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It still has a long way to go, but Tuesday's approval by a key Senate committee was seen as a major step toward getting a new FAA
funding bill passed. The bill would fund the FAA for two years, giving the Obama administration time to come up with its own plans for how to fund the agency (which some suspect will include a fresh
push for user fees). The OK from the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee was a major step, but the bill also must go through the Finance Committee before going to the full Senate for
a vote, AOPA said on Wednesday. That committee will decide whether to extend fuel taxes at their current
level or approve the increase that was included in the version of the bill adopted by the House. The House measure would raise taxes from 19.3 cents per gallon to 24.1 cents for avgas and from 21.8
cents per gallon to 35.9 cents for noncommercial jet fuel, AOPA said.
The Senate bill also would authorize a study of pilot fatigue and require that the findings be considered by the FAA in its coming rewrite of the flight and duty time rules. If it passes, it will
be reconciled with the House version and then sent to the White House for consideration.
The FAA said this week it is ready to change the way it deals with air traffic controllers, but the
controllers union is skeptical. On Monday the agency took what it calls "another step toward a new safety culture," by reducing the emphasis on blame in the reporting of operational errors. "We're
moving away from a culture of blame and punishment," said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt. "It's important to note that controllers remain accountable for their actions, but we're moving toward a new
era that focuses on why these events occur and what can be done to prevent them." Effective immediately, the names of controllers will not be included in reports sent to FAA headquarters about
operational errors, which occur when the proper distance between aircraft is not maintained.
Necessary training will be conducted and disciplinary action taken, if appropriate, the FAA said. Both will be recorded in the controller's record. Patrick Forrey, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, told AVweb the FAA change doesn't go far enough. "We are puzzled by the press release in which the
Administrator claims to be moving towards a safety culture absent blame, yet at the same time, states that controllers could still be disciplined for their actions," he wrote in an e-mail. "This
philosophy is exactly the opposite of a safety culture. A safety culture doesn't look to 'blame'; rather it looks to be proactive in finding problems before they happen."
Forrey said there is already a program in place, the Air Traffic Safety Action Program, to do that. "A key component of a safety culture is
to make controllers feel comfortable in reporting problems so that we can learn and develop procedures to avoid these problems in the future," he said.
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With the start of EAA AirVenture just a few days off, our inbox is flooded with updates and announcements. On Tuesday, an unmanned Predator B landed at Oshkosh, its first landing ever at a civilian
airport. Click here for the video. The folks at the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association are excited about
the new location for the LSA Mall, along one of the main throughways on EAA's redesigned grounds. "Putting many of the top-selling LSA wingtip-to-wingtip has definitely been a winner with [visitors],"
said Dan Johnson, president and chairman of the board for LAMA. Anyone in the market for a new LSA can check out and compare nearly two dozen different models in one stop.
Build A Plane will be debuting the Glasair Sportsman 2+2 that was built last summer by high school kids at Glasair's Two Weeks to Taxi
Program. "All of us at Build A Plane are very excited to show off what kids can do!" said Lyn Freeman, founder of the organization. "When we tell people that this gorgeous airplane was built by high
schoolers, their jaws drop!" Also, EAA this week urged pilots who are flying to Oshkosh via the Lake Michigan shoreline near Milwaukee to watch out for temporary flight restrictions (TFRs) in the area
from July 23 to 26. The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds are performing at the Milwaukee Air & Water Show, scheduled to take place July 24-26 at the Lakefront. The Thunderbirds' air show box extends out
over the lake and officials are cautioning Oshkosh-bound pilots to be aware of the TFRs. "We are very concerned in case there are pilots flying to OSH who may not see the NOTAM and may be flying up
the shoreline on Thursday through Sunday," said Wanda Adelman, of the FAA-Milwaukee ATC. "We don't want anyone to inadvertently get into the air show box."
Click here for more info and maps showing the TFR locations. The Thunderbirds will fly on to Oshkosh after the
show and appear at AirVenture on opening day, Monday, July 27.
Click for video of the Yuneec electric airplane's first flight
The e-Spyder, a single-seat electric-powered ultralight built by Flightstar Sportplanes of South Woodstock, Conn., flew for the first
time last weekend. Company president Tom Peghiny, the test pilot, said the aircraft was a pleasure to fly. "Without the bulk of a two-stroke engine out front, there's much less drag," he told EAA. "This little machine flies very well." Peghiny mounted a Yuneec electric motor, built in China, on the nose of a modified Spyder ultralight, with the controller attached to the
side of the airframe.
Meanwhile, officials from Yuneec are in California this week test-flying their own e430 electric-powered two-seater. The company is working with the FAA to attain experimental exhibition
certification in time for next week's EAA AirVenture at Oshkosh. Peghiny also plans to bring his e-Spyder to Oshkosh, and said he hopes to announce prices then for the kit. He told Wired.com the
aircraft may be for sale by the end of the year, with a price tag under $25,000. Even with two 28-pound lithium-polymer battery packs, the aircraft still fits within the weight restrictions of Part
103. The 20-kilowatt motor produces about 27 hp and can fly for about 40 minutes on a full charge, and the batteries will last for about 250 hours of flying before they have to be replaced. The Spyder
is sold as an easy-to-assemble kit. It's not the only ultralight to fly on electric power -- Randall Fishman built an electric-powered trike a couple of years ago, and others are likely out there or in the works -- we expect to see more at Oshkosh.
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We first saw the Private Explorer back in 1999, when a copy turned up on the experimental flight line at Oshkosh, and recently we heard of a pair that are
working their way across Canada, fitted out for cross-country travel with PT6 turbine engines and amphibious floats. The airplane's cabin is over 7 feet wide and tall enough to stand up in, and in the
rear is a platform for a full-size bed. The interior is fitted out like a camper, complete with galley and a dining area, and screened windows that open wide for ventilation. For complete autonomy in
the backcountry, the airplane also includes a toilet, shower, water pump, and heater. The fuel tanks hold up to 200 gallons for a range of up to 13 hours. The kit was designed by Dean Wilson, who also
designed the Avid Flyer. Explorer Aeronautique, based in Quebec, sells the kits.
The price starts at about $118,000 for the basic kit, firewall back. An engine, propeller, instruments, floats, and interior fittings are extra. The company's owner, Bernard Laferriere, 56, was killed in April as he was flying home from Sun 'n Fun in an Ecoflyer, the pudgy-looking LSA that his company had been
NexAir Avionics, based in Mansfield, Mass., this week introduced the Saratoga NX, a spinner-to-tail modernization of Piper's single-engine
six-seater. The NX features an Avidyne Integra Release 9 integrated flight deck and a zero-time factory remanufactured engine. The interior has been spiffed up with added soundproofing, leather
seating, a center-console drink cooler, a DVD entertainment system for the back seats, and a fold-down work table. Other new features include AmSafe airbag seatbelts and improved ergonomics.
The result is an airplane that is "better-than-new," says NexAir President David Fetherston, at a fly-away price of less than $400,000. Owners of Saratogas from model years 1980 to 2004 can
transform their airplanes into an NX for less than $250,000, he said. New features from LoPresti include a cowling that improves engine cooling, flap gap seals that add knots to cruise speed, and
exterior lighting. And it's all wrapped up in a sleek new paint scheme. The program "essentially creates a new aircraft that's better equipped and costs far less than a new or late model version,"
Fetherston said. Depreciation and insurance costs also are less than for a new airplane. Owners interested in the upgrade can keep their current engines if they're low-time and in good condition,
NexAir said. The Saratoga NX will be on display at EAA AirVenture at Oshkosh next week, in Booth No. 354. Piper is no longer building the Saratoga.
Aircraft Spruce at EAA Airventure Oshkosh 2009!
Visit the Aircraft Spruce booths at AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin in Hangar A (Booths 1022-1029), on July 27 - August 2 from 9:00am to 5:00pm. Take advantage of some of your favorite
products on sale, complimentary ground shipping (does not apply to hazardous or oversize products) and a helpful staff to answer all your questions. Don't forget to pick up a copy of the new
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In an online news conference on Monday, Virgin Galactic president Will Whitehorn said the WhiteKnightTwo space launch
vehicle is ready to launch and will arrive at Oshkosh for the EAA AirVenture opening airshow at about 2:30 p.m. on Monday July 27. "It's an amazing vehicle," he said. The aircraft, which is the
largest aircraft ever built by Scaled Composites, has a wingspan of 140 feet and is capable of lifting 17 tons to altitudes of 50,000 feet and more. So far it has flown 14 times and accumulated about
45 hours of flight time. Besides the plane's initital space-tourism mission, it will also be used for space science and to launch satellites into orbit. "What we're seeing is the dawn of a new
industrial revolution in space," Whitehorn said. WhiteKnightTwo will also fly on Tuesday and Thursday, and will remain on static display all week until it heads home to Mojave at roughly 10 a.m.
Scaled Composites President Doug Shane said everyone at the company is excited about bringing the aircraft to Oshkosh. "We'll be sending along a large team from Mojave," he said. Whitehorn said the
construction of SpaceShipTwo is nearly complete and he expects it to fly for the first time by the end of this year.
Sadler Aircraft Company, of Roseburg, Ore., will be at EAA AirVenture next week showing off the latest version of their Vampire airplane. The
company has spent three years on research and development to develop a new interior and prepare the design, derived from military aircraft, for the LSA market. "We're really excited to go from R&D to
delivering airplanes," said company VP David Littlejohn. "This has been a long road, especially in a challenging economy. I think light sport aircraft are going to emerge as true value leaders in the
aviation community, and the Vampire should really deliver on that front."
The Vampire is not your typical LSA. It's built on a scaled-back air-to-ground fighter plane airframe, stressed to more than plus-or-minus 6 g's. It's powered by a pusher prop that sits between
twin tail-booms. The wings double-fold vertically, to make it easy to transport on a trailer or to store between flights. And the cabin doors are wide with a low entry point, which the company says
makes entry more like stepping into a sedan than climbing into a cockpit. The Vampire LSA will be on display at space 77 at AirVenture. "We took a lot of our cues from the automotive industry when it
came to designing the interior of the Vampire," said Littlejohn. "So wherever we could add creature comforts we tried to do that. We wanted the interior to attract both pilots and potential pilots.
And we also wanted to keep it on the lower end of the LSA price spectrum." While a fully loaded Vampire reaches well into the six-figure price range, you can get a well-equipped model for under
$100,000, the company said.
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To locate a body on the celestial sphere, one uses a coordinate system analogous to that used on the Earth. "Latitude" north and south from the celestial equator is measured in degrees and is
called declination. The analog of longitude is the Greenwich Hour Angle, or GHA, and it is measured westward from a particular spot on the celestial sphere, arbitrarily selected, called the "first
point of Aries." Think of Aries as the analog of the prime meridian or Greenwich meridian.
But, since the celestial sphere is moving westward at 15° per hour, the big trick in celestial navigation is knowing your time. For a particular date and time, the Air Almanac gives, in
tabular form, the GHA of Aries for stars and also individual GHAs for the Sun, Moon, and selected planets. But what you really want to know is where the celestial body is with respect to your
position. For this, you need the Local Hour Angle (LHA), which is simply the GHA minus your longitude (for the Western Hemisphere).
Now, you can go into the Sight Reduction Tables for Air Navigation for an assumed latitude and LHA, which is based on your estimated position, and read the expected height (Hc) and bearing (Zn) for
the body you are going to shoot. You don't have to be real close with your estimated position, but you need to start with an assumed point on the globe for this to work. That's why dead reckoning is
king for celestial navigation. I'd argue that it should be for all IFR pilots, but that's another matter.
The celestial shot is taken using an aircraft sextant that has a bubble level to establish the horizon. This is different from a marine sextant that uses the visible horizon. The scene through the
sextant eyepiece has vertical and horizontal cross hairs. The bubble is kept centered by slightly tilting the sextant left and right and fore and aft. The body is kept centered by rotating the sextant
so the vertical hair is on the body and by using your right thumb on an external knob to change the observed height and keep the body on the horizontal hair.
The sextant has a two-minute timer. When the time runs out, a shutter drops down and blocks the view of the body. By realigning indices on the timer, you then read the average "observed height"
(Ho) directly from the altitude counter.
The LOP is then plotted by calculating a distance from the assumed position. If the Ho is greater than the Hc, the distance in miles is plotted toward the body, in the direction of the Zn. If the
Ho is less than Hc, the distance is plotted away from the body. Once you have that distance relative to your assumed position, you can draw a line perpendicular to the Zn on the chart. This is an LOP
and your real position is somewhere on that lineassuming no errors.
When I was flying the North Atlantic with the Air Force's Military Air Transport Service (MATS) (today's MAC) in the late '50s and early '60s, there were still large areas of these oceans that were
without any electronic navigation aids. We navigators would pride ourselves in being able to shoot and plot a three-star fix in about 15 minutes. We would pre-compute the shots so the Hc and Zn for
each would be listed on our shot form.
For a three-star fix, you would have your shot times four minutes apart because the LHA would change an even one degree each four minutes (remember, the Earth rotates 15° per hour) and this
"simplified" the computations.
Assuming a fix time of 0100Z, the first shot would be timed for 0052Z and the second for 0056Z. Since we were getting a two-minute average, the first shot would start at 0051 and end at 0053. The
second shot would start at 0055, so that gave us two minutes to hop down from the sextant, finish computing and plotting the first LOP, set the sextant up for the second shot, and get our eyeball on
the next star, ready to start the timer.
We would do the second and third star the same way. By 0105Z we could have the fix plotted and, by comparing our current position with our last known fix, provide an updated wind, true course and
ground speed, as well as a new compass heading, to the pilot.
Walk the Line
From time to time, I reflect with empathy on the task that Fred Noonan had on his ill-fated flight with Amelia Earhart to Howland Island in 1937. Fred was well-experienced, having established most
of the Pan Am's China Clipper seaplane routes across the Pacific. Noonan and Earhart left Lae, New Guinea, in late morning local time for the roughly 2200-mile, 20-hour flight, with a planned arrival
at Howland after sunrise, about 8 a.m. local time. That gave Noonan all night for three-star navigation and a morning arrival to find the little island.
Based on Earhart's last few voice transmissions, "We are on the line 157 337 ...," Noonan was using a navigation technique called celestial landfall. Celestial landfall requires intentional
off-setting the track to the left or right of the intended course, so that when the craft gets abeam the destination the navigator knows which way to turn.
The approach to Howland was quite literally the textbook reason for the landfall technique. With only a single celestial body to shootthe SunNoonan had good information to determine his
groundspeed but nothing for course guidance, because their true course was about 082° and the Sun's Zn was 067°. If that's not clear, think about it this way: They were flying toward the
rising sun, so Noonan could calculate the distance toward the sun with good precision and know how fast they were moving along the course. Deviation north or south of the planned course, however,
would be tough to calculate, as their LOP would run 157° to 337°.
I would guess that Noonan altered course to put them perhaps 60 miles north of their flight-planned true course. About an hour prior to his ETA, he would have taken a sun shot that gave him the
157°-337° LOP. Using his latest computed ground speed, he would have slid that LOP forward on the chart to where it would run through Howland.
Then he would have taken up a course that was perpendicular to the LOP, in this case 067°, and would have computed a dead reckoning position and time for intercepting the LOP. When they
reached that time, they would have turned right to about 157° to fly down the LOP to Howland. That turning point, the dead-reckoning position, may have been on the order of 60 miles or about 30
minutes flying time from Howland.
During those 30 minutes there might have been a bit of conflict in crew imperatives. My experience with the South Pacific is that it is common to have wide stretches of scattered-to-broken,
fair-weather cumulus clouds with bases as low as 1000 feet and tops somewhere around 3000 feet. Noonan would have wanted to stay on top to keep shooting the Sun to make sure the LOP continued to fall
through Howland. Earhart would have wanted to drop down to see the island. Unfortunately, each of those little clouds has a shadow that looks just like a flat island.
Back to the Future
For today's IFR pilot, a lot of things have to go wrong for you to need to fall back on an E-6B, dead reckoning, and a terrestrial landfall. And few of us really know how to use these techniques
anymore. We still use lines of position, in a sense, because GPS is based on a similar set of principles.
But there is still real value in knowing your estimated position as both a point on the chart and a time hack. It matters because your GPS can lose its mind or its satellites. It matters because
it's good tonic against confusion on an instrument approach. It matters because the simple act of bothering with such details promotes a self-discipline that works its way into all your flying.
And perhaps you'll find some amusement in a connection with the navigators of yore who used the original GPS: Gienah, Procyon, and Sirius. Some things are fun to know, just because.
Why bother knowing about celestial navigation? No reason, says IFR magazine editor Jeff Van West except that it's part of being a better pilot all around. Jeff makes the case (and
shares his insights on a recent article from IFR) in the latest installment of our AVweb Insider blog.
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Last week, we asked which aviation trade shows you'd be attending (or have already attended) in 2009.
We were a bit surprised by the responses mostly by the fact that 63% of those who responded aren't attending any trade shows this year. The next largest segment of
respondents (18%) said they won't be attending any of the four major shows we listed (AOPA, NBAA, AEA, and Heli-Expo) but they will be going to other trade shows.
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 ***
It's time for EAA AirVenture, and we want to know which big-name attraction is the most highly anticipated by AVweb
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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Now that he's tidied up the mess he made over this global warming thing, Paul Bertorelli has some comments on 40th anniversary of
the lunar landing. He's actually old enough to remember that what was most impressive about it is how quickly the program progressed.
Competition leads to innovation, but it can also lead to secrecy and self-interest that may just slow down the development of new technologies. In the latest installment of our AVweb Insider
blog, AVweb's Glenn Pew wonders if the fractured race for electric airplane supremacy may actually be slowing development of the necessary technology and costing the U.S. its dominance in this
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Bendix/King by Honeywell is helping us give away another AV8OR handheld MFD unit to celebrate EAA AirVenture Oshkosh! All you have to do is click the image at right to enter your name and
e-mail address. And no, we're not going to rent or sell your name, but Bendix/King by Honeywell may send you information on the AV8OR. You may also forward this newsletter to friends and invite them
to sign-up for AVweb's EAA AirVenture 2009 coverage and qualify for the AV8OR prize drawing, too. (We won't spam them, either, but we will send them our e-mail news Flashes.)
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It's not just the little guys struggling for attention who provide great FBO experiences out there. This week, AVweb reader Ron McCormick tells us about Waynesville-St. Robert Cities Aviation, serving Fort Leonard Wood and the surrounding Missouri community.
"They are the only FBO on the field but do no act like it," writes Ron. "The manager was very helpful in negotiating this military/civilian airport ... and helped carry luggage in loading and
unloading the plane. ... If you need to go to Ft. Leonard Wood or are in the St. Roberts/Waynesville area, stop in at TBN; it is easy to in out of the miliary base [if] you just show your driver's
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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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 ***
We're gearing up for EAA AirVenture even as we prepare this week's edition of "POTW" and so, apparently, are many of you! If you're coming to Oshkosh, we look forward
to meeting you (or seeing you again) at the show. And if you're not, you can keep the home fires burning by submitting a few photos for possible inclusion in
our post-AirVenture edition. (As is traditional, "POTW" will be on hiatus next week as we bring you the sights and sounds of Oshkosh.)
James M. Payne of Grand Blanc, Michigan took this photo at Thunder Over Michigan, but it's just as evocative of Oshkosh. James notes that he
"got tired of shooting around this umbrella" and decided to "include it in a couple of shots." We think the contrast of storm clouds with the Angels is brilliant!
And don't forget that we'll be on hiatus next week, with "POTW" returning the week following AirVenture.
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.
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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.