Near Miss at GA Airport Reinforces Importance of ASRS Program

A recent near-miss at White Plains / Westchester County Airport (HPN) occurred when air traffic controllers cleared an airplane for takeoff into the path of a Piper PA-28 landing on an intersecting runway.  The pilots of the collision-course aircraft noticed the impending collision before controllers had a chance to correct the situation.  The PA-28 executed a go-around, narrowly avoiding the collision.  (Read the news coverage here)

In addition to reinforcing the need for an active visual scan during all phases of flight, near-misses like these remind us of the importance of the Aviation Safety Reporting System (“ASRS”).  ASRS allows pilots and aircraft crew involved in or witnessing incidents to file confidential reports detailing the incident, describing its causes, and suggesting corrective action.  The FAA offers an additional incentive to file ASRS reports, waiving fines and penalties for first-time inadvertent violators of Federal Air Regulations (“FARs”) in certain circumstances.  However, in order to take advantage of the FAA incentive, the pilot or crew member must file an ASRS report within ten (10) days of the incident reported.  Therefore, those witnessing or involved in aviation incidents should file an ASRS report as soon afterward as possible.  Do not wait to be contacted by the FAA before filing an ASRS.  By the time you receive a Letter of Investigation or Proposed Certificate Action, it may be too late!

Knowing who to call in the event of an aviation incident or accident is just as important as filing an ASRS report.  An experienced aviation attorney can provide valuable assistance and representation in every step of the reporting and investigation process.  Our attorneys are prepared and ready to assist airmen and crew members in the event of an incident or accident.  Please do not hesitate to call.

Cincinnati’s Closure of Blue Ash Airport is Indicative of Municipal Agendas

In a move reminiscent of Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley’s closure of Megis Field, Cincinnati City Manager, Milton Dohoney, has communicated to the FAA the City’s intention to close Blue Ash airport after a land swap deal between the city and the airport fell through.  Because neither the City nor the airport are currently receiving federal grant monies, the FAA cannot require the City to keep the airport open.  (Read the article here)

Cincinnati’s blow to general aviation provides a salient reminder that thanks to the current architecture of New Jersey’s Municipal Land Use Law, airports across the Garden State could fall victim to a similar fate.  Many general aviation airports in New Jersey operate as pre-existing non-conforming uses in zones that have been significantly altered by municipal governments in the decades since the airports opened.  The current push for revitalization and redevelopment across the state has provided the impetus for municipalities to create areas in need of redevelopment (formerly known as “blighted areas”) and begin condemnation proceedings.  Airports included in such areas could fall victim to the forced sale of their lands to developers.  Aggressive government relations plans and ongoing communication with municipal officials are key measures to prevent adverse government action.  Airports seeking to implement such strategies should consult attorneys experienced in both land use and aviation in order to develop a comprehensive plan.  Please feel free to contact us if you are interested in developing such a plan for your airport.

NTSB Issues Warning Regarding NextGen Weather Radar

Relying solely on NextGen weather radar (Nexrad) for up-to-the-minute weather information could prove risky according to a June 20, 2012 National Transportation Safety Board safety alert.  According to the alert, “weather conditions depicted on the mosaic image will always be older than the age indicated on the display.”  The NTSB cautions that “in extreme latency and mosaic-creation scenarios, the actual age of the oldest Nexrad data in the mosaic can exceed the age indication in the cockpit by 15 to 20 minutes.”

FAR 91.103 (42 U.S.C. 91.103) requires that for flights under IFR or a flight not in the vicinity of an airport, each pilot in command shall become familiar with “weather reports and forecasts.”  Reliance on in-cockpit Nexrad images alone might not satisfy this legal requirement, and is surely risky if operating a high-performance aircraft in and around significant weather systems.  As the NTSB alert cautions, “get your preflight weather briefing! Having in-cockpit weather capabilities does not circumvent the need for a complete weather briefing before takeoff.”

President Obama Signs Pilot’s Bill of Rights

On August 3, 2012, President Barack Obama signed into law the Pilot’s Bill of Rights.

In the event that a pilot is subject to a proposed certificate action, the new law allows pilots access to investigative reports, air traffic control and flight service recordings, and any other evidence gathered by the FAA at least at least 30 days in advance of action.  It also opens an avenue of appeal of NTSB decisions to the federal courts.

Any airman who is contacted by the FAA or receives a Notice of Proposed Certificate Action should speak to an experienced aviation attorney before agreeing to talk to authorities.