NewsWire Complete Issue

June 27, 2004
By The AVweb Editorial Staff

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Airports Jammed, Getting Worse

FAA Study Says More Capacity Needed...

An FAA study has confirmed what most of us had likely already guessed. We're running out of room for airplanes and we need to build new airports as well as expand existing ones. But the FAA admits there are some areas of the country that simply won't be able to build new capacity fast enough. "Unfortunately, we have metropolitan areas on both coasts where demand will outstrip capacity without adequate solutions in sight," FAA Administrator Marion Blakey said in a news conference last Thursday. It will come as no surprise at all that Chicago is in the worst pickle. Although there's a major ($20 billion, six runways, new terminals) expansion planned for O'Hare, it hasn't come off the drawing board yet and construction will take years. Midway can't expand significantly, according to the report, and will reach ultimate capacity in 10 to 15 years. Meanwhile, the FAA has tried limiting flights into O'Hare to reduce congestion and improve the on-time record. Newark Liberty, Hartsfield-Jackson, Philadelphia and La Guardia Airports also need immediate expansion and by 2013, 15 of the country's 35 top airports are expected to be overloaded.

...But Airport Expansion Isn't Easy...

Of course, airport expansion is usually a ticklish subject between airports, local governments and the neighbors. At Bob Hope Airport, in Burbank, Calif., the airport authority and the city are so tired of spending money on lawyers ($25 million in total) over expansion issues, they've called a truce of sorts. The airport has agreed to halt any expansion plans for seven years (even though more gates are badly needed to meet demand) and the city will allow it to hang on to land the airport hopes will be the site of a new terminal in 10 years. These types of fights aren't unique to the U.S. In southern England, well-known cleric Terry Waite is doing his best to stand in the way of expansion of Stansted Airport. Waite, best known as the emissary from the Church of England who was held hostage in Lebanon for five years, doesn't even live near the site of the proposed new runway. But he said he couldn't stand idly by while a priceless piece of the famous English countryside was covered in concrete. "This is the very last place that should be developed, very, very last," he said. "Our heritage will be gone forever."

...Unless You're In Hulett, Wyoming

But there are still those who think airports are a good thing, even if they don't have a lot of airplanes to use them. Take, for example, the folks in Hulett, Wyo., population 427. They figured they weren't getting their share of the more than half a million tourists heading to Devils Tower National Monument or appreciating the other amenities of their area, so they convinced the FAA to fund an impressive new airport. Built on donated land, with about $6.1 million in federal grants, the airport sports a 75-foot by 5,500-foot paved runway, radio-activated runway lights, a Precision Approach Path Indicator (PAPI) system and is certified for use by business jets. And although only a handful of airplanes of any type have landed there since it opened last September (three to four operations a week), there are already some expansion plans. Hulett mover and shaker Jim Nieman has built a golf resort and housing development and there's talk that developers from Jackson Hole are interested in the area because of its natural beauty. Should all that money come Hulett's way, the airport will be ready with a 1,000-foot extension on the runway to accommodate bigger aircraft, an FBO, hangars and a fuel depot. Although there is some skepticism from local officials, Nieman is steadfastly optimistic. "I think the airport will accelerate growth in this area," he told the Rapid City Journal.

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Human Error Led To D.C. Chaos

A moment's inattention by a civilian contractor to the FAA was largely to blame for the false alarm that caused an evacuation of the Capitol building June 9. FAA Deputy Director of Communications Greg Martin told AVweb this week that the contractor, whose job is to act as a liaison between air traffic control and the National Capital Region Coordination Center (NCRCC), overlooked vital information on his screen when NCRCC staff inquired about an aircraft that was portrayed as "unidentified" on the security command post's radar feed. The subject aircraft, which was carrying Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher to Washington for late-President Ronald Reagan's funeral, had been manually identified on ATC monitors by FAA controllers because of a faulty transponder on the plane. "The specialist missed the tag. He simply missed it," said Martin. Within 25 minutes of takeoff from Kentucky, pilots of the governor's plane reported the malfunctioning transponder to ATC. Controllers then manually keyed in an identification code and asked the pilots to stay in touch, which they did. When the plane hit the ADIZ, however, that manually keyed identifier didn't show up on the Internet-based radar image at the NCRCC. When officials at the command post called the specialist at the ATC facility to inquire about the "unidentified" aircraft, Martin said the specialist didn't spot the unique tag and told the NCRCC people that everything was normal on his monitor. Faced with that kind of discrepancy, the NCRCC did the only thing it could, said Martin. "Under those circumstances, the NCRCC has to default to the highest security posture," he said. The National Air Traffic Controllers Association claims the contractor's lack of experience may have contributed to the error but Martin dismissed the allegation, saying the contractor was qualified for the job.

...Command Post To Get ATC Monitor...

Meanwhile, Martin said the FAA plans to install a direct feed from the ATC system to the NCRCC to try and avoid this kind of confusion. He said the "raw radar" feed now received by NCRCC via the Internet isn't able to show all the information portrayed on the core system. While that might solve some problems around Washington, the Los Angeles Times is reporting that serious security breaches and lapses plague the system and that ongoing communications problems between the FAA, other agencies and the military are to blame. "All of these communications involve humans and everyone wants the system to operate perfectly," FAA spokesman Laura Brown told the Times. "Most of the time it operates extremely well ... What gets the attention is the one error." According to the Times, more than 1,500 airplanes have been intercepted by military jets since 9/11. The majority have been harmless navigation (or communications) errors by light aircraft flying where they shouldn't be. But a few have been more serious. For instance, on May 3, a Singapore Airlines flight carrying 144 passengers and crew was escorted to LAX by an F-16 and taken to a remote area of the airport where armed FBI agents boarded and questioned those on board. SWAT teams waited on the tarmac. The cause -- a faulty transponder issuing the hijack code. As AVweb reported last week, an FAA-sanctioned aerial photo shoot sent workers fleeing from the 23rd floor of the Prudential building fearing some sort of attack was under way.

...ADIZ Airports Adjust To New NOTAM

To prevent a duplication of the Washington incident, the FAA has now banned aircraft with non-functioning transponders from the ADIZ. If the transponder goes on the fritz while in the ADIZ, the aircraft is supposed to depart via the most direct route. As AVweb has previously reported, the new rule raised the hackles of AOPA, which accused the FAA of scapegoating GA instead of addressing its own problems. Rhetoric aside, the new NOTAM unintentionally caused some major headaches for flying schools within the ADIZ. Some FAA officials interpreted the NOTAM as banning pattern work and low-level flight within the ADIZ. When schools and students phoned to request the normal permission to do the training, they were denied. AOPA President Phil Boyer said he was able to phone Russ Chew, the head of the FAA's new Air Traffic Organization, directly to get the misunderstanding sorted out.

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A Glass Act For Diamond

Diamond Aircraft's Garmin G1000-equipped DA40 has been certified by the FAA. The announcement was made at DiamondFest 2004, the annual gathering of Diamond owners and pilots at the company's North American headquarters in London, Ontario. CEO Peter Maurer said the G1000 "is a natural for this aircraft" and claims the $229,500 price of the aircraft makes it "the best value all-glass IFR aircraft on the market today." Maurer said the company plans to deliver G1000-equipped DA40s "at a very accelerated rate" to fill the orders already taken for the planes. Likewise, the runway at Independence, Kan., will be busy with new G1000-equipped Cessna 182s and 206s heading for their new homes in the next few weeks. Cessna had about 100 all-glass aircraft on the ramp in Independence, paid for by customers and waiting for that all-important piece of paper. The certification for Cessnas was announced by the company about 10 days ago. Cessna is holding a ceremony at the plant on Tuesday celebrating the delivery of the first four 182s.

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U.S., Europe Cooperate On Satellite Navigation

The battle over satellite-based navigation signals was settled at a medieval castle in Ireland this week. The European Union agreed to make its proposed Galileo system compatible with the U.S. GPS system. The U.S. objected to the Europeans' proposal to put the Galileo signals on a different frequency band, making it tough to jam them in war zones. But the Europeans finally agreed to make their system work alongside GPS and the deal was signed at the EU-U.S. Summit at Dromoland Castle, Ireland, Friday. Although pilots will undoubtedly benefit from Galileo, there are much broader plans for the system. Galileo will use 30 satellites compared to GPS's 15. The result will be greater reliability and better accuracy, which will translate into greater utility. Galileo backers envision trains, planes and automobiles running with varying degrees of autonomy off the space-based signals. They also predict cellphones being used as receivers and say that there will be more than 400 million satellite navigation users by 2015.

Kiwi Company Buys Rights To Trainer

Will your local flying school's next trainer come from New Zealand? Hamilton, N.Z.-based Alpha Aviation Ltd. hopes so. The Kiwi company recently bought the rights to the Alpha trainer developed by a French company, Societe Apex Industries. The New Zealand firm gets all the rights, tools, designs and intellectual property related to the aircraft. Alpha CEO Murray Dreyer wouldn't say what his company paid for all that but he did predict sales of about 100 aircraft a year, 90 for export. The French company will continue to build its line of wooden aircraft including the DR400, which is a popular training and touring aircraft in Western Europe. The trainer is expected to sell for less than US$100,000.

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NTSB Wants CO Detectors

Although the text of the recommendation seems vague to us, it appears the NTSB is asking the FAA to require carbon monoxide detectors on most single-engine aircraft. In a safety recommendation issued Wednesday, the NTSB asks the FAA to "require the installation of CO detectors ... in all single-engine reciprocating-powered airplanes with forward-mounted engines and enclosed cockpits that are already equipped with any airplane system needed for the operation of such a CO detector." That would appear to mean that if the detector needs electricity and your airplane has an electrical system, then the detector would be mandatory. Before it makes the detectors mandatory, however, it wants some research done to make sure they work properly. The NTSB also wants the FAA to tighten inspection standards for exhaust systems and introduce mandatory replacement intervals for light aircraft exhaust systems. The NTSB says 84 deaths have been caused by CO poisoning in the last 40 years.

UAV Starts Border Patrols

The U.S. Border Patrol officially launched its electronic eyes in the sky on Friday. After several weeks of testing, two Israeli-built Hermes 450 drones started patrolling 300 miles of border between the U.S. and Mexico controlled by the border patrol's Tuscon sector. The plane's array of day- and night-vision cameras will be used to spot people trying to illegally cross the border. The single-engine Hermes 450 has a cruising speed of about 90 mph, can go as high as 18,000 feet and stay in the air for 20 hours. According to, the drone is capable of supplying round-the-clock real-time surveillance. The aircraft are capable of carrying surveillance equipment with "gimbaled electro-optical payloads" to detect targets.

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Democrats Clear Skies Around Boston

If you're planning a trip to the Boston area at the end of next month, be aware that a big chunk of airspace will be under temporary flight restrictions for four days. The FAA released details of the TFR around the Democratic National Convention being held July 26 to July 29. The TFR will close Logan International to GA and put restrictions on dozens of airports within the 30-nm security zone. Other than its duration, the Boston TFR follows a pretty familiar theme (who would have thought we'd be getting used to this?). Within 10 nm of the Boston VORTAC, GA is virtually shut out. Outside the 10-nm ring, GA flights are permitted but only for departure or arrival purposes at airports. No training or practice flights are allowed; neither are such commercial activities as pipeline patrols or media flights; and, perhaps in recognition of the location of the TFR, "fish spotters" are also grounded. As always, check with FSS if you're planning on going anywhere near there.

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Pilot Kicks Trustee Off Plane

A Hawaiian Airlines pilot declared his boss a safety hazard on Thursday and asked him to leave his airplane. Capt. Craig Kobayashi told Josh Gotbaum, the bankruptcy trustee now at the helm of the airline, that he was so angry with Gotbaum that he didn't think he could safely fly the Boeing 767-300 with the trustee aboard from Honolulu to San Francisco. Gotbaum apparently tried to mention some of the positive things he's done for the airline, which has been bankrupt since March, but Kobayashi wasn't swayed and asked Gotbaum to leave, which he did. It's unclear whether the airline will take any sanctions against Kobayashi but the FAA is staying out of it. "A captain is in charge of his or her ship," FAA spokesman Donn Walker told the Honolulu Advertiser. "It's the captain's place to decide who does or does not fly on his or her plane." Kobayashi told the Advertiser that many employees are emotional about certain decisions made by Gotbaum, including the freezing of their pension plan. Kobayashi, 55, has been with Hawaiian Airlines for 25 years.

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Taxiway Landings Targeted

When in doubt, spell it out. The NTSB hopes to make it easier for pilots flying into Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to land in the right spot by urging the FAA to clearly mark a taxiway that has been accidentally used as a runway several times in the last few years. In the most recent incident on Jan. 19 an Air Canada Jazz Dash-8 landed on Taxiway Tango at Sea-Tac on a VFR approach to Runway 16R. It was about the fifth such incident in recent years. The NTSB hopes to put an end to it with some old-fashioned signage. Recognizing that such markings are not currently "nonstandard," the NTSB wants the FAA to paint, in large letters, the word TAXIWAY at intervals running the length of the asphalt. In between the lettering, the centerline is to be overpainted with a continuous serpentine line. The NTSB also wants the FAA to research and establish marking standards for airports that have recurring problems with taxiway landings.

New Articles and Features on AVweb


As the Beacon Turns #78: Open Eyes
If you maintain the same airplane that you fly, you will gain a lot of useful knowledge. But briefly looking over the plane every time you do a preflight increases the risk of not noticing when something starts subtly changing. AVweb's Michael Maya Charles brings in another set of open eyes to help him inspect his plane.

Reader Feedback on AVweb's News Coverage and Feature Articles ...


Reader mail this week about ATC retirements, pilots on Prozac, TFRs for presidential candidates, and much more.

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On The Fly...

A Fargo TV reporter found out the hard way that security isn't so lax at his city's airport. WDAY's Mike Licquia was arrested Saturday after allegedly being spotted climbing the eight-foot fence. Formal charges hadn't been filed by our deadline and the reporter was released on his own recognizance...

An American Airlines flight attendant has admitted leaving a false bomb-threat note, according to the FBI. Agent Greg Franklin testified in court Friday that Gay Wilson confessed to FBI agents that she left the note on a plane heading from Dallas/Fort Worth to Boston. The plane diverted to Nashville. Franklin said Wilson told the FBI she was having personal problems...

A volunteer at the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome has been cleared of theft charges over his attempt to sell a parachute from an Apollo mission that had been given to Rhinebeck by the National Air and Space Museum. A judge dismissed all charges against Christopher Rogine during an appearance June 3...

A hot air balloon equipped to take wheelchairs will be among the attractions at the annual Eyes To The Skies Festival in Lisle, Ill., July 1 through July 4. More than 20 balloons are taking part and the wheelchair-accessible Serena's Song will offer tethered rides.

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