November 3, 2004
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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If one of the most recognizable flight-training institutions in the U.S. has trouble complying with the new alien training rule, what must that mean for the thousands of independent instructors and small flight schools across the country? So wonders Eric Radtke, CEO of Sporty's Academy Inc. and the recipient of the necessary credentials to teach foreign students several days after the rule went into effect. "We finally got ours last week," Radtke told AVweb. He said the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) left vetting the qualifications of flying schools to local Flight Standards District Offices (FSDOs) -- without telling the FSDOs. "Everyone is having the exact same problem," he said. In Sporty's case, it meant a three-week wait for the right paperwork (cyber paperwork, at that) and maybe some missed customers. To apply for flight training, a foreign student must select from a pull-down menu of approved schools and Sporty's wasn't there until a few days after the rule took effect on Oct. 20. Radtke said his main beef, however, is the sudden way the rule was implemented, without public input and without consultation with the training industry. "It was kind of a shock," he said. The rule was announced on Sept. 20 and schools were given a month to comply. To further complicate things, the TSA has issued several amendments (good ones, according to most in the industry) but it's helpful to have a roadmap, such as the one put together by the National Business Aviation Association.
Meanwhile, a Las Vegas flight school owner says concerns about the new rule are overblown and not worth the time and energy they're absorbing. Jane Pinto, of First Flight Aviation, told AVweb she believes that anyone engaged in training future pilots who can't meet the minimal identification and record-keeping requirements under the new law shouldn't be in the business. "All it does is add a little paperwork to your life," Pinto said. "Any legitimate flight school should be able to keep files on their students." The latest incarnation of the rule requires the flight instructor to determine the citizenship of his or her students and to refer non-U.S. citizens to the TSA for background checks. Pinto dismisses concerns about the instructor's liability in doing the initial check, noting that instructors already face huge liability issues just by showing up for work. She said all of her students, including the two "aliens" among the 35 registered, were ready with their paperwork on Oct. 20, the implementation day, and none complained about it. She said those leading the fight against the new rules should find something else to do. "In my mind, this is the wrong battle," she said.
Still, aviation groups, most notably AOPA, continue to criticize the rule, even though the TSA has delayed or softened some of the more controversial requirements. For instance, rather than keeping a photocopy of a student's proof of citizenship on file, an instructor can now simply endorse his or her own logbook and that of the student's with a declaration that the documents have been produced and inspected. Also, foreign students who already have an airman's certificate can pursue new ratings or other training until Dec. 19 without having to submit to the TSA background check and its attendant $130 fee. It's progress, but it's not enough for AOPA President Phil Boyer. Boyer is quoted on AOPA's Web site as saying the new rules are too onerous, particularly for small operators, and "significant changes" must be made. "My staff and I will never let go of this issue until substantial changes are made," Boyer vowed. He said they're lobbying bureaucrats and politicians in Washington on the issue. Boyer said the rule turns flight instructors into "unpaid border guards."
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Under a new modification to the FAA's Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) project, approach and landing guidance availability will increase to more than 99 percent across much of the North American continent, Raytheon Co. said on Monday. The plan to deploy "Full Lateral Precision with Vertical Guidance (LPV) Performance" will enhance the WAAS signals for increased approach availability during weather disturbances and solar flares as well as during normal conditions, Raytheon said. WAAS is a nationwide network of reference, master and uplink stations that augment Global Positioning System satellites to provide improved accuracy, integrity and availability. WAAS is the FAA's next-generation satellite-based navigation system. It was commissioned by the FAA in July 2003 and has been in continuous operational use since that time.
Work began this summer with the installation of four WAAS Reference Stations (WRS) in the Alaskan towns of Kotzebue, Bethel, Barrow and Fairbanks. These four new stations join the three existing stations in the state at Cold Bay, Anchorage and Juneau. Together, they will support LPV coverage over most of the state, and become an integral part of the Capstone Program, which is substantially improving safety in the aviation-dependent state. The FAA and NavCanada recently announced a bilateral agreement to install four reference stations in Winnipeg, Goose Bay, Gander and Iqaluit. The four sites will expand LPV availability throughout much of Canada and the northern United States. John Crichton, NavCanada's president and CEO, sees this as a way to avoid "the cost of developing duplicate systems," and to limit the need to invest in more ground-based ILS approach facilities, Raytheon said.
The FAA and the Mexican government are also planning to install five WRSs in Mexico at Puerto Vallarta, La Paz, Mexico City, Meridia and Tapachula. These sites will increase and expand LPV approach availability in Mexico and the American southwest in the same manner as the Canadian sites. Garmin's GNS 480 last month earned the industry's first TSO C146a Gamma-3 certification, which enables pilots to fly LPV-guidance approaches and receive primary-means GPS navigation via WAAS. That capability provides pilots with primary GPS guidance during all phases of flight and opens the possibility of shooting an ILS-like approach into thousands of airports that are not currently served by an ILS, Garmin said.
But while the technology moves forward in leaps and bounds, can pilots -- and their avionics providers -- keep up? In some cases, the rapid pace of change leaves pilots with functional but outdated equipment -- and none too happy about it. "We who have installed [Garmin] GNS 430s and 530s are still waiting on WAAS capability upgrades," pilot Tom Adams told AVweb last week. Garmin said last year that the upgrades would be available by the end of 2004, but now the date has been pushed back. "The GNS 430/530 upgrades for WAAS have moved out to mid-2005," Garmin spokesman Pete Brumbaugh told AVweb on Tuesday. "The $1,500 upgrade price still stands." Brumbaugh added that XM WX upgrades will be available for those units in the first quarter of next year.
Other popular units are running into problems when the hardware continues to work just fine, but software or repair support is discontinued. One example is the Lowrance Airmap 300, a circa-1998-vintage handheld GPS that has been "orphaned" by its manufacturer. A rebate program offers a cash incentive to owners to turn in their units and upgrade to the next generation, but not all owners are happy with that solution. However, technology might prove to be the cure to help prevent such troubles in the future. The Airmap 300 updates were achieved by ordering a new memory card from Lowrance, but newer hardware can be updated via downloads over the Internet. Still, the manufacturer has to be willing to invest in the continued support to write the updates, and if the computer-industry model prevails, owners may find themselves with little choice but to upgrade hardware to keep up with software. The Lowrance rebate program offers Airmap 300 owners a $100 rebate on the purchase of a new Airmap 500 (street price $500), $175 on an Airmap 1000 (street price $800), or $225 on an Airmap 2000C (street price $1,000). The Airmap 300 originally sold for $799.
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You've all heard the election results by now, but here is the GA spin on Tuesday's votes. AOPA says 95 percent of the 105 congressional candidates it endorsed won their seats. But the election determines more than who's in and who's out. In the Senate, Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens takes over chairmanship of the powerful Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee -- which sets policy for the FAA -- from Arizona's John McCain. AOPA's glad to hear it, since they never could get McCain to sign on to their view regarding user fees. Stevens is "a strong and forceful friend to general aviation," AOPA said. The loss of Sen. Tom Daschle, a pilot, may be a wash in AOPA's view, because his successor, John Thune, "has historically been a friend to general aviation." As for the presidential election, AOPA declined to endorse either candidate, saying that the major decisions affecting AOPA members are decided by Congress.
The federal government will spend $20.5 million to fund repairs at 71 airports that were damaged by hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne, U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta announced on Friday. The money will be distributed to airports in Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Puerto Rico. A range of projects will be funded, including repair or replacement of terminal buildings, hangars and security lighting. "The damage done by this year's hurricanes reminds us how much we rely on our airports and how important they are to the nation's economy and quality of life," said Mineta. "These grants will help restore our airports to their conditions before the hurricanes found them." An additional 14 airports will receive another $4.1 million in emergency funding within the next few weeks, the DOT said.
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As new capacity limits on GA flights at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport went into effect this week, the FAA released a new study that says O'Hare must set its limits even lower in order to avoid gridlock. GA operations as of this week are limited to four per hour between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. The new study says O'Hare can handle just 190 to 200 arrivals and departures per hour, fewer than a 2001 study that recommended a maximum of 200 to 202 flights per hour. When visibility is poor, the maximum should go down to 136 to 144 per hour, the FAA said. The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) has blamed the O'Hare problems on the closure of Meigs Field, which used to accommodate more than 20,000 operations per year. Corporate charter operators now must wait until 72 hours before their flight to schedule a takeoff or landing at O'Hare. "That obviously won't work for charters that are booked six months out," Alec McNish, vice president of air contracting at Apple Vacations West, told Crain's Business News. Eric Byer, of the National Air Transportation Association, told Crain's the industry was not given enough time to comment. "They're essentially shoving it down industry's throat," he said. The National Air Transportation Administration (NATA) recently called the new slot rule "a mockery of the rulemaking process."
A group representing crop-dusting pilots in Australia is calling for a national effort to mark power lines so pilots can safely avoid them, ABC-Australia reported on Tuesday. The appeal from the Aerial Agricultural Association of Australia follows two helicopter crashes within three days. Both helicopters were spraying for locusts and hit power lines. Peter Mackay, president of the pilots' group, told ABC that aerial spraying is risky, and precautions are necessary. "We'd like to see these power wires marked more openly," he said. "They are very hard to pick up from the air and in low conditions perhaps when you've got sun in your eyes, or trees in the background." The pilot in Monday's crash, in New South Wales, escaped with minor lacerations when his Bell 47 crashed and burned. On Saturday, a helicopter with a pilot and three others on board crashed in the same region, but no one was hurt.
NOT SURE WHAT TO GIVE A PILOT? WANT SOMETHING FOR YOURSELF?
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has demonstrated hindsight and possibly the ability to listen -- this exact issue was brought to the attention of TSA Rear Adm. David "The Head Honcho" Stone at AOPA Expo last month. The TSA has determined (granted, after publishing the rule) that gliders and lighter-than-air aircraft "do not present a material threat," the Soaring Society of America (SSA) said on Monday, and therefore, they will be exempt from the TSA's recent rules that require flight schools to notify the TSA when aliens want to learn to fly. Last Friday, the TSA issued its decision, saying that since gliders, balloons, and airships are slow-moving, small, and carry little or no fuel, they "would not be capable of inflicting significant damage if they were used in suicide attacks." Dennis Wright, the SSA's executive director, welcomed the exemption from the "onerous" rules. No comments on water ballast, please. "Staff and members who commented to the docket brought well-reasoned arguments for the exclusion of glider operations," he said. "The result is better than we expected." The SSA added that the rules as first proposed would have had a "chilling effect" on glider flight training. "SSA estimated that the rules would have been directly responsible for a 15- to 20-percent decrease in soaring school revenues nationwide," the group said in a news release. The TSA's Interim Final Rule on flight training, published in September, included a promise that the agency would review comments from the industry and tweak the rule as it deemed fit. Over the last few weeks, the TSA has announced some clarifications and refinements, but this is the first blanket exemption to whole categories of aircraft.
You can't say AVweb doesn't know how to get readers' attention. Our story on Monday about the risks of cosmic radiation included a remark that Australian flight attendants more than 16 months pregnant are not allowed to work aloft. Oops. Apparently, that was supposed to be 16 *weeks* -- as our story now says. (Who knew?) The error begot dozens of e-mails: "I'm not surprised ... they couldn't get down the aisle." ... "If they are taking 16 months to carry a baby I think the cosmic rays have affected a lot more than the baby." ... "Where did the British find the 16-month-pregnant crew members for their study?" ... "Could you perhaps provide a photo of one or more of those flight attendants?" (There's no accounting for taste.) ... "They should be in 'Ripley's Believe it or Not!'" ... "You should have seen the look on my wife's face when I read [that] to her...!" ... "It's that last year of pregnancy that's the toughest!" And our favorite: "Seems to me they could simply install larger doors in the aircraft and let those 16-month-pregnant woman continue working. Heaven knows they need a diversion after a year and four months of being pregnant!"
PROTECT & SHINE YOUR AIRCRAFT WITH A NAME YOU KNOW & TRUST AEROSHELL
NBAA Vice President Joe Ponte announced his retirement on Monday, the latest in a recent string of changes in the group's upper ranks...
Yesterday, the NBAA said it has hired Lisa Piccione as its new senior vice president of government affairs...
Ash from a volcanic eruption in Iceland is diverting air traffic in the North Atlantic...
New York has eliminated its state sales tax on GA aircraft maintenance and storage, the NBAA reported this week. The exemption took effect on Monday...
The FAA on Monday awarded a $5.7 million contract to Harris Corp. for integrated weather software for Air Traffic Control radar screens...
Randy Gordon, of Ohio, and Mark Puls, of Utah, each will receive a $1,000 aviation scholarship from Comm1. The two were chosen from a pool of 40 applicants...
EAA to add eight new members to its Hall of Fame in a ceremony tomorrow night.
Drop us a line. If it caught your attention, it will probably interest someone else, too. Submit news tips via email to email@example.com.
NEW AIRCRAFT HOLIDAY SPECIAL! FRACTIONAL AIRCRAFT OWNERSHIP
Quiz #87 -- Who Ya Gonna Call?
If anything can go wrong it will, and if not in flight at least on this quiz. See how you'd handle this string of stressful equipment failures without blowing your cool.
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"IT'S LIKE HAVING A NEW AIRPLANE"
*** PREVIOUS RESULTS ***
Last week, AVweb asked readers which very light jet they'd pick as a winner in the marketplace. It wasn't as close as the presidential race, but the Cessna Citation Mustang (36% of your votes) barely edged out the Eclipse 500 (23%). The Adam 700 came in third (15%), followed by the HondaJet (11%) and the Diamond D-Jet (8%).
Our other jets (the Aerostar FJ-100, the ATG Javelin, the AvoCet ProJet, and the Chichester-Miles Leopard Six) got a handful of votes each.
*** THIS WEEK'S QUESTION ***
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The lazy days of summer may be behind us, but Eric Hutchins brings back pleasant memories with his winning "Picture of the Week." Congratulations, Eric we're sending you a brand-new AVweb baseball cap. You can wear it yourself, or you can pass it along to your friend, who seems fond of ball caps.
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Used with permission of Eric Hutchins
"The Ducks Can Wait"
Eric Hutchins of Grand Rapids, Minnesota reminds us,
"There are few things a man can trust more
these days than his old dog or an airplane."
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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.
"Smile for the Camera"
Frank Huppenthal of Tempe, Arizona
puts on a happy face for the camera.
Um, someone is watching the instruments, right ... ?
Used with permission of
"Mine Is the Little One"
Robert C. Abbaticchio of New Smyrna Beach, Florida
tells us that his Ercoupe N621F is "no longer with us,
destroyed in Hurricane Charley." With so many AVweb
staffers based in Florida, we can appreciate the sentiments.
To enter next week's contest, click here.
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Fly it until all the parts stop moving.
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