AVwebFlash Complete Issue: Volume 17, Number 5a

January 31, 2011

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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AVflash! TSA in the News back to top 

TSA Blocks Contract Screening

Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., says he'll launch an investigation into the TSA's abrupt decision to deny further applications by airports to replace TSA screeners with those of private contractors. In a statement issued late Friday, TSA Administrator John Pistole said he turned down an application by Branson-Springfield Airport in Missouri to go to private screeners under the Screening Partnership Program. "I examined the contractor screening program and decided not to expand the program beyond the current 16 airports as I do not see any clear or substantial advantage to do so at this time," Pistole said. The 16 airports with private screeners will be able to keep them. There are about 450 airports with passenger security screening in the U.S. The decision is a reversal of Pistole's earlier position, in which he said he was "neutral" on whether to allow contract screeners. Mica is a major proponent of the private option.

In December, Mica sent letters to all airports suggesting they look into the private option and he was apparently irked by Pistole's most recent decision. "It's unimaginable that TSA would suspend the most successfully performing passenger screening program we've had over the last decade," Mica told CNN. He said private contractors have been responsible for most of the security innovations that have been introduced at airports since 9/11. Meanwhile, the folks in Branson said they were just trying to improve the passenger experience. It was thought the airport might be able to exert a little more control over a contractor and that issues could be resolved more efficiently. "We want to have the best customer service we can with the folks," Gary Cyr, director of aviation, told OzarksFirst.com. "If we can do something to tweak that experience, we wish to do that."

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Brave New World, Part I back to top 

China Begins Test Of Open Airspace

The Chinese government Friday officially began the process of loosening its restrictions on private aircraft by initiating "trial" flights in selected airspace below 1,000 meters. The country chose Haikou, the capital city of China's Hainan island province, to initiate the flights that will be conducted by four helicopters flying without the need to seek permission prior to each flight. The test flights are expected to continue through March. Chinese airspace is controlled by the military and Civil Aviation Administration of China and less than 30 percent of it is open to civil aviation. Currently, pilots of private flights must file ahead of time for approvals that can take up to a week to arrive. The new rules are expected to have an effect on that.

The process started at Haikou will be rolled out over other areas in tests over the next five years, China's State Council and Central Military Commission announced last November. It will allow aircraft flying below 1,000 meters to take off and land without the approvals required today. Aircraft flying above 1,000 meters and below 4,000 meters will still be required to file a flight plan but, if the tests go well, they will not need to seek approval from authorities. State media has reported that aside from stunting industry growth, current restrictions are affecting air traffic, the Associated Press reported. When the tests were announced last year, one village announced plans to buy 20 aircraft for use in training and tourism. China presently has about 1,000 general aviation aircraft. Its market potential is estimated near $150 billion.

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Planes and Politics back to top 

FAA Bill Back In Play

After three years on the legislative backburner, it looks like the FAA reauthorization bill is catching fire. Sen. John Rockefeller, D-W.Va., will introduce a new bill next week that he says is identical to a bill introduced last year (PDF) that was passed 93-0 by the Senate. The House never did pass it. The proposed bill includes funding for NextGen and sets an accelerated schedule for its deployment under the auspices of the newly created senior position in the FAA to keep NextGen on track. The bill authorizes spending of $34.5 billion over two years and has general support in the aviation world, but politics is not that cut and dried.

Among its provisions is the controversial "passenger bill of rights" that prevents airlines from being able to hold passengers in aircraft for longer than three hours. The Department of Transportation has a similar regulation that allows it to fine airlines for long ramp delays, but this would enshrine it as law. That provision is expected to get a rough ride in the House and could derail the Senate's speedy approach to the bill.

SMO Balks (So Far) Over Safety Feature

Santa Monica attempted to ban certain business jets from its airport in part due to concerns over safety, but now that a Circuit Court has ruled out the ban, the city's maneuvering could lead it to turn down a safety measure. Ninety percent of airport traffic heads west at Santa Monica and homes sit just 300 feet from the runway's west end. Responding to the city's concerns that those homes might be struck by a larger business jet that overran the runway, the FAA has offered to install a bed of crushable concrete in the safety zone there. (It also noted that in 20 years not a single jet has crashed or run off the runway at SMO.) City officials have not been quick to accept the FAA's offer, and it may take some mental gymnastics to understand why.

The city's current obligations to the FAA are set to expire in 2015. Accepting the crushable concrete bed from the FAA could extend the city's obligation to operate the airport without discrimination (i.e., to allow business jet operations). Meanwhile, the city says it won't accept the offered barrier on the runway's west end unless it gets the same one installed at the runway's east end. The FAA has said that the installation of the barrier at the east end would effectively shorten the runway and restrict the operation of larger jets -- which is what Santa Monica has wanted all along. The FAA has offered to install the crushable concrete bed at the west end, and smaller barriers on the runway's east end. So far, Santa Monica is standing firm.

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Brave New World, Part II back to top 

Joule Patents Organism That Makes Jet A?

Joule Unlimited, a U.S. biotech company, has earned a patent for a "proprietary organism" that it says takes in carbon dioxide, sunshine and (dirty, salt, or clear) water, and puts out liquid hydrocarbons. The four-year-old Massachusetts-based company describes its organism as a genetically engineered cyanobacterium that will deliver "fossil fuels on demand" in "virtually unlimited quantities." It claims the organism's process mimics photosynthesis in producing diesel fuel, and is 50 times more efficient than current biofuel production methods. Claims aside, the company has attracted former White House Chief of Staff John Podesta to its board of directors and lists George Church, who helped pioneer the sequencing of the human genome, on its scientific advisory board. Of course, that doesn't prove that the process actually works.

As for performance, what Joule CEO Bill Sims has said is that, "Sometime soon, what we are doing will become clear." And, for now, the company offers a "frequently asked questions" page on its website. Joule's process relies in part a "solar converter" system outside of which its proprietary organism cannot survive. In Joule's own wording, "The SolarConverter system houses a circulating medium, comprised of proprietary organisms, brackish water and micro nutrients, and facilitates CO2 conversion to fuels and chemicals in a direct, continuous process." Importantly, Joule's system claims no need for a biomass like corn or camelina. The company says the system's efficiency could lead to commercially available diesel fuel at the equivalent of $30 per barrel. Joule says its pilot programs are currently under way.

Sonex Flies Folding Wing Onex

Sonex has flown the prototype of the Onex, a single-place aerobatic kit LSA that also has folding wings. Sonex CEO Jeremy Monnett, who is also the aircraft designer, did several laps around Wittman Regional Airport on Jan. 27 in what he described to onlookers as a "little fighter." The leisurely test flight, which included a low and over, confirmed the aircraft's light handling and agreeable flight characteristics. On landing, Monnett pronounced the aircraft "sweet" and said turns required no rudder input. He and his colleagues then folded the wings and tucked the aircraft back in the Sonex hangar.

With the wings folded, the plane will fit in the average residential garage (it needs a space seven feet high and about eight feet across). It's designed to meet all the parameters for the light sport category. The aircraft uses an AeroVee Volkswagen conversion engine. The first prototype has conventional gear but a tricycle version will be tested next. Sonex and EAA are hosting a webinar on the aircraft Feb. 2 at 7 p.m. CST.

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Aviation Safety back to top 

Airline Makes Upset Training Mandatory

KLM, Holland's flag carrier, has signed a deal with Arizona-based APS Emergency Maneuver Training to provide upset recovery training to ab initio pilots training at the airline's flight school in Mesa. KLM has done its pilot training in sunny Mesa for 65 years at Falcon Field and APS is at neighboring Phoenix-Mesa Gateway. As technology mitigates many of the risk factors associated with airline flying, in-flight loss of control has emerged as the leading cause of airline crashes, according to a study released by Boeing last year. APS teaches pilots of all experience levels what to do when their world is turned upside down.

Although recognition and prevention of unstable flight conditions is (or should be) a fundamental part of flight training, there are times when even the most careful and well-prepared pilot can find himself hanging from the harness thanks to weather, wake turbulence or other factors. APS teaches pilots how to put earth and sky back in their appropriate places without breaking the airplane, and the only way to do that is to intentionally upset aircraft. APS uses Extra 300s. KLM spokesman Robert van den Heuvel said KLM has made upset recovery a mandatory part of ab initio training for all its academy cadets and the deal with APS is a multi-year one.

Pilot Tells Story Of Ditching

Kelly McHugh, a 1,500-hour commercial pilot, was flying his Piper Jetprop P46T at 26,000 feet over the Gulf of Mexico on Dec. 4, 2010, when it became clear that he, his three companions, and the plane were going into the water. The aircraft suffered a yet-unexplained engine problem and as it lost power the men quickly realized they would not impact close to shore. It was up to McHugh and the three other men (two of whom were experienced pilots) to save themselves. McHugh estimates that the 90-knot glide lasted at least 30 minutes before the plane hit the water. AVweb's Glenn Pew spoke to McHugh for the details.

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Opinion & Commentary back to top 

AVweb Insider Blog: A Mixed Message on Met Towers

The FAA is suggesting that if the folks who are putting up met towers wouldn't mind, it would be nice if they would paint them so aviators have a better chance of seeing them. On the AVweb Insider, Mary Grady wonders why the FAA doesn't just, you know, issue some kind of mandate if the towers are a safety issue.

Read more and join the conversation.

AVweb Insider Blog: FAA's SAIB on Icing — Huh?

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.

Read more and join the conversation.

AVmail: January 31, 2011

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: A Plausible Threat?

Do you think that our intelligence community might be a little behind the curve on the Chinese J-20? When photos were released of this new aircraft, they said it was only a mock-up and that China doesn't have the technology to produce a flyable aircraft of this caliber. When videos were released of this aircraft in flight, they said, "O.K., it flies, but it's not really stealthy." When one of these aircraft makes an undetected pass on a U.S. asset, I guess they'll finally admit that there might be something to this.

After all, much of this information on stealth is available online, or they can just watch the History Channel or the Military Channel. Further, there is the admission that portions of an F-117 that was downed in Serbia were turned over to agents for the Chinese by the locals, which allowed some degree of reverse engineering to fill in the gaps. This would make the J-20's capabilities entirely plausible.

Michael J. Nutt

GPS Interference

The chance of any device interfering with any aircraft system is extremely remote, or absolutely impossible as established by test after test by experts. The wiring on all airliners is shielded by multitudes of layers.

Could something slip by in "a perfect storm"? Certainly. But the FAA takes chances on things much more likely to occur for economic purposes. This is one of those facts of life. The FCC is much more concerned than the FAA. The simple truth of the matter is the FAA is enforcing the will of the greatest majority of passengers who don't want to listen to the chatter of people on cell phones, etc.

Dennis Murphy

What is a Cat-1 autoland? The only categories of autoland I am aware of are Cat IIIa, Cat IIIb, and Cat IIIc.

Andy Durbin

Dream Warbirds

In response to our "Question of the Week" on warbirds:

For a reason I'm not sure I can express, I've dreamed of the Northrop F-20 Tigershark. Perhaps it was the name; most likely, the design goal to be less expensive to operate. I've always had a soft spot for the "underdog" products: the Pontiac Fiero; .41RemMag; Rockwell Commander 114; Linux; and the list continues.

I really would love to own and fly an F-20. Wonder how I'd update the avionics to WAAS GPS?

Jim McDuffie

I would fly an AC130 gunship.

It's the meanest airplane in the world. You almost feel sorry for the bad guys.

Don Alesi

If money were no object, what warbird would you fly?

F-86 MK.6 with Orenda engine.

Doug Raine

F-4 Phantom II. From the front seat. (Prefer J or S model.)

J. D. Warren

The XB-70! Take a few of your friends along for a Mach 3+ ride on six afterburning engines. Sounds like fun.

Matthew Cichosz

If money were no object, I would love to restore to flight a Dornier Do-335 centerline twin. I think it would be as special as an F-82 Twin Mustang. It's a big fighter, and its presence at an air show would be enormous!

Steve Riley

Read AVmail from other weeks here, and submit your own Letter to the Editor with this form.

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

De-Icing in the Real World: Aviation Consumer Wants to Hear from TKS Users

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.

AVweb's Newstips Address ...

Our best stories start with you. If you've heard something 255,000 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.

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

Video: Flight Recorders Reviewed by 'Aviation Consumer'

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

Ever wish you could replay a flight and analyze what really happened? Aviation Consumer's Jeff Van West reviewed three different cockpit recording systems that target three significantly different needs. Here's the video recap.

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Video: Own an Airplane, Make Money, Save Taxes

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

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.

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Viral Video back to top 

Click-and-Control Interactive Heli Video

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 all times.
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Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: TacAir (KAMA, Amarillo, TX)

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

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to TacAir at Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport (KAMA) in Amarillo, Texas.

AVweb reader Kenneth Oden tells us what happened when a short fuel stop turned into a potentially disastrous layover:

Our passengers were flying back from a Christmas holiday with a new two-month-old baby boy and didn't want to subject him to an 18-hour drive to Grandma's house. Our stop turned into an overnight stay when weather at the destination went far below our jet's minimums. The good folks at TacAir found us a nice hotel in town and arranged for transportation. The following morning, our cold, soaked Eclipse would not accept the local GPU and did not have enough battery power to start on its own. The linemen at TacAir towed us across the field to another hangar with a different GPU. Long story short: we would still be stuck if it weren't for Mike Ryan's team. Our hats are off to this professional team that worked on our problem for over an hour when there were several other flights leaving at the same time.

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!

The Lighter Side of Flight back to top 

Short Final

Years ago, I flew out of Santa Monica (SMO). Primary students quickly learned the controllers were sticklers, especially regarding radio communication. And that's understandable given the high volume of traffic. Early on a Saturday morning, I was holding short, awaiting clearance and monitoring the tower frequency. A student (I checked later) from an area airport was in the pattern.

"Piper One Two Uniform, cleared to land."

Piper 12U:
"Cleared to land, One Two Unicorn."

[about a minute later]

"One Two Uniform, contact Ground on 121.9."

Piper 12U:
"Ah — okay, 121.9. And, ah, we're One Two UNICORN."


"That's fine, One Two UNICORN. You just go ahead now and contact Ground on 121.9 right away."

[Gales of laughter were heard in the background.]

J. Barry Mitchell
via e-mail

Heard Anything Funny on the Radio?

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.

Click here to submit your original, true, and previously unpublished story.

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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