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The Top Headlines From AVweb's Expanded,
Illustrated News Coverage At AVweb's
FAA AT WORK...
The folks at the FAA were busy last week, creating a new safety office,
filling a long-vacant executive post, and hosting the annual forecast
conference. The common theme: Change is coming swift and sure, and the
feds are racing to keep up with it. Secretary of Transportation Norm
Mineta announced Thursday that the Department of Transportation will
create a new Air Traffic Safety Oversight Service, an independent
"second set of eyes" to ensure that changes in air traffic standards and
procedures are safe. Also, more than a year after creating the post, the
FAA has finally named its first chief
financial officer, Ramesh Punwani. "We needed someone who could
balance a $14 billion checkbook, and we found him," said FAA
Administrator Marion Blakey. More...
THE SHORT-TERM FUTURE...
At its annual forecast conference last week, the FAA unveiled its
outlook for the next decade of general aviation and
compiled its statistics for 2002-2003. Overall, the FAA expects a strong
recovery to continue through 2005, with moderate sustained growth
thereafter. The GA fleet will expand at a rate of 1.3 percent a year,
adding more than 35,000 airplanes by 2015, the FAA said. The aging of
the GA fleet is one factor preventing the growth of utilization rates
for single-engine piston aircraft. Usage declines in aircraft more than
25 years old, the FAA says, and with each passing year a greater
percentage of the single-engine fleet falls into that category. All
categories of pilots continue to grow, the FAA says. About 58.7 percent
of pilots today are instrument-rated, and that should grow to 61.6
percent by 2016. More...
AND REVIEWING THE IMMEDIATE PAST
The FAA's numbers show a few bright spots despite the inescapable fact
that times have been tough. Fractional-ownership programs are spurring
turboprop and jet sales, new avionics are making it easier and safer to
fly and "learn-to-fly" promotions are helping to bring new pilots into
the fold, the FAA said. Helicopter pilots grew by almost 2 percent in
2003 over 2002. The fastest-growing aircraft types were experimental,
with a 7.4-percent growth spurt, and turbine aircraft, which grew by 5.7
percent. The 10 fastest-growing general aviation airports, as ranked by
the percentage increase over fiscal year 2002, grew from a combined
total of 211,941 GA operations in 2002 to 374,238 in 2003, an increase
of 76.6 percent. More...
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PRICES CAUSE GA JITTERS
One factor that could crimp the FAA's cautiously rosy predictions for GA
growth is the continuing rise in fuel prices. Prices at the pump last
week hit an all-time high, the American Automobile Association reported,
and aviation fuel prices are rising as well. If the climb continues, it
could deflate aircraft sales, General Aviation Manufacturers Association
President Ed Bolen told the FAA conference last week. "If fuel costs
only go up 2 or 4 or 6 percent, that isn't make-or-break for a huge
percentage of the population" that buys airplanes, Bolen said. "But if
people say, 'I'm not as comfortable with the economy as I was six weeks
ago because of fuel prices,' then [sales] could become a greater
SUMMER FLYING SEASON NEARS...
As gas prices creep toward $2 per gallon for drivers in many parts of
the country, many pilots are seeing local prices for 100LL inch closer
to $3. Jet fuel prices are climbing, too, up more than 30 percent since
September. The airlines are feeling the pinch, and last week, four
carriers tacked on $5 fuel surcharges to every passenger ticket -- an
option not open to GA pilots. Air shows are being squeezed, too. The
Florida International Airshow, held last weekend, uses about 100,000
gallons of fuel, the show director told the local NBC2 News. The
Thunderbirds alone burn more than 10,000 gallons, which at current
prices, even with a volume discount, costs over 19,000 tax dollars. (So
be sure you enjoy the show.) More...
ALTERNATIVES REMAIN SCARCE
Concerns over gas prices and the fuel supply are nothing new. Aviators
have worried for years that their supply of 100LL will dry up, or become
pricey beyond reason. The U.S. GA piston fleet is currently surviving on
one remaining producer that provides tetra-ethyl lead (TEL), the
critical ingredient in 100LL, and that producer may not be committed to
producing TEL after 2010, AOPA says. An acceptable unleaded replacement
fuel for 100LL is not available, AOPA says, and it would take years to
develop and approve a new fuel and have the FAA certify aircraft to use
that fuel. More...
PILOT RULE TAKES A STEP OFF TRACK
As the 90-day deadline loomed for the federal Office of Management and
Budget (OMB) to sign off on the FAA's Sport Pilot rule, the clock
stopped last week when the FAA retracted the rule. "It's not unusual for
us to go back and forth like this," the FAA's Sue Gardner told
AVweb on Friday. "I'd expect this to take probably a couple of
weeks." The OMB wanted answers to some concerns about the FAA's
cost-benefit analysis, Gardner said. By retracting the rule and
answering those questions, the FAA avoids letting the 90 days run out
and then having the OMB reject it, in which case the FAA would have had
to resubmit the rule and start over. Gardner said the FAA will post an
update at its Web site soon, probably today. More...
X-43A SCRAMJET FLIES AT 5,000 MPH, SHATTERS RECORDS
NASA's second X-43A hypersonic research aircraft flew successfully
Saturday, the first time an air-breathing scramjet-powered aircraft has
flown freely. The 12-foot-long unpiloted vehicle's scramjet -- a
supersonic-combustion ramjet -- ignited and burned through its hydrogen
fuel supply, which lasted about 10 seconds. The X-43A reached its test
speed of Mach 7, and was ditched in the Pacific Ocean, as planned.
"Today was a grand-slam in the bottom of the 12th," said Joel Sitz, NASA
Research Center's X-43A project manager. During NASA's first
scramjet flight test, in June 2001, a rocket booster failed and the
aircraft had to be destroyed. More...
CEO LOBBIES FOR TAX-BREAK EXTENSION
Cessna CEO Russ Meyer told the FAA forecast conference in Washington
last week that if the current "bonus depreciation" tax break, which expires at the
end of this year, isn't at least partially extended, aircraft production
schedules could be cut by 10 to 20 percent, and thousands of jobs could
be lost, The Wichita Eagle reported Saturday. Meyer told the Eagle that
he wasn't predicting definite cutbacks, though -- economic growth and
new Cessna models could help maintain staff levels. But he'd be more
comfortable if the tax break were extended, he said. Bonus depreciation
has generated over $2 billion worth of new airplane orders since its
enactment last May, according to the General Aviation Manufacturers Association
(GAMA). The tax break allows businesses to deduct up to 60 percent of
the cost of commercial vehicles and equipment -- like business jets --
in the first year after the purchase, rather than the standard 20
UNVEILS NEW TERRAIN-AWARE PORTABLE GPS
Garmin last week introduced its latest new gizmo, the GPSMAP
296 aviation handheld, which combines GPS position and altitude
readouts with topographical maps. The color display gives pilots a clear
depiction of potential terrain hazards, Garmin says. "Terrain awareness
really sets the GPSMAP 296 apart from other aviation handheld devices,"
said Gary Kelley, Garmin's director of marketing, in a press release.
The unit features a look-ahead warning function that alerts pilots to
terrain or obstacle conflicts along the current flight path. The units
go on sale next month at Sun 'n Fun, for $1,795. More...
PILOT EJECTS ON RUNWAY
A Navy pilot ejected from his F/A-18 Hornet on Friday about 2,000
feet into its takeoff roll at Raleigh-Durham International Airport, in
North Carolina. The burning jet cartwheeled to a stop on the airfield.
Emergency crews doused the flames, and nobody on the ground was hurt.
The pilot suffered minor injuries. The jet was part of a two-aircraft
flight on a routine cross-country training mission, and both jets had
stopped at RDU to refuel. The other jet, which had taken off first,
returned to the airport and landed safely. The Hornet was based at
Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia. More...
WHOOPING CRANES RETURN NORTH ON THEIR OWN
Last week, we told you the spring bird migration is underway, and to
prove it, last Sunday the first of this year's migrating whooping cranes flew into Wisconsin from
Florida, after a flight of about two weeks. The bird is one of five that
flew to Florida back in 2001, the first year that ultralight aircraft
were used to guide young cranes on their 1,200-mile southward migration.
Migration led two more groups of cranes south via ultralight in the
fall of 2002 and 2003, for a total of 36 whooping cranes. Prior to 2001,
whooping cranes, an endangered species, had not migrated over the
eastern portion of North America in more than a century.
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NBAA has posted its
report on the cost of restricting GA access to airspace and
American Airlines cancelled a flight in Florida on Friday after a
Three possible sitesnamed for a new GA airport near
Searchers on Saturday found the wreck of a MiG-17 in a remote area of
On Friday, searchers located the wreckage of a Sikorsky S-76A that
ditched Tuesday night...
The new digital radar system at PBI airport failed for
four minutes last Thursday. More...
ARTICLES AND FEATURES ON AVWEB
Pelican's Perch #79: The Air America Years (Part II)
AVweb's John Deakin did spend time in Southeast Asia as part of Air
America, one of the "airlines" run by the CIA in the 1960s. Upon
arriving in Asia, there was time for using old Link trainers, relaxing
in hot springs, avoiding alcohol-pushers, and learning the reputation of
The Compnay as John continues his story.
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FEEDBACK ON AVWEB'S NEWS COVERAGE AND FEATURE ARTICLES:
mail this week includes comments on the CVR at the U.N., birdstrike
predictions, GPS orbits and more. More...
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MIKE BUSCH'S SAVVY SEMINAR COMING TO MEMPHIS, VAN NUYS,
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Overheard while awaiting clearance at Wellington Airport, NZ, in poor,
Tower: XXX be advised the previous
aircraft reports reduced wind shear on final, and decreasing crosswind.
XXX: "Oh, goody!" More...
Sponsor News and Special Offers
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AVEMCO EXPANDS AVIATOR SERIES OF NON-OWNED INSURANCE
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ARE YOU WEARING OUT AIRCRAFT TIRES FASTER THAN YOU THINK
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YOU EVER WONDERED WHY SOME PILOTS ALWAYS SEEM TO HAVE
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