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A New Generation?

TCM, Honda Join Forces In GA Engine Project...

On Monday, Teledyne Continental Motors (TCM) and Honda Motor Co. announced they will join forces to study the feasibility of producing a next-generation piston aircraft engine for the GA market. Honda says it has developed a prototype piston engine with "the technical potential for being significantly advanced over currently available engines in terms of weight, fuel efficiency, power output and emissions." The water-cooled, four-cylinder engine is designed to run on unleaded auto gas, Honda spokesman Jeffrey Smith told AVweb yesterday. "The engine is undergoing bench-testing now," he said, "and will have its first test flight soon." The aircraft it will fly in is yet to be determined, Smith said. The TCM/Honda joint study will "evaluate potential business opportunities for both parties to work together toward marketing, servicing, manufacturing and identifying potential product launch customers for the engine." The announcement follows approximately two years of testing of the prototype Honda-designed piston aviation engine at TCM's facility in Mobile, Ala. Of course, TCM is no stranger to aircraft engines, as it has offered new and re-manufactured engines, ignition systems and spare parts for the GA industry for many years. Honda is the world's largest engine manufacturer, Smith said.

...As Car Makers Try To Sprout Wings

While TCM has long been a household name in aviation, the same can't be said for Honda -- though that could be changing. As AVweb previously reported, Honda in recent years has worked on several GA powerplant designs, including piston, turboprop, and turbofan engines. Since 2000, the company has also been researching and developing more cost-effective piston aviation engines. And Honda is not the only Japanese car maker exploring the market for winged transportation devices. Toyota flew its Toyota Advanced Aircraft (TAA) project successfully last fall, albeit amid a shroud of secrecy. Will Honda be building an airplane of its own to wrap around that cute little engine? Spokesman Smith had no comment on that yesterday. What we do know is that the GA market has attracted some serious interest -- and potentially, serious competition. AVweb's Paul Bertorelli provided some insight into the Japanese interest in GA manufacturing in an article published last September.

NOTE: Read the complete text of Honda's press release.

FAA Action Spurs Debate

Airport Manager Protests IFR Approach Closure...

The manager of a private airport in Texas says the FAA was out of line when it cancelled all eight IFR approaches to his field as of Feb. 8, cutting traffic by one-third. Woody Lesikar, of West Houston Airport, about 13 miles west of Houston, said local FAA officials allowed him inadequate time to address their concerns and refused his request for a 90-day extension. The FAA gave him one month to cut down trees to meet obstacle-height restrictions, Lesikar said, but those trees are on private property. "I can't go on private property and start cutting down trees," said Lesikar. Bill Shumann, an FAA spokesman in Washington, D.C., told AVweb that Lesikar was first told to cut the trees in April 2001. "We have been working with Mr. Lesikar for years with the trees at both ends of the runway," Shumann said. The action is not a result of any recent revisions in FAA policy, he added, just part of the FAA's ongoing flight safety program. West Houston Airport is home to 300 aircraft, and Lesikar said some of the pilots are upset and ready to take the FAA to court. "We don't have any fractional jets or turboprops [operating here] anymore," he said.

...And FAA Says Standards Must Be Upheld

Lesikar said two other Houston-area airports recently had IFR approaches cancelled and he estimates at least 200 private, public-access airports with instrument approaches are also at risk nationwide. "When GA aircraft have to fly IFR into the major airports because they don't have other small airports to fly IFR into, that's when you will hear some squawking by the airlines," Lesikar said. FAA spokesman Shumann said the FAA is just doing its job. "There is no national campaign to end IFR approaches at small airports," he said. "There are standards that any IFR approach must meet." Lesikar also said that the FAA's actions taken in the name of safety might instead put pilots at risk. To reach West Houston Airport in IMC, some pilots shoot the instrument approach at a nearby airport and then "scud run" under the cloud deck to West Houston, he said. Lesikar added that he's also upset that the FAA did not communicate with him about closing the approaches. A NOTAM was issued Feb. 8 and Lesikar said he found out about it from a pilot who received the NOTAM while filing a flight plan from Memphis. "They [FAA] didn't call me. They just did it," he said.


Briefs...

Eclipse Says, "Show Me The Money"

Now that it has dealt with its engine-replacement predicament, Eclipse Aviation has moved on to deal with another part of its jet program that always requires attention: fundraising. The Albuquerque-based manufacturer needs a total of about $300 million to move its Eclipse 500 jet through the FAA certification process. Eclipse has already raised $238 million of that. "We are just starting another round of funding," Eclipse CEO Vern Raburn told the New Mexico Business Weekly this week. "I'm pretty optimistic right now. A lot of people want to invest, but until we could nail down a new engine it would have been stupid for us to try to raise more money." The newly selected Pratt & Whitney PW610F jet engine is still under development. The engine will reportedly provide 900 pounds of thrust, and will enable the jet to fly at 375 knots, 20 knots faster than its original advertised speed. Raburn expects Pratt & Whitney to spend millions of dollars developing the PW610F. The switcheroo has also added two years to Eclipse's overall development program. Eclipse 500 deliveries are now scheduled to begin in the first quarter of 2006.

Cessna's Caravan Line Feeling The Slump

Like most aircraft manufacturers, Cessna Aircraft Co. is experiencing a tough time for sales, and that translates to not enough work to go around. All production workers on the company's turboprop Caravan line will be furloughed for three weeks in May, and 125 jobs will be cut, The Wichita Eagle reported this week. The cutbacks follow a round of 1,200 jobs lost in February and about 800 last October. Cessna built 80 Caravans last year, and expects to sell fewer in 2003, though no numbers were available. Turboprops suffered the biggest drop in sales last year of all aircraft types monitored by the General Aviation Manufacturers Association. Only 280 turboprops were sold in 2002, compared to 421 in 2001, a decline of 34 percent. Sales of single-engine pistons, bizjets, and piston twins all declined by about 12 percent.

Future Uncertain For BA Concorde

British Airways (BA) is considering grounding its sleek supersonic Concordes, it was widely reported last week. "We're looking at when Concorde should retire," a BA spokesman told the Daily Telegraph. Sales for seats aboard the flagship of trans-Atlantic travel have suffered from a poor economy, changing travel trends and some highly publicized problems. BA, concerned about loss of revenues in the event of a Iraq war, could make a decision by the end of the year. So far Air France, the only other airline to fly the Concorde, has spoken of no such plans. The aircraft were profitable until a fiery Paris crash in 2000 killed 113 people. That accident was followed by a yearlong grounding. By the time the jets were flying again, the economy was slumping, and passenger loads never recovered. Besides economic issues, some of the aircraft have encountered mechanical glitches. In recent weeks, an Air France Concorde lost part of its rudder in flight, and the same plane, registered F-BVFA, had made an unscheduled landing in Halifax, Nova Scotia, a week earlier with engine trouble. If BA cancels the Concorde, Virgin Atlantic has expressed an interest in acquiring the jets. The Concorde's safety approval expires in 2009.

Transport Canada Gets An ID Lesson

Transport Canada should perhaps brush up on aircraft identification. The aviation agency has finally acknowledged that a Bell CH 136 Kiowa is not a "copy or direct equivalent" of a Bell Jet Ranger. And while that distinction probably wouldn't even make a decent Trivial Pursuit question, it certainly made a lot of Kiowa owners happy, because it meant they could register their military-surplus helicopters for recreational use. The helicopters had been grounded by a rule meant to protect the market for civilian manufacturers. Our saga begins with the Canadian Armed Forces selling off 45 surplus Kiowas recently. They were snapped up quickly, some by retired military pilots who had flown them in the service. But Transport Canada (TC) has a rule aimed at preventing bargain-basement military-surplus aircraft from being used by commercial operators when there are equivalent certified aircraft available. TC ruled that a Kiowa is the same thing as a Jet Ranger and the choppers stayed grounded until the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association (COPA) flew into the battle. COPA staff took the time to figuratively dismantle both types of helicopter and they found that Kiowas and Jet Rangers use only about 10 percent of the same parts, mostly hardware. The helicopters have different engines, rotors, transmissions, doors, windows, avionics, seats, fuel tanks, landing skids and exterior dimensions. The Kiowas are now eligible to fly for recreational, non-commercial use.

Aviation Research Boost Requested

As aviation industry leaders were asking the U.S. Senate last week to spend more money on research, NASA was quietly getting ready to close down a major safety research facility. Representatives of industry and universities urged the Senate Aviation Subcommittee to support increased government funding for aviation technology to prevent the loss of industry and jobs to other countries. Meanwhile, not far away, at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., researchers were winding up their work at the Impact Dynamics Research Facility, where for decades the crashworthiness of dozens of aircraft was tested. Airframes were dropped from heights of up to 240 feet and the resulting wreckage was analyzed. NASA spokesman Bill Uhr said the facility will be closed in September as the agency focuses its efforts on space-related endeavors. The staff will be redeployed to projects developing structures and materials for use in space projects such as the International Space Station. "No one will be laid off," he said. Uhr said the FAA has some facilities for crash testing and Italy has just built a state-of-the-art research center. Closure of the lab also raises questions about the future of the huge gantry used to suspend the aircraft. It was originally used to dangle astronauts learning to maneuver the Lunar Module used in NASA's manned moon flights. It's considered a historic site, said Uhr.

NOTE: Read the complete testimony of Ed Bolen, president of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, to the Senate Aviation Subcommittee on Feb. 27, as an Adobe PDF file. For more information about the hearing, go to the subcommittee Web site. Quicktime movies of recent demonstrations of crash-impact tests are available online.

Proposed Bill Would Aid The Airlines During War

For some time now, analysts have agreed that a long-term armed conflict with Iraq would be devastating for the airline industry. Some key members of Congress are drafting legislation to give the airlines a financial boost in the event we jump into a full-scale war. Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.) is leading this effort with the drafting of a bill that includes reopening a federal loan guarantee program to cover rising fuel prices, as well as provisions on war-risk insurance. Oberstar -- the ranking Democrat on the House Transportation Committee -- told Reuters his proposal will be introduced "as soon as possible." This program would also compensate airlines for strengthening their cockpit doors, a security measure imposed by Congress after the hijack attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The proposed bill might also include some provisions for opening U.S. strategic petroleum stocks to ease fuel costs. While Oberstar and his Democratic colleagues seem ready to move this process along, some House Republicans are holding back, especially after Congress's last airline bailout, which added up to a $15 billion package of cash and loan-guarantee assistance. To help plead their case, airline representatives will testify at a hearing on March 12.

Wascally Wabbits Worry Miami

Miami International Airport officials have been told to hop to it and find a modern-day Elmer Fudd to take care of a problem that "Bugs" the FAA and airlines. Hundreds of black-tail jackrabbits have taken over the green space between the runways at MIA. And that's resulted in some "harey" landings and takeoffs in the past year. And although your average jackrabbit is no match for a jumbo jet doing 150 knots, the mess such encounters leave behind results in a major hazard to aircraft -- the roadkill attracts turkey vultures. A turkey vulture is a sizeable bird that can do a lot of damage to a jet engine. Since January, there have been four vulture strikes but none has been ingested by a passing turbine. There are now five full-time staff assigned to try to keep the rabbits and vultures out of harm's way with pyrotechnics, propane cannons and sirens, and to clean up the mess when they fail to do so. But the FAA says the only real solution is extermination and has ordered the airport to get moving. The bunnies and the airport coexisted peacefully until 10 months ago when work began on a new runway, destroying the rabbits' habitat and forcing them closer to the existing runways.


On The Fly...

Airline Training Academy, in Orlando, Fla., apparently ceased operations last week, the Orlando Sentinel reported on Saturday. Students and instructors said the school closed its doors without warning...

The 1903 Wright Flyer reproduction built by The Wright Experience for EAA's Countdown to Kitty Hawk will be officially unveiled in Washington, D.C., on March 18...

Two local Dayton, Ohio, businessmen are gathering funds to help erect a 100-foot-tall replica of the 1903 Wright Flyer near a major highway system. The partners are trying to raise $3 million to build this monument at the intersection of Interstates 70 and 75. No word yet on the success of their fundraising efforts...

The U.S. Navy Blue Angels will star at Alabama's Air Show 2003. The two-day event, held at the Huntsville International Airport, will feature military aircraft demonstrations and civilian aerobatic performances, including Greg Poe and the U.S. Army's Special Operations Command parachute team. Dates are March 29-30...

Boeing's shares fell to an eight-year low last week, as the aviation industry continues to struggle. The aircraft manufacturer's shares dropped $2.08, or 7 percent, to $27.56. Officials and analysts blame the unstable state of the airline industry and the threat of war with Iraq as the main culprits for this stock plummet. The aerospace giant is faring better in its space and defense divisions, although the recent Space Shuttle tragedy has shed some negative light on these operations as well...

Japanese airlines experienced a rough weekend, after a computer glitch disrupted flights. More than 200 flights were canceled and 1,400 delayed over the weekend after a computer malfunction strangled operations at the Tokyo Air Traffic Control Center last Saturday. Officials blamed the problem on the simultaneous failure of the primary and backup computers for the flight data processing system, which gathers and processes flight information from all of the nation's airports.


Picture Of The Week...

*** PREVIOUS RESULTS ***

We received over 90 pictures last week. Congratulations to this week's winner, Vincent Jacobson, of Yakutat, Alaska. His photo, titled "Yakutat Beach," gives us a front-row seat for this remote beach landing. Vincent admits he hadn't even noticed the shadow of the plane in the picture until it was downloaded on his computer. Great picture, Vincent! Your AVweb hat is on the way.

To check out the winning picture, or to enter next week's contest, go to http://www.avweb.com/potw.


Question Of The Week...

*** PREVIOUS RESULTS ***

We received over 1,000 responses to our question last week on non-towered airport traffic pattern entries. Almost half (48 percent) of those responding fly the traditional 45-degree downwind entry into these airports. A small group (2 percent) of our respondents prefer the crosswind entry technique, while 15 percent claim it all depends on the particular airport's location.

To check out the complete results, please go to http://www.avweb.com/qotw.

*** THIS WEEK'S QUESTION ***

This week, we would like to know your thoughts on crosswind landing techniques. Thanks to Donna McGinnis for suggesting this week's topic. Please go to http://www.avweb.com/qotw to respond.

Have an idea for a new QOTW? Send your suggestions to qotw@avweb.com. Note, this address is ONLY for suggested QOTW questions, and NOT for QOTW answers.

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