AVwebFlash Complete Issue: Volume 13, Number 10a

March 5, 2007

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Top News back to top 

Eclipse Suffers "Growing Pains"

In a letter sent to customers late last week, Eclipse Aviation President and CEO Vern Raburn admitted that the start-up aircraft manufacturer is having production problems. "It is natural for a new airplane company to experience growing pains as it transitions from development to a predictable production rate. However, our journey has introduced far more challenges than we anticipated," he said. "As a result, the 2007 Eclipse 500 production schedule has slipped," though he didn't elaborate on what the rate would be. Raburn reiterated that the production issues "relate to the manufacturing process, and are not founded in Eclipse 500 design flaws. At their core, these are issues with internal processes and staffing, although parts shortages and quality problems have absolutely contributed to the delay." The company chief said one of his strategies is to bring in experienced automotive production leaders, including the recent appointment of Todd Fierro, a former Ford Motor Company plant manager, as Eclipse's vice president of manufacturing. Raburn also plans to "build-in-position through quality inspection buy-off; leverage robotics in primary assembly to eliminate human error and reduce cycle time; and conduct automated system testing early in the build process" to help alleviate production problems. He concluded, "Our focus now is on catching up, and proving to the FAA that we are ready to take the next step … as issues arise, we will continue to move as swiftly as possible to drive to solutions that serve your best interests. In the past, I have been unwilling to discuss problems until I could also provide you with solutions … [now] I intend to share updates with you as often as possible, whether they highlight our successes or our challenges."

Lawsuits Flying In Lidle Crash

The families of former New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle and his flight instructor Tyler Stanger claim the crash of their Cirrus SR20 into a Manhattan apartment building was caused by a “catastrophic failure of the flight control system.” A statement released by Todd Macaluso, the lawyer representing the families of Lidle and Stanger, claims that FAA and NTSB data show that Cirrus aircraft have “a history of aileron failures” and “there have been other accidents involving flight control failures, several of which resulted in deaths.” The suit also names Teledyne, Hartzel Propeller, S-Tec, Honeywell and Justice Aviation. The NTSB has not yet determined a cause for the Oct. 11 crash, but an update to its preliminary report released in early November focuses on the role of a 13-knot crosswind in the accident and makes no mention of control anomalies. Cirrus has declined comment on details of the crash investigation. New York television station NY1 says the cause of the crash will determine whether Lidle’s family gets a $1 million insurance payout from Major League Baseball. Meanwhile, the owner of an apartment 13 floors above the impact point is suing Lidle’s family for $7 million, claiming the crash ruined his home. Dr. Lawrence Rosenthal claims the crash loosened bricks, broke windows and caused extensive smoke damage to his apartment, which is actually three suites joined together to form a single residence. Rosenthal’s lawyer, David Jaroslawicz, told reporters last week that “everything was destroyed” in his client’s apartment and he and his family had to move out. Lidle’s plane hit the 30th floor of the apartment building on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. The engine was ejected into an apartment, but most of the plane bounced off the building and fell to the street. Lidle and Stanger were sightseeing in a strip of VFR airspace called the East River Exclusion Area when the pilot (it hasn’t been determined who was flying) tried to make a U-turn at the northern boundary of the area.

Highlights From Heli-Expo 2007

This year's edition of the Helicopter Association International's annual convention, Heli-Expo 2007, concluded Saturday afternoon at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla.. The showroom floor hosted more than 500 exhibitors and 35 helicopters on display. According to HAI, exhibitors reported high levels of activity at their booths, and vendors were able to interact with thousands of consumers on the floor during the three-day event. The association doled out several “Salute to Excellence” Awards at a dinner celebration over the weekend. Heli-Expo was also a platform for vendors and manufacturers to announce new products. Robinson Helicopter said it is developing the five-place R66 Turbine powered by the 300-shp Rolls-Royce 300, which itself was unveiled on Friday. Details are scant on the R66, but it is expected to enter service in the 2010 timeframe and compete with the Bell 206 JetRanger. Meanwhile, Bell Helicopter ditched the Model 417 announced at last year's show and added the Bell 429 GlobalRanger light-twin helicopter to its stable. Sikorsky took the wraps off of a search-and-rescue-configured S-92 and said its twin-rotor X2 technology demonstrator program will accelerate later this year. Manufacturers also announced sales of nearly $750 million at the show, some $120 million more than that recorded at Heli-Expo 2006. And Honeywell expects the good times to roll -- the company's turbine helicopter forecast projects deliveries of about 3,500 new civil-use helicopters between 2007 and 2011.

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News Briefs back to top 

Homebuilding Ban Reconsidered

Jacksonville, Fla.’s city ordinance against building or repairing aircraft on residential property will either be repealed or substantially rewritten thanks to a successful lobby campaign by local pilots and EAA. At a meeting last week, the sponsor of the controversial law, council member Lake Ray, is reported by EAA to have admitted the law was flawed. "It could not have gone any better," said Milford Shirley, who organized the opposition to the law. "Our strategy was to show the inequity of restricting aircraft homebuilding as opposed to other hobby-type pursuits that aren't as regulated, and it worked." The ordinance singled out aircraft construction and repair as being illegal while allowing processes similar to those used on aircraft to continue in other hobby activities. For instance, building furniture out of wood was legal but building wing spars from wood was not. Similarly fiberglass, metal, engine and other construction and repair activities were legal as long as they didn’t involve a flying machine. The EAA lobby apparently convinced the council that any ordinance against those types of activities should apply across the board, not just to aircraft.

EAA Fights For Release Of Antique Specs

EAA has joined a legal battle that would allow access to drawings and technical data for a 70-year-old aircraft that, for some reason, the current holder of those documents doesn’t want to release. At issue is the Fairchild 45, a five-seat touring plane, of which only 17 were built. The Fairchild Corporation, which was formed in 1990 and claims rights to the data, has consistently refused requests by Brent Taylor, executive director of the Antique Airplane Association, for access to the documents. So far, the FAA is backing Fairchild’s request to keep the data private, even though, according to EAA, there’s some question over whether the company has the legal right to the data. The larger issue is the ability of owners of discontinued aircraft to maintain them per FAA airworthiness standards. Taylor said his fight could set a precedent. “I think it’s a far-reaching case that we would like to see resolved so people can still get the drawings they need to simply preserve aviation heritage,” Taylor told EAA. A court decision in Taylor’s case should be made by summer. In the meantime, the FAA is proposing legislation that would allow blanket access to type certificate and supplementary type certificates that have been abandoned by their original owners so that airworthiness standards can be maintained.

Safety Inspection Overhaul Draws Fire

Transport Canada’s plan to transfer some safety oversight and inspection responsibility to the country’s airlines, along with an aggressive cost-cutting regime, are being criticized by a prominent safety expert. According to the Ottawa Citizen, Virgil Moshansky, who headed a commission of inquiry into a 1989 Air Ontario accident that killed 24 people, told a House of Commons committee looking at changes to the Aeronautics Act that conditions are ripe for another airline disaster. “I certainly think it’s on the horizon, especially if this oversight divesting is allowed to proceed,” Moshansky said. “Today, 18 years after Dryden, history is repeating itself, only worse. Cost-cutting is again in vogue at Transport Canada and has been for some time,” he told the committee. Transport Canada is proposing an overhaul of the safety inspection system that would put more onus on the airlines and result in audits being conducted only on operations thought to be at higher risk. Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon rejected the criticism and said safety will be enhanced with the new system. In the Air Ontario crash, a Fokker F-28 jet went down shortly after takeoff from the northern Ontario town of Dryden. Moshansky found that the root causes of the accident were budget cuts at Transport Canada, combined with airline deregulation. In current circumstances, cost-cutting is being combined with the change to a risk-management-based safety regime that he says will result in far fewer actual inspections by TC staff. “Regulatory oversight is not being merely reduced. Except for limited focused audits, it is being systematically dismantled,” he said. Some members of Parliament and the union representing safety inspectors have also been critical of the plan.

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News Briefs back to top 

Opposition Urged To Centennial Housing Plan

The National Business Aviation Association is asking members (and presumably anyone else who might be affected) to write the mayor and council of Centennial, Colo., to oppose a plan to build 1,600 homes less than half a mile from the busy runways at Centennial Airport (KAPA). A developer is asking the city to annex property within the airport's restricted development area and rezone it to allow the houses, trails, recreation areas and a retail center. "The project would severely affect the airport's long-term economic impact on the city and county, as well as create the environment for numerous noise complaints," NBAA says in a letter to members. There's not much time. The matter is on the agenda for a March 5 meeting. That discussion will be preliminary. Council will discuss a pre-annexation agreement that, if approved, would keep the development process alive." But NBAA says that process should be stopped to preserve an important aviation and economic resource. "Currently the airport generates close to a billion dollars of total economic impact for the area," the letter says, citing stats from the Colorado Department of Transportation.

Mexico Eyes Aerospace Growth

Mexico hopes to be the next big thing in aerospace manufacturing, thanks to what one analyst says is a 30-percent cost advantage over the U.S. At a conference in Dallas last week, Mexican government official Eduardo Solis said Bombardier will be building regional jets in his country by 2011 and that the company’s parts plant there recently shipped a fuselage to the current assembly plant in Canada. "Mexico's aeronautical industry is hot today," Solís told the Dallas Morning News. However, Bombardier spokesman Marc Duchesne told the newspaper the company hasn’t yet made up its mind to build aircraft in Mexico, although it is considering it. "We may one day, but it's way too soon to say that," he said. Mexico’s aerospace industry includes a lot of industry heavyweights, such as Cessna and Honeywell, and employs about 16,000 people. Luc Beaudoin, a former Bombardier executive who now works as an aerospace consultant in Mexico City, says companies can save up to 30 percent by building products in Mexico, but the biggest savings come from establishing high-volume production there. "You shouldn't venture into Mexico unless you know where your economy is going to be," he told the Morning News. "You need volume to make a material impact on the bottom line."

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News Briefs back to top 

Georgia To Create Aviation Authority

The state of Georgia is expected to adopt a plan that would put its entire fleet of aircraft under a single agency to reduce costs and increase efficiency. And, according to an Associated Press report, among the Georgia Aviation Authority’s first tasks will be to chop the existing fleet of 74 aircraft by about 20 percent, but purchases and charters are envisioned to modernize the fleet. The aircraft perform divergent roles, ranging from firefighting and law enforcement to training flight students at a university, but the state figures that having them all under one administrative authority will streamline maintenance and training. The airplanes and helicopters are now spread over 18 locations and their deployment was studied by an 11-member task force of aviation managers as part of Gov. Sonny Perdue’s Commission for a "new" Georgia.

FAA Fines North Dakota Over Maintenance

The FAA is proposing $75,000 in fines for alleged maintenance violations on the state of North Dakota’s three aircraft, including its King Air B200 that’s regularly used to fly the governor and other dignitaries. The Bismarck Tribune says North Dakota is fighting the assessment and contends that the aircraft are properly maintained although it did “voluntarily” ground its Piper Cheyenne for more than two weeks last year when it was shown that unspecified engine tests hadn’t been carried out. On the King Air, inspectors allegedly discovered that an air data computer had been replaced without the required calibration and testing. A damaged prop and oil leak were found in the rear engine of the state’s Cessna 337. "We see all these events as serious events," FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory told the Tribune. However, the state, so far, sees them as “allegations” and has hired a lawyer to fight them. Ernest Anderson, the Grand Forks lawyer handling the case for the state, says he’s asked for documentation so he knows what tack to take. Meanwhile, Gov. John Hoeven has said he has confidence in the airworthiness of the planes and has never had cause to doubt it. The FAA claims it also found lax procedures in administration and pilot certification. Last spring, the state’s chief pilot resigned after his certificate was suspended by the FAA.

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News Briefs back to top 

Blaine Airport Faces Closure

In a 4-3 vote, the Blaine, Wash., city council voted last month to close the local airport, but supporters are continuing to try and save it. Although the same council voted in October to keep the facility open, according to AOPA, they wanted the FAA to kick in the full $16 million needed for improvements all at once. AOPA says that was an unrealistic request. In any case, the FAA only came up with $500,000, and the gavel came down on the airport at a meeting Feb. 26. And since the airport has never used federal money, an important hammer often used to protect airports from predatory developers and indifferent city councils is not available. When the FAA doles out airport improvement money it always comes with the requirement that the airport remain open to the public for at least 20 years or the money has to be paid back. AOPA is hoping that Washington State will feel the same way about the money it’s invested there. The 34-acre site is worth about $5.7 million but grant repayment, compensation to leaseholders and potential lawsuits could eat up most of it, according to city lawyer Jon Sitkin.

Blind Pilot To Fly From Britain To Australia

A British man who describes himself as “blind as a bat” intends to fly an ultralight from Britain to Australia later this year, following the route of a 1919 air race through Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Miles Hilton-Barber, who crossed the English Channel in an ultralight equipped with voice annunciating instruments in 2003, will tackle the 15,000-mile trip on Monday. He’s hoping to raise about $2 million for Seeing Is Believing, a charity that works to prevent blindness in Third World countries. Hilton-Barber will be accompanied by a sighted pilot. He hopes to complete the trip in 55 days. In addition to his flying exploits, Hilton-Barber has climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, competed in marathons and raced cars. He told reporters that his dream as a young man was to fly fighters, but poor eyesight (he has retinitis pigmentosa) kept him out. "Now, 37 years later and blind as a bat, I have this wonderful opportunity and privilege to fly more than halfway across the world."

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News In Brief back to top 

On The Fly

Plans to remove weather forecasters from Air Route Traffic Control Centers might be reviewed by the Government Accountability Office. Opponents say the move will endanger flight operations because weather information won’t be as readily available to pilots and controllers…

EAA members in Hawaii are lobbying the state to include aviation fueling stations in a bill that would ensure ethanol-free gasoline is available to those who need it. The current bill only covers marine and recreational vehicle applications…

Dr. Stephen Hawking will go weightless aboard a Zero Gravity Corp. flight on April 26. The renowned theoretical physicist will be the first quadriplegic to ride the parabolic trajectory on the company’s Boeing 727-200…

China intends to build an airport in Tibet at an elevation of almost 13,000 feet. The airport will have a 12,000-foot runway and is expected to handle 85,000 passengers a year by 2015.

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New On AVweb back to top 

Leading Edge #2


Leading Edge #2: Standard Operating Procedures
SOPs provide middle-of-the–envelope safety...and the basis for more advanced flying.

New Products

What's New for March 2007This month AVweb's survey of the latest products and services for pilots, mechanics and aircraft owners brings you Rotax training classes, multimedia courses, a dictionary, a Mode S transponder and more.

AVmail: March 5, 2007


AVmail: March 5, 2007
Reader mail this week about airport problems and aging pilots, and a lot of discussion of the DFW fuel emergency fiasco.

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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 LoPresti's R.J. Siegel. And AVweb's podcast index includes interviews with Eclipse Aviation's Vern Raburn; B-29 restoration program manager Cliff Gaston; 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.; and NATA President Jim Coyne. In Monday's newscast, hear about the highlights of Heli-Expo 2007, production problems looming at Eclipse Aviation, lawsuits flying in wake of the Cory Lidle crash, Jacksonville reconsidering its ban on building kit airplanes in garages 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: Premier Jet

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

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Premier Jet at KCRQ in Carlsbad, Calif.

AVweb reader Douglas Roberson said the staff gets what it takes to have a successful FBO.

"When I arrived they gave me the red carpet treatment and parked me right up front and met me when my door opened, with a friendly smile and a welcome. Then the service began: they asked me what I needed for my overnight, and within a few minutes they had me a hotel room and a ride for me. The next morning they picked me up, without a phone call, at the time I requested. When I arrived, my aircraft was positioned up front ready to load. They treated me as if I was flying a jet. They get it!! They know with the advent of the very light/personal jets that a lot of their future customers will be buying jet-A. But in my opinion I believe the staff truly desires to treat there customers the way they themselves would like to be treated."

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: FLIR Demo into Aspen, Colorado

Recommend a Video | VOTW Archive

Our latest "Video of the Week" comes to us from an AVweb reader who writes:

For those that know what FLIR is, I have a video you need to see. This is [a Gulfstream] ... on a visual landing to Aspen, Colorado at night. The right half of the view is the pilot's normal visual path to the runway during darkness — in other words, totally black. The left side of the screen is the Forward Looking Infrared [FLIR], which paints the heat signature of the outside terrain for pilots so we can see at night as though it were daytime. ... You have to love FLIR ... takes all the fun out of night VFR!

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If that doesn't work, click here to download the video directly.

Originally posted by YouTube user betterdigitalphotos and submitted to us by M. Schulhof.

Don't forget to send us links to any interesting videos you find out there. If you're impressed by it, there's a good chance other AVweb readers will be too. And if we use a video you recommend on AVweb, we'll send out an official AVweb baseball cap as a "thank you."

The Lighter Side Of Flight back to top 

Short Final

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

Overheard while flying between Athens, Ga. and Charleston, S.C.:

Bizjet 123: Approach we just flew through the localizer. Can you vector us around for another attempt — early turn in?

Augusta Approach: Sorry about that. I was on the land line coordinating with Center and the guy just kept talking and talking and talking. I couldn’t get him off the phone.

Bizjet 123: Yeah, I understand. Sometimes I can’t get my wife off the phone, either.

Approach: Well, she must be working at Atlanta Center then.

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.

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.

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