April 28, 2004
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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The head of the union representing flight service station workers says he's afraid the privatization of the FSS system might become a political football. Wally Pike, president of the National Association of Air Traffic Specialists (NAATS), told AVweb there are indications the government might ram the deal through before next November's election. He said the FAA has been sticking to a December 2004 to March 2005 timeline for making a decision on privatization but he's recently been told by senior FAA officials that it could be moved up to October, less than a month after all the bid information from would-be contractors is due. "The October date is especially troublesome because it wouldn't give them (FAA) adequate time to review the proposals," said Pike. Pike said the October deadline, if genuine, would fly in the face of a commitment by Administrator Marion Blakey to wait until at least December. However, the current administration's hand might have been forced by a commitment from Democratic contender John Kerry to cancel the privatization process if he's elected.
The official line from the FAA is that nothing has changed on the timing of any privatization decision. FAA spokesman William Shumann told AVweb that the selection will take place sometime between December and March. Also, at Senate hearings last week, Department of Transportation Inspector General Ken Mead said the determination will be made "by March 2005." He also said privatization won't be considered unless the government can save at least $478 million over five years by doing so. (Of course, there may be different views on the definition of "$478 million saved.") In the meantime, bidders will be busy telling the FAA how they'd run a modernized FSS system while saving all that money. Shumann said there are at least four companies interested in taking over the FSS: Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and Computer Sciences Corporation. The existing FSS organization, teamed with Harris Corp., is also bidding. By May 3, they must submit a "screening request for information," which Shumann said is a general outline of their proposal. August is the deadline for technical proposals and by September all the financial projections must be in.
Just to add some intrigue to the process, Raytheon ran recruitment ads for flight service specialists and air traffic control specialists in a San Diego newspaper. The ads, run by Raytheon Technical Services Company LLC, say the company is "anticipating the following opportunities at a variety of locations throughout the United States." AVweb contacted the company about the ad but press-relations staff were unable to comment on it by our deadline. Meanwhile, NAATS' Pike says he, too, wants to know more about the advertising. Pike said he first learned of the ad more than a week ago and has been unable to discover its purpose. "We're trying to find out what it's all about," he said. The National Air Traffic Controllers Association is also in the dark. Speculation there is that Raytheon might be making a move on the 200 already-existing contract control towers currently operating in the U.S.
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With U.S. airlines increasingly looking elsewhere for aircraft, Boeing decided to do the same in its quest for customers for the 7E7 Dreamliner. The strategy paid off with the largest single order in the company's history (and not from a U.S. company) on Monday and the official launch of production of the new airliner. All Nippon Airways (ANA) announced it would purchase 50 Dreamliners, worth $6 billion if the airline paid full price for them (they rarely do). The price was not disclosed but analysts quoted by various news outlets all said ANA almost certainly got a hefty discount to be the launch customer of Boeing's first new jet in more than a decade ... and that a launch at 50 orders may be a bit out of the ordinary. Some analysts noted that Boeing has traditionally waited until it had at least 100 orders before launching a new aircraft line and said Monday's announcement was an indication of how anxious Boeing is to reclaim some of its standing in the commercial jet market. "Boeing had really kind of developed an image of 'all hat and no cattle' to use a Texas term, so this finally is saying, 'Yeah, we're here to make airplanes,'" aviation consultant Scott Hamilton told the Associated Press. In the past year Airbus overtook Boeing in deliveries for the first time and there's been plenty of commentary suggesting Boeing was going to concentrate more on military business.
But it's not only customers that are coming from overseas. More than a third of the aircraft's components are being built offshore (notably in Japan, surprise, surprise) and that's set an undertone of grumbling to the jubilation in Washington State, where the aircraft will be assembled. "It's unfortunate that they didn't trust us to do more of the assembly," said Jerald Beal, a shop steward for the Machinists Union Local 751. "We're not really sure how this is going to play out in the end." Company spokesman Todd Beckler said Boeing "has not addressed job creation." Regardless of the precise total of jobs created, both union and company officials believe the Dreamliner is here for the long haul. Designed as direct competition to the Airbus 330 (and a replacement for the 757), the Dreamliner will seat from 230 to 300 people and is predicted (by Boeing) to be 10- to 20-percent more fuel-efficient than existing airliners. Like Airbuses, the Dreamliner will be made mostly of composites.
LIGHTSPEED HEADSET OWNERS! FEEL LEFT OUT?
Well, at least Warrant Officer Barry Jones is a realist. "I know it won't go smoothly, nothing ever does, but that's part of the adventure," Jones, a British Army helicopter pilot, told a news conference before setting off on a round-the-world flight in an open-cockpit gyrocopter. He'll cover more than 25,000 miles (including long stretches over water) on the flight, which he expects to take three and a half months. The flight will take him to 25 countries and, if he makes it, will set several records, including one for the lightest aircraft to do the circumnavigation. "I would be lying to say I wasn't nervous," said Jones. As Jones was getting ready to launch, fellow Brit Polly Vacher was returning from her epic adventure in a comparatively luxurious Piper Dakota. Vacher covered 58,000 miles in her bid to go around the world via both poles. She didn't make it over the South Pole because of bad weather but she did help to calm a diplomatic storm between Australia, the U.S. and New Zealand when she donated part of her Antarctic fuel supply to an Australian pilot who ran short while making a polar flight of his own. The U.S. and New Zealand bases on Antarctica had refused to refuel Jon Johansen's homebuilt, citing his lack of preparation for the trip. Although Vacher didn't reach her ultimate goal, she did become the first woman to fly solo around Antarctica in a light single and she was also the first to fly continuously around the world via all seven continents. She touched down at Birmingham Airport 357 days after leaving.
Like an overdue train, we keep craning our necks trying to see if economic recovery for the aviation industry is just around the corner. But rather than wait for it to pull into the station, some media outlets can't wait for that whistle to blow. Florida Today recently devoted a big chunk of its business section looking for signs of hope. It found some in the avionics industry (Avidyne and Rockwell Collins are both doing well with their glass cockpits) but the best New Piper could say is that more people are visiting its showrooms. Certification of the Liberty XL-2 also made it as one of the paper's signs that recovery is imminent. Although things do seem to be looking up for the airlines, at least one analyst believes observers are looking at the wrong data in making their predictions. Boeing economist William Swan told CNN that load factors, often cited as the primary indicator of airline performance, are "an absolutely worthless indicator of what's going on." He said aircraft utilization is a much better measure and only new 737s are getting a real workout. Other factors, including higher fuel costs and cutthroat pricing spawned by new no-frills entries to the market, like Delta's Song and United's Ted, make the profitability picture bleak for many airlines.
DIAMOND AIRCRAFT ANNOUNCES DIAMONDFEST 2004
The FAA says it's working on ways to adequately warn pilots of "pop-up" temporary flight restrictions (TFRs) that will become much more common as the election campaign goes into full swing. It's expected that no-fly zones for GA will accompany not only President Bush, but Vice President Dick Cheney, Democratic contender John Kerry and whomever his running mate will be. "This is something we've really been struggling with," said FAA spokesman William Shumann. He said the agency has been working on the issue since long before the campaign started in earnest. He said the FAA is cooperating with various aviation groups to try and get the word out, but not everyone is getting the message. Take, for instance, the plight of Thomas Colacurcio, who thought he was taking a short hop last month from Medina Airport in Ohio to another airport to buy discounted fuel. Colacurcio, who may not have checked with the FSS because of the short duration of the flight, lifted off in the middle of a TFR surrounding Bush's visit to Cleveland. An Air Force fighter on his wing was Colacurcio's first hint that something was awry. The Cleveland TFR affected more than 30 public and private airports. But Colacurcio, who faces FAA sanction, can take some comfort in the fact that plenty of others are making the same mistakes. At least 10 pilots skirted the edges of the Cleveland TFR and last Friday a light plane was forced to land at Opa Locka Airport in Florida after busting a presidential TFR around Miami.
Forget about your instrument scan, how about a device that scans your instruments directly onto your retina? Microvision has sold the first of its Nomad retinal laser-projection systems in the civilian market (to Honda, to help mechanics fix cars faster) and it's likely only a matter of time before they end up in more cockpits (having previously been on display at Oshkosh AirVenture). The system offers many of the features of a heads-up display but instead of projecting information on a screen, a scanning laser actually puts the pictures and text right into your eye. Images from a computer or other visible source (like a primary flight display or multi-function display?) are processed into an image fed through a monocle and the result is superimposed over the regular field of vision. The system has already been tested on pilots and is also being used by the Army's Stryker Brigade in Iraq. In the cockpit tests, done three years ago, pilots wearing the system were able to spend most of their time watching for other traffic instead of scanning instruments because all the aircraft systems were displayed in front of them. Microvision is also working on systems for use by surgeons, who could display patients' vital signs while they concentrate on the operation.
OREGON AERO: MAKING GENERAL AVIATION FLYING PAIN-FREE
While some aviation museums struggle to keep the lights on, money isn't a factor for the Flying Heritage Collection in Arlington, Wash. Billionaire owner Paul Allen (co-founder of Microsoft) will soon open the collection, in a limited way, to showcase possibly some of the rarest and most meticulously restored vintage aircraft anywhere. Everything from the thread count in a restored JN-4D Jenny's wing fabric to the precise paint formulation on the collection's P-51 have been matched exactly. The collection also boasts some extraordinarily rare artifacts, including a manned version of the German buzz bomb, and many have been restored to flying condition. Allen quietly acquired the 12 aircraft in the collection over the past three years. The facility will take groups of no larger than 15 people, at $20 a head, on a detailed tour of the collection. Reservations are required. Revenue will cover maintenance and upkeep. Also, about four times a year, each of the flyable aircraft in the collection will be "exercised" and the public will be able to watch that.
The NTSB says over-control by the pilot and inadequate preflight briefing contributed to the crash of a Challenger 604 test aircraft at Wichita in October of 2000. The plane was rigged to be aft-heavy to test the pressure-feel simulator. During the takeoff run, the NTSB report says, fuel rushed to the rear of the tanks, adding to the unbalanced state. The plane stalled twice after takeoff and crashed in flames after 10 seconds in the air. The pilot and an engineer died the crash and the co-pilot died 36 days later. The NTSB said the crew talked about the aft center of gravity before the flight but, according to the Associated Press, Bombardier didn't tell the crew how that might affect the plane's performance. The NTSB also said the pilot, Bryan Irelan, had never flown the plane in that configuration and was too aggressive on the controls, resulting in a high pitch rate on takeoff. The report also cited lack of direct oversight by the FAA and Transport Canada over the testing. Bombardier has since redesigned the fuel system to reduce fuel migration.
WHAT COULD YOU DO WITH $100? IF YOU FLY REGULARLY, TAKE A MOMENT
Our repetition of the most prevalent myth surrounding the innovative (to spare our server we dare not say quirky) Ercoupe resulted in a torrent of sometimes-angry e-mail. Our apparently pathetic attempt to explain how we got into the mess made even more 'Coupers upset so, here, from Ed Burkhead, of the Ercoupe Owners Club, is how an Ercoupe really lands in a crosswind: "The key to the Ercoupe gear is the same as the key to virtually all tricycle gear planes. A moving vehicle is directionally stable if the front wheels have natural castering (when you're not actively steering) and the rear wheels are laterally fixed. If the vehicle gets catawampus, the rear wheels resist lateral pressure. The front wheels caster and don't give lateral pressure. Thus, the vehicle straightens out. Fred Weick's genius was largely in recognizing that and developing for aircraft the nose gear geometry that gives good stability and yet casters when the vehicle is skidding. At least that was one of the many great steps we like to call, out of respect, genius." We hope that clears it up for everyone.
When Fred Weick decided to sell the Ercoupe with two controls to make flying easier, it was necessary to use a landing gear that could handle crabbed landings. Nothing more was needed than to give the Coupe a fairly strong main gear. It doesnt castor. The fact that it has trailing-arm geometry has nothing to do with it. As long as the gear has adequate strength and the rear wheels are behind the center of gravity, you can land the aircraft in a crab with great success and do it in pretty good crosswinds.
The nose gear of Coupes turns just the same as the nose gear of a Cessna, Piper, a Boeing 747 or the Space Shuttle. In fact, its about the same as the turning of your Ford or Chevy. But that turning effect is only critical when the wheel first touches the ground, to relieve side loads.
Ercoupes, like the modern aircraft which copied from them, have steerable nose gear. Ercoupes just did it first.
A Penn State aerospace engineering team has designed morphing aircraft wings that they say will boost efficiency and performance. The wings are covered in moveable plates that allow them to change shape in flight...
A record-setting balloon flight won't land the pilot in the FAA's bad books. The agency said it will not file any charges against David Hempleman-Adams, who took the balloon to 42,000 feet over Colorado. At the time, the FAA said they didn't have any record of a flight plan...
One glider pilot died, another parachuted to safety after their aircraft collided over a field in England. The accident occurred near Alton, Hampshire...
The quest for a new GA airport in central Texas took a big hit when local authorities rejected the three leading sites. By law, municipal or county authorities must approve an airport in their midst and officials in Hutto, Manor and Taylor all turned their thumbs down...
Authorities remain tight-lipped after Canadian fighter jets escorted an Air Canada flight to its landing at Vancouver International Airport Tuesday. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported that an unspecified threat prompted the escort but the airline, police and military officials wouldn't confirm that.
NEW WINGX VERSION 1.4 FOR THE POCKET PC RELEASED!
Say Again? #36: Spring is Sprung
Time once again for the weather to bring nasty thunderstorms into your favorite airspace. Some planes have long had on-board radar, and recently we've started to see NEXRAD radar on those GA glass-cockpit displays. This spring, AVweb's Don Brown finally has NEXRAD available on his radar scope. But keeping us out of thunderstorms never is that easy, is it?
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"IT'S LIKE HAVING A NEW AIRPLANE"
*** PREVIOUS RESULTS ***
Last week, AVweb asked your opinion on the much-anticipated Sport Pilot rating. Most respondents are ready for Sport Pilot and changes it will bring including new aircraft, new pilots, and a renewed interest among senior pilots. Over 200 people (60% of those surveyed) are waiting for the new rating with open arms. 17% of you are less than thrilled with Sport Pilot, however; you fear the new rating will bring in more careless pilots who aren't as dedicated to the art of flying. A third contingent (15% of our respondents) say, "I'll believe it when I see it."
*** THIS WEEK'S QUESTION ***
This week, AVweb wants to hear your thoughts on the "Boeing comeback." Chime in with your thoughts on the new Boeing 7E7.
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FED UP WITH BIG BILLS FOR ROUTINE MAINTENANCE?
Submit a Photo | Rules | Tips | Questions
Current POTW Winner | Past POTW Winners
Last week, we had fewer-than-usual submissions to our "Picture of the Week" contest and concluded that all our readers must have been out of town for Sun 'n Fun. Looks like we were right! This week, we're flooded with your snapshots from the Fly-In. There were some real contenders in the batch, but we had to award "POTW" honors to Tim Averett of Winter Haven, Florida. His shot of Dr. John Nordt's Ryan PT22 captures the spirit of the fly-in perfectly. Congrats, Tim the coveted AVweb ball cap is yours! And the rest of you, keep those pictures coming! Even if you don't win a cap, you'll get some oohs and aahs from the AVweb staff.
Due to privacy issues, AVweb does not publish e-mail addresses of readers who submit photos.
"PT22 Flies at Chalet Suzanne"
Tim Averett of Winter Haven, Florida takes first-place honors this week
with a photo from the Sun 'n Fun Fly-In. Dr. John Nordt is the pilot, flying his Ryan PT22.
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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 larger versions.
"Red, White and Blue"
Richard A. Gullett of Snellville, Georgia
sends us this patriotic image
"Planes on the Ramp"
Eric Cobb of Solvang, California caught this fleeting image at sunset;
are we flying too much, or does that cloud look suspiciously like ... ?
To enter next week's contest, click here.
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, consult the POTW Rules or send us an e-mail.
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MARV GOLDEN DISCOUNT PILOT SUPPLIES HAS EVERYTHING YOU NEED
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TRACK ALL IN-FLIGHT IFR AIRCRAFT IN REAL TIME!
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GIVE MOM SOMETHING TO TICKLE HER FUNNY BONE & SHOW HER LOVE OF FLYING
For Mother's Day, the Carprop is perfect! The Carprop is a free-spinning propeller mounted on the front of a vehicle to indicate the driver's enthusiasm for flying. As the vehicle moves, the propeller spins but when parked, the propeller goes horizontal so it doesn't interfere with the license plate numbers. For the pilot or enthusiast who has everything, the Carprop is perfect! APRIL SPECIAL: Complimentary sunglasses with any order placed online at http://www.avweb.com/sponsors/carprop/avflash.
SOFT LEATHER HOLDS YOUR IDENTIFICATION IN STYLE!
During the month of April, Pilotmall.com is offering a complimentary soft leather ID holder with a stamped airplane on the cover (a $19.99 value) with any order of Pilotmall's quality leather flight bags, backpacks, or Scheyden sunglasses. Show your style and save now at http://www.avweb.com/sponsors/pilotmall/avflash.
LAZY BUZZARD GOES RACING!!!!
Lazy Buzzard has decided to send his pilot racing. Come late summer, the Lazy Buzzard Pitts Special will be tearing around the pylons at the Reno Air Races. Check out the site to see the Lazy Buzzard airplane and other great stuff!! Watch for Lazy Buzzard at air shows throughout the year. Be a part of it all and support Lazy Buzzard in his quest for Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness and Speed. Online at http://www.avweb.com/sponsors/lazybuzzard/avflash.
TRAINING STARTS HERE!
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ROD MACHADO'S PRIVATE PILOT HANDBOOK THROUGH A STUDENT PILOT'S EYES
"I took the exam yesterday and passed. It is all thanks to Rod Machados excellent book. Over the past 10 years, I've accumulated a library of academic text books costing thousands of dollars. However, the $35 I paid for Rod Machado's Private Pilot Handbook was the best money I ever spent. I especially like the use of graphics and diagrams and mnemonics. The writing style is simple, clear, and to-the-point. I can't wait to start flying. Thank you for writing this wonderful book."
FIRST-TIME PILOTS ARE USUALLY SPEECHLESS; THEN THEY CAN'T STOP TALKING
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AVflash is a twice-weekly summary of the latest aviation news, articles, products, features and events featured on AVweb, the Internet's Aviation Magazine and News Service. http://www.avweb.com
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