AVwebFlash Complete Issue: Volume 17, Number 21b

May 26, 2011

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
 
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AVflash! Air France 447: Pilot Error Anticipated back to top 
 
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WSJ: Air France 447 Pilots Missed Key Information

Sources speaking ahead of an official release of information expected Friday suggest that content collected from the cockpit voice and data recorders of Air France Flight 447 is building a case for pilot error. The investigation has so far implicated pitot tubes, which may have fallen victim to icing at 35,000 feet. But The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that "people familiar with preliminary findings" say that while the pitots did cause sensor malfunctions, cockpit displays functioned normally. Problems with the Airbus A330's pitot tubes led to a series of automation failures, disconnects, warnings and alarms for Flight 447. The sources say that while the crew was working the series of problems, they appear to have missed other essential information.

According to the Journal, the crew "apparently had difficulty" keeping track of information that included power settings and the aircraft's flight path. Information gleaned from 447's cockpit voice and flight data recorders have not yet implicated any major system failure or malfunction of the aircraft itself that could have directly led to the crash. But a report published by investigators soon after the crash looked at 13 other airspeed sensor malfunctions on Airbus widebodies and found that sensor malfunctions had caused both the autopilot and autothrottles to disconnect. It found that crews took up to one minute to adjust engine thrust, manually, and nine of the episodes led to stall warnings. Airbus and Air France were aware of problem associated with the pitot tubes. The airline received replacement parts (new pitot tubes) six days before Flight 447 crashed. The crash aircraft had not yet been fitted with the new parts. Airbus and certain carriers (including Air France) have since emphasized instruction in high-altitude stall recovery. All 228 on board Air France Flight 447 died when the jet crashed into the Atlantic off the coast of Brazil on June 1, 2009. The impact crushed the bottom of the aircraft, suggesting it hit the water hard and at a relatively flat attitude.

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The Next Step for Swift Fuel back to top 
 

Swift Fuel Moves Forward With ASTM Standard

Swift Enterprises, which is working to create an alternative aviation fuel to replace 100LL, said this week it has taken "a large step" forward in the approval process. ASTM International has published a new fuel specification for Swift's UL102 high-octane unleaded test fuel. "This will allow us to test every batch of a fuel to a standard, and verify that it is all the same," PJ Catania, the head of fuels certification for Swift, told AVweb on Monday. That consistency is important for completing the next phase of testing, he said. It also will enable the company to test the fuel in standard airplanes, rather than only experimental aircraft, which will make it easier to gather large amounts of data, Catania said. However, that phase of testing the fuel in standard airplanes is still at least six months away.

First, the company must get the okay from engine manufacturers to use the Swift fuel, he said. They are now in discussions with Lycoming, Continental, and Rotax, as well as some smaller manufacturers. The "biggest thing" about this week's announcement, Catania said, is that it shows the company is continuing to make positive progress with the ASTM process, even though it's slow. He said the FAA's creation earlier this  year of an Aviation Rulemaking Committee to address the transition to unleaded avgas will help to define the path forward. A public forum with that committee, scheduled for EAA AirVenture Oshkosh this summer, should help clarify how new fuel alternatives can move through the process from the testing phase to offer a commercially available lead-free avgas.

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Filling in the Blanks back to top 
 

FAA Addresses Test Problems

Flight instructors complained when unannounced changes to FAA knowledge tests led to a spike in student failures, and now the FAA has agreed to make changes in one test and revise the grades of students who got some questions wrong. Representatives of AOPA, the National Association of Flight Instructors, several university aviation programs, and others met with the FAA in Oklahoma City for two days earlier this month to discuss the problem. The FAA said it will withdraw six questions from the test bank for the Fundamentals of Instruction test, which is required for all applicants for flight and ground instructor certificates, and will change the grades of students who got the disputed questions wrong. The FAA will also review an additional 12 questions that were identified as ambiguous.

The FAA said in a follow-up email to participants in the meeting that in the future it will involve the flight-training industry and academics in the process of developing revisions to test banks and resource documents. The agency also said it will develop more detailed test guides to make it easier for instructors and students to prepare. Also, the FAA will notify all applicants who failed the FOI test if the changes now give them a passing grade. AOPA added that all applicants for the FOI test should study using the 2008 edition of the Aviation Instructor's Handbook (PDF), which as of February this year is the source of all questions on the exam.

 
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Panthera Hybrid Stalks Just the Right Compromises back to top 
 

Panthera: Is This The Plane To Catch?

The first aircraft from Pipistrel's coming Panthera line will carry four people and full fuel for more than 1000 nautical miles, with reserves, at 202 KTAS, while burning 10 gallons per hour -- and it may be the least efficient of the Panthera line. Pipistrel has plans to produce three versions of the aircraft, including the previously described unleaded-ready Lycoming IO-390-powered model; a Panthera Hybrid that includes a 145 kW hybrid-electric powertrain (offering quiet, pure-electric takeoff and landing); and a Panthera Electro, flying with a 145 kW pure-electric system that targets a range of 215 nautical miles. Where the pure-electric version offers apparent compromises, Pipistrel's description of the Panthera Hybrid offers nothing of the kind.

According to Pipistrel, the Panthera's "short-field, powerful climb, extreme aeroefficiency and long range" will be "further enhanced with the revolutionary hybrid powertrain." In fact, Pipistrel says its Hybrid is "a quantum leap forward" that will "pave the way for the future of aviation." The Lycoming-powered version requires a 1200-foot ground roll for takeoff that grows to 2200 feet when climbing over a 50-foot obstacle. Landing over that obstacle requires 1900 feet. Specifications defining the full capabilities of the hybrid are still forthcoming. Inside the aircraft, Pipistrel describes the rear seating as two-plus-one and, as a four-seater, "comfortable for passengers of any body type." Panthera's avionics gather around a Garmin G500 PFD/MFD and include touch-screen finger-drawn flight planning capability. The aircraft feature the GTN 750 and 635 dual COM/NAV. "Draw a path on the navigation screen with your finger and Panthera's full-featured autopilot can follow it," says Pipistrel. All Panthera airframes are based on carbon fiber composites, with strategic placement of antistatic materials and Kevlar, set on trailing link titanium retractable gear. All actuation systems are electric, to keep weight and complexity down, and there is a full-plane parachute designed to function at low and high speeds, and also at low altitudes. The aircraft will fly behind a custom-designed propeller and will use optimized exhaust systems. We expect to see the roughly $295,000 piston-only powered version, soon, with the hybrid and full-electric version to follow by roughly 2013.

 
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What You Missed in AVwebBiz This Week back to top 
 

D-Jet Financing Alternatives Explored

Diamond Aircraft President Peter Maurer says the company isn't ruling out anything, including Chinese investment, to get the D-Jet to market. As AVweb reported last week, the Canadian government turned down Diamond's $35 million loan application to finish the development program. In a podcast interview with AVweb, Maurer said the government loan, despite the dire scenarios portrayed by the Ontario media, was a "long shot" and the company has been working on other potential funding solutions throughout the politically charged talks with the government. Although Chinese involvement is a possibility, it's not the only one and Maurer said Diamond didn't start that discussion. "We've never talked about it. We've been asked about it a lot, though," he said.

Maurer noted Diamond has a long history of working with the Chinese and is involved in a joint venture to build diesel-powered DA40s in the country. Regardless of how the D-Jet is funded, the company and the private investors who have poured $120 million into the project have no intention of walking away from it. He said that when it comes to market, it could have the personal jet market virtually to itself, which is a far different scenario from five years ago when the project was launched and the light jet market was viewed as the next big thing. Diamond has about 200 firm orders for the D-Jet.

Hawker Beechcraft Eyes China

Hawker Beechcraft is the latest to announce it's considering building aircraft in China. CEO Bill Boisture told Bloomberg the company has been negotiating with Chinese officials about a technology transfer in exchange for greater access to the Chinese market, which is expected to grow rapidly with the relaxation of airspace regulations. Hawker Beech could potentially get 20 percent of its future business from China, Boisture said.

He said talks now revolve around a possible joint venture that will start with parts manufacturing and ultimately final assembly of aircraft in China. "I've been there three times since the first of the year and there are serious discussions about potential joint ventures," Boisture said. Among the considerations for a Chinese business jet is making it easier to fly, he said. The company is already working with Rockwell Collins, Honeywell and Garmin to develop new panels. "We have to pay attention to design and simplification of the product," he said. "You're going to see flat-screen displays and intuitive icons to get across the language barrier."

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Delivered every Wednesday morning, AVwebBiz focuses on the companies, the products and the industry leaders that make headlines in the business aviation industry, making it a must-read.

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We Ask, You Answer back to top 
 

Question of the Week: Fly the Airplane?

According to the Wall Street Journal, the crew of Air France 447 got so wrapped up in the management of systems they forgot to "fly the airplane" as so many of us had drummed into us.

Has automation made us safer — or more vulnerable?
(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.)

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

AVweb's Newstips Address ...

Our best stories start with you. If you've heard something 255,000 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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Opinion & Commentary back to top 
 

AVweb Insider Blog: Media-Induced Greenwashing of Aviation Fuels

The questionable reporting, says Paul Bertorelli in his latest post to the AVweb Insider blog, is not so much intentional as failing to ask the right questions.

Read more and join the conversation.

AVweb Insider Blog: Dropping the Third Class Medical — Good Idea?

Dropping the Third Class medical is an idea whose time may have come, says Paul Bertorelli — but in his latest post to the AVweb Insider blog he reminds us that it will have significant consequences for the LSA market.

Read more and join the conversation.

AVweb Insider Blog: Sky King, Where Are You?

International Learn to Fly Day reaches out to the general population and provides plenty of information on aviation — but inspiration is a lot harder to come by. On the AVweb Insider blog, Mary Grady wonders what fills the adventure-shaped hole in the heart of today's prospective pilots.

Read more and join the conversation.

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

Video: 100 Years of Naval Aviation — Erik Hildebrandt's 'Fly Navy'

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

No one does aviation quite like the Navy, and carriers are only half of the story. In this vodcast, author/photographer Erik Hildebrandt talks about his experiences in shooting and compiling an impressive history of a century of naval aviation.

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Try disabling ad blockers and refreshing this page.
If that doesn't work, click here to download the video directly.

Video: Simulator Training for GA with 'IFR' Magazine

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

Come ride along on some simulator training in a Cirrus SR22 to see the kinds of things you can do better in the box than in the real world. We'll also give you some tips for getting the most out of your simulator time.

Don't see a video screen?
Try disabling ad blockers and refreshing this page.
If that doesn't work, click here to download the video directly.

 
Your Favorite FBOs back to top 
 

FBO of the Week: Cox Aviation (Big Sandy Regional Airport/K22, Prestonsburg, KY)

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

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Cox Aviation at Big Sandy Regional Airport (K22) in Prestonsburg, Kentucky.

AVweb reader Linda Langrill had no shortage of good things to say about this FBO she discovered on the way to Sun 'n Fun this year:

We got stuck in weather on our way down to Sun 'n Fun ... . The best thing that happened was that the nearest airport to our location was the Big Sandy Regional Airport (K22) at Prestonsburg, KY. We were greeted by FBO manager Gary Cox with a friendly smile and efficient, friendly service. The official airport kitty, Saltine, greeted us out on the ramp. The lobby of the FBO had just been remodeled, complete with a gas log fireplace, newly tiled restrooms, well-equipped flight planning room, and (most of all) friendly people everywhere we went. The restaurant adjacent to the FBO, the Cloud 9 Cafe, is worth flying or driving in to experience. ... Lauren, Mr. Cox's daughter, operates the restaurant. We ate there twice during our two-day stay in Prestonsburg, and on Sunday afternoon we had to wait in line. Well worth the wait. We have recommended this airport and FBO to every pilot we talk with. If you are on your way south or north, east or west, and if you get anywhere near this airport, plan to stop. You will not be sorry!

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: AVweb's Flying Photography Showcase

This week's winning photo comes from Michael G. Paris of Keller, TX. Click here for the rest of this week's submissions.


 
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.