AVwebFlash Complete Issue: Volume 13, Number 29a

July 16, 2007

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Top News back to top 

DFW Fudging ATC Operational Error Rates?

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) late last week directed DOT Secretary Mary Peters to investigate allegations by air traffic controllers at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport that management has covered up ATC operational errors at the facility. According to the OSC, air traffic controller Anne Whiteman told the special counsel in 2004 that managers at the DFW TRACON routinely covered up operational errors by not properly investigating and reporting them as required by FAA policy. Making it even worse, Whiteman said she was reprimanded by her managers and harassed by coworkers because of the disclosure. In February 2005, the DOT Inspector General reported that her whistleblowing had resulted in the exposure of a seven-year management practice of underreporting operational errors. The report noted that FAA officials considered the underreporting to be very serious and had begun corrective actions. In recent disclosures made by Whiteman and an unidentified whistleblower alleged that FAA personnel at DFW are routinely identifying operational errors as pilot errors. The FAA maintains that all controller errors are being correctly reported and said its inspectors recently visited the airport. In some cases, the whistleblowers say that managers have improperly interpreted FAA orders and directives to cover up operational errors. "We had been led to believe that her disclosures and the inspector general's final report had taken care of the problem," said U.S. Special Counsel Scott Bloch. "Instead, matters got worse, and we believe the trend to blame pilots for what are really errors by air traffic controllers resulted from a push by FAA top management to reduce the number of operational errors." He noted that the whistleblowers disclosures reflect a problem that could be national in scope.

GA Boosters Back Airlines In FAA Reauthorization Talks

Sen. John Rockefeller, D-W. Va., said he’s determined to ensure general aviation pays more to support the modernization of the air traffic control system. During hearings on the reauthorization of the FAA by the Senate Finance Committee, Rockefeller threatened to restrict GA access to congested airspace if user fees are not imposed on this segment as part of the reauthorization package. He said airline passengers should not be forced to "continue to subsidize corporate jets." It should be noted that this is the same congressman who’s worked hard to attract business jet manufacturer Sino Swearingen and the now-defunct Tiger Aircraft to his home turf of Martinsburg, W. Va. In fact, as he lobbies for fees that corporate aviation groups say will hurt their industry, he’s also actively involved in a rescue of Sino Swearingen, whose major investor -- the Taiwanese government -- is now trying to get out of the deal. Rockefeller told local media last week there’s someone waiting in the wings to buy the Taiwanese shares. Assisting Rockefeller in the battle for user fees is Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., who is apparently thought of well enough by the aviation community in Pascagoula, Miss., since they named the local airport after him. Trent Lott International Airport specializes in handling corporate airplane traffic, according to its Web site, and stresses that it is not a "commercial" airport. But Lott is clearly on the side of the airlines in the funding debate. "For all of you laying over in the weeds saying 'I'm gonna get my part no matter what and by the way the airlines are going to pay for it.' Forget it. We’re going to have a fair bill or no bill and I'm prepared to go the mat," Lott said. Lott’s namesake is a prime contender for the plant that would build the KC-30, an Airbus derivative that is competing with Boeing’s modified 767 to become the Air Force’s next primary in-flight refueling tanker.

AVweb At EAA AirVenture

If you can't make it to EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wis., next week, then you'll be happy to know that AVweb will bring the show to your desktop. We'll be publishing daily issues, podcasts and video posted directly from the show grounds to keep you up-to-date with the latest news from AirVenture. And for those lucky enough to be going to the airshow, don't forget to stop by AVweb's booth to enter to win one of several ExxonMobil fuel cards or even our grand prize: upset recovery training from APS Emergency Maneuver Training.
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News Briefs back to top 

Canadian User Fees Drop Four Percent

As the debate heats up in Washington, D.C., over the imposition of user fees for general aviation aircraft, Canada's nonprofit, privatized air services provider Nav Canada has announced that the fees it charges will go down 4 percent across the board for at least a year. For the owner of a piston single, that means the annual fee will drop from $71 to $69. The overall annual revenue reduction to the company will be about $50 million. Nav Canada says cost control and an increase in air traffic combined for the rosy financial picture that allowed the reduction. And conspicuously included in the announcement is the reaffirmation that very light jets will be assessed the same movement and daily charges to which larger turbine aircraft are subject. Nav Canada had to change the rules to capture VLJs in those charges because a few of them are lighter than the three metric tonne (about 6,600 pounds) limit that was formerly in effect. The Canadian Owners and Pilots Association (COPA) has vowed to fight the VLJ rule, but Nav Canada does not appear to be inclined to listen. COPA can appeal to the Canadian Transportation Agency to try to overturn the decision.

Investigators Say Student Pilots Should Be Flagged

Britain’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) is recommending that student pilots on solo flights be identified by a radio call-sign prefix so air traffic controllers can take into account their limited experience and knowledge. The recommendation came from the investigation of a crash on July 19, 2006, that killed a 16-year-old student who had logged 15 hours and was on his second solo flight. Just before he touched down at Southend Airport, a controller ordered him to turn left and climb to pattern height so an overtaking Piper Meridian could land. It’s believed he did not reconfigure the aircraft and apply enough power for the unorthodox go-around and the Cessna he was flying stalled and crashed a short time later. The four-person investigation team concluded pilot Sam Cross was put "in a situation for which his training and experience had not prepared him" after being "instructed to carry out an unfamiliar and nonstandard manoeuvre," the AAIB report said. Adding to the mix was the fact that Cross was returning to the field after just eight minutes in the air because haze was reducing visibility. His instructor was watching from the ground as the order to deviate from the runway heading was complied with and he noted the nose-up attitude of the Cessna before it stalled and spiralled into a park. Investigators determined the flaps were at 20 degrees, the carb heat was on and the engine was turning at 900 rpm at the time of the crash. Cross was the youngest pilot ever to be killed in a plane crash in Britain.

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News Briefs back to top 

Two Weeks To Taxi Offers RV Help

The popular Two Weeks To Taxi builder-assist program started by Glasair to help sell its Sportsman 2+2 homebuilts has now evolved into a standalone business and is expanding its service. The company will now allow those purchasing Vans RV-7 and RV-10 aircraft the opportunity to build their kits in about 14 days under the guidance and organizational direction of licensed mechanics and expert aircraft builders in a facility designed and equipped expressly for the purpose. Company officials say the expanded service should help more kits get built. "Between the two companies (Glasair and Vans), more than 14,000 aircraft kits have been sold, yet many remain unfinished," Michael Via, president of Two Weeks To Taxi, said in a news release. "We feel that providing a service focused on allowing builders to complete an aircraft in just two weeks is a remarkable opportunity." [more] The two-week program (it can take a little longer in some cases) has been operating for three years, and Via said those who have done it swear by it. He maintains that the program not only assures the project will get done, it solidifies costs and almost certainly results in a better airplane. The program complies with the FAA’s 51-percent rule, and the company is now taking reservations for those who will be getting their RV kits in early 2008.

Ohio Aircraft Repair Shops Hurt By Sales Tax

Aircraft repair businesses in Ohio are lobbying the state to repeal a sales tax on parts and labor they say is causing layoffs and threatening businesses. According to the Dayton Daily News, Ohio aircraft owners are traveling as far as New Hampshire to take advantage of tax-free repairs. "I don't want to chase jobs away," Mark Geisler, service center general manager at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport-based Winner Aviation, told the Daily News. "And this tax is chasing jobs away." The companies had hoped to get the state to repeal the tax under the budget just passed at the end of June, but legislators didn't want to lose the $12 million to $15 million the tax raises every year. The tax can add up to $40,000 on a major repair, and aircraft owners are finding sales tax havens in New Hampshire, New York and Michigan. "When you get on an airplane, you have the opportunity to go anywhere for repairs," said John Bosch, president and CEO of Commander Aero, which is based at Dayton-Wright Brothers Airport.

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News Briefs back to top 

Fossett Claims Gliding Speed Record

Aviation record collector Steve Fossett and New Zealand soaring expert Terry Delore have set a speed record for gliding over a 1,250-km (675 nm) triangular course. Fossett and Delore averaged 149.23 kmh (80.56 knots) over the course from Ely, Nev., last week. Delore told Christchurch’s The Press newspaper that even though it wasn’t a “ripper” of a day in the skies over Nevada, they still got the job done. “…We were able to maintain a good and steady pace, even in the absence of cloud for a good chunk of the flight," Delore said. "After 27 attempts and 18,000 km [9,719 nm] of desert flying, the longest-standing world speed record is ours, subject to ratification. We are rapt." In contrast to most of their flights together, Delore said he did more flying on the record flight while Fossett concentrated on navigation and looking for favorable conditions. Delore said they didn’t set out to break the record that day. They intended to test new equipment on the ASH-25 (25 is for the 25-meter wingspan) sailplane. The old record of 143.46 kmh (77.46 knots) was held by German Hans Werner Grosse since 1987.

Fellow Passengers Sue TB Patient

Seven Canadians and two Czechs have launched a $1.3 million lawsuit against an Atlanta lawyer for his "reckless" behavior in boarding a flight knowing he had tuberculosis. "He deliberately got on this plane, endangered our lives and this is very selfish and reckless behavior that deserves to be punished," Nassim Tabri, a 26-year-old graduate student who was sitting one row ahead of Andrew Speaker, told the Atlanta Constitution Journal. Tabri and the eight others, seven fellow passengers and the roommate of one of them, are represented by Montreal lawyer Anlac Nguyen, who filed the suit in Quebec Superior Court. Speaker, a 31-year-old personal injury lawyer, is now being treated in isolation in Denver and said he would never knowingly put anyone at risk. He did, however, ignore Czech health officials recommendations that he not travel after he found out, while in the Czech Republic for his wedding, that he was infected with an extremely drug-resistant strain of the disease. He took a Czech Airlines flight from Prague to Montreal and, on arrival in the U.S., was put in federally enforced isolation in Denver. It’s since been determined that he has a less drug resistant form of the disease than previously thought. Speaker said he was told by officials in the U.S. before his trip that he wasn’t contagious. He believes the suit is being undertaken in the mistaken belief that he's rich. "I don't have anything for them to go after." Nguyen said his clients are living with the knowledge they might, in the future, contract the disease. "They do not have tuberculosis, but nobody can say that they won't have tuberculosis either," Nguyen said of his clients. "And that will not be known, not now, not next year, but for many years in the future."

Venezuela Drafts Law To Shoot Down Unidentified Aircraft

Straying into Venezuelan airspace could soon have dire consequences. According to Bloomberg News, the government has drafted legislation that would allow the air force to shoot down any unidentified aircraft entering its airspace. Drug-running aircraft use the cover of the country's remote, mountainous landscape to transfer their cargo from South America to the U.S. But the rugged country will become a lot more visible to air force interceptors under the bill. Part of the legislation calls for the expenditure of $220 million to purchase 13 Italian and Chinese radar stations that will illuminate the countryside. President Hugo Chavez is expected to decree this and a package of other legislation into law in the next year.

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News Briefs back to top 

Buried Wreckage Investigated

Construction workers digging a water line trench near Watsonville, Calif., last week unearthed a chunk of riveted metal, some bullet casings dated 1942 and part of a burned parachute. And now the town is buzzing about what might be buried there. Various local authorities, along with officials from Travis Air Force Base, are now examining the contents of the hole to see what it is and if it’s safe to bring it into the light of day. "There's definitely a piece of history there, whatever it is," Kenny Lazzerini, who owns the strawberry farm on which the wreckage was found, told the Santa Cruz Sentinel. Travis Air Force Base spokeswoman Vanessa Hill told the Sentinel they haven’t found any markings or any other clues to the wreckage's origin. Old-timers told the paper the site would have been on the flight path for an airport that was located in that area in the 1930s and 1940s. Others suggest it might just be a random piece of junk that harkens to a simpler time. "Back then, there weren't the sort of dumps that we have today," Gerry Martin, a volunteer for the local historical society, told the paper. "Somebody could have just shoved it in a ditch and covered it up. Then over time, silt probably just accumulated and covered it up."

Aircraft Fuselages Become Library

They’ve been turned into homes, restaurants and businesses, but a New York firm has found a more scholarly use for discarded aircraft fuselages. LOT-EK, which is described as "urban architect recyclers," has designed a library in Guadalajara, Mexico, made entirely out of the aluminum tubes. Now it’s not clear whether the books are stored in the seatbacks or whether the overhead storage compartments come into play, but LOT-EK says the fuselages make a good building. "The fuselage becomes the basic module of this building. It is insulated and furnished according to the program. The internal subdivision generated by the existing floor joists is used to respond to functional needs," Avionews quotes the company as saying. And airplane fuselages are cheap. It’s not worth salvaging them for the aluminum so there are thousands stored in the deserts of the U.S. Southwest.

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News In Brief back to top 

On The Fly

The FAA is investigating a runway incursion at Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Airport in which a Delta Airlines airplane had to go around to avoid a United airliner that had taken a wrong turn onto the active runway. The FAA credited sharp-eyed controllers with avoiding the accident…

The FAA is proposing an airworthiness directive on Trimble or FreeFlight Systems 2101 I/O Approach Plus global positioning system (GPS) navigation systems. A software upgrade is needed to stop annunciation errors…

A DC-10 air tanker will return to service next week after wing repairs. The aircraft clipped trees after hitting a downdraft while working a fire in California on June 25…

In the funny books, a four-color Bristol Fighter biplane-inspired hero named Danger Aceis one of the leading contenders in Dimestore Productions' Small Press Idol contest. (Think American Idol for comic books.) The comic that sells the most copies this week will win a four-issue publishing deal.

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

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Reason #31 — Look Ma, No Hands
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New Columns and Features back to top 

The Pilot's Lounge #115: The Loneliness of a Town Without An Airport

If a town of decent size doesn't have an airport, what other sparks of life doesn't it have?

Click here to read Rick Durden's column.

Propeller Governor Diagnostics

When your prop surges, hunts or does anything unusual, do you know what to check first?

Click here to read this maintenance article.

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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 you'll hear David Billings on the enduring allure of the Amelia Earhart mystery. And AVweb's podcast index includes interviews with BusinessJetSEATS Alfred Rapetti; EAA's Dick Knapinski; AOPA's Andrew Cebula; Cirrus Design's Alan Klapmeier; NBAA's Harry Houkes; Reason Foundation's Robert Poole; SATSair's Sheldon Early; Epic Aircraft's Rick Schrameck; AOPA's Randy Kenagy; 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 and LAMA's Dan Johnson. In Monday's podcast, Aerion vice chairman Brian Barents talks about his company's supersonic business jet design. 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: Elliott Aviation

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

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Elliott Aviation at KMLI in Moline, Ill.

AVweb reader Jim Grady likes how they treat the "liitle guy."

"Our Sunday evening arrival was literally as the staff was out the door and off duty. They returned, parked us, took the fuel order and even took us to town in the van. All this was for a couple in a little taildragger, not a jet-A customer!"

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: Near Mid-Air Collision with Big Consequences

Recommend a Video | VOTW Archive

Shifting our attention back to safety this week, we have a video clip from YouTube user RemosG3. The near mid-air collision here ends with actual mid-air when the Rans S6 (with camera aboard) strikes the tow line attached to the glider the Rans barely missed. The line isn't clearly visible, so watch closely — and if you listen closely, you can hear the line hit the Rans and the parachute deploy.

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."

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.
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"

We were leaving Martha’s Vineyard when my student nervously contacted Cape Approach:

Cessna 38W: Cape Approach, Cessna Three Eight Whiskey, student pilot departing the Vineyard, requesting advisories to New Bedford.

Cape Approach: Cessna Three Eight Whiskey, Cape Approach. This should be interesting. I’m a student controller, squawk 2234, and ident.

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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) 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.