Archive for September, 2010

VT Group Adds Unmanned Aircraft Systems

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

Unmanned aircraft systems like the ScanEagle are a growth market poised to double in the next decade.

VT Group, a U.S. subsidiary of Babcock International Group PLC, announced that it has purchased the unmanned aircraft systems unit of Evergreen International Aviation Inc. Under the terms of the deal, the current Evergreen employees will join the Technical Services Division of VT Group based out of McMinnville, Oregon.

The unit provides service and support for unmanned aircraft systems including the ScanEagle and Maveric aircraft. With more than 10,000 hours of flight time, the unit is one of the leading providers of training and operations support for government and commercial customers of the unmanned aircraft systems.

VT Group currently has contracts with the Department of Defense and other government agencies to maintain and train pilots and mechanics of fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft. They have supported the Army’s operation of numerous helicopter platforms for more than a decade. With the acquisition of Evergreen’s unmanned aircraft systems group, VT Group intends to expand into the rapidly-growing unmanned aircraft systems market.

“Evergreen International Aviation takes exceptional pride in its 50-year legacy of matching machine to mission though innovation, flexibility and agility,” said Del Smith, Founder and Owner, Evergreen International Aviation, Inc. “Our customer relationships and service reputation are very important to us, so we would only accept a perfect fit for a company acquiring this part of our business. VT Group’s global reach and proven track record in delivering aviation support are precisely in line with our expectations, and they are perfectly positioned to service our UAS customers.”

According to a VT Group official, the unmanned aircraft systems market is set to expand by more than double in the next decade and they feel that this merger will improve VT Group’s offerings significantly by allowing them to quickly expand into that market.

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Source: VT Group Acquires Evergreen Unmanned Systems

This article was written by Matthew Everett, a private pilot, aviation writer, and frequent contributor to You can follow him on twitter @leaving_tf or find his blog at

CA Governor Vetoes Flight School Bill

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

An effort to fix costly flight training regulations in California has failed.

Portions of Assembly Bill 1889 unrelated to flight schools caused California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger veto the bill. The bill would have given flight schools a reprieve on costly new flight training regulations imposed by the California Private Postsecondary Act of 2009.

The veto has not shut down efforts to address the regulations and represents only one of many legislative efforts launched by organizations like AOPA. Another item that AOPA hopes to utilize to correct the controversial legislation is the California state budget. AOPA seeks to insert language imposing a moratorium on the costly new flight training regulatory fees.

“AOPA has been working on this issue for many months—and we have engaged our members to assist through calls to action,” said AOPA Vice President of Airports and State Advocacy Greg Pecoraro. “We had hoped to avoid this veto, but we knew it was a possibility and have been planning for it.”

Assembly Bill 1889 was vetoed because of labor provisions that would force the state, which is already struggling financially, to hire new employees. These staffing requirements are unrelated to the flight training regulations. The veto was not unexpected by AOPA who proposed other tactics such as another bill and including the language in the state budget. According to Pecoraro the legislature strongly supports fixing the new flight training regulations, it is just a matter of finding the right fix.

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Sources: CA flight training industry unfazed by Schwarzenegger veto
This article was written by Matthew Everett, a private pilot, aviation writer, and frequent contributor to You can follow him on twitter @leaving_tf or find his blog at

Flight Training Tips – Handling Ear Pressure Emergencies

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010
Pilots and ear pressure problems

Are you ready for an ear pressure emergency?

Imagine yourself on a long flight at 10,500 feet. As you near your destination, you pull the power a little, point the nose down, and start an 800 foot per minute descent. About a minute later, you notice you’re having trouble “popping” your ears.

As the descent continues, you’re ears are now feeling uncomfortable, and starting to hurt, despite your best efforts to clear them. Finally, after a minute or two more, you’re in severe pain, your ears won’t pop, and you’re getting close to your arrival airport.

What do you do next?

In the first of our aero-medical articles, contributor Anya Clowers, RN gives you an in-depth look at what’s going on in your ears and offers several options for trying to keep you comfortable in the event you or your passengers end up in pain during a descent. This is information every pilot needs to know.

Read the full article here – Flight Training Aeromedical Issues – Managing Changes in Ear Pressure

Southwest Buying AirTran

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

Southwest Airlines is planning to merge with AirTran.

In a recent announcement, Southwest Airlines said it would be buying AirTran Holdings, Inc., the parent company of AirTran Airways. Southwest has agreed to buy out AirTran stock with cash and Southwest stock.

The agreement has been accepted by the respective boards of directors, but it must still be approved by stockholders and regulatory agencies before the deal can be closed.

“Today is an exciting day for our Employees, our Customers, the communities we serve, and our Shareholders,” said Gary C. Kelly, Chairman, President, and CEO of Southwest Airlines. “As we approach our 40th Anniversary of providing exceptional Customer Service at everyday low fares, the acquisition of AirTran represents a unique opportunity to grow Southwest Airlines’ presence in key markets we don’t yet serve and takes a significant step toward positioning us for future growth.”

The newly combined airlines will employ approximately 43,000 personnel at more than 100 US and international airports. Additionally, the merger will leave Southwest operating aircraft with an average age of only 10 years, one of the youngest fleets in the industry. That fleet will consist of 685 Boeing aircraft including 737s and 717s. Eventually, the carriers plan to transition to a single operating certificate. The merger also supports Southwest’s plans to investigate the addition of 737-800 aircraft for longer routes.

During the initial phases of the merger, Southwest and AirTran will continue separate operations. Eventually, AirTran will be integrated into the Southwest brand by rolling out the Southwest livery on their aircraft and customer service facilities. Additionally, Southwest and AirTran frequent-flyer programs will eventually be combined.

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Source: Southwest Airlines to Acquire AirTran; Spreading Low Fares Farther
This article was written by Matthew Everett, a private pilot, aviation writer, and frequent contributor to You can follow him on twitter @leaving_tf or find his blog at

FAA to Deploy ADS-B Nationwide by 2013

Monday, September 27th, 2010

The FAA is calling for nationwide deployment of the Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast system by 2013. ADS-B is the satellite-based surveillance system slated to replace current radar-based aircraft surveillance systems. ADS-B has been deployed and rigorously tested at four key sites throughout the US: Alaska, the Gulf of Mexico, Louisville and Philadelphia. The sites were chosen because they represent some of the most extreme environments in the nation’s airspace and allowed the new technology to be thoroughly tested.

The new system allows air traffic controllers to use satellite-based technology to track and separate aircraft in addition to traditional radar-based tracking. ADS-B requires aircraft be equipped with special avionics, but it offers a greater level of accuracy and reliability. Additionally, it provides controllers with information such as aircraft type, call sign, heading, altitude and speed. According to the FAA, all locations currently covered by radar can expect to have ADS-B coverage and approximately half of the ground stations are already installed. The new system also offers a number of benefits to pilots including free weather and traffic information. The FAA will require all aircraft flying in controlled airspace in the U.S. to be equipped with ADS-B avionics by 2020.

While ADS-B offers significant improvement over radar-based systems, there are still concerns with remote and mountainous regions. In order to cope with such areas as well as a potential ADS-B outage, the FAA has commissioned system known as Wide-Area Multilateration. WAM, similar to ADS-B, consists of a number of small sensors which allow controllers to see aircraft that would ordinarily be blocked by the rugged terrain. WAM is currently deployed in Colorado and Alaska and offers many of the same benefits to pilots as ADS-B.

The full-scale deployment of ADS-B represents a significant step in the modernization of the aging air traffic control system. The proposed benefits offer a significant safety advantage to both pilots and air traffic controllers in the form of greatly increased situational awareness. Additionally, the new systems will provide new methods of obtaining weather and flight restriction information that will have a large and lasting effect on all types of flying.

Is free weather and traffic information enough of an incentive for you to upgrade to ADS-B capable avionics?

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Source: FAA Gives Green Light to ADS-B Rollout


This article was written by Matthew Everett, a private pilot, aviation writer, and frequent contributor to You can follow him on twitter @leaving_tf or find his blog at

Virgin America Best Airline in Business Poll

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

Virgin America, the California-based airline that is reinventing domestic travel, took the top honors for “Best Business/First Class” among domestic airlines in Conde Nast Traveler’s 2010 Business Travel Poll.  The annual survey of the magazine’s business travelers ranked Virgin America as the top U.S. airline for the third consecutive year, as reported in the October issue of Conde Nast Traveler. To thank its loyal business guests, the airline today launches a “Taking Care of Business” two-day fare sale with low fares in the airline’s Main Cabin and its premium Main Cabin Select service.

Two independent firms asked 25,900 Conde Nast Traveler readers identified as business travelers to rate hotels, airports and airlines on a variety of criteria.  Final scores (out of 100) represent the percentage of readers who rated a hotel, airport, or airline “excellent” or “very good.”  Virgin America rated an overall score of 89.7 — its two nearest competitors ranked at 82.2 (Midwest) and 68.1 (Continental) respectively.

Virgin America Wins Best Domestic Airline in Conde Nast Traveler’s Annual Business Travel Poll is a post from: Aviation news – Planegrazy

Related posts:

  1. Virgin America Ranked Number One Airline in Annual Zagat Airline Survey
  2. JetBlue Airways Again Wins ‘Best Rated Large Domestic Airline’ in the Economy Category of Zagat’s Airline Survey
  3. Virgin America Announces Bag Fee Changes

Unmanned Aircraft Training: Army Preparing for Surge in Trainees

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

A US Army RQ-7 Shadow unmanned aircraft landing.

Unmanned aircraft are one of the fastest growing sectors in aviation. Their applications in the military are rapidly expanding day after day. Unmanned aircraft are being used in roles as diverse as close air support and climate data gathering. The demand is rapidly exceeding the supply of trained personnel to operate the aircraft.

The US Army is coping with their need via a single training base in Arizona. The base already sees hundreds of students daily and offers 20 programs of instruction on multiple unmanned aircraft systems. By 2012 the Army expects to deploy its first Gray Eagle company which means the base will see a serious increase in students beginning in the next few months.

Fort Huachuca, the Army’s unmanned aircraft training center, is ideal for the application thanks to the large restricted airspace surrounding the base. Roughly equivalent in size to Rhode Island, there is more than enough room for the enormous training efforts taking place on the base. The initial 21 week-long training programs can last as much as 16 hours a day. From there students are either deployed or they progress into more complex training programs which can last as much as 25 additional weeks. Like traditional flight training, the programs begin in the classroom before the trainees begin a rigorous simulator and flight training regimen.

The Army is heavily invested in cutting-edge simulator technologies thanks to the cost-savings realized in operating simulators versus actual aircraft. The goal is for students to realistically and safely train on the simulators and make a quick transition to real aircraft with little difficulty.

Source: Unmanned Aircraft Training Battalion Gears Up for Gray Eagle
This article was written by Matthew Everett, a private pilot, aviation writer, and frequent contributor to You can follow him on twitter @leaving_tf or find his blog at

Alaska Students Learning Math and Science Through Aviation

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

This year’s challenge will look at the wing of a 747.

Students in Alaska have been given the opportunity to learn math and science through a hands-on aviation program.

The Real World Design Challenge program provides software to participating schools and challenges students to use their math and science skills to solve aviation problems. The challenge this year will allow students the opportunity to investigate the wing of a Boeing 747 and analyze fuel efficiency.

Schools from all over the country can participate, but the program has received an unprecedented level of support this year from Alaska where the Lt. Governor has announced that the program is being made available to every high school in the state at no cost.

Alaska as a state is one of the most active in aviation and aviation technology. Thanks to its varied and remote geography, things that work other places don’t always work in Alaska. This has led to quite a bit of aviation innovation that is often applied world-wide.

The stated goal of the program is to get young people involved in aviation. While the focus is on turning out engineers and scientists that will build the next generation of aircraft, it offers good press for the oft-maligned aviation industry.

Programs like this are needed throughout aviation industries in order to reach the next generation of pilots, mechanics, and aircraft designers. Aviation is a growth industry, but the learning curve in all aspects of aviation is often so steep that aviation industries are plagued with shortages of qualified personnel. For this reason, it is essential that programs like the Real World Design Challenge are created and nourished.

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Source: Students to launch to top of aviation education
This article was written by Matthew Everett, a private pilot, aviation writer, and frequent contributor to You can follow him on twitter @leaving_tf or find his blog at

Boeing Projects Annual Need for 23,000 New Pilots

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

Boeing is projecting a need for almost a million new aviation jobs in the next 20 years.

Boeing is projecting that the commercial aviation industry will require more than a million new pilots and maintenance personnel over the next 20 years. In a recent press release, the aircraft manufacturer cited growing demand for new and replacement aircraft as the leading indicator of the need for new crew.

According to the crew assessment forecast, based on Boeing’s Current Market Outlook, training methods must be adapted and created to aid future generations in flying and maintaining the 30,000 new aircraft projected to be delivered through 2029.

The report indicates strong growth in the Asia-Pacific region, which is projected to require almost 400,000 new pilots and mechanics. China is the major player in the region, requiring nearly 200,000 personnel. This is compared to North America and Europe which combined will require at least 400,000 pilots and mechanics.

The challenge is in providing adequate training to safely train new pilots and mechanics worldwide to operate and maintain new, technologically-advanced aircraft. The training must be accessible worldwide and incorporate methodologies to cope with new learning styles. For these reasons, Boeing, one of the largest aircraft manufacturers worldwide, is also one of the leading providers of training products for the commercial aviation industry. Boeing’s training initiatives are some of the most innovative and are accepted worldwide.


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This article was written by Matthew Everett, a private pilot, aviation writer, and frequent contributor to You can follow him on twitter @leaving_tf or find his blog at

FAA Slow Moving on ND Airspace for Unmanned Aircraft

Monday, September 20th, 2010
The military operates several models of unmanned aircraft overseas.

The military operates several models of unmanned aircraft overseas.

The Air Force has met resistance from the FAA in approving the restricted training airspace for unmanned aircraft operations in Grand Forks, ND. The Air Force, one of the largest operators of unmanned aircraft, is seeking a 35-mile by 45-mile area set aside for training crews of the Predator and the Global Hawk unmanned aircraft. According to Air Force officials, the next two years will see the primary mission at Grand Forks Air Base shift to operation of unmanned aircraft.

The military routinely operate unmanned aircraft in the same airspace as manned combat aircraft overseas, but FAA regulations require unmanned aircraft operations to receive a conditional waiver. These waivers are granted on a case by case basis. According to military officials, however, a waiver does not meet their need for dedicated training airspace. The demand for unmanned aircraft is growing faster than they can train crews and without dedicated training airspace, this is unlikely to improve.

The Pentagon and FAA have taken some flak during a field hearing in Grand Forks where Sen. Byron Dorgan questioned reporting time lines and the deployment of unmanned aircraft to a location where training cannot be performed. According to an FAA official, there are concerns about unmanned aircraft avoiding collisions with civilian aircraft. The FAA is seeking the support of groups in the civilian aviation industry before opening airspace to unmanned aircraft. The hope of this hearing is to expedite resolutions on the issue so that crew training can begin.


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This article was written by Matthew Everett, a private pilot, aviation writer, and frequent contributor to You can follow him on twitter @leaving_tf or find his blog at