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BasicMed Update: Implementing the FAA's new alternative to traditional medical certification.

According to AOPA, approximately 25,000 pilots have taken advantage of BasicMed since its official rollout on May 1, 2017. Because the FAA does not track this, we don't know whether one of BasicMed's hoped-for outcomes is a reality: Did the new process encourage dormant pilots to start flying again? Thus, we don't know the percentage of pilots who did not have a current medical after a multiyear hiatus from flying and decided to get back into flying with BasicMed, as opposed to pilots with medicals who renewed expiring medicals with BasicMed.

For its part, AOPA estimates about 50 percent for each group, which is as good a guess as anyone's. It likely will be at least two years before BasicMed participation numbers stabilize as pilots with current medicals decide to renew with BasicMed.


Preliminary indications suggest that any pilot should not have any problem finding a doctor willing to do a BasicMed exam. There are four groups of doctors who are likely to sign the FAA's required documentation: some Aviation Medical Examiners (AMEs), private/personal physicians, physicians who are pilots but not AMEs and doctors in walk-in/urgent care clinics. The latter typically do DOT physicals for truck drivers and physicals for schools, workers compensation, employment, sports and others and would not find the BasicMed exam unusual. I visited five walk-in clinics in Broward County, Florida, and all the doctors said it would be "no problem" and cost $65-$70.

Pilots and physicians should be aware that BasicMed does not involve making any diagnoses, just determination using medical judgment that the pilot can "... safely operate an aircraft or motor vehicle" at the time of the exam. This might also have medical liability implications. This is especially relevant for AMEs since in an FAA physical, AMEs are required to make diagnoses and they might not be aware of the differences between an FAA physical and BasicMed.

Pilots should be intimately familiar with FAA 8700-2 and be able to explain BasicMed to physicians. Being able to explain BasicMed is important because according to FAA Notice N8900.420 (May 3, 2017) FAA aviation safety inspectors, designated pilot examiners, CFIs and others cannot ask to see the Comprehensive Medical Examination Checklist (CMEC), a component of BasicMed. Nor can they see the CMEC even is voluntarily provided by the airman.

While it's not required to be carried while acting as a pilot-in-command, they can ask, given a reasonable time frame, to see the certificate of completion of an authorized BasicMed medical education course. They may also ask the airman to describe how he or she is eligible to act as PIC under BasicMed--this would be a fair question during a ramp check.


Lastly, a valid driver's license issued by a U.S. state (not a foreign country) is required not just because it is a government-issued photo ID document but because any limitations applicable to driving might also be applicable to flying. For example, "corrective lenses required" would apply to flying but not "automatic transmission only." Each state has a different set of potential driving limitations and FAA Flight Standards is not willing to state which limitations would apply to flying, one state says: "no passengers allowed." Would that limitation be applicable to flying? According to the FAA, it is up to the pilot to decide if the limitation is applicable to flying.--Luca F. Bencini-Tibo

The NTSB's Numbers Are In For 2016

Accident statistics released November 21, 2017, by the NTSB show overall declines in all aviation accidents in 2016. But the real news is that "the number of fatal general aviation accidents decreased to 213 in 2016, resulting in the fatal accident rate dropping below one fatal accident per 100,000 flight hours for the first time in 50 years," according to the safety board.

Despite the good news, it's important to keep in mind all of the numbers released by the NTSB are preliminary. In the case of total accident and fatality rates for general aviation, which are computed by comparing industry activity with the number of accidents, the FAA's activity numbers for 2016 also are preliminary at this time. Any adjustments by the FAA potentially could change the NTSB's fatal accident rate for 2016.

Regardless, seeing the GA fatal accident rate reduced to below one in 100,000 hours is a big deal. Any feeling of success, however, must be tempered with the knowledge that more people died in GA accidents during 2016 than in the previous year. The NTSB's final numbers show 378 GA fatalities in 2015 compared with 386 in 2016. According to the NTSB, "nearly 94 percent of aviation fatalities occurred in general aviation accidents."

That said, overall aviation deaths--not just those involving general aviation--decreased slightly from 416 in 2015 to 412 in 2016. Air taxi fatalities decreased from 27 in 2015 to 19 in 2016.

Are You Authorized For That Approach?

One detail that often eludes instrument students is the difference between standard and special instrument procedures, generally approaches. The basic difference is that standard procedures are published and widely available on paper or in electronic formats. Special procedures, however, may be thought of as exclusive to the organization for which they were developed and cannot be utilized without specific authorization from the FAA's Flight Standards Service. A recent InFO (Information For Operators) publication from the FAA, InFO 17015, November 2, 2017, "Unauthorized use of Special Instrument Procedures," pilots "must not request nor accept an Air Traffic Control (ATC) clearance for a Special Instrument Procedure without specific FAA-Flight Standards authorization."

If you've never heard of "specials," that's because you're not supposed to. According to an FAA order (Order 8260.60A, Special Instrument Procedures), they allow "singular or limited users into public or private use airports/heliports" and generally "require non-government funding for development and maintenance."

According to the FAA's InFO, "Historically, Special Instrument Procedures were developed for one of two reasons; either the procedure was intended for private use or the procedure required special conditions, equipment, limitations, training, etc." The typical cockpit will not have a navigational chart depicting a special procedure. However, cautions the FAA, they "appear like any other procedure and may be included in an operator's navigational database. Flightcrews have accepted ATC clearances and flown Special Instrument Procedures without specific FAA authorization and possession of a current, valid navigational chart."

If you're eligible to use a special procedure, it's likely something you know about already and have appropriate paperwork on, including specific FAA authorization. If you suspect ATC has cleared you for a procedure for which you don't have authorization, ask.

FAA Revises EFB Advisory Circular

For many pilots, using an electronic flight bag (EFB) has become as natural and important as breathing. The EFB universe, however, encompasses a wide range of capabilities, from electronic charting to displaying weather and traffic, among other tasks, and everything in between. For those of us flying strictly under FAR Part 91, the FAA has mostly taken a benevolent view toward using EFBs in the cockpit. For operations under Parts 135 and 121, the rules have been a lot stricter. Now, a newly revised Advisory Circular from the FAA, AC 120-76D, Authorization for Use of Electronic Flight Bags, clarifies and simplifies many aspects of EFB use for commercial operations and drops guidance for fractional operations under FAR 91 Subpart F, "Large And Turbine-Powered Multiengine Airplanes And Fractional Ownership Program Aircraft," placing those operations in an older AC, 91-78, "Use of Class 1 or Class 2 Electronic Flight Bag."

Since it doesn't directly address Part 91 operations, it's easy to dismiss the revised AC 120-76D as irrelevant to those not covered by it. But AC 90-78 is ancient in EFB years, having been published in 2007. It's likely it soon will be revised to reflect at least some of the guidance found in its bigger, more-recent brother. So, what are some of those changes?

One of the major changes is elimination of EFB Classes 1, 2 and 3, and introduction of what the FAA calls "a simpler concept of portable and installed equipment," which harmonizes the agency's interpretations with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The change also accommodates "increasingly complex systems integrating both installed and portable equipment," according to the new AC.

Under the new AC, an EFB is considered "installed" when it is incorporated into an aircraft's type design under FAR Part 21 or as an alteration under Part 43. All other EFBs are considered "portable."

A "portable EFB" is typically a "consumer commercial off-the-shelf (COTS)" electronic device functionally "capable of communications, data processing and/or utility" functions. The key words are "portable" and "electronic devices," which together are referenced in AC 91.21-1, "Use of Portable Electronic Devices Aboard Aircraft." Essentially, operators must ensure a PED will not interfere in any way with the operation of aircraft before adding software to make it an EFB.

Under the new AC, an EFB's portability is broadly defined. To retain its designation as a portable EFB, the device must be "capable of being easily removed from or attached to their mounts by flightcrew member personnel without tools or maintenance action." Power can be supplied by the aircraft's electrical system temporarily. Finally, the portable EFB may "connect to aircraft power, data ports (wired or wireless), or installed antennas, provided those connections are installed in accordance with AC 20-173, "Installation of Electronic Flight Bag Components," which was published in 2011.

The revised AC goes into a great deal of detail on the types of applications that make a PED an EFB, broken down into two types, A and B. There are 35 EFB applications listed comprising a Type A device, and 41 for type B. The EFB in a typical GA cockpit qualifies as a portable device and incorporates elements of both type A and type B EFBs.


Anyone who has had to obtain an IFR clearance by telephone before taking off will appreciate a project being developed at the MITRE Corporation and its Center for Advanced Aviation System Development. Dubbed "Mobile IFR Clearance Delivery at Non-Towered Airports," the ongoing project is just what it sounds like: leveraging your cellphone as a tool to communicate directly with ATC and generate clearances for aircraft departing outlying facilities. The concept will "allow pilots to obtain a text-based IFR clearance electronically--without oral communication with air traffic controllers," according to the company.

"We saw a need to help both pilots and the Federal Aviation Administration," Paul Diffenderfer, project principal investigator (PI) at MITRE, said on the company's web site, "so we began prototyping a low-cost approach to see if we could make the clearance delivery process more reliable and efficient for both pilots and controllers." The result is far enough along in development that the company has released a video describing it, a Screenshot from which is at right.

When implemented, the technology will join other text-based ways to communicate with ATC, including controller-pilot data link communications, CPDLC, which is available now in newer airline and business jet cockpits. As MITRE notes, "This idea holds the promise of reducing the need for oral communications. It could simultaneously improve flight plan accuracy, reduce pilot and controller workload, and reduce delays at non-towered airports."

According to MITRE, anticipated benefits from implementing the project include preventing readback and transcription errors while streamlining the IFR clearance process. Plans include the ability to exchange additional information, like runway in use or any delays, and to cancel an IFR clearance once obtained. No ETA was available.


An FAA Special Airworthiness Information Bulletin (SAIB CE-18-05, "Fire Bottle, Portable," November 21, 2017) advises pilots and owners that the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a recall for a style of Kidde fire extinguishers that may be installed in general aviation aircraft.

According to the SAIB, there are 134 models of the recalled Kidde extinguishers with plastic handles and manufactured between January 1, 1973, and August 15, 2017. The CPSC recall notes there have been approximately 391 reports of failed or limited activation, or nozzle detachments. For a complete list of affected Kidde fire extinguisher models and appropriate contact information, visit the CPSC web site:
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Title Annotation:QUICK TURNS
Publication:Aviation Safety
Date:Jan 1, 2018
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