Saturday, June 30, 2007

US Airports Security Level Increase?

I'm hearing reports, as yet unconfirmed, that Homeland Security is about to raise the Security Level at US Airports.

One could speculate that this is related to the terror events in Great Britain yesterday.

Aviation Visualized

This is a visually very impressive. It probably just represents the airlines, and maybe other IFR flight. Pretty nevertheless.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Controllers' contract provisions endanger House bill

Quoth Rep. John Mica, senior Republican at the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure:

"It's the poison pill that can kill FAA reauthorization."
Washington Post story

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Jet By Cirrus

Unveiled today in Duluth (courtesy Cirrus Design):

The large print giveth...

...and the small print taketh away.

From the Department of Transportation:
DOT 61-07
Contact: Sarah Echols

Thursday, June 28, 2007
Tel.: (202) 366-4570

Statement from the U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary E. Peters

Over the past 12 days, the Administration has made a good faith effort to negotiate and settle with the air traffic controllers union on current litigation and grievances relating to a contract that took effect last year.

Administration negotiators offered the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) a substantial financial settlement that would have increased pay in some cases by more than 15 percent for a workforce that made, in 2006, an average total compensation of $171,100.

However, union leaders rejected this proposal, choosing instead to push for a rollback of the existing contract.

The union is now turning to Congress in an attempt to invalidate an almost year-old contract that saves the American taxpayer more than $1.9 billion over a five year period, supports investments in new air traffic equipment and provides the flexibility needed to manage record demand for air travel. The Administration opposes legislative efforts that would limit the Federal Aviation Administration's ability to manage its workforce and that would threaten investment in critical aviation safety programs.

For these reasons, the President’s senior advisers would recommend that he veto any reauthorization proposal that includes language to alter the existing controller contract or re-open contract negotiations.

# # #

House Bill Pleases Many...No Useless, er, User Fees...

Wednesday evening, June 27, 2007, leaders of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee and the Aviation Subcommittee introduced their take on FAA Reauthorization.

The Airports Council International-North American lauded the proposal because it raises to $7.00 the cap on Passenger Facility Charges (PFCs) that airports charge passengers to fund improvements not covered by the Airport Improvement Program (AIP).

The General Aviation Manufacturers Association also had good things to say:


WASHINGTON, DC, June 28, 2007 – Yesterday evening, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee introduced its version of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2007. The General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) commends the House for this bipartisan legislation that significantly strengthens the effort to modernize the national air transportation system.

“This bill is extraordinarily positive,” said Pete Bunce, GAMA president and CEO. “It authorizes significant funding for facilities and equipment required for the implementation of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen), strengthens the management structure of the Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO), incorporates key language requiring program and implementation reports, and begins the process of reducing or eliminating redundant FAA capital and operating expenses without adversely impacting safety."

The introduction of the bill comes shortly after Bunce appeared before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation, where he testified in support of Congress ensuring that realistic and executable timelines for program development, policy implementation, and rule development are incorporated in the plan for modernization.

“This legislation addresses many of the concerns raised by general aviation and puts in place building blocks required to move forward with NextGen,” said Bunce. “We are proud to have leaders like Chairmen Oberstar and Costello and ranking members Mica and Petri taking bold steps to ensure these critical needs are met in the NextGen process.”

Now things should get really interesting...the Senate has yet to move its proposal past the committee hearings, which could be good for us opponents of the ill-conceived FAA/ATA user-fee finance proposal...and this move by the House is certainly something to smile about.

But more potential battles remain -- the war is far from won. So keep speaking out!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Fuel Costs Force Pilots to the Ground

Knock me over with a feather: A decent piece on GA from the Washington Post:
Fuel Costs Force Pilots to the Ground
In a Hobby That Isn't Cheap Anyway, Aviators Feel the Pinch

By Christy Goodman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 25, 2007; B01

The rising cost of fuel has found a new victim: the recreational aviator.

Pilots are cutting back on flying time. Flight instructors have fewer students. More and more Cessnas, Pipers and other single-engine and propeller-driven planes are staying grounded. General aviation is taking a nosedive, according to flying enthusiasts.

Terry McKinney, 59, of Springfield flew his blue- and gray-striped Mooney M20C from Manassas Regional Airport to Morgantown, W.Va., to visit family about seven times last year. An upcoming trip will be only his second this year. He cites the price of fuel, now $4.69 per gallon at Manassas, as the reason he's made fewer flights.
Read the whole thing...

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Airplanes and cats

To our listeners, this will make more sense after episode #34 is available...

The most creative way to use a cat as a weapon happened in World War II. The United States’ OSS (Office of Strategic Services, the precursor of the CIA) needed a way to guide bombs to sink German ships. Somebody hit upon the inspiration that since cats have such a strong disdain of getting wet and always land on their feet that if you attached a cat to a bomb and drop it in the vicinity of a ship, the cat’s instinct to avoid the water would force it to guide the bomb to the enemy’s deck. It is unclear how the cat was supposed to actually guide a bomb attached to it as it fell from the sky but the plan never got past the testing stages since the cats had a bad habit of becoming unconscious mid-drop.

There's more here, including descriptions of ways to militarize other animals.

Don't try this at home.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Flying the friendly skies

I don't have a sage, witty intro for this, at least one appropriate to a "family" blog entry, so I'll just run the lede:
Sewage flows down aisles of trans-Atlantic flight

10:55 PM PDT on Tuesday, June 19, 2007


"I was more nervous than I had ever been on a flight," said passenger Collin Brock.

UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash.– Passengers on a Continental Airlines flight had to hold their noses for hours as sewage overflowed from toilets while they were high over the Atlantic.

That's one problem I won't have aboard my Debonair. But I can't cross the pond non-stop, either.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Piper to end support of older aircraft?

This report on a speech by Piper's new president would seem to indicate the company may soon abandon support of airplanes more than 25 years old.

Needs some sleuthing...

Monday, June 18, 2007

Final distractions

From London's Guardian newspaper:
"A gigantic pole dancer is currently greeting air passengers flying in to Gatwick."
Let's not forget to put the gear down, shall we?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Looking for Mosier Field

Here's an audio comment that just came in.

wav file

The listener, who doesn't tell us his name, or even what part of the country he's from, tells the story of riding his bike out to find a small private airport he saw on the chart.

It's possible he's talking about Mosier Airport, a private field in Elk Grove Calif.

The Lat/Lon in Airnav takes us to this location in Google Maps

There could be a landing field at that location. But this looks more likely, just to the NW of that location.

Is there anyone out there who knows Mosier Field?

New OSH Control Tower

Here are Charlie Becker's photos of the new FAA Tower under-construction at Wittman Field.

Click on each of these for a larger image:

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Jack Hirsch, R.I.P.

From the American Bonanza Society:
ABS is very sad to report that long-time BPPP [Bonanza Pilot Proficiency Program] President Jack Hirsch died of a heart attack on Wednesday, June 13 at his home near Houston, Texas. We will post information on arrangements, as it becomes available, at the ABS website.
Our thoughts are with his loved ones.

This is absurd...

F-16s Respond to `hostile Takeover' Talk

The Associated Press
Wednesday, June 13, 2007; 2:23 PM

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- F-16s intercepted a small plane after officials misinterpreted a phrase uttered by the pilot as his aircraft flew over military airspace: "hostile takeover."

The pilot was talking about business, the plane's owner said. But a frantic air traffic controller couldn't confirm that because the pilot had turned off his radio, said Maj. Roger Yates of the Clay County Sheriff's Department.

Within minutes, federal aviation authorities scrambled the fighter jets to intercept the plane Monday evening just outside of Oklahoma City and escort it to the Clay County airport near Mosby.

Once it was on the ground, more than a dozen armed federal agents and tactical deputies surrounded the plane. Federal authorities, who interviewed the pilot for two hours, said Tuesday that there was no threat to anyone and no charges would be filed.

"People should be very careful in this heightened state of security about comments they make regarding airplanes and air traffic," said FBI spokesman Jeff Lanza.

The plane's owner, Dr. Kenneth E. Mann, said the pilot was heading back to Kansas City after dropping him off in Oklahoma, where Mann regularly travels to provide treatment at several hospitals. Neither he nor authorities would identify the pilot.

Authorities said the pilot was flying over Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma on his way back to the Kansas City area when he notified the air traffic tower at the air base that he was entering the base's airspace.

When asked what his destination was, the pilot said he preferred not to say because competitors could use such information to steal clients. He was not required to give a destination, Mann said. He said the pilot was concerned because he worked "in a hostile business environment."

The pilot was speaking about a "hostile takeover" of a company, Yates said.

Mann said FBI agents were at his home less than an hour after the incident.

"Mistakes happen," he said, "and in the times we live in after 9/11, it's better to overreact than not react at all."

© 2007 The Associated Press
So...anybody know how long this "heightened state of security" might last?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

AOPA Launches Career-Pilot Assistance Program


With the questions we received about career prospects, types of jobs
and how to pursue an aviation career, this seems timely.

Get the whole skinny here:

Good luck all of you prospective pro pilots!

Monday, June 11, 2007

50 Ways

[With apologies to Paul Simon; major kudos to Paul Hamilton...]

A quick little ditty for all those brothers and sisters forced to deal with the Washington (DC) ADIZ...and for others.

The problem is all inside your head, she said to me
The answer is easy if you take it logically.
I'd like to help you in your struggle to be free
There must be 50 ways to lose your flight plan.

She said it's really not my habit to intrude
Furthermore, I hope my meaning won't be lost or misconstrued
But I'll repeat my self, at the risk of being crude
There must be 50 ways to lose your flight plan

Just mess up the Zulu, Lulu
Make a new plan, Stan
File to a fix, Bix
Just get your plan lost
Get stuck in Fort Wayne, Dwayne
Don't need to discuss pain
Just type the wrong key, Lee
And get your plan lost.

She said it grieves me so to see you in such pain
I wish there was something I could do to make you smile again
I said, I appreciate that,
And would you please explain about the 50 ways.

She said, why don't you file with me tonight
And I believe Mount Vernon will get the thing alright
And then she entered it and I realized she probably was right
There must be 50 ways to lose your flight plan
50 ways to lose your flight plan...

Just mess up the Zulu, Lulu
Make a new plan, Stan
File to a fix, Bix
Just get your plan lost
Get stuck in Fort Wayne, Dwayne
Don't need to discuss pain
Just type the wrong key, Lee
And get your plan lost.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

The *real* problem

In his regular "Ask The Pilot" column on, Patrick Smith lays it out:
Two weeks ago I was on a plane going from Washington Reagan to LaGuardia. It was a clear, warm, windless day. We pushed back shortly after 10 a.m., only to find ourselves in a holding bay at the far end of the airport, hit with a 90-minute takeoff delay. Ninety minutes' wait, for a flight that would barely last 40. When the controller was asked about the reason, he responded dryly: "The usual. Volume."

Volume. What he meant is that the Northeast corridor had become saturated -- now an almost daily occurrence, even in good weather. Throw in storms or low visibilities, and waits can extend for hours. Airlines will tell you this is an ATC issue. But is it? True, the en route sectors of airspace could be better utilized, for instance by taking greater advantage of GPS technology and reducing the horizontal distance limits between aircraft. But in the end, you can squeeze only as many arrivals into and out of a major airport as its runways will allow. The airspace issue ultimately becomes an airport issue.

Read the full column... (You may need to view a brief ad if you don't subscribe to the site.)

Friday, June 08, 2007

Wagging the dog

Comes now this item:
U.S. Federal Aviation Administration computer glitch causes flight delays

WASHINGTON (AP) - A cascading computer failure in the U.S. air-traffic control system caused severe flight delays and some cancellations along the East Coast of the United States Friday.

A computer system in Atlanta that processes pilots' flights plans and sends them to air-traffic controllers failed late Thursday or early Friday, Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Diane Spitaliere said. In response, the agency rerouted the system's functions to another computer in Salt Lake City, which overloaded due to the increased volume of data, magnifying the problem.
The FAA could not immediately calculate the number of flight delays caused by the problem, which was made worse by bad weather, Spitaliere said.

Story link...

Say "hello" to Robert and Dustin for me!

A big, sloppy...

...wet kiss for Marion, from the magazine for bureacrats, about bureaucrats:
Government Executive article on FAA Administrator Marion Blakey
We should have a contest: Count the number of misleading and factually incorrect statements in this puff piece.

We can only hope she'll leave when her five years ends this September; the article gives the impression her departure is a done deal. But my recollection of the statute is she has a minimum of five years, not exactly five years.

New U.S. passport rules suspended

Following up on a topic discussed in episode #32:
U.S. Suspends Border Rules to Help Ease Backup in Passport Approvals
Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration on Friday suspended some of its new requirements for traveling abroad, hoping to placate Congress and irate summer travelers whose vacations have been thwarted by delays in processing their passports.

The proposal would temporarily lift a requirement that U.S. passports be used for citizens flying to and from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda.

The suspension should allow the State Department to catch up with a massive surge in applications that has overwhelmed passport processing centers since the rule took effect this year. The resulting backlog has caused up to three-month delays for passports and ruined or delayed the travel plans of thousands of Americans.
More: Wall Street Journal

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Is anyone at FAA, ATA and Congress listening?

Hope so, so they'll take note of and believe this from AIN:

GAO Says FAA Already Fully Supported for Future
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), in a response document released last week, reaffirmed its position on user fees and defied the FAA’s position, stating that the current FAA funding structure is sufficient to fund the FAA’s Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen). According to the document, which is a list of responses to questions Congress asked the GAO, “The current FAA funding structure can provide sufficient funding for NextGen–with some caveats.” In fact, the report says, the Congressional Budget Office has calculated the FAA will earn $19 billion more than what is needed for baseline spending in the coming years if the current funding plan stays in place. The question remains whether that level will fund the NextGen project completely, mainly because there has yet to be a clear picture of what it will cost. Whatever the price tag though, the report says, Congress can increase excise taxes or make a larger contribution from the general fund to meet any potential gap.

Now, FAA, ATA, time to think about an honest pitch from you and no more of the bogus funding-crisis junk...

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

One more before I go do real work...

No more nose art!

From the Associated Press:
Women's Images Ordered Off British Jets

LONDON — British air force officials ordered the images of a pair of models removed from the nose cones of two fighter jets because they were deemed offensive, a spokesman said Tuesday.

The two Harrier Jets, which had been stationed in Afghanistan to provide ground attack support to NATO operations in the country, featured the silhouettes of British pinups Lucy Pinder and Michelle Marsh, who had visited troops stationed there last year.

But after one of the planes was spotted by Royal Air Force (RAF) officials at a base in Britain, the silhouettes were ordered to be removed, the RAF spokesman said on condition of anonymity in line with force policy.

"We have women that fly the planes, women that fix the planes and it's just not appropriate," he told The Associated Press.

The official did not say whether those responsible for the art were disciplined. He also declined to say if the silhouette images depicted the models naked or clothed.

Both women had been fully clothed and respectful of local customs during their visit to Afghanistan, the official said. The trip was designed as a morale booster for British troops who continue to fight a tough insurgency in the south of the country.
Here are the women in question:


Monday, June 04, 2007

User Fee Opposition Growing...

Alaskans Take a Stand, despite what their Sen. Stevens has wrought...

Opposition to User Fees Gains Momentum at State, Local Levels
States and localities continue to show their support for general aviation's economic importance and opposition to a user fee scheme to finance the aviation system. Most recently, over 1,700 pilots in Alaska signed a petition in support of a resolution in both houses of the Alaska legislature to go on record in opposition to the user fee plan being backed by the FAA and the big airlines. In addition, two Texas cities, Goliad City and New Braunfels, passed similar resolutions in opposition to user fees. User fees are backed by the airlines as a way to shift billions in their costs to general aviation and replace congressional control over the aviation system with airline control. To learn more about the user fee proposal, and what you can do to oppose it, visit NBAA's Online Advocacy Center at:

Further, the Senate Finance Committee will be holding hearings this month on the FAA taxing structure -- yet another opportunity to make your voice heard, particularly if you're from one of the 18 states with a Senator on this tax-writing panel.

Shout it out!

New! Aviation Events Calendar

A new feature just added to the UCAP website is a calendar of upcoming events in the GA world. There's a link in the link-bar just below the page-one masthead, or head straight there now...

... You can submit your event listing, local, regional, and national, by sending email to