AVwebFlash - Volume 12, Number 37a

September 11, 2006

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Lycoming Faces Class Action Suit back to top 
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Crankshaft "Mandatory Retirement" Disputed

A California man has filed a class action lawsuit in California against Lycoming over the engine maker's handling of potentially defective crankshafts in as many as 5,000 engines. In a claim filed this week Richard Bristow, a Mooney owner, says that Lycoming should issue a recall of the engines and bear all the costs of repair. Instead, the company issued Service Bulletins 569 and 569A, which require the crankshafts in the affected engines to be replaced at the next overhaul or the next time the crankcase is split, or no later than Feb. 21, 2009, whichever comes first. Those who comply with the bulletin within the time period specified will be supplied a parts kit containing the crankshaft and associated parts for $2,000 and labor costs will not be covered. Robert Mills, the San Rafael, Calif., attorney who filed the action, told AVweb in an exclusive interview that in previous cases involving crankshaft replacement, Lycoming has not only paid the full cost of removal, repair and replacement of the engine, it also covered a portion of the costs associated with the aircraft downtime, such as rentals and airline tickets. (A phone message left by AVweb for Lycoming's media spokeswoman Daria Fish was returned, Monday -- Lycoming is declining comment.) Mills told AVweb, "[In early cases] Lycoming really stepped up and behaved honorably." He added, "I was very disappointed by their response in this latest round." Mills owns a Piper Mirage whose engine was caught in one of the previous recalls and he said he was impressed by the company's attitude, adding that he received a check from Lycoming for aircraft rental costs he incurred while his airplane was laid up.

Savvy readers may note that late last month, AOPA confirmed with the FAA that -- for most aircraft flown in noncommercial operations -- airworthiness directives (ADs) are the only "mandatory" service bulletins around -- regardless of what a manufacturer deems "mandatory." But they noted that complying with an SB still might be a good idea and advise owners to check with their mechanics. SBs sometimes become mandatory ADs after they've gone through the rulemaking process. And, if your aircraft is used in commercial operations, you probably do have to comply with SBs. The FAA in May of 2006 announced a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that stated, "We determined that 23 failures of similar crankshafts in Lycoming 360 and 540 series reciprocating engines have occurred due to subsurface material flaws that progress to a fatigue failure." The FAA further states that "Lycoming MSB No. 569A, dated April 11, 2006, requires compliance at the next accessibility of the crankshaft, but no later than February 21, 2009." However, this proposed AD would require compliance at the next accessibility of the crankshaft, but no later than 12 years since new, or since the previous engine overhaul.

Lycoming Crankshafts: Tracing A Long History

The claim appears to attempt to link this particular service bulletin with past recalls that the plaintiff alleges were the result of cost-cutting measures implemented by Lycoming in the mid to late 1990s that "altered the design of the engines and led to crankshaft failures." (In 2005, Lycoming lost a legal battle with a supplier that alleged it was Lycoming's addition of vanadium to the alloy -- and not the supplier's manufacturing process -- that weakened the shafts.) The new suit alleges that "defective safety testing and review procedures in place at Lycoming" resulted in the company's being unable to guarantee that any crankshafts made after 1997 were safe. The suit alleges that Lycoming was forced by the FAA to issue recalls in 2002 and 2005 covering about 2,000 engines based on the findings of a joint investigation by the FAA and Lycoming. The suit also says that Lycoming continues to deny that there is anything wrong with crankshafts covered by the current service bulletins. It states that "the 'early retirement' is based solely on the 'collective wisdom of Lycoming and the FAA given the prior history of hammer forged-crankshafts.'" The suit quotes AOPA as estimating the total direct cost of complying with the service bulletins at $32 million and doesn't include the ancillary costs and effect on resale value of the aircraft involved.

California First For Crankshaft Legal Action

Mills said the initial suit is being filed on behalf of affected owners in California because of that state's strong consumer protection laws. However, he said there are plans for a national class action suit (the California suit will remain separate) that will be filed in Lycoming's home state of Pennsylvania. Assuming the courts accept the class action, all affected owners will automatically become part of the suit. Notification will be sent to all those who become part of the action and they will be able to opt out by returning a postcard that will accompany the notification. Mills said he and the other attorneys involved are undertaking the case on a contingency basis and will receive a court-ordered portion of any settlement to cover their fees and costs. In large cases such as this, the legal disbursement is generally around 25 percent of the overall settlement, he said. He said that although litigation of this nature can sometimes be settled quickly, the median lifespan of a lawsuit at his firm is 21 months and some have gone on much longer.

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Mustang Fully Certified back to top 

Cessna Mustang Gets Its Paperwork

Although it likely means little in the very light jet (VLJ) sweepstakes, Cessna won the race to full certification with the announcement that its Mustang VLJ (Cessna prefers the term entry-level jet) got the FAA blessing on Friday. (The Eclipse 500 was granted provisional certification in July.) The Mustang is now approved for delivery and has been signed off on everything except flight into known icing conditions. A test aircraft will be sent north for icing tests in the next few weeks as the weather cools. The Mustang was announced in 2002 and the certification came a month earlier than scheduled. "This is an immense achievement, marking another point in history where Cessna has led the aviation industry into new territory," Cessna CEO Jack Pelton said. The Mustang program began about three years after Eclipse embarked on its VLJ effort. The Eclipse schedule was set back a couple of years when it switched engine suppliers in 2002 and has suffered some delays since then, most attributed by the company to supplier problems.

Mustang Deliveries Begin In 2007

Although it can technically sell Mustangs now, Pelton said first customer deliveries aren't scheduled until next year. Assuming Eclipse's full certification is approved in the near future, it will likely be the first to get a VLJ into service. The Wichita Eagle said Eclipse announced in July that it would deliver 50 airplanes by the end of the year. Eclipse spokesman Andrew Broom told the Eagle that number may be revised (whether that's upward or downward isn't clear). Cessna intends to deliver 50 Mustangs in 2007 and 100 in 2008. Cessna is projecting much more modest sales figures for the Mustang than Eclipse is for the 500. The order book for the Mustang is about 250 while Eclipse claims to have more than 2,500 orders. The Mustang, at $2.6 million, is also substantially more expensive than the Eclipse, at about $1.4 million.

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GA Five Years Later back to top 

A Look At Post 9/11/2001 Flying

EAA says pilots have a lot of people to thank for their continued ability to hop in an airplane and take off for just about anywhere. In an analysis of the state of GA five years after the 9/11 terror attacks exactly five years ago, EAA says there are still annoyances and maybe even some serious threats to the freedom to fly but it could have been a lot worse. "Talk of incredibly onerous, expensive and unrealistic security measures that would be demanded of all aircraft was commonplace" immediately after 9/11, EAA staff wrote in an editorial released last week. "Our freedom and dreams of flight were threatened as never before." EAA says the combined efforts of aviation groups re-educated Congress and the new security bureaucracy on GA's place in the post-9/11 world. And while the vast majority of GA operations are unchanged or barely touched by measures that have been introduced in the last five years, EAA says there's still a lot of work to do. It cites the Washington ADIZ, last-minute TFRs and the continuing ban on stadium overflights as lingering issues that need to be resolved. It also says aviation groups have to stay on guard against the occasional zealotry of state governments who try to impose their own security regulations and to temper the often one-sided and sensational coverage of aviation issues by the mainstream media.

AOPA Ramps Up ADIZ Fight

AOPA says the Washington ADIZ should be a temporary measure, activated only when there's a credible security threat to the capital, instead of the persistent thorn in the side that it has become. And effectively expanding its effects to 100 nm from the city through mandatory training should be off the table. In comments on the FAA's proposed rule to require that training, AOPA President Phil Boyer says only those who intend to fly within the ADIZ should need the training and, he argues, the vast majority of those who do venture in there are well-versed on the procedures and so-called incursions are generally the result minor errors in transponder operation. "A recent AOPA survey of pilots revealed that the biggest ADIZ-related concern they had was making a mistake while following procedures," said Boyer. "This clearly demonstrates that most pilots likely to fly in the ADIZ know the rules already. Mandatory training for anyone flying up to 70 nm away from the ADIZ boundary isn't going to reduce significantly the number of technical incursions." AOPA also suggests the FAA is jumping the gun with the training rule because the final configuration of the ADIZ hasn't been settled yet. A proposed rule to make the ADIZ permanent drew 22,000 comments (virtually all of them negative) and the agency hasn't finished going through them yet. "It begs the question of whether the agency is truly committed to considering public comment and following the rulemaking process as required by law," he said.

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News Briefs back to top 

Lexington Controller Under Wraps

As a flood of details about the crash of Comair Flight 5191 two weeks ago in Lexington come to light, there is one glaring omission and it's likely to stay that way. So far, the FAA, NTSB and National Air Traffic Controllers Association have been able to keep the identity of the lone air traffic controller on duty at the time of the crash a secret, on the record, at least. Although it seems unlikely that the secret has been kept perfectly, so far as we can tell the controller's name hasn't been made public and it likely won't be until he testifies at public hearings into the disaster. "It's the foxhole mentality," Doug Church, spokesman for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, told Forbes. "These are brothers in arms. They have each other's backs." The FAA and NATCA have gone so far as to refuse to even release the full list of names of the 19 controllers who work in Lexington and the controller himself has reportedly been told that if he so much as utters a peep to the media, he'll be fired and lose his imminent pension. Management of the identity of the flight crew has been different. The mundane details of the pretty ordinary lives of the deceased captain of the flight and the recovery of the accident's sole survivor, First Officer James Polehinke, are public fodder. Antonio Cruz, the boyfriend of Polehinke's mother, is apparently giving detailed updates on the 44-year-old pilot's condition. Polehinke suffered facial fractures, a broken breastbone, ribs, left hand, ankle, spine and pelvis, and a collapsed lung.

Congressman Wants MU-2 Banned

A Denver television station says, "More than 10 percent of all Mitsubishi's MU-2s ever built have been involved in fatal accidents," and Colorado Republican Rep. Tom Tancredo plans to introduce a bill that would ban the Mitsubishi MU-2 from U.S. airspace until the FAA does a full safety review of the aircraft. Tancredo has also written the president suggesting that FAA Administrator Marion Blakey and NTSB Chairman Mark Rosenker be fired over their "failure to act responsibly for hundreds of deaths." Tancredo became interested in the MU-2 after back-to-back crashes of the speedy twin at Centennial Airport, which is in his district. Two crashes in Florida in recent weeks prompted his latest tirade. In December 2005, the FAA performed a safety review of the aircraft, and earlier this year, the FAA said it would require enhanced training for MU-2 pilots but stopped short of requiring a type rating. A Mitsubishi official says the extra training will help. "We've seen overseas, when these training programs go into effect, the accident rates plummet," Scott Sobel told the Walton Sun. Sobel was commenting to reporters about a crash near DeFuniak Springs, Fla., which killed pilot Hardy "Buddy" Head, who family and friends say was a very experienced MU-2 pilot who had trained others on the airplane for Mitsubishi. His daughter, Alexus Purdy, told the Sun that no one in her family believes pilot error caused the crash. Sobel insisted the aircraft is safe but its widespread use as a cargo hauler might be increasing its accident rate because, according to the paper, "cargo pilots have a tendency to fly when they're tired -- at night or in bad weather."

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News Briefs back to top 

Nap Ban Rouses Controller Protest

Among the FAA's new work rules imposed on air traffic controllers last week was a ban on napping during breaks and, predictably perhaps, the agency and the controllers union differ on the impact of such a rule. "Even though they're on break, they can be called back to work at any time," FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown told The Associated Press. "If they had to be called back to work traffic and they had been sleeping, they would be groggy." But Dave O'Malley, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association representative at the Indianapolis center, said controllers on the night shift, particularly, can go hours without a flight before getting very busy toward the end of the shift. "It just ambiguous and punitive," he told the AP. "The work itself requires you to rest and recoup between sessions," O'Malley said. The nap ban is nothing new in FAA regs but its universal application is. Before the latest imposed contract, controllers were able to negotiate side deals with management at individual air traffic control facilities. Indianapolis controllers had won the right to nap even though FAA policy was against the practice. Imposition of the contract, which took place Sept. 3, voided all the local agreements.

Skydive Record Set

If the thought of jumping from a perfectly serviceable airplane just once gives you the jitters, consider how Jay Stokes spent his Saturday. The Yuma, Ariz., skydiving instructor got in 640 jumps (641 if you count the night jump where he missed the airport) in 24 hours. That's one jump every two minutes and 14 seconds (counting the extra one) and is even more remarkable considering Stokes tore a leg muscle about a third of the way through the marathon, which took place at Greensburg Municipal Airport in Indiana, where he teaches during the summer. The old record was 534, which he set in California in 2003. About 130 volunteers took part in the effort, which involved a precisely timed sequence. After leaving the plane (a PAC-750) at 2,100 feet, Stokes would spiral to the ground in about 40 seconds. Volunteers would meet him as his feet touched the ground to unclip the deployed chute and strap him into a fresh one. There was one volunteer whose only job was to ensure a step was properly placed to allow him to jump quickly into the plane, which dove for the ground as soon as he'd exited. Volunteers on the plane strapped Stokes in as the power came on. His longest turnaround was about 10 minutes when he misjudged the exit point and landed in a field adjacent to the airport. He hitched a ride back to the field with a passerby as anxious volunteers began widening their search for him.

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News Briefs back to top 

Arizona Pilots Join Hurricane Relief

A handful of Arizona pilots are flying supplies to a town on Mexico's Baja Peninsula that was partly destroyed by Hurricane John earlier this month. The waterfront area of Mulege was inundated by flood waters of the Rio Mulege caused by the hurricane. The town has about 3,100 people, including about 500 Americans, many of whom live close to the water. According to the Arizona Republic newspaper, the relief effort is being led by John McCormick, of Baja Bush Pilots, who's already delivered water and supplies to the remote town. Up to 20 pilots are expected to join the effort. Hundreds of homes were damaged or washed away by the wall of water that spilled out of the river during the storm. Tim Higginbotham told the Republic of being swept away by the flood before he was able to cling to an overturned boat, which at one point became hung up on the top of a palm tree. He said the water receded as fast as it came up. A British resident died in the flood when he couldn't escape his home.

Fugitive Pilot Arrested 24 Years After Fatal Flight

The Canadian pilot of a Cessna 150 that was allegedly intentionally ditched in a Montana lake 24 years ago has been arrested in Texas and faces charges in connection with the death of his girlfriend in the ditching, according to the Vancouver Sun. Jaroslaw "Jerry" Ambrozuk, who had been living in Plano, Texas, under the name Michael Lee Smith, was arrested a week ago and is fighting extradition to Montana where authorities want to charge him in the death of Dianne Babcock, whose body was found in the airplane at the bottom of Little Bitterroot Lake. According to police, the couple, then 19 and 18, planned to fake their deaths in the crash and disappear into the U.S. in a bizarre elopement scheme. The couple rented the plane in the southern British Columbia town of Penticton and said they intended to fly west to Vancouver. Instead, Ambrozuk flew south across the U.S. border into Washington State before heading east. The plan apparently went awry when Babcock couldn't get her seatbelt undone. Ambrozuk was able to make it to shore, but rather than report the accident to authorities he fled, first to Whitefish, Mont., and then New York. He made phone calls to a friend from both places that were recorded and transcribed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and later reported by the Daily Interlake, of Kalispell, Montana. In the calls he expressed remorse about Babcock's death but also wondered about "a person so stupid" she couldn't unfasten her seatbelt. The unidentified recipient of the call urged Ambrozuk to turn himself in, saying the authorities would look for him "forever." "And they'll never find me," Ambrozuk replied. But Ambrozuk, a self-employed software developer with a Dodge Viper in the driveway of his upscale home, had apparently told some of his Texas acquaintances his real identity and one of them tipped authorities. Police posing as lawn-sprinkling-ban enforcement officers arrested him.

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News in Brief back to top 

On The Fly...

A Swedish pilot died after a midair collision during the Aero GP race in Malta on Sunday. Gabor Vargas, the Swedish aerobatic champion, died after his Yak-55 was struck behind the canopy by an Extra flown by Eddy Goggins, who parachuted to safety. The race around Malta's harbor included "a combination of racing, air-to-air combat and target bombing", according to the racing league's Web site...

If you move from the U.S. to Canada or vice versa, chances are you won't have any hoops to jump to maintain your flying privileges. The two countries have signed a bilateral agreement that makes private and higher Canadian licenses and U.S. certificates interchangeable, subject to some unspecified conditions...

The FAA has issued an airworthiness directive (AD) requiring certain Hartzell props to be checked for cracks in the hub. The suspect props could be on any of dozens of aircraft...

Aviation safety in Nigeria is taking a step forward with the announcement that the government is canceling the registration of about 300 aircraft deemed unairworthy. Some haven't had their airworthiness certificates renewed in the last five years and others are abandoned airframes scattered at various airports...

The FAA has approved a new type of child safety restraint for use in airliners. The belt arrangement, made by AmSafe, goes around the seatback and attaches to the regular seatbelt providing torso restraint for kids weighing 22 to 44 lbs….

Delta Air Lines is recalling 60 furloughed pilots and 200 flight attendants while Northwest Airlines is calling back 1,131 attendants. The airlines say attrition and a bit of growth has made room for the workers.

Audio News

Lycoming's latest crankshaft problem is a legal one. AVweb speaks with Robert Mills who is handling the case against Lycoming. Click through to listen. 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.

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

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Features back to top 

New Articles and Features on AVweb


The Pilot's Lounge #104: Preserving Our Aviation Treasures And Heritage
Airports are not the only things that can be destroyed by a developer's bulldozer. Sometimes progress at the airport itself can jeopardize treasures on the field, as AVweb's Rick Durden reports from the U.S. heartland.

Reader feedback on AVweb's news coverage and feature articles


AVmail: Sep. 10, 2006
Reader mail this week about ATC, fuel prices and much more about the RJ crash in Lexington.

AVweb's Business AVflash

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Your Favorite FBO's back to top 

FBO of the Week: Beck's Helena U-Pump

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

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Beck's Helena U-Pump at KHLN, Helena, MT.

Offering up Beck's, Bruce Riter told us, "Clean & modern pilot lounge including kitchen & shower; nice late-model courtesy cars; cheapest fuel anywhere; a local told us the operator sells fuel just above cost & puts the markup into amenities for pilots. Hats off to the operators of this facility!"

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!

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VOTW back to top 

Video of the Week: Cars vs. 747 Thrust

Recommend a Video | VOTW Archive

Welcome to AVweb's "Video of the Week"!

In our travels of the World Wide Web, we've saved and bookmarked quite a few video clips. Some gave us the chills, some flat-out amazed us, and some taught us a little something that we didn't already know. In the coming weeks, we'll be sharing some of these videos — one a week, until we run out of them — with you, our readership.

Both entertainment and education are on tap for this feature, but we think the thing that will make it work in the long run is the same thing that's made our "Picture of the Week" and "Question of the Week" features so popular — your participation. If you run across a video that you think would be interesting to the rest of the AVweb audience — be it funny, inspirational, shocking, or something else entirely — send us a link! We'll add your video to our ever-growing archive, and if it's selected to be an AVweb "Video of the Week," we'll send you one of our official AVweb baseball caps as a humble "thank you."

To kick things off, here's a gravity-defying clip we found on YouTube recently. It never fails to bring a smile to our face and was originally posted on YouTube by chenjack0220:

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If that doesn't work, click here to download the video directly.



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The Lighter Side Of Flight back to top 

Short Final

Thanks for the support...

I made a pretty nice landing in my Husky at San Antonio International last week with 20 knots across the runway. On rollout, the controller and I had the following conversation:

Controller: That was a pretty stiff crosswind.

Me: Yeah, I was looking for "10" cards up in the tower cab but couldn't see any.

Controller: That's 'cause we had our hands on the crash phones.


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).

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