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June 5, 2005

NewsWire Complete Issue

By The AVweb Editorial Staff

This issue of AVweb's AVflash is brought to you by ... Teledyne-Continental Motors (TCM)

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IFR Refresher

AOPA Fly-In Draws Thousands ...

15th Annual Open House Encourages Encore

"We've seen more people today in the first two hours than we did all of last year," Lancair salesman Doug Walker exulted Saturday at AOPA's Fly-in and Open House at the Frederick (Md.) Airport. "We've had constant long lines of people to check out our 'mockpit'" -- the Lancair mock-up that welcomes the curious to climb right in, while the true ship can rest unmolested on the ramp. Last year it rained buckets all day long, but this year the weather cooperated. The cloud cover lifted enough to let about 250 pilots fly in, but lingered enough to keep the ramp comfortable and shady through the humid afternoon. AOPA President Phil Boyer was thrilled with the turnout, estimated at over 5,000. "If we'd had another [rainy] year like the last three, this might have been our last open house," he told AVweb. "It's a lot of work for us. But after today -- we will do it again." Tour the grounds in AVweb's online gallery. The open house tradition began 15 years ago, when Boyer took over the top job at the organization. "I'd be here working on Saturdays, and pilots would fly in and walk over to look at the building and take pictures, and there was nobody here, and the doors were locked ... so I'd run downstairs and let them in. That's when I decided to hold an Open House once a year on a Saturday, so our members could fly in and visit." Saturday's event sprawled through AOPA's headquarters -- with offices open to visitors, meeting rooms packed full for seminars, flight simulators to play with in the hallways and prize drawings to enter. A popular stop was an upstairs office where visitors could have their photo taken and printed out on the cover of an AOPA magazine. On the ramp, dozens of aircraft -- from a Piper Cub to Adam's newly certified A500 twin to AOPA's Citation jet -- were open to explore. Traveling exhibits from Cirrus, SATS (Small Aircraft Transportation Systems) and Lancair made the most of the crowds.

...Of Current And Future Pilots...

While many of those checking out the static displays, attending seminars or browsing 100 exhibits under the big white tent were AOPA members and pilots, a lot were prospects the members had been encouraged to bring along. Three sessions on "How To Start Learning To Fly" drew overflow crowds. By midday, AOPA staffers had run out of their supply of learn-to-fly kits -- with a video and DVDs and a Be A Pilot certificate for a $49 intro flight -- and were taking names to send them in the mail. "The response has been phenomenal," said AOPA Communications Director Sue Walitsky. Boyer said the kickoff of a rejuvenated Project Pilot was the day's most important event. "We're all getting grayer," he said. "We need to invest in this so we can continue to grow. If we have more AOPA members, we have more lobbying power, and if GA has more participants, it lowers costs for all of us. So everyone benefits." Walitsky said AOPA has a lot of resources for student pilots -- a Web site loaded with information, Flight Training magazine, seminars and mentors. "Students who are AOPA members are three times more likely to finish their training," she said. After the seminar, prospects could head for the ramp, where flight instructors were ready to show them a Cessna or Diamond trainer, sit them in a cockpit and explain how it all works. Boyer said he'd like to see Project Pilot grow into a nationwide, annual Learn-to-Fly Day, with local flight schools everywhere holding an open house to welcome pilot prospects. "We're reaching out to our members to help identify future pilots," Boyer said. "People who have the interest, the time, and can afford it. And to mentor them. And we will pledge a lot of support to that effort."

...Airing Concerns, Getting Things Done, And Having Fun

At Boyer's packed hour-long Q&A session, there was just one topic on everyone's mind -- the Washington, D.C., ADIZ. "It's a regional issue, but with national implications," Boyer said. "It's a symbol of taking away our freedom to fly." He said AOPA is lobbying to reduce the size of the ADIZ and to simplify procedures for GA aircraft operating within it. But overall, Boyer said, the number-one issue that worries AOPA members is user fees. Second to that is airport closures. More than 200 pilots on Saturday made use of AOPA's one-stop security process to help gain access to the DC-3 airports -- the three D.C.-area GA airfields that were shut down after 9/11. "Instead of spending a day or two running around to all the required agencies, they can get most of the process done all at once," Boyer said. The program may travel to other airports in the Northeast where a lot of pilots want that access, he said. After airing their views and taking care of business, pilots could shop, relax at the food court, check out the airplanes, talk about flying and enjoy a summer day at the airport.


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FAA's Scathing Report On NY TRACON...

Plenty Of Blame To Go Around

The FAA last Thursday issued a scathing report on New York's Terminal Radar Approach Control on Long Island, saying the union has too much control over scheduling and costs are out of control. The facility is not understaffed or unsafe, the report said. "We have a scam; we don't have a safety issue," FAA spokesman Greg Martin told reporters. At over $4 million, overtime costs at the New York facility are more than double those at any other large TRACON. According to the FAA's news release, "Generous amounts of overtime allowed 21 controllers to earn more than $200,000 last year, not including benefits; this year, that number is projected to increase to 51." The report said there is "a culture of insubordination and intimidation" at the facility, and blamed both FAA management and the local union for the situation, which has developed over the last 15 years. The report was written by a 25-member team, based on its 60-day onsite review of the facility.

...NATCA, Supporters Criticize FAA's Understanding...

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) quickly responded to the FAA's report, as President John Carr held a conference call with reporters on Thursday afternoon. "I don't believe the scapegoating that is contained in that report will add a single controller to the New York TRACON," Carr said. "I don't believe it's going to help the working environment. ...There are too many airplanes and there are too few people and that's going to lead to a safety problem." The union found friends in Washington, where New York Senators Charles Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton both expressed support for the controllers. "To say that little overtime and no new employees are needed at one of the busiest towers in the nation defies credibility," Schumer said in a statement. "We don't need more reports, we need amicable solutions," Clinton said. See AVweb's NewsWire for NATCA's full response. "The FAA had a golden opportunity to address what we view are serious management and staffing problems that are affecting the New York TRACON," Carr said. "Sadly, they have failed to accomplish that ... The problems in New York are the result of a fairly simple equation -- there are more flights, there are fewer air traffic controllers and there is an increasingly reduced margin of safety. The New York TRACON handles three of the busiest airports in the world ... this year they've handled a record number of operations." He said there is a lot of overtime at the facility because the FAA has not filled empty staff positions. "The FAA has created this chaos by their own hand," Carr said.

Click here for NATCA's full response.

...FSS Workers Criticize Privatization Process

Meanwhile, the Professional Airways Systems Specialists (PASS) union said Thursday it is seeking an order from a federal arbitrator that would rescind a service contract awarded in February to Lockheed Martin to operate the FAA's Flight Service Stations. At a hearing last week, the union argued that the FAA violated a contractual promise that it would involve the union in the process to transfer work performed by federal employees to outside contractors. "This is a blatant violation of our agreement with the agency," said PASS National President Tom Brantley. "We believe that the safety of the National Airspace System (NAS) should not be contracted out to the lowest bidder." And in its third annual report on the FAA's efforts to modernize the National Airspace System, the Department of Transportation's Office of Inspector General found that cost growth, schedule delays and performance shortfalls with the FAA's major acquisitions continue to stall progress. "Consequently, it is not clear how much these programs will cost, how long it will take to complete them, or what capabilities they will finally deliver," the report says. The FAA needs to develop a comprehensive strategy if it hopes to keep pace with growing demand for air traffic services, the report concludes.


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Garmin WAAS Upgrades Delayed Again

Pilots who have been waiting -- some since 2003 -- for upgrades that would make their Garmin units WAAS-capable will have to wait longer still. "Regrettably, Garmin has delayed the WAAS upgrade for our GNS 430/530, GPS 400/500, and GNC 420 units until the third quarter of 2006," Garmin spokesman Ted Gartner told AVweb on Friday. "The complexity of this important project has increased, as well as the R&D to design, build, and certify our WAAS-enabled hardware -- including a new GPS antenna and receiver -- in addition to a major software rewrite." Garmin says it will hold to its promise to deliver the upgrade to existing owners for $1,500. Current owners can still lock in that price if they order the upgrade by Nov. 15, and they pay nothing until the upgrade is completed, Gartner said. Effective immediately, new purchases of GNS 430/530, GPS 400/500 and GNC 420s will be upgradeable to WAAS, but at a yet-to-be-determined price. Garmin's GNS 480 is WAAS-ready now. "I would hope that you convey our regrets for this delay," Gartner told AVweb. "We intend to keep our dealers and customers apprised of the situation as developments warrant." WAAS is a system of satellites and ground stations that provides GPS signal corrections, giving pilots vertical guidance and up to five times better position accuracy than GPS alone.

"This is disappointing news to AOPA members who own Garmin equipment and are looking forward to the increased safety that WAAS will bring at an affordable price," said AOPA President Phil Boyer in a statement on Friday. "We are committed to promoting WAAS because it will add vertical guidance capabilities to 3,000 GPS approaches -- a major safety enhancement at lower cost than ground-based navaids." Meanwhile, the FAA Eastern Region has posted an online video tutorial for users of Garmin's GNS 430 and 530 units. "Our effort is to assist you to avoid the human-factor errors that may hinder your operation of the GNS-530/430," the FAA said. "To accomplish improving your operational understanding of the GNS-530/430, we employed scenario-based demonstrations and explanations of the various navigation procedures performed with the GNS-530/430." The tutorial consists of six units, each about one hour long.

Jury Awards $2 Million To Pilot's Widow

Jurors in a federal court said last Thursday the Little Rock (Ark.) National Airport must pay over $2 million to the widow of an airline captain who died in the 1999 crash of an American Airlines MD-82, The Associated Press reported. The lawsuit alleged that the airport was negligent because the approach-light system (at the opposite end of the runway) 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 noted that the NTSB found the probable cause of the accident to be errors by the flight crew, including a decision to continue the approach when the "maximum crosswind component was exceeded" and "when severe thunderstorms ... had moved into the airport area," and that the crew failed to ensure that the spoilers had extended after touchdown. Eleven people, including the captain, died in the crash. The defense lawyers are considering whether to appeal.

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Another Perspective On User Fees -- Oz's Could Quadruple

With the debate over user fees for GA gathering steam here in the U.S., the issue is playing out in a more extreme form down under, where Australian GA pilots face a fourfold increase in the fees they pay for government services. "This is getting very, very scary and more to the point, it's proving that CASA [Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority] is not capable of regulating aviation any more," said Ron Bertram, president of the Australian unit of AOPA. CASA executive Bruce Gemmell said last week that his agency needs to boost annual revenues from the industry from $5 million to $20 million by 2008-2009, The Australian reported on Friday. Bertram responded that hikes on that scale would not only threaten GA's economic survival, but also raise safety issues. "If you can't afford it, what happens? Do you operate unsafely?" he asked.

World's First Civilian Tiltrotor Flying Again

The Bell/Agusta BA609, a civilian version of the Osprey V-22 tiltrotor aircraft, flew in Arlington, Texas, last week for the first time since 2003. During the 1.3-hour flight, the crew tested hover mode forward, sideways and backwards, and navigated the pattern at 86 knots with 75-degree forward tilt on the outboard nacelles. During the next month, the aircraft will be tested in airplane mode, where it can achieve a top speed of over 275 knots, according to Bell. The BA609 will cruise at up to 25,000 feet and seat up to nine passengers plus two pilots. Bell says it has 60 orders for the aircraft. Dual certification (European and FAA) is planned in 2008, with deliveries following soon after. Bell said the programmed pause in flight testing was for developmental engineering configuration. The military Osprey program was temporarily derailed in December 2000 after two crashes killed 23 Marines.

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Blue Angels Pilots Faulted In Navy Report

A report by the Navy Judge Advocate General blamed two Blue Angels pilots and an outdated flight manual for a crash that destroyed an F/A-18 Hornet jet, The Associated Press reported on Thursday. The crash occurred when a new team member on a training flight off the Florida coast was completing a split-S maneuver on his own for the first time. His jet hit the water. The aircraft was damaged, but the pilot was able to keep flying and headed back toward Pensacola Naval Air Station to make an emergency landing. When the jet began sinking too fast, the pilot ejected over the ocean. The Navy report found the trainee made mistakes, but the pilot who briefed him on the maneuver should have been more clear and should have spoken up sooner when he noticed deviations. The report also found that the flight-manual instructions for the maneuver were 10 years old, ambiguous and misleading. The lost jet was worth about $18 million. Both pilots will remain with the Blue Angels.

Russian "Night Witches" To Invade America

On Saturday, June 18, San Diego's Aerospace Museum will play host to some truly remarkable women, and you can be there. Though little-known in the West, the Russian "Night Witches" of World War II were as highly regarded by the Russians as they were despised by the German troops they harassed. Female pilot Marina Raskova convinced Joseph Stalin that women could help him win the war, and three all-female regiments were formed. Some of the pilots were only 17 years old, some flew more than 800 sorties, and many were shot down, some more than once. Five of those women will be telling their stories at the museum event. Of the three regiments, one flew Yak fighters, another Pe-2 dive bombers, and a third a slow, outdated wood-and-fabric biplane called a Polikarpov Po-2. The Po-2 pilots flew night harassment raids against the Germans, sometimes five to 15 missions a night in the brutal Russian winter, flying low and slow over their targets while caught in a web of searchlights and flak. The deadly success of these missions and the fear that permeated the targeted German ground forces led Hitler to offer a special medal to anyone who shot down a Po-2. For the Soviet cause, the female pilots were heroines; to the Germans they were the Nachthexen, the Night Witches. For tickets to attend this special event, you can register online or contact the museum's education department at (619) 234-8291, ext. 19.

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On The Fly...

EAA's Sport Pilot Tour launched at Golden West fly-in in California over the weekend...

Two disabled pilots broke a speed record for a 600-mile flight across Britain in a Glasair RG...

Aviation Technology Group ran first taxi tests of its Javelin Jet prototype last week in Englewood, Colo....

If you plan to fly to Oshkosh next month for EAA AirVenture, get your NOTAM now...

The new U.S. Southwest Soaring Museum in Moriarty, N.M., will hold a grand-opening gala on Friday, June 10...

FAA's newest Aviation News features an article on risk management during flight training...

Nominations sought for 2005 public-benefit flying awards.

AVweb's Newstips Address ...

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 newstips@avweb.com. With our warmest thanks.

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

AVmail: June 6, 2005
Reader mail this week about Sport Pilot insurance, Viagra in the cockpit, the Santa Cruz buzz and more.

New Articles and Features on AVweb

The Savvy Aviator #18: Avoid an Annual Calamity
There are many things that can go wrong during an annual inspection, but the most critical start with an uninformed and uninvolved owner. AVweb's Mike Busch takes us through the things we could do to mess it up, and how to avoid being messed up by others.

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Short Final...

Prejudice on the runway...

ARFF truck: ARFF 1 to ground control.

Tower: Go ahead ARFF 1.

ARFF truck: Would like to cross the main runway to access the fuel center.

Tower: OK, use perimeter road. That's what it's for.

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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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Today's issue written by News Writer Mary Grady:
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It's flying till every part stops.

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