February 27, 2006
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
The Pre- User Fee Fight Continues
From a strictly business-savvy viewpoint, user fees for aviation don't make sense, says Cessna CEO Jack Pelton. Talking to the Washington (D.C.) Aero Club last week, Pelton said arguments to impose such fees are based on five myths --- that the current FAA funding mechanism is not working, that an overhaul is needed to pay for modernization of the airspace system, that GA doesn't pay its fair share, that user fees would provide stable funding, and that the coming fleet (if indeed it does come) of very light jets will place added burdens on the aviation infrastructure. Pelton went on to dispute each of those points, saying the industry needs policy that is "more enlightened, more realistic, more equitable, and more cost effective." FAA officials often speak of the need to run the FAA more like a business, Pelton said. "So, I propose we address some basic business questions before we implement more policies or procedures that could potentially add cost or make the system more burdensome than it already is." Pelton said an evaluation of the current funding system shows little need for new revenue streams -- funding for the FAA has increased, not decreased, in the last decade.
The FAA's underlying aim, AOPA President Phil Boyer said last week, is to get out from under the control of Congress. In a speech to a Pilot Town Meeting last Wednesday night in Wichita, Boyer said the FAA's complaint about diminishing funds is "just total fiction," the Wichita Business Journal reported. "The fact is that they've continued to get increases from Congress every single year, the trust fund is not diminishing by the administration's own numbers and by 2011, just five years, it will be at something like $10 billion. So the FAA is looking for a way to get out from under Congress's control, and ... that's the last thing we want, an out-of-control FAA."
Flight Training Online
At that same meeting, Boyer played a videotaped message from U.S. Rep. Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.), who sits on the Transportation Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee. Tiahrt said he would oppose any effort by the FAA to impose user fees on general aviation. "That should be a pretty clear message to the Bush administration," Boyer said, "because Rep. Tiahrt and his colleagues literally write the check for the FAA. If Congress says 'no' to user fees, as they have in the past, the fees won't happen. Period." User-fee proponents are going to have a fight in Congress, Boyer said. Rep. Tiahrt acknowledged in the videotape that budgets are tight, "but transportation funding remains an important priority."
While much of the U.S. has enjoyed a fairly balmy winter so far, for many pilots, the prime flying season is still ahead. Now is a good time to fight the winter rustiness and brush up with some training. Flight simulators are one way to stay in practice, but the Internet also can provide a wealth of opportunities to keep fresh and keep learning new things. If it's been a while since you cracked open the Aeronautical Information Manual, you can find the latest changes and updates online, or review your air traffic and emergency procedures. The complete FARs also are online, a great source for resolving hangar-talk disputes about arcane trivia. And most pilots can benefit from a review of proper radio technology, found in the online Pilot-Controller Glossary. From "abeam" to "wilco," the glossary ensures that communicators on both ends of the radio are talking about the same thing.
If you're ready to prepare for that next big certificate or rating, and need to take a knowledge test, Sporty's Pilot Shop offers free services online that can help. The "Study Buddy" generates random test questions from the FAA database on topics that you select. You get instant feedback. Then when you're ready, you can take a full-length practice test. These tests are just like the real thing, Sporty's says. They're generated randomly from the FAA question bank, and navigation and time limits are set up to mimic the FAA tests. If you're not ready for a test yet, but want to upgrade your cockpit skills, the Web site of your nav equipment provider probably offers some help. Garmin, for example, offers a free simulator and lesson plans to learn about their 400-series nav units. The 500-series Web site also offers a video clip, but you have to pay to get a copy of the complete video training program.
A number of sources online offer free tutorials on safety topics. AOPA's Air Safety Foundation has a four-minute course on thunderstorms, or spend an hour or so to learn about runway safety, single-pilot IFR, mountain flying or one of the many other choices. Completion of some of the courses will qualify you for the seminar portion of the FAA's Wings program. The FAA has two online courses -- one to help prepare you for your flight review, and one on navigating the D.C. ADIZ and other special-use airspace. The FAA Learning Center also features lots of documents and links. And our favorite place to exercise your gray matter -- AVweb's Brainteasers. These quizzes challenge you to dig into your aeronautical expertise and apply your knowledge to real-life situations. That should keep you busy until the snow melts and the pre-heaters are packed away.
Researchers in North Dakota say they have been working for four years on a process that converts soybean or canola oil into aviation turbine fuel. The biofuel, which is now almost ready for an Air Force test, runs colder and cheaper than conventional jet fuel and is more environmentally friendly, the Grand Forks Herald reported on Friday. The researchers said they have found a way to solve a problem with the fuel's tendency to "gel" at low temperatures, and that it is now working at temperatures of 75 below zero (Fahrenheit). Air Force scientists have tested earlier versions of the fuel, and found it performed as well as regular JP-8 jet fuel. The biofuel is being studied by a new sustainable-energy initiative between the University of North Dakota and North Dakota State University in Fargo. Wayne Seames, a UND chemical engineering professor, and Ted Aulich, a senior researcher at the Energy and Environmental Research Center, have been working together on the project. "There's still a lot of work to do," Seames told the Herald.
When Congress and the FAA start tossing billion-dollar budget numbers around, it can seem very remote and unreal. But here's what proposed cuts from Airport Improvement Project funding translates to on the ground -- a hangar that's never built, a security fence not installed, an ILS out of operation. Mike Fricker, chairman of the Airport Board in Pell City, Ala., told dailyhome.com last week: "We have been struggling for years as it is. There are, I think, 87 general aviation airports in Alabama, and there has never been sufficient money to help them grow and be safe. We've worked so hard for the last five years, and I really hate the idea of seeing our federal funds being cut after all of that." Completion of the ILS at the Talladega Airport is especially critical, Airport Board Chairman Ray Miller added. "We're not going to be able to draw the cargo planes and corporate jets that we're hoping to attract without the ILS," he said. That's just for Alabama -- similar scenarios are playing out around the other 49 states.
Stephen Hopson has wanted to fly since he was four years old, and decided long ago that being deaf would not stop him. He earned a private and commercial certificate, and last week became the first deaf pilot to get his FAA instrument rating, flying a Cessna 172 in Akron, Ohio. Since instrument pilots must be able to communicate on the radio, Hopson explained to AVweb in an e-mail how it works: "The co-pilot's job is to be my conduit, or 'ear and speaking piece.'" The co-pilot listens and responds on the radio, then transmits the information to Hopson using signs and writing on a quick-erase board. Hopson is PIC in charge of the flight and makes all decisions. "By knowing what to expect and what to tell the co-pilot to say on the radio, a deaf instrument-rated pilot is PIC in the true sense of the word," Hopson wrote. He plans to get a multiengine rating next, and then fly jets. He also is lobbying the FAA to expedite the implementation of datalink technology at the GA level, which he says would eventually enable deaf pilots to fly IFR on their own. "The Europeans are already using datalink," he wrote. "It's just a matter of time." For more info about flying with hearing impairment, go to the FAA's Web site or to the Deaf Pilots Association.
Burt Rutan spent some time at each of his AirVenture forums in Oshkosh last summer trying to recruit more workers for his company, Scaled Composites, in Mojave, Calif. Last week, he was still at it, with a story in Space.com telling about his need for workers. "We are looking for people that like to build things with their hands and are good craftsmen," Rutan told Space.com. "We need those that give 100 percent each day and enjoy a fast-paced research and development environment." He added that while he gets a lot of responses and inquiries, he's still looking for more of the right people with the right skills ... who don't mind living in Mojave. An aerospace background is not crucial; other qualities may be more important. "We look for those who have passion ... are talented in building quality things ... work well in a team atmosphere, and are trustworthy," he said. You also must be a U.S. citizen and ready to work full-time. Some jobs require security clearances. For more info, go to Scaled's Web site.
It was snowing and foggy on Wednesday morning when the pilot of a Cessna 172 based at Virginia's Warrenton Fauquier Airport attempted to land at Freeway Airport in Maryland. On the second try, the airplane crashed, nose-first, about 300 feet south of the runway. Two pilots on board were killed, and a passenger in the back seat was seriously hurt. Wednesday night, as the fog persisted, a Columbia 400 carrying four men crashed just 500 yards from Stafford Regional Airport in Virginia. All four were killed. On Thursday night, a Cessna 182 hit power lines and crashed near a rest stop on Interstate 81, about a mile from Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport. The pilot, who was alone on board, died. Prince George's County Fire and Rescue spokesman Mark Brady told NBC4 News that visibility at the time of the Freeway Airport crash was between zero and 500 feet. The airplane had launched from Warrenton Fauquier Airport in Midland, Va., and was trying to pick up another passenger at Freeway Airport and continue on to Atlantic City, N.J. The four men who died in the Columbia 400 were on their way home to Fredericksburg when they were diverted to Stafford because of fog. They had gone to a basketball game in North Carolina. The pilot who crashed near the interstate was a professional pilot who was out on a pleasure flight.
News in Brief
Every day people are finding new ways to use the capabilities of Google Earth, which brings to your computer screen the view of satellites looking down from above. Those roving eyes catch all kinds of things, and a few that our readers have found of interest include this image of a restored Avro Lancaster WWII bomber, flying above Huntingdon, England. Another screenshot captures what is interpreted to be a mysterious flying car near Perth, Australia, though later postings were skeptical of the claim. But there's little question about the abundance of black helicopters, captured by the hundreds by Earth explorers. Just a couple more -- how about airplanes with their shadows, and airplanes in unlikely locations (scroll down for this one). And for the private pilot with a critical eye, Google earth can serve as a preview to a cross-country or new airport without leaving the ground.
The FAA has published a new "plain-language" version of the Washington, D.C., restricted airspace NOTAM...
NATCA has asked for a mediator to help with FAA contract talks...
The FAA proposes some tweaks to ECi cylinder-assembly Airworthiness Directive...
Two 737s collided at Newark on Monday while taxiing, no injuries but long delays ensued...
FAA noise rules for part of Grand Canyon delayed until 2011...
Adam Aircraft says it will establish a partnership with Singapore Technologies Engineering, which will provide engineering, logistics, maintenance, repairs and overhaul support for Adam's piston and jet aircraft....
The Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer has returned to its base in Salina, Kans., with designer Jon Karkow piloting. What's next for the airplane? "Watch this space," the Web site says...
Want to buy stock in a skycar? Paul Moller goes public...
Today is the last day to register for Women in Aviation's annual conference, March 23-25 in Nashville, Tenn.
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Reader mail this week about roadable airplanes, tomato bazookas, Class D.5 airspace and more.
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AOPA Commander for Microsoft Flight Simulator
If you didn't win that great Commander 112 from AOPA's sweepstakes this year, AOPA has a consolation prize: You can fly that plane -- and try out it's glass cockpit -- on Microsoft Flight Simulator. John Ruley has our review of this aircraft add-on from Flight1 Software.
Landing, when it has to be right. Dick Taylor offers an approach of standardized technique to conquer the engine-out landing. Use it with care every time you fly and you'll be one step closer to mastering your aircraft's unique aerodynamic profile. Click through to learn.
Names Behind The News
Everybody's a comedian...
Overheard this weekend.
Pilot: Tower, Cessna1234 would like to shoot a missed approach.
Tower: Cessna 1234 approved for missed approach.
Pilot: Roger. How close can we come?
Tower: ... Just don't hit the tower.
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