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I can’t believe it; suddenly, we went from the hot summer weather straight into winter. I made my last flight in the hot summer temps and started pulling the engine out of my airplane to have it top overhauled and have numerous upgrades incorporated. When I get it back in a few weeks I should have some cool mornings to break it in again. At least I’m sure counting on it. Well, at last the election is over, and maybe we can get back into a normal life again, or whatever that will be with the Coronavirus still with us.

I just read that the U.S. Air Force has built and flown a mysterious full-scale prototype of its future fighter jet. The Air Force is testing the new fighter prototype designed and built under its Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program. It has not been made public how many prototypes have been built or how much flight time the design has accrued. They have refused to divulge any aspect of the aircraft’s design — its mission, whether it was uncrewed or optionally crewed, whether it could fly at hypersonic speeds, or if it has stealth characteristics. Details about the fighter’s potential performance and capabilities are being kept classified. “We’ve already built and flown a full-scale flight demonstrator in the real world, and we broke records in doing it,” Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, Will Roper, told Defense News. 

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“We are ready to go and build the next-generation aircraft in a way that has never happened before.” It has been reported that the demonstrator was engineered and tested digitally before the physical prototype was constructed, allowing the design to take flight much more quickly than seen with previous fighter programs. NGAD funding for fiscal year 2021 comes in at around $1 billion. How a sixth-generation fighter program might affect fifth-generation jets like the F-35 is not yet clear.

Because of the continuing pandemic, this month’s report may be a bit short, but on a positive note, all the usual meetings are continuing, either as a teleconference or a video-conference. No more wasting time driving to meetings, and surprisingly, the meetings are just as productive as before.

 

MISCELLANEOUS ITEMS

 

FAA

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From a FAAST Blast notice, the FAA issued a final rule on September 30, 2020, that further amends Special Federal Aviation Regulation (SFAR) 118 - FAA Regulatory Relief Due to COVID-19. Aviation activity continues to increase, and the industry is beginning to address the backlog of required training, checking, and testing requirements. However, many of the challenges that existed when the FAA first issued the SFAR in April remain today as the public health emergency continues. The revision, SFAR 118-2 was effective on October 1, 2020, and is available for public display in the Federal Register here: 

The chart contained within this final rule provides a summary of each affected regulation; the original SFAR relief provided on April 29, 2020; the amended SFAR relief from June 25, 2020; and the second amended relief provided in this latest SFAR update. Those who may be affected by this amendment should carefully review the eligibility, conditions, and duration of each section of relief to ensure compliance. The FAA has also revised the FAQs to help explain the amended regulatory relief.

 

AIRSPACE

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The forest fire season is still here, so watch out for fire TFRs. Fortunately, the election season has ended and we don’t have to constantly look out for the Secret Service VIP TFRs. They may still pop up on a rare occasion, but not as they have been.

Everything else in our airspace world seems to have calmed down for now, and there isn’t anything that I am aware of coming up that should impact our flying activity for the present. 

 

SAFETY

The General Aviation Joint Steering Committee (GAJSC) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) have determined that a significant number of general aviation fatalities could be avoided if pilots were to conduct more thorough preflight inspections of aircraft that have just been returned to service. In-flight emergencies have been the direct result of maintenance personnel who have serviced or installed systems incorrectly.

Maintenance related problems are one of the most deadly causes of accidents in general aviation. Contributing to this is a pilot’s failure to identify maintenance discrepancies because of a lack of knowledge and improper techniques used during the preflight of the aircraft.

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So what can you as a pilot do?

Conduct an Advanced Preflight that goes beyond the standard preflight checklist. Advanced preflight is a program that helps you become more aware of all the safety-related data on your aircraft and focuses on a detailed approach to your preflight inspection, based on your aircraft’s maintenance history. While this requires some time, consider developing an additional items checklist that can be used in conjunction with the aircraft’s preflight checklist for all future preflight inspections. It is a valuable tool whether you own, rent, or borrow an aircraft. 

Put Yourself in the Right Mindset — assume that there is something wrong, even if you used the best mechanic. Mechanics typically do an excellent job, but if you assume that all is right, you’ll miss catching any possible mistakes, worn items, improperly rigged items, or whatever else might be wrong. Always look over any part of the aircraft that has maintenance performed on it.

Use Your Senses and a notepad to write down anything you sense is not right. LISTEN to the airplane (not just the engine!). Do you SMELL anything abnormal? Fuel? Oil? Does it vibrate more than usual (FEEL)? Do you TASTE (or smell for that matter) any of that acrid smoke that comes with burning electrical items? Step 10 to 15 feet back from the airplane. Does anything LOOK out of place? Be prepared to abort takeoff if something goes wrong or doesn’t feel right. Always be wary and always be safe.

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Aviation safety in this reporting period was not the best because we had two fatalities. Unfortunately, the NTSB didn’t report any accidents, but the local media did report two aircraft accidents. One was an aircraft that had the landing gear collapse during landing, and the other one was an experimental aircraft that collided with the ground, killing both occupants. See my November Accident Summary report elsewhere in this newsletter for the details. Please continue to fly safely.  

 

CONSTRUCTION

With funding made available from the FAA, many airports around the state have construction projects in progress or planned to start. Unfortunately, we don’t have the latest details on all these projects, so always check for NOTAMs at your destination airport to see what may be happening, and when you do get there, always use caution. Always fly informed.

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APA is actively working with several airports around the state, assisting with updating their Airport Master Plans, thus providing the pilot and aircraft owner’s perspective in the process. Chandler Municipal Airport (CHD), Lake Havasu City Municipal Airport (HII), Superior Municipal Airport (E81), Sedona Airport (SEZ), Flagstaff (FLG), Laughlin/Bullhead International Airport (IFP), and Grand Canyon Airport (GCN) are currently in the Master Plan update process. Chandler Municipal Airport will be having their last update meeting on October 28, and the final updated Airport Master Plan should be submitted to the FAA for approval before the end of the year.

 

THINGS TO DO - PLACES TO FLY FOR BREAKFAST:

Because of the present virus pandemic, some of the airport restaurants have take-out service available. Call ahead.

  • The fly in breakfast at Coolidge Municipal Airport (P08) is on the first Saturday of the month, and the breakfast season is still on schedule.
  • The Falcon Field EAA Warbirds Squadron fly in breakfast and car show, which was on the third Saturday of the month, is still on hold, awaiting approval from the City of Mesa to restart.
  • Grapevine is open full time, but the third Saturday of each month is a special time for a group camp dinner on Saturday evening. Come and camp for the weekend! The camp host will prepare the main course, and campers, please bring a side dish or dessert to share. Current fire restrictions forbid any open flames, even charcoal on the Tonto. Also, please shut down and roll your aircraft off and on to the runway to avoide any backfire sparks! Always check for TFRs because Grapevine, which lies within a National Forest, is heavily used by the Forest Service for fighting wildfires.
  • The City of Casa Grande is planning on refurbishing the food service area in their airport terminal, formally occupied by the Foxtrot Cafe, and will be issuing a request for quote for someone to provide food handling services at the airport. Hopefully, the Casa Grande Airport will again have a fly in breakfast available soon.  

Check with the APA Getaway Flights program and online calendar for fun weekend places to fly. 

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