AVwebFlash - Volume 13, Number 13a

March 26, 2007

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
 
Fly with the Bose® Aviation Headset X
Enjoy an unmatched combination of benefits: Full-spectrum noise reduction, clear sound, and comfortable fit. Voted the #1 headset for the sixth year in a row by readers of Professional Pilot magazine's Headset Preference Survey, 12/06. Learn more and order.
 
Top News back to top 
 

FAA: Funding Tied To Modernization

The FAA must implement changes to the way it is funded before it can afford to embrace the myriad technologies that are envisioned for the Next Generation Air Transportation System, according to senior FAA staffers. Appearing before the Senate aviation subcommittee, Charles Leader, director of the Joint Planning and Development Office, told committee members that the controversial system of user fees and tax increases now under consideration by Congress for FAA reauthorization is a key element of FAA modernization. "Modernization and moving to NextGen is inextricably linked to changes in the FAA’s financing system," Leader said. "We need to establish the financing of our current and future operations based on actual costs and investment requirements that will realize tangible benefits and increasing efficiency." General aviation groups – and even the Government Accountability Office -- have dismissed the need for a wholesale change in the way the FAA is funded, saying there's plenty of money available under the current system of ticket and cargo taxes and the existing fuel tax levied on GA aircraft. As we've reported previously, the FAA claims the current airspace system is at capacity and requires a multi-billion-dollar injection of new technology to cope with increasing demand. Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) is a pivotal technology identified in the FAA’s plan, along with more satellite-based navigation functions like area navigation (RNAV) and required navigation performance (RNP), as ways to pack more airplanes into the system. But he also said the various systems can't be implemented in isolation. "It is important to understand that NextGen is a portfolio program," he said. "The technologies described above, and those that will be defined over the next several years, are interdependent, creating a series of transformations that will truly modernize today’s system."

Tennessee Officials Discuss User Fees

While the debate over the FAA’s future funding process is big news in aviation circles, it barely registers in the mainstream media but there are occasional exceptions. The Kingsport Times-News in Tennessee saw some news value in a presentation given by Don Carter, owner of Tri-Cities Aviation, to the Tri-Cities Regional Airport Commission last week in which he predicted the user-fee plan currently being promoted by the FAA will “kill” general aviation in the area. Carter suggested the funding formula is calculated to reduce the number of GA operations to make room for more airline flights. "The more general aviation they can get out, the more airline slots they will get." Patrick Wilson, the executive director of the airport commission, also characterized the debate as a conflict between airlines and GA. Although there was some animated discussion about the issue, there’s no indication from the Times-News story that the commission intends to do anything about it.

NGATS May Cost Aircraft Owners $20 billion

The Government Accountability Office says the cost of equipping aircraft for the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NGATS) will range from $14 billion to $20 billion, depending on the gear that will be needed, the number of very light jets that will be using the system and how much downtime will be required to install the equipment. The GAO was quoting figures it says were recently released by the FAA’s Joint Projects Development Office, which says the government will spend between $15 billion and $22 billion on the project by 2025. The wide range reflects uncertainty in just what the system will entail. Meanwhile the GAO says the FAA is generally moving in the right direction with NGATS, but there’s a looming leadership vacuum that could hinder that progress. The GAO says the FAA should move quickly to replace its chief operating officer to ensure at least some continuity when Administrator Marion Blakey’s term expires in September. COO Russ Chew left the post in February and is now in a similar post with JetBlue. That, coupled with Blakey’s departure, could jeopardize the modernization initiatives the agency created, particularly the structural and technological changes that will be the foundation of the Next Generation Air Transportation System. “While FAA has implemented many positive changes to its management processes, it currently faces the loss of key leaders,” says the GAO report. “Such changes require focused, full-time attention from senior leadership and a dedicated team.”

 
Will Your Life Insurance Cover You If You Fly Experimental Aircraft?
Whether you fly an RV 4 or a DC-10, Pilot Insurance Center (PIC) will provide the best coverage rates with no aviation exclusions and save you up to 60% off your current coverage through A+ rated insurance carriers. PIC knows what you fly and won't let you overpay for life insurance just because you're a pilot. Apply for a policy in less than five minutes! Call PIC at 1 (800) 380-8376 or visit online.
 
News Briefs back to top 
 

Lantis Out At Columbia Aircraft

Columbia Aircraft has replaced its CEO and announced a four-to-six-week furlough of about 25 percent of its workforce as part of a major restructuring bid. The company will remain in operation and continue to produce airplanes but under new leadership. Bing Lantis has stepped down as CEO "to attend to family matters and other personal interests," according to the company. He's been replaced by Wan Abdul Majid, who the release described as a "long-time Columbia and aviation industry veteran." Earlier this month, the company announced the permanent layoff of 59 staff as part of a bid to restore profitability. It was blamed on the effects of a freak hail storm and the delay in certification of the Garmin G1000 glass cockpit version of the aircraft. The latest announcement doesn't stop at the corner office and shop floor however. The news release says the company also now has a new Chief Restructuring Officer, Carl Young, Chief Financial Officer, Michael Culver and Chief Operating Officer, Rich Reighard. The furlough is taking place while the Bend, Ore. plant is reorganized to implement "lean manufacturing and lean enterprise process improvements." Wajid said the furloughed employees will continue to receive company benefits and he expects to recall them all within four to six weeks. It's offering training bonuses and incentives to lure the people back. “Our people are our most valuable resource,” said Majid. “However, the nature of the aviation industry and the realities of our current business situation require that we take a number of critical short-term actions to ensure our long-term success.

New York Backs Off Pilot Age Limit

New York legislators have removed a bill that would have barred anyone younger than 17 from flying any type of aircraft in the state. FAA regs allow teens as young as 14 to fly balloons and gliders solo and also allow 16-year-olds to solo powered planes, but the now-defunct proposal would have set the limit in New York at 17 regardless of aircraft type. AOPA credits angry New York pilots, who contacted their state assembly members, for getting the bill quashed. "Vocal New York pilots were the key to preventing this requirement," said AOPA Vice President of Regional Affairs Greg Pecoraro. "Legislators specifically told me that they were pulling the bill because they had heard from pilots who opposed it." AOPA is still battling the New York law that requires background checks on student pilots. It has launched a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the law and is also lobbying state politicians.

"Black Box" For Cirrus Approved

The FAA has granted Supplementary Type Certification for the Alakai Technologies engine trend monitoring system for Cirrus SR20 and SR22 aircraft, which when combined with the Alakai digital flight data recorder performs the same basic functions as the so-called “black box” recorder required on airliners. Such recorders are not required on aircraft with fewer than 10 seats, but a growing number of Cirrus airplanes are being used in air-taxi operations and pilots were required to record engine data manually while flying the aircraft. "This new system will allow Cirrus owners and operators, especially Part 135 operators, to focus on flying rather than manually documenting engine performance while in the air," said Cirrus co-founder and Vice Chairman Dale Klapmeier. The system also allows operators to accurately track engine data and spot potential problems before they become full-blown emergencies. Additionally, the information can help operators reduce costs by improving efficiency and reducing downtime due to costly repairs. Alakai says the installation might also prompt reduced insurance rates because the recorder will be able to provide accurate data on aircraft performance immediately before an accident.

 
Garmin StreetPilot c330 Auto GPS Special — $259.99
GPS World Supply has a deal you won't want to miss! The Garmin newly overhauled units are color, touch-screen, turn-by-turn with voice and preloaded detailed street maps for the U.S. and Canada. One Year Warranty! Call (800) 906-6600, or order securely 24/7 online.

         Limited quantity. First come, first served!

 
News Briefs back to top 
 

Thielert Diesels STC’d In Many Cessna 172s

On March 13 the FAA granted Supplementary Type Certification to installation of Thielert Centurion 2.0-liter diesel engines in Cessna 172 F through S models and Cessna F 172 F through P models, according to a news release. Thielert founder Frank Thielert said the STC not only opens the market for his engines to the most numerous of all aircraft in the biggest aviation market on earth, it also smoothes the way for similar approvals all over the world. “The FAA certifications are of particular importance on the world aviation market, since they are acknowledged by most countries in Africa and Asia without further intensive testing,” the news release said. Asia and Africa are seen as big potential markets because avgas is scare there, while the jet fuel that powers the Thielerts is generally available. The marketing push in the U.S. will be based on the lower operating costs of the diesels, which Thielert said should be particularly attractive to flight schools operating 172s.

Cessna Mustang Sales Looking Up Down Under

Cessna has sold at least three Citation Mustangs in Australia and New Zealand and predicts it will be a popular aircraft there. “The Mustang makes perfect sense for businesses across Australia, and in New Zealand,” Todd Duhnke, Cessna’s director of international sales, said in a news release. “Performance, price and reliability are all meeting our original projections, and sales have really accelerated since gaining full type certificate in September.” The first Australian Mustang, a demonstrator to be used by dealer Aeromil Pacific, will arrive in August. The second will go to a Queensland businessman who will fly it himself. The first sale to New Zealand was recently confirmed. Cessna says it will deliver 40 Mustangs this year and 100 in 2008.

DayJet Ready To Train Pilots

DayJet, the on-demand charter operator that is Eclipse’s biggest customer, hopes to get its first Eclipse 500 in April and start training its pilots. According to CharterX, a charter industry trade journal, the start-up has received FAA approval for its pilot-training program and just needs airplanes to train them on. Co-founder Ed Iacobucci told CharterX the first four of its 239 Eclipses will be used to get pilots type rated. "After that, as more aircraft are delivered, we'll use those for our customers." Iacobucci said delays in getting the Eclipse to market haven’t shaken his confidence in the airplane. “If we don't get our first couple of aircraft from Eclipse soon, I'll have to change our launch date, again,” he said. “But believe me, I don't think I've been sold down the river. Eclipse has had problems but I know they are being fixed and the aircraft is a good plane. I have every confidence in the product and that it will meet our customer's needs."

 
In Print & Online, Trade-A-Plane Has Everything That Keeps You Flying
Get 24 issues (two years) for just $24.95 (U.S., standard mail), including no-cost access to Trade-A-Plane's web site, which is updated daily. Subscribe by calling (800) 337-5263 and mentioning this AVwebFlash, or subscribe online.
 
News Briefs back to top 
 

Second FBO Coming To LEX

Officials at Lexington’s Blue Grass Airport have voted to allow a second FBO on the field. Air 51 LLC is expected to be up and running this summer in a $2 million facility that will include a 12,000-square-foot maintenance and parking hangar, fuel facility and ramp space. Currently TAC Air is the only GA service facility on the airport. The new FBO will occupy about two acres in the southeast area of the airport. Air 51 owners told the Lexington Herald-Leader they hope to capitalize on very light jet business and expect plenty of traffic when the World Equestrian Games are held in Lexington in 2010. The new company is leasing the land for about $2,000 a month and will pay the airport commission seven cents a gallon for fuel it sells, as well as 10 percent of food and beverage sales, 0.5 percent on aircraft sales and 2 percent of other revenue.

Noisiest House In Britain?

Odelle and Stephen Trew are the first to admit they got a great deal on the house, but now they’re afraid they couldn’t sell it at any price. The Trews bought their home adjacent to one of Heathrow Airport’s main runways 18 years ago when air traffic was comparatively light. Now, for part of each day, they’re rocked every minute or so by airliners landing or taking off within a few hundred feet of them. As air traffic increases, there’s talk of abandoning the current practice of switching runways through the day to ensure that all the airport’s neighbors share the noise burden more or less equally and using every patch of pavement available. "If that happened life would be unbearable," Stephen, 43, told the Sunday Mirror. "I don't know how they can even suggest it." Still, the Trews (and their less noise-tolerant guests) are thankful for small mercies, such as the end of Concorde service. "We used to dread it," said Odelle. "It made the whole house vibrate. The first time my sister came round, she was so terrified she leapt under the coffee table." The family has done what it can to mitigate the noise, including installing triple-glazed windows, and are resigned to having ordinary conversation disrupted and the occasional guest under their table. They say they have no plans to sell because they don’t think anyone would buy.

 
New from Aeromedix! Doug Ritter RSK Mk3™ Fixed-Blade Survival/Utility Knife
The Doug Ritter RSK Mk3™ Knife is Doug Ritter's first fixed-blade design to reach production. A direct descendant of the RSK Mk1™ folder knife, the RSK Mk3™ is a medium-sized lightweight fixed-blade with premium steel. The 4.5-inch (11.43 cm) CPM S30V blade is a bit over an inch longer than the full-size RSK Mk1™ folder. For complete details, go online.
 
News Briefs back to top 
 

Global Warming Paradox For Aircraft

Aviation would contribute less to global warming if aircraft burned more fuel. That’s the convoluted conclusion reached by researchers at Britain’s Imperial College. They’ve determined that if airliners consistently flew at lower altitudes, the resulting decrease in the creation of contrails would more than offset the effect on global warming of the increase in fuel burn. “It seems counterintuitive,” acknowledged Robert Noland, one of the study’s authors, in a report in the Nigerian Tribune. However, the contrail issue could become more prominent with the expectation that airline travel will grow 3.5 percent annually for the foreseeable future and that much of that growth is expected in the contrail-spewing long-haul market. Noland and his team based their study on a theoretical shift in air traffic from the mid-30 flight levels to between 24,000 and 31,000 feet, where contrails are much less prevalent. They calculated that lower-flying aircraft would burn 4 percent more fuel (and create 4 percent more greenhouse gases) but that the elimination of contrails would have a greater net impact on the retention of heat in the atmosphere.

Rotor Control Problem May Have Preceded Crash

The NTSB says one end of a rotor servo control rod was found disconnected on an A350 helicopter that crashed on the Hawaiian island of Kauai earlier this month, killing four of seven people aboard. On Thursday, the FAA issued a special airworthiness information bulletin (SAIB) and Eurocopter e-mailed customers warning A350 operators that a serrated washer on the servo rod-end could fail, resulting in disconnection of the rod from the rotor assembly, and recommended immediate inspection of those parts. The A350 has three such assemblies to control rotor tilt. The SAIB issued by the FAA says two crashes have been caused by the washer failure, but spokesman Ian Gregor said those crashes occurred before the Hawaii accident and the bulletin was already in the works when the Heli-USA helicopter crashed on landing at Princeville Airport on March 8. Pilot Joe Sulak and three passengers died in the crash. Before the accident Sulak radioed that he was having “hydraulic problems.” Investigators later found the detached servo rod and sent those parts for more detailed inspection. The washer identified in the FAA and Eurocopter bulletins has a tang that is supposed to lock in the threads of the rod end to prevent the bolt from unscrewing. In the previous crashes, the tang was missing or worn and allowed the nut securing the rod to the rotor assembly to come off.

China Launches Large Airliner Program

Chinese officials have confirmed that China wants to get into the large airliner (150-plus seats) business, undoubtedly because one of the biggest future markets for aircraft is expected to be in its own backyard. An editorial in the People’s Daily says China expects to need about 1,600 large airliners by 2020 and would like to keep at least part of the $150 billion or so they’re expected to cost, not to mention the worldwide boom in civil aviation that’s opening other new markets. But it’s not all about money. “China believes that the ability to produce a large airplane reflects the strength of a nation, and has much the same ability to inspire nationalist sentiment as the development of the atomic bomb, the hydrogen bomb, satellites and space aircraft,” opined the newspaper. As for its main competitor in this venture, Boeing says bring it on. Mike Bair, head of Boeing’s 787 program, told Xinhua News Agency Boeing is ready to compete with anyone. "We always anticipate potential competitors," said Bair. "I don't think it's a surprise to anybody that a country as large as China might have ambitions like that." China recently committed to production of a 70- to 100-seat regional jet.

 
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 In Brief back to top 
 

On The Fly

The Evergreen Aviation Museum opened its IMAX theatre Friday with, among other features, a presentation of Fighter Pilot: Operation Red Flag. The McMinnville, Ore. museum is also home to the Spruce Goose…

Airbus A380s visited New York and Los Angeles last week, marking the 555-seat aircraft’s first arrivals in the U.S. So far, there are no U.S. orders for the plane…

The good vibrations weren’t just from airplane engines at last year’s EAA AirVenture, and there could be a repeat of the opening-night Beach Boys concert in 2007. EAA spokesman Dick Knapinski says the discussions are ongoing, but the Beach Boys are already confirming the July 23 gig in Oshkosh on their Web site.

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

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/.

 
Save Your Money — You Don't Need a New Headset!
Does your aviation headset pinch your ears and hurt your head? Have trouble hearing and being heard? An Oregon Aero® aviation headset upgrade kit has all the components you need to make your old headset painless while improving overall headset audio performance. The World's Greatest Headset Is the One You Already Own™, with an Oregon Aero® upgrade! Learn more at OregonAero.com.
 
New On AVweb back to top 
 

Columns | Features | What's New | Calendar | Brainteasers

The Pilot's Lounge #111: The Door to Adventure

Learning to fly opens a door to many adventures. Hope it doesn't close too soon.

Click here for the full story.

play video games instead of flying a real airplane.


Don't Spoil the Mood

[IMGCAP(2)]

I turned around and left. I figured something would sour my good mood soon enough. I didn't need the same old laments to fracture the pleasant feeling before I had a chance to savor it a little while.

Later, I went flying with my daughter. She passed her glider private pilot checkride at the end of last summer, but then school and sports and band and what-have-you got in her way. She hadn't been flying much at all since her checkride. Nevertheless, when we split up the flying chores and she made the takeoff, she nailed the centerline, climb speed and cruise altitude as if she'd just flown a day ago. En route, we got to talking and she said that she was applying for a summer job at a few places and she hoped she could get her private pilot power rating this summer. I got to thinking about how wages have not come close to keeping up with the cost of flying and the cost of college and hoped that she would have the propitious combination of the determination, time and resources to meet her goal.

We talked more about her plans as we flew. Before long we were closing on our destination and conversation ceased during the descent as we each concentrated on watching for other airplanes and making sure that all was done correctly in preparation for returning to the planet.

During the evening flight home by myself, I got to thinking about the diminishing number of pilots (we have never made up more than about one tenth of one percent of the population of the U.S.) and of the increasing pressures on general aviation as the overall population continues to grow almost exponentially. I thought of those who are consciously or unconsciously afraid of the heavens -- unwilling to accept the idea of reaching out to the skies, to explore our human potential -- who lead their myopic, sheltered lives, busily glued to the surface of the earth and who seem so determined to ground and punish every one of those people who do seek to go a little further, to ascend into the heights in aircraft they themselves control. I wondered if the constant fight to keep flying was worth it. Whether it would be better to simply give up and do as the vast majority wish, to shut off my mind and my curiosity and my sense of awe and exist in a world of television and vicarious experiences via video games.


Am I The Pilot?

[IMGCAP(3)]

As if to rise up and combat such a hideous concept, I suddenly thought of my sixteenth birthday, when my folks bought me an hour of dual instruction. I had been working weekends and paying for lessons, a half hour at a time, in a Beechcraft Musketeer. The single door in that airplane meant I got in from the right side and slid across to the left seat. On the day my parents bought me a lesson, we went to a different airport, one where the flight school used the less-expensive-to-operate Cessna 150. I followed my new instructor, Everett Benson, around the airplane as he showed me its intimate areas and taught me what to look for to make sure all was well.

When we finished the walk around, I noticed the door on the left side of the airplane had been left open. Yet, at that moment, the opening became impassable. It was not for me, I could not go through it. I had been in the left seat of an airplane before, for a whole three and one half hours. Somehow, that experience did not matter right now, because the left-hand door in front of me, creating what seemed to be a gigantic opening, was exclusively for the pilot of the airplane. It was not the one through which the passengers and other unwashed, such as student pilots, were to pass; it was for the pilot. While I wanted to be a pilot more than anything in the world, I wasn't one. Not yet. I could not defile that passage to the left seat. I thought that I should go around and enter through the right side door, where lesser mortals boarded airplanes.

In the time I had been there, just standing and looking at that open door, Everett had walked all the way around the tail of the airplane and was approaching the right side door. He saw that I had made no move to get in. I have no idea whether he was aware of my hesitancy to board the airplane through the pilot side door. He simply stopped walking, looked at me calmly and said, "Go ahead and get in."

That was all it took. It was OK for me to get into the pilot's seat, through the pilot's door. I had received permission from a flight instructor, one of the gods of flight. The hesitation I had felt instantly evaporated. I walked straight toward the portal, suddenly certain it was the door to adventure.


Long Cross-Country

[IMGCAP(7)]

It truly proved to be the door to adventure. I thought of a flight I had made with a friend the summer after I graduated from high school. The two of us took a rather haggard Citabria, bereft of even a working radio, to fly a few hundred miles in response to an invitation to stay with the family of a mutual friend at a cabin they were renting on a lake in Arkansas. It was one of those flights that was memorable because it was so right: the preflight and loading of the airplane before dawn as the dew dripping from the trailing edges of the wings wet our shirt backs; the coincidence and glory of leaving the ground just as the sun rose above the horizon and gave brilliant color to the world and the flight itself (which presented the challenge of navigating with a sectional chart and magnetic compass); and the two of us hawkeyed for landmarks, calling out as we found the next one to stay on course.

Then we shared the excitement of seeing the lake that was our destination and then landing the tailwheel airplane on the narrow, short, grass strip by the shore and dock where we met our friend and his sister, who had come in a small motorboat to get us.

And then the feeling of exultation, of being 18 and having made a long flight with fingers on charts, across land neither of us had ever seen before, crossing miles of gradually changing landscape of Iowa and Missouri and northern Arkansas. And we had celebrated by waterskiing the length of the lake to the cabin.


Rocky Mountain High

[IMGCAP(4)]

The blue of that Arkansas lake in my mind transformed into the majesty of the range of mountains just east of Salt Lake City as I crossed them, westbound, in a Cessna 172 at 12,500 feet. They gradually lowered to reveal the magnificence of the Great Salt Lake and the city itself. For a teenager from the rolling fields of Iowa, the spectacle was utterly stunning. Through my life, even having taken a train trip through these same mountains, I had had no idea, no concept that such a vista existed, much less that all it took to experience it was to be able to fly a small airplane to the right place in the sky. I was learning that adventure did not require that I be rich or "old," but just a pilot.

Back in "now," as I continued on toward home after dropping off my daughter, handling the routine of cruising flight and only vaguely aware of the changing colors being displayed as the sun descended toward the horizon, my mind kept bringing me images of years of viewing the world from aloft, each experience and adventure more colorful and richer than the last.


Caribbean Jaunt

[IMGCAP(8)]

The western tip of Grand Bahama Island slowly emerged from the humid haze of the Atlantic. Its tropical lushness filled my eyes as my brother, our friend and I watched from the rented Cessna 182 we were flying on spring break during my senior year of college. The sight put an end to many long minutes of wondering what in the world I, a land-locked sort, was doing in a single-engine airplane out of sight of land. But then, exactly as predicted in the carefully written out flight log, there was land, green with palm trees and water of shades of blue I had never seen defining the shallows on the north side of the island, as I realized that only from above could such beauty be truly appreciated and how very lucky the three of us were to be seeing it.

I remembered how the flight across half of the United States to visit this foreign country had gone so amazingly smoothly and how, when we landed, the Bahamian Customs' agents were so polite. The nice lady at the car rental agency had rented us a beat up little car because one of us had a credit card and she figured that even if we weren't really quite old enough, the fact that someone had rented an airplane to us meant something.

We had even had found a place in the interior of the island where we could camp because we were spending all of our money on the airplane and avgas and cheap places to eat. And I thought of the friendly people we met at little airports on our trip who had let us unroll our sleeping bags under the wing of the airplane and spent time talking with us about our adventure. The skein of adventures and experiences on that trip helped make up an integral part of who I became.


Lightning Far and Near

[IMGCAP(5)]

Suddenly I was back in the "barrel chair," the seat in the Model 24B Learjet right behind the copilot arranged so that the occupant could face either aft or sideways and look over the copilot's shoulder. I was on my first flight with my new employer, observing one trip before I would sit in that copilot seat. We were at 45,000 feet, or as I was learning to say, "Flight Level Four Five Oh," above the moonlit, nighttime planet, over an existence of otherworldly shapes and forms made of the whitest cotton imaginable.

Everywhere inside that puffy phantasm below us someone was randomly turning thousands of little lightbulbs on and off with great rapidity. I had never seen airmass thunderstorms from above. My experience with them had been either to make a last check of the tiedown ropes on the airplane before running inside the airport office as the first torrent of rain fell, or, on far more unpleasant occasions, to be tossed violently about when I had not had the good sense to land. From above, the intense violence of the storms was hidden; we were viewing a living work of art, a light show giving no notice of the forces within.

Moments later my awed survey of a nearby promontory of flashing gauze was interrupted by an apparition my mind initially refused to accept. The airplane, a vehicle of the upper reaches of the sky, had become, of all things, a squid. From nowhere, it had sprouted a multitude of 40-foot long, purple tentacles, each was attached to either the radome just a few short feet ahead of the cockpit or the very nose of either tip tank and writhing and twisting out ahead of us into the night.

Stupefied and initially mute, I wondered why such a spectacle was not utterly terrifying. Had I not been so completely mesmerized, I might have already unbuckled my seat belt and scuttled to the aft bulkhead to hide under the cargo net and behind the boxes of freight we were carrying. The reality was that the effect was not so much frightening as magical.

For nearly 10 minutes the ethereal creatures remained affixed to our craft as the captain told us, that unlike airplanes with propellers, where the static electrical discharge that is St. Elmo's fire manifests itself as purple flames on the outer portion of the propeller disk, on a jet it appears as long arms or snakes. After we landed we stepped out and the captain said, "Let's see if St. Elmo left his mark." He took us to the front of the nearer tip tank. Much of the paint was gone, as it also proved to be from the radome and the nose of the other tip tank.


Aerial Sunset

[IMGCAP(6)]

The vision of scoured aluminum faded as I checked the instruments to see that I was still holding the altitude I had selected for the trip home, remained on heading and that oil pressure and temperature were as they should be, and then started the next scan for other airplanes. I looked to my right and saw that the sun was just touching the surface of Lake Michigan, creating a path of red gold from the shore to where it seemed to be sinking into the water.

I initially dismissed the sight as one I had seen dozens of times and started to turn my head back to the left to continue my watch for other airplanes. In that moment I realized that what I was taking for granted was the sort of dramatic imagery that sometimes wins the picture of the week contest here on AVweb and how few humans ever get to see the sunset from this perspective. Because I was in an airplane, by merely climbing or descending I had the power to either hasten or prolong my enjoyment of this glorious event of nature. Good grief, right now, at this very moment, there are people who have driven some distance to park along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan to watch this sunset, yet they don't have a fraction of the magnitude of the view I have here from this little airplane floating in the sky and they haven't a clue as to what they are missing.

I reminded myself to drink in this moment, savor it, treasure it. Treasure it as another magical experience in the sky. Commit it to memory to pull out and enjoy again one of those days when I can't fly because the weather is bad or the airplane is broken or general aviation flying has been legislated out of existence.

I thought again of my daughter and her desire to fly. I thought of the recent news my wife and I received that her son and his wife are expecting a child and that I will be a step-grandparent. Life continues. I want that little person to have the chance to decide whether to learn to fly one of these sky machines. It's worth the fight against user fees, for airports, against the moles and nay-sayers of the world; it's worth the fight to fly. I want that child to have the opportunity to step through the door to adventure.


Want to read more from Rick Durden? Check out the rest of his columns.

-->

AVmail: Mar. 26, 2007

Reader mail this week about VLJ air taxis, poor rudder skills, user fees and more.

Click here to read the full article.

Welcome To The New Face Of AVweb

AVweb.com, the world’s best Web site for general aviation news and information, is now even better thanks to a redesigned home page. The revamped home page has more content, easier navigation, a more user-friendly podcast interface and better graphics to complement AVweb's real-time general aviation news, incisive commentary and unparalleled feature reporting.
 
Benefit Aviation and Yourself with the NAA Platinum Visa® Card
In addition to favorable Visa® rates, National Aeronautic Association (NAA) cardholders receive discounted rates on NAA membership and aviation products. Cardholders may qualify for no-cost accidental death and dismemberment coverage and aircraft damage reimbursement. NAA, the first national aviation association, receives a contribution on NAA Platinum Visa® card puchases. NAA preserves aviation heritage with prestigious awards presentations and national aviation record certifications. For more information, visit the NAA web site.
 
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 Craig Sincock of Avfuel. And AVweb's podcast index includes interviews with Comp Air's Ron Lueck; Expedition Aircraft's Andrew Hamblin; 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; and Bill Lear, Jr. In today's news summary, hear about what panelists said at the FAA forecast about Columbia Aircraft's restructuring, the FAA's continued attempt to link user fees with ATC modernization, how much NextGen avionics will cost operators, the latest on DayJet and more. Remember: In AVweb's podcasts, you'll hear things you won't find anywhere else.

 
Pilot Journey Isn't Just for Students & Instructors; There's Something for Everyone
You know Pilot Journey's Discovery Flight program converting leads to students. However, all pilots can find something at Pilot Journey: Pilot e-mail accounts, pilot eCards; a pilot cruise with seminars; AvCareers, where position wanted and positions available are listed; and much more. Pilot Journey is the pilot's choice online.
 
FBO Of The Week back to top 
 

FBO Of The Week: Jet Aviation KBED

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

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Jet Aviation at KBED in Bedford, Mass.

AVweb reader Paul Tollini says the FBO provides the same level of service, regardless of airplane size.

"Unlike some other FBOs, at Jet Aviation BED all customers are valued regardless of the size of the aircraft that they arrived in or how much fuel they purchase. When I had passengers that insisted on using the other FBO on the field, I felt like a traitor and received much worse service at a much higher price."

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!

 
Featured AVweb Marketplace Ad: The Great Circle Air Safari DVD
Experience an exhilarating flight through the vast Australian Outback, one of the most forbidding places on the planet. Featuring HD photography by Oscar winner Eric Thiermann.
For contact information regarding this ad and to view more ads, click here.
 
Video Of The Week back to top 
 

Video of the Week: Airbus A380 Debut at New York

Recommend a Video | VOTW Archive

Our friends at 2FlyTV were on hand last week with the first Airbus A380s landed at JFK and LAX. In this exclusive video from New York, 2FlyTV takes us behind the scenes of the celebrated landing, with great shots of the interior and some commentary on the A380.


Don't see a video screen?
Try disabling ad blockers and refreshing this page.
If that doesn't work, click here to download the video directly.

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

 
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"

During a recent departure from Essex County Airport in Caldwell, N.J., the tower controller must have been frazzled with intensive student training in the pattern:

Tower: Bonanza Seven Zero Mike Romeo, contact New York departure and have a good flight.

Bonanza: To departure. Bonanza Zero Mike Romeo. Have a nice day.

Tower: It's too late for that.

 
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).

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.