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Shocked by the downfall of Silver State Helicopters, the Nevada-based flight school that
declared bankruptcy earlier this week, former students and employees are telling AVweb they face major financial losses. Silver State Helicopters abruptly shut down operations at its 34 nationwide
locations on Sunday afternoon, leaving more than 800 employees without jobs and more than 2,500 flight students saddled with millions in debt. Company president and founder Jerry Airola has yet to
speak publicly on the event, but a statement released by the company alleges that a rapid, unprecedented downturn in the U.S. credit markets curtailed the availability of student loans for
the companys students and resulted in a sharp and sudden downturn in new student enrolment. Tony and Heather Sullivan told AVweb they were at a Super Bowl party when they got the
news. Heather was employed as a receptionist and flight dispatcher at Silver States Houston facility, where her husband was a student. To date Tony has logged just 81 of the 200 hours he signed
up to receive, and said he does not know how he is going to complete his training. Tony, who works full time as a human resources manager for a construction company, said he has an outstanding loan
through American Education Services (AES) for approximately $70,000, the cost of the 18-month program designed to get students through their private, commercial, instrument and initial flight
instructor certificates. Mike Reiber, spokesperson for AES, told AVweb that AES is one of several companies that originated and serviced loans made to Silver State students. Effective this past
Monday we are no longer dispersing money to Silver State Helicopters, he said. Any disbursements that were sent out are being returned. Reiber said that AES is awaiting direction
from Student Loan Xpress, the guarantor of the loans. Student Loan Xpress spokeswoman Jenn Stark said Silver State should pay unused tuition back. As a result of Silver State Helicopter School's
decision to file for bankruptcy protection, we are currently working with its students to ensure that their loans are managed properly until the bankruptcy court decides upon a course of action to
assist them." she wrote in an email to AVweb. She said affected students can contact Student Loan Xpress for information, at 888-568-2429, between the hours of 8 a.m.-5 p.m. EST. Silver State
Helicopters is a member of the Helicopter Association International (HAI). In an undated membership profile on HAIs website, Silver State lists a fleet of 195 helicopters including 138 two-place
Robinson R22s and 43 four-place R44s. HAI president Matthew Zuccaro told AVweb that the loss of such a large flight school will be felt throughout the industry. Its certainly of concern to
us, he said. Jerry Airola founded Silver State Helicopters in 1999 and quickly became known throughout the industry for using aggressive sales tactics to recruit students to the program.
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More than three months have gone by since President Bush nominated Bobby Sturgell to take over Marion Blakey's job as head of
the FAA, but the Senate needs to confirm that choice, and so far they haven't taken action. This Thursday, Sturgell will at least get a hearing before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. His
nomination has been controversial, with most of the established user groups (including NBAA, AOPA, and EAA) willing to work with him, but an assortment of noisy advocacy groups, as well as NATCA, vehemently opposed. Senators in the Northeast have been lobbied heavily by constituents who are
unhappy with the FAA's ongoing redesign of busy airspace in the region and opposed to Sturgell.
President Bush was prevented from pushing through the nomination during the holiday recess because Senate leaders held brief daily sessions and no official recess was held. Election-year politics
could cause further delays, as Senate leaders may be reluctant to confirm a five-year assignment from a lame-duck administration that will be changing in less than a year.
The federal Transportation Department this week released the latest version of its budget request, including user-fee-based funding for the FAA, and reaction has been swift. "What part of 'NO!' doesnt the White House understand?" asked AOPA President Phil Boyer. "Once again, the Bush administration wants huge new taxes and
user fees imposed on general aviation, and it wants to slash and burn the Airport Improvement Program." Pete Bunce, president and CEO of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, agreed. "Despite Congress saying 'no' to the Administration's proposal to scrap the current funding mechanism for a less efficient one
that imposes user fees, they have once again launched an effort to complete a FAA reauthorization bill by proposing the exact same failed plan," he said. DOT Secretary Mary Peters insisted the system
needs to change. "Traditional approaches are not capable of producing the results we need to keep America's economy growing," she said.
Meanwhile, Acting FAA Administrator Bobby Sturgell gave a "terse defense" of the administration's decision to recycle a reauthorization proposal that failed last year in Congress, wrote The Wall
Street Journal. "There are no changes," Sturgell said.
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Citation Columbus: More than Just the Cabin
Cessna Aircraft Company revealed details of its recently announced large-cabin jet at a press conference
in Washington on Wednesday. The intercontinental aircraft will be called the Model 850 Citation Columbus. The jet is designed for intercontinental travel, Cessna said, with a target range of 4,000
nautical miles at Mach .80 carrying eight passengers. The ship will be powered by two Pratt & Whitney Canada PW810 engines. A Rockwell Collins integrated flight deck will go in the cockpit. The
airframe will be all aluminum. Columbus will be Cessna's largest business jet. "This provides the perfect platform at the top end of our product line for customers looking for more space, more range,
more economy and more capability," said Jack Pelton, chairman, president and CEO of Cessna. "This aircraft will be Cessnas greatest achievement."
Preliminary performance numbers set a maximum cruise speed of 488 knots, a full fuel payload of 1,950 pounds and takeoff field length of 5,400 feet at maximum takeoff weight. The aircraft will
measure 77 feet nose to tail and 80 feet wingtip to wingtip. Its cabin length of 36.3 feet, including interior baggage space, is the longest in its class by nearly two feet, says Cessna, and can hold
up to 10 passengers. The initial price estimate for the Citation Columbus is $27 million. Cessna plans to achieve FAA certification by the end of 2013, with deliveries beginning in 2014.
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Maine is in a "state of confusion" when it comes to imposing onerous tax bills on out-of-state aviators, say the folks at AOPA, who have been trying to reason with officials there. "There is a fundamental
fairness issue here," says AOPA Vice President of Regional Affairs Greg Pecoraro. He has met with Maine officials several times in an effort to help pilots who have been hit with tax bills of tens of
thousands of dollars after flying their airplanes into the state. "Maine Revenue Services is misapplying the law," Pecoraro said, after a Jan. 10 meeting failed to achieve resolution. Maine officials have levied a "use tax" on out-of-state pilots who fly their airplanes into the state within 12 months of buying
them, if they didn't pay a sales tax elsewhere. Since some states exempt aircraft from sales tax, dozens of pilots have been assessed taxes, fees, penalties and interest. AOPA will be back in Maine on
Feb. 26 for a legislative hearing on a bill that would fix the problem, AOPA spokesman Chris Dancy told AVweb this week.
The bill would grant a sales and use tax exemption to all out-of-state aircraft, regardless of where they are used, where they were purchased outside of the state, or how much they weigh, said
Pecoraro. Meanwhile, Massachusetts pilot Steve Kahn, who has been told by Maine that he owes $26,000 for flying his Cirrus
SR22 to his Maine summer home, has exhausted his administrative appeals and filed an appeal in state court. "Maine Revenue Services is ... arbitrarily combining statutes in the Maine tax code to suit
their purposes," Kahn told AOPA. "The result is to blindside pilots with huge tax bills knowing full well that they will be caught by surprise!" AOPA is continuing to work with the Maine
governor's office in an effort to provide relief for affected pilots.
A new law that requires 10 percent ethanol in all auto fuel sold in Oregon is worrying pilots in the state. State officials said the law
does not apply to aircraft fuels, but there is no mandate that ethanol-free fuel must be made available. "The fuel distributors we've talked to have all agreed that they would be willing to provide
ethanol-free premium to airports, [but] they also say that it must be economical for them to do so," Oregon pilot Dennis Douglas told AVweb. Since they would have to import the fuel from out of
state, and only a small percentage of aircraft in Oregon use autofuel, economic viability is problematic. For now, ethanol-free gas is still available in most counties, but the phased-in law will be
implemented statewide by the end of this year. Pilots now are lobbying the state legislature to amend the law to exempt premium autofuel from the ethanol provisions for the next five years, so pilots
can continue to buy fuel at gas stations.
Conventional wisdom suggests that, by five years from now, manufacturers of all affected equipment will have been able to work out a viable solution to the hazards created by burning
ethanol-blended fuel, says EAA. Douglas said that since the affected pilot community is small, he hopes to build more
support for changing the law among users of emergency generators, boats and motorcycles, who would also be affected by the fuel change.
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While it's still deep winter in much of the country, this year's edition of Sun 'n Fun is right around the corner, with
spring not far behind. This week, the FAA published the NOTAM with instructions
for those who plan to fly in to Lakeland, Fla., for the show, which runs April 8 to 13. The amphibian "Splash-In," scheduled for April 10 and 11, is moving to a new site this year, at the lake adjoining Kermit Weeks' Fantasy of Flight museum in Polk City. Also new this year, the
Light Sport Aircraft folks are excited about their expanded display area right inside the entrance gate. "We'll have room for about 20 airplanes," Dan Johnson, chairman of the Light Aircraft
Manufacturers Association, told AVweb this week. The site will have a welcome area, shade tents, engine displays, and lots of comfortable space for buyers and sellers to meet and interact, he
said. This year's show will also feature the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds.
And of course the AVweb team will be there to bring you fresh news, pictures and video from the site.
NASA and the CAFE Foundation will host a $300,000 General Aviation Technology Challenge this August in Santa Rosa, Calif., to determine which small aircraft are most advanced in a number of measures that include fuel efficiency,
quietness and safe handling. The idea is to encourage the development of GA aircraft that can fill the personal transportation needs of the future. Brien Seeley, president of the CAFE Foundation, told
AVweb this week that this year's event will especially emphasize environmentally friendly technologies, and will introduce a new $50,000 Green Prize. The use of biofuel will be encouraged. The
competition is open to experimental and production aircraft as well as light sport aircraft.
The competition is limited to 16 teams. Discounted registration is available for teams that sign up before Feb. 14.
Join NAA and Help Shape the Next Century of Flight
It's a great time to join the National Aeronautic Association (NAA), the nation's oldest aviation organization. At $39 a year, NAA membership is a terrific value for any aviation
enthusiast! Members receive the Smithsonian's Air & Space and NAA's Aero magazines, plus access to aviation records, product discounts, and much more. Call (703) 527-0226 to
become an NAA member, or
In 2007 Robinson Helicopter Company manufactured 823 new helicopters, the most civil
helicopters ever produced in a single year by one company...
EAA's new online searchable calendar aims to gather nationwide aviation events in one place...
A helicopter pilot who hit power lines at night and crashed in Los Angeles in January had been scheduled to fly with an instructor, but shortly before the flight chose to go solo, the NTSB said in a preliminary report.
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 email@example.com. You're a part of our team ... often, the best part.
Bennett Avionics: Used Avionics Guidance You Can Trust
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Build A Plane Relaunches Its eBay Auction Store Build A Plane is a non-profit organization that solicits aircraft donations then redirects those airplanes to high schools and youth groups, with over 70 active projects worldwide. The eBay
Auction Store supports this no-cost program. There are lots of new items that will make great gifts for your Valentine. For more information regarding Build A Plane's programs, call Katrina
Bradshaw at (804) 843-3321.
Click here to visit
Build A Plane's eBay Auction Store.
Alaska governor Sarah Palin is proposing the state offer low-interest loans to help owners upgrade their
avionics for ADS-B. Last week, we asked AVweb readers if they thought that would be a good idea for the rest of the U.S.
A clear majority (57% of those who responded) agreed that since ADS-B is a federal mandate, the government should step up to assist owners with the transition. Another 32% of you, however,
felt that outfitting individual owners' planes with next-generation avionics shouldn't be taxpayers' responsibility.
For the complete breakdown of reader answers,
click here. (You may be asked to register and answer, if you haven't already
participated in this poll.)
THIS WEEK'S QUESTION ***
In the past, we've asked about many factors that might limit (or even prohibit) you from flying recreationally. This week, AVweb reader Matt Bentson put the same question to us
pretty directly, and we're passing the buck along to our readership: Which is more likely to ground you first rising fuel prices or the added expense of user fees?
Our sister publication, Aviation Consumer, is preparing a report on interior shops. If you recently had an interior redone, the editors would like to hear from you, whether the experience was
good or bad.
The results will appear in a future issue of Aviation Consumer. For subscription information, click here.
Choose the Flight Explorer Edition Right for You Flight Explorer is an information system tracking commercial and general aviation flights. With the Flight Explorer Personal Edition, view air traffic for the U.S., Canada, or New
Zealand and monitor and display real-time delay information, TFRs, SUAs, and more. With the Flight Explorer Pilot Edition, view weather along a route, receive alerts with your preliminary
flight plan, and have an e-mail sent to someone on departure or arrival.
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According to AVweb reader Scott A. Hauert, "These folks embody the spirit of aviators helping aviators" and after hearing his story, we tend to agree.
Scott arrived early the morning for what he'd planned as a three-day stay in Page. "Bob, the Chief Pilot, could not have been more helpful if he had to," writes Scott. "He opened the FBO an hour
early so we could stay on [a tight] schedule." When mechanical troubles reared their head, Scott became worried he wouldn't be able to get back, so Bob stayed late ("the same day he picked us up
early") to let him back into the hangar. And when Scott had to leave bright and early the following morning, "one of the linemen picked us up."
AVweb is actively seeking
out the best FBOs in the country and another one, submitted by you, will be spotlighted here next Monday!
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Over 400 titles representing 52 publishers are in stock and ready for immediate delivery as books, videos, or CDs. 100+ titles available instantly as fully searchable e-Book downloads.
Whether you are a pilot, an A&P technician, or a kit airplane builder, if it's worth reading, it's available from the AVweb Bookstore.
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Each week, we go through dozens (and sometimes hundreds) of reader-submitted photos and pick the very best to share with you on Thursday mornings. The top photos are featured
on AVweb's home page, and one photo that stands above the others is awarded an AVweb baseball cap as our "Picture of the Week." Want to see your
photo on AVweb.com? Click here to submit it to our weekly contest.
*** THIS WEEK'S WINNERS ***
The winter chill continues to keep many of our contributors locked indoors watching the Discovery Channel instead of snapping photos for us in the great outdoors. Nevertheless, a
few dedicated souls have decided to spend their evenings curled up by the fire going through last summer's flying photos. Our hat's off the them literally, in the case of our weekly photo
contest winner, who'll be receiving a sharp AVweb baseball cap in the mail in just a few short days.
We often close out "Picture of the Week" with a spectacular sunset, but thanks to semi-regular contributor Don Parsons of St. Peters, Missouri, we'll reverse the
trend and kick off this week's edition with a sunset.
A quick note for submitters: If you've got several
photos that you feel are "POTW" material, your best bet is to submit
them one-a-week! That gives your photos a greater chance of seeing
print on AVweb, and it makes the selection process a little easier on
us, too. ;)
A Reminder About Copyrights: Please take a moment to consider the
source of your image before submitting to our "Picture of the Week" contest.
If you did not take the photo yourself, ask yourself if you are indeed
authorized to release publication rights to AVweb. If you're uncertain,
send us an e-mail.
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/.
AVwebFlash is a weekly summary of the latest news, articles, products, features, and events featured on AVweb, the internet's aviation magazine and news service.
The AVwebFlash team is:
Publisher Timothy Cole
Editorial Director, Aviation Publications Paul Bertorelli
Editor-in-Chief Russ Niles
Managing Editor Meredith Saini
Contributing Editors Mary Grady Glenn Pew
Features Editor Kevin Lane-Cummings
Click here to send a letter to the
editor. (Please let us know if your letter is not intended for publication.)
Comments or questions about the news should be sent here.
Have a product or service to advertise on AVweb? A question on marketing? Send it to AVweb's sales team.
If you're having trouble reading this newsletter in its HTML-rich format (or if you'd prefer a lighter, simpler format for your PDA or handheld device), there's also a text-only
version of AVwebFlash. For complete instructions on making the switch, click here.