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Fifteen Percent Too Far?

Charter Operators Bristle At Proposed FAA Requirement

The effects of the Southwest Airlines fatal accident at Chicago's Midway Airport are being felt across the industry -- much to the chagrin of charter operators nationwide. By October 1st, all flights must be able to stop on the runway with a 15-percent margin by calculating landing distance "as close to the time of arrival as practicable, taking into account workload considerations during critical phases of flight." So sayeth the FAA. Ironically, some charter operators say that could adversely affect aviation safety. Specifically... charter operators worry that they'll be expected to calculate landing distances even as they're on approach.

"The descent and approach part of a flight is when you have the most to do," Scott Malone, chief pilot for Malone AirCharter Inc. at Craig Municipal Airport tells the Jacksonville Business Journal. "Now they're adding additional workload to it."

Jackie Rosser at NATA agrees. "It's feasible that your workload could prohibit you from doing this calculation," she says. "But the FAA could say you could have done it, and it would be very hard for crews to defend themselves after the fact. It could turn out to be a regulatory trap."

The December 8th accident at Midway killed a young boy who was riding in a car near the airport when a Southwest Airlines 737-700 skidded off the end of a snow-covered runway and into traffic along a busy Chicago street.

NATA says the resulting regulation "clarification" that says air crews need to establish a 15-percent margin when landing doesn't take into account charter operations. Those objections seemed to have an effect. The FAA extended until yesterday the comment period on the "clarification." How that affects the final ruling... we'll have to wait and see.

FMI: www.nata.aero

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