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Volume 9, Number 49a December 1, 2003

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The Top Headlines From AVweb's Expanded, Illustrated News Coverage At AVweb's NewsWire.

So how do you fly a Boeing 747-200B, over five stories high and more than 200 feet long, carrying a gaggle of reporters and the U.S. president and his staff, halfway across the world's airspace, without anybody noticing? Well, it isn't easy. First, you hustle the press pool off, hush-hush, without any explanation, to the secluded, secure ramp at Texas State Technical College in Waco, Texas. It's Wednesday evening, the sun has set, Air Force One is dark, and the reporters surrender their cellphones. The flight crew had prepared for what they believed was a milk run to Washington for maintenance. President Bush arrived and climbed up the rear stairs instead of the front gangway as usual, so airport workers wouldn't notice him. The plane took off at 7:25 p.m. local time, without running lights and with all the window shades pulled down. More...

Two hours later, the airplane touched down and rolled into a hangar at the 140,000-square-foot maintenance and support complex at Andrews Air Force Base, outside Washington, D.C., where the 747's sister ship awaited. The other 747 was all fueled and catered and ready for the 10 1/2 hour flight to Baghdad. Inside the hangar, the passengers were debarked and reboarded, and a few more journalists arrived, for a total of 13 reporters and photographers. They took off again, in the dark and in secret. At one point during the flight, the pilot of a British Airways jet spotted the plane with its distinctive blue-and-gold livery, and asked over the radio, "Did I just see Air Force One?" After a pause, the president's pilot, Col. Mark Tillman, responded, "Gulfstream five." More...

Why didn't the president fly in a fighter or some kind of burly attack aircraft? Probably because Air Force One is safer, and better-equipped, than any other airplane out there. "Air Force One has a wide array of countermeasure capabilities for foiling surface-to-air missiles, some of which have never been disclosed to the public," defense analyst Loren Thompson told The Washington Post. "It is the closest thing we have to an invulnerable aircraft in terms of dealing with surface-to-air threats." More...

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Swiss adventurer Bertrand Piccard, who in 1999 was the first to fly nonstop around the world in a balloon, announced Friday he has set his sights on a new project -- to develop an airplane both powered by the sun and capable of circling the earth. Piccard's co-pilot on the 1999 flight, British balloonist Brian Jones, will join the effort, dubbed Solar Impulse. Piccard expects first flight of his prototype in 2006, and solar flights of several days' duration by 2009. The plane (depicted thus far to look very much like a high-performance sailplane) will be very light, with a wingspan of about 197 feet, and will be capable of flying at around 30,000 feet. More...

Meanwhile, here in the U.S., the intrepid folks at the FASTec project, based in Worcester, Mass., are working away on their hydrogen-powered electric airplane. "We expect our first flight sometime in late December or maybe early January," Jim Dunn, director of the project, told AVweb on Saturday. Advanced high-energy, lithium-ion batteries will power the first flight as the first step in the long process of developing a flight-ready system that will work on hydrogen-powered fuel cells. The E-Plane is scheduled to start ground testing around the 13th of December, Dunn said. Battery testing is progressing, and the team is working on the motor mount and is finishing the avionics package. More...

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The soft sands of Kill Devil Hill can be cruel and hard, as Ken Hyde's Wright Experience team discovered last week when their Wright Flyer reproduction was damaged in a crash. "I think the repairs will be done by Monday morning," pilot Kevin Kochersberger told AVweb on Saturday, but he couldn't be certain. The propellers were damaged, but backup spares are available, he said. The engine and the drive train were okay. The repairs require "nothing too out of the ordinary," he said -- fixing some damage to the structure and the rigging. Kochersberger had free-flown the airplane successfully prior to the crash, completing a hop of about 100 feet and four seconds, at just a few feet off the ground. "That doesn't sound like much," he said, "but it was enough to prove what we needed to prove, and showed that all the controls were working. It was a totally controlled flight, with a good landing." More...

Three German siblings said last week that DNA tests have proved what they long suspected: Charles Lindbergh was their father. The three, Dyrk Hesshaimer, Astrid Bouteuil and David Hesshaimer, were born in 1958, 1960 and 1967. They are not seeking money from the Lindbergh family -- their father visited them once or twice a year during their childhood and took care of them financially. But their mother hid his true identity from the children, a ruse that was made easier by the language barrier. Last summer, a grandson of Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Morgan Lindbergh, traveled to Europe to meet the Hesshaimers and agreed to take a DNA test, which proved their lineage. More...

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The NTSB released its final report last week on the October 2002 midair crash of two Cessna 172s in Coral Springs, Fla., in which two people died. The probable cause of the crash, according to the safety board, was "the failure of the dual students and flight instructors on both [aircraft ] to see and avoid each other, which resulted in a midair collision." Both were training flights that originated from Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport, and each had a private-rated student and an instructor aboard. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plans were filed for either flight. One student was practicing commercial maneuvers in a practice area at about 2,000 feet when "all of a sudden, an airplane appeared very close, in the right corner of their airplane's windshield, having come from behind the blind spot created by their airplane's right wing," according to the report. More...

It's not only small airplanes that run into trouble with neighbors over noise -- plenty of folks in crowded cities around the world live beneath the approach paths of passenger jets, and the noise is a major bone of contention. In a new research project launched in Britain this month, scientists are examining a number of solutions, from jiggering the approach paths to allow for quieter descents, to designing new jets that will be capable of "silent" takeoffs and landings. The researchers will analyze options such as mounting the engines above the wing or eliminating the tail surfaces, as well as looking at operational changes such as holding off on lowering landing gear till later in the descent and stabilizing the approach at higher altitudes. More...

A recent draft report released by the Southern California Association of Governments predicted that air traffic in the region will double by 2030, and smaller airports will need to expand facilities to accommodate that growth. Nearly 23 million residents are expected to inhabit the area by then. The region includes 57 public-use airports: six commercial airports, 45 general aviation airports, two recently closed military air bases (one certified as a commercial airport), two commuter airports, and two joint-use facilities, serving about 78 million passengers per year. The region's airports taken together make Southern California the busiest of all regions in the country. More...

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The very last Concorde ever to defy gravity touched down Wednesday at the airport where it was built, carrying 100 British Airways crew members on its final flight. But in true British fashion (remember Churchill?) the fans of the craft aren't ready to settle for defeat. Promising to "fight to the end" -- and apparently, beyond the end -- a group called Save Concorde is pleading for airplane aficionados everywhere to join their cause. "With your help this will NOT be the end," the group's Web site exhorts, and asks supporters to take action. More...

Controllers in Australia says new system unsafe, government disagrees...
Antonov 26 crashed in Congo Saturday, killing all 22 aboard...
Boeing fired CFO Mike Sears, VP Darleen Druyun, alleging misconduct...
FAA to name intersection in honor of FDNY's Michael Quilty. More...

PATTY WAGSTAFF WILL PERFORM AT CENTENNIAL OF FLIGHT CELEBRATION If you haven't made your reservations for this once-in-a-lifetime celebration do so immediately! There are only 12 days till the First Flight Centennial Celebration starts on December 12. Along with Patty Wagstaff will be the four-man AeroShell Aerobatic Team, Ian Groom, Michael Mancuso and Bobby Younkin, plus entertainment from The Beach Boys, Temptations, Aaron Tippin and Lee Greenwood. Make your reservations, and show your elite status by ordering Centennial gifts for everyone on your holiday shopping list, at

TPL #68: Of Good, Evil And Little Airplanes
We don't often speak of evil in regards to anything that happens in aviation. But after dealing with people who seem to be intentionally malicious, it takes a strong dose of medicine -- hanging out with joyous pilots -- to get back in balance. AVweb's Rick Durden spent time with both kinds of people this month. More...


Reader mail this week about the air tour NPRM, misuse of radios, Wright pilot qualifications and more. More...

GAMIJECTORS CAN CUT AIRCRAFT FUEL BILL BY 20 PERCENT! Don't be grounded by sky-high gas prices, install GAMIjectors. Balanced fuel/air ratios make your engine run smoother, cooler, and more efficiently. Order a kit online for your Continental or Lycoming engine, or as a gift, at

Over Philly on a gorgeous CAVU Sunday...

Cessna XXX: Philly approach, Cessna XXX with you at 4,500.

Philly Approach: Cessna XXX, Roger, Altimeter 30.69 and numerous targets in your vicinity.

Cessna XXX: Could you be more specific about the targets?

Philly Approach: OK, 12 o'clock, 1 o'clock, 2 o'clock, 3 o'clock, 4 o'clock, 5 o'clock - would you like me to continue?

Cessna XXX: Negative, we get the picture...


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