June 8, 2005
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Eclipse Aviation officials say they expect few takers for a limited time offer that allows any customers unhappy with the latest variable (dependent on time of order) price increase to bail out of their deal and get a full refund on their previously non-refundable deposit. As AVweb told you earlier this month, Eclipse, while forging on with new technology and essentially creating an entire market segment, has (again) raised the price of the 500 mini jet. The plane, introduced with fanfare in 2000 with a price below $900,000 will now cost a new customer $1.43 million (in today's dollars). For a 30-day period ending in about two weeks, customers who thought they'd put down a non-refundable deposit can claim the full amount back if they prefer to opt out. Spokesman Andrew Broom says the hit on the order book should be minimal. "We will talk about refunds after the deadline passes in the next two weeks. Most likely there will be only a few, if any, refund requests," he told AVweb. Dollar value comparisons notwithstanding, new buyers will pay up to $425,000 more for their planes than those who put their money down five years ago. The so-called Platinum customers, those first in line with their cash, will be hit with a $45,000 increase while those who came after them will pay an extra $95,000. For new customers, the increase is $120,000 in June 2000 dollars.
Time will tell whether Broom is correct about the fallout from the 10 percent price increase but Eclipse CEO Vern Raburn said in an email to customers that without the extra money the company simply can't fly. Raburn said the cost assumptions that were valid in 2003 (when the price was raised to $1.175 million) are no longer accurate and the company has no choice but to raise the price. He said the price of aluminum alloys has jumped (in some cases by 75 percent) and costs associated with design changes necessitated by the switch to Pratt and Whitney Canada engines were greater than anticipated. But Raburn maintains the 500 remains the groundbreaking bargain the company always envisioned it would be. He pointed out the little jet is still 70 percent less expensive than current entry level jets and 40 percent less than other very light jets (VLJs) under development. "While we regret having to raise the aircraft price, the Eclipse 500 still offers the lowest cost of ownership for a twin turbo fan aircraft ever achieved in aviation," he assured his customers.
IN PRINT AND ONLINE, TRADE-A-PLANE GIVES YOU THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS
One man's recklessness is another's heroism and striking the balance isn't always easy. Such was the dilemma facing the FAA in the case of Jeremy Johnson, a young Utah helicopter pilot who saved a family from a raging river, helped local officials control the flooding by ferrying supplies and even raised $20,000 in relief funds by donating money charged for sightseeing flights over the flood-ravaged area. Many of those flights were in violation of one regulation or another but the FAA has given Johnson the benefit of the doubt, and a "letter of admonishment" on his file is the only price he'll pay. "There were no sanctions, as such, in this case due to the guy's track record and his intent," said FAA spokesman Mike Fergus. When the Santa Clara River burst its banks in January after record rainfall, Johnson, a private pilot, was first on the scene to pluck a family to safety from their riverfront property. He flew numerous missions over the next few days, including a hop across the river with an explosives expert, complete with explosives, to blow up a blockage that threatened to make flooding even worse. He wasn't supposed to carry explosives without approval from the FAA and that's what resulted in the letter of admonishment. The fundraising flights were also a violation because Johnson didn't give the required seven-day advance notice to the FAA. Johnson has since completed his commercial rating and undergone recurrent training and if he has a clean record for two years the letter will be removed from his file. "I felt like they [FAA] were really good with me," Johnson said, adding agency officials showed him a sheaf of letters of support they received when news of possible sanctions hit the media.
In New York, four A&Ps who worked for Air East Airways can go back to work after an NTSB Administrative Law Judge overturned emergency orders suspending the tickets of the mechanics, three of whom were the sons of Air East Airways owner Michael Tarascio. In a news release, their lawyer, Gregory Winton, said the judge dismissed the revocation orders for "failure of proof" but he also said testimony indicated the FAA had it in for the company. In the release, Winton said that FAA officials had testified under oath that the Tarascios were victims of an FAA "witch hunt" and that they were told to deal with family "differently." In an earlier case, Winton successfully defended the elder Tarascio against an emergency revocation of both his ATP and A&P certificates. In that case, the NTSB upheld the FAA sanctions but Winton took the case to court. The judge found the case against the elder Tarascio "was not substantially justified in law or in fact," according to Winton's press release. He said the prosecutions have been a violation of his clients' constitutional rights and a waste of time, money and effort by the government agencies involved.
Meanwhile, in Santa Cruz, Calif., the FAA says it now knows who was flying a Cessna 172 that allegedly "buzzed" a couple of local beaches. They won't say who the pilot is but they have confirmed it's not the registered owner of the plane, whose tail number was caught in photos supplied by complainants. As AVweb told you a couple of weeks ago, witnesses claimed the plane flew at an altitude of a few feet -- low enough that one woman was worried it would hit her nine-year-old nephew. The local newspaper described the flight as an "attack" on the beach. AVweb got a few e-mails from readers telling much the same story. FAA spokesman Donn Walker said officials have spoken with the pilot and intend to interview him again. Witnesses had earlier complained of FAA foot-dragging on their complaints and an indifferent attitude among agency officials.
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Making air taxi service a reality from the nation's 5000-plus small airports will take more than a bunch of very light jets (VLJs). NASA's Small Aircraft Transportation System (SATS) project has spent the past five years developing technologies to support that system -- the final demonstration occurred Sunday through Tuesday, in Danville, Va. SATS was a partner program between NASA, six regional "SATS labs," state agencies and private business to develop technologies enabling single-pilot air taxi and other light aircraft operations. The vast collection of participant-friendly technologies at Danville included multiple highway-in-the-sky guidance systems (note the unfortunate acronym: HITS). Of a pilot's interface with future technology, Orion Technologies' Paul Hamilton said, "Paradoxically, solid stick and rudder skills are actually more important than a good IFR scan." Controllers may have another surprise coming. "It's like flying VFR." Another technology on display was the Airport Management Module, which is a trailer bristling with antennas that provides an automated ATC-like function of sequencing aircraft into airports without towers or radar (don't tell the union). "The present ATC system won't scale up [to meet demand]," says Don Taylor, VP of training and flight operations at Eclipse. Bill Michel, VP for marketing, adds that "we need to get the pilot more involved in the system." Overall, the SATS goal was improving the traffic volume and all-weather accessibility of small airports as well as the capabilities of single-pilot flight operations. The more immediate goal for many of the demonstration participants will be finding continuing funding or getting their product out to a paying market.
Next-Gen Cockpits On Display The Maryland SATS lab demonstrated a combination of technologies in a modified Cessna 402B with a new lightweight heads-up display (HUD) combined with synthetic vision from a camera system mounted in the nose. The final system will qualify under the new FAR 91.175 (l) and (m), eventually allowing pilots with enhanced flight visibility (viewed on a cockpit display) to descend to 100 feet AGL -- with no outside visual references. Below 100 feet you need (as currently written) the required visibility with the unaided eye to land. "That's by the regulations," says Dr. Noris Krone Jr. of the Maryland SATS team. "The truth is that I've landed [the 402] over 200 times using nothing but the display ..." See AVweb's NewsWire for full coverage, including challenges still facing the SATS program and the bridges being built to meet them. Krone had "the window blocked so I couldn't see ... I can do a better landing with the display than without it. And I can do a pretty good landing." In Europe, transport-category aircraft will soon be able to start approaches even if visibility is below minimums if they have enhanced vision systems. The FAA has stated it will allow this in the United States in the near future. Other technologies included a device similar to an AWOS celiometer that looks up the glidepath to determine actual flight visibility on the approach and a "Cockpit Associate" that monitors aircraft systems, progress of the approach and ATC information to provide advisories and recommendations to the pilot. Of course, whether or not pilots want something that reveals actual flight visibility or a digital copilot that's smarter than they are is another story.
...Grounded In Reality, Education... Despite glowing estimates of a $1 billion-per-year air taxi industry business by 2025, some real issues remain. Morton Marcus of the Indiana SATS Consortium, who directed the research on the economic feasibility of SATS, notes that "there is no management plan, no education plan in place. We need an education plan." The Indiana team conducted market research and focus groups and found that the idea of a taking an airplane instead of a car was too foreign a concept to get any immediate acceptance. "There needs to be a 'got milk?' campaign of public awareness." Morton also points out that the focus seems to be on rural communities but there is a huge potential benefit to urban dwellers near a major airport who only need to travel a few hundred miles. This may be a bigger (read: more profitable) market than trying to service small airports worldwide. The consensus is that the market for SATS aircraft and technologies is replacing trips currently made by car rather than trips currently made by air. "To change public perception of air travel would be like trying to boil the ocean," says Bill Michel "If the success of SATS is dependant on changing the perceptions of the American public, we don't stand a chance. Business leaders, other individuals, sure we can do that." DayJet, which plans to sell individual seats on Eclipse 500s, sees their market as early adopters and "true road Warriors," says Brad Noe of DayJet. "We could succeed serving only this niche market," he added, although he wouldn't say how large DayJet thought that market was. DayJet will soon have a cost-comparison system on their Web site that will compare for any day and city pair what it would cost on DayJet vs. the airlines or driving.
One answer to the challenge of mating comes from SATSair (www.satsair.com), operating out of Greenville, S.C. SATSair took the flight-school concept and sold 10-hour block time in a Cirrus SR22 for charter operations to destinations within two hours flight time (about a 350-mile radius). Steven Hanvey, president of SATSair, explains to customers that traveling within the two-hour circular area is "like taking a taxi around the city." It seems to work. Building strictly on word of mouth, SATSair operations have doubled each month and they expect to be operating over 20 SR22s in six months. As of mid-April they have approval for part 135 IFR operations in a SR22 -- yes, that's right, single-pilot, single-engine IFR charter in a Cirrus. No, the parachute was not a factor in making this happen, but the glass panel, real-time weather and traffic-avoidance systems were. So was an engine trend monitoring program. The parachute is a big attraction to the passengers though. "I would have underestimated the importance of that. We have people who say they swore they would never fly in anything smaller than a King Air C90 flying in the Cirrus." The cost is a big motivator too. For $350 per hour you can move 3 people at 175 knots. Still, educating the public is an issue. "Communities must utilize it or it will get into the price point," says Hanvey. Translation: If you built it and they don't come, you'll go broke.
ONLY AT AUCTION! LAKE AIRCRAFT WILL BE SOLD AT AIRVENTURE!
AOPA will make a pitch today to a Senate committee suggesting it either scrap the Washington Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) or at least modify it so it is less intrusive on GA operations. Andy Cebula, AOPA's senior vice president for government and technical affairs, will speak on pilots' behalf to the Senate Committee on Commerce Science and Transportation in a hearing on GA security. Cebula will tell the committee that the ADIZ, in its current form, doesn't work as a security measure and actually victimizes pilots who, because of equipment failures, inadvertently violate its strict talk-and-squawk provisions. "Operationally, the ADIZ has been a disaster affecting pilots and slowly smothering the businesses that employ people in the National Capitol Region," he said in his prepared remarks. Cebula says that security improvements either mandated or voluntarily applied by GA operators, plus security enhancements like missile batteries and the new laser Visual Warning System, offer more palatable and practical ways to ensure security. "AOPA believes it is time to reexamine the ADIZ to determine whether its questionable contribution to security justifies the high costs it has imposed on the industry," the remarks say.
The Nepalese government says a French pilot who claimed to have landed a helicopter on the 8,850-meter (29,000-foot) peak of Mt. Everest was telling a tall tale. According to Asian news agencies the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) said last week that pilot Didier Delsalle has since admitted he couldn't actually set down on the peak and made an emergency landing 1,000 meters lower on the South Col. But the Nepalese announcement is at odds with the triumphant media release (including a poetic quote from Delsalle) issued by EADS, which makes the Ecureuil/AStar 350 B3 Delsalle was flying, and their submission on the alleged flight in the Federation Aeronautique Internationale record book. Nepalese officials say Delsalle's chopper was followed by another helicopter carrying Royal Nepalese Army soldiers who said they saw him land on the South Col. However, the Nepalese seem more concerned with the legal existence of the flight than its actual existence, saying that since Delsalle didn't have permission to land on Everest, then the landing couldn't have taken place. So far, Delsalle and EADS haven't commented on the Nepalese allegations but there may be more at stake than an obscure notation in a record book. India is now looking for about 200 helicopters capable of high-altitude missions (it has troops based as high as 23,000 feet in Kashmir) and Eurocopter is in the running for the contract, although with a different model of helicopter.
A NEW RELEASE OF THE BEST AVIATION WEATHER SERVICE FOR CELL PHONES
The aviation industry needs a strong voice of support in Washington and some loud voices are nominating the FAA. Flanked by the CEOs of the country's three largest GA companies (Cessna, Raytheon and Bombardier) Rep. Todd Tiarht (R-Kan.) announced he intends to introduce legislation that would restore cheerleading status to the FAA. Congress removed the FAA's mandate to promote the aviation industry in 1996 out of fears the agency was getting too chummy with the industry it regulates. But Tiahrt said the U.S. government's hands-off approach to aviation is hurting the industry. "I believe it is imperative that the U.S. government is engaged in promoting an industry that has lost ground to government-subsidized companies throughout the world," said Tiarht. "We cannot continue to force our companies to compete on an uneven playing field." Cessna CEO Jack Pelton, Raytheon boss Jim Schuster and Bombardier/Learjet President Peter Edwards took turns endorsing Tiarht's proposed bill. "This new effort to make the federal government more proactive in promoting out nation's aerospace industry is long overdue," said Edwards. Pelton noted that "nothing affects American aviation like our government, both positively and negatively" and Schuster said that while business is booming now, there are still plenty of problems to be worked out.
A distraught man who allegedly threatened to crash the Cessna he was flying "if he saw any police around" is now a guest of the boys in blue. According to the Albany Times Union, the man apparently called his wife from the air on his cellphone saying he had a gun and intended to hurt himself. He also said he would crash the plane if he saw police. Operations were halted at Albany Airport for about 10 minutes and there were plenty of police around when he landed the plane. He was arrested after a foot chase and later charged with felony reckless endangerment and resisting arrest. No gun was found. Police confiscated his pilot certificate but the FAA hasn't decided what sanctions he might face. The pilot is a member of the Upper Fifteen Flying Club and was flying a club plane back from Massachusetts, where he'd flown it the previous day.
LANCAIR COLUMBIA 400 NOW CERTIFIED TO FL250
California's First District Court of Appeal has upheld the homicide conviction of a man who started a forest fire that a jury ruled caused the death of two air tanker pilots called to fight the fire. The pilots died after their planes collided near Hopland, south of Ukiah, in 2001. According to the Metropolitan News-Enterprise, a Los Angeles newspaper that specializes in legal matters, the court rejected Franklin Neal Brady's claim that the original judge in the case improperly excluded evidence proving one of the pilots had more than the legal limit of alcohol in his system. Brady was sentenced to thirteen years in prison after his conviction of recklessly causing a fire resulting in death, and of manufacturing methamphetamine. The NTSB preliminary report on the accident doesn't establish a probable cause. Much of the narrative focuses on the airspace protocol observed by tanker pilots fighting a fire. A toxicology report is not included. Brady and Richard Mortenson were originally charged with murder but the charges were reduced. Justice Stuart Pollak, writing for the Court of Appeal, said the blood-alcohol content of the pilot in question was irrelevant because there was no evidence suggesting it was linked to the crash. Pollak also found that the original judge was correct in his instruction to the jury that they could find Brady guilty "only if it found that the deaths of the two pilots were foreseeable consequences of starting the fire." Investigators linked the fire to the meth lab but Brady insisted it started by accident from sparks from a fire he lit to heat water for a bath.
Let's see, in the past year we've accomplished privately funded space flight, a man has circled the globe solo on a single tank of gas and airliner that can carry up to 800 people has successfully flown. Although the frontiers of flight seem to be pushed further each year, there are still a few seemingly primitive milestones that have not been achieved. For instance, the American Helicopter Society appears to be seeking takers for a $20,000 prize to be awarded for the first controlled, human-powered helicopter flight. To take home the check, all the winner has to do is hover for a minute, rise at least three meters above the ground and stay within a 10-meter square. At least one member of the crew has to be "non-rotating" during the flight and the vehicle must conduct the entire flight on power supplied by the person or people on board (no stored energy devices, gas bags, or external boosts).
PILOT GETAWAYS YOUR FLIGHT PLAN FOR ADVENTURE
Two leading aviation organizations are fighting to keep free weather. The National Business Aviation Association and the National Air Transportation Association have fired off letters protesting a proposed Senate bill that would prohibit government agencies from providing weather information for free if there are private companies who want to do it for profit...
Body parts from a presumed stowaway fell on a garage roof in a New York suburb Tuesday from a South African Airways flight. It's believed the stowaway snuck into a wheel well during a stop in Dakar. Pilots heard banging during the flight but the landing gear seemed to work properly....
Two former America West pilots have been convicted of trying to fly while drunk. A Florida jury found the pair guilty and they face up to five years in prison. They were hauled off the flight on July 1, 2001 after security personnel smelled alcohol on them...
Russian authorities have blamed a pilot's "outrageous hooliganism" for the crash of a MiG-29. Russian Air Force Commander-in-Chief Gen. Vladimir Mikhaylov said there was no need to ground the fleet because of the reckless actions of the pilot, who performed a low-level roll before the plane crashed, killing him.
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. You're a part of our team.
The Savvy Aviator #19: Thwarting Corrosion
We have a double dose of Mike Busch's column this week. Many of our GA aircraft were not very well corrosion-proofed during manufacture, so it's up to us as owners to keep our airframes corrosion-free. Regular application of corrosion preventive compounds can protect the parts of our airframes that the factory didn't.
Chicken Wingsbr> Chicken Wings is an aviation-related cartoon. The cartoonists try to keep it not too technical, yet accurate enough to amuse aviators and aviation fans alike. So if you're a professional pilot or just an air-show visitor, you should be able relate to these stories. A new strip every week!
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LONGER DAYS AND WARMER WEATHER MEAN IT'S TIME TO GO FLYING!
*** PREVIOUS RESULTS ***
Last week, AVweb asked the burning question on so many would-be aircraft owners' minds: Build or buy?
We offered a range of answers, hoping to find out where our readers stand on today's hot-shot homebuilts.
The answer? All over the map.
Our readers' opinions seemed pretty diverse, with the largest segment (35% of respondents) telling us they'd happily build their own plane. Another 7% of you said you'd love to own an already-built experimental, but maybe you don't have the time to put into building it yourself. 23% of you endorsed the homebuilts but told us it was a combination of time and/or money holding you back from taking the plunge.
On the other side of the spectrum, 8% of our respondents confessed to being "spam can" all the way with no interest in building or flying homemade aircraft. Another 11% admitted they were tempted, but they just couldn't bring themselves to trust their bodies in planes of their own construction.
16% were perfectly happy with their certificated aircraft, believing the officially-constructed planes reduced risk and in some cases even saved them money.
*** THIS WEEK'S QUESTION ***
This week, AVweb wants to know whether you prefer round gauges or flat panels.
Enough with the finer details.
State your preference.
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DA40 DIAMOND STAR A FLEET FAVORITE
Submit a Photo | Rules | Tips | Questions
Current POTW Winner | Past POTW Winners
In mid-May, when "Picture of the Week" submissions were lagging, we put out the call for you to send us your best aviation photos and you answered with a flood of brand-new pictures that were so exciting, so lively, we almost started that week's column with these words: "Best week ever."
Man, are we glad we didn't. Because this week's submissions might be even better! There were slightly fewer submissions than in the previous landmark week, but the variety couldn't be beat. We laughed; we marvelled; we turned green with envy once or twice; and we even gasped once! Join us for a quick tour through this week's vibrant submissions starting with the photo that made us gasp, from Max Haynes of Maple Grove, Minnesota.
(Max will be getting an Official AVweb Baseball Cap for placing first in this week's contest. Submit your aviation photos today, and you might be the next reader sporting an AVweb cap around your FBO!)
Due to privacy issues, AVweb does not publish e-mail addresses of readers who submit photos.
Used with permission of Max Haynes
Max Haynes of Maple Grove, Minnesota soars high
this week with a photo taken during a formation flying exercise
over the Mississippi River. This photo was taken directly after the
Commemorative Air Force's "Wings of Freedom" Air Show.
Interested in the CAF?
See more photos at MinnesotaWing.com!
Click here to view a large version of this image
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 Randy Kirgiss
"Flying Over Baghdad"
Randy Kirgiss of the U.S. military sent
us this photo of a mission over Baghdad.
We found it both ominous and majestic.
Used with permission of Brett Justus
"Showing an Early Interest"
Brett Justus of Sumter, South Carolina
was thrilled to see his daughter taking an
interest in flying. Mom, on the other hand,
"groaned when she realized we now had
two plane nuts in the family!"
Woo-hoo! The sheer number and
of photos has us jumping for joy this week.
Why, we might even be happier than this next guy ...
Used with permission of Billy Walker
"The Stearman Bunch"
Billy Walker of Phoenix, Arizona adds
another photo to our collection of clever
in-flight self-portraits. Why so happy?
He was headed to the Stearman Fly-In
at the Palm Springs Air Museum!
copyright © Hal Samples
"Life Is Good"
This photo from Stephen Hundley of Dallas, Texas
(where everything is bigger, right?) makes a great
desktop wallpaper on those new 17" "widescreen"
monitors even if it is a little creepy to have a picture
of someone else's family on your computer at work.
Stephen explains that the photo (taken by photographer
Hal Samples) was a Father's Day gift from the
family, featuring his wife and two daughters:
"Everything I love in one photo!"
Our apologies to Stephen for incorrectly
family to photographer Hal Samples when we first ran
this photo. Stephen was kind enough to send us the
correction on Thursday morning after we ran the AVflash.
Used with permission of Richard Proctor
Richard Proctor of Hawke's Bay, New Zealand
asks the question, "Is that why or how they
chamfer the wing-tip?" (Yes, clever captioning
helps you out in the weekly "POTW" contest ... !)
copyright © Blake Mathis/
"Sunset on the Saturn V"
Blake Mathis of Madison, Alabama
closes this week's edition of "POTW"
with a peaceful sunset backdrop framing
the Saturn V rocket that stands watch over
the U.S. Space and Rocket Center
in Huntsville, Alabama.
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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Fly it till everything stops.
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