May 23, 2004
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Don't all volunteer at once. If your company builds the nut that goes onto the bolt that is screwed into the widget that eventually goes anywhere on a commercial jet, you could soon be subjected to the FAA's drug- and alcohol-testing program. And the costs, in dollars and hours, could be steeper than some want to pay. If the FAA pushes forward with its plan, the airlines will be affected to be sure, but so will general aviation. Aeronautical Repair Station Association (ARSA) Managing Director and General Counsel Marshall Filler says the FAA's plan has not considered the day-to-day practicalities. "They seem to be saying 'don't confuse us with the facts,'" Filler tells AVweb. The FAA fact thus far is this: Any shop of any type that even touches something that will eventually be used by a Part 121/135 aircraft MUST have an FAA-approved drug- and alcohol-testing program. The testing will extend to any tier of a maintenance contract, no matter how far down the ladder from the air carrier. Filler says that will be made even more difficult because there aren't enough inspectors to handle the current workload. ARSA fears that under the FAA proposal, a welding shop that welds for people both in and out of aviation but is not a certificated repair station might decide to just leave the industry rather than deal with the hassle of pre-hire and random drug checks and all the paperwork that will go with them. Multiply that one business by all those potentially affected and you see that what started as an airline-related safety rule could affect many others who fly.
It's not just the trickle-down that will ping general aviation. GA is directly affected by the inclusion of Part 135 in the proposal. Any businesses that do work for on-demand charter services are also included in the drug/alcohol rule. "This is additional regulation at a time when the industry can least afford it," bemoans Filler. "Everyone I've talked to is disappointed. All the FAA has done is basically reissue their first rule." After the rule was initially proposed in 2002, ARSA led a coalition of 14 members who spent months working with the feds to come up with something that balances safety and common sense. But the May 17 FAA Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (SNPRM) pulls all businesses up and down the line into the drug/alcohol testing fold. The FAA calls the SNPRM a simple clarification to what it had already ruled. ARSA and the others call it a big letdown, especially since they were hoping for a change. During the next 90 days, Filler and company will be working to get the FAA to clarify the clarification in a way ARSA and others hope is more acceptable to the industry.
A fatal accident in which the pilot tested positive for marijuana and alcohol has led Australian aviation authorities to consider different options for drug and alcohol testing. John Anderson, Minister for Transport and Regional Services, has ordered a study on testing that will include the impact on safety and the cost to the industry. The data-gathering will be handled by the Department of Transport and Regional Service and the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, and they are looking for input from pilots, charter operations, large and small airlines, air traffic controllers and others. Several issues will be addressed including whether the testing should be random or regular, who would do the testing, who would be tested and how much it would cost. The study should be in Anderson's hands by September 30 of this year.
BAKED FRESH DAILY!
In the past, getting a replacement certificate meant being grounded four to six weeks while awaiting the official paperwork in the mail. (The Feds remind us that it is illegal to fly without an airman certificate.) But if you're one of those unlucky sods who washed your airman certificate along with your last pair of jeans and now need a temporary replacement, rejoice! The agency has now set up an online service to send you a temporary certificate via fax or e-mail in hours or days instead of weeks or months. In addition, you can also request a permanent certificate and pay the whopping $2 fee for it online. FAA spokesman Roland Herwig tells AVweb that the agency typically processes about 50,000 applications for replacement certificates each year. However, in the last 10 or so months that has spiked to about 100,000 because pilots want the cool new laminated certificate with hologram introduced last year at Oshkosh. If pilots have a readable airman certificate but want the attractive new one, what should they do? "Just wait," says Herwig. "We're pretty swamped right now." He jokingly adds, "But I understand that none of the pilots sitting around the hangar talking want to be the last to get the new certificate." In addition to requesting a replacement certificate, pilots can also use the new online service to renew reserved "N" numbers, request copies of aircraft records, change addresses and report a change in gender. No, we are not kidding.
While you're online checking out the new airman certificate, or updating your gender, it would be a mighty good time to update your address, as well. If you have an old address in the database, the feds warn that you're in danger of losing your airplane's "N" number. The FAA says having accurate addresses is a safety issue, so pilots can get Airworthiness Directives and safety and maintenance information. Ah, but what about homeland security? "Let's just say that all modes of transportation have been impacted by security issues in the months since 9/11," FAA spokesman Roland Herwig confirms to AVweb. Those pilots at risk of losing their "N" numbers will be posted on the FAA Web site. The feds get the names from a twice-yearly comparison of the aircraft registration database to the National Change of Address database and other databases. If any pilot address changes are noted, they send out a letter asking for confirmation. No confirmation and your name may go on the FAA Web site.
Government entities, especially, know that anything that goes onto a Web site is fair game for hacker attack, either as a joke, to express a fit of political umbrage or to show off by exposing a weakness. Last Wednesday, 22-year-old Benjamin Stark pleaded guilty in federal court in Washington, D.C., to charges of hacking into eleven mostly governmental computer networks ... one of which was the FAA's. Stark and his partner in crime would find security flaws and instead of bringing them to the attention (quietly) of the agency or business, would adorn the site with an American flag, two handguns and the message "Tighten the security before a foreign attack forces you to." At the FAA, the target was a server with information about passenger screening at airports. The hackers managed to access from that server personal passport and social security information, which, like hackers will do, they then posted. In addition to all the not-for-profit hacking, Stark, according to a British Web site, The Register, also trafficked in stolen credit-card numbers. He was caught when he reportedly sold 447 of the stolen numbers to an undercover FBI agent for $250. Stark faces a likely prison term of 24 to 30 months.
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Saturday (according to a TFR issued May 20) saw the airspace around Austin (Texas) Bergstrom International Airport restricted for GA traffic and open for the president ... who showed up but then skipped the event he was in town to see. Alas, the Temporary Flight Restriction, which read in part, "AIRCRAFT FLIGHT OPERATIONS ARE PROHIBITED WITHIN 30 NMR UP TO BUT NOT INCLUDING FL1801" ... and then in part two... "ALL AIRCRAFT ENTERING OR EXITING THE 30 NMR TFR SHALL BE ON AN ACTIVE IFR OR VFR FLIGHT PLAN" was offered to the flying public regardless of (clarity or) presidential presence. The restrictions were intended to allow presidential access to the area relatively free from free-range light aircraft and allow the proud Bush parents to witness the graduation of daughter Jenna ... who also didn't show up. Consistency, at least. Perhaps some might claim that between the TFR's wording and its effective implementation in the president's absence (released two days prior, many pilots had already made other plans) there was shared logic -- neither one made all that much sense. And at least we can rest assured that when these restrictions do "successfully" go up, they at least clear the skies for the uninformed, the sinister-minded ... and the president.
If last week's news about the harassment suit filed by the Massachusetts group Stop the Noise made your blood run cold, you'd better fire up a heater before you read this. A group that has named itself Stop the Stunts seems to be taking its cue from Stop the Noise. The Mineral Point, Wis., group is complaining about two aerobatic pilots using a legal aerobatic box at the Iowa County Airport. According to an article in the Duluth News Tribune, the box was established in 2003, and the neighbors have been outraged ever since. They have since gotten U.S. Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) to represent their pain. Kind has lobbied the FAA successfully for a noise assessment. An FAA spokeswoman tells the newspaper the assessment will consider the impact of the noise on the residents and property, taking the altitude flown and type of aircraft into account.
But the "mission statement" on the Stop the Stunts Web site indicates the group may not really stop with "stunts." "It is our mission," it reads, "to restore peace and quiet to our lands and skies by empowering property owners and by restoring local control over the non-essential, recreational uses of the airspace, which is part of our lands." (Italics added by us.) Non-essential? Recreational? That hits pretty close to home for most general aviation pilots. Steve Cunningham of the General Aviation Legal Defense Fund warned last week that folks from Wisconsin had met with Stop the Noise. The question now could be, "Who's next?"
A BRAND NEW AIRCRAFT FOR THE COST OF A SECOND CAR!
If you're flying behind a prop that was worked on by the Southern California Propeller Service in Inglewood, Calif., it's likely going to cost you. The FAA is considering a $3,000 fix for about 1,000 propellers that were overhauled by the company. The feds say they are proposing an AD to prevent blade failure that could result in the separation of the prop and loss of control of the airplane. The agency first heard about the problem in March of 1998, after a Hartzell prop blade installed on a Piper PA-34-200 failed. Investigation of the 200-hour prop revealed it had been improperly welded using a procedure called hot straightening. Inspections of other propellers repaired or overhauled by Southern California Propeller Service turned up a laundry list of other critical safety problems, a total of 43 reports in all. According to the FAA, the business continued working on props even after the FAA revoked their repair-station certificate in June 1998. Once the AD is enacted, you will need to move quickly. The feds say this is such a serious issue that everyone affected by it should have what will amount to another overhaul performed within 10 hours time-in-service after the effective date of the AD. Comments on the proposed AD must be received by the FAA by July 19, 2004.
Shreveport (Louisiana) Downtown Airport (DTN) has a message for you. If you're planning to wander out onto a runway in anything other than a plane, with anything other than control-tower approval, don't do it there. The FAA began an all-out assault on runway incursions under the leadership of Jane Garvey, and takes them very, very seriously. Because they do, airports had better, too. "We have to file all our incursions with the FAA," says DTN manager Jerry McKinney. "And they want to know what we're doing about them." What the northwest Louisiana airport is doing now is going for the wallet. One DTN tenant has been fined $500 and his guest $150 for a jaunt onto an active runway. According to security officials, instead of escorting his guest to the nearest security gate, the tenant simply pointed in the direction of it. You can guess what happened next. The non-pilot visitor ended up on the active runway, yes, and in doing so, forced an airplane on short final to go around. The tenant/pilot-led Downtown Airport Safety Advisory Committee and airport management agreed several months ago to turn up the heat on incursions by holding tenants responsible for not only their actions but for those of the people they invite to the airport. DTN, like many others, has seen its share of runway incursions ... everything from tenants taking shortcuts to non-tenants searching for friend's hangars and using the handy numbered "road" in the middle of the field. Warnings, letters, and signs seemed to have no lasting effect ... but officials are betting the fines will. The FAA has been in contact with DTN officials and is reportedly looking to publicize the incursion fines, which manager McKinney has been told could be an airport first.
DON'T BLINDLY RENEW YOUR AIRCRAFT'S INSURANCE WITHOUT SHOPPING AROUND!
Congressional pressure has forced the U.S. Navy to say "uncle" in a case of David and Goliath. In 1991, vintage plane buff Lex Cralley of Princeton, Minn., went down to Craven County, N.C., and dug up the rusting pieces of a World War II-era Brewster F3A-1 Corsair that had laid abandoned there for 60 years. Cralley, an airline ground services mechanic, hoped to some day rebuild the plane, and had started putting the pieces back together when the Justice Department sued him for stealing the plane from the federal government, and demanded that he give it back to the Navy. Cralley didn't have the money or the stroke to fight the feds, but North Carolina Congressman Walter Jones did. When Rep. Jones heard what was happening, he stepped in and forced the Navy to back down. Jones reported to a grateful Cralley last week that the Navy has now agreed to transfer the title to him via congressional amendment. The House and Senate are expected to pass the measure this summer.
As German investigators published their final report on what caused a fatal midair in the skies over southern Germany, the Swiss air traffic control agency apologized for their role in it. A single controller working for the Swiss firm Skyguide was on duty at the time of the July 1, 2002, crash. Controller Peter Neilson saw the planes converging but told the Russian Tupolev passenger jet to descend instead of climb. The Russian pilots followed his instructions in spite of their TCAS blaring a warning otherwise, and slammed into a DHL Boeing 757 cargo plane. Skyguide's apology statement reads: "Skyguide accepts full responsibility for its errors, and extends its sincere apologies to the relatives of the 71 individuals who lost their lives." In a strange twist, Neilson was killed outside his home in Zurich earlier this year by a man whose wife, son and daughter were all killed aboard the Russian flight. Investigators say the accident was part of an error chain and was not totally the fault of the one controller even though he became a handy focus of blame.
DOES YOUR AIRCRAFT HAVE A SENSITIVE DIGITAL CO MONITOR?
It may not seem the time for another new low-cost airline to emerge, but what the hey ... it seems they're the only segment of the airline industry making any money right now. Independence Air, the latest to enter the low-cost wars, announced last week it will be flying to 27 different airports from its Washington Dulles hub. By the end of the summer, Independence promises to be up to 300 flights per day to 35 different cities. I-Air will start with East Coast cities, but plans to work its way west by the end of 2004 and early 2005. Though the name is new, the company has been around for 14 years. In its last life, it was Atlantic Coast Airlines (ACA), a partner with United Air Lines. When UAL went into bankruptcy, ACA was offered a contract it felt was "inferior," so the airline decided to go it on its own. The flights this summer will be in newly refurbished CRJs. By November, Independence Air plans to bring in 27 new Airbus A319s.
Former Hungarian and AEAC European Aerobatic champion Zoltan Veres has asked AVweb if 70 continuous rolls in a non-jet-powered aircraft is a record. If it is, he's planning to go for it on May 28 above historic Eger, Hungary at 9:30 a.m., Hungarian local time. In September of 2003, Veres flew his American-made Culp's Special biplane under Budapest's one-thousand-year-old Chain Bridge (click for image) as part of a Hungarian national holiday. If you know whether 70 is a record, tell us and we'll contact Veres
Delta's new-ish low-cost carrier plans to give away 5,000 round-trip tickets beginning in June for less than a song. In fact, if you're caught being "nice" during the Song campaign called "Random Acts of Coolness," you'll get a ticket for free. Will it fly? Author Jon Winokur, also known as the "Traveling Curmudgeon," is skeptical. Winokur warns National Public Radio that Song's PR campaign could turn pax against each other as they try to get more brownie points. "People will be fighting each other over who gets the carry the stewardess' bag," Winokur tells Morning Edition. If you want to play nice, each flight and gate attendant will have four tickets to give away
If you don't want to be nice but still travel a lot, then United Air Lines' new promotion may be more geared for you. United and Sony have teamed up to offer downloadable music in return for Mileage Plus miles. 10,000 flying miles will get you either 100 $0.99 cent tracks or 10 $9.99 albums. Sony is hyped up, hoping to introduce United's 44- million Mileage Plus members to the Sony Connect music store...
Air Canada could fly again. The airline has reached a tentative agreement with sales and service agents and crew schedulers. The agreement will allow the airline to save about $2 billion Canadian. With that behind them, Air Canada hopes to be able to emerge from bankruptcy this fall...
LAX says even though dissed last week by Virgin Atlantic, the facility will indeed be ready for the Airbus behemoth A380 in 2006 as planned. The first airline projected to fly the new plane into the Los Angeles airport is Singapore Airlines in late 2006. Qantas, Air France, Korean Air, Malaysian, Lufthansa, and FedEx Express are shooting for '07; Virgin Atlantic is bringing up the rear...
Staff-only access to Russia's Domodedovo International Airport in Moscow will soon be regulated by fingerprint scanners. The airport currently handles 33 percent of the passenger load and 50 percent of the cargo bound for Moscow. Canadian company Bioscrypt will be handling the contract...
The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) is celebrating its 65th anniversary ... which may or may not be much more exciting than its 64th or 66th anniversary. Since Sept. 11, 2001, AOPA President Phil Boyer and his organization have certainly had a lot of job security as they have fought for the rights of general aviation. AOPA got its start on May 15, 1939, at Wings Field just outside Philadelphia.
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Tourist Flight Returns to Antarctica's Mount Erebus
There are many "out and back" flights you can take -- ranging from a simple, local, sightseeing flight to the supersonic (and no longer available) Concorde flights offered at places like Oshkosh. But a unique and amazing flight can be had that goes to the bottom of the world to see a volcano among the glaciers.
Reader mail this week about contract towers, firefighting tankers, noise lawsuits and more.
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While practicing for my commercial license I was in the practice area west of Cleveland Hopkins airport. I had the radio tuned to the tower and heard this...
Controller: Cessna ###, what is your purpose here on the field?
Pilot: I'm here for my check ride.
Controller: Are you a bit nervous?
Pilot: A bit...
Controller: Because you landed on the taxiway instead of the assigned runway....
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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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