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Pilot Error, But…

Authorities Start Probe Of ADIZ-Related Crash…

The pilot involved in the D.C. ADIZ flight plan-related fuel starvation and subsequent encounter with trees last week four miles from Martin State Airport in Maryland has recognized his role in running out of fuel. “Ultimately, the pilot is responsible for what happens,” Dale Roger told The Baltimore Sun after he was released from the hospital where he received stitches for a gash in his head. But while Roger nurses the sore head (he and his two passengers suffered only minor injuries) fingers are pointing in a myriad of directions over Roger’s one-hour-long wait for ATC to find his flight plan. For one, although he did not declare an emergency, Roger did let air traffic controllers know he was short of fuel 20 minutes before the prop on the rented 172 stopped spinning. As AVweb reported Thursday, Roger was kept circling just outside the 30-nm Washington, D.C., Air Defense Identification Zone for more than an hour because ATC couldn’t find the flight plan necessary to allow him to enter the ADIZ and land at Martin. FAA spokesman Jim Peters told the Sun that Roger warned ATC he was low on fuel at 12:15 p.m. and by 12:35 p.m. the plane was nose-down in a bushy area of White Marsh. The NTSB has vowed to get to the bottom of it all. “We’re going to sort through it,” NTSB investigator Luke Schiada told the Sun. “A big part of this is going to be the air traffic control information — the timing aspects, what was said and when it was said.” Schiada said it will take six months to pull all the information together.

…”Inevitable?” Not So, Say Controllers…

The mishap has prompted calls for the easing of the Washington flight restrictions and some opining. AOPA’s Warren Morningstar told the Sun that lost flight plans are a common occurrence and a mishap of some sort was inevitable: “Because of the inability of the system to handle all the aircraft, it was only a matter of time …” Jim Crook, speaking for the Air Traffic Control Association (ATCA), disagreed, saying, “I don’t think they’re [ATC installations] understaffed.” Meanwhile, David Wartofsky, who operates Potomac Airfield within the ADIZ questioned the rationale behind all the flight planning, transponder codes and ATC attention. “Anyone can get a clearance within the 30-mile ring, so why even ask them for it?” AOPA and other groups have long maintained that the extra workload imposed on ATC by the flight planning and identification requirements of the ADIZ is too much for ATC staff to handle. In the end, AOPA’s stance as voiced through Morningstar that “The air traffic control procedures have reached pointless overload” is in rather sharp disagreement with Crook’s perception … and neither presents an immediate solution. For that, it seems we may have to wait at least for the results of the formal investigation.

…And Computers Could Solve It All?

And while the various constituencies discuss the human factors that led up to this incident, a scientist at the University of California in Berkeley has come up with a system he says keeps the pilot out of the security loop. Edward Lee proposes somehow modifying the avionics and flight-control systems of aircraft to cause them to steer clear of restricted areas and prevent pilots — or hijackers — from overruling them … with control inputs, anyway. The system (which has drawn the support of Boeing’s Phantom Works) would pinpoint the boundaries of restricted areas and any attempt by the pilot to breach the so-called “soft walls” would be met by active resistance from the airplane itself. The airplane would simply refuse to cross that line in the sky. Lee, who is apparently not a pilot, says he’s surprised by the negative reaction of those who do fly. “In general, pilots are openly hostile,” he said. Lee said he can’t understand the pilots’ position given the alternatives, which might include being reprimanded or even shot down for straying into restricted airspace. However, Boeing Phantom Works is sufficiently interested in the system that it is helping Lee test it on high-fidelity simulators and is asking the Pentagon for money for further research into the concept.

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Boeing Gets Aid Funds?

Group Protests $21 Billion Deal…

It’s the U.S.’s largest exporter and by far its largest aerospace company, so when Boeing stamps its feet, the ground shakes under most of us. Lately the Chicago-headquartered manufacturer has been attracting the attention of critics who claim Boeing is drawing too much from the government trough. The Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) has formally asked the House Armed Services Subcommittee to oppose a $21 billion deal for Boeing to lease 100 767 aerial tankers to the Air Force. The CAGW claims upgrading the existing fleet of 127 707-based KC-135s would cost $3.8 billion and it also points out that after leasing the 767s for 10 years the planes go back to Boeing. The company is also (according to some) seeing some extremely generous offers from states and towns as it dangles the carrot of 1,000 jobs to be won by the location that will build its new 7E7 Dreamliner. According to Baltimore Sun columnist Jay Hancock, various jurisdictions are rolling out the red carpet and the taxpayer dollars to lure the plant, with its 1,000 well-paying jobs, to their bailiwick. Hancock says Boeing denies it’s making tax concessions, loans, property and outright cash gifts conditions for locating the plant but what can it do if local politicians insist on coming up with the goods? Kansas is offering $500 million in bonds, cash-strapped Michigan and Texas are dipping into their depleted treasuries and Washington State, which is already home to most of Boeing’s business, is reportedly offering billions in incentives and has raised its gasoline tax a nickel to pay for a transportation package to appease Boeing, says Hancock.

…Help Not Always Appreciated…

But there’s apparently a limit to how much help the government can give before it actually starts to hurt business. No doubt with the best of intentions, the proposed 2004 Defense Authorization Act is laced with “buy American” provisions that some of the major defense contractors, including Boeing, say could make it harder for them to compete on the world market. The House version of the bill would require that 65 percent of every plane, bomb, truck or photocopier purchased by the Defense Department would have to be made in the U.S. That’s up from the current 50 percent. The list of products that must be 100-percent domestically produced would be expanded to include items such as ready-to-eat meals, tires and bomb fuses. Defense contractors are afraid the provisions will prompt similar protectionist moves in other countries, making it tougher for them to compete there. There’s also a concern that the bill could threaten the Joint Strike Fighter program, which is a multinational effort and would incorporate equipment and technology from several European countries. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) dismissed those concerns, telling The Washington Post he doesn’t believe the JSF program is threatened by the bill. “Other countries just have to understand … We have to do everything we can to protect our defense industrial base. That is a legitimate national interest for this country.” He told the Post the U.S. defense industry has become too dependent on foreign components, some of whom withheld shipments to protest the war in Iraq.

…And The Marketplace Decides

On the battlefield that the commercial airliner market has become, Boeing notched two significant victories earlier this month. The company sold 45 737s to All Nippon Airways and inked a deal with AirTran Airways for 50 Boeing 737s and another 10 717s, worth a reported $4 billion. The sales came after Airbus beat Boeing, which has dominated the budget airlines, for contracts with JetBlue and easyJet. AirTran’s CEO said his deal could have gone either way because Airbus’s bid was neck and neck with Boeing’s. According to an Associated Press story, a week before the AirTran contract was signed, Boeing’s financial arm exercised options to buy more than a million shares of stock in AirTran. On June 24, Boeing Capital Corp. converted about $5.5 million owed by AirTran into stock for $5.42 a share, which was a little more than half the market price of $9.42 per share. AirTran borrowed money from Boeing in April of 2001 to refinance debt. Boeing had already converted $12 million worth of debt to shares in an earlier transaction and still has another $13.5 million that it could convert. Boeing Capital spokesman Russ Young told The Seattle Times the June 24 transaction had nothing to do with the sale to AirTran.

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Rutans’ Birthday Out Of This World

Dick and Burt Rutan played gracious hosts to one of the most publicized “surprise” birthday parties ever held June 28. Their Mojave, Calif., Scaled Composites headquarters was descended upon by an estimated 105 Vari Ez and Long Ez homebuilts there to help the brothers celebrate their 60th (Burt) and 65th (Dick) birthdays. The gathering set a new record for the number of canard aircraft to gather in that spot, last won in 1988 when 82 planes made the pilgrimage to Mojave. The latest gathering has been in the works for months and word first got out about it in May. Those attending got an up-close look at the Rutans’ Scaled Composites entry for the X-Prize, the White Knight launch vehicle and the Space Ship One spacecraft. Burt Rutan told the crowd of well-wishers that drop tests of the Space Ship One would start soon. The party-goers were also treated to an advance performance of the Rutans’ EAA AirVenture presentation on personal space travel.

UAV Packs Worldwide Punch

What some might consider the ultimate military Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) is on the Pentagon’s drawing board. The Hypersonic Cruise Vehicle (HCV) will be able to strike anywhere in the world within two hours of a launch from within the continental United States. It will carry up to 12,000 pounds of munitions and be able to take off from a conventional runway. Such a capability will give the U.S. an enormous advantage in any conflict, anywhere in the world, according to the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). “The intent is to hold adversary vital interests at risk at all times,” the BBC quoted DARPA’s Web site as saying. “This capability would free the U.S. military from reliance on forward basing to enable it to react promptly and decisively to destabilizing or threatening actions by hostile countries and terrorist organizations.” The Pentagon hopes to have the HCV in service by 2025. Jane’s Defense Weekly broke the story and claims the U.S. is working on a shorter-term fast-strike weapon called the Small Launch Vehicle. Jane’s said it’s basically a bomb dropped from space that freefalls or glides to its target.

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Diamond’s Expansion A Blast

A potential blast from the past interrupted the massive expansion of Diamond Aircraft’s European headquarters last week. Employees were evacuated when workers digging the foundation of the new 100,000-square-foot composite facility unearthed a couple of unexploded World War II bombs. Diamond’s factory, at Wiener-Neustadt Airport in Austria, was the site of a Messershmitt ME 109 factory which was bombed heavily during the war. After the bombs were removed, work resumed on the expansion made necessary by overall demand and the introduction of the and D-JET. Another European manufacturer, EADS Socata, is in expansion mode, too. EADS Socata announced its Mexican sales will be handled by Latin American Training Aviation SA in Cancun. In a news release, EADS Socata VP Jacques Lordon noted that Mexico has the second-largest business aviation fleet in the world and most of the aircraft are 25 years or older. He said the high-temperature, high-altitude conditions of many Mexican destinations (Mexico City is at 8,448 feet) showcase the TBM 700’s performance. During a demonstration marking the signing of the agreement, a TBM 700 with six people aboard took off from Mexico City in 2,700 feet, a fraction of the distance used by some business jets.

Australia Issues Urgent AD On R22 Choppers

Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority has issued an urgent Airworthiness Directive (AD) for Robinson R22 helicopters after a failed rotor blade caused a fatal accident June 20. The AD requires visual and eddy current inspections of the blades and a special vibration warning placard in the cockpit. The FAA usually follows suit with emergency ADs issued in other countries. Australia issued this AD after an investigation showed the main rotor blade in the crash helicopter failed at the inboard end of the bolted joint. The Aussies are requiring the inspections at 1,500 hours and every 200 hours after that. The manufacturer requires the blades to be changed at 2,200 hours. The placard warns pilots experiencing an increase in rotor vibration to land immediately. The manufacturer has determined that unusual vibration can be a sign of a crack in the rotor. The AD also says that any R22 that’s vibrating abnormally must be inspected before returning to flight, regardless of hours.

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Prop Problems

If your airplane’s props were serviced by T and W Propellers, of Chino, Calif., they may need doing again and the sooner the better. An Airworthiness Directive has been issued essentially ordering a recall of certain props certified and returned to service by the company. The AD follows investigation of a prop failure on a Beech Travel Air that determined the prop was zero-timed by the company even though it had visible corrosion and a four-inch crack. Other props that had been serviced by the company, and offered for inspection by their owners to the FAA, showed a variety of defects. Compliance with the AD essentially calls for a full overhaul of the affected props. It affects 434 Hartzell, McCauley, Sensenich and Raytheon props serviced by the company since Jan. 8, 2000.

Russians Sweep Aerobatic Championships

Russians swept the top three places at the World Aerobatic Championships in Lakeland, Fla., last week. Sergey Rakhmanin edged Svetlana Kapanina, who held first place going into the final round of the four-round competition and was trying to become the first woman to win the title. Alexander Krotov completed the sweep. Robert Armstrong, of Athens, Ga., was the top American, placing fourth in a French-built CAP 231. He was in second place through part of the competition. Pilots fly four rounds, including freestyle, known compulsory and two compulsory rounds where the routines are given to them just before takeoff.

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On The Fly…

The July 3-20 Inventing Flight celebration in Dayton, Ohio, kicked off this weekend with a hot air balloon launch and a visit by President Bush. Events celebrating 100 years of flight will continue across the country through the year.

Fiat is selling its profitable aerospace division to prop up its ailing car business. The Carlyle Group, a U.S. equity company, bought 70 percent of the company while the Italian state-controlled Finmeccanica got the balance in the $1.7 billion deal. Fiat Avio makes engine parts, space propulsion parts, and components for the Joint Strike Fighter…

A bomb hoax evacuated part of New York’s LaGuardia Airport Wednesday. The car-rental compound was cleared after a suspicious package was spotted in a car. The fake bomb was two flares taped together with a clock attached. There was a real gun and real ammunition in the car, though…

A record total of 87 aircraft will take part in the EAA AirVenture Cup Race. The race will cover 1,000 miles from Kitty Hawk to Dayton and finally to AirVenture 2003 in Oshkosh. Only homebuilts and experimentals are eligible for the race.

Short Final…

The July 3-20 Inventing Flight celebration in Dayton, Ohio, kicked off this weekend with a hot air balloon launch and a visit by President Bush. Events celebrating 100 years of flight will continue at various locations through the year

Nearly fifty yars ago when I was a NAVCAD (Naval Aviation Cadet), one of our classmates had an accident. One of the accident board members asked him what he thought caused the accident.

His reply: “Well sir, I ran out of airspeed, altitude and ideas all at the same time.”

Contributions to Short Final are welcomed at


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AVweb’s AVscoop Award…

Congratulations and an AVweb hat go out to Phil Marks this week’s AVscoop winner. Submit news tips via email to Rules and information are at

New Articles and Features on AVweb

CEO of the Cockpit #21: Let’s Fix This Airline
Once again, AVweb’s fictional CEO of the Cockpit holds court in a high-flying bull session with fellow pilots and comes up with can’t-fail fixes for his fictional airline’s finances.

Why Twins Crash
Mostly it’s the usual suspects: fuel, weather and runway prangs. But poor maintenance is a surprisingly big player, as Aviation Consumer recently reported.

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

Reader mail this week about the plane crash after ATC denied clearance into the ADIZ, crashing into safe trees and more.

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AVflash is a twice-weekly summary of the latest aviation news, articles, products, features and events featured on AVweb, the Internet’s Aviation Magazine and News Service.

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Today’s issue written by News Writer Russ Niles:
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Let’s all be careful out there, okay?

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