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Volume 25, Number 9b
February 28, 2018
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ATC Privatization Derailed
Russ Niles

Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., has announced he is no longer pursuing the separation of air traffic control from the FAA. After a couple of attempts and massive opposition from hundreds of groups with a stake in aviation, Shuster, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman, conceded Tuesday his bill doesn’t have the support to pass. “Despite an unprecedented level of support for this legislation – from bipartisan lawmakers, industry, and conservative groups and labor groups alike – some of my own colleagues refused to support shrinking the federal government by 35,000 employees, cutting taxes, and stopping wasteful spending,” Shuster wrote in a statement. Instead, he said he’ll work toward long-term funding for the FAA in a proper reauthorization bill.

Shuster proposed moving air traffic control to a nonprofit corporation run by a board of directors that most in general aviation believed would be dominated by airline interests. The initiative also had the support of President Donald Trump but Shuster could not muster enough congressional support. AOPA was the first to react and while President Mark Baker acknowledged the massive lobbying effort that helped kill Shuster’s bill, he also pledged support for Shuster’s call for stable funding for the FAA. “We look forward to working with Chairman Shuster and other leaders in Congress on a bill that improves aviation for every American and ensures our skies remain the safest in the world,” Baker said.

Video: SamsonSky Switchblade
Russ Niles

For eight years, SamsonSky has been at the major shows, promising a high-performance flying car that is practical in both environments. It intends to fly the prototype this year.

Guest Blog: Landing Fees A Waste Of Time And Money
Jason Blair

A mere five months had gone by when a bill arrived from Cincinnati Lunken airport for a landing incurred from when I landed a friend’s Cessna 340 there. A long billing cycle no doubt, but the fee was almost comical if not wasteful. But, upon receipt, we sent the check for the $6.00 fee. I figure by the time they received it the airport spent more staff time, mailing and printing fees, and administrative processing effort than could be gained by any benefit of the receipt of the $6.00. But whatever, they got their landing fee. Right? Oh, I forgot to mention, this fee was only payable by check through the mail. A highly modern billing process no doubt. 

Sadly, this isn’t the only example of a landing fee I have personally encountered that seems to have little potential positive impact or value to an airport. 

Similarly, we were recently assessed a $5.00 landing fee from Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland. The best part of this example was that I know the airport has this landing fee, and when we went into the FBO I inquired if we could pay it on the spot. Unfortunately, I was told that wasn’t possible, that the airport had to send a bill. This one was at least billed within approximately three months. 

On another trip, to Indianapolis, I got billed a landing fee as a part of my ramp services bill one day, but three days later when I went to the same airport, bought the same amount of fuel and used the exact same services, the FBO waived it. Why the landing fee applied one day and not another I have no idea. 

Even more interesting was the $16.50 landing fee that was billed about three months after I had “landed” at the Battle Creek airport. The odd part was that on the day the landing fee was assessed, I hadn’t actually landed there. I had shot a practice ILS approach on the way home, cancelled my IFR clearance and then continued to our home base airport about 30 miles away. Hmm. So, wait, I got billed when I didn’t actually land there? Yup. 

I wasn’t really all that disagreeable about the fee itself since I had landed there twice the month before without getting any bills for those landings. But it did raise a question: Sometimes I was billed and not others. So, I called the airport operations manager to get to the bottom of it. 

It turns out that they bill “landings” based on reviewing logs on that look like they terminated at the airport. The problem with that is that the airport doesn’t actually know if aircraft that weren’t captured on landed at the airport or if aircraft that look like they terminated there actually ended up landing at Battle Creek’s airport. Oh, and on top of that, it appears that this really only reliably captures IFR traffic. The result, and this was confirmed with the conversation with the airport operations manager, is that the airport is actually unable to reliably apply its published landing fee structure because it has no reliable way of telling what aircraft actually land at KBTL. 

Did our conversation change anything in their process? Well, I don’t think so. The result of our conversation was an indication that it was the best they could do and that they would keep doing it. The bad news is that, and I am sure they are not the only airport with a similar potential liability, they are disparately billing pilots for landing fees, unable to apply landing fees within their own published fees structures. 

Why should we care as pilots? These and other examples I have run across, and I am sure many of you readers have numerous other examples, highlight an inefficient and ineffective structure of billing for landings at many airports we visit. And it is all done with very minimal benefit for the financial support of these airports. 

These fees are haphazard in their administration. Sometimes you can pay them on the spot, sometimes not. In some cases, the FBO has the ability to waive them, in others, they don’t. Some airports publish official fee structures, others seem to bill in a less structured manner. When it comes down to it, there is no real rhyme or reason throughout our airport system when it comes to landing fees for aircraft or airports of differing sizes. In most cases, the administrative process by which they are charged is unsophisticated. 

Landing fees have become a wasteful bureaucratic process that is commonly ineffective in its administration, for what I can only think is a minimal benefit. Is there any chance that the time it took for someone at Cleveland’s Burke Lakefront airport to track that we had landed there, document it in whatever system they use for billing, send a bill, then receive our payment and log all this was actually something that made the airport any money? Is this a really beneficial process or a make-work effort to create a job at the airport? 

I am not advocating that as a result every airport increase the costs of landing fees so they become highly profitable. Instead, it may be time for airports to evaluate if the minimal fees they are charging are actually helping the bottom-line operations budget or just an annoyance (and when disparately applied, a potential legal liability) to the pilots that use the airport. 

One must wonder, is it even logical to bother charging these? 

It is likely that staff and management of many airports that have fees such as this are just doing the job that their administrative body, such as a city council, has tasked them with doing. To some degree, it comes down to us as pilots to identify these illogical fees, and bring them, and their potential legal pitfalls when inequitably administered, to the governing body for review. This can improve awareness of a need to better administrate the fees, or when not possible to do so, to request they be eliminated. 

It is important our airports have operating budgets that allow them to be successful, to maintain their facilities and, hopefully, thrive and expand. But it is also important that unnecessary fees are eliminated when they don’t actually contribute to that success. I encourage all of us as pilots to work with the airports at which we operate, and others that we visit, to carefully consider what fees are in place and how they are conducted. Get involved with administration at these airports, and ask them to honestly consider if these fees are beneficial or are just make-work efforts. If they are the latter, help our industry to eliminate wasteful barriers to the use of our federally financially supported airports by pilots wanting to fly for business and pleasure.

Airbus: VTOL Prototype To Fly This Year
Mary Grady

Airbus officials recently provided the European media with an update on their CityAirbus project to develop a four-seat VTOL aircraft, and said they expect a prototype to fly by the end of December, in Germany. “With this concept and the right approach, you can deliver an opportunity in cities,” Marius Bebesel, head of the urban air mobility project, said at the media event. “This is the first step for us, showing that the business models are working. Then the next steps I would say would be the technical milestones, such as electrification, to reduce the costs.” Airbus anticipates that fully certified VTOLs should be flying by 2023, according to Rotorhub.

The aircraft will be driven by four 140-kw lithium-ion batteries to power the eight Siemens SP200D electric motors, which directly drive the eight fixed-pitch propellers, according to a report in VerticalMag based on Bebesel’s news conference. “The only real mechanical part on this aircraft is the propeller shaft,” said Bebesel. “Of course, this simplicity has a big impact on operational cost, and this simplicity has an impact on maintenance costs.” Airbus is targeting a range of about 60 miles and a speed of about 75 mph for the aircraft, according to Bebesel. Those parameters will enable the VTOL to operate efficiently in “all the megacities of the world,” he said.

Stratolaunch Taxi Tests Intensify
Mary Grady

Stratolaunch, the giant airplane in development in Mojave, is continuing taxi tests at higher speeds and longer durations, the company said this week. Paul Allen, the Microsoft co-founder who is funding the project, posted video of the taxiing airplane on Facebook on Monday. The airplane reached a top taxi speed of 40 knots, Allen said. The test crew verified control responses, building on the first taxi tests, which were conducted in December. First flight is expected next year. The airplane is intended to deliver payloads to low Earth orbit. As of Tuesday, Allen’s Facebook post had registered more than 84,000 views.

The unique aircraft has captured the imagination of an audience far beyond aviation aficionados — a Monday post on Ars Technica, a technology publication, is titled: “Dear Mr. Allen, please let your big bird take flight soon. Signed, everyone.” The aircraft has the longest wingspan, 385 feet, of any aircraft that ever flew, and is powered by six Pratt & Whitney turbofan engines scavenged from Boeing 747-400s. It first rolled out of the hangar last May, and began taxi tests in December. The airplane was developed and built by Scaled Composites.

Bell Unveils New Model At Heli-Expo
Mary Grady

Bell introduced a new helicopter model, the 407GXi, at Heli-Expo 2018 in Las Vegas on Monday. The aircraft, based on the 407 airframe, offers new avionics, an upgraded engine and new executive interior design options. The cockpit is now equipped with Garmin’s G1000H NXi integrated flight deck, which provides faster speeds as well as brighter, clearer screens. The new Rolls-Royce M250-C47E/4 dual-channel Fadec turbine engine delivers improved hot and high performance and fuel efficiency, the company says. The 407GXi will cruise at 133 knots. It’s been certified by Transport Canada and the first delivery is scheduled for this spring. Bell also announced recently it has changed its company name from “Bell Helicopter” to simply “Bell.”

The company said last week its “brand strategy” and new logo are “rooted in the company’s focus on innovation and customer experience.” It’s the first image makeover for the company since Textron bought the company in 1960, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Bell's leadership believes "on-demand mobility," such as air taxis and unmanned aircraft that can haul heavy loads over challenging terrain, could become as big a part of the company's mission as its traditional business, CEO Mitch Snyder told the Star-Telegram. “Bell has always been about more than just helicopters,” Snyder said. Regarding the new logo, he added: “The dragonfly can take off and land wherever it wants, fly quickly and efficiently in any direction, and hover at will. It represents the mastery of flight, something Bell strives to achieve.”

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Airlines Urge Boeing To Produce “797”
Mary Grady

Airlines are urging Boeing to move forward with the so-called “797,” an aircraft they say passengers will love. Officially designated the “new mid-market airplane" by Boeing, the 797 would offer “a big step forward in comfort,” according to a report in PerthNow, with a 2-3-2 configuration in economy, 1-2-2 in premium economy and 1-1-1 in business class, plus extra-large storage bins. Delta, United and Qantas all are eager to fly the 797, according to the report. With a range of about 5,200 NM, the jet would fill a gap between the popular 737 and the long-range 787, providing an opportunity for airlines to establish new routes. Boeing said there are 30,000 city pairs that are not connected and could potentially be served economically with the 797. If Boeing moves ahead with the program, deliveries could start by 2026.

Meanwhile, Boeing is making progress on a plan to create a new joint company with Embraer, according to a report in Monday’s Globe and Mail. Boeing is trying to work around the demands and concerns of the Brazilian government, which holds a stake in Embraer that gives it veto power over strategic decisions, according to the report. Boeing and Embraer had no comment, but last week, Brazilian Defense Minister Raul Jungmann told reporters that negotiations on the creation of a third company were advancing well. The proposed plan would boost Boeing’s position relative to Airbus in the global jet market, analysts say.

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Picture of the Week
It kind of looks like a ghost from another era so Gary L. Watson hits top spot for this moody shot of an L-2M. Nice picture, Gary.

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Brainteasers Quiz #240: Make Informed Go/No-Go Calls

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Short Final

ATC: Cessna XXXX, traffic is going to be an HH-60 departing to the North at 1,700.

Me: Roger, we are looking for the traffic now.


Me: Tower, we have the traffic in sight and we are turning to avoid. 

ATC: If I were in charge, I would paint all aircraft blaze orange.

My instructor: Sounds good to me!!


Jarrett Moss 


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