Lawsuits Challenge FAA Drone, Model Aircraft Rules

Model aircraft hobbyists, research universities and commercial drone interests filed lawsuits Friday challenging a government directive that they say imposes tough new limits on the use of model aircraft and broadens the agency's ban on commercial drone flights.

The three lawsuits asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to review the validity of the directive, which the Federal Aviation Administration issued in June. The agency said the directive is an attempt to clarify what is a model aircraft and the limitations on their operation.

The FAA has been working on regulations that would permit commercial drone flights in U.S. skies for more than 10 years, but the agency is still at least months and possibly years away from issuing final rules to permit flights by small drones. Regulations for flights by larger drones are even farther away.

Full Story - AP/Aviation Pros

Boeing Will Build Its Biggest 787s in South Carolina

Boeing will build the biggest version of its 787 Dreamliner family exclusively in South Carolina at a nonunion plant it built five years ago. It's part of an effort to lower labor costs, but the company said organized labor had nothing to do with its decision.

The 787-10 will become the first Boeing-designed commercial plane not to have an assembly home in the Seattle area, where Boeing has built airplanes since the first B & W seaplane took flight in 1916.

Boeing said Wednesday that the placement of the 787-10 at its North Charleston, S.C., site had nothing to do with the role of organized labor and was dictated by the 10 extra feet in the 787-10?s midbody fuselage. That makes it "too long to be transported efficiently" from the plant aboard the modified 747 Dreamlifter Boeing uses to fly 787 sections from suppliers and smaller 787s from the East Coast plant to Washington State.

Full Story - Bloomberg Businessweek

Amazon Petitions FAA to Permit Drone Testing

On July 9, 2014, Amazon Prime Air petitioned the FAAfor an exemption to allow private research and development flight testing of small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) outdoors on its private property near Seattle, Washington. In its petition, Amazon states that the operating rules it will follow will be no different than those followed by thousands of model aircraft hobbyists currently daily: maximum weights will not exceed 55 pounds, all test flights will be within visual line of sight of the operator and/or one or more observers, at less than 400 feet AGL, in Class G airspace and sufficient distance away from any airport, heliport, seaplane base, spaceport or other location with aviation activities and any densely populated areas and government or military installations.

Full Story - AvWeb

FAA wants to protect B-737 aircraft from cyber attacks

The United States' Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requested Boeing to implement solutions to reduce vulnerability to cyber attacks on board of its 737 aircraft.

The order, which is effective immediately although the agency is allowing a comment period until July 21, was issued for /700, /700C, /800, /900ER, /7, /8 e /9 versions of the renowned short-haul aircraft of the US' aerospace company. The digital system of the plane is composed of several connected networks whose configuration allows increased connectivity with external networks: this fact, in addition to enable improvements of In-Flight Entertainment systems, also generates possible vulnerabilities which can be exploited by a hacker, according to the FAA.

Full Story - Avio News

AirTran's Final Flight Scheduled For December

Another name in aviation history will disappear after the final flight of AirTran Airways, which is scheduled for Dec. 28. The Atlanta-to-Tampa, Florida, trip has been designated AirTran Flight 1 and will retrace the route taken by a predecessor airline's first flight in October 1993.

Then it was known as ValuJet Airlines, a fast-growing, low-cost carrier that flew mostly in the eastern U.S. The airline changed its name through a merger after a 1996 crash in the Everglades that killed all 110 people on board. Investigators blamed the crash shortly after takeoff from Miami on a fire that started with improperly handled oxygen generators in the cargo hold.

Southwest Airlines Co. bought AirTran in 2011 for $1.4 billion and announced plans to combine the fleets under the Southwest brand. It is repainting AirTran's Boeing 737 jets and selling the smaller Boeing 717 planes to Delta Air Lines Inc. A Southwest spokesman said Thursday that there are still a few employees who started at ValuJet.

Southwest does not currently fly beyond the United States, but starting in July it will take over AirTran service to several destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean. Meanwhile, it is shuttering service at some of AirTran's smaller destinations in the U.S.

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Air Traffic Computer Overwhelmed By U-2 Spy Plane

An air traffic control computer problem that caused hundreds of flight cancellations or delays across Southern California last week was triggered by a computer misinterpreting the flight path of a U-2 spy plane, the Federal Aviation Administration said on Monday.

The problem at an air traffic control center in Palmdale, California last Wednesday forced the delay or cancellation of more than 200 flights at Los Angeles Airport.

Dozens of flights were also delayed at smaller airports across the region, as well as commercial airliners headed for Southern California from across the country.

Full Story - Air Wise

Russia To Allow Airlines To Hire Foreign Pilots

President Vladimir Putin has signed a law that allows Russian airlines to hire foreign pilots, a move the Kremlin said was needed to end a shortage of pilots on civilian flights as passenger numbers grow.

The law comes five months after 50 people were killed in the crash of a Tatarstan Airlines jet, blamed on pilot error, which highlighted concerns that Russia does not have enough pilots to meet growing demand.

"The (new) federal law is designed to liquidate the deficit of commanders to civilian aircraft," the Kremlin said in a statement.

It said the law would allow airlines to hire foreign pilots over the next five years, indicating that no new foreign pilots could be hired after April 2019 but those already employed in Russia could remain.

Full Story - Air Wise

Pilot Shortage a Myth, Says ALPA

While the Regional Airline Association and regional airline management point to new rules governing flight time experience for first officers as the primary reason for a pilot shortage that has resulted in a loss of service to several U.S. communities, pilots contend the airlines have made their own mess by creating a business model predicated on breadline wages for cockpit crew. The Air Line Pilots Association, for one, argues that there's no shortage of pilots, only a shortage of pilots willing to fly for substandard wages and inadequate benefits.

ALPA points to a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report to support its position. In it, the GAO references data to indicate that a large pool of qualified pilots exists relative to the projected demand. However, the report also found that it remains unclear whether or not those pilots would be willing to work for the wages now on offer.

Historical labor market data from 2000 through 2012 provide mixed evidence as to whether there really is an airline pilot shortage, according to the GAO. The unemployment rate for the pilot occupation–a key indicator for a shortage–averaged lower than for the economy as a whole, said the report. However, wage earnings and employment didn't correlate with the existence of a shortage, as data for both indicators showed decreases over the period, it added.

Full Story - AIN online

Textron Completes Acquisition of Beechcraft

Textron announced it has closed its acquisition of Beech Holdings, LLC, the parent of Beechcraft Corporation, and that it will bring together its Cessna business and Beechcraft to form a new segment called Textron Aviation. Cessna and Beechcraft together produced about $4.6 billion in revenues during 2013.

The acquisition brings together three iconic brands, each pioneering many of general aviation's most notable advances in the past century. Cessna, Beechcraft and Hawker bring 200-plus years of combined aviation experience to the market and an installed customer base of more than 250,000 airplanes worldwide. Going forward, Textron Aviation intends to share and leverage best practices across all operations to further its position as an aviation authority. Scott Ernest, who has served as Cessna's President and CEO since 2011, will lead the Textron Aviation segment as CEO.

Full Story - Business Wire

NTSB to Offer Accident Investigation Courses

During March, the NTSB will offer two courses related to accident investigation and one on accident response and victim family support at its training center in Auburn, Virginia. The Aircraft Accident Investigation course will run from March 31 through April 11 and is designed to provide participants with a comprehensive overview of the procedures and methods used and the skills required to investigate an aircraft accident. Examples from recent NTSB investigations will be used to demonstrate particular aspects of the investigative process.

A related course, on cognitive interviewing, which is geared to providing the foundational knowledge and skills needed to conduct interviews of participants in, and witnesses to, transportation incidents or accidents will be held on March 19 and 20.

Full Story - AVweb

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