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This issue of AVweb's NewsWire is brought to you by Ö

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In The Name Of Security

Michigan Backing Down On Background Checks...

The Michigan legislature may just back gently -- and inexpensively -- out of its controversial law requiring criminal background checks for student pilots. Michigan passed the law late last year and AOPA has challenged it, with enthusiastic support from the FAA and Transportation Security Administration (TSA), in federal court. Perhaps faced with the possibility that the feds will quash the law, Michigan legislators seem to be letting a bill that would repeal the background-check provisions pass through with little opposition. Only a couple of weeks after HB 4704 was introduced, it's been vetted by the Committee on Veteran Affairs and Homeland Security, and its opponents placated with a simple compromise. What HB 4704 does is replace the existing background-check requirements, which the FAA and TSA have both said are federal jurisdiction, with a list of training standards aimed at making students aware of possible security threats and hazards and how to report them. To satisfy opponents to the new bill, language was added requiring students to hold valid student pilot certificates before training begins. Since the feds issue the student certificate, it's up to them to carry out whatever background checks might be necessary. Although AOPA is happy about the progress of the legislation, it's not dropping the lawsuit. A motion asking the judge to issue a summary judgment should be heard June 24 and AOPA hopes for a decision soon after.

...Banner-Towers Get Support...

While efforts abound to save the beleaguered banner-towing industry from "security concerns," what some might describe as a conservative Christian group came up with arguments to end the legislated TFRs imposed over Disney theme parks. The Virginia- and Carolina-based Family Policy Network launched a federal suit challenging the 3,000-foot, 3-nm no-fly zone because it hoped to share a message from above (so to speak) with those attending the Gay Day festivities held at (not organized by) Disney World in Orlando. "Government infringement of free speech rights cannot be based on speculation or mere possibilities," the group's lawyer, Brian Fahling, told the Associated Press. "The government, by its own admission, has no evidence Disney is a higher security risk than other theme parks." The group wanted to fly banners over the theme park reading "JESUS CHRIST: HOPE FOR HOMOSEXUALS.COM." Regardless of what anyone thinks of the message or motive, the group sounds a lot like some others we've quoted in the past when it cites justification for its banner-towing activities. In the end, a district court judge decided the group didn't make its case but the Christian organization found out free speech goes both ways when Gay Days organizers supported the Christian position on those rights, anyway. "I don't believe the no-fly zone should be there," Gay Days spokesman Chris Alexander-Manley told AP. "There was one group that was planning to fly a banner welcoming everybody." Disney doesn't organize or sponsor the festival but the theme park is the focal point for it.

...172s Used As "Threat" Aircraft

And in what seems to be the never-ending mission of federal security forces to protect us from terrorists flying Cessnas, the Pentagon was to have conducted a live test of just such a scenario over Washington, D.C., last Thursday. Although we haven't heard how it all worked out, the idea was for a couple of F-16s to intercept two Civil Air Patrol 172s over D.C. while antiaircraft missile crews and other forces responded from their ground stations. Apparently the F-16s were to minimize their use of afterburners in the pursuit. This type of exercise is nothing new and there were at least two held in May, along with drills involving cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles. The choice of the instantly recognizable Cessnas as villains and the resulting perceptions it might have raised rankled AOPA. "We're extraordinarily disappointed that the military essentially told the press that a Cessna 172 is being viewed as a 'threat' aircraft," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "There is no threat analysis we're aware of that suggests that these light general aviation aircraft represent any significant risk to the public." Boyer also claimed the publicity surrounding the drill added to the "unfounded public paranoia concerning GA aircraft." AOPA also wondered why the TSA was apparently left out of the loop in organizing the drill, since senior officials didn't seem to know anything about it until they read it in the papers.

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New Aircraft Keep Coming

A Jet For Your Canard...

What some people might consider the ultimate personal aircraft is now being built under the watchful eye of its creator. Les Shockley, best known for making jet-powered trucks the feature attraction at many air shows, has come up with a jet kit for canard homebuilts, like Long EZs, Velocities and Cozy aircraft. Shockley said the adaptation of a General Electric T-58 helicopter turbine, which he calls the Shockwave 800+, weighs just 300 pounds and can be set up to provide a range of power, up to about 840 pounds of thrust. The engines cost about $30,000, plus installation (and a liability waiver), and Shockley said he believes the combination of jet power and the canard design is a good one. "I don't see any problem with it at all," he said. "I think it's a hell of a concept." Les is currently finishing up his own 2.5:1 power/weight jet/canard combination. The Shockwave Firebird looks like a Long-EZ but with a beefed-up airframe, a 32-G (we assume that's ultimate loading) wing and two afterburning turbines that can pump out 1,500 pounds of thrust each on an airplane that weighs only 1,200 pounds. Shockley said that's almost twice the power-to-weight ratio of the hottest military jets and, when combined with the maneuverability of the canard aircraft, should result in a spectacular air show performer. "I just want it to be the neatest airplane I can build," he said. Although he's spent much of his life in more earthly pursuits, such as drag racing and the jet trucks, Shockley's no stranger to airplanes. He designed and adapted the jet engine addition to Jimmy Franklin's Waco biplane, which is one of the hottest air show acts in North America. He's also converted an SU-26 to turbine power and regularly flies his own Yak. He said he's had lots of help from some of the best aviation people in the U.S. to build the new jet and he hopes to have it flying by the end of the year.

...Liberty Nears Certification...

For those of us who prefer a more traditional approach, the latest spin from Liberty Aerospace is that it's nearing type certification on its XL2. The sporty two-seat FADEC-equipped sport touring airplane has been undergoing spin tests recently as the last item on a long checklist leading to that coveted paperwork. In a letter to customers and prospective customers, Liberty CEO Tony Tiarks said test pilot Leo Janssens has spun the airplane 136 times -- some of those episodes have been caught on video, now available through the Liberty Web site. The tests have included full aft center of gravity spins and deployment of a small parachute designed to help the test pilot get out of a flat spin if it developed -- which was not deployed in duress. According to Tiarks, the spin testing is almost done and the XL2 has passed all the tests. Assuming all keeps going well, he said the plane should be certificated by the end of July and the first deliveries can start in August.

...Cirrus Holds Reunion Fly-In

Maybe, in a few years, Tiarks will be sending out news releases like this one from Cirrus. The Duluth-based company announced that the Cirrus Owners and Pilots Association (COPA) will hold a fly-in at Duluth June 13-15. "As many as 100 Cirrus aircraft are expected to fly in for this event and we are very excited to have so many of the kids home," said enthused company spokeswoman Kate Andrews. The Duluth event packs a lot of activities into the three days. After an evening reception Friday night, Saturday will feature a mini trade show, factory tours, demonstrations, seminars and "private pilot instructions." Saturday night's the banquet and Sunday will see a repeat of Saturday's daytime events. The day will wrap up about 1 p.m. Earlier this month, about 75 of the 100 Cirrus aircraft sold in Europe so far gathered in Groningen, Netherlands, for the European COPA fly-in. About 800 of the aircraft are flying.

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Super Computer Offers Better Forecasts

We can look forward to more accurate, longer-range weather forecasting if the National Weather Service's new computer system lives up to its billing. IBM has clustered 44 servers together to create a byte-crunching monster that can do 7.3 trillion calculations per second. Its ultimate capacity is expected to be 100 trillion calculations per second by 2009. All that math adds up to a system that can take weather measurements from all over the world and project them forward to forecast conditions hours and days ahead. And, whether you get your weather from DUATS or over your cellphone in the cockpit, it should mean a better, more accurate picture. Of course, weather forecasting isn't just for aviation. One of the big pluses of the new system is its theoretical ability to provide five-day hurricane forecasts that will allow for better preparation by the communities that might be hit by the storms. Currently, a three-day forecast is available and that's not always enough to get people and property out of harm's way. The new computer is housed in a special IBM facility in Gaithersburg, Md., and data is transferred to the weather service over high-speed lines.

Canadian Controllers Threaten Job Action

Canadian air traffic controllers are threatening "job action," but that won't affect pilots and travelers immediately. It's illegal for controllers to walk off the job. About the only leverage they have in the current contract dispute with Nav Canada is to cease training new controllers, which would eventually lead to a shortage of qualified controllers. That seemingly minute arsenal didn't stop the union boss from talking tough. "Our members have waited 30 months and their patience has run out," blustered Buzz Hargrove, president of the Canadian Autoworkers Union, which represents the controllers. The last contract expired in March of 2001 and those 30 months since have not been kind to the privately run air traffic services company. A mediator's report has recommended controllers get raises of 2.5 percent in each of the first two years of a four-year deal and 2.75 percent and 3 percent in years three and four. Any substantial labor cost increases are bound to be reflected in the fees Nav Canada charges everyone from air carriers to individual GA pilots for services. Those fees recently went up an average of about 7 percent. The company is reeling from the reduction in traffic related to 9/11, the war in Iraq and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. Its financial troubles are compounded by the fact that its biggest customer, Air Canada, is now in bankruptcy protection and owes Nav Canada $43 million. Talks were held on Friday but there was no word over the weekend whether they were to resume this week.

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GA Pilots Recruited For Cockpit Study

If you'd like a glimpse ahead at future cockpit technology and wouldn't mind helping make it pilot-friendly, NASA and Lockheed Martin need you. You'll even get paid for it. The company is recruiting GA pilots to take part in a series of NASA Aviation Safety Program studies at the Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. The studies center around the development of future glass-cockpit technology and advanced flight-deck concepts dealing with safety and automation. There is particular interest in pilot opinions on Synthetic Vision Systems, which use computers and GPS to create clear virtual views of the outside world regardless of weather. The research is part of an ongoing program at Langley to reduce the aviation accident rate. Airline and corporate pilots are also called upon for their input. Lockheed Martin provides transportation, hotel, expenses and a stipend for anyone chosen to take part. Minimum qualifications for GA pilots are a valid medical, current private certificate and a single-engine land rating. Anyone interested in sampling the very latest in cockpit wizardry can e-mail or call Regina Johns at 1-800-766-9690.

AD Watch

The combustion heater fuel pump (model 91E92-1 or 91E93-1) in certain New Piper PA-34-200T, PA-44-180, and PA-44-180T aircraft must be inspected for leaks. If leaks are found, the pumps must be repaired or replaced.

The rudder torque tube and associated ribs must be inspected on various New Piper PA-31 models to check for corrosion. An inspection hole must be cut to accomplish the inspection. Comments on this NPRM will be received until Aug. 11, 2003.

An AD, effective July 28, 2003, requires owners of Pilatus PC-12 and PC-12/45 aircraft to inspect the front and rear pressure dome for damage and cracks and repair as necessary.

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Well-Respected Ultralight Pilot Killed

One of the best-known and most-respected ultralight pilots, instructors and sport aviation boosters died Thursday during a training accident in Alaska. Mike Jacober and his student Robert Pelkey were killed when the ultralight trike trainer they were flying crashed about two miles from the Birchwood, Alaska, airport. Cause of the crash is unknown. The smoking wreckage of the trike was discovered by fellow instructor Rick Huggett. Jacober was owner of Arctic Sparrow Aircraft Inc and was recognized by many as one of the country's top ultralight pilots. Jacober was an EAA technical counselor and flight advisor. He first started flying hang gliders in the early 1970s in California and, after moving to Alaska in 1975, put landing gear on a powered hang glider and helped start the ultralight evolution. In 1993 he rode thermals to an overflight of Mount McKinley, which, at 20,320 feet, is North America's tallest mountain. Jacober left a wife and stepson.

A Quick-Build Airliner?

Well, we have to wonder if there's a 51-percent quick-build version of the new Boeing 7E7 on the drawing board. The Boeing exec leading development of the super-efficient jetliner told a meeting of Washington State's Snohomish County Economic Development Council last Wednesday that the company expects final assembly of each jet to take as little as three days. "We're trying to get as much of the work done before final assembly where we bring the airplane together in relatively complete pieces and put it together in a relatively short time," Mike Bair told the assembled business leaders and other dignitaries attending the luncheon. Bair also let loose a few more details about the 7E7, saying it will have a range of about 8,200 miles, similar to the extended-range version of the larger 777, which is already in service. He said more composite will be used than in other Boeing jets and although it will be faster than the 777, it will be slower than a 747. Bair did not, however, tell the economic movers and shakers of Snohomish County what they really wanted to hear -- Boeing still hasn't decided where the 7E7 will be built. The aerospace giant is currently shopping the country looking for the best deal from communities that are expected to line up to bid for the new plant.

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On The Fly...

If you can't fly to a fly-in, then driving is the next best thing. Despite less-than-ideal weather, AOPA is calling its annual Frederick, Md., fly-in, or drive-in, a success. More than 3,000 people attended -- about 2,700 drove. About 120 aircraft fought through the clag to arrive IFR and a few dozen arrived Friday night ahead of the weather...

Illinois is the next state lining up for extended unemployment benefits for workers laid off in the airline industry slump. The Illinois Department of Employment Security is sending out 200,000 applications to people who might qualify for an extra 13 weeks of benefits under a federal program...

Is the worst over for the airlines? According to Reuters, stock prices jumped up to 20 percent last week after news that airline travel is rebounding after one of the worst slumps ever. Financial analysts are even predicting that Continental Airlines could show a profit in June...

So who's screening the screeners? The Transportation Security Administration reported last week that it has fired 1,208 airport security screeners, including 85 convicted felons, after finding they had questionable backgrounds. The haste with which the screeners were hired and trouble with the contract for the company that hired them were cited...

Women in Aviation has named 100 most influential women in aviation and aerospace. There are some luminaries on the list, including air show pilot Patty Wagstaff and former FAA Administrator Jane Garvey, astronaut Judy Resnik and Russian cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova.

BE A PART OF THE FUN AND ADVENTURE OF AN INTERNATIONAL AIR RALLY The world's largest International Air Rally is being professionally orchestrated for July 19-26 in Ontario and Quebec, Canada with a total of $50,000 (CDN) in prize money! Aviators from all over Europe, Canada and the U.S., no matter what they fly, are invited to share the camaraderie and test their flying abilities while enjoying fantastic tourists attractions along the way. Come! Enjoy! U.S. residents find details at and European residents go to

Short Final...

An exchange overheard between departure control at a Canadian airport and a B727 pilot.
Pilot: Where's Annule?
Dep. Control: What is it ... an intersection or something?
Pilot: I don't know.
Dep. Control: Where did you see it?
Pilot: On the screens in the terminal. Lots of airlines go there but the flight's always cancelled.
Dep. Control: (laughter) Welcome to Canada, Monsieur. "Annule" is French for "cancelled."
Pilot: Ah. Oui, oui.

Contributions to Short Final are welcomed at

AVweb's AVscoop Award...

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

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

Reader mail this week about flying for business, the origin of GUMPS and more.

New Articles and Features on AVweb

CEO of the Cockpit #20: Don't Sweat the SEPs
That's Someone Else's Problems. Why get steamed over flyspeck mechanical glitches or boneheaded airline management when there's nothing you can do about either? AVweb's CEO of the Cockpit advises you kick back, grab some perspective and consider renting a sailboat in San Diego.

A Handle on Repairs
Owner-driven maintenance can mean swinging a wrench, but thorough inspections and involvement with the shop are often enough, as shown in this article from Aviation Safety.


Sponsor News and Special Offers

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