By Russ Niles, Newswriter, Editor
This issue of AVweb's AVflash is brought to you by
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New Companies, New Products...
EAA AirVenture is just around the corner and because many companies gear their product development and PR campaigns to the week at Oshkosh, particularly this year in the centennial of flight, you will soon be awash in new products to drool over and/or lust for. AVweb is already aware of some new weather products, new aircraft and new support services for all facets of flight (including those you spend on the ground). Whether you're going to the show (see AVweb's Survival Guide) or not (see our coverage), the AVweb team will be at AirVenture in force, to find what's best of what's new. Among the new aircraft, Extra Aircraft, the U.S. sales and marketing arm of the German aircraft manufacturer Extra Flugzeugbau, will spotlight their new business/touring aircraft with designer, founder of the German-based company, and aerobatics icon Walter Extra on hand. Many people are already familiar with the Extra 300L, a nimble, two-seat, fully aerobatic plane, but the EA-500 and EA-400 models being introduced at Oshkosh are aimed at a different market. Both are six-place pressurized aircraft designed for Point A to Point B travel with speed and comfort. The EA-500 has a 450-h.p. Rolls Royce 250-B17F/2 with a five-bladed reversible prop to pull it at a maximum cruise of 230 KTAS. The EA-400 gets its 350 ponies and 220 KTAS from a liquid-cooled TCM TSIOL-550-C.
Explorer Aircraft is no stranger to AirVenture, but the latest twist in its marketing efforts might raise an eyebrow or two. The Australian-based firm is pitching its big, powerful, bush-friendly single as a "pilot-optional" aircraft for military use. With a pilot, the Explorer is a 10- to 16-passenger workhorse that can get in and out of smaller airfields. Take the crew out of the equation and the company says it's an unmanned aerial vehicle that can fly as high as FL400 and accomplish a myriad of missions. While AirVenture is a showcase for all types of aviation, its roots are with homebuilts and kit plane manufacturers, like the New Glasair, which continues to innovate, announcing a super-fast-build option. According to the company, the pre-built components shave a total of 750 hours from the build time. With a couple of weeks to go before AirVenture, Glasair, one of the oldest names in high-performance homebuilts, has announced a "jump start" kit that takes hundreds of hours off the build time. Many of the major airframe components are pre-assembled and aligned, resulting in factory-quality construction. "Now, when the crate is opened, it is clearly recognizable as a Glasair airframe, not a bunch of parts," said CEO Mikael Via. "The difficult and critical alignment work is done and structural integrity is maximized."
You won't actually have to attend the show to see some of the latest products and services being offered there (but it's a lot more fun). WSI, which provides pilots "a continuous stream of aviation weather information to your portable or panel-mounted display," will soon be setting up a temporary mini-site within its main Web site to show off its capabilities and provide extensive weather data for those traveling to the Oshkosh area. That will include satellite pictures, radar imagery, and a three-day temperature and sky forecast as well as a textual TAF. The mini-site will be up during the event and for a few days prior and afterward. Another company, TurboWx, will put similar information on your appropriately enabled cellphone. TurboWx is one of several companies offering packages to deliver all manner of weather information (even PIREPs) to your PDA or your SmartPhone. The color graphics and images offer a real-time look at conditions and you can also get forecasts and conditions in text format. There's even a flight-tracking function that follows your progress as you log onto the system so anyone interested in your flight can keep tabs on it.
Foreign Inspections Suspect...
Is the latest Inspector General report slamming the FAA a harbinger of things to come in the soon-to-be-created Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) category? On Thursday the Transportation Department's Inspector General criticized lack of oversight by the FAA on some maintenance facilities. It singled out the difficulties the FAA has with making sure work done in foreign countries is up to U.S. standards. That's been one of the main concerns of U.S. manufacturers who may face an influx of less-expensive imported aircraft when LSA becomes a reality. Oversight of foreign manufacturers is identified as a priority in the LSA rulemaking process but for some the FAA's record on overseeing offshore maintenance of U.S. airliners, as raised in the Inspector General's report, may suggest cause for concern. The report says that the FAA often can't determine whether offshore maintenance facilities are properly run because the inspectors from the other countries file their reports in other languages or in garbled English. Also, the American inspectors are typically not allowed to conduct unannounced inspections of foreign facilities. The report also says that employment standards for aircraft mechanics in other countries are not as high as in the U.S. It said mechanics in foreign countries are not always required to undergo the drug, alcohol and security-background checks they must clear in the U.S.
...Repair Stations Face New Rules
Maintenance concerns were raised during the investigation into the crash of an Air Midwest Beech 1900 in Charlotte last January and the Inspector General is warning more safety problems could arise if the FAA doesn't tighten inspections of contract maintenance facilities. Meanwhile, the National Air Transportation Association (NATA) is concerned that the FAA's plans to Oct. 6 implement new rules for repair stations and quality-control manuals does not provide shops opportunity to study the rules and comment. NATA Vice President Jeb Burnside is also concerned about a new policy that would require component repair be treated as outsourced maintenance. He said the rule would increase paperwork and costs without improving safety. "When a repair station simply sends out a part for repair or overhaul by an FAA-certificated authority, there is no rational reason why that transaction needs to be labeled as contract maintenance," said Burnside, "This policy on contract maintenance clearly places an untenable financial burden on small businesses at a time when they can ill afford it." On average, about half the maintenance performed on U.S. airliners is done by outside contractors but the report says the contractors get far fewer visits from the FAA than do the airlines' in-house facilities. The report didn't name names but in one case an airline's own shop was inspected 260 times in 2002 while its contractor had only six inspections. The quality of those inspections is also suspect. The report says inspectors sometimes spend as little as 20 minutes reviewing whether repair stations meet standards. All this doesn't mean the system is unsafe, however, according to FAA Administrator Marion Blakey. "You will not find in the report any data or indications that there is anything unsafe," she told a news conference. At the same time, Blakey said the FAA agrees with most of the findings in the report and will step up surveillance of the repair stations.
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In what looks like a case of too little, too late, a lone Chicago Alderman (one of 50) has spoken in support of reopening Meigs Field. Ald. Joe Moore (D-49th Ward) stood up at last Wednesday's full meeting of council to call for public hearings into alleged safety problems caused by the March 31 closure of Meigs and for consideration of reopening the waterfront airport. At an earlier news conference, Moore said there have been increased runway incursions at O'Hare and allegations of overwork by air traffic controllers at Midway since Meigs was closed by Mayor Richard Daley, who ordered large X's excavated in the runway. It would cost about $500,000 to fix the runway but Daley seems intent on removing it and creating a park on the property. The Friends of Meigs (FOM) has suggested an alternative plan that would keep the airport open but open more property for park use, but the Daley administration is apparently drawing up the bid documents to complete the job started March 31. The FOM tried to raise funds for a Supreme Court challenge of the closure, after lower courts ruled in Daley's favor, but not enough money was raised in time. The FOM praised Moore's "courage and leadership" in introducing the resolution.
Boeing has entered the race to put a fuel-cell-powered aircraft in the air. Boeing's research center in Madrid, Spain, will launch the process, planning to equip a Diamond Katana Xtreme motor glider with the plumbing, controls and electric motor needed to make it fly on a fuel cell. The plan is to fly the aircraft by late 2004 or early 2005. Most of the corporate partners in the project are European, but Advanced Technology Products, of Worcester, Mass., which has been making slow progress on their own fuel-cell aircraft project, is also involved. That project in June won a $400,000 NASA grant "to develop and build the Fuel Cell System for the project." It's not clear if that project will be continued, abandoned or absorbed in the well-heeled Boeing project, which hopes in the near term to produce a fuel-cell powered APU. The investigation continues into the crash of the Helios Prototype, the unmanned aerial vehicle that was preparing to test a fuel-cell propulsion system. Initial data collected over two weeks since the aircraft crashed off the coast of Kauai, Hawaii, indicates the remotely piloted flying wing experienced undamped pitch oscillations that lead to a partial breakup of the aircraft when it was about 3,000 feet above the ocean. The board investigating the accident believes the oscillations "may be related to the complex interactions between the aerodynamic, structural, stability and control and propulsion systems on a flexible aircraft." The fuel cell didn't cause it. It hadn't been turned on yet. It's back to the drawing board for the Helios Prototype owner AeroVironment, which is vowing to build an even better fuel-cell aircraft with the tough lessons learned so far.
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A top FAA official has been "counseled" by Administrator Marion Blakey and new flight information policies are being drafted after the agency got caught in a Texas-sized political scramble in May. The Department of Transportation's Inspector General's office released findings of the FAA's involvement in the fracas, which, as we reported in June, at one point had the full weight of the Department of Homeland Security's interdiction apparatus looking for a planeload of hooky-playing Texas state politicians. "The FAA lacks clear internal guidance for the processing of requests for FAA aircraft/flight information received from law enforcement and other government entities," said the report, triggered by Sen. Joe Lieberman, and authored by Inspector General Ken Mead. The kafuffle arose out of a May 12 filibuster by Democratic members of the Texas legislature, who fled to nearby Oklahoma to prevent a quorum for a vote on a contentious Republican bill. One of the senators, Pete Laney, used his airplane to make his getaway and that's where the FAA became involved. When the Republicans found out Laney was in the air, calls were made to at least three FAA offices, one of which referred the caller to the DHS tracking facility in California. Fort Worth Center was also contacted and provided flight-plan information but it was the call by a senior Texas staff member to David Balloff, the FAA's Assistant Administrator for Government and Industry Affairs, that had the most repercussions. Balloff, who told investigators he thought the inquiry was safety-related, called the FAA's Washington operations center and was told Laney's plane would be landing in Ardmore, Okla. One of Balloff's staff then called the unnamed Texas official with the information, which told the Texas Republicans where the Democrats' hideout was. Balloff later told investigators he felt "used" when he found out what the information was for. "I would never use my office to help somebody out politically, or any political reasons, period," he said. Mead's recommending policies be drafted so all FAA staff know what they can say and to whom and for them to write down the names of people who make such inquiries and why. A separate set of rules governing the gathering of flight information by the public, via the Internet, is also in the works.
GA pilots in the Los Angeles area are getting plenty of advanced notice of an FAA Christmas present to them. For whatever reason, the FAA has chosen Dec. 25, 2003, to implement the realignment of a VFR corridor through the busy LAX area. The new alignment changes the northern boundary of the Los Angeles Special Flight Rules Area and it also clarifies the text of the flight regulations within the SFAR to ensure aircraft maintain the correct fixed altitude while using the route.
Owners of certain Lycoming engines will have to replace the rotary fuel pumps on them sooner rather than later. An earlier AD requiring torque check inspections of the pump relief valve attaching screws on certain Cran/Lear Romec "AN" rotary fuel pumps has been superseded by a new AD that requires the inspection plus the replacement of the pump with one of an improved design. The older style could leak.
AOPA has developed an online form to collect real-life horror stories of pilots trying to operate within the security-related flight restrictions that have become a fact of life since 9/11. AOPA wants to use the stories as ammunition in its attempt to have the whole system of security-related regulations reviewed. AOPA is particularly interested in pilot experiences in the Baltimore-Washington Air Defense Identification Zone and the presidential-movement TFRs that pop up wherever Air Force One lands. "We will take these very real operational stories to the decision makers. We want them to feel our pain and respond," said President Phil Boyer. "The ADIZ flight plan system around D.C. is an absolute disaster," said Larry Kelley, who routinely flies his vintage B-25 for special events in the D.C. area. The Barstow, Md., pilot said that on three consecutive flights air traffic control lost his flight plan and one caused him to be 20 minutes late for a fly-past that was supposed to coincide with the playing of the national anthem at a veterans' home on July 4. "Other pilots in the area all complain of the same problems," he said. The AOPA action comes two weeks after a Maryland pilot's Cessna 172 ran out of fuel after ATC couldn't find his flight plan and ordered him to circle outside the ADIZ for more than an hour.
As AVweb told you Thursday, ILS-like accuracy could be coming to an airport near you, thanks to the FAA's new Wide Area Augmentation System. The WAAS signal, which improves GPS receiver accuracy, was switched on and now properly equipped aircraft can pinpoint their position to within a few meters. But the major impact will be in the creation of ILS-like approaches to hundreds of airports not yet served by the costly (to buy and maintain) ground-based ILS equipment. AOPA President Phil Boyer said the organization has been behind the over-budget, years-late system from its inception. FAA Administrator Marion Blakey apologized for the delays but said it was worth the wait. "The general aviation community will be the first to benefit from this system," she said. To make use of the 500 GPS approaches already written, WAAS-capable GPS units must be certified for vertical and lateral positions. Only two companies, UPSAT and Chelton, have those systems built and they are expected to be certified by the end of the year. "WAAS is the answer for providing precision approaches to all of those airports where ILS just isn't possible," Boyer said, adding that other companies would surely follow in the steps of UPSAT and Chelton. Now, he said, it's up to the FAA to speed up the publishing of WAAS approaches to the remaining thousands of airports in the U.S. "At the present rate it will take 30 years to chart WAAS approaches into all airports," Boyer said.
Funding security is nearer for the Airport Watch Program. During appropriations discussions, Sen. Fritz Hollings successfully offered an amendment directing the continued funding of the toll-free 1-866-GA-SECURE hotline that allows pilots and other to report suspicious activity at airports. The bill containing the amendment will next go to the full Senate...
A total of 22 living aviators enshrined in the National Aviation Hall of Fame will be honored along with the 151 that have died at the Pioneers of Flight Homecoming in Dayton, Ohio. The event is July 19 during the big Dayton Air Show and 2,000 will attend the already sold-out black-tie gala...
Alabama's wildlife authorities are soaring with eagles using a Cessna 182T. The officials inspect the nests of all the state's bald eagles by zeroing in on their locations with the Skylane's GPS. The plane does in 12 hours what ground observers would take weeks to accomplish...
Concorde's last flight will carry winners in a national contest on a farewell tour. Before the engines are shut down forever on the supersonic airliner, 640 lucky winners will be able fly on one of the legs of the tour. The luckiest will get a supersonic champagne flight over the Bay of Biscay. The last commercial flight of the Concorde is Oct. 24 from New York to London.
After holding short of runway 4, with the vice-president of the company riding shotgun and no traffic in sight...
Pilot: "Cessna 123, still holding short."
Tower: " Cessna 123, Hold your taters."
Pilot: "Taters held, over."
Tower: "Cessna 123, release taters, [chuckle] Runway 33, position and hold."
The VP was impressed and the pilot is now known company-wide as "Tater".
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New Articles and Features on AVweb
The Pilot's Lounge #63: It Takes A Village To Raise An Airport
AVweb's Rick Durden has gotten used to stories about airports losing money, support, and pilots. So when he heard about a place where the airport was increasing the support from the citizens, he had to find out more.
Risk Management For Pilots
Why does the risk of accidents increase in the few hundred flight hours after primary flight training? Are we still not properly teaching students how to manage risk as they build experience in a variety of flight situations? AVweb presents some suggestions to get you started.
Reader feedback on AVweb's news coverage and feature articles:
Reader mail this week about plane crazy days of summer, the Avjet settlement and more.
Sponsor News and Special Offers
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HOW SENSITIVE IS "YOUR" CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTOR? Low levels of carbon monoxide can be hazardous in aircraft since the effects of CO and hypoxia are cumulative. By the time a chemical spot or hardware store CO detectors alerts, you could have a life-threatening exhaust leak. The CO Experts 2002 from Aeromedix warns of CO levels as low as 5 parts per million! On sale for $99.95. See all Aeromedix's products at AirVenture booth 3002-03. Be safe and order your CO detector today by calling 888 362-7123 and mention this AVflash, or go online at http://www.avweb.com/sponsors/aeromedi
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REMOTE AND BEAUTIFUL...PILOT GETAWAYS INSPIRES YOU TO GO THERE The tiny resort of Punta San Francisquito in Baja, Mexico is just one of the destinations you will find in the Summer issue. Stop by AirVenture tent 34 to pick up your FREE issue and meet the staff. Subscribe to Pilot Getaways at http://www.avweb.com/sponsors/getaways
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FLYING'S PETER GARRISON FINALLY FLYS HIS MELMOTH 2! In Flying's August issue Peter Garrison flys his Melmoth 2 after 21 year of construction; a pilot report on the Robinson Raven II and Cayenne; A new twist on shared ownership with a Cirrus SR22; and more. Stop by Flying magazine's AirVenture booth 4151 and BMC 201 for your FREE copy, and for special online rates go to http://www.avweb.com/sponsors/flying
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AVIATION SAFETY AUGUST ISSUE HIGHLIGHTS: "Convective Living", technology make most trips a safe go; "Flight Review & You", get out what you put in; "Shut the Prop Up", techniques for keeping the peace; "Fighting Corrosion"; "Evasive Action", easing the potential for mid-air collisions; plus, accident reports, service difficulties and real-life experiences in the air. Stay informed and up-to-date with your subscription to Aviation Safety.http://www.avweb.com/sponsors/belvoir/avsaf/
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SMITHSONIAN'S AIR & SPACE MAGAZINE IS A HISTORICAL KEEPER! August/September issue highlights: The Hmong Air Force, trained by the CIA they fought like tigers to protect their homeland; Hong Kong's Kai-Tak airport has closed, can the flying club keep the legends alive?; Space Garden; State Secret: The Trade War; Of Tri-motors and Travel Airs; and much more to peak your interest and increase your knowledge. Order online at http://www.avweb.com/sponsors/smithson
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HUMAN FACTORS IN AVIATION ACCIDENTS AUDIOTAPES DISCUSSES THE HUMAN SIDE of why accidents happen and what can be done to prevent them. The tape discusses in-flight decision making, error chains, personal limits, personality traits, and other elements than can lead to disaster. Brian Jacobson, author of Flying On The Gages, will give you something to think about. Order online at http://www.avweb.com/sponsors/odyssey
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SUPPORT THOSE WHO BRING YOU FREE AVFLASHES! Stop by during AirVenture and tell AVweb sponsors how much you appreciate their support of your FREE AVflash issues. AVweb will be in booth 4144-45. For a list you can print out and take with you go to http://www.avweb.com/shopping/sponsors.html
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