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Monday was the first day of the FAA’s drone registry, and it was not without glitches, with users reporting that it went down for a while shortly after it opened, and others complaining that the FAA posted incorrect information for law enforcement about deadlines. The site is back up and running, and that law-enforcement information has been fixed, but others are still finding problems in the system. One Twitter poster said he registered and then was shown information for someone from Nevada. “Did they even bug test this thing?” he asked. The FAA has, however, succeeded at getting the word out — virtually all of the major news outlets have covered the drone-registry story over the last week.

Concerns also have been expressed that the registry information will be available on the web to anyone, and will include the names and addresses of minors as young as 13. The FAA told Forbes blogger John Goglia: “Until the drone registry system is modified, the FAA will not release names and address. When the drone registry system is modified to permit public searches of registration numbers, names and addresses will be revealed through those searches.” The Academy of Model Aeronautics has urged its 185,000 members to hold off on registering. “We strongly believe our members are not the problem and should not have to bear the burden of additional regulations,” the group says in its blog. The AMA has filed a petition in federal court challenging the FAA’s definition of model aircraft. The FAA has posted FAQs and fact sheets online for anyone looking to use the new system.

And in case you missed it, AVweb’s Paul Bertorelli issued his own assessment of the new drone-registration plan last week.

A camera drone crashed a few feet behind a downhill skier competing in a World Cup slalom event in Italy on Tuesday. The hefty-looking aircraft dropped vertically and smashed to pieces as Austrian skier Marcel Hirscher negotiated a steep section of the course. He did not appear to notice the maelstrom of plastic behind him. He finished the race in second place.

The drone was apparently being used for media coverage of the event.  It was obviously a much larger platform than the popular consumer drones that are now selling by the thousands (and subject to registration in the U.S., as of Monday.) The camera it was carrying detached from the aircraft but appeared to be tethered and the bulk of the wreckage was confined to a small area. Some bits went flying, however. If it had hit the skier, it likely would have injured him, something not lost on our silver medalist.  "This is horrible. This can never happen again," Hirscher told ESPN. "This can be a serious injury."  See how close it was below.

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The FAA is working on ways for private aviators to protect their flight data from being made public, according to a recent report in The Wall Street Journal. NBAA and GAMA have been pressing the FAA, the Journal reported, to ensure that as new air traffic control systems such as ADS-B are developed, they will include a feature that enables private operators to fly without their flight operations being made public in real-time. The operators have expressed concerns about security, privacy and business competition. The tentative solution, according to the Journal, is for the system to change its aircraft-specific identifying codes, perhaps daily or weekly, to prevent the public from identifying specific ADS-B transmissions as belonging to particular aircraft.

For the longer term, government and industry experts are studying ways to encrypt the data, to shield the locations and registration numbers of business or private aircraft, the Journal said. The business-aviation community has been expressing concern about this issue for years. In May, NBAA President Ed Bolen wrote in an op-ed: "ADS-B transmits an unencrypted, real-time signal that includes the aircraft's Mode S transponder code, its call sign, aircraft type, position and airspeed, as determined by the aircraft's own GPS-based avionics. Anyone with the right equipment can capture that real-time data and potentially use it for nefarious purposes." Bolen said NBAA is concerned that its members' flights could be tracked by competitors trying to deduce their next business moves.

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Transport Canada has issued type certification for Bombardier's CSeries airliner. Transport Minister Marc Garneau made the announcement last week at Bombardier's Montreal-area facility. The CSeries is the first clean-sheet single-aisle airliner to be certified in at least 20 years and Bombardier is pinning its future on the fuel-efficient, fly-by-wire jet. The aircraft certified last week is the CS100, the 100-seat version of the aircraft. EASA and FAA certification is expected shortly. The CS300, a 160-seat version, is expected to get certification in about six months. The company said Monday it will be aggressively marketing the aircraft now that it has certification and is looking for another marquee customer to get sales rolling.

The launch customer for the aircraft is the Swiss Air subsidiary of Lufthansa and it will begin flying the aircraft as a replacement for its RJ85 fleet in early 2016. Bombardier has 243 confirmed orders for a mix of both sizes of the aircraft but needs more to break even on the program. The development costs ballooned to more than $5 billion and caused an incipient cash crisis at the company. Last month two Quebec agencies provided bailouts totaling $2.5 billion, which will give Bombardier the breathing room it needs to finish the program.

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The FAA said today it has reached a settlement with Boeing Commercial Airplanes (BCA) regarding 13 complaints that the company had failed to meet various compliance standards. Under the agreement, BCA must pay the government $12 million and also must implement changes to several certification processes, “to further enhance the airworthiness and continued compliance of all BCA products,” the FAA said. “It is imperative that everyone complies with our aviation system’s high safety standards,” added U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. 

The FAA investigation was prompted by the amount of time it took for BCA to provide information about the installation of equipment that would reduce the likelihood of a fuel-tank fire in 747 and 757 airplanes, according to USA Today. FAA regulators also cited "the company's insufficient corrective action after discovering that a supplier had been providing incorrectly shaped fasteners."

Boeing said in a statement today it believes the agreement “fairly resolves announced and potential civil penalty actions – most of which date back years, and two of which were previously announced in 2012 and 2013 – [and] also will further enhance Boeing's self-correcting quality and compliance systems.” Many of the improvements listed in the agreement have already been implemented or are in the process of implementation, Boeing said. If Boeing fails to meet its commitments, it could be subject to more penalties and up to $24 million in additional fines, the FAA said.

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SpaceX successfully landed its reusable booster rocket after launching a payload of 11 small satellites into orbit Monday evening. It was SpaceX's first launch since a rocket boosting a re-supply capsule to the International Space Station was destroyed shortly after launch in late June. Monday's launch was the fourth attempt at reusing the 15-story booster after three failures to stick a landing on a barge off the coast of Florida. This time, SpaceX returned the booster to a retired Atlas launch pad about six miles from the launch site. "This has been a wildly successful return to flight for SpaceX," said a SpaceX launch commentator. "We made history today." It was actually the second successful recovery of a rocket booster. Amazon's Blue Origin landed one last month but SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said at the time the feat was not directly comparable because the Blue Origin spacecraft isn't an orbital vehicle.

All 11 satellites were successfully deployed and the mission set the stage for SpaceX's next resupply flight in February. The June accident was caused by a strut failure on the upper stage of the rocket. Accolades poured in for the remarkable mission. "This was a first for us at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, and I can't even begin to describe the excitement the team feels right now having been a part of this historic first-stage rocket landing," Cape Canaveral commanding officer Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith said in a statement. 

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So Amazon is starting an airline and it’s because of me. Or people like me, evidently. As you read in this week’s news columns, Amazon hasn’t confirmed it yet, but sources say they’re trying to make a deal to lease a fleet of 20 or more 767s to fly their own packages around the country. (For comparison, FedEx has about 600 airplanes of various sizes at its disposal worldwide and UPS about 500.)

A little background. Amazon’s Prime service has been around, believe it or not, for a decade. For a flat fee of $99, it offers expedited free shipping, plus some other bangles. A few years ago, I signed up, mainly for the shipping because I order enough stuff to come out ahead on the cost. It’s mostly small stuff that sometimes costs less than the shipping—a RAM mount for my iPad, mic windscreens, intercom batteries, mic adapters and so on. Prime seems to always deliver in two days and sometimes one day. I like that, but it’s usually less important than the free shipping. At least I think it is. Maybe Amazon knows me better than I know me.

So obsessed with rapid shipping has Amazon become that it’s planning a fleet of drones—you’ve read about that, no doubt—and now an airline to address what it seems to think are catastrophic delivery delays. Really? Unless I was waiting for, say, an arterial pressure monitor for my dialysis machine, I can’t imagine thinking of my mic windscreens arriving even a week late as a nuisance, much less a catastrophe. And another thing, I wouldn’t trade the prospect of four-hour delivery against the annoyance of a lot of drone noise. I wonder if many people would. Evidently, it appears that Millennials, as a fat demographic, do want this. So Amazon thinks we, as consumers, have to have our trinkets so badly that it’s willing to construct the drone fleet and now, an airline. 

That raises some things to chew on. First of all, some tech companies have a taste for verticality because they think they can apply technology to do things better than anyone else. Or they just want complete control. So my guess is deep in the fertile brain of Jeff Bezos is a plan to make a run at FedEx and UPS, not just delivery of Amazon merchandise more quickly. Maybe Amazon thinks the freight companies are sclerotic, cost inefficient and ripe for disruption. Who’s holding the stronger cards? What if Amazon, with its 168 distribution centers, has discovered that it’s driven its package handling costs to a fraction of what it thinks FedEx and UPS pay? And maybe it thinks it can apply that to a shipping business model and undercut FedEx by 15 percent or 30 percent or some disruptive number. Maybe it thinks it’s got the chops to introduce autonomous freighters much sooner than anyone believes is possible. Think of the big airplanes networked together with little drones into one, seamless autonomous system designed to efficiently move cheap Chinese junk around the planet. The mind boggles. 

On the other hand, the two shipping companies have been operating fleets totaling more than 1000 airplanes for many years. They know the costs and methods of doing this. FedEx's sort process in Memphis is not exactly low-tech. Or slow. Furthermore, through a long, sad history, aviation has not been kind to new entrants challenging established players and replacing pilots with robots may be a pipe dream for near-term business planning.

For proof of the economic challenge, look no further than DHL, which bought up Airborne Express in 2003 with the idea of challenging the FedEx/UPS duopoly. Nearly 4 billion burned dollars later, they exited the business in 2008 and retired to Europe from whence they came. Now comes Amazon to occupy—you guessed it—the very same facility DHL had in Wilmington, Ohio. That may have been a choice driven by circumstance and opportunity, but Wilmington is 400 more miles from the west coast than is Memphis. Another hour of flying from the west coast, an hour less from the east. In a business known for slim margins, could that matter? Ask DHL, I guess. The company learned to its pain that FedEx, UPS and even USPS compete intensely and DHL’s innovations weren’t enough to build a bridgehead.

In any new business, you don't know what you don't know until it's too late. In anything related to aviation, the only thing you can count on, but many don't, is that everything will take twice as long as you think and cost five times as much. Could success for Amazon turn on customer service? Because neither FedEx nor UPS are consistently good at this, in my experience. Two examples. Two months ago, I shipped a green screen to Ohio for a photo shoot. It was destroyed in a FedEx truck crash and returned to me in pieces, with the assurance from the driver that the company would be in touch with a claim. That never happened. I had to initiate the claim and FedEx took its sweet time reviewing and paying. It didn’t give the impression it wanted to pay what it owed. A UPS driver once left a box containing a $1000 camera by our mailbox right on the open road. I complained vigorously to the local office who assured me it wouldn’t happen again. It did. That’s a company that doesn’t care much about its customers, in my view, perhaps as a result of internal culture.

To be fair, both companies score well in independent customer satisfaction ratings, but have been behind retailers, food chains and even banks. People remember bad experiences like mine and that’s what makes them open to try the competition. And for the record, Prime customer service is excellent, although I’ve only used it twice. Does Amazon, being an upstart, understand what FedEx and UPS might not? Maybe we’re about to find out.

But this much is certain: Amazon wants to dominate the universe of selling stuff and one way or another, aviation is going to play a major role in that. And on that intriguing note, I wish you a Merry Christmas as UPS delivers your Amazon bling.

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As 2015 draws to a close, Avweb takes a look back through the eyes of photographers who sent us photos this year. Thanks to all for your keen eyes and camera skills.

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