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26-year-old US citizen, Rezqan Ferdaus was arrested Wednesday, charged with plotting to attack the Pentagon and US Capital with plastic explosive-laden remote-controlled aircraft. Reports state
that an affidavit said recorded conversations caught Ferdaus talking about using three remote control aircraft like small kamikaze-drones by packing them with C-4 and slaving their controls to GPS
equipment. The plan allegedly involved six gunmen divided into two teams. Authorities say those teams were to serve to increase the death toll and chaos at the pre-selected impact sites in Washington,
DC. A multi-agency effort culminated in the delivery by undercover FBI agents of fake explosives and weapons to Ferdaus' home, allegedly at his request.
Ferdaus thought he was receiving 25 pounds of C-4 explosives, three grenades and six AK-47 fully-automatic assault rifles. The government says his plan involved launching explosives-filled
aircraft, possibly including the F-86 Sabre remote controlled plane in his possession from the East Potomac Park. The government says that Ferdaus modified cell phones so that they could be used as
triggers for IEDs and gave them to undercover FBI agents who he believed were recruiters for Al Qaeda. Ferdaus is facing court in Worcester, Mass., and the possibility of up to 15 years in prison if
convicted of providing support and resources to a foreign terrorist group. He could serve up to 20 years in prison if found guilty of attempting to destroy a national defense facility. Another charge
could add up to 20 years, if Ferdaus is convicted. A flight last December by a group of technophiles who call themselves Team Black Sheep launched a video-camera-equipped RC aircraft from Brooklyn
Bridge Park. That aircraft flew over many of New York city's famous landmarks. After an investigation, no charges were filed. See
the Black Sheep video here.
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With Congress now back in session, the General Aviation Caucus is playing a role in keeping GA issues on the agenda. "I think we're ultimately going to be able to keep user fees out of the FAA
reauthorization bill," U.S. Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., who co-chairs the GA Caucus in the House, told AVweb last week at the AOPA Summit. He said three contentious issues need to be worked out to
get a full reauthorization bill through Congress: essential air service, which subsidizes passenger service to small communities; a labor issue that will affect whether airline employees are allowed
to unionize; and the actual funding. The funding has mainly been settled, he said, but the other two issues are contentious. Nonetheless, he was hopeful: "We had hundreds of issues out there that we
were able to solve we're down to two," he said.
The GA caucuses, one in the House and one in the Senate, were formed in 2009 to inform members and their staff about the importance of GA to the nation's economy and transportation system. The
House caucus has over 120 members, making it among the largest caucuses, according to NBAA. Graves was appointed as co-chair last
year. At the Summit last week, he spoke with AVweb's Mary Grady about what issues he expects the caucus will address in the coming session; click
here for that podcast.
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By Wednesday, only four of the original 13 contenders were still in the running for the $1.65 million NASA prize purse in the Green Flight Challenge. The event, which is ongoing in Santa Rosa,
Calif., through the weekend, has eliminated all the contenders except PhoEnix, Pipistrel-USA, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University's EcoEagle, and e-Genius. All met a noise level no greater than 78
dBA at full-power takeoff, measured from 250 feet away. "This is the dawn of electric flight, right here, right now," Mark Moore, an aerospace engineer with NASA, told the Sonoma County Press-Democrat. "This is a Lindbergh moment."
On Tuesday, the teams completed a 200-mile cross-country flight, with the goal of achieving an average speed of 100 mph, burning no more than one gallon of gas (or its equivalent) per passenger.
Wednesday, the teams will analyze their data and plan their strategy for Thursday, when they are scheduled to fly 200 miles again at the same efficiency standard while trying to fly as fast as
possible. Pipistrel's entry, the G4, is a four-seat, twin-fuselage electric motorglider. The PhoEnix, from Phoenix Air, is a two-seat electric motorglider. ERAU's EcoEagle is a a modified Stemme
motorglider. The e-Genius is a two-seat electric-powered airplane, sponsored by Airbus and designed by Eric Raymond, known for the Sunseeker solar-powered sailplanes.
Wingsuit flyer Jeb Corliss successfully flew through a narrow tunnel in a Chinese mountain region on Saturday. The gap
between two peaks, known as Tianmen Hole, is just 96 feet wide and about 360 feet tall. Corliss jumped from a Red Bull helicopter and landed safely with a parachute on a bridge. "That was one of the
greatest wingsuit flights of my entire life," Corliss said. After navigating through the tunnel, Corliss had to continue flying through the narrow mountain gap for about two-thirds of a mile before he
could safely open his chute.
"What I do is horrifying," he told Conan O'Brien in a recent interview. "It takes time to learn how to
control that fear," he said. But the rewards are great: "It's like living a dream." Corliss has previously jumped from the Eiffel Tower in Paris and the Petronas Twin Towers in Malaysia. He was
arrested in New York when he tried to jump from the Empire State Building in 2006.
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Piper Aircraft will hold a job fair in Wichita, Kans., next week, the company said on Wednesday. About 20 positions are open for engineers and designers, all of them based at the company
headquarters in Vero Beach, Fla. The company has already tried to fill the jobs locally, Piper spokeswoman Jackie Carlon told AVweb on Wednesday. "We always search first in Indian River County
and then the state of Florida, before looking elsewhere," she said. "These are all highly skilled positions." Most of the new hires will be put to work on the Altaire jet project, she said.
Applicants were asked to submit their resumes via email to firstname.lastname@example.org prior to the job fair. For more info, go to the Piper website. Piper currently employs about 800 workers. The $2.5 million Altaire single-engine jet is
expected to start deliveries in 2014. "The advantage that Piper has over other manufacturers with an interest in a single-engine jet is a solid underlying commitment by Imprimis, the owner of the
company, to appropriately fund the program and see it through to successful completion," Piper CEO Geoffrey Berger said in July.
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The South African aeronautical firm Aerosud announced this week the Ahrlac high-wing tandem-seat pusher aircraft design, which may break new ground for South African aviation. South Africa has
produced light aircraft before and a quarter century ago designed an attack helicopter, but the Ahrlac (short for Advanced High Performance Reconnaissance Light Aircraft) may be the first modern
all-African aircraft purpose built to fill roles that include military operations. Aerosud plans to fly it for the first time next year. It will be built with six underwing hardpoints that can carry
weapons or external fuel tanks. Aerosud has designed the aircraft for multi-role capability by making part of the fuselage itself, swappable.
The fuselage is built to carry a pod that is aerodynamically and aesthetically integrated into the airframe. In practice that means the pod is actually the bottom section of the fuselage. The
conformal pod is built to contain the sensors, electronics, supplies or weapons required by its mission profile and it is swappable to adapt the same airframe to different missions by exchanging pods.
Aerosud says the aircraft has been through wind tunnel testing and has completed roughly 80 flights of a one-quarter scale model. Performance goals are a 300 knot cruise over 1,150 nautical miles
(without external tanks) and a payload of more than 800 kg. Aerosud hopes to begin production next year and says it has seen significant interest in the project. The company is aiming for a sub-$10
million price tag.
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In a move that caught most in the aviation industry flat-footed, Cessna announced a new bizjet model late Monday. The Citation M2 is said to bridge the gap between the $3 million Mustang
entry-level jet and the $7 million CJ series and it will compete directly with the Embraer Phenom 100, offering a little more range and speed. Cessna is putting the M2 on the market at $4.195
million, about $500,000 more than the Phenom 100. "Operator feedback and owner insight have indicated a market for a Citation with the size, speed and range of the Citation M2. We expect to see
customers new to the Citation family, Mustang owners looking for a logical next step or CJ1+ operators who want a new, more advanced Citation," said Scott Ernest, Cessna president and CEO.
What that $4.2 million gets you is what appears to be a four-passenger aircraft that Cessna says can seat "up to six passengers" with two crew, 1,300 nm range, a 400-knot cruise and 41,000 feet.
It's powered by Williams FJ-44 1AP-21 engines that offer improved range over earlier models. Cockpit is based on the Garmin G3000 with whopping 14-inch PFD and MFD displays and infrared touch-screen
controls. Cessna will have a mock-up on display at NBAA 2011 in Las Vegas later this month.
Parallel to AOPA Summit in Hartford last week, AOPA China held its own first summit in Beijing last week. More than 400 people attended the two-day event. This year's AOPA China Summit was in the
form of convention and focused on the mission of providing prime opportunities for dialogues and networking among the Chinese government, general aviation organizations and industry members worldwide.
Officials from Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), Air Traffic Management Bureau (ATMB), Beijing City Government as well as a number of provincial governments joined the convention and
heard a straightforward message from Feng Zhang, Deputy Director General of AOPA China. "The nation's airspace is a public domain," Zhang said in his speech. "Therefore our government should relax
its control to allow the general public access to their own sky. It is the authorities' duty to assist the people with better utilizing our airspace by introducing favorable regulations, building
infrastructure and reducing taxes on aircraft purchases, etc." John Sheehan, IAOPA's Secretary General, said he was impressed by Zhang's direct and blunt public message.
Mr. Wei Dai, Deputy Secretary General of the Beijing City Government, revealed the city's comprehensive plan to develop GA in the next five to ten years. He anticipated the city's GA industry to
reach a scale of U.S. $50 billion within that time frame. A series of private meetings were held for key individuals. The Deputy Mayor of Ordos, Inner Mongolia, expressed their city's strong interest
in general aviation to Sheehan during one such meetings. Officials from CAAC's Flight Standard Office commented to Mr. Sheehan that they would like to learn and borrow from western experience to
assist the government's GA planning. They also stated that CAAC needed AOPA China as a strategic partner for every step of the nation's GA development.
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Is a little freedom better than none? In a guest posting to the AVweb Insider blog, Potomac Airfield owner David Wartofsky argues that the answer is a resounding "no" and that it's time to
abolish third class medicals entirely for those flying aircraft that weigh less than 6,000 pounds.
Jimmy Leeward's tragic P-51 crash at Reno last week raised the emotional issue of age and piloting abilities. We might not like to hear it asked, but it's a fair question even if the pilot's age
had no bearing on the accident. There's no easy answer, either, other than to look in the mirror and be honest with yourself. On the AVweb Insider blog, Paul Bertorelli shares some
reflections of his own.
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EAA and AOPA will propose to the FAA that the driver's license medical that now applies to Sport Pilot certificate holders be expanded, and their initial suggestion is that it be limited to the ability to fly four-place aircraft (with one passenger) having 180
horsepower or less, fixed gear, day VFR. What do you think?
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AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Atlantic Aviation at Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport
(KGPT) in Gulfport, Mississippi.
AVweb reader John Hunt gave this location a stellar recommendation:
Incredible service! You would think I was pulling up in a G450 the way they treated us. We were met at the line by two extremely professional folks with a rental car, all paperwork filed out.
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