AVwebFlash - Volume 17, Number 29b

July 21, 2011

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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AVflash! Congressional Countdown for the FAA back to top 
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DOT: Washington Gridlock Threatens FAA, Immediately

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood expressed his concerns Wednesday that disagreements between the House and Senate could halt FAA funded projects by Friday and the FAA warned that could lead to thousands of furloughs as early as Saturday. The problem is that a temporary measure to fund the FAA is set to expire Friday. And the extension passed Wednesday by the House includes new language that is unlikely to pass the Senate. Without the Senate's approval of that extension, some form of shutdown is expected to impact the FAA by Saturday. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood expressed his concerns Wednesday in a statement released by the DOT. "Congress needs to stop playing games, work out its differences, and pass a clean FAA bill immediately," LaHood said. FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt is already estimating the fallout if Congress fails to reach an agreement.

The FAA employs about 32,000 workers in addition to roughly 15,500 air traffic controllers. If the extension is not passed by Friday, a shutdown could be imposed that could essentially lay off 4,000 employees not directly involved in critical operations, according to the FAA. The work of controllers is considered critical, and they would remain on the job. The actual extent of the furloughs would be decided by the cash available in a federal trust fund for aviation and the duration of a shutdown. Non-critical workers targeted by layoffs include those involved in things like construction, safety planning and NextGen research. According to FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt, "We need them at work." The Senate's version of the extension bill included cuts for 10 airports served by Essential Air Services funding. The House is seeking to eliminate funding for three more airports and to cap federal subsidies at $1,000 per passenger. Other changes in the House's version would make it more difficult for airline workers to unionize by treating every non-vote as a "no" vote. That change would remove the current rule that allows unions to be formed by a simple majority among those voting.

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FAA, DOD Remind You to See and Avoid back to top 

New FAA Web Site Targets Midair Collisions

A new web site hosted by the FAA in conjunction with the Department of Defense aims to provide general aviation pilots with information about operations in military airspace. "This portal will allow users to find and link to all existing military Mid-Air Collision Avoidance (MACA) programs in a single web site, while also enjoying new access to information from military bases that did not previously have web-based content," the FAA said on Wednesday. "Our goal is to eliminate mid-air collisions and reduce close calls through continuous flight safety and proper flight planning." The site, SeeAndAvoid.org, is designed for ease of use, with lots of Google maps and graphics. Data is included from the MACA programs of all DoD aviation installations in the continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii, the Virgin Islands, Guam and Puerto Rico.

Since 1978, there has been an average of 30 midair collisions in the U.S. each year, the FAA said, resulting in an average of 75 deaths per year. There are also over 450 near-collisions reported each year. As recently as February 2006, a civilian pilot was killed when his airplane crashed after colliding with an Air Force jet. The FAA noted that some military action may not be displayed at the new site, so pilots must still be cautious when flying in airspace that might be used by military aircraft. A user's guide to the web site will be available later this summer, the FAA said.

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Tomorrow's Tech Today back to top 

Scaled Unveils Hybrid "Flying Car"

Over the weekend, Scaled Composites unveiled to the press Burt Rutan's version of a "roadable aircraft," the last design he completed for the company he founded before he retired earlier this year. The two-seat hybrid-electric BiPod hasn't flown, but it has completed some "test hops" on the runway at Mojave, powered by its driving wheels. The aircraft is designed to have four propellers, two on the wings and two on the horizontal stabilizer, which haven't yet been installed. The wings come off and can be stowed between the pods. The left pod has driving controls and the right one has flight controls.

The BiPod is designed to be powered by two gasoline engines similar to those in the Chevrolet Volt, which would power electric generators to drive four 15-kilowatt motors for the four props (only two motors would be needed to drive the wheels in ground mode). Lithium batteries in the nose, which are recharged in flight, provide reserve power. On the ground, the vehicle could cover an estimated 800 miles on 18 gallons of gas (44 mpg) or travel up to 35 miles purely on electric power. In the air, the BiPod is designed to travel up to 530 miles at 200 mph. Scaled said work on the BiPod intensified as Rutan's retirement date neared. The four-month project was valued as a last chance for young engineers at the company to work with the legendary designer before his departure. Scaled is reportedly not interested in completing the prototype, but is shopping around for interest from any partners. "We're open as to what the options might be," said Scaled president Doug Shane. EAA said the aircraft is not scheduled to appear at EAA AirVenture next week; however, since Rutan has always unveiled new designs at Oshkosh, they wouldn't rule it out.

Boeing To Re-Engine 737

Wednesday, Boeing announced plans to fit new more efficient CFM International Leap-X engines to members of its 737 family of aircraft, offering potential fuel savings of more than 10 percent on existing airframes. The new engines are not plug-and-play -- Boeing will have to re-engineer its planes to accept the engines and associated systems -- and Boeing's decision is not yet etched in stone. A final decision is expected by fall, but the option has reportedly been extended to American Airlines as part of the airline's massive order for at least 460 new aircraft split between Boeing and Airbus. The order is said to include 100 re-engined Boeings. And it may put pressure on certain other manufacturers' clean-sheet designs.

Bombardier's CSeries is that manufacturer's bid to eventually claim half of the world's market for 100 to 149-seat aircraft. If Boeing delivers a smaller re-engined airliner like the 737-700, it could become a competitive alternative to Bombardier's even smaller CSeries. But analysts are offering different opinions about the ultimate effect of Boeing's re-engined aircraft. Some believe they will offer more competition to new designs like the CSeries. Others suggest potential buyers have simply been waiting to see if Boeing would offer a clean-sheet design of its own, and without that option their decision in favor of the CSeries may soon be made. Having lost out on the massive order from American, Delta may prove to be Bombardier's next pivotal battleground.

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Last Year's Tomorrow Tech back to top 

X2 Retires, Heads For Oshkosh

Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation's X2 technology demonstrator flew for the last time last week, and next week it will be on display at EAA AirVenture at Oshkosh. The innovative helicopter, winner of the 2010 Collier Prize, achieved a level flight speed of 253 knots, an unofficial speed record. The X2 is propelled by a unique system of counter-rotating rigid rotor blades powered by a turboshaft engine, plus a rear pusher prop. Sikorsky said the five-year research program achieved its objectives -- low single-pilot workload, low vibration, low acoustic signature, and high speed -- and will now evolve into an effort to design and fly the S-97 Raider, a light tactical helicopter for the U.S. military. Two prototypes will be built and evaluated. "These aircraft are designed to be capable of 10,000-foot hover out of ground effect on a 95-degree day," said Mark Miller, Sikorsky's vice president of research and engineering. "The future awaits this technology, and today we can say that we see it on the horizon."

At Oshkosh next week, the X2 will be on display at Booths 379-380 and 385-386 near ConocoPhillips Plaza. Forums about the project will be held on Monday and Thursday; click here for details. Sikorsky also will display its Project Firefly all-electric helicopter technology demonstrator, an S-300CTM helicopter with a high-efficiency, 200-hp electric motor and digital controller coupled with a lithium-ion energy storage system. The Firefly also features automated monitoring and alert technologies and next-generation cockpit displays. Participation from the rotorcraft community in AirVenture is expanding this year with a new Heli Center, established in conjunction with Helicopter Association International. At Heli-Expo in March, AVweb's Russ Niles got a close-up look at the X2; click here for his video report.

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On Your Mark, Get Set ... back to top 

Aircraft Beat Carmegeddon, But Bikes Beat All

Jet Blue's 29-mile, $8 "microflights" between Burbank and Long Beach during last weekend's shutdown of the 405 freeway sold out within two hours, but a group of bicycle advocates proved they had an even better alternative -- they beat the airline's door-to-door travel time by more than a half hour. Dubbed the "Tour de Carmageddon," six members of the Wolfpack Hustle biking club started from a Burbank sidewalk as a passenger left for the airport, pedaled for 40 miles to  downtown Long Beach, and had a good time doing it. Other residents, however, found that chartering a helicopter was the best way to get around the crowded cityscape. "It's the only way to travel," Kevin Norris told the L.A. Times, after paying $150 to fly by helicopter from Van Nuys to LAX in 14 minutes, to catch a flight to France.

Jet Blue flew its Airbus A320s on the 12-minute microflights, and never climbed above 5,000 feet, offering passengers a close-up view of the closed freeway. A company spokesman said the airline has no intention to make the local flights a regular route. Panic over the freeway closure in crowded L.A. made the national news, but in the end most drivers stayed home and the predicted traffic jams never materialized.

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What You Missed in AVwebBiz This Week back to top 

User Fees Back On Table

As the cash-strapped U.S. government searches under the sofa cushions for extra cash, general aviation user fees are back on the radar. All the major aviation groups have signed a letter (PDF) to House Speaker John Boehner opposing the user fee idea as inefficient and potentially damaging to GA. The idea was floated at meetings concerning the debt ceiling debate and the alphabets say the concept has been thoroughly debated in the past and rejected and it hasn't gotten any better with age. "User fees have absolutely devastated general aviation in other parts of the world, and in the United States, they would only serve to create a new federal collection bureaucracy of billing agents, auditors and collection officials to harass small businesses and others," the letter reads.

Details of the proposed fees were sketchy but Helicopter Association International (HAI) says a $25 charge of some sort is involved. The groups all support the funding of aviation-related government services through the current system of fuel taxes, which they say provides a reliable and appropriate stream of funds to the government that is efficiently collected at the pumps.

Europe Fights LightSquared

The European Commission has added its name to the long list of those opposed to LightSquared's plan to use satellite band frequencies for a ground network of broadband transmitters. The proposal, which is now before the Federal Communications Commission for comment, has been widely condemned by pro-GPS companies and organizations in the U.S. because it could disrupt GPS service. The European Commission is now officially worried the broadband signals will obliterate signals from its Galileo satellite-based navigation system, which will deploy in three years, and Heinz Zourek, the director general for enterprise and industry, says the signals may have an even greater impact on Galileo equipment than the interference being reported on GPS receivers. "Interference effects have been determined to occur in the range [of] 100 [meters] to almost 1,000 [kilometers]," Zourek said in a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.

The main concern is that Galileo receivers operating in the U.S. will be affected by the signals but Zourek notes GPS users will also be affected by the interference caused to Galileo signals. He said Galileo is designed to work hand-in-glove with GPS to improve accuracy and reliability. Zourek acknowledged that individual countries can allocate radio spectrum as they see fit but international conventions don't allow interference with the systems of other countries.

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

Question of the Week: User Fees Again?

This time, instead of incremental fees for flying the system, it looks like some of your elected representatives think a $25 "departure fee" is in order. What do you think?

What's your opinion on the latest user fees proposal?
(click to answer)

Last Week's Question: Results

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Survey: Have You Had Your Airplane Painted Recently?

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Opinion & Commentary back to top 

AVweb Insider Blog: The Power of Engagement

The crowds at Oshkosh are the best in the world, says Mary Grady. In a podcast last week, she asked air show pilot Mike Goulian why that is, and he offered up a simple explanation that got Mary thinking about the differences between an AirVenture crowd and the one you'll see at a typical air show.

Read more and join the conversation.

AVweb Insider Blog: A Textbook Bail-Out?

That's what Rob Davies's exit from a damaged P-51 Mustang last week in the UK looked like, at least on video. On the AVweb Insider blog, Paul Bertorelli examines some of the risk factors in low-altitude bail-outs.

Read more and join the conversation.

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

Video: AVweb's Russ Niles Goes Wingwalking

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

Wingwalking is like having the world at your feet with your cheeks wrapped around your neck. Thanks to Breitling Chonometers, editor Russ Niles got to try it.

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Video: Trying to Learn the G1000? Aviation Consumer Reviews Training Programs

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

There are at least a half-dozen training programs that offer help. In this video, Aviation Consumer's Paul Bertorelli takes a brief look at some of the offerings. Each has plusses and minuses, but any of them can get you ready to fly the G1000, if not confident and proficient.

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Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Yelvington Jet Aviation (KDAB, Daytona Beach, FL)

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

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Yelvington Jet Aviation at Daytona Beach International Airport (KDAB) in Daytona Beach, Florida.

AVweb reader Ron Horton tells us how the Yelvington exceeded his every expectation last week:

Despite the "jet" in their name, Yelvington was extremely helpful as we flew our Cessna 182 from North Carolina to KDAB to watch the final space shuttle launch. We called all the FBOs at KDAB, and Yelvington alone answered with courtesy, efficiency, and a desire to help us make our trip easy. Their fuel prices were the lowest on the field; they handled us quickly on the ramp despite the bad weather; they shuttled us to the terminal to pick up our rental car; and the warm cookies inside were a bonus! When we were headed from the Cape to KDAB for departure, we called for them to get the plane out of the hangar — they got it out, but when the storm beat us to the airport, they put it back in the hangar for safety and rolled it back out after we arrived and the storm had passed. We will definitely take advantage of Yelvington's hospitality when we return to KDAB.

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 Brian Breighner of Cumberland, MD. 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:

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.

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