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Europe's Clean Sky initiative is targeting a 50-percent reduction in CO2 emissions, an 80-percent reduction in nitrogen oxide emissions
and a 50-percent reduction in perceived noise levels (all from baseline year 2000 levels) to be met by the year 2020. The plan involves research intended to demonstrate smart wing technologies based
on natural and hybrid laminar flow research, active load control and materials development to conclude in flight demonstrations. Powerplant integration will be considered with specific attention paid
to the impact of airframe flow fields on propeller efficiency with "open rotor configurations on the airframe, and innovative empennage design," according to engineerlive.com. Development of the
demonstration aircraft is expected to evolve, but the initial design will be a direct-drive pusher design -- a point from which to diverge. Contributing members include universities and research
centers as well as the European Commission and industry names that include Rolls-Royce, EADS, Eurocopter and others. Aviation emissions account for approximately 2 percent of global CO2 emissions,
according to aircraft manufacturers, and by some estimates jet engines are today 70 percent more environmentally friendly in that regard than they were 40 years ago.
Poisonous seeds found in the nut of the jatropha plant contain 30% - 40% oil that may be refined at a significantly lower cost than
crude oil and will soon supplement Jet-A to feed one of four engines powering an Air New Zealand 747 -- test flights are currently scheduled for November. Boeing, Air New Zealand, Rolls-Royce PLC, and
agricultural experts in Hawaii are all part of the program. The plant apparently grows well in warm environments with little care (it's a weed), and with jet fuel prices up roughly 70 percent since
one year ago the weed could soon be a popular site at every airline executive's vacation home. One hectare of jatropha can produce up to 500 gallons of fuel, which experts say is multiples better than
a hectare of corn. Analysts predict jatropha fuel could be produced at about $43 per barrel (versus crude oil's roughly $125 per barrel) and without adverse effects on food supplies or farming (versus
corn or sugarcane-based ethanol).
While several refineries are under construction in Africa to process the oil into biodiesel for automobiles, Kenya is working on a five-year biofuel industry development plan and India, China and
Brazil have already planted millions of hectares of jatropha. Regardless, Air New Zealand will be getting its taste from an unnamed "hydro plant" in the U.S. The jatropha plant is one of many biofuel
possibilities being feverishly researched along with synthetic fuels to address rising costs faced by fuel-dependent industries. We'll keep you posted.
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The Coming Electric Airplane Revolution
Randall Fishman's public AirVenture Oshkosh 2008 demonstration (see AVweb and Kitplanes video interview, here) of his virtually silent, nearly vibration-free and fillup-less single place ElectraFlyer-C
(capable of flying for an hour and a half on 75 cents worth of lithium-polymer battery power) is just the tip of the iceberg. Fishman is seeking partnership with a suitable airframe manufacturer of an existing light efficient two-place aircraft in which he can install a larger electric motor. Meanwhile,
Greg Cole (previously chief engineer of research and development at Lancair), who recently created the 36-foot span, 155-pound carbon
composite Sparrowhawk sailplane (soon available for about $73,000 with electric power), is working toward a two-place "Goshawk" electric-powered sport aircraft that aims to cruise at up to 115 knots
on 21 (electric) horsepower for about an hour. Cole and Fishman are both American pioneers funding their own projects, but overseas, the European Union has contributed about 20 percent of a reported
$2.3 million applied to the development of Slovenian aircraft manufacturer Pipistrel's two-place side-by-side self-launch electric motorglider.
The $133,000 Taurus Electro is on pace to begin customer deliveries later this year and though the Electro carries its powerplant on a
fuselage mounted retracting arm, Pipistrel has announced an electric motor "constructed for continuous operation." For all these efforts one universal unknown remains: how the FAA's Light Sport
Aircraft rules will adapt to address electric propulsion.
Current FAA regulations do not account for aircraft with electric motors in the LSA category, but the EAA in late April petitioned the FAA to change that. EAA filed a request with the FAA for
regulatory exemptions that "would allow the use of electric motors in ultralight and light sport aircraft," according to EAA. Fishman and Cole are both proceeding under the funding constraints of
their own wallets, and it seems likely Pipistrel will beat them to the punch, but it remains to be seen whether Pipistrel's product will appeal to buyers outside of the sailplane market. For all
comers, yet-to-be-drafted regulations are among the many potential obstacles. As those regulations and technology take their course, the rest of us will be watching.
"Automated on-board energy aware planning" is being developed by the U.K.'s Roke Manor Research to allow autonomous gliders to find
naturally occurring lift and sustain unpowered or prolong powered flight, according to a report in ElectronicsWeekly.com. Ultimately, aircraft equipped with software and hardware that actively
processes video feeds of cloud conditions and surface type (cool grass, or hot pavement) data would be processed along with other elements (models assessing weather and predicting vertical air
movement due to thermal and orographic lift) to identify thermals and share that information with similar aircraft nearby. With that information, a virtual and real-time lift map could help produce
waypoint sequences for use by integrated flight management systems aboard the aircraft as they hopscotch from lift-point to lift-point along a route.
The aircraft would literally be led to their required destination via a route that applies all acquired information to avoid areas of sink and exploit the best areas of lift between the departure
point and destination point. Current proposed applications for the developing technology include extending the flight range of unmanned aerial vehicles.
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Seeking full-motion video reconnaissance platforms, the Air Force "is quietly rushing to field more than three dozen" twin-engine
propeller-driven aircraft to provide that capability "on the battlefield in Iraq and Afghanistan," according to Inside The Air Force. The report from InsideDefense.com says that according to a July
briefing from Air Combat Command, the Air Force would use the aircraft in a program called "Project Liberty." Aircraft considered for the task would likely be modified Hawker Beechcraft King Air 350s
carrying video and communications equipment, according to the report. However, Hawker Beechcraft this weekend told Kansas.com that the company does not have a contract to provide aircraft. The plan as
reported called for collection of the aircraft at a rate of about two per month beginning in 2008 and deployable within a year.
The Air Force would ultimately operate three squadrons with one to remain in the United States, perhaps at Andrews Air Force Base or Hurlbert Field, "which is home to the Air Force Special Operations
Command," according to InsideDefense.com. Aircraft maintenance, according to the report, would be contracted. Aircraft are expected to arrive directly from the production line -- Hawker's is currently
affected by a union strike.
Management at Hawker Beechcraft last week staffed some production-line slots with engineers and salaried workers in order to
support production while its machinists strike. The company last week passed its 12th day of work stoppage following the Machinists Union rejection of an Aug. 2, three-year contract offer. Beechcraft
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jim Schuster said that the company is not running at full strength, but that the company was "pleasantly surprised" -- presumably that it is able to conduct
business at all with 4,700 workers at the company's Wichita location currently represented by the striking union. The company says more than 1,000 of those workers remain on the job. Meanwhile, the
union is confident it can use the tight labor market to leverage its position, "The qualified workers just aren't there," Machinists Union spokesman Bob Wood told The Wichita Eagle. At least for now,
the company (which offers aircraft ranging from the "super-midsize" 14-seat-capable Hawker 4000 business jet to the G36 Bonanza) appears to be on solid financial footing.
Hawker Beechcraft posted an $86.4 million operating income for the quarter, which compares well with the $36 million loss posted during the second quarter of last year. The company is currently
running with a record $4.7 billion order backlog that will ultimately require workers on the line to fill. Last week, Schuster told reporters his company was not yet considering hiring replacement
workers and he expressed some surprise that the company's last offer was not accepted. It seems, however, that the people who actually produce the product are looking for a larger slice of the pie
than they've so far been offered.
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Liberty Aerospace, which promotes its XL2 as the only FAA-certified piston-engine aircraft equipped with FADEC (Full Authority Digital
Engine Control), has entered a distributorship agreement with Piper-Germany, which will sell and distribute the Liberty XL2 in Germany, Austria and the U.K. Liberty said in a press release that it
"looks forward to continued exponential growth in both national and international markets," and hopes to capitalize on current economic conditions by offering the XL2, which it calls "the most
economical IFR certified aircraft in production." Liberty says it has done very well this year and made the move to address a "need to increase its sales and support structure overseas." Together,
Liberty and Piper-Germany will focus on marketing the XL2 to the two-seat training/touring market.
The XL2 is an 1160-pound (empty) low-wing aircraft powered by a digitally controlled 125-hp Continental engine. It has a 590-pound useful load, a maximum cruise speed of 125 knots and a maximum
range of 588 nm burning 4.7 gallons per hour at 105 knots.
Eclipse Aviation founder and former CEO Vern Raburn wants nothing more to do with the company and will not accept a post promoting the
airplane internationally. Raburn issued a press release late last week saying he has some irons in the fire and will let his "media friends" know what he's up to. Meanwhile, his former company is
essentially asking the media to stop asking so many questions about its future. In an unusual statement on Thursday, the company denied unpublished rumors that the company was moving out of
Albuquerque. The statement reads, in its entirety:
Today, Eclipse Aviation confirmed that the executive management team is working diligently to develop a plan to achieve operational excellence. We are evaluating every aspect of the company and we
will announce a plan to profitability by the end of the month. Eclipse also confirms it has no intention to move its production facilities outside of the United States in contrast to some current
media speculation. Eclipse will not be releasing any further information or conducting interviews surrounding this media alert at this time.
Meanwhile the forums and inboxes continue to hum with off-the-record speculation.
As we've reported earlier, AVweb has heard directly from Eclipse officials in recent days in response to direct questions about the rumors we've been hearing. The hearsay that Eclipse seems
most anxious to quell is that it's packing up the Albuquerque factory and moving to Russia. In an e-mail to AVweb on Wednesday, Eclipse spokeswoman Alana MaCarraher had this to say:
To answer your question... we have heard nothing about shutting down our current operation and moving to Russia. We are still moving forward with our plans to open a facility in Russia, but we do not
plan on shutting down any of our facilities here in Albuquerque.
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The EAA's major annual fundraiser included the participation of Harrison Ford, John Travolta and Arnold Palmer and yielded $2.88
million, with proceeds to benefit EAA's programs "to inspire youth, provide education, and preserve aviation history." EAA announced in a release last week that the AirVenture event attracted more
than 1,000 attendees "bound together by a common passion for flight," according to EAA President Tom Poberezny. Major contributors included Palmer and Ford as well as Cessna Aircraft Chairman Emeritus
Russ Meyer, Cessna President Jack Pelont and his wife Rose, and Florida-based highway contractor Bill Bachshmidt. EAA has partnered with ConocoPhillips and Embry-Riddle to advance development of
educational and experimental activities designed to help young people pursue their interests or careers in aviation. "I didn't come to flying until I was 53 years old," said actor Harrison Ford, who
has donated time to participate in helicopter rescue missions in Wyoming. "But it has
made me feel young and challenged again and given me an opportunity to give back."
The pilot of a replica biplane died when the aircraft reportedly spun during a mock dogfight at Old Rhinebeck in upstate
New York, Sunday. Witnesses said the aircraft entered a spin and crashed near the historic airfield. The pilot was not immediately identified.
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Our best stories start with you. If you've heard something 200,000 pilots might want to know about, tell us. Submit news tips
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Between Wheels Up and Wheels Down, There Is One Important Word: How
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All eyes are on Russia and its former Soviet sister nations this week and that has to be giving pause to some Western aviation companies that have strong ties to the Russian market.
AVweb Editor-in-Chief Russ Niles ponders what may be going through the minds of some major players in the industry in the latest installment of our AVweb Insider blog.
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Kitplanes Editor-in-Chief Marc Cook wraps up his series of conversations on the FAA's new homebuilt rules. This time, Lancair President Joe Bartels shares his insights on the needs,
wants, and ultimate aims of homebuilding and how the FAA can accomodate them.
Among the AVweb readers we were lucky enough to meet at Oshkosh this summer was John von Linsowe, a semi-regular contributor to our "Picture of the Week"
contest and Cessna 140 owner who shares his passion for flying with fellow members of his 120/140 club. Under duress, John admitted to having a few videos of the Club doing its thing on YouTube and
even agreed to send us a link after the show. While we probably won't make it to Dayton, Ohio for the group's September 25-28 shindig,
this video gives us pangs of regret:
Don't forget to send us links to any interesting videos you find out there. If you're impressed by it,
there's a good chance other AVweb readers will be too. And if we use a video you recommend on AVweb, we'll send out an official AVweb baseball cap as a "thank you."
This year at EAA AirVenture we brought you fourteen video reports over the course of seven days. We realize the news was flying fast and furious during the show, so just in case you
missed any of our reports, you can catch them all here. (The main frame contains all of our videos, or you can click over to a particular video if one interests you more than the others.)
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Althought it's still a relatively new FBO, Air 51 in Lexington, Kentucky keeps popping up on our radar. The latest recommendation comes from
AVweb reader Don Hagedorn, who calls this popular pit stop the "best FBO I have ever visited," prompting us break with tradition and make Air 51 our "FBO of the Week"
for a second time.
We were delayed due to weather ... when returning to Columbia, SC from Oshkosh on 2 August. Their great staff went out of their way to take care of my 13-year-old nephew and make him feel welcome
while we waited. Fine staff, great facilities, reasonable fuel prices, and wonderful amenities. Plus, my nephew was especially thrilled by the TV in the men's room. (Ah, simple pleasures!)
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