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Introducing the dawn of private-spaceflight regulation Normally when the FAA issues a proposed rule, it comes with a rather unexciting title. But this one is a bit more provocative: "Human space flight requirements for crew and space flight participants." Published in the Federal Register on December 29, 2005, the rule is laying the groundwork for Joe Pilot to become Joe Astronaut — or at least Joe Big Bucks to become Joe Passenger.

Introducing the dawn of private-spaceflight regulation

Normally when the FAA issues a proposed rule, it comes with a rather unexciting title. But this one is a bit more provocative: "Human space flight requirements for crew and space flight participants."

Published in the Federal Register on December 29, 2005, the rule is laying the groundwork for Joe Pilot to become Joe Astronaut — or at least Joe Big Bucks to become Joe Passenger. The FAA estimates that five or six companies will enter the space industry within the next decade. Space vehicles developed by these companies may have vertical or horizontal takeoff and landing capability; they may or may not have wings; they may be launched from the ground or in the air; and they may land like an airplane or a glider. Imagine trying to regulate this.

Under the Space Launch Amendment Act of 2004, the rule would establish requirements for crew qualifications and training for civilian astronauts. You'll need a pilot certificate — most likely a commercial — with an instrument rating and a second class medical. "The FAA anticipates that regardless of the kind of vehicle used, there will be times when a pilot will be relying on instrument skills and competency," according to the proposal's preamble. "A person holding a sport pilot certificate or a student pilot would be unlikely to satisfy this standard."

In addition, the FAA wants astronauts to be able to withstand the stresses of microgravity, acceleration, and vibration so as not to end up harming the public in some way. The government looked to Burt Rutan's ingenious training methods following his privately funded program's successful spaceflights. The cockpits of SpaceShipOne and the White Knight launch aircraft were identical so that on each flight pilots were appropriately cross-trained. Rutan's crew also used a ground-based simulator.

The FAA would exercise control through a licensing and permitting system where each space program would need to detail its activities, comply with insurance and liability requirements, and show that its crewmembers are adequately trained. Spacecraft operators would be required to "provide atmospheric conditions adequate to sustain life and consciousness for all inhabited areas within a launch or reentry vehicle." This means a secondary or redundant oxygen system, a method of keeping carbon dioxide levels in check, and an ability to monitor and control the level of humidity to keep the windows from fogging up.

Physicals would be recommended but not likely required for space "participants," otherwise known as "passengers." Operators would need to disclose safety records and advise passengers of the risks of spaceflight. Language in the document compared spaceflight to mountain climbing, skydiving, and riding a motorcycle without a helmet.

Security requirements are the same as FAA airline standards where passengers are prohibited from carrying guns, knives, and explosives. Those listed on the Transportation Security Administration's "no fly" list won't be allowed to visit space.

A rule of thumb

To find true airspeed (TAS), increase your indicated airspeed (IAS) by 2 percent per thousand feet of altitude. Example: An IAS of 150 knots at 5,000 feet equals a TAS of 165 knots.
Source: GoodWay Flight Planner online forum

Cool aviation jobs

Name: Brian Guyer
Job title: Weather balloon man/meteorologist
Employer: National Weather Service, Sterling, Virginia
So, you're the guy who launches those weather balloons twice a day. Is that all you do? "Oh, no. I'm an intern here, but I'm also a meteorologist, so I do all kinds of jobs. I make up the river discussions, do the river-stage forecasts for the Shenandoah, Rappahannock, and Potomac rivers, make and monitor the weather radio broadcasts, do short- and long-term forecasts, and make terminal aerodrome forecasts, too."
What do you like about the balloon launch? "I like knowing that I'm the guy who gets the data. If I didn't launch the balloon we wouldn't have the data we need for forecasting. I also like watching my data go into the forecast models."
And how long does it take you to make a balloon launch? "Well, we have a new system that uses GPS radiosondes in the instrument package, which weighs about a pound, so I come in at about 6 a.m. and start up the computer that will track and process the data the package broadcasts; then I have to make up the package and its instruments. So that's about 40 minutes. Then I have to fill the balloon with helium and get it out of its shelter and release it. That's another 10 minutes. Oh, and I have to call the airport [Washington Dulles International] because we're within five miles and they have to know what's going on in case it shows up on radar."
And what do the instrument packages detect? "Temperature, humidity, pressure, and wind speed and direction. The wind information comes from the GPS."
I hear these balloons reach some extreme altitudes. Is that true? "Oh, yeah. They take about one and a half hours to get to 100,000 feet. We track it and monitor the data the whole time, of course. By the time it's that high, it's really huge — about 100 feet wide. That's when they pop. At launch they're about 6 feet wide."
So what was one of the funniest things that happened on your watch? "One day it was real windy and I got my balloon out and there's this string that attaches the instrument package to the balloon itself. So all this string — about 100 feet of it — wrapped around me, and I almost got knocked over." — Thomas A. Horne

What's in the February issue of AOPA Flight Training?

  • Clarifying Clearances. Understand routine instrument flight communications.
  • Unlucky 13. When was the last time you checked these items on your preflight?
  • Top of the Chart. Flying at the top of your aircraft's performance ceiling.

The February issue mailed on December 27. Current AOPA members can add a subscription to AOPA Flight Training for $18 per year. For more information, call 800/872-2672.

Calling Cessna 172 pilots

A future story in AOPA Pilot will feature the Cessna 172 Skyhawk. Share your experiences with us at [email protected]. Please put "C172" in the subject line and include your name and contact information in the e-mail (photos also are welcome). The information you provide may be published.

007 Pop Quiz

Think you know your James Bond aircraft? Try our quiz and find out. Answers are found at the bottom of this page.

Aircraft: Movie:
a. Lockheed Jetstar Octopussy
b. Rocket pack Thunderball
c. BD-5J Goldfinger
d. AMC Matador flying car The World Is Not Enough
e. Antonov An-124 Die Another Day
f. Blue Heron XC-70 (powered parachute) The Man With the Golden Gun

A brief history of the N number

Like most other things in aviation, the N number has its own story to tell. The Torrance Airport Association in California recently traced the N number's history in the group's newsletter. Shortly after World War I, an international convention was called in Paris to assign each country a unique registration mark. The U.S. delegate chose the letter N, perhaps to signify a national number rather than allowing states to handle aircraft registrations. Ecuador got E-E, Greece S-G, and Japan J. As the newsletter pointed out, some speculated that the letter N may have been chosen by the United States to honor the Curtiss NC-4 flying boat for making it across the Atlantic. Congress later established secondary letters such as C for commercial aircraft. Older airplanes commonly had the NC designations.

Members in the News

J.C. Dodd, AOPA 1310403, was selected to be a Jeep Hero from among more than 2,500 nominations to represent all the men and women who serve in the police force and on search-and-rescue teams.

A member of the California Highway Patrol (CHP), he was chosen for delivering exemplary, unique, and heroic service to improve the quality of life in cities and towns across America. Because CHP policies and state laws prohibit Dodd from accepting a vehicle, he has asked the Chrysler Group to donate the Jeep Commander to Sacramento Loaves and Fishes, an organization that feeds, transports, and provides shelter for homeless people.

Martha King, AOPA 1190807, was awarded the prestigious 2005 Cliff Henderson Award for Achievement by the National Aeronautic Association. The award is presented annually to "a living individual or group whose vision, leadership, or skill has made a significant and lasting contribution to the promotion and advancement of aviation or space activity." King is the first and only woman in history to hold every FAA class of pilot and instructor certificates available. She appears in King Schools' instructional programs along with her husband, John King.

AOPA has some longtime members, but this one stands out. Capt. Johnny Miller, AOPA 58843, saw Glenn Curtiss take off once and decided, at age 4, that he was going to be a pilot. "I never changed my mind," Miller said, and 96 years later, on December 17, 2005, he flew in a Beechcraft Baron to North Carolina with a friend to celebrate his 100th birthday. Miller was a barnstormer, a gyroplane test pilot, an airmail pilot, and a pilot for United and Eastern airlines. He also was the founding director of the American Bonanza Society and continues to write for ABS publications. His book, Flying Stories, recounts many of his tales from a century of living — and flying — and can be purchased through the ABS Company Store online. Miller has been an AOPA member since 1949 and was featured in the December 2003 issue of Pilot. — Julie K. Boatman

Mystery of the radio stack revealed

If you ever wonder why the radio stacks in general aviation airplanes are certain widths, think back to 1958. Narco Avionics says that the "Mark width" came about after its introduction of the Mark V, GA's first economical crystal-controlled transmitter/receiver unit. The company was founded in 1945 and went on to produce a series of firsts for aviation in the realm of radio navigation and communication equipment from transceivers to DMEs. Narco recently celebrated its sixtieth anniversary. It is attempting to relaunch the company to provide low-cost products for aircraft owners who don't need to upgrade all of their radios when they put in high-end equipment. For more on the company, see the Web site.

Department of R&D

The bumpy side of en route ops

Canada's NRC Institute for Aerospace has found something rather upsetting lurking behind jetliners. While other studies have looked at wake turbulence close to or on the ground, the Canadian outfit is looking specifically at en route operations. NRC's Dassault Falcon 20 made four flights at altitudes ranging from 24,000 to 39,000 feet. It found substantial perturbations at distances of eight to 13 miles behind vortex-generating aircraft. The disturbances were large enough to knock down a person standing inside an airplane and, in one case, resulted in an engine flameout on the test airplane. NRC will continue its investigation in 2006 by flying its T-33 in harm's way.

AOPA Online survey: World's greatest pilot (besides you)

AOPA members named Bob Hoover as the world's greatest pilot, followed closely by Chuck Yeager and Jimmy Doolittle. Out of 461 participants in our online survey, Hoover got 87 votes, followed by Yeager with 81 and Doolittle with 68. Charles Lindbergh had 38, the Wright brothers, 16, and Neil Armstrong, eight. Burt Rutan and Howard Hughes each got seven. Pilot columnist Barry Schiff, who got four votes himself, had defined the greatest pilot in his January column as someone who not only possessed the stick-and-rudder skills but also had a tremendous impact on aviation. Hoover was noted for his ability to "wear airplanes," his military and test-pilot records, his efforts to promote aviation on the airshow circuit, and for what he did for aging pilots by fighting the FAA to get back his medical certificate. "If you have seen him fly, you'll know why," said one member.

AOPA ePilot Headlines

Recent news from AOPA's weekly e-mail newsletter

Beechcraft Baron now with glass
Raytheon's new Beechcraft G58 Baron has received FAA certification for the Garmin G1000 integrated avionics system.

Engine program gets FAA nod
It's full speed ahead for Superior Air Parts' new Vantage Engine program. The company has received its production certificate from the FAA, allowing it to go into full production.

New Mexico to become space hub
Virgin Galactic and New Mexico officials jointly announced an agreement that will lead to the building of a $200 million commercial spaceport on a 27-square-mile area of land in the southern part of the state.

Champ to make comeback
American Champion is working on bringing back the classic tailwheel Champ. Dubbed the 7LS, it's a modernized version of the 7EC, featuring a Continental O-200 engine.

Team sets helo record
Johan Nurmi, Nico Wijngaarden, Paul Chenette, and Frode Felle established a national helicopter speed record in a Robinson R44, flying from Los Angeles to Savannah, Georgia, and back in 88 hours and 43 minutes (including rest times).

Socata unveils new turbine
EADS Socata took the wraps off its latest offering, the TBM 850 single-engine turboprop. It will cruise at 320 knots at 26,000 feet.

Rocket racing ready for ignition
This October, if New York-based X Prize founder Peter Diamandis is successful, expect to see 10 rocket-powered Long EZ aircraft racing one another for prize money at Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Now you can receive a customized version of the free AOPA ePilot e-mail newsletter tailored to your interests. To customize your weekly newsletter, see AOPA Online.


007 Pop Quiz Answers: a. Goldfinger; b. Thunderball; c. Octopussy; d. The Man With the Golden Gun; e. Die Another Day; f. The World Is Not Enough.

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