December 22, 2004
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
This issue of AVweb's AVflash is brought to you by ... LightSPEED Aviation
LIGHTSPEED AVIATION INTRODUCES NEW LINE OF HEADSETS
During a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, John Carr, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), said he believed the FAA's 10-year air traffic controller staffing plan announced on Tuesday could lead to general aviation's being charged for services provided by the FAA. "This is the kind of report that opens the door to user fees," Carr said. Under the plan, the FAA hopes to hire a total of 12,500 new controllers over the 10 years to replace 11,700 who will likely retire. But user fees for GA are not part of the plan (at least not yet). FAA chief spokesman Greg Martin told AVweb Wednesday that any suggestion of user fees being implemented in the near future is wrong. "No, not at this time. Let me be emphatic about that," he said. In a news release, FAA Administrator Marion Blakey said a key component to the plan is a revamped training program that will see new controllers fully qualified in two to three years rather than the three to five years that is typical now. The agency also plans more elaborate candidate screening and more simulator training to make training more efficient and cut the failure rate to 5 percent. Carr said he'll believe it when he sees it. He said fewer than half of those who enter ATC training end up fully qualified because of the unique demands of the job.
Martin (of the FAA) told AVweb that to get the funding required for the hiring program from Congress, the agency -- and the union -- will have to sharpen their pencils. "These are times that present some very valid fiscal constraints and challenges," Martin said. "We cannot show an unwillingness to work smarter and control our costs. These times of expansive budgets are gone." Martin said the whole aviation industry is suffering financially and that that has a direct, bottom-line impact on the FAA: "We are not exempt from the same fiscal challenges." But Carr (of NATCA) suggested that much of the report was structured to soften up the union for the next round of contract negotiations, due to start next year. "That's patently false," said Martin. (Can't we all just get along?) Carr said his initial examination of the 90-page plan (he called the teleconference two hours after receiving a copy) revealed gaps and flaws that make it questionable whether the goals can be reached. "Their numbers just do not add up," he said. He said he's particularly concerned about the fast-track training proposals. "Cutting corners on training cuts corners on safety," he said. "This is nothing more than a Wal-Mart solution wrapped up in a Tiffany's box."
Carr said the union will "trump" a component of the plan that will cut hours of operations at 34 yet-to-be-named towers. He said reducing service will inevitably lead to flight delays, and the report acknowledges that if the hiring goals are not met, safety considerations will take precedence over capacity. "We need to tell the flying public to take a good book to the airport because they're going to be there awhile," he said. He said he believes the impending staffing crisis will result in GA's being unwelcome at some airports. "I think you're going to see GA squeezed away from urban areas," he said. "I think that's dangerous." Carr also criticized plans to allow some controllers to work beyond the mandatory retirement age of 56. He said current scientific data suggests there's a sharp decline in sight, hearing and other necessary skills as people hit their mid-50s and that science offers no evidence to justify relaxing the retirement age. "It's a function of physiology," he said. The FAA has published a notice in the Federal Register to allow "exceptional, medically fit controllers" to bypass the retirement cutoff. But Carr said he doesn't think the agency will get many takers. He said most controllers have arranged their affairs (a six-figure income helps) to enjoy a fulfilling retirement beginning at age 56 and he doesn't think there are many who want to work beyond that.
Then there are some who say that there is no shortage of controllers -- just a shortage of will (and/or money) to hire them. Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization Inc. (PATCO) President Ron Taylor pointed out that when then-President Clinton lifted the ban against hiring controllers fired in 1981 by then-President Reagan (thus precipitating the current situation) more than 5,000 of the fired controllers applied to get their jobs back. Taylor said 846 were actually hired. Some PATCO members are trying to get the courts to force the FAA to rehire them. Taylor joined Carr in criticizing the FAA for dragging its feet in hiring new controllers. "This latest scramble to hire desperately needed controllers only shows that this agency has been out of control for 23 years," Taylor said. The FAA's Martin noted that previously appointed (read Democrat) administrators knew the problem was coming years ago but did nothing: "Two years into her mandate, this administrator has taken action to address this problem." And three years from now (it's a ten-year plan, remember) someone else will have the job. Stay tuned.
THE SCHEYDEN GIVEAWAY CONTINUES! LOG ON TO SEE THE LATEST WINNERS
Call an easyJet pilot a good stick and you may get more than you bargained for. Those saucy British have been at it again, baring all for charity calendars, and this time around it's a bunch of jet jockeys, minus the jockeys. "It isn't every day you can wander around the airport naked without being arrested," said Capt. Tim Burns, who fleshed out the scheme with First Officer Gareth Blakely. The calendar proceeds, with carefully posed images of pilots on the tarmac, on the runway, and in the ... cockpit ... will go to the National Society for Epilepsy. Meanwhile, the theme appears widespread -- a popular aviation charity was also the benefactor of a no-secrets display, this one by some Australian women. The Hervey Bay Crafters went without a stitch to aid Angel Flight. In fact, the images of the women (aged 58 to 84), who normally meet for folk art, decoupage and Faberge eggs, sold 850 calendars at $12 AUS each, adding up to a total donation of $11,500 for Angel Flight. Angel Flight Chairman Bill Bristow picked up the check personally but he apparently missed the real fun. "When we first started, we were a bit shy and covering ourselves up, but in the end there were [...parts...] everywhere and nobody gave a [...darn...]," calendar girl Shirley Dolman told the Courier-Mail newspaper.
Of course you don't have to get down and dirty for a good cause. About 140 Michigan pilots took part in Operation Good Cheer this year to deliver a dozen truckloads of gifts throughout the state to foster children. This great excuse to fly began in 1980 (for pilots -- the charity itself has been around since '71) with a single pilot who went to 16 different airports. "We love to fly and there's nothing better than flying with a purpose," said West Line Cessna 210 pilot Mark Neal. Mother Nature wasn't as charitable, however. Some of the pilots bucked 50-knot headwinds to make the deliveries, which ultimately found their way to 4,800 young abuse and neglect victims. But the good cheer didn't end there. In yet another unrelated charitable event, the Candy Bomber has struck again, this time on North Carolina's Outer Banks. Almost 60 years after he dropped candy from his C-54 to German children during the Berlin Airlift, retired Col. Gail Halvorsen planned to repeat the gesture for less desperate, but likely just as appreciative, kids near Nags Head, N.C. Halvorsen, last Saturday, hoped to drop 100 candy-laden parachutes from the C-54, which took part in the airlift and is now dubbed the Spirit of Freedom. After landing at Dare County Regional Airport, Santa was to have disembarked and greeted kids there.
A SUBSCRIPTION TO WEATHERTAP.COM IS A PERFECT PILOT GIFT
The TSA appears to be opening restricted airspace and airports a crack for business aviation. According to the National Business Aviation Association's (NBAA's) Web site, Rear Adm. David Stone, the assistant secretary of Homeland Security, said the TSA Access Certificate (TSAAC -- used to grant waivers for some international operations) will likely be modified. The result would be a certificate that could be used to grant waivers for business aircraft flying into security-restricted airports and airspace in the U.S. NBAA President Ed Bolen said it's the first time the TSAAC has been publicly discussed as an option for domestic GA operations. Meanwhile, AOPA is lamenting the resignation of Adm. James Loy as the Department of Homeland Security's second-in-command. Loy announced earlier this week he was leaving the post. His resignation comes weeks after Department of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge pulled the pin. AOPA President Phil Boyer said Loy was vitally interested in the effect of security issues on general aviation and wanted to hear from pilots. "He allowed AOPA open access to him, which greatly aided pilots on important GA matters," Boyer said. Ridge and Loy will stay on until March 1 or until replacements are named.
If you don't think a wrecked Piper Aerostar could be worth $24 million you've probably never packed one with cocaine (and that's a good thing). Wheeling, W.Va., police are looking for the Aerostar's pilot after the plane crashed on airport property. It was carrying 520 pounds of the drug, some of it wrapped as Christmas gifts. The plane apparently crashed about 10 p.m. last Saturday but wasn't found until about 12 hours later. (The tower there is closed at night.) The alleged pilot, who police have identified but not yet found, apparently flagged down a passing motorist and paid him for a ride to a local motel with notes peeled from a wad of $100 bills. The man authorities are looking for then allegedly spent the night at the local Holiday Inn Express, calling relatives from his room phone. One of the Aerostar's wings came off but the cockpit was relatively intact, according to investigators. They haven't ruled out the possibility that another person was on board the plane.
LOOK TO THE PIEDMONT HAWTHORNE AIRCRAFT SALES TEAM WHEN YOU'RE BUYING or SELLING YOUR NEXT AIRCRAFT
Those hoping to obtain a sport pilot certificate or instructor certificate in the coming year can now get their certified training records online from the EAA Web site ... provided they previously registered with EAA before the Sept. 1, 2004, deadline. The records must be presented before pilots can take the written and practical tests for the certificates. The written tests can be taken at authorized centers now but it will be a few weeks before the first flight tests are done. The FAA hopes to have the first crop of examiners certified in January. If you're planning to take the written soon, there's some helpful reading available on the EAA Web site. EAA has posted a sample database of test questions, both for pilots and for instructors.
The TSA alien flight-training rule is now in full effect but efforts continue in the background to make it "less intrusive," according to an AOPA spokesman. The organization's government specialist Andy Cebula said any non-U.S. citizen beginning training for a new rating or certificate must be registered with the TSA and undergo background checks. It's up to their flight instructors and/or flight schools to determine the citizenship of their students and make sure non-U.S. citizens go through the security mill. Cebula said AOPA tried to get the TSA to back off on the requirements for resident aliens, many of whom have called the U.S. home for decades. "TSA refuses to budge on this issue," he said. All resident aliens are investigated and fingerprinted by U.S. Immigration but the TSA doesn't trust the border folks to weed out the potential terrorists. Of course, if history is any indicator ...
IF YOUR CELL PHONE CAN SURF THE NET, IT CAN RECEIVE AVIATION WEATHER
The U.S. Navy claims it has met all environmental and legal obligations to establish a 30,000-acre training base in North Carolina. It filed a 77-page document supporting its claim as part of an appeal in a tangled legal proceeding over the base. However, an environmental group and two county governments are accusing the Navy of massaging the data to make the base look like it fits better than it really does. There is major opposition to the base, which would include an 8,000-foot runway. It will be used for carrier training of F/A-18 Super Hornet pilots. Among the most contentious issues is the location of a nearby wildlife preserve. More than 100,000 waterfowl winter at the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Preserve. Environmental experts say the birds will be a major threat to the aircraft for about six months of the year. But in the Navy's view, the issue is location. The proposed base is between F/A-18 bases in Virginia and North Carolina. A judge has ordered the Navy to stop working on acquiring property for the base until a lawsuit filed by opponents is settled. The Navy has appealed the stop-work order and the lawsuit should be heard in January.
A motorcycle-racer-turned-computer-engineer-turned-airplane-designer claims to have designed a wing with "twice the lift and half the drag of anything in the world." The wing is just one of the improvements Bill Montagne has made to the basic Super Cub design to create the Mountain Goat, which (hauling a 1,330 pound useful load off the ground in 300 feet) he touts as the ultimate bush plane. Montagne has tweaked engine performance and added safety features to the plane, which he says is now unmatched in performance. He claims a 10-knot reduction in stall speed over the Super Cub and a top end of almost 150 knots on 180 hp, in an interview with the Associated Press. Montagne said he came up with the design because he didn't like the anachronistic construction of the Super Cubs he saw. "If you say I'm going to think completely out of the box, you can come up with something new -- and that's what I did," he said. It may be revolutionary, but the Mountain Goat shares some common problems with other aircraft. Funding to get certification and production off the ground is hard to find. Montagne, who has sat with the design for years, estimates he's spent $4 million of his own money developing the aircraft and needs another $6 million to get it into production. ... Santa?
FLYING RENTED OR BORROWED AIRCRAFT?
The 50-year-old tradition of tracking Santa on radar resumes this year with some high-tech twists. The North American Aerospace Defense Command has set up a Web site that will include real-time tracking of Santas progress plus digital photos
Two people died when their Cessna 182 severed a support line on a 900-foot radio tower in La Mirada, Calif., last Sunday. The tower was also toppled in the accident, which killed the married couple who were occupants of the aircraft
Fractional operators can breathe a sigh of relief. The FAA has corrected a notice that originally stated that they had to be in compliance with FAR Part 91, Subpart K, by Dec. 17. The correct date is Feb. 17, 2005
AVweb founder Mike Busch will conduct a seminar at the Professional Aviation Maintenance Association maintenance symposium in Las Vegas March 6-7. "Savvy Piston Aircraft Maintenance" is aimed at both owners and mechanics and is based on Buschs "Savvy Aviator" series of workshops, which support better communication between owners and mechanics.
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.
SEE CLEARLY METHOD IMPROVES & STRENGTHENS VISION NATURALLY
The Savvy Aviator #13: Putting Compression In Context
The differential compression check is one of the quickest, easiest, and most useful tools we have for measuring the top-end health of a piston aircraft engine. Yet many owners, mechanics, and even the FAA seem confused about how to perform the test properly and how to interpret the results. It's not rocket science.
The Night Before Christmas - Aviation Style
A retelling of the 19th-century story, especially for aviators. This has been floating around the Internet for years in various forms -- and probably was passed around as photocopies for years before that.
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NO-COST RESOURCES FOR STUDENT PILOTS!
*** PREVIOUS RESULTS ***
Last week, AVweb asked your opinion on biometrics as strategy in the war on terror. Specifically, if the U.S. does introduce legislation to add biometric parameters to your pilot certificate, should they also require biometric readings for mechanics?
13% of the readers who responded to last week's question were in favor of biometrics for mechanics. What's good for the goose, they say, is good for the gander ... .
Another 20% of you agreed that pilots and mechanics should be treated equally in this arena: No one should be tagged with biometric identifiers. For this segment of readers, biometrics are the ultimate invasion of privacy.
The majority of you (61%) agreed with this statment: The identification of law-abiding people is not the problem -- a terrorist doesn't need any kind of license to inflict his will. Besides, the new certificates will not be issued to current certificate holders. Has anyone taken a look at the cost/benefit of this idea?
*** THIS WEEK'S QUESTION ***
This week, AVweb looks at some numbers and posits a logical deduction:
Air traffic controllers suffer mandatory retirement at 56 because scientific data suggests there's a sharp decline in sight, hearing, and other necessary skills as people hit their mid-50s; and science offers no evidence to justify relaxing the retirement age. "It's a function of physiology," according to National Air Traffic Controllers Association President John Carr. At the same time, airline pilots suffer mandatory retirement at 60 (and in many countries, 65).
This may suggest that, in the eyes of regulators, pilots have the less physiologically demanding job. In very simple black-and-white terms, what do you think:
Do mandatory retirement ages indicate a difference in the physical demands placed on pilots and on controllers?
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NO-COST SHIPPING UPGRADE FOR USED AVIONICS FROM BENNETT
Submit a Photo | Rules | Tips | Questions
Current POTW Winner | Past POTW Winners
Want to guess this week's theme? It's holiday pictures, of course and, surprisingly, Middle America. One in five "POTW" submissions in this round came from Ohio, Indiana, or Illinois. Good work, folks thanks for putting us in a festive mood!
Due to privacy issues, AVweb does not publish e-mail addresses of readers who submit photos.
Used with permission of Steve Stombaugh
"Christmas Time at the Tower"
Steve Stombaugh of Indianapolis, Indiana writes:
"In last week's 'POTW,' Jared Yates claims, 'I don't think
you'll see decorations on any tower in the U.S., much less
a major international airport!' Sorry, Jared, this is the
tower cab at Indianapolis International Airport!"
And quite a sight it is, Steve! Thanks for submitting
this image, and be sure to leave your stocking up a
few extra days this year your AVweb
baseball cap is on the way!
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.
"Fill 'Er Up, Please!"
Bryan Oetting of Decatur, Indiana snapped this
this photo during a food-and-fuel stopover on a
cross-country flight. The Skyhawk is his, and the
Aeronca Chief belongs to his friend Shay Ponstler.
"We did get a few stares when 'topping off,'" writes Bryan.
Used with permission of Bob Hamel
"'Tis the Season of Hangar Flying at Lyncrest"
Bob Hamel of Winnipeg, Manitoba (Canada)
was one of several submitters this week
who chilled us to the bone.
Maybe it's time for some more articles on icing ... .
Bonus Holiday Pictures!
Because you've been very good this year,
here are a couple of extra pictures
to put you in the holiday spirit:
Used with permission of Bill Everson
"A neighbor put up this display," writes Bill Everson
of Elmhurst, Illinois. "I drove past it several times before
realizing the similarity to a VOR's antennae."
Used with permission of Mark Murdock
"Santa's Helper Hits the Pilots' Lounge"
Mark Murdock of Griffin, Georgia sent us
a couple of festive pics we'd expect nothing
less from a man who named his dog "Tequiza"
but the caption on this one was our favorite:
"Pilots' lounge at Bella Field ... is a little rough."
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 every piece stops.
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