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The FAA says that the current national airspace system won't be able to handle the expected tripling
of air traffic by 2025, and there's generally no disagreement among stakeholders about the need for ATC modernization. But it is how we get there that is the big problem. In opening statements before
a hearing Wednesday morning on ATC modernization, House Subcommittee on Aviation Chairman Jerry Costello, D-Ill., brought up the FAA's poor track record of previous ATC modernization projects and
promptly added that "vigorous congressional oversight" will be needed for NextGen. DOT Inspector General Calvin Scovel testified that NextGen is a "high-risk effort" that will
"involve billion-dollar investments by both the government and airspace users." During questioning, he submitted that the FAA and Joint Planning Development Office (JPDO) need to have a detailed R&D
plan developed before Congress can properly appropriate funding for ATC modernization.
Dr. Gerald Dillingham, Director of Physical Infrastructure Issues at the Government Accountability Office, at the hearing also dubbed NextGen as "high risk" and expressed concern that the FAA will face a "leadership vacuum" during a
critical point of modernization planning, citing Russell Chew's recent departure as chief of the FAA's Air Traffic Organization and agency Administrator Marion Blakey's pending exodus in late
September when her term expires. Representing the general aviation community at the hearing, GAMA President and CEO Pete
Bunce took the FAA, JPDO and DOT to task because they have not yet clearly defined "the system they intend to build." He also said a key issue of NextGen planning the aircraft equipage
component -- has largely been ignored. In this regard, Bunce suggested that Congress "incentivize" NextGen equipage in both commercial and general aviation aircraft so that operators dont wait
until the last minute to upgrade their avionics, as was the case with reduced vertical separation minimum (RVSM) implementation. The FAA and JPDO aren't expected to release a detailed ATC
modernization road map until late July, which puts into question how the FAA developed cost levels for NextGen in its FY 2008 funding request delivered to Congress in mid-February.
When the FAA handed off the Flight Service Station system to Lockheed Martin more than a year ago, AOPA supported the change, expecting to see improved service. But last week AOPA officials met with Lockheed to complain about long hold times, disconnects and lost flight plans. "This is not the level of service
pilots expect," AOPA's Andy Cebula told Lockheed officials at the meeting. "Lockheed and the FAA must live up to the standards they set." Many of the problems have been blamed on computer glitches and
on temporary staff shortages as workers are moved and retrained. Lockheed told AOPA that it plans to work through all these transitions soon, and pilots should see an overall improvement in quality by
July. Meanwhile, if you experience problems with Lockheed's service, AOPA asks that you please report it on the company's Web site .
AVweb posted an opinion poll last week asking if FSS consolidation has affected the quality of weather briefings. Only 6 percent of
respondents had seen improvement, while 58 percent said service is worse since the consolidation. The rest said it was about the same or they didn't know.
Avidyne has issued a "Mandatory
Service Bulletin" (MSB) regarding its "Release 7 upgrade" due in the third quarter for Entegra primary flight displays. The MSB responds to some pilots' apparent interim action of using the
displays in combination with Garmin GNS430 units upgraded to WAAS-capable 430W, though the devices are not presently compatible, according to the Avidyne. The software incompatibility is specific to
Avidyne's EXP5000 PFD and will be corrected in the Release 7 update due later this year. Avidyne has not yet announced a specific release or a specific price for the Release 7 update. Initial testing
of the Garmin GNS430W has shown that EX500 and EX5000 MFD units will eventually function properly together. Avidyne plans to send all Entegra owners who previously received the Release 6 update a
notification when the company begins scheduling the Release 7 upgrades. Signup will be available shortly on the Avidyne Web site.
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Columbia Aircraft this week started to call back workers who were furloughed
in March, the company said on Monday. "Essentially, we've spent the past six weeks cleaning house on our production line, upgrading tooling and implementing a number of lean enterprise practices to
enhance efficiency," said Columbia vice president of manufacturing Chris Redgrave. The returning employees work in the assembly, upholstery and subassembly departments. Redgrave said he expects to
recall the remaining laid-off workers soon. Columbia continues to deliver aircraft at a rate of four per week. The company furloughed about one-quarter of its workforce in late March, and at the same
time replaced former CEO Bing Lantis with Wan Abdul Majid. Majid said the layoffs were part of a strategy
to ensure the company's long-term success.
Angel Flight America, a well-known national network of nonprofit groups that arrange free flights for people in need,
announced this week that it will change its name to Air Charity Network. "We are changing our name to better describe the comprehensive
services currently offered through our network as well as those which may be added in the future," incoming Air Charity Network Chairperson Christel Gollnick said. The announcement made no reference
to a court decision late last year in which Angel Flight Georgia was granted exclusive use of the name Angel Flight in
the Southeast U.S. Air Charity Network helps people in need get life-saving specialized medical care. The network also arranges flights of compassion including travel for military personnel and their
families as well as missions of disaster response. In 2006, some 7,200 volunteer pilots flew more than 23,000 charity flights.
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Air traffic controllers at Washington Dulles International Airport in Chantilly, Va., were evacuated after smoke and fumes were
reported in the tower cab at about 10 a.m. on Wednesday. The controllers were moved to a nearby backup facility for about three hours while the tower was aired out, and nearby construction equipment,
the source of the fumes, was moved away from the tower. About five controllers were taken to the hospital to be checked, according to Kieron Heflin, the facility representative for the National Air
Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA). "We ran operations out of our little ramp tower, but we had no computer connections, no radar, no flight plans. We had radios and yellow legal pads and
pencils. It was like working out of a tent," Heflin told AVweb. He said some aircraft were delayed, but as far as he knows there were no cancellations. "The computers that would keep track of
all that weren't available, so I don't really know," he said. Airport spokesman Robert Yingling told The Associated Press on Wednesday morning that
flights were not affected.
Imagine if you worked as a pilot for an outfit that was actually a secret project of the Central Intelligence Agency --
shouldn't you be eligible for a federal pension when it comes time to retire? That's what pilots and others who worked for Air America during the Vietnam War are claiming. The U.S. government has
acknowledged that Air America was a "wholly owned subsidiary of the CIA," according to the Los Angeles
Times, but employees at the time were told only that they were working on behalf of an unnamed "client." Pilots for Air America's 200 or so aircraft carried medical supplies and weapons, and flew
other dangerous missions throughout Southeast Asia during the war. In the famous photograph of refugees climbing to a rooftop to be evacuated during the fall of Saigon, those helicopters were flown
not by the military but by Air America pilots. The effort to obtain federal benefits for the former workers has been ongoing for years, the Times reports, but has gotten a boost recently with the
change to Democratic control of Congress. Sen. Harry Reid, whose state of Nevada is home to some of the most vocal Air America retirees, became Senate majority leader. Reid is supporting new
legislation that would that would require the CIA to reconsider the Air America case.
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Owners and operators of aircraft built by Beech Aircraft Corporation and its descendants have two major milestones to
celebrate at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wis., this July. Special activities, flights and exhibits will mark the 75th anniversary of Beechcraft
and the 60th anniversary of the Beechcraft Bonanza. The festivities will include a mass arrival of scores of Bonanzas on Saturday, July 21. On Sunday evening, pilots and owners of all Beechcraft
models are invited to join all those Bonanza fliers, along with Hawker Beechcraft's own house band, the "Sons of Beech," in the North 40
aircraft camping area for a barbecue and celebration. "There is no better place to honor Beechcraft's contributions than at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, where the whole world of aviation gathers each year
to celebrate the passion, devotion, and ingenuity that the love of flight inspires," said Tom Poberezny, EAA president and AirVenture chairman. Other events will include a Beechcraft display on
AeroShell Square, AirVenture's central showcase area, on Monday. EAA's Vintage Aircraft and Warbirds divisions will feature displays of appropriate Beechcraft airplanes and their forerunners
throughout the week. And the weeklong schedule of air shows and showcase flying will include performances and flight displays of Beechcraft airplanes old and new.
NASA and the FAA on Wednesday agreed to work together on an education project that aims to foster the development of students'
skills in science, technology, engineering and math. Their first undertaking is a NASA curriculum called "Smart Skies," an online air traffic
control simulator for grades 5 through 9. It introduces students to the concepts of controlling air traffic while teaching them skills in math and problem-solving. The effort will contribute to the
development of a diverse, qualified aviation and space workforce for the future, according to NASA. Air traffic controllers at FAA's Oakland, Calif., facility helped to develop the program. The Web
site features videos that explain how the ATC system -- "the world's biggest distance-rate-time problem" -- works. The site also
challenges students to figure out how to use route or speed changes to line up a set of airplanes so they are three nautical miles apart, the last plane arrives as soon as possible, and the airplanes
are never closer than two nautical miles.
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A Philippines air force UH-1H Huey was carrying four people over the central island of Cebu when it crashed April 28 on a public street with
nylon kite string entangled below its main rotor. Seven people on the ground were killed, as were two of the helicopter's crew. Lieutenant General Horacio Tolentino said a captain aboard the
helicopter told him the aircraft was flying perfectly just before landing, and "there was no problem with the engine ... [the kite string] caused the stoppage of the rotor," he told ABC news. Though
terrorists have used kites as anti-helicopter tactical weapons in the past, and kite flying is banned in the area, the general said last week that in this instance no blame was being assigned as no
malice was intended. The air force did not initially announce plans to charge anyone.
If the thought of kite strings and blimp tethers sharing your airspace gives you the jitters, just imagine if this project comes true -- the
deployment of massive wind generators in the jet stream, with cables stretching thousands of feet to the surface. The generators would take advantage of the high speeds of winds aloft to create
electricity. Just a tiny fraction of the power available there could provide all of the world's energy needs, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Bob Thresher, of the U.S. Department of Energy, told the Chronicle that the
biggest obstacles may not be technical, but financial. "There's a tremendous advantage in going up [toward the jet stream] because there's much more energetic winds," he said. However, "you have to be
able do it very cheaply because the cost of [ground-based] wind energy has come down so dramatically, it's becoming competitive with conventional sources." Small versions of the system could be used
to supply basic services to remote villages where there is currently no power supply -- and presumably, few conflicts with air traffic. "In India alone there are a million villages without power,"
said Mac Brown, CEO of Magenn, a Canadian company that is developing the technology. "Our target market is that village which might have 50 or 60
or 70 huts. All they want is one or two lights in a hut, an electric water pump, and a TV and VCR for the village school. And they want a refrigerator for medicine, for when the doctor stops in once a
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Sens. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, and Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, have signed on to co-sponsor a new bill that provides an alternative
to the FAA's proposed reauthorization legislation. The bill has been called better than the FAA version, but still not friendly to GA...
The upgraded version of the Commemorative Air Forces B-24 will be unveiled Saturday morning at the American Airpower
Heritage Museum in Midland, Texas...
The pilot of a Grumman AA-5B was "wrestling" with a diabetic passenger who was experiencing "tremors" when the airplane crashed, the NTSB said in a preliminary report this week. Both were killed in the crash...
The National Institute for Aviation Research at Wichita State University has opened its first environmental test laboratory, which supports experiments to show whether
aeronautical equipment can withstand various environmental stresses...
AeroPalm, an aviation GPS for Palm and Treo devices, now has terrain and conflict information...
According to Eclipse Aviation, 24 pilots have completed their Eclipse 500 type rating, including FAA, Eclipse and customer pilots, and an additional 26 customer pilots are in training
Quest Aircraft has hired Steve Zaat as director of customer service. Zaat's 35 years of experience includes work with the U.S. Army and
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 Monday'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."
Each week, we go through dozens (and sometimes
hundreds) of reader-submitted photos and pick the very best to share
with you on Thursday mornings. The top photos are featured on
AVweb's home page, and one photo
that stands above the others is awarded an AVweb baseball cap as our
"Picture of the Week." Want to see your photo on AVweb.com?
Click here to submit it to our weekly contest.
*** THIS WEEK'S WINNERS ***
The volume of "POTW" submissions that arrive in our box
each week continues to fluctuate as the weather warms up here in the
U.S. but, by happy coincidence, every time the number of photos
drops off, the quality goes through the roof. This week was
no exception, with only 54 photos finding their way to us.
Thankfully, there's no shortage of oohs and ahs in this
week's batch, starting with a fantastic (if unsettling) weather photo
from Philip Clifton of
Raleigh, North Carolina. (Do yourself a favor and click through to
view Philip's photo full-size there was just too much majesty to fit
into our tiny little "winner" box here.)
Philip Clifton of
Raleigh, North Carolina took our breath away with this reminder that
yes, we are small and fragile in the face of the weather. As you
may have guessed, lots of pilots were grounded this Friday evening, but,
Philip writes, "as a consolation, I had the opportunity to capture
some fine aircraft with lightning in the background."
And because we can never pass up an opportunity to point out similar
themes, check out the photo to the right, taken by
Henry Morgan of Ranger, Texas on a stormy night over
Jay Honeck of Iowa City, Iowa woke
up to the sounds of an interesting formation at this year's Sun' n Fun.
"As you can see, these crazy guys were doing quite a formation with a DC-3?
at, what, 60' AGL? It really woke us up!"
Hey, we know that DC-3 it's the Herpa plan from
Incredible Adventures, who were kind enough to give us a ride during
The fabulous Thunderbirds fly over Kennedy Space Center as part of the
preparation for NASA's World Space Expo in November. According to
WSE's Ian Murphy, this is the
Thunderbirds first Kennedy fly-over in 31 years.
Photo by U.S. Air Force Technical Sgt.
Justin D. Pyle.
A quick note for submitters: If you've got several
photos that you feel are "POTW" material, your best bet is to submit
them one-a-week! That gives your photos a greater chance of seeing
print on AVweb, and it makes the selection process a little easier on
us, too. ;)
A Reminder About Copyrights: Please take a moment to consider the
source of your image before submitting to our "Picture of the Week" contest.
If you did not take the photo yourself, ask yourself if you are indeed
authorized to release publication rights to AVweb. If you're uncertain,
send us an e-mail.
AVwebFlash is a twice-weekly summary of the latest news, articles, products, features, and events featured on AVweb, the internet's aviation magazine and news service.
Today's issue was written by Contributing Editors Mary Grady (bio) and Glenn Pew (bio) and Editor In Chief Chad Trautvetter.
Click here to send a letter to the
editor. (Please let us know if your letter is not intended for publication.)
Comments or questions about the news should be sent here.
Have a product or service to advertise on AVweb? A question on marketing? Send it to AVweb's
If you're having trouble reading this newsletter in its HTML-rich format (or if you'd prefer a lighter, simpler format for your PDA or handheld device), there's also a text-only
version of AVwebFlash. For complete instructions on making the switch, click here.