December 24, 2003
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
This issue of AVweb's AVflash is brought to you by
The Light-Sport/Sport Pilot classifications could be a reality early in the coming year after Department of Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta signed off on the rulemaking package Tuesday and forwarded it to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for a final review. The new classifications will allow reduced training and medical standards for people who want to fly relatively low-performance light aircraft purely for recreation. "There's a whole industry out there waiting for this," said EAA spokesman Dick Knapinski. "We hope they use all due speed to move this along to make it a reality," he said. "The sport pilot proposal offers a dramatic opportunity for people who've always wanted to fly but found the process too expensive, too time-consuming or too complicated," said Knapinski. Knapinski said the OMB has 90 days to do its final assessment of the rule. The OMB's role is to make sure the rule doesn't result in spending that isn't already taken into consideration by the DOT's and FAA's budget. He said that since the FAA has already set up its Light-Sport Aircraft and Sport Pilot department, it's clear the paperwork is in place for the new rule. He said the OMB, along with everyone else, had its chance to pick holes in the proposed rule during the comment period and he doesn't believe any major concerns exist.
It's been almost two years since the FAA published the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that began the process of creating the new aircraft and certificate class. It was originally thought that it would take a year to get to the final rule but ironing out all the new standards and compliance methods took time. Last August, FAA Administrator Marion Blakey signed off on the package and it was thought the DOT would be finished with it by the end of October, but there were some questions Mineta and his staff wanted answered before putting pen to paper. EAA President Tom Poberezny said it's been a lot of work to get the rule to this stage and he commended the FAA and DOT for their effort. "EAA and the aviation community have been looking forward to this important announcement as the rulemaking package enters its final phase," he said. Knapinski said the OMB's last look should be a formality and he's hopeful it will be done within the prescribed 90 days. After that, it goes in the Federal Register as a final rule with an implementation date set by the FAA.
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Despite some ominous rumors, GA remained (at least through Christmas Eve) relatively unaffected by the increase in the terrorist alert status to Orange, or High -- exceptions include a smattering of TFRs chasing the President, a Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) for the Chicago lakefront and rules resurrected for Potomac, College Park and Hyde airports located within the 15-nm Washington flight restriction zone -- the airports are often referred to as the DC-3 (click to download NOTAMs 3/2030, 3/2031, 3/2033, and 3/2035 in Microsoft Word format). The information is available from DUAT, but not all of it was not available as late as yesterday from the FAA's TFR Web site. While TFRs generally affect defined areas, there are some with broad reach. One that has effect outside the Washington area and it suspends (again) the waivers for stadium overflights. The other three halt an ingress/egress test in the Washington Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), suspend waivers for flights into the flight restriction zone and make pilots flying to Potomac Airfield, College Park and Hyde Field stop at Tipton Airport for a security check. The information is available from DUAT, but not all of it was available as late as yesterday from the FAA's TFR Web site. According to FAA spokesman Greg Martin, there are no plans now to escalate security measures. What might have been has been the subject of much conjecture, however. Given the tone of Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge's portrayal of the threat as the most serious since 9/11, the aviation community was apparently ready for much tighter restrictions to be imposed. "There were a lot of things going around," said Martin. Among them was a rumor that a 30-nm ADIZ would be thrown around the naval base at Norfolk, Va. Whether it was considered and then abandoned, we're not sure, but correspondents to AVweb claimed they actually heard the information from an FSS in the area. Stay tuned ...
Is the terrorist threat lower here or does the TSA believe these checks are worthless ... or is someone actually standing up for our "freedoms" ... or maybe our pilot lobbying groups are just better than theirs? Whatever the case, it's Australia -- not the U.S. -- that will have all pilots submit to a background check by their Security Intelligence Organization prior to the issuance of photo licenses. Australia's new security measures for GA were announced a few weeks ago, but the Aussie government didn't immediately publicize that a pilot's privilege of being fingerprinted and having his or her closets searched for skeletons would cost those pilots $200 each, and recur every two years. Here in the U.S., an estimated $1 billion a week to support elevated security has not so directly been passed on to GA. We're not complaining. And while we can imagine what U.S. alphabet groups would have to say about such a proposal, the Aussies seem to accept their charge without a whimper. AVweb's cursory search of Australian pilot and aviation group Web sites could find nary a disparaging word about the new tax, but maybe we weren't looking in the right places. The new annual $100 tab is not the only added cost for GA, however. The government is also ordering extra anti-theft measures for GA aircraft. Although the measures will be "determined by the aircraft operators as appropriate," according to the new regulations, some suggestions include prop locks, door locks and securing hangars. Government inspectors will be doing random security checks, although no penalties are mentioned for non-compliance. Sport license holders and sport aircraft are exempt.
While the rest of us are learning this stuff as we go along (sometimes the hard way), at least one aviation school has included a security component in its curriculum. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University now offers a BSc. in Global Security and Intelligence Studies. The course is run in conjunction with aviation-related studies and includes foreign languages, comparative religion and study of the effects of world events on security. It's taught by former CIA analyst Philip E. Jones. Enrollment topped 100 students for the first semester and the university expects that to increase in coming years. "Aviation has always had its dark margins," said Richard W. Bloom, the director of the program. He said the Sept. 11 attacks "finally broke down resistances and increased motivations that a number of security issues were finally important enough to address." Student Laura McDaniel had more practical concerns. "My friends are saying, 'Hey, there [are] no jobs. I need a marketable skill other than flying airplanes.'"
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Idaho officials are wondering what to do about an alarming increasing in air crashes, especially fatal ones. In 2003, there have been 50 crashes, eleven of them fatal, and 21 people have died. Compared to the averages over the previous 11 years, that works out to 38 percent more accidents, 57 percent more fatal crashes and 61 percent more fatalities. Government agencies like the NTSB and FAA could offer no explanation for the sharp increase (nor did they seem particularly concerned about it) but a veteran Idaho pilot thinks adventuresome pilots, long on finances but lean on experience, are pushing the numbers up. Gene Mussler said the state's picturesque back-country landing strips are a magnet to moneyed private pilots who lack the experience to fly in the tricky conditions in the mountains. "They're getting out into the mountains and the airstrips that are tricky and dangerous -- and they crash," said Mussler. Bob Martin, of the state's aeronautic division, couldn't agree more. "It's pilot error. We did an analysis," he said. "Guys fly up canyons and find out that they can't fly out, they end up on the side of a hill." Martin said the FAA should free up more money for training and safety programs.
If there's a budding aviation artist in the family, here's something to occupy them for the holiday school break. The FAA and several national aviation organizations are sponsoring a national art contest as part of an international competition sponsored by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale. This year's theme is "Flying Saves Lives!" and is open to kids in age groups six to nine, 10 to 13 and 14 to 17. Entries will be judged at the state level and the top three pieces from each state will go into the national competition. The top three in the country will go to the international judges, who will pick the gold, silver and bronze medal winners. The works must be 11 by 17 inches; non-permanent mediums like pencil and charcoal are not permitted, and neither are collages using photocopies. Better dust off the palette and easel, though. Submissions must be postmarked by Jan. 10, 2004, and applications are available online.
New Zealand has entered the increasingly crowded utility aircraft sector with a low-wing turboprop aimed initially at the skydiving market. Pacific Aerospace Corporation expects to have FAA certification early next year for the PAC 750 XL. It's the first passenger aircraft ever designed and built in New Zealand and the company claims to have 18 orders and 260 options lined up in Europe, Australia, Africa and North America for the rugged plane, which can carry up to 17 jumpers to 12,000 feet in 12 minutes. North American distributor Utility Aircraft Corporation is marketing it as a skydiving plane. With a 750-hp Pratt and Whitney turboprop, a high-lift wing and beefy landing gear, the company claims the plane can operate from short, rough strips with a 4,500-pound payload. Cruise is about 160 knots with a five-hour range. Cargo, commuter, medevac, sightseeing and reconnaissance versions are also planned. The new airplane is based on Pacific Aerospace's successful line of trainers and agricultural aircraft. The company has been in business for 50 years.
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And with security so much on people's minds this week, it's hard to believe some of the things that have been going on at airport screening stations. How about Minnesota State Rep. Dick Borell, who was arrested while trying to board a flight from Minneapolis-St. Paul with a loaded handgun in his carry-on baggage? Borell, who was handcuffed and charged, told authorities he's been packing the little derringer for 15 years for self-protection. He said he didn't empty the bag from his last road trip and forgot the gun was there. He'll be in court Feb. 12 facing misdemeanor charges. In another case of remarkable forgetfulness, a Pennsylvania church missionary is facing similar charges after screeners found a hacksaw blade and razor blade in his shoe. David McIntyre's unusual story prevented authorities from laying federal charges. He told officials he'd recently been a missionary in Brazil and had received several threats on his life. He put the blades in his shoe in case he was abducted and had to cut his way out of the trunk of a car. "I thought it was a reasonable precaution," he said. He said he hadn't worn the specially equipped shoes for a year and forgot about the blades. He made it through screening at two Brazilian airports before setting off alarms in Miami on his way back home to West Chester, Penn. He was freed on bond Monday.
China is entering the burgeoning regional jet market with a 78- to 85-passenger plane and a 98- to 105-seat version that will be 10 percent cheaper than other regional jets, more comfortable and "designed to fly under terrible geographic conditions like high temperatures or plateaus in China's western regions," said Chen Jin, vice general manager of AVIC Commercial Aircraft Co. Ltd. Work started simultaneously at four different locations on the first ARJ21 aircraft last week and the test aircraft should be ready by 2006. First deliveries are expected in 2008. GE is supplying the engines and Rockwell Collins the avionics. The Chinese government put up half the $5 billion yuan in development costs and the company is looking for more investment, something changes in the Chinese attitude toward such things might help out. While the machinery spooled up at AVIC's factories, the Chinese government was announcing future changes that would encourage more private investment in such ventures. The General Administration of Civil Aviation of China will speed up reforms to the regulation of domestic capital in the aviation industry, said Yang Yuanyuan, the organization's director general. It will also be easier for domestic airlines to expand routes and a system will be set up to "review the qualifications of international operators."
The massive realignment of the airline industry has the FAA pondering its future deployment of resources. With the near-collapse of some major airlines and the surge in popularity of discount carriers, some traditional hubs are seeing markedly reduced traffic volumes while what used to be secondary airports are starting to burst at the seams. "We are watching that [low-cost industry] carefully," Steven Brown, the FAA's air traffic chief, told Reuters. While overall numbers are returning to pre-9/11 levels, traffic at Boston's Logan Airport and at San Francisco is down 22 percent, while Dulles is off 31 percent. Meanwhile, former fringe airports like Chicago Midway, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood and Baltimore-Washington are getting more and more business, most of it from carriers like Southwest, ATA and JetBlue. Brown said the agency is coping with the uneven recovery for now but it might have to react if the trend continues. "It doesn't shake the whole tree," he said. "But if they continue to grow their market share and if they continue with their strategy of high-frequency, shuttle-type service, we could get to a point where we would have to change our response." That could mean more overtime, hiring new controllers or installing better equipment.
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Code Orange meant red ink for airline stocks as investors reacted to the latest security bulletin. American Airlines' stock dropped 2.2 percent while Delta's sunk 2.4 percent. Northwest prices dipped 2.2 percent and Continental was off by 1.3 percent
An eight-nm stretch of Chicago's waterfront is off-limits to most VFR flights below 3,000 feet, thanks to a Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) imposed by the FAA, on the order of the Transportation Security Administration, Wednesday. Reasons for the TFR, which extends two miles inland from the shore of Lake Michigan, are unclear, but a similar TFR was imposed during an Orange alert last spring at the request of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley...
Traps: Business Flying And The "Compensation Or Hire" Rule
In this age of fractional ownership, limited liability companies and shell companies to protect a private aircraft, pilots and aircraft owners and operators need to be extra careful about what kind of flying they do when passengers pay for some or all of the flight.
There is a place -- a cold, mountainous, low-VFR place -- where stick-and-rudder skills and an innate ability for pilotage is not just helpful ... it's required for survival. But if you want to do more than be a flying bus driver, Alaska has challenges and rewards for the aviation professional.
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We received over 100 pictures last week. Congratulations to this week's winner, Daniel Duclos, of Gatineau, Quebec. His photo was taken during the Ottawa Air Show held last August.
Pictured is Michael Potter newly repainted Spitfire during one of it's first showing. Great picture, Daniel! Your 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.
Click here to view a medium-size version of this image
Click here to view a large version of this image
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.
"Mt St Helens From A Piper Saratoga"
"Landout in the Black Rock desert"
*** PREVIOUS RESULTS ***
We received over 200 responses to our question last week in review of the Countdown to Kitty Hawk/Centennial Of Flight celebration. A bit over one third (38 percent) of responding readers felt the series of events were a great way to celebrate the Wrights accomplishments, while 15 percent were disappointed by the December 17, 2003, failed flight attempt. Not surprisingly, about one-quarter (24 percent) felt the Countdown To Kitty was more of a marketing ploy than anything else.
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 winter flying.
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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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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Today's issue written by News Writer Russ Niles:
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Let's all be careful out there, okay?
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