Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Regulations: What every pilot should know

I'm posting this evening from the auditorium of the Hennepin County Technical College in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, where the Air Safety Foundation is holding a safety seminar on regulations for aviators. I thought, maybe, the state of flying these days was such that a lot of pilots wouldn't come out on a weeknight to hear about safety, but there are several hundred here, and my chance of winning a door prize -- a Sporty's NavCom radio -- is dwindling with each passing minute.

In the unlikely event someone actually reads this blog, I'll be "live blogging" as I learn. I'm pretty sure, however, that I'm talking to no one. Still, because I'm taking notes "live," it'll be a little disjointed.

I've always been a big fan of the ASF. It's one of the few telemarketing phone calls I'll actually take.

Earl Kantor of Minneapolis is the lawyer who's doing most of the talking tonight. We are being told they are "characters," which seems out of out of character for a lawyer.

The emcee for the night is taking a poll of the type of pilots that are in attendance. I'm heartened to see that quite a few hands went up when she asked about light sport pilots.

Why understand FARs? Among other things, to pass a ramp check. Beyond showing the inspector your certificate and ID, you need to know what your responsibilities and requirements are. "Can I look in your airplane," you might be asked. These are not things you're required to allow.

One comment, and it's a usual one with AOPA. Part of the reason for following regulations is to avoid media attention. Granted, that's a good point. But the demonization of the media -- as a person in the media is an ongoing problem with the AOPA, imho.

Some of what I'm hearing tonight, I actually heard at a meeting of the Minnesota Wing of Van's Air Force. I wrote about it here.

Are there rules not in the FARs? Yes. The POH, placads in a plane, the TSO, FAA forms, are all binding regulations.

Recent changes in the 2007 FARs: If you conduct sightseeing flights, you have to apply for a letter from the FAA, participate in an anti-drug program (huh?), must have a minimum 500 hours for a charity flight.

Be careful. There's a flight restricted zone near Washington. But many people don't know about it because it's covered in Part 99. There is no Part 99 in the FARs.

The speaker offered a tip: Just enter an FAR number in Google, and it'll pop up. She's wrong. It doesn't.

Recommended book: FARS Explained by Kent Jackson. .

Shared expenses is the topic. If you fly for yourself, that's Part 91. If you provide the aircraft and fly it, and charge any amount of money, that's Part 135. The only expenses you're allowed to share are fuel: oil, airport fees, and rental. Anything
else, you can't charge. And even then, you have to pay a portion of that.

Another bad sign for aviation. The subject is medical certification. The rules are different for pilots under 40. "How many are under 40?" the speaker asks. This auditorium is filled. No pilot present is under 40. We're doomed.

Renting. What about insurance? If you don't own an aircraft but go to an FBO to rent one, some pilots think the FBO insurance protects them. It doesn't. It protects the FBO, not the rental pilot. The great majority of rental pilots are flying with little or no insurance coverage at all. I hear a plug coming for the AOPA insurance plan.

Tip: See current TFRs layed out on a sectional chart.

Insurance. Don't spend too much on sublimits. Insurance is limited by individual.Many pilots are flying with $100,000 per passenger. That's not a lot of money these days. And not enough. A per-passenger plan provides superior coverage over a per-person plan. Per-person could be someone outside of the plane, like a ramp person. The speaker suggests it's not worth it.

(10 minute break. Hoping the lawyer is more engaging. I'm staying to get my door prize.)

Why are so many people running out of fuel in airplanes? The speaker suggests it's "computer hypnosis." She says nobody seems to keep a fuel log, or spend any time putting together a flight planning log. They just punch stuff in on the GPS and that's that. Last night in Cedar Rapids, she said, a person came up to her and said, "I just set my fuel valve to BOTH," and then I don't have to worry about it."

"Oh my God," she said, "wouldn't you rather run out of fuel on one tank, and then switch to another, rather than run out of both and have no options?"

She said you're 10 times more likely to run out of fuel than have a midair, which -- she notes -- doesn't mean that if you keep an hour of fuel onboard at all times, you don't have to look out the window.

The lawyer is speaking now. Said he just had a case last week where a pilot had his license suspended for 240 days for not advising a passenger about seat-belt use. That can't possibly be in a case of a run-of-the-mill GA airplane, can it?

Here's something I didn't know. You can only use the NASA form in an enforcement action once every five years. You can file them every day, but you can only use it in an FAA action once in that period.

Shoot. I didn't win a door prize.


  1. Bob, you don’t need to worry, you have at least one fan who regularly looks forward to seeing what you have to say, and I suspect that besides myself there are many more followers of your blog. If, on the other hand, you thought that someone would be following the seminar through your blog real-time as you were writing, your expectations are unrealistic. Blogs don’t work this way. At least, I don’t think so, but I’m no expert.

    Sorry you didn’t win a prize.

    All the best,


  2. heh heh. No, I had no illusion that anyone would be interested in a live blogging event and I didn't intend for them to be.

    I have to say, though, I was disappointed in the presentation. The woman who conducted it went for 1:50 (that's one hour and 50 minutes) of a two-hour event and THEN introduced the two lawyers to ask questions.

    And then, far too much time, imho, was taken up trying to convince folks that they should pay attention to regulations. To me, that's too much like an "eat your peas" approach.

    It's too bad, really, because ASF's online presentations on many subjects are so unbelievably good that it was painful to sit through this one.

    I'm sure everyone's intentions were good and all, but this thing could've been stuck online (most of the presenters were actually videotaped components of a PowerPoint presentation) and a link sent to everyone.

    Fortunately, I have the video package from, and with a half hour to go, I called up the Indians-Mariners game on my laptop and watched it while I half-listened to the presentation.

  3. ... a pilot had his license suspended for 240 days for not advising a passenger about seat-belt use.

    There has to be more to that story than meets the ear. As a result of an injury accident perhaps? Something must have justified a harsh penalty like that on an infraction that would be next to impossible to even detect in normal operations.