AVwebFlash - Volume 13, Number 24a

June 11, 2007

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
 
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Top News back to top 
 

Aviation User Fees Dead?

Rep. James Oberstar, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, told Bloomberg News on Thursday there will be no mention of user fees in the House’s version of the FAA reauthorization bill. The Minnesota Democrat (Cirrus' headquarters in Duluth is in his district) said “none of what the [Bush] Administration is proposing” is in the House bill. "We're plotting a path to achieving it without the Administration's fees," he said. Just what that path is wasn’t clear, but Bloomberg seemed to gather from its interview with Oberstar that he believes the existing system of fuel taxes on general aviation and ticket and cargo taxes on commercial aviation will sustain the FAA as it embarks on a massive modernization program. Last month the Senate approved a $25 per flight “modernization surcharge” on business aircraft (everywhere except Alaska) in its FAA reauthorization bill, but it’s getting major opposition from GA groups that fear the establishment of a user-fee billing and collecting system will just open the door to more of the same. The Air Transport Association, which lobbied tirelessly to have user fees implemented, is still holding out hope that the House bill will address what it sees as inequities in the funding of the airspace system. "We're tired of subsidizing corporate aviation," ATA spokesman David Castelveter told Bloomberg.

Epic Elite VLJ Makes First Flight

Epic Aircraft of Bend, Ore., said its very light jet, dubbed the Elite, made its maiden flight on Thursday morning. The twinjet is a joint venture between Epic parent company Aircraft Investor Resources (AIR) and Tbilisi Aircraft Manufacturing (TAM) of Georgia (the former Soviet bloc country). According to Epic, the initial flight was flown by test pilots Dave Morss and Len Fox and lasted more than 40 minutes while the crew explored the aircraft’s control characteristics and low-level performance capabilities. (For more on this flight, listen to our exclusive interview with Epic Aircraft CEO Rick Schrameck.) The carbon-fiber Elite, which is powered by two 3,120-pound-thrust Williams FJ33-4 engines, is expected to fly at speeds up to 410 knots, have a range of more than 1,600 nm and have a full-fuel payload of 1330 pounds. The VLJ's flight deck features the Garmin G900X avionics system. The company said the Elite Jet will first be available later this year as a seven-passenger kitbuilt aircraft, with an eight-passenger version slated to be certified in late 2009. The Epic Elite is scheduled to make its public debut next month at EAA AirVenture at Oshkosh, Wis. The company's jet will be joined at the airshow by its turboprop single brethren – the Epic LT and Dynasty, now in certification testing in Canada. Epic's second jet, the single-engine Victory, is also scheduled to fly to Oshkosh, after making its first flight early next month. According to Epic, the Victory, which was publicly announced in April at Sun 'n Fun, is a clean-sheet design that has been in development for only seven months.

EFIS Retrofit For Cirrus Eyed

Op Technologies has asked the FAA for a supplementary type certificate (STC) to install its advanced Electronic Flight Instrument System in to Cirrus SR22 aircraft. Op Technologies traditionally supplies the experimental market but is trying to get STC approval in the SR22 for its Pegasus system, which isn’t listed on its Web site but might be the launch name for a certified version of its existing products. Cirrus spokeswoman Kate Dougherty said Op is undertaking the project independently and it’s not something spearheaded by Cirrus. “We are happy that others take initiative to build on our technology,” she told AVweb on Sunday. The FAA says it has some concerns about the STC, namely protection from High Intensity Radiated Fields and the way the gear is wired to other stuff in the panel (“coupling to cockpit-installed equipment through the cockpit window apertures”) and is inviting comments until July 9. Just what the Cirrus installation will entail isn’t clear, but Op offers some interesting features in its experimental models. The Flight Op EFIS includes synthetic vision and a forward-looking infrared (FLIR) system as options.

 
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News Briefs back to top 
 

Lawsuit Against Lycoming Hits Snag

A California court held a hearing last Monday in a class-action suit filed against Lycoming in California over an AD affecting 3,774 Lycoming 360- and 540-series engines. In the lawsuit, plaintiff Richard Bristow, a Mooney owner, maintains that Lycoming should bear all the costs of replacing the problem crankshafts, which the manufacturer previously did when similar troubles plagued its other engines. While the judge believes the class-action case has merit under California's tough consumer laws, Robert Mills -- the San Rafael, Calif., attorney who filed the suit –- said a technicality is preventing the case from moving forward. Bristow's Mooney is titled under a limited liability company and as such is the owner -- and the real plaintiff -- in the court's eyes, and the rub is that the California consumer law is applicable only to consumers, not companies. Mills believes the judge will allow him to find an alternate plaintiff to proceed with the case, so he is seeking "an aircraft owner affected by this AD that lives in California, bought the aircraft in California and took title as an individual," and in addition must still own this airplane. Anyone meeting these requirements can contact him via his law firm's Web site. The AD, effective Nov. 3, requires owners to replace the crankshaft either at normal overhaul, when the crankcase is split for any reason or within 12 years of the time the crankshaft was put into service. Replacement parts will cost about $16,000 per engine, though Lycoming is offering to reduce that price to $2,000 (parts only) for three years. Mills, as well as seven other law firms, is also involved in the filing of a class-action lawsuit for affected owners in the other 49 states.

FAA Computer Glitch Causes Delays

FAA modernization is looking more appealing after a domino-effect computer failure affected parts of the air traffic control system on Friday. The flight planning system in Atlanta failed, so the agency routed them to a system in Salt Lake City, which couldn’t handle the extra load. That forced controllers to manually enter flight plans, slowing traffic to a crawl. Bad weather along the Eastern Seaboard added to the woes. The computer outage didn’t last very long for most places, and the system was back up by 11 a.m., but New York’s screens were blank for an extra two hours. Steve Coleman, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, told The Associated Press that hundreds of flights into and out of JFK, LaGuardia and Newark were delayed two to three hours. Southwest Airlines said 40 percent of its flights were delayed.

 
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News Briefs back to top 
 

Mountain Flying Expert Recovering

The author of the Mountain Flying Bible appears to have broken one of the Ten Commandments of wilderness crash survival last week and lived to tell the tale. Sparky Imeson, 61, of Jackson Hole, Wyo., and Jon C. Kantorowicz, 58, of Great Falls, Mont., the pilot Imeson was teaching canyon flying techniques, survived the crash of Kantorowicz’s Aviat Husky in the Elkhorn Mountains but both suffered a variety of injuries. Kantorowicz told the Great Falls Tribune they hit a downdraft when they were expecting lift and couldn’t fly out of it. Imeson, who’s written several books on mountain flying, apparently ignored the first rule of wilderness search and rescue, opting to hike for help (or possibly a cellphone signal) instead of staying at the crash site with Kantorowicz. And, as usually happens, searchers found Kantorowicz and then went looking for Imeson. Kantorowicz used a piece of his Husky’s windshield to signal a rescue helicopter last Monday, a day after the crash. Meanwhile, Imeson was struggling through the wilderness with a compression fracture in his back, broken ribs, a broken toe and a deep gash on his forehead. Because of the back injury he had to lift his legs with his hands to get over fallen trees that covered the old forest fire site. "I didn't think the terrain was as bad as it was," he said, referring to downed trees. "I walked 13 hours the first day and five-and-one-half hours the second," told the Tribune. He was found about a mile and a half from the crash site. Both men are expected to recover.

Adam A700 Wins 50-Aircraft Order In China

Adam Aircraft late last week officially announced that Zhong Hang Tai General Aviation Airlines, based in Hainan, China, has placed a firm order for 50 A700 very light jets (VLJs). The order was formalized during the European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition (EBACE) last month and facilitated through a partnership with Ameritech. Jason Fan, CEO of the airline, said the choice came down to interior cabin space. "We made the A700 our choice because it has the largest cabin space of all the VLJs," and its twin tails "remind people of a Formula 1 race car," according to Fan. A700 owners in China that are part of this program "will be served by a professional pilot/aircraft manager" available to operators for flights and training through a renewable six-month term.

 
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News Briefs back to top 
 

Young Eagles Flights OK Under Air Tours Rule

The FAA has amended its National Air Tours rule to ensure that the EAA’s Young Eagles flight familiarization program for young people can continue basically unchanged. The rule, which tightened regulations for most types of sightseeing flights, contained wording that banned so-called charity flights from taking place in experimental aircraft. However, in its amendments, the FAA said that wasn’t the intention. The experimental ban applies only if the flight is done for compensation or hire. There was also some confusion over the application of EAA’s FAA exemption on Young Eagles flights. The agency thought all Young Eagles flights were undertaken under the exemption it issued to EAA for the program, but EAA uses the exemptions only for the very few flights that are done for compensation or hire. “We therefore clarify that the final rule applies to only Young Eagles flights that are flown for compensation or hire, but the rule does not apply to other Young Eagles flights,” the amendment said. It took effect June 7, two days before EAA celebrated Young Eagles Day.

Online Service Targets/Tracks VFR Flights

A new Web site, GAFlightStatus.com, says it offers "a full-featured system" that may be used by operators to publish live flight status, boarding and arrival information -- even if that flight is flown exclusively under visual flight rules. The system can be accessed online or from any Web-enabled cellphone and displayed on systems that "recreate the status board displays of larger international hubs." The information presented can be updated at any time during the flight and can automatically provide flight status changes to customers via text message or e-mail updates, aside from offering an online presentation. The company hopes its system will allow smaller operators, such as charter or air-taxi services that might run without a dedicated dispatching staff, to offer patrons a new level of professionalism, but extends system use even to private pilots flying rented aircraft.

 
Columbia Introduces 2007 Models
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News Briefs back to top 
 

Carbon Fiber Shortage Drives Up Prices

The demand for airliners (particularly lightweight, fuel-efficient ones) is causing a supply crunch of a different kind. Carbon fiber, the matrix that gives composite material its outsized strength, has quadrupled in price to $20 a pound because of Boeing’s and Airbus’s increased use of it in aircraft. "Boeing and Airbus are scarfing up what's available," Mike Musselman, editor of High Performance Composites magazine, told USA Today. "The rest of the folks get what's left." Most of the airframe on Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner is composite, and composite components have long been used on Airbus aircraft. Carbon fiber producers are responding by increasing production and prices. Zoltek spokesman Kevin Scholt said his company has tripled production in the past year. "We've been able to raise prices significantly in a two-year time frame," he said. The shortage is hitting a wide spectrum of products that also benefit from the material’s light weight and high strength, including the auto industry and sporting goods manufacturers making everything from hockey sticks to bicycles.

EU Going Ahead With Galileo

After the private European companies picked to build the controversial Galileo space-based navigation system couldn’t find a way to make it work financially, the European Union has decided to build the system itself, at an estimated cost (some say conservative) of $4.6 billion. The system, which will use 30 satellites and is touted as being more accurate than the U.S. Air Force’s GPS, is expected to be operational by 2012. Last month a consortium of eight European companies walked away from the project, saying the costs were too high. Although the U.S.-based system works fine in Europe, the European Union sees developing Galileo as a high-tech job creator, which is not enough for critics who say it isn’t needed. But while GPS is fine for civilian aircraft, the strategic advantages of a proprietary satellite navigation system are likely the impetus behind the EU’s decision. GPS signals can be degraded, distorted and shut off at the discretion of the U.S. Air Force, something European military leaders are likely not happy about.

 
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News In Brief back to top 
 

On The Fly

South Carolina Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer is suing three aircraft maintenance companies that worked on the engine of his Piper Cherokee before he said it lost power and caused him to make an off-field landing in May 2006…

The Pima Air and Space Museum in Tucson has opened a new hangar that is home to some rare aircraft. A PBM-5A Mariner, the only one left, is there as is an F-107 Ultra Sabre, one of two. An SR-71, an A-10 and a B-18 and a pre-WWII bomber also share the space…

On July 2 it will be 25 years since Larry Walters hooked weather balloons to a lawn chair and took his epic flight over Southern California. Walters, then 33, got to 16,000 feet, alarming airliner crews and air traffic controllers, before popping a few balloons to descend. He was rescued dangling from electric wires in Long Beach.

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New On AVweb back to top 
 

Probable Cause #34: Complacency Kills

A low-time pilot elects to fly into deteriorating weather at night and without an Instrument Rating. The result was predictable.

Click here for the full story.

may not recognize certain warning signs for what they are.

No matter how well things are going, taking various things for granted -- the engine will always run, there will always be fuel in the tanks, the radios will always work, the weather at our destination will always be the same as it was when we left -- can be our undoing.

Background

[IMGCAP(2)]

Complacency can be a harsh teacher. A good example of its lessons occurred on February 14, 2003, near Wellington, Kan., when a Cessna 172N flown by a 150-hour Private Pilot crashed. The airplane was destroyed and the solo pilot fatally injured. Instrument conditions prevailed in the area at the time of the flight, which was returning to the pilot's base at the Augusta (Kan.) Municipal Airport (3AU) from the Wiley Post Airport (PWA) in Oklahoma City, Okla. The Skyhawk departed PWA at about 1745 local time after dropping off two passengers.

Earlier, at 1405 local time, the Wichita Automated Flight Service Station provided a weather briefing to the accident aircraft's pilot for the flight from 3AU to PWA. During that briefing, the pilot was told of generally good VFR, with scattered clouds at 2000 to 3000 feet AGL and winds gusting to 24 knots. As the NTSB's final report noted, there was no record of a briefing prior to departure from PWA.

The two passengers who accompanied the pilot from 3AU to PWA later reported an uneventful flight with relatively good weather. Upon arrival at PWA, one passenger remarked to the pilot about a line of clouds visible to the northeast, toward Wichita. In response, the pilot reportedly said that the clouds were probably higher than they appeared to be.

En Route

[IMGCAP(3)]

About 30 minutes after departing PWA for the return trip, the pilot contacted the Kansas City Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) to request VFR flight following. At that time, the Skyhawk was approximately 30 miles north of Oklahoma City. Subsquently, the pilot twice asked the controller to confirm his location. During the first request, the pilot stated that it "got a little bumpy" at 3500 feet and that he "got bounced around pretty hard."

Presumably because of the flight's relatively low altitude, radar contact was subsequently lost. It was reestablished at 1943, when the flight was 55 miles south of Wichita. The pilot reported an Interstate highway in sight at that time.

Flight-following services were transferred from the Kansas City ARTCC to Wichita Approach at 1945. During the handoff conversation, the ARTCC controller remarked to the approach controller, "You might want to keep an eye on [the accident flight] ... he sounds kind of shaky."

Shortly after Wichita Approach assumed responsibility for flight following, at 1948, the pilot reported: "I'm going to have to drop down. I went into cloud cover here [at] three thousand five hundred feet." After receiving various weather reports from Approach Control, the pilot elected to divert to nearby Strother Field Airport (WLD). However, radio and radar contact were lost about 1955.

At about the time of the accident, a motorist traveling northbound on I-35 reported noticing an aircraft flying northbound parallel to the Interstate. A few minutes later, he stated he saw the aircraft traveling to the southwest. Finally, he reported seeing the same aircraft a third time, crossing the Interstate from west to east and descending at an approximate 45-degree angle. According to the witness, the aircraft was traveling at a high speed but appeared to be in stable flight. The witness reported thinking at the time that the aircraft was approaching to land at a private airstrip.

The motorist further reported that weather at the time was very windy and gusty, with a low overcast he estimated at 200 feet AGL with good visibility below the cloud bases.

Subsequent investigation at the crash site did not uncover any mechanical anomalies with the airplane or reveal any medical problems which could have caused the pilot to lose control of the airplane.

Weather

[IMGCAP(4)]

As noted, instrument conditions prevailed in the Wichita area at the time of the accident. In fact, an Airmet in effect at the time of the pilot's weather briefing warned of a possibility of instrument weather conditions north of a line running from Oswego, Kan., to 50 miles west of Liberal, Kan. This line is nearly coincident with the Kansas -- Oklahoma border and included the destination airport, 3AU. The Airmet noted the possibility of those conditions spreading eastward and continuing through 2100.

An additional Airmet noted the possibility of moderate turbulence below 8000 feet spreading east-southeastward and continuing through 2100 local time.

The Wichita area terminal forecast noted a possibility of thunderstorms and light rain under a 1500-foot broken ceiling with cumulonimbus clouds from 1500 through 1800. At the time of the accident, the Wichita Mid-Continent Airport -- 28 nm north of the accident site -- reported northerly winds gusting to 19 knots, an overcast at 500 feet AGL and visibility of 10 sm.

The pilot of an aircraft conducting practice instrument approaches near Wichita at the time of the accident reported cloud tops of between 3000 and 3500 feet msl. He noted that, although there was a nearly full moon visible, it was somewhat hazy and there was not much of a horizon. The overcast layer was nearly continuous according to the pilot.

Sunset in the Wichita area occurred at 1807 on the day of the accident. The end of civil twilight was at 1834.

Probable Cause

[IMGCAP(5)]

The NTSB determined the probable cause of this accident to be "spatial disorientation experienced by the pilot and his subsequent failure to maintain control of the aircraft. Contributing factors were the pilot's failure to obtain an updated preflight weather briefing prior to the return flight, his attempted flight into known adverse weather, the lack of lighting (night) and the low ceilings." Which is as it should be. But that finding doesn't tell the full story, nor does it really help us learn from this accident.

We can presume that the AFSS briefer notified the accident pilot of the Airmets in effect for turbulence along the route of flight and for IFR conditions at his destination. We can also presume that the pilot did the math and realized he would be flying at night, in deteriorating weather. Perhaps the idea of flying at night did not deter him, since the NTSB reports he had accumulated some 35 hours of night flight time. He also had logged 3.6 hours on simulated instruments, but had no actual instrument flight time.

It's also not known why the pilot elected to stay so low on his return flight. The winds could have favored a low-altitude flight, but a climb would likely have kept him out both the clouds and the turbulence.

In the end, however, this pilot appeared overly confident of his abilities, given the weather and the time of day. Not obtaining a briefing for his return flight demonstrates complacency typical of a low-time pilot who doesn't know how much he doesn't know.


More accident analyses are available in AVweb's Probable Cause Index. And for monthly articles about safety, including accident reports like this one, subscribe to AVweb's sister publication, Aviation Safety.

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AVmail: Jun. 11, 2007

Reader mail this week about AFSS, user fees, runway incursions 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 AOPA's Randy Kenagy on the FAA flap over IFR-certified GPS receivers. And AVweb's podcast index includes interviews with Eclipse Aviation's Vern Raburn; Xwind's Brad Whitsitt; BoGo Light's Mark Bent; DayJet's Ed Iacobucci; Pogo Jet's Cameron Burr; 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; AOPA's Andrew Cebula; Hawker Beechcraft's Jim Schuster; and Avfuel's Craig Sincock. In today's podcast, hear Rick Schrameck of Epic Aircraft talk about the first flight of his company's very light jet. 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: Indianapolis Aviation

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

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Indianapolis Aviation at KUMP in Indianapolis, Ind.

AVweb reader Bill Johnson said the FBO staff is not only helpful, but honest, too.

"If your travels take you to Indianapolis the best airport is UMP. Phylis Denny and Larry Schmaltz run Indianapolis Aviation. Customer service is excellent and the facilities are great. Before I could call them with a question on my fuel bill, they called me to tell me they had found a discrepancy in my favor. If I'm in Indy, you'll find my plane at Indianapolis Aviation at UMP."

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: Curtiss P-40N Warhawk Taxi & Takeoff

Recommend a Video | VOTW Archive

This week, we cast our far-roving eye toward the viral video clips of Australia (specifically, Wangaratta, Victoria — a well-known source of "POTW" submissions for AVweb). YouTube user hyperscale treats us to some candid video of a Curtiss P-40N Warhawk taxiing and taking off from Wangaratta.


Don't see a video screen?
Try disabling ad blockers and refreshing this page.
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. (Try as we might, we can't seem to goof off enough to see all the videos on the Web!) 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"

Overheard on Chicago Center at 4 a.m., with a female controller working a frequency with almost no traffic.

Cessna 3AB: Cessna Three Alpha Bravo, radio check.

Chicago Center: You’re loud and clear Three Alpha Bravo.

Cessna 3AB: Not too busy this morning?

Center: It’s not even four o’clock. Doesn’t pick up for another hour.

Cessna 3AB: [two minutes later] Chicago Center, Cessna Three Alpha Bravo, request direct O’Hare.

Center: Three Alpha Bravo, how about world peace?

Cessna 3AB: Worth a try.

 
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) 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 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.

Aviate, navigate, communicate.