NewsWire Complete Issue

February 22, 2004
By The AVweb Editorial Staff

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Noise Limits Cut For Light Singles...

"New" Reg Is Old News...

Sometimes a regulation sits in the FAA's in-basket for so long that when they finally get around to issuing it, it looks new again. Such might be the case with the FAA's Noise Stringency Increase for Single-Engine Propeller-Driven Small Airplanes, which will amend Part 36 to cut the allowable takeoff noise for light singles by up to 8 percent. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) was issued Feb. 4 and comments will be received until June 10. The rule sets the noise limit for light singles to range from a minimum of 70 dBA for airplanes with a maximum takeoff weight of 1,257 pounds to 85 dBA for the heaviest singles. The new levels will affect type certificates and supplementary type certificates issued starting Nov. 4 ... and are based on criteria reached during a meeting in Montreal nine years ago. In 1995, the International Civil Aviation Organization's Committee on Aviation and Environmental Protection met, with representation from North America and Europe. Delegates, at that time, determined that light singles posed the biggest noise-pollution hazard because they are the most likely to be used for training, with multiple takeoffs and low-level operations. After analyzing the noise outputs of existing aircraft, the committee decided to set the limit for singles at the level of current production models. Although that won't cut the noise from your local flying school's airplanes, it will ensure they won't get any noisier. There's a chart on page 14 of the FAA document showing the relationship between weight and noise.

...With Muted Effect On Manufacturers...

The FAA insists only the eardrums of airport neighbors, and not the flying public, manufacturers or aircraft modifiers, will be affected by the rule. "The FAA believes that this proposed rule would impose minimal, if any, costs on supplemental type certificate applicants and would impose no cost on type certificate applicants, because airplanes in current production already meet the proposed noise standards," the NPRM reads. Industry officials seem to agree. Lancair has certifications pending but spokesman Mark Cahill said the company long ago adopted the European noise standards as a marketing consideration. Likewise, Liberty Aerospace spokesman Mike Fabianac said the XL2, which was just certified last Thursday, easily meets the proposed standards. General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) spokeswoman Shelly Simi told AVweb her group was aware of the NPRM and is now reviewing it. She said GAMA will likely have comments to submit regarding the new rule.

...Light Sport Spared

The soon-to-be-created Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) class will not be affected by the rule. EAA spokesman Earl Lawrence explained that Light Sport Aircraft will not go through the regular certification process, even though they will be delivered as complete aircraft. Because the NPRM specifically includes only type certificate and supplementary type certificate applications, LSA aircraft are exempt. LSA standards are being set by an industry consensus process (with FAA oversight) and manufacturers will swear an "affidavit of compliance" to those standards to get manufacturing approval. Lawrence said there are currently no noise limits but there might be in the future. Lawrence said manufacturers are sensitive to the noise issue and have had informal discussions about setting limits. "EAA and several manufacturers have been discussing this and we want to have something in there to address it," he said. By being proactive on noise limits, Lawrence said the industry hopes to avoid having them imposed. Lawrence said there is plenty of "off the shelf" technology available to cut noise from engines and props.

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Liberty: The Newly Certified Two-Place

Safest GA Plane Ever?...

It's not uncommon for superlatives to be flying when a new airplane is certified but Liberty Aerospace spokesman Mike Fabianac says the FAA has bestowed a coveted title on the company's new XL2. "Their primary concern is safety and they told us this is going to be the safest GA airplane ever produced," said Fabianac (we're looking forward to the mail incited by that one). The XL2 is the first two-place light single to receive a type certificate in over 30 years, Fabianac told us, and the first to be certified with Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC), which provoked even more exhaustive testing by the FAA. It took four years to certify the airplane and the paperwork came through last Thursday. Fabianac said the FADEC system has quadruple redundancy and is much more reliable than a magneto system. It also allows for single-lever power control, with the computers constantly adjusting the fuel and ignition for optimum performance. In addition to reducing pilot workload, the company claims fuel economy is increased by up to 20 percent and engine life is extended because there's no danger of improper leaning. Add cockpit rollover protection and a composite and tube fuselage, and it adds up to strong package. "There's so much more protection," Fabianac said.

...Performance And Price

Well, Volvo has proved that safety can sell, but airplane buyers also look for performance. The XL2 fits an uncommon niche in that it only seats two, an accommodation package usually reserved for trainers. The Liberty folks reasoned that there were plenty of people who fly by themselves or with only one other passenger on most of their flights and might be attracted to a modern, relatively fast (150-mph cruise) airplane that could carry them 500 miles at 27 miles per gallon (just in case the wind stops blowing). By cutting out the back seats, Liberty was also able to keep the price down to $140,000. So far, about 50 have been sold. Fabianac said work will start almost immediately on the order backlog and they should be delivered by the end of this year. The company is hoping to build 220 airplanes in 2005 and 320 the following year. He said the company deliberately located in Melbourne, on the so-called Space Coast of Florida, to be assured of a ready pool of skilled labor as it grows. Certifications are pending for Europe and Asia, and company President Anthony Tiarks is currently in Singapore at a major aviation trade show.

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Family Blames FAA For Crash In Fog

The family of a Texas doctor is suing the FAA for $25 million, saying controllers gave Dr. George Swanson "bad information" just before his Swearingen turboprop crashed in dense fog in Florida last November. The suit alleges that Swanson, an experienced pilot, was flying much lower than he should have been when the plane hit a wooded area short of the runway at Craig Airport, near Jacksonville, Fla., last Thanksgiving. But according to the NTSB preliminary report of the crash, controllers had advised Swanson that the weather was below minimums at Craig Airport (a quarter mile and 100 feet) and gave him alternates. Swanson tried the approach, anyway. Members of Swanson's family apparently believe the FAA failed to adequately warn the pilot that he was headed for disaster. The plane hit trees 1.8 miles short of the runway, according to the NTSB. "Something broke down. All it took was for someone to tell him that you're not supposed to be where you are. That's all it would have taken," Swanson's brother Richard told News4Jax. "The guy was a good pilot, a great pilot. He knew what was going on." The family's lawyer, Don Maciejewksi, said he thinks they have a good argument. "This is a case that does not add up. We have a good pilot who has a lot of bad-weather flying time and who made this approach many times before."

Honda-TCM Deal Near?

A Japanese newspaper has reported that Honda and Teledyne Continental Motors (TCM) are close to a deal to produce piston engines for light aircraft. But neither company is apparently willing to confirm or deny the report. The Nihon Keizai newspaper said Honda and Teledyne are in final negotiations on a 50-50 venture to market the engine in the U.S. But Honda spokesman Jeffrey Smith told Bloomberg News the report is premature ... in spite of the fact the companies had been telling us to expect an announcement before 2004. "Reports regarding the outcome of the discussions are speculative," Smith said. The news article didn't say where it got the information. Talks have been going on between the two companies for almost a year and they began testing Honda's lightweight, fuel-efficient engine at a facility in Mobile, Ala., in 2000. Last week, Honda announced a partnership with GE to build jet engines for small jets. The companies claim the engine will be more efficient than comparable models from competitors.

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India -- An Air Force At What Cost?

Friday, an Indian air force MiG-21 crashed in a residential area near Jamnagar, killing at least four people on the ground and injuring 14. The pilot ejected with minor injuries. It was the second MiG-21 crash this month and at least the 30th in less than four years. Investigators haven't been able to find two of the lost 40-year-old aircraft. At least 17 pilots have died. Saturday's crash renewed calls to scrap the old jets, or to at least properly train the pilots who fly them. The challenging MiG-21, with its 210-mph landing speed, is usually the first assignment for rookie pilots coming out of training on much more docile aircraft, according to the Times of India. "I have been shouting at the top of my voice that the MiGs should be withdrawn because they are faulty, but nothing has happened," said Kavita Gadgil, whose son died in one. "Why should pilots die in the air and villagers down below?" The Indian air force is reportedly on the verge of phasing out the MiG-21, but since it makes up half the combat fleet, it could be a long transition. A faulty fuel pump, the cause of some previous crashes, is a possible suspect in this accident according to The Telegraph, of Calcutta.

Rescue Flights Available For Shuttle

Shuttle astronauts will have a Plan B if something goes wrong with the spacecraft when it returns to service. The shuttle (it could be Discovery or Atlantis) will be diverted to the International Space Station (ISS) while a rescue mission is mounted using a second shuttle. "We do plan to have a safe haven capability," Michael Kostelnik, NASA’s deputy associate administrator for both the ISS and shuttle programs, told a conference on the future of the of the shuttle. "Though a second vehicle would not be on the pad and primed to go." The crew of the second shuttle would be trained for the rescue mission, if it became necessary. It's estimated the first crew would have to spend 45 to 90 days on the space station while the second vehicle was readied. Meanwhile, Kostelnik told the conference that improvements to the shuttle's external tank insulation and reinforcement of the leading edges of the wings are underway to try and make the craft as reliable as possible. Shuttle Columbia broke apart on re-entry 13 months ago after (investigators believe) a piece of insulation fell off the tank and damaged a wing leading edge during liftoff. On reentry, the damage to the wing allowed superheated gas to get inside.

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Tiger Might Buy Commander

Commander Aircraft, of Bethany, Okla., could resume production this year if a buyout by Tiger Aircraft, of Martinsburg, W.Va., is approved by shareholders. Tiger, which makes a modern version of the Grumman model by the same name, has offered to buy 80 percent of the shares in Aviation General, the holding company that owns Commander. Commander filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2002. The deal has to be approved by the 400 shareholders in Aviation General and by the Delaware bankruptcy court. If it goes through, Tiger will have added a heavier, more powerful, more luxurious and slightly faster aircraft to its line. The Tiger was born as a stretched version of the sporty Traveler in 1975. With 180 horsepower and a useful load of 900 pounds, it went head-to-head with mid-range Cessnas, Pipers and Beechcrafts for the light touring market. The current manufacturer, Tiger Aircraft LLC, received type certification for the updated version in 2001. Commander began life as the light-aircraft division of Rockwell International until the line was purchased by the current company in 1988.

FAA Sets Building Limits In Crawford

Until President Bush leaves office, anyone wanting to build or erect anything more than 50 feet tall in his hometown of Crawford, Texas, will not only need the normal building and zoning permits, he or she will also require FAA approval. The purpose of the rule, finalized February 6, is to ensure that new construction doesn't get in the way of the various low-level flight patterns the Marines and Secret Service have worked out to make sure President Bush gets to his ranch in safety and security. It's not only pilots that face restrictions in President Bush's hometown. Now that the comments (all three of them) on the rule have been received, read and pretty much discounted, the rule has been finalized. The rule has actually been in effect since last April 22 but was considered an interim rule because it was enacted without the normal 90-day comment period. The comments received warned of impact on the local business community and one commenter questioned whether every future president would cause changes to his hometown's local building standards. The FAA isn't ruling that out, but it also is stressing that each project is considered individually and, if it doesn't pose a hazard to the president's flights, will be allowed to proceed.

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Scrap, Er, Memorabilia On Auction

British Airways is getting rid of a huge inventory of useless parts and, presumably, aiding a good cause. The airline has announced it will hold a second auction of Concorde "memorabilia" from April 14 to April 17. More than 150,000 spare parts, now considered collectors' items, will go on the block in the four-day affair at Stoneleigh Park. Bidders will also be able to take part online. Among the items for sale are instruments, on-board computers, engines and parts, lights, sensors, plates, knives, forks and spoons. There is also another coveted nose cone. At an earlier auction in December, an American bid more than $600,000 for a nose cone. "We were encouraged to hold another auction by the vast number of letters and phone calls British Airways received from the public asking if we would be selling more items," said BA marketing director Martin George.

On The Fly...

New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey is worried FAA budget cuts will hurt aviation in the state. McGreevey wrote President Bush asking him to explain just how the system is supposed to absorb triple the flights in the next 20 years with $400 million less in equipment spending approved for 2005 and a shortage of qualified air traffic controllers looming...

The Australian pilot of a civilian helicopter died in Afghanistan Sunday after his aircraft was sprayed with machine-gun fire, likely from Taliban rebels. Officials said the pilot was hit as he was taking off about 60 miles from Kandahar. Two others on board were injured. The helicopter is owned by the Louis Berger Group, a U.S. construction company...

A gear failure can happen to anyone; just ask the crew of an FAA King Air that had to slide along the runway at Oklahoma City on Thursday after the right mains wouldn't come down. The local TV station captured what it called a textbook landing on video. No one was hurt but the plane was substantially damaged, according to the, ahem, FAA incident report...

Creators of the Gulfstream 550 ultra-long-range bizjet have won the Collier Trophy for 2003. The prize is given each year by the National Aeronautic Association for "the greatest achievement in aeronautics in the United States with respect to improving the performance, efficiency or safety of air or space vehicles." In addition to the 6,750-nm range, the plane also has an enhanced vision system.

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New Articles and Features on AVweb

The Pilot's Lounge #71: "Fresh Annual" And Other Hooks For Suckers
The combination of a challenging national economy and fast-paced (but not face-to-face) internet communication is causing more planes to be sold in very poor mechanical condition with questionable -- if not illegal -- documentation. AVweb's Rick Durden updates the old buyer-beware maxim in The Pilot's Lounge.

The DreamLaunch Tour: Orlando and Greenville
Jamail Larkins is touring the United States as part of The DreamLaunch Tour, a "barnstorming" effort to get youngsters in middle schools and high schools thinking about careers in aviation. Every few weeks AVweb will publish his travel journal, as well as the winning essays of students from the schools he visits. Essay winners get a ride with Jamail in a Cirrus SR20, bringing full-circle Jamail's aviation journey that started with a flight at age 12 with the EAA Young Eagles program. Jamail began the tour in Orlando, Fla., and Greenville, S.C.

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Business AVflash

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Reader feedback on AVweb's news coverage and feature articles:

Reader mail this week about Presidential TFRs, Honda jet engine claims, funny airplane stories and more.

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Short Final...

"While flying the Santa Monica VOR-A approach tonight, I heard SoCal approach say..."

Approach: November XXXX say again type.

NXXXX: We're a Beech 19. You know, the little one.

Approach: Roger. So what you're saying is you're a little son of a Beech.

Sponsor News and Special Offers

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We Welcome Your Feedback!

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Let's all be careful out there, okay?

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