February 13, 2005
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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The Transportation Security Agency (TSA) announced on Thursday it will assume responsibility for ground-security requirements and procedures at the three general aviation airports located within the Washington, D.C., Flight Restricted Zone. The TSA issued an interim final rule that allows transient operations at the three airports -- College Park, Potomac Airfield, and Washington Executive Airport/Hyde Field -- commonly referred to as the "DC-3." Since February 2002, the three airports have been operating under Special FAR 94, which expired yesterday, and which essentially closed the airports to aircraft not based there. The GA alphabets responded with positive but muted enthusiasm. Ron Swanda, president of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, said, "Increasing the amount of transient traffic not only increases the utility of those airports, but helps restore elements of the Washington-area economy that were lost after 9-11." But he urged the TSA to fully restore GA activity around Washington, D.C., including allowing access to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. AOPA President Phil Boyer said, "TSA has cracked open the door at the DC-3, but left the safety chain in place. GA pilots still have to jump through significant, burdensome security hoops, but for the first time in three-and-a-half years, pilots with business in the nation's capital will be able to use the three closest GA airports." NBAA President Ed Bolen had similar comments. "NBAA believes the TSA's ruling represents a positive step," he said, but added that NBAA will continue working with the TSA to develop an even more streamlined and manageable set of GA security requirements for Washington and across the country. EAA called the changes "a small incremental step in the right direction," but added, "the pilot vetting and approval process is far too cumbersome. EAA maintains that the process needs to be streamlined and made more efficient."
Under the new rule, transient pilots must receive prior authorization to use the airports. They will have to be fingerprinted at Reagan National Airport, complete a criminal background check, pass muster with the TSA, check in with the FAA in Washington or Baltimore and present their documents to airport management. The airport operators must keep a list of all pilots and aircraft who have been approved, and ensure security of aircraft on the field. The TSA will designate an Airport Security Coordinator at each of the three airports. The rule also makes permanent the Flight Restricted Zone. The TSA is accepting comments on the new rule, and says it will not hesitate to make changes if it finds better ways to enhance security or reduce costs. AOPA notes that the rule makes no mention of the much bigger Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), originally established in the run-up to the Iraq War. AOPA argues that absent a specific and credible threat, the ADIZ has outlived its usefulness, and creates an undue burden on pilots and air traffic controllers alike. "While reducing the size of the ADIZ to just the FRZ is AOPA's primary goal, permitting transient operations in the FRZ is a step in the right direction," said AOPA President Phil Boyer.
The new rule really just recognizes procedures that have developed over time since the original SFAR was issued, says David Wartofsky, owner of Potomac Airfield. Over the last several years, he has worked with the TSA and FAA to obtain the approvals of more than 400 area pilots who are allowed to fly in and out of his field, he said. The new TSA rule should help to relieve the public perception that the airport is off-limits. "Basically, the new rule will replace prior confusion with new confusion," he told AVweb on Saturday. But it's less constraining, he said, and "absolutely" a step in the right direction. Stan Fetter, manager of Washington Executive Airport/Hyde Field, agreed. "We're pleased, but not excited," he told AVweb on Saturday. "It's hard to tell what impact it will have. Operators still have to be willing to come here and spend a day or two running around to get the approval." He'd like to see those procedures simplified and made more user-friendly. For example, he said, operators should be able to file their paperwork and get fingerprinted at any convenient federal offices, rather than just those in the D.C. area. He used to get a lot of business jet traffic, he said, and hopes some of those operators, who are still shut out of National, will return.
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DOT Secretary Norm Mineta offered a glimpse last week into what the FAA will be looking for in safety guidelines for commercial space tourism. Speaking at the annual Commercial Space Transportation Conference in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, Mineta said that passengers who want to travel into space should get a physical and sign consent forms stating they understand the risks. Also, operators of reusable launch vehicles should inform passengers of the safety record of the vehicle and provide safety training before the launch, Mineta said. The draft guidelines "respect that this is uncharted territory," and allow operators to decide the best way to meet the standards, he said. Pilots of the launch vehicles would need to hold an FAA pilot certificate and meet medical standards. They also should be trained to operate their vehicle so that it will not harm the public, and to direct the vehicle away from the public in the event of a problem during flight. Mineta encouraged feedback on the guidelines and said his goal is to have this fledgling industry succeed. "We don't want to stifle innovation when you may very well find an approach that serves even better in the course of your design work," Mineta said.
U.S. Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.), however, thinks the FAA's approach to space safety is too lax. Last Thursday, Oberstar introduced a bill that would amend last December's space tourism legislation to allow the FAA to take a more "pro-active" stand on passenger safety. Oberstar decried the "tombstone mentality" of the December legislation, which prohibits the FAA from issuing safety regulations for the next eight years unless there is a potentially catastrophic incident. His bill would require that the FAA include, in each license it issues, minimum standards to protect the health and safety of crews and space flight participants. Oberstar is a member of the House Aviation Subcommittee. FAA Administrator Marion Blakey testified before that committee at a hearing last Wednesday. "Ensuring safety often is an evolutionary process," she said. "Commercial space launches are inherently dangerous and risky operations ... As a result, the approach to safety in the commercial space arena differs from the approach for civil aviation, where safety is achieved with the high reliability of today's aircraft. The FAA's safety focus in commercial space transportation has been on protecting the general public and their property from the dangers inherent in such operations."
Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) told the Commercial Space Conference on Thursday that the space industry is about more than tourism. "In 2010 the Shuttle will be retired," he said. "So there is right now a need to move people into space quickly, safely and reliably. I believe that need could be met in large part by the private sector. ... The job of Congress is to pass legislation and exercise its oversight functions in such a way that will enable this industry to succeed," he said. Calvert is the newly selected chairman of the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee of the House Science Committee.
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New aircraft orders reached an all-time high of 733 in 2004, Cirrus Design Corp. reported on Saturday. The figure represents an increase of 69 percent, or 301 more aircraft ordered than in 2003. The company also set a new monthly record of 102 new aircraft orders in December. Cirrus attributes the growth to maturity of its domestic sales team and the establishment of a sales network around the world. In 2004, orders from foreign markets doubled over the previous year, with strong showings in Europe and Australia. Cessna said last month that it delivered 654 single-engine piston aircraft in 2004. Cirrus didn't release delivery numbers, but GAMA will tell all in a few hours. The year-end report on GA shipments for 2004, compiled annually by the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, is due out today.
The wing was mated to the fuselage of the prototype Cessna Mustang very light jet earlier this month, Cessna said. Five airframes are in various stages of assembly at Cessna's Pawnee facility in Wichita, Kan. Once completed, three airframes will be used for flight testing and two airframes will be used for structural testing. Cessna has already begun testing on the Mustang engine, avionics and autopilot, landing gear, environmental system, and flight controls. The airplane will be certified as an FAR Part 23 aircraft, with a cruise speed of 340 knots, and maximum operating altitude of 41,000 feet. Cessna says it has received over 200 orders for the Mustang and will be taking a mock-up on tour starting today -- in Meigs-less (we're sure it's going to be a very nice park) Chicago. Announced Thursday, the 10-city mock-up tour begins today in Daley-ville, stops in Baltimore, then heads for Europe, wrapping up in May at the EBACE convention in Geneva, Switzerland. The traveling display features a full-size cabin with interior amenities and a fully functional cockpit equipped with the new Garmin G1000 avionics suite. The tour is a build-up to the first flight later this year, the company said in a news release.
THE BOSE® AVIATION HEADSET X DELIVERS AN UNMATCHED COMBINATION
A bill that would allow on-demand air-charter operators to conduct limited scheduled service has been introduced in the House by U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.). The legislation (H.R. 488) would permit on-demand Part 135 operators to conduct public charter flights, provided the service consists of fewer than five round trips per week. The purpose of the legislation is to provide supplemental air service to small communities that lack sufficient scheduled air service. "NATA is supportive of Congressman Pearce's efforts," James Coyne, president of the National Air Transportation Association (NATA), said Thursday in a news release. "This bill provides an innovative and thoughtful approach to new forms of air transportation." The bill would apply to turbine-powered aircraft with nine or fewer passenger seats. H.R. 488 has been referred to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, where it awaits consideration. To access the text of the bill, click here, and enter H.R. 488 in the search window.
New Mexico has some wide-open skies, but apparently there is not enough room there for all the military and civilian pilots who want to fly. The U.S. Air Force wants to add 700 square miles to the 2,600 square miles now used by the F-16 Falcons based at Cannon Air Force Base. The airspace expansion would mean rerouting about 40 civilian flights per day, and intrude onto GA routes between Albuquerque and Roswell. "They've grabbed up so much airspace, it's going to be dangerous for small, civilian aircraft," U.S. Pilots Association President Steve Uslan told The Albuquerque Journal. "And that's a long way around, and that means a lot of fuel and a lot of time wasted." The Air Force also wants to conduct supersonic flights as low as 5,000 feet agl. The existing airspace no longer suffices to train aircrews in all of the tactics they will be expected to use in combat, the Air Force says. Two recent midairs have involved fighter jets colliding with small GA aircraft -- in 2000, an F-16 from Moody Air Force Base, Fla., collided with a 172, and on Jan. 18, a T-37 from Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, collided with an Air Tractor crop-duster over Oklahoma. In both cases the civilian pilots were killed, and the Air Force pilots ejected and survived. A final decision about the airspace is expected from the FAA in October.
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The FAA's response to pre-9/11 warnings of terrorist threats against aviation got slammed last week, as a newly declassified staff report by the 9/11 Commission was released. The report adds more details about exactly what information was available to FAA officials and when. Despite dozens of warnings that al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden posed a threat, and information that hijackers could be planning suicide missions, aviation officials were "lulled into a false sense of security" and didn't respond adequately, the report says. In response to the new report, FAA spokeswoman Laura J. Brown told The New York Times, "We didn't have specific information about means or methods that would have enabled us to tailor any countermeasures." The report's release was delayed for five months while it was declassified. Parts of the report were redacted at the request of the FAA and the Transportation Security Administration, which raised objections from some 9/11 Commission members. "The public has a right to know this information unless it compromises real national security interests," former commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste told CNN. "We are a society that's capable of dealing with the truth."
For those of you eager to take off into the Sport Pilot era, some new information sources are available. The FAA has posted online its list of Light Sport Aircraft Examiners by category, to make it easy to find the right person to give you the checkride. So far there are only a dozen listings in the five categories, but 11 more examiner courses are on the FAA's schedule for this year, with each class turning out as many as eight new examiners. Current examiners also can qualify as Sport Pilot examiners, so more are expected soon. Also, "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Sport Flying" hit the bookshelves on Feb. 1, EAA says, but as of Saturday, we couldn't find anyplace selling it online. EAA says it will be selling the books soon through its own online store.
NOT ALL AIRCRAFT HULL AND LIABILITY INSURANCE IS CREATED EQUAL
The FAA will hold a public meeting on the grounded T-34 fleet, tomorrow and Wednesday in Kansas City, Mo....
Garmin had record growth in 2004, the company announced last week, introducing 50 new products and certifying its G1000 glass cockpit in six GA aircraft...
A new(-ish) helmet for fighter pilots automatically coordinates their line of sight with their weapons systems. Rafael of Israel unveiled the system last week at the Aero India Exhibition...
And for GA pilots, a heads-up display of our very own, only $9,340...
5th International Air Rally, Canada-U.S., set for Aug. 12-21, three choices to fly up to 2,000 nm...
Review your winter-flying procedures for safety, at AOPA's Air Safety Foundation Web site...
Need a backyard shed? Beech Starship, sans engines, for sale on eBay.
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.
ASA GETS "FIT" THE FAA HAS RECOGNIZED ASA'S
Reader mail this week about the FSS contract, the GA anthrax scare and more.
FAA Streamlines "Special" Medicals
The FAA recently expanded its special issuance program for pilots with medical problems; now the program includes First- and Second-Class medical certificates as well as Third-Class medicals. The change promises to streamline the FAA's approval process for pilots who require the higher certificates. Senior FAA Aviation Medical Examiner Brent Blue, M.D., explains all.
Searching For The Right Airplane
There are pilots, even student pilots, so enamored with their new hobby or budding career that they rush out to buy a plane and get on the fast upgrade track. Easy to make a mistake that way.
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MAKE 2005 THE YEAR FOR YOUR PLANE TO BECOME GAMI-EQUIPPED!
Just another day around the patch...
Tower: Experimental N123, we'll try to squeeze you in. Number one, cleared to land, runway 26 left. Be advised, traffic close behind you.
Experimental: Number one for 26 left, N123.
Tower: Experimental N123, turn your base now, please, and keep your speed up. Traffic, a Hawker jet 10 miles out, number two behind you.
Experimental: Uh ... roger ... be advised we're already pedaling as fast as we can.
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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