AVwebFlash Complete Issue: Volume 17, Number 10b

March 10, 2011

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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AVflash! Pilots? Who Needs Those? back to top 

Stepping Toward Pilotless Aerial Refueling

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Northrop Grumman announced Wednesday that its Jan. 21 flight of an autonomous Global Hawk and a manned Proteus test aircraft sets the stage for autonomous aerial refueling between two unmanned aircraft. The two aircraft flew as close as 40 feet apart at 45,000 feet, which Northrop says sets an industry record. The flight studied wake turbulence effects, engine performance, and flight control responsiveness at altitude. Northrop is working toward a spring 2012 flight that would demonstrate autonomous aerial refueling of two Global Hawks as part of the company's KQ-X program. According to Northrop, that program may be just the tip of the spear. "When you add autonomous flight of both aircraft into the mix, as we will do later in the KQ-X program, you gain a capability that has mission applications far beyond just aerial refueling," said program manager Geoffry Sommer.

Northrop says that success in the KQ-X program, which is funded by DARPA to the tune of $33 million, would enable flights lasting as long as one week. The program follows on a successful 2006 test in which DARPA and NASA used an F-18 "as a surrogate unmanned aircraft" refueled by a 707 tanker's refueling boom.

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End of an Era — And This Time, It's No Overstatement back to top 

Discovery's Final Destination

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The Space Shuttle Discovery has flown 39 missions (the most of any shuttle), traveled 148 million miles and carried 246 crew members over 27 years in service and after landing Wednesday, it started a long journey to retirement, most likely at the Smithsonian. Discovery landed Wednesday at Kennedy Space Center in Florida following the 13-day mission dubbed STS-133. The vehicle first launched on Aug. 30, 1984, and has now spent a total of 365 days in space. It will next undergo a months-long process of decommissioning that will make it safe for transport and storage at its expected final destination, the Smithsonian Institute's Steven F. Udvar Hazy Center. (An official announcement is scheduled for April 12.) A number of museums (possibly as many as 29) are hoping to win one of the remaining two shuttles and some have mounted major investments in support of the cause. Acquisition will come with a cost.

Entities that win a shuttle will need to foot a $28.8 million bill due to NASA work involved in preparing and delivering the vehicle. The Smithsonian was excused from that cost thanks to a bill passed in December. Major General Charles F. Bolden Jr. is the man responsible for deciding where the shuttles will go, according to The New York Times. Multiple museums have mounted efforts to win a shuttle including Johnson Space Center, which has launched a marketing campaign; The Museum of Flight, which has added a $12 million wing; and The Kennedy Space Center, which has been the launch site for all shuttle missions. Remaining shuttles Endeavour and Atlantis are scheduled for final missions in April and June, respectively, before becoming museum pieces themselves, sometime next year.

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AVIC, Cirrus, and Uncle Sam back to top 

China-Cirrus Deal Faces Security Review

Cirrus CEO Brent Wouters told The Wall Street Journal this week he expects the deal to sell Cirrus Aircraft to a Chinese firm will pass a national-security review by the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment. The two companies sought the review as a pre-emptive move, to avoid becoming "a political football," Wouters told the WSJ. Wouters said he expects the deal will be approved because Cirrus isn't a high-tech firm with national security-sensitive trade secrets. AVIC, the state-owned parent company of China Aviation Industry General Aircraft Co., has come under scrutiny in the past for bidding on U.S. defense contracts, the WSJ said. Besides its general aviation interests, AVIC also manufactures a stealth jet fighter.

The sale of the company, which is based in Duluth, Minn., was announced last week. Terms were not disclosed. In a news release, Wouters said the deal would be a shot in the arm for the company and for its employees in Duluth and Grand Forks, N.D. "CAIGA understands the strength and the talent of Cirrus's workforce and the prominence of the Cirrus brand in general aviation," Wouters said. "Through this transaction, CAIGA will invest in our employees in both Minnesota and North Dakota by committing to the continued use of our world-class production facilities." The deal also is subject to various approvals from the Chinese government, Cirrus said, and is not expected to be finalized until sometime this summer.

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Young Eagles: Doing the Homework back to top 

Young Eagles Works, Says EAA

EAA says its Young Eagles program, which aims to introduce youngsters to general aviation, has been successful at inspiring those youngsters to become pilots. By checking FAA's pilot registry against its list of Young Eagles going back to 1992, EAA said it found that Young Eagles are 5.4 times more likely to become a pilot than those who never participated. "The numbers show that Young Eagles is making an impact on the pilot population that is unmatched by any other single program," said EAA Chairman Tom Poberezny. The EAA analysis also showed that 9 percent of those pilots are female, a gain of 50 percent compared to the overall figure of 6 percent of the pilot population.

EAA also said that the older a child is at the time of the Young Eagles flight, the more likely it is that child will become a pilot. Two out of every 100 young people who take their first Young Eagles flight at age 17 go on to earn a pilot certificate. The program has provided more than 1.6 million free demonstration flights to young people around the world, with help from 43,000 volunteer pilots and 50,000 volunteers on the ground.

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News Briefs back to top 

Rare Warplane To Be Recovered

A TBD Devastator war plane that was lost at sea in 1941 has been located off the coast of San Diego, and a Florida museum plans to raise it from the bottom. Capt. Ed Ellis (USN, retd.), head of aircraft restorations for the National Museum of Naval Aviation, in Pensacola, told EAA the Devastator is "the 'holy grail' in terms of naval aviation, and something we'd like to have in this museum." Many of the Devastator bombers were lost in World War II, and today there are none on display. About $300,000 must be raised to move ahead with the recovery. The location of the wreck has been known for about 15 years by A&T Recovery, of Chicago, which has recovered more than 30 airplanes for the museum, mostly from Lake Michigan. The A&T team recently released underwater video of the wreck, which shows parts of the cockpit and fuselage.

The TBD Devastator was considered the Navy's most formidable airplane when it was introduced in 1937, according to EAA. By the time Pearl Harbor was attacked, however, aviation had advanced so quickly that the Devastator was already virtually obsolete. "TBDs were slow torpedo bombers that had to fly low, straight, and level at a fixed speed to drop their torpedoes," Ellis said. During the Battle of Midway in June 1942, 43 TBDs attacked the Japanese carriers, but 39 were destroyed. The TBD pilots, however, are credited with distracting the Zeros, enabling the Dauntless dive bombers to successfully destroy three carriers. "There are no aircraft on display anywhere to honor those brave men who did their duty," Ellis said. "Nobody thought to save any of those airplanes." The museum is looking for sponsors to help raise the money needed to raise the airplane and ship it to Florida, where museum staff and volunteers will restore the Devastator for static display.

Jack Cox, Aviation Journalist, Dies

Justin "Jack" Cox, known for his work as a writer and editor for EAA's Sport Aviation magazine and his own Sportsman Pilot quarterly, died on Sunday at a hospital near his home in Asheboro, N.C. He was 77 years old. Cox worked for EAA from 1970 until his retirement in 1999, serving as editor-in-chief of publications as well as a frequent contributor to Sport Aviation. Cox and his wife, Golda, who also worked for EAA, flew together to many aviation events around the U.S., conducting interviews and writing articles. In 1981, the couple began publishing Sportsman Pilot, a quarterly aviation magazine, which they continued until this year.

Cox received many awards during his writing career, including induction into the EAA Vintage Aircraft Association Hall of Fame and the EAA Homebuilder's Hall of Fame. In 1986 he received an award from the Aviation/Space Writers Association for an article on the around-the-world flight of the Voyager. At EAA, he helped to launch the Antique/Classic Division, now the EAA Vintage Airplane Association. He created the division's own monthly publication, The Vintage Airplane, and served as its first editor. Cox received his pilot's certificate in 1963 and over the years he and his wife owned and flew eight different aircraft. In compliance with Cox's wishes, there will be no funeral or memorial service.

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What You Missed in AVwebBiz This Week back to top 

Failures Follow FAA Test Changes

The FAA recently changed its bank of test questions without notice, causing a spike of up to four times the usual rate of failures in recent weeks, according to the National Association of Flight Instructors. The content of test questions was significantly altered, NAFI said, for at least three tests -- the fundamentals of instruction test, which is required for all flight and ground instructors, and the ATP and flight engineer tests. "We fully support the FAA's efforts to improve the quality of the knowledge tests," said NAFI executive director Jason Blair. "However, we're concerned that the test changes were made without any notification to the industry." As a result, he said, the applicants who failed have wasted their time and money -- up to $150 -- and must re-take the tests.

Last week, NAFI and AOPA wrote to the FAA (PDF) and asked the agency to change the test banks back to the way they were until a new process is in place to inform the flight-training industry of content changes. They also said applicants who failed the tests after the changes were made should be allowed to re-take the test for free and have the failure expunged from their record. "We support the FAA's efforts to improve the rigor of the testing process, and we're sincerely interested in promoting the process," said Blair. However, "to do this effectively, we would like the FAA to include industry partners such as NAFI, AOPA, and other flight-training stakeholders in efforts to spread the message about upcoming changes." That would allow training providers and students to adapt learning processes and avoid surprising applicants with unexpected test material, Blair said.

Cessna To Introduce "Next Generation" Corvalis

The next generation of the Corvalis single-engine piston airplane will be introduced later this month at Sun 'n Fun in Lakeland, Fla., Cessna said on Tuesday. The turbocharged Corvalis TT currently in production was originally developed by Lancair as the Columbia 400, and taken over by Cessna a few years ago. It can fly at speeds up to 235 knots, which makes it the world's fastest fixed-gear single-engine piston aircraft. Cessna sold 110 copies of the Corvalis TT in 2008, which fell to 41 in 2009 and just 7 last year, as the general aviation market slowed overall. Details about the new version of the airplane will be announced on March 29, Cessna said, and a mock-up will be on display.

Cessna also recently announced that it has made the first international delivery of a Model 162 Skycatcher LSA, to a customer in Australia. The airplane was delivered to Aeromil Pacific, based at Sunshine Coast Airport, in Queensland. It will be on display at the Australian International Airshow - Avalon 2011 - in early March, and will be flown for sales demos throughout 2011. Cessna has delivered more than 30 Skycatchers so far and plans to deliver 150 of the airplanes in 2011. More international deliveries are slated for later this year.

AVwebBiz: AVweb's Business Aviation Newsletter

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

Question of the Week: Could You Pass the Written?

The FAA has mixed it up a bit with the written test. How would you do if you had to write right now?

Could you pass the FAA's written exam?
(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.)

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

Video: World's Fastest Helicopter Pilot

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

Kevin Bredenbeck took the Sikorsky X2 technology demonstrator to 250 knots and beyond last September. He spoke with AVweb about the aircraft, the program, and what it's like to go that fast in a helicopter in this interview at the 2011 HAI Heli-Expo in Orlando, Florida.

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Video: Bell 407AH Helicopter Unveiled

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

Bell Helicopters bypassed the usual military procurement procedure and adapted a 407 for "law enforcement and paramilitary" use. With a 3,000-round-per-minute machine gun, a rocket launcher and FLIR, it's a potent adaptation of a proven airframe that's already attracting attention.

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Video: A Look Inside the Cessna Factory

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

Facing ever-growing global competition, Cessna has to find way to make airplanes more efficiently. In this video, Terry Clark explains how the company has done that at the company's Independence, Kansas plant.

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Opinion & Commentary back to top 

AVweb Insider Blog: As Goes Cirrus, Cessna Too?

Cirrus' sale to Chinese interests wasn't especially shocking — but after visiting the Cessna plant in Kansas, Paul Bertorelli wonders if Cessna might go the same way. Anything is possible in the global economy, says Paul in his latest post to the AVweb Insider blog.

Read more and join the conversation.

AVweb Insider Blog: China vs. the American Dream

The sale of Cirrus Aircraft to a Chinese state-owned company didn't have to happen. Americans could have bought it. In the latest installment of the AVweb Insider blog, our editor-in-chief ponders the obvious question: If Americans are so worried about jobs and industry floating away to China, why won't American investors sink their dollars into a company like Cirrus?

Read more and join the conversation.

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Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Coos Aviation (KOTH, North Bend, Oregon)

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

AVweb's latest "FBO of the Week" ribbon is bound for North Bend, Oregon, where Coos Aviation at Southwest Oregon Regional Airport (KOTH) has impressed a couple of different AVweb readers in recent months. Jerry Bialoetz sums their commitment to customers up nicely:

Extemely friendy. Will go out of their way to help make your stay memorable and are not after the big bucks in your wallet, like other FBOs.

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 
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.