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