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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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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
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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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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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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.
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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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
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Peter Drucker Says, "The Best Way to Predict the Future Is to Create It"
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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:
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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.
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