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New medical rules for pilots, known as BasicMed, take effect May 1, but starting today, pilots can start to prepare for the new requirements. Forms and checklists for both pilots and doctors are posted online at the FAA website. The FAA also has compiled a list of Frequently Asked Questions, and said the Medical Self-Assessment course developed by AOPA (and available free online for anyone) can be used to fulfill its requirement to complete a medical education course every two years. The rule also requires a medical exam every four years, and compliance with certain operating restrictions — for example, BasicMed pilots can’t fly with more than six people in the aircraft, and the aircraft must weigh 6,000 pounds or less.

While waiting for May 1 to arrive, pilots can go ahead and make their doctor appointment, have a doctor fill out the FAA checklist and complete the free AOPA online medical course. “Once these requirements are met, pilots just have to wait until May 1 to exercise the privileges of BasicMed,” said AOPA. Pilots must retain the completed exam checklist with their logbook, along with the certificate of completion from the online course.

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The whole idea of flying cars has come to symbolize the imagined future that never arrives, but Uber’s Elevate Summit on Tuesday made clear that aviation’s serious players are serious about this technology, and it’s coming soon, and it’s going to be game-changing. “This industry is going to be successful faster than anyone thinks … there is nothing like the passion that is unleashed on this,” said Pat Romano, CEO of Chargepoint, a company that provides charging stations for electric cars — which are now being adapted to power up electric aircraft. Tuesday’s lineup of speakers also included leaders from Embraer, Bell Helicopter, Pipistrel, Aurora Flight Sciences, Mooney, GAMA, NASA, Airbus A3 and more. All of them are committing to participate in the Uber Elevate vision — to create VTOL electric-powered air taxis and the infrastructure they need to provide practical urban transport, with the first demonstration project ready by 2020.

Uber announced on Tuesday that its first partner cities for the Elevate project are Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, and Dubai, UAE. In both cities, Uber is looking to develop infrastructure partnerships with local real estate companies to identify sites and construct vertiports for a future Uber Elevate Network. Uber is working with Hillwood Properties for Dallas-Fort Worth and planning to partner with several real-estate companies in Dubai. Dubai is hosting the 2020 World Expo and plans to have a demonstration project timed with that event. The Uber Elevate Summit continues through Thursday and is streaming live online.

image: Kitty Hawk

A new vehicle revealed on Monday by Kitty Hawk Corp., the aircraft company led by CEO Sebastian Thrun, takes off and lands on water and qualifies for sale as an ultralight, the company said. “Your flying dreams will never be the same,” says the company website. “The Kitty Hawk Flyer is a new, all-electric aircraft. It is safe, tested and legal to operate in the United States in uncongested areas under the Ultralight category of FAA regulations. We’ve designed our first version specifically to fly over water. You don’t need a pilot’s license and you’ll learn to fly it in minutes,” says the website. The production version of the Flyer will be available for sale by the end of the year, the website says. The company is backed by Google co-founder Larry Page.

Page declined a request from The New York Times for an interview but said in a statement: “We’ve all had dreams of flying effortlessly. I’m excited that one day very soon I’ll be able to climb onto my Kitty Hawk Flyer for a quick and easy personal flight.” Cimeron Morrissey, a freelance writer based in California, was among a few enthusiasts who got a preview of the new vehicle. Morrissey, who is not a pilot, said she learned to operate the Flyer with “just a few hours of training on a flight simulator.” She’s featured as a pilot in Kitty Hawk’s videos. “I feel light and ecstatic and utterly free,” she wrote about the experience. “This is just like my flying dreams!” The controls are built into the handlebars and “work similar to buttons and joysticks on a video game controller,” she said. She added that the commercial version of the Flyer “will have a very different design” from the prototype, but no other details, or prices, are yet available.

Beechcraft’s King Air twin turboprop has long been popular, with more than 3,000 built since the 1960s, but that doesn’t make it invulnerable to market forces — and a weak international market has driven down deliveries in the first quarter of this year to just 12, compared to 26 in the same period last year, the company reported last week. CEO Scott Donnelly said he expects those numbers to improve by the end of the year, and end up about the same as last year, when the company sold 106 King Airs. Revenues overall for the quarter at Textron Aviation were down $121 million compared to last year, primarily due to lower volumes of military and commercial turboprops.

Textron also saw a decrease in deliveries of its Beechcraft T-6 trainers, delivering just two, compared to nine in the same quarter last year. First-quarter Citation jet deliveries stayed about even — 34 last year, 35 for this year. The company reported a profit of $36 million in the first quarter compared to $73 million a year ago, primarily due to lower volume and mix. “Overall, revenues and profit were down in the quarter consistent with our expectations,” said Donnelly. “We are continuing to execute our restructuring plan while maintaining our focus on new product investment and the integration of acquired businesses, all of which will have a positive impact on our long-term growth outlook.”

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The National Weather Service is now providing a new product, Graphical Forecasts for Aviation, which is intended to provide a complete picture of the weather that may impact flight in the continental U.S. The webpage, which is built with modern geospatial information tools, includes observational data, forecasts and warnings that can be viewed from 14 hours in the past to 15 hours in the future. Hourly model data and forecasts, including information on clouds, flight category, precipitation, icing, turbulence, wind and graphical output from the NWS National Digital Forecast Data, are available. The legacy Area Forecasts were prepared by NWS forecasters, while the new GFA is automated.

Wind, icing and turbulence forecasts are available in 3,000-foot increments from the surface up to 30,000 feet MSL, and in 6,000-foot increments from 30,000 MSL to FL480. Turbulence forecasts are also broken into LO (below 18,000 MSL) and HI (at or above 18,000 MSL) graphics. A maximum icing graphic and maximum wind velocity graphic (regardless of altitude) are also available. Users can pan and zoom to focus on areas of greatest interest. The NWS has provided an online tutorial for users. ForeFlight said last month the NWS is not providing public access to all of the data used in the GFA, and said they were still working to determine how to best incorporate the GFA into their products. AVweb’s sister publication IFR Magazine took a tour of the new product when it was introduced last year, which is now available online.

Nine people were killed when a de Havilland DHC-3 Otter hit a mountain in Alaska in June 2015, and on Tuesday the NTSB said the pilot had a history of making bad decisions. “Lives depended on the pilot’s decision making,” said NTSB Acting Chairman Robert Sumwalt. “Pilot decisions are informed, for better or worse, by their company’s culture. This company allowed competitive pressure to overwhelm the common-sense needs of passenger safety in its operations. That’s the climate in which the accident pilot worked.” The pilot, who had been flying air tours for Promech Air in Southeast Alaska for less than two months, chose to continue flying VFR despite IFR weather conditions, the NTSB said.

The pilot had picked up his passengers, who were on a cruise, from a floating dock, and had two choices for a route — a longer route that followed mostly seawater channels, or a shorter route across mountainous terrain. The short route was considered more scenic, but also presented more hazards in the low visibility conditions that prevailed. The accident pilot and two other Promech pilots chose the short route. Two other more conservative operators cancelled flights that day. In closing the board meeting, Acting Chairman Robert Sumwalt noted that “Safety must be a core value in any aviation operation … not just a priority but a core value … When this board sees an operation in which safety competed with performance and revenue, the reason we see it here at the NTSB is unfortunately because safety lost.” The NTSB synopsis and recommendations are posted online.

images: NTSB

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You’ve probably heard the term “silo’d” as management consultant-speak for an organization that operates with multiple independent entities that don’t talk to each other. At AVweb, we don’t quite fit that definition but we have a certain intentional insularity. Thus, over the weekend, when I saw early Saturday morning the story of yet another airline cabin dustup—this time American Airlines, complete with video—I thought, hmm, what’s Russ gonna do with this? There was second incident in a terminal involving a commuting pilot.

I got my answer in an email two hours later: “Despite the high profile of these I’m going to skip them. Nothing to do with flying, really. Let me know if you disagree and I’ll follow up in the morning.” To me, that was the right news judgment and I’d have made the same decision. So why did we run the United story, but not the American story? It’s one of the ineffables in the news business that’s hard to explain. But one reason was that the United story was completely over–the-top abusive treatment of a passenger on a scheduled airline. It may have been a first. We cover the airlines, so it made sense to cover the story. And it had video. So did the American incident, but in the end, it was just a spat of the sort that happens frequently, I’m guessing. It just happened to be caught on video, but it was nothing but a version of road rage that, at least, happily ended in first-class seats for two passengers. American learned the lesson from United and got right ahead of the PR loop. Kudos.

But there is a point to be made here and I’m taking the time and pixels to make it. You can see the video here. In my view, it doesn’t matter who was right or wrong, how the incident started or that it’s a federal rap to threaten a uniformed crew member. It’s far more elemental than that. It has to do with how we, as members of a civilized society, should treat each other in public settings, or anywhere. If the two guys involved in this incident can view that video without being properly appalled, they both ought to stay off airplanes for a while, if not permanently. Maybe both were having a bad day, but given contemporary security considerations when flying and the overarching stress of the process itself, you can be forgiven for being impatient but you surely better be able to summon some impulse control.

Some years ago, when I was doing business reporting, someone explained the process of negotiating not as a zero-sum game, but as a question: What do you want to happen and how do you get there? This applies directly to a cabin confrontation. Clearly, no one wants a physical beat down nor a loud verbal altercation. With that in mind, threatening to flatten a flight attendant or a return provocation to “bring it on” is not helpful. It’s just two guys preening their testosterone. The better option is to skip right past the threat and find the conciliatory gesture or words that immediately defuse the situation. That’s a lesson we should all take from that video.

But there’s another point to make. I had actually written a blog about this a month ago, but never published it. I fly enough to have gained some sense of what flight attendants have to put up with. I think the job is harder and more stressful than ever and that airlines expect more for less from these trained professionals. Remember, they aren’t there to serve drinks, but to maximize cabin safety and, if necessary, drag passengers out of a wrecked airplane.

On a Southwest flight home, I saw two things that just astonished me. Southwest is famous for its quick turns and that depends on passengers getting to their seats efficiently. In the midst of boarding—early in boarding—an aisle passenger three rows ahead of me got up, grabbed his bag from the overhead and placed it across the seat armrest while he rooted around for something, clogging up the aisle for what was more than 30 seconds but maybe less than three minutes. I could see the flight attendant biting her lip and not saying anything. Well, next time, I will. “Excuse me sir, a suggestion…”

An hour later, after drinks had been served, an aisle passenger in the row ahead of me decided he needed more room for his magazine on the tray table, so he placed his half-filled drink on the floor under his seat where it took, oh, about 10 seconds for the passenger behind him to kick it over. Well, guess who has to clean that up? That will explain, perhaps, why flight attendants can get testy. And why I might get a little testy myself, since I have to occupy the same cabin that guys like this mess for lack of common sense and courtesy. So next time, I’ll have a polite suggestion for that situation, too.

I’m usually more succinct than this, but that’s 841 words to say: Don’t be a butthole. I’ll try to do the same.

The French Air Force's newest tactical transport aircraft, the A400M, has been touring the U.S. in support of the Patrouille de France's 2017 tour. AVweb spoke with aircraft commander Lt. Col. Benoit Paillard about the aircraft and its capabilities.

At the Sustainable Aviation Symposium, AVweb spoke with Pipistrel’s modest Director of Research and Development, Tine Tomažič. Dr. Tomažič received his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Ljubljana and has been with Pipistrel for 16 years as an intern, test pilot and engineer. We spoke with Tine about what electric aircraft can (and can’t) do, Pipistrel’s fast four-seater, the Pathera, and the most scared he’s ever been in an airplane. Listen to our interview below.

Picture of the Week
Picture of the Week

Last year's fire season in the West was among the worst on record and was a tragedy on many levels but it painted the sky in spectacular shades. It was a poignant background for a beautiful aircraft at Redmond Airport in Oregon.

About 25 years ago I was hauling cargo in a beat-up C210 at dusk near PFN, FL, and overheard the following:

ATC:  "Comair 1234, Nat'l Wx Service just advised us they have recently released a balloon in your area and they say "it should be approx your altitude, and it's pretty large."

Pause of a few seconds...

Comair:  "How large?!"

Pause of several more seconds....

ATC:  "He says about the size of a house."

Pause of a few seconds:

Comair:  "Would that be my house or your house?"


 

Cap'n Dave 

 

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