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Volume 9, Number 39aSeptember 22, 2003

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The Top Headlines From AVweb's Expanded, Illustrated News Coverage At AVweb's NewsWire.

What happens when you close perfectly good GA airports that serve hundreds of pilots and planes in a metropolitan area? Chances are you'll have to spend tens of millions on a new one. Flying folks in Austin, Texas, were horrified when both Austin Executive and Robert Mueller Municipal Airport were closed in 1999 after the new Austin Bergstrom International Airport opened. It didn't take state officials long to realize they'd carved a big hole in their transportation infrastructure by closing them and enacted a law requiring a new one be built. Well, even in Texas, 700 acres near good highways and away from people who don't want an airport near them isn't that easy to find. State officials have identified 15 potential sites, including some existing airports, to put the 7,000-foot runway and attendant facilities. The cost? About $55 to $65 million. More...

Although far more airports close every year than are opened, there are jurisdictions that see the wisdom in keeping the flying fraternity safe and happy. But as St. Augustine, Fla., officials found out last week, expanding an airport into an existing neighborhood is about as popular as expanding a landfill in the same direction. The St. Augustine-St. Johns County Airport Authority is borrowing $5 million to expand the airport into a residential area called Araquay Park. The authority already owns 75 percent of the land there and hopes to pick up the rest but about half of the remaining owners don't want to sell. "I've enjoyed living here ... and I don't want to leave," Mary McElroy told The St. Augustine Record. Over in Birmingham, Ala., the city council sees airport expansion coming and is taking steps to make sure it doesn't end up where it's not wanted. More...

If there is any politician who knows how to close an airport, it's Chicago Mayor Richard Daley. Now proponents of a privately funded field in suburban Peotone are wondering if the mastermind of the destruction of Meigs Field can stop their project before it's started. Daley doesn't want Chicago's third regional airport in Peotone but those behind the plan are trying to structure it so the powerful mayor can't scuttle it. They plan to raise private money to build the airport, and Daley has no official say in whether the state or federal authorities approve it. However, Chicago Business says backers are anxiously awaiting the wily mayor's move. More...

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For now, the closest "new" technology that means anything to power GA is an idea that's been kicking around for decades and with companies like Boeing getting serious about it, an electric airplane, powered by a fuel cell, is not only feasible, it might even be desirable for some applications. As we've reported previously, Worcester, Mass.-based Advanced Technology Products (ATP) is at the forefront of this technology. We've tweaked, we've tuned and we've wrung just about everything we can from the two basic engine designs that power today's airplanes, but is electric power poised to replace the pistons and turbines that now make us go? The short answer is no, but ATP, along with its non-profit research partner, the Foundation for Advancing Science and Technology Education (FASTec), had already almost completed their own E-plane when Boeing asked them to put together the power package for its plane. More...

But while ATP grapples with the problem of heavy batteries and developing fuel-cell technology, NASA researchers have successfully tested a model electric plane that leaves all that bulky stuff behind. Staff at the Marshall Space Flight Center kept the 11-ounce balsa-and-Mylar contraption flying by pointing an invisible laser beam at it. The Laser Beaming Project, a joint effort of NASA's Marshall and Dryden centers and the University of Alabama, aims the laser at a photovoltaic cell that converts it to the juice the electric motor needs. In last week's test, the plane was dropped from an elevated platform and the light beam kept it circling 60 feet above. It was the first time an "aircraft" had ever flown with laser energy from the ground, although researchers did manage a similar feat using a searchlight last year. More...

There's nothing new about rockets but when Burt Rutan starts looking spaceward, you can bet there'll be something unconventional supplying the kick. As AVweb reported last week, two companies, eAc and SpaceDev, were in line to build the hybrid rocket that will push Rutan's SpaceShipOne to 62 miles high in the race for the $10 million XPrize. Rutan's Scaled Composites announced Friday that SpaceDev won the contract. Both companies developed a rocket that combines the function of liquid- and solid-fueled engines with safety and reliability. The engines burn rubber, which is oxidized by nitrous oxide, both of which are safe and easy to handle and won't react spontaneously. And as we relentlessly seek new technologies to power our passion, last week, some well-heeled travelers were undoubtedly wishing the tried and true were just a bit more reliable when their Concorde trip got complicated. More...

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The Wright Brothers went to Kitty Hawk for the wind but they would have been blown away by conditions last week. The historic site of the first powered, sustained flight escaped undamaged when Hurricane Isabel made landfall on the Outer Banks. "There's a little bit of standing water. We fared well," National Parks Service spokeswoman Mary Doll told AVweb. "Wright Brothers (Memorial) really sustained no damage." She said a couple of nearby airport runways were covered in sand washed in by the storm surge but they were quickly cleared. There was also some building damage in nearby communities. Of course, the hurricane played havoc with air travel on the east coast. More...

Some Air Force fighters that might have been fleeing Hurricane Isabel apparently narrowly missed a disaster of a different sort last Wednesday. An American Airlines airliner on its way to St. Louis from Oklahoma City dove to avoid a flight of three or four military aircraft near Tulsa, according to airline spokeswoman Julia Bishop-Cross. "The pilot took the plane off autopilot, the system went off again and ordered a descent," she told The Associated Press. "He descended 50 to 100 feet, then saw three or four jet fighters, military aircraft." Three flight attendants and two passengers were slightly injured. The plane flew on to St. Louis. More...

AEROSHELL FLIGHT JACKET PRODUCTS SHINE AIR FORCE ONE TO A SPARKLE AeroShell Flight Jacket line of aviation appearance care products contributed to the Centennial of Flight by completely refurbishing the original Boeing 707 Air Force One first flown by President Eisenhower. Seattle's Museum of Flight was to repaint the aircraft, but with AeroShell Flight Jacket products the aircraft was brought back to its original beauty without new paint, saving the museum over $50,000. See what Flight Jacket products can do for your aircraft. Buy the entire line at

It's been 18 years since Executive Jet revolutionized business-jet ownership and now the FAA has caught up to the fractional ownership industry with a set of regulations. The agency published a final rule for the Regulation of Fractional Aircraft Ownership Programs and On-Demand Operations last Wednesday in the Federal Register. The new rule recognizes the enviable safety and maintenance record that has evolved in the fractional ownership industry. "By this rulemaking, the FAA establishes safety standards to maintain the safety record of current fractional ownership programs and to ensure that new fractional ownership programs will also meet a high level of safety," the rule reads. More...

Big Brother is watching us, but JetBlue? The discount airline admitted last week that it turned over personal information on a million of its passengers to an Army contractor that used the information to find out their Social Security numbers, financial histories and occupations. The airline violated its own privacy code in doing so and officials apologized Friday. "This was a mistake on our part and I know you and many of our customers feel betrayed by it," CEO David Neeleman said in an e-mail to the 150 customers who complained. The data was turned over to Torch Concepts, which said it was doing research on "airline passenger risk assessment." Certainly not all risk comes from within the plane and the Bush administration has recognized that to the tune of $100 million. More...

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As the new Light-Sport category gets closer to reality, U.S. manufacturers are bracing for an influx of aircraft from Europe and Australia but there's also a new player in that market. A Vietnamese company has built the prototype of what it calls a "superlight" aircraft. The Voice of Vietnam news service reports a two-place version of the VAM 1 has been built by the Hoa Binh company and a four-place model is in the works. The company claims it can match the quality of foreign-built aircraft at 40 percent of the price The plane has a 30-foot wingspan and weighs 330 pounds. It is predicted to fly as high as 10,000 feet and as fast as 90 mph. More...

Aircraft Spruce bought design rights to Cozy...Raytheon Aircraft Services added two executives...Wright Family Fund donated $37,000 to AirVenture Museum...Six Elder Statesmen of Aviation were honored...Four crew died in loss of Russian supersonic bomber...Presidential TFR expected over New York. More...

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As the Beacon Turns #68: Under the Wire
Dealing with an engine failure in a helicopter includes the same rule as in an airplane: Pitch for proper airspeed. However, the margin for failure is much tighter in whirly-birds, and even simulated engine failure can cause a real emergency landing. AVweb's Michael Maya Charles just had one.

Reader feedback on AVweb's news coverage and feature articles:

Reader mail this week about the National Air Tour and the FAA Reauthorization Bill.


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Back in the 70's, BOAC (British Airways) flew into O'Hare Chicago and their call sign was "Speedbird"...

O'Hare: Speedbird xxx slow to 200 kts.

Speedbird xxx: Sorry, running late, need to keep the speed up.

O'Hare: Ok, turn right 90 degrees and keep your speed up.

Speedbird xxx: Errr, how long would we be on that heading?

O'Hare: ‘Till you slow to 200.

Speedbird xxx: Roger, slowing to 200 More...

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