News came down from the feds the other day that the FAA was forming an aviation rulemaking committee to look into overhauling the standards contained within Part 23 of the regs that govern certification of most light airplanes. This is a great thing. These rules are too complex and complying with them is extremely costly.
When I was learning to fly, I had a wonderful flight instructor. He was great at teaching ground school, explaining what was going on in the cockpit and talking me through each maneuver. There was only one problem. He talked too much. He talked so much that during my first solo, the strangest sensation was not the fact that I was controlling the airplane all by myself. It was the eerie quiet in the cockpit.
You might have missed it, but the French accident investigation branch, the Bureau d'Enquêtes et d'Analyses, has formally recommended that mandatory "triggered data streaming technology" be installed aboard airliners.
I was sad to read an article in the Houston Chronicle this week reporting that a pilot died after colliding with another airplane near Lake Conroe outside of Houston, Texas. The report said the two airplanes were flying as part of a formation flight of seven homebuilt airplanes. While I have no knowledge of the pilots’ level of formation flying experience or why they collided, I do know that this type of flying is a skill that requires a lot of training. By that I don’t mean any practice, but training obtained by a highly skilled formation flying instructor.
Anybody who visited Oshkosh this year and spent more than about five minutes at the ICON Aircraft exhibit surely wasn’t surprised to learn that the would-be manufacturer of the A5 amphibian light sport aircraft – an undeniably cool LSA that looks like a winged Jetski and will sell for around $139,000 – took a ton of order deposits. The pitch by ICON salesmen was an in-your-face, buy-this-airplane-and-you-won’t-regret-it assault that you’d never experience over at Cessna, Beechcraft, Piper or Cirrus.
I got an email from a reader the other day who angrily opined that the shutdown of the FAA--via Congress's lack of funding renewal--was the best thing that could have happened. Well, nearly the best, he continued. Even though 4,000 FAA employees were temporarily out of work, it would have been better yet had that number quadrupled. The FAA, he said, was a massive government entity that was wholly unnecessary.
This is, of course, nonsense. But the email contained a couple of implications with which I agree.
As a flight instructor, I find it particularly difficult to read about airplane accidents – fatal or not – that could have been prevented by better choices and, in some cases, better training. Flight instructors need to focus less on teaching their students to pass the FAA test and more on becoming good pilots that make good decisions. An organization called SAFE (Society of Aviation and Flight Educators) and several aviation companies are focusing their efforts on revamping flight training to teach safer pilots.
FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt made a lot of new friends in Oshkosh on Thursday when he showed up for his previously scheduled Meet the Administrator forum at AirVenture despite the fact that the FAA had essentially been shut down for a week. During the hour-plus long forum, Babbitt answered questions from EAA President Rod Hightower and from members of the press and AirVenture visitors about subjects ranging from NextGen avionics to user fees.
Even if you’re not a particular fan of the bureaucracy that is the Federal Aviation Administration, you have to feel for Randy Babbitt. Since taking over as FAA Administrator a little over two years ago, bringing with him fresh ideas about ways for improving aviation’s safety record and transitioning to the satellite-based NextGen operating environment, he has been repeatedly pulled off track by one circus sideshow after another.