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December 28, 2003

More Mars Missions In 2004

"Mars has been a most daunting destination. Some -- including me -- have called it 'The Death Planet.'" So says NASA's associate administrator for space science Ed Weiler. Indeed, Mars has claimed its share of probes. Fully two-thirds of the missions sent to Mars have fallen prey to its harsh climate, communication difficulties and the tenuous nature of the Earth-Mars voyage.

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Gus McLeod Plans Polar Flight

Gus McLeod has a dream. The Gaithersburg (MD) pilot wants to set a record for flying over both the North and South Poles in a single-engine piston aircraft. He wants to show "there's still magic in aviation." The 49-year old father of three leaves Monday in his one-of-a-kind, Korean-built Velocity Firefly. McLeod, who became the first man to ever fly over the North Pole in an open-cockpit aircraft, will make the flight in a Velocity "Firefly," obtained from Korean Aerospace Research. "It flies like a little race car," said McLeod, who owns a medical supply company. "It's just a little rocket sled." The pusher-prop canard aircraft is designed for long-range flight at more than 200 kts. "They told me the writing said 'Korean Aerospace Research,' " McLeod said. "It could say 'This is

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Fuel Starvation/Ditching Kills Pilot In Pacific Ferry Flight

A New Zealand pilot, attempting to fly from Hilo (HI) to Woodland (CA) died after making what parajumpers described as a good water landing. Kelvin Stark, 58, had made this kind of ferry flight several times in the past, according to the US Coast Guard. Although the ferry aircraft, a PAC 750XL made in New Zealand, carried enough fuel for a 17-hour flight, Stark ran out of avgas only 11 hours 45 minutes into the journey. Stark was delivering the Pacific Aerospace aircraft to Utility Aircraft Corporation in Woodland (CA), where it was to be converted for use by skydivers.

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Russian Air Force Gets Much Needed Upgrade

As part of its most ambitious military project since the collapse of the Soviet Union 12 years ago, Russia Friday launched its first flight of upgraded SU-27SM fighters from the company's manufacturing plant in Komsomolsk-on-Amur. The aircraft flew to their new base at the Russian Air Force training center in Lipetsk, where they'll undergo testing before becoming fully operational. The SU-27SM features new engines and updated avionics and already, Russian pilots are thrilled beyond comparison. "They still smell of fresh paint. They are like factory-fresh cars," a smiling squadron leader, Yuri Gritsenko, told NTV television.

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If Things Are So Bad, Who Are These Guys?

The explosion of low-fare carriers has spread beyond the US and Europe and is now rocking the air travel market in Asia. The West Australian Newspaper calls it something akin to an "aviation gold rush," even though the worldwide market continues to reel from 9/11, the war on terror and the SARS epidemic. "We ain't seen nothing yet," said Peter Harbison, managing director at the Center for Asia Pacific Aviation, a consulting firm based in Sydney. "This is going to be a big, big movement."

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FAA's Traffic Management Delays Flights Up To 5 Hours

"It's caught everyone by surprise. They're saying it's too many planes that want to come to Fort Lauderdale, so they're holding them at airports around the country." So said Jim Reynolds, spokesman for Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, after the FAA imposed a traffic management stop on all flights to the airport Friday. Sheesh, and it's not even Spring Break yet.

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Aero-News Quote Of The Day (12.28.03)

"They still smell of fresh paint. They are like factory-fresh cars." Source: Russian Air Force squadron leader, Yuri Gritsenko, on the arrival of a flight of Sukhoi SU-27SM fighters fresh from the factory. The deployment is part of Russia's $11.7 billion military aviation upgrade planned between now and 2005.

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More Strike Preps At Northwest Airlink

As their January 10 strike deadline approaches, Mesaba Airlines pilots announced today they will open additional strike operations centers in Detroit and Memphis. Earlier this month, Mesaba pilots opened a strike operations center in Minneapolis. A strike would impact 600 daily departures for Northwest Airlines. "We deserve and have earned a fair contract," said Capt. Tom Wychor, Chairman of the Mesaba ALPA Unit. "Mesaba pilots don't want a strike, we want a contract. But we are prepared to strike if management forces us to."

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