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One hundred and sixteen members of the U.S. House of Representatives have signed a letter (PDF) to
President Barack Obama urging him not to support aviation user fees as a means to fund the FAA's budget for 2012. User fees would be "a step backward" in efforts to modernize the air traffic control
system, and would have a "detrimental impact on general aviation and the flying public," the letter states. Ed Bolen, president of the National Business Aviation Association, welcomed the effort. "We
thank the Congressional leaders who took this action early in the year to reinforce a clear message of opposition to user fees, and welcome their unwavering support on this issue of critical
importance to the entire general aviation community," Bolen said this week. NBAA said the current system of fuel taxes is proven and efficient.
The bipartisan effort was led by Rep. Tom Petri, R-Wis., chairman of the House aviation subcommittee, and Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Ill., ranking member of the subcommittee. "Their stance demonstrates
how well they understand the role and value of general aviation, and all of us in the GA community appreciate their willingness to step forward and address this issue head on," said AOPA President
Craig Fuller. "They have stood firm and told the Obama Administration that user fees would be bad for general aviation, for our national transportation system, and for the broader economy." A similar
letter circulated in 2009 gathered 118 signatures. AOPA said it was "impressive" that the current letter attracted nearly as many supporters, given the significant changes in House membership since
the recent election.
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The FAA said last week it will take a fresh look at a longstanding rule that exempts aircraft operated by the federal government from most FAA regulations. "The statute is vague," said John Allen,
the FAA official who oversees flight standards. "It is very confusing." Problems arise especially when Part 135 operators work under contract to a federal agency, according to Helicopter Association International, which hosted last week's forum. The FAA will issue a new Advisory Circular soon
to clarify the issue, according to HAI. Allen said the agency plans to consider all contracted operations as civil operations by default. Operators and the FAA must be notified in advance, on a
flight-by-flight basis, if public-aircraft status applies.
Allen also said it will be up to the FAA to determine if flights can be classified as a "legitimate public-aircraft operations" under the terms of the current statute. The NTSB raised questions
about the practice of operating "public aircraft" during its recent investigation of a fatal helicopter crash in
California during firefighting operations. "Public aircraft have been made the orphans of the aviation industry," said NTSB chair Deborah Hersman. "It's now time for the FAA and other government
agencies to step up and take responsibility." About 100 people attended the HAI forum in Alexandria, Va., last Thursday, with 200 more taking part via a live webcast. The PowerPoint presentations from
the NTSB and FAA speakers are posted at the HAI site. Allen welcomed further comment from the public via e-mail.
A pilot in California was killed earlier this month when his airplane struck a 197-foot-tall tower during an
agricultural flight, just a few days after the FAA published a proposed
policy that would establish voluntary procedures for marking such towers. Meteorological, or met, towers gather data to determine if a site would be profitable to develop for wind power, and they
have proliferated in rural areas in recent years. Many of the towers are built to heights just a few feet below the 200-foot level that would require FAA notification and markings. The towers are often "narrow, unmarked and grey in color ... nearly
invisible under some atmospheric conditions," according to the National Agricultural Aviation Association. The FAA proposes that the towers should be painted in alternating orange and white stripes,
but compliance would be voluntary. The FAA is accepting comments on its proposal until Feb. 4.
Several of the comments already in the docket suggest that the FAA's guidelines should be mandatory. Others suggest that lighting should also be required. Iowa's Department of Transportation wrote,
"Voluntary compliance ... falls short of a comprehensive national solution that addresses MET tower hazards." The DOT also suggested that strobe lighting should be required to ensure nighttime
visibility. Brian Fox, of the Idaho Army National Guard, also said compliance should not be voluntary, and added that the wavelength "needs to be compatible with night-vision goggles." AOPA wrote,
"Because of the danger to aircraft that exists from unmarked and unlighted meteorological towers, it is essential that they be made as conspicuous as possible"; however, AOPA concurred with the
voluntary nature of the FAA plan. This PowerPoint (PDF) by the National EMS Pilots
Association shows how difficult it can be to spot one of these tall, skinny towers from the air.
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China's latest flying military aircraft prototype, the J-20, may or may not be stealthy, or a true "fifth-generation" fighter, because "we don't know, frankly, much about the capabilities of that
plane," Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said this week. Currently, the Pentagon does not know if China's new aircraft uses a "fifth generation" engine or the capabilities of its avionics.
Regardless, what the Pentagon believes is that by the time the J-20 is operational, the U.S. will be flying 187 F-22s, "which will be unmatched," and will have "an abundance of F-35s." And based on
what the Pentagon does know, the new Chinese jet "has not changed the strategic calculus at all." Morrell also contested the notion that U.S. intelligence was caught flat-footed by the J-20's first
flight, perhaps rolling back comments made earlier by Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
Morrell said the Pentagon has been "well aware of this evolving capability" and have "talked about their pursuit of the J-20 for a long time." What Secretary Gates said on January 8, was that "what
we've seen is that they may be somewhat further head in development of that aircraft than our intelligence had earlier predicted." Morrell now says it's too early to make those determinations and that
even calling the test flight successful may have been premature.
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A MiG-29 Soviet-era fighter jet flew for the first time above Washington state this week, after a two-year restoration project by the Historic Flight Foundation. The two-seat MiG-29UB was
manufactured in the Soviet Union sometime between 1985 and 1991, and flew with the Ukrainian Air Force until 2005, when it was demilitarized and offered for sale to the public. The Foundation bought
the airplane, but due to paperwork and shipping snafus, it didn't arrive in Washington until 2008. The restoration team fully disassembled the aircraft to inspect every part. Missing or damaged
components were replaced with newly fabricated parts, and two huge new turbofan engines were specially manufactured by the Klimov factory in Russia. The MiG-29 is capable of reaching Mach 2.2 and
First flight of the jet occurred on Sunday, during which it was ferried from Arlington to Everett, Wash., home to the Historic Flight Foundation's vintage aircraft museum. The MiG-29UB was
scheduled to complete a five-hour flight test program, reaching altitudes of 60,000 feet and speeds of Mach 0.97, as well as performing high-G aerobatic maneuvers. The Historic Flight Foundation said
it plans to restore two more MiG-29s over the coming years, which will help to finance their heritage activities.
Mahindra Aerospace said this week its new five-seat airplane, which would be India's first indigenous GA aircraft, is expected to fly for the first time next month. According to Indian news
sources, the NM5-100 will sell for "20 percent less than a similar aircraft from Cessna." The company has been working for a several years in partnership with India's National Aerospace Laboratories
to design the airplane, which is expected to meet FAR Part 23 standards. A larger version of the airplane also is in the works, which would seat 8 to 10. The company has said it plans to become
India's first manufacturer serving the GA market, with four to six models for global distribution.
The NM5-100 is an all-metal aircraft, with a composite cowling and fairings. It is expected to be used for air taxi, light cargo and medevac, as well as training. Mahindra acquired a majority stake
in Australia's Gippsland Aeronautics in 2010.
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One of the interesting side stories of the Eclipse Aviation debacle was the courting of Russia, including then-President Vladimir Putin as a manufacturing base and major customer. Although the VLJ
heyday has passed there are apparently Eclipse 500s still in Russia and you'll find them in the oddest places. Eclipse 500 serial number 09, registered to a Delaware trustee, is there and was last spotted on a truck in downtown St.
Petersburg. According to Russian media, it was put on a flatbed for the
first part of a trip to a convention center but the journey didn't go well.
The plane was supposed to be taken a short distance from the airport to a dock on a river where it was to be put on a barge for the trip to the convention center. But the aircraft's nose was
dinged by another truck on the way to the river and the resulting kafuffle made the plane miss its barge. So the decision was made to continue the journey by road.
A week after a California court ruled the FAA has pretty much absolute authority over the use of airports that
have accepted money from it (in this case Santa Monica) the City Council of Naples, Fla., appears poised to test that concept. The council this week voted to continue zoning discussions on whether the local airport authority can
build a runway extension at the bizjet-busy airport. The city's attorney has already told the council it's likely a waste of time but councilman Sam Saad said there's a principle involved.
"Until we are told otherwise by (a judge) or the FAA, we should assert our zoning authority and resolve the issue for our residents," Saad said. The construction of FAA-mandated overruns, as is
commonly the case, is what triggered this debate. The Naples Airport Authority wants to put an extra 510 feet at the south end of the main Naples runway and 800 feet at the north end. The construction
will make the available takeoff distance 5,800 feet but the maximum landing distance will remain at 5,000 feet.
The FAA probably spent a fair amount of staff research time and money telling us what we already know: Conventional stall warning systems don't work very well, if at all, in icing. But having
reviewed 25 years worth of data, they probably missed a boatload of opportunities to tell us things we really don't know about icing accidents. In the latest installment of our AVweb Insider
blog, Paul Bertorelli opines that one of these is tailplane icing.
Sport Aviation Expo 2011 had some bright spots, says resident AVweb Insider blogger Paul Bertorelli although big sales remain elusive. And what about Piper? They say they're still
committed to light sport, but they terminated their relationship with their Czech supplier and they aren't looking for a replacement.
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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: GPS Interference
Your story about concerns over the use of personal/portable electronic devices aboard aircraft echoes my own
concerns. About five years ago, I was called in to diagnose a problem with two GPS receivers in a non-aviation application. The antennae were located about 30 feet apart on a roof with good
sky-view; however, one receiver could not see any satellites.
The cable, antenna and receiver had all been changed with no effect. After some investigation, I tried turning off the GPS unit that was working, and, lo and behold, the "faulty" unit started to
work again. More detailed investigation revealed that the antenna amplifier in the "working" system had a fault which allowed it to continue to work apparently normally, but which caused the antenna
to radiate a GPS jamming signal that affected other nearby receivers.
Now, imagine if the faulty unit was not fixed to a building but was carried by a passenger aboard a commercial airliner. It would appear to work perfectly, but it could easily affect any GPS units
carried as part of the aircraft's avionics.
When permitting the use of passenger electronic devices aboard aircraft, it is imperative that we consider not only the normal operating mode of such equipment but also any likely fault modes,
including operator error. Does the "flight safe" mode of a cell phone actually work as advertised? Is the wi-fi in your laptop working only on the permitted frequencies?
Furthermore, in the event of unexplained malfunctions of the aircraft avionics during a Cat-1 autoland, will there be time to make a PA call asking passengers to make sure everything is turned off?
And will they listen? Just two days ago, I watched three separate flight attendants on their way to their "seats for landing" walk past a man sending text messages on his iPhone.
The article about the Southwest Airlines captain who held the flight for the bereaved
grandfather does not surprise me. Years ago, when I was dating my husband, who is from New Orleans, I had flown down from Dallas for the four-day Mardi Gras weekend. We never attend Mardi Gras;
rather, we take that four-day weekend and go somewhere else like the Bahamas.
I was booked on a flight back to Dallas early on Wednesday morning after Fat Tuesday. Not being from New Orleans and having never experienced Mardi Gras, I did not anticipate the long security
lines at the airport. When I arrived at the airport an hour prior to my flight, it was apparent that I would never make it through security in time to make my flight.
When I finally made it through the security checkpoint, it was 10 minutes after the scheduled departure of my Southwest flight. I ran to the gate just in case, and the Captain was standing at the
counter. He said they knew the lines were long and so he held the flight for those of us who couldn't get through security in a timely manner. He said, "Slow down; the flight can't leave without
I was so thankful he had done that. It was a 7am flight, and my plan was to make it to work on time in Dallas without my boss knowing I had flown in that morning! Thank you, Southwest captain,
for holding that flight for me.
Another time Southwest went above and beyond was on Christmas Day 2000. I was booked on a flight from Little Rock back to Dallas. There was a terrible ice storm moving across, and I left early
for the airport to try to miss the ice and catch an earlier flight back to Dallas. I didn't make it. The ice was already very bad by the time I got to the Little Rock airport. I barely made it into
the parking lot with my rental car, slipping and sliding all the way, and, just after I arrived, the airport closed.
The Little Rock gate security people were not going to allow us to stay in the gate area where it was warm and where we had adequate seating. They said we had to stay by baggage claim. Baggage
claim was right next to the outside doors. It was freezing cold there, and there were no chairs. This is where Southwest Airlines came in to help. Southwest got the Little Rock airport security to
agree to allow us to stay in the gate area and Southwest would pay for the cost of security for that area. Then the flight attendants brought us pillows and blankets off the airplane. There were no
restaurants open at the airport, so they also brought us all the snack packs they had on the airplane.
The ice storm got worse. I spent two nights (Christmas night and the next) stranded at the Little Rock airport. Then, on the final morning, the Southwest gate agent gave all 38 of us standby
boarding passes for the first flight out. I cannot say enough about how good the Southwest flight crew and gate personnel were to all of us. They really took care of us as best they could under the
circumstances. Southwest Airlines is the best in my book.
The article "'First World' Airlines Fatality-Free" is incorrect. On Sept. 3, 2010, UPS Flight 6 Dubai to Cologne
crashed 20 minutes after take-off. Both crew members, Doug Lampe and Matt Bell, friends of mine, were killed after their B747-400 experienced a fire in the cargo area. I know this was not a
passenger flight, but passenger carriers also carry items with lithium-ion batteries, which are being investigated as the cause of the fire and crash.
The families of our lost crew members do not think 2010 was a "fatality-free" year, and it should not be reported as such.
Point taken. We changed our story to reflect the concerns of Tom and others who contacted us. UPS is the eighth largest airline in the U.S., and the flight in question was carried out under Part
Russ Niles Editor-in-Chief
Wait a minute. The plane that crashed in Smolensk was not an airliner; it was a Polish air force transport. It does not belong in the airline crash statistics!
Jean Claude Dispaux
Mea culpa again.
Russ Niles Editor-in-Chief
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A company called northStudio has created a video with Nimmo Bay Helicopter Resort that allows viewers to control the viewing
angle of 360-degree panoramic pre-recorded video through a click-and-drag interface. The technology uses six cameras strapped to a custom-built rig attached to a pole that's attached to the
helicopter. Proprietary video merging software then creates the "seamless flying experience." According to the company, the technology was made possible due to improvements in internet and processor
speeds. In the video, the camera is slung below a helicopter as it flies down rivers, skims 10,000-year-old glaciers, hovers over waterfalls, and more, and the viewer controls the viewing direction at
If it seems like David Sussman has achieved airplane ownership Nirvana, he would probably agree. AVweb spoke with him at U.S. Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring about enjoying
financial benefits from a light sport aircraft.
If there aren't enough iWidgets in your life, here's one more: the iCub. It's basically a Cub clone LSA built around the network and display capabilities of an iPad and an iPhone. The
iPad serves as the airplane's main navigation device, plus it also receives and tracks data from the Rotax 912 engine. At the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring, AVweb talked with the
company's Bill Canino, and this brief video offers a tour of the airplane.
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According to AVweb reader Ken Knopp, our latest "FBO of the Week" is a posh destination. Heritage Aviation at
Burlington International Airport (KBTV) in Burlington, Vermont "is by far the nicest FBO I have ever visited," writes Ken:
Service was top-notch. Entire staff was very friendly and provided an impeccable service. Pilot lounge included a ping pong table and Wii. Separate rooms were available for flight planning.
Additional rooms included a theater, sleeping rooms, and even a gym. I could easily spend more time at this quality FBO.
Aviation Consumer is researching an article on TKS performance in the real world and could really use your help. If you fly an aircraft equipped with a TKS system, please take just a few
moments to complete this online survey.
Information about how you use the system and how it performs will be kept anonymous, but the general findings will be reported in a future issue of Aviation Consumer.
Heard anything funny, unusual, or downright shocking on the radio lately? If you've been flying any length of time, you're sure to have eavesdropped on a few memorable exchanges. The ones that
gave you a chuckle may do the same for your fellow AVweb readers. Share your radio funny with us, and, if we use it in a future "Short Final," we'll send you a sharp-looking AVweb hat
to sport around your local airport. No joke.
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:
Publisher Timothy Cole
Editorial Director, Aviation Publications Paul Bertorelli
Editor-in-Chief Russ Niles
Contributing Editors Mary Grady Glenn Pew
Features Editor Kevin Lane-Cummings
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Contributors Jeff van West Mariano Rosales
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