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Volume 25, Number 23c
June 8, 2018
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American Airlines Flight Encounters Severe Thunderstorm
Kate O'Connor

American Airlines Flight 1897 was forced to make an emergency landing Sunday night after flying through a severe thunderstorm. The aircraft, which had departed from San Antonio heading for Phoenix, sustained significant hail damage to the windshield and radome. The A319 diverted to El Paso International Airport (ELP) and landed safely at approximately 8:03 p.m. with no injuries reported. There were 130 passengers and five crewmembers on board.

As can be heard on the recording of ELP Approach audio below, the pilots reported that damage to the windshield was severe enough that they had lost most of their forward visibility. The hailstones encountered were estimated to be between 1.5 and 3 inches in diameter. A severe thunderstorm watch had been issued for the region. Rick Kohrs, a programmer and graphic artist who works at the Space Science and Engineering Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, mapped the path of the flight on the sattelite imagry of the storm.

American Airlines issued a statement apologizing for the disruption to its customers’ travel plans and said their maintenance team is in the process of evaluating the aircraft. Passengers were put on another flight to Phoenix later that night.

Healthy Pilot #11 – Mental Disorders
Tim Cole

It’s only within the last 20 years that scientists have identified depression as the precursor to a host of physical ailments—from heart disease to sensitive gut. Whether depression is the cause or depression is the consequence, there is no doubt that feeling low impacts health in negative ways.

For BasicMed, the FAA bundles depression, anxiety, stress and other “mental disorders” into one silo. The philosophy behind BasicMed is honest assessment, and if you and your primary care physician suspect your mood is more than just the standard “bummer,” you might need additional help. Our friends at University Health News have a great checklist, below.

The FAA will get involved if your depression is serious enough to require medication. In fact, an FAA decision to grant a special issuance that allows you to fly is required in most instances of a diagnosed mental disorder if you and your physician decide you require drugs to stabilize your condition.

Take heart. There are instances where a mental condition might be met with a favorable FAA outcome: Taking anti-psychotic meds for a limited period for smoking cessation, for example, or for short-term depression caused by bereavement. In instances such as these, medications must not have been prescribed for more than six months, and need to have been discontinued for at least three months.

FAA Senior AME Glen R. Stoutt Jr., MD has an excellent treatise on the subject of depression here. 

In addition, according to the FAA circular on anti-depressants, an individual may be considered for an FAA Authorization of a Special Issuance (SI) or Special Consideration (SC) if the applicant has one of the following diagnoses:

  • Major depressive disorder (mild to moderate) either single episode or recurrent episode
  • Dysthymic disorder
  • Adjustment disorder with depressed mood
  • Any non-depression related condition for which the SSRI is used

For a minimum of 6 continuous months prior, the applicant has been clinically stable as well as on a stable dose of medication without any aeromedically significant side effects and/or an increase in symptoms. If the applicant has been on the medication under 6 months, the Examiner must advise that 6 months of continuous use is required before SI/SC.

The SSRI used is one the following (single use only):

  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • Sertraline (Zoloft)
  • Citalopram (Celexa)
  • Escitalopram (Lexapro)

If the applicant is on a SSRI that is not listed above, the Examiner must advise that the medication is not acceptable for SI/SC and the applicant DOES NOT have symptoms or history of:

  • Psychosis
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Electro convulsive therapy
  • Treatment with multiple SSRIs concurrently
  • Multi-agent drug protocol use (prior use of other psychiatric drugs in conjunction with SSRIs.)

Diagnosis and Treatment

If you think you or a loved one might be slipping into depression, stress, or anxiety. UHN offers an exceptional downloadable free guide on the subject, Am I Depressed?

If you think you (or a loved one) might be experiencing a mental breakdown, you can also consult the symptom list found here

You can find out about the different types of the disorder by consulting this UHN post. If you think stress, panic attacks or general anxiety might be an issue, these posts offer helpful general guides.

If you are concerned about taking drugs for stress or anxiety, there are natural depression relievers to consider. 

Kitty Hawk’s Ultralight Flyer Enters Market
Mary Grady

Kitty Hawk’s new version of its eVTOL Flyer is now available for sale, the company announced this week, and since it’s classified as an ultralight by the FAA, no pilot’s certificate is required to fly it. The aircraft, revealed on Wednesday, is much sleeker than the experimental version, and is equipped with 10 propellers and two pontoons. A single seat is provided for the pilot, and the aircraft is controlled with just a joystick and a power lever. It can fly for about 20 minutes. No price has been revealed, but the company is taking orders at its website. A CNN reporter with no prior flight training said this week she took the aircraft for a solo flight after a 90-minute training session. Sebastian Thrun, Kitty Hawk’s CEO, told CNN he hopes eventually the training will take only five minutes. "If it's less than an hour, it opens up flight to pretty much everyone," Thrun said.

The aircraft can fly up to 20 MPH, according to the company, but beginning pilots are capped at 6 MPH. The company already has conducted about 1,500 flights at its base on Lake Las Vegas in California. As an ultralight, the aircraft is restricted to flight only above uncongested areas. The simplicity of the aircraft “is transformational in terms of how accessible we can make flight,” Kitty Hawk’s lead engineer, Todd Reichert told CNN. “Flying, for the last century, has been incredibly complicated and it takes a long time to learn.” For its “first riders’ flights” the aircraft maintains an altitude of about 10 feet, the website says, but it’s not clear if it’s capable of flying higher. The company’s website also says they are hoping to find partners who will make fleets of Flyers available to fly in recreational environments around the world.

Sonex For Sale
Kate O'Connor

Along with announcing his retirement last Friday, John Monnett, founder and president of Sonex Aircraft, is also inviting offers from individuals and companies interested in purchasing the company. According to Sonex, Monnett is looking for a buyer who is “interested in continuing the successful heritage of Sonex Aircraft into the next generation, or in assisting Sonex Aircraft with transition to an employee-ownership succession plan.” Sonex General Manager Mark Schaible added that “Sonex Aircraft is still going strong” and that the company is “in the midst of its most successful period in recent years.”

Monnett’s retirement comes after nearly 50 years in the kit aircraft industry. He is an inductee into the EAA Homebuilders Hall of Fame and two-time winner of the Dr. August Raspet Memorial Award, and has received the EAA Freedom of Flight Award and the Society of Experimental Test Pilots Spirit of Flight Award, among others. “I am retiring from Sonex Aircraft but not forsaking my passion for aviation,” Monnett said. “I will continue to contribute where I can into the future but will be leaving day-to-day operations in the very capable hands of my staff.”

Founded by Monnett in 1998, Sonex Aircraft is a kit aircraft company based in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The company produces kits for several aircraft models, including the Sonex-B LSA, SubSonex jet and Xenos-B motorglider.

Aviation Organizations Push for FAA Reauthorization
Kate O'Connor

The General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) and the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) sent a letter to Congress on Monday urging the U.S. Senate to consider the FAA Reauthorization Act (S. 1405) as soon as possible. Both organizations expressed support for the bill in the letter (PDF), writing that “This comprehensive bill includes key FAA certification and regulatory reforms that will help bring new safety technologies to the market, strengthen aviation sales and exports, and more effectively utilize the resources of the FAA and industry.”

GAMA and AIA, who together represent more than 400 member companies, are pushing to have a long-term funding solution in place before the FAA’s temporary funding extension expires on Sept. 30. The Senate bill was introduced in June of last year by Senator John Thune, R-S.D. S. 1405 would authorize funding for the FAA through 2021.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 (H.R. 4) on April 27, which cover FAA funding through 2023. For reauthorization to go forward, the Senate legislation must also be passed and the differences between the two bills reconciled. At the time the House bill was passed, it was reportedly hoped that the Senate bill would make it to the floor by May or June. The last multiyear authorization bill for the FAA was enacted in 2012.

Flight School Association Revives Accreditation
Kate O'Connor

While taking on debt isn’t without risk, it’s an option quite a few student pilots looking to start flight careers are examining. Loans remain one of the few ways to nail down the resources to see them through to earning their ATP. On that front, many college and university flight students have an advantage over students who train outside the university system: federal loans. The Flight School Association of North America (FSANA) is working on a program that they believe has the potential to change that.

As it stands, many students at college and university flight schools have access to federal financing through the U.S. Department of Education (DoED) as part of their regular financial aid packets. In addition to providing a fairly predictable and streamlined process, federal loans have some benefits that make them attractive, including interest rates that are often much lower than many private loan options available. That said, the DoED requirements do limit applicants primarily to U.S. citizens (there are a few exceptions).

However, being a college or university isn’t required for students to get DoED money. Accreditation is. Therein lies the sticking point.

Colleges and universities have their own accreditation processes, but currently there are no active accreditation programs for independent flight schools. On top of that, meeting the criteria for establishing a DoED-recognized accrediting organization isn’t exactly an easy thing to do. That’s where FSANA is looking to step in with its Flight School Accreditation Program.

FSANA opened the program for the first time in 2011. It was active for roughly three years before going on hiatus in 2014. During that time, just four schools, one of which closed permanently in January 2018, were accredited.

Now, the program is scheduled to open its doors again. According to FSANA CEO Robert Rockmaker, the association has added features to the program with DoED approval in mind. “We are again completing a review of the standards and plan to open the program within the next 60 days,” said Rockmaker. If all goes well, the estimated time for the DoED approval process for the program is 12-24 months.

The new accreditation program will have several differences from the original. First, it will be a two-tiered system. The highest level will be the DoED-recognized accreditation. Schools in this category will have the ability to accept students who have borrowed money using the DoED loan program. At this level, schools are required to provide annual audited financial statements in addition to meeting other program requirements.

The second level of accreditation is slightly less stringent. Yearly financial audits won’t be required and, as such, the schools won’t be eligible for the DoED funding mechanism. This secondary level will be open to all schools that meet FSANA’s accreditation standards. Rockmaker says the second tier will include foreign schools that would not be eligible for the DoED track regardless of accreditation.

The new program also differs from the original in that FSANA will not ultimately be the accrediting organization. They are in the process of establishing an entirely separate accreditation entity based on guidelines from the DoED. Until that entity is established, FSANA will be at the helm of the program. The association anticipates that the transition will be made some time in 2019.

FSANA says that most of the accreditation standards haven’t changed much since the program’s earlier days. They report having made some enhancements and added additional language, particularly dealing with two separate levels of accreditation.

The accreditation process itself focuses on seven “core” areas: Safety, Security, Risk Management, Business Practices, Finance and Accounting, Education, and Customer Satisfaction. Schools will also be expected to comply with the FSANA Code of Ethics. Rockmaker says that the accreditation standards will not specify any particular training program, although schools will have to report which program they use. In addition to submitting all required records and paperwork, accreditation also includes onsite facility inspections.

The accreditation is good for three years at which point it can be renewed. The schools previously accredited by FSANA’s program will be grandfathered into the new one, although they will all be subject to a three-year recertification requirement. The new accreditation standards have not yet been published, but the complete 2014 standards and Code of Ethics can be viewed here (PDF). When asked about expected participation in the program, Rockmaker said that FSANA estimates between 50 and 100 flight schools in the United States will decide to pursue accreditation.

According to Rockmaker, funding access is one important goal for FSANA’s accreditation program, but it’s not the only one. He also spoke extensively about the importance of creating a program that helps to identify schools that promote a safe, ethical culture both in the cockpit and on the business front. He emphasized that flying an aircraft is a vocational skill where the number-one objective is to have pilot consistently operate in a safe fashion.

Most of FSANA’s programs and services are available to members only, although membership will not be required to participate in the accreditation program. FSANA also hosts a yearly Flight School Operators Conference, sends out a free monthly e-newsletter, and is working to develop an active youth program through AeroCamp and other initiatives.

FSANA held its first meeting in the spring of 2009 at Atlantic Aviation in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The not-for-profit trade association’s stated objectives include increasing the pilot population, serving and fostering the flight training industry, and providing programs and services for flight schools. FSANA currently has approximately 300 members and about 100 member schools. Annual dues for schools range from $150-$350 and are based on number of aircraft in the school’s fleet. The cost of an individual membership is $100.  

For more information about the Flight School Association of North America, visit FSANA’s website or contact them at 610-791-4359 or

FAA Accepts SureFly Type Certification Application
Kate O'Connor

The FAA has accepted the type certification application for Workhorse’s hybrid-electric SureFly VTOL, the company announced on Wednesday. According to Workhorse, “the SureFly design appears to be the first hybrid-electric eVTOL multi-copter to reach this important milestone with the FAA.” As we previously reported, the company has said that its goal is to have the aircraft certificated by the end of 2020.

The SureFly, which is being developed as a manned aircraft, has not yet moved beyond hover testing. It completed its first untethered flight—shown in the video below—on April 30 and testing has continued since. The company told AVweb that further flight testing is scheduled for sometime in the next two weeks. The eight-motor SureFly has a 70-mile range, top speed of 70 MPH and 400-pound useful load. Its gas generator is paired with a lithium battery, which also provides five minutes of backup power.

“The FAA has yet to certify an aircraft like SureFly,” said Workhorse CEO Steve Burns. “We have been working closely with the FAA while we have been under our Experiment Certification status, and we feel that their acceptance of our Type Certification application represents a vote of confidence in our team, our product and the future of electric vertical take and landing aircraft here in the United States.” Burns says the SureFly is primarily intended for missions like emergency response, personal transport, precision agriculture or military support rather than the air taxi route many similar designs are taking. For more about the development of the SureFly and Workhorse’s plans for its future, check out this podcast.

Picture of the Week, June 7, 2018
Plane Sailing's Canso A amphibian G-PBYA 'Miss Pick Up' repainted in its current magnificent scheme representing a wartime USAAF OA-10A Catalina 44-33915 of the 8th Air Force 5th Emergency Rescue Squadron at Halesworth, Suffolk. Shot at the former RAF Flying Station Killadeas on June 2, 2018, during the Lough Erne Yacht Club's Seawings Festival in celebration of 100 years of the Royal Air Force. Copyrighted photo by Alan Jarden.

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