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A West Virginia company says it wants its "day in court" to fight a seemingly perplexing decision by the FAA to ground
dozens of French-built helicopters, some of which have been operating in the U.S. for years. As AVweb reported last
month, the agency sent owners of some Alouette helicopters telling them they must have a "certificate of airworthiness for export" to fly legally in the U.S., even though FAA inspectors had authorized
the importation of some Alouettes and issued valid U.S. C of A documents without that document. The issue mainly affects aircraft built for use by the French and German military, which have gone on
the surplus market. Marpat spokesman Joe Altizer told AVweb the latest wrinkle is that while the documentation the FAA says it requires exists in French archives, French authorities are claiming the
FAA has asked them not to release those documents to the owners. FAA spokesman Roland Herwig says he's looking into the allegations that the FAA is trying to block access to the French documents.
Altizer said the FAA's inability or unwillingness to resolve the issue at the administrative level led him to openly defy the agency 10 days ago and that brought an immediate response in the form of
an emergency revocation of the aircraft's certificate of airworthiness.
Marpat's Alouette was grounded for the paperwork discrepency on July 6 and Altizer said he spent five weeks trying to get answers from the FAA about how to make it legal again. On Aug. 13 the
company sent an email telling the FAA's Rotorcraft Directorate that it planned to resume flying its Alouette. After five weeks of silence, the agency responded the following day with the emergency
revocation. Marpat appealed the revocation and that means a hearing must be held. Altizer said there is no safety of flight issue, as the Alouettes have shown themselves to be reliable aircraft. He
said he hopes the hearing will require the FAA to reveal why it's gone to such extreme measures to ground aircraft that don't appear to be a threat to anyone.
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Canadian authorities have known for at least five years that the seatbelts in the CT-114 Tutor jets used by the Snowbirds
could come open in flight because there was an incident in 2002 similar to the one that led to the most recent fatal crash. As AVweb reported on Thursday, Capt. Shawn McCaughey died in late May after
his restraint came undone while he rolled inverted and he lost control of the aircraft during a rehearsal for a show in Great Falls, Mont. According to the Toronto Globe and Mail, in 2002, Snowbird
Capt. Robert Reichert also fell out of his seat when the belt unfastened while he was inverted. He was able to recover. However, nothing was done to modify the restraints in the meantime and it wasn't
until after McCaughey's death that a parachute arming key that is part of the seatbelt latch mechanism was modified to prevent it from interfering with the proper closing of the latch. The team's
executive officer Maj. Cory Blakely told the Globe and Mail all Snowbird pilots were award of the belt problem.
Blakely said the military was in the process of fixing the problem when McCaughey crashed. "It's definitely something that we were aware of, and I know the system was working on it. The time frame
of it was definitely unfortunate," he said. The ongoing investigation into the crash will examine the timeline of the belt fix, he said. Blakely said he usually double-checks his restraint to ensure
it's properly latched. McCaughey's father Ken told CTV News that his son complained to him about the seatbelts before the accident. Meanwhile Canadian politicians representing opposition parties in
the government are calling for someone to be held accountable for the lack of action on the belt problem. "There really was negligence here and there has to be someone who is held responsible," said
Bloc Quebecois Member of Parliament Claude Bachand.
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FAA Administrator Marion Blakey urged Los Angeles officials to get on with the job of putting more distance between two heavily-used parallel runways a week after two airliners came within 40 feet of
colliding at a runway/taxiway intersection."I'll put it plainly," Associated Press quoted her as telling a lunch meeting of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce. "However you decide to fix the
airfield, get it done.
"The problem here is that the parallel runways on the north side are too close together," she said. "A landing aircraft that leaves the outward runway on a high-speed taxiway literally has only a
few feet to stop before crossing the inner runway hold line." On Aug. 16 a WestJet Boeing 737 stopped just short of a runway being used by a Northwest A320 for takeoff and the wingtip of the Airbus
passed 37 feet from the nose of the 737. And it now appears the ground controller handling the WestJet plane will take the full rap for the incident even though the FAA insists the Canadian pilot was
partly to blame.
FAA spokesman Ian Gregor told the Calgary Herald that the unnamed pilot will avoid blame because there's no regulation covering the error he made in switching from the tower frequency to the
ground controller before being told to do so. Gregor said it's "standard procedure" to wait for authorization from the tower before switching to ground but it's not a formal reg. In Gregor's mind,
that doesn't leave the pilot off the hook. "It is our position that the actions of the WestJet pilot contributed to the incident by creating confusion in the air traffic controller's mind," Gregor
said. WestJet was happy to fly through the loophole, however. Spokesman Richard Bartrem said that while such handoffs are mandatory in Canada, they aren't in the U.S. "There's an inconsistent
application in the U.S. as to when that handshake, if you will, takes place," he said. "We didn't receive authorization, but it's not required," he said.
CNN say a judge in Brazil has turned down a request from Long Island bizjet pilots Joe Lepore and Jan
Paladino to use a U.S. court to testify about their role in a collision between their Embraer 600 and a GOL Boeing 737 that resulted in the deaths of all 154 aboard the airliner last year. The pilots
have a date in front of Judge Murilo Mendes on Monday but their lawyer Joel Weiss says they don't mind telling their story under oath but they'd rather do it within sight of the Statue of Liberty.
Weiss says the U.S. and Brazil have a treaty that allows this type of long-distance testimony. Ironically, it's the Brazilians who fear they won't get a fair shake from the process. A court spokesman
said Mendes is afraid a U.S. judge will filter his questions.
The pilots are charged with endangering an aircraft. The Brazilians say they either turned off their transponder or failed to notice it wasn't working and that prevented the TCAS on the 737 from
alerting its pilots to the fact that controllers had cleared both aircraft to the same altitude, on the same airway going in opposite directions. The controllers are being dealt with by the Brazilian
military, which runs air traffic control there. Mendes hasn't said what he'll do if the pilots don't show.
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Two people died and 11 were injured after a hot air balloon caught fire and crashed in the Vancouver, B.C. suburb of
Surrey on Friday evening. Bill Yearwood, of Canada's Transportation Safety Board said a fire started in the balloon's basket shortly after it lifted off on a tethered flight with 12 passengers and a
pilot on board. "The crew loaded 12 passengers and was preparing to launch when a fire erupted. The pilot asked the passengers to get out of the basket," Yearwood told Associated Press. "The balloon was tethered at the time, but then broke and came loose.
They were all trying to get out." All but two of the passengers escaped and horrified family members watched from the ground as the balloon pulled the flaming basket about 400 feet high before the
basket broke loose and dropped into an RV park, trailing smoke and flame.
Police said the two people in the basket burned to death. The basket ignited motorhomes in the RV park after it crashed. "The basket was basically a fireball. It just dropped like a stone," witness
Don Randall told AP. "I'm just thinking, 'Oh geez, I hope there's nobody in that thing. It's basically a burning death up there.'" Unconfirmed reports said the victims were a mother and her grown
daughter. The pilot is among the injured and is in stable condition. Injured passengers were taken to Vancouver-area hospitals with burns and injuries related to jumping from the basket.
The PR campaign to gain support for the FAAs airspace modernization program, known as NextGen, took to the
air on Friday as members of the mainstream mediagot a demonstration of ADS-B on the agencys test bed aircraft. The
agency has found a natural conduit to mainstream exposure on the topic by linking the existing technology to the increasingly frustrating number of airline flight delays. "The entire infrastructure in
this country has reached the end of its useful life," Manny Weiss, the FAAs eastern region administrator, told the reporters, likening the radar-based ATC system to the bridges and highways
across the country that also need replacing. Unfortunately for the FAA, theres not much sizzle to a demonstration of ADS-B, even for pilots, and an Associated Press reporter explained it this
way for his audience of mostly non-pilots. A small, brightly colored screen provided a detailed picture of all the planes nearby, which showed up as green triangles. The system uses GPS signals
to give pilots information, the writer reported. He or she went on to say the system will allow aircraft to fly closer together and let pilots weave their own courses. The nationwide
cost of the system is expected to be about $4.6 billion.
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Some people in Floridas Martin County (not many of them pilots, wed wager) say county commissioners should ignore the FAA and close 460 feet of runway at Witham Field without the
agencys approval. "Damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead," local resident Jon Chicky is quoted by the Palm Beach Post as saying during a meeting of Martin County's airport noise
advisory committee. "Let's get a striper out there and stripe that thing off and see what happens. I think they are a paper tiger." The county asked the FAA last year if it could eliminate the 460
feet of runway to ease noise and pollution concerns but the FAA rejected the plan, citing potential problems for pilots and airport businesses. The county appears to be fully aware of the FAAs
power and jurisdiction in this issue but at least one commissioner appears ready to test the agencys mettle. "I'm tired of taking all this," panel member Bill Frondorf said. "Everybody always
bows to the FAA." And thats with good reason, reminded commissioner Susan Heard. Not only does the FAA have the right to prevent any closure of the runway, it could fine the county for trying to
do so because striping off the asphalt would be a violation of federal law. Heard, who has met with FAA officials repeatedly to discuss the issue, has no doubt the so-called paper tiger
would pounce. "We can make a rogue decision, and there would be consequences when we do," Heard said. The county will make a decision on how to proceed later this year and talks will continue with the
FAA, which has reportedly told commissioners its anxious to come to an amicable agreement.
Some adherents of the Sikh religion are upset with a new Transportation Security Administration policy that will allow random searches of turbans. According to India Daily, until recently, TSA staff
would pat down or ask for removal of the turban, a religious icon in the Sikh faith, only if the metal detector kept going off. The newspaper says TSA staff now have greater discretion to
inspect turbans, including searching for non-metallic weapons. [more] And while the issue might seem straightforward in North America, it has political effects in South Asia. The India Times
speculates that the increased focus on turbans is a result of the Khalistan movement in India, in which Sikhs are trying to establish an independent homeland. Alleged Sikh extremists were charged, but
later acquitted, of setting bombs that destroyed an Air India Boeing 747 and killed two baggage handlers at Narita Airport in Japan in 1985.
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The new boundaries of the Air Defense Identification Zone come into effect at 1 a.m. EDT and those who fly in that airspace should have a look at the new NOTAM to make sure theyre familiar with
how it affects their flying. In addition to the almost circular shape of the ADIZ, which is 30 nm in radius from the Washington VOR, there are procedural changes for operating inside that space. Theres also a 60-nm outer ring in which a speed limit of 230
KIAS has been imposed. The limit is 180 KIAS within the ADIZ. [more] While the Leesburg Airport appears to be cut out of the northwest quadrant of the ADIZ, going in and out of that field has its own
rules and regulations and theyre outlined in the new NOTAM. AOPA says the new ADIZ is an improvement but it still wants to see changes to make it less restrictive on pilots and on the airports
within it. The new boundaries do, however, free up 1,800 square miles of airspace and 33 airfields.
A new company is offering general aviation operators a way to atone for the environmental sins they commit every time they start their engines. In today's podcast
interview with AVweb's Russ Niles, Jeff Witward, of Carbon Neutral Planes, says his company's programs will add
less than a dollar an hour to the operating cost of most light planes while they help develop clean energy or contribute to projects that reduce carbon emissions. "I'm concerned about the public image
of aviation," Witward said. He said there are already enough knocks against aviation and he wanted to provide a way to mitigate criticism about its environmental impact.
According to Witward, it costs about four to five cents per gallon of aviation fuel to offset the impact it has on the environment. Earth-conscious pilots join his group for an annual membership
fee of $100 for individuals and $1,200 for corporate aircraft. The organization then analyzes the aircraft's previous year of operation and determines how much fuel it has burned. The carbon offset
fee is assessed and the money invested in various types of projects that either reduce existing levels of pollution or develop clean energy sources, like wind power, which can't compete with dirtier
forms of energy production. Participants get a decal they can put on their aircraft declaring it to be carbon neutral.
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The Royal Flying Doctor Service, which dispatches medical help to Australias far-flung regions by air, has now relaxed restrictions on night flights after the communities it serves took steps to
keep kangaroos off their airport runways. Last April, a medical flight hit kangaroos while landing at Coonamble in New South Wales. The Doctor Service then told the communities that it would only
dispatch aircraft in the most urgent cases at night until something was done to improve safety. Last week, spokesman Roger Pethram said normal night flights resumed to 14 communities after they took
action, usually at the expense of the kangaroos. "Most of them have carried out a cull but they've also improved their arrangements in a sense of making sure someone's going out to clear the roos off
the runway before the aircraft lands so that's working quite well," he said. Theres also $22 million in funding available for airport fencing that should allow aircraft and wildlife to co-exist
more happily. One of the strong statements from the Department of Transport and regional services is that a priority is airstrips that the Royal Flying Doctor Service uses," Pethram said.
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