December 29, 2004
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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With a new year right around the corner, the landscape of aviation is about to experience some changes. Workers at the FAA's Flight Service Stations are awaiting a decision, expected in January, on who will run their operations in the future. Air traffic controllers may soon suffer the pangs of "Be careful what you wish for," as the FAA sends hundreds of new hires into their facilities. And for those who fly in the flight levels, Domestic Reduced Vertical Separation Minimums take effect on Jan. 20. The FAA says the added routes between Flight Levels 280 and 410 will save time and money, but many GA operators are skeptical. Nonetheless, they must upgrade their equipment and complete all the paperwork to become RVSM compliant, or resign themselves to flying at FL280 or lower. The option exists also to transit the RVSM airspace and fly en route above FL410, but how that will work out in practice remains to be seen. Not far behind the new airspace rules, turbine aircraft that can carry six or more passengers will need to comply with new rules to have a Terrain Awareness and Warning System installed -- that deadline is March 30.
The X Prize was just the beginning. Thanks to Mojave Aerospace Ventures, spaceships are now part of the GA world. The BBC News reported on Monday that Virgin Galactic's fleet of five spaceships, to be built by Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites, will have luxury accommodations for up to eight passengers and will be capable of about one flight per day. Plans call for a cabin height of 6 feet and width of 7 feet, the BBC said, with fully reclining seats to help even elderly passengers cope with the six G's expected during phases of the ... trip. Passengers will be free to float in the cabin, and use the time as they please, Rutan told the BBC -- whether that's to look at the window, conduct a science experiment, play with a cat, or, if a couple wanted to buy out the whole ship and use that time for personal ... recreation ... that's fine with Rutan, too ... provided they're quick about it. The ships will reach about 87 miles (about 25 miles higher than SpaceShipOne) and allow for an extra 90 seconds of weightlessness. "This experience is going to have very few restrictions on what you can do because these payloads are doing it for fun and every person has a different idea of what fun is," Rutan told the BBC. "You have bought the ride, you paid for it." Virgin Galactic expects the seats to cost about $190,000 apiece. The company says it will open for business early in 2005, though it may not start operating spaceflights until 2007.
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Rick Schramek of Epic Aircraft told AVweb on Tuesday that the Epic Jet prototype is about 85 percent complete. "The T-tail and the nacelles are on, and the nosecone goes on in January," he said. "About 75 percent of it is the same as the LT, so that makes it easier. We'll probably fly it in June." The LT is Epic's six-seat turboprop Malibu-killer that debuted at Oshkosh last summer, a year after the design was announced. Epic also is building a new 100,000-square-foot factory at Bend, Ore., that will be ready in April, and a jet facility is in the works at Redmond Airport, Schramek said. He said the Epic LT is undergoing flight testing now, and the first customer delivery is set for February. That first airplane will be flown in the Experimental category, but FAA certification is in the works. "We're still on time and on budget," Schramek said. Workers from the Georgia Republic are in Bend now, he said, being trained on the composite work. They will fabricate parts in Georgia, but the airplane will be assembled in the U.S. Schramek added that he has 42 orders for the LT, with five currently under construction, but isn't talking yet about orders for the jet. The jet may debut with a 35-knot (and $150,000) ... improvement ... over the LT -- along with a superior fuel burn. He said he expects to deliver the first jet in December 2005.
Hartzell Propeller Inc. announced on Tuesday that its blended-airfoil propeller system for the Adam Aircraft A500 centerline-twin has passed the final hurdle for certification on the aircraft. A recent FAA regulation requires all new pusher-propeller installations, such as the aft propeller on the Adam A500, to ingest airframe ice shed during an inadvertent icing encounter without causing a hazardous condition, Hartzell said. The newly designed test used a compressed-gas gun at the University of Dayton Impact Physics Lab to shoot softball-sized ice balls at the propeller at speeds up to 520 miles per hour. This test simulated a long section of wing-leading-edge ice striking the propeller blade at the most critical position, angle and velocity, Hartzell said. The propeller passed the test, making the A500 the first production aircraft to have passed such a test. In October 2004, Adam Aircraft was expecting the first customer deliveries of its A500 push/pull twin before the end of the year.
THE SCHEYDEN GIVEAWAY CONTINUES! LOG ON TO SEE THE LATEST WINNERS
It's that time of year for reflecting on what we've achieved with a year's worth of time on earth, and maybe making resolutions that in the year to come will make us better citizens of the world. For those so endowed and those so inclined, aviation offers plenty of opportunities to help out. Angel Flight America Network recruits volunteer pilots to provide air transport for needy medical patients and their families. Air Care Alliance offers an extensive listing of varied volunteer opportunities in aviation, for both pilots and non-pilots. And if your empathies extend beyond fellow humans to your fellow creatures, SkyArk needs pilots to help transport animals and wildlife, or you could fly environmental missions for LightHawk.
You can also volunteer to fly for homeland security and disaster relief efforts. Civil Air Patrol pilots fly those missions, as well as search-and-rescue and counterdrug reconnaissance. They transport medical personnel and supplies, and in times of disaster, they assess damage and transport emergency personnel from site to site. The CAP owns the largest fleet of single-engine piston aircraft in the nation. Volunteer pilots for the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary also fly search-and-rescue, and they help to monitor fishing areas, patrol for ice, and support efforts to protect marine resources, such as coping with oil spills. Check with each organization for its standards for pilots to qualify.
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Local pilots at Fullerton (Calif.) Municipal Airport have complained for years that a 760-foot-tall radio tower just a mile and a half from a runway is a hazard, the Los Angeles Times reported last week. On Dec. 19, a Cessna 182 hit the tower at about 9:45 a.m. and crashed into a warehouse parking lot. Jim and Mary Ghosoph, both 51, died. The orange and white tower, built in 1947, is owned by Clear Channel Communications, and is used to broadcast a local AM radio station. Pilots had long lobbied for strobe lights to be added to the structure, and in 2001, both of Fullerton's airport advisory committees asked the radio station managers to add strobes. The tower is difficult to see even in clear weather due to all the ground clutter in the area, according to local pilots. The current radio-station manager told the Times the tower had all the lighting it was required to have, and he was unaware of any complaints from pilots.
The FAA last week released its annual revision of its Flight Plan -- the agency's strategic plan for the next five years, originally published in 2003. The plan sets the agency's priorities -- increased safety, greater capacity, international leadership and organizational excellence. The revision reflects input gleaned from almost 1,000 comments and suggestions, about 80 percent of them from employees and the rest from various stakeholders, the FAA said. The plan also lists the FAA's achievements for 2004, which include reduced GA accidents, especially in Alaska; a reduction in serious runway incursions; certifying the first receiver for the Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) and its first "virtual" public meeting. "Our goal was to develop a tighter, more disciplined Flight Plan with improved performance targets, fewer initiatives, and a plan that is more responsive to the entire aerospace community," said FAA Administrator Marion Blakey. The FAA also listed as a major achievement its first "virtual" public rulemaking meeting, held in March in reference to the contentious air-tour rules -- an event that was met with a less than enthusiastic response from many in the GA world, who wanted to confront the rulemakers face to face. The FAA also congratulated itself that there were no injuries to the public during commercial space launch operations. Yup.
LONG FLIGHTS FEEL SHORTER WITH A COMFORTABLE SEAT
The airlines had a rough holiday weekend, coping with winter storms, computer crashes, and staff shortages, and now they're facing the fallout, including a federal investigation. Secretary of Transportation Norm Mineta wants to know why regional airline Comair, a subsidiary of Delta, didn't have a backup plan when its scheduling software crashed over the weekend, grounding about 1,100 flights and stranding thousands of passengers. Mineta also wants the investigation to come up with an explanation for US Airways' cancellation of hundreds of flights over the same long weekend, when about triple the usual number of flight attendants, baggage handlers and ramp workers called in sick. "It is important that the Department and the traveling public understand what happened, why it happened, and whether the carriers properly planned for the holiday travel period and responded appropriately to consumer needs in the aftermath," Mineta said. Union officials said the sick calls at US Airways were not an organized job action. Yesterday, Comair was working to get back to a full schedule, and is already working to replace the old computer system, which it said should take a few months.
The FAA released its Practical Test Standards for Sport Pilots this week, and they are posted online. The standards are crucial to flight training. "Flight instructors need to know to what [the standards are] to train their students," said AOPA spokesman Rob Hackman in a statement yesterday. "Now that the practical test standards are available online, they can easily and quickly refer to them at any time." The practical test standards for sport pilot airplane, gyroplane, glider, airship, balloon, weight shift control, powered parachute, and flight instructor are available online at the FAA Web site. EAA has posted a sample database of test questions, both for pilots and for instructors. All of these documents could be updated and corrected as the sport pilot program progresses, AOPA said. The weight-shift control and powered parachute standards should be published sometime in January.
PROTECT & SHINE YOUR AIRCRAFT WITH A NAME YOU KNOW & TRUST AEROSHELL
Most pilots have had the dream ... the one where gravity melts away, and you can lift both feet off the ground and fly like a bird. It's the ultimate in aviating, and while nobody yet has figured out exactly how to make it work for humans, you can get a taste of it at Discovery's bird-tech site, where video shots from tiny cameras attached to Tilly the golden eagle reveal every twist and turn of this most-sophisticated all-natural flight-management system. The technology is a step beyond what was used to film the movie, Winged Migration, released in 2001. To capture birds in flight in that film, those filmmakers followed them aloft using gliders, helicopters, balloons, remote-controlled model aircraft and ultralights. Five teams worked for three years, visiting seven continents. If you missed it in theaters, the film is now out on DVD.
Yes, the election season is over, but TFRs are here to stay. This week, it's New York's celebration of New Year's Eve that is closing down airspace. Aircraft are banned below 4,000 feet above parts of Manhattan from 8 p.m. on Friday until 1 a.m. on Saturday, affecting operations at several heliports and a seaplane base (stay far away from the big shiny ball -- and read the full NOTAM here). TFRs are also expected above Los Angeles for New Year's and during the upcoming football bowl games. EAA noted last week that a recent report by the federal Government Accountability Office acknowledged the negative economic impact of TFRs on the GA industry, yet found that the FAA does not have a system in place for their periodic review. Instead, keeping continuing TFRs in force is based on "unspecified security reasons submitted by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA)," the report said. EAA also said the departure of Secretary Tom Ridge and Deputy Secretary James Loy at the TSA will mean that 2005 starts off with a period of transition, and implies that it will be tough to make much progress on any issues until new leadership is in place.
IF YOUR CELL PHONE CAN SURF THE NET, IT CAN RECEIVE AVIATION WEATHER
The Pentagon is planning sharp cuts in the F/A-22 Raptor fighter jet program, citing a budget crunch, The New York Times reported yesterday... AOPA's Win-A-Twin entry deadline is Friday at midnight... Need more Centennial of Flight souvenirs? Get 'em now, First Flight Store closes for good in January.
Drop us a line. If it caught your attention, it will probably interest someone else, too. Submit news tips via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
FLYING RENTED OR BORROWED AIRCRAFT?
Neither A Lender Nor A Borrower Be ... Non-Owner Pilots And Liability Insurance
If you borrow a friend's car, you're covered by their car insurance. But if you borrow their plane, you are probably not covered by their aircraft liability insurance. Same if you rent a plane from an FBO. Are you prepared to pay out tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars if there is an accident? AVweb's Kevin Garrison looks at insurance for those who don't own the plane they are flying.
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ATTENTION, CESSNA OWNERS AND PILOTS
*** PREVIOUS RESULTS ***
Last week, AVweb pointed out that air traffic controllers have a mandatory retirement age of 56. According to the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), the retirement age reflects scientific data suggesting that there's a sharp decline in physical ability as controllers hit their mid-50s. Given that pilots don't suffer mandatory retirement until age 60 (or 65, in some cases), AVweb asked if we could take this as a sign that ATC is a more physically demanding job than piloting (at least in the eyes of the regulators).
29% of those who responded thought the logic was good. "Makes sense to me," they answered.
A tiny bit more of our readership (30%) said it didn't make sense. Based on our statements and what these readers know about mandatory retirement ages, the logic just didn't add up.
But the majority of our readers (a full 41%) said there was definitely something fishy in our "logical deduction."
One reader (who went only by "Al") pointed out this bit of inescapable logic:
Maximum Entry Age [for Controllers] 31 25 Years of Service + 25 Retirement Age 56
*** THIS WEEK'S QUESTION ***
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It's the last week of 2004, and AVweb readers have settled in for their long winter's nap. While we were dutifully wrapping presents, checking our lists, and eating giant hams, a handful of AVweb readers took time to share some of their best amateur aviation photos. Let's have a look at the last of the 2004 pictures, starting with this week's baseball hat winner, Marty Tippin of Missouri.
Due to privacy issues, AVweb does not publish e-mail addresses of readers who submit photos.
copyright © Marty Tippin
Marty Tippin of Lee's Summit, Missouri chills us
with this week's winning photo. Following a 2002 ice storm in
Kansas City, "this Grumman AA-5 Traveler was sitting
on its tail from all the ice," writes Marty.
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.
Bryon Stoll of New London, Wisconsin spent his
holidays at the EAA Air Museum in Oshkosh, where
he snapped this shot of one of the three Christen Eagles
flown by Pobererzny, Gene Soucy, and Charles Hilliard
lit by holiday lights, natch!
Used with permission of Gary Dikkers
"Oshkosh World's Busiest Tower During EAA AirVenture"
Speaking of Oshkosh and the EAA, here's an image
to warm you up and get you excited about the coming year.
Gary Dikkers of Madison, Wisconsin sent us this
image of a team of 14 AT-6 Texans
framing the tower at AirVenture.
Ahhh, summer ... !
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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