NewsWire Complete Issue

January 30, 2005
By The AVweb Editorial Staff

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GA On The Upswing...

Cessna Had A Good Year

Cessna Aircraft Co. shipped 654 single-engine piston aircraft and 64 Caravans in 2004, the company said on Thursday. Cessna also delivered 179 Citation jets and took orders for 330 more. "This has been a solid year for Cessna," said CEO Jack Pelton. In 2004, the company introduced the G1000 glass cockpit in its Skyhawk, Skylane and Stationair lines; flew the PW615F engine destined for the Citation Mustang on a CitationJet test bed; and expanded its Cessna Pilot Center network to a total of 286 sites. Cessna also delivered the 150,000th Cessna single-engine piston aircraft since it started production in 1927. Cessna plans to hire 600 new workers in 2005. "Our outlook for growth in 2005 and beyond is increasingly positive as we see continuing expansion in our markets, particularly at Bell Helicopter and Cessna," said Lewis Campbell, CEO of Textron, Cessna's parent company. (Bell also had good news last week when the U.S. Navy chose a new helicopter -- see below.)

...As Lancair, ATG, Ready To Grow

Cessna is not the only airplane manufacturer with plans to grow in 2005. Lancair said last week it will hire 130 new workers at its Bend (Ore.) Municipal Airport facility between now and mid-summer. The company already has over 400 employees, and has been ramping up its production rate over the past year. Backlog of its Columbia 350 and 400 certified aircraft has continued to grow, the company said, and it plans to deliver 190 aircraft this year. Building expansion is also underway. Aviation Technology Group also announced last week it will add about a dozen jobs as it expands at Centennial Airport in Englewood, Colo., where it is working on the Javelin Executive Jet. The company will add two hangars totaling 12,800 square feet that will be used for continuing research and development of the two-seater twinjet. (Click here for AVweb's recent update on ATG progress on the Javelin Jet.)

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More Airplanes Need More Airspace...

Software To Relieve Bottlenecks

With all those airplanes in the works, plus thousands of light jets destined for the airways, and an apparent economic upswing driving ever more traffic into the skies, long-term predictions say air traffic will triple over the next 20 years. Since the amount of airspace will remain the same and new runways are slow and scarce, NASA and the FAA are working on advanced technologies that will squeeze more efficiency out of the existing system. Last week, NASA successfully tested new software that it says will help prevent bottlenecks and alleviate the need for holding patterns by tweaking departure times of aircraft by just a few minutes. The Multi-center Traffic Management Advisor (McTMA) analyzes radar data, flight plans, weather information and input from controllers to forecast air traffic congestion. McTMA then generates an advisory, typically a small delay, for each aircraft predicted to encounter congestion. In the test, the new techniques were applied to traffic headed for Philadelphia, and during periods when airborne holding is routinely encountered, no such holding was observed, NASA said. Taking part in the tests were the Air Route Traffic Control Centers in New York, Washington, Boston and Cleveland; the Philadelphia Terminal Radar Approach Control and the National Air Traffic Control System Command Center in Herndon, Va. McTMA makes possible a fundamental shift from distance-based to time-based metering of aircraft, NASA said. "Time-based metering can reduce airborne delays and improve coordination and planning between adjacent air traffic control facilities," said Tom Edwards, deputy director at NASA's Ames Research Center in California. Future tests will seek to gradually expand the McTMA operational envelope to demonstrate multi-center, time-based metering of departures, arrivals and en route flows to multiple destinations, NASA said.

...While Total Transformation Is In The Works

Tinkering with the current system is fine, but in the end, nothing less than a complete transformation will do the job -- so says the Joint Planning & Development Office, a federal agency that has taken on the task of designing the Next Generation Airspace System (NGATS) for the year 2025. The plan, released to Congress last month, outlines an ambitious vision for "transforming" airport infrastructure, security systems, air traffic operations, data distribution, safety, noise and pollution mitigation, and weather forecasts. NGATS also takes on the integration of emerging technologies such as remotely operated vehicles, spacecraft and air taxis into the airspace system of the future. The plan received positive reaction from the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), which called it a "bold vision" and pledged support to make it a reality.

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NTSB Reports On Fatal Military/Civilian Midair...

In Search Of Causal Factors

The pilots of an Air Force training jet saw the crop-duster seconds before the two airplanes collided 5,000 feet above rural Oklahoma about 11 a.m. on Jan. 18, the NTSB said in its preliminary report, posted Thursday. The two pilots in the Cessna T-37B jet ejected safely. The pilot of the Air Tractor AT-502B, Dierk Nash, 39, of Arkansas, was killed. FAA spokesman John Clabes told the local KFDX News that Nash had a clean flight record and was not in violation of any rule as far as investigators can tell. Nash was flying VFR, ferrying the Air Tractor from the plant in Olney, Texas, to its new owner in South Dakota. He had been flying about a half hour. The crop-duster was not equipped with a radio or transponder, but Nash had a handheld radio and a GPS unit.

...With Details From Surviving Pilots

The T-37 pilots had completed a training session and were on their way back to Sheppard Air Force Base, in Texas. They contacted USAF Radar Approach Control and were told they had radar contact. They descended to 5,000 feet and leveled off at 200 knots, the NTSB said. After leveling off from the descent, the T-37 instructor took control and briefly scanned the student's altimeter on the left side of the panel, according to standard practice. As he was turning back to the right, he told the NTSB he saw a "high visibility yellow airplane." The student pilot said that as the instructor took control, he scanned outside the airplane to the left, and started to look back to the right when he saw the yellow Air Tractor heading toward the right side of the T-37. The Air Force pilots said they felt a spinning motion and rolled inverted, and then ejected from the airplane. If the results of the investigation determine that no rules or procedures were broken in the process of a man's death and the destruction of two aircraft, perhaps it will be determined there is need to change the rules or procedures. We'll let you know.

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FSS Outsourcing Choice Due This Week

Workers at 58 Flight Service Stations in the continental U.S. should find out this week who will run their operation in the future. The FAA will choose from five contenders who bid on the outsourcing contract. "No matter who wins, there will be changes," AOPA said last week, in a news release. "Many automated flight service stations may be consolidated, for example. And walk-in briefings will likely become a thing of the past." AOPA has been supportive of the change, however, saying the current system is too costly, and the new system will increase efficiency without imposing user fees. The FAA wants the winner to cut costs by at least 22 percent from the current $502 million (depending on how you count it) annual tab. The National Association of Air Traffic Specialists (NAATS), the union representing FSS workers, has opposed the process, saying figures are misrepresented and the move amounts to selling off the system to the lowest bidder, with inadequate provisions to ensure safety and security. NAATS has long disputed the FAA's contention that each contact with a pilot costs $25. "Flight service cost an average of $12 per contact until you factor in the cost of all the technical and administrative support costs. These support personnel are not included in any privatization or job elimination study," says NAATS. As many as 2,000 FSS jobs will be lost this year, the union says. At the AOPA Expo in November 2003, FAA Administrator Marion Blakey said the outsourcing process would not result in reduced services to pilots. "We want to provide enhanced services ... not just efficient service," Blakey said. Bidders for the contract include the agency's own employees in partnership with Harris Corp., Computer Sciences Corp., Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon. After the FAA decides, there is an appeal period of several weeks before the selection is final. The FSSs will still be under government control, and the FAA remains responsible for their operation.

NTSB Wants Stricter Oversight Of Pilot Failures

The FAA should find a new way to deal with pilots of air carrier and charter operations who consistently fail flight proficiency checks, and ensure that records of those failures are taken into account during hiring decisions, the NTSB said Friday in a Safety Recommendation Letter. The recommendation was prompted by the safety board's investigation of a ditching of a Cessna 402C in the Atlantic in July 2003, in which two people died. The pilot failed to adequately manage the aircraft after the right engine failed, the NTSB said, and didn't provide a safety briefing to the passengers before ditching. FAA records showed that between 1993 and 1998, the pilot had failed nine flight checks. The NTSB said the FAA should require all Part 121 and 135 air carriers to obtain any notices of disapproval for flight checks for certificates and ratings for all pilot applicants and evaluate this information before making a hiring decision. Also, the FAA should conduct a study to determine whether the number of flight checks a pilot can fail should be limited and whether the existing system of providing additional training after a notice of disapproval is adequate for pilots who have failed multiple flight checks. On the basis of the findings of the study, the FAA should establish a flight-check failure limit and modify the recheck training requirements, if necessary. The investigation of the ditching is ongoing, and the NTSB has not stated a probable cause.

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Lockheed To Put Foreign Parts In New "Marine One"

A international consortium of companies led by Lockheed Martin beat out Sikorsky Aircraft in a competition to build a fleet of 23 "Marine One" presidential helicopters, the Department of Defense announced on Friday. The contract is worth $6 billion. The new helicopter, called the US101, is a variant of a medium-lift three-engine helicopter designed in Italy. It will carry more weight and fly faster than the current fleet, and has a significantly improved range. Lockheed says it will expand its site in Oswego, N.Y., and build new helicopter assembly facilities for Bell Helicopter in Texas. Staff recruiting is underway. Sikorsky, based in Connecticut, had built the presidential helicopters for 50 years. "Sikorsky and our All-American supplier team are disappointed with this outcome,'' said Stephen N. Finger, Sikorsky's president. Sikorsky said its helicopter would have cost less than Lockheed's, and could fly farther and faster while carrying more payload more safely. The competition involved political lobbying at the highest levels. Sikorsky pledged to build the helicopters in America, while much of the work on Lockheed's model will be done overseas. The Navy said politics did not factor into its decision. The first US101 is due in 2009.

NASA Research Balloon Makes Record-Breaking Flight

A huge, unmanned NASA balloon carrying two tons of scientific gear floated near the edge of space for nearly 42 days and made three orbits around the South Pole, breaking flight records for duration and distance, NASA said on Friday. The balloon landed Thursday, 410 miles from its launch site at the McMurdo research station in Antarctica. The huge helium-filled balloon, constructed of a thin polyethylene envelope 0.0008 inches thick and 450 feet in diameter, had ascended to 125,000 feet. NASA hopes to eventually extend flights up to 100 days using the Ultra-Long Duration Balloon system, which uses a "superpressure pumpkin balloon" that was developed at the National Scientific Balloon Facility in Texas. The pumpkin-shaped balloon envelope is completely sealed and pressurized in order to maintain constant altitude night and day. The previous duration record was just under 32 days. The scientific equipment carried on the record flight collected data on cosmic rays.

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Soar Like A Bird, With A Bird's Help

If you think you've tried everything there is to try in aviation, think again. Sunrise Paragliding in Nepal has teamed with the Himalayan Hawk Conservancy to present what it calls "Parahawking" -- flying a paraglider in tandem with a trained hawk who will scout out the thermals for you. The flights launch from Pokhara, in a broad valley surrounded by Himalayan mountains, about 100 miles west of Kathmandu. The two Phariah Kite chicks, Shadoko and Sappana, were rescued from a local farmer. Adam Hill and Rajesh Bomjam, owners of Sunrise Paragliding, learned the traditional methods of the ancient sport of falconry to train the birds. Newbies can try the intro experience for $160; that includes getting to know the birds and taking a flight with an instructor and a hawk. Air fare to Nepal, that's extra. Enthusiasts can also sign up for a seven-day intensive course in parahawking. Students learn about the birds of prey and how to train them, in a mix of theory and practical lessons. "Parahawking is truly addictive," the Sunrise Web site says.

Stanford Univ. Seeks Pilots For Aging Study

With the age-60 rule back in play, how would you like to contribute to scientific research, while getting free simulator time, earning a few extra bucks and attaining that goal of attending Stanford U. (sort of)? The Palo Alto, Calif., school is studying age-related changes in aviator performance. Volunteers must be 50 to 67 years old, have a current and active pilot certificate and a current FAA medical certificate, and must have logged between 300 and 15,000 hours. Volunteers will fly a Frasca 141 simulator. After an initial training period, they are asked to come back for four annual visits, so their performance over time can be evaluated. For more details and contact info, go to the study's Web site.

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Wanted: A Few Good Engine Shops

Our sister publication, Aviation Consumer, is conducting an exhaustive survey of aircraft-owner experience with engine overhaul shops and sources. If you'd like to participate, just click here. You don't have to be a subscriber to participate. Replies will be kept confidential.

On The Fly...

Airspace above Washington essentially shuts down for GA during Wednesday night's State of the Union address...

The launch date has been bumped back again for Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer's attempt to fly around the world nonstop with one pilot. Steve Fossett will take off from Salina, Kan., on Feb. 8, if the conditions are favorable...

BRS parachute systems now available for Velocity XL-5 kitplanes...

Boeing last week officially designated its 7E7 Dreamliner as the 787, and announced orders for 60 copies from China...

X-ray movies reveal how flies fly...

A lump of "poop ice" fell from an airliner and wrecked a car in Leominster, England, on Thursday.

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Reader feedback on AVweb's news coverage and feature articles:

Reader mail this week about security awareness training and young pilots, and lots of fighting about where to put those cockpit controls. Plus a few travelogues from North Dakota.

New Articles and Features on AVweb

From the CFI #5: How to Pass Any Checkride ... The First Time!
Pilots are usually successful in the rest of their non-aviation life, so it can come as a shock to hear that not everyone passes a checkride on the first try. It's especially a shock when you don't pass! AVweb's Linda Pendleton, who served as an FAA designated examiner, has suggestions for getting your certificate in one go.

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Short Final...

The new math.

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Fly it till every part stops.

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