May 22, 2005
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
|This issue of AVweb's AVflash is brought to you by ... JA Air Center
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AVweb, over the weekend became aware of a Yahoo web page supporting a "press release" from Hayden ''Jim'' Sheaffer and Troy D. Martin, issued Friday regarding their May 11, 2005 breach of restricted airspace in the nation's capital. The statement begins:
"We are mere private citizens from a small Pennsylvania town who have found ourselves thrust into the national spotlight after an unplanned and unintentional brush with local, state and federal authorities, during what was meant to be an uneventful flight from Lancaster to Lumberton, North Carolina. In an effort to help everyone understand what happened during this incident, the following is a recounting of those events associated with our flight on Wednesday, May 11, 2005..."
The entire content of the release has been removed from AVweb's site, but is available online, here.
Two bills that would mandate allowing GA operations back into Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) passed in the U.S. House last week. The first-ever authorization bill for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which passed on a vote of 424 to 4, requires the department to implement a security plan that would allow the airport to reopen to GA within 60 days of the bill's enactment. A separate DHS appropriations bill requires such a plan to be in place within 90 days of the bill's enactment. "We are very pleased that Congress continues to apply the pressure necessary to get the Department of Homeland Security moving," President James Coyne, of the National Air Transportation Association (NATA), said last week in a news release. "For nearly four years, the message from Capitol Hill has been consistent: Reopening America's capital airport to charter and general aviation can be done in a manner that is both safe and secure, and should be done as soon as possible." Both the authorization act, H.R. 1817, and the appropriations bill, H.R. 2360, now move to the Senate for consideration. The authorization act would allow for spending $34.2 billion in fiscal year 2006 for DHS programs.
The DHS authorization bill also mandates changes to the Federal Flight Deck Officer (FFDO) program that have long been lobbied for by the participating pilots. If approved by the Senate, the bill would require the DHS to issue badges to qualified FFDOs and allow them to transport their weapons "on their persons," rather than inside a locked metal box as is now required. However, the department can prescribe any training, equipment, or procedures it finds necessary to ensure safety and maximize weapon retention. The bill also would allow FFDOs to be reimbursed for expenses incurred in traveling to a training site and would improve access to training facilities. The Coalition of Airline Pilots welcomed the passage of the bill, which it said "will add needed improvements to the Federal Flight Deck Officer program." The Air Line Pilots Association also approved of the changes.
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Old training methods may not match new equipment and as glass cockpits grow ever more common on new (and retrofitted) aircraft, learning to fly on the old round gauges is a task going the way of navigating with a map and compass and E6-B. At Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU), a NASA-funded experiment is researching the effects of teaching students on glass cockpits from the start. The project is called SATS Aerospace Flight Education Research (SAFER) and is part of NASA's Small Aircraft Transportation System (SATS) initiative. The first class began last September, and a second class started in January. The students are learning on five new Diamond DA-40 single-engine trainers equipped with Garmin G1000 glass cockpits. The project is also using a methodology of "scenario-based training" (see AVweb columnist Linda Pendleton's recent discussion about that) and is integrating the use of a simulator right from the start. AOPA's Air Safety Foundation recently released a report on flying technically advanced aircraft. The old training methods need to be updated for the new equipment, the foundation says. "Training nontraditional avionics in the traditional in-flight way is not optimal," the report says. Instead, students should spend time learning the systems in simulators and with computer-based interactive study aids.
The MTSU training also integrates private pilot and instrument training (with an FAA exemption to allow concurrent training) so students take both checkrides at once. According to Paul Craig, director of the MTSU program, "The new [glass-cockpit] technology solves the two problems that make IFR different from VFR: 1) We can see through clouds, and 2) we can see where we are. With these two problems solved, what is the difference between VFR and IFR? The answer: There is no longer a difference!" The SAFER students start flying GPS approaches even before their first solo. Although it's early in the project, the researchers have reported that they feel the new methodology has "great promise" and will lead to improved training that is more efficient. The normal FAA rules require the applicant for an instrument rating to already hold a private pilot certificate. The school got a special exemption from the FAA to offer the combined private/instrument testing. For more about MTSU's innovative program, see the recent interim report by Craig et al.
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While university flight departments are forging new ground, most flight schools, whether their fleet has round dials or glass, are still facing the same old challenges -- how to find enough new students, and then keep them. To help fill that need, a new company in Nashville, Tenn., Flight School Success, has formed a sales and marketing group that is offering its services to flight schools. "Too often the sale process, if there is one, is left to people who have little or no sales or marketing experience -- people who need to focus on delivering flight education, not tracking prospects," said President Gary Bradshaw in a recent news release. The company has six Internet sites that generate leads, including PilotJourney.com, which has been online for a while. "Flight School Success wants to become your marketing department, generating solid prospects to help grow your flight training business," the company said.
Meanwhile, Be A Pilot, the nonprofit industry group, is expanding its marketing efforts. A new marketing and business-practices e-newsletter for its 2,114 participating flight schools will debut this summer, BAP President Drew Steketee told AVweb on Saturday. Also, BAP is teaming up with one of its sponsors, AOPA, to provide to flight schools all the BAP leads within a 20- or 40-mile radius for their local follow-up, once a month, starting by June. Steketee said there is definitely a need out there for lead management and marketing, but it will be a challenge for start-ups like Flight School Success to get paying clients. "Flight schools have been loath to spend cash on marketing," he said. But, he added, "If [this] concept would gain some traction, it would be fine for the cause of better flight school marketing and building the pilot population." Steketee added that just building a Web site and depending on search engines to drive traffic is not enough. BAP spends $1 million per year on TV advertising that draws people to the BAP Web site. They manage the quality of these prospects by carefully choosing the TV networks and shows where the offer is made, Steketee said. "We achieve our demographic targets -- adults, household incomes of $75,000 (plus or minus), at least some college education, and ready to start flying this year." Besides the TV ads and Web site, BAP gathers leads via a toll-free phone line (at 888-BEAPILOT), responses to hundreds of stories covering its promotions in the mainstream media, and promotions at air shows. BAP has sent tens of thousands of new prospects to flight schools with a certificate entitling them to their first lesson for $49. "And it's all free to our participating flight schools," Steketee said.
BRINGING COMFORTABLE FIT, NOISE REDUCTION, AND CLEARER AUDIO
Landing safely on an aircraft carrier has long been admired among pilots as one of the most challenging tasks to master, but those days could soon be over. GPS technology now allows the pilot to let the airplane land itself. While the landing system has been in the works for a while, it's now coming of age, and last week it was tested for the first time at sea in a short-takeoff vertical-landing aircraft -- that is, the Harrier jump-jet. The technology, which is also being studied by the U.S. Joint Strike Fighter program, reduces pilot workload at the end of a mission, when fatigue can be a factor and the pilot faces a critical and difficult landing. Besides reducing risk, the automated landings will enable pilots to conduct missions by day or night and in weather that would previously have been impossible, according to QinetiQ, the British technology company that developed the new system. The recent ship trial aboard HMS Invincible was the world's first fully automatic STOVL shipboard recovery and landing, QinetiQ said.
AOPA's 15th annual Fly-In and Open House is coming up on Saturday, June 4, at the Frederick, Md., airport, and it's not just for the already-converted. AOPA is offering special activities for folks who want to fly but haven't yet made the plunge. Three one-hour seminars on "How to start learning to fly" will be held throughout the day, covering such topics as the value of being a pilot and the overall training process. A local flight school will have a 172 and flight instructors on hand, offering a chance for the newbies to sit in the cockpit and get a feel for what it's like. A drawing will select 10 prospects for free introductory flights at their local flight schools. Every AOPA member who brings a curious friend along gets a free AOPA mini-MagLite. There are also seminars for current pilots, 100 exhibitors, a Q&A with AOPA President Phil Boyer, and static displays of aircraft. The Fly-In and Open House runs from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free.
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The U.S. Air Force is feeling the crunch of a budget strained by the global war on terror, and it's going to mean cutting flight experience by about 32,000 hours, the Air Combat Command (ACC) said last week. The Air Force's projected shortfall for fiscal year 2005 is about $3.7 billion. Cutting up to 60 percent of the year's remaining training flight hours will save about $272 million, according to the ACC. Several key units, such as F/A-22 units, test and training units, and the Thunderbirds, may be exempted from the cuts. "Our first priority is to protect combat capability," said Maj. Gen. Mike DeCuir, ACC director of operations. The cuts mean some units will lose 20 to 40 percent of their combat readiness, according to General DeCuir. "This reduction requires flexibility and teamwork," he said. "Everyone needs to focus on reducing the flying hours safely and efficiently."
When the Environmental Protection Agency began work on a project to develop an airborne chemical detector system, it was for the purpose of monitoring industrial accidents. But in the last few years, the EPA's Aero Commander 680 has been pressed into duty for national security, to detect chemical hazards. The Commander carries high-tech sensors known as ASPECT, for Airborne Spectral Photometric Environmental Collection Technology. "By providing a capability to accurately measure and locate hazardous and toxic chemical plumes, emergency responders near disaster plumes will be able to make better decisions regarding civilian evacuations, resource deployments and ensuring the safety of response crews," said Robert Kroutil, of the Los Alamos National Laboratory. ASPECT uses two sensors. An infrared spectrometer detects and locates chemical vapors. It can peer through smoke and dust to locate the vapor plume and record its density. A high-resolution infrared scanner records an image of the ground and the plume. Information from both instruments is combined with high-resolution digital imagery and GPS data to create a detailed map of the land surface and the location of the chemical vapors. ASPECT can show the main plume as well as places where gas has collected and settled, such as in low-lying areas or places where there is little or no air movement. It takes only minutes to produce an image. The hazard map then can be transmitted to emergency response commanders on the ground by fax or computer. ASPECT can also drop a computer via parachute to emergency responders if necessary. The ASPECT Commander has been deployed to monitor events such as the 2002 Olympic Games, the crash of the space shuttle Columbia (with its release of toxic fuel), last year's political conventions, and this year's presidential inauguration.
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The Vickers Vimy replica that flew 15,000 miles from England to Australia in 1994, then 9,000 miles from London to Capetown in 1999, is ready for adventure No. 3 -- retracing the first nonstop Atlantic crossing, made by the British team of John Alcock and Arthur Brown, flying a Vimy, in June 1919. The open-cockpit biplane, with two engines and a 70-foot wingspan, left California on Thursday, en route to St John's, Newfoundland. The Vimy will stop in Oshkosh, Toronto and Ottawa, and launch from St. John's sometime in mid-June. At the controls this time is ubiquitous aeronautical adventurer Steve Fossett, along with co-pilot Mark Rebholz, a veteran Vimy pilot and 747 captain. They will navigate using only a sextant and compass, the same instruments that Alcock and Brown relied on. The total flight time for the 1919 flight was 16 hours 12 minutes. "We were tired of being alone in the fog and drizzle, sometimes discovering that we were flying upside down," Captain Alcock said on landing. The crew's radio broke down shortly after takeoff, and they flew in clouds most of the way. At one point the airplane began to spin, but they broke through the clouds and Alcock regained control. Fossett and Rebholz expect to fly for 24 hours at about 75 mph and land in Clifden, Ireland. And in case you're wondering -- yes, the obscure Alcock and Brown really were the first to cross the Atlantic nonstop, and won a 10,000-pound prize for the effort. Charles Lindbergh was the first to cross nonstop from New York to Paris -- a much longer flight -- and the first to go solo. For more info, daily updates, and live in-flight video from the Vimy's trans-Atlantic flight, go to the Vimy Web site, or to National Geographic.
The Czech Aircraft Works caught our attention at last year's Sun 'n Fun when they exhibited, with little fanfare, the already-flying prototype of their first in-house design, a Sport Pilot-ready two-seat aluminum-hulled amphibian called the Mermaid. Now they've taken what they learned from that prototype and started test flights on the first production model. The final design flies faster, lands slower, and is lighter, allowing for more useful load, the company said in a news release last week. About a square meter was added to the wing area, and the wingtips were redesigned for greater efficiency. Chip Erwin, president of Czech Aircraft Works, said, "We did not rush the Mermaid into production but rather took the time to flight-test properly, and then refine and optimize the design. The result is a high-quality aircraft with exceptionally fine flying characteristics, refined systems, and the versatility of an amphibian. We have met our design goals and are now completing the documentation and establishing production." The first customer aircraft are already in production, with first deliveries expected by the end of the summer, the company said. The new Mermaid will be on display at Oshkosh in July.
ATTENTION, BARON AND CESSNA 310 OWNERS NEWS FROM McCAULEY!
All four people on board died Saturday when a Cessna 172 crashed into a beach at Coney Island, N.Y. Nobody on the ground was hurt...
If you want to check out using auto fuel in your airplane, check out Peterson Aviation's Web site for info on STCs... and also some info about ethanol...
Local officials are asking the FAA to shut down Atlantic City's Bader Field, in the wake of a jet accident there last week...
The FAA is seeking to gain the authority to prohibit billboards in space, to protect the darkness of the night sky...
A Michigan teenager has written a book on his state's fighter aces from the last century.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. With our warmest thanks.
AVmail: May 23, 2005
Reader mail this week about Chicago's lack of fighter protection, a snake strike, and answers to the question, "The D.C. Insursion: Who deserves more blame?"
ATTENTION, PIPER OWNERS & PILOTS
Is Sport Pilot Training Uninsurable for Commercial Flight Schools?
As the details emerge of just how the Sport Pilot rules will work in the "real world," one major block has turned up: Insurance companies may not be willing to underwrite it. AVweb presents a guest opinion piece from a frustrated Sport Pilot flight school.
Say Again? #50: Lost Communications -- NORDO
"Atlanta Center -- how do you read?" "Atlanta Center?" "Anybody?!" Lost comm can be a minor event when your flight plan follows the rules. But when you're going Direct, how can ATC get all those other planes away from you? AVweb's Don Brown takes us on a flight when you don't talk to anybody.
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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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