FAA Now Accepting Applications to Its Contract Tower Program

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) today resumed accepting applications to the FAA Contract Tower (FCT) program, as called for under the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018. Contract towers are air traffic control towers that are staffed by employees of private companies rather than by FAA employees.

Like most federal investments, the agency is required to perform a benefit-cost analysis (BCA) on each contract tower to determine whether or not it is eligible for participation in the FCT program. In order to be admitted into the FCT program, the safety and efficiency benefits of a tower must exceed its costs. The FAA will calculate an official benefit-cost ratio associated with each applicant, and the types of volume and activity that it supports. The agencys BCA calculations comply with congressional direction on specific changes to costs and benefits in the model. The processing of each application is expected to take at least three months.

There are currently 256 contract towers in the FCT program. Airports interested in applying should contact the Program Implementation Manager (PIM) in their service center.

The phone number for the Eastern Service Center PIM is 404-305-7153.
The phone number for the Central Service Center PIM is 817-222-4261.
The phone number for the Western Service Center PIM is 206-231-2892.

Source: FAAFAA Now Accepting Applications to Its Contract Tower Program

Electronic flight bag legal briefing for pilots – 2019 edition


The best reading is in some Advisory Circulars from the FAA.

Each year we publish a plain-language review of the FARs and Advisory Circulars pertaining to the use of iPads and electronic flight bags in the cockpit. This is great information for pilots looking to make the transition from paper charts to an iPad, but should also be reviewed by experienced iPad pilots as well. We like to think of it as another step in maintaining pilot currency by staying up with the legalities of using digital devices in flight.

We continue to get questions about whether an iPad is “legal” for aviation use. The definition of “legal” depends on what type of flying you do and what you’re using your iPad for, so there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Here we’ll cover the applicable Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) and Advisory Circulars (ACs). But first one suggestion: don’t get caught up in all the minutiae.

The short answer is that the iPad is absolutely a legal replacement for paper charts in the cockpit (at least for most Part 91 GA flying).

Here are some regulations and documents that cover electronic devices and iPads:

FAR 91.21, Portable electronic devices (PEDs)

  • This applies only to air carriers and IFR flights
  • Covers almost all electronic devices–not just EFBs
  • Pilots must determine that the PED won’t interfere with the navigation or communication systems
  • The determination must be made by the PIC or operator of the aircraft

AC 91-21.1D, Use of Portable Electronic Devices Aboard Aircraft

  • This Advisory Circular is a complement to FAR 91.21
  • It mostly pertains to airlines and the use of PEDs by passengers (think cell phones and laptops).
  • It also suggests methods to confirm that a PED is not interfering with avionics, and recommends that part 91 operators read AC 91-78 (below) for compliance.
  • This AC also points out that cell phones and LTE-enabled iPads, while prohibited from use in flight by FCC regulations, are allowed to be used in aircraft while on the ground (ie, for picking up a clearance or filing a flight plan).

AC 91-78, Use of Class 1 or Class 2 Electronic Flight Bag (EFB)

IMPORTANT: This is the advisory circular that states it’s legal for FAA Part 91 GA piston aircraft pilots to use the iPad with current data as a paper chart replacement.

  • Aimed at Part 91 operators, VFR or IFR
  • EFBs can be used in all phases of flight in lieu of paper when:
    • The EFB is the functional equivalent of the paper material
    • The EFB data is current and valid
  • A backup data source is suggested, but is not required. Note that this backup can be another electronic device.
  • Users should undergo an evaluation period to make sure they know how to use the EFB before eliminating paper charts.
  • “The in-flight use of an EFB/ECD in lieu of paper reference material is the decision of the aircraft operator and the pilot in command.”

Download AC 91-78 here

AC 120-76D, Guidelines for the Certification, Airworthiness and Operational Use of Electronic Flight Bags (EFB)

IMPORTANT: This advisory circular does not apply to FAA Part 91 GA piston aircraft operations, but should still be referenced as guidance when using the iPad as a paper chart replacement.

What’s new in revision “D”

AC 120-76 was updated to the “D” revision on 10/27/2017 and supersedes version “C”, which was in place since May 2014. Here’s a quick summary of the major changes:

  1. The update removes Part 91F (Large and Turbine-Powered Multiengine Airplanes) operators from needing to comply with AC 120-76, meaning the primary guidance for this group reverts back to AC 91-78.
  2. Pilots are now permitted to display ownship (your GPS-based aircraft symbol) on an EFB during all phases of flight. Previously pilots were only authorized to display ownship while taxiing.
  3. EFBs are now grouped into 2 categories, “portable” or “installed”. An iPad is an example of a portable EFB, whereas an installed EFB is incorporated into the aircraft type design. Class 1, 2 or 3 EFB classifications have been eliminated.
  4. Type A and B EFB application groupings have been reorganized based on the criticality of the function they perform in flight. Type C applications have been eliminated from the AC.

Key Points from AC 120-76D

  • The AC starts out with who’s required to comply with the guidance and who needs authorization:
    • “It is intended for all operators conducting flight operations under Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) part 91 subpart K (part 91K), 121, 125, or 135 who want to replace required paper information or utilize other select applications as part of EFB functionality.” This is the line that shows most general aviation pilots are not affected by this AC.
  • EFB Definition:
    • An EFB hosts applications, which are generally replacing conventional paper products and tools, traditionally carried in the pilot’s flight bag. EFB applications include natural extensions of traditional flight bag contents, such as replacing paper copies of weather with access to near-real-time weather information.
  • 2 types of applications
    • Type A apps have a failure condition classification considered to be no safety effect and do not substitute for or replace any paper, system, or equipment required by airworthiness or operational regulations; and
    • Type A application examples: FARs, noise abatement procedures, service bulletins, airworthiness directives, etc.
    • Type B apps have a failure condition classification considered minor and may substitute or replace paper products of information required for dispatch or to be carried in the aircraft.
    • Type B application examples: flight planning apps, electronic charts, checklists, performance data, etc.
  • 2 types of EFBs
    • Installed: Hardware supporting EFB applications are “installed” when they are incorporated into aircraft type design under 14 CFR part 21, or as a proper alteration under 14 CFR part 43.
    • Portable: All other components supporting EFB functionality are considered “portable,” regardless of how often they are removed from the aircraft. These devices are typically consumer commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) electronic devices functionally capable of communications, data processing (e.g. iPad).
      • Portable EFBs can be temporarily connected to an existing aircraft power port for battery recharging.
  • Testing/compliance required (this must all be documented and kept on board the aircraft, but is only required for commercial operators when seeking FAA approval and replacing paper with an EFB)
    • Interference testing
      • The AC provides a process (listed as Method 2) by which you can self-test the device
    • Electrical power source
      • Battery-powered EFBs having aircraft power available for recharging the EFB battery are considered to have a suitable backup power source.
      • Useful battery life must be established and documented for battery-powered EFBs. Each battery-powered EFB providing Type B EFB applications must have at least one of the following before departing:
        • An established procedure to recharge the battery from aircraft power during flight operations
        • A battery or batteries with a combined useful battery life to ensure operational availability during taxi and flight operations to include diversions and reasonable delays considering duration of flight.
    • Lithium-ion battery
      • Requires safety and testing standards to be in the cockpit (UL, IEC)
    • Decompression testing (pressurized aircraft)
      • This is not required to be completed on your actual EFB or iPad; you just need proof that a representative device has successfully completed this testing
    • Stowage and mounting of EFB
      • Stowage requires an inherent means to prevent unwanted EFB movement. EFB stowage is required for all portable EFBs not secured in or on a mounting device
  • Develop operational policies for EFB use
      • They’re mainly looking for how you’ll use the EFB in all phases of flight, and a documented plan of action in the event of EFB failure
  • Geo-referencing is allowed, as long as you have another display in the cockpit
    • You may overlay EFB own-ship position on an EFB only when the installed primary flight display, weather display, or map display also depict own-ship position.
    •  The AC recommends using position data from an installed GNSS source. Portable equipment is more likely to experience signal blockage, signal degradation, and performance degradation.
    • For airport map applications, the applicant should choose a database with an accuracy of 5 meters or less (ForeFlight well exceeds this accuracy).
    • Remember, this does not apply to Part 91 operations

Download AC 120-76 here

While the FAA made some improvements in this AC over previous versions, it can still come across as fairly confusing. It represents a complex, 35 page document that is often difficult to follow and requires a good deal of work for operators to fully comply with. If you’re flying under part 91 subpart K (part 91K), 121, 125, or 135 and are looking for assistance in complying with this AC when seeking FAA approval, check out Sporty’s iPad EFB Approval program.

In the end, the key point here is that you as PIC are responsible for ensuring that your iPad (or other PED) does not interfere with your airplane and provides a reliable source of data. This does not have to mean lots of tests and paperwork for part 91 operators.

Our suggestion? Take a safety pilot and go flying with your tablet on a nice VFR day.

Check out our flow chart below for a great summary of the rules:

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Source: Ipad appsElectronic flight bag legal briefing for pilots – 2019 edition

FAA Extends Comment Period on Rulemaking to Streamline Commercial Space Activities

WASHINGTON TheFederal Aviation Administration(FAA) is extending the public comment period for 45 days to July 30 for a proposed rulethat would streamline federal commercial space transportation requirements for launch and reentry operators and maintain safety during launches and reentries. The proposed rule follows the National Space Councils 2018 ‘Space Policy Directive 2’, which called on the Secretary of Transportation to review and revise the Departments commercial space launch and re-entry licensing regulations. It will expand access to the economic, scientific, and educational benefits of traveling to space. It will also support U.S. industry efforts to expand commercial services to a variety of domestic and international markets.

The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on April 15, and the original comment period was scheduled to close on June 14. Due to the rules breadth, significant impact, length and complexity, more than 50 commenters requested that the FAA extend the comment period. This extension addresses those comments.

The proposed rule advances proposals by the Streamlined Launch and Reentry Licensing Requirements Aviation Rulemaking Committee, which is made up of commercial space and aviation leaders from government and industry. Formed by the FAA over one year ago, the Committee discussed and put forward proposals and recommendations to the agency. The proposed rule is a result of that effort.

The extension notice is in todays Federal Register.

Source: FAAFAA Extends Comment Period on Rulemaking to Streamline Commercial Space Activities

How to calculate takeoff and landing distance with ForeFlight 11.4

ForeFlight tends to ramp up their release of new features during the spring and summer flying season and this year is proving to be no exception. The latest update adds a new safety feature that pilots have been requesting for awhile now – automatic takeoff and landing distance calculations. The update also adds some enhancements to the Flights Navlog form, enables flight sharing and automatically assigns photos taken in flight to logbook entries.

Takeoff and Landing Performance

The feature most pilots will want to check out right away is the new takeoff and landing performance calculator. This new feature requires a Performance subscription and automates these routine calculations in the Flights section of the app, allowing you to say goodbye to interpolation, run-around charts and potential math errors. ForeFlight includes profiles for nearly 200 of the most common piston and single-engine turboprop airplanes, so there is virtually no setup involved (view the full list or compatible models here.)

To get started, enter the departure and destination airport, your aircraft N# and ETD in the Flights section of the app. You’ll see two new buttons next to the airport identifiers, used to access the Takeoff or Landing calculation screen:

After tapping one of these, you’ll see editable information at the top half of the screen and the calculated performance outputs at the bottom. Most of the data at the top will be pre-filled using information from the airport directory, and actual or forecast weather sourced from a METAR, TAF or MOS, depending on your ETD and location. You can also tap any of these variables to enter a custom value.

Above the runway selector, a header shows the most critical takeoff or landing information, typically a total distance and one or more target V speeds. The full output list is found in the Calculations section at the bottom of the page. The length and content of this list is driven by what runway performance data can be calculated per the aircraft’s POH.

When flying a multiengine airplane, you’ll see additional information related to performance when flying on just one engine, labeled as “One Engine Inoperative”, or OEI:

The app continuously monitors your calculated performance numbers against available runway lengths and will provide an alert when they are exceeded:

Enhanced Navlog

After entering your flight details in the Flights section of ForeFlight, you can see a formatted NavLog sheet displaying all the pertinent flight data. This is useful to review before the flight to verify all the en route planning looks correct, and to reference in flight to monitor how the plan matches up with actual groundspeed and flight times. The NavLog is accessed from the purple button at the top left of the Flights screen:

You’ll find some additional information in the NavLog with the recent update:

  • Altitude added next to the selected cruise profile in the upper left header.
  • Altitude added after the route in the summary section.
  • Added “MAG” to clarify that HDG and CRS are magnetic in the waypoint list.
  • Added PIC to the top of the Summary & Times table.
  • (Performance plans only) Added average fuel flow per hour in the Summary & Times table.
  • Added “Signature” row to the notes section.
  • Airport details table moved to below the Summary & Times table.
  • Added airport diagrams for departure and destination airports, when available.

Here’s where to look for each of the new updates:

Flight Sharing

When it comes time to share your flight with a copilot or another pilot riding along for the flight, you can use the Share PDF from the Send To menu at the top right of the Flights screen. This creates a PDF of the same Navlog depicted above which you can send using the standard messaging formats (Mail, Messages, AirDrop, etc.).

The latest update takes this one step further and provides the ability to share all the Flight details to another ForeFlight user’s Flights section of the app. This will display a read-only listing in that person’s ForeFlight Flights screen, that will automatically stay in sync as you update flight details in your app.

Here’s how it works – after entering your flight details, select the Share Flight button from the Send To menu at the top of the screen and select the AirDrop, Mail or Message method to send the data to another ForeFlight user:

The other person will receive a pop-up message if AirDrop was used, or a link to click when sharing via Messages or Mail. After clicking on the confirm button on the second device, the Flight details will show in read-only form in the Flights section. You’ll see an name label in the list view and just above the NavLog button to help you identify flights shared with you:

The shared flight stays up to date with any changes you make to the original as long as an internet connection is available. The recipient can’t change any of the flight’s details, but they can view its Navlog and Briefing, load the flight onto the Maps view using the Send To button, or create a copy of the flight that they can edit on their device.

Automatic Photos in Logbook

Pilot logbooks have evolved from boring green pages with endless rows of numbers to multimedia records of flights with smart currency and qualification monitoring. Most of the recent ForeFlight logbook updates have focused on the business side of record keeping and monitoring, but the latest new features takes a break from that with something a little more fun.

ForeFlight will now automatically suggest pictures and screenshots you took during a flight with that flight’s logbook entry, greatly simplifying the task of adding photos to a new entry. When ForeFlight creates a draft logbook entry from a new track log, photos and screenshots that you took during the flight appear in the draft entry as suggestions, allowing you to select the ones you want to keep and discard the rest.

Logbook also now supports night vision goggles (NVG) currency tracking for both rotorcraft and airplane pilots, with separate currency trackers for NVG operations with and without passengers.

SID/STAR Leg Depiction

Most IFR departure and arrival procedures begin or end with a leg that is based on a heading to be flown, or a turn after crossing a certain altitude. These cannot be accurately depicted since the actual track across the ground will be different each day, based on winds aloft and airplane performance. Previously when selecting one of these procedures, ForeFlight would display this message:

With the latest update, ForeFlight will no longer issue this warning, and instead depict these legs with a dashed line on the Maps screen, as shown between KSRQ and the KIZIZ waypoint on the SRKUS4 departure out of Sarasota, Florida:


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Source: Ipad appsHow to calculate takeoff and landing distance with ForeFlight 11.4