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September 4, 2005

NewsWire Complete Issue

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
This issue of AVweb's AVflash is brought to you by ... Pilot Insurance Center (PIC)

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General Aviation Pilots And Katrina -- The Important Links

  • The FAA's listing of airport status is available, here
  • New TFRs are also available online.
  • Rol Morrow, Chairman, Air Care Alliance contacted AVweb stating, "useful information along with the only listing of all known volunteer pilot organizations is available on the Air Care Alliance website.
  • The National Air Transportation Association has compiled a resource page, which offers information about aviation and jet fuel prices and shortages resulting from the hurricane, operational information for airports in the affected areas, opportunities to assist in the airlifting of supplies and aid workers, and much more. Find it, here.
  • For those unable to physically lend aid, vacation-home owners willing to donate their properties to families devastated by the storm are being urged by Gail Pinckney of Vacation Rentals for Families to list the location and duration the property will be available. Phone contact is listed as 770-939-0396 and email at grp315@att.net
  • Vacation Rentals for Families also told AVweb they are organizing free air transportation for refugees. Private aircraft owners (six seats or more, only) interested in the effort may visit the organization's web site or call 678-799-1628 for details. The group will be organizing free relief airlift flights for affected families (from airfields close to the damaged areas in Louisiana and Mississippi) to relocate victim families to the donated homes.
  • Avemco Insurance Company, the country’s only direct writer of general aviation insurance, has claims adjusters ready to respond to claims resulting from Hurricane Katrina. The company has issued a release available, here.
  • Aviation Coast Guard Auxiliary is always looking for volunteer aviators and those already trained have been mobilized and is at work.
  • Check NOTAMS online withe the FAA.
  • Updates from New Orleans are avialable via Nola.com.
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In His Own Words: One Katrina Aid Pilot…

Smaller Communities Desperately Need Hurricane Help

GA is being called upon to help thousands of people who seem forgotten in the hurricane relief effort. Dozens of small communities in the path of Hurricane Katrina have been virtually cut off for a week. "One of our planes was diverted to Poplarville, Miss., yesterday and it's a city of 40,000 people that's had no water and no food for a week," said Doug Towns, a volunteer pilot for Angel Flight Georgia. "The sheriff there said people are dying every day." Angel Flight was planning to send three aircraft packed with essential supplies to Poplarville on Sunday but there are undoubtedly numerous other smaller communities in the same situation. Thomas Marino, a volunteer coordinator for GA efforts in Baton Rouge, told AVweb that pilots who want to help should just pick an airport, load up their plane with food, water, and medical and baby supplies and go there. "Chances are they're going to be welcomed with open arms," Marino told AVweb. (Your mileage may vary -- there may be very little ground support, or fuel. Call ahead.) "I think we could really do some good there." Of course, pilots must respect the TFRs that are restricting GA operations in many areas but Marino said there are plenty of hard-hit areas not under the TFRs. Towns told AVweb he flew a mission into Baton Rouge from Atlanta on Saturday and he was glad that he had a strapping university basketball player along for the ride. "It is a little chaotic. There's very little ground support," he said. Towns said he and his passenger had to unload their Piper Meridian and he said there's concern that supplies arriving in Baton Rouge are not getting where they are needed. Towns flew the big turboprop back to Atlanta empty while thousands of refugees are looking for a lift out of the area. He said the Red Cross is refusing to allow anyone to leave on the volunteer aircraft unless they can prove they have a place to stay at the other end.

...Volunteer Groups Take Flight...

Angel Flight Georgia spokeswoman Jeanine Biron said at least 50 volunteer aircraft are already involved and the need will expand. Interested pilots (who must be IFR-rated) can call 770-452-7958, ext. 0 to register and should have their documentation in front of them. Gail Pinckney, a spokeswoman for Brother's Keeper, a group operating out of Atlanta Dekalb-Peachtree Airport, said the group is also accepting volunteers who can register online or by phone at 770-939-0396. It's currently only accepting aircraft with six seats or more. Brother's Keeper grew (with help from your response to Thursday's mention in AVweb) from Pinckney's original plan to match homeless families with vacant vacation homes, mostly in Florida. Biron said volunteer pilots have already flown tons of relief supplies, as well as medical and emergency personnel, into the ravaged areas and brought refugees out. Her group is working directly with the Louisiana Department of Emergency Preparedness, which she said has been impressed by the effectiveness of the volunteer pilot effort. Pinckney told AVweb that her group's initial flight went out on Saturday night and at least 25 were planned for Sunday. She also said that numerous vacation home owners have offered their properties and refugees brought out on Sunday's flights will be matched up with suitable accommodation.

...But Could Do So Much More...

While GA is making a difference in the massive humanitarian effort, much more could be done if government authorities would simply tap the huge resource at its fingertips. "Literally thousands of pilots are members of volunteer pilot organizations and many wish to help," Rol Murrow, head of the Air Care Alliance, told AVweb on Sunday. "However the magnitude of the disaster and terrible communications, combined with well-intentioned attempts to control traffic, have slowed utilization of the volunteer groups." Morrow said some groups have found roles in the relief effort but the vast majority of work is being done by government aircraft and a valuable resource is being underutilized. "General Aviation is uniquely capable of meeting needs for point-to-point transportation for relief workers and supplies, and for patients needing transport out of affected areas," he said. "There's a phenomenal amount of capacity. Small planes are so much more flexible."

...Ending With Frustration For Some

Although the situation at the smaller airports is likely different, volunteer pilots who show up without a game plan in Baton Rouge are likely to be disappointed. Marino said a lot of well-meaning volunteers who arrived unannounced have left in frustration. "You see these people coming in with the best of intentions just stopped cold," he said. Marino said he's been overwhelmed by the generosity and willingness of people in the GA community to help out but they must make some previous arrangements if they want to be part of the main relief effort. He agreed that communications and general coordination aren't what they should be. "It is chaotic but it is improving," he said. As officials get a handle on the situation, he said he expects operations to run more smoothly and for help to get where it's needed.


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Operation Air Care…

Largest-Ever Airlift Under Way

It's being billed as the largest airlift in U.S. history and it's bringing relief to tens of thousands of Hurricane Katrina's victims. Operation Air Care swung into high gear over the weekend, with dozens of commercial airliners, flying VFR, bringing tons of food, clothing, medical supplies and other necessities to storm-ravaged New Orleans. Then, the planes are loading up with passenger to take them to refugee centers as far away as Chicago. "Starting virtually from scratch, we've worked to put together the largest air lift on U.S. soil in history to get supplies in and take people out of New Orleans," said Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta. "We are going to keep at this for as long as necessary to make sure we get as many people safely out of New Orleans by air as possible." Before the airlift could begin, Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport had to be put back in useable condition. Immediately after the storm, only one runway was useable and just barely. DOT personnel cleared two runways, rounded up generators, set up a temporary tower, got satellite communications going and put runway, taxiway and ramp lighting back online to get the airport operational. It's still VFR only, however, and there are reports that fixed-wing aircraft are not allowed in the area after dark.

...Cash-Strapped Airlines Donate Planes...

Of course, without the planes, the airlift would be impossible and the Air Transport Association gets the credit for organizing the aircraft. Member airlines, many of them on the ropes financially, have pitched in with only vague assurances that some of their costs, such as fuel, might be covered. Crews are flying voluntarily and company executives are also helping out. "This extraordinary civilian airlift is unprecedented in U.S. history and is a shining example of how America can come together to help those in need," ATA President James May told The Associated Press. However, even in the midst of catastrophe, security is not taking a back seat. Some of the first flights into New Orleans carried Transportation Security Administration screeners, air marshals and law enforcement officers. May said screening the refugees is necessary because they are under stress and some have guns.

...TFRs Everywhere

The airspace around New Orleans and the Gulf coast is complicated, crowded and no place for aircraft that don't have a role in the relief effort. That's the clear message being sent by the federal government as the evacuation, rescue and resupply missions escalate. There are new TFRs up for New Orleans and the Mississippi coast and any civilian aircraft operating within them must be in contact with airborne early warning aircraft now patrolling the area. The whole area now falls under the Joint Task Force Katrina Airspace Control Plan, which is a combined effort between the military and FAA to keep planes from hitting each other. The flying gets even more complicated on Monday when President Bush visits Baton Rouge. A presidential TFR, with a 10-nm inner circle no-fly zone and a 30-nm outer ring with flight plan and transponder requirements will be in force from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. local time. Scheduled passenger flights and cargo aircraft will be able to use Baton Rouge during that time but the airport will be off limits to other aircraft, including those taking part in the relief effort.


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Avgas Supplies Steady

While automotive gasoline has been in short supply in some areas, because of hurricane-related refinery closures, the supply of avgas seems secure. In fact, one of the major producers of avgas, the Exxon Mobile plant in Baton Rouge, is running at full capacity and ensuring an ample supply of fuel for the hundreds of airplanes staging out of the Baton Rouge airport, which is right next door. While supply doesn't seem to be a problem, paying for the fuel is getting more unpleasant every day. Like car gas, the price of avgas is skyrocketing in the aftermath of Katrina as oil markets respond to the tightened supply caused by the hurricane (never mind that the fuel being sold now was refined long before the storm hit). And there's speculation the corresponding hike in jet fuel prices will be the final straw for some cash-strapped airlines. Although the airlines are adding fuel surcharges to tickets being sold now, most of the flights are filled with people who bought tickets well in advance and didn't pay the extra charges. Meanwhile the International Air Transportation Association is calling on air traffic control providers to tighten up their operations so aircraft don't have to waste fuel. "Every drop of unneeded fuel burn and every cent of unnecessary expense is simply not tolerable," Giovanni Bisignani, IATA's CEO, said in a statement. He said for every dollar increase in the price of a barrel of oil, airline costs go up by about $1 billion.

New York Controllers Get "Retrained"

Some of the FAA's most experienced and capable air traffic controllers are going back to school. The agency has mounted a massive retraining program for 220 controllers at the New York Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) in Westbury to curb a rash of operational errors, some of which might be attributable to controllers being overconfident and taking shortcuts, according to the agency. "We found that there's been a New York way of doing business," Bruce Johnson, the FAA's vice president of terminal services, told Newsday. Johnson also noted that the errors spiked after the agency imposed a new schedule aimed at slashing overtime at the facility. Since July 10, when the new schedule went into effect, there have been 21 operational errors, 15 of them in the high-moderate, or second most serious, category. Before that, the average was about two a month. The National Air Traffic Controllers Association said the new schedule results in understaffing, which results in errors. Johnson disagrees. He said the common thread in the recent spate of accidents was lack of awareness or incorrect procedures. Controllers will spend two days in the classroom and a day on a simulator to refresh them on the basics of air traffic control.


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Touchy PM Triggers Airborne Political Storm

Take a wisecracking pilot, a cranky prime minister and a planeload of impatient passengers (some of them the PM's political rivals) and you get a political scandal, New Zealand style. There's no equivalent of Air Force One for New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark so she flies commercial. On a recent Air New Zealand flight to Christchurch, the PM was among the last few passengers to board and the pilot quipped that it was not the way to show support for the national airline. Most passengers took it for the joke that it was. But not Clark and her cronies. She went to the cockpit to give the pilot a prime ministerial dressing-down and the pilot went on the PA system to apologize, to the amazement and bemusement of the other passengers. Clark insisted she wasn't the last to board and it wasn't her fault the plane was delayed. "I said I felt that the comments were unfair and that I had not held up the plane. I accepted his apology and, for my part, I leave it there," Clark told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. The little fracas might have stayed within the aluminum tube but for the fact it contained dozens of other politicians and about half the country's political press corps. And now Clark is being criticized for her "bossy boots" reaction to the pilot's comments and her political foes are mocking her thin skin. "The Prime Minister of this country ought to be a little less arrogant," said Opposition Leader Dr. Don Brash. "I feel sorry for the pilot. He obviously got a flea in his ear from the prime minister." The pilot was also suspended for two days and the airline made a public apology. In Clark's defense, being the prime minister of New Zealand comes with some irritations that no U.S. president will ever have to endure. Imagine the president's motorcade being pulled over by the police and his driver charged with dangerous driving. It happened to Clark a couple of weeks ago as her police driver raced to get her to a rugby match on time.

AOPA Wants Field Approval Process Streamlined

AOPA says the field approval process needs to be changed to stop months-long delays in the installation of new navigation gear on airplanes. A shortage of FAA inspectors means those who want the latest stuff on their panel can wait a long time before it's legal to switch it on. AOPA says the agency has put field inspections of private aircraft alterations low on the priority list and it's preventing pilots from using the latest and greatest improvements in navigation and situational awareness. AOPA is suggesting that mechanics be able to sign off on these types of installations as long as the plane is unpressurized and weighs less than 12,500 pounds. "Advances in aviation technology benefit pilots by providing better situational awareness and ultimately enhancing safety and utility for general aviation," said AOPA's Melissa Rudinger. "AOPA believes that streamlining the approval process will allow for easier safety-enhancing alterations to be made on general aviation aircraft."

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NTSB Wants RJ Ailerons Checked

The NTSB is asking the FAA to require more frequent inspections of aileron linkages on Bombardier regional jets after its investigation of a 2003 incident in which the crew briefly lost control of an RJ and had to make an emergency landing. The NTSB looked at 79 aircraft similar to the CL-600-2B19 in the incident and found that 19 percent of the planes had too much slop in their aileron linkages. The FAA currently requires inspections every 4,000 hours.

Avenger Wreckage Found In Lake

After a two-year search, a dive team has found the shattered wreck of a TBF-1 Avenger torpedo bomber on the murky bottom of Clear Lake in northern California. The discovery could end 60 years of discomfort for 96-year-old Morton Pinz, whose younger brother Lt. Robert Pinz was flying the plane. The body of radio operator David Herget washed ashore a few days after the crash on Dec. 4, 1944, but the Pinz family was always distressed that the pilot's body was never recovered. The body still hasn't been located but divers may return to the wreck to see if it's there. The wreckage is scattered over about 2,000 feet and the largest piece is about the size of a truck tailgate, according to local potato farmer John Prosser, who led the search. A private research vessel with a side search sonar located the wreck, along with three divers from the Klamath Falls, Ore., police department.

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On The Fly...

The National Business Aviation Association has moved its annual convention to Orlando. The meeting was to have taken place in New Orleans. The convention will be held at the Orange County Convention Center Nov. 9 to Nov. 11, a week earlier than originally planned, with aircraft displays at Orlando Executive Airport...

Seawind has chosen the FADEC-controlled Continental IO-550-N to power its soon-to-be-certified high-performance amphibian. Seawind President Dick Silva said the engine gives extra takeoff power, which will improve water performance and may be certified for 94-octane auto fuel. Seawind is hoping for certification of the amphib by the end of the year...

Telex Communications has added a new cellphone and music source adaptor for its Stratus 50-D headsets that enables pilots to switch from one source to the other without unplugging cords.

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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Reader feedback on AVweb's news coverage and feature articles:

AVmail: September 5, 2005
Reader mail this week about user fees, airport security, the D.C. ADIZ and much and more.

New Articles and Features on AVweb

The Pilot's Lounge #91: To Fly; Perchance To Starve
In the minds of many of the "great unwashed," general aviation is the realm of the very rich. After looking into the cost of getting a Private Pilot certificate, some potential student pilots might tend to agree. AVweb's Rick Durden tries to bring those costs down in this month's column.

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Short Final...

All in a day's work...

I was working at LAN FSS prompting a new student through the flight plan form. When we got to the bottom fo the form I asked the student, "Number on board and color."

Student: One white male.

Sponsor News and Special Offers

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We Welcome Your Feedback!

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

Letters to the editor intended for publication in AVmail should be sent to mailto:editor@avweb.com.com. Have a comment or question? Send it to mailto:newsteam@avweb.com.

Today's issue written by News Writer Russ Niles:
AVweb's editorial team: http://avweb.com/contact/authors.html.

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Freedom, independence, responsibility.

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