Pressure is mounting on the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to change the controversial rule that allows it to unilaterally force the suspension and revocation of any airman's certificate (mechanics are also subject to the rule). Currently, the only appeal is to the TSA. Don Young (R-Ala.), chairman of the House Transportation Committee, and the notoriously straight-talking aviation alumni of his home state of Alaska are boiling about the rule. Young has threatened to introduce legislation to quash the "unfair and probably unconstitutional" rule if the TSA doesn't modify it. "I am still very concerned that the rights of pilots may be adversely affected if the rule is implemented as currently written," Young wrote to TSA head Adm. James Loy. Young was particularly upset that the rule was enacted 16 months after 9/11 and without notice. "If there is new intelligence that indicates that pilots are a greater threat, I would like to hear about that from you," he wrote. Young pointed out that the 9/11 hijackers, although they had taken flight training, boarded the aircraft as passengers, suggesting intelligence, immigration and airport security systems were to blame. "This does not justify taking away the rights of U.S. citizen pilots more than 16 months after the fact." Young also said he believes the TSA rules go beyond Congress' intent in that the authority to revoke and suspend certificates is not part of the Aviation and Transportation Act that created the TSA. To date, 11 certificates have been suspended or revoked. All of those were pulled, in secret, last August and all are held by foreign nationals not permitted in the U.S. According to a Saudi Arabian newspaper, two pilots from that country got their U.S. licenses back on Jan. 22.
Seeking "due process," AOPA and Young both recently had telephone chats with Loy and followed up with tough-talking letters. AOPA would like the appeal process to go to the NTSB, which already hears appeals on suspensions and revocations made by the FAA for reasons other than security. "We believe [the rule] undermines one of the most foundational elements of the nation by suspending the rights of U.S. citizens who hold pilot certificates to 'due process,'" AOPA President Phil Boyer wrote to Loy. The rule caught most aviation groups by surprise when it was enacted, without first offering a period for public comment, on Jan. 24. Since much of the evidence against a certificate holder might be gathered from intelligence sources, the rule allows the TSA to keep its reasons for pulling the certificate secret. AOPA also wants enforcement of the rule to be suspended while public comment is gathered and it wants the security threats that can cause a suspension to be publicly defined.
About 10 days ago, Congress quietly passed a law banning banner towing and other aerial advertising over major sports events for the next year. Since 9/11, a three-nm, 3,000-ft. no-fly zone has been imposed on GA traffic over events at stadiums with more than 30,000 seats. Banner towers were able to continue business by undergoing security checks and applying for FAA-issued waivers. The new law, which does not affect certain other aircraft, bars aerial advertisers from getting the waivers for the next year. Julian Hayes, lawyer for the U.S Aerial Advertising Association, told AVweb the group may mount a constitutional challenge of the law. He said the law discriminates against the banner towers because it permits continued access to the airspace by broadcast aircraft and for helicopters used to transport game officials and dignitaries. Hayes said those are commercial uses and Congress can't pick and choose who can fly over a sports stadium. "We (aerial advertisers) have a right to be there," said Hayes. AOPA was also upset at the law, although there were some victories in it for GA. Previously, whenever banner towers were banned from sports events, it had to be done by way of an airspace closure, which often closed down nearby GA airports for the duration of the game. The legislation permits normal traffic to continue at airports within the three-nm zone. AOPA suggested the banner towers made a tactical error in fighting the legislation by opting for court challenges instead of lobbying action. But Hayes said there's no way the small businesses making up the USAAA could have afforded to out-lobby the likes of the NFL, Major League Baseball and NASCAR and the courts are their only realistic option.
They've tried layoffs, belt-tightening and other in-house economies and now to save money Raytheon is looking at farming out some of its production work. In a letter sent to employees earlier this month, Raytheon Aircraft CEO Jim Schuster outlined plans to send some of the work currently performed in house to outside suppliers. "If it makes good business sense, then we will consider that option," the letter said. Raytheon's memo cited a rising number of used aircraft up for sale and reduced demand for new planes for the company's reduced sales. Schuster's letter to employees also stressed the company's need to become more competitive. "You have all probably seen recent articles about restructuring in our industry, most recently at Bombardier and Boeing," Schuster wrote. It will take some time to implement any changes that do come about. "This change to our model won't happen overnight," Schuster said. "It may take two to three years." Raytheon has cut more than 2,000 jobs in the last two years and will chop another 600 this year, leaving a workforce of nearly 7,000 in Wichita. Bombardier and Cessna have laid off a total of 3,000.
What's bad news for the aircraft company production workers is sometimes good news for companies like Avcorp, which have carved out a niche building components for the big companies. But it can still be a struggle for the subcontractors and earlier this month Vancouver-based Avcorp's bank called a $12.5 million loan. Last week the company announced it had found new financing and the business would be carrying on. That was undoubtedly good news to Cessna, Eclipse, Boeing and Bombardier, all of which have various pieces of fuselage built by Avcorp. In fact, it was probably a major deal with Cessna that helped convince the unnamed bank to jump in to save the company. Last September, Avcorp won a contract to make the wing box and tail assemblies for Cessna's third-generation business jet series, the CJ3. The deal boosted Avcorp's contracts in hand to almost $500 million (Canadian). In addition to the bank refinancing, the company is looking to sell its 300,000-sqaure-foot building with a lease-back arrangement and is looking for more investors. It's also arranged short-term loans for operating funds until these other ships come in.
Icing appears to be the focus of the NTSB's investigation into the crash in Minnesota last October of a Beech King Air carrying Sen. Paul Wellstone and members of his family. Meanwhile, in Washington State, fuel starvation appears to be the cause of the emergency ditching of a historic Boeing Stratoliner near Seattle last March. The NTSB released documents on both investigations on Friday. In neither case does the NTSB draw final conclusions about the mishaps. According to NTSB documents, Richard Conry, the pilot of Wellstone's chartered flight, considered canceling the flight because of possible icing but elected to press on when the weather improved. Wellstone himself had been encouraged to take the flight by another pilot who had just arrived at St. Paul Downtown Airport on a flight from Duluth. According to the NTSB papers, the unidentified pilot told Wellstone "the weather was at minimums, but the pilots could handle it." The plane went down about 2.5 miles from Eleveth-Virginia Municipal Airport. In Seattle, documents released by the NTSB said veteran Boeing test pilots at the controls of the Stratoliner watched helplessly as the power dropped in one engine and a fuel-pressure warning light came on. Moments later, the crew ditched the powerless airliner 50 feet from shore in Elliot Bay in front of a seaside restaurant full with the lunch crowd. None of the four crew members was hurt and the plane will be repaired by June.
So, who's doing the 100-hour inspection on your airplane? Three owners who took their planes to a business at Hayward Executive Airport near Oakland, Calif., discovered the hard way that their annuals weren't worth the paper they were signed on. And one of them could have paid a heavier price. U.S. District Court Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong sentenced James M. Hays, of nearby Lakeport, to two years in jail for falsely certifying the inspections on the aircraft. According to a report in the Oakland Tribune, Hays was a mechanic and owned Hays Aviation but he was not licensed to do inspections. After Hays had illegally signed off one of the aircraft, a properly credentialed inspector discovered an exhaust leak that could have allowed carbon monoxide to enter the cabin through the heater. A hearing will be held April 15 to determine the restitution Hays must pay the aircraft owners. He goes to jail the next day. He's also been stripped permanently of his mechanic and pilot certificates by the FAA.
Boeing appears to be banking its financial future on U.S. defense contracts as the market for airliners continues to lag. Meanwhile, problems are looming for Airbus and they could give Boeing back its competitive edge. An MSNBC analysis shows a major boost in defense contracts has helped Boeing compensate for the drastic loss of business on the commercial side. In Europe, the powerful euro is bringing Airbus to its knees. In 1999, airliners accounted for two-thirds of Boeing's $58 billion in revenue. Last year, the commercial jet business provided barely half of Boeing's income and a 9.4 percent spike in defense business filled the gap. The report also points out proposed deals like a lease arrangement, worth $17 billion, to outfit Boeing 767s as tankers and the possibility of government support to secure and enhance space and satellite systems. Airbus is gamely trying to compete for the tanker business and has even opened an office in Wichita, but the report says there's no realistic chance of the European company's winning any major U.S. defense contracts. The poor economy in the U.S. has been a double whammy for Airbus. The U.S. dollar has weakened significantly against the euro in recent months Airbus sells aircraft in dollars but about half of its costs are in euros, so the weak American dollar is giving a financial advantage to Boeing in areas, like commercial jets, where the two compete.
A pilot revered as an aviation legend in Minnesota shouldn't have been flying at all the day his Curtiss JN4 crashed, killing him and seriously injuring a passenger. R.W. "Buzz" Kaplan had been flying illegally for almost 20 years. The 78-year-old former bush pilot and adventurer hadn't renewed his medical since 1979. "Unfortunately, yes it's true," FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The man who was with Kaplan last June 26 said his medical condition had nothing to do with the crash, however. Brent Langer said he believes Kaplan stalled the notoriously underpowered biplane by trying to turn too steeply at too slow a speed, shortly after takeoff from Owatonna Airport. Langer also said he was surprised that Kaplan was flying illegally. Kaplan was known for the diverse and unusual aircraft he restored and flew to EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh every year. He learned to fly shortly after the Second World War and flew in Africa, Antarctica and Alaska. He was inducted into the Minnesota Aviation Hall of Fame.
Well, the FAA staff in charge of ADs must have had a particularly productive week. No less than four final rules and one proposed rule made it from their OUT baskets this week...
APEX Aircraft CAP 10B owners must install inspection plates in the wings so they can keep an eye out for cracks in the upper and lower spars. CAP 10B owners must also refrain from entering flick maneuvers at any faster than 97 knots and make sure the aircraft is placarded as such.
Certain serial numbers of NARCO AT150 transponders need work because they don't always respond to Mode S ground stations and airborne collision avoidance equipment. Apparently the addition of a resistor and a transistor will get them working properly. Comments must be received by April 21 for this proposed AD.
Robinson R22 and R44 helicopter owners must check for roughness or binding in the tail rotor pitch control bearings of their craft. Suspect bearing must be replaced to prevent possible loss of directional control.
Owners of Socata Models TB 9, TB 10, TB 20 TB 21 and TB 200 airplanes must regularly inspect the aileron control gimbal joint for correct alignment and operation.
The air show that kicks off the Blue Angels' season each year has been cancelled this year for security reasons. Officials at Naval Air Facility El Centro said the decision to cancel the March 15 spectacle wasn't taken lightly. There was no specific threat against the base or the show; the cancellation was due to the general increased security posture of all armed forces...
Now the pilots that use Killeen, Texas, Municipal Airport can welcome the president home. The FAA and Secret Service have relented on the strict enforcement of the Crawford P-49 restricted airspace, which expands to within 700 feet of the north end of Killeen's only runway when the president is at his ranch. The two agencies have agreed to a four-mile cutout of P-49 allowing full use of the airport at all times...
Students from Honolulu Community College and the University of North Dakota swept many of the top awards in the Great Hawaiian Air Race. The students beat many seasoned airline and military pilots in the race, which crisscrosses the islands in a 600-mile route that tests pilot proficiency as well as speed. Overall speed winner was the father-daughter team of Mike and Emily Singer, while the husband-wife team of Steve and Joanna Bobko-Hillenaar won the overall proficiency prize...
Ecuadoran officials and the families of 59 people missing since 1976 now have the answers they've craved. Climbers on the Chimborazo volcano, about 90 miles south of Quito, found the wreckage of a Saeta Airlines Viscount. Locals had speculated for years the plane had been taken by drug dealers or abducted by aliens...
Pilots can now open an online account on the FAA's Civil Aviation Registry Web site. That means you can change your address and access other services without leaving your deskto walk to the mail box...
The EAA Southwest Regional Fly-In has changed venues and dates. The popular event has switched to New Braunfels Municipal Airport (BAZ) between San Antonio and Austin, Texas, May 16-17. Organizers say the new dates should promise good weather and the community is welcoming the event...
One of the world's top aviation law experts, Lee Kreindler, died last Tuesday at 78. Kreindler was the lead plaintiffs' counsel in most of the major domestic and international aviation litigation cases over accidents and bombings since 1950. The case file included Pan Am 103, TWA Flight 800 and the Swissair MD-11 crash off Nova Scotia...
About 400 Australians have launched suits claiming they've developed deep vein thrombosis from long-haul flights in airliners. Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority and various airlines are named in the suits, which allege passengers weren't adequately warned of the risk of developing blood clots from sitting for long periods on planes.
More from our When you gotta go, you gotta go file...
While waiting on the ground for a half hour for bad weather to clear, I overheard the following:
Tower: "United 123 taxi into position and hold."
United 123: "We are unable to. We have a passenger in the lavatory."
Tower: "United 124, do you have a passenger in the lav?"
United 124: "No sir."
Tower: "United 124, you're up!"
Contributions to Short Final are welcomed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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ATTENTION CESSNA PILOTS AND OWNERS! CESSNA PILOTS ASSOCIATION (CPA) announces 2003 System and Procedure Seminar schedule. Learn from CPA's experts in Cessna systems. If you want to keep your Cessna aircraft running at its best -- and safest -- sign up for one of these seminars today. They fill up fast! Member or non-member, go online for the complete schedule, or e-mail Christine Fagundes and mention this AVflash.
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