AVwebFlash Complete Issue: Volume 18, Number 27a

July 2, 2012

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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AVflash! Reacting to the ARC Fuel Report back to top 

Malibu/Mirage Owners: FAA 100LL Replacement Lacks Dual Track Support

In a letter to members of the Malibu-Mirage Owners and Pilots Association, the group's president, Jonathan Sisk, said this week that the FAA's just-made-public 100LL replacement plan deserves a critical eye. Although he says it represents progress, he believes it's too narrowly focused on just one path. "I also recommend that Clean 100 members not buy into the notion that the ARC recommended-process is the exclusive means to arrive at the best solution. That is absolutely unknown by anyone," Sisk said in his letter. Clean 100 Octane Coalition is the owner group that formed two years ago when the 100LL replacement issue got pushed to the front burner. Sisk was a member of the original Unleaded Avgas Transition Aviation Rulemaking Committee that formed in early 2011. The summary of the report is here (PDF). The full report is here (large PDF) and the appendices are here (PDF).

From its earliest work, Sisk said, the committee had a strong bias in favor of only ASTM-developed standards as a means of fuel development and against a dual equivalent track using the STC process. "We, as an industry, still need to fully explore and the FAA to fully support both the collective-consensus approach described in the ARC report with PAFI and Avgas Readiness Levels (ARLs), as well as those of independent fuel innovators who prefer to tackle these same issues and demonstrate regulatory compliance for specific engine/airframe approvals through the existing Supplemental Type Certificate process. Each has its advantages. I believe the ARC is better suited to managing the fallout from a less capable fuel, and the STC process quicker and more efficient for qualifying a more capable fuel with less impact on the existing fleet."

Only one company has thus far pursued wide fuel approvals via STC, General Aviation Modifications Inc., with its G100UL. But the FAA's Engine and Propeller Directorate has resisted this approval process at every stage to the point that FAA management had insisted on involvement of fuel experts from outside the directorate. GAMI's STC project is moving forward, but at a slow pace. In his letter to MMOPA members, Sisk said "there are those at the highest levels of the FAA that simultaneously support both the ARC and STC paths. They are deserving of our gratitude for their courage in leadership." Sisk said the work of UAT-ARC is deserving of support and its taxpayer-funded centralized FAA testing may yet attract innovative solution. But he also noted that "it's prudent to let both the ARC and STC paths play without obstruction, interference or favor. Over time, it will become apparent which ends up better serving the interests of general aviation and high performance piston operators."

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FAA Looks into LSA Certification back to top 

FAA: SLSA Certification Should Be Reconsidered

An FAA assessment of SLSA manufacturers has found that "the majority" of manufacturers evaluated failed to prove compliance with the category's standards, and that could affect the certification status of some aircraft. The FAA announced its findings Thursday, stating that "aircraft within the existing fleets" of manufacturers not able to issue a valid Statement of Compliance "may no longer be eligible to retain their airworthiness certification as SLSA." Those aircraft may be eligible for ELSA certification, the FAA said. But the FAA also noted that a specific range of aircraft (not insignificant in number) may find even less favor from the current regulatory structure. The FAA "has determined that its original policy of reliance on manufacturers' Statements of Compliance" ... "should be reconsidered." Precisely how the FAA's notice will impact the existing fleet, and when, may require more clarification.

President of the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association, Dan Johnson, told Bloomberg News that the agency was "just getting started." According to the FAA, "Aircraft that were issued an airworthiness certificate prior to the effective date of this notice are not affected by this policy statement provided all other applicable requirements are met." The agency has posted a frequently asked questions page for manufacturers, here. However, "some aircraft that are primarily manufactured outside the United States and assembled in the United States may be found to be ineligible for airworthiness certification as SLSA or ELSA."

The FAA's assessment identified several problem areas, including manufacturers that do not have bilateral agreements with the U.S. but passed aircraft to the U.S. through countries that do have such agreements. The FAA says SLSA manufacturers "must be able to provide for the continued operational safety of their aircraft." And to do that, they have to maintain adequate engineering staff and data to monitor and correct safety issues affecting their aircraft. The FAA says that based on its assessments, increased agency involvement in the airworthiness certification process is warranted. The FAA is accepting comments on the notice through July 30. Read the entire content of the FAA's position, here.

Podcast: SLSA Non-Compliance

File Size 8.5 MB / Running Time 9:15

Podcast Index | How to Listen | Subscribe Via RSS

The FAA says most Light Sport aircraft manufacturers have issues with record-keeping, and it's warning of greater oversight of the new aircraft category. Dan Johnson of the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association spoke with AVweb's Russ Niles about what that might mean.

Click here to listen. (8.5 MB, 9:15)

AVweb Insider Blog: The FAA's LSA Paper Chase

When the FAA agreed to let the light sport industry self-regulate, it reserved the right to step in if it found the industry was falling short. Now it's doing exactly that. But it's more paper chasing than anything to do with real safety. On the AVweb Insider blog, Paul Bertorelli says whether the agency's efforts prove benign or damaging depends on how much it tangles itself up in the LSA manufacturing biz.

Read more and join the conversation.

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Protecting Pilots back to top 

Pilots' Bill Of Rights Passes Senate

Senator James Inhofe, who gained personal experience with FAA enforcement tactics and rules in 2010, is celebrating the passage by the Senate of his Pilots' Bill of Rights. In October 2010, Inhofe landed on a closed runway in Texas that had vehicles and people on it. He received a remedial training order from the FAA. Difficulties he said he experienced while attempting to gather information about the incident led him in 2011 to introduce a bill to protect pilots from "agency overreach." He explained the rationale for the action in a podcast last year. The bill includes protections for pilots who become the subject of FAA enforcement proceedings and also requires the FAA to take actions regarding NOTAMs and the agency's medical certification process.

Regarding NOTAMs, the bill requires that the FAA undertake a NOTAM Improvement Program. That program requires simplification and archival of NOTAMs in a central location. The idea is to ensure pilots can easily acquire the most relevant information through the system. Regarding medicals, the bill requires that the GAO review the FAA's process and forms with the goal of creating greater clarity in the questions and fewer allegations of intentional falsification against pilots. The effort will accept advice from an advisory panel made up of "non-profit general aviation groups." Details about the pilots' bill of rights include requirements that the FAA grant a pilot relevant evidence 30 days before deciding to proceed with an enforcement action. It also allows pilots to seek Federal district court review of appeals from the NTSB. That means pilots can introduce evidence and get "a new review of the facts." The effort earned the support of EAA and AOPA.

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Robot Pilots and Spaceships back to top 

Drone Hacking 101

A team at the University of Texas at Austin claims to have hacked into and taken control of a non-military drone using less than $1,000 in parts, highlighting concerns over domestic drone use. Drones operated by the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies are already flying over the U.S. Smaller groups like universities and branches of law enforcement have sought approval from the FAA to operate unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) of their own. The FAA is working on regulations for such operations and the researchers' claim suggests that unencrypted GPS signals could put drone hijacking within the reach of anyone with $1,000 and the requisite intellectual resources. Recent history suggests that vulnerability may not be limited to domestic drones.

The technology used by the researchers is known as "spoofing." It involves targeting a drone with false but strong signals that mimic actual GPS signals and then deviate, luring the drone from its intended path. Through careful manipulation of that alternate GPS data, hackers can effectively take control of the drone's guidance system and flight path. When a U.S. RQ-170 Sentinel drone landed in Iraq in early December, 2011, Iranian officials claimed they used similar technology to a trick the aircraft into landing. If true, it wouldn't be the first time U.S. drone systems have been compromised. Back in 2009, U.S. forces found laptops help by Iraqi insurgents included video streams from U.S. drones. Both cases suggest even U.S. military drone systems may be less than adequately protected against electronic assaults.

SpaceShipTwo Fires Rocket

Virgin Galactic's passenger-carrying suborbital space vehicle SpaceShipTwo successfully passed aerodynamic and powerplant tests on June 26, near Mojave, Calif. The vehicle performed its first successful glide since integration of its rocket motor systems. WhiteKnightTwo carried it to 51,000 feet over where it was released under the control of Scaled pilots Pete Siebold and Mike Alsbury. A chase plane carried Mike Melvill, who piloted the first private flight to space in SpaceShipOne. A second test fired the RM2 rocket system for a 55-second burn. According to Virgin Galactic, "All objectives were completed." Virgin Galactic plans to collect customers and VIPs for a special briefing, next month, and powered flight not too long thereafter.

Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company (Virgin Galactic's manufacturing arm) is planning to gather its most important customers in July at the Farnborough International Air Show, 2012, for a presentation by founder Sir Richard Branson. Branson's venture aims to carry paying passengers six at a time on sub-orbital space flights. Each flight will allow passengers to experience an "out-of-the-seat, zero-gravity experience" along with some "astounding views." The development plan aims to see a powered flight by year-end. The FAA and NASA agreed earlier this month to work together to create standards for commercial space travel to low Earth orbit and to the International Space Station. Virgin Galactic offers different reservation options for future passengers. Full payment pricing includes a $200,000 deposit, "up front."

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Eye on the Airplane Economy back to top 

Airbus Set To Announce Mobile A320 Plant

Airbus is expected to announce plans next week for a $600 million A320 assembly plant in Mobile, Ala. Numerous news outlets are citing anonymous sources in scooping the company on the announcement, which will bring with it 2,500 construction jobs and at least 500 direct factory jobs. The first A320 is reportedly scheduled to roll out in 2017 and at the rate of about one a week after that. It's a consolation prize of sorts for Mobile, which would have been the epicenter of Airbus's ultimately failed bid for a $35 billion contract to replace the U.S. Air Force's historic fleet of in-flight refueling aircraft. Still, at the book price of about $90 million for an A320, the production tempo suggests it will take about eight years to create the same kind of value as the tanker deal and there's no sign that Airbus is planning to replace its bread-and-butter aircraft beyond that. While there is certainly cause for celebration in the Southeast, at the opposite corner of the country Boeing, which recently opened a 787 plant in Charleston, S.C., did not extend Southern hospitality to its arch-rival.

The Chicago-based company, which does most of its manufacturing in the Seattle area, dismissed Airbus's not-yet-made announcement as a cynical ploy to reduce the political impact of the help it allegedly gets from European governments in going toe-to-toe with Boeing. "While it is interesting once again to see Airbus promising to move jobs from Europe to the United States, no matter how many are created, the numbers pale in comparison to the thousands of U.S. jobs destroyed by illegal subsidies," Boeing said.

Santa Monica Paying Planes To Go Away

After years of butting heads and trading court cases on the topic of restricting flight operations at Santa Monica Airport, local officials and the FAA may have found a way to agree. Santa Monica is going to pay flight schools to go elsewhere for touch and goes and pattern work and the FAA thinks that's likely an idea that can fly. "While we have not reviewed the specifics of Santa Monica's proposal, generally an airport operator does not need the FAA's approval to establish a voluntary program that is offered to all flight schools at the airport," FAA spokesman Ian Gregor told the Santa Monica Daily Press. Qualifying flight schools will get $150 per flight to cover the costs of heading to another airport for that kind of training. That has, however, caught the attention of the likely recipients of the increased training traffic and at least one airport may be able to deny those flights.

Nearby Torrance no longer has any of the grant obligations to the FAA that keep Santa Monica from restricting operations (Santa Monica's run out in 2015) and Torrance Mayor Frank Scotto says his town's good neighbor policy only goes so far. "Santa Monica Airport has training schools there, and Santa Monica Airport should be bearing the brunt of the burden," Scotto said. Based on Santa Monica's experience, however, other airports in the area that do have federal obligations may have no choice but to accept the bounce-and-go traffic. Santa Monica tried to restrict the number of business jet movements a few years ago but a federal court upheld the FAA's position that the expenditure of federal money for things like runway, navigation and other improvements gives the agency sole discretion over the traffic permitted at a given airport. Since it's everyone's money that's being spent, the FAA generally favors the fewest restrictions possible and then usually just for safety reasons.

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Aviation Safety back to top 

Pilots Killed In Airshow Crashes

Accidents at opposite ends of the world and opposite ends of the air show performance spectrum had a common and deadly result on Saturday. In England, the last flying de Havilland DH53 Hummingbird, essentially a 1923 ultralight aircraft, crashed at the Military Pageant Airshow at Old Warden Aerodrome near Biggleswade Beds. Former RAF pilot and current British Airways 777 pilot Trevor Roche died at the scene after the wooden aircraft crashed in front of about 600 spectators. The rest of the show was cancelled. The aircraft was owned by the Shuttleworth collection and was the last intact example of its type. Only 12 were built.

Meanwhile, in South Africa, the pilot of an L-39 Albatros was killed at the Klerksdrop Air Show. Gianfranco Cicogna was doing a formation routine with Charles Urban in another L-39 when he broke formation just before the aircraft dove into the ground and exploded. In an unusual move, performers held a brief meeting after the crash and decided the show must go on. "They decided to continue in honor of Gianfranco," said show spokeswoman Sandy Botha.

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New on AVweb.com back to top 

Brainteasers Quiz #173: Call Me a Taxi


Inside a big sky, little mistakes are easily masked before ATC calls a foul. But on the ground, the margin for error shrinks, and one slip across a hold-short line could ruin your day. Save that day by acing this quiz.

Take the quiz.

More Brainteasers

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What Have You Missed on AVwebcom? back to top 

AVweb Insider Blog: The FAA Knowledge Test Under Review

Changes to the FAA knowledge test are in the wind, but on the AVweb Insider blog, contributing editor Mary Grady explains why we need a discussion that goes beyond the simple issue of whether or not to make the questions public.

Read more and join the conversation.

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

Video: 'Aviation Consumer' Takes the Show on the Road with Five Folding Bicycle Reviews

The July issue of our sister publication, Aviation Consumer, features a blow-by-blow comparison of some of the best folding bikes for pilots we could find. See them in action in these five video reviews by Consumer's Jeff Van West.

Video: ANA 767 Hard Landing Creases Fuselage

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

An All Nippon Airways Boeing 767-300 carrying 193 passengers was damaged during a hard landing at Tokyo Narita airport, Wednesday, June 20, 2012. The ANA jet touched down on Runway 16R. Airport weather reports show winds at 230 and 16 knots gusting to 29 at that time, suggesting a potential crosswind component of more than 27 knots. However that may have affected the pilots and aircraft, security camera footage shows the airliner came down first on the right main, then on the nosewheel alone, before porpoising into a second impact that appears to impart visible flex on the airliner's forward fuselage. No injuries were reported, but an early post-flight inspection clearly showed buckling and creases in the fuselage skin forward of the wing root. Japan's transportation safety board is investigating.

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

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.

Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Laredo Aero Center (KLRD, Laredo, Texas)

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

Summer is here, local air shows are in full swing, and AVweb readers are logging some serious flying time. At least, that's the way it looks from the number of great FBOs we've heard about in the last seven days. It was tough choosing one nomination, but our latest "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Laredo Aero Center at Laredo International Airport (KLRD) in (you guessed it) Laredo, Texas.

Jimmy Harrison brought Aero Center to our attention with his praise:

The people who operate Aero Center are absolutely fabulous. This includes the line handlers, the refuelers and the ops desk personnel. I have stopped here several times and am always delighted with their excellent service and can-do attitude.

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

Flying my 172 near McGuire Air Force Base on Sunday, VFR with flight following from McGuire Approach. Two Air Force DC-10 tankers were practicing approaches as I flew by, and I offered to climb to stay out of their way. The controller asked me to climb and maintain 2,500 feet.

"TAC 1, turn left, heading 330. Intercept the ILS 24, maintain 2,000' until established. Traffic is a 172 above you at 2,500'. Caution: wake turbulence."

(Silence on the frequency. Did I hear right?)

TAC 1:
"Ahhh, Approach -- say again the traffic?"

Approach (a new voice) :
"TAC 1, disregard wake turbulence warning. Cleared for the approach."

Me in my 172:
"McGuire, 4RP. Why did you cancel the other guy's wake turbulence warning? You just made my day!"

"Sorry about that, but I had to. I'm the only one here who can talk right now we're all laughing so hard!"

Rabbi Don Weber
Morganville, NJ

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.