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As AVweb reported all last week, the scene in Oshkosh this summer was bright and bustling, with cooperative weather, big crowds, and a feeling that the worst is behind us. Wednesday, EAA released estimated numbers, backing President Tom Poberezny's words offered in a Monday news release that the show was "one of the most successful conventions we've ever had." The figures confirmed a record 2,960 registered show planes (beating the former number by nearly 7 percent), an estimated 770,000 attendees wandering the grounds and more than 800 exhibitors. "Both in terms of quality and quantity -- I've never seen so many [aircraft] parked at the airport," Poberezny said. "If anybody took the effort and walked from the last row of aircraft on the southern edge of the airport to the northeast corner, that's 5.2 miles of airplanes parked here. People can't believe it." Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said he also felt the positive attitude, telling an industry forum at AirVenture that "people are upbeat" about the future of the industry. "Great companies like Cessna, Piper, Beechcraft, Mooney and Tiger have renewed their commitment to entry-level general aviation," Mineta told the assemblage of manufacturers sponsored by the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA). "There [are] also new companies Cirrus and Lancair and emerging companies like Adam, Eclipse and Liberty bringing exciting new airplane models to market." While optimism reigned at Oshkosh, second-quarter results for GAMA members showed just how tough business has been. According to GAMA's tabulations, the number of airplanes built in Q2 dropped by 13.8 percent over last year and billings were down by 32.3 percent to $4.05 billion.
The sleek and beautiful Hughes H-IB Racer, a one-of-a-kind homebuilt that attracted thousands of admirers last week at EAA AirVenture, crashed about 6:30 p.m. Monday night in Yellowstone National Park, killing its devoted and inspirational pilot, James Wright, 53, of Cottage Grove, Ore. The plane was on its way home from Oshkosh. It approached from the west about treetop level, the Associated Press reported Tuesday, and struck the bank of the Firehole River near the main park road, about five miles north of Old Faithful geyser. The crash started a fire that was quickly snuffed by park workers. Nobody on the ground was hurt. Wright's long-time friend Dennis Parker said no cause has been determined but the aircraft had a history of propeller pitch control problems. "It kept going into fine pitch," he said. That jibes with a report in the News-Record, of Gillette, Wyo., where Wright stopped to refuel about 90 minutes before the crash. ''The air's thin enough here that the propeller gets stuck in low gear,'' he told the News-Record. ''I'm just trying to get home.'' Parker said Wright often used simplified terms when talking to the mainstream press about technical subjects and likened fine and coarse pitch on a constant-speed propeller to the low and high gears of a car. Parker said that although Wright appeared to be in excellent health, investigators are looking into whether a health crisis might have contributed to the crash. The airplane made its first flight in July 2002. Wright flew the replica to a world-record speed for the airplane's class last September, reaching 304 mph at Reno, Nev., on the 67th anniversary of Hughes' first record in the original airplane.
This marked AVweb's first year of streaming video coverage direct from the AirVenture show grounds, all of which remains available (for a brief period) along with our written coverage, plus our six-page image gallery. For your reference...
- For access to hour-long video segments produced daily with AVweb's AirVenture partner AirsideTV, click through here. Readers pay $10 for the complete hours-long footage.
- The latest installment of free video programming, which focuses on the homebuilts of AirVenture '03, is online now as are previous installments that include flight performances . See also previous installments #1, which brings insight into the new GA engine line from Bombardier, #2 (the Kitty Hawk pilots), #3, which includes a tour of AeroShell Square, and #4 (Stratoliner, Orbis, and 12 P-51s).
- Written coverage includes an interview with FAA Administrator Marion Blakey, progress of the Sport Pilot initiative and synthetic vision, and new engine developments. Note: you may have to scroll through.
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Various powers-that-be in D.C. insist there is nothing to fear in the new FAA reauthorization bill -- including FAA Administrator Marion Blakey, who last week at AirVenture told AVweb, "There are absolutely no plans to privatize air traffic control as we know it." Others through their actions apparently think Blakey is either lying, fickle, or irrelevant in the long term. With no resolution in sight to disputes over privatization language in the bill, the legislation now has been put on hold until after Labor Day, while Congress takes a recess. Among the loudest dissenters, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association says the bill would allow for the removal of FAA controllers from 69 towers, replacing them with contract workers. Blakey said the FAA already has that option, and has not exercised it. The Professional Airways Systems Specialists (PASS) also decried the "disastrous" bill, calling it a threat to aviation safety. "If passed in its current form," PASS President Michael Fanfalone said in a news release last Friday, "this bill will jeopardize the safety of the American public by opening up the functions performed by systems specialists -- who certify the vital equipment that guides over 200,000 commercial flights safely every day -- to privatization."
AOPA says that although it is "disappointed" in the reauthorization bill's stand on privatization, the legislation does include many features favorable to general aviation, and it would be better to get it passed than to risk further delay and debate. "While we don't like everything about the bill," AOPA President Phil Boyer said in a news release last Friday, "we are asking senators to support it by voting 'yes.'" AOPA noted that the bill includes a four-year moratorium prohibiting the FAA from transferring aircraft separation and control functions to any public or private entity other than the U.S. government. However, that is far from a promise not to privatize. "We are disappointed that the bill stops short of declaring ATC as 'inherently governmental,' as AOPA's members wanted," wrote Boyer. "However, the need for passage of [the bill] and the important benefits it contains outweigh the limited moratorium on privatization."
The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), meanwhile, is also urging the business aviation community to ask Congress to support the bill in its current form and get it passed. Of primary concern to the NBAA is a mandate for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to develop a plan that would allow security-qualified GA operators to regain access to Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA). The NBAA said it has worked hard to get this provision into the current version of the bill and hopes to work closely with the DHS on the development of the security plan. The provision would allow the president to suspend GA operations at any time, citing national security concerns, but the reasons for the suspension would have to be explained to Congress within 30 days.
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On Monday, Avocet Aircraft, headquartered in Westport, Conn., announced that it will work with Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI), manufacturer of Gulfstream bizjets, to develop and market the Avocet Professional Jet, a six-seat, twin-turbofan, all-metal-fuselage jet designed for the air-taxi and fractional markets. Projected sales price is about $2 million, with deliveries projected to start in late 2006. The ProJet enters a crowded field, already occupied by Adam, soon to be contested by Diamond, Eclipse, Cessna, etc., all with jets at various stages of design/completion coming to market, and projected prices varying from "well under a million" to about $3 million. IAI designed, certified and manufactures business jets for Gulfstream Aerospace, including the G100 and G200, and is currently developing the G150 with Gulfstream. Avocet expects to begin accepting firm orders later this year but interested customers can submit pre-orders at the company's Web site. The company also said it will present a "comprehensive overview" of the program at the 2003 NBAA conference this October in Orlando, Fla. Avocet Aircraft was founded by a group of aerospace industry investment bankers and a team of aviation industry executives.
Demolition crews advanced upon Meigs Field early Tuesday morning, despite pleas from the aviation community for a moratorium on destruction. "The day we had all feared has arrived," lamented AOPA President Phil Boyer. "Meigs is no more." But the undaunted Friends of Meigs does not so easily give up. "The city seems to be running scared," said FOM President Rachel Goodstein, still fighting for a plan that would create a combination park/airport at the site. So far, the city has not responded to the FOM's proposals. Thousands of visitors to EAA AirVenture last week signed the FOM's petition postcards, and the rallying cry has changed from "Save Meigs" to "Reopen Meigs." After all, if an airport can be demolished to create a park, couldn't the reverse happen ... ? In an effort to prevent future closures elsewhere, the "Meigs Legacy" (scroll for Sec. 421) portion of the FAA reauthorization bill would slap $10,000-per-day fines on any airport sponsor who shuts down an airport with less than the required notice, AOPA said.
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The NTSB said on Tuesday that the probable cause of the crash of an Emery Worldwide Airlines DC-8 aircraft near Sacramento, Calif., on Feb. 16, 2000, was "a loss of pitch control resulting from the disconnection of the right elevator control tab." The three crew members aboard the flight were killed, and the aircraft was destroyed. The board judged that improper maintenance work caused the control problem that doomed the airplane, but investigators were not able to determine exactly when the improper work was done. NTSB Chairman Ellen Engleman said the finding illustrates the interdependence of each member of the aviation safety chain. "Safety requires 100-percent performance by everyone," she said in a news release. Emery Worldwide Flight 17 crashed into an auto salvage yard while attempting to return for landing shortly after departing Sacramento Mather Airport. The DC-8 was on a scheduled cargo flight to Dayton, Ohio. As a result of this investigation, the NTSB issued 15 recommendations to the FAA, including provisions for revised maintenance procedures, improved training for flight crews, the redesign of DC-8 elevator control tab installations, and replacement of DC-8 aluminum elevator geared tab crank arms. A synopsis of the accident investigation report is now online at the NTSB Web site. The complete report will be available in about six weeks.
A new program starting next month in Stockton, Calif., offers a chance for 24 students in grades 7 through 9 to integrate aeronautics and space into their middle-school curriculum. The Venture Space and Aeronautics Academy will meet at the Stockton National Guard Air Center. "There's so much science and math in aviation," academy educator Marcie Lane told the Lodi News-Sentinel. "It's exciting and motivating for the kids." Local EAA members will cooperate with the program as pilot mentors and as part of the Young Eagles program. Materials developed by NASA and the FAA will be extensively used in the classroom. The Venture charter school works "to awaken the imagination, passion, dreams and curiosity ... of students who are unserved or underserved in traditional schools," according to the school's Web site.
A system intended to enable pilots to fly accurately even when blindfolded is being tested this month at Canada's Institute for Aerospace Research (IAR) in Toronto. The system, developed by U.S. Navy Capt. Angus Rupert, uses stimulators embedded in a pilot's vest to produce tiny vibrations that move around the torso in the same direction that the aircraft is moving. The inputs are said to be easy to interpret and help pilots sense their position in the absence of visual cues. Initial tests suggest the tactile system reduces both pilot workload and spatial disorientation when flying in degraded visual conditions. The IAR is flying two experimental helicopters, a Bell 205 and a Bell 412, to test the system. The tactile system could also be used to control an aircraft during emergency situations such as smoke in the cockpit, lightning or other visual incapacitation, or instrument failure, and could also help ground-based pilots control unmanned airborne vehicles. Astronauts and divers are also targeted as beneficiaries of the vest. Sion Jennings, IAR's expert in pilot-vehicle interfaces, said, "We're providing flight-testing expertise in degraded visual environments and helping the U.S. Navy integrate the vest with the helicopter sensors and control systems."
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New Piper said last week that it has achieved shorter product-development cycles and greater efficiency in its "Factory of the Future" by implementing the production techniques developed by automobile manufacturers in the 1980s. "That task was nothing less than changing the way Piper does business," New Piper CEO Chuck Suma said in a news release. New Piper also noted that it took only six months to achieve FAA certification of its newest model -- the 6X, a normally aspirated, fixed-gear version of its more complex six-seat Saratoga II aircraft that dates from the 1980s. "People said it couldn't be done in that short a time," Suma said. The 6X should be ready for delivery next month, Suma said last week at EAA AirVenture. New Piper spokesman Mark Miller said the straight-legged Saratoga fills an important niche for those who want high performance without the maintenance and complexity of retractable gear. The company is hoping to have the turbocharged 6XT version of the aircraft certified shortly. Both are powered by 300-hp Lycoming engines and have top speeds of 153 knots and 165 knots respectively. The fixed gear shaves about 15 knots from the Saratoga's top end but it also knocks as much as $100,000 from the sticker price. The 6X is selling for $336,000 and the 6XT for $356,000. New Piper Aircraft is headquartered in Vero Beach, Fla. Among the techniques used by New Piper's "Factory of the Future" are efficient deployment of workers during the assembly process, "just-in-time" inventory tracking, and standardized tool sets for technicians. New Piper said it is the only GA manufacturer using the system, called Flow Technology.
A sleek amphibian (not a description usually used for flying boats) that captured the imagination -- if not the marketplace -- in the kit crowd will be launched as a certified design, according to Advanced Aero Corporation spokesman Paul Marshall. A prototype of the production Seawind, with its distinctive tail-mounted engine and massive bubble canopy, could be started as soon as this fall in Quebec. First deliveries are anticipated in 2005, said Marshall. The company says the aircraft offers performance similar to many complex singles at a competitive price and adds water operations as a bonus. Marshall said the all-composite Seawind has a useful load of 1,100 pounds and will cruise up to 166 knots with a no-fuel-reserved range of 1,460 miles. It uses a 300-hp Lycoming engine burning about 13 gph at economy cruise (147 knots). Marshall said the more-efficient construction techniques of the certified version will shave 200 pounds from the weight of kit-built Seawinds. Also, the gear will retract into the wings of the factory model, instead of into the fuselage as in the kitplanes. Base introductory price is $290,000. The company has an 80,000-square-foot factory at St. Jean de Richelieu and was lured to Quebec by tax and other incentives.
The Boeing S-307 Stratoliner arrived August 6 at Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia. The sole remaining example of the world's first pressurized airliner will make The Smithsonians National Air and Space Museum and Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center its new home. The museum opens its doors for the public December 15...
A Learjet 35A crashed early Monday morning in Groton, Conn., killing both pilots. The charter jet took off from Long Island and was approaching the Groton airport when it hit three houses and crashed in a river. Nobody on the ground was hurt...
Ibis Aerospace expects its new 10-seat propjet, the Ae270, to be certified in the Czech Republic by the end of this year, with FAA certification shortly thereafter, the company announced last week. The newest prototype has been flying since February, logging more than 54 hours aloft. The U.S. arm of the company is based in Kerrville, Texas...
If you are a U.S. citizen, a certified pilot, and you have experience with Flight Service Stations or FSS-related services, the FAA wants you to take their online survey. It takes about 20 minutes, and will be available through August 31...
Aeronautical engineer John E. "Jack" Steiner, who helped design Boeing's 727 and 737 airliners, died last week at age 85, in Medina, Wash....
Noise complaints are piling up against pilots from the Scottsdale (Ariz.) Airport. At a recent meeting, the pilots were warned to be "neighborly" or face political fallout that could force the airport to close...
Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm has signed into law a bill repealing that state's pilot-background-check law.
AVweb's AVscoop Award...
Congratulations and an AVweb hat go out to Kimberly Lansdon, this week's AVscoop winner. Submit news tips via email to email@example.com. Rules and information are at http://www.avweb.com/contact/newstips.html.
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*** PREVIOUS RESULTS ***
This week, we're doing things just a bit differently. Because our team of AVweb reporters captured a slew of high-quality photos at AirVenture, the POTW team decided to pick the top three. We hope you enjoy them! We welcome you to browse our AirVenture Image Galleries and disagree.
To check out the winning picture, or to enter next week's contest, go to http://www.avweb.com/potw.
*** PREVIOUS RESULTS ***
We received over 100 responses to our question last week on AVweb's AirVenture coverage. About a quarter (26 percent) of our respondents enjoyed the new product release coverage, while 8 percent picked our new streaming video as a their favorite feature. Many (26 percent) couldn't single out a best feature, so they chose the "I can't pick a favorite because it's all great!" category.
To check out the complete results, go to http://www.avweb.com/qotw.
*** THIS WEEK'S QUESTION ***
This week, we would like to know your thoughts on the overall AirVenture experience. Please go to http://www.avweb.com/qotw to respond.
Have an idea for a new QOTW? Send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Note, this address is ONLY for suggested QOTW questions, and NOT for QOTW answers.
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New Articles and Features on AVweb
Roll Your Own Electronic Flight Bag
Overwhelmed by paper? Tired of buying and carrying pounds of approach charts for a cross-country trip when you'll be landing at only a few airports along the way? John Ruley has found some new solutions for when you're ready to bring your charts into the digital age.
Quiz #71 -- Special Use Airspace
Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs) have become permanent, roving annoyances to pilots. Other Special Use Airspace (SUA) restrictions have vexed aviators for decades. Test your knowledge of off-limits airspace. This quiz first published August 7, 2003.
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