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By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Another Pitch For Floating Runways...
The folks in San Diego need a new airport, but where's it going to go? A study group met last week and found objections for every one of the 16 sites proposed -- except military bases, not all of
which were really feasible, and the ocean, the Union-Tribune reported. Building runways on the ocean may seem far-fetched, but this is far from the first time it's been suggested. In California, a
company called Float Inc. worked on the concept for more than 10 years, with funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Navy, but never
tested a prototype. In Japan, a 3,280-foot-long floating runway was built several years ago and test flights were successful, so it seems to be possible at least on a limited basis. Float Inc. does make some interesting arguments
for why the floating airport would be such a great solution: all approaches and departures are over water, eliminating noise complaints so the airport can operate 24 hours a day; it can also be a port
for shipping and ferry service; the parts are modular and can be reconfigured as needed; it's pretty much unaffected by earthquakes; it can be cheaper to build than a land-based airport; and the whole
contraption can be moved from place to place. But concerns include the effects of wave action during heavy weather, and whether it's possible to make the whole thing unsinkable (remember the
In San Diego, the 32 members of the airport study group found obstacles at every site -- immovable mountains, or too many people, or environmental conflicts. They also wanted the airport to be
convenient for people to drive to, without being too close to where those people actually live, which sounds great if you can make it work. While they couldn't find anything really objectionable about
the ocean site, the trouble is that it's never been done. The Japan project worked, but after testing it was abandoned and
the runway was disassembled. A few parts became fishing parks, another is a floating parking lot, and most of it was scrapped. Last year, the developers proposed using the technology to expand Tokyo's Haneda Airport, but that project has stalled over financing issues.
BRS To Supply OMF Aircraft With Factory-Installed Chutes...
OMF Aircraft says it will offer Ballistic Recovery Systems Inc. (BRS) whole-aircraft emergency parachute systems as a factory-installed option on the two-place Symphony 160 and the diesel Symphony
135-TDI, and as standard equipment on the four-place Symphony 4 now in development. BRS announced it expects to have the necessary Supplemental
Type Certificate to offer the chutes on the two-place aircraft for first customer deliveries as soon as December. Certification of the Symphony 4, including the BRS parachute system as a standard
equipment, is expected by OMF near the end of 2004 or early 2005. OMF is concurrently developing a diesel version of their two-place aircraft and will offer a BRS parachute system as an option on that
model as well. BRS conducted a drop test on the Symphony 160 to simulate the impact a high-flying, fully loaded aircraft would experience, and the aircraft passed with flying colors, OMF said in a
news release. Shares of BRS jumped 27 percent on the news, according to the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business
Journal. OMF, based in Germany, is building a new manufacturing facility in Canada, which will have the capacity to build about 100 airplanes a year. BRS said the two companies have agreed in
principle on the project, but negotiation and execution of formal documentation is still pending.
The biggest customer for BRS so far has been Cirrus Design, which was the first manufacturer to include the
chutes as a standard feature on all of its aircraft. On Thursday, Cirrus announced that it has built its 1,000th airplane, within four years of its first delivery. That milestone secures the company's
place as the fastest-growing GA manufacturer in the industry, Cirrus said. Headquartered in Duluth, Minn., Cirrus now employs more than 800 people, and churns out two airplanes a day. That should
increase to three a day within a year, the company said last week. "We have gone from producing nine planes in 1999 to production of 450 planes planned for this year," said David Coleal, chief
operating officer. "It took 36 months to produce the first 300 planes and only 18 months to manufacture the next 700 aircraft." The company set a new record of 51 planes sold in July, and in the first
half of this year, Cirrus shipped 200 units, which accounted for 32 percent of the single-engine piston airplanes shipped in the U.S.
AVweb told you last week that the little state of Rhode Island had enacted an "emergency regulation" that could slap a 7-percent use tax on transient aircraft ... but despite what the regulation says, that is not what it means, according to a Rhode Island tax official. The regulation is intended only for
residents of the state, or businesses based there, who bought their aircraft out of state, and hangar it out of state, but then fly it in Rhode Island (remember, Rhode Island is only about 40 miles
across). "The regulation does not apply to non-commercial aircraft purchased by the user while a non-resident of this state ... and thereafter brought into this state," Robert Geruso, R.I. assistant
tax administrator, wrote to AOPA. Geruso said the regulation will be rewritten -- and clarified -- next month. He also told AOPA that the old regulation hit R.I. pilots with the use tax the first time
they brought their aircraft into the state, and the new regulation is meant to offer them more flexibility. Meanwhile, R.I. pilots have been lobbying to have the sales/use tax on aircraft eliminated
altogether, but so far without success. Rhode Island has long allowed boats to be sold without taxes -- but the coastal state has far more boaters than pilots.
The pilot of a Colgan Air Beech 1900 that crashed into the ocean off Cape Cod last Tuesday had declared an emergency and reported a problem with
"runaway trim," according to preliminary reports. The pilot tried to return to the airport at Hyannis, Mass., but in less than two minutes hit the water at a 30-degree nose-down attitude, at 250
knots. Both pilots were killed. The NTSB said that during a routine maintenance check at Barnstable Municipal Airport the day before the crash, the airplane's two twin-tab actuators and a
forward-elevator trim cable had been replaced. The accident reminded some of another fatal B1900 crash. Colgan Air, based in Manassas, Va., is a carrier for US Airways Express. The flight was bound to
Albany, N.Y., for repositioning. There have been three fatal crashes involving Beech 1900D aircraft since 1998, according to FAA records, including a crash in January that killed 21 people in
Charlotte, N.C., shortly after takeoff. Preliminary reports say a control cable in the North Carolina aircraft had been adjusted
incorrectly shortly before the flight.
Flight tests last Wednesday proved that modifying the shape of an aircraft can reduce the intensity and noise of a sonic boom, Northrop Grumman has announced. The new technology could eventually make
it possible for supersonic jets to fly from point to point over land, instead of being restricted to transoceanic hops, like the Concorde ... and to be much uglier. A team from NASA, Northrop Grumman, and the Pentagon flew an F-5E with a modified nose section at
NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, in California. The test aircraft has a specially shaped "nose glove" and added aluminum substructure and a composite skin on the
underside of the fuselage, and has designers dreaming of aircraft that may precipitate reworking the term "sonic boom." The
project is part of DARPA's "Quiet Supersonic Platform (QSP)" program, an effort to develop technologies that could allow military
and business aircraft to operate with reduced sonic boom. "This theory had been demonstrated only in laboratories and wind tunnels," said Charles Boccadoro, Northrop Grumman's QSP program manager. "It
took a cooperative effort of government and industry to achieve this breakthrough." An aircraft traveling through the atmosphere continuously produces air-pressure waves similar to waves created by
the bow of a ship. When the aircraft exceeds the speed of sound (approximately 750 mph at sea level), the pressure waves combine to form shock waves, which are heard as a sonic boom when they reach
the ground. The idea of modifying aircraft shape to reduce the sonic boom is not new -- in 1986, an engineering professor in Cambridge, England, was awarded a patent for a modified aircraft
configuration that would address the problem. "You need an aeroplane that doesn't disturb the air very much because disturbances cause resistance to motion, which produces the sonic boom," said Prof.
John Ffowcs Williams, winner of last year's prestigious Sir Frank Whittle Medal. "I envisaged an aeroplane making destructively interfering waves, a double flying wing in fact ... The upper and lower
surfaces of the wing assembly would be formed so that the airflow over them is straight and smooth. It would create no waves as it travelled, eliminating or at least minimising the sonic boom." Sounds
a bit like a supersonic LongEZ -- maybe Prof. Ffowcs Williams should get together with Burt Rutan.
Boeing is under scrutiny, and the heat is about to intensify on Wednesday, when a hearing will be held by the Senate Commerce Committee about the planemaker's $21-billion leasing deal with the U.S. Air Force
for 100 B767 aerial refueling tankers. A report issued last week by the Congressional Budget Office concluded that "the proposed
transaction would essentially be a purchase of the tankers by the federal government but at a cost greater than would be incurred under the normal appropriation and procurement process." The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported Friday that Boeing may have had improper access to information about Airbus's competing
proposal for the tanker deal. Boeing denied that allegation. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a longtime vocal critic of the lease -- which he has termed "corporate welfare" for Boeing -- will
preside over the hearing. Boeing has already been in trouble for "industrial espionage" this summer. Last month, the Pentagon revoked a billion dollars worth of contracts with Boeing for satellite
launches and banned it from similar work, saying the company resorted to industrial espionage against Lockheed Martin. In that matter, two former Boeing managers have been charged in federal court
with conspiracy to conceal and possess trade secrets, and Lockheed Martin has filed suit against Boeing for damages. However, the Air Force already has made an exception to its ban to award Boeing a $57 million contract for satellite-launching work, the Seattle Post
Intelligencer reported on Saturday.
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As hard as we try to see signs of a robust economic recovery on the horizon, the news stubbornly continues to be mixed. United Air Lines announced last week that its emergence from bankruptcy
protection will likely be delayed until next year at the soonest, instead of later this year as it had hoped. But on the upside, Delta Air Lines announced last week it will recall 250 pilots
furloughed in April. Delta will lay off 700 flight attendants this week, but that's not as bad as the 1,050 layoffs originally planned. Airbus and Boeing say they are seeing a renewal of interest from
Asian airlines as they put the SARS crisis behind them. Some orders that were put on hold have been reinstated. Does it all add up to better times ahead? We'll have to wait and see.
Think how things have changed at your favorite airport since 9/11. Fences where there didn't used to be fences, proplocks, barbed wire, ID cards, and more. Yet last weekend, officials at Gerald R.
Ford International Airport, in Grand Rapids, Mich., were shown how easily all of that can be circumvented by a man with a mission. Chad Robert Oliver, 21, was arrested after he allegedly climbed a
10-foot fence and boarded an empty Comair jet parked with its door open and its ladder down at about 3 a.m. on Sunday, according to the Associated Press. The suspect took a seat toward the rear of the
jet, and was detained by crew members until airport police arrived moments later. His motivation, however, appears to have been (relatively) benign -- he seems to have been trying to get to New York
to visit Howard Stern's radio show.
Families of six people who died in the plane crash that killed Minnesota Sen. Paul Wellstone last October have settled for $25 million from the operators of the charter flight. Pilot error was
blamed in the crash...
The Air Force computer system has allowed classified parts to be shipped to countries that are banned from importing them, congressional investigators said in a report released Thursday....
About 50 people are living at Moscow's airport, sleeping on the floor and begging for food. They are stranded travelers, penniless immigrants, and refugees seeking asylum, the Moscow Times
reported last Thursday...
AirLifeLine and Angel Flight America, the two oldest and largest charitable aviation organizations in
America, have merged...
The Stratoliner, Dash 80 and Concorde posed together last week at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum's new Steven F. Udvar-Hazy
Center near Dulles, where they will go on display when the new facility opens in December.
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New Articles and Features on AVweb
CEO of the Cockpit #23: Flight Bag -- Early Retirement
AVweb's CEO of the Cockpit still has a few good years left in the cockpit, but his bag has run out of time. This bag has seen it all -- from the first indoc training with the airline up through two
major wars, and all the people and places in between.
A Roll In The Sky With A Navy SNJ
There aren't many opportunities for a low-time pilot to fly one of these famous planes, but with a taildragger endorsement and the right connections, Rob Guglielmetti got to try some aerobatics in
this WWII trainer.
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AVweb's AVscoop Award...
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week's AVscoop winner. Submit news tips via email to
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Reader mail this week about presidential protection, Australia's revamped aviation regulations and more.
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