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A compromise bill on FAA budget reauthorization is meeting swift --
and predictable -- opposition from the aviation sector it hits
hardest. The National Business Aviation Association has come out
swinging against the bill proposed by Sens. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.,
and Trent Lott, R-Miss., that would shift all of the burden of
general aviation user fees to smaller turbine aircraft. "It is
regrettable that at a critical point in our transformation to the
Next Generation Air Traffic System, the bill is proposing a sharp
pivot away from a proven funding structure toward the foreign-style
user fees that have been so harmful to small aircraft operators
outside the U.S," NBAA President Ed Bolen said in a news release.
AOPA was more conciliatory, but nonetheless opposed to the principles
involved in the bill. In a news release, AOPA President Phil
Boyer said that while the bill addresses many of the aviation
community's concerns about the combination of increased fuel taxes
and user fees proposed by the FAA, it misses a fundamental point.
"This bill is a lot better than the FAA's proposed legislation," said
Boyer. "Our thanks to Senators Rockefeller and Lott, as they intend
to keep piston-powered general aviation taxes right where they are
today. But we have real concerns about the precedent-setting
introduction of user fees and the impacts on our members who fly
turbine aircraft." Under the bill, piston aircraft would be exempt
from any increases but turbine-powered aircraft flying IFR would be
subject to a fee of $25, ostensibly to pay for airspace
modernization. The bill also proposes doubling the tax on jet fuel
from 24 cents to 49 cents a gallon.
Air traffic controllers at the New York terminal radar approach control center (TRACON) are asking for criminal charges to be filed
against the FAA after they say they were forced to remain at their consoles despite exhibiting what appeared to be symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. According to WABC, controllers reported being disoriented and sleepy after diesel fumes from a test of the centers backup
generator got into the buildings ventilation system. They claim the center manager ordered them to keep working traffic, even though some said they could barely keep their eyes open. "I remember
just being extremely fatigued ... very tired, very sleepy. It took a lot to stay awake that night," controller Ray Maldonado told the TV station. Several controllers went to a nearby hospital after
their shift and carbon monoxide was found in their blood. WABC says the FAA is conducting an internal investigation. The FAA did not reply to AVwebs request for comment on Friday. The
controllers also allege that the manager refused to call the fire department to test the air quality and threatened to bar access to firefighters if someone else called them. National Air Traffic
Controllers Association (NATCA) representative Dean Iacopelli told WABC he believes the manager took the action because a staff shortage left him without anyone he could call to replace the sick
controllers and he was unwilling to shut down the facility. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., is calling for a full investigation, and the Nassau County district attorneys office is considering
criminal charges. The New York TRACON has been the scene of high-profile squabbles between the union and FAA management over sick time, working conditions and management/employee relations.
Although the company has never actually said its planning to move, the talk around Vero Beach, Fla., seems to accept it as
inevitable that the areas largest employer, Piper Aircraft, is heading for greener (as in more tax-friendly) pastures for its PiperJet manufacturing facility. According to TCPalm, local economic development officials confirmed this week that they are actively trying to
dissuade Piper from heading to communities like Tallahassee, Fla., Albuquerque, N.M., Columbia, S.C. and Oklahoma City, all of which are reportedly trying to lure the firm and its future very light
jet factory. "The team has been meeting for several months to create an incentive package to keep Indian River County's largest employer at their current location as well as to locate their new jet
facility here," local chamber of commerce president Penny Chandler said in a news release. "The company is evaluating locations for its headquarters and aviation manufacturing facility." A Piper
spokesman did not reply to AVwebs request for comment. Piper employs more than 1,000 people in Vero Beach and its economic impact is estimated at $518 million a year. There are
indications that other communities bidding for Piper are willing to offer substantial incentives, something that worries the companys existing employees. Theyre afraid those incentives
will require Piper to hire locally rather than allow current employees to move with the company. A meeting of local officials is scheduled for Wednesday to discuss Vero Beachs incentive
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The actual circumstances may never be known, but the NTSB is inviting speculation that the pilot of Beech 58 Baron might have been
performing aerobatics, perhaps even trying to roll the aircraft, before it was seen shedding parts and crashing near Hamilton, Ga., on April 22. The pilot and all four passengers died. The only
witness was a boater who, according to the preliminary report, heard an aircraft approaching and told
investigators it sounded as if the pilot was performing some acrobatic maneuvers. Shortly after he said he heard the engine noise increase in intensity and he watched as either a wing or
part of the tail came off as the airplane dove at a steep angle. But its what acquaintances of the pilot told investigators that have led to the possible theory that intentional aerobatics
preceded the in-flight breakup. According to the report, the pilots friends seemed universally concerned that he was planning to fly the airplane in ways not covered by the POH. The friend
informed the pilot that he thought he was stupid and not to do anything in the airplane that would get him hurt." According to the NTSB report, the pilot stated, "I think I can roll this airplane."
The friend told investigators the pilot was impressed by an air demonstration pilot at the Sun 'n Fun Fly-In the previous week who performed aerobatics in a Beech 18. Another friend, who flew in the
right seat of the Baron on the trip back from Sun 'n Fun, reported the pilot said, "I believe it is possible to roll this aircraft," and then appeared to try and roll the Baron. The aircraft was at
knife edge before the friend grabbed the controls and leveled the aircraft. The flight continued to Griffin, Ga., and there was no further mention of rolling the airplane, but the friend did report
that the pilot shut down one engine for part of the trip.
FAA Certification Of New "Commuter" Zeppelin Under Way
The FAA has issued proposed design criteria for a modern and much smaller
incarnation of the famous Zeppelin airship. Built by the same German company that brought us the Hindenburg, among others, in the early part of the 20th century, Zeppelin LZ N07 builds on the hard-won knowledge about safe operation of the aircraft. The newest version first flew in 1997 and is designed as a multi-mission aircraft that can
carry up to 12 passengers and two crew. The U.S. and Germany already had bilateral certification requirements for rigid airships, but because Germany elected to certify this new airship in a
commuter category, the FAA apparently has to rewrite its requirements. The result is dozens of pages of technical and performance specifications that cover everything from the engine-out
performance to the quality of water used as ballast (has to be potable water if its to be released anywhere but at a sewage treatment plant, which might be difficult to flight plan). Germany
first made the request to have the aircraft recognized by the FAA in 2001 and its taken six years to get it all on paper. In case you have an opinion on the way these things should be built, a
comment period lasts until June 4.
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A new manufacturer of composite aircraft hopes to tap the skilled labor pool of a former textile producing
area to build aircraft and parts in Morganton, N.C. As AVweb reported from Sun 'n Fun two weeks ago, VX Aerospace
intends to produce a four-place, four-door high-wing aircraft called the FX-300 and help kitbuilders assemble a low-wing Commanche lookalike called the Ravin. The company will also make composite
components used in the defense industry. The FX-300 will be sold in kit form initially, but the company intends to build a certified version in the future. The firm is moving from New Smyrna Beach,
Fla., to an off-airport location in Morganton before becoming the anchor tenant at the 800-acre Foothills Regional Airport Industrial Park (formerly the Morganton-Lenoir Airport). VX Aerospace CEO
Robert Skillen said the community rolled out the red carpet for the company. We had the full support of all the stakeholders in the airport location, Skillen said in a news release. "The
level of support and cooperation from the municipalities was astonishing. There was no obstacle that deterred their efforts."
The widow of a New Zealand pilot says the 2005 crash of their Seawind kit-built amphibian on Lake Taupo had nothing to do with the
sticky tape repair job her husband did on the front landing gear doors and baggage hatch hours before the accident. Bormanm, 60, died of his injuries a day after the Seawind flipped while
taking off. His wife Noeleene suffered only minor injuries and told the New Zealand Herald that the
accident occurred because the plane hit a boat wake just after lifting off. But investigators with the Civil Aviation
Authority say the aircraft was technically and legally unserviceable when the accident occurred and that Bormans apparent mindset in attempting the flight was also a factor. In
an earlier encounter with a boat wake, the CAA said the front gear doors, part of the gear retraction assembly and the nose baggage hatch were damaged. The agency further said Borman used tape and a
plastic Danger sign liberated from a construction site to seal up the gear doors and also taped the baggage hatch back on. He apparently ignored the advice of other pilots to get the
aircraft properly repaired before flying it, according to the CAA. Investigators noted that if the baggage door had let go in flight, it likely would have hit the propeller, which is above and behind
the cockpit. The report said Borman, an experienced and respected pilot, might have had his judgment clouded by a desire to get home that day.
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A small town just northwest of New York City is grappling with the fate of a beloved but problematic landmark, social touchstone and
nostalgia piece in one of its most prominent parks. The former National Guard F-86 has been a fixture in the Village of Monroe, N.Y., for 44 years after three local men hauled it 200 miles from Rome,
N.Y., where it had been retired. In fact, the locals call the patch of greenspace where it resides Airplane Park, rather than the correct official name of Ford R. Dally Park, after the park's
superintendant who spearheaded the project in 1963. The old Sabre has served as a piece of playground equipment (the cockpit was open and kids could play inside until it was filled with cement in
1980s) and an important geographical marker for giving directions (take a left at the airplane) but more recently its main purpose has become, as the Times Herald-Record newspaper put it, a billboard for teenage pronouncements of love: "I
(heart) Drew," "I (heart) Reener," and "Jerry (heart)'s Lisa." Its also considered enough of a hazard that the park was closed last fall. What to do with the fighter, a predecessor of the famous
century series of Cold War jet combat aircraft, has become a hot topic in Monroe. Restoration will be expensive, as will raising the aircraft safely on a pedestal, and there are mixed opinions on
whether the community can, or should, afford it. "You know what? It's beat up," said 36-year-old Kim Zahra, a mother of two and lifelong Monroe resident. "There's really nothing to it anymore." But
others say it will be missed. Alex Melchiorre, the village police lieutenant who has been researching options for the airplane, says many people want to see it stay. "You can't get rid of your
An Alaska judge has dismissed manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide charges against a pilot whose floatplane
crashed into a lake in 2005, killing a teenager from South Africa. Mark Schroeder, 17, survived the crash but drowned. Pilot Kurt Steenehjem and three other passengers aboard the four-place Maule made
it to an ice floe and were rescued. Schroeder sat in the baggage area of the airplane and was the only one not wearing a seat belt and life vest. According to The Anchorage Daily News, its believed to have been the first case in which a grand jury has
accepted criminal charges against a pilot for a crash in Alaska, but Superior Court Judge ruled that prosecutors gave incorrect evidence to the jury and then failed to give proper guidance of the
relevance of other evidence, creating the impression that Steenehjem was a scofflaw. The FAA issued an emergency revocation of Steenehjems pilot certificate after the crash, citing
numerous safety violations on the flight, factors the dead teens mother Lesley Schroeder McLean said should have been recognized by the court. McLean and her husband Chris, a former Alaskan bush
pilot, are long-time associates of Steenehjem and owned the accident airplane, which Steenehjem used in his tour business. Her son was helping Steenehjem for the summer. McLean lobbied hard to get
case prosecuted and said she was disappointed it was dissolved by technicalities and legal speak. She said that if her son had been a passenger in a chauffeur-driven car, its her
opinion that criminal charges would have been laid against the driver.
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Some high-profile speakers have confirmed their attendance at the Commemorative Air Forces 50th Anniversary celebration in Las
Vegas July 9 to July 11 at Caesars Palace. Oliver North and Michael Reagan, son of former President Ronald Reagan, are the keynote speakers at the CAFs National Patriotic Rally. CAF spokeswoman Kay Crites told Avweb in an interview that the event is dedicated to honoring Americas legacy of freedom and recognizes the contribution and sacrifice
of Americans who have served their country in that pursuit. All we want to do is let the men and women who are serving our country know that we appreciate them, Crites said. North
and Reagan will speak at the events gala, but there will be day sessions with an assortment of well-known people whose experiences exemplify the theme. For instance, Bud Day, who spent 67 months
as a prisoner of war in Vietnam and whose wife Doris led a public-relations campaign to focus attention on the POWs. Theres also the husband and wife CIA spy team of James and Meredith Olson,
along with other former and current members of military and intelligence services. The rally is open to the public and CAF membership is not required.
A California man who apparently believes he had a right to privacy in one of the least private environments imaginable, the cabin of an
airliner, will likely face jail time for trying to protect that right. Carl William Persing was convicted of interfering with flight attendants and crewmembers on a trip from LAX to Raleigh, N.C.,
last year. According to a criminal complaint quoted by The Associated Press, Persing and his girlfriend Dawn
Elizabeth Sewell were "embracing, kissing and acting in a manner that made other passengers uncomfortable," and when crewmembers asked them to stop, Persing threatened them. Assistant U.S. Attorney
John Bower said the felony conviction will likely result in jail time. Persings lawyer Deb Newton said her client was devastated by the verdict and added that he was defending his
right to be left alone. She said he will appeal. Charges against Sewell for her alleged role in the incident were dropped.
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Wally Schirra, an original Mercury astronaut and the only astronaut to fly in Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs, died last week at the age of 84
Top Gun is the greatest aviation movie of all time, according to 10,000 people who voted in an EAA poll on the subject. The 1986 Tom Cruise film earned more than 20.5 percent of the vote, ahead
of the 1949 classic Twelve OClock High
The National Air Traffic Controllers Association says a radar approach facility in Rome, N.Y., was closed for part of a day last week due to a staff shortage. The union says the manager at the
Griffiss Airfield facility opted to shift traffic to Boston Center rather than find someone to replace a sick controller and risk messing up the schedule later in the week
The FAA might want all or part of the $12 million it spent on plans for a new Myrtle Beach air terminal back after local politicians rejected the project last week. The agency was also ready to
spend $43 million on the building, which was turned down by the Community Appearance Board.
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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AVweb posts audio news on Mondays, plus a new in-depth interview each Friday. In last Friday's podcast, you'll hear an interview with
Air Journey's Thierry Pouille. And AVweb's podcast index includes interviews with Epic Aircraft's Rick Schrameck; Cessna's Jack Pelton; Embraer's Ernest
Edwards; LAMA's Dan Johnson; Piper's Jim Bass; DayJet's Ed Iacobucci; AOPA's Andrew Cebula; Hawker Beechcraft's Jim Schuster; Avfuel's Craig Sincock; Comp Air's Ron Lueck; and VistaNav's Jeff Simon.
In today's special podcast, hear Kay Crites of the Commemorative Air Force. Remember: In AVweb's podcasts, you'll hear things you won't
find anywhere else.
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AVweb reader C. Moon says he visited the FBO twice and was impressed both times.
"I've visited St. Thomas, Ontario, twice, and both times I've received first-class service -- in one case beyond expectation. The first time the starter gear on my Cardinal sheared, grounding my
copilot and I late on a Sunday afternoon. The airport was deserted, save for the manager. Rather than have me call my wife to make a 100-mile pickup journey, he pulled a 172 out of the hangar and had
us on the way immediately. No fuss, no paperwork, no check ride. And no 100-mile car ride back with a less-than-pleased spouse. Last Sunday I paid a return visit. The crew car was made available to my
wife and I for the entire afternoon to tour the area. No charge and no paperwork, just a friendly greeting and hand over of the keys. We will return again. This airport operates as a model of how one
dreams what personal flying can be."
AVweb is actively seeking
out the best FBOs in the country and another one, submitted by you, will be spotlighted here next Monday!
If You Live in One of These States, Mike Busch Is Coming to a Town Near You
Massachusetts, Georgia, New Mexico, and Oklahoma are states where Mike Busch will be offering his acclaimed Savvy Owner Seminar. In one information-packed weekend, you will learn how to have a
safer, more reliable aircraft while saving thousands on maintenance costs, year after year. For complete details, and to reserve your space,
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."
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
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