AVwebFlash Complete Issue: Volume 16, Number 35a

August 30, 2010

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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AVflash! Don't Panic — Everything's Under Control back to top 

John And Martha King Held At Police Gunpoint (Really)

Aviation's most prominent husband and wife team is calling on government agencies to keep their databases up to date and warning pilots and aircraft owners they could be next to be surrounded by heavily armed police, handcuffed and detained because of a bit of miscommunication. John and Martha King say there's a lesson to be learned after they spent about 30 scary minutes in the custody of Santa Barbara, Calif., police at the Santa Barbara Airport Saturday. Authorities thought their leased Cessna 172 was a Cessna 150 that had been stolen eight years previously in Texas. The 172, which is owned by Cessna Aircraft, was assigned the N-number of the stolen 150 in 2009, years after the FAA had cancelled that registration on the 150. Apparently no one told the El Paso Intelligence Center, an arm of the Drug Enforcement Agency, and other government departments that keeps tabs on, among other things, flights of stolen aircraft. When the Kings filed IFR for their flight from San Diego to meet friends in Santa Barbara, the local police were alerted to intercept the aircraft when it landed. As Martha King told us in the accompanying podcast, what followed was, in her opinion, unnecessarily dangerous and uncomfortable.

King says they were approached by police prepared for the worst, with guns drawn and others taking cover behind the doors of the four police cars that responded. Although anyone who has met the Kings would describe them as anything but threatening in appearance and demeanor, the police took no chances and maintained their aggressive stance through the ordeal. "I would have thought at that point when they got us out it would have ratcheted down quite a bit because I don't think we exactly look like your typical airplane thief," she said. The Kings were not hurt and the airplane was not damaged. The police did not apologize but did justify their actions by saying it was a report that had to be checked out, King said. The Kings said they went public with their experience in hopes that law enforcement agencies will double-check stolen aircraft reports and to warn pilots that there's a chance their N-number could come up under similar circumstances.

BA Investigates Alarming Cabin Message

British Airways is investigating how an automated message came to be played on Aug. 24 over the intercom of an otherwise healthy in-flight 747, telling all 275 passengers the jet was going to ditch. The message, delivered by what a British tabloid called a "calm female voice," said (according to multiple other sources), "This is an emergency. We may shortly need to make an emergency landing on water." The aircraft was out of Heathrow for Hong Kong and over the North Sea at the time. As passengers began to absorb and perhaps imaginatively elaborate on the message, cabin crew "immediately made an announcement," and advised passengers that the warning "was played in error" and "the flight would continue as normal," according to British Airways. A BA spokesman told Bloomberg News the message can be activated in a number of ways -- none of which are accessible to pilots in the cockpit.

A British Airways spokesman who spoke with The Daily Mail said the carrier was still, as of Friday, trying to determine if the mistake was of human or digital origins. And "we apologize to passengers on board the flight for causing them undue stress." Brief reports of the incident flooded media outlets Friday. British tabloid The Sun, offered quotes from passengers that included, "We all thought we were going to die" and "They said the pilot hit the wrong button because they were so close together."

Helicopter Drone Busts Washington Airspace

The Navy says it's working on a software glitch that resulted in a helicopter drone flying autonomously toward Washington, D.C., last week. The Northrop Grumman MQ-8B Fire Scout UAV is no toy helicopter. It grosses out at 3,150 pounds and is nearly 24 feet from nose-mounted multi-sensing eye to tail rotor. On Aug. 2, while undergoing testing at NAS Patuxent River, the remote control pilot lost the data link with the UAV. "When they lose contact with the Fire Scout, there's a program that's supposed to have it immediately return to the airfield to land safely," Cmdr Danny Hernandez told The New York Times. "That did not happen as planned." This time, the automation failed and the UAV headed for Washington.

The helicopter went about 23 miles north/northwest at 2,000 feet in the general direction of Washington on its own and got inside the outer ring of the Flight Restricted Zone. There were no reported conflicts with other aircraft and no deviations required. The operator switched ground control stations and was able to command the wandering drone to land at Webster Field, which is part of the Pax River complex. Although the Navy says it's fixed the glitch, the drones will be grounded until early September while the investigation wraps up.

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Watching the Bottom Line back to top 

Arizona Rejects More Flight School Fees

Arizona education officials have apparently decided against following California in imposing potentially onerous financial and regulatory requirements on Part 61 flight schools. The Arizona State Board for Private Postsecondary Education unanimously rejected a proposal to consider Part 61 flight schools as "vocational" programs. Doing so would have made the generally smaller and less federally regulated schools subject to financial performance regulations and annual fees aimed at least partly at ensuring students would be protected if the school suddenly ceased operations. Aviation groups and flight instructor organizations spoke against the Arizona proposal at a meeting in Phoenix last week, saying the new rules might force otherwise upstanding and successful flight schools out of business. However, a group that loosely represents students who have collectively lost tens of millions of dollars to corrupt or incompetent flight schools has a different take on the Arizona decision.

Jet University Sucks says the ruling effectively declares 80 percent of Arizona flight schools as "hobby schools" and recommends that career-bound pilots avoid them. The ruling doesn't appear to actually change the status of the Part 61 schools; the group has interpreted it to mean that "Arizona becomes the first state to declare all non-141 flight schools to not be for the professional career pilot."

Mexicana Stops Flying

Mexicana, Mexico's largest airline, stopped flying at noon on Saturday, telling passengers still holding tickets it was sorry for the inconvenience. The airline entered bankruptcy protection earlier and was trying to reorganize when parent company Grupo Mexicana pulled the pin, citing, among other things, the inability to reach deals with unionized employees. "Financial deterioration and lack of agreements forced Grupo Mexicana to stop flying," the company said in a statement. The collapse also shut down the company's budget spinoffs Click and Link, even though both were reportedly making money. Those who've paid for flights can apply for refunds and efforts are being made to help out at least some passengers who had already flown one or more legs of their trip. Meanwhile, Mexicana's chief competitor Aeromexico is offering discounted fares to those holding Mexicana tickets.

Aeromexico announced Sunday it will offer flat-fare tickets to stranded Mexicana passengers based on flight duration and, in some cases, destination. All the subsidized tickets are for standby seats. Also, Aeromexico doesn't fly everywhere Mexicana did. Aeromexico is increasing service on heavily used domestic routes to accommodate the extra passengers.

Dreamliner Delayed (Again)

Having most recently set its sights on late this year, Boeing is blaming Rolls-Royce for the latest in a series of delays that now has the company estimating first delivery of its 787 Dreamliner sometime in the first part of next year. Boeing says it needs Rolls-Royce's Trent 1000 engines, an engine option for the 787, for the final phase of flight testing this fall. Rolls-Royce says it can not support that schedule but is working with Boeing to expedite delivery of the engines. A 787 engine being tested at a Rolls-Royce facility in early August suffered an uncontained failure that significantly damaged both the engine and its casing. Boeing and Rolls-Royce previously said that failure would not impact the airliner's delivery schedule. With the most recent delay, the Dreamliner may now run at least three years behind schedule, and that passes significant costs to Boeing. The company's first customer appears to be understanding of the latest delay even as already completed "production" 787s sit engine-less near Seattle.

Unexpected delays don't just cost Boeing time or credibility. Some have collectively cost Boeing billions of dollars in penalties paid to customers. And if the ongoing tests show that further modifications must be made to the production design, those finished production models awaiting engines must be made to comply with the necessary changes. ANA, Boeing's rollout customer, announced Friday it trusts "that the time will be used to deliver the best possible aircraft in the shortest possible time frame." More than 850 orders from more than 50 customers worldwide are still sitting on Boeing's books.

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Aviation Safety Revisited back to top 

Night-Time, Warning Area Midair (Follow-Up)

The Coast Guard, Navy and Marines have published reports on an October midair that took the lives of all involved -- seven Coast Guard members and two Marines flying in a Military Warning Area, at night, off Southern California. The crash involved a Coast Guard C-130 and Marine Cobra AH-1. The C-130 was flying search and rescue; the helicopter was flying a practice mission in formation with three others. The Coast Guard says its C-130 crew had been in contact with Navy controllers (who were monitoring the Warning Area) for more than two and one-half hours prior to the midair and may have expected the controller to provide separation. The Marine pilots were flying without an active anti-collision light, or transponder, which gave the C-130's crew "little opportunity" to see and avoid the helicopter, according to the Coast Guard. While the Marines' report was not made public, Tuesday, the Coast Guard and Navy offerings differed slightly in their presentation of contributing factors.

Both the Navy and Coast Guard released reports that generally called the accident a tragic confluence of events and both seemed to agree that failure to "see and avoid" played a large part. But where the Navy stressed that the prevailing rules were "see and avoid," the Coast Guard noted that its pilots did not fly with night-vision goggles in their C-130 and would have had trouble spotting the darkened helicopter formation. The Coast Guard issued a series of recommendations. One recommends that the Navy establish guidelines for inter-agency communications during search-and-rescue operations on the West Coast, similar to those it already has in place on the East Coast. The Navy called the collision "entirely avoidable" and highlighted a need for better communication between controllers and pilots.

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Fuel Follow-Ups back to top 

Coalition Calls For More Study On Leaded Avgas

The Avgas Coalition, which is made up of aviation industry groups and petroleum industry organizations, has told EPA more study is needed to determine whether leaded aviation fuel actually poses a risk great enough to warrant an "endangerment finding." Such a finding would be the first step in banning lead from avgas. AOPA and the coalition both responded to EPA's Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and AOPA said in a statement it doesn't think there's enough evidence for the EPA to issue the endangerment finding. "The coalition comments highlight the need for sound data and a better understanding of the issue before we can develop an effective, scientifically sound roadmap that puts air safety first and foremost while attempting to address real environmental concerns," said AOPA President Craig Fuller. The fundamental issue is whether emissions from piston aircraft exceed the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for lead. At the same time, however, AOPA's statement seems to accept as inevitable that leaded aviation fuel will go away. "The coalition will continue to work closely with the EPA and FAA to develop a plan to transition to an unleaded fuel that addresses safety, economic and environmental concerns," the statement said. The EPA didn't need that kind of long and complicated process to decide on how to deal with another source of environmental lead, however.

On Friday, the EPA rejected a petition from environmental groups calling for a ban on the use of lead in ammunition. In a statement, the EPA says it lacks the legal authority under the Toxic Substances Control Act to regulate lead in bullets. U.S. News and World Report suggested the quick and unexpected decision was more the result of protests by the National Rifle Association that the lead ban was just an underground attempt at gun control. The petition also identified lead fishing sinkers as a pollution hazard and the EPA says it has no jurisdictional problems getting to the bottom of that threat. Fishing groups have until Sept. 15 to comment.

Cirrus On The Slow Recovery And 100LL

In raw figures, Cirrus had a better first quarter this year than last, but while "the trajectory of the business is terrific at the bottom line," Cirrus CEO Brent Wouters told TheStreet.com, "the revenue line stinks" and fuel adversity may be coming. Cirrus' first quarter was up 36 percent over the same period last year, and total billings were up 22 percent. But Wouters is only expecting to hold par with last year's volume and revenue, while leveraging a $55 million improvement at the bottom line through cost-cutting. "Even in my five-year projection, I don't see the business returning to the level that it was in 2007." For Wouters, the concern isn't in the quantity of aircraft delivered, it's about delivering at a level that "is sustainable and at good solid gross margins." That, he says, means continuing work to lower labor and material costs to increase margins. It also means planning ahead when it comes to 100LL.

Wouters says the Cirrus SR22-T is the company's proposed answer if 100LL disappears. The aircraft's turbocharged Continental engine is designed to burn the 94 octane unleaded fuel currently available and is undergoing FAA tests to determine its suitability for the lower octane fuel at the performance parameters required. Wouters sees that as an important capability because "unleaded fuel is coming whether we want it to happen now or not." He added, "There is no more shrugging it off. We are going to be the first to market to make sure our business and our customers are protected." At least two initiatives, by Swift Fuels and GAMI, are under way to create a viable unleaded 100 octane aviation fuel.

Maine Airport Fears Loss Of Nonethanol Fuel

Central Maine Airport operator Kristina Wallace told The Morning Sentinel her phone is "ringing off the hook" with calls from pilots who've learned that 87-Octane fuel is about to vanish from the airport. Federal regulations and tax incentives, along with the actions of fuel refiners and distributors in the region, mean that the only 87-Octane fuel provided to the airport will soon come pre-packed with 10-percent ethanol. The airport's fuel distributor says it will run out of ethanol-free fuel in less than two months. Any pilots who've been using it will have to move to the more expensive 100LL, whether the leaded fuel is good for their wallets (or engines) or not.

Wallace told The Sentinel that her airport runs on fuel sales and pilots and the airport have yet to see how the change will play out. A proposed local bill that would have required dealers to offer nonethanol fuels stalled. According to local officials the problem can only be resolved on the federal level. If there is a problem for certain aircraft owners, at least they're not alone. Some boaters and vintage car owners will have to adapt as well. The move to 10-percent ethanol fuel, or E10, is meant to provide cleaner burning fuel to more users, but may push a few aircraft operators in another direction.

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Opinion & Commentary back to top 

AVweb Insider Blog: How the FAA Acts Counter to Safety

LEDs are a terrific technology to replace old, failure-prone landing light bulbs. And the fact that you can leave them on constantly means the aircraft is more conspicuous, thus reducing the collision risk. Yet the FAA has so complicated the unnecessary approval process for these products that the market has been nearly strangled. In the latest installment of our AVweb Insider blog, Paul Bertorelli explains the details.

Click here to read more.

AVweb Insider Blog: Harsh Realities — Chinese Interests Buy Superior Airparts

The first (and understandable) reaction is to decry another sellout of an American business. On the AVweb Insider blog, Paul Bertorelli says he gets that — but for those who reach for the emotional high notes about how awful such deals are, here's a question: What's the alternative when no Western buyers come forth?

Read more and chime in with your own thoughts at the blog.

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The Top Reporter on Our Crack Staff ... Is You! back to top 

AVweb's Newstips Address ...

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AVweb Audio — Are You Listening? back to top 

Guns, Handcuffs and John and Martha King

File Size 15.0 MB / Running Time 16:25

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Think it can't happen to you? John and Martha King (of King Schools) beg to differ. Aviation's best-known couple were the subject of a bizarre case of mistaken identity on Aug. 28 that resulted in them having guns drawn on them, being handcuffed and held for about 30 minutes. As always, there are lessons to be learned from Martha King as she goes through the bizarre event at the Santa Barbara Airport in this unedited and, at 15 minutes, longer-than-usual AVweb podcast.

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Click here to listen. (15.0 MB, 16:25)

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AVweb Media: Look, Listen, Laugh and Learn back to top 

Aviation Consumer Flies a Silver Eagle Turbine-Converted Centurion

Original, Exclusive Videos from AVweb | Reader-Submitted & Viral Videos

Wanna go fast and climb like hell? That's what the Silver Eagle Conversion of a P210 with a Rolls Royce turbine engine does. Aviation Consumer's Paul Bertorelli recently took a flight demo in the airplane.

If you enjoy this video, be sure to look for more on the Silver Eagle package in the September 2010 issue of Aviation Consumer.

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Try disabling ad blockers and refreshing this page.
If that doesn't work, click here to download the video directly.

Cluster Balloonist Jonathan Trappe

Original, Exclusive Videos from AVweb | Reader-Submitted & Viral Videos

Jonathan Trappe is a sort of super-hero to some children and a crazy man to some adults. We found him inspirational. Trappe is licensed to fly beneath a group of homemade helium-filled balloons. That means his aircraft is one of the most structurally redundant vehicles in the sky. But it's also challenging to fly. Trappe controls his direction by varying his altitude. He can drop water ballast or stab balloons with a knife to alter his buoyancy as he flies. Wind direction can vary with altitude, and Trappe uses that to his advantage, adjusting his present reality to the forecast conditions. To stay visible to controllers and aircraft, Trappe carries a radio and transponder, making him visible on radar. For visual avoidance, Trappe relies mainly on the 50-foot brightly colored canopy of balloons above his head. At night, he uses lights.

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Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Montgomery Aviation (Indianapolis Executive Airport, KTYQ, Indiana)

Nominate an FBO | Rules | Tips | Questions | Winning FBOs

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AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Montgomery Aviation at Indianapolis Executive Airport (KTYQ) in Zionsville, Indiana.

AVweb reader Brian Johnson tells us Montgomery is the cream of the crop in his region:

... [B]y far the best experience I have had with an FBO in my 18 years of flying. They are very courteous, helpful and responsive. I have been part of Eagle Flyers, their local flying club, for the past two years, and it has been a wonderful experience. Very well-maintained aircraft, reasonable prices, good availability and excellent service — this is the type of FBO that inspires current and future general aviation pilots.

Keep those nominations coming. For complete contest rules, click here.

AVweb is actively seeking out the best FBOs in the country and another one, submitted by you, will be spotlighted here next Monday!

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Help Us Celebrate AVweb's 15th Anniversary back to top 

15 Years and Now 15 Grand Giveaways ... We're Giving You Another Chance to Win a Bose Aviation Headset X

CLICK HERE to Register for All 15 Drawings

Our 15th anniversary celebration continues, with a second chance to win a Bose Aviation Headset X! All you have to do is click here to enter your name and email address. (You only have to enter once, and you'll be entered in our prize drawings for the entire year — so if you've already entered, you're all set.)

And no, we're not going to rent or sell your name, ever. Tell your friends, and invite them to sign up for AVweb so they can qualify for our 15 Grand Giveaways prize drawings, too. (We won't spam them, either — but we hope they will sign up for our newsletters.)

Deadline for entries is 11:59pm Zulu time Friday, September 3, 2010.

Click here to read the contest rules and enter.

Congratulations to Roger Newcomb of Austin, TX, who won our last drawing, for a Spidertrack Aviator! (click here to get your own from Spidertracks)

The Lighter Side of Flight back to top 

Short Final

Heard on the air near KTRK (runways 19 and 28 in use today):

"Truckee Unicom, Twin Cessna XXX eight miles southwest. Runway advisory, please."

"Winds are 190 at 20, gusting 30. All runways are open."

Cessna (slightly clueless sound in his voice) :
"Do you have a suggested runway?"

"Most aircraft are using 19, right traffic."

"Roger. 19, right traffic."

Eric Niedrauer
via e-mail

Names Behind the News back to top 

Meet the AVwebFlash Team

AVwebFlash is a weekly summary of the latest news, articles, products, features, and events featured on AVweb, the internet's aviation magazine and news service.

The AVwebFlash team is:

Timothy Cole

Editorial Director, Aviation Publications
Paul Bertorelli

Russ Niles

Contributing Editors
Mary Grady
Glenn Pew

Features Editor
Kevin Lane-Cummings

Scott Simmons

Jeff van West
Mariano Rosales

Click here to send a letter to the editor. (Please let us know if your letter is not intended for publication.)

Comments or questions about the news should be sent here.

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If you're having trouble reading this newsletter in its HTML-rich format (or if you'd prefer a lighter, simpler format for your PDA or handheld device), there's also a text-only version of AVwebFlash. For complete instructions on making the switch, click here.

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