AVwebFlash Complete Issue: Volume 12, Number 50a

December 11, 2006

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
In Print & Online, Trade-A-Plane Has Everything That Keeps You Flying
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Pilots Freed; What Next? back to top 

U.S. Legacy Pilots Charged In Brazil, But Allowed To Leave

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.

What's Next For Legacy Pilots?

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 37,000 feet.

Aviation Groups Applaud Release

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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Raytheon Aircraft Sale Down To The Wire? back to top 

The Hunt For Raytheon Aircraft's Buyer

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.

Sale Of Raytheon Aircraft Encouraged Behind The Scenes?

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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News Briefs back to top 

European Skies "Safer," Report Says

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 can’t 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."

Prince Charles Flies "Green"

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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News Briefs back to top 

China Wants Its Own GPS

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.

FAA Top Gun Moves To Private Sector

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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News Briefs back to top 

Maryland Authorities Consider Airport

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. “We’re trying to get this down to one site, but there’s ample opportunity for this to not even happen,” consultant Mike Waibel said.

Crash Site Landowner Wants More Money

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 price."

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News Briefs back to top 

AOPA Takes On New York's Pilot Background Checks

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.

Pierce County Pilots Fighting Rent Increases

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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News In Brief back to top 

On The Fly

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. 15.

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

AVweb's Business AVflash

HAVE YOU SIGNED UP yet for AVweb's NO-COST twice monthly business newsletter, AVwebBiz? 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. Sign up today at http://www.avweb.com/profile/.

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New On AVweb back to top 

New Articles and Features on AVweb


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.

Reader feedback on AVweb's news coverage and feature articles


AVmail: Dec. 11, 2006
Reader mail this week about progress in light jet development, TFR violations and more.

AVweb Audio News

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 else.

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FBO Of The Week back to top 

FBO Of The Week: Hutchinson County Airport

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

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Hutchinson County Airport at KBGD in Borger, Texas.

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."

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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Video Of The Week back to top 

Video of the Week: World's Smallest Twin-Engine Airplane

Recommend a Video | VOTW Archive

Here's a YouTube clip that will have you reading through the comments and trying to make up your mind. Originally posted by user meetmrglock, this one has tongues wagging.

The world's smallest twin-engine airplane:

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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. 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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The Lighter Side Of Flight back to top 

Short Final

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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Pilots Comment After Reading IFR: A Structured Approach:
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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 Contributing Editors Russ Niles (bio) and Glenn Pew (bio).

Click here to send a letter to the editor. (Please let us know if your letter is not intended for publication.)

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