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The Japanese Defense Ministry unveiled at a trade show the latest version of a small unmanned spherical aircraft that can take off with vertical thrust, fly horizontally, and roll
controlled across the ground. It has also demonstrated (on video) that it can maintain its position in space autonomously, while being batted at with a hand. The vehicle was constructed from about
$1,400 in parts including carbon panels and foam, lithium batteries, a video camera and transmitter, plus electric motor. It is gyro-stabilized, can fly up to 37 miles per hour and easily negotiates
obstacles like windows and enclosed stairwells. The latest model is the evolution of a series of prototypes (the seventh flew for the first time this summer). As with many current electric flying
innovations, the vehicle is so far limited by a flight duration -- in this case, less than ten minutes. The Japan Defense Ministry hopes further development with produce an able search and rescue,
intelligence and reconnaissance tool.
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A coalition of GPS manufacturers told the FCC Tuesday that there is still no reason to think that LightSquared's use of frequencies to provide broadband will not impair GPS signals as LightSquared
expands its plans. According to the coalition, "there has been no suggestion that there will ever be an effective way to mitigate interference from its [LightSquared's] use of the upper 10 MHz without
seriously degrading GPS performance." LightSquared has claimed that solutions exist for mitigating interference from use of a lower 10 MHz band. The coalition contends that claim has yet to be
demonstrated and tested and that LightSquared has plans to move beyond that range, anyway. Meanwhile, an announcement Wednesday shows that LightSquared is doing anything but backing off of its
Wireless Federation reported Wednesday that LightSquared has entered into an agreement with a provider to enable financial transactions via mobile handsets over the LightSquared network. The
partner company, m-banco, says LightSquared's network will turn m-banco equipped devices into virtual wallets to conduct financial transactions in real time, any time, regardless of location.
LightSquared has threatened legal action if its system proposal is rejected by the FCC and says inexpensive products have been developed that may resolve the interference problem. LightSquared has also contended that
interference problems could be avoided if only GPS manufacturers built their receivers properly, to Department of
Defense standards. If the use of LightSquared's network requires the company to expand its frequency band to both lower and upper spectrums considered, it could sandwich the GPS spectrum. The
coalition says that situation could create a new problem -- "intermodulation" of signals "in the heart of the GPS band, well outside of LightSquared's authorized frequencies." Click here to read the
coalition's full letter: PDF.
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Despite this week's GAMA report showing a continuing decline in sales of GA aircraft, both Piper and Cirrus said they
found some positive trends in the data. Piper noted in a news release that its delivery numbers have increased in each quarter this year, and revenues are up 19 percent compared to the first three
quarters of 2010. Piper delivered 26 airplanes in the first quarter, followed by 33 and 34 deliveries in the next two quarters. Cirrus spokesman Todd Simmons said his company recently completed 20 airplanes that are now on their way to China for
delivery, and if those had been counted in the GAMA data, Cirrus would have shown an increase over the third quarter last year -- from 61 deliveries to 68. The light sport aircraft segment also
recently reported third-quarter delivery numbers.
Cessna's leap in Skycatcher deliveries this year was the biggest story told by the numbers posted last week at ByDanJohnson.com.
With 140 FAA registrations logged so far in 2011, Cessna has moved up from the number 8 slot for total LSAs delivered to number 2, topped only by longtime segment leader Flight Design. Among other top
producers for this year so far, CubCrafters LSAs totaled 29 registrations, SportCruiser logged 20, and Flight Design totaled 17. Johnson compiles the numbers every quarter based on FAA registrations.
"These figures are not identical to sales logged by the companies," he notes, "although, over time, the numbers get closer."
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Both Continental and Alaska Airlines this week are launching their first passenger flights powered by biofuel. On Monday, a Continental Boeing 737-800 flew the first biofuel-powered commercial
flight in the U.S., from Houston to Chicago, burning a blend of 40 percent algae-derived biofuel. United, the parent company of Continental, said it intends to buy 20 million gallons of the algae fuel per year, starting in 2014. Alaska Airlines said it will power 75 flights with a 20-percent biofuel blend, starting this week.
Alaska Airlines' biofuel is manufactured from used cooking oil. The airline bought 28,000 gallons of the fuel -- at $17 per gallon -- to use in its fleet of Boeing 737s and Bombardier Q400s. That's
about six times the cost of ordinary jet fuel, Alaska CEO Bill Ayer told The Wall Street Journal. "So the hope is, as this industry develops and it becomes scalable, the price comes down," Ayer said. Also this week, El Al Israel airlines said it intends to equip its fleet of 737NG aircraft with electric motors to use for taxiing. The system will reduce emissions, but it also will save money in the long run,
according to El Al, by eliminating the need for ground tugs and reducing damage to engines from foreign objects during ground operations.
Click to see the full-size image at NationalGeographic.com
From 6,000 photos submitted to a National Geographic photo contest, the grand prize this week went to an aerial shot of two aerobatic aircraft, shot by Evan Peers of
San Carlos, Calif. "Sean Tucker and his son, Eric, were flying a photo shoot with Sean's new Challenger III biplane in Salinas last May," Peers told AVweb on Wednesday. "He had space in his
Seneca photo plane and invited me to come along." Peers, an avid airshow fan and amateur photographer, had met Tucker at a local event. For the grand prize, Peers got to choose a trip for two from
National Geographic Expeditions, and he and his wife will spend 12 days in the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan.
National Geographic said in its news release that the goal of the fourth annual Energizer Ultimate Photo Contest is "to inspire an appreciation for the planet's beauty." Aspiring photographers were
asked to submit an entry in one of six categories: action/energy, animals/wildlife, arts/music, family/community, nature/weather and travel/cultures. National Geographic photographer Jim Richardson
chose two finalists in each category, which were then posted online, and a public vote chose the winners. Peers' photo won its category, then Richardson named it the overall winner. "Every time I came
back to the powerful scene of colorful aerobatic airplanes flying full tilt straight into the lens the more I fell in love with the image," Richardson said. "Color, light and composition helped this
picture win, but it was also the great spectacle, captured tack sharp and without a scrap of wasted space or energy."
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For the second time this year a pilot in the RAF's Red Arrows air demonstration team has been killed in an accident, but in Tuesday's mishap it appears the aircraft never left the ground. Early
details are sketchy but it appears the pilot was killed when the ejection seat activated while the aircraft was parked at RAF Scampton, the team's home base. "It would be inappropriate to speculate
on the cause of the incident until that inquiry is complete," Group Capt. Simon Blake told BBC News. "The investigation will
determine the facts." In August a Red Arrows pilot died when his aircraft went down at the Bournemouth Air Festival.
Flt. Lt. Jon Egging died in that accident. There was speculation that he blacked out in a high-G turn to avoid crashing the aircraft into a residential area. The investigation of that accident is
continuing and the cause has not been officially determined.
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General aviation operators and airports need to do a better job of reporting wildlife strikes, the FAA said this week. A recent study showed that out of more than 100,000 reports, only about 6,000
originated from GA operations, indicating a reporting gap. The agency hopes to improve those numbers by distributing 12,000 posters to GA airports that encourage reporting, and redesigning its wildlife-hazard website so it's easier to file the reports. The new posters also feature a Quick Response (QR)
code for smartphone users.
Airport operators that would like to study wildlife hazards may be able to get grant funds to do that, the FAA said.
Better data would help the FAA to develop mitigation plans that could reduce wildlife conflicts with aircraft. Hazards include not only birds but deer, coyotes, and other animals that can cause
accidents during ground operations. The FAA also said it is launching a new research effort soon that will examine the usefulness of special bird radar for use at airports to warn pilots and
controllers of bird hazards.
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Can extensive use of simulators really reduce training times and costs? Redbird Flight Simulations and King Schools hope to prove it can with the opening of Redbird Skyport this today. In a podcast interview, Jerry Gregoire, president of Redbird, said the FBO and flight school is also a laboratory to test a new curriculum from King Schools
that teaches everything in the simulator first. Once mastered in the sim, the student performs the lesson in the real airplane. The payoff, according to Gregoire, is a new private certificate in three
weeks for a fixed cost of $9,500. Instrument and commercial certificates will be offered for the same price.
Part of the deal is unlimited practice time in the simulator along with automated lessons. The King program will show a video -- privately to the student on the simulator screen -- of the maneuver
to fly. Then the sim puts the student in exactly the same situation and grades the performance when the student is done. John King says this program's flexibility means a student will always be able
to have some lesson, even if the real weather prevents a non-virtual flight. "We have all these programs to bring people into flight training," says King. "We pour them into this bucket of flight
training and we find 80 percent of them drop out. I think we're going to see a big change in the drop out rate. If you lose 80 percent, you can't put enough people into the bucket to keep it full."
Groups such as GAMA, Avemco, Cessna, NAFI and AOPA are all partnering in the effort and will feed their own experiments into the lab. "There is a free flow of ideas coming in and a free flow of data
coming out. All the secrets that we learn will be available to everybody in the industry," says Gregoire.
The 2011 China Airline Pilot Training Summit was held in Shanghai last Wednesday to address a looming pilot shortage. There are about 12,000 airline pilots in China. Up to 18,000 more are needed
by 2015. The seven Chinese flight schools cannot meet such demand. The interim solution of sending students to train overseas is far from being ideal, according to airline representatives. The
country's fast-growing general aviation sector, which claimed to have needed 15,000 pilots in 2011 alone, further escalates the shortage issue. Summit participants recognized that, rather than putting
250-hour graduates in airliners' right seats, it is a much better practice to have a pyramid hierarchy, where a large pilot population engages in Part 91 operations and proportionally moves up to
careers in on-demand and air carrier services.
On top of the dire need for professional pilots, the public's strong interest in private flying also holds clear promise for the pilot training business. The comments made by airline and GA
representatives uniformly point to the need of developing the flight training industry in China, especially the primary training sector. This demand is met by western interest. Flight Safety
International was reportedly among the participants of the Summit. John and Martha King's earlier visit to China also points to potential opportunities to be explored.
This Veterans Day, AVweb publisher Tim Cole invites you to chime in on the AVweb Insider blog and publicly thank an airman who defended freedom in the armed services. To kick things
off, he has a special "thank you" for Capt. William L. Bacheler, author of the memoir Brave, Splendid Fools.
It's easy to take our aviation infrastructure for granted, but we'd miss it if it were gone. In her latest post to the AVweb Insider blog, Mary Grady explains how a little nurturing
attention to the dull details of our aviation system can built a brighter future for everyone.
Traditional Tactics Need a Fresh Approach
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Even in an age when composite airplanes rule, the rag-and-tube taildragger still has a place in the market. In Rochester, Wisconsin, American Champion Aircraft still builds the
airplanes the way they always have, but with a number of modern improvements. In this video, ACA owner Jerry Mehlhaff gives us a factory tour and tells us about some of ACA's models.
When the Aeronca Champion first appeared, it had 65 horsepower and was just fast enough to get out of its own way. Into what is a very similar airframe, American Champion has stuffed
a 210hp Lycoming IO-390 to produce ACA's latest model, the Denali Scout. AVweb's Paul Bertorelli recently took a test flight in it, and here's his video report.
On the electronic nomination form for "FBO of the Week," we often hear about operators who made visitors in small planes feel as important and some VIP or another
but this week's story takes the prize. AVweb reader Bruce Riter explains how the Million Air location
at Bob Hope Airport (KBUR) in Burbank, California rolled out the red carpet for him when they clearly had other visitors to attend to as well:
We arrived at Million Air Burbank in our Cessna single just before a Presidential visit. We received the same VIP treatment as the celebrity visitors with their private jets and the Marine Corps One
flight crew and security staff. The line crew brought our rental car to the aircraft and loaded baggage on arrival and departure. On departure day, the plane was ready to go within minutes after the
ramp security was lifted. Thanks to all at Million Air Burbank for an unforgettable experience!
Technical difficulties are holding up our latest batch of "Picture of the Week" photos, but they'll be back on Monday and next week, we'll catch up with that double-shot we
had planned for this week.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. You're a part of our team ... often, the best part.
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:
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Editorial Director, Aviation Publications Paul Bertorelli
Editor-in-Chief Russ Niles
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