NewsWire Complete Issue

March 24, 2004
By The AVweb Editorial Staff

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Bird Strikes A Growing Concern...

As Spring Gets Everyone Flying...

Welcome to migration season. The birds are out there -- even (and in some cases, especially) after dark. The conflict between aircraft and birds is a real and growing problem -- about 60,000 bird strikes to U.S. aircraft were reported to the FAA from 1990 to 2003, and perhaps four times that many went unreported. A 12-pound Canada goose struck by a 150-mph aircraft, says the Bird Strike Committee USA, generates the force of a 1,000-pound weight dropped from a height of 10 feet. Damage to aircraft is estimated at $400 million per year, and up to 400 (human) deaths have been blamed on collisions with birds. During the spring and fall migration, activity levels are high. Now new radar systems, being tested in Alaska, Scotland and elsewhere, might help to mitigate the hazard. Voluminous statistics on the interaction between birds and airplanes are kept by the Bird Strike Committee USA, a volunteer group comprising representatives from the FAA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Department of Defense and the aviation industry. The committee says that between 1990 and 2002, waterfowl accounted for 31 percent of the reported strikes that caused damage to aircraft, gulls for 29 percent, and raptors (hawks and other birds of prey) 17 percent. Other fun facts from the Bird Strike Committee: Starlings are "feathered bullets," having a body density 27 percent higher than herring gulls. North America's Canada goose population tripled from 1990 to 2002, to 3.5 million birds. The Great Lakes cormorant population grew from about 200 nesting adults in 1970 to 230,000 nesting adults in 2000, a 1,000-fold increase. Pelican populations in the U.S. have grown at annual rates up to 8.5 percent since 1980, meaning the population doubles approximately every eight years.

...New Warning Systems Under Development...

Warning systems that try to locate and track birds in flight and communicate real-time information to pilots are still experimental. The Avian Research Laboratory, in Panama City, Fla., is working on an automated ground-based radar system to detect birds at a Scotland military base. Jerry Grimm, director of the laboratory, told AVweb the system is capable of detecting a bird as small as a sparrow up to two nautical miles away. But the equipment is subject to all of radar's limitations and glitches, such as clutter, slow update rates and poor resolution of small targets. Still, "it's giving a very good indication of where the birds are," Grimm said. His gear is also designed to run automatically, an advantage over some other systems. For example, a system that is being tested at Alaska's Elmendorf Air Force Base requires a manned station at all times, Grimm said. However, the radar display is available only to air traffic controllers, and nothing is in the works that would provide a real-time display to pilots in the cockpit.

Grimm noted that conflict between birds and aircraft is a result of many factors besides the growth in avian populations. Airports provide an attractive habitat for birds, with open grassy spaces and shelter provided by shade trees and open hangars. Many airports are sited in remote areas or close to coastal areas where open spaces and wildlife refuges may be nearby. Also, he said birds are often active at night, foraging or migrating, and especially at dusk and dawn, making it that much more difficult for pilots to see and avoid. At Elmendorf, an experimental bird-radar system is being used to help develop accurate forecasts of daily bird migrations. Wildlife biologist Herman Griese said the system has been able to detect much higher bird densities than those reported previously. "The extrapolated number of birds in the air at peak densities we observed should be a grave concern for pilots," Griese said. The experimental system is proving useful, he said, but pilots need technology that would allow real-time advisories.

...As FAA Maps Hazard Zones, And Other Critters Intrude

The FAA is working to develop a wildlife-hazards advisory system that would integrate radar data with the Bird Avoidance Model, or (it's not April 1, yet) BAM, that has been used with some success by the U.S. military. (There also exists a military Bird Aircraft Strike Hazard ... [BASH] team.) The BAM approach is not a real-time detection system, but depends on collecting and analyzing data to document and predict the presence of birds and map known bird strikes so hazardous areas can be delineated and aircraft can choose flight paths that avoid them. The FAA's BAM maps are available online, and classify the risks at low, moderate or severe. But birds are not the only wildlife that conflict with aircraft -- many airports are having problems with deer on the runway. More than 600 civil aircraft collisions with deer were reported in the U.S. from 1990 to 2003. Other animals that have been reported in runway collisions include coyotes, raccoons, moose and alligators. The FAA has an online photo collection showing the damage these incidents can inflict on aircraft of all sizes. NTSB investigator John Goglia has been a longtime crusader about the dangers of bird strikes. He says airports and the FAA need to be more aggressive about making the areas around airports less inviting to birds. "I think it's just a matter of time before we're going to have an event that will make us wish we had dealt with the problem earlier," he told the St. Petersburg Times this week. Goglia will retire from the NTSB next month.

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NTSB Reports Slight Increase In GA Accidents In 2003...

Although Overall Rate Remains Low...

The number of fatalities in general aviation accidents rose slightly last year -- from 581 in 2002 to 626 in 2003, the NTSB reported Monday. However, the overall accident rate increased only slightly, from 6.69 per 100,000 hours of flight time to 6.71. That overall rate has generally been decreasing since 1984, when it was 10.84 per 100,000 hours. After a steady decline to a low of 6.5 in 1999, the rate has gone up and down slightly in the last few years. The fatal-accident rate has remained fairly steady since 1984, fluctuating between 1.16 and 1.84 per 100,000 hours. In 2003, 695 fatalities were reported for all of civil aviation, so GA accidents accounted for 90 percent. There were 351 fatal general aviation accidents in 2003 (accounting for 626 deaths), up from 345 the year before. Total general aviation accidents increased from 1,713 in 2002 to 1,732 last year. The total number of U.S. civil aviation accidents rose from 1,820 in 2002 to 1,864 in 2003.

Three fatal accidents last year involved scheduled passenger service: a Beech 1900 operated by Air Midwest crashed on takeoff out of Charlotte, N.C., and a Northwest Airlines DC-9 aircraft fatally injured a tug operator in Norfolk, Va. These two accidents, operating under Part 121, resulted in 22 fatalities. A third accident, involving a Part 135 flight in the Bahamas, resulted in two fatalities. Air taxis reported 77 accidents in 2003, which shows an increase from 59 in 2002. The total fatalities also increased from 35 to 45. The accident rate rose from 2.03 per 100,000 flight hours in 2002 to 2.61 in 2003. The accident rate for this segment of aviation has been questioned by the NTSB due to a lack of precision in the flight activity estimates provided by the FAA. The FAA made major revisions to flight estimates in 2002, retroactive to 1992. In 2003, the FAA revised the flight hour estimates for 1999 to the present. The NTSB said the figures released this week are preliminary.

...But Numbers Are Only Half The Story

The NTSB numbers need to be interpreted with a grain of salt, says Bruce Landsberg, executive director of AOPA's Air Safety Foundation. "Although the NTSB reports rates to two decimal places, that implies a far greater level of accuracy than the system can possibly measure. The slight change [in the overall GA accident rate] may be due more to the FAA's downward revision in the estimated number of flight hours last year than to any real decrease in safety." To put the increase into perspective, AOPA says, there were six more fatal GA accidents in 2003 than in 2002. "The fact remains that the GA accident rate is 60 percent lower than it was in 1970," said Landsberg. "The numbers also should serve as a reminder that good decision making and maintaining adequate piloting skills is the best strategy for safe flights."

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Airline CEO Suggests GA User Fees

While analysts predict high jet-fuel prices and weak domestic revenue will further cripple the struggling airline industry this year, at least one airline may be taking aim at general aviation to share its costs. "As the system works today, you, the commercial airline passenger, are subsidizing private aircraft ownership. This is not right." So claimed Richard Anderson, CEO of Northwest Airlines, in an editorial titled "Fairness for All Airport Users," published in the March 2004 issue of Northwest's onboard magazine. Anderson said taxes and user fees account for up to one-quarter of the cost of an airline ticket, but private aviators are not paying their fair share of the costs of our aviation infrastructure -- essentially, getting a free ride on the backs of air travelers. AOPA was quick to respond, and has set up a meeting between Anderson and Phil Boyer for April 2. "Mr. Anderson's attack on general aviation is unfair, unwarranted, and, for the most part, untrue," said Boyer. "And by publishing his attack in so public a forum, he has raised what should have remained a regional skirmish into a nationwide battle." We'll look forward to bringing you the report of what transpires between Anderson and Boyer shortly.

New Zealand Crash And, Again, Questions About Cellphone Use

The old debate over the effect of cellphones on airplanes is back in play, as investigators in New Zealand face questions about a fatal accident last June, during which a cellphone was apparently turned on in the cockpit. Eight people died when a Piper Chieftain crashed just over a mile from the runway at Christchurch Aerodrome. The official report by the Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC), released last month, concluded that the pilot became distracted at a critical stage in the ILS approach, conducted during light rain, a low overcast, and darkness. But the Aviation Industry Association (AIA) said the possible effect of the cellphone was not adequately investigated. The TAIC report does conclude that "operators [need] to have practical procedures for observing cellphone rules during flight," but does not cite the cellphone as a factor in the crash. The report says the plane probably would have landed safely if the autopilot was engaged, but for unknown reasons the pilot was flying the approach manually.

The crash report found that "The pilot's own cellphone was operating during the last three minutes of the flight, and could have interfered with his glide slope indication on the ILS approach." The cellphone seems to have been inadvertently in use, having connected via speed-dial to the pilot's home voicemail. Yet the TAIC report continues, "The aircraft's continued descent below the minimum altitude could not have resulted from electronic interference of any kind. ... The pilot's altimeter was correctly set and displayed correct altitude information throughout the approach." The TAIC notes that "The use of cellphones on board aircraft has been identified from numerous occurrence reports overseas as a cause of random interference to the proper functioning of aircraft avionics such as navigation equipment and autopilots. New Zealand Civil Aviation Rule part 91.7(a) stated: No person may operate, nor may any operator or pilot-in-command of an aircraft allow the operation of, any cellphone or other portable electronic device that is designed to transmit electromagnetic energy, on any aircraft while that aircraft is operating under IFR." The pilot reportedly told the passengers that it was OK to use their cellphones during the flight, and was observed by the two survivors of the crash to have used his own cellphone en route. The AIA also questioned whether the possibility of wake turbulence was adequately explored. The Chieftain was following a Boeing 737 on final. The TAIC concluded that separation was adequate and wake turbulence was not a factor.

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(Some) GA Airports Gain Ground As Economic Engines

Sometimes it feels like nobody (except pilots) loves an airport, but in fact plenty of folks out there appreciate that a bustling airfield creates jobs and even enhances quality of life. In Bogalusa, La., the city administration lobbied hard for years to convince not a reluctant public, not reluctant business, but a reluctant FAA that they wanted their airport to grow, and finally came home this month with $3.4 million. The tide has turned in Salt Lake City, as well, where momentum is building to develop the long-neglected No. 2 airport to attract corporate jets. And Albuquerque plans to invest a $3.13 million federal grant to expand the two runways at its Double Eagle Two airport, in hopes of attracting more general aviation traffic. Bogalusa Mayor Mack McGehee has high hopes for his local airfield. "We'll be able to acquire additional property on the north and south ends of the runway, extend the runway and taxiway, and eventually put in a new terminal building," he told the Bogalusa Daily News. "When this is completed we could have the best airport in the south for general aviation."

Opponents Adamant Against Navy Airfield In N.C.

While some older, neglected airports may be getting a second look from their communities, the challenge of finding a site for a new airport is not getting any easier. In North Carolina, the Navy's effort to build a landing field in a rural county so its F/A-18 Super Hornet jet pilots can practice carrier landings has drawn opposition from every conceivable quarter, for every conceivable reason -- it would be noisy, it would take 33,000 acres of land off the tax rolls in a poor county, it would destroy wildlife habitat, it would endanger migratory birds (and pilots), and it would force family farmers off their land with inadequate compensation. So said a long line of opponents at a hearing in rural Washington County last Saturday. The Navy says the landing field is necessary to support a larger surge-ready force. The site is centrally located between the Oceana and Cherry Point Air Stations in Virginia. The Sierra Club warns that the site is within five miles of a wildlife refuge that is the winter home of more than 100,000 tundra swans and snow geese, large birds that could damage or wreck the fighter jets in the case of a collision. The Navy has said it is aware of the bird hazard but says it is "manageable." Last weekend's hearing was one of a series conducted around the state by a joint Navy-civilian study group, which is scheduled to make a recommendation on the Washington County site by the end of April.

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First Concorde Set To Travel By Sea To Scotland

The Brits just can't get over their love affair with the late great Concorde, and now they are looking forward to a final epic journey of one the sleek birds, bound for the National Museums of Scotland (NMS). The NMS announced on Monday its plan to transport G-BOAA, the first-ever Concorde to enter service, from Heathrow Airport to its final home at the national Museum of Flight, just outside Edinburgh. The complex 10-day plan calls for G-BOAA to travel via highway to the River Thames, then sail by barge to London, where it will make a dramatic final salute to the London public as it is lifted above deck outside the Houses of Parliament. The barge will then continue under Tower Bridge and out to the North Sea, where it will embark on the longest section of its journey, up the east coast to Scotland.

On arrival at Torness, G-BOAA will travel via the new A1 expressway, finally arriving at the Museum on the morning of April 13. "This is a very exciting time for both Concorde and the British people, allowing people from both London and Scotland to share in the start of a new era for this great aircraft," said Dr Gordon Rintoul, NMS director. "We are proud and excited to welcome Concorde's arrival at the national Museum of Flight. By August, thousands of visitors will be able to see one of Britain's most exciting and innovative inventions." Further announcements will be made with more details about where and when the public can see Concorde during its journey and when it will be unveiled at the national Museum of Flight. Meanwhile, a group called Keep Concorde Flying met last weekend in Bristol, England, to lobby for the revival of at least one of the fleet. The group's Web site says it has collected more than 5,000 signatures on a petition that seeks "to make sure our Concordes remain where they should be, in the sky and not stuck in a museum."

British Balloonist Reaches Record Altitude, But Faces FAA Fallout

British adventurer David Hempleman-Adams may have set an altitude record Tuesday in Colorado when he reached 42,000 feet in his open-basket Roziere balloon, a hybrid gas/hot-air design, but in the process he ran into some flak from the FAA. It seems that although Hempleman-Adams maintained radio contact with ATC during the flight, the FAA says he should have made arrangements with them in advance before invading the flight levels. The record attempt will be verified by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale, which could take several months. Hempleman-Adams, 46, was the first person to reach the North and South Geographical and Magnetic Poles and scale the highest mountain in each continent, including Mount Everest. In 2000, he became the first man to fly a balloon over the North Pole.

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On The Fly...

A 31-year-old man apparently committed suicide by jumping from a Cessna 172 at 2,500 feet near Manhattan, Kan., on Monday afternoon. The aircraft landed safely with three people on board...

Cessna's Citation XLS, a successor to the Excel business jet, has received FAA program approval, Cessna announced on Tuesday...

Adam Aircraft appointed Joe Walker as president of the company. Walker previously worked at Gulfstream and Cessna...

The NBAA posted online this week its report on the cost of restricting GA access to airspace and airports, which it recently delivered to the House Aviation Subcommittee...

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New Articles and Features on AVweb

Interactive Quiz #79: Let's Be Clear On This
The bedrock of air traffic control is the word "clear." Whether cleared for takeoff or cleared for an instrument approach, understanding the forces that this word unleashes clearly puts you in the accomplished pilot's seat.

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AVweb's Question of the Week ...


Last week, AVweb polled readers to find out how much you're spending on your aircraft's hangar storage.  Most of you reported hangar costs of a couple hundred dollars.  (59% of respondents pay $100 to $300 a month.)  AVweb readers seem to have a knack for finding a bargain — as prices go up, the number of AVweb readers paying them goes down.  Only 3% of you reported paying more than $600 a month for hangar fees, and a full 16% of AVweb readers manage to store their aircraft for less than $100 a month!


This week, AVweb wants to know how you feel about the potential dangers of birds and wildlife in our airways.  Click here to answer this week's polling question.

Have an idea for a new QOTW? Send your suggestions to

Note: This address is only for suggested QOTW questions, and not for QOTW answers.

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AVweb's Picture of the Week ...

Submit a Photo | Rules | Tips | Questions

Current POTW Winner | Past POTW Winners

Welcome back to "Picture of the Week," where AVweb readers take over the site to share their amateur aviation photos.  This week's photos were a bumper crop, and we had to leave several amazing shots on the cutting-room floor.  (If only there were room for all of them!)  But one photo stood out as this week's winner — Robert Westwater's photo of the legendary Charles Lindbergh "before he became famous."  According to Mr. Westwater, the photo came from his wife's great aunt, whose husband was a good friend of Lindbergh.

Due to privacy issues, AVweb does not publish e-mail addresses of readers who submit photos.



"Charles Lindbergh in Airplane"
Robert B. Westwater
of Greenwood, Indiana submitted this week's winning photo,
a candid shot of aviation legend Charles Lindbergh "before he became famous"

Click here to view a medium-sized version of this image
Click here to view a large version of this image

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.

"Float Flying Adventures in the Philippine Islands"
Loray Greiner sent this photo from Dolarog Resort
in El Nido on Palawan Island in the Philippines

"Too Close for Comfort"
Alfredo Porras of Santiago, Chile snapped this shot of a low-flying
1/48 scale Typhoon over his neighborhood

To enter next week's contest, click here.

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.

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