AVwebFlash - Volume 16, Number 49b

December 9, 2010

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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AVflash! It's a Whole New World Out There back to top 

Flight Planning Patent Being Enforced

FlightPrep, an Oregon company that received a patent for online flight planning, has apparently started charging royalty fees to other services doing the same thing and the result may be that some of the most popular services will shut down rather than pay the fees or try to fight them. At least one online chart and planning service, SkyVectors, has decided to eat the unspecified costs and continue business as usual, with a note on its charts referencing a licensing agreement with FlightPrep. Other providers are reportedly in the process of being contacted by FlightPrep. The patent appears to cover the basic functions of every online flight planner we've come across and FlightPrep's apparent willingness to enforce it raises inevitable questions about their future availability and cost. After-hours calls and e-mails to FlightPrep were not immediately returned but we hope to talk to them today.

When the patent was announced last January, FlightPrep declined to directly discuss whether it planned to enforce the patent and how. It began the patent process in 2001 and received the paperwork Dec. 29, 2009. Company President John Bouyea told AVweb at the time that it was mulling its options. "FlightPrep has not evaluated those issues at this time," Bouyea told AVweb. "The patent may be interesting reading for other providers and the aviation industry as a whole." FlightPrep has an online flight planner and charges a yearly subscription fee of $149.95.

SpaceX Launches, Recovers Successfully

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The age of truly private access to space arrived Wednesday as SpaceX's Dragon capsule was launched from Cape Canaveral, orbited twice and splashed down on target in the Pacific west of Mexico. After many delays, the California company's Falcon booster appeared to perform flawlessly in a many-billion-dollars gambit that is predicted to lead to the routine commercialization of space launches. "It's just mind-blowingly awesome. I apologize, and I wish I was more articulate, but it's hard to be articulate when your mind's blown - but in a very good way," said an apparently pleased SpaceX CEO Elon Musk after the capsule, which eventually may carry up to 20,000 pounds of astronauts and cargo to the International Space Station settled comfortably into the Pacific under three parachutes.

The money involved is considerable but in this case much of the risk is borne by Musk and others with similar dreams, NASA is funding commercial space initiatives based on achievment and by the time the candle was lit on Wednesday, SpaceX had achieved 17 of them, entitling it to $253 million in funding. Musk says they'd spent more than $600 million to that point. It's not clear what getting 158 miles high, circling the Earth twice and splashing down less than a half mile from the target will get them. It's worth noting that while nuclear-powered aircraft carriers have been dispatched to recover space capsules in the past, an inflatable boat with an outboard motor accomplished the task this time.

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Talking Training back to top 

FAA Examines CFI Renewal Process

The FAA held a two-day meeting this week to hear the public's views about the biennial renewal process now used for certified flight instructors to maintain their currency. The current process, which requires that instructors must either meet certain training criteria or complete a flight-instructor refresher course every two years, "may lack sufficient effectiveness in ensuring that CFIs are being provided the best information in the most useful manner," the FAA said. At this week's forum, the FAA said it doesn't expect to change its rules anytime soon, according to Jason Blair, executive director of the National Association of Flight Instructors. "The discussion was focused on continually improving the quality of material that flight instructors encounter in their renewal process," he said.

The FAA and NAFI share the same goal, Blair said: professional, knowledgeable flight instructors who can provide effective instruction for their clients. To prepare for this week's forum, NAFI conducted a survey of its members to explore some of the topics under discussion. That effort (PDF) found that NAFI members are opposed to increasing the complexity of the current regulations. NAFI also suggested that perhaps CFI certificates should be issued without the current two-year expiration date, so inactive CFIs wouldn't have to keep taking FIRCs to keep their certificate, but would instead have to meet other, to-be-determined, currency criteria before actively instructing.

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Aviation Safety Reports back to top 

NTSB: Helicopter Operator Falsified Charts

The operators of a helicopter working under contract for the U.S. Forest Service provided falsified weight documents and performance charts to their flight crews, the NTSB said on Tuesday. As a result, a Sikorsky S-61N helicopter was more than 1,000 pounds overweight when it tried to take off from a mountaintop clearing at about 6,000 feet near Weaverville, Calif., in August 2008. The helicopter was airborne less than a minute when it crashed and caught fire; one pilot and eight firefighters were killed and four others on board were seriously injured. Carson Helicopters, based in Grants Pass, Ore., now faces a federal criminal investigation, according to the Wall Street Journal. "Carson engaged in a bargain that violated the trust of their crewmembers, the firefighters that they carried onboard, and the aviation industry," said NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman.

Hersman also said the FAA and the Forest Service failed to properly oversee the contractor. Carson Helicopters said in a statement on Tuesday that the incorrect charts resulted from the actions of a manager "who acted without the knowledge or consent of Carson senior management." The company also said there was a mechanical failure that caused the power loss on takeoff and claimed the NTSB had "chosen to ignore the physical evidence." The accident also raised questions about the FAA's separate rules for about 1,600 "public-use aircraft" that are operated by the federal government. "Public aircraft have been made the orphans of the aviation industry," said Hersman. "It's now time for the FAA and other government agencies to step up and take responsibility." A synopsis of the NTSB report, with 21 safety recommendations, is posted online.

French Court Blames U.S. Mechanic In Concorde Crash

John Taylor, a Continental Airlines worker who installed a piece of titanium on a DC-10 that later allegedly fell off and punctured a tire on a Concorde jet, was found guilty on Monday of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to 15 months jail time by a French court. The suspended sentence is "absurd," Continental said in a statement. "We strongly disagree with the court's verdict regarding Continental Airlines and John Taylor and will of course appeal this absurd finding," the statement read. The court also fined the airline $268,000 and ordered it to pay $1.3 million to Air France. Taylor's former supervisor and three French officials were also tried on charges of involuntary manslaughter, but were found not guilty.

On July 25, 2000, the Continental DC-10 took off from the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris just before the Concorde. Prosecutors said Taylor had improperly installed the titanium strip, and it fell to the runway, where it punctured a tire on the Concorde, leading to a ruptured fuel tank and a fiery crash. All 109 passengers and crew on the Concorde, along with four people on the ground, were killed. Lawyers for Continental argued that the Concorde design was inherently flawed and the aircraft was on fire before it hit the debris. "Portraying the metal strip as the cause of the accident, and Continental and one of its employees as the sole guilty parties, shows the determination of the French authorities to shift attention and blame away from Air France, which was government-owned at the time and [which] operated and maintained the aircraft, as well as from the French authorities responsible for the Concorde's airworthiness and safety," said Nick Britton, a Continental spokesman based in the U.K.

Missing Balloon Wreckage Found In Adriatic Sea

Fishermen have found the wreckage of a balloon basket with the remains of missing U.S. balloon pilots Richard Abruzzo and Carol Rymer Davis, more than two months after they went missing while crossing the Adriatic Sea. An Italian trawler brought the basket up in a net while trawling, about 12 miles from shore and six miles from the balloon's last known location. The two pilots were competing in the Gordon Bennett international balloon race when contact was lost on September 29. Rough seas and thunderstorms were reported in the area at the time, and radar data showed the hydrogen balloon plummeting toward the sea at about 50 mph. The Italian Coast Guard searched for the team for six days.

News photos of the wreck of the wicker balloon basket show it is substantially intact despite the impact and two months at sea. A few holes in the exterior wicker structure can be seen, and piles of rope and fabric fill much of the interior. Initial reports were unclear whether the pilots were found dressed in flight suits or survival suits. Abruzzo, 47, of Albuquerque, was an accomplished balloonist who had won many races and awards in his career. He was the son of the late Ben Abruzzo, a crew member aboard the Double Eagle II, the first balloon to cross the Atlantic. Rymer Davis, 65, lived in Denver, where she worked as a radiologist. The two pilots won the Gordon Bennett race together in 2004.

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News Briefs back to top 

First Flight For GE H80 Turboprop Engine

GE Aviation's new H80 turboprop engine has completed its first flight on the Thrush 510G crop duster, the company announced this week. The flight took place Nov. 23, in Albany, Ga. "This is a historic moment, with the Thrush 510G being the first application for the new H80 engine, and the first North American new engine installation for the M601 engine family," said Brad Mottier, general manager of the company's business and general aviation division. The first flight lasted 30 minutes. The aircraft has already logged an additional five hours and has achieved experimental certification from the FAA, the company said.

Engine certification tests continue at the GE Aviation facility in the Czech Republic, with EASA and FAA certification expected in early 2011. The H80 is based on the Walter M601 engine. GE says it has enhanced the design with 3-D aerodynamic design techniques and advanced materials to create a more powerful, fuel-efficient, durable engine, with no recurrent fuel-nozzle inspections and no hot-section inspection. GE says the H80 will last for 3,600 flight hours or 6,600 cycles between overhauls, with better hot-day takeoff performance and high-altitude cruise speeds. The H80 will provide the option of a single- or dual-acting governor, allowing flexibility in propeller selection. It is designed to power business and general aviation, utility and agriculture aircraft.

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What You Missed in AVwebBiz This Week back to top 

MEBA Under Way In Dubai

The Middle East Business Aviation show got under way in Dubai on Tuesday and organizers are expecting a 30-percent increase in attendance from the 2008 edition. About 7,000 people are expected to attend. There are about 250 exhibitors and most of the bizjet OEMs are there. Bombardier has five aircraft, Cessna eight, Hawker Beechcraft four, and Embraer brought its new Legacy 650 along with a Lineage 1000 and a Legacy 600. Embraer released a report saying the Mideast business jet fleet will double to 600 in the next 10 years and be worth $11 billion to the industry. Al Bateen, the region's only executive airport, is getting ready for the increased traffic.

The privately-owned airport in Abu Dhabi recently added an ILS and also announced a 35-percent reduction in landing fees and a 17-percent drop in parking fees. Traffic is steadily increasing and will hit 8,000 movements this year. It's expected to hit 12,000 by 2014. Al Bateen is home to Al Jaber Aviation, XO Jet, Prestige Jet and Falcon Aviation Services with a combined fleet of around 30 business jets and helicopters.

Bizjet Recovery Not Until 2012

Although some forecasters predicted a long-awaited recovery in the business aviation industry sometime in 2011, Forecast International's latest analysis says the decline will continue through the coming year and not turn around until 2012. "The business jet market is not yet in recovery, but the worst of the market downturn is over," said Raymond Jaworowski, the firm's senior aerospace analyst. "Order intake remains sluggish, but the massive wave of order cancellations and delivery deferrals experienced in late 2008 and much of 2009 has receded. The market is no longer in freefall." He said backlogs have declined sharply due to cancellations and deferrals but there are orders to keep the scaled-back operations at most OEMs on life support.

As we've reported extensively, Forecast International says the top end of the market is fairing better than the small-to-medium sectors. The firm is saying there are "signs of recovery" in the big-jet class and it's being fueled in part by the announcement of new products. The Gulfstream G650 and Embraer Legacy 650 are attracting customers and Bombardier recently announced ultra-long-range Global 7000 and 8000. There is also a strong indication that Dassault will announce resumption of work on its super midsize SMS sometime in the next year.

AVwebBiz: AVweb's Business Aviation Newsletter

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Opinion & Commentary back to top 

AVweb Insider Blog: Why Freedom of Information Isn't

For reasons never very clear, government agencies drag their feet when asked to release the most mundane information. On the AVweb Insider blog, Paul Bertorelli relates the experience of one owner trying to do his own due diligence in following the FAA's fuel approvals policy. If you're guessing he hit a brick wall, you'd be right. Why aren't government agencies kinder to and more cooperative with their citizens they're supposed to serve?

Read more and join the conversation.

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We Ask, You Answer back to top 

Question of the Week: What's the Future of Space Travel?

SpaceX has successfully launched, orbited and recovered a space capsule.

Is the privatization of space a good thing?
(click to answer)

Last Week's Question: Results

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

What's On Your Mind?

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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.)

Bonus Depreciation Stories and Resources on AVweb.com
Fantastic Pricing and Tax Incentives make 2010 an ideal time to buy or upgrade an aircraft. We've compiled special offers on new or used planes, avionics, engines and more on the resource page. The pricing, rebates or incentives are available to everyone. Consult your tax advisor regarding the potential bonus depreciation benefits, and check our resources page for stories, podcasts, and videos related to bonus depreciation.
AVweb Media: Look, Listen, Laugh and Learn back to top 

Video: AVweb Flies the Kitfox LSA

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

Everyone complains that light sport aircraft are too expensive, but Kitfox is doing something about it. AVweb recently went to Homedale, Idaho to try out Kitfox's new moderately priced LSA. Here's a full video report.

(And here's a link to last month's podcast interview with Paul Leadabrand about the Kitfox.)

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Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Eagles of America, Inc. (KMGR, Moultrie, Georgia)

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

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Eagles of America at Moutltrie Municipal Airport (KMGR) in Moultrie, Georgia.

AVweb reader Larry King thought "Alan Mathis and his people deserve this recognition," and after reading Larry's account of his trip, we agree:

Upon my arrival at Moultrie on November 27, I was greeted by name by the lineman with an offer to refuel and place my plane in their hangar for my overnight stay. They had my rental car waiting on the tarmac, and when they felt they had delayed my departure the next morning, they insisted on giving me three quarts of Aeroshell Oil for any inconvenience. Even though I was flying a Cessna 170, I received Citation service.

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!

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

The Final Grand Giveaway Celebrating AVweb's 15-Year Anniversary: Win a Garmin Aera 510 Handheld GPS

CLICK HERE to Register for All 15 Drawings

Where has the time gone? Our 15th anniversary year is almost over, and that means we've come to our 15th (and final) "Grand Giveaway." If you haven't already, register for one final chance to win — as we give away a Garmin aera 510 handheld GPS. All you have to do is click here to enter your name and e-mail address. (You must be a registered AVweb user; if you've entered any of our previous 15 Grand Giveaways drawings, you'll automatically be considered for the aera — no need to enter again.)

Remember: We won't rent or sell your name, ever. Tell your friends, and invite them to sign up for AVweb so they can enter this final 15 Grand Giveaways drawing. (We won't spam them, either — but do we hope they will sign up for our newsletters.)

Deadline for entries is 11:59pm Zulu time Sunday, December 19.

Click here to read the contest rules and enter.

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

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.

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.)

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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.

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