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The controversial FAA reauthorization bill that includes privatizing the air traffic control system will begin its journey through what is expected to be a tough legislative process Wednesday with a hearing. Four witnesses, including representatives of Airlines 4 America, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, the Reason Foundation and NBAA President Ed Bolen will testify. In a way, the makeup of the hearing mirrors the primary concern of GA groups who have generally opposed the bill. The overriding worry is that the makeup of the board of directors is heavily weighted toward the airline industry and that other aviation sectors will not get the same access and benefits from the system. The National Air Transport Association added its concern about that Tuesday in a news release. After Wednesday's hearing, the bill heads to committee markup where it will be amended in preparation for presentation in the House.

While all the alphabet groups have seen something to support in the 270-page bill, especially the liberal take on third class medical reform (the bill, as presented, would create the so-called drivers license medical for most private pilots), there are plenty of concerns, too. Many in Congress have concerns, also so the final version of the bill is expected to be much different from the one presented last week. Jim Coon, AOPA's senior vice president of government affairs, said the bill has a long way to go before it is passed, if it is ever passed. "This is the first step in a long and arduous process and we will work to ensure that any legislation protects the interests of general aviation," Coon said in a statement to AVweb. He said AOPA will never accept user fees for GA operators but he also said the system needs change. "I believe most folks would agree that the status quo is difficult to defend," he said. "Having said that, we do have concerns about how ATC reforms in other countries have negatively impacted GA and we want to make sure that those mistakes are not made here in the United States."

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A bill that would cap flight-training benefits for veterans at $20,235 should be scrapped, seven GA advocacy groups told Congress in a letter (PDF) issued today. "This legislation would effectively put flying careers out of reach for many vets," said Jim Coon, AOPA spokesman for government affairs. "There are great jobs in aviation, and our nation's veterans have earned a right to pursue those opportunities." Flight training does not qualify for a federally backed student loan, the groups noted in their letter, "and therefore is treated by most financial institutions as an unsecured loan at interest rates often exceeding 12 percent." Also today, NATA told the House Transportation Committee about its views regarding proposed changes to air traffic control.

NATA said it is opposed to the creation of a user fee-funded, federally chartered, not-for-profit air traffic control corporation. NATA president Thomas Hendricks said (PDF) that while the major airlines would benefit from the proposed system, general aviation users would not be well served. "Absent Congressional oversight, this proposed construct risks unconstrained cost increases being passed along to other users of the system," Hendricks said. "NATA regrets that it cannot support a bill that however well intended, will not in its current form, achieve the policy goals it was created to address." The bill now under consideration in the House calls for transferring responsibility for air traffic control from the FAA to a new independent agency within three years. NATCA and most airlines have endorsed the plan, but general aviation advocacy groups are mainly opposed.

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The FAA today issued a safety alert to airlines around the world, urging them to conduct a "safety risk assessment" regarding the transport of lithium batteries as cargo, in light of new evidence from the agency's recent lithium-battery-fire tests. The FAA also advised its inspectors to determine whether airlines have adequately assessed the risk of carrying the batteries as cargo. "FAA battery fire testing has highlighted the potential risk of a catastrophic aircraft loss due to damage resulting from a lithium battery fire or explosion," the safety alert (PDF) says. "Current cargo fire suppression systems cannot effectively control a lithium battery fire." Current rules already ban passenger airlines from carrying lithium-metal batteries as cargo, and some operators have also chosen not to carry rechargeable, lithium-ion batteries. ICAO, Boeing, and Airbus already have advised airlines about the dangers associated with carrying lithium batteries as cargo and have encouraged them to conduct safety risk assessments, the FAA said.

"The safety risk assessment process is designed to identify and mitigate risks for the airlines that still carry lithium batteries and to help those that don't carry them from inadvertently accepting them for transport," the FAA said. Also, the amount of the batteries that can be carried on any single flight should be subject to a maximum loading density. The NTSB's recommendations followed its investigation of an in-flight fire that occurred in July 2011 aboard Asiana Airlines Flight 991, a Boeing 747 cargo plane. The 747 crashed into the sea near South Korea, killing both pilots.

Investigators cited as a contributing factor in the crash the fact that flammable materials and lithium-ion batteries were loaded together in either the same or adjacent pallets. On the accident airplane, the lithium battery shipments were commingled with flammable materials and other hazardous materials on a single pallet. An adjacent pallet also contained flammable materials. The fire originated in that area, the NTSB says, and within four minutes after detection, the smoke and fire spread rapidly throughout the main deck cargo compartment. Less than 17 minutes after the pilots reported a fire on board, the airplane broke up in flight. The NTSB's recommendations (PDF) were directed to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, which governs U.S. shipments of hazardous materials.

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Apparently responding to buyer complaints about complex ADS-B Out solutions that require expensive WAAS upgrades, Garmin International has announced two all-in-one transponders that will allow owners who don't have WAAS GPS receivers to upgrade to ADS-B Out as simply as possible. One version of the new product combines both In and Out in a single box, with the option of onboard WAAS GPS, while a second is a less expensive Out only solution. 

The GTX 345/335 are extended-squitter Mode S transponders that will meet the 2020 mandate for ADS-B Out. For owners who don't have a WAAS GPS source in the airplane—and that's many—the transponders will also offer the option of onboard WAAS sources, significantly broadening the market appeal.

Both transponders will integrate with current and legacy Garmin displays, including some G1000 suites, the GTN navigators series, the GNS 430W/530W and the G500/600 flight displays. ADS-B In output will also be compatible for display on tablet apps such as Garmin Pilot and ForeFlight Mobile. The GTX 345 displays ADS-B In traffic and FIS-B weather and shows GPS position data and backup altitude information.

The GTX 335 is an Out only solution and is priced at $3795 with onboard WAAS and $2995 without WAAS. The GTX 345 offers both ADS-B In and Out and sells for $5795 with onboard WAAS and $4995 without WAAS. Both models are panel-mount devices, but the remote-mount options are also available for the G1000 and GTN-series products. STCs for the new transponders are expected later this month, according to Garmin.

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Space may get all the mainstream attention in the new NASA budget proposal released today, but staff from the Aeronautics Research Mission are excited about a boost in research funding for new technologies that will impact commercial aviation — including projects that aim to cut fuel burn in half, dramatically reduce noise, restore commercial supersonic flight over land, and develop safer and more efficient air traffic management. "We are ready to take these new technologies into actual X-Plane flight demonstrations," said Jaiwon Shin, associate administrator for the ARM directorate, in a conference call with reporters on Monday. "We have done a pretty decent job of showing the potential benefits of all these technologies to the [Obama] Administration." The new 10-year budget proposes $790 million for the ARM in fiscal year 2017 — a boost of $150 million over last year — and increases yearly to a peak of $1.3 billion in 2023.

Shin said the five new X-Plane aircraft will be remotely piloted and about 50 percent of operational size. Those parameters provide the most useful data while keeping the costs under control, he said. An open competition for the X-plane projects will be held, under a program called New Aviation Horizons. Projects now in the works that will compete include a hybrid wing-body aircraft, a double-bubble fuselage configuration, hybrid electric distributed propulsion, and low-boom supersonic flight. Other contenders are expected to emerge as the competition advances, Shin said. He expects to fly one new X-plane each year, starting next year. NASA also is continuing to work on a "next frontier" ATC system, he said, which would be more efficient and safer than today's system, and also would accommodate drones as well as piloted aircraft. More research also will go into autonomous systems, he said, for both ATC and aircraft, "to increase safety and efficiency."

Other long-term goals for NASA's aeronautics research include "a future where people can travel to most cities in the world in six hours or less in an airplane that can fly faster than the speed of sound on bio-fuels" and the ability to "absorb nearly 4 billion more passengers over the next 20 years without compromising the safety of our skies," according to NASA's news release. The agency also plans to create a University Innovation and Challenge project to work toward addressing key technical challenges facing the aviation industry. Shin said he's hopeful the new budget will quickly gain approval. "I think we have a compelling story, and have been delivering good outcomes," he said. "I think Congress understands the importance of aeronautics research." The agency will "aggressively" seek industry partners to cost-share in its research programs, he added. NASA's overall budget proposal has been cut by $300 million overall. The proposal now goes to Congress — where it will face scrutiny and possible opposition — and then back to the White House for final approval.

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Aspen's angle-of-attack indicator doesn't require any additional hardware beyond the Evolution Flight display.  AVweb's Paul Bertorelli took it for a spin recently and prepared this video report.  Although it's intended for stall awareness, it can also be used to improve approaches.

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I was attending a Wings safety seminar recently and the 1995 American Airlines crash in Colombia was discussed, including the video American Airlines made two years after the fact. If you haven't seen it, it's worth a click.

In this compelling video, the speaker says the words that I believe have subtly, but profoundly, influenced pilot training in the 21st century. He says, "We have become children of the magenta." The speaker links this phrase with statistical accident data to conclude -- among other things -- pilots are losing situational awareness as a function of dependence on flight management systems.

The message that day was this: Do not become dependent on the FMS to fly the airplane. A pilot must retain command and control of the airplane using the appropriate level of automation. Even if that means hand flying. Indeed, American changed their standard operating procedures to that end following the Cali accident. There was another message. The speaker -- a senior instructor and check pilot -- after witnessing one of his trainees in a simulator try to avoid a midair collision by using the FMS, made a striking statement. He said, "I am so sorry, I didn't mean to make you like this!" 

In the nearly 20 years since this video went viral (for aviation), the technology in general aviation airplanes has come to parallel that of the airlines. And so now GA organizations like the Cirrus Owners and Pilots Association have created their own traveling universities that blend simulators, ground school and in-flight training to focus on command and control. But that 1997 one-liner, "children of the magenta" has now morphed into "children of the magenta line" and it stuck, just in time for a turn-of-the-century introduction of sophisticated GPS navigators. These are often coupled to legacy autopilots so 40-year-old GA airplanes were suddenly transformed into technologically advanced airplanes (TAA) with sophisticated and complex flight decks that heretofore were only operated by well-trained flight crews.  That distinction -- well-trained flight crews -- is important. 

Led by Cirrus, Cessna, Avidyne and Garmin, glass soon covered the familiar round holes formerly occupied by steam gauges. These glass cockpits have become fully digital with integrated autopilots and nested capabilities that, truth be told, most of us still don't fully understand. Still, this is the system that draws those maligned magenta lines. And with glass covering the panel, they were brighter, bigger and easier to see than ever before.

Today, those seeking private pilot training have choices. There is now a fork in the road created by the introduction of TAA. Take the left fork to good old-fashioned seat-of-the-pants, look-out-the-window, finger-on-the-map flight training. Veer to the right and enter a world where bright lights, buttons and knobs take center stage. The airplane, once the ultimate machine to master, is only the delivery vehicle for the magenta line.

Question is, left fork or right fork? Should an aspiring pilot learn in a TAA or not? Aviation sages like to wax poetic about mission specifics. So, if one's mission is low, slow and simply recreational flying, take the left fork. If one is looking to get more utility out of piloting an airplane, say, career or business flying, then it's the right fork. Will right-fork training make them children of the magenta? History tells us it will, but it doesn't have to be that way. After all, the magenta line is all grown up now and here to stay. This is why I believe the magenta line is a tool to be learned and used by pilots for its intended purpose, to reduce pilot workload. It is that simple. Or is it? 

The automation is there to serve at the pilot's pleasure. When that is the case, workload goes down. The training one receives in TAA ought to reflect that, thereby rendering pilots as masters of the magenta, not slaves to it. The complex flight deck is just another tool in the box. It's been said that complex flight decks have not reduced pilot workload, only redirected it. In TAA today, there is no doubt pilot workload has been redirected. But why has it not also been reduced?

It has been my observation that this redirection appears really to be an outgrowth of a paradigm fabricated by the marketers of GPS units, glass panels and new airplanes. The paradigm, in simple terms, is that automation is there to replace the pilot. I'm sure many reading this take exception to that statement. But if the airlines are having to retrain "well-trained" flight crews, then it is the height of arrogance to think GA pilots, flying single-pilot, have not become children of the magenta as well. It's time to grow up. 

My work doing transition training into TAA and glass cockpits has provided an opportunity to meet many pilots. When I explain that my job is to transition them into this new cockpit as the pilot in command, I often get "the look." That eye up and to the right realization that I'm not simply going show them how to push the button that will automatically take them to altitude, point them in the right direction, remind them to switch tanks, suck O2 and turn on the pitot heat all while VNV and APR get them down and line them up with the runway. 

My transition training is directly related to placing a thinking pilot in command. It makes the training easy. If choosing a level of automation increases pilot workload, it is not a good choice. If searching for information increases pilot workload, it is not a good choice. Recognizing the distinction is what ought to be taught and in my view, there is no better place than a simulator to test the possibilities and learn to think. 

Such thinking requires a willing student, a fully proficient CFI, and the time, effort and money to get from rote to application. In theory, any transitioning pilot with the mental fortitude could figure it all out before the first lesson. But such pilots are rare, most coming from the left fork, where stick and rudder skills trump magenta lines. Yet, for the new pilot in training, there is no requirement to get it all in minimum time like the transitioning pilot. Their flight instructors have the luxury of time. To introduce the colorful lines, FMS functions, autopilots and encyclopedic volumes of buried information at a pace consistent with skill level.

I've found that it's more difficult to transition a pilot into TAA than to train one ab initio. With practice, the philosophy that the automation is there to serve at the pleasure of the pilot becomes a way of thinking. When combined with a complete understanding of system capabilities, it will provide low pilot workload.  Sometimes that means saying no to ATC, hand flying or tuning, identifying and tracking a VOR radial.  The fail-safe is always the pilot, not the magenta line. Yet, for the student pilot learning to fly cross-country, that magenta line is still there and poses an entirely different training problem. Pitch, power and trim don't get washed out by the bright light of the magenta, but the nature of how we teach navigation does. 

In TAA, one is not compelled to fill the cockpit full of plotters, charts and stopwatches. Today, student pilots arrive with electronic flight bags. Their training airplanes have flight management systems that draw magenta lines. Armed with tablets, mobile phones, and a portable XM receiver with GPS you have backups for the backups. Even smart watches are in play. But what if? Even for the most tech-savvy students, instructors must inhibit their use of the magenta during pre- and post-solo training regardless of their whining and good arguments.

Designated Pilot Examiners are still pulling the what if on private and instrument pilot applicants. What if everything goes dark? How will you find your way? The panel has gone black. Both your iPad and mobile phone batteries are dead. According to Mr. Murphy, if it can happen, it will. Still, teaching tried-and-true navigation methods is about so much more than just passing check rides. It is a bonding experience, inside the sky, between the pilot and airplane. Following the road or river is fun, useful and should be learned. Spin the whiz wheel for speed, distance, fuel burn, headwinds and time all while filling in the blocks on the flight planning form. Magenta line not required.

Delaying gratification, therefore, is more fundamental than Murphy. It teaches pilots to think. To understand what the numbers on those flat panels really mean. Yet the magenta line, for all it represents, is a powerfully addictive thing. Like a moth to flames, pilots are drawn to the pretty pink. The training road less traveled is the way of the modern pilot. Only those who seek true understanding can be masters of the magenta. It is a philosophy that takes more thinking, not less, and cannot be taught only by SOP. 

The magenta line is here to stay. Let's stop maligning it and start using it the spirit for which it was designed.  Not to replace the pilot but to serve at their pleasure. 

Chuck Cali is is a working CFII/MEI, CSIP, part-time factory instructor for Cirrus, and Director of Sales at FlyThisSim, LLC.

Introducing D2 Bravo || More than a Timepiece, Less than a Flight Deck

Cessna Aircraft launched the second year of its Top Hawk university program, announcing this week its 2016 participants: Kent State University, LeTourneau University, Purdue University and Westminster College. Each school will receive a new Cessna Skyhawk 172 to use for recruitment, flight training and participation in aviation events, along with the opportunity to send students to Wichita for summer internships. Cessna's Doug May talked to AVweb about the long-term benefits of the program.

A20 Aviation Headset || Now with Enhanced Features

Paul Bertorelli recently sat down with Jeff Chamberlain from the Argonne National Laboratory as part of his research for an in-depth comparison of battery technologies for our sister publication Aviation Consumer.  Chamberlain had a lot to say about the future of battery technology and its impact on the push toward electric airplanes.

Read more here.

TouchTrainer from FlyThisSim || Log Time & Stay Current in YOUR Model

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