NewsWire Complete Issue

October 31, 2004
By The AVweb Editorial Staff

This issue of AVweb's AVflash is brought to you by ... JA Air Center

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Sport Pilot Extravaganza

Sebring '04: The First LSA Expo…

Unlike a lot of "first-year" events, the just-concluded Sebring (Fla.) U.S. Sport Aviation Expo was well-focused, well-organized and well-run. That it wasn't well-attended is our loss. Not that it was empty, either: All the exhibitor spaces were pre-sold, and a number of industry heavies (Randy Schlitter, Tom Peghiny, John and Martha King, and Tom Poberezny among them) were there. The public that did attend had a feast of information and hardware before them. The attendees were the beginnings of Sport Pilot's core constituency, and the curious. "The people coming to this show are educated and informed on what they're looking at. They know what they're looking for," said Tracy Standish of RANS, who spent nearly all day, every day, demonstrating the RANS S-7C. (The Coyote II that the factory brought to the show was sold on the first day, so demos weren't available in that machine.)

That was the great part of this show -- its focus. Unlike so many fly-ins and air shows, the Sport Aviation Expo concentrated on small aircraft, Sport Pilot/Light-Sport Aircraft and ultralights. Unlike the more-usual air shows and fly-ins, the vendors were nearly all focused on the show's message. No jewelry, trendy sunglasses, and potted-plant vendors clogged up the space. And the aviation vendors were available to the serious-buyer types who came. The Expo was a feast for the tiny-aircraft buyer. Company principals and industry shakers (including the ASTM's Daniel Schultz and EAA's Earl Lawrence) were on hand and accessible. Demo rides, increasingly rare at mega-shows, were plentiful, and the powered parachutes, trikes, and airplanes from the Expo gracefully shared Sebring's airspace with the airport's regular traffic.

EAA President Tom Poberezny told AVweb that "The show has two purposes: to bring the new [Sport Pilot] community together" (to introduce pilots, manufacturers, and support organizations) and "to promote the airport as a year-around Sport Pilot center." With Rotax training/rebuild/service center Lockwood Aviation on the airport, it's a natural venue for such a place, and with mild weather year-around (hurricanes aside) and a friendly, full-service airport, why not? "This specific event can become an anchor as a year-around center for Sport Pilot [activities] and training," Poberezny said. "It reaches a well-targeted audience -- it's not a typical 'air show.' It's focused on a brand-new segment of commerce. Here, the audience pre-qualifies itself." New? "Ultralight and LSA-type aircraft have existed a long time," Tom said, "but now there is a vehicle for licensing and training, a [clearinghouse] for safety issues."

People at the show are those, he said, who "... are looking. They've maybe been interested in flying all their lives, but never started to fly. They've been wanting [Sport Pilot] info [and now that it's official], here's their forum." Though the Sport Pilot Rule was announced at Oshkosh, Poberezny continued, "We didn't have a good idea of the implementation." Here, he noted, the players are together, and the "real questions" are on the table. "We have 50 NAFI flight instructors here," he noted, underlining the importance the instructor corps detects in Sport Pilot. "They're here because they want to know more."

...Laid-Back and Fun, Too...

The open feeling of the show lent a relaxed feeling, as the people attendees really wanted to see were available. No one had an excuse for going home with unanswered questions. No one had to go home without a good look at, or even a ride in, representative aircraft. Walking from one end of the show to the other took ten minutes, not an hour and a half, and the hordes of friendly volunteers were always willing to offer rides in their golf carts, too. Engineers and top techs in the field were there. Sensenich's Steve Boser had the company's new ground-adjustable composite prop; Phil Lockwood, Eric Tucker and gang were there from Rotax; the HKS gurus had the questions covered.

You've never been in a trike or a PPC? The Air Creation team and Powrachute, among others, lifted tons of happy-faced humans over the neighborhood. You've never heard of a Kappa 77? It was there, and you could have found out all about it. Also present were the already-certified folks from OMF Symphony and CH2000; there were veteran designs from Thorp and Korbin, and relative newcomers like the Harley-Davidson-based HogAir engine folks, all with plenty to show and tell about.

...So, What Is This Event?

As Tom Poberezny said, "This event was not targeted to be a 'mass' event -- it's an expo." The feeling many attendees got was of being invited into the inside of the industry, sort of like attending an industry convention, where the public is invited. Think of it maybe as small aircraft's NBAA Convention, with the added bonus of not having to wear a suit. "It's a great first step," the EAA president said, "developing a new segment -- LSA -- here it is dramatically focused."

*Preceding Sport Pilot Expo coverage contributed by Tim Kern

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The Long Way Around To VFR On Top

A Story Not For The Squeamish...

When AVweb reader Steve Biddle asked an innocent question about flying VFR above a cloud layer, he initiated a long and tangled quest through the annals of the FAA, the confusion of the GA masses, and the arcana of the U.S. airspace system. Today, almost two months after Biddle's query was chosen as a Question Of The Week, we have an official, certifiable, FAA answer ... that is, if you consider an answer from an FAA staffer who signs his e-mails as "Member, Loyal Order of the Flackosaurus Aeronauticus" to be official in the official sense. FAA Flight Standards spokesman Les Dorr, who braved the cloudy corridors of the FAA to get us this response, says: "Sorry for the delay [this arrived about four weeks after our initial request]. Here 'tiz ... The main question was, 'Can a VFR-only pilot legally fly over a cloud layer in VFR conditions, then descend and land, all maintaining VFR visibility and cloud-separation requirements?' The answer is yes. VFR-over-the-top is not addressed in 14 CFR Part 91, so only the basic VFR weather requirements of Section 91.155 [Basic VFR weather minimums] apply."

Dorr wrote: "VFR-on-top is an aircraft on an IFR clearance that has requested and received permission to operate at VFR altitudes of their choice in VMC from ATC, but is still considered to be an IFR aircraft. Although it is not prohibited by the regulations, [VFR-only] pilots who choose to fly on top need to consider their options in the event of a situation that might require an immediate landing. A simple need to land for some minor issue, such as a sick passenger, could turn into a life-threatening emergency."

...And Not For Those Uncomfortable With Fuzziness...

When AVweb's Question Of The Week on Sept. 1 polled readers about flying VFR above a cloud layer, we heard from almost 1,400 of you, well above our average response, and received written comments from more. The QOTW described a flight in which a pilot took off VFR and landed VFR but flew en route above a solid layer that hid the ground, and asked if it was legal or not. Fifty-four percent of respondents said it was legal, but if an emergency had forced the pilot to descend into the clouds, it would have become illegal. Another 35 percent said it was a legal flight even if the pilot had to descend into the clouds, as long as the pilot declared an emergency first. Only 11 percent said the whole idea was not only dumb, but busted regs. Our first response from the FAA said that the 11 percent were correct -- that the flight would be illegal -- because if the engine quit the pilot would be stuck without a VFR option. That seemed to make sense, but further research, and our latest direct-from-FAA Flight Standards response, show that it was wrong.

...And Maybe Not For The Careful

What if that VFR pilot does end up descending into the clouds? An oft-cited 1954 study found that non-instrument-rated pilots then had a hard time controlling the airplane when faced with a loss of visual cues. In experiments conducted in real Beechcraft Bonanzas, 19 out of 20 pilots entered a graveyard spiral within three minutes after losing visual contact. The 20th avoided the graveyard spiral only because he was occupied in yanking the airplane into a "whip stall." The FARs for large and turbine-powered aircraft do specify that over-the-top operations under VFR are allowed "only if the airplane is equipped with the instruments and equipment required for IFR operations." In Canada, the procedure is OK for non-instrument-rated private pilots only if they have completed a "VFR Over The Top" rating that requires 15 hours of dual instrument training. In a 2001 article on the topic, AOPA offered this advice: "VFR over the top is not something to be approached casually. In fact, it's really helpful if you approach it with a combination of pessimism and out-and-out paranoia. Always assume the worst, and plan accordingly." So why isn't there a rule that prohibits VFR pilots from flying up there? Because, sometimes, AOPA says, it's the best choice, and it works.

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An Airport, A Golf Course And $13.3 Million

The leaders of Ocean City, Md., will square off face-to-face with FAA officials who want them to sell the local golf course or pay the agency $13.3 million. As AVweb told you last spring , the FAA provided funding to buy the land, on which the golf course was later developed, for future airport expansion. In Ocean City's latest long-term planning document for the airport, no expansion is envisioned and the FAA wants the course (several holes of which are a wedge shot from the nearest runway) removed from any entanglement with airport funds. The issue now comes down to money, and a meeting between the city and FAA is tentatively scheduled for later this month. Ocean City says $13.3 million is far too much to pay for the golf-course land. It commissioned two appraisals, one of which pegged the value at $167,000. Well, at least that leaves plenty of room for negotiation. Ultimately, Ocean City would like to keep both the airport and the golf course without knocking an eight-figure hole in the treasury. "I'm still optimistic we can come to an agreement," Guy Ayres, the city's lawyer, told Ocean City Today.

Daycare Shelved (Briefly) For Airport Radar

Well, when it comes to a choice between a radar for the airport and a new day-care center, there's just no contest for the people of Vail, Colo. They'll take the radar (although that doesn't mean they won't get the day care, too). Civic officials are considering diverting $1.5 million already budgeted for the day-care center to pay the local share of a $6 million radar that should prevent thousands of well-heeled tourists from missing all or part of their vacations due to weather. And since construction on the center wasn't scheduled to start until after ski season, city officials figure they can juggle the budget and still break ground for the kids' facilities next spring. It appears some miscommunication between the city and the FAA caused the financial flap. It seems the agency is actually planning installation of the radar a year sooner than Vail expected, much to the delight of the locals. It's estimated about $63 million is lost each year because of weather-related delays and cancellations at Eagle County Airport, and the new equipment is expected to greatly improve access by the six airlines now flying into Vail. Trouble is, the county didn't have its share budgeted for this year because it didn't expect the bill to come due until 2005. County Commissioner Arn Menconi told the Vail Daily that the radar "is one of our top priorities" and didn't want to let the opportunity slip by. County administrator Jack Ingstad said he's not about to let that happen, either. "We'll figure out how to get them the $1.5 million," he said.

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High-Flying Crews Face Cosmic Cancer

Add cosmic radiation to the confirmed list of threats to the health of long-haul flight crews, although we don't know where it ranks along with deep vein thrombosis, boredom or the food. A British study has confirmed what pilots and flight attendants (and other studies) have been saying for decades. Spending too much time in the rarified air up there can be hazardous to your health. The study of 411 British Airways pilots showed increased rates of melanoma, colon and brain cancers attributable to cosmic rays. There's also a risk to the unborn children of pregnant crew members. "There's more data coming out about the risks," Michael Mijatov, of the Australian Flight Attendants Association, told The Age. "There's evidence that the higher you are, the more exposure you have to cosmic rays. He said female crew members more than 16 weeks pregnant are already prevented from working. Cosmic rays are made up of neutrons, gamma and alpha rays put out by the sun. The atmosphere filters most of them out before they reach earth but most airliners fly above much of that protective layer.

"Freak Weather" To Blame For Aircraft Breakup?

Australian Transportation Safety Board officials have no idea why a TasAir Aero Commander apparently broke into several pieces during a routine flight last February in Tasmania. But the owner of the plane suspects a "freak weather thing" caused the outboard sections of both wings and the tailplane to separate from the rest of the aircraft about 40 miles north of Hobart. A weather alert predicting occasional severe turbulence had been issued. Only the pilot, 21-year-old Heather Cochrane, was on board. TasAir owner George Ashwood said the cause of the accident may never be known. The ATSB concluded there was no evidence of corrosion, fatigue or any other structural problems that might have suddenly turned a single piece of airplane into 47 pieces of wreckage. There were no radio calls and the plane didn't have a flight data or cockpit voice recorder. The pilot had about 500 hours.

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Pilots Of Missile-Struck Plane Honored

The prestigious Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators in Britain has given one of its highest honors to the crew of a DHL Airbus A300 who landed the plane (stuck in the trim position for climbout) apparently using only the thrust from the engines to control pitch, attitude and direction. The pilots, Capt. Eric Genotte, First Officer Steeve Michielson and Flight Engineer Mario Rofail, were presented the Hugh Gordon-Burge Award, which is for outstanding airmanship in saving an aircraft. As AVweb showed you earlier this year, the Airbus made a spectacular -- and safe -- landing in Baghdad about 25 minutes after being hit by a missile while taking off. At the time, news of the miraculous landing was the stuff of urban legend and there was much speculation about its veracity. The award and its narrative seem to clear up any doubt that this was an impressive piece of flying. Hats off to the winners from AVweb and its 130,000 subscribers world wide.

Politicking Balloonists Arrested

If you're looking for votes, the most densely populated area of the country is a good place to start. But it didn't have a happy ending for a pair of balloonists who ended up dropping in, perhaps unexpectedly, on New Yorkers enjoying the relative peace of Central Park last Friday. The balloon, emblazoned with the words "Kerry" and "Edwards" in huge letters on the side, landed beside a baseball field about 3 p.m. WABC News said it was told by Kerry officials that the balloon was not part of the campaign. According to the television station, FAA officials said the pilots, Ron Giovanni and Thomas Robins, claimed the landing was forced by adverse winds and unspecified technical problems. New York has an ordinance against landing a balloon in the city but the pilots could be in more trouble than that. The TV station says they could face reckless endangerment charges because the park was full of kids at the time.

AOPA LEGAL SERVICES PLAN IS MONEY WELL SPENT
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On The Fly...

The recovery continues, according to the General Aviation Manufacturers Association. GAMA's third quarter surveyof industry activity shows across-the-board increases in sales and revenue. Industry billings were up 15.9 percent to $7.8 billion for the first nine months of 2004, while total units rose 7.7 percent to 1,928...

Want to buy a nuclear bomber? Brian Bateson is doing a little housecleaning around Blackpool Airport and something that has to go is a Cold War-era Vulcan bomber. The hulking delta-wing aircraft is being offered on Ebay with an upset price of about $11,000 USD, which has already been met...

The airplane that made throwing up a badge of honor has issued its last airsickness bag. NASA's famed Vomit Comet, a KC-135 that used to, among many other things, give astronauts a taste of weightlessness, made its last flight on Friday. It will be stripped and placed in storage in the desert. It will be replaced by an aircraft of the same vintage, a C-9, which is the military version of the DC-9...

The British press is having fun with a British Airways A-320, accusing the airline, tongue in cheek, of taking sides in the U.S. election. Aircraft registrations in Britain begin with G followed by four letters, with this particular one spelling out G-BUSH. The airline has also added the slogan "Backing the Bid" to its livery but that's a reference to London's bid for the 2012 Olympics and not a comment on U.S. politics, say airline spokesmen...

A U.S. Air Force pilot is back in the left seat six years after losing most of his left leg in a motorcycle accident. Lt. Col. Andrew Lourake is the first above-the-knee amputee pilot in the Air Force and he now commands Air Force Two. Lourake's prosthetic leg is loaded with technical wizardry that make it work like the original equipment...

As if pilots on the eastern seaboard don't have enough to watch out for, it rained some space junk over New Jersey on Saturday. An amateur videographer caught the fireball as it reentered the atmosphere near Hamilton , N.J....

The last Boeing 757 rolled off the line in Renton, Wash., last Thursday. Shanghai Airlines will get number 1050 in April. The 757 is being discontinued as the 737 gets bigger and bigger and development of the 7E7 kicks into high gear...

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 newstips@avweb.com.

NO-COST SHIPPING UPGRADE FOR USED AVIONICS FROM BENNETT
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New Articles and Features on AVweb

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COLUMNS
The Pilot's Lounge #80: The ILS -- That Last 400 Feet
How fast should you fly an ILS? When should you switch from the "stabilized" approach and configure for landing? Instrument pilots may think they learned the answers back in IFR training, but AVweb's Rick Durden thinks you probably should change your procedures before you fly that ILS right into the dirt.

Reader feedback on AVweb's news coverage and feature articles:

http://www.avweb.com/avmail/

Reader mail this week about pilot fatigue, TSA Chief comments, corporate tax evasion and much more.

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Short Final...

While flying IFR between Indianapolis, IN and Columbia, MO my wife and I encountered some mild turbulence at 6000. She's a nervous flier, so I decided it would be a good idea to find some smoother air.

Cessna N12345: Center, Cessna 12345 would like to climb to 8 for smoother air.

Center: 345, climb approved.

(After reaching 8000.)

Cessna N12345: 345 level 8.

Center: 345 it looks like you've picked up 10kts.

Mooney N23456: Center, Mooney 456 would like to pick up 10kts too!

Center: Mooney 456, climb approved.

Sponsor News and Special Offers

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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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