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The NTSB on Tuesday opened a four-day hearing on the safety of helicopter emergency medical services. The goal is for the board to learn more about HEMS operations so it can better evaluate the
factors that cause accidents. "In the last six years, we have seen 85 HEMS accidents, resulting in 77 fatalities," board member Robert Sumwalt, who is chairing the hearing, said in opening remarks on
Tuesday. "The recent accident record is alarming and it is unacceptable." 2008 was the deadliest year in HEMS on record, with 13 EMS helicopter accidents and 29 fatalities. The board is hearing sworn
testimony from expert witnesses including pilots, medical personnel, managers and the FAA. On Tuesday, they heard from Dr. Ira Blumen, of the University of Chicago Hospitals, who said the average
fatality rate for HEMS crews over the last 10 years was higher even than for high-risk occupations such as fishing and logging. The death rate for passengers, however, is much lower. Over 29 years, he
said, 4.5 million patients were flown by HEMS, and 34 died in accidents. The panel also heard from several others, including Sylvain Sequin of Canada, who said there has never been a fatal accident in
HEMS operations in Canada, where 20 helicopters are engaged in such work. Sumwalt said the board's aim is to better understand the factors that cause accidents so they can be prevented in the future.
Possible courses of action resulting from the hearing include an updated safety study on EMS operations, additional safety recommendations, or a white paper for use when advocating or testifying on
EMS safety issues. Written testimony and webcast archives can be found at the NTSB Web site.
An NTSB special report completed in January 2006 called on the FAA to require that all HEMS flights with medical personnel on board be conducted in accordance with charter aircraft regulations, and
all HEMS operators should be required by the FAA to develop and implement flight risk evaluation programs, use formalized dispatch and flight-following procedures including up-to-date weather
information, and install Terrain Awareness and Warning Systems (TAWS) on aircraft. So far the FAA has not acted on those recommendations.
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As part of his plan to ensure that federal stimulus funds are properly spent, President Barack Obama announced a pay cap on
Wednesday for executives at firms receiving help from U.S. taxpayers. Further, he said, "Companies receiving federal aid are going to have to disclose publicly all the perks and luxuries bestowed upon
senior executives, and provide an explanation to the taxpayers and to shareholders as to why these expenses are justified." While flight departments were not specifically cited, they seem unlikely to
escape this scrutiny. The "populist fury" against bailed-out corporations and banks "has been fueled by accounts of bonuses [and] the use of private jets," according to Bloomberg News. The National Business Aviation Association is working to counter the impact of
the negative press for the industry. In a letter sent to President Obama last week, NBAA President Ed Bolen
wrote: "Instead of discouraging companies from accepting and using business airplanes or any other strategic business asset, policymakers should be looking for ways to increase general aviation
manufacturing jobs, promote economic development in communities without commercial airline service, and facilitate productivity and efficiency at companies trying to do more with less."
It may be that the aviation lobby has had some impact -- after all, corporate flight departments were not singled out or even named in President Obama's remarks on Wednesday.
Six executives who ran Platinum Jet Management, based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., are facing federal criminal charges in connection with the crash of a Bombardier Challenger CL-600 that ran off the
departure end of a Teterboro, N.J., runway in February 2005, the New Jersey Star Ledger
reported on Wednesday. The airplane crashed through a fence, crossed a highway, then hit a building. Four people -- the two pilots and two people in a car -- were seriously hurt and the nine others on
board as well as one person on the ground also were injured. In court documents cited by the Star Ledger, federal authorities said company officials falsified flight records, routinely overloaded
planes with fuel, and misrepresented the company to customers as a certified charter operation. "The fuel loading was the primary contributing factor in the crash," acting U.S. Atty. Ralph Marra Jr.
told the Star Ledger. "It is astounding -- and criminal -- that owners and operators of jet aircraft would repeatedly engage in such a dangerous game with passengers and airplanes loaded to the brim
with jet fuel. What this indictment alleges is an anything-goes attitude by the defendants to get their planes in the air and maximize profits without regard to passenger safety or compliance with
basic regulations." According to the indictment, the Star Ledger says, Platinum instructed its pilots to falsify weight-and-balance graphs, and flew more than 25 commercial charter flights with
weights that exceeded aircraft center of gravity limits.
In its final report on the accident, posted in November 2006, the NTSB said the jet was not within weight-and-balance limits
and the center of gravity was well forward of the forward takeoff limit, which prevented the airplane from rotating. Neither pilot properly checked the weight and balance before takeoff, said the
NTSB. According to the Star Ledger, the indictment charges Michael Brassington, 35, the president, CEO, chief pilot and co-founder of Platinum Jet; his brother, Paul Brassington, 29, a vice president
and co-founder of Platinum Jet; Andre Budhan, 42, a managing member and co-founder of Platinum Jet; Joseph Singh, 37, the director of charters for the company; Brien McKenzie, 42, Platinum Jet's
director of maintenance; and Francis Vieira, 59, a Platinum Jet pilot. The pilots who were in the cockpit on the day of the crash were not charged.
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Adding to the thousands of jobs already lost over the last few weeks to aviation businesses in Wichita, Kan., Hawker Beechcraft CEO Jim
Schuster announced on Tuesday that at least 2,300 jobs will be cut at his company. In a letter to employees published at the local KSN.com news site, Schuster said, "We are undoubtedly facing one of the most severe tests in our company's history." He cited global economic decline as the cause of declining
orders and deliveries. In addition, he said, the government's stimulus package has failed to loosen up credit markets and orders from fractional markets have declined "considerably." He also blamed
"the media and some politicians" for characterizing general aviation as "a wasteful extravagance instead of a critical business tool and the source of millions of American jobs." He added that with no
end in sight to global market volatility, he could offer no assurance that there won't be further reductions. Hawker is the third-largest employer in Wichita, with about 7,500 employees. The company
also employs 2,000 others worldwide, to build a range of aircraft from business jets to piston singles and the T-6 military trainer.
Cessna also has recently announced layoffs of about 4,000 employees, and Boeing said last week it will cut 10,000 jobs.
Amid all the news of job cuts and downturns, the light sport aircraft sector just keeps on cranking. Dan Johnson, chairman of the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association, estimates that about
11,500 people attended the Sebring Sport Aviation Expo just over a week ago in Florida, a new record for the show, and about 20
airplanes, worth about $2.5 million, were sold over the four-day event. "Every exhibitor I spoke to will return for Sebring No. 6 in 2010," Johnson wrote at his blog. In addition, he announced that two new regional LSA shows will be held this year -- the HOT (Heart of Texas) LSA Show will be
held in March in Bryan, Texas, and the Midwest LSA Show will follow in October, in Mount Vernon, Ill. Johnson also noted that two new U.S.-built LSAs made their debuts at the show: M-Squared's Breese 2 and RANS's S-6 Coyote. The Breese, built in Alabama, sells for just
$34,995, fully built from the factory. The Coyote is a ready-to-fly version of an airplane that has been one of the top-selling homebuilts, with almost 2,000 copies in the air. Other new aircraft
introduced at the show were the Flaeming Air FA-04 Peregrin, built in Germany and imported by Hansen Air Group in Georgia, and the Skyteton K-10, built in the Ukraine.
Click for video of the Lancair debut at Sun 'n Fun 2008
Lancair announced on Wednesday that it will be moving its company headquarters, in Bend, Ore., to a bigger facility near the Redmond Airport.
The new building, at 38,000 square feet, is 50 percent larger than the current building and has room for continued growth, the company said. Demand for the Evolution, the company's latest pressurized
330-knot turboprop kit airplane, remains strong, Lancair said, with lead times out to five months. The new facility will allow the company to ramp up production of the Evolution kit as well as develop
new projects, such as the military trainer kit announced earlier this week. The company will commence the move in
February and it will be completed by April 1. Lancair General Manager Tim Ong told the Bend Bulletin this week that not only is the company
growing, it's hiring.
Since Cessna has been laying off workers at its nearby facility where the Corvalis 350 and 400 are built, Lancair should have plenty of applicants.
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Tagging on to the gains Mercedes Benz has made in the automotive diesel field, Austro's new aerodieseljust certified
last weekappears to produce more power while using less fuel than did the Thielert Centurion engines it will replace. Our sister publication, Aviation Consumer, reports in its March issue
that the new Austro AE 300 produces 168 HP at a brake specific fuel consumption of .36 pounds of fuel per hour, at bit better than the .38 delivered by the Thielert engines. Diamond says about 27 new
DA42 NG Twin Stars are already fitted with the new engines. Diamond has announced an aggressive program to re-engine existing DA42 and DA40TDIs with Austro, but it won't happen quickly. Diamond's
Peter Maurer told AVweb this week that approvals for engine conversions won't be done until later in the year.
Initial TBO for the Austro hasn't been determined yet, but the best guess is that it will be about 1000 hours. The Austro is 118 pounds heavier than the Thielert Centurions so Diamond will shortly
obtain approval for higher gross weights in both the DA42 NG and existing Twin Stars. Diamond also says an improved gearbox on the Austro should help owners avoid the onerous repetitive removal and
inspections that dogged owners of Thielert engines.
Liberty Aerospace, of Melbourne, Fla., this week threw down the gauntlet to the rest of the aviation world, claiming that its XL2 is the world's most efficient IFR trainer and touring
aircraft, after a flight test conducted last month achieved an efficiency of 21.208 nm per gallon over a 165-nm course. "With standard equipment and no special pre-planning for weather or winds, we
showed what can be done in real-world everyday conditions," said Paul Everitt, business development manager for Liberty. The flight followed a loop from Spruce Creek to Hernando County Airport in
Central Florida, at a cruising altitude of 7,500 feet, with power set at 50 percent and an RPM of 2350. Maximum power was used in the climb and 30 to 40 percent power for the descent, the company
said. Average fuel burn per hour was 4.686 gallons with an average speed of 106 knots. "For the GA industry to grow, light aircraft manufacturers must produce efficient, fully-certified two-place
aircraft that allow flight schools and individuals to continue flying while remaining profitable," said Everitt. "We challenge the aviation industry to beat our record of being the most fuel-efficient
and environmentally acceptable Part 23 IFR certified aircraft available today."
The XL2 is built with carbon-fiber fuselage and its engine is equipped with full authority digital engine control (FADEC).
Lancair announced on Tuesday that it will provide 25 modified Legacy FG kits to be assembled in Colombia and used for primary flight training by the Colombian Air Force. The aircraft, known as the
Synergy, has a 15% bigger wing, leading edge cuffs, and ventral fin than the standard model. The company says mods make the aircraft "quite docile," but adds it still has plenty of get-up-and-go.
Lancair, through its Colombian partner SudAir Corporation, will provide the kits to Colombian Aviation Industry Corp. (CIAC), which will build them for the air force. "This initial agreement is a
result of over two years of negotiations ...," said Lancair President Joe Bartels. "We will provide molds, fixtures, jigs, materials, technical support and composite training to CIAC for purposes of
its construction of the initial 25 aircraft."
The aircraft will have certified Lycoming IO-390 engines. Construction of the aircraft will begin in August at the rate of one a month, and CIAC should be building two a month by the end of the
Every air traveler knows it pays to book in advance, and Flexjet is rewarding customers who make efficient use of their fractionally-owned aircraft with a 15% reduction in the cost of qualifying round
trips. Flexjet says it's the first to offer this kind of incentive to customers making quick-turnaround trips, and the company expects it to be popular. "We expect this not to be a limited time
offer," said Sylvain Levesque, Flexjet's vice president of marketing.
Customers who buy at least 100 hours a year from Flexjet can use the discount two ways. They can book a day trip, which occupies the airplane for no more than 12 hours in a single-day round trip,
or they can overnight at their destination, as long as the layover is 12-20 hours. "Round-trip pricing provides our owners with an enhanced benefit that saves them money through the efficiencies we
can build into our operation on their behalf," said Levesque.
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Click for video of benefit air show performer Sean Tucker in action
Since we last spoke with the organizers of the upcoming benefit airshow for the Alan Henley Foundation (click here for a podcast of AVweb's interview with Bobbi Thompson last December), the lineup has
grown to include a long list of who's who in the airshow world. "I think we can say with confidence this will be the finest and largest-ever group of North American airshow performers to appear in one
show," Thompson told AVweb this week. The list of performers is at 30 and still growing, and includes Patty Wagstaff, Sean Tucker, the Aeroshell Aerobatic Team, Greg Poe, Gene Soucy, Red
Thunder, the Iron Eagles, and many more. "All proceeds from ticket and raffle sales will go to the Foundation and all donated monies will be given as well," Thompson says. Everyone involved in the
show is paying their own expenses and donating their time, Thompson said, so the only costs to be covered will be fuel, oil, and some other minimal expenses. The show will be held at Cecil Field in
Jacksonville, Fla., April 18 and 19. Tickets are $10, $5 for children 6 to 12, and free for children under 6. Tickets will soon be available online at the show's Web site. Henley, who was the lead pilot for the Aeroshell team, was paralyzed in a fall at home last
year just before EAA AirVenture, and is still undergoing extensive rehabilitation. He lives in Birmingham, Ala., with his wife, Jennifer, and their two children, Skylar, 3, and Brandon, 2.
Red Bull this week announced its plans for this year's series of air races, with an expanded roster of 15 pilots but only six
locations, down from eight last year. This year's series will skip Australia, London, and the Netherlands, but adds a stop in Barcelona, Spain. The Detroit venue has shifted slightly across the border
to Windsor, Ontario. Other sites for 2009 include Abu Dhabi, San Diego, Budapest, and Portugal. A rumored extra stop on the U.S. East Coast apparently didn't work out. The expanded pilot field will
compete in a new race format that includes a "wild card" session to open race day. "The new race format is yet another big step forward for the Red Bull Air Race World Championship," said Heinz
Moeller, aviation director for Red Bull. "Pure racing is guaranteed, and the emphasis will be on pilot skill because all the pilots will be racing straight after each other against the clock." The
four new pilots are Pete McLeod, of Canada; Yoshihide Muroya, of Japan; Matt Hall, of Australia, and Matthias Dolderer, of Germany.
The schedule for this year's races, as of today, includes: Abu Dhabi, UAE, April 17-18; San Diego, May 9-10; Windsor, Ontario, June 13-14; Budapest, Hungary, Aug. 19-20; Porto, Portugal, Sept.
12-13, and Barcelona, Spain, Oct. 3-4.
The NTSB says it found no mechanical problems with the engines on Flight 1549, but bird remains have been
confirmed in both engines...
AAI Acquisition, which last year bought the assets of Adam Aircraft, is looking for a strategic partner to continue the development of the A700 light jet, the Wichita Eagle reported this week...
The airplane crash that killed Buddy Holly was 50 years ago this week; AOPA's Air Safety Foundation provides an analysis of that accident...
The FAA on Tuesday released an update to its plans for implementing the next-generation national airspace system...
Two people were killed when the wing of a Piper Cub about to take off from a private runway in
Florida hit the Jeep they were riding in, and they drove into a tree...
The NTSB wants FAA to enhance its oversight of offshore helicopter operators...
The Lindbergh Foundation named environmentalist Lester Brown and conservationists Terry and Mary Kohler as recipients of the 2009
Lindbergh Awards; they will be honored at a reception at the EAA AirVenture Museum in Oshkosh, Wis., on May 16.
Sun 'n Fun It's Like Spring Break for Pilots Scheduled for April 21-26 in Lakeland, Florida. Featuring the U.S. Army Parachute Team "Golden Knights." This annual event includes more than 4,500 airplanes, 500 commercial
exhibitors, over 400 educational forums, seminars, and hands-on workshops for virtually every aviation interest. Plus a spectacular daily air show. All included in your ticket price. Special
online-only discounts.Get your tickets
online now at Sun-N-Fun.org.
With its new certified into-known-ice package, Cirrus has kicked up weather flying to a new level. But to really appreciate how capable their system is, it helps to remember what it was like when we
didn't have any such help in the clouds. Paul Bertorelli reminisces about flying into ice in the latest installment of our AVweb Insider blog.
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Do you fly a light sport aircraft (LSA) for real, cross-country travel? Are you exploring the possibility? Our sister publication, Aviation Consumer, has been researching this topic and wants to hear your thoughts with a quick survey. It will take no more than five minutes of your
time to complete.
Companies receiving federal bailout money are under ever more pressure to control
their spending. Last week, we asked AVweb readers how these companies should handle air travel in the current climate.
The most popular answer (chosen by 37% of those who answered our poll) was to be careful about appearances and only use their flight departments when necessary. On the other
hand, one in four of you said private aircraft are an essential part of modern business and that companies should continue to use their airplanes as they always have.
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.)
THIS WEEK'S QUESTION ***
EMS extractions by helicopter have been under a lot of scrutiny lately, leading some to question whether
specific regulations are in order. We'd like to hear your opinion.
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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Are LED lights bright enough? Judge for yourself by viewing AVweb's latest product report video. Editorial director Paul Bertorelli demonstrates traditional incandescent
bulbs, HIDs, and new-age LEDs. The results are revealing.
Fly on water thrust this new jet pack idea may not be the best way to get to work, but it sure does look like a good time. The German company MS Watersports GmbH is marketing
the JetLev-Flyer and selling it (lessons included) for about $128,000 or just about what a brand-new two-seat 120-mph light sport aircraft costs. Video Editor Glenn
Pew has the skinny.
We appreciate your opinions and recommendations, so please continue to tell us about great FBOs you visit throughout North America by clicking here and filling out
our nomination form.
Our latest "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Peak Aviation Center at KCOS in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Out of all the great FBO stories you've submitted in the last couple of weeks, this one knocked a bit of the winter chill from our hearts and reminded us of why we love certain small FBOs.
AVweb reader Nick Ruemker calls Peak "one of the best FBO operations I have encountered":
The service is always top-notch, and the staff is always prepared to help in any way possible. The owner, Pat Carlile, even took his own time to do a checkout with me. It didn't even seem to bother
him that the only time I could do the checkout was at nearly 8 p.m., [when] it was pitch black. However, the service and hospitality are by no means the most impressive part of this operation.
Pat has founded an organization which both gives back to the local community and serves the general aviation community. It is called High Hopes For Teens, and their mission is to assist special needs, physically disabled, and disadvantaged children as well as children with
parents killed or wounded in combat. It is a non-profit organization funded from a very small FBO. They teach these kids about aviation and how to fly. ... This is a program that can change these
children's lives and keep them out of trouble, all the while giving them the opportunity that many of them would never have been able to dream of without Peak Aviation Center.
Pat, as well as his co-owner and director, Allen Mathews, are a true inspiration of what flying has given many of us and an excellent example of how we should all strive to give back to this wonderful
community. I hope you will look at their link and spread the word about this wonderful organization.
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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We're afraid that it's true technical difficulties made it impossible to sort through this week's photos by press time. But don't despair. We've got plenty of awesome reader-submitted
photos in the queue, and we'll be running them in a special edition of "POTW" on Monday. In the meantime, don't forget to keep sending your photos, as we've
already closed out the submission box for this week and started a fresh one for next Thursday. (Just because we're a few hours late, that doesn't mean you get the week off not if you want to
have a double dose of "POTW"!)
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.
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Publisher Timothy Cole
Editorial Director, Aviation Publications Paul Bertorelli
Editor-in-Chief Russ Niles
Contributing Editors Mary Grady Glenn Pew
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