By Mary Grady, Newswriter, Editor
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Cash-Strapped Cali To Raid Aviation Funds?...
"Chaos in California" was a common headline over the weekend, as dozens signed up to run against Gov. Gray Davis in the state's recall election. That chaos is affecting GA, too. In the midst of a budget crisis, the state, through signed budget legislation, could divert $4.8 million (capable of leveraging near $28 million in federal funds) from the Division of Aeronautics into the general fund. That money is derived from taxes on users of the aviation system, says AOPA, and should be used for aviation support. While AOPA last week urged approval of a bill now in the state Senate that would safeguard the funds, a story titled "State budget includes vital airport funds" that last week ran in California's Desert News credits others and seemed more assured of the outcome. ...Maybe Arnold could figure it all out? The article says California City Municipal Airport Manager Tom Weil "worked the issue vigorously by walking the halls in the state capitol since learning some six months ago that $5 million in state aviation funds might be transferred into the state general fund by Governor Gray Davis ..." Weil gives much of the credit for saving the funds to state Senator Roy Ashburn (R-Bakersfield). "This $5 million insures that [local projects will go] forward, and it also guarantees that the $10,000 annual grants airport receive comes to us," Weil told the Desert News. Said AOPA President Phil Boyer, who still leads the charge to make sure the legislation is put into effect as advertised: "Without these funds, there would be a dramatic decrease in funding for aeronautics programs, and the safety and utility of many general aviation airports would be adversely impacted."
...As Busy Van Nuys Makes "Privatizable" List...
Amidst all that California chaos, air traffic controllers from Van Nuys Airport held a press conference to publicize the fact that their tower -- which handles more than 500,000 takeoffs and landings each year -- could be contracted out to private workers under the current version of the FAA reauthorization bill. "Privatizing air traffic control will put companies focused on cutting corners in charge of landing planes," said John Goodin, local chapter president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) at the Van Nuys control tower. Of the 69 air traffic control towers slated for privatization, 11 are among the nation's 50 busiest towers, NATCA says. Van Nuys is the eighth-busiest in the country, says NATCA. (Preliminary information from the Airports Council International this year lists VNY at number 12 among U.S. airports for total aircraft movements.) "Van Nuys Airport air traffic controllers call upon Sen. Boxer, Sen. Feinstein and California's delegation in the U.S. House to support the safety of the traveling public by rejecting the privatization of towers," said Goodin.
..And Vandenberg AFB Switches To Contract ATC
Meanwhile, as tensions intensify over the issue of ATC privatization, the tower at California's Vandenberg Air Force Base has quietly become the first active-duty Air Force tower to be manned by contract civilian air traffic controllers. The switch took place August 1. "Air traffic control is on the critical-skills list for the Air Force," Capt. Michael Horowitz told the Air Force News Service. To help free up some controllers for other Air Force slots, Horowitz said, it was decided that some of the slower towers could be outsourced to civilian contract workers. The switch will save the Air Force $520,000 over a three-year period, he added. "It is the end of one era and the start of a new," Col. Frank Gallegos, 30th Space Wing commander, told the Lompoc Record. "All eyes are on Vandenberg to see how we do with this contract." Serco Management Services, which also operates towers at Santa Maria and San Luis Obispo, will handle the ATC duties. Serco will be paid $1.3 million over three years. Vandenberg AFB is located on the California coast, 55 miles north of Santa Barbara.
Cirrus Design Hits Record Sales...
When Cirrus Design announced last week that sales of its SR20 and SR22 aircraft set a new sales record in July, at 51 airplanes, the natural reaction was a warm and fuzzy feeling. Granted that 51 airplanes in a month is a drop in the bucket compared to GA's overall peak production -- back in 1979, GA manufacturers in the U.S. cranked out more than 1,400 units each month on average. (For 2003, total deliveries for the entire first six months amounted to 1,031 aircraft, averaging 171 per month.) GA shipments overall are still in decline, down 13.8 percent compared with the first half of last year, but perhaps other manufacturers should look into the Cirrus surge. The folks at Cirrus credit their new PR campaign and a beefed-up sales staff for the increase, which beat a previous one-month record of 42. John Bingham, Cirrus's executive vice president of sales, said traffic was consistently heavy at their display at EAA AirVenture, and the demo planes were booked solid every day. "This is the beginning of a trend," Bingham said in news release, adding that he expects that sales will continue to grow. Cirrus Design is based in Duluth, Minn., with an additional facility in Grand Forks, N.D.
...As Lancair Looks To The Future
Lancair also is offering good news of its own. Lancair announced at Oshkosh that the turbocharged Lancair Columbia 400 is ready to start flight-testing and said it's building one Columbia every four days, and continues to ramp up production. This follows last year's cash crunch that shut down the factory. Early this year, investors supplied the cash needed to restart production. "We've been making significant capital investments in the organization that will enable us to continue to produce aircraft rapidly, cost-efficiently and to a very high level of quality," said Lancair President Bing Lantis. "Our production ramp-up is on or a little ahead of schedule in all areas. We're right where we want to be." "We've got a lot of work to do," said Vice President Tom Bowen, "but the program is coming along nicely." The aircraft has added an extra 200 pounds to its gross weight, topping out at 3,600 pounds, for more payload capacity. Lancair has also added an optional, built-in oxygen system and Avidyne's FlightMax Entegra primary flight display and multi-function display. The 400 will fly at 260 mph, the company said.
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Congress may be taking a recess -- putting the FAA reauthorization bill on hold till after Labor Day -- but the debate over privatization goes on without a break. In the latest round, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) is getting snippy with DOT Secretary Norm Mineta over the Bush administration's decision to declare seafood inspection an "inherently governmental" function -- the very designation NATCA has been insisting for years that ATC deserves. John Carr, president of NATCA, asked Mineta last Thursday to "extend the same level of safety to our skies as you do to our seafood." Carr went on to note that "it defies reason that air traffic controllers would not be considered inherently government employees." While NATCA and PASS (Professional Airways Systems Specialists) press their case, they could have a tough road ahead in defeating the bill, as strong lobbying groups line up on the other side. The American Association of Airport Executives says ATC labor groups are "jeopardizing air safety" by opposing the bill, which provides "needed aviation safety and capacity enhancements." The execs, along with the Air Transport Association and the U.S. Contract Tower Association, are trying to rally support for the bill and get it passed ASAP. AOPA says that while it is "disappointed" in some of the bill's provisions, overall it is good for GA and deserves support. The National Air Transportation Association (NATA) also is happy that the bill provides some hope for getting GA back into Reagan Washington National Airport, and provides millions of dollars in relief for businesses hurt by the airspace restrictions and other effects from 9/11.
Owners and operators of repair stations face a sea of paperwork from the FAA, but a new publication from the Aeronautical Repair Station Association (ARSA) aims to relieve some of that workload. ARSA, based in Alexandria, Va., announced last week that it has published a Model Domestic Repair Station Manual to help small repair stations develop their own manual and comply with the latest FAA rules. The model manual is designed for small domestic repair stations, and addresses every section of the new FAR Part 145 (see AVweb's earlier coverage, " ...Repair Stations Face New Rules") to facilitate verification of compliance. The document is not likely to make any best-seller lists: cost is $1,000, but members of ARSA can get a copy for only $250.
The FAA has extended its comment period by one month for two proposed Airworthiness Directives that would require a wing-spar modification for several models of Cessna twin-engine aircraft. Comments can now be submitted on or before September 8, 2003. Click here to download the proposed AD affecting Models 402C and 414A, and click here for the proposed AD affecting Models 401, 401A, 401B, 402, 402A, 402B, 411, and 411A. Plus, Notices of Proposed Rulemaking have been issued for Cessna models including 172s, 182s, and 206 to address inadvertent and undetected engagement of the Honeywell KAP 140 autopilot system (click here for details). Inboard forward flap bellcranks on Cessna Models 208 and 208B airplanes have also achieved new regulatory attention.
Onboard systems help military aircraft to anticipate and avoid attacks from missiles, and in this post-9/11 era, efforts are mounting to quickly transfer that technology to the civilian realm. The FAA reauthorization act now in the works would create (in Sec. 427) a task force to hasten that process. Underscoring the urgency, The New York Times reported last Wednesday that the U.S. government several weeks ago secretly dispatched teams overseas to investigate the dangers of shoulder-fired heat-seeking missiles at civilian airports. Teams have been sent to Greece, the Philippines, Iraq, and elsewhere in Europe and Asia, the Times said. The task force proposed by the FAA bill would comprise members drawn from the Department of Transportation, the FAA, the Department of Defense, NASA, and aircraft manufacturers. The group would report to Congress within a year. The Times also reported last week that the Department of Homeland Security will open a special office to deal with the missile threat, and has asked Congress for $2 million in support. Two missiles fired from the ground narrowly missed an Israeli passenger jet in Kenya last November.
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Flying at 40 feet or so AGL while firing at wild animals on the ground might not seem like the safest way to fly an airplane. But it's standard practice in the American West, where the federal government operates a fleet of aircraft and contracts with pilots to fly their own small airplanes and helicopters for "predator control." This summer, the practice is under fire from environmentalists, following several crashes they say boost their argument that the practice is unsafe ... for humans, that is. This summer, a small airplane and a helicopter involved in hunting crashed in Montana, injuring four people, two of them seriously, and a federal aircraft in Nevada crashed in July. The environmental group Sinapu, based in Boulder, Colo., said it has documented 21 crashes involving federal predator-control flights since 1989, resulting in seven fatalities and 23 injuries. Whether that represents a greater-than-average accident rate for GA operations is undetermined. Sinapu and other advocates argue that the program is costly, dangerous, and ineffective, and should be discontinued. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says the benefits of its predator-control programs far outweigh the costs.
As long as pilots are up in the sky, they'll be looking for ways to anticipate what to expect next from the weather. New tools are constantly in development, and one popular way to access text, digital and graphical forecasts, analyses, and observations of aviation-related weather is via the Aviation Digital Data Service (ADDS) and its experimental Flight Path Tool. The National Weather Service (NWS) is proposing to provide technical support to the project, and needs comments from pilots about the usefulness of ADDS. AOPA says it strongly supports ADDS and urges pilots who appreciate it to let the NWS know. For more information, go to the project's Web site. Comments may be emailed before September 5, 2003, to . The subject field should read ADDS COMMENTS. Comments regarding the Flight Path Tool service may be emailed before September 5, 2003, to . The subject field should read FPT COMMENTS. ADDS is a joint effort of NCAR Research Applications Program, NOAA Forecast Systems Laboratory, and the National Centers for Environmental Prediction Aviation Weather Center.
A remote-controlled airplane was launched from Newfoundland on Saturday night headed for Ireland, and at last report was more than 700 miles out over the Atlantic...
EADS Socata and Pratt & Whitney Canada said at Oshkosh they will increase the TBO of the PT6A-64 installed on the TBM 700 from 3,000 hours to 3,500 hours...
An Osprey V-22 made an unscheduled landing last Monday at Quantico, Va., after a failure in the hydraulics system...
The Airline Pilots Security Alliance blames the TSA for slow pace of guns-in-the-cockpit training...
See AVweb's homepage for online video coverage of Oshkosh AirVenture 2003.
Overheard while flying east from Dayton...
Approach: Cirrus 123, whats your speed?
Cirrus 123: Now showing 200kts over the ground, on the GPS.
Unknown Pilot on Frequency: Thats one fast-moving cloud!
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VANTAGE AND SPIRIT AIRCRAFT PROPERTIES BEING SOLD The trademarks, drawings, flight test and performance data, marketing and customer contact list, and tooling and molds from more than 12 years of research and development will be sold for both aircraft. The Vantage, is a six-seat, single engine, business class jet, and the Spirit, is an experimental two-seat aircraft. The sale will be by sealed bid, according to bidding procedures approved by the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Missouri (Case No. 02-47804-293). Deadline for submitting a bid is September 18, 2003 at 01:00 p.m. (US Central Daylight Time). To receive a copy of the bidding procedures as well as information on how to obtain a bid package contact: Howard S. Smotkin, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or Janice R. Valdez, email: email@example.com, phone 314 721-7011; or Michael Yeager, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, phone 314 447-3200.
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Reader mail this week about AVweb's Oshkosh coverage, pictures and questions of the week, cargo plane crashes and more.
Failure is Not an Option -- Part I
Failure of a key component of your plane like a vacuum pump or the electrical system is not optional -- it's a certainty if you fly enough hours. But failure to complete a flight safely after an electrical failure shouldn't be left to chance. A successful outcome is likely if you plan in advance.
The Pilot's Lounge #64: It's OK
New pilots (and old hands, for that matter) sometimes need permission to do what their gut tells them, rather than trusting old wives' tales told during hangar flying sessions. Other times, the gut instinct needs to be honed with a few well-placed stories. AVweb's Rick Durden has some of both.
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