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FAA Administrator Michael Huerta defended the agency’s rollout of the NextGen air traffic control modernization program to a blue-chip business audience last week, saying it’s ahead of schedule and its completion will be worth the wait. Huerta gave pointed remarks to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Summit in response to President Donald Trump’s comments after a meeting with airline executives that NextGen is “totally out of whack.” Huerta told the business leaders that his agency has made “tremendous progress” implementing the system and the savings to the aviation industry and government are just beginning.

“While I’ll be the first to acknowledge that we’d all like to move faster, I also firmly believe that any fair review of the past few years makes clear that our work together has been critical to the success of the tremendous progress we have made to revamp our air traffic system with the latest technologies,” Huerta said. “The FAA can demonstrate that it has already delivered more than $2.72 billion in benefits under the NextGen modernization umbrella. We expect that number to climb to $160 billion by 2030.” He said the rollout is already 29 months ahead of schedule and the resulting savings will allow it to expand the implementation of datalink services to seven towers beyond the 55 already earmarked. Trump has also doubted Huerta’s credentials for the job, suggesting a pilot should be in charge of the FAA. “He’s not a pilot? I just think a non-pilot would not know the sophistication of this [ATC] system, right?” Trump told the airline meeting.

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The pilot of a Hawker Hunter that crashed in 2015 killing 11 people may have confused the aircraft he was flying with another type, the U.K.’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch concluded last week. In its final report on the crash at the Shoreham Airshow in southern England, the AAIB said pilot Andy Hill, an experienced airshow pilot, hit the top of a loop 800 feet lower and 50 knots slower than required for the Hunter and was not able to recover. The AAIB noted he had recently renewed his airshow performance permit on a Jet Provost, which has different performance characteristics than the Hunter, and “a possible error path was that the pilot recalled the wrong numbers, essentially mixing up the two aircraft.”

Hill was one of the featured performers at the big airshow on Aug. 22, 2015, when his aircraft failed to recover from a loop and hit a busy freeway next to the airport. In addition to the 11 fatalities, 13 people, including the pilot, were seriously hurt. Julian Firth, the lead inspector on the investigation, said simply ruling the cause as pilot error would do a disservice to the cause of improving safety. “If we focus only on the activities of one individual we miss the really important aspects of public protection that should be in place to minimize the effects of an aircraft crashing.” One of the effects has been to shift warbird airshow performances to locations where the flying takes place over water.

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Normally it's a good thing when a pilot walks away from a crash but a Missouri man may have pushed that sentiment a little. Rather than trying to find the wrecked aircraft, Kansas authorities found themselves looking for its pilot last week. According to the Kansas City Star, Randal S. Shannon's shattered Maule was in plain sight in a farmer’s field. What was missing was whoever was on board the aircraft. After he finally identified himself, Shannon, of Drexel, Missouri, apologized. He had a meeting to make in nearby Roxbury.

Shannon reportedly told authorities that he was trying to land on a road when a gust of wind blew him into the pasture and the aircraft was damaged. He dusted himself off, got to his meeting and found another way home. He did call in six hours later but police wonder what took so long. “The lady (who spotted the plane) was freaking out,” Kansas Highway Patrol Trooper Craig Davis told the Star on Friday. “And I told him that (leaving the scene) wasn’t fair to all these other people who have to run lights and sirens down there — and you’re not even there."

Friends and colleagues of a Vancouver Island flight instructor paralyzed in a training accident are rallying around her trying to ensure she achieves a new dream of somehow continuing to work in aviation. Kristen Ursel, an instructor at the Victoria Flying Club, was with a student in January when their 172 clipped powerlines after a touch and go and ended up in brush at the end of the runway at the Duncan, B.C. Airport. News reports at the time noted she was trapped in the wreckage for two hours in a “complicated rescue” because of the live power lines and that she was taken to the hospital. Her complicated recovery is now the object of a GoFundMe campaign with a goal of $100,000 to get her from her hospital bed to a new role in aviation.

Ursel, who is also a single mother, broke her neck in the crash and was left with limited use of her arms and hands. She is currently in the G.F. Strong Rehabilitation Center in Vancouver where her friends report that her resolve to return to aviation is guiding her recovery. “Kristen is determined to one day return to work wherever she can in the aviation industry,” says the GoFundMe description. While her direct medical expenses are covered, there will be numerous additional costs to cover on her way back and the campaign is aimed at those expenses.

Angered by noise from Pilatus PC-12s operated by Surf Air, residents of San Mateo county have taken a new tack in their fight to shut down the operation. A proposed curfew ordinance, drafted by the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, would limit any operator to one takeoff and one landing of a “noisy airplane” between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. and prohibit all operations after 9 p.m. In a thinly veiled attempt to target Surf Air’s PC-12 specifically, the definition of “noisy airplane” is one whose FAA certificated noise level exceeds 74.5 dB. There are several PC-12 configurations, but the quietest one is rated at 74.6 dB. Surf Air has 19 departures from San Carlos on an average day. Five of those flights depart after 6 p.m. If a judge were to decide that the ordinance was specifically targeted at Surf Air that may make it illegal under a federal law prohibiting municipalities from enacting noise ordinances that are “unjustly discriminatory.”

Larry Ellison famously battled the City of San Jose over a curfew that prevented him from landing his Gulfstream V at San Jose International after 11:30 p.m. on the grounds that a restriction based on aircraft weight was “unjustly discriminatory.” He won. The proposed San Carlos ordinance has an exclusion for jet aircraft and helicopters regardless of noise. Mr. Ellison's flight operations company, Wing and a Prayer, has a prominent hangar on the field housing a smaller jet, which would be exempt from the noise ordinance and free to operate at night. Oracle Corp is the largest employer in San Mateo County with its headquarters located less than a mile from San Carlos Airport. The proposed ordinance also excludes government, medivac, emergency and pilot proficiency operations.

Update: A previous version of this article attributed information to an employee of the San Mateo County Supervisors. That employee felt the attributed information mischaracterized his statement. AVweb volunteered to remove that text to ensure the factual accuracy of the article.

Photo credit: Richard Silagi, Surf Air Pilatus PC-12NG N809SA landing at KSQL on December 2, 2014

The New Age Space Conference will convene March 11 at the MIT Samberg Conference Center to discuss the future of the commercial space industry. Barret Schlegelmilch, the conference organizer and an MIT graduate student, told AVweb the conference is “is one of the only places where you'll find entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, astronauts, startup founders and aerospace engineers in the same room. The space industry is undergoing a period of major growth and commercialization, and this conference is set to explore the next exciting directions it will take.”

The list of scheduled speakers includes representatives from Boeing, Blue Origin, NASA and Iridium, as well as many smaller organizations. Schlegelmilch wouldn’t pick a favorite, but told AVweb he was excited to hear from Natalya Bailey, CEO of Accion Systems: “Accion is a very successful startup out of MIT that is working to revolutionize satellite propulsion. Natalya should have some interesting stories about Accion's growth and great insights into how to create a sustainable business model for a startup in the space industry.”

The conference comes on the heels of SpaceX announcement that they intend to take two paying passengers to lunar orbit and back in 2018. NASA had planned an unmanned circumlunar flight in 2018 with humans to follow in 2021, but President Trump is reportedly pushing NASA to put humans aboard the 2018 trip, setting up an unlikely space race between NASA and private industry.

In our series on the growing world of aircraft refurbishing, we’ve looked at every phase of a total refurb from avionics to interiors and from engine replacement to paint. In this article we’ll deal with what is either the start or finish of a refurbishment—buying an airplane you intend to refurb or one that has just come out of refurbishment.

While refurbs are becoming an increasingly popular way to become the owner of an airplane that has most of the attributes of a new one at less cost, the rules regarding protecting yourself when buying a pre-owned airplane are the same whether you’re buying it for a refurb or because it was refurbed. And those rules boil down to one inviolable law—have a pre-buy examination of the airplane conducted by a mechanic you select who has had no connection with the airplane or the seller in the past.

As a lawyer, some of the most frustrating matters I’ve dealt with have involved airplane owners who bought without having a pre-buy conducted—or had one done by the seller’s mechanic—and then discovered that they’d bought junk and wanted their money back. One buyer thought he’d gotten a tremendous deal on a light twin—when he took it in for the first annual it was discovered to have extensive corrosion. It took three years and cost him half of what he’d paid to buy the airplane to fix the corrosion—and it was only one of the many things wrong with the airplane. The buyer of a Cessna 150 with a “fresh annual” took it in for its next annual the next year and found out the wrong engine was installed—and had to be replaced. A 172 had had a wing replaced (no logbook entry) and the “little bit out of rig” problem became so bad that it had to be replaced again. One buyer didn’t have a pre-buy done because the seller was an A & P mechanic so “the aircraft had to be in good shape.” The list of illegal parts installed and improper repairs that had been done that was provided to the buyer by the shop doing the next annual ran two pages. Almost invariably, the seller was in another state and trying to prove the seller knew the airplane was in rotten shape would be so difficult, not to mention expensive—or the seller had disappeared or was bankrupt. Too often the buyer was stuck with his or her money pit.

The idea behind a refurb is to wind up with an airplane that has the equipment and is in the condition you desire because you want an airplane made for why you fly. That means answering the question: How much am I willing to pay to get an airplane that has that equipment and in that condition? That’s where the pre-buy examination comes in—you are hiring a mechanic knowledgeable about that type of airplane to examine it and give you an educated estimate as to how much more it’s going to cost you to get that particular airplane to where you want it. If you are buying the airplane for a refurb, chances are you’ll have the shop that’s going to do it do the pre-buy, so you’ll get a solid handle on the cost of the refurb or you find out that the airplane needs so much extra work that you should walk away from the deal. If the airplane’s just come out of refurb, your independent technician does the quality control check and, if anything isn’t up to snuff, gives you leverage to have the work redone at no cost to you.

Although this article is primarily about the pre-buy examination, there are caveats to keep in mind during your search for the right airplane to refurb: Accept that there are no undiscovered, fabulous deals just waiting for you to uncover—an airplane half-way across the country priced well below others you’ve considered has something badly wrong with it. If it were in good shape for that price, a local would have snapped it up. Also, “fresh annual” and “fresh overhaul” are red flags—consider them traps for suckers. If you were going to sell, how much would you spend on maintenance?

Among the more common AVweb reader letters that get forwarded to me are from pilots who have bought an airplane with a fresh annual as part of the deal and either something expensive failed within months, when it went into the shop for a refurb all sorts of horrible things were discovered or it wouldn’t pass its next annual because it had illegal parts installed or there are extensive, and expensive, repairs needed. They thought they’d gotten a good deal on an airworthy airplane, only to discover, in some cases, that they were just lucky it kept flying long enough to make it to its first visit to the shop. If you do pursue such an airplane, it would be wise to assume the annual is worthless and that the overhaul won’t come close to making TBO—and make a purchase offer accordingly.

Seller Resistance 

The good news is that honest sellers don’t object to a pre-buy examination. Most expect it and will cooperate in coordinating it. You, the buyer, will bear all of the costs, including ferrying the airplane, if needed. Realistic sellers recognize that a pre-buy helps protect them if the buyer later suffers buyer’s remorse and tries to take some action against the seller for misrepresentation of the airplane.

If a seller resists a pre-buy it’s usually a sufficient reason to walk away from the airplane. The times I’ve seen a seller resist for good reason involved logistics, notably where the buyer demanded that the seller fly the airplane a long ways without agreeing to pay the cost of getting it there and back if it didn’t pass the exam.

Once you’ve found an airplane that looks good enough to consider buying for a refurb, a number of things happen—although the sequence may vary: Getting photos of the exterior and interior (in the world of cell phone cameras you should get pictures of everything—assume that any area not photographed is in bad shape), getting copies of the last few years of logbook entries and oil analysis results, as well as printouts from the engine analyzer, getting the aircraft file from the FAA, negotiation on the price, flying the airplane and a pre-buy examination. A rule of rule of thumb is to agree on a price that is subject to a pre-buy examination. You and the seller may then want to agree on what will happen as a result of the pre-buy. Under what conditions can you walk away? If there are squawks and an estimate for repairs, who pays for the repairs if you go ahead with the deal? If you haven’t flown the airplane, you’ll want to do so at some point prior to the exam (or arrange to have someone you trust do the test flight).  Don’t pass on a test flight—a ground inspection, no matter how careful, can’t uncover some potential faults, such as the airplane being badly out of rig.

In anticipation of the pre-buy examination you should order a copy of all of the aircraft’s records on file with the FAA—that means everything that has been recorded with the FAA regarding the airplane—all ownership and loan paperwork and all Form 337s (Major Repairs and Alterations). It will come on a CD. While you’ll get a title search done to confirm that the airplane is free of liens, the paperwork package gives you a head start on the subject and it lets you start doing your due diligence to find out if there is a damage history that has not been disclosed. Generally, big fixes required after an accident or incident require filing a Form 337. However, a certain percentage of owners and their mechanics don’t bother doing so in hopes of not losing resale value on the airplane. The absence of a 337 for a big repair is not proof of the absence of damage history.

If the airplane has a lien or liens on it, do not close any sale until you have positive evidence that all liens have been released. Every once in a while I’ll get a call from an aircraft owner who is being pursued for payment on a lien that’s 20 or 30 years old. Usually it was from a loan made by a bank or savings and loan that went under and its assets were bought by another bank. Some young new hire in the loan department of the current bank had been assigned to go through old records and find out if there are any uncollected loans and came upon an unpaid (or unreleased) loan from years back and traced down the current owner for payment. It’s a huge—and often expensive—pain in the whatsis for the current owner. The records say the airplane was collateral for an unpaid loan and the bank wants its money or the airplane.

Any unreleased lien on an airplane you are buying is a deal killer. Walk away.

The Examination Itself

A pre-buy is not an inspection. Let’s make it clear. Around airplanes, the word “inspection” has specific meanings, especially when the FARs are involved. The FAA does not recognize the term “pre-buy inspection.” Examination is more descriptive of what's being done. Further, the results of a pre-buy exam should never be recorded in an aircraft or engine logbook. It is an examination of the aircraft and its logs to get information about its condition so you can make a decision as to whether you want to buy it. That’s it. It is not a prediction or guarantee of future airworthiness. It’s a snapshot of the condition of the items on the airplane examined then and there. It is a tool for you and your mechanic to use in making the decision whether to buy the airplane.

The exam should be conducted by a mechanic you chose—and who knows the type of aircraft well. Knowledge and experience in type does matter—a mechanic who primarily works on Cessna, Cirrus and Piper is not likely to know the inner secrets of Mooneys. A good way to locate a mechanic is through the type club for the model. Having joined the type club and learned all you can about the marque early in your search benefits you in several ways—learning what to look for and look out for as ammunition for your search and negotiation, getting to know people who are knowledgeable that may be able to help you during the purchase process and as an owner and the chance that a club member may be selling a good airplane.

Discuss the nature and extent of the exam with your mechanic when you retain him or her. How deep do you want to dig? What needs to be looked at to find evidence of undisclosed damage that may not have been repaired correctly? Set it up so that if your mechanic finds what may be a show stopper that he or she comes to a halt right then and tells you so you can make a decision. If you aren’t going to buy, there’s no reason to continue.

Set aside a full day for a pre-buy for non-pressurized piston singles and twins—it may take less—the idea is not to be hurried. Anyhow, you’ve got to allow a few days to get the oil sample you’ll take analyzed.

Once the day comes, the first step is to go through all of the originals of the logbooks (this is one time originals matter—if you buy, you’ll make electronic copies and keep the originals locked up because their loss knocks 10 to 20 percent off the resale value of the airplane). If the seller has told you that all the logs exist and then there proves to be any kind of hassle regarding production of any of the logbooks at the beginning of the inspection, be spring-loaded to walk away. If the logs aren’t all there, ready to go, it’s a major issue. It doesn’t happen often, but I’ve seen situations where sellers, knowing some of the logs are missing, will produce a few right away and then start making excuses and finding one here and one there, hoping the buyer will let it go without realizing the set is not complete. Don’t fall into the trap. The logs are either all there or they are not. If they aren’t, it should have been disclosed up front and the purchase price should have reflected that logs were missing.

There are numerous, good checklists for pre-buy exams, especially those compiled by type clubs. One size does not fit all. Once the logs pass muster, your mechanic should follow the checklist you’ve agreed upon. In my opinion, that includes a borescope exam of the engine, not just a compression check. You’ll also overnight the oil sample for analysis. The good companies will call or email you with the results the next day.

Your mechanic should make a running list of squawks. Assuming no big deal-breaker is found, he or she should then give you an estimate to fix each one. You and your mechanic then have time to discuss how things look overall and in detail.

If something is on the equipment list for an airplane you are considering, it must be in the airplane. At a very basic level, that includes the tow bar and baggage net. If there is an empty or plugged instrument hole—for instance, the equipment list says the airplane has a carb temperature gauge and there is no 337 for its removal—the gauge has to be there or a 337 has to be filled out. Some sellers don't seem to understand that if the prop on the airplane isn't of the sort approved on the Type Certificate Data Sheet, the airplane is not airworthy. Don't agree to buy an airplane that isn't airworthy because it has unapproved parts on it. You may be the one who comes up against buyers who weren't as foolish as you were, and discover that it's unmarketable unless you can find another sucker. And, in doing so, your sucker may turn around and sue you for fraud because you knew the airplane was illegal and didn't disclose it.

If things look good, contingent on the oil sample (and the seller may have given you the oil sample history), you and the seller go over the squawk list based on your agreement as to how the cost of repairs is to be handled and close the deal. You’re now the owner of a nicely refurbed airplane or ready to create one.

Conclusion

The Internet has helped buyers rapidly find airplanes as well as unscrupulous sellers come up with more ways to try to unload lemons disguised as trophy pieces. P.T. Barnum may be long dead, but he continues to be proven right on a daily basis in the used airplane sales world. Despite improvements in information technology, the rules of buying a used airplane for a refurb haven't changed:

Join the owner's association and get all the information you can before searching.

Don't ever buy sight-unseen.

Get the chain of title and 337s before you commit to anything.

Be suspicious of anything that smacks of a seller who is the least bit hesitant to disclose everything about the airplane.

Have your mechanic do a pre-purchase examination and make any sales agreement subject to a pre-purchase examination.

Don't get so emotionally involved with one airplane that you can't walk away.

Rick Durden is an aviation attorney and the author of The Thinking Pilot’s Flight Manual or, How to Survive Flying Little Airplanes and Have a Ball Doing It, Vols 1 & 2.

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I hate it when someone peers into my eyes and, within a nanosecond to two, sees all the character flaws within. "You're a rule breaker, aren't you?" The query was from our team coach, Sally, and on the strength of one minor little transgression, she had nailed me with unnerving accuracy. When we go to the local wind tunnel for practice; they require one of those little paper wristbands to prove that you've paid and signed the waiver. But nobody ever checks it and being a corrupting influence on what would otherwise be the good scouts of the world, I'll slide by without it if I can get away with it. Where's the harm?

It's not so much that I break or ignore rules so much as I chafe at the silly ones and occasionally rage at the profoundly stupid, the illogical and the inane. And in aviation, we keep getting more of those. I've previously commented on what all of us agree is security theater at small airports, yet all of us dutifully stop and wait for the gate to close, just like the faceless bureaucrats demand that we do. The understandable urge is to just drive off for other than offending someone's sense of an orderly world, there’s no moral issue here. No wrong is being done.

Without reverting to metaphors related to steep terrain and lack of traction, there's an obvious risk here. Would someone who sneaks in without a paper bracelet similarly, say, fly an airplane beyond its official gross weight or carry a passenger with only two of the required three landings? I offer neither advice nor counsel.

I sometimes think that regulations aren't really intended to encourage safety so much as they are to test our ability to tolerate the absurd. Maybe there's a diabolical genius at work here that I'm too dense to appreciate. If you're patient enough to allow regulatory indignities to slough off without blowing a gasket—and I may fall short of that qualification—perhaps you're the prime flight specimen we all know ourselves to be because you have aptly demonstrated the ability to focus on what’s important while tuning out what isn’t. Think of silly regulation as the equivalent of Ross’ matches.

So now the newly announced BasicMed gives us two new rules to ponder, both equally absurd and both just as likely to be ignored. The first is the fine-point provision that if you want your friend to serve as a safety pilot and he's a lowly BasicMed holder, it's not legal to do so. He has to be Third-Class qualified to be PIC of the airplane you're flying. How, or more to the point, why, this twist of logic made it into the final rule defies rational explanation. If you break it down even a little, how could you possibly take it seriously?

Remember that medical certification never had anything to do with enhancing safety, but was rather a means to thin the herd of would-be pilots so regulatory bureaucrats could keep up with ... well, whatever the hell they thought they had to keep up with. This is a constant truth against which any critical thinking about medical certification must be measured.

In the real world, if a safety pilot has a pulse and can fog a mirror, he or she is fit to the task if not regulatorily qualified. Good eyesight is a plus, of course, but if the FAA says BasicMed or light sport allows you to fly on the strength of a driver's license, what possible reason could there be to not be qualified to serve as a lookout? That's a rhetorical question, but if you have an answer, the comment field awaits. I’m always willing to be educated.

The second logical cutout in BasicMed is the altitude restriction. The lowly self-certified BasicMed pilot, lacking the gold-standard imprimatur of a genuine Third-Class medical, may hear “climb and maintain flight level two zero zero,” but is officially constrained from going there. Never mind that he or she has been flying there for years and that there is absolutely no medical or accident data to support such an exclusion.

How did this get into the rule? Probably tossed as a bone to ALPA, who bristled at the thought of mere Cirrus pilots defiling the purity of airspace above 18,000 feet. If safety systems are based on sound statistical bedrock—and they should be—I’d love to see the data on that one. Let’s see, what’s 0.00 divided by 0? I should write my own Senator Bill Nelson, who insisted he couldn’t support a driver’s license medical, and ask. Somehow, I think the answer would be optics divided by political expediency, the quotient multiplied by gutlessness.  

We will be watching how this provision is handled by the great enforcer of regulations: the insurance companies. Will they force pilots of flight level capable airplanes to have medicals? My guess is no. The current insurance market is so competitive that pilots will be able to insure just about anything, turbocharged or not. 

So never mind whatever trials await on your next flight review or IPC, the looming test is accepting, with a straight face, the supposed elimination of some regulation besmirched by rules that are even sillier. If you can do that without bursting into gales of laughter, you are highly qualified to confront the challenges of the contemporary aeronautical environment. Meanwhile, I’m writing on the whiteboard 100 times: I will obtain and display my paper wristband.

The Cirrus SR22T G6 is the sixth-generation SR22, which was originally introduced in 2001. For 2017, the G6 SR models are equipped with the new Perspective+ integrated avionics, new interior appointments and new Spectra wingtip lighting, which was designed exclusively for Cirrus by Whelen. For this flight report, Aviation Consumer Editor Larry Anglisano flew the flagship SR22T (equipped with a twin turbocharged 315-HP Continental TSIO-550-K engine) on a round-robin trip from New England to the Cirrus Vision Center in Knoxville, Tennessee, where Cirrus's Ivy McIver gave a product overview.

Picture of the Week
Picture of the Week

Mark Patey takes the honors this week with a very nice image of Heaven on Earth. That's Jason Sneed and Wallace Brown on Utah Lake in their Carbon Cubs. Sigh.

... But don't be surprised with you only grasp a handful of weather acronyms, ATC procedures and pilot-lounge lingo, all of which you'll process with ease when you ace this quiz.

Click here to take the quiz.

On Presidents' Day weekend,  POTUS had West Palm Beach shut down with his TFR. Boca was swamped with corporate and private traffic trying to avoid the TFR restrictions. We were sitting in a long line waiting for departure, with numerous jets lined up for arrival, when a weekend warrior called up tower inbound asking for touch and goes. The tower controller told him to remain clear for now, but the pilot continued to call with his own ideas on how he could fit in. After a couple more denials, the controller finally issued instructions:

Tower: "Look out your window, pick a landmark, and do 360s around it until I call you back "

Weekend Warrior: " Left or Right?"

My captain, looking at me:  "Some people just don't get it do they?".


Gene Ford

 

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