December 18, 2003
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
This issue of AVweb's AVflash is brought to you by
At about 12:35 p.m., at Kill Devil Hills, N.C, yesterday, EAAs Wright Experience replica Wright Flyer pilot Kevin Kochersberger and crew attempted a launch ... and failed to fly. In front of 35,000 visitors (still wet from a morning downpour) and millions of worldwide television viewers, the rather pricey project ended its historic journey into the past slightly damaged and in a puddle at the end of a 200-foot portable runway/rail. EAA President Tom Poberezny said that the wind dropped below the minimum 10 knots required for liftoff from the length of rail and high humidity reduced engine rpm and output by several horsepower. But apparently the team saw fit to try anyway. We'll hope your judgment in a tight spot under pressure is more realistic than hopeful -- the kinetic energy involved will likely be significantly higher. Near the end of the rail, the canard pitched for lift, raised the Flyer's nose, and the aircraft seemed to slow. With optimism's influence the Flyer appeared to lift off (barely) before touching down right wing first. Kochersberger was not injured, and the only damage was to a canard brace wire and a fitting, which were replaced quickly --, and perhaps to the reputation of the Wrights, as other first "real" flight claimants add this fuel to their fires. Click through for a 4.5 megabyte .mov video file (not recommended for slower internet connections).
The planned 10:35 a.m. launch was delayed by a downpour that soaked visitors and would have made the Flyer too heavy to fly well, according to The Wright Experience founder Ken Hyde. A subsequent flight, following the first (less successful) one was anticipated later in the afternoon, but a frontal passage accompanied by shifting, gusty winds prevented it. No subsequent public flight of the Flyer was announced. The aircraft was purchased for display in the Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich. President George W. Bush talked exclusively about the achievements of the Wright Brothers and other aviation heroes and dispelled rumors by making no announcement of a new manned-space program. The Presidents party arrived and departed in helicopters a few hundred feet from the site where Orville Wright flew the Flyer 120 feet in 12 seconds 100 years ago. Highlights of the celebration were introduction of the recently announced 100 Heroes of Aviation, many of whom are living and were present. Introduced and speaking briefly were, among others, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, John Glenn, Chuck Yeager, Patty Wagstaff, Martha King, Jeana Yeager, Francis Rogallo and others less well-known. Weather permitting, military and civilian aerobatic performers and demonstrators entertained, and musical groups performed. Even without a re-enactment of the 1903 Dec. 17 flight, the event was obviously the place to be on Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2003.
NOTE: AVweb thanks former Kitplanes editor Dave Martin for his contributions to this story.
While President Bush's visit to Kitty Hawk yesterday (by helicopter, Air Force One, and helicopter) was widely viewed as a boost for aviation, it brought with it huge chunks of TFR'd airspace, giving the folks at AOPA a chance to vent. "This has got to be the bitterest irony -- that America will celebrate a century of powered flight by grounding aircraft," fumed AOPA President Phil Boyer in a news release Monday. The TFRs closed the two fields closest to the Centennial events -- Dare County Airport and Elizabeth City Regional Airport (ECG) -- from 7 a.m. till noon local time on Wednesday. However, airport manager Joe Lamothe at ECG told AVweb Tuesday that he didn't think the shutdown would affect the plans of too many GA pilots. "It's busy here tonight," he said, "but most people who are planning to be here are already here." His airfield accommodates the bigger jets looking for a place close to the Wright Brothers National Memorial, center of the Kitty Hawk events. "John Travolta is flying in here tonight," he said. "We expect the president to fly in here tomorrow. As of 8 a.m. security gets really tight."
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Flying today is certainly much safer than it was in the early days, when the Wrights and others were developing the first airplanes, but things still can go wrong. Last week, the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer reported that faulty maintenance played a role in at least three, and perhaps four, of the last five fatal airline crashes, including the January crash of an Air Midwest Beech 1900D that killed 21 people in Charlotte. NTSB member John Goglia told the Observer that cost-cutting by the airlines is at the root of the problem. "Unless we start dealing with these issues sooner rather than later, we're going to pay the price, and that could mean more deaths," Goglia said. The Observer said its analysis found that since 1994, maintenance problems have contributed to 42 percent of fatal airline accidents in the United States, excluding the 9/11 terrorist attacks. That's up from 16 percent the previous decade. In the Air Midwest accident, the cable work was outsourced, and was performed by a mechanic working a 14-hour shift and attempting that type of repair for the first time on a Beech 1900D, the Observer said. Maintenance has been the largest single source of enforcement actions by the FAA in commercial aviation during the past decade, the Observer said.
The FAA is looking into outsourcing at Continental Airlines, according to a report in Sunday's USA Today. The newspaper said it has obtained FAA records that say safety inspectors have recommended a penalty for Continental in connection with its use of Miami Tech Line Maintenance, but the nature of the violation is not known. The case is under review at the FAA, and no action has been taken against the company. The FAA declined to comment on the case to USA Today.
For the first time since 1975, the number of "open" safety recommendations on the NTSB's books has dipped below 1,000, the board reported Monday. "Open recommendations mean that the safety loop is not closed -- open recommendations mean that our job is not done," said NTSB Chairwoman Ellen Engleman Conners. The current number of open safety recommendations is now 989, and 335 of those are aviation-related. Some recommendations that have been resolved in the last six months, according to the board, include better terrain depictions on aviation charts and maps, spurred by the 1995 crash of an American Airlines 757 that hit a mountain ridge on a nighttime approach to Cali, Colombia, killing 160 of the 164 on board. Others include inspection and replacement of static port heaters on MD-80, MD-90, and DC-9 aircraft to prevent fires; and new rules requiring air traffic controllers to state an aircraft's location in relation to the takeoff runway when a combination of intersection and full-length departures is routinely being used at an airport. This is aimed at addressing an issue that has long been on the board's "Most Wanted" list: runway incursions. Since its inception in 1967, the safety board has issued more than 12,100 safety recommendations and has recorded a success rate of almost 82 percent, the NTSB said.
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Breaking its long silence about its clandestine jet program, Honda Motor Co. on Tuesday announced a flight-test schedule for its new composite-structure six-seater, but stopped short of saying it will develop the airplane for the commercial market. After all, why would the market want Honda's HF118 engines that are 40 percent more efficient than conventional engines, according to Honda, and mounted on wing pylons? The design also incorporates a laminar-flow forward fuselage/cockpit section that reduces drag at high speeds, and increases cruising efficiency. Plus, the unconventional configuration also eliminates the need for structural engine mounts in the fuselage, which affords 30 percent more cabin space compared to similarly proportioned aircraft. The aircraft has already flown at its North Carolina base. Honda plans 200 hours of flight testing.
While Boeing has taken a beating over the last couple years from its archrival Airbus, this week's announcement of its 7E7 Dreamliner launch offers somewhat of a silver lining on the manufacturer's ominous storm cloud. On Tuesday, the beleaguered aerospace giant officially announced the start of the sales and marketing effort for its new 7E7 Dreamliner jet, a major step toward a formal launch of its first new aircraft in a decade. After mulling over several other sites, Boeing decided to build the new mid-sized jet in the Seattle suburb of Everett. The 7E7 would replace the slow-selling 757, which Boeing is discontinuing, and the 767 line, which has slowed to just one aircraft per month to sustain production until a controversial order for 100 U.S. Air Force fuel tankers is finalized. The 7E7, designed to help cash-strapped airlines save money on fuel and operating costs, could reinvigorate Boeing's sagging jetliner business, but is expected to cost about $10 billion to develop, making it a significant gamble for the Chicago-based manufacturer. While the new aircraft launch may help keep some jobs in the Seattle area, not all of the work will be completed within U.S. borders. Key suppliers include three Japanese manufacturers -- Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd., Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. -- and Italy's Alenia Aeronautica. Will the Dreamliner ever take flight? Boeing's sales efforts will dictate whether the production program will ever be launched.
The contract extension that recently took effect between the FAA and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) includes a change that for the first time links pay to performance. The incentive-pay provision sets as its goals reductions in runway incursions and controller errors, and increased arrival efficiency rates and on-time performance for airlines. If the targets are not met, the controllers won't see their raises. Does this mean that more resources will be leaning toward expediting airline traffic, to the detriment of general aviation? Not according to NATCA President John Carr. "Air traffic control is about safe, orderly and expeditious flight, in that order, and nothing in this contract changes that," he told AVweb on Tuesday. "When I'm landing 105 planes an hour, I don't care what type of aircraft it is, how many people are on board or how many engines are on the plane. I just land them. ... When we're busy, we don't have time to care who it is up there." The incentives are minor, in any case, according to a story in Sunday's Washington Post. An average controller, earning a base pay of about $100,000, would lose a potential $800 if none of the goals are met.
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Mike Pohl, of St. Louis Park, Minn. -- living the small-business-owner's version of the American Dream -- recently took his little flight-simulator company from a strip-mall storefront, where he sells $39.95 gift certificates for an hour of dogfights, to a six-figure contract with aerospace heavyweight Lockheed Martin. Pohl's customers line up to "fly" in the AeroDome simulator he designed -- an enclosed cockpit built of wood and fiberglass, with motion, a 180-degree projection screen, and off-the-shelf computer technology. Earlier this year, he sold two of the simulators to Lockheed, and delivered them to the defense giant's simulation training facility in Orlando, Fla., where they are being evaluated. Pohl built his simulators in 82 days, for a fraction of the cost of what Lockheed usually pays. Pohl told AVweb on Tuesday that he'd be happy to build more for the defense industry, if they'll buy them. Meanwhile, business is booming at the A.C.E.S. store. "Last year was our best ever," Pohl told AVweb, "and this year it looks like we'll beat that."
This centennial year had its share of hits and misses, in efforts to draw public attention -- and funding -- to the world of aviation. One event that had mixed results was the Festival of Flight, held last May in Fayetteville, N.C. The event's organizers met on Monday to try to agree on a plan to retire their debt of $262,000, most of it owed to 29 vendors. Low attendance hurt the financial returns. The group is hopeful that some creditors will forgive their debts, and that a fundraising effort after the New Year will bring in enough cash to settle the rest. Among those still waiting to be paid, according to the Fayetteville Observer: two local actors who impersonated the Wright Brothers at the festival, for $2,620; and Dana Smith, of Maine, who provided Wright aircraft replicas, for $11,000.
Two Massachusetts pilots celebrated the centennial of flight on Tuesday by spending nine hours in a Skyhawk, flying in and out of each one of their state's paved, public-use airports. Bill Herp, 41, and Doug Barth, 47, a former flight instructor, landed at 36 of the 40 airports on Tuesday, missing out on four remote fields that still had too much snow from the weekend's storm. In the process, the two raised thousands of dollars for a Boston homeless shelter. "It was a great flight," Herp told AVweb, just minutes after landing the plane at its Hanscom Field home base. "It went just like we planned. The FAA gave us expedited service, and the weather was perfect. It was a beautiful day." Herp said the highlight for him was their very first stop, a touch-and-go at Logan International Airport. "We took off at 5:30 a.m., and the moon was out, and all the lights of Boston spread out below us, it was just fantastic," he said. From there, the pair flew to Cape Cod and the islands, where it was windy, then back inland to a fuel stop at Worcester. After a quick lunch they continued around the western part of the state, and returned to their base at Hanscom Field's Executive Flyers Aviation before sunset. The pair had planned to fly on Wednesday, but opted to make the most of Tuesday's fine weather and avoid the forecast rains on the 17th. Asked if he would head to North Carolina to join the celebration, Herp declined. "I'm going to rest my weary bones tomorrow," he said. "Nine hours in a Skyhawk is a long day. I have a newfound respect for flight instructors who do this on a daily basis." Ironically, Hanscom's Executive Flyers has been at the target of recent noise complaints, and even a lawsuit, from neighbors ... maybe this pair's adventure will help to convince the populace that aviation deserves a place in their community.
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Scaled Composites' X Prize hopeful, SpaceShipOne, a Burt Rutan design, yesterday achieved ignition of its hybrid rocket motor, driving it to 1.2 Mach and 68,000 feet near Mojave before demonstrating its "feathered" high-drag descent feature. The aircraft reached 48,000 feet with the aid of Scaled's White Knight turbojet host aircraft, after which the supersonic portion of the flight was achieved by test pilot Brian Binnie, who released from White Knight at 8:15 a.m., ignited the rocket and flew the craft under power in a 60-degree climb, ultimately going vertical to reach zero airspeed at 68,000 feet. The rest of the flight test went well ... right up until landing. At 68,000 feet, Binnie reconfigured the aircraft into its high-drag "feathered" re-entry state for a one-minute descent before transitioning for the 12-minute glide back to the Mojave runway. The left landing gear "retracted at touchdown," causing the ship to depart the left side of the runway. The damage has been estimated as easy to repair and Binnie was unhurt.
A protestor who threw a container of red paint at the Enola Gay was arrested Monday during the public opening of NASM's Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles Airport. The aircraft was dented, and the container fell to the floor, where it shattered...
Monday, pilot Clay Lacy established his 29th world record, this one flying a Gulfstream IISP from Los Angeles to Kitty Hawk at an average speed of 631 mph. The trip took three hours and 48 minutes. "I believe this is a great way to honor and pay tribute to the first powered flight of a heavier-than-air machine," Lacy said. The jet he flew has been updated with blended-winglet technology. Bob Hoover and several other pilots joined Lacy on the jet...
Garmin is now listed in the NASDAQ-100 index, the company announced last week...
A Montana man faces charges of hunting without a permit after the Piper PA-22 he was flying in, while shooting coyotes, crashed, killing the pilot...
Two space tourists have paid $20 million each and will fly to the Space Station, Reuters reported yesterday...
Australian pilot Jon Johanson landed safely at Adelaide yesterday, after being stranded for several days in Antarctica when his plans for a round-the-world flight went awry...
Planners for a memorial to be built at the 9/11 crash site of Flight 93 in Pennsylvania received $298,000 from Congress to develop the project. A design is scheduled to be ready by 2005.
Each month, AVweb will bring you a quick survey of the latest products and services for pilots, mechanics and aircraft owners. This month we have a few books, a new GPS, handheld software and more. In some cases, AVweb has actually examined the product; in other cases, we are just letting you know it exists. If you know of a new product or service other AVweb readers should hear about, please send us a note.
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We received over 300 pictures last week. Congratulations to this week's winner, Duncan Marshall, of Chelsea, Quebec. His photo captures the beautiful early morning scene of his Ski
equipped Citabria on the Gatineau River at Cascades Quebec, 20 miles north Ottawa - Canada's Capital. The aircraft is awaiting removal of frost from its wings for a day of freedom flying to any lake,
river or field the lucky pilot chooses. Great picture, Duncan! You AVweb hat is on its way.
To check out the winning picture, or to enter next week's contest, go to http://www.avweb.com/potw
Due to privacy issues, AVweb does not publish e-mail addresses of readers who submit photos.
To check out the winning picture, or to enter next week's contest, go to http://www.avweb.com/potw
Due to privacy issues, AVweb does not publish e-mail addresses of readers who submit photos.
"Check those wings"
Click here to view a medium-size version of this image
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AVweb continues to receive a large number of excellent images for our POTW contest. Here are some of the runners-up. Click on the links below to view a larger version.
"Free As A Bird"
"Getting Sweeter with age!"
*** PREVIOUS RESULTS ***
We received over 200 responses to our question last week on attending this weeks Kitty Hawk event. Nearly half (48 percent) of those responding advised they will not be attending the event, as the hassle of getting there is too much to deal with. Only five percent of respondents said they would attend, while 8 percent advised they could care less about the event.
To check out the complete results, or to respond to this week's question, go to http://www.avweb.com/qotw.
*** THIS WEEK'S QUESTION ***
This week, we would like to know your thoughts on the overall Countdown to Kitty Hawk/Centennial 0f Flight celebration.
Have an idea for a new QOTW? Send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Note, this address is ONLY for suggested QOTW questions, and NOT for QOTW answers.
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SPECIAL REMINDER This special ends December 21, 2003
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AVIATION SAFETY-A SAFE FLYING INVESTMENT. SAMPLE JANUARY'S HIGHLIGHTS:"Bang for the Buck", simple exercises to help keep your proficiency sharp; "No-Engine Approach", can be done with a little preparation; "Admired & Reviled", the Piper Malibu; "Too Far to Glide", fly with an engine out over wooded terrain; "Nose for Trouble", how every landing brings the nose gear closer to collapse; "Nap of the Earth", Marine chopper pilot finds uncharted obstruction; plus, accident reports, maintenance issues and lessons learned. Stay sharp, order your Aviation Safety subscription at http://www.avweb.com/sponsors/belvoir/avsafe_____________________________________
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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