AVwebFlash Complete Issue: Volume 13, Number 6b

February 8, 2007

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
 
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Changes In Wind For Pilot Certification Regs

On Wednesday, the FAA released a proposed new rule that will update and overhaul Federal Aviation Regulations Part 61 subsections that govern certification of airmen. Some 200 changes are proposed, which range from minor tweaks in the language to more substantive changes. Among the changes: The FAA would allow student pilot certificates to last longer -- 36 months for those under 40, and 24 months for those 40 and over; allow computers and simulators to be used for credit toward flight-time requirements; establish rules for training with night-vision goggles; and simplify the paperwork for certified flight instructors to renew their certificates. On Wednesday afternoon, AOPA staffers were still sifting through the complex proposal to check for changes that could affect pilots. AOPA said most of the changes it had lobbied for were adopted. Comments on the proposal are invited, and the deadline to do so is May 8.

East River Flight Restriction Likely Permanent

The FAA will probably issue a new rule to permanently impose restrictions on VFR traffic above New York's East River, according to the NTSB. The Safety Board released documents on Monday in connection with a fatal airplane crash last October when New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle and his flight instructor, Tyler Stanger, hit a Manhattan apartment building. The two were flying Lidle's Cirrus SR20 and tried to negotiate a 180-degree turn in the narrow airspace corridor above the river. The Safety Board documents also show that no evidence was found of drugs or alcohol in either pilot, according to The Associated Press. Investigators could not determine which of the men was flying the airplane at the time of the crash. According to radar data, the aircraft appears to have started its turn from a spot above the middle of the river, and then drifted to the west into the building. A temporary restriction requiring VFR fixed-wing aircraft (excluding seaplanes arriving or departing the New York City seaplane base) to contact air traffic control while in the airspace has been in place since the accident. It is expected that seaplane, as well as helicopter, operations in the river will also be exempt from any permanent rule.

 
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No Surprise: FY2008 Budget Contains Aviation User-Fee Proposal

The White House released the Fiscal Year 2008 budget amid fanfare on Monday morning, but general aviation groups aren’t jumping for joy. In the DOT budget breakdown, the FAA allotment includes $175 million for a 21st Century satellite navigation system to replace older air traffic control equipment and $900 million in additional air traffic control system upgrades, but it also includes an expected user-fee proposal. "The [Bush] Administration will transmit a reauthorization proposal in 2007 that transforms the FAA’s excise tax financing system to a cost-based system that recovers most of costs of air traffic services through user fees," the document states. NBAA quickly rapped the Bush Administration for the move: "After more than a year of intense lobbying by the nation's big airlines, the White House has decided to introduce a budget that shifts airline costs to other segments of the industry and gives airlines more control over the air traffic system. NBAA and the rest of the general aviation community will oppose this toxic mix of higher taxes, new fees and airline control. The fact is the current approach to funding and oversight of the aviation system is effective and efficient -- there is no need for radical 'fixes' like those proposed in this budget."

The document released by the White House says that, "under the proposal, FAA’s financing sources shift from a mix of fuel taxes, other excise taxes, and general fund contributions to user fees, fuel taxes, and a general fund contribution. FAA would have the authority to collect the user fees that directly offset the cost of FAA’s operations; expenditure of the available fees would be affirmed in the appropriations process. Air traffic user fees would be collected from commercial aviation operators. General aviation users would continue to pay a fuel tax that would be deposited into the Airport and Airway Trust Fund; fuel tax rates will be calibrated based on the costs that these users impose on the system. The general fund component of FAA’s budget would cover activities that benefit the public good like safety and public use of the airspace. Finally, the Airport Improvements Grants program and the majority of Research, Engineering, and Development program would continue to be funded by fuel taxes paid by all aviation users into the Airport and Airway Trust Fund."

EAA, AOPA Quick To Blast FAA User-Fee Proposal

The FAA's new budget proposal could mean a fourfold hike in fuel taxes and "severely threatens the freedom of our country's general aviation community," EAA said on Monday. The proposal would create new user fees for FAA services that today are provided free, says Doug Macnair, EAA's vice president of government relations. "Such a system will not enhance safety, it will not improve services, and it will add barriers for thousands of recreational aviators while being a costly burden to the federal government," he adds. Fees would be imposed for access to busy airports, aircraft certification and registration, and airman medical certificates. AOPA President Phil Boyer concurred with the grim assessment: "It's going to take an all-out fight by the aviation community to defeat this." President Bush's budget would also slash airport funding by $1 billion, AOPA said. Details of the FAA proposal will be made public later this month. The FAA has no funding shortfall, but wants user fees to replace taxes so it can sidestep the congressional budget process, AOPA said.

EAA Finds Positive News In FAA Changes

Amid all the recent protest over the FAA's plans to change its funding structure, EAA has found something to be glad about in the agency's reauthorization bill, which is now heading for debate in Congress. The FAA is asking for permission to release abandoned type certificate or supplemental type certificate data to individuals so that aircraft airworthiness can be maintained. The change was lobbied for by EAA and the Vintage Aircraft Association (VAA). If approved, it would eliminate the dilemma for owners who had to maintain their vintage aircraft to approved data even though that data could not be released due to intellectual-property rules. "This is a major step in the right direction to preserve unique vintage aircraft," said H.G. Frautschy, VAA executive director. "The owners of these aircraft want to maintain them to the highest possible standards, but could not do so because the original factory data was regarded as intellectual property -- even though the companies have not existed for decades and no other entity offered technical support for these aircraft." Frautschy emphasized that the proposal is designed to address the problem of abandoned type certificates, such as those for aircraft built by long-defunct companies. It would not block any rights by current companies or holders of aircraft type certificates that offer support for those vintage models.

 
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Russ Chew To Leave FAA

On Monday morning, FAA Administrator Marion Blakey announced that FAA Chief Operating Officer Russ Chew would be leaving at the end of February. "We were hoping to keep hold on him longer, but this was an opportunity he just couldn't pass up," she told staff at a weekly meeting. Just what that opportunity will be is unclear because Chew said he has a number of options under consideration and has not made a final decision, though he plans to stay in aviation in some capacity. He has served as the agency's COO since June 10, 2003, after a long career at American Airlines as a line pilot and later in management. The FAA's COO oversees the operational and financial performance of the U.S. air traffic control system and the FAA's research and acquisition programs. Chew was the first person to fill the position created in 2002 by the AIR-21 FAA reauthorization bill. Before he accepted the job, the then newly created position sat vacant for more than a year because the FAA said it was unable to attract a qualified COO due to problems with compensation, responsibility and goals. No replacement has yet been named for Chew, and it is unknown what impact Chew's departure will have on the FAA's Next Generation Air Transportation System initiative.

Cessna GA Deliveries Grew In 2006

Cessna Aircraft Company said on Tuesday it delivered 1,239 aircraft last year, keeping its spot as the world's largest manufacturer of general aviation aircraft. Jet sales and overseas sales both grew significantly, said company CEO Jack Pelton. "We also did very well with our single-engine line, with 865 piston aircraft and 67 turboprops delivered," he said. The company delivered 307 Citation jets, up more than 50 over the year before. Almost half of all business-jet orders originated outside the U.S., Pelton noted. The company expects to deliver 375 jets this year, including 40 newly certified Citation Mustangs. Cessna is also finding a market for piston aircraft abroad. This week alone, a flight school in China ordered 72 new Skyhawks and Aero Club of India signed for 11 of the piston singles; all will come with Garmin G1000 glass cockpits. Last year was also a busy one for new product announcements and upgrades. Cessna developed prototypes of a new "next-generation piston" and a light sport aircraft, and announced two new jet models, in addition to gaining certification for the Mustang in September. Competitor Cirrus Design expects to release its year-end numbers this week, spokeswoman Kate Dougherty told AVweb on Tuesday. At the end of the third quarter, the two companies were nearly neck-and-neck in the piston four-seater category. The General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) will release its roundup of aircraft sales numbers for 2006 on Monday.

 
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Approach Lights Off During Fatal Crash

The approach lights to Runway 5 at New Bedford (Mass.) Regional Airport were turned off last Friday night when a Socata TBM 700 crashed on approach in rain and fog, killing all three people on board. The lights were functional but had been turned off last August because overgrown vegetation "obscured and distorted" the lights, according to the New Bedford Standard-Times. New Bedford Mayor Scott Lang had asked the FAA in January to deal with the problem so the lights could be turned back on. Lang now has asked the FAA to get the lights back on immediately, but stressed that was to reassure pilots who use the airport. "I have no information to conclude the lights had any bearing on what happened," he told the newspaper. "No information whatsoever." The lights are in a marshy area that is thick with tall grasses and trees, which could take several weeks to clear. The NTSB is investigating the crash.

NTSB Eyes Procedures In King Air Mishap

The NTSB's investigation of a King Air B200 that landed safely last Friday after suffering serious structural damage is likely to focus on cockpit checklists and procedures, along with radar data collection. N777AJ was headed from Rogers, Ark., for Stanton, Va., when it encountered complications after suffering a shattered (but not blown out) windshield at 27,000 feet and ultimately rained parts down on an aeromedical helicopter flying below. The helicopter was not struck by debris, and the King Air landed at Cape Giraradeau, Mo., with buckled wing skins and empennage and much of the horizontal stabilizer and elevator missing. The King Air's pilot, Sheldon Stone, said in early reports that the aircraft suffered a shattered left windshield at altitude and he then depressurized the cabin to prevent a blowout. According to the King Air pilot operating manual, the "abnormal checklist" for a cracked windshield specifies a descent to 10,000 feet or other methods to reduce the pressure differential to less than 3 PSI within 10 minutes. After depressurizing the cabin, Stone and his copilot then donned their oxygen masks and turned on the valve, but no oxygen appeared to be forthcoming. The sole-occupant pilots then passed out. Stone, a 4,200 hour ATP-rated pilot, said he awoke at 7,000 feet and recovered the aircraft.

According to the aircraft's flight track as provided by FlightAware, the aircraft reached 27,000 feet just after 7:00 a.m. It cruised at that altitude until 7:17 when it went to 25,900. At 7:18 the aircraft was at 25,400 but a minute later was back at 27,000 and had slowed from 417 to 104 knots ground speed, further slowing to 44 knots at 7:20, according to FlightAware. At 7:22, the position report showed holding 27,000 feet and 102 knots. One minute later, the radar indicates 125 knots at 7,800. Aberrations earlier in the minute-by-minute reporting (from 6:49 to 6:50, the aircraft is shown to jump from 17,000 to 27,000 then back down) suggest the data may not be entirely accurate. But the data seem to follow roughly with the pilot's initial comments and damage suffered by the aircraft.

 
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New Houston Airport Open For Business

It's not often that a brand-new airport opens up, but Houston Executive Airport (HEA) is now ready for landings. Located in Brookshire, west of Houston, the private airport is VFR-only, with a single 5,050-foot runway. HEA will cater to general aviation aircraft and provide FBO services, including fuel. The airport was established by former commercial pilot and Houston native Ron Henriksen. “General aviation airports are disappearing around the country,” said Henriksen. “When I saw the closing of Houston’s Andrau Airport and Austin’s Robert Mueller Airport, I was determined to build this new airport with private investment to ensure its longevity and positively impact the local community.” The significant growth of the Energy Corridor along Interstate 10 was a natural draw for an airport located west of Houston, Henriksen said. But he also hopes the airport will draw people who are interested in airplanes. "We have plans for a public park where families can picnic, play sports and let their kids watch planes come and go," he said. "And who knows? There may be a child out here whose life, like mine, will be changed forever by learning about the opportunities available in the field of aviation.” Other plans for the airport's future include instrument approaches, an extension of the runway to 7,000 feet and the construction of 50 T-hangars. The site was formerly a private airfield used mainly for crop-dusting operations.

Ducted-Fan Vehicle Draws Serious Interest

For years, ducted fans have been tinkered with as a means to propel vehicles into the air and bring us a step closer to the "flying car" of the old Jetsons cartoons. So far the technology has proved less robust than the vision, but an Israeli company has recently attracted attention from Bell Helicopter for its vertical-takeoff design, which could help rescue people from skyscrapers and carry troops into urban combat zones. Urban Aeronautics' X-Hawk is designed to carry up to a dozen people, take off vertically and fly up to 155 mph for about two hours. Bell hosted a mock-up of the design at its Farnborough Air Show exhibit last summer and has been working with the company to seek government contracts to develop the technology for military use. A smaller, autonomous version of the aircraft could be used for supply missions and emergency evacuations. A prototype could be flying in two or three years and in production within five, company founder Rafi Yoeli told The Associated Press.

 
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On The Fly

The National Aeronautic Association yesterday said Lockheed Martin and the F-22 Raptor Team have won the 2006 Robert J. Collier Trophy. On June 8, the Raptor team will be presented the trophy “for designing, testing, and operating” the newly-operational F-22 Raptor...

Comp Air hopes to have its new Comp Air 12 turboprop prototype ready to fly to Sun 'n Fun in April...

Hartzell now has an STC for its three-bladed prop conversion for Beech 58 Barons…

The FAA has released an audio clip from a conversation between an airport intern and an AFSS employee on the night that John Kennedy Jr. crashed his airplane near Martha's Vineyard eight years ago...

The FAA has updated its Advisory Circular on obstruction lights...

A Florida sheriff says he plans to fly his eight-pound remotely-operated surveillance aircraft, despite opinions from the FAA and AOPA opposing it. His unmanned aerial vehicle is due to arrive next month...

A 737 landing at Denver had to brake hard to miss a snowplow on the runway on Friday; the NTSB is investigating...

A looming baby-boomer retirement wave could mean critical shortages of aviation engineers, notes Aviation Week.

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

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Probable Cause #25

COLUMN INDEX

Probable Cause #25: Controlling The Approach
After some bad vectoring by ATC, a pilot tries to salvage a botched approach when the better course of action should have been to go around.

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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 Monday'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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Question of the Week: Is 'Little Guy' G.A. Paying His Fair Share in Gas Taxes?

This Week's Question | Previous Week's Answers

PREVIOUS RESULTS ***

Last week, AVweb asked readers what they thought of the FAA's decision to increase mandatory retirement age from 60 to 65.

Of the readers who chimed in, 43% said they approved of the change, but they'd be even happier if the FAA would abandon arbitrary age restrictions entirely and just rely on pilots' medical condition and proficiency to determine when they should retire.

At the other end of the spectrum, 10% of respondents felt that aviation medical exams are not comprehensive enough to allow for such a risk.

For a more detailed breakdown of what our readers thought (and to view the answers chosen by the other 47% of our poll population), click here.

THIS WEEK'S QUESTION ***

A typical single-engine piston airplane burns about 10 gph, which translates to $1.94 per operating hour in federal fuel taxes. Double these amounts for a light piston twin.

Given these contributions, do you think that light aircraft operators are "paying their fair share" for use of the airspace system (airport infrastructure, ATC services, etc.)?

Click here to answer.


Have an idea for a new QOTW? Send your suggestions to qotw@avweb.com.

NOTE:
This address is only for suggested QOTW questions, and not for QOTW answers or comments.
Use this form to send QOTW comments to our AVmail Editor.

 
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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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Picture of the Week

Submit a Photo | Rules | Tips | Questions | Past Winners

Each week, we go through dozens (and sometimes hundreds) of reader-submitted photos and pick the very best to share with you on Thursday mornings.  The top photos are featured on AVweb's home page, and one photo that stands above the others is awarded an AVweb baseball cap as our "Picture of the Week."

Want to see your photos featured?  Submit them here!

A quick note for submitters:  If you've got several photos that you feel are "POTW" material, your best bet is to submit them one-a-week!  That gives your photos a greater chance of seeing print on AVweb, and it makes the selection process a little easier on us, too.  ;)

*** THIS WEEK'S WINNERS ***

Well.

We were all set to go on and on about the weather and how many weather-related submissions we received this week.  Ominous clouds and rain-drenched runways were all set to be the theme of this week's "POTW" slideshow on the AVweb home page — but then we realized that we hadn't looked at the latest batch of submissions that came in yesterday and today (Tuesday and Wednesday for those of you reading this in the future).  Lo and behold, after looking at the last-minute surge of submissions, we've lost our theme.  There are still a few bad weather pics in the mix, but it looks like the skies cleared up for our submitters in the last 48 hours.

So much for theme-hunting.  Um, how about we just say that this week's theme is, ah — good pictures?  Yeah, that's it — pictures we liked!

Remember:  Once you've enjoyed the pictures here and on our home page, we'd love to see yours!  Click here to submit.  (Bad weather and good weather alike are always welcomed!)

medium | large

Used with permission of Nicholas A. Ruemker

G.A. Sunset

It's always a pleasant surprise when we discover a "POTW" submitter who says something the rest of us have been thinking.  In this case, it's Nicholas Ruemker of Colorado, who writes:

This is 3sq at sunset from earlier this summer. I like it because the atmosphere brings me back to the roots of aviation, away from thinking about fighter jets, mid-air refueling, and USAF missions.

Nicholas may have been talking about his own USAF duties, but many readers have noticed a decidedly military turn in "POTW" submissions over the last few weeks, and have been asking what happened to all the Cessna 172s, the first flights, and the small airports.  (Honestly, we've just been inundated with jet pictures of late.)

Thanks for reminding us of the airport sunsets that are familiar to every pilot, Nicholas.  For sending in a shot that's sure to resonate with everyone from fighter pilots to ultralight builders, we're naming this our "Picture of the Week."  Watch your mailbox for that spiffy new AVweb hat we'll be sending your way!

 

medium | large

Used with permission of Michael Mahoney

Business End of 'Aluminum Overcast'

At the other end of the spectrum, here's a bird not everyone gets to fly — Aluminum Overcast

Michael Mahoney of Redmond, Washington serves up this photo of the Overcast's most familiar feature.  There's something about her that seems to draw camera hounds out of the woodwork — and even after all this time looking at reader-submitted pictures of the EAA's flagship B-17, we never seem to get tired of her.

 

medium | large

photo by Mauricio Aravalo
Used with permission of George Logue

Punching Holes in the Sky

Those cloudy, weather-filled shots we mentioned above?  This one, taken by Mauricio Arevalo and sent to us by George Logue of Hurst, Texas, might be the coolest to arrive in our submission box this week.

Taken just west of Dallas-Fort Worth, the holes you see here "were created by departing airliners on climbout, penetrating a thin and very stable cirrus layer. The 'derrick' is actually a drilling rig on a construction site."


As always, you'll find more photos in the POTW slideshow at AVweb.com.  Head over there and check 'em out!

To enter next week's contest, click here.

A Reminder About Copyrights: Please take a moment to consider the source of your image before submitting to our "Picture of the Week" contest. If you did not take the photo yourself, ask yourself if you are indeed authorized to release publication rights to AVweb. If you're uncertain, consult the POTW Rules or send us an e-mail.

 
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 Mary Grady (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.