December 15, 2004
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
This issue of AVweb's AVflash is brought to you by ... Scheyden Eyewear
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The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has not conducted a thorough assessment of the vulnerabilities of general aviation to determine how to better prepare against terrorist threats, according to a report released last week by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). The report, based on a yearlong study, found the TSA has made some progress in developing and implementing security guidelines, but just about every effort in training, communications and assessment seems to have fallen short. The FAA also took some flak in the report for failing to evaluate whether its continuing flight restrictions are worthwhile. The GAO said it has made a recommendation for the FAA "to take action to ensure that temporary flight restrictions issued for indefinite periods are reviewed and, if appropriate, revalidated and consistently applied."
The GAO found fault with the TSA's online training, saying it's inadequate and there's no plan to monitor or assess the results. The GAO also found limitations in the compliance inspections of flight-training programs. The report further noted that even if the TSA does manage to establish new security requirements for general aviation airports, nobody knows where the money would come from for airport operators to meet these requirements. The report said GA pilots, passengers and businesses have lost more than $1 billion since the Sept. 11 attacks due to increased costs, lost revenues and additional operating costs.
One thing that the TSA seems to be doing right is building productive partnerships with the industry. AOPA's Airport Watch program, launched jointly with the TSA, was cited in the report, as well as programs of the National Business Aviation Association and the National Agricultural Aircraft Association. "This new GAO report confirms and adds validity to what AOPA and the GA industry have been saying ever since the Sept. 11 attacks," said AOPA President Phil Boyer, in a statement issued Tuesday. "General aviation airports are so many and so varied that a 'one-size-fits-all' security plan is just not feasible." AOPA also said it was pleased that the report recognizes the limited threat posed by small GA aircraft, due to their minimal destructive power.
During its study, the GAO visited 31 GA airports chosen for their variety of physical characteristics and types of operations. The report found that most of the airport managers interviewed had already established a number of security enhancements, using either airport revenue, or state or federal grant money. However, security advisories distributed by the TSA were too vague and were not consistently received, the study found. The GAO report concludes with five specific recommendations: The TSA should develop a risk-management plan that helps airports assess vulnerabilities, do a better job of communicating specific threat information, and more carefully monitor foreign nationals learning to fly in the United States. Also, the FAA should develop a plan to review and revalidate flight restrictions, and the TSA and FAA together need to review the process for issuing waivers to enter restricted airspace. For more about the GAO report, see this week's edition of AVweb's Business AVflash.
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The FAA is seeking input from pilots as it continues its investigation into a fatal accident of a Beech T-34A airplane on Dec. 7 in Texas. Two men died after a wing separated, and the entire fleet of Beech A45 and T-34 aircraft was grounded last week. The FAA now has issued an Airworthiness Concern Sheet asking for assistance from industry type-club organizations, owners/operators, and manufacturers, as well as T-34 AMOC (alternate means of compliance) holders, "to help in the long-term airworthiness solution for the safety and continued airworthiness of these airplanes." The EAA Government Relations office is collecting the comments. EAA said it will consolidate the comments and submit them to the FAA by the Jan. 10, 2005, deadline.
Canada's Snowbirds aerobatics team also was grounded last week, after a fatal midair in Saskatchewan, but they are already back in the air, after a preliminary investigation apparently found no evidence of mechanical failure. Some critics, however, are saying the Snowbirds should be grounded for good and their $10 million (Canadian) budget directed elsewhere, CBC News reported Tuesday. The aging CT-114 Tutor jets, which are older than the pilots who fly them, should be retired, they say. "It's a luxury," said former colonel Michel Drapeau, "and I think the time has come to question [it] and possibly do without." The lack of a rescue helicopter at the Moose Jaw air force base also came under criticism last week, but it did not affect the rescue, officials said. It took 47 minutes for rescuers to drive to the wreck. Helicopters at the base were eliminated in a previous round of budget cuts. The two pilots had been practicing a head-on crossing loop when they collided. Capt. Miles Selby died, but Capt. Chuck Mallet ejected and was treated for minor injuries. A final report is expected to take at least a year.
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The FAA is close to a decision on whether it will change the definition of "night" to reflect that local conditions can differ from the times published in the American Air Almanac. The change could limit operations at some airports where terrain causes darkness significantly earlier than the Almanac indicates. When the FAA published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) about the change in 2002, in response to a recommendation from the NTSB following a fatal crash in Aspen, Colo., the industry was almost entirely against it. FAA spokesman William Shumann told AVweb last week that the FAA will issue a final rule early next year. "We can't say what the rule will say about the definition of night," he said. "Hypothetical possibilities include dropping the definition and just changing the times in instrument procedures. ... It's also possible, of course, that we would just keep the American Air Almanac times." The proposal would change the official definition of night to read: "Night is the time between the end of evening civil twilight and the beginning of morning civil twilight, as published in the American Air Almanac, converted to local time, or such other period between sunset and sunrise, as may be prescribed by the FAA." The suggested change is in response to the NTSB's investigation in the crash of a chartered Gulfstream III that slammed into a hillside at Aspen-Pitkin County Airport on March 29, 2001, killing all 18 people on board.
Even if the FAA does adopt a change in the rules regarding night flying, the agency would still have to survey all applicable airports -- over 18,000 of them -- and then determine revised sunset/sunrise times for each, Shumann said. "That won't be soon." A rule-making committee that reviewed all the comments on the NPRM last year recommended withdrawal of the proposed change. "The team understands the NTSB's recommendation to create rulemaking that might preclude situations similar to the Aspen accident," the committee said. However, "the team does not consider the proposed change to be an appropriate solution to a very complex and often site-specific problem." The team recommended that instead, the FAA should explore alternate methods that might address local determination of hours of darkness and assign limiting conditions for approach procedures.
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Bombardier CEO Paul Tellier resigned on Monday, as the company struggles to cope with lagging sales, job cuts, three recent jet crashes, and a falling stock price -- which hit a new low on the latest news. Tellier had been with the company less than two years and had another year to go on his contract. Apparently he had let it be known that he planned to leave when the contract was up, and the company decided not to wait. In a press release, he said, "I understand the board's concern that I would not be there for the long term to develop and execute strategies, and the need to reshape the management structure at this time." Business analysts said sharp differences on strategy with board chairman Laurent Beaudoin prompted the departure. Beaudoin will act as interim CEO.
"I leave with the satisfaction of having done what needed to be done as a first step before the corporation could focus on developing new avenues of value creation," Tellier said in the press release. "I would like to thank the dedicated employees for their friendship and unfailing support." He did not talk to the press. "The corporation hired Mr. Tellier as an agent of change and he has delivered," said Beaudoin. "Considering the evolution of the business and our challenges at this point, the corporation has come to an agreement with Mr. Tellier and I am pleased that we are parting ways on good terms. We thank him for his contribution to the evolution of our corporation." Bombardier, based in Montreal, builds business jets, regional jets and turboprops.
The Navajo Nation will partner with Utilicraft Aerospace Industries to produce the FF-1080-300 twin-engine freight aircraft, Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. announced on Sunday. The arrangement will establish three aircraft sub-assembly plants on Navajo Nation lands that will create hundreds of jobs. The Navajo Nation has agreed to invest $34 million in the project to become a 25-percent equity partner in Utilicraft. "I feel very good, very confident about this," Shirley said. "This is an awesome opportunity and industry to bring to the Navajo Nation." The FF-1080, which has been in development for 13 years, is an all-aluminum, twin-engine, high-wing, fixed-landing-gear, non-pressurized, single-pilot-capable turboprop aircraft with short takeoff and landing capability, specifically designed as a utility air freight transport system. Utilicraft Aerospace says Global Air Group of Australia has agreed to buy 100 FF-1080 Freight Feeder aircraft for $1.2 billion. The company says it also has an agreement with WSI Hong Kong for 300 of the airplanes. Utilicraft plans to establish its final assembly facility at the Double Eagle II Airport in Albuquerque, N.M. "We're looking at about 1,000 jobs in the state of New Mexico to build the airplane and to do final assembly in Albuquerque at a production rate of 96 a year," said Utilicraft Aerospace CEO John J. Dupont. "This represents jobs, economic development and a great business opportunity for the Navajo Nation."
The FF-1080 is designed to carry standard industry air containers on short-to-medium range routes, with a patented integrated air cargo information system and patented power-management system. The company is aiming at a niche to cost-effectively feed containerized air cargo to the major hubs of the scheduled passenger carriers and the overnight express airlines. The airplane can transport 10 revenue tons over 1,000 miles from airfields with 3,000 feet of runway, the company says. FAA certification is expected by 2007.
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The official accident report on the fatal Concorde crash in July 2000 that doomed the big birds was finished two years ago -- but wait, now there is another official report. On Tuesday, the findings of an ongoing judicial investigation were made public, and the parties found responsible in this probe could face manslaughter charges. Both reports place the blame for the accident on a piece of metal that fell from a Continental DC-10. Continental CEO Gordon Bethune has been summoned to testify in London early next year. "We're confident that there's no basis for criminal action and we will defend any charges in the appropriate courts," said Continental spokesman Nick Britton. "We strongly disagree that anything Continental did was the cause of the Concorde accident." Investigators say the part that fell from the Continental DC-10 was originally made of harmless, soft aluminum, but had been improperly replaced with titanium, which is much harder. When the Concorde hit the piece of metal, it blew a tire, leading to the crash that killed 113 people, according to the report.
Real-time information from the AWOS (Automated Weather Observation System) at your local GA airport may be online soon, if a project from Stanwyck Avionics gains traction. The company has developed graphic display software linked to AWOS that updates automatically every 60 seconds over the Internet. The display is for informational purposes only, but Bill Stanwyck told AVweb on Tuesday that he is working with the FAA to see if it can be certified. The graphic shows the airport runways with the wind on a compass rose, displaying direction and speed as well as headwind and crosswind components. The page also lists wind and temperature data, as well as the current METAR and trend information. Charts log each AWOS report minute by minute. Sidney Municipal in New York and Chester County in Pennsylvania have the latest version of the software. Other GA airports served are Columbia County in New York, Chester Airport in Connecticut, and Beaver Municipal in Utah. Stanwyck said the equipment and software package costs about $2,000. For you nerds out there who want to know more about the engineering, Stanwyck also told us in an e-mail: "It is written entirely in an object-oriented language and works under a Windows XP Pro platform. Included in the software is a Client RMM program that will allow us to remotely contact the display computer at the airports and update the software and check error logs on them. The maintenance program can also view the raw weather data and upload it to our server in real time for troubleshooting." He said the system can also be programmed to remotely boot up the rotating beacon when IFR conditions arrive.
PROTECT & SHINE YOUR AIRCRAFT WITH A NAME YOU KNOW & TRUST AEROSHELL
Tuesday not long after noon, approximately 7,000 feet and seven miles out of South Bend (Indiana) Regional Airport a PC-12/45 reportedly lost power from its generally uber-reliable PT-6 powerplant and landed safely (excepting wing-to-power-line contact) on a busy store-lined road. The wing lost its battle (leaving an outboard section plus what the local fire marshal estimated at "400 gallons" of fuel on the road), but the occupants, aircraft and passersby escaped victorious ... provided victorious means physically unharmed. The quarter-mile stretch of road-turned-runway was actually Route 933 north of Douglas Road. Again, none among the two-man crew, three passengers, pedestrians or drivers was injured, leaving many enthusiastic witnesses. "It was skidding and jumping and then it hit a pole. I heard the brakes skid," Aaron Bolin, told the South Bend Tribune. Bolin watched the episode from the relative and highly precarious safety of a nearby gas station. "He told me he got it over an intersection and dove it under some power lines," the pilot's father told the Tribune. "He dropped it down in an area that was just full of light poles, electric poles and business," said another witness. One of the aircraft's passengers summed things up thusly, "We're happy to be alive."
The 25-year-old pilot reported "engine problems" and announced his intention to attempt a return to the airport for landing. That part of the plan didn't work out, as residents of 600 local homes lost power due to the Pilatus / power line strike -- still likely a preferred outcome. The aircraft was temporarily moved to the Howard Johnson's Inn parking lot near where it stopped ... traffic was tied up for several hours.
Eclipse Aviation says it expects FAA certification of its Eclipse 500 jet in March 2006. AVweb's report on Monday misstated the month.
BUYING OR SELLING AN AIRCRAFT?
Thirteen whooping cranes followed an ultralight to arrive at their winter home in Florida on Sunday. Funding for the program is in question...
New methods for predicting cloud formation under development at Georgia Tech...
Former Cessna President Charlie Johnson has joined Aviation Technology Group, developer of the two-seater Javelin Jet...
Pilots can share rides and expenses with other pilots via new Web site...
First flight for restored B-17 "Liberty Bell in Kissimmee, Fla., last week.
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.
"IT'S LIKE HAVING A NEW AIRPLANE"
This month AVweb's survey of the latest products and services for pilots, mechanics and aircraft owners brings you EFIS for helicopters, Web site creation software for aircraft builders, an air traffic controller simulator and much more.
The Cessna, The Sky ... and the Cartoonist: Chapters Eight and Nine
Some people say it's hard to spin a Cessna. Harder than some other planes, maybe, but our student pilot and illustrator John Ewing figures out a way to do it in his little C152. AVweb presents two more chapters from John's book in our series about learning to fly "down under."
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*** PREVIOUS RESULTS ***
Last week, AVweb asked our readers how many hours they had flown in 2004.
Answers ran the gamut from zero hours to well over 300 hours. Most of you (25% of respondents) chimed in with 51-100 hours, while the second largest group (20% of respondents) fell into the 101-175-hour range.
31% of you flew 50 hours or less, 11% of you logged more than 176 hours but less than 300, and only 13% of AVweb readers logged over 300 hours this year.
*** THIS WEEK'S QUESTION ***
This week, AVweb wants to know what you think about the use of biometrics in the fight against terror. A bill intended to fight terrorism is making its way through the halls of legislation and may soon introduce biometric parameters to pilot certificates.
What about biometrics for mechanics?
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It's all sunsets and horizons in the latest installment of "Picture of the Week." Even with an unprecedented three bonus pictures this time around, we had to leave some truly beautiful shots behind on the cutting-room floor. Once you see this week's winners, we think you'll forgive us. As always, our winner (Michael Montgomery of Kentucky) will be receiving an official AVweb baseball cap to show off at his local airport. Congratulations, Michael!
Remember: We want to see your holiday-themed airplane shots, so submit 'em here!
Due to privacy issues, AVweb does not publish e-mail addresses of readers who submit photos.
Used with permission of Michael Montgomery
Michael Montgomery of Mt. Washington, Kentucky
takes home top honors with this photo
of an early morning balloon flight in Indiana.
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.
"Left Base Rwy 08
(Georgetown, Grand Cayman)"
Keith Hershberger of Newton, Kansas submitted
this image with no comment, so we'll provide one for him:
Used with permission of Jared Yates
"New ATC Death Ray"
Jared Yates of Meridian, Mississippi sends us this photo
of the control tower in Campinas, Brazil. Jared explains:
"What looks like a new laser death ray designed to keep
wandering pilots in line is actually [a] Christmas decoration.
Viewed from the busy highway, it looks like a Christmas tree,
but from our vantage point at Gate M1, it's outright scary.
I don't think you'll see decorations on any tower in the U.S.,
much less a major international airport!"
(Now we know what to get Don Brown for the holidays ... !)
We have to do something with all the
extra "POTW" contenders you've
been sending us lately, so here are
some well-deserved bonus pics:
Used with permission of Per Erik Pfingst
"Sunrise in EDXD (Bohmte, Germany)"
Per Erik Pfingst of Huede, Lower Saxony, Germany
delivers another stunning sunrise photo for us this week.
Used with permission of Gene Bannister
"The Waiting Game"
From the other side of the Earth,
Gene Bannister of Olympia, Washington
gives us an equally beautiful sunset.
Used with permission of John Howland
And John Howland of St. Simon's Island, Georgia
writes, "While trying to photograph the meteor shower,
I caught a great shot of this twin going past. You can
even tell which way he was going."
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 everything stops.
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