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Beyond The Spin…
Aside from what various alphabet groups, trade associations and unions would like to take credit for, H.R. 2115, Flight 100 -- Century of Aviation Reauthorization Act offers important measures that could shape the way we fly for decades to come. Sec. 416, through privatization of the aircraft certification process, may do nothing less than create a fundamental shift in the FAA's function and mandate. Another section of the bill calls on the president to appoint a task force of representatives of airlines, GA, pilots, air traffic controllers as well as the FAA and at least five other government departments. Their task will be to "transform the nation's air traffic control system and air transportation system to meet its future needs." Creating new methods to certify new aircraft might be easier and according to the current wording will go something like this: Within three years, the FAA must have a plan that would when executed grant the FAA the ability to certificate "design organizations." Such organizations would (seven years from the enactment of this legislative package) be endowed the power to sign off on new aircraft without the involvement of FAA inspectors. Another forward-looking section of the bill establishes the Next Generation Air Transportation System Joint Program Office. The task force will have one year to report back to the president and Congress on its findings.
...Addressing Headlines And Bottom Lines...
The current debate over missile defense systems on airliners may seems apparent in Sec. 427, which creates a task force to speed up the transfer of military technology to civilian aircraft. There are perhaps other innovations developed for military aircraft that would improve civilian aircraft and the task force, again appointed by the president, will have a year to make its recommendations. The motives behind some sections are not quite as clear. If H.R. 2115 passes intact, Sec. 41722, Notice Concerning Aircraft Assembly will mandate airlines to tell passengers, by way of placard, where the aircraft was built, be it the U.S., Canada, Brazil, Britain or, dare we say, France. While some might speculate such information may affect a pilot's decision to engage in forceful rudder reversals during an encounter with wake turbulence, it's a bigger stretch to comprehend what impact the information would have on a passenger who just wants to get from Cleveland to Boston on time. Our sifting of the details also uncovered a provision that would encourage airlines to offer their lowest discount fares to military personnel without all the advanced booking requirements the rest of us must go through. The bill suggests it is the airlines' "patriotic duty" to accommodate the "unique demands of military service" that might keep soldiers from keeping an eye out for the best rates.
...Maintenance Oversight And Progress
In some cases, the proposed bill fixes an established or emerging problem. Sec. 419 clarifies a long-standing rule requiring aircraft manufacturers to provide essential maintenance information on their products to any and all who might need them. According to the Aeronautical Repair Station Association, some manufacturers have tried to limit competition for maintenance services by withholding the information, known as Instructions for Continued Airworthiness (ICAs), or by charging exorbitant rates for the material. The proposed bill compels manufacturers to make ICAs available at cost. And then there are the ongoing problems like airport congestion. H.R. 2115 contains dozens of sections aimed at revving up the airport-expansion process. One key section calls for all the various approvals processes to be carried out at the same time, rather than one after another. And since environmental considerations have a way of delaying airport progress, the bill grants far reaching power to the Secretary of Transportation in that regard. Under Sec. 47172, the secretary has 120 days to draw up a list of airports exempt from the normal environmental reviews required under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 for projects at airports. And while the focus is primarily mega-hub airports, there are some far-flung facilities that are getting some attention. Take, for example, Midway Island Airport in the South Pacific. The 6.2 square miles of coral atoll, a U.S.-owned dot in the ocean, has no roads, no farms, no industry and only 40 permanent residents, but the bill sets aside more than $5 million for capital improvements to the airport over the next four years to maintain it at commercial airport standards. The bill says Midway is "critical to the safety of commercial, military and general aviation in the mid-Pacific Ocean region."
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GA Numbers Are Up...
Well, if the assembled nabobs of the aviation industry were bracing for yet another doom-and-gloom speech, they must have been positively blinded by AOPA President Phil Boyer's rose-colored glasses Wednesday. Boyer told the Aero Club of Washington that general aviation is bucking the trends and showing healthy growth in most areas. He said most of the key indicators, including aircraft sales (piston singles), student pilot enrollment and aviation equipment sales are up, perhaps not as much as everyone would like, but up nonetheless. He also said AOPA's membership is up (396,754) and those members are bullish on aviation, as evidenced by a poll that asked them whether they were optimistic or pessimistic about the future. "Even in these times of uncertainty and heightened security restrictions, a full two-thirds of our members said they're optimistic," he said. Boyer told the Aero Club that public perception of the largely illusory security threat posed by GA is the sector's biggest challenge. He said it's important for GA to respond positively to those concerns to prove that it can police itself on security matters.
...But Companies Struggle...
While Boyer was accentuating the positive, however, some Raytheon employees were facing some grim realities. Raytheon Aircraft Services announced it will sell its Rockford, Ill., fixed-base operation to Emery Air Inc. Emery is Raytheon's neighbor at the Greater Rockford Airport. Emery says it will retain most of the 43 Raytheon employees and will remain an Authorized Service Center for several Raytheon aircraft, including the King Air, Baron, Bonanza and Hawker 400XP. Raytheon is also examining the possibility of outsourcing plastics at its plant in Salina, Kan. The Salina plant employs about 350 people and 60 to 70 people work in the plastics area. The company is also reviewing whether to send production of wire harnesses from its Wichita plant to a company in Mexico. It's all part of a plan to concentrate on final assembly of the aircraft and subcontract smaller work. The transition should be complete by 2006.
...And Laid-Off Workers Get Aid
Meanwhile, help is on the way for Kansas aviation workers who have already been laid off. As expected, the Kansas state legislature has ruled that all Boeing, Cessna, Raytheon and Bombardier workers laid off as the result of the Sept. 11 attacks and the economic downturn afterward are eligible for extended unemployment benefits. The workers will get an extra 13 weeks of benefits after regular unemployment insurance runs out, part of a congressional spending package passed in mid-April. The task now is getting the extra assistance into the hands of those really needing it. The Wichita Eagle reported that infighting within the federal Department of Labor caused delays. According to the Eagle, some in the agency disputed whether the GA layoffs qualified for the aid, which was primarily intended for the airlines. State officials now claim the debate has ended, opening the way to get cash to the needy workers. While the bureaucrats sort out the details, some laid-off workers will see their regular benefits end before the extended package kicks in.
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Security concerns scuttled race-car driver Robby Gordon's attempt to drive in two races on the same day last weekend. Gordon wanted to hop out of his Formula 1 car at the close of the Indianapolis 500 and get behind the wheel in time to start the NASCAR Coca-Cola 600 in Concord, N.C. Thanks to a two-hour gap between races and some pretty capable aircraft, supplied by co-sponsor Textron, he might have done it. But an FAA restriction on helicopter flights in and out of both racetracks ended Gordon's attempt. The original plan called for Gordon to board a Bell helicopter and depart from Indy's infield as the event wrapped up Monday afternoon about 2:30 CDT. He would have then flown to the Indianapolis airport, where a Cessna Citation X business jet would be waiting to fly him to North Carolina. At that point, another Bell helicopter would have taken him to the infield of Lowe's Motor Speedway, the site of the Coca-Cola 600. That race was slated to begin at 4:30 CDT. Since the FAA has banned helicopter flights in and out of Indy and Lowe's Motor Speedway for one hour before and one hour after the races Gordon was forced to drive a golf cart -- with a police escort -- out to his rental car, which he used to drive out to the Indy airport. Oh well, you can't win them all Robby.
If Boeing has its way, all aircraft they make would look nearly the same. In an effort to continually reinvent itself amidst the worst economic situation the airline industry has ever faced, the Seattle-based aerospace giant is trying to promote the idea of selling somewhat "standardized" aircraft. This includes offering jets outfitted with essentially the same equipment to its airline customer base. This, in turn, would noticeably bring down the cost per aircraft. This concept works for low-budget carriers -- like Frontier or Southwest -- who tend to operate very similar equipment, often from a particular manufacturer. But not all airlines share the same ideas on what an airplane should be. "Airlines will say to us, 'We like the idea of you guys making a standard airplane, just make sure it's the same as ours','' Kent Fisher, vice president of the Future Customer and Market at Boeing's Seattle-based commercial jet unit, told Reuters in a recent interview.
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A combination of an overweight condition, aft center of gravity and improperly set elevator control cables are to blame for the crash of a US Airways Express Air Midwest Flight 5481. This was the official probable cause reached by the NTSB at its recent public meeting on May 20-21. You may remember AVweb's initial coverage of the Beech 1900D, which crashed at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport on Jan. 8. Investigators determined that while the weight-and-balance issues were factors, they think the turboprop might have made the flight to the Greenville-Spartanburg Airport in South Carolina anyway had it not been for a mechanic's mistake two nights before the deadly crash. Investigators determined that when the elevator cables' tension were set, the control column was set too far forward, meaning the control column could be pushed forward only a slight distance before hitting its stops. Officials revealed in their report that a trainee mechanic admitted skipping several steps in the maintenance manual detailing cable tension adjustments, as he felt they were unnecessary. Initial reports that the plane might be overweight prompted the FAA to order a survey of average passenger weights, discovering that passengers today weigh an average of almost 21 pounds more than in 1995 at the time of the last survey, and they are carrying heavier luggage. As a result the agency has ordered an increase in the average weights used in calculating aircraft weight and balance.
What can scare the heck out of airport ground workers? How about a heavy jet departing a closed runway? Federal authorities are investigating the takeoff of a Federal Express cargo jet from a darkened, closed runway at New Jersey's Newark Liberty International Airport May 10. Authorities have not yet determined whether the incident was caused by the air traffic controllers, pilot error, or both. The Associated Press reported the A-310 came within 3,000 feet of a Port Authority crew working adjacent to the closed runway. The FAA continues its investigation and promises to eventually divulge the cause. This type of incident has made headlines before. In a March 28, 2001, speech by Carol Carmody, then acting chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, Carmody emphasized need to reduce the number of these types of incidents.
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The General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) has elected James E. Schuster, an executive vice president of Raytheon Company and chairman and CEO of Raytheon Aircraft Company, as vice chairman. In addition to being GAMA vice chairman, Schuster will also serve as chairman of GAMA's Security Issues Committee, a position he has held since November 2002. Prior to his current position, Schuster was president of Raytheon's Aircraft Integration Systems (AIS). Throughout his career, Schuster has held senior-level positions at AlliedSignal Aerospace in Torrance, Calif., and Westinghouse Electric Naval Systems in Cleveland, Ohio. The GAMA vice chairman position became open when Clayton M. Jones, president and CEO of Rockwell Collins, was named GAMA chairman on May 1. Schuster was elected to the GAMA board in 2001 as the new head of Raytheon Aircraft.
All 74 Spanish peacekeepers and crew were killed in a plane crash and explosion Monday in Turkey. The crash occurred during the Russian-made YAK-42's third landing attempt in heavy fog. The plane, which apparently carried ammunition belonging to the Spanish soldiers, burst into flames and exploded upon impact after hitting a mountain near the town of Macka...
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) could be patrolling the U.S. border by the end of the year. According to Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, the aircraft could be used to help fight illegal immigration and increase security along the borders. The Coast Guard is also investigating the use of ship-launched UAVs...
A memorial dedicated to the B-29 and its pilots was dedicated last weekend at the site of the Pratt Army Air Field, Kan. The nation's first air base to test B-29s and train their pilots was built near Pratt. The memorial honors veterans, prisoners of war and those missing in action from all conflicts...
Former astronaut Richard A. Searfoss has joined XCOR's board of directors. XCOR is a California company pioneering civilian space flight. Searfoss is no stranger to space. He was the pilot on two space shuttle missions and mission commander on a third...
MARV GOLDEN PILOT SUPPLIES WILL GIVE YOU A SET OF PELTOR HEARING protectors, outdoor safety glasses and first aid kit, a $50 value, with the purchase of any Peltor headset during May. See this and much more at http://www.avweb.com/sponsors/marvgold
*** PREVIOUS RESULTS ***
We received over 100 pictures last week. Congratulations to this week's winner, Ken Boetzer, of Scotts Valley, Calif. His photo titled "Crater Lake by Mooney" shows what general aviation flying is all about. This type of airborne perspective can only be captured by flying relatively low -- yet safe -- altitude over the breathtaking landscape. Great picture Ken! Your AVweb hat is on the way.
To check out the winning picture, or to enter next week's contest, go to http://www.avweb.com/potw.
**Due to privacy issues, AVweb does not publish e-mail addresses of readers who submit photos.
*** PREVIOUS RESULTS ***
We received over 300 responses to our question last week on the delayed release of Sport Pilot. So far, 31 percent of those responding indicate the delay of Sport Pilot does not cause them any concern, as the FAA has other priorities (national security, etc.) to deal with. About 21 percent believe it is awfully strange for this certification process to take so long. Only six percent weren't sure as of yet.
To check out the complete results, please go to http://www.avweb.com/qotw.
*** THIS WEEK'S QUESTION ***
This week, we would like to know your thoughts on flying this holiday weekend. Please go to http://www.avweb.com/qotw to respond.
Have an idea for a new QOTW? Send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Note, this address is ONLY for suggested QOTW questions, and NOT for QOTW answers.
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AVweb's AVscoop Award...
Congratulations and an AVweb hat go out to Taylor Mentin, this week's AVscoop winner. Submit news tips via email to email@example.com. Rules and information are at http://www.avweb.com/contact/newstips.html.
New Articles and Features on AVweb
Flight Data System's Air-Data Fuel Performance Computer
In a quest to bring some glass-cockpit technology to their homebuilt, a couple of guys created an air-data computer with a very simple interface, small size, and low price, but with all the necessary features. Mike Corder, like many pilots they met, wanted one for himself and brings us this review.
Say Again? #24: Bi-Annual Review
Over two years with AVweb, Atlanta ARTCC Controller Don Brown has discussed many safety problems caused by controllers and pilots who try to bend rules they don't understand. In this review, he notes some improvements and some ongoing problems, but he still loves what he's doing.
Reader feedback on AVweb's news coverage and feature articles:
Reader mail this week about Cirrus as the "Best of the Best," students in Class B and more.
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FLYING MAGAZINE'S JUNE ISSUE REVIEWS PILOT CURRENCY REQUIREMENTS; Cheap Jets Available Now; 10 Tips to Manage Summer Flying Safely; Minimizing Risks of a Midair Collision; plus all the columnists you've come to know and trust. Makes great Father's Day gifts! http://www.avweb.com/sponsors/flying
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