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January 25, 2004

NewsWire Complete Issue

By The AVweb Editorial Staff

This issue of AVweb's AVflash is brought to you by ...

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Freedom's Slow Return To DC...

Pilots Get An ADIZ Break

Pilots in the beleaguered Washington, D.C., area last week won a bit of a victory from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the FAA, thanks to efforts by GA advocacy groups, when easier ingress and egress procedures were decreed for several small airports near the Washington Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) edges. The new procedures allow aircraft operating into and out of Bay Bridge Airport (W29) and Kentmorr Airport (3W3) to enter the ADIZ and fly directly to or from the airport through a special corridor without filing a flight plan or contacting air traffic control. Instead of obtaining a discrete transponder code from ATC, specific codes have been assigned for flights into or out of each airport. At other airports in the area -- including Airlie, Albrecht, Harris, Martin, Martin State, Meadows, Mylander, Stewart, St. John, Tilghman Whipp, Upperville, and Wolf -- pilots will benefit from different and simpler procedures than before. At these facilities, operators must squawk 1205 and monitor the appropriate ATC frequency while exiting the ADIZ by the most direct route. To enter the ADIZ and land at these facilities, pilots must still follow the existing ADIZ procedures.

...After An Aborted Trial Last Year

The procedures had been the subject of a 60-day operational test last year, but the test was suspended -- at around 45 days -- when the "orange" terrorist alert kicked in last December. The procedures now will be permanent, or as permanent as anything associated with the Washington ADIZ. The changes are subject to review and could be rescinded if there are too many violations, AOPA said. As for the permanence of the ADIZ itself, that remains an open question. "AOPA believes the ADIZ has outlived its usefulness and hopes it will be rescinded," AOPA prez Phil Boyer said in a news release Friday. "But until that happens, the new procedures should make operations at the edges of the ADIZ a little less complicated." While Washington-area pilots welcomed the new procedures, only a small number will benefit from them. For example, except for Bay Bridge, Kentmorr and Martin State, the airports selected for these "relaxed" procedures are private-use facilities. And, except for Bay Bridge, Martin State and Upperville, all have turf runways. Only Martin State, east of Baltimore, is a towered facility. Still, operators in the Washington area -- and, AVweb is certain, air traffic controllers as well as flight service specialists -- looked upon the new procedures as a dim light of clarity at the end of a long tunnel of confusion. Of course, all of this applies until the next time the DHS declares an orange, or "high," terrorist alert.

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GPS Is "New" No More...

FAA Updates Guidelines

The FAA, in an Advisory Circular published several weeks ago, has eliminated the "New Technology" label from GPS navigation systems, which means repair stations now can install the systems using simpler procedures. The Aircraft Electronics Association (AEA) said in a news release it is "extremely pleased" with the change, which it has wanted for years. "AEA commends the [FAA] for modernizing their installation criteria for one of the most common system installations of light general aviation aircraft," the association said. Under the previous Advisory Circular, installation of GPS equipment required the use of approved data (under an STC or major alteration) because GPS was a "new and unique" technology.

...Simplifying Installation

However, the FAA recognizes that GPS technology is now common and considerable experience has been obtained in the installation of GPS. The AEA cautioned that the revision does NOT mean that all GPS/WAAS installations can be treated as "minor alterations," but rather allows GPS/WAAS equipment to be installed using the same criteria that a repair station would use for installing traditional navigation equipment. For example, under the new guidelines, installation of GNSS (GPS/WAAS) navigation equipment that only interfaces with an antenna, power, ground, an external HSI/CDI with a single source selector switch, and a left/right (deviation-based) autopilot would typically be considered a minor alteration.

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FAA Reviewing Chicago TRACON

An FAA team is working in the Chicago TRACON (terminal radar approach control) facility in Elgin, Ill., this week to investigate a sharp increase in errors and a record increase in delays. Twenty-four errors involving violations of minimum spacing between airplanes occurred last year at the facility, up from four errors in 2002, according to the Chicago Tribune. The National Air Traffic Controllers Association says the TRACON is understaffed. "It took the FAA over a year to realize the magnitude of the problem," NATCA President John Carr said in a news release Thursday. The union says the TRACON has only 75 full-performance-level controllers and 24 trainees, not enough to manage Chicago's increasingly congested airways. Most of those trainees will most likely not survive the facility's rigorous training process, says NATCA, and half of the full-performance-level controllers will be eligible to retire within the next two years. "Over half of our [nationwide] workforce of 15,000 will be eligible to retire by 2011," Carr said. "The FAA cannot close its eyes and act like this problem is going to go away. The FAA seems to think you can wave a magic wand and turn someone into an air traffic controller overnight. But we're not magicians, we're highly trained professionals. And we're not landing magic carpets, we're landing airplanes full of people." The FAA last Wednesday said American and United would cut arrivals at O'Hare by 5 percent between the hours of 1 p.m. and 8 p.m., but the reduction is not enough to make a difference, NATCA said.

Thunderbirds Crash Report And Video

Pilot error caused a U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds F-16 to crash at an air show on Sept. 14 at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, the Air Force said on Wednesday. (See below for in-cockpit video of the crash.) The pilot incorrectly climbed to 1,670 feet AGL instead of 2,500 feet before initiating the pull-down to the Split-S maneuver, according to the Air Force news release. The pilot, Chris Stricklin, 31, apparently flew by mistake to the MSL altitude used when practicing the maneuver at his home base, Nellis AFB in Nevada, which is 1,000 feet lower than the Idaho field elevation. The pilot ejected just eight-tenths of a second before impact, after reportedly making an effort to steer the aircraft away from the crowd of about 85,000 ... and now works at the Pentagon, in Washington, D.C. Stricklin suffered minor injuries. The F-16, valued at $20.4 million, was destroyed.

When Stricklin realized something was wrong, he exerted maximum back stick pressure and rolled slightly left to ensure the aircraft would impact away from the crowd should he have to eject, the Air Force said. He ejected when the aircraft was 140 feet above the ground. There was no other damage to military or civilian property. Also, the board determined other factors substantially contributed to creating the opportunity for the error to occur, including the requirement for demonstration pilots to convert AGL elevations to MSL altitudes, and performing a maneuver with a limited margin of error. Instead of just zeroing the altimeter to deck level as a result of the crash, procedures have been changed to require that Thunderbird pilots climb an extra 1,000 feet before starting the Split-S maneuver. Pilots must also call out their altitude to the ground safety operator in MSL rather than AGL numbers.

Click through for in-cockpit video of the crash. (Note: The 4.1Mb .mpg file is not recommended for slow connections). Originally obtained via email, AVweb is seeking more information about the genesis of this video, please contact AVweb with details.

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FAA Yanks Pilot's Certificate After Erratic Flight

The TSA may pull your certificate without reason and at a moment's notice; it took the FAA a bit longer. According to FAA documents, Pennsylvania pilot John V. Salamone on Jan. 15 allegedly made a reckless four-hour flight in his Piper Cherokee while drunk. Last week the FAA took their own action and revoked Salamone's certificate. John V. Salamone endangered the lives of others, entered controlled airspace without contacting ATC, and forced air traffic controllers to divert numerous aircraft, including a half-dozen airliners, to avoid the Cherokee, the FAA said. Salamone can appeal the action, but cannot keep his certificate during the appeal. Salamone, 44, is president of a concrete company. The FAA said he had no prior incidents or enforcement actions, according to CNN. Police told the Philadelphia Daily News that Salamone blew .13 on a breathalyzer (the legal limit is .04) after he finally landed at Limerick Airport (PTW) about 10:30 p.m. on the 15th. The flight had originated there about 6:20 p.m. While in the air, Salamone allegedly barged through controlled airspace near Philadelphia International Airport as low as 100 feet AGL. Authorities also said he raised security concerns when he "circled" the nuclear power plant ... which sits practically at the foot of the runway at PTW.

Comair And See What A Bulb Cost

The light bulb only cost 77 cents, but without it, a "No Smoking, Fasten Seat Belt" sign on a Comair flight was dark, and it stayed out for four flights. What ensued, according to a report in Friday's USA Today, was a four-year investigation, an inch-thick report, and a proposed $44,000 fine. (It's possible the proposed fine would not recover the dollars spent through four years of investigation.) "It's not simply the fact the light was out, but the follow-up actions required were not taken," FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen told reporters. Nonetheless, the case was settled after Comair replaced the bulb and agreed to pay the fine ... after it was reduced to $3,000. But we're all safer, now. A Comair spokesman said the FAA was just doing its job and the company has no complaints with how the government handled the case. It's possible some taxpayers who read USA Today's report may feel differently.

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Sport Pilot Buzz And Sun 'n Fun

While much of the U.S. is griping and groaning its way through a record-setting cold blustery winter, signs of spring are on the horizon. The folks at EAA say they are working away "like elves helping Santa" in anticipation of the sometime-this-year enactment of the FAA's new Sport Pilot/Light Sport Aircraft rules. On Thursday, the elves said they have posted a list of frequently asked questions about certification and registration of various new light-sport aircraft. Meanwhile, Sun 'n Fun, EAA's annual fly-in that kicks off the summer season in Lakeland, Fla., is set for April 13 to 19, and it's not too soon to start your flight planning -- the NOTAMs are already online.

NASA's Work Toward In-Cockpit Weather (Sort Of)

Among the many tasks that GA aircraft reliably take on, one that occurs quietly behind the scenes is their work as scientific research platforms. This winter, a high-flying ER-2 aircraft, which is a civilian variant of Lockheed's U-2, and a Cessna Citation II have been working out of Bangor, Maine, to help NASA scientists learn about the severe Atlantic coast winter storms called Nor'easters. The researchers hope to learn how to better predict the storms' behavior, to help improve aviation weather forecasts and ultimately save lives. The Citation is also carrying an experimental instrument that measures temperature, icing and wind speed, which could help to increase the weather information available to GA pilots in the cockpit. Nor'easters are created when cold air from Canada collides with warm air over the Atlantic, and they cause severe flooding and beach erosion, dump snow and ice, create hazards for ships and aircraft, and affect the weather in Europe.

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911 Call Fails, Suggests Broader Failings

In Florida, two 911 calls from the witness of a plane crash near the Venice airport somehow failed to initiate a search, and the wreck was not found by rescue/recovery crews till 19 hours later. Cindy Toepfer first called 911 immediately after the crash and "was first referred to an 800 number for the Domestic Air Interdiction Coordination Center in Riverside, Calif.," according to the Herald Tribune. When her call to California for the crash she witnessed in Florida failed, Toepfer called 911 again, motivating the dispatcher to call Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport; no inquiries were made in the Venice area. FAA spokesman Chris White told the Tribune, "Local jurisdictions make up their own requirements" on notifying the FAA. Two pilots died in the Cessna 150.

On The Fly...

A Bonanza crashed Thursday evening into a Farmington, N.M., police station, about 400 yards from the runway at Four Corners Regional Airport. The pilot suffered serious injuries, but nobody in the building was hurt. Ten inmates were transferred to another facility. The pilot, a student in Mesa Airlines' training program, had been cleared to land. The Bonanza was recovered from the roof of the building, and appeared "remarkably intact," according to a local news report...

In Bangkok, Thailand, on Saturday, 672 skydivers from 42 countries jumped from six C-130s at 7,000 feet, setting a world record for a mass jump...

Jamail Larkins launched Saturday from Lakeland, Fla., to start a nationwide "barnstorming" tour to inspire Young Eagles...

An archive of WWII aerial photos that went online last week had to shut down due to overwhelming demand. The site's authors are redesigning it, and it may be up and running this week...

The FAA will hold a public meeting March 3-4 at Washington Dulles Airport to discuss the pending Notices of Proposed Rulemaking regarding wing spars in Cessna 400 series aircraft...

Adventurer Gus McLeod is in Florida en route to South America on his second attempt to cross both poles in his Firefly...

The Senate on Thursday passed an omnibus spending bill, including FAA funding, and on Friday President Bush signed it.

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New Articles and Features on AVweb

The Pilot's Lounge #70: Do Humans Create Those Written Tests?
Every pilot has taken them -- and most have noticed strange or at least confusing questions on those FAA Knowledge Tests. Sometimes it seems like nobody official has even looked at those questions in decades to decide if the questions are relevant. AVweb's Rick Durden met the folks who actually are updating those old tests.

Reader feedback on AVweb's news coverage and feature articles


Reader mail this week about FSS privatization, the state of GA, some potential problems with Sport Pilot and more.

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Short Final...

Tower: Skyhawk xxx follow Baron on four mile final for 17L.

Skyhawk: Baron in sight.

a little later...

Tower: Skyhawk you're 10 knots faster than the Baron. Slow down.

Skyhawk: Yeeha!!! (Followed by hysterical laughter.)

Tower: Right ... not something you hear every day.

Sponsor News and Special Offers

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We Welcome Your Feedback!

AVflash is a twice-weekly summary of the latest aviation news, articles, products, features and events featured on AVweb, the Internet's Aviation Magazine and News Service. http://www.avweb.com

Letters to the editor intended for publication in AVmail should be sent to mailto:editor@avweb.com.com. Have a comment or question? Send it to mailto:newsteam@avweb.com.

Today's issue written by News Writer Mary Grady:
AVweb's editorial team: http://avweb.com/contact/authors.html.

Have a product or service to advertise on AVweb? A question on marketing? Send it to AVweb's sales team: mailto:sales@avweb.com.

Let's all be careful out there, okay?

AVflash is now available in optional easier-to-read graphic format, which includes some photos and illustrations. If you prefer, you can continue to receive AVflash in text-only format. Simply follow these instructions and AVflash will continue to arrive as it always has, in text format.

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