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Proposed Bill Eases GA Regs

DCA Access, Banner Towers And More...

The alphabets are cheering (and taking some credit for) a legislative package that would, among other things, restore charter operations to downtown Washington, get banner towers back in business over outdoor gatherings, smooth foreign flight student regulations and allow third-party appeals of security-related airman certificate suspensions. The Aviation Security Technical Corrections and Improvement Act was approved by the House Subcommittee on Aviation last Wednesday and still must be approved by Congress before any of this relief actually takes place. "Much of what the subcommittee characterizes as 'corrections' are actually vindications for EAA and many other general aviation organizations that have advocated reasonable, prudent security measures that are commensurate with security risks," said EAA's VP of industry and regulatory affairs Earl Lawrence. The National Air Transportation Association is particularly pleased that the bill would force the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to allow non-scheduled charters back into Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, where they've been banned since 9/11. A DHS security program would have to be in place before the first flight. NATA joined EAA and the others in applauding the lifting of the ban on stadium banner towers, which was widely criticized as an economic, rather than a security, measure lobbied by major sports groups. The new bill also addresses one of the biggest beefs about the controversial law that allowed the TSA to lift the airman's certificate of anyone deemed a security risk. Under the new bill, U.S. certificate holders would be able to appeal the suspension to a third party. The bill would also smooth the procedure for U.S. flight schools to accept foreign students who have undergone a security check. The bill also would create a small-business ombudsman for the TSA to deal with the financial impact of security measures.

...President Gets GA-Free Zone

While Congress is looking at relieving some of the burden on GA, the TSA and Secret Service have decided that a protective bubble of commercial-only airspace be put around President Bush as he hopscotches around the country supporting his tax-relief bill and beginning his re-election campaign. Friday, EAA said a proliferation of "pop-up presidential TFRs" littered the nation's airspace and the same day filed a formal complaint with the TSA, claiming the TFRs place "a growing hardship" on GA. "General aviation was repeatedly shut out of large blocks of airspace all over the country this week," said EAA VP of government affairs Doug Macnair. AOPA was similarly unimpressed, noting that just about any other kind of flight activity can proceed normally under the TFRs and GA, along with air taxis and on-demand charters, have been targeted as some kind of threat. AOPA President Phil Boyer noted that ATC contact and squawking ATC-assigned transponder codes have been enough to satisfy security concerns in the past. "So what has changed? Is there a specific and credible threat?" Boyer wondered. Meantime, AOPA joins us in advising all pilots to keep an eye on the news to see where the president might be traveling and to always ask about TFRs that might pop up along your intended flight path ... and to steer clear.


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Light-Sport Making Headway

Quality-Control Standards Approved...

The enormously complicated task of creating the paperwork for a whole new class of aircraft took a major step forward last week. The quality-control language for the new light-sport category was completed during a consensus standard session hosted by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). The ASTM is facilitating the standards process for light sport in advance of the final rule expected from the FAA in July. Under the process, industry representatives provide input to the standards document and then get a vote in approving the final document. Further tweaking can be done later to ensure letter-perfect compliance with the new rule. The quality-control standards just passed can be used as a blueprint by manufacturers to set up their own programs. The standards process appears to be winding down, with predictions that it will be essentially wrapped up in July, just in time for the FAA to announce the final rule at EAA AirVenture. Among the standards categories still under review are design, performance and engine specs and it's expected the balloting will be complete in July. The powered parachute standards are already complete. EAA VP Earl Lawrence, who chairs the standards process, said light-sport is a model for cooperation between government and industry. "Light-sport aircraft standards are a whole new way of establishing safe, consistent manufacturing standards for this category," he said. "Creating safe, fun aircraft in which people can have confidence is the goal of this enormous industry and FAA effort."

...New Planes In The Wings

One of the light-sport standards that is causing compliance problems is the relatively low top speed of 115 knots that is allowed. Plenty of kitplanes out there can do that without breathing hard and the challenge of many designers seeking Light Sport category compliance is to rein them in. Take, for example, the VM-1 Esqual, a new breed of super-fast-build from Spain that will be introduced by North American dealer Jabiru USA Flight Center at EAA AirVenture starting July 29. The Esqual's biggest engine option is a 120-horsepower Jabiru that will pull it to 200 mph -- even with the smallest engine offered, an 80-horsepower Jabiru 2200, it's still a shade fast for the light-sport rule. It meets all the other criteria, including the 38-mph, flaps-out stall speed. It might be faster to build one, rather than wait for the technical revisions, however. Esqual's designers claim the plane can be completed under the 51-percent rule in 500 hours or less by an inexperienced builder. The fuselage comes in one piece and the wings are together in the kit and include some pre-installed hardware. All the other parts are vacuum-molded and oven-cured. Finished, the Esqual has a wingspan of 29 feet, 10 inches and is 19 feet, 3 inches long. Engine options include a six-cylinder Jabiru 3300, a four-cylinder Jabiru 2200 and a four-cylinder Rotax 912. It can weigh less than 600 pounds empty and grosses out at 1,150 pounds.


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Fighting To Save Airports

Illinois Considers Law To Save Meigs...

Chicago would be forced to reopen Meigs Field and never close it again under legislation now before the Illinois legislature. With help from AOPA, Rep. David Leitch (R-73rd District) has introduced an amendment to state Senate Bill 802 that would give Chicago additional powers to expand O'Hare International Airport. The amendment would require the city to "restore and reopen Meigs Field as an airport for public use." "The closure of Meigs Field adversely affects air traffic and airports throughout the Chicago region," the amendment reads. "Meigs Field, if reopened, would immediately serve a vital role for air transportation in this state ..." The airport, on the Chicago waterfront, was closed March 31 when Mayor Richard Daley ordered city crews to dig large X's across the single runway. AOPA's regional rep Bill Dunn said the state's willingness to get involved shows the issue is bigger than just Chicago. Meanwhile, the city lost a round in court when it tried to have the temporary restraining order on further destruction of Meigs lifted. Cook County Circuit Court Judge William Maki refused to lift the restraining order, which is supposed to stay on until the next official hearing of the Friends of Meigs' (FOM) petition for a permanent restraining order. That hearing is May 23. FOM wants the judge to order disclosure of details of the meetings held to plan the strike on Meigs to see if they violate the state's open meetings laws. The city has so far refused to release the information.

...Waterfront Battles In Canada, Too

Waterfront airports everywhere seem to be the targets of land- and tax-lusting politicians and even relatively uncrowded Canada has its battles. In the metropolis of Toronto, the aviation community fights a constant battle to remind the city and senior governments of the importance of Toronto City Centre Airport, which is on an island a few hundred yards from the downtown core. This coming Saturday and Sunday, the airport and several businesses there are taking part in Doors Open Toronto, an opportunity to show off the airport and explain its role in the Toronto transportation system. There has been a vigorous campaign by some airport opponents to close the airport and turn it into a park (sound familiar?) but so far the aviation community has been able to counter it. Far away from the bustle of the big city in Nelson, British Columbia, a similar if smaller-scale fight is brewing. Pilots and aviation businesses at that waterfront airport are convinced the mayor and council of the city (pop. 10,000) want to shut down the single-strip facility and sell it off for industrial and commercial use. The airport's status is being reviewed year to year and it is no longer in the city's official community plan. According to the airport supporters' Web site, the airport is a vital Medevac facility, a search-and-rescue training and operations base and an essential transportation link for the relatively isolated mountain community. It's also one of the most beautiful little airports anywhere, with the city's historic downtown core a short walk from the tie downs. The airport boosters are looking for any support they can get to convince the city council of the airport's value, and there's strength in numbers. Nelson's a convenient stop for U.S. pilots heading for Alaska, after clearing customs in either Cranbrook or Kelowna. Stopping in for a breath of fresh mountain air may help keep the numbers up.


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Briefs...

Osprey Gets $817M Vote Of Confidence

The V-22 Osprey tiltrotor program appears to have passed a major hurdle. The Pentagon has ordered 11 more Ospreys, at a cost of $817 million, giving life to a project almost killed after a series of high-profile incidents and fatal crashes in 2000. Since the crashes, which in 2000 killed 23 Marines, aircraft systems have been reworked and a new round of flight tests completed. The 11-plane order is a signal those tests were satisfactory. But while the Pentagon has renewed confidence in one "-22" program, the General Accounting Office is concerned the often-delayed program is moving toward the manufacturing stage too quickly and another, the F-22 Raptor program, is seeing cutbacks. In its review of the Osprey and 25 other major weapons programs, the GAO said the joint Boeing/Bell project "plans to enter full-rate production without ensuring that the manufacturing processes are mature." But Ward Carroll, of Naval Aviation Systems Command, disputed the GAO's concern, saying no decision on full-rate production will be made until after simulated battle condition tests are complete in 2005. "There's much oversight between now and then," he told Reuters. The GAO is also worried about cost overruns looming on the F-22 Raptor. The GAO says Lockheed Martin hasn't been able to efficiently build the first production aircraft and cost estimates keep going up. However, Lockheed spokesman Greg Caires said the report is wrong. "The costs are going down. And we can show that," he told Reuters. The Air Force has scaled back its Raptor purchase from 750 to 276 aircraft.

Eclipse Flies With Drones, Liberty With FADEC

With a couple of drone engines supplying the power, the Eclipse 500 resumed flight testing Thursday, flying a 26-minute shakedown that Eclipse said went well. The Teledyne 382-10E engines are substituting for the yet-to-be-built Pratt and Whitney Canada PW610F engines that will go on production models. The drone engines will be used to complete aerodynamics and systems testing while the company waits for the Pratts. The last time the 500 flew it had Williams EJ22 engines on the back but the two companies parted company not long after Eclipse sent the test engines back. When new engines become available (expected in late 2004), Eclipse can move toward full certification, expected in 2006. Meanwhile, a bit closer to more wallets, the $128,000 Liberty Aerospace XL2 is on the brink of type certification for its two-place, high performance, FADEC-controlled piston-powered cruiser. In a letter to customers, Liberty President Anthony J.P. Tiarks said certification is expected in July and production could start in August. Tiarks said it will take about a year to build the first 50 planes that have been ordered and is urging buyers waiting for certification to get their deposits in now to avoid the flood of orders that might occur after the documents are finally signed. Tiarks also sheds some insight on the certification process itself, saying it's not for the faint of heart. "We have kept going, we have developed an aircraft that is fun, it performs and perhaps most important of all, it is safe," he said. "I believe the wait was worth it."

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Government Orders Missile Defense Prototypes

After they're trained to carry guns in the cockpit, airline pilots' next course could be on taking out a missile headed for their aircraft. The Homeland Security Department is calling for proposals from high-tech companies on how to protect airliners from shoulder-launched missiles and they're asking for at least two prototypes to be built. "This is a real breakthrough," Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) told the Associated Press. Schumer is cosponsoring a bill that would retrofit 6,800 airliners with anti-missile systems at a cost of $10 billion. But while airlines would get a free ride on their existing fleet, they'd have to pay the extra $1 million for the systems on all the new aircraft they buy and that's lit a fuse under some airline groups. "Aviation security is a national defense function," said Debby McElroy, president of the Regional Airline Association. Giovanni Bisignani, chief executive of the International Air Transport Association, said systems installed today would probably be obsolete quickly and that governments can't afford to "stay ahead of technologies which continually churn out new instruments of war." But John Pike, director of the defense policy group Globalsecurity.org, said a new generation of laser-guided anti-missile systems is under development and could be adapted to airliners. He also noted that to keep Americans safe, the entire worldwide fleet of 10,000 airliners should be equipped.

AD Watch

The FAA is rewriting the definition of "public aircraft" as opposed to civil aircraft but don't hope (or worry) that it's opening any loopholes. The rewrite is just to clean up the language and bring it in line with the Wendell H. Ford Aviation and Investment Reform Act (AIR-21), which was enacted in 2000.

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NavCanada Raises Rates

NavCanada, the private, non-profit company that supplies air traffic control and other aviation services in Canada, is raising its rates an average of 6.9 percent in August. The company announced Thursday that the ongoing airline slump, coupled with the war in Iraq and SARS, and an unpaid $43 million debt owed by Air Canada, now in bankruptcy protection, has combined to create a shortfall of about $176 million. "We've exhausted our ability to help ease the burden of the downturn on our customers," CEO John Crichton told a news conference. The company took over the services from the government in 1997 and, as it chopped overhead, rates were reduced. But after 9/11, rates were hiked and the latest increase will push them to their highest level. It's still a bargain, according to Crichton ... and some basic math. "... our charges [will] still be 28 percent below the old Air Transportation Tax they replaced," he said. The increase translates to about 65 cents on the price of a ticket between Ottawa and Toronto. South of the border, the rate hikes in Canada will undoubtedly become fodder for those fighting any chance that ATC could be privatized in the U.S. AOPA says a bill it's backing to privatization, and the fluctuating user fees that come with it, is making headway through Congress. The House aviation subcommittee approved the proposed legislation but it has to go through both arms of government and be signed by the president to become law. "AOPA has argued insistently that control of the nation's airspace must remain under the direct control of the government," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. Earlier this year, the FAA declared ATC to be a "commercial function," thus potentially open to privatization. But FAA officials, including administrator Marion Blakey, have repeatedly stated there is no intention to privatize ATC.


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On The Fly...

A Russian jet fighter company will float a $100 million initial public offering on the London Stock Exchange next year. Sukhoi jet maker Irkut said the initial offering will be done to establish a credit history. The Moscow Times said Irkut is one of a few aviation companies not controlled by the government, although the government does hold 14.8 percent of the shares...

Young Eagles hit the 900,000 mark in early May, well on its way to flying a million young people by the Dec. 17 centennial of the Wright brothers' first powered flight. EAA members voluntarily fly kids in their aircraft to introduce them to aviation and, perhaps, coax them into the air themselves when they're older...

Air traffic controllers wanting to move up in the world should transfer to Phoenix. Ground was broken on a new 335-foot tower at Sky Harbor International Airport last week. It will be almost twice as high as the old tower, built in the 1970s...

The Aircraft Electronics Association (AEA) has awarded $100,000 in scholarships. A total of 23 students pursuing studies in avionics and related fields shared in the pool of money. The scholarships are sponsored by the AEA Educational Foundation...

One of the architects of the modern commercial aviation system died last week. Lloyd Welch Pogue headed the Civil Aeronautics Board from 1942 to 1946 and was the key U.S. representative at the Chicago International Civil Aviation Conference in 1944, which structured post-war international commercial aviation. He was 103.


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Short Final...

Having just rolled out and made my way to the taxiway, I contacted ground control. The taxiways were very lengthy and one way. This would have added nearly a mile to my travel to the gas pumps which were only several hundred yards away. "Ground control, Cessna ***** at Alpha 6, can I "fudge" a bit and turn left to the pumps?" After a short pause, "Cessna *****, fudging approved."

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

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