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Two U.S. pilots face a maximum of four years in jail after they were charged by a Brazilian prosecutor with "endangering air
safety" in the collision between their Embraer Legacy 600 business jet and a Gol Airlines Boeing 737 in late September. However, the pilots -- Joe Lepore and Jan Paladino of New York -- were still
allowed to leave Brazil on the promise that they return to face the charges. The charges were filed Friday when they appeared at a Rio de Janeiro police station to give statements. The pilots, who are
now back in the U.S., have consistently denied any wrongdoing in the collision, in which a winglet on their aircraft is believed to have contacted the 737's wing, causing it to fail. All 154 people
aboard the 737 died after the airliner plummeted into the Amazon jungle. Initial reports blamed the Legacy pilots, but subsequent investigations have been much less clear as to how the two aircraft,
under air traffic control, ended up on a collision course at the same altitude of 37,000 feet. Among the questions raised by the investigation are why the transponder on the Legacy wasn't registering
at the time of the crash and why the TCAS systems on both airplanes failed to warn of the possible collision.
As Joe Lepore and Jan Paladino made their way back to the U.S. late Friday -- by private jet to avert Brazilian journalists who booked
commercial flights to New York trying to corner the pair -- their supporters were trying to figure out just what legal consequences they might face. Joe Sharkey, the New York Times columnist
who was on the Legacy during the midair collision, wrote on his blog last week that the foundation for the nebulous charges is that the pilots didn't ensure their transponder was working. According to
a news release issued by the Brazilian federal police, the charges are based on "elements of proof existing in the police inquiry, which point to the lack of the caution that is necessary, expected,
and can be demanded of pilots during the realization of a flight." The alleged intermittent transponder, which Sharkey says hasn't been proven to be inoperable at the time of the collision, is one of
the mysteries that has yet to be resolved in the investigation. What has been revealed, however, is that Brazilian air traffic control has significant gaps, is understaffed and is in a political and
organizational turmoil. The pilots have consistently denied any wrongdoing in the collision, in which a winglet on their aircraft is believed to have contacted the 737's wing, causing it to fail.
Initial reports blamed the pilots but subsequent investigations have been much less clear as to how the two aircraft, under air traffic control, ended up on a collision course at the same altitude of
European and North American aviation organizations are applauding the release of pilots Joe Lepore and Jan Paladino from Brazil and renewing
their call for criminal proceedings to be left out of the investigation of the accident. Lepore and Paladino were flying a Legacy 600 business jet that collided with a Gol Airlines Boeing 737 Sept.
29. And, while it might be too late in this case, the Flight Safety Foundation, the National Business Aviation Association, the International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers Associations,
the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation and the International Federation of Air Line Pilots Associations say the threat of criminal prosecution will hamper investigations because those
involved will be less forthcoming with information surrounding a crash if they think it might be used against them in court. "We recognize the right of judicial authorities to commence a criminal
investigation, but it must be independent of the safety investigation, and the evidence obtained by the safety investigation may not be used by the criminal investigations," the letter reads. The groups also point out that crash investigations can take years to conclude, while criminal cases can be dealt
with more quickly and that means that criminal convictions "proven" in court could be invalidated by the findings of the investigation. The group says putting the emphasis on blame, rather than cause,
could hamper accident prevention efforts. "We understand the need for a grieving public to want to see justice served, and we do not seek to put anyone above the law," the group's letter says.
"However, criminal investigations into aviation accidents like the one on Sept. 29 are at odds with efforts to discover root causes of accidents and avoid future mistakes."
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Onex Corp. together with Goldman Sachs might have entered into exclusive negotiations for the acquisition of Raytheon Aircraft
Company (RAC), according to a report published Thursday in The Wichita Eagle. The arrangement would allow the potential buyer access to company records providing information necessary to
determine the exact position of Raytheon Aircraft as final details of the potential deal are reached. Though RAC recently added employees and announced plans to add more, a new owner would likely seek
to cut operating costs (possibly by outsourcing) or launch a new product (such as a very light jet). Both options would reallocate human resources. While exclusive negotiations allow a prospective
buyer more ready access to information critical to the decision making process, they also require more investment toward research. The risk to RAC is that, if after further investigation and
investment a bidder withdraws from exclusive negotiations, the perceived value of the company to other potential bidders would likely drop, as would their bids.
On Aug. 1, Raytheon Company entered into a retention agreement with James E. Schuster, Executive Vice President of the company
and CEO of Raytheon Aircraft Company (RAC). The agreement attempts to secure
retention of and secures compensation for Schuster in the case that he stays on through the company's then stated goals of seeking "strategic alternatives" for RAC (which includes a potential sale of
that business). In short, if Schuster remains with RAC until it is sold and does not leak "confidential" information leading up to that sale, he will receive "a lump sum payment of one times his
annual base salary plus annual target bonus." But there's more. According to the arrangement, "Mr. Schuster may also be entitled to receive an additional lump sum payment of two times his annual base
salary plus annual target bonus dependent upon the terms of his employment by any successor entity to RAC."
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Air traffic safety has improved dramatically since ATC-related accidents in Milan and Uberlingen, Germany, according a report issued by the European
Organization for the Safety of Air Navigation (Eurocontrol). The group says the average "level of air traffic safety mechanisms" among the 42 countries whose airspace management systems it represents
is now 70 percent, up from 55 percent in 2002, while regulators have lagged behind at 65 percent. It seems like an average of extremes, however, since more than 25 percent of European countries
achieved scores above 90 percent. It would then follow that the bottom quarter is somewhere below the 50-percent mark. The Eurocontrol release did not give a country-by-country breakdown of the safety
levels. After the runway collision in Milan between a business jet and an airliner and the midair collision that resulted in the Uberlingen crash, Eurocontrol embarked on what it said was an ambitious
effort to ramp up safety programs among its members. It set 70 percent as the target minimum and says it's now working to make it the minimum level, rather than the average. While we are very
happy with the progress that has been made over the past four years, we cant stop there. The 70-percent average score is encouraging, but we would like to see all states grow rapidly to this
level," said Dr. Erik Merckx, Deputy Director Air Traffic Management Programmes at Eurocontrol. "The predicted traffic increase in Europe, as well as the accidents occurred this year, clearly shows us
that further improvement is still necessary."
Well, we don't expect to sit beside him while we're putting our shoes back on after security at the airport, but Britain's Prince
Charles says he's going to skip the convenience of private transport as his sacrifice to help save the planet. Starting in February (no point in rushing these things), Charles reportedly intends to
make more use of commercial airlines, trains and biodiesel-powered cars to commute between his various castles and his princely appointments, rather than hop on a private helicopter or bizjet. A
spokesman for the prince says he's determined to "reduce our carbon footprint" and will be taking a variety of measures to lighten his considerable environmental load. "Wherever possible, we will be
making less use of helicopters and chartered planes and rely more on car journeys, scheduled flights and trains," the unidentified spokesman told reporters. The prince is having wood-chip fired
boilers installed at his three homes, is looking for environmentally sustainable power sources for the castles and will be monitoring greenhouse gas emissions from his food-processing company, Duchy
Originals. He's also converting his Jaguar and Land Rover to run on biodiesel. It's a family affair, too. His mom, Queen Elizabeth II, recently rode a public train for the first time (she's in her
80s) and has given up Brittania, the royal yacht.
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China is expected to launch two satellites next year that will start its GPS constellation. The Beidou (Compass) satellites will
provide coverage for most of China and some neighboring countries before the country launches the remaining 33 satellites to yield worldwide coverage. The plan was confirmed by state-controlled news
services last week. The open frequency from the system will give navigational accuracy to 10 meters, with speed accuracy to within 0.2 meters per second and timing accuracy to within 50 nanoseconds.
The "authorized" service will be better on all three counts. The news services said China isn't necessarily going to keep the system to itself and is willing to cooperate with other countries to make
it compatible. There are three GPS systems in operation. The U.S. Air Force's system was operational in 1978, the Russians built theirs in the 1980s and the European Galileo system was begun in 2002.
China's system will ultimately include five geostationary satellites and 30 medium orbit satellites.
Former FAA Director of Oceanic and Offshore Services David Ford, who led a series of successful initiatives to make
airspace more efficient, has joined Rannoch Corporation. Ford recently retired from the FAA after a 31-year career. He led the team that developed the Advanced Technologies and Oceanic Procedures
(ATOP) system that allowed a reduction in lateral separation of transoceanic flights from 300 miles to 100 miles. Ford also helped develop a daily tracking system for transoceanic flights and helped
develop airport surface movement monitoring systems using ADS-B and multilateration. At Rannoch, Ford will be the vice president of strategic operations, where he'll manage development and
implementation of ADS-B and multilateration gear "to improve air traffic safety, capacity and efficiency for the next generation of air traffic management," according to Rannoch. Ford said that to accommodate increasing air traffic, the world's airspace management agencies need new
gear. "The world's leading aviation authorities have recognized that the growth in air travel cannot be effectively and safely accommodated with today's radar infrastructure and are looking to our
core technologies to help manage the next-generation airspace," said Ford.
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Cecil County commissioners have voted to keep studying the possible construction of a relatively large county airport on land near
I-95. The county has been given an FAA grant to study the feasibility of an airport and gauge public opinion. The commissioners are looking for an airport that can handle corporate jets. Raintree
Airport, the existing private facility now serving the county, doesn't cater to bizjets but it is undergoing expansion. The commissioners insist their airport won't compete directly with the private
airport. Consultants have now narrowed the search to two sites and will concentrate on picking the best one, if it's determined that an airport is needed or wanted. Were trying to get this
down to one site, but theres ample opportunity for this to not even happen, consultant Mike Waibel said.
The owner of a farm where Comair Flight 5191 crashed has sued the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Airport Board over its
valuation of the property, which it would need to lengthen the runway that the regional jet mistakenly took off from. According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, Elkhorn Bend, a limited liability company that owns the 115-acre property off
the end of 3,500-foot Runway 26, paid $748,000 for the land in 2005. Now it says it's worth $3.4 million. A certified appraisal commissioned by the airport board pegged the value at $1.75 million last
May. Elkhorn Bend filed the suit Nov. 28, saying the county intends to acquire the property through condemnation and the suit is intended to prevent it from paying too little. Elkhorn Bend owner Nick
Bentley approached the airport board about the possible sale well before the crash, and the county agreed to commission an appraisal. The airport board is considering a long-range plan to expand
Runway 26 to 5,000 feet, but no decisions have been made. Airport Executive Director Mike Gobb said the board is interested in the property at what it considers a fair price and no condemnation
proceedings have started. "He's [Bentley] a willing seller because he approached us. We've not initiated any condemnation," Gobb said. "Our appraisal does not match with his asking
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Buttressing its argument with the negative effect on small business and significant logistical obstacles that prevent the law from fully
achieving its goals, AOPA has filed a federal lawsuit against New York state's pilot criminal background check requirement. More to the point: "This law is unnecessary, discriminatory, anti-business
and ineffective," said AOPA president Phil Boyer, "and it violates the U.S. Constitution." AOPA further argues that because Congress has enacted legislation to create a single system of aviation
security regulation to be maintained by the federal government, any state attempt to do so is therefore preempted. [more]
If allowed, the potential for conflicting or wholly inconsistent laws
adopted by separate states could frustrate the purpose of security regulation, argues AOPA. Presently, the New York law presents a clear logistical problem due its requirement that background checks
go through the FBI, AOPA says. It adds that the FBI will not provide access to its criminal database when the information "is to be provided to a third party." This, according to AOPA, means the FBI's
national database would be off limits to those tasked with searching it and only local criminal histories would be accessible, resulting in severely compromised screening. AOPA's lawsuit also
represents small businesses financially affected by the law -- at least two plaintiffs (a flight school and a flying club) have been unable to continue with training due in part to the law's
requirements, according to the suit.
A hangar tenant at Washington state's Pierce County Airport (Thun Field) is trying to rally local pilots against hangar and tie-down
rent increases that he claims are at least immoral and may be unconstitutional. John Prukop, "organizer" of the Thun Field Pilots' Association, says the proposed increase (to $197 a month) was
approved at the Nov. 21 meeting of the local county board, only three days after most tenants at the airport received notice. He claims the increase is unjustified because there have been no
improvements to the already-substandard hangars (no doors, leaking roofs) and there's no economic justification because the airport is debt free and covering its costs. But what he says particularly
rankles him is that the county ordinance wording appears to apply retroactive rate increases for 2004, 2005 and 2006 in a section that says "Pierce County Public Works and Utilities is proposing an
increase to the fees representing a 5-percent increase per year for the years 2004, 2005 and 2006." Whether that's a violation of laws that prohibit backdating is a matter for linguists and lawyers to
decide, but Prukop says there's no doubt pilots are underrepresented in the political structure that decides such things. According to Prukop, the Thun Field Advisory Commission, a 12-member board
that is the local council's eyes and ears at the airport, is composed mostly of non-pilots, some of whom are actively anti-airport. Pierce County does have a referendum mechanism in place to fight
council-approved ordinances and Prukop and his group have started that process, which means the fee hikes are on hold for at least three months.
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The Thunderbirds will perform at the Gathering of Mustangs and Legends Sept. 27 to Sept. 30 in Columbus. More than two-thirds of the world's 150 flyable P-51s are expected at the event, which will
also honor 51 legendary figures involved with the storied fighter
The closure of a short runway has prompted expansion at Allegheny County Airport in West Mifflin, Pa. The runway is being turned into a taxiway because it doesn't meet FAA standards and that's opened
up a swath of land for development, including new hangars and a $15 million expansion of the Voyager Jet Center
Maybe the sleigh was in for an annual. Santa Claus used a helicopter to drop in on EAA's annual Christmas in the Air celebration at EAA headquarters in Oshkosh, Wis., over the weekend
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has written FAA Administrator Marion Blakey opposing the possible movement of two LAX runways closer to a residential area. The runway project is one option
expected to make the airport more efficient but the mayor says he's not convinced it's worth the impact on residents of the Westchester area of the city
Former Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta is among 10 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Mineta and the other recipients will receive the honor from President George W. Bush on Dec.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. You're a part of our team ... often, the best part.
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Pelican's Perch #81: It's a Jungle Down There Brazil's courts held two U.S. bizjet pilots for two months without charges, seemingly on the
assumption they were at fault for a midair collision with a 737. AVweb's John Deakin has flown into Brazil many times and he thinks otherwise.
AVweb posts audio news on Mondays, plus a new in-depth interview each Friday. In last Friday's podcast, you'll find an interview with NATA President Jim Coyne. And AVweb's podcast
index includes interviews with Eclipse Aviation's Vern Raburn; Honda Aircraft's Jeffrey Smith; Cirrus Design cofounder and CEO Alan Klapmeier; Cessna chairman, president and CEO Jack Pelton; and
Spectrum Aeronautical chairman Linden Blue. In today's news summary, hear about what's next for the Legacy midair pilots now that they're
back home, the possible acquisition if Raytheon Aircraft by Onex, safer ATC in Europe, China's proposed GPS system and more. Remember: In AVweb's podcasts, you'll hear things you won't find anywhere
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AVweb reader Mack Secord said he received real Southwestern hospitality at the county-run facility.
"After more than nine hours of flying in our Skylane, we were ready to call it a day when we selected Borger, Texas, as our overnight stop. Almost before the prop stopped turning, Ronnie Wood and
his crew had chocked and tied down the airplane, unloaded our baggage and positioned the fuel truck for a load of 100LL at $3.05 per gallon. When we asked about a place to stay, they promptly made us
reservations at a new nearby motel, suggested three local restaurants and gave us the keys to a Crown Victoria sedan (at no charge). On departure the next morning, they arranged for a simply stunning
sunrise as they wished us farewell. (I'll be submitting the photo of that sunrise for 'Picture of the Week!') This was Southwestern hospitality at its finest."
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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. And if we use a video you recommend on AVweb, we'll send out an official AVweb baseball cap as a "thank you."
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We were in our Seneca performing the pre-takeoff run-up at Orlando Executive Airport when we heard this exchange on ground control frequency:
Cessna: Orlando ground, Cessna Two Three Four, clear of the active.
Ground: Cessna Two Three Four, taxi to the ramp.
Cessna (still on ground frequency but thinking he'd switched to unicom 122.95): Executive Air...ah, this is Cessna Two Three Four...we're going to need some gas.
Ground: I've got plenty of gas, but I don't think it'll work very well in your airplane. Try Executive Air on 122.95.
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WHO BRING YOU TODAY'S NEWS AND FEATURES AT NO COST TO YOU
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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 Contributing Editors Russ Niles (bio) and Glenn Pew (bio).
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