AVweb AVFlash - Volume 20, Number 7b
August 21, 2013
Consultancy 'Won't Interfere' With New President's Job: AOPA
AOPA says it expects new President Mark Baker to be a full-time leader even though he's agreed to act as a consultant for the new owners of the California-based chain of hardware stores he led until Tuesday. Baker's consultancy was part of the deal for Lowes to buy 79 operating stores of Orchard Supply Hardware out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy for $205 million. A bankruptcy judge approved the deal on Tuesday within hours of AOPA's announcement that Baker would replace Craig Fuller as the president of AOPA. "Mark Baker and AOPA have formally agreed that his role as a consultant to Orchard Supply Hardware will be limited to occasional meetings and phone calls only if required and his advisor status to Orchard Supply Hardware will not interfere with his AOPA role," said AOPA spokesman Steve Hedges, who added that it's common practice for outgoing CEOs to act in this capacity with their former employers. In addition to getting a new job on Tuesday, Baker also pocketed more than $800,000 in bonuses for his part in steering the bankruptcy sale to a successful conclusion. AVweb asked for a podcast interview with Baker but we were told he was not yet in Frederick.
Judge Christopher Sontchi, of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware, signed off on $2.16 million in bonuses for the top five executives at Orchard (as CEO, Baker gets 40 percent), overruling objections from attorneys from the U.S. Trustee Program that they didn't do anything to earn them. Federal attorney Tiiara Patton said Orchard already had the $205 million buyout offer from Lowes before the company declared bankruptcy. The trigger point for the bonuses was $200 million and Patton said all Baker and his executives had to do to collect was show up for work. "Are they doing anything more than what is required by their current positions? It's our position that they're not," she added. Hedges said that when Baker took over Orchard, it was already heavily in debt and when the recession hit sales declined. Bankruptcy was part of an overall strategy to bring the company back. "Orchard's management and Board determined that the best solution was the sale of the company," Hedges said. "The bankruptcy was a way to address its balance sheet issues which allowed the business to move forward with a new market position."
Witnesses: B1B Broke Up Before Crash
Witnesses who saw the crash of a B-1B Lancer Cold War-era swing-wing bomber in southeastern Montana Monday say it broke up in flight, RapidCityJournal.com reported Wednesday, but those accounts remain officially unconfirmed. Early reports are often unreliable; these state that witnesses described the jet coming apart and scattering debris across several miles. The bomber was flying a training route and crashed at about 9 a.m., roughly half an hour after departing from Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota. One witness, rancher Braden Garwood, has said he heard an explosion and saw a mushroom cloud rise from the site while a large mass of flaming metal was still falling to the ground. When that piece hit, there was another mushroom cloud, he said. Officially, all four crewmen ejected safety without sustaining life-threatening injuries.
The main wreckage left a charred patch on a privately owned field. Air Force officials were accounting for and collecting debris early this week, with trucks, tankers and trailers on scene, a security checkpoint and five tents. The FAA restricted flight within 10 miles of the crash, with the exception of military aircraft. The Air Force is still working to determine the cause of the crash and, aside from early information about the crew, has not released much additional information regarding the event. In 2001, another B1 was lost when it crashed in the Indian Ocean. That wreckage was not recovered and no official cause of the crash was determined. The 1980s supersonic bomber can reach speeds of Mach 1.25, carrying nuclear weapons. Roughly 100 of the aircraft have been produced by Rockwell, and now roughly 60 remain in the U.S. Air Force's fleet.
FAA Finalizes Policy On Blocking Aircraft Tracking
The FAA this week published its "final policy" regarding the procedures for aircraft owners and operators to ask the FAA to limit the dissemination of their Aircraft Situation Display to Industry data. This data can be used to show an aircraft's track in real time on websites such as FlightAware. NBAA had raised objections to the practice of releasing the data, citing concerns over security and competition. The FAA and the industry went back and forth over how the data could be treated -- at one point, the FAA said owners must document a "legitimate security concern" to justify the data-blocking -- but the final policy simplifies the process for operators, confirming that a written request asking for the data to be blocked will be sufficient.
The FAA notice spells out the exact information that must be included in the request, such as the aircraft registration number and the requestor's contact information. Dan Hubbard, NBAA spokesman, told AVweb this week's policy responds to legislation passed in Congress nearly two years ago. "NBAA has long maintained there are real concerns involved in such tracking, with regard to corporate competitiveness, personal security and privacy -- none of which should have to be surrendered just because someone boards his or her own airplane," Hubbard said. The association is "satisfied" with the FAA's final policy, he added. NBAA also had asked the FAA to allow the association to collect the opt-out requests and submit them en masse to the FAA, but the FAA declined that request.
From NASA, New Plans For Aviation Research
NASA is generally associated with space exploration, but the first "A" in NASA is for "Aeronautics," and last week Administrator Charles Bolden unveiled a new strategic vision for the agency's aeronautical research programs. The new plan will focus on key drivers that are expected to affect aviation over the next two to four decades, Bolden said. Those drivers include significant growth in global demand for air transportation, mounting concerns related to climate and energy, and the emergence of new technologies such as embedded sensors, advanced networking capabilities, and engineered materials. Among the agency's goals are to develop technology for commercial supersonic aircraft, promote a transition to low-carbon fuels, and expand the autonomous capabilities of aircraft.
"Nearly every aircraft flying and air traffic management system now in use includes NASA-supported technologies that improve efficiency and safety," said Bolden. "This new vision will expand on that by fully integrating into aviation advances in other industries and parts of the economy to meet the future demands for global mobility in ways we can only begin to imagine today." Bolden's speech, delivered last week at the annual conference of the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics in Los Angeles, is posted online (PDF). The new NASA strategic-vision statement also is posted (PDF). "It's really something of a Renaissance time [for aviation]," Bolden said, "when you look at all the things we're working on and all the potential for breakthroughs that are right in front of us today."
Two Unique Video Journeys From Aloft
Airborne video from a revolving GoPro and scenes from a NASA Antarctic mission posted over the last week contribute some unique footage to the miles of airplane videos on the Internet. Blogger Ney Grant mounted his GoPro to the wing of a Cessna 210 and assembled three minutes of his best clips from touring around the western U.S. He designed and built a swiveling mount that uses a stepper motor for precise control of the camera. "For example, some of the shots were done using time-lapse photography, where it took 20 minutes to pan the camera 180 degrees," he told AVweb this week. On Friday, NASA published "truly stunning" views from the cockpit of a P-3B aircraft that flew above Greenland and the Arctic Ocean earlier this year.
NASA's flights were part of a six-year mission, called Operation IceBridge, that aims to create the largest-ever airborne survey of our planet's polar ice. The project will yield "an unprecedented three-dimensional view of Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets, ice shelves, and sea ice," NASA said. A satellite that collected ice data stopped working in 2009, NASA said, and a new one won't be deployed until late 2015. IceBridge will fly twice a year to maintain a continuous series of observations in both the Arctic and Antarctic.
Helicopter Makes It Rain (Money)
The passing of Leonard Maull roughly one year ago was remembered, Saturday, by an unannounced public event that carried out a last request contained in his will -- to dump $10,000 from the sky over a specific marina in Delaware, local news WBOC 16 reported. The mission was carried out by a low-flying helicopter that hovered over the marina at Lewes Harbor that Maull had frequented during his life. For roughly five minutes, the aircraft dropped the money, in equal denominations of $5, $10, $20 and $50 bills, in compliance with Maull's request. One witness told a local news station, "It was pretty crazy." While the public was not aware of the event until it began, Lewes police were notified in advance and prepared by placing more officers in the area. It seems at least two people ended up in the hospital, reportedly due to accidents suffered while chasing money.
Some lucky locals reportedly gathered up to $700 for themselves and while the scene was relatively chaotic with "people swimming through the canal," and "boats coming in, scooping it up with nets," a local bartender said, no fights were reported. Maull's trustee, Bill Berry, said he did not know why Maull made the request, adding, "I would've never thought Leonard would do anything like this. It was his money and I figured he could do what he wanted to do with it." Maull reportedly operated a Bait and Tackle shop in the area and visited the Marina frequently. Locals believe there may still be money to be found: "There's cash in those woods," one told the Cape Gazette.
Continental Responds To Cylinder Concerns
In a letter sent to distributors last week (see link below), Continental Motors aimed to ease concerns about the FAA's recently proposed airworthiness directive for ECi cylinders, noting that "no Continental Motors factory-new/rebuilt engines or parts are affected." Continental said it has never used the ECi cylinders, so owners "can be confident that no AEC [Airmotive Engineering Corp., a sister company of ECi] or ECi cylinder(s) has ever shipped from Continental Motors on engines or aftermarket spare parts." However, if aftermarket cylinders were installed after engine shipment from the factory, verification with ECi should be made, the company said. The FAA said its proposed directive could affect up to 6,000 Continental engines.
Continental also said it is increasing production of its 520/550 cylinders "in order to meet potential demand" that would be created if the AD takes effect as proposed. Last week, AVweb editorial director Paul Bertorelli took a closer look at the proposed AD. AOPA and EAA are at work on detailed responses to the FAA proposal. As of Tuesday, 53 comments have been filed in the FAA docket.
Video: PS Engineering's PAR200 Multi-Function Audio System
There's a need for affordable audio system upgrades for basic aircraft. PS Engineering attempts to answer the call with the PAR200 -- a three-in-one system that combines an advanced audio panel, a stereo intercom, and a remote comm radio. In this video, Aviation Consumer's Larry Anglisano takes a look at the unit during it's introduction at AirVenture 2013 at Oshkosh.
AVweb/Aviation Consumer Avgas/Mogas Survey
As the quest for a replacement for 100LL drags into its third decade, our sister publication Aviation Consumer, is seeking opinions from owners, pilots and aircraft operators on how you think the process is going. The FAA has established a special office devoted to a replacement for 100LL and piston fuels in general. We would like to know if you've followed the process and, if so, what you think of it.
And what what about mogas? In some cases, it's $2 cheaper than avgas. Are you using it? If so, what are your experiences and if you haven't used it, why not? You can take the survey by clicking here. It'll take about five minutes.
We'll compile the results and compare them to the same questions we asked two years ago.
Picture of the Week
AOPA's New Man
When I heard that Mark Baker was tapped as the new AOPA president, my first thought was...could he be the son of that other Baker, the one whose name almost always appeared appended to the word “colorful?” But no, no apparent relation.
By now, you will have perused Baker’s resume and formed your own opinions. Since the AOPA board never favors its membership with anything vaguely resembling a statement of intent, we can only surmise that when shuffling resumes, it was looking first for high-level executive experience from someone with lots of GA experience, both of which Baker seems to have. From his vitae, he seems to spring from that corps of professional executives, often peripatetic, that run the country’s thousands of small and mid-sized companies. Most recently it was Orchard Supply Hardware Stores Corp., a debt-ridden Sears spinoff that was supposed to compete in the Home Depot and Lowe’s realm. But it went bankrupt trying, thanks to the debt load. Its sale to Lowes was just approved a day ago. (AOPA’s Baker bio didn’t mention this and should have. It’s a basic fact readers are entitled to. They should have also been told Baker will continue to consult with his previous employer.)
So Baker brings to AOPA a strong background in management of shelter and lawn retail businesses, which, according to the association’s release, it considers a key asset. I’m not quite sure I see the connection, but in the name of give-the-guy-a-chance, I’m willing to indulge. If I were pawing resumes, I guess I’d look for marketing and management experience in general aviation businesses and/or political experience in Washington, which is what got the outgoing Craig Fuller a chair in the corner office. Retail experience implies a customer service tilt, but I’m not so sure AOPA has a membership service problem so much as it has a general direction problem.
As I noted in this blog last March, when Fuller announced his departure, I don’t think the association is irretrievably broken, although our surveys revealed significant membership dissatisfaction with AOPA’s direction and emphasis. That’s not a customer service issue, it’s a product issue, if you will.
There’s no reason to believe that a competent, dynamic executive with good GA knowledge and involvement—Baker has that—can’t get things back on track, if he’s working with a cooperative, like-minded board. And that we don’t know, since the board lives behind the black wall. There’s also no reason that the exec has to be someone who’s well known in aviation, which Baker is not. Leadership is all about knowing the right direction to go and making the decisions to get there.
And that’s Mark Baker’s new job. We should all wish him every success at it and stand by to see the results.
AirVenture 2013 Product Minute Video: Dual Electronics' XGPS170 ADS-B
The XGPS170 is a combination GPS and ADS-B weather and traffic receiver from Dual Electronics. Dual's Greg Lukins gives a tour of the unit at AirVenture 2013.
AirVenture 2013 Product Minute Video: ForeFlight 5.3 Preview
As AirVenture 2013, ForeFlight was showing off the latest version of its popular app, and it now includes Canadian charts, a unique plate overlay feature, and helicopter charts for U.S. pilots. In this AVweb Product Minute, ForeFlight's Jason Miller gives us a tour of the app's new high points.