AVwebBiz - Volume 5, Number 13

April 11, 2007

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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BizAv Gets Behind NGATS

Can the general and business aviation industry have the cake of a Next Generation Air Transportation System (NGATS) without having to "eat" user fees, too? Perhaps it can, if refinement of positions taken recently by NBAA and AOPA on pending legislation to reauthorize the FAA and install a user-fee scheme is any indication. In remarks last week at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce Aviation Summit, National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) President and CEO Ed Bolen discussed several “Next Generation” technologies supported by the general aviation community, specifically highlighting automatic dependent surveillance broadcast (ADS-B) while reminding attendees that a new funding structure, like the FAA's proposed user fees, was not necessary for modernization. Similarly, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) President Phil Boyer, who co-chairs an industry panel tasked with advising the group overseeing NGATS development, recently remarked on his "huge involvement and enthusiasm in seeing to it that NextGen happens." These comments by Bolen and Boyer appear to be the latest attempts to "de-link" the FAA's user-fee plans and NGATS. And they have company.

According to NBAA, an official with the Congressional Budget Office told the House Subcommittee on Aviation last October that the balance in the Aviation Trust Fund is "expected to continue increasing at a pace that could fully support the proposed FAA air traffic control modernization plan without the need for new user fees or other taxes." Further, again according to NBAA, the Department of Transportation’s Inspector General agreed, last month telling a Congressional subcommittee, "the current financing mechanism could support both FAA’s ongoing funding requirements and the potential cost of developing the next generation air traffic control system (NextGen), assuming revenue projections materialize.” Further, and as the news item below notes, the U.S. Government Accountability Office also agrees that NGATS can be financed without user fees, thereby removing several pieces from the FAA's user fee "house of cards." Bolen summed it up: “People need to understand that aviation system modernization must be a national priority, but user fees are a separate and unrelated issue.”

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Meanwhile, Is Blakey Backpedaling On FAA Project Successes?

It appears that FAA Administrator Marion Blakey is backing off her claim that "one hundred percent of our major capital programs are on schedule and on budget," a statement she made most recently in a speech March 29 to the Aircraft Electronics Association. During a speech last Thursday at the Pratt & Whitney Women's Leadership Forum, Blakey watered down this statement to a mere "90 percent of our major capital projects" being on time and on budget. In her carefully crafted speech last week she also said, "Let me tell you this: under our proposal, the majority of general aviation will never pay a user fee for air traffic control." The key word here is "majority," which might be a misnomer since AOPA has discovered that the FAA's proposal would impose user fees for general aviation aircraft flying in Class B airspace. While pilots could fly around this airspace to avoid such fees, it would add inconvenience and extra flying time, possibly resulting in additional operating expenses that could make the user-fee option more cost-effective.

Meanwhile, Blakey continues to link ATC modernization with the proposed funding plan, even though the Government Accountability Office has previously debunked this relationship. In testimony before the House Subcommittee on Aviation late last month, GAO Physical Infrastructure Director Gerald Dillingham said, "The current funding structure has supported FAA as FAA's budget has grown, and it can continue to do so to fund planned modernization." Despite this Blakey last Thursday maintained that "a stable revenue stream [i.e., user fees] is the only thing that'll fix [the aviation system] and the only thing that will enable us to make the kind of investments we need to." Perhaps acknowledging the growing opposition in Congress for the FAA's funding overhaul plan, last week she promised to "push hard to reach a compromise." However, even a compromised bill on FAA reauthorization could include $1 billion in tax increases per year "at a minimum," according to House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Republican chief of staff Jim Coon.

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NTSB Links Controller Fatigue To Comair Crash At LEX

In formal safety recommendations issued yesterday, the National Transportation Safety Board tackled the issue of controller fatigue, suggesting the FAA and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) work together to "to reduce the potential for controller fatigue." The recommendations, numbered A-07-30 through -32, come during the NTSB's investigation into the Aug. 27, 2006, fatal crash of Comair Flight 5191, a Bombardier CRJ-100, which attempted taking off from a too-short runway at the Blue Grass Airport, Lexington, Ky., in pre-dawn hours. Together with earlier recommendations to the FAA, yesterday's action begins to paint a picture of what the NTSB may conclude was the accident's probable cause. According to the NTSB, the single on-duty controller at LEX that morning "had worked a shift from 0630 to 1430 the day before the accident," returning nine hours later to work a shift beginning at 2330. The controller's only sleep in the 24 hours before the accident was a two-hour nap between the two shifts. And, FAA supervisors apparently scheduled the controller to be alone in the tower at LEX, apparently violating the agency's own staffing rules.

In its recommendations, the NTSB suggested the FAA and NATCA work together to revise "controller work-scheduling policies and practices to provide rest periods that are long enough for controllers to obtain sufficient restorative sleep and by modifying shift rotations to minimize disrupted sleep patterns, accumulation of sleep debt, and decreased cognitive performance." The Comair flight, which had been cleared to depart Runway 22, taxied instead to the much-shorter Runway 26 and began its takeoff roll. The CRJ ran off the end of Runway 26 and was destroyed by impact forces and a post-crash fire. Of the 47 passengers and three crewmembers aboard the airplane, 49 were killed and one -- the first officer -- survived with serious injuries. Yesterday's recommendations join others the NTSB has made to the FAA, including requests for a new Part 121 rule requiring flight crews to positively confirm and cross-check the airplane’s location at the assigned departure runway and for specific guidance to pilots on the runway lighting requirements for takeoff operations at night.

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FlightSafety Begins Cessna Citation Mustang Simulator Training

Cessna Aircraft Company last week said it and FlightSafety International (FSI) have inaugurated their Citation Mustang training program following last month's FAA and EASA qualification of the Mustang simulator. Cessna added that the training program started on schedule. The FAA qualified the simulator to Level D, the highest certification available for simulators. EASA qualification is currently established at Level C, but the company says it will be upgraded to Level D on EASA's Citation Mustang type certification, expected later this year. Cessna said the new simulator qualifications will allow FlightSafety to train domestic and foreign pilots for the Citation Mustang type rating, which will be available at FSI's Learning Centers in Wichita, Kan., and in Farnborough, U.K. The training will be available at Farnborough beginning in the fourth quarter of 2007.

According to Cessna, the FSI training uses a Proficiency Index, developed in conjunction with FlightSafety's use of Textron Six Sigma, for the first time. The index uses numerous parameters such as the pilot’s previous ratings, number of flight hours, recent experience, and glass-panel experience to determine the level of training required for each type rating candidate. The Proficiency Index also determines whether the pilot qualifies for a second-in-command rating, crew type rating or single-pilot type rating. “The Proficiency Index grants a path for pilots of all experience levels to obtain their Mustang type rating,” said Manager of Training Chad Martin. The 10-day type rating course contains a new, uniquely designed training day flow. Ground school, systems integration and simulator training are included each day. Cessna's Citation Mustang -- the company's entry in the very light jet (VLJ) sweepstakes, received FAA certification on Sept. 8, 2006. It features the Garmin G1000 glass panel, which includes an integrated autopilot, and is WAAS-capable, enabling lateral and vertical guidance for LPV approaches. Cessna plans to deliver 40 Mustangs in 2007.

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New Hawker Beechcraft Corporation Delivers First Two Aircraft

With only 48 hours of operation as the new Hawker Beechcraft Corporation, the company in late March delivered its first two new aircraft to commercial and government customers. The sale of Raytheon Aircraft Company was completed on March 26 and on March 28, Hawker Beechcraft delivered a new Beechcraft Model G36 Bonanza to businessman/pilot Vic Flegler. The same day, the company turned over a new T-6A Texan II primary trainer to Capt. Brent Looby and Capt. Matt Pearce (USMC) from Vance Air Force Base. The T-6A Texan II is the military trainer for the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy’s Joint Primary Aircraft Training System (JPATS).

“Over the past several days in meetings with employees and customers, I have referenced the Beechcraft and Hawker books that describes the history of our great company, and that we will now begin to write the next book setting forth the future history of Hawker Beechcraft,” said Jim Schuster, chairman and CEO of Hawker Beechcraft Corporation. “These two deliveries will be included in the first chapter of that new book.” Flegler, a 3,800-hour pilot with two jet ratings, will use the G36 Bonanza between his home heating and air conditioning business locations throughout the Midwest U.S. Meanwhile, Vance Air Force Base conducts joint U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy primary flight training, using more than 90 T-6A Texan II aircraft. To date, the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy have ordered 420 aircraft, and over 350 have been delivered. To date, the T-6A has accumulated over 550,000 fleet hours around the world. Support for the aircraft will continue through 2050.

Columbia Introduces 2007 Models
The 2007 Columbias have arrived. Fresh for this year are new, dynamic paint schemes for both the Columbia 350 and 400, as well as a host of thoughtful and unique features for the discerning aircraft owner. See how your new Columbia will look with the interactive online Paint Selector. Just go online and click on the "Paint Your Passion" icon.

NBAA Releases Approach And Landing Training Aid

The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) yesterday released a training aid it says is designed to reduce approach-and-landing accidents (ALAR). The new, 90-minute interactive training aid is packaged on a CD-ROM and was produced for NBAA members in partnership with the Flight Safety Foundation (FSF). Dubbed the "NBAA ALAR Training Aid," it customizes FSF's Approach-and-Landing Accident Reduction (ALAR) Tool Kit materials for business aviation users with select publications and presentations, augmented by newly developed visual aids and a discussion leader’s guide for the aviation industry. The NBAA ALAR Training Aid is available to all NBAA Operating Members as a membership premium.

The product will be automatically sent to new Operating Members as they join and to existing Operating Members after they renew membership. Additionally, the CD will be included in the course materials for those registered at select NBAA safety-training events. NBAA first distributed the ALAR Training Aid to registered attendees at the association's 34th International Operators Conference, held March 26 through 29 in San Diego, Calif. "This new benefit for NBAA Members addresses these safety issues for the business aviation community. It is a continuation of NBAA’s commitment to promote safety among our membership and the aviation community," said NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen.

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No More Quiet Time At The FBO?

It used to be an FBO lounge was a calm shelter from the outside world. Few people even knew the FBO existed -- over there on the other side of the airport -- and even fewer had a reason to go there. Pilots and passengers could go to an FBO and actually count on some peace and quiet, and on not being bombarded by commercial messages, competing for their attention and dollars. Alas, those days may be gone. Enter SeeSaw Networks -- no, we're not making this up -- and its newly acquired affiliate JetSet Media, which specializes in reaching the "ultra wealthy, placing digital screens inside private aviation terminals that provide service to celebrities, athletes, corporate executives, private business-owners and wealthy individuals," according to a company press release. SeeSaw bills itself as "the leading out-of-home digital media company," focusing on what it calls digital signage: the colorful, scrolling text and images you'll find at places like sports bars, bookstores, grocery stores and, yes, U.S. border crossings, according to the company's Web site. And now FBOs, too.

According to SeeSaw, JetSet "presents eye-catching digital media in 57 exclusive and luxurious private hangars throughout the U.S. and across 10,000 domestic and international flights daily, reaching 1.5 million viewers monthly." The value to advertisers? "JetSet reaches people with a net worth of $10 million or more, who have an investment portfolio of $6 million, spend more than $75,000 annually on luxury goods, and own an average of 2.5 homes, making JetSet ideally suited for advertisers such as financial-services providers, real-estate companies and luxury-goods manufacturers, as well as business-to-business advertisers." We're definitely hanging out at the wrong FBOs.

Gulfstream Breaks Ground For New Building

Gulfstream Aerospace last week said it recently held a groundbreaking ceremony for a new business-jet manufacturing building at its headquarters in Savannah, and did so 40 years after the company began operations at the site. The new 306,104-square-foot manufacturing building is in addition to approximately 400,000 square feet of existing manufacturing space the company already uses. Using its existing space, Gulfstream said it expects to manufacture around 80 of its large-cabin business jets in 2007. The new manufacturing building will include 237,827 square feet of assembly and paint areas and another 68,277 square feet of offices, shops and a medical room.

“This is the first real addition to our manufacturing facility since bringing GII production here in 1967,” said Bryan Moss, president, Gulfstream. “Forty years and more than a thousand planes later, we’ve maximized every inch of this plant and it’s now time to expand.” The new manufacturing building is slated for completion by April 2008 and is part of Gulfstream’s seven-year, multimillion-dollar Long-Range Facilities Master Plan announced on March 6, 2006. Additional manufacturing will take place in the existing 209,000-square-foot Service Center following completion of a newer and larger Gulfstream Service and Support Center that will be located on approximately 77 acres of land leased by Gulfstream at the southwest quadrant of the Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport. The first phase of the new service center construction is to be completed this summer, while the second phase is scheduled for completion in late 2009.

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Naverus Earns FAA RNP Approval

Naverus, a Seattle-based company developing required navigation performance flight procedures for air carriers and private operators, said this week it had obtained FAA authorization as an RNP procedure developer. According to the company, the new FAA authorization -- the first company so recognized by the agency -- recognizes its ability to provide all the products and services needed for implementation of an RNP program. The company will serve airlines, other aircraft operators and airports by designing RNP procedures, integration, quality assurance, flight validation and maintenance services. The authorization, combined with the FAA's recent qualification of Naverus as RNP operations Approval Consultants, enables the company to offer "turn-key" services to its customers.

"While the FAA will continue providing these types of services, operators now have the option of using Naverus to accelerate their realization of the significant safety, efficiency and environmental benefits available from RNP," explained Steve Fulton, Naverus co-founder and Chief Technology Officer. Naverus says RNP "combines the advanced capabilities of modern avionics and GPS to ensure that aircraft stay on narrow, preprogrammed paths." As a result, RNP uses less airspace and optimizes air traffic. Flight paths tailored to reduce fuel burn save airlines and other operators millions of dollars and benefit the environment with lower emissions and noise. The privately held company was founded in 2003.

Travolta Denies Emergency 707 Landing At Shannon

Actor and aviation aficionado John Travolta is denying published reports that he was forced to declare an emergency while flying his personal Boeing 707 from Germany to New York last Monday. Despite reports stating he successfully landed his ex-Qantas Boeing 707-138 at Shannon, Ireland, after what reportedly were engine-related "technical difficulties," Travolta says he had landed there for a normal fuel stop but, on departure, the number-two engine starter failed. The actor/pilot reportedly chartered another airplane -- type unknown -- and continued his journey. "There was never an emergency. It was just a fuel stop and when we went to depart, the number two engine needed a new starter," Travolta said in a statement.

In 1999, another jet Travolta was flying "lost an engine" -- according to published reports -- resulting in an emergency landing at Boston. And, in 1993, a Gulfstream GII owned and being flown by Travolta experienced an electrical failure and made a late-night emergency landing at what was then the Washington National Airport. According to the Ocala (Fla.) Star-Banner -- near the actor's fly-in home -- "a spokesman for Shannon Airport had said Travolta was there due to 'technical difficulties.'"

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