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The FAA and Department of Transportation are expected to announce at dual press conferences on Monday that the agency will try to stimulate lagging ADS-B sales by offering owners who install systems a $500 cash rebate.

Details on the program weren’t available on Friday but sources familiar with it told AVweb that owners can install their system of choice then submit documentation to the FAA for the $500 rebate. Presumably, the offer applies to owners of private aircraft of all sizes, but we don’t yet know if the rebate offer will apply to owners who have already equipped. AVweb contacted the Aircraft Electronics Association, AOPA and EAA, but all declined comment, pending Monday's announcement.

According to the FAA’s own records, about 18,000 ADS-B Out systems have been installed to date, with about 3 ˝ years until the 2020 mandate. The total ADS-B fleet equipage requirement is about 200,000 aircraft and both the FAA and the avionics industry have expressed open concern that owners aren’t equipping fast enough. We estimate the total size of the rebate program to be about $100 million against equipage costs for owners of more than $1 billion. ADS-B Out is a critical part of the FAA’s $6.5 billion NextGen air traffic system budget through 2018, with an estimated $40 billion total cost. AVweb will have more details on the story as they become available on Monday.

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A Notam (PDF) is warning operators of “all aircraft relying on GPS” of widespread GPS outages starting Tuesday throughout the Southwest and especially southern California. Although the FAA doesn’t go into detail, it seems the military is testing something that can disrupt GPS over a huge area, centered on China Lake, California, home of the Navy’s China Lake Naval Weapons Center. On Tuesday, June 7, the FAA is warning that GPS signals down to 50 feet AGL could be “unreliable or unavailable” between 9:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. local time over a radius of 253 nautical miles, which includes the L.A. Basin, Bay area and Las Vegas.  There will be further outages of similar potential duration June 9, 21,23, 28 and 30. The circles expand with altitude and at 40,000 feet the interference will affect a circular area of the Southwest 950 nautical miles across, reaching central Oregon, Colorado and New Mexico.

The tests will potentially knock out all GPS-reliant services including WAAS, GBAS and, notably, ADS-B. The FAA also doesn’t want a lot of radio chatter about the outages and is urging pilots to report them if they need help from ATC. Operators of Embraer Phenom 300 business jets are being urged to avoid the area entirely. “Due to GPS Interference impacts potentially affecting Embraer 300 aircraft flight stability controls, FAA recommends EMB Phenom pilots avoid the … testing area and closely monitor flight control systems,” the Notam reads.

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Cub Crafters, well known for its high-performance Carbon Cub LSA, has rolled up a new Part 23 airplane called the XCub. Based on the Carbon Cub, which is itself an offshoot of Piper's original Super Cub, the new aircraft is lighter and faster than previous entrants in the utility market and the company is calling the new airplane a sport utility aircraft.

Equipped with a 180-HP Lycoming with a fixed-pitch prop and a new spring aluminum landing gear, Cub Crafters says the XCub is the fastest Cub-type aircraft available, with cruising speeds of about 145 MPH. The XCub can be equipped with a variety of tires and also a float system being developed by Wipaire. The XCub, which uses even more carbon fiber material than the Carbon Cub, has a useful load of 1084 pounds on a gross weight of 2300 pounds.

The airplane also has a luxurious interior with leather seats equipped with memory foam inserts and no fewer than 10 storage pockets scattered through the cabin, including a custom mount for an iPad or other tablet for the rear-seat passenger. One unique design element is control rods in place of cables, which are hidden inside the XCub's struts. AVweb recently visited Cub Crafters and shot this video on the new aircraft. Initial price will be $297,500 for the launch edition, according to Cub Crafters' Randy Lervold.

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Blue Origin LLC is ramping up its spaceflight programs, breaking ground for a rocket factory as it begins a new three-year launch contract under NASA. The Texas-based company is prepping for construction of an eight-story, 475,000-square-foot facility at Exploration Park, the industrial site at Kennedy Space Center, according to a Florida Today report this week. Blue Origin plans to hire more than 300 people at the facility, which is slated for completion by late 2017 or early 2018. The first rocket could be built and ready for use at Cape Canaveral by 2020, the newspaper reported. 

Meanwhile, NASA announced this week the selection of Blue Origin and its New Shepard spacecraft for the next cycle of its Suborbital Reusable Launch Vehicle program, joining five other companies including Masten Space Systems and Virgin Galactic. Blue Origin, founded by entrepreneur Jeff Bezos, was the first company to successfully launch and land a reusable rocket. The NASA program, with the potential for other contractors to be added by the agency, will have the companies compete for an indefinite number of launches within a three-year period and a $45 million budget. The goal of the program is to provide low-cost launches using rockets capable of controlled vertical landings. 

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The Boeing 707 that carried American presidents for nearly three decades will be among the highlights of the new exhibit building at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. The 224,000-square-foot building, the museum's fourth, will officially open June 8. The $40.8 million expansion allows more than 70 aircraft and other historic items to be displayed among four galleries: Presidential, Research and Development, Space and Global Reach, along with Learning Nodes for educational activities in science, technology, engineering and math.

The Presidential exhibit features the Boeing VC-137C that was flown as Air Force One for eight presidents. Another one-of-a-kind aircraft is the last XB-70 Valkyrie, an Air Force bomber capable of supersonic flight that was in service in the 1960s. The Global Reach exhibit will include a new display of the museum’s Lockheed C-141 Starlifter, which flew missions as the Hanoi Taxi during the Vietnam War era. Expanded spacecraft displays offer viewings of Mercury, Gemini and Apollo spacecraft, artifacts from past missions and a Space Shuttle replica. Along with the historical aspects of the new building, the museum now has a new series of flight simulators featuring what the museum says is North America's first Pulseworks Virtual Reality Transporter, offering an "exclusive" spaceflight experience.

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Heard anything funny, unusual, or downright shocking on the radio lately? If you've been flying any length of time, you're sure to have eavesdropped on a few memorable exchanges. The ones that gave you a chuckle may do the same for your fellow AVweb readers. Share your radio funny with us, and, if we use it in a future "Short Final," we'll send you a sharp-looking AVweb hat to sport around your local airport. No joke.

Click here to submit your original, true, and previously unpublished story.

This dates back many years, to March 1989. I was transporting a heart for transplant, together with a doctor and nurse, from the southwest of England to Papworth Hospital near Cambridge. Because it was the middle of the night, the only open runway nearby was a USAF Alconbury.

As I approached, I was asked a question which is commonplace in the States, but not used at all over here:
"How many souls on board?"

I could only answer:
"That is a very tricky question, which philosophers have struggled with for centuries."


Timothy Nathan

Pull the mixture or condition lever and the propeller comes to a stop. Turn off the switches and what had been saturated with noise and vibration becomes still and quiet. After removing your headset and while sitting in the momentary silence that follows a flight, perhaps you’ll hear the engine ticking as heat dissipates. It’s time to pack up and leave the cockpit: Your work is done, right? No, not quite. To get the full benefit of the experience you just had, to learn from every flight, you need to spend just a few moments debriefing your flight.

Your post-flight debrief doesn’t have to be detailed. Just ask yourself a few questions, and provide honest answers. Your briefing also can be very structured, with a personalized debriefing form and lists of the myriad tasks you performed or planned, plus a scoring mechanism to fairly and objectively judge your performance. The most effective way to debrief, and the most likely system that actually will get used is probably somewhere in between. Regardless of how you debrief, the objective is to review the manner in which you conducted the just-ended flight so you can learn from your actions and be even better next time you fly.

To the Books

Most pilot and flight instructor texts give a passing nod to the post-flight briefing. Virtually all declare it to be a highly important part of the flight-training process. Most decry the “lecture” method, in which the instructor tells the student what he or she did right and in what areas he or she needs to improve. The consensus is that better results come from asking the student to critique his or her performance, with the discussion guided, but not totally led, by the flight instructor. The biggest obstacles to making this technique work, according to the FAA’s Flight Instructor Handbook, are the student’s lack of experience and objectivity, which result in an inability to properly assess his/her performance; the fatigue state of a student after a lesson, especially in the early stages of pilot training; and an instructor’s lack of familiarity with good debriefing techniques. Another factor is the instructor or student’s unwillingness to spend the time necessary to conduct a useful post-flight debriefing.

I’ve not yet found any FAA guidance on extending the concept of a post-flight briefing to a pilot who is critiquing his or her performance following a day-to-day, non-instructional flight. Yet the vast majority of our flying happens without an instructor by our side, and available to review the flight afterward. Although instructors present us the training needed to earn certificates and ratings, and occasionally provide a refresher in the form of a flight review, an instrument proficiency check (IPC) and other recurrent training, we learn most from our own experiences as pilot-in-command in real-world situations.

Psychologist and flight instructor Dr. Janet Lapp is a proponent of the post-flight self-brief. “What happens during the crucial period of time immediately following a behavior, or set of behaviors, can either reinforce (make stronger), punish (eliminate temporarily), or help extinguish (aid in forgetting) that behavior,” according to her November 2008 article in AOPA’s Flight Training magazine.

“The best time to learn may be in the few moments right after a flight, in an organized and controlled manner,” she wrote. “Actions completed by self, rather than by other, are more meaningful and memorable; memory traces are more indelibly etched; and content is more internalized. We become responsible for what we do...[and] we take more responsibility for our actions.”

Get it in Writing

Dr. Lapp suggests we commit our debriefings to writing, building a journal of our growing experience. “If we don’t measure it,” she writes, “we can’t change it.” Lapp also says her personal research suggests that a written review makes pilots open up to the process and give self-debriefing the attention it deserves. The “central purpose [of a written review] is to increase self-correction, reflection, and tracking of attitude and behaviors. The goal is to create pilots who reflect on emerging issues immediately after every flight. The students make the entries, specify what they did well and what they could have done better, what they will work on next time, and what knowledge gaps were discovered. These are accompanied by a self-rating system that creates its own system of improvement.”

Dr. Lapp makes her suggested debriefing form available to the public, and invites pilots to adopt it and customize it to their needs. It allows the pilot to identify the major areas of critique, and to answer a few broad questions that identify the overall tenor of the flight. Although Dr. Lapp’s research focused on students receiving instruction (which was, after all, when she was present to introduce the concept of the post-flight debrief and judge the results), she notes in the Flight Training article she created the form originally to reinforce her own need for post-flight debriefings as a certificated and active pilot, and has told me several times her intent is for pilots to use the form as a self-debriefing tool.

Some pilots have suggested reluctance to create a written record of the mistakes they’ve made while flying an airplane. They seem to fear the journal could “fall into the wrong hands” and be used in some way against them in an FAA enforcement action or a liability lawsuit. Sad to say, they may be right. If you choose not to maintain a written record, but you find the act of writing about and scoring your flights indeed does focus your attention on continual improvement, there’s nothing to prevent you from critiquing your performance in writing and then destroying the record when you’re done with it.

The Highly Qualified Pilot

If you want to develop an even more detailed type of self-debriefing, you might do what I do as a result of my military experience. Back in the Bad Old Days of the Cold War, I served as a Minuteman nuclear missile launch control officer for the U.S. Air Force. The pressure-cooker environment of potential total nuclear war, 60 feet under the Missouri plains, strangely did much to prepare me for the single-pilot cockpit of an airplane. One thing the "missile business" did for me as a pilot was to teach the debriefing concept of minor, major and critical errors.

Air Force missileers train and are evaluated relentlessly. At least once a month we spent four hours in "the box"—a functional simulator reproducing the hardware and operation of a missile launch control center. No less than once a year we were evaluated in the box (I personally had eight "annual" checks during a four-year tour of duty—go figure). We also were evaluated "in the field"—observed while on actual alert—much like a line check for an airline pilot.

Every evaluation assumed from the beginning that the missile combat crew’s performance was perfect —earning 5.0 points on a five-point scale. Of course, from there, things can go only one direction: downhill. Certain functions, if performed incorrectly, were considered minor errors. These were items that were missed or performed incorrectly, but which did not directly impact the primary mission. Commit a minor error, and you’d have one-tenth of a point lopped off your beginning, perfect score.

A major error might delay getting a missile repaired correctly, allow unauthorized access to a missile site (but no direct access to controls, boosters or warheads), or cause (by action or inaction) one component of the hardware to become inoperative. A major error cost one full point off your final score. In some cases it was possible to recover from a minor or even some major errors, and not be charged the adverse points...if you caught the error in time, and undid what you had done.

A critical error in missiledom cost five points, an automatic failure of the evaluation. Examples of “crits” included attempting to launch missiles when not ordered, launching at a valid order but at the wrong time, or launching to the wrong targets, all of which are highly undesirable events (this was, of course, all in “the box”). In the field, critical error might be tuning a radio or satellite receiver incorrectly (meaning you would not receive emergency messages). Another critical error was to shut down your launch capsule when not called for, thereby degrading your squadron’s ability to launch missiles (usually, when dealing with a simulated fire in your tiny underground command center).

Error points were additive. A major error and two minor errors resulted in a 3.8 score, etc. A crew was deemed qualified if its final score was 2.5 or higher. Crewmembers were awarded highly qualified (HQ) status for a 4.6 or better score (no more than four minor errors, and none of the major ones). You could “crit out” on a combination of major and minor errors. And sometimes an action that would ordinarily only be a minor error (such as setting a clock or tuning a radio) might become “major” if that act led to missing some other task, or it might even be critical if it adversely affected alert status or a simulated launch later on. Great woe fell upon the combat crew that “critted out” and had to go through the entire crew certification procedure to regain their mission-ready status.

What’s this got to do with flying airplanes? Since we’re not talking nuclear Armageddon here, most pilots who “crit out” (i.e., have an accident) do so by letting minor and major errors snowball. Here’s an example from several years ago: I was flying a Beechcraft Bonanza from Wichita to Tullahoma, Tenn. This was my first long trip in the rented Beech, and I was still getting the hang of its Garmin GX60 IFR-qualified GPS. Somewhere over southwestern Missouri, I was assigned a vector around a newly hot MOA, and was told to expect direct to the Walnut Ridge VOR and then the rest of my route as filed. I made the heading change and began fiddling with the GPS.

Still not fully proficient with the interface, I put the Bonanza on autopilot while I loaded the new waypoints. Satisfied, I activated the flight plan...and watched as the Bo’ turned directly toward Walnut Ridge, about five degrees to my left. Minor error! I realized my mistake and returned to my assigned heading. I never penetrated the MOA, and ATC never said a word about it. I was now flying on a “4.9” score. I made a quick note to include the event after I landed, when I’d have time to learn from it. If I’d have accidentally penetrated the MOA, or if ATC had needed to divert traffic to avoid me as a result, it would have been a “major” offense. And if I’d hit something because of my originally “minor” transgression, well....

Some examples of minor errors: missing a radio call; failure to tune backup navcoms; improper setting of altitude alerters; misprogramming or failing to confirm the autopilot’s operating modes; one dot from center on course guidance or glidepath at the missed approach point; etc. A few examples of major errors: Missing a handoff; flying a destabilized approach; deviation from your fuel management schedule; more than 100 feet off altitude; etc. In addition to actual crashes, critical errors include: busting minimums; deviations from an instrument procedure, cleared route or altitude that would result in failure of the IFR Practical Test; failing to brief for the missed approach; failure to follow an obstacle departure procedure; etc. You could list possibilities all day long. It’s easier and more effective to quickly note the transgressions in flight, then rank errors against the minor/major/critical scale after you land.

The trick of flying is to minimize the minor errors and avoid the major offenses, and thereby not “crit out,” or have an accident. We will make mistakes. It’s almost always possible to recover from a minor error in the plane and keep your score in the HQ range. Even if you “pull a major,” as we said in the Air Force, you can fly the rest of the trip in perfect safety if you monitor your position, use your checklists and watch your performance. Put the emotion of making a mistake behind you, and fly the rest of the trip to HQ standards. After you land, review your in-flight notes and score yourself—to become a highly qualified pilot.

Post-Flight Debrief

Whether you answer a few brief questions or complete a detailed, point-by-point review—in your head, aloud with a fellow pilot or in writing—to fully benefit from the experience of every flight it’s extremely helpful to do a post-flight debriefing. The sooner after you land the better, because more information will be fresh in your head.

Most of us shut down, get out of the airplane, and get on with our busy lives—likely the reason we flew in the first place. Taking a few moments, however, to review the lessons of every flight will help prepare you for the next ones.

This article originally appeared in the June 2014 issue of Aviation Safety magazine.

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At one time in this country, government problem-solving consisted of throwing money at whatever obstacle seemed to be impeding progress. Sometimes it even worked. Of late, the philosophy has shifted to cutting taxes, driving deficits and acute budgetary paralysis. I’m not sure where the FAA’s decision—apparently—to help fund installation of ADS-B systems fits, exactly.

As is supposed to be revealed Monday, the agency is considering a $500 rebate to owners who equip their aircraft with ADS-B and thus become members in good standing of the NextGen system. Will this stimulate what everyone agrees is lagging equipage on the part of owners who are persistently and consistently unimpressed with the benefits of ADS-B? One can, for the sake of the agency’s plans, only hope.

Because there are now so many ADS-B offerings out there, it’s hard to put a price point on the average or typical cost of an ADS-B Out installation. At the bottom of the spectrum are non-TSO’d boxes suitable for experimental aircraft for about $1300. The lowest conceivable price—all-in—for a certified aircraft is probably around $4000 or a little less. But with at least 34 different products to choose from—you read that right—you can spend as much as $15,000 on an ADS-B upgrade if you have money to burn. And some owners actually can afford that. I’d estimate that the average budget ADS-B install will cost around $5000 to $5500.

So does a $500 pot sweetener make much of a difference? I’d guess no. When I ran the rebate idea by our inhouse avionics guru, Larry Anglisano, he snortled a snortle that implied “that’s your best offer?” Still, both of us agreed that some owners will take the offer. If I needed to install ADS-B in the Cub, which I don’t, I certainly would. Why not?

We’ll probably never know, but I wonder why FAA/DOT reached the point of actually funding even a token percentage of the installations. Certainly, one reason is that owners aren’t accepting ADS-B at nearly the pace the FAA hoped and what will be necessary to meet the 2020 mandate without end-game chaos. So far, the FAA says about 18,000 GA airplanes and 500 or so commercial aircraft have equipped. The total number of aircraft that will need to equip is rubbery. I’ve seen numbers as low as 160,000 and as high as 199,000 from GAMA. Even at the lower end of the estimate, that means as many as 150,000 airplanes remain to equip in the remaining 42 months before the mandate kicks in. That works out to about 900 systems a week. That’s a lot of avionics work and I’m beginning to believe those who said the industry won’t have the capacity and we’ll see a huge logjam a year from now.

I also wonder if someone in DOT didn’t run some numbers and figure out that system safety will actually diminish if equipage doesn’t reach some critical mass by a certain date and that it would be a more economical tradeoff to just buy the systems for those recalcitrant owners. As a point of public policy, I like that kind of thinking. But to work, the carrot would have to be a lot bigger. Maybe half the cost of the lowest-priced systems, say about $2000. That would be a much bigger investment, of course—maybe about $350 million to $400 million—but NextGen is a $40 billion system, so it’s no more than 1 percent of the total. Could that deliver a big payback in improved safety? It could, considering many of those aircraft would then have onboard weather and traffic where they don’t have it now.  And those already equipped would be able to see them in adjacent airspace.

If the FAA wanted to get really creative, they could put the same team on ADS-B as jollied along the approvals for Dynon avionics in certified airframes announced at Sun ‘n Fun in April. That might knock another grand off low-end installation costs.

While I understand why people are resistant to installing this equipment, the least valid reason to me is anger at regulation and government mandates funded by the individual. For better or worse, the government has decided that ADS-B is the cornerstone of future air traffic control. Refusing to play based on principle is like moving to Canada because you don’t like election results. (This year, I may make an exception…)

So, once again, owners have to decide whether to equip now, later or at all. If you don’t need to fly in mandated airspace, as is the case for me, you don’t need to bother. If you can mostly avoid it, you can probably wait, but I don’t think waiting is going to yield either substantially less expensive or more capable systems. Meanwhile, you miss the benefits of having ADS-B and everyone who has paid for the upgrade tells us it’s worth it and they’re satisfied with the investment.

Anyone who owns an airplane for serious travel shouldn’t wait much longer, in my view. Like not even a year because whether the people who say the shops will get slammed are right or not, having an airplane that you really need grounded for lack of ADS-B would be kind of silly. Take the 500 bucks and be happy. I wouldn’t wait around for a better offer.

Tuesday addition: In yesterday's press conference, SecDOT Anthony Foxx said the FAA wanted to put its money where its mouth was with regard to ADS-B equipage, hence the rebate program. The agency is paying for this effort--a total of $10 million, by my count--out of its ADS-B budget. In other words, it scraped up the money. To be fair, if it had wanted a larger program, a congressional appropriation would have been necessary and the likelihood of getting that through the House is exactly zero, in my estimation.

Having said that, I don't see that this rebate program is going to help much, but I can see some negatives. One of them came pixeling into the inbox more or less immediately. Wrote one reader, "The FAA $500 ADS-B rebate is a slap in the face for every law abiding proactive citizen who equipped his/her airplane already. First we pay higher prices due to less competition, then we have the additional hassles due to necessary updates while the system gets ready for prime time. That´s all ok, it was our choice. But then, the $500 is not FAA´s money. It is the money we as taxpayers pay to the government. So now in addition to the activities to get ADS-B going, the proactive have to pay additional money to the procrastinators. No wonder the political climate is slowly changing for worse," wrote Gerd Pfeifle, of Vero Beach, Florida. 

That comment goes to the argument that the requirement to equip with ADS-B is either a tax, a toll or a user fee. Take your pick of those; it's either one of them or all of them. The FAA is clearly financing its expensive new system on the backs of users. In that context, as I said above, I would have preferred a much larger program, like half the cost of a budget install as a basic investment in the safety of transportation infrastructure. Foxx crowed about the U.S. system being the safest in the world and we got it that way by investing in it. I thought that undercut his argument that DOT was putting its money where its mouth is. 

What will be viewed, I think, as a trivial assistance to owners, is symptomatic of a larger malaise inflicting the U.S. As part of a general conviction that the government is incompetent, we've come to a knee-jerk aversion to investment in basic transportation infrastructure and we're paying the price for it in $6000 avionics invoices.

 

 

 

 

 

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Cub Crafters this week rolled out a new airplane. It's a Part 23 certified aircraft called the XCub, which the company says takes the Cub idea to the ultra level, with fast cruising speed and luxury interior. AVweb traveled to Yakima, Washington, to fly the new entry.

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Autonomy, electric engines and distributed powerplants will drive the design of a new generation of general aviation airplanes, says NASA researcher Mark Moore. AVweb’s Mary Grady talked with Moore about the possibilities, which he reported on at last week's CAFE Electric Aircraft Symposium.

DC One-X from David Clark

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