An old and often-used justification for owning a light General Aviation aircraft is the ability to bypass the automobile and the airlines in order to spend valuable time in a more productive manner. This rationalization focuses on the time savings created by flying oneself. Thus, according to the reasoning, it is possible to easily meet with clients in distant cities and be home for dinner. And as pilots, we also know it's always more fun to fly ourselves than it is to drive or to sit in the back of a crowded airliner.
Kick the tires, light the fires. So goes a popular, flippant saying about preflight inspections. Most of the time, that's what we and various accident reports would label an "inadequate preflight inspection." Sometimes-immediately after stopping long enough to drop off or load a passenger, for example-it might be adequate. After all, we just flew it in here-it's a perfectly good airplane; why bother risking burnt fingers to check the engine oil or soiling our clothes to check tire pressure? Indeed, we don't go to such trouble when getting in a car; why are we conducting an inspection at all?
Congress has mandated a 1,500 hour minimum flight time requirement for scheduled air carriers next summer, and unless FAA regulations come along to supersede it the "impending pilot shortage" that even the general media has latched on to could become a reality sooner than later. When regulation outpaces thinking, and policy is made without concern for data, supply and demand often get thrown out of whack. In this case, it's reasonable to assume that if this 1,500 hour rule is fully implemented, it will cost prospective pilots far more money and time to become professional airline pilots. And fewer and fewer pilots will enter the pipeline as many sensibly opt out of the arduous quest to reach the arbitrary 1,500 hour mark.
Aviation entrepreneur Rod Rakic's idea for OpenAirplane has earned the support of some big names in the aviation industry who believe it could simplify access to aircraft, improve pilot safety, increase profits for flight schools and FBOs, and generally boost the aviation industry -- all by changing how we rent airplanes. OpenAirplane is nearing its public rollout, expected before year-end. If the concept catches on, Rakic believes it won't just put more pilots in the air more often, it will also lower accident rates for a segment of the industry that is notoriously worse than average. And it might just make him rich. Maybe. But Rakic's idea isn't revolutionary or even all that new. His approach might be. And, so far, that's made all the difference.
Mapmaker DeLorme's inReach messenger/tracker uses the Iridium satellite network to send position reports and text messages from almost anywhere on earth. The handheld device can send pre-determined text messages with an up-to-date position included. Pairing it via Bluetooth with an iPhone or Android device allows for custom text messages or short emails. It can also send SOS messages, including detailed information in a text message, that will initiate a search and rescue. The SOS isn't automatic like an ELT, and the service isn't cheap.
ExtremeO2 Aviator has developed an aviation-focused conditioning process that trains the body to maintain oxygen blood saturation at altitude. The ExtremeO2 altitude contrast conditioning is said to help protect pilots from hypoxia and its effects on night vision while restoring brain function, increasing reflex speed, improving G-force recovery and enhancing tolerance to higher altitudes. It might also improve the quality of sleep while traveling and fight the effects of jet lag while offering stress remediation.
An FAA program for non-punitive reporting of safety concerns among air traffic controllers needs "significant improvements" before it can become effective, according to a report issued last Thursday by the Transportation Department Office of Inspector General. "Failure to address potential deficiencies in transparency and accountability may lead to the perception that the Air Traffic Safety Action Program is an amnesty program," the report says. For example, although the reports are meant to reveal safety issues while protecting the controllers who submit them, the OIG says reports have been accepted in the program that address "air traffic controller conduct issues," rather than performance concerns. For example, these include controllers falling asleep, viewing a personal video player while on position, and refusing to take handoffs.