NewsWire Complete Issue

March 13, 2005
By The AVweb Editorial Staff

This issue of AVweb's AVflash is brought to you by ... Teledyne-Continental Motors (TCM)

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FAA Pays $9.5 Million For Crash...

NTSB Found Pilot At Fault

The FAA last Wednesday awarded a $9.5 million settlement to the families of four people who died when a Piper Cherokee crashed in Florida in December 2001, according to The pilot had made two missed approaches while trying to land in heavy fog at Jacksonville International Airport. The NTSB in April 2003 found the probable cause of the accident was that the pilot became spatially disoriented and lost control of the airplane during a missed approach. A federal judge last November ruled that while the pilot was 35 percent responsible, air traffic controllers were 65 percent to blame for the crash because they had failed to provide current weather information to the pilot, contributing to the disorientation. "We always said this was an issue of multiple causes," lawyer Woody Wilner told Channel 4. "We did not ever try to go in and say the pilot had no responsibility."

...As More Suits Pending

Lawyers for the family of a 20-year-old pilot who died in a California accident in May 2004 also are preparing to file a wrongful-death suit against the FAA, according to Two pilots in a Piper Seminole were killed when they hit a mountain while flying IFR near Julian, Calif. The accident aircraft was the fourth of five Seminoles with similar call signs that were flying the same route together, and when a controller authorized one aircraft to descend, the wrong aircraft acknowledged the clearance. The NTSB said in December 2004 that the probable cause for the accident was that the controller issued the descent clearance using a partial call sign and failed to detect that the clearance was read back by the wrong pilot. The pilots also failed to question the clearance to an altitude below the published Minimum Enroute Altitude (MEA), the NTSB said. A contributing factor was that two controllers -- at the Center and the TRACON -- failed to properly respond to aural and visual minimum-altitude alerts from their equipment. "Aircraft are routinely descended below MEA by air traffic controllers without question by anyone," Timothy E. Miller, lawyer for the family, told CDAPress. "Pilots with approximately 200 hours of experience are taught to write down, read back and follow clearances exactly and to do so with minimum use of the radio."

Meanwhile, the family of the pilot in another Jacksonville-area crash sued the FAA for $25 million last month, saying controllers gave the pilot "bad information" just before his Swearingen turboprop crashed in dense fog last November. The NTSB has posted a preliminary report, but has not yet published a probable cause for that crash.

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Rooftops And Landing Gear...

Reno Strip Seeks Relief

Spanish Springs Airport is a small field just north of Reno, Nev., with a single dirt runway, home to 13 single-engine aircraft. New houses have been creeping closer and closer to the airport, but the latest development has airport manager Max Bartmess fuming. "This is really a dire public safety issue," Bartmess told the Reno Gazette-Journal last week. "It's the height of unfettered bureaucracy." Nine new homes are being built just off the south end of the runway. For several years, the airport and the developer have gone back and forth -- and to court and back -- over agreements that were signed when the development began. Now, with excavation under way for new houses within 65 feet of the runway end, local officials have agreed to work toward some kind of settlement soon.

...As Both Sides Claim High Ground...

The developer says the airport operators agreed to shorten the runway by 1,000 feet in return for an access road through the development property. The FAA OK'd the buildings based on that agreement. Bartmess says the operators were "blackmailed" into the agreement to gain access, and the terms are not safe or sensible. "This should not have happened," he told local officials. "Help us try to straighten this out." AOPA has weighed in to support the airport, asking local officials to "take all possible measures, including enforcement of existing state and local statutes, to prevent further residential encroachment of Spanish Springs Airport." AOPA told the county, "By doing so, you will be protecting the health, safety, and welfare of your citizens, both on the ground and in the air."

... While In Florida, Airplanes Win One

Meanwhile, the developer of a condominium tower in the works for St. Petersburg, Fla., agreed last week to reduce the building's height by 54 feet to accommodate air traffic in and out of Albert Whitted Airport. "We want to be a good member of the community," developer Jerry T. Shaw told the St. Petersburg Times. The tower will go no higher than 316 feet, the maximum the FAA said is acceptable, instead of the original proposal for 370 feet. The developer was given 60 days to negotiate the FAA's decision, but chose to accept it without debate. The waterfront Albert Whitted airfield handles about 100,000 general aviation operations annually and is the home base to 200 aircraft.

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Women in Aviation Wrap Up Annual Event...

With Cool Half-Million In Free Training

The 16th Annual International Women in Aviation International Conference wrapped up Saturday night in Dallas, Texas, with an awards dinner that handed out $517,000 in scholarships to 55 people. "Several scholarships were given by those who have won scholarships in the past," Amy Laboda, editor of WAI's Aviation for Women magazine, told AVweb yesterday. "That, to me, is the exciting part." The scholarships ranged from type ratings in 737s, to Pratt & Whitney maintenance training, to time in Learjet simulators, to a couple of private pilot certificates, to floatplane training. "We've now topped $4 million in total scholarships given (to just under 500 people) in less than 10 years," Laboda said. A complete list of this year's scholarship winners will be up on the WAI Web site by the end of this week, Laboda said.

...Where Optimism Rules

"The aviation industry is pulling out of its slide," WAI President Peggy Chabrian said at the conference. "Manufacturing is up, people are being hired again, and [this] conference is one place where that hiring happens." Attendance was just over 2,800, with visitors from as far away as Hungary, Tanzania and Nigeria. Featured speakers included NTSB chair Ellen Engleman Connors, Southwest President Colleen Barrett, Mooney CEO Gretchen Jahn, and U.S. Rep. John Mica, chair of the House aviation subcommittee. "I saw a lot of smiles," Laboda said. The 2006 conference will be held in Nashville, March 23-25.

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New From NASA: Next-Generation PIREPS

Pilots now can get better weather information thanks to new airborne sensors that NASA has installed on a fleet of commuter airliners. Sixty-four Saab 340 aircraft flown by Minneapolis-based Mesaba Airlines now carry the Tropospheric Airborne Meteorological Data Report (TAMDAR) sensor, which automatically senses and reports atmospheric conditions. Observations are sent by satellite to a ground data center, which processes and distributes the data to forecasters, pilots and weather briefers. "Our goal is to give pilots better weather information, so they can make better decisions in flight," said Taumi Daniels, TAMDAR project leader at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. The TAMDAR sensor is compact and weighs only 1.5 pounds. It measures humidity, winds, pressure, temperature, icing and turbulence. Location, time and altitude are provided by built-in GPS technology. Using the systems on regional jets instead of airliners means the data comes from lower altitudes, below 25,000 feet, where most weather is happening.

Canadian Airline Shuts Down, Thousands Stranded

After a troubled week that included two separate engine malfunctions and the start of a federal investigation, Canadian discount airline Jetsgo abruptly quit flying its fleet of 29 jets on Friday and filed for protection from creditors. As many as 17,000 passengers were stranded in the midst of a busy school-vacation travel week. Jetsgo said its business is no longer viable because it is deeply in debt and its airfares are well below cost. The company blamed intense competition from other carriers, especially WestJet, for its financial woes. Clive Beddoe, CEO of WestJet, told reporters he was not surprised to see Jetsgo fail, because Jetsgo owner Michel Leblanc had told him he would undercut every fare WestJet had until he filled his airplanes. "Well, I hate to say that that's not a very good business model that works," Beddoe said. On March 4, an engine failed as a Jetsgo aircraft was taking off from Toronto. A day later, a Jetsgo airplane landed in South Carolina with oil leaking from an engine. Jetsgo has hubs in Montreal and Toronto, and is Canada's third-largest airline, flying to 20 destinations in Canada and 10 in the U.S. It's been flying since 2002 and employs about 1,200 workers.

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A Bad Week For Ex-Boeing CEO ... But With A Couple Million For Solace

Boeing CEO Harry Stonecipher has been booted from the company for breaking its code of conduct by having an affair with a female executive at the company ... but he still is parachuting away with more than $2 million. Last Thursday, Boeing told the Securities and Exchange Commission that Stonecipher would be paid the $2.1 million bonus he earned in 2004, and will continue to collect pay and benefits through his official retirement date of April 1, at an annual rate of $1.5 million. He might not get to keep it all, though. Also on Thursday, his wife of 50 years filed for divorce, asking the court to grant her an "equitable share" of the couple's property. Both are 68 years old. No word yet from Boeing on who will take over the CEO slot.

FAA Warns Pilots To Be Precise Or Else

"Only YOU can prevent pilot deviations," says the FAA, and pilots who fly out of Teterboro (N.J.) Airport are being warned to comply precisely with "Teterboro 5" IFR departure procedures or risk a midair collision. There have been many altitude deviations by pilots flying this procedure, the FAA said in a notice posted Friday, and they are causing potential midair collisions with arriving traffic headed for nearby Newark International Airport. This is some of the most congested airspace in the country, so the FAA's advice to "Please read, understand, and comply," accompanied by bright red graphics showing the "HOT SPOTS!" is likely sensible. Teterboro Airport is a general-aviation reliever for northern New Jersey and the New York metro area, popular with bizjets.

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The Latest Airbus Missing Rudder

The NTSB is "closely monitoring" the Canadian investigation of an incident involving the almost total separation of the rudder on an Air Transat A-310, an aircraft similar to that which crashed in New York three years ago due to a rudder failure. As AVweb told you on Thursday, the A-310, with 270 passengers and crew on board, was about 30 minutes into its flight from Varadero, Cuba, to Quebec City when, according to the airline, "a portion of the rudder detached from the aircraft." Photos supplied by an AVweb reader might suggest slightly different wording. Semantics aside, the NTSB has taken an interest with recollection of the American Airlines A-300 that crashed in a New York suburb in November of 2001, killing a total of 265 people following separation of a large section of vertical fin. The NTSB blamed that failure on extreme control inputs overstressing the rudder. There's no indication of similar circumstances in the Air Transat incident. The airline says the plane was flying normally at cruise when the rudder simply fell off. NTSB spokesman Ted Lopatkiewicz told the English newspaper, the Observer, the board is watching the Canadian investigation but not jumping to any conclusions. "We need to know why the rudder separated from the aircraft before knowing whether maintenance is an issue," he said. The plane had just come out of an A-Check five days before the incident but it's not clear whether the rudder was inspected and in what detail.

Evergreen Aviation Museum Plans Expansion

The Evergreen Aviation Museum, in McMinnville, Ore., is planning a $6.9 million expansion including an IMAX movie theater to open this fall, The Associated Press reported last week. The 55,000-square-foot expansion also will include new conference rooms, office space, exhibit space and a gift shop. The museum is best-known as the home of the Spruce Goose, and attendance has spiked recently in the wake of the movie "The Aviator," about Howard Hughes and his airplanes. Meanwhile, William Schaub, the former director of the museum, has filed suit against Evergreen and its founder, according to The Seattle Times. Schaub claims he was wrongfully terminated from his position in 2002 and is seeking $1.7 million in damages. Schaub had suggested that Del Smith, the museum's founder and chief patron, was using museum funds for his personal benefit. Schaub was subsequently fired.

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On The Fly...

Cessna says its Citation Mustang program is ahead of schedule, and the light jet will make its first flight before July...

USMC Harrier jump-jet will fly at AirVenture in Oshkosh this July, EAA said last week...

Recent eruptions of smoke and ash at Mount St. Helens have spewed up to 40,000 feet high, causing disruptions to air traffic...

French judicial authorities have launched their first formal investigation to examine Continental's role in the Concorde crash of July 2000...

Airlines are still vulnerable to terrorist attack, the Coalition of Airline Pilots Associations said Friday...

Police in Mexico found a hangar workshop where nine small airplanes, including several Cessna models, were being reconditioned to haul drugs, with their identification numbers removed and in camouflage paint...

China's first private airline launched on Friday, flying six Boeing 737s.

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

AVmail: March 14, 2005
Reader mail this week about British Airways' three-engine 747 flight, sharing military airspace, near misses and much more.

New Articles and Features on AVweb

CEO of the Cockpit #42: BUFFs and Buggy Whips
AVweb's CEO of the Cockpit lost a buddy this month -- not to death but to retirement. Distance and personality type usually mean pilots don't see each other once the goodbye party is over. But at that party -- everybody wants to outdo each other with stories of "... When I was a junior co-pilot .."

The Cessna, The Sky ... and the Cartoonist: Chapters Sixteen, Seventeen, and Epilogue
Can he do it? Can the old dog be taught a new trick -- to land a plane all by himself? Find out in the final episode of the series by John Ewing, story-teller, former Disney animator, artist, and American now living (and flying) in New Zealand.

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Short Final...

Such concern is touching...

Overheard at a small Australian regional airport.

Regional Carrier XYZ Tower, XYZ, we may be reporting a bird-strike on landing. We're just backtracking the runway to check.

Tower There’s a large bird lying on the runway, so we’re confirming that strike.

Regional Carrier Roger, XYZ. Can you see any damage?

Tower Don’t know yet, we haven’t checked. ...But its not moving.

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Fly it till every part stops.

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