AVwebFlash Complete Issue: Volume 13, Number 7a

February 12, 2007

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Air Tour Rule Gets Mixed Reaction

New rules governing what is broadly known as air tours are easier than expected on commercial operators and tougher than anticipated on so-called charity flights. The final form of the air tour rule released Friday is quite a bit different from the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that was released almost three years ago. Among the biggest changes for commercial operators was the continuation of the so-called 25-mile rule, which allows Part 91 operators to offer sightseeing trips as long as they begin and end at the same airport and don't extend farther than 25 miles from that airport. "Elimination of this provision would have devastated many small businesses and deprived the public of the all-too-rare opportunity to experience flight in a small general aviation aircraft," said National Air Transportation Association President Jim Coyne. There's more paperwork ahead for all commercial operators, tougher rules on life preservers and helicopter floats but it all seems like stuff the existing operators can live with. The biggest changes appear to be in rules governing fund-raising and other not-for-profit flights. Under the final rule, private pilots can continue to fly a limited number of charity flights each year but they must have at least 500 hours instead of the current 200. According to AOPA's math, that cuts the pool of potential pilots for such events by 22 percent. The FAA's rationale for raising the experience level is that pilots with less than 500 hours have more accidents than those with more experience. But AOPA says that might be because there are simply more pilots in the 200 to 500-hour category than in others and they have more exposure. The Air Care Alliance, which represents organizations that use volunteer pilots to get people to medical appointments or other special circumstances, was pleased with the rule on its initial reading. "We are pleased that the FAA, recognizing the noncommercial nature of volunteer pilot operations and the value of donated flights to help our communities and those in need, saw fit to continue the policies which have governed this activity for so long, and which have worked well," Rol Murrow, president of the Alliance told AVweb. EAA is also digesting the 107-page document but it likely has some concerns, especially the section that outlaws experimental aircraft from taking part in charity flights."The regulations spelled out in the 107-page document will affect a significant part of certain flying by EAA and many of its members, including the B-17 tour, Pioneer Airport operations, and Young Eagles flights," said a posting on EAA's Web site. " Many EAAers also provide "barnstorming" flights that will be affected by the new regulations." Expect more reaction in the coming week.

HondaJet To Be Built In North Carolina

On Friday, Honda Aircraft fulfilled a promise to build the HondaJet in the U.S. by announcing plans to establish its world headquarters and aircraft manufacturing plant in Greensboro, N.C. Aircraft division President and CEO Michimasa Funjino said his company will invest $60 million for the new 215,000-sq-ft headquarters facility and hangar at Piedmont Triad International (PTI) Airport and a further unspecified dollar amount for an adjacent manufacturing plant. Honda said its new home will be finished in November and promised more details about the production facility's size, scope of operations and construction timetable at a later date. Honda plans to begin delivery of HondaJets to customers in 2010 and has orders for "more than 100" of the very light jets. "For five years, Greensboro has served as the home of HondaJet, as we have worked to take our dream from the drawing board to the sky," said Fujino. "As we move steadily toward certification, production and delivery to our customers, I am excited that Greensboro will be home both to our company's world headquarters and the production of HondaJet." Honda Aircraft's new headquarters will serve as the home for all HondaJet research, product engineering, sales/marketing and service support, and will replace the company's existing 32,000-sq-ft hangar and office complex already at PTI.

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News Briefs back to top 

Symphony Suitors Line Up

AOPA says it has learned at least two groups are vying for the assets of Symphony Aircraft. In a release on Friday, AOPA said a French Canadian group and a group of U.S. investors are both hoping to carry on production of the two-place composite aircraft. AVweb contacted the office of the bankruptcy trustee in Trois Rivieres but he was away from his office. According to AOPA, neither former CEO Paul Costanzo nor the still-unnamed "lead investor" whose withdrawal from the operation led to the bankruptcy are involved with either of the investment groups. More details on the bids are expected after a meeting of the creditors on Feb. 24. Symphony was declared bankrupt in late January, about eight months after entering creditor protection. According to a letter sent to owners by Costanzo, the company went under after the lead investor refused to accept a refinancing plan. Anyone with deposits on aircraft will almost certainly lose them unless the company is resurrected and the new owners honor them. Liberty Aerospace has offered to honor deposits up to $10,000 by Symphony customers toward the purchase of one of their two-place touring aircraft.

Cash For Micco Aircraft Job Creation

They do things the old-fashioned way in Bartlesville, Okla. Instead of weaving a complex fabric of tax breaks, lease discounts and other incentives commonly used to attract industry to a town, the good people of Bartlesville are simply putting cash on the table. For every job created by the new Micco Aircraft plant, the community will cough up $1,000. "They looked at several locations in Oklahoma and they selected Bartlesville," Jim Fram, president of Bartlesville Development Corp., told the Tulsa World. Micco, which was formerly a project of the Seminole Tribe in Florida, estimates it will add about 54 people to the payroll over the next three years, so Bartlesville City Council set aside $60,000 to cover the incentive costs. Micco builds the SP26, a two-place aerobatic aircraft in retractable tailwheel configuration. The plane, which is powered by a Lycoming IO-540 putting out 260 hp, cruises at about 155 knots. Micco is also planning to build Tecnam light sport aircraft and offer rental and instruction.

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News Briefs back to top 

ATC Focus Of Midair Suit

According to a story in the Chicago Tribune, the air traffic controller on duty at the time of a midair collision near Chicago in February of 2000 admitted in court last week he didn’t know precisely where the two crash airplanes were when he was directing them on approach to Waukegan Airport. Waukegan didn’t have radar at the time of the crash, which killed local radio celebrity Bob Collins, his passenger Herman Luscher and student pilot Sharon Hock in the other plane. Controller Gregory Fowler told the court he should have asked for more precise position reports from both pilots before clearing Collins to land behind Hock. Collins’ Moravan (Zlin) Z242 hit Hock’s Cessna 172 from behind and both aircraft crashed immediately. The victims’ families are suing the federal government, claiming the FAA is responsible for the crash even though Waukegan is a contract tower. In other testimony, Richard Burgess, a former FAA employee who was hired by Collins’ widow as an expert witness, told the court that Waukegan should have been equipped with radar. He said nearby Meigs Field had radar installed after a 1997 midair but Waukegan, which was a busier airport, did not. Radar was installed at Waukegan five months after the Collins crash. Government lawyers alleged that Collins’ flying ability was impaired by diabetes, even though a doctor who’d examined him a day before the crash found no evidence of visual or cognitive impairment. The government also suggested Burgess has a grudge against the FAA for his treatment as an employee, a suggestion Burgess denied.

Controller Departures Adding Up

The FAA says air traffic control staffing levels are actually better than they are portrayed in the FAA Administrator’s Fact Book, but the National Air Traffic Controllers Association maintains the agency remains far behind in keeping the consoles occupied. An FAA spokesman told GovExec.com that figures in the fact book showing a net decline of almost 500 controllers in the past three years are wrong. It’s actually about 300. In the meantime, according to NATCA, senior controllers are leaving at the rate of about three a day, many of them members of the retirement bubble that will create a mass exodus of controllers over the next 10 years. And while the FAA insists it has the staffing situation under control, NATCA disagrees. The union says the figures show the agency isn’t able to keep up with vacated positions and that the problem will only get worse. According to the FAA, however, it’s not just retirements that are emptying chairs in towers and centers. Of the approximately 10,000 controllers expected to leave in the next eight years, about 3,500 will simply quit, get promoted, be fired or die.

Crash Pilot "Impaired" By Marijuana

The pilot of a Cessna 182 that crashed near Delta, Colo., a year ago had smoked pot within three hours of the crash and “was impaired by its effects at the time of the accident,” according to an NTSB report that was released in October and reported last week in Glenwood Springs Post Independent. Pilot Glen Harcourt and passengers Tim Hackett and Bolling Barton Willse died when the plane hit a power line before crashing in a field. Witnesses said they saw the airplane “buzz the ranch” that was its intended destination before clipping the line. Autopsies on the passengers showed neither had any drugs or alcohol in their systems, according to the newspaper. The news added to the grief of Hackett’s parents, Robert and Nancy Hackett. “This news has reinitiated our grief and anger over Tim’s death,” the Hacketts said in a prepared statement. “No one should lose their life because someone else chooses to be impaired.” The report identified Harcourt’s marijuana use as a contributing factor to the crash.

Aviation Consumer Gives Thumbs-Up to the Pilot Insurance Center (PIC)
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News Briefs back to top 

FAA Audit Might Deflate Suit

The Barnstable Patriot says results of an audit of the finances of Barnstable Airport in Massachusetts could let the air out of a lawsuit by a company challenging the local airport commission’s monopoly on fuel sales. Rectrix Commercial Aviation Services, which opened a $6.5 million FBO at Barnstable in 2005, claims revenues from the government-owned fuel service are being illegally diverted to other departments outside the airport in violation of the airport’s grant agreements with the FAA. But the FAA’s review of the finances at the airport says that while some forms were filled out incorrectly, the money is being handled properly. The report, completed Jan. 30, may shatter the foundation of Rectrix’s suit. According to the Barnstable Patriot, the Rectrix suit centered around two forms it claims showed that funds were mishandled, but the FAA auditors disagreed. "We concluded the resulting inaccuracies on the FAA forms did not constitute a misuse of airport revenue, but a misunderstanding by the airport in completing the two forms," the letter reads. "This was easily corrected with the refiling of the forms." Rectrix has not yet comment on the FAA audit findings. The case is headed back in court on Wednesday, when city lawyers are expected to move for a dismissal.

Electors Group Opposes User Fees

Well you never know who your friends are, and the aviation alphabet groups can add the League of Rural Voters to the growing list of organizations opposed to the Bush administration’s plans for reorganizing the FAA. In a statement issued last week, League President Neil Ritchie described GA as the “lifeline to rural communities” and says the mix of user fees and tax increases contained in the package will force many operators to ground their light aircraft, reminding the government of just how useful that fleet can be in times of trouble. "General aviation played a crucial role in efforts to evacuate Hurricane Katrina survivors and continues to play an important role in our preparedness for future disasters," Ritchie noted. The group is even more irritated about what the plans might do to airline service in the hinterlands. The government's fiscal year 2008 budget proposes to eliminate funding for the Small Communities Air Service Program, one of two incentive programs aimed at ensuring a base level of airline service in isolated areas. Under that program and the Essential Air Service Program, the government pays direct subsidies to airlines to provide service on what would normally be money-losing routes. Ritchie said the programs grew out of the need created when airlines were deregulated and immediately chopped unprofitable routes. “Our politicians often say that they recognize the economic importance of our heartland,” he said. “It is now time for them to demonstrate that by rejecting this big tax break for the airlines and protecting our rural communities.”

Flap Over Pelosi’s Ride

The White House has come to the defense of Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi after she faced a barrage of criticism over her limited transportation options home to San Francisco. Since she’ll take over the Oval Office if the president and vice president somehow become incapacitated, the thinking in Washington is that she should have a secure, nonstop ride home in a military aircraft. Among the military passenger planes that fit that bill is the C-32, a Boeing 757 decked out with 42 business-class seats. Now Pelosi says she’s just as happy to fly commercial, but the administration clearly thinks otherwise. Junior Republicans seized on the perceived wastefulness of her use of a 757 in a display of legislative fervor that had even White House staff shaking their heads. During debate on a bill about alternative fuels, Republicans proposed an amendment urging that aircraft exactly matching the description of the C-32 burn “domestically produced alternative fuels." Republican Rep. Patrick McHenry noted the converted 757 would spew about 10,000 pounds of greenhouse gases on the trip from Washington to San Francisco and his colleague Mark Kirk, R-Ill., chimed in that her use of the plane "appears to remove any spending controls from our operations.” White House spokesman Tony Snow had little patience for the shenanigans. "This is a silly story, and I think it's been unfair to the speaker," he told The New York Times.

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News Briefs back to top 

A (Spitfire) Model Of Perfection

It’s always best to take your time on a model project, but a British man’s admittedly “obsessive” attention to detail kept him working on one project for 11 years. And does it ever show. David Glen of Whaddon finished an almost unbelievably faithful one-fifth scale model of a Spitfire Mk I late last year, and it’s so good that it’s on display at the Royal Air Force Museum. In fact, it was an offer from the museum to house the finished model that Glen credits with driving him to finish it when he was ready to quit from the sheer strain of the effort. Glen worked from scratch, fabricating each part by hand from drawings and photographs obtained at museums. He estimates there are more than 19,000 rivets in the model, all predrilled and set by hand. The instruments are accurate to the point where the needles “stand proud” of the faces. Placards, engraving and other details are faithfully reproduced. Glen said he’s made some mistakes, which he said experts are sure to point out. He also admits to the odd shortcut made possible by the design of the first generation Spitfire. For instance, the Mark I had a greenhouse-type canopy rather than a bubble, which Glen said he had no way of reproducing. The wheel covers also saved him the bother of re-creating the wheel castings. At 58, Glen figures he has one more project left and he’s started on a one-fifth scale P-51D, which means he must have figured out bubble canopies.



A Lesson In Ditching?

Any landing you can walk (or swim) away from may be a good one but it seems unlikely that Nor Azlan Yazid's ditching technique will make it into Malaysian Airlines' procedure book. The 25-year-old student in the airline's training program was on a solo training flight when his Diamond DA40 developed an unspecified engine problem over water about two nautical miles south of Palau Aman. After radioing distress calls and circling briefly to check his options, the young pilot decided on an unorthodox, but ultimately successful, course of action. Witnesses told Bernama.com that as the aircraft neared the water, Yazid managed to get out of the aircraft just as the plane hit. Restaurant owner Abdul Halim Ayob said he spotted the aircraft circling overhead: "I rushed to have a closer look and saw the pilot at the door of the aircraft as it was coming down but he managed to jump out just before it nose-dived into the water," he told reporters Friday. The DA40 doesn't have a door, but a forward-opening canopy, so it's unclear just how he got out of the plane. He was picked up, unhurt, by a nearby fisherman. However he did it, the incident was confirmed by Civil Aviation Department (DCA) director Ooi Chean Ong. "Azlan, who wore a life jacket, was plucked to safety by a fisherman who saw the mishap," he told Bernama.com. The Marine Police were on the scene within minutes of the pilot's distress call, but Yazid was already aboard the fishing boat. He was taken to hospital for a checkup but released. Recovery efforts are now under way for the aircraft, which is in about 30 feet of water. The plane is owned by Langkawi-based HM Aerospace Flight School.

iFly Teams With Angel Flight West

A six-year-old Hanford, Calif., girl was the first to take advantage of a partnership between Angel Flight West and iFly, a fractional ownership group that splits Columbia 350 aircraft. iFly co-founder and Angel Flight member Erik Lindbergh announced last week that iFly will donate 20 hours of flight time per year for each member of the fractional to Angel Flight West to help people from rural areas get to specialized medical care. “Those living in rural areas or needing specialized care that can only be found in a few locations face a real challenge,” Lindbergh said. "The speed, safety, utility and comfort of our aircraft lend themselves well to these types of flights, and our membership is very supportive of the organization." In the case of the little girl, the flight from Hanford, in central California, to Los Angeles for treatment at the UCLA Medical Center cut travel time by about two-thirds. iFly member Dean Shold did the inaugural flight and says he is anxious to do more. “Angel Flights are a way that we pilots can really provide a valuable service to people who need assistance while doing something that we love to do – fly,” he said.

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News In Brief back to top 

On The Fly

The FAA turned on seven approach lights at New Bedford Airport last week a week after a fatal crash. There's still more work to do to get all the lights working, but about 1,400 feet is now illuminated…

All that fancy navigation gear on a Gulfstream 550 was put to the test last week as the pilots decided to do a little modern-day skywriting, which was caught by flight tracking aficionados of FlightAware

A career Coast Guard pilot is the winner of AOPA’s annual airplane sweepstakes. Rocky Lee, who’s about to retire after 20 years, has 9,000 hours in his logbook and the refurbished Cherokee Six fits his retirement plans perfectly…

The U.S. Air Force’s new Initial Flight Screening center opened in Pueblo, Colo., last week at Doss Aviation. Doss has the flight screening contract and will train about 1,700 pilot candidates a year on 44 Diamond DA20-C1 and one DA40 aircraft.

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.

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New On AVweb back to top 

CEO of the Cockpit #67


CEO of the Cockpit #67: Age is a Four-Letter Word
The new possibility of flying until age 65 has made for ambivalent responses from airline pilots, including AVweb's CEO of the Cockpit.

AVmail: Feb. 12, 2007


AVmail: Feb. 12, 2007
Reader mail this week about the King Air depressurization and ATC staffing, and lots of concern about user fees.

Welcome To The New Face Of AVweb

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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 NBAA's Ed Bolen. And AVweb's podcast index includes interviews with Open Air's Michael Klein; Air Excursions' Cable Wells; Stephen Brown; 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. In today's news summary, hear about the new air-tour rule, Honda setting up shop in North Carolina, the fight over bankrupt Symphony Aircraft's intellectual property, ATC staffing levels 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: St. Charles Flying Service

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

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to St. Charles Flying Service at K3SQ in St. Charles, Mo.

AVweb reader Nick Ruemker said the FBO helps to make flying fun again.

"St. Charles Flying service is by far my favorite FBO I have experienced. The staff is always striving to go above and beyond to help anyone learn to fly and enjoy flying. It is a small business made of people who enjoy flying and the atmosphere that it brings to a small airport. This FBO is a great place to hang out and do some hangar flying or to just walk in and see who wants to go flying. Their prices are the lowest I have ever seen after flying in the Seattle, Denver/Colorado Springs and St. Louis areas. I would absolutely recommend this FBO to anyone who wants to enjoy the process of learning to fly and enjoy flying afterwards."

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: End of the Line for the C-141

Recommend a Video | VOTW Archive

This week's video is an impressive slideshow of C-141s put together by Mike Novack of C-141 Heaven. The video celebrates the careers of 141s and (according to Mike's blog) was put together after last May's retirement ceremony for one of the last flying specimens.

Set to the music of Johnny Cash's "I've Been Everywhere." (Buy it here.)

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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."

Answering 14 Questions Can Help AVweb Serve YOU Better!
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The Lighter Side Of Flight back to top 

Short Final

Overheard in IFR Magazine's 'On the Air' Section
Overheard in IFR Magazine's "On the Air"

This comes from a search and rescue pilot at Canadian Forces Base in Bagotville, Quebec. It happened late one night during bad weather, as heard over the tower radio:

Helicopter pilot: Roger, I'm holding at 3,000 feet over the beacon.

Second voice: (Panic in voice) No, you can't be doing that...I'm holding at 3,000 feet over that beacon.

Helicopter pilot: (Short pause) You idiot, you're my copilot.

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 Editor Russ Niles (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.

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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.

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