FLIGHT 2000+

From The South Ramp --Hank Bruckner:

April 1998

Dawn Patrol. First Light. Oh-Dark-Thirty. It's a matter of perspective, of course, but there is something about early morning flying that can be totally captivating. Our first flights leave just before six in the morning, and currently, that puts us into the dawn glow as we crest the cloud cover around Diamond Head. One particular morning, clouds were scattered-to-broken at about 4,500', with occasional buildups to about 6,000' as we headed into the Kaiwi Channel at 5,000' bound for Moloka'i. The morning hues lit up our path through cloud valleys with warm and subtle tones and textures as we gently weaved between the larger buildups, and I knew right then that it really had been worth it to get up at 0330!

Suppose they gave a meeting and nobody came...kind of what happened at the Flight 2000 update meeting on the 18th of March. There were Mr Tuttle and a Mitre rep, two folks from the FSDO, two folks from the HCC, Ralph Hyatt from ARINC, and me, representing all of you--so, here it is: the basic plan to equip 600 Hawai'i-based aircraft at government expense has not changed appreciably. What has changed is the scope and time frame of the test, to some degree.

In addition to Hawai'i and Alaska, a third test location is under consideration. It would either be a west-coast location, such as Seattle, LA, or SFO for those aircraft that habitually fly to Hawai'i or Alaska (no need to equip more aircraft that way) or possibly the Ohio valley for the cargo guys (FedEx, UPS, etc) who were planning to put most of the gear in their aircraft anyway.

I've mentioned that Flight 2000 is going to be expensive--about $400 million over a five-year period. (I say "about" because we all know how valid such guesstimates really are.) Since there was no supplemental funding in the President's FY98 budget, implementation has slipped about a year.

Speaking of the gear, the FAA and industry are still working to define the suite of equipment that is to go in our birds and its operating architecture. All the pieces already exist in some form or other. The challenge is to package the GPS, data base, ADS-B (data link), and cockpit display so that it will be easy to install in a variety of GA aircraft, cost no more than $10,000, and, of course, be reliable and easy to use. The equipment has to be easy to use or the training problem will be huge. Today, among IFR approved, TSO'd GPS sets, there are as many variations in operation as there are manufacturers. Just because you know how to fly an approach with a Garmin 155 does not mean you could do the same with a KN-90. In fact, each manufacturer jealously guards their proprietary operating systems. Obviously, that won't do for Flight 2000, and the FAA is going to have to work with the manufacturers to come up with enough commonality while maintaining manufacturer identity. And, of course, the certification issue. The FAA has to alter fundamentally the way it goes about certifying the installation of equipment in aircraft. Under current procedures, it would take the entire test period to just obtain approval for 600 sets of equipment in Hawai'i, and that just won't do. The FAA is working this issue diligently, bearing in mind the precedents that will be set. Installation of 600 sets of equipment will also be a challenge. The idea is to design the sets to require minimum additional work by the avionics shops, but some form of temporary augmentation will be needed, and the FAA recognizes that fact. The gear will all be under warranty for the entire test period, so that if something breaks it would just be pulled, sent back to the manufacturer, and replaced.

The $90 million start-up money (also less than hoped) is in the President's FY99 budget, and that will be picked apart by the House Appropriations Committee in June, and the leftovers by the Senate Appropriations Committee later this summer. If it makes it through, and the program moves forward, then installation would begin in late 2000 and 2001, with an initial operational capability of 2002. If it makes it through. As I noted last month, Flight 2000 is going to get caught up in the larger issue of how to fund the FAA. The easy expedient is to put it all on the direct user's back. That would be, uh, ...us. And that's subject for an article in itself.

Flight 2000 was conceived under previous, and temporary FAA leadership. According to Mr. Tuttle, Administrator Garvey has indicated that Flight 2000 is an integral part of the overall ATC modernization program, and, thus, enjoys some priority. There have been other high-level changes in FAA leadership, and it remains to be seen just how solid the stratospheric support base really is. Other considerations: it is hard to sell something expensive backed by Al Gore to a Republican Congress whose Democrats are also split between supporting this Administration or Rick Gephart. If you want this to go forward, you can and should let your Hawai'i Congressional delegations know. The water is already muddy, so it can't hurt and may even help.

A quick review of the purported benefits is in order. The crew of each equipped aircraft will have the ability to know precisely where that aircraft is at all times, know where any potentially conflicting traffic or terrain is relative to the aircraft, and, if IFR certified, be able to file and fly direct (as long as no conflict) and shoot a Category I GPS precision approach. From a safety standpoint, knowing where I am and where you are is a great thing, especially in an emergency. And it would really help out in search and rescue. Of course, having everyone know exactly where you are is potentially embarrassing or even career-ending if you just committed a no-no. There is supposed to be a hard guarantee that this data will not be used in any enforcement action. The lawyers are working this one out, so you can rest easy...

Bottom line: by Oshkosh time, we should know if the start-up money has been appropriated by the House and Senate. If it doesn't make it through there will be much gnashing, flailing, slinging and flinging, and you can pretty much make your own plans to get that GPS or not. If it does make it, then the first of many hurdles will have been bested, and expect adjustments, revisions, changes, and modifications as the program goes forward. Perhaps, they should call it Flight 2000+. Now, aren't you sorry you missed the meeting?

So, there I was, standing on the cargo ramp next to my Seneca, chatting with Charlie Watts and Mick Jagger. Seriously. The Rolling Stones' chartered Laker Super DC-10 pulled up on the ramp next to me for a refueling stop on their way to Florida from somewhere out west. I'd just come back from a training flight with a student, and there they were. Cool. No telling who you'll meet if you hang around airports long enough.

Did you know that there are now five ASOS commissioned and operating in Hawai'i? Did you know that the only way you can access them is by phone since none has an allocated frequency yet? Did you know that it is illegal (FCC not FAA) to use your cell phone while airborne? Still, it's a way of finding out what's going on at LIH, HNL, OGG, ITO, KOA. The numbers (all local, so you may need to dial 808 first, depending on where you are, of course):

    LIH: 246-3707

    HNL: 836-0449

    OGG: 877-6282

    ITO: 961-2077

    KOA: 329-0412

with approved weather reporting..." would be open to us if we could listen to ASOS while airborne. Although ASOS is generally superior to the older AWOS, the data it provides is not perfect, nor necessarily accurate, especially when it comes to precipitation, ceilings and visibilities. For example, if the ceilometer looks up through the only hole in an otherwise-overcast sky, it will report clear conditions. ASOS will constitute a primary observation network for the National Weather Service nationwide, which may improve forecasting by adding many more data points, although its shortcomings may well skew forecast models unacceptably. What ASOS does, however, is provide the altimeter setting necessary for Part 91 operators to legally fly approaches, and that is something we've been campaigning for over the past several years. HNL has the only 24-hour control tower in the state. HNL also got an ASOS. Although I might be tempted to say that the money could have been better spent putting it in at, say, Lana'i, I obviously don't have the big picture. Oh well, it's a start.

Our annual Kalaupapa Fly-In was reasonably successful. Blustery weather may have kept some folks at home, but some six aircraft made it. It was mostly a Piper show, with a Seneca, Twin Comanche, Saratoga, and Lance flying tribe colors. Two 172's represented the high-wingers. Gert made the best arrival, albeit a little late. This year was a lot quieter than last, with no hula hala'u, Richard not present and our mobility on the ground severely limited by the bureaucracy. It is still worth it to fly to such a beautiful, spiritual place, take in the scenery, eat lunch and talk with other like-minded folks. Hope more of you come to Hana this year.

Be careful out there.

CFI Hints

--Hank Bruckner, CFI/I/ME, ASC, DNRC

I've written about Fly Neighborly before, to minimize our impact on folks on the ground. This time, I'd like to urge you to Fly Considerately, to minimize our impact on those sharing the sky with us. This is directed mostly at flight instructors, but applies to most of us at one time or another. Those of us who teach instrument flying relish doing it in actual IMC. No matter how good a hood ("view limiting device" for you purists), there just isn't any substitute for the real thing. And we don't get a whole lot of it here. So, how does all this impact others? Say you are flying to Moloka'i to do the VOR-A approach. You file IFR, as you should to give your student experience with the system, and Center clears you for the approach. Here's the kicker: until you are done, no one else can use the system. While you toil down the MKK 254 Radial, into the 20-knot trades, at a blistering 70 knots ground speed (if that), that IFR departure from Moloka'i is going to have to sit and wait. And wait. And the next inbound, if faster than you, may wind up in a hold over the VOR, again waiting for you to finish. True, we are all entitled to use the system, and rightly so. But here is where some consideration comes into play. As you fly the approach, if you are no longer in IMC conditions and aren't about to get back in the clag, cancel IFR with Center or tower (depending where you are on the approach) and let them know you'll be continuing the approach, only under VFR. That will allow the pilot waiting to depart IFR to be released into the system, and everyone is happy. Want to make people even happier? Keep your speed up as much as you can, consistent with safety, equipment limitations, and common sense. Virtually all airline (Part 121) departures have to be under IFR, and you can really help keep the system moving smoothly by doing your part. As the instrument instructor, you play the pivotal role. Fly Considerately .