AVwebFlash Complete Issue: Volume 13, Number 8a

February 19, 2007

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Sponsor Announcement

Watchdog Worries About NGATS

The FAA's Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO) is making progress towards the lofty goal of reinventing the National Airspace System, but there's a minefield of coordination, budget and implementation issues ahead, according to a report from the Department of Transportation's Office of Inspector General. OIG said the creation of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NGATS) is "an extraordinarily complex and high-risk effort given the potential multibillion-dollar investments by FAA and airspace users." While there seems to be an overall plan to coordinate a bunch of agencies toward the goal of accommodating three times the air traffic of today by 2025, the OIG worries that there's a lack of specific direction within those agencies to make sure the work actually gets done. The OIG is naturally interested in just how the FAA is going to invest all those billions of dollars in NGATS equipment and facilities, but it's also concerned about the financial impact on those who will use the system. Among the big questions is what equipment aircraft will need and who's going to pay for it. It's a given that NGATS will involve a shift of more responsibility for separation to the cockpit and that satellite-based gear is going to facilitate that. But just who will do what in the new system and whether pilots and controllers alike can handle the anticipated workload are open questions. "We are recommending that the JPDO conduct sufficient human factors analyses and studies to ensure that the changes envisioned for NGATS can be safely accomplished," the DOT OIG concluded.

Alaska Inks Capstone Deal

Alaska could become a real-life test bed for technologies anticipated to be part of the Next Generation Air Transportation System under a complex agreement recently (and secretly) signed by the FAA and many of Alaska’s aviation groups and companies. The Business Journal of Alaska obtained a copy of the agreement and says it calls for installation of Automatic Dependent Broadcast-Surveillance and other gear that formed the basis of the Capstone system in 5,000 GA and commercial aircraft. Essentially, the deal requires the aviation industry to ensure that the aircraft will get the necessary equipment, while the FAA will set up the infrastructure. While it’s expected to be easy to get the commercial operators on board, getting all the private owners to equip their planes might not be as easy, and it could be a deal breaker. “The agreement will be considered null and void if industry is unable to successfully equip aircraft as expected in this agreement,” according to the agreement. Howard Swancy, an advisor to the FAA on the project, told the newspaper that they’re aware of the potential pitfalls and are committed to try to work past them. “This is a living document that can be changed to meet the needs, if both parties agree that progress is being made,” Swancy told the Journal. While a good cross-section of Alaska aviation groups and companies have signed the agreement, there are some notable exceptions, according to the newspaper. The State of Alaska, which owns the airports, hasn’t signed on yet, nor has the Alaska Federation of Natives or some charter companies.

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News Briefs back to top 

Women In Aviation Gathering Flies High

The 18th annual Women in Aviation International (WAI) conference closed on a high note Saturday night after the three-day event broke the record books. More than 3,200 attendees packed the exhibit hall at Disney's Coronado Springs Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., and the association sold 214 booth spaces, up from last year's 180 spaces. On Saturday night, more than $375,000 in scholarships was awarded at the closing banquet. WAI also inducted three new members into its Pioneer Hall of Fame -- Major Deanna Bresseur, one of the first three women to earn their wings in the Canadian Forces in 1981; Iris Cummings Critchell, a 1940 graduate of the first Civilian Pilot Training Program at the University of Southern California; and Marie Marvingt, an Olympic gold medalist and the third wom an in the world to earn a fixed wing pilot’s license. The conference gave members a chance to network, and many of the exhibitors were recruiting for engineers, managers, pilots and aviation marketing professionals. The next WAI confab will be held in March 2008 in San Diego.

FAA Funding Plan Has Supporters, Too

While some aviation groups say the FAA’s current funding proposal will be the end of general aviation as we know it, the lobby organization that is generally credited with its creation says it’s “a good first step.” The Air Transport Association, which represents most U.S. airlines, has been pushing for a “user pay” system to cover the operation and modernization of the FAA for at least two years. Despite howls of protest from those who will pay more under the new scheme, ATA President Jim May said this week he doesn’t think the system of user fees and the tripling of general aviation fuel taxes goes far enough to relieve the unfair burden airlines have shouldered. “While we applaud this proposal as a good step forward in advancing the reauthorization debate and welcome its recognition of the inequity of forcing airlines and their customers to subsidize other system users, we have deep concerns over a number of elements of the proposal,” May said in a statement. Possibly one of the biggest sticking points with the ATA is the ability for GA operators to dodge costs by avoiding the country’s biggest airports. The funding proposal includes a fee for operating in the most “congested airspace” but, according to the ATA, incorrectly equates that fee with landings and takeoffs at the big hubs. May said up to 20 percent of the traffic handled by New York control facilities don’t end up at the big three airports. The ATA also doesn’t like the use of aircraft weight in calculations, nor does it approve of the federally mandated airport improvement fee that would see airline passengers paying $1 billion for improvements to non-commercial airports.

DOT OIG: ATC Hiring Makes Progress, Needs Work

The Department of Transportation Inspector General last week released a report covering FAA progress and key elements of the FAA's congressionally mandated controller workforce plan created to counter an anticipated surge in controller attrition. The report concludes that the "FAA has made significant improvements by centralizing its hiring process" and has reduced "the time and costs" to train controllers (largely through increased use of simulator training), but the report also identifies and expands on five shortcomings: staffing standards, projected retirements, controller training, productivity initiatives and costs associated with training as it relates to on-the-job training times.

To expand, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) reports that facility staffing standards remain undefined -- this precludes effective placement of new hires and so staffing ranges for each location are recommended for the FAA's next update of the workforce plan. Controller retirements in 2005 exceeded FAA projections by 36 percent -- the FAA's forecast method needs to be refined. Overall training improvements are evident, according to the OIG, but on-the-job training time is still too high -- OIG recommends that clear instructions should be issued to all facilities. The FAA's goal of reducing controller staffing were met in 2005, but increases in productivity can not be measured, because the FAA failed to define baseline metrics for measuring improvement. Finally, the FAA has not yet identified the cost of hiring and training more than 11,800 new controllers, according to the report. The bright spot, according to the report, is the FAA's controller hiring process, which has been centralized, allowing earlier management of process, earlier notice of new hires to facilities and reduced clearance time.

In Print & Online, Trade-A-Plane Has Everything That Keeps You Flying
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News Briefs back to top 

Paraglider Survives Thunderstorm Encounter

A German paraglider was frostbitten and bruised from being pummeled by orange-sized hail, but lived to tell the tale of being sucked up inside a thunderstorm and spit out at 30,000 feet. Ewa Wisnerska was practicing for a meet in Australia when the storm hit. Another competitor, He Zhongpin of China, was killed in the storm. Wisnerska, 35, shot to 30,000 feet in about 10 minutes. "You can't imagine the power. You feel like nothing, like a leaf from a tree going up," she told a news conference. "I was shaking all the time. The last thing I remember it was dark, I could hear lightning all around me." Wisnerska was unconscious for about an hour as the paraglider slowly descended to about 20,000 feet. When she came to, she was coated in ice and had endured temperatures as low as -50 degrees Celsius but managed to land safely.

A Stunning Twist To Gear-Up Landing

Gear-up landings make regular appearances on the local news but not many of them involve police using a Taser gun on the volunteers who turn out to help. According to the Fresno Bee, Merced County Sheriff’s Department was called to Castle Airport in Atwater, Calif., last Thursday after a report that a Piper Arrow pilot was having trouble lowering all the gear. Of course, by the time they got there, there were lots of airport folks already discussing the situation. Maintenance technician Lupe Gonzalez apparently wanted to do more than talk. He and a group of other airport workers hatched a plan to drive a truck under the airplane as it flew down the runway so they could try and muscle the reluctant gear out of its bay. This didn’t sound like such a good idea to the police officers, and they said so. What happened next is in dispute, but it ended with Gonzalez twitching on the ground thanks to the Taser dart he’d received from one of the cops. Sheriff's spokesman Paul Barile later told the newspaper that Gonzalez had become belligerent, a charge Gonzalez denied. The tech did, however, confirm that he intended to try the risky maneuver in spite of the officer’s pointed recommendation that he not. Oh, and the Arrow? It landed on two of three legs, took some minor damage and the occupants were unhurt—which is how these things almost always end—without the help from below.

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News Briefs back to top 

FAA Sheds Light On Part 23 Non-Required Lights

The FAA has issued a policy statement addressing concerns that it has in the past approved taxi, landing and recognition lights for Part 23 aircraft without reference to the effects of those lights on required lights or electromagnetic interference issues. To clarify approved use of lights, the FAA asserts that taxi lights may reduce the area covered by required position or anti-collision lights because they are designed for "the taxi phase of flight" (presumably, that "phase of flight" that takes place on the ground). Landing lights for use in approach and landing phases of flight may also reduce the area covered by required lighting. Part 23 does not, however, require forward-facing recognition lights, and the statement says those lights are acceptable if they supplement but do not reduce the required field of coverage of position lights or anti-collision lights, do not cause a hazard and do not cause EMI. "Logo lights" used to illuminate parts of the aircraft fall under those same rules. This policy statement clarifies FAR 23.1383 through 23.1395 and 23.1401 for installing required and non-required lights on part 23 aircraft. It applies to normal, utility, acrobatic and commuter category airplanes. It also applies to non-rigid airships (ADC sections 6.24 through 6.30 and 6.32) certified in the normal category (FAR 21.17(b)) with nine passenger seats or less. The policy statement contains precise details on how the FAA in this case intends to define "hazard," EMI and logo lights.

Researchers Work On Wire Fault Detector

University of Utah researchers are working on a device, which, if it works, could help prevent one of the most common causes of aircraft fires. Prof. Cynthia Furse and her students are hoping to create a wire fault detector that works while the plane is in the air. During flight, condensation can trigger tiny short circuits in cracked or worn wiring that can lead to much more serious problems. "We are working on developing an intermittent, live wire fault location system that can locate the fault within one foot," Furse told the student newspaper, the Daily Utah Chronicle. Detecting the shorts isn’t the big problem. Doing it without disrupting the signals and information being carried on the wires is the major obstacle, but Furse said they’re closing in on it. Her work has led to establishment of LiveWire Test Labs in Salt Lake City and it’s helping Furse and her students bring the device to market. "The systems are not yet ready for installation, but it is estimated that by 2010 to 2012, they should be a common part of airplanes," Live Wire employee Mike Diamond said.

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News Briefs back to top 

Monument Recalls Tenerife Disaster

Thirty years after the worst aviation disaster in history, a permanent reminder of the runway collision at Tenerife Airport in the Canary Islands will be erected on a mountain there. The 60-foot steel sculpture entitled De Wenteltrap (means spiral staircase) was created by Dutch artist Rudi van de Wint. It was commissioned by Foundation Relatives Victims Tenerife, a group formed in 2002 to raise funds for the monument. It will honor the memory of 583 people who died when a KLM Boeing 747 collided with a Pan American 747 on a runway at Tenerife. The monument will be publicly unveiled March 27 in front of Spanish, American and Dutch family members of victims, survivors and government officials. Incredibly, the unveiling will be preceded by the first-ever international memorial service to remember the victims. The foundation has contacted relatives and survivors (61 people survived) and special flights are being arranged to get as many as possible to the ceremony.

AOPA Turbomedical Approved By FAA

AOPA announced last week that U.S. pilots are one step closer to being able to file their medical renewal information online. The FAA has agreed to accept printouts of AOPA’s Turbomedical form as long as they’re signed in the presence of an AME or the doctor’s staff. Turbomedical is described as a “medical assistant” designed to help pilots answer the FAA’s medical questions efficiently and accurately. AOPA designed it as an online tool and has been lobbying the FAA to allow the questionnaire to be submitted electronically, but we’re not quite there yet. [more] However, the latest step is a significant move in that direction. Previously, the information from the AOPA form had to be transcribed to the official FAA form. An AOPA release says the FAA is working on an online medical information system but the privacy issues are understandably daunting. Once the FAA’s online medical system goes live, AOPA says it intends to press for acceptance of its form online, too.

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News In Brief back to top 

On The Fly

There’s no common frequency to comments being received on the future of Loran. While airline groups and manufacturers say nobody uses it anymore, sea captains and communications firms want it maintained for its jam-resistance and reliability…

A stowaway squirrel forced a Tokyo-Dallas American Airlines flight to divert to Honolulu last week. The animal was heard in the very crowded overhead compartment of the Boeing 777 cockpit and the pilots didn’t want to risk it chewing through any wires. The Eastern Grey Squirrel was trapped and killed by Hawaiian officials, fearing it might be diseased…

Officials at DuPage Airport in West Chicago estimate the facility’s economic impact will top $1.6 billion in 2011 when its new technology park is finished. That would rank it among the top five GA airports in the U.S. in financial terms.

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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Columbia Introduces 2007 Models
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New On AVweb back to top 

Pelican's Perch #83


Pelican's Perch #83: The Shell Report
Shell's recent Tech Talk has great advice for how to run engines -- and some real bloopers.

Probable Cause #26


Probable Cause #26: Four Minutes
Few things demand getting the airplane on the ground more quickly than an in-flight fire. Here's why.

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. 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 Cliff Gaston, manager of a B-29 restoration program. And AVweb's podcast index includes interviews with NBAA's Ed Bolen; Alaska pilot Cable Wells; 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; and Eclipse Aviation's Vern Raburn. In today's podcast, AVweb interviews EAA's Earl Lawrence about how the new air-tour rule will affect the Young Eagles program. 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: City of Wauchula

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

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to City of Wauchula at KCHN in Wauchula, Fla.

AVweb reader Jerry Carbaugh said the personnel at the city-run facility focus on pleasing customers.

"The folks running the FBO are great. They have the lowest fuel cost around and believe in satisfying the customer."

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: Reno Balloon Race 2006 (Time-Lapse Video)

Recommend a Video | VOTW Archive

Our latest "Video of the Week" is for those of who'd love to attend a hot air balloon race, but just couldn't find the time in 2006. You're in luck, because YouTube user tlapse has put together and incredible time-lapse video of the 2006 Reno Balloon Race launch ceremony — using stills from a Canon digital camera!

Don't see a video screen?
Try disabling ad blockers and refreshing this page.
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."

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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"

Overheard in Southern Florida:

Fort Myers Approach: Cessna Three Four Alpha, say heading.

Cessna: Ah, we're headin' for Tampa.

Fort Myers Approach: Cessna Three Four Alpha, say heading.

Cessna: Well, okay, we're headin' for the LaBelle VOR first and then going on to Tampa.

Fort Myers Approach: Cessna Three Four Alpha, could you look at your compass and tell me what number is behind the little line?

Cessna: Oh...you want to know which way we're going right now. Three five zero, sir.

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.

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Aviate, navigate, communicate.