The Federal Aviation Administration has created a new interagency office to coordinate federal investment in the ambitious NextGen ATC modernization effort following the elimination of the Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO). Congress erased funding for the JPDO earlier this year, 10 years after it required the Department of Transportation to establish the office under the Vision 100-Century of Aviation legislation that launched NextGen.
Battle lines have formed in the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) review of the $10,000 fine the FAA charged Raphael Pirker for operating a small unmanned aircraft. Six parties filed “friend of the court” amicus briefs by the NTSB’s May 16 deadline, including a coalition of major news media organizations supporting Pirker’s position.
The National Transportation Safety Board on May 13 released the findings of its Special Investigation Report on the safety of agricultural aircraft operations, which can involve flying as low as 10 feet above the ground. That kind of flying presents risks from ground-based obstacles with scant room for error.
Having lost the first round of its attempt to fine Raphael Pirker for using a flying wing to take video, the FAA plans to issue a public notice reaffirming its authority to regulate the use of small unmanned aircraft. The agency is appealing a March ruling by a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) administrative law judge rejecting the $10,000 fine.
U.S. congressional leaders, addressing those attending the Unmanned Systems Conference in Orlando on Tuesday, said Congress will likely expedite provisions of the 2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act that require the FAA to introduce unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into the nation’s airspace.
“Humans are not naturally good at monitoring highly reliable automated cockpit systems for extended periods of time,” said NTSB member Robert Sumwalt. “And what do we have in our airplanes today…highly reliable, highly automated systems.”
Space Florida hosted a tightly controlled unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) flight demonstration on Sunday amid concern the FAA would pull the plug on the event, which served as a prelude to the Unmanned Systems 2014 conference this week in Orlando. With the exception of the media and participating UAS organizations, spectators were kept far removed from the launch area in a field at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
Business aviation’s strong accident record is no reason for operators to rest on their laurels, NTSB member Robert Sumwalt reminded attendees at the recent FSF business aviation safety summit (BASS). Sumwalt, former manager of aviation for Scana and a retired US Airways pilot, is a man obsessed with the pursuit of improving aviation safety. He reminded the audience that leadership is about influencing others. “Your job as leaders in business aviation is to make sure accidents don’t happen on your watch. You must also be constantly trying to improve. You need a leadership obsession.”
The NTSB issued a number of recommendations on May 1–one urgent–to address the compliance and safety programs in place at and FAA oversight of operators owned by HoTH, including Hageland Aviation Services; Frontier Flying Service; and Era Aviation, which may do business as Ravn Alaska, Ravn Connect and Corvus Airlines. The Safety Board took the action in light of six recent accidents and one incident involving the carriers.
Unconfirmed reports have surfaced that claim a military U-2 high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft operating far above civilian airways might have been responsible for an April 30 computer failure at the FAA’s Los Angeles Center. Both the center’s primary and backup radar computer systems failed at the same time, causing nationwide air-traffic backups into and out of Southern California. Some believe the U-2’s ultra-high altitude might have confused the ATC computers.