AVwebFlash - Volume 16, Number 39b

September 30, 2010

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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U.S. Team Missing In Balloon Race

American gas-balloon pilots Richard Abruzzo and Carol Rymer Davis went missing over the Adriatic Sea, between Italy and Croatia, on Wednesday morning, and as night fell rescuers had turned up no sign of them. The two pilots are competing in the annual Gordon Bennett International Gas Balloon Race, which launched from southern England on Saturday night. As of Wednesday morning all the other 19 teams, including two from the U.S., had landed safely. Ground crews and air traffic control both lost communication with the missing pilots about the same time, and no emergency signals have been detected. Thunderstorms and rough seas were reported in the area.

"The balloon is equipped with satellite telephone, VHF radios, radar transponder and two mobile telephones," the race organizers said on Wednesday evening. "It has not been possible to make contact on any of these.... [We] are becoming increasingly concerned as nightfall approaches." The search will be scaled down overnight, but will be resumed at first light. Abruzzo is the son of Ben Abruzzo, who was a crew member aboard the Double Eagle II, the first balloon to cross the Atlantic. He is a competitive balloon pilot who has set numerous records and won many awards. Rymer Davis began flying balloons in 1973, and holds several distance and duration records. The two have flown together in many competitions, and they won the Gordon Bennett race in 2004. Their balloon is equipped with survival suits, life jackets and two single-person life rafts.

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Student And Instructor Survive Onboard Fire

An instructor and student flying a Spartan School of Aeronautics 1980 Cessna 172RG survived an onboard fire and off-airport emergency landing in Oklahoma, Tuesday, if somewhat worse for the wear. Instructor Jade Schiewe, 28, and student Zachary Pfaff, 26, were confronted with smoke and flames coming up from the floorboard area while on a training flight. Schiewe got on the radio and reported fire in the cockpit along with a mayday call before setting the aircraft down in a field a few miles west of Jones River Airport. Both Schiewe and Pfaff escaped the aircraft, but Schiewe suffered burns. After landing, the aircraft and the area surrounding it, were soon fully engulfed in flames.

According to local news, Schiewe suffered second- and third-degree burns to the lower part of his right leg, while Pfaff appeared to be uninjured. The fire quickly spread, igniting dry grass surrounding the aircraft. Tulsa Fire was called to the scene and the brush fire was extinguished, but the aircraft was consumed by fire.

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Court Upholds Massive Merger

A U.S. District Judge found that plaintiffs failed to show that United Airlines' merger with Continental would create a monopoly and ruled Tuesday that the merger shouldn't be blocked on antitrust grounds. Attorney Joseph Alioto, who filed the suit on behalf of consumers said he will appeal the ruling. United and Continental expect their merger to close, Friday. They expect to operate separately until they receive paperwork from the FAA later in October. Alioto says the merger will create an entity that is "too big to fail." Alioto's opinion aside, the $3.17 billion deal that is United's acquisition of Continental will create the world's largest carrier. According to Alioto, "There's very little regard for their passengers and everybody seems to know it." The airlines argued in court that the merger would bring stability to the industry and allow cost savings to be passed to consumers. Meanwhile, analysts are considering what other airlines may do to compete with the new mega-airline.

American Airlines lost the title of world's largest airline in 2008 when Delta and Northwest merged. The new United/Continental merger puts extra pressure on American, industry analyst Robert Mann told Reuters. Mann believes American may be running out of good potential partners for a merger. But strategic alliances have been used by airlines for years and may present a viable alternative. Meanwhile, Southwest Monday announced it would attempt to buy AirTran for $1 billion as the industry's strategic reshuffling continues.

Charter Pilot Pleads Guilty To Fraud

A pilot who admits that he changed weight and balance calculations and knew that a captain was not fit to fly and said nothing has pleaded guilty to federal charges in New Jersey. Francis Viera, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., worked for Platinum Jet Management, based in Florida, and said he flew charters for the company although the company wasn't properly certified to offer such flights. Five others associated with the company are facing various federal charges, which were brought after a company jet crashed in Newark in February 2005. The Bombardier Challenger CL-600-1A11 jet failed to take off, skidded through an airport fence, and ran into a warehouse, injuring 11 people in the airplane and 3 on the ground. Viera was not on board for the accident flight. The captain on that flight is among those facing charges.

The NTSB said in its final report that the jet was not within weight-and-balance limits and the center of gravity was well forward of the forward takeoff limit, which prevented the airplane from rotating. Neither pilot properly checked the weight and balance before takeoff. The NTSB also criticized the FAA for failing to exercise adequate oversight of the charter operator. Platinum Jet Management was flying under a Part 135 certificate held by another company. The company's pilots routinely "improperly modified" the weight-and-balance forms to show that the airplane was operating within its limits, the NTSB said. The safety board also said the FAA FSDO in Birmingham, Ala., contributed to the accident by failing to provide adequate oversight of the company's operations.

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Eurocopter Flies X3 "Hybrid" Helicopter

Eurocopter announced this week that it has begun test flights of the X3, a technology demonstrator for its project to develop a high-speed, long-range hybrid helicopter that will combine vertical takeoff and landing capabilities with cruise speeds of more than 220 knots. The X3 is equipped with two turboshaft engines that power the five-blade main rotor system. The two engines also power two propellers that are installed on short-span fixed wings. This hybrid system produces the speed of a turboprop aircraft plus the full hover flight capabilities of a helicopter, according to the company. The aircraft is expected to be used for search and rescue, border patrol, troop transport, and medical evacuation, Eurocopter said. The U.S.-based Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. recently announced that its X2 technology demonstrator had reached a speed of 250 knots in level flight, setting an unofficial speed record for helicopters.

Eurocopter said it will continue initial testing of the X3 through December at speeds up to about 180 knots. The aircraft will then undergo further modifications and flights will resume in March 2011 with the goal of reaching sustained cruise speeds of 220 knots and up. The company has been working on the project for about three years.

Mixed Results At New Flying Events

Canada's first-ever EAA fly-in drew about 15,000 visitors for the inaugural event just over a week ago, but turnout was disappointing at a light sport aircraft expo in southern Illinois last week, according to the organizers of both events. Nearly 15,000 visitors turned up for the Wings Over Gatineau/Canadian EAA Convention/Fly-in in Ontario, EAA said. The event also featured a 70th anniversary commemoration of the Battle of Britain. About 100 aircraft showed up despite foggy conditions that canceled some arrivals. The second annual Midwest LSA Expo was "wonderfully run," according to a report at ByDanJohnson.com, but the hoped-for crowds failed to materialize; and while serious shoppers turned out to look, few seemed ready to buy. Challenging weather didn't help, with stiff winds and 95-degree temperatures for the show start. However, the organizers plan to try again next year, perhaps shifting the dates from Thursday-to-Saturday to Friday-to-Sunday.

At the Ontario event, the Vintage Wings of Canada museum sponsored the Victoria Cross airshow on Saturday, followed by a Battle of Britain re-enactment and a ceremony honoring World War II veterans, EAA said. At the LSA event, the venue got high marks for user-friendliness and the pattern was busy when the weather cooperated. "It's easy to do a demo flight here," show organizer Chris Collins told AOPA, noting that aircraft in the static display could easily be moved to the ramp. "[AirVenture] and Sun 'n Fun are such big shows that [visitors] can't experience the airplane and make the best purchasing decision," he said.

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What You Missed in AVwebBiz This Week back to top 

Aircraft Tax Break Signed Into Law

The "bonus depreciation" extension that aircraft manufacturers had lobbied for is now law. President Barack Obama signed the Small Business Jobs Act, which contains the provision, on Monday. "As the one tax provision we asked Congress to pass to help offset the decline in sales due to the recession, we are optimistic that the small-business law will help to re-energize America's general-aviation production lines and bring back lost jobs," said Pete Bunce, president of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association. The law is effective as of Monday and applies to businesses' tax returns for 2010, according to the White House. The bonus depreciation item enables businesses to accelerate the rate at which they deduct capital expenditures.

Aircraft purchased before the end of 2010 must be placed into service by the end of 2011 to use the bonus-depreciation option. The tax break has proved effective in boosting sales, according to GAMA. One GA manufacturer said the provision helped close 55 percent of its aircraft sales last year. Ed Bolen, CEO of the National Business Aviation Association, also thanked President Obama for signing the bill. "Now that the president has signed the measure into law, companies will be able to take advantage of the provision right away, giving them access the benefits of business aviation," he said.

Flight Services Contract Extended

Lockheed Martin's contract to run the automated flight service station system has been extended for three years at a price of $356 million. The company announced the agreement Tuesday. The three-year extension begins Oct. 1. Lockheed Martin took over the AFSS function in 2005 and substantially trimmed the number of flight service stations and staff. "Lockheed Martin is proud of the service its flight service specialists provide to the general aviation industry," said Jim Derr, Lockheed Martin Flight Service Program Director. "We are excited to have the opportunity to continue providing the most accurate and reliable flight service briefings available."

Lockheed Martin said the net result of the changes over the past five years is better, more efficient service, although it acknowledged early in the contract that it was not meeting performance standards set in the contract. It says the system now works. "Under the AFSS contract, which was initially awarded in 2005, Lockheed Martin has employed technology enhancements and a hub system that has modernized flight services. Flight planning is now streamlined and allows the sharing of weather and flight plan statuses across the entire Lockheed Martin AFSS network."

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Opinion & Commentary back to top 

AVweb Insider Blog: The Wonder Bread Theory of Aviation Recession

Stick with me on this, says Paul Bertorelli his latest post to the AVweb Insider blog. He argues that digging GA out the doldrums is tied inextricably to the general economy, which is itself being battered by productivity gains that make disposable income, at least temporarily, a thing of the past. Companies will have to both hire new workers and pay them more.

Read more and join the conversation.

AVweb Insider Blog: In the Age of Glass Cockpits, a Glass Ceiling?

Fewer than seven percent of pilots are women. Why is that? In this guest post to the AVweb Insider blog, flight instructor (and ATP) Mireille Goyer argues the aviation culture discourages young women from becoming pilots even if it embraces them after their trial by fire.

Read more and join the conversation.

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

AVmail: September 30, 2010

Each week, we run a sampling of the letters received to our editorial inbox here in AVmail. One letter that's particularly relevant, informative, or otherwise compelling will headline this section as our "Letter of the Week," and we'll send the author an official AVweb baseball cap as a "thank you" for interacting with us (and the rest of our readership). Send us your comments and questions using this form. Please include your mailing address in your e-mail (just in case your letter is our "Letter of the Week"); by the same token, please let us know if your message is not intended for publication.

UAVs (Pro) ...

You know, I don't see where the problem is. It isn't like a UAV is not in control by someone. Just make it mandatory that they fly on an IFR flight plan and let them go.

As long as the operator is in contact with ATC (just like an onboard pilot is), it should be fine. I'm O.K. with sharing airspace with them when I'm VFR. Most of the time I'm getting advisories anyway, and how many times, even when getting advisories, do you not even see the other aircraft before it's not a conflict?

The UAVs ought to be restricted from busy air space, but, other than that, let them fly. I'm more concerned with what they are doing while flying in domestic airspace and object to their operations based on civil liberties [rather] than whether they will be a flight hazard. But for training missions, I say let them fly.

Gary Caron

... And UAVs (Con)

The Air Force has plenty of training areas and doesn't need more in North Dakota. Predators should be deployed in active war zones, and training can be accomplished near those areas. There's nothing more realistic than learning to fly UAVs in the mountains of Afghanistan, rather than the fields of North Dakota.

Besides, Customs and Border Protection is responsible for border protection, not the Air Force, so let's not use that ploy. Using all these high-tech toys in the U.S. has done nothing other than to bankrupt the taxpayers. We already know how to secure the borders, but it's dirty and dangerous and not nearly as glamorous as cool UAVs prowling the skies.

Glenn Juber

UAV flights should be standard IFR flights and would mix perfectly in all airspace. Comm between the ATC controllers and the UAV controller should be all that is required.

C. J. Stephens

UAVs present a level of risk which is acceptable in a military theatre of operations but not in civilian airspace outside of a state of emergency. Future advances may change this, but, for now, they do not belong in general airspace.

Mark Consigny

When a UAV has the same see-and-avoid ability as manned military aircraft, then they should be allowed to fly — restricted to MOAs, with the same altitude restrictions, and with the same requirements for NOTAMS, etc.

Tom Mitchell

The military has loads of special use airspace in existing restricted areas (not to mention MOAs) in which to train UAV operators. There's a technical term for plunking six boxes of Predators down in North Dakota and whining that FAA foot-dragging impedes training by not affording yet more special use airspace for it: Airspace grab. I'm open to sharing civilian airspace with military UAV's, but only after all the kinks have been worked out of the concept ... in special use airspace they already own and with the traffic they already control in it: Their own.

Eric Coleson

In the bazillion cubic miles of our airspace that are already Restricted or Prohibited from general aviation operations, the Air Force can't find a 35x45x4-mile sandbox to play in?

I'm with the FAA on this one. Until they can prove that they can play nice with all GA operations (including ballooning and skydiving) they should not be allowed in MOAs, much less given a chunk of our ever-dwindling airspace, even in North Dakota.

I say, let them prove that they can safely mix it up with other military ops in the huge restricted areas of Nevada, Utah, or Texas before we ever consider unleashing them on general aviation.

Frankly, the idea of sensor-laden UAVs flying over the U.S. seems Huxlean to me. It certainly doesn't make me feel safer.

Chip Davis

I understand the need to train UAV pilots and that that involves flying UAVs in US Airspace. But we've lost sight of the fact that UAVs are intended to take the pilot out of harm's way.

Why, then, does CBP need to operate UAVs along the U.S./Mexico border (among other places)? Is the U.S./Mexico border so dangerous that a manned aircraft is unacceptable?

It seems to me that a Cessna 206, equipped with remotely controlled sensors and operated by a single pilot, would be just as effective and would be a lot safer.

Alas, UAVs are just cooler, I guess.

Rob Montgomery

UAVs are coming whether we like it or not. We might as well get on with it.

Charles Martel

Read AVmail from other weeks here, and submit your own Letter to the Editor with this form.

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

Video: The Story of Red Bull's Aerobatic Heli (And Pilot Chuck Aaron)

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

Chuck Aaron is an FAA-certified aerobatic helicopter pilot. And he flies for Red Bull. The helicopter is a modified Messerschmitt-Bolkow-Blohm BO-105. Aaron can be seen flying at Red Bull events.

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

15 Years and Now 15 Grand Giveaways ... It's Your Chance to Win a Lightspeed Zulu Headset

CLICK HERE to Register for All 15 Drawings

Win a Lightspeed Zulu aviation headset as we celebrate our 15th Anniversary! All you have to do is click here to enter your name and e-mail 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 October 15, 2010.

Click here to read the contest rules and enter.

Congratulations to Ronald C. Hanna of Independence, Oregon, who won our last prize, a PMA6000B audio panel! (click here to get your own from PS Engineering)

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Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Sugar Land Regional Airport (KSGR, Texas)

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

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AVweb reader Dale Davis discovered our latest "FBO of the Week" at Sugar Land Regional Airport (KSGR) in Sugar Land, Texas. "Beautiful interior design, multiple seating areas in stylish leather, a boutique gift shop, museum, clean restrooms and a full-service, friendly staff" put Sugar Land at the top of Dale's list, and his recommendations puts it at the top of ours.

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!

Reader-Submitted Photos back to top 

Picture of the Week: AVweb's Flying Photography Showcase

Submit a Photo | Rules | Tips | Questions | Past Winners

Each week, we go through dozens (and sometimes hundreds) of reader-submitted photos and pick the very best to share with you on Thursday mornings. The top photos are featured on AVweb's home page, and one photo that stands above the others is awarded an AVweb baseball cap as our "Picture of the Week." Want to see your photo on AVweb.com? Click here to submit it to our weekly contest.


medium | large

Used with permission of Michael Barnett

Tower at the End of the Rainbow

We wrapped things up Monday with a rainbow shot, and that's how we kick things off in our latest installment of "Picture of the Week." Michael Barnett of Woodlands, Texas was standing by the window at an FBO at Eagle, Colorado's KEGE he caught sight of the rainbow. Luckily for us, he had his camera phone handy ... .

medium | large

copyright © Don Parsons
Used with permission

Balloon Glow

Did someone say "balloon race"? Why, someone did — sharp-eyed photographer Don Parsons of St. Peters, Missouri. "A beautiful early fall night hosts the St. Louis Forest Park Hot Air Balloon Race," writes Don.

medium | large

copyright © Graeme Peppler
Used with permission

Times Have Changed ...

In art school, this is what they call "juxtaposition." Graeme Peppler snapped this at the combined Vintage Wings of Canada/EAA Canada Fly-In at Gatineau (Québec) last week.

medium | large

Used with permission of Drew Harteveld

Lolly's First Flight

"Who knew 145HP could generate so much joy?" asks Drew Harteveld of Maplewood, New Jersey. Oh, Drew — if you've lost that level of kidlike wonder, you probably won't believe when we say that we've been giving Lolly the thumbs-up in return all afternoon.

(Please: No photos of anyone high-fiving the camera, or we'll break three monitors.)

medium | large

copyright © Peter Rosendale
Used with permission

Opening Colors

Photo compositing usually draws a few complaints from AVweb readers when it finds its way into the top five — but this combined shot — the diver and the eagle were two different photos — is too good to leave out of the mix. (It's our desktop wallpaper the moment.)

Peter Rosendale of East Dundee, Illinois picked up both shots at the opening day of AirVenture this year. Ah, AirVenture — just over 300 days away ... .

Because we ran late posting last week's photos, we're leaving them up in the home page slideshow until Friday, October 1 at 4pm Zulu time. That'll give them a little more time in the spotlight. (If you haven't seen them already, what are you waiting for?)

At 4:00, a batch of new bonus photos from this week will hit the home page. So if you're one of these guys who doesn't have anything to look forward to on Friday — well, that's one problem solved!

Click here to submit your own photos to "POTW."

A quick note for submitters: If you've got several photos that you feel are "POTW" material, your best bet is to submit them one-a-week! That gives your photos a greater chance of seeing print on AVweb, and it makes the selection process a little easier on us, too. ;)

A Reminder About Copyrights:
Please take a moment to consider the source of your image before submitting to our "Picture of the Week" contest. If you did not take the photo yourself, ask yourself if you are indeed authorized to release publication rights to AVweb. If you're uncertain, consult the POTW Rules or or send us an 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.)

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