September 22, 2004
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
|This issue of AVweb's AVflash is brought to you by ... JA Air Center
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The FAA has made some progress in improving the computer systems and software that Air Traffic Control relies on, the federal Government Accountability Office (GAO) said in a report released this week. But some areas still need improvement. The GAO said it found that projects now underway were, in general, technically strong but weak in management and fiscal oversight. The report recommends that the FAA create a plan for "implementing and overseeing process-improvement initiatives." Without a strong commitment to improve, the report concludes, the FAA will continue to suffer from cost overruns, schedule delays, and performance shortfalls. A second report, also released this week, focused on information technology and reached similar conclusions.
Meanwhile, the rocky implementation of a new Air Traffic Control system in Australia is getting even rockier. On Tuesday, the dispute over the rules went to Federal Court, and outside the courtroom a blindfolded air traffic controller and the brother of a man who died in a plane crash in July met with reporters. The two, along with Dick Smith, the former head of the Australian Civil Aviation Authority, say that lives will be at risk if the country goes ahead with its plan to reverse the safety rules that took effect last year. Smith, who helped to draft the rules, has said the reversal, set to take effect on Nov. 25, will delay equipment upgrades at smaller airports and plunge air services back into the 1930s. For now, it seems things will get interesting on the 27th.
"They've decided ... not to put radar in," Smith said, the Australian Associated Press reported. "That's just unbelievable. To bring in new airspace without radar is irresponsible. ... It's just totally ridiculous." Since the new airspace rules were introduced last November, the chair of Air Services Australia has resigned, two senior air traffic controllers have quit and last month, the aviation regulator declared some of the reforms unsafe, ABC Online reported on Tuesday. The airspace service then resolved to have the changes wound back. Now Smith is trying to block that decision, by taking his fight to Federal Court.
Smith has said the Australian Transportation Safety Board (ATSB) "kowtows to Qantas," and the U.S. NTSB should be brought in to investigate a recent incident involving a Qantas airliner, according to ABC Online. Smith described the incident as a dangerous near-collision that nearly flew 150 people into a mountain. Qantas said a mistake was made that was quickly corrected, and the airplane was never in danger. "Dick Smith's accusations against Qantas and the ATSB are about Dick Smith throwing his weight around yet again, and in doing so unnecessarily worrying the travelling public," Labor Transport spokesman Martin Ferguson told ABC Online.
Australia's AOPA, the Australian Sport Aviation Confederation and Recreational Aviation Australia have sided with Smith in the debate, saying that a report cited to support reversing the airspace reforms is "dangerously flawed," exaggerates risk, maligns the skills of small-aircraft pilots and fails to establish that the reforms are unsafe. Meanwhile, the Australian and International Pilots Association and the Australian Federation of Air Pilots have jointly called for the reforms to be reversed. Qantas CEO Geoff Dixon has urged the dueling parties to find a solution. "A lot of people are taking very, very strong positions on this, there's a lot of politics behind it and I think it would be nice if we could sit down and get it done properly," Dixon told The Australian.
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Three members of the NTSB have signed a letter to Chairman Ellen Engleman Conners telling her they are not happy with policies she is enforcing that restrict their travel, prevent them from hiring staff and stifle them from talking with NTSB staff and the media. The board members -- Carol Carmody, Richard Healing and Deborah Hersman -- said they want freedom to speak with whomever they want. "It is crucial that board members be able to work directly with professional staff and have access to their expertise," they wrote in the letter, which was obtained by the St. Petersburg Times. The members also said they are concerned that Engleman Conners' effort to settle many of the board's long-standing safety recommendations in too many cases means settling for "lesser actions" that fail to address the original concerns. The NTSB has five board members, each nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate to serve five-year terms. A member is designated by the president as chairman and another as vice chairman for two-year terms. The chairmanship requires separate Senate confirmation. Engleman Conners, who was formerly an administrator with the U.S. Department of Transportation, was appointed to the chairmanship by President Bush in March 2003. Her five-year term as a member expires on Dec. 31, 2007.
Engleman Conners did not respond to the Times story, but an NTSB spokesman said the chairman hopes that "board members will continue to focus on the important mission of the board rather than on bureaucratic distractions." The board and Engleman Conners are scheduled to meet in late October to discuss the issues under dispute, according to Monday's International Herald Tribune. The Tribune also said that board members' concerns include whether Engleman Conners is too chummy with the agencies that the board oversees and too susceptible to influence from the White House. A memo from Engleman Conners to the board said their concerns had already been addressed, the Tribune said, a response that Carmody described as "disappointing." The five board members oversee a staff of 400.
HOW WOULD YOU LIKE AN INSURANCE POLICY THAT PAYS YOU BACK YOUR PREMIUMS?
When something went "whoomp" outside a home in Hartselle, Ala., last Saturday, it turned out to be the door off an airplane. This week, it was identified as the door from a Diamond Star based at nearby Rountree Airport; the plane landed safely after the incident. Jeff Owen, a spokesman for Diamond Aircraft, confirmed yesterday that the door had come off in flight, and it's not the first time. "It's happened several times," he told AVweb, and he added that the only way it can occur is if the door is not properly latched. "There are two monstrous pins that secure that door, and a system that will tell the pilot, with an audio warning and a light on the panel, if the door is unlatched," he said. He stressed that the system has one known flaw -- the pilot has to close the door and secure the latch for it to work. (Not that they're pointing fingers.) "It's extremely unlikely that the door would depart the airplane if it had been properly latched," he said. The door has been recovered, and Owen said he hopes to get it back to the Diamond factory soon for inspection. Owen also debunked some reports that the door is "designed" to come off in flight if it does come open. "There is certainly a lot of air load on that door, if it opens in flight," he said, but there is no built-in release mechanism. "We're not ducking this," he added. "We'll look at it very carefully and if there's a problem, we'll address it."
The pilot and passenger in a Cirrus SR22 escaped injury on Sunday afternoon when they activated their ballistic chute and ... arrived ... in a walnut tree near Stockton, Calif. The pilot, William Graham, 65, and his wife, Barbara, 64, were en route to San Diego from Redding. Preliminary reports say the aircraft encountered turbulence at about 14,000 feet and entered a spin. Graham turned off the engine and deployed the chute. "The plane was intact," local fire chief Vic Solari told The Record. "There was a huge, orange-and-white parachute attached to the plane. ... It's just unreal. ... I was just amazed." William Graham is a certified flight instructor who has been flying for 25 years, the Duluth (Minn.) News Tribune reported yesterday. Graham told authorities he was returning from a seminar in Redding where he had taught fellow aviators how to use Cirrus' parachute system in the event of an emergency. This was the fourth time a Cirrus parachute system has been successfully deployed in a situation deemed by the pilot as an emergency, and nine people have walked away from those landings. A flight instructor from Duluth, Byron Oyster, remains hospitalized after the Sept. 10 crash of an SR22 in Park Falls, Wis. Gerald Miller, 60, of Sheboygan, Wis., died in that crash, in which the chute was not deployed.
A BRAND-NEW AIRCRAFT FOR THE COST OF A SECOND CAR!
It's not legal to discriminate against small aircraft while giving all the breaks to jets -- that's the argument of three tenants at McClellan-Palomar Airport, near Carlsbad, Calif., who are about to be evicted so a developer can build 19 new jet hangars. A complaint filed with the FAA last month by the Pacific Coast Flyers Club, the owner of a pilot-supply shop and a retired airline pilot says the new lease was improperly handled by the county. The project will leave 150 small aircraft homeless with nowhere to go, resulting in "Prohibited Economic Discrimination," according to the complaint. Demolition of the old buildings is set for Oct. 1. According to the tenants' complaint, "the proposed development unreasonably discriminates against two classes of general aviation users: 1) GA businesses and their clientele who will be economically denied access, and 2) small aircraft owners, pilots, renters and tenants who will lose the ability to place their aircraft on the airport." The complainants want the FAA to intervene because it has given grants to the airport, which make it a "federally obligated property." If they can't save their hangars or get reasonable rents in the new hangars, they hope to at least get some reimbursement for their relocation expenses ... if they can find someplace to relocate to. AOPA sent a letter to the FAA in support of the complaint, saying the displacement of airplanes and GA businesses without any provision for replacement facilities "is an extremely serious matter."
As AVweb reported Monday, the TSA has issued a new rule about background checks for foreign flight students, and the General Aviation Manufacturers Association welcomed it as fair and balanced. But on Tuesday, AOPA published its own analysis of the rule, and found it wanting. "It applies unnecessary training and burdensome recordkeeping requirements to every flight school and every single flight instructor, whether or not they're training foreign students," AOPA President Phil Boyer said in a news release. "If that's really TSA's intent, they've gone too far." AOPA said it's talking to the TSA to clarify the intent and applicability of the rule, while AOPA's legal and regulatory experts continue a line-by-line analysis of the document.
Tuesday's comments were based on an "initial review of the rule," AOPA's news release said. The new rule requires every school and every freelance flight instructor to register with the TSA, AOPA said. The flight school and individual flight instructors must determine if a flight student is a foreign national. If so, the school or flight instructor must notify the TSA that a non-U.S. citizen has requested flight training. All flight-school employees must take a security training course once a year, and the school must keep records to show the training has been completed. Prospective alien students must fill out an online TSA form, pay a fee estimated at $130, and submit photographs and fingerprints. The flight schools or instructor must keep records on all students, whether citizens or aliens, for at least five years. The rule takes effect Oct. 20 for training in aircraft weighing less than 12,500 pounds. The TSA estimates the program will cost about $9 million per year to implement ... that's just for the TSA to run it, with private-sector costs running about $5 million. AVweb got a look at the TSA's online training at Oshkosh last summer, but the tutorial is not yet available on the Internet. It comprised a series of scenarios about how to detect and cope with security threats, followed by multiple-choice questions. But the TSA says that training module is only good for the first year; after that, flight schools must come up with their own training program.
RISK MANAGEMENT IS AN AREA OF AVIATION INSURANCE OFTEN OVERLOOKED
Anyone who is still uncertain whether to cast a vote for President Bush or John Kerry can check out AOPA Pilot's October issue to read up on their views about general aviation ... but it's pretty tough to discern much difference in their responses. The strongest distinction we could find was in regard to the air traffic control system. Is privatization on the agenda? Mr. Bush's response could be interpreted as hedging a bit: "FAA Administrator [Marion] Blakey has said that the administration has no plans to privatize the air traffic control system." Kerry's language is a bit more direct: "I oppose privatizing the air traffic control system." Beyond that, when asked about user fees, both said they support the current funding system. Both support GA airports in general, and both have experience in the cockpit -- Bush flew in the National Guard and Kerry holds a commercial pilot certificate. Both said that in choosing the next FAA administrator, they will seek candidates with experience and integrity. "Whoever is sitting in the White House after the next inauguration will have a strong influence on decisions that will greatly affect general aviation," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "These will range from the appointment of an FAA Administrator to whether the Air Traffic System in our country is a government or private service. Out on the campaign trail, the candidates are discussing broad issues of foreign and domestic policy. Those are vitally important, but also we want pilots to know where they stand on GA." AOPA said it does not endorse a presidential candidate because the major decisions affecting AOPA members are decided by Congress. October's AOPA Pilot lists 13 members of Congress who AOPA considers friends of general aviation and who, based on their voting records on GA issues, the association believes members should consider for re-election.
SpaceDev, a California company that has provided components to Scaled Composites' SpaceShipOne, has started its own project to develop a reusable, piloted, suborbital spaceship. SpaceDev is not aiming for the X Prize, but says it is looking at a long-term program that could be scaled up to transport passengers to and from low earth orbit, including the International Space Station. The "SpaceDev Dream Chaser" would take off vertically and glide back to earth for a horizontal runway landing. "This project is one small step for SpaceDev, but could evolve into one giant leap for affordable, commercial human space flight," said CEO Jim Benson in a news release on Monday. Benson told Space.com the Dream Chaser could make its maiden flight by 2008 if it is fully funded. The project is currently a partially funded effort, he said.
The suborbital SpaceDev Dream Chaser is derived from an existing X-Plane concept and will have an altitude goal of about 100 miles. It will be powered by a single, high-performance hybrid rocket motor that is under parallel development by SpaceDev for the SpaceDev Streaker, a family of small, expendable launch vehicles designed to deliver small satellites to low earth orbit. The Dream Chaser will use motor technology being developed for the Streaker booster stage, the most powerful motor in the Streaker family. That motor will produce approximately 100,000 pounds of thrust, about six times the thrust of the SpaceShipOne motor. SpaceDev's non-explosive hybrid rocket motors use synthetic rubber as the fuel and nitrous oxide for the oxidizer to make the rubber burn. SpaceDev said its hybrid rocket motors are nontoxic and do not detonate like solid or liquid rocket motors. The company will be working with NASA Ames Research Center on the propulsion system and other aspects of the project.
MARV GOLDEN'S END-OF-SUMMER SIZZLIN' SPECIALS
Helicopter pilots have discovered all kinds of useful, and profitable, niches for their flying machines, but New Zealand farmers may be popularizing a new use for the big eggbeaters -- they can help keep their precious grape vines warm at night. Many of the vineyards on the South Island are tucked into valleys and slopes where a gentle airflow prevents frost from forming. But on the plains of Marlborough, according to The Nelson Mail, late winter can bring overnight inversions that trap cold air near the surface and ruin the delicate vines with frost. The solution -- hire a helicopter or two to beat about all night long and mix up that atmosphere. Apparently, if a vineyard has $120,000 worth of grapes at risk, paying $4,000 or so for a night of wind-whacking makes sense. When it's really frosty in Marlborough there can be about 40 helicopters heading there from all over the South Island, The Nelson Mail said. The Southern Hemisphere spring is on the way, though, so the pilots should soon get a chance to catch up on their sleep.
If you missed Reno, or just don't know what that means, click through for AVweb's Expanded Reno coverage (an updated Reno wrap-up and extended image galleries). Enjoy...
The FAA proposes to amend an Airworthiness Directive affecting some New Piper aircraft with turbochargers...
The Lake Tahoe Airport contract tower will close Oct. 1; city council cites budget crunch...
Hurricane Jeanne is growing stronger and heading close to Florida coast...
"Oshkosh 2004" premieres tonight on Discovery Wings channel...
John F. Kennedy Jr.'s first airplane, a 1977 Cessna Skylane, will be auctioned online at Lelands.com, the company announced Monday. The auction will run Nov. 10 to Dec. 10, and starting bid is $180,000...
Delta Air Lines and pilots agreed to let retired crew members return to the cockpit, as eligible pilots bail out with half their pension rather than wait and risk losing it...
The resolute folks at the Save Concorde Group said their petition has reached its target of 20,000...
Updated Concorde add-on for Flight Simulator 2002/2004 to be released Oct. 29 by Just Flight.
INNOVATION IT'S THE KEY BEHIND NARCO'S NEW DIGITAL TRANSPONDER AT165
Drop us a line. If it caught your attention, it will probably interest someone else, too. Submit news tips via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Cessna, The Sky ... and the Cartoonist: Chapters Two and Three
Our intrepid student aviator and artist, John Ewing, continues his flight training and is hit with academic work that challenges his semi-retired brain. Attitude flying, however, is a bit more intuitive, although we catch him making engine noises in a silent airplane.
What's New -- Products and Services
This month, AVweb's survey of the latest products and services for pilots, mechanics and aircraft owners brings you charts for PDAs, EFIS, autopilot interfaces, videos, survival knifes and more.
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AOPA'S STEVE ELLS RATES MIKE BUSCH'S OWNER SEMINAR "INVALUABLE" ...
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Current POTW Winner | Past POTW Winners
Every once in a while, a theme emerges from your photo submissions without any stretch of the imagination on our part. This week's clear theme was "skylines" more specifically, skylines and stormfronts. Would you believe that one out of every four "POTW" entries was a skyline photo? C'mon, 'fess up you guys got together and planned this, didn't you?
Fine, just sit there and stare we're on to you, and we'll catch you before this is all over.
In the meantime, take a look at three of the best horizon photos plus one extra pic, just for good measure.
Due to privacy issues, AVweb does not publish e-mail addresses of readers who submit photos.
Used with permission of Ryan Pemberton
Ryan Pemberton of Spokane, Washington starts us off with a first-prize photo
he took from a Stearman Sr. Speedmail that belonged to his father. "We were on
our way down to the Jim Wright Memorial Stearman Fly-In," writes Ryan. "We had to
fight weather all day, and this moment made it all worthwhile." Ryan identifies the lone
non-Stearman aircraft as a TravelAire 4000, and we're identifying him as this week's
"POTW" winner. Check your mailbox, Ryan an official AVweb ball cap is on the way!
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.
Jay Curtis of Gainesville, Florida
sends us this shot of a Buccaneer XA
"on its way north the day before Charley hit Orlando"
Used with permission of Brian W. Wilson
"After the Storm"
Brian W. Wilson Sr. of Memphis, Tennessee
took this one shortly after a storm cleared out of the
General DeWitt Spain Airport in Memphis
Used with permission of Mark Wuennenberg
"Snowbird's Big Diamond from Snowbird #5"
Mark Wuennenberg of Winnipeg, Manitoba (Canada)
sent in this terrific perspective shot, taken from Snowbird #5
as the glorious Snowbirds approach center stage in the
"Big Diamond" formation at Andrews Air Force Base
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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