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As the FAA moves forward with plans to close 149 contract towers across the U.S., local communities are scrambling for ways to keep their towers open, and in at least one case, a city is suing the
FAA to stop the shutdown. In Spokane, Wash., the airport board has asked a federal court to prevent the FAA from closing the tower at Felts Field, arguing that the agency failed to complete a required
safety analysis, according to Bloomberg News. Felts Field, a
reliever airport for Spokane International, handles about 52,000 takeoffs and landings per year.
According to AOPA, impacts from the federal cutbacks already are being felt. Pilots crossing the border into the U.S. in Florida and Texas have met with hours-long delays, AOPA says, and are not
allowed to exit their aircraft until personnel are available to process them. Pilots should expect delays and plan for them. "Pilots who exit their aircraft before being met by a customs official
could be hit with a violation," AOPA said. Josh Zepps, of the Huffington Post, hosted an online discussion Tuesday about the sequester impacts with several aviators and commentators, including Paul Rinaldi of NATCA and Robert Poole of the Reason Foundation. Poole makes a case
for switching to an independent entity like NavCanada to insulate aviation services from politics. "If it's doable there, it ought to be doable here," he said.
The U.S. is an anomaly in most of the aviation world with a government-run air traffic system. Given the effect of the sequester, is it time to consider a privatized system, as suggested by by Robert Poole of the Reason Foundation?
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Garmin International already has a complete line of active traffic products, but at the Aircraft Electronics Association show in Las Vegas, it introduced two more models aimed at high-end aircraft.
The GTS 825 Traffic Advisory System and the GTS 855 Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System have improved range out to 40 and 80 miles, respectively. Both products offer up to 400 watts of
transmit power, and both are capable of correlating ADS-B targets. Garmin's Jim Alpiser discussed both with Paul Bertorelli at the 2013 Aircraft Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
There's certainly no shortage of ADS-B products to pick from at AEA this year, and every company seems to take a different twist. Freeflight Systems' idea is to pitch affordable products for
owners of legacy aircraft that want to meet the ADS-B requirement but haven't otherwise upgraded their aircraft with new equipment. In this podcast, Freeflight's Peter King gave us a summary
of the company's product line.
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Demand for ADS-B products continues to trickle upward, and everyone who is anyone in the avionics business is developing or already selling ADS-B gadgets. Aspen rolled out its first
products at the Aircraft Electronics Association show in Las Vegas, with an eye toward a range of solutions that rely on the company's innovative Connected Panel system, an in-cockpit wireless network
that links up with tablet computers. In this video from the show, Aspen's George Pariza gives AVweb a tour of the new products.
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To celebrate the installation of its giant new movie screen, the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, in Dayton, Ohio, is hosting an all-aviation film festival, April 12 to 14. The museum's
400-seat theater is reopening after an $800,000 renovation, featuring a high-definition digital 3D screen that stands six stories high and an all-new sound system. The Reel Stuff Film Festival of
Aviation will feature at least 10 films, including documentaries and features, with each screening introduced by a special guest. A digitally remastered version of the 1927 classic film Wings
will be shown, presented by William Wellman, Jr., the director's son; and Top Gun 3D will be introduced by Clay Lacy, the film's aerial cinematographer.
Other films on the agenda are Memphis Belle, Honor Flight, Air Racers 3D, and more. Each film will be followed by a question-and-answer session with the special guests. "We've
put together an unforgettable weekend, not only for aviation buffs and students of history, but also anyone who loves the art of the cinema or is fascinated by learning the technical,
'behind-the-scenes' aspect of filmmaking," said Mary Bruggeman, chief of theater operations for the museum. "It's a rare opportunity to meet and mingle with the talented filmmakers responsible for
some of our favorite aviation movies, and get a sneak peek at some new projects being shared for the first time." The full schedule and ticket prices are posted online.
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Former aircraft mechanic Joel Stout Thursday pled guilty to charges that involve a retired FAA examiner and falsified documents in a case affecting inspections that took place over a span of
several years, last decade. Stout worked as an aircraft mechanic at the Flying Tigers aircraft maintenance facility at Donegal Springs Airpark in Marietta, Pa., between October 2006 and October 2009.
He was certified in 2005, but his certification expired in 2006. According to federal prosecutors, Flying Tigers continued to perform annual inspections from October 2006 to October 2009 without
the presence of an IA, forged the signature of a certified mechanic, and arranged for retired FAA examiner Howard Gunter to sign off on inspections in which he was not otherwise involved. Stout
may now face decades in prison. Gunter and Stout's father are also facing charges.
Stout, who is now 32 years old, could face up to 20 years in jail for each count of mail fraud and five for conspiracy. He is also facing a possible fine of up to $1.75 million. Gunter and Stout's
father, the president of Flying Tigers, have also been charged but have not yet entered pleas. Prosecutors say that the younger Stout was interviewed in 2008 and 2009 and admitted to his participation
in the criminal activities. According to prosecutors, those activities include hiding the fact that inspections had been performed by uncertified mechanics, logging signatures by individuals who did
not perform or oversee the work, removing pages from logbooks or removing the logbooks themselves to hide forged signatures, and invoicing airplane owners for inspections that had not been properly
performed. The younger Stout will face sentencing in late June.
A 19-year-old man who pointed a powerful laser at a Netjets Cessna Citation and then at a police helicopter that responded to the pilot's complaints in Burbank, Calif., was sentenced on Monday to
30 months in prison. Adam Gardenhire pleaded guilty to the charge, which was made a federal crime last year. At sentencing, "Gardenhire basically argued that it wasn't dangerous, that he couldn't have
known it was dangerous -- that basically he was just bored and entertaining himself," said Asst. U.S. Atty. Melissa Mills. "The judge found the facts didn't bear that out and his behavior was reckless
and very dangerous."
Gardenhire was in his back yard, about a half-mile south of the airport, when he pointed the commercial-grade laser at the Citation on approach to land. The pilot was temporarily blinded and his
vision was impaired for several hours, prosecutors said. Gardenhire's case was the second to be prosecuted under the new federal law; the other case, also in California, is still in court. Gardenhire
remains free pending an appeal.
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A former Delta Air Lines senior captain has launched a petition trying to convince the reorganized company to reinstate pensions that were terminated when the airline first filed for bankruptcy eight years ago. Robert Moser
was among about 3,500 retired pilots whose pensions were cut by 80 percent or more when they were assumed by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. Northwest Airlines filed for bankruptcy on the same day
as Delta but the company did not ask for the pension plan to be terminated. Now that the two airlines have merged, Moser says there's a terrible injustice in that the reorganized airline continues to
fund the pensions of the Northwest retirees while the long-term employees who were at Delta long before the merger are left without. "The very pilot group that helped place Delta in an extraordinary
business position to capitalize on recent big moves, are the same ones that have disproportionately suffered the biggest hit during and after the re-organization," Moser says in the petition
Moser noted that pensions are not a "gift" from the company to retirees but include years of deferred income paid by the employees to provide income in retirement. Moser said those most affected by
the situation retired between 2002 and 2007 when the retirement age for pilots went to 65 from 60. Like many of the others, Moser has taken jobs at foreign airlines to support himself and his family
in the absence of the pension. He's currently a Boeing 777 instructor for an Asian airline. "My workdays are long, my commute is 15 hours each way, and I subject my body to 14 time zones every three
weeks," Moser said. "And, I am better off than most of the 3500 retirees because I am still working and earning a few dollars."
Twenty seven years after the fact, Dick Rutan says he's somewhat astonished that he and Jeana Yeager made it around the world in the Burt Rutan-designed Voyager, given the rudimentary avionics of
the day and the fact that the airplane had so little surplus load factor that moderate turbulence would have torn it apart. As the keynote speaker at the 56th Aircraft Electronics Association
Convention opening in Las Vegas on Tuesday, Rutan flashed a photo of his panel that was then state-of-the-art but which now features some boxes long since faded from the market.
Rutan recalled a number of knock-down arguments with brother Burt, not the least of which was his decision to install radar, a now-vintage Narco KWX56. But Rutan said he'd flown the equator and
realized he and Yeager would never survive it without radar. "If I knew it was going to be that dangerous and take that long, I'd never have gotten on the train in the first place," Rutan told the
crowd. He also singled out a then little-known engineer from King Radio named Carl Wolf as being instrumental in the flight's success. Wolf went on to become Garmin's VP for aviation sales. Rutan has
followed the development of avionics since his historic flight and says the airplane could be made lighter and better three decades after the fact.
We tried to forestall Paul Bertorelli from writing another blog about tower closures, but he wiggled out of the restraints and shook off the sedative. But he does make one relatively lucid point
in his latest post to the AVweb Insider blog: When your neighbor or a co-worker asks about this close of control towers thing, try to inject some sanity into the conversation.
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AVweb reader Robert Inman recommends adding it to your Sun 'n Fun flight plan:
This facility has been completely remodeled with an emphasis on pilot efficiency and comfort. The young manager, Tyler Beach, is as pround as can be as he gives you a tour, including two bedrooms for
those who might get stranded there by weather all at no charge. There are a brand-new ramp, self-service pumps (although Tyler helped pump the fuel, and the cheapest fuel in Georgia. This is
a great place to stop on your visit to Sun 'n Fun!
As avonics manufacturerers are spinning out new ADS-B products by the week, they're also creating some new sub-niches. One of those is for a simple, compact Mode-C transponder since
some kind of transponder will be needed once the ADS-B mandate is in place. Sandia Aerospace recently added just such a product to its well-respected line of avionics fans, integration boxes, and
encoders. At the Aircraft Electronics Association show in Las Vegas, Sandia's Dennis Smith gave AVweb a video tour of the company's new STX 165 compact transponder.
Although they're not the centerpiece of Garmin's booth at the Aircraft Electronics Association show in Las Vegas this week, Garmin has made quite a ripple with its announcement of
seven new avionics products for the experimental and light sport markets. In this video, Garmin's Jim Alpiser explains why the company is so bullish on the experimental segment and why Garmin carved
out a segregated engineering team to develop uncertified avionics, with more products on the way.
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