NewsWire Complete Issue

December 11, 2005
By The AVweb Editorial Staff

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Joe Pilot - Countdown to Christmas

ADIZ Public Meetings Set

Making Eye Contact

The FAA has set public hearings on its proposal to make the Washington Air Defense Identification Zone permanent. The meetings will be held Jan. 12 at the Sheraton Hotel in Columbia, Md., and Jan. 18 at the Airport Marriott in Dulles, Va. The meetings will run from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. There is expected to be a long list of speakers so it’s probably a good idea to reserve your spot now if you have something to say. The FAA now requests you contact Noreen Hannigan via phone at 202 267-7476 or by fax to 202-267-5075. Unfortunately, the only other way to get your name on the list is the old-fashioned way, with a letter to Noreen Hannigan, Office of Rulemaking, FAA, 800 Independence Ave. SW, Washington, D.C., 20591. The requests must be in by Jan. 5 for the Jan. 12 meeting and Jan. 11 for the Jan. 18 meeting.

The public meetings were announced by Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta at his question-and-answer session at AOPA Expo in Tampa a month ago. The comment period for the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking was also extended by 90 days to Feb. 6.

Get Specific

It’s pretty hard to find anyone in aviation who actually supports the ADIZ becoming permanent but the FAA isn't interested in whether we like it. The agency is looking for insight into what pilots think will be the actual impact of making the ADIZ permanent by assessing the effects of the "temporary" zone. Specifically, the FAA wants to know if people are flying less because of the ADIZ and how much it's cost them. Panelists will be looking for documentary evidence to back up the claims.

And while the FAA is the lead agency in airspace issues, it's widely speculated (and privately conceded by FAA brass) that it’s the Secret Service, Department of Defense and the Transportation Security Administration that are really calling the shots. Representatives of two of those three, the DOD and TSA, will be at the meeting. Be brief and to the point. Others will be wanting their turn.

Ominous Signs?

AOPA's Andy CebulaThe FAA announced the meetings just days after the 9/11 Commission gave the government a B- for aerospace security measures and noted that it really only exists over Washington. What would it take to get an A? AOPA’s government expert Andy Cebula fears it could be a patchwork of ADIZs all over the U.S. "I'm not sure which is more distressing -- that the commission thinks the Washington, D.C., ADIZ works, or that they think the model should be applied elsewhere," Cebula said in a report on AOPA’s Web site. He said the commission’s comments are just the sort of thing to prompt politicians and bureaucrats to do something -- anything -- to appear to be responding to security concerns. "And the easiest thing for them to do would be to create more ADIZs,” he said. If a Kentucky senator has his way, a town as small as 30,000 in population with a relatively small, mainly GA airport would qualify for an ADIZ.

Sen. Julian Carroll (who used to be the governor) has put forth a resolution to the state legislature that would ask the FAA to look at imposing flight restrictions over the picturesque community of Frankfort. If you were especially good at geography in high school you might remember that Frankfort is the capital of Kentucky and that the seat of government is on one of the approaches to Capital City Airport. AOPA forces are mustering to block the bill.


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Pilot Gets $54 Million in Suit

Fired and Fighting Back

A 64-year-old California pilot, who made his living for nine years flying the Gulfstream II owned by actors Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, has received a star-quality award by a Los Angeles jury. The jury found that Doyle Baker’s age (63 at the time) was the sole motivation for his termination by Connecticut-based PrivatAir Inc. The jury also found that the company and three of its employees had defamed Baker prior to firing him in July of 2004. The jury awarded Baker $53.8 million. Willis and Moore owned the plane but used various management companies to run it. Baker became an employee of those companies.

In 2002, PrivatAir took over the contract and, according to The Los Angeles Times, the jury was told that company officials wrote letters to the FAA, Willis and Moore alleging he had medical problems and attacking his competence in the cockpit. The jury sided with Baker and may add punitive damages to the award. Moore and Willis were not named in Baker’s suit. There’s no immediate word on an appeal but it would seem likely.

Human-Rights Probe Sides with Pilot

In Bangor, Maine, a Human Rights Commission investigator has determined that a cargo pilot who refused to fly a plane with one inoperative attitude indicator and one suspect AI into night IMC was illegally fired. According to the Bangor Daily News, Aric Merrow was getting ready to fly a route for Air Now (it operates both Caravans and Bandierantes but the Daily News didn’t identify the aircraft type) when he noticed the pilot-side AI didn’t work. Working by flashlight, he and a mechanic tried to switch the right-side AI to the left side but the result didn’t satisfy either of them. Merrow refused the flight and the mechanic later told the human-rights investigator, Barbara Lelli, that he agreed with the decision. "Tonight didn't look like the night to go darting into the clouds with only one attitude indicator ... which you are not sure works or not,” the mechanic is quoted by Lelli’s report as saying, according to the Daily News. However, Merrow’s supervisor claimed the pilot “just wanted the night off” and had other problems.

Company officials told the investigator that Merrow’s performance and attitude had deteriorated in the months prior to his termination. They said he had been caught at work out of uniform, had taxied across a runway without clearance and had refused to help a fellow pilot unload cargo from an airplane. The commission hasn’t ruled on the case yet but Lelli has recommended it side with Merrow.

Government Pilot Back at Work, Sort Of

And in the central Indian state of Maharashtra, pilots are apparently so scarce that the departure of the two pilots qualified to fly the state’s King Airs caused the whole flight department to shut down six months ago. The department has managed to lure one of the pilots, Capt. Neetu Gupta, back, but it still needs one more before the Chief Minister can use the planes again (he’s been getting around in helicopters since July). According to Mid-day, a Mumbai newspaper, Gupta left her government job for a shot at the right seat in an A320 operated by Kingfisher, a new Indian airline, but it didn’t work out so well.

The paper quotes Airbus sources as saying Gupta failed to qualify in the A320, which Gupta neither confirms nor denies. According to the newspaper, however, her new (and old) boss Captain Y. P. Kothari, Director of Aviation, Government of Maharashtra, defended the hire saying Gupta is a very talented pilot. Gupta, now 27, became India’s youngest female commercial pilot at the age of 19 and was the co-pilot of the Chief Minister’s King Air 350 before trying out with Kingfisher.

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Caravan Icing Suits Consolidated

Lawsuits are mounting against Cessna over the performance of its Caravan turboprop singles in icing conditions. As AVweb told you earlier this month, an Alaska jury recently exonerated Cessna and the aircraft’s design in a case involving the deaths of 10 people in a Caravan crash in Dillingham, Alaska, in 2001. Last week, the Nolan Law Group, which is representing plaintiffs in four Caravan icing-related suits in the U.S. and one in Canada, has won the right to consolidate the U.S. cases into a single action to be heard in Kansas. The cases focus on the plane’s deicing system and the law firm is asking the FAA not to wait for the courts in taking action on the alleged problems.

"We believe there are deadly defects in the deicing system and we have been trying to get the FAA to require recertification of the plane for flight into icing conditions,” said Nolan spokesman Tom Ellis. “The urgency here is to save lives." Last spring, the FAA issued an Airworthiness Directive (AD) requiring pilots to physically examine lifting surfaces before taking off in icing conditions. Last week, the agency turned down a plea by operators to relax the AD’s five-minute time limit, which often requires pilots to get out of the plane in the run-up area to run their hands over the wings.

First Vietnamese-Manufactured Ultralight Flies

VAM-1Now, it may be something thousands of people in North America have done in their shops and hangars, but you have to start somewhere, right? The Vietnamese ultralight industry was launched on Dec. 8 with a plane based on a kit design called the Beaver, made by Aircraft Sales and Parts, of Vernon, B.C., Canada. The completion of the snappy-looking pusher “manufactured” by the Vietnam Mechanics Association made all the papers there. The association says about 20 percent of the parts for the first airplane were made in Vietnam. The State Council for Science and Technology, the Ministry of National Defense and the Air Defense Force were in on the testing of the VAM-1, which took three test hops from Nuoc Trong airport in Long Thanh district of southern Dong Nai province.

The VAM-1 is based on ASAP’s Beaver RX 550, a popular kit-built ultralight that’s been manufactured in Vernon since 1996. The first test model of the Vietnamese-built version flew in 2003. Build time is listed by ASAP as 180 to 200 hours and top speed with the biggest engine (Rotax 582) is 85 mph. The Vietnamese say they’re already at work on an improved version of the plane, designated the VAM-2, but no details were available, nor was there any indication of whether the planes will be sold in Vietnam.

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Crash Focus Now on Thrust Reversers

Pilots of an almost-new Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-7H4 that slid off a 6,500-foot runway at Midway Airport in heavy snow last Thursday have told investigators the flying pilot couldn’t push up the thrust-reverser lever on landing and needed the help of the first officer to move it. The struggle lasted a few seconds as the plane landed in a snowstorm. "For some reason we haven't pinned down yet, he couldn't get them to go up so he could push them forward," NTSB Investigator Robert Benzon told reporters. "There were seconds of delay." The impact of the alleged malfunction on the braking ability of the plane won’t be known for “a long time,” Benzon said. The accident killed six-year-old Joshua Woods. The boy was riding in a car on a road where the plane came to rest after going through two fences. No one on the plane was seriously hurt. The accident has also renewed focus on the provision of arresting systems for airports that don’t have the 1,000-foot runway overruns sought by the FAA.

Midway has neither the overruns, nor the Engineered Material Arresting Systems -- beds of crushable concrete that rapidly slow down planes that run off the runway. Only 18 of the 300 runways in the U.S. that don’t have 1,000-foot overruns have the concrete beds. At La Guardia, the energy-absorbing material has stopped three aircraft that have gone off the end of the runway. The flight and voice data recorders are in Washington and should shed light on the reported braking anomaly.

60 Years with the FAA

As part of the ongoing feud between the FAA and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, the union recently made hay out of a government employee survey that rated the agency as the worst government department to work for. Kim Yee would beg to differ. While a lot of FAA employees might be ticking off the days until their 25 years are up (and they qualify for a healthy pension), Yee, after 60 years with the agency, as a technician on Guam, is hoping for another 23. He’s now 77 and says he figures 100 is a good age to retire, according to the Pacific Daily News. "I'm one of the luckiest people to be employed 60 years -- with good pay," he said.

Yee was born in Hawaii to Chinese immigrants and joined the Army as a paratrooper during the Second World War. After the war, he joined the Civil Aeronautics Administration as an electronics technician and has been looking after the radars and radio gear on the U.S.-held island ever since. And whether it was a reporter’s slip or Freudian barb, his immediate supervisor, System Support Center manager Randy Reeves, said Yee knows his stuff. "Kim showed me all the nuisances of radars," Reeves is quoted by the Daily News as saying. Look it up if you don’t believe us.

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AOPA Urges Cancellation of Rod AD

AOPA says the FAA has “blindsided AOPA, ECi, and the general aviation community” with a proposed Airworthiness Directive on a certain type of aftermarket connecting rod used in Lycoming engines. AOPA’s regulatory and certification expert, Luis Gutierrez, said the FAA had promised full consultation with AOPA and other industry stakeholders before proposing ADs but forged ahead on this one despite contrary evidence. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, issued in October, could affect up to 2,800 engines overhauled and repaired using ECi connecting rods. The NPRM was issued in response to a single engine failure that both AOPA and the manufacturer claim may have been caused or contributed to by an oil-system blockage. "AOPA has found no evidence that shows the engine connecting rods fail to meet safe, FAA-approved limits."

What’s more, AOPA claims the FAA used data based on automotive engines to reach the conclusion that an AD was necessary. Gutierrez said air-cooled aircraft engines and liquid-cooled car engines are different animals and the standards of one should not be applied to the other without first verifying the data applies.

Lycoming Engines' own OEM connecting rods are not affected by the proposed Airworthiness Directive.

New Articles and Features on AVweb

Katrina Search and Rescue
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An item in the Dec. 5 edition of AVweb incorrectly stated that Pilot Journey was taking over sales and marketing for Liberty Aircraft. In fact, Pilot Journey is starting and managing the new Liberty Flight Schools program. We apologize for any confusion caused by the error.

Reader Feedback on AVweb's News Coverage and Feature Articles ...

AVmail: December 12, 2005
Reader mail this week about flight service, the JATO Ercoupe, bottle-rocket attacks on airliners and more.


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AVweb's Business AVflash

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Narco Avionics proudly announces the availability of their all-new Value Series plug & play line of digital transponders. The Value Series is designed for the cost-conscious owner. Narco's Value Series plug & play transponders include the AT165/VS (a replacement for the AT50 through AT155), the AT165/KA/VS (a replacement for the KT76A/78A), and the AT165/K/VS (a replacement for the KT76/78). Coming Soon: Narco's AT165/C and AT165/C/VS, plug & play replacements for the ARC (Cessna) RT359A/RT459A. For more information, go to

On the Fly ...

At least 107 people, including 65 students, died when a Sosoliso Airlines plane crashed on landing at Nigeria’s Port Harcourt Airport. Bad weather was reported at the time of the crash ...

Canadian Armed Forces officials say all their planes are accounted for, despite reports last week that a C-130 went down off the coast of New Brunswick. Police said the plane may have been flying low and dropping flares and that could have confused witnesses ...

The first combat-ready V-22 Osprey tiltrotor was delivered to the Marines last week. The aircraft, which has encountered numerous (and fatal) developmental problems, went to the II Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Lejeune, N.C. ...

The Korean government has ordered striking Korean Air pilots back to work. The pilots had been on off the job for four days, seeking higher wages ...

Three men escaped from a French prison in Albertville after accomplices hijacked a helicopter to snatch them from the courtyard. They haven’t been recaptured.

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Short Final ...

Recently heard at Manchester international:

Nameless 747 jock: "Ground, can you confirm that a '400 will fit between these two lamposts?"

ATC: "Yip, absolutely, no shadow of a doubt, definitely will."

... pause ...

ATC: "Assuming you are on the centreline....."

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