AVwebFlash - Volume 17, Number 27a

July 4, 2011

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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AVflash! More Long Nights Ahead for Controllers back to top 
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Controller Fatigue Compromises Reached

Mid-shift air traffic controllers will be allowed to listen to the radio and read "appropriate printed material" but they won't be allowed to nap under a new deal on fatigue prevention announced Friday. Controllers who think they're too tired to work can also ask for leave. The agreement between the FAA and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association resulted from a spate of incidents in which controllers were found sleeping on the job in circumstances varying from having sleeping arrangements set up to simply nodding off at the console. Some controllers were fired and others disciplined and the new policies are a compromise between the FAA's hard line and the union's earlier suggestions that the occasional cat nap might be a good thing for bored controllers fighting their circadian rhythms. In the end the agreement puts the onus on controllers to show up ready for the rigors of the night shift. "Air traffic controllers have the responsibility to report rested and ready to work so they can safely perform their operational duties," said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt. "But we also need to make sure we have the right policies in place to reduce the possibility of fatigue in the workplace."

As we reported in March, the dozing of a lone controller on duty at Reagan National Airport (DCA) in Washington was followed by a series of sleeping controller incidents. Among the immediate steps invoked was the FAA's decision to eliminate single-controller shifts at 24-hour airports and to fire then Air Traffic Operations manager Hank Krakowski. Although most sleep specialists interviewed in the aftermath of the incidents recommended bowing to Mother Nature's demands and letting controllers catch a few Zs under controlled circumstances, Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood wouldn't hear of it and he reinforced that stand in Friday's announcement. "The American public must have confidence that our nation's air traffic controllers are rested and ready to work," said LaHood. "We have the safest air transportation system in the world but we needed to make changes and we are doing that." The union said it's satisfied with the compromises reached. "They are common sense solutions to a safety problem that NATCA and fatigue experts have consistently raised for many years," said union President Paul Rinaldi.

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Broadband Battle Heats Up, Widens Scope back to top 

LightSquared/GPS Issue Over To FCC

Amid a flurry of dueling press releases, the stakeholders in the LightSquared/GPS controversy turned their fortunes over to the Federal Communications Commission in what has become one of the most controversial applications before the commission in recent memory. LightSquared wants to build a nationwide network of 40,000 broadband Internet transmitters using radio frequencies in a band adjacent to that used by an estimated 500 million GPS devices in the U.S. Tests have shown that the LightSquared signals, which detractors say are billions of times more powerful than GPS signals, interfere with GPS and can make devices go dark miles away from the towers. LightSquared says the interference can be resolved by initially by moving its signals to the lower end of its frequency band and farther away from GPS and in the long term by hardening new GPS devices against its signals. The GPS industry says LightSquared's plans defy the laws of physics and the only solution is to move the broadband signals far away from GPS. The stakes are high. LightSquared says its plan will generate $120 billion in economic benefit. The GPS industry says the interference will result in a catastrophic collapse of a system that is essential to the operation of countless devices, systems and programs in the U.S.

A technical working group of stakeholders from all sides of the issue submitted a 1,000-page report to the FCC last Thursday and it clearly showed varying levels of interference with a wide variety of devices and systems. LightSquared says that by moving its rollout program to the lower frequency, its signals only affect "high precision" GPS devices (which apparently includes WAAS-enabled aviation GPSs) and that's a small price to pay for the benefits of its service, which will bring wireless broadband to 95 percent of Americans. LightSquared also blames the GPS industry for not building devices that can withstand the electromagnetic onslaught from its towers and claims the filters necessary to shield the devices cost as little as five cents. The GPS industry says LightSquared's filter claims are theoretical and they don't believe the devices can be shielded effectively.

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Looking for Alternatives back to top 

Comac, China's "Real Alternative" To Boeing, Airbus?

The Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (Comac) has signed an agreement with Ryanair to develop the C919, a new mid-size commercial jet, and, according to Ryanair, the deal creates real competition for Airbus and Boeing. Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary said his company is "seriously interested in the development of a 200 seat variant of the C919 aircraft." He added, "We are pleased that there is now a real alternative to Boeing and Airbus." Aside from Ryanair, Comac is expected to attract serious attention in the Asia-Pacific market over the next twenty years. And Comac's position in the market has at least one major company seeking to share resources.

Over the next 20 years, the Asia-Pacific region is expected (by Boeing) to seek nearly 12,000 new commercial aircraft valued at $1.5 trillion. Financially, that figure commands more than one-quarter of the total market. Airbus believes that through 2030, the region should command nearly 70 percent of the commercial aircraft delivered. Aside from any potential "home field" advantage in the Asia-Pacific region, Ryanair's relationship could add an inroad and extend Comac's influence in the European market. Comac's C919 is expected to enter the market in 2019 to compete directly against the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737.

KLM, First Commercial Biofuel Flight

A Boeing 737-800 carrying 171 passengers out of Amsterdam for Paris Wednesday moved KLM to say it was "the first airline in the world" to operate a commercial flight on biokerosene (a used cooking oil, Jet-A mix), with more to come. KLM said that by September 2011, it will begin 200 more flights, flying the same route, and using the same 50-50 blend of fuel. Details regarding regulatory issues are not yet clear. The biofuel portion of the fuel mixture that KLM used for this latest flight was not derived from the camonila or jatropha plants. (The plants have earned attention for their high oil content and low agricultural impact.) KLM used a cooking-oil-based fuel produced by Dynamic Fuels, a joint venture between Syntroleum and Tyson Foods.

KLM's biokerosene was created from non-food-grade animal fat supplied as a byproduct of Tyson Food's meat processing plants. That product was refined into biofuel by Dynamic Fuel at that company's facility in Louisiana. KLM first made a biofuel-powered flight roughly 18 months ago, taking forty VIPs on a 90-minute flight. That particular trip only fed the biofuel mix to one engine. Virgin Atlantic, British Airways and Continental have all flown commercial airliners fueled, at least in part, with biofuels. European airlines are particularly motivated to find a fossil-fuel alternative due to a limit set by the European Union. That limit calls for airlines to cut their carbon emissions by 3 percent in 2012. The flights show progress for biofuels, but according to KLM managing director Camiel Eurlings, "The costs of biofuels need to come down substantially and permanently." Said Eurlings, "This can be achieved through innovation, collaboration and the right legislation that stimulates biofuel in the airline industry, but with an eye on honest competition."

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Speaking of Fuel ... back to top 

NATA: Avgas Suit Could Shut Down California GA

A notice of intended lawsuit targets California FBOs saying that supplying and using leaded aviation gasoline violates the California Safe Drinking Water & Toxic Enforcement Act (Prop 65), and Friday the FBOs fought back. The suit is being brought by the Center for Environmental Health and the Attorney General of the State of California. The coalition of FBOs has won the support of NATA and Friday filed a response asking a judge to issue an injunction that would stop the imposition of civil penalties. According to NATA, elements of the suit "would shut down the entire piston-engine aircraft fleet in California and end all flight training at the named airports." There are, of course, potential local and federal complications.

The FAA has exclusive oversight of aviation safety and the EPA oversees environmental regulation of aircraft emissions. According to NATA, the litigation "threatens to interfere with obvious federal interests in aviation safety and aircraft engine emissions policy." Those issues are currently being addressed at the federal level, NATA said, with cooperation between the FAA and EPA, along with general aviation advocacy groups like GAMA, EAA and AOPA and NATA, itself.  The suit follows a notice of violation that claims FBOs failed to inform residents near airports that aircraft emissions contain lead. It proposes "remedies" that range from banning the sale of leaded avgas to forcing cleanup of allegedly contaminated drinking water to imposing civil penalties. Affecting the sale of leaded aviation fuel in California would in turn affect operations at 254 public-use airports in the state, the 99,594 pilots who call it home, and 37,128 general aviation aircraft that fly on leaded avgas, according to NATA.

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News Briefs back to top 

Spitfire Recovery Unearths Unique Story

An RAF Spitfire flown by American pilot Roland "Bud" Wolfe dug itself deep into an Irish hillside on Nov. 30, 1941, after he bailed out, and now, 70 years later, that aircraft has been recovered. The recovery effort included an aviation historian, a team of archaeologists and the BBC, and will serve as the subject of a documentary. According to the Derry Journal, a newspaper from the town where the aircraft had been based, Wolfe had joined the RAF before America's official entry into the war and lost his U.S. citizenship because of it. He'd been flying on patrol near the north coast of Ireland when his engine began to rapidly overheat and he bailed out. Wolfe was detained by members of the Local Defence Force and held by the Irish Army, but escaped on Dec. 13, leading to what may be an even more unusual story.

When Wolfe made it back to RAF Eglinton, his base (now the City of Derry Airport), he was arrested. Authorities in England and Ireland determined that they did not approve of the manner of Wolfe's escape. As a result of that conclusion, Wolfe was then delivered by his own side back to his captors in then-neutral Ireland. Ireland's position of neutrality meant that it sought to prevent circumstances that could undermine its neutrality in the eyes of all non-neutral nations. Wolfe was ultimately released in 1943. Historian John McNee described Wolfe to the Derry Journal as "possibly the only allied escapee of WWII who was returned to his prison camp because his superiors did not agree with the manner of his escape." Artifacts recovered from the crash site of Wolfe's Spitfire include the aircraft's Browning .303 machine guns, its Rolls Royce Merlin Engine, propeller, and Wolfe's helmet, with his initials inside. The items will eventually be delivered for display at the Tower Museum in Derry. The story of the recovery will become a three-part series called Dig WW2, to be broadcast by the BBC NI, in 2012.

Australian Airline Grounded

For the first time, Australian authorities have grounded a major airline over safety concerns. On Saturday the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) pulled the operating certificates for Tiger Airways for a week after Tiger pilots busted low-altitude limits twice in one month. On June 7, a Tiger A320 was tagged on radar at 1,500 feet in an area where the minimum altitude is 2,500 feet and CASA pulled the pin after a Thursday incident when another Tiger A320 aborted a landing at Avalon Airport in Melbourne and was going around when it also busted the 2,500-foot minimum by about 500 feet. "We are concerned that Tiger does not have the commitment to safety that we expect from an Australian airline," said CASA spokesman Peter Gibson.

There was no notice so the suspension caused travel chaos just as Australian schools broke for their mid-term holiday. Qantas's Jetstar subsidiary is offering discounts to stranded Tiger passengers and Virgin is also helping out. Tiger can resume service next Saturday if it proves to CASA that it has a plan to mend its ways. Meanwhile, the international flights of the airline's parent company, Singapore based Tiger Airways, are operating normally.

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

AVmail: July 4, 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: Questionable Question

AVweb's current "Question of the Week" and the choices listed reveal a fundamental misunderstanding about what a depreciation allowance tax benefit is and what it accomplishes. Rather than serving as a bail-out as the editors' choices imply, depreciation is a win-win for individual companies and the U.S. economy.

Giving companies tax breaks for capital investments serves to encourage them to replace older equipment or buy needed assets for growth, while generating ripple-effect increases in economic activity. This is why depreciation allowances have received overwhelming bi-partisan support in Congress for many decades and also why President Obama and Congress enthusiastically supported accelerating depreciation last year for capital investments, including spending for business aircraft.

Buying a plane for business is no different than buying a new machine to expand a business. And don't forget that the vast majority of business aircraft owners and operators are the small-to-mid-size companies that are vital to our nation's global economic competitiveness. They even read AVweb. So you can image our disappointment at seeing such a dependable GA news source buy into rhetoric designed to secure politically expedient headlines.

Mike Nichols
Vice President - Operations, Education & Economics
National Business Aviation Association

The gist of your "Question," as shown by the answer choices available, misses the point. It is that the obscenely wealthy corporate executives (whose company provides them the luxury of their own jet airliner) don't need tax breaks.

In a time when the U.S. must decide such things as whether to provide medical care for the poor, fund the military for our defense, or not to tax the top one percent of the top one percent through their corporation-provided benefits for the king-like luxuries they enjoy, it shouldn't be very difficult to see which is the unreasonable choice.

In the name of General Aviation, stop lumping the regular folks who fly or rent a 172 in with those who are provided "business" transportation in a $50 million Dassault tri-jet. The issue is really about giving tax incentives to business jet buyers, not the average piston airplane flyer.

Keith Shelbourn

Taxes Counterproductive

Having companies pay taxes on aircraft is counterproductive and has the effect of raising product costs for all of us. Companies never actually pay taxes or other government fees. Any tax they are forced to pay becomes part of their product cost and is simply transferred to the consumer of their product or service. If Americans would understand this simple fact then all the politically motivated chatter about corporations not paying taxes just might stop.

Rick Lafford

The United States subsidized airmail and airlines in the early days to the benefit of many, if not most, of the U.S. population. I think there's something honorable about making sure that Hobbs, New Mexico has airline service. Airports throughout the land that can handle Cessna 172s and Cherokees (or the Cessna Caravans that service Hobbs) — and tax codes that make it easier for people to own and operate general aviation aircraft for business purposes — are good. But subsidizing private wine cellars, yachts, and Gulfstreams for the pampering of the super-rich doesn't make sense.

I think there are legitimate uses for corporate aircraft (like filling in the numerous gaps in airline service), but flying executives to Barbados for board meetings is not one of them. If the super-rich want solid gold toilet seats in their Boeing business jets, I think that's fine. Just don't ask the U.S. government to subsidize it.

I don't know where to draw the line. Should barons and below [be] O.K. for tax breaks? Are trips to Portland O.K. but trips to Pago Pago not? Again, I don't know where the line is, but there's got to be one somewhere.

Gary Kerr

While the President has stepped into a topic he clearly has misunderstood, I am very glad that he will now get rid of tax breaks for users of corporate jets. I sincerely hope that as CEO of the U.S, he realizes that the Obama family will now have to pay their way on flights on Air Force One or fly commercial like the rest of us.

And as CEO of the U.S., I sincerely hope that he will reimburse the U.S. Treasury and Department of Defense for flights thus far and also refrain from using military aviation hardware for future trips. (I hear that Amtrak is also a reliable mode of transport around the country.)

Arnold Offner

The New 737

Regarding the letter from Gregory Myers: Putting a de-engined version of the 727 back into production as a 737 replacement makes no sense. Assuming the jigs and tooling really are still available, it was designed in the early 1960s. We've learned a lot about aeronautical engineering since then, and if you were to design something externally identical in shape to a 727 now, the entire structure would be different, from the skin in. Ford didn't use the old tooling for the new Mustang, and it makes no sense to make new-build replicas of early '60s airliners.

And before suggesting it could be updated with modern design, structure, materials — how much composites were in a 727? — and manufacturing techniques (which have changed radically and render that old tooling obsolete): Then that's a new design and not a 727, anyway.

Boeing doesn't need to regress to its past; it needs to continue looking forward.

Jeff Rankin-Lowe

I'd like to agree with Gregory Myers regarding his idea for a 737 replacement. Keep the age-old fuselage cross-section, whack some composites in where possible (easy to do if redesigning the aft portion to remove the third engine), and off you go!

On the face of it, it's a great idea, Gregory.

John Hogan

LightSquared Decision

Amid the arm-waving over LightSquared and its wireless plan, one fact seems to receive little attention, and it is perhaps the most important: Lightsquared is nothing more (or less) than a hedge fund, with no operating history or capability, and, based on the historic behavior of hedge funds, no interest in operations, the welfare of airline passengers, or anyone other than its organizers (first) and investors (second). Caveat omnes!

John Sullivan

LightSquared's "suggestion" that the GPS industry bite the bullet and pay to design, engineer, and install shielding for past and present guidance units to protect their performance from the telecom's proposed 40,000 towers would be ludicrous if not for the probable outcome.

"Too big to fail" is a rewrite of basic physics in which what we once assumed were constants, such as the laws of gravity, are subject to the gravitational force of cash. While few normal people would even consider compromising the GPS spectrum and placing the needs of a public offering ahead of satellite navigation, it appears that enough lobbying, double talk, and persistence can make water flow uphill.

While logic and common sense are frequently made to take vacations during times of emergency, war, disaster, and other needs-based situations, enlarging the footprint of Twitter, Facebook, and other fab franchises at the expense of GPS is so far over the top that even a child can figure this one out.

LightSquared recently issued a press release suggesting that GPS is infringing on LightSquared's bandwidth by being inadequately shielded. What's that? LightSquared's bandwith? How, other than through application of political cash (is there any other kind?) did this become LightSquared's bandwidth — other than through the terms published in a stock market prospectus?

It brings to mind going fishing with hand grenades. Sure, the detonation will bring up fish, even a few that can be eaten, but the collateral damage is not only unacceptable, it is a criminal liability that even a lawyer would recognize.

The press release issued by Brattle Group claims $18 billion in implicit U.S. government subsidies provided to the commercial GPS industry. The release is worth reading because of what it suggests as well as what it omits. Yes, GPS was initiated at government cost, ostensibly for the military and for weapons targeting, and yes, the signaling was opened to the public (as it should have been, having been built at public expense). The release goes on to note that no usage fee was ever imposed on the GPS industry for use of these satellites.

How's that? What are taxes? What is NextGen?

By the same logic, every war waged by the U.S. benefited the public by assuring a measure of security to international trade, energy usage, and on and on, yet, apart from taxes, we do not pay "usage fees" for our sea lanes, airspace, or protection from alien incursions on our borders or our territories.

My heart goes out to investors who put money into Philip Falcone's gamble that his proposed IPO venture could somehow navigate around a flaky promise to deliver bandwidth without stepping on GPS toes. The fact is it can't be done on Falcone's $3 billion bet, even backed by his hedge fund. When the LightSquared radios are turned on, nearby GPS systems go down. You can't buy your way out of that one — or can you?

Richared Herbst

I find this story interesting for a completely different reason and write to suggest that you may as well.

LightSquared plans to cover [most of the] continental U.S. with signals from those 40,000 towers. Let's assume that's actually possible, technically and financially. They'll still be bankrupt in less than 10 years thanks to UAVs.

They're ignoring the new class of persistent, stratospheric UAVs that will cover the same area with communication services at a fraction of the cost and with none of the property rights problems.

Remember Iridium? Those business developers fell into the "build it and they will come" trap. LightSquared is doing something similar but adding the assumption that nothing better will be available.

Ed Herlick

The Old College Try

Regarding your story on the Air Race Classic, I just wanted to let you know that a team sponsored by Purdue University (Jackie Battapaglia and Lauren Nicholson) won the Air Race Classic in 1996. This was probably before they had a "collegiate" category!

Patti Keen

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

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: FAA — Still No Sleep Breaks

Last week, the FAA announced its policy to address controllers dozing off while on duty. Unfortunately, as is usually the case, politics trumped science. The agency refuses to recognize that nap breaks are the best, most enlightened way to restore flagging awareness. Instead, the agency says mid-shift controllers can listen to the radio and read to stay awake. In his latest post to the AVweb Insider blog, Paul Bertorelli predicts the inevitable result: The next sleeping controller will be found with the radio blaring classic rock and a not-that-stimulating book open to page three.

Read more and join the conversation.

AVweb Insider Blog: Aviation Summer Camp

In his latest post to the AVweb Insider blog, Paul Bertorelli has a brainstorm. Aviation summer camps for kids encourage burgeoning pilots to spread their wings — and immerse them in more aspects of aviation that a single introductory flight. So why not try it for adults?

Read more and join the conversation.

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Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Western Aircraft (Gowen Field, KBOI, Boise, Idaho)

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

While many pilots in U.S. and Canada were celebrating their national birthdays with family trip, AVweb reader Deb Price discovered the value of a good FBO when she made an unscheduled stop at Western Aircraft at Gowen Field (KBOI) in Boise, Idaho — our latest "FBO of the Week." Deb writes:

On Saturday of the July 4 weekend, the Cirrus SR20 we were flying developed a problem with one of its alternators. Melissa gave us bottles of water while she called around to find a mechanic — even if it was at a competitor! She lent us the crew car to get lunch while she waited for a response. There was no one around to look at our problem, so we decided to continue, since the weather was VFR to our destination. Melissa even waived fees, since we just stopped for a maintenance issue and didn't need fuel. She was friendly and professional throughout. What a good experience!

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: Aviation Consumer's Tiedown Shootout

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

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The Lighter Side of Flight back to top 

Short Final

Overheard on a busy Atlanta approach this evening. A Cessna was attempting to get VFR flight following and had been waiting several minutes to get a response from approach:

Grumpy Cessna 12345:
"Atlanta Approach, how long do you think it will be until I can get flight following? It's been over 10 minutes now."

ATL Approach:
"Cessna 12345, say location."

Grumpy Cessna 12345:
"Umm, ah, I am near — an airport — 20 miles south of — of — somewhere. Oh, hell — hang on a second — "

Atlanta approach quickly moved on to the next aircraft. It was a busy evening; even my tail number got jumbled at least five times.

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.)

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