AVwebFlash Complete Issue: Volume 16, Number 43a

October 25, 2010

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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AOPA Members "Understanding" Of Fee Hike

AOPA says a 14-percent increase in its membership fee has been greeted with "understanding" by most of those who have contacted the organization. As of September, the annual fee went from $39 to $45. "This is our first dues increase in about 20 years," AOPA spokesman Chris Dancy told AVweb. " While no one likes to pay more, most of the members who have contacted us have been understanding. Many have made comments to the effect that they couldn't believe we didn't do this sooner." Former AOPA President Phil Boyer was proud of the fact that membership fees had been frozen at $39 during his tenure and often mentioned it during speeches at AOPA events. Membership fees in the U.S. are among the lowest of all AOPA groups. In Canada, membership in the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association (COPA) is $55 plus tax while in the U.K. it's about $175 at current exchange rates. Current AOPA President Craig Fuller said the increase (which will generate about $2.5 million a year) is necessary to fund the continued expansion of advocacy and membership services.

Fuller announced the hike in his column in the September edition of AOPA Pilot. In it he said that even though the dues have held steady for 20 years, AOPA has added myriad services and features in that time, including its substantial online presence, most of it funded by advertising in its publications as well as revenue from insurance, credit card, medical and legal programs. It's continuing to look for new ways to make money in so-called "lifestyle" programs such as the recently introduced AOPA Wine Club, in which 10 percent of the sale price of wine ordered through the club will go to AOPA.

FAA Expected To Add Photos To Pilot Certificates

The FAA will publish a new proposed rule in the next few months that would require pilot certificates to include a photo, an FAA spokesperson said this week. Currently, pilots are required to carry a government-issued photo ID in addition to their pilot certificate. U.S. Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., recently wrote to the FAA, the TSA and the Department of Homeland Security asking why they haven't complied with a 2004 law that requires pilot certificates to include not only a photograph but a means to record biometric data such as fingerprints and iris scans. The FAA's Sasha Johnson said the FAA will release an NPRM by the end of this year, according to The Associated Press. She also said that the current plastic certificates already are capable of holding biometric data, although no such data currently is required.

"It is mind-boggling that six years [after passing the law], after spending millions of dollars, the FAA license still does not have a photograph," Mica wrote. "The only pilots pictured on the license are Wilbur and Orville Wright. ... It is absolutely astounding that DHS, TSA and FAA could, after six years to implement the [law], still achieve such an incredible level of incompetence."

Pro Pilot Takes Stand Against TSA Body Scan

Michael Roberts says he's an ExpressJet Airlines pilot who has worked out of Memphis for more than four years and now fears that may change after, on Oct. 15, he refused to subject himself to a full body scan by TSA workers. Roberts likens the scan, a technology that reveals a graphic depiction of a person's body beneath their clothing, to "virtual strip searching." His refusal was met with the alternative of being frisked, an offer that Roberts also declined. Screeners and Roberts then discussed their positions on the matter and the event became a stalemate. At that point Roberts says he attempted to leave and was detained for questioning. In the end, Roberts was denied access to the facility. He says the TSA contacted his employer. And he is now unsure of the future of his position at ExpressJet. Roberts' account has become a topic of debate in online pilot forums. Whatever your opinion, Roberts actions were well-considered by him in advance and were apparently not intended as a conclusive act but rather to initiate further action.

Roberts includes his e-mail address at the end of his account of events (PDF). It is FedUpFlyers@nonpartisan.com. Roberts also welcomes interested parties to contact him. (AVweb was unable to reach Roberts prior to deadline.) His story appears on ExpressJet Forums under the heading "well, today was the day." It apparently evolved over time from earlier statements expressing his concern with security measures. For Roberts' part, "This is not a left or right, red or blue state issue. The very bedrock of our way of life in this country is under attack from within. Please don't let it be taken from us without a fight." He concludes his account with the words, "Malo Periculosam Libertatem Quam Quietum Servitium." That translates to, "I prefer liberty with danger to peace with slavery."

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Tomorrow's Airplanes back to top 

Cessna Working On Turboprop Single?

Cessna CEO Jack Pelton has all but confirmed the company will soon be introducing a turboprop single aimed at bridging a market gap between its high-performance piston single Corvalis and the Mustang entry-level jet. In a video interview with AOPA, Pelton was asked about a persistent rumor that it's developing what is commonly referred to as a "turboprop Mustang." Pelton has been asked about it repeatedly at the National Business Aviation Association convention and finally commented on it to AOPA. There's also a shadowy FAA registry reference to a turboprop single Cessna E350 that suggests it's an R&D project.

In the AOPA report, Pelton suggests the turboprop will be less expensive than a Mustang (which will also make it less expensive than a TBM 850) and that its announcement is imminent. He said he'd like to bring it to AOPA Summit but he did not think it would be ready. The rumor about the aircraft first surfaced at AirVenture Oshkosh and a persistent thread is that it is being kept at Pelton's personal hangar at his vacation home in Oklahoma.

Company Moves On Transformative Roadable Glasair

Plane Driven posted a video to YouTube recently detailing their motives and progress. Watch it here.
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Plane Driven earned interest at AirVenture Oshkosh 2010 with its PD-1 roadable Glasair Sportsman and now says it will continue developmental research and design with a new test version, the evolving PD-X. The PD-1 vehicle matched a Sportsman with oversized wheels and disk brakes at each leg, plus fold-back wings and fold-in stabilizer sections. Thrust in the air was provided by the aircraft's normal propulsion unit (Lycoming, plus propeller). A second engine was carried below the fuselage at the center of gravity to drive the main gear's wheels on the road. But before heading to the road, the main gear and engine would slide along rails to the back of the fuselage for vastly improved road handling. The PD-X aims to refine that design and lead to a final version to be made available for sale.

In the PD-1, the second engine puts power to the wheels through an automatic transmission that includes a reverse gear. The vehicle's designers hope the evolution that is the PD-X will ultimately provide a practical alternative for pilots grounded by weather -- provided that weather is rear-wheel-drive friendly.

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Aviation Safety: Unexpected Hazards back to top 

Heli Shot At, Hit, While Flying In Idaho

Federal and state authorities are considering charges for a suspect who earned the attention of the FBI for his possible role in putting bullet holes in a Bell Jet Ranger as it flew near Clarkia, Idaho, on Oct. 14. The helicopter was performing contract burning when the pilot and ground crew heard four gunshots. The pilot was 69-year-old Vietnam War veteran Earl Palmer. "The first one I didn't recognize as a bullet," Palmer told the Lewiston Morning Tribune. But the aircraft was struck by the third shot, "and that one, the way it passed through the helicopter, went right over my head," said Palmer. With the fourth shot, Palmer departed the area and landed safely at a nearby refueling facility. There, he found the aircraft had been struck twice, and one bullet had cracked a control tube. "It was within minutes of coming apart," Palmer said.

The aircraft's owner, Gale Wilson, told the newspaper, "It was a high-powered rifle. It was a hunting rifle." Authorities detained a suspect within 24 hours. They were reportedly led to an individual by the accounts of hunters, ground crew and possibly witnesses in the area who had come forward. Wilson said hunters and nature enthusiasts can become annoyed with helicopters flying overhead. "However," he added, "there's no justification to take out a high caliber rifle and try to shoot us down." Prosecutors will now decide how to proceed.

Onboard Crocodile Involved In Congo Crash?

The story of a crocodile getting loose in the cabin of a Let L-410 Turbolet and precipitating a 20-fatality crash on short final in the Democratic Republic of Congo was widely published Thursday, and does not match earlier reports. According to the new story from Telegraph.co.uk, testimony from the lone survivor of the Aug. 25 crash has led investigators to believe the smuggled crocodile escaped a carry-on "sports bag" at the rear of the cabin, motivating passengers to charge the cockpit in panic. The aircraft was on short final at the time, and the sudden transfer of weight, according to the Telegraph, sent the plane "off-balance" and caused the crash. One passenger, and the crocodile, survived, according to the Telegraph. The crocodile was then killed by rescuers with a machete, the newspaper said. Early reports of the crash universally did not include a crocodile but did suggest more familiar possibilities. Among them is a French language news report that includes an earlier account of the survivor's testimony -- sans crocodile.

The crash aircraft, a 19-passenger Let L-410 Turbolet, a high-wing, twin-engine turboprop, struck an unoccupied house within roughly 100 meters of its destination, the regional airport at Bandundu. An early report dated the day of the crash states the aircraft crashed "after an abortive attempt to land." It noted "there was no explosion" and quoted a local politician who said, "Subject to expert opinion ... the presumed cause could be a lack of fuel." There was no mention of a crocodile. An Aug. 27 report published in French said the aircraft's operator, FilAir, rejected reports of fuel starvation. According to that account, FilAir spokesman John Mbu said, "Because after checking, there were at least 150 liters of kerosene in the tanks." That translates to about 40 gallons for an aircraft with a normal fuel burn of about 90 gallons per hour. According Mbu, the sole survivor at that time said the pilot was to land on an emergency strip next to the runway. When the aircraft was on final, the passengers saw the nose was not lined up with the runway, they shouted, and [strictly translated] all of them went into the cockpit.

Bizarre Bailout Story

Barrington Slack, a private pilot, was reportedly alone in a single-engine 1976 Rockwell International 112TC Commander flying over Burke County, Ga., when he departed the aircraft and landed safely under canopy. The aircraft impacted near a cow pasture and was destroyed. One witness who estimated he was about 400 yards from the crash site saw the aircraft come down and said the impact "was like a bomb went off." A local ABC news affiliate reported that a police report "said Slack tried to get the plane's rudder to work but didn't have much luck. And a little after 7, the plane ran out of fuel and crashed." The Augusta Chronicle reported that Slack told authorities he'd departed Covington at about 4 p.m. for Columbia, S.C. The cities are about 175 miles apart and the crash site is roughly between the two but off-track to the south.

After landing safely with his parachute, Slack reportedly hitched a ride back to the crash site, where he apparently spoke with early responders, refused medical attention and left. The Augusta Chronicle reported that the wrecked aircraft is registered to Kalunju Aviation Group of Atlanta, and the Georgia Secretary of State's website lists Slack as that company's agent.

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News Briefs back to top 

FAA, USDA Cooperate On Biofuel

The FAA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have inked a five-year agreement to develop aviation fuel from agricultural and forestry waste. The program will study the availability and fuel-refining potential of a variety of biomass sources. "Under the partnership, the agencies will bring together their experience in research, policy analysis and air transportation sector dynamics to assess the availability of different kinds of feedstocks that could be processed by bio-refineries to produce jet fuels," the USDA said in a news release. Both agencies already have biofuel programs but hope the collaboration will keep them focused on projects that will work for both the producers and the end users. This program is aimed specifically at jet fuel. There's no mention of looking at alternatives to 100LL.

The jet-fuel component is part of a larger biomass initiative that is designed to include rural areas across the U.S. in a coordinated effort to turn the energy equation around with particular emphasis on reducing dependence on foreign oil for commercial aviation and military transportation. FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said the deal is a good one for the future of aviation and the environment. "The development and deployment of alternative fuels is critical to achieving carbon neutral aviation growth by 2020," Babbitt said.

Pilots, FAs Vent To Reader's Digest

The Reader's Digest version of how pilots and flight attendants perceive their jobs (and their customers) has hit newsstands and we hope this isn't the condensed version. The magazine said it polled 17 airline pilots for "50 Secrets Your Pilot Won't Tell You" and 13 confidences kept by flight attendants. FAs got to expand their contribution with a list of the 10 things that really get their goat at work. There aren't many surprises from the pilots. Most deal with well-known irritations like work schedules and declining pay but there is the odd pearl. "No, it's not your imagination: Airlines really have adjusted their flight arrival times so they can have a better record of on-time arrivals," says one AirTran captain. "So they might say a flight takes two hours when it really takes an hour and 45 minutes." The flight attendants' responses are indicative of just how bizarre their jobs can be at times.

Much of what they have to say is instructive, but a lot of their comments vent frustration at the poor behavior their charges display at 35,000 feet. "Passengers are always coming up to me and tattling on each other. 'Can you tell him to put his seat up?' 'She won't share the armrest.' What am I, a preschool teacher?" There is a smattering of safety-related concerns. At least one pilot bemoaned the tight fuel margins most airlines impose to save fuel. The more fuel an airliner carries, the more it burns so they're not topping the tanks on a trip that will theoretically use two-thirds of that. It can make things interesting in bad weather, the pilots interviewed by RD say. Others said the airlines penny-pinching irritates them as much as the pax. "We miss the peanuts, too," said one pilot.

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Reflecting on NBAA back to top 

NBAA Convention And Industry Trend$

The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) says exhibitor and attendance numbers are up over last year's convention and spots for display aircraft were sold out, but outside of the event analysts remain cool about the industry's recovery. The NBAA convention "remains a must-attend" event for industry players, according to NBAA CEO Ed Bolen. And to casual observers an increase in attendance and vendors at NBAA's convention can suggest anything from good things to businesses seeking leverage in difficult times. Analysts are more direct. Gary Crichlow of Ascend Aviation Consultancy told a Financial Times reporter that 2011 looks to bring "more of the same" for business aviation. Crichlow believes "2012 will be when things start picking up." The Teal Group's Richard Aboulafia called 2010 a year of "convalescing" and believes recovery is unlikely prior to 2012. NBAA's Bolen contends that this year's convention shows that, in his industry, "people and companies are optimistic and forward-looking." And, at least for products at the highest end of the bizjet price range, there may be reason for that optimism.

In the world of $40 million-plus business jets, companies appear relatively bullish in a market that hasn't softened. Bombardier chose the convention to roll out the Global 7000 and Global 8000 business jets, which are offered at about $65 million each. Gulfstream has about 100 firm orders for its G650 bizjet, a $60 million not-yet-certified offering. And Embraer's Lineage 1000 jet has been introduced to the market by that company at $50 million each. Deliveries of Bombardier's $40 million Global Express are up from 2008 (a banner year for the industry). Gulfstream's G300-G550 models range from $33 million to $50 million, and they saw increased deliveries in 2009 over 2008. Dassault's Falcon 7X chimes in at about $50 million and deliveries of that jet are up year-over-year, also, for 2010. Those gains have not offset losses. Honeywell forecasts that industry-wide, new jet deliveries will see an overall drop of about 17 percent this year, continuing last year's 34-percent drop-off of 2008's high water mark, according to The New York Times.

AVweb Insider Blog: NBAA — Trying to Know the Unknowable

The NBAA show in Atlanta was noticeably more robust than last year, but most of the talk centered on recovery and why it's taking so long. Almost no one is asking if the industry has reached an inflection point similar to that of 1978, when GA sales went over a cliff. In his latest post to the AVweb Insider blog, Paul Bertorelli says there's at least one good reason to believe that isn't the case: A global market for biz aircraft that didn't exist in 1980.

Read more and join the conversation.

NBAA 2010 Convention: News Coverage Round-Up

Where to find AVweb podcasts, videos, photos, and news reports from the 2010 NBAA Convention in Atlanta, Georgia.

You'll find our media coverage summarized here, and you can read all our news coverage from 2010 (and previous years) here.

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New on AVweb.com back to top 

AVweb Insider Blog: Cessna's High Performance Turboprop Single Has A Niche

The dream of creating instant jet pilots with VLJs is mostly over. So what's next, in the post-light jet, post-sport pilot world of aviation outreach? On the AVweb Insider blog, Russ Niles explains why Cessna's response may be a single-engine turboprop to groom Mustang owner-pilots.

Read more and join the conversation.

AVweb Insider Blog: Me and My iPad

The iPad ought to be the best cockpit gadget ever — and although there are some great apps out there (and more coming), it somehow falls short. On the AVweb Insider blog, iPad lover wannabe Paul Bertorelli explains why.

Read more and join the conversation.

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

AVmail: October 25, 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.

Letter of the Week: The Illusion of Safety

It is interesting to note that whereas there is a very definite outcry against the FAA's safety bill passed earlier this year, there has been little, if any, comment on how this bill will have a very negative and deleterious effect upon the overall safety of flight. Aside from the valid argument that there is a very big difference between quantity vs. quality of training and the fact that it might be possible that some academic training could be more valuable than mere time spent in the cockpit, virtually everyone has missed one of the most negative impacts of this bill.

For a very large majority of those persons who want to fly for the airlines, the only way they can realistically gain the required hours in an affordable manner would be to serve their time in the right seat acting as instructors. Unfortunately, only a very small handful of these people will be properly trained and prepared to take their responsibilities as flight instructors seriously and endeavor to provide quality training to their clients. I sadly fear that most of those people spending time in the right seat as flight instructors for the sole purpose of filling the requirement to have 1,500 hours before they can apply for a job as a first officer, will not only resent what they are being forced to do but, further, will not be prepared to provide the quality of training that is so integral to the safety of flight.

Even Randy Babbitt, the FAA administrator, has expressed skepticism about the 1,500-hour requirement, saying it is more important to improve the quality of the pilot training than to increase the amount of experience in the cockpit. Unfortunately, this bill will have the opposite effect. I think we can rest assured that all those people who have no other choice than to serve as "flight instructors in purgatory" as a result of this bill will not be providing the requisite quality training that every pilot, regardless of their ultimate goal in aviation, deserves. This can only have a negative impact on the overall safety of all those pilots who might be trained by these "reluctant" flight instructors.

Doug Stewart
Chairman, Society of Aviation and Flight Educators

Outdated Training

We have all this new modern avionics and we still flight train the same old (tired) way. A few months ago, I went up with my flight instructor for a couple of hours of dual, which I do at least once every year. (I only have 22,000 hours.)

Shortly after takeoff, when I had put on the hood, all the airports within 500 miles went to zero/zero except a 2,300x 25-foot strip 75 miles away. To get there, we had to climb up through a pass, find the airport and align with the (only) runway.

Then all the circuit breakers popped except the radio bus, and the vacuum system failed, as did the pitot system. So all we had was the Garmin 530 and a Garmin 296 on the yoke. Using the GPS, we flew up the road over the pass using GPS position and terrain warning. Once clear of the pass and above the terrain, we flew the "purple line" to the airport, passed overhead, and simulated an engine loss (and loss of the 530).

Now down to the handheld 296 GPS, using the map and "elevation" on the 296, we did a circling overhead approach and entered downwind at 1,000'. We turned base and final, and, at 400', everything started working again.

A silly scenario? Of course it was. Confidence builder? Absolutely. The point being that practicing losing one thing at a time is a waste of valuable training time. Learn to use the GPS for all the things it will do. Don't just be a "purple line" follower.

Fred Wilson

Inflation at Work

The Letter of the Week about Piper laying off workers and the cost of a new Archer misplaces the blame on "avionics." The real "villain" is inflation.

It takes approximately eight 1978 dollars to buy today what one dollar would buy in 1978. The $38,000 Archer in 1978 would cost eight times that, or $304,000 today in today's devalued dollar. By the same measure, a job paying $10,000 in 1978 would be paying $80,000 today but would have no more purchasing power than the $10,000 did in 1978.

It would, in fact, have less purchasing power because of a larger percentage going to income and other taxes.

Curt Krehbiel

The 1978 $38,000 Piper Archer cost twice that of an entry-level home in 1978. The $300,000 version of today is also twice that of an entry-level home. In 1978, I could buy 17 entry-level cars for $38,000. Today I can buy maybe 20 cars for $300,000, so we are not that far off. $300,000 is today's $38,0000.

If you price it out, glass panels can be as cheap as a comparably equipped steam gauge panel. If you don't want the $300,000 Archer, the true, affordable option is LSA.

Patrick Panzera

European Rules

I read with some interest the ongoing debate about proposed rule changes affecting FAA license holders operating aircraft in European airspace. I ask if the situation proposed is really that different to the one forced on other ICAO license holders wishing to fly in U.S. airspace. I hold a European flight license, yet I am not entitled to fly in U.S. airspace.

At one point, I applied for and was granted a lifetime FAR 61.75 license, which was later, in effect, revoked by later FAA rule changes against which I had no appeal. Indeed, my 61.75 license even required me to accept such abominations as the non-ICAO "position and hold" which is also in the news at the moment.

ICAO exists to provide a level playing field for all pilots. The U.S. and the FAA choose (and are allowed to choose) not to honor those rules. It is only fair that other regulatory authorities also, from time to time, choose to make similar nationally applicable changes.

The world is not fair, and the world is a whole lot bigger than the U.S. In U.S. airspace, fly using U.S. rules. In European airspace, use European rules.

Mike Ells

The U.S. license has long been deemed inferior in Europe. Something more should be done to align standards so that any license is valid anywhere. It may mean changes here and the rest of the world, but a common goal should be pursued. That way, if I travel to Europe (frequently), I can rent an aircraft easily and experience more of what they have to offer.

Mark Taylor

For the past 100 years, the U.S. has been the measure for aviation safety and standards. Recently, it appears we are now bowing to ICAO and the EU and going along with whatever they say. I think it is the result of economics and the FAA's unwillingness to stand up and say it sets the standards.

We have the most sucessful aviation industry, both in manufacturing and training, and we can do it better and cheaper than any other country in the world. Why do students come to the U.S. to train? It's cheaper, and the training is better and more efficient. The quality of our products is far beyond those of any other country.

Europe competes by placing restrictions on US pilots and aircraft. People can no longer come here to train or buy aircraft. Too bad the FAA and Congress can't stand up and say enough is enough. They leave it to the alphabet groups to do their work for them.

Jim Shamp

EASA only tries to have tighter control on what flies in Europe. They do not like N-registered airplanes and their pilots in Europe. However, they forget that their new rules, if adopted, are contrary to ICAO. They also forget that the JAA rules (the JARs) are a (bad) copy of the FARs. (They forget to copy a lot of good things.)

They also do not seem to know that the U.S. standards (PTS) for licenses are far better than those of JAA (now EASA). I know because I have both licenses. I had to learn a lot, even after 17 years of flying with a European license, when I earned my FAA license.

Other proof? Just look at the accident statistics for GA in Europe versus those in the U.S.

Jan Melkebeek

I admit I have two axes to grind. I own a Beech Staggerwing (N-registered), and I have a home in Arizona and wish to exercise my European SEP rating on the currently available reciprocal basis.

My fears relate to interference with operation and maintenance of N-registered aircraft. I have experience trying to get an imported Be17 approved on the U.K. registry. That aircraft is now in Denver. Enough said.

Retaliatory action by the U.S. on license recognition cannot be discounted. In the last week, a friend who intended to purchase an N-registered aircraft and fly it in Europe using his U.S. instrument rating has abandoned the project entirely. This will prove extrarordinarily damaging to G.A. in Europe if implemented.

Geoffrey Lynch

What's an Airplane?

Regarding your Question of the Week, I was defining these terms so that I would be able to answer them to prospective students as I complete my helicopter flight instructor certificate.

An aircraft is any vehicle, powered or non-powered, that does not need to use ground support or water support to maneuver through the earth's atmosphere.

An airplane is a powered vehicle with wings that can be maneuvered through the earth's atmosphere.

A rotorcraft is a powered vehicle that can maneuver through the earth's atmosphere using only a rotor system.

Mark Fitzsimmons

Something a lot of pilots overlook is what defined an airplane during the genesis of powered flight. If the Wright Flyer had looked more like a "standard" airplane, and was introduced as a new LSA today, people would laugh and make snide remarks.

Light Sport Aircraft, by it's very title, encompasses much more than just a conventional airplane. If it flies, it's an aircraft, regardless of configuration — correct?

While I would not want a Maverick for serious traveling, it could be fun, for example, to explore the vast southwestern desert. You could fly to an interesting area, land on any level area large enough, then drive to more remote locations. Sounds like fun and could not be done with a conventional airplane.

Roger McMullen

What's a Parasail?

As a director for the United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association, I want to clarify your article about the Maverick flying car being a dune buggy with a parasail. A parasail is a round chute that is usually attached to a boat. It has no airfoil shape and would not work with the dune buggy.

The Maverick is a dune buggy with a paraglider attached, which is totally different than what you wrote today. I think you guys should know the difference.

Mike Haley

Helicopter EMS

Regarding the blog on helicopter EMS operations:

I'm a former editor of Air Progress magazine, and, for the past seven years, I've also been employed full-time as an EMS pilot, so I think I'm qualified to take exception to some of your recent remarks on the subject.

I'm not sure whether "being helicopter-rated is irrelevant." (I assume from that remark that you're not but would be glad to be corrected.) I'm not sure that you can "analyze accident and risk data as well as the next guy," either; I certainly can't, and I'm closer to the subject than you are. What we're both trying to analyze and interpret are secondary results (not raw data) — results that have already been pre-processed by some other not-necessarily-disinterested analyst. The 2006 article you mention was written by a doctor who had a personal axe to grind and was based on a small statistical universe that could be manipulated to produce almost any desired result. As someone once said, "There are lies, there are damnable lies, and there are statistics." Your suggestion that an EMS helo trip from an accident scene to the trauma center might be as risky as the drive that precipitated the accident is, indeed, "a bit of an exaggeration," and, given that you admit that yourself, I wonder why you felt compelled to choose that particular comparison.

I agree that some EMS flights may not have been medically necessary. I agree that the requirement to fly all missions under Part 135 will most likely result in fewer flights and, inevitably and as a direct result, fewer accidents. Whether the accident/mission rate (and, perhaps more importantly, the patient death rate from non-aviation medical causes) will change significantly remains to be seen. Based both on my own experience of the flights I've accepted vs. those I've declined and the medical outcomes of the patients involved, I'd suspect we'll probably lose at least a few people we might otherwise have been able to save.

While you mention the increased risk of flights to "urban landing zones" vs. airports, I'd point out that not all accidents occur during the takeoff or landing phase (whether at urban or remote locations). In fact, many occur en route. And just because a landing zone isn't an airport doesn't necessarily mean that it's inherently unsafe; the company at which I've been working pioneered the concept of GPS approaches to hospital helipads and, in fact, operates an entire non-public, but FAA-approved, structure of dedicated helicopter airways and instrument approaches. Minimum hire requirements are instrument rating (ATP preferred) and 3,000 helo hours (500 night and 200 actual IFR) — and that's pretty standard across the industry and has been for considerable time.

In addition, the company has always operated under Part 135 and has had a formal online risk analysis matrix system in place — required to be used for every flight, even in VFR conditions — since long before the FAA began to consider increased regulations. A call comes in; we check off all the boxes in the risk matrix; and, if the square turns red, we don't go, no matter how much we may want to or how safe it may feel personally. By the same token, just because it's "risk green," we don't necessarily go. All the crew members participate in the risk analysis, and "it takes three to go, but only one to say no" for whatever reason, no questions asked.

If there's one fact with which I can agree wholeheartedly, it's that the requirement for HTAWS would be a good thing. I've lost two colleagues in EMS CFIT accidents (both en route, by the way): one in IMC, the other at night but in clear VMC. Both pilots were instrument rated, both helicopters had radar altimeters, and both flights were Part 135, so I suspect those particular reg changes might not have made much difference.

I wonder: Have you ever taken the time to contact EMS operators or possibly even visit them during a shift? I'd hope that despite your recent comments you'd still be welcome at a local EMS operation, where you might have a chance to see how operations are conducted in the real world. And you might be interested in hearing from those patients (and their families) who have, in fact, benefited from an EMS transport.

Peter Lert

Afghan(i) Eagle

Regarding the story about saving the eagle from Afghanistan:

An "Afghani" is the unit of currency in Afghanistan. The proper adjective is "Afghan"; therefore, it should have been an "Afghan Eagle." It's the same for the people. It is considered an insult to refer to them as "Afghanis."

Jim Richmond

AVweb Replies:

Thanks, Jim. We learn something new from our readers every day. We made the fix.

Russ Niles

American SEAL

I was reading your story about bringing an eagle from Afghanistan to a sanctuary in New York. It's a nice story, but there is an adjustment that might be in order. I am retired U.S. Air Force, but I have worked with U.S. Navy personnel in my past. You used the name SEAL in mixed-case letters. If I may suggest, in the future, please use it all in caps.

"SEAL" means "SEa Air Land," and it is a proper title. These folks are a very highly trained and proud group. It can grate them — and other members of the Special Forces (SF) community — if their SF titles are not spelled, or communicated, correctly.

Thanks much for the read, keep up the good work, and may you have a great day.

Rick L. Anderson
MSgt., USAF (Ret.)

Not a Freefall

Responding to the story on the Red Bull Stratos jump: Joe Kittinger's jump from 102,000 feet was not a freefall parachute jump.

As he wrote in his book The Long Lonely Leap, Kittinger encountered stability problems on several previous jumps. As a result, for the record he was equipped with a small (about six feet in diameter) drogue that he towed from immediately after stepping from the gondola until his main parachute was automatically deployed at 18,000 feet.

The drogue provided significant help in preventing Kittinger from tumbling and spinning, the problem he encountered on prior high-altitude jumps.

Thus, as impressive as his feat was, it was not a freefall jump.

Although not officially recognized by the FAI, it is the highest successful parachute jump that we know about, however.

Baumgartner's plans don't include a drogue, and he intends to deploy his main canopy himself, rather than relying on an automatic opener, thus his jump would be eligible for FAI recognition as a world record.

Mike Truffer

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

Speed Is Everything

File Size 3.6 MB / Running Time 3:54

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The same folks who need speed in their business jets want their computers and mobile devices to be zippy as well. AVweb's Russ Niles spoke with Bill Sullivan of ViaSat about the next generation of internet satellites to serve airliners and larger business jets.

Click here to listen. (3.6 MB, 3:54)

Video: IFR Magazine's Two-Part Tour of the FAA's AeroNav Web Site

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

This is the place to go if you want to see what's new, changed or in the works with FAA approach plates. Jeff Van West shares some of the highlights in this two-part video for our sister magazine, IFR.

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Traditional Tactics Need a Fresh Approach
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Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Shoreline Aviation (Marshfield Municipal/George Harlow Field Airport, Marshfield, MA)

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

AVweb reader Charley Valera discovered our latest "FBO of the Week" on a chow flight to the Massachusetts coast, where he and his traveling companions visited Marshfield Municipal/George Harlow Field Airport (KGHG) and got the royal treatment from Ann Pollard and the staff at Shoreline Aviation. Charley paints a vivid picture of the good time had by all:

Each of us [there were four airplanes on this trip] has to do a go-around as the winds are shifting. [Ann Pollard's voice] comes over the unicom recommending runway 24 instead of 6. Once down, she's there with an Aviationists Greeting. Happy to have us and accommodating, even at 6:00 PM. She has a van waiting for us with the doors open and ready. Ann takes a few group photos in their new beautiful FBO. ... She tells us to enjoy ourselves and to clear the runway of any deer or coyotes when we return prior to departing. When we get to the restaurant, they are expecting us. Ann made reservations for us with a view! Arriving back to GHG probably over gross from the wonderful fresh seafood, we drive around the airportt, only to scare away a herd of coyotes. The entire experience makes you feel like good family or old friends. A beautiful New England airport with top notch service ... truly an example of how to run an airport.

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!

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

15 Years and Now 15 Grand Giveaways ... It's Your Chance to Win 100,000 Air BP Bravo Rewards Points

CLICK HERE to Register for All 15 Drawings

Now's your chance to win 100,000 Air BP Bravo Rewards Points — there are more than 45 million reward options available through the Bravo program — 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 Friday, November 5.

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The Lighter Side of Flight back to top 

Short Final

Overheard in IFR Magazine's 'On the Air' Section
Overheard in IFR Magazine's "On the Air"

A few winters ago over Missouri:

"Delta 246, climb and maintain FL350. Traffic three o'clock, 20 miles at FL310."

Delta 246:
"Roger. Delta 246 departing FL310 for FL350. We see traffic at our nine o'clock position, level."

"Ahh — roger, Delta 246. That was three o'clock Zulu, nine o'clock local."

Delta 246:
"Nice recovery, Center. In sight off our left wing. We're climbing to FL350."

Bill Vancil
Fayetteville, Georgia

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

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