AVwebFlash Complete Issue: Volume 16, Number 17a

April 26, 2010

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Top News: Volcanic Rundown back to top 
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Icelandic Volcano's Ash Cloud Impact, By The Numbers

The International Air Transport Association estimates that aircraft grounded due to volcanic ash affected 1.2 million passengers per day for six days and resulted in total lost revenue of more than $1.7 billion. For the three-day period that covers April 17-19, when the disruptions were most widespread, losses totaled roughly $400 million per day for airlines. On April 18, the number of flights fell by as much as 79 percent from the same day the previous week (from 24,965 to 5,204), according to EUROCONTROL. A commercial aviation consulting analyst for Frost & Sullivan said the event "has affected up to 8 percent of global trade." He added that "it may take up to three years for the industry to recover fully" (a sentiment echoed by the IATA) and weaker carriers "may not make it without government help." In the shadow of that financial possibility, the safety actions have stirred controversy.

The UK's Civil Air Authority "led the way" in establishing the groundings, according to CAA CEO Andrew Haines. UK Transport Secretary Lord Adonis called the CAA's actions "overcautious." Haines is, so far, standing by the CAA's decisions. The Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull's ash cloud "created an unprecedented situation for aviation and in particular the UK," according to Haines, who said they acted based on scientific evidence. "Without establishing what was safe and what wasn't, based on robust scientific data from the current ash cloud," the agency was not willing to reopen the skies regardless of pressure from the airlines, said Haines. The IATA, which represents about 230 airlines that comprise roughly 93% of scheduled international air traffic, believes earlier testing could have opened some airspace, sooner.

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NASA's Unintended Volcanic Ash Encounter Flight (podcast)

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Air Space Separation back to top 

DOT Inspector General Warns Of NextGen Delays

April 21, the Transportation Department Inspector General, Calvin Scovel, spoke before a House panel regarding the cost and progress of key NextGen technologies and what he had to say wasn't all good. According to Scovel, the En Route Automation Modernization system (ERAM), set to be a major part of the FAA's NextGen system, is experiencing trouble at its Salt Lake City launch site. ERAM is costing the FAA $14 million per month in bug fixes and other deployments, and is likely to be deployed behind schedule. Also, according to Scovel, the FAA's telecommunications infrastructure program may not work well with NextGen programs. That system suffered a failure last November that delayed more than 800 flights. The two projects together account for a $4.6 billion stake in NextGen's estimated $40 billion cost. The failings, according to Scovel, can in part be blamed on failure of the FAA to effectively oversee contractors and may result in significant cascading delays.

In Salt Lake City, the ERAM system has misidentified aircraft and not worked well when processing radar information, Scovel said. So far, ERAM at Salt Lake City has seen its in-service operational date delayed to at least June. Major NextGen developmental decisions are complicated by these delays. That in turn further complicates the process of integrating the separate systems necessary to make NextGen operational. Capabilities originally planned for 2025, may be pushed significantly further back. Estimates commissioned by the Joint Planning and Development Office indicate NextGen's cost could now swell well beyond its estimated $40 billion. And the system's ground and air capabilities may not be realized until 2035, or later.

NTSB: 737 and 172 Missed By 200 Feet

The NTSB is investigating the "near collision" of a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-700 and a Cessna 172 near the intersection of Runways 8 and 15 at Burbank's Bob Hope Airport in Southern California. The April 23, 2010, incident involved Southwest's Flight 649, which was inbound from Oakland with 119 aboard and landing on Runway 8. At the same time, the Cessna was in the departure phase of a touch and go on the intersecting Runway 15. The Cessna overflew the landing 737, passing "within 200 feet vertically and 10 feet laterally" of the airliner as each crossed the runway intersection. The NTSB reported weather at the time of the incident was clear with visibility of 10 miles. There were no injuries associated with the incident.

The NTSB has dispatched an air traffic control specialist from Washington to Burbank to begin the investigation. Bob Hope airport saw average operations of about 300 per day over a 12-month period ending in November 2009. The mix was 60 percent commercial with the rest filled almost entirely by transient general aviation (21 percent), local general aviation (10 percent) and air taxi service (8 percent), according to AirNav.com.

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The Next Generation of Space Travel back to top 

USAF X-37B "Space Plane" Goes Public For Launch

The United States Air Force's X-37B unmanned space plane has been billed as being a generation beyond the Space Shuttle and, though it was set for launch, Thursday, details of its purpose remain sparse. Intended to be a reusable unmanned payload-capable spacecraft, the Cape Canaveral launch, from atop an Atlas V rocket stack, will help determine the vehicle's real-world economics when it comes to turnaround time and cost. The rest of the vehicle's mission -- what it will be doing while it's in low orbit -- remains less clear. The military's Rapid Capabilities Office says the first mission will consist of checkout and performance characteristics of the spacecraft's systems. The vehicle measures about 29 feet long with a wingspan of more than 14 feet and a weight of almost 11,000 pounds. It has the capacity to hold one or two small satellites and is equipped to fly itself back to earth and land on a runway, unmanned.

Duration of the flight is unknown and it will return to either Edwards or Vandenberg when it's finished with tests. The X-37B is designed to conduct missions that are up to 270 days long. The project has been shuffled between agencies for about a decade. It began in 1999 with NASA as a new technologies testbed, but switched to DARPA in 2004 and finally shifted to the Air Force in 2006. Its timeline once included a 2008 date for first launch, more recently modified to 7:51 p.m., Thursday.

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From Cub Cabin to Clink back to top 

Homeless Cub Thief Gets Nine Months

The homeless man who tried to steal a Super Cub from the Frederick Md., airport in December will have a roof over his head for nine months, courtesy of the penal system. Calvin Cox, 51, who told authorities he'd lived in the woods by the airport for seven years, was handed the nine-month sentence Thursday in a deal that resulted in his pleading guilty to a single count of second-degree burglary. Cox got the Cub started and taxied to the runway but ran it off into the grass where it upended. As part of the plea deal, Cox will have to pay some restitution to the Mid-Atlantic Soaring Association, which used the aircraft as a tow plane. The cost of the engine teardown and new prop was about $12,000.

The unusual nature of the theft and the fact that it occurred just down the taxiway from AOPA headquarters and the home of Airport Watch vaulted the incident to prominence. It's still not clear what previous experience or knowledge enabled Cox to open the locked hangar, start the Cub and get it moving. Court was told Cox's former wife had obtained a protective order 10 days prior to the theft after complaining that he was harassing her and that he suffers mental illness.

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News Briefs back to top 

DC-3 Stories Abound

As details firm up for the huge gathering of DC-3 and C-47 aircraft just before AirVenture, those with a personal attachment to the venerable aircraft are telling their stories. Organizers of the Last Time, a celebration of the 75th anniversary of the first flight of the aircraft, have opened a diary section on their Web site that encourages the swapping of yarns about the iconic aircraft. From stories about JATO-assisted takeoffs (800 feet) to bush flying to super secret electronic surveillance missions in Vietnam, the site covers the history of the aircraft through the eyes of those who flew it. Although more than 130 such stories have been added to the site, organizers say that's the tip of the iceberg and they're hoping for thousands of entries. Meanwhile preparations continue for the mass formation flight of 40 aircraft from Rock Falls, ILL to Oshkosh for the opening day of AirVenture on July 26 which will include one of the last flying DC-2s in existence.

The Museum of Flight in Seattle owns N1934D but Clay Lacy has been instrumental in restoring it to flying condition and will be in the left seat when it takes part in the festivities. The aircraft was built in 1934 and was originally sold to Pan Am for use in South America. It spent time as a smoke jumper platform before it was acquired by the Douglas Historical Society in the 1970s. It spent 15 years parked at Santa Monica Airport before the Seattle museum bought it and put it in good enough flying condition for the trip to Seattle, where it was put on static display, still in need of engine work. Lacy flew it back to Van Nuys earlier this year to overhaul the engines and it's now in top operating condition.

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

AVmail: April 26, 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 Question of LORAN

Your "Question of the Week" missed the point.  What is needed for a GPS backup is E-LORAN (which uses the LORAN-C infrastructure).  The upgrade and implementation of E-LORAN (Enhanced LORAN) was almost complete before the current government reversed several past Congressional decisions.  E-LORAN is almost as accurate as GPS (within feet).  A complete E-LORAN system in the U.S. costs less than one GPS satellite.  E-LORAN has been able to be fully intergrated into a GPS receiver to give it complete navigation redundancy.  That is why 13 other countries in the world will not shut down their E-LORAN systems.

The correct answer to your question is Don't shut down LORAN, but finish upgrading it to E-LORAN so inexpensive GPS/LORAN combo receivers can be used for position, navigation, and timing.

U.S. government studies have already found E-LORAN to be the best backup for GPS.  GPS is a high frequency, very low power, easily jammed signal.  LORAN is a low frequency, very high power signal that is hard to jam and covers the entire U.S. and a lot of the world.  It is the only system that is almost as accurate as GPS for position — and actually more accurate for timing.

The government just threw away $156 million in already completed E-LORAN upgrades and will spend $200 to $500 million to dismantle the LORAN system in order to save the $25 to $36 million cost per year to finish the upgrades and operate the entire U.S. LORAN system.

This is a highly technical issue that most people don't understand (especially in Congress). GPS failures were predicted to start occuring in 2010, and GPS replacements are currently over budget and overdue.  GPS is used not just for position and navigation, but also for timing, which allows things like cell phones, pagers, and ATMs to work.

National security is also at stake when a receiver relies on only one type of signal like GPS that is so easily jammed. With E-LORAN being so hard to jam (and transmissions based on U.S. soil and not in space), a combo GPS/E-LORAN system would prevent a terriorist shut down of something so important to the operation of this country.  GPS satellites have a life expectancy of 10 to 15 years.  The current GPS system is at its end of life.  The LORAN system is a chain of high-power transmitters located at installations run by the U.S. Coast Guard.

When looked at honestly, there is no technical, cost, or security reason to shut down the LORAN system.  Each of those only provide reasons to maintain the LORAN system like the rest of the LORAN users of the world have decided to do.

Miles Muller

I participated in the AVweb poll, and even though the majority said LORAN should be revived, I was surprised that a number of pilots said no!

To me, this says that many pilots do not understand how vulnerable the GPS system is, nor the ramifications of a system failure.

If the FAA, the Coast Guard, the avionics manufacturers, and the aviation community had planned for retention of LORAN-C, then it is likely the capability would have been built into most new GPS boxes.  All it would require would be an additional front-end receiver chip, an antenna, and additional database capability.

Even very recently, a large number of GA aircraft still had LORAN boxes installed and working, providing GPS backup capability for that time when the GPS system goes down.  And it will.

This becomes more and more important as the VOR and ILS systems move into retirement.  They are very, very expensive to operate and maintain, and with the GPS system being phased in, the old systems will increasingly be seen as unnecessary.

GPS is absolutely wonderful, but it is also very vulnerable. A major solar storm, a military shutdown during an attack (or for other security reasons), or even an improper software upload could bring down one or even all the satellites for a short (or even a long) time.

Remember the big telephone blackout a number of years ago?  My understanding is that it was caused by a software upgrade that was loaded to many switching centers.  When the bug hit sometime later, it took down telephone communications across areas comprising much of the east coast and adjacent regions.

Imagine being in your plane on vacation with your family in the mountain states, climbing out from a remote airport at night, and suddenly losing all GPS capability — and being too low for VOR navigation or radar surveillance.

If you don't believe me on GPS vulnerability, please read the following information from the U.S. Department of Defense perspective:


Also visit and study the information at LORAN.org.

LORAN-C provides a comparatively dirt cheap way to maintain at least some ground-based, less vulnerable navigation capability for general aviation.  If we commit to retain it, then the avionics manufacturers will include it in their systems.  And we will be better positioned for the adoption of the newer E-LORAN system being worked on by Great Britain, among others.

If the Coast Guard can't maintain the system, then we in the aviation community should insist that the FAA take it over. The cost would be a tiny drop in the FAA budget for a system that may well prove indispensable one day.

Rol Murrow
Wolf Aviation Fund

Great timing for the LORAN shutdown. How many hundreds of millions of dollars will it take for one new WAAS satellite for "redundancy"? The NorthStar M1A LORAN in my panel had been working just fine for decades, where the costs of maintaining the ground stations was measured in a few tens of millions of dollars.

Mike McHugh

Should LORAN-C be revived, or should E-LORAN (Enhanced-LORAN) be implemented? is a far better question.

E-LORAN provides near-WAAS precision, is ground-based, is not affected by solar flares, and can be implemented at existing facilities by upgrading equipment.

Dr. Charles Truthan

It seems to me that the question of keeping LORAN-C as a back-up to GPS is pretty moot unless aircraft are equipped with LORAN-C receivers.  How many aircraft currently operate with LORAN-C capability?  And are the aircraft systems that are installed IFR-capable and certified?  Having the transmission side of a navigation system without the reception side is as useless as a write-only hard disk on a computer.

Van Swofford

Kudos for Van West

I found Jeff Van West's video on Garmin 430 tips very useful. The activate legs trick is something I will undoubtedly use in my flying. I am working on my IFR certification, and for my training, I fly round robin flights regularly, in which I go to two or three airports and fly approaches. I had been trying to figure out how to load the airports into a flight plan and then activate approaches at each airport. Jeff's video finally answered the question.

Keep up the good work.

Mahesh Sankaran

This guy's work is terrific and just what's needed for the IFR pilot. Please expand his work on AVweb.

Howard Goldstock

AVweb Replies:

Jeff is Editor-in-Chief of IFR magazine and Managing Editor of Aviation Consumer magazine in addition to his contributions to AVweb.

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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New on AVweb back to top 

AVweb Insider Blog: Lycoming's IE2 Could Be Timed Perfectly

Continental deserves credit for launching an electronic engine initiative years ago, but it was probably way ahead of its time. Lycoming's new IE2 project is emerging just as it looks like leaded avgas may finally be phased out. In the latest installment of our AVweb Insider blog, Paul Bertorelli argues that the timing may favor Lycoming.

Read more and chime in with your own thoughts.

Brainteasers Quiz #149: On Other Than Fixed Wings

BrainteasersWhat if airfoils spun to produce lift? What if a gas that makes your voice sound like Alvin and the Chipmunks lifted an aircraft? And what if someone wrote a quiz about it? You'd ace it, right?

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Traditional Tactics Need a Fresh Approach
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AVweb Media: Look, Listen, Laugh and Learn back to top 

Ride-Along with Dale Snodgrass

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

Famed air show and fighter pilot Dale Snodgrass took an AVweb camera along on his Paris Jet afternoon air show at Sun 'n Fun. In this unique video, he gives us the details about his routine.

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.

IFR Magazine Shows You How to Get More from a Portable GPS in IFR

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

That gadget you bolted to the yoke can do a lot more than show pretty moving maps. Come along with IFR magazine editor Jeff Van West to see how correct use of track (and several other features) on your portable GPS can improve all aspects of your IFR flying.

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

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.

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

15 Years and Now 15 Grand Giveaways ... It's Your Chance to Win Scheyden Frames and Flight Gear

CLICK HERE to Register for All 15 Drawings

Win Scheyden Dual RX frames and Flight Crew Ensemble flight gear 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 April 30, 2010.

Click here to read the contest rules and enter.

Congratulations to Jack Feiden of Wichita, Kansas, who won an XM WX Satellite Weather Receiver from WxWorx in our last drawing! (click here to get your own from WxWorx)

Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: First Flight Corporation (Brown Field/KSDM, San Diego, CA)

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

Conoco-Phillips WingPoints || Best Rewards in the Business

Our latest "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to First Flight Corporation at Brown Field Municipal Airport (KSDM) in San Diego, California.

AVweb reader Thomas Perkowski has seen their top-notch service in action and taken regular advantage of First Flight's first-rate facilities:

I have been renting a Grumman Lynx from First Flight for six months now. I am very happy with the service and the support offered by owner Tom Sarvis and his team. Occasionally, when issues with the plane pop up, Tom comes right out and gets it fixed so I can get my flying done for the day. They have great prices for avgas and fantastic quality for the price for repair services. If you are flying to San Diego, give SDM and First Flight consideration for handling things for you.

Duly noted, Thomas!

AVweb is actively seeking out the best FBOs in the country and another one, submitted by you, will be spotlighted here next Monday! Keep those nominations coming. For complete contest rules, click here.

The Lighter Side of Flight back to top 

Short Final

Approaching my home airport with easterly winds, runway 7 is usually available:

"Tower, Cirrus 504PG, 10 miles west. Request 7."

"Cirrus 504PG, report midfield, downwind, 7."

"Uhh — Cirrus 504PG is 10 miles west, inbound for 7."

Tower (realizing the mistake) :
"Let me turn my monitor around. O.K., Cirrus 504PG, report three-mile final for 7."

Brian Litch
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.)

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