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In an unusual move on Tuesday, the NTSB issued an "urgent safety recommendation" asking the FAA to prohibit further flight of
the Zodiac CH-601XL, which has been involved in six in-flight structural breakups since 2006. The board cited four accidents in the U.S. and two in Europe in which a CH-601XL broke up in flight,
killing a total of 10 people. According to the NTSB, there is a problem with the airplane design that makes it susceptible to aerodynamic flutter -- a phenomenon in which the control surfaces of the
airplane can suddenly vibrate, and if unmitigated, can lead to catastrophic structural failure. The NTSB wants the U.S. fleet grounded until the FAA can determine that the problem has been solved.
"The NTSB does not often recommend that all airplanes of a particular type be prohibited from further flight," said NTSB Acting Chairman Mark Rosenker. "In this case, we believe such action will save
lives. Unless the safety issues with this particular Zodiac model are addressed, we are likely to see more accidents in which pilots and passengers are killed in airplanes that they believed were safe
The NTSB also found the stick force gradient was not uniform, and was lesser at high Gs, which could make the airplane susceptible to over-control by the pilot, which could lead to over-stressing
the design limits and result in in-flight structural failure. The board also made several requests of ASTM International, the entity that provides the design standards for light sport aircraft. The
NTSB says ASTM should add requirements to ensure the standards for LSAs reduce the potential for aerodynamic flutter to occur, develop standards on stick-force characteristics that minimize the
possibility inadvertent over-controlling by the pilot, and ensure standards for LSAs result in accurate airspeed indications and appropriate documentation in new airplane pilot operating handbooks.
For more details, click here for the full text of the NTSB's safety recommendation letter (PDF) and click here for the NTSB letter to the ASTM (PDF).
The FAA is already looking into concerns about all versions of the Zodiac CH-601XL aircraft, which were raised at an industry meeting back in February, FAA spokeswoman Laura J. Brown told AVweb
on Tuesday, but she added that the agency has no immediate plans to call for the airplanes to be grounded. "The manufacturer already has told owners to check the aileron control cable tensions," she
said. The FAA has formed a special review team with members from the FAA and the industry to investigate the problem. Brown added that the FAA has told the ASTM that it should conduct a review of its
LSA standards regarding aerodynamic flutter. The CH-601XL airplane is sold in a kit version by Zenith Aircraft, which is run by Sebastian Heintz,
and is also sold as an S-LSA by AMD (Aircraft Manufacturing & Design), which is run by Matthew Heintz. The CH-601XL was certified as an S-LSA in
2005. In the six accidents cited by the NTSB, two of the aircraft were experimental amateur-built (one in California and one in Utah), one in California was an S-LSA manufactured by AMD, and one in Florida was an S-LSA built by the Czech Aircraft Works. The other two crashes were in the Netherlands and in Spain,
and it is not clear what version of the aircraft was involved.
On Wednesday, Zenith Aircraft posted a notice online stating that the company first learned of the NTSB's safety
recommendation on Tuesday, when the press release was issued. "We continue to believe wing flutter will not occur if the control cables are adjusted properly," the notice reads. "Nonetheless, we are
carefully considering the points raised in the memo, including whether the Zodiac CH-601XL is susceptible to wing flutter. Each accident discussed in the NTSB memo occurred under different
circumstances. Some of the accidents are still being investigated and what caused those accidents has not been determined. Zenith Aircraft will communicate with the FAA about the issues raised in the
NTSB memo. We will provide more information after we thoroughly consider the issues raised in the NTSB memo and we have spoken with the FAA about those issues." Matthew Heintz told EAA the company is in the process of evaluating the NTSB report, but expressed confidence in the aircraft's design. "We
absolutely do have confidence in the aircraft ... If there is something wrong with the design, we want to fix it," he said. He added the NTSB's report on the California accident involving an AMD S-LSA
did not cite aerodynamic flutter as a cause of the accident. Company-issued service bulletins have instructed owners to inspect all control cables and adjust as necessary so that they are within the
prescribed parameters, EAA said.
Aircraft Spruce Is a Proud Sponsor of the 35th Annual Sun 'n Fun Fly-In
Come join Aircraft Spruce in Lakeland, Florida at Sun 'n Fun (Hangar B, Booths 4-9) April 21-26, 2009. Sun 'n Fun brings together those from all around the world and from all segments of the
aviation community. Take advantage of some of your favorite products on sale, complimentary ground shipping (does not apply to hazardous or oversize products), and Aircraft Spruce's helpful staff to
answer questions. Call Aircraft Spruce at 1 (877) 4-SPRUCE or
Every pilot likes to see a new version of a favorite product, but what really gets attention is something completely new. At Aero Friedrichshafen earlier this month in Germany, there was plenty of
innovation going on -- as AVweb's contributor Graeme Peppler reported from the scene -- and this week, EAA
created a list of the show's hottest new ideas. Whether any of these will stand the test of time, or even make it into the
U.S. market, remains to be seen.
EAA's choices include the Isatis LSA, which has moved the engine behind the cabin to allow for helicopter-like visibility. The Alatus-ME self-launching motorglider is electric-powered and folds up
small enough to carry on your car's roof rack. Flight Design's hybrid engine made the list, as well as a Swiss anti-collision warning system for small aircraft. A line of electric airplanes from
Yaneec International, a joint British-Chinese venture, include a quiet powered parachute and plans for a small twin. Many of these designs will make their U.S. debut later this year at EAA AirVenture,
but we'll also be on the lookout for new ideas and innovation next week at Sun 'n Fun. Staff from AVweb and our sister Belvoir aviation publications will be on the field daily all next week to
bring you news and video from sunny (we hope) Lakeland, Fla.
Click for video of Avidyne's Release 9 from AOPA Expo 2008
For aircraft owners looking to upgrade to the latest new panel, or shoppers ready to buy a new airplane, the big shows like Sun 'n Fun and AirVenture provide great opportunities to check out all
the options. But now, buyers who can't be at the show in person can have the next-best thing an online Webinar, complete with graphics, live audio, and a Q&A session, to get a rundown on all
the details in the latest products. This month, Avidyne is making the most of the Webinar format to get the word out about their latest glass-panel upgrade, Release 9. The new system was unveiled late last year click here for Paul Bertorelli's video tour of the system at AOPA Expo but with the spring flying
season now upon us and FAA certification approaching, the company is offering the hour-long Webinars to show off the system to potential buyers.
Avidyne says Release 9 aims to provide "true single-pilot IFR" capabilities while making it easy and simple to use. Click here for a list of the dates for Avidyne's Webinars and to sign up. The Release 9 system provides new hardware and software, with redundant displays and a full qwerty
keyboard for data entry. Modular design makes it easy to install, service, and upgrade the equipment, according to the company. A full-function upgrade to the flight management system provides
intuitive flight-planning aid and a caution-alerting system. The system comes with two or three integrated flight displays, or IFDs no more separate MFD and PFD. First installations in the
Cirrus SR22 are on track for June, with Piper installations to start later this year. Prices range from about $73,000 to $93,000, minus trade-in credits on current systems of about $10,000 to
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NTSB Acting Chairman Mark Rosenker told the Wichita Aero Club this week that private aviation has unfairly become a "political punching
bag" and he believes the industry will rebound quickly and decisively from the current hard times. "The world's economy depends upon a robust air transportation system and general aviation and airline
travel is absolutely a vital component of that global system," he said. "It is for this reason that I believe aviation will soon fly out of the turbulence that surrounds it today." He advised the
industry leaders to get out and lobby for their cause. "Everyone in this room knows the benefits of business aviation, but many outside this room don't get it, so I would advise that you increase your
outreach to the public, and Washington, D.C., to heal that black eye." He said that he believes in working in partnership with industry, rather than imposing regulations, to improve safety. He also
said he expects to establish minimum performance requirements for lightweight flight recorders for GA aircraft by sometime this summer. "If recorder systems that captured cockpit audio, images, and
parametric data had been installed on the Butte accident airplane [the Pilatus PC-12/45 that crashed on March
22], the recorders would have enabled us to quickly determine information about the accident scenario, including precise locations, altitudes, headings, airspeeds, and pilot actions," he
Rosenker also said that his agency is concerned about a recent spike in fatalities in on-demand Part 135 air charter operations, including air medical, air taxi and air tour flights. These flights
logged over 3.6 million flight hours in 2008 and had 56 accidents, killing 66 people -- the highest number of fatalities since 2000. "There's a lot of room for improvement in this area," he said,
"[and] we continue to do everything we can to identify the safety issues involved, and to advocate for the adoption of our recommendations that will make the skies safer." Click here for the full text of Rosenker's talk.
The folks who launched the first tour-by-zeppelin business in the U.S. couldn't have had much worse luck with timing -- Airship Ventures launched last October, after two years of planning, just in time for the depths of economic doldrums. With seats selling for
$500 each for an hour flight, business has been slow. Toss in the rain and wind of winter in the San Francisco Bay area, and it's even tougher. But Brian Hall, who runs the company with wife Alex, is
not discouraged. "It comes with its stresses, there's no big pot of cash, and we're working seven days a week," he told CNN recently. "But if you can ride this out, you can last through anything."
He added that he hopes to find sponsors who will pay to paint their logos on the zeppelin, and he may add winery tour weekends, or move to sunny southern California for the winters. The CNN/Money
reporter who took a demo flight found the business plan dubious but the view mesmerizing: "We fly over the Golden Gate Bridge just as the sun dips below the horizon. A massive container ship has run
aground on the rocks just west of the bridge, and we watch in awe as a Coast Guard boat tows it out to the Pacific," he wrote. "Then we turn and drift back over the Bay as the city lights up and the
bright sliver of a new moon rises above it." But will the project prove to be economically viable? CNN's story leaves that question up in the air, for now.
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Arguably one of the most iconic pieces of aviation-related architecture anywhere came tumbling down recently. The old tower at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, Wis., for a week each year the
"World's Busiest Tower" was pulverized late last week by Miron Contracting, the company that built the new tower. According to the Oshkosh Northwestern, Airport Director Peter Moll said the
contractor decided there was no economically feasible way to provide souvenirs from the old tower.
EAA spokesman Dick Knapinski told AVweb last year that the prime real estate formerly occupied by the old tower will become part of the exhibit space during AirVenture. Commenters on the
Northwestern's Web site suggested the tower could have been used for housing during AirVenture. The new tower was completed in time for use at last year's event.
Every private pilot thinks about it but for an unidentified passenger on a King Air last Sunday, the fantasy/nightmare came true. The
self-described low-time single pilot stepped into the cockpit of the big turboprop twin when the pilot collapsed, and a short time later, died at the controls. "It's just me and the Good Lord hand
flying this," the passenger/pilot told Fort Myers approach controllers as he got the feel for the powerful aircraft and set it up for landing. As you can hear in this podcast, he didn't know much about flying a turboprop twin, but he also knew what he didn't know.
The pilot, Joe Cabuk, collapsed while the aircraft was under the control of Miami Center and was climbing through 10,000 feet on autopilot. Miami controllers, including at least one experienced
pilot, cleared traffic and got the stand-in pilot hand flying and headed for a long runway at Fort Myers. Meanwhile Dan Favio, a controller at Fort Meyers Approach contacted a friend, Kari Sorensen,
who is an experienced King Air pilot and was able to relay speed, equipment and other vital flight information to the pilot through controller Brian Norton, himself an experienced pilot. Norton and
Favio worked the King Air exclusively, talking White to final. In the back were White's wife and two daughters. The family was flying home after attending the funeral for White's brother. The landing
was uneventful and a clearly emotional White can be heard on the ATC tape telling the controllers of his safe arrival. "We're down, buddy. Thank you." National Air Traffic Controllers Association
(NATCA) President Patrick Forrey called those involved "heroic" but at the same time said it was part of the job of controllers. "They all went above and beyond the call of duty and it is times like
these that I hope the flying public can see the invaluable lifeline that controllers provide every day and particularly in emergency situations," he said.
Have you signed up yet for AVweb's no-cost weekly business aviation newsletter, AVwebBiz?
Delivered every Wednesday morning, AVwebBiz focuses on the companies, the products and the industry leaders that make headlines in the business aviation industry, making it a must-read.
Add AVwebBiz to your AVweb subscriptions today by clicking here and choosing "Update E-mail Subscriptions."
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The greatest lineup of the big names in air shows ever assembled will be at Cecil Airfield in Jacksonville, Fla. April 18-19 in a special
benefit for Alan Henley, the leader of the Aeroshell team who was paralyzed in an accident at home almost a year ago. All of the almost 30 performers at the are donating their time and expenses to
help the Henley family get through the transition to a new life. Admission prices are reasonable and the entertainment value can't be beat. AVweb will be there, and we hope you will be,
Last week, we asked how tightly airplanes should be locked down at flight schools.
Perhaps in response to the theft of a Cessna 172 from a Thunder Bay flight school, 46% of AVweb
readers who participated in our poll said they should be locked at all times, and students should sign them out. At the other end of the spectrum, 33% said there was no security breach in
Thunder Bay, and current procedures are enough.
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.)
THIS WEEK'S QUESTION ***
Pundits are saying general aviation has hit bottom and it's all improvement from here.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. You're a part of our team ... often, the best part.
All you have to do is click the image at right to enter your name and e-mail address. And no, we're not going to rent or sell your name, but Bendix/King by Honeywell may send you information on
the AV8OR. You may also forward this newsletter to friends and invite them to sign up for AVweb's Sun 'n Fun coverage and qualify for the AV8OR prizes also. (We won't spam them, either, but
we will send them our e-mail news Flashes.)
Deadline for entries is midnight, Monday, April 27, 2009.
(There's nothing to buy. All you need to do is be registered with AVweb.)
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Gearing up for the Sun 'n Fun extravaganza in Lakeland, Kitplanes editor Marc Cook and AVweb editorial director Paul Bertorelli are motoring around the west in Cook's Glastar Sportsman
visiting companies prior to the show. Here's their first video blog report.
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AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Atlantic Aviation at Elmira/Corning Regional Airport (KELM)
in Horseheads, New York.
AVweb reader Sandra Fox recounted her stellar experience at Atlantic:
My commercial instructor and I flew to KELM for my day dual cross-country (and lunch). ... On arrival, there was someone there to marshall us to parking and someone else to chock the wheels. They
immediately asked if we needed gas and were on the way to the truck before we were inside the FBO. While registering the plane I mentioned we had been told the terminal had a small restaurant. The
lady behind the desk pulled out the keys to the courtesy van, gave us directions to the terminal and told us how to get the parking ticket validated. When we got back I asked where I could look up
the weather. She didn't just direct me down the hall, but escorted me to the room. Everyone at the FBO was friendly and accomodating. They were proactive in asking if I needed anything rather than
waiting for me to ask first. I've already recommended KELM as a standard cross-country destination for the flight school.
Being neck-deep in prep work for Sun 'n Fun, we're saving this week's crop of photos for a special Monday edition of "POTW." As usual during the major shows, we'll be skipping next Thursday and
returning to our usual routine the following week. So keep those submissions coming!
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.
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Publisher Timothy Cole
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