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Talk to the Drone

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Every now and again, I have to silently cheer for the FAA's plodding, frustratingly contorted way of doing its business. This week brings news that the agency isn't going along with the Air Force's insistence that it needs yet another restricted area, this one in North Dakota, in which to train drone operators. Here's the full story.

The Air Force is in a twist because it has shipped six expensive Predators to North Dakota and when it summarily proposed to carve out a 1500-square mile restricted area, (2 percent of the state) the FAA said not so fast. The agency said this airspace business needs to be done "deliberatively." Anyone who's tried to husband a certification project through the FAA's regulatory maze will immediately recognize this as code speak for "find me a bush."

So as Brigadier General Leon Rice scurries off in search of the right bush in a field of millions, I have to wonder why the Air Force has to slice up North Dakota to do this work. Couldn't they have shipped the drones to Nevada, where the Air Force already has a billion or so cubic miles of restricted airspace? Maybe they need to do cold weather training. So how about Elemendorf Air Force Base in Alaska, where there's another billion cubic miles. The list of existing restricted areas is long; the quarantined airspace large. As if to show some flexibility, the Air Force allowed as how the new restricted airspace could be vertically stratified to allow civil use when the drones weren't active. Damn decent of them, don't you think?

The FAA is right to resist this airspace grab. This sort of thing goes on all the time in name of national security and to oppose it is to appear…well, unpatriotic. But I'd argue that the right way to look at this is to see past the patriotism smoke screen and consider what's practical, what's fair and what's right.

In that spirit, I propose a compromise. If, for some unknown reason, the Air Force desperately needs to surveil northern tier wheat patches, let's have a new class of airspace called MOA/DRONE. Put it on the chart, just like that, MOA/DRONE. Then, place the UAVs under positive control and equip them with VHF comm so the operator can talk directly to any aircraft sharing the MOA on a common advisory frequency. That's how MOAs work now. Pilots who want to enter them can do so on an own-risk basis, or they can circumnavigate the area. There's always risk in entering MOAs and if you don't like that, don't fly there.

The reality is that UAVs are becoming an ever larger part of the U.S. airspace picture. This is likely to grow exponentially over the next decade. Sooner or later, they are going to have to be integrated into the way the civil world does business. The services have to get over the knee-jerk reaction to carve out restricted airspace every time a robot wants to go flying and we in the civil world have to get over the irrational fear of sharing airspace with these things. If we don't, there won't be any airspace left for civil use.

Yes, there will be accidents. Drones will occasionally get away—as one did near Washington recently—and they'll probably crash in spectacular ways. But it has always been and will always be thus with flying machines. We can nanny ourselves to a froth over this stuff to the point that the only response will be to cower in a dark closet with your butt bumped against the wall charger for the robotic vacuum cleaner.

Comments (49)

We wouldn't be having these conversations if these drones were used for their intended purpose, instead of being the latest got-to-have gadget for the public safety and security agencies. UAV's definitely have a place for potentially unsafe operations where pilot's lives are in danger, but do we really have unsafe operations here in the continental US? Probably not. For patrolling the capitol, or patrolling the borders, I'd argue that instead of a $4 million dollar Predator, the government needs to invest in a fleet of Cessna 182's, pay the pilot 40k or so a year, and then you have an aircraft that can see and avoid, and that doesn't have a datalink just begging to be hacked by terrorists (or some college kid looking for something to do)

Posted by: Josh Johnson | September 15, 2010 11:36 AM    Report this comment

We already have TFRs like this in California for drone activity around Beale AFB. The TFR simply says you have to be on flight following to traverse the area. If they have both you and the drone on their scope they can provide separation -- why is a restricted area needed?

Posted by: Guy Hutchison | September 15, 2010 12:55 PM    Report this comment

I would be interested to hear the position of the University of North Dakota. They have one of the largest collegiate flight training programs in the country and they are located in close proximity to Grand Forks AFB. I expect they will be impacted negatively more than anyone.

Posted by: Keith Ellis | September 16, 2010 4:29 AM    Report this comment

The main problem with the current technology used by drones (or UAS as the military likes to call them) is that they do not have the ability to see and avoid other traffic. Aircraft like the Predator, classified as a Medium Altitude, Long Endurance can really only safely operate IFR in airspace where everyone else is IFR and can be separated. Typically they operate at altitudes around 20,000 feet in what is domestically high level airspace. It is actually possible for them to take-off and climb above FL180 in an airspace reservation, stay up in the high level airspace and then descend in another reservation, only tying up low level airspace for a very short period of time.

In a war zone drones keep aircrew out of harms way and that makes sense from both a preservation and PR point of view. Drones do have one big advantage over using a light aircraft in a peacetime task, they can stay on the job for very long periods of time, often more than 24 hours at a time and operate at altitudes that make them undetectable from the ground. Try that in a 182 without a bathroom on board!

The current generation of UAS have an appallingly high accident rate. They have not been well designed from a human operator ergonomic point of view.

Paul is right in one respect: drones are here to stay in the airspace, but letting them mix with VFR traffic will result in collisions and that will lead to tons of restricted airspace when it happens.

Posted by: Adam Hunt | September 16, 2010 6:01 AM    Report this comment

Change is difficult to adjust to. I enjoy the benefits by being able to "dance in the wind". We will enjoy the results accomplished via the hard fought efforts being put into digital (essentially many simple on-off switches)computing. May my "educations" (some thanks to Avweb) relax my allergic hypersensitivity to these confarned newfangled things so we may revel in shared accomplishments. However, before incurring more airspace demands, keep it to yourself until it is better advanced and passes the severe test of US aviation safety.

Posted by: Art Sebesta | September 16, 2010 6:29 AM    Report this comment

Paul:

I agree that we're all going to have to learn to get along with the RPV's. One thought - for training areas, let's light 'm up like a Christmas tree! High intensity strobes and an orange smoke trail would be about right. (I would guess that the operating agencies would want to turn off such "conspicuity enhancements" for live missions.)

Frank

Posted by: Frank Van Haste | September 16, 2010 6:50 AM    Report this comment

If I'm not mistaken, the UAVs are stationed at Fargo, ND -- about 90 miles south of Grand Forks, and the previous site of the ANG F-16 Squadron (the Happy Hooligans). The ANG retired the F-16s and converted the squadron to Predators.

My guess is these particular aircraft will spend some time patrolling the US/Canada border on drug interdiction duty.

The fact that the USAF doesn't want these aircraft to mix with other air traffic is telling, no? Not ready for prime time?

Posted by: Mark Sletten | September 16, 2010 8:07 AM    Report this comment

For those who don't get to read the highly authoritative "Aviation Week and Space Technology", this is from a series of articles on UAVs/UASs in the August 28 edition: "According to the Customs and Border Protection (CBP)Inspector General (IG), a UAS costs twice as much to operate as a manned aircraft owing to a "significant" amount of logistical support-around 20 people per UAS-and specialized operator and maintenance training.In fact the use of the UAS led to few illegal-alien apprehensions per hour than manned aircraft." So in fact there are no real savings over the use of manned aircraft, at least in domestic airspace. It looks like the UASs are an "everbody has to have one" fad (except for military operations in combat areas) and an unnecessary threat to our use of the airspace.

Posted by: James E. Ellis | September 16, 2010 8:07 AM    Report this comment

I would submit that the UAV actually has--or could have--better see-and-avoid capability than a manned aircraft. Think about it. How does an F-16 see beyond visual range? With very good acquisition and targeting radar. Customs put the same equipment in their Citations. It may be that drones aren't at this point yet, but the next gen will be or the generation after that because the future thinkers imagine these things doing air-to-air combat.

It would trivial to equip them with TCAS and downlink the data to the operator, thus providing the capability of resolving conflicts well beyond visual range. True, not all airplanes have transponders, but you're narrowing the hazard envelope down to almost nothing.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | September 16, 2010 8:59 AM    Report this comment

UAS's in North Dakota would be stationed at the Grand Forks Air Force Base with controllers for the UAS's out of Fargo at ND Air Natonal Guard facilities. Efforts to down size the amount of airspace is in progress (see EIS Grandforksuaseis.com). University of North Dakota has their own program for UAS operations and are try to get the FAA to classify what UAS are and how they are to operated. Google UND JD Odegard School of Aeronautical Sciences. Comstoms and Border Protection are already operating UAS out od Grand Forks Air Forcr Base useing TFR for flight from base to altitude of operation.

Posted by: Paul Hanson | September 16, 2010 9:13 AM    Report this comment

Paul: You are quite correct it would be possible to mount a sophisticated intercept and search radar on a UAS just like on an F-16, but not on a UAS in the class of the Predator. It is too small and light for a system that size for one thing. The second factor is that with its speed an F-16 is really only going to run into traffic in front of it and that is why its radar only works in the forward quadrant. The Predator's mission advantage is its slow speed, which enables it to hang around on station looking at targets over a long period of time. With a cruise speed of 70–90 knots a Predator could be hit from behind by a 172! It needs all around radar to be able to see traffic which is much heavier. Ultimately if you need to mount radar to see and avoid then you need a completely different class of aircraft than the Predator.

Posted by: Adam Hunt | September 16, 2010 9:32 AM    Report this comment

Remember, they are asking for this to train the crews,not patrol the borders. The military already has plenty of airspace. They can put the UAVs on the Mil IR routes for training and not make another airspace grab.

Posted by: Unknown | September 16, 2010 9:34 AM    Report this comment

As a retired USAF member as well as retired from a large aerospace manufacturer who builds drones - but not the Predator - I fail to see why still another military MOA has to be established for "training." If the military can fly operational drones in Afghanistan remotely from a base in Nevada, why can't they - likewise - fly training drones in existing large scale MOA's remotely? There's got to be more to this story.

There are large areas just offshore the CONUS where military training could be accomplished with little impact upon GA. What's up with using N. Dakota? The two-star general officer who ships drones to a Base and then demands a MOA for training needs some of that there stuff for himself, I'm sad to say.

When I read about the runaway helicopter drone at NAS Patuxent River recently, I wondered why the Navy doesn't have self-destruct packages on TEST (or training) drones. When we tested the first generation ALCM cruise missiles, the test article was shadowed by a number of F-4 Phantoms each with the ability to fly OR terminate the test article IF it went awry. I realize a drone is supposed to be re-usable but if it goes bad it has to be terminated. I'd rather destroy it when it's over an unmanned area than have to shoot it down with a missile. Sometimes, the military's "thinking" astounds me! For once, the FAA's position is pro-active.

Posted by: Larry Stencel | September 16, 2010 10:38 AM    Report this comment

"See and Avoid" with eyeballs does not work, as has been demonstrated many times.

If they aren't already, at a minimum, all UAS operations should be transponder equipped. Until we migrate to NextGen, at least we'd have a better chance of spotting them with TCAS.

Put them into the IFR controlled environment without the need for Restricted airspace. At least someone I might be talking to can give me seperation if needed.

Wouldn't be any worse than dodging the VFR 'weekend warriors' in the SoCal basin on weekends.

Posted by: Edd Weninger | September 16, 2010 11:24 AM    Report this comment

>>When we tested the first generation ALCM cruise missiles, the test article was shadowed by a number of F-4 Phantoms each with the ability to fly OR terminate the test article IF it went awry. <<

Those were the days! I don't think they think that way in the modern military.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | September 16, 2010 12:34 PM    Report this comment

>>True, not all airplanes have transponders, but you're narrowing the hazard envelope down to almost nothing<< So you're proposing that the guy with the Cub that has no transponder should be mowed down by a predator? I'm sorry, till drones can see and avoid they don't need to be operating in our airspace unless there is a clear and present danger to manned aircraft (the european ash cloud comes to mind) Furthermore, it's bad government to be using unmanned aircraft at many times the acquisition and operating costs of manned aircraft to perform a surveillance operation during peacetime.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | September 16, 2010 12:36 PM    Report this comment

So you're proposing that the guy with the Cub that has no transponder should be mowed down by a predator?<<

Hell no. I'm proposing the guy with the Cub and no electrical system stay out of a clearly marked MOA, unless he's willing to assume the risk.

When I fly the Cub, I am constantly at risk of being mowed down by $%#^%* Cherokees. The transponder has little to do with it.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | September 16, 2010 12:39 PM    Report this comment

I concur with Paul that more restricted airspace is not needed (especially having just flown fron Missouri to San Diego and back around all sorts of restricted and military operations airspace). I disagree that they should make it an MOA, however: On an IFR flight ATC will not let you enter an MOA in use, and especially in winter time IFR can be very helpful in the Dakotas, and available altitudes can be limited because of icing conditions and aircraft performance limitations. There are restricted areas and MOAs all over the place - everywhere in the western states, central Kansas and Oklahoma, half of west Texas, south central Missouri, all throughout the southeast US, and numerous other locales. As an ex-USAF guy, I know there is a tendency for wing commanders to want more and more airspace for "their" operations, and a strong desire to command as many operations as possible. Looks good on the old resume, but let's get real here. Enough's enough!

Posted by: John Johnson | September 16, 2010 12:41 PM    Report this comment

This is a very interesting and sometimes emotionaly charged subject. I'm a retired USAF pilot, with an ATP, MEI, CFI, and CFII. I still actively fly, and enjoy the thrill of GA very much. I also had the good fortune to get in on the ground floor of USAF RQ-1 and MQ-1B Predator UAS operations. I have over 1,000 hours in a Predator. The ultimate goal of the Services is to have UAS "file-and-fly" just as their manned aircraft do. The Services and the FAA have some very smart people working on these issues. If there was an easy solution, the solution would have already been reached. The United States has some very safe airspace due to the efforts of the FAA and pilots working together. The FAA has an Unmanned Aircraft Program Office working these issues along with the Services. There is a process by which the FAA issues a Certificate of Waiver/Authority (COA) to allow UAS to fly in the National Airspace System (NAS). I have flown a Predator in the NAS on several occassions. This is an interium solution that will ultimately be replaced at a future date. UAS are here to stay. Sonner or later, UAS will have more access to the NAS. Remember, there is a person Piloting / operating the UAS, but not in a traditional cockpit. For the USAF, these operators are Pilots certified by the USAF through their pilot training pipeline or Pilots certified by the FAA (minimum of a Commercial certificate with an Instrument rating).

Posted by: Kenneth Irvin | September 16, 2010 12:42 PM    Report this comment

>>The transponder has little to do with it<< I made my remarks about the cub a little in jest - but therein lies an interesting point. About 5 years ago I had a transponder die on me, and it took a couple of weeks to get it repaired. I would say I had 2 or 3 close calls in that two week period, versus maybe a close call per year normally - and this was squawking 1200 - VFR. It seems most of the IFR aircraft have forgotten that they're responsible for see and avoid when in VMC. Probably won't be much different with drones.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | September 16, 2010 3:13 PM    Report this comment

WHile there is much thoughtful commentary here, I have been involved with trying to put UAV/UAS/RPV's in civil airspace since 1988. The FAA has lollygagged around for near twenty years without addressing this problem and has had many technologies placed before them that has the capability of exceeding the dismal capabilities of human pilots to see and avoid. Each year they have meetings and assure both industry and the military that they are doing something and each year they do nothing. Then a few years ago they took away most of the ability of the UAVs to fly anywhere except restricted areas and near killed an industry in which we should be pre-eminent. So I have trouble cutting them slack. No, it is not a one dimensional problem. UAS's exist or have existed from six inch wingspan to the size of a 747. The FAA would love to make one set of rules to fit all. The reason for UAVs as one astute writer commented is to do the dumb, dirty, or dangerous. That includes 24 hours overhead without a relief tube. It will be a sensible combination of procedures, technology advancement, and education that will make this work. There are solutions out there, but the non-approbation methods of the bureaucracy won't go the extra mile to find them. Hence, even though you started years in advance, you find yourself with airframes and no airspace and from desperation, ask for something dedicated. Everybody needs to give a little, but giving slack to the FAA is not on my list.

Posted by: Tom DeMarino | September 16, 2010 4:02 PM    Report this comment

Since the only training that is actually taking place is happening on a screen in a bunker somewhere, why not just do it _all_ with a computer instead of burning incredible amounts of kerosene?

Posted by: Merl Raisbeck | September 16, 2010 4:54 PM    Report this comment

This crap reminds me of the old joke we would occasionally tell at the airport lounge 45 years ago: The world's first automated airliner had just lifted off and the PA announced: "Welcome aboard the premiere flight of the Alpha 999 computerized airplane! Sit back and relax, everything is computer controlled and nothing can go wrong go wrong go wrong go wrong

Posted by: Karl Schneider | September 16, 2010 6:36 PM    Report this comment

Ken and Tom shed some new light on the situation. Sounds like someone is pressing to test -- a time-honored way of getting things done in the military. In this case, it seems someone is hoping that enough attention on the issue will force the FAA to $*!t or get off the pot...

Posted by: Mark Sletten | September 16, 2010 11:41 PM    Report this comment

Merl, ALL personnel involved in supporting the mission need training, including the crews that service, troubleshoot and repair the jets and datalink equipment. Maintenance troops have currency requirements just like aircrews. The only viable means of meeting those requirements is to be around operating equipment.

Posted by: Mark Sletten | September 16, 2010 11:46 PM    Report this comment

I know you said Elmendorf AFB, AK in jest... but that is about the worst possible place in the US to put RPAs. The Anchorage bowl area has the highest density of GA traffic anywhere in the States. Lake Hood, right next to Anchorage International Airport, is the worlds busiest seaplane base, and home to 400+ GA aircraft. Additionally, Merrill field, home to over 960 GA aircraft, with average of 500+ daily operations, is only 3.5 miles away. Elmendorf (now Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson) is only two miles north of Merrill... GA is the lifeblood of Alaska's transportation network. Maybe you should visit Anchorage ATC before being so glib about proposing something in jest that someone might actually take seriously.

Posted by: christopher perkins | September 17, 2010 12:45 PM    Report this comment

Well, I'm glad to see some solid knowledge of UAS operations here. Thanks.

Question, are these systems transponder equipped and capable of operating within the controlled IFR ATC environment? If so, there should be no problem with their operation without the need for Restricted areas.

Note to the "see & avoid" advocates, two PA-18s collided yesterday in VFR conditions in Alaska.

Posted by: Edd Weninger | September 17, 2010 1:02 PM    Report this comment

"[F]ind me a bush?" Code speak indeed.

Posted by: Bradley Spatz | September 17, 2010 2:45 PM    Report this comment

"[F]ind me a bush?" Code speak indeed.<<

Too young to have seen much Monty Python?

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | September 17, 2010 6:06 PM    Report this comment

How can one be glib and in jest at the same time?

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | September 17, 2010 6:09 PM    Report this comment

>>are these systems transponder equipped and capable of operating within the controlled IFR ATC environment<< You're still required to see and avoid even if operating IFR provided you are in visual conditions (91.113b) A transponder alone doesn't cut it - otherwise we could fly solo with a hood on an IFR flight plan to practice approaches.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | September 17, 2010 6:09 PM    Report this comment

Brigadier General Leon Rice needs to be aware that his 1st generation UAVs were designed for use in a war theater, not in domestic airspace. Perhpas the military should consider its UAV operation comply with the our nation's FARs instead of arrogantly demanding yet more airspace.

I applaud the FAA for resisting the military's insistence of operating aircraft that lack the capability to meet Code of Federal Regulations, Title 14, Volume 2, Chapter 1, Part 91, Subpart A, § 91.113(b):

When weather conditions permit, regardless of whether an operation is conducted under instrument flight rules or visual flight rules, vigilance shall be maintained by each person operating an aircraft so as to see and avoid other aircraft.

The FAA has granted the military exemption from the 250 knot speed limit below 10,000' thus jeopardizing civil operations. Here's hoping they refrain from another such breach of public trust.

Posted by: Pat Tighe | September 18, 2010 10:19 AM    Report this comment

>>I have been involved with trying to put UAV/UAS/RPV's in civil airspace since 1988. The FAA has lollygagged around for near twenty years without addressing this problem and has had many technologies placed before them that has the capability of exceeding the dismal capabilities of human pilots to see and avoid. <<

Perhaps you should suggest that Brigadier General Leon Rice consider ordering his UAV equipped with such vision technologies that will permit them to comply with FAR Part 91, Subpart A, § 91.113(b).

But then, there's always the issue of runaway UAVs: http://www.avweb.com/eletter/archives/avflash/1724-full.html#203269

Posted by: Pat Tighe | September 18, 2010 10:27 AM    Report this comment

Regarding the cost of operating UAV's (I know this is slightly off topic, but it has been raised), there are several companies that offer low-cost alternatives. For things like border patrol, basically a fancy RC aircraft.

There is a lot of bureaucracy these companies are up-against. Hopefully some of them will prevail, and we can have unmanned aircraft that is cost and scale appropriate to the application.

Posted by: Jon Devine | September 18, 2010 11:17 AM    Report this comment

All participants in a Predator operation need training: operators, maintainers, the users of the imagery, etc. Not just the stick-wigglers. I don't think the USAF is mounting this operation in ND to protect us from Canada.

Yes, they could patrol the border more effectively and cheaply with manned airplanes, but that doesn't train our forces to fight a war.

By the way, my fellow steely-eyed white-scarf wearing medical-carrying certified aviators...how well do *you* spot other traffic while seeing-and-avoiding?

Posted by: Martin Gomez | September 19, 2010 6:45 AM    Report this comment

>>... but that doesn't train our forces to fight a war.<<

Perhaps the UAVs the trainees use for practice could be actually located in a war theater (Afghanistan comes to mind), so that there wouldn't be an issue with operating UAVs incapable of compliance with regulations in the National Airspace System. Why must the USAF's UAVs operate in the NAS? I see no rational reason for that.

Posted by: Pat Tighe | September 19, 2010 12:33 PM    Report this comment

"See & Avoid", though still a regulatory requirement, DOES NOT WORK. This is demonstrated several times every year.

On the other hand, I've learned much flying with TCAS since 2005. I've learned that even with 2 pilots, my estimate is we can "see" about 50% of targets within 6 nm. (SoCal basin) knowing bearing, distance and relative altitude. There are just too many blind spots from any cockpit.

I have no problem flying in the same airspace sector with a UAS if it is in contact with a controller, with an IFR filing and emitting a valid transponder code. Less threatening than non-transponder aircraft without any radio contact.

In my opinion, operating UAS within the current NAS regulations (excepting See & Avoid) is preferable to more Restricted airspace or short notice TFRs.

Posted by: Edd Weninger | September 19, 2010 1:55 PM    Report this comment

"See & Avoid", though still a regulatory requirement, DOES NOT WORK. This is demonstrated several times every year.<<

Of course it works. If it didn't, many of us would be dead. It doesn't work all of the time, but then neither does TCAS/TIS/TAS.

It works most of the time in the pattern. Sometimes it doesn't. For all of the traffic minders out there today, I don't think the technology has had a measurable impact on overall accident rates or even on the incidence of mid-airs.

That's not to say the technology isn't a great thing and worth it. It is. It's just that other things are far more likely to kill you than a mid-air.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | September 19, 2010 4:09 PM    Report this comment

"See & Avoid", though still a regulatory requirement, DOES NOT WORK. This is demonstrated several times every year.<< Fallacy. What is demonstrated is that it FAILS several times every year. Big difference.

Posted by: Glenn Killinger | September 20, 2010 8:58 AM    Report this comment

Good to see the FAA fighting for our airspace. To bad they didn't show that kind of interest in security before handing it over to the tsa. Maybe we wouldn't be looking at LASP and 8g....

Posted by: Michael Butterfield | September 20, 2010 11:14 AM    Report this comment

The push to get this particular MOA expansion (there already is one near the GFK AFB) is driven by two forces - ND's congressional delegation and other civic leaders have expended considerable effort to keep the AF and ANG Bases active (jobs, etc) and part of the last base realignment meant that the GFK base was converted from the current tankers to UAV ops. The UAV's will be operated by the NDANG unit in Fargo, which lost their F16's a couple years ago in the deal. The second force is the University of ND itself, which is trying to become a UAV training center for the AF or anyone else, even though that would appear to conflict with their primary mission at the flight school with this MOA. But training airplanes can go other directions, while - darn the luck - some of us actually need to fly through the MOA areas.

Meanwhile SW ND is apparently considered "uninhabited" enough that the AF is working on an expansion of the Powder River MOA (http://www.accplanning.org/open_for_comment.html#PRTC) that will expand the current MOA to cover the area all the way from Billing MT over to Bismarck ND, and down to Gillette WY and Rapid City SD, all to give the B1 and B52 guys a bigger place to train. That is a mighty big chunk of airspace, and again all the political elements have invited this upon us in trying to keep the air bases and their economic impacts.

There have always been MOA's up here, but they're getting ready to be much bigger and more restrictive.

Hans Ahlness

Posted by: Hans Ahlness | September 20, 2010 2:02 PM    Report this comment

Paul, I thought we were talking about possible UAS operations in the NAS. I don't think they're going to show up in your traffic pattern.

Unfortunately, most mid-airs occur in the traffic pattern when pilots are usually swiveling their heads pretty actively. TCAS still helps there.

I'm sure you have flown with TCAS. As I said, it was a revelation to me. I've flown from KLGB since the early '60s. Always managed to avoid all but a few memorable moments. But, flying with TCAS demonstrates just how many bogeys are out there and how many you still can't see.

There may not be a measurable effect with this stuff, but we haven't repeated San Diego or Cerritos.

Anyway, back to UASs.

Posted by: Edd Weninger | September 20, 2010 2:25 PM    Report this comment

To beat the see and avoid horse to death - when I was working on my CFI certificate, my instructor just made me do the umpteenth clearing turn before demonstrating a chandelle to him. I said - aw, come on - gimme a break - nobody does clearing turns before 'every' maneuver. He told me to do it - and I got a very close-up view of a Piper Archer that we nearly hit. Nothing like teachable moments!

Posted by: Josh Johnson | September 21, 2010 11:30 AM    Report this comment

The FAA blames most mid air collisions on the pilot’s failure to see and avoid each other, but I blame the FAA for its failure to develop a small lightweight affordable collision avoidance system that all aircraft can use.

Developing such a system is orders of magnitude easier than developing a cell phone system that can wirelessly connect people all over the world in real time. A modern cell phone has almost everything required to accomplish this goal, a microprocessor, memory, a GPS chip, a transmitter, a receiver, audio outputs, video outputs and a battery. The only thing lacking is the software to make it function as a collision avoidance system. That could be developed in six months by a highly competent team, and the massive manufacturing capacity for cell phones could easily equip the world wide fleet of aircraft in a few months.

The device would periodically transmit the planes position and velocity vectors, and listen for other reports. It would generate a visual and audible report for the pilot with location, altitude, and time to intercept threat aircraft in plenty of time for pilots to change course or altitude.

The device could also prevent collisions with skydivers, ultra light aircraft, sailplanes, airport vehicles, tall towers balloons, unmanned aircraft and power lines. These applications are not possible with the FAA’s very expensive, Rube Goldberg, ADSB system that they have been working on for years.

Posted by: Billl Hannahan | September 21, 2010 5:23 PM    Report this comment

Paul, I believe the quote from Monty Python was "Bring me a shrubbery!"

Posted by: JOHN REAT | September 21, 2010 10:10 PM    Report this comment

You are correct. I went back and looked it up and meant to amend my post. It's from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Here's part of it:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YwVsqqRrMwE

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zIV4poUZAQo

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | September 22, 2010 3:53 AM    Report this comment

Now I see why I never watched Monty Python :-) Anyway, General Atomics flight-tests Predators (using a chase plane for safety) just a few miles from our little bird-patch in what amounts to a E-W VFR corridor bounded by a restricted area on the north and high mountains to the south. FAA issued a warning about the activity but there is no other restriction. Approach Control radar service is available through the area and used by the Predator gang, that seems to work just fine.

Posted by: John Wilson | September 23, 2010 1:27 PM    Report this comment

The Air Force is planiing to deploy Global Hawk UAV's to Grand Forks for border surveillance. They cost over $100 million apiece (bloomberg.com 9-15-10)!!! Wouldn't the taxpayers bee better served with a manned plane? And no airspace problems to boot.

Posted by: Tom Dinndorf | October 1, 2010 1:10 PM    Report this comment

If Brigadier General Leon Rice wishes the FAA to grant him a _NEW_ 1500-square mile Restricted Area within the National Airspace System (NAS) in which to operate his six expensive new Predator UAVs that are unable to comply with the most fundamental of regulations, FAR Part 91, Subpart A, § 91.113(b) See and Avoid Other Aircraft, he might consider relinquishing some of the greater than 50% of the NAS Special Use Airspace already granted the military. Otherwise, if military airspace grabs are continually granted, the military will eventually own _ALL_ of the NAS.

Posted by: Larry Dighera | December 20, 2010 8:49 AM    Report this comment

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