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FAA Defends Pilots?

D.C. Stingers Target Them...

The agency we occasionally love to hate told AVweb it's looking out for GA interests as various security-inspired measures -- including jeep-mounted anti-aircraft stinger missiles freshly redeployed this week around the capital -- seemingly put the crosshairs on an already-targeted GA sector. FAA spokesman Greg Martin said the agency went to bat for GA in the implementation of the air defense identification zone (ADIZ) around Washington, D.C., and it's working on becoming involved in the appeal process for airmen's certificates suspended on orders from the Transportation Security Administration. Martin said there were (and presumably still are) other federal officials who would rather shut down GA in the Washington, D.C., area. "We're trying to do better but these are unique times and there's a bit of a learning curve associated with that," Martin said. But he said the FAA was successfully able to argue for the ADIZ, which, with its flight-planning and communications requirements, makes flying less convenient, yet still allows it to take place. He also noted that major aviation groups and the media got two days' notice of the implementation. As for the controversial TSA rule that can result in security-related certificate suspension and revocation, Martin said the FAA wants an advisory role in the appeal process. The rule gives all authority to the TSA to decide who can hold a certificate, but the FAA wants input on those decisions. "There is a recognition there has to be some impartiality in the appeal process," he said. Martin also confirmed that there have been no further certificate suspensions beyond the 11 foreign nationals, all of whom are barred from the U.S., originally targeted by the TSA rule.

...As Safety Sacrificed For Security...

And while most us would stipulate that complicated flying is better than no flying at all, various alphabet groups are pointing out some rather glaring safety consequences of the ADIZ rules that require all aircraft be in constant contact with the Potomac TRACON while in the zone. Translation: Those operating out of non-towered airports can't very well use the normal UNICOM or common traffic advisory frequencies to exchange position reports. "That increases the risk of a midair collision at the non-towered airports within the ADIZ," said an observant AOPA news release. A herd of alphabet groups was invited to a meeting with TSA and FAA officials Monday. "Of critical concern is the conflict between security and safety concerns," said the AOPA news release that resulted. AOPA also wondered whether ATC could handle the increased load and if flight service can process the higher volume of flight plans. The National Association of Flight Instructors echoed the communications concerns and also noted that the flight restrictions have severely limited the space in which training aircraft can operate. "Sandwiched between the restricted zones in Washington and Camp David is little space to safely operate and accomplish flight training, since dozens of airplanes are trying to do the same thing," said Iwan Blom, chief pilot at Montgomery Aviation at Montgomery County Airport in Maryland.

...DC-3 Hardest Hit, Again

Of course, as has been the case since 9/11, pilots based at College Park Airport, Hyde Field and Potomac Airfield -- the so-called DC-3 -- continue to take a beating. They've already undergone rigorous security checks just to be able to use their home fields and now, once airborne inside the ADIZ, will have to stop at Lee Airport in Annapolis for further security checks. The rule applies even if the pilots have stayed aloft the entire flight. "Well-intentioned people at various headquarters have issued policy that is operationally dysfunctional," David Wartofsky, owner of Potomac Airfield, told The Washington Post. Pilot David Wills said the stop in Annapolis will add 90 minutes to his regular flights from an airport near Hagerstown to College Park. "Why do I have to go through a search when I've already been cleared?" he said. College Park Manager Lee Schiek told the Post the government is treating the DC-3 as "acceptable collateral damage in the fight against terrorism," but the FAA's Martin evaluated that same damage as "completely unacceptable."


Cessna, Eclipse Supplier In Cash Crunch?

Avcorp's Bank Demands Loan Repayment...

The financial difficulties of an obscure Canadian aerospace company could have far-reaching effects in the business and commercial jet sector. Avcorp, of Vancouver, B.C., makes airframe components for the new Cessna Sovereign and CJ3 jets, the Eclipse 500, Bombardier regional jets and Boeing airliners and has been ordered to repay the full amount of a $12.5 million loan owed to an unnamed bank -- the deadline for that repayment passed Tuesday. Avcorp officials refused to discuss the situation with AVweb in two phone conversations and an e-mail request, but said a press release would soon be issued. According to press releases currently on the Web site, Avcorp has received three extensions on the credit agreement it has with its bank. The latest one expired on Jan. 30 and the company was given two business weeks to repay the balance of the loan. In a Jan. 24 press release, the company said it was in breach of some ratio covenants with the bank. Avcorp has also been to the market at least three times to raise capital and received a $3.2 million research grant from the government of Canada in October. Like many aerospace companies, Avcorp traces its troubles to 9/11, at which time it employed 750 people in a 300,000-square-foot facility in the Vancouver suburb of Delta. As of the end of 2002 it had 379 employees.

...Company Officials Keeping Quiet

The effects of Avcorp's troubles are hard to gauge because two of the companies most prominently associated with the firm are also offering no comment. Avcorp is building the wing spar for Cessna's new Sovereign (currently in flight tests) and the wing box and tail assembly for the CJ3. Cessna spokeswoman Jessica Myers was happy to talk about both airplanes in general, but not in relation to Avcorp. "It's inappropriate to comment at this time," she said. Avcorp is building the ailerons, elevators, rudder, nose assembly and speed brake on the Eclipse. Spokeswoman Dottie Hall said parts have been supplied for the second airframe currently under construction but beyond that she declined detailed comment. "Basically, we're sorry about their business situation but I have been assured we will be able to find other suppliers if necessary," she said. Because of well-publicized problems with its engines, Eclipse's production timeline has been pushed back two years to 2006, so an interruption in supply from Avcorp is less critical. But Cessna's affected airplanes are at pivotal points in their development. The first three Sovereigns are undergoing flight tests and the first production model is on the assembly line. There are 160 orders with first deliveries slated for early next year. The prototype CJ3 is nearing completion with a first flight planned for sometime in the second quarter of this year. Myers declined to say whether parts from Avcorp are on hand for both projects but she did say both aircraft are on schedule.


Briefs...

Missile "Jammer" Bill Introduced

U.S. airliners would be equipped with missile-jamming gear -- at a cost of up to $10 billion -- under a bill introduced in Congress last Wednesday. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) sponsored the bill, which would pay between $1 million and $1.5 million to add the electronic gear to each and every airliner in the country. "This is a very, very serious danger," Schumer told a news conference held Sunday in Manhattan. Various options to protect airliners from portable ground-to-air missiles were explored by federal authorities even before two Russian-made missiles narrowly missed an Israeli Arkia Airlines jet taking off from a Kenyan airport last Thanksgiving. Security has been tightened around major airports and some airports have closed public viewing areas. Shumer and Israel reportedly told the news conference that the systems they propose work by steering the missiles away from planes by jamming their guidance systems. The shoulder-launched missiles we've heard of are heat-seekers, so we don't understand how those can be "jammed" per se, but for $1.5 million each, who knows? One thing is certain, however. Nobody better be asking the airlines to chip in. Budget carrier Southwest is the only major U.S. airline making money and at least one analyst says the rest of the industry is just about at the end of its rope. "The losses are so enormous that these cannot be sustained and we're probably pretty much at the end of our borrowing ability now in the capital markets," said Darryl Jenkins of George Washington University's Aviation Institute.

Paper Airplanes Take Flight (We Hope)

Airline stock may not be worth the paper it's printed on but there'll be a lot riding on some cardboard, paperboard and linerboard creations April 5. Ten college engineering teams will try to fly hang-glider frames with flying surfaces made of paper from an 80-foot dune near Kitty Hawk. It will be the final phase of Energy Challenge 2003, a national competition held to test the imagination and engineering prowess of students in building full-scale projects out of paper products. It's also aimed at raising awareness about energy efficiency, recycling and pulp and paper industrial processes. The students will be provided with hang-glider frames to cover and will be judged on the strength, recycle content, aesthetics, novelty of design and moisture resistance of their creations. All the pilots will be trained and certified to U.S. Hang Gliding Association standards. The winning team gets $15,000, second place is worth $10,000 and third prize is $5,000. We just hope it doesn't rain.

Laser Plane Misses Iraq War

Don't look for an airborne laser light show over Iraq if and when the war begins. U.S. forces will have to rely on plain old high-tech missiles to shoot down any missiles the enemy lofts their way, because the laser-packing Boeing 747 now under development won't be ready in time. Mark Danner, program manager of the Boeing Missile Defense Systems/Airborne Laser system, told Wichita Rotarians last week the only completed (of a possible 11 to follow) laser-equipped 747 is still being worked on at Edwards Air Force Base. The highly modified jumbo jet, which was altered to accommodate the laser in Wichita, had its first flight last summer before heading to Edwards. A second aircraft is being modified. The aircraft are designed to loiter at 40,000 feet and blast incoming missiles out of the air from hundreds of miles away. The first live test of the strange-looking craft is scheduled for 2004 and the system is scheduled to be operational by 2008.

Bell Future Hangs On Osprey

After hovering below the profit line in 2001, Bell Helicopter Textron has recovered to a small profit and is looking for big things from its biggest gamble ever -- the V-22 Osprey. After some deadly failures earlier in the program, Bell CEO Peter Murphey is upbeat about the Osprey and other military programs. "I feel really good about where we are and what we accomplished last year," Murphey told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. But industry analyst Peter Arment, of JSA Research, thinks "The V-22 is a company maker or breaker." The Osprey resumed flight tests in 2002 and the program faces a critical test in May when Pete Aldrich, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, reviews the program. Aldrich has been critical of the Osprey in the past. Bell has registered some successes with other projects, including a civilian tilt rotor that's almost ready for flight testing and a new helicopter, the AB-139, that it developed with Italy's Agusta.

Hypersonic Engine Passes Ground Tests

They've made it work on the ground and now Aerojet is working toward a flying version of its HyFly hypersonic ramjet missile engine. The company recently completed tests of a beefed up "heavy-weight" variant of the engine at Arnold Engineering Development Center in Tennessee. The engine was tested in simulated conditions at various altitudes and speeds as high as Mach 6.5. "The success of the tests ... demonstrates our ability to design, build and manage testing of a hypersonic engine," Program Manager Chuck Beaudry said in a news release. Aerojet is developing the engine for Boeing's Phantom Works as part of its contract to develop the HyFly long-range strike missile demonstrator program. The recent tests will help Aerojet optimize the design and performance of the engine before building a "flightweight" model that can be put inside a missile. Flight tests will eventually be carried out at Point Mugu Naval Air Weapons Station in California.

Enhanced Vision Recognized In Regs

The FAA is writing new regulations to accommodate the development of enhanced vision systems and to distinguish them from synthetic vision systems that will not be permitted. Both systems help pilots land in weather that is below current minimums, by allowing them to see the airport as if it were above minimums. Enhanced vision uses sensors that can display a real-time image of such handy sights as approach and runway lights and the tarmac itself. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking appeared in the Federal Register earlier this week and comments will be accepted until March 27. The new rule will validate the existence of the enhanced vision system. Gulfstream is putting this type of system on some of its pricier bizjets. The synthetic vision system puts everything under the control of computers that take the altitude and location of an aircraft and compare it to a database of terrain, obstacles and other features to create a virtual image of the final phase of flight.

Man-Powered Plane Designer Honored

Well, he may not have come up with green ketchup, but Paul B. MacCready's accomplishments flavoring aviation with energy conservation have earned him the $250,000 Heinz Award. MacCready designed the Gossamer Albatross, the first human-powered aircraft to cross the English Channel. The award honors the memory of Sen. John Heinz, heir to the food company fortune. In addition to the Albatross, MacCready's company, AeroVironment Inc., has developed various alternative-energy aircraft and vehicles.


On The Fly...

Total industry billings fell from an all-time high of $13.9 billion to $11.9 billion in 2002, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association announced yesterday. Shipments in the U.S. were down from 2001 by 13.6 percent for singles, 11.6 percent for twins and a whopping 38.9 percent for turboprops. Read the full text of the news release, available in Adobe's Portable Document Format.

A Delta Boeing 767 shed a landing-gear door on approach to San Juan International Airport in Puerto Rico. The door thudded to earth beside a carport in the San Juan suburb of Bayamon. No one was hurt and there was no damage ... except to the door...

Well, there's nothing like a riot at the airport -- by airline employees -- to inspire confidence in air travel. French riot police had to use smoke bombs to keep the protesting employees of Air Lib from reaching the runway at Orly Airport in Paris. The workers did manage to block a highway for 90 minutes. Air Lib ceased operations last week after the French government cut subsidies....

Perhaps breaking them in for hardships to follow, some soldiers headed to the Persian Gulf will get there via a long flight on a domestic airliner conscripted for the effort by the Defense Department. A total of 47 airliners from most of the majors will take part in the airlift and another 31 wide-body cargo jets are on call for the effort...

It's not just people who are flying less. A drop in the package business has United Parcel Service looking at laying off up to 100 pilots if it can't reach a deal with the union for voluntary separations and leaves of absence. The company has 2,515 pilots.


AVweb's Picture Of The Week...

*** PREVIOUS RESULTS ***

We received over 80 pictures last week. Congratulations to this week's winner, Adam Cowburn, of Westfield, N.J., whose picture helped set a theme of winter landings for this week's contest. His photo, titled "Dropping in on LaGuardia," gives us a beautiful yet rare bird's-eye view of one of New York's major air-carrier airports.  Unfortunately, this vantage point is becoming more of a rarity, thanks to the numerous airspace restrictions in place.  Great picture, Adam! 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 CFI certificate applicants. Nearly half (41 percent) of our respondents felt that no amendment was needed to the current set of CFI requirements, as the CFI is a demanding certificate with a high level of training already in place. Only 22 percent of those responding felt that some changes may be necessary, but emphasized that careful thought should be placed on what areas need to be redone.

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 the new D.C.-area ADIZ.  Please go to http://www.avweb.com/qotw to respond.

Have an idea for a new QOTW? Send your suggestions to qotw@avweb.com.

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