AVwebFlash -

December 24, 2007

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Aviation Safety: Good News at Year's End back to top 
Sponsor Announcement

GA Safety Trend Continues

AOPA's annual Nall Report (PDF) says 2006 was the safest year ever for general aviation operations. According to the report, there were 6.32 accidents for every 100,000 hours flown in 2006 compared to 7.19 in 1997. The report bases its analysis on trends, rather than year-to-year statistics. There's been an increase in the number of weather-related accidents, possibly due to the availability of advanced, high-performance aircraft. Other categories of accidents are generally declining but one thing remains constant. "No matter what accident statistics you look at, pilot decision making continues to be the leading cause of all accidents," Bruce Landsberg, head of AOPA's Air Safety Foundation, said in a release. While pilots are flying more safely, they're also flying less often than five or 10 years ago.

The report shows that there was a slight increase in the number of hours flown in 2006 compared to 2005 but the amount of time we spend in the air has decreased by 5.9 percent since 2002. The foundation encourages pilots to take advantage of the free resources it provides to improve flight safety.

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Regional Fly-Ins and the EAA back to top 

Lawsuit Sparked Fly-In Review

EAA says a judgment against it stemming from an accident at an unnamed regional fly-in resulted in the controversial review of its association with such events. In a statement issued a week after AVweb reported that the annual Texas Fly-In at Hondo was being scrapped because of the proposed policies, EAA said the review was necessary because the judgment threatened insurance coverage of its core activities. "The damage award affected the evaluation of EAA's coverage in the insurance market and created a situation that, if not addressed, would lead to very significant and unsustainable increases in the cost of EAA's insurance coverage at the levels required for all of its programs," the statement said.

EAA said the judgment resulted from the apparent mistaken belief that EAA was directly involved with the organization and running of the fly-in even though it and all others besides Oshkosh are independent events. EAA did allow the events to piggyback on its umbrella insurance coverage but that will have to end because of the lawsuit. It also appears that EAA’s name or logo will not be approved for use in the name of each event. EAA says it wants to remain involved in the fly-ins through "sponsorship of specific areas, such as forums, workshops, aircraft judging and awards banquets, among others" and it will continue to promote the events in its print and online publications.

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FAA Certifications back to top 

Eclipse Celebrates Funding, Avionics Certification

There were a couple of pieces of good news for Eclipse Aviation and its customers this week as the business year wound down. The company received certification for its Avio NG avionics suite and it also got a $30 million shot in the arm from customers who paid deposits in advance in return for a lower overall price on their aircraft. Certification of Avio NG was a major milestone and the system will be immediately integrated into aircraft coming off the assembly line.

In a news release, Eclipse CEO Vern Raburn said the system has already been installed in aircraft serial number 105, which will be delivered in the next few weeks. The first 104 aircraft will be retrofitted, at no cost, within a year, he said. Meanwhile, the controversial capital-raising effort from within the ranks of Eclipse customers took about three weeks. Existing position holders were asked to up-front $625,000 into their escrow accounts in exchange for a guaranteed base price of $1.25 million for their aircraft. Eclipse would be allowed to draw on that money as required.

Aspen Avionics EFD1000 Certification Delayed

Aspen Avionics announced last week that expected certification and deliveries of its new EFD1000-series electronic flight displays have been delayed until the end of March. Rollout was originally planned for this fall. In a letter to customers dated Dec. 19, the company said it has released a preliminary installation manual to dealers that can help them pre-wire a plane for the new equipment. Aspen says it plans to submit its final FAA certification package in time to support shipment of EFD1000 Pilot and Pro primary flight display (PFD) units by March 31.

The initial STC will cover most general aviation aircraft weighing less than 6,000 pounds. Certification for larger aircraft is expected later in 2008, along with certification and initial shipments of the EFD1000 and EFD500 multifunction display (MFD) units. The suggested retail price for the PFDs ranges from $5,995 for the EFD1000 Pilot to $12,995 for the EFD1000 ATP. The EFD1000 MFD is priced at $7,995, with the EFD500 MFD listed at $4,995. No information was available on how many orders have been received.

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Quotes reprinted with permission. Aviation Consumer, August 2007.
Pilots in the Spotlight back to top 

HAI Recognizes 2008 Pilot of the Year

Franz Ivanovich Levitskiy, a helicopter pilot and instructor with UTair Aviation of Surgut, Russia, is the Helicopter Association International's 2008 Pilot of the Year. During his 40-year career, Levitskiy has logged 27,500 accident-free flight hours in various aircraft including the Mi-4, Mi-6, Mi-8, Mi-8MTV and Mi-26T helicopters.

He contributed to the exploration and development of the largest Russian West-Siberian oil-producing complex and has flown peacekeeping support missions for the United Nations throughout the world. He has landed at the North Pole. A banquet to celebrate Levitskiy and the other winners of HAI's Salute to Excellence awards will be held in Houston, Texas, on Feb. 25 as part of HELI-EXPO 2008.

Air Force Cutting Pilot Training

The U.S. Air Force will train about 925 new pilots in 2008, a decrease of about 12 percent from the 1,100 that will graduate this year, the Air Force Times is reporting. The Times says there will be a slight bump in trainees in 2009 to about 1025, which is expected to remain constant for several years. The newspaper says the reduction is directly related to the decline in the number of aircraft and will be particularly felt in the fighter pilot ranks. "If the Air Force did not slow down pilot production, the service's fighter squadrons would be overwhelmed by first-assignment pilots who could not get adequate training because there wouldn't be enough jets or instructors," the newspaper reported.

The right mix of experienced (500-plus hours) and rookie fighter pilots is about 55 percent veterans and 45 percent newbies, the Times said. Transport and other types of military aircraft offer new pilots more training opportunities and the ability to ride along on a multitude of flights to gain familiarization. The Air Force has already reassigned almost 200 bomber and fighter pilots because there's nothing for them to fly. The Air Force Academy and ROTC program will continue accepting the same number of officer trainees but fewer of them will be offered pilot training.

The Finer Points — Delivers Weekly Training Tips

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Training can be fun and informative ... and you don't need an iPod.
Hear what the buzz is about; visit TheFinerPoints.net.
Will Uncle Charlie Be Home for Christmas Dinner? back to top 

Global Airport Flight Delay Index Launches On FlightStats.com

Airline travelers can now monitor flight delays at airports throughout the world for free on FlightStats.com. The Web site's new global delay index provides a graphical indication of whether your flight to or from a given airport is likely to be late. Users can get details on the status of particular flights and request e-mail or text message alerts. FlightStats assesses the airport's current departure performance and the severity of delays and cancellations using data collected from the previous hour and from flight schedule delays for the upcoming two-hour period. Conditions are translated into an index score between 0 and 5 where higher values indicate more severe departure disruptions.

The score is updated every 30 minutes and overlaid on maps for easy viewing. Users can also get current status information on individual flight arrivals and departures. "When travelers are fully and accurately informed of both airport and flight status, their stress levels tend to decrease," said Jeff Kennedy, CEO of Conducive Technology, developer of FlightStats.

XM WX Satellite Weather Uses a Continuous Satellite Broadcast to Deliver Graphical Weather Data to the Cockpit
Pilots view and interact with the data — including radar, winds, METARs, lightning, and more — on compatible MFDs, EFBs, and PDAs from a wide range of industry partners, as well as on laptop PCs. The situational awareness afforded by XM WX Satellite Weather allows pilots to enjoy their journeys with more confidence and comfort than ever before. For more information, please visit XMWXweather.com.
Season's Greetings — From the Skies! back to top 

Track Santa Online

Santa's new sleigh? It's red ...
Beginning at 0900Z on Dec. 24 you can track Santa live online at www.NoradSanta.org as he makes his annual round-the-world flight. "Santa has had to adapt over the years to having less and less time to deliver his toys," states the Web site, which is run by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). With a world population of more than 6.5 billion, Santa has but a fraction of a second to deliver a gift to each person on Earth. "The fact that Santa Claus is more than 15 centuries old and does not appear to age is our biggest clue that he does not work within time, as we know it."

Yet several sources (who begged not to be identified) told AVweb that Santa has, for years, contracted his gift deliveries to Part 135 freight dogs. Think about it. Who really knows what these pilots wear while flying through the night? Who would notice the puffy red suit? While the timing of Santa's mission is challenging, with the right equipment it might work. The circumference of the Earth through the poles — presumably Santa's preferred routing — is 24,859 miles. If, for instance, Santa was flying the Aerion supersonic business jet at 1,112 mph, he could fly around the world in just over 22 hours — leaving about an hour to refuel, grab a cup of virgin eggnog and unload goodies to the freight dogs. But whatever Santa's flying, let's hope he doesn't squawk 1200 when making deliveries in the Washington, D.C., area this year. NORAD is watching!

Dallas Holiday Lights Attract Aerial Sightseers

What started as a way to earn extra money during college has grown into a booming holiday business for David Snell, owner of Starlight Flight in Frisco, Texas. This month Snell's company will fly about 90 people low and slow over the glistening lights of Interlochen and Highland Park, two Dallas-area neighborhoods known for their large and elaborate holiday light displays (this is Texas, after all). A 30-minute flight for two people in a Cessna 172 costs $160, and an hour-long flight costs $215 — about half the price of similar helicopter flights.

Passengers are encouraged to bring their own bubbly beverage onboard to celebrate (as long as they stay sober) and small snack baskets and fresh mistletoe are available for an extra $12. Snell said that some particularly romantic customers have taken that not-so-subtle invitation to kiss a little too far, though. "I've had people ask if we do the mile high club, but we have a family-friendly reputation," he said.

On the Fly ...

EAA has confirmed several top acts for its 2008 AirVenture air show. Among those performing will be Sean D. Tucker, Patty Wagstaff, the AeroShell Aerobatic Team, the Warbird Spectaculars, Matt Younkin and Kyle Franklin ...

Rob Reider, the voice of numerous air shows as an announcer, has been named the 2007 recipient of the Sword of Excellence by the International Council of Airshows. Reider is also known for his work narrating Sporty’s Pilot Shop videos and online products ...

Cessna celebrated the completion of its 8,000th aircraft produced at the Independence, Kan. plant last week. The aircraft, a 182, went to the Civil Air Patrol, one of Cessna’s best customers ...

Herbert Weiss, of Germany, was the glider pilot killed during competition at the FAI World Gran Prix Gliding Championships in New Zealand on Friday. Cause of the crash is being investigated ...

FAA Acting Administrator Bobby Sturgell and Pat Forrey, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, met last week to discuss the union’s concerns about safety issues. Another meeting is scheduled for Jan. 3.

The Perfect Holiday Gift — A Citizen ECO Drive Watch
Citizen and PILOTessentials offer a great selection of ECO Drive watches this holiday season. From Skyhawk to the Titanium or Nighthawk, choose the watch that is perfect for pilots of all ages. Visit PILOTessentials.com for this and many other holiday gift ideas.
Readers Speak Out back to top 

AVmail: Dec. 24, 2007

Reader mail this week about the environment and flying, airline-congestion solutions, the future of GA and more.

Click here to read this week's letters to the editor.

AVweb's Newstips Address ...

Our best stories start with you. If you've heard something that 130,000 pilots might want to know about, tell us. Submit news tips via email to newstips@avweb.com. You're a part of our team ... often, the best part.

AOPA Aircraft Financing Program
Whether you are looking to purchase an aircraft or make upgrades to your existing aircraft, now is the perfect time. Check out the new lower rates, quick decisions, and No Document Loan Program for qualified members with AOPA's Aircraft Financing Program. Call AOPA's Aircraft Financing Program to speak with a loan expert at (800) 62-PLANE, or apply online today.
Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Emerald Coast Aviation (54J, Defuniak Springs, FL)

Nominate an FBO | Rules | Tips | Questions | Winning FBOs

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Emerald Coast Aviation at 54J in Defuniak Springs, Florida.

Emerald Coast brought a little holiday cheer to AVweb reader Travis Turner, who stopped at the FBO "to pick up my mother for the holidays":

She had not flown in a small plane before, and the owner Johnathan helped to reassure my mom that flying was a safe and fun way to travel. Aside from helping to calm her nerves, Emerald Coast has a clean facility, good prices and a new surface on their runway. I certainly will visit again!

Keep those nominations coming. For complete contest rules, click here.

AVweb is actively seeking out the best FBOs in the country and another one, submitted by you, will be spotlighted here next Monday!

StickyCharts — No Tape or Thumbtacks Required
Your favorite FAA charts beautifully printed on removable adhesive backing. Easily map your route with dry-erase markers. Up to 4 feet tall, StickyCharts are delivered in a sturdy tube in time for the holidays. They make a great gift for the "hard-to-shop-for" pilot. Go online to order at StickyCharts.com.
New on AVweb: Watch, Listen, Learn & Laugh back to top 

Probable Cause #48: Mountain Waves

Even though the weather may be clear, when flying in the mountains, what you can't see can bite you.

Click here for the full story.

We all have so-called "personal rules" we use to help us make decisions when everyday challenges arise. In aviation, they are sometimes called personal minimums and are used to help us decide whether this morning's low visibility and cloud cover -- even if legal VFR -- will prevent us from getting that $100 hamburger.

Having flown my share of low-powered, fixed-gear airplanes on long-distance flights, I've developed a few such rules, most of them as a result of getting myself into one "situation" or another. For example, I don't care what the legal alternate might be after a long IFR flight; I'll file legally but I really care about the weather at the nearest ILS and how tired I might be when I get there. I place less emphasis on an airplane's maximum demonstrated crosswind capability than I do the direction of the wind, the runway's orientation and its physical dimensions.

Another rule I have, before doing something in an airplane, is to think about how the NTSB's accident report might read if I screw up something. Often, that one by itself helps keep me out of trouble.

As another example, I know only enough about mountain flying to be dangerous and, after getting myself and a 160-hp Skyhawk into a mountain wave downwind of the North Carolina mountains several years ago, make it a rule to avoid using any airplane with less than 180 hp for a "serious" cross-country flight.

That "rule" served me well a couple of years ago when I helped a friend ferry her 180-hp Skyhawk from Virginia to its new home in Las Vegas. Waking up one morning in Phoenix to find the winds aloft along our route to be greater than the Skyhawk's stalling speed, I opted to keep the airplane tied down and spend another day in Arizona. While I'll never know how easy, hard or dangerous the flight might have been the day of 50-knot winds, I do know the following day was smooth and delightful. Recently, while bouncing my way into Scottsdale through winds of substantially less velocity, I was reminded of that decision's wisdom.

Mountainous terrain isn't found just in the western U.S. -- everything's relative, and there are some sizeable hills east of the Mississippi River, also. In addition to influencing a lot of the eastern seaboard's weather from time to time, the Appalachians, the Catskills and other "bumps in the road" can make our flying dangerous or merely unpleasant. As we shall see, any time there are mountains along our flight path, it's a good idea to fully inform ourselves of the flight conditions they can generate.


On November 21, 2003, at about 2100 Pacific time, a Piper PA-28-180 collided with mountainous terrain nine miles east of Big Bear City Airport, Calif. The airplane was destroyed and both aboard -- a 2600-hour Commercial pilot and the passenger -- were fatally injured. The flight originated at Palm Springs, Calif., approximately 30 minutes earlier.

The two men were participating in a Civil Air Patrol (CAP) search and rescue training exercise being held at Palm Springs that weekend. The crew arrived about 1730 and attended a classroom training session. Shortly, attendees were told high winds were expected the following day and flying operations might be cancelled. The aircrew decided to return to their home base at Big Bear Airport instead of staying the night. The two men never returned to Palm Springs the next day and the CAP notified the FAA of a missing airplane. The wreckage was found on the northwest slope of Tip Top Mountain, at 6900 feet MSL. The ridge line directly above the wreckage was at 6970 feet; the highest points to either side were about 7200 feet.

All major aircraft components were found in the debris field, although impact and fire damage was extensive. Although the engine also was severely damaged, no pre-impact discrepancies were noted.

Two radar plots associated with the accident aircraft were generated from the collected radar data. The track plot for the last 13.5 minutes of flight shows the airplane approaching the mountain ridge at between 10,000 and 10,300 feet on a steady westerly course. The profile plot shows a steady descent of the airplane from 10,300 feet to 8000 feet during the last four minutes of flight. Throughout the last two minutes of flight the airplane descended from 8900 feet to 8000 feet, at which point radar contact was lost.


No record was found of a weather briefing given to the pilot either under his name or the airplane's registration number for either of the two flights that day.

The NTSB performed a full meteorological study surrounding the day, time and location of the accident. The surface analysis chart showed an approximate 12-mb change in pressure across southern California, resulting in strong westerly surface winds. Observations west of the accident site included calm winds at the surface with fog or mist, broken cloud cover and temperature-dew point spreads of one degree Fahrenheit. Other coastal locations across southern California indicated westerly winds with overcast skies. The accident site was on the front side of an upper-level trough with westerly winds. Airmet Tango was active over portions of California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico, and warned of occasional moderate turbulence below 16,000 feet due to moderate-to-strong winds over rough terrain.

Numerous pilot reports were recorded over southern California surrounding the time of the accident, and reported turbulence and downdrafts of around 500 fpm.

The NTSB's report notes "performance information available in the Piper Cherokee B Owners Handbook shows that at a max gross weight of 2400 pounds and between 8000 and 10,000 feet density altitude, the airplane had a maximum climb performance of 360 to 410 feet per minute."

Probable Cause

The NTSB determined the probable cause(s) of this accident to include the pilot's "inadequate preflight planning and intentional flight into known adverse weather conditions. Contributing to this accident was the fact that it was a dark night with no moon illumination."

Pilots flying over a familiar route, even at night, often neglect to obtain a weather briefing if the weather is good at their departure point. In this instance, Palm Springs was windy, with forecast winds at 10 knots and gusts to 20; an amended forecast included gusts to 25 knots. Additional information from the area's weather forecasts included the possibility of mountain wave action (see "Predicting Mountain Waves" above right) well in excess of the airplane's climb capability.

Time and time again, we see accident reports where there was no record of a pre-flight weather briefing. We can't know if the simple act of requesting a weather briefing would have given this pilot information on the forecast mountain waves. However, if the pilot at least had requested a formal weather briefing, that information would have found its way into the NTSB's report.

How will the NTSB's report on your accident read?

More accident analyses are available in AVweb's Probable Cause Index. And for monthly articles about safety, including accident reports like this one, subscribe to AVweb's sister publication, Aviation Safety.

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AVweb's Monday Podcast: Aviation Consumer Reveals "Why Aircraft Batteries Don't Last"

File Size 11.8 MB / Running Time 12:55

Podcast Index | How to Listen | Subscribe Via RSS

Usually it's because the owner or operator let them discharge too deeply or too often, according to Concorde's Skip Koss, who discussed battery technology and longevity with Aviation Consumer's Paul Bertorelli. In its January issue, the magazine features an in-depth comparison of aircraft batteries, with some surprising results.

Click here to listen. (11.8 MB, 12:55)

Video of the Week: Drums and Aerobatics

Recommend a Video | VOTW Archive

Here's a little air show fun to spice up your holiday week, straight from the e-mail of AVweb reader Robert Reid, who (accurately) describes the clip as "short, crystal clear, [featuring] amazing photography, and fun to watch":

Don't see a video screen?
Try disabling ad blockers and refreshing this page.
If that doesn't work, click here to download the video directly.

Don't forget to send us links to any interesting videos you find out there. If you're impressed by it, there's a good chance other AVweb readers will be too. And if we use a video you recommend on AVweb, we'll send out an official AVweb baseball cap as a "thank you."

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The Lighter Side of Flight back to top 

Short Final

Overheard in IFR Magazine's 'On the Air' Section
Overheard in IFR Magazine's "On the Air"

Heard at Lawrence, Massachusetts:

"Arrow Eight Two Xray, slowest possible speed. Traffic ahead is an ultralight on a half-mile final."

"Tower, we'll climb out so he can land."

"Roger, climb and maintain 1700, runway heading. Arrow Eight Two Xray, cleared to land, caution, mowing in progress, right side of runway."

"Roger, duck under the lawn mower ahead and avoid the one on the ground. Cleared to land, Arrow Eight Two Xray."

Angelo Iannuzzo Nashua
New Hampshire

Fly Somewhere! Use AVweb's Calendar of Events
The skies are blue; you and your plane are ready. Check out AVweb's Calendar of Events for an event near you.

If you have an event you want folks to know about, post it at no cost on AVweb's Calendar of Events.
More AVweb for Your Inbox back to top 

AVwebBiz: AVweb's Business Aviation Newsletter

HAVE YOU SIGNED UP yet for AVweb's NO-COST weekly business aviation newsletter, AVwebBiz? Reporting on breaking news, Business AVflash focuses on the companies, the products and the industry leaders that make headlines in the business aviation industry. Business AVflash is a must read. Sign up today at http://www.avweb.com/profile/.

Names Behind the News
Volume 13, Number 52a back to top