February 25, 2004
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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On Tuesday, an air traffic controller who worked for Skyguide, the Swiss airspace agency, was stabbed to death in his home in Kloten, near Zurich. The victim had been the sole controller on duty in July 2002 when two airplanes collided in Swiss airspace over Lake Constance, killing 71 people, many of them Russian schoolchildren. He was a 36-year-old Danish citizen, a father of three, and was never publicly identified in connection with the crash. Police said a dark-haired man in his 50s rang the doorbell at the controller's home. When the controller answered the door, a fierce and brief argument ensued. The controller was stabbed and the attacker escaped on foot. Yesterday, some news reports said the police think the suspect is the father of one of the schoolchildren who died. A group based in Russia representing the interests of victims' families expressed dismay over the attack. "The relatives understand that one can't return the victims of the air crash and the death of the dispatcher would only harm negotiations with the governments of Germany and Switzerland," Yulia Fedotova, a spokeswoman for the group, told Pravda. "We don't want to think that the death of the air traffic controller was connected with the investigation into the causes behind the crash, but it is possible that he became yet one more victim of the catastrophe."
Yesterday, Skyguide scaled back flights by 40 percent in Zurich airspace, to help ensure security and out of consideration for its workers. A quarter of Skyguide's Zurich staff did not report for work. Skyguide had been heavily criticized in the wake of the midair collision. Investigators found that only one controller was on duty while his colleague took a break, a collision-alert system was down for maintenance, and a phone warning from German controllers never get through. The Russian pilot of a Bashkirian Airlines Tu-154 was told by the controller to descend, although his onboard anti-collision system was telling him to climb. The pilot obeyed the controller and descended, colliding with the DHL cargo plane, a Boeing 757. The DHL flight with two pilots on board was also descending. Two weeks after the crash, the controller said in a statement that network errors had been to blame. Yesterday the company said in a statement, "Skyguide employees are in a state of shock and fury and are deeply shaken by the murder of their colleague and friend." Officials have stepped up protection for the second controller who was on duty the night of the crash, as well as for other Skyguide staff. The official report on the crash is expected next month.
ADDITIONAL FEATURES ON THE LIGHTSPEED QFR SOLO SS
It was eight years ago Tuesday that two unarmed civilian Cessna 337 Skymasters were shot down by Cuban MiGs, killing four Miami-based pilots as they searched for rafters fleeing from the island. To commemorate that anniversary, Jose Basulto, founder of Brothers to the Rescue, is planning to fly into international airspace near Havana and drop one million leaflets that he hopes will drift over Cuba. Flying conditions this week have not been favorable, Basulto told AVweb yesterday, but he is ready to go when the winds are right. He doesn't know exactly when that will be, and if he did know, he wouldn't tell in advance of the flight, he said. The leaflets contain articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and messages addressed to the Cuban people and the United States that demand the indictment of President Fidel Castro for murder. Basulto has conducted experiments to calculate the descent of the leaflets, in hopes that he can determine the right direction and altitude to drop them so they will drift over the mainland while he remains safely offshore. The four pilots killed on February 24, 1996, were Mario de la Peña, Pablo Morales, Carlos Costa and Armando Alejandre Jr. They were flying in two Skymasters.
Another pilot who supported the efforts of Cuban exiles is now serving a seven-year sentence in a Thai prison, convicted of hijacking an airplane to drop anti-communist leaflets over Ho Chi Minh City in November 2000. Ly Tong says he didn't use force against the pilot but bribed him with $10,000 to relinquish control. Ly has a long history of anti-communist aerial pamphleteering, and his supporters around the world say he is a freedom fighter and a hero. In January 2000, he rented an airplane in Miami and flew over Havana, scattering leaflets calling for Castro's ouster. In 1992, he took control of a Vietnam Airlines jetliner that launched in Bangkok and scattered 50,000 leaflets over Ho Chi Minh City, which then was known as Saigon. He escaped by jumping from the cockpit with a parachute, but was captured and imprisoned. He flew as a bomber pilot for the South Vietnamese air force during the Vietnam War and was captured by the North Vietnamese after his plane was shot down. He escaped from a prison camp in 1980 and was granted asylum in the U.S. Ly and his supporters now are lobbying for his transfer from Thailand to the U.S. His sentence was handed down in December.
A pair of microlight pilots from South Africa have found another way to give wings to their ideas. They launched two trikes from Cape Town on December 17, 2003, to embark on a 50,000-mile flight around the world. "Freedom Flight is a joint celebration of the first decade of a democratic South Africa and South Africa's contribution to the commemoration of the [Centennial]," according to the group's Web site. Ricky de Agrela and Alan Honeyborne plan to circle the world on their own with no ground support, taking 18 months to cross 50 countries and six continents. Monday, the two were in Thailand, and headed north along the coast of China and Russia. Last Friday, one of the trikes began to run rough and lose altitude above the jungle, but it limped to a safe landing and the team made repairs. Contaminated fuel was blamed for the malfunction. Honeyborne and de Agrela say the trip will be the longest microlight flight ever, and they will be the first Africans and South Africans to have flown around the world. The route will continue northward across the Bering Strait to Alaska, down the West Coast of the U.S. and Mexico to South America, up through the Caribbean and the East Coast of the U.S., across the North Atlantic to Europe, and south through Africa to return to Cape Town.
CS&A INSURES ALL TYPES OF AVIATION RISKS, INCLUDING ROTORCRAFT
Poor proficiency in English, the international language of aviation, contributed to major accidents that cost the lives of over 1,100 passengers and crew between 1976 and 2000, according to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Misunderstandings are also a factor in many close calls and runway incursions. To address the problem, ICAO has written new requirements for controllers and pilots involved in international operations, mandating for the first time that pilots must pass a test to demonstrate a minimum level of English language proficiency. The new rules take effect in 2008. Native speakers of English also must try harder to be understood, ICAO says. To reduce the risk of misunderstandings in the international environment, pilots need to study strategies such as avoiding the use of idioms, colloquialisms and jargon, and speak slowly and clearly, ICAO says.
Groen Brothers Aviation (GBA), of Salt Lake City, Utah, announced yesterday that its SparrowHawk Gyroplane has made its first flight. GBA said the enclosed, centerline-thrust, two-place kit-built gyroplane is dynamically and statically stable, making it safe and easy to fly. Jim Mayfield, GBA's chief test pilot and principal designer, said, "During the first flight, basic handling qualities were quantified and found to be within predicted limits. ... The centerline-thrust design, incorporating a generous horizontal stabilizer, ensures stability and increases safety. I believe that most pilots will find the SparrowHawk fun and easy to fly." Depending on the final rule definitions, the FAA's upcoming Light-Sport Aircraft category may allow the SparrowHawk, as a completed aircraft and/or a kit-built with minimum assembly requirements, to qualify as a Light-Sport Aircraft. The SparrowHawk is also being offered as a fully assembled aircraft designed specifically for aerial observation. The aircraft will be marketed and sold by American Autogyro Inc. (AAI), a subsidiary of GBA. "Based upon GBA's years of experience in aircraft structures and flight stability and control, and the several months and hundreds of fleet hours of flight time of AAI stabilization-modified aircraft, we are comfortable predicting that 'There will be no safer kit-built aircraft,'" said Mayfield, who is also president of AAI. AAI plans to fly the SparrowHawk at the upcoming Popular Rotorcraft Association Bensen Days fly-in and the EAA Sun 'n Fun fly-in, both held during April near Lakeland, Fla.
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Air Midwest will resume doing its own routine maintenance, instead of outsourcing to contractors, it was reported this week. Maintenance has been a major focus of the NTSB investigation into the crash of an Air Midwest Beech 1900 in January 2003 in Charlotte, N.C. The investigation has focused on work that was done to the elevator cables by a contractor shortly before the crash, and on weight and balance. All 21 aboard were killed when the airplane stalled shortly after takeoff. The NTSB's final report on the crash is expected today. The FAA last week notified the mechanics who worked on the plane that they didn't violate any federal regulations, The Charlotte Observer reported last Friday.
More than 4,000 Corsairs were built at the Goodyear plant in Akron, Ohio, during World War II, and the folks at the MAPS Air Museum want to hear from all the people who were there. All former pilots, mechanics, designers and builders are asked to contact the museum, and they will be recognized at a special ceremony at this summer's Aero Expo air show, June 19-20, at Akron Fulton Airport. They will also receive free tickets to the air show. Two Corsairs that were built in Akron will be on display and will fly during the weekend. Other fly-bys will include the B-2 Stealth Bomber, the F-117 Stealth Fighter, a C-130 formation, and a B-52 Stratofortress. For more information, call the MAPS Museum at 330-896-6332 (Akron) or 330-494-3577 (Canton).
A BRAND NEW AIRCRAFT FOR THE COST OF A SECOND CAR!
Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) announced a new set of procedures last week that it says will improve its rules-enforcement system and enhance safety. The new procedures create a "fairer and more transparent system," CASA said, and will open up enforcement decisions to greater scrutiny by the courts and tribunals. CASA's new chief executive officer, Bruce Byron, says the changes will ensure the punishment fits the crime, and will enable CASA to focus on incidents that have significant safety implications. The reforms also establish a self-reporting scheme that allows pilots to admit mistakes without fear of reprisal. "Prosecution or the suspension or cancellation of certificates or licences should be reserved for serious safety problems," Byron said. "But people who deliberately operate outside the rules or who put the lives of fare-paying passengers at risk should be prosecuted and -- if necessary -- removed from the aviation industry." The key changes are: a demerit-points scheme for breaches of regulations, enforceable voluntary undertakings to ensure compliance with regulations, protection for self-reporting of inadvertent breaches, automatic stays of most suspension and cancellation decisions pending an Administrative Appeals Tribunal review, and Federal Court review of CASA decisions to suspend an authorization in cases of serious and imminent risk to air safety.
Aerobatic pilots based at Hanscom Field in Bedford, Mass., who are being sued for noise complaints, this week got legal and financial support from AOPA...
FAA online meeting on proposed air-tour rules underway this week...
Asian Aerospace 2004 underway in Singapore this week; UAVs heavily featured...
The U.S. Army canceled its Comanche helicopter program this week, saying it will reallocate approximately $14.6 billion over five years, to restructure and revitalize Army aviation.
AEROBATIC CHAMPION KIRBY CHAMBLISS DEPENDS ON OREGON AERO TO ELIMINATE PAIN
Quiz #78 -- Equipment Check
Your accountant figured out how to deduct your flying lessons from your federal return. So, you buy a Cessna 172, and want to get in at least one flight before the IRS audits your dream. First, however, you need to see if the airplane will pass an FAA audit.
FEBRUARY SPECIALS FROM MARV GOLDEN YOUR ONE-STOP PILOT SHOP!
HAVE YOU SIGNED UP yet for AVwebs NO-COST twice monthly Business AVflash? Reporting on breaking news, Business AVflash also focuses on the companies, the products and the industry leaders that make headlines in the Business of Aviation. Business AVflash is a must read! Sign up today at http://www.avweb.com/profile/
AVweb's Business AVflash this week sneaks a peek at the draft that may become a formal outline for regulated general aviation security. Some new jets are rolling off the line at Cessna while business aviation celebrates its "safest" year and a close look at GAMA's annual numbers may show reason for economic optimism. Read the latest...
TRAINING STARTS HERE!
*** PREVIOUS RESULTS ***
Last week, AVweb and TSA polled aircraft owners/operators about the safety of their personal planes. Half of those who responded (220 AVweb readers) were very confident about GA safety, telling us their planes were kept locked in secure hangar when not in use. 34% of respondents had some concerns about the safety of their aircraft, but felt reasonably comfortable with the level of protection in place at their airport. And only 33 AVweb readers told us their airplanes were kept in a low-security environment with no auxiliary locking at all.
*** THIS WEEK'S QUESTION ***
This week, AVweb would like to know your thoughts on used aircraft pricing and how the new GA aircraft designs will affect the market. Click here to give us your opinion.
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MIKE BUSCH'S SAVVY SEMINAR COMING TO MEMPHIS, VAN NUYS, HARRISBURG, & OSHKOSH!
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"Home to Roost"
Raymond J. Hill Jr. of Baxter, IA tells the story of this week's winning photo:
"Taken by Janet Speer as I brought her husband back from a demo
flight in a homebuilt Hatz Biplane in 1986. We think it tells a grassroots story."
Click here to view a medium-sized version of this image
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AVweb continues to receive a large number of excellent images for our POTW contest. Here are some of the runners-up. Click on the links below to view
"Oops, I Tail-Landed"
Menaham Bar-Nes of Israel
assures us that only the pilot's pride was injured
"Choose Your Destination"
Mark Manes of Alma, Arkansas
shot this fuel stop on the way from MN to AR
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GROUNDHOG DAY'S SPECIAL TO ALL PILOTS FROM SAFE GOODS ENDS FEBRUARY 29!
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AVflash is a twice-weekly summary of the latest aviation news, articles, products, features and events featured on AVweb, the Internet's Aviation Magazine and News Service. http://www.avweb.com
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