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President Donald Trump’s new budget includes privatization of air traffic control. The document tabled Thursday in Washington contains an outright endorsement of privatization as a move that “would benefit the flying public and taxpayers overall.” The airline industry has been lobbying nonstop since Trump’s election for the formation of a nonprofit corporation to run the national airspace system controlled by a board of directors dominated by airline representatives. Most general aviation groups have vigorously opposed privatization, saying it would amount to handing the nation’s airspace over to the airlines, something the airlines themselves have suggested is accurate.

The budget calls for a “multi-year reauthorization proposal to shift the air traffic control function of the Federal Aviation Administration [FAA] to an independent, non-governmental organization, making the system more efficient and innovative while maintaining safety.” It drew immediate support from longtime privatization supporter Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., the chairman of Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The committee proposed similar legislation last year but it was stalled by Senate opposition. “The inclusion of this good government infrastructure proposal shows that the president is truly focused on changing the way Washington works,” said Shuster, who has close ties to Aviation 4 America, the national group representing U.S. airlines. 

The committee proposal met intense opposition from most aviation groups although AOPA, the largest of them, said it was open to discussing the move as long as it didn't result in user fees, something it has frequently stated that it flatly opposes. The Trump administration is apparently ready to go through the due diligence part of implementing the program. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao is apparently planning to travel to Ottawa, Canada, to meet with leaders of NavCanada, the nonprofit corporation that has run the airspace north of the border and over the North Atlantic for 20 years. NavCanada charges most light aircraft operators in Canada a flat fee of $68 a year for access to all but the country’s 10 busiest airports. Commercial operators pay for access on a fee-for-service basis and are billed for air traffic control services.


Most everyone in the aviation industry found something to hate in the "skinny budget" released by the Trump administration Thursday. EAA, NBAA, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association and the Alliance for Aviation Across America all released statements opposing ATC privatization. EAA CEO & Chairman Jack J. Pelton in a written statement released Thursday said, “The Trump Administration released a budget proposal that confirms one of our greatest concerns regarding the future of U.S. general aviation: the potential separation of the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization into an ‘independent, non-governmental organization.’ This proposal mirrors one introduced in Congress last year in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. EAA strongly opposed ATC privatization then, and we strongly oppose it now.” The Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO also put out a statement decrying the elimination of EAS and the impact it will have on rural communities. AVweb also spoke to NBAA President Ed Bolen in this podcast interview.

Shawn Simpson, CEO of Boutique Air, an airline focused on the EAS market, speaking with AVweb, defended the program: "We believe the Essential Air Service Program is extremely valuable for communities throughout the U.S. Not only does the EAS program serve the residents of these communities but it also supports the businesses and commerce in the area. Boutique Air flights to larger hub airports allow small-town Americans to stay connected to the rest of the country for both business and leisure travel."

One group celebrating the budget proposal was Airlines for America (A4A). A4A has long advocated privatization of the national airspace system. A4A President and CEO Nicholas E. Calio said, “This is a bold step that will lead to the governance and funding reforms needed to move our air traffic control infrastructure into the 21st century. Our system is safe, but it is outdated and not as efficient as it should – or could – be. We need to stop accepting pockets of progress and put in place a modernized system that better serves the traveling and shipping public.”

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The proposed budget of the United States, presented in abridged form today by the White House, would eliminate the Department of Transportation’s Essential Air Service (EAS) program, reports The New York Times. EAS currently provides the only form of commercial air transportation to 60 communities in Alaska and 115 communities in the lower 48 states, according to the Department of Transportation.

The program has been in effect since 1978 when the airline industry in the United States was first deregulated. In addition to the communities affected, many small regional airlines, such as Boutique Air and Great Lakes, are heavily dependent on EAS programs

Image shows counties served by airports subsidized under the EAS program.

Image Credit: Protonk, available through Creative Commons License


A fourth Mitsubishi MRJ90 test aircraft, JA23MJ, scheduled to fly from Honolulu International to the continental United States and join its siblings undergoing certification testing at Moses Lake, Washington, had to return to the airport shortly after departure on Thursday morning. The reason for the diversion is inaudible in publicly available ATC recordings, but the pilots requested to stop climb at 9,000 and return to the field. The first MRJ90 to come to the U.S. for testing in the summer of 2016 had to turn back on its first attempt after having issues with an air conditioning system. It’s possible that problem is also present in JA23MJ.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries has reportedly contracted with AeroTec, an aircraft certification specialist with offices in Seattle and Moses Lake, to coordinate the certification flight test program. AeroTec is the go-to provider of flight test coordination for Boeing, having worked on five variants of the 737 and three variants of the 777, among others. Two of the four MRJ90 aircraft have been flying regularly in the Moses Lake area. The newest aircraft, JA24MJ, had been based outside Chicago, flying in the Midwest, the Great Lakes and central Canada, in search of icing conditions for much of February. Mitsubishi says that aircraft has since been sent to Eglin Air Force Base in Florida for extreme temperature testing. Mitsubishi currently hopes to deliver the first customer aircraft in mid-2020.

Image Credit: FlightRadar 24 AB

Photo Credit: Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation

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The NTSB released final reports this month saying two fatal crashes of home-build aircraft involved incapacitated pilots following cardiovascular events. Both pilots had previously been issued medical certificates, which had subsequently expired. In both cases, the pilots had histories of severe coronary artery disease, which may have precluded reissuance of 3rd Class Medical Certificates. Both aircraft were eligible to be flown by pilots under light sport medical certification rules without an FAA Medical Certificate due to their relatively low speeds and maximum certificated weights.

In the first accident, the 77-year old pilot of a Quad City Challenger II “impacted terrain while on visual pattern downwind at the Rosenbaum Field Airport (3WI9), near Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin,” at 11:56 a.m., under clear skies. The NTSB review of the pilot’s medical records revealed severe coronary artery disease treated with multi-vessel bypass surgery, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, hypothyroidism, mild depression, and type 2 diabetes, which resulted in difficulty with balance and walking. According to the NTSB report, the pilot’s medical records “did not document a recent exercise stress test or electrocardiogram,” which are frequently required for pilots who have a history of cardiac issues seeking a special issuance medical certificate.

In the second accident, a mirror of the first, the 72-year old pilot of a Europa XL impacted terrain approximately one-half mile from Tri-City Airport (3G6), Sebring, Ohio, in late afternoon with a 15,000-foot ceiling and at least 10 miles visibility. According to the NTSB, “the pilot had a history of severe coronary artery disease treated with multi-vessel bypass surgery, stents and medication. Additionally, he had elevated cholesterol and high blood pressure treated with medications. Since his last medical certification examination, an exercise stress test showed no significant changes but his coronary artery disease had progressed as demonstrated by a cardiac catheterization that showed 90 percent occlusion of the left anterior descending coronary artery with impaired blood flow to a part of the heart muscle.”

The effectiveness of the FAA Third-Class medical certificate requirement in preventing accidents has been much discussed following enactment of Light Sport Medical rules in 2004 and leading up to the implementation of Third-Class Medical Reform (commonly known as “BasicMed”). Under BasicMed, which will take effect on May 1, 2017, most pilots who held a valid FAA medical certificate in the last decade will be able to exercise the privileges of a Third-Class medical by obtaining an affirmation from any state-licensed physician that the physician is unaware of any medical conditions that, as presently treated, could interfere with the pilot’s ability to safely operate an aircraft.

UPDATE: A previous version of this article incorrectly to these aircraft as Light Sport Aircraft (LSA). Although they may be operated by pilots who do not possess a current medical certificate under light sport medical rules, neither aircraft was certificated as an LSA.

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Luigi Pascale, the founder, president and chief preliminary design officer at Tecnam Aircraft, died at age 93 on Tuesday, after a brief illness. Pascale’s interest in aviation started young, when he entered model airplane races with his brother Giovanni. He earned a master’s degree in mechanical engineering, and in 1951, he and Giovanni built their first airplane, the P48 Astore. The brothers went on to design and fly racing airplanes, including the P55 Tornado. Pascale founded Partenavia in 1957, and began building aircraft for the general aviation market. The two brothers then founded Tecnam in 1986. The two companies have delivered more than 7,000 aircraft worldwide.

Pascale’s last design, the Tecnam P2012 Traveller, is currently being flight tested. His P2006T light-twin aircraft is being used by NASA as the base for an experimental airplane that is testing a new wing design and electric propulsion technology. Pascale has received numerous accolades and awards during his long career, including the Paul Tissandier diploma from Federation Aeronautique Internationale. Last year, Seconda Universitą of Naples awarded him an honorary doctorate in aerospace engineering.


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On the afternoon of Thursday, October 23, 2014, I was flying from Goodyear, Arizona to Boulder City, Nevada, in the Van's RV-8 that I built and have been flying for two years. I fly this very scenic desert route once a week to get to work. Weather permitting, I try to choose a course that keeps me close to airports, favorable terrain, and roads. As it turned out on this day, my preference for flying near suitable landing sites as opposed to straight-line GPS navigation would pay off. While cruising at 6,500 feet msl in day VMC conditions, the crankshaft seal on my IO-375 engine blew out. The windscreen became completely covered in oil in about 10 seconds, and I was unable to see anything out front. Oil pressure remained in the green, but at the rate oil was coming out the front of the airplane, I knew it wouldn't last long.

When this happened I was about 10 miles west of Kingman, Arizona. I made a right turn to east and put the Kingman Airport on my nose. At the same time, I selected "Nearest Airport" on my Dynon SkyView map display to give me a magenta line to reference since the only thing I could see from 10 to 2 o'clock was thick brown.

I got a Southwest Airlines crew overhead to relay my position and situation to Los Angeles Center in case I didn't make it to the airport. Out in this part of Arizona, 6500 feet is sometimes too low to communicate directly with ATC, and sure enough, I could hear LA Center, but they couldn't hear me.

I decided to land on Runway 21, mainly because of its 150-foot width, but also because it is the preferred calm wind runway at Kingman. The last thing I needed was to go beak-to-beak with an opposite-direction no-radio aircraft, especially when I couldn't see anything out front.

I made a quick call on Kingman CTAF to see if there were any other planes in the air that I could do a formation landing with, but nobody else was around. For the first time in all my years of flying, I was seriously concerned about my chances of getting the airplane on the ground safely. Nothing focuses the attention and heightens the senses like oil gushing over the windscreen and not knowing when it will run out.

A few words should be mentioned here about maintaining aircraft control. I will not patronize the readers here with the oft-quoted platitudes on the subject. However, I will say that for the several seconds during which I had no plan for getting myself on the ground, it was comforting to know that I was at least pointed at the nearest airport, and I was at least flying the airplane. The rest of the particulars of how to land rubber side down eventually worked themselves out.

Landing Blind

I flew slightly south of the airport and set up for a left downwind because my least obstructed view was out the left side of the canopy. After turning final, the runway depiction on my SkyView primary flight display really helped with flying blind. I put the flight path marker on the runway numbers and drove it in. Of course, the tricky part was the landing. Once over the runway, I descended very slowly and looked repeatedly over my left and right shoulders to make sure I was equidistant from the weeds. Touchdown was uneventful, and oil pressure remained in the green, so I exited the runway and shut down on the ramp.

This flight began with six quarts of oil, and a post-flight check showed three quarts remaining. Downloaded SkyView flight data showed the elapsed time from the first indication of a problem until landing was five minutes, 30 seconds. Therefore, I had been losing oil at about a half-quart a minute during the incident. When I landed, I had only about six minutes of oil remaining! If the crankshaft seal had failed somewhere else over the desert where airports are few and far between, I may not have made it to a runway or an unobstructed flat spot. That's a sobering thought considering the rough terrain in this part of Arizona.

The next day, a very capable mechanic at Kingman's Air'Zona Aircraft Services replaced the crankshaft seal and helped to troubleshoot the cause. I have an oil separator that uses a crankcase vacuum check valve attached to one of the exhaust pipes. I am pleased with the oil separator, which has always worked exactly as advertised. However, the inside of the pipe stem connecting the check valve to the exhaust pipe had heavy carbon deposits restricting the opening to about 1/8-inch diameter, probably enough to cause crankcase overpressure. We found the culprit.

Since installation of the oil separator, the check valve stem had been used for two years and 265 flight hours and was never internally inspected or cleaned. There were no other blockages in the oil separator or hoses to and from the engine. When I called the manufacturer, I was told that they actually recommend regular cleaning of the valve stem at each oil change. What? How did I never hear about this? Apparently the manufacturer previously sent out a mailing with a warning to clean the valve stem regularly, but for reasons unknown, I never received it. The manufacturer also explained how a relief valve, identical to the check valve attached to the exhaust pipe, can be put on a tee connector in the hose between the oil separator and exhaust pipe. Again, I had no idea about this recommendation either.

Lessons Learned

There are a couple of important lessons from all of this. First, I accepted a degree of accountability when I attached an experimental oil separator to my Experimental aircraft. Along with this accountability comes the responsibility to find out everything I can about new or nonstandard equipment that I choose to install. Machines don't care about operator ignorance. There is no slack for the pilot who "should have," but didn't. In hindsight I could have done a better job of researching my equipment; after all, who has ever heard of anything that attaches to an aircraft engine without some kind of recommended inspection or service interval? If you think there's some information you're supposed to have, start asking questions until you are satisfied.

Second, I hope that nobody simply blames the equipment or its source. That would be as unreasonable as failing to do oil changes and then blaming the manufacturer when your engine quits. A part of my oil separator system failed because I didn't know it needed to be cleaned—it's just that simple.

Some will say that I should just remove the oil separator completely, but I think I will choose to keep it installed. I acknowledge that a dirty belly won't break an airplane, but a crankcase overpressure could. However, I believe the risk of a plugged check valve can be safely mitigated through careful regular service and the wise installation of a relief valve.

Karl Gashler holds ATP, CFI and CFII ratings and has flown over 10,000 hours in 20 aircraft models. His favorite airplane is the Van's RV-8.

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

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During the opening of the Aircraft Electronics Association show in New Orleans Monday, AEA chairman David Loso made a remark that caught my ear. He said it was time to think about life after ADS-B.

Welcome as that sounds, I’m not sure we’re quite there yet. The ADS-B 2020 mandate is but 33 months away and the general aviation fleet is a long way from being equipped to operate in the mandated airspace. Although installation volume is picking up, only about 20,000 aircraft are equipped out of a fleet variously estimated to number about 160,000, according to one manufacturer I spoke to Monday. I’ve heard that number many times. We’re not even a quarter of the way there yet. If you do the quick math and reduce the number of eligible aircraft to say, 130,000, the avionics industry will need to do about 3300 installs a month or more than 100 a day until the finish line. Is that even doable? AEA President Paula Derks says it is and that the association’s member shops will staff up and resource the problem with whatever it takes to meet the deadline.

Whether it’s doable or not doable, one thing is becoming clear to me: It’s quite possible that many owners simply aren’t interested in this technology because they either don’t see the value or don’t plan to fly in the mandated airspace, which roughly corresponds to where Mode-C transponders are required now.

Perversely, it’s almost as if you can’t pay some owners to install ADS-B. Recall that last fall, the FAA put into effect its $500 rebate program for would-be ADS-B buyers. The program runs for a year and we’re seven months into that, yet the uptake has been lukewarm at best. As of last month, only about 4000 owners had taken advantage of the rebate and fewer than 3000 had stepped through all the hoops necessary to get the check in the mail. The program has funding for 20,000 installations and hasn’t reached even a quarter of that. If you’re interested, better get busy. The program will likely time out before the money runs out. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the FAA extend the rebate deadline. To be fair, it was a noble and honest effort at pump priming. It’s just that the market is cranky and resistant to getting on board.

One reason for the lackluster response is that in the overall scheme of aircraft ownership, $500 is—sorry, FAA—a mere bagatelle. It’s even more trifling when you consider the airplane has to be flown to and in airspace where the required FAA data collection can be done, collected and validated before the check is cut. One shop owner told me that owners don’t see overwhelming value in this process and I don’t think I do either. It’s a nice to have, maybe, but not a motivator.

I think some owners are still occupying the fence slats awaiting the clouds to part for a better deal. I doubt if it’s coming from the FAA, nor do I expect any price breakthroughs in the hardware. The manufacturers are already at rock-bottom margins and there’s not much wiggle room left to reduce prices. I see no reason to expect shops to suddenly devise assembly line practices that cut installation costs much below the $1500 to $2000 threshold we’re seeing now. In ADS-B, what you see now is pretty much what you’re going to get.

On Monday, NavWorx announced a low price on their ADS600-B UAT product of $1499. It assumes you have a WAAS GPS position source aboard, since it has none of its own. Typically, that should install all-in for $3000 to $4000 and is about as cheap as I think these things are going to get. As an upsell, it even has wireless capability, so if you still think the required ATC part of the deal is a loser, you can at least get FIS-B weather and TIS-B traffic on your tablet. If I needed to fly in the mandated airspace, I’d find that tradeoff worth the investment. I get that owners are becoming fed up with mandatory upgrades, equipment and rules, but there’s nothing particularly new about this. Bluntly, if you can’t afford these modest expenditures, think about a cheap legacy LSA or an older airplane in which you don’t need to navigate the mandated airspace.

Unpleasant as this reality may be, it is nonetheless reality. At least you can recover $500 if you get busy between now and next September. Maybe a small bagatelle is better than none at all.


Not that long ago, a transponder was just a transponder, but now ADS-B-capable transponders like the L-3 Lynx series are doing traffic, weather and other functions. In this video shot at the Aircraft Electronics Show in New Orleans, AVweb reports on the latest revisions from L-3 that definitely make this the most sophisticated transponder out there.



NBAA President Ed Bolen has long opposed any notion of ATC privatization and outlines why in reacting to the Trump administration's inclusion of privatization in their budget. He spoke with AVweb's Russ Niles.

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Picture of the Week

We've had a lot of floatplane winners lately but we are unapologetic. The aquatic crowd is exploiting something we all know and that flying floats can get you into some truly beautiful circumstances. Congratulations to Rusty Eichorn for this nice image of a Supercub at the seaplane base in Grand Rapids.


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