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June 12, 2006

NewsWire Complete Issue

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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AOPA Targets Medical Issues back to top 

Recreational Revival?

One way to keep the number of active pilots from slipping is to ensure those who already have certificates keep flying as long as possible. As part of its campaign to battle the shrinkage of pilot ranks, AOPA is petitioning the FAA to relax medical standards for the recreational certificate by allowing pilots medical certification by way of a "health statement" from a family doctor instead of the third-class medical now required. AOPA says the medical requirement is the reason the recreational certificate has never been popular and the petition is its idea to fix that. When it first started pressing for the recreational certificate in 1978, AOPA recommended that the formal medical requirements of higher levels of certificates be relaxed for recreational flyers. But the FAA insisted on a third-class medical and, because there's not a huge amount of difference in the cost and level of training between the two types of certificates, most people have opted for a private certificate because of the added flexibility it offers. AOPA apparently believes there are pilots who have lost their medicals but are still healthy enough to fly under recreational restrictions (day VFR only, one passenger, 180-hp maximum) who would jump at the chance to get in the left seat again.

Sport Pilot SNAFU?

Under the new Sport Pilot classification, the concept of self-certification is really put to the test -- except for those who have already flunked an airman's medical. While new pilots can simply show a driver's license as proof of medical fitness, those who may have had a recreational or higher certificate but lost it for medical reasons have to get their medical back -- before applying for a certificate that doesn't require a medical. What's more, pilots who may have suffered a disqualifying medical condition but have simply let their medicals lapse can also self-certify with a driver's license. Make sense? AOPA doesn't think so either and is asking the FAA to eliminate this "Catch-22." AOPA insists that relaxed medical standards for recreational and sport pilot certificates will not have a significant impact on safety. After combing through a decade of accident data, it says there's no evidence that having a medical certificate reduces the already minuscule incidence of medically related accidents (2 percent). Furthermore, it says, most accidents that result from medical incapacitation are caused by conditions that can't be detected or predicted by the airman's medical.

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What Next For NATCA? back to top 

NATCA's Battle Far From Over Says Carr

Well, John Carr, the president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, has never been lost for words but he was in rare form last Thursday when we caught him, on his cellphone, on a Washington, D.C., freeway, for our Friday podcast. It was about 12 hours after a vote on a bill in the House of Representatives to send NATCA and the FAA back to the bargaining table missed the necessary two-thirds majority by eight votes and Carr told AVweb that the defeat was a setback in a battle that will continue indefinitely as far as he's concerned. "We will fight it every day, every week and every month until we overturn it," he said. Carr isn't detailing the union's strategy but he did say that NATCA is considering legislative and legal action and, of course, the court of public opinion, in its fight. The cleanest and ultimately most effective would be to convince Congress of the rightness of its cause and it seems logical that will consume much of NATCA's energy in coming months. "Hope springs eternal," Carr said. "There are lots of legislative strategies available."

Immediate Impact: Delays, Safety Concerns

One of NATCA's bargaining chips through negotiations and the 60-day period of congressional consideration was that the last best offer by the FAA, which theoretically is in the process of being imposed on the union, will actually cost the top echelon of controllers money. If those most experienced controllers continue working, changes to location pay and other bonuses would ultimately have a negative effect on their pensions. Carr claims that 25 percent of the workforce, 4,000 controllers, virtually all of them the most experienced and knowledgeable members, will opt for retirement rather than stay on. He told us he'd already heard from some who were doing just that. "Air traffic controllers are heading for the exits," he said. The result, he said, will be traffic delays and, inevitably, safety concerns. Carr said that as traffic increases and the number of controllers decreases the system will lose "elasticity." Although the FAA has announced plans to hire 12,500 controllers over the next 10 years, Carr said it won't be enough. "She [Administrator Marion Blakey] can't hire and train them fast enough."

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News Briefs back to top 

Two Survive Pacific Ditching

Two Australians are relaxing in Hawaii after they were rescued uninjured from a Piper Seminole they ditched in the Pacific last Thursday, 535 miles northeast of Hilo, Hawaii. Pilot Lyn Gray told the Honolulu Star-Bulletin they were about 1,000 miles from Santa Barbara, Calif., when she noticed one engine "was using far more fuel than it should." (An airline pilot who says he monitored the radio exchanges while on his way from LAX to Honolulu suggested in an e-mail to AVweb what he heard implied to him there was a problem with the ferry fuel system and one engine was shut down to conserve fuel.) Gray told the newspaper she and co-pilot Kristian Kauter shut the offending engine down but there wasn't enough fuel remaining to get to Hilo, their first fuel stop on the ferry flight to Sydney. Gray's aircraft was accompanied by another Seminole flown by her boss, Ray Clamback. Clamback, who's survived two ocean ditchings in the same area in the last seven years, radioed advice to Gray as he circled over the ditching site, before he continued to a safe landing in Hilo. Gray's Seminole was met by a Coast Guard C-130, which guided her toward the Virginius, a Maltese container ship on its way to China. The Guard Herc laid down a row of flares beside the ship to help the Seminole pilot judge wind. Gray and Kauter surrounded themselves with pillows and luggage to cushion the impact before setting the twin on the ocean. Within 15 minutes, the freighter crew had plucked the pilots from the sea. The two were checked by a nurse on the ship and found none the worse for wear. They stayed on the ship for almost two days before the captain obligingly agreed to rendezvous with a Coast Guard helicopter in international waters 12 miles off Honolulu so the pilots could decide for themselves if they wanted to go to China some other time, or at all. "Good Samaritan vessels can decide to do whatever they want with passengers they pick up," Coast Guard Petty Officer Brooksann Epiceno said. "So those people could ride all the way to China or the captain can say, 'Oh, I don't mind pulling over.' "

ADS-B Coming To Gulf Of Mexico

The FAA has committed to installing Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast equipment to cover the Gulf of Mexico, thanks in part, no doubt, to a $100 million carrot dangled by the gulf-oil-fed helicopter industry. According to a news release issued by the Helicopter Association International, chopper operators will supply manpower, facilities and free flights totaling a value of $100 million to get the system up and running. HAI President Rick Zuccaro hailed the cooperative arrangement. "The need for accurate weather, direct communications, and surveillance capabilities has never been greater to support the 650-plus helicopters flying offshore," President Zuccaro said in a news release. The Gulf project will be the first widespread implementation of the technology in the Lower 48 after successful testing in Alaska in the Capstone project. ADS-B-equipped aircraft are able to detect other aircraft with the equipment to maintain separation. "I believe that due to the very nature of helicopter operations, which involve low altitude, off-airport, remote location, all-weather situations, our segment of the aviation community stands to reap the greatest rewards from the ADS-B technology," Zuccaro said. "Accordingly, HAI will be exploring the potential for ADS-B benefits to other segments of our industry, such as helicopter emergency medical services, corporate, utility operations, and others," said President Zuccaro.

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News Briefs back to top 

Opportunities After Age 60

Healthy airline and cargo pilots who hit the magic (or tragic) number can potentially add five years to their flying lives as of Nov. 23. That's when the International Civil Aviation Organization will formally adopt 65 as the mandatory retirement age for professional big-iron pilots. The FAA isn't going along with the new standard and is maintaining its Age-60 retirement rule. But that doesn't mean there won't be American pilots in their 60s flying airliners and cargo planes over the U.S. All they have to do is get a job with any of a myriad of carriers from dozens of countries that will follow ICAO's standard. "A seeming irony to this is that American pilots who work for a foreign company will remain citizens of the U.S. and, frequently, continue to reside here," says a news release from Airline Pilots Against Age Discrimination (APAAD). "They will fly the same types of airplanes loaded with passengers and freight over the same exact routes as their counterparts who work for American companies." APAAD says foreign carriers are rapidly expanding operations and actively recruiting American pilots. It claims the trend is bad for pilots and the industry as a whole. "Foreign salaries are generally less than those paid at companies such as FedEx," said APAAD President Gary Cottingham. "The increasing number of American pilots who are paid foreign wages will drive the standards down." APAAD is critical of the Air Line Pilots Association's (ALPA) continued support of the FAA's age restrictions, saying it ignores modern trends and conditions and will ultimately contribute to the U.S. industry's being less competitive.

Tanker Driver Hailed As Hero

Chris Pugliese said his training kicked in when he quickly put out a fire in the engine compartment of the tanker truck he had just parked under the fuel-laden wing of a Boeing 767. Now officials at Orlando Sanford International Airport are saying he may have saved hundreds of lives. "He averted a horrible catastrophe," Diane Crews, vice president of airport operations, told the Orlando Sentinel. "Christopher is absolutely a hero to the airport and to all those passengers adjacent to the area." Pugliese, 26, who's only worked as a fuel-truck driver for four months, said it didn't occur to him to run when he saw flames coming out of the truck, which held 10,000 gallons of Jet-A. "They train us how to put out fires," he said. "If I started running it would have been a mess." The 767 already had more than 10,000 gallons aboard from Pugliese's first trip to the aircraft and it was parked beside two charter aircraft already loaded with a combined total of up to 600 passengers. As he parked under the 767, the engine stalled and he saw the flames. He grabbed the fire extinguisher and put the fire out, creating a huge cloud of flame retardant and smoke that really got people's attention in the area. The loaded planes were quickly moved away from the truck in case the fire restarted. Cause hasn't been determined.

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News Briefs back to top 

Private School Students Get A Buzz

A student at Pinkerton Academy in Derry, N.H., got an education in what happens if you run afoul of FAA regs. The unidentified student is alleged to have buzzed the school in a Piper Cherokee at about 250 to 300 feet several times over a 30- to 45-minute period last Tuesday, wagging his wings as he did so. "It was waving to the kids, as planes do," Mary Anderson, headmaster of the school told the Union Leader. Anderson says she considers the incident a "senior prank" and her punishment will fit the crime. However, she didn't get a crack at the student until after the FAA had a chat with him. Because the plane was flying so low, school officials were easily able to copy the registration and FAA investigators were waiting for the student when he returned the rented plane to Lawrence, Mass., Municipal Airport. It's not clear whether the pilot has a student or private certificate but it seems likely he'll be without it for a while. Someone shot video of the airplane and the FAA is now determining if the pilot's actions warrant an emergency revocation, suspension or fine.

Composite Bubbles Block 787 Test

Boeing has confirmed published reports that it called off an FAA certification inspection of a 35-foot section of fuselage for the 787 after bubbles were discovered in the composite material. However, Boeing spokeswoman Yvonne Leach told The Associated Press the cancellation of the pivotal inspection will not delay deliveries of the mostly plastic airliner because it will build two fuselages at once to replace the bubbly one and then test them concurrently. The company has promised All Nippon Airlines its first 787 in mid-2008. Leach said the bubbles likely got in the resin via a faulty tool used in making up the piece. The bubbles, or voids, would weaken the composite structure and could eventually cause it to tear or crack. Boeing has invested heavily in the switch from aluminum to composite manufacturing and is predicting major efficiency gains with the 787 design.

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News Briefs back to top 

Crash Kills Two, Destroys House

The son of a pilot killed when his 1957 Bonanza crashed into a house in Reno last week says his father died doing something he loved. "No matter how tragic the result, I am glad he passed doing something he loved," John Monday's son, Ryan Monday, of Corinth, Texas, said in an e-mail to the Reno Gazette-Journal. "I am blessed to be given the time I had with him, so someday I can show the same (drive) for perfection." John Monday, 49, and a passenger, who may have been his flight instructor, took off from Reno-Tahoe International Airport about 3 p.m. last Wednesday and almost immediately reported engine trouble. Monday apparently tried to turn back to the airport but the plane smashed into a house in south Reno. The house was occupied by a dog that was killed by the fire. There was no speculation on the cause of the engine trouble. The pilot was a former Reno resident who had been living with his wife in Laguna Beach, Calif. He'd flown from Laguna Beach earlier that day and was on his way back when the crash occurred.

Exploding Engine Damages 767 On The Ground

An engine that came apart during a maintenance run-up on an American Airlines Boeing 767 caused extensive damage (maybe even wrote off) a Boeing 767-200 at Los Angeles International Airport June 2. No one was injured when parts from the disintegrating engine sliced through the aircraft and scattered debris over a wide area. More than 10,000 gallons of fuel leaked as a result of the damage but firefighters sealed it in foam and prevented a secondary fire. Pictures posted online by the Los Angeles Fire Department captured the aftermath and offers a firefighter's perspective.

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News in Brief back to top 

On The Fly...

British authorities say flying a 747 on three engines over the polar icecap was the right thing to do and now they're going to try to convince the FAA of that. As AVweb reported, the British Airways flight from LAX to London lost an engine after takeoff and kept going until running short of fuel and landing at Manchester. The FAA has cited the airline and a hearing will be held Aug. 13...

BAE Systems is testing a new type of synthetic vision that integrates real-time video, infrared and radar images with pictures from a database to give pilots a clear view of the airport in zero-zero conditions. The system is being tested by NASA...

The FAA has issued its final rule on an airworthiness directive (AD) for ECi cylinder assemblies. The rule requires replacement of certain assemblies to prevent the risk of cracking and separation...

Continental Airlines offers service to Manchester -- both of them -- and a British customer got the full tour. Jim Hourihan, of Liverpool, thought he was heading home when he got on the flight in California but ended up in Manchester, N.H., instead. Continental got him the rest of the way for free...

The city council in Oceanside, Calif., has backed off on boosting rents for hangars and tie-downs by as much as 78 percent. AOPA wrote the city a letter pointing out the increases might violate FAA grant assurances that could trigger a demand to pay back federal money spent on the airport...

The NTSB saysa broken connecting rod was found in the engine of a Beech Bonanza that ditched in Santa Monica Bay last March, killing former TV game show host Peter Tomarken and his wife, Kathleen. An eight-inch by six-inch hole was found in the engine and a piece of connecting rod was found loose inside...

The FAA has issued new regulations requiring standardized landing distance calculations to be done by airline pilots landing on snowy or wet runways. The new regs were issued two weeks before a public hearing into the runway overrun of a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 at Midway Airport last December.

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Your Favorite FBOs back to top 


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Features back to top 

New Articles and Features on AVweb

Probable Cause #8: Night Over Water
On a clear night with a full moon, a visual descent to the airport turned into a splashdown on a poorly flown instrument approach. This report first appeared in AVweb's sister publication Aviation Safety.


Online Now: Listent to, or take today's news with you. Find exclusive interviews featuring NATCA president John Carr, New Piper CEO Jim Bass, Light Sport guru Dan Johnson, Excel Jet's Bob Bornhofen, Adam Aircraft's Joe Walker, FAA administrator Marion Blakey, Cirrus Design's Alan Klapmeier and more. AVweb's Podcast index, is available online -- pick and choose your pleasure, or subscribe free and receive AVweb's podcasts automatically for listening on your computer, iPod, or while traveling with any MP3 player.

Reader Feedback on AVweb's News Coverage and Feature Articles ...

Reader mail this week about the Dakota breakup, SBs and ADs, fewer new pilots more.

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AVwebBiz back to top 

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The Lighter Side Of Flight back to top 

Short Final...

Another day at customs...

I was returning to the US with my niece. The week before, a friend had flown the plane into a local grass strip and there was still mud and residue on the fuselage. As customs agents inspected the plane, one officer asked about the dirt and commented, "I gotta say, that's the first time I've seen grass on the outside of the airplane." Naturally dense (and focused on the inspection) I puzzled as my niece, who is in her early twenties, began to choke down laughter.

...She had to explain it to me as we taxied away.

Names Behind The News back to top 

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).

Click here to send a letter to the editor. (Please let us know if your letter is not intended for publication.)

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