AVwebFlash - Volume 12, Number 36a

September 4, 2006

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Happy Labor Day back to top 

FAA Imposes New Work Rules

If your clearances are a little clipped, your handoffs a little brisk, it could be the controller working your flight is a little hot under the collar -- the collar he or she likely now has to wear while at work. Now, it's hard to tell if the agency was sending a message to the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) or whether senior brass were oblivious to organized labor's affinity for this particular statutory holiday but the FAA's choice to impose hated new work rules on the Labor Day weekend was not lost on the union. "It's like getting fired on Christmas. It's the worst, punch-in-the-gut blow to the morale of this workforce imaginable," said NATCA President Pat Forrey. "But our position is very simple: We do not consider the imposed work rules [which include a dress code] to be valid because they were not negotiated and have not been ratified by the NATCA membership." Forrey took over the president's post from John Carr on Sept. 1, about three months after the FAA imposed a contract on the union, ending almost a year of, at times, acrimonious negotiations. The union has vowed to fight the imposed contract but for now, at least, will have to live with it.

Looking Good, Even If They Don't Feel Well

The contract clamps down on areas of alleged abuse by the union, including the entitlement to sick pay. Whereas controllers have, in the past, self-certified their medical fitness on a day-to-day basis, in addition to the mandatory medical checkups, the new rules appear to require supervisors to judge whether a controller can get through a shift. The union says safety will be compromised by forcing controllers to work when they say they don't feel well or are too tired to. Another change apparently does away with the usual break after two hours on position. But perhaps what rankles controllers most, on a personal level, at least, is the formal dress code being introduced. Some controllers dress as if they work in windowless rooms where visitors aren't customarily allowed but FAA brass have apparently had enough of flip flops, tank tops and cutoffs. As of Sunday, the glow of the screens will reflect off, as we understand it, collared shirts, dress slacks and shoes and socks. But it's not like they'll be able to show off their new-found nattiness. Another rule apparently bans controllers from leaving the facility during their shift.

What's A Union To Do?

While the battle inside the towers and centers may (to outsiders) have its whimsical side, the practical impact of the new regime could be significant. NATCA appears determined to fight each and every violation of the new rules cited by management. In a memo to controllers at a major center (we do know which one), union leaders are urging members to exercise their rights to the letter. "If a supervisor tries to talk with you regarding the way your are dressed, it constitutes a formal meeting," the memo reads. "Stop the conversation immediately and ask for a union representative. The same approach should be used on any other changes in your working conditions, ask for a rep immediately. The Agency has a legal obligation to comply." But the memo also says the overall battle won't be won by individual members discussing their fashion challenges. "One person alone can not change the course the agency has decided to take," the memo says. "However, collectively we can unpave their course and start a new road. I and the rest of your elected leaders will need your help now more than ever."

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Controller Staffing Takes Center Stage back to top 

FAA Memo Defies Staffing Ability?

The unidentified manager of the Lexington tower was apparently trying to solve a staffing shortage by shifting responsibility for radar control of aircraft when Flight 5191 crashed off the end of the airport's GA runway. According to The New York Times, the FAA issued a memo to managers nine months ago specifying that towers with operative radar consoles be staffed by a minimum of two controllers, one to monitor the radar and one to look out the windows. A single controller was on duty the morning of the crash, in seeming defiance of that rule, but it apparently wasn't for lack of trying. Internal documents obtained by the Times reveal that the manager, for whatever reason, didn't have the people to comply with the memo so he was trying to offload radar responsibility to an Indianapolis center that handles mainly high-altitude traffic. His request was turned down. After the crash, the FAA quickly assigned a second controller to the midnight shift at Lexington, even though the airport generally handles about six flights during that time period, some of them early-morning departures. After clearing the Comair flight to the correct runway, the lone controller on duty at Lexington turned his back to deal with some paperwork and the crew aboard the Comair flight lined up on the wrong runway.

Will That Be One Controller, Or Two?

The Lexington tragedy had reporters all over the country phoning their local airports trying to determine if such a catastrophe could happen in their town. In Akron, Ohio, the local paper discovered that Akron-Canton Regional Airport had only one set of eyes looking out for air traffic in the wee hours, but was assured by the FAA that it was OK. FAA spokesman Tony Molinaro said that at midnight, radar responsibility shifts to Cleveland Center. "If the radar isn't up, there's no reason for someone to be standing there," he said. "It's a waste of taxpayers' money." Interestingly, Akron-Canton has about 12 flights during the early morning hours compared to Lexington's six or so. But the powers that be decided its radar responsibilities could be deflected elsewhere. There are no scheduled arrivals after midnight at Akron-Canton and pre-dawn rush of three departures. Otherwise, the overnight traffic consists of cargo, charter and transient traffic.

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The Push For ADS-B back to top 

Blakey Cites Comair Crash In Promoting New Gear

FAA Administrator Marion Blakey said the crash of Comair Flight 5191 might have been avoided if the CRJ-100 had been equipped with Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B). Blakey told reporters at a news conference at UPS's headquarters in Louisville that ADS-B's LCD screen (not unlike a host of vastly more affordable products currently available to the private pilot) tells pilots which runway they're on and that might have alerted the crew in time to avert the disaster. Blakey was in Louisville to tout ADS-B as the next-generation air navigation system, something UPS has already committed to. The cargo carrier has spent $100 million of its own money developing ADS-B technology for its fleet and it uses the gear in Louisville. The federal government has earmarked $80 million to expand ADS-B service, which is mainly concentrated on the east coast. It's also been deployed in Alaska and is under development in the Gulf of Mexico. The first of that new $80 million will be spent installing ground equipment at UPS hubs in Ontario, Calif., Juneau, Alaska and Philadelphia.

AOPA Recommends 10-Year Phase-In

AOPA is a big supporter of ADS-B as long as it includes free weather and traffic information and the cost of the electronics is reasonable, AOPA's government affairs expert Andy Cebula told an "Industry Day" on ADS-B hosted by the FAA last week. "AOPA has worked on ADS-B for more than a decade, and we're convinced it will improve safety and utility for GA pilots and reduce costs for the FAA, if it is developed and implemented correctly," said Cebula. He said it's understood that ADS-B will eventually become the minimum equipment standard for flying in controlled airspace but, before that happens, AOPA wants a nationwide system to have been in place for 10 years before it becomes mandatory. AOPA is also calling on the FAA to guarantee that the wealth of information that a pilot can obtain through the system, like weather and traffic data, doesn't come at a price. The ADS-B system will be deployed and operated by a private contractor, and Cebula told the gathering, which undoubtedly included those hoping to build the system, that widespread acceptance will depend on the information flowing for free. "...the benefit is free weather and other data in the cockpit," he said. "We'll happily replace our transponders with ADS-B boxes -- if they're affordable." In-cockpit equipment is out of the price range of average GA owners and Cebula challenged the avionics manufacturers in attendance to get the costs down.

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News Briefs back to top 

Light Sport First -- For A Good Cause

A Cincinnati pilot hopes to become the first to touch down in a Light Sport aircraft in all 48 contiguous states later this month but it's the worried parents of sick children who will benefit. Preston Bentley, 26, who works at Blue Ash Aviation and Charter, will fly a T-II Sky Skooter on the epic 8,000-nm flight, which he hopes to finish in 30 days. Along the way he'll be trying to raise $500,000 for Cincinnati's Ronald McDonald House, one of 259 comfortable places for families of sick children to stay while the kids are in the hospital away from home. "I want to do something good for this world, and I want to see and experience as much of it as possible in the process," Bentley said. Bentley has a personal stake in the fundraiser. His cousin Seth Bailey died in 2004 from a rare medical condition that had involved numerous stays in the hospital for surgery. The Baileys lived in Virginia and family spent a lot of time at the local Ronald McDonald House. "This journey is about Seth and all the children who will benefit from the money raised in his name," Bentley said. He'll take off during the Blue Ash Airshow on Sept. 17. IndUS Aviation has donated the use of the plane.

Emergency AD On Beech 1900s

The FAA issued an emergency airworthiness directive (AD) on Friday ordering operators of all Beech 1900s to inspect wings for cracks. The AD came after reports of cracks in two 1900s. No accident have been reported. Beech spokesman Mike Turner told The Associated Press that the company had already notified owners and most of the 350 aircraft, generally used for short-haul commuter flights, had already been inspected. It's not known if any more cracked wings were found. According to the AD, the cracks found in the two 1900s were significant and, in one of the aircraft, may have occurred after the detailed inspection that is required after 17,500 hours. That plane had 19,126 hours on it when the cracks were found. The cracks were in the lower aft spar cap flange and had spread into the web and terminated at a lightening hole. There were also fasteners missing. There had been no discrepancies noted in the 17,500-hour inspection.

Don't Worry, It's on Cessna ... Cessna Offers to Cover $15,000 in Fuel Costs
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News Briefs back to top 

First Production Seawind Takes Flight

What seems to enthusiastic onlookers like one of the longest aircraft development programs, Seawind, hit a major milestone last week with the first certification test flight of a Seawind amphib built at the factory in St. Jean sur Richelieu, Quebec. Details of the flight weren't released. But until this flight, all other Seawinds, including the well-worn demo plane flown from air show to air show, were built from kits. The company now says it hopes to have Transport Canada certification for VFR within four months. IFR and other certifications will follow, including full authority digital engine control (FADEC) on the big Continental 550 that rests on a pylon protruding from the tail. Although it looks the same as a kit Seawind, the production model is substantially different and better, according to CEO Dick Silva. He said that after initial certification, the company will look at adding options including a diesel engine, de-icing and air conditioning. Many of the improvements incorporated in the production model will be made available to owners of the kit airplanes. "We will continue our policy of making any new developments available to retrofit earlier aircraft," Silva said. " We do not want any Seawind to become obsolete."

Training Incentive Offered By Avemco

Avemco Insurance is offering new pilots up to 10 percent off premiums (including non-owner coverage) if they learn to fly in a Cessna Pilot Center training program. Avemco says the Cessna program goes beyond the FAA minimums for flight training and that's a cornerstone of its incentive program. Students get a 5-percent discount just for enrolling. Completing the course extends the discount another year and if the student also takes a Practical Risk Management Course from King Schools, the discount is 10 percent. The incentive is part of Avemco's Safety Rewards Program started in 2002 and Jim Lauerman, Avemco's VP of Insurance Operations, said the results are encouraging. "With three years of solid claims data there is no question this program has helped to reduce accidents and stabilize insurance premiums," Lauerman said. "Our underwriting results are better for customers who have participated in one or both aspects of the program." The Cessna and King programs both go beyond teaching the skills necessary to pass the FAA test and are geared toward turning out better, safer and more competent pilots. At the same time, the enhanced training methods used in the Cessna program reduce the actual instructional time by an average of 30 percent.

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News Briefs back to top 

Pilot Locked Out Of Cockpit

A bizarre incident aboard an Air Canada Jazz flight last week has raised questions about just how terror-proof those new bullet-proof (and apparently pilot-proof) cockpit doors are. With 30 minutes left in the flight from Ottawa to Winnipeg, the captain left the cockpit to use the washroom in the rear of the CRJ-100. When he got back, the door lock had apparently malfunctioned and he was unable to get back to his post. Now, the first officer was up front and fully capable of landing the plane but the captain apparently insisted on being in his seat. In front of 50 passengers, he and the cabin crew popped the hinges on the door. It's not known if the door was left that way for the remainder of the flight but the relative ease with which the door was removed raised questions about the practical security of the flight crew. The Toronto Star quoted Peter St. John, an anti-terrorism lecturer at the University of Manitoba, as saying the incident sends a message to terrorists that getting into the cockpit is "fairly easy to do." Air Canada Jazz spokeswoman Manon Stuart said the aircraft crew responded appropriately. "We investigated the incident, and the crew followed standard operational procedures," she was quoted as saying. "At no time was the safety or security of passengers compromised."

NASA To Go Wingless

Astronauts who make the next foray to the moon will go and return in much the same way as their predecessors did but they might be more comfortable. Last week NASA awarded a $3.9 billion contract to Lockheed Martin to build next-generation spacecraft to replace the space shuttle that look -- and function -- a lot like the Apollo capsules of 30 years ago. Gone are wings and other aerodynamic surfaces in favor of heat shields and parachutes in a reusable craft, called Orion, that will go to the International Space Station and the moon after the space shuttle is retired. The new craft will be about 2.5 times bigger inside than the Apollo capsules, with room for four to six astronauts. There will also be a cargo version for taking supplies to the space station. Lockheed Martin will build a prototype of each and then there's another $3.5 billion set aside for more capsules. In addition to the extra space, the new spacecraft will have much improved solar arrays, computers and other electronic gear.

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News in Brief back to top 

On The Fly...

If you're in the Dallas area and have a fondness for DC-3s, the Commemorative Air Force has a deal for you. For $250 a seat ($1,650 for all seven seats) the CAF will take you on a tour of the Dallas area in the plane, more accurately known as an R4D (ask about the difference) from the GA ramp at Addison Airport . Call Tom Travis at 214-763-0147. All proceeds go toward keeping the plane flying...

The FAA will go through the formal rulemaking process to make it mandatory for pilots of turbojet aircraft to calculate a 15-percent roll-out margin for each landing. The agency originally intended to create the requirement through an administrative process but protests from aviation groups prompted it to go through the formal process...

Two MU-2s crashed within a week in Florida, killing a total of three people. The latest occurred in De Funiak Springs and killed the lone occupant, who had not been identified. Ward and Barbara Walter, of Plainwell, Mich., died Aug. 26 when their MU-2 went down near Ormond Beach...

An accident on landing (possibly from a blown nose gear tire) caused a Tupolev 154 to swerve off a runway at Mashad, Iran. The plane caught fire and 28 of 37 occupants died...

Massachusetts company Binj Labs has developed a cellphone detection and location system it hopes to sell to airlines. The system would allow crew to pinpoint cellphones activated in flight. It was originally designed to help prison officials find illicit cellphones.

AVweb's Newstips Address ...

Drop us a line. If it caught your attention, it will probably interest someone else, too. Submit news tips via email to newstips@avweb.com. You're a part of our team ... often, the best part.

Find all of today's stories in AVweb's: NewsWire

Audio News

If you missed Friday's audio news, you missed an interview with a former member of the NTSB regarding the Comair crash. AVweb posts fresh audio news issues each Monday, plus interviews, Friday. We call them podcasts, but no iPod is required. Check our audio news index and hear what you've been missing.

Find exclusive interviews featuring Cessna's Jack Pelton on his company's LSA, TCM president Bryan Lewis, NATCA president John Carr, New Piper CEO Jim Bass, Hal Shevers for Sporty's Pilot Shop, 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 online, now. Listen up.

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Features back to top 

New Articles and Features on AVweb


Motor Head #15: Great Shakes -- On The Inside Of Prop Vibration Testing
This month's Motor Head column needs this disclaimer: Don't try this at home! AVweb's Marc Cook got to see what happens when manufacturers and designers have to test new propeller/engine combinations.

Probable Cause #14: The "Dirty Harry" Vector
Add a late descent clearance to a request to expedite and the result is something Harry Callahan warned us about.

Reader feedback on AVweb's news coverage and feature articles


AVmail: Sep. 4, 2006
Reader mail this week about the Comair RJ crash in Lexington and ATC pay.
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Your Favorite FBO's back to top 

FBO of the Week: Aitkin Aviation, Aitkin, MN.

For local prices, enter your U.S. ZIP Code or Airport Identifier:
Fuel prices provided weekly by AirNav,
based on prices from the past 2 weeks.
Changes are relative to last week.

Nominate an FBO | Rules | Tips | Questions | Winning FBOs

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Aitkin Aviation at KAIT, Aitkin, MN.

Offering up Aitkin, Helen Woods told us, " My boyfriend and I stopped in for fuel during a long cross country trip to find a beautiful little country airport -- the type with a cub in every hanger and folding chairs in the hanger doorways gazing out onto the runway. The FBO manager came out and topped us off with reasonably priced fuel. They offered three grades including MoGas, which saved us a good deal of money. We then discovered that they had a beautiful grassy and tree lined campsite, complete with fire ring, grill, picnic table, and a huge mountain of firewood. They also had a 24hr pilot lounge complete with a shower, clean restroom, and weather computer, which they offered to us for indoor camping if we preferred. As the weather had deteriorated, we took them up on their hospitality decided to camp in their beautiful campsite. No sooner had we unrolled our tents than the FBO manager drove a car over to us and handed us the keys, maps of town, and directions to good food and enjoyable places to visit. We spent two nights at this airport and left on a Saturday morning when we found the FBO manager making huge pots of chilli for a vibrant volunteer airport community that had come out to repaint the runway markings. We said our good-byes and were handed two bags of locally grown wild rice as parting gifts from the FBO manager as we left. All of this, except the fuel and charts we purchased, was free of charge. If this FBO isn't worthy of an AVweb award, I don't know what is!"

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!

Attention, Cessna Owners and Pilots!
The Cessna Flyer Association (CFA) provides parts locating, tech support, a monthly member magazine, online forums, national and regional events, an annual convention, seminars, and more. With a one-year membership for $39, access the needed information to expand your knowledge and get more enjoyment from owning and flying your Cessna aircraft. The CFA is located on the Waupaca Municipal Airport in Wisconsin, just 35 NW of Oshkosh. Click here to request a sample magazine and more information.
AVwebBiz back to top 

AVweb's Business AVflash

HAVE YOU SIGNED UP yet for AVweb’s NO-COST twice monthly Business AVflash? Reporting on breaking news, Business AVflash also focuses on the companies, the products and the industry leaders that make headlines in the Business of Aviation. Business AVflash is a must read. Watch for a Business AVflash regular feature, TSA WATCH: GA IN THE "SPOTLIGHT". Sign up today at http://www.avweb.com/profile/ .

Not Keeping Up with FAA Rules & Regulations Can Cost You
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The Lighter Side Of Flight back to top 

Short Final

Proper radio technique -- think, click, speak...

Flying in the practice area northwest of Daytona Beach an aircraft was giving an advisory call that went like this:

Lake Disston traffic, Cessna 12345 is northeast ... uh, west. No, east. [pause] Where the hell are we?



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Husband in Trouble; Wakes Wife While Reading & Laughing!
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Flying Flies Cessna's Mustang, the Newest Light Jet
Plus, Flying tells readers how to stay safe and legal in "The New VFR" complicated airspace; offers a review of the Bartlesville biplane fly-in celebration; serves up the EAA's Q&A regarding the new Sport Pilot/Light Sport Aircraft Rule; discusses unrecoverable spins; and much more. Order your money-saving subscription online.

IFR's October Issue Deals Up Some Interesting Technical Cards
"The Cloud Eraser" — the technology to see through clouds is filtering down to GA; "ATC Carping 101" — don't fight, make a difference while protecting your backside; "Cool-Earth Fog" — good clues when area forecasts fail; "A May Day GPS Approach" — that button is only as useful as the skill with which you use it; "The Four Horsemen" — it's the little things that kill you. Plus: A killer quiz with Mexican food and Jet A on the menu; and more. Don't miss an issue of IFR; order online.

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.)

Comments or questions about the news should be sent here.

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