AVwebFlash - Volume 17, Number 37b

September 15, 2011

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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House Extends FAA Funding

It seems likely that the FAA will get yet another funding extension by the end of this week, with the U.S. House on Tuesday unanimously OK'ing expenditures through Jan. 31, 2012. That bill now is in the Senate, which must act by Friday to avert another shortfall like the one in July that forced the agency to lay off nearly 4,000 workers. The bill doesn't include any retroactive pay for those furloughed workers, although leaders in both parties had said they would support such a measure, according to The Associated Press.

U.S. Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., chairman of the House Transportation Committee, said this is the 22nd time Congress has extended the FAA funding, and he's hopeful that a new bill can be hammered out in the next four months. "I can guarantee it will be the last extension," he said. "We must and we will pass a four-year authorization." The long-term funding has bogged down in a variety of partisan issues including unionization rules and varying ideas about how the money to run the system should be raised and allocated.

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Rules and Regulations back to top 

FAA: No New Regs For Trikes

The FAA says it will not impose new regulations on the operators of weight-shift-control aircraft in Hawaii but will keep a close eye on them to ensure they are in compliance with existing regulations. Six people died in three crashes in the islands over the last year and a half, raising questions about the safety of the aircraft, also known as trikes. Two of the fatal flights apparently involved operators taking passengers for sightseeing tours, which is not allowed under FAA rules. Pilots can, however, offer introductory flight training. "It appears some operators are trying to get around the air-tour provision by offering scenic flights under the guise of introductory flying instructions," Nick Reyes, an FAA flight standards manager, told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser last week.

Reyes said the FAA will increase enforcement by dropping in on operators unannounced, interviewing pilots, and examining the records of aircraft operators. Any advertisements or websites that appear to offer air tours would result in enforcement action, ranging from warnings to revoked certificates, according to the Star-Advertiser. Officials already have hosted a meeting with trike operators to encourage more voluntary compliance. Five trike businesses operate in Hawaii, one each on the islands of Oahu, Kauai, and Maui, and two on Hawaii, also known as the Big Island.

FAA Issues AD For Two Lycoming Engines

The FAA has issued an airworthiness directive, effective Sept. 29, 2011, for a number of Lycoming reciprocating engines; the specific number of engines is two. The agency has decided that an unsafe condition exists that caused the failure of a crankshaft after 440 hours of operation. The cause of the failure was determined to be an improperly counterweighted crankshaft installed by a repair station. The FAA says it is issuing the AD because it has determined the unsafe condition is likely to exist "in other products of the same type design" ... specifically Lycoming model IO-720-AIB engine serial numbers L-1457-54A and L-1458-54A, which it has been unable to locate.

According to the FAA, the condition of the wayward engines "warrants immediate notice to advise the current or subsequent owner of the need to inspect the engines before further flight." But the FAA doesn't know where the engines are, or if they're in service. They were last known to be installed in a single Beech U-8F Queen Air registered as N51779, operating in the southern U.S. and Mexico. The aircraft's last registered owner appears to be Joronamo Inc., listed in Wilmington, Del. According to FlightAware.com, the Queen Air was flown Jan. 31, 2011, between Arlington Municipal airport and Mid Valley airport, on Texas' border with Mexico. The FAA estimates cost of compliance, which includes an engine inspection, to be about $170 dollars, as the required parts would cost nothing. Find the full AD online.

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Electric Heli with "Raging Tiger Under the Seat" back to top 

First Flight: Electric, Untethered, Piloted Helicopter

Pascal Chretien of France flew his own electric-powered helicopter design untethered for two minutes and 10 seconds last month, beating out Sikorsky's Firefly for the first flight of its kind. Chretien, an aerospace engineer and helicopter pilot, spent about a year working on the project, mostly on his own, according to Gizmag. He devised several innovative solutions to simplify the design and minimize the weight and power needs. He used two counter-rotating rotors to eliminate the tail rotor, weight-shift control for steering, and a simple frame welded from aluminum tubing. The system is tricky to fly, according to Chretien: "This machine looks like a toy, and flies like a toy, but there is a raging tiger under the seat, waiting to bite at the first mistake," he told Gizmag. "In case of crash I stand good chances to end up in kebab form."

Chretien hovered the helicopter on Aug. 12 in France, reaching a maximum height of 1 meter off the ground. It's powered by lithium batteries and brushless DC motors, according to EAA. Chretien's work was supported by Solution F, a French company that develops specialized hybrid engines for a variety of vehicles. Chretien told Gizmag he plans to continue refining the design and hopes to expand the flight envelope. He believes that a hybrid helicopter power system could prevent up to 40 percent of helicopter crashes, by providing reserve battery power in the event of an engine failure. AVweb's Glenn Pew took a tour of Sikorsky's Firefly at EAA AirVenture in 2010; click here for his video report.

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Too Much Transparency back to top 

Japan's Air Force One Blunder

The U.S. has reportedly filed a protest with the Japanese government after learning that a Japanese air traffic controller posted, online, details of the U.S. President's November 2010 flight plan in the region. The information is said to include two pages of details that the controller apparently made available through his blog. Details reportedly included speeds, altitudes, route of flight and pictures of computer screens -- the last of which may present information in a manner difficult for a layman to understand. Precise information about when that information was posted online (before or after Obama's visit) has not been made available. The controller has also allegedly posted other information about U.S. activities, raising larger concerns about the controllers' union and management.

The name of the controller has been withheld but he is described as "in his 50s" and a "chief air traffic controller" who had worked at Haneda Airport for 30 consecutive years. And that, in itself, is unusual. Questions have now been raised about how the controller was able to stay at one airport so long when most are rotated to different locations. Concerns have also arisen about how his longevity at the airport may have helped enable him to perform acts like snapping pictures of computer screens without being questioned or stopped. Aside from information about Air Force One, the controller also posted information about U.S. drone flights near the Fukushima nuclear plant. Drone flights were conducted after the plant was crippled during the devastating earthquake and tsunami suffered by Japan in March. According to the Japanese ministry of transport, the purpose of the posting was not to cause risk to the president, but to impress friends. The controller may face charges of leaking national secrets.

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Remembering Recent Losses to the Community back to top 

Aviators Lost: Brown, Skelton, Robertson

The aviation community recently lost three accomplished pilots -- an actor, an aerobatics competitor, and a test pilot.

Cliff Robertson, best known for his film career, died on Sept. 10 at age 88. He started flying at age 14 and owned several airplanes. He served as the first chairman of the EAA Young Eagles program when it launched in 1992. He also funded a program that offered summer internships to youth at the EAA Aviation Center.

EAA remembers Robertson here.

Betty Skelton, who won the international women's aerobatic championship three times, died on Aug. 31 at age 85. And Mort Brown, who logged over 14,000 first flights as head of flight testing at Cessna, died on Sept. 10 at age 103. Skelton grew up near the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Fla., and was fascinated with airplanes from her childhood. She soloed at age 12 (presumably far from the sight of any FAA officials), then earned her private pilot certificate at age 16 and her commercial at 18. She worked as a flight instructor and excelled at aerobatic flying in competition and at airshows.

Click here for Skelton's obituary in The New York Times.

Mort Brown was the first chief pilot of production flight test for Cessna, serving from 1937 to 1972. He was inducted to the Legion of Honor and the Hall of Fame for the OX5 Aviation Pioneers for his contributions to the aviation industry.

Learn more at Brown's official website.

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What You Missed in AVwebBiz This Week back to top 

Garmin Touchscreen Portable Debuts At AOPA

At AOPA's Summit event in Hartford, Conn., next week, Garmin will roll out its newest portable GPS navigator/plate reader, the aera 796. The 796 is a follow-on product to both the GPSmap 696 and the aera product line, which brought touchscreen control to Garmin's lineup. The new navigator features capacitive-type touchscreen control similar to the iPad and some smartphones, so it can be finger scrolled and pinch scaled. It will be available in two versions, the $2199 aera 795 without weather link and the $2499 aera 796, which includes an XM receiver for both weather datalink and entertainment.

Although synthetic vision has been used in portables previously, the 795/796 mark Garmin's first inclusion of this feature in its portables. Garmin calls this feature 3D Vision and it appears on the display screen as a miniature airplane flying into a horizon defined by the GPS-derived synthetic view. The detail is similar to Garmin's panel mounts, such as the G500/600 series, and such details as color-coded terrain, obstacles and airport runways are clearly visible.

According to a report in the October 2011 issue of our sister publication, Aviation Consumer, the most impressive feature of the 795/796 may be its improved charting functions. Although the GPSmap 696 had approach plates, it didn't have low- and high-altitude charts or sectionals. The new 796 has all three, easily accessible through a dedicated button at the bottom the screen. All of the charts are fully georeferenced on both the visual and the instrument charts. Weather depictions appear only on the navigator's base navigation map. The capacitive interface also allowed an additional feature: an electronic scratchpad that allows you to quickly jot down notes or clearances. Garmin says improved battery technology -- lithium ion -- has extended battery life to between four and eight hours.

Related Content:

Jobs Act Hits Aircraft Depreciation

The Obama administration appears to be following through on its earlier anti-business aviation rhetoric by recommending Congress lengthen the depreciation schedule for business aircraft. According to NBAA, the administration's proposed American Jobs Act contains a measure to change a 25-year-old depreciation schedule established by the IRS. That's a separate issue from the current "bonus depreciation" of 100 percent of the acquisition cost of business-related goods in the first year that was passed last year. That measure runs out at the end of this year.

NBAA didn't say how the administration wants to change the depreciation schedule for business aircraft but NBAA President Ed Bolen said the proposal is counterproductive to the Act's apparent goal. "The president's proposal to lengthen depreciation schedules for general aviation aircraft seems directly at odds with the stated purpose of the proposed legislation, which is to create jobs," Bolen said. "The president himself has said shorter depreciation schedules create jobs. With that in mind, it is difficult to see how this latest proposal could support his broader goal of addressing the nation's job crisis." Earlier this year, President Obama and senior government officials began using business aviation as a symbol of excess and economic disparity in public statements.

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

Question of the Week: Job #1 for AOPA?

It's AOPA Summit next week. What should be the organization's main priority?

Where should AOPA place its priorities?
(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?

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Send your suggestions to .

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Opinion & Commentary back to top 

AVweb Insider Blog: Cliff Robertson -- Pilot/Actor

Actor Cliff Robertson was a fixture around Oshkosh because, besides acting, he was an accomplished pilot, too. Robertson died over the weekend, a day past his 88th birthday. On the AVweb Insider blog, Paul Bertorelli reveals a couple of interesting coincidences about Robertson's intersection with history.

Read more and join the conversation.

AVweb Insider Blog: 9/11 Anniversary Aftermath

We got through 9/11 unscathed, more or less. But the tsunami of reporting on the anniversary revealed some new detail. In his latest post to the AVweb Insider blog, Paul Bertorelli explains how a couple of incidents revealed that the flying public, or at least the security agencies, are still nervous.

Read more and join the conversation.

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

Video: Garmin's New 796 -- Product Tour

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

At AOPA Summit in Hartford, Garmin will unveil its latest portable, the touchscreen aera 796. Take a video tour of the navigator's features, which include synthetic vision, enhanced chart functions, and a new touchscreen interface.

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: Capital City Airport (KFFT) (Frankfort, KY)

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

AVweb's latest blue ribbon goes to the FBO at Capital City Airport (KFFT) in Frankfort, Kentucky.

AVweb reader Graeme Lang has been going there for a while and sung Cap City's praises:

Having been involved with this FBO for some time now, I have always seen a complete commitment to the highest in customer service and overall standards. Their manager, Jay Vedelli, has just recently retired, but I have seen no decrease in the service provided. They stay very competitive on fuel prices, have on-site maintenance, will run you anywhere you need to go in their van, and will do all of this with a smile! I highly recommend Capital City Airport in Frankfort!

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 

Will return on Monday. We were a bit tied up with prep work for next week's AOPA Summit today and didn't get to pack this space with your top-notch photos. Watch for them in Monday's issue -- or check our home page on Friday if you can't wait that long.

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.

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.