AVwebFlash Complete Issue: Volume 15, Number 13a

March 30, 2009

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
Lycoming® — The Engines of Choice
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Top News: Next-Gen Spacecraft Specs back to top 
Sponsor Announcement

Virgin Galactic's Eve Goes Faster And Farther

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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Quotes reprinted with permission: Professional Pilot, 2007 Headset Preference Survey, 12/07; Aviation Consumer, 8/07.
Of Babbitt and Birds: This Week in FAA News back to top 
Sponsor Announcement

Groups Respond As Babbitt Officially Nominated To Head FAA

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."

FAA Wants Bird Strikes Secret

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
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Signs of the Times back to top 

Liberty Hangs On

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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Sullenberger, Skiles Visit Oshkosh back to top 

1549 Pilots At AirVenture

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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Here's Your Chance to Stimulate the Economy ... back to top 

Glasair Offer: Experimental Performance At LSA Price

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.

Two-Seat Supermarine Spitfire Going To Auction

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.

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News Briefs back to top 

The Hotelicopter -- Happy Early April Fools' Day

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.
The Top Reporter on Our Crack Staff ... Is You! back to top 

AVmail: March 30, 2009

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 humor.

David Auts

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.

Ralph Fisch

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?

Andy Durbin

AVweb Replies:

A few, Andy, a few ... .

Russ Niles

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.

Michael Johnson

Babbitt is an airline type and not a GA person. Guess which way he will lean.

J.J. lrvy

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.

Terry Blumenthal

Read AVmail from other weeks here, and submit your own Letter to the Editor with this form.

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.

eBooks & eVideos
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New on AVweb back to top 

The Savvy Aviator #65: What's Your Fuel Flow at Takeoff?

One of the biggest reasons cylinders fail to go the distance is insufficient fuel flow at takeoff. Is yours set high enough?

Click here for the full story.

AVweb Insider Blog: Is Babbitt Good for GA?

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.

Read more.

Economic Challenges Call for Proven Advertising Results — AVweb Delivers Results
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AVweb Media: Look, Listen, Laugh and Learn back to top 

Exclusive Video: Bendix/King AV8OR Demo

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

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 features.

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.

Video Marketplace Spotlight

New for 2009 from Flight Design
Flight Design CEO Tom Peghiny joins Aviation Consumer editor Paul Bertorelli to outline the company's new-for-2009 offerings at the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring, Florida.

Click here to watch the video (and discover other great products) at AVweb's Video Marketplace.

We Live in a Fast-Paced World; Use Your Travel Time Wisely
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Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Tri-City Aviation (KTRI, Kingsport, TN)

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

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!

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!

The Lighter Side of Flight back to top 

Short Final

From Naples [Florida] tower (KAPF):

Student Pilot Preparing for Departure to Miami:
"Tower — so, then, you want me to go east?"

Naples Tower:
"Well, that would be the easiest way to get to Miami — unless you want to go completely around the globe."

Paul Scott
via e-mail

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

Jeff van West

Click here to send a letter to the editor. (Please let us know if your letter is not intended for publication.)

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