NewsWire Complete Issue

December 4, 2005
By The AVweb Editorial Staff

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Aviation Safety Magazine

Airline Pilot Reports "Smoke Trail"...

Threats In The Air

An American Airlines pilot departing from Los Angeles International Airport told air traffic controllers that a missile had been fired at his aircraft and missed, a local ABC News affiliate reported last week. The pilot said he saw a smoke trail pass by the cockpit as the airplane climbed out over the ocean. FBI agents and Homeland Security officials investigated last weekend and said it was probably a flare or a [very impressive] bottle rocket, but they may never know for sure, according to KYW Newsradio 1060. The flight was en route to Chicago and proceeded without further incident.

...As Surface-To-Air Missile Defense System Stalls...

Although both BAE Systems and Northrop Grumman say they will be ready to produce workable missile-defense systems for airliners by January, so far there is no funding available and no mandate that would require airlines to utilize such defenses, The Associated Press reported last week. Several bills pending in Congress would require the systems be carried -- at least on some flights -- but the airlines have balked at cost and maintenance issues, and complain that the systems are too unreliable. Both systems under development use lasers to jam the guidance systems of incoming missiles. Government contracts call for the systems to cost less than $1 million each and to be easier to maintain and more reliable than military versions now in service. Last month, two men were charged by a federal jury in Los Angeles with conspiring to smuggle 200 shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles into the U.S. Earlier this year, a British arms dealer was convicted on similar charges in New Jersey.

...And Cabin Crews Balk At TSA's Latest Changes

When the Transportation Security Administration announced new passenger-screening procedures and a revised prohibited-items list last week, the Air Line Pilots Association thought it was a good idea. "We feel it's a move in the right direction," Bob Hesselbein, chairman of ALPA's security committee, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "We have to keep the focus on the facts of the terrorists and the techniques they use, not on our fears of what they could do." The new list will allow small scissors and screwdrivers on board. However, the Association of Flight Attendants – whose members work in the passenger cabin, while pilots operate behind locked doors -- opposes the change. Allowing scissors on planes "is taking a huge step backwards in terms of security," the group's spokeswoman, Corey Caldwell, told the AJC. The new rules will mandate more random screenings, fewer prohibited items and a focus on detecting more serious threats, such as explosives, the TSA said last week. The changes take effect Dec. 22. Knives and box cutters remain on the prohibited list.


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NTSB Takes On GA Weather Hazards...

New Methodology Employs Statistics

Typically, the NTSB reports on flight risks after reviewing a set of relevant accidents, but for its latest report, released last week, the board has implemented a new methodology. The new "case-control" statistical-analysis approach was used in a study of GA weather-related accidents, comparing a group of accident flights to a matching group of non-accident flights in an effort to identify patterns of variables that distinguish the two groups from each other. The advantage, the NTSB says, is that instead of focusing on factors that accidents have in common -- and possibly being misled by characteristics common to most pilots and flights -- it identifies characteristics that set accidents apart and contribute to their occurrence. All non-accident pilots voluntarily consented to interviews and provided information about their flights and their aircraft and details about their training, experience, and demographics. That information was compared with data about the accident flights. Additionally, the FAA provided information about pilots' practical and written test results and their previous accident/ incident involvement.

...Risk Factors Revealed...

For this study, NTSB investigators collected data from 72 GA accidents that occurred between August 2003 and April 2004. An additional 135 safe flights that were conducted in the same area and time as the accident flights were also studied. The analysis showed that risk factors associated with flying in instrument weather conditions or low visibility include: 1) pilot age and training-related differences; 2) pilot testing, accident, and incident history; and 3) pilot weather briefing sources and methods. The board recommended that the FAA should beef up weather-related portions of the Airman Knowledge Tests and flight reviews, develop a means to identify at-risk pilots and target them for intervention, and improve the delivery of weather information to pilots. The NTSB's last published report on weather-related GA accident risks was in 1989. That report focused on accidents in which VFR into IMC was cited as a probable cause or contributing factor, and did not generate any new safety recommendations.

...As FAA Stands Firm On Caravan Icing AD

The FAA has no plans to revise recent Airworthiness Directives that require a tactile check by pilots to prevent icing problems on the Cessna Model 208 Caravan, the Regional Air Cargo Carriers Association (RACCA) said on Friday. RACCA representatives met with the FAA in mid-November and told the agency that the requirement that pilots must physically inspect the airframe for ice contamination within five minutes of takeoff was impractical at most airports. Since such inspections would likely have to take place in run-up areas, where lighting is often poor and other aircraft are operating, "the cure is seemingly more dangerous to pilots than the disease," RACCA said. Still, the FAA is adamant that the inspection be conducted in the timeframe specified and points to the airplane's record of icing-related accidents as the reason. RACCA still wants the FAA to explore alternate solutions.

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An Airbus' Glass Cockpit Goes Dark

Picture this ... you're the captain of an Airbus A319-131, and you've just taken off from London into a clear night sky, bound for Budapest with 76 passengers on board. Approaching FL200, you hear a "CLUNK" and the cockpit goes dark. No autopilot, no multi-function displays, no radios, just a bit of backup lighting. An airline pilot must now actually fly the airplane. As your co-pilot starts down the checklist, you take manual control of the airplane, and fly by the night horizon outside and what backup instruments you can see. Two minutes into the checklist, the co-pilot pushes a button, and all whirrs back into bright life. That's what happened during a very long two minutes on Oct. 5. With everything back online, the crew spent 40 minutes in a hold checking all the systems, then flew on to Budapest without incident. A mechanic reset the system and put it back in service. The U.K.'s Air Accidents Investigation Board said it checked the systems and found no anomalies, but the investigation is continuing -- a preliminary report is available online. The event adds to those of airliners behaving badly following our last report of a Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 that seemed hell-bent on crashing itself on a trip from Perth to Kuala Lumpur last Aug. 1.

Boomtime For Boeing

With 800 jets sold already this year and some big orders pending, Boeing is closing in on surpassing its peak of 877 sales, set back in 1988. But in the manufacturing world, big orders can be a mixed blessing. Back in the late 1990s, high demand cost Boeing billions of dollars when the company ran up against a shortage of materials and an abundance of production problems. The company leadership remembers those days all too well, spokesman Craig Martin told MarketWatch. "They are -- to a person -- determined it will never happen again, and particularly not on their watch." Much of the sales boom is being driven by growth abroad. Last week, Jet Airways of India placed orders for 10 737-400/800/900 aircraft and 10 Boeing 777s, and Cathay Pacific Airways of Hong Kong said it will buy 12 Boeing 777-300ERs with options for 20 more.

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Pilot Faces Federal Charges Of Lying On Medical

A commercial pilot from Centerville, Mass., has been charged in federal court with four counts of making false statements on FAA medical forms, U.S. Attorney Michael J. Sullivan said on Friday. The 53-year-old pilot lied on four first-class medical FAA forms, Sullivan alleged. If convicted, the pilot faces up to five years in prison followed by three years of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine. The case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Transportation's Office of the Inspector General, Investigations Division. It is being prosecuted by Sullivan's Major Crimes Unit in Boston. Last summer, 46 California pilots, 14 of them active, faced similar charges after a two-year investigation. In most cases, authorities alleged, the pilots, seven of whom held commercial licenses, hid medical conditions that would have disqualified them.

AOPA To FAA -- Hands Off GA

When it's not airspace grabs, it's user-fee threats -- that's AOPA's take on the FAA these days. FAA Administrator Marion Blakey spoke to the Aero Club in Washington, D.C., last Monday, and expressed what is by now a familiar theme -- the Aviation Trust Fund faces imminent doom and a new funding system is essential. "You do the math," she said. "The equation doesn't work." AOPA was quick to respond. "Others have done the math, including the White House's Office of Management and Budget," AOPA said at its Web site. The OMB predicts continued trust fund growth. The FAA's authority to collect aviation ticket and fuel taxes will expire in 2007, and Blakey wants to replace the current funding structure. Also, on Thursday, AOPA reiterated its opposition to a new TFR above Vice President Dick Cheney's new house on the shore of Chesapeake Bay. AOPA says it is bad public policy, it further crowds and complicates already complex airspace, and it is inconsistent with the FAA's regulation on TFRs. The association has requested that the FAA replace it with a NOTAM similar to those issued for nuclear power plants, dams and bridges. The TFR has a radius of 1 nautical mile and extends to 1,500 feet AGL.

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Zero-Zero Landings In The Works (For Military Flyers)

The Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, in Ohio, is working to develop technology that will enable the Air Mobility Command to land in a range of environmental conditions, anytime and anywhere, the Air Force said last week. An onboard system will process data picked up by imaging radar to generate a near real-time three-dimensional video image on a heads-up display. The image will be enhanced to appear as if the pilot were landing in daytime conditions on a typical visual approach, the Air Force said. The system would allow for landing in low visibility at remote runways that lack navigation aids. For off-airport landings, a pre-mission landing analysis system will analyze satellite imagery to determine an area's suitability for landing operations by looking at length, width and flatness as well as potential obstructions and standing water. Additionally, the system will be able to determine soil type and moisture content in order to estimate the strength of the area. "This technology is a true game-changer," said Douglas Zimmer, deputy program manager with the Air Force Research Laboratory Human Effectiveness Directorate. "With the Autonomous Approach and Landing Capability providing the pilot with adequate imagery and the dependence on airport infrastructure gone, mobility assets will be free to operate under a majority of atmospheric conditions related to extreme low-visibility," he said. Flight tests are scheduled to begin late next year, with deployment by 2010. The Air Force Research Laboratory Air Vehicles, Human Effectiveness and Sensors Directorates are working collaboratively with BAE Systems, Boeing Phantom Works and the U.S. Army's Cold Regions Research Engineering Laboratory, in Hanover, N.H. One day, the technology (or something similar) will likely trickle down.

Australians Working On Agricultural UAVs

Unmanned aerial vehicles have been attracting more and more attention in recent years, mainly for applications in military reconnaissance and border patrol. But down under in Australia, a new research center is aiming in a new direction. "People are talking about using them for so-called armchair farming," says Rod Walker, director of the brand-new Australian Research Centre for Aerospace Automation that opened at Brisbane Airport last Thursday. Farmers with large properties could send out cheap UAVs to find where the stock is, or to collect data on crops to improve management and productivity, Walker told ABC Newsonline. And protecting the country's borders is on the agenda too. "This is the future of aviation," said Deputy Premier, Anna Bligh at the dedication last week. "This is the next most significant development internationally in aviation and Queensland wants to be at the cutting edge of that. We will in this centre develop the capacity to take this technology to the world."

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On The Fly...

An FAA Airworthiness Directive for McCauley Propeller Systems targets 40 propeller hubs that the company says were incorrectly manufactured. The hubs could crack, causing blade separation and loss of control. The AD is effective Dec. 15 and requires that the hubs be removed from service within 10 flight hours or 10 days...

An around-the-world "world speed record" helicopter flight is in the works for next June, with the aim to break the 1996 record of 17 days and six hours, and to raise millions of dollars to improve the lives of poor children...

Last week, Raytheon Co. said it had signed the largest single order in its history, selling 50 Hawker business jets to NetJets in a billion-dollar deal...

A 1981 Piper Seneca was stolen from Andres Island, Bahamas (MYAF) last Wednesday. The aircraft is gray with light blue and white trim, small registration numbers, and large tricolor stripes on the tail. If found, contact the local police then call the Aviation Crime Prevention Institute, 800-969-5473...

A New York philanthropist, George F. Baker III, 66, went missing off the coast of Nantucket on Thursday afternoon. He was flying a twin-engine Beechcraft and was alone on board...

After 11 years of planning, Los Angeles International Airport will scrap its plans and start over to plan expansion....

The first G1000 Diamond Star to be delivered in Australia arrived there recently. It will be used as a personal aircraft as well as for flight training and rental in Melbourne.

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New Articles and Features on AVweb

Motor Head #10: Baffling Explanations
We squeeze engines into tight, streamlined cowls and allow the least amount of (drag-producing) cooling air through there because what we really want is speed. But even tiny leaks in baffles can have huge effects on engine cooling and, therefore, engine longevity as Marc Cook discusses in this month's Motor Head column.

This opinion piece from the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) is in response to a letter from an AVweb reader about recent negotiations between the FAA and NATCA.

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

AVmail: December 5, 2005
Reader mail this week about flight service, Airbus ADs, controller pay negotiations and more.

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AVweb's Business AVflash

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Short Final...

Submitted by a heavy iron driver...

After landing on RWY 30 the other day I began to taxi to the gate when I noticed a beautiful red fox strolling across the taxiway.

Me: Hey, Ground. Did you know you have foxes here on the airport?

Ground: Oh, sure, plenty of them. I'm surprised you knew it was a fox -- most pilots think they are wild dogs.

Me: Well, I've been to a bar or two. I believe I know a fox when I see one!

Female Voice: Then I guess you'd know a wild dog, too.

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