AVwebFlash - Volume 17, Number 3a

January 17, 2011

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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AVflash! Rethinking Avgas back to top 

Alternative Fuels For Aviation: Navy and Air Force Are Bullish

As the world economy slowly rights itself and oil prices are poised to move upward, the Navy and Air Force say they're on track to produce at least half of their fuel requirements by the end of this decade, if not earlier. And for the Navy, that also means propulsion fuel for its non-nuclear surface vessels. In this podcast, Thomas Hicks, the Navy's deputy secretary for energy, told AVweb that ground and flight tests of a 50/50 blend of biofuel and conventional JP-8 in an F-18 testbed have proven highly successful, with no surprises. The services are seeking a drop-in replacement for their traditional petroleum-derived jet fuels and both the Navy and Air Force have proved that, conceptually, they can reach the goal. "To the fleet, it will be a straight drop-in. They won't see any difference," said Rick Kamin, the Navy's lead researcher on alternative fuels. The heat contents, weights and other factors are so similar to JP-8 that no performance or storage and handling exceptions need to be considered, Kamin told us. The Navy favors a 50/50 blend because traditional JP-8 contains enough aromatic compounds to promote swelling of seals, O-rings and gaskets, which pure biofuels cannot do.

Although the specs and performance have been proven in the tests, the economics of these fuels -- so-called hydrotreated renewable jet fuels refined from plants such as camelina and jatropha -- remain unproven. The processes to make biofuels are well along, but large-scale production remains over the horizon. But Hicks believes the biofuels industry will establish itself enough to meet the Navy's goal of putting a "green fleet" battle group to sea in 2016 fueled with the 50/50 blend.

In a related podcast, Shell Oil President John Hofmeister is skeptical that the services will deliver on the proposed timeline. Hofmeister told us that in his experience, biofuels projects are often marked by technical gates that have to met. "When I was at Shell, there was more of a tendency to move that gate than there was to achieve it." Hofmeister believes oil prices will begin a sharp upward rise, resulting in $5 autogas by the end of next year. The reason? U.S. and world demand has recovered to 2007 and 2008 levels and Asian demand exceeds those levels. He says the government's decision to scale back drilling permits in the Gulf of Mexico will restrain production that could offset price spikes. Although rising oil prices make biofuels more competitive, Hofmeister says they have another effect: to increase political pressure for more U.S. oil production, driving prices back down. "You reach a competitive price level where biofuels become affordable relative to crude oil, but then crude oil has proven over time that what comes up, will come down. The higher the crude oil price, the greater the political pressure to produce more crude oil." He says the oil is out there and can be produced.

Related Content:

Hydrogen-Powered Global Observer Flies

AeroVironment Inc. announced Tuesday that it has successfully flown at Edwards Air Force Base its Global Observer drone, a hydrogen-fuel-powered unmanned aircraft sporting a 175-foot wingspan and one-week-long endurance. The aircraft's internal-combustion engine burns cryogenically stored liquid hydrogen, leaving water vapor for exhaust. That system powers a generator that delivers electricity to the aircraft's four wing-mounted motors. The aircraft is being developed to serve as a surveillance and communication link platform, while flying mostly at 65,000 feet. In surveillance roles, the company says the aircraft's endurance could translate to coverage of 280,000 square miles per flight. In its test flight, the aircraft flew for four hours at about 3,000 feet.

The $30 million aircraft was developed from a Pentagon program and testing is expected to see it flying at its design altitude of 65,000 feet by year-end. If successful, the military hopes to see the aircraft perform its comm-link and surveillance roles where cost or other variables prevent the use of satellite. At altitude, the aircraft is expected to be out of range of most surface-to-air missiles and capable of providing comm-link capabilities over a 600-mile diameter.

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Rules and Regulations back to top 

UAV NPRM May Come This Year

The FAA may be planning rulemaking that will allow the use of non-military unmanned aerial vehicles in civilian airspace, according to USA Today. The newspaper quotes FAA spokesman Les Dorr as saying the proposed rules could be released this year and a public comment period will be included. He also told USA Today that the agency is talking with the Justice Department and national law enforcement groups "about possibly trying to streamline the process of applying for certificates of authorization" for operation of drones. The proposed rule appears to be limited to the use of small drones by law enforcement agencies, who are reportedly itching to get their hands on the eyes in the sky.

Veterans returning from the Gulf theater, who have seen firsthand how effective the drones can be, are finding work with law enforcement agencies and are apparently the impetus behind the drone initiatives. The FAA has permitted a couple of test projects by police in Houston and Miami but other than that drones have been limited to border patrols and restricted military airspace. In the police tests, drones were limited to a maximum altitude of 200 feet and 1,000-foot range from their operator. The lack of see-and-avoid capability is considered the greatest impediment to widespread drone use.

FCC Suspends Prohibition Of 121.5 MHz ELTs

The FCC has stayed their rule (PDF) on the prohibition of 121.5 MHz ELTs (signals no longer processed by satellites) and is "planning a new Notice requesting public comment on the future of legacy 121.5 ELTs." The action is a response to concerns expressed by the FAA, one of which is supply. The FAA warned the FCC that the current supply of 406 MHz ELTs is insufficient to replace all 121.5 MHz ELTs in the near term. Because of that, reasoned the FAA, prohibiting the use of 121.5 MHz ELTs "would" effectively ground "most" general aviation aircraft. The FAA also expressed concern regarding the potential continued value provided by 121.5 MHz ELTs in locating aircraft "even without satellite monitoring of frequency 121.5 MHz." Search and rescue operators still monitor the frequency. The FAA also expressed concerned about the associated cost to operators of forcing a transition.

While future action is expected, "no action will be taken regarding 121.5 MHz ELTs until further notice, following an additional opportunity for interested parties to comment." The new notice is expected "sometime in early 2011," according to the Aircraft Electronics Association (AEA). In 2000, Cospas-Sarsat announced it planned to terminate by 2009 satellite processing of 121.5 MHz beacons and has made good on that change. The AEA and user groups had challenged the FCC's planned prohibition regarding continued use of existing 121.5 ELTs. Only 406 MHz frequency beacons are currently monitored by satellite.

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The Big Iron: Present and Future back to top 

Delta Courts Manufacturers For Massive Order

Delta Air Lines is using a potential order for 100 to 200 aircraft, with options for 200 more, to inspire proposals from major airframe manufacturers on the heels of a record $15.6 billion order for 180 aircraft from IndiGo, landed by Airbus. The company said Thursday that it hopes to take delivery starting in 2013, with aircraft that could range from large to small single-aisle designs. Delta acquired Northwest in 2008 and now operates more than 700 aircraft. The new orders could ultimately replace Delta's Airbus A320, Boeing 757-200, and DC9-50 series aircraft. The potential order could stimulate strong competition from the usual suspects and inspire some hopefuls.

The largest manufacturers in the world are Airbus and Boeing, but the new CSeries from Bombardier is projected to enter service in 2013, which at least matches timing with Delta's needs. Narrow-body aircraft are still the workhorses of most airline fleets and Bombardier is hoping carriers, if not Delta, will be increasingly interested in the new design. If penned as projected, Delta's could overstep IndiGo's as the world's the largest airplane order.

Airliner Designs For 2025

Click for more photos

NASA has released images of what three aerospace companies predict the near future of airliners might be, but given the typical development time and the economics of such projects the 2025 target date seems optimistic for these radical designs. Boeing's projection of a blended-wing aircraft might be the closest to fruition since it's already testing a scale model at Edwards Air Force Base, but Northrop Grumman's double-fuselage creation and Lockheed Martin's giant tail-mounted engine proposal are perhaps a little far-fetched.

NASA set the bar pretty high for the competition to design the dream airplanes. They had to be quieter, burn less fuel and emit fewer pollutants than current airliners, carry between 50,000 and 100,000 pounds of payload and be capable of Mach .85 for a range of 7,000 miles. "For the rest of this year, each team will be exploring, testing, simulating, keeping and discarding innovations and technologies to make their design a winner," NASA said on its website.

Click for photos.

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Snow, Ice Not the Only Cause of Delays This Week back to top 

Southwest Captain Delays Takeoff For Bereaved Grandfather

In an act of kindness not often seen in the hectic world of airline flying, a Southwest captain delayed a departure for 12 minutes to allow a grandfather rushing to his dying grandson's bedside to board the flight. Mark Dickerson, a Northrop Grumman engineer, was in Los Angeles when he learned that a child abuse incident left his grandson, Caden Rogers, lying brain dead in a Denver hospital. He arrived at Los Angeles Airport only to find a long security line, and airport workers weren't buying his story about Caden and refused to allow him to the front of the line. In desperation, Dickerson phoned his wife who followed up with Southwest, contacting the flight's captain. On his own, the skipper delayed the flight until Dickerson arrived, greeting him at the cabin door. Southwest spokesperson Marilee McInnis told ABC news that the captain has been identified but his name wasn't released, pending the pilot's permission.

Dickerson told ABC that the captain greeted him by name at the jetway and escorted him aboard, even allowing him time to use the lavatory. '"He said, 'no problem. They can't leave without me anyway,'" Dickerson said. "I couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe they even knew who I was." ABC aviation consultant John Nance credited Southwest's culture of encouraging personal initiative among its employees, noting that a 12-minute intentional delay "is an eternity" in a market where airlines are under intense pressure to deliver on-time departures.

Pilot Loses Gun In Waiting Area Mixup

The TSA is investigating after a passenger mistakenly picked up a bag holding a gun belonging to a Federal Flight Deck Officer at New York's JFK Airport on Thursday. Michael Connery Jr., a first officer for JetBlue, was waiting to board the aircraft he was to help fly to Pittsburgh and set his bag next to Rachel Hazan's. Hazan was also waiting for a JetBlue flight to West Palm Beach. Hazan was traveling with her parents and her two children and when it was time to board, she scooped up everything, including Connery's bag, and the 40-caliber handgun inside, and carried it onto her flight. Things soon got more complicated for both of them, but especially for Connery.

Once in the airplane, Hazan realized her mistake, but according to the NY Daily News, she responded to it by leaving Connery's bag on an empty seat. Meanwhile, Connery was beginning his search and waited nearly 40 minutes before he reported his lapse to his employer. Fortunately, a passenger other than Hazan notified a flight attendant of the unattended bag. Connery's identification was inside, the handgun was deeper inside, and the bag was returned to him. Both flights were delayed and Connery was replaced on his. The TSA has now confiscated Connery's gun and is reportedly considering the future of his participation in the Flight Deck Officer program.

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Sport Aviation Puts On a Show in Sunny Florida back to top 

Sebring Starts Show Season

The airshow season is officially under way and thousands are expected at U.S. Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring, Fla., starting Thursday. There will be hundreds of exhibitors and demonstrators in the show aimed mostly at the Light Sport sector. AVweb will be there with full coverage and a special show edition on Friday. A note to exhibitors: If you have something new or otherwise important to share with the more than 250,000 people who regularly use AVweb as their source for aviation news, by all means drop us a line at editor@avweb.com and we'll do our best to stop by. See you at the show!

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

AVmail: January 17, 2010

Each week, we run a sampling of the letters received to our editorial inbox here in AVmail. One letter that's particularly relevant, informative, or otherwise compelling will headline this section as our "Letter of the Week," and we'll send the author an official AVweb baseball cap as a "thank you" for interacting with us (and the rest of our readership). Send us your comments and questions using this form. Please include your mailing address in your e-mail (just in case your letter is our "Letter of the Week"); by the same token, please let us know if your message is not intended for publication.

Letter of the Week: Mandatory Shoulder Restraints

Regarding mandatory shoulder harnesses: I crashed and would not have gotten a scratch if shoulder harnesses had been installed in the plane. My injuries were minor, but I decided that I would install shoulder harnesses in all my planes.

The first attempt was in an Ercoupe; the second was in a Taylorcraft. The FAA's G-load requirement for shoulder harness installation made it impossible. At the time when I was wrestling with this, the FAA came out with a "re-interpretation" of the rule — citing the lives saved by the guys in Alaska who had installed shoulder harnesses in older planes — that, while they didn't meet the current requirements, provided a large measure of safety with little cost, no degradation to the plane, and, most importantly, that stated that "something is better than nothing."

I installed harnesses in both planes, made a logbook entry, and called it a minor change.

I think that shoulder harnesses would be a major improvement in any airplane, but retrofitting the old planes could be prohibitively costly if the requirement for them included a requirement to meet installation requirements used for planes that are coming off the assembly line today.

Louis Champeau

Almost 20 years ago, a friend of mine borrowed shoulder restraints, installed them in his T-Craft, belted a video camera in the right seat with the camera part in the overhead, and made a home video. He did loops and stalls and spins, and on the seventh rotation of a spin he pulled up, and you could only see trees. The next image was a broken windscreen bobbling in front of the camera. He walked away. Shoulder restraints really work, and only education will put them into use, not a law requiting them.

Brian Nolan

As a pilot, retired Naval Aircrew, and mechanic, I approve of having shoulder harness installed in aircraft. But, as in all things, there is a problem: getting the FAA approval for installation in aircraft that never had shoulder harnesses installed. On some of the older aircraft, this will be quite a problem.

A more realistic approach would be having aircraft built with shoulder harnesses (Cessna 100 series comes to mind), have the OEM shoulder harness and seatbelt assembly replaced with something that can be used without coming apart in flight.

Jeff Pelton

Yes to shoulder harnesses, but we should push for more [a] streamlined STC/field approval process to get them. There would already be a lot more, especially in non-Cessna, Non-Piper (i.e., odd, or orphaned) aircraft if it weren't so difficult to get permission.

Bill Archibald

Meters, Not Feet

Regarding the 727 crash in Iran: The visibility as reported was 800 meters, not 800 feet.

800 meters is roughly a half mile of visibility, suitable for a Cat 1 approach.

ORM was reporting a 6,000-foot overcast at the time with snow, but there was no mention of heavy snow.

Whatever the contributing factors of the crash, it doesn't appear at first glance that weather was a major factor.

Weather reported about the time of the accident (16:15 UTC/19:45 local) was:

OITR 091600Z 26004KT 0800 SN SCT015 SCT020 OVC060 00/00 Q1016=
[16:00 UTC: Wind 260 degrees at 4 knots;
Visibility 800 m in snow;
scattered clouds 1,500 ft; scattered clouds 2,000 ft.;
overcast 6,000 ft.;
Temperature 0°C;
Dew point 0°C;
1016 hPa]

Mike Ward

Having Your Plane and Flying It Too

As a former pilot for a state government, I can imagine some of the "hidden" features of an offer by the governor of Florida, based upon what occurred when our former governor of pulled the same stunt.

First, it made good political spin because the citizens imagined taxpayers would no longer have to support such a "luxury" [as] providing jet airplanes for politicians.

But the reality is the state took a huge loss on the sale at a time of economic downtime. But here's the rest of the story: The pilots formerly on the governor's personal payroll came onto the state payroll — with benefits, of course. And the maintenance of the governor's personal airplane became the responsibility of the state.

What appears to be a common sense approach and gift of personal assets by the governor is actually a method of handing taxpayer money to brokerage friends and billing the taxpayers for personal airplane expenses, foisting personal employee salary/benefits onto the public, and then getting the public to refurbish a personal airplane the politician then takes back!

What a deal!

George Horn

E6B's Future

I enjoyed reading "Ditch the E6B." Ditch the E6B and I would like to add that doing away with all the codes used in weather reports would increase the number of pilots wanting to learn to fly. Those codes were designed when teletype use was billed by the character. With the internet [and] using plain language upper- and lowercase print, clarity will increase, and it will be easier to interpret the weather that might be encountered during a flight.

There is no real reason to continue to use all those codes today. It's a throwback for all the old-timers who don't want to give up their traditions and old habits.

Charlie White

Fortunately for the pilot community and perhaps the flying public, Robert Detloff has quit flight training due to his uneasiness with using a standard E6B flight computer. He seems unwilling to learn how to fly without the basics — you know, a GPS, glass panel, and maybe a BRS 'chute. With a Masters in Education, you'd think he'd have an easier time than most in learning to use the device.

I don't know about you, but I find my E6B to be a quick, easy, one-handed way to perform flight-specific calculations. Just yesterday, as I turned the wheel on my trusty E6B while flying down Chicago's lakefront, I found myself marveling at what a clever device it is and how it's stood the test of time.

I don't know. Maybe, at 51, I'm an old-timer.

Mike Fisher

Good, Fun Videos

Just watched the canopy covers video. Not only was it informative, but [it] was created with light humor in mind. Nicely done.

The final touch, the stall warning at the end of the video, drew a chuckle from me.

Read AVmail from other weeks here, and submit your own Letter to the Editor with this form.

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Opinion & Commentary back to top 

AVweb Insider Blog: Piper Exits the LSA Market

As Piper exits the LSA field, AVweb Insider blogger Paul Bertorelli finds himself wondering if this is the leading edge of the long-awaited shakeout in an over-supplied industry.

Read more and join the conversation.

AVweb Insider Blog: Aviation Biofuels — The Real Deal or Greenwash Fantasy?

On the AVweb Insider blog, Paul Bertorelli argues that it's hard to tell at this juncture, but news stories on the topic tend to suggest the equation is more proven out than it actually is. Turbine biofuels work well, and the military is all over them, but until we see the price at the pump, call us skeptical.

Read more and join the conversation.

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AVweb Audio — Are You Listening? back to top 

Military Bullish on Biofuels

File Size 6.3 MB / Running Time 13:40

Podcast Index | How to Listen | Subscribe Via RSS

The Navy and Air Force are both testing biofuels as drop-in replacements for conventional jet fuel. AVweb's Paul Bertorelli spoke with Thomas Hicks, the Navy's Deputy Secretary for Energy Policy, about the promise and the potential pitfalls.

Click here to listen. (6.3 MB, 13:40)

Economics Still Rule Fuels

File Size 4.7 MB / Running Time 10:37

Podcast Index | How to Listen | Subscribe Via RSS

Technically, biofuel replacements are possible, but do they make economic sense? Shell Oil's John Hofmeister told AVweb's Paul Bertorelli that there's still a lot of oil out there and it's hard for biofuels to compete.

Click here to listen. (4.7 MB, 10:37)

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Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Raeco at Baytown Airport (KHPY, Baytown, TX)

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

AVweb reader Bud Beaty is a frequent visitor to Baytown Airport (KHPY) in Baytown, Texas — and to hear him tell it, there's no better FBO in America to be our latest "FBO of the Week":

The manager (Charlie) is a corporate pilot (Citation V), and he knows how pilots and passengers should be treated. His lovely wife Kathy and all his great employees treat their customers like royalty. We don't ask for anything — they take care of our every need automatically including an overnight crew-truck for the pilot. Charlie has spared no expense transforming HPY ... into a showcase FBO, completely gutting and rebuilding a new FBO, building new hangars, expanding/renovating the runway, and implementing (through the FAA) two GPS approaches. All the while, he has kept the fuel prices the lowest in the area and among the lowest in the nation. They have one price (and that is for self-service), yet they always provide full service at this price. Charlie has also expanded the airport operating hours and published his personal cell phone number as the after-hours contact number. It is truly a joy to visit HPY.

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

Video: First Flight of Chinese J-20 'Stealth Fighter'

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

A collection of video clips from Chinese media outlets including: the J-20 fifth-generation "stealth" fighter jet's first flight, taxi and flight control tests, a size and planform comparison with other contemporary aircraft (F-22 and T-50), and brief images that may suggest the aircraft's avionics package.

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Try disabling ad blockers and refreshing this page.
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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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The Lighter Side of Flight back to top 

Short Final

Overheard in IFR Magazine's 'On the Air' Section
Overheard in IFR Magazine's "On the Air"

Heard while on approach to John Wayne Airport in Southern California:

Tower (addressing a Boeing 737 holding short of the runway) :
"Airline One Twenty-Three, are you ready to go?"

"Well, the captain is asleep — but he should wake up soon."

Gordon B. Crary
via e-mail

Heard Anything Funny on the Radio?

Heard anything funny, unusual, or downright shocking on the radio lately? If you've been flying any length of time, you're sure to have eavesdropped on a few memorable exchanges. The ones that gave you a chuckle may do the same for your fellow AVweb readers. Share your radio funny with us, and, if we use it in a future "Short Final," we'll send you a sharp-looking AVweb hat to sport around your local airport. No joke.

Click here to submit your original, true, and previously unpublished story.

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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