NewsWire Complete Issue

October 27, 2003
By The AVweb Editorial Staff

This issue of AVweb's AVflash is brought to you by …

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San Diego Fires Wreak Havoc

On The Ground, And In The Air

Sunday, Southern California wildfires merged into a miles-long conflagration in the suburbs of San Diego. By early evening yesterday, 11 people were dead, 650 homes were lost, the FAA's Southern California Terminal Radar Approach Control center at MCAS Miramar had been evacuated, and San Bernardino International Airport had become a shelter for more than a thousand area residents. One small plane attempting to land at Montgomery Field "missed the runway due to the smoke, cartwheeling across Highway 163 south of Balboa Avenue shortly after 2 p.m.," officer Phil Konstantin of the California Highway Patrol told SignOnSanDiego.com. Aircraft flying into San Diego's Lindbergh Field and other Southern California airports were held at their departure airports due to the control center closure. Southwest Airlines alone cancelled 152 flights. The "small plane" (no official information regarding type was yet available) caught fire in the crash and was destroyed. The pilot and sole occupant extricated himself and was taken by ambulance for treatment at a local hospital. Fire officials have told local media that only two air tankers had so far been made available for the fight and they were both under-equipped and understaffed to deal with the scope of the conflagration. The fires had burned more than 254,000 acres by Sunday night.

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The Numbers Game

Lobbying For GA Relief...

As the FAA's latest funding bill wends its way through the torturous twists and turns of Congress, amid much noisy debate over privatization issues, another item affecting GA is embedded in the legislation: cash relief to businesses affected by 9/11 and its aftermath. In its latest incarnation, the bill includes $100 million to help FBOs, flight schools, charter operators, manufacturers, and other GA businesses. A group of sympathetic senators last Thursday sent a letter to the Senate's appropriations committee, lobbying for that funding. "[It] will provide the critical support needed ... to revitalize this critical segment of the aviation industry," they wrote. Senators who signed the letter were: John Warner (R-Va.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), George Allen (R-Va.), and Gordon Smith (R-Ore.). Their effort was recognized by National Air Transportation Association President James Coyne. "We once again thank our stalwart supporters for joining the cause to compensate rightfully and fairly those businesses that have suffered immeasurable losses because of airspace and security restrictions imposed upon them by the federal government," Coyne said in a news release last Thursday. "We hope [their] letter will be an influential factor towards ensuring that these funds are appropriated." With current FAA funding set to expire on Friday, the pressure is on to get a new bill authorized, and a vote is expected this week or next.

...While Piston Sales Barely Hold On

Meanwhile, on Friday, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) reported that in the first nine months of this year, deliveries of general aviation airplanes totaled 1,602 units, a 9.3 percent drop from the same period last year, with industry billings dropping 24.4 percent to $6.43 billion. However, one bright spot could be found: Shipments of piston-engine airplanes were up 0.2 percent over the same period last year, from 1,099 units to 1,101 units. It's not much of an upside, but at least it's not a downside, and it could even be seen as a trend. GAMA President Ed Bolen said, "This is the third straight quarter in which piston deliveries have been in positive territory, and we hope that is a harbinger of better days for the entire industry." Bolen added, "The piston numbers, a strengthening economy, and the bonus depreciation are generating cautious optimism among manufacturers." Unfortunately, piston singles were just about the only place positive numbers could be found. Shipments of turboprop airplanes declined 4.1 percent, from 170 units in the same period last year, to 163 units. Business jet shipments decreased from 498 units in the first three quarters of last year to 338 units this year. For the full report, visit GAMA's Web site.

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Same Game, Different Takes

ATC A Defense Function?...

With the House and Senate (not to mention Republicans and Democrats) still wrangling over language about privatization in that FAA funding bill, a bit more fuel was added to the fire last week. Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), chair of the House Aviation Subcommittee, proposed shifting command of the air traffic control workforce to the military. Mica plans to hold a hearing Nov. 6 to discuss the possibility. National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) President John Carr said Mica's idea "recognizes the inherently governmental function of air traffic control, although we believe the military's priority should be military air traffic control, not civilian," Congress Daily reported last Wednesday. However, such a move would prevent air traffic controllers from joining a union, according to Congress Daily. Carr also expressed concern that a military currently fighting the war on terror in Iraq and Afghanistan may already be spread too thin to take on the responsibility of the domestic air traffic control system. Of course, it goes without saying that NATCA would oppose any move that would eliminate union representation for the controllers. "We think we should stick with the system we have now," NATCA spokesman Doug Church told AVweb over the weekend. "It's the best system in the world."

...NATCA Is "Pleased"...

In a news release on Wednesday, Carr elaborated: "We are pleased that Chairman Mica has recognized how important this issue is to aviation safety and we support his premise that air traffic control is an inherently governmental function. You will recall it was the House Aviation Subcommittee, under the leadership of Chairman Mica, that inserted the language prohibiting air traffic control privatization into the FAA reauthorization bill and we again thank the chairman for that work, which the House passed by a vote of 418-8 in June. We are looking forward to participating in Chairman Mica's Nov. 6 hearing." "We welcome the opportunity to explain why the current air traffic control system is the very best in the world and why language prohibiting air traffic control privatization must be reinstated into the pending FAA reauthorization bill."

...But PASS Sees A Diversion

The same reports also brought a swift, and negative, response from the Professional Airways Systems Specialists (PASS), the union that represents FAA systems specialists. "America's armed services are there to respond to threats to our national security," said PASS President Tom Brantley, in a news release on Wednesday. "And they seem to be pretty occupied these days fulfilling their mission. To suggest injecting these dedicated men and women into the middle of a political food fight is just an attempt to divert attention from the real issue at hand -- selling certification of the air traffic control system to private interests." The current version of the bill would allow for systems specialists' jobs to be privatized, the union said. "PASS hopes that Congress will continue to work to pass an FAA reauthorization bill that protects the safety of the entire air traffic control system," Brantley said. "Aviation safety is a national priority and should not become a political football."

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FAA: Be Ready For "Less Is More" RVSM By 2005

Last week, the FAA issued its long-anticipated Final Rule on Domestic Reduced Vertical Separation Minimums (DRVSM), decreeing that on January 20, 2005, the required vertical separation between aircraft above the U.S. at altitudes from 29,000 to 41,000 feet will be reduced from 2,000 feet to 1,000. That means more available routes, which the FAA says will result in greater separation between aircraft. It also means that aircraft who fly at those altitudes must have more-accurate altimeters and enhanced autopilot systems. Those upgrades are costly, and the National Air Transportation Association (NATA) was quick to announce it was "disappointed" in the rule. NATA complained in a news release on Thursday that the FAA failed to take into account the impact on small charter operators who can't afford the required equipment. The FAA said the upgrades will cost $800 million, but the more-efficient routing will save $5.3 billion in fuel costs by 2016. "Implementing RVSM is an important initiative within the FAA's strategic five-year Flight Plan to increase capacity," FAA Administrator Marion Blakey said in a news release Wednesday. "RVSM aids the agency's goal to improve global aviation harmonization." NATA, however, finds that harmonization a bit jarring. "We remain concerned that the FAA has not yet met the spirit or letter of their obligations to the regulated parties, in particular small Part 135 on-demand certificate holders," NATA President James Coyne said. The wait until 2005 gives operators time to install the upgrades, the FAA said. About 3,900 aircraft, or 44 percent of those affected, have already been made compliant, leaving about 4,900 yet to be modified and tested, according to an FAA estimate. Canada, South America, and the Caribbean countries will implement similar rules at the same time as the U.S.

Lancair 350s Flying Off The Shelves

Lancair's bottleneck in its Columbia 350 line broke last week when the FAA OK'd the new model for delivery to owners. The new, all-electric airplane (no vacuums ... it does run on 100LL) has been ready to go since mid-summer, but deliveries were delayed until the FAA certified the S-TEC autopilot and the Avidyne FlightMax Entegra primary and multifunction glass cockpit displays. "The factory is literally bursting at the seams with aircraft that are ready to go to our customers," Lancair V.P. of sales Mark Cahill said last week, in a news release. Now, "The paperwork is done and we're set to hand over the first several customer Columbia 350s." The FAA has signed off the Airworthiness Certificates for the first five Columbia 350s and Lancair began delivering those aircraft last week. The company plans to deliver three or more Columbia 350s each week hereafter. The Lancair Columbia 350 is an evolution of the normally aspirated, 310-hp Columbia 300. The four-place, all-composite aircraft cruises at 190 knots with a range of more than 1,200 miles. "We have added personnel to our pilot training program to handle the increased volume of deliveries," Cahill continued. "We're looking forward to seeing a lot of aircraft fly away in the coming weeks." In addition to added pilot training personnel, The Lancair Company has also extended its training program by a day. "We've added the extra day to provide more depth of instruction on the aircraft's sophisticated avionics systems, such as the PFD and MFD," Cahill said.

New Airport Surveillance Radar Goes All-Digital

The FAA announced last week the nationwide deployment of the first all-digital airport radar system. The Airport Surveillance Radar (ASR-11) will replace older-generation analog radars that are nearing the end of their service life, the FAA said. "Digital radar is a critical component of a modernized airspace system," said FAA Administrator Marion Blakey in a news release. "The ASR-11 feeds more data more reliably to air traffic control for greater safety and efficiency." The ASR-11 performs better than the old surveillance radars and provides improved digital aircraft and weather input needed by the FAA's new air traffic control automation systems, such as STARS (Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System). The first ASR-11 went operational in March at the Willow Grove, Pa., Naval Air Station, and has been providing radar data to STARS at the Philadelphia International Airport. The ASR-11 is a joint FAA/Department of Defense program. The FAA plans to procure a total of 112 ASR-11s from Raytheon of Lexington, Mass., with scheduled deployment completed in 2009. The FAA has procured 25 systems since the contract was awarded in December 1996.

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TSA's Loy Nominated To No. 2 DHS Job

Just a week after telling a Congressional panel that maybe GA is not such a big security threat after all -- remarks that elicited much glee from AOPA, as AVweb reported last Monday -- TSA chief James Loy was nominated by President Bush to fill the No. 2 slot in the Department of Homeland Security. If approved by the Senate, Loy will take over as Tom Ridge's deputy, filling a vacancy created when Gordon England became Secretary of the Navy this month. EAA applauded the nomination. "Admiral Loy has come to adopt a view of general aviation that is generally balanced, fair, and grounded in the need to preserve the American citizen's right to freedom of movement," EAA said in a news release on Thursday. "Most importantly, [Loy] set forth for the congressional record what EAA and others have believed all along; that the perceived security threat posed by general aviation has been consistently overstated in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks." Loy took over the agency in July 2002. TSA Deputy Administrator Steve McHale will serve as acting chief until a successor for Loy is named.

Fossett, Branson Plan Nonstop RTW Solo Flight

OK, it was done already, 17 years ago in Voyager, with Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager in the cockpit. But Steve Fossett wants to be the first to fly *solo* around the world nonstop and without refueling in an airplane. Richard Branson is serving as backup pilot, and Burt Rutan is designing the jet-powered, pressurized GlobalFlyer. The airplane will carry a single Williams FJ44-3 ATW engine, tweaked for this special application. The all-composite aircraft will travel at about 45,000 feet and reach speeds close to 300 mph. The trip is expected to launch from somewhere in the central U.S. sometime next year, and take about three days. In announcing the record attempt, Branson took the opportunity to blast British Airways (BA) for retiring the Concorde -- and turning down his offer to buy the fleet. "At a time when BA is retiring the greatest achievement in aviation of the last century, it is fitting that Virgin Atlantic should unveil a plane which is designed to make the first great aviation achievement of this century. Like Concorde, the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer will be a sleek and slim aircraft but will be super-fuel-efficient." Branson also said the attempt will have some practical benefit: "The manufacturers of the plane and the engine will generate unique data on improving future aircraft efficiency, which will help develop a new generation of more fuel-efficient commercial aircraft." Fossett completed the first solo balloon circumnavigation last year.

Concorde Folds Its Wings

We can argue about its usefulness. We can gag at the overstuffed egos of celebrities who reveled in the supersonic cachet. We can shake our heads over the Ohio man who bought the last two tickets for $60,300 in a charity auction. We can even sympathize with the folks in Queens who are relieved to be rid of the cacophonous takeoffs. But we have to take to heart what news-anchor-emeritus Walter Cronkite wrote last week: "The grounding of the Concorde is as if, after a dozen locations had been interconnected, Alexander Graham Bell and his associates had decided to go no further in their development of the telephone." Concorde, after 27 years in service, still fully functional and unique, flew its last scheduled flight on Friday. Most of the fleet has been promised to museums -- one was delivered this summer to the Smithsonian's new Udvar-Hazy Center -- but it's rumored that British Airways may keep one in flying condition for special occasions, and even return to the U.S. in December for the centennial celebration of the Wright brothers' first flight at Kitty Hawk. However, at its Web site, BA says "it would be too costly to maintain [a Concorde] for occasional use." Which leaves us with the Citation X as the fastest civilian airplane in the sky -- a functional jet, but hardly a romantic or beautiful one, and one that never makes that dazzling, if somewhat unnecessary, drive through Mach 2.

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On The Fly...

Single-Pilot IFR," a free online course, is now available from the AOPA Air Safety Foundation. The 45-minute course qualifies for the FAA Wings Proficiency Awards Program...
Cessna Twins Spar Corporation, a new group formed by twin Cessna owners to address AD issues, is hosting an Open Meeting at AOPA Expo on Saturday...
Raytheon Aircraft's third-quarter report showed sales increased over last year, with 80 deliveries, up from 64 in the same period a year ago...
AnNPRM on sightseeing flights could hurt small operators, charity fundraising, AOPA says...
Oregon's Evergreen Aviation Museum inducted first 10 members of the Oregon Aviation Hall of Honor.

AVweb's AVscoop Award...

Congratulations and an AVweb hat go out to Bob Vila, this week's AVscoop winner. Submit news tips via email to newstips@avweb.com. Rules and information are at http://www.avweb.com/contact/newstips.html.

Reader feedback on AVweb's news coverage and feature articles

http://www.avweb.com/avmail/

Reader mail this week about unusual attitude training, the end of Concorde and more.

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New Articles and Features on AVweb

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COLUMNS
CEO of the Cockpit #25: Centennial
It's a cliche to say the world of 1903 was very different than 2003. But it is instructive to look back at that year and see what kind of world powered flight entered; to see what it meant to the Wright Brothers and to the rest of humanity at the time. AVweb's CEO of the Cockpit takes us back to those days of innocence when the world was much bigger.

Short Final

A controller I know has his personal aircraft hangered at the local Muni airport. Facing his hangar is another that houses a Green Cessna 210. One day that Cessna came into his sector. My controller friend recognized the N number and the exchange follows...

Controller: N123, is that airplane painted green?

Pilot: Uh, yes. ...Why?

Controller: Just checking our new color radar.

Sponsor News and Special Offers

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REMINDERS

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SPONSOR NEWS

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COME BY AND SAY "HELLO" TO AVWEB AT AOPA EXPO AVweb personnel will be at Booth #502 during the AOPA Expo, October 29-November 1, in Philadelphia. And don't forget to tell friends and colleagues about no-cost AVweb/AVflash subscription. They can sign up online at http://www.avweb.com/profile

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We Welcome Your Feedback!

AVflash is a twice-weekly summary of the latest aviation news, articles, products, features and events featured on AVweb, the Internet's Aviation Magazine and News Service. http://www.avweb.com

Letters to the editor intended for publication in AVmail should be sent to mailto:editor@avweb.com.com. Have a comment or question? Send it to mailto:newsteam@avweb.com.

Today's issue written by News Writer Mary Grady:
http://www.avweb.com/contact/authors.html#mgrady
AVweb's editorial team: http://avweb.com/contact/authors.html.

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Let's all be careful out there, okay?

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