NewsWire Complete Issue

October 30, 2003
By The AVweb Editorial Staff

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

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FAA Keeps Graphical TFR Promise

New System Online Today...

A year after promising them, FAA Administrator Marion Blakey will announce that real-time graphical depictions of current TFRs will be available on the FAA Web site starting today. Blakey is expected to make the announcement at AOPA's annual meeting in Philadelphia. She made the promise at last year's AOPA Expo in Palm Springs. Agency spokesman William Shumann said the new system will give pilots complete, up-to-the-minute information on TFRs as they are created. Michael Cirillo, the FAA's program director for air traffic planning and procedures, told a media briefing Wednesday that the new system is fully automated and will be refreshed every 15 minutes. Graphical depictions have been available for some TFRs under a test program since June. But Cirillo said the graphics were created manually using commercial charts and proved time-consuming for FAA staff. He said the automated system will "provide better service to pilots" and cut the workload for staff. Shumann told AVweb that staff will be assigned to ensure the information on the site is current and accurate. He said there has been a problem with outdated and expired information remaining on the current site.

...Easy To Use, Help Available

The new graphical TFR site is easily accessed by clicking on the "Pilots: Graphic TFRs" section of the FAA homepage. The click will take pilots to a national map where they can take their pick of TFRs that might affect the flight they are planning. Clicking on the individual TFRs brings up the map, with the TFR shown in red hash marks. There's a layering feature that allows the user to zoom and add major highway and airports, identify major metropolitan areas and place the TFR on a VFR sectional chart. The graphics also include the textual NOTAM descriptions (legal and plain-language) and the whole package can be printed off for ready reference in the air. There is also a 24-hour help desk. Shumann said the new system is part of the agency's overall effort to make TFR information available to pilots as completely and in as timely a fashion as possible. Despite the agency's best efforts to publicize upcoming TFRs, they are routinely violated by GA pilots, who, at best, face a stern talking to by FAA and/or TSA officials and a blot on their flying record. The new graphics couldn't come at a busier time for TFRs. The president is on a four-day trip to his ranch in Crawford, Texas, with a side trip to San Antonio, which started Wednesday, and the wildfires in California have created several TFRs. Although the new system promises to be a vast improvement, Shumann stressed there's no substitute for a full FSS briefing before taking off.

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California’s Wildfires Affect Aviation

SOCAL Approach Evacuated...

Things have returned to "normal" in the skies over southern California, if you can call flying through thick smoke and dodging fire-related TFRs normal. As AVweb reported on Monday, California’s ongoing battle with massive wildfires has taken its toll on aviation operations. Things took a turn for the worse on Sunday when a fire got within two miles of the FAA's Southern California Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) and it was evacuated. The facility, which covers a host of major airports and dozens of GA airports, is the busiest in the country, according to the FAA's William Shumann. "There were lots of delays but things are back to normal in southern California," Shumann told AVweb. As part of the center’s contingency plan, the facility's functions were transferred to a center in the Mojave Desert that normally handles high-altitude traffic. With the San Diego facility temporarily closed, the FAA was able to handle only a portion of the normal air traffic for Southern California airports, resulting in flight delays and cancellations throughout the nation. Shumann explained that airports remained open but airlines made the call to cancel rather than risk long delays in the air or possible diversion.

…LAX Becomes A Parking Lot…

The fires also affected terminal facilities on Sunday, as Los Angeles International Airport officials opted to hold all takeoffs for about half an hour and then only resume departures on a limited basis. Early Sunday evening, FAA controllers at LAX were handling about half the normal hourly arrival rate of 70 aircraft. The reduction in the number of arriving flights was causing delays or cancellations in outbound flights. According to The Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones Newswires, once takeoffs resumed, aircraft were assigned rather unusual procedures, where they were climbing to an altitude of 5,000 feet or more over Santa Monica Bay VFR with apparently no radar coverage. At that point the Mojave facility would initiate radar service. By late afternoon the average delay was down to just over three hours, but the longest delays had grown to more than 16 hours. To increase its operational capability, controllers from the TRACON went to work at the LAX tower.

…And Airlines Cancel Hundreds of Flights

As one would expect, the ATC facility change and the fires themselves caused major headaches for the various airlines servicing the region. Not waiting for LAX to ground their aircraft, many carriers opted to cancel hundreds of flights in the region. As a result, the entire nationwide route system was affected. At LAX alone, more than 250 flights were canceled. Citing dense smoke and impaired air traffic control operations, Southwest Airlines cancelled a total of 152 flights to and from Burbank, Los Angeles, Ontario, Orange County/John Wayne, and San Diego, while America West Airlines said most of its flights in and out of the five airports were either cancelled or delayed. Alaska Airlines also halted flights and by the time the airline was ready to resume flying, aircrews began reaching legal limits on work hours. Either way, some passengers were in for a very long night as hotels quickly filled with the stranded. As far away as Denver, the San Diego State University women's soccer team, on their way home from games at the Air Force Academy, spent the evening waiting in the Denver International Airport's main terminal.

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Solar Flares Cause Communications Problems

Mother Nature can sure cause a lot of static when she wants to. In fact, static was the only thing heard on a few air-carrier-based communication systems on Monday, as a solar storm was blamed for interfering with high-frequency communications. While the storm could last up to two weeks, a powerful flare-up that hit earth yesterday morning was labeled the "third most powerful solar X-ray flare on record, a remarkable X17.2 category explosion," according to The European Space Agency. Although the first flare-up did not cause widespread problems, the second event did disrupt some airline communications bands and cellphones and even caused some difficulties for the firefighting in California. The FAA's William Shumann said the agency's ground-based and satellite systems have been unaffected to date. The storm, called a "coronal mass ejection," sent a mass of intensely radioactive solar gas toward Earth at 2,000,000 mph. And while many aircraft could be affected by the event, some are helping study it. Scientists have loaded specially designed Low Linear-Energy-Transfer Radiation Spectrometers (LoLRSs) on a fleet of Boeing 747s operated by Evergreen International Airlines. As the jumbos fly across the United States and Africa and the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic Oceans, they will help survey aviation-altitude radiation and relate those phenomena to what's happening in the "space weather" outside the atmosphere.

The Dangers Of Telling Bad Jokes

You'd think an airline pilot would know better ... especially after a fellow employee had been brought up on charges in Queens, N.Y., for similar behavior in August ... but an Air France crew member was detained Friday after he allegedly made remarks about the plane blowing up as his baggage was being screened at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. The Associated Press reports (this time) an alarm went off as the pilot's luggage was processed through a screening machine. The pilot was called back to the station for a second screening. As security officials were inspecting his bags, the pilot allegedly joked about the plane blowing up, him blowing up and the story ending up on the front page of The New York Times. The TSA staffers were not amused. The security folks notified Port Authority police, who detained the pilot for questioning. The unnamed pilot was later released but his problems probably aren't over. The airline had to cancel the flight and put passengers on other planes bound for Paris. He also apparently didn't learn from the experience of a fellow Air France pilot. In August, another Air France pilot was arrested after allegedly telling a security screener he had a bomb in his shoe. No explosives were found on the pilot or the plane, but the New York-to-Paris flight he was scheduled for as a co-pilot was canceled. Philippe Rivere, 50, was charged with two counts of falsely reporting an incident. He could face a seven-year prison term if convicted on the first-degree count.

FAA Bill Amended Again

A conference committee of the House and Senate has agreed to strip language relating to the privatization of 69 FAA control towers from the long-delayed FAA Reauthorization Bill but privatization opponents say that's not the end of the debate. The bill, which should have been passed in September, has been held up over the privatization clause and it's still not clear how the latest move will affect its passage. FAA spokesman Greg Martin said the new conference report will likely be put in front of the House today and passage is expected. But passage by the Senate is expected to take longer and Martin said a continuation of the current temporary spending authority, which expires Friday, will almost certainly be required. Martin said the latest incarnation of the bill would maintain the status quo, in which privatization is not directly referenced in the spending authority. Martin maintains that the authority to privatize the 69 towers already exists but hasn't been exercised. But the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) said the new conference report contains a clause that allows privatization of the whole ATC system. "It's time to stop covering up the truth. What it is being proposed in the new conference report still contains language specifically giving the White House authority to contract out our air traffic control system to the lowest bidder," said NATCA President John Carr. Originally, both houses passed the bill with language outlawing ATC privatization and Carr wants that language restored. But Martin said the FAA needs some flexibility to expand the contract-tower program, if necessary, to meet changing demands in the future. "Nobody ever gets everything they want (in legislation)," he said. "There is too much good in [the bill] for it to be held up by the contract tower dispute." The $60 billion bill contains hundreds of millions of dollars in airport and other infrastructure spending that is on hold pending passage by Congress.

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Mineta to Address Space Execs

U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Norman Y. Mineta will address the FAA’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) this morning. Mineta is expected to discuss the department’s interest in the internationally competitive private commercial launch industry. FAA Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation Patricia G. Smith will also address the committee. The COMSTAC panel, responsible for the regulation and licensing of U.S. citizens and companies involved with commercial space vehicles, launches and launch sites, is made up of senior executives from the private space industry, including entrepreneurial firms, large aerospace companies, the satellite industry, space-related state government offices, academia and space advocacy organizations. The group was originally established in 1984 as the DOT’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation but was later transferred to the FAA in 1995. The group will surely make the news again, as it examines the various projects involved with the X-Prize contest .

Coach Seats: Don't Get Mad, Get Even?

Those who are regularly shoehorned into airliners may enjoy Ira Goldman’s new invention. Called the Knee Defender, the beeper-size block of plastic supposedly allows passengers to prevent the seat in front of them from reclining. Although the device has only been for sale about a month now, some debate has arisen in online chat rooms and federal officials are gauging the result of using the device in the air. The discussion centers on whether the Knee Defender would cause confrontations at the flight levels. The safety concerns stem from the design, because the Knee Defender works only when the tray table is down and acts as a barrier to the seat's backward movement. Nevertheless, Alison Duquette, an FAA spokeswoman, told The Associated Press the product violates no FAA regulations, so it would be up to individual airlines to prohibit it. Northwest Airlines has already declared it will ban the Knee Defender from all flights, while other carriers are still investigating the effects of its use. Goldman said he would stop selling the product if the airlines prove it is unsafe, but so far he's not convinced that is the case.

Security And Who We Punish

Nathaniel Heatwole shook the TSA and airline community last week after allegedly placing box cutters, bleach and clay in the lavatories of two Southwest Airlines jets. Now, he’s back hitting the books at Guilford College. A news release from the Quaker school confirmed the junior "has returned to his normal academic and campus life routines." Twenty-year-old Heatwole, of Damascus, Md., was released without bail Oct. 20 after being charged with taking a dangerous weapon aboard an aircraft. His next hearing is set for Nov. 10. While he could face prison time for the federal charges, Heatwole won't be punished by Gilford College because he didn't violate Guilford's student conduct code, Anne Lundquist, dean for student life, told the Associated Press. Heatwole’s case has caused some debate both publicly and within Congress, where some legislators believe he served a public service by exposing the TSA’s weaknesses. Others, including Attorney General John Ashcroft, want to apply the full letter of the law. Nevertheless, some good has come from his antics, as changes have already been made to the current security policy. The TSA announced it revised the procedures for handling tips and complaints it receives from the public after it was discovered that Heatwole allegedly sent an e-mail message -- nearly two months before -- disclosing his plan. The message was never processed.

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On The Fly…

Several TFRs are expected to sprout in Texas this week, as President Bush visits the Lone Star State. Bush is hanging his boots in Texas from Oct. 29 through Nov. 3. He is scheduled to be at his ranch in Crawford through the period, except for a trip to San Antonio on Oct. 30. As with previous presidential visits to Crawford, you can expect a slew of flight restrictions. So please check NOTAMs before flying…

Exactly 100 years since the Wrights' historic flight at Kitty Hawk, a replica model plane is planned to take off from Marco Island Executive Airport as part of a first-ever celebration. The Florida airport’s organizers plan to launch a quarter-scale model airplane replica of the Wright Flyer at the event, where a host of other model and real aircraft that reflect the history of aviation will be flown and displayed. Plans also call for pilots to fly antique planes and give aerobatic demonstrations…

Congress is looking into allegations that Boeing bypassed normal channels of acquisition for its massive Air Force deal for leased tankers. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John W. Warner (R-Va.) claims the $21 billion to $25 billion deal, which calls for Boeing to produce 100 refueling tankers based on its 767-model airliner, was completed under circumstances apart from the normal acquisition process with the Pentagon. The lease could be expanded and eventually bring the aerospace giant a whopping $100 billion in revenue...

Atlanta's City Council has renamed the air carrier airport The Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in honor of former Mayor Maynard Jackson. A new $982 million international terminal will also be named for Jackson, who died unexpectedly last summer. Adoption of the hyphenated name was a compromise between some council members who wanted to strip the Hartsfield name entirely and others who did not. Mayor Hartsfield was Atlanta's longest-serving mayor and is often cited as the father of commercial aviation in the city...

The FAA has published the final final rule on Reduced Vertical Separation Minimum (RVSM) operations. This rule expands RVSM operations to aircraft operating between FL 290 and FL 410 (inclusive). The agency claims some of the benefits of this rulemaking are an increase in the number of available flight levels, enhanced airspace capacity, operations at more fuel- and time-efficient routes and altitudes and enhanced air traffic control flexibility…

The first certified GA airplane ever to be saved by a parachute will be at AOPA Expo. Cirrus Design will be displaying the SR22 that pilot Lionel Morrison was flying when an aileron came loose about a year ago in Texas. He pulled the emergency chute and walked away. Cirrus bought the plane back from the insurance company, fixed the relatively minor damage, and flew it to Philadelphia for the convention.

AVweb's AVscoop Award..

Congratulations and an AVweb hat go out to Skip Howe, 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.

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New Articles and Features on AVweb

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BIZAV
BIZAV
AVweb's expanded coverage of business/corporate aviation continues with extensive coverage of NBAA's annual convention in Orlando.

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AVweb's Picture Of The Week...

*** PREVIOUS RESULTS ***

We received over 100 pictures last week. Congratulations to this week's winner, Dick Lemons, of Kansas City, MO. His picture titled "different View" certainly does provide us with a unique perspective of his flight. The shot was taken of the spot-mirror on the rear "cabanes" of his 1915 Nieuport 11 replica. You’ll notice another Nieuport (Dick Starks) can be seen banking away in the mirror with the Missouri River can be seen just below. Great picture, Dick! Your AVweb hat is on the way.

To check out the winning picture, or to enter next week's contest, go to http://www.avweb.com/potw

Due to privacy issues, AVweb does not publish e-mail addresses of readers who submit photos.

*** THIS WEEK'S WINNERS ***


Click here to view a medium-size version of this image
Click here to view a large version of this image

AVweb continues to receive a large number of excellent images for our POTW contest. Here are some of the runners-up. Click on the links below to view a larger version.

" Last flight of the season"
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" On Silver Wings"
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AVweb's Question Of The Week...

*** PREVIOUS RESULTS ***

We received over 300 responses to our question last week on the Concorde’s retirement. About one third (34 percent) felt the Concorde was never economically viable and never should have entered service in the first place, while 37 percent agreed its caused many financial difficulties but they also felt the supersonic airliner is an engineering marvel. About 12 percent of the respondents thought the Concorde should have not been retired.

To check out the complete results, or to respond to this week's question, go to http://www.avweb.com/qotw.

*** THIS WEEK'S QUESTION ***

This week, we would like to know your thoughts on panel-mounted GPS units. Thanks to Bill Menzel for suggesting this week’s topic.

Have an idea for a new QOTW? Send your suggestions to qotw@avweb.com. Note, this address is ONLY for suggested QOTW questions, and NOT for QOTW answers.

Sponsor News and Special Offers

Access to AVweb and AVflash is provided by the support of our fine sponsors. We appreciate your patronage.

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SPONSOR NEWS

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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 Arturo Weiss:
http://www.avweb.com/contact/authors.html#aweiss
AVweb's editorial team: http://avweb.com/contact/authors.html.

Have a product or service to advertise on AVweb? A question on marketing? Send it to AVweb's sales team: mailto:sales@avweb.com.

Let's all be careful out there, okay?

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