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Homebuilders and kit manufacturers have been in a kind of limbo since March, when the FAA issued a report on its review of the "51-percent" rule and said it wouldn't change the rule but would issue new "guidance" on
how to interpret it. EAA now says those new FAA guidelines should be published within the next two weeks, prior to
EAA AirVenture Oshkosh. Earl Lawrence, vice president of industry and regulatory affairs for EAA, says EAA aims to protect the current rights to build fast-build aircraft kits already listed on the
FAA "51-percent approved list" (which the FAA said in April would be "grandfathered"), and will work to protect the
amateur's privilege to build an aircraft of any complexity, power or size. EAA also hopes to obtain additional privileges for members to obtain assistance and to hire out more of their project.
The new guidance is sure to get a thorough airing at Oshkosh, and AVweb will be there -- along with our family of editors from Kitplanes, Aviation Safety, and Aviation Consumer -- to bring
you all the news updates and analysis from the show.
Doppler radar is great for tracking thunderstorms, but wouldn't it be even better to have accurate forecasts that predict when and
where the storms will occur? That's what a team of researchers at the University of Alabama in Huntsville have been working on, and Tuesday they said three years of testing show their system has been accurate in its storm forecasts between 65 and 75 percent of the time. The Satellite Convection AnalySis & Tracking
System (SATCASTS) has successfully identified hazards generated by thunderstorms, including lightning, hail, high wind, and turbulence. Using data from satellite sensors, the researchers track changes
in cloud temperature and water vapor, with updates every 15 minutes. If the top of a cloud cools by 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit or more in that time, that means the cloud has grown about 1,000 feet, and
there is a growing probability of rain beginning within 30 minutes to an hour. The researchers can provide warnings just 15 minutes to an hour in advance that a local thunderstorm is expected. Based
on their success in Huntsville, scientists are working with the FAA to test the system at the New York City air traffic control center. The National Weather Service will use the system at forecast
offices in Alabama, Tennessee, and Florida.
In areas where Doppler radar networks do not exist, the system might be used in the future to track frontal storm systems and provide severe weather warnings that are not presently available, said
researcher John Mecikalski. "This makes SATCASTS and satellite-based rainfall predictions very relevant in many developing countries, when ground-based radar is absent but high quality satellite data
are in place," he said.
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A German court officially commenced insolvency proceedings against Thielert Aircraft Engines GmbH last week, the company said in a
news release. The proceedings will not affect the company's business operations, but signaled
the launch of efforts to find a new investor for the company. "An investor who is capable of securing the existence of the company on a long-term basis at its business locations and continues to
develop the company's leading position on the market for diesel piston engines should get the nod," said Bruno Kubler, the court-appointed insolvency administrator. "Of course, the purchase price also
plays a role." Kubler already has written to more than 50 prospective buyers, asking them to respond by July 16 if they are interested. Kubler said negotiations then could be completed as soon as
He added that no information will be released regarding prospective investors or the state of negotiations until a deal has been brought to a successful conclusion.
The Boeing Co. and SkyHook International announced on Tuesday they will team up to develop the JHL-40 (Jess Heavy Lifter), a new neutrally buoyant rotorcraft designed to lift up to 40 tons and efficiently transport
equipment and materials in remote and harsh environments. SkyHook, a Canadian company, holds a patent for the ship, and contracted with Boeing to develop and build it. It is expected to be used for
energy, mining and logging operations, and will have a range of about 200 miles. The helium-filled envelope can support the empty weight of the vehicle plus fuel, and the lift generated by four rotors
will carry the payload. "There is a definite need for this technology," said Pete Jess, SkyHook president and chief operating officer. "Companies have suggested this new technology will enable them to
modify their current operational strategy and begin working much sooner on projects that were thought to be 15 to 20 years away." The JHL-40 is environmentally acceptable because it mitigates the
impact of building new roadways in remote areas, Boeing said.
Boeing will build two prototypes of the JHL-40 at its Rotorcraft Systems facility in Ridley Park, Pa. Boeing did not disclose any launch date, but said the new aircraft will enter commercial
service "as soon as it is certified" by Transport Canada and the FAA.
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When two GA pilots, one
flying a Pilatus PC-12 and the other in a Beechcraft Premier jet, encountered an F-16 in a Military Operations Area used by Luke Air Force Base in Arizona last March, they had to take abrupt, evasive
maneuvers to avoid the military jet. The incident, after it was first reported in AVwebFlash, set off a lively debate among
pilots on AVweb's blog about the wisdom of flying in MOAs, and prompted an in-depth report in our
sister publication, Aviation Safety. This week, AOPA obtained a video clip from the FAA showing the radar screen during the encounter, and also the voice tape from Air Traffic Control. (We've put them
together in a handy package for you to watch and listen. You can find the video here.) The F-16
pilot has been reprimanded, and Luke officials told AOPA they will alter their training program to encourage their pilots to avoid similar encounters in the future.
In a podcast interview with AVweb, PC-12 pilot Patrick McCall said his TCAS activated about 10 a.m. that day while he was cruising at 16,500 feet (VFR
with flight following) and he had to dive his aircraft as the target kept closing on him. The target followed him in the dive and when McCall leveled at about 14,000 feet, he was amazed by the view
from his side window. "I then looked to my left side of the aircraft and saw an F16 aircraft off of my left wing," he said in a written report sent to the FAA. "The F16 was no more than 20 feet off of
my left wing."
The NTSB said on Tuesday it is investigating a near
midair collision at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York on Saturday in which two airliners flew in close proximity to one another -- but the FAA says no such incident took place. The
NTSB, citing "initial reports," said that at 8:36 p.m. local time on July 5, a Cayman Airways 737-300 and a Linea Aerea Nacional de Chile 767-300 "almost collided." The 737 was on approach to Runway
22L, then executed a missed approach and conflicted with the 767 departing Runway 13R. "Tower controllers intervened to attempt to resolve the conflict, assigning both aircraft diverging headings,"
the NTSB said. "The closest proximity of the two aircraft has not yet been determined." The National Air Traffic Controllers Association issued a news release on Monday saying that "the radar targets of both jets merged on top of each other and
[controllers] estimated their closest proximity at 100 feet. ... Controllers at both JFK Tower and New York TRACON all used the word 'ugly' to describe the incident." FAA spokesman Jim Peters told The
Associated Press, in a story published Tuesday, that radar data show that the
aircraft came no closer than 300 feet vertically and a half-mile horizontally, and there was no potential for conflict. On Tuesday, NATCA spokesman Doug Church told AVweb, "We stand by our
story: Planes were separated by 100 feet in altitude and there was NO discernible lateral separation on radar."
Church said he has been in contact with five controller eyewitnesses who all agreed "it was the ugliest incident they have ever seen." And he added that the FAA can set the record straight by
releasing the radar tapes of the incident. "When will they do that?" he asked. The NTSB said it will issue a preliminary report on the incident later this week. Click here to see an airport map of JFK, and click here to listen to the ATC tape from the incident. At the time of the incident, the NTSB said, the weather was VFR with 6 miles visibility and haze. There were no reported
injuries or damage to the aircraft.
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Some owners of SOCATA's new TBM 850 single-engine turboprop may be facing extended grounding following the company's service alert on cracked compressor drive shafts. Alert SB70-161 was released June 20 after a report of a driveshaft shear failure on a TBM 850. The June alert
limited drive shafts to 80 flight hours before replacement while the company works to complete the design and certification of an improved drive assembly. After further review, however, an amendment
was released this week that limits the hours allowed on the drive shaft. Stress cracks have been found in the shafts that exceed what was originally anticipated in the first service bulletin. Some
aircraft are required to have immediate shaft replacement while others will have their shaft total time reduced to 35 or 40 hours, depending on the aircraft serial number. The latest production
aircraft and the replacement shafts sent by the company will retain the original 80 hours total time because of the additional magnaflux inspections during their manufacture.
SOCATA has completed the design of a new drive assembly and is currently fabricating test and evaluation parts. The new compressor drive assemblies are anticipated to be available by mid-October
2008. More information from SOCATA concerning this service bulletin is coming and AVweb will follow the story as it develops.
EADS has announced that it has opened exclusive negotiations with DAHER, a diversified company that dabbles in nuclear energy, the automotive
sector, defense and industry along with aerospace, to sell its Socata division. Although Socata is best known in GA circles for its high performance TBM-series turboprop singles, the company also
makes parts for Airbuses and that seems to be where the crux of the deal is.
In a brief news release, EADS Socata spokesman Philippe de Segovia said the idea is to "allow the creation of a major actor in the area of aerostructures and business aviation and develop joint
projects in these two areas, in particular with regards to the A350 for which EADS Socata DAHER would be a tier-one partner." The release didn't discuss what the sale would mean to the TBM
Sensenich: Right on the Nose ... Again!
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Small airplanes are great transportation machines for getting from airport to airport, but they also provide a means to
get to places and have off-airport adventures that couldn't be achieved any other way. A new film to debut at Oshkosh tracks the adventures of a pilot and two rock-climbers who seek out three of
Southern Africa's most isolated rock faces, traveling via trike and a fixed-wing Cheetah microlight. The 19-day trip was a challenging one, with dangers presented by not only the difficult climbs, but
also the mountainside flying, bad weather, uncertain landing areas, and eccentric bureaucrats. The film, titled "No Need for Parking
-- An African Rock Adventure," features pilot Mike Blyth and climbers Marianne Schwankhart and James Pitman.
They describe the film as "spontaneous and anarchic," and note that it offers "an object lesson in aircraft maintenance and contemporary free-spiritness, set to a kwela soundtrack." The film will
be shown at the EAA Museum auditorium, Wednesday July 30, at 11:30 a.m.
Former FAA official George Donohue and co-author Russell Shaver have written a book, "Terminal Chaos: Why U.S. Air Travel Is Broken and How to Fix It," addressing problems with the national airspace system
and air traffic control -- and their proposed solutions are attracting attention. Paul Fiduccia, president of the Small Aircraft Manufacturers Association, said the authors "have the knowledge and
capability to work through this problem to success, if we as a community want to fix the system." Robert Poole, of the Reason Foundation, says in the foreword that the book offers the "best
prescription I've seen" for fixing what's wrong with air travel. The authors compare the U.S. system to Europe's, and their proposals for improvement include holding government decision-makers
responsible, expanding the capacity of airports and airplanes, modernizing the air traffic control system, and taking steps to reduce congestion. Some Amazon reviewers were not impressed, one noting that the authors failed to notice the issue of
limited runway capacity as a factor in congestion, another feeling the research was "incredibly shoddy and out of date."
The authors have decades of experience in civil aviation and policy -- Donohue worked at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) as well as the FAA, and is now a professor at George
Mason University. Shaver, formerly a senior RAND Corporation research analyst and chief scientist at the MITRE Center for Advanced Aviation System Development, is now a visiting research fellow at
GMU. Donohue is taking questions about the book online, through July 22, at the McClatchy News Web site. He
suggests that airlines have a lot to learn from GA about technical progress and safety. The first chapter of the book is posted online.
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AVweb Editor-in-Chief Russ Niles is keeping a close watch on the agreement between Canada's WestJet and Southwest Airlines in the U.S. In his latest post to the AVweb Insider blog, he
explains why the legacy carriers should be worried, especially if this is a harbinger of things to come.
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Last week, we asked (on behalf of AVweb reader Bruce B.) just what level of performance might tempt you to buy an under-$150K electric airplane.
Frankly, the results of this one are probably more interesting view visually, so head over to the poll page to
view results in real time. Note that you'll have to post an answer if you haven't already before you can view the results. (For the record, the "sweet spot" seems be around
500 fpm, 120-kt climb speed, 400-lb. payload, and four hours fly time.)
Our sister magazine, IFR, is asking pilots nationwide how their experience with Lockheed Martin Flight Service has affected the way they do
their preflight prep. We'd love to hear your thoughts on how LockMart is doing these days.
Our best stories start with you. If you've heard something 200,000 pilots might want to know about, tell us. Submit news tips
via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You're a part of our team ... often, the best part.
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AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to FlightLine First at Lakefront Airport (KNEW) in New Orleans, Louisiana.
AVweb reader Ian Cairns called the airport to our attention this week, calling the staff at FlightLine "good folks trying to make a go of it and up against two national chains." Ian
went on to explain that the main office is still located in a trailer while they finish post-Katrina renovations, "but it has everything widescreen TV, computer access for briefings,
comfortable sofas ... [and the] courtesy car is a new Mercedes." Ian does warn us against higher fuel prices throughout the area, but he says FlightLine is very competitive in that context and should
have self-serve options in the very near future.
Last March, AVweb told you about a close encounter between two private aircraft, a Pilatus PC-12 and a
Beech Premier and an F-16 in an Arizona Military Operating Area (MOA). AOPA has obtained the radar video and audio from the incident, and AVweb Video Editor Glenn
Pew has put them together in an enlightening package.
With new personal jets popping up all the time, AVweb takes a look at what may very well be the next certified single-engine very light or personal jet to enter the market.
Diamond's D-Jet is expected next year to earn its type certificate, and that's when the company hopes to make first deliveries. Diamond recently announced plans to upgrade the aircraft with Garmin's
G1000 Synthetic Vision package and the Williams FJ33-19 powerplant offering 20 percent more thrust and a 4,000-hour TBO. AVweb's Glenn Pew offers this look inside.
Each week, we go through dozens (and sometimes hundreds) of reader-submitted photos and pick the very best to share with you on Thursday mornings. The top photos are featured
on AVweb's home page, and one photo that stands above the others is awarded an AVweb baseball cap as our "Picture of the Week." Want to
see your photo on AVweb.com? Click here to submit it to our weekly contest.
*** THIS WEEK'S WINNERS ***
Reader-submitted photos continue to provide our favorite break during the long summer days at AVweb world headquarters. This week's contest was a tight race, with fifteen
photos vying for the top spot. We've got the top five here, but be sure to visit our home page and check out nearly two dozen other photos that we just couldn't fit
in. There are some good ones this week ... !
Robert Shafer of Grosse Ile, Michigan was one of many AVweb readers who attended fireworks displays over the U.S. Independence Day weekend.
Rather than showcasing the man-made spectacle, Robert serves up a glorious natural lightshow, with the sun framing an HH-65C Dolphin "conducting a hoisting drill demonstration" over the
Thunderbirds Celebrating the Fourth of July at Battle Creek
Speaking of fireworks, you can't go wrong with the Field of Flight Air Show and Balloon Festival at Battle Creek, Michigan! Tom Grossman of
Galesburg, Michigan shares a little bit of the fun from the July 3 display.
(Want another fireworks photo for good measure? Here's one
from the Joe Oliva of the U.S. Air Force, courtesy of the USAF's routinely-awesome "Week in Photos" feature and brought to our
attention by AVweb reader Vaughn Henry.
Gary L. Jones of Clovis, New Mexico surprised us in the comments to this photo by admitting that the plane in the distance is actually a 2-inch-wide
R.C. model flown by the Model Airplane Drivers Society (MADS) of Clovis.
There are more reader-submitted photos in the "POTW" slideshow on AVweb's home page, many of them not to be missed!
A quick note for submitters: If you've got several photos that you feel are "POTW" material, your best bet is to submit them one-a-week! That gives your photos a greater
chance of seeing print on AVweb, and it makes the selection process a little easier on us, too. ;)
A Reminder About Copyrights:
Please take a moment to consider the source of your image before submitting to our "Picture of the Week" contest. If you did not take the photo yourself, ask yourself if you are indeed authorized to
release publication rights to AVweb. If you're uncertain, consult the POTW Rules or or send us an e-mail.
HAVE YOU SIGNED UP yet for AVweb's NO-COST weekly business aviation newsletter, AVwebBiz? Reporting on breaking news,
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AVwebFlash is a weekly summary of the latest news, articles, products, features, and events featured on AVweb, the internet's aviation magazine and news service.
The AVwebFlash team is:
Publisher Timothy Cole
Editorial Director, Aviation Publications Paul Bertorelli
Editor-in-Chief Russ Niles
Contributing Editors Mary Grady Glenn Pew
Features Editor Kevin Lane-Cummings
Click here to send a letter to the
editor. (Please let us know if your letter is not intended for publication.)
Comments or questions about the news should be sent here.
Have a product or service to advertise on AVweb? A question on marketing? Send it to AVweb's sales team.
If you're having trouble reading this newsletter in its HTML-rich format (or if you'd prefer a lighter, simpler format for your PDA or handheld device), there's also a text-only
version of AVwebFlash. For complete instructions on making the switch, click here.