Dassault recently wrapped up flight-testing that would see its Falcon 7X become the first certified business jet to operate at the world's highest commercial airport–14,470-foot-high Daocheng Yading Airport in China's Sichuan province. The certification effort is intended to meet demand in Western China for business jets capable of operating at small high-altitude airports in the region.
Testing at Daocheng began on August 25 and concluded on September 7, with support from both the EASA and China's CAAC. Daocheng flight-tests started after preliminary flights at Jiuzhai Huang Long Airport (elevation 11,311 feet) near Chengdu with a CAAC pilot at the controls. After an initial landing at Daocheng, the 7X performed engines/APU run-up followed by a series of takeoffs and landings, including some with simulated engine failure.
Once finalized by the CAAC, the approval will permit the Falcon 7X to operate at altitudes up to 15,000 feet. In addition to setting an airport altitude world record for a business jet, the test campaign established several benchmarks for aviation in China: it was the first flight-test campaign undertaken over Chinese territory by a foreign-registered aircraft and it will be the first approval to be issued jointly by the EASA and CAAC.
Air travel to Mexico's Cabo San Lucas region remains problematic, in the wake of Hurricane Odile's passage on Monday. The category-three storm was the largest ever to make landfall on the country's Baja California peninsula, lashing the tourist region with heavy rain and high wind. As a result, affected airports in the area are closed to non-humanitarian general aviation traffic at least through the weekend, according to Universal Weather & Aviation.
Mexican military authorities are now evacuating travelers from the three operational airports: San Jose de los Cabos International, Los Cabos International and La Paz Airports. While photos are circulating on the Internet showing severely damaged private aircraft, Mexico-based flight coordinator Manny Aviation Services said that, hampered by disruptions in telephone service, it has yet to assess the impact to the private aviation infrastructure at the airports. However, there is currently no aviation fuel available at either Los Cabos International or Cabo San Lucas International airports, and the latter (MMSL) is the only airport open for general aviation aircraft.
Operators intending to make humanitarian flights into the area must first get a special authorization directly from the Mexican aviation authorities (DGAC) providing details about the aircraft and the people and donated aid items on board. In addition, Universal Weather & Aviation said that international aid flights will first have to clear customs at Tijuana.
The FAA has received more than 2,000 comments about its proposed policy regarding the non-aeronautical use of airport hangars. In response to the flood of comments and extension requests from the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) and others, the FAA extended until October 6 the comment period for the proposal, which states that hangars are to be used only for storage or maintenance of aircraft. Some of the comments chastised the agency for its misdirection or micro-management, while others congratulated the FAA for challenging situations they have encountered at their own airports.
Ever since the publication of a 1999 GAO report regarding the need for oversight and enforcement on unauthorized land use at general aviation airports, the FAA has been conducting inspections at 18 airports a year, frequently encountering hangars packed with non-aviation items such as cars, boats and furniture, along with some hangar tenants who were found to be operating commercial businesses unrelated to aviation.
Even the building of an aircraft might not be construed as aeronautical use under the FAA's new interpretation, defining as non-aeronautic use anything short of final assembly of an aircraft to the point that it can be taxied. AOPA and EAA have urged the agency to broaden its definition to include the entire aircraft construction process, rather than just final assembly.
The East Hampton, N.Y. town board is expected to pass a resolution tonight rejecting future federal airport funding, clearing the path for it to limit and/or ban certain types of aircraft operations–including helicopters, jets and seaplanes–at East Hampton Airport beginning with the 2015 summer tourism season. The town could impose an Aspen-style slot system on all traffic in combination with curfews and significantly increased landing fees, fuel prices and hangar rents.
Specific board action to limit airport operations requires a public comment period before enactment, but is not subject to public referendum. The town board believes it has the legal authority to impose the restrictions based on an agreement it negotiated with the FAA to end its federal airport funding grant assurances this December–seven years early.
The Eastern Region Helicopter Council (ERHC) and other general aviation groups, including NBAA and the Helicopter Association International (HAI), maintain that this agreement is illegal and plan a court challenge, believing that the town must honor grant assurances through 2021.