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Municipal governments keep coming up with new ways to try and impede activity at their local airports and the burghers of
Grant-Valkaria in Brevard County, Fla. have come up with a novel approach to pressuring a local privately operated field. The town council will consider a resolution on Monday that would outlaw flight
training, including recurrent training, at Valkaria Airport (X59). The ban comes in the form of a zoning amendment that's bound to catch the attention of the FAA, since the airport has received
federal funding and the agency frowns on limiting aeronautical activity at such facilities.
Correspondents to AVweb claim the town council is aware of the fight they will have on their hands but believe the threat of the ban will be enough to make aircraft owners find greener pastures for
their passion. Meanwhile, local pilots are being urged to attend the meeting at the Town Hall on Monday to let their elected officials know their opinions.
Has Zulu Changed Your Mind?
If so, we'd sure like to hear your story. Just go to the Zulu Change Your Mind web site and fill us in between now and the end of May, and we may post it on our web site. Plus We'll give you
another possible way to share your Zulu experience: All stories will be entered in a drawing for a free headset. Win, and you could make a passenger very happy. For the details, go to
Times May Be Tough, But Progress Beckons! (Part
Entecho, based in Perth, Australia, is working to develop two aircraft that it calls Compact Aerial Vehicles. The two types of CAV, the
Hoverpod and the Mupod, offer many advantages over conventional aircraft such as airplanes and helicopters, according to the company Web site. The smaller one, the remotely operated Mupod, is only
about two feet across and weighs 11 pounds, and made its first flight last year. It is powered by a quiet electric motor and has drawn serious interest from defense contractors. The Hoverpod version
would be big enough to carry up to three people and cruise at 75 mph, and is expected to fly for the first time sometime this year. Entecho's site says the design overcomes the key challenge of
generating lift within a small vehicle envelope by employing a novel rotor fan and a unique combination of lifting surfaces.
The vehicles can be intuitively operated with simple joystick controls, the company says. The Mupod has been tested in crowded urban airspace where it has shown that it can hover, perch on
buildings, and bump into obstacles and recover. The company says it will market the products for recreation, commercial, and defense purposes.
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Times May Be Tough, But Progress Beckons! (Part
With many established aircraft manufacturers putting new projects on hold, fresh start-ups working to introduce new designs are scarce. But Stratos Aircraft, of Bend, Ore., is moving ahead with plans for a new all-composite certified very light jet, and recently unveiled a mockup of the fuselage design. The mockup will
debut at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh later this summer. "There's no four-seat aircraft with this kind of performance," Stratos CEO Michael Lemaire told the Bend Bulletin recently. The single-engine jet will fly over
1,500 nm at more than 400 knots, at altitudes up to FL410, according to the company's Web site, and will sell for about $2 million.
The company now is trying to raise $12 million to build two prototypes, and then find another $100 million to get the airplane certified and start production, according to the Bulletin. Fully
refundable deposits of $50,000 are now being accepted. In recent years, start-up companies that have tried to bring new aircraft to market have found it tough going -- Eclipse Aviation and Adam
Aircraft being just two of the more prominent examples. But Lemaire, who has founded and managed other companies in the computer industry, said composite VLJs are the biggest step forward in general
aviation since the Learjet. "If you are interested in aviation, this will be a part of history," he told the Bulletin.
While next-generation light-jet air taxis have been slow to make headway here in the U.S., a new company in Europe seems to have found a sweet spot. Blink, based at Farnborough, near London, operates a fleet of just four Citation Mustangs, and so far it's working out. "Things are going very well for us at the moment," Peter
Leiman, a Blink co-founder, told the Financial Times recently. "There are certainly challenging market
conditions. But we're the right product at the right time." The company has contracted for 26 more Mustangs and plans to take delivery of one per month. "We remain firm on our entire order," Leiman
said. He told the New York Times that the company beat its business-plan targets last year and
continues to be on track in 2009. "Our gross margin is positive much earlier than we thought," he said. Blink operates in Western Europe and Scandinavia.
A low-cost air taxi operator called AirCab expects to launch in Munich in 2011. The company plans to charge passengers up to 70 percent less
than business jet fares and will operate up to 50 Mustangs and Phenom 100s. Another operator, Jetbird, plans to launch this September in
Koln-Bonn, Germany, and will operate a fleet of 50 Phenom 100s. Bikkair, based in Rotterdam, started flying in March 2008 but closed down in February, blaming a lack of access to capital due to the
global financial crisis. "Without a doubt we have proven this model to be successful and generated a serious market share," founders Leendert and Bas Bikker told the Times. "It is extremely
unfortunate that our start-up phase coincides with the current crisis."
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Newly confirmed FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt has won a warm welcome from leaders in the general aviation world --
along with realistic assessments that the times ahead will be challenging. "I look forward to working with Administrator Babbitt," said AOPA President Craig Fuller. "During his confirmation hearing, and in my conversations with Randy, he
demonstrated that he clearly understands general aviation pilots and our needs." Fuller added that the impending debate over how to fund the FAA and efforts to transition to the satellite-based
NextGen ATC system won't be easy. "But by working together we can emerge stronger," he said. Tom Poberezny, EAA
chairman and president, also welcomed Babbitt's appointment. "His broad knowledge of the aviation industry should allow him to make an immediate mark on GA," he said. Poberezny added that AirVenture
attendees will have an opportunity to meet Babbitt later this summer at the Meet The Administrator forum at Oshkosh.
NBAA also issued a statement welcoming Babbitt. "As a pilot, he has operational knowledge of our air transportation
system. He also brings recognized expertise to our highly complex policy issues. ...Randy will be able to hit the ground running at this critical point in the evolution of our system." National Air Transportation Association President James Coyne said the appointment could have significant impact. "I am hopeful
that Administrator Babbitt's confirmation will carry us over the hump towards passage of a bill that modernizes our air traffic control system, rejects user fees, and invests in airport
infrastructure," Coyne said. The National Air Traffic Controllers Association also congratulated the new
administrator. "NATCA believes that the ultimate success of NextGen is dependent upon collaboration between the union and the FAA," said NATCA President Patrick Forrey. "We hope that is now possible
under Randy's leadership, allowing key NextGen modernization projects, airspace redesign and changes to air traffic control procedures to move forward safely and effectively." Babbitt was formerly an
airline pilot and served as president of the Air Line Pilots Association.
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Five years ago, New York passed a law that exempts general aviation aircraft repairs, maintenance and parts from state sales tax, but that tax break will expire on Dec. 1 if legislators don't re-enact
it. Albany County Airport Authority CEO John O'Donnell told the Albany Times-Union this
week that the exemption created "a substantial boom in business," and he is working for its renewal. In addition, he'd like to see sales tax on aircraft purchases eliminated. Like other states, New
York is looking for ways to boost revenue rather than offer exemptions, but O'Donnell says many nearby states provide sales-tax relief and such taxes can be an important factor when companies are
deciding where to locate. The current exemptions were a factor in deciding to build a HondaJet maintenance facility in New York, Molly Martin Pearce, a spokeswoman for HondaJet East, told the
Times-Union. "Some of our other candidate sites were in states that didn't have this exemption," she said.
NBAA said recently that an onerous luxury tax proposal on business aircraft has been removed from the New York state budget, but
under the current proposal previously exempt transactions could now be subject to sales or use tax at a rate of up to 8.75 percent.
As the first privately built commercial airport in the U.S., Branson Airport got a lot of attention when it opened earlier this month, but another airport is due to open nearby soon -- a municipal general aviation field. While
that's not a first, it happens all too rarely in these times when the news is more often about GA fields closing down. The Branson West Municipal Airport is just about 20 miles from Branson, Mo., and will feature a 5,000-foot airstrip, a taxiway, a terminal building, fuel, and about 30 hangars. The
airfield is now under construction, after years of planning, and is expected to be up and running by this December.
Most of the land was donated to the city, which will invest about $16 million to complete the project. The city hopes to attract business and industry with the new airport. The Branson region is a
popular vacation destination, with more than 50 live music venues, 12 championship golf courses, a theme park and other
The FAA has been experimenting with ways to detect bird movements with radar for quite a while, but since an airliner had to ditch in New York in January after its engines ingested birds, interest in
the systems has intensified. The FAA told the Wall Street Journal this week that a test of
avian radar in Seattle, which started in 2007, has been promising, and new experiments will be
deployed this summer in Chicago and New York. "We're very excited about the technologies out there and the ones to come," said Michael O'Donnell, FAA director of airport safety and standards. The FAA
system still gets too many "false positive" radar returns to be reliable, showing returns from ground equipment, airplanes, weather, and even insects.
However, a company that makes bird-detection equipment for the military told the WSJ its gear is ready now to be deployed in control towers. "The notion that these bird radars aren't ready for
prime time is wrong," said Adam Kelly, chief technology officer for DeTect. "You can tell the difference between small birds that would just be a blood smear on a plane or big birds that could be
catastrophic." DeTect and the FAA have talked about working together but so far the two parties haven't agreed on a plan. The Web site for
DeTect says its operating software was specifically developed to track the unique characteristics of birds and provides superior performance over systems using modified aircraft or marine radar
software. An Air Force user of the system in Nebraska told the WSJ that the most significant problem with the DeTect system is that it can be hard to distinguish between rain and birds, but he said
the system is helpful, especially at night.
Have you signed up yet for AVweb's no-cost weekly business aviation newsletter, AVwebBiz?
Delivered every Wednesday morning, AVwebBiz focuses on the companies, the products and the industry leaders that make headlines in the business aviation industry, making it a must-read.
Add AVwebBiz to your AVweb subscriptions today by clicking here and choosing "Update E-mail Subscriptions."
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Continental Airlines says nine of its senior pilots divorced their spouses so they could collect early settlements of up to $900,000 from the airline's pension fund, and later got remarried.
Continental says the divorces were intended only to secure the cash long before the pilots normally would have been eligible, but at least one of those accused told ABC News that her divorce and later reconciliation were not falsified. Cindy Ernst said her divorce was real,
and her reconciliation was none of the airline's business. Another pilot, Jay Ellis, told the Associated Press: "We were divorced -- that's legal and aboveboard. They can say what they want, but a judge signed ours."
Continental said in its lawsuit that the divorces were "subterfuges or sham transactions" that were motivated solely by a desire to obtain lump-sum distributions from their pension funds. One of
the accused pilots agreed to repay the money and kept his job, but the others have all been fired or resigned. Continental alleges that the pilots continued to live with their spouses after divorcing
and concealed the divorce from friends and relatives. Pilots at other airlines have lost much of their pension after their employers declared bankruptcy, and Continental said that a fear of similar
losses may have motivated the pilots to attempt to get the early payout.
Last week, we asked how the TSA's proposal for security badges at GA airports might affect our readers.
We could have predicted that the most popular response would be it's nonsense and is another nail in the coffin of GA but we have to admit, we were a little surprised
that a full 76% of respondents chose that answer, leaving the second most popular choice (it's a pain but shouldn't cause a lot of problems) behind in the dust (accounting for only 5% of
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 ***
Although the personal air vehicle has long been a goal for dreamers and schemers, new technology seems to be enabling machines that will be able to raise people from the surface but
won't necessarily be airplanes. AVweb wants to know what pilots think about sharing the skies with these devices.
Regardless of the probable cause, the first officer of Colgan Flight 3407 admitted she had never seen ice and couldn't make judgments about it. To AVweb's Paul Bertorelli, that, more than
anything, points to a broken advanced training system in general aviation. And in the latest installment of our AVweb Insider blog, Paul says the aviation press has a hand in it.
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Our sister magazine, Aviation Consumer, wants to hear about your experiences with aftermarket electronic tachometers.
We'd like to know why you installed an electronic tach; which one you chose and why; how easy or complicated the installation and paperwork were; how well you like the product; and whether you'd do it
again. We'd also like to know about any warranty work you may have had and if you're happy with the tach's internal lighting, if any. Please also tell us where you mounted the electronic tachometer
and a rough idea of how much you spent, including installation.
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.
27 Years of the RVator
Over half the airplanes at GNB are Vans homebuilts. In fact, over 6,100 have been completed and are flying. If a 200 mph, 9 gph airplane intrigues you, this is where to learn more. It's 500 pages
of builder and flyer advice written by Vans Aircraft, specifically on the RV-3 through RV-10. Nothing will describe the building experience better, and nothing will be more useful once you
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At Edwards Air Force Base, AVweb's Glenn Pew had the chance to take a quick look around the cockpit of an F-16 Viper F-16 folks never use the official name of "Fighting Falcon" courtesy of military
test pilot Desmond Brophy.
If you're wondering what test pilots are doing in a relatively senior and proven airframe, the answer lies in continuous improvement and the fact that the airframe itself is far from
the only thing that changes the flight characteristics of a modern fighter. These aircraft are inherently unstable, and, though they are flown by pilots, it's computers that keep them in the air.
When changes are made to the hardware, software, or weapons systems that give these aircraft their edge, test pilots are sent up to evaluate the effects of those changes on the aircrafts performance,
capability, and controllability.
But enough with the big picture click the "play" button for your guided tour of the front office.
Economic Challenges Call for Proven Advertising Results AVweb Delivers Results
Since 1995, AVweb has been the most comprehensive no-cost aviation site online. Advertisers reach over 255,000 pilots, aircraft owners, and aviation professionals via a unique and
effective combination of newsletter text messages and web site banner ads. Links send readers directly to advertisers' web sites for instant information.
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We love to hear stories about FBOs going above-and-beyond to make things happen for pilots and their passengers, and our latest "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Utah Jet Center at KLGU in Logan, Utah, where "above and beyond" are just another day at the office. AVweb reader Bruce
Spencer tells the tale:
My wife and I ... landed at Logan for the evening, and I noticed that the left brake was inoperative. We taxied to the Utah Jet Center where a ramp attendant guided us in to park. He asked about out
flight and then asked what they could do for us. I explained that we needed fuel, would like to have the brakes looked at, and that we were looking for a place to stay in Logan for the night. ...
[H]e immediately called a mechanic, offered us a very nice courtesy car, gave us some bottled water, and called three different hotels to check availability and get us a corporate rate. Before we
left for the night he gave us the cell phone number of the mechanic and asked for ours so that the mechanic could contact us. He said they would top off the tanks and tie the plane down for the
About an hour later, we got a call from the mechanic explaining the brake problem, the cost to fix it, and telling us that he would fix it that night and that the plane would be ready in the morning.
When we arrived back at the airport at 7:30 am the plane was fully fueled, the brakes were repaired and the plane was ready to go. ... We were 100% satisfied with our experience with the Utah Jet
Center at Logan airport and would highly recommend them to anyone flying into Logan or stopping there en route to another destination.
We've got lots of great photos to share this week, and they'll be up on the site late in the day on Thursday but we didn't have quite enough time to put out fires Wednesday night and
fight about our favorite reader-submitted photos, so we're saving the fisticuffs for tomorrow. Don't fret: We'll have plenty of great pics for you in Monday's issue of AVwebFlash and on the
home page later today.
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 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.