NewsWire Complete Issue

February 20, 2005
By The AVweb Editorial Staff

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Corporate Crashes Spark Safety Focus…

FAA Mandates "Tactile" Inspections On Challengers

What was a recommendation is now a rule. The FAA has issued an Airworthiness Directive requiring operators (as a revision to the aircraft's flight manual) to give an extra touch of care when flying in cold weather. Effective this week, operators of Bombardier Challenger 600-series aircraft (including regional jets and the newer 601 models) must run a hand over the leading edges and front top surfaces of wings during freezing temperatures (we don't know if you're allowed to wear a glove). The AD requires that the aircraft flight manuals be amended to include, as a takeoff limitation, the visual and tactile inspection for ice during cold-weather operations. Ice may have been a factor in the crash of a Challenger in November in Colorado and Transport Canada has discovered that even a small amount of ice on the wings can seriously affect performance. The FAA issued the AD after Transport Canada issued one earlier this month. Because of what it says is the urgent nature of the AD, it will become effective on Feb. 22 without the usual comment period. Also, operators have only five days to get the temporary revision added to the flight manuals. That's so implementation of the rule roughly coincides with Canada's implementation.

...Radar Data Studied In Pueblo Crash...

And while ice is widely speculated to have had something to do with the crash of a Cessna Citation 560 in Pueblo, Colo., last Wednesday (freezing drizzle was reported at the time), NTSB Chairwoman Ellen Engleman Connors was more cryptic Thursday. "There were some, shall we say, interesting characteristics" revealed by radar data, she said, but refused to elaborate. Frank Hilldrup, the chief NTSB investigator for the crash, said radar showed the Cessna dropping more than 1,000 feet in the 45 seconds before the crash (interesting to us, but we can't speak for Connors). Two witnesses reported hearing a series of loud pops just before the crash, leading some to speculate that the aircraft may have suffered an engine compressor stall (which can be caused by ice, among other things). The aircraft, owned by Circuit City, was carrying four of its employees and four others from Richmond, Va., to Santa Ana, Calif., and was being followed by a similar Circuit City aircraft that flew through light to moderate ice before landing safely about 12 minutes after the crash. The Denver Post drew comparisons between the Pueblo crash and the only other fatal U.S. accident involving a 560, which occurred more than nine years ago in Wisconsin. Two pilots, the only people aboard, died when the plane didn't make the runway at Eagle River, Wis., on Dec. 30, 1995. According to the NTSB report , that aircraft had collected about an eighth of an inch of rime ice on the left wing and vertical stabilizer and both engines contained a small area of ice beneath the final turbine wheel. Icing was listed as a contributing factor in that crash.

...As Alphabets And FAA Talk Safety

As crews continued the cleanup in Colorado, the FAA and members of various alphabet groups were meeting to, as NBAA President Ed Bolen put it, "discuss industry involvement in promoting safety." The meeting was called before the Pueblo crash but was in response to a spate of business aircraft crashes in the last few months. But Bolen maintains that the FAA's categorization for business aviation is too broad to provide the clear data needed to get at the root causes of business aviation accidents. Bolen told AVweb that true business aviation stats are skewed by the fact that mishaps involving commercial carriers on positioning flights (like the Pinnacle Airlines CRJ crash late last year) are flown under Part 91 and hence become part of the business aviation accident data. As is normal with such meetings, it has led to more meetings. FAA brass will attend the National Air Transportation Association convention in Las Vegas March 8 to give the topic an airing with delegates. Meanwhile, some are calling for an "industry-wide investigation" in light of the recent crashes. Robert Spragg, a partner at Kreindler and Kreindler LLP, which bills itself as "the nation's largest aviation law firm," said in a statement that the rash of crashes "is cause for alarm." Kreindler said passengers and crew on corporate and business aircraft "deserve a greater sense of safety and security than they have now."

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Error Reports (And Drama) Up At New York TRACON...

Understaffing Or Bad Blood?

Union leaders and politicians say a cut in overtime at the New York Terminal Radar Approach Control center has mushroomed the rate of operational errors (19 in the last month compared to 24 in the previous year) and they're urging the FAA to relax the restrictions. But it's also worth noting that the errors have, according to The New York Times, been reported through an anonymous tips line that roared to life after the apparently unpopular manager of the TRACON put a tighter lid on overtime on Jan. 12 and, as AVweb told you Jan. 13, 15 controllers were fired for alleged discrepancies in their medical records. In fact, the 226 controllers at the TRACON signed a Feb. 3 letter saying the manager had embarked "on a reckless mission" by reducing controller strength when traffic is increasing, according to the Times. There's even a racial angle to the fracas. The Times says the letter alleges that when "corrected" on unspecified "performance deficiencies" the manager, who is not Caucasian, filed an Equal Employment Opportunity complaint against his superiors.

...Senators Join The Fray...

Now, Senators Hilary Rodham Clinton and Charles Schumer have jumped into the fray, writing a letter to the FAA pointing out that the agency has pledged to cut flights if it can't properly staff its control facilities. "It is imperative that our air traffic control facilities are adequately staffed," Clinton said in a statement released Wednesday. They claim the new overtime policy has not only increased errors, but "congested frequencies," and suspended training. In Chicago, the FAA wants to extend "voluntary" limits on the numbers of flights at peak times at O'Hare. In a release last week, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said delays have been reduced and on-time performance significantly increased since volume was capped at 88 flights per hour during peak periods at the country's second-busiest airport last October. The deal was supposed to expire April 30 but Mineta is proposing it be extended by six months. In the meantime, the FAA is working on formal rules to deal with congestion at O'Hare.

...Night Tower-Closure Plan Proceeds

At the opposite end of the capacity debate, the FAA is pushing ahead with plans to close up to 48 towers for five to eight hours late at night and early in the morning when it says controllers have little or nothing to control. As AVweb told you in December, the agency wants to reallocate the resources to busier times (or busier towers). FAA spokesman William Shumann told The Washington Times the agency won't reveal the final list until the House Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Transportation, the Treasury and independent agencies hold a hearing on its budget. But that's not stopping airport managers from bending the ears of their senators and representatives trying to stay off the list. Virginia Republican Rep. Robert Goodlatte said it would be a "waste of money" to close Roanoke's shiny new tower for part of the day. He said the FAA just spent $10 million on the 165-foot facility and to close the doors at night is "penny wise and pound foolish."

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FAA Mum On Lycoming, As Lyc Seeks Appeal

The FAA is declining comment (for now, at least) on a court case in Texas that determined the agency was misled on the cause of Lycoming engine crankshaft failures that caused 24 crashes and killed 12 people between 2000 and 2002. As AVweb told you last Thursday, a Grimes County jury found that Lycoming had fraudulently claimed that improper heat treatment of the crankshaft forgings by subcontractor Interstate Southwest was the cause of the failures. It awarded damages to Interstate totaling $96 million. Lycoming has confirmed it will appeal. FAA chief spokesman Greg Martin said the agency is aware of the decision and constantly monitors the safety of aircraft engines but is not taking any direct action because of the verdict. "Court cases have their own dynamics [based on] who is more persuasive to the jurors," Martin told AVweb. "I'm not in any position to offer the FAA's endorsement of jury's verdict." The FAA apparently previously agreed with Lycoming's assessment (not the jury's) when it was included in the Emergency Airworthiness Directive that grounded hundreds of aircraft with 300-plus horsepower engines and resulted in one of the largest recalls in aviation history. But the jury in Interstate's lawsuit against Lycoming determined that the FAA was duped, that the crankshafts were under-designed in the first place and further weakened by the addition of Vanadium.

So what, precisely, did the FAA know about the cranks? Is it launching a fresh probe? Will there be further ADs? All questions the agency may be asked to answer as the next round of legal wrangling grinds to life in Texas. Textron Lycoming has confirmed it will appeal the verdict. "At this point, [Thursday] Lycoming has just recently received the verdict and we're studying it very carefully," spokeswoman Karen Gordon told the Wichita Business Journal. "We strongly disagree with the outcome of this case and we're going to very aggressively pursue post trial motions and the appellate process, if necessary, and firmly believe we're going to prevail."

Happy, Sad Milestones For Sport Pilot/Light Sport

The implementation of the Light Sport Aircraft category passed a significant milestone last week, but you still can't buy one. The FAA signed off on the industry-developed consensus standards for S-LSA aircraft (which are factory-built and ready to fly) and E-LSA aircraft (which require at least a token amount of construction by the owner). A Notice of Availability will be published in the Federal Register this week. "Manufacturers can begin finalizing their designs and production plans," said FAA official Scott Sedgwick. However, there are still other standards, including maintenance and assembly instructions, that have to be passed before the aircraft classification is fully implemented (and you can actually buy one). Meanwhile, as these latest "firsts" were being celebrated, a Muskogee, Okla., family is grieving what may be a sad but inevitable first for the new flight category. It appears that Dr. Jack Nolen may have been the first pilot to die in a crash while flying under Sport Pilot rules. Nolen's Kitfox went down near Holdenville, Okla., on a flight from Texas on Jan. 14, but the wreckage wasn't found until a month later. Media reports played up the fact that Nolen didn't have a valid medical but did have a pilot's certificate. As long as Nolen had a driver's license and his flight medical hadn't been revoked for any reason, then he would have been flying under the Sport Pilot category because the Kitfox meets the weight and performance requirements.

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Retired Air Force One Gets $31 Million Hangar

While we don't know how much a used 707 goes for these days, the $31 million hangar taxpayers are funding to keep the rain off one to be based in California might be a bid worth considering. Of course, this is no ordinary 707. It's the old turbojet that carried Ronald Reagan to the far corners of the world for his Cold War-ending private chats with the likes of Margaret Thatcher and Mikhail Gorbachev (here ends our knowledge of world politics). The Boeing, dubbed the Spirit of 76, is now mounted on a pedestal, in takeoff attitude, as workers create the Air Force One Pavilion at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif. "I know Ronald Reagan is looking down on us and saying, 'This is wonderful,'" said Duke Blackwood, executive director of the library. The plane, which flew 445 missions as Air Force One (Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and both Bushes also used it) was dismantled in 2003 and shipped to California to fulfill Reagan's dream of having it at the library. The pavilion is 87,000 square feet and has a glass wall with a view of the nearby mountains. It will also house motorcycles and a police car from the Reagan era as well as a presidential limousine. The pavilion will be open in the fall.

Finding (Real) Parts Now Easier

Thanks to the Internet, it's now not only easier to find parts for your plane, it's also simpler to make sure you're not getting something the FAA hasn't approved. Inventory Locator Service has cross-referenced its database of more than five billion (yes, that's a B) parts with the FAA's Part Manufacturer Approval (PMA) system, which lists all the approvals for parts made for certified airplanes. The result, says ILS President Bruce Langen, is better exposure for parts makers and better selection for parts buyers. But what happens if one of those parts falls from grace with FAA? Enter the agency's Unapproved Parts Notices (UPN) online service. When the FAA finds parts that don't measure up, they broadcast it to anyone who wants on their e-mail list. Fortunately, the occurrence of bad or bogus parts is rare (about 10-15 notices a year) so the service won't clog your in-box. Signing on (or signing off) is easy.

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Cessna Edges Cirrus In Numbers Game

Alan Klapmeier called it correctly. The engaging and unflappable president of Cirrus Design told AVweb at AirVenture 2004 he didn't expect to sell more airplanes than Cessna last year, even though he was winning the numbers game at the end of the first two quarters. He was almost wrong. Cessna edged Cirrus by only 12 sales of four-place piston aircraft in 2004, edging the Duluth company by a margin of 565 to 553. "I'm pleased but I'm never satisfied," Klapmeier told the Duluth News Tribune. Cirrus increased sales by 18 percent and Cessna's output of four-place singles (172s and 182s) was up 10 percent. Cirrus is expecting 600 deliveries in 2005 and has been consistently beating its old sales records. But Cirrus also flew over an important milestone with the record-breaking year. "We can actually say we're a profitable company, now," Klapmeier said. "2004 clearly proved the point that we're going to pay back our investors."

"Bomb" Bag Shipped, Then Blown Up

It was not the TSA's finest hour but at least they followed their own rules -- according to the TSA. A woman was barred from a Mesa Airlines flight from Phoenix to San Diego on Thursday after she allegedly told a screener that the TSA "couldn't find a bomb [in her bag] if there was one." While the woman was detained, the bag was put on the flight, where it traveled uneventfully to San Diego -- uneventfully, that is, until arrival. At Lindbergh field, the plane was evacuated, the passengers and crew were delayed for debriefing and the (previously cleared) luggage was extricated from the aircraft and blown up (not of its own accord). It was all by the book, according to the TSA's Nico Melendez. "If a bag is cleared by TSA, is it OK, under current regulations, to fly without the passenger on the plane." "... All procedures were followed in this case," he said in an e-mail to the Arizona Republic. The passenger, a New Jersey psychiatrist, was questioned (and later released, taking a later flight) as the bag made its way to San Diego, where the plane taxied to an isolated area of the airport and passengers were ordered off without their coats and carry-ons while authorities found Koshnu's luggage and blew it up. ... How was your day?

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On The Fly...

Two Cessna 402's, each with more than 20,000 TIS exhibited spar cracking and have led the FAA to issue an emergency AD, increasing the frequency of spar inspection and adding the aircraft model 414A. Aircraft with spar straps on each wing (per a previous AD) are not affected...

Another reason to always check your tanks before takeoff. An Ocean Isle, N.C., pilot found out the hard way that just because fuel was in the tanks yesterday doesn't mean it's there today. His Pulsar III homebuilt lost power and crashed in a marsh shortly after takeoff. There'd been reports of fuel thefts at the airport and there was less than two gallons in each of his tanks...

Air show performer Mike Goulian recently took NBC Today Show host Ann Curry for a spin and a roll and a loop and the result will be a segment on the show scheduled to air Wednesday between 7:30 a.m. and 8 a.m. Eastern...

The latest casualty in the job-for-contracts scandal at Boeing is former executive Michael Sears. Sears admitted to having employment discussions with Pentagon procurement official Darlene Druyun while Druyun was deciding the fate of Boeing's bid for a $20 billion tanker contract. He was sentenced to four months in prison.

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

AVmail: Feb 21, 2005
Reader mail this week about the FSS contract, armed and disgruntled airline pilots, the Lycoming lawsuit and much more.

New Articles and Features on AVweb

The Pilot's Lounge #84: Arrogance, Etiquette And Big Fat Traffic Patterns
"Are you going to land here or keep going on downwind into the next county?" It's painful to be in the pattern behind a pilot who thinks a stabilized final approach in a Cessna means a two-mile final. But just what are the rules and safe practices regarding the size of a traffic pattern? AVweb's Rick Durden looks into it this month in The Pilot's Lounge.

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Short Final...

ATC: Saratoga 12345, traffic at 3,000 feet (same altitude), 1 O'Clock, 3 miles opposite direction.

Saratoga 12345: Roger, looking for traffic.

(long pause)

Saratoga 12345: Approach, Saratoga 12345, no joy on that traffic, can you give us a better location on it?

ATC: I can give you a much better location ... he's 2 miles behind you. Traffic no longer a factor. In spite of your best efforts, the Big Sky theory wins again.

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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.

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Fly it until every part stops.

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