December 15, 2003
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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The Centennial of Flight festivities at the Wright Brothers National Memorial, on North Carolina's Outer Banks, kicked off Friday, with the news that the White House has confirmed President Bush will speak at the site on Wednesday. Friday's crowds and traffic were not as heavy as expected, though weather was not forbidding. Attendance, estimated at about 5,000, was well below the park's capacity of 35,000. "This is what I was hoping for," Lawrence Belli, National Park Service superintendent, told the Virginian-Pilot. The event opened with an air show, musical acts, flyovers, exhibits and static displays. Tomorrow, the event will honor 100 heroes from aviation's first century, including Louis Bleriot, Harriet Quimby, Charles Lindbergh, Amelia Earhart, and several still alive today: Bob Hoover of air show fame; Paul Tibbetts, pilot of the Enola Gay; Francis Rogallo, who invented the wing that launched the sport of hang gliding; astronaut Sally Ride; aircraft designer Burt Rutan; and many more. Tomorrow's air show will take place from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and feature Patty Wagstaff, Mike Mancuso, the AeroShell Aerobatic Team, Ian Groom, Bobby Younkin and Matt Hall. At 4 p.m. the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds will fly by in the Missing Man formation.
Honda's decision to produce (or not produce) their 225-hp piston aircraft engine is due before the end of the year (though probably not at Kitty Hawk). Boeing's 7E7 super-efficient, mostly composite airliner "Yea or Nea" announcement is due soon, too. But the biggest scheduled event may be much more weather-dependent -- Wednesday the 17th will (if it pleases Mother Nature) offer the long-anticipated re-creation of the Wrights' first flight, courtesy of The Wright Experience's Wright Flyer reproduction. Saturday, organizers said Kevin Kochersberger will be at the controls for Wednesday's flights -- there will be no coin toss. Kochersberger had more success on his trials than his teammate, Terri Queijo. But even if weather prevents a Wednesday attempt, President Bush is expected at 2 p.m., amid rampant speculation (and Hussein related elation), he may announce plans for manned flight to the moon or even Mars. A phalanx of aviation's stars, from John Glenn to Neil Armstrong to Chuck Yeager, will take turns in the spotlight while John Travolta plays host. One hundred planes will fly over throughout the day, with half after the first re-enactment, scheduled for 10:35 a.m., and the remainder following the second re-enactment. Of course, weather is always a factor, and this is the Outer Banks heading into winter, so anything can happen. Also scheduled to participate are the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, the U.S. Army Golden Knights, and the U.S. Air Force Academy Jump Team. "The Centennial Celebration is about the Wright Brothers, airplanes, and flying. That is why the people are coming," said Ken Mann, chairman of the First Flight Centennial Commission. "This will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for many people to see these performances by some of the best pilots in the world."
NOTE: For more coverage of the Centennial celebration, watch for AVweb's special report in Thursday morning's news, from our correspondent on the site, Dave Martin. For TV viewers, C-Span and NASA TV are expected to cover Wednesday's events. And on Wednesday night at 8, the Discovery and Discovery Wings channels will broadcast a special program featuring highlights of the day.
Today, the Smithsonian opens the doors to its Udvar-Hazy Center, the annex to its Air and Space Museum (click here to read AVweb's advance report), in Virginia. Oregon's Evergreen Aviation Museum will wrap up its 100-day commemoration -- which began in September with the opening of an interior viewing platform for its Spruce Goose -- with a barbershop quartet, period costumes, and a talk about the Wright Flyer. The Museum of Flight in Seattle offers free admission all day on Wednesday, including live simulcasts of the Wright Flyer flights (or events) at Kill Devil Hills. At EAA's AirVenture Museum in Oshkosh, Wis., movies, tours and activities focusing on the Wrights are planned all week long. On television, the National Geographic Channel offers aviation programming every night this week.
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With so much attention focused on flying machines this week, hope seems to be brewing that the long-awaited Sport Pilot NPRM might be about to take another step forward. "We're keeping our fingers crossed," the FAA's Sue Gardner told AVweb on Saturday, "that we might have an announcement before the New Year." We'll suggest that breath-holding is still not recommended. The proposal was expected to undergo a 90-day review by the Department of Transportation (DOT) and then move on to the next step, but the 90-day mark passed long ago. Gardner said the proposal was reviewed by the DOT in a timely manner, shortly after Oshkosh, and "There was some back and forth, and some questions [from the DOT to FAA] were answered," and then the process seemed to grind to a halt. The paperwork now remains mired somewhere on the desktop of Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta. "We don't know what the holdup is," Gardner said. Mineta and FAA Administrator Marion Blakey have met several times since then, Gardner said. "We hope each time they meet, that this will be addressed," she said. "They are to meet again in the near future, and we are hopeful they will discuss it."
"Manufacturers and pilots are waiting for this," EAA spokesman Dick Knapinski told AVweb on Saturday, "and we'd like to get it expedited. The sooner the better." The proposed new rules would create a Sport Pilot certificate that would make it easier for students who want to fly for fun to earn a certificate, and create a new category of Light Sport Aircraft that would be simple and cheap to operate. Knapinski said EAA had been hoping for some action by October. "We haven't heard of any hurdles," he said, and there is no clear reason for the delay. "There's no penalty for DOT if they don't meet that deadline. And there are no official progress reports on these things." So, the waiting game goes on.
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Prognosticators, who tend to proliferate at year-end anyhow, are plentiful beyond reason this year. Everybody not busy reminiscing about the last 100 years is busy imagining the next. National Geographic Magazine has "The Future of Flying" as its December cover story. Popular Science weighed in last month with its "Gallery of Future Aircraft." Cirrus Design last week disseminated its own White Paper on its vision of future technology for the next century of personal flying. Science News explored the future of wing warping, and the U.K.'s New Scientist this week features an in-depth cover story about radical wing designs. Even the stodgy Economist indulged in dreaming about morphing robot planes and flying cars, and National Public Radio's Talk of The Nation went there, too. What about the next 100 years of aviation news? AVweb will be there to cover it ... whatever form it takes.
At last week's Dubai Air Show, Airbus claimed supremacy in the commercial jet market, saying it is selling more jets than Boeing, its longtime rival. Boeing, however, was not so willing to move over to the No. 2 slot. While Boeing did not dispute that Airbus has more orders so far this year -- 263 vs. 216 -- a spokesman said it's the longer term that counts. "We are not concerned about one downturn year," Boeing's Randy Baseler told the Associated Press. Airbus touted its 555-seat A380 at the show, while Boeing said the market is limited for such unwieldy big aircraft, and the future is in smaller jets. Airbus countered that it is "making civil aviation history," with 129 orders for the jumbo jet already in hand. Deals worth about $7.5 billion were made at the Dubai show, including a $3 billion order from Qatar for Airbus aircraft.
The Friends of Meigs (FOM), never backing down from a fight, last week presented their latest proposal at the Chicago Park District budget meeting. The group's plan calls for the city to reopen the airport, while developing part of the area as parkland and building an aviation museum. The FOM said its plan would solve the district's budget problems by bringing in tens of millions of dollars in federal airport improvement funds. A vote on the proposal is expected Wednesday. The FOM is asking supporters of the former airfield to express support for the plan via an online form at their Web site. The group's site also includes an online petition, and the complete text of their "Planes & Parks" proposal. Friends of Meigs' plan includes space for nature trails, picnic areas, fishing and scuba diving, as well as an Air Museum and an operating airport.
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Australian pilot Jon Johanson, who was stranded last week at Antarctica's McMurdo Station when he was unable to refuel, left Antarctica Sunday, thanks to some help from a fellow aviation adventurer. British pilot Polly Vacher had stored a cache of fuel at McMurdo for her round-the-world flight in her Piper Dakota, but ran into logistical glitches and had to scratch her McMurdo stop. Vacher gave about 100 gallons of fuel to Johanson, which should enable him to fly on to New Zealand in his RV-4. He was due to arrive in Invercargill about 4 p.m. Monday local time (11 p.m. EST Sunday). According to Vacher's Web site, the donation to Johanson was made "on the understanding that he will now work tirelessly for Wheelies on Wings, the Australian equivalent to Flying Scholarships for the Disabled." Johanson made an unscheduled stop at McMurdo last Monday after higher-than-forecast winds forced him down. Officials in Antarctica, not wanting to encourage such unscheduled adventuring, declined to share weather information with the pilot, NZCity News reported yesterday. Johanson was receiving weather reports via friends in Australia, and was expected to take off as soon as the weather allowed; yesterday was stormy. Johansen's misadventure also caused a bit of a diplomatic storm between New Zealand and Australia. New Zealand shares the McMurdo site with the American scientific team and was fully behind the decision to deny Johanson fuel. Kiwi and U.S. officials there consistently criticized Johanson for his lack of planning for the flight and there was also a suggestion that he never really intended to fly as far as Argentina because he knew he didn't have enough fuel. Visit http://www.southpolestation.com/ for updates on his progress.
In Italy last week, a race car and a fighter jet re-created a classic competition -- wheels vs. wings. The match was held in commemoration of a 1931 race between an Alfa Romeo and a Caproni 100 biplane in Rome. In last week's three races, on wet pavement under rainy skies, Michael Schumacher's Ferrari F2003-GA -- the one he drove to his sixth Formula One world title -- lost 2-to-1 against a Eurofighter Typhoon piloted by former Italian astronaut Maurizio Cheli. The Ferrari narrowly won the 600-meter run but was no match to the jet in 900 and 1,200 meters. The F2003-GA is capable of reaching a maximum speed of up to 230 miles per hour, while the Eurofighter tops out at about 1,500 mph (with its wheels up). After completing the distance for each race, the jet took off. "If it weren't for the rain we would have had more grip," Schumacher said after the race, "but, in any case, the result was not important in this race! It was fun watching the plane take off from where I was sitting. ... It was a great event and a unique challenge."
The CarterCopter resumed test flights Dec. 6, its first flight since it was damaged last spring in a wheels-up landing. During repairs, operating systems were modified and a new turbocharged engine was installed...
President Bush on Friday signed off on the $60 billion FAA reauthorization bill...
A&P mechanics can sign up for a new three-day course offered by the FAA in Oklahoma City this January to qualify as an amateur-built designated airworthiness representative (AB-DAR), able to perform functions for the issuance of experimental amateur-built airworthiness certificates. A prototype of the course is running this week. For more info, go to EAA's Web site or call 920-426-6522
A United Air Lines aircraft took evasive action last Tuesday night to avoid a Mexicana Airbus A319 while both were on approach to Chicago's O'Hare Airport. The Mexicana pilot reportedly was told to turn left by ATC but turned right instead, and came within a mile of the United airplane. Nobody was hurt...
Jack Pelton is Cessna's new CEO, Textron announced last week. Pelton, 45, who joined Cessna in 2000, previously worked for Fairchild Dornier and spent 20 years at McDonnell Douglas...
A low-flying 747 with a T-38 in pursuit spooked Houston residents last Wednesday, but it was just a NASA experiment with the T-38 pilots taking pictures.
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Reader mail this week about the pilot stuck in Antarctica, airport closures in Florida and Denver and more.
As the Beacon Turns #71: What Price Value?
There is an endless tug-of-war in aviation -- from airlines to the independent flight instructor and everything in-between -- when trying to charge enough for services to stay solvent but keep the price attractive to consumers. AVweb's Michael Maya Charles thinks we're doing ourselves and our industry a disservice with the current rates.
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At a busy local airport one sunny Saturday flight instructors were hopping in and out of different aircraft all day long:
Unidentified pilot: Montgomery Ground, Cessna, er, Cessna ... wait ... who am I today?
I'll have to call you back.
Ground: Roger, call back when you know who you are.
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AVIATION CONSUMER'S JANUARY 2004 ISSUE STARTS THE NEW YEAR OFF RIGHT!With articles on: "Adam A500 Twin"; "Aviation Battery Flyoff"; "KMD 250: An Affordable MFD"; "Back-Ups Compared"; "Hangar Floor Nirvana"; and the Used Aircraft Guide highlights Cessna's 120/140. Go to the unbiased word in all that is aviation, Aviation Consumer. Order at http://www.avweb.com/sponsors/belvoir/avcons_____________________________________
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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Let's all be careful out there, okay?
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