AVwebFlash Complete Issue: Volume 17, Number 50a

December 12, 2011

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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AVflash! Backing Off the PiperJet back to top 

Piper Seeks Forgiveness

Piper is seeking to renegotiate a deal it made with the state of Florida and Indian River County to avoid paying back some government incentives, TCPalm reported Thursday. In 2008, Piper agreed to repay more than $1.5 million of a $10.7 million incentive package it received from the state and county if it failed to meet specific employment benchmarks. Piper has now written state officials to ask forgiveness for those government investments. In a letter to the state, Piper officials said, "This will help ensure the company can successfully continue to manage its financial affairs and accomplish its marketing, sales and employment goals in the future."

As part of the 2008 agreement, Piper agreed to employ 1,100 people by year-end 2009. The company could not find market conditions to support that goal and, by summer 2009, Piper's employment rolls fell below 600. Company officials have suspended the Altaire jet program and now estimate they will have about 700 employees by year-end 2011. Economic forces weren't the only ones to batter Piper. According to the company, it spent incentive money not only on aircraft research and development, but also on building repair. Piper facilities suffered damage due to hurricanes in 2004. In asking for financial forgiveness, the company contends that its activities and investments returned to the state and county more money -- by a ratio of nine-to-one -- than it took.

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What Was That in the Skies Over Iran? back to top 

Iran And The Stealth Drone (With Video)

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In a state TV broadcast, Thursday, Iran showed off what it says is a U.S. drone brought down in that country, but some observers have found reason to question portions of that account. The video broadcast shows two men in military garb walking around something that looks very much like an RQ-170 Sentinel drone aircraft. U.S. officials believe Iran is in possession of an RQ-170 that had been flown by the CIA and was lost over the country last week. At least initially, they appear less convinced that the object displayed in the video is that vehicle. U.S. officials claim the aircraft they lost was likely brought down due to a technical malfunction and did not immediately confirm that the video showed an authentic drone. Iranian officials have their own explanation.

Amir Ali Hajizadeh, Brig. Gen of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps and chief of its aerospace division, said the aircraft was brought down in an electronic ambush. According to Hajizadeh, that effort allowed Iranian forces to bring the airplane down with minimal damage. The aircraft on display is beige, which differs in that respect from gray models seen in stock video footage. It may also be smaller than the Lockheed Martin manufactured drone. Authentic or not, the Iranian video shows the vehicle is perched on a platform that displays American flags altered with skulls in the place of stars. The flags are also decorated with slogans translated by the Washington Post as, "We'll trample America underfoot" and "The U.S. cannot do a damn thing,"

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Well, It Is the Shortest Route to Orbit back to top 

Colorado Seeks Spaceport Status

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has sent a letter to the FAA seeking designation as a spaceport and the ability to create facilities for that purpose. Colorado ranks third for highest state revenue generated from the aerospace industry, according to the governor. It also hosts 140 aerospace companies, the Air Force Space Command headquarters and NORAD. The governor's target is Front Range Airport, about 20 miles east of Denver. If federally approved, Hickenlooper hopes to transform roughly 10,000 acres of land surrounding the airport into fertile ground for spaceport support services and the jobs that go with them. He appears to be hoping for a quick turnaround from the FAA.

According to the governor, the state could win spaceport designation by year-end 2012. The spaceport itself would serve as an important tool for economic development in what some believe will become a growing industry. Proponents believe near-term business interest would come from commercial payload carriers offering service to space and eventually could expand to include space tourism. If granted, Colorado would join ranks with early adopters like New Mexico, which already holds the spaceport designation. A facility being designed there reportedly has an estimated cost of roughly $212 million. Virgin Galactic is expected use it to fly space tourist flights. The tab for the facility's creation will be footed by state taxpayers.

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2012 Not the End of the World for ICAS back to top 

Airshow Teams Announce 2012 Schedules

The Air Force Thunderbirds and the Navy's Blue Angels released their 2012 schedules last week at the International Council of Air Shows annual meeting in Las Vegas. Both teams fly their first show in March -- the Angels at El Centro, Calif., and the Thunderbirds in Yuma, Ariz. The Thunderbirds also are scheduled to fly at Sun 'n Fun, in Florida, March 31 and April 1. The ICAS schedule can be downloaded here (PDF). Besides the military teams, however, much of the season's schedule remains to be filled -- the slot for EAA AirVenture, for example, is nearly empty -- but you might find your favorite airshow on the 13-page list.

Recently, with Washington stalled over the national budget, concerns have arisen that the military jet teams may be affected. Last week, about 100 performances by Air Force one-ship teams were grounded to save money, but at least so far, the two jet teams seem to be fully funded for another year. The Blue Angels cost about $37 million per year to keep flying, according to The Associated Press. AVweb's Mary Grady spoke with John Cudahy, president of ICAS, about the coming airshow season; click here for that podcast.

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Aviation Safety: Expect the Unexpected back to top 

Rowdy Passengers "Chewed Through Restraints"

Air Canada officials told authorities that two rowdy passengers who caused the diversion of a Toronto-Beijing flight last week actually chewed through the restraints used by the crew and passengers to subdue them. The Vancouver Sun quotes CBC News as saying the pair, a couple of IT executives on a business trip, were so out of hand that the captain ordered the cabin "locked down" for 80 minutes as they made a run for the nearest airport, Vancouver International, to offload the troublemakers. George Campbell, 45, and Paul Wilson, 38, were immediately hauled before a judge where they pleaded guilty to mischief and were ordered to pay $72,000 in restitution. However, Air Canada has tallied up its expenses and estimates the fiasco cost it $200,000, not including a roughed-up flight attendant and a planeload of upset passengers.

According to court documents obtained by the CBC, both men were apparently drunk before they got on the flight and continued to alternate between drinking, passing out and making pests of themselves. At one point, the documents say, Campbell threatened to kill other passengers as they left the plane and he also laid in the aisle "kicking his feet." It took several cabin crew and passengers to subdue them and handcuff them with plastic restraints and tape to temporarily restore order. The court records say they both "eventually chewed their way through their restraints." They were subdued again and guarded by crew and passengers while all other passengers were ordered to remain in their seats until landing. Campbell and Wilson worked for Blackberry smartphone maker Research in Motion and live in the company's base of Waterloo, Ontario. The company fired them within days of the episode, saying the antics didn't reflect RIM's "standards of business behavior." The CBC managed to reach Campbell but he did not comment.

Plane Hits Empty School

Authorities in the Philippines are focusing on the fuel system of a Beech Queen Air that crashed into a school in the Manila suburb of Paranaque City on Saturday killing at least 13 people, including 11 on the ground, and leveling the school. Only the two pilots and one passenger were aboard the aircraft. Because it was a Saturday, there were no classes and a much bigger loss of life was avoided. The plane exploded on impact and caught the school building and adjacent shanty homes on fire and it took three hours to quell the flames. The pilots had requested an emergency landing shortly after takeoff.

Philippine media say the pilot reported a dual engine failure shortly after takeoff and tried to make it back to the field. The aircraft was reportedly fully fueled before leaving. It came down in a poor area of makeshift homes and the resulting fire is blamed for the deaths of those on the ground. Philippine authorities have grounded the aircraft operator Innovative Technologies Inc. pending further investigation. The company operates a fleet of small cargo aircraft.

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

AVmail: December 12, 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: Did Babbitt Have to Go?

Regarding Randy Babbitt's resignation: Randy Babbitt was the head of ALPA for years and a former airline pilot. One of the wonderful accomplishments of ALPA over the last two decades was the realization that alcoholism is a disease and pilots who have run afoul of laws concerning driving, flying, and alcohol may actually be suffering from an addiction that affects health and judgment.

Airline pilots that I know who have gone through "the program" and returned to duty are the some of the safest, driest pilots on the line! Instead of a rush to judgment that resulted in an early end to Randy Babbitt's career, I wish the FAA had used this incident to further raise public awareness of the fact that addiction can hit anyone and of the avenues available to help those who have problems with alcohol.

Let's treat Babbitt the same way the airlines treat pilots now: treatment for the addiction in a HIMS program, resulting in an FAA administrator who is much wiser and [more] experienced!

John Hanson

He made his decision correctly and honorably. Therefore, there is no controversy or inflammatory media publicity.

Sharon Landau

I'd say the issue is not the charge (not yet before the courts) of DUI, but about the larger issues of political message and personal judgment.

No government wants to be associated with something that screams, "Do as I say, but don't do as I do!" If that sort of stuff goes down too often then a government loses moral authority and the people start to ignore it.

The other shoe is personal judgment. Anyone working in the aviation industry has had "eight hours from bottle to throttle" hammered into their brains since they did their first solo. So, when there's a such a huge disconnect in judgment by someone who's paid to provide trusted leadership as a key component of their job, then I'm afraid the bell rings and the party's over.

Larry South

I agree that Babbitt should have been able to stay subject to an appropriate apology.

It's incorrect that he would be able to stay like any other government employee. Air traffic control employees would lose their security clearance and possibly their medical certificate, resulting in loss of their job. Babbitt just happens to lead this group of government employees, so it'd be an awkward position. Most controllers are still sad about his departure.

Michael Harris

He does not have to go. Face the charges like any other citizen. As a pilot, proceed through the same FAA-approved HIMS program and related medical screenings as any other pilot would do.

R. Capp

LSA Pricing

Regarding the issue of LSA pricing: I think the very notion of a "sweet spot" in the context of product marketing of any type assumes, perhaps even requires, that a void exists when one compares the details of market demand with what's available in that market. The problem with applying this concept to the flooded LSA market is that there's a plethora of every imaginable combination of feature, price, and capability. There is no obvious "hole," hence there is no opportunity for a sweet spot, per se. The market is more of a continuum, with every potential demand being answerable by one or another specific model already available

Cessna was, in my opinion, just performing a dance. I am guessing that, rather than be everything to everybody, Cessna simply wanted to establish an undeniable presence. If the initial price was too high, the Skycatcher would never have gained any traction and would have been inconsequential. By providing an affordable model initially, the company established itself in a meaningful way. I'll bet most of the market sold itself on the basis of comparison with the Cessna "benchmark."

To be the LSA "sweet spot"? There is no such thing. But to be the most important LSA — now, there's something!

Anthony Nasr

LSAs were supposed to be inexpensive aircraft to get more people flying. Cessna's price hike, if followed by the rest of the industry, plus the possibility of the repeal of the class three medical, will drastically hurt the LSA market and manufacturers. I think X-Air has the right idea in a $60,000 aircraft, and I think the market will show this eventually.

Karl A. Vogelheim

The Cessna 162 new price is only $25,000 more when you consider the options most popular previously are now standard. LSA prices of the top brands have been between $120,000 and $150,000 for fully equipped planes for a couple of years.

I believe that Pipistrel is unrealistic in it price forecast and will not be able to deliver.

There are more than 120 SLSAs nominally on the market but only about 20 are viable. There is bound to be a huge fallout of the marginal models and I don't understand why it hasn't come already.

I now operate five LSAs — two C-162s, two SportStars, and one Tecnam Sierra — and all are in the new price range as equipped.

Bob Archibald
Dragonfly Aviation

As someone for whom aviation is a hobby and not a career, I can tell you the number one limit is cost. Kitfox has a fly-away LSA for $89,000, and it appears they sell them as fast as they can build them.

The downfall of the LSA is most younger people that are interested in flying want an A-to-B plane. Many have kids. A two-seat limit just doesn't work. As much as I love cruising around the local airspace, I probably will never own an LSA before I retire in 40 years or so.

As for the sweet spot for price of an LSA, I honestly think it's right at $75,000, which so far no one has been able to do except as experimental/homebuilt. (You can do between $50,000 to $60,000 for a decently equipped eLSA.)

The real questions is whether LSA engines are too expensive. To get the price down to a marketable point, someone needs to design and build a four-stroke engine — naturally aspirated, direct drive, 100HP, 89 octane, air cooled, similar weight to the Rotax 912 — and price it at $13,000.

As a side note, the Skycatcher instrument panel needs more leg clearance. I'm 6'2" and fit in it (barely). In an accident, the first part of my body that could contact the plane is about three inches below my knees, into a hard edge of the bottom of the panel. It would be nice to see some type of crash tests similar to cars done on light planes. A survivable front-end collision (at stall speed) should be easily designed into a $100,000 plane.

Joseph Chambers

LSAs are a tough sell when they typically start at $80,000 and go up to $150,000 for the 162. Considering a decent used 172 that seats four can be bought for $50,000 just clouds the LSA argument. Granted, it'd be a 30-year-old Cessna with higher fuel burn and maintenance costs but the disparity in purchase price would seem to make it a better deal.

Will Alibrandi

Rewriting History

I suspect that you will get many comments about changing the date of the Pearl Harbor attack from December 7 to December 6 in the article about the civilian flight that was taking place at the time of the attack.

Sam Clipp

AVweb Replies:

Thanks to Sam and the others who pointed out this slip of the digit.

Russ Niles

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

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New on AVweb.com back to top 

Forty-Seven Years in Aviation: A Memoir; Chapter 8: Advanced Flight Training

For advanced flight training in Texas, Dick Taylor and his class try their hands at the B-29, which by the mid-'50s was used as a trainer. And yet, although huge and pressurized, with a third guy in the cockpit (flight engineer), it still had a castering nosewheel.

Click here to read the eighth chapter.

AVweb Insider Blog: Ahead This Week -- AeroNav Gets to 'Splain Itself

For reasons we find mystifying, the FAA steadfastly refuses to answer questions about budget and revenue plans for its AeroNav charting division. It's supposed to sort this out with vendors in a closed meeting this week, which the public and press are barred from attending. On the AVweb Insider blog, Paul Bertorelli runs downs the issues and options.

Read more and join the conversation.

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AVweb Audio — Are You Listening? back to top 

Podcast: The FAA After Babbitt

File Size 8.5 MB / Running Time 9:19

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Ed Bolen, president and CEO of NBAA, has known Randy Babbitt for roughly two decades. Bolen has been an aviation industry insider -- acting in a position of influence -- for just as long. AVweb's Glenn Pew spoke with him to discuss the impact of Babbitt's departure.

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Click here to listen. (8.5 MB, 9:19)

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Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Advanced Wings (Wings Field, KLOM, Pennsylvania)

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

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Advanced Wings at Wings Field Airport (KLOM) in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania.

AVweb reader Jeff Kircher told us about Advanced and called their team "the most helpful people I have come across."

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!

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

Video: Jeppesen's Mobile FliteDeck (Part 1)

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

Last summer, Jeppesen rolled out its iPad-based Mobile FliteDeck, a complete chart manager system for owners who already subscribe to Jeppesen's electronic charting products. In this video, AVweb launches the first of three Product Minutes to review the new app.

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Video: Jeppesen's Mobile FliteDeck (Part 2)

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

Jeppesen's new Mobile FliteDeck is a route-based app that compiles approach plates and procedures from Jeppesen's charting materials. In this video, part two of three, Paul Bertorelli takes a look at how its route functions work.

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Video: Jeppesen's Mobile FliteDeck (Part 3)

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

Jeppesen has switched strongly to delivery of charts via electronic means, and its new iPad app, Mobile FliteDeck, does the heavy lifting. In this video, the final of three, AVweb's Paul Bertorelli takes a video tour of the plate management part of the application.

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The Lighter Side of Flight back to top 

Short Final

Our tower does periodic checks. About mid-day, I heard on the scanner:

Salem Tower:
"Tower test for tapes. One, two, three. Three, two, one. Test out."

A Local Aircraft:
"Salem tower, loud and clear. N12345."

Salem Tower:
"Aircraft N12345: Frequency change approved."

Mary Ann Lebold
via e-mail

Heard Anything Funny on the Radio?

Heard anything funny, unusual, or downright shocking on the radio lately? If you've been flying any length of time, you're sure to have eavesdropped on a few memorable exchanges. The ones that gave you a chuckle may do the same for your fellow AVweb readers. Share your radio funny with us, and, if we use it in a future "Short Final," we'll send you a sharp-looking AVweb hat to sport around your local airport. No joke.

Click here to submit your original, true, and previously unpublished story.

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.

Have a product or service to advertise on AVweb? A question on marketing? Send it to AVweb's sales team.

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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