NTSB to study drug trends in aviation accidents

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Transportation Safety Board will consider a study on drug use trends in aviation Sept. 9. It will examine trends in over-the-counter, prescription and illicit drug use documented from toxicology reports of pilots that died in aircraft crashes for the 22 years between 1990 and 2012.

The meeting on the drug trends will follow a meeting to determine the probable cause of a UPS Airlines accident that killed both the pilot and co-pilot in August 2013 as the flight was making an approach into the international airport at Birmingham, Alabama.

FAA interpretation of cost-sharing flights raises cautionary flags

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A recent ruling by the FAA regarding share-the-expense rides raises a cautionary flag for private pilots to be sure they are in compliance with not-for-hire regulations. The FAA issued a legal interpretation after several groups launched programs that brought together people wanting to travel to a particular place and pilots intending to go to the same location.

In brief, the FAA’s interpretation of regulations permits pilots to accept payment for a share of expenses so long as both the pilot and parties involved as passengers are traveling to a common destination and the pilot does not pay less than the pro rata share of expenses involving only fuel, oil, airport expenses, or rental fees. If a pilot accepts more than a pro rata share of expenses, he or she is in violation of FAA regulations.

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AirPooler wants FAA clarification on ride-sharing interpretation

 WASHINGTON, D.C. — Steve Lewis, co-founder and CEO of AirPooler, says the FAA’s announced interpretation of flight-sharing-costs is causing confusion among pilots and urges the agency to clarify what it means.

The FAA’s position, he said, is based on a 1963 ruling that was reversed the following year. Lewis said the FAA is now calling cost sharing “compensation”and should cite examples on which its ruling is based.

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GA issues stalled until after election

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congress is now on its summer recess. Members will reconvene Sept. 8 for a session of just two weeks and two days. Once it adjourns Sept. 23, the Congress won’t meet again until after the November election.

This is a short time for a quarreling legislative body to accomplish much of what it was not able to in the previous months and years. However, to some, a short schedule is a good thing.

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Why hasn’t FAA acted on ADS-B loan guarantee for GA?

Graves

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Why has the FAA not taken action on implementing a loan guarantee program for general aviation to prepare for the mandate for ADS-B equipment three years after Congress passed a law approving it? That is a question Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), who chairs the Committee on Small Business, asked in a recent letter to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.

During a hearing in June before the committee, Huerta said lack of appropriations was a reason for the failure.

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Texas search group to continue using drones despite FAA court win

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The FAA says a recent court decision regarding the use of drones has no bearing on the agency’s ability to regulate the use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), but a Texas organization that brought the action plans to continue using UAS without approval from the government office. Texas EquuSearch had sued the FAA seeking to overturn an order the agency emailed to it in February prohibiting the use of drones.

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USA Today goes anti-GA

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On June 18, the national publication USA Today published an article titled Unfit for Flight. It painted general aviation as a dangerous activity and the manufacturers of aircraft as contributing to general aviation accidents. This is not new.

Anti-general aviation material has been printed and broadcast in the past. Two things make this time different. First, aircraft manufacturers, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), and Textron, parent company to GA giant Cessna, had provided information to the writer, who chose not to use any of the material. Second, increased concern over more congestion at major airports labeled this as a possible early shot in what could become a major battle.

Neither of these two points is new. After a mid-air collision at San Diego  in 1978 between an airliner and a single-engine GA aircraft, major media spewed material about the dangers of “those small airplanes.” (It was finally determined that the airline pilots were busy talking among themselves and after sighting the GA aircraft had supposed they had passed it.) This accident set off a storm of anti-general aviation reports in print and on-air media.

This was just what the FAA was waiting for to establish then-called Terminal Control Areas around every airport in the United States served by a scheduled air carrier, even if it was just one or two flights a day.
Airlines favored the idea because it would mean limited numbers of general aviation aircraft getting near the airports the carriers used.

It was obvious the media was not getting such a wide range of anti-general aviation material without help. The president of American Airlines openly pushed for restricting general aviation operations at airports. (American Airlines has since become much more understanding and tolerant.)

At the time I was vice president of public relations at AOPA. We took on the fight. I had an undercover person on the staff at American Airlines so we knew what the airline was pushing to the media and able to counter it, often before it was published.

The AOPA PR department also took on the FAA’s efforts to establish restricted zones around every airport. For this, we tailored information to the individual publications in each city, pointing out the damage to that area that the FAA’s plans for terminal control areas would bring. There was no mention of the accident. This received the kind of support intended.

Local leaders, reading of the damages to the economy of restricting movements at the town’s airport, contacted their members in Congress. The war was not won, but the battles were. Instead of terminal control areas around every air carrier airport, Class B airspace rules were established at only the few where they now exist.

As a long-time newspaper man, I can tell you a reporter rarely comes up with such a story idea unless there is a personal reason or it is suggested by an outside source. Without any direct finger pointing, one must wonder what prompted that USA Today piece.

GA’s alphabet groups, including AOPA, the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), and the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), were all quick to counter the USA Today piece with accurate information. But response is always behind, with opponents always ahead.

The best defense is a strong offense. But it takes planning. A top executive in an international corporation gave me some great advice as I discussed taking on another large industry in the struggle for general aviation’s position in air traffic movement: “Don’t take them on directly,” he said. “They will squash you like a small worm.”

I learned. Take on the big ones, but do it a smart way.