Calculate Now, Land Later ... Maybe

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A controversial new requirement for landing distance safety margins is drawing fire from the National Air Transportation Association (NATA), which claims the proposal should be shelved. The FAA was spurred to action in the wake of a Dec. 8, 2005, accident at Chicago Midway in which a Southwest Airlines 737-700 skidded off a wet runway and onto a highway beyond, running into a car and killing a 6-year-old boy. In an audit afterwards, the FAA discovered nearly half of the operators they asked had no policies for assessing sufficient landing-distance margins in various conditions. In instances where manufacturerís data was being used, the feds still had a problem, saying that wet and contaminated landing distances were figured using certification data based on dry and smooth services ... so the numbers are not real-world.

Under the new requirement that will take effect on Oct. 1, an operator would not be allowed to land without 15 percent more runway available for the actual landing distance given current weather conditions and use of available equipment such as thrust reversers and spoilers. NATA has a problem that a study of aircraft operated under Part 121 is being applied Parts 125, 135 and 91K as well. "A blanket approach to these varying operations is not acceptable."

NATA is particularly incensed with the FAA's definition of time of arrival, calling it a trap that will lead to second-guessing by the feds and possible enforcement action taken against pilots, saying, "If the meteorological conditions change when the aircraft is 500 feet above ground level, must the pilot then mathematically recalculate landing distance at this critical phase of flight?" Though NATA is asking the FAA to use normal rulemaking channels before implementing such a big change, the feds say it is a done deal and that operators should be ready with new procedures by Sept. 1.