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U.S. Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., characterized the FAA's proposed user-fee-based funding plan as "a giant cash register in
the sky" at a House Transportation Committee hearing on Wednesday morning. FAA Administrator Marion Blakey told the committee that a change from a ticket- and fuel-tax-backed Aviation Trust Fund to a
user-fee structure is vital to unlocking the gridlock in the skies. "It's my firm belief that our status-quo financing structure cannot deliver the NextGen system we need, when and where we need it,"
she said. The committee greeted her testimony with a fair amount of skepticism, though Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., was somewhat receptive -- earning a comment from a fellow congressman that "he's been
drinking the FAA's Kool-Aid." Rep. Robin Hayes, R-N.C., asked Blakey if the proposal would hurt general aviation, and she replied, "General aviation would not be harmed.... All we're asking for is
basic equity -- the airline passengers are overpaying for use of the airspace." Oberstar concluded by saying he has "serious reservations" about the funding portion of the proposal. "There are 13 FAA
divisions that would need to collect fees, but there's no cost accounting for these fees," he said. The committee will hold three more hearings this month on the FAA reauthorization proposal. On March
21 the agency's financing proposal will be addressed; on March 22, operational and safety programs; and on March 28, the FAA's Airport Improvement Program.
The FAA's spending goals for 2008 through 2012 have been outlined in the FAA Capital Investment Plan
that provides spending roadmaps for Next Generation Air Transportation System technology. Modernization is the key, according to the FAA, and systems upgrades are a focus. System Wide Information
Management (SWIM) and ADS-B "are highlighted" in the plan and the En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM) program "is acknowledged." Effective implementation of SWIM and broad use of ADS-B will
require replacement of many components of the current en route automation system. "The FAA has replaced the original backup system, which sustains operations if the main en route automation system
fails, with a system called EBUS (en route back up system)." The En Route Communications Gateway (ECG) replaced a support computer system, and is now operational. The FAA will be modifying advanced
features such as the Traffic Management Advisor (TMA) and User Request Evaluation Tool (URET) to assist controllers in approving direct routes.
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The numbers of accidents and fatal accidents in general aviation
in 2006 were the lowest in the 40 years that the NTSB has been keeping records, the Safety Board said on Tuesday. However, the accident rate for GA has been relatively stable since 1990. The
overall decline in numbers is mainly due to a decrease in flight activity, which has been on a downward trend. Overall hours flown have dropped about 20 percent since 1990, the NTSB said, while the
accident rate has stayed at about 7.5 accidents per 100,000 flight hours. In 2006, there were 1,515 GA accidents, 303 of them fatal, and 698 fatalities. The GA accident rate is the highest for all
civil aviation activity, the NTSB said. Major air carriers flying under Part 121 had the lowest accident rates. These carriers had 31 accidents in 2006, down more than 20 percent from 2005. Two of the
31 accidents were fatal, resulting in 50 fatalities. Part 135 operations, including air taxi, air tour and aeromedical operations, had 54 accidents, down almost 20 percent from 2005, with 10 of those
accidents resulting in 16 fatalities. Commuter operations, officially described as scheduled Part 135, had only three accidents in 2006, one of them fatal, resulting in two fatalities.
Just three days after four people died
in a helicopter crash while sightseeing in Kauai, another air-tour helicopter has crashed, killing a 60-year-old California man and seriously injuring a couple from New Hampshire and a woman from California. The pilot was treated for
minor injuries. The Hughes 500 helicopter, operated by Inter-Island, was flying low near the coast when witnesses said there was a loud bang and some parts, including the tail rotor, fell into the
ocean. The helicopter hit trees and a fence as it spiraled down into an open field. The NTSB has said some parts were recovered, but it was unclear if a bird strike had occurred. This was the sixth
fatal air-tour crash on Kauai in four years. The FAA just released new rules last month for the air-tour industry, which were in part prompted by those Hawaiian crashes. The two wrecks now sit
side-by-side in a hangar at Lihue Airport, as the NTSB pursues its investigations.
This year's winners of the FAA General Aviation safety awards have been announced. Recipients are Mike Gaffney of Lake Saint Louis, Mo.,
CFI of the Year; Paul New of Jackson, Tenn., AMT of the Year; Jerry Luttrull of Riverside, Calif., Avionics Technician of the Year; and Cheryl Ann De Filippo of Deltona, Fla., FAA Safety Team
Representative of the Year. All four will receive an all-expense-paid trip to EAA AirVenture 2007 in Oshkosh, Wis., to accept their awards from FAA Administrator Marion Blakey in a ceremony at
Theater in the Woods. "These awards highlight the important role played by these individuals in promoting aviation education and flight safety," said JoAnn Hill, chair of the General Aviation Awards
Committee. "The awards program sponsors are pleased that these outstanding aviation professionals will receive the recognition they so richly deserve before their peers in Oshkosh." The awards program
is jointly sponsored by the FAA and a dozen GA industry partners.
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Czech Aircraft Works, which was among the first companies to enter the U.S. Light
Sport Aircraft (LSA) market, has been expanding rapidly over the last year and has more growth plans in the works. CEO Chip Erwin told the Czech Business Weekly that he expects his company will be the top producer of LSAs by 2009. "[With the investment] in the last six months, we leapfrogged the competition by a large
margin," Erwin said. Last summer, Erwin sold 49.45 percent of the company to an investment firm for about $2.5 million and used much of that cash to buy a 100,000-square-foot manufacturing plant and
equip it with new machinery and production technology. Erwin said he plans to buy a second building next door later this year, doubling the space. CZAW has some 200 employees and ships more than 150
aircraft per year, and now plans to build 500 airplanes per year by 2009. The company manufactures the amphibious Mermaid, the SportCruiser and the streamlined Parrot, as well as a line of straight
and amphibious floats fitting many brands of aircraft.
The FAA announced Monday it has found an error in an airworthiness directive (AD) for Continental GTSIO-520 series engines
targeting the starter adapter assembly and/or crankshaft gear on about 4,200 engines. As a result, the FAA is superseding that AD with a new proposed AD and expects that 25 percent of the affected engines will require an unscheduled "rough-running engine" inspection and "about half of the
engines will require the bushing and TCM service kit." [more] The cost associated with that service runs roughly $800, according to the FAA. Owners should also be prepared for possible multiple
inspections and component replacements.
In the wide, wild spaces of Africa, it's tough to enforce the laws that protect wildlife from poaching. But that effort is getting a
boost thanks to retired military aircraft that have been donated by several countries to help the cause. So far, eight airplanes have been donated by Israeli, U.S. and French aviation agencies, with
more in the works, MediaLine reports. Bill Clark, chief of Interpol's Working Group on Wildlife Crime, has led an ad hoc group of volunteers to restore the retired aircraft and raise funds for the
project. Poaching is still a major threat to elephant and rhinoceros populations in Africa. Interpol is now sponsoring the restoration of an Israel air force Super Cub, which will be delivered to
Kenya in the next year for use in poacher patrol. It can take as long as a year for a volunteer crew to completely restore an airplane, Clark told MediaLine. "It's a hobby. We do it on our Saturdays.
Some people play golf; we save elephants," he said.
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The FAA should lift its ban on weather radios in air traffic control towers, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) said on Tuesday. According to the controllers union,
the radios provide warnings about severe weather and tornadoes that are not available otherwise. The radios were banned under new work rules imposed on the union when their last contract expired.
"It's really just amazing to me that we have to even continue to ask this from an agency that says it is committed to aviation safety. It's such a no-brainer," NATCA President Patrick Forrey said in a
news release. "Don't believe it when the FAA tells you we have every possible weather tool at our fingertips. There is no tool available to tower controllers that can detect a tornado within a
thunderstorm. We must have either a weather radio or access to the Emergency Alert System to get the latest weather bulletins." NATCA cited several incidents when tornadoes have strayed close to
airports but controllers had no way of knowing their location. An FAA representative told the Orlando Sentinel the radios aren't necessary, and controllers can keep one in the break room if they want to.
Pratt & Whitney Canada's new PW307A engine has received type certification from the European Aviation Safety Agency to power the
Dassault Falcon 7X business jet. This achievement marks the final step in the PW307A certification process, P&WC said this week. "This is great news and a major milestone for Pratt & Whitney Canada
and the Falcon 7X," said Michael Perodeau, P&WC spokesman. "The Falcon 7X is the first three-engine and longest-range business jet we have ever powered, and we are very pleased with the success of the
program." P&WC is responsible for the Falcon 7X integrated powerplant system, which includes three PW307A engines and their nacelle systems. The 6,400-lb-thrust PW307A engine is designed to deliver a
high thrust-to-weight ratio, low ownership costs, competitive fuel consumption and excellent reliability, the company said in a news release.
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Boeing's X-48B blended-wing-body (BWB) experimental aircraft is just about ready for its first test flight, Business 2.0 reported on Tuesday. The scale model, with a wingspan of 21
feet, should take to the air by the end of this month at Edwards Air Force Base in California. The aircraft has long been under development in a joint program involving NASA, the U.S. Air Force and
Boeing's Phantom Works. The blended-wing design creates an aerodynamic shape that doesn't require a conventional tail, reducing drag and dramatically improving fuel efficiency. A military version of
the aircraft could be on the market by 2022, with a passenger version flying by 2030.
Two scale models were built last year. Ship No. 1 was tested in a wind tunnel at NASA's Langley Research
Center, then shipped to California to serve as a backup to Ship No. 2, which will be used for flight testing. Both phases of testing are focused on learning more about the low-speed flight-control
characteristics of the BWB concept. "The X-48B prototypes have been dynamically scaled to represent a much larger aircraft and are being used to demonstrate that a BWB is as controllable and safe
during takeoff, approach and landing as a conventional military transport airplane," said Norm Princen, Boeing
Phantom Works chief engineer for the X-48B program. The Air Force is interested in the aircraft's potential to cost-effectively fill many roles such as tanking, weapons carriage and command and
control. The two X-48B prototypes are built primarily of advanced lightweight composite materials and weigh about 400 pounds each. Powered by three turbojet engines, they will be capable of flying up
to 120 knots and 10,000 feet in altitude during flight testing. The aircraft will be remotely controlled by a pilot.
Airbus and Boeing may soon have to cope with a third competitor in the global market for large passenger jets. An official in China said on Monday the country plans to fund the development of its own "jumbo" jetliner, which
could carry 200 passengers. The airplane should be on the market by 2020. "From a technical standpoint, it is realistic," Richard Pinkham, an analyst with the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation, told The Associated Press. He said the 13-year time frame should allow plenty of time to
develop the necessary infrastructure. China already is building regional jets, and plans to start test flights next year of a mid-size commercial jet. The country is halfway through a five-year plan
to buy 500 jetliners, recruit 5,000 pilots and build 48 airports, according to The Guardian. China is expected to
buy 2,230 new commercial aircraft between now and 2025.
Have a Concern About Your Medical? AOPA's Pilot Information Center has a staff of medical specialists who can answer basic medical questions or guide you through the appeal of a medical certification denial. Research
medical questions and find guidance about medical conditions on AOPA's web site, including AOPA's TurboMedical interactive medical application planner and a listing of FAA-allowed
medications. For the best information available about your medical questions, call AOPA's Pilot Information Center at (800) USA-AOPA, or
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 email@example.com. You're a part of our team ... often, the best part.
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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The Savvy Aviator #42: Don't Worry -- They All Do That Owners often bring some aircraft squawk to the attention of their A&P
mechanic, only to be told that it's nothing to worry about because "they all do that" or "it's the nature of the beast." If you hear those phrases, seek an expert second opinion.
AVweb.com, the worlds 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 posts audio news on Mondays, plus a new in-depth interview each Friday. In last Friday's podcast, you'll find an interview with
Andrew Hamblin of Expedition Aircraft. And AVweb's podcast index includes interviews with Eclipse Aviation's Vern Raburn; NBAA's Ed Bolen; 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; Bill Lear, Jr.; and NATA President Jim Coyne. In Monday's news summary, hear about how AOPA is
fees, layoffs at Columbia Aircraft, another helicopter air-tour crash
in Hawaii, a pilotless cargoliner and more. Remember: In AVweb's podcasts, you'll hear things you won't find anywhere else.
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Last week, AVweb asked readers to gaze into their crystal
balls and predict the future of VLJ air-taxi services. Most of you
saw sunny skies ahead for the new venture, which is thought by some to
be the future of commercial air travel although 28% of you foresaw
high overhead and low interest clipping the air taxis' wings.
For a complete breakdown of last week's responses,
THIS WEEK'S QUESTION ***
Plenty of factors influence your decision to choose one FBO over
another. This week, AVweb wants to know which single factor
has the greatest bearing on your choice.
Have an idea for a new QOTW? Send your suggestions to
NOTE: 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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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!"
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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Whether you are a pilot, an A&P technician, or a kit airplane builder, if it's worth reading, it's available from the AVweb Bookstore.
Click here to visit
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."
*** THIS WEEK'S WINNERS ***
There's an extra hour of daylight at POTW headquarters
this week, thanks to the changes in U.S. Daylight Saving Time.
Good thing, too we're getting enough photos that we can use the extra
Submit your own photos!
Send them to us
using this form, you could find yourself the subject of next week's
Enrique Morales of Tegucigalpa
(Honduras) photographed this pilot "successfully land[ing] the largest aircraft
capable of land[ing] here" on a rather tight-looking short final.
(Note the contrails in the large version, and how close the photographer
appears to be standing to the edge of the runway.)
Great shot, Enrique your AVweb hat is in the mail!
Chris Lucas of New Bern, North
Carolina writes, "What a great way for a reservist to get points with
his/her employer!" Not that we hold as much sway as your boss,
Chris but it earns you points with AVweb, too.
Photographers on refueling jobs tend to stay a bit too busy to grab
their cameras and snap away, but we love seeing these photos show up in
our submission box.
Honestly, how could we not run this one?
Vincent Murrah of Maryland Heights,
As my buddy and I walked past a roped-off pad, I stopped
and said, "Hey! There's an F-117!" So I asked a
passerby to take our photo with it. Not too many people
noticed it sitting there. Ro bumped his head walking up
to it but wasn't injured. Of course, I have a "special"
setting on my camera ... .
I love AVweb and especially
POTW. Keep up the great work!
But AirVenture '06 was the same show where we laid eyes on the supremely
stealthy (and kinda weird-lookin')
F-22 ... .
But wait there's more! Visit AVweb's home page
for more brand-new reader-submitted photos in our "POTW" slideshow!
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. ;)
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,
send us an e-mail.
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).
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
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.