AVwebFlash - Volume 17, Number 27b

July 7, 2011

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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AVflash! Scheduling, Routing, and Fatigue back to top 
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Report: FAA Should Address Pilot Commutes

A report released Wednesday by the National Research Council found that commuting practices among airline pilots "could potentially contribute to their fatigue," and since fatigue can reduce performance, pilots, airlines, and the FAA should take steps to reduce the chance that commuting will pose a safety risk. The report stopped short of recommending new regulations, and said a lack of data hampered the analysis. "Some commutes have the potential to contribute to fatigue in pilots, and fatigue can pose a safety risk, but at this point we simply don't know very much about actual pilots' commuting practices," said Clint Oster, chair of the research committee. "Airlines and FAA should gather more information on pilots' commutes, and also work with pilots to lower the likelihood that fatigue from commuting will be a safety risk." The report also offers suggestions to commuting pilots about best practices that could help to minimize fatigue.

Pilots should plan their off-duty activities so they are awake no more than about 16 hours at the end of their duty shift, the report suggests. Also, they should try to sleep for at least six hours before reporting for duty. Airlines should consider enacting policies that would help pilots plan more predictable, less tiring commutes. The report was requested by Congress due to concerns that arose about commuting and fatigue during the investigation of the Colgan Air crash in Buffalo, N.Y., in 2009. The complete report can be read online -- go to the National Academies website, and scroll down to find the Table of Contents.

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Money In, Money Out back to top 

FAA Funding Saga Continues

In May, Congress agreed to extend the FAA's funding through June 30, and as that date loomed last week, they passed yet another extension that expires on July 22. It was the 20th such short-term measure since the last comprehensive funding bill expired in 2007. The uncertainty and lack of long-term planning has not been good for the FAA, according to Administrator Randy Babbitt. "It's very difficult to run an agency when you're budgeting for weeks, not years," he said in a recent speech. "We need the restoration of predictable long-term funding for aviation programs." Both houses of Congress passed reauthorization bills earlier this year, but so far they have been unable to reconcile their differences.

Among the issues stalling the final bill are billions in proposed spending cuts, including reduced funding for airport improvements and rural air service, and a provision that would make it harder for airline employees to unionize. Some reports have said the short three-week extension is a signal that a final bill is close to realization, but others say the various issues that remain to be resolved are contentious, with no compromise in sight.

FAA Grants Millions For Airport Improvements

The FAA has announced its annual grants to support airport improvements around the country. To find out what to expect at your local airports, click here to download the official FAA spreadsheet (XLS). Most of the awards are for well under a million dollars, and fund projects such as resurfacing a runway or acquiring snow-removal equipment. Some are more ambitious, such as $218,719,008 for a new runway at Chicago O'Hare, and $64,400,000 to build a fire and rescue building at the Marshall Islands International Airport. The grants also will fund construction of three new airports, two in Alaska and one in Utah.

The FAA's Airport Improvement Program provides grants for the planning and development of public-use airports, heliports and seaplane bases, including some that are privately owned. For general aviation airports, the grant covers 95 percent of eligible costs. Projects that enhance airport safety, capacity, security, and environmental concerns are eligible for funding. Early versions of federal airport grants date back to 1946, but the current program was established by the Airport and Airway Improvement Act of 1982. Funds for the grants are drawn from the Airport and Airway Trust Fund, which is supported by user fees, fuel taxes and other similar revenue sources.

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Another Bill of Rights? back to top 

Inhofe Introduces "Pilot's Bill Of Rights"

Senator James Inhofe, who last October landed on a closed runway that had vehicles and people on it for which he received a remedial training order from the FAA, Wednesday introduced a bill to protect pilots from "agency overreach." Inhofe's remedial training was supplied by an instructor who he'd once taught. The bill would address items ranging from medical certification issues to Inhofe's concern that he waited four months to get voice recordings related to his episode. "I was never fully appreciative," said Inhofe, "of the feeling of desperation until it happened to me." Recordings of the manager whose workers were on the runway as Inhofe landed suggest they also might have felt desperation, but of a different sort. EAA and AOPA are among supporters of Inhofe's bill. Click through for details.

AOPA president, Craig Fuller said his group, "applauds Senator Inhofe" for introducing the legislation and "giving the aviation community much greater certainty about the process of enforcing the regulations by which we fly." Fuller added, "we look forward to working with Senator Inhofe" in support of the bill. EAA president Rod Hightower said, "This bill addresses several inequalities that hamper the ability of aviators to even obtain the necessary information to defend themselves." EAA added its gratitude to the 24 Senators who stood in support of the bill. Said Hightower, EAA "is strongly supportive" of the bill "and urges its members to rally behind the measure."

The bill requires relevant evidence to be supplied to a pilot 30 ays prior to a decision to proceed with an enforcement action. It clarifies "statutory deference" as it relates to NTSB reviews of FAA actions. It "allows for federal district court review of appeals from the FAA, at the election of the appellant." It requires the FAA to improve how NOTAMs are provided with a goal of ensuring that relevant information reaches pilots. It makes privately operated flight service station communications accessible through freedom of information requests. And it requires a review of the FAA's medical certification process with an aim to cut down on misinterpretations that could lead to allegations of falsification.

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Eternal Vigilance back to top 

TSA To Airlines: Beware Implant Bombs

Federal officials Wednesday briefed airline executives on the possibility that terrorists may try to deliver explosive devices onto commercial airliners by surgically implanting them into suicide bombers. British officials in 2010 reportedly found evidence that al-Qaida was trying to do just that, but the new warning has not been attached to a specific threat. "This is something we've been concerned about for quite some time," security consultant J. Bennet Waters, and former TSA official, told the San Francisco Chronicle. While some experts believe it would be relatively easy to conceal an explosive in a body, others see flaws in the method.

Some experts believe implanting explosives might not be worth the trouble in that it could easily reduce the likelihood of successful detonation of the explosives and destruction of an aircraft. And "There are more practical ways of doing it," according to a retired FBI bomb expert contacted by the Chronicle. Previous attempts to conceal bombs include putting them in printer cartridges and there have been reports of a plot to hide them in the insulated portion of certain beverage containers. The TSA has said that additional security measures may be put in place to counter threats, including more interaction between security agents and passengers and continued use of alternative screening methods. Travelers shouldn't expect to see the TSA apply consistent standards and methods at all airports. That's intentional, according to the TSA, in order for the agency to appear less predictable.

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Not Exactly the Air Race Classic, But ... back to top 

Blimps Compete Above New York

In a rare event last staged 25 years ago, three blimps competed in a race above New York's Hudson River, launching on July Fourth. The race took place about 5 p.m., with fair blue skies and balmy weather, covering about three miles from start to finish. The three ships rendezvoused at about 1,000 feet above the Statue of Liberty, then raced up the river to the finish line at 59th Street, near the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. The blimp sponsored by Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, which has a top speed of about 36 mph, came in first, followed by Hangar 1 Vodka and DirecTV. Three blimps in one place may not seem like a large field, but since there are only two or three dozen airships in the world, they represented a significant gathering.

Terry Dillard, pilot of the winning blimp, told AVweb it was "perfect weather for blimping" on Monday. He said the trick to winning is to maintain a level altitude and fly straight. There was no handicapping, and "bigger is not always an advantage," he said. The event is "a little like taking elephants to a horse race," he said, but plenty of spectators turned out and enjoyed it, and he expects the race will now become an annual event. All three ships were built by the American Blimp Corp. The Blue Cross blimp, an A-60 model, is 132 feet long. It carries a pilot and four passengers, and is based in Newark, N.J. The Hangar 1 blimp, also an A-60, flies from Alameda, Calif. The DirecTV airship, based at El Segundo, Calif., is a larger A-170 model, 178 feet long, which can carry eight passengers plus a pilot.

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What You Missed in AVwebBiz This Week back to top 

Gulfstream Sells 50 Bizjets To China

A Chinese leasing company has confirmed it intends to order 50 high-end Gulfstream business jets in a deal worth more than $2 billion. The deal with the China Minsheng Banking Corp.'s leasing arm involves an unspecified number of G650, G550 and G450 jets, the most modern in Gulfstream's line. Order confirmations and deliveries will take three to five years, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The leasing company expects to have more than 100 business aircraft under its control by the end of the year, making it the biggest player in Chinese business aviation. Gulfstream was an early participant in the Chinese bizjet market and another of its big customers there, Deer Jet, is advancing its business plan.

Deer Jet recently opened China's largest business jet hangar at Beijing Airport. The 61,000-square-foot facility will hold up to six aircraft and will provide FBO services. "It will be China's biggest and best-equipped hangar for business jets," said Mou Jian, manager of the Deer Jet Beijing Corporate Aircraft Hangar. Although it just opened last week, Deer Jet has already outgrown the hangar and will build another one in 2012.

China Poised For Explosive Bizjet Growth

The U.S. still operates about 80 percent of the world's business jets but if recent trends continue, that dominance will end. At a conference in Shannon, Ireland, last week, delegates to the Financial Solutions for Business Aircraft event were told that the business jet market has shifted considerably in the last five years, with 72 percent of business jets going to U.S. customers in 2006 and just 42 percent in 2010. The so-called BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) are taking up much of the slack and European sales have also been strong. But like virtually every other economic forecaster, guest speaker Oliver Stone, of Colibri Aircraft, said China is the country to watch in terms of business aviation expansion.

"We have definitely seen a significant shift in terms of market dominance," Stone said. " The U.S. has been the dominant force for 50 years but it is anticipated that demand in China will grow by 50 percent annually and there will be around 500 business jets there by 2014." Latin America is also showing remarkable gains and India is also on the move. "This change means that the private jet sector is definitely globalizing," Stone said. "It is a huge change and opportunity for the industry globally and the challenge is to streamline legislation so that the emerging nations can have more freedom of flight than they have at present."

AVwebBiz: AVweb's Business Aviation Newsletter

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Delivered every Wednesday morning, AVwebBiz focuses on the companies, the products and the industry leaders that make headlines in the business aviation industry, making it a must-read.

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GPS vs. Broadband: Three Opinions
(Two of Ours, One of Yours)
back to top 

AVweb Insider Blog: They Couldn't Jam GPS, Could They?

LightSquared's plan to offer 4G wireless broadband right next to the GPS portion of the radio spectrum isn't going away quietly — and in his latest post to the AVweb Insider blog, Russ Niles says it may be time to think about how GPS will share the band with its new neighbor.

Read more and join the conversation.

AVweb Insider Blog: A Summertime Take on LightSquared

While LightSquared isn't going to give up the fight for its piece of the radio spectrum easily, Mary Grady doesn't see a clear victory in the group's future — and in her latest post to the AVweb Insider, she reminisces about similar scenarios that have played out in the past.

Read more and join the conversation.

Question of the Week: Sophie's Choice — GPS or Internet?

The dispute over the potential disruption of GPS by LightSquared's broadband network will likely have a complex and expensive resolution that will preserve both — but we're not going to give you any shades of gray this week. What would you prefer, cheap fast broadband or GPS?

What would be more important to you if you could only have one or the other?
(click to answer)

Last Week's Question: Results

Want to see the current breakdown of responses? Take a moment to answer the question yourself, and then you can view real-time results.

What's On Your Mind?

Have an idea for a new "Question of the Week"?
Send your suggestions to .

NOTE: This address is only for suggested "QOTW" questions, and not for "QOTW" answers or comments. (Use this form to send "QOTW" comments to our AVmail Editor.)

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AVweb Q&A back to top 

Brainteasers Quiz #161: Aloha and Cleared for Takeoff


Navigating the Hawaiian Islands is fairly easy: Look across the water for your island destination, and then go there. It's like stepping across stones on a koi pond. Navigating tropical regulations takes mastery of this quiz.

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More Brainteasers

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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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

If that tornado at Sun 'n Fun in April didn't get your attention, it should have. With EAA AirVenture looming and storms hammering the midwest, it's time to think about portable tiedown systems for the show. In this brief video, AVweb and Aviation Consumer wring out three systems, and the walkaway winner is a product you've never heard of.

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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!

Reader-Submitted Photos back to top 
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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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.

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