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In an unusual move, the FAA has joined the chorus of comment about President Donald Trump’s Thursday assertions about the state of aviation infrastructure in the U.S. It was widely reported Thursday that Trump told airline executives he has no confidence in the FAA’s NextGen system, which has essentially been rolled out and is operating. “I hear we’re spending billions and billions of dollars,” Trump said. “It’s a system that’s totally out of whack. It’s way over budget, it’s way beyond schedule, and when it’s completed, it’s not going to be a good system. Other than that, it’s OK.” The FAA issued a news release, and took a shot at the airlines, shortly after the reports, based on a White House transcript of the meeting, surfaced and what follows is the FAA’s news release in its entirety. 

"The FAA has spent $7.5 billion in congressionally appropriated funds on the air traffic modernization program known as NextGen over the past seven years. That investment has resulted in $2.7 billion in benefits to passengers and the airlines to date, and is expected to yield more than $160 billion in benefits through 2030. 

NextGen is one of the most ambitious infrastructure and modernization projects in U.S. history. Its successful, ongoing rollout is the result of rigorous acquisition, program and portfolio management, and stakeholder engagement with the airline industry and other members of the aviation community. The FAA invited airline stakeholders to help develop the blueprint for NextGen and they continue to have a seat at the table in setting NextGen priorities and investments through the NextGen Advisory Committee."

Trump told the group he has “a pilot who’s a real expert” who has told him Next Gen is “the wrong stuff” and that he wants to ensure that the modernization program is “using the right equipment.” The expert pilot is widely speculated to be the captain of Trump's personal Boeing 757 John Dunkin but it hasn't been confirmed.

Of course, the real agenda at the meeting was air traffic control privatization and the airline bosses left no question as to where they stand. “We want the government out of managing the air traffic control system so that it can be adequately managed, adequately financed – and we can get this done,” Southwest Airlines President Gary Kelly told the president. “We won World War II in three and a half years, we ought to be able to modernize air traffic control.”  

Meanwhile, NBAA was the first to jump on the reports from the meeting saying the privatization scenario being discussed there essentially means handing the National Airspace System to the airlines to run. NBAA President Ed Bolen released a statement saying it’s good the president is advocating aviation modernization but not at the expense of other aviation stakeholders.  

"We are concerned that in today’s meeting, it appears that some airline interests wanted to shift the conversation away from taking a bipartisan approach to modernization, to focus instead on their decades-long objective of privatizing ATC, funding it with new user fees, and placing it under the governing control of a self-interested, airline-centric board of directors,” Bolen’s statement said. “The fact is, in this important debate, there are two sides,” Bolen added. “The president may have heard the airlines’ position today, but surveys of everyday Americans have repeatedly shown that, by a significant majority, citizens oppose the notion of creating a privatized ATC system. The concerns of these citizens are well-founded – after all, the nation’s aviation system is a public asset, intended to serve the entire public, including the people and businesses in the small towns and rural areas that rely on general aviation.”

In case you missed it, the president's opening comments are below.




The majority of Americans across gender, political affiliation and age groups oppose privatization of the U.S. air traffic control system, according to a recent poll. Although voters surveyed were evenly split on the merits of privatizing government services generally, when asked about operation of the air traffic control system, those surveyed were opposed to privatization 62% to 26%--a ratio of more than 2:1. The ratio of voters strongly opposing privatization to those strongly supporting privatization was 5:1. Among those surveyed, 88% had a positive view of the job done by the FAA in operating the air traffic control system, and 8% of surveyed voters had a negative view.

The poll was conducted between Jan. 30 and Feb. 5 surveying 800 randomly selected, likely voters yielding a margin of error of ± 3.5%. Jeffrey Pollock, Executive Vice President of Global Strategy Group, who conducted the poll, told reporters that the participants were generally representative of the national registered voter pool including by gender and race. The poll was paid for by the Alliance for Aviation Across America, a nonprofit advocacy organization that lobbies on behalf of general aviation operators and beneficiaries, particularly those based in rural communities.

Meet Zulu 3 - A new and better choice in headsets

Testifying before the House and Senate Armed Services committees this week, leaders of the Air Force and Navy described the billion-dollar economic impact the national pilot shortage is having on their services. Gen. Steven Wilson, Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force, told congressional leaders, “We can recruit pilots without a problem. The problem is retaining them. For the last five years, retention of pilots has declined. We need to keep 65% of pilots past the 10-year point,” when pilots’ post-training contracts expire. Gen. Wilson continued, “Today, we’re doing less than half of that.” Wilson reports that the Air Force and Navy train a combined 2,000 new pilots per year at an ultimate cost of $10 million for a seasoned fighter pilot. Retaining 400 more fighter pilots for an additional five-year commitment, by Gen. Wilson’s estimates, would save the Air Force approximately $2 billion.

Service leaders described the push of too little flying, together with long deployments, and the pull of comparatively lucrative airline pay that is drawing pilots out of the armed forces. Gen. Wilson says flying is why people join the Air Force and “today’s fighter pilots are flying 140 to 150 hours a year—that’s significantly down from before.” Pilots averaged 260 days away from home per year during deployment and 110 days away from home on temporary duty when not deployed overseas. Wilson says that when pilots reach the 11-year mark, families ask whether it makes sense to “keep doing this when the airlines are hiring, paying a lot of money, and providing better stability.” Service leaders estimate the major airlines are hiring 4,000 pilots each year to meet the combined needs of industry growth and pilot retirements.

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Approach to landing view using Rockwell Collins EFVS

The FAA has pushed back by a week the effective date of new rules allowing increased use of enhanced flight vision systems (EFVS) during takeoff and landing. In a Federal Register notice issued Wednesday, the agency said it is delaying the effective date “to allow for the review of this final rule in accordance with the President’s memorandum,” referring to the order suspending certain regulatory actions until they can be reviewed by appointees of the new administration. The affected rules are now scheduled to go into effect March 21 instead of March 13. Other effective dates published in the original December 2016 rulemaking notice are not affected by this delay.

Operators of aircraft equipped with certified EFVS are currently authorized to use those systems in lieu of visual references to descend from the MDA/DA to 100 feet above the touchdown zone. The rules issued in December 2016, if and when they become effective, will permit operators to use EFVS, without accompanying natural visual references, to continue certain straight-in instrument approaches through touchdown and rollout and will permit aircraft operating under Parts 121, 125 or 135 to depart when surface visibility is below legal departure minima by using EFVS during takeoff.

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With Groundhog Day behind us, springtime is not far away, and aviation events are gearing up. Sun ’n Fun, the traditional season opener, is set for April 4 to 9 this year, in Lakeland, Florida. Advance discount tickets are available online for a few more days, until Feb. 14. The French military team, Patrouille de France, performs during the airshow on opening day, with the Blue Angels flying Friday to Sunday. Job seekers can pre-register online for a Career Fair on Wednesday. The night airshow, with fireworks, is set for Saturday. The same week, Aero, the popular European GA show, will run its 25th anniversary event, April 5 to 8, in Friedrichshafen, in Germany.

Aero promises its biggest show yet, with 660 exhibitors from 38 countries, 11 exhibition halls, plus a static display on site, for a total show area of about 20 acres. The show is also promising to debut several new electric aircraft, and on Saturday, a special anniversary airshow will feature electric aircraft and stunt planes, as well as a replica of a Junkers F13. AVweb will have staff on site at both shows to file daily reports. For fans of vertical flight, Heli-Expo is set for March 6 to 9, in Dallas, Texas, with more than 700 exhibitors and 60-plus aircraft on display, plus 100 seminars, courses, workshops and forums.

On April 21-22, the Sustainable Aviation Symposium will take place in San Francisco, bringing together experts from around the world for talks about advanced new aircraft and lift devices, propellers and propulsion systems, batteries, motors and autonomous vehicles. Electric aircraft designer Tine Tomazic, of Pipistrel, will deliver the Inaugural Sustainable Aviation Keynote Lecture. Registration is discounted through March 1. And on May 18-19, the CAFE Foundation will host its annual Electric Aircraft Symposium, in the San Francisco Bay Area, scheduled for the two days before the popular Bay Area Maker Faire. More details about the show and speakers will be posted soon on the CAFE website.

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Choosing which airplane to build is something deserving of serious consideration. There are so many cool designs and differing capabilities, it can leave you scratching your head. Taking a systematic approach to selection can eliminate the pain and error from the process. Let's explore what's involved and how to get off to a good start.

Before we talk about what to build, we need to understand why you would like to build. What are your goals for building an airplane? It's very important that you are candid with yourself at this stage. Too many folks have rushed into projects without thinking it through, as demonstrated by the plethora of partially completed airplanes out there on the used market.

If you are building only to save money, you may not have the right motivation to actually finish the project. Most homebuilts are only worth the cost of materials, with no consideration for the time invested, thus any savings would be minimal over simply buying a flying example.

To build an airplane you must have a desire to work with your hands and learn. It will take large doses of perseverance and patience to see it through, but you can do it.

This is not to deter anyone from the dream of building an airplane—quite the contrary. But the key to success is having all the information, so you can be adequately prepared. In other words, you need a real-world plan! The rewards will be well worth the effort.

No matter what kind of aerial conveyance you seek, there are two fundamental elements for selection that limits virtually everyone: cost and complexity. If you choose a machine beyond your budget, successful completion is unlikely. Similarly, if you opt to build something that is too complicated to build or fly, frustration and abandonment are likely to ensue. Setting good guardrails here will establish the foundation for the remaining decisions.

Mission Capability

So, what do you want to do with the airplane? As you are pondering this very important question, remember this key concept: All airplanes are compromises. The more multifaceted it is, the more you sacrifice in each of the given categories, as compared to a purebred. An extreme example is the various roadable airplane designs. They generally don't make great road vehicles or great airplanes—rather they do an adequate job of both.

There are some good generalists. The wildly prolific RV series is pretty good at aerobatics, IFR cross-country cruising, and short-field work—but it can't touch a Pitts, Lancair, or Kitfox in their given specialties.

If you are already flying a similar aircraft, then you are fully aware of what you want or need. But many of us build with a dream in mind. It might be a dream to have the fastest, most efficient airplane on the block, or it might be to carry loads of cargo off a short, unimproved strip, or to fly local aerobatic flights. Take as much time as you need on this question because you need to be as accurate as possible.

Beware of mission creep—the tendency to keep bolting on goodies to expand your airplane's capabilities. Many builder/pilots have thought, "if I just add this one more component, then I can do this with my airplane." But pretty soon, their beautiful machine can be overweight and over budget. In my case, I equipped my aircraft for IFR, but in three years of flying it, I have yet to file an IFR flight plan.


Like virtually every aspect of construction, determining what to build requires research to obtain a good result. As you comb through the myriad of options, your focus should begin to narrow. Before I built my current kit aircraft, I was looking at opposite ends of the spectrum. I started out seriously considering a Pietenpol (plansbuilt). While I still love the classic parasol, I'm happy with my final decision.

A good strategy is to write down what you plan to do with the airplane. Just eyeball it, and then rank each "wish" with a score from 1-10. Refer back to this matrix as you are going through the decision-making process.

Once you have picked which airplane you want to build, you're done, right? Not so fast! You'll still have to determine what modifications you might make or options you might add, if any. I don't recommend any deviations that alter the structure or flight characteristics.

Any changes, however minor, need careful consideration to avoid mission creep and its associated pitfalls. It can be really easy to let your imagination get the best of you, and suddenly, the obtainable becomes the impossible. The little things add up; they take time, money and, in most instances, they add weight, the nemesis of airplane designers.


1          Four Seat Capacity

2          1000 nm + Range

3          Fast Build Option

4          Short Field or STOL Performance

5          Construction Type (Metal, Wood-Fabric. Composite, Steel-Fabric)

6          IFR Capable

7          200 mph + Cruise

8          Taildragger

9          Two Seat Capacity

10       Approved for Aerobatics

Controlling Costs

The budget you establish for your project needs to be carefully thought out. It can be very hard to account for all the unexpected expenses, so you'll want to take a conservative approach. Over a five-year build, a good deal of money can leak out of your wallet if you aren't careful. Your budget needs to allow for:

• Purchasing all the components, parts, and supplies needed to finish the project. This includes tools, educational expenses, and consumables.

• Unforeseen expenses. Most builders have to re-order or re-create something that they messed up. Also, there are considerations for modifications or additions that are much easier to do while the airplane is under construction. These will tug at your wallet, which is fine, but don't go overboard.

• Having enough money after the plane is complete to be able to fly it regularly. This means: insurance, monthly hangar rental, fuel, oil, and maintenance expenses. I have seen a lot of folks finish their pride and joy, only to be forced to sell it due to the realities of biting off more than they could chew financially.

How you accumulate the finances is up to you. Many builders pay for the kit as they are building it, rather than saving up the whole amount and delaying construction. This is obviously a personal decision, but it can be fundamental in selecting the aircraft you choose. Some kits must be purchased in one big lump. On the opposite end of the spectrum is the plansbuilt machine that literally starts with blueprints and raw materials; they are very inexpensive to start, but the trade-off is slow progress and complexity. There are no right or wrong answers, just considerations.

There is one constant in the budgetary arena—it will cost more than you expect. If you don't like surprises, I would do a very detailed analysis of all the known costs, and then add, say, 15% to that number.

You need to give yourself plenty of room for life to throw you a curve ball. Lots of airplanes went on the market when fuel prices escalated because owners either couldn't pay or didn't want to pay for the added hourly expense. Take this into consideration when choosing your mount.

Time Management

Again, you need to be realistic. If you really think you can dedicate 40 hours a week to the project, work full-time, and keep up with family demands, you need to reconsider. Certainly if you are retired or work part-time you can make quick work of most projects out there. In any event, you'll need to develop a ritual and stick to it. Make building a habit, right from the beginning. Just be sure to temper that with other demands on your time. I found it easy to give up TV and surfing the web in exchange for getting out in the garage and getting my hands dirty, but only after I did it consistently for several months. The key is to do something everyday, even if for just a short time.

One thing that motivated me—silly, but true—was maintaining an online log of my work. I invited friends and relatives to bookmark it so they could see where I was on the project. This provided inspiration, particularly when I received feedback—I couldn't let my audience down.

You need to be sure to find the balance between burning out, making progress, and not creating collateral damage with the rest of your obligations. Find this happy place and your project will be an experience you'll cherish for the rest of your life. Fail to heed this warning and you won't complete it—or worse. Remember, this is supposed to be fun.


As you move through the various stages of decision-making, you'll need help. The more help you seek, the better the result. Obviously, the Internet is a great way to fill in the blanks and get information that we could only dream of obtaining a few years ago. Just heed this warning: Some online "experts" are ill-informed at best. Good sources are publications such as this one and the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) archives. Most designs have a specific support network you can also tap into for additional help and insight.

Be sure to get out there and talk to people. Seek out other builders and ask lots of questions. Go to events where homebuilders congregate; it is impossible to not come away more informed if you talk to people who have already blazed the trail.

Don't forget to reach out to companies that will be traveling with you on this journey. These include kit and plans providers, parts suppliers, insurers, and even lenders. You need to view these companies as partners and work with them early and often.


The good news is, we have literally thousands of choices; the bad news is, we have literally thousands of choices! Determining which airplane to build out of all the available options requires a great deal of introspection and self-awareness. The questions you must answer have to be carefully balanced against all of the internal and external variables, and honesty is key.

It is easy to agonize over a decision as immense as this, but it doesn't have to be a burden. In fact, it can be fun and very educational just going through the process. I promise the time and energy expended will pay off in the long run.

This article originally appeared in the February 2015 issue of Kitplanes magazine.

Read More from Kitplanes, and learn how to receive your FREE copy of The Annual Homebuilt Buyers Guide!

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AVweb Insider <="228476">

After a month on simmer, what do AVweb readers think about the FAA’s new BasicMed Third-Class medical exemption rule? Our recently completed survey provides a glimpse and if I could characterize the overall mood, I’d call it disappointed resignation.

Why the disappointment? If there’s any common theme in the responses we received on the survey it’s that readers expected and wanted a driver’s license medical standard similar to the sport pilot rule. The fact that BasicMed falls short of this this drew a steady stream of ire. “Third-Class medical exemption using a driver’s license was very important. This BasicMed turkey is irrelevant," wrote reader David Dean in one of dozens of unvarnished, blunt comments we received.

To summarize, we published the survey on AVweb in early January and received 1966 responses, a fairly large number for this sort of thing. The vast majority of respondents had active Third-Class medicals and some 20 percent were flying on special issuances. An unknown number were flying under the sport rule on driver’s license certs. That pilots were interested in medical reform is shown in the graphic at left. More than 90 percent of respondents followed the Third-Class exemption closely or very closely.

Similarly, a large number of pilots told us that having this medical exemption is important to their personal flying. Forty-five percent called it very important and another 32 percent said it was somewhat important. But having read over the proposed rule—it doesn’t go into effect until May 1, 2017—pilots seem less thrilled with the results. “I see no difference between a Third Class and the BasicMed, other than four years and somewhat less FAA involvement, and ultimately more costs,” commented one reader. (Not all readers agreed to our request to use their names for this report.)

Related to this was our question about how readers think BasicMed will stimulate aviation activity. Here, the opinions may be a little more encouraging as shown in the graph summary at right. It suggests a majority think BasicMed will help and 15 percent think it will be very effective. But those who left comments on this question weren’t expecting much. “It won’t slow the decline any. This legislation is useless,” wrote James Koper. We would say his comment was in the majority. But at least some readers think BasicMed can’t help but stimulate some activity, by either keeping owners in airplanes they might have otherwise sold or by breaking loose some sales. “The used airplane market will explode upward,” commented another reader.

When readers were asked if BasicMed would make them consider keeping an airplane they might otherwise not, a third said yes and nearly a third said no. However, many of our readers and respondents to the survey already own airplanes so it’s biased toward owners. That may explain why only 17 percent of respondents said BasicMed would make them consider buying an airplane, new or used. More than half said BasicMed will have no bearing on that decision, but again, it may be because they’re already owners.

One thing we hadn’t figured on is that BasicMed may have an effect on owner decisions to equip with ADS-B. “It removes the financial risk from an avionics (WAAS GPS, ADS-B Out GPSS, navcomm et al.) upgrade, so instead of postponing, now I'm scheduling to begin soon,” one commenter told us. We also asked if any light sport owners would consider moving into a certified airplane now that medical certification worries are off the table. Surprisingly, there weren’t enough LSA owners in the sample to make any sense of the question. I think this suggests that light sport pilots have crossed the divide on medical worry and just don’t even think about it enough to answer a survey.

Clearly, the chief worry among pilots is finding a doctor who will sign the BasicMed checklist, a draft of which appears in AC 68-1. (We don’t know if it will change in the final form, but it’s not likely to, since the draft reflects the legislative direction from Congress.) I noticed a dichotomy in the responses. As the graph shows, not quite a third of respondents thought it will be easy to find a doc while more than a third thought it would be a little difficult. Fourteen percent said impossible.

But in the comment fields, the remarks were more strongly negative; not universally so, but the majority of commenters said liability concerns will keep doctors from participating in BasicMed. “I can't believe that the FAA wants everyone to believe that it took six months to make a copy of the 8500-8 form. I personally don't see much benefit in the whole dog-and-pony show program. If you presently have a valid state driver’s license, there is no reason that you cannot pilot a aircraft. The medical profession is not going to want intrusion by another government agency,” wrote one commenter.

“My doctor already said no, and all the other doctors at my medical plaza said the same. The reason is obvious: Liability. FAA knew this, that's why it passed so easily,” commented Michael Livote. To be fair, a number of readers said their doctors had already agreed to sign off on BasicMed and others said their docs would.

On a personal note, I saw my own doctor—non-AME—this week and brought along the AC 68-1 checklist. The news isn’t good. He said the medical group doesn’t sign such declarations when they are asked for driving permits and I doubt if they’re going to make an exception for aviation. He promised to hand it off to the group’s legal counsel. I’m sure mine won’t be the only such request.

AOPA and EAA say they’re both aware of this potential problem and are developing educational programs for non-AME doctors. For now, as the survey indicated, the entire success of the program remains unknown if doctors won’t participate. On the other hand, AMEs may step into the breach and scoop up some new business. Or at least reduce the erosion of pilots abandoning traditional medicals.

Last speaking of AOPA, readers recognize that the alphabets were instrumental in lobbying the BasicMed enabling legislation. But that’s not the same as saying they think the advocates did a good job. The survey was full of complaints like this one: “The compromise they reached was a huge failure. It is bad policy. AOPA was more concerned with getting a win than with getting it right,” wrote one reader. “AOPA was started by a doc. Do I need to say more?” added Melvin Freedman. Still, despite these negatives, less than 5 percent of readers said AOPA and/or EAA made no difference. “They helped get it passed, but could not prevent poison pill inclusion,” added reader Mark Foringer.

Additional Comments:

"I can't believe that the FAA wants everyone to believe that it took six months to make a copy of the 8500-8 form. I personally don't see much benefit in the whole dog-and-pony show program. If you presently have a valid state driver's license there is no reason that you cannot pilot an aircraft. The medical profession is not going to want intrusion by another government agency."

“Can't see where BasicMed did much except going from two to four years to get a medical. With most of the same requirements it looks like FAA got a little vindictive after we/congress went around them. I was expecting/hoping it would be fairly easy for your family doc to do the medical but the way it looks, I doubt if many non-AMEs will want to go to the trouble or take the risk.”—Dennis R.

“I think it will get increasingly difficult to find a doctor who will sign the checklist. As non-AME doctors become more aware of the liability concerns, fewer will be willing to sign. At the same time, fewer doctors will become AMEs due to the reduced demand for services. It will become more of an issue to find an AME within a reasonable travel distance.” —John McNerney

“I am excited that it will be implemented! May 1, 2017.” —Wylie M. Smith

“I feel let down. I see this as an attempt by the FAA to keep the regulations in their favor as opposed to what was laid out in the Pilot's Bill of Rights.”

“This new rule did nothing more than appease ALPA and the FAA. It will be more difficult to get a medical because the general physician will be reluctant to accept the liability. Additionally, there is no physical exam requirement to drive a car, which is what was originally sold to the flying public. The checklist of the BasicMed medical exam is quite detailed. It will be simpler and cheaper to go to an AME. Furthermore, even though the FAA says that the medical findings by your private physician will be confidential, all bets will be off if there is an accident or incident that requires an FAA or NTSB investigation.”

“It' about time this happened. Now we just need the training and test to be published and available to everyone ... quickly and not at the last minute.” —Frederick Williamson

“A reasonable solution to the problem. Took about 20 years too long.”

“Having a special issuance cert, I am relieved to have the BasicMed opportunity. I don't mind the weight/pax restrictions because I don't do that kind of flying. I will be getting with the AOPA medical experts because I have questions relating to my special issuance cert.”

“I will be recommending some of my students pursue the BasicMed program. The biggest frustration to me is the FL180 limitation. I'm not sure what makes FL180 a big deal when pilots can fly under IFR with the BasicMed program. I could understand FL280 to stay below airline traffic in RVSM airspace. For pilots with a turbocharged piston airplane, it can be a fairly significant limitation to be required to stay below FL180.” —David Richardson

“BasicMed is a good first step, but it should not be considered a complete solution. AOPA and EAA should continue to push for refinements to streamline the process and work towards a true driver’s-license medical for Third Class, as per the original goal.” Dean DeRosia

“No doctor is going to sign this ... AME is the only option. I know my doctor that I get a yearly physical--and I am in great condition--will not be allowed to sign by his group and he would not sign this if he was on his own. They will get strong recommendations by their insurers and their organizations to not sign. This is a waste of time and effort since this inability to get a signed form will kill the program. Also, why do you think this makes it more likely that people will buy aircraft ... no relationship. What you should have done is get the Third Class medical to be every four to five years after 40 with an AME.” Manthou Tsiouris


At the 2017 Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring, Aerokprakt was showing the A22LS and AVweb's Geoff Rapoport took a demo flight in it.

Picture of the Week <="228457">
Picture of the Week

Getting away from pavement and controlled airspace seems to be the theme of contributors to this week's Picture of the Week and we can't think of a better place to get away from it all than the back country of Utah. Our winner this week is Ted Waltman, who took advantage of tundra tires and perfect light to make us all a little envious.


Years ago, new GPS approaches were commissioned at Houma, LA (KHUM) and the FAA King Air was flight checking them. 

Tower: “Report JOBUP”

King Air after delay: “JOBUP” 

Another aircraft: "Are you guys naming these after your kids, now?"

Bob Dingley



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