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September 11, 2003

NewsWire Complete Issue

By The AVweb Editorial Staff

This issue of AVweb's AVflash is brought to you by …

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Two Years Later

Economic Aftershocks Of 9/11 Still Hurting GA...

The terrorist attacks of two years ago have seriously damaged flying's image, according to some of those on the front lines. In the last two years, 500 flight schools nationwide have closed their doors, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported on Tuesday. While economic factors are the major reason, some operators cite a "stigma" that has turned people off from the whole idea of flying. "If you tell people that you run a flight school, the first thing that comes out of their mouth is: 'How many terrorists have you trained?'" Mariano Garcia, of Palm Beach Aviation, told the Sun-Sentinel. That attitude translates directly into dollars lost, as prospective students stay away from the airport. While general aviation has long depended on the romance and excitement of flying to draw in students, that benign vision in the public consciousness now has been replaced with all-too-vivid memories of aircraft as the tools of evil men with destructive intent.

...As Wichita Struggles To Recover...

Among the economies particularly hard hit, Wichita, Kan., central to the aviation industry, lost billions of dollars and about 14,000 jobs. The loss of each of those highly paid manufacturing jobs has a ripple effect, causing the loss of two other jobs as the flow of money slows down, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported on Monday. In Wichita, it's all added up to a lot of unemployment. "The impact is overwhelming," John Moore, a former Cessna VP who is now the lieutenant governor of Kansas, told the Capital-Journal. "Aviation has always been cyclical, but I don't think in history that you can find a time where it went from such a remarkable high to such a dramatic low." Moore also noted that Boeing alone represents as much as 7 to 10 percent of the entire economy of the state. "So then you take a look at what has happened at Cessna and Bombardier and Raytheon, and you have that compounded," Wichita has absorbed a huge economic jolt.

...And Small Airports Hope For Bluer Skies

While the big manufacturers hunker down and wait for better times, the small businesses scattered among the nation's local airports can't always surmount the obstacles of restricted flight areas, slow rentals and training, and stalled fuel sales. One example is the Tacoma Narrows Airport in Washington state. In 2001 the Narrows airport recorded 95,791 tower operations, which fell to 81,449 last year, the News Tribune reported Tuesday. Activity is expected to rebound a bit to about 83,000 for this year, but some small operators at the field have already bailed out. "There just plain isn't as much flying as there used to be," Rich Mueller, the manager of the airport, told the News Tribune. "They clamped a 30-mile security jar around Sea-Tac, and everything inside it was restricted nigh unto death."

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A Changed World

Weapons In The Cockpit...

Besides the continuing economic impact, 9/11 changed the entire world of aviation in myriad ways. Airline pilots now carry weapons in the cockpit. Sky marshals surreptitiously fill passenger seats. Cockpit doors have been reinforced, and passengers are kept away from the front of the cabin. But that's not enough for some. The pace of pilot weapons training is too slow, according to the Airline Pilots' Security Alliance -- an active lobbying group that didn't exist two years ago. Last week, APSA also criticized Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge's plan to cross-train 5,000 immigration agents as Federal Air Marshals. "It would be much more cost-effective to immediately accelerate and streamline the training of the thousands of volunteer professional airline pilots as federal officers," the group said in a news release.

...Suspicion At GA Airports...

At small GA fields, fences have gone up, airplanes are locked and tethered, and strangers are eyed with a critical air. AOPA, working with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), developed an Airport Watch program, encouraging pilots to report any "unusual" activity. On Monday, the TSA issued an advisory encouraging the aviation community to remain vigilant. Pilots are expected to show photo identification on request, and charter passengers are subject to scrutiny. The FAA's new airman certificates come with enhanced "security features." For now, the TSA seems content with the situation. "Our approach is to apply the minimum amount of regulation that's appropriate for the level of risk," Pamela Hamilton, director of aviation initiatives for the TSA, told the Denver Post recently. "Our hope is to put a federal stamp of approval on the industry recommendations," she continued. "We don't think it's necessary at this point to make these mandatory." Besides AOPA's Airport Watch program, the National Business Aviation Association has developed a set of "best practices" for business aviation.

...And Fractured Airspace

Continuing airspace restrictions have proven to be one of the changes most difficult to cope with for many pilots. The restrictions sometimes crop up with little or no advance notice, and often affect operations across large areas. This week, AOPA is lobbying in Washington, D.C., for relief from the "temporary" flight restrictions that have become disturbingly permanent in the Seattle area. In addition, TFRs follow President Bush wherever he goes, and are proliferating as campaign season heats up. Flight restriction notices can be found at the FAA Web site and are also posted by the federal Bureau of Land Management.

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New Piper Certifies Piper 6XT

The Piper 6XT has received its Type Certificate from the FAA, New Piper CEO Chuck Suma announced in Orlando, Fla., on Tuesday. The Piper 6XT is a turbocharged fixed-gear version of the six-place Saratoga II aircraft. The Piper 6X, which was certified in July of this year, is its normally aspirated equivalent. The announcement was made at Piper's Worldwide Dealer Meeting. "These two new aircraft ... are another example of how New Piper -- even in the face of a very tough economy -- continues to pursue new technology, innovation and new product advancements," Suma told the dealers. The standard equipped list price of the Piper 6X is $338,400 and the Piper 6XT is $358,400. Both the Piper 6X and the Piper 6XT are powered by 300-hp Lycoming engines giving the aircraft top speeds of 153 knots and 165 knots respectively. The New Piper Aircraft is headquartered in Vero Beach, Fla.

CAP Participates In Anti-Terrorism Drill In Nevada

The Civil Air Patrol (CAP) took part in a homeland-security practice drill in Nevada late last month, working with the U.S. military's Northern Command. The exercise, dubbed "Determined Promise '03," called for a simulated terrorist release of pneumonic plague on the Las Vegas strip. CAP aircrews patrolled highways where pharmaceuticals and medical equipment were moving to a dispensing site, and flew aerial reconnaissance above Clark County's quarantine borders. The mission of the CAP has changed profoundly since 9/11. While the organization still is focused on its traditional search-and-rescue efforts, the CAP is also taking on more of a homeland-security mission. Last year, the Air Force moved the CAP under the umbrella of the new Air Force Homeland Security Directorate. "There are not enough military and government agencies to protect the nation, so it's going to take everyone, citizens as well, to secure our borders," Melanie LeMay, a CAP spokeswoman, told the Boston Globe. "Our members are well trained, eager to help, and provide an inexpensive alternative for the government." Recently, the CAP bought a Gippsland GA8 Airvan to support its homeland-security missions, and plans to buy five more. The organization held its annual conference late last month in Las Vegas.

Security Concerns Down Under, Too

The U.S. is not the only country worried about aviation security. In Australia, airport owners are asking the government to create new rules that would require that all aircraft at GA airports be locked and secured, and that pilots have a photo ID. "You've got to lock your car if you leave it in the street so people can't go for a joyride -- you should have to lock your plane as well," airport security consultant Kim Ellis told The Australian newspaper. Also, the Australian Airports Association has raised concerns that changes in the airspace system would allow aircraft to land at some regional airports without making radio contact with control towers. A parliamentary committee inquiry has been holding hearings on various aspects of aviation security, including concerns that shoulder-fired missiles could target civil aircraft. Critics also have complained that the government was slow to respond several years ago when a suspected terrorist with ties to Al Qaeda worked as a baggage handler for Qantas.

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Controllers Want IG Report Corrected

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) has asked the DOT's inspector general to rescind a recent analysis of contract control towers because of what it terms "critical misstatements" in the description of the facilities. As AVweb reported Monday, Inspector General Ken Mead issued a report saying the 189 FAA-funded towers that are run by private contractors cost substantially less to operate and report fewer errors than 71 so-called "VFR towers" staffed by FAA (and NATCA) controllers. But in a letter to Mead, NATCA President John Carr said the IG goofed when he said the facilities being examined don't have radar to help controllers monitor traffic. In fact, said Carr, at least 58 of the 260 towers examined are classed as "towers with radar" by the FAA. The 58 towers in question have the Digital Bright Radar Indicator Tower Equipment (DBRITE) system, which Mead said in the report is a "monitoring system" that is not a radar system. Carr, a former controller, went to the books and dug up the FAA's own definition and, sure enough, DBRITE is radar. Carr said there are other errors in the report (which he didn't specify) but the radar goof is enough, in his mind, to warrant retraction of the report until the errors can be fixed. NATCA spokesman Doug Church said the image conjured up by the term "VFR towers" is an inaccurate portrayal of the complexities and workloads experienced in those facilities, some of which are among the busiest in the country. "It makes them seem like they're rinky-dink little small rural airports when that's not the case," he said. NATCA continues to lobby Congress to defeat the FAA Reauthorization Bill, which contains language allowing the privatization of 69 of the 71 towers studied by Mead that are still run by the FAA and staffed with NATCA members.

Tall Tower Outside Denver Worries Pilots

"People's lives shouldn't be in danger just so more listeners can hear the top 40, news, weather and sports," reads an editorial in Tuesday's Denver Post. At issue is a new communications tower that has worried some pilots in the area. The 1,996-foot tower rises to 7,000 feet above sea level, and is not far from Front Range Airport, a busy GA field. The tower, one of the tallest in the country, is marked with high-intensity strobe lights, but pilots have complained that the lights are difficult to detect in hazy weather. In addition, guy wires extend for 1,500 feet from the structure, creating an additional hazard. The tower should be made more visible to aviators, the Post editorial suggests, perhaps by painting it in brighter colors.

New Zealand Mishap Spurs Night-VFR Education

New Zealand's accident investigation board has praised a helicopter pilot's skill in saving her craft and crew after a collision with trees at night in rough terrain, despite her own injuries -- but criticized her actions in getting into the accident in the first place. According to the report, Life Flight Trust BK-117 helicopter ZK-III was on a night VFR flight to pick up an injured patient, on January 14, with two crew and two passengers on board. The pilot chose a route and altitude that offered too little margin for safety at night under uncertain weather conditions, the board found. As a result, the board recommended that all pilots should be better educated about night VFR flying. However, "The pilot's actions after the collision were appropriate and successful," the report continued. "Her flying the damaged helicopter to a successful emergency landing, with her injured hand, was a significant achievement." After inadvertently overflying a GPS waypoint by a short distance toward high terrain, the pilot began an emergency climb through cloud. During this climb the helicopter collided with trees, damaging the aircraft and severing a tendon in the pilot's hand as tree debris broke into the cockpit. The other occupants were unhurt. The pilot continued on to an airport, where she hovered the helicopter close to the ground so the others could disembark despite the damaged landing skids, then hovered for over an hour while airport workers assembled a landing pad of old tires. As a result of its investigation, the board recommended that operators should establish guidelines for night VFR flights, rather than leaving it up to pilot discretion. Also, the board cited a need for more guidance material for all night VFR flying.

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"Thinking" Aircraft Passes Test

Just who's in charge of the next generation of aircraft could be open to debate. NASA has recently completed a crucial part of testing an F-15 that learns as it flies and can think for itself in emergencies. The Intelligent Flight Control System research is developing "self-learning" neural-network software for aircraft flight-control computers. During recent tests, the system was able to identify stability and control characteristics and tuck that information away in its memory banks. The theory goes that if it suffers some kind of malfunction in the future, it will be able to go back to that flight data gleaned from "normal" flight and take whatever steps are necessary to restore stable flight. "This work marks a significant step toward learning, thinking aircraft that will be safer, more autonomous and more reliable than ever before," said project manager John Carter.

And A Little Good News

While GA airports are too often the target of cranky neighbors and developers in search of space to develop, now and then a local community discovers that aviation can enhance its quality of life. Such a story is unfolding in Tinicum, Pa., amid the suburbs between Philadelphia and New York City, where a little grass airstrip, Van Sant field, was bought for $2.9 million by Buck County's park and recreation association to save it from development. The field now will remain open for enjoyment by antique, classic and glider aircraft, the pilots who fly them, the neighbors who are welcome to visit, and the bobolinks that nest among the trees surrounding the turf.

On The Fly...

The National Air Tour launched on Monday from Willow Run Airport near Detroit for a 4,000-mile journey to 26 cities across the eastern United States...

Virginia State EAA Fly-In ready for takeoff on September 20-21...

Eclipse Aviation has developed new performance estimates for its personal jet based on preliminary data on the PW610F engine from Pratt & Whitney Canada...

Lancair has resumed flight testing its turbocharged Columbia 400 a few weeks after a test aircraft was lost in an accident. The pilot parachuted to safety after a small parachute used to pull the aircraft out of a spin could not be jettisoned. The pilot wasn't injured...

Time to apply for 25 scholarships offered by the Aircraft Electronics Association for students pursuing careers in aircraft electronics, aircraft maintenance and aviation business management...

A Wright brothers photo exhibit has launched online, featuring contents of a scrapbook kept by Frank Coffyn, one of the brothers' earliest students.

AEROSHELL INTRODUCES FLIGHT JACKET KIT BAG WITH SPECIAL INTRO OFFER The new AeroShell Flight Jacket Leak-Proof Kit Bag contains all six of AeroShell's Flight Jacket cleaners and polishes along with the application pad and cleaning cloths. Shine and protect your aircraft with AeroShell Flight Jackets products. Place your order by September 15th to take advantage of an $10 introductory savings offer go to http://www.avweb.com/sponsors/shell

New Articles and Features on AVweb

Quiz #72 -- Grab Those VFR Sectional Charts And Fly
FAR 91.103 says that you need "all available information" before launching on any flight. Yeah, right. Where's a PIC supposed to glean all that stuff? Surprisingly, much of what you need -- IFR or VFR -- is on the lowly VFR sectional chart. But you need to decode a few things ...

A Different 9/11
For AVweb editor Glenn Pew, five years of building and many more years of scheming to complete his one-of-a-kind, (almost) 200-mph, 3000-fpm, fully aerobatic kitplane would prove its worth in one day -- first flight. Unfortunately, some things don't work out the way you hope.

ATTENTION CURRENT POWER FLOW TUNED EXHAUST SYSTEM OWNERS & WANTABES! Save $50 with the $200 introductory price on the new Exhaust Fairing for Cessna 172s AND Power Flow will pay postage for AVweb subscribers ONLY! Those wanting to order the Power Flow Tuned Exhaust System for their aircraft to save money and improve performance can order with Power Flow paying the UPS ground shipping, a $75 value. Offers good till September 30 at http://www.avweb.com/sponsors/power

AVweb's Question Of The Week...


We received over 100 responses to our question last week on Flying during the Labor Day holiday weekend. Nearly half (47 percent) of those responding did not fly during the holiday weekend, as money, time and other personal issues were to blame. ABout a quarter (25 percent) did fly out of town for the weekend while only three percent claimed the ongoing TFR's made it impossible to do so.

To check out the complete results, go to http://www.avweb.com/qotw.


This week, we would like to know your thoughts on the two-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Please go to http://www.avweb.com/qotw to respond.

Have an idea for a new QOTW? Send your suggestions to qotw@avweb.com. Note, this address is ONLY for suggested QOTW questions, and NOT for QOTW answers.

Sponsor News and Special Offers

Access to AVweb and AVflash is provided by the support of our fine sponsors. We appreciate your patronage.


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We Welcome Your Feedback!

AVflash is a twice-weekly summary of the latest aviation news, articles, products, features and events featured on AVweb, the Internet's Aviation Magazine and News Service. http://www.avweb.com

Letters to the editor intended for publication in AVmail should be sent to mailto:editor@avweb.com.com. Have a comment or question? Send it to mailto:newsteam@avweb.com.

Today's issue written by News Writer Mary Grady:
AVweb's editorial team: http://avweb.com/contact/authors.html.

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Let's all be careful out there, okay?

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