All Aviation Articles By Josh

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 GlobalAir.com 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.

The FAA gives anwers on the King-Santa Barbara ordeal, but questions remain


John and Martha King with their Cessna 172
prior to their fateful trip last weekend to Santa Barbara.

When something goes wrong, we usually can step backward and find multiple events that led to the collective mishap. It appears that happened again this week.

Many in the aviation community displayed outrage after police detained well-known King School owners John and Martha King last weekend, mistakenly believing the aircraft in which they were flying had been stolen. Guns drawn, officers handcuffed the couple and hauled them away in police cruisers.

Looking backward on this incident of mistaken identity, a chain of events can be found to blame. Now several national aviation groups, including the AOPA and NBAA, have urged government agencies to employ more efficient tactics so those who fly legally are not lumped together with the criminals who do not.

We spoke with several officials with the FAA and FBI about the incident to shed more light on what happened and how they think it could be kept from happening again. Now we will break down the King ordeal in Santa Barbara. Let us try to reconstruct what went wrong in chronological order, while also considering how to redirect efforts to avoid this from happening again. [more]

-          The FAA made a list of tail numbers, including the trouble-making N50545 from this event, available to the Cessna Aircraft Co.  The aircraft maker then attached it to a 2009 Cessna 172S that will be flown by, among others, John and Martha King.

FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown told GlobalAir.com that aircraft manufacturers, including Cessna and others, often receive blocks of available registration numbers from the agency. This allows each company to deliver an aircraft directly to the buyer, simplifying the process of obtaining a new plane.

-          Through Oct. 1, old FAA rules have allowed retired tail numbers to be reissued two years after they are retired. The new rules, which GlobalAir.com writers have written several articles about, increase the timeframe between recycling tail numbers to five years. They take effect next month. The updated law also allows the FAA to better track to whom and to where an aircraft is registered by enforcing registration renewals more tightly.

So some of the work to help fix this has taken place already.

“This new endeavor will probably eliminate, to a huge degree, a 'Santa Barbara' occurrence in the future,” said FAA spokesman Mike Fergus in an email Monday. He served as an acting public affairs official for the west coast this week and normally represents the agency for issues in the northwest and Alaska. “Just how the C-150 number was reissued (the plane stolen in 2002 that sparked the mix-up) is not something I can track down.”

-          Fergus’ last line brings up another aspect in this bureaucratic snowball that involves several federal and local agencies. The Cessna 150 in question originally was reported stolen (and the Kings say the owner still never has recovered it) in 2002, seven years before last weekend’s incident. Thus, even if the new five-year FAA policy of recycling old tail numbers had taken affect years ago, it may have done little to prevent this particular case.

The FAA will now look into further options for handling the registration numbers of stolen planes, Brown said, including considering an AOPA suggestion to retire them outright.

-          The Kings’ filing of an IFR plan alerted law enforcement that a stolen plane may have been flying into Santa Barbara. They in turn argue the absurdity of a criminal filing a path that lets the government know their exact moves ahead of time.

The El Paso Information Center, a joint security force of several branches of federal government that is overseen by the DEA, tracks flight plans against a list of registration numbers from stolen aircraft (and the probably keep tabs on other suspect flights, too). Originally focused in the realm of border patrol, the facility’s roles and staff grew exponentially after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. Its employees now investigate many aspects of illegal immigration, terrorism and drug smuggling.

Nobody outside of the agency knows for sure exactly what happened at this point, as DEA public affairs officials told reporters this week they would dig for better answers before commenting, although AOPA reporter Alton K. Marsh talked to the right sources got a home run. (His report on the AOPA web site, perhaps the most thorough on this whole affair, also notes the case of a Cirrus aircraft that shares a tail number with a Piper that was stolen in Florida. The FAA will likely push to have both numbers removed from the stolen aircraft list.)

By calling a spokesman with the McKinney, Texas, police department, from where the Cessna 150 originally was stolen, Marsh’s reporting makes it increasingly clear that officials at EPIC learned somewhere along the line that the registration number did not, in fact, belong to the stolen 150 but to the 172 flown by the Kings. By the time the center tried to relay this to police in Santa Barbara, police already had detained the couple.

-          Though the DEA has not confirmed this, it is reasonable to assume, based on conversations with the FAA and other reports, the data alerting of the stolen aircraft originated from within the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database. The FBI oversees the center, which includes data gathered by local, state and federal agencies from throughout the United States.

The center allows agencies to (most of the time quite intelligently) share information on fugitives, terrorists, sex offenders, stolen cars and goods, important tools to support crime fighting. However, according to FBI spokesman Bill Carter, it is up to the reporting agency to remove or change a report so other agencies can avoid the failure of acting on bad information.

The 172 flown by the Kings had been stopped 18 months beforehand with a Cessna employee at the yoke. The situation did not entail drawn guns and news media coverage, as it did in the King case. However, at that point, it gave investigators every reason in the world to remove the registration number in question from the NCIC.

“It’s happened with cars,” said FBI spokesman Bill Carter. “A stolen car is recovered and the police department fails to clear it.”

Imagine that one if you see a dozen officers behind you with guns drawn and all you did was run a red light.

To drive this home further, Carter noted that NCIC data alone is not probable cause for an officer to make an arrest.

Although the King situation exposed several chinks of armor in the registration and tracking of aircraft, along with how law enforcement uses that data to catch criminals, it is a cloud that also comes with a ray of sunshine.

The Kings received an apology from the Santa Barbara police chief and, in turn, they offered to work with the agency to help develop a more effective protocol for approaching suspect aircraft. The Kings hope that other agencies use the result in a nationwide model.

Furthermore, one also can be hopeful that the FAA and other involved federal agencies can modify their policies to ensure the innocent remain innocent so investigators’ time can be more effectively spent catching those who are not. No innocent person wants, or deserves, to be confused with someone else at gunpoint.

EAA Airventure Oshkosh 2010 Photos and Highlights: Friends, Flying and Flooding

 

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On Sunday, the day before Airventure officially kicked off, we jumped off a local shuttle to find an astonishingly empty North 40. Land traditionally packed with tents and planes remained wide open, a rarity. Small pockets of enthusiasts sat in chairs lined up by the runway fences. They listened to ATC frequencies on handheld radios as scores of incoming pistons, warbirds and tail draggers received instructions to “land on the green dot” one after another after another, like winged clockwork.

Personnel operating the world’s busiest control tower just as well should have told the pilots to land next to the giant swamp to the left of them, for that is what anything at the airport not paved with concrete resembled as the world’s largest aviation gathering began. Eastern Wisconsin endured enough rain in the prior weeks to warrant construction of a giant ark, perhaps one with a landing strip.

The ground dried out later in the week beneath mostly beautiful weather. The early conditions put many planes into alternate airports (more than 10,000 landed in the immediate region for the week) and filled up tie-down spots at nearby FBOs. It cancelled or diminished several planned events, and it perhaps played a role reduced attendance figures.

EAA president Tom Poberezny called it the most challenging to prepare in his 35 years. This year’s crowd of 535,000 missed the 2009 attendance figure but still outpaced Airventure’s turnout from two years ago. Sunshine and 80-degree temperatures on most days rewarded those who bared messy, early days and the show went onward.

This year’s EAA Airventure brought with it plenty of memories, most good, such as a first-ever nighttime air show and fireworks display and mass arrival of a flock of DC-3s, resembling the Berlin Airlift. A tragic memory or two, though, happened to slip into the picture. A crash of NASCAR team owner and longtime pilot Jack Roush left many at the show scratching their heads and saying their prayers.

Roush, piloting a Beechcraft Premier Jet, appeared to overshoot his runway and clipped a wing on the ground, leading to a hard landing that broke the jet in two and hospitalized him with facial injuries. The incident spurred plenty of discussion amongst attendees throughout the remainder of the week, including conflicting witness accounts of what exactly happened. However, all agreed that Roush and those on the ground were quite fortunate that things turned out no worse than they did. No fatalities and no crowd injuries made a tough moment seem not as tough.

 
Cobalt's Co50 prototype

New feats of technology were on display throughout the week, as flyers and enthusiasts celebrated milestones and anniversaries of older aircraft. Cobalt showed off a prototype of its Co50 canard piston it plans to test late this year, as General Electric sponsored an electric aircraft symposium. The 75th anniversary of the DC-3 was commemorated alongside the 50th of the Piper Cherokee.

The 2010 Airventure theme centered upon a Salute to Veterans, which saw hundreds of service members, past and present, gather side by side at the airport’s central AeroShell Square for a group photo following a parade that led them to the gathering.

In another event, a memorial service took place before an Old Glory Honor flight from Oshkosh to Washington, D.C. Two daily Warbirds in Review shows further echoed the patriotic sentiment, as daily mock dogfights and bombing runs pierced the sky and shook Wittman’s hangars.

Vintage aircraft and classic warbirds enlivened the flight lines and campgrounds, while some of the military’s most advanced aircraft invaded AeroShell Square. A C-5 Galaxy and CV-22 Osprey lined up alongside a BAE Sea Harrier F/A2 that performed demonstrations of its STOL capabilities.

Air shows left little to be desired on the ground, other than the sheer gut and skill of the pilots performing up above. Biplanes climbed into hammerheads amongst diving parachutists. A jet sailplane swept along the sky and resembled a ribbon dancer with smoke tails.

Chuck Aaron’s Red Bull helicopter defied laws of physics with loops and backflips while, likewise, the AeroShell Team did the same in its fleet of T-6A Texans. On the other side of the field, the Goodyear Blimp droned across the eastern Wisconsin horizon. Musical performances capped several evenings, including concerts by Asleep at the Wheel, Gary Sinise’s Lt. Dan Band and classic rockers Chicago.


The Partridge Family meets the Piper Aircraft Family 

Beyond the amazing events, camaraderie highlighted the week for many. A family reunion takes place among longtime attendees who reunite with smiles and back-pats, as those new to the festival establish friendships they will take into future shows.

For us at GlobalAir.com, we took delight in greeting the hundreds who visited our booth in Hangar D. More than 2,100 international visitors registered at the EAA tent. Trading jokes with Australians or communicating with Portuguese-speaking Brazilians with a mix of English and Spanish made the trip to Oshkosh as unique and enjoyable as a trip to anywhere else in the world. Except, there is no place that comes close to offering the heritage and spirit felt by fellow members of the aviation community. Thus, fortunately, there are only 51 weeks until next year’s installment.


The aerial acrobatics continued as we left Wittman Field, as a crop duster tended
to his soybean field.

EAA Airventure Oshkosh Preview and Schedule

The curtain is now prepared to open for EAA Airventure in Oshkosh, Wisc., next week, albeit on what has been a soggy airfield. Nearly a foot of rain has fallen in the area this month. The rain clouds appear ready to depart eastern Wisconsin next week, despite floodwaters forcing Milwaukee’s General Mitchell International Airport (MKE) to close Friday and more rain was expected in the area into early Saturday.

Sunny weather, however, is expected to prevail in the Oshkosh area during Airventure, with pleasant highs near 80 each day and no more than a 40 percent chance of a storm on any given day, primarily mid-week. Hopefully, it stays perfect for the daily air shows.

With mostly blue skies ahead, we can begin planning for what should be an exciting week. The images in this post are from last year’s show. We here at GlobalAir.com anticipate even more fun this year. Stop by and visit us at Hangar D, Booth 4028. Once you get there, here are a few highlights for the week ahead.

This Weekend
Mass arrivals of aircraft will land in the area throughout the next three days. The Piper Cherokees arrived this afternoon, with Beechcraft Bonanzas, Cessnas and Mooneys to land tomorrow. Stinsons and Comanches arrive along with the Airventure Cup racers on Sunday.


Monday, July 26
Opening Day includes an evening performance by classic-rock band Chicago, but if you are in the mood for some tunes earlier in the day, check out Ravi “The Raviator,” a member of the Flying Musicians. The first performance is 11 a.m. at the Senheiser tent, outside of Hangar A. Repeat shows take place at noon Thursday and Friday.

Ford Motor Co. will sponsor its Wings Vs. Wheels challenge at 3:15 p.m., as a Roush 540RH and Shelby GT350 go head to head against the Red Bull Edge 540 and Castrol Aviator’s Extra 330SC. Ford, as posted on our blog recently, will auction off a Mustang during Airventure that is modeled after the SR-71.

Tuesday, July 27
The theme for the 2010 event is “A Salute to Veterans,” a prominent message displayed in ceremonies and displays throughout the week. Each morning features a nostalgic look at the history of wartime aviation with “Warbirds in Review.”  Tuesday’s edition features two sessions, the early installment with a pair of Old Crow P-51s and an afternoon event highlighted by D-Day paratroopers Col. Ed Shames and 1st Lt. Fred Bahlau with the C-47 Tico Belle.

Later in the afternoon, the "Max Effort" Air Show will feature a DC-3/C-47 formation. Among other events, Daher-Socata holds a news conference in AeroShell Square at 9:30 a.m. with Nicolas Chabbert, President of SOCATA North America, speaking.

 


 

Wednesday, June 28
Cessna Aircraft will host a Tweet-Up and doughnut breakfast at 9 a.m. Flightglobal senior tech artist Joe Picarella will sign free copies of the Citation Mustang edition of his cutaway aircraft illustrations.

Embraer will have a Phenom 100 and Phenom 300 on display throughout the week.  Luis Carlos Affonso, executive vice president of executive jets for the company, speaks at the Embraer booth at 2 p.m.

Continuing with the Salute to Veterans theme, U.S. Army Capt. Brian Brennan, recipient of a Bronze Star and Purple Heart, speaks at 1 p.m. at the B&S Aircraft booth. He was injured by an IED in Afghanistan, losing both his legs and remaining unresponsive for 23 days until Gen. David Petraeus visited him in the hospital and said the word “Currahee,” the motto of Brennan’s unit, the 101st Airborne. The phrase means, “stands alone.” Hearing those words, Brennan tried to sit up to attention. He is on hand at the booth each morning to share his story.

 

 

Thursday, July 29
An "Old Glory Honor Flight" to Washington, D.C. departs 8 a.m., and an afternoon air show features classic warbird jets.

EAA Young Eagles Co-Chairmen Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger and Jeff Skiles, his first officer on US Airways flight 1549, the “Miracle on the Hudson,” appear together at Forum Pavilion 7 to talk about their experiences since that fateful water landing.


Friday, July 30

A "Parade of Veterans" at 2 p.m. concludes with a photo of all veterans gathered. A "Missing Man" formation also takes place. Actor and veterans advocate Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band perform Friday evening.

 

The world premiere of "Pearl" plays at the Fly-In Theater. It tells the story of story of Pearl Carter Scott, a Chickasaw aviatrix who was the youngest licensed pilot in the United States.

 

Saturday, July 31

A big weekend finale includes a rare nighttime air show, featuring a "Wall of Fire" and fireworks display.

 

The Spirit of Aviation Auction features aircraft for sale. Another afternoon air show is loaded with pyrotechnics and pays homage to warbirds. Nine-time Grammy winner Asleep at the Wheel performs at 6:30 p.m.


Sunday, Aug. 1
Closing day is Family Day, as those between six and 18 years of age enjoy free admission. As there also is on Saturday, an early morning mass balloon launch commences.

 

An early warbird air show includes the Japanese Nakajima A6M2 Model 21 Zero. The afternoon show is entitled “Warbird Aerobatics.”

 

For a complete rundown of daily events and maps, visit this page and this page on the Airventure web site. Additional workshops and activities can be found here.

The tightrope of security and spending


Courtesy of the Defense Department

Certainly, a large part of aviation innovation, and of the aviation industry itself, derives from the American military. Anyone enjoy that GPS stuff lately?

An editorial in the USA Today last week echoes what has become a growing sentiment of Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a holdover from the Bush administration largely credited for righting the ship in Iraq, to limit military spending and to cut into rank-and-file bureaucracy.

Gates has pushed in recent years for cuts in parts of the Defense budget, something rarely seen from a Pentagon leader during active conflict.  His reasoning is often this: The military strength held by the United States overshadows that any other nation, and in the case of the next-largest armies, many belong to allies.

Fighting the global war on terror does not always necessitate billion-dollar machinery, his logic says.

Gates has railed to trim fat from various branches that squabble for slices of the hundreds of billions of dollars available each year in the Defense budget, the second largest expenditure behind Social Security.

Often, a general of one military branch lobbies for the same money as another. For instance, when the Army insisted upon up-armored Humvees so more soldiers could survive IED blasts in Afghanistan and Iraq, similar requests came from the Air Force for UAVs and expanding fighter jet programs.

The Pentagon, at Gates’ urging, capped production of the F-22 last year. However, another recent request of his to curtail a similar program went unheard by lawmakers.

The House Armed Services Committee passed legislation to award GE a contract to compete with Pratt & Whitney building engines for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (pictured above), which is expected to cost $113 million per plane.

The USA Today notes that the most ardent in Congress who backed the plan without approval from the Defense Secretary came from districts home to GE facilities. At home, such a vote for a Congress member means creating or saving jobs, regardless of the true defense needs.

"Does the number of warships we have and are building really put America at risk when the U.S. battle fleet is larger than the next 13 navies combined, 11 of which belong to allies and partners? Gates asked in a recent speech. "Is it a dire threat that by 2020, the United States will have only 20 times more advanced stealth fighters than China?"

In today’s times, there is a difficult balance for politicians and the non-partisan civil service workers who carry out the laws they pass. That balance spans between creating jobs, leashing government spending and defending our country. Each is important, but drawing lines is hard.

Many times, the simple solution is not the smart solution, but one can just as easily say that the other way around, too.  Weigh in below and let us know what you think.

Thanks to our friends at CFM Jet for tweeting the editorial.

 

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