May 18, 2005
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
This issue of AVweb's AVflash is brought to you by ...
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SpaceDev, the California company that built the hybrid rocket motor that drove SpaceShipOne, says it has just about completed its plan for a safe, affordable launch system -- the SpaceDev Dream Chaser -- that could carry six passengers into low earth orbit. CEO Jim Benson said he believes the company can "quickly develop a safe and affordable space transportation system based on existing propulsion technologies and vehicle designs." While the initial target is the space tourism market, SpaceDev says its project also could provide routine, safe and affordable access to the International Space Station for NASA. SpaceDev's plan calls for multiple manned suborbital test flights by 2008, and manned test flights to orbit by 2010. "We believe we can reduce cost, risk and time to market for commercially viable human space transport," Benson said. The launch-system propulsion modules would be scaled-up versions of the motor used on SpaceShipOne. SpaceDev says it has experience in rapidly and successfully developing innovative space technologies, and it could design and develop a complete human spaceflight system for a fraction of what the large aerospace companies are expected to charge NASA. SpaceDev first unveiled its preliminary plans for a suborbital Dream Chaser last September.
Meanwhile, the race to get passengers into suborbital flight is heating up. Aera Corp. announced last week that tickets are on sale now for seats aboard its Altairis rocket. The company says it is on track to start launching from Florida's Cape Canaveral in December 2006. The Altairis rocket launches vertically, lands horizontally and can carry six passengers and one mission commander. Tickets cost $250,000. Also, former X Prize contender Canadian Arrow announced on Tuesday it is forming a new corporation, PlanetSpace, with a U.S. partner and will be ready to carry passengers within two years. It will also charge a quarter-million per seat. Space Adventures, anticipating suborbital spaceflights to commence in the 2007-2008 timeframe, last week opened a sales office in Tokyo, selling seats at the bargain price of $102,000. Virgin Galactic plans to start passenger flights as early as 2008. They've set their ticket price at $200,000. Aera Corp. said it expects 30 Altairis launches in 2007. "We believe that the flights subsequent to 2007 and beyond will be less expensive than the first flights," said company President Bill Sprague. While you're saving up for that ticket, you can watch the online animated video of an Altairis launch, for free.
Meanwhile, troops of "citizen lobbyists" arrived in Washington, D.C., this week to meet with their congressional representatives in search of support for space exploration. The National Space Society Legislative Conference took place Tuesday and Wednesday, with training sessions followed by visits to the Hill. The "blitz" precedes the 2005 International Space Development Conference, which begins today, featuring sessions on space exploration, tourism, science, technology, policy and business. Speakers include Burt Rutan, X Prize founder Peter Diamandis and Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta.
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If the wanderings of a Cessna 150 would disrupt the day of thousands of people, and frighten them a bit in the process, could it happen in any worse place than Washington, D.C.? Concerned about the lingering effects of that scare on all those legislators and regulators, AOPA took out full-page ads in yesterday's USA Today and in Roll Call, an influential Capitol Hill newspaper, to spread the good word that GA is not a threat. "Last week one pilot made headlines ... The other 588,656 did not," says AOPA. Chris Dancy, AOPA spokesman, told AVweb, "The ad is intended not to excuse or explain what happened, but to help the non-flying public (and members of Congress) to put the incident into perspective." The ad copy continues: "Seven days ago, one very small airplane created a very large incident that disrupted lives in Washington, D.C., and made millions of people, already on edge, very nervous. It also created unnecessary concern and skepticism about 'those little planes.'" The ad also points out what went right during the incident, which ended without harm to anyone, while explaining that small general aviation airplanes are not a security threat and that most pilots are well-informed. "AOPA will continue our work to educate and inform general aviation pilots and advocate on their behalf," the ad concludes. "Because keeping general aviation pilots, airplanes, and airports safe are important efforts in maintaining our freedom to fly. And keeping the nation secure protects the freedom of all." USA Today is the nation's most-circulated newspaper, selling over 2.2 million copies daily.
Meanwhile, the new ground-based Visual Warning System around the D.C. ADIZ is ready to deploy on Saturday. The system signals pilots who intrude into the no-fly zone with low-level laser beams in an alternating red-red-green light sequence. Any pilots who receive the warning must immediately turn away from the signal and contact Air Traffic Control. The lasers are eye-safe and non-hazardous at all ranges, according to NORAD (the North American Aerospace Defense Command), which developed the system. Civil Air Patrol (CAP) volunteers flying low-and-slow single-engine Cessnas have been working with NORAD in test flights. "This week we saw exactly what can happen when a pilot flies into an unauthorized zone in the D.C. area," said CAP Maj. Gen. Dwight Wheless. "This new Visual Warning System will give pilots immediate feedback when they are straying into a no-fly zone, and will be a valuable new tool in our country's homeland defense program." AOPA's Andy Cebula is in favor of the system. "The VWS is a way to quickly notify pilots who inadvertently stray into restricted airspace that won't cause panic in the cockpit or on the ground," he said. "The system minimizes the need for airborne intercepts, which is safer for everyone." AOPA also has posted a brief video of the system in action.
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Aviation is not only an important part of the U.S. economy, it's critical to the growth of the economy as whole, according to a new report released last week by the FAA's Management Advisory Council. "Part of the productivity of virtually every sector of the U.S. economy depends on the productivity of aviation," the report says. The report calls on the White House and Congress for more funding, no new aviation taxes, faster hiring of new air traffic controllers and more investment in ATC modernization. As for the FAA, it needs to streamline -- cutting its current nine administrative regions down to three, contracting out all of its VFR control towers, and consolidating TRACONs, the report says. Under the FAA's current 10-year plan, congestion and delays will continue to worsen, the report says, adversely affecting the productivity of virtually every U.S. company. The nine-member Management Advisory Council is made up of industry representatives and advises the FAA on policy, budget and regulations. Council members are appointed by Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta. They serve in a volunteer capacity for three years, and retain their private sector positions. The council was created by the Federal Aviation Reauthorization Act of 1996, and meets quarterly.
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With budget cuts, the threat of looming mass retirements and an ever-growing air traffic system, attention is drawn to how the skills of an air traffic controller measure up when it comes to safety in the skies. Multiple court cases highlight the critical nature of controller/pilot communications, and at least one has saddled controllers with partial blame in an accident (and saddled the FAA with the bill). But controllers also save lives, according to the National Air Traffic Controllers Association's new "Medal of Safety" award. Monday in Washington, D.C., 12 controllers who helped pilots (and passengers) avert disaster were honored for their work. Ken Hopf helped a distraught passenger land a Piper Malibu safely in Laconia, N.H., after the pilot became incapacitated. Scott Dittamo was working the tower in Newark when he spotted a 747 on short final with its gear up. His warning assured a safe landing. Transcripts and audiotapes of the pilot-controller exchanges are available online. NATCA also has created a "Sentinel of Safety" Award for non-NATCA members who have worked to advance aviation safety. The first one was given to Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.) on Monday night. Oberstar has championed efforts to prevent ATC privatization, NATCA said. About 300 NATCA members are in Washington, D.C., this week for their annual legislative conference and Hill visits, lobbying for more funding and more staffing for ATC.
Sometimes the rules are there for a reason ... as the crew of a Citation CJ2 discovered when they flew to Atlantic City's Bader Field on Sunday afternoon, made one aborted approach, circled around to try for the longer runway, then ran off the runway's end and plunged into the (luckily) shallow waters that (practically) surround the downtown field. The small airport, where the longest runway is 2,900 feet, is off-limits to jet traffic. The four people on board escaped with minor injuries and were fished from the water by boaters. The jet and its four occupants are from Denmark, and were returning to Atlantic City from a trip to Burlington, Vt. It was unclear if they were actually headed for Atlantic City International Airport, about nine miles inland from Bader Field, where the runways are up to 10,000 feet long. The captain told the FAA that he was making a "routine touchdown" when the brakes failed, Newsday reported. At least one witness said he saw the tires smoking as the jet went off the runway. "He slammed the brakes on real hard -- they were smoking. He hit the dirt, bounced over it and went into the drink," George Mullin who lives near the airport told the Star-Ledger. The jet was later towed to shore, where a crane lifted it from the water. The NTSB is investigating.
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The 1999 crash of an American Airlines MD-82 in Little Rock, Ark., in which 11 people died (including the flight's captain) is under debate in federal court this week. A lawsuit by the captain's widow alleges that the airport was negligent, because the approach light system that the jet ran into was too close to the runway and too rigid, and the overrun was less than half of the 1,000 feet it should have been. The airport's defense is that the pilot's actions caused the crash. The NTSB found the probable cause of the accident to be the flight crew's failure to discontinue the approach when severe thunderstorms had moved into the airport area, and the crew's failure to ensure that the spoilers had extended after touchdown. Contributing to the accident, the NTSB said, were the flight crew's impaired performance resulting from fatigue and the situational stress associated with the intent to land under the circumstances, continuation of the approach to a landing when the company's maximum crosswind component was exceeded, and the use of reverse thrust greater than 1.3 engine pressure ratio after landing. The trial is expected to last a couple of weeks.
The FAA is never quick to hand out Type Certificates, but there seem to be a lot of them coming along lately. Newest on the list of good-to-go GA aircraft is the two-seater Symphony 160, built by Symphony Aircraft Industries (SAI) of Three Rivers, Quebec. "Receiving the Symphony 160's FAA type certificate is a significant milestone," said SAI President Paul Costanzo. "The U.S. market is of great importance for Symphony Aircraft Industries. With the FAA Type Certificate in hand there are no more obstacles, and American pilots can start taking delivery of their new U.S.-registered SA 160." The 160 got its Canadian type and production certificates in mid-March and is also certified in Europe. The FAA TC will facilitate the delivery of these aircraft through American Symphony's dealer network. The 160 will sell for around $150,000 IFR-equipped with steam gauges (and a Garmin radio package). In the opinion of one AVweb staffer who flew it, the 160 is basically a wider, much better-looking Cessna 172 that doesn't pretend it has four seats.
PILOTS EVEN BIRDS HAVE TO WALK SOMETIMES!
There's been plenty of talk about outsourcing maintenance work on airliners, with concerns raised about quality control and oversight. And recently there was a roundup of maintenance workers in North Carolina with illegal immigration status, some of them from countries considered possible sources of terrorism. But what about outsourcing the maintenance work overseas? America West and JetBlue have some of their maintenance done in El Salvador, according to a report in last week's ABC11-Eyewitness News in Durham, N.C. Also, Continental and Northwest send some of their planes to Hong Kong or Singapore for maintenance work. Northwest told Eyewitness News the Singapore facility is on a military base surrounded by armed guards, and all work is monitored by Northwest staff. American Airlines says it keeps about 80 percent of its maintenance in-house. "We go through the extra steps required to make sure this is the safest place there is," American Airlines executive Otis Deboard told ABC11. "It's better to have it in house, so you know what's going on with your fleets. So you know what's being put on those airplanes, as far as parts and those things."
The NTSB blamed the crash landing of a FedEx MD-10 on poor technique by the first officer and inadequate oversight by the captain...
Some United flight attendants are protesting pension cuts with the (semi) naked truth in a calendar called "Stewardesses Stripped (Of Their Pension?) "...
The National Aeronautic Association has launched a redesigned and upgraded Web site.
Drop us a line. If it caught your attention, it will probably interest someone else, too. Submit news tips via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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From The CFI #7: Scenario-Based Training
With new, technically advanced aircraft becoming more common in the air and at FBOs near you, many in the industry have been asking if we need to take a new look at how we train new pilots. AVweb's Linda Pendleton has certianly been asking, and she discusses the kinds of scenarios that work and don't work in this month's From The CFI column.
HAVE YOU SIGNED UP yet for AVwebs NO-COST twice monthly Business AVflash? Reporting on breaking news, Business AVflash also focuses on the companies, the products and the industry leaders that make headlines in the Business of Aviation. Business AVflash is a must read. Watch for a Business AVflash regular feature, TSA WATCH: GA IN THE "SPOTLIGHT". Sign up today at http://www.avweb.com/profile/
DA40 DIAMOND STAR A FLEET FAVORITE
*** PREVIOUS RESULTS ***
Last week, in response to the DC incursion, AVweb asked if the ADIZ is doing its job or just overreacting.
The majority of respondents (62% of you) answered with an emphatic NO. Overreactions are costing us time, money, effort, and business according to most AVweb readers.
24% of you were a bit shaken by the incursion, answering that the ADIZ could do a lot better if a Cessna is allowed to get within three miles of the White House.
10% were more sympathetic to the ADIZ, pointing out that increased TFRs and monitoring have reduced traffic over the capital and made it easier to watch for terrorist threats.
Only 4% of our respondents, however, thought that the ADIZ was doing a bang-up job of identifying potential threats.
*** THIS WEEK'S QUESTION ***
This week, AVweb wants to know who you hold responsible for last week's DC incursion. Between the pilot and the government, who should get the lion's share of blame for this incident?
Click here to answer
Have an idea for a new QOTW? Send your suggestions to email@example.com.
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Use this form to send QOTW comments to our AVmail Editor.
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Submit a Photo | Rules | Tips | Questions
Current POTW Winner | Past POTW Winners
Wha? Where are all the pictures this week? Is everyone O.K. out there?
Not that we're complaining, but this has been the slowest week for "POTW" submissions in well over a year. (If you don't count Christmas, AirVenture, and Sun 'n Fun, when submissions typically slack off.) Quite frankly, we're a little worried about our photographer friends. Send us some pictures and check in!
Thankfully, those who did submit pics this week turned in some gorgeous photos like our winning FJ-4B Fury pic from Rich Sugden of Wyoming. Naturally, Rich will be covering his head this summer with an official AVweb baseball hat for his efforts. Our other winners will have to settle for the fleeting fame of being "POTW" contenders along with the oohs and ahhs of a few hundred thousand aviation buffs who read AVweb.
Due to privacy issues, AVweb does not publish e-mail addresses of readers who submit photos.
Used with permission of Rich Sugden
"Fury over NAS Lemoore"
Rich Sugden of Jackson, Wyoming takes home top
honors this week for this dynamic image of his FJ-4B Fury
over the Naval Air Station in California. According to Rich, this
is the only Fury left flying in the world and it appears to be
flying pretty well, based on the company it's keeping.
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 Erez Boym
We can always count on Erez Boym
of Shimshit, Israel to deliver stunning landscapes
in his aviation photos, and this week's entry from
Erez is no exception. "We had to make a short
landing on an amazing peak," he writes, "and
these guys came to say 'hello.'" Without the
explanation, we thought these two might
be shepherds who were upgrading
their sheep dogs.
Used with permission of Paul R. Rachels
"Al Asad Morning"
Paul Rachels spent four months in Iraq
as a civilian tech rep working with VMA-311
Tomcats, during which time he snapped this
photo of the Marine control tower at Al Asad.
This one is well on its way to being our favorite
ATC photo, Paul thanks for sharing!
All right, you guys were slacking off a
bit this week
in the submissions department but because
we're big-hearted, generous folks here at AVweb
(and because the few pictures we did get were all
so darned good), we'll reward you with some
bonus pictures, anyway. Feel free to express your
undying gratitude by bombarding us
with photos next week, okay?
Used with permission of Billy Walker
"Puff and Friends"
Here's one of several great photos from
Billy & Cheryl Walker of Phoenix, Arizona.
This one was taken at Robert H. Barger Day
at Falcon Field in Mesa, Arizona. According to Billy,
Capt. Barger (UAL Ret.) is a WWII-era Army Air Corps
instructor and father of JetBlue President Dave Barger
and former Top Gun Mike Barger (VP of Training at JetBlue).
A stroke victim and triplegic, Capt. Barger rode with Billy
in the T-6 during the ceremonies. Pilots in this photo include:
Billy Walker and Dick Delafield in the AC-47 gunship
Puff the Magic Dragon; Dale Churchill in the T-6;
Billy Friedland; Brian Churchill; and the late Russ Allen.
Used with permission of John Heilman
"Blue Angels Snapshot"
John Heilman of Lake St. Louis, Missouri
caught this young lady taking snaps at the
St. Louis Fair and Air Show in 2004. Our
only question is, "Why didn't she send
this in to 'Picture of the Week'?"
Used with permission of Peter Anderer
We didn't give this image a second thought, either
until we realized that wasn't snow on the ground!
Peter Anderer of Ayer, Massachusetts
provided only this by way of explanation:
"Working on the foam system when
something went wrong."
Used with permission of Jane E. Carpenter
"A Great Day to Fly"
All right, so it's four people in a cockpit
but it's four really happy people in a cockpit, and if
that isn't in the spirit of "POTW," we don't know what is.
Thanks to Jane Carpenter of Ft. Collins, Colorado
and the rest of her crew for winging us out this week.
Remember: This was a light week for "POTW" entries. If you want to keep seeing all these great bonus pictures, you've gotta send us pictures, man! Now go forth and click 'til your fingers hurt!
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.
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
Letters to the editor intended for publication in AVmail should be sent to mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a comment or question? Send it to mailto:email@example.com.
Today's issue written by News Writer Mary Grady:
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Fly it till every part stops.
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