AVwebFlash Complete Issue: Volume 13, Number 21a

May 21, 2007

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Top News back to top 

Safety Team Investigating Snowbird Crash

Canadian officials say they still don’t know why a Canadian Forces Snowbird suddenly broke formation and then pitched into the ground during a rehearsal for the group’s first show of the year at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls, Mont., on Friday. Capt. Shawn McCaughey of Candiac, Quebec, died instantly when the CT-114 Tutor aircraft disintegrated in a ball of flame on the south side of the base. Witnesses said the plane dropped back from a formation and then plummeted into the ground. Snowbird Commander Maj. Robert Mitchell told the Canadian Press that there was little he could tell grieving family members. "We just had to say we don't entirely know, which is tough for a family member," Maj. Mitchell said. "They want to know for closure." McCaughey, 31, was to be married in three weeks to Claudia Gaudreault, a social worker on the Snowbirds home base at Moose Jaw, Saskatewan. McCaughey was in his second year with the Snowbirds and was a former flight instructor in the CAF. His father, Hugh, told reporters that his son fulfilled a life-long dream by flying with the Snowbirds and died doing what he loved. "He always told me that. He said, 'If I'm going to die, I better die in a crash so I'll be happy.' And that's exactly what happened, unfortunately," Ken McCaughey said Saturday. The Snowbirds canceled two shows at Great Falls over the weekend, although the rest of the open-house airshow went on as scheduled. It’s not clear when the Snowbirds will resume flying. Mitchell said the team will remain at the U.S. base "indefinitely" to aid in the investigation.

Transcript Supports Pilots In Brazil Collision

The full cockpit voice recorder transcript from the Embraer Legacy bizjet that collided with an airliner over Brazil last Sept. 29 appears to support the pilots’ contention that they were following normal procedures. The airplane’s winglet clipped a GOL Airlines Boeing 737 at 37,000 feet, and the Boeing crashed, killing all 154 on board. In February, Brazilian authorities leaked excerpts of the transcript, which suggested the pilots, Jan Paladino and Joe Lepore, of Long Island, N.Y., were not competent to fly the twinjet because they couldn’t figure out how to program the flight management system, a fundamental skill required to fly most advanced glass cockpit aircraft. The full transcript reveals it was the airplane’s entertainment system that was puzzling them at the time of the collision, something experts interviewed by Newsday said would be a normal distraction for pilots cruising at 37,000 feet under air traffic control.

The transcript also shows the pilots stuck mainly to business during the flight, talking about fuel management, the weather and discussing the details of their next landing. "I am not in any way critical of the way that that crew handled themselves," John M. Cox, president of Safety Operating Systems in Washington, D.C., and a former safety official at the Air Line Pilots Association, told Newsday. "They talk quite a bit about fuel planning; they're not talking about how the Yankees did. I think the Brazilian air traffic control system has a problem." The transcript indicates Brazilian controllers didn't try to contact the Legacy until a few minutes before the crash. Poor radio reception was also a factor. But a Swiss expert, working for a law firm that is representing families of those killed aboard the airliner, says the pilots weren't as ready as they should have been for the flight. "A first impression was the pilots were not very well trained with the airplane," Hans-Peter Graf, a former investigator in charge at the Swiss Aircraft Accidents Investigation Bureau who is working for the law firm said. "They were not totally prepared to do the flight."

Mexico, Canada Join ATC NextGen Effort

Mexico and Canada have agreed to implement the FAA’s vision for the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NGATS) in concert with the U.S. to create a seamless continent-wide, space-based air traffic management system. At a North American Aviation Trilateral meeting in Quebec last week, all three nations agreed to proceed with implementation of required navigation performance (RNP), RNAV and ADS-B technologies in an integrated way so that procedures and standards will be harmonized over North America. The primary goal of the NextGen technology is to increase system capacity but, in a speech during the meeting, FAA Administrator Marion Blakey said there are also environmental and financial benefits attached. The satellite systems should allow for more direct routing and perhaps closer spacing of aircraft, cutting fuel consumption and decreasing emissions. "Together, we need to promote better scientific understanding of the potential impacts of aviation emissions. We need to accelerate improvements in air traffic efficiency," Blakey said. "We also must foster energy efficiency in aircraft and engines, especially with respect to the development of alternative fuel sources for aviation. But we must march forward together."

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News Briefs back to top 

Union: FAA "Staffing To Budget"

The FAA seems intent on challenging long-established norms in terms of staffing levels, work hours and overtime management in many of its facilities as it copes with the "retirement bubble" of controllers hired in 1981 when President Ronald Reagan fired thousands of striking controllers. According to the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), the agency recently began ordering controllers to stay at their consoles beyond the two hours that the unions says is the "longest possible period that controllers should ever work to ensure safety and allow them adequate rest periods." In a news release, NATCA says the agency is also instituting mandatory overtime to maintain minimum staffing at facilities and, even though traffic is increasing, recently reduced the minimum staffing levels at hundreds of facilities by as much as 26 percent. NATCA claims the reductions are reducing safety margins and increasing controller fatigue. The FAA did not respond to AVweb’s request for comment.

At Cleveland Center, the fourth busiest airport in the U.S., 34 veteran controllers (roughly 8 percent of the facility's workforce) recently retired and there are more making plans. NATCA President Pat Forrey worked at Cleveland for 23 years before taking over the union job, and he said in the news release that the FAA is simply "staffing to budget" without regard for the safety consequences. "With only 39 trainees in the building and a loss of 34 veteran, experienced controllers in recent months, with many more veterans set to retire in coming days, weeks and months, it is clear that the FAA is losing the battle, and it's travelers who will have to pay the price in the form of increased delays and a reduced margin of safety," Forrey said. The union claims the same issues affect smaller centers, and the effects can be fairly dramatic. It says the tower at Charleston, W. Va., was closed for 90 minutes last week due to staffing shortages. Aircraft continued to operate using standard non-tower airport procedures.

Controllers Denounce Radarless Argentina

While controllers in the U.S. often complain about the decades-old equipment they use, imagine if they had to work without radar. That’s the situation in Argentina, where the country’s only radar, near Buenos Aires, was hit by lightning on March 1 and hasn’t been repaired. The International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers’ Associations says controllers are coping with their blipless environment by plotting traffic based on position reports and limiting takeoffs to one every 10 minutes and landings to one every eight minutes. There’s no indication when the government might get around to fixing the radar, and that’s not the only problem in Argentina. "Air safety is compromised here today," Cesar Salas, president of Argentina’s air traffic controllers association told McClatchy newspapers. "The problem is this is a system that's collapsed. There's no plan, and there's no effort to make the improvements that are necessary." Salas said there have been five incidents of insufficient separation since the radar was zapped, although the government is disputing allegations that a United Airlines flight came too close to an Andes Airlines aircraft near Buenos Aires. Earlier this month, the International Federation of Airline Pilots Associations recommended "extreme vigilance" for anyone flying into Argentina. International traffic in the Latin American country jumped 68 percent between 2003 and 2005.

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News Briefs back to top 

Voters May Decide "Piper Town's" Fate

Vero Beach and Indian River County voters may have the final say on whether Piper Aircraft stays in the community. On May 8, city and county officials agreed to split a $50 million incentive package aimed at keeping the aircraft manufacturer in town and building its PiperJet factory there. But it would appear the civic governments are leaning toward a vote on the package. "I would say we have to put this in front of the voters as a referendum," Vero Beach Mayor Tom White told TCPalm.com. "It's important to get community support behind this." But while he’s high on voter involvement, White said he was less enthused about one official’s suggestion to change the airport’s name to "Piper Town." Regardless of what they call the place, it will be in tough competition against Albuquerque, N.M. Columbia, S.C. Oklahoma City, Okla. and Tallahassee, Fla., all of which are offering incentives to lure the PiperJet plant. Just to make things more interesting, the state of Florida is considering putting up $20 million, but it will give it to either Vero Beach or Tallahassee. Piper says its relocation consultants haven’t received the local bid from Vero Beach yet and it won’t comment until they do.

Thielert’s Numbers Are Up

Even if you’re still not convinced that diesels are the piston engine of the future for light aircraft, enough people apparently are that you might want to consider adding Thielert to your stock portfolio. The company recorded an impressive 60-percent increase in sales in the first quarter over the same period last year, and that’s getting some attention in the financial journals in Europe. Of their total revenue of about $32 million in the quarter, about $19 million came from sales of its two and four-liter diesel aircraft engines and the rest came from its technology and prototyping division. Thielert also owns Superior Air Parts, which makes certified and experimental engines based on Lycoming designs. The original 1.7-liter Thielert and its two-liter successor are available as original equipment in Diamond DA40 singles and the DA42 Twin Star, and the four-liter is expected to be offered in the new five-place DA50 Super Star. The company is clearly eyeing up Cessna and Cirrus to consider diesels in its aircraft by getting supplemental type certification for the four-liter diesel powerplant in the 206 and SR22. "In both cases, certification plays an important role in stepping up business relations with the two biggest aircraft manufacturers worldwide," company CEO Frank Thielert said.

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News Briefs back to top 

New Icing AD Issued For Caravans

Operators of Cessna Caravans and Grand Caravans who want to fly them in known icing conditions will have to equip them with a "low airspeed awareness alert system" by Sept. 20, according to an Airworthiness Directive (AD) the FAA published last week. The system, developed by Cessna, costs about $8,200 per airplane to install and is designed to help Caravan pilots better manage airspeed in icing conditions. It was developed and then jointly tested by the FAA and Cessna to address the very rapid degradation of the airplane's flying qualities in icing conditions, which appears to surprise Caravan pilots. "The accident/incident history of the Model 208 indicates that pilots have not been diligent in the management of the aircraft when operating in icing conditions, as aircraft performance can decay very quickly," the AD reads.

The new directive, which takes effect June 21, supersedes an earlier one that required only placards and changes to aircraft manuals. Some commenters questioned the need and the reliability of the alarm, saying more training is the answer. The FAA says it agrees that training is a good thing, but the alarm works as intended and the agency considers it essential equipment for flight into known icing. A spate of high-profile accidents involving iced-up Caravans over the past few years resulted in increased scrutiny of the popular commuter and cargo aircraft and that, in itself, seems to have helped halt the carnage. This icing season, the NTSB has recorded only one accident in the U.S. involving a Caravan. It appears ice was a factor in that mishap near Alliance, Neb., last Feb. 8. The cargo-carrying Caravan hit a power-line pole on final approach, seriously injuring the pilot. Investigators found between 1/10th and 3/8ths of an inch of ice on the airframe. Weather was misty with a temperature of -6 degrees C and a dewpoint of -7 degrees C.

Circumnavigation Flight At Halfway Point

Barrington Irving, the 23-year-old Miami pilot who’s trying to become the youngest pilot ever to circumnavigate the world, was, at this writing, in Calcutta and about half way through the trip. He left Miami on March 26 and had hoped to be back by now but weather and maintenance checks on his Columbia 400 have combined to slow the schedule somewhat. He’s now hoping to get back to Miami by the end of this month and, after flying through sandstorms and being stalled by a tropical depression over India, he’s facing what might be his biggest challenge on the trip -- his longest leg, a 1,530-nm trip from Japan to Alaska. Irving will hopscotch through Thailand, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan before launching from Asahikawa for the 12-hour trip over the North Pacific to Shemya, in the Aleutians. The aircraft has extra tanks and an estimated range of 1,900 nm. From Shemya it’s on to Anchorage, Seattle, Denver and Houston before the final leg to Miami. Irving, who was born in Jamaica but grew up in the inner city of Miami, said he’s making the flight to try to inspire other minority and inner-city kids.

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News Briefs back to top 

Whale Plane Carries A Message

The Cape Air Cessna 402 normally carries passengers to various Massachusetts and Florida locations, but the twin was to have arrived in Anchorage on Sunday to deliver a conservation message to the International Whaling Commission’s annual meeting there. On board the Whale Plane, which is painted in a whale motif, are 50 drawings by children urging the commission to stop hunting whales. The piston twin, with International Fund for Animal Welfare founder Patrick Ramage and his 12-year-old son Henry aboard, stopped in 12 cities along the way for media events calling attention to the escalation of whaling. Henry embarked on the flight with a clear purpose in mind. “We need to do whatever we can to save whales and stop commercial whaling,” he said in a news release. “I am very excited to be able to take this trip with my dad and to tell government leaders how much American kids love whales. Whales should be seen and not hurt.”

DARPA Looking For Five-Year-Flight

The Defense Department is calling for proposals for a 1,000-pound aircraft that can stay aloft continuously for five years with a 99-percent probability. According to Government Executive’s Tech Insider blog, the Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency (DARPA) issued a solicitation call last Wednesday for the project it’s calling the Vulture, after the energy-conserving bird that uses thermals to stay airborne while it waits for more energetic predators to kill something. Just what the military would do with such a creature is anyone’s guess, but it’s pretty much narrowed down the performance parameters to virtually ensure the winning bid will be some kind of solar/battery/fuel-cell combination or a robotic refueling system. While the solicitation doesn’t specify the type of energy and propulsion system, it does rule out radio-wave-powered aircraft and lighter-than-air vehicles. Tech Insider names AeroEnvironment of Monrovia, Calif., the builder of the solar-powered Helios, as a likely bidder and also says Burt Rutan’s Scaled Composites will probably take a shot. Anyone who has an idea is asked to attend an industry day put on by DARPA on June 7 at the Westin Arlington Gateway Hotel in Arlington, Va.

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News In Brief back to top 

On The Fly

Spectrum Aeronautical LLC has moved its headquarters to McClellan-Palomar Airport in Carlsbad, Calif. The company says the new location is more convenient and exposes their products, a light bizjet called the Independence and a midsize aircraft dubbed Freedom, to the many business operators who use the airport…

The FAA is proposing an Airworthiness Directive on Diamond DA40 aircraft after a nose gear failure in Austria. The aircraft involved was used for training and had been on grass strips and a fatigue crack caused the failure. The AD requires inspection and replacement as necessary…

PrestoSim, of Grapevine, Texas, has received approval for its new King Air simulator. The company also offers simulator training for Citations…

The Flying Physicians Association (FPA) is the winner of the Milton Caniff "Spirit of Flight" Award, presented annually by the National Aviation Hall of Fame. The ceremony will be held July 21 when enshrines Walter Boyne, Steve Fossett, Evelyn Bryan Johnson, Sally Ride and Frederick W. Smith will be honored.

AVweb's Newstips Address ...

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New On AVweb back to top 

The Pilot's Lounge #113: Real-World Aviating 101 (Lab Required)

The cliche goes, "A pilot certificate is a license to learn." But how many pilots actually get refresher training other than flight reviews every two years?

Click here to read Rick Durden's column.

Answers About Oil

There's more information than ever about aircraft engine oils but still more heat than light. Here's what the people who make the stuff have to say.

Click here for the full story.

AVmail: May 21, 2007

Reader mail this week about the "new" Flight Service Stations, Oshkosh, anti-collision systems and more.

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

Garmin 496 vs. Flight Cheetah with XM Weather Comparison
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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 Pogo Jet's Cameron Burr. And AVweb's podcast index includes interviews with Teal Group's Richard Aboulafia; 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; and Comp Air's Ron Lueck. In today's special podcast, hear Ed Iacobucci of DayJet talk about how the air-taxi start-up is getting ready to start service in July. 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: Heartland Aviation

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

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Heartland Aviation at KEAU in Eau Claire, Wis.

AVweb reader David Stone said the FBO stepped up to the plate when he had to divert due to weather.

"For two months I had been planning a trip to the Metrodome -- a birthday gift to my 12-year-old baseball-possessed nephew – to see the Red Sox versus Twins game. The forecast at KSTP was thunderstorms, with surface winds over 35 knots. Radar showed storms on the way, so I landed at KEAU instead. The car rental was closed, but Heartland lent me a great crew car for the 180-mile round trip with only a request to return it full (it was full when they gave it to me). They are the best."

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: Bombardier CL-415 Canadair Heavy Water Bombers in Action

Recommend a Video | VOTW Archive

With fire-fighting season upon us, we'd like to call your attention to the amazing heavy water bombers that turn the tide of so many forest fire battles in North America each year. This week's clip comes to us from the folks at Dryden Regional Airport in Ontario, Canada. Take a quick fly-along with two of their Canadair Bombardier CL-415s as they pick up water and make a drop. And for more on Ontario's fire-fighting flyers, check out the province's Aviation and Forest Fire Management division.

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If that doesn't work, click here to download the video directly.

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

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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"

I was flying a Cirrus SR22, introducing the plane to a CFI interested in seeing it in action. We were still about 20 miles out, but the controller was working us into the sequence with other planes, mostly trainers, setting up for practice approaches:

Seattle Approach: Cirrus Seven Charlie Delta, say airspeed.

Cirrus: Seven Charlie Delta is indicating 165.

Approach: Wow! Uh, okay. Cirrus Seven Charlie Delta, slow to 140 or less.

The CFI was rolling with joy, saying, "Dude, you got a 'Wow!'"

Names Behind The News back to top 

Meet the AVwebFlash Team

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

Today's issue was written by Contributing Editor Russ Niles (bio).

Click here to send a letter to the editor. (Please let us know if your letter is not intended for publication.)

Comments or questions about the news should be sent here.

Have a product or service to advertise on AVweb? A question on marketing? Send it to AVweb's sales team.

If you're having trouble reading this newsletter in its HTML-rich format (or if you'd prefer a lighter, simpler format for your PDA or handheld device), there's also a text-only version of AVwebFlash. For complete instructions on making the switch, click here.

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