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As expected, President Donald Trump announced on Monday that air traffic control will no longer be a government function but instead will become a “self-financing nonprofit.” Calling the change “a great new era in American aviation,” he said it will replace “an antiquated horrible system that doesn’t work.” Trump also called the current system "ancient” and “broken.” In regard to efforts to modernize that have so far been undertaken by the FAA, he said, “Honestly, they didn't know what the hell they were doing. A total waste of money." President Trump said his team studied the air traffic control systems in other countries and used one of them as a template, but he wouldn’t say which countries had been studied. 

The proposal would create a board made up of airline, union and airport officials, who would oversee the nonprofit entity that would assume oversight of FAA functions after a three-year transition. Most airlines support the change. Delta opposes it, according to Reuters, saying the U.S. system is so large that privatization would not save money, would drive up ticket costs and could create a national security risk. Opponents also say technology upgrades would be sidetracked while the new system is put in place, potentially adding years before new technology can be operational.

NATCA was quick to respond to the Trump proposal, with a statement from their president, Paul Rinaldi. NATCA said it will study the legislation in detail before commenting. The union has long been supportive of a not-for-profit model for ATC that would provide a stable, predictable funding stream that adequately supports air traffic control services, and that would maintain service to all segments of aviation. AOPA President Mark Baker said his group “will not support policies that impose user fees on general aviation.” He added that “the U.S. has a very safe air traffic system today and we don’t hear complaints from our nearly 350,000 members about it.” You can watch the president's full announcement in this video, starting at about 60 minutes in. The adminstration's "principles for reforming" air traffic control are posted on the White House website.





Sixteen general aviation advocacy groups signed on to a letter on Monday (PDF) opposing President Trump’s plan to turn the FAA into a private nonprofit corporation. “Dismantling the current system will devastate GA, while not accomplishing the desired goals of efficiency and technological improvements,” the letter says. “Today, the U.S. air traffic control system is the best in the world, moving more aircraft, more safely and efficiently, than any other country. Working with Congress and the FAA, aviation stakeholders have been able to ensure that our system operates for the public benefit, providing access for all stakeholders to airports, heliports and airspace, and encouraging competition and innovation.” The letter says “big airlines” are pushing for the new funding model, but the GA groups say they have seen similar systems in other countries and they are not good for GA.

The letter concludes: “We respectfully request that you provide ample opportunity for all stakeholders and citizens to carefully review, analyze and debate any proposed legislation changing the governance and funding for air traffic control.” The groups signing the letter are: Air Care Alliance, Aircraft Electronics Association, AOPA, Citation Jet Pilots, Commemorative Air Force, EAA, GAMA, Helicopter Association International, International Council of Air Shows, National Agricultural Aviation Association, National Association of State Aviation Officials, National Air Transportation Association, NBAA, Recreational Aviation Foundation, U.S. Parachute Association, and Veterans Airlift Command.


The aviation community is continuing to respond to the Trump administration’s proposal on Monday to privatize the air traffic control system. FAA Administrator Michael P. Huerta released a brief statement, saying he supports “looking at new ways to help us provide stable and sufficient funding to more rapidly modernize our system, while maintaining the highest level of safety.” He concludes: “The proposal to create a separate, non-government air traffic control service provider is a step in a process that needs to involve all users of the airspace system and deliver benefits to the system as a whole.” The Professional Aviation Safety Specialists, the union representing FAA employees who install, maintain, support and certify computers and other equipment, also issued a statement, strongly opposing the president’s plan.

"Privatizing the largest and most complex aviation system in the world is a risky and unnecessary step at this pivotal point in its modernization,” PASS said. “True progress is being made through Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) programs. Breaking apart the system to establish a monopoly will take the focus off the substantial progress already being made. This would slow down enhancements and possibly compromise safety to fix a system that's not broken. … It is unfathomable to consider gambling with the future and safety of our air traffic control system by putting it into the hands of an organization that diminishes the voice of the American citizens who will be most affected by it. PASS will continue to work tirelessly with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to keep this misguided proposal from coming to fruition."

NATCA, the union representing air traffic controllers, said on Monday they would review the specifics of the ATC reform legislation to “evaluate whether it satisfies our Union’s principles, including protecting the rights and benefits of the ATC workforce.” On Tuesday, NATCA spokesman Doug Church reiterated that position to AVweb: “It is too early to support or oppose. We need to see the legislation first. We look forward to reviewing the specifics of legislation.”


Both the FAA and EASA have certified the newest version of the Skyhawk, Textron announced on Tuesday. The Cessna Turbo Skyhawk JT-A features Garmin G1000 NXi avionics and the 155-HP turbodiesel Continental CD-155 engine. The maximum range of 963 nautical miles is a 50 percent increase compared to the standard Skyhawk, and maximum speed is increased to 134 knots, a 10-knot boost above the standard model. The JT-A also has an improved takeoff distance of 1,320 feet and a max climb rate of 767 feet per minute. The aircraft has exceeded the company’s initial performance targets, the company said. It also enables operators around the world to comply with environmental regulations that are becoming more strict.

The Continental CD-155 engine features direct fuel injection and a dual channel FADEC driven by a single power lever. The engine burns globally available Jet-A fuel. The Turbo Skyhawk JT-A also offers improved takeoff performance, especially in high and hot conditions, the company said. The Garmin G1000 NXi avionics system features wireless connectivity and a standard angle-of-attack display system. The new three-blade prop enhances performance while reducing noise. Other improvements to the model include LED lighting on the wings, standard ADS-B out and in and a vertical situation display.

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The FAA on Tuesday published its final Airworthiness Directive for certain NavWorx ADS-B devices, and included lengthy responses to issues raised by AOPA, EAA and others. The final AD (PDF) requires owners to remove, disable or modify the ADS–B unit. Removing or disabling the ADS–B unit, or revising the software, will take about one work hour, for a total of $85 per aircraft, the FAA said. Coupling the ADS–B unit with an approved external GPS will take about four work hours, for a total of $340 per aircraft. The original proposed AD would have required the units to be removed before further flight, and offered no option to modify the unit.

In its discussion of comments, the FAA said the unsafe condition in the units “relates to the potential for the NavWorx unit to incorrectly report its own position to other aircraft and to ATC, by 0.2 nautical miles (NM) or more, without providing an alert.” The units therefore “mislead ATC and nearby aircraft by broadcasting a SIL [Source Integrity Level] of 3 that they have not been shown to meet.” The AD action “addresses that potential unsafe condition,” the FAA said. The FAA denied a request by some commenters, including EAA, that the AD should not apply to experimental aircraft. “The safety risks defined in this AD extend beyond one aircraft and could affect many other aircraft as well as ATC,” the FAA said. “Therefore, we find it necessary to include experimental aircraft in the AD’s applicability.”

Sean Elliott, EAA's vice president of advocacy and safety, told AVweb on Tuesday that his organization has "concerns" about the FAA's conclusions. “EAA supports the FAA’s desire to alert owners of experimental aircraft to a potential condition of noncompliance and a true safety concern within the NAS," Elliot said in an email. "EAA still has concerns regarding the regulatory basis for use of an Airworthiness Directive (AD) towards an experimental product that is not based on a type design. We will be working with the FAA to better understand their basis for applying an AD in this situation and what recourse there might be for our members."

The FAA has said that some NavWorx ADS600-B units may contain an internal GPS chip that does not meet the FAA’s minimum performance standards for transmitting an aircraft’s accurate location. NavWorx has not denied that there is a problem with the units, but claims the FAA caused the problem by changing its ADS-B technology, and then was uncooperative with the company in trying to find a solution.

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One man’s dogma is another man’s entertainment. Which is another way of saying as a sometime editorial arsonist, I will happily stand by and watch pilots vigorously argue about truths none of us hold to be self-evident. And what better way to be entertained than discussing pattern entries.

I’m disappointed to admit I didn't start this fire. The credit goes to our sister publication, Aviation Safety, or more properly to the University of North Dakota, which has proposed the fool idea that we start flying circular patterns, rather than the tried and true square ones we’ve all become accustomed to. Actually, UND didn’t propose circular patterns, but rather wishes to study them as an alternate method that might improve safety. Think of it! Actual research.

Aviation Safety duly reported on the project, offered a sober analysis and more or less let the cards drop. Not surprisingly—or, I dunno, maybe it is a surprise—this ignited quite a controversy in the letters column, one that left the publication’s unsuspecting editor dazed and bleeding and hiding in an under-desk revetment.

Here’s the basic idea: This is a variation on the military overhead approach and although it can be flown like an overhead, it can also be flown from a conventional downwind. Rather than a conventional squared base and final, you’d fly a continuous circling turn to a short wings-level segment, then a landing. The approach is flown closer in than a conventional square approach, at least on the base portion of it, and requires a continuous, descending turn to touchdown.

What possible advantages can this have, other than making it more difficult for the pilot and pissing off people who think you shouldn’t be doing it? For one, it’s efficient. It obviates the need to fly too-large square patterns that foul up the interval if there’s other traffic. Second, once the skill is acquired, altitude and glidepath control are much easier to control accurately in the continuous turn because you’re constantly making adjustments; you can’t just sit there, like so many pilots do. This hones skills you might need in an emergency landing scenario after an engine stoppage. Last, it’s fun. More fun than a boring square approach.

I often fly these in the Cub, but to get it to work, I fly a close in downwind and a tight radius turn because the Cub is so slow. If there’s significant traffic around, I skip it and go for the square pattern because some people are confused about seeing it done because they don’t expect it and imagine it to be unlawful. (It isn’t.)

A few of them wrote Aviation Safety to explain why you shouldn’t do the circular pattern. The low-wing guys say the wing will block your view of the runway and the high wing guys say the wing will block your view of the runway. Which is it? Neither. If the bank is held to a modest 30 degrees, you’ll have no trouble seeing what you need to see to adjust angles, rates and altitudes. Once you get this figured out, you’ll be surprised how much more accurately you can fly an approach.

One reader made the argument that the circular approach is the definition of an unstabilized approach. Well, yeah. That’s the point. The stabilized approach is the Holy Grail of airline flying and it should be, given the research that supports its safety benefits. But the aviation press has oversold the concept for light aircraft flying. I think any pilot should be skilled enough to fly a descending, decelerating approach to hit a target airspeed. If you fly instrument approaches into airports with jets around, you should be able to hit the marker at 120 knots and the runway at 70.

It requires skilled coordination of throttle, pitch and, if you’re turning, bank. But holy crap, what if you have to add flaps? Add flaps. If you practice this stuff, it should hold no particular fears and just makes you a better all around pilot. I concede two points against the circular approach. One is that other aircraft in the pattern might not expect it so either conform to what it is expected, or explain yourself on CTAF. I’ve found that other pilots are generally OK with it if you explain what’s coming. Also, be mindful of traffic on final. You may have to flick a wing to get a good look.

Second, if this requires more skill that a square approach, can we reasonably expect pilots who fly 40 hours a year to master it? Possibly not, to be fair. But what if it really doesn’t require more skill but is, in fact, readily mastered? The goal of UND’s research—AOPA Air Safety Foundation joined the work—was to reduce loss-of-control accidents. UND’s Lewis Archer told me the research is done and initial indications suggest that there are benefits to the circular approach. He also says a second round of research will be necessary to explore the worry about keeping the runway in sight. AOPA is expected to release the full study in a few weeks.

The Eyes of the World

Today is June 6th and I am in France. For anyone with passing knowledge of World War II, the date and place should have a resonance that requires no explanation. I’m actually at Tarbes today, a lovely Pyrenees city where the TBM is built. I’ve come to tour the factory.

Tomorrow, we’ll be in Normandy, where I will fulfill a lifetime ambition to visit the invasion beaches and, especially, the Airborne Museum in St. Mere Eglise. I’ll be filing a video report next week. 


A few years ago, SAM Aircraft built an LSA with a retro look that gathered some interest but not many orders. Zenair took over the project and the result is a high-performance taildragger that looks and feels like what the original company might have been looking for.

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Picture of the Week

It's not often we pick a 40-year-old photo as a winner but Robert E. Hall has shared a rather remarkable experience in his life and this is undoubtedly only one of dozens of photographic treasures in his copyrighted album. A PR mission to fly the flag (in the form of custom-painted A-4s) over every major national park must have been a great way to spend springtime in America in the bicentennial year of 1976. Thanks for sharing Robert.

Can wi-fi make you a smarter pilot?

Holding at the holding point Nelson, New Zealand, we were waiting for the cabin to be cleared before calling ready.
Tower: "Link XXX, are you ready?"
Link XXX: "Just waiting on the cabin."
Tower: "It's right behind you."

Justin Zangerl


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