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January 26, 2005

NewsWire Complete Issue

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
This issue of AVweb's AVflash is brought to you by ... Trade-A-Plane

Brokers, Forums, NAAA Evaluator, Performance Database, Spec Sheets, Weather — all in Trade-A-Plane. Trade-A-Plane gives you the best of both worlds, in print and online. Order your subscription by calling (800) 337-5263 and mentioning this AVflash, or go online at http://www.avweb.com/sponsors/tap/avflash.

RVSM, One Week In...

Smooth Transition Reported

Domestic RVSM (Reduced Vertical Separation Minimums) took effect in the airspace above the U.S. one week ago, today, and (so far) the transition seems to have gone without glitches and even (which is harder to believe) with hardly any griping. "Everything went pretty smoothly. It was basically a non-event," National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) spokesman Dan Hubbard told AVweb on Tuesday. "We're satisfied with how RVSM has gone into effect." At 0401 EST last Thursday, aircraft that had not complied with FAA requirements for equipment and authorization were transitioned out of the airspace between Flight Levels 290 and 410. Aircraft in compliance were transitioned to make use of the six new high-altitude routes. The changes took effect at the same time above Canada, Central and South America, and the Caribbean. RVSM allows properly equipped and FAA-authorized aircraft to fly at vertical separations of 1,000 feet instead of 2,000 feet, in RVSM airspace. The FAA says the change will save the airlines $5.3 billion over the next decade. The International Civil Aviation Organization said the transition was without incident across the hemisphere. The NBAA reminded pilots that equipment suffix changes for FAA flight plans took effect with the implementation of RVSM. Check the FAA's Notice to Airmen to see if you're a Q or a W.

...ATC, Pilots, Manufacturers Adapting...

FAA spokesman William Shumann had a similar report: "Our overall impression is that center controllers throughout our system are pleased with the change and like the flexibility of having more altitudes to offer. Anecdotally, we're hearing that pilots are pleased as well," he told AVweb in an e-mail on Tuesday. "So far there have been no operational errors attributed to RVSM." Walter Desrosier, VP of engineering for the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, agreed that it's been a successful transition. "There have been no major bugs or snafus that we've heard of," he told AVweb yesterday. Manufacturers conducting flight testing in the RVSM airspace have had some concerns, but they are being worked out. "Nobody is grounded. Nobody has had any kind of interruption or delay in their flight-testing programs," Desrosier said. "They knew this was coming." He added that some long-term concerns exist about the abundance of flight-testing needs in the airspace at Kansas City Center, but new policies are being worked out to ensure that manufacturers can fly when they need to without stressing the air traffic control system. A last-minute concern that arose over allowing ferry and delivery flights of factory-new aircraft (which don't yet have an owner/operator, and thus no FAA authorization) was resolved, he said.

That's not to say that disgruntled and aggravated RVSM-restricted operators are not to be found. A frustrated Beechjet 400 pilot wrote to AVweb earlier this month that it took his company two years to get its RVSM upgrade OK'd by the local FSDO, and he expected it would take another year to get the required Letter of Authorization from the FAA. "We weren't 'gambling with the FAA's reputation for procrastination' ... [but] we have been bitten by it," he wrote. "We did everything in our power to meet the deadline, but they didn't." Jets banned from RVSM airspace will pay a price in fuel burn and fewer options for avoiding weather. Theoretically they can climb above FL 410 and fly up there if they're able, but in practice those transitions are not likely to be given out by ATC.

...Thousands Still Not In Compliance

As many as 1,600 to 2,000 bizjets were estimated to be not in compliance as of the deadline, according to Paul Clouse, director of RVSM Operations at ARINC, and many are still in the works. ARINC has been working as a consultant to operators, helping to lead them through the complex authorization process. "We are quite busy with height monitoring [a 30-minute in-flight test to verify that instrument error is within limits], Letter of Authorization packages, and RVSM modifications, at our facilities in Colorado Springs and Scottsdale, Ariz.," Clouse told AVweb on Tuesday. Some operators have been waiting for the rush to subside in hopes of bargaining for a lower price; others had delayed on a gamble that the FAA wouldn't make its deadline. And some operators have had to give up on flying in RVSM altitudes due to the cost of making older aircraft compliant.

Newer jets that have been built in the last few years, or are now in production, are coming from the factory with all the necessary RVSM equipment included. However, they still must go through the FAA authorization process, which not only certifies that the airplane is compliant, but also that the operator is qualified. If the aircraft is sold, the new owners must get a new Letter of Authorization from the FAA. With thousands of very light jets in production -- Eclipse alone says it has over 2,000 orders -- plus the usual crop of bizjets and turboprops, that should keep the RVSM consultants busy for a while yet. Eclipse, at its Web site, describes the typical trip profile for an Eclipse 500 jet as a cruising altitude of 41,000 feet for a 1,200-nm trip, or 35,000 feet when flying 500 nm.

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Age-60 Rule Back In Play...

Legislation Would Add Five Years

With Congress back in session, a bill to raise the mandatory retirement age for airline pilots from 60 to 65 has reappeared as well. The bill foundered last year, but senior Republicans Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma and Rep. Jim Gibbons of Nevada have revived it, and pressure for change seems to be building. With the major airlines in trouble, and pilots losing wages and benefits and pensions, their plea to not be booted out at 60 may gain a bit of sympathy. And better healthcare means pilots at 60 still retain their flight skills, said Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., chairman of the House Aviation Subcommittee. Mica said he plans to hold hearings on the rule. "When it comes to flying, older and more experienced is better," he told the St. Petersburg Times. "The age-60 rule imposed by the FAA has no basis in science," Gibbons said. "It is time to rescind this outdated regulation and allow our most experienced pilots to do their jobs." Inhofe's "Age 65 Act" (S.65) and Gibbons' House companion bill (HR.65) would abolish the FAA's age-60 rule and replace it with a plan that ties the commercial pilot retirement age to the Social Security retirement age. As a result of this legislation, the FAA could not force commercial pilots to retire before they are eligible for Social Security benefits, Gibbons said.

...As ALPA Considers Change

Under International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) regulations, airline pilots from more than 180 countries can fly into the United States up to age 65. More than 40 other countries have raised their pilot retirement age to 63 or 65. For years, the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) has stood by the age-60 rule, despite grass-roots lobbying by pilots seeking to change it. Now, the union is reconsidering its stance. Last September, ALPA's executive board voted unanimously to begin a thorough review of its position on the rule. The union plans a communications effort to educate its members about the rule and will take a poll this year to gauge their feelings about it. "This reexamination will help determine ALPA's future position on mandatory retirement -- whether it be to maintain or change the Association's policy," ALPA said in a statement on its Web site. It will be ALPA's first major re-examination of the rule since 1980. (When the rule was issued in 1960, ALPA opposed it, but in 1980 decided to support it.) ALPA's policy on the age-60 rule will not necessarily affect the rule itself, which is mandated by the FAA. The FAA so far has shown little interest in changing the rule. Administrator Marion Blakey has proposed raising the retirement age for air traffic controllers from 56 to 61, to help stem the anticipated shortage, but no such shortage is foreseen for pilots.

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FAA Examiners Now Sport Pilot Ready

Eight brand-new Sport Pilot Examiners were certified by the FAA last Saturday in Sebring, Fla., at the conclusion of the first-ever Sport Pilot Examiner/Sport Pilot Flight Instructor Examiner course. The examiners spent a busy week, studying the new regulations and practical test standards, taking flight tests and perusing the new examiner handbook. "They are a credit to the light sport aviation community," said Marty Weaver, manager of the FAA's Light Sport Aviation Branch. He said he also got lots of valuable feedback to help improve future courses. The first five experimental light-sport aircraft (ELSA) also were certified during the week. The next class will be held the week of March 21, in Sebring. Candidates are being selected now and will be invited by the end of February.

The first sport pilot examiners are: William Bardin, Sacramento, Calif., ASEL (airplane single engine land); John Beaman, Portland, Ore., WSCL (weight-shift control land); Roy Beisswenger, Greenville, Ill., PPCL (powered parachute land); Bob Bleadon, Selma, Ore., ASEL; Brian Carpenter, Corning, Calif., ASEL; Eric Johnson, Chandler, Ariz., WSCL; Larry Littlefield, Boyton Beach, Fla., PPCL; and Romke Sikkema, Sebring, Fla., ASEL.

Orbit Closer For Space Entrepreneurs

The success of the X Prize competition has spawned a new wave of efforts to launch private spaceships and build spaceports -- so many that the field is starting to sort out into various subgroups. Most active are the companies we told you about on Monday, who are trying to launch manned ships into space and back, mainly for tourism. But gaining fast are the next tier of contenders, who have their eyes on the prize of getting into orbit, and staying as long as they like. Last week, in McGregor, Texas, SpaceX took a leap forward when it successfully tested its Merlin rocket engine, which produces 73,000 pounds of thrust, Wired News reported. The engine burned for 162 seconds -- long enough to boost a 1,500-pound payload into orbit. "This essentially marks the completion of our engine development," SpaceX CEO Elon Musk told Wired News. The Merlin engine will power the first stage of the company's Falcon I rocket, which is expected to launch in March, carrying a Department of Defense satellite and the cremated ashes of 125 people who paid to be "buried" in space. The next-phase Falcon V rocket will use six of the Merlin engines, in an effort to win the $50 million America's Space Prize. To win, SpaceX must send five people into orbit twice within 60 days, and do it by Jan. 10, 2010. And then what? "I think it's very important that we become a spacefaring civilization, and that we eventually become multiplanetary," Musk said -- so watch for that competition next.

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Aircraft Burglaries Spike In Southeast

If you live in Florida, keep an eye on your airplane ... according to the Aviation Crime Prevention Institute (ACPI), that state leads the nation by far in numbers of burglaries from aircraft in 2004. "All late-model Bendix/King and Garmin units are the preferred choice of thieves," says Robert Collins, president of ACPI. "GPS units have become very popular." 2004 is the first year since 1990 that aircraft burglaries have been higher than the previous year, Collins said. Theft activity in Florida and Georgia has spiked this year's statistics. "That spike kind of surprised us," Collins told AVweb yesterday, but he said it was not related to last year's hurricanes in that area. "There was no looting going on," he said. Across the U.S., 68 aircraft were burglarized, and 183 items were stolen, at a total estimated value of $550,000. Florida had 28 thefts, Georgia had 13, and California had 7. Most other states had only one or two. Also, 11 aircraft were stolen in 2004 --10 Cessna models and one Maule, including four 210s stolen in Mexico. The ACPI suggests that owners use anti-theft devices on parked aircraft.

Report: Airliner Anti-Missile Systems Too Costly, Unreliable

It would cost $11 billion to equip the 6,800 airliners in the U.S. fleet with systems to guard against attacks from shoulder-fired missiles, according to a Rand Corporation study issued Tuesday. Operating the system would cost an additional $2.1 billion per year. And the laser systems now in use on military aircraft are too unreliable, the report said. False alarms are frequent, and terrorists might be able to find ways to circumvent the safeguards anyway. "Resources available for homeland security are limited, so we must strive to get the most benefit from our investments," said Michael Wermuth, director of Rand's homeland security program. "There may well be other strategy alternatives that could prove to be less expensive and considerably more effective."

Better tactics suggested by the report include expanding efforts to keep missiles out of terrorists' hands, improving security around the perimeter of airports and improving commercial airliners' ability to survive a missile strike. More than 700,000 of the missiles have been produced worldwide by a number of nations. Many thousands of the weapons are unaccounted for worldwide, including some U.S.-made missiles sent to Afghanistan to assist the mujahedin who battled against the occupation by the Soviet Union, according to the report. The complete report can be downloaded free at the Rand Corp. Web site.

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There's Ethanol In Those Pumps

A change to the way gasoline is sold in Montana could have ramifications for pilots everywhere who use auto fuel, EAA said yesterday. Legislation pending in the Montana legislature mandates that all gasoline sold to consumers for use in motor vehicles must contain 10 percent denatured ethanol. Many aircraft cannot operate safely on fuel blended with ethanol products, EAA said, including all future special light-sport airplanes (S-LSAs). The ASTM/FAA standards for the S-LSAs require them to operate on unleaded gasoline. More than 600 airplanes registered today in Montana operate on an FAA-approved auto-fuel supplemental type certificate (STC), as do many ultralight vehicles and amateur-built aircraft whose engines require auto fuel, EAA said.

EAA is promoting amendments to the bill that would exempt premium gasoline from the ethanol requirements and require operators to label all fuel pumps so consumers know whether the fuel being pumped contains ethanol and, if so, what percentage. EAA asked Montana pilots to contact their elected officials to change the amendment to read, "A gasoline retailer may hold, store, import, transfer, distribute, offer for sale or use nonethanol-blended unleaded premium grade gasoline with an antiknock index (AKI) number of ninety-one (91) or greater."

Forget Flying Cars -- Take A Jet Taxi

If you're tired of waiting for a flying car, a London company is already at work on the next big thing -- a jet taxi that can zip passengers in and out of city centers faster and quieter than a helicopter. Avcen, based in London, is developing what it calls a "Very Quiet Short Takeoff and Landing Jetpod Aircab." "We know that cities like Moscow, Tokyo and New York are crying out for something like this and there's nothing remotely like it around," Avcen managing director Mike Dacre told CNN. The six-seat twinjet can take off in less than 400 feet and fly at 300 knots, make half the noise of a regular jet, and sell for under a million U.S. dollars -- at least, on paper. The company says it's 16 months away from getting a proof-of-concept aircraft into the air. Meanwhile, the flying-car concept continues to attract tinkerers. Discovery Channel's Monster Garage reportedly has an episode in the works that gives a team one week to turn a car into an airplane capable of sustained powered flight.

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On The Fly...

AOPA members have donated $44,000 so far for tsunami relief...

The FAA has published special traffic procedures for the Super Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla., Feb. 2-8...

Feb. 6 has been set as the launch date for Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer's attempt to fly around the world nonstop, with one pilot. Steve Fossett will take off from Salina, Kan., weather permitting...

Controllers were driven out of the tower in Detroit Metro Airport on Saturday by chemicals used to clean mold...

Corporate Angel Network, based in White Plains, N.Y., provided its 20,000th flight for a cancer patient on Monday...

The University of North Dakota and ALPA are teaming to offer courses in aviation accident investigation. To hire on with the NTSB, click here...

India is working on a beefed-up helicopter that could fly rescue missions above 25,000 feet in the Himalayas.

AVweb's Newstips Address ...

Drop us a line. If it caught your attention, it will probably interest someone else, too. Submit news tips via email to newstips@avweb.com.

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New Articles and Features on AVweb

Quiz #90 -- Decode VIP, AP, LOM
From the edge of outer space to the low-life missed approach environment, all pilots should be able to spit out obscure aviation terminology and know how to apply the info for safer flight.

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AVweb's Question of the Week ...


Last week, AVweb asked our readers what degree of caution they exercise when flying through Military Operation Areas (MOAs).

As it turns out, most of you are pretty careful pilots.  Only 5% of respondents chose the most cavalier response: It's a big sky, and it's still a free country; I'll fly through when it's the most convenient route.

88% of you exercise a far greater degree of caution.  25% of respondents will only fly through a "cold" MOA, 37% insist on regular contact with ATC, and 26% remind us that flying requires constant caution and awareness — regardless of whether you're flying through an MOA or circling your neighborhood.

Only 7% of readers reported never flying through MOAs.  But, as our "never" answer points out, it can be daunting to dodge aircraft traveling near the speed of sound ... .


This week, an AVweb reader wonders which cockpit flight control configuration private and light sport pilots would prefer if given a choice. "I've never figured out why light aircraft designers configured single-pilot flight controls for the right hand while two-pilot cockpits usually require the pilot in command to fly left-handed," he writes.

Pilots with LESS than 300 hours' experience,
click here to tell us which configuration you'd prefer

Pilots with MORE than 300 hours' experience,
click here to tell us which configuration you'd prefer

Have an idea for a new QOTW? Send your suggestions to qotw@avweb.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.

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AVweb's Picture of the Week ...

Submit a Photo | Rules | Tips | Questions

Current POTW Winner | Past POTW Winners

"Weather" is the theme of this installment of "Picture of the Week."  Our latest crop of photos took us around the world — from snowy Ontario to the sweltering Iraqi landscape to a rainy day in Tucson, Arizona.  Thanks to his winning contribution, Tucson resident Jim McGill will get a brand-new AVweb baseball cap to keep the rain out of his eyes.

Thanks for taking time to share your photo, Jim!  The rest of you can get a shot at next week's baseball cap by submitting your amateur aviation photos here.

Quick Notes:
"Picture of the Week" is the talk of the town!  Be sure to check out Monday's AVmail for more reader opinions on digital photos showing up in our "POTW" contest, as well as a positive ID on Rock Swanson's vintage ' 41 bird from last week.

A couple of engine buffs sent in pictures for Marc Cook, AVweb's resident "Motorhead."  Rest assured that they were enjoyed at POTW HQ and passed along to Marc.  (Our "POTW" Editor plans to enjoy them again once Marc explains what exactly they're pictures of ... .)

Due to privacy issues, AVweb does not publish e-mail addresses of readers who submit photos.


copyright © Jim McGill
Used with permission of Jim McGill

"Weathered In "
Jim McGill
of Tucson, Arizona
reminds us to wear our rain suits with
his winning image this week.

Click here to view a large version of this image
Click here for a medium-sized version

Used with permission of Forrest Johnson

"Let's Get Ready to Rumble!"
Forrest Johnson of the U.S. National Guard
sends us a photo of his unit prepping for night
missions in Iraq.  At the time the photo was
taken, Forrest tells us, the temp
on the flight line was 122 ˚F

Used with permission of George Mock

"Keeping Warm"
And we go all the way to the other extreme with this pic
from George Mock of Windsor, Ontario (Canada).
Ten bucks says the owners of these birds
(members of the Windsor Flying Club) were
comparably dressed when the picture was taken ... .

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.

Bonus Pictures

Yes, there are too many pictures this week!

The boss never has to know — just enjoy
'em and keep it on the down-low, O.K.?

Used with permission of John Shelden

"A380 Wannabe"
John Shelden of Kent, Washington
made us ask, "What the —?!"
But he was kind enough to provide
a link with more information on this
flying 3/5-scale Stipa-Caproni aircraft.
Go ahead and click here to learn more.
Just don't forget to come back for our
other two bonus pictures.

copyright © Jim Oxford
Used with permission of Jim Oxford

"Tomahawk at Kitty Hawk"
Jim Oxford of Atlanta, Georgia
took this clever photo in the early 1980s.
Thanks for digging it out and sharing, Jim!

And two landscapes to take us home this week:

Used with permission of Vanessa Grigsby

"Sunrise over a Sea of Fog"
The tower at Travis Air Force Base, as captured by
Vanessa Grigsby of Vacaville, California

Used with permission of Terry Cronin

"Moonrise over Mt. Rainier"
Terry Cronin
of Federal Way, Washington
snuck this pic in as we were reviewing
the week's contenders, and we just
couldn't save it for next week.

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.

Sponsor News and Special Offers

Access to AVweb and AVflash is provided by the support of our fine sponsors. We appreciate your patronage.

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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:editor@avweb.com.com. Have a comment or question? Send it to mailto:newsteam@avweb.com.

Today's issue written by News Writer Mary Grady:
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Fly it till every part stops.

AVflash is now available in optional easier-to-read graphic format, which includes some photos and illustrations. If you prefer, you can continue to receive AVflash in text-only format. Simply follow these instructions and AVflash will continue to arrive as it always has, in text format.

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