Archive for December, 2010

The best and worst of 2010

Friday, December 17th, 2010

With 2011 just about two weeks out, I started mulling flight training’s best and worst for 2010. Call it a retrospective or an easy blog post, whichever you prefer. This is an entirely unscientific exercise in which I perused news items from an entire year’s worth of ePilot Flight Training Edition newsletters. If I’ve missed anything, don’t hesitate to plug in your own best and worst in the Comments section.–Jill W. Tallman

Worst

1. Flight training familiar faces John and Martha King are erroneously detained and handcuffed at Santa Barbara after the Cessna 172 they’re flying is incorrectly tagged as a stolen airplane.

2. Colleges start chopping their aviation programs as a means of saving money. Notable example: Daniel Webster College in New Hampshire.

3. Online testing companies boost their knowledge test fees in March by $50 to cover increased FAA regulatory requirements. Because learning to fly just isn’t expensive enough.

4. The state of California enacts a law in June that would require flight schools to pay $5,000 in initial fees and $1,000 yearly thereafter. The law’s intent is to protect students’ financial well-being in the event a school goes out of business. However, given that state’s economy, we can’t help but question the ulterior motives. On a minor up note, the law’s implementation has been delayed until July 2011.

5. Flight training washout rates now trending at about 80 percent. What can the industry do to reverse this unsettling trend?*

Best

1. The House and Senate send a bill containing new financial aid for veterans’ flight training to the president for his signature.

2. *First-ever major flight training summit convened at AOPA Summit in November. Market research findings reveal some root causes for the high dropout rate: lack of educational quality, customer focus, community, and information sharing. These give AOPA and other industry partners tools to come up with solutions.

3. FAA approves certain anti-depression prescription drugs for special issuance medicals.

4. EAA’s Young Eagles program just keeps getting better and better: After Sporty’s adds free online ground school in 2009, EAA sweetens the deal by throwing in a free flight lesson and logbook for eligible Young Eagles participants.

5. Cessna’s 162 Skycatcher begins to trickle into the training fleet, and Piper introduces the PiperSport, a Czech-built LSA formerly known as the Sport Cruiser. Meanwhile, the light sport arena continues to grow at a modest pace with flight schools offering a variety of LSAs including Evektor, Tecnam, Remos, and others.

Let’s see some ID

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

USAir always seems to find itself in the headlines for something it doesn’t want to be in the headlines for. Several years ago it was the luggage fiasco at Christmas time as the employees expressed their displeasure with management over the merger with America West. There were two bankruptcies. The merger with AWA has been an unmitigated disaster on so many levels that books will be written for decades and PhDs will be earned from it for eons (even though you only see one paint job, they are still two separate carriers). They had the misfortune of having an Airbus hit enough geese to kill not just one but two engines. On the same airplane. The only ones that had a worse day than USAir on that day were the insurance companies involved. Oh, and the dead geese. And now, they are in the news for having to offload an airplane because an employee may not have been legally involved with loading the luggage.

In this case, though, the right thing was done. The FAA and TSA take badging issues and violations very seriously. They randomly conduct tests at airports—especially busy hubs—to see if employees are not only in compliance with visible badges, but also to see if the employees are checking each other. Several years ago, an airline employee noticed someone from one of the federal agencies on the ramp at a busy airport without a visible badge. The employee turned the G-man into security, despite his protestations that he was just doing his job. Score one for the employees.

This has always been a concern, but even more so after 9/11. The most obvious reason is because those people issued badges have been subjected to a background check. Further, it usually requires a multistep process to access the ramp, and if someone has figured it out without having a badge, then something is seriously flawed with the security system as designed. Simply put, anyone inside the secure area or on the ramp at an airline airport must have a badge, and it must be prominently displayed. Shirt clips, lanyards and arm bands are all acceptable, depending on the airport and the employee’s job. Exactly how the recent USAir situation in Philly developed I am not sure, and it doesn’t matter. As inconvenient as it was, the right decision was made and the plane was put through a security check. The odds of finding anything were remote, but in light of 9/11 and the failed shoe and underwear bombers, we can’t afford to take chances.

If you see anything suspicious, by all means report it. If you are pursuing an aviation career, keep your nose clean. And get used to the idea of a badge. Violations can and have resulted in terminations and sizeable fines, and can even lead to certificate revocation. It won’t be long before you feel naked without it, and panic if you can’t find it. Your badge will be even more critical to your process of getting dressed every day than underwear and shoes.

–Chip Wright