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Volume 5, Number 1
January 3, 2007
Fly with the Bose® Aviation Headset X
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Will 2007 be known as the year in which user fees were enacted to pay for FAA services? That's what the airlines want, although general aviation's alphabet soup is opposed to it. The issue is guaranteed to come to a head by Sept. 30, when existing law authorizing the FAA's programs, policies and spending on things like airport pavement and radars will come to an end. In the meantime, the new Congress -- complete with new leadership -- convenes this week with reauthorization high on its list of "must-do" tasks. All of which means you'll likely see more and more arguments for and against user fees throughout the year. For its part, the airline industry is leading the fight for them, with its major trade group, the Air Transport Association, saying it supports "a new 'cost-based' mechanism for generating revenues necessary to maintain, operate and enhance the national airspace system." Of course, aviation system users already are paying fees -- through taxes on airline tickets and aviation fuel, as examples -- to cover the government's costs. The airlines, however, merely serve as collection agents for the government, eventually passing on the ticket taxes they collect from passengers and paying next to nothing to use a government system in conducting their business. Meanwhile, general aviation, according to a 1997 study by the U.S. General Accounting Office, is responsible for about 6% of FAA's ATC costs while paying -- conveniently -- about 6% of those costs through existing taxes. But that's not all: The airlines also want more of a say in how the FAA and the ATC system are operated. According to an ATA "statement of principles," the airline industry believes in "A reformed administrative structure, providing for a direct role in governance proportional to the extent of each user category’s financial contribution to the operation, maintenance and enhancement of the national airspace system." And all of this will be coming to a head as first-of-the-year stories in the financial pages say the airline and travel industries' futures are looking up. More...

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The latest government reaction to the Feb. 2, 2005, crash of a Bombardier Challenger CL-600-1A11 at the Teterboro Airport (KTEB) in New Jersey was published last week in the form of a newly revised operations specification (OpSpec) for Part 135 charter operators. The new OpSpec, A008, was published Dec. 28, and is a direct reaction to NTSB findings that the charter flight was being conducted without proper FAA certification or compliance with FAR Part 135. The FAA said it had "become aware" of business practices calling into question "whether an air carrier has control of its operations purportedly conducted under the authority of its certificate." According to the FAA, the revised OpSpec allows it to ensure "who is responsible and who should be held accountable for the safety of any flight, whether commercial or not" by evaluating the "facts and circumstances surrounding that flight." The FAA hopes to clarify and prevent the kind of ownership and operational issues the NTSB believes precipitated the accident, in which the Challenger was operated by Platinum Jet Management LLC of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., under a management agreement with Darby Aviation, based in Muscle Shoals, Ala. As part of its reaction to the accident, which destroyed the airplane but did not result in fatalities, the FAA recently conducted a review of Part 135 operators. That review, according to the FAA, highlighted that numerous "Part 119 certificate holders conducting operations under Part 135 had been authorized to use several 'doing business as' (DBA) names, some of which were identical or substantially similar to the name of an aircraft owner and/or management company that is otherwise legally distinct from the air carrier." More...

In a Group Plan & Think You're Getting the Best Deal on Life Insurance?
The Pilot Insurance Center (PIC) finds many people believe this is the case. Unfortunately, in some group plans you're only as good as your weakest link. Meaning, while you may be in excellent health, you may be paying a higher premium due to those in the group that aren't as healthy. From airline pilots to weekend warriors, PIC has saved pilots 30-60% on coverage through A+ rated carriers or better. Find out if you are getting the best deal. Call PIC today at (800) 380-8376, or visit online.

We have it on good authority that several Eclipse Aviation employees woke up Monday morning with hangover-induced headaches. But their pain had nothing to do with New Year's Eve celebrations. Instead, and as AVweb reported, the company on Sunday, Dec. 31, delivered the first customer copy of its Eclipse 500 very light jet (VLJ), sneaking in under the deadline of its end-of-2006 promise. Some eight years in the making, the first Eclipse 500 delivery was no doubt a cause for celebration, but the company's work in 2007 is just beginning -- and recent snowstorms at its Albuquerque, N.M., headquarters haven't helped a bit. The big questions are when Eclipse will deliver a second airplane, when it will obtain its production certificate from the FAA and whether it will make its projected delivery numbers in 2007. According to Eclipse, the first customer Eclipse 500 was delivered to co-owners David Crowe, a private owner, and Jet-Alliance, a shared jet ownership company in Westlake Village, Calif. While Crowe plans use his time with the jet primarily for recreation, Jet-Alliance will be using it to serve its co-ownership clients. The arrangement helps maximize Crowe's use of the airplane while keeping Jet-Alliance's overhead low. Right now, Eclipse says it has seven more aircraft, pictured above, being readied, but there is no timetable for their delivery to customers. That said, the company has every expectation it will be able to deliver them by the end of January. More...

Fly in Ultra-Comfort with LightSPEED Headsets:
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Yes, major U.S. airports are too congested, and it can be tough for general aviation flights to get in at certain times during the day, but we've never seen a non-scheduled flight hover over an airline gate, waiting on space, before departing in a huff. With some embellishment, that's basically what a group of airline employees say they saw at Chicago O'Hare International Airport's (KORD's) gate C17 on Nov. 17. The trick is that the employees report the "flight" was an unidentified flying object, or UFO. Officially, no one at United Air Lines or in the FAA control tower saw anything and there was nothing on radar. Of course, we wouldn't expect visitors from another planet to know anything about Class B airspace, or transponder requirements. While the FAA control tower at KORD did log a call from an airport worker, asking if they knew of the object, the FAA says it doesn't know anything about the event and maintains it was nothing more than a weather phenomenon of some sort. According to the employees and the Chicago Tribune, the noiseless, disc-shaped "weather phenomenon" hovered over the gate area for a few minutes and then departed -- straight up into a 1,900-foot overcast. Its departure was so rapid, witnesses say it made a hole in the clouds. More...

Columbia Simplifies Buying & Selling All Aircraft Brands
Selling an aircraft can be a challenging odyssey. Aircraft owners need to: locate a broker with national resources to sell for top dollar; select and utilize the most effective advertising; access no-cost, no-obligation finance pre-qualification; consult aviation tax experts; and obtain insurance quotes with higher liability limits. Columbia Aircraft has created a tool to assist pilots and aircraft owners of all brands. Check out their web site.

Additional details on the Raytheon Company's sale of its Raytheon Aircraft Company (RAC) subsidiary -- including the Beechcraft and Hawker business aircraft lines -- to a new company formed by GS Capital Partners, an affiliate of Goldman Sachs, and Onex Partners began to emerge over the holidays. First announced on Dec. 21, the $3.3 billion deal -- which remains subject to various government oversight and approvals -- will not include Raytheon's fractional operation, Flight Options, or Raytheon Airline Aviation Services (RAAS), but does include the Raytheon Aircraft Services FBO network. The new company's name will be Hawker Beechcraft. The details on the sale are not expected to be complete until sometime during the first half of 2007, according to Raytheon, which also said its net proceeds will be somewhere in the neighborhood of $2.5 billion. More...

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For as long as we can remember, the only documentation needed by a U.S. citizen returning home from Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas or certain other locations by air was a driver's license and a birth certificate. No more. Beginning Jan. 23, 2007, all U.S. citizens -- including children -- need a current passport, even if you're arriving via private aircraft. That's according to a federal law enacted in 2004, as implemented by the departments of State and Homeland Security’s Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. Some exclusions do apply, and individuals traveling between the mainland and U.S. territories are exempt. Of course, all of this -- including new passports with embedded chips -- are part of the nation's continuing anti-terrorism efforts. More...

Small Business Owners! AVweb's Marketplace Is the Place for You
Showcase your product or service to over 300,000 unique visitors monthly on AVweb. For a small monthly fee, your business-card sized ad, with graphic, will be placed on the Marketplace page. The AVwebFlash newsletter will feature selected ads as space permits. Click here for more information on AVweb's Marketplace (PDF).

This should be easy enough: If you live in Ohio and need to register an aircraft with the state, you must certify you're not a terrorist and do not provide material assistance to a group the U.S. Department of State considers a terror organization. That's according to a law passed in 2006 and effective for anyone seeking certain state-issued licenses, which applies to citizens and companies who own an Ohio-based aircraft and must register it with the state. For aircraft owners, compliance with the state's 2007 aircraft registration requirement involves completing a five-page form and answering such questions as, "Are you a member of an organization on the U.S. Department of State Terrorist Exclusion List? " Helpful hint: The correct answer is "no." More...

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AVwebBiz is an every-other-week summary of the latest business aviation news, articles, products, features, and events featured on AVweb, the internet's aviation magazine and news service.

Today's issue was written by Joseph E. (Jeb) Burnside (bio).

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Shiny side up, okay?