Thursday Edition: FAA Approves New Ultralight/Sport Pilot License

My Poynter colleague Larry Larsen spotted this one, the federal government now has a new pilot’s license for light aircraft.

The L.A. Times explains:

With a valid automobile driver’s license and 20 hours of flight training, people who dream of being pilots but are discouraged by the red tape and high costs will be able to solo in a new class of light aircraft created Tuesday by the government.

The “sport pilot/light sport aircraft” regulations issued by the Federal Aviation Administration acknowledged the growing sophistication of low-powered personal aircraft weighing 254 to 1,320 pounds and aimed to encourage thousands of new pilots to take to the skies for recreation. 

I bet your local pilots clubs and recreational aircraft enthusiasts have something to say about this.


The FAA and flying enthusiasts say the licenses make it more affordable to fly sport planes because with the licenses, pilots may be able to get insurance, financing and airports that are available to general aviation fliers. is very enthusiastic about the changes.


The L.A. Times said:

Currently, the standard qualifications for private pilots are 40 hours of training and a medical certificate issued by an FAA-approved doctor. The sport pilot rules, which take effect Sept. 1, cut the training time in half and, in most cases, eliminate the medical certification.

Holders of a sport pilot certificate will be able to fly to altitudes of 10,000 feet, during the day and in good visibility, and carry one passenger.

Personal aircraft fly “low and slow” and give their owners a “wind in your face” experience. The government’s regulation is an outgrowth of the increasing sophistication and variety of these flying machines.

There are ultralights that look like giant insect wings with a basket for the pilot; powered parachutes that resemble airborne swamp buggies hanging from a sausage; gyroplanes that look like helicopters, and small fixed-wing aircraft, like miniature Cessnas.

The FAA website says:

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued new certification requirements for light- sport aircraft, pilots and repairmen that will make recreational flying safer while keeping it affordable and fun.

The FAA has create
d two new aircraft airworthiness certificates: one for special light-sport aircraft, which may be used for personal as well as for compensation while conducting flight training, rental or towing; and a separate certificate for experimental light-sport aircraft, which may be used only for personal use. The rule also establishes requirements for maintenance, inspections, pilot training and certification.

The FAA worke
d with the general aviation community to create a final rule that sets safety standards for the 15,000 people who will now earn FAA certificates to operate more than 15,000 existing uncertificated ultralight-like aircraft. Another 12,000 pilots and new aircraft will be certificated over the next 10 years.   

The FAA factsheet says:

Light-sport aircraft are small, simple, low-performance, low-energy aircraft limited to:
· 1,320 lb.(600 kg), (1,430 lb. seaplanes) maximum takeoff weight
· 1 or 2 occupants
· single engine (non-turbine)
· maximum stall spee
d (without lift enhancing devices) of 45 knots
· maximum airspee
d in level flight of 120 knots
· fixe
d landing gear
· fixe
d pitch propeller.

According to the rule, “light-sport aircraft” are: airplanes, gliders, gyroplanes, balloons, airships, weight-shift-control, and powered parachutes. Helicopters and powered lifts are excluded because of complexity. Weight-shift-control aircraft and powered parachutes are also defined in the rule.

Gas Prices to Stay High Past Labor Day

Get used to it.  That’s the message from the Energy Department. For the second straight week gas prices inched up again and now it looks like they will stay where they are or go higher into the election season. Will this become a campaign issue?

Here is the Bush/Cheney Energy plan.

Here is the Kerry/Edwards plan.

32 States Approve Cellular Rights Agreement

The Better Business Bureau says car dealers are the leading source of consumer complaints but cellular phone service is second.  AP reports the cellular customers are about to get a little more protection:

Three of the nation’s largest cellular phone companies have reached a deal with 32 states that requires them to be more upfront with customers in their advertisements and service plans.

Verizon Wireless, Cingular Wireless and Sprint PCS will be required to provide more detailed coverage maps to consumers, give customers a two-week grace period to end service without penalty and offer full disclosure of service contract rates and conditions. Their marketing also must be more specific about the costs and limits of services.


The states in the settlement are Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

 Hands-Free Doesn’t Help

To all of you who live in states (NY, NJ, DC) that have passed or considered passing laws requiring hands free cell phone use while driving consider this—the feds now say hand’s free does not mean safe.

RCR wireless news reports:

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration confirmed that an upcoming government study will say hands-free headsets do not make driver use of cell phones safe and that Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta last year was set to send letters to the nation’s governors to tell them hands-free legislation was ill advised.

“Our position has not changed. Hands-free does not reduce risk,” said Rae Tyson, a NHTSA spokesman.

Tyson confirmed the results of the NHTSA study, which will be presented at a meeting this fall and which was first reported by The Wall Street Journal Monday. The NHTSA data is drawn from a driving simulator in Iowa.

The Chicago Tribune reported:

One study, from the Virginia Tech Center for Transportation Research, videotaped 100 drivers for a year to study cell phone safety. A second University of Iowa study, to be presented at a conference in September, used simulations to compare the reaction times of drivers using hands-free and hand-held phones.

“There’s a growing body of evidence, even absent this new research we’re doing, that suggests using hands-free cell phones does not minimize the risks of getting into an accident,” said Rae Tyson, spokesman for the federal agency. “The act of conversation can be extremely distracting, whether or not your hands are on the phone.”

Tyson added that talking on a hands-free phone isn’t the same as speaking to a passenger while driving, because the person on the other end of the line has no awareness of the hazards the driver might be facing.

The new research calls into question laws in New York, New Jersey and the District of Columbia requiring drivers to use cell phone headsets or other hands-free devices while driving.

School Gives Away iPods

Duke University is spending a half-million bucks giving away more than 1,600 iPods to incoming freshmen. The player comes stocked with school-related information, including freshman orientation details, the academic calendar, campus tours and even the school’s fight song. The News and Observer says a site modeled after the iTunes Music Store will offer students course content, lectures, and more.

Story idea-What other technologies (computers and such) are universities giving to incoming students these days? What kind of computer/electronic stuff are people buying to take to school?

 We are always looking for your great ideas. Send Al a few sentences and hot links.

Editor’s Note: Al’s Morning Meeting is a compendium of ideas, story excerpts, and other materials from a variety of websites, as well as original concepts and analysis. When the information comes directly from another source, it will be attributed, and a link will be provided, whenever possible.

We have made it easy to comment on posts, however we require civility and encourage full names to that end (first initial, last name is OK). Please read our guidelines here before commenting.