AVwebFlash - Volume 17, Number 1b

January 6, 2011

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
 
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AVflash! Chinese J-20 Has Tongues Wagging back to top 
 

China's Stealth Fighter, Or Political Prop?

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Reports spread Wednesday from news sources like the Guardian U.K. to Stars and Stripes discussing new leaked images that are apparently meant to depict China's prototype stealth fighter, which some call the J-20, in ground tests. To be sure, not all sources are convinced the pictures are representative of an actual functional prototype. The images have appeared in Chinese language editions of the Global Times and Chinese censors have not removed the images, according to Forbes.com, but they also have not confirmed them. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates was scheduled to be in Beijing on Sunday, which has promoted some speculation with regard to the timing of the images' release. Guardian.co.uk states the photos are "likely to prompt calls for accelerated production of F35's," which broadly suggests the unconfirmed images may be used for political influence. Meanwhile, Pentagon spokesman Marine Col. Dave Lapan was quoted saying, "It is not of concern that they are working on a fifth-generation fighter." He added that they're "still having difficulties with their fourth-generation fighter." If nothing else, the images are visually appropriate for creating intrigue.

The jet, as pictured, is not exceptionally conventional in its planform. It appears to sport twin inlets, rear downward angled stabilizers or fins, plus a canard and widely spaced, sharply angled twin vertical tails outboard of twin exhaust nozzles. The nozzles, at first blush, appear to be conventional, or at least are dissimilar to the thrust-vectoring variety seen on the F-22. According to Stars and Stripes, "China's decade-long military buildup is well known, if not completely understood." The main question asked by the military news source is not whether the Chinese-made jet exists, but "could China effectively use them?"

 
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AA Sidelined in Overrun Investigation back to top 
 

Airline Excluded From NTSB Probe

American Airlines will not be allowed to participate in the investigation of last week's runway-overrun incident in Jackson Hole, Wyo., the NTSB said on Friday. The safety board said airline technicians violated standard procedures when they downloaded information from the digital flight data recorder after it was removed from the incident aircraft, a 757. "Although a thorough examination by our investigators determined that no information from the DFDR was missing or altered in any way, the breach of protocol by American Airlines personnel violates the Safety Board's standards of conduct for any organization granted party status in an NTSB investigation," said NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman. "We have revoked the party status of American Airlines and excused them from further participation in this incident investigation."

The NTSB said American employees removed the cockpit voice recorder and the digital flight data recorder from the 757 and flew them to Tulsa, Okla., where technicians downloaded information from the DFDR. The NTSB said it is common in incident investigations for the airline involved to transport the recorders on their own aircraft, to get them to NTSB labs in Washington. D.C., as quickly as possible. The airline is instructed to transport the recorders without delay and without accessing the information contained within them by any means. "This practice has worked efficiently and without complication for more than 40 years," the NTSB said. The airline said a full review will be undertaken "to ensure that such an occurrence is not repeated," according to the NTSB. American Airlines Flight 2253, a B-757-200 inbound from Chicago O'Hare International Airport, ran off the end of Runway 19 in snowy conditions while landing at Jackson Hole Airport, at about 11:38 a.m. local time on Dec. 29. No injuries were reported among the 181 passengers and crew on board. The incident was partially recorded on video by a passenger and posted on YouTube.

 
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2011: The Year of Reform? back to top 
 

SAFE To Address Training Reform

The Society of Aviation and Flight Educators plans to host a GA Pilot Training Reform Symposium in May to address issues that were raised at the AOPA Flight Training Summit in November. The symposium, which is expected to include 150 to 300 participants, will focus on strategies to reduce fatal accidents, increase student-pilot starts and improve student retention. The event will feature keynote speakers as well as six panels of leaders from the industry, academia, the FAA and the flight instructor community. "A new pilot training paradigm is vital to securing a more robust future for general aviation," according to the group's website. SAFE hopes the symposium will help to create a strategic three-to-five-year plan jointly developed by all stakeholders, including the FAA.

"Securing a more robust future for general aviation will require a collaborative effort among original equipment manufacturers, courseware providers, organizations and trade associations, university aviation programs and fixed-base operators, insurance providers, and regulatory agencies," said Bob Wright, chair of the symposium committee. "We envision this process being driven from the flight line upward." Cessna Aircraft Company, King Schools, Lightspeed Aviation, the Cirrus Owners and Pilots Association, and Sporty's Academy, among others, have signed as partners to participate in the event. The symposium will be held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Atlanta, Ga., on May 4 and 5. For more information, go to the event web site.

 
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Safety Begins at Home back to top 
 

NTSB: Inspect ELT Mounts

Based on recent history, the NTSB Friday sent two safety recommendations to the FAA requiring operators to inspect the mountings of all ELT transmitters installed on general aviation aircraft to ensure the units don't break free in a crash. The recommendations (PDF) are the byproduct of the de Havilland turbine Otter crash in Alaska on Aug. 9, 2010, that killed five, including former U.S. Senator Ted Stevens. The wreckage was found nearly five hours after the crash and while its 406 Mhz ELT had activated, the unit had separated from its antenna. No satellites, or rescue aircraft involved in the search, were able to detect the signal, according to the NTSB. NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman summed up the problem simply. "This vital life-saving technology won't do anyone any good if it doesn't stay connected to the antenna," said Hersman.

The specific emergency locator transmitter involved in the Otter crash was an Artex ME406, which "consisted of a mounting tray affixed to the aircraft and an ELT module that 'nested' in the tray." A first responder found the unit loose on the aft floor of the plane. It was switched on, but "showed evidence that the antenna and remote switch cable had been pulled out." The NTSB did not determine if that separation was the result of improper mounting or other factors. The NTSB is concerned that other units similar to the ME406 are at risk of being thrown free of their mounting trays with similar results. Generally, the NTSB recommends that during annual inspections, all emergency locator transmitters undergo detailed inspections to ensure they are mounted per the manufacturer's specifications. It further recommends that the FAA determine if current mounting requirements and retention tests are adequate.

Read the NTSB's recommendation letter here. (PDF)

 
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Something to Look Forward To back to top 
 

Sebring LSA Show, Skiplanes, Launch The Year

For those pilots ready for a break from winter, the Sebring LSA Expo is coming up, and for those who prefer to celebrate the snow, EAA invites skiplane pilots to converge at Oshkosh, Wis. The sixth annual U.S. Sport Aviation Expo runs Jan. 20-23 at the Sebring Regional Airport in central Florida. The event provides an opportunity for pilots and enthusiasts to learn about the sport pilot certificate and sample the wide range of LSA aircraft that are available. The show features exhibits, workshops, demo flights and forums. EAA's skiplane fly-in is set for Jan. 22 at the Pioneer Airport in Oshkosh, with at least 25 aircraft expected to attend. The fly-in is free and open to the public.

Pilots who want to participate in the skiplane event must contact EAA in advance for approval and flight briefings. Contact Sean Elliot in EAA Aircraft Operations by e-mail or call 920-426-4886. Pilots who prefer to head for the Florida sunshine can find details about the Sebring event at the LSA Expo website. General admission to the show is $10 per day or $30 for a four-day pass. AVweb staffers will be attending the Sebring show, so watch for reports, podcasts and video from the event.

For a preview of the show and news about a new "traveling LSA show" that will take place in the following week, listen to this week's podcast.

Alaskan Pilots' Reality Featured On Discovery Channel

Three trailers for the upcoming series.
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The Discovery Channel launches a new reality show this month, "Flying Wild Alaska," that follows the adventures of Era Alaska, a family-owned charter company. Era is based in Unalakleet, a small town on the coast near the Bering Strait. During the show's 10 episodes, "the Tweto family battles unforgiving Alaska weather and terrain to transport life's necessities to one of the most remote and extreme regions of America," according to Discovery. The company was founded with just one airplane serving the local area but now comprises nearly 75 aircraft that fly to destinations across the state. The show focuses on the "quirky" and "passionate" members of the Tweto family -- Jim and his wife, Ferno, and their two 20-something daughters, Ayla and Ariel -- but also includes plenty of flying action, with shots of backcountry landings and flights in extreme conditions. "Mostly it's just about flying airplanes in rural Alaska," Jim Tweto told The Alaska Daily News. The series premieres Friday, Jan. 14, at 9 p.m. Eastern and Pacific Time.

The Discovery crew worked in Alaska from August to November last year to shoot the program. "Battling minus-40F degree winters and hurricane-like winds for months on end, the intrepid pilots of Era Alaska are among the best in the world," says Discovery. "They combat big storms in small planes -- a scenario only suited for the most experienced, especially with such precious cargo. From champion snow dogs bound for the Iditarod, to medicine for sick children, to groceries for miners working on the North Slope, Era Alaska transports a wide range of goods." Ferno Tweto told ADN the family doesn't receive the Discovery channel at their home, but they plan to watch the program at a neighbor's house. "I'm really pushing to get [a satellite] dish out here," Tweto said.

 
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We Ask, You Answer back to top 
 

Question of the Week: How About China?

With China courted by the West for the potential aviation business it might create, is the possibly suspect emergence of a high-tech F-35-esque stealth fighter of concern?

Is China a major aerospace power?
(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?

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.)

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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What You Missed in AVwebBiz This Week back to top 
 

Business Aviation Picking Up In Boston

The business aviation sector got some positive press from the mainstream media this week when The Boston Globe reported that corporate jet activity was up by 7 percent in 2010 at Hanscom Field, a small GA airport close to the city. Bill Herp, president of Linear Air, said his business doubled in 2010 compared to the year before. Herp charters four Eclipse jets out of the field, charging about $1,500 an hour. Rectrix Aviation, another local charter company, said business was up 15 percent, and they hired three pilots and added a jet to their fleet in September. The number of jets based at Hanscom has increased by a third in the last three years, and the Massachusetts Port Authority, which operates the field, is planning to expand.

"We have a waiting list of aircraft that want to come into Hanscom," Massport executive director Thomas Kinton told the Globe. Plans call for 400,000 square feet of new hangar space, plus expanding a current 18,000-square-foot hangar to three times its size. The project may face opposition from neighbors, however, who have challenged the FAA's expansion plans in court, saying that local historical sites and a wildlife refuge will be adversely affected by added traffic. Neighbors have challenged aviation activities in the area in the past, even filing lawsuits against individual pilots who they said were practicing noisy aerobatic maneuvers too close to homes.

Taiwan Government Starts Charter Service

The Taiwanese government has entered the business jet charter business. The government-owned Aerospace Industrial Development Corp. (AIDC) flew its maiden flight last Saturday from Taichung City in the interior of the island state to Kinmen Island, off its coast. The company is using Astra SP aircraft it imported in 2000. The company hopes to run both domestic and international charters and has set its sights Hong Kong, Macau, Seoul, Singapore, Tokyo, Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City and Manila. The big plum in the Taiwanese charter business is behind a geopolitical roadblock.

By far the most lucrative routes for the state-run company and other private interests that might be interested would be hops to China, which, despite the tense relationship between them, is Taiwan's most important trading partner. As we reported in November, a Taiwanese start-up, Win Air, has put a G550 in service and is the first privately owned charter company to operate in the country. It too, is hoping diplomatic relations between the two governments will allow direct private flights over the strait.

Seaplane Service Started In India

It seems like every aspect of Indian aviation is in a growth mode and a new service was added last week. The first seaplane service to the Indian islands of Andaman and Nicobar has been launched using a Cessna 208A on amphib floats. And, like a lot of Indian aviation enterprises, it will rely heavily on foreign pilots and other personnel to stay afloat. There is only one Indian pilot who has flown the Caravan and none have flown it on floats. A couple of American pilots will keep it island hopping while the company starting the service, Pawan Hans Helicopters Ltd., finds and trains locals to get their feet wet. The Indian government is pretty enthusiastic about the venture and predicts a big future for seaplane service.

In a media event hosted at Mumbai Airport, Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel told those present that tourism is growing by leaps and bounds on the islands off the coast of India and the market for seaplane service should grow. "The Centre is permitting 100% foreign direct investment in this sector and service providers like PHHL should float a subsidiary to run a fleet of seaplanes," Patel said, "We want to see PHHL emerge as a 500-aircraft entity."

AVwebBiz: AVweb's Business Aviation Newsletter

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Opinion & Commentary back to top 
 

AVweb Insider Blog: FlightPrep Responds

FlightPrep's enforcement of its patent on online flight planning has created a lot of discussion. AVweb had some questions we felt went unanswered, but FlightPrep's Travis Cannon joins us as a guest blogger on the AVweb Insider with responses.

Read more and join the conversation.

AVweb Insider Blog: The Bottom Line

Could there be more to the bottom line than just money? In the latest installment of our AVweb Insider blog, Mary Grady looks at a new initiative aiming to recognize that profit is not the only worthwhile measure of success, especially when it comes to retaining students in flight schools and getting them through the program and into certification.

Read more and join the conversation.

AVweb Insider Blog: Flight Plan Fumbles

Are flight plans more trouble than they're worth? They can be, as Paul Bertorelli was recently reminded. If FSS has ever dropped your VFR flight plan or failed to close it when you ask, check out Paul's latest misadventure on the AVweb Insider blog.

Read more and join the conversation.

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

Video: 757 Overrun Video Ignites Pilot Speculation

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

Video shot by a passenger aboard American Airlines Flight 2253 as it overran Runway 19 at Jackson Hole, Wednesday, shows unusual operation of the aircraft's systems, according to some pilots. The 6,300-foot runway sits at an elevation of 6,451 feet and the pilots landed in light snow at about 11:37 a.m. About seven inches of snow had fallen in the area since midnight, but the runway itself was reportedly in good condition with good braking coefficients. The aircraft appears to be on the ground prior to passing the PAPI lights and wind sock, which would be appropriate. In the video, the engine's thrust reverser panel first moves just after touchdown, but it does not fully open and the outboard spoilers are not visibly deployed. Because of that, things quickly get more interesting.

A full ten seconds after touchdown, the thrust reverser panel moves from barely open to closed. The thrust reverser panel does not begin to reopen, this time fully, until approximately seven seconds later, 17 seconds after touchdown. The engines do not appear to spool up until roughly ten seconds after that. That means the 757 rolls on the runway for 27 seconds before the reversers appear amply engaged. It departs the end of the runway roughly nine seconds later. Pilots who claim to be familiar with the 757 have left comments in professional pilot forums online stating that the thrust reversers on the 757 can sometimes refuse to engage. Others have speculated that a hydraulic problem or a problem with the Boeing's air/ground logic system could have prevented the spoilers, reversers and, most important, the brakes from working properly. For this flight, no one was injured and the aircraft came to rest in packed snow, and still on its gear, about 350 feet beyond the runway overrun area. The NTSB is working the case and should have good cockpit voice and flight data recorder information already in hand. And we'll know if blame will be placed primarily with the crew, with the aircraft, or both.

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Video: IFR Magazine Shows You How to Use a GPS for NDB-Only Approaches

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

You can't legally fly an NDB approach in the clouds using a GPS unless it says "or GPS" in the title. But there's nothing that says you can't practice VFR what it's like to fly an approach with a bearing pointer and no moving maps. Come along with IFR magazine editor-in-chief Jeff Van West and see how to make your glass cockpit (or portable GPS) go retro to fly an old-school NDB approach just for the fun and proficiency of it.

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Your Favorite FBOs back to top 
 

FBO of the Week: Leading Edge Aviation (KLGU, Logan, Utah)

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

Lately, we've featured FBOs that AVweb readers have discovered far from home — typically in the midst of dealing with a mechanical or weather crisis. But this week, Cathy Myers shines the spotlight on Logan, Utah's Leading Edge Aviation, located at Logan-Cache Airport (KLGU), where "a cordial and welcoming atmospher [for] the local aviation community" never takes a back-seat to the FBO's "excellent service to all types of transient aircraft." How do they manage it? Cathy writes:

LEA has co-sponsored airport open house festivities and provided discount fuel to all participating pilots. They also organized and funded several cross-country fly-ins to the beautiful Flaming Gorge area in northeast Utah. These events provided camping, rafting, live music, dinner, and flying competitions. Safety, service and professionalism is always the goal [at Leading Edge] and has always been appreciated by those who stop in.

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' Returns on Monday

Actually, we'll have updates to the slideshow on our home page on Thursday morning, as usual, and keen-eyed readers will be able to spot our weekly "POTW" column on the web site later in the day — but since we've got an overstuffed bag of e-mails and comments to look at tonight, we won't make our Thursday morning deadline for the AVwebFlash. Not to worry, though — if you don't catch "POTW" online later today, it'll be waiting in your inbox on Monday morning.

 
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:

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.

Aviate. Navigate. Communicate.