April 17, 2005
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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"This is a day I sometimes thought would never come," EAA President Tom Poberezny said on Friday, under the Florida sun here in Lakeland. Together with a ream of manufacturers, FAA officials, and John and Martha King, Poberezny introduced the first two aircraft to receive their Special-Light Sport Aircraft certification -- the Evektor SportStar and the Flight Design CT. And he said that EAA is working to ensure there will be affordable insurance available for pilots eager to buy and fly. "The goal here is to break down the barriers to getting into flying," Poberezny said. Getting these airplanes approved is only one step along that road, but it's a major one that was a long time coming. The effort to create the new Light Sport Aircraft category took about 10 years. EAA's Sport Pilot Tour this summer will introduce the aircraft to people around the country. The SportStar is imported from the Czech Republic by Sport Aircraft International in Kerrville, Texas, and the Flight Design CT is imported from Germany by FlightStar Sportplanes in Ellington, Conn.
Tom Peghiny, president of Flightstar Sportplanes, took his turn at the microphone Friday and listed about a dozen aircraft that are in the works for certification and should be finished by Oshkosh, coming up in late July. Those soon-to-be S-LSAs include the Legend Cub, Rans Coyote and Courier, the ZennAir CH601, a couple of Quicksilver models, and more. Peghiny said he is ready to take orders on the Flight Design CT, which sells for about $85,000, and you can pick it up in about six weeks. Lots of aircraft were on the field ready to sell now as Experimental LSAs, which are far from the traditional homebuilt project -- one manufacturer said you can buy the "kit" 99 percent complete and be flying 24 hours later. The Experimental category saves the manufacturer from some liability, but the buyer may find insurance is pricier. Also, the E-LSA can't be used for rental or instruction, as the S-LSAs can.
WOMEN AVIATORS NEED A LITTLE BOOST?
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The weather was perfect, the demos, attractions and air-show performers first-rate, but there appeared a muting to the "buzz" this year at Sun 'n Fun, which ends today in Lakeland, Fla. Maybe show-goers are just waiting for yesterday's promises to come true. Presently, the very light jet manufacturers are not yet rolling production models off the line and otherwise exciting alternative engines are still in development and/or making slow headway in a conservative market. That aside, the industry in its present state appeared strong and positive. Most of the manufacturers and suppliers we spoke with say business is good and getting better. Cirrus is looking at expansion, Lancair can't hire people fast enough and Piper will be back at full strength in six weeks. And among those looking forward to a good year is Mooney, which came with statistics to back that up.
In its third or fourth incarnation in as many years, Mooney is showing signs of the stability and resources needed to capitalize on the continuing upswing in the GA sector. To punctuate the company's belief that updates on a proven design (that may have been ahead of its time) make the Mooney a contender against the new designs that have emerged in recent years, Mooney executives believe they set a record on the flight from their Kerrville, Texas, headquarters to Lakeland on April 9. The G1000-equipped Bravo carrying Assembly Manager Joe Kortsch and Marketing Director Roger Munt covered the 963 miles in four hours and 10 minutes for an average speed of 230 knots, using about 80 gallons of fuel. Mooney says it delivered 20 new airplanes in the first quarter of this year. We're not sure how many went to dealers, but Mooney says that's double the number for the same period last year and it expects that pace to continue.
Although Eclipse Aviation is now considered a long-time exhibitor at Sun 'n Fun, it was an elated CEO Vern Raburn who introduced the first type-conforming Eclipse 500 to the public here on Friday, in its first appearance ever out of Albuquerque. "This is the first fully conforming, pre-production, very light jet," he said emphatically. "This is not a prototype, not a one-off, not a kit you build yourself." The plane flew in powered by the Pratt and Whitney Canada PW601F engines developed for Eclipse after it parted ways with Williams International two years ago, setting back the certification and delivery schedules by a commensurate amount. However, Raburn said those difficulties are behind the company now. "We're really on the way now. It really is coming true." The jet took about five hours to fly in from Albuquerque at FL250, and averaged about 270 knots. Before embarking on the cross-country trek, however, the first 500 had some important work to do back in Albuquerque. The original 500 flew chase as the second type-conforming jet had its maiden flight on Thursday. A third certification test plane is expected to fly soon as the company moves toward certification sometime in 2006. Thursday's flight involved assessing handling, a pressurization check and checks of the electrical system. Click here to see AVweb's gallery of photos of the jet's arrival at Sun 'n Fun.
An indication of Sun 'n Fun's role in the aviation industry is Cessna's decision to set up permanent digs at Lakeland. Through the Cessna Foundation Inc., the company is building a 2,400-sqaure-foot building on the Sun 'n Fun campus, next to the Florida Air Museum. For 50 weeks of the year, Sun 'n Fun will use the building for the educational programs and activities that are funded by the annual fly-in. During the show, the building will become Cessna's headquarters and marketing area. The Cessna Foundation Inc. is an independent, not-for-profit organization that includes educational initiatives in the broad range of aviation-related interests it serves. And while Cessna plants permanent roots in Lakeland, EAA, the organization that many thought ran the show, has become little more than an exhibitor, albeit a huge exhibitor. In late March, EAA and Sun 'n Fun signed an agreement laying out their relationship and one of the results was the elimination of the EAA logo from Sun 'n Fun promotional material. Both groups insist the relationship remains amicable but neither will go into detail. "Nobody is our daddy anymore, we're our own daddy," Sun 'n Fun VP Greg Harbaugh told the Lakeland Ledger. "And we're proud of it. We don't answer to EAA." EAA spokesman Dick Knapinski told the Ledger that being dropped from the Sun 'n Fun logo will protect it from liability and put the appropriate distance between the groups in the public's mind. "EAA was never directly involved in the operation of Sun 'n Fun," Knapinski said. "But a lot of people thought we were."
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Thank you for visiting WSI at Sun 'n Fun
The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) has unveiled its laser-based warning system designed to prevent innocently errant pilots from being shot down in the hypersensitive restricted airspace surrounding Washington, D.C. Starting in about a month, pilots who stray into the Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) will get "illuminated" with alternating blasts of "safe" green and red laser pulses by the Visual Warning System (VWS). As AVweb told you in January, the system is intended to cause pilots to immediately get out of the ADIZ (not press on to investigate the odd flashing lights) and those who don't risk interception and/or personal acquaintance with the firepower available to military pilots. The system was spawned by an incident last year in which a series of communications problems and foul-ups (none of which were the fault of the pilots involved) almost resulted in the downing of a King Air carrying the governor of Kentucky to former President Ronald Reagan's funeral. Note now that the responsibility for not getting shot down rests entirely with the pilot and his correct interpretation of those bright green and red lights.
Assuming a pilot who manages to blunder into the most publicized and recognized restricted airspace in the country recognizes the laser signals for what they are and gets out of the ADIZ, his or her troubles are far from over. Attached to the dozen or so lasers are high-powered cameras that will apparently be able to zoom in on an offender and read his or her tail number. Anyone who sees the bright lights can expect a personal introduction to the country's security apparatus. The military hopes the lasers will be able to get the attention of pilots who have so far successfully ignored fighter aircraft near them. "We determined that at times, pilots of [ADIZ-busting planes] were unaware they had a fighter on their left wing," Lt. Col. Bob Hehemann told The Washington Post. In at least one case the flares didn't make their desired impression. "He thought it was an impressive light show," said Hehemann.
Most of the alphabet groups got an advance look at the system last Thursday and seemed to agree it has merits as long as it's accompanied by a massive educational and public-relations program. "If you didn't know what it meant, you wouldn't know what to do," AOPA spokeswoman Melissa Rudinger told the Post. "It's important to get the education out as wide as you can, not just in this region." Part of that education is the posting of a video of the demonstration by AOPA and EAA and a comprehensive list of frequently asked questions posted by NORAD. EAA spokesman Doug Macnair, who saw the demonstration from inside a Blackhawk helicopter, said pilots illuminated by the lasers will immediately know that something is going on. "Even with a low sun angle in full daylight, there is no missing the signal," he said. "Ultimately when the full array of stations is installed at the center of the Flight Restricted Zone, it will be an effective means of warning pilots." At least one pilot who has inadvertently busted the ADIZ seems to agree. Charles Mayer was among a few GA pilots taken along on Thursday's tour and he sees the laser system as an attempt by the government to strike a balance between security and airspace access. "I'm glad they are trying to find ways to keep the airspace open and to keep us safe but a lot of pilots I know are really suspicious of this," Mayer said. "I hope I never see [the lasers] again."
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Thank you for visiting P2 Inc. (with Eastern Avionics) at Sun 'n Fun
Adam Aircraft's A500 centerline twin is creeping closer -- granted, at a pace far behind its predicted schedule -- to the point where certification seems inevitable, having completed 230 out of the 235 tasks required, spokesman John Hamilton told AVweb at Sun 'n Fun. The fully conforming prototype has acquired 675 flight hours, and customer aircraft numbers 1 and 2 are already under construction. President Joe Walker said the first customer delivery will take place by June, and the company is ready to deliver 25 this year and six a month in 2006. "We've got about a two-year backlog," he said. He expects the A700 twinjet to achieve certification in 2006 and follow the same program: 25 the first year, 72 in the second year. The company is expanding its facilities in Colorado and Utah and has a staff of more than 450.
Maybe it's the 1970s-vintage computers many FAA staffers use, perhaps it's the 1950s-style labor-relations environment (OK, it has been getting better) or maybe the industry it governs is just a bit on the conservative side, but the Government Accountability Office has confirmed something many have long suspected: When it comes to new ideas, the FAA can be a stick in the mud. The GAO assembled a panel of former high-level FAA bureaucrats, economists, academics and industry experts whose report concluded that the FAA is running a jet-age air traffic control system with piston-age thinking, from field staff to those at 800 Independence. "Such resistance is a characteristic of FAA personnel at all levels," the panel concluded. The report formed a backdrop to aviation subcommittee hearings on Thursday, which offered similar laments.
Rep. John Mica, who heads the committee, said the air traffic control system "is reaching its maximum capacity." That, he said, bodes badly for the busy season ahead. "I predict that clogged airspace, bad weather and systems outages will create massive delays and backups throughout the system this summer, and may be routine in the future." Inspector General Ken Mead said safety is also a concern, noting that "severe errors" where aircraft barely missed one another occurred an average of every nine days last year. The ancient computers are failing at an increasing rate. In Denver, Mead said, controllers' screens lock up an average of a little less than once a week. And as if to illustrate the testimony at the hearings, the lone radar site serving O'Hare International was out for about 40 minutes on Thursday after the main system failed and the backup didn't kick in. Fortunately, the weather was clear and calm and controllers were able to handle traffic visually with only minor delays reported.
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A long-simmering dispute over the location of a New Jersey medevac unit took an ironic twist when the unit's helicopter was used to airlift a severely injured employee of the unit's most vocal opponent. Thomas E. Mulrooney suffered severe burns on his face and upper body after being doused in molten plastic at Polycel Structural Foam in Branchburg, N.J. Polycel CEO and local township committeeman Kurt Joerger has been trying to get the medevac unit out of nearby Somerset Airport since it was moved there from Newark's University Hospital on Feb. 4. Joerger, who owns a 175-acre horse farm near the airport, called the move an "unlawful unwarranted and unnecessary intrusion into the rural region that surrounds the airport." Medevac officials hinted that intrusion may have saved Mulrooney's life. The chopper was moved to Somerset to reduce response times in that area of New Jersey. Medevac spokesman Terry Hoben said it took only a minute for the helicopter to respond to the April 9 emergency compared to the 20 minutes it would have taken from Newark. Hoben said speed is critical in burn injuries because of the danger of the victim's airway closing. He told the Courier News the incident was vivid proof of the helicopter's importance to the area and he hopes opponents take note. "We've said in the past that they don't quite understand until they have a need," he said. "I wonder if what we've talked about in the past has become a reality."
A well-developed sense of self-preservation, a lucky break in traffic, and likely a well-developed skill-set has won two pilots the accolades of a small community. Two pilots are being given the keys to the city of Roseland, Ind., and are being proclaimed "Citizen Heroes" by the St. Joseph County Red Cross for setting their crippled Pilatus PC12 down on a busy highway without causing any injuries to themselves, their three passengers or anyone on the ground last December. "I don't think either one of us feels like we are heroes," said Craig Miers, who along with co-pilot Sven Slattberg put the big turboprop single down on a section of Highway 933 lined with businesses. The plane lost power about 10 minutes into a flight from South Bend, Ind., to White Plains, N.Y. The pilots headed for the highway, the best available emergency landing site, and crossed their fingers. "Luckily, the traffic light turned red at the right time for us and opened up a little spot on the road so we could land and we took advantage of it," Miers told The Associated Press. The plane hit a power pole, shearing off part of a wing and spilling 200 gallons of fuel. The pilots were back flying the next day and the cause of the engine failure hasn't been determined.
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An AirTran pilot wants his job back after prosecutors dropped charges that he intended to fly an airliner while drunk. In a carefully worded statement, lawyer John Watkins said his client "wasn't in violation of the law." The pilot was arrested Jan. 12 and charged with trying to help fly 60 passengers from Las Vegas to Atlanta. But Clark County District Attorney David Roger told The Associated Press his office couldn't prove the charge. For one thing, Nevada doesn't specify a blood-alcohol limit for pilots and the pilot wasn't in the cockpit when he was arrested. He was in the aircraft galley. Authorities were called by a security screener who said he smelled alcohol on the pilot. According to the AP report, authorities reported that a breath test showed he had more than .08 percent blood alcohol in his system shortly after his arrest, even though he passed a field sobriety test. A blood test four hours later showed a level of .01. His lawyer, Watkins, told the AP he would have challenged the breath test had the case gone to trial. AirTran did not immediately comment on the pilot's future employment prospects.
Well, it's hard to say who got more out of a special day to help a little boy survive cancer and fulfill his already well-developed dream to become a pilot. The folks at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina teamed up with the Make-A-Wish Foundation to give five-year-old Evan Moriarty a glimpse of what's in store when he beats the disease and realizes his dream. On Friday, during a tour of the base, Evan got his own flight suit and jacket, plus autographed photos of the Blue Angels, Top Gun star Tom Cruise and former Air National Guard pilot George W. Bush. "It's [Evan's] ultimate goal to one day grow up and be a pilot," said his mom, Shana Moriarty. As for the first part of that goal, doctors say he's got a 90-percent chance of beating the cancer. And events like Friday's help give him the strength and resolve to wipe out that 10-percent fudge factor. "It's very touching that so many strangers would come together to try to make his wish come true," said Shana Moriarty. Oh, by the way, Evan's dad couldn't be there. He's an Army major currently deployed in Baghdad.
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For those of you who couldn't make it to Sun 'n Fun, we've put together a few galleries to show you what you missed. Enjoy!
There were no injuries but a T-6 was damaged at Sun 'n Fun Thursday when it ran off a taxiway. Police said pilot and owner Keith Moser, of Huntington, Ind., was trying to make a sharp left turn when the plane went off the pavement. The left wing was substantially damaged...
The administrative machinations that could upend the contracting out of flight service stations have begun in earnest. The FAA's Office of Dispute Resolution for Acquisitions (ODRA) has ruled that National Association of Air Traffic Specialists' President Kate Breen has the right to represent affected employees in two challenges of the decision to award the contract to Lockheed Martin...
Two men from the former Soviet republic of Georgia were arrested after they asked to tour the cockpit of a Northwest Airlink plane on its way from Detroit to New York. After the crew refused, one of the men apparently refused to sit down, but neither man tried to force his way into the cockpit. Both were released after questioning...
Be A Pilot President Drew Steketee said the program is close to recruiting its 250,000th flight-training prospect, and has introduced 35,000 pilots to their first flight lesson...
Wings To Adventure will debut on The Outdoor Channel in July, featuring high-definition features about general aviation.
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.
DOC BLUE'S EMEGENCY MEDICAL KIT: DON'T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT IT!
The Pilot's Lounge #86: Oh %$#@! -- I Think I Just Busted A Reg.
Oops, now you've done it. You didn't mean to but you got distracted and then ... So now what? AVweb's Rick Durden, a practicing aviation attorney, has lots of suggestions for how to work with the FAA and, hopefully, make it much less of an issue.
AVmail: April 18, 2005
Reader mail this week about "new" parachutes for airplanes, medical certification, ab-initio training in a high-tech plane and much more.
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SEE CLEARLY METHOD IMPROVES & STRENGTHENS VISION NATURALLY
One chilly day last winter, after one of the many snowfalls, the crews were diligently working on keeping the runways clean at Syracuse's Hancock International Airport. The ATIS had the usual warning about snow-covered surfaces. As I was taxiing to the runway, I heard the following conversation between the tower and a landing airplane:
Airplane: You guys need to get some snow melters like they have over in Buffalo.
Tower: We do have one. (Pause.) It's called July 4th.
Airplane: I thought that was just a bad day for ice fishing.
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Fly it till every part stops.
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