November 10, 2003
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
This issue of AVweb's AVflash is brought to you by
For nearly two years, AVweb has reported on the latest business aviation news with our monthly BizAv feature. Thanks to growing reader demand for more detailed and timely business aviation coverage, beginning this week we're happy to announce our new Business AVflash service. Modeled after our successful AVflash news service, this twice-monthly news report will bring you the latest business aviation news on a more timely basis, and we'll be able to cover more stories in greater depth than we could with our monthly BizAv. Of course, Business AVflash comes to you at no charge, thanks to our great advertisers.
Business AVflash will roll out this week -- on Wednesday morning -- but to receive it in your mailbox, you'll need to login to your AVweb account and register for the service (clicking the "register for the service" link from today's AVflash will bypass this step and register you for the service, automatically). Business AVflash will offer a new spin on business aviation reporting, with a strong focus on general aviation business developments that are of critical interest to our readers. Aside from breaking news, we'll also publish profiles on the companies, the products and the industry leaders that make headlines in the business of aviation. Of course, AVweb will continue to add its unique flavor to the reporting and writing in Business AVflash. Our new business news service will follow the same format we've offered in the past -- specifically our familiar e-mailed bulletin and our expanded, illustrated coverage available at the click of a link to the AVweb site. This option allows you to read the entire scoop online or just the abbreviated version at an e-mail address of your choosing. We hope you enjoy our new service and look forward to your comments.
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A new system that can keep track of just about anything moving around an airport has been certified by the FAA but its remarkable capabilities are being eclipsed by the speed, efficiency and cost effectiveness with which it was deployed. The Airport Surface Detection Equipment system went live at General Mitchell Field in Milwaukee a few weeks ago and not only was it within its $27 million budget and delivered in just over three years, it works so well that other airports are skipping the lineup for an FAA-funded system (33 systems are planned over the next four years) and paying to install it themselves immediately. Not bad for a system which, according to The Washington Post, the FAA didn't even want and had to be forced into pursuing. The system, developed by a small Syracuse company called Sensis Corp., was actually about five months behind schedule but that was mainly because Raytheon, which supplies a major part of the system, was five months late fulfilling its part of the bargain. Considering many FAA technology projects often lag years behind schedule and cost more (sometimes much more) than predicted, the ASDE-X system is being hailed as validation for the agency's new procurement system, which sets fixed costs, imposes penalties for delays and involves monthly meetings to flag and resolve problems, rather than sending a blizzard of memos back and forth.
The system uses a combination of radio signals and radar to give tower controllers a comprehensive view of what is on the field and where it's going. This "multilateration" technology is a big step up from previous systems and is a "needed safety improvement," according to the Department of Transportation's Inspector General Ken Mead. Vehicles and aircraft are equipped with radio transponders that report to sensors placed strategically around the field. Anything larger than a minivan that doesn't have a transponder is picked up by radar. The system constantly gathers all the information from both systems and funnels it into a computer that creates a screen display for controllers, which shows them the accurate location of every moving object on the field. The system also learns from its mistakes by adapting to false returns from buildings and trees. The Dallas-Fort Worth and Louisville airports are buying the system up front and Seattle-Tacoma is thinking of doing the same. Of the 33 FAA deployments, 24 are new installations and nine are upgrades of older systems.
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Cessna appears to be in no hurry to fill its third "leadership" vacancy in 16 months. Last week, longtime Cessna exec Charlie Johnson announced he was retiring for undisclosed personal reasons, although he told The Wichita Eagle his recent health problems played a role. Johnson, 60, has worked for Cessna for 24 years and took over leadership of Cessna in March when longtime chairman Russ Meyer assumed a non-executive position after filling in for CEO Gary Hay. Senior VP Jack Pelton has been running things since August when Johnson went on sick leave and no changes are currently planned. "Jack's doing a fine job with the senior leadership team," said spokeswoman Marilyn Richwine. Johnson began his aviation career as an F-105 pilot in Vietnam. After the war, he became Arnold Palmer's personal pilot before joining Gates Learjet. In 1979, he was lured to Cessna by Meyer and rose through the middle management ranks to become chief operating officer. Johnson's departure shouldn't cause any sort of management problems at Cessna, according to an industry analyst. Despite the tumultuous times in the bizjet industry, Peter Arment, of JSA Research, told the Eagle that Cessna has plenty of depth in senior management and plenty of people who have weathered similar storms. Cessna has laid off 3,500 people and more cuts are possible if it expands outsourcing of work.
The FAA is looking at revising its enforcement policy for pilots who bust TFRs and the Washington ADIZ. Agency officials told a recent meeting of the GA Coalition that federal security agencies are not in favor of a flexible system of enforcement that takes mitigating factors into consideration. In fact, according to EAA's account of the meeting, the Secret Service initially wanted criminal charges laid against wayward pilots. Coalition Chairman Tom Poberezny urged the FAA to adopt a uniform policy that allows remedial action, counseling and even amnesty for pilots who mistakenly enter restricted airspace. The meeting attendees were told that almost 2,800 violations have been recorded so far, about half of them in the Washington ADIZ and Camp David TFRs. The zone around the president's ranch in Crawford, Texas, and the Bush family compound in Kennebunkport, Maine, also rack up high numbers, as do the traveling TFRs that follow the president around the country. Poberezny has chaired the coalition for two years and is handing over leadership to Ed Bolen, president of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association.
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Authorities are investigating the fatal midair collision of two Robinson helicopters at the company's home airport in Torrance, Calif., Thursday. Two people died in an R-44 that was taking off when it collided with an R-22 that was landing. The pilot of the R-22 was taken to hospital with leg and head injuries. FAA spokesman Donn Walker said the aircraft were less than 200 feet above the ground when they contacted. Witnesses told NBC the R-44 plummeted straight down to the runway and exploded while the R-22 crashed in a nearby cornfield. The R-44 was on a training flight. The company did not immediately comment.
If you think it couldn't happen to you at your small, safe, everyone-knows-everyone-else local airport, Albert Paul, of Bergen County, N.J., would beg to differ. Nearby Lakewood Municipal Airport is planning to install a perimeter fence and a security gate after Paul's Cessna was hot-wired and flown halfway across the country to Minnesota, via Canada, last August. Richard DeMartini was arrested a month later after the plane was found at Springfield Municipal Airport near his Minnesota home. It had been only slightly damaged. Lakewood Township Airport Authority chairman Richard Orne said they're working on putting up an eight-foot chain-link fence topped with barbed wire around the airport and installing an electronic passkey gate in direct response to the theft. He said the airport authority board members were "flabbergasted" by the theft, which apparently happened in front of an airport employee. Although authorities quickly ruled out terrorism as a motive for the theft, the airplane's owner is wondering why he wasn't interviewed by security agencies, and he's also wondering how the aircraft was allowed into Canada on a refueling stop.
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A European engine manufacturer says owners can count on at least 2,400 hours of service from their product even though the FAA says each engine must be replaced (not overhauled) after 1,000 hours. The FAA certified Thielert's 135-horsepower diesel last week but set a 1,000-hour initial Time Before Replacement (TBR); Thielert countered. Each engine comes with a 2,400-hour prorated warranty, meaning a replacement for any engine timed out at 1,000 hours should only cost a fraction of the $19,000 initial purchase cost. Thielert spokesman Sebastian Wentzler told AVweb they're working on a "life extension program" to establish engine life at 2,400 hours and, with about 10,000 hours total on the engines overseas, inspection intervals of the engine components have already been increased. The engine is based on a Daimler-Chrysler automotive engine. FAA certification came only after a thorough examination of Thielert's processes and standards and assurances that the automotive components would stand up. FAA Administrator Marion Blakey said the agency wants to embrace new technology as long as safety isn't compromised. "With some modification and ingenuity, we have an engine that has gone from the pavement to the sky," she said.
Canadian commercial pilots are trained to handle everything the vast (and often forbidding) country can throw at them and don't need special training for Northern flying, says a Transport Canada official. Michel Gaudreau was responding to the findings of a coroner's inquest into a crash that ultimately killed four people in the Northwest Territories almost two years ago. The jury recommended special training and even a probation period for inexperienced pilots tackling the often unpredictable conditions in the North. It also recommended new-generation ELTs be on board all aircraft flying in the North. Michel Gaudreau said the agency's experience standards for commercial pilots (100 hours PIC, 200 hours TT) along with the training and testing they undergo prepares them to fly anywhere in the country. "Once a pilot meets a certain standard ... he meets the standards to fly anywhere in Canada whether it's in the high-density traffic of the South or whether it's in the isolation of the North." A 23-year-old man was at the controls of the Ursus Air Cessna 172 when it hit a mountain in the Northwest Territories on Dec. 31, 2001. One passenger died in the crash, while the pilot and two others died of exposure awaiting rescue.
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About 1,000 people turned out to see the last landing of a Concorde at Seattle's Boeing Field. Rumor has it the jet was allowed supersonic passage by Transport Canada, facilitating a record-setting New York-to-Seattle run of less than 3 hours, 56 minutes. The British Airways plane will become part of the Museum of Flight collection. Tours start for museum members on Nov. 22 and for the public Nov. 28...
Presidential candidate Howard Dean believes the space program should get out of earth orbit. In The Washington Post's reader forum, Dean said the shuttle program should be shut down in favor of a manned flight to Mars, but only after the budget is balanced...
Cult filmmaker Quentin Tarantino may make an airplane disaster movie. The director said he'd like to reunite cast members from Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown for what he described as "Airport 2005." Dean Martin would be played by John Travolta...
Bob Hope was a regular, and soon the airport he frequented might bear his name. Burbank airport officials have approved changing the moniker but the city councils of Pasadena, Burbank and Glendale must also approve. Changing all the letterhead will cost $250,000 but a televised fundraiser is planned to cover the costs...
The man who helped Jimmy Doolittle pioneer instrument flight died Sept. 29. Raymond D. Kelly was 102. Kelly also invented the heated pitot tube and pushed U.S. airlines into the jet age with a study that showed they'd make more money in big jets than in smaller turboprops.
Congratulations and an AVweb hat go out to Gary Thayer, this week's AVscoop winner. Submit news tips via email to email@example.com. Rules and information are at http://www.avweb.com/contact/newstips.html.
Reader mail this week about ATC privatization, the Enola Gay exhibit, sharing the airspace with mini-jets and more.
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Overheard recently -- while I was literally on short final, in fact:
Tower: Cessna XXX, you said you were at taxiway Alpha One? Alpha Two?
Cessna XXX: Uh... We're holding at Alpha Three.
Tower: Right. One plus Two equals Three.
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