AVwebFlash Complete Issue: Volume 13, Number 4a

January 22, 2007

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Tiger Aircraft Declares Bankruptcy back to top 

$1 Million Debt Too Much For Aircraft Manufacturer?

Tiger Aircraft LLC ended a long and tortured journey to bankruptcy on Tuesday with a formal filing in West Virginia court. And, based on the company's filing, almost everything (including a valid type certificate) needed to build a sporty airplane based on a proven design could be obtained for what amounts to chump change in most aerospace endeavors. Tiger's filing says it owes its various creditors about $930,000 while its assets, including parts and tooling, total more than $3.26 million. In 1999 Tiger obtained the type certificate for the four-place, 180-hp low-wing airplane with the unique sliding canopy and started production in 2001 in Martinsburg, W. Va. The company built only a handful of aircraft and began laying off staff last year. By November, the company announced its buildings were for sale in a last-ditch attempt to raise capital.

Taiwanese Investors Hold Majority in Tiger Aircraft

The Tiger Aircraft bankruptcy filing shows that 70 percent of Tiger is owned by three Taiwanese investors. However, the lone American investor, Teleflex Inc. of Limerick, Pa., also shows up as the company's biggest creditor. According to the filing, Tiger owes Teleflex, which makes parts for the aerospace, marine and automotive industries, $356,000. Other major creditors include former CEO Gene Criss, who's owed about $150,000 in back wages and benefits, and there's a tax bill of about $115,000. There's a total of about 100 creditors and they've all been invited to a meeting Feb. 15 to see where things will go from here. According to AOPA, it appears that politics in Taiwan killed the American dream for the Martinsburg group. The project was apparently abandoned by the Taiwanese investors as a result of political changes in Taiwan.

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ATC Workload, Staffing Eyed back to top 

ATC Staffing: Hires, Fires And Retires

On Thursday, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) said statistics published in the FAA's “Administrator’s Fact Book” shows that ATC staffing levels have dropped "to a new low" after a third straight year of decline. This year's decline is defined by the loss of 21 people and represents a slight negative shift in staffing levels, or a change from 14,227 controllers in 2005 to 14,206 in 2006. That said, in 2003 (the high water mark for staffing) the controller population reached 15,386 -- a full 7.7% more controllers than we have today. [more] Last year, 734 controllers retired, eclipsing the FAA’s projection to Congress by 57 percent, according to NATCA. “Rather than ‘staffing to traffic’ as the FAA states publicly is its new mission, the agency appears to be following a new policy: ‘staffing to budget,’” NATCA president Patrick Forrey stated. "Our greatest challenge today, besides the distraction of the imposed work rules, is maintaining the margin of safety knowing the level of redundancy has been whittled away to its bare minimum." The FAA did not return repeated calls seeking comment, but the agency's latest Flight Plan performance report claims it is on target for controller hiring and overall staffing.

PATCO Says Contract Towers Understaffed, Too

Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) President Ron Taylor says the controversy over staffing levels at FAA towers is overshadowing an even bigger problem at the 233 contract towers the agency oversees. Taylor has asked Rep. Tim Mahoney, D-Fla., to call for a congressional investigation of what he says is chronic understaffing at the contract towers, which typically serve small-to-medium non-hub airports. "In many cases, and at different times, these towers are staffed by only one controller, with no back up within the facility for any type of emergency,” Taylor claimed in a letter to Mahoney. "Staffing at these contract towers needs to be increased to ensure that the margin of safety is not compromised.” While the debate over staffing at the FAA-operated towers centers mainly on the maintenance of mandated staffing levels, Taylor claims that contract towers already have less than half the number of functional controllers on staff than comparably sized federal towers. "A typical FAA federal facility that runs 100,000 operations a year has on average 10 working controllers, while on average, the contract towers operate with only four." Taylor also notes that, according to an FAA assessment, contract towers have a better safety record than government towers, but he doesn’t address that apparent incongruity in his letter. The FAA was unavailable for comment over the weekend.

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News Briefs back to top 

Cirrus Offers Built-In Safety Reminder

If it’s not enough that your family is worried about you, your fellow pilots keep tabs and the whole aviation system is built around this notion, now your airplane can remind you to fly safely. Cirrus Design has introduced a feature on its Avidyne multifunction display that will invite some introspection along those lines. Those with revision 6 of the software for the system will get three pages displayed on startup that ask questions Cirrus CEO Alan Klapmeier thinks every pilot should answer before releasing the brakes. “As a Cirrus owner and pilot, I appreciate the friendly reminder to make sure that I am personally prepared to fly myself and my passengers safely to our destination,” Klapmeier said. “It was natural to add ‘Risk Assessment Tool’ as a function of the versatile Avidyne Entegra MFD.” Cirrus spokeswoman Kate Dougherty said the display grew out of Klapmeier’s letter to Cirrus owners about safety after three fatal accidents in October. The screens contain sections on limitations, weather, flight planning, passenger briefing, and readiness to fly and are designed to invite pilots to take stock of their abilities, conditions and other factors that could affect the outcome of the flight. It’s also available online to all pilots, regardless of the airplane(s) they fly.

TSA Starts Random Ramp Checks Of GA Aircraft

If you thought flying your own aircraft was a way to avoid the scrutiny of the Transportation Safety Administration, think again. While you’ll likely be able to keep your shoes on, don’t be surprised if a TSA official checks out you and your plane at any of the hundreds of U.S. airports with scheduled airline service. According to AOPA, the TSA isn’t concerned about the toothpaste you carry on your own plane, but it does want to make sure banned items don’t get smuggled aboard an airliner. AOPA’s Rob Hackman said it’s part of a larger effort to ensure contraband is kept off airliners. "While GA access points will be randomly checked with all other points of entry, GA is not being targeted," he said. Pilots in Melbourne, Fla., were briefed by a TSA official on the program at a meeting last Thursday. Meanwhile, some lawmakers are saying GA is getting a free ride in the security department, and they want the TSA to give private aircraft more attention. At a Senate committee hearing last week, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W. Va., contradicted popular belief (and perhaps some of the rules of physics) when he told the hearing that GA aircraft and their occupants should come under about the same level of scrutiny as commercial aircraft. "We're not taking the lessons of 9/11 seriously," Rockefeller said. "There is nothing written ... that small planes can't do catastrophic damage." He cited the accident in which New York Yankees' pitcher Cory Lidle's Cirrus SR20 hit a Manhattan apartment building as an example of the "significant damage" a small airplane can do, according to a report in GovExec.com. What he apparently neglected to mention was that while the crash caused a fire that damaged part of the building, the aircraft actually bounced off and landed in the street.

Nine-Year-Old Breaches Airport Security

OK, so he’s more capable and perhaps a little more driven than your average nine-year-old (or 39-year-old for that matter), but the fact remains that Samaj Booker got through several layers of security and came within one flight of reaching his destination of Dallas from his starting point at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport last week. According to an AFP report, Lieutenant David Guttu of the police department in Booker’s new hometown of Lakewood, Wash., described the four-foot-nine, 90-pound Booker as "pretty dedicated, highly motivated and focused" to make it back to Dallas, where his family had moved from a few months before. The boy managed to convince Southwest Airlines agents that he belonged on a plane to Phoenix, and was allowed to change planes for a flight to San Antonio, where suspicious agents finally put a stop to his trip. He got past the agents at Sea-Tac by convincing them he was 12 and that his mother was already on board the flight. Since the information matched a ticketless reservation in the system, he was allowed to board. His identity went unchecked in Phoenix where he walked onto another Southwest aircraft without a ticket for the flight to San Antonio. When he tried to make the final connection to Dallas, agents discovered he didn’t belong there and called police. It wasn’t his first attempt to get back to Dallas. The day before the flight, Lakewood police said he led officers on a high-speed chase in a stolen car, dodging a spike belt and finally stopping when the car had mechanical problems. With his grown-up abilities will likely come grown-up consequences. Authorities are contemplating a list of federal charges against the boy.

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News Briefs back to top 

Dark Runway "Weird" To Comair Pilot

The flying pilot in the crash of Comair Flight 5191 noted the runway was "weird with no lights" as he rolled the aircraft down the wrong runway. The cockpit voice recorder transcripts released by the NTSB also show co-pilot James Polehinke and captain Jefferey Clay talked about their kids and their dogs as they taxied to line up on that runway at the Lexington, Ky., airport (LEX) on the morning of Aug. 27. The chatter was in violation of an FAA regulation that bans "nonessential cockpit conversation" during taxi, takeoff and landing. The last word recorded was Clay saying "Whoa" just before the Bombardier regional jet smashed through a fence at the end of 3,500-foot Runway 26, became briefly airborne and crashed in a field, killing 49 people -- everyone on board except Polehinke, who lost a leg and suffered brain damage. The NTSB documents also identify Christopher Damron as the lone air traffic controller on duty at the time. As had already been widely reported, Damron's solitude was against FAA regulations. He cleared the aircraft to the correct runway and then turned away to do some paperwork, not watching as the airplane made a wrong turn. The FAA has since corrected the staffing situation at LEX and other airports, but the NTSB report appears to refocus the investigation on the actions of the pilots. Peter Goelz, a former managing director of the NTSB, told The Associated Press that while some cockpit chatter is normal, there was more than usual on Flight 5191 and "they will identify this extraneous conversation as a contributing factor." The NTSB also revealed that at least 16 people survived the crash but died in the subsequent fire.

U.S. Pilot Numbers Dip Below 600,000

Despite aggressive action -- including a whole new certificate classification -- to attract more people to flying, the number of certificated pilots in the U.S. dropped to 597,109, according to year-end preliminary stats released by the FAA. Rather than attract new pilots, the new Sport Pilot certificate appears to be extending the flying activity of older pilots. The average age of pilots as a whole was 45.6 years while the average of the 939 sport pilot holders was 52.9 years. AOPA’s mentorship program, Project Pilot, is reporting some success in encouraging people to learn to fly and there are plenty of instructors waiting. More than 90,000 pilots, almost one in six, are instructors. The stats also raise questions about the need or viability of the recreational certificate. Only 242 people have maintained those privileges. By far the biggest segment of pilots is private certificate holders (236,147) with ATP (144,681) and commercial (130,234) in second and third place. There are 84,866 student pilots and 41,306 with rotor ratings. A total of 37,837 pilots have glider ratings and 10,511 can fly balloons.

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News Briefs back to top 

FAA Approves New Zealand Training Aircraft

The Alpha 160A, an adaptation of the French-designed Robin R2160, has been granted FAA certification, and New Zealand-based Alpha Aviation says there’s strong interest in the aerobatic two-seater among flight schools in the U.S. "Our aircraft have already proven to be of considerable interest to United States aero clubs and flying schools,” said Alpha’s managing director, Richard Sealy. “FAA certification will now enable us to actively market and sell our aircraft in this hugely significant market," he said. Alpha bought the rights to the designs from Apex Aviation in France in 2004 and set up a manufacturing plant in Hamilton, NZ. All the plans have been translated from French and the design updated. Although only one model is certified in the U.S., the company makes two others, a basic trainer and a touring version of the 160A.

Age-60 Decision Near

FocusFAA, the FAA’s internal newsletter, says the online publication of the report of a committee looking at the contentious mandatory retirement of airline pilots at age 60 means FAA Administrator Marion Blakey is close to making a decision. And if we're reading between the lines correctly, it would appear Blakey is prepared to fall in line with other members of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and allow pilots to keep flying until age 65 as long as there's another pilot younger than 60 in the cockpit with them. However, the newsletter says Blakey might need some legislative help to shield the government from a rash of lawsuits that could result from the move. The committee, which considered 18,000 comments from 5,500 people, recommended that the rule not be applied retroactively, meaning those who reach 60 before it goes into effect will not be allowed to get their jobs back. The newsletter says that if Blakey lacks the clout, "federal legislation might be required to protect companies and unions from lawsuits that might arise if pilots older than 60 claim age discrimination or other employment issues." There was no speculation when Blakey might make her move.

Going Batty For Future Mini-UAV Design

Birds may be prettier, but bats have all the moves when it comes to maneuverability and aerodynamic efficiency, according to a study by Brown University researchers. Using sophisticated video gear, the study team found that while birds can rotate and retract their wings in flight, bats have much more flexibility in the articulating membrane they use for flight and this makes them much more agile. And since agility, flexibility and efficiency are also great qualities in micro-sized UAVs that are proliferating, the Brown team says there are lessons to be learned from bats. "Bats have unique capabilities," said Kenneth Breuer, an engineering professor at Brown who did the study with Sharon Swartz, an associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology. "But the goal is not to build something that looks like a bat. We want to understand bat flight and be able to incorporate some of the features of bat flight into an engineered vehicle." Bat wings are made up of an assortment of articulated joints that allow them to make the most of the energy they expend in flight. The extraordinary flexibility also allows them to perform aerobatics unique to them, like 180-degree turns in the space of less than half a wingspan. The researchers used cameras synchronized from four points of view, lasers and an aerosol mist to record and study the animals' aeronautical actions. But there’s more at play than scientific interest and academic advances. The Air Force’s Office of Scientific Research funded the project.

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News In Brief back to top 

On The Fly

The captain of a Continental Airlines flight suffered a "serious medical condition" and later died Saturday after the aircraft, with 210 people on board, took off from Houston bound for Puerto Vallarta. The first officer diverted to McAllen-Miller International Airport, where a fresh crew took the holidayers the rest of the way...

In case you missed it on TV, a television news helicopter pilot saved a deer by using his rotor wash to push it across an ice-covered lake in Oklahoma last week…

Gene (“Failure is not an option”) Kranz will be the honored guest at the Southwest Regional Fly-In in Hondo, Texas, June 1-2. Kranz was the mission control commander who helped guide the Apollo 13 mission to a safe conclusion…

Jet Stream Aviation Products has opened a school for aircraft detailing at Love Field in Dallas. The three-day course at the Jet Stream Aviation Cosmetic Detailing University teaches students how to safely and effectively clean all parts of a plane…

Yingling Aviation customers can now order parts online. The 24-hour service was added earlier this month. Yingling is the world’s largest supplier of Cessna parts…

Richard J. Millman has been named president and CEO of Bell Helicopter and Textron’s Bell segment. Millman replaces Michael Redenbaugh, who recently resigned. Millman was head of Textron Systems and has worked for the company for 20 years…

A cat survived three weeks in the pressurized hold of a United Airlines plane before being discovered in Denver. Pumpkin was dehydrated and almost starved but is expected to be fine…

Citizens of the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Bermuda need passports to enter the U.S. by air starting tomorrow. A driver’s license and birth certificate used to be good enough…

Unconfirmed reports from Europe say UPS is ready to cancel its A380 order. The order for 10 aircraft is Airbus’s last remaining for the freighter version.

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 

Probable Cause #24


Probable Cause #24: Ice Box
This time of year, almost any forecast includes a chance for airframe ice. Here's why to pay attention.

AVmail: Jan. 22, 2007


AVmail: Jan. 22, 2007
Reader mail this week about TFRs at the border, too many spins, the Comair crash and more.

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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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 AOPA's Kathleen Vascouselos. And AVweb's podcast index includes interviews with Maule Air's Mikel Boorom; Professsional Aviation Maintenance Association president Brian Finnegan; aviation forecaster Richard Aboulafia; NORAD; Bill Lear, Jr.; NATA President Jim Coyne; Eclipse Aviation's Vern Raburn; Honda Aircraft's Jeffrey Smith; and Cirrus Design cofounder and CEO Alan Klapmeier. In today's news summary, hear about Tiger Aircraft's bankruptcy filing, staffing problems at contract control towers, TSA security ramp checks for GA aircraft, the FAA's imminent decision on the age-60 rule 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: LaSill Aviation

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

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to LaSill Aviation at KLAW in Lawton, Okla.

AVweb reader Gerrit Paulsen said the facility consistently provides great service.

"I fly in to KLAW several times a month on business and have received top-notch service from the great folks at LaSill Aviation every time. My first experience with LaSill was early last year, shortly after they opened. I arrived after-hours on a Sunday evening, just as Bill Tipton was climbing into his truck to go home. He cheerfully reopened the FBO, fueled and hangared my Cirrus, and then insisted on giving me a ride to the hotel rather than calling a taxi — and then refused the 'gas money' I offered as thanks. Since then I have come to expect that Bill, Chris Pittman and the rest of the team at LaSill will anticipate my needs and then make it happen with a smile. On a recent visit when I arrived with the finish on my airplane looking a bit dull, Chris and Bill offered to wax the plane while I was in town and did a terrific job at a reasonable price. On my visit there last week my Hertz rental car magically appeared planeside, even though I had not made any prior arrangements to have it delivered from the airline terminal. Fuel is competitively priced as is overnight hangar space."

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: Whidbey Island Mooney Approach

Recommend a Video | VOTW Archive

Don't try this one at home kids – midfield landing on a short strip in a Mooney, with no "out" due to the pilot's long landing and tall trees all around the airport. It's too bad we don't have Smell-O-Vision yet, because you'd actually be able to smell the rubber burn when he locks the brakes to avoid a runway overrun.

(Originally submitted to YouTube by user gsmac1969.)

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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."

The Lighter Side Of Flight back to top 

Short Final

Heard on Denver approach frequency

Approach: Great Lakes One Twenty Three, traffic six o'clock, two miles, 1000 feet above you, a 737.

Great Lakes: Approach, Great Lakes One Twentv-Three, if I told you I could see him, I'd be lyin'.

Approach: If you told me you could see him, you'd be my mother, 'cause you'd have eves in the back of your head.

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.