Thursday, September 07, 2017

Opinion: Phoenix travelers deserve much-needed air traffic control reform

By David Grizzle

— David Grizzle is the former chief operating officer for the Federal Aviation Administration.

Any traveler idling on the tarmac at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport can credit our nation’s aging, antiquated air traffic control system for their hassle and delay in leaving the Grand Canyon State.

In fact, half of all flight delays are caused by air traffic control system constraints, and just as concerning, flight times are getting longer because controllers can’t keep pace with more congested airspace.

With Congress now back in session, the House will soon decide whether to authorize the reforms our nation’s air traffic control system so desperately needs to effectively operate in an era of unprecedented passenger demand.

This is an issue of fundamental importance, not merely for the convenience of Arizona travelers, pilots and controllers, but for the health and durability of national security and our national and local economies. In Arizona, aviation accounts for 7.6 percent of the state’s GDP ($20.4 billion) and employs nearly 282,000 workers.

Having spent over three decades in the aviation industry, including three years as the chief operating officer for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) overseeing the country’s air traffic control system, I can say unequivocally that Congress must act now if we are to enjoy a modern air traffic control system able to handle today’s traffic without cascading delays, but also to handle the even greater traffic demands of the future. The House will soon hold a critical vote on the 21st Century AIRR Act, a reform measure that is long overdue to secure the future of American aviation.

Let’s start with the critical facts: Improving America’s air traffic control system is vital to our national interests. The economy does not work when we’re not flying, and it works significantly less well when we’re not flying efficiently. The FAA’s own numbers tell us that delays and cancellations cost our economy and our customers $25 billion every year. A 2013 United States Travel Association (USTA) report concluded delays and cancellations drove demand down by 8 percent and prompted passengers to avoid 38 million domestic air trips costing the American economy $85 billion and 900,000 jobs.

In recent years, Phoenix has seen fewer passengers go through its doors and is no longer one of the 10 busiest airports in the country. Passenger departures and arrivals at Phoenix fell 1.4 percent in 2016, the first decline in three years and the biggest decline in nearly a decade.

The debate lies in the proposed solution. Some argue that we need to keep the current structure in place and invest more in it. Unfortunately, that’s the equivalent of throwing good money after bad. Congress is already several billion dollars behind in getting systems for which they appropriated taxpayer money. I’ve witnessed the professionalism and dedication of our FAA employees and controllers firsthand. This is not an indictment of them — the problem is the inert procurement and financing structure that hinders modernization efforts. In fact, the situation has gotten so bad that the FAA can’t recruit new controllers. This is an unsustainable status quo.

The proper solution is credited to President Clinton, who proposed in 1993 establishing an independent, nonprofit entity to run air traffic control. The idea now has the support of the current administration, Speaker Ryan, forward-thinking Democrats and the unions representing air traffic controllers and pilots.

The opposition is largely driven by private and corporate jet interests, who are concerned that they could lose the substantial subsidy they receive to operate private jets that carry only a few people but take up the same airspace as commercial jets with hundreds of passengers.

Change is hard. But this decision is easy. We should not wait until the system is hopelessly broken before we act to fix it. Tell your local member of Congress to vote YES on the 21st Century AIRR Act.

Original article can be found here ➤

Metro Council resolution calls for national search for new airport director: Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport (KBTR), Louisiana

Metro Councilwoman Barbara Freiberg will attempt to introduce a resolution at next week’s meeting that would establish a committee to conduct a national search for a new airport director.

But Freiberg acknowledges she faces an uphill battle, and says based on the push back she has received since calling last month for a national search to fill the position, she’s not sure she’ll even have enough votes to introduce the measure, much less get it passed.

“I’ve heard from a lot of people who want to keep (interim director) Ralph (Hennessy) in the position permanently,” Freiberg says.

It’s been more than 10 months since former Airport Director Anthony Marino retired after 41 years at the Baton Rouge Airport, more than 20 of which he served at the helm. Hennessy, who served under Marino for 15 years as assistant director, was tapped to replace him on an interim basis and has remained in the position ever since.

In August, Metro Councilmember Trae Welch, who serves on the Airport Commission, said he believes Hennessy should be permanently named to the position, even though earlier this year the council member said he would call for a national search for a new director.

“A search is supposed to find somebody who is doing the job somewhere else,” Welch said last month. “We’ve had a 16-year search with Ralph under Anthony. We’ve seen what he is able to do. Why do we need a search for someone who isn’t from here?”

The issue is not that Hennessy hasn’t done a good job, Freiberg says. The regional airport, she says, continues to suffer from a lack of commercial air service and it’s worth investing a little time and money to see if an outside candidate has some new ideas about attracting more direct flights.

“Maybe there’s not anything else we can do,” she says. “Maybe Ralph is doing everything there is to do. But how will we know if we don’t look around and ask questions?”

Several members of the Metro Council, which serves as the Airport Authority in Baton Rouge and has power over the advisory Airport Commission, were noncommittal today, but say they’d like to have a discussion on the matter.

“I think it’s time for us to either find a director or to go ahead and take the interim off of his title,” says Councilman Buddy Amoroso. “So I’m glad she put it on the agenda.”

Adds Dwight Hudson: “I’m not sure where I’m at on the matter. There are good arguments on both sides.”

Freiberg’s resolution will be introduced at the Sept. 13 Metro Council meeting. If the Council agrees to place it on the agenda, it will come up for debate at the Sept. 27 meeting.

Story and comments ➤

Mystery of Bay Area fighter jet fly-by solved

The roar of a fighter jet thundering overhead startled East Bay residents Wednesday evening. No one seemed to know where it came from or what it was doing buzzing airspace from Walnut Creek to Danville.

A photograph of the plane posted on Twitter appeared to show an F-16 with air-to-air missiles attached to its wings. The F-16 is an Air Force fighter, but it's also flown by the National Guard. The Navy uses F-16s for training.

Naval Air Station Lemoore near Fresno confirmed the jet wasn't theirs. Ditto for Travis Air Force Base.

As the California Capital Airshow is this weekend in Sacramento, perhaps its planes were flying practice runs?

"To my knowledge, they're not ours," said Kirsten DeLong, public relations director. She explained that the air show features F-18 Super Hornets, F-15s and A-10 Warthogs, but has no F-16s.

Further mudding the mystery, the San Ramon Police Department tweeted, "So apparently some fighter jets were scrambled to intercept a small plane landing in Oakland. This is all we know." But there were no other reports of jets being scrambled or any planes being intercepted.

A fighter plane on a noisy fly-by? It sounded like something out of "Top Gun," the 1986 Tom Cruise movie.

So we checked with Naval Air Station Fallon in Nevada, east of Reno. NAS Fallon is the Navy's premier air-to-air training facility and the home to the Naval Fighter Weapons (Top Gun) School.

After conferring with base officials, Fallon Public Affairs Officer Zip Upham confirmed the fighter was from Fallon.

"It was a single Navy F-16 on a routine training op," Upham said.

"Occasionally they do navigation flights over the Bay Area, flying as low as 800 feet," he said.

Upham did not know how low this fighter was flying because he did not have access to the flight path. But the fighter was "cleared and controlled" by air traffic control, he said. It took off from Fallon at 5:15 p.m and returned at 6:45 p.m.

The fighter was equipped with two unarmed Sidewinder missiles. One carries a transponder.

The Navy has 14 F-16s (all at Fallon), which it calls "Vipers" as opposed to the Air Force's "Fighting Falcons." They are used as adversarial fighters to train Top Gun pilots in combat tactics.

The planes are camouflaged and routinely fly with air-to-air missiles on the wingtips, Upham said.

Read more here ➤

Oklahoma Latest Front As Military and Wind Developers Fight For Open Sky

Developers recently announced plans to build the country’s largest wind farm in Oklahoma’s Panhandle. The industry is growing and turbine projects are expanding across the state. But wind energy developers are facing a new headwind: military air bases.

The C-17 is the pack mule of the United States military. It’s designed to lift and transport troops, tanks and even helicopters. It’s an enormous aircraft that casts an ominous, looming shadow as it taxis to takeoff.

Every U.S. C-17 pilot is trained at the Altus Air Force Base in southwestern Oklahoma. Flight instructor Adam Bergoo says a key part of that is teaching rookie pilots to fly close to the ground.

“That’s one of our military missions is to fly low-level because that basically reduces the risk of detection, and getting shot at by the bad guys,” he says.

The western part of Oklahoma is an ideal place for military flight training because the skies are wide open — or, at least they used to be. One of Bergoo’s training routes is now partially blocked by a wind farm.

“That has kind of encroached maybe into a third of the route corridor or so. Say that route corridor is 5 miles wide. And now we have 2 miles of that blocked by wind turbines.”


New wind farms are threatening other flight training routes, too. Top brass at Altus and Vance Air Force Base near Enid, where pilots are trained to fly smaller planes, are sounding the alarm with local officials — and Oklahoma lawmakers.

And some business leaders are complaining. They want to keep the airspace open to attract aerospace companies and entrepreneurs who need a place to test drones.

Oklahoma lawmakers are considering a bill to require new wind farms to get approval from the state’s aeronautics commission, which is pushing for more oversight. No “specific” accidents or crashes involving military pilots and wind turbines have been reported in Oklahoma, but the commission says base officials are increasingly worried the hazard is growing as wind farms expand.

“Several members of the military have echoed concerns of what would happen if an aircraft lost an engine or had a bird strike and they had to eject over or near a wind farm,” says Airport Development Division Manager Grayson Ardies.

Oklahoma lawmakers have also discussed requiring the state’s military commission to sign off before new wind farms break ground.

The wind industry, for its part, opposes both efforts.

“Creating a new state bureaucracy is not the way to go,” says Jeff Clark with The Wind Coalition, which represents wind developers in Oklahoma.

Wind farms have run into trouble with military installations in other states. The Department of Defense has blocked projects in North Carolina over concerns the wind towers would interfere with a bombing range and military radar. The Tar Heel State recently barred wind farm permits for 18 months. This year, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill to prevent wind industry tax exemptions for any project within 25 miles of an air base.

New technology has made turbines and blades more efficient, which means wind farms are going up in locations that companies would have skipped just a decade ago, Clark says.

The wind industry suspects there’s another reason the conflict is gaining momentum.

“Anti-wind groups have figured out that this is an issue that they can use to drive a wedge between communities and to raise concern even if those concerns aren’t warranted,” Clark says.

Lawmakers who support restrictions dispute this. They say they’re just trying to safeguard military sites.

All wind farms must be approved by the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA also encourages wind companies to consult with military bases before locations for new wind projects are locked in. Military officials can work through the DOD to block wind farms if turbines threaten national security,

“This is a role for the federal government,” Clark says. “The Pentagon, frankly, and the FAA are very skilled and knowledgeable, and they have the expertise to manage these things.”

Altus Branch Chief Heath Sirmons, however, says the national security bar is too high.

“Training at Altus Air Force Base doesn’t generally rise to that threshold,” he says. “Very few things rise to that threshold.”


In the control tower at Altus Air Force Base, airmen armed with headsets and computer terminals guide a C-17 onto the tarmac. Once airborne, the trainees will fly for hours, rehearsing approaches.

The pilots trained here will deploy to carry critical cargo on missions around the world. Capt. Bergoo, the flight instructor, says the entire country depends on Oklahoma’s open airspace. Once a wind farm interferes with a training route, it’s useless, Bergoo says.

“Having that ability to stay low and fly low and teach and do all the other things that are required, that is pretty vital.”

Original article and audio ➤

Financially strained Huntington Beach air show gets a $100,000 boost from city

The financially struggling Breitling Huntington Beach Airshow will receive about $100,000 in support from the city after the City Council on Tuesday approved temporary increases to parking and recreational vehicle camping rates during this year’s event, which is set to run from Sept. 29 to Oct. 1.

The council voted 4-0 for the rate hikes and to defer public safety payments for the air show’s operator, AirSupport LLC.

Councilman Billy O’Connell recused himself because of business interests in the area. Councilman Erik Peterson and Mayor Pro Tem Mike Posey were absent from Tuesday’s meeting.

AirSupport LLC is estimating a loss of $350,000 at this year’s event, and last year’s inaugural show lost about $400,000, despite having more than 560,000 visitors.

This year’s show is expected to cost $975,000.

The council’s decision will double the $15 parking fee at all south beach lots and the hourly rates at the Main Promenade Parking Structure, with a maximum daily rate of $30. A $1,600 recreational vehicle pass will allow camping from Sept. 28 to Oct. 2.

Those scenarios are estimated to glean $145,000. However, the city will collect $45,000, a typical revenue total for a late September weekend, while AirSupport will get the rest, according to a city staff report.

Council members wanted to make clear Tuesday that the city is not taking money from taxpayers.

“We are not giving them any money,” Councilwoman Lyn Semeta said. “We would not have made that money if it wasn’t for the air show.”

Councilman Patrick Brenden agreed that the $100,000 would not be generated without the air show. He said the parking rate increases are “smart business.”

“It’s a good way for us to support something that in a couple of years, with additional sponsor support, will be great for the city,” Brenden said.

The council’s decision also allows AirSupport to delay its payments for public safety and other city personnel for up to 45 days after the event.

This year’s show will feature the Blue Angels and the Canadian Snowbirds, a popular military jet demonstration team.

Last year’s event featured the Air Force Thunderbirds and the Breitling Jet Team.

Admission to the show is free. A portion of vendors’ proceeds will go toward the Aerospace Educational Foundation of Huntington Beach, a nonprofit dedicated to fostering education in the aerospace industry.

Original article can be found here ➤

The Comfortable New Planes Airlines Think You Don’t Want: The C Series from Bombardier has wider seats and other perks; why most major carriers aren’t buying

The Wall Street Journal
By Scott McCartney
September 7, 2017

There’s a new passenger jet with wide seats, ample overhead bin space and an extra-quiet engine.

It isn’t selling well.

Four years after its maiden flight, only two small European airlines fly the Bombardier C Series of 100- and 145-passenger planes. Delta will begin flying the plane next year. While there are many reasons for the slow sales, the lack of interest highlights the low priority airlines and passengers place on comfort.

The two airlines currently flying the C Series—Swiss and Air Baltic—say most coach passengers won’t pay higher fares for comfy cabins. For a small fare difference, they’ll still pick less-comfortable airplanes. Airlines say cost is the No. 1 factor when evaluating new airplanes.

“Passengers get into anything that flies if the ticket is cheap,” says Martin Gauss, chief executive of Air Baltic, based in Riga, Latvia.

He says flying the new plane has brought attention to his brand. Passengers notice how quiet the C Series is and that you can pass by a trolley in the aisle without getting blocked. Overhead bins are large, and since there are only five passengers in a row instead of six, there’s more bin space per passenger.

The CS100, which seats 100 to 125 people, and its sister CS300, with up to 145 seats, were designed to bring the low per-seat costs of big planes into the small-plane arena, usually dominated by cramped regional jets.

Bombardier, a longtime producer of regional jets, saw a gap in the aircraft market and decided to venture into larger planes. Boeing and Airbus have made their popular single-aisle jets longer so airlines can pack in more seats. Bombardier figured many markets with service on 50-, 70- and 90-seat regional jets would get bigger, too.

In aviation, there’s usually a trade-off between comfort and cost. Making an airplane wider requires a beefier fuselage. Flying more weight burns more fuel, adds cost and can reduce how far the plane can fly.

But with new fuel-efficient engines and lighter airframe materials, Bombardier found ways to keep operating costs low and still offer a wide cabin. The C Series cabin at its widest point is 129 inches, only 10 inches narrower than a Boeing 737. But the Boeing has six seats in an aisle; the C Series only five.

That means each passenger can have an 18.5-inch-wide seat, roomier than any other coach single-aisle airplane. Alternatively, Bombardier is also offering a unique option for the poor souls stuck in the middle: a 19-inch-wide seat, while window and aisle seats get 18 inches.

The C Series, built at Bombardier’s factory here at the Montreal airport, also has larger windows than rival narrow-bodies, and more of them—1.5 windows per row on average. The cabin feels open and roomy, especially when daylight pours in.

“I think it’s as strong a selling point as we thought it would be,” says Fred Cromer, Bombardier’s president of commercial aircraft, says of the plane’s comfortable cabin.

Which is to say, secondary. Sales were so bad that Bombardier took a $3 billion write-down on the C Series program and needed a bailout in the form of an investment from the Canadian government. Problems were many, from delays in the flight-test program to analysts suggesting Bombardier was pricing the aircraft too high.

Firm orders currently total about 350, Mr. Cromer says. By comparison, Boeing has 3,816 orders for its newest 737 and Airbus has 5,167 orders for the new-engine option of the A320 family.

Mr. Cromer, a former airline executive, says orders will pick up now that the plane is in service and proving to be both economical and reliable. With that, the passenger comforts will sway airlines. “We’re starting to check all the boxes,” he says.

United President Scott Kirby, whose airline considered a C Series order in 2016 before going with Boeing, says he’ll probably examine the 100-seat market again someday. But his preference is for bigger planes. Even if you can’t fill a 737 on a particular route today, he says, in 10 years you’ll likely be able to, and the airline will own the plane for 20 years.

“We’re in a world where flying bigger and bigger planes is just better and better,” Mr. Kirby said at the Boyd Group conference in Las Vegas last week.

Asked later about the benefits of passenger comfort, Mr. Kirby said, “All that stuff matters. But I would have a hard time giving the C Series a passenger preference premium to a 737 or 320-sized aircraft.”

Bombardier’s list prices are close to or even higher than list prices for larger airplanes. The CS100 lists for $79.5 million and the CS300 for $89.5 million. The current list price of a Boeing 737-700 is $82.4 million. But analysts say Bombardier is now more willing to discount prices.

At Swiss, the fuel burn on its C Series planes has been 4% better than Bombardier predicted and the jets have been reliable, with few cancellations, says Peter Koch, Swiss C Series fleet chief.

Mr. Koch says the new plane can upend the basic airline strategy to cram in more seats to improve profitability. “The C Series is breaking that chain. It has a good amount of seat comfort. However, we’re getting big savings from fuel and maintenance,” he says.

Original article can be found here  ➤

Boeing, Airbus Look to Land Profits By Making Their Own Aircraft Parts: The move comes as some of the world’s largest component manufacturers consolidate

The Wall Street Journal
By Robert Wall and  Doug Cameron
Sept. 7, 2017 7:00 a.m. ET

The world’s largest plane makers are testing a seemingly simple formula to smooth production, cut costs and fatten profits: Make more of the parts that go into their jets themselves.

In the wake of United Technologies Corp.’s proposed $23 billion deal to buy Rockwell Collins Inc., that push is taking on more urgency. The deal is the latest in a round of consolidation among the world’s biggest suppliers of aviation parts—something Boeing Co. and European rival Airbus SE have eyed warily.

Earlier this week, Boeing said it might cancel some of its parts contracts if the deal undermines competition further in the aerospace supply chain. Airbus had previously expressed its skepticism over it.

Worried about getting squeezed by the consolidation, Boeing and Airbus have moved to protect themselves by building more of their parts in-house. This month, Boeing will start construction of a new production facility in Sheffield, England, that will make some of its own actuation equipment—motors that help move a wing’s flaps. Airbus, meanwhile, is planning to build some of its own nacelles, the metal casings that house a plane’s engines. United Technologies is one of the world’s largest nacelle suppliers.

“We are constantly revisiting our ‘make or buy’ decisions,” said Fabrice BrĂ©gier, Airbus chief operating officer and head of commercial planes.

Boeing decided two years ago to make some of its own nacelles after years of buying them. In July, the company also said it is planning to develop and build some aircraft electronics, a market dominated by companies such as Rockwell Collins and Honeywell International Inc.

The wings for a revamped version of Boeing’s new 777 jetliner also will be built at a new plant near Seattle rather bought from a supplier. Boeing bought the wings from a supplier for its last big project, the 787 Dreamliner.

“The opportunity ahead of us, in terms of transforming how we design and build, how we manufacture, is even greater than some of the product innovation that we’re going to bring to the table,” said Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg.

Boeing and Airbus are slated to deliver new planes worth more than $100 billion this year. Both have order-book backlogs that stretch years and, combined, are worth almost another $1 trillion. But parts that represent more than half the value of each of those planes are mostly made by dozens of suppliers such as United Technologies, Spirit AeroSystems Holdings Inc. and General Electric Co.

Boeing and Airbus, under pressure to deliver all those planes, have pressed their suppliers for cost savings and deadline commitments. Plane makers’ leverage, though, has lessened as the circle of suppliers has shrunk in recent years. United Technologies snapped up rival Goodrich Corp. in 2012. Its deal with Rockwell Collins will make it the world’s biggest plane-parts providers. Another big tie-up in the works: Plane parts maker Safran SA is haggling to buy cabin-interior specialist Zodiac Aerospace SA .

Bringing production in-house helps level the playing field.

Those parts makers have also traditionally been able to suck out more profit for their components than plane makers like Boeing and Airbus can extract for selling whole aircraft. Profit margins for plane and engine makers have averaged 9% over the past two years, compared with 14% for so-called “tier one” suppliers such as United Technologies and Rockwell Collins, which make finished parts directly for plane makers. Margins come in at 17% for tier 2 suppliers, which provide smaller components for those parts, according to Boston Consulting Group.

Boeing and Airbus executives have said they now aim to capture some of that extra margin for themselves. They also hope to get a larger share of the lucrative business servicing those parts once the plane is sold to a customer, usually an airline or an aircraft leasing company.

That service revenue—from routine maintenance to repair work—is more profitable still. For parts makers, the shift by Boeing and Airbus threatens to reduce their own slice of those service sales. Consultant Oliver Wyman estimates that commercial-aviation service business is worth roughly $76 billion a year.

Take the airplane manufacturers’ recent entry into nacelle production. The parts typically cost roughly $1 million per plane on a narrowbody jet, and $4 million to $5 million for long-range jets.

Airlines—which buy or lease Boeing and Airbus jets for their fleets—spend $1.5 billion to $2 billion annually to service nacelles, said Kevin Michaels, managing director at AeroDynamic Advisory LLC, a consulting firm. By making the nacelles in-house, Airbus and Boeing save on the parts and may get to hold on to the servicing revenue for the life of the part.

Boeing wants to double annual services sales to $50 billion in five years, a figure analysts consider ambitious. The plane maker opened a new unit in July to oversee the effort.

Analysts at Canaccord Genuity Inc. figure Boeing’s current service-related revenue makes up nearly 20% of its overall aerospace and defense revenue. At Airbus, the figure is 15%. That compares to 56% at GE and 52% at engine maker Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC, two of the industry’s biggest suppliers.

The Airbus and Boeing moves are still in their early stages and have yet to affect either their earnings or those of parts suppliers. The incumbent parts makers say they aren’t yet worried about getting squeezed out, given all the work to go around from the two makers’ big backlogs.

“They’ve looked at some of the components within the aircraft, and think that they need to have more control on that,” Kelly Ortberg, Rockwell Collins’ chief executive, told investors recently, before announcing the United Technologies deal. “In fact, there’s probably opportunities for us to maybe support them in different ways than we have in the past.”

Original article can be found here  ➤

The Family-Friendly Private Jet Takes Off: Forget the minivan; A new class of small, easy-to-pilot airplane, with seating for up to six, is letting travelers zoom to vacation hot spots in record time

The Wall Street Journal
By Jonathan Welsh
Sept. 7, 2017 1:16 p.m. ET

Business fliers eager to preserve their sanity despite a Beyonce-like schedule have long justified the exorbitant expense of traveling by private jet. But shouldn’t the same cost-benefit analysis apply to your most precious asset: vacation time?

Aircraft makers are betting that at least a handful of nerve-frayed customers will think so. The market is admittedly rarefied—customers need at least a couple million to spend and the perseverance to train for a specialized but attainable pilot’s license. Still, manufacturers are investing in a relatively new category of small but fast planes, often called VLJs (very light jets), aimed at highfliers who want to quickly ferry their families to holiday destinations that would tediously take hours to reach by other means.

Cirrus Aircraft began delivering its SF50 Vision Jet, which seats five to seven people and flies at 345 miles an hour, late last year. A few months earlier, Honda Motor Co., better known for cars and motorcycles, rolled out the HA-420, a petite six-seater with a scorching top speed close to 500 mph—not to mention big-jet features like a bathroom generously sized for an adult contortionist.

Other companies, including small-plane pioneer Cessna, have gotten on board, too, shifting their focus to the family-transport market. Unlike larger business jets generally meant to be flown by a pair of professional pilots, models like the Cessna Citation C2 and OneAviation’s Eclipse 550 have relatively simple controls and automated systems that Mom or Dad can handle solo. (Some customers hire a pro to do the flying while they do Sudoku in the cabin.)

You can save a lot of time flying a VLJ. While a summer drive to the Hamptons from Manhattan can take several hours in heavy traffic, a VLJ, soaring 20,000 feet above the crawling Fords and Chevys, can make the trip in 40 minutes. Los Angeles to Lake Tahoe? Drive eight-plus hours—or fly there in one. Lake Michigan’s Beaver Island takes at least a day to reach by car from Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee and Minneapolis. Compare that to roughly 60 minutes aloft—with no need to synchronize your travel to the ferry schedule.

In many cases, taking a VLJ that goes 400 mph is even more efficient than boarding a 600 mph commercial craft; small aircraft can land at regional airports major airlines don’t serve, putting you closer to your final destination and enabling you to skip security checks.

Of course, there are prerequisites. Beyond the price of the aircraft, which start at $2 million, you’ll need the proper training. Start with a private pilot’s license in a basic, easy-to-fly propeller-driven airplane, like a Cessna 172, then move on to a faster, more powerful airplane with complex features like retractable landing gear. To fly a VLJ (or any other jet), you’ll need an instrument rating as well. Finally, specialized training for the specific type of VLJ that you buy is required.

While all that schooling may sound dreary, rest assured that, even if you’re a complete neophyte, you can be flying a jet in six months if your schedule and budget allow it.

Here are some of the personal jets seeking to replace the minivan on your next big family trip.

Four state-of-the-art small aircraft to commandeer for your next weekend jaunt

Stratos 714

A proof-of-concept model of the Stratos 714 was introduced at July’s big aviation trade show, AirVenture, to much buzz. The final version of this single-engine, six-seat aircraft is slated to have a top speed of 460 mph and a 1,700-mile range. The prototype hasn’t quite reached those specs, said a spokesperson, but should as test flights continue. Built with owner-operators in mind, the Stratos 714 was specifically designed to be easy to handle, with “docile flight qualities.” The company is seeking additional funding from investors as it embarks on its next round of tests. Price TBD,

Cirrus SF50 Vision

The design of the Cirrus Vision cleanly breaks with tradition. While most private jets typically have two engines, the Vision sports a single jet engine attached piggyback-style atop the fuselage. In the early days, plane engines were unreliable, so having two was safer than one. Today, jets rarely fail, but traditionalists (including the FAA) still prefer two-engine designs—it took some convincing to get federal approval for the Vision. If flying with a single engine gives you pause, rest assured that the Vision comes equipped with a parachute huge enough to slowly lower the entire aircraft in the event of an emergency. $2 million,

Cessna Citation M2

Slipping into the cockpit of a Citation M2, it’s hard not to feel like a bona fide airline pilot; the plane’s broad dashboard and beefy control yokes scream “jumbo jet.” However, this is still a small, entry-level airplane for Cessna, which has been developing its Citation business jets for more than 40 years. The M2 has an advanced iPad-style instrument panel and offers multiple automated systems to help solo fliers keep tabs on the machine without a co-pilot’s help. This is especially key in the M2, which can travel at 460 mph and has a range of 1,500 miles—the longest of the production aircraft in this group. $4.5 million,

Honda HA-420

Instead of mounting the twin jets to the sides of the fuselage as most private jet-makers do, Honda decided to attach its HA-420’s to pylons on top of the wings. The unique design helps the plane fly faster and run quieter, while leaving room for a bathroom in the cabin, according to Honda. The company also applied decades of car-building experience and techniques to make the aircraft’s production as efficient as possible. One clear benefit: Even competitors acknowledge the aircraft’s high-end fit and finish—not to mention the category-leading top speed of 486 mph. $4.5 million,

Original article can be found here ➤

Throwback Thursday Photo, The Lincoln Playboy Airplane

In today’s Throwback Thursday photo, Victor Roos, president of the Lincoln Aircraft Company, and his wife Clare pose in a tiny plane named “The Lincoln Playboy” in January 1931. 

Manufactured by the Lincoln Aircraft Company, the Lincoln Playboy had a twenty-five horsepower engine and weighed only 350 pounds. Its top speed was seventy miles per hour and could fly for an hour on one gallon of gasoline. Although the Lincoln Aircraft Company had high hopes for big sales of this little plane, the venture never really took off.

Original article can be found here ➤

Appeals court sides with Phoenix officials over flight path noise

Ahwatukee and other Phoenix residents who have complained of airplane noise may get relief after a federal appeals court last week slapped down the Federal Aviation Administration for its 2014 massive change in flight paths to and from Sky Harbor Airport.

Residents in the far western end of Ahwatukee have been part of the angry chorus of criticism that prompted Phoenix to sue the FAA and provoked angry letters to the agency from Arizona’s two U.S. senators.

In fact, Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake pushed through legislation that would require the FAA to re-do the flight paths, which the city said caused environmental damage to residents, primarily in Phoenix’s historic districts, as a result of the noise.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for Washington, D.C., agreed with the city and neighborhood organizations, which said the FAA did not conduct adequate studies as required by federal environmental laws.

The court also chided the FAA for trying to evade those laws by only dealing with “low level” city employees, four of whom were later disciplined by Phoenix officials for not directing the agency to deal with higher-ups at City Hall.

The FAA’s changes increased by 300 percent the number of aircraft flying over 25 historic neighborhoods and buildings and 19 public parks.

“The idea that a change with these effects would not be highly controversial is ‘so implausible’ that it could not reflect reasoned decision making,” the court said.

“The public’s reaction was swift and severe: the planes supplied the sound, the public provided the fury,” it continued, noting Sky Harbor in two weeks

“received more noise complaints than it had received in all of the previous year.”

“Residents complained that the flights overhead were too loud and frequent and rattled windows and doors in their homes. Some claimed that they had trouble sleeping uninterrupted, carrying on conversations outdoors, or feeling comfortable indoors without earmuffs to mute the noise,” the court said.

The court also the FAA’s Regional Administrator told City Council that the agency’s pre-implementation procedures were “probably not enough because we didn’t anticipate this being as significant an impact as it has been, so I’m certainly not here to tell you that we’ve done everything right and everything we should have done.”

Calling the FAA’s actions “arbitrary and capricious” by “keeping the public in the dark,” the judges noted, “The agency made it impossible for the public to submit views on the project’s potential effects – views that the FAA is required to consider.”

“This failure made it impossible for the FAA to take into account opposition on environmental grounds,” it said, adding:

“The FAA had several reasons to anticipate that the new flight routes would be highly controversial: The agency was changing routes that had been in place for a long time, on which the City had relied in setting its zoning policy and buying affected homes.”

It also said the city and neighborhood organizations “argue that the FAA violated its duty to consult with the city in assessing whether the new routes would substantially impair the city’s parks and historic sites. Second, petitioners claim that the FAA was wrong to find that the routes would not substantially impair these protected areas. We agree on both points.”

The FAA had no comment on the ruling and did not indicate whether it would seek a rehearing in the case.

The agency also has not responded to the demand by McCain and Flake that it tell them what it intends to do about the law Congress passed requiring it to reconsider the flight-path changes.

Original article can be found here ➤

United Airlines, Boeing 737-824, N37252: Incident occurred September 06, 2017 at Newark Liberty International Airport (KEWR), New Jersey

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Teterboro, New Jersey

Flight UAL2429, aircraft on pushback from gate, winglet struck the mobile stairs. No injuries. Damage unknown.

United Airlines Inc:

Date: 06-SEP-17
Time: 20:20:00Z
Regis#: N37252
Aircraft Make: BOEING
Aircraft Model: B737
Event Type: INCIDENT
Highest Injury: NONE
Aircraft Missing: No
Operation: 121
Aircraft Operator: UNITED AIRLINES
Flight Number: UAL2429

Cessna 182Q Skylane, N735KQ, Battle Rock Engineering LLC: Accident occurred September 06, 2017 near Fairfield Airport (5U5), Teton County, Montana

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board: 

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board: 

Location: Fairfield, MT
Accident Number: GAA17CA529
Date & Time: 09/06/2017, 1845 MDT
Registration: N735KQ
Aircraft: CESSNA 182
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Defining Event: Fuel exhaustion
Injuries: 1 Minor
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal


The pilot reported that, during an instrument flight rules cross-country flight, he realized the airplane was "very low on fuel." He added that, with air traffic control's assistance, he diverted to an airport along his route, which was about 30 nautical miles from the intended destination. He further added that he had difficulty locating the airport visually, and when he did locate the runway, the airplane was "too high" to land. Subsequently, as the pilot continued descending and maneuvering toward the runway, the engine lost power, and he landed in a field. He added that, the airplane "hit the field hard," bounced, and struck a utility pole before stopping.

The pilot further reported in the NTSB Pilot/ Operator Aircraft Accident/ Incident Report that he was informed that no fuel was found in the airplane and that the right fuel cap was not installed. He reported that he added fuel to both fuel tanks at the departure airport and that there was a "possibility/ likelihood" that he did not secure the right fuel cap during preflight. He added that, during the diversion, he did not complete the "forced landing checklist."

The airplane was destroyed.

The pilot reported that there were no preaccident mechanical malfunctions or failures with the airplane that would have precluded normal operation.

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be: 
The pilot's failure to secure the right fuel cap during the preflight inspection, which resulted in fuel exhaustion, a total loss of engine power, and an off-airport hard landing. 


Fuel storage - Inadequate inspection (Cause)
Fuel - Fluid level (Cause)

Personnel issues
Preflight inspection - Pilot (Cause)

Environmental issues
Pole - Contributed to outcome

Factual Information

History of Flight

Prior to flight
Aircraft inspection event

Fuel exhaustion (Defining event)

Hard landing
Landing-landing roll
Collision with terr/obj (non-CFIT)
Pilot Information

Certificate: Private
Age: 60, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: 3-point
Instrument Rating(s): Airplane
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: No
Medical Certification: Class 3 With Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 06/12/2017
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: 11/08/2015
Flight Time: (Estimated) 576.6 hours (Total, all aircraft), 44.2 hours (Total, this make and model)
Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Manufacturer: CESSNA
Registration: N735KQ
Model/Series: 182 Q
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture: 1977
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 18265488
Landing Gear Type: Tricycle
Seats: 1
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 02/01/2017, Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 2950 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection: 
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 2473.5 Hours at time of accident
Engine Manufacturer: Continental
ELT: Installed, not activated
Engine Model/Series: O-470-U
Rated Power: 230 hp
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KGTF, 3680 ft msl
Observation Time: 0053 UTC
Distance from Accident Site: 26 Nautical Miles
Direction from Accident Site: 160°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Temperature/Dew Point: 27°C / -1°C
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility:  7 Miles
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: Calm
Visibility (RVR): 
Altimeter Setting: 30.06 inches Hg
Visibility (RVV): 
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Obscuration; No Precipitation
Departure Point: ARLINGTON, WA (AWO)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: IFR
Destination: KALISPELL, MT (GPI)
Type of Clearance: IFR
Departure Time: 1445 PDT
Type of Airspace: Class G

Airport Information

Airport: FAIRFIELD (5U5)
Runway Surface Type: Dirt
Airport Elevation:3991 ft
Runway Surface Condition: Dry; Vegetation
Runway Used: 18
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width: 3800 ft / 40 ft
VFR Approach/Landing: Forced Landing

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Minor
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries:N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Minor
Latitude, Longitude: 47.640000, -111.966389 (est)

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Helena, Montana

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Battle Rock Engineering LLC:

NTSB Identification: GAA17CA529
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, September 06, 2017 in Fairfield, MT
Aircraft: CESSNA 182, registration: N735KQ
Injuries: 1 Minor.

NTSB investigators used data provided by various entities, including, but not limited to, the Federal Aviation Administration and/or the operator and did not travel in support of this investigation to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The pilot reported that, during an instrument flight rules cross-country flight, he realized the airplane was "very low on fuel." He added that, with air traffic control's assistance, he diverted to an airport along his route, which was about 30 nautical miles from the intended destination. He further added that he had difficulty locating the airport visually, and when he did locate the runway, the airplane was "too high" to land. Subsequently, as the pilot continued descending and maneuvering toward the runway, the engine lost power, and he landed in a field. He added that, the airplane "hit the field hard," bounced, and struck a utility pole prior to stopping.

The pilot further reported in the NTSB Pilot/ Operator Aircraft Accident/ Incident Report, that he was informed that no fuel was found in the airplane and that the right fuel cap was not installed. He reported that he added fuel to both fuel tanks at the departure airport and there was a "possibility/ likelihood" that he did not secure the right fuel cap during preflight. He added that during the diversion, he did not complete the "forced landing checklist."

The airplane was destroyed. 

The pilot did not report that there were any preaccident mechanical malfunctions or failures with the airplane that would have precluded normal operation.

A small private plane crashed a mile or so shy of the Fairfield Airport landing on a rural road in Teton County Wednesday night. The pilot of the plane survived the crash and was taken by the Fairfield ambulance to a Great Falls hospital.The Fairfield ambulance, Fairfield Volunteer Fire Department, Teton County sheriff's deputies and the Montana Highway Patrol responded to the accident scene.

Martin Teague, 60, of Bothell, Washington, the pilot of a small private plane sustained non-life threatening facial lacerations and chest injuries in a crash Sept. 6 on a rural Fairfield road off First Lane Northeast and Second Road Northeast.

The pilot, who was planning to land at the Great Falls International Airport according to his flight plan, radioed that he was low on fuel and was attempting to land at the rural Fairfield airport, about 35 miles north of Great Falls. Teton County Sheriff Keith VanSetten said Teague was able to land the plane in a field and traveled about 120 feet when the wing of the single-engine Cessna 182 hit a power pole, tearing off a large portion of the wing and flipping the plane onto the roadway. He was about .75 of a mile away from the Fairfield airport.

The crash was reported at 8 p.m. with the Montana Highway Patrol, Fairfield Rural Volunteer Fire Department, Teton County sheriff’s deputies and the Fairfield ambulance responding. The Fairfield ambulance transported the pilot to Benefis in Great Falls. He was communicating with the crew at the site of the crash, according to fire officials.

Heavy smoke from Montana fires hanging over Fairfield at the time of the accident reduced visibility.

An official from the Federal Aviation Administration in Helena was on the site of the crash Thursday morning. An FAA official in Helena said the National Transportation Safety Board will lead the investigation into the crash and his agency along with the other agencies that responded to the crash will work together on the investigation. It could take up to a year before the official report on the crash is released, the Helena FFA official said.