This past year has been one filled with heaps of stories of innovation and exploration, and more than a few challenges brought on by the pandemic in the world of aviation. As we jump into 2022, we anxiously await to see what the new year will bring.
Here are a few of the stories FLYING will be watching closely in the coming year.
General Aviation Continues to Adopt Unleaded Avgas
With the push from local governments and environmental associations to end the sale of leaded avgas in certain locations coming to a head at the close of 2021, we know the struggle to adopt unleaded avgas–and maintain fuel supplies for high performance aircraft in the interim–will only increase in 2022.
At San Jose’s Reid-Hillview Airport in California, the local council has tried to enforce a ban on leaded fuel that began on January 1, following the implementation on site of Swift 94UL unleaded fuel supplies. Will other locales follow suit? Will the FAA be successful in mitigating the issue until all aircraft can be served? Stay tuned.
The Push Toward Sustainable Aviation Fuel
Commitments made in 2021 by business aviation, airlines, and global governments mean the year ahead promises to be one of continued growth for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).
Business aviation has been on the forefront of this movement, with companies such as Gulfstream, Embraer, and Textron Aviation notably sourcing SAF for their fleets. The National Business Aviation Association has lead the charge, working with the National Air Transportation Association to support the infrastructure and buy-in required by FBOs to carry the fuel.
Also, major airlines, such as Delta Air Lines and British Airways, will continue to follow through on integrating SAF into their fueling strategy in order to cut their carbon emissions. Delta, for example, plans to replace 10 percent of the fuel with SAF for its fleet of more than 800 airliners by 2030.
Global production of SAF is expected to increase, and more airlines around the world are expected to launch tests and use of SAF in their fleets.
The Biden administration, which has challenged the aviation industry to produce 3 billion gallons of SAF by 2030, is also continuing its investment in production research. Last month, for example, the FAA awarded more than $1.4 million in grants to five universities to research and build sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) supply chains in different regions across the United States.
“Sustainable aviation fuels are a critical part of meeting our climate goals for aviation, and we want to help that industry grow and create jobs right here in the U.S.,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said.
Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul Challenges
One of the top general and business aviation stories of 2022 will be around the challenges facing the MRO supply chain, which might get worse before it gets better. The MRO industry is facing an unprecedented crisis driven by rising consumer demand for new and scheduled maintenance, especially as 2021 was a year in which airplane sales soared. As the wider world has not yet been able to resolve its chip shortage, owners and operators who look to upgrade their avionics might face extensive wait times before they’ll be able to make any changes. However, it’s not just avionics.
The ecosystem around basic petroleum-based products such as fuel filters is becoming more complicated as experts predict a rubber shortage. There are other contributing factors: demand for skilled labor in MRO facilities, an accelerated retirement of the A&P workforce (nearly 35 percent within the next five years), which might all lead to a increasing percentage of the global fleet being grounded, a trend preceding, but accelerated by the effects of the pandemic.
New and Evolving FARs
While many FAA initiatives have been delayed since 2019 owing to the COVID pandemic, numerous programs are set to start or resume in 2022.
The FAA will continue to develop the airman certification standards for CFIs that will include tools for assessing an applicant’s skills in risk assessment and mitigation.
Modernization Of Special Airworthiness Certificates (MOSAIC) continues to be massaged by the FAA. Among the targets in this multi-faceted initiative is the development of performance based metrics for light sport aircraft. This could mean larger aircraft that formerly were a few pounds outside the LSA weight limits of 1,320 lbs for single-engine land aircraft could be categorized as LSAs.
On the Part 121 side of the house, during the first quarter of the year, the FAA and the industry will review current and subsequent changes of the Terminal Flight Data Manager (TFDM) waterfall. According to the FAA, this new milestone will allow it and industry to coordinate the TFDM waterfall designed to provide improvements to flight data coordination and management and surface traffic flow management.
In the second quarter of 2022, FAA will move forward on implementation of Consolidated Wake Turbulence (CWT) Separations Standards.
Through virtual meetings and research at five selected sites—Minneapolis-Saint Paul International (KMSP), Miami International (KMIA), Las Angeles International (KLAX), Philadelphia International (KPHL) and Southern California TRACON—along with several other airports, the FAA will be able to implement new minima in regards to the use of Consolidated Wake Turbulence procedures and separation. Upon the completion of the Las Vegas Metroplex project, the FAA will release new findings based on Performance Based Navigation.
The FAA has also requested a budget increase for 2022. The extended budget would update the ATC system, make investments in safety and the next-generation systems, and address the aviation industry’s impact on climate change. The budget request totals $18.5 billion, a 2.7 percent increase from FY 2021.
eVTOL Takes Flight
Test flights of Archer Aviation’s new electric, vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) air taxi prototype. Archer has been moving remarkably quickly to catch up with frontrunner Joby Aviation and grab a piece of the emerging eVTOL industry—projected to be worth more than $1 trillion by 2040. The company reached a major milestone late last month when it successfully conducted a hover test of its prototype aircraft—named Maker—at its California facility following months of development. More test flights are planned in 2022. Largely because of its partnership with United Airlines, Archer’s success or failure will be a significant chapter in eVTOL history.
The Moonshot To Space
In the year ahead, mankind will begin its journey back to the Moon, led by NASA’s Artemis missions. Artemis’ first launch will send the spacecraft around the Moon and back down to Earth in the first few months of the year. NASA will also be sending commercial landers to the lunar surface, revamping human exploration in our solar system.
The commercial space industry could also soon face new regulations for safety investigations. The National Transportation Safety Board has proposed a new commercial space investigations rule and is seeking comments through January 18.
In early 2022, the Department of Defense’s Fiscal 2023 budget will be submitted to Congress, revealing long-term spending priorities. Military leaders want rapid acceleration of tech development as they continue to warn of increasing competition with China. The new set of spending priorities could lead to new programs of record. Recently, U.S. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall confirmed that the service will ask for funding for two classified remotely piloted air combat vehicles in the next defense budget.