By Mary Grady, Senior News Editor
The Centennial Celebration ... It's Coming...
With spring of the year 2003 finally upon us, all the events in the works to commemorate the Wright brothers' achievement are gearing up to full power. In Virginia, Ken Hyde and his staff at The Wright Experience are learning how to handle their reproduction of the notoriously unstable 1903 Flyer, so they can fly it at the Wright Brothers National Memorial in December. Soon, though, they will be hitting the road to take the Flyer on tour, as the star player in EAA's Countdown To Kitty Hawk event. The road tour started this month at Sun 'n Fun, in Lakeland, Fla., and continues with appearances at July's Inventing Flight Celebration in Dayton, Ohio; EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, July 19-August 4; Seattle's Museum of Flight, August 23-September 2; NBAA's Annual Meeting & Convention, October 7-9, in Orlando, Fla.; and finally to North Carolina, where the Flyer is scheduled to re-enact the Wright brothers' flight at 10:35 a.m., December 17. The Countdown to Kitty Hawk tour travels with a 24,000-square-foot pavilion featuring exhibits about technology, history, and the 100 greatest aviation innovations of the first 100 years. At Sun 'n Fun, a popular draw was a flight simulator with a big screen and controls replicating those used by the Wrights -- a wooden stick for pitch and a hip cradle for roll control -- though "control" may be too strong a term.
...All Year Long...
But the Countdown to Kitty Hawk is only one event among many. Coming up May 16-26, in Fayetteville, N.C., the Festival of Flight features a weekend arts festival, air shows with military and aerobatic aircraft, and a seven-day exposition with aviation displays and interactive exhibits, all of which will culminate with a Memorial Day celebration. Dayton, Ohio, home of the Wright brothers, is hosting a long list of events under the banner "Inventing Flight," starting this month and continuing throughout the year. Dayton's Gala Opening Ceremony, billed as "a once-in-a-lifetime spectacle of Olympic proportions," kicks off July 3, at Celebration Central on Deeds Point. Dayton's events continue through July 20 and include a balloon race, a blimp meet, exhibits and entertainment focusing on the history of the Wright brothers in Dayton, visits from Tall Ships, and a folk festival. Harrison Ford will host a celebration at the National Aviation Hall of Fame on July 19. In September, the National Air Tour will convene 25 vintage aircraft in a tour of two dozen cities, re-creating the Golden Age of Aviation. In October, the National Air and Space Museum, in Washington, D.C., opens a major new exhibit about the Wright brothers. The centerpiece of the new gallery will be the original 1903 Wright Flyer, displayed at eye level for the first time since it was acquired by the Smithsonian in 1948.
...Don't Miss It
It all culminates in December, starting with the grand opening of the spectacular new annex of the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum, at Dulles Airport, on December 15. The main aviation hall at the new Udvar-Hazy Center is 10 stories high and the length of three football fields, big enough to hold 200 aircraft. The main construction is already completed, and the first artifact -- a Piper J-3 Cub -- moved into the space last month. Then on to North Carolina, where the Wright Brothers National Memorial, at Kill Devil Hills, will host the culmination of Countdown to Kitty Hawk on December 17, when the Wright Flyer reproduction will be launched. The day will also include a fly-by of historically significant aircraft. Besides all of these events, museums and airports around the country are hosting special exhibits, air shows, celebrations, and educational programs. If you can't make it to Dayton, or Oshkosh, or North Carolina, there is sure to be an opportunity somewhere nearby for all pilots who wish to, to participate in the celebration of 100 years of flight.
Small-Plane Jitters Infect New York...
It may be hard to believe that folks out there still haven't figured out that private planes, small, slow and light as they are, aren't likely to do much damage in terrorist hands. Nonetheless, in Sunday's New York Times, reporter Marek Fuchs examined "The Case For A No-fly Zone" above the Indian Point nuclear plant, about 35 miles up the Hudson River from the city. Ed Bolen, president of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, wrote to the Times that he was "extremely disappointed" by the article, calling it "irresponsible and potentially very harmful to the general aviation industry." While not quite up to the Chicken-Little level of last Friday's Boston Globe editorial about "Terror From Small Planes," the NYT article notes that "a smaller aircraft packed with explosives can be a potent weapon," an observation attributed to a local anti-nuke advocate, which goes unchallenged. The article also reports that N.Y. Gov. George E. Pataki asked the Department of Homeland Security for a no-fly zone at the plant, and was denied. A spokesman for Homeland Security told Fuchs that significant steps have been taken to enhance security around nuclear plants, and there is no need for a no-fly zone. A current NOTAM advises pilots to avoid the airspace above or near nuclear plants, and not to circle or loiter in the area. Still, "the plant is widely considered to be a potential terrorist target," the article says, and the idea of small planes being free to fly nearby apparently makes some New Yorkers uneasy.
...Despite Expert Assurances Of Nuke Safety
Is there any reason New Yorkers shouldn't be worried about a terrorist crashing a GA airplane into Indian Point, thereby igniting a nuclear cataclysm? Well, the experts say it can't be done. A December 2002 study by the Nuclear Energy Institute concluded that even a direct hit by a 767 would not ignite a power plant's nuclear fuel. According to the American Nuclear Society: "Nuclear power plants are enclosed in containment buildings made of steel and reinforced concrete up to four feet thick. They are some of the strongest buildings built by man, and analysis has shown they can withstand a range of severe threats, including earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes ... and small aircraft crashes. ... [E]ven if attacked, [nuclear power plants] are highly likely to survive without a significant release of radioactive material." Last summer, AOPA commissioned an expert report to investigate the lingering fears about private planes vs. nukes. Their conclusions: "A GA aircraft could not penetrate the concrete containment vessel. An explosives-laden GA aircraft would not likely cause the release of radiation. A small aircraft attack on auxiliary plant buildings would not cause a safety failure. A GA aircraft could not ignite the Zirconium cladding on spent nuclear fuel." Although the Times article reported that "the [Indian Point] plant is widely considered to be a potential terrorist target," the American Nuclear Society says that "nuclear power plants are considered difficult, and therefore, unattractive, targets for a terrorist attack. Plus, even if attacked, the structures are highly likely to survive without a significant release of radioactive material." Feeling better yet, New Yorkers? Some of those that don't may take solace along with their government-supplied iodine pills.
LET YOUR FAMILY KNOW WHEN YOU'LL BE HOME
Sign up for the AVweb Edition of Flight Explorer. It's the PC-based service that provides a real-time picture of all IFR aircraft in flight. Your family simply enters your aircraft's N-number to track your flight, be alerted to delays, and obtain updated ETAs. AVweb Flight Explorer costs just $9.95 a month. A small price for big peace of mind. Order online at http://www.avweb.com/sponsors/fe
Adam Aircraft Industries, of Englewood, Colo., announced on Tuesday the successful closing of a "significant investment" by GS Capital Partners 2000, a private fund managed by Goldman, Sachs & Co. Adam Aircraft did not announce the amount of the investment, but said it will be utilized to fund the FAA certification of its A500 twin and A700 light-jet models and to begin aircraft production. CEO Rick Adam, founder of the company and a former Goldman banker, said in a news release, "Having Goldman Sachs invest in our company is a tremendous benefit. In addition to access to capital, we will benefit from Goldman's knowledge of the aviation industry and their overall business expertise." Sanjeev Mehra, a managing director at Goldman Sachs and now a board member of Adam Aircraft, said GS has been very interested in general aviation since investing in NetJets, which it sold to Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway in 1998. The fund is Adam Aircraft's first significant outside investor, Reuters reported. The A500 six-seat push-pull piston twin is approaching FAA certification, Adam Aircraft said, and the A700 light jet is currently in the development stage.
Sales and earnings were down by almost one-third for Gulfstream Aerospace in the first quarter of this year, totaling just $634 million compared to $907 million over the same period last year, according to a report last week from General Dynamics, the jet-maker's parent company. "The Aerospace group continued to feel the effects of the global economy," Nicholas D. Chabraja, General Dynamics chairman and CEO, said in a news release. "Gulfstream's sales and earnings declined on fewer deliveries compared with the 2002 first quarter, as well as pricing weakness and continued difficulties in the pre-owned market," he said. Only 15 bizjets were delivered in the first quarter, compared to 27 last year. Two weeks ago, Gulfstream President Bill Boisture Jr. abruptly retired, after four years as head of the company. No reason for that decision was announced. Gulfstream Vice Chairman Bryan T. Moss replaced Boisture. This week, CEO Chabraja said that Gulfstream has received an order worth up to $473 million from the Israeli government to supply and support four Gulfstream G550 aircraft, with an option for two additional aircraft.
While other U.S. airlines bemoan falling revenues, empty seats, crotchety unions, bad management, etc., etc., Southwest Airlines this week posted its 48th consecutive quarterly profit, and said it's ready to buy 25 more Boeing 737s. The first-quarter earnings of $24 million represent a 14-percent gain over the same period last year. CEO James Parker said Monday in a news release, "Although our revenue outlook remains uncertain, our costs remain under control. As a consequence, and barring any unforeseen event, we expect to be profitable in the second quarter. ... In the course of cautiously growing our fleet, we recently exercised options to acquire four more 737-700s in 2004. This change brings our total firm orders to 25 and options to nine for 2004." Parker went on to credit Southwest's employees for the airline's success. "We have the most dedicated, resilient, and finest group of employees in the airline industry," he said. "Their unity and long-term vision allows us to produce great results in good times so that we can survive even in the worst of times."
It's not often you'll see a bunch of FAA guys all misty-eyed, but agency spokesman Greg Martin assured AVweb there was barely a dry eye when this aircraft lifted off from Oklahoma City Airport Monday. "It was kind of an emotional moment for our people down in Oklahoma City to see this DC-3 take off nine years after its last flight," Martin said. N34, the oldest aircraft in the FAA's fleet, left for a maintenance inspection in Wisconsin before potentially returning to service in an unaccustomed role. Assuming the agency can come up with some gas money, the old bird is being dusted off to visit places like EAA AirVenture, Kitty Hawk and Dayton this year. It's all part of a PR campaign (gasp!) proposed by the agency to mark the centennial of its raison d'etre. "This being the 100th anniversary of powered flight, we thought we'd do something a little different this year," said agency spokesman Greg Martin. In addition to being put on static display at the major centennial events, the FAA plans to enter the DC-3 in the re-enactment of the National Air Tours scheduled for later this year. Various FAA honchos, including Administrator Marion Blakey, are expected to fly in N34, but it's not likely the ship will become Blakey's main ride for the centennial year (the agency has a G-IV and a bunch of Lears). This airplane was in built 1945 and served the U.S. Navy in Europe, the Middle East and Africa before being turned over, along with 16 others, to the FAA in 1963. For the next 22 years it crisscrossed the U.S. checking the accuracy of navaids in the National Airspace System. While the other 16 were sold off as surplus in 1985, then-Administrator Donald Engen ordered N34 restored to the colors of the Civil Aeronautics Administration, the FAA's predecessor, and it's pretty much sat in a hangar ever since. Getting it back in flying shape wasn't much of a chore, however. N34 had been retired (sigh) with almost-fresh Pratt and Whitney radials. "I think there were about 30 hours on one and about 300 on the other," said Martin.
Besides (theoretically) crashing into nuclear plants, or ferrying corporate honchos and busloads of cranky passengers from A to B, we like to think that now and then somebody finds a real useful mission for an airplane. And we'd like to think that NASA's airborne laboratory, a highly modified DC-8, has some useful goal in its latest mission -- studying coastal eddies in the ocean off southern California. "We expect this research will contribute to an improved understanding of pollution hazards in southern California coastal waters, and provide valuable information for coastal management," the scientists say. OK, so maybe it's not just an excuse to cruise around the Pacific beaches for fun. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Naval Research Laboratory during April will study the swirling waters off southern California. These coastal eddies can be important in bringing nutrients from deep waters to the surface, where they stimulate ocean plant growth. Eddies can transport pollutants that originated on land, recirculating this material for several days. This may have both good and bad consequences for life in the ocean, says NASA. The specially instrumented airborne-sciences DC-8 jet, based at the Dryden Flight Research Center, in Edwards, Calif., will fly over the Southern California Bight, the area between Point Conception and San Diego, to locate eddies using Airborne Synthetic Aperture Radar. Scientists hope the unique combination of the DC-8 flights, ship measurements and satellite ocean sensors provide the best opportunity to understand the characteristics of these small but important coastal features.
With most airlines losing money, last month seemed like an odd time to launch a new carrier, but Hooters Air nonetheless jumped into the breach ... and so far, seems to be surviving. Although its bright orange-and-white planes, bearing the Hooters logo and carrying Hooters waitresses clad in hot pants, flew at only about one-quarter-full capacity, company officials said they turned a profit. It seems the advertising dollars paid to the airline from the chain of 330 Hooters restaurants more than covered what was spent on operating costs. "We're comfortable where we are," Hooters CEO Mark Peterson told the Myrtle Beach Sun News. "You don't have to fill your airplane up to make it profitable. What's not to like about a billboard that flies at 35,000 feet and 500 miles per hour? It's a good business arrangement." Both the airline and the restaurant chain are owned by multimillionaire Robert H. Brooks. The airline describes itself as "delightfully tacky. ... A great experience that enlivens the senses and puts the Fun back in flying!"
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British Airways is expected to soon resume scheduled service to Baghdad, which was suspended in 1990, Virgin Atlantic would like to beat them to it...
Ron Dittemore, manager of NASA's space shuttle program, yesterday announced he will resign after the Columbia crash investigation is completed...
Carroll County Regional Airport, near Westminster, Md., will install 12,000 feet of chain-link fence topped with barbed wire...
Eighty women have signed up for the 2003 Air Race Classic, a 1,905-nm cross-country race set for June 21-24. This year's race launches in Pratt, Kan., and ends in North Carolina, with a stop in Dayton and a fly-by at Kill Devil Hills.
*** PREVIOUS RESULTS ***
We received over 100 pictures last week. Congratulations to this week's winner, Jim Rowland, of Anchorage, Alaska. His photo, titled "Springtime in Alaska," was taken at the Lake Hood seaplane base during that period when the ice is too thin for skis and too thick for floats. We're told the nearby dirt strip is coming to life again. Great picture Jim! 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.
*** PREVIOUS RESULTS ***
We received over 400 responses to our question last week on the Concorde's pending retirement. A large group (35 percent) of those responding felt it was time to retire the supersonic airliner, as it is not economically feasible to operate. On the other hand, 27 percent of our respondents felt the airplane is an aeronautical marvel.
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 arming airline pilots. Please go to http://www.avweb.com/qotw to respond.
Have an idea for a new QOTW? Send your suggestions to email@example.com. Note, this address is ONLY for suggested QOTW questions, and NOT for QOTW answers.
Quiz #67 -- Is Your Aircraft Airworthy Of You?
Whether you own or rent, before going aloft it's important for the pilot in command to calculate just how many pounds of paperwork it takes to make the aircraft airworthy. From annual inspection dates to transponder certification rules there's a boatload of regs to apply. See how many you can recall.
The Perils Of GPS
GPS navigation systems are intended to increase the safety of instrument flight and greatly enhance our capabilities. It doesn't always work that way. (This article originally appeared in the October 2002 issue of <"http://www.avweb.com/sponsors/belvoir/ifrref/">IFR Refresher and is reprinted here by permission.)
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SUPER KOOL! FLYING
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REMINDERS...All specials end April 30
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NTSB REPORTER EXAMINES WRECKAGE OF AN "OWNER MAINTAINED" AIRCRAFT FAR 43.3(g) gives you, holder of an FAA pilot certificate, the authority to do certain aircraft maintenance work. But, you'd better know what you're doing, and be able to read and understand manufacturer's instructions. April's issue of NTSB REPORTER tells what investigators found when they examined the wreckage of an airplane whose owner was said to enjoy working on it himself. Order your subscription at http://www.avweb.com/sponsors/ntsbrepo
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