AVwebFlash Complete Issue: Volume 17, Number 15b

April 14, 2011

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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AVflash! Staffing Wake-Up Call for ATC back to top 

27 Towers Will Get Second Late-Night Controller

Effective immediately, 27 airport control towers that have only controller on the overnight shift will get a second staffer, FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said on Wednesday. The decision was made after yet one more solo controller was caught napping. About 2 a.m. Wednesday morning, the pilot of a Piper Cheyenne carrying an ill patient on a medical flight was approaching to land at Reno-Tahoe International Airport and could not get a response from the tower. Weather was clear and the pilot landed safely, according to the Associated Press. The Reno controller, who was out of communication for about 16 minutes, has been suspended while the FAA investigates. "Air traffic controllers are responsible for making sure aircraft safely reach their destinations. We absolutely cannot and will not tolerate sleeping on the job," Babbitt said. "This type of unprofessional behavior does not meet our high safety standards."

"I am totally outraged by these incidents," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "This is absolutely unacceptable. The American public trusts us to run a safe system. Safety is our number one priority and I am committed to working 24/7 until these problems are corrected." The FAA recently suspended several controllers who were caught sleeping on the job, one at Boeing Field on Monday and two others who failed to hand off a departing aircraft at Lubbock, Texas, on March 29. In response, Babbitt and NATCA President Paul Rinaldi will visit air traffic facilities around the country next week "to reinforce the need for all air traffic personnel to adhere to the highest professional standards." Also, the FAA said it will contract an independent review of its air traffic control training curriculum and qualifications, and NATCA will expand its Professional Standards committees.

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Listening In on Inhofe's Landing back to top 

FOIA Request Yields Inhofe Landing Details (With Audio)

Newly released audio recordings detail first-hand witness accounts of Sen. James Inhofe's (R-Okla.) October 21 landing on a closed, marked and occupied runway in south Texas, and suggest runway workers may have had reason to fear for their lives. Three separate audio segments have been made available through a Freedom of Information Act request, along with a section of an incident report. AVweb has merged the audio segments into one file, available here (MP3). And the Incident Report is here (PDF).

In the recordings, runway crew supervisor Sydney Boyd said that Inhofe touched down, then "sky hopped" his 1978 Cessna 340 plus three passengers over personnel and six vehicles before landing. Boyd commented that the aircraft "damn near hit" one red truck. The Incident Report notes that, while en route, Inhofe told a controller he "was familiar with NOTAMS." (His comments made after the event may suggest otherwise.) It also states that airport employees heard the Senator call-in on the UNICOM, but did not respond or alert him of the runway closure prior to his landing.

Listed in the incident report are recommendations for "systemic corrective action" that include publishing NOTAMS in plain english and making sure UNICOMs are manned while people or equipment are on the runways. The report states that "NOTAMS are sometimes difficult to read and understand" and "pilots may be more apt to check" them if they were easier to understand. As for Inhofe, the FAA's investigation yielded no legal enforcement action. The Senator was required to go to "remedial training" (PDF), which he has since completed. In response to the release of these latest details, Inhofe offered a statement which says in part, "This is an old story, and the FAA and I have long consider the matter closed." Inhofe expressly noted that he has not admitted to a violation and says he was "cleared to approach by the FAA prior to landing on the runway."

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Pilots of Tomorrow back to top 

Virgin Galactic Hiring Space Pilots

Virgin Galactic put out a call for pilot-astronaut applicants this week, as the company ramps up to offer tourism flights into space. Virgin is ready to select three candidates, one to start now and the others to come on board as needed. The pilots will participate in the ongoing test-flight program for WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo in Mojave and later will help launch commercial operations and train new pilots at Spaceport America in New Mexico. Virgin is looking for graduates of test-pilot school with experience flying high-performance jets and large multi-engine aircraft as well as "low lift-to-drag ratio glide experience (e.g. simulated flameout landings) in complex aircraft." Their ideal candidate would have spaceflight experience as well -- a criterion that might not be so hard to meet as NASA winds down its shuttle program, leaving their astronaut corps grounded.

Essential qualifications for the pilot-astronauts include an FAA commercial certificate and a current medical, a degree in a relevant field, and at least 3,000 hours of flight experience. Pilots will also need good communication skills as they will be helping to train passengers to participate in space flight. In its posting, Virgin emphasized that the space program is not just a lark, but an important part of the company's future. "It will remain a very high profile part of the Virgin Group and has the potential to become its global, flagship company," according to the Web site. For more details about Virgin Galactic's job posting or to apply, click here.

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Spacecraft of Yesteryear back to top 

Space Shuttle Retirement Homes Selected

As the 30-year-old space shuttle fleet neared final flights, aviation museums around the country lobbied to get one for their collection, and this week NASA announced final homes for four of the shuttles. The Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia will become the new home for shuttle Discovery, which retired after completing its 39th mission in March. Enterprise, the first orbiter built, which is now on display there, will move to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York. Endeavour, which will fly for the last time later this month, will go to the California Science Center in Los Angeles. Atlantis, which will fly the last planned shuttle mission, in June, will be displayed at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor's Complex in Florida.

"We want to thank all of the locations that expressed an interest in one of these national treasures," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. "This was a very difficult decision, but one that was made with the American public in mind. In the end, these choices provide the greatest number of people with the best opportunity to share in the history and accomplishments of NASA's remarkable space shuttle program. These facilities we've chosen have a noteworthy legacy of preserving space artifacts and providing outstanding access to U.S. and international visitors." NASA also announced that it will allocate hundreds of shuttle artifacts to museums and educational institutions around the country, including simulators and trainers, as well as parts such as pilot seats and engines. NASA is also giving away heat-shield tiles as souvenirs to schools and universities that want to share a piece of space history with their students; click here for information on how to request a tile.

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What You Missed in AVwebBiz This Week back to top 

A380 Hits RJ At JFK (With Audio and Video)

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All the usual agencies are now fully engaged in the investigation of the wing-tip-to-tail collision of an Air France A380 and a Comair CRJ 700 at Kennedy Airport in New York Monday evening. The likely focus of the investigation will be the position of the RJ and who decided it should be there. Judging by the departing A380's brisk pace down the taxiway, the crew evidently didn't anticipate any interference on the way to the runway. The Comair flight had just arrived from Boston and was stationary. What happened next is one of the reasons passengers are supposed to keep their seatbelts on until the ground crew person crosses his or her arms.

The A380 looked to be traveling at least 20 mph when the left wing tip hit the tail of the RJ. The impact spun the smaller jet nearly 90 degrees and rocked the plane from side to side. No major injuries were reported due to the collision. Photos show a torn up wing tip on the A380 but the RJ is likely in for a thorough inspection.

At right are a video of the incident (top) along with a clip that includes the audio exchange that followed (bottom).

Click for photos.

GPS Coalition Addresses House Committee

The Coalition To Save Our GPS has added members and is taking its fight to prevent the potential jamming of GPS signals by a proposed wireless broadband network to Washington. The coalition, which now counts all major aviation groups and GPS manufacturers along with marine and agriculture interests among its members, submitted a statement to the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology on the widely feared impact of LightSquared's plan to erect 40,000 transmission towers to distribute wireless broadband to rural areas. As we reported in February, it's not the service itself that has the GPS group worried, it's the frequency band that's been allocated.

The frequencies allocated by the Federal Communications Commission (1525-1559 Mhz) to LightSquared are adjacent to those (1559-1610 MHz) used by satellites to send timing signals to GPS receivers. LightSquared has been granted the use of the frequencies with the condition that its signals don't stray into the GPS band but the coalition says the sheer power of the broadband transmitters will overwhelm the weak signals that reach the ground from space. "LightSquared's proposal to build 40,000 terrestrial base stations operating at one billion times the power levels of GPS signals as received on Earth represents a tectonic change in the use of the L band," the coalition said in its statement. The FCC has made rural broadband a priority and LightSquared's service is a major component of a plan to ensure virtually universal access to fast Internet throughout the country. The coalition says that while everyone wants fast Internet, it shouldn't come at the expense of GPS, which has become an industry (not mention a strategic military necessity) unto its own in the last 30 years.

Aero Opens April 13

Aero Friedrichshafen, Europe's largest general aviation show and one of the largest in the world, opens April 13 in the picturesque town on the German shore of Lake Constance. Organizers say there are more than 550 exhibitors from 26 countries filling more than 800,000 square feet of exhibit space in 11 halls. The show runs through April 16. The world's major light aircraft OEMs will all be there and the show is always a showcase of the latest in Light Sport type aircraft and gliders. Aero was one of the first shows to embrace electric aircraft and that tradition continues this year.

Erik Lindbergh will be on hand to give out the first Lindbergh Electric Aircraft Prize and there are expected to be a lot of component manufacturers showing electric motors, batteries, panels and fuel cells at the show. Prince Albert of Monaco is involved with the electric aircraft area and Aero will also host descendants of aviation dynasties like the Sikorskys, Piccards, Dorniers and Dassaults to encourage the pioneering spirit of aviation in innovation and technology.

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

Question of the Week: Have You Ever Fallen Asleep on the Job?

Controllers can't be the only folks nodding off while on duty. If one of the following meets your job description and you've caught a few Zs while on the job, choose it. Don't worry — we can't trace your responses, so be honest! (Click here to send us an e-mail about this week's Question.)

Have you ever fallen asleep on the job?
(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 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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Opinion & Commentary back to top 

AVweb Insider Blog: Whale vs. Minnow at JFK

Is the A380 just too freakin' big to operate at airports designed in the 1950s? Following this week's collision between an Air France A380 and a Comair CRJ, you have to wonder — as Paul Bertorelli does in his latest post to the AVweb Insider blog. When you read JFK's 36 pages of instructions for handling an A380, you long for it to end with "just clear the guy to land at Newark."

Read more and join the conversation.

AVweb Insider Blog: A New York State of Reality

The young pilot who landed his Warrior on Rockaway Beach in New York said he got the idea from a television program about flying in Alaska. On the AVweb Insider blog, Paul Bertorelli takes a quick look at why that's wrong on so many levels.

Read more and join the conversation.

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Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Great Lakes Flight Centre (CYQG, Windsor, Ontario, Canada)

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AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Great Lakes Flight Centre at Windsor International Airport (CYQG) in Windsor, Ontario.

AVweb reader Jeff Lehman discovered the stellar service at GLFC on on his back from Sun 'n Fun:

We were just ahead of some unpleasant weather. (The tornado was long behind us!) As we headed north, we needed to find an FBO after hours so that we could clear customs. After several calls and being unsuccessful at several FBOs, we found Chris at Great Lakes Flight Center in Windsor, Ontario. Not only did he confirm reasonable fuel prices and customs availability, but he offered to stay late (over two hours) so we could arrive that night and stay ahead of the weather. Upon arrival, Chris cheerfully welcomed us and, after clearing customs, promptly fuelled us up and made hotel arrangements. After this, he offered to drive us to the hotel and then come back to tie down the airplanes. We insisted that we help secure the airplanes, and he drove us to the hotel before he admitted he still had to head back to do a few things. Chris and Great Lakes deserve recognition for great service and for going above and beyond.

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!

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

Video: Martin Jetpack — Latest Tests

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Development of the Martin Jetpack is continuing in New Zealand, and the latest publicly released video shows it reaching new heights. However, that's a mannequin onboard and not a human pilot.

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The Franklins: How to Help back to top 

ICAS Foundation's Kyle & Amanda Franklin Fund

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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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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.

Aviate. Navigate. Communicate.