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The effort now underway in Congress to privatize the air traffic control system would be a disaster for general aviation, according to Mark Baker, the president of AOPA. In a podcast interview this week, Baker told AVweb that July is a critical time for aviators to lobby their congressional representatives, if they agree with AOPA’s view that the Senate’s version of the FAA funding bill is better for GA than the House version. The House bill would spin off the FAA’s air traffic control function into a private nonprofit corporation, managed with input from the airlines. Baker says such a system would soon ignore the needs of general aviation pilots. The Senate bill aims to modernize the system, but wouldn’t privatize it, Baker said.

“We’ve gone full blast with a call to action for our members to get in touch with their representatives while they’re back in their home districts over the holiday,” Baker said. “We’ve got a good chance [to prevail] but we’ve got to rally hard.” Baker said the issue is likely to remain in play for the rest of the year, before any definitive action is taken. “What are we really trying to fix?” he asked. If glitches in the funding and budgeting system for ATC are the problem, he said, there are other ways to fix that besides privatizing. “Where is the allocation of airport money going to go, 10 years from now?” he asks. The answer will depend on how much power the airlines have in the system, he says.


Mark Baker, president of AOPA, says the general aviation community needs to rally right now to thwart efforts in Washington to privatize the air traffic control system.


Prompted by reports of engine exhaust leaks from Lycoming TIO-540-AJ1A engines, found most commonly on the Cessna T206 Turbo Stationair, a new urgent Airworthiness Directive requires inspection of the exhaust system within in the next 10 hours time-in-service (TIS) “to prevent engine exhaust leaks, which could lead to uncontrolled engine fire, harmful exhaust gases entering the cabin resulting in crew incapacitation, and damage to the airplane,” says the FAA. Because of the FAA’s determination that the exhaust leaks pose an immediate risk to flight safety, the AD was not subject to the customary notice and comment period, but Lycoming is working to determine the root cause of the leaks, and the FAA says it will consider revising when it has Lycoming’s conclusions in hand.

The FAA estimates one hour of work for each inspection of the exhaust system, the first required within 10 hours TIS and thereafter every 25 or 50 hours TIS depending on the time since the last major exhaust system maintenance (ESM). Engines with more than 1,000 hours since the last ESM are presumed to be less likely to have fast-growing leaks and benefit from the 50-hour window between inspections. According to the FAA, 758 U.S. registered aircraft use the affected Lycoming TIO-540-AJ1A engine.

UPDATE: Lycoming has applied for and received authorization from the FAA for operators to use a compliant carbon monoxide detector to receive the benefit of the 50-hour inspection window (after the initial inspection) regardless of the time since ESM as an Alternative Method of Compliance.


The Department of Homeland Security has decided not to extend the ban on laptops, currently affecting only flights originating from one of ten Middle Eastern and African airports, to all U.S.-bound flights, choosing instead to require “enhanced” checkpoint screening and other unpublished security measures. According to the DHS fact sheet on the new screening methods, “The United States and the global aviation community face an adaptive and agile enemy. Terrorist groups continue to target passenger aircraft, and we have seen a ‘spider web’ of threats to commercial aviation as terrorist [sic] pursue new attack methods.  Based on these concerns, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is working to raise the baseline of global aviation security to keep the traveling public safe, in coordination with our international partners.”

DHS officials declined to provide much substance about what exactly the enhanced security measures will entail. Passenger screening will be “enhanced,” screening of personal electronic devices “heightened,” “advanced technology deployed” and canine screening “expanded.” The new screening methods will apply to 2,100 flights and 325,000 passengers arriving in the United States daily.

Garmin 'Webinar July 6th - Garmin pilot Top 10 Tips

An AH-64 Apache with a pod-mounted laser was test fired on targets at the Army’s White Sands Missile Range late last week. The laser, made and tested by defense contractor Raytheon, engaged a stationary target 1.4 kilometers (slant range distance) from the helicopter. The promise of directed energy weapons is highly appealing to U.S. Special Operations Command, who collaborated with the U.S. Army Apache Program Management Office and Raytheon on the test program. Laser weapons have the capability to be incredibly accurate, produce no collateral damage outside the path of the beam (in many applications the size of a small coin) and operate at essentially zero marginal cost.

While lasers may be the future of airborne weapons, aircraft spotters probably won’t see them on operational helicopters anytime soon. Although conceptually simple, laser weapons of sufficient intensity to be useful in combat have proved challenging to power and cool anywhere other than a laboratory environment. The Raytheon laser is a research project for the development of future aircraft weapons systems, and the company offered no information on the laser’s power output. “The data collected from the test, including impact of vibration, dust and rotor downwash, will help shape future high-energy laser systems,” said Raytheon in a press release.


Heard over Joshua Approach in the southern California Mojave Desert:

Approach: "All aircraft on frequency, turn right five degrees."

After a moment's pause....

Approach:  "All aircraft on frequency, return to previous heading. I am now retired. So long"

Stephen Hackney


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If you've never wandered the pits at the Reno Air Races, you're missing out. I've crewed twice (crewing gets you a pit pass)—once in Formula One and again in Sport Class—and can't imagine going to Reno without a pit pass. There are so many amazing people, conversations, and airplanes. While you could simply purchase a pit pass at the box office, why not get directly involved? If you've ever wondered what it's like to crew, here's the answer straight from the teams themselves.

Getting Started

First off, let's be honest: you are unlikely to land a spot on an Unlimited or Jet Class team. Those crews are generally specialists who work on the airplanes year round. And the T-6 class doesn't allow a lot of modifications, so crew there are mostly polishing the plane between races. Instead, the best place to head is the hangars at the west end of the field housing the Formula One (F1), Biplane and Sport class airplanes. Depending on the time of day, teams and their planes are generally accessible to visitors. The first step is to just strike up a conversation. Perennial winner of biplane gold, Phantom builder and pilot Tom Aberle says, "Make friends first. That's what it amounts to, at least for us."

Andy Chiavetta, veteran Reno builder/mechanic for Darryl Greenamyer's Race 33 and other Sport class elite machines, says getting the average guy participating is what Sport class is all about: "That's the reason Lee [Behel] made the Sport class—to get people involved in racing with a minimal amount of effort."

What's Involved?

Depending on the team and class, crewing can involve work during, immediately before and after the races, as well as during the off season. At one extreme, "A lot of stock sport planes show up, put fuel in the airplane, don't uncowl it, and race all week," says Chiavetta. At the other, most of the Formula One airplanes require significantly more time from their crew. "F1 is more involved­—those are unique airplanes. Some of them are just bare-bones Cassutts, but some are unique and modified. I would think Formula One is more involved than 80% of the Sport class," adds Chiavetta.

Part of this is because most F1s are trailered to Reno and are flown little, if at all, in the off-season. So the assembly and prep of F1s at Reno can almost resemble a combined condition inspection and impromptu speed-mods fabrication session. The F1 teams therefore tend to have larger, more experienced crews. As Ernie Butcher, a crew member of Mark Frederick's El Toro team pointed out, "The root of Reno air racing is in Formula One. It's budget racing. In every one of their pit areas, they've got every tool from their shop. The cowl is off of virtually every airplane all the time. That mostly goes away with the other classes because most of them are certified airplanes or daily drivers."

Biplanes are similar to Sport class in that, as Butcher points out, most are certified and/or regularly flown and maintained, and don't get much more than speed tape and a wax job.

(Aberle's aircraft is unique in that from a crew point of view, it more closely resembles an F1: "Our process is a bit more arduous than most of the others in the Biplane class in that we trailer the aircraft. It has to be disassembled to go on the trailer, reassembled at Reno, and then vice versa on the way home. I come up ten days in advance with at least one crew, and other crew show up on Friday before the races.")

Off-season crew work can be a great place to gain building experience. For example, Lancair owners might purchase one of Chiavetta's speed mod kits, or do light engine mods such as ram air induction or electrical ignition. In this scenario, it's obviously best to find a team that's close to where you live. That's exactly what five-time F1 champion Steve Senegal did: "The way I got started in F1 was back in 2000 when someone at my local EAA chapter bought a Cassutt. They were getting ready to race it again after several years in storage. So I helped out on that crew, going over a couple times a week to help sand and do other 'grunt work'. I was building an RV, but I didn't have much expertise. I went to Reno and helped out that year and the following year, and ended up deciding I wanted to race myself."

Creighton King, owner and crew chief of Last Lap Player, also got his start crewing. "My first F1 race I crewed for Jay Jones. First I was waxer and also put on some stickers and speed tape. Then he put me out at the start holding the tail, and then I became the hand-propper. The next year I brought my own airplane. It's a window into racing. I love it."

Wasabi owner Elliot Seguin has been making his way up through the ranks in Formula One. Seguin has ambitious racing goals, and competent crew is important to him. "There are a lot of people who would love to stand in a pit during Saturday and Sunday at Reno. There are fewer people who will want to be there when it's time to load the airplane back on the trailer. And then the people who will pull an all-nighter a week before Reno—they are like gold in your hand," says Seguin.

Experience Not Always Required

While some teams like Phantom and Endeavor are fully crewed, others like Last Lap Player are happy to take on new help. So what kind of skills are teams looking for? "We've got positions from bug-wipers and tapers to cylinder-changers and prop-torquers," says King. "We want people who are enthusiastic about the sport. We would prefer somebody who's worked on airplanes before, but they don't need to be an A&P—they can just come and enjoy it. We'll do the parts that are important. As the airplane owner, I put a second eye on everything, and then I ask for other people to put a second eye on what I do also. We spent a lot of money to be here, and we don't want to get out there with a loose spark plug wire."

Seguin stressed that not only mechanical competency, but good team dynamics are important: "A race team needs the same thing everybody else needs: hours and hours of skilled and engaged labor. It is the most valuable thing a person can offer, and it's the hardest thing to get." But communication is also important: "During race week it can get pretty intense and you need to know the people working with you, so that everybody knows what's going on," added Seguin. As Justin Gillen [one of Seguin's coworkers at Scaled Composites and a key crewmember] says, "It's much more helpful for someone to say 'I see you need X. Would you like me to do that?' than 'What can I do to help?'"

As both King and Seguin point out, although mechanically competent crew are desirable, the most important factor is enthusiasm. In other words, don't let the fact that you've never bucked a rivet stop you from approaching a team. As Drew Seguin, Elliot's father and a Wasabi crewmember points out, "There's always non-technical work to do. I'm willing to do whatever needs to be done. I run to the store, go get spark plugs cleaned, wipe down the belly, sweep the floor, wax the tail, whatever. What I try to do is be there 100 percent for the entire time we're at Reno." For Drew, who's from Michigan where deer-hunting is popular, Reno is "deer camp for gear-heads: a lot of prep, a lot of waiting, moments of excitement, and a bit of time to relax and enjoy the camaraderie."

One thing you'll notice at Reno is that airplanes are constantly getting polished. Of course keeping the plane clean helps aerodynamically, and at such a big event everyone wants to look good, too. It's one of those jobs that just about anyone can do. Father and brother Glyn and Stephen Grove crewed for Karl Grove's DragRacer25 biplane and with no aviation experience, their main job was to clean the airplane after races. So polishing can seem like the job of the low man on the totem pole. But Phantom's Aberle sees it quite differently: "Polishing the airplane is a constant process. That might seem like a mindless task, but it really is not. The best technician to wash the airplane is an A&P mechanic because he is forced to look at each and every square inch of the machine, looking for fractures, damage, and deterioration." That's good to remember if your first tools as a new crew member are a rag and a can of Pledge.

Super Educational

For Jeff Lange and Mark Hegy, my crewmates for Bob Mills' Sport class Rocket Six, the greatest benefits of crewing are educational. Lange, an A&P, races a highly modified turbo Sonerai that won the Best Design Award at the 2014 Mojave Fly-In. He met Mills at the 2010 AirVenture Cup Race and ended up in Reno as his crew chief. "It's super educational just to be able to walk around. I've got hundreds of pictures of those Formula One planes. When I'm working on my Sonerai, I look at those pictures. It's a huge education just to be out here in these hangars." (You can see the result of Jeff's education at

"This is my first year at Reno and it's absolutely amazing!" said Hegy, Lange's classmate at A&P school. "I've met a lot of incredibly awesome people. The biggest thing is you learn so much from all these people who are the tops of their field. And you can just talk to them like they are average Joes. The races are almost over, but I'm still in shock."

If you do decide to crew, realize that it's voluntary. Although you'll probably get a wristband allowing free access to the races and pits, you will be responsible for your food and lodging. Racing is expensive for owners: "Pilots spend more [racing at Reno] than what they get from any winnings," points out Senegal.

When asked if he had any final advice for someone wanting to get involved, El Toro pilot Mark Frederick said, "Be in control of your addictions." Like drinking? I asked. "No," he laughed. "When those airplanes go by and you discover that your guts are an auditory reception device, you'll realize how addicting racing can be. You'll be coming back."

This article originially appeared in the June 2015 issue of Kitplanes magazine.

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A good friend of mine who’s an aircraft broker called me this week to ask for my take on what to do about ADS-B installations. He has to have a ready answer for buyers and sellers of legacy airplanes who are asking about this. What was I telling people, he wondered, laboring under the misguided assumption that I’m some sort of seer. He’s pretty sure the whole NextGen thing is going to run off the rails and that the Jan. 1, 2020, ADS-B mandate will be pushed back.

While I’m pretty sure I agree with him, that’s not what I tell people when they ask. Or, more accurately, I tell them not to bet on the mandate slipping as a reason to delay installing the equipment. The FAA insists that it will not be moved back and the more it insists this earnestly before hearings in Congress, the more likely it is to happen, in my view. That’s just the way of it. We live in a post-truth, post-consequence and post-reality world in which we’re in a perpetual state of being gaslighted senseless.

I may, in fact, be a victim of this myself, which explains my reason for telling people to just put the damn equipment in and stop bellyaching about it. My reasoning is thus: If you believe the date will be pushed back and it isn’t, it’s possible that delaying will get you into the witching hour. Shops will be too backed up to fit in rush orders and you could be on the beach for a while, unable to fly your airplane in airspace where you really want to go. You might also pay more for the installation than you might otherwise since shops certainly aren’t going to be offering discounts if they’re booked to the rafters with ADS-B work.

My impression is that shops are already getting booked up with about 30 months left until the mandate. On the other hand, if you don’t need or plan to fly in the mandated airspace—basically where Mode C is required now—no need to equip. Ever. Putter around the tulies; don’t worry, be happy. You could also hold out for some dramatically cheaper solution. I doubt it’s coming, but be my guest.

Increasingly, I am hearing an interesting argument and it’s this: No one is really sure what the size of the active GA fleet is and/or how many of those owners think they need ADS-B. If the real fleet size is considerably smaller than imagined, the feared logjam may never materialize. Roll your airplane into the shop Christmas week 2019 and pick it up the day after New Year’s. Run your own book on that one. I have no data to support it pro or con. The chip you’re putting on the table is immediate airspace access—or lack of it—and this may be of zero value to you.

I hear two other arguments against installing ADS-B. The money complaint and the principle complaint. The money argument is that at a price of $4500 and up, ADS-B is still just too expensive. The principle argument is that people don’t like government mandates and don’t like to be told what they have to do. (Warning: preaching-to-the choir paragraph follows. Reader discretion advised.)

Even $4500 is a total outrage, for which we draw no conceivable benefit. And I am damn tired of the government meddling in my life and forcing me to do things like participating in a multibillion-dollar program that curtails my right to fly. There. If that shoe fits, go ahead and slip it on. I consider it complete rubbish.

Flying airplanes at any level is some form of expensive. It ain’t fishing. It has always been expensive. It will always be expensive. In the grand arc of history, ADS-B equipage is just another blip in the data. Our surveys indicate that everyone who has installed ADS-B is happy with the decision. They like the free weather and traffic data in an integrated, panel format. That’s the benefit. As for the principle, personally, I consider speed limits, edicts against lane splitting, airport security gates, control towers at sleepy airports and chicken^%$# rules of all kinds to be affronts to the dignity of civilized living. I go along because having my head knotted in a perpetual game of whack-a-mole is not my thing and pissing off people who do embrace chicken^%$% rules is just impolite.

Now, on to why I think the mandate will slip. I think the coming scandal is that NextGen really will run off the rails because the FAA lacks the technical expertise to manage it. It consists of many moving parts and I think it will soon be revealed that the moving parts themselves don’t work very well and they work even less well when expected to integrate into a rational whole. My prediction is that this will become a thing around next summer or fall.

One of the early pieces of NextGen, called ERAM, for En Route Modernization, is an early component of NextGen. It basically replaces the Host processing suite Centers used for flight data management. It was supposed to be done by 2010, but didn’t go formally active until five years past that. The DOT’s Inspector General reported serious flaws in ERAM, found it behind schedule and over budget by $500 million.

Contract management was a big part of this and the IG found that FAA staff chronically failed to fill in top executives about problems with the system. Yet … $6 million on contract bonuses were paid Lockheed Martin, even though the milestones for the bonus weren’t met. And the really complex part of NextGen is yet to come: stitching all these discrete systems into a coherent whole.

Will this be enough to tank the 2020 mandate? No one really knows, because no one can predict political climate change. Offsetting the chaos is the coming tsunami of drones that will have to integrate into the national airspace system and it seems inconceivable that ADS-B won’t be a player in this. The FAA hasn’t gotten it beyond the whiteboard stage yet, at least for public consumption.

So my advice to people who ask is to just compartmentalize the decision. Don’t worry about whether the mandate will stick or not, just absorb the cost and focus on the twin benefits of datalink weather in an easily digestible format and pretend that TIS-B (the traffic) will actually save your life one day. Otherwise, follow Satchel Paige’s ageless advice: If your stomach disputes you, lie down and pacify it with cool thoughts.


With its TBM series of turboprops, Daher owns a unique niche as the fastest airplane in its class. AVweb recently visited the factory in Tarbes, France, and shot this video on how the aircraft are manufactured. 

DC One-X from David Clark - lightest full-featured ANR headset
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Picture of the Week

Note the tiedowns. It's that time of year again across all of North America and Daniel Tharp showed us why we need to be careful. Dramatic shot, Daniel.

Electronics International 'Aviation Alert! Short video on how EI saved this pilot's life

Heard anything funny, unusual, or downright shocking on the radio lately? If you've been flying any length of time, you're sure to have eavesdropped on a few memorable exchanges. The ones that gave you a chuckle may do the same for your fellow AVweb readers. Share your radio funny with us, and, if we use it in a future "Short Final," we'll send you a sharp-looking AVweb hat to sport around your local airport. No joke.

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