AVwebFlash - Volume 14, Number 34a

August 18, 2008

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Top News: The Wild Blue Green Yonder back to top 
Sponsor Announcement

Europe To Spend 1.6 Billion (Euro) On Clean Aircraft Research

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.

Jatropha Plant May Produce Jet-A Bio-Fuel

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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Fuel Prices? Who Needs Fuel? back to top 

The Coming Electric Airplane Revolution

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.

Unmanned Gliders To Seek Their Own Lift

"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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Hawkers Over Iraq? back to top 

Report: Air Force Plan Considers King Airs For Recon

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.

Hawker Beechcraft Working Through 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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News Briefs back to top 

Liberty XL2, Piper-Germany Seek To Capitalize On Economy

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 Hits Back At "Speculation"

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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News Briefs back to top 

Young Eagles Fundraiser Yields Record Haul

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."

Biplane Pilot Killed At Old Rhinebeck

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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Reader Voices back to top 

AVmail: Aug. 18, 2008

Reader mail this week about the TSA and GA airports, VLJs, and lots of comments about ATC policing duties.

Click here to read this week's letters to the editor.

AVweb's Newstips Address ...

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 newstips@avweb.com. You're a part of our team ... often, the best part.

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New on AVweb back to top 

Leading Edge #21: Remember Your Cowl Flaps

If you want to protect your engine and get better cruise speed, pay attention to that other cockpit control during your high-performance aircraft checkout.

Click here to read.

A commonly glossed-over subject on complex-airplane checkouts can cost you several knots in cruise speed, and perhaps several hundred hours of operating life from your cylinders. It's not the landing gear, or a controllable-pitch propeller, or even the mixture control. Cowl flaps can have a profound, long-term effect on the health and longevity of a high-performance airplane engine -- types that already often stand a poor chance of reaching the factory recommended time before overhaul (TBO).

Why Cowl Flaps?

Although the last couple of decades have seen attempts at liquid cooling for general aviation (GA) engines, most light-plane powerplants still depend on external airflow for cooling. Cowl flaps increase cooling air flow through the engine compartment and around cylinder cooling fins. They also add air flow through the oil cooler, which is basically a radiator required to keep the inside of the engine more cool. If you're flying a turbocharged engine with an intercooler, cowl flaps may also help offset the heat of turbo boost, increasing available engine power.

How Cowl Flaps Work

An opening or door at the rear of the engine cowling, cowl flaps deflect the slipstream enough to create a low pressure area in the bottom of the engine compartment. Some designs may have cowl flaps on the sides of the cowling as well. Reduction in air pressure itself helps cool the engine; but more importantly, the low pressure that cowl flaps create pulls air through the engine compartment for increased cylinder and oil cooling. All that air flowing through the engine compartment, though, also creates a tremendous amount of drag, which will rob you of cruise airspeed.

In airplanes built for cross-country speed, this cooling drag is minimized by keeping the rear cowling opening just big enough for adequate airflow in cruise. At lower airspeeds, like takeoff and climb, the pressure differential created by the opening alone may not be enough for sufficient cooling. For cooling during these high-power/low-airspeed phases of flight, cowl flaps (controllable openings that provide a greater airflow deflection and therefore greater pressure differential) are usually standard equipment for high-performance airplanes.

But I Don't Have Cowl Flaps!

Many airplanes don't have cowl flaps. They depend on fixed slipstream-deflectors on the lower, rear cowling (a "cooling lip") to serve as a permanently open cowl flap. The cooling lip works most of the time with lower-horsepower engines. But even in those airplanes, in hot temperatures, or if you've upgraded to a more powerful engine ("hotter" in more ways than one), you'll have to sacrifice climb rate and climb at a higher indicated airspeed to effectively cool the engine.

Why It Makes A Difference

How does your cowl-flap operating technique affect performance and cylinder longevity?

  • Forget to open cowl flaps for taxi and air will not flow evenly through the engine compartment. A large temperature differential may develop between dissimilar metal parts. Your engine's internal tolerances are very small and depend on even temperature distribution to reduce interference between moving parts.
  • Forget to keep cowl flaps open for climb, or to open them for subsequent climbs after leveling off at intermediate altitudes, and cylinders may overheat very rapidly, with all the valve and cylinder cooling issues that result. Oil may not cool enough to help dissipate internal engine heat and intercoolers might not offset the added heat of turbocharging. Remember your cowl flaps, because it's far easier to keep the cylinders cool than it is to cool them down if they're allowed to get hot.
  • Forget to close cowl flaps in cruise and cooling drag will rob several knots from the resulting cruise speed for a given power setting.
  • Leave the cowl flaps open for descent and landing, and the engine may cool unevenly. Although evidence that "shock cooling" is a myth and does not affect engine longevity, it stands to reason that a more gradual temperature change is less stressful to the engine, and maintains internal engine tolerances better than more rapid temperature swings.
  • Close the cowl flaps for parking, to help keep birds out of the cowling. Plug the cowl flap openings if possible between flights, with a "Remove Before Flight" tag attached to the plugs to help you remember to take them out during your next preflight.

Partial Cowl Flaps?

In general, cowl flaps should be an all-or-nothing exercise: Keep them fully open, or fully closed, as appropriate. You may be able to slightly cool a slightly hot engine by running the cowl flaps part-way open, but this takes finesse and generally isn't worth the effort. An exception is when cruising a turbocharged engine at high altitude, where cooling airflow is thin but cooling drag is still a speed drain if the cowl flaps are fully open.

Some airplanes have electrically operated cowl flaps with "Cowl Flap Open" annunciator lights. The annunciators often come on when the cowl flap is about 50-percent open, so a technique I've used in Beech Baron 58TCs and 58Ps is to run the cowl-flap motor only until the light first comes on, then turn the motor off. This leaves the cowl flaps "in trail" for high-altitude cooling with minimal cooling drag. But again, except for this limited application, it's usually best to open cowl flaps all the way when needed, and close them fully when they're not.

Remember Your Cowl Flaps

Cowl-flap use is critical but easy, and following a few simple steps can save you a lot of unnecessary expense. Here's how to remember, using the acronym COWL:

Checklists: Follow the appropriate ones -- before, during and after flight.

Open your cowl flaps for start-up, taxi, run-up, and for taxi-in after your clear the runway.

Watch cylinder and oil temperatures and close the cowl flaps as you level the aircraft into cruise flight. But if the engine is getting abnormally hot, or you're in a configuration where it's likely to get hotter (taxi, takeoff or climb), open the cowl flaps.

Leave the cowl flaps closed for descent and landing, open them again as you tax to parking, and close (and plug) them if possible when you hangar or tie down.

Proper cowl-flap use is an exercise in pilot procedure and temperature control. Follow your checklists, but do not be afraid to deviate from them if your engine temperatures begin to get too hot or cold. It's easy (and common) to brush over cowl flap use when first checking out in a complex airplane, and to dismiss improper cowl flap use as unimportant if you forget after the checkout. But along with good-condition engine baffles and proper fuel flow set-up, correct cowl flap use is vital to getting the best life out of your engine.

Fly safe, and have fun!

Thomas P. Turner's Leading Edge columns are collected here.

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AVweb Insider Blog: It's Not Business As Usual In Russia

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.

Read more.

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AVweb Media: Look, Listen, Laugh and Learn back to top 

Lancair President Joe Bartels Discusses the FAA's New Homebuilt Rules with Kitplanes Magazine

File Size 9.2 MB / Running Time 10:02

Podcast Index | How to Listen | Subscribe Via RSS

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.

This podcast is brought to you by WxWorx XM WX Satellite Weather, official weather provider of EAA AirVenture ...

Click here to listen. (9.2 MB, 10:02)

Video of the Week: Cessna 140 Watching

Recommend a Video | VOTW Archive

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:

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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."

AVweb's AirVenture 2008 Video Round-Up

Original, Exclusive Videos from AVweb | Reader-Submitted & Viral Videos

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.)

Editors' Preview


Rocket Racers

Contest Winner


Bobby Sturgell

ChallengeAir Auction

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Try disabling ad blockers and refreshing this page.
If that doesn't work, click here to download the video directly.

Sean Tucker


Martin Jet Pack



ATC Tower


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Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Air 51 (LEX, Lexington, KY)

Nominate an FBO | Rules | Tips | Questions | Winning FBOs

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.

Don writes:

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!)

Keep those nominations coming. For complete contest rules, click here.

AVweb is actively seeking out the best FBOs in the country and another one, submitted by you, will be spotlighted here next Monday!

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The Lighter Side of Flight back to top 

Short Final

An exchange overheard while flying over the Mojave Desert:

Joshua Approach:
"Bonanza 50Y, traffic two o'clock, five miles. Unmanned aerial vehicle has you in sight."

50Y (me):
"50Y looking. If he's 'unmanned,' how can he have me in sight?"

Joshua Approach:
"Oh. He's got a T-38 spotter plane, so really it's a flight of two ... . Now you're three o'clock, three miles."

Yeah, I was kidding. I know they have cameras and instrumentation. But I still don't have them in sight."

Joshua Approach:
"They're passing behind you now. No factor. And we usually reserve the 'I can't see him' jokes for the F-117s that come through here."

Marc Zorn
via e-mail

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More AVweb for Your Inbox back to top 

AVwebBiz: AVweb's Business Aviation Newsletter

HAVE YOU SIGNED UP yet for AVweb's NO-COST weekly business aviation newsletter, AVwebBiz? Reporting on breaking news, Business AVflash focuses on the companies, the products and the industry leaders that make headlines in the business aviation industry. Business AVflash is a must read. Sign up today at http://www.avweb.com/profile/.

Names Behind the News back to top 

Meet the AVwebFlash Team

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:

Timothy Cole

Editorial Director, Aviation Publications
Paul Bertorelli

Russ Niles

Contributing Editors
Mary Grady
Glenn Pew

Features Editor
Kevin Lane-Cummings

Scott Simmons

Mariano Rosales
Jeff van West

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.

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