January 23, 2006
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
Public ADIZ Hearings, What Was Said
AOPA President Phil Boyer spoke before the FAA, TSA, Defense, Secret Service and Customs brass last week but it was his story about the experience of one pilot perhaps less accustomed to the spotlight that lent a unique power to the presentation. At the public meeting on the future of the Washington Air Defense Identification Zone, Boyer said his wife Lois is among the pilots falsely accused of busting the ADIZ and it's an experience he says the couple will never forget ... and never wants to relive. "She went through hell," Boyer told the panel, in front of 200 others waiting to relate their experiences. Because Boyer's Cessna 172 has just about every electronic gizmo available on it, including ADS-B, the Boyers were ultimately able to prove they were nowhere near the ADIZ when they took the Sunday afternoon flight in the summer of 2003. But not before Lois, the pilot in command, was threatened with enforcement action. Boyer said she's only flown about 10 hours since and he's afraid that such attacks have had a similar impact on others. According to AOPA's account of the meeting, numerous pilots told the panel the ADIZ has taken the fun out of flying and replaced it with stress and frustration. One pilot said he believes the extra workload the ADIZ has imposed on air traffic controllers is showing and it's getting increasingly difficult to get the required clearances. Another said he bought an airplane from a pilot who sold it because he was fed up with dealing with the restrictions. "I thought I got a great deal. Now I'm no longer sure," he told the meeting.
But even if the pain of the ADIZ is gut-wrenching to pilots across the nation, it's the economic impact that carries the clout. The town of Leesburg, Va., northwest of Washington, sent a representative with facts and figures, plus a resolution from the town council opposing the permanent ADIZ proposal and asking for relaxed restrictions. Dennis Boykin, a member of the Leesburg Airport Commission, told those in attendance that at least 20 airplanes (almost 10 percent) have left the field for more convenient locations, a flight school has closed and fuel sales are down 30 percent. And while airports in similarly affluent areas elsewhere in the country are bursting at the seams with a flood of aircraft seeking space, Leesburg has room for more airplanes. "We have an airport in the richest county in the U.S. and we have vacant tie downs," he said. According to AOPA's account of the meeting, others reported major financial consequences. A helicopter company that shuttled people from downtown New York to downtown Washington is closing with a loss estimated at $75 million. At Tipton Airport, plans to build new hangars have been scuttled because of the ADIZ.
VLJ Proliferation -- What It Could Mean
If the function of the ADIZ is to ensure the security of the seat of government, some might question Thursday's TFR that arose around the president when he spoke at Sterling, Va., a hop, skip and a jump from the White House, and well within the ADIZ. "If the ADIZ is doing its job, why does the President need a TFR when he goes inside the ADIZ?" Boykin asked. And while government officials may believe there exists a threat from GA, "the federal government has failed to justify the threat to the public," he said. National Air Transportation Association President Jim Coyne, a well-connected former senator, added his own voice. Coyne told the panel he's moved his airplane's base three times in three years, each time farther from Washington, "to avoid the draconian consequences of an accidental encroachment on the ADIZ" he said in news release. Coyne joined other alphabet group leaders in denouncing the practical impact of making the ADIZ permanent, saying there is no evidence it will reduce the threat of terrorism. And like other Washington-area pilots, he won't be flying anywhere near Washington on Jan. 31 when President Bush delivers his State of the Union Address to Congress. The entire 3,000 square miles of the ADIZ will be closed to general aviation operations from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Airliners will continue to operate as usual. Boyer said that while it's understandable that increased security be in place when all the country's federal leaders are in the same place, he said it doesn't make any sense that GA is the only transportation sector to be shut down during the event.
It's the year of the very light jet (VLJ) and a new set of naysayers has stepped forth to offer their (generally negative) views. Having survived skepticism that verged on outright hostility from within the general aviation industry, Eclipse Aviation, Adam Aircraft and (after it looked like there might be something to the VLJ phenomenon) Cessna are poised to launch their dreams within the next year or so. Now, those accustomed to having the flight levels pretty much to themselves are sounding the alarm. According to an unusually thorough examination of the VLJ phenomenon by The Associated Press, critics say an already overtaxed air traffic control system trying to keep order around already congested urban airports will bear the brunt of a VLJ population explosion. But the architect of the VLJ movement, Eclipse's Vern Raburn, says the fears are unfounded. In the AP story, FAA Administrator Marion Blakey, Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) President Duane Woerth and Air Transport Association (ATA) President Jim May all express concern that the 3,000 VLJs already on order will clog up the high-altitude airways on their way to the 35 busiest airports in the U.S., creating an enormous strain on the system. "The question is exactly where they're going to be flying," said Blakey. "How much is in congested airspace? It's probably not knowable at this point." Woerth said he's convinced most VLJs will be headed for the big airports where they'll jockey for slots with his members and May thinks they'll cause a sort of aerial gridlock on the way because, at a cruise speed of about 430 mph, they're substantially slower than airliners. May says that's like traveling 45 mph on a freeway.
Raburn, who's used to defending the VLJ concept, dismisses the concerns as being from schoolyard bullies who don't want to share the sandbox. The critics, he said, have the attitude that "if it hasn't been done before, it can't be done or it won't be done or it shouldn't be done." As we've heard many times before, Raburn is sure that little jets will open up 5,000 underused regional and municipal airports around the country to point-to-point air taxi and charter business. "We're going to offer service where the airlines don't," Raburn said. Just how many of these "SUVs with wings" as the AP claims to have heard them described will take to the skies is anyone's guess -- the FAA is estimating 4,500 will be flying in 10 years. But FAA head Marion Blakey told the AP that's probably low. NASA is more enthusiastic, with a prediction of 20,000 within five years and the National Research Council's committee of retired aviation executives and academics said it will never fly. "The committee does not share NASA's vision," the group said, claiming that even at the relatively low prices being touted by the manufacturers, they're still out of reach for the vast majority.
As AVweb reported in December, Eclipse's certification schedule slipped to sometime in June after a parts supplier fell behind, but the company is still hoping to deliver airplanes sometime this summer. A final assembly building is under construction and there's a total of more than 1,000 test hours on the fleet of five flight test aircraft. Eclipse says it can build an airplane in five days, as quoted by The Associated Press. Cessna's Mustang continues flight tests aiming for first deliveries in late 2006 and Adam, which upstaged both of its principal competitors by flying its A700 jet prototype to EAA AirVenture in 2003, is getting ready for the first flight of its first type-conforming jet, perhaps by mid-February. The type-conforming model rolled out in November and, at last report, was getting its door fitted, apparently one of the final tasks to be accomplished. First deliveries are anticipated in 2007. And while the A700 was seemingly an afterthought to Adam's original aircraft, the push/pull piston twin A500, it could be the company's future. There are about three times as many orders for the jet as there are for the propeller aircraft.
It's been awhile since a 9-to-14-passenger utility twin turboprop was certified and the next one may come from the Czech Republic. Evektor hopes the PT-6A-21-powered E-55 Outback will fill a vacuum left by 30- to 50-year-old aircraft that are nearing the end of their service lives. The company, which produced 110 planes in 2005 but may be better known on this side of the Atlantic for its Light Sport category aircraft, such as the SportStar, describes itself as a major player in east European aviation and says it's filling an obvious need with a new twin. First flight is planned for 2007 with Part 23 certification and first deliveries in 2009. Evektor's year-end newsletter says the E-55 will carry up to 14 passengers or 4021 pounds of cargo with a cruise speed of 220 knots at 10,000 feet. The company is also taking aim at the high-performance single market. Its VUT 100 Cobra appears to be a contender in the Cirrus/Columbia class with seating for up to five and a choice of 200- and 315-horsepower Lycoming engines. Estimated cruise in the economy version is 155 knots while Evektor is hoping for 175 knots in the more muscular version. The company unveiled the Cobra at last year's EAA AirVenture and is hoping to have it certified by the end of this year.
The pilot of a Piper Malibu Mirage says he was "just trying to merge with traffic" when he belly-landed his plane on a highway in Florida last Friday. And he almost did. The big single rear-ended a Jeep carrying two adults and three children, pushing it over a median and into the oncoming lanes. There were no injuries and only minor damage to the plane and car. Pilot David Shelby, who was flying from Foley to his home in Birmingham, Ala., said the nearest airport was eight miles away when the engine quit on the Mirage and when it became clear he wasn't going to make it, the highway was his only option. "I was trying to merge with traffic and hoping there were no cars below," he told the Pensacola News-Journal. That's when he met Aaron Ott and his family. Ott, his wife and three kids, from Gilsum, N.H., were visiting relatives in the area when the plane hit their rented Jeep. "At first I thought I was hit by a car," Ott said. "Then I looked back and there was a propeller." Shelby told local reporters he landed without wheels on purpose. The newspaper said he left the gear up because "he wanted to avoid a major crash."
An MD-82 that crashed in Venezuela last August, killing 160, may have been behaving just the way Boeing had warned it might in a 2002 service bulletin. The bulletin warned that the autopilot might reduce engine power too much after a rapid climb, allowing airspeed to bleed off to the point of a stall. Pilots of the West Caribbean Airways flight, out of Panama for Martinique, may have been unaware, unnamed French investigators (Martinique is a French island) told the International Herald-Tribune. An interim report on the crash released by the Venezuelan government last November said the plane climbed from 31,000 feet to 33,000 feet and held the altitude for eight minutes before the autopilot turned itself off. The plane then descended for a minute before the stall horn sounded. It then fell to the ground at about 10,000 feet per minute, with the pilots pulling full back on the control yoke. The unnamed sources said the process would have happened gradually, with the autopilot trying to maintain altitude using pitch adjustments until shutting itself off just before the stall horn sounded. The pilots reported that both engines had flamed out but flight data recorder information indicated the engines were running normally when the descent began, although the right engine was cut back to idle shortly after. Data wasn't available for the left engine. Evidence from the wreckage shows both engines were turning at high speed at the point of impact. The recorder also shows that rather than push the nose over to recover from the stall, the pilots held the yoke to their chests all the way to the ground.
Nah, not really, but it sort of seems that way to CFI Kevin Morris. Morris, a Shreveport, La., flight instructor, got quite a scare last week -- he called it the most intense few moments in his flying career -- when the Cessna 150 he was in struck a kite string just after takeoff from Runway 14 at Shreveport's Downtown (DTN) Airport. This "string," though, was braided nylon rope that wrapped around the spinner and almost immediately starting chewing away cowling and melting onto the windshield. As Kevin looked up after a brief gauges check at about 500 feet MSL he saw the box kite looming. "No problem," Kevin told AVweb. "A big box kite is easy enough to evade." If only that was all there was to it. As he took the controls from his student pilot to maneuver around the kite the prop caught the rope, wrapping it up like a winch. A significant drop in power and severe vibrations followed, but Kevin was able to nurse the plane around to Runway 23 and set it down safely. "It all happened so fast the student pilot didn't really know what we going on," Kevin says. "I am just so thankful he wasn't up there alone." Local police tracked down the box kite culprits ... young people in a nearby neighborhood who had lost their kite in gusty conditions. Morris is now the local airport "hero" but is hoping against a repeat performance.
A judge granted United Air Lines approval to move out of bankruptcy protection on Friday. Although United is on schedule to make the move Feb. 1, it might take some time for that relatively good news to translate to smiles on the faces of rank and file workers. After laying off 25,000 workers, cutting pay and replacing defined benefit pension plans with 401K plans for its front-line workers as part of its reorganization, the company rewarded 400 top management personnel by giving them 8 percent of 125 million new shares to be issued by the company. Still, seated aboard the new share cushion, company brass said the reorganization was even tougher than they thought it would be. They also believe the leaner, meaner United still has its work cut out in regaining profitability. The next step could well be a merger of some sort. While under bankruptcy protection, United wasn't able to troll for partners the way US Airways was when it merged with America West and solidified its presence in the western and southern areas of the country. "Consolidation is inevitable," Chief Financial Officer Jack Brace told reporters.. "What our restructuring has done is give us the ability to participate in consolidation or not."
News in Brief
AOPA says the FAA should either withdraw a proposed AD setting life and operating limits on a couple of McCauley propellers or provide justification for imposing the rules. Last November, the FAA issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that, if adopted, would affect the props on about 1,000 Beech Bonanzas, T-34s and Navions. The rule would put a 10,000-hour life on C406 and C409 props and also prevent them from being operated continuously at the common setting of between 2350 and 2450 RPM with 24 inches or higher of manifold pressure. The FAA says it issued the proposed AD based on test data supplied by McCauley and it's intended to prevent hub and blade failure in the props. But AOPA's Luis Guittierez said there is no evidence that any of the props have failed. "AOPA questions the justification for this restriction given that C406/C409 propellers have been safely operating for almost 30 years with no identified safety issues in this engine operating range," Gutierrez said. "Plus, AOPA could not find any accidents or incidents attributable to propeller blade or hub failure." In addition to the operating restriction, the AD could prove costly to many affected owners. Props for which the service life is unknown would have to be scrapped immediately and the 10,000-hour limit would affect the value of high-time aircraft. Guittierez also says the FAA ignored the normal process in proposing the AD in that it relied solely on manufacturer's data and did not take into account the actual field experience with these props.
Both occupants of a Cirrus SR22 walked away from what became a fiery crash at Lincoln Park Airport in New Jersey, Sunday afternoon. The aircraft was landing when it started to the left of the runway, the pilot applied throttle, and the aircraft veered further left, according to a policeman interviewed by the Associated Press. The aircraft impacted trees some 100 feet from the runway. The two men escaped the wreckage before it burned...
Three people were killed and five injured during the forced landing of a Cessna Grand Caravan in British Columbia, Saturday. Initial reports indicate the pilot called a Mayday because of engine problems on a scheduled flight between Tofino, on Vancouver Island, and Vancouver, and made an emergency landing in rough terrain near Port Alberni...
Cirrus Design announced today that Chief Operating Officer David Coleal has been promoted to President of the company (he keeps the COO job, too) and company co-founder Dale Klapmeier is now vice chairman of the board of directors. Klapmeier's brother Alan remains CEO and chairman of the board...
A passenger who spat at an American Trans Air flight attendant for refusing him alcohol was sentenced to 70 months in jail by a Honolulu court. Zacariah Dodge wasn't supposed to drink at all as part of his probation terms when he got drunk on the flight and was cut off by the attendant...
Companies are getting their messages out via satellite thanks to Google Maps by painting their logos on rooftops. At least one Target store has already emblazoned its familiar bull's-eye on the roof for a seen-from-space (or aircraft) ad...
Someone might want to clean up a leftover Halloween prank near Leesburg, Va., that's tricking overflying pilots. There's apparently a pretty good mockup of a downed Piper in the woods and pilots have been reporting it to ATC.
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The Pilot's Lounge #95: Bureaucrats Or Radium Dials -- Which Poses A Greater Danger?
This is a tale of the big bully versus the little guy. It's a true tale. And the little guy is losing really badly. What's more, the big bully may come after your aiplane or your museum next. AVweb's Rick Durden has the story in The Pilot's Lounge.
Paul Berge makes sure we're all speaking the same language when it comes to critical airport operations and runway procedures. Click through to make sure you've got it right.
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Short Final...The Names Behind The News
If ever you've lost your place...
I fly "co-pilot" for a national carrier. This particular dark and stormy night had me eager for some real world practice. The captain had other ideas.
Me: I'd like to fly the approach tonight if you don't mind.
Captain: ...and how many times have you flown this one before?
Me: More times than I can count.
Captain: I'm still waiting for you to say something that might inspire my confidence.
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