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After one of the most news-intensive National Business Aviation Association conventions in recent memory, the aviation world's attention shifts to Hartford, Conn., this week and the AOPA convention.
Our jet-lagged troupe of top-drawer print, video and audio journalists will be there for the full three days, starting Thursday, with daily coverage ensuring sure all 130,000 subscribers in the
AVweb community know what's going on and how it might affect them. So far, the most interesting announcement appears to be coming from Piper. In an aside during an update on the PiperJet
project, Piper VP Bob Kromer mentioned the company was collaborating on a new product and it looks like AOPA Expo will be the showcase. Some are predicting it will be a light sport aircraft along the
lines of Cirrus's adoption of an already-flying European aircraft but maybe it's a more high-performance model to compete with Cirrus, Mooney and Cessna/Columbia. Stay tuned.
The NTSB on Thursday released its final report on the plane crash that killed famed aviator Scott Crossfield last year, with an unusual dual finding of blame, citing both Crossfield's failure to
ask for weather updates, and air traffic control's failure to give them to him. Crossfield crashed on the morning of April 19, 2006, in Ludville, Ga., while flying alone in his Cessna 210. The safety
board's determination of probable cause is: "The pilot's failure to obtain updated en route weather information, which resulted in his continued instrument flight into a widespread area of severe
convective activity, and the air traffic controller's failure to provide adverse weather avoidance assistance, as required by Federal Aviation Administration directives, both of which led to the
airplane's encounter with a severe thunderstorm and subsequent loss of control." Click here for the full
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The White House Thursday told aviation officials to reduce congestion and delays, or at least not repeat what the first seven months of 2007 have been -- the most delayed air travel season on record.
The Bureau of Transportation Statistics attributes responsibility for the delays equally between the national airspace system and the airlines (each winning 28 percent responsibility) with 38 percent
attributed to rippling effects. Only 6 percent of delays could be attributed to weather, according to the Bureau. The push will bring even more tension to an already charged battle for space fought
between airlines, private jets and the interests of the air traffic controllers union. President Bush's specific guidance was to ask Transportation Secretary Mary Peters to consult with those in the
aviation industry who would help create a strategy by year-end with solutions to be implemented next year.
For her part, Peters immediately pointed a finger toward the Northeast, where she says New York's airspace accounts for some three-quarters of all chronic airline delays. The FAA is currently
working on a new system of flight patterns it hopes will cut delays in the Northeast by 20 percent. But Peters has indicated that congestion pricing, tighter slot limits, and efforts even less favored
by the industry may be coming if it fails to work with her to meet the presidential mandate. The industry is rarely happy to cut back scheduling of packed aircraft for the sake of reducing congestion
and during a recent House subcommittee hearing Air Transport Association President James May said "Congress should resist calls to force airlines to reduce flights or impose economic measures to curb
passenger demand simply because this approach is expedient."
Well, there's a Web site for just about everything these days and ClearanceWiki.com is aimed at the growing frustration of GA pilots in obtaining IFR clearances. The free service,
announced last week, offers pilots airport-specific guidance on expeditiously obtaining IFR clearances while they're safely on the ground. "If IFR clearances are readily available, pilots are less
launch under VFR with the intention of picking up the IFR in the air," says the ClearanceWiki.com news release. "In this way, ClearanceWiki.com hopes to help reduce scud running, and further improve
General Aviation safety." The site is aimed at anyone who routinely needs to file IFR in unfamiliar places and is based on the "tribal knowledge" of pilots who have already learned the shortcuts for
each airport. The service is free and no registration is required. "The whole purpose of flying General Aviation is to go fast," says Rob Montgomery, the product manager for ClearanceWiki.com.
"Recently, long delays have crept into the clearance delivery process, and that gets expensive. Hopefully, ClearanceWiki.com will help folks get on their way just a little faster."
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The pilot of an Australian medevac helicopter said he had to delay a landing with a critically ill passenger on board after he was
briefly blinded by a laser aimed from the ground. The Sydney
Morning Herald reported Saturday that the pilot, Darryl Humphries, was setting up to land at a hospital in Sydney when the green laser (powerful enough to damage eyes) hit the cockpit. It was the
second time in three weeks that he'd been hit. "The laser distracted me whilst I was flying and caused me to stop doing a pre-landing check, which delayed landing with our patient," Humphries told the
Morning Herald. "Some of these lasers can cause permanent eye damage, which is quite scary when you're trying to get a critically ill patient to hospital." Police are investigating and, of course, the
air ambulance folks would appreciate it if the nonsense stops. "I'd say to them, get a bit of maturity about yourself and have a think about what you're doing," operations manager Steve Hughes said.
"The risks you create for the pilot, the crew and the patients is considerable. Not only that, if it had resulted in an accident, we're flying in over domestic properties all the time and we could end
up crashing onto suburban areas. It has some fairly large ramifications when you think about [it]."
After a spectacular crash landing on a busy Fort Lauderdale freeway, Bob Robertson says he's ready to take the plunge. Robertson, whose photo appeared in hundreds of newspapers and Web sites as he sat
in the pilot's seat, the shredded Beech 18 around him, told reporters his girlfriend has agreed to marry him. The promise of a new life is in sharp contrast to the fate he assumed he'd have when one
engine gave out last week on takeoff from Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport. "I knew that I was going to die. The idea at that point is to try not to take a lot of people with you," Robertson told The
Associated Press. Robertson said he aimed for some grass near the freeway but didn't expect much. "I was shocked I survived," he said. "There was nothing left of the airplane, nothing except me and
the seat. Everything else was debris. There was no pain, but I realized my injuries were severe." He's expected to make a full recovery.
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The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has made its move in Australia to allow the Queensland Government's "Emergency Management Queensland" (EMQ) to become the first operator certified to use
night vision goggles. EMQ provides emergency services via helicopter and frequently flies high-priority missions to night landings in rural areas or at accident sites. Previously relying on "night
sun" search lights, "It's a huge safety enhancement for landing in unsurveyed areas," EMQ chief pilot Trevor Wilson told TheAustralian.com.
"It also demonstrates CASA's potential for safety innovation by positive engagement with the industry," he said. Aside from the obvious safety enhancements for the crews, the new enhanced vision
capabilities will make night searches both on land and sea dramatically more effective, adding a much-valued ability to crews flying over a wide range and sparsely populated areas.
The world's largest floatplane-based airline was left high and dry for several hours last week after an anonymous caller threatened to send one of its aircraft to the bottom of Georgia Strait with a
bomb. Harbour Air, which flies float-equipped Otters and Twin Otters between the harbors of Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia, as well as some other communities, suspended operations to search
its 60 aircraft, leaving 300 passengers temporarily stranded. The threat came in just as passengers were ready to board the popular 7 a.m. commuter flights. "Once the threat was phoned in we followed
our emergency procedures and ceased operations," Harbour Air spokesman Chad Wetsch told the Vancouver Sun. Harbour Air's 15- to 30-minute flights between cities on the mainland and Vancouver Island are a popular alternative to the car ferries that serve the
routes, particularly for business people.
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British authorities say an airline's procedures have changed, and Airbus is installing a warning system on its
aircraft after the pilot of a A319 landed the aircraft with parking brake set. All four mains blew after the landing but the aircraft stayed on the runway and no one was hurt in the incident at Leeds
Bradford Airport, according to the Air Accidents Investigation Branch report.
The report says the aircraft commander was the non-flying pilot and was preoccupied with tower weather reports. When the flying pilot called for flaps, the captain mistakenly hit the brakes. The first
officer called a second time for flaps after they didn't come down the first time and the captain got the right control. The report says both pilots missed procedures and visual cues that would have
alerted them to situation. After the aircraft skidded to a halt, the captain then asked the first officer to set the parking brake and he discovered it was on. There's no word on discipline for either
We always like to hear about new airport developments, and Austin, Texas, has needed a story like this for a long time. In 1999, the city closed down two airports -- Austin Executive and Robert
Mueller-- leaving general aviation struggling for a place to call home. Now a private investor, Ron Henriksen, has purchased the privately owned, public-use Bird's Nest Airport 12 miles northeast of
Austin and hopes to upgrade it to a modern general aviation airport catering to the piston crowd.
While the Texas state government has recognized the need for a new airport in the area for some six years, not much has happened. With the help and
encouragement of the Texas Aviation Association and AOPA, Henriksen may provide the solution Central Texas aviators have been waiting for. He has his work cut out for him. Bird's Nest has a rich
history (student solos from the 1970s were carved into the stones that still exist at the field), but the tiny field has
fallen into disrepair and disuse over the years. We're rooting for him.
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Pilots are a curious bunch. Arguably the result of concentrated, lengthy training in everything from reading and understanding aviation regulations,
manipulating an aircraft's controls, and obtaining and understanding weather reports and forecasts, we still find ways to bend sheet metal and injure people. Yes, every now and then, some pilot or
another finds a new and inventive way to file an accident report but, most of the time, the latest accident is simply a variation on a theme. Amazingly, and despite the fact that our training proves
we are capable of learning something new and different, it seems the granting of a pilot certificate is often interpreted as a license to forget what we've learned and invent a new set of rules.
For example, even though a great deal of our training is spent learning about weather, pilots still manage to have weather-related accidents. In its 2004 report on general aviation accidents and
trends, the AOPA Air Safety Foundation noted, "The top trouble spots remain: too many takeoff and landing accidents due to poor skill, and too many fatal maneuvering flight accidents due to lack of
either skill or judgment. Weather accidents, particularly pilots attempting to maintain VFR into instrument meteorological conditions, still occupy a significant portion of the fatalities. Time after
time, post-accident analysis shows that had the pilot diverted to an alternate or changed course even a few minutes earlier, it would have made a huge difference."
That summary certainly applies to the accident that occurred on August 2, 2003, at about 1500 Eastern time, when a Piper PA-34-200T Seneca II was destroyed after colliding with trees and terrain while
maneuvering near Galion, Ohio. The 1300-hour Commercial pilot/owner and a passenger were fatally injured while two other passengers sustained serious injuries. The flight originated at the
Akron-Canton Regional Airport in Akron, Ohio, destined for the Galion Municipal Airport (GQQ), in Galion, Ohio.
At 1210, the pilot's weather briefing included information that the air mass along the route of flight was unstable, and cumulous clouds were starting to appear on satellite imagery. The "potential"
for thunderstorm activity existed and could occur at any time, anywhere and be any size, according to the briefing. The weather briefer told the pilot that if he left in the next hour, he should not
run into any weather problems, but should obtain another weather briefing prior to departing Galion. No AIRMETS were issued, but the Area Forecast reported a threat of scattered rain showers and
thunderstorms after 1300. The briefing ended at 1216.
The pilot departed at 1411, approximately two hours after the weather briefing, and proceeded to the destination VFR with flight following. At 1447, as the airplane approached the Galion, Ohio, area,
the pilot asked an air traffic controller where the airport was located. The controller responded that he was directly over the airport. There was no further communication with the pilot.
Subsequently, the pilot's wife, who was seated in the front right seat, said they did not encounter any weather until they reached the Galion Airport, and it was raining so hard that they could only
see out the airplane's side windows. The sound of the rain on the windshield was so loud that they could barely hear ATC. Her husband had tried to land, but he couldn't see, and added power to get out
of the weather. After adding power, he repeatedly said, "It won't climb ... It won't climb."
A witness, a CFI with over 17,000 hours of flight experience, landed at the Galion Airport at 1420. Upon landing, he called a waiting student and cancelled the flight due to the "threatening weather
approaching from the west."
At about 1440, the witness saw the airplane fly over the airport approximately 600 feet above the ground, with the landing gear down and flaps extended, and enter the downwind leg for Runway 5. At
that time, it was raining moderately, and there was frequent lightning and wind. The witness and his student elected to run for their cars.
The witness then observed the accident airplane about 25-50 feet above the runway centerline, about halfway down the runway, climbing. The landing gear was down, and "some" flaps were extended. The
witness then watched the airplane disappear into heavy rain. The weather then intensified; it began to hail, with extremely heavy rain, and winds gusting up to 50 miles per hour. The witness thought
"he might be getting close to a tornado." The witness never saw the airplane again.
At about 1600, the pilot's wife knocked on the door of a nearby residence, saying she had been involved in an airplane accident. The airplane's wreckage was about 300 feet from the residence.
Examination of weather radar data revealed level 5 thunderstorm activity was located over the Galion Airport at the time of the accident.
All major aircraft components were accounted for at the accident site. The initial impact point was in a stand of 25- to 30-foot-tall trees located about 1360 feet from the runway and about 700 feet
right of centerline. The wreckage was scattered for about 220 feet, along a heading of 130 degrees magnetic from the initial impact point.
Flight control continuity was established to all control surfaces; however, all the cables were separated, exhibiting "broomstraw" ends, consistent with overload. The manual flap handle was found
extended, and locked in the 25-degree detent position. The accident report did not note the landing gear's position, whether it was extended or retracted. Both propeller controls, both mixture
controls and the right throttle control were found in the full forward position. The left throttle control was found about 1-inch aft. No evidence was found indicating pre-impact problems with the
aircraft, including an engine failure, structural failure or fuel exhaustion/starvation.
The NTSB determined the probable cause of this accident to be "The pilot's improper in-flight decision-making
and flight into known adverse weather conditions while maneuvering to land. Also causal was the pilot's failure to regard the pre-flight weather briefing. Factors were the thunderstorm, rain, wind
gusts and hail."
Thunderstorms are, perhaps, the most dangerous weather with which a pilot can contend no matter what type of aircraft he's flying. In addition to the wind, rain and hail noted by the NTSB, they can
generate turbulence, lightning and microbursts, which are described in detail in the sidebar at right. Microbursts are particularly dangerous during takeoff and landing operations, when an aircraft
is, by definition, close to the ground. During these operational phases, an aircraft lacks the speed/energy to overcome downdrafts or sudden windshears.
No evidence exists that this accident resulted from a microburst. However, and presuming the pilot was attempting to execute a maximum performance go-around maneuver at the time of the accident, a
microburst preventing the aircraft from climbing is consistent with the weather information available.
Still, by attempting to "beat" the thunderstorm to the airport, the pilot succumbed to one of general aviation's nagging safety problems: pilots' failure to respect adverse weather and place too much
faith in their skills and in the airplane's performance capabilities.
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.
The Columbias Are Coming
Can't find time to visit the Columbia Aircraft factory in Bend, Oregon? Then Columbia Aircraft will bring it to you with the 2007 Fly Columbia Tour. The mobile, interactive
Columbia experience is making 28 stops at airports around the country through the summer and fall. Come see for yourself what makes the Columbia 350 and 400 the best of the best.
Click here for the
2007 Fly Columbia Tour schedule.
» Visit Columbia Aircraft Manufacturing in booth 813 at the AOPA Expo
WSI was out early with weather datalink for the cockpit but stubbed its toe when the satellite technology proved troublesome. But the company is back with two new datalink receivers and new
weather products delivered via Sirius Satellite Radio. WSI's Paul Devlin covers the specifics.
Innovation and growth topped everyone's agenda at the 2007 National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. If there was any doubt as to the health of the business jet
market, this show eradicated it. As always, AVweb's audio news team was on hand to get the biggest stories straight from the newsmakers themselves. In case you missed them, here's a quick
recap of our NBAA 2007 podcasts:
DayJet's Ed Iacobucci sits down with us for an extra-long podcast (20 minutes!) about the future of VLJs and the air taxi startups that
are driving demand.
Jamie Luster from Avidyne explains how you can retrofit your Cessna 210 with a full-featured glass cockpit system. It ain't cheap, but
Visit AOPA Aircraft Financing at Expo!
If you are attending
in Hartford October 4-6, stop by and see AOPA Aircraft Financing in booth 643, and ask about the show special. Whether you are looking to purchase an aircraft or make upgrades to your
existing aircraft, now is the perfect time to make your dream come true. Check out AOPA Aircraft Financing's competitive rates, quick decisions, and new No Document Loan Program. Call
1 (800) 62-PLANE to speak with a loan expert or
» Visit AOPA Aircraft Financing in booth 643 at the AOPA Expo
"Journey Through the Classics" with AVweb reader Walter Bogaardt this week. Walter's put together a couple of amazing videos from footage shot at the recent Camarillo Air Show in California. We've seen some fun musical montages since we started wasting time on
YouTube, er, researching viral flying videos but these are top-notch and all worth a watch.
If there's one thing we cay with certainty about the 2007 NBAA Convention and Trade Show, it's this: Business aviation is healthy and keeping (very) busy. If you don't believe us, check out these
three exclusive videos we put together while gathering news reports for AVweb at the show.
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AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Cutter Aviation at KCOS in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
AVweb reader Jim Landfried recommended the FBO after getting top-notch, personalized service from a big chain operation:
I was surprised that at [an] airport this [big] they didn't charge any more for fuel than my local municipal airport. On my departure, Doug, a lineman, after learning that my family hadn't been to a
General Aviation facility before, loaded my granddaughter, her husband, and their 1-1/2-year-old daughter into a crew vehicle and drove them to a place where they could see my wife and I depart. This
at a large commercial airport! ... I have been back three times since and they always provide very excellent service and personal attention ... . By the way, the fuel prices have remained modest.
And it sounds like Jim would know his way around FBOs, having visited many of them over the years during a career as a scorer for the Air Race Classic!
AVweb is actively seeking
out the best FBOs in the country and another one, submitted by you, will be spotlighted here next Monday!
Find Your Next Aircraft on ASO!
When you search for aircraft on ASO, you get the most complete picture of the market available anywhere. View thousands of listings with detailed specs and photos or use ASO's advanced
search tools to quickly find your next aircraft. Best of all, know that every ad is current and no time is wasted on stale listings. If you're ready for your next aircraft, it's ready for you
» Visit Aircraft Shopper Online (ASO) in booths 444 & 446 at the AOPA Expo
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 email@example.com. You're a part of our team ... often, the best part.
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AVwebFlash is a weekly summary of the latest news, articles, products, features, and events featured on AVweb, the internet's aviation magazine and news service.
The AVwebFlash team is:
Publisher Timothy Cole
Editorial Director, Aviation Publications Paul Bertorelli
Editor-in-Chief Russ Niles
Contributing Editors Mary Grady Glenn Pew
Features Editor Kevin Lane-Cummings
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