Briefing: April 2012

FCC To Suspend LightSquared PlansComing Soon to airspace (hopefully not too near) you: UASGAMA Sees Signs Of RecoveryMore Controller errors may be much ado about nothing RunwayFinder ClosingNotams


The FCC will indefinitely suspend LightSquared’s authority to carry terrestrial broadband signals on frequencies close to GPS frequencies after receiving a report that concludes the two systems cannot currently coexist. A year of testing demonstrated serious and widespread interference according to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. LightSquared says it “profoundly disagrees” with the findings, which will effectively cancel its plans for a $14 billion high-speed wireless system. However, there may be room in the FCC decision for revamped plan.

The FAA reauthorization bill creates a fast-track for the integration of civil unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into the national airspace. The legislation states that the FAA and the UAS industry must work together to develop a “comprehensive plan” by mid-November that will safely achieve the full integration of UAS by Sept. 30, 2015. But even by mid-2014, UAS that weigh under 55 pounds will be allowed to fly in the national airspace system. The legislation says that all UAS must have a “sense and avoid capability,” and standards will be set for the licensing of operators. The FAA also will be required to study the causes of accidents involving UAS.

You’d think a drop in delivery numbers of 3.5 percent for 2011 versus 2010 would be a downer, but the General Aviation Manufacturers Association says there are “reasons for optimism.” Total billings were up about 0.4 percent, and some companies showed a gain. Cessna delivered 183 jets in 2011, compared to 178 the year before; Gulfstream and Bombardier also showed some growth. Cessna piston deliveries grew from 239 to 245, and Diamond was up from 120 to 182. Piaggio and Piper showed growth in the turboprop segment. This is despite an average 14-percent price drop on used aircaft.

Reported controller errors jumped 50 percent from 2009 to 2010, but the FAA and the controller’s union (NATCA) say changes in reporting resulted in more voluntary reports from controllers. A spike in reported controller errors is expected for 2012 because the FAA plans to install new computerized reporting systems that will document controller errors that previously went undetected or unreported. These systems are already in place at some facilities—dubbed “the snitch” by controllers. However, loss of separation from 3.01 miles to 2.99 miles isn’t exactly what we call a safety crisis.

RunwayFinder, the charting and airport-information website that was embroiled in legal action with FlightPrep a year ago, is closing. Owner Dave Parsons said the decision was made partly because of the FAA’s intention to charge fees for chart downloads. “The new chart fees along with other licensing fees will put RunwayFinder firmly into the red,” Parsons wrote. He said the money issues might have been overcome but there is also a lot of work that needs to be done to update the service. “Unfortunately there is no way to keep it going (for reasons I can’t disclose),” he wrote. The non-disclosure is likely a reference to an agreement he signed with FlightPrep.

Solar Impulse team on track for round-the-world electric flight in 2014 … Air Racers 3D, a 40-minute-long IMAX film about the Reno Air Races, is coming to U.S. theaters this month … Stick-shaker (stall warning) incident on QantasLink Boeing 717 with roughly 100 passengers found to be due to pilot misprogramming of the system. … An extension of 100-percent bonus depreciation was stripped from the bill to extend payroll tax relief … Nearly 10,000 of the Air Force’s active National Guard and Reserve airmen would be cut under latest plans … NATCA’s ATC “Archie” awards published for 2011 and include three controllers who brought a Mooney pilot deadstick into Renton, Wash. … Radio Navigation Simulator (RNS) app lets you experience the future shock of practicing VOR and ADF navigation on your iPad … For breaking news in general aviation, log on to


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