AVwebFlash - Volume 13, Number 7b

February 15, 2007

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Top News back to top 
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User Fees Would Generate Less Income

The FAA's proposed reauthorization legislation, the Next Generation Air Transportation System Financing Reform Act of 2007, revealed Wednesday, claims a new financing structure is necessary for the FAA to build an efficient and safe air transportation system for the future. Airlines and air travelers would pay less, but operators of business and general aviation aircraft would pay more. "Our proposal will make it easier for airports, airlines and controllers to keep pace with the skyrocketing demand for air travel," said FAA Administrator Marion Blakey, in a news release. "With over a billion passengers expected in the air by 2015, we have to act now or risk gridlock in our skies and on our taxiways." Yet the plan shows that under the proposed change to user fees, total revenue for the agency would actually decline. The FAA's data shows that the new proposal would yield $600 million less in FY2008 than the current tax structure and over $900 million less from FY2009 to FY2012, according to Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Ill., chairman of the House Subcommittee on Aviation. The proposal also includes changes to the Airport Improvement Program (AIP), which has long been a source of funds for upgrading runways and infrastructure at GA airports. Further hearings on the details of the plan are scheduled for both houses of Congress over the next few weeks.

Congressmen Finds FAA User-Fee Plan "Disturbing"

The FAA's long-anticipated new funding plan, revealed Wednesday morning, calls for a changeover to user fees, as expected -- but the agency ran into immediate and widespread opposition at a hearing later in the afternoon before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Rep. Vernon Ehlers, R-Mich., called the proposal "dead on arrival." Many on the panel questioned whether the plan would promote safer skies. Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., maintained that it would, ironically, because it would "rid the skies of general aviation aircraft." Along with others on the panel, he questioned the need for drastic hikes in the fuel tax -- from 19 or 21 cents per gallon to 70 cents -- and called the plan "terribly disturbing." Questions were raised about why the change to user fees would apparently result in even less money to support the airspace system, which already is strained and in need of technological upgrades. Rep. Robin Hayes, R-N.C., who is a pilot, said there is "no way" the user-fee proposal is fair or feasible. The FAA needs to sit down with the pilots and controllers and come up with a better plan, he said. Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., chairman of the committee, said the critical question is whether the FAA plan would enable it to operate the largest and safest airspace system in the world. "On too many levels, the honest answer to this question has to be either 'no' or 'we just don't know,'" he said.

AOPA, NBAA Respond To FAA Plan

AOPA President Phil Boyer said he was "very encouraged" by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's reactions to the FAA's proposed reauthorization blueprint. The hearing featured "a lot of blunt, outspoken dialogue," he said, and he expects all 535 members of Congress will closely scrutinize the FAA plan, and consider its effect on their constituents. The general public may have only a vague idea of what GA is, Boyer said, but "the members of Congress get it -- they understand GA." And AOPA plans to talk to all of them, one by one. Ed Bolen, president of the National Business Aviation Association, said it's too early, though, to tell the "overall reaction" of Congress to FAA Administrator Marion Blakey's proposal. He added that the proposal represents a "sweetheart deal" for the airlines, a first step toward privatization of the airspace system and would require a lot of new and unnecessary bureaucracy to collect and process fees. Aviation Week reported on Wednesday that Blakey's plan faces "strong congressional opposition...and even agency officials acknowledge privately that there is almost no chance Congress will sign off on her proposal."

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Shipments of GA Airplanes Soar

On Monday, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) unveiled its 2006 summary of shipments and billings in Washington, D.C., and there was good news all around. GA airplane shipments were up across all types to reach 4,042 units, or 12.9 percent more than in 2005, with billings up 24.1 percent to a record of just under $18.793 billion. A record 28.3 percent of shipments landed outside of North America. Though piston aircraft sales jumped 11.6 percent higher than in 2005 and turboprop shipments spun up 11.5 percent, the strongest growth came from the 885 business jets delivered, driven partly by modest fractional growth but largely due to corporate operators who shunned airline security delays and sought door-to-door routing to fill out their fleet to 25,383 aircraft. Interestingly, more aircraft are flying less time overall -- GAMA estimated that flight hours are down 30 percent since their highs of the early 1980s, possibly from ever faster aircraft and more efficient routings. The increase in equipment brought growth in non-pilot aviation jobs to 521,353, which includes such positions as mechanics and dispatchers. Meanwhile, the pilot population slipped for the fourth consecutive year and is now at 597,109, with only 10 percent of pilots under age 25. The average pilot age has risen by more than four years since 1993 to 45.6. The number of women pilots also declined to 36,101.

GAMA's Bunce: Great Year Ahead For Aviation

General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) President Pete Bunce emphasized that nearly 30 percent of GA shipments are now exports, and the appetite for aircraft in China, India and Russia will continue to drive revenue. In the meantime, GAMA expects North American air carriers to continue to lose business in small communities in favor of GA, and more corporate operators will seize ongoing advantages in safety, performance, productivity and cost efficiencies. This week, however, the FAA will reveal its complete plan for agency reauthorization and its associated user-fee proposal, and Bunce cautioned that these strong indicators for growth could evaporate if user fees remain a central part, bringing "long-term damage." Bunce has directed GAMA to fight the call by the airlines for user fees based on an aircraft's time in the air traffic control system rather than on its size or its number of departures. "Do we really want to create an IRS within the FAA to collect those fees?" he posed, saying that fuel taxes are a more efficient way to pay. Bunce argued that an FAA budget based on user fees is inherently unstable compared with a regular contribution by the general fund of the treasury, since operations vary with world security, economy and politics. In contrast, Congress continually exceeds every FAA budget request with a more generous general fund contribution, and the Airport and Airway Trust Fund supported by fuel and ticket taxes is expected to grow for at least five years. Bunce said the Bush administration's own estimate for revenue from user fees is $1 billion less than the current mechanism, calling to rally for modernized technologies rather than diverting energy to change a proven approach to funding. GAMA also stated concerns of slowed innovation due to ever lower allowances for basic NASA aerospace research to benefit GA, and a dwindling number of certification engineers. Nonetheless, Dr. John J. Grisik of Goodrich Corp., who's also the current GAMA chairman, cited the growing backlog of orders as the best indicator of near-term strength: "These [shipment and billing] numbers prove that this government has the power to set the conditions for growth."

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News Briefs back to top 

Forrey To FAA: Let's Negotiate

Pat Forrey, who took over as the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) president last fall, on Tuesday called for the FAA to return to the bargaining table and work with the controllers to address problems with staffing, hiring and work rules that the union claims threaten air safety. "We're losing controllers at a rate of three per day," he said. "We now have 1,100 fewer controllers than we did in 2003." Further, he noted that more controllers are reaching 20 or 25 years of service, enabling them to retire, and at the same time they are finding fewer and fewer incentives to stay. Under the FAA's imposed "jailhouse work rules," they won't get any raises, Forrey said, and they are being poorly treated. Issues such as having to take vacation time to go out for a cup of coffee, being unable to get time off for family events and vacations, too much overtime and changes in training procedures have all added stress to the job, he maintained. Forrey has been working hard in the halls of Congress to build support for new contract negotiations. [more]

Meanwhile, Tony Vella, who works at the busy Southern California TRACON, said the FAA has changed how open positions are filled. "Instead of posting the positions and bringing in experienced controllers from other facilities who want to move up, we are getting new hires with zero time," he said. "It's like taking high-school baseball players and sending them up to play with the Yankees." Vella said the problem is not with the quality of the recruits, who are graduates of college or FAA training programs. "But it's a disservice to them to start them at this level of traffic, which is extreme and nonstop," he said.

FAA Responds To NATCA

"We don't believe we have imposed 'jailhouse' work rules," FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown told AVweb on Tuesday. She also disagreed with NATCA's claims of "inadequate staffing" at facilities around the country. "The 'authorized' number they quote is from a 1998 contract," Brown said. The FAA is working on a new set of numbers to determine appropriate ATC staffing levels based on statistical models, she said, and will release those numbers in March. She added that under the old NATCA contract, the FAA was not able to respond quickly enough to changes in traffic. Events such as the entry or exit of airlines at specific airports can drastically affect traffic very quickly. "Now we can be more flexible" to respond to such changes, she said. Brown said the FAA has plans in place to replace all the retiring controllers, train their replacements and increase the workforce by about 200 positions per year. She added that the FAA "always wants to reach a voluntary agreement" with workers, but in the case of the controllers' union "we followed the process ordained by Congress."

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News Briefs back to top 

B-29 To Be Left Out In Cold

"Doc" -- the B-29 Super-Fortress that sat in the desert of Mojave for 42 years, was used for missile target practice (but never hit) and has now nearly been rebuilt and restored from the ground up by a team of devoted volunteers -- will face new adversity when it is pushed out of its current home, unfinished and into the winter elements of Wichita, Kan., by week's end. "Boeing has been great, but they need the facility," project spokesman John Shark told AVweb Monday. The Wichita forecast calls for sleet, turning later to snow this week -- not the warmest greeting for a 60-percent restored aircraft if it is, as expected, rolled onto the open-air facility of the Kansas Aviation Museum on Friday. "This is the last B-29 in the world that can be saved and restored to flight," Shark said, which makes it living competition, in both attention and charity, with the only other (sometimes) flying B-29, Fifi. Like Fifi, Doc's primary obstacle is money, but unlike Fifi, Doc doesn't have the recent flight experience to inspire donations. What it does have is new parts, though. " We're going to have a brand-new aircraft," said project manager Cliff Gaston, "It wasn't patched or repaired; it was done new." But for the dream to survive it will need new help, and soon, and two funds are now open to the public.

The project has been moved multiple times throughout the years and needs a new facility . Project leader Tony Mazzolini is now determined to keep the aircraft at its birthplace of Wichita, perhaps as a flying cornerstone for an expanded Kansas Aviation Museum adjacent to McConnell Air Force base. Bur for now economic reality means the project will be sitting outside until funds can be arranged for shelter and then completion. "Three million dollars would put us in the air within a year," Gaston said. Major obstacles after shelter include $185,000 restoration for each of six engines and the manufacture of 26 fuel cells. A similar plea went out last year for the Commemorative Air Force's B-29 Fifi, which had been grounded on and off for airworthiness issues and engine problems. That call was met by the generosity of Texas inventor and industrialist Joe Jamieson, who donated $2 million to the cause. Mazzolini, Gaston, Shark and a crew of devoted volunteers will now hope that lightning strikes twice. Doc's supporters clearly think their project may be more sustainable than many restoration projects thanks to new parts, and even if the aircraft is left to the mercy of the elements, the group is confident that its workmanship will preserve what's already been done. But is there room in the hearts of donors for two airworthy B-29s. For a hangar, donations are being accepted at The Kansas Aviation Museum, c/o Hangar for "Doc," 3350 George Washington Blvd., Wichita, KS, 67210. For restoration, funds are being accepted at The B-29 Restoration Fund, c/o Boeing Wichita Credit Union, 2900 S Oliver St., Wichita, KS 67210.

Historic German Airport Must Close

Despite efforts from business owners who wanted to keep Germany's historic Tempelhof Airport open, a court in Berlin this week said it must close by Oct. 31, 2008. The airport was the scene of the post-World War II Berlin Airlift, and it was popular with travelers because of its convenient location near the city center. The court said the closing won't infringe on the rights of the airport's FBOs and caterers because they have plenty of time to move to a new airport, Bloomberg News reported on Monday. The court's decision allows no appeal. Tempelhof has been an airport since the 1920s, and after World War II the Americans took over the airport. A few years later, the famous Berlin Airlift kept supplies flowing into West Berlin from the U.S., UK and France during a Soviet blockade. More than half a million passengers flew into or out of Tempelhof in 2005.

Me-262 -- The Dark Side Of A Legendary Aircraft

When a lovingly crafted Messerschmitt Me 262 replica built in the U.S. was shipped to Germany to fly in an air show last summer, the event stirred up memories -- and they weren't all positive ones. The airplane itself might be an engineering marvel and a joy to fly, but an Austrian journalist, writing for the Jerusalem Post, recalls its dark human history. "Almost all the Me 262s that actually went into service with the Luftwaffe were built in one of the most horrendous concentration camps of the Nazi regime," writes Anshel Pfeffer. "The fact that an unknown number of slave laborers, estimated at between 35,000 and 50,000, were murdered or died of malnutrition, disease, freezing and work accidents while building the Me 262 ... goes unmentioned," he says. Pfeffer talks to survivors of the Gusen prison camp, who were forced to work on the airplanes, and were starved and mistreated. The camp was liberated by U.S. soldiers in May 1945.

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News Briefs back to top 

Air-Limo Biz Expands Without VLJs

Linear Air, an air-taxi company based at Hanscom Field, just outside Boston, Mass., is expanding into the Caribbean, and moving forward with its plans to be among the leaders in the very light jet (VLJ) air-taxi market...although so far, it has been operating without any VLJs. While waiting for its first Eclipse jet, now expected in April, the company has been flying Cessna Grand Caravans with luxury interiors. This week, the company announced it has been certified by the French government to offer charter service to the French West Indies, including the island of St. Bart's. The company also has attracted new investors with $2.5 million in funding, for a total of $6 million to fuel its VLJ plans. Linear Air currently provides on-demand charter service to more than 500 cities in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic U.S., eastern Canada and the Caribbean. On summer weekends, the company offers per-seat scheduled charter service to Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket from the Teterboro Airport outside New York City. The Eclipse jet will allow Linear Air to expand its existing propjet service to smaller markets within point-to-point 500-mile regional networks around major metropolitan areas, the company said.

FAA Issues UAV Policy

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are rapidly being developed and deployed, and the FAA on Tuesday published a UAV policy to outline how these aircraft can be used in the National Airspace System. The rules vary depending if the UAV is operated as a public aircraft (operated by the government), a civil aircraft or a model. Public aircraft operate under individual Certificates of Waiver or Authorization (COAs), which are issued after an FAA review of the program and its safety protocols. More than 50 COAs have been granted in the last two years, and a record number are expected for 2007. Civil aircraft must operate under experimental airworthiness certificates. Guidelines for operation of model aircraft are found in FAA Advisory Circular 91-57. Such aircraft may only be used for sport, and not for commercial or business purposes, the FAA notes. More policy statements can be expected as the technology and its applications continue to develop. UAVs range in size from wingspans of six inches to 246 feet and can weigh from about four ounces to over 25,600 pounds. Their use is now is relatively scarce, but about 50 development programs are in the works, with about 155 designs in testing stages.

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News In Brief back to top 

On The Fly

A Beech Bonanza broke up in flight above Savannah, Ga., on Friday. No distress call was made. All three on board were killed...

Aero Technical Institute is offering new classes in Rotax engines for aircraft owners, to be held in Florida before and after Sun 'n Fun...

CubCrafters, of Yakima, Wash., received an FAA production certificate on Monday...

Two men in Iowa face federal charges for harassing deer with an aircraft. The pair allegedly used powered parachutes to herd the deer toward hunters...

Russell Chew, who recently announced his departure as COO of the FAA's Air Traffic Organization, has been named an executive vice president at Hawaiian Air Lines...

Aspen Avionics appointed aviation veteran John Uczekaj as its new president and CEO, replacing co-founder and former CEO Peter Lyons, who will remain at Aspen along with co-founder Jeff Bethel...

JA Air Center says it will build a new 108,000-square-foot FBO facility at Chicagolands Aurora Municipal Airport (KARR), to open in late 2008.

AVweb's Newstips Address ...

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New On AVweb back to top 

The Savvy Aviator #41


The Savvy Aviator #41: Is Your Equipment List Up-To-Date?
The manufacturer provided an equipment list for your aircraft when it was delivered from the factory. Whenever equipment is added or removed from the aircraft, the FAA requires that list to be revised. Is yours up-to-date?

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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/.

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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 Monday'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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Question Of The Week back to top 

Question of the Week: Are You Hearing Evidence of the Controller Shortage on Your Radio?

This Week's Question | Previous Week's Answers


With gas taxes and possible user fees up for consideration this year, a lot of people are starting to wonder aloud whether general aviation aircraft put enough tax dollars into the system to compensate for the resources they use.  Last week, we put the question to AVweb readers: Does G.A. pay its fair share in taxes?

We expected a pretty negative response to the question, but we weren't quite prepared for this number:  Only 4% of AVweb readers said No, fuel taxes do not cover G.A.'s impact on the airspace system!

To see how the other 96% of our readers responded, click here.


The National Air Traffic Controllers Association maintains that ATC services and safety are at risk due to controller staffing issues.  Have you recently noticed increased denial of VFR flight-following services or fewer accommodations for practice approaches?  Tell us.

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

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 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!

Answering 14 Questions Can Help AVweb Serve YOU Better!
AVweb is asking you to take just a few minutes to answer an online survey with only 14 quick questions. The answers to these questions will help AVweb better serve our subscribers' needs and interests. You will not be added to any list or sent unwanted e-mails. Please click here to take the survey.
Pictures Of The Week back to top 

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 "POTW" submissions started out gloomy and overcast, but the weather in your photos gradually brightened — even as storm clouds piled up outside out window.  Rain is headed up the East Coast as we write this, but at least we've got a few sunny, perfect summer days to pine over, thanks to our latest batch of reader-submitted photos.

Remember:  It takes more pictures than ever to fill up our expanded "POTW" slideshow on the home page!  We can only share 'em if you do, so please — keep submitting your photos!

medium | large

Used with permission of Stephen Foster

Sunrise at the Wings of Carolina Flying Club

As much as we love action, adventure, and a cool airplane shape, nothing beats the perfect balance of color and atmosphere — a balance that drove this photo from Cary, North Carolina's Stephen Foster to the top of the stack this week.

As this week's "POTW" winner, Stephen will receive a handy (and not-too-bad-looking) AVweb baseball cap in the mail.  Plus, his photo will be seen by everyone who wanders past the office this week, since we've made it our new desktop wallpaper.


medium | large

copyright © Donald Reid
Used with permission

After the Morning Shower ...

Speaking of the transition from rain to shine:

Donald Reid of Bumpass, Virginia snapped this photo on a rainy Sunday morning at the Virginia Regional EAA Fly-In last October.  "Beautiful clouds and damp planes" left in the wake of the shower made great subjects for Donald and his camera.


medium | large

Used with permission of Terry J. Wallace

Rainbow over East Bay

If "Here Comes the Sun" is the unofficial anthem of this installment of "POTW," then Terry Wallace of Sacramento, California provides the perfect coda to this week's submissions.  This shot of what Terry calls "a pretty intense rainbow" might be one of the best aerial rainbow shots we've ever received — and we've seen quite a few!

Big thanks to Terry, Donald, Stephen, and everyone else who submitted this week.  To see more pictures (over a dozen more!), don't forgot to visit the AVweb home page — where you'll also snippets and links to all our stories from this past week.

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 Special Correspondent Roger A. Mola.

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.