NewsWire Complete Issue

July 3, 2006
By The AVweb Editorial Staff

The FAA's Balancing Act
ATG - The Way You Used to Fly Is 
History!

Some Say FAA Safety Goals Achieved

Although they probably knock on wood at every opportunity, FAA officials have earned some bragging rights when it comes to the decade-long focus on flight safety. It's now been almost five years since American Airlines Flight 587 went down in New York City, which the FAA sees as the last "major" airliner crash in the U.S. In 1997, not long after TWA Flight 800 exploded off Long Island and ValuJet 592 plowed into the Florida Everglades, Al Gore headed a White House commission that set the goal of reducing accidents by 80 percent over the next decade. According to a USA Today report, we've almost reached that goal. In fact, if you accept USA Today's methodology, your chances of being killed while flying on a domestic airliner within the U.S., Canada, Europe or Japan in the past five years dropped to zero. Clearly, those stats don't include accidents like the structural failure that killed 20 people on a Chalk's Ocean Airways plane late last year or the Jetstream crash in Kirksville, Mo., two years ago that killed 13 people. Nevertheless, when it comes to the big iron, safety is improving. According to the newspaper, the odds of dying in a plane crash are improving everywhere, even in developing countries, where 10 years ago you ran a one-in-500,000 risk. That's now improved to one in 2 million. Flights between developed countries now carry a one-in-8-million risk of death compared to one in 6 million 10 years ago.

New Programs, New Culture

In fact, the flight portion of an airline trip is no longer considered the dangerous part. FAA officials privately suggest that they consider the greatest risk for the next major accident to be a runway incursion of some sort and there have been some close calls in the last couple of years. (Note: the FAA and the air traffic controllers union have not recently appeared to be the best of friends.) According to the USA Today report, the improved flight safety record resulted from some (seemingly) common-sense measures that made the agency, the airlines and flight crews allies in safety. For instance, regulators simplified approaches and traffic routes around airports, while airlines stepped up monitoring of flight crew performance. Pilots themselves have all but abandoned the patriarchal (and sometimes dangerous) notion that the four-striper in the left seat's judgment and authority is never questioned. Still, mistakes (and bad luck) happen and all airlines have anonymous tip lines in which pilots and other crew are encouraged to report safety lapses or potentially dangerous incidents. "The only way you are going to (improve safety) is if you get as much information as you can about those near misses that occur out there," Capt. Terry McVenes, safety chairman of the Air Line Pilots Association, told USA Today. The union now takes an active role in incident investigations in return for promises from the airlines that pilots who come forward won't be disciplined for their part in any mistake or mishap.

What Effects Will Cost-Cutting Have?

The FAA says it's trying to operate the National Airspace System as a "business" and it's therefore looking for efficiencies through consolidation and staff deployment. The New York Times last week reported that the agency intends to virtually freeze staff transfers between facilities, pare down the numbers of air traffic controllers in favor of better technology and consider eliminating the staff meteorologist positions at the 20 en route facilities. The National Air Traffic Controllers Association says the changes will discourage the most experienced controllers from seeking the most challenging jobs and cutting weather jobs may cost lives. "There's no doubt in my mind that people are saved, literally saved, every year by having [meteorologists] in the control room," union spokesman Kevin Bianchi told the Times. Ruth Marlin, NATCA's executive vice president, said the system's busiest control rooms have traditionally hired experienced controllers from somewhat less busy facilities and groomed them for the demanding positions. But she says the FAA's plan would result in pay cuts for such transfers (when the freeze is lifted), meaning more novices would be hired by the high-traffic centers. FAA Deputy Administrator Bobby Sturgell told the Times there would be "transition issues" to be addressed in the new policies but he also stood behind the rationale for them. "We're operating like a business, trying to do this as efficiently as possible," he said.

AirVenture Is In The Air

Oshkosh Pre-Show Publicity Flowing

It begins with an almost imperceptible up-tick in the message count on our in-boxes and builds to a torrent of product announcements and press releases that tickle our server and bury us mere mortals in mounds of aviation information. The trickle has turned to a flow this week as aviation begins preparations in earnest for the annual migration to Wisconsin and EAA AirVenture. We're getting ready, too, with four published reports from the show (Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Monday) and three podcast features (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday) fleshing out on our virtual whiteboard. And while it's unlikely we'll see again the magnitude of accomplishment and innovation that was represented at last year's show (SpaceShipOne, Global Flyer, HondaJet, Mustang, etc...) there's plenty of new stuff for patrons to see and do. One center of this year's buzz will be Cessna's light sport aircraft. The aircraft lineup looks interesting, if not exactly revolutionary. There'll be a B-1 Lancer on display and a C-17 Globemaster will be in Aeroshell Square when it's not taking part in flight demonstrations. There will also be a good collection of World War II heavy bombers at the show. A Lancaster, B-24 and up to five B-17s will be on the field.

Innovations To Watch For

Of course, every manufacturer wants its latest and greatest at the big show but they're often cagey about making promises they can't keep. However, reading between the lines, there appear to be some new aircraft set for debut. Comp Airannounced introduction of a new pressurized, eight-place turboprop single called the Comp Air 9. CubCrafters' new Sport Cub Light-Sport airplane is expected to get LSA approval in early July so it will likely be there. And, if everything works out for Eclipse, it may celebrate FAA certification of its long-awaited very light jet (VLJ) at this year's Oshkosh, missing only one (range, and not by much) of its many performance guarantees. There are bound to be some surprises, too. Of course, in aviation, the best-laid plans can go awry in the blink of an eye and some new products will miss this year's show. Excel-Jet had hoped to debut its Sport-Jet in Oshkosh but an upset accident on takeoff at Colorado Springs dashed those hopes. Seawind had hoped to finally unveil its production conforming and certification testing amphib (the one you see at all the shows is actually a homebuilt from the original kit manufacturer) and it came close. However, company officials say the first production Seawind, which rolled out June 8, likely won't make Oshkosh as staff try to get the certification testing jump started on the often-delayed project. Maybe by Sun 'n Fun...

Education The Heart Of The Show

With the way the show has turned into such a commercial extravaganza, the roots and original purpose of the fly-in can be easy to overlook. However, the educational and safety training component of AirVenture is as strong as ever, with hundreds of forums and numerous hands-on training opportunities available just by signing up, or finding a seat. Among the issues that has threatened a significant segment of GA pilots is the addition of ethanol to automotive fuels to stretch them and cut emissions. However, aircraft engines should never touch the stuff and not all states require that gas pumps indicate the presence of ethanol in the fuel. In time for Oshkosh, EAA has introduced a simple and inexpensive kit that will detect ethanol in gasoline. Fortunately, some basic properties of gasoline, ethanol and water make the alcohol easy to detect. Water and fuel are mixed in a graduated test tube and allowed to settle. If there's ethanol in the fuel, more water will be created by the mixing action and the levels in EAA's test tube will not only alert the aircraft owner to the presence of ethanol, it will also show the percentage. The $15 kit is available now (920-426-4843 or e-mail dwalker@eaa.org.) and will also be on sale at the show.

News Briefs

AOPA Battles 12-Year Crank Replacement Rule

AOPA has writtenthe FAA asking that a section of a proposed airworthiness directiveon Lycoming crankshafts be scrapped since it will cost owners thousands of dollars and do nothing to increase safety. As we reported in June, the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking would require owners of about 3,800 360- and 540-series engines to replace the crankshafts at either the next scheduled overhaul, the next time the case is split, or at 12 years since date of manufacture or overhaul, regardless of the number of hours on the crank. AOPA's Luis Guttierez says in the letter that even the FAA knows the 12-year deadline has no practical value. "The FAA readily admits in the proposed AD [that] the unsafe condition is unrelated to calendar time and that the crank removal at overhaul is sufficient to reduce the risk of failure to an acceptable level," Gutierrez said. AOPA is also working on Lycoming, which has set a deadline of 2009 for a special price on crankshaft kits for the affected engines. Swap out the crank before then and Lycoming will supply the parts for $2,000. After that, the normal price of about $16,000 applies. Guttierez says Lycoming is considering AOPA's request that the special price be available to owners of all affected engines, so owners aren't forced into retiring crankshafts that have many hundreds of hours of life left in them.

Australia Postpones Universal ADS-B

As the U.S. eyes Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) as an important tool in the modernization of the National Airspace System, Australia is backing off on its ambitious deployment program. Airservices Australia has cancelled a request for proposals (RPF) to equip 1,500 GA aircraft with the necessary gear to perform a real-life test of the system. The company says the plan was premature. "Airservices' own consultation process has led the organisation to conclude that some elements of the aviation industry and government need more time to consider the costs, timeframe and implementation issues associated with the introduction of ADS-B technology in lieu of en route radars," CEO Greg Russell is quoted by Flight International as saying in a letter to staff. ADS-B provides in-cockpit separation information but the catch is that only aircraft equipped with the gear show up on the displays in other aircraft. It seems like money was one of the issues in cancellation of the program because of the level of subsidy that would be required to equip the 1,500 planes. Airservices Australia is going ahead with mandatory ADS-B above 30,000 feet and is also ordering new radars for its ground-based navigation system.

News Briefs

The New AVweb — Coming Soon

Flooding Closes Bloomsburg Airport

Well, you know that annoying high spot in the runway at your home airport? Those based at or visiting Bloomsburg Municipal Airport in Pennsylvania last week were counting their lucky stars that the grading crews weren't as thorough as they might have been as they huddled on the last patch of dry pavement during a week of heavy rain and widespread flooding. A stubborn low dumped a torrent of rain on the Northeast and the nearby Susquehanna River couldn't hold it all. Eight counties were declared a disaster area. There was no answer at the airport and a NOTAM closing the airport was still in effect when we last looked but the floodwaters were receding over the weekend and cleanup has begun. There was no word on damage to aircraft but it seems likely hangars and other facilities got wet -- along with just about everything else in Bloomsburg.

Exploding Airliners -- 10 Years Later

The NTSB said Thursday that "airliner fuel tanks are as flammable today as they were 10 years ago," as the tenth anniversary of the explosion of TWA Flight 800 off Long Island looms on July 17. (The incident was not the first of its kind -- one event happened quite recently.) And while an effective and relatively inexpensive (by airliner standards) system to prevent such catastrophes has been available for a couple of years (and has even spawned an updated design), the FAA has yet to implement regulations (though it has drafted a Notice Of Proposed Rulemaking) requiring that airliners be less explosion-prone. "The longer we wait, the possibility of a catastrophic explosion remains," Mark Rosenker, NTSB Acting Chairman, said in an interview. "The objective is to eliminate these fuel tank explosions as quickly as we can." Boeing has already retrofitted two Boeing 747s and two newer Boeing 737s with a system that extracts nitrogen from engine bleed air and pumps it into the belly fuel tanks as they empty. That system can be put on any airliner for $100,000 to $300,000 per installation. And since its new 787 doesn't use bleed air, Boeing's put a tank of nitrogen on board for the purpose. The FAA says it is pushing ahead with a proposed rule that, rather than specify the hardware required, simply mandates that the empty space in center fuel tanks be rendered inert. The Air Transport Association says the cost is prohibitive and the NTSB says the rule doesn't go far enough. It wants wing tanks protected, too.

News Briefs

ADIZ Pressure Mounts, Says AOPA

While there's still no word on what will happen to the FAA's (heavily influenced) bid to make the Washington Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) a permanent fixture, the sore spot was rubbed a little earlier this month when the NOTAM that enforces the long list of flight restrictions was reissued. A couple of days after the new (old) NOTAM appeared on the FAA Web site, AOPA issued a news releaseclaiming progress in the political battle against the controversial measure. AOPA says a high-ranking Congressman on the Committee on Homeland Security has challenged the Department of Homeland Security to justify the ADIZ. "The Committee on Homeland Security has oversight responsibility over the DHS -- they can't get around this," said Andy Cebula, AOPA senior vice president of government affairs. AOPA says Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, the ranking member on the committee, wrote DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff asking what's up with the ADIZ. "In light of the improvements to the security of the airspace surrounding our nation's capital, I would like to know whether the department has assessed whether the ADIZ is still necessary today," AOPA quotes Thompson as writing. Thompson also wonders if DHS has even looked into the need for the ADIZ and, if not, wants to know why. AOPA says "several" members of Congress have posed similar questions recently as a result of AOPA's lobbying campaign.

Pioneering Helicopter Operator Dies

One of the first commercial helicopter pilots in the U.S. died June 15. Joseph Seward got his commercial helicopter certificate in 1947, while still a carrier-based Navy pilot. His company, Rotor Aids, did everything from crop-dusting to servicing oil platforms. He helped found the California Helicopter Association, which became the Helicopter Association of America (he was founding president) and finally Helicopter Association International. Seward retired from the helicopter business in 1980 and operated a hotel on Bora Bora for nine years, but the bug hit again and in 1991 he built and flew a kit helicopter. His ashes will be spread at sea from a helicopter.

News in Brief

California Teen Sets Records

A 14-year-old Inglewood, Calif., boy is said to be the youngest African-American person to fly an international round trip in a helicopter. Jonathan Strickland landed a Robinson R44 at Compton Airport in California on Saturday after completing a 15-hour return trip from Boundary Bay Airport, in Delta, British Columbia. On his way to B.C., he became the youngest African-American person to fly a helicopter solo and to do so internationally, according to an Associated Press story.While at Boundary Bay, he took a flight in a Cessna 172 and an R22 and, according to AP, became the youngest to solo both a helicopter and airplane on the same day. "It feels good," Strickland told AP. "Anybody can do it. It just takes a lot of hard work." Fourteen is the legal age to fly alone in Canada (aside from age, there are other requirements). While in the U.S., Srickland was accompanied by an instructor. Strickland, who enters high school next fall, was greeted by well wishers, including members of the Tuskegee Airmen and representatives of the L.A. County Fire Department's Blackhawk helicopter unit, who presented the teen with a t-shirt -- and a job application. Strickland's trip was sponsored by Tomorrow's Aeronautical Museum.

On The Fly...

The Organization of Black Airline Pilots is sponsoring about 30 summer camps across the U.S. for teens interested in flying careers. Currently only about 1 percent of pilots are black...

The University of North Dakota is proposing a sophisticated radar system in a future military test area that will allow general aviation and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to share the airspace. The radars, funded by the Air Force, will facilitate establishment of UAV testing grounds north of Grand Forks...

A former Air Force pilot will be the Rocket Racing League's first racer. Korey "Axe" Amundson, 33, has been selected chief pilot for the Leading Edge Racing Team's rocket-powered Velocity when the league begins racing next year...

Three people survived the fiery crash of a Cessna Citation at Upland Airport in California on June 24. The plane initially landed and the pilot apparently tried to go around but the plane came down about 200 yards from the takeoff end of the runway...

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) has asked the FAA to close the airspace over the Indian Point nuclear facility, near New York City. Engel really wants the power plant closed but, until that happens, he says aircraft shouldn't be allowed anywhere near it...

The Sierra Club is suing the Department of Defense for halting wind power projects across the Midwest by not completing a study on wind farms' effects on radar. None of the more than a dozen projects can proceed until the study is complete and it was supposed to be done by May...

Passengers on EasyJet flights in England are getting more than a safety briefing at the start of each flight. Flight attendants have been told to add a recruiting message to the usual patter about seatbelts, exits and oxygen. The budget airline is critically short of cabin crew heading into the summer season...

Toms River, N.J., was busy with air traffic over the weekend. Too bad some of it wasn't at the local airport. Two banner-towing planes made emergency landings within a few miles and a few hours of each other in the town on Saturday. No one was hurt.

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AVweb Announces AVweb Flight Explorer Personal Edition 5.0 Coming to Your Computer July 6th!
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Pilots Comment After Reading IFR: A Structured Approach:
"The GPS chapter alone is worth getting the book. It's the best instrument flying book I have ever read," states Fred Scott. "If one book could help you make the leap from a bit player to a skilled conductor of instrument flight, this is probably it," reads a November 2003 AOPA Pilot review. With the help of this book, you will establish your personal standard of IFR operating practices, including incorporation of checklists, flows, callouts, briefings, and the "fly by the numbers" method of aircraft control. Order online.

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Light Plane Maintenance's July Highlights Include:
"Engine Basics" -- first in a series on how your engine really works (this month covers overall design of "flat" engines); "Cylinder Pre-Inspection" -- a set of criteria to make sure cylinders are set up right; "Engine Performance Mods" -- which are worth the expense; "It's All in the Details" -- examples and solutions to avoid having your day spoiled; "Brake Pad Replacement" -- you can do it yourself with a little help from Light Plane Maintenance. If any of these articles appeals to you, you need Light Plane Maintenance every month. Order online.

>>> AVWEB APPRECIATES YOUR CONTINUED SUPPORT OF OUR SPONSORS, WHO BRING YOU THIS WEEK'S NEWS AND FEATURES AT NO COST TO YOU ------------------------------------------ JOIN NAA AND HELP SHAPE THE NEXT CENTURY OF FLIGHT It's a great time to join the National Aeronautic Association (NAA), the nation's oldest aviation organization. At $39 a year, NAA membership is a terrific value for any aviation enthusiast! Members receive the Smithsonian's "Air & Space" and NAA's "Aero" magazines, plus access to aviation records, product discounts, and much more. Call (703) 527-0226 to become an NAA member, or sign up online: http://www.avweb.com/sponsors/naa/flash 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: http://www.avweb.com/sponsors/narco/flash {* Visit Narco Avionics at EAA AirVenture Booth #2115*} AVWEB ANNOUNCES AVWEB FLIGHT EXPLORER PERSONAL EDITION 5.0 COMING TO YOUR COMPUTER JULY 6th! New features include: FAA airport delays; enhanced terrain/elevation map depictions and updated Airways; NAVAIDs; Fixes; Special Use Airspace; Sector boundaries; Flight Service Stations; and more. Current subscribers will need to download and install the new version of AVweb Flight Explorer here: http://www.avweb.com/alm?FEPer50b&kw=Flash ** For more information about the AVweb Flight Explorer upgrade, check out the FAQ page: http://www.avweb.com/alm?FEFAQ&kw=Flash SUBSCRIBE TO "AVIATION SAFETY" AND SAVE! You spent thousands earning your license; safeguard it for just pennies a day. "Aviation Safety" helps pilots stay ready for the realities of today's demanding flight environment with instructive articles to keep your decision-making skills sharp. Save by subscribing online: http://www.avweb.com/sponsors/avsafe/flash PILOTS COMMENT AFTER READING "IFR: A STRUCTURED APPROACH": "The GPS chapter alone is worth getting the book. It's the best instrument flying book I have ever read," states Fred Scott. "If one book could help you make the leap from a bit player to a skilled conductor of instrument flight, this is probably it," reads a November 2003 "AOPA Pilot" review. With the help of this book, you will establish your personal standard of IFR operating practices, including incorporation of checklists, flows, callouts, briefings, and the "fly by the numbers" method of aircraft control. Order online: http://www.avweb.com/sponsors/skyroad/flash HASSLE-FREE AUTO BUYING FROM CREWCAR & CONSUMER GUIDES Don't go blindly into a dealership when purchasing a vehicle; look to CrewCar. CrewCar is a car-buying service providing shoppers with a complimentary integrated phone and electronic concierge-level buying service offering value nationwide. The service is provided gratis and meets the Consumer Guide dealership network standards. For more information, click here: http://www.avweb.com/sponsors/crewcar/flash JULY HIGHLIGHTS FROM "LIGHT PLANE MAINTENANCE": "Engine Basics" -- first in a series on how your engine really works (this month covers overall design of "flat" engines); "Cylinder Pre-Inspection" -- a set of criteria to make sure cylinders are set up right; "Engine Performance Mods" -- which are worth the expense; "It's All in the Details" -- examples and solutions to avoid having your day spoiled; "Brake Pad Replacement" -- you can do it yourself with a little help from "Light Plane Maintenance." If any of these articles appeals to you, you need "Light Plane Maintenance" every month. Order online: http://www.avweb.com/sponsors/lpm/flash Names Behind The News

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