NewsWire Complete Issue
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
"V!agra Of The Mind" May Help Pilots...
A new generation of, uh, performance-enhancing drugs -- nicknamed "V!agra for the mind" -- is in the works, and drug companies already are looking at pilots as a potential market. According to a
report in theage.com, some in the industry are predicting these so-called "smart drugs," which
dramatically improve memory, could be on the market in five to 10 years. "If [the drug] proves safe and effective, it could ultimately be used by people who want to learn a language or a musical
instrument or even in schools," said Tim Tully, a professor of genetics at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York.
Tilly's lab developed a drug, with the hard-to-remember name HT-0712, that works by kick-starting a vital gene involved in the memory-formation process. As we get older, that process slows down, and
that's why we can't find our keys in the morning or remember names as well as we used to. So far, fruit flies and mice given the drug have shown remarkable memory improvement (who knew fruit flies had
memories?). A trial will be done with 100 people who have mild memory loss this summer, and Tilly estimates that if all goes well, HT-0712, presumably with an easier-to-remember name, will be on the
market in five to seven years.
Note: AVweb intentionally altered the name of the drug in an attempt to elude spam filters that might otherwise prevent us from fulfilling your AVflash subscription.
Scientists already have experimented on pilots with drugs available today, to see if they can make us better, more alert and more responsive. Of particular note is a test done at Stanford University in 2002 with donepezil, which is widely used to ease the memory loss of Alzheimer patients. It found that pilots
taking donepezil performed better in tests in a Cessna 172 simulator than those given a placebo, and that the drug-taking pilots were particularly superior at landing and maintaining a scan of the
panel. In that study, researchers first trained all the pilots in the simulator. Then they then split the group, with half getting the drug for a month and the other half getting the sugar pill. At
the end of the month, they threw the book at all the students in the sim, giving them complicated air traffic control sequences and in-flight emergencies, including a sudden drop in oil pressure. The
memory-enhanced students did significantly better than their undrugged counterparts, particularly in the most difficult parts of the test. However, the effects were "subtle," said Jerome Yesavage,
director of the study. "I would suspect that the major market for these compounds will be professional older adults who want to continue working professionally as long as they possibly can," Yesavage
said. "But the effects are indeed subtle, and whether people would be willing to pay $100 or so a month for such a treatment is questionable."
Of course, drugs in the cockpit are nothing new. U.S. Air Force flight surgeons frequently supply amphetamines to pilots for long flights and in demanding combat situations -- a practice not without
controversy. Also known as "speed," and, in the military, as "go pills," amphetamines are considered essential by some in the military to maintaining a top-notch fighting force. Their use was not
publicly well-known until the drugs were implicated in a friendly-fire incident in Afghanistan in 2002, in which an American F-16 pilot mistakenly dropped a laser-guided bomb on Canadian soldiers,
killing four of them. According to an ABC 20/20 report, the pilot, Maj. Harry Schmidt, had taken
a "go pill" about an hour before he saw the Canadians engaged in a live-fire exercise. Although told by controllers in a nearby AWACS plane to hold his fire, Schmidt was convinced his aircraft was
under attack and dropped the bomb.
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Brits Set Stiff Limits For Some...
Britain has set strict blood-alcohol limits for airline and air traffic personnel, changing a longstanding law
that simply made it illegal for them to work if they were alcohol-impaired. Pilots, cabin crew and controllers now will be breaking the law if found with more than .02 percent alcohol in their
systems, which is the lowest point at which tests are reliable. Mechanics could theoretically nip down to the pub for lunch and still legally do their jobs, however. Their limit is set at .08 percent,
the same as the legal driving limit in Britain. The government explained the difference by saying that mechanics aren't required to react to emergencies with the same speed as flight crews. Police
also now have the power to order alcohol tests on suspected offenders. "The action we have taken ... has brought aviation into line with other modes of transport, which have had legal alcohol limits
for years," said Aviation Minister Tony McNulty. Those who bust the limits face fines of up to $9,000 USD and/or two years in jail. In the U.S. and many other countries, the legal limit for pilots is
.04. The new limits will apply to all pilots, cabin crew, air traffic controllers and licensed aircraft maintenance engineers within the U.K., regardless of nationality, and to the crews of
U.K.-registered aircraft anywhere in the world. No distinction will be drawn between the commercial and leisure sectors and the limits will apply to anyone who is flying or working with aircraft in
their free time.
Now, the law can only do so much to keep impaired people earthbound, as authorities in Pennsylvania found out in the now-infamous case of pilot John Salamone. Salamone, you'll remember, lost his certificate and surrendered his medical after allegedly flying erratically in
Philadelphia International's busy airspace. On Tuesday, a judge said Salamone will stand trial on charges of risking a catastrophe and reckless endangerment. He won't be charged with flying drunk,
though, although his blood-alcohol level was allegedly twice the legal limit for driving, because Pennsylvania has no law against flying drunk. Some officials, however, have said the case raises even
bigger concerns than a lack of sobriety laws, because it revealed troubling flaws in the emergency-response system. As an airplane flew haphazardly through some of the nation's busiest airspace, the
controllers tried to contact emergency officials along its path with only sparse success, The Philadelphia
Inquirer reported last week. According to tapes of the incident, air traffic supervisor David Urban was unable to reach some agencies and was put on hold by others. The FAA contacted the North
American Aerospace Defense Command, which determined the flight was a "non-event." A police helicopter finally caught up to the plane more than three hours into the flight and followed it back to
Limerick Airport, where it landed safely after one missed approach. After the incident, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) demanded a full report from the FAA on how it handled the situation. A response has
been promised in April.
As the British put the official seal on their new alcohol limits, an Aloha Airlines first officer was detained after allegedly trying to go to work with what the Associated Press is reporting as a
blood-alcohol level of .182. That's about the level reached by a 180-pound man who drinks eight 12-ounce beers in one hour. The
unidentified pilot, who was scheduled to fly from Oakland to Hawaii on Saturday morning, was detained by police after a security screener allegedly smelled alcohol as he passed through the checkpoint.
The pilot has been suspended pending the investigation. "Aloha considers this to be a very serious matter," the airline said in a statement.
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A bill that would promote the development of defenses to protect commercial aircraft from shoulder-launched missiles was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday. The bill, H.R. 4056, would require the FAA to speed up
certification of anti-missile systems at the same time it encourages the government to take steps to stop the proliferation of the portable weapons. Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), chairman of the House
Aviation Subcommittee, told CNN the government might require missile-defense systems as standard equipment on new airliners. The bill would ask the president to pursue international treaties and
agreements to stop the spread of the cheap, easily concealed launchers. It would also suggest the U.S. continue to buy back missiles already on the international market. Shoulder-launched missiles
have never been deployed against airliners in the U.S., but a DHL cargo plane was hit while taking off from Baghdad last November. The crew managed to land the plane despite extensive wing damage and
still-unconfirmed reports that all the hydraulically operated flight controls were taken out.
France banned Egyptian carrier Luxor Air after the pilot of an MD-83 flew low and off course while on approach to the Nantes Airport last
Sunday. The plane reportedly descended to about 660 feet over the city, below the level of some of the taller buildings, and was about a mile off course. The aircraft landed safely on its second
attempt, and none of the 104 passengers or 10 crew members were hurt. The crew reportedly rushed to leave Nantes quickly afterwards. France's Civil Aviation Authority is investigating the incident.
Luxor Air is a small, privately owned company.
A suicidal man, who asked for a ride in an open-cockpit biplane for his 88th birthday, jumped to his death Monday near San Diego. Joseph Harold Frost, who was recently diagnosed with a brain tumor,
got out of the Stearman despite the best efforts of pilot Willis Allen to restrain him. The elderly passenger removed his safety belt and stood up in the seat in front of Allen, who tried to wrestle
him back to safety. Allen also pitched the plane up to try and force Frost back in his seat. They were about 300 to 400 feet above the ground, on approach to Gillespie Field, when Frost managed to
jump. "I think that was Dad's idea, to go out in a flash of glory," his son, Robert Frost, told CNN. Frost had apparently flown Stearmans during World War II and asked his son to help arrange the
flight as a birthday gift. The elder Frost's body was severed by power lines before landing on an apartment patio, to the horror of witnesses on the ground.
The Navy has ordered a review of its flight safety and maintenance operations after it lost about $150 million in hardware last week. Four fighters -- three F/A-18 Hornets and an F-14 -- were
destroyed in separate incidents. All crews ejected safely, although two pilots suffered minor injuries, and no one on the ground was hurt. The F-14 Tomcat went into the ocean two miles off the West
Coast near San Diego, about 11 a.m. local time on Monday. Also on Monday, a Hornet crashed in an unpopulated area near Chattanooga, Tenn. Last Wednesday, an F/A-18 ditched off the South Carolina
coast, and another crashed during takeoff on Friday at Raleigh-Durham Airport in North Carolina. The F-14 was involved in a carrier exercise when its crew reported engine problems. The crew was
ordered to land at North Island Naval Air Station, near San Diego, but didn't make it. They were rescued by a civilian fishing boat and then picked up by a naval research vessel. Witnesses of the
Tennessee incident, reported seeing the Hornet "swerving back and forth" before the crash. In Raleigh-Durham, witnesses reported that the pilot ejected while about 1,700feet into the takeoff roll. The
burning jet continued rolling for about another 550 feet toward Terminal A and came to a stop about 250 feet from the terminal, according to airport spokeswoman Teresa Damiano. The pilot was
hospitalized for a day but recovered to help investigators piece together the mishap on Sunday. On March 24, a Hornet went into the Atlantic off South Carolina and the pilot was unhurt.
The next space tourist doesn't intend to just kick back in the weightlessness for a week. Gregory Olsen is a New York scientist who made his fortune with optics inventions. He's packing a bag full of
infrared sensors with him to do some research of his own during his $20 million visit to the International Space Station. "I feel this is a way of paying back," said Olsen, who told the Associated
Press he will use his high-tech gear to analyze pollution in the Earth's atmosphere and research the health of agricultural systems on the ground. His eight-day adventure is scheduled for April 2005,
but could be moved up to this October. Like the two preceding space tourists, Dennis Tito and Mark Shuttleworth, Olsen will ride a Soviet Soyuz rocket to the space station. The deal has been brokered
through Space Adventures, which also arranged Tito's trip. Olsen begins six months of training at Star City, Russia, this week. Olsen said
he hopes to share his adventure with young people through a video hookup with high schools in Trenton, N.J., and the Crow Reservation in Montana. And in case you were worried about how he's going to
pay for all this, Olsen developed crystal technology that makes fiber optics systems run more efficiently. His company, Sensors Unlimited, was sold for $700 million a few years ago.
An Australian youth might be looking for a less dangerous pastime after he was charged last week with making hoax radio calls to aircraft and the tower at Perth Airport. Scott Bradley Pike, 19, of the
Perth suburb of Lynwood, was charged with a single count of using a transmitter in a way likely to interfere with radio communications. The Australian Federal Police allege Pike made bogus radio calls
on radio control frequencies over two days earlier this month. The transmissions were allegedly purported to be from aircraft seeking clearances to enter controlled airspace, land and cross active
runways. The police also allege some of the calls contained threats to the safety of aircraft. Pike will be back in court in April.
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A World War II flying ace and former leader of the Blue Angels, Capt. Arthur Ray "Hawk" Hawkins, was buried Monday. Full military honors, including a flypast by the Blue Angels, were accorded
Hawkins, who died in Pensacola from complications of a stroke at age 81. After 14 kills and three probables in the war, Hawkins flew with the Blue Angels for four years, two as its leader. He was also
the first person to survive a supersonic ejection...
A former attack helicopter pilot says pilots need foolproof identification systems to prevent friendly-fire accidents like the one that killed 10 U.S. Marines in Iraq in March 2003. Ralph
Hayles made a similar mistake in Operation Desert Storm and killed two U.S. soldiers. A report released Monday blamed the forward air controller in the Iraq incident, but Hayles said pilots should
have a direct method of determining who they are targeting...
A granite monument to airmail pilots will be erected at the American Philatelic Society headquarters in State College, Pa. Paul Mulvehill has been looking for a home for the 2,800-pound
monument for a year. It commemorates the pilots who died crossing the Allegheny Mountains in the early days of airmail service.
Say Again? #35: Lessons Unlearned
The National Airspace System has lots of redundancies; and some would say that takes more effort than is necessary. Why fly on airways when direct can be faster? Why read back the entire clearance or
radio frequency change when you can just give your callsign? AVweb's Don Brown tells of a time when a perfect storm of at least 11 separate, small errors built up to bring two planes mere feet from
each other at high speed.
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*** PREVIOUS RESULTS ***
Last week, AVweb polled readers on the dangers of bird strikes. Most of
you agreed that birds and wildlife in the airways are a serious problem, but
opinions varied as to just how serious. A full 7% of our
respondents reported firsthand experiences with bird strikes (or near-hits) and
say the problem needs to be addressed soon. The bulk of those who
participated in the survey (47%) say that they can only devote so much time to
each potential hazard in the air and birds will just have to get out of the
way. Another 15% would like to see a bird report as part of their
*** THIS WEEK'S QUESTION ***
This week, AVweb wants to know which air shows you'll be attending during 2004.
Click here to answer this week's polling question.
Have an idea for a new QOTW? Send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: This address is only for suggested QOTW questions, and not for QOTW answers.
Submit a Photo |
Current POTW Winner |
Past POTW Winners
Beautiful landscapes, historical aircraft, exciting aerobatics just some
of the things you won't see in this week's "Picture of the Week."
Why? Because we had too many good photos to squeeze them all in! And
if you're enticed by the photos we had to pass over, just wait until you see the
ones that made the cut especially this week's contest winner, a breath-taking
Cougar helicopter photo.
Due to privacy issues, AVweb does not publish e-mail addresses of
readers who submit photos.
*** THIS WEEK'S WINNERS ***
"Need Some Fireworks?"
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
"Breakfast in Sedona, AZ"
Michael Young snapped this pic of his
friends Rory and Donna in their spiffy RV-6
"Turbine Otter Short Takeoff"
Gary Kegel of Burns, Oregon sent us this
from Big River Lakes, Alaska
To enter next week's contest,
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,
send us an e-mail.
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