We've had an
interesting week here at ANN... having just crawled back to the
secret ANN compound near beautiful downtown Winter Haven, FL.
Hopscotching through a number of states and stories, the high-point
of the week was a somewhat low-key meeting that combined the
sympathetic interests of the CGAR and FITS program into a three day
get-together within the confines of the University of North Dakota
up in Grand Forks, ND.
For those of you who aren't already familiar with two
under-reported but none-the-less pivotal FAA programs, CGAR stands
for Center of Excellence for General Aviation Research. Their
mission is "to make significant contributions toward the
improvement of air transportation, safety and efficiency." Their
modus operandi is to seek their goals with multi-disciplinary teams
to enhance aviation related research, education and technology
transfer and utilization in mission critical areas. CGAR consists
of a conglomerate of academia, industry, and government
that network in collaborative studies and research intended to
further the progression of general aviation.
FITS, on the other
hand, is a bit more tightly focused on a more unique agenda...
flight training. The FAA/Industry Training Standards (FITS) program
is a partnership between FAA, Industry, and Academia designed to
enhance general aviation safety. This will be accomplished by
developing flight training programs that are more convenient, more
accessible, less expensive, and more relevant to today’s
users of the National Airspace System. All FITS products should be
non-regulatory and incentive driven. FITS is focused on the
redesign of general aviation training. Instead of training pilots
to pass practical tests, FITS will focus on expertly managed
real-world challenges. Scenario based training will be used to
enhance the GA pilots’ aeronautical decision making, risk
management, and single pilot resource management skills. FITS
promises to do this without compromising basic stick and rudder
While the members of these groups are constantly communicating
with one another, this past week was the main chance they had to
meet in one place, compare notes, and set agendas and directions
for the future. It promised to be an intriguing, if occasionally
confrontational, meeting and it was that, indeed.
It was a three day seminar... with the first reserved for
working sessions and the second for CGAR presentations. The third
was dedicated solely to FITS seminars and
The CGAR sessions were intriguing. After a greeting from UND's
Bruce Smith, the Dean of the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace
Sciences and some additional welcomes and intro info from the FAA's
Pete Sparacino, the FAA's Program Manager for CGAR, the day got off
to a fast start.
The first panel
introduced the FAA's FITS program to CGAR members. Speakers
included Frank Ayers, Charles Robertson, Tom Connolly, Pete
Schumacher, Don Dubuque, Bob Wright (shown right), and Tom Glista.
These speakers laid out a solid basis for their perceived need for
FITS... with the FAA's Bob Wright noting that "Change is
necessary," while also adding that flight training, per se, hadn't
changed much in the last 40 years. Wright emphasized a need
for enhanced professionalism among flight trainers for the new
generation of pilots, but wisely intoned that he wanted to see
these changes come about by industry effort, not by regulation.
UND staffers then offered a short tour of their
altitude chamber... a novel offering in that UND is the only
private university to boast such a device and the training to go
with it. UND not only uses it for their own students but does a
solid business training outside parties, mostly corporate pilots,
The next presentation was intriguing... especially in that most
discussion involving statistics make great substitutes for
anesthesia. Surprisingly; this presentation, by Massoud Bazargan
and Ken Knopp, did no such thing. An hour's breakdown of accidents
over a number of criteria pointed out some intriguing trends and
problem areas... especially when broken down by state and month --
it was obvious that certain parts of the country had some
interesting problems to work on during periods when weather went
sour and when traffic activity was up.
Other panels included "Analysis and Evaluation of Green LED
Threshold Lights Installed at Phoenix and Grand Forks" by Tom
Zeidlik and Don Gallagher, as well as a State Aviation Directors'
Panel that further qualified a number of special concerns to
various state aviation organizations. Afternoon sessions included
"Airport Standards" by Kim Kenville and Ryan King, and an excellent
presentation on "Ethanol as a Fuel for General Aviation" by Dennis
Helder, Ted Aulich, Frank Argenziano, Skip Byrnes. With the price
and availability of avgas creating significant concerns for the
future, this group got the attendee's attention in no small way. A
number of research programs have been flying on ethanol for some
time, with one program involving an elder Piper Arrow examined
in some detail. A new one will shortly introduce radial engines to
this fuel... we're looking forward to hearing about the results. A
somewhat final session discussed the use of lasers as dispersal
devices to rid airports of birds. It was conducted by Jim Dunlop
and Michel Hovan.
Another UND tour about mid-afternoon demoed their highly
sophisticated ATC Tower Sim... a 360 degree device built up just
like a tower cab in which students work all manner of air
traffic... often provided by students flying sims from another room
and working the system in a real-world setting. Pretty
To be continued...