Autonomous aircraft with the regulatory affairs lead at Xwing. In the news, Delta Airlines reconsiders loyalty program changes, GPS spoofing of commercial flights, the Schiphol airport capacity cap, a crash takes the life of an AOPA senior vice president, and a 104-year-old woman goes skydiving.
Anna Dietrich is the regulatory affairs lead at Xwing, a company that flies piloted commercial cargo operations under a Part 135 certificate with a fleet of Cessna Caravans. The company has developed an autonomous aircraft for cargo operations and has conducted the world’s first fully autonomous gate-to-gate demonstration of a commercial cargo aircraft.
Anna leads the certification program for advanced aircraft control and detect and avoid systems for the company’s autonomous flight operations. She gives us an overview of the Xwing autonomous program and the Superpilot autonomous flight technology. A remote pilot monitors the flight and can modify the flight plan if necessary.
We hear how the regulator’s viewpoint on airworthiness is now a more performance-based approach to safety. Operational rules can be the same as with a crewed aircraft, but in this case, some are performed by a system, and some by a pilot on the ground. For now, airman certification is unchanged, but some requirements are different and these will need to change over time.
Anna brings up the roles of humans in autonomous aircraft operations: who has liability and responsibility, and what training is appropriate? Also, how AI is regulated, thoughts on the certification process, and even public acceptance. We take the opportunity to ask Anna about the Terrafugia roadable airplane project that she co-founded.
Anna is an industry-recognized leader in policy, certification, and government relations for advanced air mobility (AAM), eVTOL aircraft, and autonomous aviation. Her experiences include Mars rover testing, being the founding COO of Terrafugia, testifying on AAM for Congress, and speaking at TED Global. She has appeared on or been published in a wide range of outlets including CNN, Ms. Magazine, and Good Morning America. She runs AMD Consulting, serves as Director of Regulatory Affairs for Xwing, is the co-founder and Director of Industry and Strategy at the Community Air Mobility Initiative (CAMI), and is a Senior Policy Advisor for AUVSI. She was the founding chair of the GAMA EPIC EVTOL committee and continues to have key roles in industry, including standards development efforts such as ASTM AC377 Autonomy in Aviation. She received her BS and MS in aerospace engineering from MIT and is a private pilot. More at annamdietrich.com.
- Aviation Xtended Episode 184 with Max Gariel, the Co-Founder, President, and Chief Technology Officer for Xwing.
- Airplane Geeks Episode 736 with Earl Lawrence, the Chief Compliance and Quality Officer at Xwing, and former Executive Director of Aircraft Certification at the FAA.
Last week we described how Delta Airlines planned to change its SkyMiles program. The airline said it would retire Medallion Qualifying Miles and Medallion Qualifying Segments to focus on Qualifying Dollars. Many Delta customers were not happy with the change, and CEO Ed Bastian responded by saying, “No question we probably went too far in doing that. I think we moved too fast, and we are looking at it now.”
After the initial Delta announcement, Alaska Airlines said Delta SkyMiles Medallion members could join their Mileage Plan program with no flight segment or spending requirement. JetBlue offered elite status in its Mosaic loyalty program to Delta flyers through Oct. 31, or until 30,000 people take advantage of the offer.
The OpsGroup reports that the number of GPS spoofing incidents in Iraq is increasing along a flight path alongside the Iranian border. The FAA calls this a “safety of flight risk to civil aviation operations.” OpsGroup said about a dozen business jets and airliners received fake GPS signals, and many of them lost navigation capability.
OpsGroup is a membership organization for pilots, flight dispatchers, schedulers, and controllers involved in international flight operations. The 8,000-member-strong organization shares new information on changes and risks that members have reported. Members get a Daily Brief, live Ops Alerts, and other resources. OpsGroup founder Mark Zee describes the organization in What Is Opsgroup All About?
The Dutch government is planning to cut capacity at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport from 500,000 annual flights to 440,000 flights. This is an effort to reduce noise and carbon emissions, but it is not a popular move within the industry. Opposition comes from KLM, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), and A4A representing ten US airlines. Other industry associations against the plan include BARIN (representing airlines in the Netherlands), Air Cargo Netherlands (ACN), Airlines for Europe (A4E), and the European Regions Airline Association (ERA).
JetBlue Airways has made a regulatory filing with the US Department of Transportation (DOT) against the Dutch government and the European Union, calling on the DOT to take action. The airline claims is it under an immediate threat of expulsion from Schiphol in 2024.
Richard McSpadden Jr., senior vice president of the AOPA Air Safety Institute, was one of two people killed in an aircraft accident on October 1, 2023, in Lake Placid, New York. The Cessna 177 Cardinal experienced an emergency after takeoff. The airplane attempted to return to the airport but failed to make the runway. Also killed in the crash was former NFL player Russ Francis.
The Guinness Book of World Records may certify Dorothy Hoffner as the oldest person in the world to tandem skydive. The woman turns 105 in December and wants to go for a ride in a hot air balloon.
- Speaker: Robin Bartlett, Vietnam Combat: Firefights and Writing History, Thursday, October 5, 2023, 7 – 8:30 p.m.
- Speaker: Alan Mack, Razor 03: A Night Stalker’s Wars, Thursday, October 19, 2023, 7 – 8:30 p.m.
Hosts this Episode
Max Flight, Rob Mark, David Vanderhoof, Max Trescott, and our Main(e) Man Micah.