AVwebFlash - Volume 12, Number 45a

November 6, 2006

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
 
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Tale Of The Tapes back to top 
 
Sponsor Announcement

Do ATC Recordings Absolve Brazil Bizjet Pilots?

A Brazilian newspaper says the American pilot of an Embraer Legacy 600 bizjet that collided with a Brazilian airliner last month was flying at the altitude assigned by air traffic control. Folha de S. Paulo reported Thursday that transcripts of the radio exchange between the controller and the aircraft show that the Legacy crew was told to climb from its flight-planned altitude of 36,000 feet (appropriate for its northwesterly heading) to 37,000 feet, where they clipped a GOL Boeing 737. The airliner crashed, killing all 154 people aboard. Legacy pilots Joseph Lepore and Jan Paladino were able to land the damaged Legacy at a military airstrip in the Amazon jungle with no injuries to the seven people on board. They entered another nightmare when the investigation began. They were accused of deliberately turning off their transponder so they could fly the aircraft illegally without detection by ATC (it was the airplane’s first trip, a ferry flight from the Embraer factory in Brazil to its new owner ExcelAire in New York). Their passports were taken by Brazilian authorities to force them to remain in the country while criminal charges were considered. The two have consistently denied the charges against them and maintained they were flying according to ATC instructions.

Brazil ATC Transcripts Under Wraps

Although it would seem a simple matter to release the transcript and tapes and let the investigation proceed with the benefit of that crucial information, the Brazilian air force has refused to do so. The air force oversees air traffic control in Brazil and told The Associated Press it’s normal to sit on this kind of pivotal data under International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) conventions designed to protect information given voluntarily to investigators. Just who the air force is trying to protect is open to speculation but, while it keeps the tapes and transcripts from public view, the American pilots must remain in what amounts to house arrest in a Rio de Janeiro hotel. Their lawyer is calling for a return of their passports pending “frank disclosure of all the facts.” Meanwhile, the air force has other ATC-related problems on its hands, some of which stem from the accident. Controllers have embarked on a work slowdown that has delayed hundreds of flights. They complain that they are understaffed, underpaid and have been further burdened by extra safety regulations in the wake of the midair collision. Controllers began calling in sick on Thursday (this is a long weekend in Brazil), causing bottlenecks in the system, not to mention long lines of upset travelers in the airports. Although the situation has improved as more controllers reported to work over the weekend, today is expected to be tense as travelers make their way back from their spring holiday.

 
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A Tight Turn Made Tighter back to top 
 

Winds A Factor In Lidle Crash

The NTSB says a 13-knot easterly wind may have contributed to the circumstances that led to the crash of New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle’s Cirrus SR20 into a Manhattan apartment building on Oct. 11. An update to its investigation issued Friday suggests the brisk breeze would have effectively decreased the turning space available for the aircraft by 400 feet as Lidle and his flight instructor Tyler Stanger made a U-turn near the end of the East River exclusion area, a VFR sightseeing route that terminated near where the crash occurred. Although it doesn’t come right out and say it, the report invites speculation that whoever was flying initially misjudged the available turning room and, while banking sharply to avoid the building, stalled the airplane. The East River exclusion area was a finger of VFR airspace over the river that extended north to the boundary of La Guardia Airport’s surface Class B. To avoid requesting clearance into the La Guardia airspace, those flying north in the zone, as Lidle and Stanger were, had to make a U-turn. Shortly after the crash, the FAA issued a NOTAM that eliminated that impetus by requiring all flights in the corridor (except helicopters and seaplanes operating from a base on the river) to be under active ATC control.

Not Much Room For Error

The report says that radar data showed the Cirrus’ track up the east side of Roosevelt Island, roughly the middle of the river. From that point, the plane had about 1,700 feet of clearance to the west in which to complete the turn. However, the wind would have pushed the plane 400 feet during the turn, making the available radius just 1,300 feet. At the aircraft’s speed of 97 knots, that would have required a constant bank angle of 53 degrees. “If the initial portion of the turn was not this aggressive,” the report says, “a sufficiently greater bank angle would have been needed as the turn progressed, which would have placed the airplane dangerously close to an aerodynamic stall.” Ground stations pegged the wind at 7 knots but an aircraft landing at nearby Newark Liberty International Airport was equipped with weather sensors and it recorded wind at 700 feet as 095 degrees at 13 knots. Technology will play an increasing role in the investigation. The memory chips from the airplane’s glass displays are being analyzed as are two handheld GPSs that were on board. There was also a laptop recovered from the wreckage that might contain flight information. The various manufacturers are now working to extract data from damaged equipment.

 
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Controllers And Overtime back to top 
 

ATC Union Says Six-Day Week Common

A single line in an AVweb story about a controller caught napping has unleashed a torrent of response (with a little prodding from union headquarters) about just how much overtime is being scheduled in towers and centers. Controllers from all over the country have responded to a request from the National Air Traffic Controllers Association for anecdotal confirmation of a comment made by NATCA spokesman Doug Church’s that six-day weeks were becoming commonplace. From Napa to Atlanta to Anchorage to LAX, controllers responded with similar stories. “We have been working six-day work weeks since before June,” wrote one controller. “We have no end in sight.” In last Monday’s story, which was really about the sleeping controller, we included comments from an anonymous controller with whom we correspond occasionally who said six-day weeks weren’t common at his facility or others he was aware of. The comment prompted the union to e-mail its members and ask them to verify that, indeed, six-day weeks are becoming standard procedure in the face of higher workloads and what the union says is a diminishing number of qualified controllers. Our controller correspondent maintains that six-day weeks are uncommon where he works but concedes that other areas might be different. His main complaint is about having midnight shifts sprinkled in with day and evening shifts, which he says lead to serious fatigue.

"Stop Whining" Say Some

The story also prompted spirited comments from a minority of respondents who said they were tired of the rhetoric. A contract tower controller and former PATCO controller who was fired by President Reagan in 1981 said controllers know what they’re in for when they sign up. “The shifts, the overtime, it’s all part of it,” he said. “If you don’t want to do it, then don’t become a controller.” This fellow was particularly incensed by those who claim that they can’t get enough sleep between shifts and said it’s their responsibility to ensure they’re properly rested when they show up for work. A former ATC supervisor told us he thought the whole thing was a media stunt. “I suspect the napping controller incident was a NATCA setup to gain media attention,” he wrote. The former supervisor also questioned the universal request by working controllers to keep their identities confidential, one of whom said he feared for his job if quoted in the media. “Has he ever known a controller who was fired? For any reason?” wondered the ex-supervisor, whose name we kept confidential even though he didn’t ask for it.

 
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News Briefs back to top 
 

Nav Canada Marks 10th Anniversary

Canada’s private-sector provider of air traffic control, information and weather service for civilian aviation is celebrating its 10th birthday and it says the system is in better shape and costs less than when it was in government hands. Nav Canada bought Canada’s airspace management system lock, stock and console for $1.5 billion in 1996 and since then it says it has thoroughly modernized equipment and facilities, developed airspace-management software that’s in demand in other countries, increased the number of air traffic controllers by 250 and improved safety (loss of separation incidents are down by 40 percent). According to its math, it’s done all this while at the same time charging about 20 percent less on a per-passenger basis than the old ticket tax its direct-billing system replaced. However, the company-generated news release glosses over some significant controversies that have erupted over the past decade, most notably the introduction of general aviation user fees. Earlier this year, the company started charging a $10 daily fee for small aircraft using the country’s seven largest airports. Although the practical and financial impact will be minimal, the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association and other aviation groups allege it’s a foot in the door that will inevitably lead to fees for all the services Nav Canada now provides GA as part of the nominal yearly fee ($71 for most pilots) it now charges. Although it’s a nonprofit company, it has to pay the bills and that means hiking fees when its customers are on the ropes financially, such as the downturn after 9/11. With the current boom in air travel, Nav Canada recently cut fees by an average of 1.8 percent.

Russia Relaxes GA Regs

Russia has significantly relaxed constraints on general aviation in a move that’s expected to stimulate growth of business and private flying. According to Flight International, regulators have dropped rules that required GA operators to get permission for each flight. The new rules also make aircraft ownership, certification, registration and maintenance a lot easier. Of particular note to the burgeoning bizjet business is the elimination of a rule that required filing of flight plans for cross-border flights a minimum of 24 hours in advance. "It's a long-overdue decision," Alexander Yevdokimov, managing director of JetTransfer, told Flight International. "It will help us compete with foreign rivals who enjoy fast-track treatment by their regulators." It might also help open up an overland route from North America to Europe. For the past five years, a group of Alaskans has been working with Russian authorities to establish VFR routes in the Russian Far East. It’s now possible, but not very convenient, to fly from Alaska to a couple of airports on the east coast of Russia. The goal of the Alaskan effort is to open up GA routes that will link North America with Russia, Asia, Europe and Africa, with the longest open-water crossing being about 30 nm over the Bering Strait.

Cylinder Crack Alert

The FAA has issued a Special Airworthiness Information Bulletin recommending that owners of certain larger Continental engines with ECi cylinder assemblies inspect the cylinders for cracks every 50 hours after they’ve accumulated more than 500 hours in service. The bulletin affects 520- and 550-series engines with certain ECi components. The cracks started showing up in 2003 and start as fatigue cracks that eventually go through the cylinder wall near the exhaust valve seat. This causes decreased compression but is unlikely to cause separation of the cylinder from the engine, according to the FAA. The bulletin recommends a standard compression test and soapy water test on the cylinders at each oil change and that cracked cylinders be replaced with improved models. The cracks have appeared as early as 253 hours and as late as 1,489 hours, though the average is 891. The recommendations in the bulletin are not mandatory.

 
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News Briefs back to top 
 

Carbon Monoxide Warning

In what it calls a “safety admonition,” the FAA is reminding aircraft mechanics to pay special attention to the exhaust and heater systems on light planes at this time of year. It’s also a good idea to check and/or replace the carbon monoxide detector in your plane. (You do have one, right?) Most small aircraft have some sort of heat-exchanger setup on the exhaust system to provide cabin and defroster heat. If the exhaust system leaks, engine gases can get into the heating systems and pump carbon monoxide into the cockpit. “Technicians should inspect all exhaust system components for condition with particular attention to areas associated with cabin heat and defrost systems,” wrote aerospace engineer Barry Ballenger from the FAA’s Kansas City Office of Continued Operational Safety. “Look for deformation, corrosion, erosion, cracks, burned spots, and loose or missing hardware.” Carbon monoxide can also get into the cabin through firewall pass-through seals, door and window seals and gear wells. The limit for CO contamination of cabin air is one in 20,000 parts. "Remember, part of being airworthy means the aircraft is safe for flight,” Ballenger advises. “By spending a little extra time during engine maintenance, the technician can ensure the safety of the aircraft’s exhaust system.”

Forecasters Predict Legal Action

The National Weather Service Employees Organization (NWSEO) says it will take legal action against the FAA’s plan to eliminate on-site weather forecasters at 21 Air Route Traffic Control Centers. In a letter to the agency, Richard J. Hirn, the NWSEO’s general counsel, says the FAA’s plan to centralize the weather-forecasting operation in a single, contracted-out facility violates various laws that, in a nutshell, say it’s the National Weather Service’s job to provide weather information to the FAA. Hirn also notes that NWS forecasters have been consistently exempt from contracting out because they provide services that are “inherently governmental.” In his letter, Hirn tells Robert Fitzpatrick of the FAA’s Office of Enterprise Solutions that potential bidders should know what they’re in for. “You should advise your potential contractors that this matter will become subject of federal litigation so they can make an informed decision on whether to participate in an illegal procurement process,” he wrote. The National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) is backing the NWSEO’s opposition to the centralization, saying that having direct access to a weather expert in the center saves time in making routing and other weather-related decisions.

Cleveland Picked For NGATS Test

The future of airspace management might start in Cleveland. Sensis Corporation, in partnership with federal and local governments, is installing equipment at NASA’s John H. Glenn Research Center in Cleveland that will link three local airports to a system that will include, among other things, “4D trajectories and virtual air traffic control towers.” It’s all part of the Next Generation Air Traffic System (NGATS) research effort to try and find technological solutions to the capacity and congestion problems that are looming in the skies. Datalinks, “decision support systems” and a whole range of futuristic-sounding gear will be part of the system. Sensis said the three airports chosen represent a cross-section of U.S. airspace management requirements. Burke Lakefront is a towered, medium-sized facility popular with bizjets and air taxis. Cleveland Hopkins is a major hub and Lorain County is a single-runway, non-towered GA airport. They’ll all be linked together in the experiment to see how the technology copes with the various demands all these different operations put on it.

Comair First Officer Named In Crash Suit

First Officer James Polehinke, the lone survivor of the Comair Flight 5191 crash, is among those named in a lawsuit filed on behalf of the family of a Florida man who died in the crash. In a news release, lawyer Stephen Marks, who has won a number of multimillion-dollar settlements in airplane crash suits, said he tried to keep Polehinke out of the case directly but he was unable to come to terms with his insurance company. The suit also names Comair and was filed in Broward County, where Polehinke lives, but it wasn’t done that way for his convenience. Marks said awards in this type of suit are typically higher in Florida than in other states. The damages are being sought under Florida’s Wrongful Death Act and Marks says the verdict could be a major hit for Comair insurer U.S. Aviation Insurance Group. Marks is representing the family of Charles Lykins, 46, of Naples, Fla., who was supposed to be on a later flight but switched to Flight 5191 to get home earlier to see his wife, Karen, and his two small children, aged seven and five.

 
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News In Brief back to top 
 

On The Fly

Raytheon’s new unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) has been certified by the FAA, and that means it can be used in the restricted airspace over the border between Arizona and Mexico. Raytheon says the Cobra is more technologically advanced than other UAVs and is only nine feet long…

Alan Conklin, who co-founded Conklin & de Decker, died Nov. 3 at age 86. Conklin & de Decker is a renowned aviation information and database company that focuses on cost and performance calculations for aircraft...

PBS's NOVA is running a documentary on Albert Santos-Dumont Nov. 7 at 8 p.m. Eastern and Pacific. Santos-Dumont was a Brazilian aviator who became the first to fly an airplane in Europe and also built the first dirigible. He was also a showman and delighted in demonstrating his flying machines for what became an adoring public.

AVweb At AOPA Expo

Not going to AOPA Expo this week? Don't worry, AVweb is, and we'll be delivering the latest news from the show to your inbox, starting with the regular Thursday AVwebFlash on the opening day of AOPA Expo. Then check your e-mail inbox on Friday and Saturday morning for special issues written and produced from the show.

AVweb's Newstips Address...

Our best stories start with you. If you've heard something that 130,000 pilots might want to know about, tell us. 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

 
Pilot Journey Isn't Just for Students & Instructors; There's Something for Everyone
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FBO Of The Week back to top 
 

FBO Of The Week: Carolina Air Center

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.

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Carolina Air Center at KHXD in Hilton Head, S.C.

AVweb reader Matt Thompson complimented the FBO staff for giving piston operators the same red carpet treatment as the jet set.

" I stopped here three times in nine days in two different aircraft (a Beech B36TC and a Cirrus SR22). The quality of service was superb. While many resort facilities really roll out the red carpet for the jet set, Carolina Air Center gave me the same service I have received when arriving in much larger corporate aircraft. It was a pleasure doing business with these folks. I would highly recommend them to anyone passing through the area. And I might add, they are the only FBO on the field. Many thanks for this excellent level of service."

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 On AVweb back to top 
 

New Articles and Features on AVweb

COLUMNS

The Pilot's Lounge #106: Why Do Smart People Bend Airplanes?
It's easy to say that a person who got in an airplane accident was not as smart, well-trained, or endowed with the right stuff as other pilots. A little too easy, in fact. And research shows it's wrong, as AVweb's Rick Durden discusses this month in The Pilot's Lounge.

Reader feedback on AVweb's news coverage and feature articles

AVMAIL

AVmail: Nov. 6, 2006
Reader mail this week about 100LL replacements, user fees, ATC asleep and more.

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/ .

 
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Audio News back to top 
 

AVweb Audio News

AVweb posts audio news on Mondays, plus a new in-depth interview each Friday. In Friday's podcast, you'll find a one-on-one interview with Spectrum Aeronautical chairman Linden Blue. And AVweb's podcast index includes interviews with Adam Aircraft chairman Rick Adam and New Piper CEO Jim Bass, recorded live at the recent NBAA Convention in Orlando. And in Monday's news summary, hear about how ATC transcripts might vindicate Legacy pilots in Brazilian midair; NTSB says wind was a factor in NYC crash of Cory Lidle's SR20; more air traffic controllers complain of six-day workweeks; NavCanada turns 10; Russia relaxes constraints on general aviation; FAA issues safety bulletin for Continental engines with ECi cylinders; "safety admonition" released for aircraft exhaust systems; future of airspace management takes root in Cleveland; first officer named in Comair crash lawsuit. Remember: In AVweb's podcasts, you'll hear things you won't find anywhere else.

 
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Video Of The Week back to top 
 

Video of the Week: Boeing 747 SP Retirement Landing

Recommend a Video | VOTW Archive

Welcome to AVweb's "Video of the Week" feature, where we like to kick off the work week with an interesting video we (or more often, our readers) have discovered on the web. This week's featured video comes from South African pilot Rudi Greyling and features the retirement landing of a Boeing 747 at Rand Airport in Germiston:


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.

Don't forget to send us links to any interesting videos you find out there. If you're impressed by it, there's a good chance other AVweb readers will be too. (Plus, we like watching videos.)

 
Stuck on the Freeway? Put That "Down Time" to Good Use with Pilot's Audio Update
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The Lighter Side Of Flight back to top 
 

SHORT FINAL
A short but sweet one from AVweb's sister publication IFR.

Overheard on approach to a regional southern airport at eight minutes before the hour...

Approach: Sundownner Two Lima Charlie, do you have information November?

Sundowner 2LC: Uh, negative, we're waiting for, uh, December. More...

 

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Tired of the High Cost of Fuel? GAMIjectors Are the Answer!
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Choose the Flight Explorer Edition Right for You
Flight Explorer is an information system tracking commercial and general aviation flights. With the Personal Edition, view air traffic for the U.S., Canada, or New Zealand and monitor and display real-time delay information, TFRs, SUAs, and more. With the Pilot Edition, view weather along a route, receive alerts with your preliminary flight plan, and have an e-mail sent to someone on departure or arrival. Click here for more information and to subscribe.

Perform Maintenance Legally & More Easily by Knowing What & How
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Ensure Yourself and Your Passengers' Safety for Under $149!
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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.

Have a product or service to advertise on AVweb? A question on marketing? Send it to AVweb's sales team.

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.

 
Attending the AOPA Expo in Palm Springs?
AVweb will be! This year's convention starts Thursday, November 9 and runs through Saturday, November 11 in Palm Springs, California. We know many of you will be on-site with us this year, so please take a moment while you're seeing the sights to stop by our sponsors' booths. Their patronage of AVweb makes it possible for us to deliver the high quality of news, reviews, and information you've come to expect in your inbox twice a week — at no charge to readers. We encourage you to visit with them at the show and thank them for their support of AVweb. Click for a complete list of AVweb sponsors and where to find them at the show.