May 4, 2006
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
While airlines can pass along their costs to customers, the private pilot has no place to turn but his (or her) own bank account. Luckily, many small aircraft actually get better "mileage" than some of the SUVs on the road. And the cash-crunched flyer has more and more options, as promoters of Light Sport Aircraft are pushing their low operating costs as an enticement to both new and seasoned flyers. A report posted yesterday at Airnav.com showed the average price nationwide for 100LL avgas was $3.95 a gallon, but prices ranged from $2.50 to $6.73. The cheapest region was the Central U.S., averaging $3.71, and highest were Alaska and New England, averaging well above $4 a gallon. The highest price, at $6.73, was at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York.
Every time the price of a barrel of oil goes up by a dollar, that translates into a $365 million hike in fuel costs for the 11 major airlines, CNN reported Monday. Added to years of bankruptcies and labor strife, the airlines are struggling to cope. One strategy is to find ways to fit more passengers into the same space. Some carriers are installing seats of stronger, lighter materials with slimmer seatbacks, crowding extra rows into already packed airliners. Others are looking at new designs with flip-up seats like in movie theaters, or "sit-stand" seats, like bar stools but with seatbacks and belts. Even discount carriers like JetBlue and Southwest are feeling the pinch and raising fares, though not as quickly as the legacy airlines. Fuel prices have risen 38 percent over the last year. A significant drop in prices is not expected.
Meanwhile, the demand for jet fuel in China is expected to nearly double by 2010, China Watch reported last week. At a recent China-U.S. workshop on aviation fuel, experts said China's jet-fuel consumption has increased at an average annual rate of about 15 percent since the 1990s. Chinese airlines are feeling the impact of rising fuel prices and have imposed surcharges for passengers and implemented fuel-saving strategies such as more direct flights, higher cruise altitudes and stricter controls on baggage weight. China's growth is also having an impact in the U.S. In southern California, air traffic from Asia is expected to triple by 2030, the North County Times reported on Saturday. But to benefit from that opportunity, the region needs to expand its infrastructure, adding runways and perhaps new airports, officials said.
The probable cause of the fatal crash in Colorado in November 2004 involving NBC sports executive Dick Ebersol was the flight crew's failure to ensure that the Canadair Ltd. CL-600-2A12's wings were free of ice or snow contamination, the National Transportation Safety Board reported Tuesday. "This failure resulted in an attempted takeoff with upper-wing contamination that induced the subsequent stall and collision with the ground," the NTSB said. The board already has issued several safety recommendations based on its investigation. Three people died in the crash -- the 14-year-old son of Ebersol, the captain and a flight attendant. The other three on board -- Ebersol, another son, and the first officer -- were seriously hurt. "It is imperative that flight crews adhere to the ground inspections and deicing guidelines that are in place when freezing precipitation is present while on the ground," said NTSB Acting Chairman Mark Rosenker. "It is paramount that the aircraft is free of contamination before attempting to takeoff during periods of freezing precipitation."
The NTSB also announced on Tuesday its probable-cause finding in the August 2004 crash of an Air Tahoma cargo airplane. The crash resulted from fuel starvation caused by the captain's decision not to follow approved fuel crossfeed procedures, the board said. The accident airplane, a Convair 580, was operating as a DHL Express cargo flight from Memphis, Tenn., when it crashed on approach to landing at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, in Covington, Ky. The first officer was killed and the captain was injured. The airplane was destroyed. Inadequate flight planning also contributed to the accident, the NTSB said. Due to the lack of planning, the captain was distracted during the flight, and was late initiating the in-range checklist. Further contributing to the accident, the board said, was the flight crew's failure to monitor the fuel gauges and to recognize that the airplane's changing handling characteristics were caused by fuel imbalance. "Here again we see the tragedy that can result when time-tested procedures are not respected," said Rosenker. "The accident also points up the severe consequences that can follow when the operator of an aircraft, or any other vehicle, becomes distracted."
An Airbus A320 with 113 people on board, operated by the Armenian airline Armavia, went down yesterday at about 2 a.m. local time in stormy weather over the Black Sea. The jet was making a second approach to its destination airport, a resort town on the Russian coast, when it vanished from radar screens about four miles out. No distress calls were sent by the crew. Recovery of debris and bodies began yesterday, despite continued stormy weather and high seas. Investigators said they have ruled out terrorism. The NTSB in March expressed concern over the safety of rudders on A300 series aircraft, but the A320s were not cited. The Airbus that crashed in New York in 2001, after the vertical stabilizer separated in flight, was an A300 model. Most of the fuselage from yesterday's crash sank to the bottom of the Black Sea, about 1,300 feet down. A deep-sea robot will be used to recover the data and voice recorders.
It's not just aviators anymore who are frustrated with the snail's pace of technology upgrades in the National Airspace System. The FAA is taking heat from Congress over its lagging ADS-B project that would empower pilots and controllers with improved traffic situational awareness. By 2010, the agency plans to spend $300 million and install 400 ground stations to support the system, and the gear should be in every cockpit by 2016. But on Monday, two leaders on the House Transportation Committee sent a letter to FAA Administrator Marion Blakey expressing concern that the deadline couldn't be met: "It is not clear that [the FAA] budget supports this goal," wrote Reps. James Oberstar (D-Minn.) and Jerry Costello (D-Ill.), The Associated Press reported Tuesday. The Air Line Pilots Association has expressed support for the new system, but also says the budget is not up to the task. Other projects also have taken heat. The inspector general for the Transportation Department reported recently that the FAA's project to upgrade its telecommunications network is falling behind schedule, and the delay means expected cost benefits are eroding. On the upside, a switchover from proprietary software to open-source Linux in some systems has saved the agency $15 million. The upgrade was done in about six months, one-third the time originally estimated for the project, according to Linuxinsider.com.
The Eclipse 500 is on track to receive FAA certification by the end of this quarter (June 30, 2006) and EASA certification by the end of the year, Eclipse Aviation said in a news release on Tuesday. The five-jet Eclipse test fleet has flown 1,700 hours and recently completed tests for flight flutter, structural strength, air-data compliance, and battery endurance, the company said. The highest-utilization jet, N506EA, has flown almost 600 hours over seven months, with a dispatch rate of over 99.50 percent. "It's amazing to see the Eclipse 500 excitement build as we near certification and first customer deliveries," said Eclipse CEO Vern Raburn. "Certification testing is progressing exceptionally well." The company also said it expects the jet will meet targets for low aircraft noise, engine smoke emissions and cabin sound. The announcements came from Geneva, Switzerland, where the 6th Annual European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition opened yesterday.
Canadians had a string of close calls with falling airplane parts over the last week. "I was 12 feet away from being dead," Norm Kataras told pulse24.com, after a window from a Beechcraft Baron smashed into a car lot. The window apparently broke off shortly after takeoff from Buttonville Airport. Just two days earlier, Wayne Mathias, of Orillia, was cut by flying debris when the detached door of an airplane crashed down in a parking lot. "If it would have hit me ... my head would be gone, because that aluminum strip was so sharp," he said. Monday night, a wing flap from an A300 cargo jet hit the parked SUV of a Mississauga woman just moments before she would have been in the driver's seat. "I was a minute away from being killed," Karen McLellan told the Toronto Star. "I'm definitely going to buy a lottery ticket."
AOPA yesterday urged the FAA to support the continued operation of the loran navigation system until a permanent backup system for GPS is established. The U.S. Coast Guard plan to decommission the loran system is "premature," AOPA said. "Once gone, loran will no longer be a backup option, and any other suitable aviation alternative would likely be more costly, take longer to implement, and would be the responsibility of the FAA exclusively," AOPA President Phil Boyer told FAA Administrator Marion Blakey. "Let's look before we leap on this issue." Although most GA pilots use VORs as a backup navaid, the FAA is planning to decommission VOR stations, leaving no backup system should there be a major disruption to GPS. Originally developed for military and marine navigation, loran uses a chain of low-frequency, ground-based radio transmitters maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard. AOPA asked the FAA to evaluate the viability of loran as a backup navigation signal that supports RNP 0.3 performance and ADS-B requirements, before proceeding with plans to discontinue it.
Alvin White, who was Scott Crossfield's boss at North American during the heyday of supersonic flight testing, died over the weekend. He was 88. "Al assigned Scott to the X-15 while Al took the less flashy XB-70, which he then proceeded to fly at Mach 3 for hours on end," Rick Durden, who knew both men, told AVweb in an e-mail. "He was one of the great test pilots ... he took the F-100 and F-107 to the edges of their performance envelopes. He survived that time of unprecedented exploration of extremely high speeds and altitudes within the atmosphere, when airframes and engines were developed as fast as engineers could put ideas to paper and metal could be bent to fit." With the XB-70, White helped to design instrumentation that could be used at over 70,000 feet and Mach 3, which is in use to this day, Durden said. White was the pilot during a test flight when the XB-70 was destroyed, Durden wrote. "Al was in the left seat [and] was directed to join and lead a formation of GE-powered jets for publicity photos. The F-104 off his right wing somehow tapped the top of the left elevator of its T-tail on the leading edge of the XB-70's right wing. The F-104 cartwheeled across the top of the XB-70, removing one and a half of its vertical tails. The XB-70 flew for about 12 seconds before a wing dropped. When Al, still not aware that his airplane had been hit (the radio frequency became so congested no one could understand anything) applied aileron and rudder to pick up the wing, the airplane snap-rolled, immediately becoming uncontrollable. Al was able to fight the G forces and activate the capsule ejection system (the system required each pilot individually actuate his unit) and he got out. The capsule malfunctioned and he was severely injured in the landing. His copilot did not get out. ... Al never flew the XB-70 again, however, it is his name that is printed on the top of the list of the names under the left cockpit window on the sole remaining XB-70, now in the Air Force Museum. ... Al was one of the quiet ones. There were giants in aeronautics during the development of the hundred series fighters. So few of them are left." There will be a memorial service in Tucson today.
News in Brief
A 10-minute rocket flight and a two-day-long balloon flight were among the most memorable aviation records of 2005, the National Aeronautic Association announced last week. Dick Rutan flew XCOR's EZ-Rocket, a modified Long-EZ, from Mojave to California City in just under 10 minutes, the "longest record flight" by a ground-launched, rocket-powered airplane. In February, Troy Bradley broke a 60-year-old duration-of-flight record when he flew a small gas balloon from Texas to Georgia. Other memorable flights included Steve Fossett's GlobalFlyer circumnavigation in March, and John Parker pushing his Thunder Mustang to 376 mph on a straight course less than a kilometer long. Other records recognized a wide spectrum of aviation achievements. A group of skydivers in Lake Wales, Fla., beat their own mark for Largest Canopy Formation with a jump of 85. Suzanna Darcy-Hennemann and a team of Boeing pilots expanded the envelope in commercial aviation with the 777-200LR, setting a new record for Distance without Landing, 13,422 miles from Hong Kong to London. Ken Jennings set a new speed record for model helicopters in West Middlesex, Pa., in October, reaching 75.32 mph. And David Stevenson set a record in ultralight gliders for Three Turnpoint Distance, flying 553.68 miles starting from Jasper, Tenn., in April of last year. Ultralight gliders are much lighter than normal gliders, weighing 220 kg (485 lbs) or less.
A memorial service for test pilot Scott Crossfield will be held at Arlington National Cemetery on Aug. 15...
LoPresti will announce at Oshkosh where it will build a factory to produce the Fury, a company spokesman told AVweb yesterday...
If you're flying to EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh this summer, the NOTAM is now available...
The first S-LSA approval for a powered parachute went to Summit Powered Parachutes, based in Canada, last week....
Boeing says it will acquire Aviall, the largest independent provider of new aviation parts and services in the aerospace industry, for $1.7 billion...
Searchers have found the wreckage of a Navy jet from a 1960 crash in a Montana lake...
An American Eagle jet veered off the runway and stopped in the grass after landing at O'Hare International Airport on Tuesday morning. Nobody was hurt.
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.
Coming, Friday: An in-depth interview with AOPA's president, Phil Boyer. Check AVweb.com Friday to listen.
Online Now: Find exclusive interviews featuring Scott Crossfield, Cirrus Design's Alan Klapmeier, FAA administrator Marion Blakey, and more. AVweb's Podcast index, is available online -- pick and choose your particular interets, or subscribe free to AVweb's podcasts and receive them automatically for listening on your computer, iPod, or while traveling with any MP3 player. You'll hear things you won't find anywhere else.
Remember the good-old days when the choices of products to clean your airplane were few? Today it seems we are overwhelmed with choices to the point of bewilderment, but AVweb has some suggestions to keep a healthy shine on your steed.
Your Favorite FBO's
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Isn't It About Time You Chose Something Extra?
Nominate an FBO | Rules | Tips | Questions | Winning FBOs
AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon was awarded Monday to SILVER WINGS at KLEW, Auburn, Maine.
SCOTT D HIGGINS wrote in to say, "SILVER WINGS IS BRAND NEW AND REALLY STRIVING TO BUILD A CUSTOMER BASE. OWNER AND PILOT DOUG POHL HAS PULLED OUT ALL THE STOPS TO MAKE THIS THE FINEST IN THE STATE. NOT ONLY THE NICEST FACILITIES BUT THE FUEL PRICES ARE THE LOWEST IN MAINE."
Keep those nominations coming.
Click here to nominate your favorite FBO and here for complete contest rules
AVweb is actively seeking out the best FBO's in the country and another one, submitted by you, will be spotlighted here next Monday!
*** PREVIOUS RESULTS ***
Last week, AVweb asked readers to pick their favorite new jets. If price were no object, which one VLJ would you have in your hangar?
It should be noted that this is the same poll we ran the week before except last week we included the Adam A700, which was mistakenly left out of the first poll. It's a good thing we included it, too the A700 cornered more votes than any other jet, accounting for 37% of our readers' responses.
Cessna's Mustang did pretty well, too. Although it was the top vote-getter before we added the Adam A700, it still placed second in our revised poll, accounting for 21% of your votes.
The Eclipse 500 and ATG Javelin ranked neck-and-neck in both polls. Before we added the A700, votes for the Javelin outstripped those for the Eclipse but a few Javelin fans must have defected to Adam, because the ATG received only 12% of the vote in our revised poll, while the Eclipse cadged 14%.
Diamond's D-Jet was the next most popular choice (with 6% of the vote), followed by the Spectrum 33 (4%), and the upcoming Cirrus P-Jet (2%).
29 of you told us that we still hadn't listed your favorite VLJ. (Sorry.)
*** THIS WEEK'S QUESTION ***
This week's question comes by way of suggestion from Richard Herbst of Control Vision Corp. "I'd like to see a 'Question of the Week' addressing the relationship between fuel prices and hours flown," writes Richard. "What effect are fuel prices having on your flying?"
We'd like to know, too so click here to answer
Have an idea for a new QOTW? Send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
FAA-Approved Flight Instructor Refresher Clinic (FIRC) from ASA
Attention, flight instructors! Wouldn't it be nice to renew your flight instructor certificate from the comfort of home? ASA's FAA-approved Flight Instructor Refresher Clinic (FIRC) provides everything you need to renew your flight instructor certificate for 2 more years. Features over 11 hours of professional DVD presentations, supported with internet-based evaluation and course tracking. You don't need to be online for the entire duration of the course. For complete details, visit ASA's web site.
Attention, Cessna Owners
Do you need to modernize your old, tired RT359A or RT459A transponder? Narco Avionics proudly announces the availability of their all-new AT165/C and AT165/C Value Series digital display transponders. The AT165/C and AT165/C Value Series are designed as direct slide-in plug & play replacement transponders for the old ARC units. Both units feature instant VFR recall with quick and easy one-knob code entry. The AT165/C also features pressure altitude display with hold alert, along with three independent timers with audible alert. For more information, visit Narco Avionics online.
See What ATC Sees And Then See What They Do with It
The AVweb Edition of Flight Explorer is the PC-based graphical aircraft situation display that gives a real-time picture of all IFR aircraft in-flight over the U.S. and Canada. Whether you're tracking a friend or want to learn more about the system in action, Flight Explorer has the information you need for just $9.95 a month. Check it out.
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Comm1 Radio Simulator Special Offer to AVweb Subscribers
Receive a complimentary Communications Reference Card with the purchase of any Comm1 Radio Simulator. Fly confidently by training with Comm1 Radio Simulators unique, interactive CD-ROMs designed to teach pilots how to communicate safely and professionally with Air Traffic Control. Available in VFR, IFR, and Clearances on Request versions. Experience real flight situations through high-quality audio and graphics from the safety and privacy of your desktop. Also Available: VFLITE's Garmin GPSMap 396 Interactive Guide. Order online.
Power Flow's Short Stack Approved for Pipers & Grummans
Power Flow Systems, manufacturers of FAA-certified tuned exhaust systems, have introduced a new "short stack" exhaust pipe for Piper PA-28 and Grumman AA5 series aircraft. The new STC'd short stack looks better while still providing up to 23 more available horsepower. For more information on this, and the right tuned exhaust system for your aircraft, go online.
Submit a Photo | Rules | Tips | Questions | Past POTW Winners
If you love gawking at flying machines as much as we do, you've come to the right place AVweb's "Picture of the Week"!
Every Thursday, we select and publish the top photos from dozens submitted by our loyal AVweb readers. It's a tough job especially when there are as many good photos to choose from as there were this week but we manage. Even tougher is picking a single photo that stands out among all the others. Fortunately, Sparky Barnes Sargent of Washington, Oklahome made this week's choice a little easier than usual. Even in a week filled with stand-out photos, Sparky's caught our eye and practically demanded to be named "Picture of the Week."
As our top winner, Sparky will receive an official AVweb baseball cap in the mail. (Keep your eyes peeled for the postman!)
C'mon you could use an AVweb hat, and we're dying to see your photos! So what are you waiting for? Submit your aviation photos here.
*** THIS WEEK'S WINNERS ***
"Otto the Helicopter and the Lights over Lakeland"
Sparky Barnes Sargent of Washington, Oklahoma snapped this amazing shot at the night-time air show at this year's Sun 'n Fun. (Once again, we're kicking ourselves for staying in and working every night of the show. Next year, we're making it a point to catch that night-time air show, folks!)
A little info for the camera buffs, courtesy of Mr. Sargent: Taken on a Canon EOS 20D, shutter speed 1/250, aperture value 2.8, ISO speed 800, lens 70-200mm, focal length 85mm.
|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.|
Brendan Searle of Kaleen in the Capital Territory of Australia sent us several great photos from this year's Canberra Balloon Fiesta. (That's the Australian Treasury in the foreground, making those some very important bee-balloons.)
FYI, we also received more photos from three more readers who were at New Zealand's recent Warbirds over Wanaka air show. What's the secret, guys? Are the air shows in the Southern hemisphere really that amazing or are we just sending us the cream-of-the-crop photos?
"Skydivers Exit Twin Otter over Rocky Point, Mexico"
Jeff Agard of Arizona City, Arizona writes, "When there is an open door, you just gotta get out of the plane!"
And people ask us why skydivers have such an adventurous, uninhibited reputation ... .
Now that's an eye-catching paint job! Christopher Neuhaus of Munich, Bavaria (Germany) explains that this EC-135 is a dedicated transport for newborn babies and pregnant women. (Talk about traveling in style!) Christopher's photo was taken at a recent open house at the Williams Gateway Airport in Mesa, Arizona.
"Foggy Start to Sun 'n Fun"
Here's a part of Sun 'n Fun we didn't miss out on the heavy fog that hung over the start to this year's show. Dale Lenhert of Richardson, Texas was out and about slightly before we were on the first morning of the show (7am to be precise) and managed to snap this photo in the ultralight landing area.
"Edinburgh's New Tower and Gate Guard"
A low-flying Spitfire would surely deter us from any monkey business at the Edinburgh Airport. Thanks to Ronnie Bell of Livingston, Scotland (U.K.).
"Rough Ride Ahead"
Hoo-boy. Makes us nervous just looking at these clouds, but Ernst (Buddy) Toepfer III of Corpus Christi, Texas has the full story: "I had been on a job assignment in Wichita Falls and was flying back to Corpus Christi," he writes. "A late season cold front was coming through and we had to fly through it. We were flying at 36,000 feet [when] I found out that the local weatherman said the tops were 70,000 feet plus. The plane ride got rough to say the least. I took several pictures and thought this one turned out really special."
The Doolittle Raiders are together again in this photo from Brett Lohman of Geneseo, Illinois. This time, the famous (and always gracious) Raiders were together for their 64th reunion.
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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