NewsWire Complete Issue

July 18, 2004
By The AVweb Editorial Staff

This issue of AVweb's AVflash is brought to you by ... Zuluworks

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Sport Pilot Rule Gets On The Step

On Friday, the federal Office of Management and Budget signed off on the Sport Pilot/Light Sport Aircraft proposed rule, sending it off to the FAA for its final prep before publication in the Federal Register, expected later this week. The OMB approval was the final hurdle for the rule, more than 10 years in the making. "We are extremely pleased," said Tom Poberezny, EAA president. "It has long been a goal of the aviation community and provides the first rulemaking package specifically written for recreational flying." Officials from EAA , the FAA and other groups will host briefings and distribute information about the rule during AirVenture Oshkosh, starting next week. A large sport pilot pavilion will be located at the center of the AirVenture grounds. The National Association of Flight Instructors (NAFI) welcomed the news about the rule's progress on Friday. "We could not be more excited about this development," said Rusty Sachs, executive director of NAFI. "It will bring many more people into aviation and provide more teaching opportunities for the nation's flight instructors."

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Honda Enters U.S. Aviation Market

Meet Honda Aero...

Honda Motor Co. announced on Thursday that it has established a new U.S. subsidiary, Honda Aero Inc., to focus on the aviation engine business. Early this year, a Japanese newspaper reported that Honda and Teledyne Continental Motors were close to a deal to produce piston engines for light aircraft, and all eyes turned to the 225-hp, gas- and 100LL-burning engine the companies have shown at air shows for the past year. But Honda apparently sees more immediate promise in the new-designs-laden, engine-hungry, very-light-jet market and its forged-in-February alliance with General Electric Co.. Honda and GE are now jointly pursuing commercialization of Honda's HF118 jet engine. Honda and GE are still working out issues such as marketing strategy, business structure and production, and expect to sign a final agreement later this year. Honda said it estimates the annual market for the HF118 engine at 150 to 200 units, with further growth expected in the future. Junichi Araki was named CEO of the new U.S. company. Honda also announced last week that engineering subsidiary Honda Engineering Co. will set up a local arm in Guangzhou, China, next month, to expand output there.

...And Announces Engine-Research Initiative...

In addition, Honda said Thursday that it has established the Wako Nishi R&D Center in Japan, dedicated to the research and development of aviation engines. Honda said it will accelerate research and development efforts at the new center, in anticipation of mass production of the HF118 engine. The new center will also take over the development of piston aircraft engines, currently conducted at other Honda research centers. The Wako Research Center, also in Japan, will continue research and development efforts for the HondaJet, an experimental prototype aircraft currently undergoing test flights in North Carolina. Honda's research efforts for small jet engines and jet aircraft began in 1986. Development of the Honda HF118 engine, which fits in the smallest category of the business jet engine class, began in 1999. Full-scale flight tests of the HF118 engine have been conducted aboard Honda's prototype HondaJet aircraft since December 2003.

...As Honda Seeks Property, Learjet Falls Into Question

Honda said it does not have a site yet for the new company in the U.S. but plans to be up and running by the end of this year. Where the new company will go is sure to be a subject of intense speculation. Last Friday, the rumor mill was already churning, as The Montreal Gazette reported that Bombardier is ready to sell its Learjet division, in Wichita, and Honda was interested in the property. Bombardier officials said the Learjet division is not for sale.

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Tiger Pulls Out Of Commander Deal

Commander Aircraft Future "Uncertain"...

A deal that was put together earlier this year to save Commander Aircraft Co. from bankruptcy has fallen through, the Oklahoman reported last week. "Our company's future is uncertain, and new aircraft production will continue to be suspended indefinitely," Commander CEO Wirt Walker said in a news release. On Thursday, Tiger Aircraft, of West Virginia, withdrew its $2.8 million offer to buy out 80 percent of Aviation General, Commander's parent company. Walker said Tiger's "default" was a shock and will prompt "a big lawsuit." Tiger President Gene Criss told the Oklahoman his company didn't default on anything. Walker said Tiger gave no reason for pulling out of the agreement. "Why don't these guys live up to their deals? There's tens of millions of damages here," Walker told the Oklahoman. Commander's headquarters and factory are located at Wiley Post Airport in Oklahoma City.

...As New Investors Sought

Walker said Commander will try to line up new investors, according to the Oklahoman. Commander filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in December 2002. Walker told AVweb in January 2003 that the company owed about $3.7 million to investors, but operations were "pretty neat and tidy ... [the company] is not overburdened by debt, we just got caught in a cash crunch." He said two years of a weak economy had taken a toll. Tiger and Aviation General struck a deal in February of this year, in which Tiger was to pay about $2.8 million in exchange for 80-percent ownership of Aviation General, which has been the parent company of Commander since 1998. Under the Tiger acquisition plan, about $2 million was to go to creditors, and the rest would finance a return to aircraft production. The plan had been approved by shareholders and by the bankruptcy court. Tiger is owned by three Taiwanese investors and a subsidiary of Teleflex. Commander Aircraft Company was incorporated in 1988, and acquired the Commander single-engine product line from Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation, which had taken over Rockwell's General Aviation Division in 1981.

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Changes At TSA

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) last week scrapped its plan to initiate its Computer-Assisted Passenger Prescreening System, known as CAPPS II ... after spending more than $100 million to plan for it (ah, the power of taxation). The system was widely criticized for trampling on the rights of ordinary citizens while being easily circumvented by anyone with a terrorist agenda (which may sound familiar to GA pilots frustrated by proliferating TFRs). The TSA also announced last week that Deputy Administrator Stephen McHale will step down from his post later this month. McHale served as deputy of the agency since January 2002 and was in charge of the transfer of the TSA from the Department of Transportation to the Department of Homeland Security in March 2003. An editorial in USA Today on Thursday said the TSA should have listened to critics of the CAPPS II project two years ago. "It could have saved $102 million, much angst and an erosion of its own credibility," the newspaper said.

Cellphones Tested Aloft

The days of "turn off your cellphones" while flying commercial seem to be numbered, but that doesn't yet mean the big "OK" is right around the corner for cellphone use in your airborne GA cockpit. Last month, ARINC and Telenor ASA said they would soon have a system ready that would safely link cellphones to airliners' satellite-based phone systems. And last week, Qualcomm tested a similar system aloft in an American Airlines jet, with members of the media invited on board to give it a try. Reporters were given phones with code division multiple access, or CDMA, technology. Connections from the plane were generally good, the Associated Press reported, although some calls were dropped. (Madness, who would stand for such a thing?) Sound quality was about the same as a cell call on the ground, but with a one-second delay that made conversation awkward. Text messaging is also available with the system. The technology will take a couple of years to mature, Qualcomm said. A small in-cabin CDMA cellular base station on the plane, which uses standard cellular communications, was connected to the worldwide terrestrial phone network by an air-to-ground Globalstar satellite link. The system will allow for calls to be made regardless of altitude and even over the ocean. The in-flight test required special permission from the FAA and the Federal Communications Commission ... to take what some would call an unfinished technology when it's in use on the ground and loft it into the air.

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Teenage Pilots Flying Vintage Luscombes To Oshkosh

Two 17-year-old pilots from Boulder, Colo., are en route to Oshkosh, Wisc., this week, taking their time getting there in their 1946 and 1947 Luscombes, and giving lots of rides to kids along the way. Scooter Mainero and Heather McRoberts left home on July 11, equipped for camping out under the wing, and they're eager to offer lots of free flights to children along the way. "I really wanted to see more kids in aviation," McRoberts told the Columbus Telegram last week, as the pair passed through Ohio. "It's one the best feelings we could have, and we're having a lot of fun doing it," Mainero said, about the chance to get others involved in flying. Both pilots grew up in flying families. "I remember my dad putting a car seat in a plane when I was little," said Mainero. McRoberts said she took her first plane ride when she was 28 days old. They were headed for St. Louis after leaving Columbus last week. The pair's destination is EAA AirVenture.

FAA Paperwork Glitch Could Trip Up Warbird Pilots

A bottleneck in processing paperwork at the FAA could affect pilots who fly warbirds and some turbine-powered experimental aircraft. Pilots are required to carry papers from the FAA to show they're qualified to fly and instruct in the airplanes, which have no standard type ratings. A program due to expire July 31 allows pilots to exchange those papers, called Letters of Authorization (LOA) and Letters of Operational Authority (LOOA), for new airman certificates that list Authorized Experimental Aircraft Ratings just like any other rating. But the FAA has gotten behind on the processing, so not all pilots who have applied will have their new certificates by the deadline. The FAA says it won't extend the deadline, but will add a 90-day grace period when it's OK for the pilots to fly as long as they have applied. Pilots must document that they met the deadline (with a receipt from the post office or FedEx, for example) prior to July 31, and they may continue to operate for up to 90 days beyond the deadline while their applications are processed and new airman certificates are mailed, EAA said last week. Pilots who sent application packages but do not have legal evidence that shipment was made are being asked to resubmit their materials on or before the July 31 application deadline and retain proof of mailing. This will allow individuals to continue to operate for an additional 90 days. However, all pilots should note that this is not an extension of the application deadline; all applications must be postmarked or shipped on or before July 31, 2004, or the existing LOA and/or LOOA will be null and void. For more information, go to EAA's Web site.

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Tower Bugged At Palm Beach

First it was the pigeons, cooing and roosting and making a smelly mess of the tower at Palm Beach International Airport. But when the pigeons were banished, the tiny mites that feed on them got hungry, and discovered 38 warm-blooded controllers right downstairs. "When they're crawling on you, and you can't see them, it kind of gives you the heebie-jeebies," controller Douglas Faucher told the Sun-Sentinel. "We don't need the distraction when we're trying to perform our duties." The tiny mites, as wide as the period at the end of this sentence, are practically invisible, but they bite ... and then there's the pesticides. Noxious fumes from a pesticide mix used last week in an attempt to kill the mites brought complaints from woozy controllers and after 30 days of battling the plagues, the FAA has brought in a temporary tower to host the workers while the place gets thoroughly cleaned and aired out.

Farnborough Air Show Opens Today

The biennial Farnborough Air Show opens outside London today, with Airbus and Boeing competing to show off their latest designs and to battle for orders. A record number of U.S. companies will be there, including a healthy contingent from the U.S. government and the military, who spurned last year's Paris Air Show over political differences with the French. Bell will be pushing its revamped V-22 Osprey tiltrotor, and Raytheon Aircraft Co. will unveil a new version of its T-6 military trainer. Bombardier will have five aircraft on display, and is expected to announce that it will start building bigger airplanes, with 120 and more seats. Drones are also expected to attract a lot of attention this year, with an announcement expected for a British government contract worth $1.5 billion to build a fleet of unmanned reconnaissance aircraft. A new International Space Pavilion opens this week, to showcase space-related programs and products. The show is expected to have a dramatically different mood from two years ago, when the industry was still in the depths of post-9/11 trauma. This year's show is focused on recovery and growth. The show runs through next Sunday.

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On The Fly...

Southwest Airlines CEO James Parker unexpectedly resigned on Thursday. Gary Kelly, who was CFO, will take over the slot...

A military plane carrying Britain's Prince Charles was involved in an incident in March during which it may have come close to a midair collision with an airliner, according to news reports over the weekend. The U.K.'s National Air Traffic Service (NATS) said, "Separation was maintained ... NATS believes the aircraft were several miles apart ... but both pilots considered it appropriate to take reporting action." According to Reuters, NATS sources said the two aircraft came within 900 feet of each other...

The FAA has proposed a new Airworthiness Directive for all Cessna Models 190, 195, 195A, and 195B airplanes that would require repetitive inspections of aileron hinge brackets to check for cracks or corrosion...

Three small airplanes violated a presidential TFR near Milwaukee last week; they were checked out or escorted to a landing by F-16s and landed without incident...

Air Force says C-5A Galaxy cargo haulers good for another 25 years of service...

Boeing said it will hire 3,000 aviation workers by the end of the year, most of them in the Seattle area.

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New Articles and Features on AVweb

Motor Head #1: GA Engine Technology -- Are We Getting the Shaft?
It's easy to be embarrassed by the state of the general aviation technology when we have to admit to our non-pilot friends that our engines use such quaint items as magnetos and (gasp!) carburetors. Many pilots and aircraft owners wish they could, for instance, take their bleeding-edge-tech motorcycle engine and strap it into the airframe. Farfetched? AVweb's newest columnist, Marc Cook, has some thoughts about this kind of thing, and he'll share them each month in his Motor Head column.

King Schools Online RVSM Course
In preparation for next year's implementation of reduced vertical separation minimums (RVSM) in the flight levels, King Schools offers a new online course for pilot training. AVweb's Linda Pendleton has spent many years training pilots in that airspace, and has our candid review of this new course.

Business AVflash

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Reader feedback on AVweb's news coverage and feature articles:

Reader mail this week about the DC ADIZ incident, protection for maintenance employees, GA presidential candidates and much more.

Short Final...

Climbing through 800' past the departure end in my Cherokee, I heard the tower clear a Cheyenne for takeoff. As I waited for tower to call me out to the Cheyenne for the inevitible pass, I craned my neck around hoping to get a visual. When neither occured, I voiced my concern...

Me: Exec tower, Cherokee 123, what can you tell me about the Cheyenne at my six?

Tower: Oh it's a BIG, PRETTY plane; with wings and wheels, and it looks like a big Tylenol...

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