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Changing The Rules

Parts 125, 135 Reviewed...

The FAA says it's time for its charter regulations to catch up with the times. The agency issued a notice Monday that it's doing a wholesale review of FAR Parts 125 and 135. "Industry dynamics, new technologies, new aircraft types and configurations and current operating issues and environment mandate a comprehensive review and rewrite of Parts 135 and 125," said the notice, which appeared in the Federal Register. Among the more pressing issues prompting the review are the new types of aircraft and technologies that can be applied to operations under those parts. For instance, the notice specifically mentions airships and powered-lift aircraft as types that don't get the attention they deserve in the current regs. It will also look at certain types of payload and passenger capacity mods on large aircraft and, in general, make the rules reflect the technology and equipment available in the 21st century. Harmonization with the regs in other countries and the International Civil Aviation Organization is also a component of the review.

...With A Committee To Oversee The Process...

The FAA will establish a part 135/125 Aviation Rulemaking Committee to conduct this regulatory review and make recommendations as necessary. The committee will act only in an advisory capacity and make recommendations to the FAA "to assist the agency in establishing a regulatory framework that will address industry trends and dynamics and issues, and to enhance safety in this segment of the industry." The steering committee will be made up of about 25 members representing all facets of the aviation industry, including aviation associations, industry representatives, employee groups and various government agencies. Want to join this committee? You can apply, but be aware the FAA will give priority "to those applicants representing an identified part of the aviation community who are empowered to speak for those interests." And you won't be paid for your time, either.

NOTE: See the Federal Register for the full text of the notice as published.

...And The 12-5 Compliance Deadline Is Extended

Another set of rules concerning business aviation is taking effect as well, this time for the benefit of charter operators. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has advised industry groups the compliance deadline for the so-called Twelve-Five Security Program has been moved back to April 1, 2003. The deadline was relaxed after it became clear that many Part 135 operators would not be able to fulfill all requirements of the rule by the original deadline of February 1, 2003, and that the TSA hasn't finished designing a training program required under the plan. Industry reaction to the extension was mixed, as NATA applauded the extension yet made clear its disappointment with the TSA's management, who "did not recognize these problems weeks ago and issue a revision on a more timely basis." The NBAA merely notified its members of the change and offers a download of the official notifications for both the Twelve-Five Standard Security Program and the Private Charter Standard Security Program, both available as an Adobe PDF document.


STARS Cut Back Again

Only Seven Deployments This Year...

The FAA has scaled back its controversial Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System (STARS) again, this time chopping the number of deployments this year from 18 to seven. Air traffic control employees got the news last Friday. FAA spokesman Greg Martin confirmed Wednesday that the agency doesn't have the money to install all the copies of the long-overdue, over-budget and often-criticized system it had planned to deploy this year. It's the latest in a long line of controversies that has dogged the system since it was first announced in 1996. The modern color displays with enhanced capabilities for controllers were supposed to be installed in 188 of the U.S.'s busiest airports at a cost of $2.5 billion. It's now slated for 74 facilities and the projected cost is about the same. Problems during development, including the need to custom-build some of the components of the system, are largely blamed for the cost increases and their subsequent deployment decreases. To date, only one fully operation STARS systems is handling traffic. The Philadelphia TRACON got it in November and, despite fears by some that it would fail, it has worked well, according to the people using it.

...GAO Slams Financial Controls...

It could all be a coincidence, but the STARS cutbacks came just as the General Accounting Office (GAO) released a report on the financial controls that suggests the FAA has lost control of the program. According to the report, the FAA hasn't the faintest idea what STARS will finally end up costing, and the forecasting methods are reliant on old data and figures. What's more, the GAO says the contract management violates almost all the FAA's own rules for such things and taxpayers can't trust the current financial forecasts. "... The reliability of these cost estimates is uncertain," the report reads. "If FAA's estimates are not reliable, both the agency and the Congress will be limited in their ability to project and compare the costs and benefits of completing STARS." The report also suggests that because STARS is so messed up, the FAA's acquisition of other major systems could also be suspect. The GAO has recommended the FAA tighten up management of STARS and the FAA has said it had planned to.

...Budget "Maintains" Funding Levels

All this was happening as the Department of Transportation released its budget for the coming year. Although the FAA says it doesn't have the money to install the STARS systems it planned, the budget highlights say it perhaps should have. "The president's [fiscal year] 2004 budget request maintains current levels of aviation infrastructure investment ..." the DOT release reads. The budget highlights also includes $8.7 billion for safety programs and $2.3 billion for modernizing the air traffic system to increase capacity and reduce delays. "The aim is to increase daily arrival capacity at the nation's airports to more than 49,000 arrivals per day by the end of 2004 compared to an average of 47,000 arrivals per day in 2002," it says.


Briefs...

D.C. Restrictions Extended For Two Years

Three Washington, D.C., area airports got news they expected, but didn't necessarily want to hear, Tuesday from the Transportation Security Administration. The TSA will extend Special Federal Airspace Regulation 94 until February 2005. The regulation, which has banned most GA operations in the Washington area and severely curtailed operations at College Park, Washington Executive/Hyde Park and Potomac Airports, has been in effect since Sept. 11, 2001.  A spokeswoman at College Park, who asked not to be identified, confirmed airport management was notified of the extension late Tuesday. Initially, the airports were closed, but about six months after the terrorist attacks the TSA allowed pilots based at those airports to take off and land after they had undergone rigorous security checks. A few months after that, those vetted pilots were allowed to fly into and out of any of the three airports. But the airports remain closed to everyone else, although AOPA is trying to convince authorities to allow transient traffic to return. "We've not given up on these airports," said AOPA spokesman Warren Morningstar. "But it's going to continue to be one hell of a fight." Morningstar said the airports cannot survive financially on the small amount of in-house traffic they generate.

Little Jets, Time And Money

As AVweb reported Monday, Eclipse Aviation gathered some of its customers together last week to update them on the complications caused by abandoning the Williams EJ22 engine. The company issued a news release Monday detailing the facts and figures released during that meeting. The Eclipse 500 will cruise at 375 knots, an increase of 20 knots over the previous 355 knots max cruise speed. That's thanks to a boost in thrust to 900 pounds a side from its new engines. The maker of the new engines wasn't released but an announcement is said to be imminent. The payload is increasing by 250 pounds, but most of that is reserved for fuel for the thirstier engines. Weight isn't the only thing on the rise, however. The company confirmed that it would deliver the aircraft at a firm price of $950,000 (up from $837,500) for customers with non-escrowed deposits and $975,000 for those customers whose deposits remain in escrow. The million-dollar barrier will be broken at serial number 1533 and jets built after that will cost $1,175,000.  The Eclipse 500's revised operating range will be 1,280 nm and the jet's projected stall speed will increase slightly to 67 knots. Earliest certification is now projected at the first quarter of 2006. Eclipse’s current order book totals 2,102 aircraft priced at less than $1 million, with an additional 100 jets selling at this price. Don't forget, however, that the prices quoted are in June 2000 dollars so, factoring inflation, the checks actually written for all those aircraft will almost certainly be more than $1 million.

FAA Goofs On Approach Plate

Imagine the surprise, and the annoyance, of passengers and airport officials last week when an FAA error caused 33 flight delays and diversions and generally messed up operations at Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport in Virginia. It seems the FAA recently published an approach plate for an ILS there which had not yet been certified for use. The approach in question has caused many problems at the airport and part of the plan to fix it was installation of a new localizer. The ILS work got bogged down, however, and the airport told the FAA of the delay. Big Brother, apparently, wasn't listening. You know the rest. The FAA continued redesigning the approach and published the new plate Jan. 23, before it had certified the new ILS.  Someone in one FAA office discovered the mistake Jan. 24, but officials in Newport News TRACON did not receive notification of the problem until Jan. 29, when the flights had to be cancelled or diverted until an FAA flight crew tested and officially verified the ILS system.

Airbus May Build Tankers In Wichita

While Boeing may think that it has the U.S. military market secured, Airbus seem to believe that there is opportunity for it to capture part of this coveted aircraft market. BusinessWeek magazine is reporting that Airbus might set up a plant to make U.S. military tankers in Wichita, Kan. The magazine's article adds that up to 1,000 workers may be hired. According to the report, EADS, Airbus' parent company, has set aside $10 million for a feasibility study, which is currently underway. Officially, Airbus officials deny any interest in setting up a tanker plant, but it has been widely reported -- and confirmed by company officials in some instances -- that Airbus wants to carve a niche out of the U.S. military aircraft pie. In fact, EADS previously attempted to sell the Airbus A330 airliner to the U.S. government to replace the Air Force's fleet of aging KC-135 refueling tankers. But the Air Force decided that the A330 did not meet all of its tanker requirements. Citing "officials familiar with the plan," the article -- titled "Airbus: Zeroing in on Kansas" -- says the new proposed facility would manufacture A330 tankers for the Pentagon and is also considering another site in Kansas City, Kan. Airbus is no stranger to Kansas, as the European aerospace giant opened an engineering facility last March in Wichita's Old Town for the wing design and manufacture of its A380 555-passenger super jumbo jet. The company announced in October it would construct plants in Arkansas and northeastern Mississippi to build a prototype mobile field hospital and manufacture aircraft components.

A "Warped" Design

Hollywood has often portrayed flying machines the morphed into various shapes and sizes. In the not-too-distant future, some of that technology may move from the silver screen to the wild blue yonder. Lockheed Martin was recently awarded a multimillion-dollar U.S. Air Force contract to study technology that would allow the development of an aircraft that could change shape as flight conditions or missions change. The company's Palmdale, Calif., plant won the $9.3 million contract. The facility will "develop and demonstrate technologies for seamless, aerodynamically efficient, aerial vehicles capable of radical shape change," an Air Force spokesman said in a printed statement. While the military is pursuing a tactical advantage with this research, NASA officials are more interested in this technology as a way to make aircraft quieter, more fuel-efficient, safer and more maneuverable. While some previous aircraft designs featured sweep-wing designs, NASA is focused on eliminating the mechanics needed for this design method and introduce instead a system where embedded "smart" materials and actuators work to change an airplane's shape. "Able to respond to the constantly varying conditions of flight, sensors will act like the nerves in a bird's wing and will measure the pressure over the entire surface of the wing," a NASA Langley Research Center document says. "The response to these measurements will direct actuators, which will function like the bird's wing muscles. Just as a bird instinctively uses different feathers on its wings to control its flight, the actuators will change the shape of the aircraft's wings to continually optimize flying conditions," it adds.

Airline Pilots, Mechanics Rap TSA Rule

Airline pilots and mechanics are the latest to weigh in on a new regulation that allows the Transportation Security Administration to order the FAA to suspend and revoke airman's certificates for security reasons. "We have serious concerns about the problems of due process this rule poses as well as the vague standards of evidence it contains," said Capt. Jon Safley, president of the Coalition of Airline Pilots' Associations. Brian Finnegan, president of the Professional Aviation Maintenance Association, also said the criteria for suspending a certificate are not specific enough. "There is absolutely no room for error," said Finnegan. "These airman certificates represent significant livelihoods on which families and reputations depend." The new rule was announced, without advance notice, Jan. 24. On written notice from the TSA, the FAA will suspend the certificate of any airman deemed by the TSA to pose a "security threat." Other groups have called the criteria vague and subjective and noted that there is no independent review of the TSA's decision. As of last week, only 11 suspensions were in place and all involved foreign nationals who are not allowed in the U.S.

NOTE: See AVweb's previous coverage of the new TSA rule.

Penguin Puzzle For TSA

"Can you raise your wings, please?" Transportation Security Administration staff are puzzling over a proposal to reinstate a marketing plan that Southwest Airlines used to feather the nests of SeaWorld Parks in San Antonio, San Diego and Orlando. Before 9/11, the airline would fly a pair of tame penguins owned by the parks to various cities as a promotional gimmick. Giving the flightless birds a lift lured business to the parks, and passengers enjoyed having them on board.  The TSA just wants to make sure they're not hiding anything under those little tuxes, according to Southwest spokeswoman Melanie Jones. "One of the things that they mentioned was, 'Would it be possible that we would be able to wand the animals?'" SeaWorld officials say that wanding won't be a problem because the penguins travel well and are used to being handled, which can't always be said for human passengers.


On The Fly...

The National Association Of Flight Instructors (NAFI) announced the latest group of CFIs to attain Master Instructor status. The new inductees are: Andrew Chitiea, George Finlay, Arthur Hayssen, William Mainord, Michael Paulson and Obie Young. The Master Instructor designation is a national accreditation recognized by the FAA that is earned by a candidate through a rigorous process of continuing education and peer review. Much like a flight instructor's certificate, it must be renewed biennially...

On Sunday, Air France pilots began a four-day strike, forcing the airline to cancel more than 200 flights and scramble to arrange alternative travel for many passengers. The labor action is said to center on pay issues, with the largest Air France pilots union, SNPL, joining two smaller unions for the protest on this subject, which has been brewing since last fall. Air France said 85 percent of flights were running as expected Sunday, matching its forecast from Friday of "limited" disruptions...

Citing safety concerns, the NBAA is opposed to the construction of a 2,000-foot tower at Bayonne, N.J. The organization claims the "enormous height of the tower, which exceeds the allowable criteria of FAR Part 77, coupled with its proposed location in the middle of the busiest terminal airspace in the world, would unquestionably create conditions not conducive to the safe and efficient use of airspace."


AVweb's Picture Of The Week...

*** PREVIOUS RESULTS ***

We received over 90 pictures last week. Congratulations to this week's winner, David Staten, of League City, Texas. David’s picture is very fitting, as it captures the mourning of the tragic loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia’s crew.  David tells us that this picture captures area residents paying respects at an impromptu memorial to STS-107, outside the main gates of the Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas. This photo was taken the day after the loss of the spacecraft and crew.  Great picture, David!  Your AVweb hat is on the way.

To check out the winning picture, or to enter next week's contest, go to http://www.avweb.com/potw.


AVweb's Question Of The Week...

*** PREVIOUS RESULTS ***

We received over 600 responses to our question last week on the TSA's new rule regarding the revocation of airmen certificates. Nearly half (46 percent) of those responding felt the TSA continues to show its ignorance with regards to aviation security. Following that group, 35 percent felt that, well-intended or not, the new rule is still a violation of basic civil rights. Only 3 percent of our respondents felt this action by the TSA is a necessary tool to weed out possible national security risks.

To check out the complete results, including comments, go to http://www.avweb.com/qotw.

*** THIS WEEK'S QUESTION ***

This week we would like to know your thoughts on CFI applicant requirements.  Please go to http://www.avweb.com/qotw to respond.

Please remember that the email address qotw@avweb.com is ONLY for suggested QOTW questions, and NOT for QOTW answers or comments.

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