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NASA got into hot water over the weekend when The Associated Press reported that the agency refused a
Freedom of Information Act request to release the results of a pilot survey on aviation safety, citing concerns that the report could reflect badly on the aviation industry. U.S. Rep. Brad Miller
D-N.C., a member of the House Committee on Science and Technology, wrote to NASA Administrator Michael Griffin that possible damage to the image of the airline industry "does not appear to fall within
any of the exceptions" in the FOIA, The New York Times reported. Griffin said on Monday he had just been
made aware of the FOIA request and would immediately review the matter. "NASA should focus on how we can provide information to the public -- not on how we can withhold it," he said. Meanwhile, the
House Committee on Science and Technology said it also wants to take a look at those records, according to Reuters, and plans to hold a hearing on the matter soon.
The AP said it tried for 14 months to access the reports but NASA stonewalled the effort, saying: "Release of the requested data, which are sensitive and safety-related, could materially affect the
public confidence in, and the commercial welfare of, the air carriers and general aviation companies whose pilots participated in the survey." The AP cited an unnamed source who said the surveys show
that hazards like loss of legal separation and runway incursions are much more prevalent than are reported to the FAA and NTSB. The four-year survey, which ended in 2005, contacted 8,000 pilots
several times each, by phone, to ask them about their experiences with bird strikes, near-midairs, and other close calls. Griffin said hell let the public know what it can know about aviation
safety "as soon as possible."
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The White House announcement that Robert Sturgell will be nominated as the next FAA administrator drew quick reaction from the GA alphabet groups. Sturgell has been with the agency long enough that
the players are familiar with him and his stand on the issues. None of the major groups mentioned the user fee issue, which Sturgell has presumably played a major role in developing. Sturgell
demonstrated his support for user fees under oath at a Congressional committee hearing last month saying that
the way the FAA is funded needs to change. "A cost-based funding structure is essential to transforming the aviation system," he said. With that thorn conveniently buried for the moment, the groups
found plenty to like about Sturgell's appointment.
AOPA and EAA said they welcomed the nomination. "Bobby Sturgell understands the issues that face EAA members and has been engaged in those issues as deputy administrator," said Tom Poberezny, EAA president. "Bobby has had the opportunity to join us at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh over
the past several years, so he is very familiar with EAA and our members' enthusiasm for flight." AOPA President Phil Boyer also said he is okay with the choice. "We've worked closely with Bobby for
more than five years and have found that he understands aviation from the pilot's perspective," Boyer said.
"He was particularly helpful in pushing through some of the latest changes that made the Washington, D.C., Air Defense Identification Zone a little easier for pilots to negotiate." The National
Business Aviation Association said: "Bobby Sturgell is a distinguished aviator with a strong government background ... NBAA looks forward to working with him."
National Air Transportation Association President James Coyne praised "Bobby's experience
and leadership." The National Air Traffic Controllers Association vehemently opposed the whole idea. Sturgell has played "an integral part [in the] systematic demise of controller staffing and abysmal
labor-management relations," NATCA President Patrick Forrey said. "NATCA will not support a nominee that
will continue to exhibit a management philosophy that demoralizes its valuable workforce to the point of leaving."
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A reader sent us the tower tape clip (MP3) of the exchange between a smooth, professional air traffic controller at Republic Airport on
Long Island and the pilot of a Piper Saratoga who'd been in a midair collision with a Cessna 152 last Sunday. As we reported on
Monday, both pilots were able to land their aircraft without incident but the tower tape reveals just what it takes to recover two damaged aircraft on the same runway during a busy period at a
large GA airport. The first call from the Saratoga pilot comes about 2:15 on the audio file, but listen to the whole thing to get a feel for what the controller was up against in getting the damaged
aircraft on the ground without anyone else (including a student launching for his first solo) getting in the way or into trouble.
Update: AVweb reader Peter Ricciardiello, a frequent contributor to LiveATC.net has identified the site as the source of the original
recordings that were used to put together this audio clip. Be sure to check them out in your travels around the web. (Thanks, Peter!)
Last week the FAA issued a press release saying it had exceeded its hiring goals for air traffic controllers in the last fiscal year, attracting 1,800 new air traffic controllers and was on track to
meet its long-term goals. Were getting a lot of enthusiastic new recruits who are interested in becoming air traffic controllers, said [then-]Acting Administrator Bobby Sturgell.
Controller hiring, training and staffing is a major priority and we are on track to meet future traffic needs. However, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association says that while
there may be bodies in the buildings, that doesnt mean the number of qualified air traffic controllers is reflected in those figures and the manpower crisis it has long predicted is upon us as
the most experienced controllers head for the exits. Our system is on the brink of a total breakdown, NATCA President Pat Forrey told a teleconference on Monday.
Forrey said 1,558 seasoned controllers left the agency last year (365 became supervisors and are technically still certified as controllers). Most are taking retirement as soon as theyre
eligible rather than working until the mandatory retirement age of 56. Hardest hit are the most critical facilities where the experience and knowledge of the old hands is most prized. Forrey said FAA
brass dont recognize the unique skills and natural abilities that he said controllers must have to work the most complex traffic.They think anyone can do this and theyre wrong,
he said. Losing the experienced controllers will not only create operational difficulties, it will affect training of the new controllers, he said. Forrey said the best way to keep experienced
controllers would be to obtain a negotiated contract and get rid of the work rules imposed on controllers 18 months ago.
The U.S. aviation community has made significant progress in efforts to improve on-airport safety in the last two months, the FAA said on Monday. "Recent close calls at some of our nation's busiest
airports show that action must be taken to reduce the risk of runway incursions and wrong runway departures," the FAA said in a statement. Representatives of airlines, airports, air traffic control
and pilot unions, and aerospace manufacturers, met with the FAA in August and agreed to work together to improve cockpit procedures, airport signage and markings, air traffic procedures, and
technology. The FAA's statement includes a progress report on what actions have been taken. The list includes new taxiway markings at 52 large airports and 24 smaller ones, the completion of runway
safety reviews at 20 major airports, the expansion of recurrent training requirements to more airport users such as FBO operators and airline mechanics, a review of taxi clearance procedures, and the
expansion of a voluntary reporting system for safety issues.
The FAA also is working with air carriers to require more training on the pushback-through-taxi phase of flight, and establish mandatory recurrent training programs for ground crews. For the FAA's
complete report, click here.
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The pilots of a 737 that crashed in Indonesia in March, killing 21 people, should be prosecuted, Australia's Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said on Tuesday. Five Australians died in the crash. A report by Indonesia's National Transportation Safety Committee, released on Monday, found that during the approach, 15
warnings and alerts were sounded by the Ground Proximity Warning System and the copilot called for the pilot in command to go around. The PIC ignored all those warnings, flew a steep, fast approach,
and touched down at an airspeed of 221 knots with only 5 degrees of flap, 87 knots faster than the landing speed for 40 degrees of flap. "The copilot did not follow company procedures and take control
of the aircraft from the PIC when he saw that the pilot in command repeatedly ignored the GPWS alerts and warnings," according to the report. Downer said in an ABC World interview that based on that report, he would like the Indonesian authorities now to look into
the possibility of prosecutions.
The Indonesian report recommends safety-of-flight enhancements for airline operators, but does not discuss the matter of criminal responsibility.
Picture the last time you flew commercial and stood in line to remove your shoes before reporting to the gate. Now imagine being an airline pilot in uniform, and going through those same lines up to
10 times a day. In Norway, some airline pilots are running out of patience with the system. One pilot delayed a departure when he refused to take off his shoes and reportedly shouted "I am no
terrorist!" Another senior pilot chose to retire early, citing "security madness" as the reason. "He is happy to be retired and finished with this," Tom Erik Liverud, head of Widerøe airline's
pilot union, told the newspaper Adresseavisen. "This is a marked contrast to some years ago when pilots were
sad to give up their dream jobs when they passed 60."
The security demands are all for show and in some situations are counterproductive, Liverud told the newspaper. "All a pilot needs to crash a plane is his hands. It feels meaningless to use so many
millions of crowns without even carrying out a risk analysis," he said. The Norwegian Airline Pilots Association has said flight crews should have the same privileges as customs officers and police,
who are allowed to freely pass through airport security checks when on duty.
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There are lots of options available on a Gulfstream 550 but Boeing intends to make the flight deck crew one of them. Lacking a suitable platform of its own, the Chicago-based company has purchased one
of the $43 million state-of-the-art bizjets to turn it into a drone for maritime surveillance. If its successful, Boeing could win a $4 billion contract to build the Broad Area Maritime
Surveillance (BAMS) program.
The Gs, minus the woodgrain and leather, we suppose, would be flown pilotless in support of the P-8A submarine killer based on the Boeing 737. And while it might seem that Boeing would have the
inside track on the whole package, its been reported that the Gulfstream idea is being scoffed at in defence circles. The converted bizjet is up against such proven pilotless platforms as the
Northrop Grumman Global Hawk and the Lockheed Martin/General Atomics Mariner. If the Pentagon isnt interested, there are reports that other countries are looking at the project, including
After years of struggling to raise $12 million to restore a retired Avro Vulcan, volunteers and aviation enthusiasts last week got their wish -- the four-engine, 110-foot delta-wing bomber took to the
skies at Bruntingthorpe airfield in England, 14 years after its last flight. The impressive-looking aircraft was one of three British V-Bombers designed to drop nuclear weapons during the Cold War.
The fleet fought in the Falklands War and was retired in 1993 -- and until last week, none had ever flown again. The bomber will now undergo rigorous testing so it can be certified to fly by the Civil
Aviation Authority. "It is hoped that once this has been achieved, the aircraft, once the UK's deadliest weapon, will be used to entertain and educate crowds up and down the country by showcasing its
amazing grace, power and maneuverability," says a news release from the Vulcan to the Sky Club.
The Vulcan is powered by four Rolls Royce engines, each producing eight and a half tons of thrust, and can reach speeds up to 645 mph. The club members will seek sponsorship and contributions to
keep the ship flying. They hope to keep it active on the air show circuit for at least 10 to 15 years, and then donate it to a museum. An educational program about the history of the Cold War era will
also be part of the project. BBC News has posted a video
of the flight, and YouTube has posted a series of amateur videos.
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Marrying local needs with national information sources. The result: ever-improving levels of performance. And a future of efficient, effective service that give general aviation pilots more
flexibility than they've ever thought possible.
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If you've ever wondered what happens when an expensive business jet collides with an asphalt roller, you might ask Sony Corp. Their Mystere Falcon 900 was taxiing for departure from Teterboro Airport
last Sept. 28 when the left wing clipped the machine on a taxiway. According to the NTSB preliminary report,
neither the captain of the Falcon nor the roller operator claimed to see the other coming. No one was hurt but we suspect it ruined a lot of people's day.
SONY'S FALCON 900 vs. AN ASPHALT ROLLER
CLICK FOR LARGE IMAGES
EACH IMAGE WILL OPEN IN A NEW WINDOW
It takes a certain kind of person to enjoy jumping out of airplanes -- or off of mountains, or out of balloons, or from bridges -- and those people look like cash cows to the new space-tourism
industry, according to New Scientist magazine. That's because while
most people will be satisfied with a once-in-a-lifetime trip into space, extreme-sports enthusiasts -- also known as adrenaline junkies -- will keep coming back for more. In anticipation of that
market, entrepreneur Rick Tumlinson has started a company called Space Diver, to develop and promote the sport. But the thrill-seeking also has a practical side. Equipment developed to allow skydivers
that ultra-long thrill can also be used as safety gear in an emergency. One scenario for how it would work: The space-suited diver would ride on a platform atop the rocket into space, then simply push
away to begin the descent. The diver would then free-fall until about a mile above the surface, then deploy the parachute for safe landing.
Space Diver plans to begin low-altitude tests with rocket deployments next year, according to the New Scientist. First, the team will drop dummies, then tests will begin with people, who will make
the first-ever jumps from a rocket, starting at about 10,000 feet. "We need to show that we can leave the vehicle safely," Tumlinson told the magazine. "Everything else has already been done in the
Our sister magazine, Aviation Consumer, is conducting a research project on diesel aircraft engines. If you're flying one, we would like to know what your impressions of it are. Has the
performance been what you expected? How about the economy? We would also like to know about service history. For a questionnaire, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. The editorial staff will get right back to you.
The bodies of an instructor and student from the University of North Dakota have been found in the wreckage of the Piper Seminole that went missing late Wednesday. Instructor Annette
Klosterman, of Seattle, and 20-year-old Adam Ostapenko, a junior aviation student from Duluth, Minnesota, died in the crash about 20 miles northwest of Little Falls, Minn. ...
Embraer celebrated the sale of the 300th copy of its E series of jetliners on Wednesday. Number 300 went to Northwest Airlines ...
A Naples, Fla. helicopter pilot accused of flying drunk while doing sightseeing rides at the Suffolk, Va. Peanut Festival has turned in his certificate. As a result, Ron Davis Jr. was
released on bail and will be back in court Dec. 3.
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Recently two flight instructors wrote
a book on how
to use Microsoft Flight
Simulator X to
enhance pilot training and
to provide sim-only pilots
a guide to
making their flying more
realistic. AVweb will publish
several chapters from this
book, beginning with
this chapter on weather.
AVweb reader Jim Hinnen stopped in on a fishing trip and couldn't recommend Lockhart highly enough:
Owner/manager [Douglas Lockhart] ... directed us to phones, parked and tied us down, helped with baggage, and even ... suggested hotels where they had a better rate, then called [the] hotel for rooms
and transportation. You could not have any better (friendly, courteous, helpful) service anywhere. Also, no tie-down charge! [I] tried to tip them, and they refused, saying our business was good
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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Columbia Aircraft Manufacturing will soon have new owners, and last
week we asked AVweb readers to cast their predictions as to who
would walk away with the company's assets.
Cessna is the leading contender, of course, and nearly 3/4 of
AVweb readers have the company pegged as Columbia's new owners.
Very few few of you expected Cirrus to come out on top of the bidding
fewer than the 15% of respondents who predicted that a third party will
swoop in and claim Columbia later on.
For a complete (numerical) breakdown of reader responses,
(You may be asked to register and answer, if you haven't already
participated in this poll.)
THIS WEEK'S QUESTION ***
NASA's decision to withhold the results of a flight safety survey has raised questions about what type of
information should be publicly available to pilots and citizens. This week, we want to know what AVweb readers think. Who should make the call when it comes to releasing this sort of data to
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.
Join NAA and Help Shape the Next Century of Flight
It's a great time to join the National Aeronautic Association (NAA), the nation's oldest aviation organization. At $39 a year, NAA membership is a terrific value for any aviation
enthusiast! Members receive the Smithsonian's Air & Space and NAA's Aero magazines, plus access to aviation records, product discounts, and much more. Call (703) 527-0226 to
become an NAA member, or
Each week, we go through dozens (and sometimes
hundreds) of reader-submitted photos and pick the very best to share
with you on Thursday mornings. The top photos are featured on
AVweb's home page, and one photo
that stands above the others is awarded an AVweb baseball cap as our
"Picture of the Week." Want to see your photo on AVweb.com?
Click here to submit it to our weekly contest.
*** THIS WEEK'S WINNERS ***
There will be no complaining from our corner this week!
With well over 100 submissions to our regular "Picture of the Week"
contest and nearly two dozen real contenders for the top spot, life is
good. Impossible as it might have been, we've managed to pick five
of our favorites to share with you here but don't forget there are a
dozen more to see in the "POTW" slideshow on our
home page right now!
Yes, we labeled the small version of this one. That's because we
couldn't find any other way to show off the amazing panorama that made
Michael Palmer of Prudhoe,
Northumberland (U.K.) our "Picture of the Week" winner. Go on
click the image and view the original photo.
(Widescreen monitor users: Here's your new desktop wallpaper!)
Incredible, eh? Just as much so is the note from Michael that the
image is exactly "as captured and has not been modified in any way."
We're entirely too embarrassed to admit what movie this gorgeous
sunset from Patrick Mahaffey
reminded us of. Suffice it to say, we'll take Patrick's
photo over the movie any day.
Our local public radio station has been holding their annual pledge
drive, so we'll borrow a page from their book: If you enjoy the
photos you see here every week, please
contribution. (Too bad public radio won't accept our photo
A quick note for submitters: If you've got several
photos that you feel are "POTW" material, your best bet is to submit
them one-a-week! That gives your photos a greater chance of seeing
print on AVweb, and it makes the selection process a little easier on
us, too. ;)
A Reminder About Copyrights: Please take a moment to consider the
source of your image before submitting to our "Picture of the Week" contest.
If you did not take the photo yourself, ask yourself if you are indeed
authorized to release publication rights to AVweb. If you're uncertain,
send us an e-mail.
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Business AVflash focuses on the companies, the products and the industry leaders that make headlines in the business aviation industry. Business AVflash is a must read. Sign up today at http://www.avweb.com/profile/.
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
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.
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version of AVwebFlash. For complete instructions on making the switch, click here.