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While pilots across the country continue to gripe about Lockheed Martin's handling of the Automated Flight Service
Station (AFSS) contract, the FAA says it's taking corrective actions to ensure pilots get the information they need, according to a report submitted to Congress. Lost or misfiled flight plans and
lackluster briefer knowledge of a pilot's proposed flying area top the list of grievances, according to the report. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association notes on its Web site that it pushed for congressional oversight of the AFSS program after pilots reported massive
problems with system last summer. AOPA President Phil Boyer urged the FAA to provide regular updates on FSS performance, and FAA agreed to provide the House Aviation Subcommittee with a report every
90 days. The first such report was delivered on Jan. 30, and covers FSS activity from July 1 through Sept. 30, 2007.
The FAA says that calls are being routed to specialists with expertise in the calling pilot's area, not just to the next available briefer. Specialists are being offered bonuses if they train and
qualify to handle multiple service areas. Still, the FAA is standing by its original target of saving $2.2 billion over the 13-year contract period. Lockheed Martin averaged 650,000 operations a month
during the report period, and received a total of 1,724 complaints. Pilots can submit comments and complaints on the AFSS Web site or by calling
In testimony presented Tuesday on Capitol Hill before the Committee on Science and Technology, David A. Powner, director of information technology
management for the Government Accountability Office (GAO), questioned whether the FAA and the National Weather Service will be able meet their goals for restructuring the way weather information is
gathered and delivered to pilots. In a January 2008 report, the GAO criticized the FAA and NWS for failing to establish reliable performance metrics and oversight responsibility for the weather
services provided by the 21 en route center weather service units (CWSUs). The report was in response to an October 2006 restructuring proposal submitted by the NWS to the FAA, which subsequently
rejected the proposal in April 2007 on the grounds that it was too expensive. The FAA gave the NWS a revised set of requirements in December 2007, and expects the NWS to respond by early May
"FAA's estimated time frames for providing the revised services may be overly ambitious," Powner said. "Given the importance of accurate and timely weather information in air traffic control, it
will be important for NWS to conduct a thorough evaluation before it transitions to a new operational concept in order to ensure that there are no impacts on the continuity of air traffic operations
and no degradation of weather service." The FAA is asking the NWS to submit plans for three operational concepts, from which the FAA will choose one in August. The options are to improve services but
maintain the existing configuration at the 21 CWSUs, with a 90-day transition period; provide remote services through a reduced number of regional facilities, with a 180-day transition period; or
provide remote services through a single centralized facility, with a one-year transition period.
Eugene D. Juba, senior vice president for finance services at the FAA's Air Traffic Organization, also testified before the committee Tuesday. He said the FAA spends over $200 million a year on
aviation weather services, with $12 million of that going to support 84 NWS employees located at the 21 centers. "We believe the NWS is committed to providing their best response to these
requirements," Juba said. "We believe GAO is on target with its analysis identifying shortcomings and variability in some of the existing CWSU support for FAA," testified NWS Director Jack L. Hayes.
He noted that the NWS is actively involved in the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) development through its participation on the Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO) Board
and in providing leadership for the JPDO Weather Working Group.
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It might seem like a sensible solution, especially at big airports with a complex array of taxiways and runways -- embed red lights
into the runway pavement at the intersections. It's been tried at Dallas-Fort Worth and in San Diego, and reports are positive. But the technology is simply a "a stopgap measure," according to FAA
Acting Administrator Bobby Sturgell. "Runway status lights are one way to drive down incursions, but theyre not the best way," he said this week, while visiting Los Angeles International Airport to announce that the lights will be
installed there. At LAX, he says, the runways are simply too close together, and that layout needs to be addressed. A recent report by the Office of Inspector General for the Transportation Department
found that the status-light systems are effective and should be deployed at airports across the country.
The new lights at LAX should be up and running by early next year. The LAX system will be the first to include installations on high-speed exit taxiways.
The Accomack County, Virginia Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Monday night to approve funding that will literally
pave the way for long-awaited runway and apron improvements at the Tangier Island Airport, located in the lower Chesapeake Bay. Over the years, pilots have developed a love-hate relationship with the
lumpy, bumpy runway at Tangier Island, which is best known throughout the mid-Atlantic region for its land-that-time-forgot local
atmosphere. Ron Wolff, chairman of the Accomack County Board of Supervisors, told AVweb that the $3.25 million project hinged on getting the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) to
commit to paving the roads that lead to the airport. Most of the money is coming from the FAA's Airport Improvement Program, but Wolff said VDOT's budget allocation for much-needed road repairs on
Tangier Island would have expired tomorrow if the town had not found a way to fund its share of $65,000 toward the airport project. So Wolff convinced the board to put up a $40,000 interest-free loan
to the town that, combined with local fundraising efforts, was enough to seal the deal. Local pilots are organizing a $50-a-head fly-in brunch to help pay off the loan, Wolff said.
"We only have 550 residents, and raising that kind of money is not the easiest thing to do," said Airport Manager Renee Tyler. Bids for the project are expected to go out in April, with
construction completed later this year. Tyler said the runway will be shortened from its current 2,950 feet to 2,700 feet to provide a greater safety zone between the sea wall and the threshold on the
south end. "Being out in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay, it's very costly to get a portable mixer out to the island," Wolff said. "The idea was, once the runway could be resurfaced, VDOT could
piggyback on that to do the runway at the same time."
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Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) gear will be up and running in the Gulf of Mexico by the end of next year, Acting FAA Administrator Bobby Sturgell told the HAI Heli Expo crowd in Houston this week. The installation aims to
improve safety for helicopters serving offshore oil platforms. Sturgell said the system, designed by ITT, will help controllers at Houston Center to separate traffic in the Gulf, which doesn't have
radar coverage. "We're stretching the airspace," Sturgell said, "extending it to the altitudes and the areas that you [helicopter pilots] operate in." Sturgell added that ADS-B services will expand,
and will prove useful to other segments of general aviation, such as air tour and emergency medical services. AOPA, however, is less enthused about the costs and benefits of the technology. An FAA
proposal would require GA aircraft to equip with ADS-B equipment by 2020 if they want to fly in Class A, B, or C airspace, or above 10,000 feet msl. AOPA says it's concerned that the mandated avionics are too expensive and there appear to be too few
benefits for GA.
In the Gulf, however, oil companies and helicopter companies are facilitating the installation of the equipment, flying crews out to the platforms. Because of the lack of radar coverage,
controllers have maintained 20 miles of separation (based on position reports) between aircraft. ADS-B will allow much closer separation limits while increasing safety and efficiency, the FAA says.
The technology was first deployed in Alaska, where it was credited with contributing to a
dramatic improvement in safety.
Xerion Avionix of Canandaigua, N.Y., on Monday received an FAA supplemental type certificate (STC) to install its AuRACLE line of
full-color, digital engine monitors in virtually every model of Beechcraft Bonanza.
Last July, Xerion earned an STC for the Bonanza A36, and company vice president Eric Hathaway told AVweb that theyve submitted an application to get STC approval for the units in all
Cessna and Piper single-engine aircraft, except for newer "glass panel" models that already have digital engine instrumentation. "The process of going from a single model certification to an approved
model list brings up a lot of discussion about where the display is mounted in the panel," Hathaway said. "Now that we move into Cessna and Piper, we've already worked through the largest issue which
is where is it going to be installed in the panel." That spot is right in the middle of the panel, and to date, 45 Bonanzas have been retrofitted with the AuRACLE. Hathaway said installation of the
unit takes about 30-45 hours. The equipment is priced at between $5,450 and $6,300 depending on the size of the engine being monitored.
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One of the more interesting landmarks to spot while flying in a small airplane is a blimp hangar. There aren't that many of them, they
are huge and unmistakable, and they bring to mind the kind of low and slow treetop flying that many GA pilots find appealing. One of those hangars can be spotted near Elizabeth City, N.C., where TCOM
builds airships and various kinds of lighter-than-air vehicles. And apparently the market for lighter-than-air is growing, because last week the company broke ground for a new 40,000-square-foot
manufacturing facility. The space will be used to build unmanned, tethered balloons, known as aerostats, as part of an Army contract. TCOM also will develop and test an aerostat for an emergency
communications system for use during natural disasters.
The company's blimp hangar is about 1,000 feet long, and once launched Navy "K" airships during World War II. The airships were instrumental in combating enemy submarines that prowled the
coastline. TCOM has operated at the Elizabeth City site since 1973.
As the stars and their entourages headed to Los Angeles for the Academy Awards a real-life melodrama was playing out in British Columbia and a corporate jet flew to the rescue. Officials with the B.C.
Transplant Society told the Globe and Mail that last Thursday when they tried to charter a jet from any of 11 companies that normally provides the service, they were told none was available. "As a
result of the Oscars going on in California, all of the [charter] jets had been spoken for," Bill Barrable, executive director of B.C. Transplant told the newspaper. "We were in a situation where we
could not secure a jet in the tight time frame that we needed to." At stake were seven organs ready for harvest from a man who had died in a rural town several hundred miles from Vancouver, where
seven patients were awaiting life-saving or life-enhancing transplants. So Barrable called his friend and former college mate Robert McFarlane, the CFO of Telus, a large Canadian telecommunications
company, and the firms Citation was on the way within an hour.
Organs must be harvested and then transplanted within hours for them to function successfully. Thanks to the Telus jet, which the company provided for free, the transplant team was able to harvest
the organs and have them working in the seven grateful patients in time. Brian Parsons, a 43-year-old firefighter from Vernon, B.C., got the donors heart and said he hopes to soon return to the
active job and life he enjoyed before his own heart became enlarged. "It was just one of those things where timing was not its best and all the jets not being available. ... I'm so grateful because I
know the outcome could have been very different," he said.
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AVweb founder and now our popular "Savvy Aviator" columnist Mike Busch has been named the FAA's AMT of the Year in the National GA Awards. Other winners included Timothy Daniel "Tim"
Adkison of Benton, Kentucky - Avionics Technician of the Year; Max Trescott of Mountain View, California - Certificated Flight Instructor (CFI) of the Year, and John Anthony Teipen of University City,
Missouri - FAA Safety Team Representative of the Year. Mike Busch founded AVweb in 1995 after retiring as a software developer, and at the same time he started getting serious about learning
how to maintain and fix his own airplane.
In retirement (if that's what you could call it) he earned his A&P and inspection authorization. Busch married his mechanical expertise to his well-developed communications skills, and he's
been a popular columnist and lecturer on piston aircraft maintenance ever since. In addition to his work with AVweb, Busch writes for American Bonanza Society Magazine, Cessna Pilots
Association Magazine, and Cirrus Pilot. He's also a sought-after speaker at most general aviation gatherings and holds weekend Savvy Aviator
seminars all over the U.S.
A 43-year-old pilot for GB Airways, a British airline, died while working on an A320
flight between Manchester and Cyprus. The flight diverted to Istanbul and landed safely. The pilot died of natural causes, apparently a heart attack, officials said...
A United Air Lines A320slid off a runway into the snow at Jackson Hole Airport in
Wyoming on Monday; nobody was hurt...
An Embraer 170 jet and a United A319clipped wings Sunday evening while taxiing at
Dulles International Airport outside Washington. Nobody was hurt, and crews checked both aircraft for damage.
Our best stories start with you. If you've heard something 200,000 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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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 wonders aloud if bio-fuels are really going to save G.A. as we know it.
Last week, we asked whether the FAA should regulate builder assistance when it comes to homebuilt airplanes.
In a handy statistical coincidence, 51% of readers who answered our Question thought that as long as 51% of the work is done by the owner-builder, anyone else should be able to do
the other 49%.
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 ***
The FAA says it's working to correct problems with the flight service station system that was contracted out
to Lockheed Martin two years ago. It's submitted a report to Congress on what it plans to do, so we thought it timely to get an update from readers on how Lockheed Martin is doing.
Have an idea for a new "Question of the Week"? Send your suggestions to
NOTE: This address is
only for suggested "QOTW" questions, and not for "QOTW" answers or comments.
Use this form to send
"QOTW" comments to our AVmail Editor.
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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.
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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 ***
Spring is just around the corner!
Do you know how we can tell? It has nothing to do with Punxsutawney Phil, blooming plants, or cool updates from the team organizing Sun 'n Fun. Nope it's the uptick in
"Picture of the Week" submissions that always heralds the thaw for us. And this week's crop is promising indeed, so let's dive in. (Those with a ravenous appetite for reader-submitted photos should
look for even more of 'em in the slideshow on AVweb's home page.)
Last week, we mentioned that we get a lot of approach shots here at "POTW" central but that very few seem to make it into the top spot. Perhaps taking this as a
challenge, Robert Hurd of Largo, Florida sent in this gem, taken with his "hand held [at] arm's length ... from the back seat."
Point taken, Robert. Your hat is on its way, and we're already bracing ourselves for the rush of approach photos that will surely batter us down in the days to come ... .
Sometimes it's stiff competition for that top spot, and this Osprey photo from Christian Hauser of Grossenzersdorf, Austria has left us
second-guessing our normally impeccable judgement all afternoon. At the end of the day, we had to award this week's coveted AVweb ball cap to someone else, but we promise to make this one
on our desktop wallpaper and moon over it for a couple of days. (Just look at those shadows!)
"That's my youngest running from his first open-cockpit flight to tell me how cool it was," writes John
Hyle of Peachtree City, Georgia. "It was Chris Polhemus's Stearman (there in the background). I used to wipe the oil off that airplane about 28 years ago."
Come on, folks tell us the golden sun flickering across the grass as John passes the dream of flight on to his son doesn't give you a warm, summery feeling. Ignore
the snow and slush; summertime's almost here!
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/.
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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
Click here to send a letter to the
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