February 13, 2006
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
Cuts To Airport Funds Decried
Marching directly behind the parade of President Bush's budget proposal last week, GA user groups have formed their own. For starters, this from AOPA: "Congress must not allow this to happen," said President Phil Boyer. "The White House is proposing to cut nearly $1 billion from the Airport Improvement Program in 2007 ... [and] almost all of that would come from monies earmarked for GA airports." EAA agreed: The budget takes money away from airports and uses it to fund general operations, "instead of making the hard decisions on the real problem: out-of-control spending," said Doug Macnair, EAA vice president of government relations. But it wasn't all bad. AOPA did find one bright spot in the proposal: "If there is any good news for GA in this budget, it is proposed funding for new technologies that will support the Next Generation Air Transportation System," said Boyer. The budget proposal provides $122.4 million to improve and expand the Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) and $80 million to support ADS-B. The presidential proposal is just the starting point in the budget process. Next comes months of wrangling on Capitol Hill before anything is final.
Fossett Lands Short, But Sets Record
National Air Transportation Association (NATA) President James Coyne also criticized the budget, saying it "has wrongly short-changed America's air transportation system." The budget would completely eliminate the Small Community Air Service Program, NATA said, which promotes development of air service for rural America. He also expressed opposition to user fees, which seem to be increasingly pushed by the administration as an alternative to the Trust Fund system. "User fees are the wrong way to raise revenues to fund the air traffic control system and have the potential to wreak havoc on the general aviation industry," he said. DOT Secretary Norm Mineta last week spoke about the need to replace the Aviation Trust Fund with a "more stable and predictable revenue stream" that would create "a more direct relationship between revenues collected and services provided." AOPA contends that the current system generates enough money to improve airports and aviation infrastructure and fund a well-managed, efficient FAA. The budget also includes cuts for aeronautics research.
Steve Fossett had already flown more than 25,000 miles and was descending from 50,000 feet to his planned landing site in England Saturday evening when a generator failed in the Virgin Galactic GlobalFlyer. Fossett diverted from Manston to Bournemouth and landed safely, succeeding in his quest to complete the longest-ever flight in an aircraft, with no stops and no refueling ... and injuring or killing at least one bird (not considered part of the record). Fossett coped with the bird strike on takeoff, cockpit temperatures up to 130 degrees, and severe turbulence over India that at its worst adjusted his altitude in 1,000-foot increments. "It was a scary time and I had my parachute on and I was prepared to bail out in case a wing broke," Fossett said. In all, he flew 26,389.3 miles in 76 hours 45 minutes. The Global Flyer burst two tires on landing, and Fossett said the windscreen was iced up so much that he couldn't see more than a few yards ahead.
Spate Of Fatal Midairs
As in last year's round-the-world trip, Fossett again had trouble with the GlobalFlyer's fuel system. About 750 pounds of fuel was lost overboard early in the flight. The loss meant that finding the best tailwinds and carefully managing the fuel burn were that much more critical. When Fossett landed in England, he had 200 pounds of fuel left in the tanks. The flight exceeded the current record for the longest airplane flight held by Burt Rutan's Voyager aircraft, which flew for 24,987 miles in 1986, as well as the longest flight by any kind of aircraft, 25,361 miles flown by the Breitling Orbiter balloon in 1999. The launch had been scratched last Tuesday when new vents in the fuel system began leaking under the pressure of 18,000 pounds of fuel. The record, which is not official until ratified by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale, would be the 110th world record for Fossett.
Three people died near San Diego last Wednesday, when a Cessna 172RG and a Cessna 182 collided in midair at about 4:40 p.m. Nobody on the ground was hurt, though flaming debris fell into a residential area and set a home on fire. A pilot and instructor in the 172RG, owned by Scandinavian Aviation Academy at Gillespie Field, were on an instrument training flight. They have not been identified but are believed to have been from Sweden. They filed an instrument flight plan out of Gillespie, bound for Brown Field on a familiarization flight. Instrument departure routing at Gillespie can direct aircraft in a climbing arc back over the field, a local controller told AVweb. The 182 flown by William Kupiec, 68, of La Jolla, departed VFR from Gillespie approximately one minute behind the 172RG. The two aircraft later met at about 2,300 feet, roughly three miles from Gillespie. So, whatever the path of the instrument departure from Gillespie, that route (plus the one-minute time interval between it and Kupiec's departure) conspired to create an intersection with Kupiec's route at a specific point over El Cajon, Calif. When both aircraft arrived at that point at the same exact time, tragedy struck. Kupiec was on the second leg of his flight that began that day at Montgomery Field, in San Diego. Authorities referred to it as a "pleasure flight." Clearly it was anything but.
Two private pilots were killed in a midair collision last Thursday in New Zealand. Witnesses said the two Piper Cherokees had been flying in close proximity at about 1,500 feet MSL for about 15 minutes, apparently practicing maneuvers, when the wing of one clipped the tail of the other, according to The New Zealand Herald. Both pilots were training for their commercial certificates. It was the first fatal midair in New Zealand since 1993. Also last week, the NTSB released a preliminary report on the midair collision of two Shorts cargo aircraft last Sunday in Juneau, Wisc. (which we mistakenly placed in Alaska in Thursday's AVwebFlash). The two airplanes had departed from General Mitchell International Airport (MKE) and were flying in formation about 100 to 150 apart on a photo flight when one of the airplanes entered a turn. The other pilot was unable to avoid the turning aircraft and the two collided, the NTSB said. One of the aircraft crashed and burned, and the three people on board died. The second aircraft lost hydraulics but was able to complete an emergency landing at UNU with no flaps and partially extended gear. The pilot and co-pilot were not hurt, and the passenger reported minor injuries.
The Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy has joined with 21,459 others who have expressed opposition to the FAA's plans to impose a permanent ADIZ over the Washington, D.C., area. In comments filed last week, the Advocacy Office said it is concerned that the FAA has underestimated the cost and impact of the airspace restrictions on small aviation businesses within the affected area. Such businesses include small airports, aerial survey firms, flight schools, air charter operations and air tour operators. The FAA should revise its economic analysis, the SBA says, and should consider alternatives to a permanent ADIZ. The SBA even offered some alternatives. Less burdensome approaches could include separate requirements for lighter and slower airplanes, flight corridors in and around the area, and less-strict regulation as aircraft get farther from the capital, the SBA suggested. "The SBA's comments reinforce the fact that airspace restrictions like these aren't just a problem for pilots," said Andy Cebula, AOPA executive vice president of government affairs. "The effects extend well beyond the pilot community and create real hardships for business owners and their employees." An economic analysis commissioned by AOPA showed that the ADIZ was costing more than $43 million a year in lost wages and local spending and taxes, affecting 13 airports inside the ADIZ and 20 other nearby airports. EAA also welcomed the comments. "We are especially pleased that [the SBA] supported our view that the costs of the ADIZ to small businesses were significantly underestimated and viable alternatives to the proposed ADIZ, such as our proposal, should be explored." said Doug Macnair, EAA vice president of government relations.
WSI Corporation announced last week that it is working on a system that would receive WSI's aviation weather over Sirius Satellite Radio in your airplane cockpit. The FAA-certified system should be on the market by the end of this year, WSI said. "The reliability offered by Sirius's satellite network augments WSI's continued commitment to build a robust network of proactive flight-decision support tools," said WSI spokesman Jim Menard. Sirius radio programs will also be included. The system will be compatible with all existing WSI InFlight display devices and installations, the company said. The new system will feature a "drop-in" replacement for the current AV001 antenna and a functionally compatible receiver to the current AV100 and AV200 product lines.
Commercial spacecraft could be cleared to carry passengers by 2008, Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta said last Thursday. Speaking to a group of space entrepreneurs at the 9th Annual Commercial Space Transportation Conference in Washington, D.C., Mineta said that a number of companies should be set to take passengers into space by then and the DOT would be ready to clear those flights. "This timeline isn't based on science fiction," Mineta said. "It is a timeline based on the reality of where commercial space is today and where we expect the state of commercial space to be within two short years ... We will move quickly to green-light flights that we know are safe." Mineta said he expects to issue permits next year to allow test flights, and if those flights are successful, the DOT will then issue a license for passenger space travel. He added that if companies complete testing sooner, the DOT also would be ready. "When the industry is set for lift-off, we will be ready to launch," Mineta said. "We have an important role to play in ensuring the safety of commercial space flights, especially for passengers. But we also have an obligation to encourage innovation and support new developments."
The city of Chicago plans to open a heliport on the lakefront this spring for use by emergency first-responders, the Chicago Tribune reported on Friday. Private use of the site will be allowed only under contract. Aviation access to downtown Chicago was lost when Mayor Richard Daley demolished Meigs Field in March 2003, despite widespread protest from the aviation community. "This shows that Meigs was closed under false pretenses," said Josh Levy, spokesman for Friends of Meigs. The Chicago HeliStop, comprising a single landing pad and one parking spot, is expected to open as early as April, according to the Tribune. "Particularly after the 9/11 attacks, a location close to the center of the city is critical for Chicago and critical for all of us to be able to respond quickly in an emergency," Susan Shea, director of aeronautics for the Illinois Department of Transportation, told the Tribune. About 300 flights per month are expected.
Nine New Zealand rugby fans were en route to an international tournament in Wellington, flying in a 60-year-old vintage warbird -- a former Air Force de Havilland Devon -- when something went awry. Passenger Dave McGall told the New Zealand Herald the aircraft was about 200 feet off the ground, headed for the runway at Ohakea Air Base, when "everything seemed to go wrong." As the airplane touched down, the landing gear collapsed, part of a wing was damaged and the propellers hit the pavement. "It happened that quick that we didn't even really know it was happening," said passenger Ian Barnsdall. "We got a bit of a fright." Nobody was hurt, and all nine of the fans made it to the tournament (after a quick stop for some nerve-soothing libations) and were cheered by the fans for their fortitude. They were offered sideline seats, free food and drinks, and their smiling faces were shown on the big screen as the audience of 35,000 heard the story of what they went through to attend the game.
News in Brief
Imagine flying above a scenic landscape, but instead of being strapped into a cramped, noisy seat, you're relaxing in a spacious lounge, with huge picture windows, room to walk around, overnight cabins, and sit-down meals. That's the concept behind the Aeroscraft, a huge airship more than 600 feet long, now under development at Aeros, a California company. The craft would derive its lift partially from helium and partially from dynamic lift created by the shape of the body, the company says. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency awarded the project over $3 million last year, to develop the concept for military uses. Aeros also envisions using the ship for cargo and commuting. The ship would be quiet, fuel-efficient, and could operate from unimproved sites, according to the company.
FEMA has stored over 10,000 house trailers, which have not yet been used to aid Katrina victims, at the Hope, Ark., airport. Here's what that looks like from the window of a 1947 Luscombe flown by AVweb reader Doug McDowall...
Cessna and FAA to begin talks on Wednesday over a proposed $840,000 fine...
An airplane wingtip with two bullet holes found in Alabama woods was not from a crashed airplane, investigators say, and the shots apparently occurred after it fell into a tree...
In a strange case in Alaska, federal firearms charges were levied against a man accused of illegally possessing two rocket launchers capable of being fitted to an associate's private fleet of Czech L-39 military trainer jets...
AOPA will hold its 2007 Expo in Hartford, Conn., Oct. 4-6...
Four aircraft violated the presidential TFR over New Hampshire last week...
A UPS DC-8 that caught fire on landing last Wednesday in Philadelphia was carrying hazardous cargo, the NTSB says, but the cause of the fire remains unclear...
A 3-oz. GPS tracker that fits in the palm of your hand claims to be the world's smallest such device.
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Reader mail this week about night rescues, landing on a highway, crashing on the centerline and much more.
Low-Cost Digital Replacement Transponders!
CEO of the Cockpit #54: Baggage
Anybody else notice that right about the time wheeled suitcases started coming onto airplanes, airline profits started dropping? AVweb's CEO of the Cockpit didn't notice, but his Marine buddy did and pines for those earlier, testosterone-filled days.
Non-towered pattern entry. Dick Taylor explains the not-so-common knowledge that keeps you safer in the pattern at a non-towered airport. This is one case where the simplest approach isn't always the best. Click through to learn.
Names Behind The News
High-speed taxi ... or low-speed takeoff.
I landed in the first 150 feet of a runway in a Flightstar (Vx = 40 KIAS) and was taxiing past the main taxiway where an Air Asia 737 was waiting...
Tower: 9M-EAU please expedite.
Me: Wilco, 9M-EAU. [...while acclerating to about 15 knots on the ground.]
Air Asia Pilot: We can wait, sir. If he goes any faster he'll be flying again.
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