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For most of us, the world of helicopter search and rescue is a far cry from everyday flying. We don’t go on missions. We don’t have to be ready to launch at a moment’s notice. No lives will be lost if we decide not to fly. But the fundamentals of aeronautical decision making remain the same, and even seasoned professional aviators can fall prey to common errors of judgment. In short, there are lessons for all pilots in the tragic 2009 crash of a New Mexico State Police helicopter in the mountains near Santa Fe. Come along as the Air Safety Institute re-creates the pilot’s final mission, and seek to understand the circumstances that led him down a path to disaster. Take the mini-course >>
A seven-year state prison sentence handed to the man who stole and wrecked Pat Gardiner’s 2005 Cessna Turbo 182, among others, does not sit well with the Idaho rancher. “It’s horrible,” Gardiner said of the punishment imposed Dec. 16 by Judge Vicki I. Churchill in Coupeville, Wash., on Colton Harris-Moore, 20, whose notorious international crime spree included the theft—and wrecking—of five aircraft. Attorneys cited childhood neglect in their defense of the “Barefoot Bandit,” who admitted in federal court to causing at least $1.4 million in property damage. Read more >>
Third conforming HondaJet enters flight testing
Honda Aircraft Co. announced that the third conforming HondaJet—conforming to the HondaJet’s FAA-approved design, that is—has made its first flight. The airplane, known as “F2” within Honda, is a flight-test airplane that first flew on Nov. 18. F2, based at Honda Aircraft’s world headquarters at the Greensboro, N.C., Piedmont Triad International Airport, performed several checks on the first flight. Read more >>
Weather batters, strengthens GA
Earthquakes. Tornados. Floods. Hurricanes. Wildfires. Forces of nature wreaked havoc on many parts of the United States and other areas of the world in 2011. In many cases, general aviation airports and aircraft were dealt a particularly hard blow, but in each instance, pilots rallied together to support one another, their neighbors, and strangers. Take a look back at how the GA community pulled together and pulled through during tough times. Read more and access slideshows and videos >>
Spring training: Applications open for 2012 scholarships
AOPA is accepting applications for three $5,000 flight training scholarships to be awarded in the spring at the Sun ‘n Fun International Fly-In and Expo. Student pilots working toward a sport, recreational, or private pilot certificate may apply online for the AOPA Flight Training Scholarship, Erral Lea Plymate Memorial Scholarship, and Jeppesen Flight Training Scholarship through Feb. 10. Read more >>
National Aviation Hall of Fame announces 2012 enshrinees
The National Aviation Hall of Fame Dec. 17 unveiled the four people who will be enshrined in 2012 in recognition of their aviation achievements. Geraldyn “Jerrie” Cobb, a flight instructor and air race champion; aviation artist, historian, lecturer, and inventor Keith Ferris; the late Lt. Gen. Elwood R. “Pete” Quesada, who helped to develop and successfully demonstrate air-to-air refueling; and the late Richard T. Whitcomb, an aeronautical engineer, will be inducted. Read more>>
GA community spreads holiday cheer
Children craned their necks skyward as a flight of four Van's RVs passed overhead in formation, but the main attraction at Tangier Island Airport on Dec. 3 was certainly Santa. From Virginia to California, pilots have volunteered to help spread holiday cheer by flying Santa Claus and delivering holly and toys. More than 500 pounds of Christmas cheer—everything from stuffed animals to soccer balls—were scheduled to be delivered from Miami International Airport to Haiti on Dec. 22. Read more and view a slideshow >>
Santa tracking in the digital age
The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) has been tracking Santa Claus’ annual flight for close to 60 years, and what started as a phone hotline has become a high-tech affair. Kids can now track the jolly elf’s excursion online using Google Maps or Google Earth, as well as on Twitter, Facebook, or Google Plus. NORAD even offers iPhone and Android apps allowing users to “(w)atch the days countdown to Santa's flight, follow Santa’s progress on December 24, play ‘Elf Toss’ to help Santa’s elves deliver presents, and learn about NORAD and its mission.”
CNN highlights charitable GA flying
CNN will shine the national spotlight on two general aviation volunteer organizations Dec. 23 and 25. A story about the Veterans Airlift Command is expected to air multiple times on Dec. 23 between 6 a.m. and noon Eastern during HLN’s Morning Express with Robin Meade and again at 5 p.m. Eastern on HLN Special Report. Veterans Airlift Command provides free air transportation to wounded veterans and their families. An expanded version of the story will air on President’s Day. On Dec. 25, CNN’s Giving in Focus will feature Pilots N Paws at 4:30 p.m. Eastern. Pilots N Paws connects animal shelters and pet rescue groups with volunteer pilots who take animals to facilities in areas where their chances of adoption are high.
Airline pilot publishes book about canine wingman
Randy Plante is a pilot who has a wingman, but the wingman isn’t a pilot. For that matter, he isn’t a person. Plante’s wingman is Oliver, a 75-pound German shepherd/Lab mix with ears that stick out to the sides. When Plante isn’t flying MD-80s for American Airlines, he spends time with Oliver at their home in Alexandria, Va. Read more >>
On a remote island village at the northern rim of Hudson Bay, fuel is a prized commodity. So when Mark Schoening and Doug DeVries landed at Coral Harbour with two fuel-hungry de Havilland Beavers and 16 five-gallon jerry cans, they were in for some competition. Fueling already was a challenge that often involved shuttling on one’s hands and knees out on a wing pitching up and down three feet on the icy water. But for this stop, the pilots faced the additional effects of economics: It was the last day of the month, Schoening explained, and fuel prices were about to go up. Read more >>
Hover Power: Photo flights
Many helicopter photo flights are performed in small helicopters like the Robinson R22 or Schweizer 300. As a result, pilots tend to be less experienced. Coupled with the need to perform some demanding maneuvers, this can make photo flights dangerous. In fact, Robinson Helicopter issued Safety Notice SN-34 in March 1999, titled “Photo Flights—Very High Risk.” The safety notice recommends photo flights only be conducted by well-trained, experienced pilots. A 2005 accident supports Robinson’s recommendation. Read more >>
The death of wing walker Amanda Franklin in May and a tornado strike at Sun ‘n Fun in March captured the attention of AOPA Online readers, but 2011 was also a year for high-flying innovation. Burt Rutan’s latest hybrid offered a fresh take on the future, and Jetman took readers for a turbine-powered thrill ride. Catch up on the 10 most popular AOPA Online stories from 2011.
Heading off icing challenges
While it’s unclear yet whether icing played a role in the crash of a Socata TBM 700 in New Jersey on Dec. 20, it is clear that moderate to severe icing was in the area near the single-engine turboprop as it departed Teterboro for Atlanta. Five people onboard were killed as the airplane crashed onto I-287 just 14 minutes after takeoff. No one on the ground was injured. The presence of ice in that area is a good reminder that we are coming into the worst icing time of year, according to Kevin Hawley, head of business development for CAV Ice Protection. Watch AOPA Live® >>
AOPA Aviation Summit 2011 seminar videos now online
Physicians give a detailed briefing on what not to do when visiting the aviation medical examiner in one of three AOPA Aviation Summit 2011 videos now available online. Also covered: cutting the cost of aircraft ownership, and a buying guide for first-timers. Knowledge Vision made the videos possible.
For daily news updates, see AOPA Online.
Safety & Proficiency
Gosh, what a lucky break. Here you are in the stuff, flying cleared-as-filed most of the way. Unusual in this busy airspace corridor. Must be because traffic is light today; in fact, it’s been quite a while since anybody has spoken on the frequency. “Center, radio check?” Then you see the popped circuit breaker. Well, it’s only lost com, not a real emergency. You’ll just squawk that special code—7600, or is it 7700?—and proceed from there. Read more >>
How to communicate with ATC isn’t always spelled out
Working well with ATC means that pilots and controllers are on the same page when it comes to communication. While the FARs and the Aeronautical Information Manual provide a lot of guidance on how to fly legally and safely in today’s airspace, some of the more nuanced techniques of communicating effectively with ATC aren’t mentioned. Take the safety quiz on ATC procedures from the Air Safety Institute and see how well you match up with what the person on the other end of the microphone expects.
Answers for Pilots: Color vision
About 8 percent of men and 0.5 percent of women in the United States have problems with color perception, which can present some hurdles for pilots. The medical standards in FAR Part 67 specify that applicants for all classes of medical certification have “the ability to perceive those colors necessary for the safe performance of airman duties.” Every visit to an AME for renewal of an airman medical certificate involves taking a color vision test. Read more >>
IFR chart challenge—from MSA to DA
An ILS approach can be pretty straightforward once you master the procedure. But what happens when an approach component is OTS, or onboard equipment malfunctions? Do you know how to interpret the chart’s instructions correctly? The Air Safety Institute’s IFR Chart Challenge: ILS Approach is one in a series of mini-courses that have you brief an approach and test your knowledge of how to fly it. Get started with the KBFL ILS Runway 30R approach and practice your skills.
How old is your airplane?
As the fleet of general aviation aircraft continues to age, it’s important to look at its "true" age in addition to its "chronological age." Many factors—some of them manufacturer-specific—can contribute to an aircraft performing like it’s older than it should. Take the Aging Aircraft interactive course from the Air Safety Institute and go beyond a preflight inspection when determining how well your aircraft is holding up, as well as learn a few tips on getting the most out of your aeronautical investment. Take the course >>
Leading Edge: Savoring flight and a reminder
It’s sometimes too easy to be casual about the gift of flight. AOPA Foundation President Bruce Landsberg recently took a young man, age 15, flying with his dad in the back seat. He was understandably a bit apprehensive but it was great fun to watch his expression as the ground fell away on takeoff. Upon landing, he was in the usual “bubble over” mode. Read more >>
Maine tax repeal quickly reaps rewards
Word has gotten around that pilots flying to Maine need no longer fear the taxman, and aviation business is booming. This year’s repeal of a notorious aircraft use tax that once targeted out-of-state visitors, along with adoption of full exemptions to taxes on aircraft parts and service, has begun to change lives. In November, New Mexico A&P mechanic Lee Bitsilly’s 13-month drought of aviation employment ended with a call from Oxford Aviation President Jim Horowitz. “I wanted to get back to work so bad that when Jim offered to bring me up … I packed my work clothes and other things and just took off,” Bitsilly recalled. Read more >>
AOPA has learned from several sources that that the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is pressuring the FAA to eliminate funding for contract control towers serving GA-only airports under across-the-board cuts to federal agencies to be included in President Barack Obama’s Fiscal 2013 budget request. If adopted, the OMB recommendation would eliminate roughly half of the 248 contract towers now operating; this move is viewed as a repercussion of the failure of a congressional “super committee” to agree on a compromise deficit-cutting plan last month. Read more >>
GA Caucus hits all-time high
Membership in the House General Aviation Caucus leapt to 169 in December, representing well more than a third of the House. Lawmakers in both houses are joining the Congressional GA Caucuses to better understand GA and its importance to the national economy and to educate their colleagues; the Senate GA Caucus has grown to 36 members. Is your senator or representative a member of the caucus? Find out >>
Wins for GA in appropriations bill
The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2012 contains two hard-fought provisions for general aviation: language that helps protect the GPS system from interference by a proposed wireless network, and language that provides funding for veterans’ readjustment benefits to include flight training. Read more >>
FAA resumes N number blocking
More than 1,000 aircraft owners have asked the FAA to block public dissemination of registration data since the agency announced restoration of the program Dec. 2. All requests made under the former Block Aircraft Registration Request (BARR) program remain in effect, and the FAA is directly accepting—and honoring—new requests from aircraft owners and operators who wish to maintain the privacy of their movements while operating under IFR, officials said. Read more >>
Louisiana airport to get added encroachment protection
A 1,500-foot runway expansion and a 48-unit residential development that is in the works near Natchitoches Regional Airport in Natchitoches, La., could pit airport neighbors against airport users. But AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer Sam Parker is working with city officials to develop a compatible land-use ordinance that would protect the airport from such problems in the future. Read more>>
FAA urged to expand data-update rule
AOPA has urged the FAA to go beyond a proposal to allow pilots operating under Parts 121 and 135 of the regulations to update certain navigation and terrain-awareness databases by freeing all pilots—including those operating under Part 91—of a record-keeping burden associated with maintaining the databases. Read more >>
Certification rule correction published
The FAA has issued a technical amendment correcting and clarifying three areas of a final rule published on Aug. 21, 2009, pertaining to pilot, flight instructor, and pilot school certification. One correction revises medical requirements for examiners who administer a practical test for the issuance of a sport pilot certificate in a light sport aircraft other than a glider or balloon. Read more >>
Big savings with Hertz of up to $50 at the airport
Save $10 per day, up to $50 on a daily, weekly, or weekend rental on your reservation of an economy through full-size car, or small SUV with Hertz. This offer is valid for vehicle pickup from Dec. 10 through Feb. 11 at the airport. Save on your next car rental and support general aviation.
AOPA offers iPhone, iPod touch app
AOPA members with an iPhone or iPod touch can access information about more than 5,300 public-use landing facilities, 7,000 FBOs and aviation-related businesses, and more than 55,000 restaurants, hotels, and transportation services with AOPA Airports, powered by ForeFlight. Visit Apple’s App Store to download this exclusive member benefit.
AOPA Career Opportunities
Ever dream of turning your passion for aviation into a career? We’re looking for a senior government analyst, director of corporate finance, manager of flight training programs, online product manager, AOPA Live producer/videojournalist, associate editor–Web/ ePilot, and aviation technical specialist. To learn more about other AOPA career opportunities, visit AOPA Online.