AVwebFlash Complete Issue: Volume 17, Number 19a

May 9, 2011

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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AVflash! Unraveling the Mysteries of AF447 back to top 

Finding Air France 447

The other news of last Sunday, May 1, 2011, was the discovery of a debris field that later led to recovery of Air France Flight 447's cockpit and voice data recorders, and we now know more about how they did it. The Airbus A330 that was Flight 447 was lost with all 228 aboard, in 14,000 feet of ocean, hundreds of miles off the coast of Brazil, on June 1, 2009. When that field was temporarily reduced last year to focus on an area of 770 square miles, it still represented an expanse almost 21.5 trillion times the size of one of the flight's recorders. Mike Purcell, of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, was chief of sea search operations for the mission that ultimately found the recorders. AVweb's Glenn Pew spoke with him Thursday; click here to listen to that podcast.

Podcast: Air France 447 — Finding the "Black Box"

File Size 12.9 MB / Running Time 14:05

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Podcast Index | How to Listen | Subscribe Via RSS

The Airbus A330 that was Air France Flight 447 was lost with all 228 aboard on June 1, 2009 in 14,000 feet of ocean hundreds of miles off the coast of Brazil. In the end, searchers went looking in a 5,000 nautical mile mountainous area 14,000 feet below the surface of the ocean and found an object that's about one square foot big. AVweb's Glenn Pew talks with Mike Purcell of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Purcell was chief of sea search operations for the mission that this May found and led to the retrieval of the aircraft's critical voice and flight data recorders.

This podcast is brought to you by Bose Corporation.

Click here to listen. (12.9 MB, 14:05)

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Instructors Gather in Atlanta for SAFE Symposium back to top 

Babbitt: Budget Cuts Are At Tipping Point

FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said Thursday that FAA budget cuts may endanger both the agency's ability to oversee "the world's safest aviation system" and may in fact stunt the very economic growth austere budgets are designed to create. Speaking at the Society of Aviation and Flight Educators symposium in Atlanta, Babbitt said safety oversight isn't the only concern. "I'm not going to put safety in a backseat to anything, but then what we do with the other programs? I have said it publicly and I have said it privately, if you reduce these funding levels far enough, we're on the edge of degrading our ability to maintain the world's safest aviation system. We're on the edge of choking the certification of new products. We have a finite number of people and if we furlough several thousand of them, we're not going to be able to bring new products to market," Babbitt said. He added that the agency oversees certification of more than 2200 projects a year and cutting staff will reduce its capacity to do that, creating a cascading economic effect that will cost the industry and the economy jobs. He said the FAA has submitted a "very reasonable" budget, but that the House of Representatives may be looking for more significant cuts.

He made the comments in response to a question about whether the agency will have the resources to support some of the safety and training initiative ideas the SAFE symposium generated during a two-day event that began on Wednesday. "These initiatives show how you on the flight line, the flight educators, are making a big difference. You do more than talk about professionalism. You do it by example. People watch what you do and they take it very seriously. When you lead by example, that's what gives life and meaning to a safety culture."

Babbitt told the group he was happy to have help in developing the agency's emerging five-year plan to reduce the fatal accident rate. It will focus on risk management, training and education and outreach by both the agency and industry organizations such as SAFE, NAFI and others.  AVweb will provide additional coverage on specific recommendations the symposium generated.

Pilot Training Reform: What's It Gonna Take?

The all-purpose, idealistic answer is to start over, according to the Society of Aviation and Flight Educators, which met this week in Atlanta in the first-of-its-kind symposium to improve the quality and delivery of flight education. The practical answer, however, is a lot more complicated than that, according to the recommendations made by individual committees within the SAFE group. Altogether, about 150 flight instructors, examiners and industry educators and vendors attended the symposium and after a day of rapid-fire presentations, the symposium divided into break-out groups to make specific recommendations. More than 20 specific changes were recommended, ranging from improvements in training doctrine, higher standards for instructor refresher courses, better guidance for flight reviews, scenario-based risk management training and a closer look at how simulators of various types might be put to better use in training new pilots and keeping existing certificate holders sharper and safer.

Significantly, the FAA was present at the symposium in force, including FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt, who encouraged SAFE to participate in shaping the agency's new five-year safety and accident-prevention initiative. (See this related story.) Also present was Mel Cintron, head of the agency's general aviation and commercial division, whose job it will be to fill in the details and help make SAFE's recommendations work in the real world. (Hear the details in this podcast.) But both Babbitt and Cintron were clear about not wanting to add regulations to achieve the lower fatal accident rate that is one of the group's major goals. Both insisted the accident rate can be reduced through a cooperative effort between industry and government. In this podcast, SAFE's Bob Wright told AVweb what the next step is and how SAFE can achieve some of its goals.

Other recommendations generated by SAFE include:

  • Improving the student retention by delivering a better "inside-the-door" experiences at flight schools
  • Training flight instructors to be more customer-service oriented
  • Providing flight instructors with more uniform tools to improve standardization
  • Customize recurrent training by type of certificate  and develop more practical and useful mentoring programs
  • Review and improve the CFI re-validation process
  • Set up a standing industry standards committee to improve the practical test standards
  • Establish continuing education programs for flight instructors

AVweb's Paul Bertorelli spoke with various figures in aviation safety at the gathering. We have three of those short conversations for you as podcasts:

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Meanwhile, Security Is an Issue for the Airlines, Too back to top 

Delta Flight Diverted, Pax Evacuated

A Delta Air Lines flight from Detroit to San Diego was diverted to Albuquerque Sunday morning due to a "possible security threat." Photos from the scene showed the aircraft parked in a remote area of the airport with passengers standing outside the aircraft and buses arriving to take them elsewhere. FlightAware listed the flight as "diverted" and estimated its landing time in Albuquerque as 9:54 a.m. local time. The plane was searched, the 107 passengers and crew were questioned and the plane was cleared for flight about three hours later. It did not take off immediately, however. Authorities declined to discuss the nature of the alleged threat. The aircraft is a Boeing 737-800. Although there has been no suggestion so far that there is a connection, it was a Delta Air Lines regional carrier that was involved in an incident earlier this week in which two Muslim imams were removed from a flight by the captain.

The clergymen, dressed in traditional garb, were on their way from Memphis to a conference in Charlotte, N.C., dealing with prejudice against Islam. The imams, Masudur Rahman and Mohamed Zaghloul, cleared the normal TSA screening but as the Southeast Atlantic Airlines plane was taxiing, the captain turned back to the gate and requested a second screening for them. After the two men were cleared a second time, the captain refused to allow them on the plane and the flight took off without them. They were put on a later flight and the airlines are investigating. "Atlantic Southeast Airlines Flight 5452 from Memphis to Charlotte returned to the gate to allow for additional screening of a passenger and the passenger's companion," Atlantic Southeast said in a statement. "We take security and safety very seriously, and the event is currently under investigation."

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The Taxman Cometh ... for Airplane Owners back to top 

St. Louis Tax Collector Targets Aircraft

St. Louis County, Mo.'s tax department is targeting aircraft owners in an enforcement campaign aimed at collecting what may be millions of dollars in back property taxes. "We intend to recoup revenue that was owed to this county and has not been paid," Jake Zimmerman, the county's newly-elected tax assessor, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Zimmerman became the county's first elected tax assessor in more than 50 years last month (bureaucrats handled the job in that time) and he's spending a lot of time determining which aircraft owners owe what. It's estimated there are about 700 aircraft based at the county's two main GA airports, Spirit of St. Louis and Creve Coeur. In the spirit of tax assessors everywhere, Zimmerman says it's up to the aircraft owners to prove they've paid the appropriate taxes and if they don't agree with the assessment he comes up it will be up to them to appeal. One of the issues is that since Missouri doesn't register aircraft, taxes on them are "self-reported" by the owners. Zimmerman is now using a variety of methods, including FlightAware data, to determine who owes what. As we reported in March, Sen. Claire McCaskill faced a $290,000 bill for back taxes on the Pilatus PC-12 she and her husband own and the Post-Dispatch reported that she suggested at the time that there were plenty of others who had missed paying the tax.

Under county law, tax is assessed based on the market value of the aircraft for those weighing less than 3,000 pounds, but corporate owners of larger aircraft can get a break if they declare the planes as commercial assets. In that case, the value of the aircraft is based proportionately on the number of miles the plane has been flown within Missouri during the tax year. It doesn't matter where the airplane is registered or whether its owner is a county resident. If the aircraft appears to be based at one of the GA airports and spends time in Missouri, the owner can expect a call from Zimmerman, particularly if he thinks they've neglected to pay the taxes. "If, as I suspect, there is substantial noncompliance within St. Louis County, then folks that haven't paid are potentially on the hook for the full assessed valuation of the airplane at county standards," Zimmerman told the Post-Dispatch. "If people have failed to take advantage of the more generous options available from the state because they chose to hide an asset from St. Louis County, then that is going to be their problem."

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As One Door Closes, Another One Opens back to top 

Air Force Grounds F-22

Stars And Stripes reported Friday that all 137 F-22 Raptors have been grounded over concerns about the aircraft's oxygen system that may stem in part from a November fatal crash in Alaska. Following the November crash, the stealthy fighter jet has been restricted to altitudes of 25,000 and below. Officials say the restriction is due to recent reports of oxygen system malfunctions and concerns that pilots could be deprived of oxygen during flight at altitude, causing them to black out. At this time it is not clear how long the jets will be offline because currently there is no solution to the problem. The move has been called "temporary." Air Force officials are using the time to investigate potential sources of oxygen system malfunctions on the fighters. Critics of the jet are using the time for other purposes.

The order to ground the jets came from General William Fraser, commander of Air Combat Command at Langley Air Force Base, Va. Critics note that the F-22 program has cost nearly $80 billion and the jet has never seen combat. The Raptor has not been listed among aircraft participating in the Libyan campaign and has not been used in any conflict since it earned combat-ready status in December 2005. The jet program lost funding in 2009 when Congress voted to halt orders at 187 aircraft, not all of which have yet been delivered. The F-22 is an air superiority fighter designed to dominate when pitted against other fighter aircraft. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said that the aircraft "does not make much sense anyplace else in the spectrum of conflict," but that it is a "silver-bullet solution" for very specific potential scenarios.

Your Circumlunar Opportunity

Space Adventures pioneered the program that has to date launched eight private individuals into orbital space flight and now they're looking to expand their offerings to include trips around the moon by 2015. The company says it has already sold one of two seats available for the flight. It would use a Soyuz-TMA spacecraft with modifications that include the addition of a second habitation module. That module would rendezvous with the spacecraft in low-Earth orbit. Space Adventures has forecast the number of passengers it might help carry into orbital space by 2020 and that number might be larger than you think.

The company estimates that most of 140 private individuals will have ample motive and money to take a trip into orbital space by the end of the decade. The remainder will win their spot either literally (by lottery) or by serving as non-profit researchers or journalists. Space Adventures hopes to offer a host of space-travel options but stipulates that for most to become reality the next ten years will need to see breakthrough discoveries and innovative propulsion solutions. Destinations, says the company, "would include the International Space Station, commercial space stations and orbital free-flys."

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Putting a 747 Through Her Paces back to top 

Boeing's Takeoff Torture Test

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What happens when you slam on the brakes on a fully loaded Boeing 747-8 at 200 mph with the brake pads worn to bare metal? Not much, it turns out, and that's a good thing. Boeing has released an interesting video of an example of the kind of torture their test planes go through. In this case, the occasion was a worst-case-scenario, maximum-performance rejected takeoff.

With the tanks topped off and the jumbo jet at its all-up weight of 975,000 pounds, the idea was to accelerate to rotation speed and then hit the binders. Just for fun, the test also simulated grotesquely poor maintenance by shaving all the brake material from the pads for a metal-on-metal screeching stop. The aircraft actually beat the predicted stopping distance and, with wheels glowing red and smoke pouring off the gear, the crew and engineers waited an agonizing five minutes to simulate a worst-case response by airport firefighters, who were finally able to quench the blazing hot equipment. Other than parts intentionally sacrificed, the test aircraft was none the worse for wear and returned to the program shortly after.

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Skywritings back to top 

Forty-Seven Years in Aviation -- A Memoir: Introduction

This month, AVweb begins serializing a new memoir by Richard Taylor, who learned to fly in the U.S. Air Force just after the Korean War and continued to fly for 47 years.

Click here for his introduction.

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Opinion & Commentary back to top 

AVweb Insider Blog: SAFE's Symposium — A Good Start

But also a significant challenge. Whether you believe GA's mediocre accident rate impacts student starts or not, the fact remains: It's worth the effort to try to reduce fatal accidents. It can probably be done, but in the latest installment of our AVweb Insider blog, Paul Bertorelli argues that it will take recommendations with teeth and/or some financial incentives.

Read more and join the conversation.

AVweb Insider Blog: Pelton's Long-Term View Cut Short

When Jack Pelton "retired" on May 2, the aviation industry lost a powerful advocate and visionary. In his post to the AVweb Insider blog, AVweb editor-in-chief Russ Niles explains why Pelton may not stay gone long — and speculates on the difference of vision that may have led to his sudden departure.

Read more and join the conversation.

AVweb Insider Blog: Flying for Fun

Could ultralights be the gateway drug for the next generation of pilots? AVweb editor Mary Grady thinks so, and she explains how a pilot video on YouTube reinforced that notion in her latest post to the AVweb Insider blog.

Read more and join the conversation.

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

AVmail: May 9, 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: Cost Killing GA, Not Instruction

I listened to your discussion; however, you and AOPA are totally ignoring one of the biggest impediments to GA, namely the cost. The cost of GA has increased unbelievably in the last several years, and with the pressure on people from the other economic problems, something has to give. The answer touted for years was going to be the LSA class of aircraft, but they have turned out to be a joke. The cost/benefit for that class is a joke.

Fuel costs are unbelievable and climbing faster than a speeding bullet. I know people who would love to become pilots, but the answer is the same: They can't afford it. I will agree that there are some flight schools and some flight instructors that are not good GA ambassadors, but when you find that, you simply go somewhere else. Cost is the real problem, and I think you already know it.

Jim Wright

China and GA

Regarding the "Question of the Week": For the West, there will be some short-term good results, but as China continues to develop, under its own imperatives, its aviation sector will bend to its own concerns. They have their own ways, not necessarily hostile to ours but rather shrugging at our concerns as not relevant.

We Americans tend to see events as "good for us" or "bad for us" rather than how the local folks see it. We have to grow up and realize that others have interests other than ours.

Howard N. Bunte

Rapid opening of China to GA will be a mixed blessing, with winners and losers in the U.S. It's possible, for example, that Chinese industry could produce light aircraft such as LSAs at a world-beating price, which would be good for U.S. buyers. On the other hand, China clearly wants to dominate markets, and their massive, low-cost production capacity could put U.S. GA manufacturers at a severe disadvantage. Just as Chinese goods dominate the shelves at Wal-Mart, Chinese aircraft, parts, and avionics could one day be essentially all there is.

Hunter Heath

Opening GA in China is great news. Even if no profit whatsoever came back to the West, we would still benefit from the added volumes turned over by companies such as Cessna, Lycoming, and others, driving improvements like we see in the automotive industry and driving costs down. This is huge.

Brian Handy

China is a market that cannot be ignored, but they are after the technologies and means of production, not cooperation with the U.S. Over the long run, those that choose to cooperate and participate will end up being consumed by their Chinese partners. This does not bode well for the U.S. industrial base.

Dave Yoder

Bizjet Spiral

As an industry we need to face the fact the business jet market, like real estate, was living off various forms of leverage versus a solid business foundation.

Having grown up around private aircraft, including being a decades-long user of charter aircraft, it seemed to me there were far too many folks owning aircraft who seemed barely qualified both financially or operationally. Our own industry fueled the fire, acting as if aircraft appreciation was never going to end and everybody could have an airplane through whatever program was available, no matter the exit strategy (or lack thereof) because of appreciation!

At the end of the day, economics, like water, will seek its own level, which is what's happened here.

General Aviation is an exclusive tool, which it has been since the Spartan Executive (look it up) was the corporate plane of choice, and it's going back that way again.

The lack of clientele and excess inventory are the collateral damage of this reality.

Greg Andrews

Damned If You Do ...

How the ignoramuses in the government and media can get upset about a controller and a pilot trying to determine the condition of a fellow aviator, possibly in distress, is incomprehensible. The controller and the Southwest flight were acting in the finest time-honored tradition of trying to assist a flight that might have been in trouble. The firing or suspension of anyone involved in this is simply outrageous.

Capt. H. Michael Newman

In all the fuss over the Southwest crew and the Cirrus, I keep thinking how such a move would have affected the ill-fated flight of golfer Payne Stewart where the private jet flew more than 1,000 miles on autopilot with an incapacitated crew before going in. Yes, safety margins were compromised, but it was done under full control in response to a controller's request in concern for the crew of the unresponsive Cirrus.

Peter Kushkowski

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

Survey: 'IFR' Magazine Wants to Hear Your Thoughts on Lockheed Martin FSS

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Click here to take the survey.

The results will appear in a future issue of Aviation Consumer. For subscription information, click here.

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Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Corporate Aircraft (KFAT, Fresno, California)

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

It's been a busy week, but apparently a good one for AVweb readers who've spent some time in the air. We've received a hefty number of "FBO of the Week" recommendations in the last seven days and will be saving a couple of our favorite stories for future installments.

In the meantime, today's blue ribbon goes to Corporate Aircraft at Fresno Yosemite International Airport (KFAT) in Fresno, California, where Ray Stratton was treated like a VIP (a Volunteer and Important Pilot):

FAT is a common hand-off airport for Angel Flight missions from NorCal to SoCal. I had the SoCal mission as flight 2 of 2. I called Corporate Aircraft and asked if they would waive the ramp fee for both Angel Flight aircraft, both Ce182s. I told them I would not be getting fuel. They waived the fees, loaned me a crew car to get lunch, and cleaned my windshield of the swarm of bugs I found at 3,000 feet on approach. Imagine the service if I'd bought fuel!

Corporate Aircraft is my stop from now on when going to NorCal. They support the good deeds of the pilot community.

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

We were holding short at Newark Liberty airport when the previous 737 called the tower shortly after it lifted off from Newark's notoriously bumpy runway.

Continental Airliner:
"Tower, this is Continental XXXX. Do you have time for a runway report?"

Newark Tower:
"Yeah. Go ahead."

"Tell the Port Authority on this take-off, about 2,500 feet down the runway, we encountered a smooth spot."

Newark Tower:
[dead silence]

M. D. Larson
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.

Aviate. Navigate. Communicate.