November 27, 2003
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
This issue of AVweb's AVflash is brought to you by
The EAA-supported, Ken-Hyde-inspired 1903 Wright Flyer replica may have proven itself a bit too authentic Tuesday morning at the Wright Brothers National Memorial, when just after liftoff it pitched over and crashed. (Yes, this is the same one they're going to fly during the Centennial of Flight celebration at Kitty Hawk on Dec. 17.) Pilot Terry Queijo, who captains Boeing 757 and 767 aircraft for American Airlines, fared a bit better than the Wright Experience's aircraft, escaping physically unharmed by the impact of the crash, but clearly emotionally concerned for the impact her flight may have had on the airframe. Fortunately, her plunge from about four feet at roughly eight miles per hour (groundspeed) did little damage, in Hyde's estimation, and by Tuesday evening the prognosis was optimistic, with perhaps little more than a day's worth of repairs. Terry Queijo and Dr. Ken Kochersberger will vie, via a coin toss, to pilot the replica aircraft at the festivities on Dec. 17. Both Kochersberger and Chris Johnson (another Flyer pilot) were jogging alongside the replica during the accident run and quickly checked on Queijo. When she was found unharmed, attention turned to the aircraft. With fabric, canard and other damage among the fixes, we'll hope Hyde's repair assessment rings true, and that the accident proves more beneficial in generating interest in the centennial event than it was detrimental to the aircraft. After all, the Wrights' own experience wasn't so different. A flight piloted by Wilbur on Dec. 14, 1903, damaged the Flyer when it pitched up (and then down) faster than the famous Wright could react. The brothers had their aircraft mended well enough for Orville to hop the momentous 120 feet on the 17th. A hop later that day reached 852 feet.
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The long-awaited Small Aircraft Transportation System (SATS) gets its first practical trial sometime in 2005 at the Danville Regional Airport in Virginia. The system is designed to empower GA by giving small aircraft and small airports the technology (like WAAS) to provide safe, reliable point-to-point air travel, free from the more typical "New York to Chicago to reach Dayton" routing imposed by airline hubs. And free from the two-hour drive necessary to arrive at that major airport on time. "These technologies could help planes safely fly into underutilized rural and suburban airports, including many airfields that don't have radar or air traffic control towers," said a NASA news release. About 93 percent of Americans live within 30 minutes of such an airport. Most of the technology required to accomplish this is already in use or close to it. The key, according to NASA, is making all the various pieces work together to allow airline-type safety and reliability in four- to 10-seat aircraft. The four major goals of the test in Danville (and the system in general) are to allow more traffic to safely use non-towered airports, allow IMC operations at airports without a conventional ILS, increase the single-pilot performance and allow SATS aircraft to move easily within the National Airspace System.
The timeline works with the development and practical implementation of new-generation mini-jets, most of which will be ready for delivery not long after the test begins. Eclipse's 500, especially, is aimed squarely at this kind of air-taxi type of service and much of its order book is predicated on it. But even with little jets crisscrossing the country to neighborhood airports, there's a much loftier goal for SATS that takes out the middleman and returns flying to the owner/operator. Ohio University is among various institutions tapping academic brainpower to come up with the Popular Science dream of door-to-door flight, with a compromise that eliminates some of the practical impracticalities of such operations, like destroying the neighbor's geraniums. Dr. Jim Zhu told The Athens News that the major pitfall of taking off from the driveway is the havoc all the power needed to lift a sizeable vehicle can wreak on its immediate surroundings -- that's aside from the noise. He said there's not much advantage to flying over driving in the city (perhaps there's no rush hour in Athens) so he envisions transforming highway rest stops into takeoff and landing areas. The project's Web site says the goal is to produce a "family-sized" vehicle that moves from highway to flyway with little or no modification. He told the News he could have a flying/driving prototype in a few months with enough funding; he and his team, after three years, are still at the scale-model-mockup stage.
If the folks at Ohio University make the breakthrough they're predicting, let's hope they let Paul Moller in on the secret. After 30 years, Moller's Skycar is likely the most long-lived of the fly/drive dream and about 75 of the faithful turned up at a recent shareholders' meeting to hear the latest news. Moller told the group he's hoping to be at the controls himself when the M400 Skycar makes its first untethered flight over a man-made lake in California sometime next spring. The M400, with its four rotating nacelled engines, has broken the surly bonds, but always with a tether. Moller said the advent of the Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) and other technologies necessary to permit widespread use of "personal aircraft travelers" will help make the dream more accessible. Hoping that the Skycar's past performance is the best predictor of its future behavior, another California company, AMV Aircraft, is also closing in on a test flight and Popular Science is already on the story. a href="http://www.avweb.com/newswire/9_32a/briefs/185448-1.html">As AVweb told you in our coverage from AirVenture 2003 in August, the AMV aircraft is built around a ducted fan powered by a souped-up Mazda rotary engine putting out 450 hp. Owner Attila Melkuti told AVweb engine tests pointed to the need for stiffer blades on the fan and he hopes to have them finished in mid-December, when he hopes to fly the aircraft for the first time. So far, the engine has been run up to 4,000 rpm with a propeller blade speed of 1,000 rpm and the aircraft was pulling on its restraints. For all its power, however, Melkuti said the aircraft is remarkably quiet -- at least at the lower test speeds -- with a whoosh from the fan and a low-toned roar from the well-muffled engine. "It's not noisy at all. It won't bother the neighbors," he said. He said the Popular Science photo crew spent most of Monday at his shop as part of a feature story for a future issue.
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As a British Airways Concorde was barged to its new home alongside the Intrepid Museum in New York, the corporate descendents of its creator were musing about an even more spectacular sequel to the now-retired supersonic airliner. European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company (EADS) is considering building a hypersonic airliner capable of flying 7,000 miles at almost Mach 4 (twice the speed of Concorde). It's considering a partnership with Japan in the development of the plane, which would carry 300 passengers (almost three times that of Concorde) and make the trip from Paris to Tokyo in two hours. Just how it would hit those numbers is another matter. EADS CEO Philippe Camus said the current market won't support such an aircraft, but it might be the current technology he's really talking about. That type of performance is beyond anything currently on the shelf and might await development of the scramjet. Scramjets use atmospheric oxygen to give rocket-like performance in a lightweight package. So far, there's only been one successful test of a scramjet, by the University of Queensland in Australia, but NASA is poised to enter the fray in a big way.
Pratt & Whitney had luck with their own during ground tests, and now NASA, after blowing up its first scramjet prototype (for safety reasons) on a test flight in 2001, says it might be ready to test another unmanned X-43A X-43C in mid-December. "We have a tentative, and put a line under that word, test-flight date of mid-December," NASA spokesman Chris Rink told theage.com. Rink said the practical application of the technology for airliners is "decades away" but the pioneering folks at the University of Queensland aren't so sure. "NASA's going to fly their X-43A in the next couple of months and, given a chance, it's going to work, so the technology exists right now," said spokesman Allan Paull. While NASA burns up the U.S. taxpayers' money in its scramjet quest, the Queensland researchers have some basic logistical problems to overcome. They test their engine by strapping it to a missile that vaults to the edge of space and then descends at the speeds necessary to light the scramjet. Surplus missiles are hard to come by, even if you have the money. "There's ways and means to get one, but it's bloody hard," said Paull. "The Americans think you're going to send it back with a nuclear warhead on the side, or something." He hopes they can launch another test next year.
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Today might not be the best for traveling in Australia. The nation's airline pilots were threatening to throttle back near airports, ostensibly to prevent colliding with light aircraft they claim have been thrown into their airspace by new airspace designations and regulations, which, incidentally, are modeled after the U.S. system. "People who are probably the least experienced operators of aircraft are being allowed unfettered access to commercial airspace," Ted Lang, president of the air controllers union, said in a statement. The slowdown was expected to throw airline schedules into chaos, and further indignities awaited passengers unlucky enough to be on board the pokey airliners. Increased cabin checks were planned and passengers were to be buckled up below 10,000 feet in case the crew had to take "evasive action." The most contentious part of the new regs is the section that releases VFR traffic below 10,000 feet from being under direct contact with ATC. The rules also shrink the terminal control areas to a size more commonly found in the rest of the world. Regulators say the changes were needed to bring Australia in line with ICAO standards and to reflect the effect of modern technology. Airservices Australia, the government-owned company in charge of airspace regulations, said the pilots' concerns are unfounded because all aircraft will have transponders to make them visible on ground and airborne radars. He said similar rules exist in the U.S. where traffic is heavier and the weather often worse. But detractors claim Australia's unique circumstances don't necessarily fit that mold and they fear an increased risk of midair collisions. "Our regulators have chosen to significantly increase the chance of collision," said Robin Beville-Anderson, of the Australian Federation of Air Pilots. "The people who have done this will have blood on their hands."
If you're in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 4, this might be worth a look. Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) will unveil its 70-foot Falcon rocket at a splashy ceremony with a reception to follow at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum. The rocket will be hauled in on its mobile launcher. However, the launcher won't be put to use until early next year when the reusable booster is expected to take a Department of Defense communications satellite into orbit from SpaceX's complex at Vandenburg AFB in California. SpaceX claims the Falcon will give access to space at 25 percent of the current cost because it is purpose-built, rather than being based on a missile design. As such, most of the components are reusable and more reliable than the single-use design of other launch vehicles. The company, founded by billionaire Elon Musk, is planning a series of rockets aimed at ultimately reducing the cost and increasing the reliability of space access "by a factor of 10." The Falcon is a two-stage liquid-fueled rocket.
They've cancelled the meals and the movies and dollar-crunching airlines are now targeting airport costs in the struggle to stay in business. Trouble is, the same things that have hurt the carriers are also putting the bite on airports, who pass along their increased costs to the airlines. "The trends are horrible," Laura Einspanier, who's in charge of airport facilities for American Airlines, told The Dallas Morning News. She said American has been hit with rent increases of 10 percent and landing-fee hikes of 18 percent as it teeters on the brink financially. US Airways recently threatened to pull its hub out of Pittsburgh over airport costs and United went toe-to-toe with Denver Airport officials. The airports say they're doing their best to cuts costs but they don't have as much flexibility as airlines in that regard. Kevin Cox, COO of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), noted that when flights dropped and fewer revenue-producing passengers went through the gates over the past couple of years, the airport couldn't simply close facilities the way airlines mothballed planes and cut schedules. "The demands of operating 18,000 acres of land, seven runways and four terminals haven't gone away," he said. "We're about at the point where we've cut what we can cut." Cox said staff has been cut by almost 17 percent and the airport has cut its budget by $66 million. New charges, including a fee for vehicles dropping off passengers, have also been introduced. Airline consultant Michael Boyd said the issues won't go away anytime soon. "Every airport is being told by airlines that they've got to get their costs down."
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As the 100th anniversary of manned flight looms, some navel-gazers are now suggesting the future of flight is with drones. "It's no longer 'yes or no.' The technology and the systems are accepted," Daryl Davidson, head of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), told CNN. "These things are here to stay and they are proliferating. We'll see them on every runway of every airport doing patrols and day-to-day routine tasks." Some are even predicting that the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will be the last manned fighter. But battlefield conditions, and their attendant attrition rates, don't apply over a crowded freeway; others suggest it will be a while before we accept drones for traffic reports or other urban uses. "The local TV station isn't going to be happy to have a million dollar plane crash into traffic or someone's house," said aerospace analyst Steve Zaloga. "It's going to be a hazard and it's going to be a cost issue." (Maybe it's just harder to blame the pilot if he or she is still alive -- because the flying was done remotely from a trailer, and not in the plane.) As sophisticated as the technology is, the rest of the world has some catching up to do to make effective use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). For example, current unmanned airplanes need extremely high-bandwidth telemetry to keep them in the air. While their use is becoming commonplace in the military, commercial applications are tentative, at best. NASA tested one to monitor frost conditions on California grape crops and the Forest Service is looking at using UAVs to relay images of forest fires. Australia is looking at curbing illegal immigration and drug smuggling with them and some countries want them to monitor the seas for piracy and storms. Safety aside, high cost is the biggest deterrent to commercial application. While the planes themselves cost up to $3 million, all the stuff needed to keep them in the air can easily escalate to more than $35 million, almost as much as an F-35.
You'd never guess from meeting the unfailingly polite, soft-spoken and friendly older gentleman that Scott Crossfield was once the hottest stick on the planet. It was 50 years ago last Sunday that "Scotty" took the Douglas D-558-II Skyrocket to 1,290 mph and became the first to hit Mach 2. But Crossfield admits there was more to it than that. "We thought it would be kind of cute if we beat (Chuck) Yeager and the Air Force to Mach 2 in the Navy airplane," Crossfield recalled. " It was a very friendly competition. This base (Edwards AFB) was made up from the top on down, at the time, of fighter pilots, and they're competitive. The aircraft had flown as fast as Mach 1.96 and to push it over the magic number they crammed extra fuel aboard and even waxed the exterior. It worked, and the plane hit Mach 2.005. The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) approved the 50-year-old flight in part to commemorate the 50th anniversary. Three weeks after Crossfield's flight, Yeager hit Mach 2.44 in the Bell X-1A, and the friendly rivalry continues to this day. "Yeager always claimed that he was first to exceed Mach 2," said Crossfield. "I'd protest and he would say to me, 'Well, you were the first to get there, but I exceeded it.'" Crossfield remains active in aviation and is currently director of flight operations for the Wright Experience, training the pilots who will fly the Wright Flyer replica on Dec. 17 at Kitty Hawk.
California helicopter pilot Jim Cheatham helped keep 10,000 marathon runners safe but it's the allegedly ruffled feathers of 43 seabirds that could land him a fine. Cheatham stands accused of three misdemeanor counts of "airborne harassment of birds" after federal officials somehow determined he flushed 43 common murres from the Castle Rock Murre Colony in Monterey County. The 61-year-old Cheatham was carrying a television cameraman and reporter covering the Big Sur International Marathon last April 27. Part of his job was keeping an eye out for injured runners and relaying the information to officials, because cellphone coverage is spotty in the area. Cheatham claims he's innocent on the bird charges and he's ready to let the feathers fly in federal court Jan. 5. "This is a method that government agencies do -- intimidation," he told the San Francisco Chronicle. "They make it more expensive for you to win than it takes for them to lose. This whole thing is totally without merit." According to the Chronicle, the U.S. Attorney's office declined to comment and a U.S. Fish and Wildlife spokesman wasn't familiar with the case. It's not that Cheatham is unsympathetic to the common murre (which is apparently belying its name by becoming much less common) he just doesn't think his three passes over the colony really bothered them all that much. "We sympathize with any legitimate concern for wildlife. We just don't think we harassed any."
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The Kitty Hawk Air Show is set for Dec. 17 and attendees will get a poignant reminder of just how far we've come in 100 years. Some of the best air show performers in the business will take to the air over the hallowed ground around Kill Devil Hills. Patty Wagstaff, the Aeroshell Aerobatic Team, Ian Groom, Michael Mancuso and Bobby Younkin are all scheduled to perform Dec. 12 to Dec. 14 at noon and on Dec. 16 at 2:30 p.m .
The Civil Air Patrol is returning to its roots as it marks its 62nd birthday. Best known in modern times for its search-and-rescue efforts, CAP was formed during the Second World War to patrol the coastline against submarine attacks and, in the post-9/11 world, finds itself spending more time on homeland security missions...
A gutsy performance by a low-time female ultralight pilot has earned her a lifetime of free travel on Air India. Audrey Maben, of Bangalore, India, won the ultralight division of a three-day air race, beating instructors and former military pilots. India's deputy prime minister Lal Krishna Advani was so impressed, he threw in the flight pass as a bonus prize...
AOPA is helping out pilots affected by a lawsuit filed by a lawyer trying to ban aerobatic aircraft from Hanscom Field near Boston. AOPA has offered legal advice and is lobbying its government and regulatory contacts to try and stop this suit from proceeding and, perhaps, spreading to other airports...
Cirrus co-founder Alan Klapmeier has joined the board of directors of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association. Cirrus joined the organization earlier this year...
New Zealand's Prime Minister was just a face in the crowd to security workers at Sydney Airport last month. Helen Clark was pulled out of the lineup for a body scan during a stop on a commercial flight to visit Kiwi troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Aussies were told who she was but did the search anyway and have since defended their actions since Clark didn't apply for an exemption from the search.
Coming Soon -- A New Air and Space Museum: Birds In A Gilded Cage
On December 15, the Smithsonian will open its new Udvar-Hazy Center, an enormous annex to its flagship National Air & Space Museum. AVweb newswriter Mary Grady visited in October and provides this sneak preview.
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We received over 200 pictures last week. Congratulations to this week's winner, Robert Luther, of Huntsville, Ala. His picture titled "Freedom B-24 Liberator Style" takes us to another
time, when bombers flew relatively slow, low and much more susceptible to enemy fire. This particular aircraft was made from the only remaining military configuration B-24 in the world, "Dragon And
It's Tail" just outside Chattanooga, Tennessee. Great picture, Robert! Your AVweb hat is on the way.
To check out the winning picture, or to enter next week's contest, go to http://www.avweb.com/potw
Due to privacy issues, AVweb does not publish e-mail addresses of readers who submit photos.
To check out the winning picture, or to enter next week's contest, go to http://www.avweb.com/potw
Due to privacy issues, AVweb does not publish e-mail addresses of readers who submit photos.
AVweb continues to receive a large number of excellent images for our POTW contest. Here are some of the runners-up. Click on the links below to view a larger version.
*** PREVIOUS RESULTS ***
We received over 200 responses to our question last week on joining in aviation organizations. About 38 percent of those responding were members of AOPA, while only 6 percent belonged to the EAA. A larger group (38 percent) indicated they belonged to more than one of the organizations listed in our QOTW, while 6 percent did not belong to any such group.
To check out the complete results, or to respond to this week's question, go to http://www.avweb.com/qotw.
*** THIS WEEK'S QUESTION ***
This week, we would like to know your thoughts on the passage of the FAA Reauthorization Bill.
Have an idea for a new QOTW? Send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Note, this address is ONLY for suggested QOTW questions, and NOT for QOTW answers.
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AVflash is a twice-weekly summary of the latest aviation news, articles, products, features and events featured on AVweb, the Internet's Aviation Magazine and News Service. http://www.avweb.com
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