AVwebFlash Complete Issue: Volume 18, Number 10a

March 5, 2012

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Aviation Safety: ATC Recording back to top 

Fatal Cirrus Crash Audio, Melbourne, Fla.

Three people were killed when a Cirrus crashed near the approach end of Melbourne International Airport's Runway 9R at about 5:15 p.m., Wednesday, and transmissions between the tower and the flight appear to show some confusion. The tower controller was busy with multiple aircraft inbound to the parallel runways at the airport. Traffic included several single-engine fixed-wing planes and at least one helicopter. Two of the flights, including another Cirrus also inbound for nine-right, had called for touch and gos. The crash aircraft, a Cirrus identified on the audio as four-sierra-romeo, was directed to join the pattern and appears to have been cleared to land. As the aircraft turned a tight base, the controller noticed a potential conflict. Someone had made a mistake. The controller told four-sierra-romeo to "cut it in tight, now" and seconds later, multiple pilots and the controller watched the aircraft go in. Rob Kurrus Jr., Justin Gaines, and Chris Franklin died in the crash. Audio was obtained from LiveATC.net.

The audio appears to show there may have been some confusion or miscommunication. Robert Kurrus Sr., father of one of the men who perished in the crash, told a local NBC news affiliate that "some of the things we've heard gives us great concern, as far as traffic control, or lack thereof in this situation." The aircraft was destroyed on impact with little more than the tail section remaining recognizable. The NTSB is investigating and will reportedly be considering the amount of traffic and how it was handled at the time of the crash.

Click here for the MP3 file.

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Taking the Fight Against User Fees to the Top back to top 

Obama Urged To Abandon User Fees

A bipartisan group of 195 members of the House of Representatives has signed what NBAA says is a "strongly worded" letter (PDF) opposing the $100-per-leg user fee for turbine-powered aircraft contained in President Obama's 2013 budget proposal. The letter points out that Congress has consistently rejected user fee proposals in the past and likely hasn't changed its collective mind this time. The letter was put together by Reps. Jerry Costello, D-Ill., Tom Petri, R-Wis., along with Reps. Sam Graves, R-Mo. and John Barrow, D-Ga. Costello and Petri lead the aviation subcommittee of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure while Graves and Barrow co-chair the General Aviation Caucus. The signatories say user fees are the wrong approach to raising revenue from aviation and appeal to the president to "abandon this idea once and for all."

The letter says the fee will hurt aviation. "We should work together to support policies that encourage job growth and strengthen U.S. economic activity," the letter reads. "Imposing a $100 per flight fee on commercial and general aviation is the wrong approach." NBAA says it helped gather the signatures and will continue working the issue on the Hill as part of a unified approach with other aviation groups to maintain the status quo. "The general aviation community has long supported the well-established and efficient fuel tax now paid for use of the aviation system," NBAA said in a news release.

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Breaking the Law back to top 

Second Wayward Vehicle Breaches PHL

For the second time in less than 30 days, an errant driver managed to find a way onto either a taxiway or runway at Philadelphia International Airport and the latest episode, Thursday, may have resulted in a close call. A tower controller at PHL is being credited for spotting through fog a Jeep on the runway. The controller directed a US Airways Express flight that was seconds from touching down to go around, according to CNN. Other sources say the Jeep was stopped before reaching the runway. The driver this time allegedly crashed a fence to gain access and may have been operating under the influence of drugs. That wasn't the case in another incident early last month that reportedly launched a TSA investigation.

Thursday's incident reportedly involved a 24-year-old male who had been waiting outside of the airport grounds for a flight to land before crashing a perimeter fence to gain access. Local authorities found no threatening contents in the driver's vehicle and sated that the driver appeared to be under the influence of a drug. Last month, a driver and passenger drove hundreds of yards down Taxiway J at PHL and at one point got out of the car before being detected. In that case, authorities say the driver gained access through a checkpoint after getting lost at approximately 3:45 am. The driver and passenger appeared sincerely confused and were not charged with a crime, but a police officer who failed to stop the vehicle was expected to face disciplinary measures. The TSA was said to be investigating the incident.

72-Year-Old Pot Pilot Sentenced

A 72-year-old pilot was sentenced Tuesday after he pled guilty to felony drug charges and "maintaining a common nuisance" associated with landing an aircraft with 200 pounds of marijuana on board. Allen Richter had been tracked as he flew a 1962 Piper PA-24-250 Comanche from Arizona to Indiana, where he was apprehended on Nov. 5. Richter is not the registered owner of the aircraft and told police it was stolen. The septuagenarian's adventure earned him a sentence of seven years jail time, thanks in part to other considerations.

Officials say the flight originated in California and had Maine as its ultimate destination, but the flight plan had been changed more than once. At Clark Regional Airport, Indiana, Richter was met by an Indiana state police trooper and K-9, Kilo. The dog alerted for narcotics, a search warrant was issued, and police found three duffel bags that contained 30 pounds of marijuana stored in the back seat of the aircraft. The baggage compartment held seven bags of marijuana, which, combined with the back seat stash, added up to the 200 pounds total. Prosecutors estimated the cargo at roughly $450,000. The judge noted Richter's age, poor health and admission of guilt in his sentencing. But he also noted Richter's 2004 conviction for nearly the exact same thing.

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News Briefs back to top 

India's Kingfisher On The Ropes

Days may be numbered for India's largest budget airline but Kingfisher Airlines is soldiering on even though the Indian government has frozen its bank accounts and its pilots are becoming less interested in going to work since they haven't been paid since November. The accounts freeze came last week after the airline failed to meet a deadline to pay millions in back taxes. Somehow, the airline is still finding crews to volunteer to fly the 28 remaining aircraft still operational (from a total fleet of 68) and it's still finding passengers willing to join them. Kingfisher's flamboyant CEO, Vijay Mallya, who lives part-time in Marin County near San Francisco, says his company will survive.

Throughout the apparent demise by degrees of his airline, Mallya has blamed everyone from the media to the government for its problems, but has remained defiant in the face of considerable adversity. "Closing down is not an option. It will not happen. Government does not want it to happen. It is not in national interest," Mallya told a TV station in late February. "We have asked banks to consider our proposal to provide more working capital." How the government's latest action will affect those negotiations remains to be seen.

Students Designing Supersonic Drone

School projects don't usually have the term supersonic cruise missile in their synopses, but engineering students at the Busemann Advanced Concepts Lab at the University of Colorado Boulder (CU) are helping to design, build and commercialize a compact jet engine designed to power supersonic unmanned aerial systems. Cruise missiles are among the potential uses for the L-FX00, which their professor Ryan Starkey calls "a high-efficiency, lubrication-free turbojet engine for unmanned aircraft" on his company website. At first, however, the class is planning to build a 110-pound airframe called the GOJETT as the first mount for the engine and hope to fly it at Mach 1.4 in 2013. The prototype will cost from $50,000 to $100,000. From there, Starkey says, the commercial and military potential is enormous.

Starkey told the Longmont Times-Call supersonic drones could be used for everything from surveillance to first response in the case of chemical or biological attack to sniff out the danger. The engine "promises reduced engine weight and higher fuel efficiency and longer time-between-overhaul than turbojet engines on the market with similar thrust output," he claims. The project has the attention of Army, Navy, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and NASA, and Starkey said his new company, Starkey Aerospace, will hire CU students as the project becomes commercial.

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Everyone Has a First Time back to top 

A Student's Eye View Of Flight Training

Nobody asked Ted Seastrom what the aviation industry should do about the declining pilot population, but he's telling them anyway. Seastrom, a 220-hour Cessna 172 pilot, has written an ebook (available at Amazon) entitled Learning to Fly an Airplane. But unlike the countless books that have been written on the topic, Seastrom said his aim is to mentally prepare prospective pilots for what they are about to undertake, something he says the industry doesn't do very well. In a podcast interview, Seastrom says it's not surprising that almost three quarters of students don't make it to certification given the strange and challenging world into which they are suddenly immersed. He said the industry needs to stop soft selling being a pilot as something "anyone can do" and instead realistically explain to students what they're in for.

Seastrom, a technical writer with an IT background, also says instructors and students are often serious mismatches. He said many of the most promising candidates for success in pilot training, those with a lifelong dream of flying who start after achieving success in other fields, are disappointed with being paired with young pilots whose primary goal in becoming instructors is to build hours to qualify for airline or other jobs. But he said it's hard to fault the young instructors when the system is designed to propagate that antiquated system, something highlighted by the FAA's recent proposal to boost the minimum hours required for airline jobs to 1,500. Seastrom said he knows about various industry efforts to fix issues with flight training but he was concerned that students and freshly minted pilots weren't being heard. He has been in contact with AOPA and the Society of Aviation Flight Educators (SAFE) about their promotional campaigns.

Podcast: New Pilot Pens a Book for New Pilots

File Size 7.0 MB / Running Time 7:40

Podcast Index | How to Listen | Subscribe Via RSS

Like most of us, Ted Seastrom was challenged, awed and generally beat up by the experience of learning to fly. He thinks those who want to learn should be better prepared for what they're in for. He spoke with AVweb's Russ Niles about an e-book he's published called Learning to Fly an Airplane.

Click here to listen. (7.0 MB, 7:40)

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High-Tech Hijinks back to top 

No Giant Flying Anti-Missile Laser Jet

The airborne laser program developed around a Boeing 747 and what was effectively a giant laser gun has been scrapped after 15 years and $5 billion. The program fitted a modified 747 jumbo jet with a mega-watt class chemical oxygen iodine laser fitted to a rotating nose turret and tracking system that could target and destroy airborne missile threats. The laser beam was fueled by thousands of pounds of fuel stored onboard the jet and was powerful enough to destroy missiles within seconds. Despite a successful test in February 2010, the airborne missile defense system wasn't without serious shortcomings or costs.

During the successful 2010 test, the system successfully tracked, locked onto, and destroyed a missile launched from an ocean platform near Point Mugu, Calif. Subsequent tests were delayed for months due to a series of technical problems, and a later test failed due to software problems. While the operational range of the system is classified, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said that the laser would need to be 20 to 30 times more powerful to be useful in the field. As budgetary issues became more influential funding dried up. In the end, the project never went beyond testing. The program involved technologies developed by Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. At its peak employed more than 1,000 people.

Related Content:

More Drone Tricks From U of P

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The University of Pennsylvania is having a lot of fun with its robotic quadrotor squadron these days and if you're not one of the almost two million people who have seen this video then by all means have a look. As we showed you in February, the university's SWARMS project is finding new ways to work with unmanned aerial systems (UAS). AVweb Editorial Director Paul Bertorelli shared his thoughts on the subject here.

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Opinion & Commentary back to top 

AVweb Insider Blog: You Make the Call -- Tower Directive

On the AVweb Insider blog, Paul Bertorelli discusses a recent incident with a control tower issuing a directive that wasn't quite right. Or was it? You be the judge.

Read more and join the conversation.

AVweb Insider Blog: User Fees -- AeroNav's Missed Opportunity

In his latest post to the AVweb Insider blog, Paul Bertorelli wonders why, instead of trying to milk $5 million more out of digital chart users, AeroNav doesn't just phase out the part of its operation that does charting. Load the data on a digital access server and let the free market sort it out. If people want paper charts, they'll buy. Otherwise, why bother?

Read more and join the conversation.

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

Brainteasers Quiz #169: Billions and Billions


Let's not exaggerate the threats to aviation, but knowing what might divert your flight and how to utilize available resources could save you billions and billions of dollars. Or at least help you ace this quiz. (Includes results of the reader survey to determine the most beautiful airplane.)

Take the quiz.

More Brainteasers

Aviation Consumer Engine Cylinder Survey

Cylinders are the big-ticket item during an engine overhaul, and the market has changed substantially during the last five years. Our sister publication, Aviation Consumer, is surveying owner experiences on engine cylinders.

If you'd like to participate, click here to take the survey.

The results will appear in a future issue of Aviation Consumer. For subscription information, click here.

AVweb's Newstips Address ...

Our best stories start with you. If you've heard something 255,000 pilots might want to know about, tell us. Submit news tips via email to newstips@avweb.com. You're a part of our team ... often, the best part.

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

Video: Moving Map Apps for Android Tablets

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

Why should the iPad have all the fun? Here are some good moving map apps for your Droid tablet that you can download today.

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If that doesn't work, click here to download the video directly.

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Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Lockwood Aviation Repair (KSEF, Sebring, Florida)

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

FBOs aren't the only heroes who can save the day when you arrive at an airport far from home. This week, reader John Williams tells us how Lockwood Aviation Repair saved the day when he visited Sebring Flight Center (KSEF) in Florida.

Flew my Weight Shift Control Trike from Williamsburg, Virginia to Florida to accomplish some in-flight testing of cold-weather gear to keep pilots warm while flying in open cockpit aircraft. When I landed in the Sarasota area, I noticed some problems with my exhaust system during my post-flight inspection. I called Lockwood Aviation, a major ROTAX repair station ... . I spoke with Aaron Prentiss, service manager for Lockwood, described my predicament, and was immediately invited to fly my plane to their hangar ... . Within minutes [of pulling up to the hangar], my plane was pulled into their immaculate hanger, Joe diagnosed the problem, and they went to work on the exhaust manifold-to-muffler connections. Thankfully, their weld shop could drop current projects to work me into their afternoon schedule. I walked to the KSEF FBO, found the pilot's lounge and computer, and took time to check e-mail. Within half an hour, Aaron tracked me down, in person, to inform me about the progress of the repair job. It sure is nice to be treated like a valued customer when in transit and have industry representatives recognize that, without immediate assistance, my trip would [have] become a nightmare. Instead, my plane is being taken care of, I am being taken care of, and I am very pleased to recommend Lockwood to fellow pilots.

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

Some Army helicopters are big and loud.

"Army helicopter, cleared to land — runway 25."

"Cleared to land, 25."

[after landing]

"Tower, be advised that there is a large flock of birds near the departure end of the runway."

"Roger. And you didn't scare them away?"

Ted Timmons
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.

If you're having trouble reading this newsletter in its HTML-rich format (or if you'd prefer a lighter, simpler format for your phone or handheld device), there's also a text-only version of AVwebFlash. For complete instructions on making the switch, click here.

Aviate. Navigate. Communicate.