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The federal Transportation Department, which oversees the FAA and air traffic control, will be headed by Elaine Chao when the Trump administration takes office, CNN reported on Tuesday. Chao is a former labor secretary and also is married to Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell. The post is currently filled by Anthony Foxx, who has served since 2013. The DOT has a budget of more than $70 billion and employs more than 55,000 workers. The agency oversees all air, maritime and surface transportation in the U.S.

Chao previously served as the deputy secretary of transportation from 1989 to 1991, and as secretary of labor from 2001 to 2009. Most recently she has held a position as a distinguished fellow at the Hudson Institute. Earlier in her career, Chao also worked for United Way and the Peace Corps, and earned an M.B.A. from the Harvard Business School.

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A charter aircraft carrying 72 passengers, including members of a Brazilian soccer team, and nine crew, crashed in Cerro Gordo, Columbia, late Monday. Early news reports indicate that 75 people were killed and six survived, but one of those rescued later died. The survivors included three soccer players, two crew members and a journalist, according to CNN. The Avro RJ85 was en route from Santa Cruz, Bolivia, to Medellin, a flight of about 1,800 miles, when it crashed near Rionegro, Colombia, about 18 miles from its destination airport. Tuesday morning, the head of Colombia's Civil Aviation Authority reportedly said there was “no evidence of fuel” in the aircraft wreckage. According to NBCNews, the RJ85's range is about 1,842 miles when equipped with standard fuel tanks.

Cerro Gordo is in a rugged mountainous area northeast of Medellin. Although there appeared to be rain showers in the area at the time of the crash, it’s not known if weather was a factor. News reports say the aircraft had been issued priority to land. According to USA Today, the crew had reported electrical problems with the plane. Controllers lost contact with the crew around midnight local time.

The British Aerospace Avro RJ85 is a four-engine jet. The accident aircraft was built in 1989. The Chapecoense Real soccer team was headed to Medellin to play in the Copa Americana tournament.

The FAA says safety and not media suppression was behind temporary flight restrictions that were imposed on drone flights over the site of a massive pipeline protest in North Dakota. In a statement released Monday, the agency said it's just trying to keep drones from hitting law enforcement helicopters patrolling the Standing Rock protest and to protect people on the ground. The FAA statement follows in its entirety.

The Federal Aviation Administration carefully considers requests from law enforcement and other entities before establishing Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFR) in U.S. airspace. The TFR currently over the pipeline protest was approved to ensure the safety of aircraft in support of law enforcement and the safety of people on the ground. The TFR includes provisions for media to operate aircraft - both traditional and unmanned - inside the TFR, provided that operators comply with the language of the Notice to Airmen. In the case of unmanned aircraft, operators must also comply with the requirements of Part 107 and coordinate beforehand with the FAA. We've had no requests from media who meet those requirements.

Although the FAA is aware of anecdotal reports of drones being shot down, the agency has received only one official report. On Oct. 23, a drone was shot down with bean bags after allegedly being flown in a threatening manner near a law enforcement helicopter. That incident is still under investigation. The agency also is investigating several incidents in which protestors have allegedly flown their drones in violation of the provisions of the TFR.

The agency took issue with an AVweb report based on a Forbes column concerning the Standing Rock TFR. The original story contained an error. It said The Associated Press had transcripts of controller conversations indicating the TFRs were intended for media suppression. In fact, the transcripts referred to were made in regard to a TFR over the Ferguson, Missouri, riots in 2014. AVweb regrets the error.

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Drones are proliferating in our skies, and the holiday season is sure to bring thousands of new users outside to try their skills. To reach out to those beginners, the FAA has created a new video that explains the rules and regulations drone pilots are required to follow. The new video also explains how users can download the FAA’s free B4UFLY smartphone app, which provides the latest information about airspace restrictions that might affect drone flyers. The FAA has been working on many fronts to keep drones safe and separated from manned aircraft — an effort that seems to be working, so far, since verified reports of conflict have been rare.

Drones have proved popular with hobbyists and photographers, and sales already have doubled from last year, according to the recode website. DJI has retained leadership of the market, with about 70 percent of sales, according to recode, and its new Mavic model, which folds up to a portable size and offers lots of advanced features, has plenty of orders. GoPro, Parrot and Yuneec also have popular models, though GoPro’s new design, Karma, was recalled due to performance failures. Camera-capable drones are selling for about $100 up to $1,000. The FAA provides extensive resources and information for drone pilots at its UAS website.

Concept by SolarStratos

As the SolarImpulse team retires their successful earth-rounding solar-powered electric airplane, another team has stepped up to take the technology to the stratosphere, with a project to fly a solar-powered aircraft to 75,000 feet. The SolarStratos team, based in Switzerland, is led by Raphael Domjan, who in 2012 circumnavigated the Earth aboard PlanetSolar, a solar-powered boat. He said he intends to push SolarStratos “to its utter limits” in an effort to prove that renewable energy has “incredible capacities and will enable us to preserve our planet.” The group plans to build a two-seat solar airplane with a wingspan of 78 feet and weighing under 1,000 pounds.

Calin Gologan, of the German company PC-Aero, will design the airplane. The cockpit will not be pressurized, requiring Domjan, who plans to pilot the record-breaking flight, to wear a pressure suit, which also will be solar-powered. The record flight will take about five hours, the team says. The project already has raised $5 million and work is underway on the aircraft, according to Wired. The team hopes to fly before the end of 2018. Eventually, according to the project website, they hope to fly routine high-altitude solar flights to provide adventure tourism or a scientific platform.

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A ten-year veteran of the Royal Canadian Air Force died Monday when the CF-18 Hornet fighter he was flying crashed while on a low-level attack training mission in northern Saskatchewan. Capt. Thomas McQueen was flying with another Hornet on the training run at the Canadian Forces Base Cold Lake weapons range that straddles the Alberta/Saskatchewan border. He was a combat veteran with deployments in the Middle East and Eastern Europe. "I can tell you firsthand how much of an incredible person he was and that he was dedicated to the service of Canada,'' Col. Paul Doyle, commanding officer of the base, told reporters Tuesday. It was the latest in a string of recent crashes of legacy F-18s.

Canadian CF-18s are of the same vintage as those flown by the U.S. Marines (including the Blue Angels), Navy and some other air forces. At least eight of the 30-plus-year-old jets have gone down since last June, resulting in three other deaths. Most of the other crashes were Marine and Navy incidents but a Swiss air force pilot also died in an F-18 crash in that country. The Navy had planned for most of its F-18s to be retired by now and replaced by F-35s but delays in the Lightning II program have left them short of front-line fighters. Boeing has been contracted to take 30 old F-18s out of desert storage and get them flying again with modern avionics until the F-35s take over.

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Heard anything funny, unusual, or downright shocking on the radio lately? If you've been flying any length of time, you're sure to have eavesdropped on a few memorable exchanges. The ones that gave you a chuckle may do the same for your fellow AVweb readers. Share your radio funny with us, and, if we use it in a future "Short Final," we'll send you a sharp-looking AVweb hat to sport around your local airport. No joke.

Click here to submit your original, true, and previously unpublished story.

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Every year, just before Christmas joy descends upon on us like the shallow, weak excuse to buy yet more useless crap that the season has become, our sister publication, IFR, publishes its annual Stupid Pilot Tricks report. This is a summary of the most boneheaded, incomprehensible accidents and incidents that the skill-challenged among us manage to commit, despite all the good intentions of regulations and flight instructors. Here’s last year’s edition.

The new version is going to press this month and as I was reviewing it, I was struck dumber than even my default condition by one of the accidents. The pilot of a taildragger demanded that the runway repair crew move their trucks from the NOTAM’d closed runway so he could take off, which he did. Downwind. When he returned to land—again, downwind—he scattered the workers from the runway, lost control of the airplane and plowed into one of the vehicles that had pulled clear.

I don’t think you can learn this level of cluelessness. It has to be burned into the DNA. The NTSB found that this was the pilot’s fourth accident in three years. Yet, the pilot was a CFI and claimed nearly 9000 hours of flight time. So what gives? Maybe the fact that the pilot was 78 years old was a factor. Then again, maybe not.

The specter of age-related decline and what to do about it has been much on my mind because many AVweb readers fit the profile and I’m getting there myself, despite a regular, doctor-prescribed regimen of denial. While you can’t cheat the calendar indefinitely, I think giving up entirely only hastens the inevitable and it makes the trip less pleasant than it already might be.

Specifically, I have in mind stretching the envelope in training, practicing and regular flying. I have always thought it to be a potential mistake to triage the days and conditions you’ll fly in to the point of removing all challenge and risk. If you fly only on days where little skill is required, you’ll sure enough have little skill. Might as well stay home on the couch and let physical atrophy keep pace with your mental decline.

For most GA flying, I’m not sure what age has to do with it. I’ve skimmed several research reports on age and reaction time and accident rate. These are, in my view, indeterminate. Some show higher accident involvement with age, some show lower, reasoning that experienced decision making gathered over a lifetime gives a pilot an edge in avoiding the accident scenario in the first place.

I just don’t have an opinion on it, so I try to focus on training and/or proficiency that stretches me personally. I’ve been gathering up some footage for a video on the one-wheel trick and its usefulness for proficiency. You may or may not know about this. Some instructors still teach it, but you don’t see it much.

The one-wheel trick is a crosswind exercise in which you plant the upwind wheel on the runway and keep the downwind wheel from contact the length of the runway. It works best in high-wing taildraggers but it can be done in tricycle-gear airplanes. Every time I do it, the results are the same. The first try is a mess. I usually carry too much speed, can’t keep the wheel grounded and end up bouncing. The next try is smoother and attempt three and four are keepers.

What it teaches is the ability to coordinate bank angle and yaw to precisely track the centerline; a little more bank, a little more rudder and you can use either as primary to get the tracking accuracy. It vastly improves crosswind landing skill but because it’s also just showing off, it does something else: It grows confidence.

A little bit of doubt is healthy, but too much of it, in my view, serves as a preview to the impending crash. Real skill grows from confidence and confidence breeds further skill. And sometimes you have to push it a little to get that equation to work. Of course, there's risk here, too. As you edge out closer to the envelope of your own comfort and abilities, there's always the chance that you suffer the very thing you're practicing to avoid. But then you didn't sign up to be a pilot because you're afraid of risk.

After I had my ankle mod installed, I didn’t ride a motorcycle for more than three months. The muscle memory of riding snaps back like a steel trap, but I noticed one thing: a lack of confidence in slow-speed handling. So a friend who’s a rider coach suggested some parking lot exercises, just like a newbie rider does. I did several hours' worth and now really relish low-speed maneuvers. I plan to do these exercises monthly.

What any of this has to do with age either escapes me or I refuse to admit. But it’s clear that what you don’t exercise, you lose, physically and mentally. That’s just another way of saying what we all know: There’s no better way to stay good at flying than staying good at flying. And remember, if you find yourself on thin ice, you might as well dance.

GoPro's Hero 5 has some improvements over the previous model and in this video, AVweb's Paul Bertorelli looks at how suitable the camera is for aviation use.

On a busy day at my home airport LXT I was flying in the pattern with several other airplanes ahead of me. Pilot on rollout: "Traffic landing at Lee's Summit be advised - there is a turkey on the runway."

Departing pilot: "Impossible, I'm already at 200 feet!"


Gus Schlegel

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