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December 19, 2004

NewsWire Complete Issue

By The AVweb Editorial Staff

This issue of AVweb's AVflash is brought to you by ... Teledyne-Continental Motors (TCM)

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"GPS Shutdown" Possible (If Country Attacked)...

Perfect Storm Unlikely, Says AOPA

When the Bush administration announced changes in GPS policy last week, the possibility that GPS could be shut down to deny its use to enemy forces or terrorist groups drew the most headlines, and generated much GA concern. But there is really nothing to worry about, says AOPA. "GPS is absolutely critical to safety of flight," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "This new policy recognizes that, and adds even greater protections for civilian use of GPS." Such a shutdown would occur only under "remarkable circumstances," an administration official told reporters. AOPA notes that in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, GPS remained online. AOPA says it worked with the administration to draft the new policy and there is nothing in there to threaten GA users. "The military has always maintained the option to deny GPS to a hostile force within a limited geographical area, and they continue to have that option under this new policy," said Boyer. "But now there is a very clear directive that this be done without unduly disrupting civilian use." The policy emphasizes the critical importance of GPS and says the administration is committed to making the system stronger and keeping it free of user fees.

...As Oversight Shifts Away From Military

While the Bush plan expresses concern about GPS security, it also shifts responsibility away from the military, creating an executive committee to manage the global satellite system that will be co-chaired by the Defense Department and the Transportation Department. The policy explicitly recognizes the extent to which civilian and commercial infrastructure has come to depend on GPS, and states the importance of maintaining and upgrading the system. It also reflects concerns that GPS's pre-eminence is threatened by the Galileo system, under development in Europe. "We take the challenge of Galileo seriously. We intend to retain leadership," said Jeffrey Shane, DOT undersecretary for policy, Government Computer News reported. The U.S. and the European Union are exploring ways to ensure interoperability between the two systems, Shane said.

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Former NTSB Chairman: TAWS Not Coming Fast Enough...

Compliance Criticized

The FAA needs to beef up its oversight and ensure that all airplanes that are required to have Terrain Awareness and Warning Systems (TAWS) on board are in compliance, Jim Hall, former chairman of the NTSB, wrote in The Charlotte Observer last week. "In the United States during the past 12 months, there have been 12 instances where aircraft flew into an obstacle," Hall wrote. "Forty-five people died as a result of these crashes. Of the aircraft involved, two-thirds were required to have modern, updated terrain avoidance systems on board, but didn't." By March 29, 2005, all turbine-powered U.S.-registered airplanes with six or more passenger seats are required to have TAWS on board. The systems cost between $20,000 and $60,000, Hall wrote, "a fraction of the cost of multimillion-dollar helicopters or passenger aircraft."

...Or Going Far Enough...

Hall added that the FAA should extend the TAWS requirement to helicopters, which are currently exempt. "[Helicopters] fly lower and are therefore even more at risk from terrain and obstacles," Hall wrote. "Ten crashes involving helicopters flying into terrain have occurred in 2004, killing 35 people. Tragically, many of these accidents involve medical evacuation helicopters that collide with the ground or with buildings or power lines as they speed to or from a hospital, trying to save a patient's life. This combination of speed and the hazardous environment they operate in has too often been deadly for flight crews, patients and bystanders." Hall also said a unified common database of all dangerous terrain and obstacles should be created to replace the current patchwork. Many current databases are out of date, some are inaccurate and most are incomplete. "Lives are being lost needlessly," he wrote. Hall was the NTSB chairman from 1994 to 2001, and now is managing partner of Hall & Associates consulting firm in Washington, D.C.

...But Cost Can Be A Factor

While the cost may not seem like a big obstacle for many corporate operators, for others it can be a hardship. Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF), which operates a fleet of 70 aircraft worldwide in support of missionaries and relief efforts, said last week it needs to raise $230,000 by the end of this month to make eight of its Cessna Caravans and King Airs compliant. Without the funding, the airplanes will have to be grounded in March. The aircraft are U.S.-registered but operate in Indonesia and Africa. The MAF says it has lost two airplanes in accidents due to flight into terrain, one in the 1950s and one in the 1970s, and hopes to eventually have TAWS in all of its aircraft.

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Pilot Training Called For To Avoid Accidents...

Caravan's Icing Record Raises Alarm

The NTSB last week asked the FAA to require that all pilots and operators of Cessna 208 Caravan series airplanes carefully check for ice and/or snow on the wings and tail before any flight when temperatures are conducive to frost or ground icing. Also, pilots of Caravans equipped for flight into known icing conditions should be required to undergo annual training on ice safety, the NTSB said. The NTSB based its recommendations on a study of 26 icing-related accidents and incidents involving Caravans between 1987 and 2003, which resulted in at least 36 fatalities. The FAA has 90 days to respond to the recommendation. Cessna said in a statement that it cooperated fully with the NTSB study and "is committed to the safe operation of all its aircraft," The Wichita Eagle reported.

...Mitsubishi Pilots Need Simulator Time, Company Says

After four fatal crashes of Mitsubishi MU-2 twin turboprops this year, the manufacturer is recommending that pilots of its planes get specialized training in flight simulators, Ralph Sorrells, deputy general manager of Mitsubishi's aircraft product support division, said in The Denver Post on Saturday. Sorrells said his company is "deeply concerned, and we're in the process of trying to get the word out" about the best training practices for MU-2 aviators, the Post said. "I think it's a great airplane, but it has some unique characteristics," John Paul Jones of Colorado, who has logged about 4,800 hours in MU-2 aircraft, told the Post. "If you do not thoroughly understand those characteristics, you're in a precarious flying position." The plane "takes more experience to fly" than the "young guys" who fly it for freight-hauling often have, said Jones. In 36 years, MU-2s have been involved in 180 accidents, killing more than 200 people, the Associated Press reported last week. Mitsubishi is working with the FAA on a possible national upgrade of training for pilots who fly more sophisticated twin-engine turboprops such as the MU-2, Sorrells said. Mitsubishi stopped making the planes in the mid-1980s. About 420 are still flying worldwide.

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Mooney Aerospace Group Reorganizes

Mooney Aerospace Group (MASG) Ltd.'s reorganization plan was approved in federal bankruptcy court last week, the company said in a news release. As part of the plan, the company will reacquire the stock of Mooney Airplane Company (MAC) from its current owner, Allen Financial Holdings. Existing shareholders will be issued new shares of MASG common stock based on a reverse split of 3,223 old MASG shares for one share of new common stock. CEO J. Nelson Happy said: "We are very pleased to have the bankruptcy proceeding behind us. We now have a fresh start without old financial problems diverting management's attention from our core business, which is making and selling airplanes and thereby enhancing shareholder value." Under the plan, Allen Holdings will receive 50 percent of the reorganized company's stock, creditors will receive 46 percent and stockholders will get the remaining 4 percent, according to the San-Antonio Express-News. MASG is based in Kerrville, Texas, and Mooney Airplane Company is its operating subsidiary. MAC sells five models of the M20 four-place single-engine airplane, now available with the Garmin G-1000 glass panel display.

Chicago Could Face More Fines For Bulldozing Meigs

The FAA could levy fines of as much as $8.7 million against the city of Chicago for its destruction of Meigs Field last year, The Associated Press reported last week. The city used $2.9 million in airport development funds to remove the runway and replace the asphalt with topsoil. The FAA is investigating whether federal funds intended for repairs at O'Hare and Midway were improperly diverted to pay for the destruction, FAA spokesman Tony Molinaro told the AP. If the FAA finds the funds were misused, the city could be fined three times the amount, or $8.7 million. City officials have defended the use of the federal money. Mayor Richard Daley has said the airport, which leased the land from the park district, had a legal responsibility to restore the property to its original condition, according to the AP. As AVweb reported, the city was fined $33,000 by the FAA in October for failing to give 30 days notice before shutting down the airport.

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Loose Paint + Jet Engines = $50 Million

Boeing last week had to replace 10 brand-new jet engines on 737s ready for customer delivery, after tiny glass beads were found inside the engines. The beads, the size of sugar granules, were mixed into paint for reflective runway stripes that were repainted early this month, and somehow were ingested into the engines during test runs. Mechanics could see the beads in the engine intakes when they shone a flashlight in, The Seattle Times reported on Saturday. The county is removing the paint and will replace it with glass-free striping, the Times said. The damaged engines, worth $5 million each, have been replaced with new ones, and are being evaluated to see if they will be repaired or scrapped. "The process that they use for painting taxiways and runways is the same process they use nationwide," FAA spokesman Allen Kenitzer told the Times. "We're trying to figure out why things were ingested here and we haven't seen it anywhere else."

747 Thrust Setting Cited In Fiery Crash

The takeoff thrust was incorrectly set on a 747 that crashed on takeoff in October, investigators said last week. The cargo aircraft, operated by MK Airlines of Ghana, was trying to take off at Halifax International Airport in Nova Scotia when its tail struck the runway. The airplane broke apart and exploded, killing all seven crewmembers on board. Newer jets have warning systems to alert the crew to incorrect power settings, but this 747 was not so equipped, investigators said. The investigation is ongoing, and crew fatigue is being scrutinized. The flight crew had been on duty for at least 12 hours. The plane was carrying a heavy load of fish and other cargo, but investigators said it was within limits. Last week, workers who are still cleaning up debris and fuel at the crash site erected a Christmas tree in remembrance of the dead, as families arrived at the site for a memorial service.

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FCC Considers Lifting Airborne Cellphone Ban

When the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) asked the public last week for comment regarding the use of cellphones on airplanes, it got an earful. By the weekend, nearly 2,000 air travelers had sent in e-mails, the vast majority pleading that the phones -- too many of which come with loud yakkers attached -- continue to be banned. But the FCC says issues of annoyance are not within its purview. In any case, changes will not take place until the FAA is done with studies now underway, which is not expected to be before 2006. If the ban is lifted, airlines may choose to erect cell-free zones on board. Some Amtrak commuter trains have designated "quiet cars," which have proved popular. For GA pilots who fly in smaller cockpits, that may not be an option. FCC rules require cellular phones to be turned off once an aircraft leaves the ground to avoid interfering with terrestrial cellular systems. FAA regulations also restrict the use of mobile telephones and other portable electronic devices on aircraft to ensure against interference to onboard communications and navigation equipment.

The FCC also announced last week that it will auction off licenses for operating in the 800-MHz band currently dedicated to commercial air-ground service. The FCC said this action will help bring broadband services to the traveling public onboard aircraft and lead to greater technical, economic and marketplace efficiency for this spectrum. New air-ground service may be any type (e.g., voice, data, broadband internet, etc.) and may be provided to any or all aviation markets (e.g., commercial, military and general), the FCC said.

Trigger Design, Pilot Error Cited In Accidental School Strafing

Pilot error, a poorly designed pilot-vehicle interface, and the lack of a published safety procedure were found as causes for 27 ammunition rounds being accidentally expended by an F-16 during a training mission at the Warren Grove Range, N.J., on Nov. 3, according to an accident report released Friday by the Air National Guard. Some of the rounds struck a New Jersey school four miles south of the range, but it was about 11 p.m. and no schoolchildren were in the building. No one was injured in the incident. Air National Guard officials said that as a result of the investigation, changes in procedures and aircraft software will be made to avoid any further incidents. Additionally, aircraft at the range will be restricted as to when they can arm weapons, and flight plans will be altered to point weapons toward unpopulated areas. The trigger is designed to shoot a laser at the target when it is partially depressed, and shoot bullets when fully depressed. The pilot had reportedly been warned before the flight to be careful not to use the laser prematurely, but did so anyway. The F-16 was from the District of Columbia Air National Guard's 113th Wing at Andrews Air Force Base, Md.

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On The Fly...

Diamond's turbo-diesel TwinStar has received IFR certification from the European Aviation Safety Agency, the company announced yesterday. Deliveries in Europe begin next month...

Photo IDs for pilots included in intelligence reform bill signed into law last week...

The launch date for Steve Fossett's GlobalFlyer round-the-world nonstop solo flight has been pushed back from early January to early February...

NASA retired its venerable B-52B mothership after nearly 50 years. The airplane launched both the X-15 rocket and the X-43A scramjet. It will be put on display at the Edwards Air Force Flight Test Center Museum...

The Air Care Alliance has scheduled its AIR CARE annual national conference for the last weekend in April 2005, in North Carolina...

AOPA will run ads promoting GA on the Weather Channel during the holiday season.

AVweb's Newstips Address ...

Drop us a line. If it caught your attention, it will probably interest someone else, too. Submit news tips via email to newstips@avweb.com.

Avidyne is accepting orders for a complimentary software upgrade for EX500 owners. The new Release 2.0 software adds major highways to the terrain base map, provides interface capability for XM Datalink (with XMD-076) for MultiLink™, TIS Traffic (with GTX 330), and enhanced "Nearest Airport" selection. Order yours today. For complete details, go to http://www.avweb.com/sponsors/avidyne/avflash.

New Articles and Features on AVweb

CEO of the Cockpit #40: Dear Santa
Finding himself a swimming-pool-bound prisoner of a three-day re-route, the CEO takes a little time off from his enforced Fort Lauderdale layover to jot down a few ideas for the bearded fat man.

Reader feedback on AVweb's news coverage and feature articles:


Reader mail this week about Cessna's generosity, cone of no safety, the ATC death ray and more.

AVweb's Business AVflash

HAVE YOU SIGNED UP yet for AVweb’s NO-COST twice monthly Business AVflash? Reporting on breaking news, Business AVflash also focuses on the companies, the products and the industry leaders that make headlines in the Business of Aviation. Business AVflash is a must read. Watch for a Business AVflash regular feature, TSA WATCH: GA IN THE "SPOTLIGHT". Sign up today at http://www.avweb.com/profile/

It's Woody, staff member of Pilot Getaways magazine who has traveled from coast to coast helping the publisher and editor bring subscribers the best fly-in destinations.  Woody has logged over 1,600 hours and has something to say about the places he's visited, from the Southwest to the Northeast, small grass strips in Canada, remote Mexican beaches, and places in between. If you love dogs or just need a smile, go to http://www.avweb.com/sponsors/getaways/woody/avflash.

Short Final...

As I approached untowered Booneville (AR) Municipal Airport, I announced on CTAF. This was the exchange:

Me: Skylane 123 entering left downwind, runway 27 Booneville.

Unicom: Roger, Skylane 123, Wind is calm. Sklane 123, your rotating beacon is not working. Wait ... yes it is. No it's not. Yes it is....

Me: Roger, thanks.

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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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Today's issue written by News Writer Mary Grady:
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