NewsWire Complete Issue

April 4, 2004
By The AVweb Editorial Staff

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Daley Gloats About Meigs...

American Democracy In Practice...

Chicago Mayor Richard Daley was undoubtedly crossed off a few more pilots' Christmas-card lists last Thursday when he marked the anniversary of his destruction of Meigs Field by gloating over it to reporters. The emperor-like mayor said his decision to close Meigs (note the absence of any reference to a collective decision by Chicago's virtually invisible city council) was "one of the best" he's made as mayor. And the original motive for closing Meigs (remember the terrorist threat?) was forgotten in a tirade against general aviation that suggested that a privileged few were denying the masses access to more park space. "I live here and people live here and they want that lakefront," Daley said. "It belongs to them and not to private businesses and not to small planes." Since the bulldozers left, the public has so far been all but barred from Northerly Island. Only two public events -- a fishing derby and a public viewing of the lunar eclipse in November -- have been held there in the last year and there doesn't seem to be too much rush to properly develop the new park. According to the Chicago Tribune, no funding sources have been identified and no timetable established. There are, however, vague assurances from the Chicago Park District. "We are moving toward development of this site and creating additional and increased access to the public," said parks spokesman Julian Green.

..."Friends" Ever Hopeful...

Against those pretty much unbeatable odds, the Friends of Meigs continues to live up its Churchill-inspired motto (Never, never, never, never give up) and used the anniversary, under the umbrella of a new community group, to promote its compromise plan for the site. The "Bessie Coleman Skypark" would revive the airport but also set aside part of the land for park use. A beach, nature walks, fishing stations, and an artificial scuba reef and aviation museum would share the space with the airport, but the Park District has dismissed the idea. The Park District "is not in the aviation business," parks spokesman Julian Green told WBBM Newsradio. The Friends of Meigs has found support in its fight in a newly formed group called the Committee for a Better Chicago. Group spokesman Bill Walls came out swinging at Daley on the anniversary, calling Daley a liar and scorning the destruction of Meigs' runway as "the day democracy died. He lied ... again and again. And then, after the runway was destroyed and there was nothing anyone could do about it he admitted he lied," Walls told the Tribune. Daley's press secretary Jacquelyn Heard refuted Walls' assertion, saying it's no secret Daley has always pushed for a park on that site. "But at the time the airport was closed, security was the prevailing concern," she told the Tribune. Political grandstanding aside, the courts have so far been on Daley's side and have consistently upheld the city's right to close the airport.

...A Fresh Threat To Illinois Aviation

Illinois aviators have another target for their angst and EAA is hoping they'll rally to the cause. Pilots and others in aviation are urged to contact Gov. Rod Blagojevich, Transportation Secretary Timothy Martin, and their local statesenator and representative with an original letter citing their concerns about the latest state budget. The budget will cut 35 of the 42 positions in the Aeronautics Department of the state Division of Aeronautics. The department looks after airport, airman and mechanic safety programs and EAA says the remaining seven staffers can't hope to maintain programs such as the Airport Hazard Zoning Program, Airport Safety Inspection Program and educational and refresher programs currently sponsored. Without the programs, EAA predicts more people could die in aircraft accidents. "With the current aviation safety programs in place, the Division of Aeronautics has been instrumental in reducing the number of fatal accidents in the state from nine in 2001 to seven in 2003," EAA said in a news release. "Only through significant grassroots support will this devastating reduction in state funding be prevented."

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Senators Versus TSA On Security...

Bill Calls For Speedier Arming Of Pilots...

"They'll get the message or they'll lose their money for the program. We'll put it somewhere where it will get the job done." Some tough words for the Transportation Security Administration came last Thursday from a Kentucky senator who sponsored a bill that could see up to two-thirds of airline pilots automatically qualified to carry guns (in holsters, not lockboxes) anywhere on an airplane. Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) said the TSA must get more guns on airplanes in a big hurry or lose the right to oversee the Federal Flight Deck Officer (FFDO) program. "We're not interested in any excuses from here on out," Bunning told a news conference. Bunning, along with Senators Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Conrad Burns (D-Mt.), sponsored the Cockpit Security Technical Corrections and Improvements Act, designed to kick-start the process of arming pilots, which has been criticized as slow, expensive and overly demanding on applicants. The bill would force the TSA to train any pilot volunteering to carry a gun within 90 days. But those with military or police backgrounds (about 60 percent, according to the Coalition of Airline Pilots Associations) would be able to start packing immediately, and training would follow in six months. Under the bill, pilots would no longer be restricted to carrying guns only in the cockpit. The show of force would also be spread to international routes. As for the training, the bill would require that more training facilities be opened all over the U.S. (there is only one, now, in New Mexico) and that the government cover the expenses of trainees.

...TSA Says Training Program Working Well...

The TSA fired back on Friday, saying the training program is coming along nicely. TSA spokeswoman Amy von Walter told Cyber News Service the agency has already doubled the number of FFDO classes and expects that all pilots who want to be trained, and are qualified, will be issued their Heckler and Koch semi-automatics by the end of September. Just how many of the U.S.'s 40,000 airline pilots will meet those criteria, von Walter didn't mention. The TSA has never discussed how many pilots are involved but von Walter did say that the TSA has "trained thousands of pilots who fly tens of thousands of missions." Cargo pilots can now apply and training for them will start in May, she said. She would not discuss the bill or Bunning's threat to move the program out of the TSA's jurisdiction. The bill would also eliminate many of the selection criteria for the program. The senators call the screening process redundant because pilots already go through background checks. There have been allegations by some pilots who have been through the process that the psychological screening is intimidating, and concerns that anything turned up during the testing that could affect their certificates will be turned over to the FAA. They are also allegedly told that publicly discussing any of the training could get them in trouble. Bunning said the bill would "protect the privacy of pilots" and would also allow them to discuss any concerns with their congressmen.

...While ATC Site Goes Unprotected

And while Congress seems be preoccupied with security aboard aircraft, other critical elements of the air transportation system will have to get along without it, according to the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. A new TRACON (Terminal Radar Approach Control) outside Seattle will open later this month without the metal detectors, remote-control cameras and armed guards planned for the facility. Instead, it will be up to staff inside who to let in. All the security measures have been designed into the building but the FAA says it doesn't have the money to implement them, according to the Tacoma News Tribune. The paper said budget cuts forced the agency to abandon the security plans last September. "While working the airplanes, we'll have to determine if someone is OK," said NATCA rep Steve Olsen. Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell plans to protest the security cutbacks to the FAA.

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Race Fan Shoots "Annoying" Crop-Duster

A NASCAR fan who apparently took exception to a crop-duster's drowning out the televised coverage of a race will spend six months in jail for trying to shoot down the offending aircraft. Anthony Gene Moore, 36, of Lenoir County, N.C., was convicted of a single count of firing into an occupied vehicle after he hit Don Wayne Slaughter's Air Tractor with at least three shots from a .270 rifle. Two shots went through the airplane's left wing and another hit the battery, causing it to explode. Slaughter, 53, heard the shots before he saw a man on the ground firing a rifle at him. He headed for a nearby airport and called authorities. Police found Moore at his home a short time later where he admitted to firing on the plane "because it was annoying him" while he was watching the race. Police seized a Browning .270 caliber rifle and several spent shell casings. They say they think Moore had been drinking.

Ocean City Asks FAA To Delay Golf Course Ultimatum

The city of Ocean City, Md., is asking the FAA for more time to come up with a plan to buy, sell, transfer or otherwise rid itself of the complications a successful golf course has created in relation to the local airport. As AVweb reported earlier, the FAA wants $13.3 million from Ocean City to pay for 267 acres of land next to the airport; the land was purchased with federal grants 20 years ago and was originally intended to provide a buffer and expansion room for the airport. But the development of the golf course (with FAA approval), and the city's reluctance to surrender any of the fairways and greens for airport use, have prompted the agency to ask for its money back. City council members originally thought the FAA wanted a check in the mail by April 10 but the agency has since explained that the money isn't required immediately, just a plan to pay it back. However, City Council President Rick Meehan says his council needs more time to review its options. "We thought we had an open line of communication but reasonable people need to discuss it in a reasonable manner," he said. The main issue is the FAA's valuation of the land, which the city claims is too high. "Our intent is to work with the FAA to come up with a reasonable solution," said Meehan. "The council thinks both the airport and the golf course are important and would like to continue to see them operate." No time frame was suggested by Meehan. Discussions with the FAA on the future of the golf course property have gone on since the mid-1990s.

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AOPA, Northwest Butt Heads Over ATC User Fees

AOPA President Phil Boyer says his "productive meeting" with Northwest Airlines CEO Richard Anderson Friday led to the result that the two "will agree to disagree" on the topic of user fees for air traffic control services. Anderson claimed in an editorial in Northwest's Inflight Magazine (reported earlier by AVweb) that airlines are subsidizing general aviation through the fees they pay for aviation services. Boyer said Anderson's remarks might have been sparked by the lawsuit Northwest has launched against the Metropolitan Airport Commission, which runs Minneapolis-St Paul International (MSP) and six reliever airports. The commission uses some of the revenue from MSP to cover costs at the other airports. Northwest believes the money generated at MSP should stay there. "I think the real issue (for Northwest) is a pretty localized one," Boyer said. Meanwhile, USA Today guest opinion writer Robert W. Poole Jr. says it's time the FAA started charging for air traffic control services so it can keep up with market demand. Poole, director of transportation studies at the Reason Public Policy Institute in Los Angeles, said the FAA will never be able to keep up with the demand for its services if it's dependent on the political vagaries of public funding. "The answer to demand and supply is to charge market prices for air traffic control services and use the revenues to modernize the system," he wrote. Poole said there is "all sorts of technology" ready and willing to help increase the capacity of the National Airspace System. But he said the FAA is inherently inefficient at implementing new technology because of its utter dependence on politically determined spending priorities. Poole theorizes that an FAA with cash flow from its customers could issue revenue bonds worth billions to jump-start the modernization process. Boyer said USA Today has published those views before but they don't hold much sway in Congress, where they count. Boyer said there is overwhelming congressional support to keep ATC services free to GA.

CASA Crash Study Spotlights Pilot Weakness

Another country, another study, the same results. Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) recently completed an analysis of fatal general aviation accidents over a 10-year period and has come up with findings essentially similar to other studies done on the subject. The vast majority of fatal accidents are caused by pilots, not hardware, and 78 percent can be blamed on poor flight planning, aircraft handling and fuel management, in that order. The eternal question remains what to do about it and CASA has come up with a predictable, although not necessarily productive, solution. "Improved pilot training can be a preventative weapon against mistakes and crashes and CASA will support the aviation industry in striving for the best possible standards in Australia," said CASA CEO Bruce Byron (before placing the study carefully on the shelf). The CASA study says flight-planning errors, including unintentional forays by VFR pilots into IMC and/or darkness, top the list of fatality-inducing problems. Mishandling the aircraft is the second leading cause and running out of gas is third. Bringing up the smallest wedge of the pie are problems such as aircraft loading mistakes, communications/ATC problems and finally engine and other mechanical problems. About half the fatalities occurred on personal flights and the average age of the pilots was 43.

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Philly Update: Things The FAA Won't Fine You For

The FAA says John Salamone has paid a high enough price for his alleged aerial antics over Philadelphia International Airport and the agency won't be levying any fines against him. Salamone is alleged to have thrown the airspace over northern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey into chaos for four hours on the night of Jan. 15 by cutting through controlled airspace, coming within 900 feet of a loaded Boeing 747, buzzing the ground and circling near a nuclear plant (though in fairness there is one just off the runway at Pennsylvania's Limerick airport and reports indicate he missed his first approach there). The FAA took away his commercial pilot certificate a week later and considers the matter closed. FAA safety inspector Thomas Lahovski told a hearing on criminal charges against Salamone of the FAA decision. FAA spokesman Jim Peters told The Philadelphia Inquirer that pulling his certificate was "the more serious option" and decided against imposing any fines. Salamone's troubles are far from over, however. He's been ordered to stand trial on charges of reckless endangerment and risking a catastrophe.

Starships Still Flying

And then there were six ... or is it five? Raytheon's effort to decommission the fleet of Beech 2000 Starships has met with some resistance by pilots who just don't want to give up the composite, canarded, tailless twin turboprop that the company once hoped would revolutionize the business-aircraft market. Last year it decided support for the fleet of 50 Starships was too costly and offered owners a King Air in exchange. Raytheon is now the registered owner of 41 of those aircraft but spokesman Tim Travis said his understanding is that there are only six private owners who intend to keep flying their Starships and one of them might be waffling. One proud owner unlikely to willingly give up his is Robert Scherer, who, when he's not flying for business or pleasure, uses the Starship as a chase plane for Scaled Composites' entry in the X PRIZE competition. Scherer told AVweb he intends to keep flying the Starship as long as possible and Raytheon appears to be accommodating that desire. Travis said most of the Raytheon-owned planes have been taken to Evergreen Air Center in Marana, Ariz., while four have been donated to museums. Another two may go to museums and the rest will be stripped of useable parts to supply the maintenance needs of those that remain flying. "Obviously, this is a situation that can't go on forever," Travis said.

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On The Fly...

Sonic booms rattled southern Oregon last week but the Air National Guard isn't apologizing. Spokeswoman Capt. Mitzi Mazzia said two F-15s broke the sound barrier last Thursday morning as part of a readiness exercise. Residents of Coos Bay and North Bend and Charleston weren't ready, however, and flooded authorities with calls...

If Richard Branson says "You're fired" perhaps something will actually catch fire. The British billionaire, known in aviation circles for his ownership of Virgin Airlines and his record-setting exploits in ballooning, is going head-to-head with Donald Trump for reality-TV ratings by subjecting contestants on Fox's Branson's Big Adventure to the same sorts of trials by fire he experienced in building his fortune -- and his reputation as a daredevil...

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New Articles and Features on AVweb

As the Beacon Turns #75: Mistakes Are Good!
Most pilots hate to make mistakes. Aside from the obvious dangers of getting hurt or killed, the damage to one's pride prevents most pilots from stopping to contemplate the advantages of making (safe) mistakes. AVweb's Michael Maya Charles is back in the simulator and (mostly) enjoying learning from his mistakes.

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Reader feedback on AVweb's news coverage and feature articles:

Reader mail this week about Sport Pilot delays, avian warning systems, airshows and more.

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Short Final...

Overheard in the pilot's lounge, as a pilot took her briefing over a speakerphone...

Pilot: I've never flown into there before. Do you have anything you can tell me aside from the weather?

Briefer: The windsock is inoperable.


Briefer: Apparently their wind is out of service.

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