AVwebFlash - Volume 15, Number 20a

May 18, 2009

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Top News: Jets and the General Population back to top 

Santa Monica Jet Ban Not Upheld By FAA

The FAA Thursday announced that a local city ordinance that bans C and D aircraft with approach speeds between 139 and 191 mph "unjustly and unreasonably" discriminates against certain aircraft, meaning the ordinance may be headed to federal court. The city's position is that by allowing the faster jets, the FAA is not following its own safety recommendations for runway safety zones as it applies to airport traffic and neighboring residential properties currently sitting some 300 feet from the runway threshold. The FAA's position is that the ordinance violates the city's obligation to make the airport available to all types and classes of aeronautical activity, which became relevant when the airport accepted nearly $10 million of federal grants. Thursday's decision follows a legal order obtained by the FAA that blocks the city from enacting the ordinance. City officials were expecting that and are likely to file an appeal with the FAA, which it appears they will lose. At that point, the city may file an appeal in federal court.

Traffic at Santa Monica, a single-runway airport just north of LAX, has tripled over the last fifteen years, growing from under 5,000 jet operations in 1994 to more than 15,000 in 2008. The airport has had noise-abatement procedures in place and noise-monitoring systems under contract. In April, the Santa Monica Airport acting airport director recommended that the mayor and city council execute a five-year contract not to exceed $242,261 for maintenance and support of the noise-monitoring system.

Citizen Groups Win Airport Noise Monitoring Web Site

Vancouver International Airport's neighboring public (and the world) now has access to a new Web site that combines NAV CANADA radar data and Airport Authority noise data to geographically display aircraft noise intensity and facilitate near-immediate public comment. The system, called WebTrak, also retains historical data -- meaning that people can check their clock (and calendar, up to 30 days), go online, and use the system to identify precisely which aircraft is now or was earlier the most audibly pleasant, the most annoying or anything in between. If a user is unable to deduce the exact offending aircraft but is willing to input where they were when they heard it, WebTrak will even offer up likely candidates. Air carriers may be comforted to know that aircraft are identified upon mouse-over not by giant company logos but by type, speed and elevation. Noise is depicted separately with the aid of small circles on the map that change color and shape while numerically displaying decibel levels. The WebTrak site states that "for aviation security reasons" aircraft tracks are delayed by 10 minutes and no military flight information is included. That said, the site does make lodging an aircraft-specific or general complaint or comment quite simple. What airport authorities do with the information remains to be seen.

There are 20 noise-monitoring stations in the Vancouver area, according to Canada.com, and the Web site is the result of lobbying by Surrey Citizens Against Aircraft Noise with help from the Surrey Airspace Taskforce. The groups were moved to action following the airport's implementation of new flight paths.

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Tomorrow's Aviation Today Soon (Part I) back to top 

FAA Withdraws Repair Station Rule

The FAA has taken the unusual step of withdrawing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that, according to the Aircraft Electronics Association, was a well-intentioned attempt to modernize the standards and ratings that apply to repair stations. Trouble is, according to the more than 500 companies and individuals who commented on the rule, which was proposed three years ago, it would have driven most of them out of business. The FAA threw in the towel last week, saying it "determined the NPRM does not adequately address the current repair station environment and because of the significant issues commenters raised."

Among the complaints from commenters were that certification for avionics repair and installations would be type based, rather than covering the equipment, meaning that a repair station would have to earn and maintain literally hundreds of certificates for the ability to install popular types of equipment. The Aircraft Electronics Association, which led the fight against the NPRM, was understandably relieved at the FAA decision. "We are extremely pleased with the membership's efforts and the resulting FAA action," said AEA's government affairs spokesman. "The avionics industry raised solid challenges to the FAA's well-intended proposal, which could not be resolved, forcing the FAA to withdraw its proposed changes to the repair station regulations. This is how rulemaking is supposed to work."

Related Content:
Audio podcast with AEA's Ric Peri on the FAA's decision

GAO Fires Warning On GPS

"It is uncertain whether the Air Force will be able to acquire new satellites in time to maintain current GPS service without interruption," warns the GAO. "If not, some military operations and some civilian users could be adversely affected." The report, issued April 30, notes the Air Force's struggle to successfully build satellites on time and on budget. According to the GAO, the Air Force is running $870 million over its original cost estimate and has delayed the launch of its next satellite (now scheduled for November 2009) by almost three years. As old satellites begin to fail, it is increasingly important that the Air Force does not fall behind its current schedule. Otherwise, warns the GAO, there is increased likelihood that by 2010, "the overall GPS constellation will fall below the number of satellites required to provide the level of GPS service that the U.S. government commits to." That shortfall "could have wide-ranging impacts on all GPS users." While many of the potential problems rely on the Air Force's success working with a new contractor, the GAO has made recommendations.

The GAO recognizes that there is no single authority responsible for synchronizing procurement and field-related facets of GPS-asset deployment and recommends that one be appointed and granted suitable authority to ensure the service meets the needs of users. And, just in case potential delays turn into real delays, the GAO recommends that the Secretaries of Defense and Transportation should address civil agency concerns and determine mechanisms for improving collaboration and decision-making while strengthening civil agency participation.

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Tomorrow's Aviation Today Soon (Part II) back to top 

Proving Boeing's 787 Dreamliner

First flight of one of six Boeing 787 Dreamliner test aircraft is expected in June, but the flight will test more than the new aircraft; it will also test a new method of manufacture for Boeing and maybe the company's future. With a heavy reliance on both composites and outsourced manufacture, the 787's major components will arrive to Boeing's factory pre-assembled. By stepping past the need for thousands of rivets or hands and machines to buck those rivets, Boeing's goal is ultimately to produce each plane in just three days of work at the factory. However, composites can be affected by air temperature and humidity before, during and after their construction. And with finished parts arriving from Japan, Italy, France and Sweden, it is no small feat for Boeing to ensure that each piece consistently fits precisely with another. That considered, Boeing's current schedule, which includes a short eight- or nine-month flight test program, is very tight. It's also important to keeping the company's two-year delayed 787 on track and converting 861 orders into the $144 billion they represent. Besides which, the 787 isn't Boeing's only delayed project.

"Boeing has to demonstrate that it's got its whole system back on track — design, production, assembly — the 787 gets all the headlines, but these other programs have problems, too," aviation analyst Scott Hamilton told NPR. But Boeing's future is heavily invested in a successful 787 and from June on the world -- and the competition -- will be paying very close attention.

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Under Scrutiny back to top 

Dollars And Sense, Antitrust Lobbying And LaHood

Reports are in on first-quarter lobbying monies spent by airlines and industry interest groups and the results show airlines spend millions ... sometimes working against pilot groups. In the mix are Continental, which spent $810,000, and American, which spent $1.5 million. American's pilot union, the Allied Pilots Association (APA), spent $140,000 lobbying the new administration. Among Continental's interests, the airline is seeking antitrust immunity that would allow it to work with other airlines to set pricing and schedules. Continental's first-quarter lobbying budget was more than twice what it spent in the previous quarter. American has similar interests. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood conveyed his position to reporters earlier this month saying, "These alliances are lifesavers for airlines." Meanwhile, the APA is pushing the Obama administration to pursue violations of antitrust law, citing the Department of Justice, which issued a statement that antitrust enforcers "can no longer sit on the sidelines" and that antitrust laws "benefit consumers."

American Airlines' application for antitrust immunity remains open to public comment. Online comments from some pilots suggest they believe alliances would actually create a stronger airline with more growth and job opportunity. That position may be influenced by the existence of other international alliances between other airlines that some pilots argue make American less competitive as other airlines working in cooperation with foreign carriers expand their international routes.

News Station's Aircraft Mechanics Probe

"There is evidence of repair facilities hiring low-wage mechanics who can't read," alleges Dallas/Fort Worth-area news station WFAA. The station has been investigating the way the FAA licenses aircraft mechanics and believes it has found "evidence of years of problems in testing these mechanics" and evidence that "hundreds of mechanics" are working with "questionable licenses" in Texas and elsewhere. While previously citing improperly regulated testing at St. George Aviation Testing Center in Florida in 1999, the latest assertions stem from the station's conclusion that "hundreds of the mechanics" working at 236 FAA-certified aircraft repair stations in Texas do not speak English and therefore can't read aircraft repair manuals. And while "one certified A&P can sign off on the work of dozens of uncertified mechanics," says WFAA, "there is a push to get work out the door." WFAA's recent article on the topic goes on to cite a fatal commuter plane crash (that it does not connect with foreign-language mechanics, but with improper oversight of the repair process); difficulties with foreign pilot licensing; and a licensing center in San Antonio (since closed by the FAA) where, it alleges, mechanics were being tested in Spanish. Certified mechanics quoted in the article note the challenges of working with their foreign-speaking non-certified counterparts.

While noting that repairs performed by any person at a repair facility must ultimately be signed off by a certified A&P mechanic who then takes responsibility for the repair, WFAA found one mechanic who anonymously explained his (or her) difficulty. "I need an interpreter to talk to these people," he (or she) said. "They can't read the manuals, they can't write, and I have so many working for me I can't be sure of the work they've done." WFAA appears to suggest that time and schedule pressures that come as a byproduct of working with commercial aircraft can prevent certified mechanics from properly overseeing work performed by dozens of untrained assisting mechanics who can't read the manuals or write down what they've done -- and that not all certified mechanics have experienced proper training.

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News Briefs back to top 

Floatplane To The Rescue

Mark Wisdorf was kite surfing at Turnagain Arm, Alaska, when things turned bad, leaving him and his kite floating in the water for nearly an hour and a half before his friend, a seaplane pilot, attempted a somewhat unconventional rescue. The waters of Turnagain Arm meet Cook Inlet in swirling currents that include riptide-induced waves and a daily bore tide (seawater that moves to a shallow narrowing inlet from a broad bay) that can cause waves up to about 10 feet tall traveling at up to 15 miles per hour, according to Alaska.org. Wisdorf was stranded in that mess out of reach of land-based first responders who soon called for a helicopter. But Wisdorf had a friend, a fellow kiteboarder and pilot named Jim Chaplin, who received a call that Wisdorf was in trouble. Chaplin took to the air in his floatplane with a helper aboard and arrived first on the scene. "I just treated it like a river landing and I landed into the current and touched down right near him," Chaplin told the Associated Press. But after a successful landing, the current took Wisdorf right past the plane.

Now down in the water and swirling currents, Chaplin maneuvered his aircraft through the choppy waves while his passenger managed a rescue. The next problem was the takeoff. "My concerns were the strong currents and being pushed into the bigger rip waves. We were able to stay out of those and have a safe takeoff," Chaplin said. The trio took off and departed into the horizon, leaving land-based responders wondering who had just pulled off the rescue. They found out later, and Wisdorf showed some of his appreciation by helping Chaplin wash the plane.

AVweb's Newstips Address ...

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 newstips@avweb.com. You're a part of our team ... often, the best part.

EAA AirVenture Oshkosh — The World's Greatest Aviation Celebration
July 27 - August 2 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin
This year is too BIG to miss. Literally. Witness the world's largest airliner — the Airbus A380; see the first world public debut of Virgin Galactic's WhiteKnightTwo; attend appearances by the U.S. Airways Flight 1549 cockpit crew; and enjoy performances by the Doobie Brothers on opening day and comedian Jeff Dunham Saturday night. Save time and money when you buy your tickets online now.
EBACE Wraps Up in Geneva back to top 

Strong EBACE Despite Crisis

EBACE 2009 was a success in any terms, but given the current financial climate, the business aviation industry had much to be cheerful about. The third biggest show in the event's history saw 10,000 attendees turn up and 65 aircraft fly into the static display. This was good news for a sector hit by job cuts of some 20,000 plus over the last six months and predictions of a 30 percent drop in output from last year's bullish projections. The manufacturers and industry associations put up a feisty defense. Accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers revealed that business aviation contributed €19.7 billion ($26.9 billion) to the European economy in 2007.

The study addressed both output and the contribution of the supply chain, as well as wages input to the economy. The 2007 contribution was 0.2 percent of the combined GDP of the European Union, Norway and Switzerland: 28 percent of which was direct impact, 24 percent indirect and 48 percent induced.The study also indicated that business aviation generates 167,000 jobs in Europe. EBAA president and chief executive Brian Humphries said that this year's event was better than expected given the current state of the market. Women in Corporate Aviation had a presence at the Swan Heights flight attendants' training booth. WCA ambassador Karin Muller of Sterling Courier said: "WCA is a great networking group and has helped me win business as well as learn more about the business aviation industry. EBACE is always a very worthwhile show for us."

EBACE 2009 Photo Gallery

Click for more photos

Once again, the European Business Aviation Conference and Expo provides ample opportunities for checking out the bizjets of various folks in the industry — and, as always, we make it a point of taking in the sights.

Click here to view photos.

Put AeroExpo Europe - Prague and AeroExpo Europe - London on Your Show Schedule
AeroExpo Europe - Prague (May 22-24, 2009) will showcase everything from ultralights to helicopters to business aircraft in the heart of Europe, marketing to the European and emerging Eastern European and Russian markets. AeroExpo Europe - London (June 12-14, 2009) includes aircraft from light aircraft, pistons, and turboprops through to VLJs (very light jets) and all parts and services for these general aviation aircraft. Go online for exhibitor and attendee details.
Opinion & Commentary back to top 

AVweb Insider Blog: Was Buffalo Disaster a Glimpse of the Future?

The NTSB hearing into the crash of a Colgan Air Dash-8 Q400 in Buffalo in February has raised a lot of questions for AVweb editor Mary Grady, specifically with regard to the readiness of cockpit staff in regional airliners. If a faulty process is to blame, could the Colgan crash be a forerunner for more to come? Read more in the latest installment of the AVweb Insider blog.

Read more.

AVweb Insider Blog: The Power of GPS Confidence

Our sister publication, IFR magazine, talks a lot about GPS and position awareness, but IFR Editor-in-Chief Jeff Van West admits there's another aspect they don't talk about so much. Jeff calls it "position confidence," and over on the AVweb Insider blog, he explains how doubt in the cockpit can cause confusion and delay, but removing the doubt can open the door to a whole new way of dealing with ATC.

Read more.

Online Aircraft-Specific Ground Schools
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, through its Office of Professional Education, now offers a series of aircraft-specific ground schools: Boeing 737 Classic — NG, 747, 757, 767 and 777; as well as Airbus 319, 320, 330 and 340; and the Bombardier CRJ 200. For a complete list, visit Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University's web site at ERAU.edu/professionaleducation.
New on AVweb back to top 

Brainteasers Quiz #143: Mommy, Where Does Lift Come From?

Brainteasers Eventually, all pilots face the uncomfortable moment when passengers ask about the facts of flight. Don't blush, stammer or tell them to "go ask your flight instructor." Instead, tell them to take this quiz.

Take the quiz.

More Brainteasers

Back to the Drawing Board for Repair Station Rule

File Size 5.5 MB / Running Time 6:01

Podcast Index | How to Listen | Subscribe Via RSS

While it's not unheard of, it's not every day the FAA withdraws a proposed rule, especially one that was 20 years in the making — but it happened last week. AVweb's Russ Niles spoke with Ric Peri of the Aircraft Electronics Association about the complexities of bringing repair station ratings and certificates into a modern rulemaking context.

Click here to listen. (5.5 MB, 6:01)

eBooks & eVideos
Most titles on the AVweb Bookstore (including Jeppesen, McGraw-Hill, ICAO, and many others) are also available as electronic downloads. Why not consider an eBook in Adobe .PDF format? Instant delivery. No shipping costs. Fully searchable, bookmarked, and hyperlinked. Hundreds of reference titles at your fingertips, in your laptop computer. Environmentally friendly. And no import taxes to international customers. Are you sold yet? Click here to learn more, and download a sample to try it out.
AVweb Media: Look, Listen, Laugh and Learn back to top 

Exclusive Video: Cessna Mustang Demo Flight — Is It Really as Easy to Fly as a Skyhawk?

Original, Exclusive Videos from AVweb | Reader-Submitted & Viral Videos

Almost. In this post-Sun 'n Fun video, AVweb reports that the Mustang's control forces and basic systems are so close to those of a heavy single or light twin that any moderately experienced pilot should be able to check out in it without breaking a sweat. And at 340 knots for 1,100 miles, we could get used to it, thanks.

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Want to see more shots of the Transition in flight?
You can view the raw video footage here.

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Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Greenwood Executive Air (KHFY, Greenwood, IN)

Nominate an FBO | Rules | Tips | Questions | Winning FBOs

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Greenwood Executive Air at KHFY (Greenwood Municipal Airport) in Greenwood, Indiana.

AVweb reader Bill Foraker recently gave the Greenwood team lemons and was delighted with the lemonade they served up:

I needed to recon the area for family reunion planning, so I flew in ... to scout the area for hotels, golf courses, shopping malls, and all the other things the family members require. I taxied onto the FBO ramp at 6:50 — they close at 7 — and went inside to meet the friendliest and most helpful guys ever! I needed 100LL, a car, and I wouldn't be back until after they closed — no problems. The line guy refueled the old Comanche right away, and I got the info inside, paid, got the car keys, got directions, got a layout of the local area, got the plan for returning the car, and even got much of the info I visited to get. In fact, I almost could have gone home simply after talking with the FBO guys! It was a great experience, and I'll go back to Greenwood in a minute.

Keep those nominations coming. For complete contest rules, click here.

AVweb is actively seeking out the best FBOs in the country and another one, submitted by you, will be spotlighted here next Monday!

The Lighter Side of Flight back to top 

Short Final

Overheard in IFR Magazine's 'On the Air' Section
Overheard in IFR Magazine's "On the Air"

Heard on descent, about 100 miles north of Sacramento, California:

Cessna 12345:
"Oakland Center, Cessna Four Five Six. Am I still getting flight following? I was looking at my chart and might have missed a call."

Oakland Center:
"Cessna Four Five Six, you're still on my radar and receiving flight following."

Cessna 12345:
"Thank you, ma'am. I just hadn't had a call for a while."

Oakland Center:
"Flight following is like a marriage. The less I talk to you, the better off we are."

Norm Champ
via e-mail

Names Behind the News back to top 

Meet the AVwebFlash Team

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:

Timothy Cole

Editorial Director, Aviation Publications
Paul Bertorelli

Russ Niles

Contributing Editors
Mary Grady
Glenn Pew

Features Editor
Kevin Lane-Cummings

Scott Simmons

Jeff van West
Mariano Rosales

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.

Aviate. Navigate. Communicate.