NewsWire Complete Issue

October 2, 2005
By The AVweb Editorial Staff

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Red Bull Air Races

Lockheed Takes Over Flight Service...

Handover Set For Tomorrow

Lockheed Martin officially takes over operation of the nation's flight service stations as of tomorrow ... presuming that last-ditch efforts by a workers' union prove futile. The National Association of Air Traffic Specialists (NAATS), which represents the FSS staffers, last week sent out a letter to all members of Congress seeking support for stopping the takeover. The letter asks FAA Administrator Marion Blakey to delay the takeover until Congress has a chance to complete its 2006 budget process. "If the FAA proceeds on October 3 and is subsequently directed by Congress to suspend or reverse implementation, it could mean significant additional expenses to the FAA," the letter says. "For these reasons, we request that you delay the implementation of this transition until the [transportation appropriations] bill is signed into law." On Friday, a federal judge denied the union's request to halt the takeover on the basis that the FAA's action amounts to age discrimination. The judge didn't dispute that most of the workers who will lose their jobs are over 40, but said that in itself doesn't mean the action is discriminatory.

...AOPA Sees A Better Future...

AOPA is in favor of the change, expecting that Lockheed's version of flight service will be better for pilots than what we've been getting from the FAA. During the transition period, Lockheed and the FAA will operate a 24-hour operations center that will act as a point of contact to ensure continuity of services, AOPA said last week. Lockheed also has assured AOPA that extensive contingency plans are in place should any last-minute issues arise. Phone numbers and frequencies will remain the same, says AOPA, and so will (many of) your local FSS specialists, at least for a while. "We are in regular communication with the FAA and Lockheed, and they understand the importance of maintaining service to pilots throughout the transition period," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "If members have problems with FSS, we can work quickly to get those concerns addressed."

...With Enhanced Service Promised

By April 2006, AOPA says, Lockheed is expected to launch the Flight Service 21 (FS21) Web portal for pilots to obtain preflight briefings, file flight plans, store user profiles, and get graphical flight planning and weather products. The first FSS hub, in Leesburg, Va., also is scheduled to open in April, with two other hub facilities -- Fort Worth, Texas, and Prescott, Ariz. -- to open by next October. The other 17 facilities that will remain after consolidation -- down from 58 today -- should be upgraded with FS21 technology by July 2007. After the 18-month transition is complete, pilots' telephone calls must be answered within 20 seconds and radio calls within 15 seconds. Flight plans must be processed in three minutes, and PIREPs must be processed within 30 seconds of receipt, 15 seconds if they are urgent. And an annual customer satisfaction survey will be conducted. "It is estimated that Lockheed's 10-year contract will actually save the government about $2.2 billion," Boyer said.


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National Aeronautic Association

The Anti-ADIZ Effort Intensifies...

Asking Pilots To Speak Up

Pilots need to speak up -- and loudly -- and the FAA needs to listen, AOPA says, regarding the Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) now eating up the airspace around Washington, D.C. The FAA wants to make the ADIZ a permanent fixture, and AOPA has asked for several public meetings to be held before any decisions are made. "The opportunity to provide oral comments in a public forum will allow FAA and Homeland Security officials to hear directly from members of the general aviation community about the practical difficulties and economic hardships the ADIZ causes to pilots operating in the National Capital area," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. The ADIZ encompasses all the land within an area at least 15 miles and as many as 38 miles around the triangle formed by Baltimore-Washington International, Dulles International and Ronald Reagan Washington National airports. At its widest point, the ADIZ is 90 miles across.

...With PR Push On The Hill...

Kathleen Roy, a media and public-affairs specialist for AOPA, gave a demo flight in a Piper Archer to a reporter from The Hill, a local D.C. newspaper widely read by legislators and politicos. "Although Roy had filed a flight plan before takeoff, as required, she was denied access initially because air traffic control could not identify her plane," Hill reporter Jackie Kucinich wrote. "She circled outside the area [for 15 minutes, according to AOPA] while calling in her second attempt. Finally, she was given a four-digit transponder code that identified her aircraft as clear to enter the airspace." Landmarks that identify the ADIZ boundaries were difficult to identify in the haze, Kucinich wrote.

...How To Speak Up (Or You Could Be Next)

That's AOPA's warning to pilots across the country. "In the Washington ADIZ, the operational horror stories come in to AOPA daily," Boyer says. "The FAA has tracked more than 1,900 ADIZ violations since 2003. None of the incidents has been determined to be terrorist-related and all but one violation have been inadvertent." Changing the D.C. area Class B airspace into a permanent new designation only sets the precedent for this to be duplicated elsewhere, he said. You have until Nov. 2 to express your opinion to the powers that be. Go to the docket for a copy of the proposed rule. The list of comments, already over 600 strong, can be reviewed at this link. Click on "Comment/Submissions" to add your own thoughtfully composed input.


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Contenders Push A New Supersonic Age

We have lived to see a day without commercial supersonic flight. But it's an idea that won't go away, despite the demise of the Concorde. The French and Japanese are working to launch a test model of a supersonic aircraft in the Australian desert this Friday -- presuming they have fixed an "anomaly" with the aircraft's signal processor that cropped up during ground testing in August. Meanwhile, Airbus is developing a design for a 250-seat plane that could fly close to 1,500 mph with a 6,000-mile range, London's Sunday Times reported last week. During a recent conference at Cambridge University, researchers said that new supersonic passenger jets could by flying by 2015, and by 2050 supersonic travel could account for 20 percent of all flights. Aircraft makers Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Dassault, Gulfstream and Sukhoi have all announced plans for such airplanes, the Times said. Meanwhile, the Save Concorde group in the U.K. continues to lobby for at least one of the retired fleet to be restored to flight status for the London 2012 Olympic Games. It was just 36 years ago -- October 1, 1969 -- that the Concorde broke the sound barrier for the first time, in a test flight over France. There are still plenty of supersonic military jets flying around the world -- on Aug. 20,

Javelin Jet First Flight

With two Williams Int'l FJ33-4-17M Turbofan Engines, ATG's little Javelin Jet expects to climb at 10,000 feet per minute and top out at .9 Mach. Two-hundred-twenty gallons of fuel would carry the jet 1220 nm with reserves. The two-seater prototype flew for the first time on Friday. Test pilot Robert Fuschino took off at 7:50 a.m. from Runway 17L at Centennial Airport in Englewood, Colo., and climbed out at 3,000 fpm. Flying with 10 degrees of flaps and the gear down, the airplane reached 180 knots and 12,000 feet. After 30 minutes of testing, it made a smooth straight-in landing. "ATG has achieved a great milestone today," said ATG Chairman George Bye. "We will now begin the process of correlating the Javelin prototype's performance against predicted engineering values." Test pilot Fuschino said it was "a beautiful flight." The FADEC-controlled Williams turbofan engines were exceptionally responsive, and the jet's handling was very predictable and smooth, he said. The Javelin prototype will be used to evaluate aircraft performance, handling qualities and selected system installations. The results of this testing will be assessed and changes made as necessary for incorporation into both the FAA-certified civilian version and the military trainer version of the aircraft, the company said. The Javelin program aims to start deliveries in 2008. Visit ATG's web site for first flight photographs and video.


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NASA Told To Fly Coach

You wouldn't think all those Ph.D.s at NASA would need a study by the Government Accountability Office to tell them it's cheaper to fly coach than to operate their own fleet of aircraft, but nothing is so convincing as hard numbers -- in this case, $20 million worth of numbers. That's how much NASA could have saved, the GAO said, if its staff had traveled by airline in 2003 and 2004, instead of using its own aircraft and charter services. Granted, those services can save time, are more flexible for staff scheduling and "provide other less tangible and quantifiable benefits," the GAO admits. But the GAO doubts those benefits justify an added $10 million a year in taxpayer money, not to mention an additional $77 million that NASA is planning to spend to upgrade and expand its fleet. NASA Administrator Michael Griffin responded to the report last week. "We at NASA have accepted the Government Accountability Office's findings and have embraced new guidelines and procedures for the use of our airplanes that have been set by the Office of Management and Budget. Going forward, all airplane use will be within those guidelines," he said.

Next-Generation GPS Satellite Launched

A new GPS satellite was launched from Cape Canaveral last week, adding new technology to the current system that will provide greater accuracy, enhanced resistance to interference from the earth's ionosphere, and other improvements to performance. The two-ton satellite will replace an aging unit that was launched in 1993. What does it mean for GA users? "The latest launch represents a firm commitment to satellite navigation and demonstrates that there will be plenty of assets in space to ensure that the GPS signal is always available," said Randy Kenagy, AOPA's senior director of advanced technology. "That's especially important for general aviation as more GPS-based wide area augmentation system (WAAS) approaches are created." WAAS approaches allow for ILS-like minimums without the expensive ground-based equipment. "I think this is a pretty huge step," Col. Allan Ballenger, GPS system program director at the Space and Missile Systems Center, told "We have essentially been operating on the original-design signals of GPS for over a decade, and this is going to be the first time we are actually adding new signals from space." Seven more of the new satellites are in production, and more advanced satellites are in the works. Ballenger said the design has been carefully assessed to ensure that the new signals are fully compatible with existing technology in use today.


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Airplane Emissions Cause Concern In Europe

In Europe, where worry over climate change due to industrial pollution is widespread, the emissions emanating from aircraft have again attracted attention. A recent study found that with the amount of air travel in the United Kingdom expected to double over the next 25 years, it will be impossible for the country to meet its goal of cutting carbon emissions 60 percent by 2050. "The failure of all governments to think about [emissions from] international aviation and shipping has led to a serious underestimation of the actions necessary," says researcher Simon Shackley, of Manchester University. All other sources in the country would have to reduce carbon emissions to zero in order to meet the goal while allowing aviation to expand, researchers said. The European Union's Greenhouse Gas Emissions Trading Scheme may begin to target aviation emissions as soon as 2008, the Environment News Service reported last week. The scheme would allot to the airlines a certain emissions allowance. They could then choose to meet that allowance either by cutting emissions or buying up extra allowances from others. But not all aircraft are perceived to be eco-threats. In Italy last week, a robotic blimp was launched bearing technical instruments to help scientists gather information about air pollution. The blimp is about 35 feet long and powered by two emissions-free electric motors.

Hurricane-Damaged Airports Get Cash Infusion

Four airports in Texas and Louisiana damaged by the recent hurricanes will get at least $16 million in federal help to make repairs, Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta said last Friday, a day after he visited the region. Mineta said he would also try to change some of the rules for the use of Airport Improvement Funds so money can be used for repairs to terminals and hangars. Mineta saw firsthand the hurricane damage at the Southeast Texas Regional Airport in Beaumont and Louisiana's Lake Charles Regional Airport. "Regional airports and the general aviation flights they support are absolutely vital to the economy of this area," Mineta said. "We are going to see that help is available to rebuild so these airports will play a key role in the region's recovery from Hurricane Rita." Lake Charles Regional Airport will receive almost $8 million to fund repairs to the terminal building and airport fire station, as well as to repair and replace runway signs. Southeast Texas Regional Airport will receive almost $6 million in federal support to repair the terminal and fire buildings, replace navigational equipment and lighting, repair damaged fire trucks and replace runway signs. Lakefront Airport in New Orleans will receive over $2 million to repair a retaining wall, runways and taxiways that were damaged when the airport was flooded after Hurricane Katrina. And Chennault International Airport, also in Lake Charles, will receive over $36,000 to repair fencing that protects the airport's lighting equipment. Mineta called the grants "down payments" and pledged his department would be a "full partner" with hurricane-stricken communities working to rebuild their transportation systems. "We will do our part and not waste time getting these airports the support they need to rebuild," he said.

JetBlue A320 Nosegear, The Photos

In case there was any doubt that the damage to JetBlue's A320 was slight, despite all the media attention and melodrama surrounding its live-televised landing with a twisted nosegear last month, we have pix of the aftermath. So for your own edification, feel free to click through for a look. You also might enjoy the take offered by Salon Magazine's Patrick Smith, who deconstructs the events in his "Ask The Pilot" column. As for the poor passengers, some of whom were terrified and feared the worst, "JetBlue's seatback TV screens deserve much of the blame," says Smith, for "beaming in reckless live reportage from several large networks." Smith also contemplates the worst-case scenarios that could have ensued, though the actual, quite benign, landing was by far the most likely and expected outcome.


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On The Fly...

J. Roy Shoffner, who helped recover and restore the Glacier Girl P-38, has died at age 77, in Kentucky...

The FAA is checking into Alaska Air maintenance procedures, after questions were raised about jackscrew lubrication...

A fired worker says the superjumbo A380 is unsafe; the builders disagree...

The FAA last week gave its final OK to a $7.5 billion expansion project at O'Hare Airport in Chicago, but neighbors already got a court to halt the work...

The machinists' union ended its month-long strike against Boeing after the company made concessions on health care and pension benefits...

A T-65 Turbo Thrush owned by the U.S. State Department was shot down in Colombia while fumigating coca crops there. The pilot, a Colombian, died...

Garmin has received a Supplemental Type Certificate from the FAA for the GFC 700 autopilot for Raytheon's Beechcraft Bonanza G36...

Western Michigan University will retire its fleet of Cessna 172s and replace it with 30 Cirrus SR20 and SR22 aircraft. The school will lease the aircraft from Cirrus and get new ones every two years...

FedEx has cancelled jumpseat privileges for most of its workers, due to security concerns. A flight crew was attacked by a jumpseat passenger in 1994...

100th anniversary of Wright brothers' first public flight at Huffman Prairie to be commemorated this week...

SpaceShipOne will take its place at the National Air & Space Museum with a ceremony on Wednesday.

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New Articles and Features on AVweb

The Pilot's Lounge #92: Hey, FEMA! GA Is An Asset ... Use Us
So many pilots want to help in the hurricane relief -- but the national agency charged with coordinating relief doesn't seem to realize the power of volunteer pilots. AVweb's Rick Durden has some tough words for political appointees and some suggestions for frontline organizers.

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

AVmail: October 3, 2005
Reader mail this week about fuel prices, FSS closures, SIC type ratings and more.

AVweb's Business AVflash

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Short Final...

While waiting to enter the taxiway in ONT, (California) an Airbus working for a major parcel carrier came face to face with our corporate 727 and the following conversation ensued:

ONT Twr: Airbus 1234, where are you going today, sir?

Airbus 1234: Right where that 727 is, and, uh, be advised our tail might be a little bit over your runway.

Boeing NABC: Don't worry. A little tail never hurt anybody.

(awkward silence)

Airbus 1234: ... Wish I could say that.

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