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Wed, Jan 02, 2013

ANN 2012 Year In Review: General Aviation

An Up And Down Year For GA, But Some New Airplanes Were Introduced And User Fees Were Forestalled

General aviation showed some limited signs of life during 2012, with the introduction of plans for new airplanes in the category, and at least incremental advances made in avionics for weekend pilots as the ADS-B deadline came closer. But the year was marred by the bankruptcy filing of one of the best-known names in GA. While there is still no permanent administrator for the FAA, the agency has its first long-term funding bill in place since 2007. Here are just some of the top GA stories from the year just completed.


January

That sense of urgency that came through in the latest filing by LightSquared with the FCC asking that it expedite approval of plan to build a 4G wireless data network may stem at least in part from a deadline imposed by Sprint Nextel Corp, which had agreed to share network expansion and equipment costs over the next 15 years. 

The doctor and his daughter who ditched their Cirrus off the coast of Andros Island in the Bahamas Saturday continued their medical mission to Haiti ... albeit on a commercial flight.

In response to a petition calling on the president to reconsider his support for user fees, A White House staff person sent a message to all signatories to the petition, defending the Administration's position on the issue.

The NTSB cited an operational error by a tower air traffic controller as the probable cause of a near mid-air collision involving a commercial jetliner and a small private plane over the Gulfport-Biloxi airport.

The White House OMB was reportedly considering closing nearly half of the non-federal control towers in operation in the U.S. A report on the AOPA website indicates that most of the towers affected would be those at GA airports.

House and Senate leaders said that they have reached a compromise that will lead to a long-term funding bill for the FAA, but one more Continuing Resolution to get the job done.

The chair of the House Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee plans to hold a hearing to look into the FCC's allocation of spectrum of LightSquared before key interference questions were addressed.

The FAA has cleared development of a 64-turbine wind farm west of Pratt Regional Airport in Kansas. But the Pratt County Zoning Board is left scratching its collective head after a former FAA employee who's also a commercial pilot, flight instructor, and expert witness in 60 lawsuits says the FAA screwed up, and building the wind farm could leave the county liable for aviation accidents.

Speaking at a car show in Dearborn, MI, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said that a long-term funding bill for the FAA is a "done deal," and expressed additional optimism that a long-term transportation measure would also be passed this year by the congress.
 

February

A conference committee made up of House and Senate leaders reached agreement on long-term FAA legislation to improve the nation’s aviation infrastructure, modernize our air traffic control system, and reform FAA programs.

LightSquared had until mid-March to resolve its issues with the FCC over its proposed 4G broadband network under an extension of its deal with Sprint Nextel.

At a time when deficit spending and a business exodus in California threatens the state with a fiscal crisis next month, aviation business advocates are warning a lawsuit against the leaded avgas supply chain could devastate the aviation business in the state.

Three directors have been added to the Experimental Aircraft Association board, which governs the 176,000-member aviation organization. The three new directors ... Jack Pelton, Stuart Auerbach and Darren Pleasance ... bring extensive aviation and business background to the board, in addition to longtime EAA involvement and thousands of hours of flight time.

Overflight of certain marine sanctuaries below 1,000 feet msl, or in some cases below 2,000 feet msl, could result in fines of up to $100,000 imposed by NOAA, according to the AOPA.

The NTSB announced that it had issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) seeking public comment regarding amendments to 49 CFR parts 821 and 826, setting forth rules of procedure for the NTSB's review of certificate actions taken by the FAA and applications for fees and expenses under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA).
 

The final piece of the long-term FAA funding puzzle fell into place as President Barack Obama signed the $63.4 billion long-term FAA funding measure hammered out by Congress. The signing brings to an end a string of 23 short-term continuing resolutions which have funded the agency since 2007.

Jim DiMatteo, a decorated U.S. Naval Aviator who has served in several aviation leadership positions, joined EAA as Vice President, AirVenture Features and Attractions. In that role, DiMatteo is responsible for developing and coordinating the programs for the annual EAA AirVenture Oshkosh fly-in.

Following a decision by the FCC to not allow LightSquared to proceed to develop its 4G broadband data network on frequencies adjacent to those used by GPS receivers, LightSquared issued a statement blasting the agency, saying it had caved in to special interests by protecting GPS.

In what one group is calling a landmark victory for the preservation and accessibility of historic aircraft data, the recently passed long-term FAA authorization bill contains an amendment that requires the FAA to protect aircraft technical drawings and other design data from the beginning of civil aviation in the United States.

Mayors representing more than 100 communities in 48 states wrote to President Obama on February 14, urging him to recognize the contributions of general aviation to the U.S. economy and to drop his user fee proposal.

The final assembly for Cessna's Skycatcher LSA was moved from Yingling Aviation in Wichita to the company's single-engine plant in Independence, KS.

GAMA celebrated ten years as an international association at its annual “State of the Industry” press conference. GAMA first incorporated manufacturing companies based outside of the United States in 2002. Most general aviation aircraft flying in the world today were built by GAMA member companies.

A new rule by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) usurps the FAA’s authority to regulate airspace and could leave pilots unintentionally violating a restricted zone that does not appear on any current aeronautical charts.
 

March
The CEO of LightSquared stepped down from his post at the start-up broadband company under a cloud of questions about his political ties to the White House.

For the first time in its history, the Cape Girardeau Regional Air Festival was cancelled for a second consecutive year. Organizers of the event said there was not enough time to plan for the show given its expanded focus.

In a show of strong opposition to aviation user fees, 195 members of the U.S. House of Representatives sent a bipartisan letter to President Obama expressing contempt toward an Administration budget proposal that would impose a $100 per flight fee on general and commercial aviation.

The Transition Roadable Aircraft, developed by Terrafugia, made its auto show debut at the 2012 New York International Auto Show (NYIAS), April 6th through the 15th at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City. 

A new variant of the much used (and abused) Rotax 912 was announced... this one, fuel injected. According to Rotax sources, the Rotax 912 iS engine will deliver 38% to 70% better fuel efficiency than comparable competitive engines in the light sport, ultra-light aircraft and the general aviation industry.

Members of the General Aviation (GA) Avgas Coalition said that a lawsuit filed against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by the environmental group Friends of the Earth (FOE) over piston-engine aircraft’s use of leaded aviation gasoline (avgas) is not taking into consideration the considerable work already completed toward the development and deployment of an unleaded solution.

The FAA began seeking public comments on the establishment of six sites where UAVs can be tested for their eventual inclusion in the National Airspace System (NAS).

House Committee leaders put the TSA on notice that they expect the agency to implement reforms included in a new aviation law ensuring that airports can opt out of all-federal security screening.

The general aviation industry has good reason to be excited by both recent sales and future prospects for private aircraft in China.

The FAA was in the process of verifying costs and pricing for AeroNav products to help develop a final proposal. Although the FAA has not set any dates for completion of the final proposal or a timeline for implementation, the agency will keep the aviation community informed about its progress.

Two strategic agreements signed by officials of Cessna and Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) could lead to the joint development of general and business aviation in the People's Republic of China.

The Charles A. and Anne Morrow Lindbergh Foundation said that the LEAP Electric Flight Program, which includes the Lindbergh Electric Aircraft Prize, would become a program of the Lindbergh Foundation effective immediately.

The Kingdom of Morocco planned to welcome Solar Impulse in the spring. After its inaugural flight to Paris and Brussels in 2011, the Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg’s solar airplane will attempt, for the first time ever, to fly over 1,550 miles without using a drop of fuel, finally landing in Morocco.
 

April
The Transition Street-Legal Airplane moved a significant step closer to being a commercial reality, according to Terrafugia, the company producing the roadable S-LSA. 

The Aviators Model Code of Conduct (AMCC)—Version 2.0 was released by the project’s Permanent Editorial Board. Developed by a team of aviation professionals and drawing upon decades of research and experience, the Code promotes ongoing improvements in flying quality and safety.

John Collins, 81, and his 80-year-old wife Helen were flying home to Sturgeon Bay, WI from Marco Island, FL in their Cessna 414A (similar aircraft pictured) when John passed away at the controls of the airplane. Helen, who according to family members had flown in the past ... but not for thirty years and never in the 414, was forced to take matters into her own hands.

A self-described anti-government "sovereignist" who was arrested following a 16-hour standoff at his 3,000 acre farm in North Dakota is about to become the central figure in what may become a test case for the use of UAVs by law enforcement. 

The aviation community got its first look at Pipistrel's long-awaited new four-place airplane April 18th at AERO Expo 2012 in Friedrichshafen Germany. The  4-seat all composite design features a retractable undercarriage, 200 kts cruising speed, 1000 NM range, comfortable cabin and a choice of three powerplants – conventional/hybrid/electric.

Tecnam's latest offering, the P2010 flew for the first time 12th April, 2012. Tecnam's Test Pilot, Marco Locatelli said that the airplane is very stable once in trim, excellent visibility allows the pilot to have good references to the horizon, and that the Garmin PFD provides very good attitude and situational awareness.

The National Association of Flight Instructors (NAFI) and IMC Club have formed a partnership through a mutual letter of understanding.

The Subcommittee on Aviation, chaired by U.S. Rep. Tom Petri (R-WI), held a hearing to review the FAA's safety oversight of the United States’ aviation system.
 

May
Hawker Beechcraft filed paperwork with the SEC that will allow it to keep its financial information private. An analyst not authorized to speak to the media told the Wichita Eagle that it will allow the company to keep its financial records private, which means competitors will not be able to learn about the company's finances. It also saves time and money for the company.

It's not like no one saw this coming, but it was still a blow to the aviation manufacturing industry, not to mention the local economy in Wichita. Hawker Beechcraft has filed for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy code.

GAMA hailed the bipartisan agreement between Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer to end an impasse over the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank.

Hawker Beechcraft reached an agreement with a significant number of its senior secured lenders and senior bondholders on the terms of a financial restructuring plan that will strengthen the company for the future, eliminate approximately $2.5 billion in debt and approximately $125 million of annual cash interest expense. 

Only weeks after introducing its new four-place Panthera composite hybrid airplane, Pipistrel took the wraps off a its brand new Alpha Trainer ... which as the name suggest is designed as a primary training airplane.

EAA issued a statement concerning the cancellation of this year's AirVenture Cup Race. The cancellation of the event this year has caused a lot of chatter on aviation bulletin boards and other discussion sites.

After being rumored for months, LightSquared officially filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan. The move came only hours before a deal to prevent the Internet start-up from defaulting on its debt was set to expire.

For more than five decades, the FAA has compiled a proven track record of introducing new technology and aircraft safely into the National Airspace System (NAS).

The FAA has released a report called 'General Aviation Airports: A National Asset', which was compiled following an 18-month study to capture the many diverse functions of general aviation (GA) airports.

The FAA put forth a  proposal to make wholesale changes to the avionics industry, and a major trade Organization says those changes would have damaging and costly repercussions. The agency proposed to remove radio and instrument ratings and allow airframe-rated repair stations to work on radio and instrument components without qualifications or ratings.

The news from down under was that GippsAero had flown its new GA10 Turboprop for the first time. The 20-minute flight took place Tuesday in Latrobe, Australia at Latrobe Regional Airport.


June

Eighteen members of the General Aviation Caucus of the U.S. House of Representatives sent a letter to congressional conferees trying to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the highway authorization bill, urging the conference committee members to reject an amendment that would take control of airspace over national parks away from the FAA and give it to the National Park Service. 

The Solar Impulse aircraft of Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg was scheduled to depart Madrid on June 4 at 2330 ESDT (1730 EDT) for the world’s first fully solar-powered flight over the Strait of Gibraltar and landing in Rabat, the capital of Morocco. The prototype landed successfully in Rabat-Salé airport at 2330 local time Tuesday evening. This is a symbolic victory for Solar Impulse as it is the first time the HB-SIA had landed on another continent.

FAA documents obtained by opponents of a proposed wind farm off the coast of Cape Cod seem to indicate disagreement about the best course of action for mitigating radar interference from the wind turbines, as well as perceived political pressure to approve the project.

Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe (R) first introduced his Pilot's Bill of Rights, which would limit the authority of the FAA in some proceedings it takes against pilots, in 2011. He wrote the legislation to address what he says is the ability of the agency to pull a pilot's airman privileges "on a whim."

Acting FAA Administrator Michael Huerta had his first session with the United States Senate in the process that could lead to his confirmation and the removal of "Acting" from his title.

Former Eclipse Boss, Vern Raburn and his wife Susan investigated the potential purchase of a small GA manufacturer. They looked at two companies and eventually entered into negotiations with American Champion Aircraft of Rochester, WI.

The FAA published the final report and recommendations from the Unleaded Avgas Transition Aviation Rulemaking Committee (UAT ARC), a collaborative industry-government task force of key stakeholders representing aircraft and engine manufacturers, fuel producers and distributors, operator groups, aviation associations, the FAA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), a member of the Senate General Aviation Caucus and certified flight instructor, hailed the Senate’s unanimous passage of his bill, the Pilots’ Bill of Rights (S.1335). Inhofe had worked to pass the legislation for more than a year.


July

Hawker Beechcraft announced that it had executed an exclusivity agreement with Superior Aviation Beijing Co., Ltd. (Superior), a Beijing-based aerospace manufacturer, regarding what it is calling a "strategic combination." 

The Terrafugia Transition production prototype completed the first phase of its flight test program.  Phase 1 flight testing, conducted at Plattsburgh International Airport in Plattsburgh, NY, allowed Terrafugia to check off many critical early testing objectives for the Transition program.

The aircraft moved into Phase 2 of its six planned Phases of flight-testing, according to a company news release. Phase 2 flight tests are a precursor to the start of documented ASTM compliance flights and focus on aircraft performance envelope expansion, airspeed system calibration, control surface effectiveness, and power-on and power-off stalls.

The controversy over the Cape Wind wind energy project planned for an area off the coast of Massachusetts in Nantucket Sound continued to swirl. Congressman Cliff Stearns (R-FL) is calling for a Congressional investigation into e-mails obtained by opponents of the program through an FOIA request.

The Solar Impulse aircraft landed successfully at Toulouse-Francazal airport, but it's return to Switzerland was postponed while the crew waited for acceptable weather.

The Minnesota Supreme Court handed down a ruling favorable to Cirrus Aircraft stemming from a 2003 accident which fatally injured a pilot and his passenger, both from Grand Rapids, MI.

At Oshkosh, Glasair President Mikael Via introduced Mr. Fang Tieji, Chairman of China based Jilin Hanxing Group co., Ltd, and new owner of Glasair Aviation (Glasair), a general aviation kit aircraft manufacturer based in Arlington, WA.

U.S. House passed the Pilot's Bill of Rights (S.1335). House passage of the Pilot's Bill of Rights meant the measure was cleared to go to the President’s desk to become law.

King Schools, Continental Engines and Bad Elf teamed up to supply Simulator Training devices to China. Redbird company officials have developed their Zulu model of training which is customized to bring flight training to the customer so they can complete a good portion of their training before they even set foot in an airplane.

EAA inaugurated the organization’s new Eagle Flights program. The program is designed to give adults an opportunity to achieve their aviation dreams, with a flight during the renowned EAA AirVenture Oshkosh fly-in and convention.

Aspen Avionics announced that they has received TSO approval for the first in the series of the company’s revolutionary Connected Panel product line that provides a wireless link between certified instrument panel avionics and portable smart devices.


August

The Senate Commerce Committee voted to report out the nomination of Acting FAA Administrator Michael Huerta to the full Senate. The move clears the way for a vote by the full body to remove the "acting" designation from Huerta's title, and start the clock on a full five-year term in the agency's top job.
The U.S. House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has approved H.R. 5961, The Farmer’s Privacy Act of 2012.

The Pilot's Bill of Rights (S.1335) was officially signed into law by President Obama.
The near-collision which happened when airplanes departing from and landing at KDCA in Washington, DC were inadvertently placed on a collision course has prompted the FAA to temporarily suspend opposite direction operations at commercial airports pending the development of new procedures.

The National Aeronautic Association certified the June 21, 2012, flight of Gamera II at 49.9 seconds, a new national record for human-powered helicopter flight duration, and submitted flight information to the Federation Aeronautique Internationale for approval as a world record.

Aspen Avionics confirmed that Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) approval of Connected Pilot, the first in the series of the company’s revolutionary Connected Panel product line that provides a wireless link between certified instrument panel avionics and portable smart devices.

The FAA announced an extension of the comment period for its notice of proposed rulemaking that was published on May 21, which is a proposed rewrite of Part 145.

Students on the Gamera human-powered helicopter team at the University of Maryland's A. James Clark School of Engineering unofficially satisfied two of the three American Helicopter Society Sikorsky Prize competition requirements with a flight that unofficially lasted 65 seconds, stayed within a 10 square meter area and hovered at two feet of altitude.


September

The United States Navy has told the FAA that it should relocate St. Marys Airport in SE Georgia because of its proximity to the Kings Bay Submarine Base. The Navy says the airport is a security risk.

Through an online survey, the ARC sought for aviation industry input on the consistency of regulatory application with regard to the certification and approval process. Input from individuals and organizations involved in the "day-to-day" of the aviation industry is not only valuable but necessary to ensure a favorable outcome.

The Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA) Board of Directors unanimously approved a resolution which calls upon the U.S. Government to create a national aviation policy that will provide the kind of long-term stability aviation needs to remain the nation’s gateway for economic growth and development.

Potential violations of the Hatch Act, which prohibits some federal employees from engaging in political speech in the workplace, were being investigated in a case involving FAA managers in Seattle.

The FAA and the German Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development (BMVBS) signed a Declaration of Cooperation at a ceremony during the ILA Berlin Air Show to work together in facilitating the promotion, development and use of sustainable alternative aviation fuels in the United States and Germany.

Utah Governor Gary Herbert, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder all passed proclamations recognizing the value of aviation to the national and local economy in the month of September, meaning that 45 state Chief Executives around the country have now passed proclamations recognizing the value of aviation.


October

As LightSquared continued to work its way through bankruptcy, the wireless broadband company petitioned the FCC for approval of a plan it says will resolve the interference issues with deployed GPS receivers.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced $5.4 million in FAA grants for 13 airports nationwide that are taking innovative steps to reduce their impact on the environment.

Acting FAA Administrator Michael Huerta renewed two important partnerships to encourage young people to pursue a career in aerospace.

Aspen Avionics announced the closing of a $12.8 million round of equity financing to support continued product and emerging technologies development.

While accident rates have been going down over the past 12 years, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said in a recently-released study that the FAA could do more to get to the root cause of the disproportionately high number of accidents involving GA airplanes.

The European Union launched a consultation process that could lead to the establishment of a European Aviation Agency styled after the FAA.

In a speech to an audience made up of many of the country's biggest GA manufacturers, acting FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said that he has put in motion a plan that could eventually mean sharp reductions in the costs and time associated with the certification of new general aviation airplanes.

After one year of turning students into Private Pilots for a flat fee, Redbird Flight Simulation’s Skyport reports their experiment in simulator-based training is working. At its Migration Flight Training Conference this week, Redbird announced the school has graduated 20 Private Pilots, as well as completed 18 instrument ratings, one multi-engine rating and one instrument instructor certificate.

California Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman wrote a letter to Acting FAA Administrator Michael Huerta saying the agency should accelerate efforts to reduce lead emissions from general aviation by taking immediate steps to expand the use of currently available unleaded fuels.

ANN confirmed that the EAA Board of Directors accepted the resignation of President and CEO Rod Hightower. Hightower will be returning to St. Louis to reunite with his family. Jack Pelton, recently retired Chairman, president and CEO of Cessna Aircraft, was elected Chairman of the Board of Directors of EAA. In his role as EAA Chair, Pelton will guide the organization through the leadership transition.


November

The NTSB issued recommendations to the FAA saying the agency should collect data about whether aircraft carry such safety equipment as ballistic parachutes and ejection seats. There is a concern that First Responders to accidents may be put in danger by the explosive charges used to deploy such devices.

Seaplaneforum.com Owner and Editor Jason Baker announced a new section on his seaplane message board Friday, aimed at recreational Boaters and other Water Users. Both groups have been operating safely, respectfully and efficiently alongside each other for several decades with no major accidents or incidents to report.

Representatives of the aviation industry met with FAA and Small Business Administration officials for a discussion of the proposed re-write of the FAA's rules governing Part 145 repair stations. The deadline for comments on the proposed new rules was November 19.

It would appear that more layoffs are in the offing as Hawker Beechcraft moves through the bankruptcy process. The company said it plans to cut just over 400 more jobs in four states as part of its restructuring.

Aviation issues make up only two of the ten items on the NTSB's 'Most Wanted' list, released by the Board, but Airport Surface Operation Safety captured the number one spot on the list. 

The FAA dropped the hammer on the infamous David G Riggs. An Emergency Revocation Order has been issued against Riggs in which the FAA has finally thrown the book at a man described by ANN (and many others) as one of the most dangerous men in aviation.

The FAA again delayed the site selection for flight testing of UAVs that would eventually lead to their integration into the NAS. Acting Administrator Michael Huerta sent a letter to the Congressional UAV Caucus indicating that there were still safety and privacy issues to be resolved.

David G Riggs, quickly assuming the aura of aviation's best known crook and con-man, lost another battle with the Feds... this time, namely, the NTSB and the FAA.

South Carolina Republican Senator Jim DeMint put aside his objections to the confirmation of Michael Huerta as FAA Administrator. DeMint had been blocking the confirmation hearings until after the election.


December

A government-industry rulemaking committee responsible for making recommendations to address the lack of FAA regulatory interpretation consistency issued its final report to the agency.

The Civil Aviation Ministry of the Bahamas extended the waiver for the installation of 406 MHz ELT devices past the February 1, 2013 deadline. 

LightSquared popped up on the radar again, and this time the company which has been trying for some time to establish a wireless 4G LTE data network is proposing to share spectrum with NOAA weather balloons.

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity and Piper Aircraft Inc. agreed to amend an earlier contract to retain the company's operations in Florida and increase investment in aircraft manufacturing facilities. 

On the eve of the NTSB hearing in which aviation con-man and bad boy, David Riggs, was expected to try and defend himself against the FAA's Emergency Order of Revocation, ANN learned that Riggs' company, Mach One Aviation, has filed suit against three of the witnesses who have provided testimony to the FAA, and who may be asked to appear against him in the hearing.

In comments filed with the NTSB, the NBAA disagreed with the board’s position that an NTSB judge must continue to assume that FAA’s allegations are true.

Pilots flying all types of aircraft are now able to reach more runways in low visibility conditions than ever before.  The FAA said that the Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) program exceeded 3,000 Localizer Performance with Vertical guidance (LPVs) approaches published.

The National Aviation Hall of Fame (NAHF) Board of Trustees revealed the names of four individuals who have been elected for enshrinement at its annual formal ceremony that will be held in October of 2013. 

FMI: www.aero-news.net 

 


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