By Russ Niles, Newswriter
Rolling Out The Red ... Tape...
Further proof that Light Sport/Sport Pilot, which will create a new category of lower-performance aircraft and a new certificate for pilots with lower training and medical requirements, may not be but a dream: The FAA has begun creating the bureaucracy to administer it. The agency announced recently that it is establishing the Light-Sport Aircraft (LSA) Operations Program Office. It will be a branch within the Regulatory Support Division, based in Oklahoma City, Okla. "We have ... approval to start setting up this operation and we are looking at the best ways of doing that," Joseph Tintara, manager of the Regulatory Support Division Aeronautical Center, told EAA. "We intend to meet with the industry people and their FAA counterparts to make sure it's successful." Presumably that's going to be done soon and the FAA has a plan for that, too. (more) The FAA is sticking with its latest agenda to announce the final rulemaking for the new category of aircraft and certificates at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2003, which starts July 29. That gives Tintara and his crew just three months to hire (or transfer) the staff, move the furniture and hook up the phones, not to mention come up with policies and procedures that will dictate a whole new way of doing business. Perhaps they'll have more time. Tintara claims to have his eye on the ball, however. "A lot of this right now is getting ourselves prepared with the intent that the rule will be put out sometime in July," he said. "We want to be prepared when the rule rolls out."
...No Shortage Of Things To Do...
The FAA estimates there will be 10,000 aircraft (currently "illegal" ultralights) and their pilots waiting to be certificated when the rule becomes effective. There are also about 1,300 instructors waiting for their tickets. It's not clear what, if any, grace period will be allowed, nor is there any indication of the resources that will be available to the new LSA office. But even after the initial backlog is cleared, it's going to be a busy place by the FAA's own forecast. The agency predicts another 12,000 people and planes will be certificated under the new rules in the following decade. It's also expecting 9,000 people to get repairman's certificates that will be issued under the new rule. Somehow, this is supposed to be done without creating extra work for FAA inspectors. Theoretically, the industry is going to ensure that the aircraft are safely and properly built and that pilots, instructors and repairmen are properly trained. Issues of liability and insurance remain, in the eyes of some manufacturers, discouragingly unclear. The FAA sees its role as developing the rules, tests and standards, and making sure they are met and followed at all levels of the process. And, since the industry is always evolving, the new LSA office will have to stay on top of technology and trends to make sure the rules and policies remain up-to-date. Even with that 90-day deadline looming, the FAA's Tintara is upbeat, if not exactly offering guarantees. "We think we really have a good chance to be successful," he told EAA. "[We] want to have some preliminary meetings to lay out a reasonable plan of attack."
...EAA Embraces LSA In New Magazine
With the FAA doing a makeover, EAA is keeping up with the times with a new magazine, to replace its current publication called The Experimenter. The new magazine will include coverage aimed at the Sport Pilot/Light Sport category. The prototype of the new magazine, called EAA Sport Pilot and Light-Sport Aircraft, was shown to aviation industry officials May 8. EAA president Tom Poberezny said the new category fits EAA's grass-roots mandate. "For 50 years, EAA's focus has been on keeping aviation affordable," he said. The new publication will feature coverage of powered parachutes, trikes, fixed-wing ultralights and homebuilt and kit aircraft, including the "how-to" information The Experimenter was noted for. But while EAA would like nothing better than to have the FAA announcement at its big event in Oshkosh, it's not betting the start date of the new magazine on it. The publication will be sent out "within three months of FAA's announcement of the final Sport Pilot/Light-Sport rules."
Eclipse Seeks JAA Certification...
The dogfight between Eclipse and Cessna's Mustang for the light jet market continued last week, but this time with a European backdrop. Both companies were trying to spin some news for themselves out of the European Business Aviation Conference and Exhibition (EBACE) in Geneva, Switzerland. In a nutshell, Eclipse announced its planes will be equipped for European Joint Aviation Authority certification, and Cessna announced it, too, has customers in Europe. Eclipse applied for JAR-23 certification in February and expects to get it in 2006. A major requirement is that the aircraft be equipped for Reduced Vertical Separation Minimums that are already required for any operations from 29,000 to 41,000 feet, something that won't happen on the other side of the pond until January of 2005. Eclipse is also putting standard autothrottles in its mini-jets, claiming to be the least expensive ($950,000 in 2000 dollars) plane to be so equipped.
...Cessna Reins In Mustang Customers...
Of course, Europe is a big market for bizjets of all sizes but it might be even more suited to the so-called personal jet than North America. With the relatively short distance between major centers and the clogged airspace around them, the market just might be ripe for fast little airplanes that can zip in and out of reliever airports. That's what Cessna's European customers are telling it, anyway. While Eclipse was making equipment announcements, Cessna was crowing about adding to its European customer base for the $2.3 million Mustang, due out in 2006. MAC Aviation, of Zaragoza, Spain, will buy five Mustangs for corporate, charter and organ-transplant services. On those sorts of missions, MAC expects two people in the plane with an average flight time of 1.5 hours. Of the 300 Mustangs ordered so far, about half are from Americans and the balance is from overseas.
...717 Bizjet Unveiled
And at the opposite end of that spectrum, Boeing, which already offers its 737 as a bizjet platform, unveiled its Boeing 717 Business Express at the show. The 717, which is thrice removed from the DC-9 Hugh Hefner used as his, um, corporate jet, is struggling as Boeing's answer to the regional jet. The company is obviously hoping the corporate set can see some advantage to flying its employees in this version, rather than the RJ configuration. "A company with significant and regular employee movement between two or more key business facilities would be a candidate for a 717 ..." said spokesman Thad Dworkin. Instead of knees-around-the-ears seating, the business version would be configured for 40 to 80 passengers in business or first-class seating. It can also be equipped with workstations, meeting rooms, videoconferencing and full broadband connectivity. The company points out that keeping employees comfortable and productive while saving on accommodation and other travel costs will make economic sense to some companies. A bunny on the tail is extra.
Federal Flight Deck Officers (pilots certified to carry guns) want those privileges extended beyond the cockpit. Pilots' groups are asking Congress to amend the current legislation and let them pack even when they aren't working. "For the sake of safety, we urge Congress to correct this handling issue," Duane Woerth, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, said in written testimony. Current rules for the 44 pilots certified so far requires them to put their guns in a lockbox and have a baggage handler stow it in the hold when they fly as passengers. The pilots claim that increases the chance of the gun going off accidentally or ending up in the wrong hands. Of course, it also prevents packin' pilots from preventing a hijack attempt from the pax side of the cockpit door, which may or may not be the real reason the groups are complaining. At any rate, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) isn't keen on a rule change just yet. "We're still in the evaluation phase," TSA spokesman Robert Johnson told The Washington Post. He said the agency is gathering feedback from the first class of gun-ready pilots as it gets ready to hold more classes. Meanwhile, some legislators want more guns in pilots' hands sooner. Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Transportation's aviation committee, said the process needs to be speeded up. "I'm not pleased that TSA is creating an overly costly, complicated and bureaucratic program," he told the Associated Press. He's urging the TSA to allow private gun ranges to train pilots. A range owner in Arizona claims he could train 100 pilots for half the $6,200 now being spent to train each one. Some of those who have been through the course commented they were pleased it covered physical defense tactics and stressed professionalism as part of the weapons training.
A Senate committee has approved an FAA Reauthorization Bill that could prevent airport improvement money from being diverted for security projects. The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee has sent the bill to the full Senate for consideration, the first step in a long process of ratification. It contains language that would require the FAA to set up a separate fund for security initiatives and leave airport infrastructure budgets alone. The bill budgets $3.5 billion for airport improvements in the coming year and $100 million more in each of the following years. AOPA says the security fund was its idea. AOPA also says it recommended parts of the bill that will make it easier for small airports to get federal funds because the minimum contribution from local authorities is being reduced. It also broadens the use of federal money to improve ancillary services after runways and taxiways are in good shape. A House committee is also working on the bill. When both sides of government have approved their version of the bill, a committee will meet to reconcile the differences before it goes back for ratification.
Forget about X-Men, just look what the X-plane can do -- and this is no comic book tale. Boeing's X-31A VECTOR recently completed three years of testing in which it used vectored thrust to shorten (and soften) landings. On April 29, test pilots (with lavish assistance from a complicated flight-control system) successfully put the VECTOR on the runway at Patuxent River Naval Air Station at a 24-degree angle of attack and 121 knots. Thats twice the nose-up attitude as normal and 30 percent slower than the 175 knots at which some airplanes like this tend to stop flying. A GPS navigation system coupled to an autothrottle and autopilot control the X-Plane throughout the descent, using vectored exhaust to keep the aircraft flying. At two feet above the deck, the system pushes the nose over so the pilot can take over. "The high angle of attack landing was very exciting and dramatic," said Gary Jennings, who runs the test program ... and he was on the ground. Of course, there's a lot of techno-wizardry behind pushing a plane way beyond its stall limits. Boeing Phantom Works led the test program and the Navy, German military and EADS also took part. They believe vectored thrust will enable fighter aircraft to use shorter runways, not have to jettison ordnance or fuel for landings and ultimately last longer because the shorter, softer landings cause less wear and tear.
GA has a seat at the table as the TSA begins the inevitable discussions on security at smaller airports. AOPA, at the TSA's invitation, will become part of the agency's working group to develop security guidelines for GA facilities. Note the use of the word "guidelines." As a condition of its involvement, AOPA insisted on guarantees that no mandatory regulations would result from the group's work. "We do not want to see the general aviation community and our members further harmed by any of these security recommendations," said VP Andy Cebula. The TSA agreed. The TSA is trying to keep individual states from dreaming up their own security measures (like New Jersey's infamous two-lock rule), resulting in a patchwork of regulations across the country. AOPA noted that its Airport Watch program, based on the Neighborhood Watch residential crime-prevention program, has been employed at hundreds of airports and will be urging the TSA to use it as a model in any GA security initiatives. AOPA says security measures have already burdened GA and its job on the working group is to make sure any further measures are reasonable.
Lots of pilots, including Polly Vacher, have followed the sun on around-the-world jaunts. But the 58-year-old British pilot is doing it the hard way this time around. The practical test of Vacher's bid began May 6 when she took off from Birmingham trying to become the first person to circumnavigate the globe solo over both poles in a single-engine aircraft. You can read her diary online. She and her Piper Dakota will cover 35,000 miles and touch down in 30 countries over the next eight months as she tries to raise money for the Flying Scholarship for the Disabled. Her first trip, in 2001, raised $270,000 for that cause and she hopes to raise as much this time around. Although any round-the-world flight takes some planning, Vacher must take the vicious weather of the polar regions into account on this flight and only attempt the flights during their short summers. You can expect to see her at EAA AirVenture in 2003, describing her experiences.
A small-town Michigan engineer, who can legitimately take part of the credit for ending the Cold War, was honored for his many contributions to aviation and aerospace technology on May 7. Dr. Sam Williams, founder of Williams International, was inducted into the National Inventors' Hall of Fame, along with 16 others in the aerospace field. Williams is best-known for development of the small fan-jet the Air Force used to power cruise missiles, which helped tip the balance of power in the Cold War. More recently, however, Williams has been trying to develop small engines for business jets. He successfully launched the FJ44 turbofan, which is used on some Cessna aircraft and by other manufacturers. But the company's attempt to provide an 80-pound engine with 700 pounds of thrust for Eclipse Aviation's new personal jet ran into trouble, overheating some components on a relatively short test hop. Eclipse abandoned the Williams engine and neither company has commented publicly on the specifics of the falling out. Williams is no stranger to awards. He has 73 patents and counts the Collier Trophy, the Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy and the National Medal of Technology among his mantle decorations.
Steer clear of Cape Canaveral late this afternoon as the Air Force tries to launch an Atlas rocket. The Special Use Airspace will be activated from 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. If the launch is scrubbed, they'll try again Tuesday during the same time period...
Maverick Jets Inc. claims layoffs announced Thursday signal growth for the company. Company spokesman Sandy Scott told Florida Today an undisclosed number of the 60 employees were let go so the company could contract production to another undisclosed company at an undisclosed location. Some of the employees are expected to get jobs at Liberty Aerospace, which is also at the Melbourne Airport...
As AVweb told you last month, AOPA is planning its big Fly-In with static displays, entertainment and seminars on a variety of topics. What we didn't tell you was the date. Circle June 7 on the calendar and be mindful of the prohibited airspace (P-40) in the area and what it's done to arrival procedures...
The makers of Airbus lost money in the first quarter but they're still predicting a profit by year's end. European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co., the 80-percent owner of Airbus Industrie, lost $105 million over the three months, attributed to the decline in the U.S. dollar, fewer sales and whopping development costs of its A380 superjumbo. The company still expects to make $1.62 billion this year...
The air traffic control system has a couple of new bosses. FAA Administrator Marion Blakey has named David B. (Bruce) Johnson as director of Air Traffic service and Linda M. Schuessler as deputy director. They're in charge of 24,000 people who run the control towers, TRACONs, en route centers and FSSs. Both started as controllers in 1974...
It could be months before the death toll of a strange accident over the Congo is known. Congolese officials simply don't know, or aren't telling, how many soldiers and their family members were sucked to their deaths when a cargo door opened on the Il-76 in which they were flying. Initial reports said 129, but some reports put the count as low as seven.
A replica of Howard Hughes' H-1 Racer will be at EAA AirVenture 2003. The Hughes H-1B hit 352 mph over a closed course in 1937 and crossed the country at an average 332 mph in 1932. The replica, built by Jim Wright, of Cottage Grove, Ore., set a world record for its class at 304 mph at Reno last year.
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We often have strong winds in Texas. But they usually pick a direction and stay put. This particular night while returning to home base at ADS, the ATIS said the winds were 150 at 15 (right down the runway). Since I was getting a real workout on the controls, I called for a wind check. Tower: "Variable, 120 to 180, 22 gusting to 32." Me: (With sarcasm) "Oh, that sounds like fun." Tower: "We've got the cameras rolling."
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