Jane Garvey’s Excellent Day
Meet The Administrator Session Lacks Punch…
The FAA’s Jane Garvey made her annual trek to Oshkosh Sunday, mixing and mingling with the people she and her agency regulate. While on the EAA AirVenture 2000 site, she met with aviation’s alphabet-soup-in-absentia — including representatives from AOPA, NASAO and of course, EAA — announced a new safety videotape and clicked a mouse button at the Arnav Systems booth to commission a new ground-based transmitter for the FAA’s Flight Information Service Data Link (FISDL). Her whirlwind tour of EAA AirVenture 2000 also included the hour-long "Meet The Administrator" session in the FAA building just off the main ramp.
Garvey’s departure from AirVenture — aboard the agency’s flagship Gulfstream III, N1 — was just as delayed and frustrating as its arrival. Arriving Sunday morning, N1 was forced to go around, presumably for traffic, before it could land and taxi to the ramp. Later, disproving the notion that rank has its privileges but reinforcing the belief that OSH controllers don’t play favorites, N1 was forced to join the conga line for departures.
Despite the need to deal with the OSH arrival and departure traffic, Garvey had a good day. She got through her schedule with few-to-no hiccups, including her trademark "Meet The Administrator" session, as smooth and professional as we have come to expect. Fortunately for Garvey but unfortunately for many of those who assembled to be entertained, no surprises or controversy emerged from the annual event. Sure, the perennial issues-without-answers were raised: whether the FAA should change the Age 60 Rule; the status of various cases of over-zealous enforcement; and the like. Perhaps the only real surprise was that the number and content of shameless, self-congratulatory statements masquerading as questions from people representing various organizations has risen to the point of making the entire event much less valuable than the give-and-take session originally envisioned and that used to be.
The lack of controversy is probably due in no small measure to — choose one — the failure or success of EAA’s efforts to insulate her from the most controversial episodes and people. Indeed, when EAA Friday evening escorted off the site Garvey’s primary annual antagonist, Keith Peshak, it also ejected one of the attendees’ last, best hopes for real entertainment at the event. As AVweb reported yesterday, Peshak was asked to leave the AirVenture grounds Friday after his technical forums included some profanity-laced presentations earlier in the show.
In the end, the hour-long session resulted in a series of slow, underhand pitches ably batted away by one of the best clean-up hitters to take the FAA’s helm in recent memory. The final score wasn’t even close.
NOTE: AVweb’s coverage includes RealAudio of the "Meet the Administrator" session.
Now, Congress Is Asking Why…
Every year at Meet the Administrator, someone stands up to decry the rule under which U.S. airlines must forcefully retire pilots when they reach age 60. Every year atAirVenture, FAA Adminstrator Garvey reiterates the FAA’s support for the Age 60 rule and restates results of a 1993 study that the agency says indicates flying skills fall off after age 60. However, Sunday when a pilot stood up to make his argument against age 60, Garvey talked about a move afoot in Congress to study the rule, and asked AirVenture-visitor, Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) to respond. "I’m 65 years old," Inhofe told the crowd, "so I’ve got a dog in this fight."
In addition to being 65, Inhofe is also an experienced GA pilot. Last year, a prop fell off his Grumman Tiger in flight. Inhofe determined the normal stall speed on the Tiger sans prop had jumped from 45 to 120 knots. Inhofe credits his age and experience for allowing him to assess the situation, keep his head, and land the Tiger safely. "My son is a great pilot," he told the Meet the Administrator crowd. "But I honestly believe that if this had happened to him, he might not be here today."
Inhofe later told AVweb that he is working to get an Age-65 rule through the Senate, "when the votes are there." "My preference," he told AVweb, "is no age limit, but rigorous stress testing to make sure the pilots are healthy. There’s no reason people above age 60 shouldn’t be flying. Some people shouldn’t be flying at age 40."
…As "Retired" Pilot Says "I Think We’re Beating Them Down"
Bert Yetman of Grapevine, Texas, agrees. Yetman is the one who brought up the Age 60 rule at the Meet the Administrator session. He says he was "forcefully unemployed" from Southwest Airlines in June of 1992, when he turned 60. Yetman is now president of a group called the Professional Pilots Association, made up of pilots who are against the Age 60 rule. "I think we’re beating them (the FAA) down," Yetman tells AVweb. " The real world has changed. They can’t ignore that. Fourty-four countries are age-65. Canada, Mexico and Australia have no age limit. Foreign airline pilots over age 60 can fly into the United States. That’s the annoying thing."
"The current pilot shortage is helping (our cause)," says Yetman, "but I think the harmonization of rules worldwide will help more." Yetman intends to speed the process along as much as possible by filing a request with the Seventh Circuit Court in Chicago within 30-60 days. That filing will seek to force the FAA to accept a request for sixty-two Age 60 exemptions. Sixty-two pilots age 54 to 68 want to be allowed to keep their airline jobs beyond age 60. "I’ve always been optimistic, but now I’m really feeling good." Between action by the courts and scrutiny by Congress, 60 could become just another birthday.
…And Now A Short Rest
A face absent at the Meet the Administrator session Sunday was B & C Specialty Products owner and president Bill Bainbridge. Bainbridge was featured in a series of AVweb articles in 1998 and 1999. A bit of background: in 1997, he was slapped with a $2,000 civil penalty for selling a non-type certified alternator and regulator to the owner of a Piper Super Cub.
Bainbridge sells his alternators and regulators to the likes of Burt Rutan and many of the nation’s top airshow performers. Some of the products, like his 60-watt alternator, have STCs allowing them to be installed on certificated aircraft. His 40-watt alternator, the reason for his FAA fine, is not. Even so, by his reckoning, more than 100 owners have been granted field approvals for the installation of non-certified B&C equipment in their type-certified planes.
Many of the Form 337 approvals came from the Anchorage, Alaska, Flight Standards District Office. When airplane owner Chris LeMay asked FAA Inspector Walter Zackowitz for the same field approval for his Piper Super Cub, Zackowitz refused, telling him he would have to get a one-time STC, instead. After a six-month fight, a second inspector in the same FSDO field approved LeMay’s new alternator. At some point during all the back and forth, someone filed a report with the FAA in Washington accusing Bainbridge of selling "suspected unapproved parts." Thus began Bainbridge’s descent into the darker side of the FAA.
…Good People, Bad People…
It was a descent that went unarrested for nearly two years, only finally coming to an end after EAA President Tom Poberezny and FAA Administrator Jane Garvey become personally involved. Bainbridge, a soft-spoken and unassuming man, says he will be eternally grateful to both of them and to all the good people in the FAA who helped him fight his battle. The problem, he says, is all the bad people.
Today, AVweb visited with Bainbridge at his booth at AirVenture. "I considered going to the Meet the Administrator session today," he told us. "But I decided against it." He wanted to speak out about an issue that continues to haunt him almost day and night: accountability. "I am accountable when I do something. I am held accountable. Who holds the FAA accountable?" The unspoken continuation to the question is, "Who holds the FAA accountable for ruining someone’s life?"
That was what happened to Bainbridge. The stress of the fight with the feds caused long-term health problems and destroyed a long-held love. "I don’t love aviation anymore." As Bainbridge talked, his eyes filled. He paused to wipe the tears. "It’s not there (the love.) It’ll never be the same. You’d think that I would be over it, but I’m not. The FAA spent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars pursuing me when I did nothing wrong." The issue of accountability. "I am accountable for what I do. Why isn’t the FAA?"
One Record Falls, One In Question
Bruce Bohannon, flying the Exxon Flyin’ Tiger yesterday morning, was declared unofficial champ for the 9,000-meter time-to-climb record, with a time of 19:47… the 6,000-meter record, meanwhile, remained too close to call. That record is 7 minutes and Bohannon flew it in 7:48. Once the wild cards of temperature and true altitude are figured in, the 6,000-meter record could belong to Bohannon as well. But whether the 6,000-meter records falls or not, the monkey is off Bohannon’s back — after a long, cold year when two record-breaking attempts failed, he’s back in the winner’s circle.
NOTE: Read all the details of Bohannon’s record attempt, and learn about his future plans, in today’s special feature by AVweb’s Liz Swaine.
Federal Air Surgeon Agrees To Speed Up Medical Process
Includes Phone Call Approval For Issue Of Special Issuance Medicals
The Federal Air Surgeon, Jon Jordan, in a dramatic gesture to reduce the delay in medical certification, has approved a plan which will allow Aviation Medical Examiners (AME) the ability to issue and reissue Special Issuance medicals on a case by case basis after phone call approval from the Oklahoma City Aeromedical Certification Division or from Regional Flight Surgeons. These certificates would be time-limited to 120 days pending a formal in-house review by the FAA. Developed in a meeting called by the EAA’s Aeromedical Councils Chairman Dr. Jack Hastings and opened by FAA Administrator Jane Garvey, the plan was a joint effort by the FAA, EAA, AOPA, and other organizations. The FAA was represented by Dr. Jordan, Dr. Tilton, Assistant Federal Air Surgeon, Dr. Warren Silberman, Chief of Aeromedical Certification, Gary Crump, AOPA Medical Section, members of the EAA Aeromedical Council, and several others.
This major step in reducing the backlog in Oklahoma City will allow pilots who have relatively simple Special Issuance problems to be approved on the spot in the AME’s office. Initially, the plan will utilize the EAA’s AME Pilot Advocates and then be expanded to other AMEs. The program is also limited to third class medicals at this time but would be extended once experience is gained. An example would be a pilot who underwent a simple angioplasty without having a heart attack who was applying for his first certification. With the proper letter from the treating physician, a current cardiovascular evaluation and satisfactory treadmill test, the AME could perform the medical exam and consult with the FAA’s physician staff for permission over the phone to issue the time-limited certificate.
Dr. Jordan developed the plan after a discussion that included outlining the problems that created the current situation. Those problems include the fact the Aeromedical Certification Division is hampered by reduced resources from not being classified as a "safety sensitive" area like controllers. Safety sensitive areas are protected from cuts and hiring freezes which the Certification Division has had to deal with. In addition, the number of applicants who are being considered for Special Issuance has markedly increased due to liberalization of certification. Now, pilots are being reviewed and certified that only a few years ago would have been flatly denied. Also, the new AMCS/DIWS has created a degree of backlog while being implemented and the old system switched over. This backlog, which is now about 40,000 files, is taking the FAA 12-14 weeks to process. Dr. Hastings recommended that the EAA and other organizations increase the awareness of pilots about certification problems before they develop. Dr. Guy Baldwin, a Council member, proposed a log-book reminder of medical certification resources to be co-produced by the EAA and AOPA for insertion into pilot log books. The EAA will also be contacting education organizations like the King Schools to ask for curriculum additions to help pilots understand certification issues.
More Better From Germany: 170mph On 100hp…
W.D. Flugzeugleichtbau, GMBH, is producing a retractable, two-place, all-composite aircraft that: cruises at more than 170 mph behind a variable-pitch prop, carries 23 gallons, burns five of those an hour on a Rotax 912S four stroke — and you don’t have to build it. The Fascination D4 began life as a kit, flying on an 80hp Rotax and was sold in that form in Germany by the afore-mentioned company (don’t worry, we won’t make you read it twice.) Designed by ex-German aerobatic team member Wolfgang Dellach, the German-certified ultralight (the category covers 0-1200-pound aircraft in Germany) is not billed as aerobatic, but the spar has been tested to failure — which came after a substantial 10 Gs of persuasion. Clearly, the structure exists for a slightly enhanced attitude adjustment — the company is setting limits at plus or minus 6 Gs.
…And Fast Enough To Get Here (By December)
An American distributor exists in the form of Harper Aircraft, Inc., which has been promised one aircraft per month after JAR certification, expected by this December. With that certification, the Fascination D4 will be viewed similarly as American-bought Extras — meaning that, upon arrival, they’ll be inspected by a Designated Airworthiness Representative (DAR) who will issue a normal category certificate. Cost is set at $98,500, but you’ll have to pay more if you like talking to anyone when you fly — radios aren’t part of the basic package. What you do get in the package is electric/hydraulic, retractable gear, a very large baggage compartment, which should easily contain just about any amenities that weigh-in under 100 pounds, and a BRS emergency parachute system for any egregious unpleasantries. Flight control is via a center-mounted stick which actuates pushrods for no-slop ailerons and elevator, while the rudder is controlled with cables running to the rudder. The cabin is no-frills, but like most of the new airplanes, makes a lot of sense and is quite comfortable for tall (or wide) pilots. The design benefits from some keep-it-simple technology that have kept weight down and practicality up. This may be one to watch, but here’s the catch: even if all goes well, at a current production rate of two per month, with 60 already sold and three delivered, it might be a while before you get yours. For more information you can go to the Fascination web site.
The Big Fish In The Pond…
With the 100 hp production prototype flying (and here at AirVenture), the king of super-practical, super-quickbuild, super-affordable kitbuilts is making a super-seductive play for the certified crowd in the form of the RANS S-7C — offered at $55,000. RANS has been producing kits for more than 15 years and selling them at prices from about $9,000 to $20,000. There may be well more than 2,000 flying examples of the aluminum tube, fabric-covered, one- and two-seat aircraft flying — most of them, cruising at better than 100mph. While AVweb talked to president Randy Schlitter, two happy customers approached who’d purchased his aircraft at last year’s Airventure ’99. Not only had they both accepted deliveries within four months of the show, to date they’d amassed 125 hours of flying time between them. True, that’s the result of a very tight work schedule and a fair amount of skilled help, but that doesn’t change the fact that one of those projects was complete by early January. Let’s do the math: a four-month wait for the kit and a three month build time. Can do?
Schlitter’s products are a rare find in a kit industry that seems to be driven by a surging economy to the high-end (and high cost) products. And while many aviation magazines splash their covers with shiny new toys that most people can’t afford, RANS quietly thrives in a niche market that caters to practical people who want to build fast, fly soon and keep flying — often — without burning any new holes in their pockets. RANS has made flying possible for a whole segment of individuals shut out by the big manufacturers, and they’re understandably a loyal bunch. RANS has sold aircraft to more than 2,000 people from 45 countries, a record just about any kit manufacturer would be jealous of.
…Heads For Bigger Waters
Here at the big show, RANS literature states: "the Type Certificate will be obtained by August 2000" for the S-7C — that’s step one. Step two, the Production Certification should be awarded "in the first quarter of 2001. The aircraft will be certified in the primary category. IF all that holds true, then Schlitter and his crew may be pumping out aircraft at a rate of one per month as early as February 2001. The S-7C is the company’s Cub-beater, and offers a two-seat tandem configuration and some of the best visibility in the light, high-wing market, with a low cowl, huge side windows and greenhouse skylight. It weighs 700 pounds empty, carries 500 pounds at 105 mph and has a range of more than 300 miles behind the Rotax 912S, which has proven reliable and relatively low fuss in many light aircraft applications. Randy added that the S-7C was designed with a good balance of wing area (vs. weight), so "unlike a Champ, it’s not a handful in high winds." New buyers of the S-7C will benefit by purchasing from a company that’s already been making aircraft parts for about 18 years. And those who choose to build from kits may be seeing some benefits too — conforming to certification standards for production should only make quality control standards at the factory even better. For those with more time than money, the S-7 will still be available as a kit. For those with more money — or no inclination to build — a certified S-7C will be hard to beat when it comes to bang-for-the-buck. For more information visit the RANS web site.
In A Plane That Bears His Name…
In a world of kit planes, each making more outrageous performance claims and promising faster build times than the rest, one airplane stands out: the Pitts Model 12. Jim and Kevin Kimball of Zellwood, Fla., have been selling Model 12 plans and kits since 1997. An impressive 45 of the aerobatic biplanes are either under construction or have been completed … another 155 people have purchased plans. The Model 12 was designed by master builder Curtis Pitts of Pitts Special fame, but there are some big differences between the Pitts Special and the Model 12. The Pitts Special line ran on standard piston engines. The big Model 12 was designed around a growly, round Russian radial, the 360-hp Vedeneyev M-14P.
"A lot of the questions we get are about the M-14P," company Vice President Kevin Kimball tells AVweb. "We try to convince people of the engines’ reliability. We designed the plane around the engine. Using anything else would be a compromise." In spite of the fact that the Model 12 was designed for the M-14P, Pitts designed the airframe for more. "Curtis told us if you give some people an anvil, they’ll learn how to break it. He knew someone would try to hang a 985-hp engine on it, so he made it strong enough. There’s a lot of strength built-in we don’t even advertise." In the next breath, Kimball confirms that someone is indeed converting the 2-seat Model 12 to a one-seater and hanging a 985-hp on it. Anvil, anyone?
…The Model 12: It’s All In The Family
Dad Jim, the ‘Jim’ in Jim Kimball, Inc., is the company’s President, and the one who fostered Kevin’s love of all things flying. Their business actually started as a hobby, but after father and son rebuilt a Stearman and then a Staggerwing, planes-for-pay followed. Over the past twenty years, they have done dozens of restorations and replicas, including Baron Hilton’s Staggerwing, a museum-quality Weddell-Williams; and, a Gee Bee, which was ultimately purchased by Kermit Weeks. Kimball, Inc., is about as good as it gets when it comes to older planes. In fact, the restoration portion of their business is backlogged over two years.
They are working long hours to prevent a backlog with the Model 12. "When we started, we needed to sell twelve kits to break even. If we sell 50, we will exceed all expectations." As of Sunday at AirVenture, the kit total was up to 32. They are currently selling product before they can produce it. "As soon as we get to the point where we produce a batch that isn’t sold, then we’ll know we’ve hit a plateau."
At that point, Kimball Inc. will turn to other projects. "We’re still having fun, we’re still growing the business. We’re adding a convertible top, making our instruction manuals better, adding digital pictures. We’ve got a few different things we’re thinking about … one’s a biplane, three aren’t." Good people. A popular airplane. The Pitts stamp of approval.Customers on the list. Some might say this is as good as it gets. For the Kimballs, though, it could be just the beginning.
For The "Homebuilt" Headset
It can take years to find a headset that’s right for you and when you finally get one that doesn’t feel like it thinks you’re head is a tube of toothpaste, they come out with a new model that makes yours obsolete. But Headsets, Inc. offers what they think is the answer. They produce an alternative to the $300-plus Active Noise Reduction (ANR) headset in the form of an aftermarket system that you can buy as a $169 kit and install yourself in your existing headset. Also, if electronics make you queasy, an extra $50 will persuade them to put the system in for you — and also buy you a three-year warranty. You can have your headset back in about a week. The system supposedly eliminates about 20db through active noise canceling (on top of whatever your ears were used to before the upgrade) — and it sounded that way to us.
Headsets, Inc., will modify any David Clark or Peltor earcup and their work is completely separate from the mike, which brings some interesting considerations. First, know that you’ve been messing around with your headset’s guts, and if the mike fails it’s doubtful that the original manufacturer will shine their graces upon you if you seek to gain them through the warranty. Second, you now have the option of purchasing a huge range of noise attenuating ear muff type hearing protectors (some reduce noise by 29db) and then have Headsets, Inc. knock off another 20db with their ANR unit, install a mike and send you on your way. You can purchase several bells and whistles in the form of optional power systems, including a cigarette lighter adaptor, panel mount systems, or gel-filled ear seals (for the Peltors) for that extra special cushy fit.
Whirlwind Weighs In With Sales, Not Pounds…
A fairly new entrant into the prop market is Whirlwind Propellers Corporation, which began shipping composite constant speed props in 1995 — attracting attention from the experimental and aerobatic aircraft niche markets. Now, there are about 100 Whirlwind props delivered, and the 200 Series is pulling around the likes of Pitts, carbon fibre hard-core aerobatic G-200s, One Designs and Lasers. A fair number of considerably "less aggressive" aircraft including Europas and Pulsars are also being dragged along behind another model, the 100-series propeller. It is the lightest (9.2 pounds) constant-speed prop available and it’s spinning on Europas and Pulsars at 5000 rpm all day long. Note: the big ones (74-79" diameter) are lighter than popular competition, too — they’re also less expensive. The 200 series runs about $7,500. The company expects to expand its product line of two and three blade props to include two more lines: an improved aerobatic prop and a sportplanes special designed to weigh-in at 20 pounds for the Lycoming 0-360. Praise be if those reviews match the ones we’ve heard from folks flying the company’s current series … and the current series proves to have some longevity along with the solid performance they seem to be putting out. You can get more info at their web site.
…And QCS Bends Theirs — On Purpose
Hoping to copy the success of Whirlwind, a new and long-awaited hopeful arrives in the form of QCS Propellers, which is flying its 70" prototype but has yet to deliver any to customers. That’s not all bad though, we talked to Michael Smith, Jr., product manager for the company, who said they’ve learned from recent experience (Michael’s building a Glasair) and they insist on taking deposits in escrow only. What’s more, the company says they offer a 30-day moneyback guarantee on any prop they sell, giving you some time to figure out if your $3,000+ investment was a mistake or not. Hard to lose on that bet. Smith says the "aerolastic" props are "quasi-constant-speed" hence the name. Here’s the pitch: The properties of the entirely composite blade structure allow it to change pitch under different pressures at different airspeed. That means it mimics the benefits of a constant speed propeller but saves the weight and complexity. The prop is also supposed to be rather hearing-friendly, putting out about 6 db less noise than a comparable metal prop, and is expected to go to work best in the 160 mph environment. There is more information of this unique prop at their web site.