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Meigs' Fate Looks Grim

State Protection Fails...

Airport supporters fighting to save the historic Meigs Field's in Chicago lost what might be their last battle Saturday as the Illinois legislature passed a state budget bill that included $6.6 billion to modernize O'Hare Airport and no relief for Meigs. Friends of Meigs had been lobbying for weeks to include in the bill wording that would repair Meigs and reopen it, but the bill passed without that amendment. A disheartened FOM President Steve Whitney told AVweb the group plans to investigate congressional lobbying but Whitney admits it's a longshot. "We're getting toward the bottom of the barrel," he said. "We're just going to regroup a little and see what our options are," he said. It also appears that AOPA has thrown in the towel. A May 31 story in the Chicago Sun-Times says AOPA has withdrawn its federal suit against the city over Meigs. There are now no legal barriers to impede Mayor Richard Daley from getting his wish and finishing the destruction he started March 30. Meigs was supposed to be safe until June 4, but a ruling from an Illinois court on Friday changed that. On May 23, after a lower court had upheld the city's right to destroy the airport, the Illinois Appellate Court agreed to an emergency stay on that decision until June 4. For reasons not clear to us, the same court lifted the stay on Friday. On the Friends of Meigs Web site, the group states that it doesn't have the "prospects or resources" to challenge that ruling, so it concentrated on goings-on in the legislature. Early Saturday morning, after a night of political shell games and allegations that some key senators were lobbied into reversing their positive vote on including a Meigs amendment, the legislation was passed by the Senate, without measures to save Meigs, by a margin of 40-19. The House passed the bill later that day, despite last-ditch lobbying by the Friends of Meigs.

...Demolition Could Take Months

So what happens now? In the immediate future ... probably not much. With the courts and the legislature on his side, Daley has all the time in the world to finish the job at Meigs. "We have no plans to do anything anytime soon," said Daley spokesman Roderick Drew. City officials said they would be going out to tender on the project, which would involve removal of all the paved surfaces, demolition of the buildings and control tower and other airport infrastructure. After the rubble is cleared and environmental issues cleared up, the Chicago Park District can begin construction of the park that Daley has always wanted there. Friday, both Friends of Meigs and AOPA considered further legal action but they apparently backed off when a U.S. District Court judge refused to block further demolition and told AOPA it had a "very slim" chance of winning its case. AOPA and FOM were basing their legal challenges on Daley's failure to provide 30 days notice of the airport closure as required by the FAA. FOM also alleged the process leading up to the middle-of-the-night destruction of the runway violated the state's open-meetings law. In the end, all the judges involved ruled that Chicago's Mayor had a right to do what he wanted with facilities Chicago owns.

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Two Hot Prototypes Skip Oshkosh

Sino Swearingen Regroups After Crash...

Others will be present, but two of the most talked-about new aircraft now under development will be skipping EAA AirVenture this year. Sino Swearingen and Diamond Aircraft have both decided to keep their hottest new prototypes, the SJ30-2 bizjet and the DA-42 Twinstar, respectively, in their test programs rather than put them on display at Oshkosh. In Sino Swearingen's case, the decision to pull out of Oshkosh followed a test-flight crash that killed chief test pilot Carroll Beeler last month. The NTSB's preliminary report is now available online and includes comments from the chase-plane pilot who witnessed the event and communicated with Beeler during the accident. The crash may have sparked rumors of the San Antonio company's imminent demise. "That is not true," said Sino Swearingen VP Gene Comfort. "I totally flatly deny it." "We are working our butts off around here." Comfort said the test-flight tragedy did set the program back and staff are now trying to get back on track by outfitting the second flying example of the sleek little jet with all the test booms and monitoring equipment needed for test flight. A third example is also nearing its inaugural flight. He said he made the decision to skip Oshkosh so the test program wouldn't be further delayed. "They were all really understanding (at EAA)," he said. Comfort wouldn't elaborate on the revised test-flight schedule but said a news release would be forthcoming. "I can say we are aggressively going after certification," he said.

...TwinStar Stays In Europe

Nobody's currently speculating on Diamond Aircraft's longevity but there's sure to be disappointment that the innovative and efficient TwinStar will be staying home in Germany. Diamond's North American CEO Peter Maurer told AVweb the company considered bringing the only flying example of the diesel-powered twin to Oshkosh, but that would have put a two-month dent in the test program. "We just couldn't justify it," said Maurer. Diamond will, of course, have a display at AirVenture and there will be plenty of information on all its products (which are sold out through November), including the D-JET, now under development. Maurer said the TwinStar test program continues to turn up impressive performance and fuel economy numbers and all that data will be available at Oshkosh. He's also not ruling out a gasoline-powered version of the TwinStar although no decisions have been made in that direction, yet. Maurer said he's still not sure what airplanes he'll be able to showcase at Oshkosh, however. Aside from the company's 2003 production being sold out through early winter, impatient customers have emptied the London, Ont. showroom and flown away the demonstrators as well.

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The Good Side Of Bad News

300 Cessna Jobs Spared...

Good news in the aviation industry, these days, is when the bad news isn't as bad as everyone thought. The bad news Friday for 900 Cessna workers is that they were laid off. At the same time, it was good news for 300 workers who were told in March they'd also be laid off but found themselves spared. "The original purpose of our reductions was to match our work force with out production rate," Cessna's Jessica Myers told The Wichita Eagle. "With the 900, we were able to do that." The layoffs brought the number of jobs lost at Cessna to 3,025, leaving 8,300 ... until today. About 6,000 employees began a seven-week furlough today. All the cuts and furloughs come as Cessna continually revises its sales projections downward. Estimates now include up to 190 business jets built this year ... down from an early projection of 250, which later dropped to 220. A key factor in the drop was cancellation of a big order by NetJets, Cessna's biggest customer.

...Bombardier Keeping Wichita Plant...

Bombardier's good news for Wichita is that it will keep building the Learjet 60, 45 and 40 there. However, it also currently builds two other bizjets, the Lear 45XR and Challenger 300, in Wichita, and CEO Paul Tellier did not mention those models in his conversation with the Eagle. He did, however, say he was pleased with the red-carpet treatment Bombardier has been getting from local and state governments. "They are doing everything they can to provide an environment conducive to us being competitive," Tellier said. Earlier this year, Bombardier announced that one or more of its six plants worldwide would close and that Wichita had the highest costs. But employees stepped up with a wage freeze and benefit concessions. The city recently forgave $36,000 a year in rent on land, and the city and county agreed to split the $550,000 cost of paving Learjet Way. And local government is also making a pitch on Bombardier's behalf to fund improved navaids at the airport. Now, according to spokeswoman Dominque Dionne, there are no plant closures planned and the company continues work with staff to reduce costs.

...Boeing Says Worst Is Over

Chicago-headquartered Boeing joined the better-news flurry with CEO Phil Condit's prediction that the worst is over for his company. Condit told the Chicago Tribune that most of the 35,000 people Boeing had planned to cut are already gone. "There will be some more [layoffs] ahead but not many," he said. "We are virtually on those low production rates now." He said 9/11, the war in Iraq and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) combined to knock the stuffing out of the big airplane business. "It is the worst downturn since airplanes existed," he said. SARS remains the biggest unknown. With new cases being reported in North America and the disease still running its course in Asia, Condit said it's unknown how long SARS will discourage people from traveling. Despite all the uncertainty, Condit said he's sticking to his prediction the company will build 280 airliners this year, but Moody's Investors Services has downgraded Boeing's credit quality from stable to negative with fears some of those orders will be canceled or delayed.

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New Certifications Rules Help Manufacturers

U.S. aircraft manufacturers will more effectively compete with their European counterparts when the FAA allows them to sign off on large parts of their own new designs. Walter Desrosier, manager of maintenance and engineering for the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, said a new regulation creating "certified design organizations" (CDOs) will bring U.S. regulations in line with similar type-certification processes in Europe. "It gives manufacturers a greater level of control over the certification process," Derosier said. "It allows them to plan the certification process better." New legislation is pending before the Senate and the House to create the new rules. If passed, it will take up to seven years to put the new system in place. Derosier said CDOs, after being thoroughly reviewed and scrutinized by the FAA, will be able to certify, as airworthy, various parts and systems of new aircraft that they have demonstrated they have the knowledge and expertise to properly build. The FAA isn't absent from the process, Derosier said, but acts in an oversight role, rather than actively inspecting each component. He said there will always be parts of new airplanes that the FAA will directly inspect but the new system will allow the agency more flexibility to devote its limited staff resources to new technologies or new applications of technology. "It will allow them to focus in on areas that require FAA involvement," he said. Desrosier said the current number of inspectors is not keeping up with the growth in the industry and the CDO proposal will take some of the burden off the FAA. "It will allow them to leverage their human resources," he said. It may do wonders for some manufacturers, too.

Four-Place RV-10 Flies

All that performance and room for four? Van's new RV-10 reportedly showed the same spirit as its two-place predecessors (albeit with a larger engine) as it leapt off the runway in 450 feet on its maiden flight Friday. The family-sized version of the world's most popular kitplane -- 3,261 of Van's Aircraft have been completed and flown, so far -- took off with "Van" himself at the controls and spent about half an hour doing basic control input checks and monitoring engine temperatures. The successful first flight was completed on schedule and that means kits may be available by the end of the year. Quick-build versions will be available and partial quick builds are being considered. According to the Van's Web site, the boss was happy with his company's newest creation: "Van described the RV-10 as a very pleasant airplane to fly." With a six-cylinder IO-540 (260 hp) up front, the RV-10 is designed to give the same type of performance as a 180-hp RV-7A, which is a 200 mph cruise and 1,600 fpm climb. Engine options might range as low as 200 hp. The RV-10 has a useful load of about 1,100 pounds and carries 60 gallons of fuel.

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Electric Columbia Certified

It looks like your standard Columbia but Lancair Certified's latest certificated model has some important innovations under the cowl and behind the panel. The Lancair 350 is an all-electric version of the Columbia and is the second to gain FAA type approval. Instead of notoriously troublesome vacuum systems, the 350's instruments and avionics are all electric. For redundancy, it has two batteries, two alternators and two electrical buses. The redundant electrics allow installation of the latest electronic avionics, including an optional dual flat panel, Avidyne FlightMax Entegra. Better ventilation and provision for future air conditioning and de-icing systems round out the package. The all-electric platform will form the basis for all designs in Lancair's immediate future, including a turbocharged version that's next up. Meanwhile, Transport Canada, last week, gave type approval for the original Lancair 300 design. "We've had a lot of customer interest out of Canada," said spokesman Mark Cahill. The company will also move quickly to get Canadian approval for the 350 model and the turbocharged version when it's ready.

Rutan Begins Spacecraft Test Flights

Burt Rutan and his Scaled Composites crew appear to be making a good run in the race for the first civilian spacecraft and the much-hyped X PRIZE. According to the X PRIZE Web site, Rutan has conducted captured carry flights of his SpaceShipOne suborbiter on the launch aircraft, called White Knight One. Next up on the schedule are drop and glide tests followed by powered tests. Rutan may be the one to beat, but he has plenty of competition. A Romanian team has successfully tested its kerosene rocket engine but more tests are needed to make it safer and more economical. The Canadian contestant is the da Vinci Project's Wild Fire. A helium balloon will carry the spacecraft to 80,000 feet above the Saskatchewan prairie before the rocket is ignited for the rest of the trip. Another Canadian attempt will be made from a barge in Lake Huron, using a rocket based on the Second World War V-1. The South American entry is planning a conventional vertical launch with parachute recovery from Argentina.

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For The Record...

Two of our stories Thursday left some readers with the wrong idea. First, the NTSB has not issued an official probable cause regarding the January 8 crash of the Air Midwest plane in Charlotte. A final report and determination of probable cause is not expected until late this year. Next, Robbie Gordon did drive in two races on the same day, but was not able to exit the Indianopolis 500 via helicopter due to FAA restrictions. He was driven by golf cart, then car to the airport. And the Indianapolis 500 is raced by Indy cars. We apologize for the errors and any confusion.

On The Fly...

Relaxation of the terrorist threat alert to yellow means orange-level flight restrictions have been taken off. The gateway airport requirements for the DC-3 airports have been eliminated and waivers are being issued for sports stadium overflights and for operations in the National Capital Region. Check the NOTAMs...

Air France's last Concorde flight left New York Saturday for Paris. Air France says it decided to end its supersonic era after a deadly crash, maintenance costs and decreasing ridership turned the four-hour transatlantic service into a money-loser. British Airways will stop its Concorde service in October...

The National Business Aviation Association has named a former United Air Lines executive as its new president. Shelley Longmuir was senior vice president for international/regulatory and governmental affairs with UAL. Longmuir takes over from Jack Olcott on June 24...

This year's all-women Air Race Classic will end in Kitty Hawk. The 1905-mile race will begin June 21 in Pratt, Kan., and wind its way to Kitty Hawk on June 24. About 40 teams are entered and top prize is $5,000...

Charles "Charley" Celli has been appointed VP and manager of Gulfstream's Dallas operation. Celli was director of service center operations at Gulfstream's Savannah facility. Celli has come up through the ranks. He started out as a structure and fuel tank mechanic in 1987...

Boeing set a record for the heaviest takeoff weight of a twin-engine airplane when it launched a 777 ER from Edwards Air Force base weighing 774,600 pounds, about 25,000 pounds over its certificated weight. Boeing wanted to overload the plane to test various takeoff conditions without refueling...

AOPA has published arrival procedures for its annual fly-in June 7. Procedures differ this year because of the Washington ADIZ and Camp David prohibited area. It doesn't get any easier on the ground. Wet weather and construction at Frederick Municipal Airport have limited parking areas.

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Short Final...

While flying in Saturday morning around 10:30 am to the EAA southwest show at New Braunfel's (BAZ), the very busy tower and an experimental aircraft on final had this exchange.

Experimental ABX: "Tower, experimental ABX, I'm dodging a bunch of airplanes.

Tower: "Good, keep dodging. You're number 4 on final."

Contributions to Short Final are welcomed at


AVweb's AVscoop Award...

Congratulations and an AVweb hat go out to Jason Tiggs, this week's AVscoop winner. Submit news tips via email to Rules and information are at

New Articles and Features on AVweb

As the Beacon Turns #64: Fly-In Season Secrets
More fly-ins equals more pilots equals more dumb things happening in the pattern. AVweb's Michael Maya Charles had the opportunity to spot more than one example on a recent weekend, and has suggestions for how to prevent yourself from becoming the next such example.

Oil Analysis: What It Can and Can't Do
Oil analysis can help predict some types of problems, but it can't help with all of them. We clear up some misunderstandings and present some realistic expectations for using it as one of many tools that can keep your engine running well.

Reader feedback on AVweb's news coverage and feature articles:

Reader mail this week about the FAA Wings Program, delays with the Sport Aircraft regulations and more.

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Let's all be careful out there, okay?

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