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AOPA launches its new version of the former AOPA Expo in Tampa this week, and despite the stubbornly down economy, organizers expect a full exhibit hall and attendance close to what it was for the
last Tampa event, four years ago. "The AOPA Aviation Summit will still have the wide variety of exhibitors and aircraft displays, educational
opportunities and social events that have become hallmarks of our annual convention and trade show," said AOPA President Craig Fuller. "But we are dramatically increasing the participation of
government and industry leaders, making it easier to really delve into the issues that face us and give members and others the opportunity to get first-hand answers to the questions that concern
them." The summit aims to bring together leaders from the industry, advocacy groups, and government in support of GA's future. AVweb will be on site all week to bring all the news, video, and podcasts
straight to you from Tampa.
New this year, AOPA will be broadcasting some of its events live on the Internet, and in some discussions viewers can log on and ask questions in real time. Airportfest at nearby Peter O. Knight
Airport will showcase a wider spectrum of aircraft than in the past, with hot-air balloons and LSAs as well as the usual piston airplanes. Visitors can stop in at AOPA's Learn To Fly tent, where they
can take a turn in a simulator or sign up for a $70 demo flight. Excellent VFR Florida weather is expected to persist for the duration, for those who choose to fly in.
With more than 1,000 orders for its Skycatcher LSA booked, Cessna is moving apace to bring the airplane into series production, and it showed up at AOPA Summit in Tampa with a conforming airplane.
Cessna's Kirby Ortega told AVweb the airplane in display was built in Wichita, although the wings which we inspected carefully were manufactured in China. Detailing looks good
throughout the aircraft, and gone is the purple paint of the proof of concept version. Ortega showed us changes in the wing it's a little thicker to improve lift and changes to the tail
to increase spin resistance. Oretega said Cessna plans to deliver at least one Skycatcher before year's end and to ramp up production to 300 to 400 a year going forward.
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Small general aviation airports around the country have raked in $1.1 billion in federal "earmarks" since 2001, USA Today reported this week. The earmarks are funds requested by lawmakers to support specific projects. USA Today says corporate jets, private pilots, and cargo operators like UPS and FedEx have benefited at the expense of taxpayers and the traveling
public. NBAA, EAA, and AOPA were quick to respond. "Unfortunately, the vital contributions provided by community airports, and the millions of people who rely on them, were completely missing from
your coverage," NBAA President Ed Bolen wrote to the newspaper. EAA's Earl Lawrence, vice president of industry
and regulatory affairs, also weighed in: "The continuing inference that the only airports that are worthy of support are those with commercial service is similar to saying the only roads worth
maintaining are those used by passenger buses," he wrote. AOPA President Craig Fuller responded: "USA Today has done its readers a disservice by failing to present all the facts ... regarding
aviation funding." Like most big companies, USA Today's parent company Gannett Co. Inc. has a corporate flight department, which includes a Falcon 2000 and fractional shares in other aircraft. AVweb
has contacted Gannett to inquire about its use of general aviation airports and facilities and is expecting a response later today.
If this all sounds a bit familiar, it's because this week's USA Today report expands on a story published in September that touched on similar themes, and prompted a similar response from the GA
advocacy groups. Click here for our report on that story, and click here for a post at the AVweb Insider blog by editor Russ Niles, which led to a lively discussion among our
readers about the issues raised.
Barrington Irving, the Youngest Pilot to Solo Around the World, Flies with a Lightspeed Zulu
After being isolated in the cockpit for 10-12 hours at a time, he continues to be impressed with the level of quality and reliability. Come to booth 831 at the AOPA Summit and see for
yourself why Barrington feels this way about his Zulu. Or
Lightspeed's web site
and see the dozens of other stories from pilots who say Zulu has changed their minds.
When Adam Leon, 31, took off from an Ontario flight school in a stolen Cessna 172 last April and flew across the border into the U.S., it was an act of desperation -- he was suicidal and hoping
that he would be shot down, his lawyer said. But this week, a federal court in St. Louis sentenced Leon to two years in prison. "This is very serious," U.S. District Judge Charles Shaw said, according
to the Chicago Tribune. "Under the guidelines, this is
treated like a stolen car.... I think this is an extraordinary situation in terms of cost and the hours involved." After Leon crossed the border without permission, the airplane was pursued by two
F-16s as well as a U.S. Customs and Border Protection airplane.
Leon was a student at a flight school in Thunder Bay, and used his student key card to gain access to the airplane, without authorization. When the fighters didn't shoot him down and the airplane
ran low on fuel, Leon said, he looked for an airport but couldn't find one, so he landed on a rural road. He was arrested by the highway patrol. Leon also said he regretted his actions. "I wanted to
end my life," he said, "but God gave me a second chance."
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The FAA has tightened up its treatment of pilots convicted of alcohol-related driving offenses. In the latest issue (PDF) of the Federal Air Surgeon's Medical Bulletin, AMEs are advised that first-time DUI and DWI
offenders don't necessarily escape the agency's scrutiny as they have in the past. As noted by Aero Legal ServicesUnder the new rules, anyone whose blood-alcohol content was measured at higher than .15 percent or who refused to provide a sample will automatically
have their case referred by the AME to FAA headquarters. The FAA medics will then insist that the pilot applicant undergo a substance abuse assessment. Previously, on first offenses, AMEs had to
review court records and make the call on whether the applicant had a problem. It's been suggested the tougher rules might tempt offenders to lie about it on their medical but that will likely make
In the fine print on the medical form is permission granted to the FAA to cross check the pilot applicant with the National Driver Registry, which compiles driving records. If the FAA gets a hit on
the registry and then discovers the pilot didn't disclose the offense on the medical form, justice is swift and harsh. The FAA hates liars so the penalty for omitting the alcohol-related event (or
anything else, including arrests that don't lead to conviction) is immediate revocation. There's also a requirement to report these offenses within 60 days of occurrence, regardless of the time
remaining on a pilot's medical certification and failure to do so results in an immediate suspension.
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While the FAA continues to work on long-awaited new rules to cope with pilot fatigue, the Air Line Pilots Association this week announced its own new policy, which it says is based on the latest science and three years of work. "With the
FAA's commitment to issue a new proposed flight- and duty-time rule by the end of the year, ALPA seized the opportunity to improve the safety and quality of work life for airline pilots by forging the
strongest policy possible," ALPA President John Prater said on Tuesday. ALPA's policy takes into consideration seven different aspects of fatigue: rest, duty, extension of duty, cumulative fatigue,
augmentation, reserve, and fatigue risk management systems.
The time of day is also taken into consideration, in recognition of the impact of circadian rhythms on fatigue --- for example, a pilot who reports for work between midnight and 4 a.m. would be
restricted to a shorter overall flight-duty period for that day than a pilot whose day starts between 7 a.m. and midnight. "We won't know what is in the FAA's proposed rule until it is published,"
said Prater. "But if the FAA considers ALPA's new policy, and those of the other international aviation safety organizations, the result should be a regulation that sets the pace for progress in
combating pilot fatigue around the globe."
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"Please Turn Off Your Personal Electronic
North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan will propose a measure to ban the use of laptop computers and other "personal electronic devices" in airliner cockpits in response to the distraction of two Northwest
Airlines pilots last month that they say led to their missing their destination of Minneapolis. Dorgan, chairman of the aviation subcommittee, told the Associated Press he was surprised that the use
of such devices isn't specifically outlawed and that clearly there's a need for that kind of guidance. "We now understand from this flight at least that this can happen and there ought to be a more
clear understanding by everyone in the cockpit that there is a national standard that would prohibit this and that they need to take it seriously," said Dorgan, D-N.D. His staff is currently working
on the wording of the measure, which he confirmed will exempt electronic flight bags. There are a lot of other definitions that need to be nailed down, however.
The AP story mentions DVD players, MP3 players and "other devices" as being subject to the ban. There's also the question of what constitutes an airliner and whether other types of paying passenger
services will be included in the ban. And since there's another law that requires the cockpit to be locked during flight, enforcement becomes another discussion point. Dorgan expects to have the bill
ready next week and told the AP that he expects it to be included in a larger aviation bill (FAA Reauthorization?) to be considered by the Senate.
Last week, we asked what disciplinary measures might be appropriate for the crew of Northwest Flight
Your answers ran the gamut, but the most popular choice was that the emergency revocation of their tickets seems a little extreme. 33% of respondents chose that option, with
the second most popular option (it's a tough penalty but justified under the circumstances) garnering 28% of the votes.
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 ***
The Northwest Airlines pilots who had their certificates revoked say they forgot to land in Minneapolis because they were using their laptops. Now Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) wants a federal law against laptops and "other personal electronic devices" in the cockpit. Is that really necessary?
Have an idea for a new "Question of the Week"? Send your suggestions to
NOTE: This address is only for suggested "QOTW" questions, and not for "QOTW" answers or comments.
Use this form to send "QOTW" comments to our AVmail Editor.
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AOPA's annual meeting in Tampa has a fresh look, and it's challenged its presenters to come up with some fresh ideas on the future of general aviation. AVweb's Russ Niles spoke with AOPA
President Craig Fuller.
Expanding its services to members, AOPA is offering medical screenings at the AOPA Summit, provided by Cook Medical. Specifically, abdominal aneurysms are a concern for pilot medical issuances,
according to AOPA's director of medical certification services, Gary Crump. At the Summit, Cook Medical has set up several private examination booths, and members can get their results before
leaving the show. In this podcast, Crump tells AVweb about additional medical services being offered this year at the association's health section.
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Please bear with us; our regularly scheduled "POTW" feature will be a day or two late this week as we bring you daily coverage of the AOPA Summit in Tampa, Florida. In the meantime, feel free to send us your photos.