July 21, 2004
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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First there's the rule, then there's the reality. A longtime builder of what will now be called Light Sport aircraft (LSA) says it will take him at least six months to build a finished airplane that he's confident meets all the criteria set out in the new Light Sport/Sport Pilot classification finally announced on Tuesday. Sebastien Heintz, of Zenith Aircraft, told AVweb that even though there are hundreds of Zenith 601 and 701 aircraft happily flying all over the world, the paper trail and organizational structures necessary to support them as factory-built, ready-to-fly aircraft will take his company time to develop. "It will be at least six months. It would be nice if it was sooner but I think realistically anything sooner than that is not possible," Heintz said. However, he expects other manufacturers, particularly Europeans, will be selling finished planes Sept. 1, the day the rule takes effect. The Light Sport/Sport Pilot rule puts the full onus on manufacturers to develop the quality control, maintenance and ongoing airworthiness standards that are the responsibility of the FAA in all other classes of aircraft. The manufacturer of an LSA simply signs a declaration that all the infrastructure and documentation is in place and he's in business. Although the FAA will audit for compliance, Heintz said that could be difficult for offshore manufacturers. In the meantime, the manufacturers are essentially on their own to set up the systems according to some guidelines laid out in the rule. "It's more of an outline, not a program that is in place," he said.
With the announcement only a couple of days old, Heintz has already noticed a surge in interest. Light Sport/Sport Pilot is intended to spark interest in aviation by people who previously thought it too costly or time-consuming to pursue. Initial indications are that it's worked. "There have been a lot more phone calls in the last few days," Heintz said. "There's initially some pent-up demand." He said he's hopeful the interest will translate into airplane sales and is looking forward to EAA AirVenture next week where would-be sport pilots can kick the tires. "There is the potential to get more people involved in aviation," he said. As the announcement was being made, Sport Planes Ltd. was making plans to open 20 sales, training and maintenance centers to meet the demand. The company says it has contracts in place to sell and service U.S. and European aircraft that meet the criteria. At the same time it will establish training centers, using the airplanes that meet the regs as trainers. The chain of one-stop LSA shops will also offer advanced training outside the new category for private and IFR tickets and sell all the training aids, accessories and even clothing that the new pilots will need.
Key among the provisions in the new rule is the driver's license as proof of medical fitness. Essentially, almost anyone who has a valid driver's license can legally fly an LSA. But there are caveats, some of them legal, some of them moral. On the legal side, anyone who has been denied a third-class medical will not be issued a Sport Pilot certificate even if they have a driver's license. They must satisfy the FAA that the medical condition that prompted the previous denial has been fixed or is under control. But there's also the onus of self-certification on the pilot. Although there's not much the FAA can do to prevent someone with serious health problems who's never applied for a medical from hopping in the left seat, it does ask that prospective pilots use common sense and consult with their doctors before starting to fly.
In the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), the aircraft were going to be limited to 115 knots maximum speed and 44 knots stall speed (clean) and 37 knots (with flaps). The final rule boosts the top speed to 120 knots and clean stall to 45 knots. The stall-with-flaps designation has been eliminated. Also, the all-up weight limit has been increased to 1320 pounds from 1232 in the NPRM. Despite what seemed to be a rocky road to enactment, according to an FAA fact sheet the rule itself appears to be otherwise almost identical to the NPRM that was issued more than two years ago by the FAA. The rule covers fixed-wing powered and non-powered aircraft, as well as gyrocopters and powered parachutes. Aircraft that meet FAR Part 103 for ultralights can stay under those regs. Anything else must be registered as an LSA. In a news conference announcing the final rule, FAA Administrator Marion Blakey estimated there are about 15,000 currently unregulated aircraft flying in the U.S. The hallmark of LSA is simple and slow. Blakey told the news conference the changes resulted from the FAA's consideration of 5,000 comments received on the proposed rule.
HOW WOULD YOU LIKE AN INSURANCE POLICY THAT PAYS YOU BACK YOUR PREMIUMS?
It looks like the FAA will be getting a small budget increase next year, including funds to speed up the hiring of new air traffic controllers. On July 15, the House Subcommittee on Transportation and Treasury and Independent Agencies approved a $14 billion package for the FAA, up $169 million (a bit more than 1 percent, whehoo) over last year's figure. About $3.5 billion is earmarked for runway and other capacity improvements and, of course, there's money for security. Tucked in the fine print is $7 million to hire and train new controllers. The National Association of Air Traffic Controllers (NATCA) had asked for $14 million to kick-start the process of replacing the hundreds of controllers who are eligible to retire in coming years. NATCA President John Carr told Business Travel News the $7 million isn't enough. He said the $14 million is a "small price to pay" to ensure the system is adequately staffed. "If this problem is not addressed immediately, we will face a tragic price in the not-too-distant future," he said. The funding bill still has a long way to go before passage. The committee report is the first step through the House and the Senate hasn't even drafted its version of the bill yet. The current funding bill expires at the end of September.
As Congress looks at the financial picture, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has been investigating whether the warnings, reprimands and fines doled out by the agency for regulatory violations have any effect on flight safety. The conclusion? It doesn't know and neither does the FAA. The GAO looked at 200,000 enforcement actions undertaken between 1993 and 2003 and found that 53 percent were handled with a warning and about 18 percent resulted in no action at all. In the relatively rare cases where a fine is recommended, the FAA's own lawyers often reduce or eliminate the financial penalty if the alleged violator can prove he or she is taking steps to prevent recurrence of the violation. But just how all this paperwork affects the ultimate goal of making the skies safer remains something of a mystery. The GAO found that the FAA "lacks explicit, measurable performance goals for its enforcement actions" and there's no evaluation of the impact on flight safety. Also, FAA field offices don't routinely share their enforcement data with other offices so there's no easy way to get a snapshot of how the system as a whole is working. The GAO is recommending the FAA develop evaluation processes for its enforcement activities and set performance goals while at the same time improving its data-management system. The FAA has agreed with the recommendations.
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Pilots who've done it say there's no better way to see New York City but a local senator wants to close the so-called Hudson River Corridor to GA. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) claims New York City is being shortchanged on security by the existence of the uncontrolled VFR corridor and he believes the Big Apple deserves the same sort of GA ban that Washington, D.C., has. "If they can do it for Washington, they can do it for New York," he told a news conference. Now, we're not sure if Schumer is envious of the 15-nm no-fly zone in Washington or the Air Defense Identification Zone (neither of which has bagged a single criminally minded pilot to date) but he's particularly upset with the Hudson River Corridor (which he calls the Hudson River Approach). The corridor is open to uncontrolled traffic below 1,200 feet and takes pilots past the heart of New York City (and under some of the busiest IFR airspace anywhere). Schumer says there's nothing to stop a pilot using the corridor from taking a short detour and wreaking havoc on the Statue of Liberty or other vulnerable landmarks. What he didn't mention is that there's also nothing to stop the pilot of an airliner from doing the same thing. In any case, the FAA is closing the corridor as part of its security clampdown during the Republican National Convention next month and Schumer doesn't want it to reopen. In addition to holding a news conference, Schumer has also sent letters to the FAA and Transportation Security Administration.
A year ago, the newest entry in the mid-sized turboprop single market was a paper airplane. Later this week, the prototype of the Epic LT will be flown to Oshkosh for its debut at EAA AirVenture. The six-place composite plane had its first test flight July 19 less than a year after Rick Schrameck, president of Aircraft Investor Resources LLC, announced plans to build the aircraft. So far, the company has orders for 16 planes and is now debating where to set up shop. The prototype was built in Bend, Ore. (home of Lancair) but there are two other states courting the company. In the tradition of new aircraft entries, Aircraft Investor Resources claims the Epic LT will fly faster and farther than its competition and the projected performance is impressive. They're calling for 350 KTAS with a 1,600-mile range and 1,350-pound payload. The price will range between $1.2 million and $1.9 million depending on how it's outfitted.
OREGON AERO'S NEW CATALOG FEATURES 500+ PAINLESS, SAFER, QUIETER PRODUCTS
The maiden flight of the Aerocomp Comp Air kit jet took place at Merritt Island Airport in Florida on Tuesday. Dubbed the "poor man's jet" (for those poor enough to have about $600,000 to spend) the single-engine composite plane was apparently docile and predictable in flight on Tuesday and a second hop on Wednesday. In an unusual (and somewhat refreshing) move, the company refused to take money from customers until after the first flight. Now, according to the company Web site, prospective owners are ringing the phone off the hook trying to get an early position. Well, Aerocomp still isn't taking any money. It wants to get the initial flight tests over with and will start booking orders on Sept. 1. It predicts it will be able to build a kit every six weeks at first and ramp up to one a month. The $399,900 tag includes the basic kit (including engine) to build an eight-place pressurized jet that will go about 320 knots and cover 1,000 miles on a tank of Jet A. Avionics and other gear will put the finished cost in the $550,000 to $600,000 range
The world's only intact, as-original DC-7 could take flight for the first time in 33 years in early August. Legendary Airliners, a Florida travel club, hopes to ferry the former Eastern Airlines passenger plane from St. Paul, Minn., to Miami after replacing a balky engine. The company had hoped to make the flight in mid-July but the No. 4 18-cylinder turbocharged radial engine wouldn't develop oil pressure or power. Legendary Airliners, which operates another DC-7, had a rebuilt engine in stock and hopes to have it installed this week. There are other DC-7s flying but what sets this one apart is its original condition. "It's basically a museum piece," said Legendary Airliners owner Carlos Gomez. The aircraft still has the sumptuous interior that coddled passengers on flights from New York to the Caribbean when it was nicknamed The Golden Falcon. Most DC-7s now toil as freighters and air tankers (three of which were inspected last week and may be returning to service). This aircraft will become a travel club plane, taking club members all over North American and overseas to air shows. Gomez told the Pioneer Press the plane will be ready for use in early 2005 after a complete restoration. Gomez bought the plane from Roseville, Minn., resident Joe Kocour for just $40,000. Kocour bought it in 1972 but his plans for a travel club never materialized. Until the late 1980s, the plane was regularly run up and maintained but it's been sitting idle for more than 15 years at St. Paul Downtown Airport. "Well, it was time. We couldn't do anything with it," said Kocour
ATTENTION, AIRCRAFT CLUB MEMBERS! GETTING THE MOST OUT OF YOUR CLUB?
The immediate future of Horace Williams Airport in Chapel Hill, N.C. appears secure after the state's General Assembly passed amendments to the current budget requiring the airport to stay open until a suitable, accessible replacement can be built, something not likely to happen soon. The airport is owned by the University of North Carolina, which wanted to close it to save money and expand the university. But a groundswell of opposition has apparently saved it, at least for the time being. Meanwhile, in California, politics of a different sort is marring the redevelopment of a choice piece of real estate at Van Nuys Airport. At least two of eight companies that submitted bids to Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) for the chance to build a jet center on 7.3 acres have filed formal complaints with the Los Angeles Department of Airports alleging political interference in the awarding of the contract. The winner was David Murdock, the billionaire owner of the Dole Food Company and a hefty ($101,000) political contributor to Mayor Jim Hahn. "While we were hopeful that LAWA might have changed its ways, we feel that political influence still characterizes contract awards by the Los Angeles Department of Airports," said Alexander Furlotti, managing officer of PBQ Aviation, in a statement to the LA Times.
Bombardier has announced plans to break out of the regional jet mold with a new airliner that can carry up to 135 passengers. In doing so, the Montreal-based manufacturer will go head-to-head with Boeing and Airbus for one of the most lucrative, if not glamorous, segments of the airliner market. Bombardier spokesman Gary Scott told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in an interview at Farnborough the new jet will be about 15 percent more efficient than the ubiquitous 737s and A320s that now serve most of the 100- to 150-seat corner of the market. But while Boeing faces a new challenger for its bread-and-butter 737, it's also reporting encouraging news about its future marquee jet, the 7E7. Boeing spokesman Toby Bright told the Post-Intelligencer that he's getting a lot more interest from U.S. airlines in the Dreamliner than he expected. With the U.S. industry reeling from three very bad years, Bright said it's tough for the U.S. airlines to talk about buying new aircraft when they're laying off employees and teetering on bankruptcy but they've quietly been making overtures about the composite, mid-sized 7E7, touted as being much more efficient than current models. Bright said Boeing now has about 200 prospective sales for the Dreamliner.
AEROSHELL EXCITES OSHKOSH CROWD & HELPS YOUNG EAGLES PROGRAM
Uncomfortable with the idea of sharing the airspace with pilotless aircraft controlled from the ground? How about drones controlled from another aircraft? Boeing recently tested a system that enables the weapons system operator on an F-15 to remotely pilot a modified T-33. During the tests, the F-15 and its pilotless wingman went through a range of war-fighting scenarios and the results were encouraging. "The ability of manned aircraft to coordinate operations with unmanned aircraft will provide new dimensions in survivability and mission effectiveness," said Boeing spokesman Patrick Stokes. And what if the remote pilot screws up? The tests showed the "emerging autonomous control technologies" that will allow drones to detect and avoid trouble and take evasive action as required. The new technology will also allow drones to react to pop-up threats and in-flight faults. A voice-command system is also being developed.
If you're a dedicated PDA user, we're sure you have some favorite aviation-related programs. If so, Aviation Consumer would love to hear from you for an article about PDA software. Send a note with comments or tips to email@example.com.
A cheap ($100,000) surveillance drone will start service in Iraq this summer. The U.S. Marines have ordered several ScanEagledrones that can linger over a battlefield at up to 16,000 feet while beaming real-time images of the world below. The drones have a 10-foot wingspan and weigh just 33 pounds...
A Virgin Atlantic Airways pilot suspected of being drunk has pleaded guilty to a lesser charge. Richard G. Harwell pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of interfering with the operation of an aircraft. He was taken off his flight five minutes before departure after security screeners smelled alcohol on his breath. A subsequent breathalyzer showed a reading of 0.11, more than twice the legal limit, but prosecutors couldn't prove he'd actually taken action to control the aircraft...
A whisper-quiet ducted fan replaces the tail rotor on a system developed by Bell Helicopter's XworkX. In a flight at Arlington, Texas, on July 15, observers said the fan was practically inaudible and the pilot reported it worked well for controlling the Bell 407 test bed...
A Canadian water bomber pilot was forced to land on a gravel road in a remote area of Alberta last week after an engine failure on the CL-215 amphibious plane. Highway 88, between Red Earth Creek and Fort Vermilion, about 400 km. north of Edmonton, was closed for two days while the plane was fixed so it could take off.
NON-OWNER (RENTER) PILOTS EXPOSED: PILOTS ARE HELD FINANCIALLY LIABLE
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Say Again? #39: ATC 204 - IFR Flight Plan II
Want another good reason to be careful how you file your flight plan? How about avoiding a midair collision? AVweb's Don Brown is back with another in his "courses" on better ATC and pilot communication. This month he's trying to figure out why some pilot wants to go to Kentucky via Canada.
COMPLIMENTARY WEEK OF ADVERTISING ON ASO!
Last week, AVweb asked about the new Sport Pilot rules lurking in our near future. Most AVweb readers who responded are open to the new rules 34% of you welcoming Sport Pilot with open arms, while another 33% say that what's good for the industry is good for the individual pilot (regardless of whether the Sport Pilot rules apply to him). 26% of you said we don't need new rules (or a new category) at all, just better enforcement of the ultralight rules we already have. And a cautious 6% of readers said there could be benefits to Sport Pilot, but the new rules will certainly be a double-edged sword.
A couple of weeks ago, AVweb asked the loaded question, "Are professional pilots overpaid?" (About 2/3 of you said "no.") This week, just to be fair to everyone in the aviation industry, we want to know what you really think about the salaries of CFIs: Are flight instructors overpaid?
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Current POTW Winner | Past POTW Winners
Ah, happy coincidence! As we gear up for AirVenture 2004 in Oshkosh, whose name should appear on the blind ballot for our "PotW" winner? None other than H.G. Frautschy of the EAA, who took this week's winning photo at Pioneer Airport in Oshkosh! Congratulations, H.G. not only did you win a licensed AVweb baseball cap to wear around the field at Oshkosh, but you also broke the streak of "PotW" winners from Michigan. We look forward to seeing you in Oshkosh next week.
Speaking of Michigan: What happened, guys? Did you run out of aviation photos this week? Not a single final-round contender from the unofficial capital of "PotW" country?
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copyright © Vintage
"VH-60N at Pioneer Airport"
The EAA's own H.G. Frautschy of Oshkosh, Wisconsin wins this week's top spot
at "PotW" for capturing a Marine Corps HMX-1 white-top Sikorsky
on its way to Green Bay for President Bush's recent visit
Be sure to stop by AVweb's booth at AirVenture to pick up your Official AVweb Cap, H.G.!
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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.
"Oldies But Goodies"
Eric Hutchins of Grand Rapids, Minnesota combines several elements
we love to see in a "Picture of the Week" terrific composition, nice-condition older planes
(a 1946 MKV Norseman and a '46 Aeronca Champ), and the great outdoors
Used with permission of Dwayne Clemens
"Benton Airpark Stearmans"
Dwayne Clemons of Benton, Kansas sends us this image of himself,
Greg Largen, and test pilot Sam Gemar (retired astronaut) flying the Stearmans
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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