AVwebFlash Complete Issue: Volume 13, Number 6a

February 5, 2007

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Top News back to top 

God Really Was Troubled King Air Crew's Copilot

A King Air B200 landed Friday at Cape Giardeau, Mo., with a cracked windshield, buckled skins and much of its horizontal stabilizer gone, but the beginning of this story is just as interesting. John Taylor was acting as Flight Nurse aboard an aeromedical helicopter in the area that day transporting a specialty team when his pilot said he saw something nearby fall and hit the ground. Taylor and his pilot looked around and quickly diverted to avoid falling debris. There was a King Air almost directly above them, and it was in trouble. At 27,000 feet, the King Air crew had experienced windshield failure. Sheldon Stone, the 4,200-hour ATP-rated pilot at the controls, and copilot Adam Moore donned their oxygen masks and depressurized the aircraft to prevent the windshield from blowing out. Stone twisted the valve to begin the flow of oxygen but felt it wasn't coming. And that's when things got really bad.

"We were both getting drunk really fast. I remember thinking, really slowly, 'Hey, I'm not getting any oxygen, what's wrong here?' But I was so loony already at that point I couldn't even solve the problem if it could be solved," Stone told The Southeast Missourian. The sole-occupant pilots passed out and came to with their aircraft nose down at 7,000 feet at a high rate of speed. They recovered with difficulty and declared an emergency, diverting to Cape Girardeau Airport (KCGI). Somewhere in the descent or recovery, the airframe had suffered structural damage, which was witnessed by Taylor and his pilot. "I thought I was home free," Stone told the newspaper, "but then I realized how hard it was to get the plane under control and I started to think, 'Wait a minute. This thing isn't over yet. I've got to find a way to land.'" The aircraft would pitch up when accelerated and down when slowed. Stone felt there was a window of control and picked a speed of 160 knots for approach. The aircraft landed at about 145 knots without further incident. Stone attributes his good fortune in part to the aircraft's heritage. The King Air was formerly owned by a Christian Assembly of God association combining that name with a holy number for its former registration, N777AG. The registration change to the current N777AJ now acknowledges "Assembly of Jesus."

AVweb's Glenn Pew spoke with Taylor about what he saw. Click here to listen.



FAA Budget Details Today

We should find out today just what all the FAA’s political maneuvering and posturing of the past year or so were intended to do as the Bush administration releases its 2008 budget request. Somewhere in those trillions of dollars is the government’s plan to reshape the way the FAA is funded, and it has aviation groups on pins and needles. It’s pretty obvious from the way FAA Administrator Marion Blakey has been talking in the past 18 months that some form of user-fee system will be proposed, and that’s sure to dominate the political agendas of the alphabet groups this year. The authorization for the system of taxes that currently funds about 75 percent of the FAA’s budget (25 percent comes from general revenue) runs out at the end of September and, since the budget being released today kicks in at the same time, it should paint a clear picture of how the FAA wants to change the funding methods. The airlines have been lobbying hard for a pay-as-you-go system of user fees that is estimated to shift about $2 billion of cost to general aviation. General aviation groups claim the current system of fuel, ticket and cargo taxes accurately reflects a fair funding split because most GA flights happen outside the highly congested airline hubs that suck up a disproportionate amount of the FAA’s time and money.

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Top News back to top 

Bizav Group Blasts FAA Position

The National Business Aviation Association has challenged FAA Administrator Marion Blakey to prove that the current system of funding the FAA is flawed. But in a news release issued last week, NBAA President Ed Bolen says the agency has declined those overtures and now appears determined to overhaul a system he says works just fine. "Some of the things said by the Administrator seemed at odds with decades of funding experience and the FAA's own information," Bolen said, referring to Blakey's response to questions last Tuesday at a National Press Club luncheon. For about 18 months, Blakey has been saying the current method of funding the FAA, through a GA fuel tax and airline ticket taxes, doesn't tie revenue to expenses and won't provide the funding needed to modernize the air traffic system. As the September deadline for FAA authorization looms closer, Bolen and other GA leaders have become more strident in their opposition.

Part of Bolen's angst is undoubtedly the fact that the business aviation sector appears to be singled out in the looming changes. Business aircraft have been referred to directly by those in favor of the changes (the airlines) as representing the inequity of the current system because they often share the airways with the aluminum tubes. At GA events, Blakey has been careful to try to assure the piston single crowd that they will not be overburdened with fees under the new regime, but she's also not offered any detail. Bolen says the current system of fuel taxes is the fairest, most responsive and simplest method of making GA pay its fair share. "The general aviation fuel tax is a very simple, accurate and efficient way to tie revenues to costs," Bolen said. "GA fuel taxes reflect how much people fly – the more you fly, the more fuel you burn, the more taxes you pay. However, they don't involve complicated formulas, require a big bureaucracy or turn the FAA Administrator into a tax czar. It is difficult to imagine a better funding mechanism."

AOPA Launches Preemptive Strike

Last week AOPA President Phil Boyer was in Washington, D.C., to brief the national media on the dark days that lie ahead if FAA Administrator Marion Blakey and the Bush administration hold sway on user fees. Boyer told the National Press Club that the real agenda is to cut Congress out of the decision-making process and to hand the National Airspace System over to the airlines. "They are attempting an end-around of Congress to put the world's safest, most efficient and largest air traffic control system into the hands of airline barons who've flown their own businesses into bankruptcy," Boyer said. As backup, Boyer brought along Ken Mead, the former Department of Transportation inspector general. [more] Mead told reporters that Congress has stepped in to derail misguided FAA initiatives, like the microwave landing system and the advanced automation system, projects that had gone far over budget and were out of control. "You need the checks and balances of the U.S. Congress," said Mead.

User Fees Not A Done Deal

Just because the Bush administration and FAA Administrator Marion Blakey want them doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll get the user-fee structure they seem to favor. The current incarnation of Congress is feeling its oats these days, and all the groundwork laid by the alphabet groups to curry favor with key members could pay off in those hallowed halls during the coming hearings and debates. According to Air Transport World, a key congressional aide is predicting the funding proposal could stall because the Democratic-controlled House isn’t convinced that wholesale changes are necessary. David Heymsfeld, majority staff director for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, told the American Bar Association’s Forum on Air and Space Law that the airlines’ motives are questioned by some. According to the ATW report, Heymsfeld said the feeling in Congress is that airlines are necessarily shortsighted on financial matters, and they’ve shown that with their reluctance to take part in airport modernization projects. The committee’s aviation subcommittee will be looking at the FAA funding request on Feb. 14 and the larger issue of reauthorization will likely be tackled sometime in March.

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News Briefs back to top 

Eclipse 500 Performance Enhancements Go Over The Top

In a letter sent Thursday to Eclipse Aviation customers, Vice President of Customer and Product Support Ken McNamara had good news to share regarding the performance enhancements for the Eclipse 500 very light jet. He said the company has "demonstrated that we have exceeded our performance guarantees of speed and range" for the Pratt & Whitney PW610F-powered twinjet. According to the letter, N505EA – which has been retrofitted to the so-called “B model” configuration -- flew last week with "production-quality performance modifications" and achieved 372 ktas (two knots more than the 370-knot guarantee) and a maximum NBAA IFR range of 1,156 nm (above the planned 1,125 nm with four occupants). "An important fact to remember is that although we have exceeded our targeted performance guarantees, we are not changing the guarantees," McNamara notes. "You will most likely see better then 'book' performance in your aircraft due to the better then forecasted improvements. But we are not guaranteeing the increased performance." He said Eclipse expects that aircraft delivered in mid-April and beyond will come with these improvements, namely larger tip tanks and aerodynamic refinements. Eclipse 500s delivered before this date eventually will be retrofitted with the upgrades. So far the company has delivered only one of the $1.55 million Eclipse 500s, though it expects to deliver some 500 airplanes this year. In late December Eclipse said that nearly 40 of the VLJs were in various stages of assembly, but Eclipse won’t be able to deliver aircraft en masse until receiving its Production Certificate from the FAA.

Aspen Avionics, Eclipse Aviation Settle Suit

Eclipse Aviation will get a 1-percent stake in Aspen Avionics under the out-of-court settlement of a suit launched by Eclipse late last year. As AVweb reported in December, Aspen founders Peter Lyons and Jeff Bethel were sued by Eclipse, which claimed rights to the AT300 Hazard Awareness Display, a nifty little moving map and terrain awareness device that fits a three-inch hole in the panel and replaces the conventional vertical speed indicator (there's an electronic one built in). Eclipse claimed the pair developed the device, which earned technical standard order (TSO) status in 2005, while working for Eclipse and in violation of an agreement that anything invented on company time was the company's to exploit, charges that Lyons and Bethel denied. Lyons and Bethel claimed they invented the AT300 before they started work at Eclipse in 2002 and that the only intellectual property waiver they signed was for the interview process. Eclipse had filed for a patent on the AT300. Under the agreement, Eclipse waives any claims it made in the suit and assigns any rights that might stem from the patent process to Aspen in return for 1 percent of the shares in Aspen. "This settlement frees us from the distraction and expense of litigation, and allows us to focus on developing new, breakthrough products for the general aviation market," Lyons said in a news release.

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News Briefs back to top 

Pilots Of Vintage Planes Unhurt In Collision

It’s not often that both pilots walk away from a midair collision. It’s rarer still when the airplanes involved are 60-year-old wire and wood antiques and at least one of the pilots is older than the aircraft. It happened Saturday when Ralph Baxter, an 82-year-old former airline and Navy pilot, was practicing aerobatics in his 1940 Waco biplane off the coast of San Pedro, Calif. Somehow the Waco’s tail came in contact with the prop on a 1942 Stearman whose pilot hasn’t been identified. According to the Fresno Bee, the Stearman was able to get back to Torrance Airport for a safe landing, but Baxter opted for an emergency landing on the beach. The Waco landed in the water near the shoreline and flipped, but fortunately for Baxter there were lifeguards on duty and they got him out of his harness. He was able to walk away under his own power and was released from the hospital after a precautionary check. No more details have been released and the NTSB is investigating.

Open Air To Give D.C. On-Demand Air Taxi

On Jan. 24, Open Air was granted a Part 135 air carrier certification to operate its fleet of brand-new Cirrus SR22s for on-demand, air-taxi service out of Montgomery County Airpark (GAI) in Gaithersburg, Md., about 20 miles outside of Washington, D.C. Flying from the back yard of arguably the most sensitive and restrictive airspace in the country, Open Air's "exclusive air-taxi service" offers "nonstop, and 'door-to -door' concierge service throughout the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast," according to a company press release. The company touts the SR22's safety (the piston single comes standard with a ballistic parachute) and comfort features (leather, climate control, XM satellite radio and Bose noise-canceling headsets) and also notes the aircraft accommodates up to three passengers and one "FAA-certified airline captain." Beyond the jargon, this means they've taken a training program and been FAA certified as a captain. Open Air says one-way pricing will keep customers from paying for dead-heading aircraft and crew.

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News Briefs back to top 

International Bid For Martin Mars Aircraft

An international effort has emerged to ensure that the last two Martin Mars flying boats can be enjoyed by generations of aviation buffs to come. The massive aircraft, which have had a spectacularly successful career as air tankers for the past 40 years, would become museum pieces at opposite ends of the continent under an arrangement reached between the British Columbia Aviation Council and the Glenn L. Martin Maryland Aviation Museum. The two groups are jointly bidding for the aircraft, which were built at the site of the museum in Middle River, Md. The plan is to fly one of the aircraft for display in Maryland and leave the other at its existing base on Sproat Lake, near Port Alberni, B.C. Although it's estimated the Mars have another 10 years of useful flying life left in them, the BCAC and the museum say that will expose them to wear and tear and risk that could diminish or destroy their heritage value. With the advent of more modern aerial tankers and techniques, the future usefulness of the Mars is also being questioned, although it must be noted that a single drop of more than 6,000 gallons can drench four acres of burning bush. Both the museum and the BCAC have launched fundraising campaigns to support their bids for the aircraft, which are now owned by TimberWest Forest Corp.

Court Battle Over Missile-Struck Cargo Jet

The DHL A300 that was hit by a missile before enduring a miraculous no-hydraulics landing at Baghdad Airport in November 2004 might not survive the court battle that has blown up around it. The courier company apparently walked away from the aircraft, which, in addition to a rather large hole in the left wing courtesy of the missile, suffered some runway rash and sand damage in its inelegant but ultimately safe return to earth. Enter a couple of U.S. companies who figured they could fix the damage and resell the airplane for a tidy profit. But, according to a story in the Burlington Free Press, the deal has gone sour and the mostly-fixed airplane is on the ramp at Baghdad International Airport, where it’s an inviting terrorist target. Chrison Aerospace of Burlington, Vt., and Pacific Aeromotive of Erie, Colo., bought the airplane for less than $300,000, according to Chrison’s lawyer, and the plan was to patch it up enough in Baghdad to fly it to a more secure location for final repairs and resale. They figured they could get between $8 million and $12 million for it after it was fixed. Flak-jacketed technicians repaired the wing and almost had it airworthy in late 2005 before an engine failed in ground testing. Both engines were pulled and sent to Kuwait for repairs and another A300, purchased in Saudi Arabia to scavenge for parts, remains there. The deal started to sour in 2006, and now both companies are blaming each other. Meanwhile, as the companies battle in court, the situation in Iraq is deteriorating and there’s concern they won’t have anything to fight over for much longer.

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News In Brief back to top 

On The Fly

A study has shown that about $590 million in economic benefits have been created through film production at Los Angeles-area airports. The study credits the “film-friendly” approach of the local airport authority in keeping productions in the area…

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission says it’s up to the military and FAA to prevent airborne attacks on nuclear plants and not the industry’s responsibility to harden the plants against such a strike. Critics say a system of beams and cables designed to prevent an aircraft from reaching vulnerable parts of a plant should be required…

Farnborough Aircraft Corp. Ltd (FACL) announced it will build the Kestrel turboprop single in Abu Dhabi. FACL previously had a business relationship with Epic Aircraft, which is developing a competing turboprop called Dynasty, which will be built in Calgary…

A juvenile whooping crane, presumed lost in the storms that ripped through Florida on Friday, has been found alive and well hanging out with some sandhill cranes. It was one of 18 that arrived with an ultralight escort from Wisconsin in January, but all 17 of its tripmates died in the storm in their enclosure at the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge...

The FAA says there’s been plenty of interest from vendors who want to build the Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast system in the U.S. Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and ITT all submitted proposals.


In Thursday's issue, the Age-65 story (FAA Chief: Controller Age Limit "Law Of The Land") referred to the drafting of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that will change the retirement age for airline pilots. FAA spokeswoman Alison Duquette told AVweb the role of the Aviation Rulemaking Committee will be to provide specific economic data to the FAA, not to draft the NPRM. The actual NPRM will be drafted by FAA staff.

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.

AVwebBiz: AVweb's Business Aviation Newsletter

HAVE YOU SIGNED UP yet for AVweb's NO-COST weekly 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/.

Columbia Introduces 2007 Models
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New On AVweb back to top 

Leading Edge #1


Leading Edge #1: After Your Checkride -- The Next 100 Hours
This week AVweb introduces a new columnist, Thomas Turner, whose monthly Leading Edge column will address pilot training and proficiency issues culled from his extensive experience as a flight instructor. This month he tackles the question that pops up after you get your first pilot certificate: ''Now what?''

What's New: February 2007


What's New: February 2007
This month AVweb's survey of the latest products and services for pilots, mechanics and aircraft owners brings you books, an electronic E6-B, DVDs, e-books and more.

Welcome To The New Face Of AVweb

AVweb.com, the world’s best Web site for general aviation news and information, is now even better thanks to a redesigned home page that was unveiled this weekend. The revamped home page has more content, easier navigation, a more user-friendly podcast interface and better graphics to complement AVweb's real-time general aviation news, incisive commentary and unparalleled feature reporting.
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AVweb Audio News -- Are You Listening? 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 Alaska pilot Cable Wells about ADS-B. And AVweb's podcast index includes interviews with NATCA's Paul Rinaldi; AOPA's Kathleen Vascouselos; 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; and Honda Aircraft's Jeffrey Smith. In today's podcast, AVweb interviews Open Air President Michael Klein. 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: DB Aviation

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

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to DB Aviation at KUGN in Waukegan, Ill.

AVweb reader David Stone said the facility's staff literally gives him a warm and fuzzy feeling inside.

"I am in and out of KUGN about four times a year, so the guys at DB Aviation do not really know me.I showed up on a cold breezy day, and asked for my Tanis heater to be plugged in. When I walked out on the ramp to depart, my plane was nowhere to be found. With a look of bewilderment on my face, the lineman asked if I was driving the Arrow. I said yes, and he said to look in the hanger. It was nice to jump into a 50+ degree airplane when it was 10 degrees out. DB is always great, with a crew car often available."

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: Human 'Flying Squirrel'

Recommend a Video | VOTW Archive

Who hasn't wanted to do this ever since he or she was a kid? Loic Jean Albert lives the dream in this clip from Ultimate Journey, sent to us by AVweb reader Noah Forden. (Originally submitted to YouTube by user chadbro23.)

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Try disabling ad blockers and refreshing this page.
If that doesn't work, click here to download the video directly.

Top that, Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.!

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

En route from San Antonio to Kerville, Texas, I let my 19-year-old private-pilot-rated daughter run the radios:

Piper Six Seven Romeo: Center, Piper Six Seven Romeo.

Center: Piper Six Seven Romeo, go ahead.

Piper Six Seven Romeo: Request flight following.

Center: Piper Six Seven Romeo, state your location, altitude, and destination.

Piper Six Seven Romeo: [After a long pause] Uh, San Antonio.

Center: [After pause] Piper Six Seven Romeo, when you figure out where you are and where you want to go, give us a call back.

Names Behind The News back to top 

Meet the AVwebFlash Team

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) and Editor In Chief Chad Trautvetter.

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.