AVwebFlash Complete Issue: Volume 16, Number 10a

March 8, 2010

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Top News: Army Intelligence General to Head TSA? back to top 

Obama To Nominate Intelligence Officer To TSA Post

President Obama's next pick for chairman of the Transportations Security Administration is widely reported to be retired Maj. Gen. Robert Harding, a lifelong intelligence specialist whose bio (PDF) reads like a character in a Robert Ludlum novel. Various sources are reporting Harding, the former second in command of U.S. Army Intelligence and was director of operations for the Defense Intelligence Agency before that, will be nominated Monday. He retired from the Army in 2001 and owned his own security consultant firm specializing in homeland security assignments. Since much of his work, if he's approved by Congress, will center on aviation, AVweb searched the FAA Airmen Registry to see if he's a pilot and what ratings he might have. We found a Robert A. Harding and a Robert Harding, but that's all we found.

Whoever these two Robert Hardings might be have had their personal information blocked on the registry, to the point where the section listing their certificates says "none," which kind of begs the question why they would be on the registry in the first place. At any rate, Harding's appointment hasn't been officially announced yet and, presumably, there will be the opportunity to ask him personally if he's a pilot. The TSA has been without an administrator for more than a year. Last year Obama nominated former FBI agent Errol Southers for the job but he faced stiff opposition in Congress over his appointment, largely because of revelations that he used FBI databases to look into the background of he ex-wife's then-boyfriend. Southers resigned from the Los Angeles Police Department earlier this week.

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Latest Tech Gets Safety Vetting back to top 

NTSB To Review Glass Cockpit Safety In Online Meeting

The NTSB announced Thursday that it will hold a public (and online) meeting March 9 to discuss a study on whether glass cockpits have improved the safety record of small light general aviation aircraft. The meeting will be held Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. ET at the NTSB Board Room and Conference Center, 429 L'Enfant Plaza, S.W., Washington, D.C., but will also be broadcast and archived online. The study was initiated to track the effects of recent, relatively swift and major changes in cockpit technology. Ten years ago, analog was the standard for new single-engine aircraft avionics, says the Board, but now "almost all new light planes come equipped with digital flight display avionic systems." Those digital systems "enhanced function and information capabilities" and also represent "a significant change and potential improvement" in how GA pilots acquire and monitor the information they need to control their aircraft. Click through for specific links and more details.

The live and archived proceedings will be available on the Board's Web site at this address (which may not yet be an active link at the time you read this). After the meeting, the NTSB says it will post a summary regarding the findings and safety recommendations generated by the study. To view the full content of the NTSB's press release, click through, here.

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13 Years Is a Long Time ... back to top 

Non-Certificated Airline Pilot Arrested

A 41-year-old Swedish man who was about to pilot a Boeing 737 with 101 passengers aboard was arrested this week at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport for falsifying papers that had allowed him to fly for 13 years without valid certification. He had been flying for Corendon Airlines (Turkey) for two years, but said his career had spanned airlines in Belgium, Britain and Italy, and had allowed him to log more than 10,000 flight hours, by using falsified documents. Few details are yet available, but the man was reportedly in place, in the cockpit, and ready to fly the jet from Amsterdam to Ankara, Turkey, when arrested. Authorities say that he reacted by pulling his pilot stripes from his shoulders and expressing relief that he'd at long last been caught.

The arrested "pilot" had once held a valid pilot's certificate, police told BBC news, but the certificate had expired, "and did not allow him to fly large jets." A spokesman for Corendon said the man had "expertly misled the company with false papers." The airline had been notified of the impending arrest and had a pilot standing by to fly the jet to its destination. As for the suspect, he is now in custody and awaiting trial for forgery of documents and flying without a valid and appropriate pilot certificate.

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Kid Controller: The Fallout back to top 

Pilots Support Kid Controller's Dad

The FAA has banned tower visits, and airline pilots using New York's JFK Airport are showing support for tower controller Glenn Duffy and his supervisors after Duffy allowed his kids to issue instructions over the tower frequency in mid-February. The pilots are signing off their transmissions with "Adios," the salutation Duffy's nine-year-old son delivered in two of his transmissions Feb. 16. His twin sister took the mic a day later. According to the New York Daily News, some are amplifying their discontent with the fate that might await the controllers. "Thoughts going out to your co-worker there," the newspaper reported a Delta pilot departing Kennedy Airport was recorded on LiveATC as saying. "I think it's BS what he's going through."

However, if Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood is tuned into 119.1 or 123.9 he's not paying much attention to the pilots' support. "This is a stunning example of a lack of professionalism, not following the rules, not using common sense," LaHood told a Senate committee March 4. "The air traffic controller and his supervisor are on administrative leave and we are doing a thorough and complete investigation. The idea that a young child would be directing planes in and out of an airport is totally unacceptable." Meanwhile, media reports say the kids are blaming themselves and the family is under stress from the incident.

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Looking at Airplanes (And a Couple of Not-Airplanes) back to top 

Plane-Spotters Avoid Jail Time in India

Two British men who were found with a scanner, laptop, binoculars and cameras, and who admitted to "illegally monitoring aircraft" near Indira Gandhi International Airport, India, have been fined by an Indian court, but were released Friday without jail time. Stephen Hampton, 46, and Steven Ayres, 56, had faced up to 10 years under spying charges, but pled to a lesser offense that could have led to three years in jail. The two were arrested in India, Feb. 15, two days after a bomb blast in the Indian city of Pune initiated a security crackdown in the country. In the UK, authorities have approached plane-spotters differently. In 2004, a UK plan sought to recruit them to report suspicious potentially terrorist-related activities near airports. That program does not exist in India. There the men were arrested for recording the conversation between pilots and air traffic control, which (as performed) was against sections of India's Telegraph Act. The men pled guilty to a breach under the act.

Hampton and Ayres originally drew suspicion when, prior to their arrival, they requested a Radisson Hotel room overlooking an airport runway. Upon their arrival, their equipment was apparently enough to spark security's concern. Ultimately, the courts fined the men roughly $550 and left them free to return to the UK after stop notices were removed from their passports. Reports said that the equipment the men used could acquire information from the aircraft that identified each aircraft's make, tail number, and the airline that operated it. They could then use that information to track the aircraft around the world, according to a spokesman for the men. Hampton's mother told reporters her son travels the world to take pictures of aircraft, as a hobby.

Optical Illusion Sparks Search For Downed Plane

Click for a larger image

After seeing the illusion for themselves, authorities who launched a large-scale search last weekend to find a plane stuck in trees near Darwin Airport, Australia, said witnesses were right to report it. Multiple witnesses who contacted authorities last Sunday just after 6 p.m. local time claimed to have seen the plane through light rain as it sat stuck in mangroves. The "aircraft" is actually the meeting of two roof lines visible from a distance at a particular angle. Unfortunately, the misunderstanding was not resolved before a land-based search effort involved police and an aerial search involved a CareFlight helicopter. In the full light of day, authorities who traveled to the point from which the reports were made said witnesses did the right thing by alerting authorities. "I've actually seen it, myself" Duty Superintendent Mike Murphy told ABC news. "It's remarkable how it looks like a light aircraft pointing out into the ocean."

The fact that the view is not far from Darwin airport's flight path and that it was spotted at dusk, and on a rainy night, likely contributed to the misunderstanding, authorities said. "It would be easy to misinterpret it as a light aircraft," Murphy said.

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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 8, 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: "Ultimately Correct"

In his letter, Terry Adams seems to decry a pilot's claim for medical benefits from one Federal Agency while not revealing his medical condition to the FAA, accusing that the pilot "lies" on his FAA paperwork with the result that he endangered others.

Terry Adams is wrong. The FAA had erred in prohibiting the unreported condition and the medications used to treat it, and subsequently reversed themselves and approved both.

While I don't condone the pilot's failure to report, I think the pilot ultimately proved correct. It appears Mr. Adams is disturbed that another pilot was able to save his career from wrong-headed bureaucrats.

George Horn

Meds In The Cockpit

Regarding the letter about the suicidal pilot in Austin, studies have shown an increase in suicide while on the newer antidepressants. The FAA has this one right. Anyone interested should read Dr. Peter Breggin's book, Medication Madness.

Martin Dixon, M.D.

Kids In The Tower

For what its worth, regarding the kid in the tower at JFK: About 25 years ago, I was employed with NJ Bell and maintained all the special facilities for the control tower at Newark Airport. We had a good working relationship with the management of the tower, and they invited myself and family to tour the tower on a Sunday morning. During the tour, my daughter was asked if she wanted to talk to one of the pilots, which she did. Needless to say, it made her day.

That was then. Now, with everyone afraid of everything, the smallest infraction becomes a federal offense.

Robert Ammend

Today I heard all the networks speculate how this controller should be fired. I also heard about a group of teens in California that burglarized homes after partying until the wee hours of the morning. The comparison is my take.

A father brought his son [and daughter] to work and helped [them] see what he does for a living. He caused no damage, didn't get drunk, showed good parenting skills, and the networks think he should pay with his career. The teens in California had no parental guidance, got drunk, and robbed people, and the same news folks said how tragic it was and made the parents out as victims.

I think the kids in California that did this should serve time, and their delinquent parents should repay everything and serve time also.

I also think the FAA should commend the controller for steering his kids to an honorable profession and reward them with a scholarship leading to a career in air traffic control, which was demonstrated. In my 60-plus years of piloting, I have encountered less qualified controllers than the kid I heard giving clear, precise directions to pilots, who all acknowledged without question.

Charlie Garrison

Respectful Treatment

I just watched your video on Dave Stock's English Electric Lightning crash at Overberg AFB. I'd like to congratulate you on your presentation of the account, which I thought was well-researched and tastefully and respectfully presented.

David Park-Ross

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

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From Sea to Sky, by Way of New Zealand back to top 

Ed. Note:
Due to a technical glitch, we forgot the video when we ran this story last Thursday, and that was kind of the point. Enjoy!

Heeman's "Flying" Hovercraft

New Zealander (he's half Australian) Rudy Heeman has, over 11 years, transformed his hovercraft into a wing-in-ground-effect vehicle, and now it's for sale. Heeman says he's found the ideal flight altitude under the vehicle's 7-meter wingspan to be about 1.5 meters, over flat water or land, where he reached a top speed of about 60 mph in a test. It will hop small bushes or short trees and, yes, Heeman has hit shrubbery with it (and continued to a safe landing). Theoretically, the pilot plus one vehicle can cruise at about 55 mph for roughly 140 miles. The project includes parts from six different cars, including what was originally a 1.8-liter Subaru engine, and a gas bottle from an old barbeque. Its wings consist of what appear to be a front and rear aluminum tube spar, foam/fiberglass ribs (four per side, plus an end rib) and zip-to-close fitted fabric covering -- all of which separate for storage/transport. The vehicle is controlled by rudder and elevator, actuated by a control wheel (no rudder pedals). The cockpit includes a GPS and engine gauges, but Heeman has included other creative refinements.

To better manage the aircraft in flight, and improve its performance, Heeman has created a system that allows him to retract the hovercraft's skirt while in flight to reduce drag. He's also devised a "thrust diverter" that at the same time "converts lift air to thrust when flying." The vehicle operates under New Zealand's rules for boats, according to a recent SkyNews report, even when flying with its removable 23-foot wing attached. Heeman has put about 150 hours on the craft. Last we checked, the vehicle's auction (plus trailer) had attracted a bidder at $26,800. The sale includes training ... and a liability disclaimer, "which must be signed on pickup" according to Heeman.

Related Content:
Watch the video

Exclusive Video: Rudy Heeman's "Flying" Hovercraft

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

New Zealander Rudy Heeman has, over 11 years, transformed his hovercraft into a wing-in ground effect vehicle, and now it's for sale.

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Try disabling ad blockers and refreshing this page.
If that doesn't work, click here to download the video directly.

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New on AVweb back to top 

Exclusive Video: Using a Portable GPS for Valley Flying — TAA Thinking

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

IFR magazine's Jeff Van West shows how a portable GPS can be used to evaluate what altitudes will be safe for flying up valleys (without actually changing altitudes) and how to use the GPS while in those valleys to enhance safety and situational awareness.

If you enjoy this video, be sure to check out our sister publication, IFR magazine.

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Try disabling ad blockers and refreshing this page.
If that doesn't work, click here to download the video directly.

UAVs Are Taking Over

File Size 11.3 MB / Running Time 12:24

Podcast Index | How to Listen | Subscribe Via RSS

AVweb speaks with director of the Unmanned Aircraft System Center for Research, Education and Training at the University of North Dakota, Jeff Kappenman, to hear his thoughts on how unmanned vehicles are changing aviation and piloting, right now and in the future.

Click here to listen. (11.3 MB, 12:24)

AVweb Insider Blog: TSA Takes Military Turn

Does military intelligence translate to transportations security? AVweb Editor-in-Chief Russ Niles isn't sure, but he speculates on some of the challenges Robert Harding will face as TSA chairman in the latest installment of our AVweb Insider blog.

Read his thoughts and share your own here.

AVweb Insider Blog: Kid Controller, Fear and Risk

Last week's kid controller story kicked off world-class frothing about the sensationalizing mainstream media, probably deserved. But on the AVweb Insider blog, Paul Bertorelli argues that there's a risk assessment lesson in there that we can all benefit from.

Read Paul's thoughts and share your own here.

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Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Above View (St. George, Utah)

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

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AVweb readers continued to travel the length and breadth of North America this week, sending us notes about the best FBOs they discovered along the way. Our latest "FBO of the Week" award goes to Above View at St. George Municipal Airport (SGU) in St. George, Utah.

AVweb reader Jaime Votaw tells us how Above View stepped up to the plate when her husband made an unscheduled stopover:

My husband flew in tonight after needing to land aftet battling weather all day. This was an unexpected stop in a trip to Salt Lake City. I called in at about 8pm and someone answered the phone. It was obviously after hours, and the person who answered offered to run up the airport and get my husband a crew car so he could get to a local hotel. Up until Justin answered the phone, I had no idea what to tell my husnad to do. They are always friendly there, but this was way above and beyond for them to do. Thank you, Above View — you guys are great!

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

Overheard near Sacramento, California, where NorCal approach and departure is training a large number of new controllers:

Cessna 12345:
"NorCal approach, student pilot, Cessna 12345. Heading 024. 1500 feet, climbing to 5500."

NorCal Approach:
"Cessna 54661, student controller. Roger radar contact."

Michael Fedoryk
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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