NewsWire Complete Issue

May 15, 2005
By The AVweb Editorial Staff

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DCA Reopening Efforts Continue, In Spite Of...

D.C. Incursion Aftermath

Contrary to the initially pessimistic mood of those lobbying for a return of GA to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Wednesday's airspace incursion over Washington, D.C., may not seriously damage their efforts. After taking a deep breath (or perhaps just catching it after fleeing one of the evacuated buildings) key congressional supporters of a qualified reopening for DCA told The Washington Post they see no reason to put the brakes on the initiative. "It's time to get with it," said Rep. Harold Rogers (R-Ky.), chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee On Homeland Security, the latest of three House committees to draft bills calling for the resumption of GA flights to DCA. Rep. John Mica, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which has also prepared a bill, said he doubts the incident will get in the way of passage. "I don't believe it will have a dampening effect on the Hill," he said.

The politicians' comments must have heartened aviation leaders who feared the worst for the DCA issue and other security-related concerns in Washington when news of the incursion broke. "It has certainly deflated my optimism -- at least momentarily -- for the fight to improve the ADIZ," Andy Cebula, AOPA's government affairs specialist, said in the hours following the dramatic incident. AOPA President Phil Boyer wondered how pilots living so near to Washington (Lancaster County, Pa.) could not be aware of the flight restriction and he, too, wondered what sort of reaction (or overreaction) would result. "At least for the short term, they really made things difficult for all the other pilots in this country who obey the rules. And after all of the hard work that we've put in, that's more than frustrating." But even if the DCA legislation passes, don't expect a flood of GA traffic into DCA. Planes using the airport will have to obey strict security precautions, including having an armed marshal on board. The National Business Aviation Association, one of the main champions of GA access to DCA, avoided linking it with the incursion. The NBAA, in a statement on its Web site, said simply the chain of events shows "the system works."

...Incursion Flight Is Dissected...

There has been speculation in the mainstream media as to how the 150 got so close to the White House (less, some say much less, than three miles). The answer is that it was allowed to. Apparently those who could have blown it out of the sky much earlier decided to give the pilots every opportunity to return to earth in the conventional way. The plane crossed into the Air Defense Identification Zone at 11:28 a.m., 46 minutes before it reached the closest point to the White House. The first intercepting aircraft, a Customs Service Blackhawk helicopter (presumably armed) and a Cessna Citation, were scrambled at 11:47. Two National Guard F-16s, which joined the hunt at 11:57 a.m., each made a flare pass in front of the 150. Some time was also spent trying to establish communication. It wasn't until 12:14 p.m. that the Cessna changed course. "Perhaps it dawned on them, finally, this is no good, I've got to change something," said Lt. Col Tim Lehmann, who was flying one of the F-16s.

According to an Associated Press story, Lehmann said he didn't consider the 150 a major threat. But he also said he would have fired a missile if ordered to do so. Of course, there were the inevitable unnamed sources claiming that authorities were "really close" to shooting the 1,400-pound airplane down and there were those who think that's what should have happened. On a Fox News program, commentator John Loftus told host Linda Vester that pilots violating the ADIZ should be shot down, no questions asked. So far, more than 700 such violations have occurred and the body count would be more than 1,000 (including Kentucky's governor) with Loftus pulling the trigger. AOPA's Boyer fired off a letter to Fox accusing Loftus of fear-mongering. "We can only be thankful that calm, informed professionals are watching over our security," said Boyer.

...And Action The Pilots May Face

The next round of speculation centers on the penalty the pilot(s) will face. Although some media outlets are reporting that the pilot's certificate will be revoked, FAA chief spokesman Greg Martin said that decision hasn't been made. "The seriousness of the incident merits the most thorough and careful examination possible of all pertinent information related to this incident. Once that has been completed, we will take all appropriate steps with respect to enforcement action," he told AOPA. AOPA says the consensus of members e-mailing their reaction is that he should face the highest penalty, which would be emergency revocation. He would then have to go at least a year without flying and then pass the written and flight exams again. It's been reported that his passenger, a student pilot, actually took over the controls after the intercept and got the plane to Frederick, and that may bode well for his future treatment by the FAA. In any case, since he doesn't have a certificate, there's not much the agency can do to punish him, according to the reports.

After initially dealing with media inquiries, both pilots have now gone silent. One has left his home in Lititz, Pa., and the other has a note on his door asking reporters to go away. But it's not just the media that wants to talk to the pair. In addition to whatever awaits them from officialdom, there's the matter of what to do about the plane. John Henderson, acting secretary of the Vintage Aero Club, which owns the plane (the pilots are members and 10-percent owners) said retrieving the 150 from Frederick isn't going to be easy. "The Secret Service ripped it apart and it's up to us to get someone to put it back together," he told the Intelligencer Journal. Henderson hasn't been able to get hold of the pilots but he noted the next meeting of the club is June 7. "I hope [they] attend. We've got a lot to talk about," Henderson said.


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Endurance Flights Blossom...

Across The Country In A Powered Parachute

Like peonies and petunias, endurance flights blossom in spring and there's always someone (or some group) with a fresh idea. How about launching a cross-country flight from the deck of the retired aircraft carrier Midway? The catapult can stay in mothballs, however, since Brendan Tayler won't need more than a few dozen feet to get airborne on the first leg of his eight-to-twelve week transcontinental flight in a powered parachute. There's a promotional angle to the flight. It's being coordinated through the PowerChute Education Foundation (PCEF) and is, in part, aimed at exposing "the sport of powerchuting to tens of millions of people through the mass media." But, like many such endeavors, there's also a public-service angle. With their slow speed and low-altitude maneuverability, powered parachutes make useful search-and-rescue platforms in many circumstances. For instance, they were used in the search for remnants of the Columbia space shuttle. Tayler's flight will raise money for PCEF's Emergency Low Level Aerial Search and Surveillance project to help ensure law enforcement and rescue agencies have access to this kind of help. You can expect to hear about Tayler's exploits, too. PCEF has hired a PR agency to line up interviews on just about every TV news and talk show as well as with local media contacts.

...Spreading The Word About Young Eagles...

Spreading the joy of flight to young people in the U.S. and around the world is the goal of The Eagle Flight, which launches May 28. Over the summer, Jared Aicher will fly to almost 60 cities in all Lower 48 states and the Caribbean to give kids Young Eagles flights in a Cessna 172 provided by West Mesa Aviation, of Albuquerque. "Many children's dreams of flight are never realized," said Aicher. "The goal of the Eagle Flight is to help children around the world realize their dreams of flight, get them into the cockpit and register each one as a Young Eagles member." After the U.S. and Caribbean tour, Aicher plans to set out next year on a round-the-world junket with the same goals in mind. Although plans haven't been finalized for the world tour, a map on the Eagle Flight Web site shows Aicher heading through Canada and across the Atlantic to Greenland, Iceland and Britain before heading through Northern Europe and crossing Russia to Alaska.

...And It Beats A Bus Tour To Vegas

And then there's just for the heck of it. Two mature California pilots came close to crossing paths in the South Seas as they headed around the world in opposite directions. As AVweb told you last month, Bill Randolph, 76, of Watsonville, headed east on his adventure of a lifetime. Late last month, Dean Stahr, of Napa, set out for Hawaii on his first leg in his Cessna 182. When we last left Randolph, he had just finished battling Indian authorities for the necessary documentation to fly through the country. Trouble awaited in Phuket, Thailand, where he blew a tire on landing and damaged his RV-8. After receiving a parts shipment from Vans and some patchwork repairs (that included substituting cooking oil for brake fluid) Randolph was able get back on his flight after almost three weeks in Phuket. He's now in New Caledonia and heading home. Meanwhile, a couple of weeks after Randolph left Phuket, Stahr arrived there last Friday after a difficult flight from Jakarta. Rather than try to battle the bureaucracy himself, Stahr hired Skyplan, of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, to smooth the way for him. The company not only arranges the flight permits but arranges a handler at each stop and books his hotels. Next stop for Stahr is Colombo, Sri Lanka, the halfway point.

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Daley's Chicago Wants F-16s, Too

While the Cessna 150 was "threatening" Washington, D.C., Chicago Mayor Richard Daley wasn't taking any chances. According to the Chicago CBS affiliate, emergency officials in Chicago were "put on notice" about the Washington alert. Chicago officials took an "immediate defensive stance" (whatever that means). While his staff was manning the ramparts, the enigmatic mayor was gearing up his public-relations machine. "We need the same protection as Washington, D.C.," Daley said, and he means F-16s. "We do not have any jets here. This city does not have a military force," he said. "I mean, this is in this day and age after 9/11," he said. "That this can take place is very sad comment." Daley didn't forget to take credit for making the city safer by destroying Meigs Field. He told reporters the incident in Washington (somehow) shows his decision to tear up Meigs was correct. He also renewed his call to ban small aircraft flights over downtown Chicago and suggested that anyone violating a Chicago no-fly zone face fines in the order of $500,000.

SNJ Operator Warns Against Aerobatics

Warbird Adventures is urging all owners of T-6s, Harvards and SNJs to stop performing aerobatics in the aircraft until the results of an investigation into the loss of one of its SNJs last week are released. In a statement on its Web site, the company says it will cease operations until the results are known. The SNJ, with pilot Jonathon Hedgecock, of Kissimmee, Fla., and passenger Jim Kern, of Springer, Okla., crashed a week ago in dense woods near Lake Pierce, and an in-flight airframe failure is the suspected cause. The company says it has been told by the FAA that there will be no Emergency Airworthiness Directive issued until after the laboratory review is complete. "In the meantime, as a precaution, we strongly urge all operators of T-6s across the world to not perform aerobatics or put undue stress on their aircraft until more information has been made available," the Web site states. Recovery of the wreckage was difficult because of the remote location and because the impact created a crater and some parts were buried.


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Navy Finally Gives Up On Corsair

In some respects it's probably a good thing that the U.S. Navy doesn't give up easily but, in the end, even it couldn't stand up to an indomitable Minnesota mechanic and his dream ... of course, having a congressional order on his side didn't hurt. Lex Cralley pulled the wreck of a Brewster-built Corsair from the swamp and had dreams of rebuilding it until the Navy said it wanted its airplane back. Lex Cralley seems to have won his bid to keep the Navy from repossessing the wreck of an aircraft it considered "demolished" after it crashed in a North Carolina swamp in 1944. Last week a U.S. District Judge approved a settlement that ends a lawsuit filed a year ago by the U.S. Justice Department, the climax of a six-year tug of war between Cralley and the government over possession of the extremely rare Brewster-built Corsair. During the height of the Second World War, Chance Vought was overwhelmed by wartime demand for Corsairs and Brewster Aeronautical Corp. was asked to build some. In the end, Brewster built 735 of the more than 12,000 produced. When Cralley's fight became public, Rep. Walter B. Jones (R-N.C.), whose district includes the swamp where the wreck was found, sponsored a private bill that specifically ordered the Navy to give Cralley the plane. It passed, as did a Senate version, but the fight wasn't over. It took another six months for Cralley and the Navy to work out a deal. The Navy was anxious not to set a precedent keeping it from suing others who might have wrecked Navy planes in their possession. Cralley is planning on trucking the wreckage to Oshkosh for this year's EAA AirVenture, but in the meantime he's breathing a big sigh of relief. "I've been under a cloud so long, it almost seems like a dream that it's over," he said.

No Wings, No Problem -- Flying Snakes

While most of us enjoy any kind of aeronautical spectacle, there's one occurring daily in the rainforests of South and Southeast Asia that many of us could happily avoid. Researchers from the University of Chicago are studying just how "flying snakes" manage to turn themselves into reasonably credible gliders. Their work is featured this month in the Journal of Experimental Biology. "Despite their lack of wing-like appendages, flying snakes are skilled aerial locomoters," said Dr. Jake Socha, who has authored a paper on the strange creatures. During eight years of research, Socha found that the paradise tree snake, one of five flying varieties, actually flattens itself from head to tail to make it more aerodynamic. But perhaps the most distinctive feature of snake flight is the fact that they undulate rapidly as they glide through the air. Socha believes that's to keep them stable during the glide. They can change direction up to 90 degrees in flight and always seem to land safely, Socha says. And if, for some reason, you encounter one of these things, don't worry, they're considered harmless. The small amount of venom they can secrete is only enough to disable their prey, assuming it doesn't die of fright.

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Aileron Tabs Improve Stability

Engineers at Lehigh University have come up with a relatively simple device that allows pilots to custom-tailor the lateral stability of their aircraft in flight. According to, Prof. Joachim Grenestedt designed "canted tabs" that attach to ailerons. The tabs rotate around an aluminum tube inserted in the aileron. The pilot can adjust them as much as 30 degrees in flight and the effect on lateral stability is significant. The tabs were installed on an Aermacchi AM-3 Bosbok and rendered it laterally stable. "We took an unstable aircraft, fitted it with the canted tabs and made it stable. When the plane started to side slip, the tabs applied force to the ailerons, causing the plane to bank, or roll, and regain lateral stability," Grenestedt said. The innovation could help aircraft designers solve an important aerodynamic problem in creating marketable aircraft. According to Grenestedt, civilian aircraft must be able to be rolled upright using rudder alone in case the aileron controls fail. The AM-3 doesn't have that ability and therefore can't be sold commercially. However, with the tabs installed, test pilots at the National Test Pilot School in Mojave were able to roll the plane with rudder alone. "The canted tabs actually made the plane handle properly," said test pilot Russ Stewart. Grenestedt said the tabs could be an easy fix for existing airplanes with stability problems. "The largest benefit of the canted tabs may be to serve as a cure for lateral stability deficiencies in existing aircraft, reducing the need for extensive airframe modifications," he said.

Homebuilt Pilots' Currency Clarification

A story in Monday's NewsWire unintentionally threw a scare into thousands of homebuilt pilots who quite legally fly their aircraft and will continue to do so without the prying eyes of the FAA determining whether they are capable. As the story noted, the FAA wants to make sure that those flying passengers in their homebuilts are properly rated for the aircraft they are flying. What we didn't say is that since most homebuilts are single-engine land planes and that's the certificate most pilots have, there's no action required for the vast majority of pilots. However, some folks who have built water-capable or multi-engine planes don't carry those endorsements. The rule is intended to ensure those pilots are proficient and current in the particular aircraft they fly before they can take passengers. To recap, if you have a recreational or better certificate in the class and category of aircraft that you fly, no action is required. We apologize for the confusion created by our incomplete explanation of the notice. For more information read EAA's complete description of the notice.

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On The Fly...

One of Britain's top aviation safety awards went to a glider pilot who landed his aircraft to give first aid to a fellow competitor in a gliding contest who had crashed. Neil Goudie first called for help then landed and gave first aid to the badly injured pilot, who was subsequently picked up by medevac...

A dying Alaskan's last wish came true recently thanks to the thoughtfulness of hospice staff and the generosity of a local pilot. Ernest "Jim" Montgomery wanted one last flight over the spectacular Kenai Peninsula. Eleven days after entering the hospice with terminal lung cancer, Montgomery was in Jon Butler's Super Cub enjoying the view.

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

AVmail: May 16, 2005
Reader mail this week about ATC privatization and clarified rules about homebuilts, and a lot of controversy about the plane that caused the evacuation of the Capitol.

New Articles and Features on AVweb

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Short Final...

Overheard and unfortunately timely...

Pilot: Unknown airport with Cessna 150 circling overhead ... Identify yourself!

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Fly it till every part stops.

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