January 12, 2005
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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First, recall that shining a laser at an airplane is a felony under the Patriot Act (as New Jersey resident David Banach is finding out the hard way). Now, enter NORAD's "Visual Warning System" (VWS). As pilots all over the country report being temporarily blinded, as the TSA issues warnings that terrorists might be using lasers to blind pilots to bring down airliners and as the FAA and FBI begin a concerted effort to find and prosecute lasing suspects, NORAD is planning to shine lasers into your cockpit if you bust the ADIZ around Washington, D.C. And in what must be the media-relations challenge of the year, Mike Kucharek, chief of media relations for NORAD, is trying to help us tell the difference between good lasers (NORAD's) and bad lasers (everyone else's?). "There is no correlation between the lasers being reported on by the news media as the VWS is only being tested in the National Capital Region," Kucharek said in a statement sent to AVweb on Wednesday. Kucharek said NORAD, which is working on the project with the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office and the FAA, will be testing the unit through Jan. 20 (inauguration day) and it's not only pilots who might be wondering what's going on. With security at a fever pitch for the inauguration, NORAD is now telling Washington-area residents not to worry about the red and green beams of light they might see cutting through the night sky. If the system works, plans are in the works to make it a permanent fixture of the ADIZ, Kucharek said.
Kucharek stressed that the lasers being used in the VWS will not damage the eyes or anything else. He told AVweb the lasers (the good ones) are less powerful than the laser pointers (the bad ones) suspected of causing widely reported mischief over the past few weeks. But he also said the "visually conspicuous lights" are designed to get a pilot's attention. They are "... distinct from other light signals currently used by FAA Air Traffic Control, [and] are designed to provide a clear warning to pilots who enter the ADIZ without authorization and cannot be contacted on VHF voice radio by Air Traffic Control," he said. "Only aircraft that are unauthorized or unidentified and unresponsive would be visually warned." Presumably, the bright lights are supposed to prompt the hitherto unaware and unresponsive pilot to contact ATC and ultimately get out of the ADIZ, or simply make a hasty retreat. And if he or she doesn't? While the statement doesn't say, you might assume the next step would involve something with jet engines armed with items potentially more harmful than a laser. If NORAD decides to deploy the laser system (and the FAA agrees), there will be a "Special Advisory Notice from the FAA describing the lights and prescribing action," Kucharek said.
Starting Jan. 19, pilots must immediately report any laser sightings to air traffic controllers, who then would advise all pilots in the area and contact law-enforcement officials, according to a new FAA Advisory Circular released yesterday. A warning will also be broadcast on the ATIS if the event happens in the airport vicinity. Pilots who encounter a laser should avoid direct eye contact and shield their eyes to the extent possible, the AC (wisely) advises. Pilots are also asked to file a written report of the encounter after landing. Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta announced the new measures at a press conference in Oklahoma City yesterday. "We will do everything we can to make sure each case is aggressively prosecuted. ... We are treating lasers in the cockpit as a serious aviation safety matter," he said. He stressed that while laser encounters have recently increased, there is no indication that terrorists are at work. The incidents seem to be the result of pranks or carelessness. "We will work with police to identify the source of the lasers," the secretary said. Since Dec. 23, there have been 31 reported laser incidents involving aircraft, seven in the past weekend alone. Since 1990 there have been over 400 similar (reported) incidents.
IN PRINT AND ONLINE, TRADE-A-PLANE GIVES YOU THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS
A national tour to promote light-sport aviation is in the works, with support from EAA and the sport flying community, marketing consultant Dan Johnson told AVweb on Tuesday. "We're going forward with four locations, then we'll evaluate and regroup, then plan four more, all in 2005," Johnson said. The events, tentatively referred to as "Chapter Tours," will feature forums and seminars by senior EAA staffers, as well as a promotional aspect organized by Johnson. "This would be a weekend event at a local airport, hoping to draw about 350 to 500 people, mainly pilots," Johnson said. Ten to 15 different sport aircraft will be available for introductory flights, at fees from about $29 to $49 each. Admission to the events will be free. "I'm very pleased that EAA wants to participate in this. It's great for them to get out on the road, on the local level," Johnson said.
"We want to bring the airplanes right to the people, so they can look and see and touch and feel," Johnson said. "We're missing a lot of the pilot community, not to mention the general public, when we ask the people to come to us." The schedule and locations for the events are in the works now, and should be available soon. Vendors will have displays and kiosks on site, and vendor fees will help pay for the tour. Johnson also is working to involve the National Association of Flight Instructors in the project, so they could offer symposia to help familiarize flight instructors with the new aircraft and flight rules. Plans are for the tour to expand to 15 to 25 sites in 2006, Johnson said. He has about 150 people in the industry involved in his loose marketing coalition. After a year or two, Johnson said, he'd like to expand the tour to participate in new venues such as boat shows and RV shows, where the non-flying public could be introduced to sport flying.
Another ambitious effort underway to swell the ranks of Sport Pilots is the SP/LSA Blitz, a project of Aero Sports Connection (ASC). ASC is planning weeklong, one-stop camp-out events, where ultralight pilots and instructors can fly in, earn their FAA certificates, and get their aircraft transformed into N-numbered FAA aircraft, all in one stop. The first ASC SP/LSA Blitz is scheduled for South Lakeland Airport, April 5-12, the week before Sun 'n Fun. The ASC says daily classes and group study sessions will be held, and Designated Airworthiness Representatives and Designated Pilot Examiners will be on site. Thirteen more Blitzes are already scheduled between May and October, in Virginia, South Dakota, Texas and elsewhere. The fee will be about $1,299, ASC says, though examiner fees could add to the cost.
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"It's a fever-pitch, adrenaline-rush kind of effort," for pilots working in the tsunami relief zone, Dennis Fulton, vice-president of operations for the Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF), told AVweb yesterday. The MAF and its sister organization, MAF-Europe, have three aircraft working in Indonesia -- a Caravan, a Cessna 206, and a turbine Beaver amphibian. These small aircraft are vital to breaking the "aid bottleneck" and getting supplies out to the people. "There's a terrible, terrible need. But it's not just an anything-goes operation. We are strict about staying within our safety standards and operating procedures," Fulton said. Each aircraft is assigned two pilots and a maintenance crew chief, and the pilots are rotated out of the disaster zone every two weeks. Fulton said care is taken to ensure that the staffers don't get exhausted and start to make bad decisions. "In the Aceh province, out of 5,600 towns and villages, 1,500 were wiped out. So you see the scope of the problem."
It took some time to get the aircraft into position. "Indonesia is a big country. We flew the Caravan from its base, where there was no tsunami damage, to Medan, in Sumatra, which was about 3,000 miles. So it's like flying from New York to L.A," Fulton said. The 206 also had to fly about 1,500 miles. The Caravan now is based at Medan, which was undamaged by the earthquake and tsunami. "It's a big city, and it has an international airport," Fulton said. Those pilots are able to get fuel at the airport and sleep in a hotel. The 206 is based at Meulaboh, on the coast south of Banda Aceh, near the epicenter of the disaster. The small airport there was damaged in the quake. "But we were able to land both the Caravan and the 206 on the undamaged portions of the runway," Fulton said. The 206 pilots are living "out in the elements." They have sleeping bags, and camp in abandoned and damaged buildings. Avgas is brought to them by the Indonesian air force. Most of the pilots are MAF staff from the U.S. and Europe, Fulton said, who have raised money from their local churches to support their efforts. Nearly all of them have A&P licenses as well as commercial pilot certificates. MAF also has a program to train Indonesian pilots, and some of them are participating as well.
Once the airplanes reached Meulaboh, a helicopter there scouted out the area and found portions of roadway where the airplanes could land. "There's a road along the coast, but probably 90 percent of the bridges are out. So, since the roads aren't usable, that means we can use the road for runways," Fulton said. There are no lights, so they can fly only in daylight. The pilots set to work, flying supplies and medical workers up and down the coast and evacuating the injured. "We found people who'd had nothing to eat or drink for five days," Fulton said. The Beaver is just now getting established at Meulaboh. They have to be careful about where they can use it because the coastal waters are full of debris. The MAF is starting to send out more pilots from the U.S. to supplement those already based in Indonesia, Fulton said. They will also be sending someone to train loadmasters, to oversee the local workers who help load the airplanes. But they don't need more pilot volunteers, he said. "What we need is help with the financing to keep the airplanes running," he said. With the road system destroyed, the airlift is going to be the only lifeline for many communities. "This is going to have to continue for quite a while," Fulton said.
FLYING RENTED OR BORROWED AIRCRAFT?
The Paso Robles (Calif.) Municipal Airport has banned ultralight operations, and has proposed new operating rules that would single out ultralight flyers for scrutiny, Denis Porter, president of the Paso Robles Ultralight Association, told AVweb on Tuesday. The airport said last month that ultralight operations were in violation of its operating permits and safety standards, and complex regulations and compliance issues would have to be sorted out before a suitable operating area could be designated. Porter said his group filed a formal complaint with the FAA last month, alleging that ultralight pilots are being unfairly discriminated against. The impact of that philosophy on Sport Pilots (many are expected to be crossover ultralight pilots still flying the same equipment) is yet unknown -- as is the philosophy's popularity. "They looked at us as a nuisance," Porter said. "Even though this is not a busy airport, and we've been operating there for 25-plus years without any problems." Only about a dozen pilots and a half-dozen aircraft make up the ultralight group, he said.
In addition to the current ban, the airport proposed last fall that under new operating rules, ultralight pilots must show documentation that they are certified by the U.S. Ultralight Association or an equivalent organization, and must abide by strict flight rules that designate flight paths and altitudes. Other pilots are not required to show their certificates, Porter said. Further, ultralight pilots could fly only after signing a statement certifying they are aware of the rules and will abide by them. "This singles out ultralight pilots for scrutiny, and violates our privilege to fly under FAR Part 103," Porter said. He added that he and the other members of his group plan to convert to Sport Pilot certificates and get N-numbers for their aircraft as soon as possible. But he expressed concern that that will not satisfy the airport, and the issue will change from discrimination against ultralights to discrimination against light-sport aircraft.
Meanwhile, the Santa Monica (Calif.) Airport has been unfairly discriminating against business aircraft, the FAA said last week. (The FAA didn't feel that way when, just to the south, about 100 smaller aircraft were kicked out of their hangars altogether at Palomar to make space for business aircraft facilities ... apples and oranges, perhaps.) An FAA report blasted the landing-fee structure at the airport, after bizav advocates complained that it was unfair and unreasonable. The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) said the fees, which were implemented in 2003, were discriminatory and unlawful. The landing fee of $340 for a Gulfstream IV is the highest anywhere in the nation, the FAA said. Further, the fees are earmarked for pavement upkeep (the pavement is pretty nice), but the fees generate nearly twice as much income as the airport actually spends to maintain the pavement. The Santa Monica Airport Association, a group of airport users, said the fees were simply a ploy to deter larger aircraft from using the airport. In a 55-page analysis, the FAA agreed. And it's not fair to assess the fee only on airplanes of 10,000 pounds and up, since they only use part of the airport but have to pay all the costs, the FAA said. "The determination made by the FAA is great news for anyone opposed to discriminatory landing fees in the United States," said NBAA President Ed Bolen. "Santa Monica Airport has been unfairly discriminating against business aircraft operators, in violation of federal law. We commend the FAA for upholding the law and supporting the concept of fair and equal access for all airport users." The airport is operated by the City of Santa Monica, which has 30 days to appeal the FAA's conclusions.
All certified flight instructors and flight school staff must complete TSA security-awareness training by Tuesday, Jan. 18. The deadline applies to all CFIs, whether or not they intend to train foreign students, Robert Albracht, director of GA ops for the TSA, told AVweb yesterday. Luckily, compliance is fairly simple. The TSA program is available online, and takes about a half-hour to complete. At the end, the instructor can print out a certificate and retain it as a record of completion. AOPA's Air Safety Foundation is also offering the training as part of its Flight Instructor Refresher Courses. For more information on the TSA's "alien rule," click through here. See also AVweb's previous coverage.
|COAST-TO-COAST IN COMFORT WITH OREGON AERO|
Skip Aldous, member of the world-renowned Lima Lima Flight Team, put Oregon Aero aviation upgrades to the test when he had to make a 14-hour, six-leg flight from Florida to Spokane, Washington. "I flew my T-34 from one corner of the country to the other and arrived pain-free and ready to perform because of my Oregon Aero Complete Aviation Helmet Upgrade and portable seat cushion," said Skip. "At no time did my helmet start to hurt my head or did my rear go numb. I know I couldn't have done it without Oregon Aero." You can enjoy painless flying, too. View Oregon Aero's large selection of seat cushion systems and headset and helmet upgrades at http://www.avweb.com/sponsors/oregon/avflash.
The FAA might be looking to hire thousands of new air traffic controllers, but that's not stopping the agency from firing 15 air traffic controllers at the New York Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) because of discrepancies in their medical records. One controller already has been told he will be fired, and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) said the FAA told them 14 others will be notified soon, Newsday reported Monday. "The allegations are that some controllers who have made a worker's compensation claim for leave with pay after a stressful event are not reporting the claim on their ... medical forms," the FAA said in a statement to Newsday. NATCA said the disability claims are well-documented, and the discrepancies the FAA found in medical forms are just a technicality. Several other facilities are also being investigated, the FAA said. Nearly half of the 232 employees at the New York TRACON have been out on disability after an error in the past decade, union officials told Newsday. NATCA told Newsday the FAA's actions are meant to discourage controllers from taking the paid leave they are entitled to for dealing with trauma after making a mistake on the job.
The presidential inauguration on Jan. 20 is the first since 9/11, and the level of security for that day is unprecedented -- but there may be more lasting changes, too. The general rule for general aviation is, stay away from D.C. -- far, far away -- from 10 a.m. till 6 p.m. on the 20th. Next Thursday, GA aircraft are banned for roughly 23 miles around the city. This too shall pass, but other proposed security measures in the works aren't intended to be temporary. Aside from NORAD's "Visual Warning System," ADS-B may be coming to D.C. According to the FAA's own briefing on the inauguration (made publicly available online this week, then removed ... but we kept a copy) "the TSA has requested $20.8 million to outfit approximately 2800 registered general aviation aircraft permanently based within the DCA Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ)" with new transponder-based identification systems. Twelve local law enforcement aircraft would be outfitted to identify those 2800 aircraft cleared (and equipped) as native to the area. We're not sure how the TSA would know, should one of those 2800 aircraft fall into the wrong hands.
As for the inauguration day no-fly zone, "This is yet another example of GA being made a scapegoat in the name of security," said AOPA President Phil Boyer of the TFR. "The airlines [like those previously used for terrorist attacks] are allowed to fly freely while GA pilots are essentially grounded." The measures are extreme, Boyer said, "unnecessarily displacing thousands of pilots, restricting their freedom, and resulting in loss of income for those who use GA to conduct their business." (But what better way to officially introduce the president of the United States and protect the people?) No specific threats have been detected, Department of Homeland Security head Tom Ridge told the press. But sources quoted in yesterday's New York Times said that could mean planning for an attack is going on undetected, or that terrorists are distracted by their activities in Iraq.
A number of readers were unable to view the images associated with the destruction of a C-130 that touched down at night on a runway that was (unbeknownst to the crew) undergoing a facelift. So we've stripped out the images and made them available online, for the benefit of those readers who can't view them in their native format.
Click here for the photos.
AVIDYNE'S CMAX APPROACH CHARTS TAKE SITUATIONAL AWARENESS TO THE NEXT LEVEL
LifeLine Pilots is seeking new volunteers for charitable flying in the Midwest. Look for their booth at the Great Lakes International Aviation Conference in Lansing, Mich., Jan. 20-22, or visit them online...
Cessna has signed on with EAA as a major sponsor for Young Eagles, the AirVenture Museum and EAA's numerous "living history" restoration and flight programs...
Cirrus Design has opened a new sales center in Moscow to bolster Cirrus' sales activity in Russia and the Ukraine. Cirrus Russia will also include a qualified factory-trained service center...
Florida can go ahead and prosecute two America West pilots accused of showing up drunk to fly. The Supreme Court on Monday declined an appeal from the pilots asking that they be judged only under federal regulations...
Two men died Monday night while flying a C-182 for the Civil Air Patrol in a training exercise in Louisiana.
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.
NO-COST RESOURCES FOR STUDENT PILOTS!
What's New -- Products and Services for January
This month, AVweb's survey of the latest products and services for pilots, mechanics and aircraft owners brings you flying DVDs, oil filter magnets, alternate air systems and much more.
The Cessna, the Sky ... and the Cartoonist: Chapters Ten, Eleven and Twelve
'Round and 'round we go -- doing "circuits" (as they say Down Under) -- and where it stops is hopefully on the runway. Sometimes. Unless you go-around. How's a new (old) pilot supposed to know what to do? Our student pilot and cartoonist from New Zealand continues his tale of learning to fly.
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LOOK, UP IN THE AIR! IT'S A PLANE! IT'S A FLYING DOG!
*** PREVIOUS RESULTS ***
Last week, AVweb asked how many of you are personally contributing to the tsunami relief efforts in Southern Asia.
Responses were split nearly evenly between the skeptical (51%) and the openly kind-hearted (49%). The "skeptical" contingent is waiting to see how already-committed government relief funds are put to use before contributing their own time or money.
The "kind-hearted," on the the other hand, have already stepped up to the plate with volunteer efforts and monetary donations mostly donations. 41% of total respondents tell us they've sent money to a tsunami relief effort. Another 3% have done volunteer work with local charities, and 2% tell us they've been personally involved with recovery in the area.
4% of you told us you'd like to be personally involved, but you haven't found the right avenue for volunteering. For those among you, please take a moment to visit the Center for International Disaster Information (CIDI) on the web:
If you have skills or goods that can be of use, the CIDI will put you in touch with an appropriate organization.
(This "QOTW" has already sparked some e-mail to our AVmail forum. If you have a comment, we always love to hear from you.)
*** THIS WEEK'S QUESTION ***
This week, AVweb wants your input on our "Picture of the Week" contest. Recently, we began accepting contest entries that are clearly marked as digitally altered, but some readers feel that "doctored photos" have no place in our "POTW" contest.
What do you think?
Have an idea for a new QOTW? Send your suggestions to email@example.com.
This address is only for suggested QOTW questions, and not for QOTW answers or comments.
Use this form to send QOTW comments to our AVmail Editor.
MODERNIZING YOUR TRANSPONDER DOESN'T GET ANY EASIER!
Submit a Photo | Rules | Tips | Questions
Current POTW Winner | Past POTW Winners
Welcome to another edition of AVweb's "Picture of the Week," where we print the best of your amateur aviation photos. Ken Hemmerling of British Columbia takes us on a journey into the past this week, with a photo of WWI German ace Werner Voss and his Fokker. For digging this one out of the archives, we've declared Ken our weekly winner and are sending him an official AVweb baseball cap.
To get a shot at next week's baseball cap, submit your photo.
Due to privacy issues, AVweb does not publish e-mail addresses of readers who submit photos.
From the album of Guido
"Werner Voss "
Ken Hemmerling of Clearwater, British Columbia (Canada) writes,
"WWI buffs will recognize plane and pilot immediately.
Others need only do a Google search with the words Werner Voss."
Many thanks to Ken and WWI pilot Guido Scheffer,
who had this photo in an album. Amazing!
here to view a large version of this image
Click here for a medium-sized version
"Taken from Solid Ground"
John Barratt Patton of Chicago, Illinois writes,
"This picture is from a rock formation called Picacho Peak
in El Centro, California. My buddy Josh is the NFO in the
first plane and explained that this was the entry for one of their MTRs.
The crew coordinated with one of their co-workers to drive three hours
then make the 30-minute rock climb so that he could take
this picture as they passed at 450 knots."
copyright © Bill Johnson
"Waiting for Morning"
Bill Johnson of Seattle, Washington
submits this landscape photo with no comment.
Click over to the larger version, and we think
you'll agree that the photo says it all.
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.
A couple of extra photos
to help us kick off 2005:
Used with permission of John Page
John Page of Rickmansworth, Herts (U.K.)
tells us he took this photo from a Cirrus SR22 photoship.
copyright © Chris
"Early Morning Departure"
Chris Cummings of Houston, Texas
contributes this week's beautiful sunrise,
as a Rowan Drilling Bell 222 helicopter
heads for an oil rig in the Gulf.
(We at "POTW" Central do love a beautiful sunrise.)
Used with permission of George McKee
"170B in Action"
This one's for our own Motor Head, Marc Cook.
George McKee of Falcon Bridge, Ontario (Canada)'s
only comment was, "Neah, eh?"
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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