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Top News: Federal Aid for Aviation
After several years of bickering among airlines and business-aviation advocates about who will pay what taxes and user fees, all the aviation groups now are banding together to lobby for a piece of
the expected stimulus package under discussion in Washington. "As we've gone around and done meetings on
Capitol Hill, that's been one of the first observations they've made -- that 'this is great, you guys are all together on this,'" AOPA's Andy Cebula told the Bloomberg News. Lobbyists are hoping to get about $4 billion to advance the development of
NextGen technologies such as ADS-B, improved cockpit computers, and better equipment and procedures for instrument approaches. The Air Transport Association, the National Business Aviation
Association, the National Air Transport Association, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, and several other groups are all working together to lobby for the aid. Cebula said he hopes the
newfound collaborative spirit carries over when the issue of FAA funding and user fees arises in Congress again later this year.
Just last May, the ATA was griping about how private jets clutter the airways while failing to pay for their share of
the system, and NBAA responded that delays were the airlines' own fault due to poor scheduling practices.
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In an unusual move, the NTSB on Thursday will release four probable-cause reports all at once, together with interim
factual reports on five other accidents. All nine of the accidents involved helicopters that were engaged in emergency medical flights, all of them occurred since December 2007, and all of them were
fatal, resulting in 35 deaths. The NTSB says that helicopter EMS safety has been an "ongoing concern," and the board will hold hearings in Washington, D.C., Feb. 3 to 6, to examine the issue. The board will hear expert testimony
from invited witnesses. The public is invited to attend, and the proceedings will be webcast live. The issues to be discussed include flight operations and aircraft safety equipment. In January 2006,
the board released a special report on the safety of helicopter EMS operations, recommended changes in training and oversight, and also suggested that all helicopter EMS aircraft should have terrain
awareness and warning systems installed.
The safety board also added helicopter EMS safety to its Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements for 2008.
An Indiana pilot who is alleged to have faked a distress call on Sunday night, parachuted from his Piper Meridian and fled a small Alabama town on a motorcycle he'd hidden there was facing the end of
his marriage and the collapse of his business empire, authorities say. Marcus Schrenker, 38, was found by U.S. marshals Tuesday night, in a tent at a Florida campground, close to the Georgia border.
He had slit his wrist in an apparent suicide attempt. "There was a large loss of blood and he was pretty incoherent," Frank Chiumento, a U.S. Marshal Service deputy chief in Tallahassee, told the IndyStar. "If we didn't arrive at the time, his survival was questionable, that's for sure."
Authorities said Schrenker is expected to recover and will face charges of criminal fraud and several lawsuits, as well as federal charges alleging that he faked the distress call and abandoned the
airplane. In an e-mail to a friend sent on Monday night, which has been posted online by Fox News, Schrenker insists
that a side window broke at 22,000 feet and he jumped out in hypoxia-induced panic. He added that he had considered suicide for some time but would never intentionally endanger others by abandoning
the airplane. "If I would have wanted to commit suicide with an aircraft I just would have flown it into a mountain," he wrote. He added, "I have embarrassed my family for the last time and by the
time you read this I will be gone." After Schrenker jumped, the empty aircraft continued heading south at about 2,000 feet for about 200 miles. Military aircraft intercepted and reported the door was
open and the left seat empty. The airplane eventually crashed in a swamp in northern Florida, narrowly missing several homes.
After bailing out, Schrenker landed in Harpersville, Ala., where he had allegedly stashed a brand-new red Yamaha sport bike in a storage unit he'd rented the day before. Schrenker collected luxury
cars, owned at least two airplanes and starred himself in a YouTube video in which he flies under bridges in the Bahamas in an
Extra 300. Schrenker is expected to appear in a Florida court this week. His company Heritage Wealth Management took thousands of dollars in investments from many commercial pilots, according to CNN,
and complaints have been filed in Georgia and Indiana about the handling of those funds. His wife filed for divorce last month.
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Cessna's SkyCatcher And the Skies It Will
Despite the ongoing economic downturn, Cessna continues to move forward on new product development, including the Model 162 SkyCatcher LSA, the large-cabin Citation Columbus business jet, and the
Citation CJ4, the company said in a news release on Wednesday. "Despite the uncertainty of the world's economic environment, we believe it is critical that we not compromise our future," said Cessna
CEO Jack Pelton. "Our new product development programs are proceeding on schedule. We remain committed to investing in these programs, whether it is in aircraft development, facility construction or
ensuring we have the people resources to meet our schedule." The SkyCatcher is nearing final ASTM compliance certification and deliveries are planned to begin later this year, the company said. Flight
testing is focused on gathering data and making minor refinements to ensure the aircraft complies with ASTM requirements and fulfills its intended role in the training and sport flying market, Cessna
said. An extensive ground vibration test, though not an ASTM requirement, was conducted to ensure a high standard of airframe integrity. Additional testing beyond the ASTM requirements will include a
full airframe fatigue test on a production aircraft.
The company is investing $780 million in the Columbus program, which was formally launched about a year ago. The airplane, which will be Cessna's biggest ever, is on track to start deliveries in
2014. More than 850 workers are assigned to the project, and a massive new assembly facility is under construction in Wichita. The Citation CJ4, the newest member of the CJ series of light jets, is
expected to be certified later this year and to enter service early in 2010.
The FAA's plan to take forecasters out of the 21 Air Route Traffic Control Centers around the country and consolidate weather services at two sites, in Maryland and Kansas, is drawing opposition from
the GA alphabet groups. The FAA has set a deadline of Feb. 23 to come up with a plan for the change, which also could eliminate up to 39 forecaster positions. "If these employees are removed from the
centers, we will lose a valuable asset," Ron Carpenter, NATCA rep at the Memphis Center, said on Wednesday. "We
currently receive instant updates on the ever-changing weather. We don't believe any technology that exists now will give us the speed or effectiveness with which we must have our weather reports
delivered." Forecasters in the centers provide "a vital means of communicating late-breaking weather warnings and advisories to pilots," AOPA said this week. "Meteorologists with local weather expertise, who are co-located in each ARTCC, are able
to quickly relay information about adverse weather to controllers, who in turn advise pilots whose routes may take them near danger." FAA spokesman Paul Takemoto told the Memphis Commercial Appeal, "We're simply looking for ways to reduce costs. The
main thing to keep in mind is this would not compromise safety at all." The FAA hopes to launch the consolidation plan later this year, and complete the project by 2011, AOPA said.
"These [Center forecasters] have weather information not only for the continental United States, but also have more specific information for the facility to which they are assigned," said Kevin
Bianchi, NATCA rep at the Boston Center. "It is this detailed and specific information that is invaluable to controllers." The current system has been in place since 1978, after the NTSB determined
that a major contributing factor to the 1977 Southern Airways DC-9 crash in Georgia, in which 62 people died, was ATC's inability to quickly send hazardous weather information to flight crews. The
consolidation plan would save the FAA an estimated $4 million per year.
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Soon after retiring from his 18 years as AOPA's president, Phil Boyer has taken a next step common to many executives who complete a successful career while still healthy and full of energy -- he has
joined the board of an industry stalwart. Aspen Avionics announced
on Tuesday that Boyer will be the first outside member of its board of directors, joining six investors and company executives. The board will help to guide the company through its next stages of
growth. "Nearly two decades spent listening to the concerns and issues of the nation's pilots, aircraft owners, manufacturers and regulators has given Phil a deep understanding of the GA industry's
opportunities, as well as its challenges," John Uczekaj, president and CEO of Aspen Avionics, said in a news release. "Phil's extensive expertise and relationships will be invaluable in helping chart
Aspen's strategic course in the years ahead, and in ensuring that our products meet the needs of pilots around the world." Aspen Avionics sells the Evolution Flight Display System, a glass cockpit for
certified GA aircraft. The opportunity to continue bringing transformational technologies to all segments of the GA industry is part of what attracted Boyer to join the board, according to the
"Aspen enjoys an active board of directors, with everyone contributing to the company's success," said Uczekaj. "Phil Boyer will be an outstanding addition to our team." Boyer retired from AOPA on
Dec. 31. Shortly before leaving office, Boyer sat down with AVweb Editorial Director Paul Bertorelli for a one-on-one video interview about his 18-year legacy. Click here (and here and here) for parts one through three.
The Associated Press is reporting that a public auction to sell the assets of Eclipse Aviation Wednesday has been cancelled for lack of qualified competing bidders. According to AP's story, that will pave
the way for EclipseJet Aviation, owned by current Eclipse Chairman Roel Pieper, to pick up the company for roughly 20 cents on the dollar. ETIRC is proposing to pay $188 million ($28 million cash,
$160 million in new notes) and offer 15-percent equity to senior secured creditors. Eclipse's total liability was estimated at more than $1 billion when it filed for Chapter 11 protection in late
It was rumored that there were at least two competing bids for Eclipse but if there were other bids they were not considered to be qualified. Two committees of secured creditors and a committee of
unsecured creditors who reviewed the bid(s) determined that there were no qualified bids, Eclipse lawyer Dan Guyder told the AP.
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Unprecedented crowds are expected in Washington, D.C., next Tuesday for the presidential inauguration events, and that will lead to unprecedented air traffic problems, especially on Wednesday. "People
will be trickling in over the weekend, and all coming out on the 21st," Tad Hutcheson, a spokesman for AirTran Airways, told the
Chicago Tribune. AirTran and other airlines have boosted traffic into Washington's two main airports by 20 percent, and Delta is planning to fly Boeing 767s into Reagan National, the closest
airport to the Mall, which usually accommodates smaller airliners and private jets. At Dulles, Baltimore-Washington International, and several local GA fields, taxiways will be used as parking areas
for transient aircraft. AOPA is inviting GA pilots to fly in to Frederick, Md., AOPA's
home base, about 50 miles from downtown D.C., and take the train to the city. The FAA has imposed extra restrictions for pilots flying in either the ADIZ or the Flight Restricted Zone; go to the FAA Web site for full details. The FAA makes clear that erring pilots will not be tolerated: "Pilots who do not adhere to the
following procedures may be intercepted, detained and interviewed by Law Enforcement/Security Personnel," the notice reads.
In addition, the FAA may impose civil penalties and suspend or revoke airmen certificates, or the U.S. government may pursue criminal charges, or may use deadly force against the airborne aircraft,
if it is determined that the aircraft poses an imminent security threat.
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When Quest Aircraft launched its Kodiak design back in 2005, the company said it was motivated by a need to support missionary activities in
remote places around the world. This week, that goal has been fulfilled with the delivery of Kodiak serial number 008 to JAARS Inc., the first
mission or humanitarian customer to take delivery of one of the 10-place turboprops. JAARS was originally formed in Peru in 1948, where it was known as the Jungle Aviation And Radio Service, and
provides support to Wycliffe Bible Translators, a group that aims to translate the Bible into thousands of languages. "We looked into the future of aviation for a safe, effective solution to our
passengers' unique transportation requirements," said David Reeves, president of JAARS, who took delivery of the airplane in Sandpoint, Idaho, on Monday. "The Kodiak is well-poised to meet the
challenging needs of the translation community in remote operations." The airplane burns Jet A, which is much easier to find in many remote locations than the avgas that powers much of JAARS' current
fleet of aging piston airplanes. Kodiak No. 008 will spend the next several months in the U.S. for pilot training and then will be exhibited at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wis., this summer before
heading for its new base of operations in Papua New Guinea.
Wycliffe translators are working on 190 different language projects in PNG, a small tropical country just north of Australia, and the Kodiak will provide transportation in the country's rugged
mountains and remote coastal areas.
Lorraine Howerton has joined AOPA as vice president of legislative affairs to help lobby
for GA-friendly legislation in Washington, D.C....
Sean Oskvarek, 45, of Woodbridge, Ill., is facing seven charges relating to the crash of his Cessna 182 on Nov. 11, 2008. Tests revealed he had alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, opiates and
benzodiazepines in his system at the time of the crash...
Charlie Johnson, who was formerly with Cessna and the ATG Javelin program, has joined Viper Aircraft as director of business
John H. Winant, a former president of NBAA, died Tuesday at his home in Williamstown, Mass., at age 85...
EAA will commemorate the 100th anniversary of Canada's first successful powered flight at AirVenture this
Virtually all aviation industry groups are in on a lobbying effort to get the government to allocate money for aviation projects. AVweb Editor-in-Chief Russ Niles wonder why it isn't like this
all the time, in the latest installment of our AVweb Insider blog.
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Last week, we asked AVweb readers if 2009 might be the year they take the plunge and buy a light airplane. Despite the prevailing economic indicators, the most popular answer
was Yes, something nice but pre-owned. (That choice accounted for 38% of responses.) Perhaps there's a silver lining in all these clouds, at least for the aftermarket.
We should note, however, that our second most popular answer was No, because I can't afford it.
For a complete (real-time) breakdown of reader responses, click here. (You may be asked to register and answer if you haven't already participated in this poll.)
(Some of you wrote to tell us that we should have listed the recession or the bizjet brouhaha among our choices and maybe we should, but both seemed to be somewhat in-progress
at the time we thought up the question.)
THIS WEEK'S QUESTION ***
Times are tough, and money is tight but everyone knows there are plenty of projects that need tackling in the aviation world. We may have to re-shuffle priorities soon, and
AVweb is curious what you think should be at the top of the list.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. You're a part of our team ... often, the best part.
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By now, you've seen and heard a lot about Garmin's new GPSMap 696 GPS device. In this video, Jeb Burnside, Editor-in-Chief of Aviation Safety magazine, walks you through four key safety features of the 696.
IFR magazine Editor-in-Chief Jeff Van West spent time in the Tower at Kennedy airport to see what it takes to run the
operation during the evening push and why it takes two years for a controller to reach full qualification at one of the busiest airports in the Northeast.
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AVweb reader Claudia Huber confessed that she stopped at Desert Skies "because of the cheap fuel," but was surprised by the hospitality:
Our first stop was at the wrong place, but there was no problem to get the fuel truck from Desert Skies to our parking. Inside the building, there were free coffee, donuts, popcorn, and much more for
free for pilots. As a Swiss pilot usually flying in Euorpe, this was a wonderful arrival. Nice, helpful, friendly people, smiling all the time. Great!
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.
*** THIS WEEK'S WINNERS ***
The cold snap affecting much of North America is keeping many AVweb readers indoors, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Judging by the uptick in submissions to our
"POTW" contest this week, you're finding worthwhile ways to keep yourself occupied indoors. So keep sorting those photos and keep sending them our
Terry Klein of Averill Park, New York warns, "You should never give an engineer a welder and a bunch of steel." (Oh, you don't need to
tell us that, Terry!) "Here's what our B-17 windmill looked like after the recent ice storm," he continues. "No power for four days; lots of time to take pictures."
(Note that we skipped the customary NTSB/deicing recommendations
Susan J. Sherrill of Titusville, Florida sees us off with a great formation shot from EAA Chapter 866's pancake breakfast. Nice scenery to start
Oops! Last week we had a problem with the photo slideshow on AVweb's home page, but this week everything should be running smoothly. Be sure to
check out lots of great photos we just couldn't squeeze into the regular installment of "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.
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:
Publisher Timothy Cole
Editorial Director, Aviation Publications Paul Bertorelli
Editor-in-Chief Russ Niles
Contributing Editors Mary Grady Glenn Pew
Features Editor Kevin Lane-Cummings
Webmaster Scott Simmons
Contributors Jeff van West
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.