July 11, 2004
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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You might think it hard to find a silver lining in the FAA's apparent intention to make "permanent" the Air Defense Identification Zone around Washington, D.C., but the agency's chief spokesman says there is one, and we may (but don't count on it) see it in writing as early as late July. FAA spokesman Greg Martin told AVweb he recognizes that hundreds, maybe even thousands, of individuals, companies, groups and associations will have some fairly colorful (perhaps anatomically impossible) suggestions on what the FAA should do with the idea. But he's particularly interested in the handful of government submissions that will endorse, and, perhaps, attempt to justify the ADIZ. "All these agencies will have to carefully review and respond to this rulemaking process," Martin said in a weekend interview. He's talking, of course, about the Secret Service, TSA, the military and other government organizations for which the ADIZ may exist as one part of a last line of defense against an attack on the capital. The ADIZ, as it stands, is a "temporary" measure created by the kind of ad hoc decree that, in a democratic government, can only happen in truly exceptional circumstances. Martin said the introduction of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to formalize the existence of the ADIZ triggers, through the 90-day comment period, the sort of public input that should accompany such measures. "The rulemaking process, by its very nature, requires a very intensive comment period," he said. And that means the security-related agencies that called for the creation of the emergency ADIZ will have to, in some detail, explain just how it's a benefit to the country, something we don't recall seeing.
Of course, the alphabet groups wasted no time in denouncing the FAA's plan to introduce the ADIZ NPRM. The beans were spilled by vice president for system operations at the FAA, Linda Schuessler, during a grilling at a congressional hearing into the communications mix-up that created panic in Washington on June 9 and very nearly cost Kentucky its governor. In a release, EAA said the existing ADIZ arrangement offers flexibility and can be changed with relative ease. Once it's etched in legislative stone, any changes will have to go through a lengthy rulemaking process. Also, once the ADIZ rule is adopted, getting rid of it in the future will be much more difficult. "There is absolutely no need to make this ADIZ permanent," said EAA's government rep Earl Lawrence. "It would not add a shred of extra security for the country and would further discriminate against general aviation." AOPA President Phil Boyer said rather than making the ADIZ permanent, the government should scrap it. "The 15 nm no-fly zone that was put in place shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks provided adequate security for the nation's capital before the Iraq war when the ADIZ was imposed and it would do so again," he said. Boyer said the ADIZ has crippled many of the businesses at 19 airports within its boundaries and making it permanent would mean the end of many.
Against the backdrop of all this discussion about security, the FAA hinted that Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) might be reopened to GA flights. According to the Associated Press, an unnamed FAA official told the hearings that the agency and the TSA are working on a general aviation plan for DCA but the plans are being kept confidential. D.C. delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton said Congress should be in the loop on those discussions and suggested the plan be shared with the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Aviation Subcommittee, told the hearing that he was "seeking, once again, a sound security explanation for the closure of DCA to most general aviation flights." Mica said there's no reason a reasonable security plan can't be adopted to allow GA access and protect the capital. "I believe that with proper procedures, training communication and coordination we can outsmart the terrorists and restore jobs, economic activity and general aviation," he said. Meanwhile, a writer to AVweb said he would have been happy to see GA accommodated in Pennsylvania last Friday. A presidential TFR around Allentown effectively closed the state to transient GA traffic, he said, and he was forced to go around to get his passenger to Atlantic City. "If they want to close airspace, then they should make plans with ATC to provide routes around it," he wrote.
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Of course, the hubbub in Washington centered around Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher's near-fatal trip to Ronald Reagan's funeral on June 9. According to The Washington Post, unnamed sources reported that the military was on the verge of blasting Fletcher's King Air out of the Washington sky after it showed up as an unidentified aircraft on the monitors in the National Capital Region Control Center (NCRCC). But perhaps they were a bit shy of acquiring a lock on the target. As AVweb told you two weeks ago, a civilian contractor failed to notice the manual tracking tags attached to the radar image of Fletcher's transponder-less airplane and that triggered the evacuation of the Capitol building and the scrambling of F-16s. According to the Post, an F-16 was looking for the King Air but the pilot couldn't visually identify it because of cloud cover. Moments later, the plane began a normal approach to DCA and the military called off the attack. Fletcher told the Lexington Herald that he was originally told he was "milliseconds" from being shot down. The governor also claims that through the aftermath of the incident (those on board the plane were oblivious to the events around them until after they landed) his thoughts were not on his narrowly spared hide but on the way the incident would play in the media. "You don't want the state embarrassed for reasons beyond your control," he said. "The first few hours that concerned me more than anything. We are trying to build a good image in Kentucky."
The FAA claims it's learned from the incident. "We don't believe it can happen again," Linda Schuessler, vice president for system operations at the FAA, told the hearing. A direct feed from Washington-area air traffic control was to have been installed in the NCRCC. On June 9, the command post was getting a raw feed of radar images over the Internet and none of the manually added tags, like the one clearing the way for Fletcher's flight, were displayed. With the installation of the direct feed, the NCRCC staff will see exactly what controllers see. Aviation subcommittee chair Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) said he couldn't believe that kind of miscommunication could have occurred. "It is both alarming and unacceptable that in the two and a half years since September 11, the federal and local agencies involved in airspace control and security have still not resolved simple coordination, communication and training issues," he said. The National Air Traffic Controllers Association blamed the incident on staff shortages. In a statement, President John Carr said that because of a shortage of controllers, the ADIZ monitoring position is filled with civilian contractors. "The situation most likely would have been avoided had a fully trained and certified federal air traffic controller been in that chair instead of a contract employee," Carr said. The FAA has dismissed NATCA's claim, saying the contractor was properly qualified.
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SpaceShipOne will be going for the gold on its next forays to the edge of space. Scaled Composites President Burt Rutan told Wired News last week the history-making private spacecraft, whose somewhat troubled first flight on June 21 was the first privately funded, civilian-crewed space flight, will attempt three flights within a two-week span to try to claim the $10 million Ansari X PRIZE. He said they've fixed the actuator problem that caused an uncommanded 90-degree roll and sent the space plane 20 miles off course on its maiden flight. The X PRIZE requires only two flights, with a payload equal to that of two large adults and the pilot, within two weeks, but Rutan said the third flight is scheduled in case one of the others has to be scrubbed. Rutan didn't tell Wired when the attempt would be made but pilot Mike Melvill told MSNBC it would likely be near the end of September. And that tightens the time frame for an upstart Canadian effort that's trying to beat Rutan to the $10 million. Although most of the X PRIZE attention has been on the well-heeled effort in Mojave, a self-taught engineer from Toronto hopes to rocket away with the cash. "We're definitely in contention against Rutan," Brian Feeney, head of the da Vinci Project, told Wired. The team is developing Wild Fire, a rocket that will be first hoisted to about 70,000 feet by a helium balloon before blasting to the edge of space. Feeney plans to fly Wild Fire himself from the launch site in Kindersley, Saskatchewan, about 250 miles east of Calgary, Alberta,s and has hinted he will be ready about the same time as Rutan, in late September. The rocket portion of Wild Fire is a two-stage affair. After accelerating to about 2,500 mph, the booster will separate from a bullet-shaped capsule, which will then ride the momentum of the shot to about 110 kilometers before parachuting back to earth. The whole ride will take about 25 minutes. We'll leave the question of who would pay for this type of experience to the da Vinci Project's marketing people.
An Australian company has developed what it claims is the first affordable helicopter flight simulator. Geosim Technologies unveiled its AUD$70,000 sim in Brisbane on Friday after it received certification from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority. The company says it's one of only three helicopter simulators available and is half the price of the others. That, said Paul Brederick, the managing director of Aviation Australia, will make the Aussie device accessible to cash-strapped GA operators where helicopters are most often found. By enhancing training at the grassroots level, Brederick said it's hoped that the accident rate for helicopters can be reduced. Brederick said a U.S. study found that 81 percent of 3,000 fatal chopper crashes in the last 40 years were attributable to skills deficiencies. The new simulator will get its first workout with Australian Helicopters, which operates nighttime coastal surveillance flights in the Torres Strait area. CEO David Earley said the demanding flying of his operation requires extra training and the new simulator should be able to help.
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If one of the reasons you're going to EAA AirVenture later this month is to shop for (or leave drool on) avionics, be prepared to be amazed at the length and breadth of the selection. The electronics sector has exploded in recent years with everything from synthetic vision and weather products to angle-of-attack indicators, and, unless you've made up your mind exactly what you're looking for, you could end up overwhelmed by the choices. Now, the Aircraft Electronics Association doesn't want you to be driven back to steam gauges out of sheer frustration so it's prepared a handbook, The Pilot's Guide to Avionics, to help you sort through the selection and, we hope, the hype. The 2004 version makes its debut at Oshkosh and includes articles on "hot topics" like weather, TAWS, glass cockpits and new products. It also has a glossary of avionics and articles aimed at steering pilots in the right direction (to AEA members, no doubt) in making their avionics choices. If you miss it at Oshkosh, the AEA will be distributing it at all the major shows through the rest of the year or you can get yours on the AEA's Web site.
A "relatively simple" onboard wake-turbulence detector is being developed by the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF in Germany. The device, which uses mirrors and laser pulses to detect turbulence in front of an airplane, could help reduce congestion and the hazard created by vortex drag. "We are cooperating with eight teams from four different countries to develop a sensor which can determine whether the air is calm enough for a safe takeoff," said spokesman Thomas Peschel. The device sends laser pulses ahead of the aircraft, scanning the air seven times a second. Minute dust particles reflect the laser light and the Doppler effect of moving particles is calculated by onboard software to detect turbulence in the air. The machine could eventually give pilots a snapshot of the turbulence ahead at the touch of a button. Although designed for big iron, it's small enough to be tested on a Cessna.
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Canadian pilots are being rallied to help save what has often been referred to as Canada's Meigs Field. Indeed, the physical and political similarities between Toronto City Centre Airport and the gone but not forgotten Chicago waterfront airport are striking. Although Toronto's island airport has been under siege for several years, a new federal proposal to outlaw a bridge from the mainland to the island will seal its fate, according to the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association (COPA). The island airport is currently served by a very short ferry ride and work had actually begun on a bridge before it was cancelled in a political fight over the airport's future. During the recent federal election, COPA claims Prime Minister Paul Martin promised to outlaw the proposed bridge forever and legislation has actually been drafted to that effect. COPA is organizing a letter-writing campaign to stop the law.
He drives a Chevy, is a baseball fanatic, loves his mom and we'll go out on a limb and guess he likes apple pie, too. So, could George W. Bush accept an Italian helicopter as his official ride? Well, the Italians, with some help from the British, are hoping so. Agusta Westland (in a bid led by Lockheed Martin) is U.S.-based Sikorsky's main competition to replace the presidential fleet of heli's, which now counts 11 Sea Kings and eight Sea Hawks ... all about 30 years old. In fact, the lobbying has become so intense and so obviously parochial that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has put off a decision between the European US101 and the American S-92 until after the November election. The US101 is a variant of a popular military and search-and-rescue helicopter now used by the British, Italian and Canadian armed forces. Both Italy and Britain are hoping to cash in on their unflagging support for the war in Iraq and British Prime Minister Tony Blair has already directly lobbied Bush on the deal. Sikorsky is proposing the S-92, built by "skilled, trustworthy American hands." Sikorsky spokesman Jeffery Pino told The New York Times that it just wouldn't seem right to have the president flying in a foreign-made helicopter (even though most of the US101 would be built in New York). "You want the president in an American-made chopper." Agusta Westland spokesman Stephen Moss told the Times Americans should want their president in the best chopper for the best price. "The real issue is whether you want competition on a level playing field or a win based on jingoist anti-foreign sentiment in an election year," he said.
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Oceanside Airport will have new hangars. Supports at the city council chambers of Oceanside, Calif., last week collected to encourage their representatives to adopt the local airport's master plan. The airport crowd held its ground for five hours and was rewarded with a council resolution to start building new hangars. "This is what we have all worked so long and so hard for," said Alan Cruise, of the Oceanside Airport Association, in an e-mail to members. "This is the beginning of the rebirth of Oceanside Airport."
Forget the $100 hamburger. There is such a thing as a free lunch and lots of them for the winner of a Texas aviation community group's draw. At its next monthly FAA Safety Speaker presentation, the Laporte Wings will give away $100 in gift certificates good for hamburgers at a variety of airport restaurants in the area...
High school student Vanessa Orlandi will be getting her pilot's certificate thanks to a $5,000 scholarship from the Golden Empire Flying Association. The Nevada group hands out scholarships to deserving students each year to boost GA. A $2,000 prize went to Wade Carman...
Two former America West pilots are free on bail after appearing in court in connection with a July 1, 2002, charge of trying to fly while under the influence of alcohol. Thomas Cloyd and Christopher Hughes were released on $100,000 bonds after appearing in a Florida court Thursday. It's alleged they tried to fly a planeload of passengers from Miami to Phoenix about six hours after drinking in a Miami bar...
They're used to airplanes in Alaska but this is a bird of a different feather. After two years of full-time work, Jim Carner and Mike Smith have started flying their turbine-powered, pressurized Lancair IV PT at Fairbanks International Airport, turning heads in the process...
Adam Aircraft has formed an advisory council for the A700 AdamJet. Council members Peter Reynolds, Curtis Van Nice and Stephan Hanvey will help guide the engineering, interior definition, product support and other entry-into-service details of the twinjet...
Racine, Minn., Mayor Gary Landgrebe was killed last Thursday when the helicopter he was training in crashed near Rochester, Minn. It was the second chopper crash for Landgrebe, who walked away from a mishap last April. His instructor, Joseph Fishburn, is in critical condition as result of the most recent accident.
If it caught your attention, it will probably interest someone else, too. Drop us a line. Submit news tips via email to email@example.com.
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The Pilot's Lounge #76: And Now For Something ...
Got a lust for adventure? Tired of the status quo? Finished boring holes in the sky or getting $100 (let's be honest -- $200) hamburgers? AVweb's Rick Durden hasn't seriously thought about skydiving for many years, but recently he decided to take the plunge, and it has awakened his soul.
Reader mail this week about mandated carbon monoxide detectors, Border Patrol UAVs, funds for relieving traffic congestion, a GA presidential candidate and much more.
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Tower: Katana ###F you are number two for landing following a Piper Warrior.
Katana ###F (a student ... me): Number two following a Warrior that I am looking for.
Tower: The Warrior is on left downwind at about 2 oíclock.
Katana ###F: I have the traffic in sight, Katana ###F.
(Few moments pass)
Katana ###F: Tower, Katana ###F does not have the traffic in sight. What I saw was a bird.
Tower: (Laughter from the tower) Katana ###F, continue downwind. I'll call your turn to base.
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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