AVmail: Feb. 26, 2007
New FAA Rules About Charity Flights
It seems there is some confusion over the effects of the new rules regarding charity flights (AVwebFlash, Feb. 11). Of particular concern would be whether flights must stay within 25 nm of -- and return to -- the departure airport, and the minimum flight hours a pilot must have in order to conduct the flight.
Section VI.A.2 defines a "charitable event" as "an event that raises funds ..." Likewise for non-profit events. I read that to mean that Young Eagles flights where no money is paid or contributed may be conducted without regard to any of the proposed rules. Similarly, Angel Flights, where the flight is provided at no charge, may also be conducted without regard to these new rules.
Have I missed something in the final rules?
AVweb reported the following FAA response about controller staffing (AVwebFlash, Feb. 14):
"We don't believe we have imposed 'jailhouse' work rules," FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown told AVweb on Tuesday. She also disagreed with NATCA's claims of "inadequate staffing" at facilities around the country. "The 'authorized' number they quote is from a 1998 contract," Brown said.
If there is no staff shortage, then why is my husband, an air traffic controller, only getting one day off a week and working 10 hour days, and is on position longer than the two-hour limit?
Name withheld by request
AVweb wrote (AVwebFlash, Feb. 16):
"To expand, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) reports that facility staffing standards remain undefined -- this precludes effective placement of new hires and so staffing ranges for each location are recommended for the FAA's next update of the workforce plan. Controller retirements in 2005 exceeded FAA projections by 36 percent -- the FAA's forecast method needs to be refined."
They ever think about asking the guys what their plans are? The controllers I know are pretty clear about whether they plan on retiring or staying around. And the message about their level of unhappiness with management is pretty clear also.
I for one find some of the new kids fairly scary when I am flying around. Their awareness of what's good practice for the airplanes we are in seems a bit lacking.
Why don't some of your "tecknicrats" [sic] set down and figure out a system of user fees for all four-lane highways in the U.S. Make it big enough to encourage less usage of the roads so less federal money could be spent on four-lane roads and shift the cost to the local governments that provide two-lane roads. You might find it hard to find enough trailing zeros to describe the income it would bring in. Might not even need income tax any more. Might take a little longer and have a few congested streets, but what a system. It could be easily done by having a GPS-based trip meter in every car and truck, similar to what toll roads use that would simply send you a bill for, say, five cents per mile for cars and 15 cents for trucks for every mile driven on four-lane roads and better, not just interstates.
Wonder if Ms. Blakey would support that along with every other American other than the Amish. Might be a real political eye-opener.
As a group we must constantly remind our elected officials that the FAA proposal will not only limit or kill off an entire industry but what's worse (for them) is the number of votes on election day they will lose if they let us down. Believe me, they (our elected officials) care mainly about getting elected and then us. So let's continue to let our representatives know how we feel as often as possible. As cynical as this sounds, it got us flying again after 9/11 and will work now!
My FBO is for sale! User fees are tip of the iceberg!
The FAA, TSA, Congress, lawyers, and airlines are combining to eliminate general aviation. I forwarded today's AVweb article with Blakey's head-in-the-sand attitude on to everyone in my address book with an offer to come pick up my FBO cheap before I break my contract with the municipality and lock the doors on 50+ years of service to GA. Over 50 years of accident-free charter service and my local FSDO and POI are telling us to re-write all our manuals to "develop" a "two-tiered" system of "Operational Control." FAA drug mandated programs to give airplane rides. TSA programs just getting momentum. It's the end.
I'm a Canadian commercial pilot and I fly a Cessna 210. I have to offer my comments on a recent trip that I took from southern Saskatchewan across the border into the U.S.
As you are well aware, Canada has gone the user fee route with Nav Canada. I now pay $72 per year for the privilege of having a navigation system. This is paid to the non-profit organization, Nav Canada, who maintains this system. From my point of view this system is failing. Here is just one example:
On a recent trip to the U.S. I filed a flight plan (as required by regulation), departing my private airstrip to fly to Grand Forks, N.D., (KGFK) where customs was available before continuing en route to my destination. As I live out of range of any Flight Service frequencies, it was filed as an assumed departure. I always like to confirm with Flight Service that my flight plan is open as soon as practical en route. In the event that it isn't, Transport Canada could offer me a $100 fine, as one [a flight plan] is required by law.
I departed at my departure time and proceeded on course, which took me just south of Brandon, Manitoba. Brandon has a mandatory frequency with a control tower providing traffic advisories and local weather (not an active control tower with traffic separation). Prior to the change over to user pay, this facility was operating as a full-functioning FSS. It still has that tower and it's still staffed but they won't provide anything other than local traffic updates and weather. I contacted Brandon Radio but was told to contact Winnipeg Radio as they "couldn't help me with my request." OK ... I know this, but it was worth a try (and I always try because it should be an FSS).
So I dialed in the Winnipeg Radio frequency and make my call. I had to repeat twice. Due to the distance, the signal was very weak and the specialist was busy. The response I got was shocking! The specialist would not confirm for me that my international flight plan was open. He told me that because my flight plan was filed with Edmonton AFSS, I should contact them because he didn't have "the paperwork." Now I'm stumped with amazement. The FSS specialist sitting in front of his computer can't or won't access a flight plan that is traveling through his area? And he won't make a call to Edmonton to verify that flight plan is open? I don't have a frequency that is in range. What did he think I could do? I would have had to fly back past my point of origin with altitude to make that call, adding an hour or more to my route, which would make me late for my customs arrival time.
Still shocked at this, I considered my options. While still flying toward GFK, I decided to try to contact Minneapolis Center. This would be required to pick up a transponder code that is now required prior to crossing the border. With enough altitude I was able to make contact and get my code but the controller wasn't able to tell me if my VFR flight plan was open: "Contact GFK AFSS," they said. I continued en route and, as a result, I was already in U.S. airspace before I was able to confirm that my flight plan had been activated as filed. Thankfully I never broke a regulation but I could have and had serious consequences to deal with. Something needs to be done.
I don't know what the Winnipeg specialist's issues were, but in the past this was never a problem. I've done it many times before. It's just very apparent that "Service" isn't what it used to be ... in fact, it's almost non-existent now. On top of that, I'm paying for it directly even if I don't ever fly during the year. The whole kicker to this is that we are still paying fuel taxes that we were paying for real service before.
Regarding the fuel tax question (QOTW, Feb. 21). I answered that I would fly a little less. But I think you missed a very important choice for an answer. If you had asked if I would burn more or only auto gas, that would have been my answer.
New AVweb Format
Just a note to compliment the AVweb staff on the new format! Great improvement and a pleasure to scan for news. Keep up the good work!