At AVweb‘s deadline, the outcome of an unusual hostage situation aboard a National Airlines jet at its gate at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport was unknown. At about 10:00 p.m. Thursday evening, a lone man walked onto Flight 192, a Boeing 757, as it was preparing to push back for a scheduled flight to Las Vegas. Once aboard, the unidentified man reportedly held a small handgun at the pilot’s head while passengers left the plane. Later, the man allowed the pilot to leave the plane with a set of demands, one of which apparently included contacting the Argentine Consulate in New York. At deadline, at least one member of a SWAT team had responded to the scene. The incident comes on the heels of a recent General Accounting Office report to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) entitled "Long-standing Problems Impair Airport Screeners’ Performance," which recommended that the FAA implement a long-standing plan for managing airport checkpoint screening.
British Airways’ Limited Aircraft Availability Forces Decision…
The Concorde epitomizes "Speed," this year’s AirVenture theme — its picture is everywhere on Wittman Regional Airport, and even on the cover of the official program — but the supersonic airliner will not be appearing at Oshkosh this year after all. Everyone seemed to be looking forward to its arrival, scheduled for today, despite the tragedy in France earlier in the week. The unique airplane has a certain mystique, an attraction undiminished by its recent troubles. But British Airways, which owns the SST that was to appear here today, announced yesterday that due to an ongoing inspection process undertaken in the aftermath of the Air France crash on Tuesday, none of their Concorde fleet would be available for charter operation. The number of aircraft in the fleet, of course, is limited, and the planes available are needed to fulfill scheduled service.
"People are disappointed," Dick Knapinski, EAA spokesman, said yesterday, "but there are still 12,000 airplanes here, and plenty of things to do." Ticketholders who had planned to go for a flight on the plane during its visit will be reimbursed, the EAA said in a statement. Concorde has visited the EAA event five times previously, from 1985 to 1998.
…While In France, The Investigation Continues
Yesterday, it was reported that tire debris was found on the runway, prompting speculation that a blown tire could have been a factor in causing the accident. The investigators also said that preliminary data showed the crew could not retract the Concorde’s landing gear after takeoff and that there were problems with both engines on the left side. Tuesday’s crash was the first fatal crash of a Concorde jet.
Certification, A New Facility, And More…
The folks at Diamond Aircraft have been bubbling with information at EAA AirVenture, all of it encouraging. A nice present came this past Tuesday, when the Canadian company learned their Katana 100 has been awarded U.S. certification. That means you’ll likely be seeing more of the two-seaters at flight schools around the country. Meanwhile, Diamond’s four-place DA40 should be getting European JAA certification August 10. Once that happens, the FAA’s okay for that bird will come much more quickly. Diamond is expecting U.S. certification for the DA40 by the end of this year, with deliveries beginning the first of next year.
Diamond wants you to see more of their company and is actively working to increase its U.S. presence. Errol Bader, vice president of sales for the U.S., told AVweb that the company plans to open a facility in the U.S. "in phases." The first phase will include a sales/marketing/parts distribution and customer service facility. Though Tennessee, Texas, and New Mexico made the short list for that facility, "Utah is at the top of that list," Bader said. After the first phase of the facility is up and running and in the "not too distant future," according to Bader, Diamond will begin producing the four-place DA40s in the U.S., likely in the same location. Why Utah? Well, local and state tax incentives and abatements certainly play a huge part, but Bader says quality of life, employee base and proximity to universities count, too. Though the company is looking to increase its presence in the U.S., Bader says that won’t be accomplished by decreasing presence north of the border. "We’d like to continue to build the C-1 in Canada," he says.
Diamond will also be increasing its exposure in the states by increasing the number of aircraft distributors from eight to 15. They’re also using the distributors as an information source. "We’re talking to our current distributors about what customers want so we can put together our next-generation airplane. We’re going through that process now. Should it be pressurized? Should it be a six-place? Should it have retractable gear?" Bader said. "We’re not locked into anything. Soon we’ll know what to do for the next generation, but once a decision is made, it will come to market fast."
…And Partnering Up In New Ways
At a press conference yesterday, Diamond officials announced a new and unique partnership. The company is working with Utah Valley State College in Provo to offer a professional pilot’s degree on the Internet. If you choose to take the course via the ‘net, college reps say, the so-called Global Aviation degree could be earned in as little as a year and a half. Flying would have to be done at an approved flight school. If you’d like to go to the school itself, you’ll be one of some 600 students in the Aviation Sciences degree program, and you’ll have your choice of 16 Diamonds that are part of the pilot fleet. School officials plan another news conference today to announce more of the details of the program and AVweb will have them for you.
CASPA Works To Return The ‘Ahh’ To Airshows…
What do you do when PattyblendsintoSeanbecomesIanorMatt and all the snap rolls and vertical climbs and heady gyroscopic maneuvers just start looking alike? If you’ve been to more than a few airshows, you might be able to relate. "Aw, I’ve seen it before," you might have said. A couple of years ago, a newly created group called the Championship Air Show Pilots Association, or CASPA, was saying much the same. Their quandary: what to do at airshows that was new. Their solution: a spectacular eye-popping event called the CASPA Challenge.
"We started talking about how to bring some competition to the airshow programs," CASPA’s Chuck Newcomb told AVweb. "At first, we considered a racing event, but that doesn’t have the same impact. Then we started talking about putting two (airshow performer) planes in the air at once. That evolved into the Challenge." The CASPA Challenge is as challenging as its name implies. Seven of the country’s best airshow pilots — this year it’s Sean D. Tucker, Ian Groom, Mike Goulian, Rocky Hill, Greg Poe, Gene Soucy, and Matt Chapman — took to the air at Dayton and will fly at Oshkosh and later at Cleveland with one goal: to beat everyone else. Never underestimate the power of flowing competitive juices.
…In Its Second Year At AirVenture
The Challenge kicked off last year to near-unanimous approval from the Oshkosh crowd. "This rocks!" yelled an excited fan during one round of the event. And the thing was, it really did. People jaded by the "normal" airshow routines were transfixed, applause was spontaneous. "This is the first time I felt the pilots were flying a show just for me," one man told AVweb.
During the course of an afternoon, the pilots fly three different elements. Included are a compulsory program to show that they can do the basic maneuvers, followed by an almost-anything-goes three-minute freestyle routine. The top vote-getters each day fly a head-to-head face-off, each in the air at the same time with just a 500-foot buffer between. Points are given each day, and winners are crowned after each airshow, so pride is on the line, as is a nice paycheck. At Cleveland and Dayton, the winners split $40,000. The top vote-getter at the end of the series takes home an additional $15,000.
During the four Challenge events last year, CASPA surveyed crowd members and was pleased with the responses. Over 80 percent of the more than 1,500 people surveyed said the Challenge was far more exciting than a series of normal airshow-type flights, and more than 55 percent told CASPA they would watch the Challenge if it was aired on TV. That’s the direction that CASPA is heading now. They are looking for a season sponsor to foot the bill for the fun, and eventually, would like the Challenge to become a for-television event. Until then, you’ll need to make a point to be at one of the big airshows that feature the Challenge and always remember to expect the unexpected.
Williams V-Jet II Presented to EAA AirVenture Museum
The presentation of the Williams V-Jet II to the EAA AirVenture Museum yesterday brought together some of the top innovators in aviation today. The presentation of the twin-jet, butterfly-tail aircraft by Eclipse Aviation was made by Eclipse President and CEO Vern Raburn. Also in attendance on the floor of the museum were Sam Williams of Williams International, Burt Rutan, and NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin. EAA President Tom Poberezny accepted the V-Jet on behalf of the museum.
Williams said the company developed the V-Jet II because it wanted to build a dramatic-looking airplane that would spur interest by airframe builders in creating new designs to utilize Williams’ turbojet engines. He turned to Scaled Composites and Burt Rutan to design, build and test an aircraft to test and prove the FJX series of small turbines. The V-Jet II was the result. It first flew in 1997, and came to Oshkosh that year. Rutan said he remembered seeing a mock-up of an aircraft Williams called the V-Jet at an NBAA convention some 18 years ago. Although the first V-Jet design was never built, Williams went on to design and build the FJ-44 series of turbojet engines, which Rutan called "the most significant engine in aviation in years."
Rutan said the V-Jet II was a lot of fun to fly. NASA’s Goldin said that evolution rather than evolution is needed to keep American at the forefront of aviation, and he saluted Raburn and Eclipse as risk-takers not afraid to fail in the attempt to advance aviation.
International Cooperation Eases Process For Canadian Ultralight Flights Into U.S.
The FAA and Transport Canada recently proved that is possible for two large government aviation bureaucracies to work together in a timely and sensible manner to benefit pilots. In this case the beneficiaries were Canadian ultralight pilots who wanted to fly into the U.S., and in particular, AirVenture 2000. With the help of EAA, the two government agencies were able to hammer out a policy in six months (lightspeed by government standards) that allows Canadian ultralight pilots to obtain a 180-day authority from the FAA by simply completing a form at the FAA web site and carrying a printed copy in their ultralight when they enter the U.S. However, to be eligible to obtain the special flight authority, the applicant must hold one of four types of Canadian pilot licenses, which are spelled out on the application form. Two Canadian pilots who flew float-equipped Challenger II ultralights to AirVenture 2000 were the first to take advantage of the new streamlined policy.
NASA Takes Benefits Of Space Exhibit On The Road
Oshkosh visitors have been speculating about what’s been going on in that loudly decorated semi-trailer parked behind the EAA Action Pavilion— Chuck Berry and Elvis are blaring out of the speakers, and there’s always a line to get in. No, it’s not a zero-g massage parlor— it’s NASA’s Benefits of Space touring show, based at the Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas. Run by the Technology Transfer Office, the exhibit is a 20-minute program that displays actual pieces of useful space-derived hardware, and also utilizes a 10-minute video. Albert Rodriquez, one of the volunteers from JSC who made the sacrifice to come to Oshkosh, works as a developer of biomedical hardware for the Space Station. "They send this exhibit all around, not just to airshows, but also to NASCAR races and other events, to show people how space technology benefits their everyday lives."
THINK Different For Ground Transportation After Landing At The Airport
A new division of Ford Motor Company, THINK Group, unveiled an electric-assist folding bike at AirVenture 2000 as part of a new line of zero-emission vehicles the company is developing. While pilots have probably seen folding bikes for carrying in aircraft before, the THINKbike Traveler is the first to offer an integrated electric motor to help you climb those steep hills or cruise for miles with little effort. You still have to pedal, just not very hard, as a twist throttle activates an electric motor to give your tired legs a very effective boost. THINK is claming a 16-mile range on a fully charged battery, and if the battery dies you can pedal it like a conventional bike. Though the THINKbike Traveler is quite compact when folded, it isn’t exactly light. Total weight is 50 pounds with the battery, and 38 pounds without. However, if you want the freedom of your own transportation when you get to your destination, and have $1,195 to spare, this unique bike may be just the answer. Currently THINK Group is only selling the Traveler only on their web site.
Magellan Passes The Torch to C-MAP
Owners of Magellan Systems’ EC-20X lapboard GPS moving-map display have been wondering about their future since the company recently announced it was withdrawing from the aviation market. Magellan Systems says it will continue to provide support for its EC-20X units in service, but the manufacture and sales of an updated version will be assumed by C-MAP Aviation. C-MAP aviation is a worldwide company headquartered in Italy, with U.S. offices in Mashpee, Mass. Trudy McCarthy, operations manager for C-MAP, announced today that it would distribute the new AvMap EKP II NT as an improved version of the EC-20X, with a 12-channel GPS engine and an 8-inch monochrome LCD display. "AvMap has been producing the C-MAP-based GPS system alongside Magellan for the past six years. We have always provided the software for the Magellan unit," McCarthy said. C-MAP has always been the ultimate source for database support for the EC-20X, she said, and owners will continue to be able to obtain updates from the same sources they are using now.
No Flies On These Fly-Market Vendors
The dusty trails of the Fly Market were clogged with browsers and shoppers yesterday, as sunny skies and warm, but not scorching, temperatures brought people to AirVenture 2000 in large numbers. Vendors were selling a lot more than airplane parts. T-shirts, hats, hand and power tools and collapsible chairs were moving, and there were the usual demonstrations of welding equipment and specialty tools. Vendors said they were doing better this year than last year, when unusually hot weather kept traffic down, at least for the first few days. Not only are they spending more, but one worker said "people are friendlier than last year," which we figure must be accounted for by the nice weather.