Briefing April 2023


FAA Studying Unleaded Gas Transition

The FAA temporarily stopped its investigation into whether Santa Clara County in California is violating grant agreements by refusing to sell leaded gasoline at the county’s Reid Hillview and San Martin Airports. In exchange, the county has agreed to consider taking part in a study into the transition process from leaded to unleaded fuels at airports across the country. The agency has agreed to stop its investigation until at least next August while Santa Clara officials mull over the FAA’s invitation. The airports only sell Swift Fuels 94UL because of a study the county commissioned that revealed slightly higher than average lead levels in children who live near the airport. The airports have received millions of dollars in FAA grants over the years and one of the stipulations of receiving the money is to provide the services and facilities necessary for safe aircraft operation.

Registration Delays Linger

NBAA says the current hot market for all types of aircraft likely means the registration backlog will continue for the foreseeable future. It now takes about six months for owners to register newly purchased aircraft with the FAA and it can take longer if the documents aren’t in order. Scott McCreary, aviation group leader for McAfee & Taft and a member of the NBAA’s Tax Committee, said, “People should reach out immediately to their title companies and law firms assisting them and make sure all their documentation is in order. Even a small mistake may cause longer delays in the processing of documents and the registration of the aircraft.” He said no amount of complaining or letter writing will fix the problems and those buying and selling aircraft “must plan accordingly.”

Single-Pilot Cruise Option Considered

Europe may allow limited single-pilot operations as early as 2027. The European Aviation Safety Agency says it’s looking at allowing a single pilot to be on the flight deck during cruise on some flights that now require a relief pilot or a second crew. The idea is that the other pilot could catch some quality rest in a crew bunk rather than the current practice of napping in their seat. EASA says it would only allow such operations in newer long-range aircraft like A350s and Boeing 787s. European airlines are pressing the regulator to allow entirely single-pilot operations by 2030 but EASA says that’s “absolutely not realistic.”

NOTAM Reform On Agenda

The failure of the FAA’s NOTAM system and the nationwide ground stop it caused may have provided the political capital necessary to modernize the system in both form and function. The NTSB and pilot groups have long decried the system as ineffective because of the sheer volume of information it generates, much of it irrelevant, on routine flights. Although Congress and the FAA seem focused on the computer system itself that serves up NOTAMs, there are groups that are trying to seize the moment and reform the information flow. Former NTSB Chair Robert Sumwalt characterized the current system as all but useless and urged major reform.

Drone Collision Brings Changes

Canada’s Transportation Safety Board says a police drone that almost brought down a Cessna 172 was operated by a “task saturated” pilot and monitored by an untrained spotter. The 13.5-pound DJI Matrice M210 hit the bottom cowl of the 172 on final at Buttonville Airport just north of Toronto in August of 2021. The drone heavily damaged the airplane, but the instructor and student landed normally and thought they’d hit a bird. The drone was being used to try to find an armed suspect near the airport and the police operator bent and broke a bunch of rules in the heat of the chase. The York Regional Police have since tightened their drone procedures.


Instructor charged for allegedly buzzing boats … The NTSB has been critical of Ethiopia’s Boeing 737 MAX crash investigation … Airlines are facing a shortage of new aircraft … Partially hydrogen-powered Dornier 228 flies … Commercial pilot production down by two-thirds in Canada … Enstrom’s new owners deliver first helicopter … Find breaking news in general aviation at


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