AVwebFlash -

September 4, 2008

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
Aircraft Spruce at the 45th Annual National Championship Reno Air Races & Air Show!
Join the Aircraft Spruce team in Reno, Nevada for the 45th Annual Reno Air Show in the Exhibit Hangar inside the Pitt Gates. Take advantage of some of your favorite products on sale, complimentary ground shipping (does not apply to hazardous or oversize products), and helpful staff to answer questions. The NEW 2008-2009 Aircraft Spruce Catalog will be available! Call Aircraft Spruce at 1 (877) 4-SPRUCE or visit online.
Top News: Lycoming, Thielert back to top 

Lycoming Appeal Of Crankshaft Case Quashed

The lawyer for a Navasota, Texas-based foundry says the Supreme Court of Texas has upheld a lower court ruling absolving his client of wrongdoing in the manufacture of faulty crankshafts that were installed in Lycoming engines. In 2005, Interstate Southwest won a jury decision that not only found it blameless, but also found Lycoming liable for fraud in the case. Lycoming appealed and the Supreme Court rejected that appeal on Tuesday. "This Supreme Court decision means Interstate Southwest wins and Lycoming loses – it's as simple as that," attorney Marty Rose said in a news release "A jury of 12 people looked at this and said that Lycoming was to blame. This decision affirms that." Lycoming did not immediately respond to our email request for comment Wednesday.

The case goes back to 2003 when a series of crankshaft failures in high-horsepower Lycomings prompted a massive recall. Lycoming sued Interstate, which made the cranks, but the jury found that it was Lycoming's design, particularly the addition of vanadium to the alloy mix, that weakened the cranks. Interstate maintained that the cranks were made to Lycoming specs and Rose says the Supreme Court ruling affirms the part maker "made no mistakes" in the process. Earlier appellate court rulings reduced a $96 million judgment awarded Interstate by the jury to lawyer fees only but also stopped a $186 million counterclaim by Lycoming.

Thielert Says Purchase Offers Are Promising

Several "well-known investors" have expressed an interest in buying the insolvent Thielert Aircraft Engines company, the company said this week. "In some cases, the offers even exceed initial expectations," according to company spokesman Sebastian Glaser. "Moreover, in recent weeks a number of other new prospective customers have expressed their interest as well," Glaser said. "Thus, the deadlines have been accordingly extended." Once all the bids have been collected, prospective buyers will be given the opportunity to thoroughly examine the company, then, actual purchase negotiations will begin. The company's statement did not offer a timeline for this process. Meanwhile, Thielert continues to produce diesel engines, and a new order from the U.S. has helped to stabilize the company's financial situation, according to this week's statement. "We can offer investors an intact company that is not making losses," said insolvency administrator Dr. Bruno M. Kubler. "Even if plans are to quickly find an investor, we are not under pressure to sell at an inadequate price."

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Aircraft in Trees back to top 

Plummeting Balloon Snagged By Trees, Pilot Survives

photo by Ricky Hilton

Imagine flying an airplane when both wings suddenly depart the fuselage -- that is about the kind of emergency that was faced by balloon pilot Chuck Walz last Sunday morning, when the fabric of his balloon envelope collapsed, and the aircraft plummeted toward the ground. But just before impact, the fabric snagged on a cluster of trees, breaking the fall, and the basket tipped, dumping Walz to the ground from a height of about 12 feet. He was taken to a hospital with a broken pelvis and a puncture wound to one leg, but he was conscious and alert, and by Tuesday his full recovery was said to be "promising." Walz, who is from Michigan, was competing in the U.S. National Hot Air Balloon Championship in Anderson County, S.C. David Levin, an official with the Balloon Federation of America, which organized the event, visited Walz on Monday. "Chuck and I agreed that we witnessed the hand of God in the form of a tree that reached out and saved his life," Levin said.

Such accidents, in which the balloon envelope collapses, are rare. There is no means of recovery.

Moth in a Tree

Click to watch video

When deHavilland built the Tiger Moth, it was designed to have the gentle flight characteristics that would launch a legion of crack pilots against the Third Reich. It did that job with minimal damage to airframes and teenaged pilots and it helped Augie Gorreck and his passenger Susie Williams walk (make that rappel) away from mishap that might have had a terrible result. The 65-year-old biplane lost power in its unique inverted Gypsy Major engine shortly after takeoff from Skylark Airpark near East Windsor, Conn. on Sunday and Gorreck, lacking altitude to do anything else, settled it into a copse of trees at the end of the runway. "We got away with it," Gorreck told reporters as he and Williams rode on the back of an all-terrain vehicle from the crash site. Both were unharmed but spent three hours 50 feet above the ground waiting for rescue.

The boggy ground made ground rescue difficult and officials were afraid a Coast Guard Blackhawk helicopter might knock the fabric covered antique from its perch but specially trained fire department rescue personnel were able to lower the them to safety. The fate of the airplane, which appears to have minimal damage, wasn't known late Monday.

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Reorganization & Recovery back to top 

Eclipse Announces New Organizational Structure

In its continuing effort to "ensure [a] clear path to profitability," the new management team at Eclipse Aviation said on Tuesday that it has created a new structure for operating the company. Peg Billson, previously the company's chief operating officer, has been appointed president and general manager of the Eclipse Manufacturing Division, and Mike McConnell, previously vice president of sales and marketing, will serve as president and general manager of the Eclipse Customer Division. Roel Pieper, who took over as CEO when founder Vern Raburn departed the company, says the new framework will serve to "rapidly advance" his operational excellence strategy. "I have been directly involved in several turnaround efforts over the course of my career and believe these changes will be instrumental in driving world-class manufacturing and a superior customer experience," he said in a news release. "I have absolute confidence in this leadership team's ability to deliver the profitable results this company requires," Pieper said.

In the weeks since taking over the company, Pieper has laid off 38 percent of the workforce and cut production rates of the E500 jet. The company is also facing a federal review of the FAA certification of the jet, and protests from buyers who have asked for, but have not received, returns on their deposits.

Gulf Coast Mops Up From Gustav

Hurricane Gustav was no Katrina, but it still caused plenty of headaches for aviators in the Gulf Coast region. As of Tuesday, Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans remained closed to passenger traffic and was operating on generator power, but VFR daytime operations were allowed. The airport was expected to be back to normal operations sometime Wednesday. The city's Lakefront Airport was closed and unattended as of Tuesday afternoon, according to the National Business Aviation Association's hurricane report. Most other airports in the region were reopened by Tuesday, although some were lacking electrical power. Gustav has been downgraded to a tropical depression as it moves northwest, but threats of local rains up to 20 inches and possible tornados remain.

Early reports said eight people died in the storm. Officials were asking evacuees to wait another day or so before returning home. Meanwhile, the active hurricane season continues, with three more storms -- Hannah, Ike, and Josephine -- already on track for the southeastern U.S.

Introducing AV8OR™ from Bendix/King by Honeywell
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Meanwhile, On the Leading Edge ... back to top 

Autonomous Helicopters Teach Themselves Aerobatics

A fleet of scale-model autonomous helicopters operated by Stanford computer scientists can learn to fly complex stunts by "watching" other helicopters perform the same maneuvers, the research team said this week. The project illustrates the capability of "apprenticeship learning," in which robots learn by observing an expert, rather than by following pre-programmed software instructions. Using artificial intelligence, the autonomous helicopters are able to fly a complex routine while correcting for variables such as wind gusts. During a flight, instruments monitor the position, direction, orientation, velocity, acceleration and spin of the helicopter in several dimensions. A computer crunches the data, makes quick calculations, and beams new flight directions to the helicopter via radio 20 times per second -- with no human input. The technology could be useful in "training" autonomous helicopters to search for land mines or wildfires, said Andrew Ng, director of the Stanford research team.

"In order for us to trust helicopters in these sort of mission-critical applications, it's important that we have very robust, very reliable helicopter controllers that can fly maybe as well as the best human pilots in the world can," he said. Stanford's autonomous helicopters have taken a large step in that direction, according to Ng.

The autonomous helicopters can perform traveling flips, rolls, loops with pirouettes, stall-turns with pirouettes, knife-edge flight, Immelmann turns, inverted tail slides, and the hurricane (described as a "fast backward funnel") as well as a maneuver called the "tick tock," in which the helicopter, while pointed straight up, hovers with a side-to-side motion as if it were the pendulum of an upside-down clock.

Martin Jetpack Now With BRS Chute

One of the biggest newsmakers at EAA AirVenture this summer was the Martin Jetpack -- a spiffy-looking unit that promised great mobility and potential, though its live demo at Oshkosh was inconclusive as to its true capabilities. But this week, the product took another step forward in mass-market appeal when Ballistic Recovery Systems (BRS) announced it has entered into an agreement with Martin Aircraft Company to provide an emergency parachute recovery system for the jetpacks. "This system enables the Jetpack pilot to be saved during a catastrophic failure even when flying at a reasonably low altitude," BRS said in a news release. How low is "reasonable" when you are strapped into a jetpack? "Our official position is 500 feet," BRS President Larry Williams told AVweb on Tuesday. "But as always, deploy when in doubt, since we have seen successful deployments as low as 60 feet. The parachute offers some drag immediately that will slow down the impact. Also, as with all our applications, the function of the system will be influenced by forward velocity as well."

BRS said it will work with Martin Aircraft Company, which is based in New Zealand, to create a system that suits the jetpack's unique qualities. The Jetpack sells for $100,000, and production is expected to start next year. Click here for AVweb's exclusive video from Oshkosh, the only public demo of the jetpack.

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News Briefs back to top 

Fossett Search Continues, A Year Later

A year after adventurer Steve Fossett disappeared while flying near a friend's ranch in Nevada, a group of 28 searchers are back in the field hoping to find evidence of his fate. The team began its search on Aug. 23 and plans to continue through next Wednesday, The Associated Press reported this week. They are focusing on a new area, west of the area previously scoured, based on new information that a radar track that was believed to show Fossett's route may instead have been the track of a local pilot who was flying over the area at the same day and time. This week's effort is the largest since the main search was called off last year, though other groups have continued to explore the region on a smaller scale.

"We're pushing harder, leaving people in the field longer. We've got the lay of the land now," Robert Hyman, one of the team leaders, told the AP on Tuesday. Searcher Lew Toulmin added that he hoped the searchers would have a breakthrough on Sept. 3, a year to the day after Fossett vanished. "We hope that Wednesday's the day," Toulmin said. "That would be nice."

Fossett was declared legally dead in February, though speculation persists that he may still be alive under an assumed identity.

On the Fly ...

A Convair 580 carrying cargo crashed shortly after takeoff in Columbus, Ohio, on Monday; all three crew members were killed...

A P2V air tanker that was fighting wildfires in Nevada crashed on Monday, killing all three crew members. Early reports said the aircraft may have broken apart shortly after takeoff...

A jury trial has been scheduled for airshow pilot Patty Wagstaff for Oct. 28 in Wisconsin. Wagstaff has pleaded not guilty to drunk-driving charges filed in connection with an incident that took place in Oshkosh this summer...

Bombardier's CRJ1000 NextGen airliner made its first flight on Wednesday, in Quebec.

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New on AVweb back to top 

Brainteasers Quiz #137: Twilight Zones

Brainteasers Submitted for your consideration: VFR and IFR procedures with, one foot in the 1950s and the other in your 21st-century cockpit. Despite satnav bliss, the National Airspace System (NAS) clings to archaic items that you should know.

Take the quiz.

More Brainteasers

AVweb Insider Blog: Piper Matrix — A Surprise Top Seller

In the latest installment of our aviation blog, AVweb Insider, Aviation Consumer's Rick Durden explains why the new Piper Matrix is a surprise best seller. (Cirrus has a lot to do with it.)

Read more.

Join NAA and Help Shape the Next Century of Flight
It's a great time to join the National Aeronautic Association (NAA), the nation's oldest aviation organization. At $39 a year, NAA membership is a terrific value for any aviation enthusiast! Members receive the Smithsonian's Air & Space magazine, plus access to aviation records and much more. To become an NAA member, sign up online or call (703) 416-4888 and press 4.
Reader Voices back to top 

Question of the Week: The Martin Jetpack — You Know You Want One (Right?)

This Week's Question | Previous Week's Answers


Last week, we asked whether certain types of aircraft (e.g. experimentals, homebuilts) be restricted at airports in densely populated areas.

Despite a few well-deserved chidings for not clarifying the difference between an "experimental" and a "homebuilt" aircraft (see this week's AVmail), we received quite a few votes in our informal poll. The largest segment of you (a somewhat ironic 51% of the voting population, believe it or not) agreed with the statement Homebuilts should have the same access as any other aircraft.

For a complete (real-time) breakdown of reader responses, click here.
(You may be asked to register and answer if you haven't already participated in this poll.)


It was all the rage at EAA AirVenture 2008, and now it seems the Martin Jetpack will be available with a BRS 'chute. This week, we're curious how many AVweb readers would be willing to sink their (hypothetical) money into one:

Would you consider buying and flying a Martin Jetpack?
(Click to answer.)

Have an idea for a new "Question of the Week"? Send your suggestions to .

This address is only for suggested "QOTW" questions, and not for "QOTW" answers or comments.
Use this form to send "QOTW" comments to our AVmail 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.

"A Celebration"
Celebrating their 45th anniversary this September, the National Championship Air Races are the last head-to-head air racing event left on Earth and are the favorite among aviation enthusiasts, worldwide. The event features six high-speed racing classes and a static aircraft show, and this year the USAF Thunderbirds and F-22 Demonstration Team will highlight a fleet of world-class aviation demonstrations. For more information on the National Championship Air Races or to purchase tickets, call (775) 972-6633, or visit AirRace.org.
AVweb Media: Look, Listen, Laugh and Learn back to top 

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

Don't see a video screen?
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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Turboprop Expo 2008, October 28-30 in Scottsdale, AZ, will offer specialized programs including seminar tracks for airframe and turboprop engine topics as well as operational and ownership information. Dr. David Strahle will present his informative and acclaimed seminar: Understanding Nexrad Imagery. Enjoy the relaxing surroundings of a classic resort and network with industry leaders at Turboprop Expo 2008. For more information and to register, visit online.
Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Stout Flying Service (KLWS, Lewiston, ID)

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

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Stout Flying Service at Lewiston-Nez Perce County Regional Airport (KLWS) in Lewiston, Idaho.

AVweb reader Steve Cronje gave the FBO "a big thumbs up" for going above-and-beyond to correct an honest mistake. While visiting the FBO, Steve received a fuel bill that he thought was a little high, and after returning home, he began to wonder if the lineman had overcharged him or if (perhaps more worrisome) someone had breached security and stolen a bit of his fuel. Here's the rest of the story, in Steve's own words:

Imagine my pleasure when I received an unprompted letter from Stout Flying Services today. It apologized for accidentally overcharging us for 40 gallons of fuel when we refueled. Apparently, the fuel meter had not been reset properly, and the lineman, who was new, did not notice it. (It was early in the morning and he was the only one around.) They had corrected the accounting with the credit card company and included transaction receipts for our records!

It is great to find a company that puts honesty and integrity above the bottom line in the world of today. There was no need for the Stouts to do anything other than nothing — yet they went to the trouble of tracking us down and putting the matter right.

I hope that Stout Flying Service wins the "FBO of the Week" award for putting principles before the bottom line. Our family, for one, will be certain to use their services again and hopefully this nomination encourages others to do the same.

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!

Fly (or Drive) Somewhere! Use AVweb's Calendar of Events
Air shows, seminars, conferences, club events, fly-ins, pancake breakfasts, and trade shows are all featured on AVweb's Calendar of Events.

If you have an event you want folks to know about, post it at no cost!
Reader-Submitted Photos back to top 

Picture of the Week: AVweb's Flying Photography Showcase

Submit a Photo | Rules | Tips | Questions | Past Winners

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.


All good things come to an end eventually, and this week we saw the number of submissions to our weekly "POTW" contest finally recede to normal levels for the first time since AirVenture. Yes, yes, we know — we were making that awwwww sound, too — but wipe that frown off your face, and let's enjoy the terrific photos we do have to share! (And if this isn't enough to satisfy your appetite for reader-submitted photos, you can always send us a few of your own to level the playing field.)

medium | large

copyright © Ian Astles
Used with permission

Low Level

Don't blink, or you're liable to miss this superfast fly-by, courtesy of Ian Astles from Knaphill, Surrey (England).

(We told you not to blink! But O.K., we'll wait while you go back and look ... .)


medium | large

Used with permission of Duane Jones

Goodbye, Dad ... I Love You

Going through reader-submitted photos every week, we see some pretty amazing sights — and not all of them involve expensive military jets or incredible aerobatic maneuvers. Sometimes the most memorable photos are those with the best stories, like this one from Duane Jones of New Carlisle, Ohio:

My father passed away on August 22, 2008 due to an accident. This is tribute given to him by the members of our airport. ... He was a great man and greatly dedicated to aviation. The airplane is his 1946 Aeronca Chief, which he flew hundreds of hours in.

Thanks for sharing the photo with us, Duane. All of us at "POTW" headquarters were honored that you thought to share this memorial with us and wish you (and your family) all the best. If only we could all be remembered this well.


medium | large

Used with permission of Gerald Nagel

"The Largest Porcelain Dolls I Have Ever Seen"

Yes, you read that correctly: Those are porcelain dolls. We don't know the full story, but we thought the contrast was incredible in this photo from Gerald Nagel of Bracken Gardens, Gauteng (South Africa).

(And if there's anything our audience can appreciate, it's solid workmanship!)


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Used with permission of Timothy O'Connor

"I'll Bet This Generated Some UFO Reports!"

Timothy O'Connor of Batavia, Ohio serves up a little Labor Day festivity in this photo of "a WWII trainer launching fireworks [yes, fireworks!] off the tips of its wings at the Red Stewart Tail-Dragger Fly-In and Air Show."


medium | large

copyright © Daniel Valovich
Used with permission

Labor Day Treat

Did we mention that Monday was a holiday here in the States? How about the fact that many of us spent the afternoon goofing off an watching fireworks?

No? We'll let Hot Springs, Arkansas's Daniel Valovich fill you in on the details ... .


As always, you can find bonus pics online at AVweb's home page — just look for the "POTW"slideshow in the center column!

Click here to submit your own photos to "POTW."

(No, seriously — click and send 'em, folks!)

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.

So You Think You Are a Safe Pilot!
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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
Volume 14, Number 36b back to top