AVwebFlash Complete Issue: Volume 13, Number 20a

May 14, 2007

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Police Blame Pilots For Brazil Collision

Brazilian police say the failure of two New York pilots to notice that the transponder aboard their Embraer Legacy 600 bizjet was not working amounts to the criminal offense of "placing a vessel or aircraft in jeopardy" and are, according to a Brazilian newspaper, recommending prosecution. Joe Lepore and Jan Paladino were delivering the Legacy from the factory to their employer, ExcelAire of New York, last Sept. 29 when the left winglet and part of the tail struck a Gol Airlines Boeing 737-800. The airliner crashed, killing all 154 onboard, while Paladino and Lepore were able to land the damaged Embraer at a military base in the Amazon jungle. The pilots have steadfastly maintained (and radio transcripts appear to support) that they were at the altitude assigned by air traffic control. The International Airline Pilots Association is criticizing the report, noting that gaping hole in the evidence and also pointing out that the charges belie the fundamental legal tenet that there must be criminal intent involved. "As there does not seem to be any factual support for a finding that there was any intent by the Legacy crew to place their aircraft in danger, there should be no basis for prosecution under Brazilian law," IALPA said in a news release. Meanwhile ExcelAire, Embraer and Honeywell, which made the transponder, are squabbling over whether the device was faulty. Honeywell steadfastly claims that the transponder in the Legacy was fully functional during the accident flight. The pilots have said they'll return to Brazil to face the charges, and there's also a report that the Brazilian Congress wants them to testify before a commission studying the accident.

Controllers Share Blame In Brazil Midair, Too

It now appears that at least three Brazilian air traffic controllers could be charged with involuntary manslaughter for their role in the collision between an Embraer Legacy 600 bizjet and a Gol Airlines Boeing 737, which killed all 154 aboard the Boeing last Sept. 29. Earlier reports from Brazil said a federal police investigation ignored air traffic control’s involvement because ATC is run by the military in Brazil and it would do its own investigation. But a fresh report from the Sao Paulo newspaper O Estado, quoted by Newsday, says the police probe has implicated three of the 10 controllers who were on duty at the time of the collision. The report has not been officially released yet, but O Estado says the police allege that the controllers gave incomplete instructions to the Embraer crew, leading them to believe that they were cleared to fly their whole intended route at 37,000 feet. O Estado says the controllers actually expected the bizjet to change altitudes twice but either didn’t notice or didn’t do anything about it if they did notice.

Groups Fear Effect Of Pilot Prosecution

The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) and the Flight Safety Foundation (FSF) are calling on Brazil’s federal police to drop criminal charges against two American pilots, in part because of concerns about the effect of the prosecution on future crash investigations. Jan Paladino and Joe Lepore, who flew the Embraer 600 that collided with a Gol Airlines Boeing 737 over Brazil last Sept. 29, will likely face charges based on their alleged failure to notice that their transponder wasn’t working. In a joint news release, NBAA and FSF say the charges are premature because the crash investigation isn’t complete. They also say the decision to pursue criminal charges could put a chill on accident investigations, not only in Brazil but all over the world. "We are deeply concerned that the criminalization of the investigation into the tragic accident of September 2006 could have a negative impact on aviation safety worldwide,” FSF CEO Bill Voss said. While it’s not the first time criminal charges have been laid in relation to an air crash, the news release says this case could be precedent-setting for its international circumstances. The worry is that the specter of criminal proceedings will cause those involved in accidents to withhold information that might be crucial to the prevention of future mishaps. “We are disappointed that Brazilian police officials continue down the road of emphasizing 'criminalization' in the wake of last year's tragic accident, instead of recognizing the premium the international aviation community places on investigating the root causes of an accident, so that safety improvements can be made," said NBAA President Ed Bolen.

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News Briefs back to top 

Lockheed Martin Wants More FSS Money

Lockheed Martin is looking for a 10-percent increase in the fees it's being paid to take over flight services. According to a report from the Department of Transportation's Office of Inspector General, the company, which was awarded a $1.8 billion contract to assume the function, says it's owed another $177 million, mostly because the FAA didn't supply accurate labor cost information. Lockheed Martin's claims are now being assessed. Meanwhile, the DOT OIG also reported that the FAA has fined Lockheed Martin $9 million for failure to live up to service and performance guarantees. Pilots in the Washington, D.C., area have recently complained that FSS changes have resulted in a sharp increase in dropped flight plans and that briefers, some of whom were in California, didn't know the procedures for operations in the Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) that surrounds the capital. The OIG is now preparing a report on FSS operations that will be released later this month. Most of the OIG report delivered Thursday dealt with the FAA's funding request for 2008. The OIG noted the FAA’s funding request has been tailored to fit the new user-fee-based structure being championed by the agency. The OIG doesn't pass judgment on the user-fee structure, but it does say the agency has become noticeably better at managing its money, particularly with regard to large capital projects. It says the agency seems to have curbed the runaway budgets and slipped schedules that plagued projects, but notes it has challenges ahead with the Next Generation Air Transportation System and more mundane projects like an integrated communications system.

Cirrus Issues Service Bulletin After Control Jam

Last week Cirrus issued a mandatory Service Bulletin that requires the replacement of some control system parts that, in specific cross control circumstances, can cause the rudder and aileron controls to jam. The Service Bulletin was issued a month after the controls jammed on a relatively new SR20 as a student pilot was lining up for takeoff at Leesburg, Va. According to the NTSB report, the student had applied full right rudder and full left aileron and both systems locked. His instructor aborted the takeoff safely. Investigators found control system parts tangled together and were able to repeat the jamming action. In its Service Bulletin, Cirrus calls for new parts that will prevent the entanglement and it also notes that the jamming has never been reported in aircraft with properly rigged controls. However, the relatively simple fix for the technical issue could affect a lawsuit stemming from the crash of New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle’s SR20 last October. Although the NTSB says pilot error was to blame and no mechanical irregularities were found in the plane, the lawyer for Lidle’s widow Melanie has filed suit against Cirrus claiming the crash was caused by a failure of the flight controls. The suit alleges the aircraft have a history of flight-control-related crashes. The control inputs that caused the jam on the ground in Leesburg would put the aircraft in a forward slip in flight. Lidle and his flight instructor Tyler Stanger were in a steep left turn when they hit a Manhattan apartment building.

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News Briefs back to top 

FAA Fact Sheet Promotes Aviation User Fees

The FAA is painting a dismal picture of its own performance in an unvarnished attempt to gather support for its controversial proposed aviation user-fee funding system. In a fact sheet released last week, the agency ties the funding package directly to modernization of airspace management, which has been nicknamed NextGen. “The Administration’s NextGen Financing Reform Act, sent to Congress in February, will provide a stable, cost-based revenue stream to fund the transition to NextGen,” the fact sheet reads. “The current tax system expires Sept. 30, so Congress must act now.” Without airspace modernization, the fact sheet warns, the system “will reach gridlock by 2015.” The fact sheet says one in four airline flights is delayed nationwide and, at the worst bottlenecks, 35 percent of flights arrive or depart late. It says the current system simply cannot handle expected growth in air traffic that will see the number of passengers increase from the current level of about 750 million annually to a billion by 2015. “Aviation’s ability to continue to play its traditionally dynamic role in our economy will be substantially diminished unless new NextGen technology and procedures are put in to place now,” the fact sheet warns. While virtually no one disputes the need to modernize the system, most general aviation groups -- as well as the DOT Inspector General and Government Accountability Office -- say the current system of fuel taxes on GA and ticket taxes on commercial aviation are adequate fund the transition.

Founder Suing Columbia Aircraft

Columbia Aircraft founder Lance Neibauer is suing his former company for severance and for payment for rights to manufacturing processes he invented when he owned the firm. The company, which makes the certified Columbia 350 and 400 high performance aircraft (and is not to be confused with Lancair, the kit-build company Neibauer also founded) was taken over by its principal investor, the Malaysian government, and Neibauer was kept on as an employee until he was terminated in April 2006. Six months later, according to the Bend Bulletin, Neibauer launched a lawsuit claiming severance of $1.55 million. And in a separate action, launched in the last few weeks, Neibauer is claiming Columbia owes him $100,000 and $400,000 more over the next four years under an agreement signed in 2002. Neibauer claims the 2002 deal entitled him to $500,000 in annual payments of $100,000 on his departure from the company for the rights to composite technology he developed for the aircraft. Neibauer’s suit says the first payment was due at the end of last month. Columbia recently announced it is recalling employees furloughed six weeks ago as the company sold off excess inventory and retooled for more efficient production. It sold 47 aircraft in the first quarter of this year, one more than it did in the same period last year.

European Union To Rescue Galileo

It looks like Europe’s space-based navigation system will be government operated after the consortium of companies that were to build and run it effectively quit the project on Thursday. The consortium, led by Airbus parent EADS, had until May 10 to come up with a plan to get the Galileo project back on track and working toward deployment. But, according to Reuters, the consortium was plagued by infighting and nervous of the $3 billion cost so it let the deadline pass. Shortly thereafter, European Union Transport Commission head Michele Cercone said the government would take over the project. Cercone said the consortium wanted the EU to assume the debt and take all the risk out of deploying the system so it made more sense to assume the project without them. The EU hopes to have the system partially operational by early 2011 and fully operational by 2012.

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News Briefs back to top 

Palm Springs TRACON Move Ignites Debate

The FAA seems intent on closing the Palm Springs, Calif., terminal radar approach control (TRACON) in three weeks despite unusually strong public and political opposition. It intends to transfer the workload to the Southern California TRACON near San Diego on June 6. In recent weeks, local, state and federal politicians have asked the FAA to reconsider, citing safety concerns, and there's even a bill pending in the House that would outlaw the move.According to the Desert Sun, a public meeting on Thursday, in which opposition was virtually unanimous, apparently failed to move FAA officials, who insist service will improve. "If you stand back from the emotional for just a second and you look at the facts of what level of service is going to be provided, it's going to be a vast improvement," Walter White, SoCal TRACON's support manager for airspace and procedures, said at the meeting. But opponents say closing Palm Springs will add a specialized workload to the San Diego facility that it's not staffed or trained to handle. SoCal TRACON is one of the busiest, handling more than two million flights a year. Palm Springs sees about 145,000 flights per year. Critics say SoCal is already stretched to the limit by manpower shortages to the point where operational errors are up threefold. They also say the controllers in San Diego aren't familiar with the geography and conditions around Palm Springs. Those points have been made repeatedly by pilots; airport business officials; and civic, state and federal politicians, but the plan remains to make the move June 6. "I have the feeling, sitting here this afternoon, that you're here to tell us something and you're not paying any attention to what we're saying," Mort Gubin, a senior aviation medical examiner, said at the meeting.

Warning System Might Curb Obstacle Collisions

Two Norwegian pilots have developed a system to warn pilots if they’re on a collision course with obstacles like cell towers, wind turbines, radio masts or just about any other thing that sticks up in the air. The difference with this system is that it’s the obstacle itself that broadcasts the warning and there’s no need for additional equipment on the airplane to receive it. According to the Innovations Report, pilots Rolf Bakken and Morten Mork came up with the idea in 1999 and worked with SINTEF to develop it. The heart of the system is smart radar that can tell if an aircraft is on a collision course with an obstacle. The radar is part of a technology bundle that is installed on the obstacle. If the radar spots an airplane moving its way, it activates powerful warning lights mounted on the obstacle when the aircraft is 30 seconds from impact. If the lights don’t get the pilot’s attention, at 20 seconds out a warning signal is broadcast on all VHF aviation radio frequencies. There was no mention of the cost of each system.

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 Briefs back to top 

Phenom 100 VLJ Price Rises

If you’re waffling on which very light jet suits you best, Embraer has 130,000 reasons for you to make up your mind by July 1. That’s when the price of its Phenom 100 four-passenger (six-place) jet will go from $2.85 million to $2.98 million (January 2005 dollars). That puts the actual outlay for the Brazilian VLJ a touch over $3 million. The news release announcing the price hike did not explain the reason, though the company did say it has a combined total of 400 orders for the Phenom 100 and its larger stablemate, the Phenom 300. The first Phenom 100 is in final assembly at Embraer’s main plant in São José dos Campos, Brazil. Customer deliveries are expected in about a year. The aircraft is powered by Pratt & Whitney Canada PW617F engines and the flight deck features the Garmin G1000 integrated avionics system. The Phenom 300 will follow the 100 into production in 2009. It will seat six passengers.

Spokane FBO Sues For New Quarters

Spokane Airways is taking Spokane International Airport and its board of directors to court, claiming the airport owes it new digs to replace the buildings it was forced to vacate to make way for a new control tower. According to the Spokane Spokesman-Review, the FBO says its deal with the airport stipulates that if it has to move, it’s up to the airport to find comparable space. The business, which has about 100 employees, occupied six buildings that have to be demolished to clear sight lines for the new tower, which opens in August. The company was moved to smaller quarters and says its lease requires "relocation or substitution of other premises be at the expense of the [Airport] Board." The airport says that lease was “legally terminated” and suggests the demand is excessive. The airport’s lawyer, Kevin Roberts, said it would cost the airport up to $15 million to build the kind of facilities the company is demanding, and he insists there’s no requirement in the agreements for taxpayer-subsidized new construction. "They're trying to get something not required under Washington law," he told the Spokesman-Review. A hearing is set for next week, but the airport is trying to get the case dismissed before that.

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News In Brief back to top 

On The Fly

Hangar63, Banyan's Aviation Store at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport, will hold a customer appreciation day June 2 with special sales, prizes, food and free flying using simulator software in a Gulfstream II fuselage...

Cirrus’s G3 series of turbonormalized SR22s is even cooler now that they’re available with air conditioning. Earlier turbos didn’t offer that option…

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration sent investigators to the New York terminal radar approach control center in Westbury, N.Y., to look into the carbon monoxide incident that sickened some on-duty controllers April 25…

The Air Force says it’s getting close to perfecting sense-and-avoid systems for UAVs, something the FAA says they have to have before they can mix it up with regular traffic.

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/.

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New On AVweb back to top 

Pelican's Perch #85: Where Are The Eyes?

As AVweb readers know, John Deakin loves to get precision out of his airplane using instruments. But not when VFR near an airport.

Click here to read.

Probable Cause #32: Incomplete Briefing

Complicated weather patterns demand a full and complete weather briefing for anything but a casual flight in the airport vicinity. Here's why.

Click here for the full story.

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AVweb-Exclusive Audio And Video News 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 Teal Group's Richard Aboulafia. And AVweb's podcast index includes interviews with Air Journey's Thierry Pouille; 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 David Wartofsky, owner of Potomac Airfield, talk about AFSS problems. Remember: In AVweb's podcasts, you'll hear things you won't find anywhere else.

Exclusive Video Preview of Cessna's NGP Proof-of-Concept Aircraft from Sun 'n Fun 2007

Recommend a Video | VOTW Archive

Glenn Pew speaks with Cessna vice president of propeller aircraft sales, John Doman, about the company's Next Generation Piston proof-of-concept (NGP POC) aircraft.

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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: Million Air KHHR

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

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Million Air at KHHR in Hawthorne, Calif.

AVweb reader Steve Hamerslag couldn't say enough good things about this facility.

"This is a new FBO on the field. When I arrived the ramp personnel were waiting to help with securing the aircraft. I was offered a short lift on their cart to the office, but I elected to walk the short distance. Upon entering the lobby I was helped immediately and efficiently. I was planning on taking a cab to my destination five miles away, but they insisted that they take me in their courtesy van. They even have a free soda machine on top of the normal coffee and tea. When I was departing, the line crew helped remove the chocks and offered me a cold bottled water as I did my walk around. Million Air KHHR has very friendly and efficient staff. The fuel was even reasonably priced!"

Keep those nominations coming. For complete contest rules, click here.

AVweb is actively seeking out the best FBOs in the country and another one, submitted by you, will be spotlighted here next Monday!

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Video Of The Week back to top 

Video of the Week: Agrorotors Helicopter Power Line Maintenance

Recommend a Video | VOTW Archive

Man's best friend is the dog, but the electric companies' best friend may well be the helicopter. Last week, we saw how helicopters do thankless jobs like tree-trimming around power lines. This week, let's take a look at some other (pretty impressive) line maintenance that could only be done with the assistance of pilots. (Courtesy of YouTube user harrison359.)

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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."

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"

There is an approach into San Francisco (KSFO) known as the Quiet Bridge Visual. During this approach, commercial operators fly to the bridge and match up with another aircraft for the parallel runway.

NorCal Approach: United Four Five Three, report traffic 10 o’clock one mile, a Skywest Brasilia in sight, and slow to one seven zero.

United 453: Traffic, bridge, airport, parking lot, and my car in sight.

NorCal: United Four Five Three, roger, cleared for the visual two eight right, enjoy your days off, contact tower.

Names Behind The News back to top 

Meet the AVwebFlash Team

AVwebFlash is a twice-weekly summary of the latest news, articles, products, features, and events featured on AVweb, the internet's aviation magazine and news service.

Today's issue was written by Contributing Editors 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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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.

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