AVwebFlash - Volume 16, Number 7a

February 15, 2010

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Top News: Reauth Bill Back Before Congress back to top 

FAA Reauthorization And Rule Changes To See Debate In March

Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said a week of Senate floor time will be scheduled in March to address aviation safety reforms and the FAA reauthorization bill. Senators have been pressured by surviving family members of victims of Flight 3407 to move the process, and its included safety reforms, along. The bill currently holds provisions that would change pilot training standards and set requirements for remedial training programs for commercial carriers. It also calls for independent study of pilot fatigue research to be considered in new flight-time and duty-time rules for pilots, and changes minimum times required to serve as first officer at a commuter. Reid delivered the commitment on the eve of the day that marks the one year anniversary of the Continental/Colgan Air Flight that crashed outside of Buffalo, killing all aboard and one on the ground. Airline groups and even FAA chief Randy Babbitt have expressed concern over some of the provisions in the bill -- especially the apparent emphasis on quantity of flight time over quality of training. The FAA's authorization bill has been surviving on short-term extensions currently set to expire on March 31. Even if the Senate passes the bill, that's not the end of the process.

The House version of the FAA reauthorization bill has already been passed, and it is considered to be more stringent than the bill the Senate has proposed. The House version includes a 1,500-hour minimum requirement for right-seaters on commuter airlines and requires that airlines identify the regional airlines flying their commuter routes. Whatever the Senate passes will have to be merged with the House bill by a House-Senate conference committee that will then vote on whatever compromises they reach.

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Safety & Security Report back to top 

Laser Boeing Destroys Ballistic Missile

Thursday, a modified Boeing 747 carrying more than seven tons of optics on its nose and a megawatt-class laser in back destroyed a ballistic missile in its first successful test when fired at such a weapon. In a prior test, the laser system successfully "disabled" a truck, but the Airborne Laser Testbed (ALTB) can now claim a "lethal" intercept of a liquid-fueled ballistic missile, which is the goal of the program, according to the U.S. Missile Defense agency. The system is the result of a cooperative effort led by Boeing, in partnership with Northrop Grumman (which supplies the laser) and Lockheed Martin (which is developing the fire control system). The aim is to deter enemy missile attacks by disabling the attacking missiles while they are in the boost phase. The U.S. Missile Defense Agency said it hopes similar devices will one day be able to track and attack multiple targets "at the speed of light, at a range of hundreds of kilometers, at a low cost per intercept attempt compared to current technologies."

The test took place just before midnight (eastern time) off of Ventura, Calif., at Point Mugu's Naval Air Warfare Center-Weapons Division Sea Range. The test was not the first in-flight effort. An August test launched from Edwards Air Force Base pitted the system against a missile and showed it could effectively find, track and fire on the target (in that case, with a test laser). In the latest test, the ALTB tracked, targeted and fired, destroying the target, according to the Missile Defense Agency. The ALTB is intended to operate autonomously, above weather and outside the range of most threats while remaining close to enemy territory. It is built to engage and destroy ballistic missiles in their boost phase, over the launch area. A nose-mounted turret with a "1.5m telescope" culminating in a 7-ton mirror that focuses the megawatt-class high-power chemical oxygen iodine laser on missiles.

Related Content:
Watch the video

Notorious Teen Suspected Of Fourth Airplane Theft

18-year-old Colton Harris-Moore is apparently the prime suspect in a fourth stolen aircraft episode in the northwest -- this one involving a Cirrus SR22 and the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. This time, the plane was flown near airspace that is restricted for the Winter Games and landed on Orcas Island, off the coast of Washington state. If Harris-Moore is the culprit, he may have improved his un-certificated flying skills. The Cirrus came to rest in the mud near a runway and CNN reported it was undamaged (though a sheriff they interviewed also said it was). The teen's alleged prior (aircraft) thefts have included a Cessna 182 and another Cirrus SR22 and all resulted in some damage to aircraft. Local authorities say the thefts share geographically proximate landing sites. All aircraft were put down near where Harris-Moore is known to have spent time. The young man has not been formally charged in any of the thefts, but he does face upward of 11 other charges ranging from burglary to identity theft to stealing a car. His current whereabouts are unknown.

Police say the young man has successfully stolen credit card numbers by breaking into homes and writing down the digits and leaving the cards behind. He has allegedly used them to purchase GPS units and police scanners. Authorities note that Harris-Moore's adventures have earned him some 30,000 "friends" on his alleged Facebook page. When we checked, we saw only 17,846. But that number doesn't include the 18,324 members of his fan club page, where he is described as "Western Washington's new Jesse James (without the murders)." His mother, who has previously commented with concern regarding her son's alleged activities, has also noted that she was impressed that he had seemingly taught himself to fly. Fans of his Facebook page mostly write words of encouragement, sometimes including "don't hurt anyone."

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News Briefs back to top 

Rejected Takeoff Overrun Prompts Sterile Cockpit Concerns

A Jan. 19 event that saw US Airways Express Flight 2495 abort its takeoff and run off the runway at Yeager Airport in Charleston, W. Va., has been linked to irrelevant cockpit chatter prior to the takeoff roll and an improper flap setting. None of the 34 people aboard the Bombardier CRJ-200ER were seriously injured though the aircraft suffered damage when it plowed into a crushable concrete safety area at the end of the runway. As the investigation continues, the events that appear to have transpired in the cockpit prior to the accident are raising concern among some safety officials, according to The Wall Street Journal. "Safety experts" are noting the incident among others to raise the specter of "lack of pilot professionalism" and a lax culture they feel may be becoming more apparent in the cockpit. Cockpit voice recordings from the time prior to takeoff reportedly contain "stretches of nonpertinent chatter" irrelevant to flight preparations, according to "officials familiar with the details." FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt recently met with a House aviation subcommittee and said the FAA is looking for ways to better transfer experience from seasoned pilots to younger greener commuter pilots. Said Babbitt, those kinds of programs would be an "important way to raise professional standards and improve cockpit discipline."

According to sources contacted by The Wall Street Journal, the Bombardier CRJ-200ER began its takeoff roll with the incorrect flap setting, accelerated and began to rotate before the crew realized the mistake. The pilots then quickly readjusted the flaps, which prompted "an automated cockpit warning to abandon takeoff," sources told the Journal. The crew then tried to stop the jet but failed to slow it sufficiently before reaching the runway overrun safety area.

AOPA To You: Get Involved!

AOPA President and CEO Craig Fuller Friday detailed AOPA's drive to safeguard general aviation's interests and build the pilot population, calling on members to "get personally engaged" in protecting and promoting GA. AOPA announced it will be reaching out through a variety of venues and asking its members to stay informed, write local officials, host events if able and simply take a non-pilot friend flying. Nearly one-third of Senators are up for election in 2010, and AOPA is asking you to voice your support for GA with your vote. To facilitate your role, AOPA has launched a Web page with ideas meant to further your involvement and help you become active in advocating for general aviation. For its part, AOPA plans to produce data from future economic studies to fully detail the economic impact general aviation airports provide for communities and states. Says Fuller, that's information "we can and will take to Washington," where numbers often speak louder than words.

AOPA is hoping its own events to educate pilots will help inspire individual pilots to then organize events of their own. The organization is going to work with flight schools to try to increase the graduation rate, which currently sits near 30 percent, according to AOPA. Aside from its push to create ambassadors of flight from pilots, Fuller said AOPA will be actively engaged in discussions on air traffic modernization, aviation safety and funding issues central to the interests of general aviation pilots.

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New Airplane Owners back to top 

Airplane Awarded As Restitution

An Ottawa, Kan., pilot will have 15 months to think about all the work she and her husband put into building the experimental aircraft that was briefly theirs. Sandra Brandes was sentenced to a year and three months in prison last week for stealing $77,000 from her former employer, Kansas City, Mo. dentist Dr. J. Daniel Fleming. The court was told she used the money to buy the airplane kit, which, from the photo that appeared with the story by KCUR FM, looks like an RV-9A. Now, the dentist might consider getting his pilot certificate because the judge ordered that he be awarded the newly completed aircraft as restitution.

Dan Nelson, the assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted the case, said the airplane offers the dentist a fair chance at getting his money back since it's worth $70,000 to $80,000. "In fact the government pursued this restitution arrangement, which was to say the least unusual because we thought it was the way to maximize how much money the victim would receive back," Nelson told the radio station. Brandes wrote herself checks on the dentist's account while she worked in his office. According to the FAA registry, the aircraft hasn't been registered but N523RV was reserved by a Matthew Brandes, who lives at the same address as Sharon Brandes.

King School 172 Winner Announced

Rhonda Doyle, of Ridgway, Colo., is this year's winner of the King Schools' Future of Flight airplane sweepstakes and recently picked up her G1000-equipped Cessna 172S at Montgomery Field in San Diego. Doyle, a commercial pilot who runs the snowboard school at Telluride Ski Resort, was taking some lessons of her own when she got the news. "I was sitting at my desk, studying for my Instrument Rating, and watching John King on my computer, when suddenly the phone rang and there he was on the line," she said. " I was a little confused at first, so when he told me that I had won I didn't believe it. But, when Martha joined in the conversation, I knew it was for real!"

The WAAS-enabled panel and GFC700 autopilot should come in handy in the Colorado mountains as Doyle pursues her goal of becoming a tour pilot. "Rhonda is a wonderful winner and we are thrilled that this airplane will help her to realize her flying dreams," said John King.

Related content:
Click here for a short video of Doyle picking up her plane.

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Flying Over Water back to top 

Caribbean Air Rally Planned

Pilots who'd like to combine a tropical aviation adventure with the chance to brush up on the full range of piloting skills might consider the Governor General's Challenge Cup air rally coming up in April. Participants will take off from Banyan Air Service in Ft. Lauderdale for a 10-day tour of the Caribbean, with stops in the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, the Dominican Republic and, tentatively, Port au Prince, Haiti, with donations of needed supplies for earthquake victims. The rally ends April 27 back in Ft. Lauderdale after a little more than 2,000 nm. Organizer Catherine Tobenas said that in addition to the fabulous scenery and attractions on the route, there's an ongoing competition to keep things interesting.

"It is not a race," she said. Rather, each leg of the trip will test crews on various piloting skills, from navigation to aircraft handling to general knowledge. Competitors will be awarded points based on their performance in each leg and the crew with the most points at the end wins. So far crews from all over the world have registered.

Sully Takes Pacific Float Trip

Half of the Miracle on the Hudson flight crew was back in the water on the weekend but Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger didn't get his feet wet this time. Sullenberger was walking down a street in Vancouver, British Columbia, taking in the sights of the Olympic city when Darren Batstone, a pilot for Harbour Air, recognized him. One thing led to another and soon Sullenberger was aboard Batstone's turbine-powered de Havilland Otters on floats that Harbour Air uses for scheduled service between Vancouver's Burrard Inlet and the inner harbor of Victoria, about 50 miles across Georgia Strait on Vancouver Island.

Sullenberger was the captain of US Airways Flight 1549 when the Airbus A320 lost power in both engines, necessitating a ditching in the Hudson River in January of 2009. The most serious injury was a broken leg. It's not known if he had any pointers for Batstone, who has to keep an eye out for marine traffic as well as other aircraft in the busy harbor areas of B.C.'s largest cities.

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New on AVweb back to top 

100 Years of Women Pilots

File Size 5.8 MB / Running Time 6:20

Podcast Index | How to Listen | Subscribe Via RSS

On March 8, 1910, Baroness Raymonde de la Roche became the first woman to obtain a pilot certificate. She was the world's 36th certificated pilot. Canadian pilot and aviation educator Mierelle Goyer is spearheading a worldwide attempt to mark the centennial of de la Roche's accomplishment by encouraging more women to do the same. She spoke with AVweb's Russ Niles.

Click here to listen. (5.8 MB, 6:20)

AVweb Insider Blog: Snow Day Cyber-Hangar-Flying Options

You're not the only one who wishes he could up into the skies but is ground-bound by the massive snowstorm grinding much of the U.S. to a halt. Over on the AVweb Insider blog, Mary Grady has some great ideas for flying-related activities you can enjoy from the comfort of your computer chair — assuming you've got electricity.

Click here to read Mary's suggestions and add your own.

AVweb Insider Blog: Why Do People Make Bad Security Lines Worse?

Because they're human, that's why, and they don't realize their own bumbling makes things worse for everyone. But Paul Bertorelli blogs that he tries not to be one of them in the latest installment of the AVweb Insider.

Read more and add your comments.

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

AVmail: February 15, 2010

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: The Best Airline Pilots Want to Be Airline Pilots

After 37 years of flying for major airlines, including 15+ years doing line indoctrination, I have some observations on the issue of airline pilot training.

The best pilots want to be pilots. They are not there for the money or ego boost. A pilot who has varied experience brings more to the job at the beginning and adapts more easily to changing circumstances. Military pilots lack varied experience in many cases, but can be adaptable if they are not convinced they are the most brilliant types around.

Once working for an airline, a relief pilot position is a good place to learn for a short period, and the right seat is a good way to learn what to do and not do in varied situations. Pilots who learn constantly are the best.

Customer service is a huge part of being an airline pilot. If you are too important to help someone with directions in the terminal or with a bag if you happen to be in the cabin, then you are the wrong person for the job. Be a freight dog, or get a life!

Low-time pilots with a good background are often better candidates than high-time pilots who are full of themselves, embittered, or set in their ways. You have to want the job, and it is not for everyone. Training cannot overcome [the] lack of the indefinable mix of art and science that constitutes flying.

Brian Hope

I've flown combat, cropdusters, and as a test pilot, instructor pilot and major airline pilot. Sadly, the best answer to safety in the regionals is not going to happen. That's because regionals exist because of low wages and good, old-fashioned greed and greed rules.

Regional captains should be the highest paid, most experienced airline pilots in the industry. They do the most with the least, and no hours in other types of flying are going to make up for that experience. Six months in the simulator before going on the line would help, but that costs money, too, which negates the point of having these low-cost operations. Money talks, safety walks.

Mike McMains

Luck of the Draw

I was dismayed to learn that the AOPA sweepstakes airplane was "donated to AOPA for the sweepstakes by philanthropist and longtime pilot Lloyd Huck" for the purpose of promoting aviation and expanding the pilot population. If this was the goal, then he failed completely.

How is giving one active pilot (that already has a nice airplane) a $250,000 aircraft advancing aviation? He would have been better off giving ten $25,000 reconditioned Cessna 152s to ten student pilots, older inactive pilots, or partnerships who promised to stay involved in aviation. Give Young Eagle rides, and promote aviation in their towns. (Yes, that would be me.)

So now we have one more wealthy guy that can afford to pay for insurance, taxes, and gas for a new airplane that is financially out of reach of nearly everyone else in the country. This reinforces the idea that flying is "only for rich people" and discourages new people (and inactive pilots). Maybe that perception is true.

Perhaps I should give up my search for affordable flight and take up something cheaper and more accessible, like golf. Then I could join the ranks of others that have families, obligations, and merely above-average salaries who have quit flying. Oh, wait — I already have.

Scott Thomason

AVweb Replies:

There has to be a winner, Scott, and AOPA is made up of active pilots who have made choices to include aviation in their lives. Hanging on to existing pilots is just as important as attracting new ones, and if promotions like AOPA's sweepstakes are more appealing because they get help from those who can afford it, I don't see how that can be a negative thing.

Russ Niles

Super Cool Demonstration

We've all been told that water can exist, as a liquid, in a super-cooled state below 32 degrees, until it touches something or is otherwise disturbed. This ability is what makes freezing rain so dangerous to us pilots.

Well, this week I had a graphic demonstration of just how that works. The temperature was in the mid-20s, and I went out to my car in the morning. In the cup holders were two 20-ounce bottles of crystal clear water, about 70 percent full. I picked one up for a drink and in 3 to 5 seconds after I popped the top and moved it toward me, the water clouded up and turned to a solid block of ice in my hand. The second bottle did the same thing. The speed of the change from water to ice was dramatic and served to reinforce the concept of avoiding freezing rain at all costs when flying.

Keith Knowlton

I am writing in response to today's "Short Final." Either the story is a complete fabrication, or else it's been in your mailbag for a very long time. The last time that Michigan managed to beat Ohio State, as the author makes reference to in his last paragraph, was in 2003. Yes, that's seven years ago; the Buckeyes have won the past six. While it does make for an amusing story, it's either untrue or an old story.

Go Bucks!

Dan Auslander

AVweb Replies:

We heard from many Bucks fans. You can stop now.

Russ Niles

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

AVweb's Newstips Address ...

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 newstips@avweb.com. You're a part of our team ... often, the best part.

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Help Us Celebrate AVweb's 15th Anniversary back to top 

15 Years and Now 15 Grand Giveaways ... Now's Your Chance to Win 100,000 Air BP Bravo Reward Points

CLICK HERE to Register for All 15 Drawings

Now's your chance to win 100,000 Air BP Bravo Rewards Points as we celebrate our 15th Anniversary! All you have to do is click here to enter your name and e-mail address. (You only have to enter once, and you'll be entered in our prize drawings for the entire year. If you've already entered for the previous Bose Headset drawing, you're all set — no need to register again.)

And no, we're not going to rent or sell your name, ever. Tell your friends, and invite them to sign up for AVweb so they can qualify for our 15 Grand Giveaways prize drawings, too. (We won't spam them, either — but we hope they will sign up for our newsletters.)

Deadline for entries is 11:59pm Zulu time February 19, 2010.

Click here to read the contest rules and enter.

Congratulations to Ron Goin of Idaho Falls, ID, who won the Bose Aviation Headset X! (click here to get your own from Bose Corporation)

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

Exclusive Video: Airborne Laser Shoots Down Missile in First Successful Test

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

Boeing may have a legitimate proof-of-concept for its airborne laser targeting weapon, which this week successfully intercepted a liquid-propelled ballistic missile in flight. AVweb's Glenn Pew has the video.

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.

Exclusive Video: AVweb's PiperSport Flight Trial

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

At the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring, Florida, Piper launched its entry in the light sport market, the Czech-built PiperSport. Aviation Consumer editor Paul Bertorelli got a flight demo on the airplane, and here's his video report.

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.

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Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Banyan Air Service (KFXE, Ft. Lauderdale, FL)

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

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AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Banyan Air Service at Ft. Lauderdale Executive Airport (KFXE) in Florida.

We knew AVweb reader Lindy Kirkland was volunteering with Haitian evacuation and relief flights — watch for a podcast with him in the next few days — but we were surprised to see his name in our weekly "FBO" critiques, singing the praises of Banyan Air:

Banyan Air Service in Ft. Lauderdale has donated hangar space, personnel, and fuel discounts to those participating in the Haiti relief efforts. Despite the very upscale facilities and their normal heavy iron clientele, they were so very courteous to us and got us fueled, moved, loaded and on our way quickly. All this despite getting ready for the Super Bowl!

Lindy went on to call the staff at Banyan "truly amazing" and commended them for their dedication to the relief efforts when there was plenty of other (more profitable) work to be done.

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 on a flight from Central California to Southern California (maybe L.A. Center?):

Airliner (heard in background during radio transmission) :
"We need peanuts!"

"Who needs peanuts?"

"Um, disregard."

Donn Larson
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.

Aviate. Navigate. Communicate.