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Cirrus Launches Safety Study

Aircraft Safety Versus Pilot Complacency...

As Cirrus Design rolled out its first two full glass cockpit-outfitted SR22s last week, Cirrus CEO Alan Klapmeier told AVweb the company is bringing together a group of experts from industry, government and universities to explore how improved technology and aircraft safety may affect the pilots who fly the airplanes. What Cirrus hopes to determine is whether easier-to-fly, more comfortable and technologically advanced airplanes lower the guard of those flying them. The group will study a string of Cirrus accidents, which (except the famous dangling-aileron incident in Texas last fall) seemingly had nothing to do with the airplane itself. "It's not good enough to say that it's pilot error and it's not our problem," said Klapmeier. "One of those questions becomes [one of] complacency," he said. "As the airplane's easier to fly ... are we losing focus along the way?" He said there have already been studies done on the effects of safety improvements in cars on driver attitude and action and some of that data might apply to this research. Klapmeier said he's hoping to have a report in about two months. As appealing as the clean, modern appearance of the aircraft and its new electronic panelmay be, the whole idea, Klapmeier told AVweb, is to make the airplanes easier and safer to fly -- something that has been the company philosophy from the start.

...Accidents Versus Customer Profile...

Klapmeier said Cirrus thoroughly examined the backgrounds, ages, and flight experience of its more than 700 customers and was unable to find any common threads. "The data is all over the place," he said. Klapmeier rejects the often-suggested theory that the existence of the parachute causes pilots to take more chances. "It's much more subtle than that," he said. Of the six fatal crashes, Klapmeier said five resulted from controlled flight into terrain, four of which were in IMC. However, only in one instance does the NTSB's preliminary report indicate the pilot held more than a private certificate. In one fatal crash, a spin/stall accident, the solution may have been at the pilot's fingertips. "He should have pulled the chute. In fact, the FAA says you must pull the chute," said Klapmeier. If the study does determine that luxury (modern cockpit), convenience (higher-performance) and safety (whole-plane parachute) leads to complacency, Klapmeier said the answer will not be to remove those features but to train pilots to use them effectively, without forgetting where they are. "Even though the airplane is easy to fly, you can't take it for granted," he said. "We build a very safe airplane. We want to make the whole operation safer."

...And How It's Supposed To Work

Against the backdrop of tragedy, there is one shining example of technology and pilot working together for the best possible outcome. Last October, as Lionel Morrison was flying his Cirrus home from a maintenance stop at Addison Airport in Texas, the left aileron partially detached. Morrison's response was by the book. He could still control the plane marginally so he got it to a safe altitude over an unpopulated area and pulled the parachute. The aircraft settled, nose down, in a bushy area beside a highway and Morrison walked away virtually uninjured. Since then, Morrison has acquired another Cirrus and Cirrus has acquired a unique promotional aid. "We ended up buying [Morrison's plane] back," said Klapmeier. "We're going to repair it and fly it again." Cirrus tells its customers that they should consider the airplane a total loss if the chute is deployed. But in the case of Morrison's plane, the damage was so minimal that it can be easily made flight-worthy. Klapmeier said the engine has to be inspected and there is some damage to the airframe from the trees but they should have it flying shortly after it's released by various investigating authorities.


Matching TFRs To The Threats

FAA Says D.C. ADIZ May Be Cancelled...

Federal officials are considering canceling the air defense identification zone (ADIZ) over the Washington, D.C., area now that the Department of Homeland Security has lowered its terrorism threat posture. FAA spokesman Greg Martin said the agency is meeting with the appropriate federal departments and it's possible the flight restrictions will be relaxed. On Feb. 27, the threat level was reduced from "orange," or high risk, to "yellow," or elevated risk, which has become the standard threat level since 9/11. "I think it was our intention all along that [flight] conditions would match up with the threat level," said Martin. Before the ADIZ was imposed, there was a 15-mile no-fly zone centered on the Washington monument. The ADIZ radiated 30 miles and required transponders and constant communication with ATC for most aircraft. As soon as the threat level was relaxed, alphabet groups began lobbying for suspension of the ADIZ. "There was a certain level of tolerance by the general aviation community when the threat level was raised to orange," said EAA President Tom Poberezny. "But as the nation moves back to yellow status, we fully expect the additional restrictions will be reduced to where they were before." Poberezny said there is some indication the current threat is actually between yellow and orange and that possible war with Iraq will soon boost the threat level.

...Safety, Noise Concerns Prompt Restrictions

Although it might seem like it these days, it's not just the threat of terrorism that imposes flight restrictions on GA. The FAA has issued final rules on air traffic restrictions over the Grand Canyon and Niagara Falls that any air tourists considering visiting those areas should be familiar with. In the case of the Grand Canyon, the FAA is delaying implementation of restrictions in the east end of the national park because of a court decision in favor of the U.S. Air Tour Association, which questioned the noise-measurement criteria established by the FAA in designing new air routes. In Niagara Falls, air traffic patterns that are currently recommendations will soon be law. In the Grand Canyon case, the court found that by excluding non-air-tour traffic, the FAA's noise analysis was flawed. That sent the agency back to the drawing board and it is delaying implementation of flight restrictions in the east end of Grand Canyon National Park until at least Feb. 20, 2006. The already-established restrictions in the west end of the park remain in effect. In the case of Niagara Falls, the Canadian government has already put rules in place to mitigate the congestion of sightseeing aircraft over the falls. The FAA rule, which takes effect March 20, makes permanent the temporary flight restrictions that were put in place last September to harmonize with the Canadian regulations. AOPA objected to some parts of the new rule but the FAA rejected the criticism, saying the permanent flight restrictions were necessary to enforce "the rules of the road" for air traffic over the falls.


Briefs...

FAA Funding Looks To Trust Fund

Reducing major airport congestion and refocusing on aviation safety goals underpin a $14 billion reauthorization budget for the FAA for fiscal year 2004. The budget, which is marginally larger than the $13.6 billion budget for FY 2003, will take a bigger bite out of the Airport and Airway Trust Fund but there will be no new user fees. The budget has been proposed by the White House and must now be debated and ratified by Congress. Deputy Transportation Secretary Michael Jackson said it's now time to pick up the pre-9/11 focus on safety. "We cannot take our eye off the safety goals [to] reduce aviation fatality rates by 80 percent over the period 1996 to 2008," Jackson said. Of the FAA's $7.6 billion in annual operating funds, Jackson said $7.1 billion goes toward activities directly related to safety, including inspections, flight procedures and air traffic control. The FAA is asking for $3.4 billion in the Airport Improvement Program to build new runways with a goal of increasing daily arrivals from 47,000 to 49,000. Another $2.9 billion is proposed for new equipment to modernize the National Airspace System. Even though revenues to the Airport and Airway Trust Fund have declined because of the economy, the White House proposes to increase the draw on the fund from 76 percent to 88 percent over the four-year reauthorization period.

Adam Hosts Online Seminar

You've seen it all over the aviation press and you've heard it's a new airplane that's apparently all that it's cracked up to be. Now's your chance to find out for yourself and pose your toughest questions to the president of the company. On Wednesday, starting at 2 p.m. Eastern, Adam Aircraft CEO Rick Adam will host a 30-minute online interactive seminar on his company's A500 piston twin. The innovative centerline-thrust twin is well into its test-flight program and Adam is anxious to share the results with anyone with an Internet connection. Adam will give a presentation followed by questions and answers. Among the topics are the aircraft's development and assembly status, certification, delivery plans, options and demonstration flight availability. Of course, Adam will also be happy to discuss the numbers resulting from more than 100 hours of test flights. Turns out, the A500 will cruise at 250 KTAS at 22,000 feet and 75-percent power over a range, with IFR reserve, of 1020 nm. Sea-level maximum climb rate is 1,800 fpm and single-engine climb is 400 fpm at sea level. There's lots more to find out so hear it from the man himself by signing up for the seminar.

Find Your Local Nuke Plants -- And Stay Away

Flying around nuclear power plants has always been a bad idea but the Transportation Security Administration has just made it somewhat perilous. At the TSA's prompting, the FAA has issued an advisory NOTAM notifying pilots that if they are seen flying "suspiciously" around nukes, they can expect to be tracked down by the police or FBI. Pilots who can't satisfy the cops that their actions were innocent could end up on the TSA's incident reporting system database. The advisory appears to be a compromise alternative to closing the airspace within 10 nm of nuclear plants, as proposed by some security officials. Such a closure would affect more than 700 airports near the country's 90 nuclear plants. AOPA says TSA official have confirmed that pilots conducting operations at airports near the plants will not be considered loiterers. Although the TSA insists that isn't the same as the security list used to revoke airman certificates, AOPA is concerned about the action nonetheless. "Nevertheless, the government must not use this advisory to take away pilot rights or to harass pilots who are conducting normal flight operations," said AOPA President Phil Boyer.

FBI Plane Mistaken For Terrorists

Well, now just what did the FBI expect? After more than a year of urging people to be on the lookout for anything suspicious, airborne or otherwise, the feds seemed surprised when the folks in Bloomington, Ill., started worrying about their Cessna 182. Never mind that the same plane has passed overhead repeatedly at various times of the day and night since Feb. 19. At first the FBI denied it was their plane but finally fessed up when pressed by reporters. Agent Thomas V. Fuentes and agent James H. Davis admitted the 182 was being used to keep track of foreign nationals in Bloomington. Just what kind of a stakeout you can manage while buzzing along in a small plane they didn't reveal. Although they initially denied the plane was conducting electronic surveillance, the agents later said the aircraft is monitoring vehicles and businesses, particularly those open late at night from which faxes or e-mails can be sent. Unless Bloomington is in some kind of time warp, we'd wager that could be just about anywhere.

Spending Bill's GA Goodies

The FAA has been ordered to provide more graphics of TFRs and other NOTAM information in a federal spending bill signed by the president last week. "... the committee believes that advisory graphics can be conveyed through direct user access terminal system (DUATS) and other sources including the Internet," reads part of the bill, which included a host of other goodies for GA. For instance, flight service stations are getting full funding to install Operational and Supportability Implementation System (OASIS) computers to replace the 1970s-era machines that now provide weather and other flight briefing data. And anyone whose medical has been referred to the Oklahoma City FAA office for a "special issuance" knows that it can take months to get through the medical process. The FAA has been told to get rid of the bottleneck by implementing the Aeromedical Digital Imaging and Workflow System that is supposed to speed up the process. There was one trick in the batch of treats, however. This bill is the same one that banned aerial advertisers from the skies over major sporting events for a year.

The Taxman Cometh ... Some Things You Should Know

Flying is expensive enough without giving more than your share of hard-earned dollars to Uncle Sam. Pilots are reminded to consider all their basic business expenses, training deductions and sales and use taxes. Commercial operators (more than 50-percent business use) can look into the new "bonus" depreciation option for new aircraft and aircraft equipment purchased in 2002. New depreciation rates for new business aircraft or major upgrades to used aircraft have also been introduced. Out-of-state pilots can also get refunds on fuel taxes paid in Delaware, Maine, Indiana and New Jersey. AOPA is reminding pilots and aircraft owners to take a little time to research the tax benefits of their passion. "AOPA gladly provides its members with a better understanding of taxation anytime of the year, especially before April 15," said senior technical specialist Rodney Martz. The Pilot's Guide to Taxes is also available to members.


On The Fly...

Saturday, Lancair rolled out it's first aircraft since funding problems stopped the production line back in August. The $55 million infusion from the Malaysian Department of Finance should fund future operations "indefinitely," company president Bing Lantis told the Bend Bulletin. Lancair expects to ramp up production and fill its backlog of 180 planes before 2005...

The story of Glacier Girl will be broadcast on the History Channel tonight. "The Hunt for the Lost Squadron" traces the recovery of a WWII P-38 buried for decades deep in the ice of Greenland, its 10-year restoration and flight last year. The 90-minute feature will air at 9 p.m. EST...

The first pair of flights by Hooters Air will launch March 6 when a VIP flight leaves Myrtle Beach, S.C., to pick up the first paying customers on a flight from Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport back to Myrtle Beach. There'll be chicken wings, cake and plenty of tight orange sweaters for the send-off. "We aim to bring the fun back to flying," said Hooters owner Robert Brooks...

No, that wasn't your brother talking, Jeb. Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's King Air was struck by lightning on a flight from Tallahassee to Orlando on Thursday. The bolt from the blue put a hole in the King Air's wing but the flight was otherwise uneventful and none of the seven people aboard was hurt....

A request by Bombardier to renegotiate a major labor contract has caused concern among workers at all four aerospace companies in Wichita, Kan. Bombardier has asked to open the deal in a bid to lower costs at the Wichita plant. Company officials have said the plant might close without concessions. The Machinists Union is afraid it will set a precedent for other companies...

A new passenger risk threat detection system will be tested at three airports this month. The system will check passenger information against existing databases to make sure each passenger is who he or she says he or she is. Advocates say law-abiding citizens need not fear the system but critics have raised Big Brother-type concerns...

Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority is hosting the first-ever online pilots' safety forum next week. Hundreds of aviation people will attend a conference in Sydney on a proposed revamping of the aviation system in Australia. Those who can't make it are encouraged to log on to a live, interactive feed...


Short Final...

A pilot was sitting in his seat and pulled out a .38 revolver. He placed it on top of the instrument panel, then asked the navigator, "Do you know what I use this for?"

The nav replied timidly, "No, what's it for?"

The pilot responded, "I use this on navigators who get me lost!"

The navigator proceeded to pull out a .45 and place it on his chart table.

The pilot asked, "What's that for?"

"To be honest sir," the nav replied, "I'll know we're lost before you will."

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

v1


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