NewsWire Complete Issue

January 1, 2004
By The AVweb Editorial Staff

This issue of AVweb's AVflash is brought to you by …

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Happy New Year, Looks Like The Old Year

2003 Ends With Airspace Closures...

With the alert level stuck nationwide at Orange, airspace restrictions were imposed in an effort to protect holiday events around the country. Over New York City, a no-fly zone covered a five-nm radius over midtown Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty, from the surface to 18,000 feet, and Temporary Flight Restrictions were imposed over Las Vegas, Hoover Dam, and Chicago. The Department of Homeland Security sent warplanes to patrol the skies above Times Square, Pasadena's Rose Parade, and the Las Vegas Strip. On Monday, adding to the jitters, an errant Mooney wandered down the East River -- violating La Guardia's airspace -- and then flew a circle round Lady Liberty.

The incident had the city in an uproar over the lack of security. "Pilot Exposes N.Y. Err Patrol," read the N.Y. Post headline. The pilot, who had three pax on board, said he'd gotten lost, and authorities let him go.

...Prompting AOPA Ire...

The TFRs may help revelers to feel safer, but AOPA prez Phil Boyer says they are unfair to GA pilots. "Security-related TFRs usually single out general aviation aircraft, which have never been used in a terrorist attack," Boyer said yesterday, in a news release. "The restrictions are an additional burden for pilots to carry. AOPA believes they should only be issued based on credible threats -- not on a political need to be seen taking strong measures." AOPA noted that in both New York and Las Vegas, air carrier operations are not restricted from operating in the no-fly zones.

"AOPA and all GA pilots understand the need to maintain national security in the face of credible threats," said Boyer. "But ever since the airlines were allowed back in the air after the attacks, GA has been the scapegoat -- the victim of unfounded fears. ... We've got to help decision-makers better understand GA if we want to see realistic regulation of the nation's airspace."

...As Airline Pilots Detained, Foreign Sky Marshals Mandated

Two airline pilots from the Caribbean country of Trinidad and Tobago, flying for BWIA, were detained by the FBI last week after their names reportedly appeared on a TSA "no-fly" list. In a statement, the T&T government said it considered the detention "unwarranted, unjustified and severely damaging, not only to [the pilots'] image and reputation, but also to the national airline BWIA." The two pilots reportedly were held in New York and Miami, and were cleared by the FBI by last weekend, but were not allowed to return home until their names were removed from the list. Meanwhile, on Monday, the Department of Homeland Security decreed that it will require foreign passenger and cargo airlines to carry armed sky marshals on certain flights into the U.S.

The edict raised a lot of eyebrows, as not all countries and airlines have agreed that guns -- even legitimate guns -- are a healthy item to have on board a pressurized airplane, and it is not customary for one country to impose procedures for other countries' airlines. U.S. officials said the directive to foreign carriers is effective immediately and will apply to flights that are mentioned specifically in intelligence reports or in other information collected by counterterrorism officials. Foreign carriers that do not comply with the specific requests may not be allowed to land in the U.S.

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Let's Celebrate

Another Year Over...

2003 was a unique year in aviation. The Centennial celebrations -- bringing a moment's pause to reflect on 100 years of powered flight -- seemed to inspire the industry to look ahead with confidence to another 100 years of achievements aloft. And the year brought much more than just nostalgia ... there was the destruction of Meigs Field, the painfully slow progress of the Sport Pilot rule, the ongoing race to build light jets, new developments in avionics and powerplants, and lots more, from the last flight of the supersonic Concorde to the first supersonic test flight of Burt Rutan's SpaceShipOne. Take a quick trip through the Year In Review in today's Special News Feature.

...A New One Just Begun

With today's edition, AVweb begins its tenth year of bringing the news to your desktop. In the world of Internet publishing, that makes us one of the grand old luminaries of the medium. We just wanted to take a moment to thank all of you who come along for the ride, sending us your pictures for Picture of the Week and your opinions for Question of the Week, and deluging us regularly with your e-mails about the world of aviation -- and how we report on it. It's always great to hear from you ... and we look forward to the next 10 years.

Fellow Pilots Tried To Help Doomed Aviator

When New Zealand pilot Kelvin Stark, 58, found himself alone above the Pacific Ocean last week, with fuel-flow problems in the new PAC 750XL single-engine skydiving plane he was ferrying to California, other pilots tried to help, the New Zealand Herald reported Monday. In the dark, overcast night, Stark reached out on 121.5 and found Capt. Steve Jacques, flying a United 767 from Honolulu to Denver, who talked with him for about three hours as Stark tried to troubleshoot the problem. "He had no co-pilot, but at a push of his microphone switch he was getting the support of many others," Jacques told the Herald.

Stark also heard from other cockpit crews who offered advice, and the Coast Guard responded with plans for a rescue operation, and coached him through the ditching procedures early in the morning. "He never seemed worried. There was no distress, he was upbeat and accepting the information," said Jacques. "He was not alone out there. A lot of people were trying to help." USCG Lt. Brust Roethler told the Herald that Stark faltered only once -- when an airline pilot asked if he had a message for his wife. "We then all realized this would not necessarily come off ... Mr. Stark choked up a little bit ... We all did," said Roethler. Stark made what appeared to be a gentle water landing about 310 miles southwest of Monterey, as the USCG C-130 flew nearby, but the fixed-gear airplane flipped over on its back. The Coast Guard crew dropped a liferaft, but Stark never emerged from the cockpit, and it was several hours before divers were able to reach the site. They were unable to retrieve the body, and the aircraft later sunk below the waves. A PAC spokesman told the Herald that the airplane probably didn't have any mechanical problem but just ran out of fuel. The NTSB is investigating.

Crater Could Explain Beagle-2 Silence

Just minutes after the British Beagle-2 lander touched down on the surface of Mars last Thursday, NASA's orbiting Mars Global Surveyor snapped a picture of the landing site and found a deep crater right in the center of the targeted area. "We'd have to be incredibly accurate and incredibly unlucky to go right down this crater, which of course would not be good news," project leader Colin Pillinger told reporters on Monday. The tiny lander, about the size of a bicycle wheel and weighing less than 75 pounds, could be damaged by a rough or rocky landing. As days go by and no signal is received from the lander, efforts are continuing but hopes of success are fading.

A European orbiter will pass by on Sunday and make another attempt at communication. Of 34 missions to Mars since 1960, two-thirds have ended in failure, according to The Beagle 2, which is designed to search for signs of life, was named in honor of the ship that Charles Darwin sailed in around the world.

Another Adventurer Heads For South Pole

OK, British pilot Polly Vacher had to turn back in the face of bad weather last month, after flying her Piper Dakota to the Antarctic peninsula. Australian pilot Jon Johanson was stranded for days after landing at McMurdo-Scott Base in need of fuel. He finally took off after gassing up from Vacher's unused cache. And now Gus McLeod, 49, of Maryland, is on his way south, having launched on Monday from College Park Airport, flying a modified Velocity kitplane called the Firefly. McLeod intends to become the first person to fly solo over both the North and South Poles in a single-engine plane -- the same goal both Vacher and Johanson were trying to achieve.

Vacher said McLeod has asked to use her fuel cache at McMurdo, but she agreed only if he has written permission to land there, which was not yet clear as of Monday. In 2000, McLeod had to abandon his open-cockpit biplane in the Arctic after flying it over the North Pole. McLeod has planned to take two months for this 28,000-mile trip, and is financing the effort himself.

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AOPA Opposes Outer Banks MOAs

The U.S. Marine Corps has filed paperwork for two proposed military operations areas (MOAs) that would force GA pilots flying near North Carolina's Outer Banks into an area that the military considers unsafe for its own pilots, AOPA said on Monday. "If the FAA permits these two MOAs, they will have an unavoidable adverse effect on civil aviation in the Outer Banks area," said Heidi Williams, AOPA's manager of air traffic. "Besides some obvious safety issues, MOAs that are in constant use, as the Marines envision these, become de facto airspace restrictions for many GA pilots."

The Marine Corps' own environmental assessment, according to AOPA, notes that bird strikes are most likely to occur below 3,000 feet -- precisely the area GA will be forced to fly in if the MOAs are established as proposed. The proposed Mattamuskeet MOA overlies several national wildlife areas, leaving just 1,000 feet between the floor of the MOA and the top of the 2,000-foot courtesy no-fly-zone above the refuges. AOPA strongly opposes establishment of the MOAs.

Colorblindness Cited As Possible Factor In FedEx Crash

Colorblindness Cited As Possible Factor In FedEx Crash The NTSB is looking into a pilot's colorblindness as a possible cause of the crash of a FedEx plane in Tallahassee in July 2002, the St. Petersburg Times reported last week. The first officer may have failed to distinguish red lights in the Precision Approach Path Indicator beside the runway, which should have shown that the Boeing 727 was dangerously low, the newspaper reported, citing NTSB documents. The cargo plane crashed one-half mile short of the runway and exploded in a fireball. The three pilots on board escaped. The pilots have said the lights never gave a red warning.

The first officer failed a color test in 1995 but was given a waiver from the FAA, the Times said, and failed again in a test given after the crash. William Walsh, captain of the FedEx flight, told the Times the approach-path lights indicated they were making a safe descent. "Everything visual that we saw told us we were on glide path," he said. An attorney for the first officer said his vision problem is limited to blue and green colors, and would not affect his ability to distinguish red lights. The lawyer blamed malfunctioning lights for the crash, but the NTSB said their investigation could find nothing wrong with the lights.

Houston TRACON Deals With Sewage Leak

A busy Sunday morning at Houston's Terminal Radar Approach Control facility, working the post-Christmas rush, took a turn for the worse when staffers were faced with a messy, aromatic, and disgusting sewage spill inside the building. Controllers continued to work, taking breaks every 20 minutes to seek fresh air outside the facility. The FAA slowed the workload with ground delays, snarling traffic throughout the region. The sewage spill left 25 controllers reporting ill effects, including lightheadedness, nausea and headaches, according to a news release from the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA). The TRACON building has been troubled by flooding in the past, NATCA said. About 500 flights were delayed.

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On The Fly...

A new study supports theories that long airplane flights can cause deep-vein thrombosis (DVT), a potentially fatal condition...

A Piper J3 and a Schleicher Ask-21 glider collided in midair above the Arizona desert on Sunday; all four aboard the two aircraft were killed...

Also on Sunday, two gliders collided in South Africa; one pilot died...

Boeing said the composite wings for its new 7E7 Dreamliner will be made in Japan...

The NTSB will assist in the investigation of the Christmas-Day crash of a Boeing 727 in Benin, Africa.

New Articles and Features on AVweb

Quiz #76 -- The Weather Outside Is Frightful
In the age of Stormscopes, Doppler radar, and data uplink you'd think the weather would get the message and behave. But no, pilots still need to analyze the skies for themselves, with a little free help from flight service. See how you weather these questions.

2003 Year In Review
It was a year of firsts and lasts, summer dreams and winter fears. Aviators launched new ideas filled with hope, and watched in sadness as doors closed and airplanes flew for the last time. But with 100 years to look back on, that rearward glance seemed to inspire everyone to look ahead with confidence to another 100 years of spectacular achievements aloft. AVweb presents a brief look at the top aviation stories of 2003.

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Business AVflash

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AVweb's Picture Of The Week...


We received over 200 pictures last week. Congratulations to this week's winner, Randy Hammonds, of Beaumont, Texas. His photo shows two buddies pairing up for some aerial fun over southeast Texas. The flight’s mission was to take a few pictures of this newly painted Yak, which is owned and operated by Phil Sauter. Great picture, Randy! Your AVweb hat is on its way.

To check out the winning picture, or to enter next week's contest, click here.

Due to privacy issues, AVweb does not publish e-mail addresses of readers who submit photos.


"Just Good Company"
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.

"New Religion"

"Alaska view"

AVweb's Question Of The Week...


We received over 270 responses to our question last week on winter flying. The majority (56 percent) of those responding indicated they enjoy flying in all four seasons. About 15 percent said smooth air is what makes winter a preferred flying season, while 9 percent claimed engine performance was the major benefit. Nearly one-tenth (8 percent) simply enjoyed flying over the white landscape, and of course, who can blame them?

To check out the complete results, or to respond to this week's question, click here.


This week, we would like to know your thoughts on the year 2003 in review.

Have an idea for a new QOTW? Send your suggestions to Note: This address is only for suggested QOTW questions, and not for QOTW answers.

Sponsor News and Special Offers

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Today's issue written by News Writer Mary Grady:
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Happy New Year!

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