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The Future Is Looking More Electric All the Time
Experimenters have made great strides in recent years with electric power for small aircraft, and a step forward took place last week in Italy when a new battery-powered airplane flew for the first
time, then two days later reached 155 mph, which is expected to be a new world record for the category. The SkySpark project is a
joint enterprise between engineering company DigiSky and Turin Polytechnic University. The two-seat Pioneer Alpi 300 is powered by a 75-kW electric motor using brushless technology and lithium polymer
batteries. Electronic control systems make it possible to modulate RPM and torque, "with dynamics which are far beyond what it is attainable in reciprocating engines," and the engine is very reliable
and long-lasting, according to the SkySpark Web site.
The team now plans to focus on the next goal: an engine powered by hydrogen fuel cells. Meanwhile, Solar Impulse, a project to build a solar-powered airplane that will fly around
the world, plans to unveil its prototype next week in Switzerland. The airplane has the wingspan of an Airbus (over 200 feet) and carries 11,628 solar cells to power four engines.
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Generally, data about the movements of airplanes using the federal airspace system is open to the public, but owners of business aircraft can ask the FAA to block their tail numbers, citing security
concerns and competitive considerations -- and now a federal court will decide if those requests should be open to the public. The FAA said recently that it would release the list, after a Freedom of
Information request from a nonprofit journalism group, but the NBAA has challenged that decision. "The Blocked Aircraft Registry Request (BARR) Program was established over a decade ago," NBAA said in a statement. "NBAA has long supported the BARR program and believes the reasons for its creation remain relevant
today, given that access to information about certain flights can be used to inappropriately impact the competitive landscape." NBAA spokesman Dan Hubbard told AVweb the organization wouldn't
comment further since the matter is pending in court. ProPublica, the group seeking
the release of the list, says some companies are using the system to avoid bad publicity about excessive use of their corporate jets.
Operators who want to block their tail numbers submit their requests directly to NBAA, which administers the BARR Database on behalf of the FAA. The requests don't require any specific
justification, just a list of the N numbers for each aircraft that the owner would like to be blocked and a copy of the aircraft registration. NBAA argued in its complaint (PDF) to the court that the list is exempt from the Freedom of Information Act because it was
voluntarily submitted to the FAA and should be deemed confidential. Prior to agreeing to release the information to ProPublica, the FAA had reviewed an objection from NBAA and rejected it. "The NBAA
list is not a trade secret, nor is it commercial or financial information within the meaning of the FOIA," wrote Carol Might, director of system operations litigation. When the FAA said it would
release the list this week, NBAA filed the motion, which will prevent its release until the court rules. "We can't imagine why the list of companies that want to keep the movements of their aircraft a
secret should itself be a secret," said Richard Tofel, general manager of ProPublica. "We've retained counsel to evaluate NBAA's lawsuit, and are considering our legal options."
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While the civilian aviation market is depressed at the moment, military representatives from all over the world are at Le Bourget
kicking the tires of hardware they might be able to use. Companies whose market is traditionally civilian are obliging by reworking their passenger and cargo planes. As we reported 18 months ago, Viking Air of Sidney, British Columbia, has resumed production of the Twin
Otter and it announced a military variant, called the Guardian 400, in Paris. "By offering a customized version of the Series 400 Twin Otter tailored for military and government operations, namely the
Guardian 400, Viking is able to provide its customers with a modern and economical solution for their infrastructure requirements," Viking President Dave Curtis said.
The Twin Otter has legendary STOL and harsh weather capabilities and the military version plays on those strengths to offer itself as a surveillance, security and search and rescue aircraft.
Equipped with a cabin mounted auxiliary tank, the aircraft can loiter for hours and the optional galley and lavatory makes that bearable for the crew. On the business end, the Guardian can carry an
electro-optical and infrared imaging turret that displays either on the Honeywell Primus panel display or a separate monitor in the back. A host of other electronic goodies can be added, depending on
the mission and four hard points on the wings give room for "additional stores."
The trouble with warplanes is they are so darned expensive, but at this week's Paris Air Show, bargain hunters found a new option -- the
affordable Air Truck, a modified two-seat cropduster, built by Air Tractor of Olney, Texas. The turboprop can carry up to four tons of bombs
and missiles and machine guns, and can stay aloft for up to 10 hours to provide support to troops on the ground, or to easily hop across the North Atlantic. The Air Truck's speed tops out at 210 mph,
but the ability to maneuver low and slow could be an advantage in many combat situations.
The airplane is expected to sell for about $5 million, according to the Associated Press, about half the price of today's military-version turboprops such as the Embraer Tucano or the Beechcraft T-6, and significantly less than the tens of millions that is the
usual bracket for even the lowliest jet fighters. According to published reports, the Air Truck has been drawing crowds at Paris and plenty of interest from potential buyers, but so far no firm
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Speaking before a House appropriations committee on Tuesday, FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt asked for a 24-percent boost in funding for
NextGen projects, a total of $865 million. Babbitt also said that negotiations with the air traffic controllers union, which were stalled and contentious for several years, now are making progress.
"I'm optimistic," he said. "The talks are proceeding well, both sides are at the table, and I think we'll
reach an agreement. The best agreements are reached when everyone wants an agreement, and right now there is both that desire and a positive atmosphere." Babbitt said the agency will hire more than
1,700 new controllers in fiscal year 2010. "We're hiring more controllers faster than ever," he said. "We are providing them with quality training."
He also asked for $3.5 billion to fund airport projects, including runway safety area improvements, runway incursion reduction, and aviation safety management. The FAA's total budget request was
$15.9 billion. Babbitt also requested funding to hire 30 new safety inspectors and asked for a 5.3-percent increase in R&D funding that would go toward research on fire safety, propulsion and fuel
systems, advanced materials, and aging aircraft. Click here for the full text of
Babbitt's testimony to the committee.
FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said on Monday that airlines can expect new rules soon regarding flight and duty hours for pilots,
and also that rules will be clarified to ensure that airlines can get data on every checkride a pilot applicant ever took. Babbitt spoke at a high-level closed-door meeting of industry executives,
pilot union reps and government officials held in Washington to discuss concerns about safety at regional airlines and what can be done to improve it. "Our job is to deliver and ensure safety, and
recently we've seen some cracks in the system," Babbitt said, referring to the publicity about hiring
practices and standards at regional airlines during the investigation of the Colgan Air crash in
Buffalo. He said he also wants airlines to have a process to ensure that senior captains mentor new pilots as they build experience.
Babbitt and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood hosted the "Call to Action" to identify immediate steps that could strengthen and improve pilot hiring, training and testing practices at regional
airlines as well as at the major air carriers. The FAA said it will hold as many as 10 similar meetings throughout the country to assure that every carrier and pilot union has the opportunity to
commit to these actions and to identify additional best practices that can be shared. FAA inspectors will assist in the implementation of these actions over the next several months and evaluate their
effectiveness, the FAA said. AVweb's editorial director Paul Bertorelli was not pleased with the
closed-door aspect of the stakeholder meeting -- click here to read his blog and join the conversation.
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Veterans Retreat, a Miami Beach-based charity that helps enrich the
lives of veterans wounded in the Iraq or Afghanistan wars, recently brought retired Army Capt. Mark Brogan and his wife, Sunny, to Florida for a free weekend of flying. "Mark has wanted to fly since
he was a kid," Sunny told a local reporter. Capt. Brogan was injured in a 2006 suicide bombing that left him with brain and spinal cord injuries and nearly severed his right arm. Doctors at first told
Sunny to be prepared to "pull the plug," he said, but today he is walking and talking, against the odds. "My wife and I have been through quite a lot," he said, in an Air Force Times story about his recovery. "This has mostly been a journey of blind
exploration for us."
Veterans Retreat offers vets a chance to spend a few days in Florida and try flying, scuba diving, or sailing. Each aviation student receives introductory instruction, their own logbook and advice
on how to continue their flight training at a hometown airport, seek a career in aviation or simply fly with an instructor whenever they want an adventure. "A lot of these guys surf the Internet all
day long with nothing to do," Tim Sureath, founder of the group, told a local TV reporter. "We want to help them
find some purpose." This week, the group wrapped up a charity auction of a South Beach condo. Not enough tickets were sold to win the condo, but the lucky ticket holder took home $30,000 and so did
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SATSAir and ImagineAir, two of the new generation of air-taxi operators flying Cirrus
SR22 aircraft, said on Tuesday they have entered a "flight networking" or "code-share" agreement, effectively expanding their combined network across a 10-state area in the Southeastern U.S.
"Customers of both companies will benefit from the increased aircraft availability immediately," said Steve Hanvey, SATSair president and CEO. "From an operational standpoint, this will also create an
opportunity for both companies to route their aircraft in an even more efficient manner." Both operators offer on-demand flights to over 1,000 airports in the Southeast. Each company will retain its
own pricing structure and operate its own flights. "While code-shares have been common practice in the airline industry for years, 'flight networking' is really an innovative 'first' for the
next-generation air-taxi industry," said Aaron Sohacki, CEO of ImagineAir.
"High standards of service and professionalism across both carriers were keys to making this happen." SATSAir launched in 2004 and ImagineAir began operations in 2007. Both companies have said
recently they are doing well despite the down economy, and plan to continue expansion.
L-3 Avionic Systems has sued Cirrus Design, seeking $18 million because Cirrus canceled its plan to buy avionics for its jet from L-3 and switched to Garmin instead...
Owners of certain Bonanzas and Barons affected by a circuit-breaker airworthiness directive with an Aug. 6 deadline now have an extension, but must follow strict procedures, as outlined by the
American Bonanza Society on their Web site...
New campaign from Evektor aims to get flight schools replacing
their old trainers with new light sport aircraft...
Buy AirVenture tickets online for a discount, through June 30 at the EAA Web site.
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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 email@example.com. You're a part of our team ... often, the best part.
Your answers to last week's poll question left us with seriously long faces. We asked if flying has become too much of a hassle (what with the badges and the passenger manifests and
the customs check horror stories), and an incredible 65% of those who took time to answer said yes, the seemingly determined effort on the part of government to limit GA is actually
discouraging you from continuing to fly.
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 ***
There's been a lot of talk about the way young airline pilots are trained and treated after they're hired. Is flying the line still a career you'd recommend to young people?
Have an idea for a new "Question of the Week"? Send your suggestions to
NOTE: 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.
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That's the way it was on Monday when the Transportation Department held a closed-door session with the airline industry to discuss issues related to the Colgan crash in Buffalo. "What's up with
this?" wonders Paul Bertorelli in today's AVweb Insider blog. Shouldn't the sun shine in on such governmental meetings? The new administration said it would. TranspoSec Ray LaHood said the
meeting was too urgent to wait for the NTSB's full report in another eight months.
Used to be, we reclined in smug professionalism in being sophisticated enough to know aircraft accidents take months to investigate. But these days, the information comes at you a mile a minute from
dozens of sources, so in the latest installment of our AVweb Insider blog, Paul Bertorelli argues that it's actually a healthy thing to offer your own theory or suggestions on crash causes.
Not to worry; the NTSB won't pay you the slightest bit of attention.
27 Years of the RVator
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Peter Drucker Says, "The Best Way to Predict the Future Is to Create It"
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AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Lane Aviation at CMH in Columbus, Ohio.
Apparently AVweb reader Josh Johnson didn't get much exercise on his visit to Lane, but he seemed pretty happy with that:
We were in town for two days of business meetings in a nearby hotel. Immediately after landing, we were met at the door of our airplane by a friendly line guy ... . We were planning to take the
hotel bus to our hotel; however, the line guy insisted on taking us there himself! He also said that they would gladly pick us up after our meeting and drop us off at the plane. We arrived for
departure and found our airplane a decent walk across the ramp, [but once again] the line guy dropped us off at the door to the FBO to use the restrooms and file our flight plans. When we walked out
to go back to the plane, he motioned us to get back in the van for a ride back to our plane! Excellent!
By the way, we arrived in a Cessna 172, and they were taking care of a large jet for a celebrity at the time we arrived. We certainly felt special getting such excellent treatment!
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.
*** THIS WEEK'S WINNERS ***
A big thanks to everyone who showed pity on us after last week's transparent attempt to guilt-trip readers into submitting more photos. Your
kindness gave us a little more eye candy to help us through the hot, stormy afternoons!
How can you not love this photo of Panchito from Stephen Jones of Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey? Stephen caught up with the B-25 at World
War II Weekend in Reading, Pennsylvania and preserved the experience to share with the rest of us.
That's Mark in the front cockpit, Neita in the back, and Stew acting as wingrunner in this shot from James L. Hamilton III of Sparks, Nevada. So
what are Mark and Neita about to get up to? They're preparing to launch their ASK-21 on an air-sailing adventure in Reno!
"I was out at the airport (RCM) ... when this thunderstorm popped up and started moving," writes Stephan Kollitz of Cainsville, Missouri.
"I felt sorry for this poor Yak 52TW ... . I felt it was going to get hailed on in addition to damage it had sustained when it came in. The Yak had lost its tailwheel the tail is sitting
up on sandbags in the picture and the prop had been damaged." For more shots of the beleaguered Yak, click through to the large version, which features a whole contact sheet worth of stills from the video Stephan shot at RCM.
Dan Giguere of Plymouth, Michigan had us thinking up werewolf jokes that wouldn't offend the Vice-President all evening and would you believe
we're still coming up empty-handed? (Maybe it's just too nice a photo to crack wise about.)
Gilbert Benzonana of Grand-Lancy, Geneva (Switzerland) has been on a roll lately, sending us a great sampling of photos. This week, we give him the
honor of seeing us off though we have to admit that part of our brain is still concerned about the person who belongs on the other end of this "flower"!
You'll find more reader-submitted photos in the slideshow on AVweb's home page. Don't miss 'em!
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.
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 Mariano Rosales
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.