August 7, 2005
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
|This issue of AVweb's AVflash is brought to you by ... Pilot Insurance Center (PIC)
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Well, as the old saying goes, everything is for sale and that apparently includes the HondaJet. Days after the (relatively) innovative aircraft went on display at EAA AirVenture, word from Honda's head office is that it might offer a certificated version of the aircraft. First sales "will be in at least two to three years," Honda President Takeo Fukui is quoted as saying by company spokesman Shigeki Endo. Endo said someone at Oshkosh put a deposit on an airplane ... despite Honda's assertions that it wasn't planning to go into the airplane business. The huge amount of attention garnered by the jet, with its wing pylon-mounted engines, may have had something to do with what appears to be a sudden change of heart. The plane always had a crowd around it in Aeroshell Square and it had some pretty stiff competition for the rubberneckers. It shared center stage with GlobalFlyer and SpaceShipOne, and Cessna's new Mustang was only a short walk away.
As we reported from the show, Honda officials repeated their long-held position that the airplane was merely a test bed for the engine it has developed. The HF118 turbofan is said to be more efficient than comparable (about 1,700 pounds thrust) engines and Honda has partnered with General Electric in its development. But now Honda is even talking price for the jet, including a low-end ballpark of less than $1million up to a (perhaps more realistic) $2.7 million. If the airframe was, indeed, simply a support system for the engine development, there were some coincidental performance milestones reached. The patented engine mounts, similar to those used on a few other designs, are claimed by Honda to increase performance by 5 percent. They also free up cabin space by eliminating the need for the mounting hardware, plumbing and electrical services in the rear of the fuselage. Add to that the test pilot's opinion that it's a sporty, responsive and easy-to-fly aircraft and it sounds a lot like a very light jet in the making.
Not long ago (a little over a week ago) the HondaJet was strictly a technology demonstrator ... or so Honda would have us believe. As recently as AirVenture 2005 Honda Aero representatives told
that the HondaJet was built to be carried by the GE/Honda engines, supposedly the only part of the jet that would be commercially marketed. Those same representatives said that Honda was in search of a manufacturer capable of matching the innovation of the GE/Honda engine with an equally innovative airframe. Apparently Honda has found that in itself. AVweb readers may recall that Honda in years past has made waves in the piston engine arena as well, but just as quickly as the engine was introduced, it faded away ... or so it seemed. Asked point blank at AirVenture 2005, company representatives told AVweb, "The piston engine is still alive. It's still in the research and development phase ... we're very conservative." Secretive and uncommunicative were other words that came to mind, but Honda prides itself on being a highly innovative, highly competitive company and likely holds its cards close to the vest -- even within the ranks. At least the company's highly competitive nature may ultimately benefit us all. (Think Honda vs. Toyota aviation piston engine development showdown.) That said, we were told that the Honda piston engine will be introduced ... when the company is convinced it will stand out from the pack -- both due to its performance and the airframe to which its mated. And (today) that sounds oddly familiar.
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The Department of Homeland Security's enduring belief that terror could come from the sky in the form of light GA aircraft is behind the FAA's proposal to permanently establish restricted airspace around Washington, D.C. In the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), the FAA says the DHS has "no specific information that terrorist groups are currently planning to use general aviation aircraft" in attacks, but that doesn't mean it won't happen. According to the NPRM, al Qaeda has hatched several plans to use GA aircraft in attacks and the Sept. 11 plan originally used light aircraft until Osama bin Laden upped the ante. "Based on this and other information, the DHS believes that GA aircraft may be vulnerable to targeting by terrorists for misuse," the NPRM reads. The DHS's somewhat shadowy fears are backed up by a report in The Hindu, quoting "confidential U.S. government assessments" as saying that another attack from the air may be on the terrorists' drawing board. "Intelligence officials are also concerned that terrorists linked to al Qaeda or other terrorist groups may again turn to airplanes as a method of attack by sending operatives to flight training schools or using 'an increased number of operatives' in the aviation industry to evade tightened airport security measures," the newspaper said.
The FAA claims the extra burden on the aviation community associated with the permanent restrictions will be about $250 million over 10 years, almost all of it to cover the extra work of controllers and FAA administrative staff. It's estimated the direct cost to those using the 19 airports within the zone will be about $250,000 a year for the time used filing the mandatory flight plans. It also acknowledges that the three airports within the 15-mile inner circle of the zone face special costs that could push their annual costs to between $1.6 million and $2 million each. However, the FAA's financial assumptions are based on the current level of traffic and could be misleading, according to airport officials interviewed by the Washington Times. David Wartofsky, owner of Potomac Airfield in Fort Washington, said that if the restricted airspace becomes permanent, aircraft owners may move to airports outside the zone. "A lot of pilots hoped the restrictions on flight within the ADIZ would go away," said Wartofsky. "If it is made permanent, a lot of them will bail out and move their planes outside the border." Bob Hepp, owner of Aviation Adventure flight school at Manassas Regional Airport and Leesburg Executive, said he'll stay put. "We've learned to live with the procedures but I was still hoping they would go away," he said.
Although flight restrictions around D.C. and dozens of sensitive areas throughout the country have been a fact of life for four years, this will be the first opportunity for public input on them. "If there's a silver lining in all of this, it's that we will be inviting comment," said FAA spokesman Greg Martin. Until now, TFRs and other airspace restrictions have been unilaterally imposed (usually at the request of the DHS or the Secret Service), sometimes with only a few hours of notice. The proposal for making the Washington airspace restrictions permanent is going through the normal process of public scrutiny. Although it would seem unrealistic for any degree of public opposition to stop the process, there may be the opportunity to influence its imposition and impact. Anyone with specific ideas on how best to make it work better for aviation interests can send their comments electronically. Deadline for submission is Nov. 2
JA AIR CENTER, YOUR GARMIN GPSMAP 396 SOURCE, IS LOOKING
The Government Accountability Office says countries that have privatized air navigation services have cut costs and their safety records haven't suffered. The GAO looked at the private systems in Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand and the United Kingdom to see how they stacked up (no pun intended) and what it found could fuel debate in the U.S. as the FAA and its controllers go through a fractious round of contract negotiations. The report says that in all cases, safety records have stayed the same or improved since commercialization. In particular, Canada and New Zealand both report a reduction in the number of incidents of loss of separation. It also found that all five companies cut costs while investing in new technology, something the FAA seems to be having trouble with. It also notes that general aviation operators have seen user fees increase. The GAO also wanted to look at the pitfalls of commercialization and it found a few. For instance, during the recent airline downturn, some companies faced revenue shortfalls. The report said commercial air navigation service providers "must be prepared to mitigate the effects of an industry downturn, whether through reserves, higher fees, cost cutting or other measures."
Chinese officials are predicting general aviation will be worth $9 billion annually there in 10 years and western companies are now establishing ground-floor opportunities there. Diamond Aircraft, in partnership with Binzhou Degao General Aviation Co. in East China's Shandong Province, is set to start building DA40 aircraft with the first one rolling off the assembly line in October. The $200,000 USD aircraft are aimed at the burgeoning class of high income earners in China resulting from its economic revolution and it's not only piston singles that these folks are interested in, according to the China Daily. The news service quotes anonymous "insiders" who claim that the number of bizjets will increase from about 20 now to more than 600 in 10 years. "There are more private jets in the greater Los Angeles area than in the whole of China at the moment, but we expect it to be fast growing," said David Dixon, the regional representative for Bombardier Aerospace. Of course, for all this to come about, there must be training available and so far Beijing PanAm International Aviation Academy is the only authorized private flight school. Although private licenses have been authorized since 1996, there are only 130 private pilots in China.
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The transition from public to private operation of the flight service station system continues with high hopes for better service. AOPA President Phil Boyer said the program is on track to have Lockheed Martin take over the system as scheduled on Oct. 4. Lockheed Martin got the $1.9 billion contract in February and appeals by several other contenders have been rejected. Despite the controversy and doom-saying that has gone on, Boyer maintains the deal is a good one. "... We are convinced that this is the right thing at the right time for the benefit of GA pilots," he said. The contract includes performance guarantees that will ensure that phone calls to briefers will be answered within 20 seconds and radio calls within five seconds. Briefers will have system-wide access to weather and NOTAMs and pilots are guaranteed they'll get a briefer who knows local weather patterns and operations. AOPA is also warning there may be the usual start-up glitches during the transition and is asking that pilots report any problems to AOPA so they can be reported to the FAA and fixed.
Two men in a Cessna 152 died Thursday after the plane collided with a float-equipped Beaver near Renton, Wash., and plunged through the roof of a vacant elementary school. The Beaver, with five people aboard, was able to land safely. Both planes were headed to the Renton Airport. The pilot of the floatplane said the 152 struck the bottom of the Beaver and he did not see it. The smaller plane spiraled vertically into the ground, according to witnesses. The school was being torn down to make way for a new building and workers had left for the day. Witnesses said the Beaver was southbound and the 152 flying east when they collided. "I thought it (the Cessna) would go right underneath the seaplane," said Jesus Cellas. "I saw a little trail of smoke from the engine [and then it was] "spiraling straight down."
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AOPA says the FAA is cracking down on "illegal" charter, and what the agency considers against the rules might surprise you (or strike you as bizarre). "We know of crackdowns in at least two districts and that's prompted questions from members," said AOPA spokesman Woody Cahall. "They want to know what the FAA considers an illegal charter." Say, for instance, a couple of friends offer to pay the gas for a pilot to fly them in his plane. Technically, they've chartered the aircraft. Occupants of the plane are allowed to chip in for fuel and oil but only if the pilot pays an equal share. The rules get even stickier surrounding "training" flights. Simply having an instructor in the right seat does not make the flight instructional. If an inspector calls you on it, you'll have to show that the flight is appropriate for the skill level and training goals that you're working toward. For instance, a student pilot working on the cross-country phase of training would probably be allowed to pay for a flight with an instructor in another light single. But if the same flight was in a complex, high performance or twin-engine aircraft, it would be deemed a charter.
Combine landing 4,000 feet long on a wet runway with a tailwind and the result is what happened in Toronto last Tuesday, according to investigators. Canadian Transportation Safety Board investigators have practically ruled out a lightning strike and hydroplaning as contributing factors in the accident, which resulted in only minor injuries to a few of the 309 on board the Air France jet. Flight 583 ran off a runway in heavy rain at Pearson International Airport and caught fire in a ravine. Lead investigator Real Levasseur said the 5,000 feet of remaining runway would, under normal circumstances, been enough to bring the A340 to a stop. "Under [Tuesday's] conditions, I am pretty convinced that there was no way the aircraft was going to be able to stop before the end," Levasseur told a news conference. Meanwhile, the investigation is now focused on why two emergency slides failed to deploy from aircraft exits. Earlier reports said four of eight emergency exits failed to open but Levasseur told reporters that the cabin crew chose not to use two exits because of fire. However, when they opened two of the remaining six exits, the emergency slides that are supposed to automatically deploy failed to do so. Representatives of the slides' manufacturer are now taking part in the investigation. Investigators are getting good data from both the flight data and voice recorders and investigators hope to interview the plane's captain soon.
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Those involved in aviation in Australia are being asked to do their routine business with the Civil Aviation Safety Authority in August so the agency can spend the month of September revamping its database. The new database will hold all relevant information in one accessible place, making life easier -- after September...
A Mitsubishi MU-2 that crashed at Centennial Airport in Denver last Thursday was the second MU-2 to go down in less than a year there. The pilot and sole occupant was killed
At least 13 people died in the ditching of a Tunisian Tuninter ATR-72 off the coast of Sicily Saturday. Passengers said both engines quit before the pilot tried to make an emergency landing at Palermo.
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The Pilot's Lounge #90: State Aeronautics Commissions -- Fiddling While Airports Disappear?
It'd be nice if the people in charge of airports at the state level helped fight airport closures, given the importance of airports to a state's economy. But AVweb's Rick Durden just hasn't seen it happen and, in fact, has seen such commissions act in ways that will cause even more closures.
AVmail: August 8, 2005
Reader mail this week about user fees, Homeland Security restrictions of all types, digitally modified photos and much more.
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ATTENTION, CESSNA OWNERS AND PILOTS
During 1978 while working ground control, a C-152 from a neighboring airport's flight school was getting ready to depart. Prior to engine start the pilot called the tower and was informed, "Clearance on request, contact ATIS prior to taxi." The instruction prompted the following response...
Pilot: Cessna 1234 ready to taxi and we contacted Patrick ATIS ... but ... uh ... we couldn't get a word in edgewise.
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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