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General aviation accidents have continued to drop since 2013, according to AOPA’s 25th Joseph T. Nall Report. FAA data show that overall accident rates examined from 2004 to 2013 for non-commercial fixed-wing flights fell to 5.77 per 100,000 hours, while the fatal accident rate was 0.99 per 100,000 hours, Thursday’s report found. The trends could continue if GA makes enhancements to pilot training and speeds up its adaptation of technology, such as angle-of-attack indicators and other safety tools, said George Perry, senior vice president of AOPA’s Air Safety Institute. Positive response to the FAA’s recent efforts to ease the installation rules for non-required safety-enhancing equipment (NORSEE) is one example, he said. “If we can come up with cost-effective, safety-enhancing technologies, pilots will buy and equip,” he said.  

Non-commercial airplanes continue to make up the majority of GA accidents, according to the Nall report. These operations made up 81 percent of all accidents, including fatal accidents, in 2013. Non-commercial fixed-wing aircraft accidents in 2015 totaled 912, versus 944 in 2014 and 958 in 2013. Fatal accidents were level with 187 in 2015 and 189 in 2014. AOPA’s analysis of the report notes that accidents fell overall by 3 percent from 2015 and 2014 in this category. Perry said accident reductions in recent years can be attributed in part to more unity in promoting safety training from GA organizations and the FAA, as well as better focus on safety for makes and model such as Cirrus, which recently was named the first recipient of ASI's Joseph T. Nall Safety Award. “Whether it’s regulatory reform with the long-awaited FAR Part 23 rewrite, programs like NORSEE that allow safety innovations into the cockpit, or the FAA’s updated compliance philosophy, I can’t recall a time where industry, government, and associations have been so well aligned to help improve general aviation safety."

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Texas travelers already have access to Rise, a flight-sharing membership provider based in Dallas, and this week another operator, Texas Air Shuttle, is set to launch in Austin. Texas Air Shuttle aims to attract business travelers with monthly memberships that will provide unlimited flights between four Texas airports — McKinney, which is about a half hour from downtown Dallas; North Houston Regional; Stinson, just outside San Antonio; and Austin. Texas Air Shuttle will operate eight-seat twin-turboprop Beech King Air 200s with two-pilot crews.

Rise CEO Nick Kennedy told the Dallas Morning News his company had been considering adding McKinney to their network, but felt the demand there was not yet sufficient. He added that he’s not worried about the new competition. “We’re happy to have them in the industry,” he said. “This is a greatly needed service.” Texas Air Shuttle will charge about $2,000 to $3,000 for monthly memberships.

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The Weekender's calendar is filling up with family-friendly events for every region as found on SocialFlight.com. A three-day weekend awaits at the Flying Heritage Festival at Moraine Airpark just south of Dayton. Arrive Friday for on-field camping, and join the crowd for dinner and a movie at dark. Saturday will feature breakfast, forums, an afternoon poker run and an evening dinner and movie. 

Also Saturday in Carlisle, Arkansas, Central Arkansas Sport Flyers (EAA UL Chapter 122) will host its fly-in breakfast. Good weather will bring in more than 30 aircraft including rotorcraft, ultralight, light sport, experimental, vintage and amphibian models.

Garrett County Airport in Maryland welcomes all to its annual Wings and Wheels Fly-In on Saturday. Plenty of airplanes and classic cars will be on display along with RC aircraft demonstrations and a 1 p.m. candy drop.

The Fifth Annual Erie Air Fair in Colorado will take place Saturday, featuring static displays for antique and newer aircraft, rides in airplanes and helicopters, local vendors, a beer and wine garden, kids’ zone and live music.

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AVweb's search of news in aviation found announcements from Kansas State Polytechnic, Global Aerospace, the Payson Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol and the Air Care Alliance. Kansas State Polytechnic is offering FAA Certified Drone Pilot courses in August and September. This course covers the basics of unmanned aircraft vehicle (UAV) flight, UAS flight safety, and FAA rules and regulations for the Small Unmanned Aircraft Operator. Global Aerospace, a leading provider of aerospace insurance, has come together with Verifly Insurance Services to deliver on-demand drone insurance through a simple, easy-to-use app for recreational and commercial users. Verifly's on-demand insurance model means users only pay for coverage when they need it. Starting at $10 an hour, Verifly's next-generation model offers $1,000,000 in liability coverage. 

Payson Squadron 209 has put out an urgent call for volunteers to help it conduct a host of rescue and emergency missions, from pilots to photographers and navigators. The volunteers will help crew the group's new airplane, a turbocharged veteran of the Afghanistan War, where the plane was used to train pilots. The squadron has put out an urgent call for volunteers so it can get crews in the air on short notice. The Air Care Alliance announced its Call for Nominations for the 2016 Public Benefit Flying Awards. Nominations for the National Public Benefit Flying Awards are due by August 31 -- please honor a worthy candidate! Awards will be presented at the NAA Fall Awards Dinner, in Washington, D.C., by the National Aeronautic Association in Association with the Air Care Alliance.

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Flying an airplane involves multiple concepts from physics: Bernoulli’s principle, centrifugal force, Newton’s law of gravity, to name a few. There’s one more natural law, though, that isn’t in the science textbooks: the faster you’re trying to get somewhere, the more likely you’re going to get unexpectedly delayed.

Today’s a perfect example of that. You and your family are running late flying IFR south-southwest into California to catch a cruise. Sacramento (SAC) is off your nose to the left. The plan? Fly into South County Airport (E16) near your sister’s house, pile both your families into a minivan for a drive to the port, and enjoy twelve days of seaborne relaxation. Unfortunately, weather and last-minute packing delayed your departure. Your trusty Cessna 182 Skylane only has enough raw speed to make up a fraction of that time.

Now, air traffic control’s given you even more bad news: they’ve got to reroute you around the Class B and Class C surrounding San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose airports, and hook you back into E16 from the south. The route? SAC, Manteca VOR (ECA), Panoche VOR (PXN), Salinas VOR (SNS), and—finally—E16. Total added time according to the GPS? Thirty-eight minutes.

That’s cutting things dangerously close to your ship’s departure time. If you miss that cruise, the least of your worries will be a few minutes of gas money. We’re talking thousands of dollars of nonrefundable cruise tickets, the profound disappointment of the kids in your backseat, and your spouse saying something about the airlines being a better choice.

Don’t lose hope. When there’s a messy reroute in your future, you may be able to get out of it if you’re willing to play it really smart, get just a little dirty, and learn to bend the ATC system to your needs.

Playing in the Street

Why is this reroute even required? Wouldn’t it be better for ATC just to take you direct and get you out of their hair more quickly? No, it isn’t.

Remember the 1980’s vintage arcade game Frogger? You controlled the eponymous amphibian trying to cross a busy highway, dodging cars and trucks. One wrong move and your little friend was road kill. To controllers, that’s what it’s like threading your IFR Skylane through the flow of IFR heavy metal in and out of Class B airspace complexes. To avoid playing dodge-the-Cessna, the reroute is issued to keep you well out of the way.

The fixes, navaids, and airways controllers use for these reroutes aren’t just conjured up willy-nilly. Letters of agreement between ATC facilities typically lay them all out in black and white. Each facility’s controllers are required to comply with them.

While reroutes certainly reduce variables in the safety equation, we controllers recognize the headaches they cause. Believe me, issuing these things is nothing personal. There’s not a whole lot we can do about it from our end. We’re required to inconvenience a minority to preserve the system’s overall safety and organization.

Regardless of the reason, this particular routing is just horrible. Weaseling your way out of it will require an understanding that ATC is a service-oriented system, use of good judgment, and possibly a little bit of a compromise on your end. The goal? In the interest of saving your vacation, you’re going to need to pull off not one, but two bait and switch deceptions.

Shortcuts and Skullduggery

Looking at your chart, this reroute takes you around San Francisco’s Class B and Oakland and San Jose’s Class C airspace so you’re not descending through their traffic. Well, what if you asked ATC to change your destination to San Jose itself?

Wait… don’t you need still need to get to South County? Of course. The idea is this: if you ask to go to KSJC, you’ll be vectored directly inside the airspace the reroute was circumnavigating. Then—when the time is right—ask to be cleared back to E16. Bait. Switch. Times two.

Perhaps now you’re asking, “Can’t ATC just ‘unable’ a destination change?” Not really. As a controller, I can’t make you land somewhere you don’t want to land. I may not be thrilled about the additional workload your double destination change might cause me, but I also can’t just arbitrarily say “unable.” Yes, you might get delayed with vectors around other traffic or airspace, but that’s about it. Even if your destination is NOTAMed closed or under a TFR, we can’t make you go elsewhere if you’re perfectly happy carving circles in the sky and waiting it out.

Is it a big momentous deal to ask for a destination change? Not usually. Some pilots may conjure up a phony story. “Uh, the boss in the back needs to stop off at KSJC instead and check out one of her franchises.” Don’t get silly and shoot for an Academy Award acting nod. The truth? Unless it’s an emergency, most controllers couldn’t care less about the “why.” They just need to know the “what and where” as soon as you can dish it out. Just keep it clean and direct. “Approach, Skylane Seven Eight Bravo, we need to change our destination to San Jose.”

The controller may not be all smiles, but you’ll likely get your clearance directly to KSJC. “Skylane Seven Eight Bravo, cleared to San Jose airport via radar vectors. Descend and maintain 4000, fly heading two zero zero.” San Jose here you come. Goodbye to that marathon detour around it.

Timing is Everything

San Jose’s 20 miles ahead now as you descend through 5000 feet. ATC’s dutifully vectoring you for the ILS approach, none the wiser that you intend to pull another fast one. E16’s fifteen miles south of KSJC. At what point do you advise ATC that you’d actually like to change back to your original destination and complete the second bait and switch? Heck, if you do it too soon, you might get stuck with that original reroute.

You certainly don’t want to wait until ATC has already vectored you on to the fake destination’s ILS and told you to switch to tower. If you did that to me, I’d be livid. You wasted my time and the fuel of any other traffic I had to vector or slow down to put behind you. Not only that, but you’re also down low and in the mix with my other final traffic, so my vectoring options are limited. Not cool.

Instead, use good judgment and find a happy medium. Every airport is so different it’s hard to establish one set of rules for all. However, based on my experience, I would wait until you’re no closer than fifteen miles and about level with the upper limit of the “fake” destination’s airspace. That’s 4000 feet for the inner circle of KSJC’s Class C. That would keep you above the traffic on final and the departures on their initial climb, allowing ATC to vector you as needed.

In that position, you’re so close that ATC likely won’t gig you with that massive reroute, but they’ve also got a bit of breathing room. That’s a good thing in your favor. You’re basically saying, “You’re stuck with me, but you can still work with me.”

Once you’re within fighting distance, pull your final bait and switch. “Approach, Skylane Seven Eight Bravo, we’d like to change our destination back to South County.” A “sorry about that” from you could help ease ATC’s frustration, especially if you’re talking to the same controller who issued you your first destination change clearance.

Like pilots, we’re trained to make rapid decisions, so perceived indecisiveness—especially about something as basic as where you’re landing—doesn’t leave a good taste in our mouths. Chances are, though, the controller’s also seen this kind of maneuver before. After working traffic for a while, sharp controllers tend to pick up on the shenanigans pilots pull. They know when they’re being played.

Nonetheless, it’s ATC’s job to provide the service. “Skylane Seven Eight Bravo, cleared to South County airport, fly heading one niner zero, maintain 4000.”

Easing the Tension

Earlier, I mentioned a compromise on your end. What could make life easier for ATC? Cancelling IFR and proceeding onward with VFR flight following. That dispenses with ATC’s requirement to separate you from other IFR traffic by 1000 feet or three miles. They’re still watching over you, but it opens a lot more vectoring options and greatly improves your chances of flying direct to your destination.

Here again, good judgment applies. Only do this if the weather between your current position and your destination supports this action. If you’re in the soup, don’t endanger yourself over a few extra flying miles. The second ATC hears you say, “Approach, if it helps you out, I can cancel IFR,” you’ll likely get an instant, “IFR cancellation received. Maintain VFR.” Be ready for that.

What if your present position is absolutely clear and a million VMC, but your destination is reporting IMC with that legendary coastal fog creeping over the mountains? You could cancel IFR, fly the majority of the distance, and then request a popup IFR clearance and an instrument approach once you’re really close to your real destination.

In this case, the weather’s excellent from here to E16. “Approach, I’d also like to cancel IFR, but keep flight following to South County.” ATC replies, “Seven Eight Bravo, IFR cancellation received. Maintain VFR at or above four thousand. Proceed on course to South County.”

Eyes scanning outside the windshield, you think about the next time you fly in the area. Maybe you’ll file directly to San Jose and rely only on a single bait and switch to E16. Hopefully any future trips won’t be so pressed for time.

Any good cheater knows he can only push things so far before he gets caught. For that reason, don’t bet on the outcome always going your way. If the weather’s crap, you may have to remain IFR. Perhaps you’ll get vectored like mad to steer clear of other traffic. In highly complex, restricted airspace, like that around the New York or Washington D.C. complexes, you’re probably going to have to suck up whatever reroute they give you.

Fortunately for you, today is not that day. As you descend VFR into South County, the Pacific Ocean glistens off your right wing as you dip below the coastal mountains. Soon you’ll be out there, enjoying the cruise with your family. Despite the stressful morning, you can already feel the relaxation easing into your bones. With the way your luck’s turned out, maybe a little time in the ship’s casino will help pay for your vacation.

Tarrance Kramer is a controller in the southeastern U.S. He’s wise to the destination-change trick, but still tries to work with his victims as much as other traffic permits.

This article originally appeared in the August 2014 issue of IFR magazine.

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In politics, the third rail—that thing you do not touch—is Social Security. Aviation journalism has its own third rail and it’s called aircraft emissions as a cause of global warming. The reason this subject is untouchable is because by and large, readers of aviation publications view flying airplanes as a quiet refuge away from the clamor of life’s daily travails that somehow should exist independent of politics. In the aviation press, we tend to pander to this fantasy because it’s just easier not to start the argument.

But along comes Aviation Week to lay a fat copper grounding rod across the live rail with a commentary by Antoine Gelain suggesting that the aviation community is lying to itself with regard to the sustainability of air travel at current growth rates. He reports that air travel has doubled in the past 15 years—since 9/11—and will double again during the next 15. To be perfectly fair about this, however, in the U.S., jet fuel consumption has been flat during that period; it’s risen in the rest of the world.

Depending on whose data you accept or reject, aviation accounts for up to 9 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions and measured by seat mile, ton mile or revenue mile—or any other metric—it’s the least efficient, most carbon polluting form of transportation, or very near so. That’s because of the speed penalty; if you want to go fast or fly your Maine lobsters to Atlanta in four hours, it’s gonna take a lot more fuel than the train will.

Gelain’s view is the uptake of biofuels isn’t nearly fast enough to reverse or even flatten aviation’s escalating world GHG contribution and more efficient airframes and engines won’t help enough, either. The big lie is that aviation pays glossy corporate lip service to GHG, but ignores the single biggest driver: rising air travel demand. And as long as airlines and airplane manufacturers push that growth—and why would we expect them not to?—no serious solution to climate issues will emerge in which aviation has a role.

Strong stuff. And you have only to read the comments to Gelain’s essay to understand the intensity of the divide on this issue. My favorite was from a reader who described himself as a 747 Captain: “Climate change is a political tool to give governments money and control.” I give people who don’t accept the theory of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) the benefit of the doubt with the label of “skeptic” rather than the more charged “denier.” But I’ll go with denier for that comment.

Climate change skepticism doesn’t neatly split along party and ideological lines, but generally, people who believe the government screws up everything and should have little or no role in daily life are the skeptics, the “good government” do-gooders are the believers. There was a time in this country when the twain could meet, but no more.

Wealth is an interesting divider, too. He who has the wealth to pay for a $5000 trans-Atlantic first class seat probably doesn’t know or care that his share of the carbon load is much higher than the poor sod in seat 38B because his seat weighs four times as much. If you believe in AGW, you’ll understand that the heavier seat exacts an unpaid cost in the form of carbon pollution that causes widespread harm. If you’re a skeptic, you’ll just enjoy your shrimp cocktail and wonder what all the fuss is about.  

The argument reaches incandescence when the veneer of airlines committing to biofuels is stripped away, leaving the stark conclusion that less flying—lower demand—is the only meaningful solution. That’s Gelain’s argument. Although I think that’s generally right, I think it’s just another form of unsustainability. The airlines will not raise their prices to reduce demand; Boeing and Airbus will not ration airliner production to save the planet; people who can afford a European vacation will not take the ship instead.

I think that means that any significant demand reduction—or slowing of growth, really—will come from regulation or a carbon tax, two sides of the same coin. And that’s where the EPA is going with its plans to regulate GHGs, including aviation emissions. I wish them luck. I just don’t see the political or market will to make this a realistic policy in the U.S. Similarly, people who talk about “market solutions” to GHG emissions are, in my view, just blowing figurative smoke. Altruism and social responsibility are the kale and creamed spinach of virtues. Nice on paper; non-existent in reality. And yes, I will have more shrimp, thanks.

A faint hope is that the millennial generation and their offspring will actually be greener than their parents and will confront the climate challenge, or begin to. There’s some reason to believe this might be true. Polls show that millennials accept the AGW theory to a larger degree than baby boomers do, they drive less and we sure as hell know they fly little airplanes less. An administrator at one of the big flight academies recently told me students are morally committed to eliminating lead in avgas and are strongly interested in electric aircraft and green technologies in general.

Boeing and Airbus, by the way, are paying attention. Whether they have legs or not, both Boeing and Airbus have electric transport aircraft in the concept phase. And even if they do have legs, there’s no assurance that these policies and technologies will affect the outcome of dumping billions of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. If I sound glum about this, I am. While I agree with Gelain’s conclusion, I doubt if policies will gel to reduce air travel demand significantly. And even though I think the data supporting AGW is settled and incontrovertible, I’m less convinced we can affect the outcome much in aviation. The big gains will be in cars and electric power generation and these are already being made. Carbon emissions in the U.S. are in slight decline because cars have become more efficient and electric generation has tilted toward natural gas and away from coal. 

But here’s one bright spot. Piston GA’s role in all this is trivial. We burn about 250 million gallons of fuel a year while cars burn about 140 billion gallons. We’re barely a rounding error and consumption is trending downward. But then you already knew that.

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