June 15, 2006
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
The FAA and the Air Force have reached a preliminary agreement on procedures that would allow unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to be deployed in civilian airspace during emergencies, InsideDefense.com reported last week. "If a national disaster is declared, we will be able to use unmanned aerial systems such as Predator and Global Hawk over a disaster area," said Maj. Gen. Scott Mayes. The UAVs would likely be used to provide real-time images and data to first responders and relief efforts. The FAA has softened its stand that UAVs must have "see and avoid" capability before being allowed to share the civilian airspace, according to Inside Defense. The military said that during a disaster, the airspace would probably be closed to commercial traffic anyway, lessening the chance of a collision. However, during the aftermath of Katrina last year, the skies were buzzing with helicopters and relief flights, so how that separation will be maintained was not clear. UAVs were tested during recent emergency drills conducted by the military, and that performance helped to get the FAA on board, according to Inside Defense. Meanwhile, however, Congress has shown some concern about the deployment of the aircraft on the Mexican border. A disbursement of $6.8 million for the Border Patrol to buy another UAV in fiscal 2007 is on hold until the agency reports findings of an investigation into the crash of a Predator near the border in April, govexec.com reported last Friday.
Last week in Paris, a conference on UAVs worked to hash out plans for integrating the vehicles into civilian airspace by 2008. Four demonstration projects are currently being planned, focusing on affordability, propulsion, logistics and an integrated system demonstration, Flight International reported Tuesday. Meanwhile, Canada's Department of National Defence is working to award a contract by the middle of next year for five systems of between six and 10 UAVs each to be in service by 2008. The systems would comprise four offshore operations: one each located on Canada's Atlantic and Pacific coasts, one in the north and one for training purposes, Flight International reported.
The Los Angeles area has some of the busiest airspace in the world, so when reports began to surface that the Sheriff's Department was evaluating a four-pound UAV to use for surveillance, pilots quickly raised an alarm. Staff at AOPA rang the FAA, and the FAA quickly made it clear to the sheriff that as a public operator, a certificate of authorization and an experimental airworthiness certificate would be required to fly a UAV, regardless of size, in the National Airspace System. Those are the same rules that apply to the larger UAVs being flown by the military and Department of Homeland Security. But the case is not closed. AOPA says it will meet with FAA officials about UAV concerns later this month, and will continue to work on the issue as part of an advisory group that is developing guidance and procedures for UAV operations nationwide. As for the L.A. UAV, AOPA says the sheriff told the FAA they wouldn't fly the aircraft anywhere above Los Angeles County.
Winter is still a long way off, but jet operators need to think about it now, in light of a new policy published by the FAA last week. The policy mandates that jet operators -- whether operating under Part 91, 123, 125 or 135 -- must have a plan by Sept. 1 to ensure that a full-stop landing -- with at least a 15-percent safety margin beyond the actual landing distance -- can be made on the runway to be used, in the conditions existing at the time of arrival. The policy means that if conditions deteriorate while en route, the crew or dispatcher must refigure the landing minimums, and divert if the conditions can't be met. The policy results from the overrun of a Southwest 737 at Midway last winter, in which a 6-year-old boy was killed when the jet ran off the runway onto a road and hit a car. Under the new rules, a pilot who is told the runway condition is fair to poor will be expected to assume the runway is in poor shape when deciding whether to land, FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown told The Chicago Tribune.
Both the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) and the National Air Transportation Association (NATA) have already expressed opposition to the FAA's rule and its method of announcing it. NATA President James Coyne called it "an abusive interpretation of the regulations," and called on the FAA to use the standard rulemaking procedures and solicit comment from industry. NBAA agreed, and also found fault with the nature of the change. "The proposal suggests that only one factor -- runway landing distance -- matters in aircraft landings," spokesman Dan Hubbard told AVweb on Tuesday. "In fact, a whole host of factors are involved, including pilot judgment, aircraft weight and other aspects of landing." NATA said in its statement that the FAA should postpone implementation of the policy until appropriate rulemaking procedures are completed and other concerns have been addressed. NATA also said it has contacted the Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy to alert them to this "apparent breach of rulemaking procedure" and to seek their support in opposing the FAA's action.
Worries already are spreading that older airports in the wintry parts of the country could be hard hit by the changes, though airport operators so far are denying it. More flights could be cancelled or be forced to divert. One side effect of the policy, if it does prove problematic, is that it could make smaller jets more attractive to business flyers. If CEOs are having to divert in their big Gulfstreams and Citations, will they take another look at nimble little Adam, Cessna and Eclipse jets? Aviation expert Joe Schwieterman of DePaul University told CBS2 in Chicago that the new procedures will require tough choices to be made quickly under stressful conditions. "Where this is gonna get tough is where weather conditions are changing rapidly. A plane is on its approach, announcements are made about runway conditions, airlines are going to have to decide whether they really have the legal authority to land that airplane," he said.
One of the U.S.'s leading aviation gear dealers says he's been told the long-awaited next-generation Cessna single will be unveiled at AOPA Expo in Palm Springs next November. Hal Shevers, of Sporty's Pilot Shop, told AVweb that Cessna "announced" the unveiling recently but it's not clear to whom that announcement was made. Messages left with the Cessna communications department were not immediately returned. Shevers made the comment as part of a wide-ranging in-depth podcast interview that you can hear in its entirety on Friday. Shevers, who's never one to pull punches on aviation topics, has plenty to say about the TSA, the FAA, user fees and the fizzle he thinks the very light jet market will be. The existence of a development program for a new Cessna single came to light last year about this time and since then the aviation press has been buzzing about what it will be. The consensus seems to be a straight-leg, strutless, high-wing six-passenger airplane with 350 horsepower and, of course, a fully electronic panel. We're also not sure whether the AOPA Expo display will be a mockup or a prototype. Tune in tomorrow for more via AVweb's podcast. AVweb podcasts are free. Find the podcast index on our homepage, or subscribe to receive them automatically.
We had asked the FAA to comment for our Monday issue on the latest remarks from NATCA President John Carr ("we will fight") regarding the failure of Congress to act on the FAA-controller contract, but when we heard back from spokesman Geoffrey Basye it was after deadline. He told us, "From Day One the FAA has adhered to the legal framework guiding the negotiations process; a framework already established by Congress in 1996. That process has wrapped up and effective Monday, June 5, in accordance with law, the FAA announced that it would move promptly to implement the new contract, which raises current average compensation and benefits for controllers from $165,900 to $187,000. So to close on this point, the FAA did not 'snub' Congress, it followed, in a good-faith manner, the established law set by Congress in 1996," Basye said. "As for Carr's comments on delays and safety problems, I think he underestimates the dedication and professionalism of the controller workforce, a group he claims to represent. We are currently in the safest travel period in aviation industry. One would have to fly every day for 43,000 years to encounter a fatality in the air. This is in large part to the many men and women working at the FAA who are not only managing the traffic in the air, but who are also certifying and inspecting the aircraft on the ground, ensuring they're prepared for flight. It is in this spirit that the FAA moves forward with the implementation of its new contract; a contract that is generous for controllers, saves the taxpayer $1.9 billion over five years, and gives the FAA the much-needed resources it needs to make modernization and safety investments that the traveling public deserves." Meanwhile, Carr continues his daily blog posts, and notes that he is looking forward to the end of FAA Administrator Marion Blakey's tenure, just 15 months away. "With any luck at all the new Administrator will view employees as an asset, rather than speed-bumps on the road to the bottom of the barrel in Human Relations," says Carr.
While one church in Arkansas is glad to see a neighboring airfield shut down, a congregation in South Dakota goes out its way to invite airplanes in to visit. In Benton, Ark., the congregation at Holland Chapel reluctantly took down its steeple some 20 years ago to accommodate the traffic pattern at the GA airport next door. Last week, the Chapel bought the airfield, putting in a bid for $850,000, and now plans to replace the steeple. A bigger airport is being built nearby. Meanwhile, Dave Klawiter, pastor of a separate (Lutheran) church in Springdale, S.D., closed a road on Sunday to let an assortment of small airplanes and a helicopter land and entertain the flock. Klawiter has been a pilot for 20 years, and says the annual air show reflects his passion for flight. "In the summer, our attendance drops off a little bit, so it's nice to have a few events that kind of bring folks in and we have a great time," he told Keloland TV.
When a Piedmont Airlines 727 and a Cessna 310 collided over North Carolina in July 1967, all 82 people on both aircraft died in the crash, and the pilot of the Cessna was blamed. But Paul Houle, a truck fleet manager whose hobby is historical research, looked into the facts and came to a different conclusion. Now, the NTSB has agreed to take another look at the midair. It's unusual for someone who has no relation to a case to have their petition heard by the safety board, especially after so much time has elapsed. Houle claims it was the 727 crew (which may have been dealing with a fire in an ashtray) and air traffic controllers who made mistakes, not the Cessna pilot (who radioed a heading and apparently held it). Houle also questions the impartiality of the safety board at the time, finding some potential conflicts of interest not immediately defensible to the casual observer. The accident was the first major investigation undertaken by the board, which had formed as an independent agency only three months before. Ties to the FAA may have caused reluctance to place blame with controllers, Houle says. He also found that one member of the board was the brother of a Piedmont vice president. Transcripts show the Piedmont crew was distracted by a fire in a cockpit ashtray about 35 seconds before the collision, he told The Spartanburg Herald-Journal, a fact that was not mentioned in the NTSB report. The newspaper site has several more links to video, audio, and other historical information about the crash, which remains the worst in the state's history.
For commercial flight crews in the U.S., commuting to work can be a job in itself. With airlines cutting back on flights and more jets flying at capacity, professional pilots and crew who need a ride to work are finding it tough. "Sometimes it takes me two days," Jason Miller, an Airbus 320 captain for JetBlue Airways, told The New York Times. Miller lives in Wichita but is based out of New York. Some crew members spend frequent nights away from home sleeping in the airport and eating in the food court. Commuting is not always by choice -- some workers were transferred after nearby operations closed, or have moved to less expensive areas to save for retirement, not trusting their pension plans. But the droves of very light jets headed for the market could be just what they need. The business model for VLJ air-taxi services aims to help people get from point to point quickly and efficiently. Seems tailor-made for the weary airline commuter. The Eclipse jet is scheduled to be certified by the end of this month, so soon we'll be seeing the air-taxi concept in action.
The pilots of a South Korean Airbus 321 who managed to land safely last Friday after the jet was badly damaged by two-inch hailstones were honored with commendations for saving the lives of their 200 passengers, including 177 children on a school tour. The nosecone containing the jet's radar was blown off, the autopilot malfunctioned, and the cockpit windscreen became opaque with cracks and impact marks. Although the safety glass remained intact, the pilots were unable to see forward during the landing. The airspeed indicator also was damaged, so the Asiana Airlines crew got airspeed readouts from radar controllers. Meanwhile, over Europe, the crew of a Boeing 777 that flew silently through Eastern European airspace has been accused of napping in the cockpit. Two fighters were called in to escort the Vietnam Airlines jet after it crossed into Czech airspace and the crew failed to respond to controllers. The crew has said they were on the wrong frequency by mistake. Airline officials deny rumors that both pilots were sleeping for over an hour, saying that procedures call for cabin crew to check the cockpit every 15 minutes. However, both pilots must undergo additional (remedial?) training before they can fly again, the airline said. The incident occurred in April.
Are you one of the thousands of pilots who owns an unfinished kit project, or an old airplane growing rusty at a tie-down? The FAA has partnered with Build A Plane to help match those assets with high-school students to help them learn about aviation maintenance, math, science and engineering. The owners get a tax deduction, the students and their teachers get a great resource. "This program has the potential to help build the next generation of world-class American aerospace workers," said FAA Administrator Marion Blakey. The two organizations will work together to promote teacher workshops, career expositions and conferences, and develop a computer-based aircraft construction and flight-testing program for students. Build A Plane, founded by Lyn Freeman, solicits donations of real aircraft, then redirects those airplanes to schools across the country. Currently, there are 20 projects underway in the United States, plus others in India and Nigeria. Supporters who have joined the board of Build A Plane include Cessna CEO Jack Pelton, Cirrus Design CEO Alan Klapmeier, aerobatics champion Patty Wagstaff, CNN news anchor Miles O'Brien, general manager of Textron Lycoming Ian Walsh and EAA's vice president of education, Dr. Lee Siudzinksi.
The Staggerwing Museum in Tullahoma, Tenn., broke ground last weekend for the next phase of its Bonanza-Baron Museum project...
The NTSB is investigating an uncontained engine failure on an American Airlines 767 that happened June 2 at Los Angeles International Airport. The engine broke during a ground maintenance test run, and parts were scattered as far as 3,000 feet. The wing tanks were punctured, and a ground fire began but was quickly extinguished. Nobody was hurt. Find more details and images here...
The airport in Van Nuys, Calif., hosted its last air show over the weekend, ending 43 years of annual events. The area used for the show will become an aircraft parking lot...
A year later, the lives of those involved in two helicopter ditchings in New York have taken divergent paths, as told by The New York Daily News...
An airport manager in Wichita explains how infectious disease can be transported by airliner, and what plans are in place to prevent that scenario.
Coming, Friday: Hal Shevers, of Sporty's Pilot Shop is not one to pull punches on aviation topics, and has plenty to say about the TSA, the FAA, user fees and the fizzle he thinks is coming for the very light jet market. But it's the comment he added on Cessna's "Cirrus Killer" that got us buzzing. Check AVweb.com tomorrow for the podcast link at the top of the page.
Online Now: Exclusive interviews featuring New Piper's Jim Bass, 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 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.
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Quiz #108: Pre-Solo Prep
It's time to leave your Citation, Cirrus or Citabria and forget everything you thought you knew about flight, because you're going aloft, again, for your first solo. Let's begin with the mandatory pre-solo quiz as per FAR 61.87.
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Cessna Single & Twin Owners: Learn to Save Thousands on Maintenance
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AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to TAOS AVIATION SERVICES at KSKX, Taos, NM.
ARNOLD BRONSON told us, "MY HEADSET DIED AS I WAS PREPARING FOR TAKEOFF. THEY LOANED ME A HEADSET AND SUGGESTED THAT NEXT TIME SOMEONE FLIES INTO TAOS THEY COULD RETURN IT. I RETURNED IT VIA UPS. THEY WERE EXTREMELY COURTEOUS AND HELPFUL AND SAVED THE DAY FOR ME."
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!
"Test Drive" a B-737/800 at Continental's IAH Pilot Training Center
*** PREVIOUS RESULTS ***
There's been no shortage of exciting developments in general aviation this year. As we approach the mid-point of 2006, AVweb asked our readers which continuing story or product-in-development is generating the most excitement.
Our answers were evenly split, with one exception: Diamond's D-Jet excited only 48 AVweb readers accounting for a somewhat-small 10% of the responses to date.
On the other end of the spectrum, the FAA's ongoing struggle with ADS-B garnered the most votes. 24% of respondents cited this as the most exciting ongoing news story in general aviation right now.
23% awarded that honor to the ongoing strife between the FAA and NATCA.
22% were most excited by the promise of a "Cirrus Killer" from Cessna.
And the remaining 21% of respondents are looking forward to Cessna's entry into the realm of Light Sport Aircraft.
For real-time results of last week's question, click here.
*** THIS WEEK'S QUESTION ***
This week, AVweb wants to know what you think of Cessna's "Cirrus Killer." If it's for real and offers similar bang for the buck when compared with Cirrus (or Columbia or Turbo-Mooney aircraft), what's your reaction?
Click here to answer
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Submit a Photo | Rules | Tips | Questions | Past POTW Winners
As summer approaches, the number of submissions to our "Picture of the Week" contest is climbing. We received nearly 150 different photos this week which made it tougher than usual to pick a winner, but somehow we managed. After several rounds of second-guessing and moving photos around on our "POTW" drive, we finally decided to award this week's top honor to California's Larry Newman. Larry's contribution is yet another entry in the growing category of "Skycrane Pictures" possibly our favorite yet in this category.
Like all first-place winners, Larry will receive a top-quality baseball cap adorned with the AVweb logo. For your chance to win one of these caps and the opportunity to share your photo with tens of thousands of aviation enthusiasts worldwide submit your own photos here. Each week, we'll choose a first-place winner and run as many runner-up photos as we can possibly squeeze in!
*** THIS WEEK'S WINNERS ***
Skycranes have been a popular photo subject lately. So much so that we thought about kicking this snapshot from Larry Newman of Oro Valley, Arizona into the runners-up pile but c'mon! Just look at that photo! We couldn't pass it up, no matter how hard we tried.
Larry tells us this particular whirlybird was in service "at 57AZ for the Romero Fire on Mount Lemmon in the Catalina Mountains."
|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.|
"Which Way Is Up?"
O.K., O.K., we know some of you are already looking for our e-mail address to comment on the inclusion of a painting in an amateur photography contest. But before you click send, consider what Sonja Englert of Bend, Oregon has to say. "This is the result of a recent aerobatic training course at Sean Tucker's flight school," writes Sonja. "Instead of trying to take a photo of this attitude, I made a painting."
We're loathe to overuse the phrase "c'mon," but well c'mon, she painted it!
(And for the record, we'll be disappointed if no one makes a crack about us hanging our art upside-down .. yet again.)
"Stagger on Top"
We're always happy to see photos from Ryan Pemberton of Spokane, Washington. Those who remember him from previous editions of "POTW" can attest to Ryan's keen eye. And if they're anything like us, they're probably wondering just how many planes this guy has access to. This week, at least, we don't have to wonder that's his dad's Staggerwing, and Ryan's brother is flying the photo plane.
Now that's what we call a fun family outing!
"One from the Photo Album"
1973 has it really been over 30 years? Harold Davidson of Melbourne, Florida would know that's him "flying a friend's VP-1 ... just south of Melbourne."
"A Spring Afternoon at the Ruth Amphitheatre Near Mt. McKinley"
Bill Appleby of Auckland, New Zealand made the long trek to frozen Alaska to land in the shadow of Mt. McKinley. "A day that I will long remember," writes Bill. "[I] landed ... in a Supercub and left in a Cessna 180. Special thanks to Shirley, Bret, and Randy for making this happen."
And a tip of the hat to whomever remembered the camera from your friends at AVweb, Bill ... !
"On Top Down Under"
Eddie Edwards of Barwon Heads, Victoria (Australia) snapped this majestic skyline from his '83 C-210 at 9,000 feet.
"EZ Sunset at Golden West"
Camping beside his Long EZ at the EAA Golden West Fly-In, Howard Rogers of San Jose, California took a moment to savor the sunset and share it. With any luck, Howard will be home safe and sound by the time this sees print in Thursday's edition of AVweb and AVwebFlash.
"Pot of Gold?"
Pat Bowers of Holly Lake Ranch, Texas flies us out this week, with a Legend Cub flying beneath a rainbow "somewhere over Florida." Let's hope it's a harbinger for better weather this weekend, Pat ... .
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.
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Today's issue was written by news writer Mary Grady (bio).
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