By Mary Grady, Newswriter
Another Flight School Shuts Down...
In San Antonio, Texas, Stinson Air Center abruptly shut down last week and left employees and students high and dry, the Express-News reported on Friday. The flight school, one of the largest in the area, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation, according to the news report. Employees told the Express-News they had shown up ready for work last Thursday and found the doors locked and the offices apparently empty. Stinson Air's chief pilot told the News-Express he was getting calls from students asking about their $20,000 deposits. The news echoes the recent story of an abrupt shutdown at Airline Training Academy in Florida, where several hundred students say they lost thousands of dollars they had put on deposit for flight time. Stinson Air Center had been in operation for four years and offered flying lessons to the public and for students at a nearby college aviation program, as well as warbird training and a program for international students.
...As GA Struggles To Recover
The shutdown at Stinson Air is yet another beat on the drum reminding us that we are a long way from back to normal in the GA business world. Despite efforts to boost morale and accentuate the positive, the tough times are a reality for all too many unemployed workers, besieged small-business owners, and students trying hard to believe they have a future in aviation. In Wichita, planemakers are hanging some hope on the recent tax-cut bill, which includes an incentive that could encourage businesses to invest in new equipment, such as bizjets. "With aircraft sales the way they are, any boost is appreciated," Raytheon Aircraft spokesman Tim Travis told The Wichita Eagle. A similar incentive last year failed to show much of an impact, but this year's offers a bit more of a break -- and a bit more hope. Similar hopes attach another perhaps needier group to a section of H.R. 2115. Specific wording (scroll for Sec. 428) states that, "The Secretary of Transportation may make grants to reimburse" certain GA entities defined in the section "for the security costs incurred and revenue foregone as a result of the restrictions imposed by the Federal Government ..." If that sounds like you, read the section closely ... with your fingers crossed ... and perhaps consider a visit to your preferred place of worship.
Help For The Lost; Hope For DCA...
If you could use a little help navigating through today's security-conscious and ever-changing airspace, AOPA's Air Safety Foundation (ASF) now offers some assistance. The ASF on Monday unveiled a free online training program called "Know Before You Go" that helps pilots deal with the realities of shifting TFRs, prohibited airspace, NOTAMs, the off-and-on ADIZ, and intercept procedures. Pilots who complete the 30-minute program are eligible for credit in the Wings program. Meanwhile, at our nation's capital, GA operators are still banned from Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), but the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) says there may be some light at the end of that tunnel. A bill now in the U.S. House would require non-scheduled air carriers to be allowed back into the airport, and the NBAA on Monday said it is getting positive response to its lobbying efforts to expand the new rules to include GA. Access would require operators to conform to a TSA-approved security program, which is yet to be developed. Modifications to the bill could take place later this month, the NBAA said.
...New Runways Also Bring Airspace Changes
It may seem strange to some that in these times of diminished air travel, airports are building new runways and terminals. But planners haven't forgotten the congestion that was strangling the system a couple of years ago, and expect an upturn before too long and a positive trend over the long run. The Los Angeles Times reported on Monday that airports across the country launched $1.7 billion in new expansion projects last year. Among those projects is a proposed new parallel runway at St. Louis-Lambert International Airport, and along with the new runway comes changes in traffic flows. The FAA's Central Region plans to hold four public meetings this month to seek input on the ATC modifications. The changes would affect not only STL but four nearby fields as well. Spirit of St. Louis Airport (SUS), St. Louis Downtown Airport (CPS), St. Louis Regional Airport (ALN) and Scott Air Force Base/Mid-America Airport (BLV) may all be affected to some degree. Meetings are to be held June 11 at the Holiday Inn in Collinsville, Ill.; June 17 at the Holiday Inn in Kirkwood, Mo.; June 18 at the St. Peters, Mo., city hall; and June 19 at the Holiday Inn in Alton, Ill. The FAA will accept formal comments through July 18. For more information, call (816) 329-2560 or visit the following FAA Web page.
The NTSB has released its final report on a January 2002 incident when a China Airlines A340 took off from a taxiway in Anchorage, Alaska. The airliner, with 252 souls on board, left tire tracks in a snow berm, but climbed out safely and completed its flight to Taipei. The NTSB found as probable cause: "The captain's selection of a taxiway instead of a runway for takeoff and the flightcrew's inadequate coordination of the departure ... A factor in the incident was inadequate airline operator's procedures that did not require the crew to verbalize and verify the runway in use prior to takeoff." In a separate, and more deadly, incident, Alaska Airlines on Monday said it will accept legal responsibility for the January 31, 2000, crash of flight 261, an Alaska Airlines MD-83, off the California coast that killed all 88 aboard. Boeing said it would not contest liability over the plane's design. The positions were filed in a San Francisco court where wrongful-death suits stemming from the crash are pending, the Associated Press reported. The filings are expected to expedite the proceedings.
Helios, an unmanned solar-powered flying wing created by AeroVironment, is now being prepared for another NASA-sponsored major milestone -- the world's first multi-day fuel-cell-powered flight in the stratosphere. The aircraft in 2001 shattered the world altitude record for non-rocket-powered aircraft by flying to 96,863 feet, powered solely by silicon solar cells mounted on its wing. A 12-hour test flight that will take place this month sets the stage for the multi-day flight test, planned for Hawaii in July. "The Helios prototype has proven its capabilities to conquer the day on solar power," said John Del Frate, Helios project manager at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center. "Now to fulfill the long-term vision for it to fly routinely for extreme duration, the next challenge is to conquer the night. The key to that is development of the fuel-cell system. It's the necessary next step to extreme endurance." This year's mission for Helios will be powered with high-efficiency solar arrays by day and a newly developed fuel-cell-based electrical energy system at night. Developed by Helios' manufacturer, AeroVironment, of Monrovia, Calif., the system combines advanced automotive fuel-cell components with proprietary control technology designed for the harsh environment above 50,000 feet. The AeroVironment system consumes no fossil fuels, emits no atmospheric pollutants, and has a power-to-weight ratio about twice that of the best battery systems.
When a Russian-made Yakolev-42 crashed in Turkey last week, 62 Spanish troops returning from Afghanistan were killed, along with 13 crew members. The accident raised questions in Spain about aviation safety, and on Sunday the Spanish government banned the use of aircraft from former Soviet-bloc countries, CNN reported Monday. Spanish officials at first defended the safety record of the airplane, but they later told CNN the ban will remain in place pending an investigation into the crash. The Yak had been chartered from a Ukrainian company. The safety of Russian aviation has been a recurring concern in the years since the breakup of the Soviet Union and a string of recent fatal accidents. Last summer, 71 people died when a Tupolev-154 Russian airliner collided with a cargo plane near the Swiss-German border, and 83 spectators at a Ukraine air show were killed when a Soviet-era Su-27 fighter jet plowed into the crowd. Just last month, in an incident in the Congo, the cargo door of an Ilyushin-76 opened in flight. Passengers were riding in back with the cargo, without seats or seatbelts. That aircraft was leased from the Ukrainian defense ministry.
We'll bet you didn't know that June is not only National Dairy Month but also National Learn To Fly Month. With Father's Day falling smack dab in the middle, on June 15, perhaps the question is whether your Dad would prefer his first flying lesson to a block of Brie. The folks at Be A Pilot are trying to make the choice a bit easier by offering a certificate good for a $49 intro lesson at any one of 1,900 participating flight schools nationwide. "An introductory flying lesson is a gift Dad won't soon forget," says Drew Steketee, president of the nonprofit Be A Pilot campaign. "Chances are, it's something he's always thought of doing. So, don't give another run-of-the-mill gift when you can help him fulfill a lifetime dream." But if Dad already has his pilot's license or finds those little airplanes not to his liking, we've heard that some careful shopping could land you about two and a half pounds of Vacherin Mont d'Or (read: really expensive cheese) for the same $49. Too bad it's only available in November, December and January.
An FAA Airworthiness Directive issued on Monday affirms a fact that pilots have long suspected: having a wing (or two) separate from the airplane in flight would be a bad thing. This AD affects (Moravan) Model Z-242L aircraft, which are built in the Czech Republic. It beefs up a prior AD that restricted Acrobatic and Utility category operations and required replacement of the wings after a certain operational time. This week's AD maintains those restrictions, but also will incorporate the aerobatic frequency and life limit the airplane, instead of just the wings, in order to prevent fatigue cracking. Such failure could result in a wing separating from the airplane with consequent loss of airplane control, the FAA says. The AD takes effect today. Comments are accepted via e-mail until July 7 at 9-ACE-7-Docket@faa.gov. Comments sent electronically must contain "Docket No. 2003-CE-24-AD" in the subject line.
There's an old saying that the outside of a horse is good for the inside of a boy, and that may just hold true for airplanes as well. Some folks at Flabob Airport in Riverside, Calif., are trying out that theory on five young high-school-age gang members, by inviting them into a hangar to help restore a DC-3. The boys spend three hours a day, four days a week working on the aircraft, which is owned by the Commemorative Air Force of Riverside. "We didn't look them in the eye and tell them 'Gangs are bad' and 'You are all bad people,'" said Jon Goldenbaum, a retired Air Force colonel who is involved in the project. "We just said 'C'mon in, we'll take you as gang members, we just want to show you something.' They work well as a team because we left the gang intact." The program is working so well that supporters are drafting a second proposal to continue the work. "Aviation is so far away from anything these guys have ever thought about," Goldenbaum said. "We've given them some rides in airplanes, they're excited about flying, working on airplanes, and can't believe they're working on something that's actually going to fly." The project is supported by a federal grant in partnership with various sponsors and the local school district.
The January 8, 2003, crash of a Beech 1900D shortly after takeoff from Charlotte-Douglas International Airport that killed two crewmembers and 19 passengers was flown by Air Midwest (d.b.a. US Airways Express). We thank the good (and communicative) folks at Midwest Express for their enthusiastic patronage. Scaled Composites has informed AVweb that there will be no Scaled-organized June 7 gathering or display of new air vehicles at Mojave. Don't polish up those canards just yet ...
Does your company let you fly your personal airplane on business trips? Or do the suits in the corner office look the other way when you hand in your expense reports? Our sister publication, Aviation Consumer, is preparing a report on corporate policies for light aircraft use and we would like to hear owner experiences pro and con on this subject. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
High winds damaged or destroyed 20 to 25 airplanes and several hangars at San Marcos Municipal Airport as thunderstorms tore through Texas Monday night. Losses total up to $7 million, the Austin American-Statesman reported...
A proposal to construct a 2,000-foot tower in Bayonne, N.J., in the midst of the busiest terminal airspace in the world, has been put on hold. The tower instead will return to the top of a new building to be built at the former World Trade Center site...
A replica of the Spirit of St. Louis broke up in flight and crashed during an airshow in Coventry, England, on Saturday. Pilot and builder 59-year-old Pierre Hollander died of injuries sustained in the crash, BBC News reported Sunday...
AOPA prez Phil Boyer will take pilots' questions during a hangar-session seminar at the AOPA Fly-In in Frederick, Md., this Saturday...
The prohibited airspace around the presidential retreat at Camp David, Md., has been reduced to a 3-nm radius during times the president is not in residence, as of last Sunday, AOPA said.
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*** PREVIOUS RESULTS ***
We received over 90 pictures last week. Congratulations to this week's winner, James H. Cramer, of Henderson, Nev. His photo titled "Piper Arrow over Lake Mead, NV" provides us with an excellent view of northern Lake Mead. The aircraft pictured is James 1968 Piper Arrow." Great picture James! 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.
**Due to privacy issues, AVweb does not publish e-mail addresses of readers who submit photos.
*** PREVIOUS RESULTS ***
We received over 300 responses to our question last week on flying during the Memorial Day holiday weekend. About 30 percent of those responding flew during the period, but only within their local area. However, 22 percent did fly out of town, while 27 percent did not fly at all due to money, time or other personal reasons.
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 ATC facility tours. Thanks to Matt McNelley for suggesting this week's topic. 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.
AVweb's AVscoop Award...
Congratulations and an AVweb hat go out to Todd Hutsell, this
week's AVscoop winner. Submit news tips via email to
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New Articles and Features on AVweb
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Flying The Summer Low
A wimpy winter evolved into a wet, cold spring above the Mason-Dixon line, with plenty of low-pressure systems to entertain instrument pilots. (This article originally appeared in the July 2002 issue of IFR Refresher and is reprinted here by permission.)
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