All posts tagged 'aircraft' - Page 15

Political expediency, the only thing faster than a private jet

Campaign ad in the New Mexico governor race

Is the political climate in your state capitol a little toasty? Wait five minutes; it will change. It always does.

Apparently, the only thing quicker than a Gulfstream G650 in a flutter test this election-year summer is the amount of time it takes for a politician to throw the state plane under the proverbial bus.

Nearly two years since leaders of the Big-3 automakers flew privately to Capitol Hill to ask for government assistance, striking up blue-collar outcry in the midst of a bleak recession, still today audience members of the political theater gasp at the mention of a public servant on a private flight.

As the finish line of the election cycle nears, some candidates think that ditching the jet is a fast fix to a sure win from a populist electorate that, at the moment, frowns upon big-ticket items on the government payroll.

Susana Martinez, Republican candidate for the New Mexico governorship, vowed last month to rid the state’s executive branch of its jet, a 2005 Citation Bravo. The state also owns a 2006 King Air and 1983 Turbo Commander, which she said would remain only for “emergencies or official state business that is a priority.” The campaign staff, according to an account in the New Mexico Independent, gave no examples of said priorities.

Martinez’ move comes as her Democratic opponent, Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, faces criticism from a report showing her use of state aircraft cost more than $360,000 during the past five years, and she reportedly violated state cost-efficiency rules 39 times.

Denish responded that she did not know of the rules and defended the jet as a necessary tool for state government. The lieutenant governor also called it a bad time to sell the Citation, which cost $5.45 million in 2005.

A quick look at the Citation Bravos listed on show that slightly older models, likely with a little higher time, will sell for a fraction of what the state paid a few years ago. Though the jet in New Mexico might get $3.5 million or more, those who understand the values provided by such aircraft will wonder the true cost of selling it.

Coincidence or not, Martinez jumped ahead in the polls near the time she announced her jet-scrapping plan.

Click to see how politicians in Florida, California and West Virgina are also making general aviation use a politcal hot button. [more]

All this comes alongside an NBAA announcement last week that highlighted New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, Denish’s former boss and ticket-mate, after he issued a proclamation that designated September as Aviation and Aerospace Appreciation Month there. A statement from the NBAA notes that the fifth-largest state in geographic size only receives airline service in Albuquerque, making its many miles dependent on general aviation so state leaders can properly serve constituents.

However, the Land of Enchantment is not the only territory to see a fight take flight this fall on whether or not to spare the Citations owned by we the people.

Florida, the Sunshine State, also prepares itself for a stormy debate on its gubernatorial aircraft. Political newcomer Rick Scott, the Republican candidate in a three-horse race, wants to purge a 2003 Citation II owned by the taxpayers. However, the state’s outgoing agriculture commissioner called this a risky idea, especially with shoddy commercial airline service in Tallahassee, the capitol, rerouting many flights down the peninsula by first going north and parking in Atlanta. How else will a governor travel in during the aftermath of a possible hurricane? he asks.

A report on the web site of the Fort Myers, Fla., News-Press compares and contrasts the options of commercial flight (yes, it's time consuming and at times more expensive), as well as charter and fractional options. The paper says the latter option might make good sense for a governor in these string-tightening times. It is this same option that helped Arnold Schwarzenegger, governor of near-bankrupt California, take an economic development trip to Asia last week. The cost of using a jet can offset the benefit of business it creates.

Alas, what would a post about political wrangling be without a further mention of California and its own longstanding and unique political culture?

Current state attorney general and former governor Jerry Brown, the Democratic nominee, faces Republican Meg Whitman this November to replace Schwarenegger. A column by Scott Herhold posted on the Silicon Valley Mercury News web site looks into the history of gubernatorial aviation in the Golden State, including a tidbit on Brown’s father, former governor Pat Brown. When Ronald Reagan succeeded him as governor, he famously sold the state’s airplane, the Grizzly II.

Reagan, however, much like the current Governator, relied on a lease option to fly on state business. By the time the younger Brown ascended to the title he, a former presidential candidate, famously drove a Plymouth economy car to his office to show his penny-pinching skills and opted not to renew the aircraft lease.

Times change, though. The Whitman campaign this year drew fire to 10 flights Brown made as attorney general, trips his campaign said were law-enforcement related. However, many jaded voters construe it as a thin defense. At the same time, Brown’s staff countered that Whitman, former CEO of eBay, has spent millions of her own money to fly around the state for whistlestops.

Whew! Three states, three battles, and we haven’t even mentioned a newspaper article from Charleston, W. Va., that looks at two aircraft (a piston vs. a jet) flown by that state’s candidates for U.S. Senate.

Political postures change as often as the weather in election cycles so, for now, business aviation probably will remain a lightning rod, no matter if it costs as much to run the King Air as it does to fly the Citation.

While having no plane might mean some gain for jet-selling candidates at the looming polls, we only have to look at political history to predict the political future: Statements made during a campaign often have few things in common with the actual governmental decisions made once the ensuing term begins.

Handguns at the Security Checkpoint: Don't Do It.

According to a recent post on The TSA Blog, at least two passengers a day are caught at security checkpoints with a gun in their carry-on luggage. According to the post, when the passengers are caught, the most common response is "I didn't know it was in the bag." Unfortunately, that excuse works for the TSA just about as well as "the dog ate my homework" works for a high school teacher.

Once caught, a passenger potentially faces a number of consequences. First, the subsequent interaction with and interrogation by local law enforcement will quite often result in the passenger missing his or her flight. Next, the passenger could face criminal prosecution for violation of 49 C.F.R. 1540.111 which prohibits carriage of a weapon on your person or accessible carry-on luggage if security screening was required before boarding of the aircraft. The passenger may also be prosecuted under other local statutes that prohibit possession of a handgun at a checkpoint or in the secured area of an airport. [more]

Finally, and in addition to criminal prosecution, the TSA could also initiate a civil penalty action seeking to impose a civil penalty/monetary fine against the passenger for violation of 49 C.F.R. 1540.111 The penalty could range in amount from $1,500 to $7,500, depending upon whether or not the handgun was loaded. The civil penalty action is similar to an FAA enforcement action and does not provide as many constitutional rights and protections as a passenger would have in a criminal proceeding.

The TSA recommends, and I concur, that all passengers double check their carry-on baggage BEFORE arriving at the security checkpoint to confirm that they do not have a handgun or other prohibited item(s) in their luggage. Seems like a "no-brainer" to me. But, if you are caught "packing" at a checkpoint or in the secured area of an airport, hire an aviation attorney to help protect your rights.

For more information on the restrictions placed upon firearms at airports and in aircraft, please read my article on the topic: Carrying Firearms On Aircraft.

A look at the increasing trend of shining lasers at aircraft

FAA images via

Although government officials have tried to do more to prevent people from pointing lasers at aircraft, the number of reported incidents in America and elsewhere continues to grow.

Aviators need keep the issue in mind, especially when flying at night and when taking off or landing at airports near residential areas. When the intense, pulsing light of a laser hits the window of a cockpit, it can temporarily blind a pilot and compromise safety of the flight.

A 2004 FAA study showed that 75 percent of pilots exposed to a laser beam in the cockpit reported difficultly operating the aircraft (study pictured above). The shorter the distance and stronger the light, the more likely a pilot may have to abort a landing or take evasive action to get away from the beam.

Though Congress has yet to pass successfully a law to criminalize the act on a federal level (bills died in 2005 and 2007), many states have passed laws making it illegal to point a laser at an aircraft or have charged offenders under welfare endangerment or criminal mischief statutes. Other countries, including Britain and parts of Australia, have outright banned the use of some lasers in order to protect those in aircraft.

Despite the actions, however, the number of incidents and arrests continue to grow.

Just today, police in El Cajon, Calif., charged a 20-year-old man with a felony of pointing a laser at an aircraft. Officers say the man directed a beam into the windows of a police helicopter. The suspect’s friends reportedly said he wanted to see if officers would arrive if he pointed it at them. Well, he got his wish and then some.

Meanwhile in Atlantic City, N.J., pilots have filed 10 complaints this summer, stating they were targeted with lasers while flying into the airport there. Boardwalk venders in nearby Ocean City reluctantly agreed to stop selling high-powered pointers, which local government officials think are the culprit. [more]

North of the U.S. border, a man in Calgary, Canada, was charged this week after an incident similar to the California case, also involving an idiot, a laser and a police helicopter. The newspaper report, linked here, said the officers involved will remain grounded until doctors determine whether any long-term damage resulted from the exposure. After seeing the beam, the police donned protective eye gear and circled the area until they determined a location of the laser. Ground units then moved in and arrested the man, who said he merely pointed the laser at a mirror in his house and it accidentally reflected into the chopper’s windows.

Other notable incidents include several aircraft targeted near Seattle-Tacoma in 2009, prompting initial fears that the actions may have been be related to terrorist groups, though that was unfounded. A coordinated laser attack in Sydney, Australia in 2008 involved four laser beams that honed in on approaching planes, which led to the provincial government there outright banning the devices.   

A decade ago, when the FAA first looked into the issue of lasers and aircraft, the Western-Pacific regional field office reported 150 incidents between 1996 and 1999. By 2009, at the time of the Seattle-Tacoma incident, the agency said 150 laser-aircraft cases were reported in the first two months of the year alone.

Canada has seen a similar trend, reporting only a handful of cases a few years ago. Pilots filed more than 100 reports in each of the last three years, with the total for 2010 looking like it will be even higher.


The issue has become so widespread that it has been lampooned. The tech web site once offered a fictional “PlaneTag” laser device on its site as an April Fool’s gag, even offering to cover the first $25,000 of a user's fine.

However, lasers can also be an aviator’s friend, as well, warning them not to fly into restricted airspace, possibly mark areas for holding patterns, or to potentially be used as a military tool to track and destroy enemy missiles.

Additional tools soon will help pilots identify and track a laser beam. Earlier this summer, the FBI contracted the laser company Optra to develop a Laser Event Recorder tracking system to be installed on aircraft to capture a laser signal and pinpoint it with GPS, creating evidence on a USB drive to help convict a culprit.

In the meantime, perhaps, pilots can replace their traditional aviator sunglasses with this pair of laser-resistant shades. At least then, they can still look cool and not get blinded when flying.

The Cobalt Co50, a piston pusher that will hit 280 mph

Slick design? Check. Huge windows? Check. A turbo-charged piston engine that can scream through the sky? Check and mate.  This plane looks like it can play in the big leagues.

Cobalt Aircraft is unveiling its Co50 280-mph-piston pusher at Oshkosh next month.

Founded by a Georgia Tech aerospace grad, the Co50 project began in 2002.

Featuring a spacey interior and an enormous wrap-around windshield, the designers cleared the drawing board before developing this aircraft.

A 350-hp twin-turbo TSIOF-550-D2B pushes the Co50 to hit 245 KTAS at 8,000 feet, according to the company’s web site.  The site also features interactive tools to check out aircraft specs, such as weights and range.

The company soon will begin flight-testing for certification. Representatives will hold a press conference 10:30 a.m. July 28 at Cobalt’s display at Airventure, booths No. 21 and 22.

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