January 14, 2004
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Last month, President Bush signed into law the FAA's four-year reauthorization bill, which included, among many other items, $100 million in relief to GA businesses hurt by the airspace restrictions following 9/11. But, in the words of one Washington insider, nobody should start planning just yet how to spend his or her share of that money. In the Byzantine morass that is our U.S. government, signing that bill into law is not the final step. No, now that the money has been authorized, it next must be appropriated, which is another complex and lengthy process, whose outcome is by no means assured. Surprise, surprise. So, in plain English (as it were), even though the relief bill is the law of the land, the money may not ever find its way to all the flight schools, FBOs, crop-dusters and banner-towers who lost millions when their aircraft were grounded and spent millions more on mandated security measures.
Congress (unlike the rest of us) is still in recess, but will be back in session Jan. 20. The appropriations process is high on the agenda, but is nonetheless likely to drag on through the session, and even through the summer. "We'd be lucky to get an appropriations bill passed by October," Eric Byer, director of government affairs for the National Air Transportation Association, told AVweb yesterday. And he acknowledged that getting the money for GA will be an uphill battle. "We've had a lot of good discussions with key members of Congress," he said. "We have lots of support, but with the current fiscal situation, it's tough. We'd like to get the whole $100 million up front this year, but as things are, our goal is just to get the ball rolling for the current fiscal year, and get what we can." Once the measure has been funded once, he said, it's easier to get continued funding in subsequent years.
It is a possibility that Congress could decide to appropriate zero funding for GA, despite the provisions of the reauthorization bill. The upside (no, not really) is that decision would maintain the perfect zero-funding record held by all other GA relief bills that have wandered in and out of Congress for the past two years, but have so far produced no cash in the pockets of business owners. The only assistance forthcoming to GA businesses has been through the Small Business Administration, which offers loans for up to $1.5 million, with terms of up to 30 years at 4 percent, for businesses hurt by the terrorist attacks and aftermath. With the federal deficit inching toward a record half-trillion dollars, prospects for change anytime soon seem remote.
LIGHTSPEED ON THE MOVE With LightSPEED's continued success and growth, they are moving to a larger facility in Portland, Oregon. The move should have minimal impact on their pilot customers. LightSPEED apologizes for any inconvenience during this move and appreciates their customers' patience. Should your travels bring you to the Portland area, please stop by for a visit. For LightSPEED models and ordering information, go to http://www.avweb.com/sponsors/litspeed.
Heads of European aviation agencies will meet in Brussels tomorrow to discuss whether they want to allow armed sky marshals on commercial flights, but meanwhile, some U.S. pilots trying to go a step further -- carrying their own (approved) weapons in the cockpit -- are finding it a slow and painful process. "The TSA program as it exists now sets up barriers for pilots who want to participate," Brian Darling, spokesman for the Armed Pilots Security Alliance (APSA), told AVweb yesterday. "The program needs to be fixed." Only about 1,000 pilots have been trained so far, Darling said, while about 100,000 airline and cargo pilots are eligible. He estimates that thousands of pilots are willing to be trained, but are reluctant to volunteer because the TSA program has made such a bad impression. "We think TSA needs to promote the program, and make it more pilot-friendly," Darling said. "And we'd like to change the screening process to make it more objective." He said APSA also wants changes in the TSA's lockbox policy, which requires pilots to keep their weapons in a locked container when not in the cockpit. APSA is working in Washington to develop legislation that would promote those changes, Darling said.
The TSA has apparently disqualified many pilots who apply. "The screening is subjective," Darling said, "and in our view, many qualified pilots are not being allowed into the program." Some pilots also have complained about a lengthy and time-consuming application process, an invasive psychological exam, and the requirement to pay their own travel expenses to the training site, at a remote location in the New Mexico desert. Pilots also pay their own room and board during the weeklong program, while taking unpaid leave from work. The Air Line Pilots Association, however, thinks the program is working just fine, according to spokesman John Mazor. "We're very pleased with the TSA program," Mazor told AVweb yesterday. "They were a little slow in getting started, but it's in full swing now," he said. Forty-eight pilots are attending the training every week in New Mexico, he said, though not all of them will qualify to carry weapons. Pilots have not complained about the expenses, Mazor said, and the low cost of the program was an important factor in getting the TSA to go along with it. "This is an extremely cost-efficient and effective component of the government's anti-terrorism program," he said. Darling and APSA, however, clearly disagree and the group does have the moral support of others.
An opinion piece by John Lott, of the American Enterprise Institute, ran in the press in various forms last week, on the op-ed pages of The Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, and elsewhere. Lott argues that commercial aviation needs more armed pilots, and quickly. "The Bush administration has done what it can to discourage pilots from even applying for the armed-pilot program," says Lott. And while pilots go untrained, "a cost-effective backup layer of security" is lost, he says. "Air marshals can't do it all." Meanwhile, the TSA has been adamant in defending its training program, saying pilots are "off base" in their criticisms. The program is going "full speed ahead," the TSA said last August. Their offices were less responsive to our inquiries this week.
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That would be you, the general aviation pilot. Last night's "Eye on America" report on the CBS Evening News made it clear that a terrifying threat exists -- "Packed with explosives, small planes could be devastating bombs" -- and that GA pilots just don't give a damn -- "vulnerability [is] the price for general aviation's freedom." The report focused on airport communities, where it said, "There are no fences, no gates, no security systems and no federal requirements to have them." Though not cited as inspiration in the text of the segment, Joe Byrd, president of the board of directors at Lakeway Airpark outside of Austin, Texas, yesterday told AVweb that CBS news anchor Dan Rather (not featured in the report) keeps property roughly one-half mile away from the airport community ... "as the crow flies." The report also neglected to mention that a Skyhawk full of explosives is about equivalent to a Volkswagen in the same condition, but did point out there are some 200,000 "so-called general aviation aircraft" in the country ... a number perhaps smaller than that of Volkswagens. It seems the thought of the airborne equivalent plunging into a building is scarier than the sight of the non-winged version parked out front, or in the loading dock, or driving by. AOPA President Phil Boyer was outraged even before the segment ran, issuing a news release yesterday afternoon calling the coverage "irresponsible." Proof of that, Boyer said, is that it appears CBS made up its mind without benefit of all the facts: "They never interviewed us [at AOPA], the people who know the most about GA." Boyer suggested that pilots register their concern over CBS's reporting by e-mailing CBS.
The U.S. Air Force Academy, at Colorado Springs, Colo., has grounded 45 of its aircraft due to safety concerns after inspectors discovered "maintenance irregularities," the Air Force said on Tuesday. The fleet is maintained by a contractor, Doss Aviation, and will remain grounded while Air Force officials review and investigate discrepancies. The grounding affects UV-18s, gliders, motorgliders, T-41s and Cessna 150s. Safety concerns arose following the Jan. 2 engine failure of a UV-18 Twin Otter that was en route to Florida to pick up cadets from a parachuting competition. The Twin Otter had no passengers on board, and landed safely at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla. The news release said academy officials will keep affected aircraft on the ground until confidence is restored in the safety of the maintenance program and permanent fixes are in place for all discrepancies identified. Aircraft maintained by Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and used for introductory flight training by ERAU instructors, is not affected. The contractor has directed an immediate independent audit of company operations at the academy. Company auditors will look at maintenance and management practices. Academy officials will work closely with the auditors and provide oversight and assistance, according to an academy news release.
The T-34 Association has asked the FAA to allow at least a year for any inspection program it might mandate to check the structural integrity of wing spars in the T-34 fleet. The request follows an FAA order issued on Dec. 31 that requires Flight Standard District Offices to perform a "special inspection" of all T-34s in their region within 120 days. The order followed a fatal crash in Texas on Nov. 19, in which two men died in a T-34 Mentor after the right wing separated during air-combat maneuvers. This was the second accident in four years involving a T-34 wing failure in air-combat training, the FAA said. The type club said that both accidents involved "aircraft being flown regularly and deliberately outside the certificated envelope," and the T-34s are safe if flown within their limits. The FAA found that the accident aircraft, along with 203 of the 423 T-34s registered, had not yet complied with an Airworthiness Directive issued in 2001 that requires inspection of the wing spar assemblies. "This lack of compliance with an AD represents a significant safety problem," the FAA said. In asking for the one-year period for compliance, the T-34 Association said the existing AD is adequate. AOPA lent its support to the type club's position, saying the time frame is too narrow and could result in many aircraft being grounded while awaiting inspection. Of course, if a future inspection shows there's actually something wrong with an aircraft, that grounding might not be such a bad thing.
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Max-Viz announced Monday it has achieved the first in a long series of planned FAA certifications of its EVS-1000 Enhanced Vision System (EVS) for helicopters. The Bell 212, Bell 412 and Bell 412EP helicopters have been approved for FAA Supplemental Type Certificates for the installation of the Max-Viz EVS-1000. The company says the product enables pilots to see terrain and other potential obstacles through dust, rain, snow, haze, smoke and total darkness. Max-Viz and its dealers currently hold certifications for the Bell 212/412, CL-601, CL-604, Global Express and Falcon 50. They also have STCs pending for the Falcon 900 series, the Sikorsky S-76, the Pilatus PC-12, Lear 35 and Beech 200. No piston-singles are yet on the list. The EVS-1000 infrared sensor relays real-time video images from a small 2.5-pound sensor head mounted on the helicopter nose, belly or landing skids. The display is positioned at eye level above the main instrument panel on a flip-down hinged bracket and can be viewed by either crew member. "This FAA certification opens the door to another significant market for us," said Jean Menard, director of sales for Max-Viz, in a news release. "We're looking at potential installations in more than 200 registered U.S. civilian Bell 212 and 412 helicopters." The EVS-2000 Enhanced Vision System, specifically developed for Cessna by Max-Viz, is also a standard factory option on the Citation X and Sovereign.
The BBC on Monday debuted a new reality series called "Spitfire Ace," featuring four young pilots learning to fly the famous World War II-era aircraft. The four-part series follows four aspirants from diverse backgrounds to see if they have what it takes to emulate the heroic achievements of their predecessors, the pilots who defeated Hitler's Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain. The series also traces the history of the battle, which is credited with saving Britain from a Nazi invasion, and reminds viewers of the meaning of Winston Churchill's famous remark about the Normandy pilots: "Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few." A reviewer for The Scotsman was less than thrilled by the show's first installment: Descriptions of the Spitfire and its history were "long and ruddy and complicated," according to reviewer Sarah Dempster, and the frequent "inappropriate sexual analogies" were annoying. For example: One historian described the airplane as "a sophisticated cat-walking glamour girl," and an instructor barked at a student to "make love to the sky," Dempster reported.
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University announced on Tuesday it will sponsor a 20-city national tour flown by Jamail Larkins, a 19-year-old ERAU student who is also a spokesman for EAA's Young Eagles program. Larkins will fly a new Cirrus SR20, and his mission is to get youngsters excited about careers in aviation. Larkins will fly to a different city each week, where he will visit schools, make presentations, and discuss aviation with students. Students will be invited beforehand to write an essay answering the question, "How do you envision the next century of flight?" The winning writer will be given the opportunity to fly with Larkins in the Cirrus. The tour begins Jan. 24 in Lakeland, Fla. Cities on the tour include Atlanta, Brooklyn, Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, Los Angeles, and more. Larkins, who is from Augusta, Ga., took his first flight at age 12, with the Young Eagles Program. He currently flies a high-performance Christen Eagle II aerobatic aircraft on the air show circuit.
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A Yakovlev-40 airliner crashed Tuesday on approach to the airport in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. All 36 aboard were killed...
President Bush yesterday proposed a $1 billion boost for NASA's budget, and called for a lunar base and retirement of the aging Space Shuttle by 2010...
Solo circumnavigator Gus McLeod plans to try again for the South Pole, perhaps as soon as tomorrow.
What's New -- Products and Services
Each month, AVweb will bring you a quick survey of the latest products and services for pilots, mechanics and aircraft owners. This month we have an Ag Plane mod, a flight timer, a new book and more. If you know of a new product or service other AVweb readers should hear about, please send us a note.
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To check out the winning picture, or to enter next week's contest, click here.
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"Looks Like Winter"
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AVweb continues to receive a large number of excellent images for our POTW contest. Here are some of the runners-up. Click on the links below to view a larger version.
"Flying in the Past"
"Ready, Set, & Go!"
*** PREVIOUS RESULTS ***
We received over 200 responses to our question last week on security-based airline cancellations. The majority (53 percent) indicated the rash of flight delays might have been justified depending on the reasons why this action was taken. On the other hand, 18 percent felt the UK/US governments were justifiably acting in the name of security, while 20 percent claimed there were totally unnecessary and a pure knee-jerk reaction by the various federal agencies.
To respond to this week's question , click here.
*** THIS WEEK'S QUESTION ***
This week, we would like to know your thoughts on security at your local general aviation airport.
Have an idea for a new QOTW? Send your suggestions to email@example.com. Note: This address is only for suggested QOTW questions, and not for QOTW answers.
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WHAT PILOTS WANT TO PROTECT AND SHINE THEIR AIRCRAFT
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STOP WONDERING OR WORRYING WHERE YOUR FRIENDS ARE
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SAFETY OPENS DOORS TO SOME TOP TOPICS IN THE FEBRUARY ISSUE
"Penalty Box" what to expect if you cross the wrong line on the map; "Are You Cleared?" how to fly remote airport IFR approaches without vectors; "Desperate, On Top" benefit from lessons learned by John and Martha King; "Tricks for the Garmin 430"; "Smart Preflights" five spots not to miss. Plus accident reports, maintenance issues, and lessons learned along the way. Order your Aviation Safety subscription at http://www.avweb.com/sponsors/belvoir/avsafe.
SAFE GOODS PUBLISHING PRESENTS HUMAN FACTORS & PILOT ERROR VIDEO
This film, videotaped at an FAA Wings seminar, gives specific reasons why a pilot's brain goes on vacation causing them to overlook the obvious and stray from proficiency training procedures. For more information and to order, go to http://www.avweb.com/sponsors/safegoods.
FLYING MAGAZINE'S FEBRUARY HIGHLIGHTS INCLUDE ...
"Six Seat Revival" Piper's 6x has room without the price; "Fly the Air Tour" celebrate aviation's golden age; "Sharing an Airplane" update on an SR22 fractional ownership; Editor's Choice Awards; and all the columnists you've come to know. Order your subscription today at http://www.avweb.com/sponsors/flying.
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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