NBAA Asks FAA to Pause on Proposed IAP Cancellations
Considering recent flight management system (FMS) software glitches that required FMS manufacturers to pull thousands of approaches from their databases, the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) is asking the FAA to “hit the pause button” on implementation of its proposed policy on cancellation of certain instrument approach procedures (IAPs) – specifically circling approaches and circling approach minima. In one of these database issues, one manufacturer had to temporarily remove more than 10,000 IAPs in its database.
In the summary of Docket No. FAA-2017-0879, the FAA explained the need to cancel certain approaches. “As new technology facilitates the introduction of more area navigation (RNAV) instrument approach procedures over the past decade, the number of procedures available in the National Airspace System has nearly doubled. The complexity and cost to the FAA of maintaining the IAP inventory while expanding the new RNAV capability is not sustainable.”
“While NBAA generally supports the establishment of the proposed evaluation criteria for IAP can-cellations,” said Heidi Williams, NBAA’s director of air traffic services and infrastructure, “several significant issues with FMSs and navigation databases have surfaced since the industry originally provided recommendations to the FAA. This has prompted
the need for further evaluation prior to the implementation of any policy changes or IAP can-cellations to ensure we don’t cancel thousands of IAPs that could result in the loss of all-weather access during one of these glitches.”
Williams said NBAA wants the FAA to move forward cautiously. “Because the RTCA’s Tactical Operations Committee (TOC) did not assess FMS issues when they looked at providing IAP cancellation recommendations, we would like the FAA to task that body to take another look at the recent database issues to determine how they factor them into establishing approach cancellation criteria,” she said.
NBAA is sensitive to the issue of the FAA having to maintain thousands of IAPs if they truly are not necessary. In submitted comments, the association is asking FAA officials to increase their due diligence by allowing the TOC to consider the impacts of these database events and offer additional inputs to the FAA before making policy changes that could negatively affect thousands of aircraft operators.
DOT Adds Opioids to Drug Testing Rules
Based on a Department of Transportation (DOT) notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) dated January 23, 2017, the department recently released its final rule that four opioids will be added to the DOT’s drug-testing requirements for specified flying and ground personnel. Under the new rule, drug tests of covered personnel must include hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxymorphone and oxycodone, in addition to the drugs for which testing is already required: marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines and phencyclidine (PCP).
Also adopted is clarification of certain existing drug-testing program provisions and definitions, technical amendments, and the removal of the requirement for employers and consortium/third-party administrators to submit blind specimens.
“Opioid abuse and related problems are a major national concern,” the DOT said. “Consequently, the department proposed including these substances in its testing panel, not only for consistency with HHS (Health and Human Services) Mandatory Guidelines, but as a response to a national problem that can affect transportation safety.”
The new ruling will take effect on January 1, 2018.
FAA Issues AC to Allow Own-Ship Display on EFB Apps
The Federal Aviation Association (FAA) recently issued Advisory Circular (AC) No. 120-76D which now supports the use of geo-referencing or own-ship position display while using moving map features in the air. The AC replaced the “C” version issued in 2014, and the FAA said it “is removing its previous prohibition on the display of aircraft location during flight on various EFB applications.”
The new guidance applies to Part 91, 91K, 121, 125 and 135 operators, but only 91K through 135 operators are required to seek FAA approval of their EFB programs. Part 91 operators can use EFBs as they wish, without formal approval. Also, operators will be able to make changes to their EFB programs without contacting their FAA principal inspector, according to the FAA. Previously, if an operator wanted to use a new feature in an updated version of the app, then coordination with the principal inspector was required.
The FAA said that the new policy eliminates all guidance associated with EFB classification, clarifies the definition of an EFB (a device displaying EFB applications) and reorganizes EFB application software types according to safety importance.
DOT to Audit FAA’s SENSR Program
The U.S. DOT (Department of Transportation) Office of Inspector General (IG) issued an Audit Announcement of the status of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Spectrum Efficient National Surveillance Radar (SENSR) program. The SENSR program is a cross-agency, multibillion-dollar infrastructure project intended to modernize aging weather and aircraft surveillance radar systems.
The FAA is partnering with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security, and will lead the efforts to assess the feasibility of acquiring new surveillance solutions. The FAA plans for funding for the development and deployment of new radars to be through the Spectrum Pipeline Act of 2015, which permits federal agencies to auction off government electromagnetic spectrum equipment and use the proceeds to fund new infrastructure.
The DOT IG stated that given the significant investment, coordination and development efforts to procure, test and implement a new national air and weather surveillance system, the House Committee on Appropriations directed their agency to examine the program. The IG stated, “Accordingly, our audit objectives are to assess (1) the FAA’s actions to leverage work conducted by other agencies to reduce development costs and risks for SENSR; and (2) how the FAA plans to integrate SENSR into NextGen and the NAS.”