NewsWire Complete Issue

October 3, 2004
By The AVweb Editorial Staff

This issue of AVweb's AVflash is brought to you by ... Pilot Insurance Center (PIC)

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On The Scene In Mojave

Special Coverage Of The X Prize Attempt

As you read this, history is, hopefully, being made in the high desert north of Los Angeles. The Mojave Aerospace Ventures Team is trying to become the first privately funded group to make successive suborbital space flights within a two-week period to demonstrate the technical viability of space tourism. Assuming SpaceShipOne climbs again past 62.5 miles in altitude, the team, spearheaded by Burt Rutan and funded by Paul Allen, will win the $10 million Ansari X Prize. The event can be seen live, online. Check that same link later today for AVweb's own special report.

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Chicago Taxpayers Hit For Meigs Closure

Fines Could Reach $4.5 Million...

The city of Chicago (in particular, its taxpayers) could face fines approaching $5 million for its midnight assault on Meigs Field 18 months ago. The FAA announced Friday it's proposing the city be fined $33,000 (the maximum) for failing to provide 30 days notice of the closure. The agency also said it was launching an investigation into whether $1.5 million in federal funds that were supposed to be spent on development of O'Hare International were diverted to pay the contractor hired to tear up Meigs. If it's true, the penalty could reach as high as $4.5 million. City spokeswoman Annette Martinez seemed to defend the expenditure to the Chicago Tribune. "Some funds were used to build the airport and it was appropriate to use the airport funds to remove the airport," she said. The FAA apparently sees it differently. "We are looking at whether the city used restricted airport revenues to pay for demolishing the Meigs runway and for its conversion from an airport to a city park," said FAA chief spokesman Greg Martin. Martin said the FAA could order the city to repay the money or impose penalties of up to three times the amount spent. The city has 30 days to respond to the charges.

...City Says Rules Don't Apply In This Case...

Although it's long been speculated that Mayor Richard Daley ordered Meigs closed to make way for a park, his original justification was that he feared terrorists would use the airport to launch an attack on the city's downtown. Now, the city is using the same line to try and defend itself against the FAA charges. Martinez told the Tribune the city doesn't think the 30-day notice requirement applies in this case because of the perceived terrorism threat. Meanwhile, the city didn't waste any time getting the park started. It was opened to the public last month with little fanfare and consists of a patch of meadow and a running trail. More development is planned next year. Airport proponents have proposed a plan that would include an airport as well as park space and an air museum.

...FAA Sanctions Vindication For Friends Of Meigs

Friends of Meigs spokesman Steve Whitney said the proposed FAA sanctions support the notion that the terrorism excuse was a sham. "This proves we've been correct from the start," said Whitney. "The city closed Meigs illegally and under false pretenses. They should apologize and make amends." Whitney gave credit to AOPA for bringing about the FAA's action. AOPA laid the formal complaint that led to the investigation and President Phil Boyer wasn't shy about his personal animosity toward Chicago's mayor. "As much as we relish sticking it to Mayor Daley, we still would rather have the airport," he said. Although Meigs is almost certainly gone forever, the FAA sanctions and other developments sparked by its destruction will make it much more perilous for local governments to arbitrarily close airports. "You cannot unilaterally change the National Airspace System," Boyer said. Last year, Congress passed a law that would increase the penalty for closing airports without a 30-day notice to a maximum of $10,000 a day. The fine proposed against Chicago is based on the old rate of $1,100 a day.

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NASA Tests Synthetic Vision

Multi-Layered System Evaluated...

NASA has announced it has run some tests on a synthetic vision system that appears to add a few wrinkles to the certified system already available from Chelton and the numerous experimental systems on the market. Using a Gulfstream GV as a test platform (a rigorous test environment if ever there was one) NASA and a bevy of private-sector and government partners put the system through its paces. Like existing systems, the NASA gear gives the pilot a computer-generated portrayal of the world outside based on GPS mated to a topographical database, but it goes a few steps beyond. The system also gives a virtual bird's-eye view of the world below, and incorporates a voice recognition system and a database integrity monitoring system that uses sensors to "compare the real world to the pictures being generated." Finally, a runway incursion prevention system was added to alert the crew to any developing problems on the ground. The system was tested in both panel-mounted and head-up mode.

...While FAA Looks At Bird-Strike Prevention

While all that gear should theoretically be able to keep most pilots out of the weeds, terrain isn't the only thing that can ruin your day. The FAA has just wrapped up tests on a portable radar unit that can track flocks of birds around airports. The radar has a three-mile range and is designed to give fair warning of potential strikes on aircraft departing and arriving at airports. The tests were done at Dallas/Fort Worth International and are now being reviewed. The portable system would be part of the National Bird Strike Advisory System. The system is designed to provide near-real-time warning of the risk of bird strikes by combining radar data and database information on bird strikes. And just to punctuate how useful this kind of stuff might be, remember that only a couple of weeks ago an American Airlines MD-80 had to return to O'Hare right after takeoff after pureeing a Canada goose or two in its left engine. The engine disintegrated, raining debris over the suburbs and causing an on-board fire. The flight got back to O'Hare safely.

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Certification Near For Adam A500

Adam Aircraft is expecting the first customer deliveries of its A500 push/pull twin before the end of the year. The FAA granted Type Inspection Authorization for the speedy piston twin on Sept. 30. Type Inspection Authorization is considered the most important step in the certification process because it means the plane theoretically meets all standards. All that's left is for FAA pilots to confirm the plane actually flies like the technical data says it will and Adam can start selling airplanes. "This is a major achievement in our company history," said CEO Rick Adam. "We expect type certification this fall and will look forward to delivering aircraft to customers this year." Adam has 65 orders for the A500, which is about two years' worth of production. The plane is the first pressurized piston twin to gain Type Inspection Authorization in 30 years, said Adam. With the A500's certification, Adam may be able to devote more resources to its A700 jet. In a presentation at EAA AirVenture earlier this year, Adam noted that more than 90 percent of the jet's components are shared with the A500 so certification should be comparatively simple.

House Transportation Chair Caught By Homeland Security

There's nothing like experiencing things firsthand and the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee now knows what it's like to be wrongly suspected of being a terrorist. Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) was detained and questioned at Anchorage Airport earlier this month because the name he booked his ticket under (Donald E. Young) is close to that of a Donald Lee Young who is on the federal government's "watch list." Despite the extra scrutiny, Young still made his flight and will try using his full name (E. is for Edwin) on tickets in the future to avoid the unwelcome attention. But while the Don Youngs of the country get interviewed (not to mention Edward Kennedies and John Lewises) a government report says there are plenty of actual terrorists who don't appear on the lists. NBC News reported last week that the lists only cover suspected terrorists "who pose threats to civil aviation." It does not explain how the various types of terrorist threats are segregated. The report also says the FBI is working to create a master list of suspected terrorists from the assorted lists now in use. It's not clear if an attempt will be made to weed out the innocent.

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Concorde Group Presses On

By now, maintenance on Concorde involves a thorough dusting, but a dogged group of British aviation buffs is hoping to hear the roar of those big engines again. Fueled by a 20,000-name petition, Save Concorde Group (SCG) is hoping to convince the British government to join the campaign. The petition will be presented at Prime Minister Tony Blair's official residence at 10 Downing Street on Oct. 22. "The public's fascination with Concorde is as strong as ever," said an SCG news release. The supersonic airliners are now scattered in museums around the world and the SCG's focus is on G-BOAF, the last Concorde to fly. It landed last Nov. 26 at Filton, Bristol. In the meantime, the SCG has been gathering support to put fresh kerosene in the tanks. The group has talked with former pilots, technical and maintenance staff and government officials who all want to see the aircraft fly again. "SGC believes passionately that, with enough skill and determination, Concorde will rise again," said the news release.

EAA Downplays Sport Pilot Delay

The FAA has delayed implementation of a key element of the Sport Pilot program but EAA says we shouldn't worry. Last week the agency said it won't be able to start processing Sport Pilot student applications until at least Jan. 15, 2005, two months later than originally planned. That's the same day that the first Sport Pilot flight tests are scheduled to take place. EAA spokesman Earl Lawrence said the FAA is doing its best to get Sport Pilot in gear as soon as possible. "Considering the massive infrastructure required ... we knew the schedule was ambitious and we expected a few hiccups along the way," said Lawrence. Other elements of the implementation appear to be on track and the next milestone is Oct. 15, when aircraft registration can begin. Written exams should be ready by Nov. 15 and examiner handbooks should be out by the end of October. Applications to become pilot examiners will likely be available Nov. 1.

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Mountain Emergency Strips In Peril

The Canadian Owners and Pilots Association (COPA) is calling on pilots to help prevent the Canadian government from plowing up a couple of mountain airstrips that provide critical emergency diversion points for aircraft crossing the Rockies. A 60-day public comment period on a Comprehensive Environmental Assessment of the grass strips at Banff and Jasper, Alberta, began on Sept. 27. COPA President Kevin Psutka is urging pilots (not just Canadians, anyone can write in) to e-mail their support ( to retain the strips, which are on two of the three major mountain-pass routes commonly used by light aircraft. The Canadian government has been threatening to close the airstrips for decades as part of a general policy to eliminate airports in national parks. Banff and Jasper are two of Canada's most famous parks. But Psutka said the policy makes no practical sense since thousands of vehicles and dozens of trains pass right by the airports every day and pose a much greater risk to wildlife and the environment than the small number of planes that use the airstrips. The strips are currently closed to regular traffic but available for emergency and diversionary use in the event of weather or mechanical problems. Psutka said hundreds of pilots have used them for those purposes (including pilots of federal government aircraft) and there's no doubt they've saved lives. Submissions don't have to be lengthy but they should clearly state that the writer supports retention of both the Banff and Jasper airstrips.

"Pilot Error" In UAV Crash

Well, this was bound to happen sooner or later. Pilot error has been blamed in the crash of an Air Force Predator unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in Nevada last June 14. An Air Force investigation concluded that an instructor pilot allowed a student pilot to continue a badly botched approach past the point of no return; the Predator was damaged to the tune of $4.2 million. According to the report, the approach was characterized by high sink rates, poor airspeed and aim-point control and poor runway alignment. At the last minute, the remote pilots tried to abort the landing but the rear stabilizers, known as tail planes, hit the ground and it was all over. There were no injuries or other damage.

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On The Fly...

Hartzell Propeller Inc. has created a holding company and begun acquiring other aerospace firms. The first acquisition was Industrial Tube Corp., of Perris, Calif. Industrial Tube makes composite tubes, ducts and special shapes for the aerospace industry...

Daniel Webster College held its fourth Aviation Heritage Festival last week. Displays of aircraft ranged from biplanes to modern military aircraft. Speakers included Dr. Sheila Widnell, former secretary of the Air Force, along with a panel of World War II veterans. About 10,000 people attended...

Whirly-Girls International will hold its 50th convention in Washington, D.C., April 28-30. The group for female helicopter pilots boasts 1,300 members in 42 countries and information is available ( on corporate sponsorship of the convention...

A fund has been set up to help a California mechanic seriously hurt when a Bushmaster 2000 crashed at Fullerton Airport last week. Tony Albanese was well-known in local aviation circles and his friends set up the fund to help Albanese and his disabled wife get through the ordeal.

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New Articles and Features on AVweb

The Pilot's Lounge #79: Reno, Baby -- Go Fast, Fly Low, Turn Left
AVweb's Rick Durden and his mates left the confines of The Pilot's Lounge to breathe the fire (and dust) and feel the thunder of the air races in Reno last month. Even the slowest planes makes drag racers look tame.

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Reader mail this week about ATC staffing, differences between the presidential candidates, why we fly and much more.

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Short Final...

While coming into Grand Forks on a rather slow day, I was awaiting the freq change to tower...

Me: Approach N*** looking for tower.
Them: N*** 12 o'clock, 11 miles. It's the tall one.
Them: (laughing) N*** squawk VFR contact tower eighteen four have a good day.
(...Maybe they could see my expression through the radio.)

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