July 7, 2004
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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There's nothing like a little adversity to inspire innovation and a California company says it has part of the solution to the problem of aging large air tankers. Aero Tech Ltd. has been trying to convince California authorities and the U.S. Air Force to test A-10 attack aircraft as medium-sized air tankers. The company's Web site claims governments are wasting time and money continuing to convert 50- and 60-year-old designs into effective firefighting aircraft when the FireHog version of the venerable Warthog carrying about 1,550 gallons of retardant would provide a modern alternative. Aero Tech claims a converted A-10 could carry nearly half the load of a large air tanker (which generally carry between 3,000 gallons and 5,000 gallons) and zip it to a fire at 340 mph. Once on station, the highly maneuverable jet would be fully aerobatic, even with a full load, and be able to drop its load more precisely than large air tankers. What's more, the company claims, the electronic gear already installed on A-10s, like infrared scanners and bomb-aiming devices, would be invaluable in fighting fires.
Aero Tech has been promoting the A-10 tanker concept for almost 10 years but the recent grounding of 33 large air tankers by the Forest Service gave new impetus to the proposal and the company prepared a brief for western governors. One of the biggest stumbling blocks appears to be freeing up a couple of A-10s for testing. The brief to the governors notes that dozens of A-10s, in flying condition, have been donated to museums in recent years and there are about 200 in storage in Arizona. Aero Tech claims the cost of converting an A-10 to firefighting duty is about $3 million, which it says is less than the conversion cost of less-effective S-2T aircraft in California. The company says the A-10 would be used primarily as an initial attack tool, designed to jump on a fire in the early stages. It could also put its electronics suite to use for fire reconnaissance.
Meanwhile, the Forest Service wasted little time getting the five heavy tankers it now has back in its arsenal back to work. Within a few days of the P-3 Orions from Aero Union Corp. being given the go-ahead to fly, two of them were used to battle a blaze threatening a telescope in Arizona. The five turboprops will be dispersed throughout the Western U.S., with one going to Alaska, but they will travel where needed to fight fires, said Bureau of Land Management spokeswoman Jo Simpson. Other air-tanker contractors are now anxiously awaiting their turns for airworthiness inspections that could allow them to get back into business. DynCorp Technical Services is evaluating the tankers for the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service, and Minden Air Corp. of Nevada is among the companies that has asked to be included in the review. "It's something we want to complete as soon as we can," owner Len Parker told The Record-Courier. He said he's sure his two ex-military aircraft will be cleared for takeoff by DynCorp. But a spokeswoman for the National Interagency Fire Center says safety, not speed, is the priority for the inspections. "We're in absolutely no rush to get any of (the tankers) back in the air unless they're safe," she said.
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The one state likely doing the highest percentage of general aviation flying per resident is also paying the most for general aviation fuel. "With the gas prices, oh, man, it's a sore subject," Matt Smith, of Anchorage's Aero Tech Flight Services, told The Anchorage Daily News. As often seems to be the case, Alaskans have been hit harder by gas-price increases than just about anyone. Aero Tech is currently charging about $3 a gallon for 100LL, up from about $2.50 in early May. However, while FBOs in populated areas of the state can expect the prices to fluctuate with world oil prices, bush pilots in outlying areas are bracing for a year of high fuel costs, possibly up to $4 a gallon. In many remote areas, fuel is barged in during the very window in July and August when the rivers are free of ice. That means the barges are being filled now, while prices are at their peak, and that will set the rates until the barge arrives next summer. Tack on the freight costs and companies like Hageland Aviation in Kotzebue expect fuel prices to reach $4 a gallon. Some companies are raising charter rates, partly because of the gas-price increases but insurance, maintenance and other costs are also factors.
Chances are avgas prices have gone up at your local FBO, too, but if you live in the central part of the U.S. you're probably paying less than elsewhere in the country. AirNav's report on fuel prices canvasses 3955 FBOs and the most recent tabulation reveals that the average price for 100LL in the central area was $2.70 a gallon. In some places it was as low as $2 while others were charging $3.75 a gallon. Alaska has the highest prices, ranging from $2.25 to $5.25 a gallon with an average of $3.18. Outside of Alaska, New England was listed as the most expensive place to buy avgas, with an average of $3.01 a gallon between extremes of $2.25 and $5.25. The volatility of fuel prices has had some unexpected anomalies in some areas. For instance, in Western Canada prices for automotive fuel went up by as much as 30 percent virtually overnight a month ago but avgas prices stayed relatively stable. For a while, the Salmon Arm Airport in south-central British Columbia was selling 100LL at 94 cents CAD per liter (about $2.70 U.S. per gallon), a cent or two cheaper than regular unleaded.
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Airplanes and most of what keeps them flying will soon be less costly in Rhode Island after the state apparently thought better of its sometimes-confusing attempts to make aviation pay. Gov. Donald L. Carcieri signed legislation on Monday that will repeal laws that taxed aircraft sales and associated services. Although the taxes were never popular, they became even more of an issue last year when the state invoked a "user tax" that slapped seven percent on the cost of an airplane and associated services even if they were purchased out of state. It also could be applied to non-resident companies. The taxes will be repealed effective Jan. 1, 2005. The new law specifically exempts from tax "the sale, storage, use or other consumption of new or used aircraft and aircraft parts" according to the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA). NBAA was part of a coalition of aviation groups that lobbied the Rhode Island government for a year to get rid of the taxes. The lobbying undoubtedly helped but it's also likely that the tax-free services available in nearby Connecticut and Massachusetts had put a damper on aviation related businesses in Rhode Island. "Rhode Island will now be on par with its neighboring states providing equitable tax treatment of aircraft," said NBAA spokesman Mike Nichols. "We expect this will translate into additional jobs for residents of Rhode Island."
The General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) is urging the European Union to adopt a uniform set of standards for GA aircraft and it's recommending they mirror U.S. regs. GAMA Sr. VP of Operations Ron Swanda told the recent U.S./Europe International Safety Conference that without common standards for GA aircraft, trade and commerce could be hindered in Europe. Swanda said the model for such regulations already exists with the FAA's operating rules. "The U.S. accounts for approximately 80 percent of the world's GA aircraft and pilots and it contains geography and operating environments similar to every area of the world," Swanda told delegates. "FAA's operating rules for GA have been written to safely accommodate these operating environments. In addition, FAA's operating rules have been in place for many years and are well understood." Swanda also urged the European Union to ensure accident-prevention programs are put in place and to integrate accident data with other jurisdictions to improve accident trend analysis.
SAVE YOUR SWEAT FOR YARD WORK, NOT LOOKING FOR PILOT SUPPLIES!
It reads like something out of a cheap spy novel but a bitter lawsuit between two Canadian airlines may also be a window into the cutthroat competition that has developed between WestJet and Air Canada. In April, Air Canada launched a lawsuit accusing WestJet of gleaning confidential information about passenger loads from its Web site by using an access code reserved for employees booking themselves onto flights. Late last month, WestJet countersued, claiming Air Canada had hired private detectives to go through the recycling bags of a senior WestJet executive, collecting confidential shredded documents and then paying to have the paperwork reconstituted. In its suit, Air Canada claims that by using the access code of a former employee, who now works for WestJet, the cut-rate carrier was able to look at Air Canada's passenger loads and adjust its marketing and operating strategies accordingly. WestJet's counterclaim says there are no declarations on the Air Canada site saying the information is confidential and, in any case, the employee involved only used the access code to satisfy his own curiosity and not for commercial gain. Air Canada claims the former employee's access code was used 243,630 times between May of 2003 and March of 2004. A judge will rule today on an injunction application from Air Canada to stop WestJet from using the information it obtained from the Web site. No trial date for the main lawsuit has been set.
Scientists at Ohio State University are working on a "mute button" for jet engine exhaust noise. Researchers Mohammad Samimy and Igor Adamovich have used high-voltage electrical current to change the patterns of exhaust turbulence, one of the main causes of engine noise. If they can turn it into a practical system, they'll give pilots the option of setting the volume on their engines based on where and when they're flying. Modern jet engines already have a mechanical version of the same theory. Zigzags cut in the exhaust nozzle direct the gases to control noise, but they also increase fuel consumption. The Ohio State system would allow pilots to hush their engines on takeoff and let them run at their noisiest efficiency at altitude. NASA has contributed $100,000 to help fund the research.
ATTENTION, AIRCRAFT CLUB MEMBERS! GETTING THE MOST OUT OF YOUR CLUB?
Imagine dropping off your 16- or 17-year-old at camp and picking up a licensed pilot six weeks later. The Royal Canadian Air Cadets have been doing just that for hundreds of teens every summer for the last 50 years and now parents of a few of them can watch the miracle unfold via the Internet. Harv's Air Pilot Training School in Steinbach, Manitoba, one of about 10 contractors that provides the intensive training programs for the cadets, is plotting the progress of 16 cadet students as they work their way through the training. The cadets arrived at Harv's on July 4 and by July 6 they were in the air, practicing basic flight maneuvers. The training is free for the cadets, who qualify for the program with a rigorous set of exams and interviews through the year. Despite the compressed nature of the course, the vast majority of student cadets obtain their private pilot's license at the end of the six weeks. There are also glider-license scholarships offered across the country. The training is a joint venture between the Canadian Armed Forces and the Air Cadet League of Canada.
Luck was in the air for a few GA pilots over the past week as they walked, swam and were pulled away from some potentially disastrous circumstances. Probably the most public examples was Ramsay Shockley's unplanned swim in Jamaica Bay, New York, in front of thousands of beach-goers. Shockley, 25, was towing a banner with a Cessna when the plane developed engine trouble and he elected to ditch. He was picked up from the wing of the submerged plane by a passing jet skier. In Beirut, a student pilot and instructor put their Cessna 172 down on a crowded road after the plane had engine problems. Just prior to landing, the pilot leaned out of the window of the plane and asked a boy on a motorcycle to "Stop the traffic, I have to land." There were no injuries and no damage to the plane or cars. Some good Samaritans came to the rescue of a 172 pilot whose plane went down at a fly-in on Lundy Island, off the north Devon coast in Britain. The pilot was knocked out in the crash and onlookers managed to pull him out before the plane exploded. He was not seriously hurt.
OREGON AERO'S NEW CATALOG FEATURES 500+ PAINLESS, SAFER, QUIETER PRODUCTS
What George Bush can do, Steven Eastman, of Renton, Wash., did perhaps a little better. The former U.S. president made headlines around the world a month ago when he skydived on his 80th birthday. Eastman celebrated his 94th birthday on July 4 with a tandem leap from 12,000 feet. What's more, his son Hal and granddaughter Julie Pech joined him (we didn't see George W. shouting Geronimo with his dad). "I wanna do it again," yelled the elder Eastman after touching down at Harvey Field, in Snohomish. Eastman's jump had been planned for about five years and about 60 family members attended the feat. He wasn't the oldest skydiver to use Harvey Field, however. Airport officials told the King County Journal that a 98-year-old man had previously taken the leap.
The FAA gets Orville and the Department of Transportation gets Wilbur in the naming of their respective buildings to honor the Wright brothers' achievments. The ceremony was held Wednesday to rename the FAA building the Orville Wright Federal Building and the DOT headquarters the Wilbur Wright Federal Building. Previously they were known as 10-A and 10-B...
A small plane crashed into two houses near Los Angeles on Wednesday. The Associated Press reported that the plane clipped the roof of one house before plowing into another about 25 miles south of L.A.. No further details were available at our deadline...
The first European orders for Boeing's Dreamliner were announced last week. So far, only charter lines seem interested, however. First Choice, of Britain, has ordered six 7E7s, while Italy's Blue Panorama wants four. In April, All Nippon Airways ordered 50 and Air New Zealand ordered two...
Got a spare Cessna 210? Then EAA would like to hear from you. Maintenance staff are too busy getting their B-17 Fuddy Duddy ready for a tour and arranging to bring back Aluminum Overcast from California, where it suffered a gear collapse, to install a new engine in the 210 used for taking aerial photos during AirVenture. If you donate your 210 for use during the show, you get to ride shotgun on the photo shoots...
Australia is issuing forge-proof pilot licenses to all its 30,000 pilots. The new licenses have passport-style security measures, making them tougher to copy...
The FAA has tested a new fuel inerting system for airliners. The system, which uses an on-board system to replace oxygen in fuel tanks with nitrogen, was tested in the NASA Boeing 747 normally used to move Space Shuttles around the country.
NON-OWNER (RENTER) PILOTS EXPOSED: PILOTS ARE HELD FINANCIALLY LIABLE
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The Savvy Aviator #7: Owner In Command
Every pilot understands the concept of "pilot in command," which places absolute responsibility and final authority for aircraft operation squarely on the pilot's shoulders. But what about when the aircraft isn't flying? AVweb's Mike Busch argues that aircraft owners need to accept absolute responsibility and final authority for the maintenance and airworthiness of their aircraft -- a concept he calls "owner in command."
THE NEW ASA AIRCRAFT FLIGHT LOG IS EASY AND COMPLETE
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Last week, AVweb asked for your opinions on the FAA's MAP program, whereby military airports receive funding to be used toward developing "joint use" facilities that will alleviate the growing strain on GA airports. 27% of you said that this is definitely a wise move on the FAA's part, putting money into underutilized, ready-for-use facilities that can help GA out immediately. But the vast majority of you (60% of respondents) were quick to point out that this is only a stopgap measure while it may ease the burden of GA, more airports will still be needed. The remaining 13% of you said emphatically that MAP alone simply won't cut it: When all is said and done, we still need more airports.
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AVweb readers continue to deliver the goods, even with a day off work and lots of distractions during the Independence Day holiday. In honor of Fourth of July barbecues and fly-ins, we wanted to make this a holiday-weekend-themed edition of "POTW" and it almost is, though we just had to squeeze in a photo of the Concorde making its way to NYC. So microwave the last of your holiday leftovers, pull up a seat and check out these great "POTW" submissions from our readers. Philip F. Curtiss, an AVweb hat is on the way for your striking photo of Miss Liberty!
Due to privacy issues, AVweb does not publish e-mail addresses of readers who submit photos.
Copyright © Philip F.
"Our Lady of Liberty"
Philip F. Curtiss of Gaylord, Michigan snapped this majestic shot
of the Statue of Liberty recently. Perfect timing for a reminder that,
even though she's closed to the public, Lady Liberty is still stunning from the air
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.
"The Concorde Joins the Intrepid"
Rodney H. Bowers of Clearfield, Pennsylvania shares
"how they looked to a GA pilot from a Cessna 150 in the
uncontrolled Hudson River VFR Corridor airspace"
Used with permission of Cash Traylor
Cash Traylor of Allen, Texas captures this
"race for the barbecue" from a fly-in at the oldest
privately owned public-use airport in Texas
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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