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A Boeing 737 out of Miami and an Airbus A320 from Chicago landed at Reagan National Airport very early Wednesday morning, without contacting anyone in the tower but wasn't for lack of trying, the
Washington Post reported. The inbound flights were handed off from Potomac TRACON to the tower at Reagan National shortly after midnight. When the tower failed to respond, at least one flight
requested assistance from Potomac TRACON. Controllers there used a shout line to call over to Reagan Tower. The shout line allows them to speak directly from a loudspeaker in the tower at Reagan
National. No one responded. When a pilot asked one TRACON controller why the tower was empty, the controller reportedly replied, "well, I'm going to take a guess and say that the controller got locked
out. I've heard of it happening before." And, apparently, it has, although later reports Wednesday said the FAA was investigating whether the lone controller on duty, a supervisor, simply fell asleep.
DOT Secretary Ray LaHood responded to the report by ordering the FAA to assign a second controller to the downtown Washington airport on the graveyard shift and told the FAA to investigate the
incident. "It is not acceptable to have just one controller in the tower managing air traffic in this critical air space," he said. "I have also asked FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt to study staffing
levels at other airports around the country."
According to the Washington Post, the incident is under review by the NTSB and represents the second time in two years that the tower at Reagan National has been unresponsive. The paper cites an
unnamed source who said the other episode involved a controller who stepped out of the tower without his swipe-card pass key and wasn't able to get back in. In Wednesday's case, the two aircraft
self-announced and landed with assistance from controllers "elsewhere." They then made their way to their appropriate gates with the assistance of their airlines.
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If everyone in the avionics biz suspected Garmin was about to announce something big, they did exactly that at the Aircraft Electronics Association show in Reno this week. Garmin said its new
GTN650 and 750 series hybrid navigators will replace the long-in-the-tooth GNS 430 and 530 products, although those units will remain in production for at least another year.
What do the GTNs bring to the table? A slick touchscreen interface, higher resolution screens, a new operating system and remote transponder control right from the navigator screen itself. In
addition, the GTN750 has remote audio panel control that allows a host of advanced features, such as split comms, music input and selective muting for intercom stations in the airplane. A
soon-to-be-released feature will be voice recognition software for the audio panel to allow you to tell it what you want, rather than punching your command into softkeys. Garmin's new line of audio
panels, the GMA35 and 350, will also feature something called 3D sound, which uses phase shifting to make various audio inputs sound like they're coming from different directions in the cockpit. This,
says Garmin's Jim Alpiser, enhances your ability to sort out traffic on multiple frequencies. (We tried it; it does.)
Although the GTNs don't introduce any revolutionary features, they do offer a much-improved operating system that no one should have much trouble learning. Like a computer, the new boxes basically
operate through a homepage or desktop. Where the GNS series had 18 keys and knobs, if you count the concentrics, the GNSs have just four; everything else is done through context-sensitive,
capacitance-type virtual keys. Other additions include the choice of Jeppesen's ChartView or Garmin's inhouse FliteCharts. The charting function is streamlined and relatively easy to use, with fewer
step-throughs than past systems have had. In addition, Garmin describes the GTNs as "ADS-B friendly," so we suspect these new products will have some legs going into the NexGen ATC upgrade
Because these new products will go primarily into a replacement market, Garmin isn't offering any trade-in deals, so avionics shops are on their own to accept trade-ins. One shop we spoke to told
us this is likely to create a lively used market in GNS430s and 530, which might stimulate sales for many shops.
Garmin says it's ready (or soon will be) to ship the GTN series at a price of $11,495 for the smaller GTN650 and $16,995 for the larger GTN750. Both, by the way, have significantly larger screens,
by dint of having the bezels reduced to the minimum thanks to the touchscreen technology. Screen resolution has been increased five fold over the GNS series. The 650's screen is 53 percent larger
than the GNS430 it replaces while the 750 is 98 percent larger than the GNS530. If you're hoping for a pin-for-pin slide-in trade with the old boxes, sorry, they'll need new trays and installation
kits. But existing antennas can be used.
The Aircraft Electronics Association's annual convention has kicked off with a host of new products, including a NextGen-ready "affordable open-interface multi-function cockpit display." The
Bendix/King KSN 770 being developed by Aspen Avionics and Honeywell is expected to hit the market by year-end. It's a multi-function display with GPS, comm and nav on a 5.7-inch touchscreen with
supporting architecture that, according to Honeywell, "effectively future-proofs" the product. Aspen's contribution to the KSN770 includes Localizer Performance with Vertical Guidance (LPV), WAAS
capabilities, data link weather, traffic, charts, maps, enhanced ground proximity warning (EGPWS) and more.
Aspen hopes the product will introduce general aviation pilots to the level of innovation and functionality generally only available to business jet pilots. At the same time, it will "provide
interoperability with legacy and modern cockpits" alike. It also has a keyboard to compliment the touchscreen interface, which may mean it will also interface well with legacy pilots. We'll find out,
later, exactly what "affordable" means.
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Qantas has introduced a new in-flight safety video hosted by their spokesman John Travolta, which has been criticized by some pilots and flight attendants in online comments as "cringeworthy,"
"corny," "trite," and "tacky." Some commenters, according to the
Telegraph, took offense at Travolta's use of the term "team" instead of "crew." One commenter said the word is demeaning: "It makes us feel like we work at McDonald's." Others said Qantas should
have used a "real pilot" in the video, many suggesting as an alternative Richard de Crespigny, who was credited with saving 466 lives after he and his crew safely landed an A380 after an engine exploded. A Qantas spokeswoman told the Telegraph the company has had only positive feedback. "We're really happy with
the video and we think it's really engaging," she said.
Travolta briefly introduces the three-minute video, which covers basic safety information for passengers and plays before every A380 flight. Dressed in a pilot's uniform, he says, "This is your
captain speaking -- well, maybe not today. But I can guarantee that the guys on the flight deck and the greater team care just as much about aircraft safety as I do. I've been flying over 40 years and
I can tell you, there's no one I'd rather have at the controls than a Qantas pilot." Travolta owns several airplanes, and owns a home in a fly-in community in Florida.
A new play about two young French aviatrixes preparing to compete in a long-distance race from Paris to Moscow opened in New York this week. "Flight," written by Robyn Hunt and Steven Pearson, is set in 1913, and follows the two women as they work to assemble a Bleriot XI monoplane. The play opened in South Carolina last
year. It's the third installment in a trilogy inspired by the works of Anton Chekhov, integrating art, history and science. Also coming soon is Skydreamers, a photo exhibit that opens at the
Autry National Center's George Montgomery Gallery in Los Angeles on April 29. The show features 150 photographs, as well as works on paper, paintings, posters, and memorabilia drawn primarily from the
center's extensive collection of art related to the American West.
Skydreamers will feature a 1947 photograph of the interior of Howard Hughes' "Spruce Goose" aircraft while under construction, a 10-image sequence of a balloon ascension in Paris in the
early 1900s, space photography, views of the Earth from above, and more. The show is scheduled to run through Sept. 4; click
here for more info. "Flight" plays at The Connelly Theatre in New York until April 10; click here for ticket
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U-Fuel, of Eau Claire, Wis., now is marketing "Sport Fuel stations" to small airports. The 24/7 self-service fuel stations, which can hold up to 3,500 gallons of fuel, were designed with input from
the nonprofit Aviation Fuel Club, which is sponsored by U-Fuel. Mike Webb, founder of the company, said this week the stations should be
a good fit for small- to medium-size airports and can store avgas, Jet-A, or Sport Fuel, U-Fuel's new brand of unleaded,
ethanol-free 91-octane aviation-quality auto gas. The pre-fabricated systems are cheaper and easier to install than existing options, Webb said.
U-Fuel's Sport Fuel, introduced last month, is premium unleaded auto gas obtained from distributors before ethanol is
added. The company plans to market the fuel at marinas, race tracks and other places where ethanol-free gas is needed, as well as at airports. Sport Fuel station operators will have to allow site
inspections and periodic testing of the fuel they sell to ensure it remains free of ethanol. U-Fuel provides complete support for all its fueling systems, including initial site planning, permitting,
delivery and installation, training and ongoing monitoring and maintenance.
Federally funded airports that now allow "through-the-fence" access for owners of hangar homes on adjacent private property may continue to do so, the FAA said in an interim policy
published on Friday. The FAA had moved to stop all such access in 2009, citing economic and security concerns. The interim policy, which is effective immediately, requires airports involved in such
agreements to develop a plan that outlines how they will meet federal standards for security, safety, sustainability and nondiscriminatory airport rates. No new agreements will be approved, the FAA
said. The policy will be reviewed again in 2014. Dr. Brent Blue, organizer of ThroughTheFence.org, told AVweb the FAA's interim
policy fails to address the real issues facing owners of hangar homes.
"Imagine if you want to sell your home, you're still in limbo until 2014, when the policy might change," he said. He is hopeful that the FAA reauthorization bill now moving through Congress will
resolve the issue once and for all. "There is language in the bill now that has a very good chance of passing, that permanently states the FAA cannot deny funding to an airport based on whether they
allow through-the-fence operations," he said. Blue said the FAA's release of the interim policy is a tactic to make it appear they have dealt with the issue and discourage lawmakers from supporting
the legislative change. AOPA said the interim rule is a big
step forward from the FAA's original proposal. "To their credit, the FAA initiated a review, and took a collaborative approach that resulted in significant changes which allow residential access to
continue," said John Collins, AOPA's manager of airport policy. EAA said the interim policy is "fair and reasonable" for
existing TTF airports, but objected to the FAA's ban on all future agreements. Those decisions should be made by local airport operators, EAA said.
The Sun 'n Fun International Fly-In & Expo launches next week in Lakeland, Fla., with a robust schedule of forums, news events, and flight demos.
The show, in its 37th year, runs from Tuesday through Sunday, with a celebration of the 100th anniversary of naval aviation, recognition for mission aviation, and the return of the popular Friday
night airshow. Other highlights include flight demos by the U.S. Navy Blue Angels and the F-22 Raptor, programs hosted by NASA Space Shuttle Commander Robert "Hoot" Gibson and former SR-71 pilot Cmdr.
Ed Schneider, a seaplane splash-in, and a hot-air balloon launch. Pilots can choose from 450 educational forums and shop for new products from more than 500 commercial exhibitors. AVweb staffers will
be there, bringing you fresh news, videos, and podcasts every day of the show.
The show will also feature the third annual Lindbergh Foundation forum on Thursday, March
31, with a look at the development of alternative fuels and electric-powered aircraft. An airplane auction is scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday. Vintage warbirds from the Commemorative Air Force
and EAA Warbirds of America will participate in fly-bys all week long. For all the details about the show, and info for pilots who are planning to fly in, go to the official web site. And watch your inbox all next week for AVweb's daily reports.
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Responding to complaints from residents about noise and fumes from the Santa Monica Airport, members of the Los Angeles City Council have asked lobbyists in Washington to pressure the FAA to close
all five flight schools at the field, change a flight path, and ultimately shut down the airport. The airport is one of the oldest in the region, and over the years residential areas have encroached
on the field. "They knew they were moving into a house near an airport, and it cost a little less," Stuart Cook, owner of Skyway Aviation, told the L.A. Business Journal. "It's kind of scary to think they're trying to close the flight schools.
We train a lot of pilots that go on to work at airlines." The airport handles about 285 operations a day, and due to local congestion, private jets often spend a lot of time idling on the runway. The
flight path changes aim to address that.
FAA spokesman Ian Gregor says the agency is evaluating whether to change the departure procedures. "Preliminary results from a six-month test of the proposed heading [change] showed that assigning
it to an average of just eight aircraft a day significantly reduced departure delays at both Santa Monica and LAX," Gregor told the local Argonaut newspaper. He also said the operators of the airport have accepted federal
grants that would prevent them from evicting the flight schools "without just cause." Last July, a pilot who was practicing touch-and-goes died when his Cessna 152 crashed on a local golf course,
adding to neighbors' concerns about airport safety. "It makes no sense to have training in an urban environment," said Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl. "My ultimate hope is that the flight
path can be changed and this airport can eventually be shut down."
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told a rally of about 2,000 general aviation workers at the Cessna factory in Wichita, Kan., on Monday that he will advocate for GA in Washington. "I am proud to
stand with you, to work with you and to fight with you to make sure that general aviation ... continues to flourish," he said. "You will be one of the leaders in helping the global economy pick up.
... I believe the industry's efforts are crucial to President Obama's goal of doubling exports within five years." The crowd also heard from industry leaders, and state and local officials. Cessna
CEO Jack Pelton told The Associated Press that LaHood met privately with GA executives
before the rally and expressed support for the industry. "You couldn't ask for a better outcome," Pelton said. LaHood also said he would lobby President Obama to visit Wichita to learn about the GA
Pelton and other industry executives asked LaHood to help them work more efficiently with the FAA to certify new aircraft and to streamline the regulations that govern the export of GA aircraft,
the AP said. The rally was organized by the General
Aviation Manufacturers Association in partnership with Cessna, Hawker Beechcraft, Bombardier Learjet and general aviation suppliers throughout Kansas. The general aviation industry supports
1.2 million jobs in the U.S. and contributes more than $150 billion to the nation's economy, according to GAMA.
The use of private aviation by public figures is back in the spotlight, this time in Missouri where the state's former auditor and now Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill has admitted to some
bookkeeping lapses of her own. Last week, she cut a check to the Department of the Treasury for $88,000 to reimburse the government for charter fees she'd billed while flying in the Pilatus PC-12 she
owns with her husband, St Louis developer Joe Shepard. McCaskill said the whole thing was an "innocent mistake" but, as can happen when issues like this hit the public arena, there were some further
complications for the senator and the checkbook got another workout.
It turns out that even though the aircraft is registered with
Shepard's Delaware company, Timesaver LLC, Missouri property taxes still apply and on Monday McCaskill paid four years worth of back taxes on the $3 million Pilatus, a total of $290,000. That
revelation has prompted a call by her political opponents to make her personal income tax returns available for
scrutiny, something she's not legally obliged to do but, according to her critics, is morally compelled to do given her election platform and recent statements. McCaskill ran on a "transparency"
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Could your audio panel one day tell you that? Even if your name's not Dave, Garmin's new GTN products with voice recognition in the wings brings that classic line from 2001: A Space Odyssey
to mind. In the latest installment of the AVweb Insider blog (and two accompanying videos), Paul Bertorelli reports on his impressions of these sophisticated new avionics. It might not
necessarily change anything, but it opens the door to changing everything.
From AVweb Insider to Washington insider? Not quite. Paul Bertorelli may not hold the title of Secretary of Transportation, but after hearing Ray LaHood's speech in Wichita, he wanted to
try his hand at making a few promises to the aviation community. And while he may not be headed to the Beltway anytime soon, you can read
his speech and add your own comments here.
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One of our sister aviation publications is looking for an associate editor. If you are a savvy, motivated layout master and wordsmith, they would love to hear from you. (There's a link to
contact them beneath the following job description.)
Job Description: Associate Editor
Associate Editor will provide primary editorial support to Editor of consumer aviation magazine, which may include rewriting press releases for publication, web postings, copy and substantive
editing of articles, departments and columns, preparation of galleys for review, writing articles, sizing and color correction of photos, enterprise reporting, proofreading and packaging of layouts
for offsite production staff.
Ability to work both independently and collaboratively from a home office
Intellectual curiosity and willingness to learn
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This is a telecommute position. To apply, submit a cover letter, resume and three clips to BelvoirJobOpportunity@avweb.com. (Resume and cover letter should be Microsoft Word attachments;
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The aviation community is coming together to help Kyle and Amanda Franklin get back on their feet and eventually back in the air after their mishap at Air Fiesta at the Brownsville/South Padre
Island Airport. If you'd like to contribute, click on the banner at right to visit the ICAS Foundation web site.
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At the 2011 Aircraft Electronics Association show in Reno, Garmin rolled out its long-awaited replacements for the GNS430/530 series. Garmin's Jim Alpiser gave AVweb the
rundown on the new products, called the GTN650 and GTN750.
Garmin's new GTN navigators have some cool features like touchscreen control, voice recognition, and remote transponder and audio panel control. AVweb's Paul Bertorelli flew
with Garmin engineer Grant Wittenborn to wring out the new products.
"This is obviously a one-man operation (plus volunteers)," writes AVweb reader Denis Walsh but sometimes one man can do more for you than a large operation. To wit:
We were met with complete cooperation and helped to get the courtesy car running so my son could drive to the prison to visit a friend. All this despite the absence of the FBO operator. His stand-in
went out of his way to accomodate our no-notice needs. The very small terminal facility was the tidiest and best maintained I have seen [and is] worthy of being compared to the fanciest FBO. They
had all the latest mission-planning equipment and free refreshments. A very pleasant surprise for me.
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
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