March 10, 2004
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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The TSA and FAA need to be more careful and consistent in conducting background checks of pilots when they authorize waivers for aerial advertisers to fly over restricted stadium airspace, the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) said in a report issued last Friday. The report, in the form of a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge from Cathleen Berrick, the GAO's director of homeland security and justice issues, concluded that "vulnerabilities and inefficiencies in the background check process" need to be addressed, in the event that the waiver restriction on aerial advertisers is repealed. Further, "such actions could also improve the quality of background checks for all general aviation pilots seeking waivers of security-related flight restrictions," the report says. In February 2003, Congress passed legislation that prevented aerial-advertising pilots from flying near stadium airspace during certain sporting events by suspending the waiver process for one year. In January 2004, Congress passed legislation to continue this restriction indefinitely. The new GAO report says the House Subcommittee on Homeland Security asked for a review of FAA and TSA threat assessments conducted relevant to aerial-advertising operations. The report aims to identify the FAA's and TSA's processes for mitigating the identified threat, determine whether established processes were followed and identify factors that may limit their effectiveness.
The report also recommends that, in the event that aerial-advertising waiver restrictions are repealed, the TSA should determine whether more comprehensive background checks are warranted. Lawyer Julian Hayes, who represents the U.S. Aerial Advertisers Association, told AVweb that he has no problem with more-comprehensive checks. "Nobody would object to any level of scrutiny, if they could just get back into the air," he told AVweb yesterday. Hayes added that he doesn't see the GAO report as a step toward reinstating waivers, no matter what security checks are in place. "There is too much pressure on the TSA to keep [the ban on waivers] intact," he said. Hayes said the major leagues and NASCAR like the ban for their own reasons, which have nothing to do with national security. "Aerial advertisers have been discriminated against," he said. "The government is kowtowing to big business and big money." The GAO report says that the "TSA does not believe aerial advertising aircraft pose a significant threat, [but the] TSA's summary assessment of general aviation concluded that a variety of factors made general aviation vulnerable to terrorist attacks." The GAO also said the TSA should keep better records and more clearly define the procedures for issuing waivers and conducting background checks. FAA and TSA officials generally agreed with those recommendations, the GAO report said. The report notes that the TSA plans to issue a set of "best practices," or recommended guidelines, to improve security at general aviation airports, and a self-assessment guide for general aviation airport managers, sometime this month.
"If there had even been a tall chain link fence with barbed wire on top of it, I would have just turned around and went on home," Louis Paul Kadlecek told the Houston Chronicle last week. Kadlecek is the 21-year-old who police say stole a Cessna 172 on a drunken whim on Feb. 29 and crashed it into power lines. "You would think they would have already thought of that after 9/11," Kadlecek added. Well, they did think of it, but while construction crews were busy building new fences at Brazoria County Airport, near Houston, the gates were left unlocked. And the public is clearly not ready to believe that small airplanes are not a threat -- The Washington Post reported with alarm on Tuesday that some small airports with scheduled passenger service have no metal detectors, security checks or passenger screening. For example, the seven Montana airports served by Big Sky Airlines have no metal-detection equipment, no security screening and no checking of luggage for explosives, and the airline's 19-passenger Fairchild Metroliner aircraft do not have cockpit doors, the Post reported. One airline official laughed when asked whether the lack of security at North Las Vegas Airport posed a risk: "We're flying Twin Otters, one of the slowest planes out there. If you hit the Hoover Dam, it would bounce off." The TSA isn't laughing, though, and said it is assessing more than two dozen small airports to see if they need security upgrades, and is ready to implement tighter security at seven of them. "Threat assessment is not a one-time procedure," TSA spokesman Mark Hatfield told the Post. "If something has changed in terms of the volume of traffic, the size of the aircraft, the number of flight operations or routes, that would come under the analysis we would perform. We're constantly evaluating security procedures."
AUX AUDIO ON LIGHTSPEED HEADSETS
With spring, new aviation stuff seems to sprout like crocuses, and this year Cirrus Design is getting a jump on the season. Cirrus announced on Tuesday that it's ready to launch a new version of its popular SR22 model, dubbed the SR22-G2. The G2 will feature a new fuselage and cowl with easier access for maintenance, a six-point engine mount for a smoother ride, blended-airfoil Scimitar Select Hartzell propellers, new (easier to operate) door latches, a redesigned leather interior and more. "We're introducing the SR22-G2 today because we have the technology, capability and desire to engineer improvements into our product that make it a better value for the customer," Cirrus CEO Alan Klapmeier said in a news release. "It really shouldn't take fifty years for a product to evolve." Cirrus said it has also redesigned its production process, which will improve the fit, finish and quality of the aircraft overall, and will allow the factory to build the airplanes faster. The SR22 is currently the best-selling personal-aviation aircraft in the world.
XM Satellite Radio and Heads Up Technologies announced Monday that the FAA has granted a Supplemental Type Certificate and Parts Manufacturer Approval (STC-PMA) for the XMD075-01 aviation data receiver manufactured by Heads Up. XM WX Satellite Weather provides pilots with graphical information about weather conditions across the United States, including NEXRAD radar in a high-resolution, full-color graphical format overlaid on a map. "The XM WX service significantly improves the quality and timeliness of weather information available in flight, and we're proud to introduce the first FAA-certified XM data receiver," said Rob Harshaw, president and CEO of Heads Up Technologies. David Groos, a spokesman for Heads Up, told AVweb yesterday that this system is unique in that it provides a very strong signal that was developed specifically for mobile applications, and the user interface is very straightforward and easy to use. The system consists of a receiver, antenna and dataport that can be installed in the aircraft, costing $3,750, Groos said. The dataport has a USB connection for connecting a laptop computer or other device that functions as the display. The software costs up to $400 for the premium package, and the monthly fee is $49.99 for unlimited use. Weather data includes wind speed and direction at 3,000-foot intervals up to 42,000 feet, lightning strikes from the National Lightning Detection Network, storm-cell identification and tracking for strong storms, projected storm paths over the next 15 minutes, and continuously updated current and forecast conditions at airports across the country. The system is compatible with a wide range of electronic displays, XM said. "This service will help pilots make better-informed decisions under all weather conditions," said Roderick MacKenzie, XM's Director of Advanced Applications. The XM WX Satellite Weather service is powered by location-specific weather data and technology provided by Wx Worx Inc., an affiliate of Baron Services Inc., which is a provider of analytical weather services to the TV broadcast and emergency-management industries. XM said it is now the only provider of FAA-approved solutions for both satellite radio and satellite weather for aircraft -- so if you like to listen to hot jazz or cool classics while bopping along in the clouds, now you can do both.
TRACK ALL IN-FLIGHT IFR AIRCRAFT IN REAL TIME
A Boeing 727-100 cargo aircraft with a U.S. registration number was seized by the government of Zimbabwe on Sunday. Officials said the 727 was carrying 64 suspected mercenaries and a cargo of military equipment. The 727 apparently had an N-number, but the Kansas company listed by the FAA as its owner said the aircraft was recently sold to a company called Logo Logistics -- it was unclear yesterday if that company was based in South Africa or the United Kingdom. This 727 apparently has no connection to the 727 that went missing in Africa last May after it took off from Angola. That airplane never arrived at its destination in South Africa and hasn't been seen since. The aircraft that landed at Harare International Airport on Sunday was detained because, according to authorities, its owners had made a false declaration of its cargo and crew. The aircraft apparently left South Africa from a remote airport, illegally bypassing international procedures, and the people on board were of various nationalities. The incident caused a flurry of confused reports for a couple of days, as authorities tried to untangle the purpose and origin of the flight, and early reports suggested that authorities in Zimbabwe suspected the airplane had a connection with the U.S. government, or that the mercenaries were planning a coup. On Tuesday, the airplane's owners reportedly said the men on board were en route to a mining operation where they were hired to work as security guards. No weapons were found aboard. The cargo included sleeping bags, army boots, satellite phones and radios. Yesterday, Zimbabwe's government warned that if the men are mercenaries, they could face the death penalty, according to the BBC.
Scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colo., are testing a new system this month that may pinpoint the location of water droplets in clouds that cause icing, potentially enabling pilots to avoid dangerous areas, the center announced yesterday. The system, known as S-Polka, combines two existing radars that use different wavelengths. By studying the differences between the images that are reflected back to each radar, scientists hope to find tiny water droplets that are difficult to distinguish using either radar alone. "This will take out a lot of the guesswork," said Marcia Politovich, director of the NCAR's icing program. "We think it will show exactly where the water is. That information could ultimately turn into an important warning system for pilots." Scientists and engineers at the NCAR are deploying S-Polka through the end of March at the NCAR's Marshall facility, southeast of Boulder. The system consists of a powerful polarized radar, known as S-Pol, which operates at a frequency of 3,000 MHz, and a polarized Ka-band radar, which operates at 35,000 MHz. The two radars have been mounted on a single pedestal. They are precisely aligned to look at the same area at the same time. Researchers will compare the radar images with data collected from a University of North Dakota Citation research airplane flying in the test area to determine whether the radar system is pinpointing water droplets. After data are collected this month, the researchers will focus on identifying and measuring droplets within the radar images accurately. If all goes well, the instrument will undergo final tests in a couple of years before being made available to airports. The project is funded by the National Science Foundation and the FAA.
MARY DILDA RELIES ON OREGON AERO FOR PAIN-FREE FLYING
NASA's Small Aircraft Transportation System (SATS) recently established a new consortium based in Indiana, the sixth state or regional group to join the National Consortium for Aviation Mobility (NCAM). The NCAM has teamed with NASA and the FAA in an effort to make better use of underutilized rural and suburban airports. NASA's SATS program is working together with industry and the FAA to develop technology such as integrated airborne systems, cockpit displays and operating procedures for use in small aircraft. These technologies could help pilots safely fly into many airfields that don't have radar or air traffic control towers, NASA says. About 93 percent of people in the U.S. live within 30 minutes of one of these airports. SATLabs in Florida, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina and Virginia are already researching technologies to improve general aviation. "What [President Dwight] Eisenhower did for highway travel, SATS will do for air travel," Mike Loomis, co-founder of the Indiana SATS Consortium, told The Indianapolis Star.
China's growing space program took another new step this week when it was announced that female astronauts will be recruited for future space flights. China began to recruit woman pilots to its military forces in 1951, and hundreds of female pilots have joined the country's civil aviation ranks and air force since then. China sent its first human into space last October, when its Shenzhou-5 spacecraft, piloted by Yang Liwei, a former fighter pilot of the People's Liberation Army air force, orbited Earth 14 times and returned safely. Yue Cuixi, 55, China's first woman air force pilot, was promoted to major general in 2003. The details of the plan to recruit and train the country's female astronauts have not yet been worked out. The United States and Russia are the only other countries that have sent manned spacecraft into orbit.
DON'T BLINDLY RENEW YOUR AIRCRAFT'S INSURANCE WITHOUT SHOPPING
The Comanche helicopter program, which was shut down by the Army recently, is not the only military aviation program under scrutiny -- the Air Force's latest fighter jet, the F/A-22 Raptor, is also being given a hard look. The $71 billion program is behind schedule, and an Air Force official recently cited software malfunctions and reliability problems as areas of concern, as well as a shortage of pilots ready to take on the next phase of flight-testing. Air Force officials will decide soon if the Raptor is ready to move on to the combat test phase, which has already been delayed three times. "Some parts are failing that we didn't expect to," said Air Force Maj. Gen. Mark Welsh, director of fighter and bomber programs. Lockheed Martin said it is working on the problems. Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Pratt & Whitney are building the jets, which cost about $250 million each. The Raptor will be the world's first stealth air-to-air fighter, and the first production aircraft with the ability to "supercruise" --flying at supersonic speeds without the use of afterburners. It is slated to become operational in late 2005, replacing the U.S. Air Force's aging fleet of F-15 Eagle fighters. Critics of the program say the Raptor was designed for a Cold-War mission that no longer exists, and the Joint Strike Fighter now in development will deliver better performance at a much lower cost.
Our story in Monday's issue about the reorganization of Boeing's Air Traffic Management division used the term dissolved to describe the division's move to become part of Boeing's Phantom Works research arm. Boeing assures us the ATM has not been dissolved but, as our story also said, will continue to work on an advanced air traffic control system.
Venture Development Corp. has awarded AVweb reader Tom Ahonen of Blaine, Minn., with a $1000 gift certificate to Sporty's Pilot Shop. His name was drawn at random from about 1000 entries submitted earlier this week. As we reported in Monday's edition of AVflash, Venture Development is conducting a Web-based market survey on in-flight datalink weather options. Response to the survey was so high that VDC reached its limit of 1000 respondents by early Monday and readers who reached the site later weren't able to access some pages. However, their names were still placed in the hat for the drawing. We apologize for not reporting the limitation on survey respondents.
UPDATE YOUR FLIGHT BAG WITH AN ASA FLIGHT TIMER!
In an amended Airworthiness Directive, the FAA proposed for Cessna Models 208 and 208B airplanes that additional inspections of the bellcranks are necessary; comment period extended till May 17...
Actor Harrison Ford has been named new Young Eagles chairman by EAA, replacing Brig. Gen. Chuck Yeager, who will become Chairman Emeritus...
NASA opened new 3-D Mars exhibit at Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., this week. The interactive 3D visualizations enable visitors to take a "virtual walk on Mars."...
DeltaHawk, of Racine, Wisc., has partnered with Kurt Manufacturing Co. to produce its turbo-diesel, Jet-A-burning engine for the homebuilt market. Deposits will be taken starting this month, the company said. FAA certification is expected in a couple of years...
New illustrated book from NBAA, The Flying Office, teaches elementary-school children about business aviation, the uses of business aircraft and aviation careers. A PDF version is free online for educators...
Heli-Expo 2004 opens March 15 in Las Vegas, Nev....
Aircraft Electronics Association annual convention is March 29, in Las Vegas, Nev. AEA says "a record-breaking number of new products" will be introduced.
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The DreamLaunch Tour: Greenville and Atlanta
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. Jamail continues the tour in Greenville, S.C., and Atlanta, Ga.
What's New -- Products and Services
Each month, AVweb will bring you a quick survey of the latest products and services for pilots, mechanics and aircraft owners. This month we have a GPS manual, a vortelator kit for propellers, a ground-adjustable propeller and more. If you know of a new product or service other AVweb readers should hear about, please send us a note.
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*** PREVIOUS RESULTS ***
Last week, AVweb asked its readers for opinions on the Age-60 Rule. A full half of those who responded were in lock-step: You said that safe piloting can only be determined on a case-by-case basis, and the Age-60 Rule does a disservice to pilots of all ages. The other half of you were divided on the effectiveness of the Age-60 Rule. 14% of you (72 voters) admitted that Age-60 is unfair but conceded that the Rule is a practical way to keep unsafe pilots on the ground. Another 14% said that a conservative age cap is the cost of safety. Plus, votes were nearly equal for those in favor of self-certification (no medicals) and those who believe medicals are a must. But only 4% (22 voters) said that older pilots represent a clear, immediate hazard.
*** THIS WEEK'S QUESTION ***
This week, AVweb would like to hear readers' opinions on the widening gap between technology and flight training. Can training keep pace with new technologies?
Have an idea for a new QOTW? Send your suggestions to email@example.com.
Note: This address is only for suggested QOTW questions, and not for QOTW answers.
MIKE BUSCH'S SAVVY SEMINAR COMING TO MEMPHIS, VAN NUYS, HARRISBURG, & OSHKOSH!
Submit a Photo | Rules | Tips | Questions
Current POTW Winner | Past POTW Winners
AVweb would like to apologize to photographer Sven de Bevere for running his photo with the wrong attribution last week. The photo was submitted by an AVweb reader who mistakenly assumed Sven's photo was in the public domain. It was not, but Mr. de Bevere has been very kind about the mix-up. This week, we're proud to present the original photo depicting a Cessna leading a 747 down the runway as it originally appeared on Airliners.net. Plus, as an added bonus, we're giving you three runners-up this week, instead of the usual two.
A Reminder About Copyrights: Please take a moment to consider the source of your image before submitting to our "Picture of the Week" contest. If you did not take the photo yourself, ask yourself if you are indeed authorized to release publication rights to AVweb. If you're uncertain, consult the POTW Rules or send us an e-mail.
Due to privacy issues, AVweb does not publish e-mail addresses of readers who submit photos.
Submitted by Sven de Bevere of Aalter, Belgium
Click here to view a medium-sized version of this image
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For more of Sven de Bevere's amazing photos, click here.
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 larger versions.
"Crossroads of the World"
Stephen Reddell of Sydney, Australia
snapped this shot from the port rear door window of a 744 LAX-SYD
near the intersection of the Equator and the International Date Line
"First Flight, 12-01-03 My RV-6A"
Bill Freckman of Euless, Texas
comes in for the first landing in his homebuilt RV-6A
"Mt. Baker, August 2003"
Eric Fogelin of Langley, Washington
submitted this photo by Veronica von Allworden
taken from an open window circling at 10,800 feet
To enter next week's contest, click here.
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GLEIM OFFERS MARCH SPECIALS PLUS DISCOUNTS TO AVWEB SUBSCRIBERS ON FIRC!
During the month of March, Gleim Publications is offering a 10% discount on their Flight Maneuvers books and 15% on their new Flight Bag. Plus, don't miss the best Flight Instructor Refresher Course on the planet, with a special discount to AVweb subscribers. All at http://www.avweb.com/sponsors/gleim/avflash.
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SKYGUY OFFERS HEADSETS AND FLIGHT BAGS THAT WON'T BREAK YOUR PIGGY BANK!
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AVIATION SAFETY'S APRIL ISSUE FOCUSES ON:
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ROD MACHADO'S PLANE TALK Aviation Human Factors & CRM: The Mental Art of Flying an Airplane
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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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