AVwebFlash - Volume 15, Number 49a

December 7, 2009

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Top News: Florida Pilots Cross Paths with TSA back to top 

TSA Locks Out Punta Gorda Pilots

As the Transportation Security Administration continues to eye GA as a security threat, it locked out a group of owners from a through-the-fence arrangement at Florida's Punta Gorda Airport, south of Sarasota. Pilot Larry Hofmeister told us Friday that a group of owners with hangars on private property adjacent to the airport had a good working arrangement that allowed them to taxi from their hangars to a gate into the airport, which they could open by remote control. This week, the TSA halted that arrangement, claiming that it represents a security threat.

Now, to access the airport, the owners have to notify the FBO, which will send a lineman to open the gate on a time-permitting basis. Hofmeister told us the hangars have their own fenced-in area which itself requires a security card to access, so access to the runway is controlled by not one, but two gates. The TSA apparently took the action because it was unhappy with a pilot who taxied away from the access gate before it was closed. TSA didn't immediately return our call seeking additional information.

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Tomorrow's Aircraft Today (Literally Today) back to top 

SpaceShipTwo Unveiling Dec. 7

Scaled Composites and Virgin Galactic are set to unveil SpaceShipTwo, the six-passenger vehicle on which about 300 people have already booked flights to the edge of space. The rollout will be held at the Mojave Spaceport in California's high desert today. Flight tests of the rocket-powered aircraft/spacecraft will begin soon after the rollout. Many of the future space travelers who have committed $200,000 each for the relatively brief journey will be at the Mojave ceremony.

The spacecraft is modeled on SpaceShipOne, which won Scaled Composites founder Burt Rutan the $10 million XPrize in 2004 and attracted the attention of aviation buff and billionaire entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson. With Branson's investment, Scaled has built an airliner-sized initial stage aircraft, called by Rutan WhiteKnightOne and by Branson Mothership Eve, that will hoist the spacecraft to 50,000 feet. From there, a rubber-burning rocket will push SpaceShipTwo to 100 km., the theoretical edge of space, where passengers can unbuckle and float weightlessly about the capsule for about six minutes. Descent is a controlled fall until aerodynamics can take over and the spacecraft, flown by two pilots, glides to a landing.

Solar Impulse HB-SIA Flies

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Solar Impulse, the aircraft that would fly around the world, day and night on solar power alone, Thursday saw its first successful test flight at the hands of test pilot Markus Scherdel. The "flea hop" was conducted at Dubendorf aerodrome in Switzerland. The aircraft flew at an altitude of about one meter and for a distance of about 350 meters (less than one quarter mile). Program initiator and Solar Impulse president, Bertrand Piccard, confessed that "it's a long way between these initial tests and a circumnavigation of the world." But the team now has controllability, acceleration, braking and motor power tests behind them. According to Andre Borschberg, co-founder and CEO of Solar Impulse, this "culmination of six years of intense work" has the team "ready to start the next phase -- the actual flight tests." So far, the aircraft, Solar Impulse HB-SIA, has performed without the benefit of its most essential asset -- solar panels -- which have not yet been connected.

Flight tests should begin in early 2010 at Payerne airfield in Switzerland, which means the Solar Impulse HB-SIA will now be dismantled and transported to that airfield where its first solar flight tests will be conducted. The plan is to gradually increase the flight duration toward the intermediate goal of flying through the night using stored solar energy. HB-SIA is "the size of an Airbus [a wingspan of more than 200 feet] with the weight of a mid-sized car [about 4,000 pounds]," says Borschberg.

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Warranty Date Looms for Recalled Engine Cylinders back to top 

TCM: Some Recalled Cylinders Still MIA

Teledyne Continental says it's still looking for some of the cylinders it recalled earlier this year. In February, it announced that some 9600 cylinders for 470, 520 and 550 engines shipped since November 2007 were susceptible to cracking so the company announced a voluntary recall, promising warranty support for the replacement jugs. However, as of early December, 10 percent of these cylinders are still in the field.

Continental says owners and operators need to respond to the recall effort before Dec. 31, 2009, in order to qualify for warranty coverage. Customers ordering replacements after that date won't qualify. For more information, contact Continental at (800) 326-0089 or e-mail TCM.Distributor@teleydne.com.

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Close Call on Approach Draws FAA's Attention back to top 

FAA Probes Denver ATC Error

The FAA is investigating an ATC operational error in which two regional jets on approach to Denver International Airport converged within two miles laterally and 200 feet vertically. The incident occurred on November 23. According to ABC News, the two aircraft were being vectored into the arrival stream for DIA, one on the SAYGE SIX arrival, another possibly being vectored to join the arrival. SAYGE is an arrival fix on the procedure and one of the aircraft which had already passed the fix was mistakenly give a clearance to proceed "direct SAYGE."

The aircraft commenced a near 180-degree turn that put it into the face of the other arriving traffic. The FAA reported that the two targets merged on ATC radar display, although it wasn't clear if they were referring to Center or TRACON radar. In Center airspace, ATC uses a five mile separation standard, while three miles applies in terminal airspace. Both aircraft reportedly resolved the conflict with TCAS resolution advisories. An FAA spokesman said the operational error is coded as a B-level incident, the second most serious.

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Wrestling with the Future (Part I) back to top 

FAA Issues Standards For ADS-B -- What That Means To You

The FAA has approved technical and operational standards for ADS-B equipment, which means (among other things) that manufacturers can now move forward with products that provide pilots with conforming Automatic Dependent Surveillance - Broadcast hardware. Next up, the aviation community should expect the FAA's final rule by April 2010 and that should define a mandate for ADS-B (out) equipage in controlled airspace by the year 2020 ... provided the system is up and running by then. Your aircraft will not need to receive the information provided by ADS-B; it will just have to send it out. As it is, ADS-B ground equipment should have been installed at more than 300 locations nationwide by the end of next year (2010). The areas expected to have first operational capabilities include the Gulf of Mexico, Philadelphia and Juno. One key to progress is NextGen funding and FAA reauthorization.

GAMA recognized the FAA's latest action as an ADS-B milestone on the path towards NextGen. Aviation advocate GAMA is on record that financial incentives may be necessary to assure that operators adopt the equipment as soon as possible to maximize the long-term safety, capacity, economic and environmental benefits that NextGen is expected to provide. "As we shift from the planning to implementation stages of NextGen, it is even more critical that we move forward with reauthorization of the FAA and the discussion over the role of federal funding for onboard avionics equipage," said Pete Bunce, GAMA president and CEO.

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Wrestling with the Future (Part II) back to top 

A New Fuel Breakthrough? G100UL

As the industry continues to wring its hands about a replacement for soon-to-be-extinct 100LL, an Oklahoma-based modification house says it has a fuel worth looking into. George Braly of General Aviation Modifications Inc. told us Friday that his company has run a promising new fuel in its test cell that's at least 100 octane or better. The fuel appears to have good anti-detonation characteristics and, on paper at least, would be in range of meeting ASTM D910, the avgas fuel specification. So what is this stuff? Braly declined to offer details other than to say the new fuel is based on 95-octane blend stock with an additive that's not lead but that might be obtainable economically through conventional refining processes.

Is it some offshoot of Swift Fuel, the much lauded but so far non-existent bio-fuel announced a couple of years ago? Nope, says, Braly, nothing to do with Swift Fuel. Oil industry insiders have consistently said petrochemical-based octane enhancers are chemically feasible. Indeed, Swift Fuel is just that—a bio-derived material that uses acetone as a feedstock to make an enhanced isopentane fuel. What has stymied such efforts in the past—and indeed, may yet kill Swift Fuel—is the economics. If the additive can't deliver 100-octane fuel at a price similar to tetraethyl lead, the whole exercise is just another chemistry experiment. Braly said Friday that he's filed a patent on the process and that it's being shopped to the refinery industry to flesh out the economics. Meanwhile, Braly said the fuel will be ready for wider demonstration in about a month.

Remote Control Warfare Prompts Protest

Air National Guard UAV pilots are waging war in Afghanistan from the relative comfort of their base in Syracuse, N.Y. and that prompted a protest at the base and some ethical questions from observers. The Syracuse Guard unit Wednesday became the first in the nation to announce it was remotely operating Reaper UAVs in combat around the clock, according to Syracuse.com. From their Syracuse base (where they used to operate F-16s), the Guard is now flying Reapers loaded with two 500-pound bombs in missions over Afghanistan nearly 24 hours a day and the pilots are going home to sleep in their own beds before starting again the next day. That makes the base -- and those homes -- a target of the enemy, according to groups that followed up on the news by coming to the base to protest war. It also completely changes the psychological dynamic of deploying for combat. The pilots at the unit who are currently flying Reapers all have a commercial pilot's certificate, but the Air Force is looking into using "pilots" who have never flown an aircraft from an actual moving cockpit. The news source also reported that the Air Force has apparently taken to this new kind of aerial warfare and will train more UAV pilots this year than the other kind. Training aside, there are those who feel the entire concept raises serious ethical questions.

"We're going to war without being in war," director of the Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism at Syracuse University, William Banks, told Syracuse.com. "It's a very serious ethical challenge," he added, saying that it necessarily increases "the risk that you'll have collateral harm or disproportionate harm trying to pick out our targets." Lindsay Voss, a defense industry analyst with the firm Frost & Sullivan, expressed concerns about making war easier. After all, if fewer people (on our side) are at risk, "does that weigh in our decision to start something?" he asked. One thing is certain, flying remotely piloted attack aircraft keeps more personnel home. Reapers are operated by a four-person team including a pilot, an equipment operator, a communications expert and an intelligence expert. The aircraft can cruise at about 200 mph, fly for up to 40 hours and operate at altitudes up to 40,000 feet.

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News Briefs back to top 

Cirrus Earns Known Ice Approval In Europe

The European Union has granted EASA approval for Cirrus Aircraft's known ice protection system, allowing flight into known icing (FIKI) conditions. Cirrus says their system "is likely the most extensively tested known ice protection package ever developed for general aviation." The company cautions, however, that the system does not create an "all weather" airplane. The system uses TKS weeping wing technology, applying it through laser-drilled panels on the elevator control horns, the leading edges of the horizontal and vertical tail surfaces, and the wings. TKS fluid is also distributed onto the windshield and propeller at flow rates that can provide for up to 2.5 hours of protection. Operation is integrated with the aircraft's Garmin avionics systems as part of Cirrus' Perspective package. FAA approval was granted earlier this year for both turbo and normally aspirated Cirrus aircraft equipped with the company's optional known ice protection system. Cirrus has been shipping those aircraft to customers all year, and offering additional support.

Cirrus offers pilots an online "Icing Awareness" training program specific to the Cirrus Known Ice Protection equipment and aircraft. That is required training for all Cirrus pilots who plan to fly into forecast or known icing conditions. Says Cirrus, "this robust system separates Cirrus Aircraft from others when it comes to getting the most capability for your personal aircraft investment." The company says its newest customers "have shown a very strong preference" for the option.

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The Top Reporter on Our Crack Staff ... Is You! back to top 

AVmail: December 7, 2009

Each week, we run a sampling of the letters received to our editorial inbox here in AVmail. One letter that's particularly relevant, informative, or otherwise compelling will headline this section as our "Letter of the Week," and we'll send the author an official AVweb baseball cap as a "thank you" for interacting with us (and the rest of our readership). Send us your comments and questions using this form. Please include your mailing address in your e-mail (just in case your letter is our "Letter of the Week"); by the same token, please let us know if your message is not intended for publication.

Letter of the Week: Power Plant a Good Airport Neighbor

Regarding the story about California pilots protesting a power plant near their airport:

I regularly operate near a non-towered field that has a coal-fired power plant 3.5 miles west of its north-south runway (KVPC). It's really no big deal; just don't fly through the smoke, unless you like the smell of sulfur! I could see the problem if the plant were to be built on the extended centerline of a runway, but in looking at the airport in question this doesn't seem to be the case.

I think these folks should look at the big picture. At least it isn't a subdivision going in there! A power plant (or industrial park, water treatment plant etc.) makes a good neighbor for an airport.

Andy Manning

Contrail Contradictions

They seem to be concerned about contrails turning into clouds. I saw a TV special recently where they were considering artificially making more clouds to reflect sunlight back into space and reduce global warming. Maybe those contrails are doing some good for the environment.

Marvin Homsley

Clear as Mud

In the story about the recovery of a Second World War Hellcat you say: "A Navy Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat fighter plane that sank more than 60 years ago was lifted from the muddy waters of Lake Michigan on Monday."

Lake Michigan, as well as most of the Great lakes are solid sand bottoms, not muddy. Some pollution, yes, but Lake Michigan is sand from Gary, In. to the Canadian line.

Bill Piggott

AVweb Replies:

We did say muddy waters, not muddy bottom, Bill — but your point is taken. However, Lake Michigan doesn't touch Canada. It's the only Great Lake entirely within the U.S.

Russ Niles

Pilot Fatigue

Peggy Gilligan's remarks on pilot fatigue just go to show how out of touch the FAA has become with the real world. No rule dealing with fatigue should be allowed to be made by someone who has no experience with 16-plus hour duty days, flying six days, off one, and then another six.

The folks that have allowed the system to degenerate to what it is today are the ones that should be investigated. Delayed? What have they been doing for the last 20 years?

Grant Besley

Polished Frost

Your article stated Part 91 F was fractionals. Part 91 F is "Large and Turbine-Powered Multiengine Airplanes and Fractional Ownership Program Aircraft."

Your article is misleading by saying it doesn't apply to non-fractional operations. I read through the change and it certainly appears to me that it applies to all Part F aircraft, not just fractionals.

Gary Hogue

Flight 188 Protocol

Regarding the podcast of the air traffic control tapes concerning Flight 188, the controllers questions were not "curiosity or professional concern." The FAA has what is called the D.E.N. - Domestic Events Network that oversees any and all unusual or suspect aviation situations. There is a protocol in cases such as a NORDO airliner, passed down through the supervisor to the controller to ask the crew to explain their situation and broadcast in the clear that the cockpit is secure. The turns issued were also part of this protocol to show that the pilots were in fact in control of the flight. The D.E.N. and other agencies, committees, etc. are the result of post 9-11 recommendations.

Name Withheld

Finding the Line Between "Picture" and "Photograph"

While certainly awesome, I strongly disagree with your inclusion of this image. It is artwork, not a photo. A photo is a single image that captures a single moment as we would see it. Sure, there can be processing (chemical or digital) to correct differences between what we see and what the camera sees, but anything more is art. Or perhaps your definition of picture in "Picture of the Week" is broader than I think?

Harold Moritz

At first I was shocked — shocked! — at the thought of digital manipulation of photographs. Then I realized that this was no different from the dodging, burning, and contrast variations practiced with film printing procedures, another of my hobbies.

Mac Hayes

There are enough dramatic and fascinating unaltered shots to make the publication/showcasing(!) of a tarted-up picture totally unnecessary. This is just another "Velvet Elvis." Give us the real thing, please.

Walter Smith

I agree that the technique is acceptable, but I am not sure I would call it "compositing." It appears to be a single frame that has been processed with several exposure settings, and digitally combined with HDR (high dynamic range) software to bring out all of the information in the scene. I think it is simply a technique that compensates for the limitations of cameras to capture reality. I think this is an excellent choice for photograph of the week.

John Gardner

AVweb Replies:

People sometimes ask why we like to stir the pot on the issue of what constitutes fakery vs. legitimate digital post-processing — and the answer, frankly, is that we get a mailbag full of great comments (both positive and negative) when we do it. Mr. Gardner has provided a great (pardon the pun) snapshot of the technique seen in last week's "POTW," but anyone wanting to learn more can check out this introduction from PhotoCritic.com.

Scott Simmons
"Picture of the Week" Editor

Read AVmail from other weeks here, and submit your own Letter to the Editor with this form.

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Opinion & Commentary back to top 

AVweb Insider Blog: TSA Lockout — Yes, Common Sense Is DOA

So says Paul Bertorelli on the AVweb Insider blog. The TSA's lockout of a group of pilots from the Punta Gorda Airport in Florida illuminates a great longing in this country, and that would be for the government to stop using fear-mongering as a primary tool of governance.

Read Paul's commentary and add your own thoughts here.

AVweb Insider Blog: Harry Hurt — Another Great Lost

A few days ago, Drew Steketee remembered GA advocate Ed Stimpson on the AVweb Insider blog. Now Paul Bertorelli shares similarly sad news about another often-overlooked voice in aviation that many naval pilots will recognize — Harry Hurt.

Click here to read Paul's thoughts and add your own comments.

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Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Jacksonville Jetport at Cecil Field (KVQQ) (Jacksonville, Florida)

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

Judging by the latest batch of reader nominations for "FBO of the Week," Florida is a hot destination this time of year. It seems migrating snowbirds are finding the warm smiles and friendly line staff as welcoming in the state as the pleasant temperatures.

To wit: AVweb reader Jesse Farr was recently diverted to Jacksonville Jetport at Cecil Field (KVQQ) in Jacksonville, Florida, and found himself enjoying the change of itinerary:

Thank you to Samantha Fowlkes of Jacksonville Jetport. We tried to go into KJAX and/or KCRG on the 19th, but both were hard IFR with them having some computer problems finding and/or keeping up with those supposedly already in the system that day. They sent us over to KVQQ where it was clear, no traffic, and a very pleasant experience in and out.

We were handled promptly and properly, with some of the greatest courtesy I have seen anywhere from approach, tower, and departure. Samantha outfitted us with a courtesy car and even programmed in a destination on the loaner GPS that went with it. Upon return, we were already fueled at competitive rates and were on the way out very quickly as well.

Facilities were some of the nicest, traffic was no problem, and everyone was nice, friendly, and pleased to see us. Needless to say, next trip to Jacksonville, we will probably go to KVQQ, even if we are going to northeastern Jacksonville.

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

Heard over northern Florida last night:

Jacksonville Center:
"Airliner XYZ: Turn left, heading 320."

Airliner XYZ:
"Is that a 320 heading for Airliner XYZ?"

Jacksonville Center:
"No, that should be, 'Turn left, heading 230' for Airliner XYZ. Sorry about that. Five out of four controllers are dyslexic."

Airliner XYZ:
"No problem. Five out of three pilots, same thing. Airliner XYZ turning left, heading 230."

Tom Ahonen
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:

Timothy Cole

Editorial Director, Aviation Publications
Paul Bertorelli

Russ Niles

Contributing Editors
Mary Grady
Glenn Pew

Features Editor
Kevin Lane-Cummings

Scott Simmons

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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