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Both the National Air Traffic Controllers Association and the FAA have turned up the volume on their rancorous relationship and it's all about an air traffic control supervisor's decision to cut the
sound on a tragedy playing out in northeastern California. In a news release, NATCA is alleging that "controllers at Oakland Air Route Traffic Control Center last Sunday were deliberately prevented
from monitoring the distress calls from a small plane in trouble" when the supervisor cut the sound on the loudspeaker system that was playing radio transmissions on the guard frequency concerning the
engine-out emergency that ultimately led to the fatal crash of Steve Wilson's RV-7 near his home of Grass Valley, Calif. They also suggest the action by the supervisor is contrary to recurrent
training taken by controllers that teaches them "to never assume that someone else is aware of an unsafe situation or an emergency, but rather to bring that situation to the attention of the proper
controller or supervisor." But FAA spokesman Ian Gregor told AVweb in an e-mail that by the time the controllers in Oakland had tuned in, the plane had already crashed and all they heard were
transmissions from another pilot who saw the crash and was circling the wreck waiting for help to arrive. Gregor said the supervisor could tell from the transmissions that the situation was being
handled by another facility (an FSS in Rancho Murietta) and that there was nothing his staff could do to help the pilot. He was also concerned that the blaring speakers would distract controllers from
handling traffic. But, of course, neither side was prepared to leave it at that.
Gregor accused the union of exploiting the accident as part of a disinformation campaign to try and get a better labor-relations deal from the FAA. "This is yet another example of the controller
union leaders making unsubstantiated claims in their ongoing attempt to attack FAA management because they're unhappy with a labor contract that we put in place a year and a half ago," said Gregor.
NATCA portrayed the supervisor's actions as reprehensible and against FAA policy. "During an actual emergency where someone needs help and their life may depend on the response, it is completely
unconscionable," said Oakland NATCA representative Scott Conde. "In 20 years of air traffic control experience I have never heard of anyone turning off the 'Guard' channel during an emergency. It is
so completely against what we are taught, retrained and reinforced to do, that any normal person would find it unthinkable." The NTSB doesn't mention anything about the radio transmissions in its preliminary report and the people of Grass
Valley are mourning the loss of a well-liked businessman and family man. "He was a family man who loved his wife," his daughter Katie Wilson told The Union newspaper. "He really loved his grandchildren."
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The first Eclipse 500 to be produced at the Russian Aviastar complex located at Ulyanovsk, Russia (the hometown of Vladimir Lenin),
will also be the first foreign aircraft produced in that country, according to a report by Russia Today. Russian production of the Eclipse 500 very light jet (VLJ) is scheduled to begin next year now
that Etirc Aviation, a Dutch investment company, has become Eclipse's largest shareholder. The Russian Aviastar aircraft complex will now be supported by $100 million in new investment, according to
Russia Today, and Etirc's investment paves the way for building a second plant at the Ulyanovsk facility. Etirc expects the Russian facility to produce up to 500 jets per year beginning in 2009.
Eclipse CEO and president Vern Rayburn told Russia Today, "Russia is an economic nation, a nation that's really growing rapidly, economically. It's one of the most exciting places in the world."
He added, "It's very easy for us to tap into."
Russian president Vladimir Putin has ordered the creation of an aircraft manufacturing complex, to be built near Moscow and to include
facilities for design, construction, testing and marketing of aircraft. The goal of the project is to revive Russia's aircraft industry from its current 10 commercial aircraft per year and raise that
schedule to 5,800 aircraft by 2025 (of which 2,600 would be commercial aircraft). Putin also hopes the consolidation of facilities will provide a foundation for Russian aircraft manufacturing to
cooperate and compete with other manufacturers like Airbus SAS and Boeing. The state-owned OAO United Aircraft Corp. would take on creation of the center, but no timeline has yet been announced. OAO
envelops Sukhoi, Tupolev and Aeroflot aircraft, among other holdings.
Putin will step down from his position in May, but may retain significant political influence. Questions remain over how
the new facility, to be located in Zhukovsky, would be staffed -- particularly, what personnel would be relocated and how other facilities already in place elsewhere would be utilized.
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A long discussion between Martin County, Fla., and the FAA, seeking common ground to placate neighborhoods claiming safety concerns
and negative impact from aircraft noise and exhaust at Witham Field, may be taking a judicial turn. The county's commission voted in 1998 to extend Witham's runway, but provided the FAA with maps that
failed to mark all of the residences nearby, according to the Palm Beach Post. The FAA extended the runway per the information provided and now refuses to shorten it but has requested that the county
correct the safety issues. The Witham Airport Action Majority (WAAM), identified by the Palm Beach Post as an activist group, argues the FAA should reduce the runway's length to safeguard nearby
homes. And now a court may be asked to find a solution. The FAA has suggested adding soft concrete overrun buffers at the end of the runway to safeguard property -- an idea that has been dismissed by
WAAM. WAAM notes that it would cost the county money to rebuild the barriers should they ever be used and points out that the solution does not address the issue of noise.
AOPA's monthly AOPA Pilot magazine has reached its 600th issue and, with its March 2008 issue, AOPA Pilot celebrates
its 50th anniversary. The "largest-circulation aviation magazine in the world" is sent to all 415,000 AOPA members and marks the milestone in its March 2008 issue that includes "the very first 'Never
Again' column." The March issue also introduces a new "This Month In Aviation" feature that will recount significant historical aviation happenings that occurred that month in aviation's history. AOPA
has also this month made available online the very first issue of AOPA Pilot magazine. Readers can "flip through the pages, just as if they were holding an original copy in their hands."
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Christine Wells-Groff, the widow of a firefighting pilot killed in the line of duty,
has been denied federal death benefits by the U.S. Supreme Court. The ruling was finalized when the court declined to hear the widow's appeal on her own and other widows' behalf. Unlike public safety
employees killed in the line of duty, the widows are not entitled to roughly $250,000 in federal death benefits because their husbands worked for a company that provides pilots for the California
Department of Forestry (CDF) and not directly for the state. To the law, it makes no difference that the men flew CDF-owned aircraft, wore CDF uniforms and operated at the direction of the CDF. Widows
have been excluded from federal death benefits since 1980, when the Department of Justice decided to exclude from federal death benefits tanker pilots hired by contract for seasonal firefighting.
"It's shaken my confidence in myself and in what's right and what's wrong," Wells-Groff told PressDemocrat.com. The widow said the injustice would keep her fighting and her lawyer added that bills
that address the legislation were winding their way through the House and Senate. A life insurance policy held by Wells-Groff's husband also denied payment, in that case, because the pilot was flying
an aircraft when he died.
Icelandic rescue services and an RAF Nimrod search-and-rescue aircraft were looking Friday for a what they
believed to be an American pilot presumed to have crashed at sea during a storm while flying from Reykjavik, Iceland, to Wick, Scotland. The pilot had contacted Iceland air traffic control to report
severe icing and said he would attempt ditching. Less than 20 minutes prior to that, at 11:22 GMT, he had reported flying at 9,000 feet. He was "known to be in a survival suit but it was not clear
whether he also had a dinghy," according to the BBC online, which reported weather as severe, "with heavy thunderstorms and a 20-foot swell. Search efforts include flights 450 miles from the Moray
coast in the area of a distress beacon transmitted from the scene, until the aircraft sank.
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The Latest in Helicopters Including
On the eve of the helicopter industry's biggest show came news of the helicopter industry's biggest buyout. Days before Heli-Expo 2008 got under way Sunday in Houston, Texas, the board of
Vancouver-based CHC Helicopter Corp. has agreed in principle to the takeover of the company by First Reserve Corp. for a $1.5 billion offer that values the company at $3.7 billion. CHC is the largest
oil platform-servicing company in the world and maintains a fleet of more than 300 helicopters all over the world. First Reserve offered shareholders $32.68 a share, a 49 percent premium over the
share price of $21.88.
Of course, the share value jumped substantially on news of the announcement, with the price settling at about $30. The takeover marks a shift in the company structure that began with the death of
founder Craig Dobbin in 2006. "This transaction will mark the beginning of an exciting new phase in CHC's history," CHC CEO Sylvain Allard told reporters.
Sikorsky Aircraft unveiled its X2 Technology Demonstrator Aircraft Sunday at Heli-Expo in Houston. The counter-rotating coaxial rotor design is aimed at delivering the high-speed cruise while keeping
the low-speed handling, hovering and autorotation safety characteristics that operators want. "The X2 Technology Demonstrator is an integrated suite of technologies intended to advance the
state-of-the-art, counter-rotating coaxial rotor helicopter," said Sikorsky President Jeffrey Pinot. "As we continue to work to prove out and mature the technologies that will allow the X2 Technology
Demonstrator to become a viable product, we are focused on testing its limits and finding out where this technology will take us."
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A U.S. Air Force-owned Cessna 172 outfitted with a diesel engine and wearing Iraqi air force markings landed Thursday on a
county road after suffering a power failure. Now for the explanation ... The air force published plans in October 2007 to send 12 Cessna 172s to Kirkuk where the aircraft would serve at the Iraqi Air
Force flight training school. This particular aircraft had been taken to Miami to be fitted with the diesel and was then flown to a Tampa paint shop where it won its Iraqi markings, according to Tampa
Bay Online. En route at about 4 p.m. from Tampa to Kendall-Tamiami -- where the Air Force would have inspected, dismantled and prepared the aircraft for shipment to Iraq -- the aircraft (and its Iraqi
Air Force markings) then made its emergency landing on a rural central Florida highway ... County Road 731. The pilot, who reportedly was unharmed, works for a subcontractor of Cessna and was taken to
Sebring Regional Airport, picked up by aircraft, and removed from the area. The aircraft remained to contribute to the developing local public stir as authorities pieced together the rest of the
A British Cathay Pacific pilot was fired after he did a low-level, high speed flyby at the Boeing plant in Everett, Wash. last month while on a delivery flight of one of the airline's new 777s. As
the accompanying video shows, Ian Wilkinson took the aircraft, with company officials on board, within 30 feet of the runway at more than 300 mph. His first officer on the flight Ray Middleton (who
got suspended for six months) said the company officials toasted the flight with Wilkinson later and he believes nothing would have come of the whole thing if the video hadn't made it to YouTube.
Airline officials said low fly-bys are allowed, but only if the crew asks first, which apparently didn't happen in this case.
The Air Force is not releasing any details about the potential cause of the crash of a B-2 bomber at Andersen Air Force Base on Guam Saturday. The aircraft crashed on takeoff
and both pilots ejected ...
The flight recorders have been recovered from a Venezuelan airliner that crashed in the Andes last week. All 46 people aboard the ATR 42 died ...
In an oddly ironic publicity event on Sunday, Virgin Atlantic Airlines loaded five people and a tank full of coconut and babassu oil [one of four] aboard a Boeing 747 for 90-minute flight to
show that biofuels will work on commercial aircraft. Environmental groups dismissed the flight as irrelevant since even if the whole airline industry ran on obscure oils, the growth in air travel
would wipe out any environmental gains within 10 years.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. You're a part of our team ... often, the best part.
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Dassault has introduced a jet that changes the playing field for business jet manufacturers, operators and pilots. That jet is the $40 million Falcon 7X. In this exclusive video, AVweb
video editor Glenn Pew takes us inside the Falcon 7X.
Today's "Video of the Week" comes from AVweb readers Scott Ross and Chuck Jansen. After Chuck lost an engine in his Arrow, the two recreated the frightening
experience in video, using a flight-simulator and radar screens to show what happened and mixing in audio from the ATC tower and a WIFR interview. The result is a stellar presentation that brough
that brought the Rockford, Illinois controller (heard in the video) out to the fellows' local EAA chapter (1414) for a presentation. According to Scott, the video's been a hit with at least two other
local chapters, as well!
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."
Although the Apollo astronauts got most of the glory, NASA's unsung flight controllers came into their own on Apollo 13, when an oxygen tank exploded and disabled the spacecraft on the way to the
moon. Sy Liebergot, a Cal State-trained engineer, was lead EECOM (electrical, environmental, consumables) on that mission and in this detailed podcast, he describes what it was like to
ultimately resolve NASA's most challenging moment. Liebergot spoke recently at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida.
Be sure to visit our new blog, AVweb Insider, for personal insights and commentary on the aviation industry from our staff of writers and editors. Today, Aviation Group director Paul
Bertorelli blogs about his chat with Apollo 13 EECOM Sy Liebergot.
Today's "Short Final" breaks with tradition a bit by not being heard over the radio but we couldn't pass up the opportunity to share this tale:
"I was coming back from Tampa in the early evening heading for Craig in my 182. Over Gainesville I came around a large cloud and came face to face with a UFO.
"Black, octagon-shaped with spikes, clearly not of terrestrial origin. I turned toward it. Heart racing, sweating like a pig, I could barely hold her steady. I don't believe in UFOss but there
it was. About a mile out, it turns, and I can see the word Goodyear on it's side.
"What I saw in the fading light was the Blimp on end.
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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
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