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July 28, 2005

NewsWire Complete Issue

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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LightSPEED Aviation

ATC Heads Toward Stormy Skies...

NATCA, FAA Far Apart In Contract Talks

FAA Administrator Marion Blakey says flight delays would increase dramatically and modernization efforts would slow to a crawl if the agency accepted the contract proposal presented by the National Air Traffic Controllers Union last week. In an exclusive interview with AVweb at EAA AirVenture on Thursday, Blakey said the union negotiating team is asking for a 5.6 percent annual wage increase that would result in the average pay package for a controller topping $200,000 within four years. She said the controllers are also seeking a seven-hour work day, minus an hour for lunch and time for other breaks. FAA officials say that would result in a 12 percent productivity reduction. NATCA officials were unavailable for comment in time for our deadline. The agency entered the talks with a series of news conferences claiming that its chief funding source, the Airline Trust Fund, is declining (something NATCA disputes) and that the current controller contract is not sustainable. Blakey says the average compensation package is now at $164,500, including overtime and benefits (but excluding pension contributions) and the increases proposed by the union would eat up money that would go towards modernization and facility improvements. NATCA has maintained that overtime costs are a direct result of understaffing.

...Blakey Proposes Two-Tier Wage System

Blakey also confirmed that the FAA is proposing a two-tiered wage system for controllers that would see newly-hired controllers paid substantially less than existing controllers. "We have [proposed] a very good system of compensation," she said. "It is a two-tiered system." Blakey also stressed that existing controllers' pay would not be rolled back under the proposal. "We are not cutting controller salaries," she said. But more than 10,000 controllers will have to be hired in coming years to make up for a glut of retirements caused by the mass firing of striking controllers 24 years ago and Blakey said the FAA wants their pay to be more in line with other FAA workers. FAA spokesman Greg Martin told AVweb that controllers earn about 45 percent more than other FAA workers and the proposal would narrow that gap for new hires. He declined to name figures. He, too, stressed that current employees would be protected under the proposal. "They're not going to lose anything," he said.


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Visit Bose at AirVenture Tents #174-176

Pilot Insurance Center

Mandatory ADIZ Education (Learn, Or Else)...

"I'm Sorry It's Come To This"...

Several bills have been tabled in recent weeks calling for fines (ranging into six figures and certificate suspensions as long as seven years) for anyone busting the various restricted areas around D.C. FAA Administrator, Marion Blakey told AVweb she understands the concern of lawmakers who've been evacuated twice in recent months because pilots ignorant of the rules (or their location) have flown into the restricted areas. Blakey said even the majority of congressmen understand that all incursions to date have been errors. "Congress has taken a very reasonable approach," she said. However, the current situation can't go on and she said training is the answer. So ... the FAA intends to issue a new rule within 30 days that would require all pilots who fly within 100 miles of D.C. to pass an FAA training course about the restricted airspace. The uneducated should expect consequences. "We are willing to get people's attention [with] stepped up civil penalties," Blakey said. "Education is at the heart of it." But if errant pilots don't learn their lessons that way, the FAA is apparently willing to encourage them. "I'm sorry it's come to this," Blakey said, but added that FAA will make it as painless as possible -- referring to the mandatory training. Pilots can complete an FAA or AOPA safety seminar or take an online course to get their certification.

...Blakey On The Up Side Of User Fees...

The Administrator also began preparing the audience for coming changes in how FAA will get its funding, with broad hints that user fees may indeed be on the horizon. Money in the aviation trust fund is running dangerously low, she said. The problem is that there is no real link between the services that are provided and the money that comes in. "We need a stable funding system. And user pays also means user says," she said. That is, users who are paying in to support a system, also get a seat at the table in determining how that system is run. "This must be equitable to all stakeholders," she said. Blakey also said that more needs to be done to improve safety, and in an effort to gather better data on how many hours GA aircraft fly and for what uses, the FAA will soon conduct a detailed nationwide survey of 75,000 aircraft owners -- that's about one-third of all U.S. owners. The data collected is intended for use to help improve the accuracy of accident-rate statistics.

...And Sport Pilot Rule Changes

Progress continues on implementing the complex Sport Pilot rules, Blakey said. Last week, consensus standards were released for powered parachutes and gyroplanes, and so far, 44 Sport Pilot certificates have been issued. The rule is still a work in progress and "we're prepared to make appropriate changes," she said. Those changes may include finding a way to accommodate some production airplanes that are within a hair's breadth of qualifying as Light Sport Aircraft, and working out a way to let Light-Sport amphibians switch from water to runway landing configuration in flight. But the fine-tuning is not likely to include changes to the contentious medical rules. "I don't see that changing dramatically," she said. Under the current rules, new Sport Pilots with a driver's license can fly, but former pilots whose medicals were refused or revoked must still appeal to the FAA for permission to fly.

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Visit Oregon Aero at AirVenture Booths #3137-3140

Bose Aviation Headset X

VLJ Cessna Mustang: Half Way There

This week's press briefing on the status of the Cessna Mustang, might give you the impression that, yes, Cessna has certified a jet before -- and they're putting that experience to good use. The Mustang made its first public appearance at OSH this week and although decked out with a shiny production paint job, the interior is in rough-and-ready flight test configuration. Without naming names or pointing fingers, Cessna (accurately) pointed out that unlike other jet makers, it established a certification and production schedule when the airplane was announced (at NBAA in 2002) and by gum, it intends to deliver on time and on price. So far, it has, and Cessna elaborated on the details. Program director Russ Meyer III said the Mustang first flew on April 23 (Cessna promised a May 2005 first flight and beat that schedule) and has accumulated 167 hours in 90 flights. The Pratt & Whitney 615F engines continue to fly on both the Mustang and Cessna's testbed Citation, with 233 test hours flown. Meyer and engineer Jon Carr say the Mustang project is currently slightly ahead of schedule with about 50 percent of certification milestones complete, that includes expansion of the aircraft's flight envelope and airborne vibration testing. Similarly, the 615F engines are halfway through their cert hurdles, too, and the Garmin-designed autopilot is far enough along to have already been used in test flights.

With 240 orders on the books, Cessna says the Citation will be certified by the end of 2006 with first customer deliveries in the same time frame. When we asked about weight targets, Cessna says they're on track, too, with a fully-fueled payload of about 600 pounds, plus pilot, on a gross weight of about 7800 pounds. Cruise speed is said to be 340 knots.

The Return Of Big Name V-Power (Sort Of)

Remember Bombardier's big-deal announcement of a pair of V-6 FADEC-controlled water-cooled aircraft engines back in 2003? In the interim, the company all but disappeared but now it's back with a new name, a polished product and what it says is a pending launch customer for the engines. Aircraft Engine Services (AES), the company that will act to market sell and service the engines, told AVweb, through spokesman Luc de Gaspe Beaubien, that an airframe manufacturer has committed to using one of the two V-6s (either the normally aspirated 220 hp model or the turbocharged 300 hp model). Beaubien declined to say "who," insisting that the OEM wants to make the announcement itself. We don't know when that will be, either, but we don't expect it at OSH this year. Beaubien did say AES and Rotax are working out some accessory details for the OEM client. A major cause of the pause on the way to production was that Aerospace giant Bombardier restructured and sold off some companies. Rotax, the division that builds thousands of aircraft engines a year in Austria for the ultralight market is one of them. When the dust settled, a new entity called Aircraft Engine Services emerged and that company will act to market sell and service the engines ... which will still be made in Austria, built now for AES, not Bombardier.

While we're waiting to find out who will provide the airframes for the engines, AES is expanding its Titusville, Florida headquarters to house a parts and support network, plus an all-important training center for the mechanics who will have to learn to fix what is, by aviation standards, a relatively complex engine. The engine is a 120-degree V with FADEC-controlled ignition, overhead cams and full-up, single-lever operation. It's also watercooled so that any aircraft it's used in with need a radiator and the associated plumbing. AES says the engines are comparable or better than existing designs with regard to fuel economy, with a claimed BSFC of .44 pounds of fuel per horsepower hour. If that's true, the geared V designs will compete with the likes of a Continental IO-550 and will be somewhat more economical than the Lycoming 540 series.

Weighing in at only one ounce with up to 40dB of hearing protection, the Mach 1 had an impressive first day at AirVenture. Attendees packed booth 3056 to see the new Mach 1 in-the-ear (ITE) headset and to try the patented foam plugs that deliver crisp, clear voice and stereo music. See the clean-sheet magnesium alloy design with premium features like cell/music input at the LightSPEED web site, http://www.avweb.com/sponsors/litspeed/avflash.

Visit LightSPEED at AirVenture Booths #2023-2024

Oregon Aero

HondaJet Arrives For Unique World Debut

The HondaJet made an impressive arrival in Oshkosh after its fly-by yesterday morning, as ground crew cleared a big circle on Aeroshell Square so the jet could taxi into position (most aircraft roll in modestly behind a tug). But the HondaJet kept its GE Honda Aero engines running, turned itself around, and stopped right in the spot where it would spend the day (close to it, anyway). Michimasa Fujino, chief engineer of the one-of-a-kind jet, introduced it to the crowd. He said it has a standard Garmin G1000 panel (though the media weren't offered any looks inside). However, representatives firmly implied the jet exists to showcase its engines -- not the other way around. Honda says it's seeking an innovative airframe manufacturer (perhaps attempting to inspire such innovation through its own jet's design) that can equal that made manifest in its "5,000 hours between scheduled maintenance" engine. Still, since its first flight in December 2003, the six-seater HondaJet has flown over 150 hours, reaching an altitude of 43,000 feet and speed of 393 knots. Fujino said he expects the envelope to expand to reach 420 knots. The aircraft is powered by two 1,700 lb thrust Honda HF118 turbofan engines. The innovative features of the construction include a specially designed natural-laminar-flow wing, an all-composite fuselage structure, and a patented over-the-wing engine-mount configuration. The unique engine positioning allows for aerodynamic improvements while also increasing available space in the cabin for space not consumed by fuselage-intrusive engine mounting structures.

Fujino said the unusual engine mount is really the most innovative part of the design, since it had never been done before. "It was believed that you never put anything above the wing, but I was skeptical of that," he said. The construction creates a 5 percent boost in performance over a conventional configuration, according to Fujino, who added that he had never even touched an airplane during his training in Japan. Airplanes to him were just objects of academic study. "I was shocked to see American people build an airplane in their own garage ... and they even flew it!" he said. He also discovered that Americans have a special passion for aviation, he believes was born from that grass-roots-and-garage approach. "That's why I chose Oshkosh as the most suitable place to introduce the HondaJet," he said.

Test pilot Richard Gritter, who flew the jet in from its base in Greensboro, N.C., said it's a pleasure to fly. "It's in a class by itself," he said. "It's nimble and agile ... like a sports car." The low wing helps make landings easy, he said, and touchdown is generally in the mid-80s. There is nothing tricky about handling it, and any competent pilot who can handle a complex aircraft would have no trouble with it, he said.

GlobalFlyer -- Around The World, And Beyond

Adventurer Steve Fossett flew in to Oshkosh Wednesday afternoon in GlobalFlyer, the long lanky Williams jet-powered Scaled Composites design that he flew around the world last winter. The airplane is surprisingly gorgeous, looking more like a work of art than a practical traveling machine. The long narrow wings, the bright red Williams engine pod, and the tiny cockpit module create an other-worldly effect. "It's been a great-flying airplane, from the very first flight," Fossett said at a press conference Thursday morning. "And I don't think it's been flown to its limit yet." (Which would make sense since a design error discovered during the round-the-world flight allowed fuel to vent overboard.) So he announced a new plan to take the aircraft around the world again, and then keep going. This time, Fossett plans to cross the Atlantic a second time during the same flight to set a new world record for the longest flight ever. Fossett said the fuel-overflow problem that caused problems on his first flight has been resolved. The fuel vents were in the wrong place, and now they have been moved to two foot-tall masts added to each fuel boom, and no loss of fuel is expected. With that fix, Fossett said, the engineers have told him the aircraft is capable of nonstop flight of up to 29,000 miles. No other changes will be needed to the airplane, Fossett said, though he plans to tweak some of the automated and alarm systems so he can get more sleep. The flight, planned for February, will take about 85 hours. Fossett said he may launch again from Salina, Kans., but he is also considering an offer from NASA to use the Kennedy Space Center, which has a 15,000-foot runway.

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P2, Inc.

The Name Is Columbia

Lancair Certified aircraft has officially changed its name to Columbia Aircraft Manufacturing Corporation (CAM) and appeared at Oshkosh with a new logo, new features on its aircraft and its biggest presence to date. Randy Bollinger, V.P. of Marketing and Sales told AVweb, "We knew there was confusion [in distinguishing Lancair certified from Lancair kit aircraft]," he said. But Lancair grew concerned when research showed that the confusion ranged "...from the consumer all the way up to the NTSB." It seems when the NTSB reported a crash, "they would just identify the airplane as a Lancair -- but we have never had a crash in a certified airplane." Regardless, the change didn't confuse buyers. This week began with six new Columbia 400s in front of CAM's tent. By Wednesday all had sold -- each for roughly $475,000. Several more orders were taken as well. CAM expects to build 175 airplanes by the end of this year and 230 next year. International sales centers are open in the U.K., Germany, Brazil, and Australia. Over 230 Columbias are already in service.

The name change permeates other areas -- with Jepp Charts on the Multi-function Display (MFD) called E-Charts and the soon-to-be certified de-ice called E-vade (cute). The portrait orientation of the MFD lets the pilot view the entire approach plate at a glance. The de-ice system will be available in a few months and they are taking orders for the $25,000 system on current orders. Existing Colombia aircraft can be retrofitted as well. The system won't be known ice certified, but is as "simple as pitot heat." The pilot turns it on before entering potential icing conditions or as needed to get out. With over 230 Columbias in the field and new ones produced at four per week, the company has bolstered its support system. The Columbia Aircraft Repair and Maintenance Association (CARMA), now offers 70 service centers nationwide. "Now Columbia customers have good CARMA," said Bollinger. (Just smiled politely ... maybe you'll get a ride.)

Columbia expects to announce a 2006 edition at AOPA Expo this year, but don't look for anything more than a new paint scheme. Bollinger admits that pressurization and retractable gear are in the long-term vision. "The fuselage was designed with space for the gearbox. That's why the gear are placed where they are."

Therma-Wing (De-ice for your 172)

Columbia Aircraft Manufacturing Corporation (CAM) is extending its features beyond the breed. Because CAM is certifying for the Columbia 350 and 400 Northcoast technologies' electric deice system (announced a few years ago), Northcoast is now pursing STCs for the Baron, Bonnaza, 172 and 182. The system would not be certified for flight into known icing, but should a pilot accidentally encounter icing conditions, the wings, tail and prop would be protected. The complete system should be around $25,000 installed and should be available late next year. Meanwhile, if hot (not cold) is the problem, Northcoast also has an airconditioning system in the works for about $12,000.

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Visit True Flight at AirVenture Booth #4143

Forward Vision Associates

Ticket To Space Winner Visits Oshkosh

For the first few years of space tourism, suborbital flights will be mainly for the rich, Sir Richard Branson, of Virgin Galactic, told the Oshkosh crowds this week. But that won't last. "We've got to start somewhere," he said, and today's plan to sell seats for $200,000 is just the beginning. But while the rest of us have to wait for those prices to fall, one lucky passenger already has his ticket in hand. Doug Ramsburg, 42, of Northglenn, Colo., won an online sweepstakes that ran during the SuperBowl last February. Now, he's ready to become a space traveler. This is Ramsburg's first trip to Oshkosh and though he's has had no real experience with aviation before, "As a kid I always dreamed about going to space," he said, "and now it's going to happen." Ramsburg is a regular guy with a regular staff job at the University of Colorado in Denver. He just bought his first house a couple of years ago, and, yes, it did cost less than the $200,000 price of a ticket to space. But he wouldn't even consider trying to sell off his ticket. "I think it's going to be a real spiritual experience," he said. "I know the risks are very real. But I feel ready to go. Even if I die doing this, I think that would be the most perfect death you could ask for. We all gotta go sometime." Branson and Rutan are working very hard to make sure he does come back, and you can count us among their supporters.

LSA Co-ops Aim Is Flying Affordable

LetsFly, a company that has already established more than 100 flying co-operatives around the country, has partnered with EAA to promote extending the concept to LSA ownership. The co-ops are not quite the same as a fractional or flying club, according to LetsFly President Eldon Corry, but a unique concept. It's a bit complex in its options and operations, but in brief, it makes available a quarter-share in a small aircraft for a $2,900 initial investment. The share owner then pays a monthly fee plus an hourly rate, which vary according to the aircraft type. "For a brand-new ready-to-fly Light Sport Aircraft, the monthly fee would be $195 and the hourly rate about $24 to $28," Corry said. That includes maintenance, fuel, and all other costs. The pilot just shows up to fly. LetsFly arranges financing, insurance, maintenance, etc., even creates a Web site with online scheduling for each co-op. "EAA and LetsFly share the same goal, to make LSA affordable for everyone," Corry said, "so it makes sense for us to team up." EAA will feature LetsFly on its Web site and will help promote its services, and LetsFly will extend free EAA memberships to all of its pilots. Pilots can construct a co-op around any type of aircraft they like, from production singles to homebuilts or experimental LSAs. The initial investment would remain the same but the monthly and hourly rates would vary. For example, Corry said, a brand-new Grumman Tiger would cost $595 a month and about $55 to $60 per hour. But a kitplane like the E-LSA Sky Ranger, which sells for around $30,000 new, would run about $50 a month and only $19 to $20 per hour.

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True Flight

On The Fly...

More images from Oshkosh AirVenture 2005:

A unique formation flight (or maybe they're models), some unbelievable paint jobs, and a few other things you don't see every day.

The Honda/GE HF118 turbofan (jet not included) and Innodyn 200 hp turbine ... maybe you can tell them apart.

A walk around GlobalFlyer

A walk through AeroShell Square -- plus a Cirrus Avidyne panel in action

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 newstips@avweb.com. You're a part of our team ... often, the best part.

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WSI Weather

AVweb's Business AVflash

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Sponsor News and Special Offers

Access to AVweb and AVflash is provided by the support of our fine sponsors. We appreciate your patronage.

Do you have something you've been dying to say to our editors, contributors, or staff?  Many of them will be on hand at AirVenture 2005 — plus a few expert consultants from our sister publications like Aviation Consumer and Aviation Safety.  To make our staffers easy to find, we're locking them down to one-hour booth shifts.  So if there's someone you've been dying to talk to, just print out this schedule and bring it with you to the show:  http://www.avweb.com/sponsors/osh2005/meet
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Visit CO Guardian at AirVenture Booth #3064
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