May 29, 2006
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
Latest Lycoming AD
It's not often the FAA is more liberal than a company Service Bulletin in its handling of a potential safety issue but that appears to be the case with a proposed AD affecting thousands of suspect crankshafts in Lycoming engines. Lycoming's Mandatory Service Bulletin requires crank replacement the next time the crankcase is split or at next overhaul, but in any case, no later than Feb. 21, 2009. The MSB also includes a 90-percent discount on parts costs (leaving a bill of a couple thousand dollars, plus labor). But an earlier service instruction says engines must be overhauled when they reach their TBO or after a maximum of 12 years from new or overhaul. The FAA says the 12-year time limit is reasonable for low-use engines and it won't insist that crankshaft replacement match Lycoming's MSB schedule. However, those who don't go along with Lycoming's timetable could end up paying far more for the crankshaft and related parts, something AOPA isn't happy about. AOPA says it's lobbying Lycoming to change its pricing policy to match the FAA's requirements so that everyone affected by the AD gets the same deal. Under Lycoming's current requirements, those who change their cranks by the 2009 deadline will get the necessary parts for $2,000. The normal price, which will apply after that date, is $16,000. AOPA spokesman Luis Guitierrez said that might force some owners to pay labor to have their engines torn down twice, once for the crank replacement and later for the scheduled overhaul. "That is ridiculous. Lycoming should not put this cost burden on aircraft owners," he said.
Funding Forced on FAA
As if to punctuate Lycoming's difficulties, authorities are investigating an incident at St. Augustine Airport in Florida last Tuesday in which the prop on a newer Cessna 172 came off shortly after the aircraft took off. Sources say the aircraft was about 100 feet off the ground when the prop departed. There's no confirmation of what caused the prop to separate or whether there's any link to the crankshaft issues covered by the AD. The pilot, who may have been an instructor with a student, was able to land the aircraft safely on the airport. The operator of the aircraft, Epic Aviation, of New Smyrna Beach, did not immediately return AVweb's phone inquiry. The aircraft is owned by SAL Enterprises LLC, of Port Orange, Fla., and is a 172S model with a certificate date of Sept. 23, 2005.
Against a backdrop of restraint and intense lobbying for increased funding by other government agencies, the FAA may be forced to accept an extra $1.4 billion or so that it doesn't want (or the administration doesn't want it to have). The House Transportation-Treasury subcommittee late Thursday decided to boost the FAA's budget to $15.2 billion this year, including about $1 billion for airport improvements the administration was prepared to drop. The cuts to the Airport Improvement Program would hurt many projects but it would have been particularly tough on small, GA-oriented airports. Included in the proposed cuts were $150,000 "entitlement" grants that about 2,500 small airports get every year to keep runways, taxiways, lights and ramps in good repair. At many airports, the grants encompass all or most of the annual maintenance budget.
As AVweb told you a couple of weeks ago, the potential loss of the AIP money is a serious concern to many local airport authorities. Maryland, for example, seems to recognize the positive influence of general aviation, particularly to the tourism-driven economy of the Eastern Shore, and several airports in that area are undergoing some kind of improvement or expansion. The various airport authorities are looking for about a total of $10 million in federal funding for the projects, which range from runway expansions to equipment repairs. A reduction in grants could prolong the work. "If Congress does reduce spending, it would not stop our extension; (rather) the project would be funded over two years, although we anticipated a single-year grant," Robert Bryant, manager of the Salisbury-Ocean City: Wicomico Regional Airport told the Salisbury Daily Times. The Salisbury Airport is in the middle of a three-phase project to extend the existing 5,500-foot runway by 900 feet. The Cambridge-Dorchester Airport is embarking on an ambitious $11 million expansion of its facilities and is hoping for $5.3 million from the feds and cuts would mean compromises. "It could be that we'd use an old lighting system, maybe not replace a fence," Manager Don Satterfield told the Daily Times. "It might mean that we'd have to stretch out the length of time to expand."
AOPA says it's added two more influential politicians to what it says is a growing list of legislators who are opposed to FAA user fees. At a "town hall meeting" in San Diego last week, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) (a pilot and AOPA member) said via video presentation that he opposes fees. "If a general aviation user fee is what the FAA has in mind, they won't get my support," Issa is quoted by AOPA as saying. Meanwhile, AOPA is continuing to question the FAA's justification for a wholesale change to its funding mechanism. AOPA's government affairs specialist Andy Cebula was in Kansas City, Mo., talking to state aviation and FAA officials about the Airport and Airways Trust Fund, which is the major source of funding for the FAA. The agency has said the trust fund, based largely on airline ticket taxes, is in trouble due to declining airfares. But AOPA is among several groups questioning that assertion (airfares have gone up in the last year and more people than ever are flying). "The fact is there is no funding crisis justifying the implementation of user fees on general aviation," said Cebula. "We crunched the data. The money is there."
The application of user fees may come down to a definition of general aviation. Those who speak in favor of fees (generally airline representatives) usually point to business aircraft as examples of how unfairly treated the airlines (which normally carry hundreds more passengers per plane) are and American Airlines CEO Gerard Arpey was beating that drum at an Executives' Club of Chicago luncheon last week. In fact, he said, airlines are subsidizing other industries through the current tax system, which he says results in airlines picking up 90 percent of air traffic control costs even though they generate only about two-thirds of the traffic. "Crazy as it sounds, under the current system, the airlines -- one of our country's most important, but least healthy industries -- are actually subsidizing the corporate travel of other -- presumably much healthier -- entities, as well as individuals who can afford their own jets," Arpey is quoted by the Chicago Sun-Times as saying. Ed Bolen, president of the National Business Aviation Association, said the issue is more complex than a simple mathematical equation. Bolen told the Sun-Times that the air traffic control system is designed to cope with the airlines' hub-and-spoke system, which concentrates very high traffic levels in certain areas at certain times. He said it's unfair to expect others to pay an equal share of the costs for intensely crowded corridors and airports they mostly probably avoid. "The controllers are not there because of business aviation," Bolen said. "The problem is 50 [airliners] all departing O'Hare at 9 o'clock." Bolen will be the keynote speaker at NBAA's Washington, D.C., Regional Forum to be held on June 8, 2006, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. EDT at the Landmark Aviation site at Washington Dulles International Airport and user fees will undoubtedly be on the list of "proposals being debated in the federal policy arena" that he'll be discussing.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court says aviation fuel sellers are allowed to charge whatever they want to for avgas and Jet-A because it does not consider either to be "motor vehicle fuel." The ruling settled a three-year court battle in which Orion Flight Services had alleged that Basler Flight Service had violated state law by selling fuel below cost in a price war at Wittman Field in Oshkosh in 2002. But the Supreme Court ruled that aircraft fuel is not covered by the Wisconsin Unfair Sales Act, which says motor vehicle fuel prices must include a profit margin of up to 9.18 percent. Basler enjoyed a monopoly on fuel sales at Wittman for almost 45 years. In 2002, Winnebago County allowed Orion to set up a truck-based fuel business (Basler has trucks and self-serve fixed pumps) at the airport. Orion set its prices lower than Basler's, which ignited a price war that drove prices from $2.59 a gallon to a low of $1.59 a gallon. Orion complained to state officials that Basler was violating the pricing provisions and the legal battle ensued from there. It was finally settled in a May 19 judgment.
A new dimension may have been added to the 10-year effort to prevent fuel tanks from exploding in airliners. The right wing fuel tank on a Transmile Airlines Boeing 727-200 apparently blew up while the plane was on the ground at Bangalore, India, last week. There were no injuries or damage to anything else but it brought into sharp focus the NTSB's 10-year battle to prevent fuel-tank explosions after the NTSB determined a belly tank blew on a TWA Boeing 747 in 1996 off Long Island, killing everyone aboard. (Though more people were killed, that incident was not the first of its kind.) The FAA is now preparing a final rule (from this NPRM) that may require systems to prevent fuel-tank explosions to be retrofitted on all airliners. But the rule applies only to center tanks and not wing tanks like the one that cooked off last week. The proposed rule is being opposed by the Air Transport Association. The ATA says cash-strapped airlines can't afford the retrofits. Rather than trying to eliminate sources of ignition, the proposed rule sets flammability standards for the vacant space in fuel tanks known as the ullage. The most likely way of meeting those standards is to pump inert gas into that space to displace the oxygen. Boeing's working on just such a system and hopes to have it certified this year. There have been 18 documented fuel-tank explosions in airliners and the FAA predicts at least nine more over the next 50 years if something isn't done.
Dropping in on the neighbors may be a thing of the past in Scottsdale, Ariz., if the city council proceeds with a revision to its helicopter ordinance. The city law already lays out where helicopters are permitted to land (airports, hospitals, industrial sites, etc.) but it doesn't specifically exclude residential areas. Jim Heitel, vice chairman of Scottsdale's Planning Commission, told the East Valley Tribune the new ordinance would make it clear that "residential areas are meant to be residential." In 2003, the commission's board of adjustment turned down a homeowner's request to build a helipad. A large, circular cement pad was poured anyway and the owner says it's a driveway. Some helicopter operators are wondering why the rule is needed since the air isn't exactly thick with helicopters. "Flights I'm aware of are a rare event," north Scottsdale resident Craig Stull told the Tribune. "Maybe once a year. Not routine, just a special event. In a lot of cases people weren't aware of it." And in some cases, helicopter flights onto private property are a welcome event. Resident and helicopter pilot Scott Urschel said the ordinance would ban his annual delivery of Santa to the neighborhood. "A bunch of neighbors are going to be extremely disappointed," he said.
News in Brief
A powered paraglider pilot who calls himself "Super" Dell Schanze is denying he broke any laws last week when he flew low and slow near a busy Utah freeway. Schanze, who has apparently attracted this kind of attention before, admits he was trying to catch people's eye with the flight as a way to promote sales of paragliders, one of his businesses, but he said he did it within the rules. "I was flying over a wide open field. As far as I know I did everything correctly," he told the Deseret News. "I just happen to be the type of person that attracts more attention than anyone else on earth." However Schanze, who admitted to flying over the freeway at a height of more than 500 feet, may have violated an FAA regulation that prevents flying that kind of aircraft over congested areas. Police said they started getting calls about 8:30 a.m. Wednesday about a low-flying paraglider from motorists on I-15. Highway patrol officers said they didn't see the paraglider directly over the freeway but did see it very low adjacent to the road. There was a minor accident on the freeway as the paraglider was flying in the vicinity but Utah Highway Patrol officials are not linking the two. Regardless of the legality of Schanze's Wednesday flight, sport flying groups appear to be fed up with dealing with these kinds of reports. "He's been talked to by lots of local pilots," Steve Mayer, the regional director of the U.S. Paragliding Association, told the News. "We're concerned he's reflecting poorly on us." Super Dell is a well-known Utah businessman who operates various businesses under the name Totally Awesome. His chain of eight computer stores was recently closed.
In another twist to the uncomfortable process of bringing Delta Air Lines back from the brink, the airline and its pilots will fight an objection from the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. over the deal struck on wage concessions. The pilots accepted a 14-percent pay cut and promised not to interfere with Delta's plan to dissolve the existing pension plan. As part of the deal, pilots will get a $650 million note from the airline and also receive a $2.1 billion unsecured claim. The PBGC says both those financial instruments should go to PBGC because it will become the trustee of the pension if it is abandoned by Delta. The deal is also threatened by a group of retired Delta pilots. The Delta Pilots' Pension Preservation Organization says the agreement sets the stage to sharply reduce their pension benefits. Delta's active pilots have until May 31 to vote on the package and Air Line Pilots Association spokesman Lee Moak said the move by the retired pilots to undermine the deal is upsetting. "It is unfortunate that this threat to our careers and our airline now comes from some of our own former pilots," Moak said. A bankruptcy judge will have the final say in both appeals.
News in Brief
The MIT students and faculty who are developing what they hope will be a practical, roadable, light-sport-compatible airplane say they've had offers of deposits, requests for dealerships and interest from hundreds of investors in their creation. As AVweb told you earlier this year, the Transition was runner-up in MIT's annual Entrepreneurs Contest. Carl Dietrich, a Ph.D student in aeronautics and astronautics at MIT, the principal designer of the vehicle and president of Terrafugia Inc., the company formed to develop it, said interest has come from all over the world. He told Bloomberg News at least 75 pilots have offered to put deposits on the (currently quoted near) $148,000 invention, which hasn't yet proceeded past the mock-up stage. The Transition is a two-place craft that Dietrich says will fit the Light Sport Aircraft category (1,320 lbs., 120 mph cruise). He said the idea is to be able to drive the Transition to a nearby airport where the wings will unfold and it will take off. "We're trying to approach this from a pilot's perspective, someone who is thinking, 'What would be nice is to keep my plane in my garage at home instead of paying $400 or $500 in hangar fees,''' Dietrich said. The company intends to have the mock-up at EAA AirVenture in July.
Federal Air Marshals "demonstrated remarkable restraint in dealing with" an unarmed man whom they fired upon nine times and killed with at least four bullets outside a parked airliner at Miami International Airport. The Miami-Dade State Attorney's office has determined the unidentified marshals were "legally justified" in killing Rigoberto Alpizar when he bolted from the aircraft after the Air Marshals say he told other passengers that he was carrying a bomb and would detonate it. The names of the Air Marshals were not released and they will be flying again, "shortly," according to a TSA spokesman quoted by the Miami Herald.
The marshals fired nine times after Alpizar reached into a backpack that he was wearing on his chest and, according to one of the marshals, said, "I'm going to blow up this bomb." There was a bottle of water in the backpack.
Greek authorities have concluded that human error caused the crash of a Helios Airlines flight near Athens last year. According to a report leaked to the Greek media, technicians forgot to switch the pressurization system on the Boeing 737 back to automatic after a system check and the pilots failed to notice. Everyone on board, except a steward who tried vainly to control the plane, fell unconscious hours before the plane ran out of fuel and crashed
Neither a student pilot nor a police officer was injured when the wing of the airplane the student was taxiing smashed the windshield of the police car occupied by the officer. The student apparently swung wide on a taxiway at the airport at Lansing, Ill. The police were there for some police dog training...
Extra Aircraft and air show performer Mike Goulian collaborated on an updated version of the Extra 300S. The new plane is 100 lbs. lighter, has a 350-hp Lycoming Thunderbolt engine and is less aerodynamically stable (a good thing for aerobatics) than the earlier model. It will debut in the U.S. at EAA AirVenture...
More than 3,500 school children got close to aviation last week at Potomac Airfield, near Washington, D.C. The kids were part of the celebration of National Transportation Week.
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Probable Cause #7: Marginal VFR and Complacency of the Familiar
An IFR pilot may choose to fly VFR on a nice day -- but how good does "nice" have to be to let go of the IFR safety net? This week's Probable Cause report investigates the issue, which first appeared in AVweb's sister publication, IFR Refresher.
What's New -- Products and Services
This month AVweb's survey of the latest products and services for pilots, mechanics and aircraft owners brings you a Rotax engine school, wrap-around display for FTDs, flip-up sunglasses and much more.
DA40 Diamond Star a Fleet Favorite
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Nominate an FBO | Rules | Tips | Questions | Winning FBOs
AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to CROTTS AIRCRAFT at KDDC, Dodge City, Kansas.
ALAN OCHS wrote in to tell us, "THE STAFF AT CROTTS AIRCRAFT ARE THE BEST. THEY ALWAYS GO THE EXTRA MILE TO KEEP PEOPLE FLYING. I HAVE SEEN THEM COME OUT AFTER HOURS, ON SUNDAY, TO HELP PILOTS IF YOU NEED A FUEL STOP, OR JUST A CUP OF COFFEE, IN THE MIDWEST ,THIS IS A GOOD PLACE."
Keep those nominations coming.
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AVweb is actively seeking out the best FBO's in the country and another one, submitted by you, will be spotlighted here next Monday!
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.
Do You or Your Passengers Suffer from Motion Sickness?
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See What ATC Sees & Then See What They Do with the Information
The AVweb Edition of Flight Explorer is the PC-based graphical aircraft situation display that gives you 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 want for just $9.95 a month. Subscribe online
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If You Are Looking to Fall Asleep, Read the AIM, Not This Book
Do pilots become better risk managers reading NTSB accident reports and scaring themselves without learning, or listening to dusty lectures and falling asleep? Pilots who read Rod Machado's Plane Talk will not only stay awake but learn important lessons about human nature, risk, safety benefits, avoiding temptation, developing an aviation code of ethics, and much more. Order online.
Order a CO Guardian CO Detector in the Hope You'll Never Have to Use It!
Models from portable to panel-mount units. Order online.
Names Behind the News
PA-44: Page Traffic, Seminole Echo-Romeo entering the left down wind, we will be simulated single engine...
C-172S: Seminole Echo-Romeo, Cessna is following you into the Downwind on the left 45.
... We're single engine, as well.
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Today's issue was written by news writer Russ Niles (bio).
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