Briefing: October 2020



Virgin Galactic has jumped into the supersonic aircraft business with a Mach 3
intercontinental jet that will seat up to 19 people and cruise at 60,000 feet. The
company’s subsidiary, The Spaceship Company, has also signed a deal with Rolls-Royce to develop “engine propulsion technology for high speed commercial aircraft.” The company said the FAA’s Center for Emerging Concepts and Innovation has reviewed the concept and committed FAA resources to creating a certification plan. “We are pleased to collaborate with the innovative team at Rolls-Royce as we strive to develop sustainable, cutting-edge propulsion systems for the aircraft, and we are pleased to be working with the FAA to ensure our designs can make a practical impact from the start,” said Virgin Galactic Chief Space Officer George Whitesides.


Hundreds of pilots face retesting on certificates and ratings after the FAA determined
a Cincinnati FAA examiner was incompetent. Anyone who rode with Michael A. Puehler between 2008 and 2019 might need new tests from a different examiner to maintain their certificates and/or ratings. The FAA sent letters to everyone it found who passed a ride with Puehler and gave them 10 days to contact their local FSDO. Not everyone will need a retest. Those who have upgraded their tickets with different examiners could be exempt but those details must be worked out with the FSDO.


A survey of employees in the FAA’s safety division reveals at least some of them believe industry calls the shots during the certification of new products and airplanes. About 25 percent of 7000 employees responded and painted a picture of
the agency pressuring inspectors to bow to commercial considerations. Rep. Peter
DeFazio (D-Ore.), chairman of the House Transportation Committee, said the survey
results revealed “a disturbing pattern of senior officials at a Federal agency rolling over for industry.” FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said he’s following up. “It is completely unacceptable that there are employees who lack confidence that their safety concerns are taken seriously.”


Airlines are taking a hard line on mandatory mask rules and numerous flights have been turned around or delayed by passengers refusing to comply. At the same time,
the country’s biggest airlines, United and American, began filling middle seats in July and selling out flights. Those companies faced some backlash from that decision and an analysis by Business Insider found that the decision to pack their planes may hit their bottom lines. The analysis looked at the relative financial performances of American, United and Delta as travel increased. Delta continued blocking middle seats through the summer. It found that Delta actually made more money because it didn’t need to discount to fill the 60 percent of seats it had available. JetBlue, Southwest, and Alaska also kept middle seats blocked through the summer.


AOPA canceled or postponed its three regional fly-ins for 2021 and replaced them with two Aviator Showcase events and a Pilot Gathering Air Tour. “With the uncertainties surrounding what 2021 will look like, we wanted to develop a special event model for this coming year that will build in tremendous flexibility and scalability,” said AOPA Senior Director of Outreach and Events, Chris Eads. The Showcase events will feature 40-50 exhibits and 25-30 exhibit aircraft along with seminars and demonstrations. The AOPA Pilot Gathering Air Tour will include two multi-day, multistop tours with a pilot town hall, roundtable discussions with AOPA leadership and Air Safety Institute safety session held at each stop.


DeLand Sport Aviation Showcase has been postponed … The FAA expects the Boeing
737 MAX to be recertified by the end of the year … A live, but unarmed French air-to-air missile was found at Lakeland Linder International Airport … Wheels Up
has added a new sales division … The FAA reopened comments on the Piper Cherokee spar AD … See for breaking news in general aviation.


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