NewsWire Complete Issue

May 5, 2004
By The AVweb Editorial Staff

This issue of AVweb's AVflash is brought to you by ... LightSPEED Aviation

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Cirrus Overtakes Skyhawks

Must Be Those Cute Chutes...

While last week's first-quarter production numbers showed that GA manufacturing is creeping out of its recent doldrums (though still far from its peak), the data also revealed some subtle shifts taking place in the industry. "This is a historic day for Cirrus," company spokesman John Bingham told the Duluth News Tribune on Saturday -- for the first time, Cirrus Design produced more single-engine four-seaters than any other manufacturer. With 105 shipments, Cirrus outpaced, by 16, the venerable Cessna Aircraft Co. "There's a huge sense of determination to build on this," Bingham said. "We know we've still got three more quarters to go." Bingham added that the company has orders for 170 airplanes, enough to keep the plant busy through midyear. Cessna and Cirrus are now dominating the top of the pack for single-engine piston four-seaters -- the next-closest player is Diamond Aircraft, which sold 44 DA40s in the first quarter. Cirrus shipped 66 SR22s, making it the highest-selling single model in the fleet, 38 SR20s, and 1 SRV, its VFR-only model. Cessna shipped 61 Skyhawks and 28 Skylanes. Cirrus has made no secret that it plans to become the world's largest manufacturer of personal aircraft. Since its startup in 1994, Cirrus has built more than 1,000 airplanes, and is the only manufacturer to include a ballistic parachute as standard equipment on all its models.

...As Fractional Fleet Grows...

One of those customers for Cirrus aircraft is OurPlane Inc. , of London, Ontario, a fractional-ownership company that is about to launch its 13th and 14th locations, at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport and at the Flying Cloud Airport near St. Paul, Minn. "We just ordered 10 new Cirrus SR22s in March," OurPlane CEO Graham Casson told AVweb yesterday. "We're seeing tremendous demand for these airplanes. They're easy to fly, and they're very comfortable to fly. The SR22 is a fantastic airplane, and we plan to order more next year." Casson added that his Cirrus aircraft have an "impeccable" safety record, which he attributed to the high safety standards and currency protocols the company requires of share owners. OurPlane, which says it plans to grow its fleet to 100 airplanes within the next few years, offers fractional ownership plus professional management, with shares in a Cirrus SR22 starting at $49,000. The company also offers new Cessna 182s and other aircraft on a fractional basis for both pilots and non-pilots.

...And Training Races To Keep Up

With some recent accidents and a less-than-spotless safety record for Cirrus, training has become a front-burner issue, with all those new airplanes coming into the market with advanced avionics and systems. The FAA's answer to these changes is called FITS, for FAA/Industry Training Standards, and a curriculum based on the SR22 was its first project. Some in the industry have raised concerns about the FITS concept, saying it will cost pilots more, it could allow insurance concerns to drive training requirements, or could even lead to the FAA's mandating type ratings or recurrent training for pilots of single-engine aircraft. The FAA says FITS will cost less and make training more efficient by focusing on real-world needs. Cirrus, working with the University of North Dakota, has developed standardized transition training for new owners using the FITS model, which takes up to four days of ground school and flying. Cirrus has also developed standardized training for instructors who will be available in the field to train buyers of pre-owned Cirrus aircraft.

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Navy Study: New Lasik Procedure Works Better

Sharper Vision, Fewer Problems With New Technology...

A Navy researcher who has been studying the effects of eye surgery on vision for 10 years reported this week that new wavefront-guided procedures used with Lasik eye surgery are producing improved results. "While conventional Lasik is good, we're finding that wavefront-guided Lasik yields sharper and higher-quality vision, and higher patient satisfaction compared to conventional Lasik," said U.S. Navy Capt. Steve Schallhorn, M.D., the director of Cornea and Refractive Surgery at the Navy Medical Center in San Diego. "By reducing dependence on glasses and contact lenses in active duty personnel, [Lasik] enhances combat readiness and improves performance," Schallhorn said. Conventional Lasik eye surgery has been around since 1995, but wavefront-guided Lasik has been widely available for only about a year and a half. Doctors and companies are promoting it as being better than regular Lasik, but it is more expensive.

...As 20/20 Results Rise To 97 Percent

Most significant with the new procedure, Schallhorn said, is the improved quality of vision, fewer problems with halos and glare, better night vision and higher patient satisfaction. With conventional Lasik, 88 percent of 908 patients tested at 20/20 vision or better six months after the procedure. By comparison, 97 percent of 34 patients using the wavefront-guided Lasik achieved 20/20 vision or better. Schallhorn reported his findings at this week's annual meeting of the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery, in San Diego. Schallhorn is part of a Navy program that provides Lasik services to Navy and Marine Corps personnel. The Federal Trade Commission has published an online guide, "Basik Lasik," offering tips to those who might be considering the surgery. In March 2003, the FTC ordered two Lasik companies to stop advertising that the procedure "would eliminate the need for glasses or contacts for life, eliminate the need for reading glasses, and eliminate the need for bifocals." The FTC said those claims could not be substantiated. For more about Lasik surgery for pilots, see AVweb's prior coverage.

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FAA Says No To Bigger N-Numbers For Noise Watchers

The FAA has turned down a petition from the Massachusetts group "Stop The Noise" asking for two-foot-high N numbers under airplane wings, AOPA said yesterday. The FAA said the current 12-inch-high numbers on the fuselage were mandated after much deliberation and discussion, and there is no compelling reason to change that decision. "Stop The Noise has shown that it's willing to sue pilots even if the pilots are operating in full accordance with regulations," said AOPA Director of Regulatory and Certification Policy Luis Gutierrez. "This petition was just a thinly veiled attempt to make it easier for the group to go after other pilots." In its petition to the FAA, Stop The Noise's thin veil is pretty much transparent. The petition reads: "This proposed rule will require that all aircraft be marked so as to maximize the ability of those on the ground to identify any aircraft by its registration number. ... The ability of persons on the ground to identify offending aircraft will facilitate actions by these citizens to defend their lands from these airmen and to seek remedies in the regulatory and judicial arenas where, at the present time, they are stonewalled due to the practical inability to identify the offending aircraft. ... This results in toothless regulations, a pilot community that believes it is above the law, and a very frustrated non-flying public." The petition drew five comments, including AOPA's, all of which were opposed to the change. Stop The Noise has filed suit against four Massachusetts pilots to try to stop them from flying over their private property. AOPA has offered financial and legal help to the four pilots. The cases against the pilots have not yet gone to trial.

Tower Company Drops Suit Naming Pilot's Widow

As AVweb told you recently, the widow of a pilot who crashed into a telecommunications tower in Quebec was sued by SpectraSite, a U.S. company that operated the tower. Now, SpectraSite has withdrawn that suit and issued a statement to clarify its position. "SpectraSite's suit was filed due to a misunderstanding that led us to believe the suit was the only means of preserving our ability to protect the interests of our shareholders," CEO Stephen Clark said in a news release last week. "In accordance with applicable Canadian law, SpectraSite has taken action to dismiss the estate of Mr. Gilbert Paquette [the pilot who died] from its suit" but to seek its share from the pilot's liability insurance. Clark said, "SpectraSite's sole intent has always been to seek its pro rata share of the liability insurance proceeds resulting from the multiple claimants related to this unfortunate event. The insurance proceeds the Company is seeking were not and will not be available to the estate of Mr. Gilbert Paquette. Our deepest sympathy remains with the family of Mr. Paquette." Paquette's single-engine airplane crashed into a 1,000-foot-high tower at Notre-Dame-de-Carmel in Quebec, Canada, on April 22, 2001.

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Firefighting Fleet Faces Economic Challenges

With summer fast approaching, so is wildfire season, which (along with record-breaking heat) is already blooming in southern California. The pilots who fly firefighting aircraft are well-aware of the accidents noted recently by the NTSB in which aging aircraft failed under the stress, and the industry has come up with its own "White Paper" to address the problems of how to fly safely. Called the SAFE initiative, for "Strategic Aerial Firefighting Excellence," the plan calls for replacing the current heavy air-tanker fleet, but says that could take 10 years. Meanwhile, the initiative calls for better monitoring of aircraft structures and suggests that contractors will need a two- to three-fold increase in hourly rates to cover investments in new aircraft. According to the report, the current heavy air-tanker rate is approximately $4,000 per flying hour. At this rate for the current type of 1950s aircraft, it is possible to break even on the original air-tanker investment within three years. However, if the contractor was required to acquire an ex-USN S-3 aircraft the break-even point goes to 14.1 years. For a newer type C-130E or P-3C turboprop aircraft, the break-even point goes way beyond 20 years.

Livermore Airport Expansion Up Against Opposition

It's a classic, if sad, tale of airports in America: Livermore Municipal Airport in northern California, about an hour east of San Francisco, was built in the wide-open spaces of the valley back in 1965. Popular with pilots, the airport today is bursting at the seams, with 180 names on a waiting list for hangar space. But the once-open spaces now are packed full with housing developments, and the neighbors not only oppose expansion, they want the airport and its noise gone altogether. The debate has reached the status of a "feud," according to the Oakland Tribune, which reported Tuesday that the two camps respond with distrust and derision to each other's comments at public hearings. At a recent meeting, Craig Sjoberg said he's been flying out of the Livermore airport for 18 years. "The airport has been there a long time," he said. "It's a safe airport." But a Pleasanton planning commissioner said that "not all of the pilots who fly out of Livermore are nice guys." Another official who lives near the field said some airplanes fly too low: "There are times when I think I can see the eyes of the pilots ... when they come in." Two years ago, jet pilots were asked to honor a voluntary curfew that prohibits use of the airport between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Hundreds of residents have crowded recent meetings about an expansion proposal that would lengthen runways and add hangar space. A planning commission meeting on the issue held last night was expected to draw so many people that the venue had to be changed from the City Council chambers to an auditorium.

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Watch For Quick-Sprouting Campaign TFRs

Just when you thought TFRs couldn't get any messier, the presidential campaign season heats up along with the summer weather. This week, President Bush and friends are on a bus trip through the Midwest, so watch for complex and quick-changing TFRs as the motorcade swings into Iowa and Wisconsin tomorrow. To help avoid those unsettling stares from F-16 pilots off your wingtip, EAA, AOPA and AeroPlanner offer online flight planning for their members, and the FAA has bundled all its TFR notices onto one handy page. Check early and late and often, is the universal advice. "Because of the fluid nature of a campaign tour and the possibility of extremely short-notice changes," advises AOPA, "pilots are strongly urged to check NOTAMs at the last possible moment before departure."

Silly Pilot Tricks, Part ... (We've Lost Count)

It must be something in the air, but this week brought in a slew of reports about pilots giving in to temptation -- doing things that are enticing, but forbidden. In Australia on Saturday, a sightseeing pilot flew her two-seat Skyfox Gazelle underneath the Sydney Harbour Bridge, a no-no, and now faces up to two years in jail. In Saginaw, Mich., a school principal was mortified on Friday when two helicopters landed in his schoolyard without warning -- apparently carrying real-estate developers checking out some nearby property. And in Gilbert, Ariz., a homeowner is indignant that a neighbor is flying his helicopter regularly from his backyard -- but nobody else seems to care. "Apparently nobody is concerned about people flying in and out of residential neighborhoods, which beats the heck out of me," Gilbert resident Sue Grace told The Arizona Republic. "It's not fair. I didn't buy property anywhere near an airport." Grace has complained for over a month to her homeowners' association, to local authorities and to the FAA, but so far to no avail -- it seems this is one temptation that nobody thought to write a rule against. At least not yet.

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On The Fly...

EAA's Boeing B-17 bomber "Aluminum Overcast," currently touring the West Coast, was damaged Wednesday when its landing gear collapsed following its arrival at the Van Nuys, Calif., airport. There were no injuries to any of the 10 people on board, including two B-17 pilots, two EAA mechanics and six other passengers...

Various news sources have posted video of a news helicopter as it crashed Tuesday onto a Brooklyn, N.Y., rooftop . All three occupants survived. Check here, here, or here for streaming video. (These videos are not on AVweb's server, so we won't be able to help you if the links work less than perfectly)...

Delta Air Lines to recall 1,000 pilots from furlough in response to rising passenger traffic...

Qantas passenger found a 1.5-inch whistling tree frog stowed away in salad greens...

A Malaysian-born pilot for Singapore Airlines was fired from his job and banished from the country after leading a protest against a union deal that slashed wages and laid off workers...

Pratt & Whitney Canada yesterday announced it has completed the first run of its new PW610F turbine engine, which will power the Eclipse 500...

Retired astronaut Robert "Hoot" Gibson (unofficially) broke a 20-year-old 100k-closed-circuit speed record last Wednesday, flying a 100-hp Gibson Cassutt racer at an average speed of 238.14 mph...

A Turbo Commander 840 used for drug-traffic surveillance by Mexico crashed on Sunday, killing all five narcotics agents and two pilots on board....

NORAD will conduct training flights in Washington, D.C., today, with fighter aircraft at low levels...

EAA's Southwest Regional Fly-In will hold its 40th annual event May 14-15 at New Braunfels Municipal Airport in Texas.

Business AVflash

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New Articles and Features on AVweb

AvGas vs. AutoGas
Wanna start an argument among other aircraft owners where passion will ring louder than logic? Either bring up lean-of-peak mixture settings or ask whether you should use autogas in your engine. John Ruley dissects the issues of autogas and introduces research (and problems) that didn't exist only a few decades ago.

What's New -- Products and Services
Each month, AVweb will bring you a quick survey of the latest products and services for pilots, mechanics and aircraft owners. This month we have a voice checklist, camera fittings, aviation humor books and more. In some cases, AVweb has actually examined the product; in other cases, we are just letting you know it exists. If you know of a new product or service other AVweb readers should hear about, please send us a note.

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AVweb's Question of the Week ...


Last week, AVweb asked readers what they thought of the new Boeing 7E7.  Interestingly enough, this was the most evenly split poll AVweb has run in 2004!  Your responses were split almost evenly across all five responses, with a very slight lead (26%) for (you guessed it) our median response — "The idea behind this jet, whether or not it's successful, proves that Boeing is still a leader and innovator in the big commercial jet game."  Apparently AVweb is one very diverse, bell-shaped curve full of level-headed aviators and enthusiasts!


This week, AVweb wants to know what you think about that ever-popular LASIK eye surgery.  Grab your reading glasses and click here to tell us what you think.

Have an idea for a new QOTW? Send your suggestions to

Note: This address is only for suggested QOTW questions, and not for QOTW answers.

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AVweb's Picture of the Week ...

Submit a Photo | Rules | Tips | Questions

Current POTW Winner | Past POTW Winners

More amazing photos continue to roll in from AVweb readers!  (Quite a few of you had your cameras at Sun 'n Fun, didn't you?)  This week's "POTW" selections range from triumph (the SnF 2004 balloon race) to tragedy (a tornado) — but when all was said and done, David Collier of Indianapolis walked away with this week's winning baseball cap.  Or flew away with it, as the case may be.  In an RV-8.  Enjoy this week's photos, and don't forget to send us more!

Due to privacy issues, AVweb does not publish e-mail addresses of readers who submit photos.



Martin Fall pilots his RV-8 over the Indiana countryside
in this outstanding photo from David Collier of Indianapolis

Click here to view a large version of this image
Click here for a medium-sized version

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.

"Oops, Forgot the Tie-Downs"
Fredrik Wagbrant of Antananarivo, Madagascar
shows us what can happen when you don't secure your plane during a cyclone

"And They're Off!"
Elmer Webster of Anchorage, Alaska snapped this shot in the warm
environs of Florida, at the start of the 2004 Sun 'n Fun Balloon Race

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.

Sponsor News and Special Offers

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Today's issue written by News Writer Mary Grady:
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