Briefing: February 2012

FAA says, VORs? Well keep a few of 'em. Just in case.OMB says, Control Towers? We dont need so many of those, either.Court Orders U.S. To Pay Pilots FamilyLightSquared claims its really the GPSs faultIcing Cited In TBM-700 Freeway CrashNotams


The FAA plans to reduce the number of VOR facilities to a “minimal operational network” by 2020. A minimum network would be enough that an aircraft anywhere in the continental U.S. would have no more than 100 miles to go via VOR to some GPS-independent approach. The FAA is accepting comments on its proposed policy until March 7.

AOPA quoted unnamed sources that the Office of Management and Budget has made the suggestion that funding be pulled from contract towers at airports that don’t have commercial service or high volumes of military traffic. The funding cuts would affect roughly half of the 248 contract towers, which are independently owned and operated facilities under contract to the FAA. According to AOPA, the proposal has not been approved by the FAA, which is now discussing it internally.

A District Court judge ordered the United States to pay $4.4 million to the family of a pilot killed in a 2005 plane crash after finding that a controller (currently serving as a front-line manager) “breached his duty of care.” The court resolved that the controller “failed to provide sufficient, accurate weather information to allow [the pilot] to make informed decisions.” The real-world details involved the pilot asking how his heading looked and the controller replying, “I cannot suggest any headings because my weather radar only picks up precipitation and is not as accurate as what you see out your window.” The controller became involved with another aircraft while the pilot was on a deviation and by the time the pilot started asking for help, it was too late.

LightSquared, who is still trying to set up a wireless broadband system right next to the radio frequency used by GPS, has filed for a declaratory ruling from the FCC. They claim interference with GPS location may be the result of “poorly designed GPS receivers that ‘listen’ for radio signals both in the ‘RNSS’ frequency band in which the U.S. GPS system is intended to operate, as well as across the adjacent ‘MSS’ frequency band that is not intended for GPS use, and in which LightSquared is licensed.” The GPS industry says the filing is a rerun of previous LightSquared rhetoric that selectively cites previous FCC rulings and ignores its own positions on the interference issues.

All five people on board a Socata TBM-700 were killed when the single-engine turboprop apparently lost a wing in flight, then spiraled to a crash in the median of busy Interstate 287 in New Jersey and burned. The airplane had taken off from Teterboro just 14 minutes earlier, about 9:50 a.m., headed for Atlanta. The pilot had requested clearance to a higher altitude shortly before the airplane dropped off radar. It appears icing was an issue. An interesting analysis is available on the website of IFR contributing editor Scott Dennstaedt (

FAA administrator Randy Babbit resigned in the wake of a DUI arrest … NTSB investigating Phoenix Class B airspace in relation to a Turbo Commander crash in the area … EAA’s Eagle Flight program for adult pilot wannabees will be flying by March … FAA releases new rest requirements for passenger-carrying commercial operations … The Block Aircraft Registration Request (BARR) program is reopened to anyone requesting it … Cessna rolled out a new initiative for inspections on older 100- and 200-series aircraft … FAA will award $7.7 million to eight companies developing alternative fuels (biofuel) … European Commission banned airport body-scanning x-ray backscatter machines … Garmin released GTN 750 trainer for the iPad 2 … 100-percent bonus depreciation may remain through 2012 … American Airlines officially allowed to use iPads in the cockpit (guess they bought ’em on credit) … For breaking news in general aviation, log on to


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