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The Beat Goes On

D.C. Becomes Air Defense Identification Zone...

With the national terror level ramped up to "Orange," the FAA and TSA on Saturday issued new airspace restrictions over broad swaths of the Washington, D.C., and Baltimore areas, to take effect at 6 a.m. today. The new airspace control measures create an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the airspace under 18,000 feet in roughly a 30-mile radius around Washington, and enhance security in the 15-mile Flight Restricted Zone around the district. "Terrorists are known to favor targets in the transportation sector and to consider our civil aviation system an arsenal of improvised weapons," DOT Undersecretary James M. Loy, head of the TSA, said in a news release. Agency officials said they had designed the restrictions to increase security while allowing local general aviation airports to remain in operation. "The Washington capital region is home to a number of particularly symbolic targets which must be protected," said Loy. "We appreciate the cooperation of the general aviation community as we implement sound security measures and tighten our defenses during this period of heightened alert." The TSA said it is working with local law enforcement to increase security at general aviation fields in the Washington, D.C., region. General aviation Part 91 operations continue to be prohibited within the Washington special flight rules area (SFAR 94) within 15 nm of Reagan Washington National Airport, AOPA said.

...Affecting GA Operations At 23 Airports...

The restricted airspace affects 23 public-use airports in the region, which are home to more than 2,400 aircraft and are just shy of 2,500 operations per day on average, AOPA said. The new measures will require GA pilots to maintain two-way radio communications, use a discrete transponder code, file IFR/VFR flight plans and follow standard air traffic procedures before entering the ADIZ. All existing waivers in the Flight Restricted Zone have been cancelled, and will be re-evaluated by the TSA. The only exception is for the waiver holders for operations into and out of the Maryland "DC3" airports (College Park, Hyde Field, and Potomac Airpark), according to AOPA. However, aircraft, crew, and passengers at the DC3 airports will be subject to security screening by the TSA prior to departing. Arrivals will be required to first land at Lee Airport, which is the "gateway" airport outside of the TFR airspace, for screening prior to landing at the DC3. The details of these procedures are still being worked out, AOPA said. FAA Administrator Marion C. Blakey said in Saturday's news release, "As all federal, local and state agencies work together to respond to an increased threat level, the FAA will redouble its efforts to get the pilot community timely, accurate information and to balance current security needs with the needs of the flying public." She reminded pilots in the area to always check NOTAMs before flight.

...As Alphabets Plead GA Case

Last week, when these new restrictions were still a gleam in the eye of the TSA, GA alphabet groups were beating the pavement in Washington in an effort to convince the nation's leaders that small airplanes are not a security threat. Ed Bolen, president of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), testified at the Senate and AOPA President Phil Boyer called on several key members of Congress. Boyer visited Senate aviation subcommittee chairman Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and others to ask that a new TSA rule be suspended and rewritten. As AVweb reported, the rule allows TSA to yank a pilot's certificate based on secret evidence, with no recourse for appeal other than to the TSA. Bolen testified at a meeting of the Senate aviation subcommittee that GA has worked hard to improve security, but complained that the Department of Justice (DOJ) has failed to create a procedure to screen foreign applicants for flight training in large aircraft. "This is an outrage," he said. "As a result of the DOJ's inaction," Bolen continued, "flight schools have lost students, flight instructors have lost their jobs, and domestic manufacturers have lost sales to foreign competitors." Boyer last week said he was finding sympathy for his campaign against TSA's pilot-certificate rule. "Our goal is to sensitize members of Congress to the issue," he said. "And everyone we've talked to so far agrees. ... We cannot, we will not, give up our basic rights to protect us from some vague and secret 'threat.'"

NOTE: Read the full text of Bolen's testimony at the Senate, available in Adobe's Portable Document Format. Click here for more about Boyer's efforts on Capitol Hill.

Frequency Crunch

Next-Generation ATC Communications Go Digital...

Last Wednesday, the FAA gave $16 million to ITT Industries of Fort Wayne, Ind., and $21 million to Harris Corp., of Melbourne, Fla., to come up with prototype designs for NEXCOM, the Next Generation Air/Ground Communications System. NEXCOM will integrate data link with digital voice, to make more-efficient use of the available frequency spectrum. The new technology is considered crucial to support continued industry growth -- without NEXCOM, today's 50-year-old communications system would reach its saturation point by 2010. Both companies have 20 months to design and build a working prototype. The winning design will be awarded a full development contract that could be worth up to $400 million by 2012.

...As Technology Expands Capabilities

Harris and ITT each will produce a package that includes the architecture, equipment specifications, and supporting technical documents for the initial systems. They also will develop engineering design models of NEXCOM ground network systems and use them to demonstrate a specified set of NEXCOM capabilities. NEXCOM uses VHF Digital Link Mode 3 technology to provide four communications channels for each single analog frequency in use today for ATC air-to-ground communications. These four independent channels allow simultaneous voice and data transmission between controllers and pilots. That means more ATC sectors can be added and more communications channels can be deployed throughout the national airspace system. The system also provides more options to enhance security than the old analog system. This digital highway then will become the communications infrastructure for NEXCOM.


Briefs...

President's 2004 FAA Budget Raises Eyebrows, But No Alarms

President Bush last week released his budget proposal for fiscal year 2004, and so far, GA groups seem to be more-or-less okay with it. The FAA would get about $14 billion, an increase of about 3 percent over the previous year. The National Air Transportation Association (NATA) checked over the plan and gave it a passing grade -- with some reservations -- noting that it abides by the funding guarantees established by the Aviation Investment and Reform Act (AIR-21) for airport development and infrastructure. AOPA scrutinized the proposal and found no hidden user fees and no nefarious attempts to privatize air traffic control. NATA raised concern over a decline in funding for the Facilities and Equipment and Research, Engineering and Development accounts. "The future of aviation rests with this country's endeavors and advancements in modern technology," said NATA President James Coyne. "Funding reductions in these two accounts at this critical stage within the aviation industry is not the correct course to sail." AOPA President Phil Boyer also noted that, because the administration has classified ATC as a service that could be commercialized, "We will have to remain vigilant." In any case, the budget for fiscal year 2003 has not yet been agreed upon, so this Bush budget plan is simply the start of a long and torturous road.

NOTE: Click here to download the complete text of the FAA FY2004 budget, in Adobe's Portable Document Format.

Wichita Workers Get Some Help

One of the cities hardest hit by the slump in aviation business has been Wichita, Kan., where workers at Boeing, Bombardier, Cessna and Raytheon have suffered a blizzard of pink slips. Last Thursday, Wichita got some good news from the federal government: up to $4 million in grant money for job-training programs. The money is targeted to help laid-off aviation workers, The Wichita Eagle reported, and there are plenty of them -- more than 11,000 have lost their jobs in the last 18 months. The program does have critics: "It's another Band-Aid solution," union worker Sue Ledbetter told the Eagle. "It might be a beginning, but it's not the answer." Meanwhile, economic consultant William Fruth told a local bankers' group last week that the city's best strategy might be to wean itself away from its aviation dependence. "The strongest economies are typically well diversified," he said, according to the Wichita Business Journal. "The weaker ones are dependent on one industry and that one industry may have gone into decline."

Shuttle Investigation Gets Help, High- And Low-Tech

NASA needs to collect all the evidence it can to help in its analysis of what went wrong Feb. 1, and last week the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the FAA solicited help from both high- and low-tech sectors of the aviation world to help the Space Shuttle Columbia investigation. Seven powered parachutes have officially joined the search in Texas, the Web site space.com reported on Saturday, and up to 100 volunteer pilots may be called upon to help. Plus, military radar analysis announced this weekend shows something may have departed the shuttle Jan. 17, while it was in orbit. The object appears to have left the orbiter with a relative speed of just 11 mph and fell out of orbit Jan. 19. The object's trajectory as it fell toward earth indicates it was very light. The chutes can fly low over treetops and swamps, locating debris that ground searchers might miss. They also are slow and stable enough to make good video-camera platforms to document the flight path. John Rivers, designer of the Destiny powered parachutes, told space.com that the fliers completed three sorties for NASA last Friday, and sighted a lot of debris. "The aircraft can fly extremely low so it's great for this overhead observing," Rivers said. "Sometimes we'll be flying two to three feet off the deck."

Three Maryland Airports May Lose Funding

Airports, large and small, are always fighting for federal money, and three in Maryland seem to be fighting for their livelihood. Greater Cumberland Regional Airport, Hagerstown and Salisbury/Ocean City will lose up to $100 million in federal grants if the regional air service linking them to Baltimore/Washington International Airport (BWI) ceases to exist. Airport officials claim that losing their airline service, and possibly the federal funding as well, could be disastrous. For this reason, the group of officials is trying to convince state legislators that an extension of their financial commitment to regional air service to BWI will help the airports pay for upgrades and, ultimately, bring millions of dollars to Maryland's economy. At the very least, the group believes the state should give back the $750,000 it took out of the program last year. "That money is critical to the survival of Maryland's other commercial airports, and is essential to the economic and tourism development in those areas of the state," said Robert Bryant, manager of Salisbury/Ocean City Wicomico Regional Airport. He told the Baltimore Business Journal the three airports need to lure about $100 million from the federal government over the next five years to pay for runway extensions and other improvement projects that will allow them to handle larger planes.

AD Watch

The FAA has made final an Airworthiness Directive (AD) for certain models of Hartzell Propellers installed on Pitts aircraft, stipulating that their certified service life is limited to 2,000 hours, and has extended the comment period. on its final rule regarding Aging Airplane Safety. The rule applies to multiengine aircraft older than 14 years used in Part 121 operations. Comments will be accepted until May 5. The FAA says the prop change is necessary to prevent failure of the original hub and blades in flight. The one comment received had no impact on the rulemaking, the FAA said, since the commenter claimed that there is no documentation of the hours on props, which the FAA refutes. Also, at the request of the Air Transport Association and the Regional Airline Association, the FAA has extended the comment period.

103 Years -- A Lifetime And An Era In Flight

Ralph Charles, one of the country's oldest pilots, died Feb. 2 at age 103, in Somerset, Ohio. In his youth he worked with the Wright brothers as a welder. He later ran his own airport, and in the 1930s he flew Stinsons and Ford Tri-Motors for TWA and other airlines. During World War II, Charles flew as a test pilot for Curtiss-Wright. After the war, he gave up flying for many years, but never lost his passion for it. "Sometimes when I would mow, I would imagine my tractor was a plane and I was rising up into the sky," he told the Associated Press in a 1999 interview. He took up flying again in 1995, and owned an Aeronca Defender. He last flew in the summer of 2001.


On The Fly...

Helicopter orders are expected to increase by about 100, or 4 percent, over the next four years, according to the Dallas Morning News...

Stanford University, in Palo Alto, Calif., seeks 100 experienced pilots to help study the effect of aging on flying skills. Pilots must be age 45 to 65, with 300 to 15,000 flight hours and a current medical. For more info call 650-852-3457 or e-mail Tiffany Doelger...

Executives at Delta Air Lines last week took pay cuts of 8 to 10 percent and hinted that pilots may be asked for concessions soon....

NASA has established telephone hotlines and e-mail addresses for the public to report information that may help investigators studying the Shuttle Columbia accident. Anyone who discovers debris or who has film or video evidence that may be of value to the investigation team is urged to use these contacts...

The Be A Pilot program announced last week it has brought stories about flying to the general media that reached 200 million members of the general public. "This success should encourage everyone trying to bring new people into aviation and rebuild the base of the business," said Be A Pilot President/CEO Drew Steketee.


Short Final...

In the late 80's, I attended Daniel Webster College for my Aviation Management/Flight Operations Degree. At the time there were several AF ROTC candidates on campus and the usual amount of paraphernalia that accompanies their recruitment.

While visiting a friend, an ROTC candidate, in his on-campus townhouse, I had to use his "facilities." To my surprise, I noticed a pencil on top of the commode that inappropriately advertised, "Air Force -- Aim High!"

Contributions to Short Final are welcomed at sf@avweb.com.

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