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A Self-Evident Solution

Times are tough for general aviation, and we need a solid partner and advocate in Washington now more than ever. Unfortunately, the FAA is proving to be the exact opposite—a lead weight—and it’s becoming a big problem.

Complaining about the FAA has been a popular spectator sport for decades. I feel for those who work at the agency because most of the individuals I’ve interacted with there have been pleasant and professional. They often seem as hamstrung and frustrated with the status quo as those of us on the outside. In fact, I took my commercial glider checkride with an FAA examiner from the Riverside FSDO in 2004 and consider it a model of how practical tests should be run. So I’m not suggesting we toss the baby out with the bathwater.

But somewhere, somehow, as an organization, the inexplicable policy decisions, poor execution, and awful delays in performing even the most basic functions lead one to the conclusion that the agency is beset by a bureaucratic sclerosis which is grinding the gears of progress to a rusty halt on many fronts.

Let’s look at a few examples.

Example 1: Opposite Direction Approaches Banned

If you’re not instrument-rated, the concept of flying an approach in the “wrong direction” probably seems… well, wrong. But it’s not. For decades, pilots have flown practice approaches in VFR conditions for training purposes without regard for the wind direction. There are many logical reason for doing so: variety, the availability of a specific approach type, to practice circling to a different runway for landing, and so on. John Ewing, a professional instructor based on California’s central coast, described this as “going up the down staircase”.

For reasons no one has been able to explain (and I’ve inquired with two separate FSDOs in my area), this practice is no longer allowed at towered fields. Here’s what John wrote about the change:

…the FAA has decided that opposite direction approaches into towered airports are no longer allowed. To the uninitiated, practice approaches to a runway when there’s opposite direction traffic may seem inherently dangerous, but it is something that’s been done safely at many airports for as long as anyone can remember. One example in Northern California is Sacramento Executive where all the instrument approaches are to Runway 2 and 90% of the time Runway 20 is in use.

At KSAC, the procedure for handling opposite direction approaches is simple and has worked well (and without incident, to my knowledge): The tower instructs the aircraft inbound on the approach to start their missed approach (usually a climbing left turn) prior to the runway threshold and any traffic departing the opposite direct turns in the other direction.

For areas like the California Central Coast, the restriction on opposite direction instrument approaches has been in place since I arrived in June and it has serious implications for instrument flight training since the ILS approaches for San Luis Obispo, Santa Maria, and Santa Barbara are likely to be opposite direction 90% of the time. For a student to train to fly an ILS in a real aircraft, you need to fly quite a distance. Same goes for instrument rating practical tests that require an ILS because the aircraft is not equipped with WAAS GPS and/or there’s no RNAV approach available with LPV minima to a DA of 250 feet or lower.

The loss of opposite-direction approaches hurts efficiency and is going to increase the time and money required for initial and recurrent instrument training. As good as simulators are, there’s no substitute for the real world, especially when it comes to things like circling to land. Between the low altitude, slow airspeed, and division of attention between instruments and exterior references required for properly executing the maneuver, circling in low weather can be one of the most challenging and potentially hazardous aspects of instrument flying. If anything, we need more opportunities to practice this. Banning opposite-direction approaches only ensures we’ll do it less.

Example 2: The Third Class Medical

Eliminating the third class medical just makes sense. I’ve covered this before, but it certainly bears repeating: Glider and LSA pilots have been operating without formal medical certification for decades and there is no evidence I’m aware of to suggest they are any more prone to medical incapacitation than those of us who fly around with that coveted slip of paper in our pocket.

AOPA and EAA petitioned the government on this issue two years and nine months ago. The delay has been so egregious that the FAA Administrator had to issue a formal apology. Obviously pilots are clamoring for this, but we’re not the only ones:

Congress is getting impatient as well. In late August, 32 members of the House General Aviation Caucus sent a letter to Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx urging him to expedite the review process and permit the FAA to proceed with its next step of issuing the proposal for public comment. Early in September 11 Senators, who were all co-sponsors of a bill to reform the medical process, also asked the Department of Transportation to speed up the process.

So where does the proposed rule change now? It is someplace in the maze of government. Officially it is at the Department of Transportation. Questions to DOT officials are met with no response, telling us to contact the FAA. FAA officials comment that “it is now under executive review at the DOT.”

The rule change must also be examined by the Office of Management and Budget.

When the DOT and OMB both approve the proposal—if they do—it will be returned to the FAA, which will then put it out for public comment. The length of time for comments will probably be several months.

After these comments are considered, the FAA may or may not issue a rule change.

It occurs to me that by the time this process is done, it may have taken nearly as long as our involvement in either world war. Even then, there’s no guarantee we’ll have an acceptable outcome.

Example 3: Hangar Policy

The commonsense approach would dictate that as long as you’ve got an airplane in your hangar, you should be able to keep toolboxes, workbenches, American flags, a refrigerator, a golf cart or bicycle, or anything else you like in there. But the FAA once again takes something so simple a cave man could do it and mucks it up. The fact that the FAA actually considers any stage of building an airplane to be a non-aeronautical activity defies both logic and the English language. Building is the very essence of the definition. People who’ve never even been inside an airplane could tell you that. In my mind, this hangar policy is the ultimate example of how out of touch with reality the agency has become.

Example 4: Field Approvals

These have effectively been gone from aviation for the better part of a decade. It used to be that if you wanted to add a new WhizBang 3000 radio to your airplane, a mechanic could get it approved via a relatively simple, low-cost method called a field approval. For reasons nobody has even been able to explain (probably because there is no valid explanation), it became FAA policy to stop issuing these. If you want that new radio in your airplane, you’ll have to wait until there’s an STC for it which covers your aircraft. Of course, that takes a lot longer and costs a boatload of money, if it happens at all. But the FAA doesn’t care.

Homebuilts put whatever they want into their panels and you don’t see them falling out of the sky. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

Example 5: RVSM Approvals

Just to show you that it’s not only the light GA segment that’s suffering, here’s a corporate aviation example. The ability to fly in RVSM airspace—the area between FL290 and FL410—is very important. Being kept below FL290 is not only inefficient and bad for the environment, it also forces turbine aircraft into weather they would otherwise be able to avoid. The alternative is to fly at FL430 and above, which can mean leaving fuel and/or payload behind, or flying in a paperwork-induced coffin corner.

Unfortunately, RVSM approval requires a Letter of Authorization from the FAA. If the airplane is sold, the LOA is invalidated and the new owner has to go through the paperwork process with the FAA from step one. Even if the aircraft stays at the same airport, maintained by the same people, and flown by the same crew. If you so much as change the name of your company, the LOA is invalidated. If you sneeze or get a hangnail, they’re invalidated.

From AIN Online:

Early this year the FAA agreed to a streamlined process to handle RVSM LOA approvals, but for the operator of a Falcon 50 that is not the case. He told AIN that he has been waiting since April for an RVSM LOA.

Because the LOA hasn’t been approved, this operator can fly the Falcon 50 at FL290 or lower or at FL430 or above. On a hot day, a Falcon 50 struggles at FL430. “The other day ISA was +10,” he told AIN, “and we are just hanging there at 43,000 at about Mach 0.72. If we had turbulence we could have had an upset. We’re right there in the coffin corner. Somebody is going to get hurt.”

On another recent flight in the Falcon, “There was a line of storms in front of us. We’re at FL290. They couldn’t let us climb, and I was about to declare an emergency. I’m not going to run my airplane through a hailstorm. It’s turbulent and the passengers are wondering what’s going on.”

When forced to fly below FL290, the Falcon burns 60 percent more fuel, he said. The company’s three Hawkers have a maximum altitude of FL410, and LOA delays with those forced some flights to down to lower altitudes. “We had one trip in a Hawker before it received its RVSM LOA,” he added, “and they got the crap kicked out of them. Bobbing and weaving [to avoid thunderstorms] over Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska in the springtime, you’re going to get your [butt] kicked.” The Hawker burns about 1,600 pph at FL370, but below FL290 the flow climbs to more than 2,000 pph.

It’s bad for safety and the FAA knows it. If they were able to process paperwork quickly, it might not be such an issue, but many operators find that it takes many months—sometimes even a year or more—to get a scrap of paper which should take a few minutes at most.

Show Me the Money

So what’s behind the all this? Americans love to throw money at a problem, so is this a budget cut issue? Perhaps the FAA is a terribly cash-starved agency that simply isn’t given the resources to do the jobs we’re asking of it.

According to the Department of Transportation’s Inspector General, that’s not the case. He testified before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure earlier this week that the FAA’s budget has been growing even as traffic declines:

The growth of the agency’s budget has been unchecked, despite the managerial failings and the changes in the marketplace. Between 1996 and 2012, the FAA’s total budget grew 95 percent, from $8.1 billion to $15.9 billion. During that same period, the agency’s air traffic operations dropped by a fifth. As a result, taxpayers are now paying the FAA nearly twice as much to do only 80 percent of the work they were doing in the 1990s.

Over that same 16-year span, the FAA’s personnel costs, including salary and benefits, skyrocketed from $3.7 billion to $7.3 billion—a 98 percent increase—even though the agency’s total number of full-time workers actually fell 4 percent during that time.

Self-Evident Solutions

Okay, we’ve all heard the litany of issues. From the inability to schedule a simple checkride to big problems with NextGen development or the ADS-B mandate, you’ve probably got your own list. The question is, how do we fix the problem?

I think the answer is already out there: less FAA oversight and more self-regulation. Look closely at GA and you’ll see that the segments which are furthest from FAA interference are the most successful. The Experimental Amateur-Built (E-AB) sector and the industry consensus standards of the Light Sport segment are two such examples. The certified world? Well many of them are still building the same airframes and engines they did 70 years ago, albeit at several times the cost.

Just as non-commercial aviation should be free of the requirement for onerous medical certification, so too should it be free of the crushing regulatory weight of the FAA. The agency would make a far better and more effective partner by limiting its focus to commercial aviation safety, promoting general aviation, and the protection and improvement of our infrastructure.

Ron Rapp is a Southern California-based charter pilot, aerobatic CFI, and aircraft owner whose 9,000+ hours have encompassed everything from homebuilts to business jets. He’s written mile-long messages in the air as a Skytyper, crop-dusted with ex-military King Airs, flown across oceans in a Gulfstream IV, and tumbled through the air in his Pitts S-2B. Visit Ron’s website.

32 Comments

  1. Agree with the great but frustrated individuals. But this is the same agency that required the three Spaceship One pilots (M. Melville, B. Binnie, P. Siebold) to get a Commercial Glider Pilot Certificate before they could fly it.

    • I understand the logic. SS1 was a glider once the rocket’s fuel was exhausted. As the holder of a commercial glider rating myself, I’m not sure how much relevance standard glider training had to the sort of flying they did — not much thermaling, ridge soaring, wake boxing, or broken tow ropes, I’d imagine — but concepts like speed-to-fly and the inability to abort a landing attempt were probably applicable.

      What would’ve made more sense? Allowing the creators of the launch system to develop a training curriculum that was appropriate for the kind of flying they were doing instead of trying to fit a round peg into a square hole. But as the saying goes, when the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

      • Now THERE is a ‘saying’ that I’m going to remember, Ron !! Wanna read about an excellent parallel example … read the article by Mac McClellan on ADS-B in the December 2014 issue of Sport Aviation. He writes an excellent treatise on how ADS-B for the ‘masses’ could be made much cheaper and portable but — of course — our ‘friends’ who are ” … here to help” had to make it a gold plated fix which will drive still more people from GA, ultimately, I predict.
        I’m beginning to think that the FAA wants to ground everybody so that they can say that general aviation is 110% safe … because no one is doing it anymore.
        Having spent 16 years of my USAF career supporting flight test at Edwards AFB and 12 subsequent on the B-2, I know a thing or two about that science. You are correct, Ron, simulators, modern day safety review boards (SRB’s), flight test cards and other methods are used to ensure that test flights are conducted as intended. Even then — witness SpaceShip II — things go wrong. To learn that the Federal Throw Rocks in their Way Administration required a commercial glider rating of two perfectly capable test pilots … one of who still mucked it up … is nutty but comes as no surprise to me. Jeana Yeager had to obtain an instrument rating in order to fly the Voyager, as well.

  2. Excellent article, Ron. How ANYONE would want to pursue aviation as either a vocation or avocation is beyond me. Those that do should get some sort of medal !!
    At Airventure 2014, I laid in wait several forums before the Administrator — Huerta — was scheduled to speak. I wanted to be one of the few that were allowed to ask him a question. To listen to him speak, everything inside our beloved GA is just roses and gravy … which we all know is bunk. Well … when it came time for questions from the audience, I WAS one of about half a dozen allowed to speak. The third class medical issue had been discussed ad nauseum so I decided to ask him about the FAR Part 23 re-write. More specifically, I asked him to put his weight behind the idea of converting certificated airplanes — like my C172 — into a new category called Primary Non Commercial (PNC) … which was described as an addendum to the proposed NEW FAR Part 23. WELL … he got this glazed look on his eyes and Jack Pelton had to jump in and sidestep my question which was never answered. The point being that an aircraft newly moved into the proposed PNC category would be allowed to put non-TSO’ed equipment — stuff like Dynon boxes — into their airplanes. If safety is the FAA’s ultimate goal … why NOT allow such a move?
    Personally, I’ve been aviating for 43 years and I’m mere inches away from throwing in the towel. I’m tired of the BS from an FAA overstaffed, overfunded and overpowered and being run by people who either don’t care about aviation and/or are just doing their 40 hours per week … likely spending half of them drinking coffee, eating donuts and going to seminars on how to “control” the peons — us — who have the audacity to want to use the National Airspace.
    You forgot another issue … Through The Fence Ops. Imagine, if you will, an FAA who had allowed such a thing — under strict security guidelines — so that GA might flourish. In my nearby airport, a subdivision was formed just prior to their nonsensical position and it’s now nothing but weeds. Think of the tax base the County is missing out on.
    The FAA — especially under Michael Huerta — is an abomination which ought to be abolished. Sorry, but that’s my unabashed feeling. I can think of NOTHING … NOTHING AT ALL … positive that they have done in the last several decades. They should be called the Federal Throw Rocks In their Path Administration. Instead of chasing Raphael Pirker around or driving GA pilots and mechanics insane, they ought to throw their full weight behind finding ways to help us inplement ADS-B Out and finding new pilots but — of course — then they’d have to work harder.
    SIGH !!!

    • Yes, the FAA bureaucracy is stifling. I remember when GA was really vibrant and bustling. Now most GA airports are very quiet-just an occasional plane flying. The economies of scale have been eliminated to the point where parts are absurdly expensive. As costs rise, even less demand exists to support the remaining infrastructure of manufacturers, suppliers, and FBOs. It is a vicious circle.

      I agree about Huerta. He has no prior experience in aviation, and is not a pilot. His degree was in political science, and most of his employment was in politically appointed government or quasi government posts. Unfortunately the present administration makes a lot of appointments of unqualified persons to high posts. There is only one regional administrator of the EPA that has a degree in science. All others are either lawyers or have degrees in things not relevant to environmental science. The top administrator of the EPA has a degree in anthropology. Things like chemistry, physics, or biology would be relevant. Anthropology, English, and law are not. There was a time when FAA administrators were in some ways heroes of aviation. Retired Air Force generals, Airline executives, etc. They had deep and intuitive understandings. Today they are chosen for political convenience or correctness, rather than for actual expertise.

      Regulatory agencies fear being blamed for an accident more than they fear killing an entire industry.

      • I have a hangar on an airport that GOD would love to have in heaven !! There are times when it’s quiet at night and I’m done in my hangar and I walk out with a beer to enjoy the semi-rural atmosphere. I often think … geez … where have all the pilots and airplane owners gone? The place is a ghost town and at least one or two airplanes and a hangar go up for sale and disappear every year.

        • I see that trend even at the busy Class C airport I call home. Based on conversations I’ve had with people who don’t fly anymore, I don’t think it’s a loss of interest as much as a loss of ability to pay for the avocation. Again, E-AB is one answer. You get more airplane for less money and hassle. We need more of that in GA.

      • “Regulatory agencies fear being blamed for an accident more than they fear killing an entire industry.”

        Sadly true. The kind of flying we love is all about *freedom*, and that’s something regulatory entities by their very nature have difficulty accepting — especially as they grow in size.

    • Yes, there are many bullet points which could have been added to the list. TTF is certainly one of them. As you note, that could have been an area of fresh growth for general aviation.

      I keep looking back at the E-AB sector because that’s where the innovation, low-cost, and growth are concentrated. Even there, the FAA drops in to threaten the industry from time to time. Much like Meigs Field, we could wake up one day and find it has been bulldozed overnight by a bureaucrat’s pen, just as your airpark community was reduced to weeds.

    • You are right when you said; “control the peons — us — who have the audacity to want to use the National Airspace.” That is, all it’s about is control. These government people are not interested in freedom. Truth is private business and the innovation brought to GA by private business is a threat to government control. The bureaucracy in our government is all political maneuvering jockeying for position to control the masses. They do this by making new regulations and writing new laws and spending more tax dollars.

  3. As one can tell from these responses, there is a lot of animosity directed toward the F.A.A. What I’m seeing is not the F.A.A., but that of politicians, (from a President on down,) not having any real interest in aviation, except for their personal speedy ride back home very weekend, or any vacation they choose to take. These people have no interest in any aspect of the matter except where it personally affects their pockets, unlike us, who are the ones paying for this. Our problem is it is getting more and more expensive every day, to even think of flying, not to mention actually doing it. Airports are closing down, except for large commercial aviation, and GA is being forced off the table completely. A former airport manager once told me, his bosses, the county administration, agreed with his conjecture “The batteries and keys of ALL GA aircraft should be removed, and those planes scrapped.” I firmly believe they are not alone in that mindset.

    • I’ve seen some of that mindset as well. They don’t love aviation, they don’t understand it, therefore it’s not something they will allow others to engage in. It’s about the most un-American attitude I can imagine, but it’s becoming the rule rather than the exception where political fiefdoms are concerned. As general aviation shrinks in size, so does its clout and ability to fend off these attacks.

  4. As I understand it the no opposite direction came from the near iss at, I believe Regan, when they were changing runways.

  5. I love the sentiment, but what is not self evident to me is how to change the leadership in the FAA in order to make this happen. As mentioned in other comments, the leaders of our government agencies are usually selected on political grounds not logical ones. Maybe that answers our question. The change has to start from the very top.

    • Agreed! I see the “very top” as the U.S. Congress. The sizable General Aviation Caucus is one of the bright spots in Washington. I hope those who joined the group did so because they were truly interested in preserving jobs, economic activity, and a uniquely American industry. An act of Congress created the FAA, so it also has the ability to reform it.

  6. Ron, you’re certainly not alone. Many of us recognize that the current regulatory regime for GA is out of balance. Last week I launched a poll to see how many aircraft owners would be willing to re-register as Experimental. The results are eye opening:

    https://www.surveymonkey.com/results/SM-8XM3SWDV/

    Outright deregulation isn’t the answer, but allowing small aircraft flown for personal transportation, recreation and education to operate under a much less burdensome regime seems logical.

  7. Been beating this drum for a decade. Truly thrilled to see the idea make it from generating a reflex reaction of “wacko notion – there have to be rules!” to getting proposed on an AOPA blog! Maybe, some day. Those of us who spent any significant amount of time in self-regulated risk sports, whether aviation sports – hang gliding/paragliding, sailplane flying in the UK, parachuting – or non-aviation risk sports – scuba diving, skiing/snowboarding, rock climbing, sailing, surfing, windsurfing/kitesurfing – know that it can be done, and it can work well. That’s not to suggest it’s automatic or easy – the early history of paragliding and ultralighting was ugly – but it does work, and there’s a lot of experience by now in how to make it work well. The FAA should expand the insight it originally had about hang gliding: sport aviation is just not the best place for it to expend its resources, and it should give the participants broad freedom to regulate it themselves.

  8. Because we are all so intimately involved with the FAA we are painfully aware of the stifling effect they have on aviation, but if you draw back and look at the larger picture of America as a nation it gets much, much worse.

    Virtually every government entity you can name has become bloated by decades of uncontrolled empire building, with ever growing staffs who operate in environments so rule bound & risk-adverse that they are essentially paralyzed. For millions of government employees, what passes for work primarily consists of shuffling mountains of forms and papers while carefully avoiding the danger that may come from any exercise of judgment, initiative or creative problem solving.

    This institutional rot in America runs bottom to top, from your local planning commission, who will routinely insure the simplest building project will become a Kafka nightmare, all the way up to the federal executive & legislative branches, who have entirely abandoned their stated function of addressing the nation’s problems and instead spend their days entertaining themselves and the media with the game of politics.
    Wish I had something magical to suggest as a means of combatting this, but unfortunately I do not. All we can do is keep the pressure on using the inadequate tools we have.

    • While I see much of the same things you do, I think there’s something at work here beyond the sheer number of federal employees, because according to the Office of Personnel Management, the total number of federal workers is about 20% lower today than it was fifty years ago. Even excluding the military, the number of civilian government workers has only gone from 2.4 to 2.7 million since 1962, so the per capita number has fallen. Of course, productivity should be much higher today than in 1962 thanks to advances in technology.

      Even the FAA has a reasonable number of employees: 47,000 as of 2012, and of that total number, 33,315 of them were working for Air Traffic.

      • Good point, Ron, and thanks for the reality check. Although in total there are something over 22 million government employees (fed/state/local), the per-capita ratio has, overall, remained fairly steady. I see that total federal payroll cost does continue to march upward though, increasing about 17% between 2007 and 2012, and although not very well documented, there has been moderately significant offloading of various government functions (FSS, for example) to private contract entities.

        If I may, perhaps I can pull a politician weasel-wording move and redefine “bloat” to refer to the overall intrusiveness of our beloved government agencies into our life activities 🙂

  9. I understand this is a bash the FAA article, and probably rightly so. But if we talk of the decline of GA we also have to look at our selves and our vendors and those who “support” GA.
    I hear alot of griping about the cost of fuel. I agree it is too high. But at the same time some FBO’s are charging a $2.50 to $3.00 premium over the airport just 30 miles away. Cost of doing business or excess profiteering?
    Cost of hangers. My plane is in a hanger at a couple hundred dollars per month. A friend near a large city in S.Florida was paying almost $700 per month for the same size hanger. I couldn’t afford $700 so do I move my plane to a tie down and let it be subjected to the elements and rot?
    I can’t tell you how many times I hear of unnecessary work done and charges from a plane in annual. We have all heard the horror stories and unfounded explanations by unscrupulous mechanics.
    Buying parts is the same way.
    When a friend and I were talking about an economic problem she turned to me and exclaimed, “you own a plane and must be rich”! This is the same attitude by so many others.
    We have elitist elements within our ranks and many service providers simply don’t care if GA makes it or dies.

  10. Besides the inconvenience of eliminating a local ILS, the “opposite-direction approaches” ban also eliminates practicing the nearest NDB approach the vast majority of the time at my (towered) airport. Both of these approaches are in the opposite direction to the prevailing wind. The only time their associated runways are active are when the winds dictate (very rare), *or* when the field is IFR (quite frequent actually). I realize that NDB’s are on their way to the history books, but NDB approaches still exist (even more so in foreign countries and remote areas), are fair game on a check-ride, and might come in handy in certain (albeit unlikely) types of emergencies. So I like to practice NDB approaches from time to time, and teach them to my students when the airplane is so equipped. But practice them in actual IMC with no opportunity to practice them in VMC first? Yikes! There are two other options for practicing NDB approaches — one not far away, but rarely granted because it’s in busy Class C airspace, and the other is over 37 NM away to a non-towered field (where the rule doesn’t apply).

    It’s always been so convenient to fly an approach, go missed, then turn around and fly a different approach to the same airport from the other direction. Getting IFR current just got a lot more expensive, forcing one to fly to other airports and/or come back around for another approach to the same runway.

    Finally, the opposite-direction rule creates an additional unsafe side-effect: once people learn of the rule, they practice the approach in VFR conditions (up to the FAF) and just don’t bother calling ATC for flight-following, since they know ATC will deny the approach request! Sure, when they call tower, they’re told to circle around to the landing runway (starting before even entering Class D airspace). But my point is the rule has the side-effect of encouraging people to *not* call ATC for flight following while practicing approaches in Class E airspace.

    • As an instrument instructor, I’ve found practice NDB approaches quite useful even if one you never fly one in actual IMC, because it teaches the student how to use a bearing pointer. Bearing pointers are a component of every glass panel avionics suite, but I’ve noticed that fewer and fewer pilots seem to be able to track to or from a navaid or waypoint using that presentation. Since glass panels typically present a single HSI rather than two individual CDIs, referencing a second navigation source requires the bearing pointer as a replacement.

      Also, as you noted, international flying — especially in Canada — sometimes involves NDBs.

  11. Restore FAA to its original 1958 status as an independent agency, not just another layer of bureaucracy in the Department of Transportation.

    Restore the original 1958 FAA mandate, later deleted by Congress, for the “promotion, encouragement, and development of civil aeronautics” (P.L. 85-726, Section 103 (b)).

    • Excellent idea. If the FAA’s primary mission featured the promotion, encouragement, and development of GA, it would be a different ballgame. In fact, I read through Section 103 of Public Law 85-726 and it’s exactly what we need.

  12. Field Approvals; Under what Constitutional authority does the FAA operate? Answer: The so called “commerce clause”. The FAA is authorized by congress to regulate certain commercial activities. Private, non commercial aviation activities were traditionally minimally regulated, with certain clear and obvious nods to public safety. Such as 10 or more passengers, 12,500 pounds and so on (a larger public risk) (yes there really is objective criteria for the greater public safety) The Field Approval, was always the accepted “end run” around the improper and unconstitutional regulation of non commercial aviation. In the past, the FAA could, improperly, but, minimally regulate you. And will let you, the primary non-commercial owners/operators, do what you want, with minimal oversight. As long as it’s safe (we have objective criteria here too) , and a single government agent with the necessary position agrees via Field Approval, you are good to go. The de facto elimination of the Field Approval pushes the FAA well into unconstitutional territory. The federal government does not have constitutional authority to regulate what primary non-commercial owners do with their aircraft. As none of the greater public safety rules apply (10 or more, 12,500Lbs+)

  13. The law allows some TC’ed aircraft to change from Standard to a Special Airworthiness, since 1994, under the Primary Category Aircraft, 14CFR21.24, and AC 21-37 Para 17.c, neither of which have been rescinded. Equipment for 91.205 can then be unapproved. EAA and AOPA avoid this discussion, and the FAA ignores the possibilities also. It is our fault that we don’t insist the law be followed… but isn’t that why we have advocacy organizations?

  14. Why can’t the government give up control of the FAA to all the alphabet groups (AOPA, GAMA, ALPA, NAFI…). That would save them a ton of money, and we would see real progress in the proper direction. They are the ones who actually care anyway (plus their budget depends on how much we support them).

    • Yeah, cause those groups don’t have disparate interests and would obviously all agree on the best way to run the nation’s aviation system. As a former AFSS employee, I remember AOPA cheering on the contracting out of the Flight Service Stations to Lockheed Martin. Well, you got what you wished for – lengthy phone delays and slack-jawed idiots providing your weather briefings.

  15. No where is the over-regulation more obvious than the ADSB snafu. I have heard real industry people say they could adapt a $300 cell phone to do what ADSB out boxes are supposed to do – but they could never meet all the TSO’s the FAA has piled on, such as “parts traceability”, and operating controls over software writers. Many people forget that part 91 operators for years have flown ifr using VORs and ILS’s and ADF’s which were not TSO’d, and very few accidents were equipment related. The FAA has just gone nuts. Same thing with field approvals. Why on earth should a part 91 operator need an STC to install the ADSB box that the FAA mandated?

  16. Great article. Nothing in it surprised me. These agencies need to be reminded who they work for and where there money comes from.

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