AVwebBiz - Volume 8, Number 5

February 3, 2010

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Top News: No User Fees back to top 
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Federal Budget Free Of Aviation User Fees

The budget plan released by the White House this week drops last year's proposal to impose aviation user fees, and instead retains the traditional FAA funding formula of taxes on tickets and fuel plus a general-fund contribution. "We have waged a 12-month campaign since the moment we learned of a planned $9.6 billion fee," AOPA President Craig Fuller said on Monday. "General aviation organizations worked together to prevent the realization of a policy that could have crippled GA." Other advocacy groups expressed similar relief, while noting that the budget addresses the issue only for the next fiscal year. "The industry must remain vigilant to ensure that any future user fee proposals are unsuccessful," said James Coyne, president of the National Air Transportation Association. Ed Bolen, president of NBAA, also advised caution. "Whether or not this is an indication of a permanent policy shift on user fees, or a one-time development remains to be determined," he said. "Our industry must continue to make its voice heard on this and other issues."

The administration's budget request, according to AOPA, includes $16.5 billion for the FAA in fiscal year 2011, a 3-percent increase over 2010. Out of that total, $1.1 billion would go for NextGen air transportation system modernization, a 32-percent increase over last year. Those funds would help to support the transformation from a radar-based system to a space-based system, the development of more efficient air traffic routes, and the improvement of aviation weather information for pilots. The funding also includes $3.4 billion for the Airport Improvement Program and $2 million for research and development of alternative fuels for GA. The General Aviation Manufacturers Association noted that the proposal would extend bonus depreciation for GA aircraft sales and increase funding to hire additional FAA safety inspectors.  On the military side, the budget would increase spending for drone aircraft and drop Boeing's C-17 cargo aircraft program.

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Colgan Crash in Buffalo: NTSB's Findings back to top 

NTSB Concludes Pilot's Actions Caused Colgan Crash

The probable cause of the Colgan Air crash that killed 50 people near Buffalo, N.Y., a year ago was the captain's inappropriate response, characterized as "startle and confusion," after the stick shaker was activated, pulling back when he should have pushed forward, the NTSB reported in a hearing on Tuesday. Contributing factors included the crew's failure to monitor airspeed and their violation of the sterile-cockpit rule. In the daylong hearing, which ran past 7 p.m., the board split over the issue of whether or not fatigue was a contributing factor in the accident. Board chairman Deborah Hersman argued that several factors, including the crew's sleep deficits and the time of day the accident took place, indicated that fatigue was present, and should be counted as a contributing factor to the crew's performance. But the view of board member Robert Sumwalt prevailed -- he said just because the crew was fatigued, that doesn't mean it was a factor in their performance.

Documents filed prior to the hearing also showed that the first officer sent two texts from the cockpit prior to takeoff, according to the Buffalo News. One text was sent at 7:58 p.m., prior to taxi, and the second was at 9:13 p.m., just five minutes before takeoff. The board issued more than 20 recommendations to the FAA for changes that should be made to prevent similar accidents. Hersman, however, told reporters that the FAA fails to act. "It's the same thing over and over again," she said. "[Our recommendations] have not been heeded by the FAA." The presentations from the meeting are posted online, as well as the complete docket of documents. The NTSB animation of the final moments of the flight was posted several months ago. The full probable-cause report will be posted on the NTSB Web site soon. On Feb. 12, the anniversary of the crash, friends and relatives of the victims of the crash are planning to walk the final miles of the uncompleted Colgan flight, to protest what they say was a preventable tragedy, according to NBC New York.

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Lahood Calls USA Today to Carpet on Safety back to top 

Lahood Raps USA Today's Maintenance Investigation

Department of Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood came out swinging Tuesday against a USA Today report that alleged that 65,000 airline flights over the last six years occurred in aircraft that were not properly maintained. The newspaper said the findings surfaced after a six-month investigation into maintenance practices by the airlines and oversight by the FAA found both lacking. On his blog, Lahood said FAA inspectors are constantly monitoring maintenance and the recent airline safety record is evidence of that. "Contrary to the assertion in USA Today, we are not allowing flights to leave the ground in 'unsafe condition,'" Lahood wrote. He noted the FAA's proposal to fine American Eagle Airlines $2.5 million for faulty weight-and-balance calculations on 154 flights is proof that the FAA is serious about safety.

However, in a follow up to the maintenance story, USA Today suggested the millions of dollars in fines assessed against airlines in the past year is a symptom of the problem and not an indication of a solution. It noted that over the past six years, the airlines have been cited for 1,300 maintenance infractions, most resulting in warning letters rather than fines. Meanwhile American Eagle is crying foul over its proposed fine, saying the discrepancies were found in the backup paper-based weight-and-balance calculation system, rather than the primary electronic system that actually provides the numbers.

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News Briefs back to top 

Concorde Crash Trial Begins

Five people, including two Continental Airlines employees, face up to five years in prison if a French court finds them responsible for the crash of an Air France Concorde supersonic airliner near Paris almost 10 years ago. A four-month trial has begun into the July 25, 2000, crash that killed all 109 people on the airplane and four employees of the hotel the airliner, trailing a tongue of flame, hit when it crashed. The five, along with Continental itself, are charged with involuntary manslaughter. The case centers around investigators' findings that a piece of metal fell from a Continental DC-10 that departed Charles de Gaulle Airport immediately before the Concorde started its roll. The investigation says the metal, which was traced to the DC-10, shredded a tire on the Concorde and debris pierced the brim-full fuel tanks causing the fire that brought the aircraft down. Continental will argue that maintenance and design faults led to the disaster and that the aircraft involved should not have been flying that day.

The Continental employees on trial are welder John Taylor and his supervisor at the time, Stanley Ford. The French citizens facing trial are Henri Perrier, the former director of the Concorde program, Jacques Herubel, the former chief engineer of the program, and Claude Frantzen, the former head of France's civil aviation authority. In addition to the five years in prison, they could be fined $75,000 Euros. The airline could be fined $375,000 Euros.

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News Briefs back to top 

Optimism At Singapore Air Show

One of Asia's biggest aviation events, the Singapore Air Show, opened today and while there are not expected to be any monumental announcements, there is a theme of conservative optimism about the show and there is some money being made. Cessna opened the show with the statement that Asia has been a rock in the otherwise turbulent aviation market. "This region has been one of the strongest for Cessna during the most recent downturn. It has been least affected by the economic climate and financing issues facing the rest of the world," said Cessna VP Roger Whyte. Cessna didn't make any order announcements but did issue reminders of a deal for five Mustangs to the Singapore Flying College and 30 Grand Caravans to Susi Air in Indonesia. Embraer has its usual major presence at the show.

The Brazilian planemaker announced some service center announcements and also used Singapore to unveil its new agreement with Flight Safety International to provide training for all its Legacy family of business jets, as well as the Lineage 1000 and E family of airliners. Piper is continuing its aggressive promotion of the brand in Asia with its expanded appearance at Singapore. The company was acquired by the government of Brunei eight months ago and one of the major goals of the new company is to build an Asian market. It has already set up a flight school in Brunei and an Asian headquarters there. Piper is introducing the PiperSport light sport aircraft at the show.

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Opinion & Commentary back to top 

AVweb Insider Blog: Do Stunts Help or Hurt?

In the latest installment of the AVweb Insider blog, Paul Bertorelli recounts a conversation he recently had over Matt and Chet Pipkin's upcoming shot at the world flight endurance record. The record attempt is unquestionably a stunt — but is that a bad thing?

Read Paul's thoughts and add your own at the AVweb Insider.

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Help Us Celebrate AVweb's 15th Anniversary back to top 

15 Years and Now 15 Grand Giveaways ... Now's Your Chance to Win 100,000 Air BP Bravo Reward Points

CLICK HERE to Register for All 15 Drawings

Now's your chance to win 100,000 Air BP Bravo Rewards Points as we celebrate our 15th Anniversary! All you have to do is click here to enter your name and e-mail address. (You only have to enter once, and you'll be entered in our prize drawings for the entire year. If you've already entered for the previous Bose Headset drawing, you're all set — no need to register again.)

And no, we're not going to rent or sell your name, ever. Tell your friends, and invite them to sign up for AVweb so they can qualify for our 15 Grand Giveaways prize drawings, too. (We won't spam them, either — but we hope they will sign up for our newsletters.)

Deadline for entries is 11:59pm Zulu time February 19, 2010.

Click here to read the contest rules and enter.

Congratulations to Ron Goin of Idaho Falls, ID, who won the Bose Aviation Headset X! (click here to get your own from Bose Corporation)

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The Top Reporter on Our Crack Staff ... Is You! back to top 

Had an Engine Overhaul? Aviation Consumer Wants to Hear About Your Experience

Aviation Consumer is conducting a survey to hear your experiences with engine overhaul shops. Whether the experience was propulsion bliss or aggravation of a new order, please take a couple minutes to let others know how it went. Your response will help inform an article on engine shops for Aviation Consumer magazine.

Click here to participate.

(The results will appear in a future issue of Aviation Consumer. For subscription information, click here.)

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AVweb Media: Look, Listen, Laugh and Learn back to top 

Exclusive Video: Rotax Engine Essentials

Original, Exclusive Videos from AVweb | Reader-Submitted & Viral Videos

What's special about preflighting the Rotax engines found on most LSAs? Tim Brooks, Director of Maintenance for Heart of Virginia Aviation, takes you on a just-the-facts tour explaining what you're looking for and why it's important.

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Names Behind the News back to top 

Meet the AVwebBiz Team

AVwebBiz is a weekly summary of the latest business aviation news, articles, products, features, and events featured on AVweb, the internet's aviation magazine and news service.

The AVwebBiz team is:

Timothy Cole

Editorial Director, Aviation Publications
Paul Bertorelli

Russ Niles

Contributing Editors
Mary Grady
Glenn Pew

Features Editor
Kevin Lane-Cummings

Scott Simmons

Jeff van West

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