AVwebFlash - Volume 18, Number 51a

December 17, 2012

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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AVflash! Getting Ahead of the Pilot Shortage back to top 

Pilot Shortage Study Urged

A blue-chip organization of industry groups and businesses has collectively asked that the Government Accountability Office be directed to study what many regard as a serious looming pilot shortage. The group says a confluence of factors appears to be lining up that will make pilots in short supply. It wants the GAO to determine if a shortage actually will occur and, if so, study the mechanics of the shortage and estimate its impact not only on the aviation industry but the economy as a whole. "It is hoped that such a study will shed some light on this potentially devastating issue that can be considered by congressional leaders to better understand the extent of the problem as well as the potential ramifications to the industry, service to cities and jobs," the request, directed at the House Subcommittee on Aviation, says.

The stakeholders' group, which represents a Who's Who of aviation executives, clearly thinks the coming shortage is real. A retirement bubble, which encompasses those who extended their careers thanks to a 2007 law that pushed the airline pilot retirement age to 65, has now run its course and retirement rates are expected to accelerate. At the same time, student pilot starts are dropping, the military is cutting back on the number of pilots it trains and a new law has mandated that the FAA require all Part 121 pilots to have an air transport pilot (ATP) certificate. The group has laid out a multi-point outline of the questions and answers it's hoping the study will consider. "[The stakeholders] agree that an independent study, conducted by the GAO, could provide a better understanding of the potential for a shortage of pilots, the subsequent economic impact, the loss of service and jobs, and provide insight into opportunities that may mitigate these consequences."

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Aviation Safety back to top 

FAA Action On Regional Jet Engine Fires

A bleed valve installation on some 300 General Electric turbofans powering Bombardier CRJ700/900 and Embraer 170/175 regional jets has caused two engine fires, prompting an Airworthiness Directive (AD) Thursday. The offending part is a specific operability bleed valve installed on certain GE CF34-8C and CF34-8E series turbofan engines. Failure of the valve ring lock fuel fittings can cause fuel leaks in the engine and uncontrolled fire resulting in damage to the aircraft. Of three failures reported, all occurred in CF34-8C engines and two led to fires without injury. The FAA estimates fleet-wide repair costs to total more than $7 million.

The FAA estimates the proposed AD will affect 300 engines flying on airplanes registered in the U.S. The agency estimates corrective actions detailed by the AD to take two hours at a labor rate of $85 per hour using $25,000 worth of parts per engine. The FAA is seeking comments with 60 days. The offending valve that is the subject of the AD apparently becomes flawed over time. Of the two fires caused by the valve's failure, one occurred on takeoff. The crew responded in that case by shutting down the engine and activating fire-extinguishing systems before landing safely. Another fire occurred after landing. In that case, the crew shut off fuel to the engine and taxied safely to the gate. In both cases the aircraft suffered fire damage. Compliance with the AD will require operators to remove the specific valve from service before it acquires 12,000 hours in service since new, or within four years of the AD, whichever comes first. For more details and to comment on the proposed AD, click here.

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Looking at Straps on Beacons back to top 

FAA Acts On ELT Straps

The FAA has banned the use of Velcro-type straps to secure emergency locator transmitters designed and built after Nov. 26 of this year. The new rule came two years after a high-profile crash that killed Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens and four others. The ELT aboard the Otter they were on came loose on impact and detached from the antenna. Rescuers found it on the floor in the back of plane, activated but unable to transmit because it wasn't connected to the antenna. "In this case, the airplane was equipped with a functioning 406 megahertz ELT, which can be a tremendous aid to search and rescue operations," NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman said following the board's preliminary investigation. "But this vital life-saving technology won't do anyone any good if it doesn't stay connected to the antenna." The NTSB recommended the FAA review the safety standards for ELT straps and this TSO may have been the result.

ELTs approved before the new TSO can continue to be manufactured with Velcro and the FAA is not requiring aircraft owners to retrofit their ELTs, but the CEO of at least one ELT manufacturer says that given the FAA's position it's something that might be a future option. Mike Akatiff of ACK Avionics said in a podcast interview he's hoping an inexpensive retrofit can be designed and approved. The new FAA rules also require 406 MHz ELTs to have a 121.5 MHz homing signal built in to further aid searchers. He said the 406 signal received by search and rescue satellites directs searchers to the immediate vicinity of the crash site and the homing signal can lead them right to the precise location. Akatiff said he also hopes the fresh look at ELTs by the FAA will revive the discussion on mandatory equipage with 406 devices, something AOPA has successfully managed to prevent so far. He said there is no question among search and rescue, military and first responders that 406 is a vastly superior technology to 121.5, and the cost of the ELTs has dropped to less than $1,000 for most new models.

Podcast: ELTs Examined

File Size 7.8 MB / Running Time 8:30

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The FAA has banned the future use of Velcro-type fasteners for ELTs in light of the investigation into the 2010 crash that killed Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens and four others. There are other issues surrounding the boxes we all have to keep in our aircraft, however, and AVweb's Russ Niles spoke with ACK Avionics CEO Mike Akatiff.

This podcast is brought to you by Bose Corporation.

Click here to listen. (7.8 MB, 8:30)

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Countdown to Oshkosh back to top 

Synergy Efficient Aircraft Ready For OSH?

John McGinnis' grass-roots Synergy five-place efficient aircraft project has attracted critical attention as well as tens of thousands of donated dollars, and now a flying prototype may be coming to AirVenture 2013, but challenges remain. McGinnis told AVweb Thursday that his successful kickstarter.com campaign had attracted about $80,000 to the project. It was "a huge amount of money" that he interpreted as "a mandate from the public," he said. But it was also a small step for a project that McGinnis hopes to ultimately guide to certification. McGinnis is currently optimistic that his current pace could deliver to AirVenture Oshkosh 2013 a flying proof-of-concept prototype that will conclusively demonstrate the "stellar performance for this configuration." But there are many potential bottlenecks in the way.

"There's only about 4,000 things left that could derail the project (before it gets to Oshkosh)," McGinnis said, "but that's small relative to what we've been through." McGinnis says that if the aircraft isn't complete by the time Oshkosh comes around, "there really won't be much point in going." So far, public displays of the Synergy concept have generated public interest and support and McGinnis is grateful for that.

However, catering to that interest, which arrives as phone calls, emails and comments on the project's Facebook page, distracts McGinnis from actual work on the aircraft. And he is working with limited personnel. "It really is a double-edged sword," he says. McGinnis says he knows he's fortunate for the attention, but it does present challenges. The kickstarter.com campaign has added to the mix of actual progress on the aircraft and other work. "It's been attracting a lot of talent," says McGinnis. "We've had interest from MBAs from MIT and there's international interest." However, "Verbal enthusiasm is great, but ultimately we need people here, consistently, and getting their hands dirty."

The Synergy design combines several aerodynamic principles in an effort to create an aircraft that performs better across a broader performance envelope. McGinnis says he's very confident his design does that, but he and his supporters are waiting for a flying example to prove it. Click here for our April 13, 2012 podcast with McGinnis describing the aircraft.

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Nail-Biting Landing Video back to top 

Dropping In To The Airport

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Drop zone pilots often pride themselves in rapid turnaround times but this guy takes it to a new level. In this undated LiveLeak video the unidentified pilot takes about two minutes to get from what looks like a minimum of 12,000 feet to the runway centerline. We'll let the video do the talking for how he accomplishes that. If you're in a rush, skip ahead to about the two-minute mark to see how it all ends up.

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Opinion & Commentary back to top 

AVweb Insider Blog: Fly-by-Wire Fantasies

When Boeing built the last B-52H in 1962, they couldn't have imagined the design would still be in service nearly 100 years after it first appeared. On the AVweb Insider blog, Paul Bertorelli wonders if experiencing the same lack of imagination when playing it forward to technologies like fly-by-wire controls that might open up entirely new designs for general aviation. Or maybe it's just easier not to think about it and be happy with what we've got.

Read more and join the conversation.

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Reader Mail back to top 

AVmail: December 17, 2012

Each week, we run a sampling of the letters received to our editorial inbox here in AVmail. One letter that's particularly relevant, informative, or otherwise compelling will headline this section as our "Letter of the Week," and we'll send the author an official AVweb baseball cap as a "thank you" for interacting with us (and the rest of our readership). Send us your comments and questions using this form. Please include your mailing address in your e-mail (just in case your letter is our "Letter of the Week"); by the same token, please let us know if your message is not intended for publication.

Letter of the Week: Plenty of Pilots, Not Enough Money

I almost laughed at the article to get the GAO involved in the alleged pilot shortage. This would be nothing but another attempt by the airlines to ensure they can get new pilots and pay them the slave wages they do now.

If salaries were liveable and not below poverty level, the airlines would have no problem getting the pilots they need. In the U.S., there never has been, is not now, and never will be a shortage of pilots — only pilots willing to work for nothing. It is time to let the free market dictate whether there is a pilot shortage or not.

If the airlines cannot afford to pay pilots a reasonable wage, then let them go out of business so that someone who actually knows how to run a profitable airline can do so. This would also mean the days of $99 fares from New York to Florida will be over, since that is not a money-making fare. What should be changed are the bankruptcy laws so there would be a limit to how many times Chapter 11 can be used to stay in business. It should be only once, since if you need to go bankrupt again you should be liquidated.

And yes, I am a professional pilot who has been through a pay cut and a lay-off.

Matthew Wagner

I read your article with great interest. During my nearly half-a-century life in commercial aviation, I have repeatedly heard of several looming pilot shortages but never saw one.

Perhaps this time it might be real! Only because pilots have finally realized investing a couple of hundred grand in order to make less than food-stamp wages is a stupid economical decision.

As you know, [the] military is no longer producing and endless supply of trained pilots, the source that was available in ample supply during my generation. With $8 avgas, private training has become cost-prohibitive.

Most of us endured the loans, the starvation wages, and the hazing because we were promised a rainbow at the end. We did see some "blue skies" a few decades back, but as of late the dark clouds and storms have destroyed this profession.

The airlines will never have to face a pilot shortage if they decide this profession is worth more than minimum wage!

Captain Ross "Rusty" Aimer

Environmental Storm

Your "Question of the Week," which at first blush seemed simple and straightforward, became muddled when I started to point my cursor to the list of provided answers.

The associated story is about commercial (and military?) traffic above the Arctic, yet the question seems targeted at my personal flying. My answer is different based upon that viewpoint.

My personal flying in my 1976 Rockwell Commander 114, with its IO-540 gas piston engine, has a minimal effect on the environment, leaded gas and all. I would go so far as to state categorically that all the hours flown in type are truly insignificant to anyone except an environmental extremist. At least, that is my opinion.

Further, the whole GA piston fleet pretty much falls into that same level of impact. There simply aren't enough of us flying enough hours to make a noticeable impact.

Commercial turbine traffic, on the other hand, is a whole different story. I like the video AVweb showed that compressed arrivals at Lindbergh Field in San Diego into 25 seconds. Yes, commercial traffic puts a truly huge amount of particulates and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere every day.

So, do we need commercial aviation? Yes, we do. Does that give the aviation industry a free pass environmentally? No.

So, to answer your question:

My flying in GA is such a small contributor to pollution that it's insignificant. As for commercial air travel: It needs to step up with new technology and a will to lessen its environmental impact.

Jim McDuffie

Give me a break! Why did you not ask the most basic question: Do you think mankind is responsible for any part of climate change (formerly known by the discredited name "global warming")? We know that the Earth's climate is and always has been in a state of flux. Despite mountains of hype and hyperbole, science has not and probably cannot determine with any certainty whether man has or even can have influence on the changes we see in our weather each and every day. So, editors, why was this option not a part of your survey?

Bob Greene

AVweb Replies:

We received many letters (lots in capital letters) in this vein from readers, but this was one we could actually use. And no, AVweb is not part of some sort of environmentalist conspiracy to destroy aviation. Ahem.

Russ Niles

I think we are dragging our feet on the move away from leaded fuel, but I'm more concerned with the quantity used, and its impact on our finite supply of fossil fuel. Personally, I have downsized from a Skylane to a Champ because my flying is purely recreational. I also drive a plug-in Prius for the same reason.

Richard Dopp

Experimental Instruction

You wrote that "EAA published a list of CFIs authorized to offer training in experimental aircraft." That is incorrect. Anyone holding a CFI certificate can already teach in experimental aircraft. No special authorization is required.

What the EAA did publish was a list of individuals authorized to operate their own experimental aircraft for hire for the purposes of type-specific training.

There's a huge difference there. For years I've been doing a lot of experimental transition training. But I do not own an E-AB aircraft, so my name does not appear on that list since I have nothing to rent to students. They simply provide their own aircraft for use during the training.

Your article is phrased in such a way that it implies individuals not on that list are not authorized to provide E-AB transition training.

Ron Rapp

Read AVmail from other weeks here, and submit your own Letter to the Editor with this form.

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

Video: FK's Comet Biplane

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

FK Lightplanes has significant presence in Europe but almost none in the U.S. They'd like to change that with a sporty little aerobatic biplane called the FK-12 Comet. Right now, it's got a Rotax 912, but it will soon have a fully aerobatic Lycoming AEIO-233, making it one of only a couple of light sports approved for aerobatics and the only biplane. AVweb recently took a spin in the Comet with Hansen Air Group's Mitch Hansen. Here's a video report.

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

Survey: Are You Flying with a Garmin GTN Navigator?

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Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Cook Aviation (KBMG, Bloomington, Indiana)

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

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Cook Aviation at Monroe County Airport (KBMG) in Bloomington, Indiana.

AVweb reader Paul Johnson told us about Cook recently and how they've worked with him to make some memorable visits:

As a student pilot, I've had the pleasure of visiting Cook Aviation twice on cross-country flights. My daughter and grandson live in Bloomington, so it's an added benefit to visit them. Both times, the folks at Cook have been extremely friendly and helpful. The first time, they loaned us a very nice Cadillac, and more recently [they] offered me a newer SUV.

On my last visit, I had hoped to have my grandson and a couple of his playmates meet us at the airport to see Grandpa's plane. I called Cook to see if that would be a problem and was assured that they would work with us to have our group of toddlers visit safely. They followed through, and the kids had a blast. I earned some "cool grandpa" points with that vist, along with my solo cross-country check-off.

To top it off, their fuel prices are much less than home. There's no question that when we come back to Bloomington to visit, we'll be coming back to Cook. And did I mention the fresh baked cookies?

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!

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The Lighter Side of Flight back to top 

Short Final

This happened about 40 years ago. We had just had a snow storm at the airport I worked at, which was serviced by a commuter airline flying Twin Otters. It was near Christmas, and as the plane took the runway, the pilot announced over the unicom:

"Air North flight XXX is dashing through the snow, runway 23."

Denis Arquette
via e-mail

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.

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Names Behind the News back to top 

Meet the AVwebFlash Team

AVwebFlash is a twice-weekly summary of the latest news, articles, products, features, and events featured on AVweb, the world's premier independent aviation news resource.

The AVwebFlash team is:

Tom Bliss

Editorial Director, Aviation Publications
Paul Bertorelli

Russ Niles

Scott Simmons

Contributing Editors
Mary Grady
Glenn Pew

Kevin Lane-Cummings

Ad Coordinator
Karen Lund

Avionics Editor
Larry Anglisano

Have a product or service to advertise on AVweb? Your advertising can reach over 225,000 loyal AVwebFlash, AVwebBiz, and AVweb home page readers every week. Over 80% of our readers are active pilots and aircraft owners. That's why our advertisers grow with us, year after year. For ad rates and scheduling, click here or contact Tom Bliss, via e-mail or via telephone [(480) 525-7481].

Click here to send a letter to the editor. (Please let us know if your letter is not intended for publication.)

Comments or questions about the news should be sent here.

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