NewsWire Complete Issue

September 1, 2004
By The AVweb Editorial Staff

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FAA Firm On Air Show Restrictions...

No Waiver For Civilian Performers In Cleveland...

An FAA spokesman says the agency will stand firm on a decision to ban civilian pilots from flying at the Cleveland National Air Show on Friday evening. FAA representative Tony Molinaro told AVweb the agency has no choice but to ban the flights because of a Cleveland Indians game scheduled for Jacobs Field on the same evening. The air show happens once annually. The conflicting game is one of 162 the Indians will play this year (missed games will be rescheduled). The air show attracts 60,000 to 100,000 fans. The Indians averaged 21,358 fans per home game, last year. (How's the math working for you, Cleveland?) Alas, Public Law 180-7 prohibits flights below 3,000 feet within three nautical miles of a Major League game and prohibits the FAA from issuing waivers. "[The law] really doesn't give the FAA that much latitude," Molinaro told AVweb. The agency will allow military performers during the twilight presentation but air show organizers have rejected the compromise and are considering a court challenge to the FAA decision. Meanwhile, Executive Director Chuck Newcomb said more than half the scheduled performers for the evening show are civilian and it can't go on without them. "We couldn't deliver the event promised," he said. The evening show is a new event this year and the other three daytime performances are unaffected because there are no baseball games for the rest of the weekend. Newcomb said the show could be cancelled entirely in the future if the current interpretation of the rule is upheld because the air show (and the multiple layers of complicated planning that go into it) can't be at the mercy of unpredictable sports schedules. As for the FAA, "We're trying to uphold the law," Molinaro said.

...AOPA Fights Restrictions...

Meanwhile, AOPA has been pulling strings in Washington trying to find a way around the law, which was enacted last January. AOPA President Phil Boyer insists the air show could be accommodated within the law, but the FAA isn't budging. "This air show has a history going back to 1929 and has been a very popular Cleveland event for the past 40 years," said Boyer. "It would be a real shame if it were to die because of an overly restrictive interpretation of the law." AOPA says the law was enacted as a result of lobbying by major sports organizations but suggests that security wasn't the only motive. It notes that the law has cleared the skies over stadiums by prohibiting advertising banner towers as well. Boyer pledged to continue applying pressure to clear the way for the Cleveland show.

...Banner Towers Say "I Told You So"

Steve Phillips has nothing against the Cleveland National Air Show but he's hoping the FAA sticks to its guns … keep reading. Phillips, of Philadelphia, is one of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of banner towers and promotional hot-air balloon pilots effectively grounded by the same rule that is causing problems in Cleveland. He said the legitimate concerns of the banner-towing and balloon companies were ignored when the law was enacted and he's hoping the public outcry over the air show will result in Congress' revisiting the issue. "I hope they go ahead and cancel this thing so we can get some kind of rational process in place [to resume stadium overflights.]" Phillips was particularly critical of what he said was AOPA's lack of action to prevent the law from being enacted. He noted AOPA "went ballistic" when new rules were proposed to limit sightseeing and charity fundraising flights but said the banner towers' concerns were not acted upon. "My real objection has been AOPA's lack of action on this issue," he said. "We're the only segment of general aviation that has its own special law." AOPA spokesman Chris Dancy denied Phillips's allegations, saying AOPA lobbied extensively and donated money to the banner towers to help them establish their own lobbying group. "It was not for a lack of effort on AOPA's part," Dancy said. "To say that we did not try hard enough to keep this bill from being passed is simply not true."

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A New Era For U.S. GA...

Light-Sport Aircraft/Sport Pilot Now Official...

So, did you feel any different on Wednesday morning? Was the grass a little greener, the sun a little brighter? Well, it might not have been a cosmic event, but for pilots and the aviation industry, the world changed significantly on Sept. 1. The Light-Sport Aircraft/Sport Pilot rule came into effect and Earl Lawrence, EAA's VP of government relations, told AVweb that general aviation took a giant turn for the better. "This is really the day that it's real," said Lawrence. Time will tell just what that means. In case you haven't heard, the new rule, which was 10 years in the making (and is still very much a work in progress) creates a new class of aircraft and pilot. Everything from powered parachutes to relatively sophisticated single-engine airplanes that meet performance and weight standards can be flown by a new class of pilot who (in most cases) needs only a valid driver's license as proof of medical fitness.

...Changes Come Slowly...

In practical terms, not many people were directly affected by the Sept. 1 enactment of the rule. For those few, however, the change could be significant. Anyone with a pilot certificate who has let his or her medical lapse, for whatever reason, can now legally fly (VFR only) a plane meeting the LSA standards. The rule does not help those who have lost their FAA medical, however. The medical problems that prompted the lifting of the medical must still be addressed and signed off by an FAA examiner before flying Light Sport or any other kind of aircraft. While there won't be any "new" LSA certificated aircraft for some time, thousands of existing planes became eligible for the new classification on Wednesday. Fully certificated aircraft that meet the LSA standards (Cubs and Champs are good examples) can be legally flown by pilots with lapsed medicals, as can a lot of amateur-built aircraft. Existing maintenance and inspection requirements for the certificated planes will continue to apply.

...Long-Term Benefits Huge

EAA's Lawrence told AVweb the real impact of the new rule won't start to be felt until about six months from now, when the standards and policies spawned by its enactment start coming into play. Although manufacturers and groups representing sport-aviation interests have been meeting for two years to create the manufacturing, maintenance and flight-training infrastructure necessary to support the new aircraft class, none of it could be finalized until the rule became a reality. Lawrence said there should be a number of "firsts" over the next six months (first flight-test examiner, first LSA-certificated airplane, etc.) and then over the next three years the industry will fill in behind them. Lawrence expects that within five years, all of the services and opportunities normally available to GA (flight schools, maintenance facilities, aircraft manufacturers) will be as commonly available to sport pilots. And while many will be content to fly within those limitations, Lawrence noted that all Sport Pilot time logged can be applied to private and commercial ratings. Eventually it's predicted that 10,000 new aircraft and 30,000 new pilots will join the system each year because of the new rule.

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Presidential Plane Damages Runway

We've grown used to a presidential visit closing aviation facilities but the effect is usually temporary. Las Cruces (New Mexico) International Airport closed one of its three runways indefinitely after George W. Bush's entourage left an indelible mark. A C-17 accompanying Air Force One created ruts more than 2,500 feet long when it backed up to get in position for takeoff there last Thursday. Damage is estimated at $1 million. (Oops.) Airport Manager Theresa Cook told AVweb that the president's travel team was warned that the asphalt runway (in the middle of a Southwest summer day) might not handle the weight of the planes in the entourage. Cook said the C-32-A (a military version of the Boeing 757) carrying President Bush landed and took off without any problems. It wasn't until the accompanying C-17 backed up for almost half the length of the affected runway that the damage occurred. Cook said she didn't know why the cargo plane backed up, using its thrust reversers, instead of taxiing conventionally. Initial reports said it was the 757 that caused the damage but that was an error, said Cook. She said the ruts are about two inches deep but the displaced asphalt also created a bump, so the total depth might approach four inches. The runway was closed immediately. The military is expected to cover the cost of repairing the damage but it's not known when the repairs will be made.

Neighbors Oppose Rescue Chopper Base

Depending on the circumstances, the sound of a helicopter can be among the most welcome or most obtrusive sounds and that is the dichotomy facing civic officials in rural Bedminster, N.J. The State Police want to move a rescue helicopter from Newark to nearby Somerset Airport in a bid to better cover the emergency needs of that growing area of the state. But neighbors and some civic officials object to the plan, saying the chopper operations will bother them and their livestock (yes, they have livestock in New Jersey). Meanwhile, airport officials hundreds of miles away in Lantana, Fla., have apparently made up their minds on the future of a helicopter flight school labeled a public safety hazard for its proximity to the town. Bruce Pelly, director of airports, has written the FAA claiming Palm Beach Helicopter is a safety threat to surrounding neighborhoods. Two Palm Beach helicopters have been involved in accidents in the last month but owner Randy Rowles told the Sun-Sentinel he resented the characterization of his business as a safety hazard. Both the company and the local government have been trying to find an alternative location for the flight school but no suitable sites are available. Safety isn't the only concern, however. "The repetitive operations are extremely annoying to the community," Pelly wrote in an earlier letter to the FAA.

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Runway Incursions Down

The FAA says the runways of the nation are a safer place to be thanks to its program to reduce runway incursions. At a news conference Tuesday, Administrator Marion Blakey said there's been an overall drop of 20 percent in runway incursions over the past five years and the number of serious near-collisions has dropped 50 percent. "We're moving in the right direction," Blakey told the news conference. The statistics are likely cold comfort to the crew of an Asiana Airlines Boeing 747 that had to abort a landing at LAX Aug. 19. On the same day that the FAA held its news conference, LAX officials were confirming that the jumbo jet was cleared for the same runway on which a Southwest Airlines 737 was taking off for Albuquerque. Initial reports indicated the two planes came within 200 feet of each other, according to the Los Angeles Times. The FAA initially classified it as Category A incident, requiring "extreme action to narrowly avoid a collision," but the final classification will wait until the NTSB has finished its investigation.

New System Tracks Pilots' Medical History

The FAA is modernizing its flight medical process, but we'll let you decide if that's a good thing. Integic Corp. has been given a $12 million contract to continue the work it did to computerize the application system. The previous contract created an "automated and secure system for electronically submitting, managing and processing medical certification applications," according to Government Computer News. Presumably, one of the goals was speeding up the process. The next phase of the project is to put all the information gleaned from those applications to use. Under the new contract, Integic will enhance the system "to monitor and manage the healthcare histories of a broader population of pilots and to conduct real-time data mining for unique healthcare concerns among pilots."

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B-17 Coming Back From The Deep

A wealthy aircraft collector (is there any other kind?) is going to great lengths, and depths, to add to his inventory. Don Brooks, of Douglas, Ga., is mounting an ambitious operation to recover the wreck of a B-17 on the bottom of a lake in Labrador in northern Canada. "There's very few B-17s remaining," Brooks told the Tacoma News Tribune. "I think it's a worthwhile project to preserve the heritage of our country's aviation history." The plane in question was on a Christmas Eve delivery mission in 1947 when the crew made a forced landing on frozen Dyke Lake. None of the seven aboard were hurt and they were rescued two days later. The plane was abandoned (we just report it) and fell through the melting ice the following spring. To recover the wreck, the team hired by Brooks will attach balloons to the airframe and lift it to the surface. As complicated as it sounds, it might be the easiest part of Brooks' quest. The salvage has been tied up in Canadian courts for years, but a recent decision gave the project the green light. Although Brooks can never claim clear title to the B-17, the courts decided that if anyone else tries to claim ownership they'll have to pay Brooks for the cost of recovering it. Brooks said he doesn't know how much the month-long effort will cost.

Ex-Pilot Tackles Channel

In the eyes of the FAA, George Brunstad is a decade too old to fly an airliner but that didn't stop him from making a transoceanic crossing of a different sort. The retired American Airlines pilot, from Ridgefield, Conn., became the oldest person to swim the English Channel last Saturday. Brunstad celebrated his 70th birthday the Wednesday before the swim, which he completed in 15 hours and 59 minutes. Brunstad, through his swim, raised more than $11,000 for Haitian orphans and said thinking of the kids kept him going. Brunstad claimed the title from Bertram Clifford Batt, of Australia, who was almost 68 when he swam the channel in 1987. "I was going to do this," he told reporters afterward. "Too many people were depending on me."

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On The Fly...

If you think you or your airplane might be in Hurricane Frances' way ... consider moving it …

The National Aeronautic Association last week named the winners of its five Public Benefit Flying awards...

Two senior staff members at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University died Saturday when the Super Decathlons they were practicing an air show routine in collided near Prescott, Ariz. Michael Corradi, 55, was chief flight instructor at the university and Bob Sweginnis, 64, was the chair of the Aeronautical Science Department...

Air Traffic Controllers in Bedford, Mass., are steaming about their tower's climate-control system. Seems the system is, well, out of control and temperatures fluctuate wildly, sometimes reaching 100 degrees. The National Air Traffic Controllers Association says the conditions impact safety and wants the system fixed...

Women In Aviation is again sponsoring its scholarship program; you have to be a member to qualify. More than $500,000 in scholarships were awarded last year and application and membership information is available on the Web site...

Cargo operators that meet Twelve-Five Standard Security Program (TFSSP) standards will be allowed access to TFR-affected airspace. There had been confusion about whether TFSSP standards met the Domestic Security Integration Program (DSIP) standards but the National Air Transportation Association says it ironed out the confusion with the Transportation Security Administration.

AVweb's Newstips Address ...

Drop us a line. If it caught your attention, it will probably interest someone else, too. Submit news tips via email to

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AVweb's Question of the Week ...


Last week, one AVweb reader asked if spin training should be included with Sport Pilot training.  11% of respondents said "definitely," while another 9% argued there's no need for spin training at the Sport Pilot level when it isn't even part of Private Pilot training.

The most popular response from AVweb readers by far was this one:  The rules need to be changed. We all should have spin training very early on — that means Private Pilots AND Sport Pilots.  48% of our respondents agreed with this "safety for all" statement.

The remaining 30% of participants said "no" to spin training, pointing out that spins are dangerous and relatively easy to avoid — no need to risk the lives of pilots and CFIs training for such a situation, especially when we're training weekend fliers.

Six readers (Cirrus pilots, no doubt) said, "When in doubt, pull the 'chute."


This week, another reader steps up to the plate with a puzzling question for AVweb readers.  We all have a pretty good understanding of what constitutes VFR, right?  Well, let's consider this scenario from AVweb reader Steve Biddle:

You depart VFR in VFR conditions on a cross-country. Midway through your trip, you start to see a lower layer (overcast) in front of you. You have the required cloud clearance of 1000 above, and it is clear above. Your destination is reporting clear skies so you proceed. But once you find yourself above the overcast you realize you no longer have any visual ground contact. There is nothing but a layer of cloud below you. Are you still legally VFR at that point? Soon the overcast layer becomes broken, then scattered, finally clear — and you land at your destination without incident. But what about the halfway point of the trip that you had no visual reference to the ground?

What do you think?  Was this pilot flying VFR?  Was he legal?

Do you have a suggestion for "Question of the Week"?  Many of our recent "QOTW"s have been reader-submitted.  If you have a question you'd like to pose to the AVweb readership, send it to for consideration.

Note: This address is only for suggested QOTW questions, and not for QOTW answers.

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AVweb's Picture of the Week ...

Submit a Photo | Rules | Tips | Questions

Current POTW Winner | Past POTW Winners

Once again, AVweb readers have come through with some terrific entries for our "POTW" contest.  Notable trends this week:  Lots of beautiful landscapes were submitted, along with six or seven "bad weather" photos.  In fact, Justin White's shot of lightning over the KICT (Kansas) terminal barely edged out a stiff competitor for this week's number one slot.  Congratulations, Justin — your AVweb baseball cap is on the way!

Due to privacy issues, AVweb does not publish e-mail addresses of readers who submit photos.



copyright © Justin White
Used with permission of Justin White

"Great Plains Lightning"
Justin White
of Wichita, Kansas captured this dramatic
shot of a KingAir 200 using his Nikon D-70.

Click 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.

copyright © Chris de Beer
Used with permission of Chris de Beer

"Local Luftwaffe"
Chris de Beer of Stilfontein, South Africa almost took first prize
with this shot of "old -timers (the aircraft, not the pilots!)
entertaining the crowd at the Bethlehem air show."
Keep submitting those photos, Chris — we love seeing 'em!

Used with permission of T. Bruce

"Ten Mile Lake"
And finally, Terry Bruce of Medford, Oregon
caught this Howard DGA 15 in action.
"Restored by High Mountain Specialty," writes Terry.

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.

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