Friday, December 10, 2010
Washington (CNN) -- The Federal Aviation Administration says registration records for as many as one-third of all private aircraft are out-of-date and inaccurate, and has begun the process of re-registering aircraft in the United States -- a task made more urgent by the threat posed by criminals and terrorists.
Of the 357,000 registered aircraft in the United States, records for about 119,000 are believed to be out of date, with many of them believed to be junked or inactive aircraft, the FAA said.
But the inaccurate records also could conceal criminal or even terrorist activity, say some security and aviation experts, who say it is critical that the FAA restore order to its records.
To deal with the disarray, the FAA is in the process of canceling registration for all civil aircraft -- a category that includes virtually everything except military aircraft -- and requiring the owners to re-register. The re-registrations will be phased-in over three years, and aircraft owners will be required to renew the registrations every three years thereafter.
"These improvements will give us more up-to-date registration data and better information about the state of the aviation industry," FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said in July, when the rule took effect.
The FAA has long grappled with getting a handle on its records, in recent years requiring owners to report the sale of aircraft, the scrapping or destruction of aircraft, or a change in mailing address. But many owners have not complied with those requirements, the FAA said. And many aircraft owners do not voluntarily update the database with other information, it said.
The FAA's database identifies each aircraft by its registration number -- or "N" number, which is displayed on the plane's tail or fuselage -- its complete description, and the name and address of its registered owner.
In seeking to upgrade the requirement three years ago, the FAA noted that various levels of law enforcement use the database in drug smuggling investigations and "their efforts now have expanded to include matters of homeland security."
Proper records can assist investigators, aviation and security. Authorities routinely check the "N" number, or tail number, of suspicious planes, or planes that have entered restricted airspace.
Just as importantly, an accurate database can help the FAA notify aircraft owners of safety-related information, such as Airworthiness Directives.
The incomplete records are a security concern, but probably not a security problem," said Chris Dancy, a spokesman for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.
"Most of these planes are probably right where they're supposed to be. The FAA has just lost track of them through lost paperwork or the database not being updated or the owners not answering the triennial survey that the FAA sends out," Dancy said.
"So they're probably where they are supposed to be -- owned by the people the FAA last has record of. They just don't know that."
Dancy said most aircraft owners recognize the need for accurate records, and that AOPA has tried to minimize the inconveniences associated with re-registration.
"We offered some suggestions when the (new requirement was proposed) to try to make it a little less burdensome. But the fact of the matter is that the database is woefully out of date. It does need to be brought up to date. We thought it could be done without canceling current registrations. The FAA decided canceling was the best way. It's now the law of the land," he said.
Posted by Steve Douglass at 12:14 PM
(CNN) -- Call it one small step for a cheese, one giant leap fromage-kind.
A wheel of Le Brouere cheese was the secret cargo aboard the SpaceX Dragon, the first commercial spacecraft to be recovered from Earth orbit, the company revealed Thursday. SpaceX co-founder Elon Musk hinted at the cargo after the capsule's successful splashdown in the Pacific Ocean on Wednesday afternoon, suggesting it had something to do with the British comedy troupe Monty Python.
The block of fermented curd was a nod to one of the group's best-known sketches, "Cheese Shop." The wheel, described only as "very big," was being towed back to California aboard a barge along with the spacecraft and "basking in the glow of being the first cheese to travel to orbit on a commercial spacecraft," company spokeswoman Kirstin Brost told CNN.
In another comedy reference, the payload was bolted to the floor of SpaceX's Dragon 9 spacecraft in a circular drum bearing a picture of a cow and the warning "Top Secret!" -- a nod to the 1984 spoof by the creators of "Airplane!"
READ THE FULL STORY AT CNN
Posted by Steve Douglass at 9:57 AM
Aviation Week: Guy Norris:
LOS ANGELES — The U.S. Air Force says the second planned mission of the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) will “expand the operating envelope” of the autonomous space vehicle, potentially increasing the orbital cross-range and capability of landing in stronger crosswinds.
Richard McKinney, Air Force undersecretary for space programs, says the second test X-37B – OTV-2 – is being prepared in Boeing’s California space facilities for transfer “soon” to Cape Canaveral. From there it will be launched on an Atlas V in the March-April 2011 time period.
Lt. Col. Troy Giese, X-37B program manager from the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office (Afrco), which manages the X-37B program, says OTV-2’s mission will focus on “expanding the operating envelope of what its capabilities are. This time, we put more restrictions on landing winds and on orbiting cross-range. We picked an orbit that was well within its ability to get back to Vandenberg Air Force Base,” he adds. The next flight may have a more exaggerated orbit to test the cross-range recovery characteristics and may end up with an attempted recovery in more marginal weather.
READ THE FULL STORY HERE
Posted by Steve Douglass at 9:29 AM
(WIRED) -- It's too late to stop WikiLeaks from publishing thousands more classified documents, nabbed from the Pentagon's secret network.
But the U.S. military is telling its troops to stop using CDs, DVDs, thumb drives and every other form of removable media -- or risk a court martial.
Maj. Gen. Richard Webber, commander of Air Force Network Operations, issued the
December 3 "Cyber Control Order" -- obtained by Danger Room -- which directs airmen to "immediately cease use of removable media on all systems, servers, and stand alone machines residing on SIPRNET," the Defense Department's secret network.
Similar directives have gone out to the military's other branches.
"Unauthorized data transfers routinely occur on classified networks using removable media and are a method the insider threat uses to exploit classified information. To mitigate the activity, all Air Force organizations must immediately suspend all SIPRNET data transfer activities on removable media," the order adds.
It's one of a number of moves the Defense Department is making to prevent further disclosures of secret information in the wake of the WikiLeaks document dumps.
Pfc. Bradley Manning says he downloaded hundreds of thousands of files from SIPRNET to a CD marked "Lady Gaga" before giving the files to WikiLeaks.
To stop that from happening again, an August internal review suggested that the Pentagon disable all classified computers' ability to write to removable media.
About 60 percent of military machines are now connected to a Host Based Security System, which looks for anomalous behavior. And now there's this disk-banning order.
One military source who works on these networks says it will make the job harder; classified computers are often disconnected from the network, or are in low-bandwidth areas.
A DVD or a thumb drive is often the easiest way to get information from one machine to the next. "They were asking us to build homes before," the source says. "Now they're taking away our hammers."
Read the full story at Wired
Posted by Steve Douglass at 7:36 AM