Briefing: October 2015


Airplane/Drone Conflicts On The Rise

The FAA raised concerns this summer over the escalation of pilot reports of drone encounters, with 650 reports in the first half of the year, nearly three times as many as in all of 2014. Encounters occurred at altitudes up to 10,000 feet and were reported by aircraft from helicopters to airliners. Conflicts with firefighters also were on the rise. In August, the Transportation Department’s Office of Inspector General said it would launch an audit to scrutinize the FAA’s procedures for allowing drone operations in the national airspace.

First Flight For Unique Bugatti Design

A replica of the one-of-a-kind Bugatti 100P racing airplane, which has been in the works in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for several years, went airborne briefly for the first time in August, but suffered damage after landing. Scott Wilson’s team marked the flight as a triumph nonetheless, noting that the original aircraft from the 1930s was never completed, so the short hop down the runway, reaching about 100 feet AGL and 110 knots, was the first-ever takeoff for the 100P design. Wilson said that the right brake failed during the landing roll. The aircraft departed the runway, sunk in the wet ground and tipped on its nose, damaging the spinner and both props. “Such is the nature of flight testing a new design,” Wilson commented.

FAA’s Performance Under Scrutiny

The Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Transportation Department released three reports this summer critical of the FAA. The OIG found the FAA had made “limited” progress in developing a pilot-records database mandated by a 2010 law. The delay means airlines don’t have access to records they need when hiring new pilots. Another report found FAA costs vary significantly from one control tower to another. The FAA needs to bring inefficient operations up to speed, the report concluded. A third report found the FAA hasn’t provided air traffic controllers with the tools and training they need to employ new navigation strategies that could enhance efficiency. Those audits all were initiated by requests from Congress, and some observers say the motivation may be to justify changes in how the FAA is organized, including possible privatization.

NTSB: GA Fatalities Rose In 2014

The rate of fatal general aviation accidents in the U.S. increased slightly in 2014 to 1.4 per 100,000 flight hours, up from an all-time low of 1.12 the previous year, the NTSB said in August. An analysis by AVweb editorial director Paul Bertorelli reveals that this is the highest fatal accident rate for general aviation since 1998. While industry observers hope that new technology will help, the real answer might simply lie in GA pilots increasing their level of activity. It wasn’t all bad news, though, with accidents down slightly for Part 135 operations with four reported in 2014, compared to seven the previous year. On-demand Part 135 operations, which include charter, air taxi, air tour, and air medical flights, reported 35 accidents, down from 44 in 2013.

NTSB Completes SpaceshipTwo Investigation

A cockpit design that made it possible for one human error to result in a catastrophic crash was mainly to blame for the destruction of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo last October, which resulted in the death of the co-pilot and injury to the pilot, the NTSB concluded in its probable-cause report in July. The board also found that by not considering the possibility of human error in its safety analysis, Scaled Composites, which developed and built the spacecraft, missed the chance to mitigate it. The aircraft broke up during a test flight when the co-pilot prematurely unlocked the tail-feather mechanism.


Debris found on remote Reunion island was confirmed to be from the Malaysian Airlines 777 missing for more than a year…Textron says it has a new single-engine turboprop in the works, but released no details yet…Eleven people died when a Hawker Hunter jet performing in a U.K. airshow crashed on a freeway…Harrison Ford’s crash in Santa Monica was caused by a carburetor malfunction, the NTSB said…Breaking news in general aviation can be found at


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