January 11, 2004
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Last week's arrest of a longtime volunteer at Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome, charged with the theft of an artifact that he says was given to him 20 years ago, is just the latest episode in what has been a rocky year for the nonprofit organization. The Aerodrome, a popular attraction in upstate New York, features weekend air shows with vintage aircraft (WWI era), a museum, and airplane rides. Early last year, a new executive director was hired, but stayed less than 90 days. "That just didn't work out," Jim Kick, the president of the board of directors, told AVweb last week. Also, some longtime staffers were fired at the end of the last season, and recently, several board members have resigned, reportedly due to differences over the future of the organization. The Aerodrome needed to make some changes, Kick said. "Change is inevitable. Some people accept change, and some don't." The recent changes at the Aerodrome are all positive ones, he said: "We're looking to be more efficient, and more responsive to the needs of our collection and our customers."
"We are looking at resumes now to hire a new full-time director," Kick said. Meanwhile, Tom Daly, director of air shows, has assumed many of the executive duties. Daly said the Aerodrome needs to change with the times. "Competition is stiff to attract the families on the weekends. This has to be approached more like a business," he said. "When we get our electric bill every month, those people are not as passionate about old-time aviation as we are." Among some changes that brought friction from staff and volunteers, Daly said, is restricted access at the field, which he attributed to homeland security concerns. "There is now 24-hour security, and people have to sign in and sign out." Also, the owners of some private aircraft, who had long used hangar space for free, were told to remove their airplanes so the space could be used for museum projects. "There's some reluctance to accept that kind of change," he said. "It draws some criticism, but it needs to be done." Both Kick and Daly said the Aerodrome is financially robust, despite poor weather last year that cancelled some of the shows. "The Aerodrome is fine. Financially and personnel-wise, it's in good shape," Kick said, discounting rumors that this winter's shutdown could become permanent. Daly said the site will open as usual in mid-May, and added that the staff changes were not due to financial constraints. "The Aerodrome is taking a bit of a different direction," he said. "Some people resisted change, and they were asked to leave." Daly said new people will be hired, and new volunteers are welcome.
Ken Cassens, a mechanic and pilot who had worked at the Aerodrome for 11 years and was building a replica of the Spirit of St. Louis, was one of the workers who was fired. Cassens said he was not given any reason for his dismissal. "The board hasn't done anything except create problems," he said. "They want to micromanage the staff. They would question everything we did, and it was never good enough." A part-time worker who had been helping Cassens also was let go, and another staffer was laid off for the winter, Cassens told AVweb last week. The Spirit of St. Louis project, Kick said, will continue to be worked on as time permits. "The show aircraft have to take priority," he said. "But the Spirit of St. Louis is about 85 percent complete, and our hope is that it could be finished by the end of '04."
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An accident last week at Danbury Municipal Airport in Connecticut came on the heels of a recent local dispute about safety -- and money -- at the field. As AVweb reported in December, the local city council has balked at paying its $110,000 share of the $4.5 million the FAA says it will cost to remove trees that pose a danger to pilots. Last Wednesday morning, a 24-year-old flight instructor was seriously hurt when his Piper Warrior apparently suffered engine trouble, crashed and burned while turning back toward the airport shortly after takeoff. By the end of the week, the mayor of Danbury had told AOPA that he would make sure the city pays its share to keep the airport safe. The FAA said that unless the trees were removed, the landing threshold on the field's longest runway would have to be displaced by 1,000 feet, which would leave only 3,500 feet of asphalt available for landing. That change also could affect all five instrument approaches into the airport, AOPA said. Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton told AOPA last week he wants to protect and maintain the airport, and increase its profitability. The FAA said it won't contribute to any maintenance and repair costs at the airport until the trees are removed, according to the News-Times. The Warrior reportedly hit trees on its way down, but it was not clear if the trees were in an area that would be affected by the FAA plan.
According to early reports about Wednesday's accident, an air traffic controller spotted smoke coming from the airplane shortly after takeoff. The pilot, Edgar Wong, reportedly tried to return to the airport, but didn't make it. "You could hear it sputter, and puffs of smoke were coming out the back," Danbury Police Officer Robert Madore, who was directing traffic nearby, told local reporters. "It came right down ...There was a boom, and then a huge cloud of smoke." Robert Hayner, a worker at a nearby FedEx station, found the wreckage upside down in an icy stream, and saw Wong struggling in the water. He waded in to help. Al Orne, his boss at FedEx, joined him and the two pulled the man to shore. Wong was taken to Bridgeport Hospital for treatment of burns. "I just hope that if something happened to us, that someone would be there to do the same," Orne said. Wong is an instructor at Danbury Flight School.
The crash raised concerns among parents whose ground-bound children attend a nearby private school. George King Jr., headmaster of Wooster School, immediately sent out an e-mail to parents to inform them of the crash and let them know no children were harmed, the News-Times reported. The airport, which is in an area of rapid development, has drawn complaints about noise for years, as dozens of new houses have been built close to flight paths. John Katz, a trustee for the school, told the News-Times the airport has to be a better neighbor. "It places people in danger," he said. "It's busy and it's dangerous." King, however, took a less alarmist perspective. "We have to keep this in context," he told the News-Times. "This was an emergency situation. The pilot did what he had to do. We're grateful the pilot survived the crash."
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With the reduction in the U.S. national threat level from "Orange" back to "Yellow," most of the airspace restrictions that go along with that have eased. And on Friday, the FAA also relaxed some restrictions that have been in place since Sept. 11, 2001, including those near military sites in Washington State, Hawaii, Utah, and Oregon, which should make it easier for pilots to navigate and to fly into nearby airports. "This is a good first step, but it's only a first step," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. The restricted areas were reduced in size, but they were not eliminated, "and pilots still have to beware," Boyer said. Cancellation of the recent Orange alert means the TFR over downtown Chicago has been rescinded. Also, waivers are reinstated for overflights of sporting events at stadiums and for flights within the Washington, D.C., flight restricted zone. Also, extra restrictions on the "DC-3" Maryland airports are cancelled. The Valdez, Alaska TFR will remain in effect until further notice. The changes follow some pressure last month from Congress, as well as continued lobbying by AOPA, EAA, NBAA, and other aviation advocacy groups.
Last Thursday in California's Mojave desert, the latest creation of Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites team rolled out for its debut. Described by one reporter on the scene as "looking like the product of an unnatural union between a glider and a Zeppelin," the single-jet-powered, pressurized GlobalFlyer is designed to fly around the world nonstop, without refueling, in about three days, carrying a solo pilot. The craft makes it possible for American billionaire Steve Fossett, with support from British billionaire Richard Branson, to pursue yet another aviation record. Test flights will begin soon, with the record attempt expected in either April or November of this year. Branson is acting as reserve pilot, but made it clear that since part of the pilot's job is to stay awake for 80 hours straight, he really hopes Fossett takes the flight. "I will be giving Steve lots of vitamin pills to make sure he stays well," he said last week. The aircraft measures 114 feet from wingtip to wingtip, and is powered by a single Williams FJ44-3 ATW jet engine fed by 17 fuel tanks. Top speed will be close to 300 mph. The aircraft is expected to travel at around 45,000 feet but can climb as high as 52,000 feet. At the start of the flight, the 4,000-pound airplane will carry 18,000 pounds of fuel. "In Voyager, 73 percent of our takeoff weight was fuel," Rutan said in a news release. "For this project we needed to get that up to 82 percent, because that's the only way we can get this plane all the way round the planet. Now that may only sound like 9 percent when you read this, but that is actually orders of magnitude more difficult. It was a big deal." Rutan's Voyager aircraft, which now hangs in the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum, was the first to fly nonstop around the world without refueling, back in 1986. That trip required nine days and two pilots.
RTI International, a research firm in Hampton, Va., needs pilots to help in a NASA-funded experiment to evaluate the use of new display concepts in a general aviation cockpit. The results will help produce procedures and guidelines for the design and use of such display concepts, RTI said. The experiment will replicate a typical general aviation flight in a simulator that has flight characteristics similar to a Piper Malibu. Pilots must have a current instrument rating. The tests begin next month and continue through April 16. Pilots receive a $50 stipend. Volunteers will be asked to fill out a pilot-knowledge questionnaire. They will then be briefed and trained on the operation of the simulator and experimental display system, and they will be asked to plan a cross-country flight according to IFR procedures. Pilots will be connected to a heart-rate monitor, which RTI says is used to determine workload as they fly the planned route in the simulator. The test will be followed up with another questionnaire and a debriefing. All results are confidential. To volunteer, contact Doree Fitzhugh at 757-827-8450.
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The heads of aviation agencies in the European Union are scheduled to meet Friday in Brussels to discuss the recent announcement by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that foreign airlines will be required to place armed law-enforcement officers on flights to the United States "where necessary." Michael O'Leary, the CEO of Ryanair, spoke out against the practice last Friday. "Putting armed air marshals on airplanes isn't going to make an airplane more secure, it's going to make it less secure," he said. "The fewer guns there are, the safer the situation is." Apparently, some U.S. officials differ with that assessment. Ryanair, based in Ireland, is Europe's leading low-cost carrier. It has no flights into the U.S. So far, the governments of Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Portugal, and South Africa have not agreed to the U.S. request, but France, Germany and Canada say they are OK with it.
Safire Aircraft Company, based in Opa Locka, Fla., has filed a Type Certificate application with the FAA for the Safire Jet, the company said last week. The step marks the first phase of the jet's certification process, said CEO Camilo Salomon, as well as a significant milestone in the aircraft's development process. Major assemblies and components will begin arriving in the spring, Salomon said, to start assembly of the first prototype. The six-place, twin-turbofan-powered Safire Jet, priced at $1.395 million, is scheduled to make its first flight this year, with deliveries beginning in 2006. The company plans to build two flying prototypes, one static test "article" and one fatigue test "article." The flight test/certification program will continue into 2006.
In case you missed it on eBay, you still have the opportunity to own a (mostly) functioning aircraft carrier, if you have more than $6 million, a place to park a 665-foot-long ship and can afford the three tons of oil per hour it burns. As AVweb reported last week, the decommissioned carrier turned up on eBay and was reportedly attracting bids of upward of $100 million. But according to Renming Cheng, a Norwegian ship broker who set up the online posting, eBay, without explanation, cancelled the auction and none of the hundreds of bids panned out. So now it's back to the drawing board for him and two other brokers who are trying to find a buyer for the historic ship to save it from the scrap yard. A British nonprofit group is also trying to save her.
The ship was commissioned HMCS Vengeance when the British built her at the end of the Second World War. After a stint with the Royal Australian Navy, it was bought by Brazil in 1956, re-commissioned the Minas Gerais and was the Brazilian Navy's flagship until 2001 when Brazil replaced her with a former French carrier. It's now anchored in Rio de Janeiro. Martin Holt, a broker for French Creek Boat Sales in Parksville, British Columbia, said the owner, Philip Bush, a Swiss man living in London, would prefer to sell the ship intact but has a tug already en route to tow it to an Indian scrap yard. The scrap deal will be sealed by the end of January if a more lucrative offer isn't found. He said there are some legitimate potential buyers, including a movie company that wants to use it as a mobile studio and a Chinese company that would turn it into a floating resort (it sleeps 1,300) in the Philippines. He said the ship is in overall excellent condition (the catapult works and it has relatively new navigation gear) but would need asbestos removal and some boiler work to make it seaworthy. All weaponry has been removed. A third broker, Jeremy Shaw, of Maine, said the ship is a steal for the right buyer. "You can easily spend $6 million on a 100-foot yacht," he said.
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The FAA says it will allow aircraft with certain enhanced-vision systems to operate below minimums on some instrument approach procedures...
The Soaring Society of America will hold its Annual Convention and Air Sports Expo Feb. 5-7 in Atlanta, Ga....
The remains of two U.S. Navy pilots, who died when their A-6A attack jet was shot down over North Vietnam 31 years ago, have been returned to the United States for burial, the Pentagon said Friday...
The FAA will run its first course to certify amateur-built aircraft designated airworthiness representatives in Oklahoma City, Jan. 27-29...
An eight-hour strike on Thursday by Italian air traffic controllers stalled hundreds of flights...
The FAA has proposed a new Airworthiness Directive for some Garmin GTX 330/GTX 330D Mode S transponders, which would require a software upgrade. Garmin says it will offer the upgrade and installation free of charge...
Ballistic Recovery Systems was named 10th fastest growing company in Minnesota, with a 181 percent growth rate.
As the Beacon Turns #72: Milestones of Time Travel
Instead of bragging about how many different kinds of planes he has flown, AVweb's Michael Maya Charles likes to recount how many different decades are represented in the planes he has had the priviledge to try. As you'll read in this month's "As The Beacon Turns," every decade of the twentieth century is represented.
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Reader feedback on AVweb's news coverage and feature articles:
Reader mail this week about commenting on the Air Tour NPRM, getting to FSDOs, the Young Eagles and more.
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All pilots, use caution for flocks of birds on and in the vicinity of the airport...
Tower: Skyhawk XXXXX, be advised there are 10,000 seagulls near the approach of runway 15.
Skyhawk: Roger. Is that an official count?
Tower: Just a quick count.
Tower: Skyhawk XXXXX, be advised there are 10,435 seagulls near the approach of runway 15 ... and you're cleared for the option.
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IN THE WINTER, IT GETS DARKER SOONER! DON'T GET CAUGHT IN THE DARK
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REFRESHER TURNS UP THE HEAT ON WINTER FLYING
Coming up in the February issue of IFR Refresher: "Coordinate The Turns"; "A Blueprint for the IAP"; "A Forecast for Icing"; "Expect the Unexpected"; "A Localizer With a Twist"; and "Flight Rules in Review." If you fly IFR, IFR Refresher should be part of your flight bag. Order your subscription at http://www.avweb.com/sponsors/belvoir/ifrref.
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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