January 26, 2006
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
The Specter Of User-Fees
On Tuesday, Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta made use of his speech at the annual luncheon of Washington's Aero Club to talk about the future of the FAA and how it will be funded. First there was the encrypted user-fee warning: "I cannot give you the details yet, but I expect that we are going to see a cost-based plan that creates a more direct relationship between revenue collected and services provided," he said. That new plan is in the "final stages," he added. Then, Mineta moved on to blast NATCA's contract proposal, now under negotiation. That proposal would cost the FAA more than $2 billion over the next five years, Mineta said, diverting funds needed for capacity improvements and modernization. "We cannot afford this," he said. NATCA, to no one's surprise, begs to differ. The FAA is "playing loose with the facts," according to Ruth Marlin, NATCA executive vice president. A large portion of the nation's controllers are very senior and are at retirement ages, Marlin said in a statement. "All the FAA has to do is let them retire and replace them with new hires, and under the Union's proposal they will save $543 million over five years."
Yesterday, the FAA reported that it has made progress with problems at the New York Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) six months after implementing new management controls at the facility. "Overtime has decreased by 76 percent," said Bruce Johnson, vice president of the FAA's Air Traffic Organization in charge of terminal operations. In fiscal year 2004, overtime cost $4.12 million, higher than any other large TRACON, Johnson said, and in fiscal year 2006, the cost is projected to be under $1 million. Time on position has increased by 38 percent, and operational errors have decreased significantly. Four separate studies assert that the facility only needs 190 controllers. Currently, 206 are on staff, plus 11 in training. NATCA says the facility should have 270 controllers. "Did traffic counts go down so much to require that many fewer controllers on the scopes?" NATCA spokesman Doug Church asked yesterday. "Not according to the figures on traffic that we have. Traffic is roughly the same this year as the previous year."
The airspace over Washington, D.C., will be pretty much shut down to GA operations from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Jan. 31, during President Bush's State of the Union address to Congress. AOPA says the restriction covers 3,000 square miles, and notes that airlines are not affected, and neither are cars and trucks, "which can get very close to the Capitol with much greater payload than a Cessna 172." AOPA is also not happy about a restricted area along 300 nm of the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona and New Mexico. The "temporary" restriction is in place now through Dec. 31. "Even though the TFR is limited to 12,000 to 14,000 feet and evening and night hours, AOPA believes that the use of 'temporary' large-scale flight restrictions for year-long UAV operations is not appropriate," said Andy Cebula, AOPA executive vice president of government affairs. "We are appealing to the FAA and security officials for less restrictive alternatives for these types of operations."
The FAA has also published an updated NOTAM for Super Bowl XL, to be held in Detroit on Feb. 5. This new version corrects an earlier one that said reservations would be required for nearby airports. There won't be a reservation program, but arrival and departure routes must be adhered to, ground delays may be implemented for traffic management, and a TFR will be in effect. But that TFR stops at the Canadian border. "Canada has maintained a commonsense approach on this and won't implement super-sized flight restrictions during a sporting event," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "There's a lesson there." Canada has adopted the approach that AOPA has been urging on U.S. security officials, Boyer said. "Analyze the threat and the risk, and impose only the necessary and reasonable restrictions to counter the threat."
The pilots' failure to follow established procedures was the probable cause of the fatal crash of a British Aerospace "Jetstream" BAE-J3201 twin turboprop in October 2004, the NTSB said on Tuesday. Fatigue was likely a contributing factor. The Jetstream, on a scheduled flight from St. Louis, crashed short of the runway at Kirksville (Missouri) Regional Airport during a night non-precision instrument approach in instrument meteorological conditions. The two pilots and 11 passengers died, and two passengers were seriously hurt. The NTSB said the pilots descended below the minimum descent altitude before required visual cues were available and failed to follow the established division of duties between the flying and non-flying pilot. The pilots had been on duty since 5:30 a.m. at the time of the crash, over 14 hours later, and were making their sixth landing of the day. "It is imperative that pilots understand and follow proper procedures when flying in demanding conditions," said NTSB Acting Chairman Mark Rosenker. "Pilots are also expected to perform in a professional manner at all times when operating an aircraft ... The discipline in that cockpit didn't seem to exist, which really created an environment for mistakes to be made." Both pilots were looking for the approach lights and failed to monitor the airplane's descent rate and altitude, the NTSB said. The pilots failed to maintain professional demeanor and indulged in nonessential conversation while below 10,000 feet, contrary to established sterile cockpit regulations. At our deadline, the final report had not yet been posted, but a synopsis from Tuesday's meeting was online.
In Alaska, pilots have been banned from shooting at wolves while flying. The practice, which has been allowed since 2003, was protested by animal-rights groups. A Superior Court judge ruled last week that the state agency in charge had failed to meet its own rules for conducting the hunt. Wildlife advocates welcomed the decision, saying the hunt was not necessary for predator control, but was lobbied for by trophy hunters who compete with the wolves for moose. Gov. Frank Murkowski said the ban will not last. "I stand firmly behind the state's predator control programs, which are based upon sound science," he said in a statement. "The ruling is a minor setback," said Commissioner McKie Campbell, who heads the state's wildlife agency. "The programs have been invalidated based upon the judge's finding that the Board of Game's regulations are 'internally inconsistent.' The state can make its regulations consistent." Campbell said he is working to ensure that the interruption to the aerial hunt is "as short as possible." About 445 wolves have been killed by airborne hunters since 2003.
Bombardier's Challenger 605 wide-body business jet completed its first flight on Sunday, meeting the schedule announced at the NBAA Convention last November. The airplane departed from Montreal-Trudeau International Airport under clear skies at 12:40 p.m. and flew for three hours and 23 minutes, reaching 41,000 feet and 420 knots. "It was a great flight ... the aircraft performed superbly," said pilot Frank Magnusson. Following several flights in Montreal, the aircraft is scheduled to relocate to Bombardier's Flight Test Center in Wichita, Kan., for a 200-hour flight test and certification program. Transport Canada certification is expected by the end of this year, and the aircraft is scheduled to enter service in the third quarter of 2007. The 605 succeeds the 604 model now in production, and features updated avionics and a redesigned cabin. The cabin, at eight feet, two inches wide, is the widest of any large-size business jet available today, according to Bombardier, and seats up to 12 passengers. A video of the first takeoff and landing is posted online at Bombardier's Web site.
As technology advances, new ways are found to make practical use of a small airborne platform in the sky. One of the latest we've heard of is inspecting underground pipes. A sensor developed by ITT Industries can detect leaking natural gas from the 2.3 million miles of pipeline in the U.S. The amount lost to leakage each year is considerable -- enough to fuel 4 million homes, The Associated Press reported Monday. The detector uses three lasers that pulse to the ground and back 1,000 times a second, with the airplane flying along at 750 feet and 135 mph, following a computer-laid course directly above the pipe. The detector can sniff out the errant fume of escaping gas ... although it does sometimes accidentally record instead the methane released by flatulent cows. Engineers now are working on ways to accomplish the monitoring by satellite, but for now, the humble single-engine airplane or light helicopter does the job best.
The Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association (LAMA), based in Pleasanton, Calif., yesterday announced the appointment of new leadership. Larry Burke, who founded the group in 1984 and has served as its president since, has appointed Dan Johnson as chairman and Tom Gunnarson as president. Burke said he is ready to step back and let fresh energy into the organization to take LAMA to "a new level of supporting and serving the needs of the light-sport aircraft community." Burke said Johnson will provide overall guidance to LAMA's efforts, while Gunnarson will handle day-to-day activities, manage the budget and provide representation in Washington, D.C. LAMA's membership includes more than 70 kit-built and light-sport aircraft (LSA) manufacturers. Johnson is a journalist who has flown and written flight reports on more than 300 ultralights and light-sport aircraft and is a marketing consultant to EAA in its sport pilot initiative. He also operates the Light-Sport Aircraft Marketing Group, a LAMA affiliate, providing industry-wide marketing assistance to LAMA members. Gunnarson chaired the FAA Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee that reviewed ultralight and light aircraft regulations. He had a 14-year tenure as a staff member of the United States Ultralight Association, served as the U.S. representative to the Federation Aeronautique Internationale, and currently is a consultant assisting companies importing LSA into the United States.
The NTSB yesterday asked the FAA to impose stricter requirements on all emergency medical services (EMS) flights, based on a study of 55 EMS accidents between January 2002 and January 2005. "The very essence of the EMS mission is saving lives. Operating an EMS flight in an unsafe environment just makes no sense," said NTSB Acting Chairman Mark Rosenker. The NTSB's study found that most accidents occur during flights with no patients on board, which operate under Part 91. To improve safety, all EMS flights should adhere to Part 135 rules, the NTSB said. Also this week, a study by a group of medical researchers found that for helicopter EMS operations, darkness more than triples the risk of fatalities, and bad weather increases the risk eight-fold. The Johns Hopkins study also found that post-crash fires are a risk, killing some victims who survived the crash. Military helicopters have stricter fuel-system requirements that reduce the fire hazard, the researchers said. Improving crashworthiness of helicopters and reducing trips during hazardous conditions can decrease EMS helicopter fatality rates, the study concluded. "Crashes of EMS helicopters have increased in recent years, raising concern for patients, as well as pilots, paramedics and flight nurses," said researcher Susan Baker. "Helicopter EMS programs should recognize these risky conditions and transport patients by air only when the benefit clearly exceeds the risk of the flight." The study authors examined NTSB records of EMS helicopter crashes between January 1, 1983, and April 30, 2005. During the 22-year study period, 184 occupants died in 182 EMS helicopter crashes. The study was recently published by Annals of Emergency Medicine.
Two trikes are now certified as Special Light Sport Aircraft, just weeks after the FAA accepted the industry's weight-shift-control consensus standards. The Air Creation Tanarg and GTE 912 were awarded their certificates on Jan. 20. The aircraft can be flown with any one of four wings: the iXess, iXess Training, KISS 450, and FUN 450. Air Creation has delivered more trike aircraft than any other builder, according to Dan Johnson's Sport Pilot Log. It is a French company partially owned by John Kemmeries, of Arizona. The two-seat Tanarg, the product of four years of research and development, was designed for comfortable cross-country travel. It was also the first trike built with a stainless-steel welded airframe. It was awarded the "most innovative ultralight" award at last year's Sun 'n Fun.
News in Brief
NASA said on Tuesday it will loan an RS-88 rocket engine to Rocketplane Limited, of Oklahoma City, to be tested in the company's Rocketplane XP vehicle for three years. The company will provide NASA with design, test and operational information. The Rocketplane XP is a four-seat, modified Lear executive jet aiming to reach about 300,000 feet, NASA said. "We hope to develop a safe, affordable and reusable spaceplane by integrating established technologies, such as the RS-88 engine," said Bob Seto, Rocketplane vice president of engineering systems and analysis. According to Seto, the spacecraft completed a preliminary design review in March 2005, and it is in the detail design phase. The RS-88 engine is capable of 50,000 pounds of thrust. It was designed and built by Boeing's former Rocketdyne Propulsion & Power unit for use on Lockheed Martin's Pad Abort Demonstration vehicle. In 2003, NASA tested the RS-88 in a series of 14 hot-fire tests, resulting in 55 seconds of successful engine operation. NASA said the project is part of its effort to share advanced aeronautics, space and related technologies with the private sector to use ideas and investments that can lead to new capabilities.
All four on board died when a Cessna 560 Citation overshot the runway at McClellan-Palomar Airport in southern California Tuesday, before 7 a.m. The jet crashed through scaffolding, slammed into a building about 150 yards beyond the runway and burst into flame. The flight originated in Hailey, Idaho...
A Cape Air pilot is off the government's "no-fly" list and can go back to work. No explanation why he was listed, or why he's now OK...
Las Vegas Airport says "no thanks" to the A380, saying the required modifications to accommodate the huge airliner would be too expensive...
A passenger in a Cessna Centurion suffered injuries when a turkey buzzard crashed through the windscreen about 2,000 feet above Orlando on Saturday...
CubCrafters, of Yakima, Wash., has partnered with Andover (N.J.) Flight Academy to provide sales and training in the Northeast...
Icing is not suspected in a fatal Caravan crash last week in Canada, investigators say. The pilot reported engine power loss and attempted an emergency landing in rough terrain. Three people, including the pilot, died, and five were hurt. Meanwhile, the pilot's father says his son had expressed safety concerns about the aircraft...
Ken Mead, Inspector General for the Department of Transportation, has resigned his post after nine years as the agency's top watchdog...
Don't forget to properly register your aircraft by Feb. 1, or risk banishment from the airspace system.
Drop us a line. If it caught your attention, it will probably interest someone else, too. Submit news tips via email to email@example.com. You're a part of our team ... often, the best part.
Quiz #103: More Power To Ya
If power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, then many pilots strive for the ultimate in degradation by strapping on bigger engines to reach beyond our grasp of powerplant knowledge. Let's see how power-hungry you absolutely are.
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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AVweb's Question of the Week ...
*** PREVIOUS RESULTS ***
Last week, AVweb wanted to know what single factor has the greatest effect on the amount of time you spend in the sky.
Not surprisingly, money is the biggest limitation on the time we're able to spend in the sky. Nearly half of those who responded to our poll (49%) cited money as the number one factor in keeping them ground.
Following far behind was time, which garnered 27% of your votes.
Weather was a less important factor, with only 12% of you citing it as a primary reason for staying on the ground.
Less popular conflicts included scheduling (an important consider for those who own aircraft shares) and the spouse, whom 4% of you said was keeping you at home instead of in the skies.
Other factors accounted for the remaining 7% of respondents' answers.
*** THIS WEEK'S QUESTION ***
Wolf hunting from the air. No one's asking your opinion except us. Should hunters be allowed to shoot wolves from aircraft?
Click here to answer
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For Women Only? I Don't Think So!
Women ask if Rod Machado's Private Pilot Handbook was written for them because "we finally understand engines and electrical systems!" Students claim they can understand VORs in 30 minutes by looking at these clear illustrations! A mechanic said the engine chapter was better than the basic A&P school course text. Another A&P said this chapter was a wonderful review after a six-year hiatus. This educational handbook is complete but uncomplicated. Click here to order.
AVweb's Picture of the Week ...
Submit a Photo | Rules | Tips | Questions | Past POTW Winners
As we browse through each week's submissions to our "POTW" contest, we can't help looking for themes and connections. This week's batch, for example, had an exceptionally high percentage of shots taken on the ground at the airport. That's nothing unusual, but a quick count shows that nearly 3/4 of this week's submissions were taken at airports and hangars. Not that we're complaining quite the opposite, in fact. This week's entries were so high-quality that it took us longer than usual to sort through them and pick a winner.
*** THIS WEEK'S WINNERS ***
Due to privacy issues, AVweb does not publish e-mail addresses of readers who submit photos.
copyright © Chris Starnes
Used with permission
Chris Starnes of Gate City, Virginia takes home an official AVweb baseball cap for this week's winning photo. He caught this U.S. Airways A319 holding short of the runway at Charlotte-Douglas International in North Carolina.
Remember: If you'd like to win one of those spiffy AVweb hats, you have to enter the contest!
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 mediums.
copyright © David J. Benna
Used with permission
"DC-3 Waiting the Storm Out"
David J. Benna of Ames, Iowa was a very close second-place in this week's contest. Those ominous clouds really caught our eye. According to David, this DC-3 was bound for Fort Dodge, Iowa but had to stop short in Boone, Iowa and wait out the weather.
copyright © Ingvar Eriksson
Used with permission
"Losing Propeller Blades"
"Well, it didn't actually lose the blades," writes Ingvar Eriksson of Malmo, Sweden. "But it sure looks like it, doesn't it?" We gotta admit that's some optical illusion!
Used with permission of Mitch Mitchell
"Smoke 'n Wonder"
Mitch Mitchell of San Diego, California returns with a dynamic shot of Julie Clark flying her T-34 in the Wings over Gillespie Air Show in El Cajon, California.
copyright © Dan Valentine
Used with permission
We're left with no choice but to declare Dan Valentine of London, England (U.K.) an airport bum. What else can he be doing with his days, considering that three of the many photos he submitted this week made it into the final round of selection? Thanks for reminding us that jets and commercial aircraft can be just as much fun to watch as our buddies' planes, Dan.
Used with permission of Michael Matthews
"B-25 Deice Handle" and "C-141 Starlifter"
Michael Matthews of North Las Vegas, Nevada has chosen to fill his free time with um, "arts and crafts," we suppose. Check out his interesting custom deice handle. And, because we can't resist pointing out a theme, have a look at his C-141 Starlifter model.
Used with permission of Sam Pollitt
"Climbing into the Moody Skies"
Sam Pollitt of Manchester, England (U.K.) bids a fond farewell to this week's edition of "POTW." Thanks to everyone who submitted for making this a banner week.
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.Names Behind The News
AVwebFlash is a twice-weekly summary of the latest news, articles, products, features, and events featured on AVweb, the internet's aviation magazine and news service.
Today's issue was written by news writer Mary Grady (bio).
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