AVwebFlash - Volume 12, Number 51a

December 18, 2006

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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DOT OIG Audits Airspace Use For FAA Funding Flap

The Department of Transportation's Office of Inspector General is planning to conduct an audit of the National Airspace System (NAS) that could become a key point of information for the looming battle over how to fund the FAA. In an internal memo obtained by AVweb, David Tornquist, the DOT's Assistant Inspector General for Competition and Economic Analysis, sets as his goal nothing less than putting a dollar figure on each type of airspace usage in the context of the various funding alternatives currently being bandied about for the FAA. "Evaluating these alternatives requires a common understanding of who currently uses the NAS and how that usage affects the FAA's costs and how closely the alternatives mirror use of FAA services," the memo reads. The process began July 31 with a request from then-Aviation Subcommittee Chairman John Mica, R-Fla., to have the OIG nail down the basis for the myriad issues that will be raised by the FAA's seeming intention to abandon the current method of funding -- fuel, ticket and cargo waybill taxes -- in favor of a pay-as-you-go system based on cost impact to the NAS. General aviation groups are opposing the user-fee initiative while airlines are supporting it.

FAA Funding Alternatives On The Table

The DOT OIG memo gives some insight into the ideas being explored for renovating the FAA's funding structure. "Measures under consideration include charging for aircraft departures, passenger emplanements, aircraft weight, flight distance and time-in-system," the memo reads. "FAA is also exploring the feasibility of cost-based user fees." Among the items on the agenda for the OIG auditors, which will be of great interest to business aviation folks, is an assessment of whether jet fuel consumption makes a good basis for estimating cost to the FAA for air traffic services. DOT OIG representatives met with FAA officials in September to discuss the enormity of the audit. In addition to the jet fuel analysis, the OIG has set as its goals for the audit to determine who uses the different elements of the NAS throughout a typical day, whether these users can be grouped in a meaningful manner based on system use and how each group's use of the system contributes to the FAA's costs. There's no indication of how long the audit might take.

User-fee Issue Looms Large

AOPA didn’t comment directly on the content of the DOT OIG memo, but said it’s an indication of the way things may shape up in coming months in Washington. AOPA spokesman Chris Dancy said the OIG study came at the request of Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., last summer and AOPA knew it was coming. Dancy said the Government Accountability Office is undertaking a similar study. “Taken together, the two studies indicate the significance both the Administration and Congress place on the FAA Reauthorization bill, and reinforce AOPA's resolve to defend general aviation by preventing a shift of user fees or an excessive increase in taxes,” Dancy told AVweb. [more] AOPA, the National Business Aviation Association, EAA and the General Aviation Manufacturers Association have formed a united front in the past year to battle what appears to be a determined effort by the FAA, with backing from the airlines, to fundamentally alter the funding mechanism of the FAA. The shift seems to especially target business aviation and the references to jet fuel in the OIG memo seem to back that up. FAA Administrator Marion Blakey has suggested that avgas-powered aviation sectors will not be significantly affected by the proposed funding structure, but the leaders of aviation groups say it would only be a matter of time before that sector is targeted.

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News Briefs back to top 

Is Diamond Taking On Cirrus, Columbia, Mooney?

A report out of Eastern Europe suggests Diamond Aircraft is ready to mix it up in the 200+ knot piston single range. The Ukrainian Web site wing.com.ua is reporting that Diamond intends to build a 350-hp, five-place, fixed-gear airplane that promises to be the “most spacious” of piston aircraft in its class. There’s nothing on the Diamond Web site to confirm this, and the company's North Amertican office in London, Ontario, was closed for the weekend when we called, but the platform suggests an adaptation of the D-Jet configuration, which also has room for five. Power is said to come from unnamed avgas and diesel mills. Stay tuned…

Brazil Midair: Police Release Preliminary Report

On Wednesday, a preliminary police report released in Brazil said U.S. pilots Joseph Lepore and Jan Paladino could have prevented the Sept. 29 midair that killed 154 people when the Legacy jet they were flying collided with a Gol Airlines 737 if they had noticed their transponder was turned off, according to The Associated Press. The two men returned home to New York on Dec. 9 after being detained by authorities in Brazil for more than two months. According to the police report, the Legacy's transponder was turned off for at least 50 minutes before the crash and turned on two minutes after, but the report does not determine whether the pilots or the instrument itself failed. Police investigators have asked for an extra 30 days before presenting a final report. A judge will then decide whether an indictment and trial will follow.

Honeywell early in October said that the transponder aboard the Legacy jet was not subject to an airworthiness directive that outlined deficiencies in some models, including their ability to erroneously go into standby mode if the flight crew takes longer than five seconds to change the ATC code. According to an NTSB report, in the last two-way communication the Legacy crew reported that it was at FL370. ATC acknowledged and instructed the crew to "ident." Radar indicates that the ident was observed. But Brazil's ATC software is badly designed, according to the International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers Associations (IFATCA). IFATCA believes that operators in the air (the pilots) and on the ground (the controllers) fell victim to systems traps brought on by non-error-tolerant, and poor system design of, air traffic control and flight equipment in use. Presently, Brazilian police allege that pilot negligence contributed to the accident. If a court eventually agrees, then Lepore and Paladino could face up to 12 years in prison.

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News Briefs back to top 

Grob Jet Program Proceeds

Grob Aerospace says European certification of its SPn business jet has been pushed back about six months to early 2008 due to the crash of the second prototype on a demonstration flight in Germany on Nov. 29. The crash -- which occurred near the manufacturer’s Mattsies-Tussenhausen, Germany facility -- killed test pilot Gérard Guillaumaud. While the company awaits the cause of the accident from German authorities, work is proceeding on a new test aircraft, which should be flying in the New Year. In a news release, CEO Niall Oliver said Grob remains committed to developing the $7 million jet and that customers have been “superb” in their understanding and reaction to the tragedy. The SPn is a carbon-fiber 10-place “utility” jet that Grob says will have a range of 1,800 nm with seven of the seats filled. The company says the airplane will have the most advanced glass cockpit of any aircraft in its class (Honeywell Primus Apex) and will also be able to use grass and gravel strips. Minimum runway at MTOW is 3,000 feet.

Aircraft Drown Out Nature?

Residents of Pacific Palisades, Calif., are complaining that increased jet and helicopter traffic is affecting their quality of life. A story in the Palisadian Post even suggests a cover-up, of sorts. "I have a neighbor who used to sunbathe nude,” laments one unnamed resident of Marques Knolls. “But she stopped because she felt as if her privacy was violated by all the low-flying airplanes and helicopters.” According to the Post, jet traffic is up 1,400 percent in the last 23 years and helicopter flights now make up 3 percent of the operations in and out of nearby Santa Monica Airport (KSMO) and that’s making it hard to hear the birds and the bees. “The reason that the Palisades is so nice is that you can hear nature,” resident Hal Oliver told the Post. “But all these planes are changing that.” With the expansion of nearby LAX (and a proposed cap of 78 million passengers a year), more commercial activity could be coming to reliever airports like Ontario and Palmdale and that could push even more private and business aircraft to places like Santa Monica. But Santa Monica also lacks overrun areas at the ends of the runways and apparently lacks the room to add them. If the FAA insists, the only way to accommodate the overruns will be to shorten the runways, and that might restrict jet traffic.

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News Briefs back to top 

Fourth New York Airport Eyed

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has set aside $150 million to invest in a fourth major airport to serve the metropolitan area over the next 10 years and the favored location appears to be Stewart International Airport, about 50 miles north of the city. The airport is a former Air Force base and boasts a runway almost 12,000 feet long. It’s currently an Air National Guard base. There is scheduled air service by several airlines (including a shuttle to JFK). But despite these significant attributes, there’s another factor the Port Authority might find hard to ignore. The community seems to actually want the airport. The enthusiastic account of the Port Authority’s interest in Stewart by the local newspaper, the Times Herald Record, is accompanied by poll results that indicate overwhelming support for the idea among its readers. Of more than 1,500 people who responded to the poll, 79.2 percent were in favor of the airport development. Airport operator National Express Group has announced it wants to sell the 99-year lease it has on the airport, and the Port Authority has confirmed it’s among those interested in buying the lease.

FAA's Attempts To Stop Overruns

Brought into the headlines by overruns at acreage-challenged airports like Chicago and Teterboro, the FAA-approved engineered materials arresting system (EMAS) now crowns 21 runways at 16 airports, with four more airports and five runways due for the upgrade in the next year. Teterboro recently had one of the systems installed at the end of 6,015 foot Runway 6 to the tune of $8.5 million (all but $1 million covered by the FAA). That system was unwittingly put to use October 25, when a Challenger made a $15,000 wrong turn (estimated EMAS repair costs) on the way to the terminal. Teterboro Airport's second system will reside at the south end of Runway 18 following the relocation of Redneck Avenue.

EMAS spreads panels of crushable concrete 600 feet (or less) from the end of a runway to provide an overrun that slows aircraft progressively, sparing both the airplane and passengers from damage or injury. The wrong turn during taxi at Teterboro damaged about 15 of the panels and was soon followed by an Advisory Circular requiring that EMAS systems be repaired within 45 days of an overrun. The FAA has for about 20 years required that airports regulated under Part 139 safety rules maintain a standard runway safety area of 500 feet by 1000 feet beyond each runway. Airports built before enactment of that rule are among those that may suffer from close quarters with roads or similarly immobile obstacles, hence the need for EMAS.

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News Briefs back to top 

Another Great Year

The aerospace industry had record sales for the third year in a row, according to an analysis by the Aviation Industries Association (AIA). In its annual review of aviation commerce, AIA said total sales were up $14 billion to $184.4 billion, an increase of 8.4 percent over 2005. "It would be hard to overstate aerospace's positive contributions to our national economy, as evidenced by these very strong indicators," said AIA CEO John Douglass. He also noted that the total represented a positive trade balance of more than $52 billion and he said there’s no immediate end in sight. Military aircraft accounted for $52.8 billion, with civil aircraft a close second at $47.5 billion. Space programs accounted for $38.6 billion, while related products added $30.7 billion. Employment was also up by 23,000 to 635,000 people.

Aspen Avionics Fights Eclipse Suit

Aspen Avionics founders Peter Lyons and Jeff Bethel say their hazard awareness system retrofit for older aircraft was developed before they went to work for Eclipse Aviation and that invention and non-disclosure forms they signed with Eclipse weren’t valid. According to the Albuquerque Journal, Lyons and Bethel claim -- in a response to Eclipse’s October lawsuit over ownership of the AT300 Hazard Awareness Display -- that they developed the technology in 2001 and 2002, before joining Eclipse in late 2002. Lyons and Bethel also say the only invention and disclosure agreements they signed were during the interview process and not as employees of Eclipse. Eclipse claims the pair created the device and developed their business plan on company time. The AT300 has earned praise in aviation publications for its combination of performance, ease of installation and relatively low price. The device, which fits in a standard round instrument hole in the panels of light aircraft, provides terrain awareness when connected to a panel-mounted GPS and is certified to replace the existing vertical speed indicator in most aircraft. It earned FAA certification in 2005, and Aspen Avionics also applied for a patent that same year. Eclipse applied for a similar patent this past June.

AVweb Daily News Coverage

You can now get the latest general aviation news from AVweb -- the world's premier independent aviation news source -- as it happens at AVweb.com. Or sign up for our news feed and have the most recent headlines pushed directly to your RSS-based news reader. Either way, you'll be able to read the same concise, but comprehensive, news stories that you've come to expect from AVweb. And for major breaking general aviation news, AVweb will send out news alerts via e-mail to keep subscribers informed. Don’t worry -- you'll also continue to receive AVwebFlash every Monday and Thursday.
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News In Brief back to top 

On The Fly

A sting operation mounted by the Office of Inspector General and Department of Transportation has led to the conviction of a San Francisco man for falsifying his student helicopter pilot medical records. Michael Shelby Ascarte was sentenced to 10 hours of community service and six months probation for withholding the fact that he was on a disability pension for mental problems and substance abuse, either of which would have disqualified him…

Chevron will be the fuel supplier for a new private airport opening in Houston next month. Houston Executive, located west of Houston in Brookshire, will cater to business and GA traffic and plans ultimately call for a 7,000-foot runway…

Dozens of flights were delayed Friday when the only on-site radar at O’Hare went on the blink. A faulty switch caused the outage, which resulted in arrival rates being cut from 96 to 60 aircraft per hour as controllers used radar information from the Chicago TRACON. The FAA says a backup radar will be part of O’Hare’s expansion, but controllers say it should be installed now…

EADS Socata today appointed Dominique Malleville as Vice-President of Industry and Aerostructures business. He replaces Christian Cornille, who is moving to Airbus France as Head of Improvement & Performance, Center of Excellence Nose & Central Fuselage…

The pilots of an Embraer Legacy that collided with a GOL Boeing 737 told NBC’s Today Show they did nothing wrong and the facts of the case will bear that out. Joe Lepore and Jan Paladino face criminal charges in Brazil for the collision, which resulted in 154 deaths when the 737 crashed.

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

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CEO of the Cockpit #65


CEO of the Cockpit #65: Walking on the Moon in Zip-Up Boots
Sure, pilots in space now are astronauts -- scientists or the cream of the jet jockies. But someday NASA will need regular service to and from the moon, and then...

Pilot Workshop #2


Pilot Workshop #2: GPS Tips for IFR Flight
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AVweb's Business AVflash

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Avweb Audio News back to top 

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 Bill Lear Jr. on light jet progress. And AVweb's podcast index includes interviews with NATA President Jim Coyne; 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 the DOT Inspector General is starting an audit to determine who is using U.S. airspace, Diamond Aircraft's possible foray into a high-performance piston single, the FAA's use of crushable concrete for runway arresting systems and more. Remember: In AVweb's podcasts, you'll hear things you won't find anywhere else.

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Just in Time for Holiday Gift-Giving — Artful Flying
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FBO Of The Week back to top 

FBO Of The Week: North American Aviation KRFD

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

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to North American Aviation at KRFD in Rockford, Illinois.

AVweb reader Wayne Phillips said he's treated like a rock star at this FBO.

"No matter what size airplane you fly in, they treat you like a rock star. They also keep 100LL prices low for a big airport ($3.85), have no ramp fees, have put my Skylane in their hangar when the weather gets bad at no cost, have driven me to my mom's house 12 miles away to avoid rental car or cab fees and have let me use their courtesy car overnight. These guys deserve the recognition!"

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: Near-Miss with a T-38 Trainer

Recommend a Video | VOTW Archive

Our latest "Video of the Week" is nail-biting footage of what's often called a "near-miss" — although they're more accurately called "near-mid-air-collisions." Watch as one pilot gets a little too close for comfort to a T-38 trainer in this clip posted to YouTube by smkenney7 and marked as being from Randolph Air Force Base:

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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 flying from Chatham, Massachusetts to Nantucket with flight following from Cape approach. The weather was marginal VFR with heavy haze and reasonably poor visibility when out of the mist we heard this on the air:

Cape approach: "Cessna Four Five Six, are you aware that you are heading toward a restricted area?"

Cessna: "No, I wasn't aware of a restricted area. What's in there?"

Cape approach: "It's some type of microwave installation."

Cessna: "Yup, I see a tower ahead."

Cape approach: "That's the tower I want you to miss. If you fly near that tower, it could ruin all your equipment, and you'll never have anv children."

Cessna: "Roger that. Turning now..."



Power Flow Is Now FAA-Approved for the Diamond DA40
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Pilots Comment After Reading IFR: A Structured Approach:
"The GPS chapter alone is worth getting the book. It's the best instrument flying book I have ever read," states Fred Scott. "If one book could help you make the leap from a bit player to a skilled conductor of instrument flight, this is probably it," reads a November 2003 AOPA Pilot review. With the help of this book, you will establish your personal standard of IFR operating practices, including incorporation of checklists, flows, callouts, briefings, and the "fly by the numbers" method of aircraft control. Order online.

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.)

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.

Aviate, navigate, communicate.