September 28, 2005
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
|This issue of AVweb's AVflash is brought to you by ... Sino Swearingen's SJ30-2
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The federal government is softening up the aviation community and public for a Canadian-style privatization of air traffic control, the president of the controllers union alleged Wednesday. John Carr, President of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), said the recent FAA public relations campaign alleging diminishing resources (particularly from the Airline and Airway Trust Fund) and rising costs is similar to the Canadian government's tactics in the 1990s that led to the formation of Nav Canada, the private company that now runs the airspace system and charges user fees on a cost-recovery basis. Carr alleged the FAA is "looking to the north" as it prepares for its reauthorization and the expiration of the trust fund in 2007. "The FAA's solution is user fees, privatization and contracting out," Carr told a telephone news conference on Wednesday. And NATCA will be bringing its views to a TV near you, very soon. Carr made his comments as the union launched its own PR campaign called Fly Us Safe, which will feature television and Internet ads pointing out what it says are dangerous deficiencies in the FAA's management of the system. Carr agreed that diminishing contributions from general revenue are partly to blame for the financial stress the FAA is under but he said the FAA doesn't seem to be fighting aggressively for more money from the administration. In recent statements, FAA Administrator Marion Blakey has said that there is now no link between the funding of the system and those who use it. But Carr said the airspace system is used by all Americans and they should all pay a share. He said there's a "fundamental debate about the federal government's role" in the airspace system and the union is ready to engage in that debate.
FAA chief spokesman Greg Martin said the agency's position on privatization is clear. "If we've said it once, we've said it a hundred times, we have no plans to privatize air traffic control," Martin said. (A different issue than user fees.) He said Blakey has two clear goals for her tenure. She wants to reduce the cost of the controllers' contract and create a "stable and sustainable" revenue stream for the agency. Martin said most of Carr's comments were "the same old rhetoric" that has been debated before. The agency recently asked the union to agree to speed up the current round of bargaining but Carr said Wednesday the union is happy with the current schedule. In response to NATCA allegations that the agency was dragging its feet with the negotiations, the FAA suggested five-day-a-week sessions in Washington. The current schedule calls for alternating two-week and one-week sessions with breaks between. Carr said the breaks are important to react to proposals from the other side and formulate new proposals to take to the table. He said the current schedule was agreed to last May and the union will stick to it.
Carr said the Fly Us Safe campaign (cost unknown) is aimed at educating the public on three main issues that threaten the safety of air travel. He said the ads will address what the union claims is a critical staffing shortage, poor progress on needed technological improvements and withering staff morale. He said that despite FAA promises to address staffing, the system is short 1,500 controllers and only 13 were hired last year. Martin pointed out that 1,250 will be hired next year. Carr said the FAA has cut technology programs and is slow to implement others and he also noted that a recent survey of government employees indicated that the FAA was the worst government department to work for. Carr drew parallels between the performance of federal agencies in response to Hurricane Katrina and what he said were looming dangers in aviation. "We can see new dangers on the horizon," he said. Carr noted that operational errors have increased at key FAA installations where staffing levels have been cut.
IN PRINT AND ONLINE, TRADE-A-PLANE GIVES YOU THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS
Its not-so-subtle nickname is the "Cirrus Killer" and, judging by the smoke signals coming from Cessna in the past couple of weeks, we may soon know something concrete about a new piston single the folks in Wichita hope will address a situation many would have regarded as unthinkable only a few years ago. At its current growth rate, Cirrus could very well become the world's largest manufacturer of piston singles. According to the General Aviation Manufacturers Association's first-half report for 2005, Cessna sold 301 piston singles while Cirrus sold 295. What's more, energized by new capital and an overhauled marketing department, Columbia Aircraft (the former Lancair Certified) is clearly in a race with Cirrus (and not Cessna, Piper or Raytheon) for a share of what could be described as a new light aircraft market. Add some other gadget and glass examples (Symphony and Liberty come to mind) and the dominance of the so-called Big Three becomes more questionable all the time.
Although it's been widely speculated that Cessna is working on a new model, it's not saying much (officially) at the moment. "I wouldn't expect anything on that for a long time," said Cessna spokesman Dick Ziegler. So why the buzz? Cessna CEO Jack Pelton recently drew the winning ticket in Sporty's Pilot Shop's annual sweepstakes and John Frank, the technical support director for the Cessna Pilots Association (CPA), got to talking to him. According to Frank's posting on the CPA's e-letter Pelton told him flat-out that a new airplane was in the works. "Cessna is totally committed to the single engine line," Frank quoted Pelton as saying. "The company will not let that market wither on the vine. We are working on new products." According to some trustworthy AVweb sources, it was Pelton who used the term "Cirrus Killer" in describing the new airplane. Frank said he thinks that's the first time Cessna has acknowledged working on a new single and others insist it couldn't have been a slip of the tongue.
Just what this new aircraft will be is, of course, the subject of much speculation. And here, Cessna's reputation of being able to keep secrets seems to be unchallenged. While some we talked to insist the "new" aircraft will simply be a modernized version of the same basic aluminum airplane, others are adamant that the company took a clean-sheet approach to the project and it will be a composite four-place with all the electronic bells and whistles. Something they do agree on, however, is that it will retain the high wing, although without struts. At one time, Cessna produced more than a dozen different singles before it shut down the line in the 1980s. Resumption of light plane production in the early 1990s revived only the 172, 182 and 206 models. Most recently, the designs, which date to the 1950s, have been outfitted with factory-installed glass cockpits.
Of course, no one is more interested in what a "Cirrus Killer" might be than those in Duluth. Cirrus VP of Marketing John Bingham said it's impossible to comment on what is now a phantom airplane but he's hoping Cessna goes ahead with the project. "I think it will be good for aviation and good for pilots," Bingham said. He said any time new products that enhance safety and performance are introduced, the industry as a whole benefits. Despite the moniker being used to describe the new Cessna, Bingham said Cirrus isn't running for cover. "We're confident about our position in the marketplace," he said. Besides, if the aircraft is anything but a remake of an existing model, there's plenty of time for Cirrus and other competitors to assess the threat. An all-composite high-wing would need a ground-up certification, which would most likely take two or more years. Bingham said that if Cessna goes with composite construction, it will be validation for Cirrus's decision to go to glass more than a decade ago ... let alone a whole-plane parachute system.
PUT YOUR AIRPLANE ON TELEVISION!
Even James Bond would have a hard time sorting this out. According to an Associated Press report (reprinted by numerous military publications), the U.S. Navy operated a small air force of private aircraft for use in clandestine operations. Among the 33 aircraft it contracted from 10 private companies were two Gulfstream bizjets widely reported to be used by U.S. intelligence officials to carry suspected terrorists to countries known to torture prisoners. The process is known as "rendition" and two countries, Sweden and Italy, that have had people plucked from within their borders for a flight south and east, are calling it a criminal act. The other aircraft pretty much cover the spectrum of mission capability and include an unspecified Cessna, three C-130s, several other bizjets, two Boeing 737s, a Dash 8 and even a DC-3. The Associated Press stumbled across the story when it got curious as to why the 10 companies received permits allowing their aircraft to land at any U.S. Navy base in the world. Some were also allowed to refuel. With a little digging, the AP made the link to the Navy Engineering Logistics Office, which many high-ranking Navy officials either know little about or aren't saying much about. And, of course, when the names appearing on the aircraft documents were run down by the AP, none of the people seemed to actually exist.
We can't remember the last time the FAA handed out new ratings without requiring additional training but thousands of airline first officers should be lining up for the new paper, but only if they fly internationally. According to the National Air Transportation Association, the agency has started issuing second-in-command (SIC) type ratings to right-seaters on overseas routes. Now, as everyone knows, a first officer has all the qualifications to fly the aircraft that the pilot handling the controls has (although he or she might not have as much experience). However, some member countries of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) want to see it in writing. The ICAO, of which the U.S. is a member, has regulations stating that pilots working as second in command must have the appropriate type rating. Even though training qualifications for U.S. pilots exceed the requirements for the ICAO SIC type rating, some member countries have given U.S. crews grief for not having their documents in order. NATA says it should be a paperwork exercise only for qualified pilots and the forms must be filled out in time to get the rating no later than June 6, 2006. Pilots who are sure they'll be staying on this side of the pond need not bother.
WATCH IT NOW: LIGHTSPEED'S MACH 1 HEADSET VIDEO IS ONLINE
The FAA says its air traffic control computers are hack resistant in part because they're so old. The Government Accountability Office released a report this week saying the FAA's systems are vulnerable to cyber-attack because the agency hasn't finished implementing information security programs. The report says that while progress has been made in protecting the systems, "it still has significant weaknesses that threaten the integrity, confidentiality and availability of its systems." The FAA contends that hackers wouldn't know where to begin to crack the codes in some of the decades-old hardware that is still in use. The agency says that because the systems are custom-built with proprietary software and special-purpose operating systems, it would take a talented hacker to break in. And while the GAO acknowledges that, it also reminds the FAA that there's nothing to stop a disgruntled employee (and there seems to be no shortage of them) from causing havoc. Government Computer News reported that the FAA is taking the GAO's report under advisement but that it doesn't consider the report to be indicative of the security of the systems.
Pilots in New Jersey say the decision to close an automated flight service station (AFSS) -- the building's roof collapsed last month -- will cause safety concerns. The Millville AFSS was scheduled to close in six to 18 months as part of the consolidation of flight service facilities under Lockheed Martin's contract, which takes effect Oct. 4. But the building damage has prompted the company to move up the closure and pilots claim that's hurting service. Wait times for briefings average 20 to 30 minutes according to pilots who have contacted AVweb. The closure will also leave 23 radio frequencies unmonitored during the transition, something the National Association of Air Traffic Specialists says is dangerous. The early closure is also taking its toll on workers. Those who have already accepted jobs with Lockheed Martin at other facilities are being told they have two weeks to report while those who didn't get new jobs will lose up to 18 months of income. "There are people who work there who cannot move because of family situations," said union representative Ron Consalvo.
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South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds is defending his use of government aircraft (which he frequently flies himself) to attend, among other things, his son's high school basketball games, saying he always makes sure some state business gets done at the same time if taxpayers are picking up the tab. Now, according to an Associated Press report, South Dakota is one of seven states that doesn't mind if its elected officials mix a little pleasure with business when they take to the skies as long as taxpayers aren't on the hook for it. But the cozy deal that Rounds has with something called the Governor's Club, a private fund of political contributors, might raise some eyebrows at the FAA. When Rounds, for instance, flew to Las Vegas twice in 2004 for Republican Party events, the Governor's Club paid the $12,760 tab. But the state's three aircraft are registered under Part 91 and collecting money for a point-to-point flight by someone not on state business would seem to be a Part 135 activity. Next door in Montana, it's all business aboard the state aircraft. "If we took money for a flight from an entity which does not share our common treasury, we would be operating our airplane for commercial purposes," Mary Jo Murray, a spokeswoman for Montana Gov. Brian Schwietzer, told The Associated Press.
Not all business aircraft are created equal in the eyes of the security mandarins in Washington, and the National Air Transportation Association (NATA) is hoping to change that. When Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) "opens" to general aviation on Oct. 18, many charter aircraft will be excluded while identical planes operated under corporate classification will sail right through the red tape. NATA says its reading of the highly restrictive rules shows that charter aircraft must operate under a Twelve-Five Standard Security Plan (TFSSP), which is only available to planes weighing more than 12,500 pounds, which is a pretty big airplane (a King Air weighs less than 10,000 pounds). No such limits apply to aircraft operated under Part 91, meaning that "corporate aircraft" of all shapes and sizes will be allowed as long as they meet the TSA definition (professional crew, operating manual and recurrent training).
RISK MANAGEMENT IS AN AREA OF AVIATION INSURANCE OFTEN OVERLOOKED
It's been almost a year since the Burt Rutan/Paul Allen collaboration resulted in the first (and second) private manned space flight but some of the dreamers and doers left in the dust by that well-funded operation are still hoping to see the black sky themselves. The Countdown to the X Prize Cup is being held Oct. 9 at Las Cruces, N.M., and visitors will be able to see the various other means competitors for the original X Prize had hoped to employ to win the $10 million offered in the earlier competition. "We've created an event where everyone can come, experience space and be part of the next generation of spaceflight," says the event's Web site. There will be at least three live firings at the event, including a flight of XCOR's EZ Rocket in an unspecified record attempt. Rutan's brother Dick is one of the EZ Rocket's test pilots and the plane was demonstrated at EAA AirVenture in 2004. "Starchaser will ignite its 7,000-pound liquid rocket engine in a spectacle of twenty-foot flames [and] Armadillo will be firing its newest rocket engine concept," the Web site says.
It's apparently within FAA regulations to drive a Jeep under an airplane while a passenger tries to yank the aircraft's stuck landing gear into place. "This is not something you see every day but there were no violations of regulations," FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen told the Daytona Beach News. The incident occurred Sept. 16 at New Smyrna Beach. The plane landed safely after the gear was successfully repositioned from the speeding Jeep...
Red Bull racing comes to San Francisco Oct. 8. Spectators can watch the combination of speed and aerobatics, free (!), from Marina Green and Aquatic Park. Action begins at 12:45 p.m....
The U.S. and Australia have signed a bilateral agreement on aviation safety that will ensure aircraft and parts certified down under will be recognized as such when exported to the U.S. The deal will give Australian aviation firms easier access to the U.S. market...
New Zealand will host the first qualifying event toward the World Sailplane Grand Prix. The New Zealand Gliding Grand Prix will be held Jan. 21 to Jan. 29 in Omarama. Competitors will be aiming at qualification in the world event to be held the following year...
AOPA is asking the FAA to hold a public forum on plans to make the Washington ADIZ permanent. In a letter to the agency, AOPA President Phil Boyer said officials need to hear personally from pilots on the issue.
Drop us a line. If it caught your attention, it will probably interest someone else, too. Submit news tips via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You're a part of our team ... often, the best part.
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The Savvy Aviator #23: Maintenance Records
Maintenance records are a pivotal element of your aircraft's maintainability and resale value. Are yours in good shape? AVweb's Mike Busch says the FAA's regulations may not be thorough enough when the time comes to sell the plane.
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MEDICAL CERTIFICATION ISSUES? AOPA CAN HELP!
*** PREVIOUS RESULTS ***
Last week, AVweb asked how much you'd be willing to pay for avgas before you seriously considered (shudder) giving up flying.
Over a third of our respondents (35%) said that $5.00 a gallon would do the trick.
Nearly a quarter (24%) said $6.50 per gallon would be the breaking point.
14% of those who answered last week's "Question" were ready to hang up their wings at $9.00 a gallon.
A mere 17 readers (3% of those polled) were willing to hold out for $12.00/gallon avgas before they considered giving up the skies.
And another 24% of readers said it'd take more than $12 avgas to keep them out of the air. (Just don't tell the petrol companies you feel that way all right, guys?)
*** THIS WEEK'S QUESTION ***
With the FAA looking for money, what does your crystal ball say about the future of aviation in the U.S.A.? Consider our list of (some of the) possibilities, and tell us which one you think might be a glimpse into the future.
Click here to answer.
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Use this form to send QOTW comments to our AVmail Editor.
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Submit a Photo | Rules | Tips | Questions
Current POTW Winner | Past POTW Winners
Our spirits continue to soar this week, as "POTW" submission numbers stay high as does the quality of images we're seeing in the weekly stack. If you'd like to see your photo here and possibly win a nifty AVweb baseball cap, available only through "POTW"! submit your entries here. We'll share the best of each week's crop with over 100,000 loyal AVweb readers and your picture may end up as desktop wallpaper for hundreds of aviation buffs around the world!
(Plus, we really get a kick out of looking at airplane pictures.)
Due to privacy issues, AVweb does not publish e-mail addresses of readers who submit photos.
copyright © Andy
Lighting, perspective, and a well-groomed airplane combine to make
this photo from Andy Weiher of Merrickville, Ontario (Canada)
our last winner for September. This one's got all our favorite aviation
elements and a few nifty visual tricks, to boot. Thanks for submitting it, Andy
We hope you enjoy your AVweb hat half as much as we enjoyed the photo!
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.
"B-25C Comes Ashore"
As AVweb readers know, divers recovered a B-25C
from the bottom of Lake Murray, South Carolina last Sunday.
Ralph Lacomba of Columbia was on-hand to take some
early recovery photos and was gracious to share this one with us.
Used with permission of Billy Walker
"Wagon Train to First Flight"
There's an interesting story behind this photo from
Billy Walker of Phoenix, Arizona: The man in the
photo is Billy's father Pic, and he's about to take these
two women on their first airplane flight, during the 1930s.
The interesting part? "The lady to my father's right came
out West on a wagon train with seven killed by Indians."
What better example of our exciting modern world
than a photo of a woman who traveled by wagon
train taking her first flight? Thanks for sharing, Billy!
Why do we spoil you guys with so many great bonus
Oh, yeah it's because you do all the work and let us gawk at 'em.
Knew there was a good reason for that ... .
"Nice Kitty, Niiiice Kitty"
Michael Koff of Thornhill, Ontario (Canada) offers
a bit of travel advice for adventurous AVweb readers:
"In South Africa, the weather is so consistently
awesome you can fly virtually anytime you want.
Getting to your airplane, however,
can be a whole different problem."
Used with permission of Alfred Schleif
"All Dressed Up with No Place to Go"
It's a great museum photo, but what really
captured our imagination about this submission from
Alfred Schleif of Pahrump, Nevada was his description:
"Northwest DC-3 flying at low level through the
Henry Ford Museum [in] Dearborn, Michigan."
Used with permission of Len Fox
"Mustangs Taking Off, Oshkosh 2005"
That particular brand of museum "flying" not exciting enough for ya?
All right, then check out everyone's favorite warbirds
soaring across the skies at this summer's AirVenture,
courtesy of Len Fox of Toronto, Ontario
(which, if you don't know by now, is in Canada).
Used with permission of Robert Bondy
"A Formation by Any Other Name
Would Be a Biplane"
So says Robert Bondy of New York, New York.
Robert shot this photo from the number three plane in
formation at an EAA Fly-In over Braden Airport,
Pennsylvania this past September 11.
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.
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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Today's issue written by News Writer Russ Niles:
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