February 2, 2005
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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All of the existing FSS positions in the FAA will be eliminated and Lockheed Martin will hire its own staff. The FAA announced Tuesday the company won the government's largest-ever competitive outsourcing competition with a bid that will cut the number of FSS offices by two-thirds (from 58 to 20) by 2007, intends to save taxpayers $2.2 billion over 10 years, and at the same time pledges to offer virtually on-demand availability of flight information for pilots. Lockheed Martin beat four other applicants, including a partnership between the existing FSS organization (members of the National Association of Air Traffic Specialists, NAATS) and the Harris Corp. Lockheed Martin assumes control in October of this year and will start whittling down the number of FSS locations next year. Its contract runs for five years at a price of $1.9 billion and there's a five-year renewal option. Guaranteed faster, better service at lower cost is the promise as Lockheed Martin assumes operation of the flight service station system over the next few years. The four unsuccessful bidders have 15 days to challenge the decision and the FAA can take up to 90 days to review those challenges.
According to AOPA, pilots win because of performance standards written into the deal. In a statement, AOPA President Phil Boyer said pilots can soon look forward to phone calls being answered by a live briefer within 20 seconds, radio calls answered within five seconds and the requested information supplied within 15 seconds. Urgent PIREPs would be entered into the system within 15 seconds and routine reports updated within 30 seconds. Flight plans will take no more than three minutes to file. There's no provision for user fees in the contract. Boyer said the contract represents a much-needed modernization of the FSS service as well as the introduction of cost savings and efficiencies to cut the burden on the taxpayer (and make those user fees even less likely). AOPA's support of the outsourcing process put it at odds with NAATS, but Boyer said AOPA's mandate is to protect the interests of pilots, while the union was trying to preserve jobs.
NAATS President Kate Breen told AVweb she believes aircraft groups have been sold a bill of goods, particularly on the issue of user fees. She said that once Lockheed Martin takes over, she believes it will be constantly looking for extra money to cover costs not foreseen in the contract and the FAA won't have the funds. "They're going to need fees to compensate for that," she said. Breen also doubts the hoped-for service improvements can be achieved with such drastic cuts to the operation. But she also has more dire predictions for the system if Lockheed Martin's effort fails. Breen said at least half the current workforce of 2,500 briefers will retire, others will get other FAA jobs and some of the remainder will go to work for Lockheed Martin. That, she said, will seriously deplete the pool of trained, experienced briefers if the FAA needs to rebuild a version of the current system. "The workforce is gone," she said. "You can't just go in the Yellow Pages and find these people."
IN PRINT AND ONLINE, TRADE-A-PLANE GIVES YOU THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS
While it's far too early to draw any conclusions, there are some stark similarities between the crash of a Bombardier Challenger CL-600 bizjet at Teterboro Airport on Wednesday and an aircraft from the same family in Colorado in November. Witnesses say the plane in New Jersey failed to lift off before skidding off the end of the runway, crossing an expressway and running into a warehouse. Amazingly, no one was (immediately) killed, but up to 14 people, including an occupant of a car (listed in critical condition at the time of this writing) hit by the plane and an employee in the warehouse, were hurt. Initial reports said there were 12 people on the plane, which was on its way to Chicago. Three people died in the Colorado crash, and airframe icing is being investigated as the reason that that Challenger didn't get off the ground. That event prompted safety recommendations.
After the Colorado crash, which killed the son of NBC executive Dick Ebersol and two others, the National Transportation Safety Board issued a recommendation that pilots run their hands over wing surfaces to feel for frost buildup. The weather at the time of Wednesday's crash was reported as clear, calm and 22 degrees. FAA spokesman Greg Martin said the possibility of icing is being investigated. He said the temperature at the time of the crash was 24 degrees and the dew point was 18 degrees. According to an ABC report, at least seven others have died on Challengers during two take-off accidents previous to the Colorado incident. In 2002, five died when a Challenger with ice on its wings crashed on take-off in England. In October of 2000, two test pilots died in a take-off crash
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It's a time-honored homily that aircraft accidents are usually the result of a series of small errors compounding toward catastrophe. Fortunately, in this case, an experienced Air Canada crew was able to figure out that it was landing at the wrong airport before the A319 was set down on a runway not much wider than its landing gear and about 300 feet shorter than its minimum stopping distance. As AVweb reported in 2003, the Airbus in question was on its way to Kelowna International Airport in British Columbia in August of 2003 when the pilot lined up on the 3,300-by-75-foot runway at Vernon Regional Airport instead. According to the just-released Canadian Transportation Safety Board (TSB) report on the incident, the plane, with 100 people aboard, was configured for landing and about 30 to 40 seconds from touchdown when the pilot called a go-around. According to flight data recorder information released by the TSB, the Airbus was 730 feet above ground level and 1.3 miles from the airport when the captain realized the error. He climbed to 6,000 feet and was given directions by Kelowna tower to the right runway.
According to the TSB, the string of errors began before Flight 183 left Toronto on its daily nonstop flight to Kelowna, a city of about 100,000 people 200 miles east of Vancouver. An Air Canada dispatcher, aware of a major forest fire burning near Kelowna, called Kelowna Tower to ask if the airport was even open. He was told it was, but that the ILS/DME approach wasn't authorized and that VFR conditions prevailed. As the plane neared its destination, the crew was told by air traffic control that the NDB approach was also unavailable. However, neither the dispatcher nor the crew was told the reason the navaids were unauthorized. They were working perfectly, but the published missed approach for both infringed on the restricted airspace around the fire. Adding to the pilots' incomplete picture of the situation was the fact that the company-produced route manual didn't have a VFR transition procedure for Kelowna's Runway 15, which was active. The route manual also didn't show the Vernon Airport, or its air traffic frequency.
As the plane descended from the north, its navigation gear picked up the signals from the ILS systems and gave the first officer, the non-flying pilot, a constant readout of the distance from Kelowna. So, when the pilot mistook the Vernon strip for Kelowna, he turned the plane 90 degrees to the right of the Kelowna runway heading and started an 1800-feet-per-minute descent to the wrong airport. The plane's navigation equipment was clearly showing the flight to be 30 miles from the right airport. However, the first officer had been distracted by a radio call from terminal staff in Kelowna concerning the flight's gate assignment and it wasn't until the plane was well-settled on final for Runway 23 in Vernon that the first officer noticed the discrepancies on the panel and suggested a go-around. Just as they were tucking the gear up, the TCAS blared a warning about conflicting traffic in the pattern at Vernon. Vernon flight instructor Tyler Chambers and a student were just turning base for 23 when Chambers saw the Airbus bearing down on them. He took control and steered their Cessna 152 well clear of the airliner. Chambers tried to radio the jet, but the crew wasn't monitoring the local frequency. After landing without incident in Kelowna, the pilot called a supervisor and reported the incident as insignificant. Therefore, the cockpit voice recorder tape wasn't saved, which a TSB spokesman said hampered the investigation. The TSB didn't issue any recommendations, but Air Canada has incorporated the incident into its training. It has also banned radio communications between the cockpit and ground staff when approaching aircraft are below 10,000 feet so the flight crew isn't distracted from monitoring "correct approach parameters." The pilots involved got a remedial ride in a flight simulator but no disciplinary action was taken, airline spokeswoman Angela Mah told The Vancouver Sun.
IF YOUR CELL PHONE CAN SURF THE NET, IT CAN RECEIVE AVIATION WEATHER
Adam Aircraft says it's making progress in development of its A700 AdamJet. A company news release says they're getting down to the nitty-gritty of testing the various components of the airframe and they've also completed construction of a "wing-mounted belly pod" for extra fuel storage. The pressurization and environmental control test system has also been set up. The Williams FJ33-4A-15 engines that power the proof-of-concept model that's been flying around the country for 18 months have been performing well and are now certified. The jet is based largely on the design of Adam's push/pull piston twin, the A500. According to the company, certification of the jet is somewhat reliant on certification of the piston twin -- which was predicted for last December. The company still isn't saying just what the holdup is regarding the certification of the piston plane. It says there is an "intense focus on A500 development and certification" but doesn't make any predictions on when those coveted papers will be signed. Last October, the company predicted customer deliveries by the end of the year.
Surprise, surprise. Pilots who have drunk-driving convictions are more prone to aircraft accidents, but a new study has quantified the link. If you have a DWI, you are 43 percent more likely to be involved in an air crash, according to a study of 300,000 pilot records by Johns Hopkins researchers. "If the crash risk for pilots with a DWI history could be reduced to the same level as their counterparts without a DWI history, then approximately 25 fewer aviation crashes would happen each year," Dr. Guohua Li told News-Medical.net. That would seem to validate the FAA requirement, instituted in 1990, that pilots report all DWIs within 60 days of conviction. Or does it? The study also concluded that 99 percent of the pilots with DWI records flew safely and that it's extremely rare for alcohol to be cited as a contributing cause of a crash. It's never been an issue in major airline crashes and only three of 108 pilots who have died in commuter or air taxi accidents had measurable alcohol in their systems. Other factors could be at play, however. Those with drunk-driving convictions are more likely to be chronic drinkers, with the resulting impact on brain function and performance. They may also just be bigger risk-takers and less concerned about weather and safety rules, the study said.
LIKE BOTOX OR FLU SHOTS, A LITTLE BIT OF A BAD THING CAN DO SOME GOOD
The Discovery Wings network may have morphed into The Military Channel but there are still plenty of aviation-related programs to watch, even if it does mean a little more wear and tear on the remote. The Outdoor Channel is taking up some of the slack with a new series, set to debut in July, called "Wings to Adventure." Described in a network release as "an action-packed, in-depth look at airplanes, destinations and the fascinating people behind the world of aviation," the series will be sponsored by Cirrus Design. The series will be shown in high definition. For those who like their airplanes on the big screen (and happen to be in Miami on Feb. 12) a film devoted to women aviators will be screened at the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival. Only about 6 percent of pilots are women and the independently produced movie "Wings of Their Own" examines the many forces that have driven female pilots into the profession and/or vocation. "These are women of distinction with fascinating stories to tell," according to the movie Web site. "Some are actual pioneers who pursued aviation firsts, others are record holders and many do it for fun or a career." The film is being screened Saturday, Feb. 12, 2005, at 2:10 p.m. in the AMC Cocowalk Theater in Coconut Grove, Fla.
Simulators aren't just for those who fly airplanes; they're also for those who have to listen to them. The city of Eagan, adjacent to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, is preparing its citizens for the October 2005 opening of a new runway at MSP by holding a series of open houses in which the simulated sounds of aircraft taking off from the new runway are played for the audience. The soundtrack includes newer, less-noisy Stage 3 aircraft and their much-louder ancestors. "It's designed to provide a new level of understanding and put it concretely in their minds what may happen in October," said Melissa Scovronski, the noise-program relations specialist for the Metropolitan Airports Commission. Those for whom a simulation won't cut it can also get an idea of what it's going to be like at their house by visiting a residence that is already under the flight path of an existing runway. Residents who think they might be bothered by the noise can visit the Metropolitan Airports Commission Web site and type in their address. The computer program will cross-match their location in relation to the new runway with an address that is already experiencing what they will experience in October.
SCOPED OUT NEW AVIONICS & FOUND THEM WAY ABOVE YOUR BUDGET?
Well, so much for the image of the unflappable, cool-under-fire, steely-nerved pilot. Chances are, others will just think you're drunk. That's what happened to the crew of a British Airways flight from Lyon, France, to Manchester, England, on Jan. 16. The pilots got a warning light when they lowered the gear on the RJ100, so the plane went around. It made another pass to allow tower controllers to check that the gear was down. The plane subsequently landed safely and the light was discovered to be faulty. But one of the passengers thought the pilots' demeanor didn't match the gravity of the situation and suggested they must have been drinking. Authorities took that threat seriously. Manchester Airport police ordered the pilots to take breath tests, both of which were negative. "It's very disappointing that a passenger would assume just because a pilot was carrying out a normal safety procedure that he had been drinking when he had not been drinking at all," said BA spokeswoman Sue Redmond. The airline and the pilots' union have both complained to the police.
The FAA has issued an Airworthiness Directive on Gippsland GA8 aircraft. There have been three reports of the aileron control being stiff and one in which aileron control locked while the plane was being taxied. Rubbing between the control-wheel shaft and the bushing in the control column can cause wear or damage...
The FAA has changed regulations to allow candidates in local and state elections to hire private aircraft. Previously, only those running for Congress or president could do so. Congress asked for the rule change in 1996. It takes effect March 5...
EAA has confirmed that rare flying versions of two World War II bombers will be at AirVenture 2005. The Commemorative Air Force's B-29 Fifi and a Consolidated LB-30 (better known as a B-24) will be on display at Aeroshell Square. This year's show celebrates the 60th anniversary of the end of the war.
Drop us a line. If it caught your attention, it will probably interest someone else, too. Submit news tips via email to email@example.com.
NO-COST RESOURCES FOR STUDENT PILOTS!
Say Again? #46: When Things Go Wrong
To get your IFR clearance at a non-towered field, you could call Flight Service or the local Center RCO, but you know you're gonna get a delay waiting for some arrival to cancel IFR. Just launch VFR and pick up your IFR clearance in the air, right? AVweb's Don Brown knows it isn't always that easy -- or safe -- for pilots and for controllers.
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*** PREVIOUS RESULTS ***
Last week, AVweb asked our readers which light aircraft layout they'd prefer, given their druthers.
Out of curiosity, we separated the pilots with more than 300 hours from those with less experience and you know what we found out? Experience didn't have much of an impact on your preference.
40% of total respondents preferred a traditional yoke with throttles on the right, while slightly fewer readers (39% of the total respondents) preferred a stick with throttles on the left.
To round out the numbers, 18% of respondents opted for a stick with throttles on the right, while only 2% of you chose a traditional yoke with throttles on the left.
As an interesting aside, the biggest gulf between less experienced pilots (fewer than 300 hours) and more experienced pilots (more than 300 hours) occurred in our numbers for a stick control with throttles on the left.
*** THIS WEEK'S QUESTION ***
This week, AVweb wants to know if you've ever partaken of alcohol before taking a flight. Have you ever had an alcoholic beverage or any portion of an alcoholic beverage before acting as pilot in command?
Click here to answer.
(Please sit this one out if you've ever stolen a plane and taken it for a joy ride under the influence of alcohol.)
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Current POTW Winner | Past POTW Winners
Welcome to another installment of "Picture of the Week," where we run the most eye-catching aviation photos sent in by our readers. If there was a theme to be found in this week's contest entries, it was "spinning props" several submitters wanted to show us they'd mastered the F-stop on their cameras and sent some nifty in-flight and take-off shots. We chose one of those as our winner Dan Megna's photo of Steve Dari in his Pitts.
Dan will be getting one of those nifty AVweb baseball caps reserved for our weekly winners. If you'd like a shot at the hat (or the fleeting fame of being a "POTW" contender!), submit your photo here.
Due to privacy issues, AVweb does not publish e-mail addresses of readers who submit photos.
"Steve Dari, the Redhead Pitts"
Despite stiff competition in the "spinning blades" category,
Dan Megna of Ramona, California takes home this
week's first-prize baseball cap. Congratulations, Dan!
here to view a large version of this image
Click here for a medium-sized version
"Keith on Sunset Load"
Keith J. Arendt of Schaum, Illinois
glides home in one for the sky-divers.
The photo was shot by Cliff Birch, whom Keith
describes as a "world-class video & pic skydiver."
We certainly believe it. Great shot!
Used with permission of Jack Rigby
Jack Rigby of Hudson, Ohio explains:
"While walking the St. Jean Beach on St. Barth,
we witnessed this plane hit the water. The runway is
only 15 yards from the surf. He was landing without
permission, before the airport opens at 7am.
Six big men climbed out into the surf and then the
waves pushed the plane back onto the beach. ...
This happened about 30 feet in front of us."
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.
Since you've been good this week
(and for several weeks leading up to this one),
here are some bonus pictures for you to enjoy:
Remember: You have to keep 'em
coming if you want bonus pictures.
Super Bowl weekend is no excuse for slacking, people!
Used with permission of Kevin Richardson
Can't get enough of those Stinsons?
Kevin Richardson of Marietta, Georgia
dug this photo out of the album for us.
The man in overalls is Kevin's grandfather
and the two women are his mother and
future mother-in-law. Kevin's grandmother
snapped the photo during the summer of 1936.
Used with permission of Wes Broxterman
"F-15 Over the North Atlantic"
Wes Broxterman of Salina, Kansas took
this photo after refueling and releasing
an F-15 off the north coast of Iceland.
Used with permission of Paul A. Rosales
"San Joaquin Valley Sea of Clouds"
Paul A. Rosales of Lancaster, California
submits a photo of pilot Laird Owens in his RV-6,
taken over the San Joaquin Valley in California.
Used with permission of Richard Fraser
"A Silent Warbird"
Richard Fraser of Feilding, Manawatu
(New Zealand) sends us this photo of
"the first large aircraft to land at Feilding
Aerodrome's extended runway."
And we didn't make a shearing joke.
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 every part stops.
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