January 19, 2005
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Against a backdrop of moral, ethical and even job-security considerations, scientists continue to probe ways to make our brains work better. And, according to one researcher, the day is not long off when a pilot popping a pill before flight will be "as ordinary as a cup of coffee" added to the preflight routine. As AVweb told you last year, researchers found that pilots taking donepezil, normally used to slow the onset of Alzheimer symptoms, performed significantly better during simulated flight emergencies than their non-drugged counterparts. Another study has found that modafinil, used to treat sleep narcolepsy, is a virtual cure for sleepiness and can allow people to function for days at a time without sleep (unions beware). Other researchers have found modafinil improves concentration, learning speed and mental agility. So, why aren't we all taking it? Wait for it, says neurologist Dr. Anjan Chatterjee at the University of Pennsylvania. According to the Independent, Chatterjee sees a future where airline executives offer incentives (like keeping your job?) to pilots who take the mind-enhancing drugs so they can claim that theirs is a potentially safer company to fly with. Chatterjee also suggests people might be willing to pay more to fly on an airline that guarantees its pilots are chemically enhanced. No, we are not making this up.
But while science looks at making our synapses snappier, Australia's Civil Air Safety Authority (CASA) is examining the more basic imperative of trying to prevent pilots from dropping dead or becoming otherwise incapacitated at the controls. CASA has determined that the pilot of a Piper Aztec probably had a heart attack before the plane crashed on takeoff from Mareeba in northern Queensland in October of 2003. Gerald Mall, his wife and three children died in the crash. Now, CASA is reviewing its medical standards. Crash investigators couldn't find any mechanical causes for the crash although they couldn't rule out a bird strike or a cabin door coming open. However, the post mortem on the pilot found narrowing of the coronary arteries, something that wasn't picked up during his flight medical. CASA spokesman Peter Gibson said the examination criteria would be looked at. "We will review the heart attack criteria in the light of this report but, probably more importantly, in the light of continuing research into cardiac health issues in the medical world in general," he told The Australian newspaper.
And there could be a new in-flight malady to challenge deep vein thrombosis as a reason not to fly. A former Australian airline pilot claims she was made chronically ill (and not fit for the cockpit) by aerotoxic syndrome. Former British Aerospace 146 first officer Susan Michaels told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that she would often notice a "dirty sock/vomit-type smell" (even when not transporting a rugby team) after turning on the pressurization system. Four years ago, a government inquiry found that toxic oil fumes from leaky engine seals were getting into the cabin air via the pressurization system. The inquiry dealt only with BAE 146 aircraft, a popular four-engine regional jet in Australia and Europe (there are some in North America) but now a new medical study is widening the probe to other types of jets. Michaels told the TV network that she's heard from pilots of Boeing, Airbus and McDonnell-Douglas aircraft that they, too, are getting sick from the fumes. Michaels said she kept her symptoms to herself at first but soon discovered other crew members were experiencing hoarse throats, headaches and tingling. Medical officials aren't sure what chemicals are to blame for the disease but Dr. Andrew Harper, an occupational physician, told the network the fumes contain chemicals known to damage the nervous system.
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Well, it's here, it's big and it's beautiful, in a plus-size kind of way. The question remains, will the Airbus A380, which was rolled out in a splashy ceremony on Tuesday, take off? The practical answer to that question will come in March with the first test flight. But as airlines all over the world retrench in a pitched battle with cut-rate upstarts, pundits wonder if the Clipper-like service possible on the double-decker behemoth is a thing of the past, and some planners wonder if the ability of airports to accommodate the aircraft (and its passengers) is yet a thing of the future. But Tuesday was a day for a remarkable first, and skepticism was brushed aside in the giddiness that accompanies such an occasion. British Prime Minister Tony Blair termed the A380 an example of European cooperation at its best (components are built in 15 plants in four countries) and hailed it as the greatest aviation development (notwithstanding Concorde) since the Boeing 747.
Of course, the biggest cheerleader for the super jumbo is Sir Richard Branson, whose Virgin Atlantic has ordered six. Branson is keeping the hype alive by announcing that the Virgin planes will have on-board casinos and even suites with double beds. "Maybe now there will be two ways of getting lucky on a Virgin plane," Branson quipped to reporters. Although Virgin and some others will undoubtedly include some bells and whistles for their well-heeled passengers, the more cynical among aviation consultants liken the A380 to the modern incarnation of a troop train. Henry Harteveldt, vice president of Forrester Research, told Wired News that the world has been promised staterooms and theaters in the sky once before -- with the launch of the Boeing 747 in 1969. "None of that happened," he said. "Airplanes are designed for one of two things, either freight or passengers." Despite the size of the plane, economy class will still be economy class, with seats about an inch wider than the current average. And while the marketers portray the A380 winging with style and grace on romantic transcontinental odysseys, some see it plying the busiest mid-length U.S. routes crammed with up to 800 budget-conscious passengers. Make sure you get a seat near an exit...
THERE'S NO BETTER WAY TO BUY, SELL, AND FLY THAN TRADE-A-PLANE!
The vast majority of midair collisions are in or near the pattern so investigators have their work cut out for them in the tragic meeting of an Air Tractor crop-duster and an Air Force T-37 5,000 feet above the wide-open spaces of Oklahoma on Tuesday morning. The Air Force pilots, instructor Capt. Christopher S. Otis and student 2nd Lt. Roderick V. James, bailed out safely but the Air Tractor pilot, Derek Nach, died. Hunting guide Jerry Mayfield reached the Tweet pilots first and said one of them told him he didn't see the collision coming. There have been similar events, before. Nach was ferrying the brand-new Air Tractor from the plant in Olney, Texas, to its new owner in South Dakota. Investigators have declined detailed comment or speculation on the cause of the collision. The crash occurred near Hollister, Okla., in an area commonly used by the air training wings based at Sheppard AFB near Wichita Falls, Texas. AVweb reported another military/civilian collision in November 2004. The NTSB's current synopsis and probable cause (a PDF file) are available online. After that collision, the F-16 pilot ejected safely and walked to a local house to use the phone. The Cessna pilot was killed.
Commander Aircraft is apparently the latest casualty of 9/11 and the generally weak aviation market. The Bethany, Okla., plane-maker has asked a bankruptcy judge to convert its bankruptcy case from a Chapter 11 reorganization to a Chapter 7 liquidation. The company built about 200 of the speedy and luxurious four-place singles between 1992 and 2002. It was hit hard by recent downturn and attempts at attracting new capital apparently failed. Precipitating the most recent turn of events, an investor who had planned to sink $2.8 million into the company for an 80-percent share a couple of weeks ago defaulted and forfeited his $200,000 deposit. Before that, another potential investor walked away from his $800,000 deposit rather than carry through with his investment. Commander Aircraft bought the piston single line from Gulfstream Aerospace in 1988 and obtained a new type certificate for its modernized version of the aircraft, which was originally developed by Rockwell.
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CMax Approach Charts, which can be displayed on Avidyne's FlightMax EX500 or Entegra/EX5000 MFDs, provide geo-referenced approach charts and airport diagrams. CMax reduces the amount of paper in your cockpit, and allows you to access critical chart data more quickly and easily. CMax overlays your flight plan and aircraft position for optimum orientation. CMax even shows runway incursion hotspots and improves taxiway awareness, reducing the need for "progressives" at unfamiliar airports. With CMax, youll know exactly where you are on the approach or on the field. http://www.avweb.com/sponsors/avidyne/avflash.
Here's a Palm Pilot worthy of its name. Garmin has married a moving-map GPS with a Palm PDA to come up with the iQue 3600A. The new device is based on a terrestrial version of the same concept (the iQue 3600) which combined all the organizational and entertainment capabilities of the Palm Pilot with maps, turn-by-turn directions and a geographical database to make it easier for business people, professionals or those hopelessly addicted to gadgets to find their way in the world. The aviation version adds a third dimension to the PDA's utility. The portable PDA snaps into a yoke-mounted cradle during flight. The cradle has the aviation-related buttons that identify it as a GPS. The Jeppesen database provides all the chart, physical and topographical information you'd expect plus a "TAWS-like" option that warns of potential conflicts. Snap the PDA out of the cradle and it's ready to record phone numbers or guide you to your hotel. Suggested retail is $1099. Similar non-certified products have long been available. Pocket PC-based MountainScope software, which can also work with programs that provide emergency backup for nine basic navigational instruments and devices, is just one example we've frequently seen at aviation trade shows.
A pair of British physically challenged aviation buffs are out to prove that their disabilities don't diminish their need for speed. Sometime in the coming year, John de Frayssinet and Jenny Ayers, both members of the British Disabled Flying Association, hope to claim a world record in their class for a flight from the southern tip of Great Britain at Land's End to the northern extreme of John O'Groats in Scotland. The current record was set last year in a Diamond DA40 with a Thielert diesel engine. De Frayssinet and Ayers will try to beat it in de Frayssinet's homebuilt Glasair. On the surface, it should be no contest. The Glasair cruises about 60 knots faster than the diesel Diamond but the 632-mile distance will force de Frayssinet to balance speed and fuel economy if he hopes to finish. Also, the Glasair can't use the grass strip at Land's End and will have to take off from nearby pavement and overfly Land's End before heading north. The route will take them over water for most of the trip. De Frayssinet is a high left leg amputee. Ayers has mobility problems and lost her license but still loves flying.
ASA GETS "FIT" THE FAA HAS RECOGNIZED ASA'S
AOPA is organizing a tangible way for pilots to help pilots bring help to the victims of the South Asia tsunami. AOPA is pledging to match, dollar for dollar, to a maximum of $25,000, contributions made by individuals (you don't have to be a member) to AirServ International, a humanitarian organization that is using a fleet of GA aircraft in the devastated area. "AirServ International is in the midst of assisting in this disaster," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "Theirs and other aviation efforts are a remarkable example of how GA airplanes and airports serve as a vital emergency link for people throughout the world." To make a donation, simply log on to AirServ's donation site or mail a check to AirServ International, 6583 Merchant Place, Suite 100, Warrenton, Va., 20187. Be sure to write your AOPA membership number on the check or, if not a member, write AOPA on it. Boyer noted that all donations made before Jan. 31 can be applied to 2004 taxes.
For many airline pilots, flying for a living was a lifelong dream that began with noses pressed against an airport fence. Bruce Dickinson's moment of truth came later in life as he crawled, retching drunk, down a Japanese hotel corridor scavenging for leftover food from room-service trays. But, then, Dickinson's path to the left seat was a little different than most. In fact, the lead singer for the British heavy metal band Iron Maiden (with such notable titles as "Bring Your Daughter To The Slaughter") still tours and records with the band (the new album's name is Flying Heavy Metal) when he's not flying planeloads of vacationers for Astraeus Airlines. The band is enjoying a retro wave of popularity after searing eardrums all over the world in the 1980s. It was sometime during the band's wild ride 20 years ago that Dickinson literally crawled out of that lifestyle. "Afterwards, I just thought: 'There's got to be more than this,'" Dickinson told the London Daily Telegraph. "That's when I took up fencing again and decided to learn how to fly." The 46-year-old father of three will head up the band when it launches a world tour on May 28 with a sold-out performance in the Czech Republic. But it won't be quite the same as 20 years ago. Airline dress codes don't normally allow for waist-length hair on their male pilots so it will be a neatly trimmed Dickinson that screams out his band's anthems on the tour. Rock on...
IF YOUR CELL PHONE CAN SURF THE NET, IT CAN RECEIVE AVIATION WEATHER
Investigators are trying to determine if the pilot of Cirrus SR22 tried to deploy his parachute before the plane hit a house in Coconut Creek, Fla., last Saturday. Jerry Ballard, of Gainesville, Ga., was killed in the crash. The plane's chute was found spread out among the wreckage but it wasn't clear whether Ballard pulled the handle or it was released in the crash...
Australian officials are looking for someone with a powerful spotlight after the light was shone into the cockpit of a Qantas Boeing 737 on final for Darwin International Airport last Friday. The plane, with more than 100 people on board, landed safely and the pranksters got away...
EAA is sponsoring a two-day ground-school course for ultralight flight instructors March 12 to March 13. The course is open to those working on their instructor rating or for existing instructors wanting to sharpen their skills. The course will be held at EAA headquarters in Oshkosh...
Comair President Randy Rademacher has resigned in the wake of a meltdown of the airline's computer system that left tens of thousands of passengers stranded on Christmas Day. Fred Buttrell, head of Delta Air Lines Connection group, has taken over...
A Beech Starship will be the guinea pig in a 30-month study on the aging of all-composite aircraft. The National Institute for Aviation Research will look at a host of factors, including chemical and physical changes as well as the effect of UV radiation, humidity and heat on composite material.
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.
LIKE BOTOX OR FLU SHOTS, A LITTLE BIT OF A BAD THING CAN DO SOME GOOD
The Savvy Aviator #14: Engine Cooling -- Less Is More
If your CHTs are running warmer than you'd like, odds are that you've got leaky cooling baffles under your cowling. Fixing those leaks is usually simple -- and the less air leaks, the more is available to cool the cylinders.
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*** PREVIOUS RESULTS ***
Last week, AVweb asked how you feel about us accepting digitally altered photos for our "Picture of the Week" contest.
Most of you (64% of respondents) are adamantly opposed to "doctored" photos of any kind, while only a small number of readers (17%) think digitally altered images are fair game for the contest.
Slightly more readers (still only 19%) have their doubts, but think digitally altered images could have a place in our amateur photo contest. One of those readers, J.T. McDuffie, even made a case in this week's AVmail forum.
*** THIS WEEK'S QUESTION ***
This week, AVweb wants an honest assessment of your level of concern with regard to Military Operation Areas (MOAs).
What precautions do you take when flying through an MOA?
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.
RESOLVE TO BECOME MAINTENANCE-SAVVY IN 2005!
Submit a Photo | Rules | Tips | Questions
Current POTW Winner | Past POTW Winners
It's been another terrific week for "POTW" submissions so good, in fact, that we snagged 47 images for our personal desktop wallpaper. (At one a day, we've already got enough unique wallpapers to last us until late spring!) Here are the top six, capped off by the best photo of New Jersey we've ever published.* Congratulations to Geoffrey Hickey, who'll be receiving an official AVweb baseball cap for his photo.
* We didn't really check.
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.
Used with permission of Geoffrey Hickey
"Grumman Tigers over New Jersey at Sunset "
Geoffrey Hickey of Nashua, New Hampshire shares
this breathtaking photo of the Jersey skyline with us.
(Yes, we just said "breathtaking photo of the Jersey skyline.")
here to view a large version of this image
Click here for a medium-sized version
Semi-regular "POTW" contributor Eric Cobb
of Solvang, California was flying with pilot Scott Millard
when the two of them caught sight of this Sky Crain
picking up water for a practice drop during training.
copyright © Francesco
At first glance, we thought they'd sucked an aardvark
into the engine but click here and you'll see just what
Francesco Fato of Pierrefonds, Quebec (Canada)
actually caught on film.
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.
Limiting ourselves to just one of the
many beautiful skylines in our mailbox:
copyright © George Johnson
"Sunset over the Pacific"
George Johnson of Seattle, Washington
shares this photo from his retirement flight with UAL.
Used with permission of Rock Swanson
"Can You Name This Rare Plane?"
That's the challenge issued by Rock Swanson
of Encinitas, California in our first "POTW" quiz question.
His hint: "This is my mother and CFI in November of '41.
Location is Gardenia, California. Only six of these planes were built."
Used with permission of Maurice Caudill
"How Many Can You Name?"
And if you enjoy this sort of game,
Maurice Caudill of Peoria, Illinois
promises to keep you busy for a while
with "just a few of the flock at a central
Illinois fly-in breakfast last 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
Letters to the editor intended for publication in AVmail should be sent to mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a comment or question? Send it to mailto:email@example.com.
Today's issue written by News Writer Russ Niles:
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Fly it till everything stops.
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