NewsWire Complete Issue

September 5, 2004
By The AVweb Editorial Staff

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Giant Storms In Florida, Take Two...

Pilots Flee Frances...

It looks like airplanes and airports will weather Hurricane Frances a lot better than they did Hurricane Charley but that doesn't mean things are terribly pleasant in Florida at the moment. If Charley hit like a set of brass knuckles, Frances is more like a big wet sponge, dropping up to 11 inches of rain in some areas and packing winds of up to 100 mph. AVweb contributor Tim Kern said many Florida pilots learned a grim lesson from Charley and got their planes well away from Frances. "All week, the airways heading north were as crowded as the highways," he told AVweb on Sunday. Kern said many of the areas devastated by Charley (like Punta Gorda and Ft. Myers) are being missed by Frances's high winds. "A lot of the temporary roofs in the area surely didn't need the tropical storm-force winds and several inches of additional rain," he noted.

...Companies Make Plans

Liberty Aircraft's headquarters and assembly plant is in Melbourne and a contingency plan went into effect there on Wednesday. President Tony Tiarks told Kern, from a hotel in Orlando on Sunday, that they protected the business as well as possible. "We've made three copies of our software and they are in safe places, even out of state. We offered all the employees hotels in Orlando," he said. Four finished aircraft were moved out of state and the company doesn't have to worry about production tooling because that's all done elsewhere. Only final assembly is done in Melbourne. In nearby Vero Beach, New Piper's headquarters took a daylong pounding from Frances as the storm stalled off the coast. There's no word on any damage there. Kern said a lot of "aviation hot spots" that missed the worst of Charley will get the full brunt of Frances. Among them are the Kennedy Space Center and Kermit Weeks' Fantasy of Flight. But some, like Tom Reilly's Flying Tigers Museum in Kissimmee, may have taken a one-two punch.

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Pilot Attitudes And Safety...

Bush Pilot Syndrome Tackled...

Alaska has always led the nation in per capita aviation crashes and fatalities and, for the most part, with good reasons like awful weather, poor nav aids and primitive airports. Some technical advances (and some pretty expensive ones at that) like the Capstone project and the installation of lighting and weather sensing equipment at its many far-flung airports have done their share to make Alaska, technically speaking, at least, a safer place to fly. But those working on reducing the state's still-obnoxious GA accident rate say there's a problem that the best GPS or brightest runway light can't overcome. They call it Bush Pilot Syndrome. It seems there are those who feel that more than a few who fly for a living in Alaska have seen too many movies. Oozing machismo and bravado, they take chances (not only with their own lives but those of others) that would appall many other pilots. "There's a mystique about Alaska and some people feel they have to live up to certain legends," Jerry Dennis, executive director of the Medallion Foundation, told Associated Press. The foundation runs safety programs for pilots, including one recently opened to private pilots. To qualify for one of Medallion's safety shields, air carriers must undergo rigorous safety and risk assessment courses and show competency in five key areas of flight safety. So far, only two of Alaska's 40 air carriers enlisted in the program have earned the shields. In addition to Medallion's programs, there's a government-subsidized effort that provides free simulator time to pilots. The emphasis on professionalism may be working as accident rates seem to be dropping. The FAA and Medallion folks are now trying to reach the many recreational pilots (one in 59 Alaskans is a pilot) with the same message. However, Dennis said the main problem with private pilots is currency as many only fly at certain times of the year for hunting and fishing trips

...Other Aberrations...

Now, Alaska doesn't have a monopoly on questionable pilot decision making. As AVweb reported in 2003, the NTSB found that pilot Robert A. Monaco, of Lexington, Mass., had a cocktail of very potent drugs in his system when the Beech B200 he was flying hit a building a mile short of the Fitchburg (Mass.) Municipal Airport on April 4, 2003. He died in the crash along with five of the other six people on board. But the final report also sheds light on some disturbing details about the pilot's medical history. Monaco had the prescription drugs imipramine and carbamazepine in his system at the time. The NTSB noted that imipramine is an antidepressant that has "detrimental effects on driving skills and other cognitive functions" and carbamazepine has "measurable impairment of performance on a variety of psychomotor tests." He didn't have a prescription for the morphine that was also in his system. According to the NTSB, Monaco had "an extensive medical history" that included "episodes of not knowing where he is" and a bout with viral meningitis. The report said he didn't tell his FAA flight medical examiner any of it, but at least one doctor who had examined Monaco for abscesses on his arm knew he was a pilot and warned him against flying until the abscesses had been treated.

...And Good Intentions From The FAA

Although the NTSB has issued only preliminary findings on an Aug. 3, 2004, crash that killed six people near Austin, Texas, The Oklahoman has revealed that the pilot was appealing an FAA suspension at the time of the crash. According to the paper, Richard Allen Fisher's ticket was pulled for 240 days by the FAA but he was allowed to continue flying until a hearing could be set for his appeal on the suspension to the NTSB. Fisher, along with three other adults and two young children, died when the Piper Aerostar hit a house near Lakeway Airpark. The NTSB's preliminary report says the plane was slightly overweight and may have had trouble gaining altitude. Fisher had come to the attention of the FAA at least three times in the previous two years, according to The Oklahoman. On Sept. 10, 2003, passengers allege he almost hit a mountain and came close to running out of fuel before making a landing in fog at an airport near Creede, Colo. In September of 2002 he ran out of fuel and made a gear-up landing near Piedmont and the previous April he landed downwind and went through a barbed-wire fence at the end of the runway. Fisher's mother, Delorise Renfro, told The Oklahoman she believed the FAA actions were being dealt with and no suspension would have occurred. "I have no idea where that would have come from when he'd been cleared of everything," she said.

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Cleveland Air Show Wants Court Ruling

A last-minute compromise allowed the Cleveland National Air Show to go ahead with a slightly amended evening air show last Friday despite a stadium TFR that was in place for a Cleveland Indians game being held next door. Organizers started the show at 5 p.m. and put all the civilian performers in the first half so that only military acts would be in the air when the TFR went into effect an hour before game time. Although it worked this time logistically, if not economically (those with tickets to weekend daytime performances got in free, those who bought tickets for Friday got passes to one weekend show), air show officials want the courts to rule (again) on the interpretation of the law in question. On Friday, a federal court refused to hear the air show's arguments. The law in question is Public Law 180-7, which prevents flights within three nautical miles and 3,000 feet AGL by aircraft not landing and taking off while under air traffic control. The only exceptions are for aircraft used for operational and security purposes at the game. Air show lawyer Jay Clinton Rice told the Duluth News Tribune air show organizers want a court ruling so they can make plans for future events without the vagaries of sports schedules fouling them up. But it's not just Cleveland that could be affected. John Cudahy, president of the International Council of Air Shows, said at least seven other major air shows could fall under the same legislation.

Meigs Reopens As Park

They've opened a "run way" at Meigs Field -- but not for airplanes. An asphalt running path has been installed around a 90-acre artificial meadow that, until about 16 months ago, was a bustling GA airport on Chicago's waterfront. Now called Northerly Island park, the green space opened to the public without fanfare last week and got high marks from the handful of people who stumbled across the suddenly open gate. "I'd take this over an airport, anytime," Nick Straub, a university manager, told the Chicago Sun-Times. For now, the airport site is a bare-bones layout of prairie grasses, wildflowers and the running track. After an official reopening this fall, Chicago parks officials will hold a series of public meetings on how the land should be developed. Rotary International has already pledged $275,000 for an entrance with paving stones and 100 trees and the Chicago Maritime Society is hoping to build a museum there. And let's not forget the Friends of Meigs, who envision park space and a small airport coexisting side by side. As for Straub, who was fishing when the Sun-Times came across him, his vision would be much less costly... and potentially less controversial. "Leave it just like this," he said. "I don't want to see it developed."

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Cellphones Allowed On Airliners In Two Years?

In a couple of years, you could be happily chatting on your cell phone at 30,000 feet -- or ready to throttle the guy in the next seat who natters away on the thing for the whole flight. Technology is coming to the rescue of one of the great telecommunications conundrums of the wireless age but airlines are wondering if the additional blood-pressure factor in the already tension-prone confines of the aluminum tube is worth the trouble. And it looks like American Airlines, which conducted a live test of the system with passengers in July, is ready to lead the charge. "A circle of mobility defines how people want to work and live today," Monte Ford, a senior VP with the airline, told The New York Times. "But it's critically important that this technology be utilized in the proper way." The technology involves two innovative approaches to solving both the potential interference problems cell signals pose for airliner navigation systems and the fears that cellphone signals raining down from above will overwhelm the land-based transmitter system. Each aircraft would have its own cell site, turning the cabin into a hot spot. Aircell's proposed system would transmit the signals to ground-based towers for distribution. Qualcomm proposes using satellites for collection and distribution of the signals. As daunting as the technical challenges might be, keeping the peace between the talkative and their seatmates might not be so easy and could result in segregated areas or time limits on calls. The American Airlines test revealed some of what might lie ahead. "The moment we gave out the cellphones, they all started yelling," Ford told the Times.

Court Takes Airplane In Plea Bargain

For Alaska pilot Bob Logan, his Super Cub is quite literally his ticket to freedom, according to the Anchorage Daily News. In what can only be described as an unusual plea arrangement, Logan, a former Fairbanks assemblyman, college professor as well as bootlegger and drug runner has turned the plane over to the State in exchange for a lighter sentence. In exchange for the plane, Logan has been guaranteed he'll spend a maximum of nine months in jail for using the plane to take booze and , allegedly, drugs to Barrow, a community (known as a damp village) that heavily restricts the sale of alcohol. Logan didn't always export his wares, however. He also pleaded no contest to drug trafficking charges in his hometown of Fairbanks and could face up to two years in jail for that charge. In the meantime, there could be a Super Cub for sale by the State of Alaska, presumably after a thorough cleaning.

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AOPA Refutes "Anti-Airport" Label

AOPA found itself cast in the unlikely role of airport opponent last week but quickly moved to change the script. It seems opponents of a proposal by the city of Burlington, Conn., to revive the former Johnnycake Airport as a municipal facility were able to mold a July 7 article on the AOPA Web site to fit their particular agenda. In that article, AOPA opposes the construction of an elementary school within 1,300 feet of the airport in Oxnard, Calif. And since there are schools within a mile of Johnnycake Airport, Burlington Impact, the group formed to oppose the Sept. 13 referendum, reasoned that AOPA would have a similar stand in Connecticut. Not so, said AOPA spokesman Chris Dancy, in an interview with the Register Citizen. "We would never take an anti-airport stance," he told the newspaper. Dancy explained that while AOPA doesn't think it's a good idea to build new schools near airports, it certainly doesn't support closing airports (or keeping them closed) because schools are nearby. "They (Burlington Impact) have taken information off our Web site and misinterpreted it," Dancy said. Burlington Impact spokesman Chuck Brandi told the Register Citizen it accepts AOPA's clarification but also noted the organization can't have it both ways. "The fact that we are in Connecticut and the AOPA's position was specific to an Oxnard, Calif., airport does not change the fact that a municipal airport less than a mile from a school housing every fifth- to twelfth-grader in [the area] is concerning," he said.

One Man, Two Jet Engines, One Nine-Foot Wing

...Three months ago. A Swissair Airbus pilot has added a whole new meaning to the phrase "Gotta jet." Yves Rossy says he spent four minutes swooping over the Bex in western Switzerland (in horizontal flight) attached to a three-meter carbon wing with two miniature jet engines attached. Controls include ailerons, plus a mechanism to move the entire wing fore and aft on his back. According to his Web site, the flight(s) (three that day) occurred June 24 and began at more than 12,000 feet with a jump and a horizontal cruise portion at roughly 5,000 feet (OK, we're still working on the translation). But for some reason he waited until last week to tell the media. Maybe he was still shaking too much. (Maybe he was waiting on paperwork from the patent office.) With the 40-kg carbon-fiber wings attached, Rossy jumped from a Pilatus Porter and hit the ignition, waited thirty seconds for the engines to stabilize and hit the throttle. He claims to have flown horizontally at about 112 mph for the four minutes at roughly 5,000 feet, shutting the engines down due to strong turbulence with half the fuel still in tanks. He then folded teh wings and landed by parachute. Rossy's already at work on his next project, a jet-powered set of wings that he can launch from the ground. And just to prove he really has stars in his eyes, Rossy told the Daily Mirror he sees potential for the contraption in Hollywood. "It would be a great device for James Bond so he can go behind enemy lines," he said.

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On The Fly...

More than 62 years after it crashed in a swamp, a Spitfire is back on display. The cockpit of the plane, a Battle of Britain participant, was shown off at Hooton Park airfield, in Britain, on the weekend. It took four years to recover and restore the cockpit of the plane, which was originally based at the same airfield during the Second World War…

The NTSB says a Piper Cherokee climbed into a Cessna 150 in a midair collision that killed the pilots of both planes near Kinnelon, N.J., on Aug. 7. Both planes were flying VFR and had taken off from different airports...

The Ninety-Nines will be flying for charity over the next couple of months. Members of the women pilots' group will take pledges for four hours of flight time logged in September and October with proceeds going to breast cancer research. Participants don't have to be members of the group...

Airline Pilots Against Age Discrimination (APAAD) has launched a new Web site devoted to the cause of overturning the Age 60 rule. APAAD claims membership from all major airlines and wants the U.S. to follow the lead of other countries in letting airline pilots work beyond the current mandatory retirement age of 60...

Jeff Evans has been named the assistant manager of the National Business Aviation Association's GA Desk. The GA desk represents the NBAA in discussions with the FAA on airspace and air flow issues.


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New Articles and Features on AVweb

The Pilot's Lounge #78: In Praise Of Flight Breakfasts
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