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.
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
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?
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.
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
This year, ANN reported on two issues regarding the event: safety
and gate attendance.
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.
A Troubled Aviation Industry Celebrates 100 Years Of
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
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.
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.
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
The United States has led off the first actions in its war with
Iraq with a "surgical strike" designed to disable a key Iraqi
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.
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
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...
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
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.
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
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
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...
So, Just Between Us Flyers... Do You Feel More Secure?
Issued: 12/30/2003 22:52
Effective: Undetermined - Undetermined
Facility: ZLA - LOS ANGELES (ARTCC)PALMDALE, CA.
Description: LAS VEGAS, NV.
"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.