The crash of Comair Flight 5191 in the early morning darkness of August 27 has given pause to the entire aviation community. As investigators grapple with the question of how an experienced CRJ100 crew could blast down an unlit, 3,500-foot runway without looking at so much as their heading, safety experts are becoming convinced that technology might have broken the chain of events that led to the crash.
Air traffic control
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Transportation Department Inspector General are questioning whether the FAA’s safety inspectors and air traffic controllers will be able to cope with the introduction of very light jets (VLJ) and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV).
Air Routing International (ARI) of Houston has introduced a new service for U.S. clients called the Domestic Flight Watch (DFW) program, designed to minimize ATC delays and reroutings by optimizing coordination between the FAA and NBAA’s General Aviation Desk at the FAA Air Traffic Control System Command Center in Virginia.
A Defense Department study published recently said that under the right circumstances windmill farms used to generate electricity have the potential to degrade the tracking capabilities of ATC radar. The study doesn’t cite any examples of this happening outside of flight tests done in the UK but recommends that more studies be conducted.
The $388 billion omnibus spending bill Congress passed late last year cut the FAA’s budget for Fiscal Year 2005 to $13.6 billion, $219 million less than in FY 2004. But lawmakers added $9.5 million more than the Bush Administration requested to train more air traffic controllers.
Thunder Aviation in Chesterfield, Mo., recently won a group RVSM STC for Falcon 10s equipped with the Collins AP-105 autopilot. Kit price, including installation, is $175,000. At press time, the company expected to receive group STCs for Falcon 10s and 20s equipped with the Honeywell SPZ500 autopilot. The company anticipates receiving a group RVSM STC for the dozen or so Falcon 20s equipped with the KFC 400 autopilot.
The Defense Department will remove its flight information publications, digital aeronautical flight information file and related aeronautical charts and publications from public sale effective October 1 this year.
Operators will see en route ATC charges for most of Europe reduced by an average of 7 percent starting this month. There will be some variance in unit charge rates for different operations–which are calculated based on distance flown and aircraft weight–but average charges are set to decrease in just about all of the 32 Eurocontrol member states.
Effective January 5, when filing an FAA flight plan (with the exception of filing through DUATS and flight service stations), RVSM-compliant operators are expected to file “/Q” (RVSM with a FMS or GPS) or “/W” (RVSM without FMS and GPS), as appropriate, for flight in RVSM airspace (between FL290 and FL410 inclusive).
Hoping to stave off a shortage in air traffic controllers caused by an expected wave of retirements, the FAA will hire 12,500 controllers over the next 10 years and improve training so that candidates can become fully certified more quickly. More than 11,000 controllers are expected to leave the agency between now and 2014.