AVwebFlash - Volume 17, Number 20a

May 16, 2011

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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AVflash! The G4-GPS Bandwidth Battle back to top 

FAA Warns Of LightSquared Tests In Nevada

The FAA is warning that GPS service in a 330 nautical mile circle of Nevada could be "unreliable or unavailable" for six-hour stretches from May 16-27 as broadband wholesaler LightSquared tests whether a signal from one of its proposed 40,000 towers upsets satellite navigation. The test transmitter is 1.6 nm from the Boulder City VOR on the 188.9 degree radial and the warning on the 115-nm radius applies all the away up to FL300. Pilots planning a trip through there are urged to be extra vigilant about NOTAMs as there doesn't appear to be an advance schedule for the tests. "The NOTAMs discussed in this advisory may change with little or no notice," the FAA warns. " Pilots are advised to check NOTAMs frequently for possible changes prior to operations in the area. NOTAMs will be published at least 24 hours in advance of any GPS tests. As we have reported extensively, LightSquared is proposing to build a network of broadband Internet towers across the U.S. that will use a band of radio frequencies right next to those used by GPS satellites and receivers. The FAA notice appears to be using an abundance of caution.

Tests conducted by the GPS industry suggested receivers might be affected at five miles or so, which was enough to raise alarms. LightSquared has said the tests are all about figuring out whether GPS will be affected, and its ability to build its network is conditional on the technical success of those tests. The big worry from the GPS industry is that while LightSquared might be able to tune its transmitters precisely enough to stay out of the GPS frequencies, the sheer power of the broadband signals and their proximity may still affect GPS, which, of course, comes from more than 10,000 miles away in space. If that happens over Nevada, the FAA wants to know about it. "Pilots are strongly encouraged to report anomalies during testing to the appropriate ARTCC to assist in the determination of the extent of GPS degradation during tests," the advisory states.

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LightSquared, a company that wants to set up 40,000 broadband towers across the U.S. using a frequency band next door to that used by GPS, is in the advanced stage of testing how it might affect GPS service. AVweb's Russ Niles spoke with LightSquared's VP of Regulatory Affairs, Jeff Carlisle.

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The FAA's New Training Paradigm back to top 

Proposed Changes To Pro-Pilot Training

FAA head Randy Babbitt has called the proposed rule changes rolled out by the FAA on Wednesday "the most significant changes to air carrier training in 20 years." The package of rules, which generally aim to address and correct poor performance in practice, reformat the schedule of training and training techniques, and focus on team-oriented (and even specific route) training, are unlikely to take effect for years. First, the FAA will collect, review and address concerns and consideration from the industry players themselves through comments accepted through July 19, 2011. Expect more pilot-oriented regulatory proposals from the FAA over the next few months.

Next on the agenda, the FAA will take aim on pilot fatigue and qualifications for new hires serving as first officers. We expect to see those before fall. Attention has come to the area of training, fatigue and experience through families of victims lost near Buffalo on Colgan Air Flight 3407, a commuter that crashed two years ago, killing all aboard. The NTSB has found that the captain made improper control inputs in response to the stick shaker and stick pusher after the aircraft's speed was allowed to degrade near stall. The captain's training records show he had failed at least five tests during his career but was never singled out for remedial training by his employer. NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman noted that neither pilot had "recuperative quality sleep" on the night prior to the crash.

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Diamond's High-Stakes Waiting Game back to top 

Diamond Funding Decision Imminent?

The president of Diamond Aircraft, Peter Maurer, says his company's future may depend on a $35 million loan from the government of Canada, that the decision will be made when the Prime Minister announces a new cabinet, and that should be soon. The loan would ensure jobs and allow Diamond to begin production of its single-engine five-seat D-Jet. Maurer is hoping that the election of a majority Conservative government will bring stability to the local political climate and allow progress to be made within the next few days or weeks. Maurer has warned that without the funding hundreds of laid-off workers may not be recalled.

If the funds come from the government, Maurer says his company can secure matching funds from the private sector. If funds don't come, Maurer says things could get worse for the company, quickly. Diamond has laid off 233 workers while waiting for a decision on the loan but hired back 11 senior engineers, saying it needed to guarantee they wouldn't be hired by competitors. Maurer has said that if the loan doesn't come, he believes laid-off workers will move on and that could make recovery from Diamond's under-funded position that much more difficult.

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NATCA Taps Real Controllers to Reassure Public back to top 

Controller Error And NATCA's Public Relations Video

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On May 11, the National Air Traffic Controllers national office uploaded a video to YouTube titled "I Am A Professional" in support of the work done by controllers each day, following national media coverage of controllers sleeping on the job. The video begins with a man identified by on-screen text as "Steve - Miami 20 Years Experience" saying, "You don't know my name and you don't know my face, but you recognize the work I do each day." The video includes a collection of controllers and text (i.e., "More than 70,000 flights take off and land safely every day") that convey the importance of the work, the sheer numbers involved and the professional commitment of controllers. The video may be publicly aired elsewhere, according to NATCA. Also this week, the Inspector General told a Senate subcommittee that controller errors rose 53 percent last year. There may, however, be a simple and arguably positive explanation for that.

The FAA has something called the Traffic Analysis and Review Program (TARP), which has been in accelerated deployment since 2008, when an FAA whistle blower helped shed light on mistakes made and covered up at the Fort Worth TRACON. In that case, controller mistakes were sometimes being classified as pilot error. The TARP system involves software that automatically detects things like aircraft separation violations at TRACON facilities. The idea is to encourage controllers to self-report errors -- with guaranteed immunity through the Air Traffic Safety Action Program (ATSAP) program -- so that the FAA can collect more information on errors and create a better footing to address causal factors. As a result of TARP and ATSAP, the FAA says it is collecting errors that have previously gone unreported and that accounts for most of the increase in reported errors. FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt has told lawmakers, "We may be somewhat being penalized by the fact that we do have better electronic ways of reporting." And the Inspector General concedes that TARP "has fleshed out more operational errors." However, he has also announced a new audit to more closely examine the increase and says he does not expect to find one single underlying cause.

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Alternative Sources of Power back to top 

Solar Impulse Crosses Border

Solar Impulse, the entirely solar-powered aircraft based in Switzerland, showed it can go places on Friday by making its first international flight. The gangly craft used only its 12,000 solar cells for power on the 12-hour and 59-minute flight from Payerne to Brussels, a point-to-point distance of 337 miles. There were no reported technical difficulties on the flight, which organizers called a symbolic milestone as they prepare for a solar-powered circumnavigation in a larger aircraft in the future. However, there were some other challenges to overcome on the flight.

Despite its size (208-foot wingspan), Solar Impulse is stealthy to ATC radar because of its lightweight construction and the fact that it moves so slowly. Part of the flight was conducted as high as 6,000 feet in some pretty busy airspace so keeping traffic flowing smoothly around the aircraft was something of a challenge. Brussels Airport is an international hub and sequencing an aircraft with a speed of about 25 knots also took some doing. The aircraft will be on display in Brussels until May 29 and there's another international flight planned for July when Solar Impulse heads to the Paris Air Show.

Jet Fuel From Wood

The dawn of the wood-burning aircraft may be near thanks to an agreement between a California biofuel company and the Province of Ontario, Canada. Rentech Inc. hopes to build a plant capable producing 23 million gallons of jet fuel per year in the small community of White River in northwestern Ontario. It will use 1.3 million tons of wood waste and tree species that are not otherwise used commercially in the Olympiad Project. Rentech won the wood supply in a competitive bidding process and will use the biomass to make Renjet, which it says is the only certified alternative jet fuel currently available. Although 23 million gallons sounds like a lot, the world's jets go through about 12.5 billion gallons of jet fuel each year.

In addition to the wood supply, Rentech has applied for up to $200 million in government loans to build the plant. The payoff for Ontario comes in the form of construction jobs and an ongoing prop to the local forest industry, which has fallen on hard times of late. Assuming everything falls into place, the plant could be in production in 2015.

Female-Powered Helicopter Lifts Off (With Video)

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A team of University of Maryland (UMD) students hope that their attempt to capture a record for human-powered helicopter flight with a female pilot is confirmed after a flight of about four seconds, Thursday. Judy Wexler, a 110-pound competitive cyclist (and doctoral candidate in evolutionary biology), took her place at the center of the 100-pound aircraft, Gamera, before cranking and pedaling briefly into the air. The vehicle consists of four rotors, each one 43 feet long, connected by an x-shaped structure of 29-foot truss arms angled up to suspend the seat with pedals and hand cranks at the center. It is 103 feet from rotor tip to rotor tip. Structural components are mostly carbon fiber, balsa wood and foam with mylar covering creating the surfaces of the airfoil. A minimum amount of metal was used. At least two other teams have made previous successful flights of longer duration with male pilots, but no official world records have been recorded by the National Aeronautc Association (NAA), so UMD may claim one.

Thursday's efforts were captured on video and can be seen at right. The prior efforts include one from Japan's Nihon University that in 1994 made an indoor flight (with Yuri-I), which appears to have lasted more than 15 seconds, and a California Polytechnic Institute flight (with Da Vinci III) that managed to fly for a few seconds in 1989. (See the links below.) Sikorsky has offered a $250,000 prize for whoever produces the first human-powered helicopter to fly for 60 seconds at an altitude of three meters.

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Opinion & Commentary back to top 

AVweb Insider Blog: Is a California Environmental Group One-Upping EPA?

Although it struck like a bolt from the blue, it's too soon to tell if the Center for Environmental Health's proposed legal action will force the issue on leaded avgas. Our guess is that it will become just another distraction that the industry can hardly afford. But on the AVweb Insider blog, Paul Bertorelli says it would still cost California businesses money to defend themselves or pay a settlement.

Read more and join the conversation.

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Letter of the Week back to top 

AVmail: May 16, 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: Apathy Is the Real Threat to GA

Regarding the "Question of the Week": I am a 56-year-old pilot but with only 14 years and 1,500 hours behind me. It may be my relatively recent introduction to aviation, or just my naiveté, [but] I truly believe the biggest threat to aviation can be summed up in one word, and that's apathy.

Think about what are the most powerful forces keeping general aviation alive: innovation, the passion of flight, camaraderie and the intellectual and physical challenge of piloting an airplane. It seems within minutes of landing my mind is considering how my next flight will be even better. I think about planning it [and] who I can have join me. I think about how I can plan my next dual session to improve my skills.

All of the options you listed as "threats" to GA are legitimate, but why aren't these simply annoyances? What makes them so ominous as to be a challenge to the very existence of GA?

To me, apathy is the most threatening, life-sucking enemy to the continued health of GA. It is what turns what should be approachable challenges like the 100LL transition [into] a potentially game-ending problem. The veritable silence caused by the lack of growth (and youth) in GA is truly the threat which I fear the most.

Anthony Nasr

... And Cost

The big threat is lack of participation driven by the cost. The cost is such that very few can really participate unless they are backed by [a] company or have deep pockets. Even LSAs are expensive by most people's standards, especially when compared to a personal watercraft, an ATV, etc. when you do the cost/benefit comparison. For two hours of flight in your own LSA, you can have a full weekend of fun with a boat or ATV.

One way to begin to fix this is to make airports "destinations." But I still think cost will be the driving factor, regardless of the fuel.

... And Fear

Fear based on ignorance permeates the mindset of the general public when it comes to aviation — and general aviation (GA) in particular. To make things worse, it's viewed as elitist!

Unfortunately, the elitist view is correct. Only a very small percentage of the public has the desire, mental ability, physical qualities, perseverence and money to meet the rigorous demands of achieving a pilot's license. If we look at forms of recreation, flying and scuba diving are the only two pastimes that require more than just money. It's no coincidence that they're the only two that are completely unforgiving of mistakes (stupid or otherwise).

We wonder why we're always under attack on security, environmental and financial fronts. None of these attacks is based on fact but on public misperception. The mainstream media fuels this misperception because demographics sell advertising. The ultralight and light sport segments in Canada and the U.S. respectively will introduce a few more people to our pastime. However, this will not reduce the pressure on GA. Our only chance is to educate not only the public but [also] the lawmakers. The airlines should be our ally, as the next generation of jet pilots has to come from somewhere. The European model of strangling GA and training pilots from zero hours to right seat for the airlines has left hundreds of planes without pilots and has reduced the ranks of EU private pilots to the very wealthy. This has cost the EU billions in lost productivity.

Of the qualities I listed as needed to become a pilot, only two can be be affected: The flame of desire can be fanned, and the financial burden can be reduced. Mental and physical ability are inherent, and perseverence can only be inculcated as a trait by early teaching.

The desire to become a pilot was in the heart of every child from 1903 until the 1970s. It represented adventure, respect, a little danger, and travel. Deregulation of the airlines gave the public cheap holiday travel and led to the idea of the pilot as bus driver. Today's children don't want to become pilots; they want to become CEOs or stock brokers. At least they'll have enough money to fly.

If slick mainstream ads can sell cheap junk to the tune of billions of dollars annually to the public, why are we still advertising only in media directed at us? We are already pilots. Quit preaching to the choir. We need an ad blitz in the mainstream media that works.

Once we've increased the desire, we need to welcome these new acolytes with flight training that meets their needs. Why are 40-year-old $10,000 trainers with tattered interiors, ugly paint, and antique avionics renting for $100 an hour when $50,000 new cars can be rented for $50 a day? The whole training paradigm needs an overhaul. At most flight schools, the neophyte is treated as a cash cow, rather than the flight school's raison d'être. Flight schools must stop milking each student for hours. There's no reason a license can't be achieved in 45 hours.

Some will say there's so much more to learn today, with glass cockpit, and convoluted airspace. Horsepuckey! Glass is supposed to make it easier. If it hasn't, we've all been led down the garden path by the avionics manufacturers. Speaking of which, planned obsolescence seems to be prevalent in all aspects of our lives, and never more so than in outrageously overpriced avionics we're forced to buy. There's another barrier to building a thriving aviation community.

I'm very glad to be a pilot and aircraft owner. I couldn't run my business without my plane, and my plane defines my lifestyle. Nothing makes me happier than sharing my outlook with non-pilots, and nothing makes me angrier than the current state of affairs in GA.

Chris Strube

... And Age

The biggest threat to GA is the aging pilot population. Without the younger generation filling out the ranks, GA will dry up and blow away. Go to any fly-in and look at the audience. I am almost 60, and I am one of the young ones!

Jim Pearce

... And Government

The biggest threat to GA and all of us in general is the unbridled growth of the federal, state, county and city government. People engaged in the rule and regulation industry are completely counter-productive to the sustainability of any country.

Robert Buchholz

... And GA Itself

A lot of the blame for these problems can be laid at the feet of the industry itself. It's not like the issue of lead in fuel is something that just popped up yesterday. Lead has been gone from mogas for years. Environmental regulations have been becoming stricter for years, too.

The writing has been on the wall forever, and the industry has been sitting with its head in the sand while the world has been changing.

Similarly, you can't throw a rock without hitting a student that hasn't run into an FBO where they've been treated rudely or completely ignored when trying to get information about learning to fly.

So, yeah — 100LL is a threat to GA, but I'd say the biggest threat to GA is the industry itself.

Dave Chilson

California 100LL Suit

The California Center for Environmental Health (CEH) takes yet another shot at general aviation with the threat of lawsuit against aviation fuel suppliers and FBOs. I'm getting very tired of the anti-aviation sentiment in California. Not being a great letter writer, I went ahead and sent the following letter to the CEH through their web site "contact us" page and encourage others with better skills than I to follow suit:

Your organization has pledged to sue aviation fuel suppliers and FBOs at 25 airports for selling 100LL fuel. This action is highly irresponsible and will unnecessarily [tax] our legal system. It is incomprehensible that you take this attitude that will risk pilots' lives. Yes, that's right — by eliminating the availability of 100LL (if you should somehow be successful), there will be aircraft crashes due to fuel exhaustion that could have been avoided. It will make flight planning and dealing with unexpected weather and other issues much more difficult, subjecting far more citizens (both pilots and innocent bystanders on the ground) to death! Certainly this risk is far greater than the supposed health concerns you believe 100LL poses. Those pilots who plan their fuel correctly will carry more fuel from outside the state, thereby reducing tax revenue, increasing the fuel burn over California due to higher gross weights, [and] actually increasing the pollution which you claim is your reasoning for bringing suit. I highly encourage you to take these thoughts into consideration and to not unnecessarily risk others' lives or expend legal costs required to argue and defend such an absurd claim.

Jeff Zimmerman

Still Going Strong

Regarding Dick Taylor's memoir: I've been flying for 52 years, and there are firefighting pilots senior to me. I congratulate Dick on sticking around but want him (and you) to know there are old bastards like me who are still flying commercially. I'm pretty darned blessed to continue, and I'll fly as long as I safely can.

Jim Thiessen

Geographically Correct

Okay, Jetman is cool, but even jetpack pilots are supposed to be able to navigate. The Grand Canyon is in Arizona, not Nevada. The Hualapai Nation is in Arizona, not Nevada. The Jetman video is clearly shot in the Pearce Ferry Sector of the Grand Canyon SFAR — I've been flying there for 30 years — which is in Arizona, not Nevada. As a refresher, consider asking Jetman to read my article in SW Aviator magazine (old, but still valid).

Gerrit Paulsen

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

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

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

Video: "Jetman" Rossy Conquers Canyon

Original, Exclusive Videos from AVweb | Reader-Submitted & Viral Videos

Yves Rossy, the Swiss pilot known as "Jetman" for flying a unique jet-propelled wing attached to his back, has successfully flown above the Grand Canyon, after canceling a scheduled attempt last Friday. The flight occurred in Nevada over the weekend, sponsor Breitling announced on Tuesday. "My first flight in the U.S. is sure to be one of the most memorable experiences in my life, not only for the sheer beauty of the Grand Canyon but the honor to fly in sacred Native American lands," Rossy said in a news release. "Thank you Mother Nature and the Hualapai Tribe for making my lifelong dreams come true." Rossy launched from a helicopter at 8,000 feet above the canyon, and steering only by movement of his body, flew at speeds up to 190 mph for more than eight minutes at altitudes as low as 200 feet above the canyon rim. He then deployed a parachute and landed safely on the canyon floor.

The original May 6 flight was cancelled when FAA approval to allow the flight didn't arrive until an hour before launch time. "I was so focused on getting the [FAA] authorization ... I ended up forgetting that I should put my energy into the flight... I never had the opportunity to train seriously," he told AFP. "Flying here is very challenging. The [safety] margins are very tiny." The FAA's Las Vegas FSDO "went the extra mile," according to EAA, to issue Rossy a certification within two days of getting the request, a process that usually takes weeks. The FAA classified the wing plus pilot as an aircraft, and issued registration number N15YR. The wing is built from carbon composites and is about six feet wide. It's powered by four micro-turbines. Rossy, 51, previously flew his unique system across Lake Geneva and the English Channel, and last November he looped and rolled with the wing after jumping from a balloon. (Click here for video.) The media had been invited to the original May 6 launch, but the weekend flight apparently took place with little fanfare.

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Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Aircraft Services of New England (Minuteman Air Field, 6B6, Stow, MA)

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

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Aircraft Services of New England at Minuteman Air Field (6B6) in Stow, Massachusetts.

We often hear about great FBOs that readers discover during a trip, but AVweb reader Paul MacMelville reminded us how your local FBO can come through in a pinch and save the day when you're busy attending to other matters:

I had flown from Oscoda, Michigan to Minuteman Air Field in Stow, Massachusetts to visit my mother in the hospital before heading down to Virginia to attend my daughter's Air Force retirement ceremony. On Friday, we had a heavy wet snowstorm, and, needing to leave on Sunday, I decided to go out to the airport Saturday to check on the airplane and field conditions. The heavy snow had pulled the tail of my plane down to the ground where it froze overnight, and when it thawed in the morning the fiberglass tailcone stayed stuck to the ground, tearing out the screw holes in the fiberglass as the snow melted and the nose came back to earth. I brought the tailcone into [FBO owner] Bob Booth's shop and asked for help. He not only repaired the cone but reinstalled it on the aircraft while I was back at the hospital with my mother. He called and left a message on my cell phone telling me the bird was ready to go and there was no charge! He saved my trip!

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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The Lighter Side of Flight back to top 

Short Final

Cape Approach:
"Skyhawk 12345, you have traffic at 2:00, five miles headed southeast."

Skyhawk 12345:
"Looking for traffic."

Skyhawk 12345:
"Is that 2:00 Eastern Time or Zulu?"

Cape Approach:

Dan Stoppe
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.

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