Briefing: April 2010


Homebuilt accident rate rises
The AOPA Air Safety Foundation’s annual Nall Report found an increase in accidents involving amateur-built aircraft. The statistics from 2008 showed the highest rate of fatal accidents and fatalities in 10 years. “The 27-percent lethality rate in these accidents was 10 full percentage points higher than that for accidents in type-certificated airplanes,” according to the report.

A New kind of restricted airspace for a new kind of military flying
The Air Force has a plan to create some large, new restricted areas near Grand Forks, N.D., for military unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The proposal is to restrict the airspace in three layers: The bottom layer would be from 6000 to 10,000 feet MSL, a second layer from 10,000 to 14,000 feet, and a third layer from 14,000 to 18,000. When one section was being used by a UAV, civilian aircraft could freely use the other two levels. Several transit areas are also proposed.

Pilot Wins Appeal Over Health Record Disclosure
A Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the Social Security Administration acted improperly when it turned over a pilot’s medical records to the FAA. To receive medical benefits, Stanmore Cooper disclosed his HIV-positive status to Social Security officials, but not to AMEs for years of medical renewals, for fear of workplace discrimination. Recent crackdowns on lack of medical disclosures turned up the records and Cooper entered a guilty plea to making and delivering a false writing. After paying his $1000 fine, he sued, claiming his right to privacy had been violated.

Embry-Riddle greens up some of its fleet for research …
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, which operates the nation’s largest fleet of airplanes in a college training program, will be burning SwiftFuel in some of its fleet. Engineers at ERAU’s campus in Daytona Beach, Fla., will perform the certification testing needed to convert more than 40 Cessna 172s, nearly half of the university’s fleet of 95 aircraft. SwiftFuel is one of the candidates for the 100LL replacement. It’s a lead-free biofuel made from switchgrass.

… Meanwhile, the Oklahoma team has a less-green solution
General Aviation Modifications—the folks who are largely responsible for the acceptance of lean-of-peak operations and the turbo-normalized Cirrus SR22—are flying their own 100LL alternative. This one is made entirely from petroleum products, but without the lead additive. They’ve been flying it in their SR22 and beating it up on the test stand. So far, it shows a lot of promise. But the FAA is reticent to give them the latitude they need for extensive fleet testing.

Further efforts in cockpit sterility wanted by the boys in D.C.
In the continuing list of indignities ushered on the professional cockpit, now the NTSB is recommending that Part 121, 135 and 91K (fractional) operators be required by the FAA to periodically collect and review cockpit voice recorder data. The idea is to monitor the work habits of pilots. The Board feels this would “enhance flight safety by assisting operators in detecting and correcting deviations from standard operating procedures.” There are statements about “appropriate protections” to ensure this is for “for safety-related and not punitive purposes.”

General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) says 2009 was “one of the toughest years ever” … A Boeing 747 carrying a megawatt-class laser destroyed a missile in flight in the first successful test of the weapon … Cessna finished its 300th Citation Mustang jet … WXWorx redesigned website makes a claim of better customer service … Amateur video of Challenger disaster released after sitting in a basement for 25 years … Sikorsky to develop unmanned Blackhawk helicopter … FAA‘s general fund is down 30 percent … Robinson helicopter soon to offer R66 turbine-powered model for $770,000 … Uncertified pilot in a stolen Cirrus SR22 lands in the wee hours at LAX … The Sporty’s Foundation donated $200,000 last year to programs supporting youth aviation … For breaking news in general aviation, log on to


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