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May 8, 2005

NewsWire Complete Issue

By The AVweb Editorial Staff

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

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Aviation Safety

User-Fee Aftermath: Other Options Explored...

FAA Told To Control Costs

Following last week's hearing on the state of the Aviation Trust Fund, members of the House Aviation Subcommittee didn't seem very convinced that user fees would be the answer to the FAA's funding woes. "Switching to a user-fee system raises more questions than answers," according to ranking committee member Jerry Costello (D-Ill.). Other financing alternatives discussed at the hearing included increasing the current aviation taxes, fixing the annual contribution from the General Fund, and providing the FAA with borrowing authority. Ken Mead, inspector general for the Transportation Department, testified, "The Congress and the aviation community need assurances that [the] FAA is doing all it can to control costs before decisions can be made about the adequacy of current funding levels and whether or not additional revenue is needed." Mead also said that congestion pricing -- charging more for takeoff and landing slots during peak travel times -- should be included in the debate and set forth an agenda. "There are four basic steps FAA needs to take -- getting a handle on its cash-flow requirements for existing projects in its capital account, controlling costs and improving the effectiveness of the Agency efforts, finalizing the implementation of a cost-accounting system, and determining funding requirements for future initiatives. Any business seeking an infusion of capital would take these steps. Moreover, these are preconditions for determining whether current funding sources will be sufficient or whether new revenue streams and authority are needed," Mead said.

...As Reason Prevails

Meanwhile, the Reason Public Policy Institute, a libertarian think tank that has proven influential in some D.C. circles in recent years, released a report last week on the issue of funding the nation's air traffic control system. The institute has long been a supporter of user fees, but now has backed down somewhat on the argument as it pertains to GA. The new report recommends that piston-powered GA aircraft pay only the aviation fuel tax, and no user fees at all. "We think [the report] still misses the point," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "GA shouldn't be charged for a system we don't need and for the most part don't use." Boyer added that more than 90 percent of piston-powered aircraft flights are VFR, yet every one of those flights still helps pay for the system they are not using, through the fuel tax. "If it weren't for the huge demands the airlines place on the system with their rush-hour scheduling, the air traffic control system would be much smaller," Boyer said. In a 1996 report, the Reason Foundation suggested charging fees to GA pilots, such as $9.27 for a weather briefing, $4.65 for contacting a tower, and $9.27 for an IFR flight plan. AOPA soundly criticized that report.

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New Piper And Workers Negotiating...

No Contract, But More Talks Set

New Piper Aircraft has been working to get back up to full production after last year's hurricanes, and now about 720 workers are saying it's time for a new contract. Picketing started about two weeks ago and has continued sporadically since. Negotiations were held last week, and some workers were hopeful that a tentative agreement would be reached by the weekend, but it didn't happen. "We've made some progress on contract language," union spokesman Bob Wood told tcpalm.com. The two sides will resume talks on May 26. New Piper had no comment. "We decided from the beginning that we would not negotiate this in the media," spokesman Mark Miller told tcpalm.com. "We are honorable people, and we plan to stick by that." The union workers are asking for higher wages, new overtime rules, a pension plan and better health benefits. They also want Piper to honor seniority if layoffs are necessary.

...As Company Recovery Continues

The New Piper employees voted to join the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in October 2003, after New Piper cut wages by 6 percent. They've been waiting for a contract ever since. "The [union] doesn't seem to appreciate what we're really up against," Piper President Chuck Suma said in a statement. "This isn't about being stingy with company money ... This is about working to make Piper a company that will survive." New Piper delivered 37 aircraft in the first quarter of 2005, with billings of about $21 million, according to the General Aviation Manufacturers Association. That was down from 53 aircraft shipped in the same period a year earlier. But there may be very natural reasons for that. The company blamed the drop on delays caused by the hurricanes.


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Passenger Takes Over For Dying Pilot...

Glider Training Helps

Luck and some long-dormant flying skills helped two passengers aboard a twin-engine (formerly Rockwell) "Jetprop Commander" (a 695A per the registration database) survive a crash landing after the pilot became incapacitated shortly after takeoff from North Las Vegas Airport on Thursday morning. Gerry Garapich had a few lessons in a glider 20 years ago, but when his friend Doug Reichardt lost consciousness at the controls, he was able to turn off the autopilot and guide the airplane back to the airport for a relatively safe landing. He hit the dirt short of the runway, with the gear still up. But that might compare favorably to a gear-up runway landing with sparks and fire. Garapich and his fellow passenger were taken to the hospital but were not seriously hurt. The pilot died, apparently from a heart attack.

...Another Pilot Is Shot, But Plane Lands Safely

In a strange twist on that story, another passenger had to take over in a small airplane last week, but under very different circumstances. Pilot Mike Spicer, 55, and his friend Arnie Knoettgen were flying Spicer's Cessna 150 to help police track down a fleeing suspect in Clay County, Kan. They spotted the suspect hiding in a field, and began to circle his location, when they heard a crack. A bullet punctured the passenger-side window and grazed Spicer's forehead. He was losing lots of blood and having trouble seeing, so Knoettgen took over the controls while Spicer stanched the bleeding, and the two worked together to bring the 150 down to a safe landing. Knoettgen, who is an EMT, knew the wound was dangerous, even though his friend remained conscious and lucid. "Head wounds can fool you," he said. "Everything can seem fine at first, but [the patient] can be gone in a moment." Spicer, who operates the local airport, occasionally helps out Sheriff Chuck Dunn. Both Spicer and Knoettgen said they're still willing to fly when needed -- but Dunn said next time, just stay a little higher. Suspect Michael Michaud, 28, was arrested the next day, and is charged with two counts of attempted first-degree murder.

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ADS-B Now Available For East-Coast Pilots

ADS-B (automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast) has been under development for a decade or so, and its deployment in Alaska has been credited with helping to improve the safety statistics there. Now the FAA has announced that it's available on the East Coast, in a developmental state, between New Jersey and Florida. The system provides equipped aircraft with traffic advisories even in areas that are out of radar range, and also brings terrain information and real-time weather to the GA cockpit equipped with a multifunction display. It allows both controllers and pilots to see equipped traffic during ground movements, reducing the chance of collisions, and helps pilots to find their way even on strange airports. The system can also display current airspace restrictions. Access to the information is free. "Allowing pilots to voluntarily equip their general aviation aircraft with ADS-B is a positive step toward bringing modern technology into the National Airspace System," said Randy Kenagy, AOPA's senior director of advanced technology. "Some staff at the FAA would eventually like to use ADS-B in place of radar, but the big benefit to general aviation is the free weather and traffic."

Snoozing While Cruising OK In Europe

Professional pilots in Europe have been told that it's OK to take a nap while flying, as long as they remain at their post, strapped into their seat at the controls (if only we could get away with that). The Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) last week issued new guidelines saying that a quick cockpit snooze up to 45 minutes long is allowed, the UK Mirror reported on Saturday. The "controlled rest" is OK only in the cruising phase, where pilot tasks are less demanding, the JAA said. There's nothing new about pilots napping -- one pilot told the Mirror he once woke up to find all three pilots in the cockpit had nodded off at once. The new policy requires that a member of the cabin crew schedule a wake-up call. A spokesman for the British pilots union, BALPA, said naps aren't the solution to pilot fatigue. BALPA suggests that schedules should allow for adequate rest between flights. But in a long-haul situation, there should be procedures to allow for adequate rest aloft. BALPA has raised concerns in the past about fatigue issues. When large aircraft like the A380 go into service, some flights will be up to 20 hours long, and more study is needed to find the best way to ensure crews get enough rest, BALPA said. Meanwhile, a captain for Alitalia was fired last month for leaving the cockpit to sleep in a bunk during a flight from Rome to Miami, according to The Mirror.

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LAX Airspace Changes Proposed

The Class B airspace around Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is some very high-traffic, complex airspace, and a new proposed rule aims to make it easier to use and reduce the potential for midair collisions. The plan proposes to expand the eastern boundary to ensure containment of instrument approaches, improve the containment of jet aircraft within the airspace, and simplify VFR navigation, while shrinking the overall size of the Class B by about 100 square miles. The FAA has already aired the plan in local public meetings, and won the support of AOPA. The FAA is open to additional comments through May 23. A request to allow VFR flight along the shoreline near Point Dume was OK'd, but several other comments asking for more space for VFR operations were turned down. To have your say, go to the docket and enter number 18612. You must include "FAA Docket No. FAA-2004-18612 and Airspace Docket No. 04-AWA-05" at the beginning of your comments.

Embraer's VLJ Contender

There's been talk for a while now that more of the mainstream aircraft manufacturers might follow Cessna's lead and jump into the very light jet (VLJ) market. Embraer, of Brazil, confirmed those rumors last week, with an official announcement that it plans to introduce a new VLJ with six to eight seats, and a new light jet that will carry eight or nine. The investment in the new jets will total $235 million, the company said. The jets will be "best-in-class," according to Embraer, featuring "premium comfort, outstanding performance and low operating cost." Both jets will be designed for single-pilot operation. Better start saving now, though -- prices start at $2.75 million. The VLJ will be powered by Pratt & Whitney Canada's PW617F engine, with 1,615 pounds of thrust. Its range will be up to 1,160 nautical miles and it will have a maximum operating speed of Mach 0.7. It will be designed for a short takeoff distance and is capable of flying at 41,000 feet. The VLJ is expected to enter service in mid-2008, Embraer said. The light jet, with up to nine seats, will be powered by P&WC's PW535E engine, with 3,200 pounds of thrust. It's expected to enter service in mid-2009 and be priced at $6.65 million. Embraer said it estimates demand for approximately 3,000 very light and light jets over the next decade, not counting the air-taxi market. (Eclipse says it currently has more than 2,000 orders for its 500.)

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Airport Security: Starting Over, $4.5 Billion Later

The U.S. government has found that many of the security protocols that have been put in place since 9/11 are ineffective, unreliable and too costly, The New York Times reported yesterday in a front-page story. For example, audits have shown that replacing private airport screeners with TSA workers didn't improve security. Millions spent on screening equipment also has had dubious results. The TSA bought 1,344 machines at $1 million each to search for explosives in checked bags, but they set off false alarms for up to 30 percent of all luggage, the Times said. The frequent alarms mean more screeners must be hired, and when it gets busy, sometimes the checks are bypassed, workers have said. So has all the spending been worthwhile? "The nation is more secure in the deployment and use of these technologies versus having no technologies in place at all," Brian Roehrkasse, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, told the Times. A report on aviation security released last week by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, argues that the TSA needs to be reorganized to focus only on aviation. In other TSA news, President Bush on Friday nominated Edmund "Kip" Hawley to be the fourth head of the agency, which is only four years old. The TSA's current chief, David Stone, will leave the job in June. Hawley previously was vice president of transportation services for the Union Pacific Railroad. He is expected to lead a transition in the agency to a use of more high technology.

New Report Examines Safety, Training Issues For Advanced Aircraft

Technically advanced aircraft (TAA) are defined by the FAA as having at least a moving-map display, an IFR-approved GPS navigator and an autopilot. The advent of this technology has raised issues about training, which AOPA's Air Safety Foundation (ASF) addresses in a new report, released last week. The report suggests how training should change to reflect the demands of flying TAA, and also takes a preliminary look at assessing the safety record for these aircraft. The report examines the challenges for pilots transitioning to TAA and flight schools starting students out on the new systems; handling characteristics; and TAA hardware and software, including terrain, traffic, weather and engine-monitoring equipment. Recent research might suggest a tiered learning approach. Twelve accidents involving TAA are examined, and the ASF found that most were pilot-related. "Poor judgment will always be poor judgment, regardless of the aircraft being flown," said Air Safety Foundation Executive Director Bruce Landsberg. The entire report can be downloaded for free at the ASF Web site.

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On The Fly...

All 15 people aboard died Saturday when a Fairchild Metroliner crashed during a rainstorm in a remote area of Australia. It was the country's worst civilian aviation accident since 1968...

Air Midwest and its maintenance provider, Vertex Aerospace, publicly apologized on Friday for mistakes that contributed to the crash of a Beech 1900 in Charlotte, N.C. All 21 people on board died in the 2003 crash...

Cause of Learjet crash that killed golfer Payne Stewart and five others now is being debated in a Florida court...

Northwest Airlines has ordered up to 68 Boeing 787 Dreamliners, Boeing announced last week. With its initial delivery in August 2008, Northwest will be the first North American carrier to operate the 787...

Modified Williams FJ33-4-15M turbofan engines with an inverted oil system for aerobatic flight have been installed on the Javelin Jet prototype, ATG said last week...

The laser Visual Warning System designed to warn pilots who have entered the Air Defense Identification Zone over Washington, D.C., without FAA authorization will become operational May 21.

AVweb's Newstips Address ...

Drop us a line. Heard something that 130,000 news-savvy pilots might want to know about? If it caught your eye, it would likely interest someone else. Submit news tips via email to newstips@avweb.com. With our warmest thanks.

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

AVmail: May 9, 2005
Reader mail this week about ATC user fees, radioactive instruments, FAA waste and much more.

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new Articles and Features on AVweb

Pelican's Perch #20: Ground All Bonanzas?
There have been several crashes of Beech T-34 aircraft caused by wing-spar failures during the last few years. The raging controversy over the T-34 structural issues and the FAA's heavy-handed approach may well affect all aircraft. AVweb's John Deakin has updated this eerily prescient six-year-old column.

CEO of the Cockpit #44: Raise The Nina!
For modern airline pilots like AVweb's CEO of the Cockpit -- who spend all day in an FMS-guided autopilot-flown aviation wonder -- the appeal of flying old, low and slow during their days off (or in retirement) is understandable. But why would someone spend millions to rescue something that would be cheaper to build from scratch?

AVweb's Business AVflash

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Short Final...

Overheard on approach to MCO...

TWR: Traffic 12 o'clock, 2 miles, an Airbus.

Airliner: Traffic in sight.


And he'll be happy to know his rudder is intact.

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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. http://www.avweb.com

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

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