June 9, 2004
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher's King Air 200 yesterday caused panic in Washington D.C. just hours before the expected arrival of the casket bearing former president Ronald Reagan. The aircraft was cleared to land at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) inside the Flight Restricted Zone (FRZ) but while radio communications were never lost, something about the plane's transponder signal was -- 13 miles southwest of DCA, Greg Martin, spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, told reporters. The "equipment problem," as Fletcher's chief of staff Daniel Groves called it, aroused officers in the government's most prominent buildings to shout memorable phrases like, "To the basement, to the basement." Deborah Norville, in telephoned comments heard on the evening news, said police entered the Capitol building and told everyone to evacuate immediately ... that to move faster women should take their shoes off and run. Again, at the time AVweb went to press, sources indicated the aircraft never lost radio contact with controllers. Regardless, two F-15 fighters were diverted from an air patrol for the intercept. Outside the buildings, as throngs of spectators gathered for the arrival of former president Ronald Reagan's casket, the commands from uniformed officers sparked fear and a near-panic atmosphere, all caught on video. Before the all-clear was given, several Supreme Court justices had been escorted away and a motorcade had whisked off with the second in line for the presidency (aka House Speaker Dennis Hastert).
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Some say it's just incompetence but others are suggesting bad karma is to blame as the much-despised National Air Tour Safety Standards process hit another bump. It seems some of the meatiest of the one-on-one dialogue between opponents and the FAA will go unrecorded because the transcripts from part of a public meeting held in Las Vegas have been lost. FAA spokesman Paul Takemoto told AVweb a steno machine used in the afternoon session of the meeting failed and the verbal submissions were lost. He said all 11 presenters have been contacted and submitted copies of their notes, and the question-and-answer session has been reconstructed as well as possible. "It's not as dire as some people are trying to make it out to be," he said. The May 21 Las Vegas public meeting followed a similar session in Washington on May 7 in which virtually all the alphabet groups, numerous individuals and companies slammed provisions of the proposed rule that may put about 700 companies out of the sightseeing business, curtail charity sightseeing flights and increase costs for air-tour companies that do stay in business.
AOPA was among the first to rally against the NPRM and demand public meetings. Spokesman Jeff Myers said the lost transcripts just seem like another example of the "folly" that surrounds the rule and the FAA's seemingly dogged determination to implement it. "It's sad and embarrassing and disappointing," said Myers. He said that while all the written submissions survived, what's missing is the give and take, ad-libs and poignant diversions that are the hallmarks of a spirited public dialogue. Myers said the rule does nothing beneficial and the FAA and industry's energy shouldn't be consumed by debating it. "This should be shut down," he said. (And he didn't mean the charity flights.) The NPRM was posted in late October and drew immediate and sustained criticism. In addition to the normal 90-day comment period, the FAA conducted a weeklong, Internet-based public meeting. In April the agency extended the comment period and added the public meetings. The FAA was unable to comment in time for our deadline.
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Given the climate of ensuing and/or continuing Chapter 11 filings among major carriers, a list of who pays what to fly which airplane becomes interesting and potentially volatile reading. Safely and routinely transporting many hundreds of passengers over many many hundreds of not always hospitable miles, ultimately translates to some monetary value and Airline Pilot Pay claims to track that value. According to the Web site www.airlinepilotpay.com (and with numbers "updated for 2004"), Delta pilots lead the pay-scale pack receiving $320 for every one of the 65 hours its most senior captains (12 years or more) watch the screens and otherwise command Boeing 777s. The lowliest of four-stripers make $212 per flight hour. According to the pay-scale numbers listed by Airline Pilot Pay (currently) successful airlines like JetBlue and Southwest don't go up quite as high, the pilots fly more hours and the two airlines fly one type each. Delta's bottom end is a flat $56 an hour for all first-year first officers, regardless of engine or passenger count, but it more than doubles after 12 months. A career FO can make up to $218 per flight hour. Northwest's range is $40 to $273 for 63 to 69 hours a month and Southwest ranges from $47 to $179 per hour but works its pilots 77 hours a month. Similarly, JetBlue ranges from $51 to $126 per hour, working its pilots a guaranteed 70 hours per month, according to Airline Pilot Pay.
Delta, which is publicly involved in very trying financial times, is eyeing up the pay packets of its pilots to help cut expenses. It wants its 7,200 pilots to cough up $800 million a year in concessions (an average pay cut of about $11,000 each) and analysts say that might not be enough. Meanwhile Air Canada pilots have already swallowed $300 million in pay cuts (an average of $10,000) but they still have some esprit de corps left for the cause, as evidenced by a very public gesture of support for the airline -- a $200,000 ad campaign. AVweb is aware of some pilots willing to fly for (and some airlines willing to pay) substantially less. The Air Canada Pilots Association (ACPA) is funding the campaign to convince passengers that it's safe to book flights in advance (we'll still be here) and that the airline is positioned to survive for the long haul. The campaign, called "This Is Your Captain Speaking," is the pilots' way of assuring the public that the airline, which the ACPA terms "an essential service," is "not only going to survive, it's going to thrive and prosper," said spokesman Jean-Marc Belanger. The pilots were apparently not willing to bet their investment portfolios on that optimism and politely declined (at least for now) the airline's offer to provide a $250 million equity infusion required under a refinancing deal. With help from some U.S. investors, Air Canada hopes to pull out of bankruptcy protection on Sept. 30.
Now, flying the big iron doesn't always earn you a membership to the country club. In fact, it seems like there's more than a few pilots trying to sell their skills and finding (if not creating) a buyer's market. We don't normally quote from online forums but the Professional Pilots Rumor Network (PPrune) has a lively discussion going about what the "market rate" is for qualified pilots looking for work. The exchanges suggest that the situation overseas can be far less rich and that the many pilots happy for work regardless of pay are driving pilots' earning power down. One correspondent laments that he's been offered the right seat in a 35-year-old wide-body for a Middle East charter company (registered in an African country) for $2,300 a month plus $50 per flying day (yes, that's day, not hour). He said he turned it down but others suggested he should have been happy to get the offer, given the current climate.
If you ever wonder why the folks up front get the big bucks, consider the day at work American Airlines Capt. Catherine Mertz and First Officer Scott Palmer had when they tried to get their Fokker 100 full of passengers from La Guardia to Chicago last Sept. 4. The plane hit a flock of "large birds" on takeoff, destroying an engine and putting numerous dings on the radome, fuselage and right wing. With the jet vibrating and with unknown damage in parts of the plane they couldn't see, the cockpit crew coaxed a safe emergency landing out of the stricken aircraft at Kennedy International about 13 minutes later. Last Friday their exploits earned them high praise, indeed, from fellow pilots in the Order of Daedalians. Mertz and Palmer were awarded the 2003 Daedalian, Lieutenant General Harold L. George Civilian Airmanship Award for "the most outstanding ability, judgment and/or heroism above and beyond normal operational requirements." The Order of Daedelians is a fraternal order of military pilots. Allied Pilots Association (APA) President John E. Darrah said the union was "very proud of and grateful to" the pilots and called them "a credit to their profession."
ATTENTION, AIRCRAFT CLUB MEMBERS! GETTING THE MOST OUT OF YOUR CLUB?
A lawsuit appears to have spawned from the crash of a Bell 47 helicopter in Florida last Oct. 21. William Harter, an alligator hunter nicknamed "Billy The Gator Man" videotaped his own demise as the 40-year-old chopper, flown by his (unlicensed) buddy Donn Goodson, crashed into him before running into Goodson's hangar, killing the pilot and hurting his unidentified passenger, according to the Tampa Tribune. For whatever reason, Harter was videotaping Goodson's helicopter as it made at least four passes a few feet overhead on Goodson's strawberry farm. On the fifth pass, says the Tribune, which got a copy of the tape, "Harter didn't flinch until the two-seat helicopter crashed into him." At the time of the crash, the sheriff's office said Goodson was "sightseeing," according to the Tribune. Now, Harter's children are suing Goodson's widow and his estate. Paul Catania, the children's attorney, described Goodson's actions as "horseplaying." The Tribune said the Goodsons, who are among the wealthiest farm families in the area, tried to settle the case out of court but Harter's family rejected the offer. The children, Gloria, 24, and William, 22, are suing under a Florida law that allows those 25 years old or younger to sue for wrongful death of a parent.
There was a red-faced pilot but no real harm done last Thursday when a Continental Airlines pilot enabled the transponder on the Boeing 737 he was flying from Cleveland to Boston to transmit a hijack code. The accidental distress call came about 100 miles into the flight and the pilot tried to assure authorities on the ground that it was, indeed, a simple mistake. But the authorities were having none of that. "...We're going to take every precaution and treat situations as if it was (sic) an emergency until we're satisfied the passengers were (sic) safe," Transportation Security Administration spokeswoman Ann Davis told the Boston Herald. NORAD was notified but no fighters were scrambled. However, an impressive show awaited the passengers as they touched down at Logan. "Right after we landed, we knew something was going on," said passenger Elizabeth Boles, of Cleveland. Emergency vehicles followed the plane on the runway and then it was directed to a remote area where the pilot was ordered to leave the aircraft for a quick Q & A on the tarmac. Wonder what he put in the log?
MARV GOLDEN SHOWCASES NEW PRODUCTS WITH SPECIAL JUNE SAVINGS
Move over Mojave, there's competition for the spaceport business. As AVweb told you a couple of weeks ago, Mojave Airport in California is the odds-on favorite to become the country's first certified private spaceport. But the folks around Burns Flat, Okla., are hoping investors will see the wisdom of turning an abandoned Air Force base near there into a launch facility. According to The Space Review, the state is also hyping the idea of converting the former Clinton-Sherman Air Force Base and has even created a new office, the Oklahoma Space Industry Development Authority, to give it that smack of credibility. The big (really big) factor in favor of the Burns Flat bid is the 13,000-foot runway, one of the longest stretches of concrete in the U.S. The runway was built to launch nuclear-laden B-52s during the Cold War and the military still uses it to train tanker and cargo pilots. The remnants of the base (including nuclear bomb bunkers) need repair but the basic infrastructure is there. Several companies have signed deals with the state for tax incentives but none have moved in. The FAA hasn't licensed the facility as a spaceport, either.
These guys prove you don't need a license to fly ... but maybe it helps if you're certifiable (kidding, please don't write). "Wing suiters" are taking the latest thrill ride to extremes, jumping miles from the normal parachute drop zone and swooping cross-country to the target at about 90 mph laterally and just 40 mph vertically. The special suits also extend the "freefall" to more than two minutes from 13,000 feet, at least twice the duration of a normal drop. "It's really spooky ," Tim Mace told Popular Mechanics after a demonstration in South Africa. "You get to the point where you think you're going to be there forever." And then, there's aerobatics. The sleeves of the wing suit have vents on the leading edge of the arms. Inrushing air inflates tubular cells, forming a web-shaped wing that spreads arm-to-arm across the diver's back. Triangular wedges also form between the diver's legs to form a tail. Wing suiters are able to do basic flight maneuvers and the 15-hour training course Mace runs also teaches barrel rolls, spins, dives and (we'd have to see this to believe it) loops, according to the magazine. Beginners need not apply, however. Minimum requirement is 500 regular parachute jumps.
OREGON AERO PRODUCTS PERFECT FOR FATHER'S DAY
A new paint job might seem like the least likely of suspects to cause structural problems in aircraft but at least 32 Boeing 737s, four 747s and seven 757s are being examined for fatigue cracks that might result from procedures specific to the painting process. The Townsville (Australia) Bulletin reported this week that "scribe lines" from metal tools used in the painting process led to a two-foot crack in a fuselage strap on a Qantas 747. The crack was discovered by engineers working on the plane. The other 41 aircraft have the scribe lines but there's no mention of cracks. Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) told the FAA about the potential problem and a worldwide alert was issued. CASA spokesman Peter Gibson told the Bulletin an Airworthiness Directive might follow the alert.
Some fly for fun, some for money and some to serve. If you know anyone in that last category (or any combination, for that matter) you can nominate them for one of five categories in the National Public Benefit Flying Awards Program, which was launched by the National Aeronautic Association (NAA) in cooperation with the Air Care Alliance last year. The awards honor those who have made significant contributions in public-benefit flying or performed an exceptional action in the cause. Deadline for nominations is June 30 and they can be made online or by mail to NAA, 1815 N. Fort Myer Drive, Suite 500, Arlington, VA 22209. Nominations are being accepted for the Distinguished Volunteer Pilot, whose effort, time and performance exceeds all expectations; Distinguished Volunteer, for those non-pilots who support the efforts; Outstanding Achievement in Support of Public Flying, which honors contributions that advance the cause of public-benefit flying; Public Benefit Flying Team Award, for a collaborative effort in public-benefit flying; and the Champion of Public Benefit Flying, for those not directly involved in public-benefit flying but whose support make it possible.
NON-OWNER (RENTER) PILOTS EXPOSED:
Color blindness played a role in the crash of a FedEx Boeing 727 in July of 2002, according to the final report from the NTSB. The report says extensive analysis of the first officer's color-vision deficiency (for which he had a waiver) showed it would have interfered with his ability to distinguish between the red and white lights of the Precision Approach Path Indicator at Tallahassee Regional Airport. The plane hit trees and both pilots were seriously injured
The Navy was expected to award a contract worth up to $20 billion Wednesday for replacement of its maritime patrol aircraft, according to The Washington Post. Lockheed's updated version of the existing P3 Orion and a variant of the Boeing 737 were in the running...
NASA will test a turbulence-detection system on a Delta Boeing 737-800 this summer. The new radar gear picks up the movement of water droplets in the air, showing the nasty updrafts and downdrafts that cause injuries in airliners every year. The system is a software upgrade for the wind-shear indicators already on many aircraft...
Alex Sloan is the recipient of EAA's Tony Bingelis Award. The award recognizes contributions to the homebuilt aircraft community. Sloan is an active EAA volunteer Technical Counselor, Flight Advisor and aircraft builder, as well as the first chairman of the EAA Homebuilt Aircraft Council.
The Savvy Aviator #6: Trusting Saboteurs
An alarming number of today's piston GA aircraft are in poor mechanical shape, and their owners are partly to blame. AVweb's Mike Busch describes how owners encourage poor maintenance -- sometimes through misplaced trust and sometimes through inadvertent sabotage -- and explains how you can avoid doing so.
DIAMOND AIRCRAFT ANNOUNCES DIAMONDFEST 2004
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BUYING OR SELLING AN AIRCRAFT?
Last week, AVweb asked the somber question, "How many friends have you lost to flying?" Thankfully, the most popular response was "none," shared by nearly 40% of those who participated in the poll. Less reassuring, however, was the number of readers who told us they had lost five or more friends in aviation-related deaths 94 of you. The two answers accounted for 60% of responses, with another 32% of respondents having lost one or two friends.
Though often simply a source of frustration, a good deal of adrenaline (read panic) was released Wednesday, June 9, in Washington, D.C., when a Governor's aircraft managed to enter restricted airspace without properly following the appropriate arrival procedures. As Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs) continue to pop up across the country, we'll ask in very black and white terms for your thoughts. For this question, we do not ask that you agree entirely with either choice but we do ask that you pick a side.
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Forget lions, tigers, and bears this week's "Picture of the Week" contest has helicopters, amphibians, and Cessnas! (Oh, my!) And they're all set against the spectacular natural backdrop of the setting sun. Despite the common setting, each of this week's "POTW" entries is from a different region of North America and features a different flying machine. Congratulations to Gary Watson, who walks away with first prize this week. Gary, your Officially Licensed AVweb Collectible Hat is in the mail!
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"Into the Arctic Sun"
Gary Watson of Calgary, Alberta contributes this week's first spectacular sunset,
as an S61N CF-MQF helicopter hauls a load of cargo out from Tuktoyaktuk
for Dome Petroleum "on a cold spring day in 1984"
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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.
"Sunset at Speculator, NY"
Joseph Hayes of Putnam Valley, New York captures the next
breathtaking sunset, reflected against the lake
... and Warren Moseley of Arlington, Texas finishes up this week's theme,
with a shot of a Cessna 120 taking off for an evening flight
To enter next week's contest, click here.
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