By Russ Niles, Newswriter, Editor
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States Meddle In Pilot Certification...
Look for the alphabet groups to switch their focus from Michigan to New Jersey in the now-familiar battle to prevent states from getting into the pilot-qualification business. Just as the Michigan House was giving unanimous support to a bill that would repeal that state's criminal background-check law, New Jersey legislators were passing a law that would require, at their own expense, fingerprinting and "background identity checks" for student pilots. New Jersey's already mandates that pilots comply with a mandatory "two-lock" rule. According to the Soaring Society of America (SSA), the current legislation can be interpreted to cover introductory flights (flown by CFIs) as well as regular flight instruction and will become law unless Gov. James McGreevey vetoes it within the next 40 days. The governor is available, here. New Jersey lawmakers are apparently sensitive to the jurisdictional and rights issues they are raising with this measure because it's a considerably watered-down version of the original proposal. The original bill called for criminal record checks of prospective students and their rejection if they'd been convicted of a serious crime. The new version of the law omits all reference to criminal checks but it still makes the identity check a condition of obtaining a student certificate. That, says the SSA, is where New Jersey steps into federal jurisdiction. The SSA is urging its New Jersey members to e-mail the governor, urging him to exercise his veto, using an available form and writing the word "other" in the subject line to ensure the e-mail goes to the right in-box. Presumably they wouldn't mind if powered types joined in.
...Emergency Revocation Appeal Process Floated...
Meanwhile, federal legislators appear to be taking no chances that the so-called "pilot insecurity rule" will be left solely in the hands of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to administer. A few weeks ago, the Senate and House passed their versions of the FAA Reauthorization Bill establishing an independent appeal process for pilots, instructors or mechanics who lose their certificates based on security concerns raised by the TSA. Currently, it's the TSA that hears the appeals. There's no guarantee that language will survive a joint Senate/House committee review that must reconcile the differences between the two versions of the bill. Just to be on the safe side, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure has included the appeal language in a bill of "technical corrections" to the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, thus giving the measure a second chance if it's lost in the FAA bill. The new bill, the Aviation Security Technical Corrections Act of 2003, also tackles some other long-standing security-related issues. For instance, it would require the FAA to get approval from the Department of Homeland Security's under secretary for border and transportation security before imposing any security-related TFRs. Citing the TFRs over Disney theme parks and describing them as "purely commercial," AOPA applauded the chain-of-command measure included in this bill. "The measure demonstrates that the committee understands security-related TFRs must be based on specific and credible threats," said an AOPA news release. The bill would also restore GA access to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and put banner towers back in the air over stadiums.
...Plane Paperwork Under Microscope
Your personal paperwork isn't the only object of the government's security watchdogs. The FAA has announced it is going through its aircraft registry, one plane at a time, to ensure that all the documents are in the right place at the right time. Any registration that doesn't meet requirements -- for any reason -- will be flagged as a possible security threat and followed up on by the FAA. The solution for aircraft owners is simple and that's to make sure that all the paperwork is properly done, especially with ownership transfers and other status changes. But AOPA also wants to make sure the FAA is not overzealous in its review. "AOPA's concern is that aircraft owners not be branded potential terrorists due to a clerical error or other innocent mistake," said AOPA VP Melissa Bailey. Meanwhile, as AVweb told you last week, the state paperwork for many Ohio aircraft owners will get a lot more expensive. Despite AOPA's pleas to Gov. Bob Taft, he signed off on legislation that increased the state registration cost of most small planes from $12 a year to $85 a year. AOPA President Phil Boyer said raising registration fees isn't usually a moneymaker for governments. "Attempting to fund aviation maintenance and repair through raising aircraft registration fees will cause aircraft operators to register their aircraft in neighboring states with more attractive fee schedules," Boyer said.
Seeking Legislation For GA Access...
The latest legislative attempt to broaden access to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) has passed the committee stage. Included in the Aviation Security Technical Corrections Act of 2003 are provisions to allow non-scheduled carriers back into the metropolitan airport. The bill has been passed by the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and will go before the full House, although no timetable has been set. Under the bill, the Department of Homeland Security and Secret Service would develop a security program for the non-scheduled carriers. An amendment also passed that would allow non-commercial business aircraft into DCA under an approved security process. The National Air Transportation Association (NATA) lauded both measures, saying the bill sends a message to the federal security bureaucracy. "This measure provides the necessary Congressional impetus to force the federal transportation security apparatus to reopen our nation's capital airport to non-scheduled commercial operations," said NATA President James Coyne. The National Business Aircraft Association (NBAA) was pleased with the amendment that would allow its members back in to DCA and also noted the broader effects of such a move. NBAA VP Pete West said that about 60,000 GA movements were recorded annually at DCA before 9/11, about a third of the total traffic. The GA ban has caused about $40 million in direct losses to airport businesses and also hurt access to other businesses in the D.C. area. The NBAA says it has early indications the Senate will look favorably on the bill and its amendment.
...FAA Says It's TSA's Call
Meanwhile, the FAA seems to be distancing itself from the whole DCA debate. The agency has passed the buck on reopening the airport to non-scheduled services. In a letter to NATA, the FAA said it's "not the final authority on security concerns" and passed NATA's request to the TSA. NATA had formally petitioned the FAA to lift the charter ban at DCA. In its letter, the FAA said the Department of Homeland Security calls the tune on such matters and the FAA just does the footwork. "We have reviewed your petition and are sympathetic to your needs," the letter reads. It goes on to say that the Department of Homeland Security makes the call on security issues and FAA implements the required measures. NATA President James Coyne said the FAA's sidestepping, while disappointing, is not a setback in the petition effort. "We intend to aggressively pursue this with the TSA," said Coyne. "... There is no rational reason why non-scheduled commercial air carriers should not be allowed access into the primary airport serving the nation's capital."
Well, the test pilot came out of it unscathed, but the crash of a cutting-edge unmanned prototype off Hawaii is a tragedy nonetheless for this fuel-cell test project and record setting aircraft. The solar-electric Helios Prototype flying wing was destroyed when it crashed into the Pacific Ocean in the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility off the island of Kauai on Thursday. The propeller-driven craft was flown by a ground-based pilot from the plane's owner, AeroVironment Inc., on a checkout flight to test the fuel-cell system. The fuel-cell system was needed to power the engine at night. During the day, solar panels kept the prop turning. The goal of Thursday's flight was to test the fuel cell under extreme conditions and to conduct a rapid shutdown of the cell and switch to batteries. It was the prelude to a planned 40-hour flight to demonstrate the long endurance of the aircraft. An accident investigation team will be formed by NASA, AeroVironment, and the Navy to determine the exact cause of the crash.
Adam Aircraft is next in a lengthening line of modern designs to have chosen Avidyne's FlightMax Entegra integrated flight deck for its push-pull A500T twin. The Avidyne system (reviewed, June 15, by AVweb) features two 10.4-inch diagonal, high-resolution sunlight-readable displays as pilot and co-pilot primary flight displays (PFD). Each display has its own electronics for reliability and redundancy running the solid-state air data and attitude/heading reference system (ADAHRS). The screens will also show standard flight instrumentation including an electronic attitude direction indicator, electronic horizontal situation indicator, altitude, airspeed and vertical speed. Adam CEO Rick Adam said the company looked at all the emerging flight deck systems being offered and the Entegra was the top choice. He said it not only provides the pilot with useful information, it also makes servicing easier because it replaces six instruments with one line-replaceable unit. Avidyne systems are available as options in some single-engine aircraft but this is its first placement in a larger type. All the paperwork has been done with the FAA and the system is now in full production.
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A fatal crash involving one of its students has prompted a Florida flight school to accelerate the closure of its primary flight-training department. Gulfstream Academy of Aeronautics will continue to offer advanced training to existing pilots who want to work for the airlines but it's no longer taking private, commercial, multi- and instrument-rating students. There are about 20 students working on those ratings now and they will be sent to other schools, with Gulfstream picking up any difference in cost. Gulfstream President Mark Ottosen said the fatal crash two weeks ago speeded up the plans. "With this incident, it's just a good time to change our focus and move on," he said. Commercial student Johnny Mark Willey was flying one of the school's Cessna 172s on June 17 when it collided head-on with a 182 at about 1,100 feet about a half-mile offshore of the Deerfield Beach International Fishing Pier. Willey, his wife Susan and their daughter Shelbi, both on their first flight with Willey, died, as did the occupants of the 182, Steve Ross and Douglas Bauer.
As air shows go, it's a big one -- but then so are the hearts of the organizers. Van Nuys Airport's Aviation Expo 2003 raised $101,000 for more than 20 local nonprofit youth and service organizations. Nature played a role by turning down the Southern California heat to attract more than 385,000 people over two days. The crowds were treated to a massive static display that included, along with the military, vintage and commercial aircraft, a full-scale replica of the Wright Flyer. There were also numerous aerobatic, military and vintage flying displays.
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A new safety and engineering center, with the power to stop a space shuttle launch, will be in place before Atlantis blasts off as early as next December, NASA announced Friday. NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe told a meeting of the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors and the Florida Press Association that the safety center will cover all programs of the agency. "They can stop the mission or stop the operational activity or slow it down or whatever else is necessary along the way when they find ... really serious issues that need to be resolved," said O'Keefe. O'Keefe used the loss of the shuttle Columbia as an example of how the center might intervene by analyzing incidents and trends and demanding they be addressed. "The fact that the foam strike, for example, occurred on every flight," O'Keefe said,"[engineers in a safety center] can say 'Wait a minute. Why are you tolerating any of that? Here are the consequences.'" NASA has already made safety-related plans for the next launch, including testing carbon panels to protect the wing leading edges, scheduling daylight launches to ensure clear images are available and enabling astronauts to check for damage after they're in space.
Warbirds and other surplus military equipment in private hands appear safe, at least for this year, from the Bush administration's fixation with destroying the historic items. Every year, the White House tries to include, as part of the defense authorization bill, a section that would require owners of warbirds and other ex-military equipment to "demilitarize" the items at their own expense. The wording is found in S. 1050 and H.R. 1588. It's generally agreed that means destroying them. But each year, the Senate and the House, after prompting from the various associations that owners of these things belong to, delete that section from the bill. That happened this year in May but apparently some media outlets got hold of the wrong bill, which still included the demilitarization clause, and reported that warbirds were at risk. Both AOPA and EAA issued statements last week saying the immediate danger is over but plans are in the works to end the political cat-and-mouse game for once and for all. EAA and Warbirds of America want to meet with House and Senate officials to draft legislation that would protect warbirds from demilitarization bills.
Following the president's campaign junkets, and avoiding them, has never been easier, thanks to EAA and AeroPlanner.com. Click the presidential seal on the EAA home page and you'll get a rundown of the chaos the commander in chief is causing as he fights for re-election. EAA cautions the service is no substitute for a thorough quizzing of FSS personnel just before takeoff...
The 15th Annual Women in Aviation Conference is in Reno March 11-14, 2004. There will be 36 seminars and two general sessions at next year's event. If you think you have something to share with the membership, resumes for presenters are being accepted until Sept. 19. Theme for next year is Aviation's Changing Face: Celebrating 15 Years of Education and Promise...
About 40 pilots are taking part in a cross-country sailplane race to mark the centennial of powered, sustained flight. The 17-day race will take the sailplanes from Los Angeles to Kitty Hawk, ending July 4. First leg of the race was marred by the death of Gene Carapatyan, of Cypress, Calif., in a crash near Crystalaire, Calif....
Damaged wiring grounded one of five remaining Concordes last Tuesday. Engineers discovered the overheated wiring near a fuel pump in the British Airways plane. Air France has already grounded its Concorde fleet but BA will fly them until Oct. 26.
Heard on a pre-flight announcement from an American Airlines pilot:
"On our flight today, we will be flying at 34,000 feet. To give you an idea of how high that is, we would be able to fly over 50 Empire State buildings stacked one on top the other.
"Our speed will be about 500 miles per hour. That is just over the muzzle velocity of the standard military .45 pistol."
"We will be pushed along by two Pratt and Whitney JT-8D-200 turbofan engines. While thrust to horsepower varies with altitude, the total 40,000 pounds of thrust is greater than the combined power of 10 D-9 diesel locomotives."
"In other words, we're faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, and as always, your Dallas based crew stands for truth, justice, and the AMERICAN way!"
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New Articles and Features on AVweb
When problems arise, pilots are trained to logically step through checklists and quickly determine causes and actions. But beware the red herrings: When dealing with complicated mechanical systems like airplanes, the first culprit is not always the primary cause, as Michael Maya Charles relates in this month's As The Beacon Turns.
Taking the "Search" Out of "Search-and-Rescue"
After years of bureaucratic delay, the FCC has finally approved the use of 406 MHz Personal Locator Beacons in the United States starting July 1, 2003. For less than $1,000, you can now carry technology in your flight bag or survival kit that will alert search-and-rescue agencies of your identity and exact location within five minutes.
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