January 5, 2005
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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The FAA is being urged to send volunteers to the relief effort in South Asia to help iron out the transportation infrastructure problems that are hampering the tsunami disaster relief efforts. National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) President John Carr says the 20,000 members of his union could provide invaluable on-site assistance to get aid flowing smoothly in the region. He wrote FAA Administrator Marion Blakey on Tuesday offering the union's help. In addition to controllers, the union represents professionals in disciplines ranging from architecture to finance, and many are frustrated at being able to do no more than sign a donation check. Reports Tuesday indicated that the increasingly crowded skies over some areas combined with few accommodating airstrips are straining the local air traffic control system. Carr said the union also represents critical-incident stress debriefers who could help victims and relief workers cope with the overwhelming emotional and psychological strain of dealing with the tsunami's aftermath. "These men and women were instrumental in assisting FAA employees to recover from the traumatic events of September the 11th," Carr wrote. Carr also pledged the support of NATCA members who stay behind to put in extra effort to keep things running smoothly at home.
A stray cow wandered on to the runway at Banda Aceh, in Sumatra, and was hit by a landing cargo plane. The landing gear collapsed and the airport, the only one of any size in the area, was closed for seven hours before the plane could be moved. And in India, aftershocks from the earthquake that triggered the waves caused cracks in the runway at Carnic Airport, shutting it down for use by large airplanes. It's not just the big iron that's been having a problem getting through, however. In Meulaboh, in Sumatra's Aceh Province, workers finally hacked out a rough airstrip enabling Twin Otters to bring in desperately needed supplies. Meulaboh is a fishing village near the epicenter of the quake. It's estimated that 40,000 people were killed there. "The casualty rates in Meulaboh defy imagination," said Aitor Lacomba, Indonesian director of the aid group International Rescue Committee. "Tens of thousands need immediate assistance there." See the Stress Points section of AVweb's home page for some simple ways you can contribute and register your skills as a pilot with the Center For International Disaster Information.
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Just as nature abhors a vacuum, human nature can't abide a mystery. David Jourdan, a Maine marine explorer, hopes to launch an effort this year to put our collective mind at rest as to the fate of Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan. It's been almost 70 years since the media-driven around-the-world attempt by Earhart ended somewhere between Papua New Guinea and Howland Island, and theories still abound. Jourdan is betting $1.7 million dollars and a few months of his time that the truth lies about 18,000 feet below the surface of the Pacific. Jourdan's company, Nauticos, specializes in finding undersea wrecks and it has developed search techniques using a towable sonar. Jourdan believes the theories that suggest Earhart ran out of fuel before reaching Howland Island and ditched the Lockheed Electra. He also believes the virtually inert world more than three miles deep will have preserved the Electra and maybe even some personal artifacts. Although Jourdan insists he's not in it for the money, if he finds the crash site the wreckage will be recovered and go on tour. And if you want a front-row seat for Jourdan's quest, there are a limited number of berth spaces available on the ship with fares ranging as high as $250,000.
While Jourdan and his crew (paid and paying) troll the seas, it's possible a terrestrial search for Earhart will resume on the island of Tinian, although no firm plans are in the works. As AVweb reported earlier, an archeological team spent several days last November digging at the site where a former American soldier says he was told Earhart's body was buried. The dig team found some ancient artifacts and some not-so-ancient beer bottles but nothing to indicate the aviatrix was buried there. According to the Pacific Daily News, the team is regrouping and tentatively planning another hunt after analyzing the information they've gathered. More than two dozen archeologists, historians and support workers took part in the dig. Alabama resident saint John Naftel, who is now 81, claims to have been shown the burial sites while he was stationed on Tinian with the 2nd Marine Division in 1944.
And as we try to quench our curiosity about a fallen adventurer, a modern aviation pioneer is getting set to accomplish something Earhart and her contemporaries could barely have dreamed of. Despite a three-week delay in the preparations, Steve Fossett and his Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer team are confident they'll soon claim a clutch of records in an 80-hour nonstop dash around the world. Fossett will be the only occupant of the jet-powered flying fuel tank that is expected to take off from Salina (Kansas) Municipal Airport in early February. That's right, Salina, Kansas. Fossett says on the GlobalFlyer Web site that a number of factors were considered in choosing the takeoff and landing site for the record attempt. Salina Municipal Airport is near the geographical center of the lower 48 and that gives Fossett plenty of (dry) options should they miscalculate the fuel. There's also Kansas State University adjacent to the airport, whose conference room is now being converted to mission control. Oh, and did we mention the runway? Salina (population 46,000) has one of the longest runways in North America at 12,300 feet, hopefully long enough to get Fossett and his accompanying 18,000 (or so) gallons of fuel airborne.
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A New Jersey man has admitted to pointing a laser pen at a bizjet on approach to Teterboro Airport last week, but not before trying to pin the rap on his seven-year-old daughter, according to a Reuters news report. David Banach, 38, of Parsippany, N.J., was arrested last Friday after a laser beam hit a helicopter being used by investigators to pinpoint the source of the laser in a Dec. 29 incident. Pilots of a Citation with six people aboard reported being temporarily blinded by the light as they were on final for Teterboro. One of the pilots was on board the helicopter trying to pinpoint the source when it, too, was illuminated by the green light. New Jersey was not the only site of the incidents. When the laser hit the helicopter, the pilot returned fire ... with his searchlight ... and officers on the ground moved in. According to Reuters, Banach originally told them his seven-year-old daughter was to blame but he fessed up to lasing the helicopter and the Citation after taking a lie-detector test. Banach appeared in court in Newark on Tuesday and was charged under the Patriot Act with interfering with a flight crew. He was also charged with giving false statements to the FBI. He was released on $100,000 bond. U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie told USA Today the hefty charges "send a clear message to the public that there is no harmless mischief when it comes to airplanes." Banach's lawyer, Gina Mendola-Longarzo, told The Associated Press her client was just playing with the laser with his daughter, illuminating trees and neighboring houses. "One would think they would want to devote their time and resources to prosecuting real terrorists, not people like my client," she said. Lasers have been directed at two airliners in Colorado Springs; a Continental 737 at 8,500 feet on approach to Cleveland; airliners at Houston, Medford, Ore., and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Washington, D.C.; and the Citation and helicopter near Teterboro, N.J.
Well, the goal was to open up more room on the busiest high-altitude airways, but this wasn't exactly the effect envisioned by Domestic Reduced Vertical Separation Minimums (DVRSM). As of Jan. 20, aircraft flying between FL 290 and FL 410 will be separated vertically by 1,000 feet instead of the current 2,000 feet. That effectively doubles the number of airways (nice, but we always thought airports were the real chokepoints in the airspace system). The catch is that to use the tighter confines, aircraft must be equipped with up-to-date electronics. The FAA says only about 50 to 75 percent of private jets and turboprops that use the high-level airways are compliant and more than 10 percent of airliners don't have the upgrades. In some cases, owners simply aren't willing to spend the $20,000 to $160,000 necessary for the upgrades on obsolete aircraft that are going to be retired soon. However, some operators apparently got caught gambling with the FAA's reputation for procrastination and incompetence in implementing new technology. They figured the FAA wouldn't meet the Jan. 20 deadline (that's when Canada, the Caribbean and South America will also switch to RVSM) and didn't need to rush into spending the money. Well, they lost that bet and the new altitudes will go into effect as scheduled. Any plane not compliant will have to either accept the fuel penalty of flying below FL 290 or try to get above FL 410. The latter, while possible, won't always be easy. ATC will not issue clearances for stepped climbs and continuous climbs won't likely be possible in crowded areas like most of the eastern half of the country.
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It's sort of neat to be in on the ground floor of an urban legend but the truth, the whole truth, must be told about effects (or lack thereof) of the Asian tsunami on flight navigation. Simply put, there are none. Not long after the devastating undersea earthquake (widely reported at 8.9 on the Richter scale, it was the largest in decades, worldwide) and resulting waves, scientists began speculating on the effect of the event on the Earth's cosmic behavior. According to Dr. Richard Gross, at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the quake did cause the earth's rotation to speed up by about three microseconds and caused a slight wobble. But he said the changes are too minuscule to worry about. That didn't stop some from speculating on the effect such changes might have on GPS accuracy. FAA spokesman William Shumann told AVweb that GPS satellites don't rely on a reference to day length to do their job. "They are very precise clocks that continuously transmit a timing mark and the satellite's location in the earth-centered, earth fixed-coordinate system," Shumann wrote in an e-mail. "Periodic maintenance maneuvers on the satellites keep them in their desired orbits and that prevents any undesired precessing of the GPS constellation with respect to the earth's rotation." Besides, there's nothing absolutely precise about our observation of the earth's rotation. Every so often scientists have to add or subtract a "leap second" to compensate for variations in day length.
It now seems clear that there are wholesale changes in store for the automated flight services system (AFSS) as a result of study into its privatization. The results of the review, called an A-76 study, won't be released until later this month, but FAA Administrator Marion Blakey has already announced measures designed to soften the blow for some of the thousands of employees who will be affected. She traveled to the AFSS at Altoona, Pa., on Wednesday to say that qualified FSS personnel will get first crack at job vacancies for tower and en route controllers. Blakey's announcement comes a couple of weeks after the agency released a report saying it will hire 12,500 "new" controllers to replace the 11,700 eligible to retire in the next 10 years. As many as 2,000 AFSS employees could lose their jobs in the anticipated privatization and contraction of the system. To qualify for the job placement program, the AFSS employees must have been certified in the active control and separation of traffic at an FAA tower or facility, through the military or at a privately contracted tower. Internal red tape will also be minimized, Blakey said.
IF YOUR CELL PHONE CAN SURF THE NET, IT CAN RECEIVE AVIATION WEATHER
The government agency that oversees pension plans (and picks up the pieces when they fail) wants to immediately pull the pin on the plan covering retired United Air Lines pilots. UAL and the pilots had recognized the inevitable and agreed to wind up the pension plan in May. But the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. (PBGC) says that will cost it an extra $140 million, an "unreasonable loss" that gives it the ability to involuntarily terminate the plan. Some retired pilots will see their pension incomes drop by two-thirds when the PBGC takes over. The Air Line Pilots Association is furious at the news, calling the move "deplorable" and "duplicitous." But Bradley Belt, the executive director of the PBGC, said the organization can't afford to carry the existing benefits until May because it has some pretty serious problems of its own. "With a $23 billion deficit and more than 1 million workers and retirees directly dependent on us for their pension benefits, the PBGC must be vigilant in guarding against unnecessary losses," Belt told The Washington Post.
It's been another good year for U.S. airline safety and it's not all just good luck, say government officials. While some in the industry say the statistical bubble could burst with a single accident, both the NTSB and FAA are inching out on a limb to take credit for the relative absence of accidents in the last three years. For the record, 34 people have died in airline accidents since 2001 (in 2002, none died). An accident in Charlotte, N.C., in 2003 killed 21 people and 13 died in Kirksville, Mo., in 2004. Considering that more than 40,000 people died in cars, NTSB Chairman Ellen Engelmann Connors is pretty happy with the stats. "I hope all modes of transportation could replicate aviation's safety record," she told The Associated Press. FAA Administrator Marion Blakey said new technology, in the form of terrain- and traffic-warning systems, runway-incursion warnings and better navigation gear, have all contributed to the improvement. The FAA has set a goal of reducing airline fatalities by 80 percent by 2007. The relative safety of the previous three years has cut the rate by 50 percent and the FAA believes it's on track to meet its objective. But while safety appears to be improving, some experts say that that, in itself, can be dangerous. "When we have a real safe period, people get complacent," said Bill Waldock, a safety instructor for Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
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The Aircraft Electronics Association wants the FAA to delay a regulation change that will define the way Part 145 repair stations do business. The Advisory Circular gives only 30 days for comment and the AEA wants that extended to the normal 90 days...
Raytheon CEO James Shuster has been selected to Chair the General Aviation Manufactures Association. Dean Flatt, CEO of Honeywell Aerospace Electronics Systems, is the new Vice Chairman...
Getting rescued by an emergency medical helicopter in Queensland, Australia, can be hazardous to your health. A study released by the Australian government reveals the accident rate for Queensland emergency choppers is the highest in the country, with four accidents in 10 years...
Icing is a hot topic these days and AOPA has a handy reference. The AOPA Air Safety Foundation's new Safety Brief, Cold Facts: Wing Contamination, offers a quick lesson on the hazards and cures of this seasonal problem.
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.
BUYING OR SELLING AN AIRCRAFT?
Say Again? #45: Lies in the Dark
AVweb's Don Brown had the opportunity to fly the airlines recently and had to deal with what someone probably would describe as an 'air traffic control delay.' Don thinks the FAA's newfound interest in a 10-year plan for ATC isn't going to help future delays and may even make them worse.
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DA40 DIAMOND STAR A FLEET FAVORITE
*** PREVIOUS RESULTS ***
Last week, AVweb asked how many of you regularly use WAAS approaches.
Apparently, the majority of you don't use them. 53% of respondents reported that their aircraft aren't equipped for WAAS, while another 17% of respondents aren't instrument-rated (and aren't themselves qualified for a WAAS approach).
Of the remaining 30%, most (22% of the total number of respondents) said they only use WAAS approaches infrequently or haven't used them since training.
Only 5% of our respondents claimed to use WAAS approaches frequently.
*** THIS WEEK'S QUESTION ***
This week, AVweb wants to know if and how you're participating in tsunami relief efforts.
Click here to tell us.
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LOOK, UP IN THE AIR! IT'S A PLANE! IT'S A FLYING DOG!
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"Picture of the Week" contributions were up during the first week of 2005. Doug Francoeur of Alberta, Canada takes home the first coveted baseball cap of the year, paving the way for 51 more "POTW" winners. If you'd like to see your amateur aviation photo here next week, it's time to submit it!
Due to privacy issues, AVweb does not publish e-mail addresses of readers who submit photos.
Used with permission of Doug Francoeur
"Alberta Land of the Rising Sun?"
Doug Francoeur of Spruce Grove, Alberta (Canada)
sends us this photo taken on one of his first flights after
installing new wings. Lookin' good, Doug!
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.
copyright © Justin
"End of an Era"
Justin Cederholm of Orlando, Florida
sends us this historic shot of the final flight
of the Concorde, as it departs JFK International
for London's Heathrow International
Used with permission of 1Lt. Jeremy Davis
"Marines to the Rescue in the Philippines"
James Allen Blackwell of Tylertown, Mississippi
contributes a fantastic landscape shot from a Marine
flood relief mission carried out during December.
A couple of extra photos
to help us kick off 2005:
Used with permission of Kelly Mahon
"I Always Said a 170 Was the Top of the Mountain!"
Far from the lakes and ponds of Ahrensburg,
Kelly Mahon of Priest River, Idaho
snapped this shot on December 26, of
"my first time out on skis for the season."
copyright © Jack Jones
"Flying Saucers Welcome!"
This one treads the fine line between "Picture of the Week"
and "Art Piece of the Week," but Mark Murdock's
artist's rendition of a fly-in at his "home field" seemed like a
good place to say "Happy New Year" to "POTW" submitters ... .
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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