Category Archives: Episodes

638 Geospatial Data for Airports

Geospatial data supporting airports, investment strategy for airport recovery, lower airport operations volume, halted international flights, a health bill for domestic air travel, aviation events, a criminal conviction for unsafe drone operation, a B-21 update, and the outlook for New Zealand.

Guest

Bob Vander Meer

Bob Vander Meer is vice president of business development for NV5 Geospatial (Powered by Quantum Spatial). He has over 20 years of business development and management experience in the geospatial industry, and serves within NV5 Geospatial’s public market sector, leading the business development activities with state, municipal, and county government agencies. 

Bob has provided executive support to over 700 airport projects under FAA Advisory Circular 150/5300-16A, -17C, -18B guidelines. He has managed all internal project activities, including overseeing that the airport ground surveys and collection of aerial imagery are performed in accordance with the appropriate FAA specifications.

We dive into how geospatial data for airports are collected, analyzed, and used for applications like obstruction analysis, airport mapping, and even pavement management and crack assessment, as well as interior mapping. Bob explains the sensors used and the aircraft that carry them. 

Aviation News

Brock Solutions Emphasizes Importance of Technological Investment in Airport Recovery in 2021

Mark Stokes, the Business Unit Manager – SmartSuite at Brock Solutions, notes that “Many in the aviation industry went from full speed ahead, managing the absolute peak of volumes, to a near dead stop.” As business returns, “airlines and airports are likely going to not bring back as many people as they had before.” But the pre-pandemic situation with “unmanageable volumes of traffic” tells us “what’s going to happen to our systems and our passenger flows and our facilities when those volumes come back. Now, we have some time to prepare and to adjust the course so we can avoid those problems we were inevitably facing in 2019.”

O’Hare Loses Title Of Busiest Airport As COVID-19 Brings Huge Drops In Air Traffic For 2020

O’Hare reported a 41% drop in arrivals and departures for 2020 compared to 2019. Atlanta experienced a 39% drop and LAX saw a 45% decline. Chicago’s Midway a 35% drop in flight operations.

KLM To Halt Intercontinental Flights

KLM temporarily suspends 270 flights

The Dutch government announced they will require all travelers, including crew, to get both a PCR test and an antigen test before flying to that country. In response, KLM stopped operating all its intercontinental flights and some of its European services on January 22, 2021. A KLM spokesperson said, “We cannot run the risk of our staff being stranded somewhere. This is why we are stopping all intercontinental flights from Friday & all flights to European destinations where crew members have to spend the night.”

Covid rules ‘workaround’ means KLM Cargo can continue to fly its freighters

But what about cargo and repatriation flights, and the impact on vaccine shipments? Well, now aircrew will be exempt from the rules if, either they do not leave the aircraft position upon reaching their destination, or if a PCR test is done within 12 hours before the flight, then the rapid test is not required. Crew may also operate within a “72-hour bubble,” allowing them to isolate in a hotel.

Building on Biden Exec. Order, Senators Markey and Blumenthal, Rep. Lynch Call for Coronavirus Task Force on Aviation Health and Safety

President Biden signed an executive order that calls for interagency cooperation to develop recommendations for national public health measures for domestic travel. A press release from Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) announced the reintroduction of the Ensuring Health Safety in the Skies Act of 2020, which passed the Senate unanimously last year.

The Act [PDF] “would require the Departments of Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and Transportation to establish a joint task force on air travel during and after the COVID-19 public health emergency. The task force would consist of representatives from various federal agencies, and would develop policy recommendations to address issues related to airport and air carrier operations during and after the coronavirus pandemic.”

This task force would be advised by a joint federal advisory committee to include aviation industry, security, and public health experts. It would clearly establish the risks that must be addressed, the stakeholders that should be involved, and the process for developing national standards for safe air travel.

Lufthansa Set To Ban Cloth Masks Onboard From February

Lufthansa announced starting February 1st, 2021, they will stop accepting cloth masks and all passengers will have to wear a surgical mask or an FFP2 mask, (also known as KN95/N95 masks). Masks with valves will not be allowed. Lufthansa Group member Austrian Airlines says that surgical masks will not be allowed. Only  FFP2 masks.

Man pleads guilty to recklessly operating drone that collided with LAPD helicopter

A 22 year old man crashed the drone he was operating into a Los Angeles Police Department helicopter in September, 2020. He faces a statutory maximum sentence of one year in federal prison. The sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 12, 2021. The investigation was conducted by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force and the LAPD, with the assistance of the FAA.

Mentioned

National Aviation Hall of Fame’s Spirit of Flight Award

The National Aviation Hall of Fame’s 2020 Milton Caniff Spirit of Flight Award to be presented to the American Rocketry Challenge. The Spirit of Flight Award is presented to recognize and reward aerospace organizations that exemplify the positive utilization of aviation for charitable purposes or for service to mankind.

Watch the skies in 2022 for the first B-21 bomber flight

637 Travel Industry

Travel industry analyst Henry Harteveldt talks about the impacts of COVID-19 and the 737 MAX on air travel. In the news, new CDC test requirements for air passengers entering the US, airlines benefiting from the relief package, booking the middle seat, growth of air cargo, F-35B qualifications for the Italian navy, Australia orders the Apache, and aviation event postponements.

Guest

Travel industry analyst Henry Harteveldt.

Henry Harteveldt is a well-known travel industry analyst and founder and president of Atmosphere Research Group. He has an extensive background in marketing, planning, distribution, and strategy, and he was head of Forrester Research’s global travel research practice. Henry launched Atmosphere Research in 2011 which helps travel industry clients understand emerging trends and opportunities in areas such as brand strategy, distribution, product development and retailing, customer experience, loyalty marketing, and digital commerce and technologies. The firm’s worldwide clients include airlines, lodging firms, cruise lines, car rental agencies, travel agencies, GDSs, financial services firms, and technology companies.

Aviation News

CDC to require all air travelers to US to show negative coronavirus test

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expanding the requirement for a negative COVID-19 test to all air passengers entering the United States. Within 3 days before departure to the United States, air passengers are required to get a viral test and provide written documentation of their laboratory test result (paper or electronic copy) to the airline or provide documentation of having recovered from COVID-19. Airlines must confirm the negative test result for all passengers or documentation of recovery before they board. If a passenger does not provide documentation of a negative test or recovery or chooses not to take a test, the airline must deny boarding to the passenger. This order was signed by the CDC Director on January 12, 2021, and will become effective on January 26, 2021. Media Statement: CDC Expands Negative COVID-19 Test Requirement to All Air Passengers Entering the United States.

Airlines get relief funds, but travel rebound may take a while

The new Covid-19 relief package provides $15 Billion for airline salaries through the end of March. Southwest Airlines canceled planned furloughs, and United and American say they’ll bring back thousands of furloughed employees.

Delta Keeps Middle Seat Ban in Hopes of Spring Recovery

United Airlines never stopped booking middle seats but other airlines have started booking them. Delta says they’ll keep the middle seats open at least through March.

Air Cargo Construction Is Booming, Thanks to Amazon

Passenger traffic is down but air cargo is flourishing. At Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, Amazon Air is building a 798,000-square-foot sorting center, complete with a seven-level parking structure. It’s part of Amazon’s commitment to a $1.5 billion, three-million-square-foot air cargo hub at CVG.

FedEx handled an average of 6.2 million air packages a day in 2020, up 48 percent compared to 2016. The company just opened a $290 million, 51-acre project at the Ontario International Airport in Southern California. At Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, the second-largest air cargo airport in the United States after Memphis International Airport, the plan is for $500 million in new freight and package handling and sorting facilities.

Atlas Air Buys The Last 4 Boeing 747 Aircraft Due To Be Built

Atlas Air has agreed to purchase four 747-8 freighters. The aircraft will be delivered by 2022 and would be the last four 747-8s to roll off the production line.

DHL Express orders eight more B777 freighters

DHL Express ordered 14 B777Fs in 2018 and has taken delivery of the first 10. Now they’ve ordered 8 more with first deliveries are scheduled for 2022. John Pearson, CEO at DHL Express: “Although the current health crisis has pushed pause on several areas of life, global trade did not stand still.”

Italian Navy Aircraft Carrier Cavour To Start F-35B Qualification Next Month

The Italian Navy STOVL (Short Take Off and Vertical Landing) aircraft carrier is expected to arrive at Naval Station Norfolk in mid-February for F-35B aircraft qualifications with the U.S. Marine Corps. The Italian Navy ordered a total of 15 F-35B fighter jets. The Italian Air Force has the same amount on order (in addition to about 60 F-35A models).

Apache chosen as armed helicopter replacement

Steve Visscher reports that the Australian Defence Department has announced it will replace the Army’s fleet of Tiger ARH’s with AH-64E Apache Guardians. The new aircraft will come into service in 2025, replacing the Airbus/Eurocopter fleet, which have been in service only since 2003.

Florida ‘fly-in, drive-in’ canceled

The DeLand Sport Aviation Showcase in Florida that was originally planned for November 12 to 14, 2020 and postponed until January 2021 has been delayed again until November 2021.

National Warbird Operator Conference Move In 2022

The Conference originally scheduled for February 25028, 2021 has been postponed to February 24-27, 2022 at the same venue at the Omni Corpus Christi Hotel in Corpus Christi, Texas.

First Dream Chaser Mission Delayed

Sierra Nevada Corporation announced that the first Dream Chaser civilian space plane mission to the International Space Station (ISS) has been postponed to 2022. The uncrewed cargo mission to the ISS will be the first of at least six to be conducted under a Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS-2) contract with NASA.

Video: AOPA Live This Week – January 14, 2021

AOPA announced that the 5th annual Bob Hoover Trophy award ceremony will be virtual and live online on February 3, 2021, at 8:00 PM Eastern. The Hoover Trophy will be presented to legendary aircraft designer Burt Rutan. The inaugural Brigadier General Charles E. McGee Aviation Inspiration Award will be presented to Gen. McGee himself, and he’ll make the first presentation of this award to a deserving young military aviator and aviation leader, Kenyatta Ruffin.

California man lived inside O’Hare Airport security zone for 3 months — because he was afraid to fly during COVID, prosecutors say

Aditya Singh, 36, arrived at the airport on a flight from Los Angeles on October 19, 2020. Allegedly, he had been living inside the airport’s security zone ever since. The man was found to have an airport worker’s misplaced credentials. Assistant State’s Attorney Kathleen Hagerty said he survived “largely from other passengers giving him food.” Police took Singh into custody and he’s been charged with felony criminal trespass to a restricted area of an airport and misdemeanor theft.

636 Boeing Criminal Fine

Boeing agrees to pay a $2.5 Billion settlement for criminal charges relating to the 737 MAX MCAS system, the FAA issued final rules for supersonic aircraft testing, Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary says the government mismanaged travel restrictions, flight attendant unions are concerned about disruptive air travelers and the FAA responds with a stern warning, initial reports from the Sriwijaya Air flight SJ182 crash, and on a lighter note, the TSA celebrates agency canines in a 2021 calendar.

Aviation News

Boeing Charged with 737 Max Fraud Conspiracy and Agrees to Pay over $2.5 Billion

Boeing Reaches $2.5 Billion Settlement With U.S. Over 737 Max

The Boeing Company has entered into an agreement with the Department of Justice to resolve a criminal charge related to a conspiracy to defraud the Federal Aviation Administration’s Aircraft Evaluation Group (FAA AEG) in connection with the FAA AEG’s evaluation of Boeing’s 737 MAX airplane.

Boeing entered into a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) in connection with criminal information that charges the company with one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States. Under the terms of the DPA, Boeing will pay a total criminal monetary amount of over $2.5 billion:

  • A criminal monetary penalty of $243.6 million, 
  • compensation payments to Boeing’s 737 MAX airline customers of $1.77 billion, 
  • and the establishment of a $500 million crash-victim beneficiaries fund to compensate the heirs, relatives, and legal beneficiaries of the 346 passengers who died in the Boeing 737 MAX crashes of Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302.

The tragic crashes of Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 exposed fraudulent and deceptive conduct by employees of one of the world’s leading commercial airplane manufacturers. 

Boeing’s employees chose the path of profit over candor by concealing material information from the FAA concerning the operation of its 737 Max airplane and engaging in an effort to cover up their deception. This resolution holds Boeing accountable for its employees’ criminal misconduct, addresses the financial impact to Boeing’s airline customers, and hopefully provides some measure of compensation to the crash-victims’ families and beneficiaries.

Acting Assistant Attorney General David P. Burns of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.

Aviation analysts react to Boeing criminal fine

Aviation consultant Scott Hamilton (our guest in episode 398) says the penalty is a “slap on the wrist.” He notes that Airbus paid nearly twice that for a bribery case and there were no fatalities involved there. Hamilton wants to see leadership changes at Boeing.

Charles Herrmann, a lawyer representing more than 50 families of 737 crash victims says the fine is appropriate. Boeing has already suffered financially and doesn’t need to be put out of business. “He blames Boeing’s problems on a change in culture that began when they moved headquarters to Chicago.”

See Jon Ostrower’s The Air Current piece Boeing’s MCAS on the 737 Max may not have been needed at all for many insights.

Individuals who believe they may be an heir, relative, or legal beneficiary of one of the Lion Air Flight 610 or Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 passengers in this case should contact the Fraud Section’s Victim Witness Unit by email at: Victimassistance.fraud@usdoj.gov or call (888) 549-3945.

FAA issues rules for supersonic jet flight testing in the US

Press Release – FAA Announces Final Rule to Facilitate the Reintroduction of Civil Supersonic Flight

On January 6, 2021, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a final rule (PDF) to facilitate the safe development of civil supersonic aircraft. The government says the rule is intended to streamline the application procedure for special flight authorizations to operate in excess of Mach 1 over land in the United States by 

  • Amending the administrative requirements for a special flight authorization,
  • clarifying the information that is needed for submission,
  • and specifying the program office within the FAA that processes the applications.

Outside the special flight authorizations under this final rule, the FAA continues generally to prohibit civil supersonic flight over land in the United States. In place since 1973.

This item came to our attention through an issue of Starburst Weekly, the newsletter of Starburst, a global aerospace accelerator.

Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary says airline’s flights have collapsed from 2,000 a day to 10 but claims summer holidays WILL go ahead

From 2,000 flights per day to “ten or twenty” starting January 21, 2021 is an enormous drop. Covid reductions are catastrophic to the travel industry but O’Leary anticipates that with vaccine availability, by the summer air travel should rebound. He opined that the failure of the Government to end travel restrictions was “beyond him” and it is “one of the great contradictions of the Government’s mismanagement of the Covid travel restrictions.”

Flight attendant union wants pro-Trump rioters barred from flights

FAA chief issues stern warning to travelers after politically-motivated flight disruptions

The president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, Sara Nelson, (our guest in episode 545) said “The mob mentality behavior that took place on several flights to the D.C. area yesterday was unacceptable and threatened the safety and security of every single person onboard.”

On an American Airlines flight to Dulles International Airport, passengers shouted and cursed at each other. The flight attendant had to turn up the cabin lights and ordered passengers to return to their seats. On a Delta Air Lines flight carrying Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, some passengers started chanting “traitor.” Alaska Airlines banned 14 passengers on a Washington D.C.-Seattle flight.

in a statement, FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said.“The FAA will pursue strong enforcement action against anyone who endangers the safety of a flight, with penalties ranging from monetary fines to jail time.” Passengers can face fines of up to $35,000.

The message here is clear: Do what the crew tells you to do and don’t argue. It doesn’t matter what the issue is, or if you are right and somebody else is wrong. Do what the crew says or you face serious consequences.

The Sriwijaya Air Crash: A Brief Rundown of What We Know

Sriwijaya Air Flight SJ182: Hope for survivors fades as plane wreckage found off Indonesian coast

Indonesian LCC Sriwijaya Air flight SJ182 with 62 people on board (50 PAX, 12 crew) crashed into the water off the Indonesian coast about five minutes into its flight. Four minutes after departing Jakarta, the Boeing 737-500 lost over 10,000 feet of altitude in less than a minute. Bad weather was reported in the area. Some wreckage and human remains have been found. A navy ship detected the emergency signals from the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder.

TSA’s 2021 dog calendar stars airport pups. Here’s how to get a free copy

The Transportation Security Administration has more than 400 canine teams at airports around the country. Now you can see photos and learn fun facts about thirteen of the dogs with the 2021 TSA Canine Calendar [PDF]. For each dog, you’ll find the dog’s name, breed, airport, handler, favorite treat and favorite toys.

Pipistrel G4
Pipistrel G4

Mentioned

Wendover Airfield

Wild Nevada – Episode 411: Wendover to Elko, a PBS video that aired in 2018.

The Pentagon Has 6 Months to Disclose What It Knows About UFOs

635 Positive Aviation News

This special episode offers a roundtable discussion of the positive aviation news stories from 2020, the year everybody would like to forget.

Participating are: Max Flight, David Vanderhoof, Max Trescott, Rob Mark, our Main(e) Man Micah, Airplane Geeks reporter-at-large Launchpad Marzari, and uber-AvGeek Isaac Alexander.

WWII letters point author to pilot who saved her dad’s life

12 wild things that happened in aviation in 2020

Top Aviation Stories Of 2020, Part I

Top Aviation Stories Of 2020, Part II

Congress Poised to Raise Standards for Assessing New Airliner Designs

Good News for 2021 – Super Jumbo Still Possible

You’ll definitely want to listen to the story Micah tells. We all wondered where it was going and what it had to do with aviation and this podcast, but Micah pulls it all together in a surprise ending.

Also, we put out a call to listeners for a possible Airplane Geeks challenge coin. If you have content ideas for such a coin, pass them along. If you have graphic design talents, we’d similarly love to see some sketches.

634 The F-35 Demo Team

An interview with an F-35 pilot from the United States Air Force F-35 Lightning II Demonstration Team, and an audio recording of her aerobatic performance.

F-35 Lightning II Demonstration Team aircraft in Lakeland, Florida. (Photo © Max Flight.)
F-35 Lightning II Demonstration Team in Lakeland, Florida. (Photo © Max Flight.)

This episode focuses on the United States Air Force F-35 Lightning II Demonstration Team that flew both days at the Sun ‘n Fun Holiday Flying Festival and Car Show held December 4-5, 2020 in Lakeland, Florida. That event included Central Florida Classic STOL qualifying and finals, a nighttime balloon glow, a car show, and an air show with the F-35, F-16, P-51, and the U.S. Army Special Operations Command Black Daggers.

We recorded an interview with F-35 pilot Kristin “Beo” Wolfe that was posted on Facebook Live. This podcast episode includes the audio from that conversation but we’ve compensated for some audio quality issues in the video.

In addition to the interview with Beo, we have a recording of her F-35 aerobatic performance at the Flying Festival. If you like the sound of a jet fighter on afterburner, you’ll enjoy this recording.

We captured Beo’s F-35 flight as a high-resolution binaural recording. You can listen with earbuds or a good home speaker system, but for the best effect, you’ll need high-quality headphones. Good headphones will reproduce the spatial perspective of the F-35 flight and produce a visceral feeling almost like being there.

Max Flight and F-35 demo pilot Kristin “Beo” Wolfe.

We’d like to thank the F-35 Demo Team for giving us access to pilot Kristin “Beo” Wolfe after her first flying performance of the weekend. And thanks to Beo for her time after a long day.

Mentioned

Sun ‘n Fun Aerospace Expo coming to Lakeland, Florida April 13-18, 2021.

633 Aviation Safety

A Congressional report is critical of aviation safety and the FAA, the Air Force flies an AI co-pilot, precision airdrops as a service, Antonov AN-124 cargo, Chinese SODramjet, world’s first female aeronautical engineer, airline emissions statistics, flying through smoke.

Aviation News

Boeing ‘inappropriately coached’ pilots in 737 MAX testing: U.S. Senate report

The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation released a Committee Investigation Report titled Aviation Safety Oversight prepared by the Committee Republican staff. In testimony, whistleblowers were critical of Boeing and the FAA.

The report says that concerning this year’s testing of the MCAS system, Boeing officials “had established a pre-determined outcome to reaffirm a long-held human factor assumption related to pilot reaction time … It appears, in this instance, FAA and Boeing were attempting to cover up important information that may have contributed to the 737 MAX tragedies.”

Southwest Airlines Allegedly Cut Corners, Pilots Struggled to Get Planes to Take Off

Southwest livery

In the same report, a whistleblower working as an FAA safety inspector at a Southwest base alleged that the airline’s Performance Weight and Balance System (PWB) was flawed. The PWB system was introduced in 2017 but Southwest removed safety buffers and some pilots reported difficulty getting airborne. A Southwest spokesperson said, “We discovered a discrepancy between data systems involving the weight of a number of aircraft earlier this year. Southwest took immediate actions to prevent a recurrence, which included notifying the FAA, correcting the data discrepancies, and launching a daily audit to review each of the impacted systems.”

Dash Systems raises $8M for precision-airdrops-as-a-service at distant or disaster-stricken destinations

Dash Systems wants to expedite the “middle-mile” with military-inspired airdrops. They say Land the package not the planeTM and seek to drop pallets of parcels (“pods”) at their penultimate destinations, no matter how inaccessible the location is. The pods have control surfaces and a tail kit, and a method of slowing down and landing.

Swirl-in Airlift: Irregular Antonov Flights Deliver Relief to Phoenix Laxative Factory

Ukraine’s Antonov Airlines has been operating curious flights between Mumbai and Phoenix. Three An-124s have completed the route so far, and a fourth is enroute. Many speculated what the cargo is, but JetTip uncovers the true mission:

“The avgeek rumor-mill provided some hints at its cargo, with people saying it was carrying silica, seeds, or medicine; the payload is tons and tons of psyllium (pronounced “si-lee-uhm”), a plant grown in India, whose primary use is as a fibrous laxative. Coincidentally, psyllium is the main ingredient in Metamucil, which is manufactured in Phoenix.”

The Queen of the Hurricanes drove a Model A Roadster

Elsie MacGill is reported to be the world’s first female aeronautical engineer. Born in Vancouver in 1905, she wore leg braces because of polio. At one point she was told she’d never walk again. In 1938 she became the chief aeronautical engineer at Canadian Car and Foundry (Can Car) in charge of the design and construction of the Maple Leaf II training biplane, the world’s first aircraft designed and built by a woman. MacGill retooled the Can Car factory to mass-produce the Hawker Hurricane, and she was responsible for coming up with a winterized version with skis. Elsie MacGill died in 1980, at the age of seventy-five. She was posthumously inducted into Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame in 1983. 

The Experimental Engine That Could Get Us Anywhere in the World in 2 Hours

The Chinese have developed and demonstrated a Standing Oblique Detonation ramjet engine, or SODramjet for hypersonic propulsion at Mach 16. It’s an old concept that utilizes shock waves produced in the engine. The Chinese demonstrator reached Mach 9 in a wind tunnel. See The criteria for hypersonic airbreathing propulsion and its experimental verification in the Chinese Journal of Aeronautics.

Air Force U-2 Surveillance Plane Flies First Mission with AI Copilot

The U.S. Air Force flew a U-2 Dragonlady reconnaissance aircraft with an artificial intelligence system as the co-pilot. Going by the call sign ARTUµ (pronounced R-2), the algorithm took control of the sensor systems after take off in an exercise that simulated a missile strike. As the pilot flew the U-2, ARTUµ controlled sensors and navigation and watched for enemy launch weapons.

Countries Ban U.K. Flights Amid Mutant Coronavirus Concerns

Flights between the U.K. and a number of other countries are being banned after a new, more contagious coronavirus strain was detected.

Mentioned

Facebook’s artificial intelligence robots shut down after they start talking to each other in their own language

Flying Dirty: Why Airlines Emissions Rise Even When They Try to Cut

632 Flight Training with Jason Miller

Guest Jason Miller produces flight training videos, a critically acclaimed podcast (The Finer Points), and now the Ground School flight training app. In the news, legend Chuck Yeager dies at 97, flight training restrictions due to Covid-19 and airline plans to transport vaccines, insurance rates for pilots, Designated Pilot Examiners, and a hydrogen fuel cell-powered research aircraft.

Guest

Jason Miller

Jason Miller is an award-winning CFI with more than 20 years of experience. He is the founder of the original flight training podcast, The Finer Points, and is the host of the fastest growing flight training channel on YouTube. He’s passionate about developing products that make a difference for real pilots in the real world and can be found online at learnthefinerpoints.com.

Video: Ground School Tour.

Aviation News

Yeager Leaves a Legacy of Speed

On December 7, 2020, Charles E. Yeager died of natural causes, at age 97. Besides breaking the sound barrier on October 14, 1947 in the Bell X-1, Yeager tested the YF-100 prototype of the F-100A, evaluated a Russian MiG 15 that had fallen into American hands, and on December 12, 1953, took the Bell X-1A to Mach 2.44 where he encountered “inertia coupling” at 76,000 feet. His skills were evident as he regained control at 25,000 feet.

Flight School Association of North America (FSANA)

FSANA says they are getting some reports of flight training restrictions and limitations that would limit in-person flight training. For example, Michigan has terminated all in-person collegiate instruction for at least a 3-week period. FSANA is also hearing concerns about crossing state boundaries for flight training and being subject to “return quarantines” due to state restrictions.

Potential insurance relief on the horizon for older pilots?

Many AOPA members are complaining that their premiums are spiking, coverages are being limited, and restrictions to just get covered are sometimes harsh—often with little to no explanation. “Not a day goes by that I don’t get a call about insurance rates,” says AOPA President Mark Baker. ow, AOPA’s strategic insurance partner AssuredPartners Aerospace, has teamed with an aviation insurer that will explore options for pilots up to age 79. This insurer will also offer potential coverage options for younger and newer pilots.

Flight School Association of North America (FSANA)

Although airman certification in the United States is conducted by the FAA, most of the actual certification of pilots is done by Designated Pilot Examiners (DPEs). They are certified as instructors, administer practical tests for airmen, and charge for their services. DPE’s serve at the pleasure of the FAA, meaning the FAA can revoke the privilege at any time, with or without need for cause. Recently, there have been two terminations of DPEs that have been reported in the press. FSANA is interested in the review process and termination, and/or appeal of such a termination process. Perhaps some additional transparency is needed.

Airlines Gear Up to Transport Vaccines That Could Revive Travel

US Airlines have been planning the distribution of Covid vaccine for months in anticipation of a huge demand for transport capacity. Airlines even are preparing to run vaccine-only flights. United says a single 777 can carry up to one million doses. Some vaccines need extreme cooling with dry ice – carbon dioxide – which is regulated by the FAA. United conducted some tests and asked the FAA to raise the limit so it could fly the Pfizer vaccine from Brussels to Chicago. The agency agreed, allowing the airline to carry up to 15,000 pounds of dry ice aboard a Boeing 777-224, compared with the previous limit of 3,000 pounds. See FAA Advisory Circular Re: Transporting Dry Ice [PDF].

Hydrogen-Powered HY4 Rolled Out

The HY4 research aircraft was shown by a consortium of European companies and organizations. Details are scarce, but the twin-boom HY4 looks like it is based on the Pipistrel Aircraft Taurus G4. The Taurus utilizes two electric gliders joined by a center section wing with an electric motor. The HY4 hydrogen drive uses a fuel cell powering a 160-HP electric motor. With a top speed of 108 knots, range is claimed to be up to 900 miles. Test flights began last month and more than 30 takeoffs and flights of up to two hours have been completed. See the HY4 website.

HY4 – 2020 6th Generation, courtesy H2FLY.

631 Airlines Plan 737 MAX Return to Service

US airlines are releasing plans for the 737 MAX return to service, pilots are being advised to hold off participation in clinical vaccine trials, Southwest Airlines warns of its first-ever furlough, in-flight cell phone calls are off the table at the FCC, a final rule is announced for traveling by air with service animals, and the Paris Air Show is canceled for 2021.

Aviation News

US airlines detail plans for resuming Boeing 737 Max flights

In the US, the 737 MAX is operated by American Airlines, United, and Southwest. Those airlines are already making return to service announcements and passengers who don’t want to fly the MAX can change flights without penalty. American starts service on December 29, 2020, between New York LaGuardia and Miami, United service starts first quarter 2021, and Southwest service starts in the second quarter of 2021.

Post-crash recovery: How one airline plans to restore confidence in the Boeing 737 MAX

American Airlines COO David Seymour says, “We didn’t intend to be first to put the Max back in the air. But the only way to truly build confidence is by flying it. You don’t build that back by sitting on the ground.” American Airlines TechOps said it will take six to eight days to make each aircraft compliant with the new requirements for MCAS software updates (which take six hours) and flight control system re-wiring. That will be followed by a two-hour Operational Readiness Flight (ORF).

AA Reviewing Whether Pilots Can Take COVID Vaccine

Should commercial pilots take the Covid vaccine when it becomes available? Can they and still keep their medical? The FAA is waiting for the outcome of the upcoming meeting of the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee. The Air Line Pilots Association is telling its members to not take part in clinical trials for vaccines.

Southwest Airlines warns it could furlough 6,800 employees to cut costs

If they occur, these would be the first furloughs ever for Southwest Airlines. The number amounts to 12% of the airline’s staff. Southwest says negotiations with labor unions to cut costs have produced a “lack of meaningful progress.”

FCC Walks Back Plan To Allow In Flight Cell Service

The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) is no longer going to look into a ruling that would allow passengers to make in-flight cell phone calls on domestic United States flights. 

The FCC said, “The record is insufficient to determine any reasonable solution that would strike an appropriate balance of competing interests.  There is strong opposition to the Commission’s proposals from many commenters in this proceeding, including our nation’s airline pilots and flight attendants.”

U.S. Department of Transportation Announces Final Rule on Traveling by Air with Service Animals

The U.S. Department of Transportation is revising its Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) regulation concerning the transportation of service animals by air. The final rule defines a service animal as a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability. An emotional support animal is no longer considered to be a service animal. The final rule will be effective 30 days after the date of publication in the Federal Register.

Cancellation of the 2021 edition of the Paris Air Show [PDF]

“In light of the uncertainty linked to the current COVID-19 health crisis, the Paris Air Show organization has made the decision to cancel the 2021 edition of the show, which was scheduled to take place from 21 to 27 June 2021. The next edition of the Paris Air Show will be held in June 2023, at a date that will be announced shortly. Exhibitors will receive a full refund of all sums already paid and the Paris Air Show will take full financial responsibility for this decision.”

Airplane Geeks Listener Poll 628 

Do you intend to fly to a vacation destination in 2021? 50% said Yes, 16% said No, and 34% said Maybe.
Do you expect to fly for business in 2021? 41% said Yes, 36% said No, and 23% said Maybe.

Mentioned

Obituary: Ralph Weymouth

630 Flying During a Pandemic

In this special episode, we talk with former co-host Brian Coleman. He recently flew commercial from California to Florida and he tells us about his experiences at the airport, inflight, and at the hotel during a global pandemic.

Mentioned

TABfabric, specializing in vintage fabrics, notions, masks, and more.

629 Boeing 737 MAX Return to Service Airworthiness Directive

We talk with an Air Traffic Controller at London Heathrow who also acts as deputy manager of the ATC team for the RIAT airshow. In the news, FAA airworthiness directive permits the Boeing 737 MAX to return to service, Delta and tariffs on Airbus aircraft, Gatwick slot usage and planned labor action at Heathrow, speed dating in the air, Norwegian Air Shuttle troubles, autonomous airplane tugs, and a F/A-18C Hornet goes into the National Air & Space Museum.

Guest

Adam Spink has been an air traffic controller at the Heathrow Airport tower for 22 years. He’s also an instructor, examiner, and supervisor. Adam’s main job is in the Procedures and Development office working on new procedures and equipment.

Adam explains aircraft wake turbulence and the Time Based Separation (TBS) used at Heathrow to increase the aircraft landing rate, including the implications for air traffic controllers when planes are separated by time instead of by distance. See: New separation standard permanently adopted over the North Atlantic.

We also learn how the environmental aspects of aviation fit into key performance measures and controller metrics that include reduced emissions.

In addition to his job as a NATS controller at Heathrow, Adam acts as deputy manager of the ATC team for the Royal International Air Tattoo airshow (RIAT) held at RAF Fairford in the UK. He’s a member of the UK Air Transport Confidential Human Factors Incident Reporting Programme (the equivalent of NASA ASRS), and a member of various international working groups on low visibility ops, satellite-based navigation, and radar systems. Adam speaks about human factors at various medical school/medical university courses.

Find Adam on Twitter and Instagram.

Aviation News

U.S. lifts Boeing 737 MAX flight ban after crash probes, tough hurdles remain

On November 20, 2020, the FAA issued AD 2020-24-02, Airworthiness Directives; The Boeing Company Airplanes [PDF] superseding Airworthiness Directive 2018-23-51, which applied to all Boeing Company Model 737-8 and 737-9 (737 MAX) airplanes. AD 2018-23-51 required revising certificate limitations and operating procedures of the Airplane Flight Manual (AFM) to provide the flight crew with runaway horizontal stabilizer trim procedures to follow under certain conditions. 

The new AD requires installing new flight control computer (FCC) software, revising the existing Airplane Flight Manual to incorporate new and revised flight crew procedures, installing new MAX display system (MDS) software, changing the horizontal stabilizer trim wire routing installations, completing an angle of attack (AOA) sensor system test, and performing an operational readiness flight.

Southwest deploys team to bring 737 MAX jets out of desert

Southwest Airlines has 34 Boeing 737 MAX jets in storage in Victorville, California. The airline sent a team of mechanics to start the process of bringing its jets out of storage. 737 MAX flights at Southwest should resume the second quarter of 2021. There will be no re-booking charge for passengers who are uncomfortable flying on the MAX.

European regulator to lift Boeing 737 MAX grounding in January

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) executive director said the 737 MAX is safe to fly.  “We wanted to carry out a totally independent analysis of the safety of this aircraft, so we performed our own checks and flight tests. All these studies tell us that the 737 MAX can return to service. We have started to put in place all the measures. It is likely that in our case we will adopt the decisions, allowing it to return to service, sometime in January.”

Delta Skirts Trump Tariffs by Sending Airbus Jets on World Tour

As part of the Boeing/Airbus subsidy battle, tariffs were placed on European-built Airbus aircraft in October 2019. Delta has taken delivery of seven planes since then, but instead of flying them to the United States, the airline based them overseas, avoiding the tariff because they weren’t imports. In a statement to Bloomberg News, Delta said “We have made the decision not to import any new aircraft from Europe while these tariffs are in effect. Instead, we have opted to use the new aircraft exclusively for international service, which does not require importation.”

Suspension of airport “80/20” slot usage rule to last till end of March 2021 – Gatwick not happy

Until March 2020, European regulations required that an airline use 80% of its landing slots or they were lost. But because of the huge drop in travel demand, the rule was suspended for six months, then extended for another 6 months, to 27th March 2021. Gatwick airport wants the old slot rules reinstated before summer 2021.

Heathrow Staff To Strike For 4 Days In December

London’s Heathrow Airport wants to cut costs by reducing wages. The large Unite trade union says the airport plans to fire some 4,000 workers, then rehire them at lower wages. 85% of the union membership voted in favor of strikes in protest.

Airline offers speed-dating on dead-end ‘flight to nowhere’

Taiwanese carrier EVA Air and travel experience company are offering flights called “Fly! Love Is In the Air!” Twenty men and twenty women will depart from Taipei, fly around the island for three hours, return to the airport, and pairs will then enjoy a two-hour date. Seating on the plane is by random draw, but mingling is allowed. Food is prepared by a Michelin-starred chef.

Norwegian Air Is the Latest Trans-Atlantic Carrier to File for Bankruptcy in 2020 Due to Covid-19

Norwegian Air Shuttle has filed for protection from creditors in Ireland.

Autonomous Electric Tow Tugs Could Cut Handling Costs

Californian start-up Moonware says the aviation industry is stagnant. They want to do something about that. Moonware says they are “building an AI-powered fleet management network and subsequently deploying autonomous & electric vehicles to fundamentally reshape airport operations.” The company is developing a family of autonomous electrically powered tow tugs for aircraft ground handling.

National Air and Space Museum Welcomes Blue Angels’ F/A-18C Hornet

The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum has brought a Blue Angels’ F/A-18C Hornet BuNo 163439 into the collection. This is the first “Blue Angels” aircraft and the first F-18 the museum has acquired. 

Mentioned

Save Whiteman airport, a change.org petition.

Dobbins Reservists Tie the Knot Aboard a C-130