December 7, 2003
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
This issue of AVweb's AVflash is brought to you by
Toronto's new anti-airport mayor is starting a long process to get rid of the city's unique downtown island airport, claims Canada's biggest pilots' organization. Kevin Psutka, president of the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association (COPA), says the current controversy over a bridge linking the Toronto City Centre Airport (TCCA) with downtown Toronto is the first step in a calculated campaign to eventually close the airport. "It'll probably take five or ten years to all come about," said Psutka. "But before I die [which we assume will be more than 10 years from now; Psutka is a young man] I guarantee you we will have no airport and we will have a bridge." And it is the future of a $22 million bridge project linking the island airport and the city that has set Toronto's aviation community and its political establishment on edge.
Last June, the city council, the Canadian government and the Toronto Port Authority agreed to build the bridge to replace an aging ferry that now shuttles airport users the 150 yards from shore to shore. The project was cheered by the aviation community, which saw it as a major boost to the usability and business potential of the airport. Then-councilor David Miller managed to whip fear of the bridge, and, by extension, the airport, into a successful bid for the mayor's chair and, in his first official act as mayor, held an emergency council meeting whose only topic was a motion to kill the bridge. The motion passed and within hours the federal government announced it would respect the vote. Only the Port Authority can save the bridge project (all three agencies must agree to kill it) and it was unable to reach a decision at a Friday meeting.
Although parallels to Chicago's Meigs Field spring to mind, Psutka said it's unlikely Miller will send in a fleet of excavators (by "sea") to seal TCCA's fate. Rather, Psutka said he believes Miller and his anti-airport backers will administer a political death. After killing the bridge, he believes the next target will be the smoke-belching, rusting ferry that is the airport's only surface access. The airport will have to close without the ferry and, predicts Psutka, the land will then be developed into a park and residential development requiring access to the mainland, "... and the bridge will be built," said Psutka. The shenanigans have prompted lawsuit threats totaling billions of dollars, including a $400 million threat from businessman Robert Deluce, who claims his well-advanced plans to start a commuter airline based at TCCA depend on the construction of the bridge. But that's not all.
Stolport Corp., an aircraft handling and airport service company, is threatening a $75 million suit over the loss of increased business it's been planning and building for since the bridge was announced. The Port Authority is also threatening to sue for $1 billion if the bridge doesn't go ahead and a group of waterfront residents have a $1 billion to $3 billion action planned if it does. The city is named in all the suits. The city council motion is contingent on the federal government indemnifying it against all those potential lawsuits but the feds have not publicly agreed to that condition. Psutka said COPA is appalled by the potential waste of money the issue could spawn and he won't be taking his members (or their wallets) into the legal fray. Rather, they will be encouraged to write and e-mail their government representatives in support of TCCA.
Miller isn't the only civic politician with an anti-airport platform. In Naples, Fla., city council candidate William Willkomm III says he'd like to see the city's airport, a popular bizjet destination, converted into a high-tech industrial park with on-site schools to turn out skilled workers for the businesses that set up there. In Concord, Calif., pilots are worried a secret deal to carve up their airport could be rubber-stamped at a Board of Supervisors' meeting Dec. 9. Meanwhile, commissioners in Collier County, Fla., appear to have backed off on a plan to close Everglades Airpark. The arguments go something like this: "I'm just coming up with a better use for the half-billion dollars of real estate that is paid for, owned by us," Willkomm told the Naples Daily News regarding his plans for the Florida airport.
And, although he says he has nothing against those who use the airport, he doesn't think they'll miss it much when it's gone because there are three others nearby. "It means they get in their limousines and have one more martini," he said. The Mount Diablo Pilots Association and Friends of Concord Airport are rallying in support of their California airport. And in the everglades, antagonists appeared to relent after AOPA reminded them they'd have to pay back the FAA grants they'd used for airport improvements and the city of Everglades threatened to take over operation of the airport if the county's proposal went any further.
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Tried every $100 hamburger within flying distance? Tired of Unicom operators recognizing your voice? Maybe it's time to spread your wings a little (or a lot) and do what your airplane and your certificate were meant for. Be A Pilot has devoted part of its Web site to Places Pilots Know, a directory of places that are easier, faster or just more fun to get to by flying. Spokesman Drew Steketee said it's the Be A Pilot's latest effort to show how being a licensed pilot offers "wider horizons and a fuller life." Places Pilot Know went online Dec. 4 with 150 destinations clickable on a map of North America. [More...] Although they range from ocean sands to rugged mountains, the places all have something in common: An airplane is the best way to reach and enjoy them. "Many of these places are not nationally known, but are special to pilots," said Steketee.
For instance, not many outside the local area know that you can land right on Copalis State Beach in Washington State or get into ghost towns and landlocked settlements in the western mountains. Who would have thought the Western-themed fly-in resort called the Flying W Ranch would be a short hop from Teterboro in New Jersey? For a wild adventure, it's hard to beat (not to mention find) a place like Tsuniah Lake Lodge in British Columbia. For the closest thing left to a Meigs Field experience, threatened Toronto City Centre Airport puts Canada's largest city a 150-yard ferry ride away. Steketee said Be A Pilot staffers plus the "research and spectacular photography" of Pilot Getaways magazine conspired to create the list.
The information is not set up as a travel guide or airport directory; rather, it offers insight into places that are just better to get to by air. If you know a place that fills the bill, Be A Pilot is also taking submissions to add to the Web site by e-mail or by mail at:
Places Pilots Know
Be A Pilot
1400 K Street NW
Washington, D.C., 20005
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Try as you might, it's hard to keep the first flight of a new airplane secret, but give Honda full marks for trying. The automotive giant's foray into the bizjet market flew for about an hour from its not-so-secret development facility at Aero Atlantic's FBO at Greensboro-Peidmont Triad International Airport (GSO) last Wednesday. And although the flight has been widely reported, Honda and the various entities involved have clearly been sworn to secrecy about the milestone. "Tell them I referred you to Honda," said a slightly bemused Don Godwin, CEO of Atlantic Aero. Honda's official spokesman Jeffrey Smith didn't return a phone message left by AVweb. Word (anonymously, of course) is that Wednesday's hop was a shakedown in advance of the official rollout that could happen later this week or next. The jet has an odd engine configuration, with the Honda-developed mills resting atop wing-mounted pylons. This makes way for a roomier cabin. Earlier, Honda announced the eight-passenger jet would gross out at 9,200 pounds, cruise at 420 knots up to 44,000 feet and have an IFR range of 1,100 nm.
Creators of the Wright Flyer replica that will (hopefully) fly on Dec. 17 say modern influences are making conditions for their attempt at history trickier than those the Wrights faced. Wright Experience owner Ken Hyde said progress has increased turbulence at the hallowed patch of sand near Kill Devil Hills. "In 1903, this area was a desolate piece of sand with nothing to interrupt the flow of air all the way to the ocean," Hyde said. "Today, houses and buildings abound and trees have been planted to stabilize the dunes. This creates more turbulence but we're learning to live with that," he said. Part of the learning experience was a Nov. 25 mishap that damaged the aircraft, but flight tests have resumed. Hyde said it took just four days to fix the damage caused when the nose dropped shortly after liftoff with Terry Queijo at the controls. She wasn't hurt. Hyde said they learned from the mishap. "In recent days we've learned a tremendous amount on operational processes and in reading the wind, so we will be well-prepared for the re-enactment." Queijo and the other pilot, Dr. Kevin Kochersberger, will flip a coin to see who flies the aircraft on Dec. 17. If you want to be there, you're only hope is to find tickets on eBay (at vastly inflated prices) or in newspaper classifieds.
Today it's Massachusetts but tomorrow it could be property owners bugged by your flying threatening to sue you out of the air. Pilots under the legal gun on the east coast have started the General Aviation Legal Defense fund. Several pilots who legally practice aerobatics near Hanscom Field are being sued by the landowners below who don't like the noise. One of the pilot-defendants, Steve Pennypacker, said that if the plaintiffs are successful in Massachusetts, similar lawsuits could spread to other areas.
The legal fund was set up by the American Free Skies Association, a group of New England pilots dedicated to preserving the freedom of flight. Although the fund will be administrated in Massachusetts, contributions will be sent to an Oshkosh address to lend credibility to the effort. EAA doesn't have any direct connection to the fund but it is encouraging anyone with an interest in aviation to contribute. The International Aerobatic Club will help out with the fund's administrative work. Contributions can be mailed to:
Oshkosh WI 54903-3921
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The race for the X Prize, the $10 million award for the first practical private space launch, is getting tighter as two more teams have joined the race and the well-established groups are getting nearer to flight. Space Transport Corp., of Washington State, announced its entry and says it will have an unmanned three-stage rocket launch within 60 days. Also joining the fray was the High Altitude Research Corp. Inc., which revealed its 40-foot rocket Nov. 22 at its Huntsville, Ala., headquarters. The two new entries bring the total to 26.
Meanwhile, some of the longer-term entries in the competition are testing their projects. Canadian Arrow has successfully tested the engine of its V-2 based design. The rocket, developing 57,000 pounds of thrust, is believed to be the largest liquid-fueled rocket ever fired in Canada. Of course, the Rutan team continues to make progress. SpaceShipOne has now flown 10 times, seven of them in free flight, and the aerodynamic development is proceeding well. The X Prize organization is putting the wraps on a year-end report that should be released in coming weeks.
All pilots and students in Australia will undergo background checks under a new security program launched by the government. The Australian Security Intelligence Organization and other Aussie agencies will probe the history of everyone who flies before issuing new "tamper-proof photographic licenses." The measures are part of a $93 million (AUD) aviation security package announced by the federal government last week. "Today's announcement of measures ... greatly strengthens the already-robust framework we put in place after the events of Sept. 11," said Transport Minister John Anderson. In addition to pilot background checks, the measures include security IDs for all workers servicing aircraft and a requirement for all airports to upgrade security.
There's $14 million in grants available for smaller airports to do the upgrades. Any aircraft with more than 30 seats will have to have hardened cockpit doors. The government will also spend $8.4 million trying out explosives-detection and drug-sniffing equipment. Opposition politicians said the package was too little, too late, and the airport workers' union said security gaps remain at regional airports.
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Hunters could soon be back in the air, gunning down wolves from airplanes near the remote Alaska village of McGrath. Animal rights forces promise they won't be far behind in urging a tourism boycott of the state. An Alaska judge last week rejected an attempt by Friends of Animals to stop a state-sponsored aerial hunt aimed at culling 35 to 45 wolves to keep them from eating moose. The state, you see, wants the moose available for the people of McGrath to kill and eat. McGrath, population 470, is about 300 air miles from the nearest grocery store and the people have been complaining for a decade that wolves and bears have literally been taking the food out of their mouths by eating the local moose population.
By wiping out wolves in a 1,700-square-mile area around McGrath, the state hopes to create a cornucopia of moose meat for the local residents. Earlier this year, the state moved 75 black bears and eight grizzlies that had also been feasting on the people's moose. They estimate the program increased moose calf survival by 20 percent. So far, the state has spent about $1,300 on each moose calf that is now available for local residents' freezers.
Who saw what, and, at this point, who cares? The White House has offered clarification for the reported sighting of Air Force One on its super-secret trip to Baghdad for Thanksgiving. It was originally reported that a British Airways pilot inquired about the 747 on frequency. But amid scrutiny, officials now say the comments were offered by an employee of another airline or ATC and that the initial report was based on a verbal exchange involving an individual with an English accent. It was assumed the individual was a BA pilot. (Believe it, or don't believe it, just spare us your conspiracy theories ...)
An Airworthiness Directive (AD) will become effective Jan. 20 for certain Cessna 172s, 182s and 206s. The AD requires a software update of their KAP 140 autopilots. Certain Piper PA-31s are the subject of an AD that takes effect Feb. 9. requiring detailed visual inspection of rudder torque tubes and associated ribs for corrosion...
TSA Deputy Chief of Staff David Stone is the new TSA Acting Administrator. Stone takes over from Adm. James Loy, who became deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security last week. Stone is a retired Rear Admiral who once commanded the Nimitz battle group...
Boeing's latest unmanned aerial vehicle, the X-50A Dragonfly, had its first flight Dec. 4. The Dragonfly takes off like helicopter but its rotor stops in flight to become a wing, allowing speeds much higher than a helicopter. The aircraft took off, hovered, and landed in its first 80-second flight.
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Pelican's Perch #76: Those Dreadful POHs (Part 2)
Last month, AVweb's John Deakin described some strange events from his airline days that were caused by too-strict reliance on "The Book." This month, the pelican gets on his perch to tackle a few GA POHs and finds (gasp!) inconsistencies, errors, and just plain dangerous recommendations.
Reader feedback on AVweb's news coverage and feature articles:
Reader mail this week about Air Force One's secret flight, noise at British airports and more.
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AVflash is a twice-weekly summary of the latest aviation news, articles, products, features and events featured on AVweb, the Internet's Aviation Magazine and News Service. http://www.avweb.com
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