October 24, 2004
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Chief of the Transportation Security Administration, Rear Adm. David Stone, spoke to a full house at AOPA Expo 2004 in Long Beach Friday morning in what was a sometimes optimism-inspiring, sometimes contentious interaction with some of the people most directly affected by his agency's actions -- us, the pilots. Appearing as both the gentleman and politician (insofar as that is possible) Stone was in the end sent on his way by a standing ovation. The act seemed either a reflection of patriotism, respect for a good man in a difficult job ... or people so anxious to leave they simply got up while politely applauding. (Put money on A or B.) The reaction was at least warranted by Stone's steady and careful response to a barrage of post-speech questions, which are perhaps best paraphrased by, "Why are you doing this to us, what did we ever do to anyone?" Generally, Stone met that tone with the message that his charge is the safety of our country, his intent is to fulfill that task, and his determination is to seek cooperation and partnership with affected parties. Stone's conviction was that those relationships will be the ones to ensure that our freedoms are not compromised -- neither our safety. Moreover, authorities -- in this case, Stone working together with folks like AOPA President Phil Boyer -- are sending the message that they are now working hard to make right what sweeping measures, by their sheer breadth, have made wrong.
Stone's speech seemed to imply that the range, scope and motivation (the overall safety of our nation) driving the TSA has sent it trolling a broad-reaching ocean with giant nets not yet made dolphin-safe ... and a lot of the playful friendly little guys have so far been mistakenly snatched up. Translation: The agency has first set out to address the immediate (if not three years old) threat and having done so, it now intends to divert some attention to little things like Boy Scouts denied access to control towers, pilots denied access to FSS and FSDO offices, and the inability of pilots, controllers, or FSS personnel to accurately decipher TFRs. It seems too that the TSA may even soon devote some attention to how background checks for a sailplane rating applicant should perhaps differ from those associated with an applicant seeking a type rating or instruction in a B-747 simulator. There are, as one AOPA attendee opined, foreign pilots flying cargo-laden jumbo-jet aircraft into Alaska who are incapable of stopping over to pick up a floatplane rating without submitting to a background check ... for now, performed by a flight instructor. The TSA's Stone confessed he was unaware of some of these problems, but added that was in large part the intent of his visit -- to become aware and react. AOPA's Boyer was quick to add that the two planned to meet, Nov. 4, to address the finer points swept aside by broad, sweeping measures already applied with the same weight to aircraft that may differ in weight by as much as several hundred thousand pounds.
AOPA Expo wrapped up in Long Beach, Calif., Saturday night, having hosted more than 11,000 visitors, 73 aircraft on static display, 535 exhibitors and 75 seminars. Among some of the news announced at the show: Garmin International said its Garmin GNS 480 is now WAAS certified to fly the FAA's new GPS-based approaches that provide precise lateral and vertical approach guidance -- similar to Instrument Landing System operations -- without the need for ground-based navaids of any kind. Cessna announced it will include airbags as standard equipment on its 2005 single-engine models. Epic Aircraft said it will produce a new six-place carbon-fiber twinjet. Why not? Everybody else is ... Only Epic did manage to turn out its turbine single, on which the jet is based, within a year of announcing the aircraft.
The crowd heard from FAA head Marion Blakey -- live via satellite -- and David Stone, chief of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Both engaged in sometimes thorny Q&A with the crowd. Stone bristled when one questioner accused his agency of "arrogance," and another referred to him as "the head Keystone cop." Despite the tension, he did say he would come back again next year. Stone answered several times that he was unaware of issues such as the impact on pilots of restricted access to ATC facilities and would try to learn more about GA concerns. Blakey encouraged pilots to use WAAS approaches or risk a loss of funding for the program, and also provided an update on the privatization of flight service stations.
Next year, AOPA Expo comes east to Tampa, Fla., November 3 through 5.
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When the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) released its Interim Final Rule on alien flight training last month, it included a 30-day comment period. Last week, the 30 days were up, and the TSA considered some of the more than 300 comments, as well as industry input from a stakeholders' meeting and other channels, and made some tweaks to the rule. The TSA clarified its definitions of terms, provided an exemption from some record-keeping requirements, and extended the compliance deadline for some applicants. Those changes "are a start but just that and only that," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "While some of our recommended changes have now been implemented, let there be no question: Significant issues still exist, and additional amendments to the original rule must be made." Boyer added that the rule turns "flight instructors into unpaid border guards," and adds bureaucratic obstacles for Americans simply wanting to learn how to fly (as well as pilots who just want to continue their education and increase their professionalism by adding ratings). "This rule also potentially treats loyal resident aliens (some 85,000 pilots) as potential foreign terrorists," said Boyer. "[TSA] chose to create this rule in a vacuum, and by doing so, they failed to tap into the vast knowledge of the aviation industry, the FAA, and other government agencies as to the realities of a fragile flight-training industry."
One change that aims to ease the record-keeping burden will allow instructors (that's right, the near-minimum-wage-earning future of aviation) to use logbook entries to document that they have checked a student's citizenship ... not that they've been even trained to spot a phony driver's license, let alone a green card or visa. The rule originally required instructors to maintain records, with copies of proof of citizenship for each student, for five years. Now the instructor must note in the student's logbook "I certify that [student] has presented to me a [document] establishing that [he or she] is a U.S. citizen or national ..." The same entry must be made in the instructor's logbook or record. Between the pay, the liability and the demonstrated stability of the industry, we're sure the next generation of instructors can't wait to get started. The TSA's changes also limit the "citizenship validation" requirement to individuals receiving training for a new certificate or rating. Good luck with that new glider rating. (Sailplanes: the next great threat to our nation.) Any other activity -- such as a flight review -- does not require proof of citizenship.
The TSA also is putting a 60-day hold, till Dec. 19, on applying the new rules to aliens who currently hold an airman's certificate, either from the FAA or a recognized foreign authority. However, this exemption does not apply to aliens without an airman's certificate, who must comply as of Oct. 20. Also weighing in on the changes was the National Air Transportation Association (NATA), which said it "welcomed" the TSA's effort. "The TSA is at least willing to have a dialogue with industry and has responded favorably to reason and logic," said NATA spokesman Stan Mackiewicz. "While this IFR [Interim Final Rule] was not the TSA's best rulemaking effort, the agency has made significant efforts to work with its industry partners to address those issues that were of significant concern." Rusty Sachs, executive director of the National Association of Flight Instructors, also welcomed the changes. "The exemptions announced by the TSA make a step in the right direction, easing the burden on our members without compromising national security in any way," he said. The revised rules are "more manageable and reasonable," Sachs added.
FROM PORTABLE TO PANEL-MOUNT JA AIR CENTER IS THE PLACE TO BUY GARMIN
When the FAA's Light-Sport Aircraft rules were announced at Oshkosh in August, it was clear that a long road to implementation lay ahead. Last week, a milestone on that road was reached, when ASTM International published the first edition of consensus standards for light-sport aircraft. The publication includes guidelines for the design, manufacture, maintenance and quality of aircraft that will be used in the light-sport aircraft category. The standards cover not only fixed-wing airplanes but also powered parachutes, gyroplanes and balloons, as well as airframe emergency parachutes and engines. Earl Lawrence, EAA's vice president of industry and regulatory affairs, chaired the ASTM committee that drafted the standards. "These standards have emerged because of the groundbreaking approach used by FAA and the aviation community to get it done," Lawrence said. "EAA is proud to be a part of this group and helping to lead the sport-pilot revolution that will change and advance recreational aviation." The ASTM committee will continue its work as the sport pilot/light-sport aircraft infrastructure continues to be put in place. Standards for airparks, fixed-base operators and other support providers are still under development, EAA said. The light-sport aircraft standards are published in an 83-page book available from ASTM International. The soft-cover book is priced at $125 for North American residents or $138 to other international addresses.
Satellite data made further inroads into GA cockpits last week, when Garmin introduced the GDL 69, a remote sensor that receives broadcast weather data from XM Satellite Radio and delivers the data to Garmin's avionics systems. The GDL 69 brings reliable, near-real-time weather information to the Garmin cockpit, Garmin said on Thursday. "The GDL 69 ... offers a broad array of weather services and a high level of detail graphically depicted on the displays of our most popular systems," said Gary Kelley, Garmin's director of marketing, in a news release. "As a next-generation weather receiver, the GDL 69 provides greater situational awareness to pilots flying Garmin-equipped aircraft and enables them to make safer, more strategic decisions in flight to avoid potential weather hazards." The XM WX Satellite Weather service is broadcast in the S-band frequency over two geosynchronous satellites to the GDL 69 for rapid-update, high-resolution weather information directly into the cockpit, at any altitude across the continental United States. The weather data suite available through XM WX is supplied by WxWorx. XM charges a monthly fee for access to its services. Avidyne also recently certified an XM weather datalink system.
CARING ABOUT YOU FIRST PUTS CS&A ABOVE OTHER AVIATION INSURANCE BROKERS
Nobody seems more excited about the Sport Pilot era than the powered-parachute community, and in their latest eruption of enthusiasm, the PowerChute Education Foundation (PCEF) has announced plans for a coast-to-coast trip for next spring. The 3,000-mile, 53-leg excursion aims to educate the public about sport flying and raise money for charity. Pilot Baron Tayler will make the trip in about eight weeks, including multiple stopovers and media events. Local parachute pilots are invited to fly along The PCEF Web site will post daily photos and videos during the trip. The itinerary includes a launch in San Diego, Calif., and ends in South Carolina. The trip will raise money for Emergency Low Level Aerial Search & Surveillance, a project of the PowerChute Education Foundation. The project supports police, fire departments and search-and-rescue teams by providing air support with powered parachutes.
President Bush signed a tax law last week that will extend the "bonus depreciation" breaks that have been credited with boosting aircraft sales by as much as 30 percent. The law extends the "placed-in-service" date for business aircraft to qualify for bonus deprecation until Dec. 31, 2005. The break provides a real buyer incentive, said Ron Swanda, interim president of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association. "Without a doubt, this will stimulate jobs growth in our industry," he said. The tax break, which allows buyers of new business aircraft to deduct 50 percent of the plane's cost in the first year, up from 30 percent, had been set to expire at the end of 2004. The tax package, which is labeled as a jobs-creation effort, has been critiqued as a treasure trove for special interests and big business, with no apparent incentives for hiring workers. Mr. Bush signed the law on Friday while aboard Air Force One, forgoing the usual public ceremony.
IF YOUR CELL PHONE CAN SURF THE NET, IT CAN RECEIVE AVIATION WEATHER
We're not sure if Murphy's Law applies here or not ... something went wrong, but not as wrong as it might have. On the one hand, pilot Denis Murphy, 49, of Florida, has ditched twice in just over a year. On the other hand, he survived both times with only minor injuries. Last Thursday, charter pilot Murphy was flying alone from the Bahamas to Florida in a twin-engine Piper Navajo Chieftain when he reported engine problems and ditched about 11 miles off Fort Lauderdale. Murphy donned a life jacket and was rescued by a Coast Guard helicopter. In February 2003, Murphy was flying alone from Havana to Miami when he ditched a twin Cessna 402B, and was rescued 20 minutes later by a passing fishing boat. The NTSB recovered last year's wreck, and investigators said they found no evidence of a reported in-flight fire, and no evidence of a pre-impact malfunction or failure in either engine. The probable cause of that crash was found to be "loss of power to both engines for undetermined reasons." In its preliminary report on last week's crash, the FAA said the pilot declared an emergency due to low manifold pressure in the No. 2 engine. "Controller provided constant data regarding nearest airports. Pilot ditched aircraft," the FAA reported.
Mooney has had a somewhat bumpy run the last few years (wow, that was hard to say with straight face) with changes in ownership, court battles and stalled production. But this year the reorganized Mooney Airplane Company has been rehiring workers, showing at new venues (the company made its first-ever appearances at NBAA and Reno earlier this month), and on Thursday, named a new CEO, Gretchen Jahn. "Gretchen has an extensive and impressive background in building and managing successful businesses," said Tom Gray, Mooney's managing director, in a news release. Jahn has been an active pilot for 20 years. She was the founder of Aegis Analytical Corporation, a software company, and earlier had formed her own consulting company to guide manufacturers in process and productivity improvements, Mooney said.
THE NEW ASA AIRCRAFT FLIGHT LOG IS EASY AND COMPLETE
Vision Microsystems, a manufacturer of engine-monitoring systems for experimental and certified GA aircraft, will merge with JP Instruments, the two companies announced last week. Vision, headquartered in Bellingham, Wash., will continue as a division of JPI, headquartered in Costa Mesa, Calif. The founder and president of Vision, Lance Turk, will retain responsibility for Vision's product line. "We contribute our expertise and respect in the experimental aircraft, and JPI contributes a very strong production capability," said Turk. JPI founder and President Joe Polizzotto said, "Vision Microsystems expands our marketplace by adding a respected product line with a proven record of success in both the experimental and certified aircraft markets. By combining our strengths, we can better meet the consumer's needs with a more diverse product selection and improved customer satisfaction and support." JPI's product line includes the EDM-700, EDM-800, EDM Twin 760, and EDM-9cyl series of engine data management systems, the Fuel Scan 450 fuel-monitoring instrument, and the Nav-2000 line of GPS moving-map navigation systems that support law enforcement and rescue agencies.
Remember PATCO, the air traffic controllers union of the 1980s, whose members were fired en masse after a strike? The union, though long quiet, has not gone away, and last Friday went to court to try to get jobs back for some of its members. Four plaintiffs, along with the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO), filed a complaint in a federal court in Tennessee, asking that the FAA be stopped from hiring any new air traffic controllers until the FAA can show that it is not discriminating against former PATCO members who apply for openings. PATCO says that a ban on hiring the former controllers was lifted in 1993, but the FAA has avoided hiring them and has instead hired less-qualified applicants. The plaintiffs said they are not seeking any preferential hiring consideration, but they want a court order directing the FAA to accept all legitimate applications and base its hiring decisions on the relative qualifications and experience of the applicants as required by federal law. The four individuals are former journeyman FAA air traffic controllers who were terminated as a result of the 1981 strike.
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A Learjet crashed in the mountains near San Diego yesterday, killing all five on board -- two pilots, two paramedics and a nurse. The crew was based out of Med Flight Air Ambulance in Albuquerque, N.M.... Two pilots and eight passengers died in the crash of a Beech 200 in Virginia last night. The Beech, owned by Hendrick Motorsports, was en route to a NASCAR race.... An engine fell off a Kalitta Air 747 cargo plane in flight last week. It hasn't been found and is probably in Lake Michigan. Finders keepers? The 747 was en route from O'Hare to JFK...
Quest Aircraft says its 10-place single-engine turboprop utility airplane, the Kodiak, completed its first flight on Oct. 14 in Idaho...
The X Prize Foundation is selling tickets to a celebration at the St. Louis Science Center on Nov. 6, when $10 million and the Ansari X Prize trophy will be awarded to the Mojave Aerospace Ventures/Scaled Composites team. Tickets are $275 and up; call for information, 314-289-4420; deadline is Nov. 1...
Wolf Aviation Fund is seeking grant proposals for projects that benefit or promote general aviation; deadline is Nov. 30...
Paul MacCready is the keynote speaker for the Lindbergh Symposium in Fort Myers, Fla., Nov. 13...
DOT named three to FAA Management Advisory Council: Charles Bolden Jr., of Tech Trans International; Russell Meyer Jr., chairman of Cessna; and Philip Trenary, CEO of Pinnacle Airlines. The council advises the FAA on policy, budget and regulations...
The NTSB last week issued a safety recommendation asking the FAA to familiarize all Part 135 single-pilot operators that carry passengers and operate over water with the Air Sunshine Flight 527 accident and emphasize the need for pilots to provide timely emergency briefings.
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.
Gems in the GPS Attic
If you fly short hops in your GPS-equipped airmobile, you may not have had time to ponder what else your GPS can do besides "Direct-to" and short flight plans. Next time you have an hour or two in cruise, try out these unexpected bonuses in your box.
LOOK, UP IN THE AIR! IT'S A PLANE! IT'S A FLYING DOG!
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Reader mail this week about the crashes of the Bushmaster and Pinnacle airliner, the first homebuilt in Canada, pilots vs. controllers and more.
TRACK ALL IN-FLIGHT IFR AIRCRAFT IN REAL TIME!
A student pilot was on a cross country solo flight to Santa Barbara. Eager to fly "heavy metal" he contacts approach at 5,500 feet for flight following...
N12345: ...approach, Cessna 12345 checking in at flight level 550.
Approach (after a long pause): Roger, Cessna 12345 ... you can contact NASA at 368.2 for further advisories!
AVflash is a twice-weekly summary of the latest aviation news, articles, products, features and events featured on AVweb, the Internet's Aviation Magazine and News Service. http://www.avweb.com
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Fly it 'til all the parts stop moving.
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