September 11, 2005
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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The bad news is, you've likely seen the price of avgas zipping upward in the last two weeks, but the good news is, that upward trend seems to have topped out, and by the end of last week many prices were starting to backslide a bit. Paulo Santos, who has been tracking GA fuel costs for eight years at AirNav.com, told AVweb last week that although prices now are the highest he's seen, "At a few FBOs we are now seeing some softening." He cited several examples of FBOs charging $4.50 and up for 100LL midweek that were down to $3.99 by Friday, while some highs still topped $6.00. Overall, of 1,617 FBOs reporting, prices per gallon were up an average of 39.4 cents over two weeks, Santos said. Prices went up $1 or more at 64 FBOs, and the largest increase was $1.69. Prices are changing all the time, but as of Friday the highest price was at Teterboro, just outside New York City, where 100LL was selling for $6.41. But bargains could be found. The lowest prices are hard to track, Santos said, because generally they're found at remote, rural airfields, but he's pretty confident that the $2.60 at Winnsboro, Texas, (F51) is among the very lowest in the country. "It's certainly a lot cheaper than car gas just about anywhere," he said.
"U.S. pilots don't appreciate how good life is to them," CFI Juergen Boettcher wrote to AVweb last week. "In Germany we are presently paying more than $9 per gallon of avgas. Most of that is taxes, of course." Another way to look at the price hike is as just one factor in overall operating costs. "If you are currently paying $4 for a gallon of avgas 100LL, and your price leaps [by 50 percent] to $6, your overall expense will increase only by plus-or-minus 11 percent, approximately," Jeremy Cox, an aircraft mechanic, wrote recently on GlobalAir.com. If that's cold comfort, advice on fuel-saving methods abounds. Pilots can fly slower, carry less weight, keep the airframe clean and waxed, and try to keep routes as direct and efficient as possible. There are more creative solutions afoot. One more creative, if more complex, approach -- lobby your state legislature for tax relief. It seems to be working for the NASCAR folks. If a bill now pending is passed, the motor-sport teams would be exempted from North Carolina state taxes on avgas used to travel to races.
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Many who are trying to offer help to the devastated Gulf region are still grounded. Dr. Aziz Kamali, a family practitioner in Stockton, Calif., mobilized a volunteer group of 20 nurses willing to donate 7 to 10 days of vacation time to help out. Angel Flight America is ready and willing to fly them there, but having gone through "proper channels" as of Friday, Kamali still couldn't get the OK to leave. The Louisiana governor's office has told him, "'We don't know where to put you and how to use you,'" Kamali told The Stockton Record. They said they'll get back to him. Dave Pechan, an Angel Flight pilot, told the Record that he was grounded for a week, ready and willing, but unable to get approval to fly. An agreement was signed in August with the Department of Homeland Security saying that pilots could be deployed within two hours of a disaster, but when the hurricane struck, that didn't seem to help.
Despite beauracratic obstacles, hundreds of volunteer pilots and their GA aircraft are contributing to the relief effort. Civil Air Patrol pilots who live in Mississippi fly all day and return at night to homes damaged by the storm. "These people have drawn on some inner strength to get the job done," says Maj. Owen Younger, who is overseeing operations in Jacksonville, Miss. CAP cadets are helping out on the ground, checking on victims and handing out thousands of pounds of basic supplies. Even the vintage aircraft of the Commemorative Air Force are helping. A CAF R4D (a Navy version of the DC-3) based in Lancaster, Texas, has been delivering freight from Austin to Hammond, La. Most of the crew flying the 60-plus-year-old airplane are age 70 and over. Angel Flight has kept busy with over 1,000 supply runs and relocation flights. LifeLine Pilots have been filling in for the regular Angel Flight missions. More pilots keep volunteering -- LifeLine alone signed up 14 pilots in the last week. From Friday, Sept. 2 through Monday, Sept. 5, more than 200 civilian and military aircraft safely coordinated by Operation Air Care evacuated nearly 20,000 people, while bringing in relief supplies.
The FAA said on Friday that all airports in the region are operating, with the exception of New Orleans Lakefront Airport, which was still under water. Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) and Stennis International Airport in Bay St. Louis, Miss., are open only to relief efforts, and several other fields are restricted to daytime and/or VFR only. Over the Labor Day weekend, MSY was one of the nation's top five busiest airports, with 3,300 flights per day, four times the usual traffic. The disaster is also having an impact on aviation events scheduled for the area. NBAA has moved its annual meeting from New Orleans to Orlando. And a Stearman event has been cancelled. NBAA's convention now will be held Nov. 9 to 11, a week earlier than originally scheduled. And the annual Stearman fly-in in Jennings, La., scheduled for Sept. 28 to Oct. 1, will not take place.
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The FAA last year fined the city of Chicago $33,000 for its destruction of Meigs Field, and now it is time to pay up. On Aug. 31, the FAA notified the city that the fine is due in 15 days, unless a hearing is requested. The FAA is also investigating whether the city improperly used $1.5 million in federal funds to demolish the lakefront airport, The Chicago Tribune reported last week. That money was derived from grants and airline passenger taxes and was supposed to be used for repairs at O'Hare Airport. The FAA could order the city to repay the money or impose penalties of up to $4.5 million, the Tribune said.
Pilots flying in the New York City area this month will be affected by multiple flight restrictions during events surrounding the 60th anniversary of the United Nations, starting tomorrow and extending through Sept. 28. The restrictions will include two TFRs, a Flight Restricted Zone with a special set of restrictions, and an outer ring designated as the New York Area Defense Identification Zone, with its own set of restrictions. The restrictions will affect traffic to at least 16 airports. For more details, check NOTAMs. Also, AOPA has posted a plain-language interpretation. And since NOTAMs change, be sure to check again before flying into the area.
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An engineer working with the "Silent Aircraft Initiative" said in Dublin Friday that advanced airliner designs using a blended-wing body could be flying within 20 years, and would create less noise than background traffic levels. Speaking at the British Association for the Advancement of Science's annual festival, aerospace engineer Tom Reynolds, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said researchers are also experimenting with ways to make current aircraft quieter (which may one day help keep more airports open). Flight tests will start next year to try out a new, steeper landing approach that would limit the amount of time planes spend at low altitudes. "It's really a win-win from an operational point of view because you get less noise and less fuel burn at low altitude," Reynolds said. Once the engines are throttled back for landing, about half the noise comes from the flow of air over the airframe, Reynolds said. Some solutions that the team is exploring include putting the engines above the aircraft so the body of the plane itself shields the ground from noise; embedding them in long ducts, muffled with acoustic liners, to reduce the noise; and designing an advanced engine. The Silent Aircraft Initiative is a consortium of researchers from Cambridge University in England and MIT.
A new NTSB study of weather-related GA aviation accidents, which AVweb told you about last week, could potentially lead to costly and complex regulation, AOPA has warned. "The NTSB study itself helps highlight the need for ongoing pilot training, but some of its conclusions raise serious concerns," said AOPA President Phil Boyer in a news release on Friday. "If the FAA were to implement any of the recommendations, pilots could be faced with burdensome new requirements that might not significantly improve safety." Several of the study's nine recommendations, such as giving flight instructors access to pilots' records, are of concern, AOPA said. "As always, we will work with the FAA to make sure that whatever is done truly benefits pilots and their safety," said Boyer, and meets a reasonable test in terms of cost and complexity.
A NEW RELEASE OF THE BEST AVIATION WEATHER SERVICE FOR CELL PHONES
WSI Corp.'s Pilotbrief Pro product line of weather information services for the cockpit now offers integrated FAA flight plan submission capability, the company announced last week. Using a WSI system, pilots will now be able to plot a flight route, evaluate the impact of weather on their flight and, with one click, file their flight plan for approval with the FAA. The upgrade is available free to all current Pilotbrief Pro and Pro Online customers. "With the addition of flight plan submission, pilots can quickly turn a route briefing into a filed flight plan -- a great convenience and time saver," said Arlo Gambell, WSI director of aviation services. Pilots using the system can combine route information from their briefing with stored profile information to more easily generate the form, WSI said.
UP Aerospace, of Connecticut, will be the first company to launch a rocket from New Mexico's Southwest Regional Spaceport, in March 2006. "This launch will be a brilliant signal flare that will let the nation and the world know New Mexico's spaceport is open for business," New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson announced last week. (We'll keep our eyes to the Mojave skies for unexpected developments.) UP Aerospace will launch its SpaceLoft rocket on a suborbital flight carrying seven experimental and commercial payloads for a variety of scholastic and business groups. After traveling into space, the rocket and its payloads will land in the downrange area of the Spaceport. Three launches are planned for 2006, 12 for 2007 and up to 30 in 2008. "This is a milestone event in the history of aerospace," said Eric Knight, CEO of UP Aerospace. "For the first time in all of space flight, a facility is now available for regularly scheduled, private space launches. ... the 'final frontier' is now open to everyone." The company has said it can offer access to space for as little as $25,000.
ATTENTION, BARON AND CESSNA 310 OWNERS NEWS FROM McCAULEY!
English was the only language shared by the German captain and Cypriot co-pilot of the Helios 737 that crashed Aug. 14 near Athens, and they had trouble understanding each other as they tried to interpret a confusing series of alarms in the cockpit during climbout, The International Herald Tribune reported last week. Citing unnamed sources close to the investigation, the Tribune also reported that a maintenance crew that worked on the aircraft the night before the flight left a pressurization controller rotary knob out of place, and the crew didn't notice it during preflight checks. Also, Boeing sent a notice to airlines saying it will revise its manuals to stress to crews what the various alarms mean and how to respond to them, the Tribune said. The same horn warns of a takeoff-configuration problem if it sounds on the ground and a cabin-altitude warning if it sounds in the air.
After the pilots lost consciousness in the cockpit, the autopilot flew the airplane to Athens where it entered a holding pattern, as it had been programmed, and flew there until it ran out of fuel and crashed. As the probe into the crash continues, Cypriot officials said they will fly to London to interview a British maintenance worker who left Cyprus after the crash. He feared for his safety if he returned to Cyprus for the inquiry, according to the Times of London. The official report is not expected for at least six months.
NATCA says the FAA is deliberately slowing the pace of contract negotiations, being "disruptive and counterproductive..."
The FAA is testing new wind shear-detection technology at Las Vegas airport...
Federal prosecutors have sued American Airlines for $1 million, alleging the airline failed to investigate a fuel leak detected by an FAA inspector on a flight in 2003...
Chelton Flight Systems will provide glass-cockpit systems for Bell Helicopter's 407 light single-engine helicopter...
The Flight 93 Memorial Project has chosen a design for a permanent memorial at the site of the crash...
Sino Swearingen has wrapped another flight-test phase for its SJ30 light jet and hopes for FAA certification this year.
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AVmail: September 12, 2005
Reader mail this week about user New York controllers, New Jersey FSS, your GPS and more.
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From The CFI #9: Mentor, Mentor, Who Has The Mentor?
Some pilots like to tell horror stories of times they got themselves out of trouble with their great stick skills. But the older pilots sitting thoughtfully to the side, chuckling at the boasting, are the ones you might want to seek out and hear their experiences. AVweb's Linda Pendleton has thoughts about mentors in this month's column.
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DA40 DIAMOND STAR A FLEET FAVORITE
Falling on deaf ears...
Airline: New York Center, Bizmumble 123, inbound from across the pond. How are you today?
Center: Well ... I'm working on a holiday.
Airline (indignantly): You're barkin' up the wrong tree, buddy.
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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