AVwebFlash Complete Issue: Volume 13, Number 46a

November 12, 2007

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Oversight in Action back to top 

TAG Pays $10 Million To FAA

Swiss-based TAG Aviation Holding Ltd. and its U.S. subsidiary TAG Aviation USA will pay the FAA $10 million as part of a final resolution of the FAA’s “concerns” over TAG’s involvement with FAA-regulated aircraft operators, the company said in a news release. In October, the FAA’s concerns led to the revocation of AMI Jet Charter’s operating certificate under rules that define the level of operational control that charter companies must maintain over the aircraft they use. TAG owned 49 percent of AMI and said it acted as a flight broker. The FAA alleged that TAG was secretly pulling the strings on the operation of aircraft being chartered through AMI. As part of the settlement, the FAA acknowledges that TAG admits no wrongdoing in the case, which involved a seven-month investigation by the FAA. The FAA has also agreed not to stand in the way of the transfer of aircraft to new owners that might take over the business. A deal with Sentient is in the works. TAG Aviation Holding CEO Robert Wells said that while the payout hurts, it’s in the long-term interests of all the parties to move on. “This settlement will allow TAG Aviation Holding to continue with the divestiture of TAG Aviation USA business interests,” he said. “We are disappointed in the unprecedented settlement amount demanded by the FAA, but felt it was in TAG USA’s and their clients’ best interests to put this matter to rest.” TAG has been involved with AMI since 1998 and the operation was considered to be one of the best by many in the industry. It had a spotless safety record.

Inspector General Probes NASA Study

The Office of Inspector General began looking into the saga of NASA’s National Aviation Operations Monitoring Service (NAOMS) a week after NASA Chairman Michael Griffin said the data from the survey would be released publicly. Griffin was on the hot seat last week after The Associated Press ran a story in which a NASA official said it withheld results of the survey, which polled 29,000 pilots on their experiences in the air, because it didn’t want to alarm the public or affect airline revenues. The OIG will look at the efficiency and taxpayer value of the survey, something which Griffin also called into question during the hearings, according to New Scientist magazine. New Scientist is reporting that Griffin told the committee the data were “simply not credible” because of the way the survey was conducted. Pilots contacted by the polling firm were allowed anonymity and that means it’s impossible to judge whether two or more pilots are reporting the same incident. The magazine suggests the skewed results may have led to the conclusion that aviation incidents were generally underreported. Meanwhile, the contractor which conducted the survey, Batelle Memorial Institute, said its work had been “very high quality.”

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Responsibility for All Pilots ... And Fun for One back to top 

NTSB Targets Incursions, Pilot Fatigue

The NTSB released its annual “most wanted” list of aviation safety improvements on Thursday and among the most urgent recommendations is that the FAA address runway incursions. “It is time to do something before we have to investigate an accident that is catastrophic and explain to the families that technologies are out there to begin to prevent this thing from happening,” NTSB Chairman Mark Rosenker told a news conference Thursday. Although the FAA has had a program in place to reduce incursions for several years, the NTSB still considers its response “unacceptable” and notes that there have been 24 incursions this year. The NTSB says there need to be systems to directly warn pilots in the cockpit about impending incursions (like the one tested in Syracuse, N.Y., earlier this year) rather than the systems that now warn controllers in the tower. The NTSB also took aim at pilot and controller fatigue. The board says it found at least six flights where pilots fell asleep at the controls, including one in which both pilots nodded off on a Frontier Airlines flight from Washington to Denver in 2004. They were awakened by a frantic air traffic controller when they ignored descent instructions. The board says there have been at least 10 fatigue-related accidents it can identify, killing 260 people, and it’s calling on the FAA to come up with new crew rest requirements that more practically address the fatigue problem. Other items on the most-wanted list are icing research, better cockpit resource management requirements, better flight data and voice recorders, and the elimination of fuel vapors in airliner fuel tanks, the only classification in which the board acknowledged an acceptable level of progress.

First Private Harrier Takes Flight

What is likely the first civilian Harrier jump jet reportedly had its first flight in private hands at St. Mary’s County Airport in Maryland on Saturday. Owner Art Nalls reportedly decided not to shatter any neighbors’ nerves (not to mention their windows) and made his first takeoff and landing in the ex-Royal Navy Harrier FA2 short-field, rather than vertical. "The Harrier left the runway at less than the half way point of 2W6," Dave Baden, who saw the flight, told AVweb. "Roughly 2000 feet of runway was used for the takeoff. Landing was very similar with a roll-on landing that could have easily used less than half the runway but Art took it to the end anyway." Just what he plans to do with the notoriously (some say gloriously) loud VTOL aircraft isn’t clear but there’s not much doubt he’s comfortable in the cockpit. Nalls is a former Marine test pilot who spent most of his career on the American version of the aircraft, the AV-8A and AV-8B. In addition to his hundreds of hours in relatively normal flight, Nalls was also the test pilot for an in-flight engine restart program during which he amassed six hours of gliding experience in an aircraft not known for its glide ratio.

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Bastions of Booming Business back to top 

FAA Opens ATC Tower At Cessna Plant

So, how busy is your aircraft plant that it needs its own tower? The FAA started daily 7 a.m.-to-7 p.m. staffing of an air traffic control tower at Independence, Kan., last week and Cessna’s piston single and Mustang entry-level jet traffic is the main reason. "This is another milestone in the expansion of the Independence facility," Rod Holter, manager of Cessna’s Independence plant, said in a news release. "With the increase in traffic following the successful launch of Mustang production here, installing a tower was the right thing to do for the convenience and safety of our customers and our employees who fly." The tower is at the south end of the factory and employs five controllers looking after the newly designated Class D airspace at Independence. There was some ceremony to the first day of controlled operations last Wednesday. A Cessna 172R, the first model produced in Independence, did the first controlled takeoff and a Mustang the first landing; the first transient flight was a CJ2 with Cessna brass aboard.

Dubai A Megabillion Marketplace

Oshkosh may be the biggest and Paris the most influential but when it comes to getting people to lay their money down, it would appear the Dubai Air Show is on top of the game. On the first day of the show, airlines, charter companies and others committed to more than $35 billion worth of hardware. Now, admittedly, the hometown favorite provided much of the fanfare. Fast-growing Emirates Airlines announced orders for 143 aircraft, including 120 Airbus A350s, 11 A380s and 12 Boeing 777ERs, worth $34.9 billion. But both Cessna and Embraer got off to a good start at the show, too. Cessna sold about $190 million worth of aircraft to three separate companies while Embraer sold 19 bizjets and 10 airliners on the first day. “This is a fantastic start to the largest-ever Dubai Airshow,” show spokeswoman Virginia Kern told Al Bawaba.

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News Briefs back to top 

Top Civil Air Patrol Officers Killed

The FAA and NTSB are investigating how two seasoned pilots, both senior officers in the Civil Air Patrol, flew into a mountain near Las Vegas Thursday evening. Col. Edwin Lewis, director of operations for CAP’s western region, and Col. Dion DeCamp, commander of the Nevada unit, died when their CAP Cessna 182 hit 8,500-ft. Mt. Polosi, about 12 miles southwest of Las Vegas. According to the FAA preliminary report visibility was listed as 10 miles when the aircraft crashed about 7:15 p.m. Lewis retired from Pan Am in 1989 and was a NASA test pilot at Edwards Air Force Base. He’d been the for 50 years and was a former deputy national commander. DeCamp retired from American Airlines in 1994 and was a key organizer of the search for Steve Fossett. They were flying to Lewis’s California home after delivering a display aircraft to Aviation Nation, an air show at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas.

Piston Aircraft Sales Lag

Sales of piston singles continue to lag behind last year’s impressive totals but major increases in the sales of turboprop and jet aircraft continue to keep the general aviation industry robust. Figures released by the General Aviation Manufacturers Association for the third quarter of 2007 show the total number of sales up marginally (1.7 percent) but industry billings are up significantly (14.1 percent) thanks to the continuing popularity of the higher value products. GAMA President Pete Bunce said that while piston sales are off for the third quarter in a row, manufacturers continue to report strong interest in the sector and they aren’t sitting on their hands. “We are encouraged, however, by the industry’s commitment to strengthening this segment with the introduction of products that will bring new pilots and new customers into this market.” Bunce said the boom for larger aircraft shows no sign of fading “Overall, we are very pleased that demand remains robust, particularly outside of North America, for general aviation turboprops and business jets and we expect shipments to continue on a strong, upward trend in the months ahead,” he said. Overall piston single sales totaled 1,857 units for the first nine months of 2007 (down from 1,975 in 2006). The most popular piston single continues to be the Cirrus SR22 by a wide margin. Cirrus sold 156 SR22s (and a total of 193 aircraft) while Cessna’s 172SP was second at 52. Turboprop sales hit 293, up from 256 and business jet sales jumped from 628 to 759. The grand total for billings was $15.1 billion.

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News Briefs back to top 

Fuel-Free Airplane Unveiled

The initial prototype of Solar Impulse, a solar-powered aircraft that may fly around the world without fuel in 2011, was unveiled last week in Switzerland by project organizer Bertrand Piccard. The first aircraft has a wingspan of almost 200 feet and will be used to test the basic science behind the project. If all goes well, it will fly nonstop for 36 hours, using solar power for its electric motors and charging batteries by day and using the stored energy at night. As formidable as that challenge might be, the ultimate goal is much more ambitious. By 2011, Piccard hopes a second aircraft will embark on a month-long (at about 30 mph) flight around the world on sun power alone. Not only does the aircraft have to stay in the air, it also has to supply a pressurized cabin for the pilot and carry enough to keep him alive for the month. “The Solar Impulse engineers have therefore had to develop a totally new type of airplane, made possible by innovative technologies, in which everything is new, everything is different: aerodynamics, structure, manufacturing methods, type of propulsion, flight domain…” says the project’s Web site.

"Star Wars" Helmet For F35 Pilots

It can take decades but military aircraft technology often trickles down to civilian applications (think FLIR, head-up displays, GPS) and the latest in fighter pilot headgear would sure make life easier for all types of pilots. The London Daily Telegraph is reporting that the helmet worn by Royal Air Force F-35 pilots will display flight information right on the visor instead of the head-up display common in other aircraft. But it’s the helmet’s ability to (virtually) see through titanium, among other things, that really sets it apart. "It will superimpose infra-red imagery on to the visor to allow the pilot to look through the cockpit floor at night and see the world below," an unnamed ministry of defense spokesman told the newspaper. The helmet displays are being jointly developed by U.S.-based Vision Systems and Helmet Integrated Systems, of Britain. The RAF is evaluating the Luke Skywalker-style gear at RAF Boscombe Down. Britain is among about a dozen countries cooperating on development of the F-35, also known as the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF).

On The Fly

An experienced helicopter pilot walked into the rotor of his aircraft on Friday and was killed. Harold “Gene” Jones, 64, left the Bell 407 running while he offloaded baggage at Morristown, Tenn. Airport and was struck in the head while walking back to the aircraft ... .

The comment period on new rules for aircraft crossing the U.S. border has been extended until Dec. 4. The extension came at the request of aviation groups who say there are serious flaws with the proposed rule ... .

An unknown type of aircraft ended up in a river beside Napa County Airport early Sunday after the nose baggage door came open during the takeoff roll. The pilot wasn’t injured after running the plane off the end of the runway and into the river after an unsuccessful attempt to abort the takeoff.

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AVweb Readers Speak Out back to top 

AVmail: Nov. 12, 2007

Reader mail this week about FSS consolidation, fewer fighters, the Aviation Trust Fund and more.

Click here to read this week's letters to the editor.

Did Your Battery Die? Tell Us About It

Our sister publication, Aviation Consumer, will soon publish an in-depth report on aircraft batteries. As part of that report, the magazine would like to hear about your experiences with aircraft batteries -- good, bad or otherwise.

To take part in our online survey, click here.

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.

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New on AVweb back to top 

Leading Edge #11: Flight Without Delays

Can a GA airplane really slip past all those delayed airliners in holding patterns? Only sometimes ...

Click here to read.

AVweb's Monday Podcast: Those Commercial Jet Pilots Get a Little Younger Every Year

File Size 10.5 MB / Running Time 11:33

Podcast Index | How to Listen | Subscribe Via RSS

It's true! The next time you find yourself making a trip on a commuter airline, you may or may not find it comforting to know that the pilot in the right seat of your regional jet isn't old enough to buy you a beer at the destination airport bar. AVweb's Mike Blakeney set out to see where the pilot qualification bar really is set in today's commercial aviation world. In this audio feature, we talk with Jeff McNamee of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University to get to the the bottom of all the airline hiring rumors floating around.

Click here to listen. (10.5 MB, 11:33)

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Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Heartland Aviation (KEAU, Eau Claire, WI)

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

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Heartland Aviation at KEAU in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

AVweb reader Mark Griffith was preparing to leave Eau Claire when his alternator failed:

Unable to make the one-hour flight back to Rochester and realizing that the FBO had just closed, we resigned ourselves to a cold, dark fall night outside, waiting on our ride home. Hugh, the night janitor at Heartland Aviation, saw our predicament and quickly ushered us inside to the nicely furnished (and comfortably warm) pilot's lounge. Our ride arrived a couple of hours later, and we could thank Hugh enough for being a gracious and warm host. He really turned a cold, depressing evening into a gathering of friends! Thanks for everything, Heartland!

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: Lockheed Martin's 21st Century Airship back to top 

Video of the Week: Lockheed Martin's P-791 Airship

Recommend a Video | VOTW Archive

This week's video came to us under the radar, and we were planning to save it for another week — but after you see it, we think you'll agree that it's hard to put out of your head. (Maybe especially so if you watched the History Channel's Lost Worlds episode "The Age of Airships," as we did this week. Or if you're a fan of Pink Floyd and always wanted to see an even bigger flying pig.)

The behemoth shown here is Lockheed Martin's P-791, a (possibly) quarter-scale working concept for a cargo-carrying airship being developed in conditions that can only be called hush-hush.

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Try disabling ad blockers and refreshing this page.
If that doesn't work, click here to download the video directly.

Thanks to AVweb reader Noah Forden for pointing out this video to us!

Don't forget to send us links to any interesting videos you find out there. 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."

Shop From Your Computer for Perfect Pilot Gifts
When purchasing gifts for family, friends, and flying buddies, go to AVweb's Holiday Marketplace. AVweb is the perfect place to find perfect gifts for pilots and aviation enthusiasts. And for yourself — forward the link to your family and friends as a hint as to what you want! It's easy online, with AVweb!
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"

Returning home from the West Coast a few years ago, we landed in Flint, Mich. The Midwest had had weeks of rain and overcast skies that summer, and I got this on departure:

"Bonanza Five Four Seven Zero Victor, when you get on top, would you look out to the southeast and tell me if you see a big bright light?"

Don Sanderson
Bear Creek, Pennsylvania

More AVweb for Your Inbox back to top 

AVwebBiz: AVweb's Business Aviation Newsletter

HAVE YOU SIGNED UP yet for AVweb's NO-COST weekly business aviation newsletter, AVwebBiz? Reporting on breaking news, 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/.

Names Behind the News back to top 

Meet the AVwebFlash Team

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:

Timothy Cole

Editorial Director, Aviation Publications
Paul Bertorelli

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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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.

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