NewsWire Complete Issue

April 20, 2005
By The AVweb Editorial Staff

This issue of AVweb's AVflash is brought to you by ... LightSPEED Aviation

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Your Next Car Could Be An Aircraft...

"The good stuff is coming."

Flying cars are back in the news this week, thanks to Nevada inventor Woody Norris, who is working on an ultralight helicopter called the AirScooter. Norris has won a prestigious inventors' award -- for his work in acoustics, not aviation -- and he and his flying machine were featured in Sunday night's "60 Minutes" show on CBS. Norris has developed a new four-stroke engine for his AirScooter, which has two counter-rotating rotors, and he says it is stable and easy to control. A video clip at his Web site shows the single-seat AirScooter taking off vertically, maneuvering just a few feet above the ground and returning to its launch site. An unmanned version is also in the works. Norris says AirScooters will be available for sale later this year at $50,000 apiece. "This stuff that we're surrounded by, that we think is so cool is caveman. The good stuff is coming. The really good stuff is coming," Norris told 60 Minutes. Norris, who has 47 patents to his name, was awarded the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize this week for his work on focusing sound waves. He'll receive the award on Friday, during a ceremony at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland.

...Deep Pockets Could Make The Difference

"60 Minutes" also looked at the CarterCopter and the Moller SkyCar. The CarterCopter prototype has been flying off and on for a few years, but was sidelined by a wheels-up landing and then by an in-flight fire. SkyCar inventor Paul Moller says his futuristic vehicle will fly like a "magic carpet," but so far it has test-flown only while tethered to a crane. But it probably comes closest to the Jetson-style flying car that people imagine the future should bring. Michael Kanellos, of CNET News, speculated last week that flying cars could be the next thing to attract the attention -- and the assets -- of the high-tech billionaires and entrepreneurs who have been funding much of the new space industry. The Moller SkyCar is designed to land and take off vertically, cruise at over 350 mph at up to 20,000 feet, and get 20 miles per gallon. Deposits of $10,000 and up are being taken for SkyCar delivery slots at the Moller Web site, with a projected certification date of Dec. 31, 2006.

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Air Support For Wildfires Uncertain...

As Summer Fire Season Approaches

In states across the western U.S., wildfires are an inevitable part of summer, and aircraft are depended on to keep them under control. But with many operators facing tight budgets and a scarcity of airplanes, concerns are already widespread that the firefighting capacity will fall short. The Oakland (Calif.) Tribune reported this week that the federal fleet is in "crisis," with many airplanes still grounded by airworthiness concerns and others available only for limited duty. On Monday, the National Interagency Fire Center announced that it has approved 10 tankers for service -- seven P-3 Orions, a DC-7 and two P-2Vs -- but will monitor them closely for signs of fatigue. California's fleet of 23 medium, fast-attack tankers could be partially grounded due to $7 million in state budget cuts. It's been proposed that the tankers will have to be grounded one day per week because there is no money to pay the crews. The situation is exacerbated by a lack of military surplus aircraft due to demands of national security.

...747 Tanker Not Yet Approved...

Meanwhile, in Arizona, a retrofitted 747 super-tanker is not yet approved to fly by the FAA, and may not be ready for this summer. "We don't know how much it drops and how accurate it is," Rose Davis, spokeswoman for the National Interagency Fire Center, told The Arizona Republic. The 747 can carry 24,000 gallons of water and retardant in four tanks, about eight times what ordinary tankers carry. Critics worry that the airplane can't fly low enough to be effective, and the massive drops might be hazardous to firefighters on the ground.

...Are Firehogs The Answer?

One voice in the wilderness is trying to gain support for converting surplus A-10 Warthog fighter jets into "Firehogs." Ed Herlik, a Colorado pilot, formed AeroTech Ltd. to work on converting the aircraft and training pilots. But first he has to convince the Pentagon to let them go, and so far that's been an uphill battle. The idea lacks the powerful supporters it would need to make headway in state and federal government, according to The Oakland Tribune. "There's unlimited money to fight wildfires after they start but none to develop air tankers that work," said Herlik. "Like modern combat, no amount of money will build an effective system after the wildfires start. It's a lethal 'come as you are' environment."

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Sailplane Posts North American Distance Record

A Nevada glider pilot has been quietly working away at breaking the North American distance record, with a flight of 1,212 miles in 13 hours and 17 minutes on April 3, breaking his own unofficial record of 1,130 miles set eight days earlier. Gordon Boettger flew a 33-year-old Kestrel 17 sailplane along the rising wave of air on the downwind side of the Sierra Nevada mountain range during a lee-wave storm. He reached heights of 27,000 feet, and the canopy of the plane was sometimes covered in ice. Boettger, 37, soloed in a glider at age 14, flew off aircraft carriers during eight years in the Navy and now flies MD-11s for Federal Express.

Same Pilot, New Information, Fired

A New Zealand airline pilot has lost a round in court in his effort to return to the cockpit after his employer of 16 years fired him. According to the pilot, the airline unfairly used incidents in his private life to get rid of him. The airline said that even though the Civil Aviation Authority found the man fit to be a pilot, that doesn't mean the airline can't decide he's not fit to be an employee. The trouble began after the pilot was charged in two cases of assault against men his estranged wife had been seeing, and was cited for three off-duty flights he took in his private aircraft without an airworthiness certificate. The pilot said the airline didn't even know about these events for five years, and they had no effect on his performance in his job. The pilot's lawyer said they will appeal.

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Helicopter, Crew Survive Duck Strike

A medevac helicopter operated by CareFlight made a forced landing Monday morning after a collision with ducks in flight near Aberdeen, S.D. Three ducks broke through the windscreen and splattered pilot Curt Smith with blood and broken glass. "It was just a big explosion and lots of wind," Smith told The Keloland News. "I had trouble to see what we were doing, the crew in the back became my eyes." The crew helped direct Smith to a safe landing spot. With the changing seasons, birds are on the move. Tim Harris, airport wildlife officer at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, reported Tuesday that he has observed flocks of both brown pelicans and geese moving north, in groups of about 40 to 50.

Search Suspended For Missing Pilots

The search for two mature pilots from Pueblo, Colo., who set off on a pleasure trip in a red and tan 1954 Piper Tri-Pacer on April 7, has been suspended. Claiborne Courtright, 81, and William Duffy, 77, were last seen when they bought fuel at Kremmling, about 80 miles northwest of Denver. In 150 search flights, no sign of the airplane was found. "We just flat ran out of leads," Civil Air Patrol spokesman Stephen Blucher told The Associated Press. "We had checked everything we could possibly check." Both men were experienced pilots who enjoyed taking leisurely flights with no particular destination. The search will resume if more leads come in or if mountain snows melt, which could reveal the missing plane.

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Glasair Sportsman 2+2, (Our) First Flight

At Sun 'n Fun 2005, AVweb had the pleasure of flying a Glasair Sportsman 2+2 ... that we didn't have to build. First impression: excellent short-field and slow-flight performance with respectable cruise, and light, balanced controls with little adverse yaw ... but don't expect short people to have an especially easy time getting in. The Sportsman is a capable, kit-built, two-seat high-wing with space for two big people plus two little people in back -- plus fishing rods and the grace to put you somewhere you can enjoy them. The aircraft we flew was tugged by a 180-hp engine and a constant-speed prop, carried fresh fuel and two plus one pilots, wouldn't stall (without above-and-beyond persuasion), handily outpaced a 172, and would fly before the airspeed indicator pointed toward the first number. Welcome to the new generation of aircraft. Like most modern top-end aircraft, the Sportsman's controls are well-balanced, and ailerons offer little adverse yaw and command roll right up to (perhaps through) a stall that wouldn't likely happen without premeditated malice. The range of performance was impressive. The catch? Of course, you've got to build it. But for the manually uninspired, and those willing to accept those differences inspired by a production line, have a look at the Symphony 160. For our dollar, it flies (and looks) very similar to the Sportsman 2+2 ... if you can live without the work ... or the truly personal touch.

Arizona Airports Lose A Round

A bill that would have allowed airports on state land in Arizona to get leases of 20 years instead of the current 10 failed last week in the state legislature. The bill's sponsors blamed pressure from Luke Air Force Base, which is close to Pleasant Valley Airport near Phoenix. The Air Force has said that there is enough air traffic already, and it doesn't want the airport to grow. Meanwhile, the airport's current lease will expire in two years, and the airport operator says he needs longer time frames to build his business, justify investments and qualify for federal funding. Local officials have said they will probably renew the lease for another 10 years, but by then they will probably be ready to carve up the surrounding pasturelands for residential development -- and the airport itself is likely to go next. Roy Coulliette has operated the airport for 30 years. "It's scary," he told the West Valley Independent Newspapers. "It doesn't give us a warm feeling. And it's not just us. The longer we wait the more airports the land department is going to close down. We're pretty secure for the next year and 10 months, but in the meantime they could close down half the airports in Arizona."

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On The Fly...

The tower at Tampa (Fla.) International Airport lost radio contact with pilots for about 20 minutes on Saturday. Communications were maintained with backup handheld radios...

The FAA is paying $9 million for soundproofing and air conditioning in three schools near Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport...

New globally wired weather data could help save up to $1.7 billion of the annual $4 billion cost of weather-related aviation delays.

AVweb's Newstips Address ...

Drop us a line. If it caught your attention, it will probably interest someone else, too. Submit news tips via email to

Help For Lotus Notes Users

It's come to our attention (thanks for the emails) that certain organizations in aviation use Lotus Notes for their email. Lotus notes does not show HTML email messages properly. The solution is for the reader to change the delivery format from HTML to text. Here is the procedure:

1. Go to the profile URL:

2. Login with your email address and password. If you do not know your password, there is a link just below the password box to send your password via email.

3. Select Email Subscriptions/Preferences.

4. Change the format from HTML to text.

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New Articles and Features on AVweb

Quiz #93 -- Thundering Questions
What can be taller than Mount Everest, wetter than a sloppy kiss, and meaner than a tax audit? Yes, thunderstorms. ATC offers some help around these gorgeous beasts, but successful circumnavigation depends on you.

AVweb's Business AVflash

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AVweb's Question of the Week ...


Last week, AVweb pit glass-panel displays against the analog variety, hoping to find out where our readers stand on the issue.

What we learned is that there aren't many die-hard fans of the analog panel out there.  11% of you preferred the glass panel hands-down, while a substantial 37% of respondents cited the glass panel's superior reliability and situational awareness.  1% of participants (only seven of you) thought that glass panels are easier to learn and therefore superior to analog because they reduce the risk of pilot failures.

A large segment of respondents (39% of you) said you'd love to have a sampling of both analog and glass-panel cockpit features — if it wasn't such an extravagant way to spend your cockpit budget.

Only 61 of you (12% of respondents) favored the analog panel, with 24 readers citing the difficulty of the glass panel to learn as a possible pratfall.


Meigs is dead. Long live Meigs.

This week, AVweb wants to know where you stand (in spring 2005) on the tearing down of Meigs Field.

Click here to answer

Have an idea for a new QOTW? Send your suggestions to

This address is only for suggested QOTW questions, and not for QOTW answers or comments.
Use this form to send QOTW comments to our AVmail Editor.

Don't miss this opportunity to subscribe to IFR magazine. Each issue briefs you on what you need to know to fine-tune your technique, sweet-talk the system, and bust-proof your ticket. Order now and save big at

AVweb's Picture of the Week ...

Submit a Photo | Rules | Tips | Questions

Current POTW Winner | Past POTW Winners

Welcome back to AVweb's "Picture of the Week."  Several of you wrote to us at Sun 'n Fun to ask where last week's pictures were.

Not to worry; we were only taking the week off to chase down news at the Fly-In.  Choosing a "POTW" is somewhat time-consuming and difficult to do when most of our team is on the road — plus, we had the Sun 'n Fun galleries to prepare for you last week.  But we're back to full strength this week — with two weeks' worth of great photos to share!  Excited yet?  If not, then wait 'til you see Gavin Conroy's prize-winning photo from the Classic Air Fighters show in Blenheim, New Zealand.

What prize did Gavin win?  Why, an official AVweb baseball cap, of course!  And you can win one of your own by submitting your photo here.

Due to privacy issues, AVweb does not publish e-mail addresses of readers who submit photos.


Used with permission of Gavin Conroy

"Fokkers in Echelon"
Gavin Conroy of Blenheim, New Zealand returns with
another photo from the Classic Fighters 2005 air show —
and this time he takes home a winning AVweb hat for his
submission.  A big thanks to Gavin and everyone else
who sent fantastic pictures from this show.

Click 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.

Used with permission of Drew Coats

"Shrike Commander Over Arkansas"
In a week filled with great prop shots (!),
Drew Coats of the Woodlands, Texas
submitted our favorite.  The photo was
taken on an evening trip to Houston.

Used with permission of William P. Lear Jr.

"Flashback of the Week"
William Lear Jr.
of Port Orange, Florida
takes us on this week's trip down memory lane.
Mr. Lear tells us this photo was taken at Whiteman
Airpark, California on May 29, 1946 — nine days after
his first flight and four days before his eighteenth birthday.
"How I miss my very own P-38," he writes.

Bonus Pictures

Lots of good photos came in during the
Sun 'n Fun hiatus.  Here's a quick sampling:

Used with permission of
Charles A. Forsberg

"Stay Off Air Strip"
Chuck Forsberg of Portland, Oregon reports
that no one was hurt in this recent crash.  That sign,
however, just creates too good a photo opportunity.

Used with permission of Mark Sletten

"Early Reflections"
Mark Sletten of St. Jacob, Illinois sends us this
"early morning photo of a Beech 18 modified for
bombardier training" — along with a portrait of
himself, equally geared up for training!

Pets 'n Planes

Another odd coincidence from the past couple
of weeks:  LOTS of photos of people's pets
flowed into POTW Central while we were
away.  Because we got so many — and yeah,
because we're suckers for pets — here's our top three:

Used with permission of Keith Ruskin

"Jepp Cat"
Keith Ruskin
of Westport, Connecticut
reminds us that "outdated approach plates
can be dangerous."  Lucky for him, Oreo the Cat
is on the job, keeping Keith's records up-to-date.

Used with permission of Jose L. Modrono

"Two Choppers for the Price of One"
Jose L. Modrono
of Caracas, Venezuela
writes to use from the Avila Heliport, where he was
shopping for "the proper rotorcraft."  When Jose went
to snap a picture of this bird, he learned the hangar
guard dog was named "Chopper" and had to have him
in the photo.  So, Jose — which bird did you take home?

Used with permission of George Graham

"Walter's First Flight"
And finally, George Graham of SkyGuy in Wellston, Oklahoma
took his pug Walter on his first airplane ride in a Mooney M20A.
George tells us Walter has grown much more
comfortable on subsequent flights.

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.

Sponsor News and Special Offers

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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.

Letters to the editor intended for publication in AVmail should be sent to Have a comment or question? Send it to

Today's issue written by News Writer Mary Grady:
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Fly it till every part stops.

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