Aviation Minute – March 2013

1. Now that we are tracking them, we are finding that earth has close encounters with large objects regularly. NBC is reporting four close encounters this past week, with the largest object the size of a city block. My recollection of earlier reports of this large object was that it came no nearer than 100,000 miles.

2. NASA announced that, based on the data collected so far from the Mars Rover, conditions on Mars were such that it could support life. Scientists speculated that Mars water, when present on the surface, would have been drinkable by humans.

3. The FAA has issued its aviation forecast for 2013 through 2033. Generally, the fleet, flying hours, passengers and revenue of main carriers steadily grows as does regional airlines, but at a smaller pace. For general aviation, turbine fixed wing and rotorcraft fleet and flying hours grow slowly. The only aviation segment forecast to decline is in the fleet and flying hours of piston fixed wing. For the complete report, go to www.faa.gov/news/updates.

4. While on the above site, check out the affects sequester will have on local aviation. FAA will furlough the majority of its employees for one day each pay period (generally, every two weeks. Plans are to close over 100 air traffic control facilities. No facilities in ND or SD are on the projected chopping block, but if you fly regularly to MN, Anoka County in Minneapolis, Eden Prairie, Crystal, and St Cloud Regional will lose facilities. In MT, airports at Kalispell and Helena are affected. Cheyenne Regional is the only facility in WY.

5. Drones. They are in the news constantly now days. This week is controversy in the Air Force about whether drone pilots should be entitled to combat medals. Last week it was the announcement by the US Attorney General that drones would not be used to kill US citizens on US soil. Also last week was news of an Italian airliner reporting a near miss with a drone while on approach to one of the New York airports.

Suffice it to say that, if you are young, want to get into a niche in your chosen profession where you can start with a concept in its infancy and want to stay in that niche until you retire, consider drones. That applies almost regardless of your profession – aviation, engineering, computers, photography, geography, legal, political. These and other fields will be “writing the book” on drones for years. To watch an excellent report of drones and their future, google “PBS videos”, then “NOVA” and look for the segment titled “Rise of the Drones.”