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FAA ruling probably won't affect commemorative flights at Falcon Field
March 29, 2011
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    March 26, 2011

    The Federal Aviation Administration is intensifying efforts to reduce general-aviation accidents, and Arizona’s historic military-aircraft industry is among its targets.

    The agency this week banned the issuance of new exemptions that allow vintage warbirds such as World War II aircraft to carry passengers.

    The moratorium comes amid a sweeping FAA safety campaign that will bring workshops to Mesa’s airports, and an unrelated international air-safety committee’s look of pilot emergency maneuver training at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport.

    The ban appears to have no immediate impact on Arizona groups that already have permits to fly passengers in the planes, but officials of those groups said they are concerned about the long-term implications of the new rule.

    The moratorium prevents them from bringing additional aircraft into their passenger-flying operations, which are a source of income for non-profit organizations such as the Arizona Wing Commemorative Air Force at Falcon Field Airport in Mesa.

    Rick Senffer, the wing’s spokesman, said passenger rides and other fund-raising events, such as last week’s 1940s Big Band dance, help the volunteer enterprises pay for overhead such as fuel, insurance and tours of their flight museums.

    There have been several fatal warbird crashes in recent years. Last year, a T-6 Texan crashed in Florida, killing the pilot and a passenger. In 2007, two P-51 Mustangs collided at an air show in Oshkosh, Wis., killing one of the pilots.

    The moratorium is temporary but will stay in place until the FAA drafts a new proposed policy that the agency expects to publish for comment by Sept. 30, according to the Federal Register on Rules and Regulations.FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said during a news conference earlier this week that he is concerned about the safety of passengers aboard warbirds but approves of flights that showcase the history of aviation.

    Babbitt said he is partnering with aircraft groups including the AOPA and the Experimental Aircraft Association, in a wide-ranging outreach program to pilots of general-aviation aircraft.

    “One of the FAA’s top priorities is to reduce the number of fatal accidents in general aviation, just as we have worked to reduce fatal accidents in commercial aviation,” he said in an FAA press release. “Our goal is to reduce the general aviation fatal-accident rate per 100,000 flight hours by 10?percent over a 10-year period (2009-2018).”

    The agency will focus on education and outreach, using a non-regulatory, proactive strategy to get the results.

    “The FAA is already using critical data to identify risk in general aviation and develop safety strategies that will make a difference and help transform the safety culture,” the release said.

    Falcon Field Airport Director Corinne Nystrom said the FAA “is bringing private pilots up to speed on changes and new technology in aviation.”

    As part of a “Safety Standdown,” the FAA will conduct workshops on April 23 at Falcon Field and Gateway.
    In addition to more than 120 FAA staffers, approximately 3,000 volunteer safety representatives are participating in the remedial training sessions across the country.

    Using airline safety-program techniques, the workshops will also attempt to determine whether pilot schools and instructors are teaching or overlooking techniques that lead to accidents.

    In a separate safety program this week at Gateway, the International Committee for Aviation Training in Extended Envelopes assessed advancements in teaching commercial pilots the limits of their capabilities and that of the aircraft systems they control.

    The committee is evaluating training conducted by Aviation Performance Solutions for KLM Royal Dutch Airlines pilots.

    The firm provides Upset Recovery and Enhanced Stall Training to help pilots deal with a range of potential adverse experiences and prevent losing control of an aircraft under extreme weather conditions like microburst, icing and sudden turbulence.

    The instruction, approved by Congress last year, comes in the wake of pilot error and safety lapses identified by the National Transportation Safety Board as a cause of the Colgan Air crash which killed 50 people in 2009 near Buffalo, N.Y.

    The training is the first for a major airline as KLM moves to become an industry leader in safety training.

    Date: 2011-03-26