FAA Reinforces Importance of Stick and Rudder Skills

In a recent Safety Alert for Operators, the FAA observed that heavy reliance on automated flight systems is causing pilots to lose proficiency in hand flying their aircraft.  The FAA recommends that operators integrate both automatic and manual flight operations to help pilots stay proficient in their stick and rudder skills.  However, it also acknowledged the importance of automation during high workload flight phases


FAA Releases Superbowl XLVII Flight Advisory

The FAA has released a Flight Advisory for Super Bowl XLVII, outlining anticipated TFRs over the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana (HRV VORTAC 331 Radial at 6.2 NM).  Please remember to check TFRs and NOTAMs frequently.  If you are contacted by the FAA regarding a possible TFR violation, we recommend that you consult with an experienced aviation attorney as soon as possible.

FAA Proposes to add Wildlife Management Requirements to Federal Airport Grant Program

In a December 10, 2012 Federal Register notice, the FAA announced its proposal to require non-certificated airports that receive federal grant funds to identify and mitigate wildlife hazards at their airports.  The mitigation mandate will take the form of initial Wildlife Hazard Site Visits (WHSVs) or Wildlife Hazard Assessments (WHAs), depending on the
size of the airport, potentially followed by more detailed Wildlife Hazard Management Plans (WHMPs).

The FAA’s stated purpose of a WHSV is for the airport to identify any immediate hazards and for the FAA to determine whether a more comprehensive WHA is necessary.  However, small general aviation airports may become unnecessarily burdened by these proposed requirements.  Wildlife hazard mitigation programs can be costly and burdensome, especially in the current fiscal climate.  Airport owners and managers with questions or concerns about the FAA’s proposed Wildlife Hazard Assessment program should consult with legal counsel.

Receipt of Federal Funds Obligates Municipalities to Maintain Airports

Municipal and local efforts to close airports can often be derailed if the airport has received funds under the Federal Airport Improvement program.  A recent example, as reported by AOPA, highlights the airport-friendly effects of the program’s strictures.  In a recent victory for a Missouri airport, the FAA denied the City of Saint Clair’s request to close St. Clair Regional Airport (K39).   In its letter to Mayor Ronald Blum, the FAA declined the city’s request to close the airport immediately, citing the city’s failure to abide by the terms of the Federal Airport Improvement Program.  Specifically, the FAA cited the city’s failure to adequately maintain the airport, operational and financial issues, and the recent increase in tenant rental fees.

By agreeing to receive federal funds under the Federal Airport Improvement Program, the city signed a grant assurances contract obligating it to keep the airport open and available for public use as an airport.  The city’s failure to do so has caused it to run afoul of federal program requirements and has invited scrutiny by the Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General.

One tactic often employed by hostile municipalities is to allow an airport to fall into disrepair before attempting to condemn the airport property for redevelopment or municipal use.  If that airport receives federal funds under the program, the municipality may be held to task and disallowed from proceeding under its condemnation plan.  The FAA’s deferment of closure is a small victory for St. Clair Regional Airport, but given the history of animosity between the city and the airport, a protracted legal battle is likely to ensue.