AVwebFlash - Volume 14, Number 24a

June 9, 2008

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Fun In The Sun In Frederick back to top 
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AOPA Fly-In Attracts 500 Aircraft

Despite a bit of morning fog and the forecast of a sweltering early-summer day, AOPA hosted a robust turnout for their annual fly-in and open house in Frederick, Md., on Saturday. By mid-afternoon, temperatures were in the 90s, with a heat index hovering near 100 degrees. But with a cool breeze, plenty of shady tents, and an air-conditioned headquarters to escape to, the heat drew few complaints -- in fact, most were happy that at least it wasn't raining, the all-too-usual open-house weather. By day's end, over 500 aircraft had visited Frederick, including the 40 on display, and AOPA spokesman Chris Dancy estimated the day's crowd at about 5,000.

These weren't casual visitors. They climbed in and out of cockpits, asked tough questions, peered into engines and luggage compartments, and hoped it might be their turn to win the sweepstakes airplane (a restored and updated 1976 Piper Archer). They explored a pair of trikes, a few light sport aircraft, lots of piston singles, a Diamond Star twin, a couple of turboprops, and light jets from Eclipse and Cessna. Inside the AOPA building, they made themselves at home, flying the simulators and roaming the halls, often hesitating politely at office thresholds until smiling staffers encouraged them to come on in -- even into the intimidating Office of the President. They asked about tax issues and how to help save their local airport. They brought their kids, their parents, and their friends and neighbors. They posed in front of a giant airplane picture so they could see themselves on the cover of AOPA Pilot magazine, keeping two Photoshoppers busy all day.

Folks from Eclipse flew in from Albuquerque with two jets, the single-engine Concept Jet -- which is no longer a concept but now the E400, part of the product line -- and an E500 twin. Eclipse pilot Howard Judd said it took just over six hours and three stops to fly the single-engine jet across the country, but that's for the unfinished demonstrator version -- pressurized production copies will be able to fly higher, faster, longer, and more efficiently, and will also have a more powerful jet engine. Randy Brooks, Eclipse director of training, said interest in the E400 is high, and he expects first deliveries by early in 2011. Fuel efficiency is a strong point for the little jet, he said: "It will get 330 knots on less fuel than anybody."

AOPA staffers worried all day about pilots navigating the narrow airspace corridor into Frederick, with the ADIZ looming to the south and just a few miles to the north, an expanded prohibited area above Camp David, where President Bush was spending the weekend. At his hour-long noontime seminar, AOPA President Phil Boyer joked with the overflow crowd about his weeklong efforts to get President Bush to change his plans ("I hope he's sweltering out there," he said), but in the end he had to accept that the airspace would be restricted during the fly-in. Staffers took on an unprecedented effort to get the word out. The day went by incursion-free.

Boyer told the crowd that along with advocating for GA in Congress, as FAA reauthorization drags along -- it seems likely a new administration will be in power before any substantial decisions about FAA funding and user fees are made -- AOPA is looking ahead to GA issues of the future. On AOPA's radar screen are the deployment of ADS-B, what will replace 100LL, airport encroachment, and concerns over noise and emissions. And Boyer said AOPA plans to spend up to $5 million a year to recruit new pilots, offering free introductory lessons through a new nationwide rebate program.

Boyer sat down for a chat with AVweb about these topics and more in an exclusive podcast.

Click here to view photos from the event.

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New And Old Ways To Fly back to top 

Virgin Galactic WhiteKnightTwo Targets July

Scaled Composites' 100-percent carbon composite WhiteKnightTwo, the aircraft designed to eventually haul SpaceShipTwo and its first sampling of some 254 people who have already deposited cash to be hurtled toward space, is expected to make its debut late next month (July) in Mojave, Calif.. The rollout will mark a milestone step toward seeing suborbital space tourism take flight. Backed by billionaire British entrepreneur Richard Branson, Virgin Galactic's goal is to sell out its first year of available flights before the first one leaves the ground. With a first flight date yet to be determined, Virgin Galactic nonetheless hopes to reserve more than 500 tickets before that unannounced date. So far 254 people have won spots on the short list by paying between $20,000 and $200,000 up front, filling the ventures coffers with about $36 million. WhiteKnightTwo will begin extensive testing after rollout, including trips to the limits of its operational ceiling.

As any mother will tell you, it's always good to have a "plan B" and the unique capabilities of WhiteKnightTwo may make it appealing beyond the space tourism market. Aside from serving as a zero-G trainer for space tourists in training, it may also serve as a high-altitude launch platform. And may be tasked to lob microsatellites into low earth orbit. As a heavy-hauler it may also be asked to combat wild fires. Note that the manufacturer's 100-percent carbon composite claim excludes landing gear and engine parts, but covers just about everything else right down to carbon composite control wires -- a patented aviation first for Scaled.

Zeppelins Over London, Again

Hopefully the people of London do not spend much time dwelling on history as a German airship operator is set to next month start flying a Zeppelin over the city's most famous landmarks. It may be consolation that the flights will originate in east London at Damyns Hall airfield, and not across the Channel. After two years of planning the program will offer five sightseeing flights per day through six weeks of summer beginning July 10. (Though the TimesOnline.co.uk reported the Civil Aviation Authority had not yet received an application for approval, the Zeppelin's operators claim it's received permission and certification.) Each flight will be conducted at 2,000 feet above the Thames and the longest flights should last about an hour and cast shadows over Buckingham Palace, St. Paul's Cathedral and the Houses of Parliament. Shorter tours will run about 30 minutes. The one Zeppelin, model NT07, is 75 meters long, and buoyed by helium. It only offers window seats and can accommodate up to 12 passengers per flight, carried aloft in the aircraft's 35-foot long cabin.

There is a toilet onboard as well as a flight attendant to serve less personal needs, although catering is unlikely. It will arrive in the UK July 6 with testing to run through start of operations on July 10. The program is being run by German airship operator DZR GmbH,. If the idea strikes your fancy, we're told you can soon expect the Web site StarOverLondon.com to soon be live and capable of catering to your desires.

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Dealing With Tragedy back to top 

Vandals Destroy Rare Aircraft In UK

It had already suffered damage from a forced landing last Saturday, but was sitting harmlessly in a field (with its pilots in a local hospital) when vandals smashed the canopy and cockpit instruments and set fire to both wings. The Pilatus P2 was one of only two in the UK, and following the attack it appears unlikely it will ever fly again. "It just shows that there are a lot of morons in the world who have no respect for anything," Patrick Bryan, radio operator at Spanhoe Airfield (the aircraft's intended destination), told a local newspaper. The aircraft's pilot is believed to have owned the aircraft for just ten days prior to suffering the in-flight engine failure that led to the off-airport crash landing. The aircraft's landing gear collapsed as it came down in a wheat field and its propeller impacted the ground, but the Pilatus had come to rest on its belly and largely intact. The Air Accidents Investigation Branch is seeking a report from the pilot who along with one passenger suffered only minor injuries.

After The Midair At Corona

A Mayoral Task Force on Aviation Safety, composed mostly of local pilots, noted last week that changes to non-towered Corona Airport (Calif.), which in January suffered a fatal midair, would likely do more "to improve public relations" than to alter current procedures, according to a local news report at PE.com. The crash, which killed two pilots, two passengers and a person on the ground who was struck by falling debris, is cited by the article as the city's third fatal midair in a decade. One task force member (also a city council member) vented his frustration at the apparent inaction following the accident, describing the airport traffic pattern as a "free-for-all" that pits landing aircraft against aircraft flying in from the coast through the Santa Ana Canyon. But the task force has decided not to suggest changes in routes or procedures but instead promote a series of outreach efforts in the form of fliers, signs, publications, radio communications and a city-hosted aviation safety seminar to further educate pilots about Corona's operating environment.

It has also suggested the city request an FAA study, but pilots on the panel "predicted that the FAA would conclude the airport does not need an air traffic control tower." Closing a meeting on the issue, task fore chairman Richard O. Haley assured local pilots that the airport is considered an asset to the city and that its pilots "are, quite frankly, very, very safe and we thank them."

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Bureaucracy To The Nth back to top 

Aircraft Registration Changes Proposed

In an effort to increase and maintain the accuracy of aircraft registration in the U.S., the FAA issued a notice of proposed rule making (NPRM) titled "Re-Registration and Renewal of Aircraft Registration." This NPRM would replace the current non-expiring aircraft registration with a registration that is only good for three years. If the registration expires the N-number would also be canceled. To stay legal, owners would have to renew their aircraft registration before it expires. Also, owners of currently registered aircraft would have to re-register their aircraft to the new expiring registration.

Major criticism of the new procedure is being drawn from groups such as AOPA and the NBAA. Although they both support the FAA's intentions to clean up the system, they do not agree with the FAA's procedures. The NBAA feels that the FAA's proposal would be expensive to administer and problematic for aircraft operators. AOPA is in favor of modifications to the FAA's plan. Some alterations involve the renewal process. AOPA feels the registration shouldn't be canceled, but should have to be verified through an online system. If the owner fails to do so the aircraft registration becomes inactive instead of canceled. This would also protect the aircraft's N-number from being canceled.

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B-2 Crash Explained back to top 

Update: B-2 Crash Caused By Waterlogged Sensors

click for video
The crash on takeoff of a 509th Air Wing, Air Force B-2 Spirit bomber, Feb. 23, operating at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, was caused by water in the aircraft's sensors, according to an Air Combat report issued Thursday. Specifically, moisture in three port transducer units "distorted data introduced by a B-2 Spirit's air data system" that led to flawed information entering the bomber's flight control computers. The aircraft was reacting to inaccurate airspeed and a "perceived" negative angle of attack. This resulted in an "uncommanded 30 degree nose-high pitch-up on takeoff," according to the Air Force.

Major Ryan Link and Captain Justin Grieve, the aircraft's two pilots and the only two aboard, were unable to regain control and safely ejected just as the aircraft stalled and mushed into the ground and its left wing impacted the ground. The $1.4 billion aircraft crashed just off the left side of the runway and exploded. It was the first-ever B-2 crash and followed 75,000 hours of loss-free service. Link and Grieve both suffered injuries during ejection, with Grieve suffering compression fractures to his spine.

The report points to the inaccurate readings as contributing factors, adding that ineffective communication of critical information about a technique used to remove moisture from the sensors also contributed. It's possible that all the maintenance crew had to do to avert the accident was turn on the pitot heat prior to performing air data calibrations. But the suggested technique was not part of checklist procedures.

Related Content:
Exclusive Video: B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber Crash Technical Report

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Reader Voices back to top 

AVmail: June 9, 2008

Rising Fuel Costs; Falling Flight Hours

In your aviation news e-mail about this topic (AVwebFlash, May 30), your writer made this statement:

"There's an old saying that if you have to worry about the cost of fuel, you probably shouldn't be flying."

I personally find this offensive! Everyone should have the opportunity to fly if they so desire. When I first started to learn to fly, I was 17 years old and working in a grocery store as a bagger. I was able to pay for 2 hours per week. I was worried about the cost then as I am now and I am a twin owner.

By the way, go tell the airlines that they should stop flying because they are worried about the cost of fuel. Making an arrogant statement like this does nothing more then tick off the flying community.

Know this: With the lower amount of flying hours, the increase in accidents due to low proficiency is inevitable. It costs average pilots a lot of money to get their ratings, and when you spend that kind of money, you just don't want to throw it away or give it up. Telling us that we should stop flying because we are worried about the cost of fuel is ludicrous. Did you stop driving your car because gas hit $4 per gallon?

Paul Bern

A phrase to never forget: "Fuel is cheap."

With avgas rising in price, the latest that's being echoed all over the country is to "Lean, lean, lean."

The answer to that is, "Wrong, wrong, wrong!" All this will get you is blown exhaust valves, detonation, blown cylinders and -- worst case -- no place to put your bird on without power. They are doing that out there, folks, blowing cylinders. This same message has been sent to AOPA. If you can't afford to fly safe, don't fly.

Fuel is cheap!

Joe Gawlikowski

AVweb Replies:

Pardon us, but we disagree. Proper leaning is easy to learn and it saves a bunch of gas and money without blowing cylinders. We've known for years how to lean correctly but, for some reason, we have to be retaught from time to time. See here for more.

Paul Bertorelli
Editorial Director

Although it's shocking that recreational pilots flew about 125,000 fewer hours in 2006 than in 2005 and 2.3 million hours fewer in 2006 than in 2000, there is still a larger picture to see. Simply put, it's that safety in the air is being adversely affected. The fewer hours flown means pilots are not keeping up their skills. That leads inevitably to rusty flying and more accidents involving recreational pilots. The result could be that the public might demand restrictions be imposed on those who fly for the joy of it -- like me. High fuel prices are affecting everyone except, of course, the very rich. What to do? I practice in my head; that's free, but it's certainly not the real thing.

Manuel Erickson

User Fees vs. Fuel Prices

This week's Question of the Week has a faulty foundation (QOTW, Jun. 5). Rather than asking whether user fees or fuel prices are more damaging to GA, the question should have asked whether fuel price increases or fuel price increases along with new user fees are worse. Nobody in this country has control over fuel prices. The surge in fuel demand from China and India, and worldwide limits to petroleum production force the price higher. I believe this will continue for a long time. Even if the Greenies in the U.S. suddenly decide to allow drilling for new oil, the increased production would not happen for years.

We can put a stop to new user fees. We just need to continue our political action in this fight until the administration in the White House changes. The airlines may not lose their interest in pushing FAA expenses on GA, but the next president is unlikely to support that effort.

User fees are optional, but fuel price increases are not. The future of GA must be based on higher fuel prices.

Paul Mulwitz

This is such a no-brainer that it amazes me that so many got it wrong.

Theoretically, the cost of fuel could decline. When was the last time you saw a federal fee reduced?

Chip Davis

Auto Fueled Lycomings

Interesting that only paperwork is needed to run O-360 and IO-360s on 93-octane autogas, which is said to be readily available (AVwebFlash, Jun. 4). Will this autogas have to be ethanol-free? And if so, how readily available is ethanol-free 93-octane autogas?

Rae Willis

Model Rocket?

A lot of those "model" rockets that enthusiasts fly are no models (AVwebFlash, May 29). They are real rockets, as big or bigger than an AMRAMM or Sidewinder anti-aircraft rockets. The legal groups are supposed to have a spotter that avoids aircraft and a NOTAM issued, but illegal launches are not unheard of. While they don't carry explosive warheads, they could very well bring down an aircraft with a direct hit.

Bill Lukens


Thanks for your efforts to produce a truly pleasant news source. The decisions made on what to cover are right on and the format works for me.

Keep it up.

Dennis DeLong

Read AVmail from other weeks here, and submit your own Letter to the Editor with this form.

AVweb's Newstips Address ...

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New on AVweb back to top 

Probable Cause #60: Proficient Currency

This article originally appeared in Aviation Safety, May 2006.

One of the few drawbacks to getting and using the Instrument rating is the regulatory and practical need to maintain currency. If you fly a lot and in all kinds of weather, you may be lucky enough to accumulate the required experience in the allotted time. Most of us, however, either don't fly that much or, when we do fly, the weather isn't bad enough to count. Even if it is, the visual or contact approaches are much more common -- and more convenient for operators and for ATC -- than doing the full procedure.

In any event, the result is that the vast majority of people bopping around on an IFR flight plan probably don't meet the letter of the law when it comes to maintaining IFR currency. While we don't advocate busting regs, the simple truth is that, for most IFR operations in personally flown aircraft, failure to meet the letter of FAR 61.57 isn't a big deal. Most of the time.

The "problem" of maintaining instrument currency is particularly acute for those lucky enough to live in areas where the weather is usually good. Hawaii and the southwest U.S. come to mind, as does Florida and the Caribbean. Those lucky souls often consider themselves cursed if they are forced to file IFR more than once or twice a year. For the rest of us, filing is often a reflexive thing: If there is any cloud cover in the forecast or the visibility is less than, say, six miles, we file.

One of the obvious results is that those of us living in "bad-weather" areas tend to look at filing and flying IFR as the norm; we tend to get a bit nervous when the transponder is reading 1200 and there's no one telling us where to go. Another result is that Instrument-rated pilots living in "good-weather" areas often have to struggle to maintain currency. Sometimes they simply don't comply with the letter of the law. Or with its spirit.


On May 3, 2004, at 1520 Eastern time, a Mooney M20M Bravo collided with terrain while attempting an ILS approach to the Raleigh Durham (N.C.) International Airport (KRDU). The Instrument-rated Private pilot and single passenger were fatally injured, and the airplane was substantially damaged. The flight departed Columbia, S.C., an hour and a half before the accident.

The flight was planned to arrive during a period when the KRDU terminal forecast called for a greater than 50-percent chance of three miles visibility in light rain and mist with overcast clouds at 1200 feet. The forecast included improving conditions later in the day.

All indications are that the flight proceeded normally until in the vicinity of KRDU and the pilot received clearance for the ILS Runway 5L approach. On the first approach attempt, the airplane was approximately 1/2-mile right of the localizer and not maintaining assigned altitudes. In response, ATC issued no-gyro vectors away from the localizer. Review of the radar plot showed the airplane making a series of maneuvers the pilot described as a "spiral." The pilot recovered from the spiral, and climbed to 4100 feet and maintained his altitude on top of the weather.

At 1454, the pilot told ATC he "was back under control again, and felt good." After the pilot requested another ILS approach, ATC advised that he was in a continuous left turn and encouraged the pilot to level out and check his instruments. At one point, according to the NTSB, the "pilot informed approach control that he did not have weather like this in Arizona." A second attempt at the ILS ended like the first, with the Mooney flying to the right of the localizer.

After a second missed approach, the pilot requested a third attempt. Controllers issued another heading and altitude assignment, but the airplane began a descending turn with an increasing groundspeed. Subsequently, radar and radio contact were lost. The airplane collided with trees and then a small lake.

The airplane's wreckage was located approximately five miles south of KRDU, submerged in approximately eight feet of water. Post-accident examination of the airframe did not reveal any flight-control anomalies and all major portions of the aircraft were accounted for at the scene. The propeller and engine displayed signs of developing power at the time of the crash and did not reveal any mechanical anomalies.

Probable Cause

The National Transportation Safety Board determined the probable cause of this accident was because "The pilot experienced spatial disorientation, which resulted in a loss of control and the subsequent collision with trees. Factors were low ceilings and fog."

It can be argued that any instance of spatial disorientation can be blamed on a lack of proficiency. We don't subscribe to that argument, since there are any number of reasons pilots can get distracted and become disoriented, even if they are the most proficient pilots on the planet in IMC.

We don't know if the accident pilot was "current" under the regs, but to us his comment about the weather being different than in Arizona is a giveaway that he wasn't proficient on instruments, probably because he hadn't flown much actual IFR. He might have been current, but he wasn't proficient.

More accident analyses are available in AVweb's Probable Cause Index. And for monthly articles about safety, including accident reports like this one, subscribe to AVweb's sister publication, Aviation Safety.

AOPA Spring Fly-In 2008 Photo Gallery

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) held their annual spring fly-in in Frederick, Maryland over the weekend, and we were lucky enough to have a few spare moments to walk around the grounds and snap a few photographs.



AVweb Insider Blog: Recalling the Big One (Not WW II, The Great Leaning War)

As the editor of Aviation Consumer, Paul Bertorelli gets to handle a lot of top-notch kit — some of it so good that he has a hard time imagining why the rest of the world hasn't embraced it. Case in point: With avgas more than $5 a gallon for most, why aren't more people running lean of peak? "If you could run your car the same way you run your airplane lean, you could increase fuel economy by about 20 percent. Who wouldn't do that?" wonders Paul on our AVweb Insider blog.

Read more.

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

Phil Boyer: 40% of AOPA Members Are Significantly Decreasing Their Flying Due to Fuel Prices

File Size 12.8 MB / Running Time 14:00

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AVweb's Mary Grady was on location covering AOPA's annual fly-in and open house in Frederick, Md., on Saturday. Mary brought her recorder along and caught up with AOPA President Phil Boyer, who commented on a range of topics, including the latest on user fees and AOPA research on skyrocketing fuel prices and their bearing on members' flying activities and new pilot starts.

Exclusive Video: B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber Crash Technical Report

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

The crash on takeoff of a 509th Air Wing, Air Force B-2 Spirit bomber, February 23 operating at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, was caused by water in the aircraft's sensors, according to an Air Combat report issued Thursday. Specifically, moisture in three port transducer units "distorted data introduced by a B-2 Spirit's air data system" which led to flawed information entering the bomber's flight control computers. The aircraft was reacting to inaccurate airspeed and a "perceived" negative angle of attack. This resulted in an "uncommanded 30 degree nose-high pitch-up on takeoff," according to the Air Force.

The video has more detail, but you can also click here for the full story.

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Video of the Week: Twin Otter Landing on a Frozen Lake

Recommend a Video | VOTW Archive

We see so many videos of pilots making mistakes and living with the consequences that it's always a pleasure to share a video of pilots dealing well with harsh conditions and guiding an airplane to a graceful (if challenging) landing. With that in mind, our latest "Video of the Week" stars a Twin Otter (along with her skis and, of course, her pilot) landing on a snow-covered frozen lake.

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

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."

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Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Vee Neal Aviation (Arnold Palmer Regional, Latrobe, PA)

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

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Vee Neal Aviation at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport (KLBE) in Latrobe, Pennsylvania.

AVweb reader Josh Allen put their FBO on our radar, writing that he "always look[s] forward to being to fly to Vee Neal":

Their attitude toward planes should be followed by all FBOs. Together, being friendly and fast and having the cheapest services around, they are an all-around wonderful FBO. I find myself with tons of time to kill because they are so quick with their service! Can't wait to come back!

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 Lighter Side of Flight back to top 

Short Final

Heard on SoCal Approach:

"Cessna 1234A, you have traffic at 12 o'clock, six miles at your altitude."

[no response]

"Cessna 1234A, you have traffic at 12 o'clock, four miles at your altitude."

[no response]

"Cessna 1234A, you have traffic at 12 o'clock, two miles at your altitude."

"I'm looking for the traffic ... !"

"Sir, I cannot see you nod your head; you must respond to my tranmissions.

Jim Mallen
via e-mail

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

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.