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December 31, 2003

ANN's 2003 Stories of the Year #1: Columbia Down!

Goodbye, Columbia It was deja vu all over again. Much of America woke up on February 1st only to discover that Columbia, the country's first fully-functional space shuttle, had disintegrated in orbit over Texas as it re-entered Earth's atmosphere. For ANN Associate Editor Pete Combs, it was a trial by fire. That first Saturday in February was his first day on the job. Living in Dallas (TX) at the time, Combs heard the sonic boom that accompanied Columbia's destruction. Moments later, he and Correspondent Rob Milford were on the phone as Milford sped south to the debris field.

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ANN's 2003 Stories of the Year #2: Daley Sucks!

Fear And Loathing In Chicago It was a slap in the face to all of general aviation -- the stealth destruction of the runway at Chicago's venerable Meigs Field. It happened in the early hours of March 31st. Chicago's rabidly anti-GA Mayor, Richard M Daley held a brief news conference Monday afternoon, to explain why he apparently sent heavy equipment to Meigs Field late Sunday night. The Chicago Tribune's Casey Bukro said in its morning edition, "Meigs Field, the city's lakefront airport, was closed early today after construction vehicles showed up overnight and dug up large portions of the runway. At dawn, the view from the top of the Adler Planetarium showed a series of large, X-shaped portions of concrete carved out of the runway's center. Large, illuminate

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ANN's 2003 Stories of the Year #3: Airline Turmoil

Airlines In Turmoil  The year 2003 saw commercial passenger aviation continue to ebb in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, war in Iraq and the SARS epidemic. In August, we wrote: US Airways is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy; United's stock is at 1950s prices, as it slides toward Chapter 11; AMR's saying it's going to be many years before record losses are made up; Boeing Credit is looking at $1.2 billion in UAL's debt, possibly about to become "non-performing" -- Where will it end?

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ANN's 2003 Stories of the Year #4: TFRs Take Over!

Yellow Tape In The Sky Who's airspace is it anyway? That was one of the biggest questions among pilots and aviation enthusiasts in 2003, as the government issued Temporary Flight Restrictions hand-over-fist. Flights were restricted or prohibited wherever the president traveled. The vice president was covered by an aerial blanket as well. In fact, a lot of VIP's traveled in protected bubbles of airspace in 2003.

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ANN's 2003 Stories of the Year #5: Sun 'n Fun Hazards and Frauds

Sun 'n Fun: Danger And Gate Fraud Air shows and fly-ins seemed to make a bit of headway in 2003, bouncing back after the shock of 9/11. But ANN continues to watch and worry when it comes to one specific fly-in: Sun 'n Fun at Lakeland (FL). This year, ANN reported on two issues regarding the event: safety and gate attendance.

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ANN's 2003 Stories of the Year #6: Concorde's Swan Song

Concorde Goes The Way Of The Do-Do The single commercial entry into supersonic flight is now museum fodder, after both British Airways and Air France retired their Concorde fleets in 2003. It was a traumatic decision for many aviation enthusiasts -- especially those in the United Kingdom, where there's still an effort afoot to keep the supersonic aircraft in the air. The death knell for the Concorde was sounded twice -- once, when an Air France version crashed on take-off from Charles de Gaulle in Paris and finally in the massive industry downturn following the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington. The Concorde's passing was without a sonic boom, but with a whimper.

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ANN's 2003 Stories of the Year #7: The Wright Centennial Can Do No Wrong - Kinda

A Troubled Aviation Industry Celebrates 100 Years Of Flight In a year marked by increased paranoia on the part of governments and air passengers, when the industry was in one of its worst slumps ever and terrorists threatened to again turn commercial flights into guided weapons, the world tried hard to put it all aside and celebrate the Centennial Of Flight. But, alas, even the weather turned against us. Of the December 16th ceremonies under rainy skies at Kill Devil Hills (NC), we wrote: Gray sky, chilly air and pouring rain did not dampen the sprit of an enthusiastic crowd Dec. 17 as they awaited the arrival of the event’s most anticipated guest speaker. President George W. Bush was scheduled to address the crowd at the Wright Brothers National Mem

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ANN's 2003 Stories of the Year #8: What's All The Ruckus Down At The South Pole?

Perhaps it's the last "undiscovered country." Perhaps it's more in vogue with adventurers now than ever. Perhaps it's just because it's there. For some reason, a lot of people decided to go south this winter -- all the way to the South Pole. Without exception, they all ran into trouble. Journeys to the South Pole aren't new. But in helicopters and single-engine piston aircraft they are.

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ANN's 2003 Stories of the Year #9: Taking Space By Private Storm

The past year has seen a lot of bad aviation news, but a bright and shining hope in the form of the first private ventures into space. Thanks to the $10-million X-Prize competition, more than two dozen teams from around the world are trying to get their own version of a reusable space vehicle 60-miles above the Earth to become the first privately-run space operation. Few stand a better chance to being first than Scaled Composites, Burt Rutan's Mojave (CA) operation.

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ANN's 2003 Stories of the Year #10:Taking It To Saddam Again

It was yet another gauntlet to commercial aviation, already reeling from 9/11 and the SARS epidemic earlier in the year. In March, coalition forces began launching air strikes aimed at toppling Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. On March 19th, we wrote: The United States has led off the first actions in its war with Iraq with a "surgical strike" designed to disable a key Iraqi military target. In a short address that started at 2215 Wednesday night, President George W. Bush indicated that the first attack had begun. This initial effort was a combination of F-117 actions combined with Tomahawk cruise missiles against a specific target, rumored to be a bunker, in Baghdad, Iraq.

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Cirrus SR20 Selected As ANN's 2003 Plane Of The Year

So, The Best We've Seen So Far Is... The Cirrus SR20 Our top bird of the year is not the wonderfully heavy-horsed 310 HP SR22, oh no. Yeah, we love that thing all to blazes... and the lovely kick in the ass you get when you drop the hammer on all those ponies is certainly worth the price of admission. But, we're trying to meet a lot of specs when we name the very best in a field that is populated by some very good competition. And as much as we like the SR22, there is no getting away from the fact that it's little brother, the SR20, is a hell of a value and our unequivocal selection as 'Plane of the Year.' Run all the numbers, balance price and performance AND add to that the fact that this thing now comes STANDARD with an Avidyne Entegra (the very height of aeronautical coo

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ANN Looks Back at '03: The Stories That Didn't Happen (Part 1)

It Could Have Been Worse... (Part One of Two) Elsewhere, Aero-News has recapped the stories that were important in 2003. In some ways, the stories that didn't happen were just as important - especially the many things that didn't happen, but that we expected to see. Here are the top stories that didn't happen in 2003...

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ANN 2003 Plane Of The Year Selection: The Runners-Up

While we first discussed these choices in our Oshkosh coverage, it behooves us to revisit our selection of these birds, and see if they still hold up for the duration of the year as 2003 comes to a close. While this year has actually produced several NEW aircraft on the GA front, a number of other promising projects are finally maturing to the point where you can step up, lay your money on the table, and (sooner or later) fly your new bird to your home-drome. Herewith; our FINAL take on what REALLY impresses us as the BEST of the available general aviation fleet for 2003.

The Runners-Up:

Diamond C-1 Eclipse

Extra 500 

Piper 6X/6XT

Lancair Columbia 400

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ANN Looks Back at '03: The Stories That Didn't Happen (Part 2)

It Could Have Been Worse... (Part Two of Two) Elsewhere, Aero-News has recapped the stories that were important in 2003. In some ways, the stories that didn't happen were just as important - especially the many things that didn't happen, but that we expected to see. Here are the top stories that didn't happen in 2003...

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Sport Pilot '03: To Be Or Not To Be

Well, here it is -- year end. Many who love to fly for fun are turning blue from holding their breath for FAA to release sport pilot and light sport aircraft--and we're not done yet. Quick History Lesson These proposed rules have been in development for, ahhh, very long. Actually, sport pilot history reaches into the 1980's when FAA painfully produced the Recreational Pilot certificate program, then Primary Category aircraft airworthiness program. Many do not even remember them because of the non-impact. A core issue in Recreational Pilot was the proposal to stop requiring FAA medicals for pilots. The final rule did require all pilots to pass an FAA medical which, many said, had defeated the main purpose. We will see another run at deleting the FAA medical

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Gone West: They Will Be Missed

A Life So Short... An Impression So Great One of the true tragedies of time is that as it passes, so do the lives and spirits of the many who have come to mean so much to us, in so many ways. This year, 2003, we lost a number of outstanding members of our small brother/sisterhood of aviators (or finally became aware of their fate, as in the case of a number of of our brave military flyers) and while we will miss them until our times comes to 'go west,' their personal contributions and overall impact stay with us, perceptibly, every time we take flight. Here are just a few of those we will miss. God Bless Them All...

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NV TFR: New Year's Hysteria (Again)

So, Just Between Us Flyers... Do You Feel More Secure? NOTAM: 3/2275 Issued: 12/30/2003 22:52 Effective: Undetermined - Undetermined State: Facility: ZLA - LOS ANGELES (ARTCC)PALMDALE, CA. Type: SECURITY Description: LAS VEGAS, NV.

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NY TFR: New Year's Hysteria

More False Security? NOTAM: 3/2274 Issued: 12/30/2003 22:50 Effective: Undetermined - Undetermined State: NY Facility: ZNY - NEW YORK (ARTCC),NY. Type: SECURITY Description: NEW YORK, NY.

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WA TFR: 12/30 - TFN

Oil Spill Hazard NOTAM: 3/2261 Issued: 12/30/2003 16:02 Effective: Immediately - Until Further Notice State: WA Facility: ZSE - SEATTLE (ARTCC),AUBURN,WA. Type: HAZARDS Description: EDMONDS, WA. 

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Aero-News Quote Of The Day (12.31.03)

"Commander Rick Husband, Pilot Willie McCool, Mission Specialists Dave Brown, Kalpana Chawla, Michael Anderson and Laurel Clark, and Israeli Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon have all gone west. Godspeed to all of them. They will never be forgotten." Source: ANN's ultimate commentary on the loss of the brave crew of the Shuttle Columbia.

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