AVwebFlash Complete Issue: Volume 17, Number 51a

December 19, 2011

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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AVflash! Bonus Depreciation Back in Play? back to top 
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Bonus Depreciation May Be Back For 2012

It appears 100-percent bonus depreciation may make a comeback for at least one more year when the smoke clears on the payroll tax deduction controversy. The House version of H.R. 3630 (PDF) contains language restoring the tax measure that allows moneymaking businesses to write off the full value of equipment expenses, including airplanes, in a single tax year. Otherwise, the maximum write-off is 50 percent. Although the language made it through the House and was presented to the Senate, politics of the day dictated that a stripped-down version (PDF) of the bill dealing mainly with the payroll tax cut and Keystone pipeline be sent forth. The House rejected the Senate's revisions on Sunday and the political crisis continues. However, Daniel Cheung, of Aviation Tax Consultants, told AVweb in a podcast interview he expects the bonus depreciation language to be back when the pre-holiday wrangling is over.

Cheung said he doesn't think a change in the current administration's generally bad attitude toward private aviation had anything to do with the measure's sudden and unexpected reappearance. He said bonus depreciation will provide much-needed economic stimulus across all sectors and aviation will just be one of the industries to benefit. He said he does not expect aviation to be singled out for exemption from the benefit. Meanwhile, he said, the presumed end of 100-percent depreciation on Dec. 31 has resulted in a noticeable uptick in interest in new aircraft. Cheung said that despite the generally poor economy, many companies are doing well and can use the write-off a new airplane will give them.

Podcast: Bonus Depreciation Back?

File Size 5.1 MB / Running Time 5:35

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Podcast Index | How to Listen | Subscribe Via RSS

The political map in Washington is changing daily, but tucked under all the bombast and rhetoric is a section of the legislation now in play that will be welcome news to the aviation industry. If all goes well in the next few days (and there are no guarantees of that), 100 percent depreciation of equipment purchases will be back in force for another year. AVweb's Russ Niles spoke with Daniel Cheung of Aviation Tax Consultants.

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Click here to listen. (5.1 MB, 5:35)

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Following Up on Last Week's Top Stories back to top 

AOPA, NBAA on FAA Chart Charges: Wait and See

Both of general aviation's principal advocacy groups say they're taking a wait-and-see attitude toward last week's proposal by the FAA to radically raise the cost of digital charting data to the industry. AOPA and NBAA had representatives at the meeting last Tuesday, in which the FAA's AeroNav division said it wanted to charge about $150 a year for each end user of its digital charting data. Participants in the meeting told us this could more than double the cost of some chart apps and drive some free viewers from the market entirely, including perhaps the two DUATs vendors, which offer plate viewers.

"We didn't go in with preconceived notions. We went in to have a dialog with the FAA. It was a rich and robust discussion," said AOPA's Heidi Williams, who handles air traffic and airspace issues for the association. She told AVweb that AOPA will wait until the FAA reveals its fully formed proposal next month before announcing its policy on the higher charges. When we asked if AOPA would investigate AeroNav's economics to have a stronger bargaining position, Williams said "I'm not saying we will or we won't. We want to see the FAA's proposal first."

NBAA's Steve Brown says his association is asking a lot of questions of the FAA and, like AOPA, is formulating a strategy. "It [the meeting} was really an opening dialog. For now, it's OK to see if they heard us and see what they come back with," Brown said.

At least some of the participants thought the FAA's meeting was a pro forma announcement of what it's going to do, not a information gathering session. But Brown didn't see it that way. "I've been to many pro forma government meetings. Those last less than an hour, not a whole day. So I don't think this was pro forma," Brown told us. He expects the FAA to come back with a proposal that incorporates some of the ideas the agency heard in the meeting. The meeting was closed to the press and public and the FAA took extraordinary efforts to keep what was discussed from reaching the pilot population at large. It released a perfunctory press release after the meeting, with very little detail. AVweb has asked the FAA for answers to detailed aspects of AeroNav's operation, and it promises to provide additional information.

NBAA's Brown says the agency knows it's under the spotlight and that government in general is expected to reduce its costs. "They have multiple pressures. They were open about that. They know they're going to have to control costs. At the end of the day for safety and other reasons, the FAA is always going to be the biggest player in this market in providing this information," Brown said.

Related Content:

Iran: Spoofing Brought Down U.S. Drone

Iran says that knowledge it gained through reverse engineering less sophisticated drones allowed it to trick an RQ-170 Sentinel drone into landing itself there, nearly undamaged, in early December. An Iranian engineer says specialists reconfigured the drone's GPS coordinates to tell the aircraft it was actually landing at its base in Afghanistan, the Christian Science Monitor reported Friday. The technique, called "spoofing," means that the Iranians did not need to crack the vehicle's encrypted remote-control systems or communications. According to the Monitor's source, the spoofing simply led the vehicle to land "on its own where we wanted it to." If true, and experts appear to believe it's plausible, this wouldn't be the first time U.S. drone systems have been compromised, but may be the culmination of previous efforts.

In October, AVweb told readers that reports had surfaced about U.S. military drones being infected by a key-logging virus. Unconfirmed reports stated the virus was first detected at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada. The military continued to operate drones in Afghanistan and elsewhere at the time. And back in 2009, U.S. forces found drone video streams saved to the laptops of Iraqi insurgents. The systems were reportedly hacked with readily available software to obtain real-time video feeds from drones as they were transmitted via publicly available satellite transponders. U.S. defense personnel have downplayed concern about the potential transfer of leading-edge stealth technology, saying even the Sentinel's systems are somewhat dated. They also concede that more technologically robust nations (like Russia and China) may be able to create advanced radar profiling based on intimate knowledge of the vehicle's shape. With that, it's possible the stealth qualities of the RQ-170 could be compromised. As for the drone's electronics, the military is staying quiet. That has led informed observers to wonder if the Sentinel's systems are adequately protected by electronic defenses designed to prevent unauthorized access.

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News Briefs back to top 

NASA Backs Commercial Space Projects

NASA may be dependent on Russia until at least 2017 to deliver astronauts to the International Space Station but the agency hopes to develop commercial alternatives soon. The agency is seeking to maintain development of at least two competing space taxi designs to fill the void left by the now-retired Space Shuttle. Today, NASA is funding four firms: Boeing; Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX); Sierra Nevada Corp.; and Blue Origin, which is a start-up owned by Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com. That group notably does not include Stratolaunch Systems, a recently announced venture by Paul Allen and Burt Rutan that could create the world's largest aircraft as part of its own independent space program.

NASA's current approach is in part motivated by the cost of sending astronauts to the Space Station via the only currently available method -- Russian Soyuz capsules. The price tag per flight is more than $60 million and that cost is expected to rise. NASA's budget allocates $406 million to spend on the development of alternatives. SpaceX, which is receiving some of that funding is targeting February for a trial run of its Dragon Cargo capsule delivery system. A private competitor, Orbital Sciences Corp., has plans for its own test later in the year. And alternative partnering programs could allow NASA to assist other firms interested in developing space taxi designs, while also keeping those efforts independent of NASA's usual mountain of regulatory requirements. Barring any unforeseen efforts, SpaceX will in February become the first commercial company in history to join with the International Space Station.

Contract Tower Closure Eyed

AOPA is reporting that the FAA is being pressured to close contract control towers at more than 100 GA-only airports. Quoting unnamed sources, AOPA says the Office of Management and Budget has made the suggestion that funding be pulled from contract towers at airports that don't have commercial service or high volumes of military traffic. The funding cuts would affect roughly half of the 248 contract towers, which are independently owned and operated facilities under contract to the FAA.

According to AOPA, the proposal has not been approved by the FAA, which is now discussing it internally. The Contract Tower Association is predictably aghast at the suggestion. "The federal government's budget constraints should not impact such a critical aviation safety initiative like the FAA contract tower program," a representative of the group told AOPA. AOPA is writing the FAA to encourage the continuation of the existing contracts and will be keeping an eye on the developments.

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Banner Year for Airline Safety — Mostly back to top 

Airline Safety Improves Worldwide, Except For...

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) says that as of November, "global safety performance is at the best-ever level recorded," with one notable exception. According to IATA, Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States have seen their accident rate increase by 55 percent, year over year. That contrasts with global accident rates that are (so far this year) 22 percent better than last year. According to IATA, there were 75 accidents from Jan. 1 to Nov. 30, 2011. That compares with 92 for the same period during 2010. The association says changes that have swept through other improved regions are coming to Russia.

Worldwide, carriers that participate in the IATA Operational Safety Audit program have a significantly lower accident rate than those that don't. In Russia, aviation authorities have agreed to require IOSA participation in 2012. IOSA-registered carriers make up more than one-fifth of all commercial carriers worldwide, according to IATA. The organization says that accident rates have improved through the Middle East, North Africa, Asia Pacific and Africa. Rates in North America stayed level. IATA's Operational Safety Audit is an evaluation system that assesses the management and control systems of an airline. It uses standardized quality audits to achieve a quality audit program under stewardship of IATA.

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Man-Made Birds of Prey back to top 

Aerial Wolf Control Controversy

Wildlife conservation groups are in an uproar after an old photograph was circulated online showing a U.S. Wildlife Services SuperCub painted with 58 paw-print decals -- one for each wolf shot from the aircraft. Wolves were removed from the endangered species list in 2011, but Idaho, Montana and Wyoming Wildlife Services agents have shot hundreds of wolves since 2009. The agency engages in the practice to protect sheep, cattle and other animals from the predation. Fish and Game officials have decided the aircraft would be a useful tool if trapping and hunting methods fall short. Conservation advocates are offended by the photo and the practice, but one part of the argument may warrant more attention.

According to representatives for the Wildlife Services, the stickers were at one time approved by Wildlife Services officials in Idaho, but they were removed in 2009 after it was recognized that they might be considered offensive. The agencies say they only target wolves for confirmed attacks on livestock and do so with permission from the wolf management agency. They are seeking to remove roughly 65 wolves as a response to dwindling numbers of elk. Wolf advocates say the elk population began falling precipitously before wolves were even reintroduced into the region and blame a shrinking habitat. They are also concerned that aerial hunting will leave some animals wounded and suffering. The previously approved decals suggest to them that the aerial control effort may be more thrill-sport than responsible animal control policy.

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Not Just for Kids Anymore back to top 

"Eagle Flight" Launches in January

EAA will roll out its new Young Eagles-style familiarization program for adults in January. In a year-end interview, EAA President Rod Hightower said the program, named Eagle Flight, will fly its first adult pilot wannabe in March. The name was presumably chosen from submissions by EAA members after the program was announced during EAA AirVenture last year. Hightower said that about a third of the 15,000 newly licensed pilots in 2010 were older than 34 and Eagle Flight aims to tap into the latent desires of many potential new pilots.

He said many people dream of flight from a young age and aren't able to pursue it in their youth. As they get older and get more time and money they start thinking about acting on those dreams. The new program is designed to make the first step of getting into the left seat of an airplane easier. Hightower said there is already strong support for the program. More than 200 EAA members have expressed willingness to use their aircraft for Eagle Flights.

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

AVmail: December 19, 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: Digital Chart Fees

This week's question is a great one. I'm pretty sure that I'm in the vast minority of Americans on this issue, but we see it time and again.

Using our tax dollars, the Government takes over a segment of our nation and then argues that the users of that segment need to pay to enjoy it. To my mind, this is akin to Disney Corp. buying, building and operating a theme park on my buck and then charging me for admission.

The FAA, an agency of the U.S. Government that is wholly dependent on the tax dollars coming out of the pockets of all U.S. citizens, mandates that pilots carry and use its charts whenever flying in American airspace. Then, citing budgetary constraints (e.g. they're not going to get the number of tax dollars they wish), they charge taxpayers, again, for the privilege of using their product.

These sorties into our pockets are always steeped in terms of the "fairness" involved in having those who use the services pay for them. This argument fails the sniff test when we remind [people] that the government is 100 percent funded by all of us already and that the expenses incurred by the government are mandated by the government. So no, I don't think we should have to pay extra for FAA e-charts.

Bob Greene

I was actually surprised when I first was able to print approach charts for free. I do appreciate being able to just print off the ones I need when I need them, since I don't fly enough IFR to justify a subscription.

If the price is reasonable, not more than the cost of paper charts, then they should be able to charge. If they are going way above the cost of paper charts, they are way out of line. In fact, digital charts should be less expensive than paper, because there are no paper, ink, or shipping costs involved.

Marcy Drescher

I believe the $150 a year would be a fair price if it included all of my digital subscriptions. In reality, each of my GPS recievers already require over $300 each year, and paper charts are another $400-plus per year. I am paying for the same data over and over again, just to have it repackaged. If the price goes up another $150 a year for each, I believe this would be a total rip-off.

Kurt Rutowski

There's no way the feds understand their costs well enough to price this service. At $150, it'll drive people to use products that are more customer-centered and customizable. Jepp comes to mind, but they're not the only vendor for charts.

John Aylward

They say they need to raise the price of digital charts to cover theirs costs. However, I would like to know if they have included in the calculation of their overall costs how much they are now saving on printing and shipping fewer paper charts since digital charts are being used by more pilots every day.

Jim Sharp

Editor's Note:

We received more mail on this topic than any in the past year, and we thank all of those who took the time to write. We tried to represent the range of opinions with the letters we selected.

Russ Niles

Cornfield Bomber

I was at Malmstrom AFB when the Cornfield Bomber incident occurred. The pilot got into a high-pitch moment deep stall and followed procedures: autopilot on, trim nose down, extending the speed brake, pustting stopcock throttle to idle power, and departing from the unrecoverable aircraft. He did well.

The airframe went to storage at Davis Monthan in the desert until the late 1970s and was shipped to Sacramento Air Material Area at McClellan AFB where I ran into it while the belly was being repaired and extensive updates were done. Real pros there. Sweet ride. The 80787 tail number indicates that it was written off after the off-field landing, and the Dynalectron crew did amazing work bringing it back into the fold. Vacuum technology never dies.

Jim Zalanka

I enjoyed your story about the "Corn Field Bomber." As an epilogue, her fame apparently saved her from death as a target drone as she now resides at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton. The F-106 is one of my favorite fighter jets and one of the first planes of which I built a model. Although they were always on static display at numerous air shows, the only time I got to see them fly was at their retirement ceremony flight during the Griffis AFB air show at Rome, NY, June 26, 1987. Unforgettable!

Harold Moritz

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

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Speaking of Your Opinions ... back to top 

Survey: Have You Recently Stepped Up to a Turbine Airplane?

If so, Aviation Consumer would like to talk to your about your experiences with financing, training and insurance. For example, if you sold your Bonanza and upgraded to a Piper Meridian, what was involved? How has it worked out?

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

Video: F-106 Corn Field Bomber, Convair Delta Dart

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

This is an unusual story. The jet you're looking at is an F-106 Delta Dart. A storied interceptor in its day, it was built to exceed an Air Force requirement for 1.9 mach and continuous flight at 57,000 feet. It did both. And in December 1959, it set a speed record, of 1,525 mph, or about 2.3 mach, while flying at 40,000 feet. Its pilot at the time, Major Joseph Rogers, claimed the record might not be accurate. He was still accelerating, he said, at the time.

But this particular jet is famous for a different reason.

As the story goes, the aircraft you see here on February 2, 1970 flew itself into the ground -- a snowy field in Montana, where its engine continued to run for another hour and 45 minutes. Grounded, pilotless and still under power, with its radar still sweeping, the jet sometimes crept forward foot by foot through the snow as a small collection of onlookers watched. Its pilot, 1st Lieutenant Gary Foust, had ejected roughly two hours before that show was over. Foust's trip was just as interesting. He'd lost control of the jet while flying a mock engagement that led his and two other jets into harsh maneuvers in the thin, unforgiving air at 38,000 feet. Attempting to match a high-g reversal by another pilot, Foust's jet bucked. He entered a flat spin, and the jet fell, spinning slowly like a model on a turntable. The flight's two other pilots came to his aid, calling out recovery procedures. But by 15,000 feet the result seemed certain, and an instructor in one of the other jets ordered Foust to eject. Foust obeyed.

But for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction, and it could be it's that law that saved the jet. As Foust shot up, the jet's condition changed -- just enough for it to recover on its own and head off for the horizon. Legend has it that one of the observing pilots said on frequency, "Gary, you better get back in."

In the end, the jet was recovered, rebuilt and put back to work as tail number 80787. But it was forever known as the Corn Field bomber. Delta Darts were phased out in the 1980s.

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Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Cardinal Air (KHBI, Asheboro, North Carolina)

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

AVweb reader Mac Forbes gives us the low-down on a top-notch FBO at North Carolina's Asheboro Regional Airport (KHBI) — Cardinal Air, recipient of our latest blue ribbon for exceptional service:

Their service starts with a friendly "welcome" on the CTAF and, unless they're very busy, a personal greeting on the ramp with an offer to pump 100LL for you — at the self-service price! Karen's team (Bobbi, Ben, etc.) make you feel as if you're the most important customer of the day! Right there on the field, also, Mr. Jeffers operates an excellent full-service avionics shop where convenience and cordial, competent service are clearly priorities, with everything from VFR TXP checks to full glass cockpit upgrades. And the North Carolina Aviation Museum is adjacent, convenient, and loaded with interesting aircraft and artifacts well worth a few hours for touring! HBI is a great stop and/or excellent destination!

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!

The Lighter Side of Flight back to top 

Short Final

After a local excursion to exercise my C-172 engine, I returned to my local airport. There was a helicopter in the area providing position reports. After I announced downwind, the helicopter came on the radio:

"Do you know anything about the airplane crash this morning?"

"No. I have been out of the area, haven't heard anything."

An unidentified source, critical of the excess publicity airplane accidents receive:
"If you want to know what happened, listen to the news."

[A long pause.]

"We are the news."

Angus McCamant
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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