March 16, 2005
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
This issue of AVweb's AVflash is brought to you by ...
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The FAA's decision to contract out the Flight Service Station system is being challenged -- from within the FAA. James H. Washington, the Agency Tender Official for the FAA's Air Traffic Organization, claims the FAA's own proposal to modernize and economize the FSS system wasn't given a fair shake in deliberations that ultimately led to Lockheed Martin's winning what is said to be the largest ($1.9 billion) outsourcing contract ever awarded. Washington's lawyer, Cyrus E. Phillips IV, told AVweb that to the best of his knowledge it's the first time the government bidder in an outsourcing proposal has challenged the outcome. In the protest, filed last Friday with the FAA's Office of Dispute Resolution for Acquisition (ODRA), Washington claims the decision to award the contract to Lockheed Martin was rushed, with the financial analysis incomplete and the government bid not considered in the correct context. Under the private-public competitive outsourcing process, the government agency providing the service is allowed to submit a bid to retain control of the function being considered for outsourcing. In this case, the FAA's flight services department teamed up with the Harris Corp. to compete for the contract with four private companies, including Lockheed Martin.
In the protest, Washington, through his lawyer, asks ODRA to stop Lockheed Martin from proceeding with the transition to its own system and the resulting equipment and staffing decisions. Under the contract, Lockheed Martin officially takes over the FSS on Oct. 1 and is now getting ready for the transition, including recruiting personnel from existing FSSs. Washington also asks ODRA to start the whole bidding process over again. In the protest, Washington claims there are "compelling reasons" to cancel the deal, not the least of which is that Lockheed Martin's plan involves a complete replacement of existing facilities and equipment. Washington notes that much of the hardware the successful bidder intends to use in its system isn't certified and that staff will require extensive training to bring the system up to speed. By comparison, the in-house bid envisions expanding the already-proven and FAA-certified Operational and Supportability Implementation System (OASIS), which was developed by the FAA at great taxpayer expense and which Washington claims is working well. The government-based bid would consolidate all FSS operations into three "hubs" at existing FAA facilities in Oregon, Kansas and Pennsylvania with a satellite operation in Honolulu. Lockheed Martin is planning hubs in Arizona, Texas and Virginia along with retaining and upgrading 17 of the existing 61 FSS facilities.
Phillips said at least two other unsuccessful bidders, Raytheon and Computer Sciences, have filed interventions, as has the National Association of Air Traffic Specialists, the union representing FSS employees. The FAA administrator was to have filed her response to the protest from within her ranks by Wednesday and Washington has until Friday to comment on that response. Then it's up to ODRA to decide whether to act on Washington's protest. Phillips said ODRA's decision will be final and he expects it early next week. The original outsourcing program, called an A-76 process, took about three years to complete and when it was announced on Feb. 1, it met with generally favorable response in the aviation community. AOPA was particularly enthusiastic about service and technological improvements it said would benefit pilots, without the introduction of user fees.
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Officialdom's goals for GA security have been kicked up a notch, according to a leaked FBI/Department of Homeland Security report quoted in a front-page story in Monday's New York Times, and that's brought a predictable flurry of backlash from the alphabet groups. In fact, AOPA President Phil Boyer did four television interviews in time to refute, on the evening news, what he termed the "highly misleading" Times story. The General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) also noted that several enhancements to GA security have already been implemented. The Times story emphasized the attraction of GA airports to terrorists now that security has been beefed up at most major airports. The story also quoted the report as saying that GA airports should have security procedures (screeners, explosives detectors, etc.) similar to those at major airports. Boyer said that's both impractical and unnecessary and criticized the Times for reopening this can of worms. Boyer stressed that GA has taken practical and effective steps to boost security, mostly through increased awareness of the potential threat. The resulting Airport Watch program has trained thousands of pilots and other aviation personnel to recognize and report unusual behavior. Some GA airports, he noted, have installed perimeter fencing, security cameras and other features to thwart would-be terrorists. "But not every airport can have that so there've been changes in pilot licensing, flight instruction," he said.
Boyer said the Times story's emphasis on GA was far out of proportion to its significance in the report. In 24 pages of text, Boyer said, only two paragraphs were devoted to GA, yet that formed the basis for the story. AOPA's Web site calls the premise for the story "highly overstated and misleading." It also noted that the report was intended as a briefing document for law-enforcement personnel and was never intended for general release. AOPA says the report contains no new information and is based on data gathered during a three-year period after the 9/11 attacks. "This is old news," Boyer said. "We've been hearing this since November of 2001." Other groups chimed in as well. EAA spokesman Doug Macnair said the Times story ignored all the security improvements that have been made within GA since 9/11 and put undue emphasis on the risks posed by GA. ""The story seems to overstate the actual threat of general aviation, which has on many occasions been determined not to be a significant security risk by the same federal agencies quoted in the report," Macnair said. NBAA President Ed Bolen said the report, which only reiterated well-established and well-discussed material, was sensationalized by the Times and other outlets that based their stories on it. "It is unfortunate that news organizations have left the public ill-informed about the security of our industry by choosing to focus instead on a report that merely re-hashes well-documented security concerns," Bolen said.
But, as if on cue, a couple of security-related stories involving small aircraft surfaced over the same time period. WABC News reported that a couple of New Jersey State Police helicopters were nearly fired upon after they flew over a nuclear power plant in Lower Alloways Creek Township. The police were conducting a drill, but they didn't tell the people at the nuke plant. Now, the security personnel at the plant are under scrutiny for not bringing the police helicopter down. And on Sunday, NORAD scrambled a couple of F-16s after at least three pilots reported radio transmissions indicating a hijacking was taking place. Around the same time, the Coast Guard also received reports about aircraft in mechanical trouble, but the N-numbers for the planes didn't exist. The distress calls were evidently dismissed as a prank and authorities decided to turn the scramble into an exercise. TSA spokesman Lauren Stover told The New York Times the agencies had carried out "a serious response to a non-credible threat."
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Following The New York Times' message of a yet-unaddressed threat posed to national security by GA's unfenced airports and unscreened baggage (see above), AOPA says the Bush administration's 2006 federal budget proposal will cut a wide swath through GA airports, costing them more than large commercial facilities because of the way the funding formula works. The budget would trim $600 million from the congressionally authorized Airport Improvement Program (AIP) and may eradicate an annual "entitlement" (the only federal money some small airports receive) amid an overall cut of 1.27 percent planned for the FAA's 2006 budget. "The smallest airports that can afford it the least will be hurt the most," said AOPA president Phil Boyer. Boyer told the FAA's Eastern Region Airport Conference in Hershey, Pa., that under the funding formula, if the AIP budget goes below $3.2 billion, the allotment for GA projects drops from 20 percent of the total to 18.5 percent. More than 600 airport managers, consultants and government officials attended the 28th annual conference.
The United States trade deficit soared in January to its second-highest level ever, according to the International Herald Tribume. But after almost four years of massive layoffs, seas of red ink and numerous bankruptcies and consolidations, GA may now be considered a bright spot in the U.S. economy. In fact, it was one of comparatively few sectors to report an increase in exports in the past year with a healthy $600 million increase in foreign sales. GA's rebound helped the aerospace industry, as a whole, to post a $31 billion foreign trade surplus in 2004, up $4 billion over the previous year. "Aerospace has proven once again it is a huge boon to the U.S. economy," said John Douglass, CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association. Total foreign sales of aerospace products topped $57 billion in 2004, including a $1 billion jump in military exports and $3.3 billion in increased civil aerospace products. Helicopter sales were up 54 percent to $313 million and exports of spacecraft, satellites and related parts doubled to $575 million. However, commercial airliner exports were down by $900 million.
IF YOUR CELL PHONE CAN SURF THE NET, IT CAN RECEIVE AVIATION WEATHER
EAA is taking Sport Pilot on the road. As AVweb told you in January, EAA wants to spread the message about the new pilot and aircraft classifications to as many people as possible and the process will begin with a three-stop tour in June. The Sport Pilot Tour will visit Marysville, Calif., June 3-4; St. Louis, Mo., June 10-11; and Franklin, Pa., June 17-18. Of course, the traveling show will also be featured at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh starting July 25. Spokesman Ron Wagner said the aim of the tour is to show EAA members and the public that "this is an exciting time for recreational aviation, which is rapidly moving to the fore as an affordable outdoor adventure pastime." The EAA traveling exhibit will feature sport pilot forums, education for flight instructors, displays by manufacturers and demonstrations. The FAA will also tag along with its Wings safety program geared to light-sport aviation.
Pilots talk to air traffic controllers all the time but a unique conference in Milwaukee May 3-4 gives those on both ends of the microphones a chance to really communicate. Controllers and pilots meet face-to-face in the National Air Traffic Controllers Association's annual Communicating For Safety conference at the Hilton Milwaukee City Center. The conference covers a host of safety-related issues and gives pilots a valuable perspective of what it takes to get them where they're going. This year's conference deals with a lot of issues that have been front-and-center in aviation news in the past year and will have a significant impact on where and how we fly. Training is a major theme of many of the workshops and speakers will explore technology, the need for more streamlined training and the role of training (or the lack thereof) in accidents. There will also be a panel discussion featuring FAA Chief Operating Officer Russ Chew and a variety of industry and aviation group representatives.
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There are going to be a lot fewer gray heads in cockpits and towers in coming years and that, according to the Orlando Sentinel, has raised safety concerns. The paper claims that 25,000 seasoned pilots will hang up their hats in the next 10 years, to be replaced by 50,000 rookies, some fresh out of flight school. At the same time, about three-quarters of the U.S.'s air traffic controllers will be eligible to retire. This confluence of fresh faces on each side of the aviation safety equation is raising eyebrows, if not fears. "I wouldn't go so far as to say it's going to be dangerous," aviation consultant Stuart Klaskin told the newspaper. "But it's one of those situations that needs to be understood now and acted upon now." Klaskin suggests relaxing mandatory retirement ages for both pilots and controllers. There is (yet another) bill before Congress that would raise the maximum age for pilots to 65 from 60 and the FAA has already begun a program to allow especially fit controllers to work beyond the current retirement age of 56, subject to an annual review. And while commuter and regional airlines are already lowering hiring standards to find pilots, it will be a while before the major airlines will have to wrestle with the issue. They still have more than 9,000 fully qualified pilots on furlough.
A Delta Air Lines pilot says he was grounded for three weeks because of an eye injury resulting from a laser's being pointed at his aircraft in December. Parry Winder told a House panel the "intensely bright green light" also affected his depth perception and resulted in a bumpier landing than normal. Winder said the incident occurred on Dec. 22 as he was on final for Salt Lake City International Airport. He told the congressional panel that the beam struck the cockpit for about six seconds and he and his first officer didn't know what to do. "We did not respond, having no previous experience or knowledge or understanding," he said. They reported the incident but Winder said he brushed it off until he woke up the next morning. His right eye was very painful and an eye surgeon treated him for a swollen retina. He said it took two weeks to heal and it was another week before he could work again. He's still sensitive to bright lights. The panel was told there have been 112 laser incidents reported since November. FAA safety chief Nicholas Sabatini said there have been no crashes attributed to lasers and there's been no indication that terrorists are behind the incidents. The green laser pointers are commonly available over the Internet for less than $200.
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You've heard all about the so-called pilot shortage but so far all your various ratings and endorsements have you flying the grill at your local McDonalds. How about trading your plastic fork for chopsticks -- and maybe a shot at right seat in an airliner. The first private airlines are taking flight in China and they'll need at least 8,000 pilots over the next 10 years. Since there is virtually no GA system to produce those pilots, the airlines must look abroad. "China is short of captains and co-pilots," said Liu Jieyin, chairman of Okay Airways, China's first privately held airline. "We offer young foreign pilots an opportunity to grow." The airline recently hired seven young pilots, including a Canadian and two Swiss as well as four from Hong Kong, and Liu said there are plans to hire more as the fledgling airline's fleet of six leased 737s starts competing for business with the three state-owned airlines. First officers will earn about $2,500 a month.
The date given in Monday's AVflash for next year's Women in Aviation Conference in Nashville was incorrect. The correct date is March 23-25, 2006.
Adam Aircraft announced it will open a manufacturing plant in Ogden, Utah. The company will lease 22,000 square feet of space to build A500 push/pull piston aircraft and A700 jets. Adam says more facilities will be added as demand warrants...
Indonesian authorities are interviewing employees of Garuda Airlines in the poisoning of a passenger. Munir, a well-known human rights activist, was killed by a dose of arsenic believed to have been administered on a flight to Amsterdam last September...
President Bush is expected to make 60 appearances in coming months and you know what that means. Remember to check and double-check your own flight plans to make sure they don't conflict with the TFRs that will result from the president's tour to sell his Social Security plans...
She's almost as old as powered, controlled flight and now Evelyn Bryan is talking about slowing down. Mama Bird, as she's known around Morristown, Tenn., is 95 and has 58,000 hours. She plans to stop giving flight exams this spring...
After a 17-year investigation and two-year trial, two Indian-born Canadian residents were acquitted of bomb attacks that brought down an Air India Boeing 747, killing 329 people on board and two baggage handlers at Narita Airport in Japan in June of 1985. Ripudaman Singh Malik, 58, and Ajaib Singh Bagri, 55, were charged with placing the bombs in luggage as revenge for the Indian government's attack on the Sikh Golden Temple in 1984. One bomb went off when the 747 was off the coast of Ireland while the other was intended for another Air India flight
Airbus says it will ask airlines operating A300-600 and A310 models to inspect the rudders. The request came a week after an Air Transat A310 lost almost all of its rudder on a flight from Cuba to Canada.
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.
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The Savvy Aviator #16: Who Is Responsible For What?
Who is responsible for the various aspects of maintaining an aircraft in airworthy condition? The aircraft owner, the authorized inspector (IA), and the certificated mechanic (A&P) all have well-defined roles and responsibilities. AVweb's Mike Busch lays them out in this months Savvy Aviator column.
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*** PREVIOUS RESULTS ***
Last week, AVweb asked if you'd ever had a near-mid-air collision and didn't report it.
Somewhat surprisingly, 54% of you have!
28% of respondents (the second largest group) reported that it hasn't happened yet and they hope to keep it that way.
12% of you have reported your near-mid-airs, and another 6% believe there's a good likelihood you've experienced a near-mid-air but remained blissfully unaware.
Thankfully, only six AVweb readers reported actually being involved in a mid-air collision.
*** THIS WEEK'S QUESTION ***
Let's get political: General politics aside, has the Bush administration been good or bad for General Aviation?
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Current POTW Winner | Past POTW Winners
We received nearly 100 entries for this week's "POTW" contest putting us back in the high numbers we've grown to love! Thanks for sending us your aviation photos and keeping our eyes soothed while we put together the news reports.
Kim Rosenlof of Arizona takes home the prize-winning AVweb baseball cap this week. Want a shot at next week's cap? Submit your photo today.
Due to privacy issues, AVweb does not publish e-mail addresses of readers who submit photos.
copyright © Kim Rosenlof
"Pot of Gold?"
Kim Rosenlof of Tempe, Arizona points out,
"Hot air balloons and rain don't mix, which is why it's
extremely unusual to see a rainbow and balloons together."
Not to worry the colorful display only accompanied a light shower,
and this balloon flight at Parker, Arizona went off without a hitch.
here to view a large version of this image
Click here for a medium-sized version
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.
Glenn Fischer of Washington, DC
sent in this shot taken while flying a Navy T-34C
Turbo Mentor "somewhere near Sedona, Arizona."
Used with permission of Jan Henning
"The Hazards of African Bush Strips"
Jan Henning of Pretoria, Gauteng (South Africa)
writes, "These BlesBuck are stubborn but predictable
(and dumb)." Despite being shooed away before this
landing, curiosity drew them back to the field
just in time for the big show.
Contest entries inched back up near
100 pictures this week, so here come our
much-enjoyed Bonus Pictures of the Week:
Used with permission of Mark Westervelt
"Air France Airbus A340 St. Maarten"
Mark Westervelt of North Reading, Massachusetts
just returned from St. Maarten, where he spent a chunk
of his vacation sitting on Sunset Beach watching the planes
come in over Princess Julianna Airport. Mark recommends the
Sunset Beach Bar, where they pipe in the Tower frequency.
Used with permission of Lawrence Gilbert
"The Captain's Reflection"
Lawrence Gilbert of Titusville, Florida
provides this week's second self-portrait,
this time from the pilot's Stearman PT17.
copyright © Harry Asbury
"Learn to Fly at Milton, FL"
Harry Asbury of Holt, Florida
sends us this pic, where someone
had a bit of sense of humor after
Hurricane Ivan. (Click through to
the large image to read the sign.)
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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