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Volume 25, Number 52b
December 26, 2018
 
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Federal Shutdown Rankles GA Advocates
 
Mary Grady
 
 

Just three days into the federal government shutdown, GA advocacy groups are stepping up their protests to the action. NATCA issued a statement on Monday noting that this is the third government shutdown this year. “The air traffic controllers and traffic management coordinators that NATCA represents remain on the job, dedicated to the safety of every flight, but they don’t know when they will receive their next paycheck,” NATCA said. And while controllers are working without pay, many others who support the system are furloughed—staff who provide tactical, strategic and administrative support at towers; engineers who certify aircraft and design navigation aids; test pilots; and more. “The FAA requires a stable, predictable funding stream,” NATCA said, for, sadly, about the 10,000th time.

While the FAA Registry in Oklahoma City has been deemed essential and will remain open during the shutdown, many other services will be unavailable. A few that were listed by NBAA include the issuance of airman certificates; approval of exemptions for drone operations; aviation rulemaking; and the development, testing and evaluation of NextGen technologies. Operators should check ahead with customs checkpoints, especially if they plan to arrive outside of normal business hours. All workers, whether furloughed or on duty, will be paid their back pay when the shutdown ends.

A Good Time For Doing Good
 
Mary Grady
 

Whatever your persuasion regarding the holiday season, one universally agreed-on aspect is that it’s a good time for doing good. It’s the end of the year, maybe you got a bonus or have a little cash left over after paying all the bills, and some spirit from Dickens or elsewhere is whispering in your ear that it would warm your heart to share a little, of your time or money or skills, or all three.

In aviation, we have our own special ways of contributing to the common welfare. One winter day a few years ago, I got a call from some guy in Idaho, who was looking for a way to help stranded sea turtles on Cape Cod that needed transport to a warmer place. Leslie Weinstein was an AVweb reader, and finding that I lived near the Cape, hoped maybe I could pull some local strings. My aviator friends and I did what we could, but the governor couldn’t be persuaded that we needed the Coast Guard planes to help out the turtles. It would have been a quick and easy solution (and great PR), but when it didn’t pan out, Weinstein kept at it and recruited GA pilots. It meant smaller batches, and more flights, and daunting logistics, but he got it done. Now, going on five years later, Weinstein has made it work year after year, and Turtles Fly Too is even expanding to help save the whales.

Other aviators, from corporate operators to private pilots, pitch in all year long. You can find a number of nonprofits online that will help you provide free transport for sick patients and their families. You can fly new Young Eagles, via EAA’s ongoing project; help protect the environment with groups like Lighthawk; or work to keep backcountry air strips well supported, with groups like the Recreational Aviation Foundation. Pilots and Paws helps homeless pets escape their shelters to settle in with new families far away, and the Air Care Alliance acts as a referral service for more than 60 nonprofits. Whatever your skills, whatever kind of airplane you fly, however much time or money you can contribute, whatever your particular passion, there’s someone out there who can make use of you.

And what’s in it for you? “His own heart laughed,” Dickens said of the redeemed Scrooge, at the end of his story. “And that was quite enough for him.”

Cameron Builds Biggest-Ever Hot-Air Balloon
 
Mary Grady
 
 

Cameron, a manufacturer based in England, has completed a project to build the biggest hot-air balloon ever made, with an envelope 223 feet tall. The one-of-a-kind aerostat is intended for an attempt by Russian adventurer Fedor Konyukhov to complete the highest flight ever in a hot-air balloon, with the goal to fly into the stratosphere and reach 82,000 feet, high enough to see the curvature of the Earth. Konyukhov has said he hopes to fly even higher, to 115,000 feet or more, to glimpse the blackness of space. The current hot-air balloon altitude record, set in 2005 over India by pilot Vijaypat Singhania, is 68,986 feet.

The new balloon has a volume of 3.5 million cubic feet, compared to a standard hot-air balloon envelope of 105,000 cubic feet. The balloon is now in testing. Cameron also built a pressurized aluminum gondola for the attempt, which will carry the pilot and all the fuel and technology needed to complete the flight. The record flight is planned for spring in 2019, Cameron told AVweb. Konyukhov is currently rowing around the world, working to set a new record, but will fly the balloon during a break from that project.

A rendering of the completed balloon system.

The pressurized gondola.

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Yes, Virginia, The FAA Does Have A Sense Of Humor
 
Mary Grady
 
 

Those of a certain age may remember the famous New York Sun editorial from 1897, when a little girl was reassured that “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” The FAA took the same position this week, announcing that Santa has equipped Rudolph with new ADS-B avionics and received a $500 rebate. “This state-of-the-art technology will enhance my safety and increase efficiency while delivering toys to children around the world, provided they are good for goodness sake,” said Santa Claus, according to the FAA.

The FAA noted that Santa was the 2,354th aircraft/sleigh owner to receive a rebate since the program was relaunched two months ago to encourage owners to equip. The ADS-B avionics, which will enable FAA air traffic controllers to track Santa’s location with pinpoint accuracy, will be required starting Jan. 1, 2020, in all aircraft flying in certain, controlled airspace. To qualify for the rebate, the Santa sleigh was flown and validated, though at night, while children were asleep, to avoid confusion. “Ho ho ho,” Santa said, according to the FAA. “Merry Christmas!”

UAS Course Scholarships Offered For First Responders
 
Kate O'Connor
 
 

Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus is offering $500 scholarships to first responders who want to attend its small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) commercial remote pilot training course in 2019. The three-day course covers topics including airspace, meteorology, weather, UAS performance, loading and center of gravity, and Part 107 operations. The scholarship, which is available to law enforcement, fire rescue and emergency management personnel, is designed to reduce overall course cost by 50 percent.

"Approximately 35 percent of the attendees of this training come from the public safety arena,” said Kurt J. Carraway, UAS research executive director of Kansas State Polytechnic's Applied Aviation Research Center. “We do not want cost to become a barrier to providing access of this lifesaving technology into the hands of our first responders and emergency managers.”

Kansas State Polytechnic began offering first responder-specific training in 2018 with its UAS Law Enforcement Training course and a First Responder Symposium. A course specifically for fire rescue personnel is under development and plans are in place for a second symposium for 2019.

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Textron Exec Nominated To NTSB
 
Mary Grady
 
 

Michael Graham, the director of flight operations safety, security and standardization at Textron Aviation, has been nominated to succeed Earl Weener, who has served on the NTSB since 2010. If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Graham will complete Weener’s term, which expires at the end of 2020. He has been with Textron Aviation for 21 years, and is responsible for the safe and secure operations of all Textron flights, worldwide. Graham started his aviation career as a naval aviator for the U.S. Navy, flying A-7s and F/A-18s. He later worked for Boeing/McDonnell Douglas as an F/A-18 aircrew instructor and avionics engineer, and for Cessna as a flight-test pilot. He is an ATP with 10,000 flight hours and is type-rated in six different Citation models.

NBAA President Ed Bolen said Graham has worked on their Safety Committee. “Mike has been a tireless advocate for business-aviation safety, including championing our work to address single-pilot business-aviation safety issues as lead of the NBAA Safety Committee’s single-pilot safety working group,” Bolen said. NBAA supports his confirmation. Graham has also served as the chairman of the Air Charter Safety Foundation since July.

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