AVwebFlash Complete Issue: Volume 16, Number 9a

March 1, 2010

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Top News: User Fees Have (At Least) Nine Lives back to top 
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AOPA: Why The User Fees Battle Isn't Over

New aviation user fees aren't in the Obama administration's budget, but they still may be packaged elsewhere, AOPA's Lorraine Howerton told AVweb Thursday. Howerton is AOPA's vice president of legislative affairs, and while she said AOPA's efforts had created some breathing room, the country's fiscal woes may become a serious influence on future funding decisions. As the budget deficit soars, legislators are under increasing pressure to shrink federal spending wherever possible. Currently, the general fund for the FAA is down 30 percent, said Howerton. She added that the decrease may translate into a greater draw on the Aviation Trust Fund, and that draw may in turn drive legislators to seek alternate forms of funding -- potentially, user fees. There are other concerns.

So long as the FAA's reauthorization bill is still in the pipeline changes may be incorporated to that bill, as well. A version of the bill passed the House last year, but has not made it past the Senate. At present, it does not appear that there is political will to incorporate user fees into that bill. But it is possible that fees may later be incorporated through other legislative means, said Howerton. Toward that end, AOPA is encouraging grass roots involvement and Howerton says that writing your senator and congressman matters. The content of those letters makes a difference, she added. In short, pilots should find key numbers to include -- like the number of pilots or AOPA members in their district, the number of airports, and the jobs that aviation helps generate there. Howerton said AOPA can help supply its members with those statistics. AVweb has also collected the links you'll need to find proper contact information and relative statistics, here.

Related Content:

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FOI, BARR Meet Head-On in Court back to top 

Court Opens Blocked N Numbers

A federal court has ruled that the FAA must release aircraft registration information previously kept secret in a special program if it receives a Freedom of Information request. For about 10 years, private aircraft operators have been able to have their N numbers "blocked" from outside scrutiny under the National Business Aviation Association's Blocked Aircraft Registration Request (BARR) program. In late 2008, a non-profit investigative journalism Web site called ProPublica submitted an FOIA request to the FAA to release the list of BARR participants, claiming the owners of the aircraft were using the program to prevent public scrutiny of their use of the aircraft. The FOIA request came shortly after the Big Three automakers made headlines by using corporate aircraft to travel to Washington to ask for federal bailouts. NBAA went to court to block the release of the information citing security concerns, but on Friday a D.C. district court ruled the FOIA requests must be honored; it did not extend the order to include real-time requests for information on aircraft.

That the information can only be released through the formal FOIA process is of some solace to NBAA but it regards the ruling as a mistake. "NBAA has long believed that security and other imperatives make it absolutely essential to protect our Members' aircraft and flight information from being made widely available, which is why we created the BARR program," said Bob Lamond, NBAA Director, Air Traffic Services and Infrastructure. "Unfortunately, and in spite of our work to uphold the BARR program through every legal avenue available, the court has ruled the above information cannot remain permanently sealed." NBAA says it doesn't know what ProPublica plans to do with the information but it's ready to help members in a media relations role if they're contacted about their aircraft use.

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Safety & Security back to top 

TSA To Review Stack Crash

The TSA says it will review Joseph Stack's Feb. 18 crash of his Piper Dakota into an Austin IRS office building and apply its findings to its future anti-terrorism decision-making, USA Today reported Friday. "It may simply be a confirmation that, for very small planes, you're not going to see a lot of casualties. Or there may be something else we're unaware of," John Sammon, TSA assistant administrator, said. A law enforcement official familiar with the Stack investigation told CNN last week that investigators were trying to determine if Stack had removed seats from the plane and replaced them with one or more full fuel containers. In Stack's case, the building suffered impact and significant fire damage while he and one person on the ground were killed, and more than ten others were injured. The TSA says it will collect information from the FBI, and other agencies' investigations into the Austin crash, to develop an understanding of the damage to property and people that could potentially be caused by similar intentional acts. The review may be the first of its kind involving a private aircraft to be performed by the TSA.

The TSA has not yet imposed (and had reportedly been backing away from) new regulations on small private aircraft. But the agency has put a focus on larger, faster aircraft that it feels could be used effectively to commit a terrorist act. However, the crash in Austin raised concerns in Washington that could challenge the TSA's position, pending the outcome of the TSA's review of that event. As AVweb reported Thursday, due to change within the TSA, some insiders believe the TSA may be ready to stand up to congressional "fear mongering."

NTSB Chair Addresses Pilot Fatigue, Training

NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman told the Senate Thursday that measures are needed to ensure pilots are better trained and better rested before they fly. "If we are serious about aviation safety, we must establish a system that minimizes pilot fatigue and ensures that flight crews report to work rested and fit for duty," Hersman said in testimony. Hersman delivered her speech on the subject of aviation safety more than one year after the fatal crash of Colgan Air's Continental Connection Flight 3407 near Buffalo. Meanwhile in Buffalo, Thursday, a report in the Buffalo News noted that the pilot of Flight 3407 had slept the previous night in the airline's crew room and suggested that backward progress had since been made. According to the article, Colgan has "come up with a way of making it more difficult for pilots to do that. It's ordered the lights to be kept on in its crew rooms." Hersman's full comments continued on the broader subject of crew rest and expanded to crew training, ranging from remedial work to stall training, to the NTSB's most wanted list.

"We must also have a system in which we are steadfastly confident that all of our commercial pilots are proficient and well-trained," the chairman said. Hersman noted that remedial training and additional oversight for pilots expressing training deficiencies would help ensure mastery of the skills necessary for safe flight. The NTSB believes that "more realistic stall and upset training" can now be accomplished in the simulator. Thanks to advances in technology, the NTSB says pilots could use the tools to acquire a better understanding of an airplane's flight characteristics in the post-stall regime if fully developed stall models are approved for training. Read the chairman's full comments, here.

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News Briefs back to top 

Hawaii CAP Planes Sound Tsunami Alert

The Civil Air Patrol launched nine aircraft in Hawaii Saturday to warn coastal residents of an impending tsunami. The wave was formed by a magnitude 8.8 earthquake off the coast of Chile and resulted in tsunami warnings for much of the Pacific Ocean from Russia to Australia. The quake hit about 3:34 a.m. Chile time and by 6 a.m. local time CAP crews in Hawaii were in the air. "Eighty percent of the shoreline in Hawaii does not have a fixed base siren," said Hawaii Wing Commander Col. Roger Caires. "CAP aircraft are the only resource for issuing tsunami warnings, via a speaker system attached to the outside lower portion of their plane's fuselage."

The CAP crews are looking for anyone near the shore who may not have heard warnings through radio and television broadcasts. The tsunami warning function is central to CAP's role in Hawaii and crews are well-trained in carrying out the mission. They all have predetermined routes to cover and had about five hours to get the word out. Early reports from Hawaii indicated virtually everyone on the islands had evacuated to high ground in anticipation of the tsunami.

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News Briefs back to top 

Developer Seeks Airport Land At Oceano?

Developer Jeff Edwards has scheduled a March 17 meeting to discuss his unsolicited plan to turn Oceano County Airport, near San Luis Obispo, Calif., into a non-airport property. Meanwhile, Bill Robeson, a city planner who works with the city's Airport Land Use Commission, told SanLuisObispo.com that when it comes to closing the airport, "none of the hearing bodies for the county are considering it." But Edwards, a private land planner, sees "enormous potential" for the nearly beachfront property that he says could translate into "significant cash flow to the county if they were to close the airport and lease it for development." He has advertised his upcoming meeting through a press release, has invited representatives from San Luis Obispo County and candidates running for local positions, and said "the public is encouraged to attend." Oceano operates a 2325-by-50 foot paved runway and is home to 13 aircraft (10 singles and three ultralights). The facility serves transient pilots and its land-use plan estimates 12,500 operations per year.

At the meeting, Edwards will introduce plans that could see the airport redeveloped into commercial or residential properties, senior housing or tourist-oriented facilities, or some mix thereof. His one-hour presentation will include an aviation law attorney, a geologist, an ecologist, an economist, a climate-change expert and a Costal Act specialist, followed by a question & answer period. Oceano is currently operated by a local self-supporting enterprise fund that is not part of the supporting county's general fund and fell just short of its $79,000 budget last year. Its planned upgrades include additional hangars, additional aircraft parking and facilities upgrades. The airport has received $2.3 million from the FAA and is applying for a $450,000 grant to facilitate planned work. Edwards' meeting is set to be held Wednesday, March 17, at 5:00 p.m. at Grover Beach, Rabobank, 899 Grand Ave.

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Opinion & Commentary back to top 

AVweb Insider Blog: Fat Fliers — What Should the Airlines Do?

If you don't think this is a problem, says Paul Bertorelli on the AVweb Insider blog, you haven't flown much. Anyone who finds themselves seated next to a 300-pounder should reasonably expect the airline to intervene. The expectation that you have to share a third of your seat with someone else is just wrong.

Click here to read Paul's take on the Kevin Smith/Southwest brouhaha and chime in with your own thoughts.

AVweb Insider Blog: Airport Management — Suffering Fools

Is every airport managed as poorly as Paul Bertorelli's local base, Venice Municipal? Thankfully not, says Paul — but plenty of airports are similarly under siege by anti-noise and anti-aviation interests. In a post to the AVweb Insider blog, Paul explains why the only way to fight these interests is to get involved with local politics.

Click here to read more and share your own experiences.

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

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.

AVmail: March 1, 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: Privacy Before Justice

This is the state of our insane judicial system. In the story "Pilot Wins Appeal Over Health Record Disclosure," this "disabled" pilot blatantly lies multiple times on his pilot's certificate renewal paperwork so he can get what he wants, flying illegally, possibly jeopardizing innocent lives while he is taking medications.

But, when he is caught, he sues on a claim that his privacy was violated. To one federal agency, he discloses his HIV condition so that he can milk money from SSA for being disabled; to the FAA, he lies that he is perfectly healthy so he can fly.

Once you disclose info to a government agency, where is privacy? After shopping his lawsuit to enough courts, he finds one that awards him money from the government for a violation of privacy.

Terry Adams

Lead Questions

The last paragraph of the story "Embry-Riddle Tests Biofuel for Switch to Green Fleet" is a distortion of reality which provides the public a distortion of the true facts of the impact of lead in avgas. Yes, aviation fuel [use] is 190 million gallons a year, but of the overall consumption of petroleum products, it is a very small percentage.

It is small enough that the industry has a hard time justifying the effort to develop an avgas replacement. Furthermore, [regarding] your statement that avgas contributes 45 percent of the lead in the atmosphere, the only engines that currently use leaded fuel are in aircraft, and I am surprised that it is only 45 percent.

The questions are:

  1. How much did the lead in the atmosphere decrease since lead was removed from all fuels?
  2. How much of an impact to the environment is the aircraft avgas contributing with regard to human safety?
  3. What will a rush to [alternative] fuel cost, in terms of safety and price? It has been documented that $7 dollar per gallon wholesale prices will kill general aviation.

Art Ahrens

AVweb Replies:

Thanks for writing. The statement that avgas contributes 45 percent of the lead is not my opinion; that is what the EPA says.

The other issues you mention have been covered extensively on AVweb. This story was not meant to provide an analysis of the entire leaded-avgas issue but merely the news of what ERAU is up to.

You can read a recent discussion of the general leaded avgas issue here, on our blog.

Mary Grady
Contributing Editor

Depressed Pilots

Is it just me, or is anybody else wondering if maybe Joseph Stack should have been on medication but wasn't because the FAA wouldn't let him fly if he was taking antidepressants, etc.? I know there are lots of pilots out there who need psych meds that don't take them because they would be grounded!

Bobbi Frels

Cockpit Recordings

Regarding the story "NTSB: Use CVR Tapes To Check On Pilots":

Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., chairman of the Transportation Committee, has said such a program was the "next frontier of safety" and it "must not [be] put off."

Here's a suggestion: Why don't we install microphones in the private offices and meeting rooms of politicians to see if they are doing their jobs, how well they are doing their jobs, and any graft they are receiving?

There's enough paranoia on flight decks without 1984's Big Brother getting involved. It seems to me the Colgan Air crash is being used as an example [to drive] a wedge into this area when other factors were the culprits. If you have a completely silent flight deck, are the pilots then obeying this rule, or are they asleep? Will the next thing be sensors applied to patches on their skulls, looking for alpha and beta patterns?

But the biggest question is who will determine whether some conversation on the flight deck is okay or detrimental to flight? The last thing needed here is some ambitious, ladder-climbing suit in an office determining what is safe and what is not to make a name for him or herself.

Don Ledger

CONtrary Name

You refer to Southern California Terminal Radar Approach Center in the item about the stolen Cirrus that landed at LAX (Feb 22). Has TRACON changed to "TRACEN"?

N. W. Miller

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

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New on AVweb back to top 

AOPA: Don't Count Out User Fees

File Size 13.6 MB / Running Time 9:55

Podcast Index | How to Listen | Subscribe Via RSS

New aviation user fees aren't in the Obama administration's newly released budget, but there are real reasons to think they might appear elsewhere, says AOPA. More legislation (like the FAA reauthorization bill) is still in the pipeline, and with the nation's current fiscal condition, anything can happen. Lorraine Howerton, AOPA's vice president of legislative affairs, explains why the threat's still there — and what you can do about it.

Click here to listen. (13.6 MB, 9:55)

Exclusive Video: Last Flight of an English Electric Lightning (And Pilot Dave Stock)

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The crash of a rare and historic English Electric Lightning MK T5 on November 14, 2009 was unique for the history of the model and the renown of its pilot, Dave Stock. Here AVweb compiles historic video and actual event footage to review the event that saw both Stock and the aircraft lost.

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Exclusive Video: JPI's New Engine Monitor Technology

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JP Instruments has developed a new line of digital engine monitors. Here's a brief video report.

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Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Starlink Aviation (CYUL, Montreal, Québec)

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

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This week saw more AVweb readers telling us about their favorite FBOs via our online nomination form — which makes us feel good about traveling around North America, but it makes picking an "FBO of the Week" a little more difficult. After some thoughtful consideration, we decided to award our latest blue ribbon to Starlink Aviation at Montreal, Québec's Pierre Elliot Trudeau International Airport (CYUL).

AVweb reader Keith McLellan is a regular visitor to CYUL and reports that he has "tried all the FBOs on the field," but he's now settled on Starlink as his homebase-away-from-home, "and for good reason," he writes:

Zoran Bratuljevic and his hand-picked staff of professionals are the best anywhere! The guys and girls at Starlink are very sharp, courteous, friendly, and truly sincere in their efforts to take care of your needs. [G]reat service, a nice facility with all the amenities you want, a well-trained and friendly staff, and competitive pricing for all services. I highly recommend them! Oh, and just FYI, how many FBOs offer a late-model BMW as a crew car?

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!

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

15 Years and Now 15 Grand Giveaways ... It's Your Chance to Win a Garmin Aera 510 Handheld GPS

CLICK HERE to Register for All 15 Drawings

Win a Garmina aera 510 handheld GPS 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 — so if you've already entered, you're all set.)

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 March 12, 2010.

Click here to read the contest rules and enter.

Congratulations to Rod Anson of Camperdown, Victoria (Australia), who won 100,000 Air BP Bravo Rewards Points! (click here to get your own Rewards Points from Air BP)

The Lighter Side of Flight back to top 

Short Final

Overhead on SoCal Approach frequency near a busy Southern California airport last year:

"SOCAL, Cherokee N12345 is with you, with X-ray for the ILS to 26R."

"Roger. N12345, fly heading 280 and descend to 3,000."

"SOCAL, N12345. We have a problem. We seemed to have lost our squawk code. Can we have another one?"

"N12345, would you look around the cockpit? Sometimes stuff falls on the floor."

Bill Kelsey
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.