AVwebFlash - Volume 13, Number 19a

May 7, 2007

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Top News back to top 

Alphabets Rap New FAA Bill

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.

Controllers Want Criminal Charges In TRACON CO Incident

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 center’s backup generator got into the building’s 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 AVweb’s 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 attorney’s 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.

Vero Beach Officials Battle Piper Move

Although the company has never actually said it’s planning to move, the talk around Vero Beach, Fla., seems to accept it as inevitable that the area’s 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 AVweb’s 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 company’s existing employees. They’re 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 Beach’s incentive package.

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News Briefs back to top 

Aerobatics Might Have Preceded Baron Crash

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 it’s 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 pilot’s 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

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 it’s 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 it’s 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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News Briefs back to top 

VX Aerospace Moves To North Carolina

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."

Fatal Crash Followed Makeshift Repair

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 Borman’s 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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News Briefs back to top 

Aircraft As Cultural Icon?

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." It’s 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 memories."

Criminal Charges Dropped In Fatal Crash

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, it’s 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 Steenehjem’s pilot certificate after the crash, citing numerous safety violations on the flight, factors the dead teen’s 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, it’s her opinion that criminal charges would have been laid against the driver.

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News Briefs back to top 

North, Reagan Confirmed For CAF Rally

Some high-profile speakers have confirmed their attendance at the Commemorative Air Force’s 50th Anniversary celebration in Las Vegas July 9 to July 11 at Caesar’s Palace. Oliver North and Michael Reagan, son of former President Ronald Reagan, are the keynote speakers at the CAF’s National Patriotic Rally. CAF spokeswoman Kay Crites told Avweb in an interview that the event is dedicated to “honoring America’s 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 event’s 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. There’s 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.

Privacy Defense Fails For Amorous Pax

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. Persing’s 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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News In Brief back to top 

On The Fly

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 O’Clock 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.

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New On AVweb back to top 

CEO of the Cockpit #70: Ninety-Seven Metal Keys

Back in the old days pilots smoked, flight attendants were "girls" and you could actually lay about during layovers. Now the only evidence of that time is in museums.

Click here for the full story.

their jobs. We pilots, of course, were never made to succumb to such a humiliating experience. We had some real porkers, too.

The CEO Contributes

Fred Bogan, the new curator of the museum came up to say hi as I entered the museum. I had flown with Fred years ago when he was a DC-8 captain and I was a mere engineer. Fred had taken over the job of curator earlier this year after his wife Barbara died. Barb was a flight attendant who actually was required to resign her job with the airline after she married Fred. This mandatory resignation was for two reasons: First, flight attendants back then weren't allowed to be married; and second, husband and wife teams weren't allowed on the planes.

When I flew the DC-8 with Fred, one of my jobs as engineer was to accept shotguns and rifles from passengers who were going on hunting trips. I would give them a ticket and store their weapons in our locked gun case located in the cockpit near the radio rack.

"Good to see you again, dumbass," said a fairly well-preserved former captain. "Did you bring me anything I can use for the museum or did you just come over to make sure you'll be late for sign-in today?"

Yeah, I am wearing my space suit and am supposed to fly 200 plebian vacationers to Vegas tonight. I just thought I'd stop by and drop off my contribution to that wonderful odyssey we all call aviation history.

"Gawd, I hope you didn't bring me another hat emblem or set of wings," Fred groaned. "If I see one more set of epaulettes, I'm gonna hurl. I need to get some real artifacts from the 1970s and 1980s or all we're going to have in the pilot section of this museum are chief pilot uniforms that the guys only wore for photo ops, some company pamphlets like the "Can You Wear this Pilot Hat?" and another E6-b with a shoestring tied to it."

Ninety-Seven Metal Keys


The first artifact I'm going to donate to this fine institution is my collection of hotel and motel keys. Back during the beginning years of my career, I got this idea that it would be great to keep every motel key ever issued to me for a layover. I was planning on keeping them all and bequeathing them to my offspring when I croaked. Or perhaps I would melt them all down at the end of my career and cast the keys into some sort of statue commemorating my flying life. A statue of an overweight pilot on a bar stool or a pilot in a La-Z-Boy recliner with a newspaper over his head.

Then the motel people went from metal keys to credit-card magnetic-strip keys. Who wants hundreds of those things? I stopped my key collection hobby right then.

Fred got right to the point: "Why in the world would anybody want to come here and look at your stupid stolen keys?"

You're kidding, right? There is more history tied up in these keys than in the entire collection at the British Natural History Museum. Let's talk about some layover history still reminisced over on the line.

The first key I grabbed out of the pile made a good example. It was the gold-colored metal key to the San Diego Sheraton. The year was 1984. Reagan was in the White House. Nancy was saying, "No" and this pilot's hair was still brown. The trips back then were awesome. One leg out to SAN, a 24-hour layover and one leg back home. That was our week.

The Sheraton was right on the water across from the Navy. The motel had balconies where I could sit in the warm afternoons and watch the ships come in and go out. Killer Mexican restaurant right next door, and back then the girls (we called flight attendants "the girls") would always go out to dinner or rent a sailboat with you.

The next key I grabbed out of the pile was attached to a plastic credit-card-sized reminder that if I accidentally took the key with me I could drop it in any mailbox. The key was to room 574 at the Omni Hotel in Manhattan. We got discount tickets to Broadway shows. Saw Cats for half price when the play was so new it hadn't become a cliché yet. Believe me, half price is twice what anybody should pay to see Cats.

I could go on and on. Each metal key represents an older time when motel doors had real locks. When hotel televisions had six or seven channels and when hotel bars didn't all look the same and have big-screen sports games always going on.

Fred Wants To See More


Fred didn't seem too impressed with my key collection so I brought out the big gun -- an FOPM (flight operations procedures manual) that I had kept without making any updates from the day I got it in 1978.

"How in the world did you keep this so long without making any of the revisions?" Fred asked. "Didn't you get in trouble for not keeping it up?"

Naw ... I figured out the whole thing when they issued the book to me on my second day with the airline. The book was only required to be in the flight bag of the captain. Lowly engineers like me weren't supposed to carry it. I calculated that it would take 20 years to make captain and who wants to do 20 years of revisions on a book? I never did a revision on this book and, when I made captain, I paid the 20 bucks to buy a new, current one.

The book I handed to Fred described exactly how the flight operations department of the airline ran itself in 1978. It talked about our three-day-a-week London flight. It discussed how to do weight and balance using a pencil and a piece of paper. It summed up how to fill out something called a "Pay Sheet" and another thing called a "Flight Attendant Time Tab." It is priceless information from a time when the company owned exactly one computer that took up the bigger part of a big room. The only flaw in the book was a crayoned rendition of He-Man that my three year old son drew in 1985.

I could see that Fred was getting a little excited so I brought out a few more artifacts.

My toolkit was my next contribution to the ages. Pilots used to carry small toolkits in their flight bags so they could tighten the odd screw or fix something in the galley for the girls. We can't anymore because the TSA boys think we might hijack ourselves with our adjustable wrenches.

My bourbon flask was next to go into the mists of airline lore. Almost every pilot carried some sort of alcohol in the suitcases for those late arrival layovers. Mixers were no problem -- we took sodas and snacks off of the airplanes -- but if you wanted Jim Beam or Jack Daniels to accompany you to your room, you often had to pack him yourself.

My final donation before I rejoined the modern airline flying world and drove my 757 to LAS was a Zippo lighter and a pack of smokes. We pilots didn't carry butane lighters when we flew. They leaked and could start a fire. Your smokers -- and in the late 1970s almost all of us smoked in the cockpit -- carried Zippos just like the scratched one I gave to the museum.

Fred Sums It Up

"I can use most of this stuff and I thank you for it," he said. "I don't think I can use your wad of metal motel-room keys. I have a feeling that absolutely nobody will understand what they are and what they mean to you."

I had to admit that Fred had a good point. Still, I didn't want to carry five pounds of metal keys around on my upcoming trip. Just getting those suckers through security would be a hassle. It was Fred who solved my problem with a crystal-clear logic that I remembered he had when I flew with him.

"Hey, just drop them all in the mail. The keys all say the post office will return them for free."

Great idea! I can imagine the excitement at 97 different motels when they get their room keys back 20 years or more after they left. It'll bring airline history alive.

Want to read more from AVweb's CEO of the Cockpit? Check out the rest of his columns.

AVmail: May 7, 2007

Reader mail this week about weather, GPS, Automated Flight (non)-Service Stations and more..

Click here to read this week's letters to the editor.

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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 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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FBO Of The Week back to top 

FBO Of The Week: St. Thomas Municipal Airport

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

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to St. Thomas Municipal Airport at CYQS in St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada.

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."

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!

If You Live in One of These States, Mike Busch Is Coming to a Town Near You
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Video Of The Week back to top 

Video of the Week: Helicopter Tree-Trimming

Recommend a Video | VOTW Archive

"Ever wonder how they trim the trees around power lines?" That's the question YouTube user daveyonce answers for us in this week's video clip:

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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."

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The Lighter Side Of Flight back to top 

Short Final

Overheard in IFR Magazine's 'On the Air' Section
Overheard in IFR Magazine's "On the Air"

Overheard while flying through Boston Approach's airspace one Sunday evening:

Boston Approach: Piper Four Five Mike, are you a single or twin?

Piper 45M: I am a single with twin envy.

Boston: Say again?

Piper 45M (slightly wistful sounding): Piper Four Five Mike is a single-engine piston.

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.

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