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Images of what appears to be the tail-rotor of one the helicopters used in Sunday's raid on Osama bin Laden's compound at Abbottabad, Pakistan, are hitting the internet, and may be a glimpse at
something special. The parts don't appear to come from the standard military catalogue. According to the Army Times, the aircraft "were a radar-evading variant of the special operations MH-60
Blackhawk." That aircraft has hard edges like those on the F-117 Nighthawk and incorporates similar low-observable technology. The Defense Department has said it will not comment on the aircraft used
and, not surprisingly, the Obama Administration has not listed an inventory of equipment used in the attack.
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Is a high accident rate due to substandard training a major drag on the growth of general aviation? The Society of Aviation and Flight Educators (SAFE) thinks so and this week in Atlanta, they're
trying to do something about it. More than 150 instructors, examiners, regulators and industry experts have convened the society's first symposium to explore ways that the industry might stimulate
growth by driving down the accident rate and improving the quality of instruction. "We're in trouble in GA. The fatal accident rate has been flat for more than 10 years. Student starts are way down,
student attrition is way up. The result of that is that sales are way down," says SAFE's chairman, Doug Stewart. The group believes that flight instruction quality, delivery and innovation is the
fulcrum to change that. In an event-packed Wednesday, the group assembled five panels consisting of instructors and examiners exploring various aspects of flight trainingthe good and the bad.
In this podcast, SAFE's Stewart explained that the goal is to come away from the three-day symposium with a concrete list of recommendations that the
training industry can act upon quickly to reduce the erosion in pilot starts.
And that will take some effort, according to AOPA's Jennifer Storm, who summarized the results of a recent study the association did of student starts and completions. Storm reported that in the
10-year period from 1990 to 2010, both student starts and completions have fallen dramatically, as much as 64 percent for completions. The study revealed a paradox: Even as students were dropping out,
more than 90 percent reported a positive experience with instructors or with flight schools. Still, for various reasons, they become frustrated and give up their training.
That's no surprise to Jerry Gregoire, VP of Redbird Flight Simulations, who explained that flight training is still structured around the availability of CFIs, not the desires or schedule of the
students. "This is just stupid," he said. In response to this, Redbird has partnered with Cessna and King Schools to develop a new simulator and computer-based system that will allow students to
absorb flight training at a pace that suits them, rather than relying on a CFI who may cancel a lesson to fly a charter.
For its part, the FAA has committed to support community based efforts to overhaul the flight instruction system without resorting to additional regulation. In this podcast, the FAA's Mel Cintron, head of the agency's general aviation and commercial division, says the agency has lauched a five-year program
to reduce the industry's fatal accident rateestimated to be about 1.2/100,000. In a brief luncheon address, he told the group that the agency will listen to support safety initiatives coming
from the field. "Hold us accountable and let's work together on this," he said. "It's a serious, serious matter and we know that."
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A search team has recovered the cockpit voice recorder from Air France Flight 447, which crashed into the Atlantic Ocean in June 2009, killing all 228 on board. A remotely operated vehicle
retrieved the CVR from the ocean floor, 12,800 feet down, on Tuesday morning, and it appears to be intact and in good condition (more photos are posted online at the French accident investigation bureau). Investigators also recovered the flight data
recorder last week, but it is not yet clear how much data, if any, will be recoverable from the two devices after nearly two years submerged at such great depths. The units are designed to withstand
impact and immersion, but only for 30 days. French transport minister Thierry Mariani said investigators hope to report on their data-retrieval efforts within about three weeks.
Air France CEO Pierre-Henri Gourgeon called the CVR retrieval "another decisive step forward in the inquiry" and thanked investigators for "persevering in this arduous search." The Airbus A330
crashed about 600 miles off the coast of Brazil while en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris. Data from automated transmissions sent by the jet in its final moments suggest that the jet's airspeed
sensors were transmitting faulty data as the aircraft flew at high altitude in bad weather. In March, a French court filed preliminary manslaughter charges against Air France and Airbus in connection
with the crash.
EAA AirVenture Oshkosh: The World's Greatest Aviation Celebration July 25-31
It's gonna be a big year at Oshkosh. We're celebrating 100 Years of Naval Aviation all week long. Plus: Special tributes to Bob Hoover and Burt Rutan, a Monday concert by REO
Speedwagon, the return of the Saturday night air show, and innovation in the air with the Electric Flight Prize competition.
For more information or to buy your tickets online and save,
The fifth annual CAFE Electric Aircraft Symposium convened over the weekend in Santa Rosa, Calif., bringing together about 30 presenters with an enthusiastic audience to discuss emerging
technologies for personal aircraft. Topics included STOL aerodynamics, new sources of energy production, lithium battery developments, flight deck automation, suburbia-based air-taxi systems,
high-efficiency motors, quiet propeller designs, and more. The Symposium also provided a forum to introduce the 13 aircraft that will compete in July for $1.65 million in prizes in the Green Flight
Challenge, sponsored by NASA. "There was a lot of enthusiasm and networking," CAFE President Brian Seeley told AVweb this week. "We are building a new industry. 2011 will go down in history as
the dawn of electric flight."
Among those competing in the Green Flight Challenge is Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, with a team flying the EcoEagle, a modified Stemme motorglider. (Click here to see AVweb's video about the airplane from Sun 'n Fun.) Other competitors include
Yuneec Aircraft, Penn State University teamed with Pipistrel, and Greg Cole of Windward Performance. Several teams are building new designs from scratch, including the Synergy team from Montana, with
a double-box-tailed five-place composite airplane. The competition will be held July 11 to 17 in Santa Rosa, Calif. Aircraft must fly 200 miles in less than two hours using the equivalent of less than
1 gallon of gas per occupant. The means of propulsion is not specified, and entrants will use standard gasoline, bio-fuels, electric batteries, and other technologies. More info about last weekend's
symposium can be found at the CAFE web site and Facebook
page; details about the July competition are posted here.
The name Skycar may evoke images of futuristic "flying cars," but Oma Sud's version, built in Italy, is actually a fairly conventional utility aircraft that just won its FAA certification. "This
important milestone for Oma Sud opens the market in the United States," company President Valter Proietti wrote in an announcement on Monday. The piston twin pusher, which was certified by EASA last
August, is designed with two seats up front and three in the back. The wide cabin can be adapted to a variety of roles -- air taxi, light cargo, or medevac. A rear access hatch located between the
twin tails provides easy access. Proietti gave AVweb a tour of the airplane at EAA Airventure last year; click
here to check it out.
The company is now completing the development of a special Surveyor version of the Skycar for uses such as maritime patrol, border control, or environmental monitoring, Proietti said this week. One
has been sold to Italy's State Police, fitted with optical instruments for day and night surveillance operations. It will start flight testing at the end of the month, Proietti said. The Skycar can
fly from paved runways or dirt strips, the company says. Two Lycoming IO-360 engines power the aircraft up to 160 knots for about 700 nm. The company is already operating in Florida, with a commercial
office at Miami International Airport and a logistics base at Opa Locka Airport.
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Many volunteer pilots tried in vain after Hurricane Katrina to offer their services to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help provide relief, but
now FEMA is working with AERObridge, an NBAA-endorsed group, to plan ahead for GA support in future emergencies. An exercise is planned for May 13 to 17 to simulate response to a massive earthquake along the New
Madrid Seismic Zone, which runs beneath several central states. FEMA needs volunteer pilots and high-wing airplanes with a top speed of 120 knots or less that could be used for surveillance.
Activities for the exercise will take place at command posts, emergency operation centers, and other locations in the Washington, D.C., area and the eight states that could be affected by an
earthquake in the seismic zone: Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee, Illinois, Indiana, Arkansas, and Missouri.
AERObridge President Marianne Stevenson will be stationed in the control center in Washington, D.C., to oversee the participation of general aviation assets. "We are excited to participate with
FEMA and other public and private organizations during the exercise so we can further demonstrate the power of general aviation to assist in emergency response operations," Stevenson said. "Although
FEMA is beginning to understand the capability of our industry and the generosity of its members, this exercise will provide even greater insight." For more information or to volunteer, go to the AERObridge web site.
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"Goodyear Airship" just doesn't have the same ring to it but the iconic blimps are being phased out in favor of a rigid design. The rubber company announced Tuesday it's teaming with Zeppelin
Luftschifftechnik, of Friedrichshafen, Germany, to build three Zeppelin NT airships to replace the gas bags that now circle the stadiums of the nation. The $21 million airships will be built at
Goodyear's blimp-making facility in Akron in a team effort between Goodyear and Zeppelin. Goodyear took a test drive in an appropriately decorated Zeppelin over Europe last summer. The Zeppelin model
delivers considerably better performance and payload over the Goodyear creations.
The Zeppelin NT is 246 feet long compared to the current blimps' 193 feet. The rigid ship will go 73 mph, 19 mph faster than the blimp, and the Zeppelin's gondola will carry 13 people compared to
the blimp's seven. The new aircraft will be powered by three Lycoming IO-360 engines. The first airship will go into service in 2014. Goodyear keeps its lighter-than-air fleet at bases in Akron, Oh.;
Pompano Beach, Fla.; and Carson, Calif.
The recent buying spree of U.S. aviation companies by the Chinese appears to be a coordinated effort to ensure the country cashes in on the phased liberalization of airspace restrictions. People's Daily, the official organ of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, reported on
Tuesday that state-owned AVIC International Holding Corporation recently completed its acquisition of Mobile, Ala.-based Teledyne Continental Motors and the purchase "will make AVIC International
better prepared for the burgeoning general aviation market in the country." It also touts the pending sale of Cirrus Aircraft to China Aviation Industry General Aircraft Company (CAIGA) "will greatly
enhance CAIGA's production capacity, and help it meet the surging demand for general aviation aircraft as China looks to further open up its low-altitude airspace." It's worth noting that CAIGA was
formed in May of 2010, not long before reports began circulating that Cirrus was being sold to the Chinese. The deal was formally announced Feb. 28 and must still be approved by U.S. regulators.
People's Daily unveiled the timeline for the opening up of low-level airspace in China. It quotes Li Jiaxiang, director of the Civil Aviation Administration of China, as saying the plan is to phase
in the airspace liberalization and have all airspace below 3,000 meters open by 2015. The plan was laid out pretty clearly in the story. "The development of the whole industry will be accelerated
through cooperating with foreign companies and introducing advanced technologies to develop China's own products and intellectual property rights," said Wang Xia, deputy president of the General
Aviation College under the Civil Aviation University of China. "As foreign companies have limited knowledge of the domestic general aviation policies and operating system, domestic enterprises still
have certain advantages. However, the advantages are temporary. We must advance with the times and continue to develop to maintain this advantage."
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If NATCA, the controllers' union, was entertaining the slightest notion that the FAA would approve its members reporting for midshifts with jammies and blankets in tow, I'd say that idea is
probably a dead letter by now. The politics are just all wrong, no matter how good the idea may be. And controllers aren't necessarily helping their own cause. In his latest post to the AVweb
Insider blog, Paul Bertorelli explains why.
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Is Your A&P Keeping Secrets?
Learn to recognize maintenance issues and take action before they turn into something big. The Light Plane Maintenance Toolbox shows you how.
Eventually, every instrument pilot gets a slam-dunk approach. IFR magazine's Jeff Van West explains how to practice for the slam to remove the guesswork and even add the
high-speed technique to your instrument flying toolbox.
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AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Cape Aviation at Cape Girardeau Regional Airport (KCGI) in
Cape Girardeau, Missouri.
AVweb reader Karen Austermiller found herself seeking shelter from the rash of spring storms at Cape just a few days ago:
Last week, between waves of the severe springtime storm pattern, we were on a ferry flight between Phoenix and Pontiac, MI and looking for a place to set down for the night. Having recently passed
over a frontal line of developing puffies, we had hangar space at the top of the priority list. Checking the possibilities, it looked like Cape Girardeau might work, even though we both said we
probably can't even pronounce it on the radio. (Dang Westerners!) Nevertheless, we stopped in, almost at closing time, and the remaining manager on duty scurried to find hangar space and move some
stuff around to get the Cirrus tucked away for the night. Then he set us up with the courtesy car and got a hotel on the line (with a discount), and we were off for a wild evening of local bad
weather observation. From the safety of a great 100-year-old building, housing a local fine restaurant called Molly's, we were fascinated by the sophisticated severe weather reporting that played out
on TV all evening. Not at all like the tornado horn, run-for-the-basement-and-send-your-brother-out-in-an-hour-to-check stuff that we both recalled. This system is amazing, and it was a pretty
interesting evening amongst a lot of really nice people. Cape Girardeau seems like a fine spot in nice weather, but they sure know how to handle the bad stuff in a way that makes visitors feel pretty
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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