AVwebFlash Complete Issue: Volume 14, Number 11b

March 13, 2008

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Is GA Crowding the Skies? DOT Thinks So ... back to top 

DOT Inspector Report Finds GA “Materially Contributes” To NAS Congestion

On March 3 the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Transportation quietly released an audit on the use of the National Airspace System (NAS)—and the general aviation community is quietly taking notice. The audit, initiated by then Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Rep. John L. Mica, R-Fla., found that “air carriers and non-air carriers, including general aviation and business jet operators, all make sufficient use of the NAS so as to materially contribute to FAA’s costs and congestion in general.” Non-air-carrier traffic accounted for up to 30 percent of the peak-level instrument approach operations at the New York TRACON in 2005, according to one example in the report, though GA used fewer center resources overall.

The report also concluded that the current fuel tax structure does not accurately reflect how the NAS is used. “The current tax structure groups jets used for non-commercial purposes with general aviation piston engine airplanes, although they are taxed at different rates. However, those jets are likely to have more in common (in terms of NAS usage) with commercial jets, which are taxed differently,” the report states. A spokesman for the National Business Aviation Association told AVweb that NBAA is reviewing the report and has asked to meet with the inspector general to discuss it. The report acknowledges that the structure of taxes on business jets “has become a lightning rod in the debate regarding how to finance the FAA,” noting that FAA does not track business jets as a separate user group.

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Weather Concerns, Long-Term and Short-Term back to top 

Lawyer Wants Caravan Icing Certification Revoked

The families of nine young skydivers who died last October when a Cessna 208B Grand Caravan crashed in Washington state have sued Cessna, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported on Monday. "They [Cessna] had the numbers of each plane that had a miscalibrated warning system on it and did not contact the owners of those planes," lawyer Dean Brett told the P-I. "Our goal is to have the 208B decertified from flying in icing conditions." The pilot also died when the airplane hit a mountain. Cessna declined comment to AVweb. Spokesman Doug Oliver said the company does not comment on pending litigation.

According to the NTSB preliminary report, instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at the accident site. The FAA reported that no FAA or FAA contract facility provided service to the pilot, and they had no record of a pilot preflight weather briefing. Their report noted that VFR conditions generally prevailed along the route of flight except for IFR conditions in the Cascades Mountains and the western foothills. AIRMETs were in effect for icing, low-level turbulence, and mountain obscuration. Questions about the safety of the Caravan in icing conditions have been raised in the past. In December, Aviation Safety editor Jeb Burnside interviewed Suburban Air Freight's Geoffrey Gallup to learn more about the issue. Click here to listen to the podcast.

Report: Airports Threatened By Climate Change

Airport runways in coastal areas are in danger of being submerged by rising sea levels and storm surges brought on by global warming, says a new report from the National Research Council, released on Tuesday. At least 23 major airports, and many more GA fields, have elevations of just 22 feet or less, which puts them at risk, according to the report. Those airports are located along the U.S. East and West Coasts, the Gulf Coast, Alaska, and Puerto Rico.

Airports in areas of high elevation, such as Denver, may also be affected by an increase in hot days with high density altitudes. The report says "it is certain" that the costs of such changes will be "widespread and costly," and will require significant changes in the planning, design, construction, operation and maintenance of the national airport system. Not all of the changes will be for the worse, however. Milder winter conditions would likely improve the safety record for rail, air and ships, the report concludes.

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Staying Safe Is a Constant Battle back to top 

FAA Issues Emergency ADs for Thielert, Precision Airmotive

The FAA yesterday issued two emergency airworthiness directives affecting general aviation aircraft. The first, (AD 2008-06-52), applies to Thielert Aircraft Engines GmbH (TAE) model TAE 125-02-99 engines with a serial number from 02-02-1500 through 02-02-2279. These engines are installed on some Cessna 172 and (Reims-built) F172 series (STC No. SA01303WI) airplanes and Diamond DA42 airplanes. The FAA says it received reports of in-flight engine shutdown incidents that were found to be the result of a cracked high-pressure fuel line between the high-pressure pump and fuel rail. These cracks were caused by excessive vibration of the fuel line and, if not corrected, could result in an in-flight engine shutdown or engine fire. The second AD (2008-06-51) addresses a problem with certain Precision Airmotive LLC RSA-5 and RSA-10 series fuel injection servos.

AVweb reported last week that two incidents relating to RSA-10ED1 fuel-injection servos on Lycoming IO-540-K engines in Piper Saratoga/6X aircraft led Precision Airmotive to issue a mandatory service bulletin on March 6 calling for inspection and replacement of defective parts.

Flight Service Software Crashes; Pilot Briefings Delayed

Lockheed Martin computer programmers are trying to figure out why a planned software upgrade to FS21 caused the system to crash late Tuesday night. AVweb received a tip from a former briefer in Michigan that the system went down at about 0100Z. A spokeswoman for Lockheed Martin told AVweb that when they realized the FS21 upgrade was “unstable,” they reverted to the backup system known as AISR (Aeronautical Information System Replacement). “It provides the same type of information as FS21 but it’s in disparate sources so it takes a little longer for the briefing,” the spokeswoman said. “In the morning, queue times were several minutes, but by around 11 a.m. they were in the single digits.”

Lockheed Martin posted an alert on its Web site indicating that calls to 800-WX-BRIEF may be delayed until the problem is resolved. A notice posted to the Web site on March 9 indicated that the software upgrade was being done to “provide improvements to the service we provide especially in PIREP processing with a more efficient mask for obtaining the data from the pilot, among other items.” The FAA has agreed to provide Congress with a status report every 90 days on Lockheed Martin’s performance in managing the FSS contract. The next one is expected to be delivered at the end of April.

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Aviation Losses back to top 

No Sign Of Airola At Silver State Helicopters Bankruptcy Hearing

A Las Vegas television station reported that Silver State Helicopters owner Jerry Airola failed to appear in federal bankruptcy court on Tuesday, disappointing nearly 200 former students who showed up hoping to confront him. Airola has kept a low profile since the once-burgeoning flight school abruptly ceased operations at its 34 nationwide locations in early February, leaving more than 2,500 trainees in the lurch and facing millions in debt. Neither Airola’s spokeswoman or his attorney responded to e-mails and phone calls from AVweb on Wednesday, but an attorney representing former students attended the hearing and told AVweb that while Airola was not legally required to appear, two former Silver State board members were there representing the debtor and provided some insight into where the case stands. “They said that they had no contact with Mr. Airola since the filing of the bankruptcy,” said attorney Peter Lown of Jonesboro, Georgia. “But the things that people really wanted to know about, like where’d the money go, they could not address.”

Several class-action lawsuits are in the works against Airola, Silver State, and the banks that made loans to students. Lown said he is negotiating with other law firms to join his case with theirs, because fighting this battle alone is going to be tough. “The bankruptcy filing complicates the case,” he said, because any class action must wait for the bankruptcy trustee to settle the thousands of claims that have already been filed. The deadline for submitting a claim is June 12.

Ellen Evak Paneok, Alaskan Aviation Pioneer, Dies At 48

Ellen Evak Paneok, of Anchorage, who died March 2 at age 48, was the first Native Alaskan woman bush pilot, and accumulated more than 15,000 hours of flight time, much of it along Alaska's remote northern coast. She delivered mail and supplies to Eskimo villages in all kinds of weather. "The most challenging part," she said in the 1997 book "Women and Flight," "is the off-airport work, like landing on the sandbars, landing on top of a mountain with big tires, maybe on a 20-degree grade, landing uphill and taking off downhill - to me, that's the epitome of bush flying." Paneok also worked for the FAA as an operations inspector and was statewide aviation safety coordinator for the Alaska Aviation Safety Foundation. She was one of the few pilots authorized to fly the vintage aircraft owned by the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum. She was also a writer, published in Alaska Magazine and AOPA Pilot.

"Ellen's beautiful prose and clever story-telling ability, combined with her unique perspective on flying, resulted in some wonderful articles for AOPA Pilot," said Tom Haines, the magazine’s editor-in-chief. "We will miss hearing from her."

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Industry Growth back to top 

FAA Forecasts Delayed But Steady GA Growth

The FAA today released its 2008 aerospace forecast, which is less optimistic of the near-term growth potential for general aviation than the previous forecast. The report is the focus of the 33rd annual FAA Aviation Forecast Conference scheduled for Monday and Tuesday in Washington, D.C. Industry panelists cited rising fuel prices, airspace and airport congestion, and a slowing economy as the primary risk factors affecting growth in both GA and the airlines. Nan Shellabarger, FAA director of aviation policy and plans, said that total GA flight hours are expected to remain relatively flat over the next year, with annual growth increasing from 2.1 percent to 3 percent beginning in 2009. The forecast anticipates 5 percent fewer annual GA flight hours in 2025 than last year’s forecast, Shellabarger said, though very light jets are expected to eventually account for one-sixth of total GA hours. VLJ deliveries in 2007 (143 aircraft) fell far short of the FAA’s 2006 forecast of 350 aircraft, the report states, though the FAA still expects 400-500 VLJs to enter service each year for a total of 8,145 aircraft by 2025. VLJs are also expected to contribute to a 2.1 percent per year growth in IFR operations. On the other end of the GA spectrum, the forecast anticipates 14,700 light sport aircraft will be in service by 2025, with 20,600 new sport pilots certificated during the forecast period. The number of active GA pilots (excluding air transport pilots) is projected to increase by 61,000 per year to reach 507,930 pilots by the end of the forecast period. “There’s still a big tailwind for corporate aviation,” said acting FAA administrator Robert Sturgell in his opening remarks. But airline concerns dominated the day’s discussions on ATC congestion, environmental and financing issues.

Eclipse Aviation CEO Vern Raburn echoed a comment made by fellow panelist Steve Brown, senior vice president of operations for the National Business Aviation Association, who noted that “there is massive capacity available” at the nation’s more than 5,000 GA airports. “When I landed at Manassas last night, there were zero aircraft in the pattern,” Raburn said, referring to the Manassas Regional Airport in Virginia, which serves as a reliever for Washington Dulles International. “But I could hear airplanes trying to get into Dulles.” Jens Hennig, vice president of operations for the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, noted that the FAA’s projected growth in VLJs depends heavily on the success of the air taxi market. “There are a lot of question marks,” he said.

First Flight For Cessna SkyCatcher Prototype

Cessna's new Model 162 SkyCatcher prototype flew for the first time on Saturday morning, the company announced on Monday. Test pilot Dale Bleakney flew the airplane out of Cessna Aircraft Field Airport in Wichita and evaluated its controllability and stability. He then landed at Mid-Continent Airport, also in Wichita, where development testing will continue. "The first flight of the SkyCatcher is a significant step ahead toward our goal of bringing an affordable training aircraft to market," said Cessna CEO Jack Pelton. The company is also building the first production model, which is scheduled to fly later this spring, and an ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) test article, which is currently undergoing load testing. All engineering work and testing of the 162 will be completed in Wichita, the company said, although the airplanes will be built in Shenyang, China.

Cessna said its engineering team "continues to evaluate" the 100-hp Continental O-200 engine that is installed in the proof-of-concept aircraft, which first flew in August 2007, just weeks after the program's official launch at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh. The SkyCatcher is priced at $111,500. It is expected to cruise at speeds up to 118 knots with a maximum range of 470 nautical miles, a useful load of 490 pounds and a usable fuel capacity of 24 gallons. The aircraft will feature a Garmin G300 avionics system, and will be capable of day and night VFR operations, Cessna said. First deliveries are expected by late 2009.

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News Briefs back to top 

Final Flight For Stealth Fighters

The U.S. Air Force is retiring its fleet of F-117 Nighthawks, which were the world's first attack aircraft to employ stealth technology. The single-seater aircraft made its first flight in 1981 at the Tonopah Test Range in Nevada. The Nighthawk program remained classified until 1988, when a photo of the jet was first unveiled to the public. The Air Force said the decision to ground the fighters was based on economics. "With aging aircraft fleets and infrastructure, senior Air Force leadership has made hard choices to pay for modernization of our overall aircraft inventory," said Air Force spokeswoman Diana Filliman. "One of these decisions was to accelerate the retirement of the F-117, and use the savings generated to accelerate the recapitalization and modernization efforts underway across the fleet." Fifty-nine of the F-117s were built, the last one in 1990, and seven of them crashed. During more than 1,000 sorties flown by Nighthawks during Operation Desert Storm in the early 1990s, not one was shot down, the Air Force said.

"It was like flying into the biggest fireworks demonstration you have ever seen," recalls Brig. Gen. Greg Feest, reflecting on the first night the F-117s were deployed over Iraq. "Realize, we were in the heart of it. Because of the delivery system we had at the time, we had to be down low. We couldn't fly over the AAA (anti-aircraft artillery) ... We didn't know if [the stealth technology] was going to work. The engineers all assured us that it would. At the end I was amazed to see I had a checkmark next to every call sign and every pilot's name, knowing we were all coming home." After a retirement ceremony this week, the airplanes will be stored in Nevada. The Nighthawk's mission will be taken over by the F-22 Raptor.

On the Fly ...

George B. Litchford Sr., an inventor who helped develop TCAS (Traffic alert and Collision Avoidance System) for aircraft, died on Feb. 28 at age 89...

A proposed FAA Airworthiness Directive would require owners of Cirrus SR20s to inspect and perhaps replace the heat exchanger to prevent carbon monoxide from leaking into the cabin...

Alarms were raised at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday when the pilot of a Cessna 177 with no radio violated restricted airspace and was intercepted by two F-16s...

Southwest Airlines grounded 41 airplanes and suspended three employees as the FAA investigates the airline's failure to keep up with required inspections of some airplanes...

A French prosecutor has asked judges to bring manslaughter charges against Continental Airlines over the 2000 crash of a Concorde in which 113 people died. Investigators found the SST hit a piece of metal on the runway that had allegedly fallen off a Continental airplane.

Make Plans Now to Attend a 2008 Savvy Aviator Seminar
Mike will be conducting Savvy Aviator Seminars in Chicago, Las Vegas, Norfolk, and Santa Maria. Sign up for one of these classes and learn how to save thousands of dollars on maintenance costs, year after year. Do it before your next annual inspection! For complete details and to reserve your space, click here.

AVweb founder Mike Busch has been selected by the FAA and supporting aviation organizations as the National Maintenance Technician of the Year. Busch will be presented his award at a ceremony during EAA AirVenture.
New on AVweb back to top 

The Savvy Aviator #55: Is Repair A Lost Art?

Aircraft parts are expensive, so we really should be repairing rather than replacing them whenever possible. We need to make this clear to our mechanics.

Click here for the full story.

AVweb Insider Blog: The Courts and Aircraft Certification

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, AVweb Editor-in-Chief Russ Niles urges pilots to keep a watchful eye on a developing legal case urging courts to revoke the Cessna Grand Caravan's icing certification.

Read more.

Diamond DA40 A Fleet Favorite
Airline Transport Professionals: Beijing PanAm, Empire Aviation, European-American Aviation, Galvin Flying Services, Middle Tennessee State University, Sabena Airline Training Academy, Utah Valley State College, Utah State University, and many more have all selected the G1000-equipped Diamond DA40. For value, efficiency, and safety, the Diamond Aircraft DA40 is the fleet favorite. Go online for information on all Diamond Aircraft.
Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Tropical Aviation Corp. (TJIG, Isla Grande, San Juan, Puerto Rico)

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

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Tropical Aviation Corp. at Isla Grande's Fernando Rivas Dominicci Airport (TJIG) in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

AVweb reader Robin Fraser made a compelling case, insisting that Tropical "was the best FBO we used in an entire month of cross-country flying" from Saskatchewan to BVI. "They easily deserve to be recognized as the 'FBO of the Week,'" writes Robin, and based on his account of the trip, we tend to agree:

The service at Tropicana Aviation was nothing less than excellent. From fueling at customs the moment we arrived and excellent pricing to the assistance in parking, everything was top-notch. The front desk staff arranged transportation and accomodations on a moment's notice and were exceptional with their service. The General Manager was there to meet us and offer his assistance and also introduced us to the owner of the business. Facilites were excellent and the staff took care of flightplans and the very low airport fees (less than 7.00 for the night!).

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!

NAA Spring Awards & Collier Winner Announcement in AVweb's Audio News
AVweb's Managing Editor, Meredith Saini, was on-hand for this year's National Aeronautic Association (NAA) Spring Awards Luncheon. Meredith spoke with NAA chairman Walter J. Boyne about the 2007 Collier Trophy winner he announced. Listen online.

Join NAA and be an aviation record setter and part of the Collier Trophy. Aviation enthusiasts can join for $39 a year and receive Smithsonian's Air & Space magazine, aviation records, fee discounts, and much more. Join now online, or call NAA at (800) 644-9777.
AVweb Media: Look, Listen, Laugh and Learn back to top 

Exclusive Video: Dassault Falcon 7X Fly-by-Wire Business Jet

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

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.

Don't see a video screen?
Try disabling ad blockers and refreshing this page.
If that doesn't work, click here to download the video directly.

The AVweb Bookstore, The Most Complete Aviation Bookstore Anywhere
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. Click here to visit online.
Reader-Submitted Photos back to top 

Picture of the Week: AVweb's Flying Photography Showcase

Submit a Photo | Rules | Tips | Questions | Past Winners

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.


Daylight Saving Time has resumed in much of the AVweb-reading world, and many readers are taking advantage of the extra hour of sunshine to snap pictures around their local airports and flying clubs. As usual, our dedicated team of analysts are charting the direct correlation between the early signs of summer and the increasing number of photos submitted to our weekly photo contest. Not that they have much time for charts and graphs, given the staggering number of extra photos we've crammed into the slideshow on AVweb.com this week ... .

medium | large

copyright © Heather Hullen
Used with permission

Sunken DC-3 Off Norman's Cay

Chris Hullen of the Woodlands, Texas submitted this photo taken by his wife Heather Hullen "of what is claimed to be a DC-3 or C-46 Commando. It sits just off the eastern shore of Norman's Cay, Bahamas," Chris tells us. "Legend has it that the overloaded aircraft lost an engine on takeoff and could not make it back to the field. Now it is a snorkeler's paradise."

As for the legendary clear blue waters of the Bahamas: "No retouching at all," writes Chris.


medium | large

copyright © John Andrew Karas
Used with permission

High Flyers

Regular "POTW" contributor John Karas of Milwaukee, Wisconsin didn't tell us much about this shot, except that it was "taken during [the] Lake Front Air Show."

Then again, let's be honest — as long as John keeps sending photos like this, he's more than welcome to let them speak for themselves. (Quite eloquently, we might add.)


medium | large

Used with permission of Stewart Van Dyke

Speed Is Relative

Stewart Van Dyke of Carmel, Indiana made our afternoon with this snapshot of a throttle from the cockpit of a Piper Cub attending "the annual Funday Sunday Fly-In at Moraine Air Park" in Ohio.


medium | large

copyright © Barry Biggs
Used with permission

Picking Up a Little Ice!

Barry Biggs of Englewood, Colorado reminds us that spring hasn't yet sprung for everyone. "It's surprising how quick the ice can accumulate during these spring snow storms," he writes. ("However the pilot did land safely.")


medium | large

copyright © Sean Cannon
Used with permission

Takeoff Check Complete

Sean Cannon of Monte Vista, Colorado has been flying some pretty interesting terrain in the Ecuadorian jungles lately. Here, he prepares to land while a co-worker is "just about ready to push the throttle and make a dash for the heavens."


Bonus Pics!
You'll find a couple dozen reader-submitted images in the "POTW" slideshow on our home page. Check 'em out!

Click here to submit your own photos to "POTW."

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, consult the POTW Rules or or send us an e-mail.

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 200,000 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.

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.

Aviate. Navigate. Communicate.