November 24, 2004
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
At LightSPEED, every day is a day to be thankful for the opportunity to model a spirit of servanthood to our customers, our employees, our vendors, and our community. We're thankful for the chance to improve and pursue excellence in the products we provide. Thankful for our relationships, in which we strive to respond with grace, generosity, compassion, and kindness exceeding expectations. This Thanksgiving, we just want to appreciate God's abundant blessing and wish that for each of you.
Families of seven passengers who died in a 2003 plane crash in New Zealand have attacked lax vision standards for commercial pilots during an inquest hearing in Christchurch. Under questioning by the family members' lawyers, Dr. Dougal Watson, the principal medical officer for the Civil Aviation Authority, confirmed that the CAA allows pilots to self-prescribe corrective lenses for near-vision problems by buying off-the-shelf reading glasses from the local drugstore. The pilot of the accident airplane, Michael Bannerman, had been diagnosed with near-vision problems and, after picking up a pair of glasses, passed a flight test. Dr. Watson told the hearing the CAA tries to strike a balance between "total interference ... and a reasonable medical stance." The families said that not only was the regulation flawed, its implementation was also suspect. Bannerman "demonstrated he could meet the standards" on the test flight, which was done in daylight. The Piper Chieftain he was flying crashed 1.6 miles short of the runway at Christchurch during a night flight. Speculation about the glasses may be moot, however. They've never been found and investigators can't say for sure he was even wearing them.
For the second time in a couple of weeks an airline pilot has collapsed at the controls. Australia's 7News reported this week that the pilot of a Garuda (Indonesia) Airlines Boeing 737 suffered a heart attack just after takeoff from Pontianak, on Borneo island. The first officer assumed control and landed the plane safely but the pilot died while en route to the hospital from the airport. The pilot had reportedly told other crew members that he wasn't feeling well prior to the flight. The Indonesian incident comes 10 days after a co-pilot suffered a seizure on flight from Washington to Los Angeles. In that case, a U.S. Air Force test pilot was asked to take the right seat to help out with the landing. The Indonesian co-pilot was on his own, although earlier reports suggested the stricken captain declined to relinquish control and landed the plane himself before dying in the cockpit. A better story, perhaps ...
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British authorities have thwarted 9/11-style attacks in that country, according to a television report. Quoting unnamed government sources, ITV reported that al Qaeda was planning to ram airliners into three downtown London skyscrapers and Heathrow Airport but British Intelligence got wind of the plans and was able to stop them. The buildings targeted were at Canary Wharf, a prominent London landmark. The report surfaced as the British government prepares to introduce nationwide security measures to combat terrorism. The British Parliament is considering legislation that would create a national crime agency, like the FBI, create ID cards for British citizens and hold separate trials for those charged with terrorist-related offenses. The Brits have had their share of success in apprehending would-be terrorists. Last August, they arrested eight terrorism suspects, one of whom had detailed plans for prominent financial buildings in the U.S., which they were allegedly plotting to attack with chemical or radioactive weapons.
Of course, if hijacking an airliner is getting a little risky for terrorists, there's no shortage of used big iron on the market, some of it possibly selling at bargain prices. A South African auction house is selling off a couple of (very) used airliners today. However, Aucor, the auction company, believes (which is different than guarantees) the DC-9 and Boeing 727-100 will go to airlines or charter services. They are apparently airworthy and were repossessed from local companies. Also on the block will be a Metroliner and a Beech Baron. Aucor spokesman Dieter Ebeling said it's rare to have airliners in this type of auction but in this case the bank wants to get rid of them quickly. He said the company does several airplane auctions a year.
Meanwhile, an old threat is gaining new attention in the U.S. as federal authorities urge crop-duster owners and pilots to keep an eye out for anything strange. A crop duster was reported stolen in Mexico on Nov. 1, provoking a TSA advisory. Robert Jordan, the FBI's top agent in Oregon, confirmed to the Associated Press that al Qaeda may be taking a fresh look at the use of crop dusters to spread biological or chemical agents in the U.S. And that puts those who fly and maintain the aircraft on the front line of defense ... and on the front lines of federal scrutiny. (Expect visits from the FBI.) Wayne Seitz, who owns a crop-dusting business in Heppner, Ore., said he's getting used to the periodic security alerts affecting his industry and actually welcomes the resulting federal attention. Seitz has been visited by the FBI and FAA in recent months, both checking to make sure his plane is securely stored. The FBI's Jordan said Seitz and his colleagues had better get used to the scrutiny. "I don't anticipate us losing our interest in that type of industry in the foreseeable future," he said.
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And in what has become a holiday tradition of sorts, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association brass have more dire predictions about the system's inability to cope with what could be shaping up as a record season for air travel. President John Carr said in a news release that controllers are dropping faster than needles from a tree (OK, we're paraphrasing) and unless the FAA starts hiring, congestion and delays will prevail at many airports. "It's time for the FAA to stop talking about plans and take action," Carr said. He did note that Congress recently passed an appropriations bill containing $9.5 million to hire more controllers but said much more needs to be done. Carr said that between October of 2003 and September of 2004 the system lost 500 controllers but only 13 were hired. He said major airports like Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Newark are facing shortages along with dozens of others across the country and the situation is building to where up to 50 percent of the workforce will be lost if something isn't done. "There is no getting around the fact that the FAA needs to hire and train more controllers," he said.
In Alaska, where safety records are relatively atrocious, the FAA has launched an ad campaign aimed at encouraging passengers to inspire safety-conscious operators. Radio ads urge passengers to not pressure pilots into overloading planes. Other campaigns recommend that passengers fly with carriers who are registered with the "Medallion Foundation. The Circle of Safety program began by contacting school districts (kids from rural areas routinely fly to basketball tournaments and the like) and urging them to set strict safety standards. Now it's broadening its appeal to "pushy passengers" who encourage unsafe attitudes and practices in the pilots who carry them over some of the most forbidding territory anywhere. Go figure. As AVweb told you in September, the Medallion Foundation is trying to change the culture of risk and machismo that characterizes some Alaska operators into one that puts safety first. "We say, 'You know you'll be contracting with someone operating at higher standards if you contract with a Medallion carrier,'" Angela Elgee, manager of the FAA's systems safety and analysis branch, told the Anchorage Daily News.
LOOK TO THE PIEDMONT HAWTHORNE AIRCRAFT SALES TEAM WHEN YOURE BUYING or SELLING YOUR NEXT AIRCRAFT
As AVweb told you last week, the Government Accountability Office (yes, that's the new name) has recommended that the FAA start charging administration fees for the private contractors who perform about 90 percent of the pilot and aircraft certification functions of the agency. The GAO, in a report on the FAA's management oversight of these functions, suggests the extra fees could fund a more comprehensive and effective system of oversight. AOPA has chimed in. Any mention of new fees and flying is guaranteed to get the alphabets riled and we weren't disappointed this time around as AOPA vowed to fight their implementation. In a press release, AOPA spokesman Andy Cebula said there's no question whose pockets would be picked by such an initiative. "Ultimately, pilots would incur the cost of these recommended fees. Pilot examiners and inspectors would increase their prices to account for the added cost," Cebula said. But before we start making up protest signs and contacting our congressmen, remember that Congress recently passed legislation prohibiting the FAA from charging any new fees and a new law would have to be enacted before the charges could even be considered.
If you went to, from or through O'Hare in the past month, chances are your flight was on time or a lot closer to it -- excepting yesterday when storms pushed delays into the several hours long category. FAA officials told reporters Tuesday that between Nov. 1 and Nov. 15 (when new rules capped flights at 87 an hour) there were almost 300 fewer daily flight delays than in the same period last year and the average length of delays was cut from 42 minutes to 16 minutes during peak times. But FAA spokesman Tony Molinaro also said that unusually benign weather during the period probably had the biggest impact on the on-time improvements and air traffic controllers said the first big winter storm will be the acid test. "When bad weather kicks in, we cannot handle capacity and that leads to exponential delays," said Ray Gibbons, local president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. Molinaro said the flight caps will help the airport catch up from weather delays and new equipment will enable controllers to better predict delays. But Gibbons said that when weather chops the arrival rate to less than 80 per hour and there are still 87 flights that want to get in, delays are inevitable.
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It's the little airplane company that seems to refuse to die. For the third time this century (the new one), new owners and new management at Mooney are vowing to revive the legendary name and restore it to prominence. In fact, it's like Mooney is starting all over again. That's just fine with Gretchen Jahn, who is the latest to fill the CEO's chair. Jahn comes to Mooney as the former president of the Colorado-based Knotridge group, which specializes in the evaluation and management of start-up companies. "The main thing is to be consistent, to make promises that we can keep ... and to show evidence of our stability and ability to compete in the market," she told the San Antonio Business Journal. (She probably meant consistent from now forward ...) As if to back up her statement, Garmin announced on Monday that its G1000 glass panel has been certified for the Mooney Ovation2 GX and the Bravo GX. That puts Mooney in the same company as virtually all major piston manufacturers in offering the electronics. Garmin calls the suite "the perfect complement to these high-performance airframes." Meanwhile, back in Kerrville, Mooney hopes to deliver more than 50 airplanes by the end of this year and about 70 in 2005.
Sometimes the dearly departed simply won't leave. And when you're trying to scatter their ashes from an airplane, that can be an embarrassing, not to mention messy, problem with a much less romantic and symbolic outcome than planned. "The poor departed one generally ends up inside a vacuum cleaner rather than the clean air round an airplane," said Jim McTaggart, a British pilot who's invented a couple of devices to tidy up the process, but not necessarily make it more gentle. McTaggart's first system is a relatively simple compressed gas cylinder that blows the ashes clear of the currents swirling around the airframe in a perfect puff of dust. He's already used it for friends and family. But he's more excited about his latest system, which suspends the earthly remains in an air show smoke system. "I think it's rather touching, a beautiful aeroplane and the symbolic trail of smoke." If you'd like to be similarly dissipated, prices start at about $1,100 USD.
FLYING RENTED OR BORROWED AIRCRAFT?
The Department of Defense has decided to keep its air navigation secrets ... well ... secret. The DoD's National Geospatial Intelligence Agency will no longer allow the public to snoop in its aeronautical navigation publications and Web sites. The idea is to keep would-be terrorists from having "unfettered access to air facility data" and to prevent the DoD from competing with private-sector suppliers of similar information...
There's a building boom in Arkansas. Airports all over the state are expanding or renovating to provide much-needed hangar space. The current hangar shortage is so acute that some civic leaders are worried about the impact on businesses...
The Pentagon has reopened a $20 billion contract to supply air-to-air refueling aircraft. Boeing won the original competition but an investigation revealed hanky-panky in the bidding process. Airbus will be back in the race...
Happy Thanksgiving. We hope you'll enjoy digesting today's 'Pumpkin Bombing' article (scroll down).
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The Savvy Aviator #12: Tire TLC
Tires are the Rodney Dangerfields of aviation: They get no respect. Proper tire care isn't rocket science, and can pay hefty dividends in economy and safety. AVweb's Mike Busch tells you what you need to know.
Zen And The Art Of Pumpkin Bombing
Today is Thanksgiving, and in honor of the second harvest festival of the season, AVweb presents a first-hand account of an event that happened after the last such festival, when some bored Midwesterners decided to "properly dispose" of extra pumpkins. If you won't tell the FAA, we won't.
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Sport Pilot is almost upon us, and last week AVweb asked how many of our readers know people who plan to take advantage of the new classifications.
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*** THIS WEEK'S QUESTION ***
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As publisher Tim Cole carves up the turkey today, we at AVweb are reminded to be thankful for our readers particularly those of you with cameras. You never fail to bring a smile to our face and remind us why we love flying. Since the beginning of the year, you've submitted 2,139 pictures to our "POTW" contest just under 200 of which have been run here on the site, but 576 of which are in our "desktop wallpaper file."
This week's winning photo from Kent Wien of New Hampshire may surprise some of our readers, as it is a digitally-modified (PhotoShopped) image. For the record, we do accept PhotoShopped images for the "POTW" contest, but we would appreciate it if you let us know that the image has been altered in the "comments" section of your submission. And Kent your spiffy new AVweb baseball cap is on the way! It's 100% real, with no digital enhancements whatsoever.
Due to privacy issues, AVweb does not publish e-mail addresses of readers who submit photos.
Used with permission of Kent Wien
"But I Thought You Were Watching Her ..."
Kent Wien of Newfields, New Hampshire explains:
"I had taken pictures at the local ultralight fly-in of my 2½-year-old
daughter sitting in a Kitfox. I also took a picture of the same
airplane taking off, which got me thinking ... ."
here to view a large version of this image
Click here for a medium-sized version
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.
"B-25 Barbie III at Dusk"
Joe Horenkamp of Novi, Michigan's name came up
several times this week. This photo was one of several
Joe took at the Yankee Air Museum in 2002 that made it
to our final round of "POTW" competition.
copyright © Philip
"A Sad Ending"
Philip Bannon of Phoenix, Arizona gives us some history:
"Lear-Fan aircraft built in Belfast, North Ireland, now on show
at the Seattle Museum of Flight. Failed to get FAA certification
before the money ran out. A beautiful aircraft all the same."
That's it. Three pictures.
A "Picture of the Week" and two runners-up.
Oh, all right. Since you insist on looking
down here for some kind of "bonus picture":
Used with permission of Ray Watts
"Harvard 7166 in South African Air Force, Target Tug Markings"
Ray Watts of Vorna Valley, Gauteng (South Africa)
provides you with the first of two "can't miss" bonuses this week ...
Used with permission of Corey Stephens
"Learning the Ropes"
... and Corey Stephens of Washington, DC provides the
second, which offers a new-to-us-at-least peek inside
the world of ALPA air safety volunteer training.
To enter next week's contest, click here.
A Reminder About Copyrights: Please take a moment to consider the source of your image before submitting to our "Picture of the Week" contest. If you did not take the photo yourself, ask yourself if you are indeed authorized to release publication rights to AVweb. If you're uncertain, consult the POTW Rules or send us an e-mail.
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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