May 9, 2004
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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In January 2004, the FAA told AVweb a third-party appeal process (to an Administrative Law Judge) had been implemented, but now the entire rule that granted the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) the right to pull your certificate has been suspended, AOPA says. ... Suspended until the TSA develops procedures to allow pilots due process. The rule, implemented in January 2003, granted the TSA the authority to direct the FAA to revoke a pilot's certificate based on the TSA's belief that the pilot posed a vaguely defined national security threat. The targeted pilot might not see the evidence gathered to make that determination, and was (until January 2004) able to appeal only to the TSA, the same organization that determined in the first place that they should not be allowed to fly. The forthcoming changes won't save you from wandering into a moving TFR (beware: if it's Monday or Tuesday, it must be Maine and Arkansas) or what happens to you once you have strayed, but we doubt anyone's complaining. AOPA opposed the rule, and after lengthy and intense lobbying on Capitol Hill and in the halls of the TSA, prevailed on clearer minds. "While AOPA fully supports the goal of combating terrorism and has worked closely with TSA in this effort," wrote AOPA President Phil Boyer early on in the fight, "this should not result in undermining one of the most foundational elements of the nation by suspending the rights of U.S. citizens who hold pilot certificates to 'due process.'" Even though the rule is currently suspended, it is not gone.
While the TSA haggles with that pesky due process, pilots are still trying to keep their noses clean and their tickets clear by staying away from the Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) warning areas. Those moving plots of no-pilot's-airspace seem to be popping up all too frequently (and even more often as the presidential campaign wears on). According to the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), more than 3,000 TFRs have been issued in the period from September 11, 2001, through March 2004. The NBAA puts the price tag of the TFRs and closure of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Washington to general aviation at $43 million per month in productivity, jobs and revenue. The restrictions are especially onerous to the NBAA, the organization that promotes the beauty of the business applications of GA, by essentially "defeating the purpose of having a business aircraft," says the association's director of air traffic services. NBAA is not (at all) alone in its concerns. Many wonder aloud at the usefulness of the restrictions. "The terrorist is not going to obey the no-fly zone," president of the National Air Transportation Association, James Coyne, told the Newhouse News Service. "He is the last person on the planet to give a damn."
GENERAL AVIATION WELCOMES ZULUWORKS
Aero Advantage of Granbury, Texas, has stopped production and closed its doors after the discovery that both pumps in its Dual Rotor Vacuum Pump can -- and have -- failed simultaneously. According to a notice posted on the Aero Advantage Web site, company President David Boldenow says the failures are concentrated among 300-hp Lycoming IO-540 engines, which the company believes generate a "resonant frequency resulting in the breakage of both graphite rods." Though the failure rate as tracked by Aero Advantage is just 3%, Boldenow says the number is unacceptably high. Vacuum pump shipments have been halted and orders on hand will not be filled. According to Boldenow's posted statement, the changes needed to improve the reliability of the vacuum pump may already be in place, but the company is not in a position to survive the expected three- to nine-month down time for implementation. Boldenow says there are several interested parties considering making the safety changes and marketing the pumps once again. Aero Advantage was started by Boldenow five years ago as a way to improve pilot safety in instrument conditions by offering a redundant vacuum source within one unit. The Dual Rotor Vacuum Pump contains two pumping chambers that operate independently of each other. Boldenow says the way the pump was supposed to work was that if one chamber failed the other would supply enough suction to operate the gyroscopic instruments.
Aero Advantage is NOT included in this warning, but our friendly feds continue to caution that there are a whole lot of unapproved parts floating around in the airplane universe. They range from engines to altimeters to just improper maintenance. If you suspect you might have gotten hold of a part that is not all it was claimed to be, the FAA asks that you let them know so that they can check it out and warn others. To find out which companies hold the Parts Manufacturer Approvals (PMAs) on different parts, the FAA has put together a handy listing that breaks them down by type.
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By July 4 of this year, Evergreen International Aviation hopes to gain independence from firefighting the old-fashioned way. The McMinnville, Oregon-based company is working with the FAA to obtain certification for Evergreen "Supertankers") -- retrofit Boeing 747s capable of carrying 24,000 gallons of fire retardant each. Supertanker spokesman Justin Marchand tells AVweb the flight-test aircraft has made more than 50 flights and 82 drops and carried 536,000 gallons -- 4.5 million pounds -- of retardant. Why a 747? "I like the analogy 'why send in a single soldier when you can send in the army,'" says Marchand. This aircraft is going to be very effective in its mission." As AVweb reported last week, a plan called the Strategic Aerial Firefighting Excellence (SAFE) Initiative has already called for the replacement of the current aging heavy air-tanker fleet over the next ten years.
Consider that an Evergreen Supertanker will carry in one load what it would take seven other firefighting planes to haul, and it will be able to get to the fire clipping along at Mach .86 (near 600 mph). Each Supertanker will carry 24,000 gallons of flame retardant, which weighs 9 pounds per gallon. That's 216,000 pounds of material that will be leaving the plane in eight seconds. That would be an interesting ride. Or maybe not. According to Marchand, data collected so far and borne out by the flight tests shows only a "negligible" g-loading (or un-loading?) when a drop is made. "Since it is a fully pressurized system, you can't even tell [when a drop is made] from a cockpit aspect," says Marchand. Neither does hauling such a big load put the jumbo on the cusp of weight problems. Even fully loaded, the 747 is still 150,000 pounds shy of its max takeoff weight. AVweb was contacted by a reader who told us an announcement was made to local pilots that one of the Supertankers would be based at the Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, this summer. Marchand says no decision has yet been made on aircraft placement, but that Evergreen plans to have a "fleet" of Supertankers once certification is received. One thing seems certain. With drought and fire already causing problems in the western U.S., the 747 will likely see a lot of action, and its nickname could change from "jumbo" to "cavalry."
A BRAND NEW AIRCRAFT FOR THE COST OF A SECOND CAR!
Information provided to the commission investigating the U.S. government's response to terrorist threats prior to September 11, 2001, names an FAA quality manager in the destruction of an audiotape made in the aftermath of the 9/11 hijackings. Each of at least six air traffic controllers and some ten other employees who were on the job at the New York Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) in Ronkonkoma, N.Y., during the World Trade Center attacks gathered several hours after to recall their version of events. But that tape, which could have helped determine how the agency responded to clues that four planes had been hijacked, was destroyed before it was ever heard. In fact, officials at the ARTCC were never even told of the tape's existence. According to the report given to the 9/11 Commission by Department of Transportation Inspector General Kenneth Mead, the audiotape was crushed in the hand of the unnamed FAA employee, then cut into small pieces and tossed into different trash cans around the ARTCC building. Despite the fact that the quality assurance officer had been told to retain all records pertaining to 9/11, he told inspector general investigators he destroyed the tape because he felt making it was contrary to FAA policy, which calls for written statements. He is also quoted to have said the controllers "were not in the correct frame of mind to have properly consented to the taping" because of the stress of the day, and told investigators that faced with a similar situation, he would repeat his actions.
Inspector General Mead told the 9/11 commission the employee showed "poor judgment," and in calling for administrative action, said the employee's attitude about the destruction was "especially troubling." The FAA confirms disciplinary action has been taken against the employee, but will not say what that action was, or identify the employee. Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) says the matter could be investigated further.
An apparent false report of a swimmer in distress proves once again that closing Chicago's beloved lakefront airport was a singularly boneheaded move, according to the group Friends of Meigs. On April 25, Chicago 911 received a call of a person in trouble on a north-side beach. Emergency crews were dispatched, including a helicopter with diver. Prior to the closure of Meigs Field, emergency crews were stationed at the Meigs Fire Station, but that station closed when the field did. Though city officials promised that the closure would increase response time by only one to two minutes, Friends say the false alarm showed it would be much more. Members of the Friends say the closure of the field was done with no regard for public safety and the 911 response proves it. Linda Ptack, president of the Illinois Association of Air and Critical Care Transport, echoes those fears, confirming that the closure of Meigs has "significantly impacted" air medical operations in the city of Chicago. Ptack says the loss of Meigs means air medical programs are now forced to travel farther and land at Midway, O'Hare, or the few privately owned helipads.
DON'T BUY A NEW AIRCRAFT WITHOUT CHECKING WITH CS&A'S INSURANCE PROS!
Citizens of Toulouse, France, and European aircraft maker Airbus celebrated as a "gigantic" new assembly line for the new super-jumbo A380 was unveiled to acclaim and many other fine adjectives last week. Airbus, the consortium of European companies, has (according to the numbers) displaced Boeing as the world's leading producer of commercial aircraft. That sits very poorly with Washington Sen. Patty Murray, who railed against U.S. inaction during comments Thursday on the Senate floor. Murray, who is up for re-election this year, says Europe is engaging in unfair trade practices that are resulting in the "subsidized slaughter" of American companies. She is calling for the creation of a congressional committee on aerospace competitiveness to help promote Boeing in the face of a "creaming" by Airbus. Neither Airbus nor Boeing had any reaction to Sen. Murray's remarks.
We told you last week about damage suffered when the EAA's B-17 "Aluminum Overcast" belly-flopped after folding its mains on a landing May 5 at the Van Nuys, Calif., airport. Now you can see what happened. Video obtained by KCBS-TV in Los Angeles shows that the B-17 went down hard when both of its mains gave way after what seemed to be an uneventful landing roll. The EAA's Dick Knapinski tells AVweb the plane's 2004 plans, including the "Salute to Veterans" tour, have been put on indefinite hold. Knapinski says the extent of damage still isn't known, but the goal is to get the WWII-era plane in such shape that it can be ferried back to Oshkosh for repairs. Knapinski says Aluminum Overcast showed no sign of gear problems in the first month of its tour, and during the off-season of December through early March, it went through its annual tip-to-stern check. Knapinski says the outpouring of support shows just how popular the old warhorse is. Hundreds of calls and e-mails have flooded in from EAA chapters offering to travel to Van Nuys to help, West Coast avionics shops offering free repairs, and warbird buffs offering monetary donations. The B-17 is insured, but Knapinski says any cash donations are welcome and will be used to ensure that Aluminum Overcast, one of just twelve B-17s currently flying in the world, continues to do so.
DOC BLUE'S EMERGENCY MEDICAL KIT DON'T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT IT!
Just how many times can one company file for bankruptcy? We may find out with US Airways. US Airways Group Inc. says it is considering yet another filing to reduce costs by at least 25%, to better position itself to compete with the low-cost carriers. US Airways emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March of 2003, and has not made a profit since. First-quarter losses were $177 million. During the initial bankruptcy, the airline cut about $1.9 billion in costs, the bulk of which came from employee pay and benefits. US Airways is under tremendous pressure to trim costs. Yesterday, it started flying head-to-head against Southwest out of its profitable Philadelphia hub. Without cost cuts and profits proved, it also risks defaulting on its agreement with the federal Air Transportation Stabilization Board, which backed $900 million of US Airways' post-bankruptcy financing.
The National Transportation Safety Board has released information that provides disturbing details of the fatal crash of a Hawker Hunter T MK 7 being ferried last July 22 for the Northern Lights Aerobatic team. Pilot Thomas Benton Delashaw of Conroe, Texas, was killed less than a mile from the runway after taking off from the Wilkes Barre/Scranton (Penn.) International Airport in VFR conditions. The NTSB report includes facts about an engine swap-out the week before the fatal accident, and the mechanic's warnings that the newly installed engine wasn't running correctly. "According to the A&P mechanic who oversaw and supervised the engine change," reads the NTSB report, "he did not sign off any maintenance records to return the airplane to an airworthy status." The unnamed mechanic went on to describe two engine acceleration tests that the aircraft failed. Other testimony told of multiple aborted takeoffs in the days leading up to the fatal crash. Testing at the crash site also revealed what appeared to be water in the fuel.
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Talk about a break with the past. The Italian government last week fired the entire board of Alitalia in order to find private investors to pump up the languishing airline. The government, which owns 62% of the company, also fired CEO Marco Zanichelli, who had been in the job for less than three months. Talk of bankruptcy caused stock prices to drop more than 12 percent, but on news of the changes, prices jumped 20 percent. Just how bad are things? Even before a series of strikes last week that grounded 1,500 flights, the airline was losing 50,000 Euros ($59,000 USD) an hour. Alitalia hasn't made an operating profit since 1998. The Italian government believes new CEO Giancarlo Cimoli is the person who can reverse Alitalia's dark plunge. Cimoli is well-respected as the man who turned around Italy's state-run railway system, but he has a lot on his plate. He will be responsible for coming up with a plan of action ... the fourth plan in three years. That plan will need to come soon and work well.
Magnetos, that is. Our sister publication Aviation Consumer is seeking owner feedback on these two magneto types for an upcoming article. Contact the editor directly to comment.
Mooney Aerospace Group Ltd (MASG) says an arbitration decision awarding $23.9-plus million to AP Long Beach Airport LLC is not binding and will ultimately be decided by a jury. The case went to arbitration after MASG terminated its lease at the Long Beach airport. Mooney believes that California law allows jury trials while separately seeking arbitration...
Crew error is blamed in the crash of Beechcraft King Air 200 that killed Macedonia's president, six associates and the two pilots, according to a report issued by Bosnian, Macedonian, U.S. and NATO investigators. The report says the aircraft was functioning normally prior to the Feb. 26 crash, but the crew made "procedural mistakes" on their approach to the Mostar Airport. The plane crashed into a hill in heavy fog about five miles from the airport...
You only think your backside gets tired on commercial flights now. Starting June 28, Singapore Airlines will offer the longest nonstop commercial flight ever, an 18-hour flying marathon between Singapore and Los Angeles! They're doing it because they can, and because the nonstop flight saves both time (four hours) and money that they aren't having to pay another airport...
A multimillion-dollar donation by venture capital entrepreneurs Anousheh and Amir Ansari has changed the name of the X PRIZE to the ANSARI X PRIZE. $10 million will be awarded to the first private organization to build and fly a ship that carries three passengers 62 miles into space, returns safely, and does it all again with the same ship two weeks later...
Actor/pilot Dennis Quaid will emcee the National Aviation Hall of Fame enshrinement event in Dayton, Ohio, July 17. Quaid, who starred in the 1983 movie, "The Right Stuff," will help honor the '04 Hall of Fame class, one of whom is an Apollo astronaut...
Leave it to British bookies, who will encourage wagers on just about anything. The group gamebookers will allow you to make a number of bets on budget airline Ryanair and CEO Michael O'Leary. You can bet on whether O'Leary will stick with the company, be honored by the queen, or run for president of Ireland ... or wager whether the airline will make its first trans-Atlantic flight this year.
LONGER DAYS AND WARMER WEATHER MEAN IT'S TIME TO GO FLYING!
Reader mail this week about Northwest Airlines vs. GA, FSS privatization, autogas vs. avgas and much more.
CEO of the Cockpit #32: Great Expectations
We all assumed technology would make life easier and safer; and save time and paper. Nice try. Welcome to the hurry-up-and-wait world with bugs in the software, reams of computer printouts, and people who couldn't calculate a weight-and-balance to save their life (and wouldn't have pencil and paper to do it anyway). AVweb's CEO of the Cockpit wants his slide rule back.
RAVE REVIEWS FOR MIKE BUSCH'S SAVVY OWNER SEMINAR
From our "Finer Points of Maintenance" file...
"Remember, you really only need two tools: WD-40 and duct tape. If it doesn't move and it should, use the WD-40. If it moves and it shouldn't, use the duct tape."
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PEARLS OF NIGHT IFR; VECTORS ARE NOT ENOUGH; FILING TIPS = GOOD FLIGHT
... are just some of the topics scheduled for the June issue of IFR Refresher magazine. If you fly IFR, IFR Refresher should be a part of your required reading. Order your personal subscription at http://www.avweb.com/sponsors/belvoir/ifrref/avflash.
PILOTS COMMENT AFTER READING IFR: A STRUCTURED APPROACH:
"The GPS chapter alone is worth getting the book. ... It's the best instrument flying book I have ever read," states Fred Scott; "If one book could help you make the leap from a bit player to a skilled conductor of instrument flight, this is probably it," reads a November 2003 AOPA Pilot review. With the help of this book, you will establish your own personal standard operating practices for IFR, including incorporation of checklists, flows, callouts, briefings, and the "fly by the numbers" method of aircraft control. For more information and to order, go to http://www.avweb.com/sponsors/skyroad/avflash.
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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