November 21, 2004
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
|This issue of AVweb's AVflash is brought to you by ... JA Air Center
AIR CENTER YOUR GARMIN SOURCE PRE-HOLIDAY SPECIAL!
The FAA's own poor management has made it difficult for the agency to meet cost, schedule and performance goals for new air traffic control systems, according to a report released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) last week. The FAA fails to involve stakeholders, such as controllers and technical experts, in the planning process, and coordination among various offices within the agency is ineffective, the GAO said. The report recommended that the FAA develop specific plans early in the process of approving new technology that specify how and when stakeholders will meet, to ensure coordination. The FAA said it has started to take action to improve its coordination, but the GAO noted that many of those plans are three to five years from implementation, and more action is needed now. The study was requested by U.S. Rep. John Mica, chair of the House Aviation Subcommittee.
Development of the GPS-enhancing Wide Area Augmentation System took six years longer and cost $1.5 billion more than it should have, the GAO said, largely due to ineffective coordination among various offices of the FAA that were working on the program. Also, when the FAA accelerated its schedule for implementing the Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System for air traffic control, it didn't leave time to consult with end users and ended up with a badly designed interface. That added a half-billion dollars and three years to the project, and 122 fewer systems now will be deployed than in the original plan. Also, contracts for implementing controller-datalink communications were mishandled, hiking costs by 59 percent. The one program that the GAO reviewed that it found went pretty well was the ASDE-X airport surveillance system. The FAA included stakeholders early and throughout the approval process and the managers of the project had strong technical expertise, the GAO said.
The FAA has reviewed comments from the industry and amended its "Flight Plan 2005-2009" strategy document to include three key "waypoints" that AOPA was advocating, AOPA said last week -- but AOPA was hoping for more. "The 'Flight Plan' now recognizes that the Notice to Airmen system has got to be streamlined," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. The FAA also said it will earmark Airport Improvement Program funds for upgrading reliever and secondary airports near major cities, and will work with the industry to improve GA safety, AOPA said. However, Boyer said, "We are disappointed that the agency did not include a strategy for mitigating the effects of security-related airspace restrictions on general aviation, as we had asked." Also, the FAA was "distressingly vague" on a commitment to improve access to GA airports by publishing new Wide Area Augmentation System instrument approaches, AOPA said. And the agency said nothing about providing the additional ground infrastructure (approach lighting, precision runway markings, etc.) necessary to get the lowest possible WAAS approach minimums.
THE PILOT INSURANCE CHALLENGE
The latest version of a bill that strives to create a regulatory framework for space tourism passed in the U.S. House of Representatives on Saturday, after a contentious debate over its safety provisions. The bill would give the FAA jurisdiction over the flights, but the agency's safety mandate would extend only to protecting the "uninvolved public," not to passengers and crew. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., sponsor of the bill, said, "After being informed of the risks, people can and should be able to decide to buy a ticket and achieve their lifelong dream of flying into space even though they know that it is a risky proposition." Various versions of the bill have shuttled back and forth from the House to the Senate over the last few months. Virgin CEO Richard Branson has announced plans to offer commercial space flights by 2007, and is already taking deposits.
Opponents of the bill wanted more scrutiny for the new industry. "I don't want to see people dead from a space experiment, and then the federal government comes in to regulate," said Minnesota Rep. James Oberstar, senior Democrat on the House Transportation Committee. Rohrabacher said too much regulation would "strangle this industry and drive these entrepreneurs offshore." The version passed Saturday includes a compromise on the issue -- eight years after the bill is enacted, the FAA can start to issue rules for passenger and crew safety. If anyone is killed or seriously hurt before then, or if an "unplanned event" occurs during a flight that poses a risk of serious or fatal injury, the FAA can issue rules without waiting for the eight years to pass. The eight years is meant to provide time for the industry to mature without being overburdened or slowed down by the regulatory process. The bill now goes to the Senate, but if it doesn't pass before Congress adjourns for the year, the process will have to start all over in 2005.
The first commercial spaceport for paying passengers could be in Malaysia, if a proposal now in the works comes to fruition. Bristol Spaceplanes has approached the Malaysian government with plans to build a launch site for the Ascender sub-orbital space plane, The Star reported on Nov. 12. The Ascender would take up to two crew members and two passengers to 100 kilometers and back in 90 minutes, the company says. Local authorities have already agreed to the plan, pending federal approval, The Star said. The Ascender was designed as an X Prize contender and uses off-the-shelf technology, according to Bristol Spaceplanes. The airplane would take off from an ordinary runway with two turbofan engines and climb at subsonic speed to about 26,000 feet. The pilot then starts the rocket engine and pulls up into a steep climb, reaching Mach 2.8, and coasts to 100 kilometers. The craft could be built within three years, and be carrying passengers within seven, according to the company's Web site.
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The FAA is not really quite ready to start certifying student sport pilots, but until it is ready, it has an ad hoc procedure in place, EAA reported last week. For now, aspiring airmen can use the standard application form and just write in "Sport Pilot" under "Other." Inspectors and examiners will get complete instructions for dealing with the new pilots in January, but for now, the FAA says, they are required to brief the applicant about the limitations of a sport pilot student. In addition, inspectors and examiners should discuss the limitations of the certificate with flight instructors who are providing training to sport pilot students.
Private pilots may be wowed by glass-cockpit technology, but they've been slow to adopt it. One market that is warming up quickly is flight schools. "It makes sense when you're talking about training tomorrow's pilots," said New Piper CEO Chuck Suma, as his company delivered two new Warrior IIIs to Downing College, in Shirley, N.Y., earlier this month. Both aircraft are equipped with the Avidyne FlightMax Entegra System. Martin Holley, dean of Dowling College's School of Aviation, said training on advanced glass avionics will become a requirement for flight-school graduates looking for careers in aviation. "This is the future of general aviation," he said. "These aircraft will give our students the uncompromised functionality required in our industry today."
NOT ALL AIRCRAFT HULL AND LIABILITY INSURANCE IS CREATED EQUAL
Boeing plans to spend $5.8 billion to develop its 7E7 Dreamliner, The Seattle Times reported on Friday, plus about $3 billion more that will come from partners in the project. Last week, Boeing CEO Harry Stonecipher was in Moscow to cement an agreement to invest $2.5 billion in the Russian aerospace industry, in return for help in launching the 7E7, AFP reported. Sales of the airplane, expected to cost about $120 million, have been soft in the U.S., where airlines are struggling, but Boeing has about 200 or more orders from around the world, the Times said. Pilots at Northwest Airlines, if they ever get to fly one, would be paid $213 an hour, under a new contract that stipulates pay rates ... even for aircraft that don't yet exist. First deliveries are expected in 2008. The cockpit will be similar to the 777 cockpit, to ease transition training. Various configurations of the airplane will carry up to about 300 passengers on routes up to 8,500 nautical miles, bringing big-jet ranges to midsize airplanes, Boeing says. It will use 20 percent less fuel than other comparable aircraft, and the majority of the primary structure -- including the fuselage and wing -- will be made of composite materials. Boeing is also incorporating advancements in design and technology to reduce weight and complexity.
General aviation safety in New Zealand isn't as good as it should be, according to the Civil Aviation Authority, and as part of a five-year effort to reduce the accident rate by 25 percent, the agency has created a DVD on risk assessment and is distributing it to 15,000 pilots. "Basically what we're trying to do is make them aware of the risks that they're taking," said John Jones of the Civil Aviation Authority. The DVD reminds pilots to get proper weather briefings, file flight plans and check fuel requirements. "It's all about double-checking everything we do, like a suit tailor who measures twice and cuts once," said John Funnell, president of the Aviation Industry Association. The effort is timely, he said, because the Christmas season is often a dangerous time for Kiwi aviators. "In the past we have seen people rushing to complete jobs prior to Christmas and as a result of pushing the limits, had accidents, damaged their aircraft, and injured themselves," he said. Holidays combined with spring weather and long days means pilots travel more and have more time to fly for fun. It's also a busy time for crop-dusting operations. "Across all sectors there is a significant increase in aviation-related activity," Funnell said. The DVD is part of the five-year Aircare project, which is supported jointly by the Civil Aviation Authority, the Accident Compensation Corporation and the Aviation Industry Association.
NO-COST SHIPPING UPGRADE FOR USED AVIONICS FROM BENNETT
A China Eastern Airlines Bombardier CRJ-200 with 53 people on board crashed into a shallow ice-covered lake seconds after takeoff yesterday morning in the inner Mongolian region of China, killing all on board. The airplane hit a ticket office at Nanhai Park as it went down, killing at least one person. Witnesses said they heard an explosion and saw the airplane shake violently, black smoke billowing from its tail, before it crashed in flames. The weather was reportedly clear and cold at the time. China Eastern grounded all of its CRJ200s until further notice, according to the news agency Xinhua.
It's one of those little problems that can quickly escalate for a pilot in a small airplane -- a door that comes open in flight. Michael Keenan was flying a Piper Aerostar twin out of Philadelphia on Wednesday morning when the passenger door became unlatched. Keenan struggled to hold the door shut, worried that it would damage the prop, but had to let go when he dislocated his shoulder, and the door ripped off its hinges and departed the aircraft. He called a nearby airport, asked for an ambulance to meet him, and landed safely (congratulations). A motorist found the door in the middle of a Pennsylvania road about 40 minutes after it fell, and except for the damaged hinges and latch it was mainly intact. Keenan was treated at a local hospital and released later in the day.
FLIGHTMAX EX500 NO-CHARGE RELEASE 2.0 SOFTWARE UPGRADE THROUGH DECEMBER 31, 2004
The Air National Guard has changed rules at a New Jersey firing range to avoid populated areas, after a school was accidentally hit by stray bullets...
Starting this month, airports can opt to use private contractors instead of federal security screeners from the Transportation Security Administration. (Why does that sound so familiar?)...
The FAA says Ocean City, Md., owes $13 million for land bought with federal funds for airport expansion that is now used as a golf course; the town is disputing it...
Whooping cranes trained to migrate by pilots are now flying on their own. The flock has left Wisconsin and is headed for Florida for the winter.
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"IT'S LIKE HAVING A NEW AIRPLANE"
CEO of the Cockpit #39: What Does the Future Hold?
Aviation is only 100 years old. AVweb's CEO of the Cockpit feels like he is pretty close to that age, too, as he ponders the future of airline flying and bores your kids with his thoughts.
Pelican's Perch #80: Gear-Up Landing In A 747?
You know the cliche: There are two kinds of retractable-gear pilots in the world -- those who have landed gear-up, and those who will. AVweb's John Deakin is back with his Pelican's Perch column, and relates his own heavy-jet gear-up story.
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Reader mail this week about digital ELTs, renaming very light jets, fish finders and much more.
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LOOK, UP IN THE AIR! IT'S A PLANE! IT'S A FLYING DOG!
On an a typical IFR day on the East coast of Florida, I heard a Piper Cherokee check in with Miami Center...
Cherokee N123: Miami Center, Cherokee N123 at 4000, ATIS for Palm Beach. Miami Center: Cherokee N123, maintian 4000.
Cherokee: Center, I'll need to get lower to land at Palm Beach.
Center: Cherokee N123, let me see what I can arrange.
Center: Cherokee N123, I've got good news. Apparently, you'll be landing at 4000 feet today.
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Fly it until every part stops moving.
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