December 8, 2004
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
|This issue of AVweb's AVflash is brought to you by ... Trade-A-Plane's WeatherTAP.com
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When Heinz Johner returned to his native Switzerland after living in the U.S. for several years, he brought something of fairly unique value with him. Now, thanks to the Transportation Safety Administration's new alien flight training rule, that hard-won CFI certificate is practically useless, unless he moves back to the States. In what appears to be case of bureaucratic logic gone wild, Johner can't continue his part-time vocation of giving FAA-based instruction in Europe unless both he and his students travel to the U.S. for fingerprinting and background checks. "I'm effectively grounded. I cannot give any more instruction," Johner told AVweb. Johner said there are at least 50 FAA-certified instructors in Switzerland who train pilots to obtain U.S. ratings. Students can take virtually all of their training toward instrument, instructor or other ratings at home but must be tested in the U.S. because there are no FAA examiners outside the U.S. Neither are there any agencies that the TSA trusts to take and transmit fingerprints. Johner said the TSA has confirmed that the only way he can resume instruction is to travel to New York to supply his prints and the same goes for the Swiss Cirrus owner he was training toward his instrument rating. "This requires one to three days off work and at least $1,000 for each involved person," Johner said. "It's basically impossible."
Michael Magnell doesn't ever have any trouble getting himself on an airplane but his luggage is a different story. Magnell is a ferry pilot and owns a California company that specializes in long-distance and over-water delivery of private aircraft to far-flung destinations. When he heads to a distant locale to pick up a plane, he has to take his survival gear, including inflatable life vest and inflatable life raft, with him. He says U.S. airlines refuse to allow either item in their baggage compartments ... even though there's an inflatable vest under every seat in the cabin. "There's just no rhyme or reason to it," he said. "They tell me to ship it -- air freight," he sighed. He said it appears to be an airline policy rather than one set down by the FAA or TSA because when his baggage is searched by TSA inspectors they ask airline officials whether the inflatables can go on board. He said airlines based in other countries allow the safety equipment on board. U.S. airlines are apparently afraid the C02 canisters that inflate the vests and rafts will trigger in flight and create some kind of hazard. That doesn't explain their air-freight solution to his problem, however. In addition to defying logic, air freight adds hundreds of dollars to the ferry bill.
And in France, there's nothing like reality training for airport security staff (two-legged and otherwise). French authorities have now banned the practice of security inspectors slipping real plastic explosive into the baggage of unsuspecting passengers to test the abilities of bomb-sniffing dogs. Last Friday, one of the dogs apparently had a head cold or some other lapse. The allegedly bomb-laden luggage got through and possibly onto a plane at Charles de Gaulle Airport. We say "possibly" because as of Wednesday the explosive still hadn't been found, which also suggests the dog may have been up to snuff but that the explosives had been ... liberated or otherwise misplaced ... prior to the sniff test. When they realized what had happened, French authorities ordered the search of luggage aboard three aircraft that left the airport about the time the five-ounce package went missing. The explosive was not found in the bags aboard the flights, which were headed to New York and Los Angeles. So far, no passenger has reported finding the explosives in his or her bag.
LOOK TO THE PIEDMONT HAWTHORNE AIRCRAFT SALES TEAM WHEN YOU'RE BUYING or SELLING YOUR NEXT AIRCRAFT
A Texas air-combat simulation and upset-recovery training center has temporarily suspended operations after losing a second aircraft in just over a year to an apparent wing separation. The Texas Air Aces T-34 went down Tuesday about three miles from where a similar aircraft crashed on Nov. 19, 2003. In both crashes, the two people aboard the aircraft were killed. And in both tragedies, witnesses reported seeing one of the wings snap off before the aircraft spiraled into the ground near Lake Conroe. The most recent crash killed pilot Richard Gillenwaters, 51, of Conroe, and passenger Tietro Migliori, of Venezuela. The area of the crash is routinely used by Texas Air Aces for its popular mock combat flights and aerobatic training although it's unclear what, if any, maneuvers the plane was doing at the time. Last year, a wing came off a T-34 piloted by company president Don Wylie while he was engaged in mock combat with another Texas Air Aces plane.
A similar crash in Georgia in 1999 prompted an Airworthiness Directive (AD) requiring thorough periodic inspections of the wing spars on T-34s. After the AD was issued, several alternative methods of compliance (AMOCs) were approved. After the 2003 crash, the FAA's preliminary report suggested that the aircraft wasn't in compliance with the AD, but FAA preliminary reports can be wrong. The FAA report on Tuesday's crash incorrectly identified the aircraft as a Beechjet (hopefully this has since been corrected) and also says only the pilot was on board. Texas Air Aces spokesman Dave Hollaway told the Houston Chronicle he didn't know if the aircraft was in compliance with the AD. The T-34 AD process has taken a number of twists and turns over the past five years, including the grounding of some aircraft last March, according to the T-34 Association Web site. Another possibly complicating factor in this accident is an unconfirmed report circulating on some Internet sites that the aircraft involved in Tuesday's crash had been fitted with a modified Beech Baron wing spar. Stay tuned.
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The contract towers that serve four Hawaiian airports, as well as those on the U.S. Pacific islands of Guam and Saipan, are back in government hands -- the Australian government's. Airservices Australia, the government-owned corporation that runs air traffic control down under, recently won a $20 million (Australian) contract to take over the towers at Molokai, Lihue, Kona, and Kalealoa as well as on the other two islands. The announcement came as the U.S. and Australia get ready to enter a new free-trade agreement. The contract doesn't seem to be causing much controversy among some of the generally turf-conscious players, but it wasn't their turf, anyway. National Air Traffic Controllers Association spokesman Doug Church told AVweb the contract was previously held by the British firm Serco, one of three private tower contractors currently looking after the more than 200 non-FAA towers in the U.S. The new contract takes effect on Jan. 1, the day the free-trade agreement comes into effect. Airservices Australia was recently granted legislative changes allowing it to compete commercially both domestically and abroad.
Alaska pilots just recorded their safest year in 20 years. There were "only" 100 accidents in the state in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30. By contrast, the worst year for accidents during the period was 1995, chiming in with 173. FAA Administrator Marion Blakey told the Juneau Empire the statistics "just turn one's head around" and she credited a coordinated effort to improve flight safety in Alaska with the improvement. John Duncan, a spokesman for the FAA's Flight Standards office in Anchorage, said accident stats have been going down for five years. Several programs, including Capstone, which fits commercial aircraft with the latest in navigation and communications gear, and the Medallion Program, which rewards air carriers with insurance-premium reductions for their completion of safety programs, have been implemented in recent years. Duncan said the next focus will be on flight instructors "to improve the way pilots are trained at the start."
THE SCHEYDEN GIVEAWAY CONTINUES! LOG ON TO SEE THE LATEST WINNERS
Chalk up another record for Steve Fossett -- compliments of one of the longest stretches of ridge-soarable geography in the world (the Andes). The world's best-known extreme aviator broke the straight-line distance record for sailplanes Dec. 4 when he flew an ASH 25M high-performance sailplane about two-thirds the length of Argentina, a total distance of 1,358 miles. Terry Delore accompanied Fossett as "co-pilot." The flight, between the Argentine cities of El Calafate and San Juan, is roughly equivalent to the distance from New York to Dallas. It took the duo 15 hours and 42 minutes and beat the old record, set by Klaus Ohlmann on the same course, by about eight miles. Fossett said conditions were perfect for the flight, which took him over the spine of South America in the stiff winds that mark spring over the Andes. It's a favorite haunt of top sailplane pilots. Fossett and Delore now have 11 open class sailplane records recognized by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale. Next month (current departure time slated for Jan. 4), Fossett will try to become the first to fly solo and nonstop around the world in Burt Rutan's Global Flyer jet. That flight is expected to take 80 hours.
There's no free lunch in Wisconsin, but does that mean whooping cranes will be toast? The state is considering eliminating the job of whooping-crane coordinator, a person who helps organize the annual migration of cranes raised in captivity and then led to their Florida wintering grounds by ultralight aircraft. (Some of the early birds have now learned to go it on their own.) The coordinator is Wisconsin's contribution to the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership, which is working to establish a second migratory flock of whooping cranes in North America. But the travel plans of the cranes could fall victim to Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle's determination to eliminate a $1.6 billion deficit without raising taxes. The whooping-crane position is among 173 that have been offered for sacrifice by bureaucrats ordered to chop the payroll. Other participants in the project describe the government-sponsored job as vital to the whole effort. The highly publicized program has successfully taught about three dozen birds to migrate on their own. The latest class of 14 graduates recently arrived in Florida. The goal is to get about 125 birds, including 25 breeding pairs, to migrate.
IF YOUR CELL PHONE CAN SURF THE NET, IT CAN RECEIVE AVIATION WEATHER
For those interested in a turnkey opportunity to join the mini-jet market, a Canadian company may have what you're looking for. Noravcan Corp., of Calgary, Alberta, is selling its Phoenix Fanjet aircraft program. The company has developed a four-place, single-engine luxury tourer called the Magna and a two-place aerobatic model called the Sigma. The all-metal jets are powered by a Williams FJ44 engine. Noravcan doesn't give a reason for selling the program, which would seem poised to exploit the burgeoning interest in personal jets. The company claims its planes are easy to fly -- even for low-time pilots -- and relatively inexpensive to operate. The company says the four-place model has a maximum cruise speed of 345 KTAS at 25,000 feet and an all-up, full-flaps stall speed of 61 knots. The estimated operating cost is 72 cents a mile. The two-seater comes in an aerobatic model (+6G, -3G) and a training model, which the company says is ideal for primary jet training and upset recovery. We couldn't find a projected purchase price, but chances are if you have to ask ...
Wichita, Kan., is pondering an ambitious idea being floated by Cessna Chairman Russ Meyer. Meyer wants to convert the company's massive 21st Street Training Center into likely one of the largest and most capable Boys and Girls Clubs anywhere. Under Meyer's vision, the 15-acre site would become home to a club to, in the words of a Wichita Eagle columnist, "help struggling families, to tutor, to provide computer training, to educate, mentor and inspire young people." The catch (isn't there always one?) is that it would cost up to $10 million. The proposal is particularly audacious given the tough time Wichita has weathered in recent years with the slowdown in the aviation industry. The idea was floated (perhaps amid holiday cheer) at a public meeting in the building and there were plenty of questions about its potential impact on the neighborhood, including concerns about increased property taxes. But there was also general support for the concept. Another meeting is planned for Jan. 10.
FLYING RENTED OR BORROWED AIRCRAFT?
GIFT-GIVING MADE EASY
Australian authorities are investigating whether faulty GPS data contributed to an accident that killed six people near Benalla, Victoria, last July. The Piper Cheyenne involved strayed almost continuously off course and hit a mountain miles from the nearest GPS approach waypoint...
The NBAA is countering all the negative press surrounding three recent high-profile crashes by fine-tuning the stats used to determine the accident rates of business aircraft. According to the NBAA, the accident rate for professionally flown business flights is actually about .014 per 100,000 hours, only slightly higher than the .012 rate for airlines...
Chicago is well on its way to acquiring the land it needs for the anticipated expansion of O'Hare Airport. The city already has 65 percent of the property sewn up in Des Plaines and will start making offers on homes and businesses in Bensenville and Oak Grove. Those who don't sell initially will find themselves in neighborhoods pockmarked with the demolished properties of those who have already sold.
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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Say Again? #44: Looking For Trouble
Trouble can come from an air traffic controller who, like AVweb's Don Brown, is conscious of all the ways things can go wrong and keeps bothering his supervisors about them. Trouble can also come from a radar system that, apparently, ignores the very traffic a controller (and other pilots) want to see. Don explains all in this month's Say Again? column.
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ATTENTION, CESSNA OWNERS AND PILOTS
*** PREVIOUS RESULTS ***
Last week, AVweb asked if you were concerned about the quality of service provided by FSS if the FAA were to outsource the FSS system.
A full 79% of you expressed some concern over the future of FSS in such a scenario. 303 of those respondents were primarily worried about removing experienced personnel and transitioning to a new, less-familiar system.
127 readers took the stance that change isn't always bad. Outsourcing could produce a leaner, more efficient, and less costly FSS system.
*** THIS WEEK'S QUESTION ***
Year-end is upon us just as soon as we all plow through the holiday season.
How many hours did you fly this year?
Have an idea for a new QOTW? Send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This address is only for suggested QOTW questions, and not for QOTW answers or comments.
Use this form to send QOTW comments to our AVmail Editor.
LOOK, UP IN THE AIR! IT'S A PLANE! IT'S A FLYING DOG!
Submit a Photo | Rules | Tips | Questions
Current POTW Winner | Past POTW Winners
This week's "Picture of the Week" contest had it all! Among the 80 submissions you sent in this week, we found beautiful landscapes, classic airplanes, gyroplane p.o.v. shots, holidays lights, and even a gasp-inducing near-collision. Which ones made it to the final cut? Byron Miranda's helicopter shot took the top spot (earning him an official AVweb baseball cap), but we daresay there isn't a disappointing photo in the bunch this week.
Remember: The holidays are upon us, so now's the time to send in those pictures of your bird draped in lights that you've been saving since last year. To submit 'em, click here.
Due to privacy issues, AVweb does not publish e-mail addresses of readers who submit photos.
Used with permission of Byron Miranda
"MI-17 at Bamian"
Byron Miranda of Hawaii sends us this photo from
Bamian, Afghanistan. "The area is breathtaking," writes
Byron. "Many American see Afghanistan as a dry, dusty,
desolate country when it's really incredibly beautiful."
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.
Gerald Griggs of Goddard, Kansas lives on a residential airport,
so it seemed like a good idea to bring his '37 Aeronca K out of the
hangar and decorate it until a curious light-spotter stopped to compliment
him on his Christmas decor. "It almost fooled me," Gerald's admirer
told him. "For a moment, I thought it was a real airplane!"
(No offense, Aeronca owners but it is a funny story ... .)
Used with permission of Chris Strange
"Getting Ice in a Caravan"
Chris Strange of North Canton, Ohio sends us
this intriguing view of icing. The photo was taken
over Lake Erie in December.
The flood of great "POTW" entries continues.
As long as you deliver the numbers,
we'll keep slipping you a couple of
bonus pictures each week, O.K.?
Used with permission of Kent Wien
Kent Wien of Newfields, New Hamphire
has sent us some really great photos that didn't
make the final round of "POTW" competition.
What a shame Kent's got a great eye,
as you can see from this photo of his brother
Kurt dropping in on a local farmer.
Used with permission of Peykan Beyrami
"Have You Seen My Luggage?"
Peykan Beyrami of Glendale, Arizona
sees us off this week with a stop at everyone's
least-favorite part of their local commercial airport:
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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Fly it till all the parts stop moving.
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