tell the GA story this year, as the industry continues to play a critical role in filling many of the nation’s transportation needs, including those to help fight the coronavirus pandemic.

In the interview with Karlgaard, himself a pilot, Baker addressed GA’s critical role, AOPA’s continued efforts to protect the freedom to fly, and the need for a more diverse industry.

Highlights of the conversation:

GA’s overall health

“General aviation is in a mini-boom right now. We’ve seen flights as measured by some of the top 77 airports up 10, 15 percent. Anecdotally, we hear of fuels sales and certain FBOs up over 60 percent… General aviation is seeing lots of use for lots of reasons. And, try finding a used aircraft for sale!”

AOPA’s role in championing BasicMed

“BasicMed is a true example of when our association leads and pulls together the community, and speaks to the representatives in the House and Senate, and said, ,we need a law changed,.’ because for 40 years, we have been requesting to get something done with the FAA, which is an alternative means to comply with the medicals. The medicals went into place in the 30s and 40s, and were really driven around… commercial and military flight. The same standards don’t apply when you’re flying yourself or your family…. We put through a law and it’s now three years … over 58,000 people are flying under BasicMed. … It’s been really exciting to see…That shows the essence and power of our community.”

The value of local airports

“Of the 5,000 airports in the country, the airlines serve less than 400 of them. … We spend a lot of time with the locals at the state level, and we have seven regional managers at AOPA, for allocating whatever the state funds could be to get matched by the FAA funds, to make sure these airports are getting their runways coated, and painted… instrument approaches upgraded—all those kinds of things that keep that infrastructure alive, which is unique in the world. There’s not another place in the world that has this kind of access.”

The need for greater diversity and inclusion in aviation

“The first and most important piecewas to create a high school curriculum for aviation in the ninth, tenth, eleventh, and now being tested this year will be the twelfth grade. … We started out very small—30 high schools originally … and then grew it over the last four years so that when we get to this fall … we’ll be in about 400 classrooms … about 8,000-10,000 kids will be enrolled. … One of the other things we do look at is the demographic … only six percent of the active pilots in this country are female. Well, about 23 percent of the people taking this class are young females. … Under-represented groups [make up] about 5 to 6 percent of the population as well. It turns out about 35 percent of these people taking this are under-represented groups. … It’s reaching inner city, suburban, and rural kids in this program.”

How is leading AOPA different than your corporate roles?

“There’s a value proposition stream: Why would people be willing to pay the membership fee? Why will somebody come and shop at your retail outlet, buy your product? Because you’ve got to feel like there’s a value there. That essence doesn’t change, by the way, if you’re a nonprofit, or if you’re a for-profit retailer, you’ve got to find a way to connect to the customer/member, that they feel like there’s a value there. Either through education, information, access to our legal services plan, whatever they feel like they’re gaining by being part of this greater community that allows us to have a voice in Washington, D.C … Everything we do, everything we move, everything we touch has to have an outcome that provides [a] value proposition.”

What do you say to someone with an interest in flying?

“Take the first step and go down to the airport and go for [an] introductory flight, and go for an introductory flight at a couple places till you feel good about that chemistry you might have at that flight school. … Making sure you’re willing to commit; Does it take time? The answer is, we know it takes time. …But I would say it’s the best thing you could ever do, is go take that first step.”

The future of electric

“What I am excited about is alternative propulsion, and in some cases, the eVTOL and the VTOL world is driving some of the energy around trying to figure out, what are the choices? In some cases pure electric is a limitation, because of weight and density for fuel that you get out of the energy of that cell, as compared to what might be a hybrid engine that seems to be kind of the most exciting thing right now, where you may take off on a gasoline, piston-driven engine, and then cruise on the electric engine, and charge the battery with the propeller when you’re on the descent.” 

Hypersonic UAS testing near Denver International prompts concern

“We find the latest announcement from CASP regarding testing hypersonic drones alarming in its ramifications for safety and airspace impacts on tens of millions of travelers who travel through Denver International each year and on local general aviation operations,” the groups wrote to FAA Administrator Steve Dickson on October 8.

“Hypersonic testing, while commendable, is concerning when being conducted at an active GA airport that is close to Denver International Airport,” said Christopher Cooper, AOPA senior director of regulatory affairs.

When the airport was selected as a test site, the FAA and the Adams County Board of County Commissioners (which owns the Colorado Air and Space Port) had agreed “that launches from the spaceport would be confined to a vehicle type capable of takeoffs and landings with characteristics similar to conventional aviation in order to minimize airspace and safety impacts.”

A hypersonic drone rocket certainly doesn’t meet that criterion.

In addition, officials at Denver International Airport and the Adams County Board of County Commissioners were supposed to have agreed to parameters that confine operations to the spaceport and ensure “safe and efficient use” of the national airspace system. That has not happened, according to the groups.

Out of concern for the safety of pilots and passengers flying into Denver International Airport, the groups are requesting “that FAA require an environmental assessment of the safety, airspace, and community impacts associated with testing an experimental rocket” at Colorado Air and Space Port. They also stated that the operational parameters for the tests should be codified for the two airports to avoid confusion.

“Our organizations believe that the testing of experimental, hypersonic unmanned aircraft will create unnecessary safety hazards and airspace conflicts in proximity to a commercial airport that is critical to the safety and efficiency of the National Airspace System,” the groups said.

The Air Line Pilots Association, International; Airlines for America; the American Association of Airport Executives; and the National Business Aviation Association joined AOPA in voicing concern. 

Proposed immigration rule could impact flight training

Public comments will be accepted through October 26 on the notice of proposed rulemaking published September 25 in the Federal Register.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security seeks to impose fixed time limits on F (academic student), J (exchange visitor), and I (foreign media representative) visas that are currently issued for unspecified periods, conditional on compliance with applicable visa requirements. The agency noted in the proposal that this “duration of status” (D/S) policy, first implemented in 1978, has led to significant increases in utilization. In 2019, the agency granted more than 1 million admissions to student visa holders, up from 263,938 under the previous policy in 1978.

Increased utilization of these visas “poses a challenge to the Department’s ability to monitor and oversee these categories of nonimmigrants while they are in the United States,” the agency noted in the rulemaking proposal. The proposed policy would impose fixed dates upon which the visa holder would be required to depart the country. Those who need to stay longer would be required to apply to DHS for approval to have their visa duration extended.

“Replacing admissions for D/S with admissions for a fixed period of authorized stay is consistent with most other nonimmigrant categories, would provide additional protections and oversight of these nonimmigrant categories, and would allow DHS to better evaluate whether these nonimmigrants are maintaining status while temporarily in the United States,” the agency wrote. “DHS does not believe such a requirement would place an undue burden on F, J, and I nonimmigrants.”

Many foreign students enrolled in collegiate and other professional pilot training programs in the United States complete their academic study before they fulfill their flight experience requirements, and the new policy may require such students to apply for a visa extension. AOPA is reviewing the rulemaking proposal.

Remembering NOAA hurricane hunter James ‘Doc’ McFadden

In an online tribute, colleagues lauded the research scientist who earned a doctorate in meteorology as “a dedicated public servant who, over the course of his 57 year career, has immeasurably influenced the evolution of airborne data collection at NOAA.”

McFadden was responsible for coordinating all research projects on NOAA’s aircraft, including the agency’s Gulfstream IV–SP and two Lockheed WP–3D Orion hurricane hunter aircraft, which are based at Lakeland Linder International Airport in Florida near the Sun ‘n Fun Aerospace Expo campus.

McFadden flew through more than 50 hurricanes and passed through the eyes of storms 590 times.

He “played a key role in coordinating thousands of projects on more than two dozen aircraft of various types, makes, and models, including helicopters, seaplanes, fixed-wing light aircraft, heavy multi-engine propeller aircraft, and high-altitude jets,” the tribute noted.

McFadden became active in hurricane research in 1965 and performed his first hurricane eye penetration into Category 3 Hurricane Inez off the coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula on October 6, 1966, Yale Climate Connections wrote in an online obituary. “His active career spanned 52 years, 352 days,” earning McFadden a Guinness World Records spot for “longest career as a Hurricane Hunter,” the climate group noted. His final storm flight was into Tropical Storm Jerry, northeast of the Leeward Islands, on September 22, 2019.

McFadden was remembered by meteorological research colleagues as a champion of hurricane awareness, education, and outreach.