NewsWire Complete Issue

December 7, 2005
By The AVweb Editorial Staff

This issue of AVweb's AVflash is brought to you by ... Aircraft Spruce & Specialty Co.

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Federal Air Marshal(s) Kill Airline Passenger

Shortly after 2 p.m., yesterday, (Pearl Harbor day) Rigoberto Alpizar, 44, was seated near the rear of the plane among more than 110 other passengers aboard American Airlines flight 924, a Boeing 757, as it prepared to push back from the gate at Miami international. Jim Bauer, special agent in charge of the Miami office of the Federal Air Marshals yesterday told reporters agents aboard the aircraft then overheard Alpizar in his seat "uttering threatening words that included a sentence to the effect that he had a bomb." (As of midnight last night, neither Alpizar's exact words, nor any specific witnesses who heard them had been confirmed or identified.) Alpizar then became agitated, rose from his seat and fled the aircraft. Federal officials say Alpizar was pursued by the onboard Federal Air Marshals and was in the still-attached jetway when he failed to comply with verbal commands issued by the Air Marshals. The agents then opened fire. Alpizar was struck and killed. In the subsequent search, no explosives were found anywhere aboard the flight or among Alpizar's belongings. Authorities do not believe Alpizar was affiliated with any terrorist group. There were more than 110 passengers and crew within a stone's throw of the event. We have presented the very few accordant details supported by multiple sources at the time of this writing.


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Parts And Planes Fraud

Authorities Allege Dozens Duped

A Bradenton, Fla., man has been charged with organized fraud for a series of aircraft and aircraft parts transactions that allegedly went sour. Phillip D. Casciola is alleged to have been paid for parts and taken deposits on aircraft without delivering the goods. According to the Bradenton Herald, federal and local authorities estimate the value of the alleged fraud to be at least $4.5 million. Casciola operates an Internet-based brokerage and consulting company called, which was still online when we checked on Wednesday. The company claims to have "decades of experience and extensive resources not readily available to the general aviation community" and, in addition to selling aircraft and parts, operates an appraisal service and offers to act as an "expert witness" in aviation-related claims. The Herald says Casciola advertised his services via mass faxes and e-mails.

Accused No Stranger To Court

The Supreme Court of Alaska recently uphelda $330,000 judgment against Casciola, which he'd appealed. The Supreme Court said the $30,000 award for real damages and the $300,000 award for punitive damages were justified to "vindicate Alaska's legitimate interest in preventing particularly malignant conduct." In the earlier judgment, an Alaska court upheld F.S. Air's allegation that Casciola had misrepresented the availability of two engines for one of its Learjet medevac aircraft and refused to refund the $25,000 deposit the company had given the broker. In that deal, Casciola had agreed to provide two "freshly overhauled" engines for just $100,000, plus the cores from the old engines. According to the Herald, Casciola has been named in at least 22 other civil actions between 1991 and 2004. Dave Bristow, a spokesman for the Manatee County Sheriff's office, said authorities moved on Casciola when they got wind of his next venture. "We were concerned because we heard that his next business is going to be in retirement and estate planning," Bristow said. Casciola was charged and released on $500,000 bail.

False Certifications Lead To Jail Term

In an unrelated case in California, Amanullah Khan, 56, of Brea, Calif., was sentenced to 188 months in prison for falsely certifying aircraft parts, including flight-critical components, according to a release posted by The Law News Network attributed by the site to Assistant US Attorney, Douglas F. McCormick. U.S. District Judge David O. Carter also ordered Khan to pay $5.4 million in restitution to his victims. According to the release, Khan simply drew up his own FAA certifications for the parts he sold, including helicopter grip assemblies that he said were made of steel when they were actually made of aluminum. The parts are available in both metals but steel assemblies have a 2,500-hour life while the aluminum assemblies are only good for 300 hours, according to the release. The US Attorney's release, Khan switched data plates on the parts. And in an ironic twist, Khan was also found guilty of illegally supplying parts to foreign military powers. Khan was apparently swept up in a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement action called Operation Dark Star. Agents, posing as Chinese arms brokers, bought components for fighters and military helicopters off Khan. Khan had also supplied parts to the U.S. military for F-4s and C-130s.

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Aviation’s Six Percent … And Counting

Flying Is Getting Better

Seems a little hard to believe that in a country that has spawned the likes of Patty Wagstaff, Julie Clark Betty Skelton and dozens of other top female aerobatic pilots since 1915 that the first female member of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds is now in training at Nellis Air Force Base near Las Vegas. And Punta Gorda, Fla., is claiming a "coup" by hosting the first performance of the group, with Capt. Nicole Malachowski at No. 3 right wing, during the Florida International Air Show April 1 and 2. Malachowski's appointment was announced last June but that didn't stop show manager Bucky McQueen from breathlessly announcing that it will be "the first time a female pilot has performed with any military jet team, anywhere." The Canadian Armed Forces would disagree. In 2001, the Snowbirds welcomed Capt. Maryse Carmichael to the team for a two-year tour. She had previously been the pilot of the Challenger bizjet used by then-Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien. Malachowski recently returned from a four-month tour in Iraq on F-15s and is now getting used to the single throttle on the F-16 at the T-birds' winter home and training base.

A Rare Challenge At The Gliding Grand Prix

And although 19 percent of the Air Force's pilots are women, there are probably lots of female military "firsts" left. But it's sometimes a little surprising, in this day and age, for the powder-room door to open for the first time in civilian flying. However, Mette Pedersen, of Denmark, will be the first woman to compete against men in the New Zealand Gliding Gran Prix Jan. 21 to Jan. 27. Now, even Pedersen, the current world women's champion, seems to wonder why there's been a gender gap at this level. "Physically, there is nothing limiting me to performing as well as the men," she noted. But there was also some giddiness there. "Being a girl in a man's world is always special," she said. Pedersen, who's 28, has been gliding for 15 years and has a BSc in chemical engineering. She's left the lab to devote all of her time to training, competing and instructing young pilots at her club. The New Zealand competition will take place at Omarama and the final three days are open to the public.

King Gets NAA Award

And while some might still consider aspects of aviation a "man's world" they certainly recognize its King of flight training, first name Martha. The co-founder of King Schools was recently presented the Cliff Henderson Award for Achievement by the National Aeronautic Association. It's presented annually to "a living individual or group whose vision, leadership, or skill, has made a significant and lasting contribution to the promotion and advancement of aviation or space activity." King gets her message across in training videos seen by about half of all flight students in the U.S. but she got there by recording a major "first." King is the first female pilot to hold all FAA classes of pilot and instructor ratings available. She's also the first woman to win the award in its current form. The trophy was originally given to the best pilot in the National Air Races in the 1930s and its scope has changed over the years. It came under NAA's umbrella in 1985 and other notable recipients in the modern era are Tom Poberezny and Cliff Robertson.

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Pension Lobby Goes Full Throttle

Four big airlines and all of their unions got together in an unheard-of show of unanimity last week, but don't credit the Christmas spirit. Enlightened self-interest is behind their show of force on Capitol Hill to try and press the House into taking up pension legislation passed by the Senate last month. The legislation would give the struggling airlines 20 years to make up shortfalls in pension funding, something they say they need to maintain the pension plans. However, the White House has said it will veto the provisions and it looks like the House doesn't want the confrontation because its version of the bill doesn't have any of that language. So American, Continental, Northwest and Delta got together with their unions to intensely lobby for the relief. Northwest and Delta are both in bankruptcy protection and could dump their pension liability on the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, which is already staggering under the load from United and US Airways doing the same. Now the PBGC is having a hard time staying afloat and might need a government bailout.

New Skylane Stolen From Locked Hangar

Maybe Harry Houdini has come back as an airplane thief. Vincent MacLeod III was planning to get himself current again on his $300,000 2002 Cessna 182T on Nov. 20 but when he unlocked the double padlocked door to his hangar at El Monte Airport in California, it was empty. Police told the San Gabriel Valley Tribune that there was no sign of forced entry. Airport Manager Rafael Herrera told the newspaper that rumors circulating at the airport that former airport employees still had keys to the hangars were not true. Whoever took the plane was also careful to take all its logs. Complicating the investigation is the fact that MacLeod hadn't seen the plane since August before he took off on an extended trip to Europe. There's no indication of when the plane was stolen. As a matter of policy, the theft was reported to the local Terrorism Early Warning Group. "It could be used for all sorts of purposes," McLeod said. "It's a brand new plane. I want my plane back." The plane is (was?) white with grey-and-white stripes with tail number N184TA and anyone who knows anything about it is asked to call El Monte police at 626-580-2176.

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The Coolest Planes You'll Never Fly

Dream all you want, the most sophisticated hardware coming off the line these days doesn't need you, unless you're good with a remote. Bell Helicopter announced earlier this week that its tiltrotor Eagle Eye TR918unmanned aircraft system (UAS) has received FAA certification. It's the first such aircraft to get the FAA nod and we have to agree with Bell that the mind boggles at the possibilities for commercial and military uses. The Eagle Eye will be tested at Bell's new XworX facility in "West Texas." And while the technology and capabilities of unmanned aircraft have grown exponentially in recent years, the regulatory environment remains conservative, something not even the wishes of a president can budge. President Bush recently told an audience in border-sensitive El Paso that "drones" would soon be patrolling the border in rural Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, perhaps reinforcing the dictum that everyone, absolutely everyone, should check with the FAA before saying such things. Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) border patrols are happening in Arizona (and have nabbed about 1,000 illegal immigrants) because the appropriate restricted airspace is in place. At the moment, the FAA says UAVs can only operate where civilian aircraft are forbidden and there are no such restrictions above the New Mexico and Texas borders. Under increasing political pressure, the FAA says it hopes to have a plan to allow UAV patrols to mix safely with other traffic along the length of the border ready in about two months.

10-Minute Flight Rates Record

For the man who set the record for the longest endurance flight ever, the latest notch on Dick Rutan's yoke was over in the blink of an eye -- and it probably won't stand as a record for much longer. Last Saturday, Rutan, who with Jeana Yeager flew around the world nonstop in 1986, took a 10-minute hop in XCOR's EZ-Rocket from Mojave to California City. It was the first time a rocket-powered plane had ever made a point-to-point flight with the pilot in control for most phases of flight. It was also the EZ-Rocket's last flight. XCOR spokeswoman Aleta Jackson told that after 25 flights they've learned what they needed to from the modified Long EZ. The aircraft taking part in the newly formed Rocket Racing League will be based on the EZ-Rocket and the airframes will be supplied by Velocity Aircraft, of San Sebastian, Fla. XCOR will do the final assembly of the racers, which are planned to enter competition next October. The league is the creation of X Prize founder Peter Diamandis.


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NATCA, FAA Spar Over Maintenance

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association says the FAA is planning to let equipment fail before it gets any service attention but the FAA says the union is trotting out an old issue that it's already dealt with. NATCA issued a press release on Tuesday suggesting the FAA was abandoning the established practice of preventive maintenance on its equipment in favor of a "fail and fix" regimen. "By waiting until a potentially dangerous failure occurs, this new agency policy directly threatens passenger safety and is the latest example of the agency's mismanagement, which is reducing the reliability and integrity of the system by cutting corners," the press release reads. FAA spokesman Greg Martin said the Professional Airways Systems Specialists had already brought up the issue last March. He said the new maintenance system is simply a much-needed update to bring maintenance work in line with modern technology. "The one thing [NATCA President] John Carr and I agree on in this is that the maintenance practices haven't changed in four decades," Martin said. He said much of the maintenance work is now geared toward software issues and systems have advanced diagnostic programs built in to let technicians know when and where there's a problem. He said the old system of scheduled maintenance at "arbitrary intervals" doesn't work in modern circumstances. He also pointed out that fully functioning equipment had to be shut down for the scheduled maintenance, thus potentially disrupting operations. "Maintenance ought to be more tied to the operational capacity of the system rather than arbitrary maintenance intervals," Martin said. Carr said it's ironic the FAA wants to maintain its own equipment that way but it strictly enforces maintenance intervals on aircraft operators.

Two Rescued From Downed Glider

The pilot and passenger of a Grob G103 were found uninjured on the side of a mountain in Southern California early Sunday. The two were airlifted from their impromptu landing site at the 4,200-foot level in the San Gabriel Mountains at first light. They'd taken a tow to 9,300 feet in the Mt. Baden-Powell area on Saturday and didn't return to the point of origin, Crystal Airport. It's not known why the pilot opted to put the glider down. Civil Air Patrol spokesman Capt. Bob Kielholtz said the sailplane was not equipped with an ELT and that prevented a night search for the landing site. While they were waiting for the sun to come up, however, CAP volunteers were able to plot the glider's probable track using radar data from 84th Radar Evaluation Squadron at Hill AFB in Utah. "Having access to this radar data enabled us to cut response time by focusing the search on the most likely position where they could have landed," Kielholtz said.

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On The Fly...

The Associated Press is reporting that Iranian officials knew of problems with a C-130 that crashed into an apartment building, killing a total of more than 120 people. The plane's pilot was attempting an emergency landing at Tehran's airport when the accident occurred...

Put another log on the fire and start planning your trip to Oshkosh. EAA opened the AirVenture 2006 Web site earlier this week and it will be regularly updated with information on the next big show...

Australian Air Force F/A-18s and Blackhawk helicopters will be in the air over the opening and closing ceremonies for the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne next year to dissuade would-be troublemakers. During the Games themselves they'll be on alert at nearby bases...

A Chicago councilman has proposed an ordinance that would prevent "seaplanes, manned balloons, gliders, helicopters and other 'non-conventional types of aircraft'" from taking off within three miles of the city's waterfront...

A 16-year-old math whiz's analysis of a 200-year-old mathematical mystery could help engineers design better wings. Michael Viscardi, who is home-schooled in San Diego, won a $100,000 college scholarship for his six months of work on a problem first posed by mathematician Lejeune Dirichlet in the 19th century.

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

Say Again? #57: Überlingen
A quiet night with few airplanes in the sky and tired controllers working with them. Sounds like the typical midnight shift in any air traffic control room in the world. Until the radar goes out for maintenance and the phones don't work. AVweb's Don Brown wonders whether there will be enough controllers to prevent another midair collision like the one over Überlingen, Germany.


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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


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AVweb's Question of the Week ...


Last week, AVweb asked how long your longest cross-country flight was.

As it turns out, AVweb readers are a healthy mix of adventurous aviators and home-patch fliers.  A full 23% of you told us you'd flown over 1700 nautical miles at a shot, while a comparable 20% said your longest flight was between 200 and 500 nm.

The median answers leveled out pretty evenly as well, with 20% of you having flown between 500 and 800 nm, 18% between 800 and 1200 nm, and 13% over 1200 nm but less than the aforementioned 1700 nm.

Relatively few readers (only 6% of those surveyed) told us they had traveled less than 200 nm on a cross-country.


This week, AVweb wants to hear your opinion on yesterday's shooting death of an airline passenger by Federal Air Marshalls.  Is this an example of a system that works, or one that failed?

Click here to answer

Note: AVweb had not at the time of this writing been able to find any specific witness's account or any identified individual claiming to have heard the now-deceased man state the words, "I have a bomb" or something similar. We're not saying he didn't say it. We're saying we can't name anyone who heard the now-deceased man say it, first hand. It is possible the man offered those words only to Federal Air Marshals

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

Submissions are picking up again after the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday — that time of the year when a major portion of our North American readership dozes into a four-day turkey-digesting slumber.  As the numbers rise, quality holds steady — giving us plenty of great images to pick from this week.  Our top spot (and an official AVweb baseball hat) goes to Mark Stephenson of Fitzroy Harbor, Ontario.

To qualify for a chance at The Hat (and international AVweb fame), submit your aviation photos here.

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


Used with permission of Mark Stephenson

"One Last Weekend"
Mark Stephenson
of Fitzroy Harbor, Ontario (Canada)
spent a final weekend at his cottage over the Canadian
Thanksgiving Weekend.  Thanks, Mark, for sharing this
last image with us.  Time to batten down the hatches and
prepare for winter here in the Northern hemisphere ... .

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.

copyright © Erin Seidemann
Used with permission

"Katrina Aftermath at Lakefront Airport"
Erin Seidemann of Daly City, California writes,
"I was born in New Orleans and took my first flying
lesson at KNEW [Lakefront Airport].  The devastation
was unbelievable.  I just don't want people to forget."
Erin's image is a powerful reminder that there's
much work and recovery still to be done ... .

copyright © Joshua Cawthra
Used with permission

"Mission Accomplished!"
Joshua Cawthra
of Mobile, Alabama
had his camera handy at just the right time.
"After a lovely local flight," he writes, "I saw a
few Blackhawks on the other side of the airport
doing external load operations."  Great image,
Joshua — we're glad you had the camera!

Bonus Pictures

We're not done yet ... !

copyright © Robert Burns

Used with permission

"Staggerwings on Display"
The thumbnail image doesn't do justice to this amazing
panorama from Robert (Bob) Burns of Mauckport, Indiana.
Go on and click through!  (And Bob — thanks for all the great
Staggerwings this week.  We enjoyed 'em!)

Used with permission of Angela Nesbitt

Angela Nesbitt of Antioch, Tennessee
put us on the edge of our seat with this
photo of Otto (The Airshow Helicopter)
and barnstormer John Mohr doing their
thing as the Untied Team.  Those guys
still make us nervous.  (Ain't it great?)

copyright © Natalia Anemodoura
Used with permission

"Here Is SX-BIN!"
Yikes!  Speaking of things that make us nervous,
Natalia Anemodoura of Kalithea, Athens (Greece)
sends this photo of "an Olympic Aviation ATR-42 during
an extremely low approach on RWY 17 at CFU (LGKR)."
The picture, she tells us, was taken on Corfu during August of 2004.
And no offense to Natalia, but we have to ask:  Is that for real?

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.

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Featuring products and services from AVweb's
sponsors — including very special holiday offers!

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