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The Transportation Security Administration says Sen. Chuck Schumer is wrong about claims that thousands of foreign nationals are getting flight training without the required documentation and
background checks. "Each and every foreign national that applies for flight training at any FAA-certified school anywhere in the world is checked by TSA prior to beginning that training," TSA
spokesman Jon Allen told The Associated Press. Schumer told
reporters that there are 8,000 foreign nationals illegally taking flying lessons in the U.S. Thats the same number used in an ABC News investigation that reached the same conclusion as Schumer but in a less colorful manner. Schumer didnt say where he got his information from but he left no doubt as
to how he felt about it. "This is 9/11, or at least the failure that led up to 9/11, all over again," said Schumer, a New York Democrat. The ABC report quoted leaked TSA memos and a retired FAA
inspector as claiming that foreigners were getting lessons and pilot certificates without being vetted by the TSA. The 8,000 figure apparently came from ABCs FAA source, Bill McNease, who said
he found 8,000 foreign students in the FAA database who earned their pilot certificates without being vetted by the TSA.
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Anyone who thought the drawn-out battle to choose the new generation Air Force tanker aircraft ended with the Pentagons decision Friday to go with the Northrop-Grumman/EADS consortium likely has
another think coming. "This won't be pretty," Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., told The
Seattle Times Saturday. "There will be a firestorm of criticism on Capitol Hill, Dicks, whose Seattle-area district depends heavily on Boeing for its economic well-being, warned. Although
the loss of the $40 billion deal is not expected to result in any job losses at Boeing, the contract would have created up to 8,000 additional jobs and kept the 767 assembly line going well beyond
2012 when the last commercial 767 is finished. Its an election year in which the economy is in trouble and protectionist sentiments have been expressed by both Democratic presidential nomination
contenders. Not only that, the leading Republican contender is remembered as the politician that killed the original contract awarded to Boeing in 2003, so it would seem the tanker issue will have
pretty long legs.
"We should have an American tanker built by an American company with American workers," said Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Kan., whose district includes Boeings Wichita plant. Leading Democratic
presidential hopefuls Sen. Hilary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama have both been trumpeting protectionist policies of late but its Republican front-runner John McCain who might face the most
scrutiny. It was pressure from McCain that scotched a 2003 award to Boeing for a total of 100 767-based tankers. McCain alleged favoritism in the bidding process and the Pentagon rescinded the
contract in 2004. Now there are allegations the most recent bidding process was changed to favor the Airbus/Northrop Grumman bid. In the end, it may well be the U.S.-first sentiment that dominates the
chorus of discontent. "Obviously, Congress is going to react to the American public," Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said. "You can put an American sticker on a plane and call it American, but that
doesn't make it American-made." Which aircraft will do the best job for the best price does not seem to figure into the current debate.
Not everyone associated with the EADS/Northrop-Grumman victory in the Air Force tanker contract is celebrating. The union representing workers at EADS Toulouse factories claims the deal will cost
French jobs because of the consortiums commitment to build an assembly plant for the tankers in Mobile, Ala. In 2006, EADS agreed to build a plant in China to win contracts there and the CFDT
union claims thats chipping away at the French workforce. British unions are hailing the contract saying it will secure thousands of jobs in plants that build major structures like wings. And,
of course, Mobile couldnt be happier about the decision. Civic and state officials are portraying the contract award as turning point for the social and economic structure of the area. "The
opportunities for decades to come are just so real and so big. It's really kinda hard to put it all in perspective," Congressman Jo Bonne told WKRG. The first priority is upgrading Brookley Field to accommodate the factory and the traffic it will
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Last week, the Colorado House of Representatives passed by a vote of 65-0 House Bill 1261, which exempts sales tax on new or used
aircraft purchased out of state, following the state's loss of Adam Aircraft. Adam's recent end of operations cut 500 jobs and it is hoped the bill will encourage other manufacturers and distributors
to do business. The existing law "makes it difficult, if not impossible, for aircraft manufacturers to locate in this state," the bill's co-sponsor, Rep. Bernie Buescher, D-Grand Junction, told the
Denver Business Journal. Buescher, who formerly ran an aircraft maintenance company, said the current system encourages sellers to move their aircraft out of state prior to official sale to avoid
sales and use taxes. The bill will now move to the Senate Finance Committee for consideration. It was originally introduced last year along with a business and economic-development agenda for 2008,
put forth by Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter.
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Military experts are warning that unmanned aerial drones could be very easily assembled and used by terrorists to conduct aerial
attacks ... but, for pilots, the warning's wording may be more disturbing. "Sooner or later we're going to see a Cessna programmed to fly into a building," Rear Admiral Chris Parry told The Associated
Press. The Rear Admiral went on to describe such potential attacks as "cheap" and "about as difficult to detect as a blackbird." The idea is not new. In 2003 six Hamas militants were killed in an
explosion while working with a remote-controlled aircraft intended for use in an attack. Rear Admiral Parry is not counting on future outcomes to always end similarly. In 2006 an informant told the
FBI he was aware of a plot to fit a model aircraft with explosives. The military warns that use of such inexpensive, simple means of delivery may continue to prove seductive to potential terrorists
and even drug traffickers. Parry also suggested the aircraft could one day be used to ferry illegal substances across expanses of inhospitable territory.
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The B-2 Spirit "Stealth Bomber" that crashed Saturday, Feb. 23, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, was on fire prior to the crash,
according to a report cited by the Air Force Times. The fire, which was reported shortly after takeoff, was followed by an uncommanded and uncontrollable roll to the right. The aircraft crashed
between the ramp and taxiway at approximately 10:45 a.m. local time, and not before both pilots had safely ejected. One of the pilots suffered spinal compression and as of Thursday remained in the
hospital. The crashed aircraft, the Spirit of Kansas, a part of the 509th Bomber Wing, had more than 5,000 flight hours. The remaining fleet is not "grounded" but under a "safety pause," according to
the Air Force -- the aircraft could be called to service if tasked with a mission. During the safety pause, six B-52s have arrived "to replace" the remaining three B-2s in Guam. An investigation is
under way, led by a board of officers; no causal information had been released at the time of this writing.
Two experimental aircraft collided on the ground Saturday, at non-towered Arthur Dunn Airpark in Titusville, Fla. At about 8:30
a.m., one of the aircraft (a Velocity XL RG) landed, was attempting to land or was performing a low pass when it struck the other aircraft (an RV-8) as it taxied. Two occupants aboard the experimental
Van's RV were killed. After the impact, the four-seat Velocity canard cartwheeled for roughly 300 feet before coming to rest, inverted. Witnesses came to the aid of that aircraft's two occupants, who
suffered severe burns and were taken to Orlando Regional Medical Center. One of those occupants had also passed by the time of this writing. Both had suffered life-threatening injuries. Bystanders
told reporters that the landing aircraft's approach seemed unusual, but many informed witnesses preferred not to comment. The airport was busy with aircraft arriving for an EAA pancake breakfast. The
pilot of the Velocity may be the sole survivor.
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As we reported last week, Ian Wilkinson, a senior Cathay Pacific captain,
was fired three weeks after he did a high-speed, low-level pass over a Seattle-area airport in a new Boeing 777 he was delivering from the factory. It wasnt the stunt that got him fired, it was
the fact that he didnt have permission to perform the fly-by, something the airline occasionally allows for airshows. But a story in Sundays Asian World News, reprinted by The Earth Times, raises the question of just how much
authority Wilkinson needed, since the chairman of the airline, Christopher Pratt, was in a cockpit jumpseat for the whole performance. The airline confirmed that fact but said Pratt, who runs one of
the biggest airlines in Asia, couldnt be expected to know that the stunt wasnt authorized, "The chairman is not an aviator and he was fully aware that the captain was in full
command of the flight," an unidentified spokeswoman said. "There was no request or suggestion from anyone in Cathay Pacific for the fly-by to take place. The decision was entirely that of the captain
in command." The spokeswoman also denied that Wilkinsons firing had more to do with the publicity surrounding the stunt, which was featured on YouTube, than company protocol. The YouTube
video only confirmed what was already becoming known. The internal investigation was well underway prior to the video appearing online, she claimed. However, an unidentified source reportedly
told a German magazine that it was felt the incident makes our airline look like a bunch of cowboys. Wilkinson was paid three months severance and keeps his company pension. He has
not been available for comment. His maid reportedly told the newspaper hes on holiday in Thailand.
Substandard parts have been used on airliners because the FAA and airlines lack effective oversight on whos making and selling the parts, according to a report by the
Department of Transportations Inspector General...
Plastic pilot certificates will be required in the U.S. by March 31, 2010 according to a final rule issued by the FAA last week. The new certificates are more durable and more secure than
the paper variety...
Today is the deadline for comments on ADS-B deployment in the U.S. The actual deployment will, however, take about 20 years, and the main concerns expressed so far are about the potential
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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"VFR Flight Not Recommended." How often have you heard this phrase and flew anyway, to find conditions perfectly safe? And how many times have you
heeded the warning and canceled, only to see perfectly flyable weather? Yet there are times the admonition proves wise, and "on the edge" conditions grew just enough worse to make visual flight
extremely risky. What is the VFR Flight Not Recommended warning, and what special information do you need to decide on whether and how to fly?
The Flight Service phrase "VFR Flight Not Recommended" does not mean the decision has been made for you. It means conditions are reported or forecast to be such that instrument meteorological
conditions (IMC) may develop at any point along the proposed route of flight during the time you're planning to fly. Specifically, Flight Service is required to give the VFR Flight Not Recommended
advisory when the Area Forecast or any weather-reporting airport along your route of flight reports current or forecast visibility below five miles and/or ceilings below 3000 feet. Not coincidentally,
these conditions are the top end of "marginal VFR" (see table below) and, as the name implies, there are worse conditions that are still flyable under VFR. Note, however, that lower conditions prompt
exactly the same warning from Flight Service briefings. Even IMC adds VFR Flight Not Recommended to the briefing. The weather could be visibility four miles with clear skies, unlimited visibility
beneath a 2900-foot broken layer of clouds, all the way down to zero-zero in fog or thunderclouds. Conditions may exist (or be forecast) for only one reporting point along your route or blanket the
entire area. You have no way to know from VFR Flight Not Recommended alone.
Low IFR (IMC)
< 1 mile
< 500 feet
Instrument Meteorological Conditions (IMC)
1 to 3 miles
500 to 1000 feet
Marginal VFR (VMC)
3 to 5 miles
1000 to 3000 feet
Visual Meteorological Conditions (VMC)
> 5 miles
> 3000 feet
The advisory VFR Flight Not Recommended means you have to ask what's causing the phrase to appear in your briefing, and how those conditions will affect your proposed flight.
Armed with much more detailed information, you can begin to decide whether to fly or not. Before you do consider what pressures are pushing for a "go" decision. Consider this case:
A Bellanca Super Viking sped low cross the east Kansas prairie. Thick clouds narrowed the visual airspace to about a thousand-foot band, so the pilot was hovering in Class G airspace,
where one mile visibility and remaining clear of clouds was legal while remaining 500 feet above the roads and farms beneath. It was a straight shot from the airport on the northeast edge of Wichita
to the pilot's home in Arkansas, but a tall tower lay exactly on a direct-to track along the way. The speedy Super Viking plowed into one of the tower's support cables and came apart seconds before
slamming into the ground.
The pilot was no amateur: He was a highly experienced Air Force pilot on his way home from Air National Guard flying duty. Possible icing in the clouds made him wisely choose to remain clear of
clouds. It was late on a Sunday and undoubtedly he had to be home to go to work the next day. A good decision (stay out of icing conditions) devolved into what turned out to be a bad choice ("scud
run" home in deteriorating light). Time pressure, the ever-present "get-home-itis," is probably the biggest human factor contributing to marginal-weather mishaps and VFR-into-IMC accidents. Ask
yourself: Why do you need to make the trip now? Are you deciding safety-of-flight based on non-aviation needs? As one pilot put it to me, "There's a reason airports are at the end of a road:
It's so you can get a car and drive if the weather's too bad."
Once you've honestly determined you're deciding based on safety factors, not just a desire to get to your destination, consider how bad the weather is, really. Responding to the advisory you need to
How good (or bad) are conditions?
Are they marginal VFR (visibility three to five miles and/or ceilings 1000 to 3000 feet) or are they really IMC (anything worse)?
Are the conditions widespread, or localized?
Are other factors (thunderstorms, precipitation, strong wind) contributing to the conditions?
Are they actual observations of existing weather, or forecasts of what might happen in the future?
What is the trend in weather development? Are conditions gradually improving, or are they going downhill?
Are there any recent PIREPs (pilot reports) that confirm or refute the advisory?
Can you legally and safely go IFR instead?
There are other factors, especially lighting conditions and the terrain over which you'll fly, which should have a big impact on your marginal-weather go/no-go decision. Consider this suggested
decision-making matrix for a proposed VFR trip in MVFR conditions (from my Web site):
If the outlook is MVFR and you're flying VFR ...
Mountains or Water
Mountains or Water
* With precise preflight planning to include route, alternates, and minimum safe altitudes for each segment of the flight, positive en route navigation and
improving weather conditions within easy range at all times.
When VFR Flight Not Recommended appears in the preflight briefing because of MVFR conditions, history shows best success comes over flat terrain in daylight conditions. Difficulty in seeing obstacles
at night, the risk of getting too close to terrain before being able to maneuver to avoid it in mountainous areas, and loss of visual reference over featureless expanses and water make attempted
visual flight in marginal weather far more dangerous.
You need to look at your motivations for the flight, honestly assess your capabilities and familiarity with the airplane, and consider the conditions over and in which you'll fly to make a go/no-go
decision when advised that VFR Flight [is] Not Recommended. This is one area where the stick-and-rudder emphasis of pilot training and the FAA Practical Test Standards do not give you all the tools
needed to be safe. You need to exercise judgment, and to learn from the experiences of others.
Future Leading Edge articles will focus on accomplishing the MVFR flight once you've made the decision to go. For more, see "How Not to Get Experience" in the March
2008 issue of our sister publication Aviation Safety.
Fly safe, and have fun!
Thomas P. Turner's Leading Edge columns are collected here.
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.
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AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Air Flyte, Inc. at KBAF in Westfield, Massachusetts.
We've heard of some pretty nifty things FBOs do to make their visitors feel at home, but AVweb reader Bob Cipolli painted a unique and inviting picture of this "new FBO located in the
brand-new terminal building at Barnes/Westfield." Bob writes:
They have lineman ready to park you as soon as you taxi in and roll out an actual red carpet for every plane on their ramp. They even have cookies for my dog when she comes with me to the airport.
First class organization all the way.
Red carpet? Dog cookies?? We have to agree, Bob that's the very definition of "first class all the way"!
If your "bucket list" includes an international trip over water to an exotic destination in your own airplane, then you need to hear this AVweb podcast. The very popular Cayman Caravan was
just recently revived by Caribbean Flying Adventures as the "Cayman Islands Fly-In." They just completed their first trip,
involving 16 planes ranging from a Cessna 172 to a Diamond TwinStar, and AVweb's Mike Blakeney spoke with Jim Parker, President and Chief Pilot, to see how it went.
Maybe we have a soft spot for videos that make us a little nervous, but today's "Video of the Week" selection (courtesy of AVweb reader Peter Snoeckx made us sit up and take notice.
There's a happy ending, but this Swiss Air pilot has clearly had better days. In his defense, if you turn up the volume, you can hear the wind howling, and he did, after all, end up on the
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."
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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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:
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