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NTSB Issues Probable Cause Report in 2007 Fiesta Fatal Accident Print E-mail
Written by Glen Moyer   
Wednesday, 07 May 2008 08:15

The NTSB cited pilot error as one of eleven factors in the accident that left one balloon passenger dead during the 2007 Fiesta in Albuquerque, NM. 60-year old Rosemary Wooley Phillips died after falling from a balloon that was snagged by a power line. The NTSB report says the pilot was distracted by another balloon that struck a house and was flying too low. The report also cites weather conditions (high winds) and flawed crew procedures as factors that contributed to the accident.

Last Updated on Sunday, 12 April 2009 13:18
FAA issues new Ballooning Handbook Print E-mail
Written by Glen Moyer   
Friday, 28 March 2008 06:47

(The following is from BFA member Dave Sullivan) 

I’m pleased to announce that the new Balloon Flying Handbook,
FAA-H-8083-11A, has been posted to the faa.gov website, and is available
for download. A link is at the bottom of this e-mail.

Last Updated on Sunday, 12 April 2009 13:19
Transport Canada Urges Safety Improvements in Commercial Balloons Print E-mail
Written by Glen Moyer   
Thursday, 27 March 2008 09:05

In the wake of a balloon accident near Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada in August of last year the Transportation Board of Canada has issued two interim safety recommendations for commercial hot air balloons. In general they recommend "that passenger-carrying commercial balloon operations provide a level of safety equivalent to that established for other aircraft of equal passenger-carrying capacity" and that "balloons carrying fare-paying passengers have an emergency fuel shut-off."

Last Updated on Sunday, 12 April 2009 13:17
Paper or Plastic? FAA Rules Plastic by 2010 Print E-mail
Written by Glen Moyer   
Saturday, 01 March 2008 06:27

FAA Issues Final Rule On Plastic Pilot Certificates
Requires Changeover By March 2010

 When it comes to the question of "paper or plastic?" the FAA has given its final answer. This week, the FAA released its final rule on the matter, announcing the required switch to plastic pilot certificates by March 31, 2010.

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association states its members "overwhelmingly" supported the move, when the FAA first proposed the matter in 2005. In addition to being far more durable than traditional paper certificates, the plastic cards also offer greater resistance to counterfeiting.

Last Updated on Sunday, 12 April 2009 13:21
FAA Issues Super Bowl TFR Print E-mail
Written by Glen Moyer   
Tuesday, 11 December 2007 03:16
On December 9th the FAA issued a Temporary Flight Restriction in the form of Notam FD7 / 6849 and governing air operations over the upcoming Super Bowl in Glendale, Arizona on February 3rd. Not surprisingly the TFR prohibits most all aircraft operations, including balloons, for a 30 nautical mile radius around the University of Phoenix stadium and from the surface to 18,000 feet. For more information see www.tfr.faa.gov.
FAA Promises Flight Service Will Be Fixed Print E-mail
Written by Glen Moyer   
Friday, 18 May 2007 17:18
"We finally have their attention," the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association reported Wednesday, regarding mounting problems with the nation's Flight Service Station network. After weeks of effort by the pilot advocacy group, the top levels of both the FAA and Lockheed Martin are now engaged and committed to fixing the significant problems pilots are experiencing with the new flight service station (FSS) system.

"I spent nearly an hour on the phone with FAA Administrator Marion Blakey on Sunday (May 13), and then again with her and her deputy on Monday," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "I have their pledge that they will do whatever it takes to ensure pilots get the safety of flight information that they need and deserve.

Boyer added he was pleased the administrator and Deputy Administrator Bobby Sturgell are now personally engaged in fixing the FSS problem. He also acknowledged the air traffic controllers who've helped pick up the slack, by reentering lost flight plan information.

"That said, I have great difficulty understanding why it has taken so long for those FAA employees responsible for the Lockheed Martin contract to address a safety of flight issue," Boyer said. "As I asked the administrator Sunday, would the FAA allow a radar outage at a busy hub airport to continue for three weeks with no corrective action?"

As most pilots know, the FAA contracted flight service station operations to Lockheed Martin last year. The company is now modernizing the entire system and consolidating all FSSs into three hubs and 17 satellite facilities.

While AOPA concedes some teething pains could be expected during such a radical transformation of an antiquated system, the problems have deteriorated recently from inconvenient to dangerous.

From the pilot's perspective, things really started falling apart at the end of April, according to AOPA. That's when Lockheed Martin declared its three hubs operational and began aggressively consolidating the old FAA stations at the rate of three a week. And it coincided with the first stretch of good East Coast flying weather since winter.

But the company had fired up its new computerized FS21 system knowing that it had some 90 known deficiencies that required "work-arounds." That meant briefers had to use both the new Lockheed computer system and the old FAA system to gather all the required information to brief pilots and to file flight plans.

 In the last two weeks, the system crashed three times, with the longest outage lasting more than an hour. AOPA called two high-level meetings with Lockheed Martin officials on May 3 and 8 to detail the problems and demand immediate corrective action. The group has also been in almost daily contact with responsible FAA officials to make sure they understand the severity of the flight service station problems.

And while promises were made, the service continued to deteriorate.

Then on Friday, May 11, Boyer went straight to the top and asked FAA Administrator Blakey to hold Lockheed Martin's "feet to the fire to not only fix these serious flight service problems, but also offer immediate remedies to solve the safety of flight issues."

The following Monday, Blakey called in senior Lockheed Martin mangers. They promised a new set of initiatives to fix the problems, including new software updates for the FS21 system, fixing the automated phone switch, offering temporary positions to retired flight service specialists, "surge" staffing to cover peak workload periods, more staff training, and better communication to the pilot community.

"All well and good," said Boyer, "but they're not anywhere close yet to the service levels that Lockheed Martin has contracted to provide. And we're not just interested in national averages for time to answer a call or call abandon rate. If any pilot anywhere can't get his call answered, or can't get needed information, or has his flight plan go missing, we're not getting what we're paying for.

"But I believe that both the FAA and Lockheed Martin understand this. And I know that the FAA is honestly concerned, and will work with AOPA and Lockheed to make things right."

courtesy www.aero-news.net
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