AVwebFlash - Volume 17, Number 38b

September 22, 2011

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Tomorrow's Fuels Will Demand Tomorrow's Engines back to top 

Continental Introduces New Lower-Octane Engine

While the industry awaits an unleaded replacement for 100LL, Continental has moved rapidly forward to certify a new version of its six-cylinder IO-360 that will run on lower octane fuel. At AOPA's Summit in Hartford, Connecticut, the company's CEO Rhett Ross told us the new engine will be used in the four-place C4 announced by Flight Design earlier this year. The engine's designation is IO-360-AF for alternative fuel and it's intended to operate on fuels such as 94UL with sufficient detonation margin. The IO-360, which is used in the Cirrus SR20, normally has an output of 210HP, but for the AF variant, Continental has essentially de-rated it to 180 HP by installing lower-compression pistons (7.5 to 1) and with minor tweaks to the fuel injection system. The version we were shown, which represents a new type certification for Continental, has conventional magnetos, but it might eventually use Continental's PowerLink FADEC system.

And how about auto fuel approvals? Yes, says Ross, but not just pump gas. As does Lycoming's Michael Kraft, Ross believes any auto fuel approved for a type certificated engine will need some kind of approval or certification standard to assure its octane and consistent composition. Ross says Continental's view is that automotive fuels are not tightly enough controlled and on the international market—where this new engine is clearly going to be pitched—an auto fuel bought in Germany might not be the same as one sold in Brazil. For more details on the new engine, see this AVweb video.

Video: Continental's New IO-360

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Continental's not waiting for the industry to figure out a replacement for 100LL. At AOPA Summit in Hartford, it announced a new line of low-compression engines that can run on low-octane fuels.

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This video is brought to you by Lightspeed Aviation and XM WX Satellite Weather.

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AVweb on Site at AOPA Summit back to top 

AOPA Summit Opens In Hartford

AOPA Aviation Summit opens in Hartford, Conn., on Thursday with a challenging agenda: how to get all of general aviation's advocates to work together to advance the industry. President Obama's Jobs Act may have provided a rallying cry with its shop-worn inclusion of user fees on top of fuel taxes as a new method of raising revenue. "This group in the White House can't say 'No' to user fees," AOPA President Craig Fuller told AVweb's editor-in-chief Russ Niles, on the eve of the show. (Click here for the full podcast.) "We want to help pay for the system but we want to pay at the pump." The Summit features an exhibit hall packed with aviation products for sale, keynote talks, a series of seminars aimed at light business aircraft users, static displays at the nearby Brainard Airport, and lots of social events. AVweb staffers are on site to bring you daily podcasts, videos, and reports from the show right through Saturday.

Among the events scheduled for the Summit are a series of keynote talks on the future of aviation, and a visit from FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt, featuring a discussion with Fuller about topics of interest to GA pilots. Fuller also will share the stage with EAA President Rod Hightower on Saturday morning for a discussion about how to make aviation attractive and accessible to a new generation of pilots. Also, actor Cuba Gooding Jr. will visit the show on Thursday to talk about the new film from George Lucas about the Tuskegee Airmen, Red Tails, which is due in theaters early next year.

Podcast: AOPA Kicks Off in Hartford

File Size 8.8 MB / Running Time 9:35

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There will be discussion about the latest user fee threat as AOPA kicks off its annual Summit in Hartford starting Thursday but there is much more on the agenda. AVweb's Russ Niles spoke with AOPA President Craig Fuller about the busy agenda.

This podcast is brought to you by XM WX Satellite Weather and Lightspeed Aviation.

Click here to listen. (8.8 MB, 9:35)

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Inside Insurance Savings back to top 

Aviation Insurance Market: Historically Soft

Even as the new aircraft market continues to stumble, more companies are getting into the aviation insurance game and, as a result, premimum prices for some classes of aircraft are at historic lows. In a podcast from AOPA Summit in Hartford this week, Jon Doolittle of Sutton James Insurance, told AVweb that insurance premiums on jets used for business flying are lower than ever and it doesn't end there.

There's similar softness in premiums for light pistons, but not to the extent seen in the current jet market. LSAs remain insurable and although rates are competitive, there are far fewer players in the LSA segment because many insurers aren't sure which companies are viable and despite all the blather about global markets, some U.S. insurers just aren't comfortable with small, offshore LSA manufacturers.

Podcast: Insurance Buys

File Size 5.3 MB / Running Time 5:11

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Even as insurance costs decline across the board for aircraft, new players are entering the industry. AVweb's Paul Bertorelli spoke with Jon Doolittle of Sutton James Insurance.

This podcast is brought to you by Bose Corporation.

Click here to listen. (5.3 MB, 5:11)

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Meanwhile, at Brainard Airport ...: Airport Fest back to top 

Video: Redtail Squadron at AOPA Summit

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

At AOPA Summit in Hartford, Connecticut, the Redtail Squadron is displaying its P-51 and traveling documentary on the Tuskegee Airmen. See it at Airport Fest at Brainard Airport.

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This video is brought to you by Bose Corporation.

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The World Outside Hartford: Beyond the Summit back to top 

The ATC Privatization Debate?

NextGen air traffic control improvements are championed by government officials, but one former government official argued through an editorial this week that ATC may fare better in private hands. According to Peter Orszag, former director of the Office of Management and Budget, NextGen is "a step in the right direction." But because it's being rolled out in stages, he argues it will take too long to implement. The former director cites Canada's nonprofit corporation NAV Canada and says the answer to a better air traffic system in the U.S. is the private sector. And user fees. Not everyone agrees.

Orszag is now the vice chairman of global banking at Citigroup Inc. His opinion is that a user-based revenue model would ensure that those who use the system would pay for it. That, says Orszag, would also keep funding debates outside of the political process. Orszag says that while NAV Canada suffered initially, it now offers a nonprofit example that compares favorably against the FAA. "It tends to be more responsive to innovation and better able to make improvements in technology, investing in the needs of its user airlines," he said. Opposition to Orszag's approach may have already formed. Nine groups, including AOPA, EAA, GAMA, and NBAA, issued "unified opposition" to a deficit-reduction plan proposed by President Obama, Monday, that included user fees for some general aviation flights. And questions remain. One raised by another editorial asks what leverage users would have if private controllers decided to strike and suggests that costs borne by airlines would cause ticket prices to skyrocket.

NTSB Identifies Record-Keeping Loophole

One reason we don't know more about why Boeing aircraft suffered fuselage skin cracking can be tied to regulatory decisions made by the FAA. A Southwest Airlines 737-300 suffered a crack in its fuselage on April 1, and an American Airlines 757-200 suffered a tear in its skin last year. Both incidents led to the discovery of symptoms that could lead to similar problems on other jets. In the case of the 737, rivet work was questioned. In the case of the 757 the NTSB determined that the aircraft's skin was of nonconforming thickness -- it was thinner than it was supposed to be. But Boeing's records of how those and other affected planes were built and inspected were missing ... as directed by the FAA.

A study of the manufacturing processes for the jets could explain why or how each situation came to pass. Without the associated paper trail, such a study is not possible. In 2009, the FAA revised rules previously devised in 1964 that set limits for how long manufacturers should keep records of their manufacturing and inspection processes. Per the old rule, manufacturers records should be kept for two years. The new rule requires that record are kept for five years and 10 years in the case of critical components. Southwest's jet, which saw a 5-foot section of the fuselage tear open at 34,000 feet, was built in 1996, so Boeing kept no records. The American Airlines jet entered service in 1990 so, again, no records are available. The NTSB found that "incorrect manufacturing" led to the problem on the 757.  And thanks at least in part to the FAA's 5-year rule, there were limits on what else the bureau could find. "Therefore," said the NTSB, "a cause for the manufacturing non-conformance could not be identified."

Five Finalists Named For Green Flight Challenge

Thirteen teams applied to compete in next week's Green Flight Challenge, with $1.65 million in prize money at stake -- the largest aviation prize ever offered -- but now the field is down to five competitors, NASA and the Comparative Aircraft Flight Efficiency (CAFE) Foundation said on Tuesday. Only those five teams met all of the criteria to compete. The criteria are complex, but include that the aircraft must be capable of reaching an average speed of at least 100 mph, take off in less than 2,000 feet to clear a 50-foot obstacle, and produce a decibel rating of less than 78 dBA at full-power takeoff. The five finalists are Team Feuling, Phoenix Air, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Pipistrel-USA, and e-Genius. To win the competition, an aircraft must fly 200 miles in less than two hours and use less than one gallon of fuel per occupant, or the equivalent in electricity.

If more than one aircraft meets the criteria, first place will go to the team with the best combination of speed and efficiency. The competition will run from Sept. 25 to Oct. 1 at the Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport in Santa Rosa, Calif. The schedule of events is posted at the CAFE Foundation website. Spectators are welcome, and an Expo at the site will feature over 20 exhibitors showcasing alternative technologies. Free tickets are available online. Google is sponsoring the event, which will finish up with an awards ceremony on Oct. 3 at NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif.

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What You Missed in AVwebBiz This Week back to top 

Bombardier Cuts CRJ Line, Appoints Travolta

Bombardier is cutting production of its CRJ regional jet series due to a slowdown in orders, but there won't be any layoffs as a result. The company says it has more than enough work for the about 350 workers who will be affected at the company's Mirabel, Quebec, CRJ plant. Bombardier currently has the CSeries airliner, Global 7000 and Global 8000 business jets and the Learjet 85 under development and will simply shift workers to those projects. It's not saying how much production will be reduced but the CRJ backlog is now at about 60 aircraft, or 15 months, and the company likes to have about 18 months worth of work ahead of it on all its production lines. It says the future market looks strong for CRJs and production can be adjusted in the future if need be. Meanwhile, Bombardier signed actor and pilot John Travolta to a promotional role with its business jet division.

Travolta recently got rated in the Challenger business jet (he has 11 type ratings) and Steve Ridolfi, president of Bombardier Business Aircraft, said his extensive knowledge of aviation and his frequent use of business aviation makes him ideal for the title of brand ambassador for the company. "Business aviation has always made sense to me in that it offers flexibility, privacy, security, and most importantly, timesaving -- meaning I have the ability to keep up with my busy schedule and have more time for my family, which is very important to me," said John Travolta. "On top of that, I'm a pilot -- I love to fly. Bombardier designs aircraft as much for the person flying them as for the passenger. I'm proud to represent their aircraft."

"Jet-Setting General" Under Fire

It seems the stigma of "private" jet travel extends even to top-ranked military officers in Canada, where the country's top soldier will likely pay back part of the cost for at least one trip he took in a Royal Canadian Air Force Challenger bizjet. Gen. Walt Natynczyk, Canada's Chief of Defense Staff (the equivalent of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the U.S.), has been under fire for the use of the aircraft to meet his family for a Caribbean vacation in January of 2010. The story first came out without comment from Natynczyk, who explained that he had missed his charter flight because he was commanding a repatriation ceremony for four soldiers and a Canadian journalist killed in fighting in Afghanistan. His boss, Defense Minister Peter MacKay, then authorized a Challenger flight to allow the general to get to St. Maarten so he could get on a cruise ship in time to be with his family. At first, Natynczyk blew off the reports labeling him a "jet-setting general," but then he had a chat with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The PM apparently explained to him that Canada has a policy that requires officials to reimburse the government for the commercial airline ticket value of flights that involve personal business. Harper told reporters he's written checks himself for such travel. On Tuesday, Natynczyk said he too would repay the government.

AVwebBiz: AVweb's Business Aviation Newsletter

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

Survey: How's That Factory Engine Working for You?

Our sister publication, Aviation Consumer, would like to know. We're doing a survey on owner experiences with factory-new, factory-reman and factory-overhauled engines. (No field overhauls this time.)

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AVweb's Newstips Address ...

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Opinion & Commentary back to top 

AVweb Insider Blog: Summer Safety Numbers -- Can't We Do Better?

Mary Grady has been looking over some numbers related to aviation safety, and in her latest post to the AVweb Insider blog, she has to say it: Maybe pilots need better ways to analyze and calculate risks.

Read more and join the conversation.

AVweb Insider Blog: Should the Reno Races Continue?

For as much as we, aviation enthusiasts, might hope so, it's not up to us. It's up to the community of Reno. Accidents like the one last week rightfully spark some inward examination of safety procedures and the risk/reward equation of doing things that are dangerous. In his latest post to the AVweb Insider blog, Paul Bertorelli has the immediate takeaway: Air shows and air races represent the tiniest of risk for spectators. But anyone who thinks the risk is non-existent should stay home.

Read more and join the conversation.

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Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Upshur County Regional Airport (KW22, Buckhannon, WV)

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

This week's AVweb blue ribbon goes to the FBO at Upshur County Regional Airport (W22) in Buckhannon, West Virginia.

AVweb reader Michael Davidson discovered Upshur while trying to stay ahead of Hurricane Irene:

[W22] was a large terrain feature away from the Delmarva Peninsula and listed good support facilities. I reached the line manager, Mr. Dick Bennett, who was very welcoming [both] then and when I called CTAF with landing intentions. He guided me to a better runway choice based on his observation and pilot background. He drove us to Enterprise Rent-A-Car just down the hill, waived the tie-down fee, and in general made us feel very welcome. I would recommend this destination for large numbers of regional coastal evacuees, not only for goodwill hospitality, but for ample ramp and hangar space, long runways, physical security measures, and proximity to ground transport and lodging.

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 
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.