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A blanket order from the Trump administration to place a 60-day hold on all new federal regulations may affect the finalization of the FAA’s new third-class medical rules, EAA said this week. Under the hold, implementation would be delayed from May 1 until July 1. “Such a freeze is not unprecedented when a new administration and party enters the White House,” said Sean Elliott, EAA’s vice president of advocacy. “It is intended to allow time to review regulations issued under a previous administration. Often the freeze is lifted after a short period of review … That could very well occur well before the May 1 effective date for the third-class medical regulation, but only time will tell.” Also, advocates for privatizing the federal air traffic control system are hopeful a new proposal will find support in this year’s Congress.

U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., chairman of the House Transportation Committee, has for several years been promoting legislation that would take 14,000 air traffic controllers and 16,000 other workers away from the FAA and create a separate nonprofit corporation that would be subject to FAA oversight. He told The Washington Post recently that he is working on a new version of the plan that he will introduce this year. The National Air Traffic Controllers Association was supportive of Shuster’s previous proposal, hoping it would create a steadier form of funding, unlike the frequent freezes that FAA is subjected to, but the bill failed to win much support in Congress. NATCA told the Post they will evaluate Shuster’s new proposal before deciding if they will support it.

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Airline crew members are not exempt from the new U.S. travel ban that restricts the entry into the U.S. of non-citizens from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somali, Sudan, and Yemen, according to the Air Line Pilots Association. “We recommend that green-card holders from the above countries not accept assignments outside the U.S. until the government has confirmed that they will be permitted to return to the U.S. without challenge,” ALPA wrote on Monday. “As of this moment, statements from the U.S. government have not provided assurance on this point.” On Tuesday afternoon, ALPA told AVweb that advice has not changed. “No new updates,” ALPA wrote. “Our guidance from the weekend remains the same.” The International Air Transport Association also asked for more “clarity” from the U.S. government regarding the new requirements.

“Entry requirements for the United States were changed significantly and immediately by an Executive Order (EO) issued 27 January 2017,” IATA wrote at their website. “The EO was issued without prior coordination or warning, causing confusion among both airlines and travelers. It also placed additional burdens on airlines to comply with unclear requirements, to bear implementation costs and to face potential penalties for non-compliance. We ask for early clarity from the U.S. administration on the current situation.” On Sunday, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly issued a statement that unless the government had information indicating a serious threat to public safety and welfare, residency would be a “dispositive factor in our case-by-case determination,” which appears to mean that holders of green cards will be allowed to re-enter the U.S. “Green card” is slang for an official permit that allows a foreign-born person to reside and work in the U.S. on a permanent basis.

On Wednesday, ALPA said John Kelly, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, had issued a statement saying that "absent the receipt of significant derogatory information indicating a serious threat to public safety and welfare, lawful permanent resident status will be a dispositive factor in our case-by-case determinations" of the right of lawful residents to enter the country. ALPA said, "Our understanding of Secretary Kelly's statement is that green-card holders will be allowed entry into the country under the terms of the Executive Order titled 'Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States,' but each pilot should confirm with his or her company that they have the same understanding and that they will be able to enter the United States without challenge."

  
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Industry veteran Robert H. Wells has joined Quest Aircraft as CEO, the company announced recently. Wells has more than 40 years of aviation experience, previously holding management positions with Tag Aviation, Beech Aircraft Corp. and Landmark Aviation. He also worked as a flight instructor and air-taxi pilot early in his career. "I look forward to being part of the team at Quest," said Wells. "The Kodiak is a remarkably successful aircraft and the company has come a long way in the last few years. I am excited to be part of Quest’s next chapter." Wells takes the job formerly held by Sam Hill, who retired in December.

Quest manufactures the Kodiak, a 10-place single-engine turboprop, designed for STOL use and operations on floats. Headquartered in Sandpoint, Idaho, the company was established in 2001 and began deliveries of the Kodiak in December 2007. The company now is aiming for global growth. Since 2012, the Kodiak has received 23 certifications covering 33 countries. In June, an expansion at the company’s Sandpoint headquarters was completed, adding 27,000 square feet and bringing the current building to 110,000 square feet. A 5,000-square-foot R&D hangar facility was finished, and includes new office space and hangar work space. Quest said plans for further expansion are underway.

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When an airline needs to transport a spare engine to a 747 far away, it turns out the most efficient way to get the job done is to install a fifth engine on a healthy 747 and carry it there under the wing. It doesn’t happen often, but Qantas recently completed the feat, flying from Sydney to Johannesburg with an extra Rolls Royce engine weighing 6.6 tons. Pilots need special training to learn to fly straight and level with the extra weight and drag from the engine, the airline said. The airplane also burns more fuel, requiring an added stop in Perth to top off. Qantas said it first pioneered moving engines this way “at the dawn of the jet age,” with its 707 fleet, but it’s rarely done. The last time was in 2011.

The flight took off on Jan. 6. The wing of the aircraft has factory-installed anchor points, Qantas said, allowing a support strut to be attached under the wing. The strut has a winching mechanism, which is used to hoist the engine into place and secure it for flight. Once the airplane landed in Johannesburg, the engine was removed and installed on the waiting 747. “Our engineers are very skilled at doing the job, given that the 747 has been an integral part of the Qantas fleet since the 1970s,” Qantas said. The extra engine that was removed in Johannesburg will be shipped home by boat, a slower but cheaper journey.

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Sometime between mid-January and mid-February, the tourist hordes descend on Florida to escape the winter miseries of the northern tier. They’re often disappointed to learn how sporting a winter cold front can be in Florida, sometimes all the way to Key West.

Great news this year, though: The 13th annual Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring had only a mild front, as opposed to one that has blown over tents and skidded tied-down airplanes in recent years. While Expo lacked the front, it also lacked the hordes, but that’s always been true of this show. It’s what I like to call… relaxed. The crowds are just thin, matching the light sport market the event is supposed to support. It’s never going to be anything other than that, so I’ve stopped pretending otherwise. Attendees should come in knowing that and take it or leave it.

This year, of course, the show has competition in the form of a new light sport event at Deland, the Sport Aviation Showcase. Perhaps in response to that or just the natural evolution of these things, organizers made some improvements at Sebring. The forum venues were better and centrally located and the show itself was moved onto the ramp area centered on the airport’s modern terminal building. This provided three immediate benefits. First, the car parking access was a little easier—at least for press and exhibitors. Second, the flightline, using a parallel taxiway for Runway 1/19 as a runway, was more easily accessible for display aircraft to fly flight demos. 

Last, shattering the almost universal truth that airshows have crappy food served by indifferent vendors out of trucks and booths, the airport restaurant provided breakfast and lunch. Sebring’s airport eatery is reliably good and for the two days I was at the show, it did an admirable job of serving customers without unreasonable waits. (It helps that there just aren’t that many people about.) One last thing: The indoor vendor booth was a step-up and even had carpet on the floor, thus pegging my fun meter.

For me, the highlight of the show was the drone presence. Last year, what drones were there were pathetically caged up in a hangar, all but assuring that their capabilities would be hidden from the view of the curious. As I pointed out in this video, this year the drone community had several acres of display tents and open-air, uncaged racing that was fun to watch. (This year, the solution was inverted; the spectators were protected by netting.) Anyone mildly interested in what this new sport is all about could get a good feel for it by watching the pilots race and seeing the FPV footage live. It’s a highly videocentric activity well in keeping with the Facebook and YouTube universe. 

There is still some risk, of course. Without containment, one of these palm-sized drones could get away and hit something or someone. Organizer Todd Wahl told me they have two levels of failsafe: a manual kill switch that drops them to the ground and an automatic kill that activates with loss of signal. Still, nothing is foolproof, least of all getting through those race gates at 60 MPH. I looked at a race through the FPV goggles and it’s scary as hell—but also alluring. Every race had a satisfying number of crashes and spinouts and these seem to make a loud thunk against the gates. Sometimes the drone is wrecked, sometimes not. In a bit of irony perhaps misplaced, the pilots had to fly a tight hairpin around a parked Cessna under the horizontal stab and main wing. It was an old, unairworthy beater and it got nailed plenty by the drones.

I give the FAA, the airport authority, the show organizers and the drone racing league kudos for getting this to happen and not just shutting it down out of irrational fear. As you’ve seen from the comments on this blog, there’s a persistent resentment and fear of drones in the GA community, much of it centered on the fact that the pilot—or operators, if you prefer—don’t undergo the same training requirement as pilots of certified aircraft. Face it; they’re a bunch of self-centered 20-somethings with face metal and baggy pants.

Although I don’t share the fear factor, I get why people worry about this. Reasonable regulation and oversight is not a bad thing. On the other hand, it’s a little like buggy owners complaining that horseless carriage drivers didn’t have a clue about feeding horses. In the end, I’m OK sharing the airspace with these kids. They’re the new, vibrant face of aviation—and yes, it is aviation—and I say welcome aboard.

Seguing here to airspace, the temporary tower this year at Sebring was an FAA operation, not the contract deal it has been in previous years. Previously, a private operator called AirBoss did the ATC duty. This show is so sparse that it’s barely needed, but it’s there for pilots who feel more comfortable being directed around the airspace and airport by radio. I’m not one of them, but the tower adds a layer of risk reduction.

To be kind, the FAA operation lacked a certain flexibility. I was out demoing a CTLS for this video early Friday morning returning from the south. There was one other aircraft in the area actually heading away from the airport. Sport Expo has a published procedure that requires flying in from Lake Jackson, about six miles away, then entering the pattern. It is an amusing shadow of the Ripon arrival. With the airport deserted, we asked for a straight-in for Runway 1. Nope, said the controller, you have fly all the way north to the lake, then south again to the airport. From where we were, it added about 12 totally unnecessary flying miles. We told him we could do the demo pattern instead.

Obviously, at AirVenture, you’d expect to see more accommodation in a situation like this and if people like me point that out, maybe we’ll get it in the future.

At the Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring, Florida, Flight Design showed off the new CTLS with Dynon's HDX avionics package. AVweb took a demo flight in the new airplane.

Swift Fuels says it’s pushing hard to market its 94UL unleaded aviation fuel to more airports and that the infrastructure is in place to refine and distribute it virtually anywhere in the U.S. At this week’s Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring, Swift’s Chris D’Acosta told AVweb that UL94 can be burned by about 65 percent of the U.S. general aviation fleet. The remaining aircraft require 100-octane fuel. In this AVweb podcast, D'Acosta gave us additional details about both UL94 and Swift's efforts to field a replacement for 100LL.

At the Sport Aviation Expo is Sebring this week, we spoke with several manufacturers of light sport aircraft (LSAs) about their expectations for the newly announced FAA BasicMed rule. The people who spoke to us for this AVweb exclusive podcast acknowledged that there are buyers for whom avoiding a medical is the key criterion and who might prefer a larger aircraft but felt most of their buyers were pilots who wanted a safe and modern two-seat aircraft.

Belite Aircraft, as the name implies, for many years has focused its energy on producing extremely light aircraft designs. At the 2017 Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring this week, company president James Wiebe announced a new model constructed of a material common in the aerospace industry but little used in light general aviation: aluminum honeycomb.

Picture of the Week
Picture of the Week

Rainbows abounded in a shower at Orange County Airport. Gregg Erickson, of Poplar Grove, Illinois was waiting to take off and in the right place at the right time. Colourful shot, Greg. Click through to see it full size and a few others, too.

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