Monday, August 29, 2011

FAA Rulemaking: Sport Pilot Training To Count For Higher Ratings?

The FAA just published a petition for rulemaking from EAA, AOPA, NAFI, and GAMA that calls for sport pilot instruction hours to count toward Private Pilot and higher ratings. 
The petition calls for a change in the current regs that disqualify flight training hours for counting toward higher ratings, if those hours were taught by a CFI-S, which is a flight instructor who only has the Sport Pilot rating.
The petition addresses FAR Part 61 and seeks to simplify and harmonize all flight training areas, and beyond that, actually makes sense when you think about it.  After all, why should sport pilots have to repeat their initial flight training because they learned the basics in an LSA from an LSA-only-rated instructor?
FAA personnel upon reflection (and prodding from the above named orgs) seems to have realized the unintentional discrimination against Sport Pilot CFIs, and by extension, Sport Pilot students, among other considerations, was making a statement about Sport Pilot training (or CFI-Ss) being somehow inferior to traditional CFIs and their training methods, which is probably pretty silly when you think about it. 
Every CFI I’ve talked to affirms that a Sport Pilot student learns all the requisite flight skills in an LSA to provide a solid foundation for advanced ratings.  And since LSA are lighter in weight and therefore more susceptible to crosswinds and other nuances, you can make a good case that LSA must be flown with rather more sensitivity and skill on any given day than more traditional aircraft.  Just ask all the high time pilots who've pranged an LSA because they refused to get sufficient transition training.
So even though GA aircraft can be more complex, the basic skills learned in flight require the same attention to fundamentals.  The argument is, there’s generically no fundamental flight skill significantly unique to any GA SEL training airplane that would somehow be skipped or incompletely taught by a CFI-S but not a CFI, if that CFI-S is properly trained of course.
It’s not a law change yet, but a first step in the typically lengthy govt. process that will give anybody interested a chance to weigh in on the subject.  Which means you can comment here.
Once everybody has posted their yays and nays, we can expect this minor kerfluffle to go away entirely and we can get on to fretting about other minor kerfluffles and the occasional big kerfluffle.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Power To/From the People!

Stephan Boutenko has a big vision...and he’s taking it to E-street.
Anyone familiar with Bend, Oregon’s Lance Niebauer, the successful Los Angeles graphic artist  who decided to design an airplane and spawned the highly successful Lancair series of homebuilts, which evolved into the production Cessna Columbia composite four-seater, should check out another Oregonian with a big dream: Stephan Boutenko.
He’s boldly going directly to the internet for public contributions to fund his electric S-LSA. The company name is Alternair, and the airplane is simply called the Amp - perhaps an unintentional play on the word imp, because it is a cute little thing...but with big dreams in its electric heart.
A professional pilot and Embry Riddle grad with an Professional Aeronautical design degree, Boutenko hopes to progress the current electric-powered aircraft technology beyond demonstration-style or exotic motorglider models.
The Amp, still in the design stages, will perform comparably to the current crop of gasoline-powered as little as 80% lower direct operating costs.  And maintenance costs, he says, should be almost negligible compared to the fuel-powered airplanes of today.
The low-wing trike will run on a 50 kW (68 hp) electric motor powered by carbon nanotube lithium polymer batteries.  Expected endurance is anticipated at two hours, pretty much at the leading edge now for similar ventures such as Calin Gologan’s one seat, one-wheel production taildragger, the Elektra One, a soon-to-be-produced electric which flew at Oshkosh before thousands of delighted showgoers. for larger version
Cruise will be at 90 knots with a 30-minute VFR reserve.  The wings will each carry battery packs, as well as another behind the seats. 
The designer/entrepreneur even plans to use an “aerolastic” prop that flattens in pitch for climb and relaxes to take a bigger bite during cruise, just like a constant speed prop...but without all the requisite hardware. 
Sophisticated power management electric systems and the latest glass panel avionics will echo typical LSA specs and performance: 1320 lbs. Gross weight, 440 lb. payload, 600 fpm climb, 43 knot clean stall, 39 knot stall with flaps. 
Oh, and the span will be 37 feet, to add some motorglider-like efficiency but still keep it close to the typical LSA planform of 30-35 foot span.
The plan is to get $250K of investment capital to build the prototype Amp and take it globally to all the major airshows.  All donations starting at $25 are’s your chance to get in, literally, on the ground floor and help an American company build a competitive electric-powered airplane.