AVwebFlash Complete Issue: Volume 13, Number 11a

March 12, 2007

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Top News back to top 

NBAA: FAA Aviation User-Fee Plan Flawed

Representing the general aviation community during a Senate aviation subcommittee hearing on FAA reauthorization on Thursday morning, National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) president and CEO Ed Bolen urged lawmakers to immediately reject aviation user fees in any form, saying the proposal advocated by the airlines and FAA would be "disastrous" for the national aviation system and for businesses in rural area. During testimony, he maintained that the FAA's user-fee proposal would overthrow a funding structure that has proven to be "stable, reliable and growing" for more than 25 years. Bolen pointed out several shortcomings in the FAA's plan: a $600 million cut in FAA funding; allowing the FAA to go into deep debt, up to $5 billion, starting in 2013; and diversion of funds for ATC transformation to create a bureaucracy to assess and collect user fees. "Revenues going into the Airport and Airways Trust Fund are at record levels, and no less an authority than the Congressional Budget Office has said that the FAA will continue to have sufficient funds to fully support the transition to the Next Generation Air Traffic System," he told the subcommittee. Bolen also reminded lawmakers that in 1997 the airlines advocated that user fees were needed to overhaul aviation system funding, which would have shifted some $600 million in costs and reduced the role of Congress in aviation system oversight. "To everyone who was around the last time the nation's big airlines pushed that scheme, there is a strong sense of déjà vu," he said. "This time around, the airlines have picked a new target for their tax shift -- general aviation -- and they have increased the amount to $2 billion. The objective of reducing congressional control of the FAA remains unchanged."

Funding Debate Goes To Congress

After about two years of posturing, the rubber hits the road for the FAA’s attempt to radically change the way it does business this week. On Wednesday, Administrator Marion Blakey will be in front of the aviation subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to defend the agency’s reauthorization proposal. That will be a warm-up for March 21, when she’ll be back in front of the committee promoting her vision of a user-pay system for air traffic control and other services and hefty fuel tax increases for general aviation. AOPA President Phil Boyer will testify at the March 21 hearing to fight the proposal, saying it’s unnecessary from a financial point of view and will seriously harm GA in the U.S. AOPA is pulling out the stops to maintain pressure against the funding changes. Last week it sent aviation reporters advance copies of a scathing assessment of the European user-fee system that will appear in the April edition of AOPA Pilot magazine. The advance look at the story is intended as background for coverage of the committee hearings. The article lists examples of various fees imposed on all levels of GA aircraft. It also chronicles a flight from England to Germany in a Twin Comanche that, despite some questionable maneuvers executed to avoid user fees, costs the aircraft owner $232 in fees and taxes alone. The story also speculates on the impact on training and currency since pilots pay user fees for each landing, including touch and goes.

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News Briefs back to top 

Columbia Trims Workforce

After being walloped by weather and bogged down by bureaucracy, Columbia Aircraft says it has to trim its workforce by 10 percent to make ends meet. The Bend, Ore., planemaker announced on Thursday it will lay off 59 of its 605 employees because of unforeseen factors that cut the number of deliveries it could make last year. Although sales have remained strong, CEO Bing Lantis said in a news release that a freak hailstorm last June and a six-month delay in the certification of its Garmin G1000 panel installation have "hampered Columbia's ability to operate profitably." The 59 workers got their pink slips this week. As AVweb reported last year, the hailstorm damaged the paint on 60 aircraft that were awaiting certification and delivery at the Bend plant. Although no structural damage occurred, the finish on all the planes had to be repaired or refinished before they could go to customers. The hail damage came after a six-month delay in the G1000 certification, which meant that no one who ordered those airplanes could pick them up (and pay for them) until the paperwork was complete. Lantis says Columbia tried to reduce its workforce through attrition, but finally had to impose the layoffs. He said the order backlog remains fat and the company is building and delivering aircraft against a 90-day backlog of orders.

Kauai Copter Crash Kills Four

Hawaiian tour industry officials have leapt to the defense of Heli-USA Airways after the helicopter tour operator suffered its second fatal crash in as many years this week. "I have every confidence in these guys," Mike Stewart, a local tour company operator who books flights with Heli-USA, told the Honolulu Advertiser. "I put my daughter alone on their flight." Three of seven people aboard the Heli-USA Aerospatiale A-Star died in the crash near Princeville on the Hawaiian island of Kauai on Thursday afternoon. A fourth died on the way to hospital, and the survivors were critically injured. Among the dead is pilot "Helicopter Joe" Sulak, who was reported by the newspaper to have more than 10,000 hours in the A-Star. The Advertiser said Sulak reported unspecified hydraulics problems about two miles from the airport and the helicopter crashed just short of the Princeville runway. It was the fifth fatal air tour crash on Kauai in four years and the second for Heli-USA. The tour helicopter crashes in Hawaii were partly responsible for the FAA's establishment of new air tour safety standards that were included in a final rule enacted last Feb. 13. The previous Heli-USA crash, in which an A-Star ditched in the ocean off Kauai in September of 2005, led to the requirement that air-tour helicopters operating over water be equipped with inflatable emergency floats. In that crash, which ultimately killed all six on board (three died in the helicopter, two drowned and one died of a heart attack after almost drowning), the NTSB faulted the pilot for continuing the flight into adverse weather.

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News Briefs back to top 

Cargo Drone In The Works

Israeli Aerospace Industries is working on an airliner-sized unmanned aerial vehicle capable of carrying 60,000 pounds of freight. And the only reason it’s focusing on a cargo plane is that the flying public won’t accept a pilotless passenger plane. Shlomo Tsach, IAI’s director of flight sciences, told the Jerusalem Post the technology already exists to fly passengers without pilots but "the world is not yet ready to be flown without a pilot at the stick.” However, he said, a study by Boeing suggests there’s no such resistance to sending packages without direct human intervention, so the idea of a pilotless cargo plane is gaining some traction. At the opposite end of the spectrum, IAI is also working on a nine-pound solar-powered UAV. The Sun Sailor carries a digital camera as its payload and can remain airborne indefinitely using (and presumably storing) solar energy. The Israeli company is also developing a 10-seat commuter aircraft powered by fuel cells. "Our job is to foresee future technology, what we will need and what to invest in,” Arnold Nathan, director of research and development at IAI's Engineering Division, told the Post. IAI is currently involved in 85 aviation research projects under a 10-year contract with the European Union.

Kansas Museum Needs Help To Move B-47

The Kansas Aviation Museum says it needs a quick $110,000 or an army of well-equipped volunteers to bring a Cold War relic home. A B-47, the first swept-wing, pure jet bomber, is no longer welcome at the Oklahoma City fairgrounds, and the Kansas museum would like to bring it back to Wichita, where it was built in 1951. “It would be great to have the plane,” museum director Teresa Day told The Wichita Eagle. “It would definitely complement the B-29 and the B-52 we already have on display.” But Oklahoma City wants the aircraft, one of only 24 intact B-47s, gone by the end of April and will scrap it if necessary. “We have such a limited time frame, I’m just not sure it can happen,” Day said. For $110,000, a company will disassemble the aircraft, move it to Wichita and put it back together but, as with most museums, that $110,000 just isn’t there. The alternative would be to find enough volunteers with the skill and equipment to bring the nuclear bomber home. Day says they’ll need a crane to lift the 110-foot-long plane from its current pedestal and a minimum of five flatbeds to carry the pieces. “It’s a long shot,” Day said. “I’ve contacted past friends of the museum to ask for help. It would be a shame for this plane to be lost.”

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News Briefs back to top 

Midwest Regional Grounded

RegionsAir, which operates regional flights for Continental Airlines to Cleveland and American Airlines to St. Louis, has suspended operations to resolve issues with its training policies. The company was shut down for two days last week and resumed service last Monday before being shut down again on Thursday. In a news release quoted by the Marietta, Ohio, Times, RegionsAir said all planes and pilots were recalled to its home base in Smyrna, Tenn. "We have been in discussions with the FAA today and will honor the requests outlined in the Consent Order with the intentions of satisfying any [and] all requested modifications to our Line Check Airman training [and] Certification program," Nathan Vallier, director of sales and marketing, said in the release. The nature of the modifications wasn’t discussed. RegionsAir also didn’t say how long it might be grounded but a news release from American Airlines said flights are cancelled through March 31. RegionsAir flies to nine cities from St. Louis and three from Cleveland using 19-seat Jetstream 32 turboprops. In some cities it provides the only airline service. American and Continental are now scrambling to find alternatives for customers who have booked. Springfield, Ill., airport officials say they’re looking for an alternative service to St. Louis because of the recent troubles. RegionsAir’s days may have been numbered at Cape Girardeau, Mo., regardless of the shutdowns. The local airport authority voted last week to ask the Department of Transportation to allow Big Sky Airlines to operate service to Cincinnati as an alternative to the St. Louis connection. The board noted that 8 percent of RegionsAir’s flights had been cancelled in the previous year.

Armed Pilots Might Get Badges

Air Accident Digest says changes may be made to the Federal Flight Deck Officer program to encourage more airline pilots to carry guns in the cockpit. According to the Web site, issuing badges would allow armed pilots to instantly identify themselves to other law enforcement officials and establish authority during an incident. Another change being considered is to allow FFDOs to carry their weapons when deadheading, instead of the current practice of securing their guns in lock boxes. The Web site says that it’s estimated that less than 10 percent of the 90,000 airline pilots have FFDO certification (the actual numbers are a secret) and suggests the government is interested in beefing up those ranks to take some of the pressure off the Federal Air Marshal’s program. Perhaps the biggest disincentive to pilots is the fact that they have to pay their own way to the training center in New Mexico and cover the $30 daily charge for room and board themselves. But Conan Bruce, an Air Marshal’s Service official, told Air Accident Digest there’s no shortage of pilots that want to take the training and each six-day course has been “at capacity.”

Columbia Introduces 2007 Models
The 2007 Columbias have arrived. Fresh for this year are new, dynamic paint schemes for both the Columbia 350 and 400, as well as a host of thoughtful and unique features for the discerning aircraft owner. See how your new Columbia will look with the interactive online Paint Selector. Just go online and click on the "Paint Your Passion" icon.
News Briefs back to top 

Aviation Going Green, Blakey Says

Civil aviation is doing its bit to reduce fuel consumption and help the environment, according to FAA Administrator Marion Blakey. In a speech to a meeting on energy security, Blakey said she welcomes the Air Force’s commitment to run half its fleet on so-called synthetic fuels by 2015. Synthetic fuels are liquid fuels produced from coal or natural gas, both of which are plentiful in the U.S. compared with oil reserves. Blakey said civil aviation is also looking at synthetic fuels, but she indicated that the biggest reduction in fuel consumption will come from more efficient engines and aircraft and more direct routing through use of satellite navigation. “We’re taking a comprehensive look — with DoD as a partner — at a transformational move to a network centric, satellite-based endeavor called the Next Generation Air Transportation System,” she said. Blakey said the FAA has already implemented 128 Area Navigation (RNAV) procedures at 38 airports, which allow aircraft more direct routing. The agency is also experimenting with a replacement for the traditional step-down descent profile called Continuous Descent Approach. It’s just like it sounds and so far it’s saving UPS about $250,000 worth of fuel each year on a dozen flights it operates from Louisville to the West Coast. Not only that, the long glide results in fewer emissions and significantly less noise.

FAA Opens Certification Office In China

As U.S. aircraft manufacturers continue to complain about the shortage of FAA inspectors and certification staff on home turf comes word that the agency is reaching out to China to speed development of its new regional jet program. The FAA opened an office in Shanghai last Friday aimed at funneling U.S. technology into the new ARJ-21, a 70-to-100-seat twinjet that’s expected to fly early next year. About 40 percent of the aircraft’s parts will come from foreign suppliers, many of them American, and the new office is expected to help smooth that process. "This is certainly facilitating the exchange of aeronautical products between the United States and China," John Hickey, head of certification services for the FAA, told The Associated Press. The burgeoning aviation market in China is seen as a pot of gold for U.S. companies but the Chinese bureaucracy has been slow to adapt to the opportunities and demand. The FAA’s stamp of approval on the ARJ-21 would make it a legitimate contender in the still-growing RJ market, which is now dominated by Canada’s Bombardier and Brazil’s Embraer. Despite the bureaucratic challenges of operating in China, several U.S. companies have opened there, including FedEx, which is building a hub in the business center of Guangzhou in southern China.

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News In Brief back to top 

On The Fly

Russ Chew, the former Chief Operating Officer of the FAA, has moved to JetBlue in a similar capacity. It’ll be Chew’s job to ensure there are no further meltdowns like the one on Feb. 14 that stranded thousands of passengers, some of them locked inside stationary aircraft for 10 hours…

It will be quieter than usual at Sun Valley, Id., after the ski lifts close for the season. Sun Valley-Friedman Memorial Airport will also be shut down entirely from April 23 to May 24 for runway construction…

If you want an advance peek at the inside of an A380, a contest being run by Lufthansa could get you there. Two winners will attend a reception on board the Super Jumbo when it makes its U.S. debut at JFK March 19…

There’s still no sign of a ferry pilot and the red RV-6 he was flying that went missing Feb. 28. Jim Willess was taking the plane from California to Virginia and may have gone down in Guadalupe Mountains National Park…

Kerry Long, a self-described “aviation enthusiast,” has been named FAA Chief Counsel. Long has 30 years of experience in aviation law and will oversee a staff of 258 in Washington and at 11 regional offices…

The “next generation” Pilatus PC-12 underwent cold-weather testing at Iqaluit in northern Canada before heading to Colorado for more flight testing. The new version of the big turboprop single has updated avionics and systems the company says performed flawlessly in the Arctic…

CompAir of Merritt Island, Fla., expects its Model 12 turboprop single to achieve first flight in early April. If all goes to plan, the airplane will be flown to Sun n' Fun later that month for its public debut…

Premier Aircraft has not only been named Mooney Dealer of the Year, but also the Diamond Aircraft Dealer of the Year. The aircraft sales firm, which covers much of the Southeast and South Central U.S., also held a grand opening this week for its new office at Orlando (Fla.) Executive Airport.

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New On AVweb back to top 

New Articles and Features on AVweb


CEO of the Cockpit #68: Animal Stories
The airlines have gone to the dogs. Dogs are going on airliners. And AVweb's CEO of the Cockpit has seen it all.

Pilot Workshop #3: Improving Rudder Skills
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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: North Atlantic Air

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

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to North Atlantic Air at KBVY in Beverly, Mass.

AVweb reader Steven Swartz says employees at this FBO kept their cool under difficult weather conditions.

"Four days after we received our just-repainted (and gorgeous) 1980 Warrior, the Northeast was hit with an ice storm. North Atlantic's superb and enthusiastic line people moved it into a cozy corner of a heated hangar to wait out the storm. Moving aircraft for the next several days was like something out of an old-time Laurel and Hardy movie as the ice was inches thick all over the taxiways, ramps and parking lot. NAA's crew never flinched, and more importantly never fell down on the ice. Regular jet traffic was slowed but not stopped by the storm. Watching these guys handle expensive hardware on treacherous ground deserves a nomination of FBO of the week. May can't come soon enough around here!"

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: Radio-Controlled F-14

Recommend a Video | VOTW Archive

Before we jump into this week's "VOTW," we'd like to thank Will, Derek, Larry, Brian, and a couple of other AVweb readers for pointing out that last week's FLIR video was actually shot from a Gulfstream, not an F-16. Thanks to those who caught the commenter's typo and gave us a chance to correct it.

This week, we ask the question, "Would Top Gun have been as much fun if Tom Cruise had an RC antenna instead of a stick?" Probably not — but it might have been more exciting than you think, as evidenced by this clip of a scale model radio-controlled F-14 posted on YouTube by mwtpt4270:

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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."

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 en route from Loveland, Colo., to Mesa, Ariz.:

United 123: Center, we’ve got continuous chop at 390. Is the ride any better lower?

Center: United 123, standby. Cactus 222 how’s the ride?

Cactus 222: Continuous chop at 350.

Center: United 111, no joy. We’re getting reports of continuous light to moderate chop at all flight levels.

Unknown Aircraft: C’mon down big fella! The ride’s nice and smooth here at flight level 085!

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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