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FAA News Update

Responsible pilots and FBOs know the importance of staying aware of the latest industry news. To help you stay legal, compliant, and in the know, here are April’s headlines from the FAA.gov.

New Test Sites Ready for Unmanned Aircraft Systems Testing

In an effort to help the FAA safely integrate unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into the national airspace, the FAA announced April 21 that the first of six test sites to perform UAS research is now operational. The FAA also gave the North Dakota Department of Commerce a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) to begin using a Draganflyer X4ES small UAS at its Northern Plains Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Site. The COA is effective for two years and the team will begin UAS flight operations the week of May 5.

North Dakota’s first set of UAS missions will be over North Dakota State University’s Carrington Research Extension Center in Carrington, N.D. In the second phase of testing, scheduled for summer 2014, UAS will fly over Sullys Hill National Game Preserve near Devils Lake, N.D.

Last December, the FAA chose six congressionally-mandated test sites. The FAA’s goal is to work with the test sites and their research programs to help the FAA safely integrate UAS into the national airspace over the next several years.

FAA Extends Compliance Deadline for New Helicopter Safety Rule

April 17, the FAA announced it will extend the compliance deadline for the new helicopter safety rule by one year to April 22, 2015. This is to provide enough time for the industry to receive important FAA materials to adapt their manuals and provide updated training to pilots.

Last February 20, the FAA issued a final rule that requires helicopter operators — including air ambulances — to have stricter flight rules and procedures. The ruling, which will improve communications, training, and additional on-board safety equipment, is the most significant improvement to helicopter safety in decades and responds to government’s and industry’s concern about risk in helicopter operations.

The deadline for equipage requirements is unchanged from the final rule and will become effective within three years, or by April 24, 2017. The two exceptions are for Operations Control Centers by 2016, and Flight Data Monitoring System by 2018. Most of the operational requirements were to become effective within 60 days of publication, or by April 22, 2014 but are now extended to April 22, 2015.

FAA Announces NextGen Air Traffic Upgrade

On April 14, the FAA announced that it has completed a critical part of their nationwide infrastructure upgrade, known as the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen).The new improvements will enable air traffic controllers to track aircraft with greater accuracy and reliability, while giving pilots more information in the cockpit.

NextGen is a wide-sweeping initiative between the FAA and aviation community to help ensure that the U.S. has the safest, most efficient airspace possible, now and in the decades to come. NextGen improvements include more efficient air traffic procedures that save time and fuel and reduce emissions.

Of the 230 air traffic facilities across the country, 100 are currently using the new system to separate traffic. It is expected to be connected and operating at all 230 facilities by 2019. All aircraft operating in controlled airspace must be equipped with ADS-B Out avionics that broadcast the plane’s location by Jan. 1, 2020.

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