Briefing: March 2021



The FAA must change portions of its existing aircraft certification process but the overall structure will stay in place following passage of the Aircraft Certification, Safety and Accountability Act. The concept of organization delegation authorization (ODA), in which the companies themselves conduct much of the certification oversight, survived the final version of the bill, which was included in an Omnibus spending and COVID-19 relief bill. Some in Congress wanted to see ODA scrapped after the many failings of the process in the certification of the Boeing 737 MAX but the compromise bill attempts to fix it internally. FAA oversight and the standards for ODA compliance will be beefed up and manufacturers will have to adopt safety management systems. Any aircraft design changes will go through an extensive review process. The Act also includes a topto- bottom review of Boeing’s ODA, safety culture and capability to do the work.


A serial offender drone pilot is facing up to $182,000 in fines for numerous illegal flights, most of them over downtown Philadelphia. The operator, who ignored at least three warnings and “counselling and education” sessions by FAA officials, never missed a beat and by last August the agency had had enough. It tallied up 26 violations of Part 107 regulations ranging from flying without a special use authorization for the airspace being used to flying at night, in poor visibility and too close to buildings. The agency gathered its evidence from the numerous YouTube videos of drone footage that the man posted.


The NTSB sent the FAA recommendations to oversee flight instructors who might not be training students properly. The prod resulted from investigations of the crash of a King Air that killed 10 skydivers and the pilot on Oahu in June of 2019. The NTSB found the pilot had failed all three initial checkrides on his way to his multi ticket. Students of the instructor who took the skydive pilot through all his ratings had only a 59 percent pass rate on their first rides. Anything less than 80 percent is considered substandard. The NTSB wants an automated system to alert inspectors when an instructor’s performance might be slipping.


The FAA has streamlined the approval process for supersonic aircraft designs and will allow supersonic test flights over land, which has been banned for civil aircraft for decades. “The renewed interest in development of supersonic airplanes caused FAA to review its application procedures that allow for flight tests of these aircraft,” the agency said in its final rule. “This final rule modifies the criteria for applying for these authorizations and moves the material from an appendix to a regulation to make it easier to find and understand.” The key feature of new supersonic designs is to crack the sound barrier without the shock wave hitting the ground and the only way to do that is to create that wave.


Cadillac has joined the eVTOL/Urban Mobility race with a luxury autonomous quadcopter designed to whisk its well-heeled patrons from rooftop to rooftop. GM is taking a hard turn toward electric vehicles and the flying Caddy was one of a series of electric vehicle systems announced at the Consumer Electronics Show. The prototype shown at CES was a single place but the company said a two place is in the works. GM put its marquee brand on the effort to offer “a glimpse of what autonomy and Cadillac luxury might be in the not-too-distant future.”


Virgin Orbital joined the commercial space race with a successful air launch of its rocket … The FAA is reminding pilots that COVID-related ATC interruptions can happen with little warning … Boeing appointed Michael Delaney as its first aerospace safety officer … EAA is working on the 2021 AirVenture, final decision in May … Fatal accidents increased but total fatalities dropped in 2020 … See for breaking news in general aviation.


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