August 22, 2004
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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The man who stickhandled Lycoming through some of its most difficult periods is, "taking on an assignment for Textron Systems," company spokeswoman Karla Sexton told AVweb this weekend. Mike Wolf, who as president of the engine maker took a highly personal role in dealing with some of the biggest product recalls in GA history, has been moved to an unspecified position with Lycoming's parent company, Textron Systems. Lycoming spokeswoman Karla Sexton confirmed Wolf's departure to AVweb on Friday. A formal announcement is expected this week. Wolf has been with Lycoming in various capacities since 1983 and was named president in 2001, just as the company faced arguably its most serious crisis. Crankshafts in hundreds of its high-horsepower TIO-540 series engines were faulty, necessitating a huge recall and the grounding of hundreds of aircraft. In all, Lycoming had to tear down almost 1,000 engines to replace the potentially faulty cranks, a job it finished in April of 2003.
Taking over from Wolf (as vice president and general manager) is Ian Walsh, Textron's former director of pricing strategies. Walsh is a former Marine Corps Cobra attack helicopter pilot who joined Textron in the marketing and sales department at Bell Helicopter five years ago. But Walsh didn't let any grass grow under his feet while he accumulated 1,500 hours of flight time. Walsh has a BA from Hamilton College, a Masters of Public Administration from the Kennedy School of Government and an MBA from Harvard Business School. He holds commercial certificates for helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft.
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Last week's "voluntary" move by American and United Air Lines to cut peak-period flights into O'Hare was the only practical option left to temporarily solve the scheduling problems there. But it raises questions of how capacity problems will be addressed in the future and whether the FAA, and not pilots and operators, will decide who flies where and when. Although the "agreement" reached on Wednesday was described as the result of a negotiated process, the FAA left little doubt in anyone's mind that it would impose flight caps if the airlines didn't "volunteer." United and American have shifted a total of 37 flights (United 20, American 17) to less-congested time periods either before 7 a.m. or after 8 p.m., meaning less availability when customers actually want to fly. The scheduling mess has also limited access to O'Hare by budget airlines, which some say makes it more expensive, on average, to fly there.
So, aside from avoiding O'Hare in the big aluminum tubes, what does that mean to you? The National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) says O'Hare's problems are the "canary in the coal mine" for system-wide problems and the controllers are singing a familiar tune. "The only acceptable and workable solutions to the Chicago O'Hare capacity crunch are to pour more concrete and hire more controllers," said President John Carr. He said it's inevitable that flight caps will be necessary at other airports if the predicted controller shortage and ongoing capacity problems aren't addressed. Of course, the controllers want more staff hired immediately to fill gaps they say are already forming. Carr noted that the 70 fully qualified controllers at the Chicago TRACON (Terminal Radar Approach Control) work mandatory overtime because there should be another 31 people able to man the consoles. Because the busiest airports demand the most experienced controllers, O'Hare's TRACON staff average 45 years of age and half will be eligible for retirement by the end of next year.
The FAA, often with help from NASA, is always at work on new technology to address congestion. In some cases, that's welcomed by controllers, when new systems increase their situational awareness. But some initiatives are practical and theoretical nightmares, according to Doug Fralick, NATCA's director of safety and technology. NASA and the FAA are currently working on the Distributed Air/Ground Traffic Management (DAG-TM) system that puts collision-avoidance information in the cockpit and lets pilots pick their own routes to "safely and seamlessly fit into the traffic flow." Fralick said pilots should stick to flying the airplane. Fralick said that using computers to "decide" when and where it is safe to fly is "far, far down the road."
He said it's currently impossible for programmers to design software that can accommodate the myriad circumstances that contribute to the go/no-go decision. "Things happen at airports," said Fralick, who was a controller at O'Hare for 14 years. "It's a dynamic world." And even if a system could be designed to safely allow pilots to make air traffic control decisions, Fralick said that would open a whole new can of worms. He said pilots' natural tendency would be to put more space between their and other aircraft, rather than to tighten up. And deciding among themselves who's first for landing might not always work so "seamlessly," he suggested. Fralick said Reduced Vertical Separation Minimums (RVSM), which reduce high-altitude en route vertical separation from 2,000 feet to 1,000 feet, will create all the en route capacity needed for now. The problem is (and always has been) at the airports.
PILOT INSURANCE CENTER BIG SAVINGS, SIMPLE AND QUICK
It appears not even the security concerns of the vice president can supplant the sanctity of national parks. Cheney and those who protect him have apparently heard the complaints of others who enjoy the relatively unspoiled pleasures of Grand Teton National Park and reduced the "obnoxious" evidence of their comings and goings at Cheney's nearby vacation home. Tops among the complaints were the training exercises conducted by Blackhawk helicopters that have reportedly "skimmed" the Snake River in full view of rafters, tourists and residents, according to the Chicago Tribune. From the point of view of the National Park Service, that puts the Secret Service in violation of the 2,000-foot minimum altitude rule in place at Grand Teton and many other national parks. "That's way too low to fly," said park spokeswoman Joan Anzelmo. "Visitors were frightened and animals were disturbed. That type of reconnaissance mission is not something to do in a national park." First evidence that Cheney and the security detail have earned some respect for their fellow park users is the fact that the Secret Service abandoned its former practice of blockading the river while Cheney is fly-fishing.
As the noise level decreases in Wyoming, those along the Canadian border can expect the volume to increase. The Department of Homeland Security has decided (three years later) that the world's longest undefended border bears substantially closer scrutiny in the post-9/11 era. The Bellingham (Washington) Air Marine Branch, the first of five such facilities, was dedicated last Friday and, by the end of the year, will have 70 staff, two helicopters (one of them a Blackhawk), a Pilatus PC-12 and a high-speed boat. Although the new border patrol will undoubtedly be on the lookout for terrorists, by far the greatest illegal activity at the boarder is likely drug and human smuggling. The U.S. is the main market for a particularly powerful strain of marijuana known as "B.C. bud" (not that we'd know) and illegal immigrants (particularly from Asia) sneak into to the U.S. from Canada. The base has funding to operate eight hours a day. Similar facilities will follow in Plattsburgh, N.Y., Detroit, Grand Forks, N.D. and Great Falls, Mont.
MARV GOLDEN'S END-OF-SUMMER SIZZLIN' SPECIALS
Wittman Regional Airport is writing the rule book when it comes to accommodating the predicted "influx" of aircraft that will fall under the Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) category. Oshkosh's municipal airport, home to EAA's annual AirVenture, will be the first to formalize standards and procedures for the aircraft and the businesses that will service them. "Most of the country's local airports are underutilized," said Earl Lawrence, EAA's VP of industry and regulatory affairs, in a statement (that might also explain the traffic problem at O'Hare). "Sport pilot and light sport aircraft will offer a chance for these local airports to become more of an economic force in their communities." The Oshkosh standards were drawn up by airport management, local politicians and airport businesses and will be announced next month. They set the minimum operating standards for businesses that emphasize service to LSA operations, including training, rental, maintenance and fueling. Lawrence said airports throughout the U.S. should follow Oshkosh's lead. "Now is the time for local communities to prepare for these economic opportunities," he said.
Small-aircraft owners and the businesses who service them say they are being unfairly pushed out of a California airport so more jets can move in. The fracas has erupted at Carlsbad's McClellan-Palomar Airport over developer Palomar Airport Center's plan for a $30 million upgrade of part of the airport. The $30 million may not be the problem -- it's the development that would replace old hangars housing about 100 small aircraft, half a dozen businesses and a historic restaurant with 19 new hangars designed ... not for them. The 100 planes have to move by the end of the month and businesses occupying the space must be out by the end of September. Go team. The 301-member Pacific Coast Flyers, a business owner and a former airline pilot have each filed complaints with the FAA over the evictions. "The fact they've given us eviction notices with no other alternative is our main issue," Matt Goddard, spokesman for the Pacific Coast Flyers, told The San Diego Union-Tribune. Airport Director Peter Drinkwater said the aircraft can move to other airports until an additional 80 tie-down spots are completed in about 18 months. Palomar Airport Center President Richard Sax also suggested pilots pool their money and rent some of the new hangars.
DON'T LISTEN TO US! HERE'S WHAT A CPA MEMBER HAD TO SAY:
It turns out Sen. Edward Kennedy is not alone among congressmen who get wrung through a security wringer when they fly. Nine-term congressman and well-known civil rights activist Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) told CNN he's been detained by the Transportation Security Administration 35 to 40 times in the past year. His and Kennedy's names are on a TSA watch list of suspected terrorists. The lawmakers have asked to be taken off the list but the best the TSA will do is provide them with a letter saying they've passed a security check. It doesn't always work. Lewis said that in one instance, a TSA staffer emptied every item from his suitcase and in another he was questioned at his seat. Kennedy told a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week that a US Airways ticket agent refused to sell him a ticket and told him he wasn't allowed to fly to Washington. Kennedy has been making the commute for 42 years.
Diamond's DA-42 TwinStar continues to turn in remarkable performance and fuel-consumption numbers, according to Diamond. The company says the diesel-powered twin (the same plane that was at AirVenture) averaged a fuel burn of just 5.74 gph (2.87 per side) on a flight from St. John's, Newfoundland, to Porto, Portugal, on Aug. 16. Despite the low power setting of 42 percent, Diamond's news release said the plane's average groundspeed for the trip was 152 knots. (Happy tailwinds to all.) Total fuel burn was 72 gallons. Diamond says pilot Gerard Guillamaud had planned to go nonstop from St. John's to Toulouse, France, but bad weather got in his way. He had five hours of fuel left when he landed at Porto. According to Diamond, this is the first nonstop trans-Atlantic crossing by a diesel-powered aircraft. The plane is now back at Diamond headquarters in Wiener Neustadt, Austria, for optional equipment certification work.
ATTENTION AIRCRAFT RENTERS!
The FAA has issued an Airworthiness Directive (AD) on most modern Piper aircraft requiring modifications to the control-wheel assembly -- Piper had previously addressed the problem. A crash that occurred last year was attributed to the control wheel retaining screw backing out and the wheel coming free. The pilot subsequently lost control...
A vertical takeoff and landing drone that weighs just 8.6 grams will be shown off at the Emerging Technology Fair, part of the Future Creation Fair, in Tokyo from Aug. 27. The Epson Seiko FR-IIhas an endurance of just three minutes but a longer-range version could be used in the future for search and rescue...
Kelleys Island, Ohio, Mayor Robert Quinn has lost his pilot certificate for 60 days after a passenger on the float plane he was operating walked into the spinning prop. Quinn was found negligent for leaving the plane while it was running. Passenger Bradley Underwood suffered a broken collarbone and lacerations when he accidentally walked into the prop while the plane was being unloaded...
Thirty-one passengers and two crew members were hurt when a TAP Air Portugal airliner dived to avoid a twin-engine Beechcraft over the Azores on Friday. The A310 was on approach to the mid-Atlantic islands when ground and cockpit collision alarms went off. The passengers and crew were thrown against the ceiling of the aircraft but none are reported to have serious injuries...
The U.S. Post Office has found about half the missing mail from a plane that crashed near Big Baldy Mountain in Montana Aug. 17. The crash killed pilot Larry Baier and passenger Scott Kiral. The Alpine Express aircraft was carrying 2,655 pounds of mail from Billings to Kalispell when it went down...
A Hollywood stunt pilot is making final preparations to grab some stardust for NASA. As AVweb reported May 3, Cliff Fleming will use a hook hanging from his helicopter to snag the parachute of a NASA capsule carrying minute amounts of matter collected from space. The grab will be made Sept. 8.
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FROM DOUG RITTER & AEROMEDIX: A KNIFE YOU CAN BET YOUR LIFE ON!
Reader mail this week about Florida hurricanes, NBC terrorists, and more.
As the Beacon Turns #80: I've Seen the Light
Nowadays, AVweb's Michael Maya Charles flies with a glass cockpit. At least that's what he does when he flies for the airline. Now he's had a chance to try out glass cockpits in the small, single-engine planes that are his off-duty passion, and he's hooked.
ATTENTION, PROSPECTIVE OR CURRENT STUDENT PILOTS!
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A long time ago, bopping along in my 180 Arrow at 10,000 feet, IFR in VFR conditions, from Boston to Kalamazoo. It had taken me 20 minutes to get that high -- 10 of that for the last 2,000 feet. Then, Cleveland Center asked me to climb to 11,000 feet for traffic...
Me: You mean it?
ARTCC: Sure do.
Me: Do I hafta?
Me: Okay ... but it's gonna take me ten minutes or better.
ARTCC: Okay, then if I ask you to descend to 9,000 for ten minutes, how long will it take you to get back to 10?
Me: Oh, 'bout the same, 1MV.
ARTCC: Okay, I guess I'll have to go to plan B.... 1MV, maintain one-zero thousand. United 123, turn right 20-degrees for traffic; American 456, maintain niner thousand for opposite direction traffic, 12 o'clock 10 miles at 10 thou; Trans World 789, cancel direct, turn right 250-degrees, and stop the descent at 0ne-two thousand ...
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