By Russ Niles, Newswriter
Semantics: President Opposes ATC Privatization Ban...
Well, FAA Administrator Marion Blakey may have no intention of privatizing air traffic control but she might want to check with the man who appointed her to the job. The Bush White House has put Congress on notice that an FAA Reauthorization bill passed by the House and the Senate last week will likely be vetoed by the president unless language prohibiting ATC privatization is scrapped. "If the final legislation includes provisions that would inappropriately prohibit the conversion of FAA facilities or functions from the federal government to the private sector, the President's senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill," said a White House statement. All commercial airports have FAA towers but many smaller fields have private contractors handling aircraft. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta told the Associated Press the government wants flexibility in administering those "contract towers." But to some, the word games appear to contradict public statements and a memo from Blakey to staff earlier this year assuring that ATC will not be privatized. AOPA President Phil Boyer said the veto threat shows the Bush administration's agenda is to privatize ATC, something he said the membership is dead set against. "Privatized air traffic control and the user fees that go with it is one of the three biggest concerns among our 400,000 members," he said in a statement. (Although, historically, AOPA has been open to privatization of Flight Service, the same does not appear true for ATC.) Boyer is also concerned about airlines gaining control of ATC through the privatization process although he didn't specify just what worries him about that. Both Senate and House versions of the ATC provision were watered down just before the vote. Initial drafts included technical staff and flight service staff. The Senate's amended version eliminated protection for the techs and FSS employees while the House bill kept the technical workers as government employees.
...Good Things Hang In Balance
The ATC provision was a single paragraph in sweeping legislation that, for the most part, have the alphabet groups cheering and taking credit for the good things they contain. In fact, the National Air Transportation Association (NATA) ignored the ATC issue and accentuated the positive. As AVweb told you a few weeks ago, when the wording was first proposed, there is relief for GA businesses hardest hit by 9/11 and the war in Iraq, more flexibility for charter operations, an appeals process for certificate suspension by the TSA, the recommendation that Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport be reopened to GA and a host of other provisions that are generally seen as positive developments for GA. NATA President James Coyne lauded legislators and staff "who have made this landmark legislation a reality." Of course, the White House has made it clear that it's not yet a reality. The House and Senate each passed their own version of the bill. Although they are parallel bills, there are some differences, including the term of the legislation and its relative cost. The Senate approved four years worth $58.9 billion while the House went for three years and $43.5 billion. Now, a committee of both arms of government must go through each version and hash out the differences, coming up with a single document that reflects the wishes of the whole Congress. Then it goes to the president for final ratification, which the White House has said may not be forthcoming.
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Service Launched Sunday...
Temporary Flight Restrictions, though ever-changing, would appear to be a permanent fixture, so the FAA is (finally) doing something that might actually help pilots comply. Starting yesterday, the agency began posting its own sanctioned graphical depictions of TFRs on the FAA Web site. There have been some graphical TFRs on the FAA site for more than a year but they were for "special interest" NOTAMs, generally relating to presidential movements or national security. The new system should provide graphical TFRs of all flight restriction types but if you went there yesterday, you may have had a very hard time noticing any difference -- the new material will be loaded over a period of time and the first 90 days will be a test phase. Public responses will be used to modify presentation of the material. The move is drawing hearty congratulations from AOPA, which, along with other aviation groups, has been lobbying for the service since just after 9/11. AOPA provides graphical TFRS on its Web site but President Phil Boyer said the FAA is the proper place for them. "Not only does it have the resources to provide the widest dissemination, but, as the issuing agency, FAA is also the final authority as to the accuracy and content of any such graphic," said an AOPA release. Ironically, flight service stations won't have access to the graphics because their computers are so outdated. The FAA is addressing that deficiency.
...President Carries 30 Miles Of Breathing Space...
It's not spelled out whether the president's hectic travel schedule will get the graphic treatment. A 30-nm TFR appears to have become the standard treatment wherever Air Force One touches down (aside from the one that encircles it while it's in the air) and as President Bush hits the campaign trail as many as three TFRs per day are being created. AOPA has added "Presidential Movement TFR" links to its home page to try and keep track of the wandering chief executive but pilots should always get the official word from flight services on any NOTAMs on their route before wheels up (and just hope the NOTAM doesn't arise after they do). Most groups agree 30 nm is excessive but they also seem to agree that it isn't going to change anytime soon. However, there is some pressure from the government to eliminate defense-related TFRs that blossomed after 9/11. As part of the FAA Reauthorization bill, the House included language encouraging the FAA to work with the Department of Defense to evaluate whether all those military-base and storage-dump TFRs are really necessary. The move was led by Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.). The military TFRs in northwest Washington State are like a slalom course for local pilots, who must make significant detours for what used to be point-to-point flights. The FAA has cancelled two military TFRs in recent months. The TFR over Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, home to the only squadron of B-2 bombers, was cancelled more than a month ago and on June 10 a TFR in the Valdez, Alaska, Class E airspace area was cancelled.
...EAA Wants Nuke Threat Quantified
In the meantime, while the world's security agencies have no idea about the location of a 727 gone missing three weeks ago in Africa, the mainstream media's apparent preoccupation with GA threats to nuclear facilities has EAA demanding that the government respond. On June 10, USA Today ran a story on the number of airports that are located near nuclear plants. EAA said the story dwelled on "what if" scenarios that did not cite any scientific evidence that airplanes, any airplanes, are a threat to nukes. EAA spokesman Doug Macnair said the various threat scenarios that gain mainstream publicity are effectively undermining the public's confidence in the safety of GA and that could doom the industry. EAA said it wants the TSA to "clear the air" on nuclear-plant safety and any other supposed hazards posed by GA. The article did acknowledge that the reactors themselves are considered safe from an airborne attack, but did question the vulnerability of other buildings, including spent fuel storage areas. "The article is precisely why EAA maintains that a top priority for the TSA general aviation policy division should be to conduct a legitimate and comprehensive threat assessment of general aviation," said Macnair. The official word on GA safety from the TSA should put this type of speculation to rest, he said. "Light aircraft do not pose a threat to nuclear facilities and especially spent fuel storage so we need to get this issue off the table for good," he said.
Embittered though many of us may be over the destruction of Meigs Field, some would concede it could yet be a fabulous park ... but a ping-pong emporium? According to a story in the Chicago Sun-Times, initial plans by the Chicago Park District are to fill the terminal building with ping-pong (more properly known as table tennis) tables and throw it open to the public in the next few days. According to the Sun-Times, in addition to ping-pong, the imaginative folks at the parks district came up with skateboarding, climbing walls, wildflowers, prairie grass trees and an observation deck. Meanwhile the fight to save Meigs grinds on and the Friends of Meigs (FOM) has asked the Park District to delay until the FOM can present a cake-and-eat-it proposal that retains the airport and provides for park use. The proposal will take a few weeks to finalize and the FOM wants the district to hold off on committing itself until the plan is ready. The FOM also wants to ensure there's plenty of public input before the bulldozers rev up again. Meanwhile, the Chicago-born actor known almost as much for his aviation exploits as his movies has thrown his support behind Meigs. Harrison Ford said he was infuriated by the early-morning destruction of Meigs' only runway on March 30. "I don't think I've been as angry about anything in a long time," he told the Sun-Times. Ford is also an environmentalist but we think we know where his true heart lies. "I'm all for parks," he said. "Parks are great, but so are airports."
Looks like it won't be long before the plane in front of you holding short might have all the patience in the world. Altair, the test bed for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) designed to share the airspace with piloted aircraft, completed its first flight June 9. The long-winged version of the military Predator UAV (86 feet vs. 64 feet) stayed close to home at the General Atomics's flight-test facility at El Mirage, Calif., on its first flight, gliding to a landing after 24 minutes. Ultimately, however, it's designed to fly for up to 32 hours as high as 52,000 feet and carry up to 750 pounds of communications, sensing, radar and imaging gear in its forward fuselage. And it's designed to do it from the airports the rest of us fly from. "This is what we've been waiting for," said Glenn Hamilton, project manager. "Now we can move forward with getting UAVs into the national airspace and conducting research." To keep it (and us) out of harm's way, the Altair comes with triple-redundant avionics, a "fault tolerant" dual-architecture flight-control system, an automated collision-avoidance system and an air traffic control voice relay allowing ATC to talk through the UAV to ground-based pilots. Satellite links will keep the pilots in control and also relay whatever data the UAV is gathering. Among the applications for such an aircraft are environmental science missions, like watching volcanoes, forest fire monitoring and atmospheric sampling, missions considered too dangerous, difficult or lengthy for manned flights. NASA's taking part in the program
What does Boeing have in common with Lancair, Cirrus, Liberty and host of other light plane and homebuilt manufacturers? A belief that composites help make better airplanes. The Chicago-headquartered aerospace icon announced June 12 that its 7E7 airliner -- if it's ever built -- will be made almost entirely of resin imbedded with graphite and graphite/titanium combined. A company news release said the decision was made after months of study and presentations from aluminum companies and composite manufacturers. "Composites offer us a variety of advantages, including better durability, reduced maintenance requirements and increased potential for future developments," said Mike Bair, VP in charge of the 7E7 project. The company also took dead aim at detractors' concerns about composite components -- maintenance and longevity. Since the first airplane parts were laid up using composites, detractors have pointed out there is no way of knowing what kind of structural changes (i.e. delamination and cracking) are taking place within a "closed" part. Boeing said it's addressing that issue with "structural health monitoring" on the 7E7. The company plans to embed sensors in the 7E7 that will "detect impacts and monitor structural integrity." Boeing says the system should help airlines plan and manage maintenance and also give them a constant picture of how the various structures are holding up. The company continues to shop the country, looking for states and communities that will offer the right incentives in exchange for a multibillion-dollar factory employing up to 1,200 highly paid people. According to an Associated Press story, Washington State, where almost all of Boeing's airliner construction now takes place, is the odds-on favorite with its trained workforce and about $3.2 billion in tax breaks on the table. There are no guarantees the airplane will ever be built, however. Boeing's board will make that decision by the end of the year, based on preliminary marketing efforts that are already under way.
As custody battles go, this is one for the (history) books. North Carolina politicians are going ballistic after Congress decided that Dayton, Ohio, where Orville and Wilbur Wright converted a bicycle shop into the first airplane plant, is the birthplace of aviation. Three North Carolina politicians were the only ones to vote against the resolution and rest their case on the obvious. "The Wright brothers made their first flight at Kitty Hawk. The last time I checked, Kitty Hawk [was] still in North Carolina," said Rep. Robin Hayes (R-N.C.) But Springfield, Ohio, Rep. Dave Hobson said there's more to parenthood than watching progeny fly away from the nest. Hobson claims the historic achievement was conceived in Dayton and the airplane, as we know it, took its first ungainly steps on nearby Huffman Prairie where the Wrights did much of their initial testing. The Wright Flyer was the mature, capable result of those nurturing years, he claimed. Even Wright relatives have stepped into the family dispute and sided with Dayton. Great-grandnephew Stephen Wright said he hopes North Carolina gets over its "insecurity complex" and acknowledges the true lineage of the Dec. 17, 1903, success. "North Carolina lawmakers speak out of ignorance of history when they try to attribute what the Wright brothers accomplished solely to their state," said Wright, who, incidentally, lives in Dayton.
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Getting around the airport could take on a whole new meaning at DFW International Airport in the future. The airport intends to build huge taxiways that encircle the runways, thus eliminating the need for aircraft to cross runways on the way to the one they're using. "We believe the implementation of perimeter taxiways will enhance the safety of the airport and improve airport efficiency for the aviation community and the flying public," said FAA spokesman Ronnie Uhlenker. With conventional taxiways, the tests showed DFW averages 147 runway crossings per hour -- the perimeter taxiways eliminated them. Although it sounds simple enough, DFW officials conducted elaborate simulations to see if it would work. Over three days at NASA's Ames FutureFlight Central virtual-reality control tower in Moffet Field, Calif., pilots in a B-747 simulator operated around a virtual mockup of DFW's airfield while FAA controllers manned the virtual tower. DFW already has the best record for runway incursions, recording a million flights without an incursion.
A current airline pilot with a Ph. D, Russel G. Chew, is the FAA's new chief operating officer. Chew will leave American Airlines, where he runs the day-to-day operations and grabs the odd flight himself, to start his new job on Aug. 1. He'll be in charge of ATC, research and acquisition programs...
The oldest Concorde in Air France's fleet landed at Dulles Airport Thursday to become a star attraction at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, the Smithsonian's new museum at Dulles. F-BVFA spent 27 years carrying the rich, the famous and the curious at 1,350 mph and 60,000 feet. The supersonic fleet was retired due to high costs and low ridership...
Bombardier's new boss defended his $1.5 million U.S. paycheck to unhappy investors June 10, not long after the company lost a $3 billion contract to arch-rival Embraer. Tellier told reporters he expected the shareholders to be unhappy but he said his salary is a bit more than he got at Canadian National Railway and he wasn't going to take a cut to join Bombardier...
EADS Socata has named Stephane Mayer as CEO. Mayer is 40 and holds engineering, administration and political studies degrees. He takes over from Philippe Debrun and will also take over the responsibilities of Jean-Francois Trassard, the senior executive vice president...
The Liberty XL-2 has completed spin testing successfully. Spokesman Russ Greenberg said the two-place touring plane passed every spin test with flying colors and actually resisted spinning in some configurations. Spin testing is considered the last big hurdle before certification and that's expected by the end of July...
If you're a woman and you like to fly with friends, Women With Wings might be for you. The informal group is planning its fourth group caravan to EAA AirVenture at Oshkosh. Any women pilots (men are welcome as passengers or co-pilots) who want to join can meet at Wisconsin's Rock County Airport the morning of July 26 for a mandatory two-hour briefing before taking off in the afternoon.
An exchange observed between the pilot of a sleek experimental and a Cessna driver shortly after they both taxied to the ramp...
Cessna Pilot: Wow. That thing really moves! You must have to wind the rubberband really tight.
Experimental Pilot: Nah, I just installed an extra hamster wheel. You're jealous?
Cessna Pilot: ...About 50-knots jealous, yes.
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