AVweb Biz - Volume 12, Number 5

August 13, 2013

Antitrust Suit Filed To Stop Airline Merger

The U.S. Department of Justice filed a civil antitrust lawsuit on Tuesday to challenge the proposed $11 billion merger between US Airways and American Airlines. The suit claims the merger, which would result in the creation of the world’s largest airline, would substantially lessen competition for commercial air travel in the U.S. and would result in higher airfares and less service for passengers. “Airline travel is vital to millions of American consumers who fly regularly for either business or pleasure,” said Atty. Gen. Eric Holder, in a news release. “By challenging this merger, the Department of Justice is saying that the American people deserve better." In recent years, major airlines have raised fares, imposed new and higher fees and reduced service, the Justice Department said. The airlines had announced their merger plans in February.

The stock market responded quickly to news of Tuesday's lawsuit, with shares of US Airways falling sharply, according to The Wall Street Journal. Neither airline has yet released any comment on the lawsuit. In February, the airlines said their merger would create more competition among the large airlines, which would benefit travelers. The proposed merged airline, the "new American Airlines," would be headquartered in Dallas/Fort Worth. It would be "a highly competitive alternative for consumers to other global carriers," according to a recent US Airways news release, with more than 6,700 daily flights to 336 destinations in 56 countries. Together, American Airlines and US Airways would operate a fleet of almost 950 aircraft and employ more than 100,000 staffers worldwide.

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GPS Jammer Fined $32,000

A New Jersey man who didn't want his boss following his every move has lost his job and had the book thrown at him by the FCC because the inexpensive ($68 and up) GPS jammer he carried in his truck shut down an experimental, high-tech, multimillion-dollar navigation system at Newark Liberty Airport. Gary Bojczak was fined $31,875 by the FCC after admitting that he carried the device, which is readily available for sale on the Internet, so he could disable the GPS transmitter on the pickup truck he drove for engineering company Tilcon. He apparently didn't want his bosses to know his whereabouts when he was near the airport and his little jammer brought down a Ground Based Augmentation System (GBAS) being tested by Honeywell.

GBAS is designed to provide guidance for instrument approaches and departures with an accuracy of one meter. It can, when it's not being jammed by what looks like a deck of cards with one or more antennae sticking out of it (some simply plug into a vehicle power port), provide precision necessary for Cat III approaches. When the system experienced "interference"  the FCC went looking for the culprit using "direction finding techniques" and confronted Bojczak, who readily admitted to using the jammer. Ironically, GPS jamming detectors are also available from sites that offer the jammers but it's not clear where the FCC got its gear. However they found him, they showed no mercy on the privacy-seeking truck driver. While it's normal, according to electronics industry attorney Chip Yorkgitis, for those whose electronic experiments interfere with others using the same area of frequency to get off with a warning, the FCC skipped the warning and fined Bojczak heavily. Yorkgitis said that if the heavy fine isn't enough to deter others from using the apparently common devices, criminal charges are the next option.

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User Groups: Cylinder AD Proposal Risky, Costly

Photo: NTSB

AOPA and EAA responded this week to the FAA's proposed airworthiness directive that would require thousands of GA aircraft owners to inspect and replace their ECi engine cylinders, saying the FAA's plan would impose a financial burden while also compromising safety. “Requiring the replacement of so many cylinders, in addition to repetitive inspections, goes well beyond the [NTSB] recommendations [PDF]," said Robert Hackman, AOPA's vice president of regulatory affairs. Hackman said he also is concerned that actual costs "could go well beyond the FAA’s estimate, and that the mass replacement of cylinders in the field would downgrade, rather than enhance safety." EAA noted that the proposed AD does not cite either specific failure rates or a total number of failures for the ECi cylinders.

The AD "does not point to a single accident or injury caused by the failure of any ECi cylinder," EAA said. Both groups said they are working on a written response to the proposal. AOPA also encouraged members to post comments to the FAA docket, highlighting their operating experience with the cylinders. The FAA has set a deadline of October 11 for comments. EAA said it will insist on a comment period extension, "given the very high cost of the proposed AD, and the almost impossibility of finding enough cylinders to replace the ECi units if the AD were to become law."

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FAA Proposes Checks For Thousands Of GA Engines

Photo: NTSB

Up to 6,000 Continental engines with aftermarket PMA cylinders from Engine Components International could be affected by a new Airworthiness Directive proposed by the FAA on Monday. The FAA wants to require initial and repetitive inspections, with the replacement of any cracked cylinders. The entire cylinder assemblies would have to be replaced at reduced times-in-service, at a cost of about $1,700. The schedule for inspections and replacement varies depending on the serial number of the parts. The total cost of compliance for the fleet would be about $82.6 million, the FAA said. In a news release issued Monday morning, ECi responded that the FAA's proposal is "unwarranted, inappropriate, and unnecessarily punitive for the owners of the affected aircraft."

ECi says the failure rate of its Titan cylinders is the lowest in the industry, and the failures noted in the FAA analysis were caused by excessive cylinder head temperatures in the engine, due to either "improper leaning and powerplant management by the pilot… [or] by abnormal combustion events such as heavy detonation and pre-ignition that can cause thermal runaway and rapidly increase CHT to temperatures of 650°F or more." No cylinder assembly from any manufacturer "can survive such temperatures for more than a few minutes," ECi said. ECi also said compliance with the AD would likely cause more problems by subjecting so many aircraft to premature major overhauls, which can carry the risk of damaging the engine. The NTSB said after an analysis last year that the FAA should do more to address ECi cylinder-head failures. The FAA is accepting comments on the proposal until October 11.

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Martin Jetpack Approved For Manned Testing

The Martin Aircraft Company says it's on track to begin deliveries of a first responder version of its personal air vehicle that it calls the Martin Jetpack now that the New Zealand government has approved manned testing of the aircraft. The government will allow Martin test pilots to fly the twin-ducted fan device up to 20 feet above ground and 25 feet above water at first and then expand the flight envelope as the concept proves itself.  The company has been limited to testing the device unmanned but it has flown as high as 5,000 feet with an appropriately weighted dummy. The aircraft has been redesigned and bears only scant resemblance to the prototype that was pulled around Aeroshell Square by two spotters at AirVenture Oshkosh in 2008.

CEO Peter Coker, who joined the company from the New Zealand division of Lockheed Martin last April, said the new machine is a lot better than the original. “Changing the position of the jetpack’s ducts has resulted in a quantum leap in performance over the previous prototype, especially in terms of the aircraft’s maneuverability,” Coker told the National Business Review. Plans are to develop and sell a $250,000 paramilitary version and heavy-lift unmanned model first and follow with a $150,000 recreational jetpack. The company is going public this year to raise the money to start production and if sales meet expectations a factory will be built in China.

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Flexjet Hiring Pilots To Meet Expansion

Although the pilot job market has been going through some changes in recent years, experienced pilots remain in demand. Flexjet says it's looking for a few good pilots to accommodate the continued growth of its fractional and jet card business. Since Flexjet is a subsidiary of Bombardier and only flies its most modern aircraft, the successful candidates will find themselves in some of the most sophisticated cockpits in the air. “We are thrilled to be expanding our dedicated pilot team during this exciting growth period, and anticipate hiring in the double digits in 2013 and beyond,” said Jason Weiss, the vice president of operations for Flexjet. As might be expected, Flexjet pilots go through some extra training to accommodate the unique environment in which they work.

First of all, Flexjet is looking for a minimum of 2,500 flight hours with 500 multi and 500 turbine. An ATP and First Class Medical are also required. Successful candidates will undergo another month of training before they see an airplane. The training includes ground school, sim time and courses "to make sure owners are not only safe and on time, but also receive a premium experience each and every time they fly. Interested pilots can apply here.

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AirVenture 2013 Product Minute Video: Garmin's GTR200 Radio with 3-D Audio

Garmin brought their new GTR200 communications radio to AirVenture 2013.  In this AVweb Product Minute video, Garmin's Jim Alpiser gives a tour of the product that's designed for LSA and experimental aircraft.

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AirVenture 2013 Product Minute Video: Sagetech Clarity

At AirVenture 2013, AVweb sponsor Sagetech was showing off some improvements to its Clarity ADS-B product.

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