European regulators: 737 Max won't fly again until we approve it

Boeing's 737 Max won't fly in European skies until the Aviation Safety Agency completes an independent review of its flightworthiness, reports Bloomberg, underscoring a loss of confidence in its U.S. counterpart, the Federal Aviation Authority.

“The FAA’s status as an undisputed global leader is seen as ‘at risk,”’ Carter Copeland, an analyst at Melius Research said in a note prior to EASA’s comments. “EASA has asserted a strong and independent posture and despite pressures from Max operators in Europe, is expected to move slowly in its efforts to recertify the Max.”

The FAA is conducting a Joint Authorities Technical Review, which consists of eight other countries and EASA, that will review the Max’s original certification. That work is expected to take three months with initial meetings held in Seattle last week. The U.S. agency has also called for a separate summit of aviation authorities later this month to discuss the FAA’s safety analysis of the aircraft that it says will “inform its decision” on allowing the Max back into service.

After two 737 Max jets crashed in similar circumstances, killing hundreds of travelers, the FAA was conspicuously slow to act and it later emerged Boeing was permitted to approve its own work. The U.S. Department of Transportation and Justice Department subsequently opened an investigation into the FAA. Read the rest

Own a drone? Law enforcement will soon be allowed to shoot it down

I own a DJI Spark. It's not the most expense drone out there, but it's a good one. I love its ability to take video and photos from angles that I could never manage from the ground. I do not, however, love the fact that law enforcement officials in the United States will soon be able to shoot it down. Read the rest

Service animal registries being built to root out fakes

The Air Carrier Access Act, written back in 1986, was kind of lazy in how it defined ‘what a service animals is, to the point where almost anything goes. As such, there’s been a whole lot of folks of late bringing their animals on board of airplanes claiming that they’re emotional support animals. This peacock is an example of that sort of thing. Maybe some help calm their owners on what would be a harrowing in-air experience, without them. But for individuals with verifiable medical conditions who have been given specially-trained psychiatric service animals to help them better navigate their lives, it’s a serious pain in the ass.

With travelers and airlines alike getting tired of people attempting to bring their ‘comfort’ and ‘support’ animals on flights with them, the idea of bringing along an animal for legitimate medical reasons, even one that comes with documentation from a doctor or mental health professional, can cause a lot of unnecessary stress and anxiety. That’s not OK. It’s a problem that can be especially prevalent with veterans afflicted with PTSD. Many rely on their service dogs to ground them during a flashback, make them feel like someone is watching their back in public places or wake them from reoccurring nightmares. It's not the sort of tool that you want to leave at home when you travel.

Thanks to a pair of new registries currently in development, the epidemic of false service animals that’s cropped up in the news of late could come to an end while, at the same time, helping those with a legitimate medical need to have their prescribed pooches with them on a flight do so, with less hassle. Read the rest

Trump wants to kill the FAA and hand air safety to the big four airlines

The US aviation industry is highly concentrated, with only four major airlines left in the country; for years, they've been lobbying to get rid of the FAA and take over their own safety oversight. Read the rest

What happens legally if you shoot someone's drone out of the sky?

Probably not much, as Brad Jones learned over Easter when a neighbor allegedly blasted his DJI Phantom. Even if his prime suspect confessed, there's not much precedent for prosecutions. Read the rest

FAA okays use of semi-autonomous drones for Disneyland and Disney World fireworks displays

John Frost writes, "I know Boing Boing has covered Disney's patent to use flying drones in the parks. Here's the latest update, the FAA recently approved the use of drones in the parks at night. It's only a four-year permit and Disney isn't waiting around. The Mouse House just posted a teaser video for a new holiday show at Disney Springs, the dining and entertainment complex at Walt Disney World, that will begin later this month." Read the rest

New FAA rules class toy UAVs as illegal drones

The latest FAA rules on UAVs are so broad that they class adorable toy quadcopters as drones and require special permits to operate them. Meanwhile, hot air balloons and unpiloted model aircraft are fair game for unlicensed play. The drone hobbyists are pissed: Read the rest

FAA to review in-flight gadget policies, maybe, eventually

The US Federal Aviation Administration today announced it is exploring ways to make it easier for airlines to allow travelers to use connected gadgets like phones, iPads, and tablet PCs during plane takeoff and landing.

A statement released today says the FAA is “exploring ways to bring together all of the key stakeholders involved” (airlines, plane manufacturers, consumer electronics producers, and unions representing flight attendants) to discuss the possibility of testing devices to determine if they are safe for passengers to use during the most critical phases of flight.

“No changes will be made until we are certain they will not impact safety and security," read the statement. FAA rules currently require fliers to shut down their electronic devices when the plane's altitude is below 10,000 feet.

Snip from Nick Bilton at the NYT's Bits blog:

Abby Lunardini, vice president of corporate communications at Virgin America, explained that the current guidelines require that an airline must test each version of a single device before it can be approved by the F.A.A. For example, if the airline wanted to get approval for the iPad, it would have to test the first iPad, iPad 2 and the new iPad, each on a separate flight, with no passengers on the plane.

It would have to do the same for every version of the Kindle. It would have to do it for every different model of plane in its fleet. And American, JetBlue, United, Air Wisconsin, etc., would have to do the same thing.

Read the rest

Report: Kindle produces nearly no electrical interference. FAA: "LALALALALA"

Nick Bilton put the FAA's claims regarding Kindles and airline avionics to the test. The result? They emit less EM interference than planes are required by law to withstand.

The F.A.A. requires that before a plane can be approved as safe, it must be able to withstand up to 100 volts per meter of electrical interference. When EMT Labs put an Amazon Kindle through a number of tests, the company consistently found that this e-reader emitted less than 30 microvolts per meter when in use. That’s only 0.00003 of a volt.

“The power coming off a Kindle is completely minuscule and can’t do anything to interfere with a plane,” said Jay Gandhi, chief executive of EMT Labs, after going over the results of the test. “It’s so low that it just isn’t sending out any real interference.”

We always knew that if gadgets were really a threat to avionics, we would not be allowed to bring them into the cabin at all. We know that many travelers keep on using them anyway, on the sly. Thanks to Bilton, the bare lie shines through a little brighter. But it leaves the question: why do these institutions insist on clinging to this particular line of security nonsense?

It's as it the standards in use were defined by some bureaucratic committee in the mists of history, rather than any reasonable application of the science involved.

I always suspected that these rules are a vestigial tail of policies contrived to protect the old racket of in-air phone calls and paid in-flight entertainment. Read the rest