AVwebFlash - Volume 19, Number 11a

March 11, 2013

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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AVflash! Reader Responses to Our AOPA Survey back to top 

AVweb Readers Rate AOPA: Bouquets (Some) and Brickbats

As AOPA President Craig Fuller announces his departure, a survey of AVweb readers reveals that about half –- 53 percent -- think AOPA has done a good to exceptional job of promoting and protecting general aviation. But almost one in five -- 17 percent -- say just the opposite; AOPA has done a poor to mediocre job, in their view. Readers are less generous in rating Fuller's job performance. Some 32 percent say Fuller has done a fair to satisfactory job, while 38 percent rated his performance as poor or mediocre. Our survey revealed that while Fuller has some fans among the membership, only 5 percent think he's done an exceptional job, while 24 percent grade him as good. The findings are the result of an online survey AVweb published during the week of March 4 in which we asked 13 questions across a range of topics related to AOPA's performance as a member organization.

Respondent Comments

A handful of the questions we asked were open-ended queries. We've compiled the reader responses to these in PDFs you can read here:

In addition, click here to see a graphic summary of the principal questions (PDF). (For space and time constraints, we haven't published all of the questions.)

All told, 851 readers responded to our survey, the vast majority of them members of AOPA. Sixty-nine percent said they were aircraft owners and another 9 percent said they hoped to be. Many respondents were longtime members of the organization. Readers seem most pleased with AOPA's efforts in general to promote aviation, although many said they were confused about just how effective the association has been in this effort. "I have to ask myself: If there was no AOPA, what would be different today regarding regs, airspace and FAA/GA relationship and cooperation?" wrote 30-year-plus AOPA member Steve Biggs. There's also a degree of resignation in understanding just how influential AOPA can be. Or not. Wrote life member Art Woods: "Using TSA as an example, I think there is no advocacy group that could overcome the system in place -- FAA, DHS, etc. However, I do feel that there are some small victories like ADs. The medical exemption would be significant."

We also asked what members thought of AOPA's efforts to promote pilot starts. The short answer is not much. About 44 percent of readers rated AOPA's efforts in this area as poor to mediocre, but again, many aren't sure what exactly the association has done or is doing. And some members -- 21 percent, to be exact -- rated the association's work as good in this area. "I rate it good. It's not AOPA's responsibility to do this. It's all of our responsibility. They work hard in this area, smartly, to ensure they exist as an association in the future," said one member. "Mediocre: EAA's Eagle and Young Eagle programs seem much more effective. Maybe because the magazine is not compelling to read, I can't recite the specifics of AOPA's program," said Roy Thoma, a 23-year member.

Readers give higher marks for AOPA's efforts to hold off government regulation, with 42 percent saying the association is good or exceptional at this task. Only 10 percent rated it poor, although there were some complaints that AOPA hasn't done enough to eliminate the third class medical nor prevent the proliferation of temporary flight restrictions that impinge on GA activity.

We also asked reader opinions about AOPA's aggressive efforts to enhance revenue by targeting members for both donations and sales of related products and services such as insurance, medical services and flight planner apps. This question tapped a wellspring of ire, with 61 percent saying that AOPA should stick to its core mission, but only 7 percent saying these are a good idea and benefit members. Readers wore us out with comments about the association's ill-starred idea to start a member wine club. This was mentioned dozens of times. "Wine club? Really? Another reason why AOPA needs to get back to grassroots with its mission," said Andrew Elwood, in a comment typical of many on this subject.

We also asked respondents if they planned to remain a member of AOPA and most -- 58 percent -- said they would, while 9 percent said no and 26 percent were undecided, some saying they wanted to see in what direction a new president will take the association. There's also very little support for merging AOPA with EAA, the other major GA association. Only one in five thought this was a good idea, while more than half -- 53 percent -- said no to the proposal. "The missions of AOPA and EAA are markedly different. That said, there has been far too much wasted overlap in recent years. Craig Fuller has represented this as a good thing, but I disagree. If the overlap gets that extensive, then either we don't need two organizations or the two organizations are not sticking to their respective missions. I favor the second scenario," said Jim Herd.

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The NTSB and Safety back to top 

NTSB Considers GA Safety Alerts

The NTSB Friday announced it will meet next week to consider issuing Safety Alerts to the general aviation community as an effort to help curb the number of accidents and fatalities associated with the segment. Safety Alerts are outlines that offer practical remedies for specific safety issues. There are five areas of concern that will be considered at a March 12 meeting. They include inattention to mechanical problems, risk management, stalls and controlled flight into terrain. The meeting will be available to pilots via live webcast.

The agency notes that GA accidents account for about 475 deaths and 1500 accident investigations each year. GA safety has been on the NTSB's Most Wanted List since 2011. The agency will hold its meeting Tuesday, March 12, at 9:30 am at its Board Room and Conference Center. The address is 429 L'Enfant Plaza, SW, Washington, D.C. Particular to the Board's concerns are accidents resulting from reduced visual references and uncontrolled descent to the ground due to spatial disorientation; aerodynamic stalls at low altitude during the day in good weather; pilot inattention to events indicative of mechanical problems; risk management for aviation maintenance professionals; and risk management for pilots. Find a link to the live webcast (available roughly 30 minutes before Tuesday's 9:30 am meeting) here.

NTSB Plans Forum, Hearing On 787 Batteries

The NTSB says it still doesn't have any answers about the root cause of a battery fire aboard a Japan Airlines Boeing 787 in Boston in January but it's going to great lengths to get it done. At a news conference in Washington on Thursday, Board Chairman Debra Hersman said the interim factual report it released gives all concerned parties an update on the various activities associated with the battery issue. All 51 Dreamliners have been grounded since the middle of January after two battery fires occurred within a week of one another: an APU battery fire aboard an empty JAL aircraft at Boston and an in-flight fire on an ANA plane over Japan. The two incidents have resulted in multi-jurisdictional investigations and prompted the NTSB to open a public docket for all the paper that's being generated by the various probes. The NTSB will also hold a public forum on lithium ion batteries and convene a formal hearing on the design and certification of the batteries in the 787. Both events will be held in April. Meanwhile, Boeing is hoping the FAA will soon approve interim measures it has devised to get the aircraft back in the air.

Boeing proposes a beefed-up containment and smoke evacuation system for the batteries to cope with in-flight fires. Some published reports say the FAA is expected to approve test flights for the new system, possibly by the end of this week. Finished 787s continue to pile up on the ramp outside Boeing's 787 plant in Everett, Wash., because production has continued despite the grounding. And a lone 787 stranded at O'Hare Airport in Chicago has become something of a symbol for the impact of the grounding. The Polish LOT Dreamliner had just completed its inaugural flight from Poland when the grounding order was made. The airline is going after Boeing for compensation of the expenses it's incurring because of the grounding.

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The TSA and Safety back to top 

TSA: Certain Knives Allowed On Airliners

On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, terrorists stabbed individuals while hijacking a jet that would later crash into the World Trade Center's North Tower, and on Tuesday, March 5, 2013, the TSA announced certain knives banned after 2001 would again be permitted on airliners. TSA Administrator John Pistole said the new rules would be put in place on U.S. planes beginning April 25. According to Pistole, permitted items will include foldable non-locking or fixed blades without a molded grip, provided their blades are no wider than 1/2 inch and no longer than 2.36 inches. Box cutters and razor blades will still be prohibited. Representatives of the federal air marshal and flight attendant communities have voiced objections to the announced changes.

"Flight attendants are going to be sitting ducks," George Taylor, head of the air marshal unit of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, told CNN. Stacy Martin, president of the Transport Workers Union Local 556, a union that represents 10,000 flight attendants, told NJ.com the decision, "is a threat to passengers and affront to flight attendants." According to Pistole, the new rules are intended to allow security screeners in the airport to focus on finding potential explosives and other devices that could lead to an immediate catastrophic event on an aircraft. Along with small knives, passengers will be allowed by the TSA to board with lacrosse or hockey sticks, pool cues, golf clubs and other items provided they meet certain weight and length criteria. Airlines can impose their own restrictions. Multiple U.S. airlines have for years included metal cutlery with meals served onboard their aircraft while flying in the U.S.

AVweb Insider Blog: Knives on a Plane

In a rare instance of a return to common sense, the TSA has announced that it will relax standards for allowing sharpies and pointies on airplanes. Beginning in April, you can once again carry a small pocketknife -- blade length less than 2.36 inches -- through security and onto a commercial airline flight. You'd think this would be universally lauded, but no. There's actually an anti-knife constituency. On the AVweb Insider blog, Paul Bertorelli examines the issue.

Read more and join the conversation.

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Plan B back to top 

Sun 'n Fun Ready To Hire Controllers

Sun 'n Fun will hire air traffic controllers on its own if necessary to staff the annual airshow and fly-in next month. President Lites Leenhouts told the Lakeland Ledger paying controllers would reduce the amount of money the organization can give to aviation scholarships but it will do what it must to ensure a safe and orderly air traffic flow at the show. "The public won't know the difference," Leenhouts said. "We're doing everything we can to ensure there are qualified controllers in the tower during all hours of operation." Lakeland Linder Airport is among a reported 173 airports across the country that have been targeted for closure due to budget restrictions imposed by sequestration and a final decision will be made March 18. The towers may close as early as April 7. Airport officials have until Wednesday to appeal the closure notice and Lakeland Linder director Gene Conrad told the Ledger he will cite Sun 'n Fun as a reason to keep the tower open.

Conrad told Fox 13 News the international stature of the fly-in warrants federal support. He also noted the airport was an important emergency staging area when the Tampa Bay area was hit by four major storms in a row in 2004. FAA administrator Michael Huerta has told officials of the affected airports that he'll only consider an exemption from the closure if they can prove it will be harmful to the country as a whole. "Negative impact on the national interest is the only criterion the FAA will use for deciding to continue services to an airport that falls below the activity threshold," Huerta and his ATO manager David Grizzle wrote. Even if the tower is closed, Conrad said he believes there's still a chance that FAA-funded controllers will handle the airshow. The controllers' contract stipulates a 30-day notice period on furloughs and Sun 'n Fun will take place within that window. "If those don't go out until the 18th, I would think the FAA controllers are still coming as scheduled," Conrad said.

Air Charts Stops Atlas Production

Popular aviation charts vendor Air Chart Systems has sent a notice to its subscribers that it's ceasing publication of the spiral-bound paper atlases that were its signature product for more than 50 years. In a note attached to the March 7 electronic update of en route charts and approach plates, the company suggests it's out of the paper charts business. "Due to adverse business conditions and the increasing use of electronic charts, we will not be publishing our atlases or renewing next cycle," the note reads. The company says it will no longer mail hard copy updates either. The company has not responded to our repeated attempts to contact them for clarification of the note.

The Air Chart Systems website is still live. Air Charts Systems published its various VFR and IFR atlases every May and issued updates on the FAA schedule. Cumulative updates went in a pocket in the appropriate atlas and the FAA considered that sufficient for chart currency purposes. Air Charts was launched by Howie Keefe, who saw a business in repackaging government charts, including approach plates and en route and sectional charts. The charts were provided in spiral-bound atlases and Air Charts periodically sent paper revisions, but not entire new charts. Keefe sold Air Charts, but then started another similar system called Tri-Nav.

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News Briefs back to top 

Pentagon: F-35 Not Ready For Training

A report by the Pentagon's director of operational test and evaluation highlights numerous shortcomings with the F-35, combat concerns raised by pilots, and the jet's general lack of readiness for training exercises. The report was prepared last month and made public last week. It notes that "due to design, the pilot-vehicle interface causes increased workload" and includes quotes from pilots critical of visibility from the cockpit. One said, "A pilot will find it nearly impossible to check six under G." There were other issues.

The report also found problems with the system's helmet display, citing "latency" and "jittery" behavior as well as focal problems. The F-35, it said, was also prohibited from flying at night or in instrument meteorological conditions. And its mission abort rates were found to be four to seven times higher than the program's goal prior to training. Angle of attack, g-loading, speed and altitude were all restricted. The aircraft "is currently prohibited from flying close formation, aerobatics, and stalls" typically flown during transition training. According to the report, "The F-35A does not yet have the capability to train in these phases, nor any actual combat capability, because it is still early in system development." According to the evaluation, the aircraft is currently "approximately one-third of the way through development." The report represents an assessment that was requested in mid-2010, when training was planned to begin in August 2011. Click here for the full report (PDF).

Stowaway Suit Dismissed

A North Carolina judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by the family of a 16-year-old boy whose body was found in Boston after it is presumed he fell from the wheel well of a US Airways flight that was landing there. The mangled body of Delvonte Tisdale, of Charlotte, was found Nov. 15, 2010, on the approach path to Logan Airport a day after he was last seen at home in Charlotte. It's theorized that he got over the airport fence and managed to sneak into the aircraft wheel well before the A320 took off on its non-stop to Boston. According to The Associated Press, Tisdale's family sued the City of Charlotte, the airline and the airport alleging, among other things, that the defendants didn't do enough to warn Tisdale of the danger of "boarding a plane as a passenger in the wheel well of an airplane."

Judge Hugh Lewis said Tisdale was responsible for his own actions and the defendants couldn't be held responsible for his breaching security. The plaintiffs' lawyer Chris Chesnut said the lawsuit was filed to "get answers" about Tisdale's death and the judge's decision means the family's questions will go unanswered. "They're blaming Tisdale for his own death and no one knows how he got on the plane," Chestnut said. City of Charlotte lawyer Bob Hagemann offered condolences but said the decision was correct in that the city should not be held responsible for Tisdale's ill-advised travel choice.

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Outstanding Ambassadors for GA back to top 

GA Award Winners Named

Four individuals have been selected for their contributions to flight instruction, maintenance, avionics and safety, to be recognized at AirVenture Oshkosh 2013 by FAA Administrator Michael Huerta as part of the General Aviation Awards Program. The awards program is a cooperative effort between the FAA and supporting organizations. It is designed to "highlight the important role" played by specific individuals "in promoting aviation education and flight safety," according to program co-chair JoAnn Hill. This year's winners are William T. Fifles (AMT of the Year), Bruce Lundquist (Avionics Technician of the Year), Dean Eichholz (CFI of the Year), and Mark Edward Madden (FAA Safety Team Representative of the year).

The GA Awards Program's selection process begins at the FSDO level. Individuals are selected as regional winners before national winners are selected from that group by volunteer judges comprised of previous national winners. The program exists in partnership with more than a dozen supporting organizations that include Women in Aviation International, NBAA, GAMA, AOPA, Garmin, King Schools and EAA. Past awards ceremonies have taken place at Oskhosh and this year's winners will receive as part of their prize packages an all-expenses-paid trip to Oshkosh to attend the awards ceremony and other GA awards activities.

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

Video: Total Eclipse Flight Demo

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

Eclipse is touring the country with its Total Eclipse, a factory re-do of the original EA500. But the airplane is a good stand-in for new production airplanes, which will be called Eclipse 550s. AVweb recently took a flight demo in a Total Eclipse and prepared this video report.

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Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Orangeburg Municipal Airport (KOGB, South Carolina)

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

AVweb's latest "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to the FBO at Orangeburg Municipal Airport (KOGB) in Orangeburg, South Carolina.

AVweb reader Jeff Grigg described his recent visit to the airport:

We had an appointment with an examiner at this airport. While there, we were offered a nice Ford to go get some lunch. When our appointment was over, the weather had turned real sloppy, and the ceiling at our home airport was only 600 feet. The folks at the Orangeburg Airport offered the use of a hangar for a few days until we could return and pick up our plane. When we returned, she was nice and dry in the hangar. The manager filled the plane and even gave me a little discount on fuel and did not charge me any rental for the hangar due to the weather. With service like this, you bet I'll recommend this airport and the management to anyone flying through! Everyone was very friendly, the facilities were everything I could want in a small town, and these were just plain good folks.

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

AVweb's Newstips Address ...

Our best stories start with you. If you've heard something 255,000 pilots might want to know about, tell us. Submit news tips via email to newstips@avweb.com. You're a part of our team ... often, the best part.

The Lighter Side of Flight back to top 

Short Final

Heard on the tower frequency at an airport that will remain undisclosed to protect the innocent:

Cessna 12345:
"Tower can you have regional jet ABC meet us on Unicom freqency for a personal message?"

Jet ABC:
"Tower, tell the Cessna we are a professional crew on a schedule and we don't have time for idle chit chat."

Cessna 12345:
"O.K. Tower, you may want to tell that professional crew they left the landing-gear lock pin in the nose gear. Have a nice day!"

Larry Cosby
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.

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.

If you're having trouble reading this newsletter in its HTML-rich format (or if you'd prefer a lighter, simpler format for your phone or handheld device), there's also a text-only version of AVwebFlash. For complete instructions on making the switch, click here.

Aviate. Navigate. Communicate.