July 3, 2005
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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The U.S. House on Thursday passed a bill that would allow Flight Service Station (FSS) workers to retain their jobs as FAA employees, but the measure, which has won bipartisan support, still has a long way to go to become law. First, a Senate version must pass, then the two versions must be reconciled and sent to the White House, which has already promised to veto it. Canceling Lockheed Martin's contract to take over the FSSs would trigger $300 million in penalties, the White House said. But the union representing the FSS workers, the National Association of Air Traffic Specialists (NAATS), was thrilled to have the bill in play at all. The FAA has now published a notice in the Federal Register that they'll conduct a survey to "determine customer satisfaction with Lockheed Martin's provision of flight services." If Lockheed takes over in October as scheduled, over 1,000 FSS workers will lose their pensions, NAATS said. Further, the promise that all current workers will be offered jobs is misleading, since many of the jobs are only temporary until Lockheed closes down 38 FSS facilities, NAATS said. The House bill was sponsored by Rep. Bernie Sanders, Independent, from Vermont. Meanwhile, over in the U.K., their semi-privatized air traffic system is not only breaking even, but this year it posted a profit and paid out dividends of 5 million pounds. The National Air Traffic Services, which is owned 49 percent by the government, 46 percent by airlines and airport operators and 5 percent by staffers, earns the bulk of its revenues from fees charged for handling trans-Atlantic flights.
The National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) is at odds yet again with the FAA, this time over the agency's unilateral cancellation of a liaison program. The FAA last week abruptly terminated the program, in what NATCA called "a terse, 79-word fax." The controllers had been working on technical projects such as en route modernization and runway safety technology, NATCA said. Nine controllers will be affected by the decision. FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown told AVweb yesterday that the FAA values the expertise and knowledge of the controllers, but felt it wasn't necessary to keep them deployed full-time in Washington, D.C. "What we plan to do is take advantage of their expertise as air traffic controllers, to help staff facilities as fully as we can," she said. The FAA will continue to seek controllers' input on projects on an as-needed basis, she said. NATCA liaisons have previously been described by FAA management as "an integral part in getting many projects deployed" and "an asset to the program," NATCA said. "The move, which comes against the recommendations of the Government Accountability Office and coincides with a House of Representatives' vote against reckless agency cuts, is just the latest attack on the previously productive partnership between air traffic controllers and the FAA," NATCA said.
Meanwhile, some senior FAA workers frustrated over a lack of response to their complaints say they may go to federal court to seek satisfaction, GovExec.com reported last week. Under rules instituted by the FAA's "pay-for-performance" system, some 2,000 senior employees have been locked out of base salary increases. The workers say this means they lose out in overtime pay, retirement, and other benefits that are tied to base pay, compared to other workers who were not affected by the new system. The FAA says it has no intention of changing back, but instead its aim is to level the field by bringing the rest of the agency's employees under the new system as well. A group of the affected workers has filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging age discrimination, because most of those affected are older workers. But Tim O'Hara, leader of the group, told GovExec.com that they are starting to explore other options. "We expected at this point to at least have a hearing scheduled with [the EEOC]. We've heard nothing from them. Literally nothing."
BRINGING COMFORTABLE FIT, NOISE REDUCTION, AND CLEARER AUDIO
In the wake of two recent incidents where non-pilots easily entered airport property and took off with unsecured aircraft, the general public and the mainstream media have been in an uproar about the dangers of those little airplanes. To counter that, AOPA last week went on the offensive, but this time, the target was not the overreacting press, but the GA community itself. "What's hurting us doesn't have to happen. And you are an important key in stopping the threat to GA," AOPA Prez Phil Boyer wrote in letters sent out last week to CFIs and FBOs. "What can we do about it? Secure your aircraft. And make sure your students, your employer, and the pilots around you are all doing everything they can to prevent aircraft theft." Boyer said, "I pound my desk in frustration over those few stupid pilot tricks that make the news and then give the politicians a sound-bite issue and an opportunity to threaten us with onerous regulations. And believe me they will take every opportunity they can." The solution, he says, is to not to provide that opportunity. "Let's not give them any more ammunition," Boyer wrote to FBO operators. "Ever. Please review your security procedures -- now -- and take any and all appropriate steps to keep GA safe, secure, and out of the news."
When the world's richest celebrities and industrialists arrive at the single runway of Friedman Memorial Airport in Sun Valley, Idaho, tomorrow for their annual luxury-recreation-and-dealmaking retreat -- Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, Ted Turner, etc., are expected -- their Gulfstreams and Citations will have to wait their turn right along with the local Huskies and Bonanzas. The FAA had OK'd a request from the airport to allow only IFR flights in during the busiest part of the weekend -- with the clear intent to give priority to the visiting corporate aircraft and exclude the scruffy single-engine fliers. AOPA protested to the FAA, and the exemption was rescinded. "We felt this would be discriminating against a class of pilots, which is against FAA regulations," AOPA spokeswoman Kathleen Roy told The Associated Press. Airport Manager Rick Baird took issue with AOPA's interference. He told the AP only a handful of charter pilots had protested the change. "This isn't about the little guy, it's about the guy who's hired to fly someone from Las Vegas to Sun Valley on short notice and who wanted to make sure he still got a paycheck." Remember that old proposition about "All men are created equal"? Well, today we might adjust that to "all men and women," but this Independence Day, we can also add, "and all pilots, too."
While joy riders flying in stolen airplanes is bad enough, yet more bad press for GA results when small aircraft violate the protected airspace over downtown Washington, D.C. An incursion last Wednesday caused a brief evacuation at Congress, and over the weekend, yet another straggler in a single-engine Cessna had to be escorted away from the Capitol by a pair of F-16 fighter jets. The airplane landed about 11 p.m. Saturday at Frederick Municipal Airport, and a man and woman on board were questioned and released.
JA AIR CENTER, YOUR GARMIN SOURCE, IS LOOKING
The Vickers Vimy biplane landed safely in Ireland yesterday at about 5 p.m. local time, after crossing the North Atlantic nonstop, following the route flown in 1919 by the British team of John Alcock and Arthur Whitten-Brown. As planned, pilots Steve Fossett and Mark Rebhol landed on a golf course in Clifden, Ireland. The flight took about 20 hours. They launched from St. John's, Newfoundland, with strong tailwinds at about 7:30 Saturday night. The flight was the last of three adventures that re-created the original Vimy's historic flights. In 1994, the team flew 15,306 miles from England to Australia, as the original Vimy had in 1919. In 1999, the Vimy traced a 1920 route from England to South Africa, covering 9,844 miles. The original British-made Vickers bomber was designed for use during World War I, according to National Geographic, but by the time it went into production the war was over. In 1919 and 1920 models of the Vimy became world-renowned when they won the three long-distance, globe-spanning races that the modern team has re-created.
A Cirrus SR22 pilot escaped from his airplane after deploying the ballistic chute and landing in a cove near a nuclear power plant off New York's Hudson River on Thursday afternoon. Ilan Reich, 50, had been flying westbound when he issued a mayday and then pulled the chute, according to local news reports. Cirrus Design spokeswoman Kate Dougherty told AVweb yesterday that details are still sketchy but it appears that Reich experienced a medical emergency while flying. The airplane splashed down about 50 feet from shore and Reich broke through a window with a hammer, which is provided in the cockpit for just such an occasion. Reich was treated at a local hospital and went home on Friday. The aircraft was recovered from about 30 feet of water on Saturday. The crash raised concerns among local officials about the security of the nearby Indian Point nuclear reactor. "A catastrophe at Indian Point would be an emergency for the entire metropolitan region," State Assemblyman Ryan Karben told TheJournalNews.com. "We need to take proper preventative measures and minimize the potential for any sort of accident to occur." A spokesman for the plant said there is already a restricted zone around the plant and a small plane crashing into the building would not damage the structure.
ONLY AT AUCTION! LAKE AIRCRAFT WILL BE SOLD AT AIRVENTURE!
Four more airports have been added to the Military Airport Program, the Department of Transportation said last week. The program provides federal funds to improve facilities at ex-military fields to attract more civilian aviation activity. The new airports are Williams Gateway Airport, Mesa, Ariz.; Cecil Field, Jacksonville, Fla.; Guam International Airport, Agana, Guam; and Rickenbacker International Airport, Columbus, Ohio. "These airports are proof-positive that there is life after base closings," said Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta. The airports will join 11 others already in the program, which will distribute $34 million this year. Airports already participating in the program are Mather Airport, Sacramento, Calif.; March Inland Port, Riverside, Calif.; Okaloosa/Eglin Air Force Base, Valparaiso, Fla.; Kalaeloa Airport, Oahu, Hawaii; Alexandria International, Alexandria, La.; Tipton Airport, Odenton, Md.; K.I. Sawyer, Marquette, Mich.; Griffiss Airpark, Rome, N.Y.; Plattsburgh International Airport, Plattsburgh, N.Y.; Millington Municipal, Memphis, Tenn.; and Gray Army Airfield, Killeen, Texas.
New Piper and its union workers agreed on a contract Thursday night after almost two years of negotiations, averting a strike vote. The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers represents 729 of the company's 920 employees. "We've tallied the vote and 68 percent approved," union spokesman Bob Wood told TCPalm.com. "We were pretty confident that our membership would understand that it's a step in the right direction. It was time to stop the bleeding." The contract sets rules for workday length, seniority, and overtime pay; increases the company's contribution to health-insurance plans; and establishes a grievance and mediation program, according to TCPalm. The employees agree not to strike, and New Piper agrees not to lock them out. "[The contract] could have been better in some aspects," worker Crystal Schacht told TCPalm. "But considering the company isn't doing well financially, I'd say it was fair."
ISN'T IT ABOUT TIME YOU CHOOSE SOMETHING EXTRA?
TAB Express International, a flight school in Deland, Fla., abruptly closed down on June 15, putting 49 employees out of work and stranding 80 students, some of whom had paid up to $100,000 each in up-front tuition. The school blamed the shutdown on an abrupt cutoff of financing from Key Bank in Ohio, which had been lending money to the students. State Attorney General Charlie Crist said his office would investigate to determine if any fraud had occurred. "The flight school said it had an airline and that if students flew for it for two years their loans would be repaid, but they didn't have an airline," a spokeswoman for the attorney general told AOPA. TAB Express owner Robert Adamo told WESH News that the school was "that close to making this all be a reality" when Key Bank cut off funds. The school is suing the bank. "The school is committed to each student to take whatever measures the school can do, so as to complete their training," TAB Express attorney Tim Fiedler told WESH. Executives with TAB Express said they have broken no laws and have no reason to fear a state investigation.
The world's first liquid-hydrogen-powered unmanned aerial vehicle has flown successfully, AeroVironment of California announced last week. The Global Observer High-Altitude Long-Endurance (HALE) prototype has a 50-foot wingspan and is intended for operations at up to 65,000 feet, where it can fly for over a week with a payload of up to 1,000 pounds, the company said. It flew in Arizona on May 26 and again on June 2, each flight lasting over an hour. "We are now ready to quickly satisfy an urgent national security need for an affordable, persistent HALE system for communications relay and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions," said Tim Conver, AeroVironment's president and chief executive. During the flight tests, the company successfully used mobile fueling operations, which was the last technical challenge to making the system work. Liquid hydrogen is seen as a cleaner replacement for current fuels, because the only emission is water vapor. Customers could use two aircraft in rotation to provide communication-relay and remote-sensing systems.
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With summer in full swing, thunderstorm season is reaching its peak as well. As a reminder about the dangers, AOPA's Air Safety Foundation has released a new four-minute online refresher course on avoiding thunderstorms. The course is free to all. Also, you can check out the historical patterns of thunderstorms in your region thanks to a new Web site from NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). The site displays maps of thunderstorm activity across the U.S. for every month over the last 10 years. Maps are available by region, by air route traffic control region and by major airport vicinity. And in November, hundreds of scientists from around the world will converge in Australia for a months-long study of the Northern Territory's spectacular storms. The goal is to help improve forecasts of thunderstorm activity, improve the accuracy of climate modeling and better understand cloud systems.
CarterCopter on Thursday released more details about the June 17 accident that destroyed the company's one-of-a-kind gyrocopter. The aircraft was flying at 160 mph when the bolts holding the drive pulley to the propeller drive-shaft broke. The thrust went from maximum to negative, causing the aircraft to slow abruptly, and the wing stalled. The aircraft pitched over and rolled uncontrollably to the left even though the pilot had the stick pushed as hard to the right as possible. Aerodynamic control returned as airspeed increased, but the hard right stick had caused something to fail in the left cyclic boost-control link, limiting rotor control. As AVweb reported last month, the aircraft came down in a field of mesquite trees and was destroyed. The pilots walked away unharmed. If the landing had been in a clear field, the CarterCopter probably would have sustained little damage, the company said last week. The company also said that the Army's visit to Carter scheduled for July 7 to verify calibration and confirm the accuracy of certain sensors for the flight data that would prove the aircraft broke the Mu-1 barrier earlier the same day has been canceled, since many sensors were damaged when the aircraft crashed. The only way to officially prove Carter's claim to breaching the Mu-1 Barrier is to do it again under certifiable conditions. Carter said it plans to do just that with a next-generation prototype. Design work has already begun.
RISK MANAGEMENT IS AN AREA OF AVIATION INSURANCE OFTEN OVERLOOKED
The annual all-women Air Race Classic has posted results from last week's race. Forty teams competed in the cross-country event...
ATC tapes have been released that are relevant to the October 2004 Hendrick Motorsports King Air crash that killed 10 people...
Errant briefcase in cockpit brought down a $23 million F-16...
Five finalists have been chosen for Flight 93 memorial in the Pennsylvania field where the hijacked 757 crashed on 9/11, killing all 40 on board...
X-Plane released version 8 of its flight-simulator software, MacWorld scores it five mice...
An eyewitness reports on the crash that killed billionaire John Walton last week, and AVweb's Dr. Brent Blue offers memories of the pilot and neighbor he knew. (See
AVmail and scroll to the bottom of the page.)
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ATTENTION, PIPER OWNERS AND PILOTS
CEO of the Cockpit #46: Sidelined From Summer Sub-Sonic Fun
For the first time in his flying career, AVweb's CEO of the cockpit has the summer off. It wasn't his choice, but he's enjoying it better now with a little help from his friends.
The Mountain Checkout
If words like "mountains obscured" and "rotor cloud" are unfamiliar or even fear-inducing, you need to spend some time with a good instructor and get the most beautiful checkout you'll ever have.
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McCAULEY IS "THINKING FORWARD" FOR THEIR USERS!
Overheard on United flight ATC audio channel.
United: Center, United 123 in light chop -- how's the ride ahead?
Center: Should smooth out in a couple of minutes.
United: Yeah, it just smoothed out for us.
Center: Sometimes it helps just to talk about it.
United: You sound just like my girlfriend.
Unknown: You know ... he *does* sound just like your girlfriend!
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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