AVwebFlash Complete Issue: Volume 15, Number 47a

November 23, 2009

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
 
Business Aviation Will Help Companies Not Only Survive
But Prosper During the Current Financial Crisis

To be your most productive, and your most efficient, you must keep flying. Because in so doing, you will emerge from these times even stronger than before. And you will replace the uncertainty that surrounds many, with the confidence and courage to light the way for all. Visit CessnaRise.com.
 
Top News: Electronics Ban an Overreaction? back to top 
 

Cockpit Distraction Bills Opposed

Proposed Senate bills in the wake of Northwest Airlines' October 21 NORDO flight past MSP have some pilots on edge, fearing they may bring about "grotesque consequences," according to an article published Thursday in USA Today. Because the now notorious Northwest pilots of Flight 188 claimed they had been distracted by laptops, electronic devices in the cockpit quickly became the target of proposed legislative bans. However, pilots are concerned that such a ban could hamper attempts to introduce safety and situational awareness oriented equipment, including portable electronic charts, electronic airport maps and e-checklists/flight manuals. While building those systems into existing and fixed cockpit hardware is possible, it's also costly and the bills' opponents fear that more cost effective solutions may be legislated out of the mix.

Equipping airlines with electronic airport diagrams can cost more than $100,000 per aircraft when the same can be accomplished with a laptop computer, handheld PDA, or perhaps an iPhone for roughly $100,000 less. At least one bill, The Distracted Flying Act, includes exemptions for certain electronic devices, but some fear that any restrictions could cause unnecessary hurdles for devices that would otherwise enhance efficiency and safety.

 
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Meanwhile, at the FAA back to top 
 

FAA Tweaks Potential Conflict Of Interest Rules

The FAA is proposing limits on the ability of airlines, flight schools, fractional ownership programs and other certificated organizations to hire former FAA personnel to represent them before the FAA in FAA matters. The FAA rule would specifically prevent former FAA safety inspectors and managers from representing a company if the individual had any direct oversight of said company at any time during the preceding two years. Current rules covering federal employees (and therefore FAA employees) may not appear especially different, but according to FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt, "the 'cooling off' period we're proposing actually exceeds the restrictions applicable to most businesses that hire former federal employees." The rule would not prevent companies from hiring the former inspectors to work in other capacities -- they could become maintenance techs, flight instructors, dispatchers, etc. -- but they could not serve in a position that placed them between a company and the FAA in matters related to the agency.

On the reverse side, policy is already in place to prevent, for a period of two years, newly hired FAA aviation safety inspectors from responsibilities that involve certificate management of their former employer. The FAA is seeking comments on the newly proposed rules through Feb. 19. Check the details of the proposal online.

Bad Router Took Out FAA Communications

A malfunctioning router was behind the system-wide slowdown of the air traffic control system last Thursday. The glitch occurred in Salt Lake City at the fortunate hour of about 5 a.m. EST. At that time, the router's impending failure resulted in the delivery of misinformation about flight paths and weather to controllers. The problem remained unresolved for four hours, forcing the FAA to lighten the workload of controllers and leading to delays of about 45 minutes to 80 minutes at the nation's busiest airports -- less than a bad weather day. But unlike weather, and although it was only the second such failure in about 15 months, this problem was theoretically avoidable and effectively crippled the transference of information across a network that delivers phone, e-mail and flight data to air traffic controllers. It's also an example of the layers of modern hardware that the FAA has had to connect with archaic technologies still in place throughout the system. "This is like going into the house and having to redo the plumbing and electrical," the Flight Safety Foundation's William Voss told The Wall Street Journal of Thursday's failure. "It's essential for anything else to work."

That it's "one of the most reliable and secure communications networks operating within the civilian government," according to a spokesman for Harris Corp., which manages the system, doesn't mean it can't be improved. But FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown, also quoted by the Journal, said the agency is "very pleased" with the general performance of the FAA's telecommunications system, of which this failure is a part. Rep. Jerry Costello, D - Ill., wondered how one bad router could take down the whole system. "Why did it take four hours to locate a seemingly small technical problem, and why did it have a system-wide effect?" Costello asked in a statement issued Friday.

 
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The Check Valve Lifter Is in the Mail back to top 
 

TCM Shipping Replacement Lifters

Although supplies are limited, Teledyne Continental said this week that it's beginning to ship replacement valve lifter units to replace several thousand faulty units installed in O-240, O-360, O-470, O-520 and O-550 engines. TCM says "an issue" with a vendor component required the recall of those defective lifters under MSB09-8. The affected lifters are subject to excessive rates of wear. The company says airplanes should be grounded until the lifters have been replaced. The part numbers are PN657913 for exhaust valves, 657915 for intake valves and 657916 for either exhaust or intake. Look here for a list of affected engines. TCM CFO William Read told AVweb, the company is trying to get rebuilt lifters to everyone currently affected by the AD. The FAA has approved the use of rebuilt lifters in new, overhauled, rebuilt and repaired engines but supply is limited.

"To date, over two-thirds of the affected lifters have been located and the owners have received lifters to support inspection and potential replacement" Read said. "Unfortunately, there is no visibility as to when we might be able to supply lifters to the general repair and overhaul community for new work." AVweb will continue to update this story as new information becomes available.

 
Sensenich Expands Its Revolutionary Line of Propellers for Light Sport and Experimental Aircraft
Lighter in weight, easier to navigate and less expensive to fly, Sensenich's composite props are also stronger than similar props. Their carbon construction allows the propeller's weight to aerodynamically optimize flight and minimize its susceptibility to harmonic vibration damage. Pitch-adjustable, their built-in stops ensure selection of the most efficient pitch. Click here to check 'em out.
 
Rights and Regulations back to top 
 

Airline Calls Flight Delay Compensation Ruling "Cuckoo"

A European court, amid strong airline protest, has set rules for the monetary compensation of passengers based on the distance of their scheduled flights and the amount of time by which passengers were delayed. Maximum compensation is 600 Euros (about $900). Specific guidelines define compensation rates that begin at 250 Euros ($375) to be determined by the time of delay and the distance of flight. The airlines have not yet proposed that passengers pay compensation to them if they provide early arrival, but speaking for Virgin Atlantic, spokesman Paul Charles called the judges "cuckoo." Charles said, "The idea that a technical fault is within an airline's control is absurd." The regulations stipulate conditions for reimbursement of ticket costs and a return flight to the original departure point or re-routing "under comparable transport conditions" to their destination. Passengers delayed by more than three hours could receive as much as those whose flights were canceled, according to the Telegraph UK. This is a European Court of Justice ruling. That means that the task of interpreting its final meaning will be left to national courts.

To the airlines falls the task of showing "extraordinary" circumstances for the delay, if they wish to avoid payment. Find the ruling online here. The U.S. passenger advocacy group FlyersRights.org supports similar action in the U.S.

Cessna's Pelton Challenges Aircraft Emission Regulation

Customer demand, not government regulation, forced a 70-percent improvement in the fuel efficiency of jet aircraft over the past 40 years and further improvement should be modeled on industry and public-sector cooperation, according to Cessna CEO Jack Pelton. Pelton delivered his remarks at an annual international environmental congress meeting near Paris. Failure to work together in partnership, said Pelton, could stifle progress. Pelton said the greatest industry improvements have been made as "the result of customer demand and market forces, not regulation." He noted that during the same period jet engines saw their market-driven 70-percent efficiency improvement, federally regulated auto industry standards correlated with improvements closer to 15 percent. Pelton also made his case for Cessna as a good environmental citizen, noting that the company's green contributions have gone beyond technological developments in aviation.

The company entered a partnership with Greensburg, Kan., after it was all but leveled by a 2007 tornado. That city is now rebuilding as a "green" city with the help of Cessna engineering, program management and operations support, according to Cessna. The aviation industry claims to account for 2 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions attributable to fossil fuel. Pelton suggests that relatively small footprint should correspond to relatively small attention from governmental regulation.

 
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Tomorrow Tech, Part 1 back to top 
 

Solar Impulse Moves Forward, Literally

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Solar Impulse, the manned aircraft that will attempt to travel nonstop around the world flying day and night on solar energy alone, moved under its own power for the first time last week. The carbon-fiber aircraft was propelled by its own four motors (not at full power) over approximately 2 km at speeds no greater than about 10 knots, but the team was "very excited" about the tests, according to BBC News. It's an airplane that's "the size [a wingspan of more than 200 feet] of an Airbus and the weight [about 4,000 pounds] of a mid-sized car," Solar Impulse Chief Executive Andre Borschberg said. Special precautions were taken for the initial ground taxi testing. An additional undercarriage was placed under the cabin as an extra safeguard in case the aircraft's regular undercarriage unexpectedly failed. The taxi test took place at the aircraft's home at Dubendorf aerodrome in Switzerland where, in about two weeks, team leaders hope it will take a first hop. Then, after flying just a few meters over the runway to prove its flight characteristics, the real tests will begin.

If the crow hop goes well, the aircraft will be disassembled and taken to Payerne air force base in western Switzerland where the first flight tests will begin. The original Solar Impulse project plan actually calls for two aircraft to be built. The first will perform flight tests with hope for a first night flight in 2010. The second aircraft will be developed to attempt fly several 24-hour cycles consecutively. If successful, the project would see a first trans-Atlantic flight in 2012, leading to the round-the-world flight.

 
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Tomorrow Tech, Part 2 back to top 
 

Farmer Hopes To Sell Commercial UAVs

An Idaho farmer who uses an unmanned aircraft for precision farming hopes to find a market for his specialty UAV. Blair calls his 9-foot wingspan unmanned reconnaissance aircraft "a hobby plane on steroids." It weighs in at about ten pounds, carries two digital cameras, is onboard-GPS-guided, usually flies between 400 and 2,000 feet AGL, cruises at about 35 mph and can cover up to 640 acres in less than half an hour. The vehicle provides Blair with on-demand service (in winds less than 20 mph), taking pictures of his wheat, barley, pea, lentil and garbanzo bean crops, plus hay and cattle on his 1,500-acre Idaho farm. The system provides substantially more flexibility at a lower cost than satellite and fixed-wing aircraft. (The latter once cost him about $9,000 per flight.) Blair says using a UAV allows him to make timely and localized highly efficient adjustments to his crops and land both during and after the growing season, boosting his productivity while saving money on seed and fertilizer. "With unmanned aircraft systems, we're trying to bring everything together so a farmer can have everything at his fingertips whenever he wants," Blair said. He's already filed paperwork seeking the FAA's approval for the next step -- commercialization.

The system Blair is using was modified from one he purchased. It is hand-launched and flies mostly on autopilot but can be controlled from the ground. He estimates that the aircraft when commercialized could sell for about $15,000. For that price, buyers would also get the software and training necessary to make the most of their vehicles.

 
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Click here for the top 10 reasons to buy a Mooney now.
 
New on AVweb back to top 
 

Video: Wacos to Brodhead — En Route to the Grass Roots Fly-In

Recommend a Video | VOTW Archive

Jay Olburg and Scott Ross have cooked up another fantastic video production, this time showcasing a 1941 Waco SRE owned by Steve and Tina Thomas and a '36 ECQ-6 flown by Bob Grist on their way to the Brodhead Grass Roots Fly-In. Enjoy!

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Try disabling ad blockers and refreshing this page.
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Don't forget to send us links to any interesting videos you find out there. If you're impressed by it, there's a good chance other AVweb readers will be too. And if we use a video you recommend on AVweb, we'll send out an official AVweb baseball cap as a "thank you."

A Heavenly Airline Experience

File Size 4.0 MB / Running Time 4:20

Podcast Index | How to Listen | Subscribe Via RSS

From broken guitars to missed destinations to drunk pilots, airlines have been taking it on the chin recently. A little humor goes a long way to putting it all in perspective, and the following clip, which seems to have originated in a church humor blog, looks at how Lutheran Airlines makes flying a down-to-earth experience.

Click here to listen. (4.0 MB, 4:20)

 
Q: What's the Difference Between a $10,000 Annual and a $2,500 Annual?
A: SAMM

Mike Busch and his team of seasoned maintenance professionals are saving their aircraft-owner clients thousands of dollars a year in parts and labor — not to mention hours of hassle — by providing professional maintenance management for owner-flown singles and twins. Learn how they do it.
 
Opinion & Commentary back to top 
 

AVweb Insider Blog: A Ditching in Oceana — Westwind Crew Pulls It Off

But how is that they would make several attempts at a runway in poor weather, miss those approaches, and deem it a better bet to ditch in the ocean instead? At night. Norfolk Island's unique geography may shed light on this, according to Paul Bertorelli's post on the AVweb Insider blog.

Read more.

AVweb Insider Blog: Ditching — Getting Out

When that med mission Westwind went into the water off Norfolk Island in the Pacific last week, everyone got out alive. But how hard is it to do that? During the day, not so bad. At night? Not so easy. It's been on Paul Bertorelli's mind lately, and he's dedicated a post on the AVweb Insider blog to explaining how training and discipline make it possible.

Read more.

 
Find the Perfect Gift (Or Sell Your Gift Item) Here!
Ho, Ho Holiday Gift Guide
It's time to shop for special gift items and stocking stuffers for every pilot or aircraft enthusiast on your list. Click now to visit AVweb's Holiday Marketplace.
 
AVweb Media: Look, Listen, Laugh and Learn back to top 
 

Exclusive Video: Product Minutes — New Products at AOPA Summit

Original, Exclusive Videos from AVweb | Reader-Submitted & Viral Videos

Our cup did runneth over AOPA Summit last week, but we managed some time to shoot another brief video on cool products we saw, including a Cirrus engine modification from Next Dimension, Flightline Systems' new AuRACLE Engine Monitor for legacy twins, a nifty flashlight that's really a glove, and a new Cessna 210 inspection guide from the Cessna Pilots Association.

Don't see a video screen?
Try disabling ad blockers and refreshing this page.
If that doesn't work, click here to download the video directly.

 
Your Favorite FBOs back to top 
 

FBO of the Week: TAC Air (KLEX, Lexington, Kentucky)

Nominate an FBO | Rules | Tips | Questions | Winning FBOs

AVweb's latest "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to another TAC Air location, this time the one Lexington, Kentucky.

AVweb reader Melvin Price spent a little more time at KLEX than he intended and got to know the FBO well when his Piper Malibu's battery died just prior to departure:

The line man immediatedly brought the battery cart, but my battery was so low that it could not maintain the alternators online. ... The adjoining maintenance shop was contacted, and they offered to charge my battery for three hours. ... While waiting for the battery to charge, the ladies behind the counter offered me the crew car and directions to a good lunch spot. ... I was very impressed with the entire operation, and the best part was that I did not have to pay for the three different external starts nor for the battery charge, although I offered. ... [E]xcept for losing a few hours of time, my visit to Lexington's TAC Air was exemplary in all ways.

Keep those nominations coming. For complete contest rules, click here.

AVweb is actively seeking out the best FBOs in the country and another one, submitted by you, will be spotlighted here next Monday!

 
The Lighter Side of Flight back to top 
 

Short Final

Overheard over the Florida panhandle this week.

Jax Center:
"Airliner 123, Jacksonville Center. Climb and maintain FL 320."

[20 seconds later]

Jax Center:
"Airliner 123, Jacksonville Center. Climb and maintain FL 320."

[30 seconds later]

Jax Center:
"Airliner 123, do you copy Jacksonville Center?"

Airliner 123:
"Airliner 123. Climb and maintain 320. Sorry — we were on our laptops."

Jax Center (laughter in the background) :
"Roger that. I guess that's going to be you guys' version of our 'Say again. I was on the landline.'"

Mac Tichenor
via e-mail

 
Names Behind the News back to top 
 

Meet the AVwebFlash Team

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.

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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.

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