AVwebFlash - Volume 18, Number 5a

January 30, 2012

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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FAA Cracking Down On UAS Use

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The Los Angeles Police Department last week warned L.A. realtors to stop renting remote-control aircraft to shoot aerial video and photos of their listings. "We are just trying to inform the public to ensure that before hiring these companies to operate these aircraft in federal airspace, that they are abiding by the federal regulations to ensure safety," police Sgt. George Gonzalez told the L.A. Times.The LAPD, which operates its own camera-equipped drone, said the images were obtained by an aircraft flying at "several hundred feet" and might have violated FAA guidelines. The practice has become a common sales tool (Google "aerial real estate photography") that occupies a gray area of airspace regulations in light of the low cost of increasingly capable and widely available remote-control aircraft. The latest measure may be an expansion of FAA action to shut down a California company's use of large helicopter drones for film and television work.

MI6 Films used a substantial aircraft to carry full-sized motion picture camera gear and rented the drone and camera along with three crew for $2,500 a day. The company has a long list of well-known clients for the work. According to the MI6 website, the FAA wrote the company a letter last December saying there is an "existing prohibition" against using UASs for commercial purposes. That may be an interpretation of the current approach to UASs by the FAA. According to an FAA fact sheet, unmanned aerial systems are not approved for use in civilian airspace, except through a special airworthiness certificate, and the special airworthiness certificate precludes commercial use of UASs. To accommodate model aircraft hobbyists the FAA has voluntary guidelines (PDF), written in 1981, that advise owners to restrict RC aircraft operations to 400 feet in altitude and away from populated areas and full-sized aircraft. That guideline, however, does not specifically mention a prohibition of commercial use of remote-control aircraft. The FAA says it intends to clear up the ambiguity surrounding UAS operations with a comprehensive rule that will be issued in 2011. It told MI6 the new rule will include allowances for commercial use of UASs but in the meantime its fleet is grounded except for fun flights. MI6 is reportedly using only piloted helicopters for its film work now.

X-47 Drone Testing Sparks Ethical Warfare Debate

Northrop Grumman's X-47B drone may represent "a major qualitative change in the conduct of hostilities" according to the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which reports to the Geneva Conventions. The X-47B is entering tests to see it land on the deck of an aircraft carrier, autonomously -- without in-cockpit or remote-pilot input. That sort of capability is only a precursor to what's coming. According to an Air Force report (PDF), the improvements in drone technology will eventually give drones the capacity to make life-or-death decisions while engaged in battle. And "increasingly humans will no longer be 'in the loop' but rather 'on the loop.'" And that, according to ICRC president Jacob Kellenberger, may challenge international law.

According to Kellenberger, "the capacity to discriminate" in warfare is a requirement of international humanitarian law. In the case of advanced drones, that capacity will "depend entirely on the quality and variety of sensors and programming" employed as opposed to individuals, Kellenberger says. The ICRC is addressing the issue as it relates to the Geneva Conventions. Drones now account for 7,500 aircraft in the military and one-third of all military aircraft today, the L.A. Times reported Thursday. Drone platforms represent potential cost and combat benefits. There is currently no plan to allow the X-47B to autonomously make decisions about killing enemy combatants. But that may change. In the Air Force's report (PDF), the Air Force states that "authorizing a machine to make lethal combat decisions is contingent upon political and military leaders resolving legal and ethical questions."

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AVweb Welcomes Tom Bliss back to top 

Bliss Named AVweb Publisher

Aviation industry marketing and communications veteran Tom Bliss has been named Publisher of AVweb, effective immediately. Bliss, who is a 2200-hour commercial and instrument-rated pilot and owner of a Cessna P210, has operated Bliss Marketing Multimedia since 1983. He will lead the future sales and market development of AVweb, which is the world's premiere online aviation news source. "Tom brings an extremely well-rounded resume to his role as publisher," said Tim Cole, executive vice president of Belvoir Media Group, AVweb's parent company. "He is an accomplished pilot and a highly regarded and experienced marketing communications professional who understands our customers and can offer them valuable insights and creative solutions to meet their promotional needs."

Bliss is a former television reporter who also worked in marketing at Cessna, Collins Avionics and Sperry Flight Systems before opening his own firm. He has represented prominent aerospace companies including Honeywell, Boeing and Goodrich. Bliss lives in Phoenix with his wife Michelle and they have two grown daughters.

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Another Day, Another Temporary Funding Initiative back to top 

Congress Funds FAA (For A Few More Weeks)

The Senate Thursday followed the House and approved a stopgap funding measure that will carry the FAA through Feb. 17 at current funding levels. The temporary measure provides funds through airport taxes and precedes another vote on long-term funding, which is expected to take place in February. The temporary measure is the 23rd of its kind and it replaces another that was set to expire on Jan. 31. The last long-term FAA reauthorization bill expired in 2007. For two weeks in 2011, Congress failed to provide either temporary or long-term authorization for the FAA, leading the agency to temporarily furlough thousands of workers and possibly tens of thousands of contractors. Current reports suggest lawmakers are optimistic they can reach an agreement prior to the new Feb. 17 deadline.

A long-term funding bill may address issues like the carriage of lithium batteries on cargo aircraft, funding for airport improvement projects and subsidies for rural operators. Labor laws regarding how airline employees could unionize derailed previous talks between House and Senate leaders. A potential compromise could strip out language related to unionizing efforts and leave that issue to be considered separately. Cynics are more concerned that the turmoil of the current election cycle and the departure of former FAA administrator Randy Babbitt could adversely influence some important players.

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Over the Fence, Under the Radar back to top 

Border Patrol: Planes Used To Smuggle Immigrants

Pilots have begun using small aircraft to smuggle illegal immigrants from the U.S.-Mexico border to inland airports, according to authorities who last week seized a Cessna from a Southern California airport and brought charges against one pilot. "It seems to be a new avenue they're using," Border Patrol Agent Adrian Corona told a local newspaper. Federal prosecutors say 30-year-old Lino Rodriguez-Chavez used a Cessna rented from Hemet-Ryan Flight School in El Centro, California, to fly a group of illegal immigrants from a location near the border to Hemet airport. The pilot appeared in court Monday, entered a not guilty plea and was released on $20,000 bond. Multiple flights have been intercepted by El Centro Border Patrol agents in the past few years.

Authorities say that Rodriguez-Chavez was one of four flights stopped since 2010 while engaging in the act of transporting illegal immigrants. If convicted, pilots can face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Homeland Security agents say Rodriguez-Chavez met the illegal immigrants near Calexico and moved them to Imperial County Airport. He then led the immigrants to the aircraft and boarded with them, according to authorities who stopped the plane on the runway. The pilot has been charged with one count of illegal transportation of an alien.

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Cessna Says "No" to Columbus Revival back to top 

Good-Bye Columbus?

Textron CEO Scott Donnelly says there are no plans to resurrect the Cessna Columbus wide-cabin business jet project even though big jets are selling well and the small-to-medium-sized business jet sector has struggled. "The large market is pretty well-served," Donnelly told a conference call to discuss the company's financials. "I don't think it would be the right use of our capital." Cessna is defending its dominance in the smaller jet sector against a methodical assault from Embraer and introduced two new models, the M2 and the Latitude at NBAA in October, that are aimed directly at Embraer offerings. Meanwhile, Donnelly says there are signs of recovery in the market and Cessna made money last year.

Cessna made $60 million on sales of $3 billion in 2011, compared to a $29 million loss on a gross of $2.56 billion the previous year. Although the balance sheet looks better, the backlog continues to slip and dropped by $1 billion to $1.9 billion, which at current production rates is about eight months. Companies aim for about 18 months in backlogged orders. Donnelly said Cessna will make up for the backlog in "spot" market sales that are not already on the books. "But we believe market demand should increase throughout the year," the Wichita Eagle quoted him as saying. "It's all about selling aircraft."

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News Briefs back to top 

Airport As An Oasis Of Calm

There's an airport where the symbol of inner peace and outer calm reigns and it's not in one of those little holding cages on the wrong side of the security lineup. San Francisco Airport has set aside 150 square feet of its sprawling footprint for the practice of yoga. The silent room is, perhaps appropriately, just inside where travelers reassemble themselves after security and was inspired by a comment made by a traveler to airport director John Martin, who has practiced yoga for 18 years. The traveler said the newly-renovated Terminal 2 had everything but a yoga room. "We took that charge to heart and here it is," Martin told the Half Moon Bay Patch. "It's already getting a lot of use. People love it."

Besides deciding to dedicate a 10 x 15 foot space to something other than fast food or magazine sales, there was another more technical challenge. Airports must have universal pictograms on doors to ensure universal understanding of what lays beyond. There are more than 400 but there wasn't one for yoga. An androgynous figure in the lotus position was picked and will be used in any other airport that decides to create a similar sanctuary.

Barefoot Bandit: "Anyone Else Would Have Died"

In his courtroom appearances, Colton Harris-Moore, the late-teen who stole five airplanes as part of a two-year crime spree, appeared to be remorseful, but he saved his self-praise and color commentary for later, according to new reports. E-mails Harris-Moore sent from prison were monitored by authorities and detailed in a memorandum filed by federal prosecutors ahead of a hearing scheduled to take place in a Seattle court, Friday, Jan. 27. According to that document, the young man referred to police and the prosecution as "fools" and "swine," among more colorful language. Harris-Moore's attorney argues the clips are representative of isolated emotions cherry-picked from personal correspondence to negatively impact her client. As released, the e-mails appear to show the young thief had a distinctly more positive opinion of himself and, specifically, of his piloting abilities.

Writing about the aircraft thefts, Harris-Moore said, "I, as a teenager with no formal education in aviation was not only able to pilot multiple aircraft, fly one over a thousand miles to the Bahamas." He goes on to say that four out of five of those aircraft were "flown through inclement weather or night time -- or both, again, without any formal training." Says Harris-Moore, "I am confident that anyone else would have died." The young man's attorney, Emma Scanlon, said prosecutors picked the statements from 1,500 pages of e-mails and phone transcripts that she says mostly show her client's remorse. "They seem to have been unable to find an e-mail that shows lack of remorse toward his victims," Scanlon said. Harris-Moore suffers from fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, according to his attorney. Scanlon said the condition makes her client impulsive and while he may be angry with prosecutors and a sheriff, "he's working through his feelings about what's going on," the L.A. Times.com reported. Harris-Moore's upbringing, which was far less than ideal, has also been explored in his defense. Scanlon is hoping for a 70-month sentence for Harris-Moore (as opposed to the 78-month term sought by prosecutors) plus $1.4 million in restitution for victims. That amount could be paid from the movie deal Harris-Moore reportedly signed in December with 20th Century Fox.

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

AVmail: January 30, 2012

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: The Case for Fuel Taxes

Regarding aviation user fees: I assert that the "user" of the ATC system is not the airline or airplane, but the person traveling. The person traveling needs ATC to get him or her safely to his or her destination. If you want to charge per flight, you should charge per passenger on that flight. In that case, an airliner carrying 200 passengers should pay more than a corporate jet carrying four passengers. In fact, it should pay about fifty times more.

In addition, you should charge more for longer flights than for shorter flights. A flight from New York to Los Angeles spends more time in ATC than a flight from New York to Chicago.

Now, in order to collect this fee, a whole new bureaucracy will have to be developed. Who is going to track the fifty million individual flights each year? How is the money paid? Who will audit all of this? How do the many corporate jets figure into all of this? And what about air freight?

Let's look for a cheaper way to fund ATC that is still equitable.

It turns out that, when measured by passenger-mile, most airplanes get about the same mileage, about 60 passenger-miles per gallon. Now, there is a range, but it's not six passenger-miles per gallon, and it's not six hundred passenger-miles per gallon, either — and it tracks reasonably close for a 737 or a Citation.

Let's take a commercial flight of 1,000 miles with 200 passengers. That's about 200,000 passenger-miles. At sixty passenger miles per gallon, that's about 3,000 gallons of fuel. If you want to recover $100 from this flight, that's about three cents per gallon.

At three dollars per gallon fuel cost, that's about one percent. Sure, people will complain. But it will be a whole lot cheaper with much less hassle than collecting this fee separately.

Like everyone else, I don't like paying taxes, but I also believe that there are government services that need to be paid for, and they need to be paid for, directly or indirectly, by the people who benefit from the service. In this case, given a choice of fuel tax or [a] separately calculated and charged fee, I go with the tax.

Reid Sayre

I think the issue here is incentive and how it impacts behavior.

When creating incentives for desired outcomes, user fees can be good. The examples that come to mind are parks and wildlife refuges, where user fees lower the human impact on wildlife and reduce erosion. In that case, user fees, by pricing some out of the market or causing some to reduce usage, create a desirable impact.

When creating incentives for undesirable outcomes, user fees are bad, period. That is the case presented by aviation user fees. They incentivise non-usage of ATC and non-usage of IFR flight plans. That is not what anyone in the system wants. I guarantee that controllers much prefer knowing what a blip is and where it is going. You can almost sense a controller's frustration at having to give a traffic alert when he doesn't know the type of plane or its intended routing.

Aligning costs and revenues is not the point. Proper incentives are the point.

Josh Smith

Don't the owners of business jets pay a lot more income taxes than most people? Shouldn't the extra taxes they pay count towards paying their fair share for the ATC system?

James Badgett

Crab vs. Slip

The video of the big birds doing the "crab & kick" was quite entertaining — but in no way supports the sweeping conclusion in the accompanying narrative: "[T]he crab-and-kick technique ... is now clearly the norm for commercial airliners."

Maybe it's the norm in Europe and the Middle East, which were the origins of all these planes, but not in the U.S. Before my retirement, I flew all the big Boeings up through the 767-400. The norm was the traditional slip method. Only in the 400, with its extended wings, did crabbing become an issue in high winds when the amount of wing down required by slipping might put a wing tip too close to the pavement.

Kim Welch

737s and CRJ-200s have to crab and kick, but it's not ideal. They lack either the engine nacelle or wingtip clearance to safely slip in. EMB-120s slip very well and have neither issue. An established slip is more stabilized and less conducive to side loads than kicking the rudder when the craft is ten feet off the ground. If you have a choice, side slip.

Todd Du Puy

It depends what I'm flying. There's no hard-and-fast rule that works equally well for a Spitfire and a 747 and a high-wing Cessna. You have to adapt to the characteristics of the aircraft.

John Stanning

In a light crosswind with a normal approach pattern, I will slip all the way. If the approach is longer or the crosswind is strong, I will crab until about a half-mile final and then slip. I was initially taught the crab methods but as my training and ratings increased I was taught the slip method. I feel it is safer, and you are able to judge earlier if you are able to hold the centerline of the runway.

Bonnie Roth

About 24,500 flying hours ago, total time about 500, at a flying school on an air strip in Southern Australia with continual crosswind at an air strip parallel with the coastline, the senior instructor and I had difficulty with getting across to the students the then-accepted technique of crab and kick. We changed the procedure to the crab until round-out (minimum crosswind then, plus some extra knots for Mum and the kids) then rudder to straighten and aileron to keep straight, use minimum hold off, one main, next main then nosewheel, aileron into wind — generally the sequence as quick as slowly spoken. I still teach that technique today after some 14,000 instructing hours.

Would like to hear if there is an easier way.

Wayne Hinton

Crab down final, then kick in rudder to align with runway, transitioning into slip to control drift, ideally touching upwind main down first by holding aileron into crosswind and letting the other main settle. In my aircraft, a Bellanca Viking, the rudder must be centered before nose gear touches down because of nose-wheel steering.

Bill Emde

You limited the choices re: crosswind landings to the pilot, not the aircraft. In my Cherokee, I slip all the way. In my Aztec, I crab then kick it out to a slip. In some aircraft, the POH forbids long slips.

Candice H. Brown Elliott

I have never been able to make the crab technique work, though there are times when I've run out of aileron and had to go somewhere else. Perhaps crabbing would have solved that.

David Chuljian

Flying a Challenger Ultralite, I usually do not extend flaps. I crab to line up the centerline, slip with downwind wing low to lose altitude. Just before impact, I transition smoothly to slip upwind, wing low, aircraft aligned with centerline. If successful, I don't even have to shut my eyes at the last moment.

Don Abrahamson

Aircraft as Canvas


I can't be the only one who is actually uncomfortable with classic aircraft being defaced with "art." How about letting people buy these old airplanes in the desert for restoration instead of destruction? A good follow-up article could address the availability to the public of boneyard aircraft for useful purposes. This has all the appeal of kids breaking the windows of an abandoned classic car.

John Gray

Red Tails Perfect

I loved the movie, as is. I believe it was a great step forward in telling an important story to the general public. Thanks to George Lucas for his efforts.

Steve Oxman

Weight Increase for LSAs

To increase the LSA 1,320-pound weight limit to include existing other two-place aircraft like the C150/152 would only drive a nail into the coffin of the now-suffering LSA market and put whatever is left of the U.S. manufacturers out of business. Even outsourcing sub-assembling and assembling here in the U.S. can't compete with used C-150/152 aircraft, etc. Even Cessna's C-162 LSA price has increased to more than $150,000, and it is made in China.

By raising the weight to include the C-150/152, Cessna dealers can dump their worn out trainers on the LSA market and kill the competition and take over the LSA market when the economy turns around in five years or so.

Donald H. Smith

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Opinion & Commentary back to top 

AVweb Insider Blog: Three Wishes -- Which Aviation Historical Events Would You Elect to See?

If the genie popped out the bottle and granted you three wishes to witness three events in aviation history, which three would you pick? On the AVweb Insider blog, Paul Bertorelli offers his choices. Plus, there's a link to a cool 3-D video.

Read more and join the conversation.

AVweb Insider Blog: Intentional Pucker Factor

R-LOCs -- runway loss of control incidents -- are the leading result of aircraft accidents. Can you innoculate yourself against them? Flying more challenging training scenarios might help, says Paul Bertorelli on the AVweb Insider blog.

Read more and join the conversation.

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

U.S. Sport Aviation Expo 2012: Video Round-Up

Did you miss any of our video coverage of the 2012 U.S. Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring, Florida? We were on hand to kick tires, ask questions, and fly some of this year's most exciting light sport airplanes. Be sure to check out our videos on the FK12 Comet biplane, the Vans RV-12, Flight Design's CTLE light sport police aircraft, the Renegade Falcon LS, Allegro Airplanes, and Corbi's air conditioning system for LSAs.

Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Franklin Aviation (K1A5, Franklin, North Carolina)

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

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Franklin Aviation at Macon County Airport (K1A5) in Franklin, North Carolina.

AVweb reader Gerry McCarley is a regular at 1A5 and vouched for Franlin's top-notch service in his recommendation of the FBO:

I visit Franklin Aviation several times a year. Their customer care and service are some of the best I have found. On a recent visit (over Christmas) the weather changed, and snow/ice was forecast. Without my asking, Neil and his people found space in their hangar and kept my airplane inside over that night. Their fuel prices are competitive, and with the new extended runway and GPS approach, it's one of the best places to stop.

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

Heard this at John Wayne Airport recently. The airliners often like to take off from runway 1L if the wind is within their take-off limits to save fuel.

United 123:
"John Wayne ground, say winds please."

John Wayne Ground:
"Winds are variable between 110 and 120 at 6 knots."

John Wayne Ground (after a pause) :
"Actually, I guess they aren't that variable, are they?"

Mike Banner
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 twice-weekly summary of the latest news, articles, products, features, and events featured on AVweb, the world's premier independent aviation news resource.

The AVwebFlash team is:

Tom Bliss

Editorial Director, Aviation Publications
Paul Bertorelli

Russ Niles

Contributing Editors
Mary Grady
Glenn Pew

Scott Simmons

Kevin Lane-Cummings
Jeff Van West

Have a product or service to advertise on AVweb? Your advertising can reach over 225,000 loyal AVwebFlash, AVwebBiz, and AVweb home page readers every week. Over 80% of our readers are active pilots and aircraft owners. That's why our advertisers grow with us, year after year. For ad rates and scheduling, click here or contact Tom Bliss, via e-mail or via telephone [(480) 525-7481].

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.

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