June 30, 2004
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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When the Aero Sports Connection (ASC), a membership group for sport flyers and ultralight pilots, sent out a letter last week to its registered ultralight instructors asking them if they want to become FAA Designated Pilot Examiners (DPEs) in the proposed Sport Pilot category, it opened a can of worms -- which may be only the first of many such cans lying in wait, as the long-anticipated Sport Pilot rule, with its multitude of devilish details, creeps toward finalization. "We need to get started on this," ASC President Jim Stephenson told AVweb yesterday. "We have over 2,400 instructors, and we'll have to have examiners to give them check rides." But to some, the action seemed premature. The letter asked instructors to submit information to the ASC about their background and experience. "This is our own internal process," Stephenson said.
About 5 p.m. Tuesday, a teleconference with EAA, the ASC, the FAA, and the U.S. Ultralight Association (USUA) was held to clarify the procedure for authorized ultralight instructors to become DPEs in the proposed Sport Pilot category. "FAA emphasized that, contrary to some reports, the application process has NOT started and that no action to start the DPE process would begin until a final Sport Pilot/Light-Sport Aircraft rule is published in the Federal Register and subsequently the DPE policy is released," EAA said on its Web site Tuesday night. Stephenson said that his letter to instructors was "fully compatible and coordinated with the FAA process." On the ASC Web site, an announcement is posted regarding Sport Pilot Examiners: "The Sport Pilot program requires many pieces of infrastructure. ... One of those pieces is a set of examiners who are competent in these light craft. A transitional plan is now starting to identify and train a significant number of examiners from our ranks. The first step in this plan is to send a letter to all BFIs and AFIs [basic and advanced flight instructors] to see who wants to be an examiner. ... Those who wish to be considered will supply background and experience information to aid in the evaluations. Once ASC has recommended candidates for SPE [Sport Pilot Examiner], the FAA examiner evaluation board will select from the pool of available candidates."
The confusion seems to have arisen from two separate provisions in the expected Sport Pilot rule. While only the FAA can designate a DPE, the major ultralight organizations -- ASC, USUA, and EAA -- may endorse applicants, and that endorsement, although it is not required, will add to the value of the application. It was that endorsement process that the ASC was trying to get a jump-start on, Stephenson said, so it would have a pool of qualified applicants ready to go when the gate opens. USUA Director Jim Sweeney said that his organization also encourages its registered flight instructors to consider becoming a Sport Pilot DPE or CFI. "It is critical that we have as many Light Sport DPEs and CFIs that are knowledgeable and competent with ultralight aircraft as possible [to] participate in these programs," Sweeney said in a e-mail to AVweb yesterday. The USUA also said it will provide its members with "accurate information regarding Sport Pilot and the regulatory process as it becomes available." In the teleconference, the FAA said all applications from DPEs must be made on FAA application forms, which are to be available in due time on the FAA AFS-610 Web site. There will be no fees charged by the FAA, nor is there any plan to require a potential applicant to work through any organization.
The confusion is not completely unexpected -- some in the ultralight community have long been somewhat dubious whether the complex Sport Pilot rules will make flying in any way better for them, with the instructor issues high on the list of concerns. Nonetheless, both the ASC and the USUA are actively supporting the rule. "Giving our pilots and instructors more options, an FAA certificate, and the ability to fly for fun and recreation in the planes that they want to fly has always made sense," Stephenson says on the ASC Web site. The USUA, on its Web site, acknowledges that the transition for some ultralight flyers may be "difficult and expensive," especially if they don't act quickly enough to take advantage of transition provisions in the new rule, but nonetheless supports the rule overall. EAA has always been a staunch advocate for the proposal.
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As AVweb reported Monday, the FAA is faced with yet another new report projecting that demand will outgrow capacity at many of the nation's airports. Just about every attempt to expand or build an airport runs into delays and obstacles, but one program has been working since the early 1990s to add capacity without all that trouble. The FAA's Military Airport Program provides funds to under-used military airfields to help make them attractive to GA and commercial air traffic by adding hangars, fuel farms and other upgrades. Last week, the FAA named five airports that will share in $35 million this year: Griffiss Airpark, Rome, N.Y.; Millington Municipal Airport, Millington, Tenn., Sawyer Airport, Gwinn, Mich.; Okaloosa County Airport, Valparaiso, Fla.; and Alexandria (La.) International Airport. "This program adds capacity in key locations and is an inexpensive way to reduce flight delays," said FAA Administrator Marion Blakey. Using federal Airport Improvement Program funds, the program provides financial assistance for up to five years.
The irony is that even as airports grow more and more congested, GA airports around the country are being shut down, victims of rising development pressures and neighborhood complaints. But in one small town in Michigan, champagne corks were popping last week after a judge's decision saved Wilderness Airpark, near Kent City. The airpark's only runway was growing effectively shorter and shorter as a neighbor's trees grew higher and higher, till it reached a point where closure was imminent. "The trees were so tall that they penetrated the 'approach protection area,'" said Rick Durden, the aviation lawyer (and AVweb columnist) who argued the case. The state's Aeronautics Code makes anything encroaching on the approach protection area a public nuisance, Durden said. The judge agreed, and ordered the neighbor to trim the trees, saving the runway. Wilderness Airpark is a half-mile-long, grass airport in western Michigan. Originally built in 1978 as a private, residential airport, it was designated a public-use airport in 1984. The judge ruled that the neighbors had purchased their land after the airport had become public and the approach protection area had become effective and they knew the runway was adjacent to their land, so they must comply with the Aeronautics Code and not allow trees to grow up into the approach area.
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Bombardier Recreational Products, based in Quebec, which was sold off from Bombardier last year, has relaunched itself under a new brand name, BRP. The company's V-engines for recreational aircraft, which were introduced at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh last year and are under development at Bombardier-Rotax in Austria, will be part of the BRP organization. "We will definitely be at Oshkosh with the new engines, and a flying demo, and some new things to reveal," BRP spokesman Luc de Gaspe Beaubien told AVweb yesterday. "We're on track for certification the end of '04 and limited production in 2005," he added. The engines will be built at BRP's Rotax plant in Austria and distributed by Bombardier Aircraft Engines in the U.S. The V220 and V300T aircraft engines feature Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC), low maintenance, high durability, lower sound emissions, MoGas capabilities and the best power-to-weight ratio in their class, according to BRP.
When the FAA published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on Monday proposing to turn a Washington State TFR into a permanent prohibited zone, AOPA was quick to cry foul. "AOPA has consistently opposed these TFRs in the Puget Sound area because of the adverse operational impact on general aviation, particularly seaplanes using the Hood Canal," AOPA President Phil Boyer said in a news release. "There is a much less restrictive solution that would satisfy the Navy's legitimate security concerns." AOPA told the FAA that an airspace classification called a National Security Area (NSA) would do the trick. "Pilots are requested to voluntarily avoid flying through an NSA," Boyer said. "And when the threat level is elevated, NOTAMs can be issued to prohibit flight through a particular NSA." The NPRM would make permanent the current TFR around the U.S. Navy submarine base at Bangor, Wash., over the Hood Canal. The proposed prohibited area, P-51, would extend up to 2,500 feet MSL.
A BRAND NEW AIRCRAFT FOR THE COST OF A SECOND CAR!
Evenings and weekends tend to be the most dangerous times for GA pilots in Australia, according to a report published Monday by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB). GA accidents between 5 p.m. and 8:59 p.m. were 1.6 times more likely to be fatal than during other times of the day, the ATSB found. The weekends are even worse -- accidents involving non-commercial operations were 1.9 times more likely to be fatal over the weekend than during the workweek. "Reasons for these findings could not be clearly identified," the report said. The analysis also found that risk varies with age and experience level. Pilots age 15 to 24 and 65 to 84 have higher fatality rates, but risk gradually decreases the longer a license has been held. The safest pilots were those who have held a license for 11 to 20 years. Pilots with between 50 and 999 hours had 3.1 times the fatal accident rate of pilots with 1,000 or more hours. The report notes that the number of pilots involved in fatal accidents is low, so even small changes in the demographics of pilots involved in fatal accidents could dramatically change the risk associated with each age group or experience group. The report reviewed 215 fatal accidents that occurred between 1991 and 2000. Airplanes were involved in 163 accidents, resulting in 331 fatalities, and 52 helicopter accidents resulted in 82 deaths. There were 78 survivors.
When the longest-ever nonstop airline flight went into service on Monday -- 18-plus hours between New York's Newark Airport and Singapore, over a 10,000-mile route, in an Airbus A340-500 -- the pilots became inadvertent guinea pigs. To document their response to the stresses of the flight, the crew will be hooked up with a special watch attached to a handheld computer, which will monitor their alertness levels, Singapore authorities told the Associated Press on Tuesday. After each flight, the pilots are scanned with a brainwave-measuring device to check how rested they are. The tests are to see whether new regulations are needed for the super-long flights. A final report on the study is due out next year. In Singapore and most other countries, current rules limit pilots to 18 hours of duty time. Singapore Airlines (SIA) now has four pilots on each flight under Singapore's aviation agency's provisional rules. Two of the pilots must be captains. Pilots are given two rest periods during the flight in individual compartments, and must undergo special training including guidelines on sleep physiology, alertness management and counter-fatigue measures. The new flight beats the existing record set in February 2004 when SIA launched nonstop service between Singapore and Los Angeles.
AEROSHELL KNOWS WHAT PILOTS WANT TO PROTECT & SHINE THEIR AIRCRAFT
When the supersonic Concorde fleet was retired last year, one of the glamorous birds came to rest on a barge outside the Intrepid Air & Space Museum on the Hudson River, on Manhattan's West Side. Last weekend, the airplane opened to the public, and unlike at most aviation museums, visitors are invited not only to gaze upon the airplane from a distance, but also to walk right on board and get a close-up view of the cabin and cockpit. A timed "boarding pass" must be picked up on arrival at the museum. The tours are limited to 1,500 people per day -- so get there early; it's been sold out every day so far. Seattle's Museum of Flight also offers on-board tours of its Concorde, but the National Air & Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center, in Virginia, does not. "However, we are exploring that very possibility for the future," NASM spokesman Peter Golkin told AVweb yesterday.
With summer here, thunderstorms, congested airports and flight delays are to be expected, and the FAA has posted a new online tutorial to help pilots work with ATC's traffic management system. Divided into 13 short modules, the tutorial includes some gorgeous vintage photos as background to help keep you awake. A few minutes' browsing will get you up-to-date on how the FAA manages traffic flow , help you understand why they do what they do, and see how you fit into the big picture. If you need to know what capping and tunneling and flow control and STMPs are, this is the place to find out. The slideshow even has a sense of humor, opening with a joke: "You have questions ... You need answers ... We're here to help ... Really." And if the tutorial leaves you feeling that you are dumber than you thought you were, check out Don Brown's regular AVweb columns about ATC to start catching up.
"IT'S LIKE HAVING A NEW AIRPLANE"
The FAA on Tuesday published a final rule requiring updates to the software on some Garmin GPS units. The upgrade will prevent the GPS navigation unit from providing erroneous cross-deviation information, which could result in the aircraft deviating from its intended course for a brief period of time, the FAA said. Also, a recent Airworthiness Directive regarding certain Lycoming engines has been republished by the FAA with minor corrections. Some corrections to engine models have been made by adding missing dashes, clarification to changes in requirements from the proposed rule are made, and some corrections are made for clarification in the compliance section. In all other respects, the FAA said, the original document remains the same.
Retiring NTSB board member John Goglia has joined the Professional Aviation Maintenance Association to lead efforts to increase the public's recognition of and respect for the individual aviation maintenance technician...
EAA says the FAA is late sending hard copies of the AirVenture NOTAM, so if you want one, go straight to the AFSS, or download your own off the Web... The FAA requests comments on a proposed Advisory Circular regarding the installation of electronic displays in Part 23 airplanes...
Wonder what kind of salaries and benefits GA pilots, line-service personnel and maintenance technicians are getting? The National Air Transportation Association has published its annual compensation survey, available for $100...
The nominations deadline for the National Aeronautic Association's Public Benefit Flying Awards has been extended to July 9...
Steve Fossett is in New Zealand this week trying to break the world glider altitude record; the right winds did not appear for Tuesday's flight...
Freedom Flight microlight pilot Ricky de Agrela is still trying to get home to South Africa from China after his partner was killed in early June during their round-the-world fundraising trip...
The National Air and Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles Airport has been visited by more than 1 million people in its first six months of operation.
MAKE THE RIGHT WEATHER DECISIONS QUICKLY AND WITH CONFIDENCE!
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TAKE TO THE AIR WITH PILOT GETAWAYS MAGAZINE
Last week, AVweb asked the loaded question on everyone's mind: Was the SpaceShipOne launch really historic or was it just hype? 55% of readers who responded to our poll said this was definitely a historic moment for flight. Another 25% of respondents went a step further, telling us they were ready to purchase a ticket to the upper atmosphere today. But a few dependably cynical AVweb readers (20%) said, "No big deal it was only a matter of time."
The FAA recently selected five new airports to participate in their Military Airport Program (MAP). As part of the program, the airports will receive funding in exchange for growing their "joint use" facilities in theory, alleviating pressures on overloaded GA airports. Will it work? Tell us what you think.
Have an idea for a new QOTW? Send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Selecting "Pictures of the Week" for publication is a lot of fun but lately, it's been a lot of work, thanks to the flood of quality images our readers are submitting. This week, in particular, was filled with tough calls and near-collisions with publication. After much deliberating, we settled on three terrific POTWs, headlined by Tom Evernham's stunning air-and-sea shot of the U.S.S. Kennedy aircraft carrier. (An officially licensed AVweb baseball cap is winging its way to you already, Tom!) We also received a handful of amateur SpaceShipOne photos, two of which really caught our eye so, in the interest of bending our own "POTW" rules, we've included them as a bonus. That's right you're getting five photos this week for the price of three!
Due to privacy issues, AVweb does not publish e-mail addresses of readers who submit photos.
Copyright © Bob Terry
"Salute to U.S.S. Kennedy"
Tom Evernham of Port Orange, Florida takes home the first-prize
baseball cap this week for a photo of one of six Warbirds honoring
the U.S.S. Kennedy as it departs for a combat cruise
here to view a large version of this image
Click here for a medium-sized version
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.
"Blue Angels at Aerospace America 2004"
John Gardner of McCloud, Oklahoma sends in this beautifully
composed shot of Blue Angels One, Two, Three, and Four in formation
over Oklahoma City. "It was the second airshow I have taken my 2-year-old
son to," writes John. "He said his favorite part was 'the scary jets.'"
Used with permission of Tim Parker
"Enjoying the Weather"
Tim Parker of Socorro, New Mexico snuck off to the Columbia Glacier
above Valdez, Alaska for some creative R&R. The helicopter, he tells us, is
a Messerschmitt-Bolkow-Blohm BO105.
AVweb Readers Cover the SpaceShipOne Launch!
To enter next week's contest, click here.
A Reminder About Copyrights: Please take a moment to consider the source of your image before submitting to our "Picture of the Week" contest. If you did not take the photo yourself, ask yourself if you are indeed authorized to release publication rights to AVweb. If you're uncertain, consult the POTW Rules or send us an e-mail.
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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