AVwebFlash - Volume 20, Number 25b

December 23, 2013

ICAO To Tackle Unruly Passengers

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) will meet in March to update 50-year-old rules dealing with in-flight disturbances by passengers. The announcement came after increasing pressure from airlines to beef up their defenses against an increasingly hostile cabin environment. According to the Los Angeles Times, the International Air Transport Association says the number of reported incidents of unruly passengers has increased 12-fold from less than 500 in 2007 to more than 6,000 in 2011. At the same time, many cases go unprosecuted because of the antiquated regulations. "Lots of changes have taken place over the past 50 years," IATA spokesman Perry Flint told the Times. "The old rules no longer do a good job of addressing this problem."

One of the big problems is that the current rules give legal jurisdiction over passenger misbehavior to the country in which the aircraft is registered. In 1963, many airlines were so-called flag carriers and all their aircraft were registered in the country in which the airline was based. These days, about 40 percent of aircraft are leased and registered wherever the leasing company chooses to do the paperwork. Also, the current rules were created mainly to deal with hijackings, which are now almost nonexistent while the disruptive and dangerous antics of some passengers are forcing expensive diversions and cancellations. No site has been selected for the ICAO meeting.

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Solar Impulse Pilot Completes 72-Hour Simulation

For the round-the-world flight planned for Solar Impulse in 2015, a solo pilot will have to fly legs of up to 72 hours, so last week the team staged a simulation at their base in Switzerland. Bertrand Piccard, the leader of the nonprofit group and one of the two pilots for the solar-powered electric airplane, spent 72 hours in a mock-up of the cockpit and experimented with self-hypnosis techniques to remain alert, manage his fatigue, and sleep. A battery of tests assessed Piccard's ability to cope with cockpit ergonomics, nutrition, and exercise, which is necessary to prevent thrombosis. He was also tested for the ability to maintain vigilance and to pilot the aircraft in a state of sleep deprivation. All tests were successful, the team reported.

"This experiment provided vital training for the round-the-world flight, while at the same time highlighting the extreme difficulty of this venture," said Piccard. Over the 72 hours, he took 35 short rest breaks of 20 minutes each. The team will now focus on the final phase of preparation for the round-the-world flight. The team plans to begin assembly of a new prototype aircraft in February, in Switzerland, and test flights and training will begin. The solar-powered round-the-world flight is expected to launch in March 2015.

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DARPA Wants 400-Knot VTOL

Sikorsky and Aurora Flight Sciences have been awarded the first two development contracts in an effort by the Air Force's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to create a hybrid aircraft that can hover but also reach a top speed of up to 400 knots. The VTOL X-Plane project gave Sikorsky $14.4 million and Aurora $14 million of its $47 million Phase One budget, which means other competitors may enter the race.

DARPA has allotted a total of $130 million for development of a flying version of the aircraft. It will ultimately pick a winner from the Phase One competitors and proceed to construction and flight testing over the next four years. Sikorsky has teamed up with Lockheed Skunkworks for its effort and has some experience pushing the envelope for helicopters with its X2 concept aircraft.

Proud Bird Gets Reprieve

Historic LAX restaurant, the Proud Bird, will remain open after the owner was able to get a new lease from Los Angles World Airports, according to the L.A. Times. With stunning views of aircraft operations at LAX, surrounded by mockups of famous aircraft, crammed with aviation photos and memorabilia and long a hangout for aviators from all over the world, the restaurant faced closure after its annual rental rate was set to go from $200,000 to $500,000. Owner John Tallichet, noting an outpouring of community support, had earlier pledged to keep the restaurant open until late December. This week he announced that the new, one-year lease and said negotiations were continuing on a long-term lease.

Opened by Tallichet’s father, David, a World War II B-17 copilot and noted collector and operator of warbirds, the Proud Bird has been visited by such aviation notables as Jimmy Doolittle, Charles Lindbergh and Neil Armstrong. Traditionally a popular site for gatherings of pilots and aviation supporters, on Dec. 17 the restaurant was the venue for a number of supporters of Santa Monica Airport to celebrate the 110th anniversary of the Wright Brothers’ first flights.

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Cessna Starts Deliveries Of M2 And Sovereign+

Citation M2

Cessna this week started deliveries of both the all-new Citation M2 light jet and the Citation Sovereign+, an upgrade to a design in service since 2004. The M2, in the works since 2011, offers a six-passenger cabin and aims to provide a step up for Mustang owners and turboprop pilots. "The Citation M2 is a versatile aircraft that fits many markets and missions, attracting owner-operators looking for an advanced, innovative aircraft of this size, capability, and value," said Brad Thress, Cessna senior vice president of business jets. The single-pilot-certified jet can cruise up to 400 knots and fly up to 1,300 nm nonstop.

Sovereign+

The Sovereign+ adds Garmin G5000 avionics, auto-throttles, winglets, and new Pratt & Whitney Canada PW306D engines. It can fly up to 3,000 nm nonstop at speeds up to 458 knots. Cessna has sold 349 Sovereigns around the world, and announced plans for the new Sovereign+ at NBAA in October 2012. The first production aircraft rolled off the assembly line in Wichita in early March, followed by first flight in April.

HondaJet Achieves Certification Milestones

Honda Aircraft Company announced that it had received Type Inspection Authorization (TIA) for the HondaJet and that its customer service facility had achieved FAA Part 145 certification as a repair station. TIA means that the FAA has evaluated technical data from the manufacturer and finds that it appears the aircraft will meet the regulations for certification. It authorizes conformity and airworthiness inspections and flight tests by FAA personnel to confirm it meets certification requirements. It is widely considered to be a major milestone in the certification process. With this step, Honda anticipates the much-delayed HondaJet will complete type certification in the first quarter of 2015, with deliveries to start upon certification.

Advertised by Honda Aircraft as the “ultimate” balance of innovation and inspiration, current projections for performance of the HondaJet include a max cruise speed of 420 knots at 30,000 feet, NBAA IFR range of 1180 NM and a maximum operating altitude of FL430.The Honda Aircraft customer service facility is located on Piedmont Triad International Airport, North Carolina. According to its website, the aircraft service and repair capabilities under the Part 145 certificate will initially include component-level repairs, but will expand during 2014 to heavy maintenance and major repair services to complement the HondaJet dealer network.

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Video: Clay Lacy and the Amazing Human Fly

In 1976, famed aviation businessman and movie pilot Clay Lacy was asked to fly one of the strangest stunt acts in aviation: The Human Fly. In this exclusive AVweb video, he explains how the project came into being.

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Clay Lacy and The Human Fly

The photo on this page has been kicking around my inbox for more than a year, having been sent to me by someone asking if it depicted a real event. Given that we live in a world where Photoshop is a verb, it’s a perfectly logical question.

As you’ll see from today’s video, the photo is quite real and depicts Clay Lacy’s fanciful flight of The Human Fly on the roof of a DC-8 in 1976. I vaguely recall the actual event, but if it got much publicity at the time, the memory of it seems to have been lost to the years, so I decided to phone Lacy for the background. As with everything in Lacy’s career, the backstory is interesting, the result of just the right alignment of having an airplane available, an airshow to promote, an ever-willing stuntman and a sponsor to pay for it all.

Although the video doesn’t explain it, the Human Fly’s benefactor was a pair a brothers in Montreal who owned a prosperous Pepperoni factory but were a tad bored with the sausage business. So they raised $200,000 and formed a promotional company of which the Human Fly was only the opening act. The DC-8 version of the Fly was Rick Rojatt, but the brothers apparently envisioned garbing others in the Fly’s disco-style red suit, it being 1976 after all, for all sorts of stunts. They planned a rocket flight across the English Channel and a swan dive from the CN tower in Toronto.

Lacy got the easy part. He happened to have a DC-8 available, thanks to an Alan Paulson deal to remarket a handful of retired JAL aircraft. Lacy knew enough people in the Washington side of the FAA to grease the approval wheels and in a few weeks time, he had the world’s only DC-8 with an external seat. Actually a perch, I suppose.

Would today’s FAA go for such a thing? Hard to imagine. In 1976, all the feds could think of to slow down the Human Fly project was to require a maintenance program, which Lacy was able to pull together relatively easily. But at least in those days, someone in the FAA would actually at least tell you what was required. Today, good luck.

The Human Fly act was but a page in a chapter of Lacy’s stunning and long career in aviation. He’s very much the last of a breed whose experience bridges the world of piston and jet aircraft. His book, Lucky Me, has him photographed with everyone who’s anyone in aviation, from World War II aces to moon walkers. Lacy did stints as a military pilot, a test pilot, air racer and airline pilot and he’s yet active today in the industry from his headquarters at Van Nuys Airport.

Although most of us probably can’t list Lacy’s considerable achievements, we probably see them every day. When the Learjet first appeared in the mid-1960s, Lacy saw not just a fast, appealing business jet, but a camera platform that could shoot anything that flew. Thus was born Astrovision, the sophisticated camera system used to shoot movies and high-end commercials of airliners sailing into the sunrise. You can see early Astrovision at work in the Human Fly video.

Computer-generated imagery has put a dent in that business, but real footage is sometimes still cheaper than CGI. “That’s especially true if you want the ground in the shot,” Lacy told me. “It costs hundreds of thousands to do that with CGI, but for an airline commercial, they can rent the 747 and me for less than $100,000.”

Which brings us full circle. Today, the Human Fly could be a CGI project, but what a thrill to know it wasn’t.

Join the conversation.  Read others' comments and add your own.

Video: Pristine Airplanes Refurbishment

In an emerging aircraft refurbishment market, Smithville, Ohio-based Aircraft Sales Inc. stands out with a comprehensive and highly customized rebuild process.  In this AVweb video, Aviation Consumer's Larry Anglisano presents an inside look at the company's Pristine Airplane refurbishment process.

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