AVwebFlash Complete Issue: Volume 17, Number 29a

July 18, 2011

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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GPS A Side Issue In High-Stakes Broadband Battle

Although the FCC's rulemaking process is nowhere near finished on the LightSquared/GPS issue, LightSquared's multi-billion-dollar business plan appears to be unaffected by the nagging details of regulatory approval and the potential destruction of the GPS system. According to CNET, Sprint, Nextel and LightSquared are about to announce a blockbuster partnership that will allow Sprint to migrate its service to the Long Term Evolution (LTE) broadband service that LightSquared is offering and is apparently the next big thing in wireless. In exchange, LightSquared gets the use of the 40,000 cell towers (remember those 40,000 towers?) that Sprint already owns for a rental fee of about $2 billion a year. What's significant for those who care about GPS in all of this is that the interference that's been clearly demonstrated is a side issue in high-stakes intrigue that may alter the broadband services landscape considerably.

The broadband publications are abuzz with suggestions that hedge fund guru Philip Falcone's venture into the wireless business hasn't gone through normal channels and that the political impetus will make it hard to stop. According to Bloomberg Falcone was bragging about the deal to investors in his Harbinger Capital Partners fund that the deal was done on June 15. That was the date LightSquared was supposed to have submitted a report to the FCC regarding potential interference with GPS but instead asked for an extension. By early July, the report had been submitted and it was clear that interference was an issue but LightSquared answered in news releases that it would alter its plans to minimize GPS interference. Meanwhile, the FCC is taking comments on the LightSquared proposal.

AEA: Defend GPS, Submit Comments Now

The Aircraft Electronics Association (AEA) is urging -- and guiding -- GPS users to actively participate in defending GPS from the potential interference of proposed wireless broadband services. AEA's concern is a reaction to the efforts of a company called LightSquared, which is seeking to construct a nationwide infrastructure to support wireless broadband on radio frequencies adjacent to those used by GPS. Tests have shown that implementation of the system can cause interference with GPS and the FCC is seeking public feedback on those results. Toward that end, AEA has provided guidelines and advice for delivering your message to the FCC prior to the agency's looming deadline.

To access the FCC's electronic Comments Filing System, click here. Find the box that says "Proceeding Number" and type 11-109. You'll then be required to enter identifying information into the form and add your comments. AEA encourages commenters to supply information on how they use GPS and what would happen if GPS became unavailable or unreliable. AEA suggests including comments that state LightSquared's operations and GPS are fundamentally incompatible and the FCC should order LightSquared out of the frequency currently being considered for use. AEA stipulates that wireless capacity is important, but says it should not come at the expense of GPS, "which is critical to our country's economy." While the issue is clearly important to pilots, it may be worth noting that GPS is an important, if not vital, resource for a wide range of users ranging far beyond pilots and the military, to drivers and life-saving activities. The deadline for comments is July 30.

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Safety, Studies and Practicality back to top 

NTSB/EAA Experimental Aircraft Safety Study

The NTSB with the support of EAA has launched a study to evaluate and improve the safety of amateur-built experimental aircraft, beginning with an online survey. Nearly 15 percent of general aviation aircraft (33,000 of 224,000) in the U.S. fall into the amateur-built experimental classification, the NTSB says. And that group exhibits "accident rates greater than those of other comparable segments of GA." Together with EAA, the NTSB hopes to identify risks unique to the segment and improve on the segment's record. According to the NTSB, the study will be the first to examine the building and piloting of experimental aircraft with direct input from owners and operators.

Amateur-built experimental aircraft are statistically more dangerous than more conventionally built aircraft and the NTSB and EAA hope to use information collected through the study to change that. The study will cover topics ranging from builder assistance programs to transition training, flight testing and certification requirements, maintenance, systems, structures and power plants. The study will seek input on day-to-day operations as well. EAA will collect data through the summer. Owners, operators and builders of amateur-built experimental aircraft are encouraged to participate by taking the survey online at http://www.EAA.org/AB-Survey. The NTSB expects to publish the completed safety study by fall 2012.

Safety Rules Threaten Russian Airlines

The Russian domestic airline industry says recently announced safety requirements are impossible to achieve and an unusually frank report in the Moscow Times suggests fares will double if they're implemented as planned. By January, aircraft used for scheduled service have to have TCAS and ground proximity warning systems, which have been standard equipment for airliners in much of the rest of the world for decades. However, the workhorses of the Russian fleet are aircraft like the An-24, rough, rugged and conceived in the 1950s. The estimated cost of a retrofit is $350,000, far more than most airlines paid for the twin turboprops. "Where will we find so much money?" wondered Valery Fisher, whose Katekavia operates 14 An-24s. What's more, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev recently called for the accelerated decommissioning of the An-24 fleet after a fatal crash on July 11.

In that accident, an Angara Airlines An-24 ditched in a river after in-flight engine problems. Seven people died. Medvedev has also targeted Tu-134 twinjets for decommissioning after a June 20 accident. Of the 52 people on board, only five survived, but the airplane might not have been the problem. Like a lot of Russian crashes, this one occurred during heavy ground fog. Medvedev is likely to face some political pushback from his safety measures. There are no realistic indigenous replacements, foreign replacements are out of the question financially and even the retrofits on the existing fleet will push fares out of reach for most people who depend on the aging aircraft to get out of remote areas, some of which don't have road or rail access. At the same time, the Times says Russia is keen to make life under its sphere of influence as pleasant as possible for those areas to ensure their continued political loyalty. It appears the workaround is that much of the service to those areas is considered charter rather than scheduled and the new rules apply only to scheduled service.

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Cessna, AVIC Talk Turkey Over Bizjets back to top 

Potential Cessna China Business Jet Project

Cessna and the Aviation Industry Corp. of China (AVIC) are in "exploratory" talks regarding possible collaboration on a business jet. The talks reportedly revolve around joint design and production of such an aircraft. Cessna has already developed ties in China, where its Skycatcher LSA is produced by Shenyang Aircraft Corp. The company's interest in forming a joint venture to produce business aircraft is not unique. AVIC is holding talks with multiple airframe manufacturers, including Hawker Beechcraft, the Wichita Eagle reported Wednesday. Decisions about partnerships could start to roll in before year-end.

U.S. manufacturers are seeking footholds in (what their forecasts predict to become) a booming Asian market. Aside from forming allegiances, significant hurdles still exist. But plans are already in place to address some of those. China's aviation industry has been curbed by strict airspace rules and a general lack of infrastructure, including airports and FBOs. By 2020, China expects to open more than 50 new airports. It has already begun tests of relaxed airspace rules for low-altitude operations. Chinese involvement in Cessna's Skycatcher, the recent acquisition of Cirrus by China Aviation Industry General Aircraft Co., and talks with multiple larger airframe manufacturers suggest that the country is increasing its focus on civil aviation. And, even if it isn't, most of the deals appear to be strategically sound, at least in the area of new business development.

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Retaining Jobs back to top 

Duluth Jobs Assured Says CAIGA

An unusual example of grassroots diplomacy has netted Duluth, Minn., an assurance of sorts that it will retain the jobs that go with one of its biggest employers. When China Aviation Industry General Aircraft announced plans to buy Cirrus Aircraft last February, the fear (and assumption by some) was that the operation would be moved to the People's Republic. The concern persisted after repeated assurances from Cirrus brass, and the Duluth City Council was among those looking for assurances. About six weeks ago, the city government sent a memorandum of understanding to CAIGA's top brass seeking assurances the production facilities and their jobs will stay in Duluth. Last week CAIGA President Xiangkai Meng and Duluth Mayor Don Ness signed the document in a ceremony in Duluth.

The paper in no way prevents CAIGA from changing its plans and moving the plant but Duluth officials say it does have significant symbolic value. "Verbal assurances are wonderful," Ness told the Duluth News Tribune. "But a written assurance, signed by the president of CAIGA, certainly carries much more weight." Cirrus spokesman Bill King told the newspaper the written agreement wasn't really necessary. "We have a long history of doing what we say, of building a reputation as we built this company in Duluth and Grand Forks," King said. "We're very proud of that."

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Aviation Safety Reports back to top 

Full Investigation For Boston Collision

The NTSB is now investigating a taxiway collision that caused millions of dollars in damage and disrupted travel plans for almost 300 Delta customers but didn't cause any serious injuries. Late Thursday, the winglet on a Delta 767 that was setting up for a trip to Amsterdam from Boston's Logan Airport clipped the tail of a CRJ900 (operated for Delta by Atlantic Southeast Airlines) that was about to leave for Raleigh. Much of the winglet remained with the RJ's tail. The FAA initially rated the mishap as an "incident" but later gave it "accident" status, which triggers a full-scale investigation including pulling the recorders and interviewing all involved. "This accident is getting the serious attention it deserves from the agencies that need to investigate it," said FAA spokesman Jim Peters. Click here for recordings of the radio exchange between the crews and controllers.

The accident occurred about 7:33 p.m. local time. The 767 was following the RJ on Taxiway B. The RJ turned left onto Taxiway M and stopped. The 767 continued on B and the left winglet sliced into the horizontal stabilizer of the RJ and snapped off. The impact twisted the RJ's tail at about a 45-degree angle. At about the time of the accident, a US Airways crew declared an emergency because of hydraulic problems and asked for the same runway (4R) that the accident aircraft were heading for. Whether the emergency landing request was a factor in the ground accident will be part of the investigation.

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AVweb Mailbag back to top 

AVmail: July 18, 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: EASA's Threat to the U.S.

You highlight the fact that LSA are going to suffer under the EASA regime. Sadly, this is just one of many, many actions being taken by EASA that will damage light GA both in Europe and worldwide.

Perhaps the biggest impact will be the changes to licensing laws, which will require any resident of the European Union to have to hold a valid EASA license and ratings for the flight being undertaken. One can now fly on an FAA license in an FAA-registered aircraft anywhere in Europe (as a resident or not). We have a large number of FAA-registered aircraft in Europe operated by people that have only FAA licenses for a variety of reasons.

When this new legislation comes into force (sometime between April 2012 and April 2014), it will effectively ground a lot of people, particularly FAA instrument-rated pilots. It will also render their aircraft effectively useless. There are bound to be a large number of aircraft for sale in an already depressed and arguably saturated market, and many of these aircraft will be unsaleable in Europe as they will have modifications that are not approved by EASA and will therefore end up back in the U.S. and being dumped on the market for whatever the seller can get.

So not only will EASA destroy GA in Europe but also do potentially irreparable damage [to] the U.S. market and possibly the world market in the process. It is estimated that more than 10 percent of the European GA fleet is currently on the FAA register, probably several thousand aircraft.

Why is this happening? Well, I am not close to the detail, but from what I understand it is all about some ridiculous tit-for-tat dispute between EASA and the FAA. The issue for all of us is that this is probably the beginning of the end of GA in Europe, and it could do a lot of harm to the value of your asset in the U.S.

Geoff Semler

Broadband Dreams

Imagine if the broadband folks woke up and smelled the coffee and said to themselves: "Hey, we will have fixed ground sites, precision survey-located down to the inch, all over the U.S., so why don't we develop an air nav, flight-tracking, data-support, local WX-reporting/tracking and aviation emergency (just to name a few) system across the entire U.S.?"

We could have a discrete broadcast ID for each tower site and aviation features built in. Not only would our aviation customers have broadband wireless but a highly precise low-cost digital [synthetic] navigation web that does not depend on a high-cost sensitive satellite constellation that has to be replaced.

We could also add flight tracking and automated weather monitoring/reporting stations to our closely spaced towers. This would greatly improve instantaneous local weather knowledge, which could be inserted into in-cockpit computer/iPad flight WX data streams. Also, we could add an instantaneous emergency panic button feature and have a synthetic crash ID/locator beacon function if a mishap is detected. The possibilities for aviation are mind-numbing.

If AOPA or some other flying organization became our partner, then the synthesis of in-cockpit data exchange capability and aviation professionalism would be stunning. Imagine the possibility that GPS could be made partially obsolete by our broadband system!

Wil Taylor

Move LightSquared

As a ham radio operator for almost 50 years, I can see both sides of the LightSquared/GPS issue. LightSquared has the law on its side, notwithstanding the politics of the FCC's decision to license in the first place. Simply put, almost none of the GPS devices that we have in our aircraft, cars and hand-held devices are adequately designed to prevent adjacent-channel interference. Apparently the designers could not imagine terrestrial adjacent-channel transmitters, so why spend the extra dollar or so in the design phase?

LightSquared is in the legal right as their equipment clearly follows the FCC regulations for the bandwidth they were licensed to use. Further, most existing GPS receivers simply cannot be retrofitted with filtering. Aircraft receivers with external antennas could be equipped with a filter in the antenna line, but not for the few dollars cited by LightSquared. Because there are millions of auto, truck and handheld GPS receivers and mandated GPS receivers in mobile telephones (Enhanced 911), the problem is going to require a Congressional solution.

I would recommend that Congress direct the FCC to move LightSquared's license to a different part of the spectrum and, further, to set aside the frequencies adjacent to the GPS satellites as unusable for terrestrial transmitters.

Steve Mann

The Missing Link

I know there are many variations of tiedowns, but why did you choose to exclude the spiral tiedowns? This design allows strong capture of just about any soil, including sand. I have no idea what force would be required to overcome the "bite," but I think this alternate design would be a good comparison to the other types you choose. I'm not referring to the flimsy pet holders, but real 1/2" steel rods.

Tom Feneran

AVweb Replies:

We have tested these in the past but found them unsuitable for portable tiedown use for several reasons. The first is that they are too difficult to install in hard soil. And if the soil is dry, insertion tends to disturb it so much that holding power is compromised. Second, to be at all effective, the larger spirals are required, and they are less convenient to carry than small tiedown kits. All portable tiedowns are a compromise against weight, cost, sizing and holding. The spirals wouldn't be on our list of best choices. Sorry.

Paul Bertorelli
Aviation Consumer Editor-in-Chief

Photo Excellence

Wow! What an outstanding group of photos in this issue of AVweb. While I always enjoy the selection included each Thursday, these were espectially good. Keep up the good work!

Max Lightsey

And Inaccuracy

click for more photos from last week

The "Photo of the Week" is not of a Beaver, but rather of a Cessna 195. The Beaver has wing struts and does not have bumps on the engine cover.

Bob Ostrom

AVweb Replies:

Beavers are in the eye of the beholder. We got quite a few notes about Larry Baum's winning photo and dutifully answered that the Beaver referenced in the photo isn't the C-195 on floats in the foreground — it's the aircraft passing overhead.

When we eventually spoke with Larry, he admitted catching a bit of razzing in e-mail himself and wrote back: "It is, of course, a Cessna 195 on floats — [but] there happens to be a Beaver in the slip next to that plane on Lake Hood! Go figure!" (And that's what we call a happy coincidence.)

Scott Simmons
Webmaster, "POTW" Editor

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

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

Survey: How's That Thielert Diesel Working Out?

For a follow-up article on Thielert-powered diesel airplanes, we would like to hear from owners operating these airplanes. Please e-mail us at pbertorelli@avweb.com with contact information, and we'll get back to you.

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

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Mid-Air Collision — And a Near-Perfect Ejection back to top 

Video: P-51 And Skyraider Midair With Pilot Account

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

Sunday, July 10, the P-51 Mustang dubbed Big Beautiful Doll crashed after a midair collision with a Douglas Skyraider while performing a flyby at the Duxford Flying Legends event in Duxford, England. No one was seriously injured. The Mustang's pilot, Rob Davies escaped under parachute, but was struck by the aircraft on his way out. The Skyraider completed a full roll to the right after hitting the P-51 and landed safely, missing a portion of its right wing. Davies gave a local news station his account and AVweb has obtained video of the event.

According to Davies, he was at about 500 feet "at the time of decision-making. And by the time I got out and got the 'chute open I was down to 200 feet. And unfortunately as I came out I hit the tail plane, so I suffered a few injuries through hitting that." His injuries, first reported as a broken arm, ultimately amounted to nothing more than bruises. But the Mustang nosed in and was lost. It did not burn and Davies landed close by. The Skyraider landed safely with a section of its right wingtip missing.

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AVweb Insider Blog: A Textbook Bail-Out?

That's what Rob Davies's exit from a damaged P-51 Mustang last week in the UK looked like, at least on video. On the AVweb Insider blog, Paul Bertorelli examines some of the risk factors in low-altitude bail-outs.

Read more and join the conversation.

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

Podcast: Mike Goulian, Aerobatic Pilot

File Size 10.8 MB / Running Time 11:47

Podcast Index | How to Listen | Subscribe Via RSS

Mike Goulian loves to compete, and he takes his search for perfection to the limit every time he flies. He talks with AVweb's Mary Grady about the finer points of tumbling his custom-built Extra 330SC, how he balances safety and risk, and why the air show crowd at Oshkosh is the best in the world.

Click here to listen. (10.8 MB, 11:47)

Video: Trying to Learn the G1000? Aviation Consumer Reviews Training Programs

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

There are at least a half-dozen training programs that offer help. In this video, Aviation Consumer's Paul Bertorelli takes a brief look at some of the offerings. Each has plusses and minuses, but any of them can get you ready to fly the G1000, if not confident and proficient.

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Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Yelvington Jet Aviation (KDAB, Daytona Beach, FL)

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

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Yelvington Jet Aviation at Daytona Beach International Airport (KDAB) in Daytona Beach, Florida.

AVweb reader Ron Horton tells us how the Yelvington exceeded his every expectation last week:

Despite the "jet" in their name, Yelvington was extremely helpful as we flew our Cessna 182 from North Carolina to KDAB to watch the final space shuttle launch. We called all the FBOs at KDAB, and Yelvington alone answered with courtesy, efficiency, and a desire to help us make our trip easy. Their fuel prices were the lowest on the field; they handled us quickly on the ramp despite the bad weather; they shuttled us to the terminal to pick up our rental car; and the warm cookies inside were a bonus! When we were headed from the Cape to KDAB for departure, we called for them to get the plane out of the hangar — they got it out, but when the storm beat us to the airport, they put it back in the hangar for safety and rolled it back out after we arrived and the storm had passed. We will definitely take advantage of Yelvington's hospitality when we return to KDAB.

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!

Short Final back to top 

Short Final

A slight departure from our usual hijinks this week:

The fallen Betty Ford was returning to Grand Rapids for the last time. Her remains were abord a beautiful United States Presidential airplane painted blue and white. The airport was closed to all other traffic for 30 minutes. Airliners waited patientally on the ground and some in a hold over the GRR VOR. As Ms. Ford's plane, SAM 324, landed, they were cleared to taxi all the way to the end, in front of a thousand people. The tower frequency was absolutely silent.

One unknown airline pilot, in a low, respectful voice, said, "Rest in peace, Mrs. Ford."

After a short pause and in a slow, measured response, the Presidential plane's pilot identified himself:

"SAM 324."

Len Vining III
via e-mail

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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