NewsWire Complete Issue

July 20, 2005
By The AVweb Editorial Staff

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

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46 Pilots Charged With Hiding Medical Conditions...

On Full Disclosure

A total of 46 California pilots, 14 of them active, have been charged with lying to federal authorities to obtain certificates. In most cases, authorities allege, the pilots, seven of whom held commercial licenses, hid medical conditions that would have disqualified them. "The fraud and falsification allegedly committed by these individuals is extremely serious and adversely affects the public interest in air safety," the FAA's Nicholas Sabatini, an associate administrator in charge of flight safety programs, told The New York Times. The charges were laid after a two-year investigation in which Social Security numbers of pilots were cross-referenced with other databases. In some cases, pilots were discovered to be receiving disability benefits for conditions that would disqualify them from flying. The conditions ranged from heart conditions to serious mental illnesses like paranoid schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and even severe suicidal tendencies. "To get their certificates, these people had to lie or falsify paperwork," Charles Lee, a department of transportation spokesman, told the Times. Lying to the feds carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. One state down, 49 to go?

...As British Pilot Sues TSA Over Training Ban...

A British pilot, who works for an American regional airline, is suing the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to find out why they deem him a "threat to aviation or national security." Robert Gray says the agencies have refused (on security grounds, of course) to tell him why he shouldn't be allowed to fly larger and more complex aircraft than those he's been flying for Cape Air, a regional airline that flies mostly to Massachusetts destinations (it also has operations in Florida, the Caribbean and Micronesia). He insists it's all a mistake but says security officials won't tell him what triggered his "threat" status so he can sort it out. They did, however, give him a copy of his U.S. Customs profile, which describes the Belfast-born Gray as "Hispanic." Last fall, Gray, who's been flying small commercial planes for Cape Air for eight years, got a job offer to fly bigger stuff for a charter company as long as he passed the security requirements. Since last October, the TSA has been conducting security reviews of all foreign pilots seeking upgrades to their privileges. When he was rejected, Gray appealed the decision but the TSA rejected the appeal. It also sent letters to his current employer and his prospective employer notifying them of the security denial. Cape Air spokeswoman Michelle Haynes said Gray "is a very qualified pilot and we're happy to have him in our Cape Air family."

...Foreign Pilots Don't Get Independent Appeal

Gray's case is further complicated by his British citizenship. When the TSA first adopted its pilot security review standards, it appointed itself the sole arbiter of who presented a security risk. The lack of checks and balances outraged aviation groups (and plenty of congressional leaders, too) and the rules were modified to give U.S. citizens the right to a third-part review of any TSA decision. "The third party review is only available to U.S. citizens," explained AOPA's Chris Dancy. "Mr. Gray does not have the same protection as a U.S. citizen." Dancy said Gray's situation is exactly the scenario AOPA feared when the TSA standards were unilaterally imposed three years ago. Gray hasn't asked for AOPA's help (maybe he should) but he is getting legal assistance from the American Civil Liberties Union, which appears to be as incredulous about the situation as Gray is. "If we really care about safety, we're not being made safer by rejecting people without letting them know what they are accused of," said ACLU lawyer Susan Wunsch. "The government makes mistakes."

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FAA/NATCA Tensions Mount...

Agency Holds 20 News Conferences

The next stage of contract negotiations between the FAA and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association unfolded Tuesday as the two sides traded proposals in Washington. But the actual negotiations took a back seat to the massive public-relations and political campaign being waged between them. The FAA held news conferences in 20 cities on Tuesday to explain its general stance on the negotiations (that the existing deal is too expensive and gives too much control to the, uh, controllers) and to point out just how well-paid controllers are. As part of the organization of the conferences, FAA Deputy Administrator for Communications Greg Martin issued 12 pages of instructions to those conducting the regional news conferences. NATCA got hold of the instructions and distributed them to various media outlets. Martin said the speaking notes and suggested answers for anticipated questions are standard in his business. "I absolutely make no apologies for any of the material," he told AVweb. Martin said the news conferences were aimed at assuring passengers, businesses and local governments throughout the country that the FAA and its controllers would continue to do their jobs through the negotiation process. "We're going to keep the focus where it needs to be and that's on moving planes safely and efficiently," he said.

..."Highly Coordinated Media Assault," Says Union…

The union said the FAA's PR effort is an indication of the agency's misplaced priorities. "This highly coordinated media assault is a disappointing indication of how much time and energy the FAA is prepared to expend in attacking air traffic controllers ..." NATCA President John Carr said in a release. "America's 14,500 air traffic controllers aren't interested in political fights and we don't like conducting negotiations in the press." However, last Wednesday, NATCA called a news teleconference with major U.S. mainstream and aviation media to criticize the FAA's bargaining stance. Martin said NATCA's media machine is well-oiled and the agency must do some PR of its own. Martin noted that NATCA is a "vocal and media-savvy union" and has hired high-profile media consultants, something not open to the FAA, but that the agency has resources of its own and will use them to get its message out. Carr said the FAA's campaign is aimed at justifying a contract that will lead to fewer controllers handling increasing traffic. He accuses the FAA of misleading the public by including benefit packages in the wage figures it's using to illustrate its often-repeated message that the current contract is too rich.

...NATCA Calls In Reinforcements

The AFL-CIO got into the scrap late Wednesday with a call for FAA Administrator Marion Blakey to stop what it termed the FAA's "national media assault on workers." Edward Wytkind, president of the transportation trades department, also called on the Department of Transportation's Office of Inspector General to investigate the costs of the "taxpayer-funded misinformation campaign. At a time when the FAA is pleading poverty, it is absolutely outrageous ..." he said in a press release. The FAA's Martin said the costs were minimal. Martin said the news conferences were held either at regional headquarters or airports so there were little in the way of direct costs to organize them. There was some travel involved for FAA communications staff but in some cases the news conferences were handled by local staff.


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A New Racing Series...

Air Racing On A Figure Eight

Combine elements of the Reno Air Races, the World Aerobatic Championships and the military's William Tell competition into one action-packed afternoon and you have some idea of what Jeff Zaltman had in mind for Aero GP, which is being described as the aviation equivalent of Formula One auto racing. "They (competitors) do have to be nuts, but they are calculated nuts," Aero GP creator Zaltman told Reuters. "Aero GP is very dangerous, but it is also safe. These guys are very experienced. We want it to be safe while not looking safe." Perhaps what can safely be said is that it's possibly one of the most extreme forms of aerial competition devised so far. Aero GP competitions are divided into three parts. There's a head-to-head race (involving up to 10 planes) through a figure eight course at low level. There are also aerobatic competitions and mock bombing runs. This year, Zaltman and several pilots are staging demonstrations to promote next year's full competition schedule at stops throughout Europe, Dubai and India. Iron Maiden lead singer and British charter pilot Brian Dickinson will do the color commentary on the TV broadcasts.

...And Red Bull Series Comes To San Fran

Meanwhile, Aero GP's predecessor, the Red Bull racing series, will hold events throughout Europe this year before ending the season in its only North American stop Oct. 8 in San Francisco. The precise location of the race hasn't been listed on the Web site but it should be available, along with a course map, in the near future. The Red Bull series is working its way through six European dates before the final race in San Francisco and, if ticket sales are any indication of popularity, then the public seems to have an appetite for this kind of thing. Tickets are sold out for the July 24 race at the Rock of Cashel in Ireland. The Red Bull format requires pilots to race through a series of gates and perform mandatory aerobatic maneuvers between each set of gates. And it all takes place in an area measuring only 1,400 meters by 400 meters.


The hottest (and only) new television series about general aviation, Wings to Adventure goes off-road this week, featuring bush planes. The Maule and the famous de Havilland Beaver strut their aerial stuff in Texas and in the Pacific Northwest. There's also a tour of aviation museums in the Dallas area and a visit to the hangar of aviation raconteur Reb Stimson. Shot in incredible high definition video, WTA airs Sunday at 2:30pm Eastern on the Outdoor Channel. Dish and DirecTV subscribers can add the Outdoor Channel for $1.99 a month. Ask for it "a la carte." For more information, go to

Fuel Consortium Formed To Cut Costs

A group called the National Aviation Fuel Consortium (NAFC) says GA pilots deserve the same kind of deals on jet fuel that some relatively high-volume users get. The NAFC is urging individual pilots to join the consortium and sign a petition to lobby for a break on rapidly escalating fuel costs. "The [NAFC] is forming an alliance of general aviation fuel buyers," says the NAFC Web site. "NAFC's initiative is to implement cost effective, unbundled general aviation fuel price methods." The group says it has no issue with paying for other FBO services like waste handling, APU service, ramp fees and the like but GA fuel buyers shouldn't pay more for fuel just because they buy it individually. The organization wants to get GA pilots the same sort of "cost plus" deal afforded the regional airlines, military, fractionals and resellers.

FAA Promises Action On Air Ambulance Safety

One of the most dangerous flights you'll ever take could be one aimed at saving your life. The FAA is promising action to curb an extraordinarily high crash rate in air ambulances. More than 10 percent of the U.S. air ambulance helicopter fleet crashed in the past five years. A total of 60 people died in 84 accidents. About two-thirds of the crashes occurred in poor visibility conditions, according to USA Today. "We take this very seriously," said FAA spokesman Jim Ballough. "The public will see change." But industry groups say the issues are complex and not that easy to address. "Most of the accidents will say 'pilot error.' It's not so simple, really," said Eileen Frazer, executive director of the Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems, a group that does safety audits on air ambulance operators. "There are all sorts of extenuating circumstances." By their nature, medevac flights involve more risk, with pilots landing at accidents scenes under less than ideal conditions, racing to the hospital and then putting down on a roof in the middle of a city. Thousands of lives are saved every year by the service. However, the USA Today report also cited a 2002 study by the Journal of Trauma that found that helicopters were sometimes used for less seriously injured people who could have been taken to the hospital by road.

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O'Hare Expansion Will Hurt Other Airports, Say Opponents

If needed upgrades to your local airport go into a holding pattern in coming years you can probably blame Chicago, according to some of those opposed to the current plans to expand O'Hare International Airport. A group, made up mostly of representatives of neighboring communities that would be affected by the $15 billion proposal, claims that Chicago is looking for 20 percent of the discretionary portion of the Airport Improvement Program's funds for the next 10 years. That, they say, means 20 percent less for every other airport in the country looking for new runways, lights or infrastructure improvements. The city of Chicago wants about $300 million from the fund for the first phase of the O'Hare Modernization Project and could be looking for more than $800 million in total. The AIP has a budget of about $3.5 billion a year but most of that is allocated to ongoing programs. Only about $500 million is available each year for individual projects. Craig Johnson, mayor of Elk Grove Village, Ill., said Congress needs to look at whether the O'Hare expansion is justified in light of the impact on other airports. The group says there are alternatives to expanding O'Hare, including using other airports, reconfiguring existing runways and the use of "congestion management techniques." The FAA will make a decision on the grants as early as September.

Congress Passes GA Security Review Amendment

GA dodged another legislative bullet last week when Congress passed a Homeland Security appropriations bill without an amendment that would have imposed severe penalties for those violating the Washington flight restricted zone. Under the amendment, pilots violating the zone could have faced big fines, long suspensions and even confiscation of their aircraft. The amendment was pulled, but the sentiments that got it that far continue to echo through the government buildings, which have been evacuated several times in the past couple of years due to errant pilots. AOPA lobbied hard to kill the amendment but another one, by Sen. Hilary Clinton (D-N.Y.) to study GA security and the threat posed by GA aircraft, passed unanimously. AOPA President Phil Boyer said he already knows the outcome of the study. It will show that GA isn't a big security risk, but he's afraid that in going through the motions there will be costs generated. "If these studies lead to regulations, there will be costs," he said. Clinton told AOPA officials that pilots, airport officials and communities must band together to watch out for potential threats. Boyer said they already are through AOPA's Airport Watch program, initiated not long after 9/11.

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Pilot Condition To Be Monitored

In the future, pilots may wear wristbands that will be able to detect signs of fatigue, stress or other dangerous conditions and send a signal to a monitoring center. That's the goal of an Australian project aimed at reducing the number of fatigue- and stress-related accidents in airplanes and heavy transport trucks. Over the next three years, the Forge Groupe and the University of Technology will develop and test sensors that will enable real-time monitoring of the alertness, stress level and decision-making ability of pilots and drivers. "This information will allow feedback on a dangerous situation and alert either the operator or the system controller to make it safer," said project spokesman Sara Lal. The sensors will also measure the pilot's environment, looking for things like temperature and noise. The information will be used to create algorithms and computations to detect changes in operator performance.

First Sport-Jet Ready For Roll-Out

The first Excel Sport-Jet has had its final coat of paint and will be ready for taxi and flight testing by the end of this week, the company said yesterday. "We expect to start these [tests] shortly," designer Bob Bornhofen said. That would put the four-seat Sport Jet at the front of the pack of new single-engine very light jets. The prototype is fitted with a T-58 engine, though the production model will fly with a Williams FJ33-4A. The Williams engine is on order but not expected to be available until this fall. So far, the engine on the prototype has been test-run, and avionics and control systems are installed and have been checked. The jet so far is weighing in at lower than its projected empty weight, the company said, which is good news for its performance projections. The Sport-Jet is expected to sell for around $1 million. The project has been 95 percent funded by Bornhofen, who also developed the Maverick Twinjet that has been flying since 2000.

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On The Fly...

The body of a missing F/A-18 pilot was found Wednesday in a desert area of southern California. His plane and a two-seat version of the same aircraft collided over China Lake Monday. The other two pilots ejected and were rescued...

Flight Explorer has introduced a GA version of its Internet-based flight tracking system giving real-time tracking, weather, e-mail alerts and route displays. The Pilot Edition has all the features of the Personal Edition as well as NEXRAD weather overlay, flight plan display and PDA or cellphone alerts...

The Lancair Company, which makes certified airplanes, has changed its name to Columbia Aircraft Manufacturing. Spokesman Randy Bolinger said there was ongoing confusion between his firm and the separate company that makes Lancair kit-built products and that should be solved by the change in letterhead.

AVweb's Newstips Address ...

Drop us a line. If it caught your attention, it will probably interest someone else, too. Submit news tips via email to You're a part of our team ... often, the best part.

New Articles and Features on AVweb

Say Again? #52: Changing Culture
Good pilots know better than to make a special request of ATC when flying in busy airspace; if the controller doesn't actually tell you off, then you'll hear the annoyance in his voice. But do you really know which areas are busiest? Things have changed and it's only going to get worse, as AVweb's Don Brown tells us in this month's column.

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AVweb's Question of the Week ...


Last week, in the wake of Lycoming's latest crankshaft recall, AVweb asked how the news sits with you as a pilot. Answers came in a wide range...

Not quite one third of you (29%) said I've lost some faith in (and respect for) Lycoming, while an additional 21% said, I'm more concerned about the reliability of my engine, and 20% more thought this whole chapter is a blemish on the industry.

8% of respondents were optimistic that the final outcome would be positive for the industry, fewer gained respect for Lycoming and, while 16% felt largely unaffected by the episode.


This week, AVweb wants to know what you think about the most recent scuffle between NATCA and the FAA.  On which side does your opinion land?

Click here to chime in.

Have an idea for a new QOTW? Send your suggestions to

This address is only for suggested QOTW questions, and not for QOTW answers or comments.
Use this form to send QOTW comments to our AVmail Editor.

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AVweb's Picture of the Week ...

Submit a Photo | Rules | Tips | Questions

Current POTW Winner | Past POTW Winners

Unavoidable circumstances demanded that we run a "POTW" archive installment on June 21, but now that things are slowing down after AirVenture 2005, we thought you might like to see that week's winning photos — especially the nifty winning pic from Tom McLaughlin of Battle Creek, Michigan, who'll be receiving an Official AVweb Baseball Cap for his efforts.  Congratulations, Tom!

Due to privacy issues, AVweb does not publish e-mail addresses of readers who submit photos.


Used with permission of Tom McLaughlin

"Matched Set"
Tom McLaughlin
of Battle Creek, Michigan didn't take
this week's winning photo — Doug Allen of the Battle Creek
did — but Tom sent it in to AVweb, so we're sending
him the Official AVweb Baseball Cap that marks him as one of
life's winners!  (Tom, if you'd like us to send an extra cap for Doug,
just drop us a line and let us know!)  In all fairness, Tom did fly lead
in this Klein Tools Formation Flying Team at the Battle Creek
Field of Flight Air Show on July 1.  The other pilots (seen in
the photo) are Michael Mancuso and Matt Chapman.

Click 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.

Used with permission of Michael Montgomery

"Heritage Flight"
This kinetic photo comes to us from
Michael Montgomery of Mt. Washington, Kentucky.

copyright © Wiley Hodges
Used with permission

"Robinson Family Reunion"
Relax — this isn't a disaster in the making,
but a dramatic air show photograph from
Wiley Hodges
of San Mateo, California,
who caught these two members of the
Showcopters helicopter air show team
doing their thing at the Hiller Aviation
Museum Vertical Challenge
in San Carlos on June 18.
Chris Gularte and Bob Bolton are
the daredevil helicopter pilots here.

Bonus Pictures

Used with permission of Emily Beaton

"Home Is Where the Hangar Is"
Emily Beaton of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania
reminds us that all you need for a landing is a flat
patch of ground and a place to store your plane.
She visited the Beverly Soaring Society in Western Australia
in February and brought back this photo of the last hangar in
their line, nestled among the salmon gum trees of the Outback.
(For the record, Emily identified the trees — not we!)

copyright © Lassi Tolvanen
Used with permission

"World's Sole Gloster Gauntlet"
Lassi Tolvanen of Helsinki, Finland
didn't have to travel back in time to get
this photo — he just happens to live in the
same country as the world's last remaining
WWII-era Gloster Gauntlet, piloted here by
Jyrki Laukkanen.

Used with permission of David S. Wilson

"Evening on the Miramichi"
David S. Wilson of Hopewell, Nova Scotia (Canada)
flies us home this week with a photo taken inside
a TBM3 Avenger on his way back from a flight.

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.

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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.

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