NewsWire Complete Issue

October 12, 2005
By The AVweb Editorial Staff

This issue of AVweb's AVflash is brought to you by ... Sporty's Pilot Shop


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Commander Finds New Home...

Takes Over Renaissance Hangar

The owners' group that bought the assets of Commander Aircraft Company (CAC) has found a home. The Commander Premier Aircraft Corp. (CPAC) will set up shop in Cape Girardeau, Mo. "It's a wonderful location for our new company," CPAC President and CEO Joel Hartstone told members of the Commander Owners Group at their annual fly-in in Sedona, Ariz., last week. Although the new company, made up of 50 Commander owners, bought all the assets of the previous manufacturer, the deal didn't include the lease on the factory at Wiley Post Airport in Oklahoma City, Okla. Commander had until Sept. 30 to leave but had a hard time finding the 30 tractor trailers it needed to make the move because of heavy demand for hurricane relief. But the trucks started rolling in the first week of October and should be unloading at Cape Girardeau now. The Missouri city was among 12 short-listed from about 150 airports that expressed interest in hosting the new company.

...Parts First, Planes Later...

If the poetic sounding name of the community rings a bell, it's because Cape Girardeau was previously touted as the site of the resurrection of the Luscombe 8F. In fact, the 52,000-square-foot building Commander will occupy was built, by the city, especially for Renaissance Aircraft's bid to relaunch the storied taildragger. Plagued by expensive legal battles (which it won) Renaissance was not able to raise the investment money necessary to make the payments on the Cape Girardeau facility and the company was evicted last April. Hartstone said the facility will also house a service center and the company is also leasing another 23,000 square feet for shipping and receiving. Plans are to start making parts as soon as possible to fill the void left by CAC's demise more than a year ago. The new company hopes to build 15 $600,000 Commanders in 2006 and 30 a year after that. The devil is always in the details, but this deal created a new definition for last-minute negotiations. As reporters and dignitaries waited in the empty hangar for the scheduled announcement, an undisclosed hitch was apparently discovered by one of the parties and the big news was delayed 30 minutes while the problem was sorted out. Commander will get the building rent-free for six months and then start paying an escalating monthly rate that starts at $11,000 and caps at $21,000 in 2009.

...Renaissance Looks At California Site

Renaissance may be out of Cape Girardeau but it may not be out of the airplane business. When AVweb last talked to company President John Dearden in April, he was scouting sites. He may have found one in Tulare County, in California's Central Valley. According to the Central Valley Business Times, Renaissance wants to lease a county-owned hangar at Sequoia Field for the factory. Dearden's company has the type certificate and all the tooling needed to start building the planes again, both hard-won in a court battle that ended two years ago. The Luscombe Dearden plans to build may look like the original but it will have some upgrades, including a more powerful engine (150 hp vs. the original 85) and modern avionics. The bigger engine gives the plane a maximum speed of 150 mph and Renaissance is hoping to increase the certified gross weight from 1,400 pounds to 1,750 pounds.


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Aero Expo: June 23-25, 2006

Commercial Pilot Charged In Citation Theft...

Young Suspect Has Multi, Instrument Ratings

A 22-year-old commercial pilot with multi and instrument endorsements and a C/IA-Jet type rating (according to the FAA's airmen database) has been accused of taking five passengers on a "joy ride" from St. Augustine, Fla. to Briscoe Field in Gwinnett, Ga. in a $7 million Citation VII. The man, from Buford, Ga., is facing felony theft by receiving charges and five misdemeanor counts of reckless conduct. More federal charges are expected. Gwinnett police spokesman Darren Moloney said Wolcott wasn't qualified to fly the plane "but apparently is a talented and gifted pilot." The plane, reportedly owned by Pinnacle Air, of Springdale, Ark., (it's registered to a Carrollton, Texas corporation) was reported stolen from St. Augustine on Saturday by the crew that flew it there and left it unlocked on the ramp. Sometime between late Saturday and early Sunday Wolcott is alleged to have taken off from St. Augustine and brought the Citation in for a night landing at Briscoe before taxiing to the ramp and parking it.

...Five Passengers Taken For "Joy Ride"

Moloney told reporters that five people who flew on the plane from St. Augustine all contacted police and were interviewed. None were charged because they were apparently unaware the plane had been stolen. "They were just enjoying the ride," Moloney said. He said all indications are that the theft was "just a joyride." Wolcott is apparently a familiar face around the airport and may have worked part time at some airport businesses. "This is such an odd occurrence, I wouldn't even want to speculate why someone would do this," Gwinnett Airport Manager Matt Smith told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The theft was shrouded in mystery for two days while investigators pieced their case together. Inevitably, some media were playing up the security angle but even the Transportation Security Administration was downplaying it. TSA spokesman Chris White told the Gwinnett Daily Post that it's working with the plane's owner to review the company's security plan. Clearly, the TSA doesn't consider this a watershed incident. "At this time, TSA does not see a significant credible risk to national security in general aviation," White said.

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NTSB Issues Weather Warning...

Wants Better Recurrency Training

Not enough pilots are talking about the weather and the NTSB wants the FAA to do something about it. The NTSB issued a series of recommendations to the agency on Tuesday aimed at clearing up what it apparently believes is our foggy knowledge of weather. It wants greater emphasis on weather in the written exam, including the requirement that a specific number of weather questions be answered correctly in order to pass. And it wants weather training to be ongoing on several fronts. Specifically, the NTSB wants the FAA to make the gathering, assessment and decision-making skills regarding weather to be part of the biennial flight review for pilots who don't take weather-related recurrent training within the two years. It also wants basic instrument maneuvers to be covered in the flight review for pilots not receiving recurrent instrument training. The NTSB also recommends that weather briefings be improved and that FAA information sheets be updated to show pilots how to get weather information from the Internet or via satellite. Also included in the package was a recommendation that the FAA set up a system to track pilots who may be at greater risk for an accident and develop a program to reduce those risks.

...Winter Reminder Issued...

Winter weather is on the minds of the leaders of three major business aviation organizations. The General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), the National Air Transportation Association (NATA) and the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) have jointly signed a letter to their members reminding them of the extra precautions needed for cold-weather flying. NBAA President Ed Bolen said the organizations felt it appropriate to "inform or remind aircraft operators about the industry-leading practices" to prevent winter flying accidents. A glance out the window to check for frost or ice on the wings isn't enough, according to the letter. Where practical, pilots are urged to run their hands over the wings to make sure they're clear. Also, even if it is otherwise permitted, the groups want operators to refuse to allow their planes to take off with smooth or polished frost on the wings and tail. The letter recommends that flight crews be supported in their decisions to delay or cancel flights because of weather and that operators not refuse deicing simply because of cost. The groups also want cold-weather operations to be part of the company's flight operations manual.

...Home Schooling Available

If you're interested in learning more on your own, consider the FAA's Wings program. With three hours of flight training and one aviation seminar -- several of which are offered for free online by the AOPA Air Safety Foundation -- you earn a get-out-of-jail-free card on your biennial flight review. Since the flight training includes an hour of instrument maneuvers and the ground study offers several weather seminars to choose from, you just might learn more that what the NTSB's suggestions impose -- while having fun doing it. (Plus, the Wings program rewards you with a lapel pin.)

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Boeing Field GA Pilots Fear Squeeze From Southwest

GA operators at Seattle's Boeing Field say Southwest Airlines' bid to relocate to their airport would push out small aircraft. However, airport management claims that GA could coexist with an influx of 737s. Southwest is pushing for a move to Boeing Field because it claims the costs of operation at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport are too high. If Southwest is allowed to move, it could spell the end of an FAA exemption that allows the simultaneous use of parallel runways at Boeing that are too close together under normal standards. And that, claims the Friends of Boeing Field, will mean the end of GA at the airport. GA pilot Robert Bismuth told King 5 News that if passenger traffic is allowed, the FAA would likely curtail or even eliminate the use of the secondary runway, which is now used exclusively by small aircraft. Southwest would also want space for fuel and cargo operations and that would mean eliminating some GA hangars. "Eventually, people have to see this as the absurd proposal that it really is," Bismuth said. Airport Manager Bob Burke said the addition of Southwest might result in some delays but he said he believes there'd still be room for GA.

NATA Says Fuel Taxes, Not (More) User Fees

The National Air Transportation Association says the current system of fuel taxes is the fairest way to raise money for the FAA. Last month, the agency sent out a questionnaire to aviation groups, saying the current system needs to be replaced with a funding formula that links revenue to use of the system. The questions seemed heavily slanted toward the implementation of user fees and NATA says that would be a mistake. "It is critical that both Congress and the FAA are aware that overall, a system of user fees could add greater confusion and inefficiency to the air transportation system, cause a bureaucratic nightmare for both government and industry, jeopardize safety and ultimately result in less revenue than in the current system," said NATA President James Coyne. NATA has always maintained that the fuel tax is the most equitable system because, in general, the more fuel that is burned, the more access is required to the airspace system. If, as seems inevitable, the FAA goes to a system of user fees, NATA wants all aircraft to be treated equally. And that, says Coyne, means equal access for all, particularly when it comes to setting up restricted airspace, which often allows scheduled carriers to continue operations but bars GA and charters.

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American Pilots Ponder Retirement To Save Pensions

Pilots are used to taking calculated risks but some American Airlines pilots may be cashing in their chips early. The Allied Pilots Association, which represents American pilots, says it's getting more inquiries from pilots growing tired of the pension crapshoot. They're considering retiring early out of fears American will follow other major carriers in dumping its pension plan. But union president Ralph Hunter said he believes the airline's pension plan is sound, at least for the short term, and some bills before Congress promise help to stabilize it even more. "We understand that some guys are a little antsy, but there's really nothing that has changed," Hunter told the Fort Worth, Texas, Star-Telegram. "Your risk of losing your lump-sum benefits are the same as they've always been." Last month, 59 of the airline's 10,000 pilots took early retirement, a slight increase. In doing so, they took their accumulated pension benefits as a lump sump, rather than risk losing a substantial amount of the monthly payments they expect in retirement, should American default on the plan. A run on lump sum buyouts could threaten the plan and could also cause a pilot shortage, neither of which has occurred yet, according to American spokesman Tim Wagner. Hunter said some pilots retired early amid similar speculation about the future of their pensions "only to regret their choice a few months later."

Travolta's "Airport" Home Featured

As a boy, John Travolta dreamed what many have dreamed: that there would be an airplane parked in everyone's backyard. A few have achieved that dream, but hardly any as spectacularly as Travolta. The veteran actor can now walk out of his airport-style home near Ocala, Fla., and hop aboard his personal Boeing 707 for a flight to almost anywhere. Travolta's Florida getaway is at a fly-in community called Jumbolair, which features a 7,500-foot runway. Travolta bought a nine-acre lot for his aviation compound, which includes a house that resembles an airport, complete with a tower-like observation area. "This is a house that says dreams are possible. Everything is possible," his wife Kelly Preston told an Architectural Digest forum at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History last week. The magazine is featuring Travolta and Preston's home on its cover this month as part of a feature on celebrity mansions. Travolta told the forum he took his inspiration for the design of the home from "the beautiful airports of yesteryear." Recently, the facility was the staging area for Travolta's private relief effort for Hurricane Katrina victims, in which he packed the 707 with medical supplies and delivered them to the affected area. And, while a $2.4 million home could be termed extravagant by many people's standards, it's nice to know Travolta's priorities are straight. According to, the 707 is worth $96 million.

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Supersonic Model Tested

Japanese aerospace officials are optimistic the $10 million test of a model of a future supersonic airliner was a success. Well, at least they got their model back this time. A similar attempt three years ago resulted in the model's separating prematurely from its booster rocket before boring a smoking hole in the Australian Outback. The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), in cooperation with a French agency, is hoping to develop a Mach 2, 300-seat replacement for the Concorde by 2025. In last Monday's test, the 38-foot model was strapped to a rocket and flown to an altitude of 11 miles. It was recovered by parachute. JAXA spokesman Kenichi Saito said the flight seemed to go well. "Everything was very good and the aircraft landed ... normally," Saito told The Associated Press a telephone interview. "We are going to conduct the (data) analysis, but currently we think this flight was a success."

Hurricanes Push Lifeline To Record

Lifeline Pilots set a record for flights in their efforts to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina. The volunteer pilots' group recorded a 65-percent increase in the number of missions booked and accomplished during the month. It was the most flights recorded in the group's 24-year history. Lifeline normally flies people who don't have enough money for commercial flights to specialized medical care available only outside of their hometowns. But in the case of Katrina, the policy manual was forgotten. While medical flights remained a priority, Lifeline pilots also carried out supply missions, delivering food, water and medical supplies to stricken areas. "Our volunteer pilots answered the call for their time and assistance again and again throughout September -- efforts that resulted in huge financial contributions on their parts in terms of fuel and equipment costs," said Lifeline Executive Director Keith Laken. The volunteer pilots donate their time, fuel and aircraft entirely. By law, they can't be compensated. The organization is allowed to use public funds to pay staff and run its office.

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Correction: ECi Connecting Rods

We erred in last Monday's edition by stating that the FAA had issued an Airworthiness Directive (AD) on connecting rods made by ECi. As ECi's President Ed Salmeron pointed out, the FAA has only issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) and the company intends to file comments on the proposal. "We disagree with the NPRM and are preparing our case since we believe there is no evidence for a Safety of Flight concern," Salmeron said. We apologize to our readers and ECi for the error and will keep you informed regarding the FAA's final action on the matter.

On The Fly...

The annual Beech Party in Tullahoma, Tenn., attracted about 200 people and 81 aircraft. Although any kind of Beech was invited, the focus this year was on Staggerwings...

U.S. trade negotiators are still hopeful of a negotiated settlement over subsidies paid to Airbus for the launch of new designs. Negotiator Rob Portman said negotiations are preferred even though launch subsidies are part of Airbus's new A350 program...

The FAA will investigate a rash of runway incursions at Boston Logan Airport. There have been 16 incursions in the past year and a team of specialists will dissect each one as well as assess lighting and marking as well as control procedures...

The pilot of a Grumman F6F Hellcat died when the plane crashed on the median of I-40 near Cookeville, Tenn., last Saturday. The pilot's name wasn't released but the plane was registered to the Planes of Fame Museum in Chino, Calif....

A couple of rare rainy days cancelled some events at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta but organizers said attendance was way up for the event...

An unspecified Piper made a safe emergency landing on I-5, north of Los Angeles on Monday. The plane had engine trouble.

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 You're a part of our team ... often, the best part.

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New Articles and Features on AVweb

Motor Head #9: Does Racing Really Improve The Breed?
Marc Cook's ears are still buzzing from a long weekend at the Reno Air Races, where all sorts of internal-combustion mayhem takes place. Some of it may actually trickle down to average GA Joes.

AVweb's Business AVflash

HAVE YOU SIGNED UP yet for AVweb’s NO-COST twice monthly Business AVflash? Reporting on breaking news, Business AVflash also focuses on the companies, the products and the industry leaders that make headlines in the Business of Aviation. Business AVflash is a must read. Watch for a Business AVflash regular feature, TSA WATCH: GA IN THE "SPOTLIGHT". Sign up today at

White Sands, NM for dunes, rockets, balloons, and sand boarding; Santa Monica, CA for sunbathing, surfing, and sushi; Columbus, OH to show off flowers, the John Glenn Institute, and the Jack Nicklaus Museum; Bar Harbor, ME, which sports colorful island views, fishing, biking, hiking, and kayaking; Astoria, OR, where Lewis and Clark met the Pacific and where history abounds today; Dolores Point, CO for hundred-mile views; and Winter Haven, FL for a tour of Jack Brown's Seaplane Base. Don't miss a single issue of Pilot Getaways. Order your subscription online at

AVweb's Question of the Week ...


Poor eyesight is no longer the bane of pilots that it once was.  Last week, AVweb asked how many of our readers have taken steps to correct their vision — like the recently FAA-approved procedure known as conductive keratoplasty — and how many of you see just fine without corrective measures.

Over half of those who responded (54%, to be exact) told us they wear corrective lenses and intend to keep doing so for the time being.  Another 22% of our readers told us they wear lenses but are considering corrective surgery.

9% of readers told us they had actually undergone corrective surgery — or another FAA-approved method to improve their vision.

And a mere 13% of our readership said they got along just fine with their natural vision.  (Wish we could all say that!)

As for our slightly "under the table" answers:  1% of readers confessed that they wear corrective lenses but haven't told the FAA, and another 1% say they've have success in improving their vision with "non-approved methods."


General aviation costs continue to rise.  This week, AVweb wants to know if you've been priced out of flying (yet?).

Click here to answer.

Have an idea for a new QOTW? Send your suggestions to

This address is only for suggested QOTW questions, and not for QOTW answers or comments.
Use this form to send QOTW comments to our AVmail Editor.

AVweb's Picture of the Week ...

Submit a Photo | Rules | Tips | Questions

Current POTW Winner | Past POTW Winners

Since our last edition of "Picture of the Week," AVweb readers have bombarded us with a steady stream of amazing aviation photos.  By Wednesday night, we had well over 100 submissions — almost of all of them considered for one of our top spots this week.  We know you've heard this before, but the quality of photos we've received over the past few weeks is truly amazing.  Whatever you guys are doing — taking photography classes, or just going to a lot of really good air shows — keep it up!

The only downside to this upswing in "POTW" submissions is that we have to leave behind a lot of eye-popping photos.  So, before we take off into the skies with this week's top winners, we'd like to remind you that we ooh and ahh over every single "POTW" submission, and we take the time to read through your comments when each week's contest is done.  Many of you have contributed outstanding photos and may never have won a hat or even heard back from us — we're really busy, honest! — but we'd like you to know how much we appreciate your time and support.

So keep sending photos!  They really are the best part of our week.

Now, on to this week's pretty pictures!

Due to privacy issues, AVweb does not publish e-mail addresses of readers who submit photos.


Used with permission of Herb Kushner

Herb Kushner
of Bridgewater, New Jersey
edged out some fierce competitors this week to fill our
number one spot with hot air and blue skies.  As a reward
(and a heartfelt "thank you" for stealing our breath away),
we're sending Herb an official AVweb baseball cap.

(The photo comes from the Labor Day
Balloon Lift in Colorado Springs, Colorado.)

Click 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.

Used with permission of Peter McCombe

"Heli Spraying in NZ"
Peter McCombe
of Gisborne, New Zealand
joins the ranks of our favorite "POTW" contributors this week,
with a stop-motion photo "taken while scrub spraying."
Just in case we haven't said it yet, Peter and his
fellow New Zealanders are among some of
the most prolific submitters to "POTW."
Is there a camera factory in New Zealand
that we don't know about?

(And why have your Australian neighbors
gotten so slack in the submissions department?
They used to love us too, once upon a time.)


Used with permission of Pamela Nielsen

"Father and Son Gettin' Some Air Time Together"
We immediately fell for this photo submitted by
Pamela Nielsen of Warrenville, Illinois.
"This is my husband, flying my Airborne Edge Trike,"
writes Pamela, "sharing the air with my 10-year-old
son on the ATV."  Seems like everyone in this
family has some cool toys, doesn't it?

Bonus Pictures

Full steam ahead to the bonus pictures!

Used with permission of Amanda Carter

"Herk Airborne Airdrop"
Amanda Carter of Sherwood, Arkansas
treated us to a sight we don't regularly see in our
"POTW" files — a massive jump (300+ participants)
performed by the 82nd Airborne at the
Little Rock Air Force Base Air Show.

copyright © Eric Cobb
Used with permission

"Sunset Formation"
We understand that you can't help but
be excited by all these action-packed photos,
but Eric Cobb of Solvang, California
promises to set a serene mood for the
remainder of this week's photos.
That's Charlie Plumb in the cockpit,
and if you don't immediately recognize
the name, you should take a minute to visit
his web site.  (Thanks for the link, Eric!)

copyright © Gavin Conroy
Used with permission

"Heading for Home"
Speaking of our favorite New Zealanders,
this photo of the Red Checkers showing
off their formation flying skills comes to us from
Gavin Conroy
of Blenheim.  Gavin's name
has been popping up a lot on "POTW" finalists lately.
Maybe he owns stock in that camera factory ... ?
(Keep 'em coming, Gavin!)

Used with permission of Kent Wien

"Blinded by the Light"
Finally, Kent Wien of Newfields, New Hampshire
sees us off this week with a serene photo of
"my friend Jeff Thompkins's Cessna 180
on Moosehead Lake during the
Greenville Seaplane Fly-In."

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.

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.

Letters to the editor intended for publication in AVmail should be sent to Have a comment or question? Send it to

Today's issue written by News Writer Russ Niles:
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