By Russ Niles, Newswriter
$100 Million Fund...
Financial relief could be on the way for GA businesses hardest hit by security-related measures resulting from 9/11 and the war in Iraq. The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure passed H.R. 2115, which includes a subsection (scroll for Sec. 428) allocating $100 million for specific airports and related businesses that have become GA icons in the ongoing rhetoric over security measures and their economic impact on GA. In general, the bill, which must still be passed by the House, approved by the Senate and signed by the president, applies only to those businesses and airports that have been closed or continuously affected by security-related restrictions and closures since 9/11. Topping the list are GA entities at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, which has been virtually closed to GA since 9/11. Next are the so-called DC-3 airports, College Park, Potomac Airfield and Washington Executive/Hyde Field, which have been closed to transient traffic since the attacks. Also up for funds are banner towers and others affected by the ban on stadium overflights and flight schools hurt by the restriction on foreign students taking training on aircraft larger than 12,500 pounds. To qualify for a grant, a business has to meet the qualifications and provide sworn financial statements or other data proving the lost revenue and additional costs incurred by the restrictions. The alphabet groups are restrained in their enthusiasm for the bill, possibly because of previous false starts and the knowledge that the White House appears from its record thus far to be against GA business relief. We'll keep an eye on this one as it moves through the process.
...Security Measures Included...
The bill also became the new home of certain security-related measures previously introduced in another piece of legislation. Jurisdictional snafus led to a request to reopen DCA for GA, a third-party appeal process for security-related airman certificate suspension and the creation of a small business ombudsman within the FAA to be included in this bill. It also contains a measure that would require the FAA to report to Congress within 30 days as to why the Washington ADIZ is in place and every 60 days thereafter should it continue. The TSA, which is an integral part of such decision making, isn't presently included in that reporting requirement. National Air Transportation Association President James Coyne said the wide-ranging bill is good news for GA in general. "It is important that our government not run roughshod over the rights of those who exist in the general aviation industry," Coyne said. AOPA's Phil Boyer chimed in that the bill sums up the needs and wants of a struggling industry. "The House Leadership on Aviation has proved again that they understand and support the needs of the general aviation community -- I'm pleased by the comprehensive approach to some of the most difficult issues aviation is currently facing," he said.
...Charter A Seat, Not A Plane
Perhaps the biggest structural change envisioned by the new bill is a measure that would dramatically improve the flexibility of charter operations between smaller airports. The amendment, proposed by Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) would allow on-demand charter operators, using turbine-powered or multi-engine piston-powered aircraft with 10 or fewer seats, to sell individual seats, rather than book the entire airplane. The cost of the seats would be negotiated individually between the charter operator and the passengers. Presumably, that means a charter company could find a planeload of pax headed in the same general direction and drop them off, one by one, at the airports of their choice. Industry spokesmen were pleased the idea might become law. "This is the type of creative thinking needed to lead us into the second century of flight," said National Business Aircraft Association President Jack Olcott. He said the measure would give more communities direct access to air travel, boost business for charters and save business travelers money. NATA's Coyne said the amendment would provide a cost-effective alternative to the Essential Air Service program that now subsidizes scheduled airlines to fly routes that are not economically viable. "In the current economic environment, neither the scheduled carriers nor the federal government can continue to justify this expense," he said.
Last-Second Appeal Gives Reprieve...
Chicago Mayor Richard Daley came within a few minutes of being able to finish the job at Meigs Field but some legal gymnastics and a last-ditch sprint to a Chicago courtroom spared the historic airport further indignity until at least June 4. The Friends of Meigs was able to convince Illinois State Appellate Court Judge Patrick Quinn to extend a temporary restraining order (TRO) on further demolition of Meigs -- now in place until 4 p.m. on June 4. Earlier in the day, Cook County Judge William Maki threw out FOM's suit against the city of Chicago and rescinded the TRO he had imposed while hearing arguments. AOPA tried to get another TRO in federal court a few hours later but that, too, was turned down. Then FOM's lawyers sharpened their pencils ... and laced up their running shoes. The lawyers spent several hours drafting the appeal and were almost late getting it to the courthouse. They had to sprint the last few yards to get through the doors before the 4:30 closing time. The judge apparently agreed to work overtime and they had the restraining order about 15 minutes later. Meanwhile, the future of Meigs as a repairable airport hung in the balance. According to FOM's e-mail newsletter, Daley's lawyers were "evasive" on whether or not they planned to complete the demolition over the Memorial Day weekend. Meanwhile, the supporters say every minute that Meigs remains in its current state helps the cause as lobbying efforts gather steam in the Illinois legislature. The latest strategy is to link an amendment to reopen Meigs to legislation allowing expansion of O'Hare.
...AOPA Plan Panned By Daley
Of course, not all the Meigs activity is like an episode of The Practice. Earlier in the week, AOPA said it had the answer with a plan for the city of Chicago to use $41 million in federal grant money to buy the airport from the Chicago Park District. Daley scoffed at the suggestion, saying the airport is worth at least $700 million and a state law prohibits the park district from selling more than three acres of land in one chunk. The National Air Traffic Controllers Association weighed in with support for the reopening of Meigs and rumors have been circulating about Daley's real motive for closing the airport -- so a huge casino resort can be built there. Even H.R. 2115 appears to address what happened at Meigs. The issue doesn't seem to be fading from the hearts and minds of the aviation community, and even Congress could take steps to prevent future debacles in the wide-ranging House aviation bill passed at the committee level on Wednesday via another section (scroll for Sec. 421), a "Meigs Legacy Amendment." The text would make it very expensive, indeed, for any other city that might be considering a similar surprise demolition, imposing a penalty of $10,000 a day for every day an airport remains closed without the required 30-day notice being given the FAA. "In the long term, regardless of what happens to Chicago's lakefront airport, pilots will have gained substantial new tools to protect other airports," said AOPA President Phil Boyer.
Michigan's student pilot criminal background law is under fire, again, this time from within. State Rep. Steven Ehardt (R-Dist 83) has proposed an amendment that would overturn the background check requirement that was passed by the state last year. AOPA, which is challenging the same law in court, helped Ehardt draft the amendment, which would replace the language requiring the background checks with requirements for security programs, identification of students and training students to be vigilant and report suspicious activity anywhere around an airport. The FAA and TSA have criticized the Michigan law. Both agencies claim that student pilot eligibility and aviation security issues are federal jurisdiction. The federal agencies contend that allowing states to implement their own rules on such matters would result in inconsistent regulations from state to state. AOPA intends to use testimony from both agencies in its court battle to overturn the law. Of course, if Erhardt's amendment is passed, that will save everyone a lot of time and money. The proposed amendment is currently before the state's House Committee on Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security.
The Robb Report, which reports "on issues and trends affecting the affluent market," chose to place the Cirrus SR 22 at the top of the heap for personal aircraft, above all other light aircraft, in its Best of the Best 2003 issue. "Our editors selected the Cirrus SR22 because of its exceptional safety system, exceptional performance capabilities, cockpit technology and cabin comfort," said editorial director Brett Anderson. We like the leather, too, but that blanket endorsement of the "safety system," meaning, of course, the whole-plane parachute, belies a safety record that is not presently near the best of the best. There have been six fatal crashes among the 700 or so aircraft in the fleet and numerous other non-fatal accidents and incidents, including one where the pilot claimed to be unable to deploy the chute. The chute-deployment problem was subsequently fixed under an AD. And although all the fatal accidents appeared to be the sole responsibility of the pilot, Cirrus was concerned enough about the safety record to launch a study of its own on whether pilot complacency, in a high-tech aircraft that places fewer demands on pilots, played a role in the crashes. So, far there's no word on the results of the study but we'll pass them along when we get them.
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In case you thought the Civil Air Patrol was about search and rescue and teaching kids to fly gliders, add dealing with a radiological and biological weapons attack to the organization's long list of potential activities. CAP members in Chicago and Seattle took part in TOPOFF 2, a counter-terrorism exercise that concluded May 16. It was the second such simulation undertaken by the State Department, Department of Justice and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. And since the first one was in 2000, this one was a little more poignant. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said the exercise was aimed at finding the strengths and weaknesses of the emergency preparedness system. CAP officials counted their members among the strengths. In a news release, CAP spokeswoman Melanie LeMay said members "worked seamlessly" with emergency responders. In Chicago, about 30 pretended to be victims of the attacks but there were pilots ready to take biohazard technicians to the exercise site. Others escorted VIPs and helped with crowd control while some were part of a large group sent to hospitals to receive simulated inoculations against the biological agent. Seattle CAP members not only took part in the exercise, some critiqued the performance of the emergency personnel. Col. Doug Jones, of the CAP Washington Wing, said the organization showed officials its worth in an emergency. "Federal, state and local officials now have a much better understanding of how Civil Air Patrol can support the national homeland security strategy," he said.
Despite the worst slump in aviation history, Boeing's airliner division is "strongly profitable" according to its CEO and is characterized as being "awash in cash" by the Dow Jones Newswire. And with $500 million handouts like the one the state of Kansas turned over last week, the financial future of the sales-challenged company would appear to be as rosy as it's ever been. CEO Phil Condit filled in Dow Jones on the secret of its financial success, saying cost-cutting was the key but branching into financing, in-flight broadband service and air traffic management is keeping the largest aerospace firm in the world in fine shape. It's estimating cash reserves of $2.5 billion for this year. So, why, you might ask, is Kansas being asked to risk $500 million of the people's money to prop up operations in that state? The answer, it would seem, is jobs: their creation and their maintenance. Boeing is Kansas's biggest employer and the state apparently wants to keep it that way. The legislature approved selling $500 million in bonds on behalf of the company to shore up the Wichita plant's bid to help build the 7E7 jetliner. In exchange for the bonds, the company must hire 4,000 employees. Boeing has to pay back the $500 million but it will be interest-free because the state is allowing the company to use payroll taxes it normally turns over to the government to pay the interest. As part of the same package of legislation, the state government also pledged to balance its budget.
Boeing's airliner division boss says there are better ways to protect airliners from missiles than equipping them with countermeasures. Alan Mulally told Reuters such systems would be "very complex" (read: very expensive) and might not even work. "The best thing to do is to create an environment where (an attack) doesn't happen or the consequences for that are very severe and not complicate the airplanes," he said. Mulally said adding missile defenses would involve major changes to the systems of airliners and it would be hard to keep those systems up to date to match technology of the newer, faster and more accurate missiles constantly under development by the war machine. Many military airplanes can also use their speed and agility to augment the missile defenses. "You have to take out the threat ... to make this terrorism unacceptable because you just can't, at the end of the day, completely protect a commercial airplane," he said.
Well, a lot of CEOs say they're hands-on but there's no disputing Eclipse boss Vern Raburn's claim. Instead of watching the flight test program of the 500 from the corner office, Raburn has flown the chase plane on at least three hops. As of May 20, the re-engined personal jet had flown six times and completed a major portion of the slow-speed aerodynamic and systems work. The test plane has flown as high as 15,000 feet at speeds ranging from 85 to 183 knots. "The results are very positive and prove that the Eclipse 500 airframe program is on track despite earlier engine vendor problems," Raburn said. So far, the flaps, gear, speed brakes and flight controls have been put through their paces -- the airframe itself has undergone a 2.5 g turn. The Eclipse is flying with a pair of Teledyne drone engines that seem to be holding up. Since abandoning the Williams EJ22, Eclipse has to wait for new engines to be developed by Pratt and Whitney Canada and the drone engines allow airframe testing to continue until the Pratts are ready at the end of 2004. The summary of each test flight says the airplane behaved "as expected." The normally docile Albuquerque weather has given test pilots a glimpse of how the plane behaves in rough stuff. On the first flight, the pilot landed in wind gusts up to 44 knots, saying it behaved well in the turbulence. An advanced telemetry system is helping the company gather more data and at a faster rate than other test programs. "Our engineers are able to see what is happening to the airplane in real time," said Raburn.
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Forget about the Mile High Club, how about the 10-Mile High Club? A Spanish couple claims to have done the deed in Concorde, only a few rows a way from British Airways CEO Rod Eddington, who had the final word on whether they were to be interrupted. "Let them enjoy themselves," he told cabin staff and so it was...
Former Gulfstream sales executive Joe Walker has joined Adam Aircraft's board of directors. Walker joins founder Rick Adam and Sandjeev Mehra and Douglas Graham of Goldman Sachs. He was most recently Gulfstream's president of worldwide sales...
Textron has appointed Michael Redenbaugh as CEO of Bell Helicopter, taking over from John Murphey, who is now the chairman emeritus of the company and one of the main pushes behind the civilian tiltrotor aircraft the company is developing...
EAA AirVenture will feature 500 forums and you can preview any of them online. The new feature on the EAA Web site sorts the forums by subject, date and time as well as offering detailed information on the content of each forum and the background of the presenter...
Republic Airport in Farmingdale, N.Y., will host the latest in business aircraft June 5 when the NBAA New York Business Aviation Forum and Static Display moves in. There will be 50 exhibitors and more than 40 of the latest business aircraft on display along with information sessions.
WIN THE GETAWAY OF THE CENTURY! AVweb and Pilot Getaways magazine have joined with BuyItWright.com to bring you the Getaway of the Century sweepstakes. The lucky winner will be a part of the Kitty Hawk activities on December 17. Other prizes include special commemorative watches and more. Enter the sweepstakes, secure VIP events seating, and purchase official Wright products at http://www.avweb.com/sponsors/100g
Years ago, as a student pilot, I remember the fear when my instructor told me we would be flying into Class B (then known as a TCA). What happens if I miss a call? What happens if I blow an altitude, or screw up a heading? He kept re-assuring me that I would do just fine. But I wasn't convinced.
I made contact and entered the airspace, flying my assigned altitude and heading with sweaty palms, listening to the pros.
Suddenly, ATC, in a very cynical, condescending tone, barked out "Northwest 560, WHERE are you going?"
A rather timid voice came back with "Heading 260, sir."
"I said 360! Fly heading 360. Just where do you think the airport is?"
"Roger ... 360" was the reply.
"Cessna XYZ, fly heading 300."
"Heading 300, Cessna XYZ."
"Thanks, at least SOMEONE here can follow instructions."
From that point on, flying in controlled airspace was no sweat.
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