March 4, 2004
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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A Cessna 172 was stolen from its hangar about 6:30 a.m. Sunday at Brazoria County Airport, near Houston, Texas. More than a dozen hangars were broken into and at least one other airplane was taxied onto the field and abandoned. The thief finally settled into a 172 with the key in it, loaded it with ... a few six-packs of cold beer (you were more concerned?) ... opened up the pilot's operating handbook, and took off into the fog. He hit power lines less than two miles from the runway. The thief left the airplane a broken heap of metal on the ground, and disappeared. Tuesday, police arrested Louis Paul Kadlecek and charged him with the theft. Police said he had been drinking for four days to celebrate his 21st birthday and had never flown an airplane before. "This guy used up all the luck he is ever going to have," Louis Jones, county aviation director, said Monday. "To hit the power lines and walk away unhurt is unbelievable." The airplane's owner said the 172 had about an hour's worth of fuel on board, and he had left the key in it, but it was in a locked hangar. Brazoria County Chief Deputy Charles Wagner told KHOU News that the suspect was just taxiing around in the 172 when "all of a sudden he said, why not go for it? ... He pulled back on it and it took off. Taking off is not that hard. It's getting down that's the problem." Wagner said Kadlecek knew the airport layout because he had performed community service there after a previous arrest.
Brazoria County Judge John Willy said Sunday's incident will trigger a reassessment of security measures at the airport. "We're going to review that and decide whether we do need more," he said. The county already is adding new gates and perimeter fencing, but while the construction work is in progress the gates were left unsecured. Surveillance cameras were operating, but were not monitored. A report last October by the GA Airport Security Working Group said: "Locking hangar doors and aircraft doors to prevent unauthorized access or tampering with the aircraft is important. ... Pilots should make it as difficult as possible for an unauthorized person to gain access to their airplane." Apparently that message has not yet overcome old habits. The report gave additional suggestions for added security: "[Pilots should use] existing mechanisms such as door locks, keyed ignitions, hangaring the aircraft or using an auxiliary lock to further protect aircraft from unauthorized use. Commercially available options for auxiliary locks include locks for propellers, throttle, and prop controls, and tie-downs." According to the Aviation Crime Prevention Institute, airplane thefts are relatively rare. In 2002, 13 airplanes were stolen -- 15 in 2001, and 10 in 2000. While some are taken for joy rides, others are taken for parts or for use in drug smuggling and other criminal activities. Of course, added to that list now is the fear that stolen airplanes will be used for terrorist attacks.
RECONDITIONED 25XLs AVAILABLE FROM LIGHTSPEED AVIATION
By 2030 one in five Americans will be age 60 or older ... a statistic likely to be reflected in the pool of general aviation pilots. A study released last month by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found a link between aging and safety, concluding that drivers over age 65 are more likely to die in car crashes. Despite years of effort by pilot-advocacy groups, the FAA has remained steadfast in its rule that airline pilots must pack it in at age 60, citing study after study that it says show an age-related decline in skills. Yet no such age limit exists for GA pilots -- as long as they can pass an FAA medical exam, they can fly. The AAA study found that drivers over age 65 are almost twice as likely to die in car crashes as drivers age 55 to 64, and it gets worse as they get older -- drivers over 85 were almost four times as likely to die. "As we age, our reaction time and other cognitive skills can diminish," Peter Kissinger, president of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, said in a news release. "For instance, our eyesight deteriorates to such an extent that by age 60 we require 10 times the amount of light to see an object as when we were 16." AAA based its findings on an analysis of 25 years of data involving 4 million injury crashes in Texas. "Second only to teen drivers, older drivers are the second most likely group to sustain injuries or death in traffic crashes," said Kissinger. "It is vital that seniors periodically and honestly review their driving performance."
The FAA in the past has dismissed studies of automobile statistics as irrelevant to aviation safety. "Automobile drivers are allowed to drive with a variety of mental and physical conditions that would be disqualifying for pilots," the FAA said in a June 2003 report from the Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI) in Oklahoma City. "Pilots are required to pass periodic physical examinations to obtain their medical certificates." Flying without a medical so far has been restricted to balloons, gliders, and ultralights -- aircraft with low speeds and simple systems that are considered inherently safe. Soon, pilots may also be able to fly Light-Sport Aircraft without an FAA medical, as long as they can qualify for a driver's license. The CAMI report notes that "it is impossible to determine the extent to which driver health and the use of a variety of medications affect [automobile] accident rates. ... [Pilots] are not allowed to use medications that are likely to influence their alertness, cognition, or coordination." Even pilots who fly without a medical are required to self-certify themselves for every flight and stay on the ground if they are sick or taking medication that could impair their performance. EAA says it reviewed accident figures involving sailplanes, balloons, and ultralights and found that only one of more than 700 accidents could be traced to medical incapacitation. However, in aircraft where pilots are required to have a medical certificate, the number of accidents due to medical incapacitation was slightly higher (31-hundredths of one percent).
Most of the research into aging and accident rates has focused on professional pilots, driven by the debate over the Age-60 Rule, which requires retirement at that age for airline pilots, regardless of physical condition or mental ability. The scant research that has been done on private pilots (or holders of third-class medicals) has been inconclusive and sometimes contradictory. For example, a 1991 study of NTSB records from 1985 and '86 showed that private pilots age 60 and older had accident rates about twice that of pilots age 16 to 59. One problem is that many studies depend on analysis of crash statistics. "The trouble with accident data is that it's relatively rare, and it's difficult to control for all the factors that vary from case to case," Prof. Dan Morrow, of the University of Illinois, told AVweb. Morrow has studied pilots in lab situations, and has found evidence that they can draw on their experience and expertise to cancel out the effects of aging. "We try to develop experiments under controlled circumstances, that look specifically for the impact of age on performance. These results should relate to the real world," he said. Among the research that depend on crash data a 1998 study of NTSB records on 10-seat-or-fewer crashes from 1983-92 found pilots age 60 or older (11 percent of the total) were three times more likely to die, and pilots age 50 to 59 were twice as likely to die, compared to pilots younger than 25 (7 percent of the pilots). Yet a 1994 study of 12 years' data found only "a hint" of an increase in accident rates for pilots over 63 flying with a third-class medical. The CAMI report acknowledges that "research on aviation safety outcomes in relation to age has produced mixed results, with some studies indicating a trend across age and others failing to detect any relationship of age to safety outcomes." In its report last year on data limited to professional pilots, CAMI exhaustively crunched the numbers through about a dozen analytical hoops, and found a pattern of higher accident rates for younger pilots, with accidents declining with age to a relatively stable rate in the middle years, followed by an increase for older pilots over age 60. While pilots and the FAA turn to research for answers, definitive results remain elusive.
YOU TOO CAN BE A WINNER WITH SCHEYDEN, AVIATION'S
Tuesday's primaries put Sen. John Kerry on track to be this year's Democratic nominee for president, and that is fine with the folks at the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA). The union yesterday gave its enthusiastic support to Kerry, after he courted them with a promise that there would be no ATC privatization on his watch. "I have been disappointed with the Bush administration's systematic plans to diminish our air traffic control system," Kerry wrote to the controllers union. NATCA called Kerry "the candidate who will ensure that the safety of the flying public never takes a back seat to political ideology or special interests." Actually, both Kerry and NATCA had a lot to say.
Kerry criticized in detail the Bush administration's approach to the union, saying they have "squandered" the good will that existed between the FAA and air traffic controllers in the previous administration. "They have sought to privatize air traffic control services," he wrote. "They are currently seeking to slash the budget for modernization of air traffic control technologies. And they have taken a position of malign neglect toward the looming retirement crisis that will devastate staffing of air traffic control facilities throughout the country in the next few years. ... I can promise you that, under a Kerry administration, there will be no privatization of air traffic control." In a news release yesterday, NATCA President John Carr explained why he is so eager to support Kerry. "The Bush administration has tried to jeopardize the safety of our skies by pushing its own political agenda to contract out safety to the lowest bidder," Carr said. "Fortunately, brave Republicans and Democrats have fought to keep safety first, but the clock is ticking. Four more years of a Bush administration means four more years of putting a misguided political ideology over air safety. That's four more years our nation can't afford."
The Pennsylvania man who in January was arrested and charged with flying while drunk (for four hours, low over populated areas, through controlled airspace without contacting ATC, forcing diversion of a half-dozen airliners, and within 900 feet of a loaded Boeing 747) had twice been convicted of drunken driving -- in 1989 and 1990, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Tuesday. He had also been charged with public intoxication just months before the flight that got him in trouble. Since 1990, more than 3,000 pilots have lost their medical and airman certificates due to drug or alcohol problems, the FAA says. That's nearly one-third of all revocations issued by the agency, but the Pennsylvania pilot was not among them. The FAA's rule that requires pilots to report DUI suspensions didn't go into effect until November 1990. Even now, pilots are not required to report convictions not related to driving. An FAA study of fatal accidents from 1994-98 (during which time the reporting rule has been in effect) found alcohol was present in the blood of about 7 percent of the pilots who died. The FAA now checks the National Driver Register for DUI violations against pilots, and pilots who fail to report those violations within 60 days may have their certificate suspended. The FAA may deny an application for, and suspend or revoke, an airman certificate or rating if an individual has had two or more alcohol-related motor vehicle convictions or state motor vehicle administrative actions within a three-year period.
GETTING THE MOST OUT OF THE AIRCRAFT IN YOUR CLUB?
Mooney Airplane Co. said Monday it has negotiated a new 30-year lease for its site at the Kerrville (Texas) Airport. The lease adds stability to Mooney's operation, said company President J. Nelson Happy. "Our old leases were fragmented, covered too much land and only had nine years left to go. We were reluctant to make investments in the physical plant without a long-term lease." The terms of the new agreement reduce Mooney's leased acreage from 51 acres to the 17 acres the company actually uses. "This will drastically cut our tax burden and eliminate the need for Mooney to maintain several old deteriorated buildings," Happy said. The new lease rate is $1,434 per month for the first 10 years, then escalates to about $3,263 per month for the next 10-year term. The final 10-year term will be at $6,527 per month. "This is very reasonable rent," Happy said, "and Mooney retains title to all of our buildings and fixtures for the entire 30-year term."
An analysis of NTSB crash data by USA Today this week showed that pilots are blamed less often than they used to be, while the incidence of maintenance errors has stayed the same. Improved training and better cockpit warning systems have helped pilots to deal with problems that might have proved fatal in the past, the report said. Pilot error is still the number-one cause (50 percent) of accidents, but maintenance comes in second. More than 30 percent of accidents from 1997 through 2001 were caused at least in part by maintenance mistakes, USA Today said. But some may feel the "analysis" fell short. USA Today's report says that maintenance accounts for 30 percent of accidents, and pilot error for half, but did not account for the remaining 20 percent. The newspaper evaluated the 158 most severe crashes on commercial aircraft with 15 or more seats from 1980 through 2001, and interviewed more than two dozen aviation analysts. The criteria for selecting the 158 "most severe" crashes was not clearly defined.
CLICK, QUOTE, FLY
A Canadian artist for whom an airplane was as fundamental to his art as palette and brush died in a crash in British Columbia Sunday. Toni Onley was practicing touch and goes on the Fraser River just east of Vancouver when his Lake Buccaneer amphibian crashed into about 30 feet of water. There have been reports that the plane might have hit unmarked telecommunications wires spanning the river before the crash. Onley, 75, used the Buccaneer to get into wilderness areas and coastal locations that are accessible only by air and the resulting watercolor images hang in some of the most prestigious galleries in the world. But the airplane was more than a tool; it was part of his passion and he occasionally lent his name to lobbying efforts by aviation groups. Last year, Onley publicly urged the B.C. government to shelve a plan to restrict private aircraft operations in wilderness parks in the northern part of the province. He was also an active member of the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association. Onley's daughter Lynn told the Vancouver Province that he'd been traveling a lot lately and hadn't flown his plane recently. She said she suspected a mechanical fault caused the crash. "I think really something was wrong with the plane," said Onley, 51, who is also an artist. "That's basically it. And they'll find that out when they investigate."
On Monday, the FAA published a final rule affecting the T-34 fleet, declaring that the Alternative Methods of Compliance (AMOCs) it had approved for an earlier Airworthiness Directive on wing spars are no longer valid. The rule follows the November crash of a T-34 in Texas, in which two pilots were killed when a wing separated from the airplane while they were performing air-combat maneuvers. The impact of the new rule on the fleet is not quite clear, Tim Roehl, president of the T-34 Spar Corp., which provides modifications for the airplanes, told AVweb yesterday. "We expect that the AMOCs will be revised and resubmitted to the FAA," he said.
If that process works fairly smoothly, as Roehl anticipates, new AMOCs may be approved before T-34 owners are due for their next 80-hour inspection. However, the T-34 Association's Web site said, "It appears that any T-34 that has accumulated 80 hours or more time in service since August 16, 2001, will be grounded on March 15, 2004, regardless of whether or not any AMOC has been performed. The only exception to this is the aircraft that have complied with Raytheon Service Bulletin No. 57-3329 are not effected [sic] by this amendment." The T-34 Association is hoping to work out a temporary AMOC for those that have already completed an AMOC by inspecting wing station 66 per Raytheon Service Bulletin 57-3329. Victor Juarez, the Designated Engineering Representative that designed the AMOC for General Aviation Modifications Inc. (GAMI) and the rear spar inspection for Nogle and Black Aviation, is currently working with GAMI to develop an inspection procedure and a fix that will extend the 80-hour reinspection interval of the Raytheon Service Bulletin to several thousand hours between inspections. Roehl said the revised AMOC would make available a fix that is OK'd for about 7,500 hours. The new FAA rule takes effect March 15. About 350 T-34s are flying in the U.S., Roehl estimated. The FAA first issued an AD about the T-34 wings in 1999, after a wing on a T-34A separated in flight. The FAA estimated that each repetitive inspection would cost about $1,860.
AEROSHELL KNOWS WHAT PILOTS WANT TO PROTECT AND SHINE THEIR AIRCRAFT
The two men who brought GPS online are among this year's inductees to the National Inventors Hall of Fame, along with the inventors of SuperGlue and the sewing machine. Ivan Getting, who died last year, conceived the idea of a Global Positioning System while working at Raytheon during the 1950s. Bradford Parkinson, now a professor emeritus at Stanford University, served as the first director of the government's NAVSTAR GPS Joint Program Office from 1972-78, overseeing the conception, development and implementation of GPS. "GPS has revolutionized the concept of finding out where something is," Parkinson said. Every year, the National Inventors Hall of Fame honors the men and women whose work has changed society and improved the way we live. The 2004 class will be inducted on May 1 at a ceremony in Akron, Ohio.
Two Turkish F-4 jets collided in midair Tuesday during a training flight. At least one of the four pilots may have parachuted to safety...
The engines of an Iranian Fokker-50 turboprop went into reverse before it crashed while on final approach last month in United Arab Emirates, officials said Tuesday. Three people survived and 46 died in the crash...
A man drove his SUV into the ticket lobby of Kahului Airport in Maui, Hawaii, and set it on fire Sunday morning. Authorities said the 52-year-old man was upset about a personal matter and no terrorism was involved. Flights were delayed for 10 hours...
American Airlines laid off 236 pilots this week, for a total of 2,471 furloughed pilots. The cuts were agreed to in labor talks last year. No recall schedules are set...
A Canadian inventor has received a patent for an airliner that would break into pieces and parachute to safety in an emergency...
The Second International Conference on Volcanic Ash and Aviation Safety is set for June 21-24 in Alexandria, Va. Airplane encounters with ash can result in surface abrasion and engine failure.
MARV GOLDEN HAS EVERYTHING YOU NEED FROM AVIONICS TO WATCHES
Say Again? #34: It's No Joke
It'd be easy to assume some pilots are just stupid, given the behavior AVweb's Don Brown sometimes sees in his radar screen. But since they've managed to work their way through the FAA certification process, it's more productive to look at the system problems to see why pilots seem to do stupid things.
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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. Sign up and read the latest...
DON'T WISH YOUR AIRPLANE HAD ALL THE BELLS AND WHISTLES.
*** PREVIOUS RESULTS ***
Last week, AVweb polled readers about recent innovations in general aircraft design. Will GA improvements make used aircraft prices drop, or will rising prices continue to be the trend? According to our respondents, the demand for used aircraft will remain steady, and prices will continue to rise just as they always have. 60% of you (227 voters) said the market forces will continue to drive those prices up. A few of you (4%) even felt that the increasing rarity of traditional metal planes will continue to drive the prices of used aircraft into the sky. A very small percentage of our readers suggested that plane prices are inflated and alternatives such as fractional ownership are a better investment.
*** THIS WEEK'S QUESTION ***
This week, AVweb would like to know your thoughts on older pilots and the Age-60 Rule. How old is too old to fly?
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FIRST WORLD FLIGHT: THE ODYSSEY OF BILLY MITCHELL IS A MUST-READ!
Three years before Lindbergh's flight to Paris, the U.S. Army joined the race to be the first to fly around the world. Many countries had tried. All had failed. Most pilots had died. Could the United States capture aviation's greatest prize? This hardcover book by Spencer Lane tells it all in great detail. Special autographed copies are available for AVweb subscribers only at http://www.avweb.com/sponsors/firstworldflight/avflash.
FOR THE PILOT WHO HAS EVERYTHING, HAVE THEM TAKE ANY VEHICLE FOR A SPIN!
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SKYGUY OFFERS HEADSETS AND FLIGHT BAGS THAT WON'T BREAK YOUR PIGGY BANK!
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"SEE THE LIGHT AND KILL THE RABBIT" IN THE APRIL ISSUE OF IFR MAGAZINE
This article is an in-depth analysis of approach light systems, so you'll know your MALSRs from your RAILs for REIL and how to shed light into your IFR toolkit. Also included in this issue are the following topics: "When ATC Calls a New Play"; "Make the Perfect Go/No-Go Call"; "Circle Like You Mean It"; "When It All Goes South"; plus, editor Paul Berge takes a firm stand on both sides of all hot-button aviation issues; the "Briefing Page"; and "On the Air." Order your subscription to IFR Magazine at http://www.avweb.com/sponsors/belvoir/ifrmag/avflash.
CARBON MONOXIDE KILLS! SAFETY IS CO GUARDIAN'S CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTOR
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FIRST-TIME PILOTS ARE USUALLY SPEECHLESS. THEN THEY CAN'T STOP TALKING
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