Briefing: September 2020



NBAA is fighting a proposed FAA pilot record database that will require airlines and so-called “gateway operators” to keep files on pilots, including written and practical tests for ratings and endorsements and even training notes during flight instruction. The proposal is an expansion of the Pilot Records Improvement Act enacted in 1997 that established requirements for air carriers to do background checks on pilots before allowing them in the cockpit. The proposed rule increases the scope of the record keeping to include corporate flight departments because those are seen as stepping stones to the right seat in airliners. NBAA says the expansion of the requirements will create a lot of work for operators who aren’t set up for that kind of record keeping and disputes that corporate aviation is the pipeline to the airlines that the FAA seems to think it is.


A cell phone company that was once called LightSquared has been resurrected as Ligado Networks and been granted a narrow band of radio frequency right next to the frequencies used by GPS satellites to communicate with all manner of receivers, including those used for air navigation. The fear is that the cell signals, which are millions of times more powerful than the tiny emissions from space, will overwhelm the GPS signals and cause failures. Capt. Chesley Sullenberger, on behalf of opponents to the plan,told the Space Based Positioning, Navigation and Timing Advisory Board the move “constitutes a dereliction of duty on the FCC’s part.”


Boeing plans to stop production of the Boeing 747 according to a report by Bloomberg. The news agency combed through the company’s financial filings and noticed that Boeing is ending supply chain arrangements for 747 components after the 16 aircraft, mostly freighters, that are on order are out the door. British Airways recently announced it will be retiring all 28 of its 747s after flying the type for 51 years.


Boom Supersonic says it will roll out its XB-1 supersonic demonstrator aircraft Oct. 7. The event will be held online and will include commentary from company officials describing the specs and performance of the demonstrator, which is named Overture. First flight is expected in 2021 and the schedule puts Boom in the lead in terms of restarting the civilian supersonic aviation industry.


ATP Flight School clearly plans for life after COVID-19. They’ve renewed an order for 100 Piper Archer TX after an order for 100 Cessna 172s announced at AirVenture 2019. ATP says the airline industry will recover and the need for pilots will be even greater. “Anticipated airline pilot demand exceeds the current capabilities of the flight training industry,” said ATP’s director of marketing Michael Arnold.


Icelandair fired all its flight attendants and ordered pilots to at least temporarily assume cabin safety duties. It wasn’t clear if the pilots flying the aircraft would do double duty or whether non-flying pilots would be assigned to the cabins but the decision raised legal and safety concerns. The airline had been in negotiations with the FAs for more than a month and the talks broke down, leading to the mass firing. Like other airlines, Icelandair has eliminated cabin service so the pilots won’t be pushing drink carts or getting pillows for passengers when they’re in the back.


FAA was unable to find source of drone swarms over Colorado and Nebraska last winter … Delta offered its pilots job guarantees in exchange for a 15 percent basic pay cut … Thousands of GA pilots are flying to major airports as commercial traffic drops … EHang conducted passenger carrying flights in its autonomous drones in China … The NTSB said a first officer’s mishandling of the inadvertent triggering of the automatic go-around system on an Atlas Air Boeing 767 led to its crash in Texas in February of 2019 … See for breaking news in general aviation.


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