AVwebFlash Complete Issue: Volume 16, Number 18b

May 6, 2010

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
Lightspeed Aviation Foundation
Be Sure You Cast Your Vote for Your Favorite Aviation Charity
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And when you buy a new Lightspeed headset, you can also designate a percentage of your purchase to go to any of the 20 charities when you register your warranty.
AVflash! NOTAMs Join the Digital Age back to top 
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FAA Debuts Digital Notams

The Atlantic City (N.J.) International Airport is the first in the national airspace system to deliver digital Notams, the FAA said this week. The notices have long been posted in a difficult-to-read shorthand designed for delivery over teletype machines. The digital versions will be easier to read, more accurate, and will be disseminated quicker, according to the FAA. "Digital information management is key to meeting the air traffic system's safety and efficiency goals," said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt. "This is yet another step the FAA is taking to modernize the national airspace system."

The new digital system also will make it easier for pilots to identify Notams that affect their particular flight. The next airports to bring the new system online will be Washington Dulles, Reagan National, Baltimore-Washington International, Richmond, Norfolk, Denver, O'Hare and Midway in Chicago, Memphis, Fairbanks, Alaska, and Fort Wayne, Ind.

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Aviation Safety Watch back to top 

Near-Collision For 737 And Helicopter

A Southwest Airlines 737 and a Bell 207 news helicopter nearly collided above a runway at Houston's Hobby Airport last week, the NTSB said on Monday. The two aircraft came within 125 feet vertically and 100 feet laterally as both were departing the field, the safety board said. Both aircraft had been cleared to depart. The 737 was on Runway 12R and the helicopter was departing from "another part of the airport," according to the NTSB. Shortly after the 737 lifted off from the runway, the helicopter converged into its flight path. Both flight crews executed evasive maneuvers to avoid a collision. The incident was the second near-collision in just two weeks, the NTSB said. The first occurred on April 19 when a 737 and a Cessna 172 got too close above Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, Calif.

The latest incident occurred about noontime last Wednesday, April 28. The NTSB noted that improving runway safety has been on its "Most Wanted List of Safety Improvements" since 1999. The NTSB has made several suggestions to the FAA, such as requiring aircraft to have moving map displays of the airport, and requiring a specific clearance from air traffic control for each runway to be crossed. It's not yet clear what happened at Houston to allow the aircraft to end up so close together.

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Over the Water and Under Scrutiny back to top 

Air France Flight 447 Search Extended

After an unsuccessful search of a 770-square-mile area refined by ocean current and water data, French investigators said this week they will extend the hunt for submerged wreckage of Air France Flight 447. Only one of two ships sent to search the area will continue looking for the Airbus A330 that crashed last June while en route from Brazil to France, killing all 228 aboard. Airbus and Air France are applying 1.5 million euro to the effort, which should fund it through roughly May 25. The seabed in the search area ranges to 13,100 feet below the surface off Brazil's northeast coast. Nearly 1,000 pieces of wreckage have been recovered from the crash and while they have helped investigators gain an understanding of the jet's physical impact with the Atlantic, they have yielded no definitive information as to the cause of the crash. For that, investigators are still hoping to find the airliner's cockpit voice and flight data recorders. Investigators do, however, have some leads.

Other aircraft had avoided the storms that Air France 447 attempted to pass through when it crashed. Weather at the time of the accident as depicted by infrared images seven minutes before and after the last ACARS message sent by the aircraft shows "the general conditions and the position of Inter-tropical Convergence Zone over the Atlantic were normal for the month of June," according to investigators. But messages sent automatically by the Airbus A330 accident aircraft show the aircraft was providing unreliable or conflicting air data to the pilots. Investigators have publicly announced that experienced teams working in simulators struggled to maintain control of the aircraft at cruise in turbulence while working with faulty air data.

NTSB Releases "Miracle" Report

In its final look at last year's ditching on the Hudson by US Airways Flight 1549, the NTSB concluded on Tuesday it was not only the skill of the crew but a slew of factors that contributed to the positive outcome. Passengers were lucky that the visibility was good and winds were calm; the Airbus A320 was equipped with rafts and life vests, which weren't required for that flight; the cabin crew did a great job expediting the evacuation; and the proximity of rescuers was key in preventing fatalities after the airplane hit the cold water. "If even a single element had changed, the ditching could have ended not as a miracle but as a tragedy," said NTSB chairman Deborah Hersman. "The heroism of the flight crew was a necessary, but not sufficient, element." The board found plenty of things that could have gone better, listing 35 safety recommendations that call for better design of evacuation slides and life-vest stowage compartments, more precise engine monitors, and stricter bird-strike testing for jet engines.

Other issues addressed by the board's investigation include bird-mitigation efforts near airports, crew training in ditching procedures, and the design and content of emergency checklists. "What's important here is how to protect future passengers and help future flight crews should they end up in a situation like this," said Hersman. Four passengers and a flight attendant were seriously hurt in the accident. Brace positions may have contributed to some of the shoulder injuries, the board said, and Airbus has agreed to redesign a floor beam that broke, gashing the leg of a flight attendant. One passenger who held a 10-month-old child on her lap during the flight, as is allowed by the FAA, later said she now believes it's not a safe practice. The board members didn't include that issue in their safety recommendations this week, but said they will address the matter soon, according to the New York Times.

AVweb's Paul Bertorelli recently met up with Flight 1549 First Officer Jeff Skiles for a video interview; click here to watch.

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Aircraft at the Leading Edge back to top 

Gulfstream Aims To Snag "Fastest Civil Airplane" From Cessna

The Gulfstream G650 flew at its proposed Mmo (maximum operating limit speed) of Mach 0.925 (about 704 mph) for the first time on Sunday, the company announced this week at EBACE (the European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition). Gulfstream aims to steal the "fastest civil airplane" ranking away from Cessna, which has claimed it for some time with the Citation X, which tops out at Mach 0.92. The G650 reached top speed at FL 425, and it was no problem, according to test pilot John O'Meara. "Even at near the speed of sound, the aircraft provides stable and precise handling characteristics," he said. "It's very responsive to pilot input with fantastic maneuver capabilities. Turns can be initiated and completed without any onset of buffet. The engine performance is extremely smooth. At the conditions flown today, the entire operation was flawless." The G650 launched from Savannah, Ga.

Gulfstream announced the clean-sheet G650 program in March 2008, with a target of making it the fastest transport-category aircraft in the sky. First flight was in November, and the second flight-test aircraft launched in February. As of mid-April, the two aircraft had completed nearly 50 flights and about 140 flight-test hours, the company said. Powered by Rolls-Royce BR725 engines, the business jet will have a range of 7,000 nautical miles at Mach 0.85. First deliveries are expected in 2012.

New Pilotless Military Ranger-Series Helicopter

Bell Helicopter and Northrop Grumman Corp. announced this week that they will work together to develop the Fire-X pilotless helicopter to demonstrate a new medium-range unmanned aerial system for the military. The aircraft will be based on the single-engine four-blade Bell 407 helicopter, adding more capability, payload and endurance to the systems employed in Northrop's smaller Fire Scout pilotless helicopter. The 407 is expected carry a 3,000-pound payload in pilotless form versus the Fire Scout's 600 pounds and the standard Bell's 2,347. The companies hope to fast-track the Fire-X's development by combining the established technologies represented in the Fire Scout's hardware and software with the 407's established (about 15 years in production) airframe. The plan also allows them to avoid the hurdles and costs associated with development of a clean-sheet design. The target market for the product is the United States Navy.

The Fire-X aims to enter an anticipated Navy competition next year, seeking to fill the role of a new medium-range unmanned aerial system. The piloted Bell 407 generally carries a maximum useful load of almost 2,350 pounds and can cruise at 133 knots. It has a maximum range of 330 nm. Development of the unmanned Fire-X version of the helicopter will be financed entirely by Northrop and Bell Helicopter, though external funding may be available if the effort wins a military contract.

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... And Beyond back to top 

CAFE Symposium Glimpses The Future Of Flight

It isn't quite a flux capacitor, but Jonathan Trent, a marine biologist, is working with NASA to create biofuels using the effluent pumped out of wastewater treatment plants. Trent detailed his latest research at the fourth annual Electric Aircraft Symposium, in Santa Rosa, Calif., organized by the CAFE Foundation. His system uses energy from the sun to operate, and cleans the water while growing algae that can be used for fuel. The several hundred participants at the event also heard about advances in battery technology from Eva Hakansson, who together with her husband, Bill Dube, built the world's fastest electric motorcycle. They are now working on a two-wheeled electric-powered vehicle they hope will go 400 mph. Improving the energy density of batteries -- how much power they can deliver per unit of weight -- is at the core of advancing electric flight, according to EAA.

Participants at the symposium discussed both progress and problems encountered over the last year. "There is a ground-swell of activity in the area of electric flight," said EAA's Ron Wagner. "We live in exciting times." Topics on the agenda included nanotechnology, which is seen as a promising source of advances in batteries, and hybrid power, perhaps combining an internal combustion engine for takeoff and climb and switching to electric power for cruise flight. EAA will highlight electronic aircraft advances at AirVenture Oshkosh later this summer, with daily showcase flights, displays, and forums in AirVenture's Aviation Learning Center.

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What You Missed in AVwebBiz This Week back to top 

Market Sluggish, Volcano Might Help

The European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition (EBACE) opened Tuesday in Geneva and manufacturers are trying to sound optimistic and realistic at the same time as they face the inevitable questions about their market. In a speech at EBACE, Cessna CEO Jack Pelton said the European market is showing signs of improvement and he's hoping emerging markets in Eastern Europe will be part of Cessna's future growth in the region as a whole. "Before the economic downturn, for example, Eastern Europe was a very strong region for us and we are beginning to see signs – including Citation sales – of that business coming back," he said. Pelton also said the recovery will be a long one, sentiments echoed by Hawker Beechcraft CEO Bill Boisture in an interview with The New York Times. "I think it's premature to call 2010 a recovery year," he said. "The market still feels the way it did at the end of 2009." Gulfstream CEO Joe Lombardo told a news conference the industry is maturing and globalization is an increasingly important factor. Meanwhile, the industry got an unexpected boost from the volcanic eruption that paralyzed much of Europe's aviation industry last month.

The airspace closures shut down airlines because there was no way to maintain their schedules even though it was safe to fly at least some of the time. Business aircraft operations were also affected but with some creative flight planning it was possible to get around Europe in a private aircraft. "The good news for us is that flexibility has value," David MacDonald of charter broker Air Partner told the Times. "In the wake of the volcanic ash situation, we have had requests for urgent travel from Spain to the United States and the Middle East to Southern France, as executives needed to get to meetings which could not be reached on scheduled airlines." The Teal Group's Richard Aboulafia said anything that highlights the advantages of business aviation will help an industry that has suffered from an image problem during the downturn. "Business aircraft have been hit harder by the economic crisis than any other aerospace market," Aboulafia said.

Deliveries, Program Updates

The order count tradition at shows like EBACE is still with us in the downturn but the numbers are a little more modest. Still, aircraft are moving and the Middle East appears to offer the most in the way of opportunities. Dassault announced the delivery of the first of four Falcon 7X three-engine jets to Saudi Private Aviation, the business aviation side of Saudi Arabian Airlines. The aircraft were ordered in 2007. At the other end of the spectrum, Cessna announced the sale of two Citation Mustangs to the Turkish Airlines Flight Training Academy and Embraer found a home for a Legacy 650 in Jordan. The 650 is on track for certification later this year. Meanwhile, Gulfstream announced an important couple of milestones in its latest model, also a 650.

Gulfstream is touting the G650 as the fastest business jet and it stretched the prototype's legs by hitting its designed maximum speed of Mach .925. The flight occurred over Savannah on Monday. Chief Test Pilot John O'Meara said the aircraft behaved well at almost the speed of sound. "At the conditions flown [Monday], the entire operation was flawless," he said. The aircraft has also passed load limit tests. Certification is expected in 2011 and first deliveries will be in 2012.

AVwebBiz: AVweb's Business Aviation Newsletter

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Opinion & Commentary back to top 

AVweb Insider Blog: Oil Slicks and Avgas

If BP doesn't get it under control, the growing slick in the Gulf of Mexico could become a major disaster that will reset attitudes and policies toward offshore oil production. None of that is necessarily good for the price of avgas, and Paul Bertorelli breaks down some of the potential consequences in the lastest installment of our AVweb Insider blog.

Click here to read more (and share your own opinions).

AVweb Insider Blog: Newsflash — A Powerful Radio Won't Shoo Away Traffic

The next time you fly into an uncontrolled airport, there may be some traffic in the pattern who won't answer on the radio. Of course, you already knew that — you just didn't know it might be AVweb Insider blogger Paul Bertorelli.

Give the radio a rest and exercise your eyeballs with Paul's latest post.

Question of the Week: UAVs — Coming to Airspace Near You?

This Week's Question | Previous Week's Answers


Last week, we asked AVweb readers about their personal practices and policies regarding cell phones and other electronic distractions in the cockpit.

The largest portion of respondents (46% of you) reported that you keep a cell phone on board in case of emergencies but never use it for conversations not directly related to the flight. The second most popular option in our poll (trailing by a distance, at only 19% of responses) was Shut off and stowed without exception in all phases of the trip. Only 6% of those polled said It's all a big fuss about nothing; pilots are multi-taskers who can prioritize their activities.

Want to see a full breakdown of responses? Take a moment to answer the question yourself, and then you can view real-time results.


Bell Helicopter announced the development of a new pilotless helicopter based on the 407 model, and virtually any aircraft, it seems, can be made into a UAV. Where do they fit in the National Airspace System?

How do we handle UAVs in the National Airspace System?
(click to answer)

Have an idea for a new "Question of the Week"? Send your suggestions to .

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.

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.

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AVweb Media: Look, Listen, Laugh and Learn back to top 

Aviation Consumer Looks at the FX8 Jeppesen Chart Reader

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

It's light enough to fit in a chart holder on the yoke, yet big enough to view a Jepp plate at full width. This new digital chart reader from SOLIDFX is a winner.

If you enjoy this video, be sure to look for the print review of the FX8 in the June issue of our sister publication, Aviation Consumer.

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.

"How We Did It" — Red Bull Glider Skydiver Transfer

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

Say, how did those guys pull off that skydiver glider-to-glider transfer that's getting some much attention on YouTube and Red Bull's site? Here's the inside story from Ewald Roithner, the lead pilot. He spoke with AVweb's Paul Bertorelli.

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.

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Help Us Celebrate AVweb's 15th Anniversary back to top 

15 Years and Now 15 Grand Giveaways ... It's Your Chance to Win a King Schools Get-It-All Training Kit

CLICK HERE to Register for All 15 Drawings

Win a Get-It-All Training Kit from King Schools as we celebrate our 15th Anniversary! All you have to do is click here to enter your name and e-mail address. (You only have to enter once, and you'll be entered in our prize drawings for the entire year — so if you've already entered, you're all set.)

And no, we're not going to rent or sell your name, ever. Tell your friends, and invite them to sign up for AVweb so they can qualify for our 15 Grand Giveaways prize drawings, too. (We won't spam them, either — but we hope they will sign up for our newsletters.)

Deadline for entries is 11:59pm Zulu time May 21, 2010.

Click here to read the contest rules and enter.

Congratulations to David Schieman of Lawrenceville, Georgia, who won Scheyden Dual RX frames and a Scheyden flight gear package in our last drawing! (click here to get your own from Scheyden)

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Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: SpanaFlight (Pierce County Airport, Puyallup, WA)

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

Conoco-Phillips WingPoints || Best Rewards in the Business

Our latest "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to the Pacific Northwest, where AVweb reader Calvin Wilkinson has been relying on the services of SpanaFlight for the last 25 years. Wilkinson spent eight of those managing the maintenance schedules of Civil Air Patrol craft in Washington state, and then (as now) he counted on SpanaFlight — located at Pierce County Airport (PLU) in Puyallup, Washington:

I have had considerable contact with the owners, receptionists, and mechanics (all A&Is) who are all consistantly knowledgeable, friendly, and helpful. On a few occasions, when an emergency has arisen, a SpanaFlight mechanic has worked late or come in on a weekend to get a plane into the air. In my book, SpanaFlight deserves to be the "FBO of the Week" every week.

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!

Reader-Submitted Photos back to top 

Picture of the Week: AVweb's Flying Photography Showcase

Submit a Photo | Rules | Tips | Questions | Past Winners

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.


It seems karma has finally caught up with the "Picture of the Week" electronic submission box. After swimming in a tide of great photos for the last several weeks, submissions dropped back down to the slightly-below-normal this week. But don't panic — we saved a few photos from last week's embarrassingly gorgeous assortment, so there's plenty of good photos to look at!

medium | large

copyright © Paul Nuwer
Used with permission

Positioning for "The Line-Up" (Doolittle Reunion 2010)

Paul Nuwer of Hurlock, Maryland decided to move his camera around a bit and found the perfect angle to capture our imagination. This is Larry Kelley bringing the B-25 Panchito into position on the runway at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, during the recent Doolittle Raiders reunion.

medium | large

copyright © Gary Dikkers
Used with permission


"An O-2A 'Oscar Deuce' Forward Air Control (FAC) aircraft sits out an approaching storm at AirVenture," couresy of Madison, Wisconsin's Gary Dikkers.

Wait — did someone say "AirVenture"? Oh, I believe they did ... !

medium | large

Used with permission of Denton Finley

Cessna 172S Panel, Texas State Technical College

Denton Finley of Waco, Texas turns down the lights and gives us a nice panel to peruse as we sip our morning coffee. (You gotta click through to the large size to enjoy these.)

medium | large

Used with permission of Stephen Koewler

"Liberty Belle" Returns to Boeing Field

Panchito and Liberty Belle back to back? Believe it! Stephen Koewler of Sacramento, California dishes the "classic newsreel" look on this photo of Liberty Belle "return[ing] to where she was built, Boeing Field."

medium | large

Used with permission of Paul Vicano

Sunset at 14,000 Feet

Wow. It's been a while since we've run a straight-on sunset photo here in the "POTW," but this one from Paul Vicano of Brantford, Ontario (Canada) simply couldn't be ignored. (Desktop wallpaper, anyone?)

You'll find more reader-submitted photos in the slideshow on AVweb's home page. Don't miss 'em!

Click here to submit your own photos to "POTW."

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.

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
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.

Aviate. Navigate. Communicate.