January 5, 2004
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
This issue of AVweb's AVflash is brought to you by
It's becoming the most despised piece of proposed legislation ever to come from the FAA for some and now it's being blamed for the imminent demise of barnstorming. In case you didn't know, barnstorming is alive and threatened by the proposed National Air Tour Safety Standards, according to the folks who organized last summer's popular National Air Tour. In an impassioned letter to aviation enthusiasts, Greg Herrick, president of the Aviation Foundation of America (AFA), said the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), if adopted, could turn dozens of flyable vintage aircraft into museum pieces because owners won't be able to subsidize their upkeep by charging for rides. Herrick said at least four aircraft on the National Air Tour, which re-created an annual publicity tour sponsored by Ford in the 1930s, were used to fly paying customers. "If the FAA adopts this new proposed rule, these types of rides will become a thing of the past," he wrote. The AFA joins a long list of opponents to the NPRM, which was issued in late October. The FAA says the NPRM standardizes rules and operations for sightseeing businesses and charters that fly thousands of passengers every year over areas like the Hawaiian volcanoes and the Grand Canyon. As Business AVflash reported earlier, those in the sightseeing business have been critical of the proposed rules. Concerns have also been raised about the impact on so-called charity flights, in which volunteer pilots carry passengers to raise money for non-profit groups and by organizations that arrange for private aircraft to carry sick people to medical appointments.
"Unfortunately, the FAA is trying to make a 'one-size-fits-all' rule," said Herrick. "This will basically eliminate operators offering local rides in historic aircraft ..." Other than so-called "discovery flights," which might lead to flight training, the proposed rule would also prevent people from hiring a local commercial pilot to take them for a ride. Under the proposed rule, carrying passengers for hire would require Part 135 certification. Herrick said very few vintage aircraft owners have money or time to spend on the record-keeping and reporting requirements of Part 135 operations. By the same token, unless they can charge for rides, they won't be able to keep the old birds flying. The comment period for the NPRM closes Jan. 20 and Herrick is urging people to make their feelings known. He said the commercial sightseeing companies have lobbyists and national organizations to get their points across in Washington but small operators and vintage aircraft owners are on their own. He's urging people to write the FAA in support of the little guys and urge that the ride-for-hire provisions remain a Part 91 activity. "People offering airplane rides, whether in a Ford Tri-motor, a biplane or a Cessna at your local airport, have introduced millions of Americans to the joys of flight," Herrick said. "They deserve our help."
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Africa continues to be the front-runner in a race no one wants to win. Saturday's crash of an Egyptian airliner in the Red Sea punctuated a report by the Aviation Safety Network calling the continent the most unsafe place to fly in the world. It accounts for less than 3 percent of airline departures, but Africa claimed 28 percent of fatal airline crashes in 2003 in what was the safest year ever for the world's airlines. According to the report, there were just 25 fatal airline crashes worldwide in 2003, easily eclipsing the previous record of 35 set in 2001. To put that into perspective, Chicago O'Hare (ORD), alone, saw 911,917 departures and landings in 2001, according to the Airports Council International. The accidents of 2003 killed 677 passengers and crew, the third-lowest on record (644 in 1984 and 648 in 1954). Although the accidents were fewer in number in 2003, they were apparently more serious. Just 13 percent of people survived the crashes in 2003, far less than the most recent 10-year average of 32 percent. The usual suspects remain the leading causes of fatal crashes. Controlled flight into terrain was the most likely cause of nine accidents, while eight occurred during the approach and landing phase of flight. Loss of control and the elusive "human factors" round out the list.
Investigators said an unnamed "technical fault" likely caused the Flash Airlines Boeing 737 to crash into the Red Sea on Saturday, killing 148 people. All but one of the 135 passengers was French and the 13 crew members were Egyptian and Moroccan. The plane was carrying tourists from the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh back to Paris, via Cairo. The plane crashed in water hundreds of feet deep, hampering the search for bodies. The crash comes just two weeks after a Union des Transports Africains (UTA) Boeing 727 crashed off the coast of Benin, killing at least 130 of the 161 people aboard and reigniting a months-old rumor about the origin of the airplane involved. The U.S. State Department confirmed Friday it was investigating whether the Benin 727 was the same aircraft that "disappeared" from Angola last May 25. The speculation was heightened by earlier reports by a Canadian humanitarian pilot who claims to have seen the missing airliner, repainted in UTA colors (but with its old registration numbers still visible) at an airport in Guinea in June. The disappearance of the 727 set off a world-wide search because U.S. officials feared the plane might have been taken by terrorists for use in another attack. A Lebanese report suggests the crashed plane was the missing Angolan aircraft but Lebanese aviation officials said the crashed 727 appeared to be much older than the missing one.
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A British newspaper says FBI fears that an al-Qaida operative may be working as a pilot for a British airline are behind flight cancellations last week. The Daily Mirror says American investigators will screen all British pilots flying to the U.S. to try and root out the suspected mole. The paper quotes unnamed sources as saying the infiltrator intends to crash a planeload of people into the White House, Pentagon or Capitol building. Brian Doyle, a senior official with the Department of Homeland Security, confirmed the suspicions. "The intelligence is telling us there are some forms of infiltration from al-Qaida. We are looking hard into it." The worldwide alert has security officials on edge, as passengers on a Paris-bound Air France flight found out on New Year's Day. They ended up spending three hours in St. John's, Newfoundland, after a mix-up at Kennedy Airport resulted in an unaccompanied suitcase getting on the plane. A passenger cancelled his flight after being told he'd have to pay for extra baggage and when his luggage was pulled from the plane, one bag was left behind. "It really goes to show what a minor thing can do," said Rex Ledrew, president of the St. John's International Airport Authority. Meanwhile, Sweden and New Zealand have so far refused to put armed marshals on flights to the U.S. The Swedes say they'll cancel flights if there's a security threat. Italy has banned flights over Rome until Tuesday.
Where a flight instructor's responsibility for the safety of a flight ends and the student's begins appears to be the crux of a lawsuit filed against a Hawaiian flight school last week. The Honolulu Advertiser says parents of 17-year-old student Chezray Hayes are claiming that George's Aviation Services, its owner George Hanzawa and employee Jennifer Oka encouraged Hayes to go on his solo cross-country flight from Oahu to Maui despite deteriorating weather. Hayes died Jan. 25, 2003, when the Cessna 172 he was flying hit a ridge on the island of Molokai. The suit claims that more experienced pilots canceled their flights along the same route that day because of poor weather while the flight school let Hayes continue with his. Rescue aircraft reported IMC conditions with a ceiling of 500 feet and visibility of one to two miles in the area of the crash. But the flight school maintains that once Hayes was in the air, the onus was on him to fly safely. "Chezray was well-taught and well-instructed," school owner George Hanzawa told the Advertiser, but he made a "pilot error that was beyond my or my company's control."
Australian officials are investigating ten cases of transponder failure in light aircraft since new airspace regulations went into effect Nov. 27. Transponders are fundamental to maintaining separation under the new rules, which rely less on controller guidance and more on pilots to see and avoid each other. Richard Dudley, a spokesman for Airservices Australia, the government-owned air traffic management company, said some of the transponders were broken but others were switched off or set incorrectly. Critics of the new airspace regs were quick with the I-told-you-so's. "The system is relying on airborne collision avoidance systems functioning 100 percent of the time," said Barry Sargeant, former deputy director of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau. "That type of defense should be the last resort, [but] it has become a primary tool in avoiding other aircraft." There have been reports of near-collisions in Melbourne and Launceston in recent weeks, further fueling fears by some the system is less safe, but government officials maintain that it is.
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A $4.1 billion underground terminal is the centerpiece of an ambitious expansion at Dubai International Airport. The new facility is being burrowed into the desert sand in what workers call the "mother of all holes." The excavation measures more than 1,000,000 square feet and when the terminal is finished, passengers will park their cars, check in and relax in restaurants and lounges 35 feet under the airport apron. Locally based Emirates Airlines will be the only tenant. Officials say the underground airport is not only more efficient, it's more pleasing to the eye. "The absence of above-ground structures ... offers significant aesthetic advantages allowing clear views of the concourse and apron," said spokeswoman Anita Mehra. Dubai is trying to establish itself as a sort of crossroads of the world and Emirates Airlines is driving the push with a fleet of long-range A340-500 jets capable of nonstop flights of 10,000 miles. Flights to Australia began last month and nonstop flights to the U.S. West Coast are also planned.
NASA's Mars lander Spirit began sending black-and-white photos of the red planet back to Earth Sunday, just hours after a textbook landing on what scientists hope is a dry lake bed. The 3-D photos gave scientists the clearest view yet of the Martian surface and it's only going to get better. The six-wheeled robot is expected to roam its new home for 90 days, gathering samples and looking for signs of past life. It (hopefully) will be joined on the planet by a second rover later this month. Meanwhile, British scientists will continue trying to contact their Mars probe Beagle 2, which was to have landed on Christmas Day. No signals have been received from the British probe. NASA's Mars success came on the heels of another accomplishment in space the previous day. The Stardust spacecraft took dozens of close-up images of the nucleus of a 3.3-mile-diameter comet. The pictures show a pockmarked surface with up to seven jets of material shooting from the comet. The spacecraft also gathered gas and dust samples from the comet and is scheduled to jettison them back to earth in January 2006.
Stamford, Conn., officials are reviewing the city ordinance that landed the pilot of a medical helicopter in hot water last week. William Pope, 67, of Andover, N.J., was ticketed by Stamford police after he landed his chopper in the local hospital's parking lot. Pope was picking up a sick infant for transport to an intensive care unit in Valhalla, N.Y. The flight was ordered by a Stamford doctor, who apparently didn't know about the city's official disdain for helicopters. "Unfortunately she was not aware that we have a city ordinance that does not allow any helicopters to land anywhere in Stamford," said Assistant Police Chief Richard Priolo. Police met the helicopter when it landed and issued the ticket immediately without delaying the flight, said Priolo. But it turns out that if the sick child had already been on the helicopter and was being delivered to Stamford, the pilot might have beaten the rap. The ordinance allows helicopters to land if the life of someone aboard is in danger.
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The body of a man was found in the wheel well of a British Airways plane after a flight from London to Kennedy Airport. The unidentified man in his 30s was the second dead stowaway to be found in less than a week at Kennedy. Last week, a man in his 20s was discovered in the wheel well of a plane that had arrived from Jamaica...
Three young men rescued from the wreck of their Cessna in the mountains east of Vancouver, British Columbia, likely owe their lives to a fortunately timed military exercise. The plane crashed near an area where members of a Canadian Armed Forces search-and-rescue unit were training. They parachuted to the crash site within an hour of a distress signal being intercepted by an overflying airliner...
The pilot and passenger in a Bellanca Viking died Thursday in a crash into two houses in Dallas. Both homes were set on fire but no one on the ground was hurt. The pilot, Dr. David Knowles, apparently reported instrument problems before the crash, which occurred in heavy overcast and rain...
An Indiana flight school is expanding to meet increased demand for flight training. Eagle Aircraft is building a $500,000 training facility at Valparaiso. The company had a record year in 2003, training more than 50 new pilots.
Reader mail this week about aviation security, colorblind pilots, and more.
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Overheard at KLAS, Dec. 19, 2003, 9:30pm...
ATC: NABCD, after departure turn left heading 175 climb and maintain at or below 4,000, departure 125.9 and squawk XXXX.
Pilot: Any chance of a higher inital altitude?
ATC: We give you 4,000 in case of lost com.
Pilot: I know thats why I want higher.
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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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Let's all be careful out there, okay?
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