AVwebFlash Complete Issue: Volume 15, Number 52a

December 28, 2009

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Top News: Terrorism and Not-Terrorism back to top 
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Terrorism Puts Passengers On Active Duty

"Aggressive intervention has become the societal norm," the Flight Safety Foundation's Bill Voss told the Atlanta Journal Constitution, about a passenger's action to subdue would-be terrorist Umar Farouk Abdulmatallab on Christmas Day. Abdulmatallab succeeded in burning himself and not much more when the lives of 278 passengers were at stake. That is perhaps thanks to fellow Northwest Fight 253 passenger Jasper Schuringa. Schuringa told CNN, "I basically reacted directly." Schuringa said it wasn't a matter of thought, "I just went over there and tried to save the plane." Schuringa used his hands to extinguish the fire Abdulmatallab's actions had created. He was quickly joined by crew and other passengers who took the suspect to first class, stripped him and searched for explosives. "We just did it. There was nothing to talk about," passenger Syed Jafry said. The men now join the ranks of passengers like those of United Flight 93 who were aware of the threat and were ready to act. While authorities worldwide tighten security measures, stories of active intervention initiated by the final line of defense, the passengers, become more common.

In June of 2009, two off-duty officers handcuffed a violent irrational passenger aboard a US Airways flight. In April of 2008, passengers worked together to subdue with duct tape a drunken man who had attacked a flight attendant. In the Richard Reid incident, a doctor on the same flight took it upon himself to inject Reid, who was by then already restrained, with a sedative.

More on Abdulmatallab:
Read the Wall Street Journal's profile on Umar Adbulmattallab here

Arrested Passenger "No Threat"

Authorities say a Nigerian man who locked himself in the bathroom of Northwest Flight 253 on Sunday, two days after the same Amsterdam-to-Detroit flight was the target of a bombing attempt, apparently had a good reason to be there. The unidentified businessman reportedly became ill on the flight and had made several trips to the lav, arousing the suspicion of perhaps twitchier-than-usual passengers and crew. When the door didn't open for about an hour on his last visit, crew broke down the door and dragged him out, which might also explain his less than courteous response to them. After reporting a "disruptive passenger" the crew made a hurried landing and the man was arrested. The rest of the passengers and their bags were rescreened and finally it was determined there was no danger. The suspect in Friday's bombing attempt is alleged to have put together components of the device in the bathroom.

Meanwhile, Farouk Abdulmutallab, the man charged with trying to bomb Friday's flight, was released from hospital after being treated for burns from his allegedly fizzled attempt to bring down the A330. Government officials made the rounds of the Sunday newstalk shows assuring a full investigation into how Abdulmutallab allegedly got a container of explosive powder and syringe full of liquid aboard the Christmas Day flight. He is alleged to have tried to detonate the mixture as the flight descended to Detroit's Metropolitan Airport about noon on Christmas Day. Passengers heard popping sounds and at least one passenger jumped the man, a 23-year-old Nigerian with reported Al Qaida links who later told authorities he wanted to set off the bomb over the U.S. He has since told investigators that bomb experts in Yemen put the device together and trained him in its use. He was among 278 passengers aboard Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit. U.S. authorities stepped up air travel security after Friday's incident. The security level remains at orange, however.

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Less Time on the Tarmac? Time Will Tell back to top 

New Flight Delay/Deplaning Rules Complicated By Reality

The Department of Transportation has made rules that require airlines to let passengers off of an airplane that hasn't gone anywhere for three hours, but practical application of those rules may be difficult. Passenger rights groups support the rules, but given the choice of arriving late or not arriving at all, most passengers say they would rather arrive late, American Airlines spokesman Tim Smith told Statesman.com. Three hours at the gate is one thing, but after three hours on a taxiway an aircraft can either be accessed by mobile stairs or it can go back to the gate where some or all passengers could exit. Regardless, if the aircraft is in the queue, it would lose its place and further delay passengers willing to continue with the flight, plus add cascading delays for passengers waiting for that jet, elsewhere. But... .

For passengers stuck on a flight to nowhere without fresh air or even the ability to stand up, the new rules are a blessing. The organized push for implementation of tarmac delay rules has been an issue since four flights diverted to Austin in 2006 sat occupied on the ramp for six to nine hours. The case for regulation has been championed by Kate Hanni, who has formed "the largest non-profit airline consumer organization," FlyersRights.org.

Related Content:
Podcast interview with Anjum Malik of FlyersRights.org

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2010 Forecasting & Finance (Part I) back to top 

Airlines To Stay In Red

Coming off a very volatile two years ravaged by world economic woes and steep fuel prices, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) is predicting more losses in 2010, in spite of predicted upticks in travel and a forecast that business jets may rebound for 2011. IATA recently bumped its projection of a $3.8 billion loss for 2010 by 47 percent. The organization now predicts a $5.6 billion loss. If true, that will fall back-to-back with the $11 billion loss forecast for 2009. That loss has hit business aviation, too. "General aviation ... has taken an unnecessary pummeling," former FAA head Marion Blakey told Reuters. Blakey stood by predictions that demand for business jets should pick up in 2011, a sentiment echoed by Pratt & Whitney President David Hess. "Utilization is up," Hess said. But an increase in passenger traffic at the airlines and increased utilization in the business aviation world aren't expected to beat out high fuel costs. "Airlines will remain firmly in the red in 2010," IATA CEO Giovanni Bisignani said in a statement. As for the bizav world: While the fall may be over, "that's not the same as a recovery," the Teal Group's Richard Aboulafia recently told Reuters.

Speakers earlier this month at the Reuters Aerospace and Defense Summit noted that American jet manufacturers have cut an estimated 19,000 jobs in their attempt to weather the downturn. Many analysts estimate that China may become one of the first major sparks for a recovery as that country sees a relative boom in wealth creation over the next decade.

Eclipse Aerospace Plans To Sell Jets In 2010

Eclipse Aerospace expects to complete upgrades to 28 jets acquired as the assets of the former Eclipse Aviation and it plans to start selling them as early as next spring. Mike Press and Mason Holland Jr., the two investors behind the new Eclipse Aerospace LLC, have now hired 60 employees and are back in business in Albuquerque. Eight Eclipse 500 Very Light Jets are currently in the care of the new company, receiving upgrades to their avionics and de-icing systems to the tune of $149,000 each. And Eclipse Aerospace has earned FAA approval for a pilot training program that takes place in the aircraft, as opposed to the simulators used by the former Eclipse Aviation. They've also earned FAA and EASA approval to put owners, operators and repair station personnel worldwide through a maintenance training curriculum.

The resurgent company's progress dates back to August, when Press and Holland acquired Eclipse's assets out of bankruptcy for $40 million. Now, the company's 60 employees are distributed between the Albuquerque facility and a Chicago service station at a balance of about 48 to 12. Eclipse Aerospace has an existing market of 259 Eclipse 500 jets sold before its predecessor's demise. Sales of "new" Eclipse 500 jets will be competing with used jets. The company is already acting as broker for 10 aircraft.

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2010 Forecasting & Finance (Part II) back to top 

Boeing's 787 On Wall Street

Boeing has released documents for airlines that show an increase in the 787 Dreamliner's maximum allowable takeoff weight by 9.25 tons, sparking critics to speculate the number may account for increased girth as opposed to increased capacity. Boeing generally doesn't disclose empty weights while its aircraft are still in development/testing, but that hasn't stopped some analysts from speculating the worst and using that speculation to help drive down the price of Boeing stock. "The 787-8 appears to have evolved from a once-elegant composite design to one saddled with carbuncles of heavy titanium added throughout for strengthening," wrote Morgan Stanley financial analyst Heidi Wood. The analyst then downgraded Boeing stock, according to the LA Times. That happened in spite of the 787's chief project engineer Mike Delaney's comments that the jet's weight has been stable for about two years, that it will meet its range and payload targets, that it will deliver the promise of a 20% increase in fuel efficiency, and that it has increased its payload capacity due to confirmation of its structural strength.

The history of composites includes designers who incorporated the materials into experimental designs to find the promise of weight reduction overtaken by less-than-ideal construction techniques and less-than-ideal raw materials. Significant advances in both realms may now have more than made up the difference. It will matter for the Dreamliner. Boeing's 787 accounts for about 50 percent of its weight in composite structure and the jet's recent adventures in wing-joint strengthening have resulted in the addition of titanium fittings.

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

Cherokee Really Is 50

A slip of the digit resulted in our story on the 50th anniversary of the Piper Cherokee adding 10 years to its still-youthful design. The first one rolled out in 1960, not 1950, as we misstated in the original story. Thanks to the legions of AVweb fact checkers who took time from their holiday celebrations to point out the typo.

AVmail: December 28, 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: Flight Service Closures Will Hurt

I'm a flight service specialist at St. Petersburg, Florida and am directly involved in day-to-day operations. In your article, [Lockheed Martin spokeswoman] Jan Gottfredsen claims that because of a "13% reduction in call volume, combined with efficiencies gained with a new communications network," there will be a seamless transition. I must question this contention.

Currently, Kankakee, Lansing, Nashville, and St. Petersburg answer collectively up to 2,500 calls per day. The traffic of the Eastern Service Area flight service stations exceeds that of the other two service areas. These four facilities are dedicated entirely to briefing pilots. The 3 "hub" facilities conduct all of the inflight (radio) functions, flight data and NoTAM functions. Typically, in the Eastern Service Area Hub, only a half dozen or so people are briefing; the rest are required to perform inflight, flight data and NoTAMs for the eastern United States. Admittedly, Lockheed is massaging the staffing schedule to compensate for the loss of briefers, but where are the additional people coming from?

Under the current system, Miami and St. Petersburg do all of the international flight planning and briefing in the Eastern U.S. During a normal day, it is not unusual for my facility to brief not only our designated area of responsibility (SE U.S.) but also overflow international calls, domestic calls from Miami; Washington, D.C.; North Carolina; Nashville; and all of the Midwest states. Notice I said "overflow" calls. Under our current system, demand exceeds capacity in several areas, and work is being transferred to other facilities, potentially losing the advantage of local area knowledge so necessary to the flying public.

The people working in the closing facilities are the specialists with the greatest amount of experience. The AFSS contract called for 1,000 briefers. On October 10, 2007, FAA and Lockheed were called to the Hill to explain why the flight service system was failing. Witness after witness testified that part of the problem was lack of people. All promised to try and get the contract up to the magic number of 1,000. The number was never reached. As of June 23, 2009, there were 773 people classified as Flight Service Station II or III briefers. Since then, there have been losses due to medical and retirements. After the closures, we will be down to less than 600 qualified briefers.

The data not provided to the aviation community are the safety-related statistics. Since 2005, flight service staffing levels have continuously dropped. The specialists losing their jobs are the most experienced in the system. While statistically, traffic levels have dropped since 2005, operational deviations (errors that result in violation of airspace, loss of separation, etc.) have increased from six per year in 2005 to 25 per year in 2008.

It is difficult to believe that the same level of service will be provided with 25% fewer people. The people they are removing from the system are dedicated to the sole function of flight planning and pilot weather briefing — and nothing else. How are they going to absorb the large number of extra calls per day? No matter how much automation, no matter what percentage traffic has dropped, the fact is that the current system is operating near full capacity.

Gottfredsen has been touting the current successful performance levels as proof of their capability to continue seamlessly in various aviation publications and the media. AOPA is in agreement with Lockheed on this issue. This proof comes on the backs of my peers. We are successful because my co-workers at St. Petersburg daily brief pilots in New England; Washington, D.C.; Miami; Nashville; and the Midwest. We are successful because the closing facilities are devoted entirely to pilot weather briefings. The proof being provided to the media is based on the existing system and statistics.

Before I came to Flight Service, I spent 13 years in the terminal environment. When I warn of potential problems in the ATC system as a result of the impending closures, the warnings come from a position of experience. The lack of flight service briefers is going to place an additional workload on the controllers. There will be fewer people operating inflight positions [and] flight data positions and far fewer briefers. This will require tower and center controllers to manually put in the flight plans, find lost flight plans, and coordinate other daily tasks. When the tower, approach, and center controllers are distracted by performing Flight Service duties the next time the Center computer stops accepting flight plans from the airlines — our facility manually put over 400 into the system last time — and they put two together, resulting in loss of life, remember this discussion.

Rob Stultz

I see a trend of sorts, and it does not look good. It seems every time some service that was a federal entity becomes the responsibility of a contractor, it gets diminished or closed. It's not a very good sign, really.

Now FSSs, a safety service, are getting the treatment. I don't like the way this automation stuff seems to be replacing the human brain. The brain does not suffer from power surges/outages, EMPs, or backhoe buckets.

There are times when money and profits should be secondary to safety. This point always becomes distorted and overly apparent to the news media when something "goes wrong." It now seems flight safety is always a number one priority except where money enters the equation. Let contractors fix stuff, and let the FAA take care of the safety, before this becomes a problem.

Ken Taber

Stall/Spin Video

Nice segment on the Cirrus stall/crash.

Here are a couple of inputs:

  1. Wing loading vs. descent is mentioned. I do not believe that a stable descent will unload a wing; it would have to be accelerating downwards. (I have used that principle in rolling a CASA 212 to about 80 deg for a test without loading the wing up.)
  2. The discontinuous segmented leading edge actually does a lot more than just allow a lower incidence for the outer wing panels. NASA reports show that a very powerful vortex is created that acts as a powerful "fence" and also helps maintain flow attachment. (By the way, Dr. Don Ward of Texas A&M cautioned us that a "spin-resistant" wing can possibly be unrecoverable if forced into a spin. Oooops.)
  3. There is one more item that caught my attention, the sudden roll-induced stall of the downward moving wing. We experienced this during some stall tests on a Baron 58 where, once fully stalled, a slight roll caused the down-going wing to suddenly let go and snap us inverted. Not fun! The roll had increased the AOA even further on that wing.

Keep up the good work,

Ian Hollingsworth
DER Flight Test Pilot

The recent interview with John King and Rich Stowell on AVweb was great and informative. As with most interviews concerning stall spin accidents, they talked about angle of attack, wing loading, and stall speed but never talked about the specific relationship between stall speed and wing loading. That is, the relationship we all learned in primary training: The stall speed at any G is equal to the stall speed at 1g (the bottom of the green arc in a clean configuration) times the square root of G. Although there are influences that vary this equation slightly, the bottom line, as stated, is true. Discussions need to talk about this relationship with real numbers to emphasize how the stall speed of the wing moves around the airspeed indicator. A great inexpensive anti-stall device in any airplane would be a placard, which gives some specific examples showing G loading vs. stall speed. In addition, to increase the pilot's awareness of this relationship, the primary airplanes should have a G-meter in the panel, and [that] should be part of the pilot's scan while doing maneuvering close to the ground.

Paul Logue

Reading about stalls, I am very surprised that so few aircraft are equipped with angle of attack indicators. Since I've had one, I've known exactly how much lift reserve I have, even in a steep turn.

Jean-Dominique Leullier

The accident appears to be a classic case of an instructor allowing a situation to get too far before taking over the controls. No one was looking out of the window. The student was under the hood attempting to use his $100,000 avionics suite to do a GPS approach to Runway 19. He overshot once, then twice on short final. In my opinion, the instructor should have taken over the controls after the first overshoot.

Ken Miller

I read the article on stalls and watched the recreation of the Cirrus stall/crash and was again amazed by how perplexed everyone seems to be about solving this problem. The answer is to ban all conventional designs and build only canard aircraft. I have owned a Rutan VariEze for the last 15 years. It will not depart controlled flight in any position, and, like all modern canards, it will climb while in a stall! Any Cirrus owner could buy a used four-passenger Velocity XL with an IO-540 that will cruise at 240 kts at 12.5 gph for about a quarter the price of the Cirrus.

Dave Roberts


I would like to urge AOPA to be more active in helping bring common sense to the through-the-fence agreement issue. This is a typical illogical power move by the FAA.

I have no vested interest except to help bring some common sense to this issue. If we continue to allow the federal government to take our freedoms for no reason other than power, we are going to have no freedoms.

James Robinson

New Certificates

Your message about expiring certificates is well timed. A way to save the two-dollar fee is to request that your SSN be taken off if you haven't done that already.

Bill Casey

In your article "Got a Paper Certificate? Replace It Now," you mention that the replacement is $2 per certificate. However, when I went to the site, they offered to send me a new certificate at no charge since mine still used my Social Security Number. I won't know until I receive the new certificate, but I assume it will be the new style, not another paper one. If so, that means that anyone that hadn't had their SSN removed from their certificate may be able to accomplish both tasks at one time and at no charge. I'll know in two weeks when the new certificates arrive.

Wayne Morgan

Obviously this new mandate for all pilots to have the new updated license by the published cut-off date is vital information to all pilots. So I think it wise you warn your readers that when trying to complete this procedure online, the FAA's site (apparently) automatically picks your name as it appears on your license and injects it into the credit card processing process.

Obviously, many pilots don't use the exact or full name on their credit cards as it may appear on the license. For example, most of us probably use a middle initial instead of our full middle name on credit cards, but, like me, use our whole names on our FAA licenses. This goofy glitch makes it impossible to use the online services to update our licenses online and thus renders this otherwise simple process to snail mail. Can you believe it?

Name withheld

Red, White and Green

In your article on National Aviation Hall of Fame inductees, your reporter wrote, "Warren Grimes, the 'father of aircraft lighting,' produced his first airplane lights in his garage in 1933 and created the familiar red, green and white nav lights still found on aircraft today."

The "familiar" nav light pattern has actually been used on boats for many, many years, so I suspect Grimes simply copied the nautical convention for lighting: green to starboard; red to port; and white, fore and aft.

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

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Share Your Opinion back to top 

Aviation Consumer Survey: Portable GPS Performance

Do you own a portable GPS? Aviation Consumer magazine wants to know how it has held up for you. Does it do everything you need? Was it a good value for the money? Have there been issues with service and support?

Follow this link to our brief online survey and let your voice be heard. It will only take a few minutes, and your comments can be anonymous if you want.

Thanks for helping out, and look for a round-up review of portable GPS products in the February issue of Aviation Consumer. (Click here for subscription deals for AVweb readers.)

AVweb's Newstips Address ...

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Opinion & Commentary back to top 

AVweb Insider Blog: CFI vs. Pilot

It's not that AVweb Editorial Director Paul Bertorelli likes stirring up trouble — well, O.K., maybe it's a little of that — but he can't seem to get enough of the ongoing discussion raised by our video for Avation Safety dissecting a Cirrus stall. Paul responds to comments (and invites new ones) on our blog, the AVweb Insider.

Click here to join the conversation.

AVweb Insider Blog: Sometimes You Just Have to Do Something

Almost 300 people aboard Northwest Flight 253 may owe their lives to a young Dutch filmmaker who simply did the right thing at the right time when a would-be terrorist made his move. In the latest installment of our blog, the AVweb Insider, Editor-in-Chief Russ Niles reflects on how easy it can be to let the moment pass when it's time to step up and take action.

Read more and add your comments here.

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AVweb Audio —? Are You Listening? back to top 

A Victory for Airline Passenger Rights?

File Size 5.0 MB / Running Time 5:30

Podcast Index | How to Listen | Subscribe Via RSS

The Department of Transportation announced new rules for ramp delays last week, but are they as tough as they seem? AVweb's Russ Niles spoke with Anjum Malik of FlyersRights.org about the rules and the group's next move.

Click here to listen. (5.0 MB, 5:50)

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AVweb Media: Look, Listen, Laugh and Learn back to top 

Exclusive Video: It Takes a Lot of Work to Fly This Badly

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

Come along for the ride as Kyle Franklin explains his entertaining Super Cub comedy act and Ben Wabknoski goes flying. Franklin makes it look easy — but trust us, it's anything but.

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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: Tango One Aviation (Falcon Field Airport, Mesa, AZ)

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

Our latest "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Tango One Aviation at Falcon Field Airport (FFZ) in Mesa, Arizona.

AVweb reader Dick Stich brought the "super people [and] good service" at Tango One to our attention. If you'd like to see your favorite FBO recognized here, then take a moment to nominate them here.

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

The Lighter Side of Flight back to top 

Short Final

Overheard on a flight from Brest to Toulon in France:

Airliner 123:
"Control, didn't you forget Airline 123?"


Female Voice from Control Tower:
"Sorry, sir. I really did forget you."

Airline 123:
"No problem. I have one like that at home, too."

Jan Evens
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.

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

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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