May 29, 2005
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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New York Sen. Charles Schumer is no stranger to pushing the panic button (he's tried, among other things, to restrict helicopter flights in the Big Apple) and now he's written FAA Administrator Marion Blakey asking that tighter restrictions be placed on small sight-seeing operations like the one involved in the May 21 crash. Four people died very publicly in that crash of a Cessna 172 on a busy Coney Island beach. The aircraft was operating under rules that allow small air tour operators to avoid the expense and paperwork required of larger companies as long as they take off and land from the same airport and don't fly more than 25 miles from home. The FAA doesn't appear to have the appetite to take up the cause. The FAA may still be smarting from the public outcry that resulted from an attempt to implement restrictions like those suggested by Schumer last year. "Our nation remains without comprehensive safety regulations protecting passengers on small commercial air tours," Schumer wrote. However, FAA spokesman Les Dorr Jr. told Newsday that the next set of air tour rules will not affect small operators, "We got a lot of comments and we felt we had to do something differently with the small operators," he said. The aircraft involved in the May 21 accident was owned by R.J. Ventures, a flight school and sight-seeing operation in Paramus, N.J.
On the other side of the country (and perhaps not coincidentally) folks in Santa Cruz, Calif., are still buzzing about a single-engine Cessna which, according to the Mercury News, "attacked Main Beach in the manner of a World War II fighter and buzzed Seacliff Beach so low that a driver on a beachside road could see the top of the plane." Witnesses told the paper that the alleged stunt caused panic on the beaches and Kim Blow said the plane almost hit her nine-year-old nephew. "People were eating the sand and screaming," she said, Someone reported the tail number of the plane but the FAA is cautioning people not jump to conclusions. "We don't even know if any kind of crime has been committed or regulations violated," FAA spokesman Donn Walker told the Mercury News. The FAA is warning people that justice, if it comes at all, won't come swiftly. "It can take weeks to get to the bottom of this." Blow said she doesn't think the FAA is taking the incident seriously enough. "A guy told me, 'Oh, there's just a few of you that are concerned,'and I said, 'Bull!'"
Of course, terror from the sky comes in all shapes, sizes and colors, even red, white and blue. The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds rattled more than the windows during a photo shoot over New York City last Thursday. The team was in the area for a Memorial Day air show and couldn't resist having their pictures taken in formation over the Statue of Liberty. With a C-130 carrying photographers accompanying them, the seven-ship formation made three passes over Miss Liberty. Concern on the ground was both inevitable and duly considered, according to the Air Force. Regardless, the spectacle still surprised some still-affected Manhattan residents. Air Force spokesman Capt. Jason Medina said all appropriate local, state and federal agencies were alerted along with law enforcement agencies, but the show came as a surprise to many on the ground for whom the events of three-and-a-half years ago are obviously still close to their consciousness. "I was surprised. I thought there was a war coming," said Ernesto Vega, a tire shop worker. "I was thinking about the Twin Towers right away," said Rosa Torres. Medina said phone calls and the worries were expected.
JA AIR CENTER, YOUR GARMIN SOURCE, IS LOOKING
It seems like everyone wants to talk about what to do about the future of the National Airspace System and the next in a parade of forums is a meeting sponsored by the Air Traffic Control Association (ATCA) -- not to be confused with the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), the controllers' union. The forum will be held at the Hilton Crystal City at Ronald ReaganWashington National Airport June 21. The ATCA is calling its forum "Rightsizing the NAS" and it will focus on the structural and operational changes that will be needed to overhaul the system and make it more efficient (and potentially less expensive) against a backdrop of concerns about flight safety and air traffic controller shortages. Judging by the list of speakers,the ATCA seems to be attempting to ensure that all views are heard. NATCA President John Carr will be there to give his organization's views, as will Kate Breen, president of the National Association of Air Traffic Specialists, whose members are now in the process of transitioning to a leaned-out,leaned out, contractor-run system for automated flight service stations. In one session, Amr ElSawy, senior VP of Mitre Corporation, will try to crack the fundamental nut of the whole exercise when he analyzes whether there are real cost savings to be made.
As the major stakeholders in the future of the National Airspace System get ready for their teeth-gnashing session in Washington in a few weeks, the Government Accountability Office has chimed in with its assessment of the state of the system, particularly the effort to reduce flight delays. Unfortunately, there is no beacon of light in the GAO's report. Simply put, it says more money, probably a lot more, will have to be spent to implement the structural, facility and organizational changes that need to take place to make a real difference. In fact, there's a note of practical desperation in some of the FAA's plans to address the problem. The report says the agency is considering auctioning off landing and takeoff rights at LaGuardia. LaGuardia is simply out of room and its capacity is finite but for most other airports, there are few problems that a healthy dose of cash won't solve, whether it's for new runways, or updating other equipment. But the report also points out that the U.S. money tree is pretty much picked clean and it really has no thoughts on where the cash might come from.
The potential for air traffic controller shortages is a seemingly world-wide problem. The Czech Republic is grappling with manpower issues and even India, with just 1,000 controllers in a country of more than one billion people, is predicting dire consequences if hiring isn't speeded up, according to the Times of India. The Airports Authority of India (AAI). "We're filling up all vacant posts and things will be sorted out," AAI spokesman Praful Patel told the Times. Meanwhile, the paper alleges that two controllers are in charge of up to 15 major air routes at a time, far more than those in other countries must contend with. While it might surprise some on this side of the world, the FAA's controller hiring plan (11,000 controllers over the next 10 years) is held out as a shining example of how to tackle the issue. "Unlike AAI, [the FAA] is better prepared," the newspaper reported. "This plan, says FAA, is their blueprint to put the controllers in the right place at the right time. Lessons to be [learned]?" the paper wondered. Depends on who you ask....
The potentially deadly consequences of lightly staffed control centers will undoubtedly get plenty of attention as the Swiss court system begins its civil and criminal assessments of the fallout from a midair collision of a Russian airliner and a DHL cargo jet on July 2, 2002. An American law firm has filed suit on behalf of 30 families of the more than 70 people killed in the crash. Swiss authorities, after a year of psychiatric assessment, have also charged Vitaly Kaloev with manslaughter for allegedly stabbing to death the controller who was working the two planes at the time. Kaloev, whose wife and two children died in the crash, allegedly stabbed Peter Nilson to death at his home and in front of his wife on Feb. 24, 2004. Kaloev has been under psychiatric assessment since the killing and says he can't remember the attack. Doctors recently decided his mental state had stabilized enough for him to stand trial. Skyguide, the private company in charge of Swiss airspace, has already admitted blame for the chain of events that led to the collision. It settled with 43 families and reportedly paid up to $150,000 in compensation. However, 30 other families have hired the American law firm Podhurst to represent them in the suit.
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Commercial spacecraft developers will get the same sort of opportunity to build and fly experimental versions of their vehicles as aircraft manufacturers do under a new set of guidelines issued by the FAA. The agency recently unveiled, for public comment, a special "experimental class" permit for those tinkering with suborbital spacecraft. The new permit promises to clear away much of the red tape on the way to 100,000 meters. "We're hoping that this allows the reusable launch vehicle developers to build their vehicles and start flying without too much regulatory burden," FAA spokesman Randy Repcheck told Space.com. "We're protecting public health and safety, but we're trying to do so in a reduced manner so that reusable launch vehicle developers can go out and fly." There are, of course, conditions. The permits are only good for research, developmental or training flights and the FAA has to be sure the permit applicant has demonstrated the ability to pull off the test flights safely. The permit is good for a year but during its term the holder can launch vehicles of the specific design it covers an unlimited number of times. Repcheck said the idea is to give the permit holders as much leeway as possible to work the bugs out of their spacecraft before they start taking paying customers for a ride to the black sky. The permits are available until final regulations are adopted next June. "It seems to be a moment in history," Repcheck said. "We certainly hope it is. That's what we're all hoping for here."
There's nothing like saving a life in your spare time. A volunteer pilot and his observer with the Coast Guard Auxiliary are credited with initiating the successful rescue of a kite surfer off the coast of central California on Thursday. Pilot Dan Lavi and Air Observer Sue Fry, both auxiliary members, were on routine patrol when they spotted a sail in the water off Sherman Island State Wild Area. After descending for a closer look, they found the surfer unable to control the sail in the high winds. They radioed for help and, thanks to some Good Samaratins in the area, the rescue was a success. The closest Coast Guard vessel was about 45 minutes away so the station at Rio Vista radioed a PAN PAN to private vessels in the area asking for help. As the auxiliary aircraft circled overhead, two pleasure boats responded and the surfer was pulled from the water and put aboard a speed boat. The surfer wasn't able to get out of the boat on shore so the boat was loaded on a trailer and pulled out of the water. The aircraft acted as an escort during the rescue and resumed its patrol when the surfer was safely ashore. The Coast Guard Auxiliary has at least 24 private aircraft approved for use and hundreds of people are involved in supporting the Coast Guard on a variety of missions ranging from search and rescue to ice patrol.
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Midair collisions between aircraft are rare enough but for the second time in a little more than a month a parachutist has collided with an airplane in flight. In this case, near Racine, Wis., the outcome was a lot better than the tragic circumstances of the previous incident, in which the jumper died. Last Thursday, seven skydivers left a single-engine aircraft at 2,000 feet -- one collided with it close to the ground. The plane ended up in a tree after clipping power lines and the jumper landed relatively safely on the ground. Amazingly, neither jumper nor pilot was seriously hurt. The previous incident (in April) ended with much more tragedy. A well-known Florida jumper collided with the plane that he had recently left. In that case, however, the parachutist's legs were severed and, although he was able to control the parachute to a safe landing, he later died from his injuries.
They say politics makes for strange bedfellows but it appears the tiny fraternity of space explorers also has some unexpected liaisons. While Scaled Composites' Burt Rutan was telling (yet another) conference on space development how generally inept and ill-suited NASA is for the job at hand, his mothership White Knight was running up and down the runways at Mojave mated to the X-37, a pilotless Mach 27-capable space plane in sporadic development by NASA, Boeing and the military. At the International Space Development Conference, Rutan said NASA is wasting money on the space shuttle and imaginary spacecraft that will never be built and should get out of the human spaceflight business altogether. "NASA is destined to be sidestepped by commercial outfits, because it is not doing anything fun or inspiring, and it kills too many people," he said. Meanwhile, back in Mojave, Rutan's people are working side by side with NASA engineers trying to make one of those sometimes-illusory spacecraft fly. The X-37 is billed as an unpiloted, autonomously operated vehicle to conduct on-orbit operations and to collect test data on re-entry. Ultimately, it's a test bed for future reusable space vehicles, but its stop-and-go development over the past seven years (due to NASA's apparent indecision on its potential role) has kept it earthbound. So far, White Knight has only carried the X-37 in high-speed taxi tests but the plan is to perform drop tests, although no schedule has been released.
LANCAIR COLUMBIA 400 NOW CERTIFIED TO FL250
The downward slide in GA accidents and fatalities hit an updraft in 2003 but a spokesman for the AOPA Air Safety foundation says it's not much to worry about. The total number of GA accidents rose 2.5 percent in 2003 over the previous year while flight hours increased .8 percent, according to the annual Nall Report prepared by the foundation. However, in the past 10 years, the accident rate per 100,000 flight hours has declined 25.3 percent. "The general direction is good," said foundation spokesman Bruce Landsberg. "I think we'll continue to make progress as pilots get smarter. But it doesn't come without constant effort and vigilance." Of the accidents recorded in 2003, 20.6 percent were fatal and 75.9 percent were pilot-related. Takeoffs and landings continue to be the most dangerous phases of flight with more than half of all accidents occurring then.
Despite what you thought of the advice your mother may have given you, it actually might make you go blind if Viagra, Cialis or Levitra are part of the mix. And while we normally don't deal with these sorts of subjects, word out of the Food and Drug Administration that the use of these drugs to combat erectile dysfunction has caused "sudden, irreversible blindness" in 43 men has some significance for pilots. According to a television news report out of Washington, D.C., it's because of those potential vision problems that the FAA bars pilots from taking the drugs within 24 hours of flying (We couldn't find that specific reg on the FAA Web site). The drugs work by, uh, redistributing blood flow where it's "needed." However that means there's less blood available for other parts of the body and that can have a profound impact on the eyes. The drug companies say there's no proof their products caused the blindness. The particular type of blindness reported by the FDA also occurs in men with diabetes and heart problems, and erectile difficulties are also a potential symptom of those conditions.
IN CASE OF FIRE, AN EVAC-U8 ESCAPE HOOD FROM AEROMEDIX CAN SAVE YOUR LIFE
If so, our sister publication, Aviation Consumer, would like to hear abou your experiences with the conversion from a two-blade model. Did you notice any hit on cruise speed? Is it quieter and less vibey? If you had it all to do over again, would you stick with two-blade or opet for three? Write AvCon's prop team at email@example.com
Lancair has expanded Down Under. The Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority has granted Type Acceptance Certificates to the Columbia 350 and 400 models...
After battling bureaucracy, ground looping in Thailand and using cooking oil for brake fluid Watsonville, Calif., RV-8 pilot Bill Randolph has completed his round-the-world flight ,making him the oldest to do so solo in an experimental aircraft...
The Canadian Owners and Pilots Association is hosting a new user-editable Web site listing Places to Fly in Canada. Anyone can add information or photos to the site and that means that the contributors are responsible for accuracy and detail. Spokesman Adam Hunt said he hopes airport managers monitor the site to ensure accuracy and anyone who spots an error is encouraged to correct it using the online form...
A Raleigh, N.C. couple was unharmed after their Cessna 172 crashed nose first into a forested area near the runway at Raleigh-Durham International Airport last week. Catherine Taylor was flying and her husband Gordon was the passenger.
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.
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AVmail: May 30, 2005
Reader mail this week about students learning with glass cockpits, autoland on aircraft carriers, and lots more on the D.C. ADIZ incursion.
Yes, Sport Pilot Training Is Insurable for Commercial Flight Schools! (But ...)
Recently AVweb published an opinion piece by the owner of a flight school who couldn't get insurance for training in a Light Sport Aircraft. This week an independent insurance agency clarifies some of the information about getting Sport Pilot insurance.
Adventure in Flight: The Outdoor Channel Steps In After Discovery Breaks A Wing
Pilots and other lovers of all things GA have been living in bleak TV times since Discovery Wings became the Military Channel. But aviation programming is coming back bigger and better-looking than ever. AVweb's Liz Swaine reports on "Wings to Adventure."
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PILOT GETAWAYS YOUR FLIGHT PLAN FOR ADVENTURE
When Freud Slips Into The Cockpit.
Miami Center near the Keys on a summer afternoon with large storms...
Center: Cessna 1234, how's the ride at 5000? I can give you 7000 if it helps.
Cessna 1234: Moderate turbulence and looks bad ahead ... but its not gonna be better at seven, I think we will just pray ... (pause) ... I mean stay at 5000,
Cessna 1234 (Different Voice): Center, I think we're gonna do a bit of both.
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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Fly it till all the parts stop.
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