AVwebFlash - Volume 12, Number 38a

September 18, 2006

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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T-3 Trainers Crushed, Melted, Shredded back to top 

Air Force "Salvage" Method Rapped

Photo by Norris Warner

The flying fraternity and sorority in the San Antonio area is collectively shaking its head at what some are describing as a senseless waste of tax dollars with the destruction of 110 piston-single aircraft. As AVweb told you in its Sept. 15 Audiocast, the T-3 Slingsby Firefly pilot screening aircraft, virtually all of which were in flying condition when they were mothballed nine years ago, were smashed to pieces by heavy equipment at Hondo Airport last week. According to Air Force spokesman Capt. Gideon McClure, the military’s term for the systematic destruction of the aircraft is "salvage in place." The Air Force paid more than $32 million for the planes and the best it can hope for from the destruction work is that it won’t cost any more.

The planes have been stored under "hail sheds," essentially metal-roofed shelters without walls, at Hondo since they were pulled from service in 1997 for safety reasons. The methods used to reduce them to rubble were devastatingly simple and completely effective. They were dragged from the sheds on their flat tires and picked up, nose first, by a giant forklift. That part of the process probably finished them as flying machines. They were then carried to a screened-off area where an excavator smashed them to shards of fiberglass with its steel bucket. At some point in the process, the coup de grace was administered with a plasma torch that melted and fused the engine block.

Nothing Saved

Photo by San Antonio Express News

It doesn’t appear anyone had any hope of the aircraft flying again. They were outfitted to military specifications and the Air Force estimated that converting them to civilian standards and fixing the effects of nine years of neglect would cost upward of $100,000 per plane. But what local pilots couldn’t understand was why the airframes went to the crusher with all their radios, instruments, wheels, tires, brakes, seats and everything else where Slingsby put them, including the Lycoming AEIO-540 engine. Norris Warner, president of the Southwest Regional Fly-In held annually at Hondo, said his group tried to recoup some of the value of the aircraft through a salvage proposal.

Their plan was to strip the planes to the airframe and sell off all the salvaged parts. "None of the planes would have moved. We would have done it right where they were," he said. Once all the engines, avionics and other gear were sold, the group proposed that the proceeds be split between the Fly-In organization, the Air Force and the city of Hondo for airport improvements. The Air Force rejected the idea, citing liability concerns, but Warner said that as far as he knows there could be no liability transferred to the salvaged parts.

Fatal Crashes, Fuel Problems Led to Grounding

The T-3s were purchased as part of a program to save money on initial flight training by the Air Force. The fully aerobatic, relatively high-performance aircraft allowed the Air Force to expose flight-training prospects to the twists and turns of military flying at relatively low cost to make sure they could handle the larger, more powerful primary flight training aircraft. But, according to GlobalSecurity.org, the T-3s were plagued by an apparent fuel problem that would cause the engine to quit when it was throttled back in flight. It happened 66 times on takeoff or landing. Three instructors and three students were killed in three crashes that don’t appear to be related to the fuel fault. There were also 10 groundings of 57 aircraft for engine and brake problems.

The technical problems appear to have only indirectly led to the demise of the program, however. In 1997, the Air Force grounded the T-3s while it looked for solutions to its problems (it even considered installing ejection seats). Without the weeding-out process afforded by the T-3 program, the washout rate in primary flight training spiked above 15 percent and the Air Force sought a temporary solution. It contracted private flight schools to do the screening and found they did at least as good a job of bringing the failure rate down in the more advanced training. The Air Force has continued with the private-sector screening programs and the T-3s were orphaned. "The Air Force no longer has a mission for these aircraft," said McClure.

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New Florida Airport Approved by FAA back to top 

Panama City Field May Be Moved

The FAA formally gave its blessing for a new major airport near Panama City on the Florida Panhandle. The agency issued its Decision of Record accepting the environmental-impact statement and clearing the way for federal funding for the $300 million project. The state has committed $82.5 million to the project and civic officials are hailing it as a boon to local tourism and development. The current Panama City-Bay County International Airport is on 715 acres the city says was worth $55 million three years ago. The new airport would be about 30 miles away in West Bay and critics argue that the project has more to do with real estate than it does with air traffic.

The new airport will be on 4,000 acres donated by the St. Joe Company, a massive land-development company that just happens to own the 78,000 acres of mainly undeveloped land surrounding it. According to the Business Journal of Jacksonville, "the airport relocation is a necessary condition for the second and third phases of St. Joe's 16,000-acre West Bay project." The first phase included housing, commercial space and a hotel; the second and third phases add industrial space, more housing, and commercial and tourism development.

Airport to Nowhere?

Environmental groups are trying to shout down the project, which still has some hoops to go through. The National Resources Defense Council says that from an aviation standpoint, the airport isn’t needed because traffic is dropping at the existing facility. "Given that traffic at the current airport has dropped dramatically, there's no demand for this new one, which would destroy nearly 2,000 acres of wetlands that protect water quality and provide a buffer against storms," it said in a statement. The group claims that traffic records for the existing airport show the number of arrivals and departures has dropped from about 50 a day to about 24 a day and that upgrading the current facility will handle any foreseeable future growth.

Airport proponents say the environmental concerns have been addressed and the new airport will spur commercial, residential and tourism growth in the Panhandle area. "The new airport will give northwest Florida a tremendous economic development platform and a competitive advantage over many of the regions with which we compete for job creation," said Al Wenstrand, director of Florida’s Great Northwest, an economic-development group representing 16 counties in the area.

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The Future Is Now — And What About the Past? back to top 

Keeping Warbirds Flying

EAA and its Warbirds of America division are working with the FAA to ensure the regulatory environment allows historic aircraft to keep flying long into the future. The FAA has come up with what it calls its Road Map to keep warbirds and other vintage aircraft in the air. During EAA AirVenture, EAA officials met with the FAA to discuss the document and make recommendations. "During the weeks immediately following EAA AirVenture 2006, EAA's Industry and Regulatory Affairs Department and the Warbirds of America's Advocacy Committee thoroughly reviewed the draft and made numerous recommendations to enhance the document," EAA said in a news release. Earl Lawrence, EAA’s regulatory expert, told AVweb much of the focus is not on the aircraft themselves but on the people needed to fly and fix them.

As the aircraft themselves become rarer, along with the pilots and technicians who keep them flying, a special set of rules needs to be developed to ensure that new personnel can be trained to fill those roles. Lawrence says that may mean modifying rules on type ratings to allow people with experience in similar types of aircraft to be allowed to fly them. He said it’s not often practical to get checked out on certain aircraft but the pool of people who have parallel experience can apply their knowledge. "EAA and the Warbirds of America seek to make the final FAA Road Map document an effective preservation blueprint for the aviation community," Lawrence said.

Jumbo-Sized Jumbo Arrives

What adjective do you use to describe a jumbo jet that’s been given a plus-size makeover? While the spinmasters come up with one, Boeing is celebrating the arrival of the first of its Boeing 747 Large Cargo Freighters at Boeing Field in Seattle. The plane, which is modified with an outsized fuselage and a hinged empennage, is one of three that will be used to carry wing and fuselage parts for the new 787 from offshore contractors. The arrival of the plane, which was on its first long-distance flight (from Taipei), was symbolic for those on the 787 program. "These planes will be a cornerstone," Scott Strode, who’s in charge of the 787 program, told the Bellingham Herald. "It's one of our most visible milestones this year for the 787 because we have to have it certified and ready to ship hardware by early next year."

Rather than build the freighters, Boeing bought three used 747-400s and had them modified by Evergreen Aviation Technologies Group in Taiwan. The aircraft use the same engines and many other components but there’s not much resemblance to the passenger planes from which they are derived. For one thing, only the flight deck, with room for three pilots (there’s usually a relief pilot on long-haul flights) is pressurized. The cavernous hold is 26 feet high and the huge tail swings open for loading. Joe MacDonald, Boeing’s chief 747 pilot, was the captain on the flight and said it was like any other trip. "When you're sitting in the pilot seat, you can't tell the difference between this and any other 747," he told the Herald.

GA Squeezed Out of the Future?

AOPA President Phil Boyer says there's not much room for general aviation in NASA's and the FAA's vision of future air travel. The so-called Next Generation Air Transportation System is geared toward commercial carriers and heaps expense on GA while diminishing its access. "But in this nightmare of the future, GA would lose access to airspace, experience increased security requirements, and operate from fewer airports," said Boyer, "even if we equipped with all the expensive technologies envisioned." There are some major shifts in the way airspace management would work under the plan [1.3 meg PDF file] but it's the expense that small aircraft owners would incur that’s got AOPA particularly riled.

Under the plan, all aircraft, including VFR-only planes, would have to be equipped to supply the "four dimensional trajectory (4DT) management" system with continuously updated position and flight plan information to take part in the system. All flights would have to have a flight plan. Planes without the gear would be restricted to what AOPA describes as "shrinking areas of 'classic airspace.'" Computer-controlled "virtual towers" would direct traffic at many GA airports and require sophisticated electronics to permit their use. Boyer says he’ll continue to fight for modernization "to serve the needs of all users, not just the airlines."

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Building the Future back to top 

Cessna Dedicates New Plant — In Mexico

Cessna and its parent company Textron dedicated a new parts factory in Chihuahua, Mexico, last week that officials from both companies seem to think is the shape of things to come. "We believe the Textron Aerospace Mexico facility is a positive step toward expanding Cessna's global presence as we continue to ensure Cessna products remain competitive in the world-wide aerospace market," Cessna Senior Vice President of Integrated Supply Chain Ron Alberti told Jobwerx.com. The Mexico plant makes wiring harnesses for Cessna jets and employs 138 people in a 62,000-square-foot facility. Meanwhile, back in Wichita, aircraft parts suppliers gathered to look at the future of their business.

The forum, sponsored by Cessna, drew suppliers from all over the U.S. and focused on strategies small-to-medium-sized firms can use to serve the large manufacturers. One trend is for manufacturers to subcontract entire assemblies, not just the parts needed to make them. That’s forced the suppliers to act more like the manufacturers in terms of supply chain management. "I cannot afford disruptions in my flow," B.J. Schramm, of Hitco Carbon Composites, in Gardena, Calif., told the forum.

"Hijack-Proof" Plane Under Development

After they’ve beaten the explosives detectors, scammed the baggage scanners, avoided the ever-vigilant scrutiny of security screeners and knocked down the bulletproof door to the cockpit, terrorists of the future might face an even more daunting adversary -- the plane itself. European scientists began working on a $35 million project in July to see if they can’t make the last line of defense against airborne terror the aircraft. "You never reach zero level of threat, no risk, but if you equip planes with on-board electronics, it will make them very difficult to hijack," Daniel Gaultier, coordinator of the Security of Aircraft in the Future European Environment (SAFEE) project, told the Evening Standard.

The project, which is being funded by several European countries, aims to give aircraft the smarts to thwart a would-be hijacker by, for instance, refusing to fly into a large building. Sophisticated biometrics appear to be the heart of the system and would be able to spot terrorists before they act, detect whether a pilot was "under duress" while opening the cockpit door and ensure that everyone on board is who they say they are.

Certified Epic to Be Built in Canada

Aircraft Investor Resources, of Bend, Ore., says it will begin certification tests on the Dynasty, a certified version of its Epic LT turboprop single, this fall in Calgary, Alberta. Assuming all goes well with the turboprop, the company says it will then start work on certifying a twin-engine jet called the Elite. The company turned heads at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh a few years ago with the turboprop, which it took from a paper airplane to first flight in less than a year. It was selling a builder-assisted kit version of the plane but was attracted to Canada to certify it by the more streamlined process north of the border, according to CEO Rick Schrameck. "The Canadians have been wonderful to work with," Schrameck said in a news release.

The Dynasty will be the first plane to be developed by the Canadian Centre for Aerospace Development (CCAD) at Calgary and Medicine Hat, Alberta. The new center specializes in testing composite aircraft construction. The plane will be certified under a new program specifically designed by Transport Canada for general aviation aircraft and is expected to be certified in 2008. The turboprop will cruise at about 340 KTAS at 28,000 feet with a range of 1560 nm.

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News Briefs back to top 

Pilot Run Over by His Own Plane

An unidentified pilot suffered serious injuries after he was hit by the main wheels of the airplane he commanded and was then dragged across the ramp at Gatwick Airport. The freak accident happened last March but a report on the mishap was just released by Britain’s Air Accidents Investigations Branch. The pilot and co-pilot were getting ready to take the Lear 45 to Paris when the co-pilot accidentally moved a thrust lever forward.

The pilot, who was stowing his baggage in the rear, noticed the change in pitch in the engine and rushed forward to warn the co-pilot. Along the way, he somehow lost his footing and fell out the open door. The plane, with the pilot in tow, hit a ground worker and a vehicle before spinning 180 degrees and coming to rest against a large truck.

There were no passengers on board. There was no word on the fate of the ground worker, the two vehicles involved or the aircraft.

On the Fly ...

A man who allegedly led police on a high-speed chase on a runway at South Florida International Airport could face up to 20 years in jail. Jack Brems has been indicted on charges of Using A Device To Disrupt Service after an Aug. 8 incident in which a vehicle was chased by police around the airport, ducking under aircraft, including one taking off…

Canadian flight schools are reaping the benefits of a worldwide shortage of pilots. Schools are reporting a surge in foreign enrolment, particularly from Asia, as students take advantage of the relatively low cost of training and the wide acceptance of Canadian credentials…

Two companies are teaming up to offer a replacement aircraft for the Canadian Armed Forces Snowbirds. The nine-plane team now flies 40-year-old CT-114 Tutor aircraft, and Venga Aerospace and ARINC Inc. are pitching the Canadian government a plan to replace them with British-built Hawk aircraft…

When it rains, it pours -- inside the Atlanta air route traffic control center -- and controllers would like the roof fixed. According to a letter to FAA officials, some staff worked traffic under umbrellas during a recent storm.

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AVweb's Audio News back to top 

Audio News

For many aviation buffs, there's nothing like the sound of four big radial engines on a B-17 or the sight of a Mustang in flight to stir the soul. There are hundreds of warbirds still flying, but the supply of qualified personnel to fly and fix them will run thin if something isn't done to ensure those skills are passed on. AVweb's Russ Niles spoke with EAA's Earl Lawrence about a program that addresses that issue, in today's Audio News podcast.

For more exclusive AVweb audio content, visit our podcast index page. (No iPod or special equipment required to listen.)

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Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Twin Cities Air Service (KLEW, Auburn, ME)

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based on prices from the past 2 weeks.
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Nominate an FBO | Rules | Tips | Questions | Winning FBOs

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Twin Cities Air Service at KLEW in Auburn, Maine.

We've heard good things about this FBO before, but AVweb reader John D. Light thought the entire staff deserved kudos for the service and facilities.

"Senior CFIs Dale Stewart and Jamey Gauthier are two of the best anywhere in the world," writes John.  "The entire A&P force, led by Ben Mosier, are always ready, willing and able to do whatever is required to keep you flying, and the front desk man, Chris Parker, is the best front desk man to be found anywhere. Owner Nate Humphries runs a very fine FBO that is certainly deserving of all the recognition it gets."

Keep those nominations coming.  For complete contest rules, click here.

AVweb is actively seeking out the best FBOs in the country and another one, submitted by you, will be spotlighted here next Monday!

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New Articles & Features on AVweb.com back to top 

New Articles & Features on AVweb


Probable Cause #15: IFR & Meds — A Deadly Mix
by Brian M. Jacobson
A pilot loses control while executing a missed approach. The NTSB believes that cold or allergy medication played a role in the accident. This accident report first appeared in AVweb's sister publication, IFR Refresher.


What's New for September
This month AVweb's survey of the latest products and services for pilots, mechanics and aircraft owners brings you amphib floats for Glasairs, tour of the Bahamas, training DVDs and more.

AVmail: Reader Feedback on AVweb's News Coverage and Feature Articles


AVmail: Sep. 18, 2006
Reader mail this week about cockpit security, UAVs, MU2s and more.

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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Video of the Week back to top 

Video of the Week: Ride of Your Life

Recommend a Video | VOTW Archive

A big thanks to everyone who took a few minutes last week to share their favorite flying videos with us. We didn't get much work done on Monday or Tuesday, but we did enjoy your videos — so please keep 'em coming!

This week's "VOTW" is a little longer and more laid-back, but well worth a watch. It was originally posted on YouTube by richardr2000:

Don't see a video screen?
Try disabling ad blockers and refreshing this page.
If that doesn't work, click here to download the video directly.

(For those who asked, the song featured in this week's Video is "Treetop Flyer," recorded by Stephen Stills and found on Stills Alone.)

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The Lighter Side of Flight back to top 

Short Final

Heard over Miami Center last week:

Lady ATC Controller (in a somewhat monotone and hard-to-hear voice): Airliner 123, proceed direct FATHR.

Airliner 123: Say again for 123.

ATC: 123, proceed direct FATHR.

Airliner: Couldn't quite understand you. center. Say again.

ATC (now in a slow, deliberate but still monotone voice): Airliner 123, proceed direct FATHR, as in "Luke, I am your father."

Airliner 123 (with chuckles): Direct FATHR, 123.

Later on, for a frequency change ...

ATC: Airliner 123, contact center on 123.45.

Airliner 123: Center on 123.45, and may the force be with you.

AVwebBiz: AVweb's Business Newsletter

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



Use the Best — ASA's 2007 FAR/AIMs and FAA Exam Prep Now Available
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Power Flow Is Now FAA-Approved for the Diamond DA40
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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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If you're having trouble reading this newsletter in its HTML-rich format (or if you'd prefer a lighter, simpler format for your PDA or handheld device), there's also a text-only version of AVwebFlash. For complete instructions on making the switch, click here.

Freedom, independence, responsibility.