May 11, 2005
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Capitol Hill Police Chief Terrance Gainer said the plane was on a "straight-in shot" toward the center of Washington. FAA spokesman Greg Martin said the 150's initial flight path made it look like the pilot (certificated more than 35 years ago) "drew a straight line" on a map between his departure point and destination. And so it was Wednesday (yesterday) near noon that the White House, Capitol and Supreme Court were evacuated (the president was out taking a bike ride.) while a couple of aviators out of Smoketown airport (S37) in Pennsylvania, apparently on their way to the Mid-Atlantic Fly-In and Sport Aviation Convention in Lumberton, N.C., flew a Cessna 150 deep into the Washington D.C. ADIZ and to within three miles of the White House. F-16s dropped flares to get the attention of the wayward pilots (the capital's "good" laser warning system goes live May 21) but it was a Blackhawk helicopter that escorted the aircraft to a landing at nearby Frederick Airport, after the Cessna had spent some 54 minutes inside restricted airspace. At Frederick, the airplane's occupants were taken into custody. The individual thus far identified as pilot in command has been a certificated private pilot since 1969 and was Pennsylvania Flying Farmers' man of the year in 2004.
The passenger's wife told The Associated Press that the two discussed their route around the Washington restricted airspace Tuesday evening, saying the flight would take them between two areas of restricted airspace. Instead, they managed to hit almost dead center in the most sensitive airspace anywhere. The FAA's Greg Martin said there was no deviation for the restricted airspace. Guards evacuated buildings; high-ranking officials, including former First Lady Nancy Reagan, were moved to secure locations; and for two errant individuals in a Cessna 150 the terror level was raised to red, the highest, for eight minutes. The pilots were questioned and later released without criminal charges being laid. "The two men in the plane have been interviewed, and it has been determined that the intrusion into restricted airspace appears to have been accidental. And no charges are being sought at this time," Homeland Security spokesman Brian Roehrkasse told Fox News. The pilot later declined comment on the incident when AP tracked him down on his cell phone.
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The political impetus to reopen Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) to general aviation gained some ground earlier this week with the approval of a bill by the House Committee on Appropriations' Subcommittee on Homeland Security, which calls for restoration of GA access within 90 days of the bill's passage. The subcommittee's bill becomes the third such bill to be approved for House consideration, following similar efforts from the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the Committee on Homeland Security. And while the previous bills were lauded by the aviation community, the latest may carry more weight because it's attached to the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS's) financial lifeline. The appropriations committee included the DCA provision as part of the funding bill for DHS through fiscal year 2006. Now, it and the other two bills have a long way to go before reopening DCA to GA becomes a legislative (and practical) reality, but the sheer number of bills expressing the sentiment guarantees, at the very least, a serious look by the House. National Air Transportation Association President James K. Coyne said the congressional pressure on the White House is appreciated. "The association is hopeful that with the enormous amount of attention Congress is giving to this issue, we will finally see a light at the end of the tunnel," he said in a news release.
When the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure tabled its legislation, it attached a report that reminded the government how we reached this seemingly permanent solution to what was initially regarded as a temporary problem. In the report, the committee pointed out that the Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) around Washington, D.C., was established in 2003 when the perceived security threat was at its highest level since 9/11 and was supposed to be eliminated when the threat level subsided, as it now has. AOPA President Phil Boyer said that not only has the threat subsided, GA organizations have introduced workable programs that provide tangible security benefits -- but continue to bear the brunt of government security measures. "The ADIZ is not the solution," he said. "It smothers general aviation without providing real security benefits." The report offers a similar perspective. "Despite the fact that GA was neither a target nor a tool of the 9/11 terrorists, the federal government has imposed more security-related flight restrictions on GA than on any other sector of the aviation industry."
Industry-driven initiatives continue to bolster GA security efforts and a voluntary registry of business aircraft and personnel won some endorsement from the Homeland Security appropriations subcommittee. In a release, the National Business Aviation Association said the committee encouraged the Transportation Security Administration to "continue moving forward on development of the Transportation Security Administration Access Certificate (TSAAC)." Under the program, business aircraft operators voluntarily submit to background checks of flight and ground staff, inspect baggage and screen passengers. There are currently 24 business aircraft companies at three New York-area airports involved in a trial of the program and there are plans to expand it. "The legislative action taken by Congress is a good step forward in making TSAAC a reality for the business aviation community and further enhancing national aviation security," said NBAA President Ed Bolen.
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President Bush appears to have picked a winner in his selection of Edmund "Kip" Hawley as the next leader of the Transportation Security Administration. Mind you, that's what people were saying about the previous three, all of whom left the post within the previous three years. Nevertheless, Bush's timely appointment of Hawley ensures there will be no leadership vacuum when the current boss, David Stone, vacates the office in June. There are some high hopes and a healthy dose of skepticism greeting the announcement. AOPA President Phil Boyer may be growing weary of (and getting very good at) pleading GA's case before each successive TSA chief, but he's planning for his next trip through what AOPA calls "the TSA revolving door." Boyer said he hopes Hawley sticks around long enough to grasp GA's place in the security picture and he'll do his best to put him on track. "As we have with his predecessors, AOPA will reach out to this new chief of an agency that has an inordinate amount of influence on general aviation activities and educate him on the realities of GA."
"One reason this gentleman was picked is he has a technical background, a private sector background," John Mica, chairman of the House Aviation Subcommittee, told The Washington Post. "We're going to do a high-tech makeover, which will rely less on personnel and more on technology." Mica said he expects Hawley to roll up his sleeves and start fixing the TSA. Hawley was one of the architects of the "hurry-up-and-get-it-done" creation of the TSA in the tense aftermath of 9/11. He's a member of the FAA's Air Traffic Services Committee and, according to the Post, was hand-picked by Michael P. Jackson, the deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. He most recently ran an international software company. National Business Aviation Association President Ed Bolen called Hawley "an excellent choice." Boyer and his colleagues at other alphabet groups are clearly impressed with Hawley's credentials and contacts and are hoping those facilitate a long and fruitful tenure in the big chair.
IF YOUR CELL PHONE CAN SURF THE NET, IT CAN RECEIVE AVIATION WEATHER
Retired United Airlines employees can expect their benefits to be cut by at least a third after the airline won the right to dump its underfunded plans on a government guarantor on Tuesday. In an historic decision, Judge Eugene Wedoff of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court agreed with United that it had no hope of emerging from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection with the crushing expense of the four pension plans. The also-stressed Pension Benefits Guaranty Corporation, a federal agency, will take over the plans said it could only cover $6.6 billion of United's $9.8 billion pension fund shortfall. The other $3.2 billion will come directly off the checks of retirees. At the same time, United will switch its pension plans to 401(k) type plans, which will save it even more money. But it's still not enough. United wants more concessions from employees and the court may have to impose those concessions if the airline is to be saved. Analysts told the New York Times the decision, the largest-ever pension plan default, could ripple through the industry with other airlines declaring bankruptcy to escape the crippling pension payments. Meanwhile the affected unions have stopped short of calling a strike but there are threats of rotating actions to "inconvenience" the airline (which may mean inconveniencing passengers, too.) United CEO Glen Tilton, in a pre-recorded message, told employees the pension default was the hardest decision he's made since putting the airline in bankruptcy. However, Greg Davidowitch, president of the union representing flight attendants, accused the airline of trying to destroy the unions. "Management is using the bankruptcy process to achieve not what it needs, but what it wants," Davidowitch told the Chicago Tribune.. "This management team is hell-bent on destroying unionized workers."
On Wednesday Adam Aircraft received FAA type certification on its A500 push/pull piston twin. The certification was the culmination of about seven years and 1.5 million man-hours, said CEO Rick Adam. The company rolled out its first production model in October and five more are under construction. There are a total of 65 orders for the big twin, which is all-composite and powered by Continental TSIO-550 engines. The company hopes to increase production to six planes a month at facilities in Englewood, Colo., Pueblo, Colo., and Ogden, Utah, and get production certification for the aircraft it once hoped to deliver at the start of this year. Now, about that jet. Adam raised a lot of eyebrows when it flew the prototype of its A700 very light jet to EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh in 2003, two years before Eclipse (plans to) debut its 500 and Cessna (may) show off its Mustang at this year's show. Adam has said all along that certification of the piston plane had to be the top priority before attention could be concentrated on the jet project, which has an active certification program but has taken a back seat to the A500 development. It's worth noting that about 85 percent of the A500's components are common to the jet, so it could be a very interesting year, indeed, in the VLJ market. Stay tuned...
ONLY AT AUCTION! LAKE AIRCRAFT WILL BE SOLD AT AIRVENTURE!
The FAA is underscoring regulatory requirements for pilots who fly passengers in homebuilt aircraft. A new notice would restrict them to flying passengers only in planes in which they are qualified and experienced. Currency and proficiency rules apply to those who take people for rides in their experimental aircraft and EAA says current pilots have until Aug. 31, 2005, to prove they have the necessary category and class ratings for the aircraft they fly. Those who always fly solo will not need to fly through the bureaucratic hoops. Under the new notice, which was issued April 21, affected pilots will have fill out a form and make sure their recreational or higher certificate is in order. Flying passengers requires that the pilot have at least five hours as PIC in the category, class, make and model of the experimental aircraft in question between Sept. 1, 2004, and Aug. 31, 2005. An authorized flight instructor must make a logbook entry attesting to the pilot's proficiency with the aircraft and then the pilot must show the log to a designated pilot examiner or FAA Operations Inspector. A new pilot certificate will then be issued restricting the pilot to flying that particular experimental aircraft (or any others for which he or she has done the paperwork).
An experiment that began 25,000 feet underground could help aircraft fly higher, farther and more safely. Sandia National Laboratories is developing ultra-durable electronic components, like computer chips, that can withstand the extreme temperatures and pressures of deep-well oil and gas exploration. Well, it turns out the abuse these gadgets take on a drilling rig is comparable to what might happen to them next to an aircraft engine or inside the braking system. That got researchers thinking about the potential benefits of such on-site controls and monitors and they estimate that weight reductions alone could translate into $30 million in fuel savings over the life of an airliner. By placing control electronics on or inside the systems they manage, the need for much of the wiring to connect those electronics to the cockpit is eliminated. That's as much as 600 pounds of wire, the researchers say. But company spokesmen say the technology could play a role in the Air Force's goal of eliminating hydraulics in aircraft, which would offer huge weight and systems reductions (depending, of course, on what they are replaced with). Nevertheless, the company hopes to land some work with the military as a way of reducing the unit costs of the extra-tough components. They now cost about 100 times more than standard gear.
ATTENTION, AIRCRAFT OWNERS:
Australian researchers are working on an idea that could eventually lead to conventional aircraft being able to gently lower and pick up cargo, including people, in places where even helicopters can't make the delivery. And the technology involved requires little more than a sturdy length of cable and a winch. The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology is patterning its work after the exploits of a little-known American missionary named Nate Saint who used the innovative (and almost impossibly simple) system 50 years ago to exchange (yes, it was a two-way effort) gifts with indigenous people in the jungles of South America. Saint discovered that if he flew his plane in a tight circle while paying out a long rope with a package on the end, the package would, after initially flailing and whirling around in the slipstream, become more stable as he lengthened the rope. Ultimately, the package would become a slowly rotating, nearly stationary object that he was able to lower or raise at will. It was so stable that he would deliver gifts of machetes and food to aboriginal people and they would repack the container with gifts for him, all while he was flying in circles overhead. A live parrot made the trip. The Aussies think the principles could be applied in numerous ways, from search and rescue to military operations, lessening dependence on helicopters, which have speed and payload limitations.
Aircraft play a vital role in humanitarian efforts all over the world and now a Sandpoint, Idaho, company has not only come up with what it claims is the ideal aircraft for the purpose, it's going to be able to cover the cost of 10 percent of the planes it produces for use in aid projects. Quest Aircraft Company developed the Caravan-like Kodiak entirely on donations funneled through the various causes it will ultimately benefit. The result of the effort will something other plane-makers can dream about: a fully funded certification with no debt, no investors to satisfy and what appears to be pretty credible competition to existing bush planes. The Kodiak made its public debut with a flight from Idaho through British Columbia and the Yukon to the Alaska State Aviation Trade Show in Anchorage last week. The Kodiak seats 10 (or has room for more than 300 cubic feet of cargo, including an external pod) and is powered by a PT-6A34 turboprop with a maximum of 750 horsepower and continuous rating of 700. It's designed as a STOL aircraft for use on unimproved strips or on floats. Performance data is not listed on the company's Web site. Cost of the plane for commercial customers will be about $1 million and that will cover the construction of every tenth Kodiak, thus meeting "the challenge of providing cutting edge technology at a price humanitarian organizations can afford," says the company Web site. "This plan provides a visionary opportunity to build social capital."
SEE CLEARLY METHOD IMPROVES & STRENGTHENS VISION NATURALLY
The various issues surrounding FAA funding and the future of air traffic control services will again take center stage in Washington on Monday and Tuesday as the National Air Traffic Controllers Association holds its annual legislative conference. The agenda of speeches and face-to-face lobbying comes a couple of weeks after the FAA let it be known, both in a session it hosted and in House committee hearings, that it believes the system is financially unsustainable. And while assessing user fees for ATC services doesn't seem to have gathered much political support, there is still plenty of buzz surrounding the issues to ensure an entertaining exchange next week. The conference is being held at the Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill and the list of speakers includes Sen. Ted Kennedy, Rep. John Mica (chairman of the House Aviation and Infrastructure subcommittee) Sen. John Kerry and Sen. Hilary Clinton. NATCA will also do some navel-gazing with a panel discussion entitled "The Washington Political Climate and NATCA."
The Eclipse 500 has taken another step up from that elusive $1 million sticker price. The company announced an across-the-board hike raising the price of the very light jet to $1.295 million in June 2000 dollars. (We don't know how to do the math either.) When it was introduced in 1999, the price was below $900,000, but new engines, development costs relating to those engines and increasing supply costs have pushed the price up, said the company...
Students from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University took top honors in the National Intercollegiate Flying Association Safety and Flight Evaluation Conference competition held in Salina, Kan., April 26-30. Following the Golden Eagles in second place was the team from University of North Dakota, with Western Michigan taking third...
Two Northwest Airlines planes collided on the ground at Twin Cities Airport Tuesday night, injuring eight people. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported that the brakes failed on a DC-9, causing it to collide with an Airbus near a gate at the airport...
Fuel costs are doing nothing to dampen the demand for business jets, according to The New York Times. The fractional market, particularly, is booming with NetJets reporting a 28-percent increase in contracts in 2004 over 2003. (Though its pilots still don't have one.)
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.
PILOT GETAWAYS MAGAZINE YOUR FLIGHT PLAN FOR ADVENTURE
The Pilot's Lounge #87: Etiquette Isn't Just Raising Our Pinkies
Just because you can take a 3g turn and handle turbulence with hardly a butterfly doesn't mean you should make your passengers deal with all that. And we all know not to fly low over noise-sensitive areas. AVweb's Rick Durden points out a few more items to make flying more enjoyable for you, your passengers, and those anti-airport folks on the ground.
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*** PREVIOUS RESULTS ***
Last week, AVweb asked if all this talk of user fees is making our readers nervous.
Apparently it is. 56% of you chose this answer in last week's poll:
YES. Regardless of why or how this mess got started, we'll be the ones asked to clean it up.
Another 27% of respondents indicated some concern by choosing our Sort Of Worried option.
9% weren't concerned in the least.
Another 9% (the last of our respondents) indicated that while user fees are possible, such fees aren't likely to affect their flying habits.
*** THIS WEEK'S QUESTION ***
This week, AVweb wants to know if the DC ADIZ is doing their job or are we just overreacting to their overreactions?
Click here to answer
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Busy day so far? Sneak a few moments for yourself and peek at this week's batch of amateur aviation photos. No skydivers, aerobatics, or wrecked planes this week just a handful of gorgeous aircraft photographed against idyllic landscapes.
This week's top winner comes all the way from Afghanistan, and photographer Byron Miranda will soon be sporting a brand-new AVweb cap for his efforts. If you'd like one of these spiffy caps to keep the sun out of your eyes this summer, just send us your amateur aviation photos. If your pic makes it into the final round, we'll spotlight your photographic genius right here on AVweb and if you're lucky enough to win the top spot, we'll send you one of those prestigious caps!
Due to privacy issues, AVweb does not publish e-mail addresses of readers who submit photos.
Used with permission of Byron Miranda
"Marine CH-53 Over Afghanistan"
Byron Miranda sends us this photo of the astonishingly
beautiful landscape and a U.S. Marine CH-53 over
an Afghan lake. "I hadn't been in country long," writes Byron,
"and was stunned to see the lake passing below us.
The most amazing blue water." Thanks for sharing,
Byron your official AVweb cap is in the mail!
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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.
copyright © Chip Sherman
"Chalk's Ocean Airways G-73T Mallard"
Chip Sherman of Aurora, Colorado recently
returned from the Bahamas, where he snapped
this shot from the deck of his cruise ship.
"Crossing paths with Mallards at Nassau and
float planes at St. Thomas were journey highlights,"
according to Chip. "I just wish I had time to
ride aboard one of the Mallards."
copyright © William J. Pearce
"Baron on the Rock"
William Pearce of Los Osos, California
takes a moment to share the view from
Tony William's B-55 Baron, looking out
on pilot Chris Szarek in the Cygnet
Aerospace B-55 over Morro Bay.
The photo was taken during a
formation flying clinic last October.
Sometimes three pictures just aren't enough!
copyright © Mike Whaley
"Soaring Through the Stars"
Mike Whaley of Melbourne, Florida sent us
quite a few fetching photos from Sun 'n Fun, but this
is the only one that made us regret going to dinner
every night instead of sticking around the show grounds.
In this pic, Manfred Radius supplies some spectacular
pyrotechnics at the Saturday night airshow while AVweb
staffers were stuffing our faces at Sonny's Barbecue.
"This was a several-second exposure using a Minolta 7Hi
digital camera," writes Mike. "If you look closely, you can
tell that there was a very strong, direct crosswind."
Used with permission of David G. Brant
"Nine-O-Nine Visits VGT"
David G. Brant of Las Vegas, Nevada
sends us this shot of the Collings Foundation
B-17 taken while we were away at Sun 'n Fun
in Lakeland. "It's tough to get a picture with no
spectators in the viewfinder," writes David.
We'd say his patience paid off.
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.
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It's flying till every part stops.
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