NextGen is Being Used to Justify Lower & Noisier Flying While Ignoring the Impacts

On both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, aviation regulators are working with their ‘stakeholders’ to give the airline industry relief from pesky noise-abatement procedures. This translates to allowing turns immediately after takeoff, as well as turning arrivals lower and closer to the landing runway. It also means jamming local flights lower so they remain below these designed departure and arrival flows.

(click on image to view article at AirportWatch.org.UK)

(click on image to view article at AirportWatch.org.UK)

The impacted neighbors near London appear to be a few years ahead of U.S. residents in the area of citizen activism. They have numerous airport groups who are creating a steady flow of actions and news stories aimed at stopping airport expansion. Thanks to some insensitive NextGen implementations creating new noise ghettoes, though, U.S. citizens are increasingly speaking up. They have to, to protect their quality of life.

FAA continues to implement new routes without environmental review. In a way, they have to, for this is all part of their ‘NextGen’ program. FAA has oversold the claimed benefits of NextGen to both the Public and to Congress, because they need Congress to continue approving billions in additional funding. FAA has also made deals with the unions and the airlines, to ensure they will not speak out of line about FAA’s NextGen ambitions.

We Don’t Need NextGen to Benefit from the GPS Technologies

But FAA is conveniently not sharing the fact that the GPS technologies have been around for decades, and have been practically and routinely used in ATC for more than a decade. Instead, FAA has chosen to ‘package’ these technologies and present them as a new and costly program wrapped in their carefully-crafted, glossy sales pitch. The program frankly offers no practical safety benefit; the monies approved by Congress and spent by FAA serve mostly to justify excess FAA positions and duties (from headquarters to the regions to the union leaders at each facility) while also propping up a handful of aviation industry contractors. And when they retire, many employees at the top of FAA (and quite a few at the lower ranks, too) will do as their predecessors did: hire into second careers with these same contractors, to richly supplement their already ample federal pensions.

And What Exactly did FAA Use to Buy Airline Silence?

Well, they promised to shave off a few miles (translating to a few million in added airline profits), by removing all environmental restrictions on departures. Hence, the TNNIS departure off LaGuardia, the stressful noise impacts over Laveen and F.Q. Story in Phoenix, and the newly created NextGen noise ghettoes around American’s new hub in Charlotte, NC. And, they promised the same lower (and noisier) routes with tighter turns on arrivals, such as the SERFR arrival into SFO.

Fly Up, FAA!!

Poster - 'Fly Up FAA'

(click on image to view slideshow of 7/24/2015 rally by Save our Skies Santa Cruz)

So, is it any wonder that more people are hating FAA and the airlines with greater intensity? Is there really any surprise that this sign was carried at a recent protest against FAA’s NextGen noise?

October 24: Join the ‘No Fly Day’ to Protest NextGen

20150825scp.. Petition for NoFlyDay 10-24-2015

(click on image to sign the pledge at the petition webpage)

The pledge is to NOT fly on October 24th (or your next trip). The associated petition is being delivered to 68 leaders (in Congress, at the airlines, at FAA, etc.) and it lays out just three simple requests aimed at fixing the problems NextGen has created:

  1. Give people in Boston, Charlotte, Phoenix and elsewhere relief by reverting immediately to the pre-NextGen flight procedures;
  2. Conduct Environmental Impact Studies that use an updated, relevant noise standard (FAA tricked Congress into exempting environmental review, so there was no meaningful analysis for the NextGen flight procedures); and,
  3. Fix the broken review process whereby citizens are supposed to be shown the plan and empowered to offer valuable feedback BEFORE new procedures are implemented.

Please pledge, and please encourage others to join this action.

[QUOTE]: FAA’s Culture of Corruption & Cover-Up

Aside

QUOTE

“…Over and over, when the FAA is caught asleep at the wheel, those in charge rattle their sabers, fire low level individuals and allow the management that refuses to play by the rules to stay in power. Soon it all slouches back into a comfy system because the FAA does not like oversight, does not tolerate whistleblowers, and will say whatever it takes for the cameras to stop rolling and the members of Congress to stop having hearings. I know because I shined the light on FAA malfeasance and cover up for five years when I headed the independent oversight agency United States Office of Special Counsel (OSC)….”

– Scott Bloch, in a 5/29/2011 blog post about endemic FAA corruption

Click here to read the original blog post.

Another Airshow Fireball: 7 Dead near UK’s Shoreham Airport

20150822scp.. Shoreham, UK Hawker airshow crash-fire pic

(click on image to view the video)

Yet again, an old warbird is allowed to do an absurdly dangerous ‘trick’ low to the ground. This time, during the Shoreham Airshow in Sussex, the Hawker Hunter was making a low, high-speed pass, then initiated a full loop, but ran out of altitude before the end of the loop. 20150822.. Fireball and A27 cars at Shoreham, UK airshow crashThe impact area was along a busy road (A27) near the airport, and four cars were reportedly hit. Seven civilians died. The pilot is said to have survived.

This is exactly the scenario for the F86 crash at Jeffco Airport near Denver, in 1997. I was working in the tower that day, and it was hands-down the worst experience in my FAA ATC career.

“It was a few days later that I got a phone call from some controller on the East Coast. It was her job to assist in a stress debriefing. Via phone. She was supposed to help mend the psychological damages, help make sure we can talk and process and move on. I talked. I sort of processed. And I think, yeah, I moved on. But what I moved on to was a realization that there is something wrong with my employer, the FAA. At that time, in my heart, I could feel that something about FAA was broken. We were failing. We not only could do better, we had to do better.”

Jeffco was almost 20-years ago, but traces of it remain online. A Google search may also produce links to a 1951 airshow crash east of Denver. Similar scenario, with the pilot making a low maneuver, losing control and his life while also killing 13 children and 6 adults.

We may have been too cocky and too stupid way back then in 1951, but have we learned anything since?

What’s with these agencies supposedly regulating aviation safety? Why do they allow this type of airshow stunt, when even the empirical evidence proves the risk is too high?


UPDATES:
  • Death toll has risen to eleven; some of the victims have been identified. [article]
  • A list showing the many fatal airshow crashes in the UK since 2007. Previous Shoreham Airshow accidents included a fatal in 2007 and a nonfatal in 2010. [article]

Airport Noise: Fifteen Ways to Quiet the Skies

The following list was compiled by one of the oldest groups advocating for cleaner and less impactful aviation in the United States: US-CAW (U.S.-Citizens Aviation Watch). A reference to ‘Stage IV’ suggests this was compiled long ago, even as early as the 1990s. Items #1, #2, #3, and #12 would greatly improve quality of life at Santa Monica, Longmont, East Hampton, and the growing list of NextGen-impacted airports (Phoenix, Charlotte and LaGuardia stand out on the list).

The list below is filled with great ideas, but we all just wait for the long overdue action by Congress and FAA….

  1. Increase local control of airports.
    Demand that two-thirds of airport commission members live within the high impact area where average day/night levels exceed 65 dBA (what the FAA calls moderate noise exposure). Also, increase local control with regard to expansion, number and time of takeoffs, landings, ground operations, etc.
  2. Remove FAA from oversight of environmental quality and public health.
    This would remove a significant conflict of interest for the FAA which has too often seen its role as promoting air transportation. Noise and other environmental pollutants need to be regulated by some combination of EPA and local oversight.
  3. Abandon the day/night sound pressure level of 65 dBA that the FAA uses to separate “low” noise exposure from “moderate” noise exposure.
    The 65 dBA value is too noisy and unhealthy. Use 55 dBA as an interim value until a descriptor that includes low frequency noise, and better reflects the impacts of aircraft noise such as sleep disturbance, interference with learning, and other noise impacts.
  4. Develop high-speed rail alternatives to aircraft flights of less than 500 miles.
    Redirect government investment from airport expansion to high-speed rail. Also, support efforts to quiet rail transit.
  5. Protect the public from environmental and health hazards at and near airports.
    These include the release of significant amounts of toxins, known carcinogens and de-icing fluids. Existing Clean Air and Clean Water regulations need to be enforced and new regulations addressing the public health and environmental impacts of airports and airplane travel need to be adopted.
  6. Support a Global Nighttime Curfew.
    Around the world, hundreds of airports already have curfews. Local nighttime curfews, while a positive step, shift the problem elsewhere. A nationwide and global effort is needed.
  7. Demand that airports and airlines pay the full cost of airline travel.
    Remove all FAA subsidies; increase landing fees to cover lost property value, insulation programs, health effects, and annoyance; increase fuel taxes to account for environmental and public health damage; and remove local subsidies.
  8. Expand soundproofing programs to all homes, churches, schools, hospitals, and commercial businesses experiencing a day/night average of greater than 55 dBA from airports.
    Eventually, all sensitive properties–homes, churches, schools, day care, hospitals, etc.–should be protected against indoor single event readings exceeding 45 dBA with windows open. Insulation and soundproofing alone, however, is not the solution because it neglects outdoor noise. Insulation does not provide for the full enjoyment of common and private property. However, at least it protects people inside their homes.
  9. Demand objective health studies of noise and other pollutants near airports.

  10. Support quieter and cleaner aircraft technology (called Stage IV).
    Stage IV technology may be years away, and in the future, aircraft may achieve smaller reductions in pollution, both in terms of air and noise pollution. Therefore, Stage IV technology should not be relied upon as the main solution to aircraft pollution. Nevertheless, technological improvements should be aggressively pursued.
  11. Ban flights over and within 2 miles
    of non-urban National Parks, Wilderness areas, National Monuments, National Seashores, and other sensitive and pristine public lands (except for emergency, research, construction and maintenance activities).
  12. Increase the minimum altitude for general aviation craft and helicopters
    to 2,000 feet above ground level and implement an effective policing mechanism. Impose a minimum flight altitude for 2,500 feet above ground level for all tour operations and commercial transport services (for example, air taxis).
  13. Ban commercial and corporate SST flights from United States Airports and airspace.

  14. Avoid solutions that shift noise to others.
    The FAA likes to pit one community against another because it divides opposition to its policies. A fairer distribution of noise might make sense for many airports, but moving the noise around doesn’t solve the problem and divides people who should be united against airport noise. The problem of airport noise will not be solved one airport at a time. Persons with airport noise problems must unite. Significant changes in the FAA will likely occur only when airport groups can show significant power and support to Washington.
  15. Foster connections with and support other noise pollution organizations.
    A victory for any group fighting noise is a victory for all. This is the only way to create a broad enough coalition to actually reduce noise pollution.

How FAA is Sabotaging the Citizen Involvement Process on ‘OAPMs’

Suppose you live in Southern California, maybe near the airport in Santa Monica. And, suppose you are highly responsible, the kind of person who doesn’t just take the time to vote but also sacrifices even more of your precious personal time to participate in important decisions by your government. You make it a habit to stay informed and involved.

One day, a news item announces that FAA has a big airspace redesign project: the SoCal Metroplex OAPM.**OAPM = ‘Optimization of Airspace & Procedures in the Metroplex’. You read the article and see that FAA has posted documents online and will have public ‘open houses’ at libraries and other locations, to answer questions and to enable citizen awareness of the proposals. At the end of the ‘open houses’, FAA has set a deadline for you to offer your concerns, suggestions, etc.

You are a busy person, with a job and a home and a family, but you nonetheless make time to do what you feel is your civic duty. You go online and find a slick webpage (created by a contractor for FAA) with an overview and more links. You click on the ‘Documents’ link and find another slick page, this one with links to 57 documents totaling 793 megabytes. Some of the links point to PDF files so large (the largest three are 70MB, 83MB, and 84MB) that you cannot even bear the long wait time to finish a download. You nonetheless wait through the slow downloads and open a few of the links.

You then wade through hundreds of pages, filled with aviation acronyms and other gobbledygook. You are bright and curious, and try your damnedest to make sense of what you are reading, and yet many pages are filled with information that appears to be completely irrelevant. Not just irrelevant to your small area of concern (how will these changes impact my home and my family, here in Santa Monica?), but even for the larger area of focus identified in FAA’s 57 online documents (the entire SoCal Metroplex, spanning from the Salton Sea to Solvang, and from Victorville to Tijuana).

You plow ahead and formulate a few questions. You attend a local Open House, where you find a team of FAA employees and aviation professionals awaits, ready to answer your questions. They eagerly focus on the claimed benefits, especially the claimed reduction in fuel consumption, but they grow quiet on some of your questions. You become perplexed when you realize: they are refusing to answer any questions related to the environmental impacts of their proposed changes. It is as if the proposal is all about enhancing capacity while blindly ignoring the environment. You depart the Open House and maybe, just MAYBE, you still have enough energy left to write and submit a comment before the deadline. Or, perhaps more likely, you simply shake your head and wonder: Why is this such a broken process?

The Laws…

Rest assured: it was never intended that the process would evolve as it has, to narrowly serve only the regulator and the regulated, at the expense of the much larger Public. And it is not you; it is the process that has gone nuts.

In the big picture, there are two fundamental elements needed for the effective functioning of Democracy and representative government:

  1. maximum informational transparency (in the timely release of quality reports and draft documents),
  2. and the assurance that individual citizens have an opportunity to meaningfully participate in the decision-making process.

To protect the people against agency regulatory capture, many federal laws have been deliberated and passed by Congress. Not least of these laws is the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). The APA was passed in the 1940’s, aimed at bringing the evolving over-reach of numerous federal agencies back under control. Aimed at ensuring, no matter how simple or complex a proposed new rule was, agencies were not allowed to operate in a vacuum, and citizens were empowered to make meaningful contributions. Essentially, it is a check-and-balance; our past Congress’ passed laws that empowered our federal employees to create changes, but to protect our rights and ensure an effective process, Congress also passed laws requiring an open process engaging the public.

Wonderful concept, isn’t it? The problem, though, is this is only a ‘concept’, because in reality FAA (and more than a few other federal agencies) have slowly developed strategies for subverting the process. FAA is the regulatory agency with the authority to regulate airlines, manufacturers, and other aviation entities. But, FAA is a captured agency, and as such routinely serves the interests of the airlines and others FAA is supposed to be regulating.

…And How FAA is Subverting the Laws

FAA is knowingly ‘fixing’ the outcome of the reviews for changes in airport procedures and airspace design, by using the following strategies:

  • overwhelm the individual citizen with documentation, so that it is impossible for a responsible citizen to dedicate enough of their personal time to completing a thorough review. For example, a typical airport Master Plan, even for a very insignificant rural airport with little traffic, commonly measures 300-500 pages; it is hard for even a very intelligent citizen to sort through the document, even just to establish which pages are relevant and which pages are irrelevant.
  • further overwhelm the individual citizen by expanding the scope of the changes being proposed. By doing this, even the sharpest citizen (and what are the odds they are also blessed with limitless time and obsessive research skills?) will find it impossible to produce any kind of focused, specific comments. In the example of the current SoCal OAPM, the only people who MIGHT be able to process all the data are the FAA contractors who earned millions in public funds creating that webpage with 57 links to 793 MB’s of PDF files. And, don’t forget: FAA and its contractors are all biased toward approving the proposals!
  • be selective with FAA’s answers to citizen questions. By routinely ignoring the environmental questions, the agency (and, also, the aviation professionals who are ‘collaborating ‘ with FAA in this selective ‘non-answering’ policy) will nudge concerned citizens toward self-doubt. Some may even begin to question whether they are too sensitive about a problem the so-called experts cannot even recognize.
  • drag it all out forever. Delay, and delay some more, so that the process cannot possibly engage the ongoing attention of a concerned citizen. They can come to a long series of presentations, and hear the same garbage. Each time, the citizen is allowed to express his or her concern. After doing so a few times, they may just get the intended message: “WE ARE NOT REALLY LISTENING! So, move along and shut up, and accept we will do what we want at this airport!”
  • Divide and conquer. The larger Public is horribly disserved, but FAA does their job very well (that is, their REAL job, which clearly is ‘serving aviation interests’) when they find ways to get those who question airport projects to instead fight among themselves. Even good, smart and dedicated people have their limits. Stress them with noise and leaded exhaust and jet fumes, then do little to mitigate the problems; eventually, passions will flare and more citizens will give up.

 

[QUOTE]: FAA’s Indifference to Environmental Impacts

Aside

QUOTE

“…It takes a lot to get the FAA to respond,” says Magnolia’s Robert Bismuth, a longtime private pilot himself. “The FAA has two mandates, safety and commerce, and no mandate about anybody on the ground. It traditionally hasn’t responded to noise and pollution concerns. If you want it to, you have to involve the congressional delegation…..”

– a Seattle resident, in an article about NextGen noise, posted 1/14/2013 at Crosscut.com

Continue reading

UPDATE: Citizens for Quiet Skies Legal Action in Longmont, CO

In her decision on May 21st, U.S. District Court Judge LaBuda sided with Mile-Hi Skydiving. At the root of Judge LaBuda’s decision was a total deference to FAA, the federal agency that manages aviation issues by letting operators do whatever they want … and the same federal agency that protects aviation from environmental accountability. A classic captured regulatory agency. This huge legal effort by Citizens for Quiet Skies (CQS) has always been aimed at correcting this problem, seeking to restore meaningful local control so airports will again serve not just pilots but the local community, too.

In June, Judge LaBuda awarded nearly $68,000 to Mile-Hi for supposedly “reasonable costs.” These costs included $40,000 for Mile-Hi’s noise expert, and costs incurred for defense counsel Anthony Leffert to fly to California and sit next to the noise expert during his deposition. Adding insult to injury, two months after the trial’s conclusion the Judge went further and granted another $48,000 in “attorney fees” to Mile-Hi Skydiving, opining that the lawsuit was ‘frivolous’ and agreeing that the plaintiffs should be punished for some of the claims that were dismissed prior to trial. The plaintiffs must now submit 125% of the awarded amount to the court until the appeal is concluded – $145,000 in total.

These are ordinary citizens who, as you can well imagine, will have to liquidate retirement accounts and make very difficult financial choices. Make no mistake, Judge LaBuda’s clearly punitive actions toward the plaintiffs are aimed at driving a stake right through the heart of citizen activism – not just at this airport, but at ALL U.S. airports.

Citizens for Quiet Skies is standing tall. Kimberly Gibbs wrote a great letter, No Ceiling for Noise, posted at FreeRangeLongmont.com on August 2nd. Kimberly also shares that the first payment to the legal team has been made, with CQS offering many thanks to the hundreds who have contributed to help cover legal expenses throughout the trial and now with the appeal. 20150808cpy.. Fundraising letters received KLMO picFunds are still needed to cover the expense to proceed with the appeal, so please consider making a generous donation to this effort – their work is on behalf of many skydiving victim communities across the country. It’s easy, just click the donate button on their website at:  http://citizensforquietskies.org/

One reaction to Judge LaBuda’s decisions has been some fairly intense (and often very uncivil) commentary, particularly at the local Longmont newspaper (TimesCall.com) and the local Boulder newspaper (DailyCamera.com). A better collection of letters, with faster access, no ads, and more moderate and civil comments, is viewable at FreeRangeLongmont.com. It is clear that the community is very deeply split. Skydivers and other aviation-types (including airport officials) continue to make wild claims of how the airport boosts the economy, and the worst members of their ‘group’ continue to attack Ms. Gibbs and others; a growing number of neighbors have had enough, are rejecting the pro-aviation pitches and expressing outrage at what the court has done.

Here is a recent online comment by one of those neighbors:

Michelle Sullivan: Let’s find middle ground on plane noise
“I have lived in Longmont for over 13 years. The noise from the skydiving planes has been a growing issue, especially since they added the newer plane. At times when my husband and I are outside, enjoying our otherwise beautiful back yard, we have to halt our conversation when the plane is climbing because we literally cannot hear each other talk.
It is time for this to stop. If you are a citizen affected in the area, please do something to help this fight.
It appears to me that the judge was extremely bias and the Citizens for Quiet Skies were not treated fairly. I found this especially true the day the judge did a site visit to hear the plane. I was outside the entire day, and I assure you that was the quietest I have ever heard the plane climb. If the judge wanted to be totally fair and hear an accurate flight she should not have announced when she was listening.
I believe the judge’s efforts to punish the group further by the outrageous award for attorney fee’s is unfair. Furthermore, it was disrespectful to call the lawsuit frivolous.
During the summer especially, it is miserable to be outside listening to a 12-hour stint of unreasonable noise, not to mention we can clearly hear it in our house all day long. Surely there is a middle ground here. ”

Click on page two to view copies of more online comments supporting the need for mitigation of the Mile-Hi Skydiving noise impact.


UPDATE, 8/18/2015: — The KLMO airport webpage now includes a Reference Page with an extensive collection of links to online articles, letters-to-editor, and more.

RobertScribbler: a Good Source for Analysis of the Arctic Ice Melt

The media tends to stay away from the details that confirm changes in climate, intensification of weather patterns, and other ‘inconvenient problems’ related to our excessive consumption of fossil fuels. One blog which has been compiling and sharing lots of fascinating information lately is RobertScribbler.com. He has some fairly technical content but does a good job dumbing it down, and he offers lots of leads back to sources, that will empower those of us who love to do research. Check it out…

(click on image to view original post at the blog website)

(click on image to view original post at the blog website)

Dodging Accountability: those ‘Un-Readable’ registration markings on GA aircraft

While there are two ‘A’s’ in ‘FAA’, we can all rest assured that neither ‘A’ stands for ‘ACCOUNTABILITY’. This we know from the news which, on a nearly daily basis, shows a corrupt and scandal-riddled work culture, where officials are ever careful to not let their personal name be attached to their professional actions and inactions. The recent coverage of the ATC recruitment scandal is one example; FAA’s decades-old habit of excessively redacting names of all FAA officials in FOIA responses is another example; and a third example is illuminated in the excellent series of articles from last summer, by Mario Diaz at PIX11.

FAA’s culture of unaccountability goes further. It not only protects those employed by the agency, but it also insulates rogue pilots and others whom the agency is supposed to be regulating, to protect them from accountability, too. Thus, incidents like the 2012 helicopter harassment against an advocate for regulation of skydiving noise in Longmont, CO are effectively enabled by a dysfunctional FAA. Essentially, a rogue pilot can do whatever he wants, and he’ll get away with it so long as he can rely of FAA to not enforce.

Required Aircraft Registration Markings

One clear area of FAA failure has to do with the requirements to mark all aircraft with legible registration numbers. The two principal ways that accountability is dodged with these GA aircraft markings are:

  1. FAA’s rules allow for incredibly tiny letters; and
  2. Even when an aircraft is identified, FAA is habitually lax about enforcement against aviators (click here for the FreeRangeLongmont version of the 2012 harassment incident… and be sure to click through to see the supporting documentation!)

We are all quite familiar with the license plates placed on the rear (and in many states on the front, too) of all registered trucks and automobiles. The purpose is to ensure drivers are accountable for their driving behavior. Identifying marks, legible from a reasonable distance, were intended to enable citizens and/or law enforcement officials to establish the registered owner (and hopefully the actually driver) after an accident or after any illegal driving actions.20150804cpy.. CA license plate sample, 65mm font, 'OutaTime'

The standard in the U.S., adopted in 1956, calls for plates that are 6″ by 12″. Typically, these have letters that are 2.5-inches (65mm) tall. A 1960 engineering study by the University of Illinois recommended adoption of a numbering system and plate design “…composed of combinations of characters which can be perceived quickly and accurately, are legible at a distance of approximately 125 feet (38 m) under daylight conditions, and are readily adapted to filing and administrative procedures.” The study also concluded that plates need to be readable from at least 125-feet away, and that a 14″ plate width (not just 12″ wide)would improve legibility, by ensuring letters are not excessively thin or mashed together.

The same logic is also supposed to apply to aircraft. However, states, local jurisdictions and Courts all defer to FAA as the final authority in charge of aviation safety. As such, it fell upon FAA to establish regulations for the proper marking of aircraft, to ensure they are identifiable, and to ensure the operators are accountable.

So, what did FAA do? They crafted a set of rules that virtually guarantee that any unsafe pilot or excessively noisy aircraft will be unidentifiable. And, even when they are identified, FAA tends not to enforce the rules, anyway.

The bulk of ‘General Aviation’ includes personal aircraft, many of which are kit-built by the owner/pilot. The vast majority of all small GA aircraft require 2″ tall registration letters; only a small number of GA require larger letters, either 3″ or 12″ tall. Think about that. Given that highway engineers opted for 2.5″ tall letters to be properly legible at 125-feet on our roadways, logically the minimum height to read the registration number of an aircraft at least 1,000-feet above the ground should be eight-times 2.5″, thus 20″ tall. Yet, the only small aircraft required to be marked with the full 12″ letters are those factory-built fixed-wing types after 1982 (and rotorcraft after 1983), and those kit-built models that cruise at speeds in excess of 180 knots. According to FAA’s rules, somebody flying an early 1970’s Learjet or Citationjet is legal, so long as they show 2″ tall letters on the sides of their engines. So, is it any wonder that drug-runners have become partial to using older small airplanes to move their product around?

An Example of Non-Enforcement

Here’s an example: a 1984 Cessna Turbo Stationair said to be based in Ohio, for which a custom paint-job was done. Nice looking plane, and plenty of power to get to remote lakes when outfitted in floats. But, take a look at the registration numbers. A licensed professional aircraft painter did this job, then advertised their good craftsmanship online, and the FAA officials simply looked the other way. The same FAA that jumps on hobbyists who use 6-pound quadcopters flown maybe 100- or 200-feet above the ground to shoot real estate aerial photos nowhere near any airports, and with zero risk of impacting regular aviation … that same FAA pays no mind to the fact that FAA-licensed pilots and the FAA-certified professionals who service their FAA-registered aircraft are routinely ignoring numerous FAA’s regulations, such as the need to have legible letters with a contrasting background.20150803scp.. C206 with camouflaged aircraft numbersN235HM earlier pic from web, marked SEP-2006

And to the right is an earlier photo, prior to the custom paint-job. Both paint jobs do a wonderful job of camouflaging the aircraft callsign. And had this aircraft been built just two years earlier, in 1982, that camouflage would surround letters only 2-inches tall!

For the record, FAA’s regulations on marking aircraft are contained at Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) at Chapter I, Subchapter C, Part 45, Subpart C. The specific language in 14 CFR at Section 45.21(c) includes: “…Aircraft nationality and registration marks must … have no ornamentation, … contrast in color with the background, … and be legible.” So, if this floatplane were to buzz a group of people on the water – even if by accident – chances are that, despite FAA’s regulations, the impacted people would not be able to identify the aircraft or pilot. In the best-case scenario, a decent pilot would never learn of his carelessness, would fail to sharpen his skills, and would continue a bad and unsafe habit. In the worst-case scenario, a rogue pilot would ‘get away with it’ – and feel further empowered – all the more likely to repeat use of his aircraft to endanger and harass people.

It’s Even Worse for Helicopters

Read this quote carefully, as this is FAA’s binding regulation for rotorcraft markings, copied from 14 CFR 45.29(b)(3): “(the markings) …must be at least 12 inches high, except that rotorcraft displaying before April 18, 1983, marks required by § 45.29(b)(3) in effect on April 17, 1983, and rotorcraft manufactured on or after April 18, 1983, but before December 31, 1983, may display those marks until the aircraft is repainted or the marks are repainted, restored, or changed.” The underline is added to emphasize, in essence, for all helicopters built prior to 1984, the owner must increase the numbers from 2″ tall to 12″ tall ONLY IF the owner chooses to ‘repaint, restore or change’ the numbers. It is as if regulators (and Congress?) wanted to carefully avoid upsetting operators in the pipeline, soon to take delivery of their new helicopter (why should they be burdened with a rule that makes their helicopter potentially identifiable?). Absurd, and yet so typical of the ambiguous mish-mash built into so many FAA regulations.