May 25, 2005
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
This issue of AVweb's AVflash is brought to you by ... LightSPEED Aviation
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GA will likely return to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) as early as this coming fall, but most of us won't notice. According to The Washington Post, those who purport to guard the capital from airborne threats don't want private aircraft landing there, and that's reflected by the onerous security provisions that will be imposed. According to the Post, all private flights will have to have an "armed law enforcement officer" on board and passengers and luggage will have to undergo security screening at one of a dozen designated airports before making the final leg to DCA. Word of the TSA directive, which was to have come by way of an interim final rule, according to the Post, came as Congress gets ready to discuss no less than three committee bills aimed at restoring GA access to DCA. Many feared the long-sought access (politicians are among DCA's frequent flyers) would be scuttled by recent incursions by private aircraft into restricted airspace around the capital, but TSA officials apparently saw the congressional writing on the wall. That doesn't mean security officials have to like it, however. "Agencies involved in securing the airspace have significant issues with the return of general aviation to National Airport," one unnamed official of an unnamed agency is quoted as saying by the Post.
The TSA rule is coming down two days after the FAA took the rare step of issuing an emergency revocation of Hayden "Jim" Sheaffer's certificate -- the pilot in command of the Cessna 150 that breached the ultra-sensitive airspace around the White House on May 11. It also came two days after a Canadian-registered Cessna 340 breached the ADIZ, causing a brief evacuation of the Capitol. It was reportedly having communications problems after taking a lightning strike. In announcing the action against Sheaffer, the most severe sanction against a pilot, the FAA said that allowing him to continue to fly represented an "unacceptable risk to safety." Among the long list of sins the FAA says Sheaffer committed, it repeatedly notes that through much of the crisis, he let his passenger Troy Martin, a student pilot with 30 hours of training, do the flying. "These failures establish that you lack the qualifications necessary to hold an airman certificate," the FAA said in its letter to Sheaffer. Meanwhile, the pilot has broken his silence on the incident with an interview on the Today Show in which he said he was afraid he was going to be shot down. According to some sources, he was almost right.
A story in Wednesday's Washington Post quotes several unnamed sources as saying that authorities were close (less than 20 seconds, some say) from giving the order to fire. The Post story says Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had given approval to shoot the Cessna down. Rumsfeld has since said the situation never reached that point, and that he was not asked for and the situation did not require his involvement, according to a Pentagon spokesperson. The plane didn't turn away from a course toward the White House until it was within three miles of the official residence. And there's plenty of second-guessing going on in Washington security circles, with officials wondering what might have happened if anything but one of the slowest GA airplanes had been involved and had sinister intent. Even with the 150 plodding along at 90 knots, authorities only barely managed to get major target buildings evacuated before it could have posed a threat. "The question is, if it were a faster plane ... whether or not the system would have been as responsive," said Rep. Bonnie Thompson, of Mississippi, the senior Democrat on the Homeland Security Committee.
The next step for security officials and legislators may be to make it quicker and easier to shoot down offending aircraft. Under the current setup, the Customs Blackhawk helicopter normally dispatched to warn away errant aircraft doesn't have the authority to shoot at them or even fire warning shots. The Department of Homeland Security is now considering whether to deploy Coast Guard aircraft, which do have firing authority, in the ADIZ intercept role. "We raised the issue of the cops ... out there having the right of self defense under use of force policy," Homeland Security Acting Undersecretary Randy Beardsworth wrote in an internal May 17 e-mail about a meeting to discuss the incident that included Secretary Michael Chertoff and Deputy Secretary Michael Jackson. "As you can easily recognize, a potential option is to have the CG (Coast Guard) take this mission," Beardsworth said in the e-mail, which was obtained by The Associated Press. Beardsworth is a former Coast Guard officer.
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There's a never-say-die attitude and then there's New Piper CEO Chuck Suma. Crushed by the 9/11-spawned recession, staggered by the Lycoming engine recall and blown away by hurricanes, Suma told the Palm Beach Post in a recent interview that the company's next step is to join the increasingly crowded business jet (or would that be very light jet?) market. The remark was an aside in a detailed examination of New Piper's troubles of late, but given the numbers being tossed around by industry analysts, Suma's crystal-balling may seem strangely appropriate. Suma declined to predict just when a Piper jet might fly, but he's been busy. "This is our fourth renaissance," he told the Post. "We're trying to climb out of a deep valley. We're a stronger company because of it, but we've got lot of work ahead of us." Strong enough to enter the jet market? Not according to industry analyst Richard Aboulafia, who said it will be "nearly impossible" for Piper to enter the market at this stage. "That market is extremely uncertain and others have gotten there first," he said, "If someone wants to get there it's probably [got to] be a bigger player." Still, after all its problems in the last decade, not to mention the last six months, Piper is almost back at full production (925 of 1,000 employees) and it's clearly not afraid of a challenge.
"Aviation, as we have seen it traditionally, is going away," FAA Chief Spokesman Greg Martin told the Salt Lake City Tribune. Rolls Royce predicts that more than 8,000 VLJs will be built in the next 20 years. The FAA, which has a significant interest in the potential of thousands of little jets mixing it up with airliners on the high-level airways, may be even more optimistic than Rolls Royce. It's saying 4,500 VLJs will be zipping between smaller regional and municipal airports by 2016, many of them as part of the much-hyped but still untested "air taxi" industry. Those are the sort of words that catch the eyes of manufacturers -- and critics. The Tribune also got hold of analyst Richard Aboulafia and it turns out his pessimism about the potential for VLJs as air taxis is not limited to Piper. Aboulafia told the Tribune the air taxi concept is "fantasyland" and he also opined that charter companies want bigger, fancier aircraft. "You are not going to see an elaborate network of airports connected by air taxis," he told the Tribune. "It isn't going to revolutionize air travel as we know it."
Either way is fine with Adam Aircraft's Rick Adam. Now that the company's push/pull piston aircraft, the A500, has been certified, Adam is starting to talk about the future of the A700 jet project and Adam's place in the VLJ market. "Our plans are quite modest," Adam told the Tribune. "If we do nothing more than get a modest share of the existing market, we will be profitable. We are profitable at 60 planes [annually]." Adam's definition of modest could be open to interpretation. The Eclipse 500 and Cessna Mustang are two major players that will also be in the mix. Curiously, the newspaper casts Adam as the frontrunner in the VLJ market, even though, by conventional standards, Eclipse and Cessna would seem to be further along in developing their mini-jets. However, Adam always points out that the jet and the recently-certified A500 share the same airframe and that could be a jumpstart in the certification process.
CLASSIFIEDS (UPDATED DAILY), PRODUCT/ADVERTISER INDICES, DEALERS AND
They were cutting-edge in 1935, and now "new" Taylorcrafts are on the vanguard of the light sport aircraft (LSA) category. Resumption of production of the venerable taildragger, which were churned out at the rate of 30 a day (yes, each day of peak production, according to the company) in 1946, was granted in 2004 and the new firm is planning a production facility in Brownsville, Texas, at the site of a former bus factory. Although the company can produce fully certified aircraft under the original type certificate, most Taylorcrafts meet the weight and performance standards for LSA so it's also planning to build S-LSA (factory-finished) aircraft for Sport Pilot ticket holders and sell them for near $60,000. In a newsletter on the company Web site, owner Harry Ingram said the past year has been spent adapting modern materials (and getting them FAA-approved) for construction of the legendary design. They will come with certified 0-200 engines and the LSA version will cost $70,000, the LSA plane $60,000.
There will be no free rides for anyone on company aircraft if the Senate's version of the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act is passed. According to an analysis by the National Business Aviation Association, the Senate has imposed even tighter limitations on the write-offs companies can claim when their aircraft are used for "entertainment" purposes. The Senate bill proposes to amend the American Jobs Creation Act, passed last fall. Under the Jobs Act, companies were limited in their ability to deduct aircraft operating expenses for flights provided to "specified individuals" (e.g., executives) to the value imputed into the recipient's income. The Senate amendment expands the provision to all employees. The Senate bill also proposes changes to the way taxes are collected on jet fuel. According to the NBAA, the IRS believes a lot of jet fuel ends up in cars and trucks instead of airplanes and it wants to stem that tide. If the bill passes, FBOs at airports not served by a fuel pipeline will buy the fuel with tax included at the rate of 24.4 cents per gallon and will then claim a refund of 2.6 cents a gallon after selling it as aircraft fuel. Neither provision was in the House version of the bill and a conference will be held between the two to resolve the differences between them.
NO-COST AVIATION SAFETY COURSES!
While we periodically fret about the addition of single UAVs to the airspace, researchers at the University of Essex, in England, are working on computer modules that will enable the creation of flocks of UAVs that will be able to act as flying Web servers. Two types of systems are envisioned; one, the outdoor "Gridswarm," will use model aerobatic trainers that can fly 120 mph in bird-like formations while "performing parallel, distributed computing tasks using Bluetooth-connected Linux clustering software," according to the LinuxDevices.com Web site. There's also an indoor version. The UltraSwarm UAV is a helicopter-like device that its creator, Renzo de Nardi, claims is the "smallest flying web server in the world." The heart of the systems are "Gumstix" computer modules, so named because they are about the size of a stick of gum and don't weigh much more.
Australian officials are asking two former pilots of Trans Air to go on record about their alleged safety concerns about the airline in the wake of a crash that killed 15 people on May 7. The Australian Transport Safety Board says the pilots are only willing to give off-the-record statements but those are worthless to investigators probing the crash. All aboard the Metroliner died when it crashed into a hillside while on approach in bad weather at an airport in Lockhart River. The Civil Aviation Safety Authority is also interested in talking to the former pilots. Meanwhile, in New Zealand, authorities there are looking at possible links between a Metroliner crash there and several Airworthiness Directives issued by its Civil Aviation Authority. The Metro apparently caught fire in the air before crashing in Taranaki last Tuesday. The ADs covered wiring inside fuel tanks and potential wheel-well fires that could occur shortly after takeoff. Transport Accident Investigation Commission investigator John Goddard told National Radio there had "certainly been a fire" and that it didn't start in the cargo hold of the courier aircraft. Earlier reports suggest the landing gear were extended at the time of the crash.
IF YOUR CELL PHONE CAN SURF THE NET, IT CAN RECEIVE AVIATION WEATHER
A part owner of the St. Louis Cardinals believes that if a small airport in Wyoming builds a longer runway, people will come to his nearby guest ranch in neighboring Colorado. In fact, David Pratt is willing to pay $1.11 million for improvements to the Dixon Airport as long as they include boosting the runway length to 7,000 feet from the current 5,500. Pratt wants to make it more convenient for guests to get to the ranch, many of whom face a 75-minute drive from the nearest large airport in Hayden, Colo. The Colorado ranch owner is also willing to give the taxpayers of Wyoming $50,000 worth of land to accommodate the runway extension and cover matching grants that would normally come out of the local county coffers. The FAA will provide $1.35 million and the state is kicking in $342,632. Pratt is also pledging to build a fueling service, hangars and a lounge in Dixon. Pratt's ranch provides hunting and fishing tours.
Some people just land on their feet. And for Kyle Martin it was a potentially devastating fall from a cliff that gave him a shot at being an Air Force pilot. The well-liked cadet at the Air Force Academy had everything going for him. He was second in his class, a potential Rhodes Scholar, and had a lifelong desire to be a pilot. Trouble was, he was six foot, five inches tall, an inch taller than the Air Force standard. His only hope at being a pilot was the granting of a waiver and then fate stepped in. You've probably guessed the rest. He was rock climbing with friends when he misjudged a hold and fell about 50 feet, landing on his feet and falling backwards. Somehow he escaped permanent disabling injury (although his recovery was a long one) and the Air Force deemed he was fit to become an officer. And because of the compressed discs in his back resulting from the fall, he's shrunk to within the maximum dimensions of a pilot. He begins flight training next spring.
LAKE AIRCRAFT IS LOOKING FOR A NEW OWNER DURING AIRVENTURE!
A three-day public hearing will start June 13 into the crash of a Pinnacle Airlines Regional Jet in Missouri last Oct. 14. The NTSB's preliminary investigation indicated one or both of the plane's engines ceased producing thrust while it cruised at its maximum altitude of 41,000 feet while on a repositioning flight...
The show must go on for organizers of a festival honoring James Dean in his home town of Marion, Ind., regardless of whether the FAA curbs operations at the local airport during Dean Fest. FAA spokesman Tony Molinaro said no decision has been made on curtailing activity at the airport during the festival...
A symbol of Boeing's ill-fated attempt to win a military tanker contract could be scrapped. Boeing officials are considering what to do with a $54 million custom-built 767 (minus engines) that was to be the prototype for the project. It may end up in Italy or Japan as part of Boeing's tanker contracts with those countries...
An air traffic controller and his wife died in the crash of a Cessna 182 in Connecticut. Alfred Zadow, a controller at Republic Airport on Long Island, and his wife Donna were killed when the plane crashed in a wooded area after the pilot reported engine problems...
An emergency refueling stop at an Air Force base could land an illegal alien in jail. Charles Bueno, a Brazilian who lives in Framingham, Mass., was forced to land his Cessna 210 at Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico on May 16 for fuel. Military authorities suspected all on board, including the pilot, were in the country illegally and turned them over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Bueno's visitor's visa expired in 1998 and none of his passengers had entry visas.
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As the Beacon Turns #90: The Risk Takers
Risk can't be summed up with simple truisms like, "There are no old, bold pilots." A surprising number of pilot-induced accidents are caused by more-experienced aviators who have become complacent to the risks. AVweb's Michael Maya Charles ponders our flying risks in this month's As The Beacon Turns.
NEW AVIATION DIRECTORY FROM AvBUYER.COM IS SIMPLE, FAST, AND IT WORKS!
*** PREVIOUS RESULTS ***
Last week, AVweb asked who bore the brunt of the blame for the May 11 ADIZ incursion in Washington the Cessna pilots or the government.
The majority of our readers (74% of respondents) say the pilots involved bear most of the responsibility. The other 24% of you thought the government had lost what little sense it had left by chasing after rogue Cessnas.
Several of you contributed more in-depth opinions to Monday's AVmail. We recommend you check out their comments, if you haven't already.
*** THIS WEEK'S QUESTION ***
They're auto-landing Harriers on aircraft carriers. Is it good or bad that the once prized skills of pilots are being passed over to machines?
Push-button flying a good thing or a bad thing?
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Use this form to send QOTW comments to our AVmail Editor.
GAMIJECTORS CAN CUT AIRCRAFT FUEL BILLS BY 20 PERCENT!!
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Uncle! We give up; we're waving the white flag. Please, go easy on us.
Last week, we griped about the recent downturn in "Picture of the Week" submissions and pleaded shamelessly for our beloved reader-contributors to pick up the pace. We should have known we'd live to regret it. This week, submissions soared back up to over 100 photos, and our sad, beleaguered "POTW" staff has been poring over them in a hidden bunker, debating the relative merits of each one. (It's a tough and thankless job, but it beats working for a living.)
After hours of deliberation and a few hurt feelings, we're turning over this week's top-prize AVweb baseball cap to Jakob Adolf of Madagascar, whose right-of-way dilemma gave us a chuckle. If you like Jakob's photo, wait until you see the rest of this week's batch we had twenty contenders for the number-one spot, and even with an unprecedented nine photos in the full article, we're leaving out some tremendous photos that we just don't have time to show you.
Thanks for the great turn-out. Keep sending us pictures, and we'll keep sharing 'em with the rest of the aviation world!
Due to privacy issues, AVweb does not publish e-mail addresses of readers who submit photos.
Used with permission of Jakob Adolf
Jakob Adolf of Antananarivo, Madagascar is no
stranger to remote runways, but this recurring right-of-way
problem takes the cake. Until recently, scheduled airplane
arrivals and departures took precedence over the train schedule,
but scheduled trains took precedence over unscheduled aircraft.
As you can imagine, communications problems ran rampant,
and Jakob and company preferred to yield the right-of-way when
they could. A new airport commander, however, has changed
the rule to give all aircraft precedence over trains, making.
Jakob's life a little easier. In his words, "We love a guy like that."
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.
More evidence that planes always have right-of-way:
Stephen Eisenbies of Livermore, California
snapped this photo when a U.S. Navy T-28 lost an
engine and made a successful emergency landing
near his neighborhood. Here, the plane is being
towed back to the airport on I-580 during rush hour.
copyright © Marshall-Maruska
"Reflecting on the Flight"
Duncan Marshall of Chelsea, Québec (Canada)
sends us this reflected image of a Pitts climbing
the control cab at Aéroport Executif Ottawa.
Needless to say, we were quite fond of it.
Thanks to your generous submissions,
we have lots of bonus pictures this week,
so kick back and enjoy!
copyright © Paul Tipton
"Beech 18 2005 Central Texas Air Show"
Paul Tipton of Belton, Texas used some nifty
camera tricks to get this image. While it looks like
this Beech is rising into stormy skies, it was actually
a nice day when Paul took the shot. He confesses,
"Camera was stopped down to show the reflections."
Used with permission of Matt Abrams
"Coming in Low"
Matt Abrams of Ocala, Florida kept
showing up in this week's submissions, so
we picked our favorite shot from Matt to share
with all of you. This P-51 Mustang looks to be
Jimmy Leeward's Cloud Dancer, if our guess is right.
Used with permission of Michael Magnell
"Seawind over the Gold Coast"
Transoceanic Aircraft Ferry President
Michael Magnell of Laguna Hills, California
submits this image of a Seawind flying formation
with a Cirrus over Australia's Gold Coast.
Used with permission of Mike McChargue
"Wing Commander's Bird"
Mike McChargue of Clayton, North Carolina
writes, "Back in the 'Old Air Force,' every Wing
Commander's airplane was the brightest, most colorful
O.K., really [the most] gaudy-looking one on the flightline."
You said it, Mike not AVweb!
Used with permission of Craig T. Martin
"Sunrise via Fairchild"
Another gorgeous photo from this year's Sun 'n Fun
Fly-In, this time from Craig T. Martin of Des Moines, Iowa.
"I'm not a morning person," writes Craig, "but this shot was
really worth waking up early. A friend of mine who owned a
Fairchild died last fall, and so I have put this photo on my
screensaver to remind me of the many things he taught
me in aviation." Craig's image is certainly a powerful
one, and we've added to our own "POTW" desktop
wallpaper rotation. Thanks for sharing it, Craig.
copyright © Scott Naylor
"Birds Coming Home to Roost"
Scott Naylor of Orillia, Ontario (Canada)
brings us home this week with two whirlybirds
coming in from "a hard day of fighting crime"
for the Ontario Provincial Police.
Whew. Thanks to everyone who participated in this week's contest. It took a while to go through all the photos, but we enjoyed it! Please keep submitting.
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
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Today's issue written by News Writer Russ Niles:
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