On The Fly...

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Chase planes might enable resumption of spectacular night launches of space shuttles. NASA is working on a system whereby two WB-57F converted bombers, carrying sophisticated cameras, will be able to watch for pieces falling off the shuttle as it climbs through the atmosphere. Such imagery is required in the wake of the Columbia disaster, in which a piece of foam insulation damaged a wing and led to a re-entry breakup of the craft...

An expensive-sounding Airworthiness Directive (AD) is being proposed for Piper PA-46-500TP owners. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking involves replacing all the electronic modules in the electrical system with newly designed modules after reports of smoke in the cockpit and failures. KG Model STEMME S10-VT sailplanes are the subject of an AD requiring placarding for new flight restrictions to prevent failure of a cog in the engine gearbox…

Concorde is going out with a bang. The supersonic airliner broke its own record for a trans-Atlantic flight with a hop from London to Boston that lasted just three hours, five minutes and 34 seconds. The old record of 3:09 was set in 1974 on a flight from Paris to Boston. The latest record was set on Concorde's farewell tour. The last trans-Atlantic flight of the aircraft is Oct. 24...

The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds have resumed touring after a Sept. 14 crash grounded them for almost a month. The team will fly with five F-16s instead of the usual six through the rest of the schedule, which resumed at the Ft. Smith, Ark., air show over the weekend. The cause of the Sept. 14 crash in Idaho has not yet been determined…

From the "Don't try this at home" file. An unidentified air show pilot was uninjured when the Piper Cub he was trying to take off from the roof of a moving 1961 Pontiac Catalina fell off the car and slid along the runway before an air show crowd at McKellar-Sipes Regional Airport Oct. 4. The pilot had managed to land on the car but the tailwheel caught on part of a support structure when he tried to lift off.