Something struck Dave Higdon as unusual during a recent conversation with a fellow pilot about the state of GA… He couldn't remember the last time anyone involved in aviation commented on how dull things have been…?
If dynamic is the antithesis of dull, 2015 has been anything but dull. In its own way, this was another landmark year for aviation. How? Let review...
The Drone Onslaught...
Few topics seemed so surprising in their emergence and ability to generate vocal opinions than that wild-child offshoot of the radio-control aircraft flying hobby. The explosion came in the form of multi-rotorcopter machines - increasingly easy to fly and, consequently, easy to fly into problems. Businesses are eager to use them in our airspace.
The FAA's long-standing relationship with the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) faced its biggest challenge in decades as localities, states, cities and counties considered stepping in with regulations that unintentionally threatened the law-abiding AMA-type flyers – with little to no impact on the multi-rotorcopter operators causing the problems.
But, after initially reacting slowly the FAA got seriously engaged, worked with the drone community, the R/C model community, and retail outlets to spread the word that regulations exist – and that violators will be held accountable. Fortunately, the FAA's message got across before something tragic happened. The FAA's still moving forward, releasing an interim final rule setting up a drone-registrations system and outlining the requirements for its use.
With the new drone-registration program announced early this month, the FAA has a start on a way to identify and act on violators. Stay tuned...in 2016.
New Jet from a New OEM
During December, one patient company finally achieved a goal 35 years in the making: Honda Aircraft received its full type certification for its HondaJet.
Working on Honda Motors' aviation ambitions began in 1980, and the engine, naturally, came first. Then came an airframe matched to the HF-120 powerplant, and thus the twin-engine HondaJet was born. Unveiled at the 2005 AirVenture Oshkosh in Wisconsin, the HondaJet employs an engine-mounting configuration rarely seen: Engines mounted atop pylons attached to the upper wing on both sides.
The design opens up significant space in the cabin thanks to the absence of engine-spar carry-through structures.
Welcome to the market. We expect more in the future!
The NextGen Front....
The closing of 2015 leaves the aviation community with four more years to equip for ADS-B Out. With 2015 came another step along the long and rocky path to a NextGen, GPS-based air traffic management system.
Just weeks ago the FAA started fulfilling one of its long-anticipated changes to the network of ground-based airway-by-airway navigation: Decommissioning VOR stations. On November 10 the FAA issued a final rule that removes 334 redundant or underutilized ground-based non-directional radio beacon (NDB) and VHF omni-directional range (VOR) Standard Instrument Approach Procedures (SIAPs).
This step is an integral part of ‘right-sizing’ the quantity and type of procedures as a growing number of area navigation (RNAV) instrument approach procedures are made available.
The FAA has commissioned thousands of new instrument approach procedures based on the accuracy and stability of WAAS GPS. In fact, months ago the number of precision LPV approaches (Localizer Performance with Vertical guidance) surpassed the number of Instrument Landing System (ILS) approaches.
There are currently 3,591 Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) Localizer Performance with Vertical guidance (LPV) approach procedures serving 1,746 airports. 1,002 of these airports are Non-ILS airports. There are also 596 Localizer Performance (LP) approach procedures in the US serving 432 airports.
Meanwhile, the FAA and stakeholders continue to march toward an airways system and flow management techniques capable of exploiting the accuracy gains of NextGen and to realize the capacity gains long promised.
Another Strong NBAA...
The major show circuit for 2015 closed out with another successful convention of the National Business Aviation Association. More than 1,000 vendors, 100 aircraft in the static display at Henderson Airport outside Las Vegas, ramps crowded with show-delegates' aircraft at both Las Vegas McCarron and North airports, another dozen-plus on the convention floor – and 27,000-plus people.
That made 2015 the strongest NBAA since the onset of the Great Recession – and a great wrap to a year with more strength than expected and a solid way to head into 2016.
So, let's do it again in 2016... Happy New Year! See you there!
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