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WhiteKnightTwo (WK2, also dubbed "EVE" by Virgin Galactic's Sir Richard Branson), which will serve as the launch vehicle for
Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo (SS2), has expanded its flight envelope with a third test flight that took the aircraft to 140 knots and 18,000 feet. The flight also tested engine thrust asymmetry
parameters and in-flight engine restarts. Burt Rutan, founder of Scaled Composites, which has been instrumental in the development of the vehicles, believes WK2 will ultimately find niche applications
"beyond the initial requirements of Virgin Galactic." Powered by four Pratt & Whitney Canada PW308A engines and slung below a 140-foot carbon composite wing spar, WK2 is designed for a payload
capacity of more than 37,000 pounds and a "coast-to-coast" range. Tests to 50,000 feet (SS2's launch altitude) are expected to take place during the next few months. As for the huge aircraft's flight
characteristics, pilot Peter Siebold commented that the aircraft "might look unique from the ground" but "it is not strange to fly" and is "in fact a great piloting experience." Rutan believes the
capabilities of WK2 will find it work outside of space tourism, as well.
WK2 "has the power, strength and maneuverability to provide for pre space-flight, positive G force and zero G astronaut training as well as a lift capability which is over 30% greater than that
represented by a fully crewed SpaceShipTwo," according to a press release from Virgin Galactic. The company suggests that some other missions for which WK2's unique design might be well-suited include
launching satellites into low Earth orbit via unmanned rockets that WK2 would carry aloft. For its role carrying space tourists aboard SS2, the aircraft will need to take off from a normal runway and
carry SS2 to an altitude of about 50,000 feet, where that vehicle will initiate its launch.
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A pilot, a labor relations consultant, and the former president of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), ATP-rated Randy Babbitt is now
officially President Barack Obama's choice to serve as FAA administrator. Babbitt's nomination must now pass the Senate before he can set to the present priorities of (and problems posed by) air
traffic control modernization and funding authorization. The FAA has been operating since 2007 without official funding reauthorization, but under temporary funding extensions. Hot-topic issues yet to
be resolved revolve mainly around funding plans and the possibility of user fees that go beyond current taxation methods and do not exclude general aviation operations. Babbitt will also walk right
into the long-brewed enmity of FAA/air traffic controller relations. AOPA offered a statement, Friday, welcoming the announcement of Babbitt's nomination and looking forward to working with the new
administrator, once confirmed. Babbitt's nomination is viewed as "labor friendly" by labor organizations but business-oriented groups also mention his management and consulting background. His
appointment is supported by ALPA and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. The National Business Aviation Association also praised the nomination as did the Air Transport Association,
whose president James May called Babbitt "a superb choice."
ALPA's current president, John Prater, called Babbitt, "a powerful leader who promises to direct the FAA with staunch determination and a deep understanding of the aviation industry." But everyone
has baggage and there is lingering bitterness over Babbitt's role in the events that preceded the demise of Eastern Airlines. AVweb has received several e-mails showing concern over Babbitt's
nomination. One reader alleges that Babbitt's actions during the Eastern Airlines strike "helped destroy an airline and many careers."
The FAA normally releases annual summaries of aircraft/wildlife collisions (in 2007 there were 7,439), but following the Hudson River
ditching of US Airways Flight 1549 and a subsequent Associated Press request for access to the FAA's wildlife hazard database, the agency has sought changes. The FAA on March 19 published a notice of proposed rulemaking to keep its Wildlife Hazard Database "protected from public disclosure" of relevant data. In
essence, the FAA proposes that wildlife hazard reports be treated with the same confidentiality as other voluntary safety reporting systems. The FAA contends that public release of the data may on one
hand discourage reporting and on the other "produce an inaccurate perception" of the dangers posed to aircraft by wildlife and compound that by attributing those inaccuracies to specific airlines or
airports. Currently, and contrary to a 1999 request by the NTSB, pilots are not required to report all bird collisions and the FAA estimates that only about one in five wildlife collision incidents
that involve commercial aircraft are reported. But the FAA's unfortunately timed desire to keep what gory details they do collect within the confines of aviation's regulatory professionals has met
official resistance from voices in the United States Senate and former NTSB chairman, James Hall.
In response to the proposal, Hall stated his belief that public awareness is essential to a robust safety program and New York Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. John Hall have joined to voice their
displeasure with the FAA's planned secrecy. Currently, the FAA's wildlife hazard reports database includes voluntarily submitted information on more than 100,000 bird strikes reported since 1990.
Comments are welcome on the proposed rule through April 19. While the number of reported bird strikes increased from 5,872
on 2000 to 7,439 in 2007, new defenses are being deployed, including ground-based MERLIN Aircraft Birdsrike Avoidance Radars capable of detecting birds even in fog and light rain.
3 Airplanes ... 3 Levels ... 1 Edition ... Ice
New for 2009, Cirrus Aircraft shakes the lineup with a new way to spec out your new Cirrus. SR20, SR22, andTurbo models are now available in three
well-equipped trim levels - "S," "GS," and "GTS"; Known Ice Protection is ready to go on SR22 and Turbo models; or choose an all-new premium interior and
exterior upgrade package dubbed "X-Edition."
CirrusAircraft.com for details.
Liberty Aerospace has "no intent to shut down," but has laid off another 14 workers, bringing the once 180-strong workforce down to
about 32, president Keith Markley told Florida Today. The company laid off 30 workers in January. The Brevard, Fla., company is maintaining offices in Melbourne and a contract facility in Romania and
intends to continue production with its skeleton staff, until such time that it can "put people back on board." All employees laid off by Liberty have received severance packages, according to the
company. Liberty worked as a pioneer in the development of FADEC controls, which are available on its models, and bills its product as the "most economical certified aircraft" available in the IFR
market. The company had delivered 100 aircraft by February, but blames the economic slowdown for a sharp decline in sales for all general aviation sales. The base two-seat IFR Liberty XL2 is priced at
$188,000 is marketed to flight schools and individual pilots.
The Liberty XL2 evolved originally from the Europa kit-built aircraft and the new aircraft is offered by Liberty as a two-seater that burns five gallons per hour running a FADEC-optimized 125-hp
Continental that after a nearly 1500-foot ground roll pushes the XL2 along at about 122 knots in cruise.
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The pilots every other pilot wants to talk to will be at EAA AirVenture to retell the most celebrated ditching in history. US
Airways Capt. Chesley Sullenberger and FO Jeff Skiles will be featured guests at Theatre in the Woods on the evening of July 31 and they'll also show up at other venues during the big show. "These two
pilots have told their story to the world since the remarkable events of January 15th, but at EAA AirVenture they'll have the opportunity to talk in person with fellow aviators on how their training,
planning and airmanship skills were tested," said AirVenture Chairman Tom Poberezny. "There is perhaps no place better than Oshkosh where an audience would understand the decision-making process that
took place in the cockpit that day and learn the lessons from these two pilots' experiences."
Skiles and Sullenberger are both US Airways veterans and Sullenberger has frequently mentioned the value of having two highly experienced pilots up front to arrive at the remarkably successful
conclusion of the flight. Skiles is also no stranger to Oshkosh. He's been attending since he was a child and went to the first fly-ins in Rockford, Ill. Both his parents are pilots.
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Six new buyers can purchase a 145-knot, 1,000-pound useful load kit-built Glasair Aviation Sportsman 2+2 that takes off (and
lands) in less than 400 feet and costs less than $125,000 -- finished and flying, complete with a 180-hp Lycoming IO-360, a constant-speed prop and a VFR panel. The promotion, announced Thursday,
offers a 25% discount from normal pricing, according to the company, and is first come, first served. The Glasair 2+2 is a kit-built experimental category aircraft, but Glasair offers a "two weeks to
taxi" program that is included in the promotional pricing. That program does require purchaser participation for the duration of the two-week build cycle. The company is also offering special pricing
for builder assist programs and upgrade programs (including a panel upgrade and firewall-forward plan), which are available to kit builders who bypassed the two weeks to taxi program in their initial
kit purchase and even some who are already flying.
Glasair's promotion brings pricing back into the 1970's era, according to the company's press release, and the deep discounts are available for a wide range of products and services available at
the company's Arlington, Wash., service center. More information is available by contacting Glasair at (360) 435-8533 ext. 232. We can't
guarantee there will be any positions left by the time you read this.
It may be the first time in more than 20 years that a two-seat Supermarine Spitfire has gone to auction and the current example
(once stationed at RAF Lyneham in 1944) is expecting to draw bids of more than $2.1 million, next month. Some estimates put the number of flying two-seat Spits at seven (flying single-seaters may
number closer to 60). That, from some 22,000 Spitfires flown between March 1936 and 1957. But this particular aircraft did not begin its life as one of the roughly 20 two-seat Spits originally built;
it was born as a Mark IX. Classic Aero Engineering was hired by the aircraft's recent owner, Paul Portelli, to restore the aircraft and transform it into a two-seater. That process took seven years,
and outlived Portelli, but met the authenticity requirements demanded by CAA to certify the aircraft as an airworthy genuine Spitfire. As such, the auction's lucky winner can expect to carry an annual
insurance policy in the $70,000 range for serial number SM520 and about that much for annual maintenance. Fuel will be extra, provided the buyer has the fortitude (and skill) to risk flying the
aircraft at all. The auction will be held by Bonhams' at the RAF Museum in Hendon, April 20.
As for learning to fly it, Peter Tuplin, managing director of Classic Aero Engineering, which handled the aircraft's complete restoration, told the DailyMail.co.uk that he can teach straight and
level flight, but not how to land. "It's very easy to fly, but it's also very easy to get into trouble with," said Tuplin.
Why Take Chances?
Thousands of pilots will receive certificate actions this year. You could be the pilot whose certificate is suspended for 180 days because you flew past the 100-hour inspection. Or you may discover
the aircraft you rented is past due for its annual, putting your certificate at risk. By enrolling in the AOPA Legal Services Plan, you can receive aviation legal consultation, advice, and even
Private Pilot coverage is $29.
The Hotelicopter is "the world's first flying hotel," and it's a helicopter, according to its promoter. An "elegant modification" of
the Soviet Mil V-12 helicopter (only two were ever built back in the late 1960s, one was damaged in a hard landing and the other, according to several sources, is on display at a museum), the
twin-rotor Hotelicopter derives added forward thrust from four GEnx turbofan engines that offer "a thrust range" of 75,000 pounds. Aboard the aircraft, each of 18 luxuriously appointed "soundproofed"
rooms is equipped with a queen-sized bed "and all the luxurious appointments you'd expect from a flying five-star hotel," according to the promoter. That includes 600-thread-count Egyptian cotton
sheets on every bed, plus a SkySpa, where you might "touch up those highlights" or "take a soak in the Jacuzzi." As the promotional Web site eloquently notes, "traveling today is getting to be a real
pain in the ass." So, obviously ... the Hotelicopter. The 137-foot-long, 91-foot-high, 232,870-pound, 18-room hotel cruises at about 145 miles per hour over about 700 miles suspended beneath two giant
rotors, according to promoters. Feel free to sign up now. The inaugural 14-day tour departs from JFK on June 26, according to the Hotelicopter Web
site, which comes complete with computer-generated images and a description of a first test flight that "went great" according to the imaginative folks behind it.
Things appear to be progressing quickly following the abbreviated flight test schedule. The site is offering several upcoming tours, aside from the inaugural tour that will take passengers from JFK
to the Bahamas and multiple stops in between. There are also California and European tours of 14- and 16-days duration, respectively. No prices are listed, but really, what would you expect to pay?
Interested parties can sign up for the Hotelicopter newsletter, which dependent on your level of cautious internet conservatism, we might strongly advise against. The actual Mil V-12 had a maximum
takeoff weight of 231,485 pounds, but was considered too unwieldy for production and by 1974, its purpose of rapid deployment of strategic ballistic missiles was deemed unnecessary. Earlier in 1969,
however, the aircraft carried an 88,636-pound payload to an altitude of nearly 7,400 feet -- setting a new world record in the process.
Put AeroExpo Europe - Prague and AeroExpo Europe - London on Your Show Schedule AeroExpo Europe - Prague (May 22-24, 2009) will showcase everything from ultralights to helicopters to business aircraft in the heart of Europe, marketing to the European and emerging Eastern
European and Russian markets. AeroExpo Europe - London (June 12-14, 2009) includes aircraft from light aircraft, pistons, and turboprops through to VLJs (very light jets) and all parts and
services for these general aviation aircraft.
Go online for
exhibitor and attendee details.
Each week, we run a sampling of the letters received to our editorial inbox here in AVmail. One letter that's particularly relevant, informative, or otherwise compelling will headline this section as
our "Letter of the Week," and we'll send the author an official AVweb baseball cap as a "thank you" for interacting with us (and the rest of our readership). Send us your
comments and questions using this form. Please include your mailing address in your e-mail (just in case your
letter is our "Letter of the Week"); by the same token, please let us know if your message is not intended for publication.
Letter of the Week: In Perspective
I have only one thing to say regarding the ruckus JetBlue's big wig campaign is causing in our industry.
General Aviation (and the NBAA in particular) need to get over themselves. The advertisements are pointed at corporate wonks who are having their use of private jets cut back and not general or
business aviation. The ads are not likely to affect our sector of this industry. The damage has long been done by the numbskulls from the Big Three automakers. If you want to vent on someone, I
suggest you start at the source.
This message has been brought to you by an employee of a full-service FBO whose business depends heavily on the very clientele these ads are geared to. The difference is, I have a sense of
Bring Back The 152?
I have been actively involved in aviation since my first flying lesson at age 14 and am now 51 years old. Aviation is in my blood, and, like many others at my age, as an active pilot and aircraft
owner, the concern about maintaining my medical and being able to continue to fly my RV-6A is always in the back of my mind.
I believe the whole genesis of the LSA industry has been primarily an attempt to have an avenue for folks like me to continue flying, if some day they can no longer qualify for their medical. I
believe that is fundamentally flawed.
Cessna's most recent crash of their 162 "trainer" validates my point. Why not just step back
and take a look at the entire medical certification process? Instead of trying to create an industry designed to allow folks with potential medical problems to continue flying, how about simply
modifying our existing system to recognize how aviation and our pilot population is changing? Modernize the venerable Cessna 150/152 series and allow for conversion of all the Skycatcher orders over
to that airframe, then build it in Wichita with the same experienced labor pool that did it the last time. Then modify the third-class medical certificate to be equivalent to a driver's license
and only for daytime, VFR only.
If you want to fly IFR (or at night, instruct, etc.), that would require a second-class medical or better. I do not fly "hard IFR" anymore and recognize that in another 10 or 15 years, I might not
want to fly at night. Physically, I can easily meet the standards of a first- or second-class medical, but as time progresses and I age, I will scale back on my flying to manage risk to myself and to
my passengers accordingly.
The new LSAs are wonderful, but forcing them to meet unrealistic criteria based on a pilot/buyer base that continues to diminish is short-sighted, at best. Let's look at what our system is now,
make the best of it, and allow Cessna, Piper, and any others to design a safe, modern airplane or update existing and proven airframes without being constrained by some arbitrary weight limit
(T-Craft, Luscombe, et. al.). Chances are, we will not have any more Skycatchers destroyed along the way.
Yoke's on Us
Regarding the Picture of the Week caption, "My 11-month-old daughter couldn't resist getting some yolk time":
So how many people have told you there's egg on your faces?
A few, Andy, a few ... .
Russ Niles Editor-in-Chief
Babbitt as Administrator
When Randy Babbitt was president of ALPA, he started out as an Eastern Pilot. When Eastern went under,
he became a Delta pilot and turned his back on his fellow Eastern pilots. I just wonder what he will do in the FAA? Probably turn his back on all pilots.
Babbitt is an airline type and not a GA person. Guess which way he will lean.
Controllers at Risk?
I was saddened to hear that Denver controllers have been "put at risk" due to
the increased traffic and lower controller experience levels. What's happening are they falling out of their chairs? Never mind the airplanes.
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After 18 months without an official leader, the FAA will need Randy Babbitt to get to work immediately if he's confirmed as FAA administrator. In the latest installment of our AVweb Insider
blog, editor-in-chief Russ Niles speculates on which he'll lean and runs down the best- and worst-case scenarios.
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When Bendix/King rolled out its AV8OR portable GPS last summer, the $749 retail price about $675 discounted caught GPS buyers by surprise. So did the AV8OR's feature
set, which includes a touchscreen interface and automotive navigation as built-in standard capability. In this video, AVweb's editors took the AV8OR out for a spin to wring out its major
AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Tri-City Aviation at KTRI in Kingsport, Tennessee.
AVweb reader Jonathan Butkovic recommended the FBO:
I was in Bristol for the NASCAR race, and Tri-City Aviation was the FBO on the field, so I parked there. They were helpful, friendly and very cost-friendly. ... I loved it and certainly will be
back next time I go to the races!
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
Webmaster Scott Simmons
Contributors Jeff van West
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