Monthly Archives: January 2016

Chicago Executive Airport, Part of the National Airport System

pwk photoAviation is all about systems, and it’s no different for airports. Most people in the Chicago Exec community know that PWK is a “reliever.” Aside from the obvious, that it “relieves” commercial airports like O’Hare and Midway of general aviation traffic, did you know that Chicago Exec is one of nearly 3,400 hundred airports in the National Plan on Integrated Airport Systems?

If the NPIAS is new to you, it identifies airports that are significant to national air transportation, and becoming part of this system is one of the qualifications for federal Airport Improvement Program grants that fund airport infrastructure improvements. Being just one of 3,400 such airports doesn’t sound like much, but consider this:

U.S. law defines an airport as “any area of land or water used or intended for landing or takeoff of aircraft including appurtenant area used or intended for airport buildings, facilities, as well as rights of way together with the buildings and facilities.”

This definition is the common denominator for the 19,299 airports in the United States. This includes seaplane bases and heliports, counted in 2014 (the most recent data) by the DOT’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Of that number, only 5,145 are public use; 13,863 are private; and the military owns 286.

The FAA categorizes airports by their activity. Commercial Service airports are publicly owned and have scheduled airline service that board at least 2,500 passengers a year. If it boards more than 10,000 passengers a year, it is a primary airport. Passengers boarded also categorize an airport’s hub status, Large, Medium, Small, and Nonhub.

A commercial service airport may also be designated Cargo Service if it has an annual “landed weight” of more than 100 million pounds. “Landed weight” means the weight of aircraft transporting only cargo in intrastate, interstate, and foreign air transportation.

Officially, the FAA defines (and designates) reliever airports as those that “relieve congestion at Commercial Service Airports and provide improved general aviation access to the overall community.” The FAA has designated nine Illinois airports as relievers, and six of them—Aurora Municipal (ARR); Chicago Exec (PWK); DuPage (DPA); Lake in the Hills (3CK); Lewis University/Romeoville (LOT); and Waukegan Regional (UGN)—surround Chicago.

Completing the system are general aviation airports. These public-use fields do not have scheduled service or board less than 2,500 passengers a year. They account for nearly 88 percent of the airports in the NPIAS. And reliever airports like Chicago Exec often offer them relief as well because its snow removal and other services that provide “improved access” to those who need it year-round.

Laser Pointers: Tool, Toy & Anti-Aircraft Weapon

faa-photo-laser3-highest-res-1936x1296When focusing the audience’s attention on the pertinent portions of a PowerPoint presentation, the laser pointer is a tool. When exercising your cats by giving them a red or green dot to chase, the laser pointer is a toy.

When you point it skyward, it can be an anti-aircraft weapon.

And when you point it with purpose at an airplane, it is a federal offense subject to stiff fines (up to $250,000 and $11,000 for each violation) and possible relocation to a secure facility that will limit your view of the sky for up to 20 years.

As aviation-aware readers of the Chicago Exec blog, you already know this, and you fully understand the multitude of unhappy consequences for a pilot—and his or her passengers—blinded by a laser pointer. But members of your extended family, friends, acquaintances, coworkers, and colleagues may not know that thoughtlessly aiming a laser pointer skyward—especially around any airport—can lead to bad things. So we urge you to share this story with them through your social media connections.

Looking at the period-size dot of light the cat chases, you may wonder why pointing a laser (which stands for “light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation”) at an aircraft is such a bad thing. What are the chances of hitting a moving target with that little dot of light, anyway? (Better than you think, which is why laser sights on assault weapons are so popular.) Without getting too deep into Big Bang physics, spatial coherence focuses the light into the dot cats love to chase, and it allows that dot to be projected over great distances.

But the dot does grow with distance, and by the time it reaches an aircraft flying at 1,000 feet above the ground, it is many times bigger that a period of light. When it hits the minutely scratched surface of an aircraft windscreen, it instantly diffuses, creating a flash of intensely bright light. If you want to experience this for yourself, find a friend and good-sized camera strobe, go outside on a dark night and wait 20 minutes for your night vision to stabilize, then have your friend hold the strobe at windscreen distance from your open eyes. When your friend fires the strobe, without warning, into your open eyes, he or she should note the time to see how long it takes for you to see anything other than the flash.

Now imagine that you, if you’re a pilot, or your pilot, if you’re not, were on final approach and cleared to land at Chicago Executive Airport when the laser flash blinded you. This is but one example of the hazards and effects of a laser strike.

For more information, the latest laser news, laws, and civil penalties, and a pilot safety information brochure, visit the FAA’s Laser Safety Initiative website. Pilots can also report a laser incident on the site, and they can rest assured that the FAA, FBI, and local authorities will use this information to identify—and track down—repeat offenders.

B4U Fly

B4U flyThe FAA on Tuesday released a new smartphone app called – B4U Fly – to tell users about current or upcoming requirements and restrictions in areas of the National Airspace System (NAS) where they may want to operate their unmanned aircraft system (UAS). The app is now available for Apple devices and can be downloaded from the App Store.

The B4UFLY app includes a number of enhancements the FAA developed as a result of user feedback during the beta testing announced in May 2015 . Within two taps, users know if it is safe to fly at their current location. The app provides a status indicator that tells users: “Proceed with Caution,” “Warning – Action Required,” or “Flight Prohibited.” The app also features a planner mode that allows users to select a different time and location for an upcoming flight and determine if there are any restrictions at that place and time.

By law, hobbyists who want to fly within five miles of an airport must notify the airport operator and the air traffic control facility (if there is one) prior to flying. For now, B4UFLY will ask users who are supposed to notify the airport before flying for voluntary information about their planned flight. This will not meet the statutory requirement to notify the airport and air traffic control facility, but the data will help the agency make informed policy decisions related to notification. This information will not be publicly available.

More detailed information is available at  B4UFLY webpage.