AVwebFlash - Volume 16, Number 50b

December 16, 2010

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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AVflash! Flight Planning After the Online Patent back to top 
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Jeppesen, AOPA Ignore FlightPrep Patent

AOPA and Jeppesen, two of the largest players in the online flight planning business say a patent obtained by FlightPrep doesn't affect their products and they are not willing to discuss it. In a statement released Wednesday, AOPA says it will not meet with FlightPrep to discuss the patent and it will be business as usual for the product it provides. In fact, there's a new version coming out in a few weeks. FlightPrep didn't directly comment on AOPA and Jepp's reaction and had this to say. "FlightPrep has been in contact with Tom Haines and AOPA regarding our patent and online planner technology since 2007. FlightPrep is a small Oregon based business that is a proud AOPA advertiser, AOPA Summit participant, and our staff are proud members of AOPA as well as AOPA political action supporters" As we reported in Wednesday's AVwebBiz, RunwayFinder, a popular online flight planning site, shut down in the face of a lawsuit from FlightPrep.

RunwayFinder founder Dave Parsons and FlightPrep are at odds over the summary of events leading to the current impasse and Parsons told AVweb the site will remain closed as he copes with the threat of a multi-million dollar lawsuit launched by FlightPrep.

RunwayFinder Shuts Down Over Patent

RunwayFinder, a popular online flight planning website, announced Tuesday that it was shutting down in the face of a lawsuit from FlightPrep, an Oregon company that successfully patented online flight planning almost a year ago. RunwayFinder developer Dave Parsons said he had hoped to reach a licensing deal with FlightPrep which included the dropping of the lawsuit, which claims damages of $3.2 million per month from RunwayFinder. FlightPrep did offer RunwayFinder a temporary free license while it negotiated terms of a permanent one but Parsons said the lawsuit was a deal breaker. He said FlightPrep arrived at the $3.2 million figure by multiplying the number of unique visits his site receives each month (22,500) by the $149 annual subscription cost for FlightPrep's service. FlightPrep calls the resulting $3.2 million "lost revenue." Parsons said FlightPrep wouldn't drop the suit so he's closing the site, which is used by other sites as a source for information for their own products. In a podcast interview with AVweb, FlightPrep Vice President and General Manager Ross Neher said it's not his company's goal to shut down sites or otherwise disrupt aviation services but RunwayFinder ignored written notification of the patent enforcement. He said taking Parsons to court was a last resort and the only option open to his company under the circumstances.

As AVweb reported almost a year ago, the company got the patent after an eight-year application process with the Patent Office. At one point the patent had apparently been rejected but it was finally awarded last Dec. 29. Neher said that while online flight planners are common these days, his company's was the only one in 2001 when the patent application was filed and that, apparently, is what counts. In the podcast interview, Neher suggested the revenue derived from online flight planners would be a factor in assessing licensing fees and that some free services could remain that way. It has already reached a deal with SkyVector, which is paying a royalty. Neher said many other organizations offering online flight planning have been contacted regarding licensing agreements but declined to discuss the details of those negotiations.

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In the News This Week back to top 

Historic 1960 United/TWA Crash Remembered

Fifty years ago, Dec. 16, the midair collision over New York City of a United Air Lines DC-8 and a TWA Super Constellation became the worst aviation disaster to date; it's since brought regulatory change and today it will be recognized, again. The crash killed 128 people on both aircraft and six more on the ground. At least 10 buildings were destroyed in Brooklyn where the DC-8 fell. The Constellation crashed down on the grounds of a military base on Staten Island. The accident has been cited as launching the first major investigation in which flight recorders were used to provide extensive insight into operations prior to the crash. It led to speed limits for aircraft operating under certain conditions and reporting rules for malfunctions of navigation or communication equipment during IFR operations. All aboard both aircraft were lost and unidentified remains were buried at Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery. The cemetery will today unveil an 8-foot granite monument in recognition of the victims.

The 1960 accident occurred in IFR conditions after controllers instructed the United DC-8 to enter a holding pattern near New York. The airliner was flying with one bad navigation radio at the time, but it is not known if that factored into the crash. Pilots testified that a beacon relevant to the holding pattern was inoperable; others said it was working. Whatever the case, the United jet overshot its hold and ultimately impacted the TWA Constellation, which was in a holding pattern nearby. Controllers might have seen the impending crash with better radar coverage, and that fact is said to have helped facilitate the addition of radar equipment at busy airports following the crash.

Pilot Makes '50 Best Jobs' List

Of all the possible careers out there, being a commercial pilot is one of the 50 best choices, according to a recent report by U.S. News. The list was based on data from the U.S. Labor Department, showing which occupations are likely to add jobs at an above-average rate over the next decade, while also providing an above-average median income. The editors said they also talked with industry experts, gathering anecdotal evidence about employment prospects and job satisfaction. Median income for commercial pilots in 2009 was $65,840, and employment is expected to grow 19 percent through 2018, adding 7,300 new jobs, according to the report.

Many of those new jobs may go to pilots who have been furloughed due to the current economic downturn or because of mergers and cutbacks in the industry. But according to U.S. News, as the economy recovers and a wave of pilots reaches retirement age, the hiring outlook should improve. While the story is upbeat, the multitude of comments -- up to 92 at last count -- is more of a mixed bag. Many commenters note the high cost of training compared to the low pay of entry-level pilot jobs, the long hours and frequent nights away from home, and the uncertainty of any retirement income. Several say they've enjoyed their career but wouldn't recommend it to others unless they have a deep-seated passion for aviation. You can read the story and comments here.

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News Briefs back to top 

Spy Drone Gets A Lift From 747

Boeing's Phantom Ray unmanned airborne system took a ride aboard NASA's 747 shuttle carrier on Monday, for a 50-minute test flight, marking the first time the 747 has carried any aircraft other than the space shuttle. The flight was a shakedown prior to moving the drone from St. Louis, Mo., to Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., where it will undergo further ground and taxi tests before first flight early next year. The big UAS, measuring 36 feet long with a 50-foot wingspan, was introduced in May by Boeing Phantom Works after two years of development. The vehicle is designed to test a variety of advanced technologies for surveillance and reconnaissance as well as weaponry. It is also capable of autonomous aerial refueling.

During low-speed taxi tests last month at Lambert International Airport in St. Louis, Phantom Ray communicated with the ground control station, received orders and made its way down the runway multiple times, Boeing said. When the UAS was unveiled in May, program manager Craig Brown said it represented a new approach for the company. "We're really excited about this because Phantom Works is back as a rapid prototyping house, operation and organization," he said. "This is the first of what I expect to be many exciting prototypes, and they're all with exciting technology."

Delta Takes On Wall Street Commodities Trading

Oil prices reached a record $147.27 per barrel in 2008 and that helped cripple some airlines; now, the U.S. is considering new rules that would curb speculative trading on commodities and Delta Airlines is among those urging strict limits. General counsel to Delta, Richard B. Hirst, wrote the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) saying, "The speculative bubble in oil prices has concrete detrimental consequences for the real economy," according to Bloomberg news. Companies joining Delta in the push for limits on commodities trading believe that the current trading structure creates a system that benefits financial speculators to the detriment of consumers. CFTC appears set to altogether miss, without repercussion, its first action deadline set earlier by the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill.

Financial industry interests have recommended delaying implementation of limits on speculative commodities trading. The CFTC commissioners said they will consider setting limits on commodities including oil, and said Wednesday that they would miss a mid-January deadline. Currently, it seems the organization may phase in limits after a comment period. The intent of the new rules is to limit the influence that one firm can exert on the market and control extreme price fluctuations that aren't driven by demand of actual physical commodities.

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News Briefs back to top 

Club Aims To Build A Dozen Spitfires

It's an ambitious plan, but a group of pilots based at Enstone Flying Club in the U.K. hopes to build a dozen 90-percent-scale Spitfire replicas by the end of next year. The result will be a "living history" squadron of aircraft that will perform at events around the U.K. The Supermarine MK26B Spitfires will be built from all-aluminum kits by teams of up to 12 builders and pilots. Fractional ownership options from one-twelfth to full ownership of each airplane will be available. Builders also can opt to be trained in formation flying skills. The group hopes to have the squadron ready in time to perform at the Farnborough Air Show in 2012.

"This squadron, which I'm calling 'City of Oxford' will include ground crews, military vehicle enthusiasts and living-history players, making this a truly unique club, with a regular calendar of events as a focal point for every member," wrote Paul Fowler, owner of the Enstone Flying Club, at his website. "With 12 Spitfires available and up to 12 builder/members per airframe, there will be no shortage of opportunities for builders to get involved." The kits are designed for novice builders, he said, and plenty of support will be available from local experts and agencies. A form at Fowler's website is available for interested participants to sign up for more information.

EAA To Honor Rutan At AirVenture

In honor of aircraft designer Burt Rutan's retirement, which he announced last month (PDF), EAA says it is planning a tribute to his work at AirVenture next summer. "Burt is certainly an aviation icon and a pioneering visionary in the homebuilt movement," said Tom Poberezny, EAA chairman. Rutan has been attending the annual event since 1971, often introducing new designs there. "Burt has been such an integral part of our convention," said Poberezny. "His designs are a staple on the flightline at Oshkosh." Rutan now serves as chief technical officer of Scaled Composites in Mojave, Calif., but said he will retire effective April 2011 and assume the title of Scaled's founder and chairman emeritus. AirVenture 2011 will feature a "Tribute to Burt Rutan Day" on Thursday, July 28, with flying displays, a program at Theater in the Woods, and various special events.

Rutan is best known for his unique, innovative airplane designs, such as the VariViggen (his first), VariEze, and Long-EZ (his self-described "best" homebuilt); one-off creations like the Boomerang, Voyager, GlobalFlyer, Grizzly, and SpaceShipOne; and, most recently, SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnightTwo. EAA is working with builder, owner, and pilot groups to encourage a major gathering of Burt Rutan-designed aircraft at AirVenture 2011, and will also create a special parking area for them on the flightline. (Individuals with Rutan-designed aircraft who would like to participate in the tribute are asked to contact EAA via e-mail.) During AirVenture, EAA's Museum will highlight several significant Rutan airplanes in its collection, including the VariViggen and VariEze prototypes, Amsoil racer, Grizzly, Voyager fuselage mock-up, Solitaire, Williams V Jet II, and the SpaceShipOne feathering mock-up. Also, the 25th anniversary of the round-the-world flight of Rutan's Voyager aircraft will be noted. AirVenture 2011 will be held July 25 to 31 at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, Wis.

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What You Missed in AVwebBiz This Week back to top 

Dassault Targets Deal With China's AVIC

Reuters says Dassault Falcon is eyeing a major manufacturing presence in China as a way of tying up 40 percent of the said-to-be burgeoning market for business jets in the country. Reuters says the New Jersey company is negotiating with the Chinese government-owned AVIC to either set up shop in China or work on the development of an indigenous Chinese business jet. "There should be a decision in 2011/12. We will then know, yes or no, whether we will collaborate more seriously with them," Reuters says Dassault Falcon Chief Executive Jean Rosanvallon told La Tribune in an article to be published on Wednesday. Reuters says Dassault believes that in the long term China will be home to 3,000 business aircraft and he hopes to sell $500 million worth there in 2011.

The company also announced the opening of a sales office in Beijing on Tuesday. The Global Times Rosanvallon spoke at a news conference in Beijing at which the Times said he hoped to sell 10 aircraft a year there.

Advocates Say Tax Plan Good For GA

The tax bill now working its way through Congress will help to boost manufacturing and restore lost jobs in the general aviation industry, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association said this week. The plan will also provide tax benefits to companies that invest in business aircraft, according to the National Business Aviation Association. Businesses will be allowed to expense 100 percent of their investments in new capital assets through Dec. 31, 2011, retroactive from Sept. 8, 2010, plus claim a "bonus" depreciation allowance of 50 percent during 2012, said NBAA. In addition, the bill extends the research and development tax credit for two more years, says GAMA. "These proposals are extremely well-targeted to create jobs, stimulate innovation, and get production lines moving again at manufacturing plants," according to GAMA CEO Pete Bunce.

Investments eligible for the depreciation credit include aircraft, engines, avionics and other upgrades. "We believe the expensing provision will encourage sales of airplanes, engines, and avionics in a market that continues to experience a very slow recovery from the recession," said Bunce. "It will also benefit companies and employees of maintenance and completion centers that overhaul aircraft and install equipment." The R&D credits also have been "very effective" at encouraging technical advancements and sustaining economic growth in the industry, according to GAMA. The tax plan won a positive vote from a Senate committee on Monday, and is expected to pass in both the House and Senate by the end of this week.

AVwebBiz: AVweb's Business Aviation Newsletter

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Opinion & Commentary back to top 

AVweb Insider Blog: The Chinese Grab Continental

There's not much point in worrying about the Chinese hollowing out U.S. aerospace manufacturing, says Paul Bertorelli on the AVweb Insider blog. They've got a lot of money to invest, and a lot of it is coming to the U.S. For Mobile, that could translate to actual jobs; for the industry at large, it could be a fast track diesel development that might not have happened otherwise.

Read more and join the conversation.

AVweb Insider Blog: The Best of Jobs, The Worst of Jobs

A recent news report listed commercial pilot as one of the "top jobs for 2011." On the AVweb Insider blog, Mary Grady sees where that's true — and where it's not.

Read more and join the conversation.

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We Ask, You Answer back to top 

Question of the Week: Online Flight Planning

FlightPrep's online flight planning patent could change the landscape of internet-based flight planning. Would you sit up and take notice if it did?

Do you use an online flight planner?
(click to answer)

Last Week's Question: Results

Want to see the current breakdown of responses? Take a moment to answer the question yourself, and then you can view real-time results.

What's On Your Mind?

Have an idea for a new "Question of the Week"?
Send your suggestions to .

NOTE: This address is only for suggested "QOTW" questions, and not for "QOTW" answers or comments. (Use this form to send "QOTW" comments to our AVmail Editor.)

AVweb's Newstips Address ...

Our best stories start with you. If you've heard something 200,000 pilots might want to know about, tell us. Submit news tips via email to newstips@avweb.com. You're a part of our team ... often, the best part.

Bonus Depreciation Stories and Resources on AVweb.com
Fantastic Pricing and Tax Incentives make 2010 an ideal time to buy or upgrade an aircraft. We've compiled special offers on new or used planes, avionics, engines and more on the resource page. The pricing, rebates or incentives are available to everyone. Consult your tax advisor regarding the potential bonus depreciation benefits, and check our resources page for stories, podcasts, and videos related to bonus depreciation.
AVweb Media: Look, Listen, Laugh and Learn back to top 

Video: AVweb Flies the Kitfox LSA

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

Everyone complains that light sport aircraft are too expensive, but Kitfox is doing something about it. AVweb recently went to Homedale, Idaho to try out Kitfox's new moderately priced LSA. Here's a full video report.

(And here's a link to last month's podcast interview with Paul Leadabrand about the Kitfox.)

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

The Final Grand Giveaway Celebrating AVweb's 15-Year Anniversary: Win a Garmin Aera 510 Handheld GPS

CLICK HERE to Register for All 15 Drawings

Where has the time gone? Our 15th anniversary year is almost over, and that means we've come to our 15th (and final) "Grand Giveaway." If you haven't already, register for one final chance to win — as we give away a Garmin aera 510 handheld GPS. All you have to do is click here to enter your name and e-mail address. (You must be a registered AVweb user; if you've entered any of our previous 15 Grand Giveaways drawings, you'll automatically be considered for the aera — no need to enter again.)

Remember: We won't rent or sell your name, ever. Tell your friends, and invite them to sign up for AVweb so they can enter this final 15 Grand Giveaways drawing. (We won't spam them, either — but do we hope they will sign up for our newsletters.)

Deadline for entries is 11:59pm Zulu time Sunday, December 19.

Click here to read the contest rules and enter.

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Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Executive Air Transport (KMKG, Muskegon, MI)

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

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Executive Air Transport at Muskegon County Airport (KMKG) in Muskegon, Michigan.

AVweb reader Alex Anderegg recommended the FBO for its "excellent service (baggage help, fuel, courtesy car, catering, charter services, etc.)" and told us the folks at EA Transport "deserve to be 'FBO of the Week' because of their deep commitment to great customer service and pilot training."

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.


Attention, AVwebbers! If you're planning on sending us pics of your plane decked out in holiday lights, giving Santa a ride, ferrying fresh-cut pines, or sporting a menorah, try to get them in to us by Monday, December 20. We'd love to run them in next Thursday's installment of "POTW" before we head over the river and through the woods to grandma's hangar.

medium | large

copyright © John King
Used with permission

DC-3 Back on Scheduled Service in the Kingdom of Tonga

That's right, kids — not every DC-3 is an air show attraction; some are still working for a living. John King of Auckland, New Zealand was pleased to be able to experience this view of the South Pacific without any digital manipulations — just the skilled work of "three good pilots (Keith Mitchell and Alani Fonua in the DC-3, Craig Emeny in the camera [plane] BN2A Islander)."

medium | large

copyright © Ryan Insell
Used with permission


We have to confess: We're not sure exactly which WOC Ryan Insell of Cypress, Texas shot this photo at. That's O.K., though; you'll be too busy holding onto your hat to wonder, either.

medium | large

Used with permission of Randle Corfman

It Begins ...

Judging by "POTW" submissions, the Young Eagles have nothing on AVweb readers. Guys like Randle Corfman of Maple Grove, Minnesota have been going out of their way to introduce 'em to aviation young.

Good on ya, AVwebbers. Keep it up!

medium | large

Used with permission of Joe Gemma

"Dad, This Is All You Do?"

We don't think you can start any earlier than pro pilot Joe Gemma's two-month-old Caitlin! Joe hails from Duncan, South Carolina and tells us that it "just so happens that [Caitlin's first] flight was operated by the airline I fly for and in the plane I fly."

(And people still wonder why we like our readers so much?)

medium | large

Used with permission of Arthur B. Wiggins

Yee Haw!

To sign off, here's one from the aviation archives of Richmond, Virginia reader Arthur B. Wiggins. Arthur tells us it's a training flight from 1917 but offered no back story beyond that. Maybe it's where Superman and Dr. Strangelove got their inspiration?

You'll find more reader-submitted photos in the slideshow on AVweb's home page. And it's a good batch, so don't miss 'em!

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.)

Comments or questions about the news should be sent here.

Have a product or service to advertise on AVweb? A question on marketing? Send it to AVweb's sales team.

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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