By Mary Grady, Senior News Writer
Blakey Stumps For Business-Friendly Skies In Europe...
Yesterday, FAA Administrator Marion Blakey delivered the keynote address at the third annual NBAA/European Business Aviation Conference & Exhibition in Geneva, Switzerland, and emphasized the need for international cooperation to promote a global aviation system that's safe, efficient, and will help the industry grow. "Aerospace trade between the United States and the European Community exceeds $40 billion," she said. "There's a lot at stake." Blakey also spoke in favor of the European Commission's Single European Sky initiative, which has gained momentum across Europe. "We are encouraged by the potential for a more harmonized and seamless operating environment in Europe," she said. With Europe in transition, leaving behind the old Joint Aviation Authority for the new European Aviation Safety Agency, Blakey asked that the Europeans confer with the U.S. and the International Civil Aviation Authority from the start, to prevent conflict down the road. She also encouraged the Europeans to address aviation's impact on the environment, with regulations addressing noise standards and emissions.
...Fractional Ownership -- Messy, But It Works...
Blakey also told the folks in Geneva that the FAA plans to publish its new final rule addressing fractional ownership in July, and encouraged the Europeans to find innovative ways to deal with practices that drive industry growth even if they create a regulatory nightmare. "Fractional ownership is a trend that evolved naturally, not because it was easy, but because it made economic sense. Fractional ownership is helping this industry grow. ... We have an obligation to adapt to this new business culture," Blakey said. "Fractional ownership is complicated, especially for those of us with safety oversight responsibilities." "If you were to ask any civil aviation authority in the world to draw a model structure for their business aviation industry -- one that fits the mold for their regulatory system -- I can just about guarantee you that it wouldn't look anything like fractional ownership," she said. Blakey added that aviation regulators have an obligation to demonstrate flexibility. Blakey also described her agency's three-year struggle to create the new rules, a process that invited industry participation.
...Simpler Airspace Procedures Would Be Nice, Too
Blakey spoke Tuesday at the Civil-Military Air Traffic Management Conference in Prague, in the Czech Republic. Focusing on airspace management issues, she again promoted international cooperation and procedures standardization, worldwide. "My vision for our future global ATM system," Blakey said, "is one where a pilot can fly into JFK International Airport in New York ... the Eldorado International Airport in Bogota ... or the Ruzyne International Airport here in Prague without any noticeable differences in procedures or the quality of air traffic services. I'm not talking about science fiction. We can do this ... it's within our reach, if we make it a global priority." Blakey said the day is past when agencies can concentrate solely on making their own airspace safer. "We need to embrace our global interdependencies and increase our level of cooperation and information sharing throughout the international aviation community," she said.
New Lasik Technology Promises Better Results...
Pilots, even more than most folks, tend to obsess over the limitations imposed by poor eyesight, and the inconvenience of glasses and contact lenses. Well, there's a new twist to the most common form of vision-correction surgery, Lasik. The new procedure, which uses wavefront-guided technology that was developed at NASA, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in August 2002. It's becoming more widely available as doctors acquire the equipment, and it got lots of attention at an eye surgeons' conference in San Francisco late last month. The system reportedly sharpens vision better than traditional Lasik, while avoiding side effects such as poor night vision or light sensitivity. The Washington Post recently published an in-depth look at how it works. According to the Post, the wavefront device shoots a wave of light into the eye, then takes detailed measurements based on the light's response, creating a three-dimensional database for the eye surgeon to work with. The 10-minute procedure to correct the eye is unchanged, but with the wavefront data as a "map," the doctor can work with greater precision. The technique theoretically results in sharper, crisper, better-quality vision, and should avoid some of the side effects that can occur with traditional Lasik procedures, such as nighttime vision difficulties, haloes, and glare.
...But (There Is Always A But)
Because the new technique requires expensive equipment, says the Post, the wavefront procedure will cost patients as much as $1,000 more than standard Lasik, which averages about $3,200 nationally. Results from clinical trials, the Post reported, showed that six months after surgery, 99 percent of 136 eyes saw 20/40 or better without glasses, while 80 percent were 20/20 or better, and 53 percent of patients said the sharpness of their vision without glasses had stayed the same or improved. The Post raised questions about the risks of a bad result, and whether all surgeons properly screen patients to ensure they are good candidates for the procedure. FDA data quoted by the Post showed the percentages of patients in the trials who reported that certain problems were "significantly worse" after the procedure: blurred vision (2.9); burning (1.5) dryness (2.2) and a "gritty feeling" (1.5). Also, one doctor told the Post that most patients in the clinical trial were moderately nearsighted and had little astigmatism, and suggested that the new technology offers more commercial appeal than clinical benefit.
NOTE:Read more about Lasik for pilots, from AVweb's archives: Dr. Brent Blue's personal experience, Dr. Kim Broadwell's overview, and Dr. Blue's analysis of pregnancy and Lasik. These articles were written prior to the advent of the new wavefront technology.
The NTSB scheduled a meeting on Tuesday to update its list of "Most Wanted" safety improvements, but instead decided it will undertake an intensive 30-day review of the effectiveness of its safety advocacy programs. "At the end of 30 days, the board will convene to review the results of the study and focus on how to achieve real safety performance," said Ellen Engleman, the new NTSB chairman. "We want results." Engleman said the NTSB staff will evaluate the overall effectiveness of its recommendations programs. "Issuing safety recommendations, alone, is not sufficient to fulfill our obligation to ensure the safety of the national transportation system," Engleman said. "Implementation of these recommendations is what will make a real difference." Tuesday's meeting was the first of the five-member board in which Engleman, Vice Chairman Mark Rosenker, and member Richard Healing participated. The current "Most Wanted" list calls for action by the FAA to provide safer control of aircraft on the ground to prevent runway incursions, better equipment and design to prevent accidents related to airframe structural icing, and the avoidance of operating transport category aircraft with explosive fuel-air mixtures in the fuel tanks. The "Most Wanted" list was first established in 1990.
AOPA noted Monday that a recent change by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) represents a "small but significant concession" to concerns about due process for pilots affected by security rules. In a letter to AOPA, TSA chief counsel Francine Kerner wrote, "We are aware of the need for an avenue of administrative appeal outside of TSA. Accordingly, TSA is exploring the possibility of providing for a final appeal review level at the Department of Homeland Security." The allegations leading to a certificate revocation may be based on classified information, which the TSA (previously the revocation authority and appeals channel) can withhold from the pilot, making it impossible to respond to the specific charges during the appeal. Adding the new channel for appeal is a good first step, said AOPA President Phil Boyer, but he still wants a pilot whose certificate is revoked for security reasons to be able to seek an independent review outside the Homeland Security agency. Under the current rule, the TSA can direct the FAA to revoke a pilot's certificate if the pilot is deemed a security risk. The pilot's only avenue of appeal is back to the TSA, which ordered the revocation in the first place. AOPA has proposed following the same procedures used for other certificate actions: an appeal to an administrative law judge at the U.S. Department of Transportation.
DeltaHawk, a private company in Racine, Wis., last Saturday successfully completed its first flight of a manned aircraft powered by its turbo-diesel 90-degree V-4 general-aviation aircraft engine. The engine has been in development for seven years and is the only U.S.-designed and -developed reciprocating engine capable of burning jet fuel that is known to be flying -- according to DeltaHawk's Web site. The 300-pound, 160-hp powerplant, burning jet fuel, was mounted in a Velocity RG that achieved a top speed of 140 knots. The manufacturer says the engine can burn a range of fuels available throughout the world, while providing better fuel economy than traditional avgas engines. "The flight proceeded exactly as expected with the engine performing flawlessly," the company said in a news release. The diesel engine also runs with fewer parts, easier maintenance, and full power output up to 10,000 feet, the company said. The engine is currently being delivered to experimental aircraft developers and unmanned aerial vehicle customers for flight-testing, and the company says it will be available to experimental aircraft builders in early 2004. The company will also seek prompt FAA certification.
Boeing has noticed two annoying things about airliners: one, they all look alike .... borrrring ... and two, they are all actually different in a million little ways, which creates a nightmare for airlines trying to manage large mixed fleets. In moving forward with its 7E7 program for a next-generation, extra-efficient airliner, Boeing is working to address both issues, and in a break from its traditional marketing campaigns, is targeting the masses as well as its airline customers. On Monday, the company released images of its new design concept, which gives the jet a futuristic, distinctive look (if only for its winglets) and launched a major Internet-based marketing campaign to entice the flying public to pay attention. "The basic shape of large commercial jet airplanes has remained essentially unchanged since the introduction of the Boeing 707, nearly 50 years ago," said Mike Bair, senior vice president of Boeing's 7E7 program. "We want to go beyond [our baseline design] to something that people will know by sight -- the way we all know a 747 when we see one."
Bair noted that the pictures released this week reflect a "concept." The airplane configuration won't be finalized till the end of the year. Boeing is promoting the new airliner with a marketing alliance with AOL Time Warner, which includes a "Name Your Plane" Internet survey. You can also enter a sweepstakes to win time in a Boeing flight simulator. The 7E7 is being developed as a 200- to 250-seat airplane that will fly between 7,000 and 8,000 nautical miles at speeds similar to today's fastest twin-aisle commercial airplanes, while burning up to 20 percent less fuel. Boeing plans to implement new technologies and processes in designing and building the plane, with a priority on efficiency, simplicity, and compatibility across the product line. The 7E7 program follows two recent Boeing initiatives that never made it to development: a super-sized 747 and the Sonic Cruiser, a fast but less efficient aircraft that airlines didn't want. The 7E7 is expected to go on the market late this year, and begin service in 2008.
The Wright brothers may have pioneered the wing-warping concept 100 years ago, but chances are they never broke the sound barrier while testing it out. A NASA test pilot flying a modified F/A-18A Hornet with flexible wings did just that, though, over the California desert north of Edwards Air Force Base last month. NASA's Active Aeroelastic Wing (AAW) program is exploring the use of twisting flexible wings for primary maneuvering roll control at transonic and supersonic speeds. Although similar in concept to the Wrights' "wing warping" control system, AAW employs conventional control surfaces such as ailerons and leading-edge flaps to aerodynamically induce the twist, rather than mechanically twisting the wingtips as on the Wright Flyer. The research data will help develop structural modeling techniques and tools to help design lighter, more flexible high-aspect-ratio wings for future high-performance aircraft, NASA said. The second phase of AAW flight tests should get underway in early 2004. Meanwhile, the AAW research aircraft will be flown to the Midwest for display at several air shows during the summer in connection with Centennial of Flight activities. Look for it at the Dayton International Air Show at Dayton, Ohio, July 17-20; The Grissom Air Force Base air show at Kokomo, Ind., July 26-27; and EAA AirVenture 2003 at Oshkosh, Wis., July 29-Aug. 4.
Richard Branson's proposal to take over operation of the Concordes may have been rebuffed last month by British Airways, but that's not crimping the plans of the Virgin Atlantic Airways CEO. Branson will take his case to the British government, The Independent reported this week. "The more we dig, the more we feel Concorde should not be grounded. It is purely a move by BA to get rid of a big chunk of overheads and persuade more people to fly with it first class. ... Concorde is like a great work of art and should be saved for the country," said Branson. The Concordes were built with government subsidies, and Branson is arguing that BA cannot unilaterally decide their fate. He has assembled a team of former Concorde pilots, staff, and engineers, and will also meet with Airbus to propose that they continue to provide maintenance and support for the supersonic airliners. Branson told The Independent he wants to operate three of the Concordes on a reduced schedule with two fare classes. BA and Air France plan to ground the fleet in October.
Air patrols by military aircraft, which have been abundant since 9/11, may soon be reduced to lower levels, Pentagon officials said this week. Air Force chief of staff Gen. John Jumper told the Associated Press on Monday that decisions to modify the air patrol mission were in the offing. About 60 aircraft have been flying homeland defense patrols over Washington and New York, and occasionally over other parts of the country, Jumper told the AP. "There are things in the works right now that might change this," he said, but would not go into detail. Other sources also told the AP that the overflights are likely to be cut back soon.
New Braunfels Municipal Airport, in the Texas hills between Austin and San Antonio, becomes the new home of EAA's Southwest Regional Fly-In on May 16-17. About 600 to 800 planes are expected for the 39th annual weekend. Organizers said New Braunfels offers the best location ever, with 1,000 acres of grass and lots of ramp space for vendors and heavy aircraft. The event will feature two days of forums, workshops, fly-bys, and judging in various categories. The Fly-in got its start in this part of Texas, with its first show in 1965 in Georgetown. The Southwest Fly-In most recently was based in Abilene, after outgrowing its longtime home in Kerrville.
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A Virgin Atlantic 747 carrying hospital supplies landed at Basra last Friday, the first non-military aircraft to land in Iraq since the war...
John Tague, 40, former CEO of American Trans Air, has been hired by United Air Lines in the newly created post of executive vice president for the customer...
Eighty-seven pax on a chartered 727 from Miami to a nudist holiday in Cancun last Saturday were free to remove their clothes and move about the cabin once the flight reached cruise altitude...
Cape Cod Airport, the last grass-strip airport on Massachusetts' Cape, is closed, but negotiations are underway and the well-loved 80-year-old field may yet reopen with new ownership...
Fifteen skydivers last weekend jumped at Longmont, Colo., in memory of Jeffrey Sands, founder of a local skydiving company, who died in a plane crash last month.
"TEST DRIVE" A B-737/300 AT CONTINENTAL'S IAH PILOT TRAINING CENTER! The "Airline Training Orientation Program" (ATOP) is a two-day 737/300 familiarization course designed for *any* U.S. pilot, especially those interested in airline careers. Presented exclusively by ATOP Inc., the course features 12 hours' ground school, one hour in the 737/300 FTD, and two hours in the 737/300 full-motion simulator. Earn the optional "High Altitude Endorsement," too! Register for any class by June 1 and get a $40 discount off the $435.00 course fee by mentioning AVweb! For details go online at http://www.avweb.com/sponsors/atop
*** PREVIOUS RESULTS ***
We received over 100 pictures last week. Congratulations to this week's winner, Shane Grass, of Fayetteville, N.C. His photo captures the shiny, polished look this Luscombe T-8F Observer had after a natural morning bath. Shane took this photo during preflight shortly after a morning thunderstorm blew through and cleaned the dust and grit right off the airplane. Great picture, Shane! 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 300 responses to our question last week on STOL kits. The majority, 34 percent of those responding, felt these modifications have been quite effective in reducing their takeoff/landing speeds and distances. Only 6 percent said STOL kits have helped to some extent but not as expected, while 10 percent felt these modifications are a waste of time.
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 Centennial of Flight Celebration. 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.
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