AVwebFlash - Volume 13, Number 11b

March 15, 2007

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Top News back to top 

A Giant Cash Register In The Sky?

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.

NextGen Capital Investment (In Acronyms)

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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News Briefs back to top 

GA Accident Numbers At 40-Year Low

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.

Another Fatal Helicopter Crash In Hawaii

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.

FAA Names 2007 Safety Award Winners

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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News Briefs back to top 

Czech Aircraft Works Expands LSA Production

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.

FAA Revises Continental Engine AD

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.

Retired Military Airplanes Protect African Wildlife

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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News Briefs back to top 

NATCA Wants Weather Radios Back In Towers

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.

P&WC Engine For Falcon 7X Wins Approval

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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News Briefs back to top 

Boeing/NASA Blended-Wing Experiment Ready To Launch

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.

China Plans To Build Large Airliner By 2020

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 go online.
News In Brief back to top 

On The Fly

Some House Democrats are trying to get legislation passed that would force the FAA to resume contract negotiations with air traffic controllers...

Nominations are invited for the Scott Crossfield aerospace educator of the year award; go to the National Aviation Hall of Fame Web site for details...

A team of college students in Israel hopes to break the world endurance record for a solar-powered unmanned aircraft...

A British Airways pilot has won a three-year fight to be allowed to work part-time...

A Florida aircraft-parts supplier got six years jail time for selling fraudulent parts to the Department of Defense.

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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New On AVweb back to top 

The Savvy Aviator #42


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.

Welcome To The New Face Of AVweb

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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 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 fighting user 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.

Avidyne TAS600 — Because Two Antennas Are Better than One!
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Question Of The Week back to top 

Question of the Week: The Most Important Factor in Choosing an FBO

This Week's Question | Previous Week's Answers


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, click here.


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.

What's your primary reason for choosing a particular FBO?

Have an idea for a new QOTW? Send your suggestions to .

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: 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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Over 400 titles representing 52 publishers are in stock and ready for immediate delivery — as books, videos, or CDs. 100+ titles available instantly as fully searchable e-Book downloads. 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 online.
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."


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 hour!

Submit your own photos!  Send them to us using this form, you could find yourself the subject of next week's water-cooler talk.

medium | large

copyright © Enrique Morales
Used with permission

Big Iron on Short Final

You've got to see this one at full-size.

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!


medium | large

Used with permission of Chris Lucas

Boss's Day at the 916th Air Refueling Station

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.


medium | large

Used with permission of Werner Spier

Arrow at Monument Valley

Werner Spier of El Paso, Texas treats us to some gorgeous scenery this week, from Golding's Trading Post Air Strip in Utah, "just north of the Arizona border."

Reminds us of our friend Jim Clark and his remote-flying adventures ... .


medium | large

Used with permission of Vincent Murrah

Stealth Fighter at EAA Oshkosh '06

Honestly, how could we not run this one?  Vincent Murrah of Maryland Heights, Missouri writes:

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!

Far-fetched.  Maybe.

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!

To enter next week's contest, click 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.  ;)

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).

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.