November 14, 2004
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Eclipse Aviation appears to have answered the chicken-and-egg dilemma revolving around what were likely the biggest obstacles to very-light-jet ownership: training and insurance. In simultaneous announcements Friday, the company that hopes to bring the masses a million-dollar jet (well, pretty close, anyway) has thrown away the notion of in-house training for neophyte jet jockeys and (timing is everything) found a company that will insure them. New Eclipse owners will train on the same gear, and at the same facility, as United Airlines pilots. That was fundamental to AIG Aviation Inc.'s agreement to insure the Eclipse 500 and for insurance broker Willis Global Aviation to announce tentative insurance pricing for the mini-jets. Eclipse announced Friday that rather than try to train its customers in-house, it's contracting with United Airlines to provide initial flight-skills assessment and type-rating transition training at the airline's training center in Denver. The partnership will provide "the most comprehensive flight training available in general aviation," according to an Eclipse release. "The training program will provide the level of professional pilot training normally available only to commercial airline pilots," the release said.
Future Eclipse pilots will use the same simulators as the line pilots to learn the curriculum, jointly developed by Eclipse and United. However, they won't get the same instructors. In a separate deal, United has contracted with Alteon, a Boeing subsidiary, to provide flight and other instructors for the Eclipse program. The training, including computer-based study material, is included in the price of the aircraft, but a mandatory upset-recovery course using an L-19 Albatros will cost the customers $995. However, you won't be finished spending money there. If you want to get a second pilot through the program, it will cost $8449 plus $1,495 for the ride in the Albatros. Recurrent training will cost $2995. Still, that's living and learning in the same environment that developed such industry standards as cockpit resource management (CRM) and that is applying similar developmental techniques to the FAA Industry Training Standards (FITS) for the Eclipse program. "Applying the best of what the industry has learned over the past century of flight, we will collaborate with Eclipse on an extraordinary training process," said Capt. Brad Thomann, managing director of flight standards and training for United.
It's no coincidence that Eclipse simultaneously announced the revised training program with the unveiling of an insurance carrier willing to take on the new jet jockeys. AIG Aviation Inc. lists the training program as a condition for insuring the 500. "Quality training will be a critical element to a successful future for very light jets. AIG Aviation has recognized that the successful completion of the Eclipse 500 type rating and mentor program is the prerequisite to insurability," said William Lovett, vice president of AIG Aviation Inc. While we're not insurance experts, the proposed rates announced Friday seem proportionately in line with other GA insurance. Willis Global has set estimated costs for insuring an Eclipse based on pilots with three levels of experience. A relatively inexperienced pilot (500 hours total time with limited instrument and multi time) will pay about $42,000 for hull loss ($1.175 million) and a maximum of $1 million in liability. A pilot with 1,000 hours, a commercial rating, 100 hours of instrument and 200 hours of multi time will pay $37,000 for the same coverage but is eligible for $5 million in liability insurance for a total premium of $44,000. An experienced pilot with more than 2,500 hours with lots of instrument and multi time as well as 100 hours of turbofan time and a previous turbofan rating can get the basics for $27,000 and up to $10 million in liability for $36,000. If those premiums seem a little breathtaking, consider the insurance cost as a fraction of the hull value and they're about in line with what you'd pay, proportionately speaking, for a $40,000 Cessna.
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Gone are the days when laser eye surgery meant an automatic disqualification for would-be military pilots. A more sophisticated version we told you about in May 2003, called wavefront-guided LASIK, is now being used by Air Force doctors as a "performance enhancement" procedure designed as "an improvement to the human weapon system." The Air Force now allows (in fact, seems to encourage) the procedure for pilots who don't fly high-performance or training aircraft, but does not allow it for "those whose aircraft have cabin altitudes potentially above 14,000 feet." The new procedure does a better job of precisely adjusting for the small aberrations on the cornea that can throw off vision. It does so by creating a map of the corneal surface to guide the laser. Conventional LASIK surgery relies on the person's prescription for glasses. Laser surgery was approved by the Air Force for non-flying personnel in 2000 and extended to low-altitude pilots last June.
Col. (Dr.) Robert Smith, the program manager of the Air Force Warfighter Refractive Surgery Program, performed the first laser surgery on a pilot in September. "That aviator now has 20/12 vision (better than 20/20) without glasses and tells me that his night-vision performance has been tremendously improved," Dr. Smith said. He added that the surgery gives military pilots "the competitive edge in their work environment." More improvements are on the way. New technology allows even more customized treatment with the potential for even bigger vision improvements. X-ray vision is next. (OK, maybe not.)
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Lt. Col. Scott Neumann, a test pilot and the deputy commander of the 412th Operations Group at Edwards Air Force Base, took the right seat of a 737 during an emergency diversion of the Los Angeles-bound airliner last week. The pilot headed for Colorado Springs to get medical help for the original co-pilot, who apparently suffered a seizure while in the right seat. (And you thought you had problems with your medical ...) Neumann -- along with his test-flight experience on the B-2 Spirit, plus time on at least four other Air Force aircraft -- was on his way back to California from meetings in Washington when the co-pilot was stricken. While he was helping other passengers move the sick co-pilot, a flight attendant with whom he'd been chatting mentioned his flight experience to the captain. "You'll do," the captain said to the colonel. Neumann spent the next 20 minutes going through checklists and helping out with the landing at Colorado Springs. His good deed almost cost him an unexpected layover in Colorado, however. By the time he got to the ticket counter to get booked on the replacement airplane (the diversion caused a crew and aircraft change) all the coach seats were booked. When the ticket agent found out that he had ever so briefly worked for the airline, however, he got a first-class seat the rest of the way. "Not quite as good as the one I had," he said.
Near as we can tell, Jack Pelton hasn't broken any laws, lied, cheated or stolen anything or done anything that thousands of people don't do quite legally every day. But the Cessna CEO's job could still be on the line after a 60 Minutes segment on his alma mater, Hamilton University. The news program noted that Pelton was among thousands that have e-mail-order degrees from the now-defunct university that was, until the state changed its laws, based in Evanston, Wyo. Pelton had both a bachelor's and master's degree in aerospace engineering but CBS claims they aren't worth the paper they're written on. For now, at least, Cessna seems to be standing by Pelton. Although no interviews have been granted by Pelton or any other senior Cessna officials, Karen Gordon, a spokeswoman for Textron, Cessna's parent company, said, "We researched his background thoroughly." That background includes management of the Fairchild Dornier 728JET regional jet program and 20 years with McDonnell Douglas before joining Cessna as senior vice president for product engineering three years ago. "He was hired as Cessna's vice president of engineering based on the merits of his experience and accomplishments and has earned the title of president and chief executive officer as a result of his continued great work and strong leadership," Cessna said in a statement issued Thursday.
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Powered by a supersonic combustible ramjet (and an equally powerful media machine) NASA is turning the spotlight back on itself on Monday. After a brief (and perhaps unaccustomed) period in the shadows of the Paul Allen / Burt Rutan / SpaceShipOne show, NASA will grab some limelight this week by trying to make an "airplane" go faster than ever before. The X-43A unmanned scramjet will try to hit Mach 10 over the Pacific Ocean off California today. Launch will be about 2 p.m. PST. The X-43 hit Mach 6.83 in a flight last March, setting an all-time aircraft speed record. Crews loaded the drone under the wing of a B-52 on Thursday, did all the systems checks on Friday and Saturday and fueled everything on Sunday. Because the ramjet engine won't fire unless the plane is already going really fast, it must be dropped from the Buff, and then a Pegasus rocket gives it the needed boost. Wonder how Rutan would do it ...
At the heart of the issue, the NTSB is suggesting the FAA isn't properly reporting incursions and is calling for installation of anti-incursion warning systems at major airports, and pressing its point with a highly publicized -- and well animated -- August near-collision at LAX recently shown on TV news channels. But a less sensational, and probably more dangerous incident that was part of the same report didnt rate the national radar. It has, however, had Cincinnati media buzzing. The FAA confirms a landing Ameriflight cargo plane and a departing Comair flight came within 30 feet of each other at a runway intersection at Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky Airport (CVG) on Oct. 19. Meanwhile, at Baltimore Washington International (BWI) the NTSB says pilots have complained of two near collisions. The FAA says both were false reports, but there are details. One allegedly occurred between a 172 and a DC-8 and another between AirTran and America West airliners. In both cases, the FAA claims the planes were in no danger of colliding. But something that has been damaged is the already-less-than cordial relationship between the two agencies, who are, after all, supposed to be on the same team when it comes to safety. One source at the FAA referred to the LAX incident as "sexed up" (the aircraft reportedly were "12 seconds" from collision) and also used, well ... other terms ... to describe the NTSB's made-for-prime-time swat at the regulators. Looks like each agency might be short one Christmas card this year.
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In Canada, where aircraft owners pay a $60 yearly fee to the privately owned airspace manager Nav Canada, an Ontario pilot is fighting the charges -- and could lose his two homebuilt aircraft because of it. Otto Stanat says he never uses Nav Canada services because he always flies from uncontrolled fields and never strays far from home. So, two years ago he decided not to pay and, with the bill now at more than $400 (including interest and late-payment charges, plus next year's charge), Nav Canada is getting impatient. Stanat says Nav Canada has threatened to seize his airplanes and put liens on his property. "I'm in a state of depression," Stanat told The Canadian Press. The Canadian Ultralight Pilots Association claims there are plenty of recreational pilots who support Stanat. "He isn't the only one complaining about the fees," said President Kathy Lubitz. Nav Canada spokesman Louis Garneau wouldn't talk about Stanat's case specifically but confirmed that in extreme cases aircraft can be seized. He likened the fees to car licenses. "You pay a license fee for your car ... whether you drive it or not. When you employ navigation aids in the sky, you use Nav Canada's services." He also noted that Nav Canada is reviewing service charges.
The dream of reviving a timeless aircraft design appears over for Missouri-based Renaissance Aircraft. The company, which was planning to produce an updated and souped-up version of the Luscombe 8F, announced Friday that it has abandoned the venture and will pull out of Cape Girardeau, Mo., within 30 days. The project was dogged from the start by expensive litigation over the use of the Luscombe type certificate (Renaissance won, but spent hundreds of thousands of dollars). With the lawsuit settled last April, owner John Dearden had hoped to start building airplanes but had trouble finding investors, according to the Southeast Missourian newspaper. Dearden's attorney, Eric Rowe, said Dearden will try to pay off any debts as he considers options for the future. However, the taxpayers of Cape Girardeau could be stuck with the $2.6 million it cost the city to put up a hangar and extend services to the local airport to accommodate Renaissance. Mayor Jay Knudtson said the city will try to find a buyer or another tenant to cover the monthly payments.
ATTENTION, AIRCRAFT RENTERS:
Two survivors of a Montana plane crash and the pilot who died after trying to free a passenger were awarded Medals of Valor by the state last Wednesday. Jodee Hogg, 23, now of Missoula, and Matthew Ramige, 30, of Jackson, Wyo., walked away from the crash in September near Glacier National Park. Pilot Jim Long was honored posthumously for helping to free another passenger before they both died in the ensuing fire. Two others also died...
Co-pilots on two-pilot aircraft flying internationally will soon need a new rating. The second-in-command (SIC) rating is part of International Civil Aviation Organization standards but the U.S. doesn't have such a rating. U.S. pilots have been permitted to fly internationally under an exception. The ICAO is closing the loophole and member countries have warned they will ground U.S. pilots who don't conform...
Archeologists have begun looking for the remains of Amelia Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan on the island of Tinian in the Pacific. Using a backhoe to scrape away layers of soil, the team found stone tools, the sole of a shoe, beer cans and cloth but no bones. They also found an abandoned truck in the neighboring jungle...
The FAA is investigating allegations that a pilot and flight attendant broke alcohol rules in taking an AmericanConnection flight from Milwaukee to St. Louis on Oct. 25. The two were seen drinking the night before the 6.55 a.m. flight and arrived late. They were fired Nov. 3...
Delta Air Lines pilots have accepted a 32.5-percent pay cut over two years, followed by a wage freeze. The savings will amount to about $1 billion and help Delta avoid bankruptcy. Another 6,900 jobs will be cut, however...
Not new, but a handy Web page courtesy of the FAA. Looks like the folks at Flight Standards took a look at all the information they have in their databases, gave their best guess as to what pilots, maintenance people and others in aviation might want to find out and organized it in one easy-to-reference place. Nice.
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.
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As the Beacon Turns #83: TFRs Again & Again
Been caught in a TFR yet? It may be just a matter of time, unless you work hard to avoid them. And why do we have to work so hard? Why can't we find them all in one, easy step? AVweb's Michael Maya Charles has hints in this month's As The Beacon Turns.
Reader mail this week about the F-16 that didn't attack a school, the Savvy Aviator, aviation fatalities and more.
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I flew a Piper Arrow recently from Anoka, Minnesota, to Atlantic City, New Jersey. Somewhere near the Pittsburg Class Bravo airspace we were getting traffic advisories...
Approach: Baron N###, traffic is a Piper Arrow at 11 o'clock, 2 miles.
Thanks Pittsburg, we already have him on the fishfinder.
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 until all the parts stop moving.
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