Hundreds of deep-pocketed tourists are likely to take suborbital space trips as Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture, as well as the Virgin Galactic venture founded by fellow billionaire Richard Branson, ramp up their commercial operations.
Boeing says it’s entered into a $2.51 billion agreement with the U.S. Justice Department to resolve a criminal charge related to the Federal Aviation Administration’s evaluation of Boeing’s 737 MAX airplanes.
The deferred-prosecution agreement addresses a single charge of conspiracy to defraud FAA inspectors about the safety of the 737 MAX’s automated flight control system. Investigators say changes to a component known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS, were to blame in a pair of catastrophically fatal 737 MAX crashes that occurred in Indonesia in October 2018 and in Ethiopia in March 2019.
Those crashes led the FAA and other regulators to ground hundreds of 737 MAX planes operated by airlines around the world. After more than a year of investigations, software fixes and revisions to pilot training requirements, the FAA cleared the planes to return to service last November.
The agreement calls for Boeing to pay a penalty of $243.6 million, provide $1.77 billion in compensation to the airlines that purchased 737 MAX jets, and establish a $500 million fund to compensate the families of the 346 people who were killed in the two crashes. Boeing also agreed to cooperate with investigators and strengthen its anti-fraud compliance program.
If Boeing complies with the requirements of the agreement, filed today with a federal court in Texas, the criminal charge will be dismissed after three years.
After months of feedback and fine-tuning, the Federal Aviation Administration today issued its final versions of safety rules for drones that fly over people and at night — including the drones that Amazon is developing to make package deliveries.
“The new rules make way for the further integration of drones into our airspace by addressing safety and security concerns,” FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said in a news release. “They get us closer to the day when we will more routinely see drone operations such as the delivery of packages.”
Draft versions of the rules were issued a year ago, kicking off a review period during which the FAA received about 53,000 comments. The final rules take effect in about two months.
Two years after the catastrophic crash of a Boeing 737 MAX jet in Indonesia touched off an aviation crisis, the Federal Aviation Administration today laid out the path for hundreds of 737s to return to flight.
“This is not the end of this safety journey,” FAA Administrator Steve Dickson told CNBC. “There’s a lot of work that the airlines and the FAA and Boeing will have to do in the coming weeks and months.”
Stan Deal, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said in a news release that today’s FAA directive was an “important milestone” but agreed that there’s a lot of work to be done. “We will continue to work with regulators around the world and our customers to return the airplane back into service worldwide,” Deal said.
The key fixes involve software rather than hardware — and that part of the job is more like installing a Windows update than installing an actuator.
The Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing today completed three days’ worth of certification flight tests on the Boeing 737 MAX, but it’ll take weeks longer for the FAA to review the fixes that Boeing made and decide whether to end the yearlong grounding of the planes.
Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration took a major step toward returning the troubled 737 MAX to full operation today with the first of a series of flights aimed at recertifying the jet in the wake of two catastrophic crashes.
Amazon and T-Mobile are among eight companies selected to help the Federal Aviation Administration establish technical requirements for Remote ID, a protocol that drones will be required to follow for broadcasting identification and location data while in flight.
The other companies include Airbus, AirMap, Intel, OneSky, Skyward and Alphabet’s drone subsidiary, Wing.
“The FAA will be able to advance the safe integration of drones into our nation’s airspace from these technology companies’ knowledge and expertise on remote identification,” Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said today in a news release.
The Federal Aviation Administration has issued proposed regulations that would require virtually all drones to transmit electronic identification codes while in flight.
“Remote ID technologies will enhance safety and security by allowing the FAA, law enforcement, and federal security agencies to identify drones flying in their jurisdiction,” Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said today in a news release about the plan.
The newly proposed Remote ID system would build upon those earlier steps. It calls upon drone manufacturers to make their products capable of sending out identification codes as well as their location. The rules would apply to all drones heavier than 0.55 pounds (8.8 ounces), and manufacturers would have to comply two years after the regulations go into effect. Drone operators would have three years to phase out non-complying devices.
The FAA’s Part 135 Standard certification means that UPS Flight Forward can fly an unlimited number of drones with an unlimited number of remote operators in command. It can expand its delivery services to new locations, with FAA approval. It can exceed the FAA’s usual limit of 55 pounds for drone and cargo weight, and it can now fly drones at night.
UPS said Flight Forward flew its first drone under the new conditions immediately after getting the word from the FAA on Friday. That drone, a Matternet M2 quadcopter, was launched from WakeMed’s hospital campus in Raleigh, N.C., under a government exemption allowing for flights beyond the operator’s line of sight.
For now, UPS is focusing on drone deliveries of medical products and specimens, based on hospital campuses with a special focus on North Carolina. The experimental phase of the effort was one of 10 pilot projects approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation last year.
Since May, drone operators have been required to get LAANC clearance for flights they wanted to conduct within controlled airspace, but the system wasn’t available for recreational fliers. You could still fly your drone for fun in uncontrolled airspace, but those spots tend to be hard to find in areas anywhere close to an airport.
As a stopgap, the FAA set aside a limited number of fixed sites in controlled airspace where such flights would be OK, including four sites in Washington state. All of those sites cater to model-airplane hobbyists, and may require a membership fee.
Now recreational fliers have a wider range of places to choose from, as long as they use the LAANC system. You still have to comply with all the rules for drone flights, including keeping your craft below 400 feet and within your line of sight. There are also local regulations to consider: For example, drone flights are forbidden in Seattle city parks.