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Maintaining Your Older Aircraft…
Despite the best efforts of the manufacturers to convince us to buy new airplanes, the GA fleet gets older, on average, with each passing year and that inevitably raises safety concerns. And where safety is an issue, new regulations are not usually far behind. In this case, however, the FAA seems to be aware of the negative potential (i.e., extra cost) of more rules and, instead, is suggesting a less intrusive approach to keeping old airplanes airworthy. According to AOPA, the agency has, in consultation with AOPA, type groups and other aviation organizations, developed “best practices” guidance for maintaining older GA aircraft. AOPA says the Best-Practice Guide for Maintaining General Aviation Airplanes will be published in September and every registered owner of a single or multi-engine GA aircraft built before 1975 will automatically get one in the mail. Of course, one of the biggest problems with maintaining many older aircraft is that the companies that built them are no longer in business. The guide offers suggestions on how to conduct records searches and inspection routines for older aircraft and recommends type clubs as a source of information on specific makes and models. If you don’t get one in the mail, AOPA says it plans to post a copy on its Web site.
…Reducing Fatal Accidents
This and other efforts to make airplanes safe have generally paid off. Although equipment failures occur, most aircraft are operating normally when they crash. Earlier this month, FAA Administrator Marion Blakey told AVweb the agency is making GA accident prevention a priority through training and new technology. This year hasn’t gotten off to a very promising start, however. The FAA has set a “goal” of 374 fatal GA and Part 135 accidents for 2003 and by the end of July there had already been 299. By 2007, the FAA wants no more than 350 fatal accidents. Apparently, the only way that will be achieved is if pilots set similar goals, because human factors are by far the leading cause of aircraft accidents. The safety report shows that flying in bad weather and “low-level maneuvering” cause the most fatal accidents in fixed- and retractable-gear singles. In twins, failure to handle IMC/IFR procedures are what claim most pilots. Recklessness, judgment, fuel starvation and other human-related factors are all ahead of the most common aircraft-related cause, which is engine failure in the case of retracs and twins and system-related fuel starvation in fixed-gear singles. The report urges pilots to take their responsibilities seriously. “We are asking the flying community to be aware, be diligent, make good decisions and help us reduce the fatal accident rate,” the report reads.
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Lobbyist Wants Feds To Help 7E7 Project…
Boeing could be betting its commercial aircraft division’s future on the new 7E7 (if it’s ever built) and an aerospace industry lobbyist wants the government to hedge those bets. John Douglass, CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association, told the Associated Press the company shouldn’t have to go it alone in creating and selling a world-beater of an airliner. “I’d like to see the government recognize and say that this is our manufacturer, these are American jobs and we’re going to do everything we can to make this program successful,” Douglass said. Now, Douglass doesn’t have an itemized list (yet) of everything the feds could do to get the Dreamliner off the ground but he does suggest a public statement of support for the project by the FAA would be a good start, followed by a streamlined certification process. He stopped short of suggesting a cash subsidy, a la France and Airbus, but … Other analysts point out there are plenty of ways to put money in the pockets of companies like Boeing without cutting them a check. They point to the $17.2 billion deal to lease 100 Boeing 767s outfitted as air tankers as the sort of indirect subsidy being used to prop up the company. “This really is nothing new … ” said Seattle airline analyst Scott Hamilton. “There’s a real long history of Boeing benefiting from government’s largesse.” Boeing isn’t commenting on Douglass’ plan until it sees the details. The 7E7 is envisioned as a long-range, ultra-efficient, mid-sized jet that would trump Airbus’s A380 super-jumbo jet in the next-generation airliner sweepstakes. A top Airbus salesman has previously stated that any advances in aerodynamics or weight savings found in the 7E7 would likely be minimal and Airbus could counter the long-term efficiency savings in the near-term with lower sales prices. Without government help, Boeing’s development costs would likely prevent its matching discounted sales.
…Japan Prepares For Subsidy Program…
But could this good old American know-how end up being stamped Made In Japan? If Japan’s three major industrial firms have their way, the country could end up directly subsidizing their effort to build the 7E7 airframe in Japan. Mitsubishi, Kawasaki and Fuji are said to be lobbying their government to declare the 7E7 a “national project” and thus make it eligible for subsidies and loans. Parts of the 767 and 777 are made in Japan under the same national project designation. An industry insider told Reuters the government is almost certain to embrace the 7E7 as well. According to Reuters, only one American company is in the five-way race for the contract to design and build the 7E7 airframe. Vought Aircraft, of Dallas, is said to be battling the three Japanese firms and the Italian state-controlled Alenia Aeronautica. The Italian organization already builds wing parts for Boeings. As other governments and other companies line up for their piece of the 7E7, the fundamental decision facing Boeing is not by whom, but if, the plane will be built. The company’s board of directors is expected to make the decision next year with an eye to having the all-composite plane ready for delivery by 2008.
…Boeing Keeps Diversifying
Another 1,440 employees received layoff notices Friday, bringing the total number of job losses to 35,410. The latest round of layoffs takes effect October 24 and most of those affected are in the Puget Sound area of Washington State. But even if Boeing effectively bows out of the airliner business by not pursuing the Dreamliner, it could endear itself to millions worldwide (including us) with a potentially high-flying product that has nothing to do with airplanes. It seems Boeing researchers have devised a “better” anti-spam system with some unique capabilities and the company has spawned a so-called Baby Boeing spinoff called MessageGate. The Boeing system sounds like it works similarly to the plethora of other spaminators on the market for hard-wired computers but it also filters messages on wireless instant-messaging and text-messaging services. Apparently no one else had thought of that and it may be MessageGate’s niche in a very crowded market. While Boeing’s future is the topic of endless speculation, the grim reality of its present performance continues to take its toll.
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Owners of aircraft grounded by the imposition of the Washington Air Defense Identification Zone may soon be able to make a one-way flight out of the restricted area. We’ve heard lots of opinions about the hassle (and futility) of the ADIZ but lost in the controversy is the plight of scores of owners of ultralights, homebuilts and vintage aircraft that don’t have communications gear required to fly in the ADIZ. Short of hauling their aircraft on a truck to the nearest unrestricted airfield, these pilots have had no choice but to stay grounded since the ADIZ was imposed. It now appears EAA has convinced the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to allow most of the simpler aircraft to fly to friendlier skies. Those based at College Park, Potomac Airfield and Hyde Field will not be allowed to take part. The TSA announced Thursday the creation of a three-phase relocation plan for the planes. First, owners have to register themselves (pilot and owners’ full names, phone numbers and e-mail addresses) and the aircraft (tail number, aircraft location with latitude and longitude coordinates, radio and transponder capabilities) with the TSA by phone (571-227-1538) fax (571-221-2948) or e-mail (email@example.com) no later than September. 12. Then the TSA will come up with a plan and finally have the FAA issue a NOTAM. It’s hoped at least two weeks’ notice will be provided to allow owners to prepare for the flight. Watch AVweb for more details in the fall.
Big Brother or “guardian angel”? We’ll let the ethicists decide that one as an Albuquerque company releases its latest cockpit security device. Management Sciences Inc.(MSI) has developed a flight data and cockpit voice recorder that not only adds video, it can broadcast the goings-on aboard an aircraft in real time to a ground station. “We’re looking for things that tell you what’s happening before it happens,” MSI VP Kenneth G. Blemel told the Albuquerque Journal. “Its purpose is to be a guardian angel.” The company had already been looking at an improved black box for airliners when it landed a $1.5 million contract to build the Digital Download Flight Information Recorder for the Navy, which has since ordered hundreds for use in F-18s. Blemel said the problem with existing black boxes is they only give up their information after a tragedy. With the real-time monitoring abilities of the MSI device, he said ground-based personnel could see a situation unfolding and perhaps take action to deal with it. The box can also make periodic checks of aircraft systems. Besides aircraft, Blemel said the boxes could be used in police cars, fire trucks and other emergency vehicles or even in the home to keep tabs on vital systems.
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The Mooney Aerospace Group is claiming victory in its effort to revive the almost-defunct GA icon. CEO Nelson Happy said in a statement that in the first six months of the year the company finished and sold eight planes that had already been started before Mooney went bankrupt in 2001. With the addition of $1.35 million in parts and service, revenue for the first half of the year totaled $4.5 million. Happy said there is now an order backlog of 13 worth $5.4 million but it’s not clear how many will be all-new aircraft. He said the company, which bought the Mooney plant out of receivership in 2002, is pleased with its initial success. “Completing and delivering eight aircraft in the first half of 2003 is clearly an accomplishment our team at Mooney is quite proud of.” It also didn’t hurt that Plane and Pilot Magazine readers picked the Mooney Ovation 2 as their favorite new aircraft. Happy said they’re aiming to build 30 planes a year and achieve revenues of $15 million. A month ago, Mooney announced partnerships with several European companies and the launch of a two-place Light Sport category aircraft called the Toxo, a Spanish design to be built in Kerrville.
Seeing is believing and the dust raised by wingtip vortices is giving them away in a unique test at Denver International Airport. NASA and the FAA want to try predicting wake turbulence by listening for the wind it creates. The Wake Turbulence Research Program (WTRP) has installed a series of microphones at DEN and hopes to be able identify and characterize vortices (and hence their potential danger to following traffic) by collecting their sound signatures in varying conditions. But first they have to know what they’re hearing and that’s where something called the WindTracer Doppler Lidar comes in. The device, built by CLR Phototonics, of Louisville, Colo., is being used as the “ground truth sensor” for the WTRP experiment. By bouncing laser light off the dust particles swirling in the vortex, the WindTracer can tell the precise location of the wake. That information, in turn, is used to ensure the acoustic measurements are correctly interpreted. The goal of all this is to squeeze more airplanes into the approach to optimize airspace and runway use.
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What’s louder than an F-16 in full burner? Well, besides an F-14, it’s the collective voices of Melbourne (Fla.) International Airport neighbors protesting a military flight school next door. Residents near the airport shouted out Aerogroup Inc.’s operation at Melbourne saying the training provided F-16 pilots of the Royal Netherlands Air Force was too noisy and dangerous. There is some question about who was actually in danger, however. “We’re still getting death threats over the phone,” Aerogroup CEO Mark Daniels told Florida Today. The Dutch military apparently decided not to risk an escalation of the fight and cancelled a second training session. Aerogroup had hoped to ink a five-year deal to train the Dutch pilots and buy its own F-16s to train other NATO pilots. Company officials claimed they airport officials “welcomed them with open arms” for the estimated $30 million in economic benefits. But the welcome was soon worn out by hundreds of angry neighbors brandishing petitions and lobbying local politicians. “They were truly a noisy aircraft and truly incompatible with our community,” airport executive director Jim Johnson told the Orlando Sentinel. Aerogroup officials said they are moving operations but it’s not clear where they will go.
A set of heroic landing gear will get a place of honor at the Smithsonian. The gear from an Air Transat A330 held despite enormous stresses in an emergency crash landing on the Azores in 2000. The plane had glided to a 250-mph landing at Lajes after a fuel problem emptied the tanks over the mid-Atlantic. The gear is being restored before being put on display at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles Airport…
Australia’s revamped aviation regulations are paying off for manufacturers. Government officials claim the new regs, which are harmonized with U.S. and European rules, are giving companies like Gippsland Aeronautics an edge in the world market. Gipplsand recently sold the U.S. Civil Air Patrol some of its Caravan utility aircraft…
Forget homeland security or military uses, this UAV has an important mission. The Clark University UAV Applications Center in California recently tested a small remote control aircraft to help ensure a good vintage from area vineyards. During the cool months, temperature readings gathered by the UAV will help the vineyard owners tell when and where grape-killing frosts can cut their yields…
A southern British Columbia airport has been temporarily closed to GA. Kelowna International, a busy GA facility, has barred private planes so a fleet of firefighting aircraft can operate unimpeded. Commercial flights are unaffected. A massive forest fire is threatening the city and more than 25,000 of 100,000 Kelowna residents have been evacuated…
American military aircraft entered Russia in force last week but not for the purpose for which they were designed. F-15s, F-16s and a B-52 were featured at the Moscow International Air Show. The show was held at a once-secret flight test base…
A triple celebration of a century of innovation was a flop with fans in Bloomington, Ill. Wings and Wheels, marking 100 years of airplanes, Fords and Harley Davidsons, attracted just 2,500 people and organizers blamed the lack of attendance on poor support from community leaders.
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AVweb’s AVscoop Award…
Congratulations and an AVweb hat go out to Jeff Abernathy, this week’s AVscoop winner. Submit news tips via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Rules and information are at http://www.avweb.com/contact/newstips.html.
As the Beacon Turns #67: Mr. Herrick’s Great Adventure
After many decades, the National Air Tour is in the air again. Two dozen vintage airplanes will caravan around the country, landing at airports small enough that visitors don’t have to watch from outside chain-link fences. AVweb’s Michael Maya Charles has a preview in this month’s column.
All pilots are ambassadors for aviation, whether you want to be or not. How you treat non-pilots and aviation novices will have a big effect on whether you will get much support when someone wants to close your airport or put more restrictions on your flying.
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Overheard on tower frequency at El Monte, Ca. airport, several years ago…
Tower: “Cessna Nxxxx., say your location.”
Cessna Nxxxx: “I’m over here!”
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VANTAGE AND SPIRIT AIRCRAFT PROPERTIES BEING SOLD Visionaire Corporation’s intellectual properties: trademarks, drawings, flight test and performance data, marketing and customer contact list, and tooling and molds from more than 12 years of research and development for the Vantage and Spirit aircraft, are being sold. The Vantage, is a six-seat, single engine, business class jet, and the Spirit, is an experimental two-seat aircraft. The sale will be by sealed bid, according to bidding procedures approved by the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Missouri (Case No. 02-47804-293). Deadline for submitting a bid is September 18, 2003 at 01:00 p.m. (US Central Daylight Time). To receive a copy of the bidding procedures as well as information on how to obtain a bid package contact: Howard S. Smotkin
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Let’s all be careful out there, okay?
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