AVwebFlash Complete Issue: Volume 14, Number 7a

February 11, 2008

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Top News back to top 
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FAA Training Chief: Controller Staffing Is Under Control

As the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) continues to declare “staffing emergencies” at the nation’s busiest air traffic facilities, the FAA’s man in charge of training and hiring controllers told AVweb in an exclusive interview last week that the skies are not as dark as NATCA would have the public believe.

“They can make claims all they want, but their claims don’t compare to the numbers that we have. Their accusations and allegations don’t hold water,” said Jim Trinka, the FAA’s director of technical training and development. In a January press conference, NATCA President Patrick Forrey said "the ability to separate traffic safely has gone to an all-time low" with poor labor relations contributing to low morale and high attrition rates among both trainees and qualified controllers. Responding to Forrey’s comment that the national airspace system is in danger, Trinka said, “I’m very confident that safety is never compromised.”

Trinka told AVweb that the FAA is meeting and often exceeding its hiring projections, with 1,815 new controllers hired in 2007. Of those, 1,019 came from the FAA’s approved training centers; the rest were mostly ex-military. In March 2007 the FAA released an updated hiring plan that called for the agency to bring in 1,400 new controllers. Trinka said he’s offered $20,000 recruitment bonuses to military controllers, to which the military has counter-offered retention bonuses of up to $45,000. “We are as selective as Harvard University,” Trinka said. “NATCA’s claim that nobody wants these jobs because of low pay is patently false.”

New controllers are becoming fully qualified in half the time it took to do so just a few years ago, Trinka said, thanks to simulators. It now takes 2.6 years to fully qualify an en route controller and 1.4 years for a terminal area controller, he said. The FAA has used tower simulators in Chicago, Miami, Phoenix and Ontario, California, since 2006. An additional 24 simulators are being installed over the next 18 months at busy Class B towers including New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, Washington Reagan National, Dallas Fort-Worth, and Atlanta. Six simulators will be installed at the FAA Academy in Oklahoma City.

New Zealand Hijacking Raises Security Concerns

A New Zealand newspaper reporter claims he was able to board both legs of a return trip from Christchurch to Napier with a six-inch knife and a toy gun in his carry-on baggage a day after a bizarre hijacking attempt in which two pilots and a passenger were allegedly injured by a knife-wielding Somali woman. Jonathan Marshall, of the Sunday News, said no one paid any attention to him or his bag on either flight, mostly because New Zealand does not require security checks of passengers on domestic flights on aircraft with less than 90 seats. By ironic coincidence, he was seated next to a police Armed Offenders Squad member (New Zealand for SWAT team) on the return leg and the officer studied a radio manual “while I sat drinking tea and concealing my gun and knife," he reported. New Zealand officials are dismissing the reporter’s action as a dangerous and illegal prank but the stunt is sure to bring more scrutiny on the security posture of the country’s airports in light of Friday’s incident. Ten minutes into the Air New Zealand regional flight from Blenheim, the woman, a Somali refugee who was working on a farm, allegedly slashed the Jetstream 32 captain’s hand and also threatened to blow up the plane. She remained armed and standing behind the pilots in the unsecured cabin until they landed in Christchurch. After the plane stopped, the captain wrestled her to the floor and the first officer joined in, somehow getting his foot cut in the melee. A passenger was also cut but it’s not clear at what point during the incident that occurred. The pilots said the alleged hijacker had demanded to be flown to Australia. She’s being held for psychiatric evaluation.

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New Tech in the Air back to top 

The UK's Hypersonic Airplane Design

Reaction Engines of Oxford, United Kingdom, says its A2 design could carry 300 passengers at close to 4,000 miles per hour, flying from Belgium to Australia in about five hours ... 25 years from now. "Our work shows it is possible, technically. Now it's up to the world to decide if it wants it," Reaction's head, Alan Bond, told CanadianContent.net. The 470-foot long Mach 5 aircraft would stretch more than twice the length of the Airbus A380 and have a range of more than 12,400 miles cruising within the earth's atmosphere. Passengers could expect to pay less than $7,000 for the honor of riding the windowless beast, according to Reaction. And that cost is not tied to the cost of fossil fuels, as the A2's engines will burn liquid hydrogen, the cost of which Reaction hopes will decline in coming years. Reaction says the aircraft would escape earshot at .9 Mach before lighting it up over the North Pole and heading over the Pacific at Mach 5. Sensitive to the laws of physics (and the heat generated by high-speed atmospheric flight) the craft substitutes windows with display screens connected to cameras strategically placed on the outside of the aircraft for those who want to see what's passing by at five times the speed of sound.

New Kit: 180 Knots On 180 HP

New Zealand company Falcompositehas flown a prototype of a two-place aerobatic kit plane that it’s projecting will fly 180 knots on 180 hp and stall at 50 knots. The Furio will come with retractable or fixed tricycle gear and the sleek-looking prototype, which first flew on Sunday, will be unveiled at Auckland’s Ardmore Aerodrome on Wednesday. Although there are several kits that match the performance specs of the Furio, the company claims that the aircraft is easier to build than others on the market. The company says the all-composite airframe is composed of 30 parts that go together without specialized tooling or skills. The convenience comes at a price, however. The kits will cost about $150,000 NZD (about $120,000 USD), not including engine.

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Balloon Rally Crash Pilot Sentenced back to top 

Fatal Crash-Plane's Pilot Jailed

In August of 2004, he flew his aircraft into power lines before it crashed into the Wisconsin River, killing his passenger as her family watched -- now he's going to jail. Mark Strub was sentenced to six months in jail for his role as pilot, but much of that time may be spent in community service and work release. Kimberly Reed, 39, was killed during the crash at a Children's Miracle Network Balloon Rally. Strub was faulted for flying too low and operating his aircraft in a careless manner. Beyond jail and public service, Strub has been ordered by the court to pay for and participate in mediation counseling that would bring the surviving family members together with him, if they agree to it. Strub has also been ordered to write a letter of apology. For his part, Reed's husband told the Wausau Daily Herald, "I do not ever want to see the face or have my children have to look in the eye of the man who killed their mother again." Reed's father added, "It is incomprehensible to me that the charges had been reduced to a misdemeanor when my daughter, my baby is dead."

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Weighty Responsibilities at the FAA back to top 

Senators Block President's FAA Nominee

Senators Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg, both Democrats representing New Jersey, announced Thursday they would block President Bush's nomination of Robert Sturgell from reaching the Senate floor for a vote, according to The Associated Press. The two Senators based their stand on flight delays originating in East Coast airspace and Sturgell's actions as acting administrator to alleviate those delays. The government has announced limits for arrivals and departures at New York-area airports and is working on airspace redesigns that often prove unpopular with communities worried their neighborhoods will be negatively impacted by increased noise from rerouted aircraft. "It's time for President Bush to nominate an administrator who solves transportation problems, rather than creating more of them," Lautenberg told the AP. The Senators' action would not have any immediate effect on the agency as Sturgell is already acting administrator.

FAA Modernization At What Cost?

The total cost of a NextGen system empowering pilots with satellite-based air traffic control information is expected by the FAA to cost up to $22 billion, but that figure may be very conservative. At least one analyst, Transportation Department Inspector General Calvin L. Scovel III, forecasts that software development alone will push costs over $50 billion. Scovel aired his opinions during a House hearing on the FAA's 2009 proposed budget, and qualified them by saying that costs "remain uncertain." House Aviation Subcommittee members requested the FAA to review its figures and respond to Scovel's estimate. The FAA's current funding will expire Feb. 29, and the Bush administration's budget proposal for 2009 would offer a $688 million investment in NextGen technology. The first portion of infrastructure that will build the NextGen system came in the form of a $1.8 billion contract awarded in August to ITT. The work is expected to take 20 years to complete.

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News Briefs back to top 

KLN94 Users: Check Your Database

AVweb learned over the weekend that the navigation database in some Bendix/King KLN94 GPS units might be incomplete. A flight instructor from California told us that his home airport, Palo Alto (PAO), did not appear on several KLN94 units installed in various aircraft on the field. The instructor said he called Bendix/King customer support and was told that there was an error in formatting the data for the cycle that expires on Feb. 13. The problem is supposed to correct itself on Wednesday, when the next data cycle takes effect. But pilots flying with these units early this week should check their database prior to launch to ensure that their destination and any alternates are available. Bendix/King customer support for the KLN94 was unavailable to confirm the report on Sunday.

Learjet Biodiesel World Flight Planned

A Florida pilot is hoping to fly a Learjet around the world on biodiesel in the next year. Douglas Rodante and his group Green Flight flew a Czech-built L-29 to about 16,000 feet in Nevada last October on biodiesel and is hoping the FAA will let him take the same aircraft on an eight-stop trip across the U.S. later this year. He’ll need the frequent fuel stops because the L-29 was purposely built with short range to discourage defections. It was also designed to run on a variety of fuels, including home heating oil, which made it a preferred choice for the first flights. By the end of the year or early next he hopes to attempt the Learjet circumnavigation and there are some technical challenges awaiting. Biodiesel is often made from recycled cooking oil, which congeals when it gets cold. Rodante says tank heaters will be added to the Lear and he may have to add chemicals to prevent the fuel from thickening. As a last resort he’ll add kerosene to thin the fuel. He claims that if the cooking oil mixture alone is used, the Lear will release up to 80 percent less pollution than if it was burning jet fuel. The FAA is keeping a close eye on the project and Rodante said he needs some sponsors to pull it off. If it launches, Rodante, a TV producer by trade, plans to make a documentary.

On the Fly ...

Australian regional airline Rex is predicting some small airlines may not survive a pilot shortage it claims will turn into a "bloodbath" later this year. Rex has started its own flight school but has still cancelled flights because of a lack of pilots ...

Four Corners Regional Airport in New Mexico was almost closed after a restaurant renovation came in at $1.09 million. The airport needed a cash infusion of $740,000 from the local council to keep operating ...

A huge international passenger and cargo airport under construction in Qatar will cost $9 billion and is expected to open in 2010. The facility will ultimately handle 60 million passengers a year.

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Readers' Voices back to top 

AVmail: Feb. 11, 2008

Reader mail this week about user fees, fuel, Buckeyes and more.

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

Tell Us About Your Interior Shop

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.

To take part in the online survey, click here.

The results will appear in a future issue of Aviation Consumer. For subscription information, click here.

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New on AVweb back to top 

CEO of the Cockpit #79: In The "Outside" Loop

AVweb's Kevin Garrison doesn't ever fly for hire except for his airline. Well, there's this little bit of instructing he does ...

Click here for the full story.

The Guys Back in Columbus

If you hear this hangar story, don't roll your eyes. It's true. The pilot was forced to do a touch-and-go at O'Hare in a Cherokee.

Click here for the full story.

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AVweb Media: Look, Listen, Laugh and Learn back to top 

Exclusive Video: Amazing Feats of Aviation — DHL Baghdad

Original, Exclusive Videos from AVweb | Reader-Submitted & Viral Videos

Recounting one of the most impressive feats in recent aviation history, AVweb video editor Glenn Pew recalls the circumstances of the DHL A300 shot by a surface-to-air missile over Baghdad. The crew successfully landed the aircraft without the ability to manipulate any control surfaces. (Note: The aircraft shown in simulation is a Boeing 777, not an Airbus A300.)

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Related Content:
Our original news report
PowerPoint slide show (.pps)

Professor Michael Nolan May Have Just the Prescription for ATC ...

File Size 8.9 MB / Running Time 9:41

Podcast Index | How to Listen | Subscribe Via RSS

Imagine you could wave a magic wand and instantly add a few thousand new controllers, a fully operational national ADS-B system, and plenty of extra user fees. The air traffic control system will still be seriously broken. At least, that's the opinion of Michael Nolan, a professor of aviation technology and director of Purdue's air traffic control program — and author of the book Fundamentals of Air Traffic Control. Michael tells AVweb's Mike Blakeney that ATC is never going to catch up with the ever-increasing demand for capacity until one more thing happens. Michael's secret ingredient to complete his next generation ATC recipe is revealed in this AVweb audio feature ... .

Click here to listen. (8.9 MB, 9:41)

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Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: North Las Vegas Airport (VGT, Las Vegas, NV)

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

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to the FBO at North Las Vegas Airport (VGT) in Las Vegas, Nevada.

AVweb's own Mike Busch has nominated these folks before, pointing out that "the same customer service people have been working there for as long as I can remember (zero turnover), so they really know what they're doing." In addition, Mike tells us, "The facility is very nice, and the avgas prices are always extremely competitive (particularly at the self-serve island close to the GA terminal). There's a regular shuttle service that runs between the GA terminal and the hotels on the Strip."

So why is Mike so eager to have us make VGT's FBO our "FBO of the Week"? Well, there's this:

About my only complaint is that there's a restaurant up on the second floor of the terminal building with a lovely view of the airport, but they seem to have a hard time keeping it open. It has changed hands a number of times and keeps going out of business, which is a bummer. Maybe if VGT [is] the "FBO of the Week," it'll get so much new business that they can keep the restaurant open!

One can only hope! Congrats to the folks at VGT for running such a tight operation. (Mike, bring us back a hamburger.)

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!

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The Top Reporter on Our Crack Staff ... Is You! back to top 

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.

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 back to top 

Meet the AVwebFlash Team

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:

Timothy Cole

Editorial Director, Aviation Publications
Paul Bertorelli

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.

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