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March 30, 2006

NewsWire Complete Issue

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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The Defense Rests back to top 
Aviation Consumer

Senator Calls For Airline Missile Defense

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) is calling on her colleagues to reignite programs to equip airliners with anti-missile systems. Boxer told The Associated Press in an interview that the Bush administration's apparent abandonment of the initiative is a mistake. "We are being irresponsible by not moving forward on this today," said Boxer. Congress has appropriated more than $200 million for development of suitable systems (that, for instance, don't drop white-hot magnesium on suburbs) and at least two companies say they have systems that work, according to the AP report. However, the Bush administration asked for only $4.9 million for the program in its latest budget, a signal to some that it's been shot down politically. Earlier estimates have pegged the cost of the systems, which use infrared energy or lasers as the decoy to fool the heat-seeking guidance systems on the missiles, at about $1 million per airliner. The cash-strapped airlines have, of course, balked at the expenditure, claiming it's too expensive and unnecessary. Boxer wonders if they're calculating the impact of a missile attack into their equations. "We have a product here that works, and I would just say to the airline industry, they would sing a different tune if one of these missiles were fired, and it hit -- even if it didn't hit -- who is going to go in an airplane?" Boxer said.

The Surface-To-Air Threat, Paranoia And Probability

Although it (probably) hasn't happened on U.S. soil, missile attacks are a disturbingly common cause of commercial aircraft crashes elsewhere. There have been 24 commercial planes officially downed by shoulder-fired missiles in the last 20 years, killing about 500 people, according to The Associated Press. That figure does not include TWA 800 (July '96), EgyptAir 990 (Oct. '99), or AA 587 (Nov. '01). In each of those cases, a jumbo jet and all aboard were lost near (or on) the south shore of Long Island, N.Y. Each event spawned its own missile theories -- and some came with scores of eyewitnesses. All ultimately were attributed by the NTSB to other causes. Boxer says the U.S. should have received a wake-up call last November when an American Airlines pilot reported seeing a rocket fly past just after crossing the shoreline on departure from LAX. "American 612, can you verify whether you saw a flare or a rocket?" radioed an air traffic controller recorded on the ATC tapes. "It looked more like a rocket to me," the pilot at first responded. "I'm pretty sure it was a rocket of some kind, because it had a definite plume coming out behind it." Although there was no evidence that a shoulder-fired missile was involved (authorities believe it was most likely a hobby rocket) the investigation remains open and Boxer says it's reason enough to keep the anti-missile program open. "We had a scare in Los Angeles," said Boxer. "We've been told that they cannot rule out the fact that it was a shoulder-fired missile."

Almost Number 25

The most recent attack was on a DHL cargo plane in 2003. The missile hit the A310's left wing as it took off from Baghdad. The explosion and fire destroyed the aircraft's hydraulic system, eliminating any cockpit-initiated use of the control surfaces. The crew, using differential thrust only, managed to haul the airliner into a pretty respectable approach and landing and all of them walked away (see AVweb's NewsWire for the PowerPoint presentation). A year earlier, an attack on an Israeli airliner in Africa prompted action by the Israeli government. As AVweb told you in February, Israel's national airline, El Al, installed anti-missile systems on its entire fleet of 29 aircraft. It would appear the infrared systems meet U.S. safety requirements because there's no indication that flights to the four U.S. cities served by El Al have been interrupted. The Flight Guard system was developed by state-owned Israeli Aircraft Industries and certified in Israel in January. For those of you interested in viewing the DHL landing we invite you to have a look for yourself. (Warning: large file -- right-click to save to your desktop).

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China Woos U.S. Aircraft Manufacturers back to top 

Cirrus, Cessna Asked To Join Diamond In China

With Diamond already establishing partnerships in China, a published report says Cirrus and Cessna have both been approached by the Chinese government to jointly produce existing models or to develop new aircraft for the Chinese market. According to Flight International, Xian General Aircraft Research Institute (XGARI) is in active discussions with Cirrus and Cessna to help satisfy what the Chinese government appears to believe is a burgeoning market there. "It's a nearly empty market in China. Only 350 [GA] aircraft are flying. We need more," XGARI President Li Daming told Flight International. "The market demand is urgent. We welcome a Western manufacturer to do joint design or joint manufacturing." However, Cirrus told AVweb yesterday that you shouldn't anytime soon count on a groundbreaking in China for a Cirrus factory. Cirrus spokesman John Bingham said China represents a huge market opportunity for the company, one that will be served initially with aircraft made in the U.S. of A. "In the shorter term we will be selling directly through a network of sales centers," he said. Bingham said a demonstrator for the Chinese market is now being built in Duluth and plans are for it to get a Chinese registration. Bingham said the company hasn't ruled out building planes in China in the future. "China represents such an opportunity we're not discounting anything at all," he said. Cessna was unable to provide a comment before our deadline.

China Explores Domestic-Built VLJs

China is also predicting a boom in light jets although it seems to want that market to itself. China's First Aircraft Design Institute is examining the feasibility of an indigenously designed and built aircraft but it has to decide whether turboprops or jets will be in greater demand. There's not much current market data available. There are only three privately owned bizjets in all of China, a Beechcraft Premier 1 owned by a chemical company and two Citations owned by an air conditioning company. However, more are reportedly on order and, according to Flight International, a study done by Embraer suggests there's immediate potential for more than 500 sales. However, China doesn't make it easy to buy a private jet. In its study, Embraer notes that foreign competition doesn't stand a chance against any future homegrown jet because China imposes a 23-percent import duty. Foreign companies can, however, set up joint ventures with Chinese concerns to manufacture in China and avoid the tax. Whether that proves financially viable appears to be open to debate.

As Made In China Piston Single Tests Its Wings

China's fledgling GA industry got off the ground in 2004 with the first flight of the Sky Car, a six-place low-wing with a price tag of about $450,000. The plane still hasn't been certified and project-managing Nanjing Light Aircraft says that without the paperwork it's been unable to generate any sales. "Over a dozen customers are interested and have intent to buy, but no contract yet," Nanjing spokeswoman Yu Enfeng told Flight International. "Without an airworthiness certificate we can't sign contracts with customers." (A novel concept.) Certification is expected in August. The aircraft was developed by the Nanjing Light Aircraft Company Limited and the Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics (NUAA). It's built by the Hongdu Aviation Industry Group based in Nanchang, capital of east China's Jiangxi Province. Company specs give a 1,000 nm range at about 200 mph.

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News Briefs back to top 

Luscombe Four-Seater Revived (Again)

The name may have changed but the airplane remains the same as Quartz Mountain Aerospace (formerly Luscombe Aircraft Corp.) rolled out the Model 11E for the TV cameras at Wiley Post Airport in Oklahoma City earlier this week. The revival version of the 11E, which has a modern engine, avionics and other gear, has been around for years and is fully certified but there's never been enough financial backing to get into full production. Quartz Mountain is hoping that its partnership with the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education will give it part of the boost needed to get into production. The state-funded agency is essentially training a labor force for the aircraft company in a facility next to the Quartz Mountain factory in Altus, Okla. The first graduating class is already working there. But it takes more than government-sponsored training to get an airplane into production. Quartz Mountain CEO John Daniel says he's still looking for cash to get production started. "Our ability to start manufacturing and to amass the financial resources we need to ramp up production over the next few years has and will continue to require substantial financial resources," he told reporters. Quartz Mountain hopes to build 68 airplanes in its first year of production, starting in September, and eventually hit 360 a year. The airplane is a roomy four-place with a 185-hp fuel-injected Continental IO-360 and 120-knot cruise speed. It's priced at about $200,000. The 11E is derived from the 11A, which was built by the original Luscombe company in the late 1940s.

Privatized FSS Settlement

Automated Flight Service Station employees, who now work for Lockheed Martin, will likely continue to be represented by the National Association of Air Traffic Specialists (NAATS) following a deal reached between the two earlier this week. NAATS and Lockheed Martin have agreed to allow the National Labor Relations Board to conduct a secret-ballot vote among flight service station employees to see if they want to continue being unionized. According to a news release issued by NAATS, Lockheed Martin has agreed to respect the outcome of the vote and begin contract negotiations if the workers embrace the union. NAATS President Kate Breen said the settlement could prevent years of expensive legal wrangling. Lockheed Martin took over the FSS system last October but refused to recognize NAATS as the workers' representative. The union took the company to court and a trial was scheduled to start next week. Breen said Lockheed Martin had vowed to exhaust all legal avenues of appeal, a costly process that would take years, if it lost the first trial. Breen said Lockheed Martin has agreed not to threaten or discriminate against pro-union workers in advance of the vote.

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News Briefs back to top 

Kiwi Pilot Admits Faking Ditching

It was the perfect crime, right up until someone found, high and dry, the airplane that Howard Jamison claimed was under water somewhere off the coast of New Zealand. As AVweb told you in February, the Ashburton skydive operator was charged after the plane was found. Last week Jamison admitted to concocting an elaborate scheme to claim a $258,000 NZD insurance settlement aimed at getting him back on his feet financially. He pleaded guilty in court to two charges of using a document to obtain pecuniary advantage, according to a story in NZ Lawyer. Now, he faces a possible jail term and will likely have to sell off all of his assets, including the Cessna 185 he "ditched" in a storage container. Jamison made headlines in July 2004 when he told of his dramatic escape from the 185 that he said he'd put in the ocean after the engine failed. He even had obvious head and neck injuries that authorities insisted he have checked at the local hospital. It turns out Jamison hurt himself while taking one of the wings off the 185 as he worked through the night to disassemble the aircraft and put it in a storage container. He then filled a couple of containers with 40 liters of fuel from the pumps at a nearby airport, dutifully noting the purchase in the log. After filing a flight plan, he drove to an isolated beach and phoned the New Zealand Airways Corporation to tell them that he had ditched the plane. He then drove home and later claimed he'd been picked up by a passing motorist. He told authorities that he'd been able to make it to shore by using a piece of plywood flooring from the plane and a couple of life vests for flotation. The scheme unraveled last February when someone discovered the disassembled but undamaged 185 by chance.

Coast Guard Pilots Honored For Katrina Efforts

With winds howling at more than 70 mph and his rescue basket tangled in a tree, Coast Guard Lt. David Johnston battled the elements as crewmen freed the cable and then went looking for more people to rescue in the devastation left by Hurricane Katrina last Aug. 29. Flying an HH-65B helicopter in conditions few of us could fathom, Johnston and his crew rescued a total of 43 people around Port Sulphur, La., as the trailing edge of Katrina blew through. For his efforts that day and for days afterward, Johnston was among three pilots from the Coast Guard's New Orleans Air Station awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross earlier this week. Johnston, of Olympia, Wash., and his crewmates were the leading edge of a massive rescue operation that would eventually see 33,000 people evacuated by air and boat by the Coast Guard. Johnston said the scope of the disaster unfolded through the windows of the HH-65B helicopter as he and his crew moved the aircraft back toward New Orleans after dispersing them to avoid the storm. "It looked like ground zero of a nuclear explosion," Johnston told the Olympian newspaper. Meanwhile, there are signs that government agencies have learned from Katrina with regard to the use of private aircraft in the relief efforts. After Katrina, hundreds of volunteer pilots were frustrated by the lack of coordination that prevented them from helping, especially in the early stages of the rescue effort. Earlier this week, Rhode Island presented its hurricane plan and among the measures adopted is an agreement with Angel Flight America to conduct relief operations. Angel Flight spokesman Ken Rusnak told the Providence Journal the organization could have 200 volunteer aircraft in Rhode Island within an hour if called upon.

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News Briefs back to top 

Delta May Dump Comair, Flight Attendants Threaten Strike

If you think service with a smile is a rare commodity in airlines today, we can only imagine how hard it would be for Comair flight attendants to keep a positive attitude at these rates. The Delta-owned regional carrier is asking a bankruptcy court to allow a pay reduction of more than $10,000 annually, leaving the average Comair attendant with a salary of less than $18,000. The attendants have threatened to strike and bankruptcy judge Adlai Hardin has recommended the two sides negotiate a deal rather than have him rule on it. It's all part of a restructuring bid put forth by the wholly-owned subsidiary of Delta that the parent company's CFO says may be rewarded by an attempt to sell the regional carrier. "If Comair is able to restructure, we will explore the possibility of monetization," Edward Bastian told the court. Comair filed for bankruptcy last September with Delta and says it needs $42.3 million in annual cost cuts to make ends meet. It wants $8.9 million to come from its 970 flight attendants. The attendants, represented by the Teamsters, say that puts too much of the load on them. The members have already approved strike action. "That is certainly a serious action that we have to look at," union spokeswoman Victoria Gray told The Associated Press.

Record-Setting Pilot Killed In Pattern Crash

He soared over Mt. Everest in a hang glider, crossed the Mediterranean in one and set myriad aviation records, but died in what appears to be the most ironic circumstances at an air show in Italy. Angelo D'Arrigo, also known as the Human Condor, was the passenger in a Sky Arrow 650 TNT that crashed on approach, according to witnesses, and dove into an olive grove beside the airport at Comiso. The plane was flown by retired Italian Air Force Gen. Giulio De Marchis, described as an experienced pilot. Sky Arrow spokeswoman Arabella Bortolotti said the accident shocked those who knew the victims. "It's mind boggling to think that two of Italy's best pilots were aboard," she told ANSA.it. Arrigo was well-known in his native Italy for some amazing hang gliding records. He held the altitude record and distance records, including a 1,830-km nonstop flight and a flight from Italy to Cairo. He hang-glided over Everest, Mt. Aconcagua, the highest mountain in South America, and Mt. Etna, the tallest volcano in Europe. He was planning a flight over Mt. Wilson, in Antarctica.

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News in Brief back to top 

On The Fly...

Authorities in California have confirmed that Cessna-owned 208B Caravan went down near Yucaipa, Calif. Tuesday, killing Cessna Regional Sales Manager Steve O'Neill and Rick Voorhis, president of Pacific Aircraft Sales, Inc., which is based in Reno, Nev. The plane went down in a mountainous region about 75 miles east of Los Angeles. Inmates at a nearby prison camp reported seeing the plane go down and said it seemed to be having engine problems...

FAA Administrator Marion Blakey will attend Sun 'n Fun at Lakeland Linder Airport in Florida next week. Blakey told AVweb in an interview she will make her first trip to the show April 7. AVweb will be running the full audiocast interview with Blakey on the same day...

Meigs Field lives on, at least in the political aftermath of the destruction of the airport three years ago. The Meigs Action Coalition will stage its third anniversary event in memory of the bizarre event Friday. It's also a tuneup for the coming mayoralty election campaign in 2007. Details at ragoodstein@hotmail.com…

Long Beach Airport has come up with a novel way to prevent potential incursions. A system will detect aircraft on Runway 30 and start the precision approach path indicator (PAPI) lights flashing. If they don't stop flashing by the time aircraft on final for 30 reach 500 feet AGL, pilots are to call the tower and get ready to go around...

Colorful and controversial Second World War ace Pierre Closterman died at age 85 last week. Flying for the RAF as part of the Free French, he is credited with 18 aircraft destroyed on the air and on the ground. He also wrote a bestselling book on his war experience called The Big Show.

AVweb's Newstips Address ...

Drop us a line. If it caught your attention, it will probably interest someone else, too. Submit news tips via email to newstips@avweb.com. You're a part of our team ... often, the best part.


Earlier this week:
AVweb's first audio newscast
FBO of the Week: Preferred Jet Center
GA groups seek to influence the FAA about older airplanes
...bombs targeting contract tower workers, scramjet testing, ATC controller Don Brown's observations on the consequences of FAA policies and more.

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Features back to top 

New Articles and Features on AVweb

Say Again? #61: It's Here!
Some of Don Brown's predictions about safety compromises caused by lack of ATC staffing are starting to come true. And if the number of planes increases (see VLJs) before the number of controllers does, we might see a hurricane of accidents and the FAA may replace FEMA as the agency of ill repute.

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Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Preferred Jet Center

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" contest is sponsored by Aviation Safety magazine, the monthly journal of risk management and accident prevention.

This week's FBO of the Week ribbon belongs to Preferred Jet Center at KRYY in Atlanta, Georgia.

John Austin wrote us to say, "I fly a 206 but am treated like I came in a jet!" ... "they bring my rental car out on the ramp, assist with my luggage" ... and when there for a brief visit "have been generous with a courtesy car."

Keep those nominations coming. AVweb is actively seeking out the best FBO's in the country and another one, submitted by you, will be spotlighted here next Monday!

Don't Leave the Financing of Your Dream Airplane to Chance!
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AVwebBiz back to top 

AVweb's Business AVflash

HAVE YOU SIGNED UP yet for AVweb’s NO-COST twice monthly Business AVflash? Reporting on breaking news, Business AVflash also focuses on the companies, the products and the industry leaders that make headlines in the Business of Aviation. Business AVflash is a must read. Watch for a Business AVflash regular feature, TSA WATCH: GA IN THE "SPOTLIGHT". Sign up today at http://www.avweb.com/profile/

When It Comes to Aircraft Insurance, the Choice Is Easy
The AOPA Insurance Agency is the only agency that offers the built-in expertise of AOPA's 66+ years' commitment to general aviation and the only aircraft insurance agency qualified to carry the AOPA name. More than 405,000 pilots trust AOPA for their aviation needs, so when it comes to aircraft insurance, why call anyone else? One call to the AOPA Insurance Agency, and you'll have multiple quotes from major A-rated underwriters in minutes. Call AOPA Insurance Agency for a complimentary quote at (800) 622-2672, or go online.

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QOTW back to top 

Question of the Week


Last week, AVweb reminded readers that taxi-and-hold procedures have fallen out of favor at most airports — and asked our readers' opinion on this change.

The majority of readers who responded were unhappy with the change.  53% of you chimed in to express your disapproval.

A substantial minority of our readership (22% of respondents) endorsed the change, saying It's about time.

And a full one-quarter of you reported that you hadn't even noticed.


Missile defense for our airliners. Does the threat justify the expense of a defense?

Click here to answers

Have an idea for a new QOTW? Send your suggestions to qotw@avweb.com.

This address is only for suggested QOTW questions, and not for QOTW answers or comments.
Use this form to send QOTW comments to our AVmail Editor.

DA40 Diamond Star a Fleet Favorite
Airline Transport Professionals, Beijing PanAm, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University CAPT, Empire Aviation, Middle Tennessee State University, and Utah Valley State College — all have selected the G1000-equipped DA40 Diamond Star. For value, efficiency, and safety, the DA40 is the fleet favorite. For more information, click here.

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POTW back to top 

Picture of the Week

Submit a Photo | Rules | Tips | Questions | Past POTW Winners

We have a slightly shorter installment of "Picture of the Week" for you today, as we're preparing for next week's Sun 'n Fun Fly-In in Lakeland, Florida.  As usual, we'll be skipping "POTW" next week in favor of bringing you all the sights (and some of the sounds) of the air show that kicks off the spring season in our neck of the woods.  If you plan on attending the show, please remember to visit with our sponsors and thank them helping us pay the bills.  And while you're at, keep your eyes peeled for AVweb staffers.  We're hoping to meet lots of you at the show and hear what you have to say about us.

If you're not attending the show, don't forget to upload your photos for our next "POTW" contest!  Your entries will be safe and sound on our server until we return from the show and resume the "POTW" festivities on April 12.  With two weeks' worth of submissions to choose from, we hope to have a spectacular week.

Speaking of which, this week's selections aren't half bad, either!  Trey Carroll of Knightstown, Indiana takes the top honor this week, with a photo of the spectacular WWII-era Corsair soaring across the skies of the 21st Century.  As usual, we'll be sending Trey an official AVweb baseball hat to commemorate his top-notch photo.


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Used with permission of Trey Carroll

"The Bent-Wing Bird"

Trey Carroll of Knightstown, Indiana kicks off this week's edition of "POTW" with a shot of pilot Dan McCue doing something we'd probably all enjoy — giving the Collings Foundation's F4U-5NL Corsair a good shakedown at Geneseo last year.

AVweb continues to receive a large number of excellent images for our POTW contest. Here are some of the runners-up.  Due to privacy issues, AVweb does not publish e-mail addresses of readers who submit photos.

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Used with permission of Peter Schultz

"Afghan Apache"

We've been swamped with rotorcraft pics in the last couple weeks.  Not that we're complaining — someone obviously knows how much we like helicopter photos here at AVweb.  And if they're all as impressive as this shot from Peter Schultz, keep 'em coming!  Peter very nearly took this week's top spot, but — well, to be honest, you just can't pretend you're Robert Conrad when you're flying an Apache.

Stay safe, Peter — and thanks for the photo.


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Used with permission of Greg Freeman

"Summer Fun"

Summer is just around the corner here in the Northern Hemisphere.  And lest we forget, Greg Freeman of Silver Lake, New Hampshire reminds us that things are warming up even on the brisk coastline of northern New Hampshire.


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Used with permission of Tony Kuhlman

"Preflight Fuel Check"

Tony Kuhlman of Grand Ledge, Michigan recently paid a visit to Abrams Municipal Airport to shoot some promotional photos for EAA Chapter 1060.  While there, he couldn't resist snapping a few photos of two Joe Mendyks (Sr. and Jr.) doing their preflight checks.  According to Tony, "Joe Jr. clearly has flown with dad many times before.  Under dad's close supervision, he helped with several tasks in the preflight check." 


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Used with permission of Steve Link

"Citabria Sunset"

Flying us out this week is Steve Link of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  Steve's in the cockpit of his 1966 7GCA in this photo taken by friend Mark Parsons last summer.

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.



Going to Sun 'n Fun? Plan on Visiting AVweb's Sponsors!
Our sponsors help us bring you the news -- twice a week -- at no cost to you. Please stop by their Sun 'n Fun booths to say "thank you" for their support. Click here for a list of AVweb sponsors attending the show and where to find them.

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Attention, Cessna Owners
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Bring Digital Audio Technology to Your Aircraft
With the flying season just around the corner, owners of retractable-gear aircraft can add an extra margin of safety by installing a P2 Audio Advisory System. Just like the new jets, the system combines audio and visual advisories for landing gear position, Vne overspeed, stall warning, and output for a Hobbs meter. Digital voice technology actually speaks to the pilot via headset and/or speaker: "GEAR IS DOWN FOR LANDING"; "OVERSPEED"; "CHECK GEAR"; and "STALL." Regularly priced at $1,795, these systems are now available for $1,295. Learn more online.

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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 Russ Niles (bio).

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