Six sites have been chosen by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) test sites to be used for research into the certification and operational requirements for incorporating UAS into the National Airspace System (see “Right From the Start”).
The six sites are in Alaska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Texas and Virginia.
The FAA said that factors considered in the site-selection process included geography, climate, location of ground infrastructure, research needs, airspace use, safety, aviation experience and risk. “In totality, these six test applications achieve cross-country geographic and climatic diversity and help the FAA meet its UAS research needs,” the agency said.
Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said that the sites would yield “valuable information about how best to ensure the safe introduction of this advanced technology into our nation’s skies.”
FAA Administrator Michael Huerta added, “We have successfully brought new technology into the nation’s aviation system for more than 50 years, and I have no doubt we will do the same with unmanned aircraft.”
Operators of the six sites will conduct research in several areas. For example, the University of Alaska’s research plan, which calls for test site locations in Hawaii and Oregon as well as Alaska, includes the development of standards for unmanned aircraft categories, state monitoring and navigation.
The state of Nevada will examine UAS standards and operations, operator standards and “a concentrated look at how air traffic control procedures will evolve with the introduction of UAS into the civil environment and how these aircraft will be integrated with NextGen [the FAA’s plan to overhaul the national airspace, known formally as the Next Generation Air Transportation System].”
Griffiss International Airport, near Rome, New York, will work on testing and evaluations, and validation and verification processes under FAA safety oversight, as well as UAS sense-and-avoid capabilities and operations in the congested airspace of the northeastern United States.
The North Dakota Department of Commerce will conduct UAS human factors research in addition to its plan to “develop UAS airworthiness essential data and validate high reliability link technology.”
Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi plans to develop safety requirements for UAS vehicles and operations, along with airworthiness testing procedures.
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) is planning UAS failure-mode testing and an evaluation of operational and technical risk areas. The Virginia Tech proposal includes test sites in New Jersey as well as Virginia.
The law calls for test site operations to continue at least until February 2017.
The Australian government has ordered an independent review of the nation’s aviation safety regulation network, including the effectiveness of agencies involved in safety regulation and their relationships and interactions with one another.
Warren Truss, deputy prime minister and minister for infrastructure and regional development, said the review is intended to “reassess how our safety regulatory system is placed in dealing with this dynamic and evolving sector.”
The review, to be conducted by a panel of aviation safety experts, will “benchmark Australia’s safety regulation against other leading countries,” the minister’s office said, noting that the panel will be headed by David Forsyth, chairman of Safeskies Australia and former chairman of Airservices Australia. Members will include Don Spruston, former director general of civil aviation for Transport Canada and former director general of the International Business Aviation Council, and Roger Whitefield, former head of safety at British Airways.
The panel is expected to submit its final report to Truss in May.
The U.S. air traffic control system has more flexibility than its European counterparts in responding to imbalances in demand and capacity, according to a report by the Eurocontrol Performance Review Commission and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration Air Traffic Organization.
The report, published in December, compares the operational and economic performance of air traffic management (ATM) in Europe and the United States from 2008 through 2012, a period characterized by declining traffic.
The goal of the joint study on which the report was based was “to understand differences between the two ATM systems in order to further optimize ATM performance and to identify best practices for the benefit of the overall air transport system.”
The study found that variations in performance indicators were often associated with differences in ATM policy or operating strategies, including “when and where air traffic flow management measures are applied; a more fragmented structure of service provision in Europe; greater flexibility of the U.S. system in mitigating demand/capacity imbalances through the use of traffic flow initiatives that are coordinated across multiple en route centres; and airline and airport scheduling, their impact on airport throughput [a measurement of the number of aircraft handled in a specific time period] and the ability to effectively sustain airport throughput in bad weather.”
The report suggested “a more comprehensive comparison” of the quality of ATM service, especially in regard to safety, capacity and other factors that affect performance.
“A better understanding of trade-offs, such as maximizing capacity and throughput against maximizing predictability, would be needed to identify best practices and policies,” the report said.
Wider Use of PEDs
Aviation authorities in Europe and the United States have authorized the expanded use of portable electronic devices (PEDs) by passengers.
The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued updated guidance to airlines saying that they had determined that PEDs, when used in non-transmitting “flight mode” (or “airplane mode”) present no risk to safety.
Siim Kallas, EC vice president responsible for transport, said in December that he had asked EASA to speed up its safety review of the use of PEDs in transmitting mode; new guidance should be published early in 2014, he said.
“We all like to stay connected while we are traveling, but safety is the key word here,” Kallas said. “I have asked for a review based on a clear principle: If it’s not safe, it should not be allowed, but if it is safe, it can be used within the rules.”
EASA’s December guidance said PEDs could be used in flight mode “in all phases of the journey, from gate to gate.”
FAA guidance also said that, after airlines could prove to the FAA that their airplanes would allow safe use of PEDs in airplane mode, the devices would be permitted during all phases of flight, although cell phones cannot be used for voice communications because of Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations. The FCC has said it is considering changing its regulations banning cell phone calls during flight to allow the airlines themselves to decide whether passengers should be permitted to make cell phone calls during flight and under what conditions.
The FAA said that its PED Aviation Rulemaking Committee had determined that “most commercial airplanes can tolerate radio interference signals from PEDs.” The panel recommended that after individual airlines verify that the devices can be used without causing interference, their in-flight use should be permitted. On some occasions, however, passengers will be asked to turn off PEDs during landing, the FAA said.
Cell phones are treated differently than other PEDs because of their stronger signals, the FAA said.
Ann L. Mullikin, Flight Safety Foundation’s longtime art director and graphic designer, died Dec. 27, 2013, in Alexandria, Virginia, U.S., after a brief illness. She was 59.
Ann worked at the Foundation from 1997 until 2012, and was responsible for the design of AeroSafety World, introduced in 2006. J.A. Donoghue, editor-in-chief of ASW at the time, praised Ann as “an excellent artist and collaborator … who established an artistic identity for the magazine that was one of solid professionalism.”
Ann also taught graphic design for The Art League, an Alexandria organization offering courses in fine arts and crafts.
Before joining the Foundation, she was graphics department manager for a management consulting, engineering and information technology company in Arlington, Virginia. She also spent 11 years as a flight attendant and purser for Pan American World Airways.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has proposed a $325,000 civil penalty against Southwest Airlines, alleging that the airline operated a Boeing 717 that had been improperly modified.
The modification involved the Aug. 29, 2011, installation of a switch intended to enable flight crews to test the airplane’s windshield heating system. The 717 was operated by AirTran Airways, which is merging with Southwest. If the switch had been installed properly, flight crews would have been able to “isolate the windshield anti-ice system that was causing a warning that the windshield heater was failing,” the FAA said. However, when the switch was installed, the center and left windshield warning systems were reversed, the FAA said.
The airplane was operated on 1,140 passenger flights before the problem was corrected, the agency added.
In an unrelated matter, the FAA proposed a $304,000 civil penalty against Great Lakes Aviation for conducting 19 flights using airplanes that were not in compliance with Federal Aviation Regulations. The airplanes — Beech 1900s — were operated in January 2011 with deicing fluid that exceeded the maximum allowable temperature; the temperature limit was intended to prevent damage to the airplane or the deicer.
Both airlines were given 30 days to respond after receiving the FAA’s civil penalty letter.
The European Commission (EC), in the most recent revision of its “air safety list,” has added all air carriers based in Nepal to the list of those banned from operating in the European Union (EU).
Siim Kallas, EC vice president responsible for transport, said the commission hopes that the ban will result in improvements in aviation safety in Nepal. Kallas said he had asked the European Aviation Safety Agency to develop a Nepalese aviation safety assistance project.
After consultation with civil aviation authorities in Libya, the EC said that the voluntary restrictions that have kept Libyan airlines from operating in the EU would continue. Those restrictions have been in place since the Libyan revolution in 2011.
The revised list prohibits EU operations by all airlines certified in 21 countries — a total of 295 airlines — plus two additional airlines certified in other countries. Ten additional airlines are subject to specific operational restrictions.
Kallas said that recent efforts indicate safety progress in several countries on the list, especially the Philippines, Sudan and Zambia.
In Other News …
The Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority administered 11,252 alcohol and drug tests in the 2012–2013 financial year, with seven people testing positive for alcohol and two testing positive for drugs, the agency says. … The International Civil Aviation Organization and the International Air Transport Association have established a new global training alliance, designed to “intensify and refine air transport training and learning resources” to address expected shortages of air transport personnel. The organizations cited forecasts that call for a doubling of aviation system capacity by 2030 and a need to hire thousands of new pilots, air traffic controllers and maintenance personnel.
Compiled and edited by Linda Werfelman.