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The Senate has passed the Pilot's Bill of Rights 2 (PBR2) and the next step is for the House to consider it. The Senate version passed unanimously less than a week after it was sent to the full Senate by the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. The bill had strong support in the Senate, with 71 sponsors and plenty of marquee backers. In the House, there are 152 bipartisan co-sponsors and if it makes it through it must be signed by the president.

Although it's by no means a done deal, the Senate approval is considered a major milestone. "This is an enormous step toward getting long-awaited third-class medical reforms, and we’re excited that the Senate has moved so decisively to get this done,” said AOPA President Mark Baker. “Without a doubt this has been a real fight, but the passage of PBR2 shows that members of the Senate recognize the value of supporting the general aviation community," said Baker in a late-night news release Tuesday. "This legislation will help hundreds of thousands of general aviation pilots by saving them time, money, and frustration while giving them tools they need to take charge of their health and fitness to fly." The bill doesn't eliminate medical scrutiny for those flying light singles but it does get rid of the requirement for periodic medical examinations for those involved in personal aviation.

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For about a decade, the CAFE Foundation has been promoting the development of electric aircraft and hosting an annual symposium in Santa Rosa, California, and now Brien Seeley, a co-founder of the group and its longtime president, has left to create a new nonprofit, the Sustainable Aviation Foundation. The SAF has launched its own website, and recently announced it will organize its own Electric Aircraft Symposium, to be held in May in San Francisco. The new president of CAFE, Larry Ford, who also was a co-founder, told AVweb this week, “The CAFE Foundation board was surprised and disappointed that Brien has taken this course [to offer a symposium].” CAFE intends to continue offering its own symposium, he said, and will announce the details for their 2016 event in January.


Brien Seeley

Seeley told AVweb he aims for the new SAF to pursue a “big-picture environmental approach,” and he hopes to develop future Green Flight Challenges for electric aircraft. The SAF’s “big tent,” according to the website, “will encompass the many technologies that can bring the legacy aviation world together with the transformative future of on-demand public sky transit and UAVs.” The May SAF symposium will include a forum on autonomous UAVs, featuring leaders from Amazon and Google, Seeley said. The new SAF website will host a blog, “Sustainable Skies,” curated by Dean Sigler, who also will continue to write the CAFE blog.

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The FAA’s new rule that will require drone users to register their aircraft was released today (PDF), and FAA officials told reporters this morning they’re hopeful the word will get out and users will comply. “Unmanned aircraft operators are aviators,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, on a conference call. “And with that title comes a great deal of responsibility.” He added: “My message to unmanned aircraft operators is pretty simple: It is in your best interest to register early ...This is one step we’re taking, but it’s not the only step the government will take when it comes to the safe integration of these technologies. We reserve the right to ratchet up or down depending on circumstances as they continue to evolve.” The rule applies to all drones weighing between 0.55 and 55 pounds.

The new online registration system, which will open next Monday, Dec. 21, will require users to enter a name, address, email address and credit card number. The registration fee will be $5 for three years, and the same registration number can be used for any number of UAS. The number must be displayed on each drone. Users who currently own UAS or buy them before Dec. 21 must register by Feb. 21, 2016. On and after Dec. 21, owners must register before their first flight outdoors. The registration fee is waived for the first 30 days after the registry opens; however, users still must enter a credit card number, which will be charged the fee, and then it will later be refunded. Users age 13 and up can register on their own; younger users must have a parent register for them.

Education is a paramount goal of the registration system, said FAA deputy administrator Roger Whitaker. Registration provides the FAA with an opportunity to ensure that operators know the rules. The UAS must be operated only below 400 feet, within sight of the operator at all times; they must stay away from manned aircraft, never fly over crowds or events, and if flying within 5 miles of an airport, the operator must contact the airport first. “We’ll be pushing out information via faa.gov, Facebook, and Twitter,” Whitaker said. Whitaker said the FAA is working closely with industry partners to get the word out to users about their responsibilities. Many manufacturers will include information about registration at point of sale. The FAA has several enforcement options, including civil penalties and criminal penalties of up to three years in jail. “Our real challenge is to get users to understand the rules and comply,” Whitaker said.

Drones still are limited to use only for hobby or recreation, the FAA said, but by next spring they plan to offer "enhancements" to the online system that will allow owners to register drones for use in connection with a business. The rule released today is an "Interim Final Rule," which means it's effective immediately upon publication; however, the FAA still will accept comments on the rule and may alter it if warranted.

Despite our cynical belief that it would never get it done before Christmas, the FAA announced on Monday that its new drone registration program for all but the smallest drones will be in place next week. After we've registered, we'll let you know how it works. But in the meantime, we've given the FAA a report card so far. The good news? It's doing better than in the last semester.

Drone Report Card

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The small-airplane industry has been eagerly awaiting changes in the FAA certification rules for several years, but GAMA President Pete Bunce said today the FAA has failed to meet today’s deadline, set by Congress, for issuing a proposed rule. “It is very disappointing that [FAA officials] have not found ways to comply with the law of the land, despite repeated requests by, and assistance from, industry to do so,” Bunce said, in a news release. The Small Airplane Revitalization Act, passed by Congress in 2013, called on the FAA to revise its rules for certifying small aircraft, to reduce regulatory costs while improving safety.

Bunce said the aviation industry in Europe has made faster progress on a similar overhaul, working collaboratively with regulators. The new FAA rules would create an ASTM compliance system, similar to what’s used today by light sport aircraft manufacturers. The new system also would establish international standards, opening up a global marketplace for manufacturers. Bunce asked the administration to overcome its “bureaucratic paralysis” and publish the NPRM before the end of the year. “In the interests of general aviation safety and innovation, it is the strong desire of the entire general aviation community for the Administration to rapidly place priority on an effort to publish the NPRM,” Bunce said.

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Avidyne says it's the first avionics company to provide interfaces to both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth for its FMS systems. The company announced last week that it has received STC approval for the wireless access to its IFD540/440 flight management systems. The approval makes Avidyne's MK10 Bluetooth keyboard available. “The MK10 Keyboard makes flying even easier by providing wireless control of many of the IFD440/ IFD540 functions,” said Tom Harper, Avidyne’s Director of Marketing. “And because the 440 and 540 have integrated Bluetooth and Wi-Fi capability, all current and future owners can enable this and future functionality via software, without the need to add expensive remote boxes and additional wiring.”

The keyboard is the first wireless-enabled device to work with the Avidyne panels but it won't be the last. Tablets will also be able to link to the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth data streams once developers write the code to take advantage of the availability. "This approval also gives third-party tablet app developers access to both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi data streams using Avidyne's previously-released Software Developer Kit (SDK)," the company said in its release. "Bluetooth and Wi-Fi functionality requires IFD440/IFD540 software Release 10.1.1."

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image: Guidance Aviation

Leaders in Congress are working on legislative changes that would cut flight-training benefits for veterans, the Helicopter Association International said this week in a news release. HAI President Matt Zuccaro issued a “call to action,” saying the proposed changes would especially affect helicopter flight training. In addition, HAI said, under a new interpretation issued earlier this month, the VA will no longer reimburse veterans for private-pilot training offered by colleges that contract with nearby flight schools — the school must run its own flight program. In addition, new legislation would set a cap of $19,400 per year on educational reimbursements, an amount too low for most flight-training programs. These changes mean fewer veterans will be able to pursue a pilot career, says HAI.

HAI says the changes would especially affect those seeking helicopter ratings, where the cost of flight hours adds up quickly, and the high hourly costs of operation leaves providers without much room to reduce rates to fit the new limits. “Veterans will be significantly harmed by these cuts,” HAI said, and the commercial helicopter pilot shortage will get worse. These legislative changes are part of the omnibus spending bill moving through Congress this week. “Time is of the essence,” says HAI. “Contact your representatives and senators today.”

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Investigators in Egypt say they’ve found no evidence that a terrorist bomb brought down a Russian airliner that crashed in the Sinai desert on Oct. 31. That’s the opposite of what Russian investigators claim and what U.S. security experts suspect, according to a CNN report on Monday.

Egyptian officials have steadfastly resisted Russian claims that MetroJet Flight 9268 was destroyed by a bomb placed aboard the flight, probably in the tail area. Shortly after the crash occurred, ISIS claimed responsibility and circulated a photo depicting what it said was a bomb concealed in a soft drink can.

Although the investigation continues in Egypt, European investigators who have examined the wreckage have reportedly said that an explosion that wasn’t accidental brought down the Airbus, which was en route from Sharm el-Sheikh to Russia.

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At NBAA 2015, the star of the static display was a 50-year-old piston aircraft widely considered to be the first true business airplane.  Jay Duckson of Central Business Jets showed us the Howard 500.

Elevate Your Flying || Trust When It Counts - Jeppesen Data Powers Your Avionics

In a world (imagine that in a really deep voice) where the spoken word languishes in the dustbin of thoughtful expression, pilots who master aviation shorthand will fly confidently, speak well with ATC, and ace this quiz.

Click here to take the quiz.

A20 Aviation Headset || Now with Enhanced Features

FreeFlight Systems, your nextgen avionics leader, presents a five-part short course on ADS-B and what it means for you.  In the fourth installment, Pete Ring offers a guided tour of the subscription-free datalink weather services available to ADS-B-equipped aircraft.

What Everybody Ought to Know About the CGR-30P from Electronics International

The MicroTower is a highly automated traffic and weather robot for airports of all sizes.  It incorporates some pretty smart artificial intelligence, as will be obvious from this AVweb video checkout of the system.

Introducing the Tango Wireless Headset from Lightspeed || That's Right - We Said Wireless

Jim Remar, president and COO of the Kansas Cosmosphere & Space Center, talks with AVweb's Elaine Kauh about the restoration project that will bring parts of the Apollo mission engines into the public eye for the first time since the historic flights took place.

There's Something (Affordable) in the Air || January 20-23, 2016 || U.S. Sport Aviation Expo || Sebring, FL
Picture of the Week
Picture of the Week

Linda Burton Ricks of Califon, NJ kicks off another round of reader-submitted photos. Click through to treat your eyeballs to more pics from your fellow readers.