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Are today's airline pilots, churned out by "pilot mills" that train to minimum standards, up to the task once entrusted to ex-military pilots with millions of dollars worth of intense and highly
competitive training? That's one of the questions raised by a four-part series this week in The Buffalo News, an exploration prompted by the fatal crash there early this year of Colgan Air Flight
3407, in which 50 people died. As recently as 1992, about 90 percent of new hires at the airlines had military backgrounds, according to Tuesday's installment, while today that figure is about 30
percent. But whether any of that translates into a safety issue is unclear. "The kind of skills you get flying into bad weather into Buffalo you don't necessarily get flying in a fighter plane," one
unnamed airline pilot, who did not come from the military, told the News. The series looks into how pilots are trained today, and the difference in safety between the major airlines and the regionals.
The FAA is expected to issue proposed new rules for commercial pilots sometime in 2010. Click here to read parts one, two, three, and four of the Buffalo News series.
Training for airline pilots is also the topic of a report in Wednesday's Bloomberg News, which focuses on Gulfstream Academy (no relation to Gulfstream Aerospace, which builds the jets), the flight
school where the pilot of Flight 3407 was trained. The last five fatal crashes of commercial passenger carriers in the U.S. involved airplanes operated by regional airlines, according to Bloomberg. Click here for that story.
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When the FAA issued a Special Airworthiness Information Bulletin in November that effectively grounded some
Zodiac aircraft until they were modified, that bulletin did not apply to amateur-built airplanes, although at least one of the aircraft that had been involved in a fatal crash apparently involving
aerodynamic flutter was amateur-built. This week, EAA published the results of a survey of Zenith 601 XL and 650 kit
owners that aimed to gauge their awareness of the SAIB, their awareness of the service directive/safety alert issued by the manufacturer, and their intent to comply with both. The results, EAA said,
showed that owners/builders are aware of these developments, and 84 percent of those who responded to the survey are planning to incorporate the safety directive into their project, with a large
majority voluntarily grounding their aircraft until modifications are completed. These results show that the homebuilt community is proactive about safety and self-regulates when needed, EAA said.
Marc Cook, editor of Kitplanes, said his experience conforms to EAA's results. "This survey aligns with the feedback we have received
from Zodiac builders, who seem willing to put safety well ahead of the inconvenience of making the modifications," he told AVweb. "One builder we spoke with called the proposed changes 'a huge
job,' but felt that they absolutely should be completed."
EAA said since the majority of respondents wanted more facts, it recommends releasing the testing data so all members of the 601 community can assess it for themselves. "The safety of the pilots,
their passengers, and persons and property on the ground is dependent upon this information being made available," EAA said. "If and when that factual data is released, EAA will do its part to inform
our members and the homebuilding community. Our technical counselors, numerous chapters, and the manufacturer can and should be utilized to educate the 601 XL community on the extensive and
challenging modification." Click here for EAA's complete survey results and analysis.
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You might not think that Marines in Afghanistan would have much free time, but even under stressful conditions of deployment, 15 Marines are taking advantage of a chance to complete a free private
pilot ground school and work toward passing their FAA knowledge test. Capt. Gabriel Glinsky, who is a CFI and the pilot of a V-22 Osprey, volunteered to teach the ground school when about a dozen
members of his squadron expressed an interest in learning to fly. Glinsky asked AOPA to help out, and
staffers there collected a variety of plotters, flight computers, VFR sectionals, and other training aids to ship abroad. The AOPA Air Safety Foundation, Rod Machado, and Gleim Publications all
pitched in to provide books and reference materials. The tried-and-true printed materials were preferred for use in the field, where Internet connections and computer access can't be taken for
granted. "The amount of support that we have received is way more than anything that we could have hoped for," Capt. Glinsky said. "We will do our best to keep GA strong, even halfway around the
AOPA President Craig Fuller wrote to Glinsky and thanked him for his service to the United States, his fellow Marines, and general aviation. "The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association is very
pleased to support your efforts to train future aviators and extremely impressed at your commitment to do so far from home, and in such austere conditions," Fuller wrote. The students hope to complete
their coursework so they can be ready to start flying when they return to the U.S. and earn their civilian sport pilot and private pilot certificates.
Experience the Fun and Excitement That Got You into Flying
Stick and rudder. The thrill of flying low and slow over the countryside, the excitement of taking the active runway in an aircraft that's really fun to fly. Use it for short cross-country flights
and avoid pressurization, dials, switches and huge fuel bills. It's time for HuskyFlight, the kind of flying that got you into flying in the first place. Try it. It'll change your
It looks like a flying fish -- or maybe the ambitious techno-art project of a geeky undergrad -- but the beautiful lighter-than-air unmanned aircraft built by Sanswire Corp. is a serious project meant for commercial and military use. The airship, with its unique flexible, segmented design, flew for the first time this month, in
Stuttgart, Germany (click here for the video). Piloted remotely through a ground control station located on site, the STS-111 UAV
hovered and performed several ascents and descents. David Christian, CEO of Sanswire, said, "We are convinced that the segmented design of the STS-111and its long-endurance fuel-gas-powered propulsion
system addresses unique security needs that require extended-duration station-keeping." The ship can stay aloft for more than two days, he said, giving it an advantage over fixed-wing drones. "Our
goal is to offer commanders another way to reconnoiter without putting personnel at risk while providing a more efficient acquisition and operational cost to the end user," Christian said.
The company plans to fly the STS-111 in the spring of 2010 at Sanford International Airport (SFB) in Orlando, Fla. Anyone who would like to attend the demonstration can apply online to request an invitation. The patented segmented design utilizes a non-rigid articulating structure that enables the ship to
react to gust loads and relieve stress, enhancing the craft's stability, the company says. "Following this demonstration, we plan to deliver the STS-111 to our systems integrator and operations
partner, which we expect to be a major milestone for lighter-than-air aviation," Christian said.
The folks at Sonex have announced that they successfully tested the PBS TJ-100, a Czech-built small jet engine, on board their SubSonex single-seat aircraft, and they plan to begin flight tests soon. The aircraft was displayed at EAA AirVenture this summer with a different jet engine, a small Heward design
derived from radio-controlled model aircraft technology, but the new TJ-100 is a full-featured production engine. The new engine has many advantages over the original choice, according to Sonex,
including a dedicated oil system that eliminates the need to pre-mix engine oil with fuel, high-quality components, and pre-wired instrumentation and throttle control for "plug and play" installation.
The change in engine type made it possible to accelerate the project's timeline. The test aircraft was modified to accept the TJ-100 with a new engine mount and modifications to the electrical and
fuel systems. The engine tests were conducted on Dec. 18, comprising three runs with power settings up to 100 percent. Click here for a video of the tests. First flight will take place following an FAA
airworthiness inspection and is dependent on cooperative weather, which is scarce this time of year at the Sonex base in Oshkosh, Wis.
Sonex Founder John Monnett spoke with EAA after the test. "We just wanted to see what the flame front out the back end and make sure we weren't having any problems of melting the tail off the
airplane," he said. "We were cautious, and we melted a lot of snow." PBS is working to certify the TJ-100 to Czech civil aviation standards, according to EAA. It is currently used in auxiliary power units and on drone aircraft and can produce up to 240 pounds of thrust. It is also used on the Super Salto powered sailplane, which performs in airshows.
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AOPA says it's following with interest the case of Super Cub allegedly stolen by a homeless man from a neighboring hangar at the organization's home airport at Frederick, Md. "The Frederick
airport, headquarters of AOPA, is a big proponent of Airport Watch," Craig Spence, AOPA vice president of operations and international affairs, said in a report on AOPA Online. "AOPA will be
following the developments of this investigation and will work to ensure future security practices prevent this type of act." AOPA co-sponsors Airport Watch with the Transportation Security
Administration and often points to the widespread participation in the program when the TSA starts talking about beefing up GA security. In fact, it appears someone was watching at FDK at 2:30 a.m.
Dec. 28 when it's alleged that Calvin Craig Cox started the Cub, a tow plane owned by the Mid Atlantic Soaring Association, and taxied it out of their hangar, which a member told AOPA was always kept
locked and showed no signs of forced entry.
It's not clear whether the aircraft ever got airborne before it nosed over near Runway 30. News reports say a witness saw a man running from the aircraft. Police followed tracks in the snow and
found Cox near a barn about an hour later. He's been charged with theft, second- and fourth-degree burglary, and trespassing. The FAA registry does not list anyone by that name as holding any type of
pilot certificate. AOPA says aircraft theft is rare in the U.S. and the tow plane was only the seventh reported in 2009.
It's doubtful that increased security for airline travel will prompt a run on business aircraft but the Christmas Day attack on a Northwest Airlines flight may highlight the benefits of private air
travel, according to a story in The Wichita Eagle. The Eagle quotes airline consultant Richard Mann as
predicting that increased inconvenience in airline travel will push business people to private aircraft. "I think if we see much more of the sort of response that we saw in this Detroit incidence,
we're going to see a resurgence in business aviation," he said. But those in the business aviation industry said history doesn't support that view.
National Business Aviation Association President Ed Bolen told the Eagle that in the wake of significant changes to airline security after 9/11, "we did not see any empirical data to show a
significant shift (to business aviation)...." Cessna spokesman Doug Oliver said those who already have business aircraft might use them more but new security rules aren't likely to be the deciding
factor in buying an aircraft. "Certainly people might use their business aircraft more, but sales are based on economics (and) on the global economy," Oliver said.
Have you signed up yet for AVweb's no-cost weekly business aviation newsletter, AVwebBiz?
Delivered every Wednesday morning, AVwebBiz focuses on the companies, the products and the industry leaders that make headlines in the business aviation industry, making it a must-read.
Add AVwebBiz to your AVweb subscriptions today by clicking here and choosing "Update E-mail Subscriptions."
Do You Have What It Takes to Be a Safe Pilot? Challenge yourself with the Air Safety Foundation's Safety Quiz Nontowered Airport Ops.
No tower? No problem. Safe operations at nontowered airports rely on procedure.
Paul Bertorelli has been reading commentaries and going over the timeline of last week's terrorism attempt onboard Northwest Flight 253. Face buried squarely in his palm, there's only one
conclusion he can reach in the latest installment of our AVweb Insider blog: We've become a nation of boobs.
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Last week, we cast our vision toward the future and asked how many AVweb readers plan to buy LSAs at some point.
Like the last time we asked this question (two years ago), the majority of our readership fell at the cautious
end of the spectrum: 30% of those who responded said I don't see myself ever owning an LSA, and slightly more (31%) said I have no plans to buy an LSA at the moment, but I'm not ruling it
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 new year is upon us, and we'd like to know how many of you plan to fly more this year, how many plan to taper off, and how many are making drastic changes (i.e., giving it up).
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.
This Is the Very Best Time Ever to Buy a New Diamond!
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Our best stories start with you. If you've heard something 200,000 pilots might want to know about, tell us. Submit news tips
via email to email@example.com. You're a part of our team ... often, the best part.
Peter Drucker Says, "The Best Way to Predict the Future Is to Create It"
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Each week, we go through dozens (and sometimes hundreds) of reader-submitted photos and pick the very best to share with you on Thursday mornings. The top photos are featured on
AVweb's home page, and one photo that stands above the others is awarded an AVweb baseball cap as our "Picture of the Week." Want to see your photo on
AVweb.com? Click here to submit it to our weekly contest.
*** THIS WEEK'S WINNERS ***
The end of the year has come 'round all too quickly yet again and that means we have to very important tasks to cover in today's installment of "Picture of the Week."
First (and most important), we want to give a hearty thank you to everyone who made time in their busy schedules to submit a photo this year. The few of you whom we've spoken
with directly can attest that we often get slammed up with mail and rarely have time to chat about submissions. But that should never be taken as an indication that we don't appreciate your time.
We've seen truly amazing photos as part of our "POTW" duties, and if we were blessed with infinite time and money, nothing would make us happier than buying each of you a cup of coffee and asking
about your photos.
Second, we've come to really enjoy taking inventory at this time of year. Overall, submissions were down from 2008; we received only just over 3,300 contest entries this year. On the
other, file sizes were up considerably our submission archive for 2008 is around 800MB, while this year's photo archive tops out at a little over 2GB. And despite the dip in submissions, we
shared 913 photos on AVweb this year, 41 more than we managed to squeeze in during '08.
Christian Mogensen of Rochester, Minnesota helps send 2009 soaring off into the horizon with a photo that both reminds us of the past
AirVenture was fun, wasn't it? and looks toward the future OSH2010 will be here before you know it!
If editing "POTW" has taught us nothing else, we will always remember this lesson: New Zealand is the second-best place in the world to live if you like airplanes. (The first
is wherever "AVweb" World Headquarters happens to be situated at the moment, of course!)
Barry Hudson of Rolleston, Canterbury (New Zealand, natch!) proves it yet again, this time at the Garden City Helicopters Base at Christchurch
Aaron Dabney of Hewitt, Texas supplies our final fly-out of the year and our new desktop wallpaper, too!
By now you know to look for more reader-submitted photos in the slideshow on AVweb's home page. So what are you waiting for? Click on over there. Unless you really like reading copyright notices and credits and such.
A quick note for submitters: If you've got several photos that you feel are "POTW" material, your best bet is to submit them one-a-week! That gives your photos a greater chance of
seeing print on AVweb, and it makes the selection process a little easier on us, too. ;)
A Reminder About Copyrights:
Please take a moment to consider the source of your image before submitting to our "Picture of the Week" contest. If you did not take the photo yourself, ask yourself if you are indeed authorized to
release publication rights to AVweb. If you're uncertain, consult the POTW Rules or or send us an e-mail.
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
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