AVwebFlash Complete Issue: Volume 17, Number 33b

August 18, 2011

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
 
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AVflash! High-Tech, High-Profile Unveiling back to top 
 

Sukhoi's Stealthy T-50 (PAK FA) Goes Public

Sukhoi's Stealthy T-50 (PAK FA) Goes Public Russia chose the MAKS 2011 airshow near Moscow to this week publicly unveil what's generally billed as its answer to the U.S. F-22 Raptor, the Sukhoi T-50. The stealthy air superiority fighter flew a six-minute demonstration after secret tests in January of last year. Russian news agencies claim the aircraft has similar speed, range, altitude, and load-carrying specifications as the Raptor, with an emphasis on maneuverability that may surpass that of the U.S. jet. Russian sources also claim it will be produced at a fraction of the price. Whatever the case, the jet could pose a very strong challenge ... especially so long as the U.S.'s Raptor remains grounded for its ability to poison its own pilots.

The T-50 can reportedly fly from 1200-foot strips, has all-weather capability and can attack air and ground targets simultaneously. The new Sukhoi, which was developed with participation from India, would cost about $100 million per copy, according to news agency AFP. The same source said the Raptor sells for $140 million per plane -- other sources calculate those figures differently. Russia plans to produce as many as 1,000 PAK FAs over decades of production that may begin within five years. Full production is scheduled for roughly 2015. India is expected to purchase as many as 200. Meanwhile, the U.S. F-22 Raptor active fleet of roughly 160 aircraft remains grounded as investigators work to source a problem with the system that feeds oxygen to pilots. Blood tests have found toxins in pilots of the F-22 who complained of symptoms similar to hypoxia while flying the jet.

 
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Funding for Future Fuels back to top 
 

Administration Pledges Half-Billion For Biofuels

The federal government will spend up to $510 million over the next three years to develop "drop-in" biofuels for aircraft, ships, and ground transportation, for both military and civilian use, the Obama administration announced on Tuesday. The plan aims to jump-start biofuels efforts, while creating jobs in rural states. It requires private investors to put up matching funds, and will support the construction of several plants and refineries to help speed the development of next-generation fuels. "These pioneer plants will demonstrate advanced technologies to produce infrastructure-compatible, drop-in renewable fuels from America's abundant biomass resources," said Energy Secretary Steven Chu. "It will support development of a new, rural-focused industry that will replace imported crude oil with secure, renewable fuels made here in the U.S."

The new plan is the result of an agreement (PDF) between the departments of energy and agriculture and the Navy. The plan also will help the government meet goals to reduce foreign oil imports by one-third by 2025 and cut in half the Navy's dependence on fossil fuels by 2020. "We have been making rapid progress in the next generation of biofuels ... which has put us on the cusp of a biofuels revolution," says Chu. Tuesday's announcement shows that the government is committed to "keep the momentum going," he said.

 
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Deck Operations Go Digital back to top 
 

MIT Helps Update Aircraft Carrier Technology

Crew members aboard U.S. aircraft carriers still use a scale model with miniature airplanes to keep track of all the activity on the deck, but the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is developing a computerized system to simplify that process. Prof. Mary Cummings and her students in the Humans and Automation Lab have designed a "deck operations course of action planner" that can track flight data and create new deck operation schedules. The team created a display that shows a map of the carrier deck. Crew, vehicles, and aircraft would be outfitted with sensor tags that transmit their position to the display. Side panels show the type and number of aircraft in line to land and launch, and flight schedules. The team recently successfully demonstrated the system for the Office of Naval Research, which is funding the five-year project.

The system is not meant to be fully automated, but to provide suggestions that a human operator can accept or change. For example, a deck handler may see on the schedule that a pilot with a history of shaky landings is due to land. Based on this anecdotal knowledge, the handler may choose to move the plane up in the landing schedule. "If he botches it [the first time], we have enough time to give him another try," said student Jason Ryan. "That's something that's hard to program into systems, but it's something that a human can look at and understand." The planner could be especially helpful for managing the growing fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles, said Mark Steinberg, program officer for the ONR. "The long-term goal is, we would like to have unmanned autonomous systems on board, which require special procedures where you'd have to clear everything off the deck and implement certain safety measures," Steinberg said. "We would like to make this as easy as possible as we introduce more and more UAVs onto carriers."

 
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FAA Greenlights Hawker Updates back to top 
 

Hawker 800XPR Gets FAA OK

The FAA has granted supplemental type certification for the Hawker 800XPR, which replaces the XP's original engines with more powerful new Honeywell TFE731-50R powerplants and adds winglets for another performance boost. The upgrade, available only at factory-owned service facilities, offers "significant performance and capability improvements," the company said. The new engines improve fuel efficiency about 7 percent, according to Hawker, and longer maintenance intervals translate to a 32-percent reduction in maintenance costs. The new engines also are quieter and produce fewer carbon emissions than the ones they replace.

The increased power drives the 800XPR to FL410 at maximum takeoff weight in 25 minutes, and it will reach FL370 three minutes faster than the 800XP. That climb capability plus improved fuel efficiency translates into true transcontinental range and faster block times, the company said. New avionics options, new style and communications options for the cabin, and custom paint designs also are available with the new model. The cost for the upgrade is about $3.8 million; first deliveries are expected in September. EASA certification is pending.

 
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News Briefs back to top 
 

Stolen Plane Crashes, Pilot Missing

A Piper PA32 crashed in a wooded area about 20 miles from Horace Williams Airport, in North Carolina, Tuesday at about 7 a.m. -- the aircraft was stolen, the pilot was missing, and someone left a blood trail. According to local police, the pilot is believed to have escaped out the front window of the aircraft after the crash. He or she then crawled onto the wing before leaving the scene into the surrounding woods. Authorities say there was no significant fuel spilled at the sight of the crash. According to local news, as of Wednesday evening the pilot had been identified, but not found.

The aircraft had been stolen sometime Monday night or early Tuesday morning and a search had involved the Civil Air Patrol (CAP), which tracked the aircraft's ELT beacon. Satellites had picked up the signal, presumably when the aircraft crashed. The aircraft was located and identified by CAP, which ran a search for the registered owner. Authorities allege the Piper Saratoga was stolen by 46-year-old Curtis Rene Mellott. A warrant was issued for Mellott on charges of felonious larceny and felonious possession of stolen property. Bloodhounds were brought in to track the pilot, who authorities speculated may be disoriented and wandering in the woods.

Cathay Pacific Fires Pilot, F/A Over Online Sex Photos

Cathay Pacific has suspended an upcoming ad campaign that promised its crews would "go the extra mile to make you feel special" after photos were posted online showing a pilot and flight attendant engaged in a sex act in a cockpit. The male pilot and female f/a, whose names were not released by the airline, were apparently in uniform, though the pilot had a sweater on. The airline said it does not believe the airplane was flying at the time. Both employees are no longer employed by the company, according to airline officials. It was not clear how the photos made it into the public domain; various news reports say they were "stolen" from the pilot's laptop computer. The airline said the ad campaign, due to start Sept. 1, will be delayed for a month.

"The timing of this scandal really could not have been worse in marketing terms," a Cathay Pacific executive told the South China Morning Post, on condition of anonymity. "A whole new set of pictures of staff in off-duty poses has been taken for the next phase of what has been an enormously effective global campaign. But the scope for the slogan and the campaign to be misinterpreted, or ridiculed and lampooned, in light of the cockpit incident is obvious. So it looks like it's going to be postponed at least for a while," the executive said.

 
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What You Missed in AVwebBiz This Week back to top 
 

G650 Deliveries By Year's End

Gulfstream says it is maintaining its test schedule for the flagship G650 despite the crash of a test airplane that killed four people in April and the resulting two-month suspension of flight testing. The company says it is on track for certification "later this year" and will deliver 10 to 12 of the $65 million planes by the end of the year. "We're on track and moving steadily toward certification later this year," Pres Henne, Gulfstream senior vice president for programs, engineering and test, told the Savannah Morning News. "We've accomplished a great deal in the past two months. The aircraft continue to perform extremely well."

The four test aircraft have flown 1760 of 2200 hours in the test program and have ticked off most of the significant items on the test schedule. The aircraft will be in a league of its own for at least a couple of years with its combination of long legs (7,000 nm) and high speed (Mach .925 max). Bombardier has answered the challenge with two new models that will be available starting in 2016 for the Global 7000 and 2017 for the Global 8000.

BizAv Weathering Latest Financial Storm

The current economic turmoil likely won't be felt much by the general aviation industry but that's because things couldn't really get much worse for GA manufacturers. Most analysts believe the roller coaster stock market will stabilize without affecting the bottom lines of most companies. Still, it's another reason for those thinking of buying an airplane to pause in the process and that could have some impact on the manufacturers. Teal Group analyst Richard Aboulafia was interviewed by several publications over the past few days and he's sticking to his basic prediction that meaningful recovery won't be felt by GA companies until next year and even then it's not clear what it will look like. Meanwhile, bizjet specialist Brian Foley says the recovery, once it does take hold, will be the very best kind of uptick.

Foley issued a release this week saying that the market for business jets looks nothing like the boom years that led to the collapse in 2008. "Today's order books are of a much higher caliber, made up of those with the financial wherewithal to buy their own aircraft or by borrowers who have been heavily scrutinized by lenders and made meaningful down-payments," the release says. "The possibility of large scale fleet cancellations is also greatly diminished in the present environment." He noted there are no shaky air taxi or speculative charter ventures in the wings waiting to cancel huge orders that will gut company order books as happened in 2008.

AVwebBiz: AVweb's Business Aviation Newsletter

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Add AVwebBiz to your AVweb subscriptions today by clicking here and choosing "Update E-mail Subscriptions."

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

Question of the Week: Is the U.S. Losing Air Superiority?

Russia unveiled its answer to the F-22 this week (while the F-22 is grounded for safety issues), and the Chinese are busily testing a similar platform. Are they flashes in the pan, or is the U.S. falling off the cutting edge of military design?

Is the U.S. losing its air superiority?
(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.)

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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Click for the resource page.
 
Opinion & Commentary back to top 
 

AVweb Insider Blog: EAA's Not So Young Eagles

The EAA's Young Eagles program has introduced thousands of kids to the wonder of flight. Now EAA plans to expand this program to include adults. Can this possibly work? "Well, why not?" asks Paul Bertorelli on the AVweb Insider blog. As the association retools itself, it's perfectly positioned to take on the grassroots role of student pilot recruitment. The key to success will be execution.

Read more and join the conversation.

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

Video: Aviation Consumer's Remos NXT Flight Trial

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

Remos has a successful line of light sport aircraft, and now they've introduced a new and improved model, the NXT. Aviation Consumer's Paul Bertorelli flew the airplane recently, and here's his video report.

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: Tailwheels Etc. (KGIF, Winter Haven, Florida)

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

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon does not go to an FBO — but to a flight school! Australian AVweb reader Steve Vette explains how Tailwheels Etc. at Gilbert Airport (KGIF) in Winter Haven, Florida make his recent trip to the States memorable:

While visiting Winter Haven, Florida, the wife and self were exploring from Dundee the area for local air fields. As we both are avid aviators, our interest is airfields and/or landing fields. We encountered a lady by the name of Kate. She informed us that her great great grandfather was one of the [founders] of this airfield. Suitably impressed with the credentials provided by the various people and staff, we decided to hire a Cessna 172 for an hour. When the aircraft was allocated and we strapped ourselves in, we went flying. The panoramic scenery (for us Australians) defies description! I have no hesitation in commending the staff and ground personnel for their services, their briefings, and [their] attention to detail. ... Our flight was a special memory for my wife and myself. I hereby would like to commend Tailwheels, Etc. flying facility for their sincere and courteous attention in all aspects towards both of us.

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 Jason Robinson of Vancouver, WA. 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.

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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.