As I write this from my seat on a Boeing 777 bound for China, I realize I no longer have the same degree of nonchalance I had on previous long-haul flights. I am aware the airplane, one of the most modern jetliners in the sky, is functioning exactly as intended, the comforting whoosh of its powerful engines omnipresent as it courses smoothly through the air above the Arctic Circle, yet in the back of my mind, thoughts drift to another triple-seven, also China-bound, which more than a month after its disappearance still has given investigators little clue as to where it actually ended up and why.
The incidence of lasers being pointed at aircraft is rising at an alarming rate, jumping by more than 1,000 percent since the FAA started tracking data in 2005. Last year, according to FAA data, so-called “lasing” incidents averaged 11 per day. With this proliferation comes greater potential for an aircraft accident, with injury and loss of life both to aircraft occupants and to people on the ground.
“Within the next decade we’ll be flying people to Australia from New York in about two hours, developing spaceships that will cross continents outside the Earth’s atmosphere and then pop them back into the atmosphere. Then we’ll move on to much bigger commercial jets [traveling] at many times the speed of sound.”
We owe the FAA a debt of gratitude for the most excellent job the agency has done to provide data to aid our flying. It is amazing that for a relatively small cost pilots have access to a wealth of navigation information. Much of it—VFR charting especially—is gorgeous, pretty enough to hang on a wall or use as wrapping paper after the expiration date.
The annual Helicopter Association International Heli-Expo show is one of the most enjoyable shows that I attend each year. It’s not because the show is all about helicopters, but more about the unique nature of those who have dedicated their lives to the whirlybird industry. Helicopter people are not only intensely committed to all things rotary-winged but at the same time they’re a fun-loving bunch, and this is such a small segment of the aviation industry that there are few degrees of separation between all of the participants.
Some of my favorite new and old television series are available on disc, which means they can be watched in flight. This alphabetical list of 15 recommended DVD and Blu-ray sets includes something for everyone—comedies, dramas, cop shows, even a couple of documentaries. What they have in common is quality.
I often get the feeling that general aviation is the red-headed stepchild in government’s view of the aerospace industry. With apologies to the late Rodney Dangerfield, GA seems to get no respect from the federal government. There have been three comprehensive studies on aviation in the past quarter century, and a few others on narrower topics.
I have to admit that my interest in drones–or unmanned aircraft systems, as the FAA prefers to call them–has been re-energized by my students at Vaughn College of Aeronautics. Sure, like most aviation enthusiasts, I’m interested in anything that flies and have been a model airplane fan from childhood.
There may be but a handful of vintage airport terminals left in the United States, and the very fact that some exist at all depends on some specific circumstances. Typically they are found at airports that for whatever reason could not, or did not, expand at a rate to justify destroying their original terminal and replacing it with a larger, more functional structure.
The job of an FAA inspector must be incredibly boring. I imagine them sitting at their desks all day facing down gigantic piles of paper: letters of authorization, certification compliance packages, applications for operating certificates, enforcement actions, ad infinitum. And when the poor beleaguered inspector gets one pile stamped, signed and delivered, an FAA factotum appears with a new stack and thumps it onto whatever clear space remains in the office. Every day, looking up blearily from the stacks, our overworked inspector looks fondly out the window and wonders whether she can take a few minutes away from the office to visit the airport and see if her charges are playing nice or need some friendly nudging.
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