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Volunteer pilots wanting to lend a hand to those impacted by Hurricane Harvey are encouraged to offer their services through the Air Care Alliance (ACA) or other established public-benefit flying organizations. Pilots are needed to fly supplies in and to fly people and animals out from areas that have been cut off from assistance by post-hurricane flooding. However, the ACA cautions “that during an emergency FEMA and other relief groups tend to be overloaded with offers of help. Most who are actually asked to fly missions do so through the various flying organizations in the ACA, or for local agencies and social service organizations. Thus we urge you to volunteer and fly with them.” Persons needing assistance flights or wishing to volunteer can both submit inquiries to the ACA here.

Meanwhile, Houston Airport will remain closed through Thursday and major disruptions are expected as the stubborn storm finally begins moving away from Texas eastward. The aviation stories are many and will filter out over the next few days but early in the unfolding disaster, Southwest Airlines flew 500 people stranded at Houston Hobby Airport to safety at Dallas Love Field. Flooding from Hurricane Harvey forced the FAA to shut down Houston Hobby Airport over the weekend, along with roads in and out of the airport, leaving hundreds stranded inside. Southwest is reported to have received special authorization from the FAA to evacuate five 737s worth of stranded fliers and airport employees.

 

 

Continental 'Factory new CM Magnetos at near-rebuilt pricing'

Better fuel management by aviators could prevent an average of 50 general aviation accidents a year, the NTSB said in a GA Safety Alert issued Tuesday. “The idea of running out of fuel in an aircraft is unthinkable, and yet, it causes more accidents than anyone might imagine,” the alert notes. “Fuel management is the sixth leading cause of general aviation accidents in the U.S.” Pilot error contributed to 95 percent of the fuel-management-related accidents; equipment issues contributed to just 5 percent.

The safety board suggested several strategies that would help to reduce the number of fuel-starvation accidents. Don’t rely exclusively on fuel gauges, visually confirm the quantity of fuel in the tanks before takeoff. Know the aircraft's fuel system and how it works. Have a fuel reserve for each flight. Don’t try to stretch the fuel supply — stop and get gas. The full safety alert is posted online (PDF).

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After 60 years, Pilatus will cease production of the PC-6 Porter in 2019. While rare in the United States, around 600 copies of the tailwheel turboprop have been produced and are flying cargo, passengers and skydivers out of extremely small and rough strips around the world. Although Pilatus continues to sell about 10 PC-6s per year, the company has decided to focus their energies on the PC-24, a twin-jet due to hit the market late this year. Oscar J. Schwenk, chairman of the board of directors of Pilatus, said, “I am proud that the PC-6 featured in the Pilatus product portfolio, this aircraft has earned us fame and recognition worldwide. But the time has now come to take a dispassionate look at the facts and admit that every product has a life cycle which must come to an end sooner or later. That moment has arrived for the PC-6. With an eye on the future, however, we now look forward to the imminent market launch of the PC-24 Super Versatile Jet, which embodies, and carries forward, all the original values of the PC-6.”

While not known for speed—the 550-HP turboprop maxes out around 125 knots—the Porter has a useful load that’s significantly higher than its basic empty weight, carrying around 3,300 pounds with a 2,800-pound airframe. At sea-level conditions, the PC-6 gets off the ground in 646 feet. Pilatus says operators needing the PC-6’s extreme short-field performance and cargo-hauling capability can still place new orders through mid-2018, and the company will support the aircraft with spare parts for at least 20 more years.

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For the first time since Sept. 11, 2001, a major international airport is opening its terminals to non-passengers without special permission. Starting Sept. 5, visitors to Pittsburgh International will be able to access the secure side of the airport by obtaining a “myPITpass” from an airport kiosk, which will require scanning a photo ID to run the visitor’s name against a TSA no-fly list. Visitors will then pass through the same security screening as passengers, including restrictions on weapons and fluids. “Since I started here, people have been asking about being able to escort loved ones to the gate or being able to shop and dine at the airport,” said Allegheny County Airport Authority CEO Christina Cassotis. After several years of negotiation between local, airport and federal officials, the time has come.

Pittsburgh International has run a program for the last three years, with TSA approval, to allow holiday shoppers to obtain one-day passes during the Christmas season to access airport shops, which proved to be popular with both shops and shoppers. Pittsburgh Airmall CEO Ben Zandi says holiday access for non-flyers increased sales by 100%. For now, the program is limited to people arriving at the airport between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, but Cassotis said the program will be expanded to the weekends if successful.

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Some holidaygoers in a riverside community in the south of France got an airshow plus some drama on Sunday when an air tanker taking off from the Rhone River hit a barge’s mast with its wing. “It is a miracle that there have been no [deaths],” a spokesman for the harbor office at Vallabregues told local media. The Canadair CL-415 was the second of two taking off from the river after loading water to fight a nearby forest fire. People aboard the barge can be heard in the accompanying video exclaiming at how close the first aircraft passes to the barge and whoever shot the video appears to have dropped his or her phone as the wing of the second flying boat severs the mast.

The video ends there but apparently, the sturdy aircraft continued the takeoff and landed safely at Nimes, a short distance away. According to the Fire Aviation website, the aircraft will be repaired within weeks and be put back in service.  French officials released this translated statement. “The wing of the firefighting plane is damaged. It will be unavailable for several weeks," the statement said. The pilots were reported to be experienced and knew the stretch of water and were given the rest of the day off for a medical check. The 75-acre fire near Collias was brought under control later in the day.

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While flying back to my home airport, KAVQ, I heard this exchange from two pilots entering the non-towered airport airspace:

Cherokee: Cherokee 1234 entering left downwind for runway 12, full stop.

A Grumman Tiger pilot was also entering left downwind making a similar call.

Cherokee pilot: Grumman aircraft, we will swing wide since you are faster to allow you to land first.

Grumman pilot: No problem, I'm retired.  Grumman number two to land behind the Cherokee.

And so they did.


 

John Winter 
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Canada Just Isn't the Same as the U.S.

by Mark Baker

When Congress returns from summer recess in early September, they will consider a vote on H.R. 2997, the 21st Century AIRR Act, which would remove air traffic control from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and turn it over to the airlines. Supporters of the bill often point to our neighbors to the north as a shining example of how ATC privatization is successful, and some in Canada, including our counterpart, are content with what they have. But with operations that are one-tenth the scale and complexity of the U.S.’s airspace system, comparing ourselves to Canada is a moot point.

Rep. Steve Russell, R-Okla., an outspoken critic of ATC privatization, said comparing American and Canadian air traffic is like “comparing an apple to a horseshoe; you can’t compare the two.” The congressman makes a valid point since Nav Canada deals with air traffic roughly equivalent to that of Houston and Dallas combined, far from the nearly 44,000 daily flights the United States ATC system handles.

The U.S. national airspace system works well and is the envy of the world. Why would we want to jeopardize that? Broken promises, staff shortages, a lack of access and a decline in general aviation is what the U.S. airspace system faces if we mirror our Canadian counterparts.

At Missouri’s annual Tarkio Fly-in, pilots spoke out against the negative consequences of a privatized ATC system. Ron Renz, a test pilot, aeronautical engineer and user of both systems, was unimpressed with what privatization has done in Canada. Renz said GA fees in Canada have gone up while traffic has gone down and virtually every small airport is suffering. He witnessed the decline of GA, saying, “Privatization has killed GA in Canada.”

Most countries that switched to a privatized system did not receive the intended benefits. According to a 2016 Delta Air Lines study, Canadian fliers faced a 59-percent increase in ATC fees on airline tickets and in the U.K., passengers saw a 30-percent jump following privatization. Additionally, the Delta study also found that since 1998, Canadian ATC has seen their revenue go up by around 21 percent while flight volume actually decreased by 16 percent. The U.S. Government Accountability Office also found that following privatization, many Canadian general aviation pilots in rural areas faced an increase in local fees because privatization there seemed like such a good idea that the nation privatized its airports too.

Following privatization, Canadian ATC has experienced staffing shortages that continue to affect access. In Canada, NOTAMs are issued periodically advising VFR traffic of delays, reroutes or declined clearance requests around the country’s busiest airports such as Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto and Winnipeg during peak operations. 

Temporary VFR bans aren’t that uncommon with the Nav Canada system. Just recently, the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association spoke out about a ban on VFR flights at Vancouver International Airport restricting VFR arrivals, other than seaplanes and helicopters.  “The Vancouver NOTAM is a special concern because its long continuous duration is unprecedented,” said COPA President and CEO Bernard Gervais. “COPA has been in contact with Nav Canada about the NOTAM and we’ve been assured that measures are being taken to correct the situation.”

Barry Powers, a pilot who frequently flies up North, said privatization has hurt GA in Canada because of the associated costs. “Now, they want to charge you for everything, they send a bill and it discourages people.” When discussing privatization in the United States, Powers said, “That would be a terrible idea. It [ATC] works well here.”

Handing over control of the skies to the airlines with unchecked power would be disastrous. Nearly every airline has filed for bankruptcy, and these are the ones that charge billions each year just so you can bring your luggage, the ones that want to reduce seat sizes even further, the ones that have an excruciatingly dismal customer service record, and the ones that can’t even handle computer glitches. How are they supposed to handle our entire airspace system and national security?

In addition to the broken promises, lack of access and decline of GA traffic, switching to an airline-dominated privatized system would add almost $100 billion dollars to the deficit, as the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recently announced. That money is better spent on updating our system with newer technology. We have a system that works for all users today, as proven by our safety record, and there’s no need to mimic Canada’s ATC model.

Mark Baker is president and CEO of the U.S.-based Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. 

We Wouldn’t Go Back to Government ATC in Canada

by Bernard Gervais

So what’s it like to fly in a privatized Air Navigation Services (ANS) system?  Not that bad actually.  Probably just cheaper and simpler. ANS (or ATC) has been privatized in Canada for the last 20 years. I was not around and not even a pilot back then when it happened, but I quickly caught up on the history, from looking at our old clippings and reading through historical documents. At first COPA was against privatization, not knowing what the future held for our members and their GA aircraft. Understandably, because the ANS Act said, “Nav Canada’s charges in respect to recreational and private aircraft must not be unreasonable or undue.” That’s not the most reassuring piece of legislation you can find during a transition period. That left the door open to any type of speculation and a little apprehension amongst the aviation community.

Now, we know. Close to 30 percent of our members don’t even pay a single penny because their aircraft weigh less than 1360 lbs. The vast majority pay $66 per year and the heavier birds (more than 3000 kg or 6600 lbs.) pay a little more. All of this has continuously come down over the years. It’s also not costing the taxpayers anything, based on the user-pay model.

We have also noticed in the long run that there has not been any degradation of services for GA. The governance model in place is comprised of a board with four out of 15 positions being airlines-appointed.  There is also 20-member Advisory Committee reporting to the board. It represents a broad spectrum of organizations with an interest in the ANS, half of which are GA associations. I sit on that committee.

What’s the typical use of the system? Whether VFR or IFR, you call up the 1-800 number, get a detailed weather briefing and then decide about filing your flight plan with the person now or later or it can be done electronically through any software like ForeFlight or Flight Plan. That’s it. Take off and your flight plan gets activated by ATC or at the time you said you would take off. Land and your plan gets closed by ATC. No need to call FSS. You get a bill once a year. Doesn’t cost anything to taxpayers.

There are certainly some things affecting GA, specifically VFR and IFR training flights. The system is not perfect. With a lot of retirement from the baby-boomer crowd, there are staffing issues around the five or six biggest airports in the country on sunny weekends or peak vacation periods, where service can temporarily be denied. These issues would be like trying to get into JFK or Atlanta VFR with your C-172 on a beautiful Saturday morning, or trying to shoot an approach at O’Hare during peak inbound traffic. There may be some delays or you may get turned away. Still, there is no reason why this should happen and the situation is being closely watched by the Advisory Committee and Nav Canada’s board.

So things are working out pretty good. Would anyone go back to a government-run system? No. Not everything is perfect, but our members all like the services and the system. It is one of the safest in the world, the governance model is just and fair, the fees are low (free for many) and we get great service, without costing taxpayers anything. Nav Canada has also been able to be innovative and is at the forefront of technology, as the major shareholder of Aireon (space-based ADS-B). With anticipated profits, is free ANS for all in Canada in the future? Perhaps.

Bernard Gervais is president of the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association.

L3 Aviation Products continues to advance its Lynx NGT9000 multifunction ADS-B transponder. In addition to ADS-B weather and traffic, the new software enables display of Stormscope lightning data, enhanced traffic surveillance and terrain alerting. Aviation Consumer magazine Editor Larry Anglisano went flying with the system, along with L3's Todd Scholten and Jessica Power, in the L3 company airplane for this product demonstration video.

Get ADS-B today up to $1,000 off!

In anything we do aloft, Risk pokes its ugly head beneath the wing flap. But when confronted with the facts, Risk melts into a sniveling bully unable to confront your awesome ability to ace this quiz.

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