When I read about the lack of progress at the Northern Island redevelopment near downtown Chicago in political columnist Greg Hinz’s blog last week, I felt a familiar sense of nausea. It was the feeling I got when I first saw a picture of the large Xs carved into one of the most incredible aviation landmarks in the United States, Meigs Field. I experienced the same feeling when I saw the island from Sears Tower a couple of years after the airport closed. Today the field looks much the same as it did then – an unsightly field with some basic paths and temporary tent-like structures.
This past weekend FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt was arrested for DUI in Fairfax, Virginia, after being stopped reportedly driving on the wrong side of Old Lee Road, a boulevard in Fairfax. Babbitt was reportedly alone and wasn't involved in an accident. Fairfax doesn't release blood alcohol content test results on those arrested for DUI; the maximum legal blood alcohol level in Virginia is .08.
Part of my Thanksgiving weekend was spent renewing my CFI certificate. While it is a bit of a hassle to go through this hoop every couple of years, it is an important task for me regardless of the fact that I don’t do much instructing anymore. I have met several pilots who have let their CFI certificates go and genuinely regretted it. I won't let that happen to me. And besides not wanting to lose my flight instructing privileges, during the renewal process I always learn something new and get reminded of things I’ve forgotten.
Note: I wrote this piece shortly after the crash of a Turbo Commander last Wednesday in which six persished. Many details were still unknown--the exact model of aircraft that crashed was still in dispute--and I made clear that his was not a speculative piece trying to glean a probable cause but rather a personal reflection. As a pilot certain accidents affect me--and all of those of us who fly--differently than they do non-pilots.
An aviation rulemaking committee recently concluded there is no justification for a new mandate requiring automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) “In” technology, recommending instead that the FAA promote voluntary equipage for the “foreseeable future.”
That’s great news for general aviation, but it doesn’t mean you should cross this game-changing technology off your avionics must-have list.
I posted a story last week about the FAA hatching a poorly thought-out plan to bring in revenue by charging charting companies for their use of FAA digital data. As part of this plan the agency would also prohibit individuals from obtaining the data. The story has generated a lot of response from pilots and developers, and nearly every one of them is deeply disturbed by the plan.
A single-engine accident in Florida recently in which two people died shortly after takeoff reminded me of another high-performance single-engine airplane accident that happened at Santa Monica airport in 2009. A SIAI-Marchetti SF-260C crashed onto the runway shortly after taking off, killing two people onboard. I’m not suggesting that the cause of the accidents were the same, but nonetheless, they both happened immediately after the airplanes departed.
Sitting in the jump seat of a corporate Gulfstream G450 on approach to Morristown Municipal Airport’s Runway 5, I saw the tiny starlings a fraction of a second before the copilot called out, matter-of-factly, “Birds.” We flew through an entire flock of the little creatures and, although I was pretty sure we’d hit more than one, I didn’t feel or even hear their impact. The bloody stains we discovered on the Gulfstream’s nose and right wing once the airplane was pulled into the hangar, however, confirmed we’d struck two of the unfortunate animals.