AVwebBiz - Volume 5, Number 41

October 24, 2007

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Meet the New Boss ... back to top 

President Bush Will Nominate Sturgell to Head FAA

Acting FAA administrator Robert Sturgell will be nominated by President Bush to fill that position for the next five years, the White House announced on Tuesday. Sturgell, 48, formerly was a senior policy advisor at the NTSB, flew for United Airlines, and was an instructor at the Navy's Top Gun Fighter Weapons School. He has been deputy FAA administrator since 2003. He is also an attorney and has practiced aviation law at the Washington, D.C., law firm Shaw Pittman. "Bobby has worked tirelessly to modernize our nation's air traffic control system," White House press secretary Dana Perino said. "He has over three decades of real world experience in the field."

Now a Commander in the U.S. Naval Reserves (Retired), Sturgell is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and the University of Virginia School of Law. "He shares the president's strong commitment to continuing to preserve the safest period of aviation on record," Perino said. "We will call upon Congress to swiftly confirm him." Sturgell has been acting administrator since Marion Blakey's term ended on September 13.

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... Same as the Old Boss? back to top 

NBAA Terse, ATA Effusive on Sturgell

The National Business Aviation Association has reacted politely, but guardedly to the appointment of Acting FAA Administrator Bobby Sturgell to the full-time post. "Bobby Sturgell is a distinguished aviator with a strong government background, having served both at the National Transportation Safety Board, and at the highest levels of the FAA, and NBAA looks forward to working with him," said a somewhat sterile single-paragraph statement released by NBAA. By contrast, the Air Transport Association (NBAA’s arch rival in the user fee fight) was downright effusive and pointedly mentioned the airspace modernization effort (which it says should come with user fees) that Sturgell worked on under former FAA Administrator Marion Blakey.

In a three-paragraph statement issued Tuesday, ATA President Jim May lauded President Bush’s choice. "Bobby Sturgell is a highly respected leader of the aviation community.His distinguished and varied background, in both civil and military matters, uniquely equips him to serve as FAA administrator," said May. "We look forward to working with him on the wide range of issues that affect aviation, including the ongoing effort to modernize the nation's air traffic control system."

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The Ongoing FAA & NATCA Mathematics Showdown back to top 

Controllers Dispute FAA Staffing Stance

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. “We’re 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 doesn’t 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 they’re 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 don’t 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 they’re 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.

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TAG USA Comes Under U.S. Ownership back to top 

TAG Sells Management Unit to U.S.-based Sentient

Swiss-owned TAG Aviation Holding S.A. has sold its U.S. aircraft management unit, TAG Aviation USA, to U.S.-based Sentient Flight Group LLC in the aftermath of the closure of AMI Jet Charter by the FAA for what the agency claimed were muddy ownership and management arrangements for aircraft used by AMI. According to a joint news release, the deal should allow AMI to start operating again. "The deal will provide TAG USA with a favorable solution to an operational control matter regarding operating authority of its affiliated certificate holder, AMI Jet Charter – which is largely related to TAG USA's foreign ownership by Swiss-based TAG Aviation Holding," the release said.

AMI is one of the U.S.'s largest and most respected jet charter services and the suspension of its operating certificate surprised and alarmed many in the industry. However, business is business and Sentient CEO Steve Hankin said the resulting company hopes to serve the customers and owners event better by drawing on TAG personnel's experience. "[TAG Aviation Holding USA CEO]Jake [Cartwright] and I are confident that the combined resources of our two companies offer the best solution for owners to move forward quickly," he said. "Together, we will truly deliver the best aircraft management program in the industry for both current and future owners."

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Gulfstream as UAV back to top 

Pilot-Optional Gulfstream 550?

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 it’s 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, it’s 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 isn’t interested, there are reports that other countries are looking at the project, including Singapore.

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BizJet Boom back to top 

Bombardier Reports Middle East Jet Boom

Bombardier says it's expecting a sales increase of 40 percent in business jets to the Middle East and North Africa this year thanks to surging economies and the accompanying interest in the most convenient way to travel by air. According to Gulfnews.com the company has already sold 27 aircraft in that part of the world this year, fully 10 percent of its production for the year. "The demand has gone crazy at the moment in the Middle East,"Khader Mattar, the company's VP of sales for that area said Monday.

The company wouldn't list a total figure for the sales but said aircraft ranging in price from a $9 million Lear to a $53 million Global Express are involved. At the Dubai Air Show, the company is expected to announce the sale of a Challenger 605, the latest in the venerable line of wide-bodied aircraft that got the company into the market. Bombardier has sold 276 aircraft this year so far and expects to tops 300 by the end of its fiscal year on Jan. 30.

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Turboprops A-Plenty in Scottsdale Next Week back to top 

Turboprop Expo Gearing Up

With the price of fuel, the aviation world has renewed its love affair with the turboprop and the ultimate celebration of the breed is scheduled for next week in Scottsdale, Ariz. The Turboprop Expo starts Oct. 30 and features a jammed agenda of technical seminars, the inevitable political discussions and social events. There will also be a glimpse of the efforts to restore the granddaddy of turboprop success stories by the King Air Foundation.

The foundation is currently restoring the first King Air (originally designated the LJ-1) to its fresh-from-the-factory condition and when it’s complete the aircraft will be used to flown to air shows, corporate events, aviation schools and flying clubs to raise money for charities such as the Christopher Reeve Paralysis, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and the Progeria Research Foundation. In 2014, on its 50th birthday, it will be donated to a museum.

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 sign up online.
Irresistible Force Meets Immovable Object back to top 

Asphalt Roller 1, Falcon 0

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 people's day.



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Help Us Make the News back to top 

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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

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