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Mon, Oct 04, 2004

What To Do About The Warbirds

EAA Facilitates Discussion On Warbird Operations Policy

The EAA and its Warbirds of America division used their leadership roles to bring together government and the aviation community, in a session that will provide guidance for future policy regarding public flight experiences in warbird aircraft. The meeting, held at the EAA Aviation Center in Oshkosh on Sept. 30, was designed to develop a consensus for continued passenger operations by these historic aircraft.

The affected airplanes include such favorites as the B-17 and B-25, as well as newer classics such as early jet trainers and fighters. Currently, some of those aircraft offer compensated flight experiences through exemptions approved by the Federal Aviation Administration. Included in that list are the B-17s "Aluminum Overcast" and "Fuddy Duddy," currently owned or leased for passenger operations by EAA.

"The FAA is seeking to establish criteria to evaluate exemption requests that allow these historic aircraft to keep operating these one-of-a-kind flight experiences," said Earl Lawrence, EAA vice president of industry and regulatory affairs. "EAA and Warbirds of America saw this meeting as essential in providing guidance for future FAA policy. Since many of these aircraft operators are also EAA and Warbirds members, we will use our positive relationships with all the involved parties to work toward a consensus that can indeed 'keep 'em flying' in the future."

The original FAA exemptions that allowed such operations involved World War II-era B-17 bombers and similar aircraft. Over the past decade, other aircraft such a turbine-powered helicopters, modified World War II-era fighter airplanes and foreign-built fighter jets have also applied for exemptions. FAA had specific concerns about these exemption requests, for various reasons, and is developing a policy that set guidelines for the applications.

"This issue has a great deal of complexity, as it involves different types of aircraft, as well as safety, crew training and economic factors," Lawrence said. "EAA and Warbirds of America saw a gathering such as this one as the best way for all groups to present their viewpoints and begin work toward a policy that will ensure safety, while also keeping these unique aircraft flying."

Groups joining EAA and Warbirds of America at this week's meeting include the Airline History Museum, Army Aviation Heritage Foundation, Collings Foundation, Red Knight Air Shows, Weary Warriors Squadron, Yankee Air Force and Wings of Eagles Discovery Center. The Commemorative Air Force is also participating in the discussions. These groups are meeting directly with FAA officials who develop and administer policy for historic aircraft operations involving passenger flights.

Lawrence added that EAA and Warbirds of America will continue to offer its considerable resources to create necessary solutions to these and other recreational aviation issues.

FMI: www.eaa.org

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