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The ultralight aircraft-led annual pilgrimage of whooping cranes from Wisconsin to Florida has voluntarily suspended operations after a pilot raised concerns that the flights may run afoul of
federal regulations. The problem is that ultralight pilots are not allowed to be compensated for their work and Operation Migration pilots, who fly ultralights, are compensated for theirs. The group's
annual efforts use an ultralight aircraft to guide locally bred whooping cranes across the country to the birds' traditional winter migration destination. Once there, the birds mix with more
experienced birds that guide the return. An attorney for the group -- which has operated for more than a decade -- says its pilots don't want to knowingly violate FAA regulations and are seeking a
What Operation Migration would like is for the FAA to formally exempt the group from rules banning payment of the pilots. An attorney for the pilots has asked aviation officials to allow
compensated ultralight flights, saying that the group's goal is to protect an endangered species. A spokesperson for the FAA has said the agency's understanding is that the pilots are reluctant to fly
in violation of the law. Nine birds and their handlers have stopped this year's journey in Alabama while they await a formal verdict from the FAA. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is reportedly
considering holding the birds at local refugees if the flights are not allowed to continue. Aside from the physical care of whooping cranes, Operation Migration participates in school programs,
sharing its experiences with students, some of whom follow the cranes' journey online.
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The Reno Air Racing Association announced Wednesday that it is enlisting safety experts and will formulate new procedures to guide an event this Sept. 12-16 that is yet to be called an air race.
The group is still waiting for various approvals and permits from the FAA and Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority following the fatal crash of a modified P-51 Mustang, Galloping Ghost, at the Air Races, on
Sept. 16 last year. Without racing permits, the association still plans to hold an event but, according to association president Mike Houghton, if racing is not allowed, the 2012 event will be the
last. The usual permits aren't the only hurdle.
On Jan. 10, the NTSB will hold a hearing that will put airshow and air race safety under the microscope. The Reno Air Races have seen twenty pilots killed since they began 47 years ago. In 2011,
Galloping Ghost's violent crash during the races killed 11 people, including pilot Jimmy Leeward, and injured more than 70 on the ground. According to Houghton, some amount of attendees (that did not
exceed 20 percent) requested refunds after the deadly crash closed last year's races early. And the accident put the Reno Air Races under a critical spotlight and brought at least one
multimillion-dollar lawsuit. This year, whatever activities are included in the event, one will be a memorial. That memorial "needs to be done right," says Houghton. Houghton's safety panel, which
includes former NTSB chairman Jim Hall, will have 90 days to present its findings to the racing association.
The group that runs the National Championship Air Races in Reno says there will be at least one more
gathering at Reno-Stead Airport, but it's up to the powers that be to decide the form it will take. If you were pulling the strings, what would it look like?
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TCM supplier Hartzell Engine Technologies introduces the zero back torque M-Drive starter the best lightweight starter designed to start even the hardest-cranking
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Boeing will close its facility in Wichita, Kans., by the end of next year, the company said on Wednesday, putting
2,160 employees out of work. "The decision to close our Wichita facility was difficult," said Mark Bass, a Boeing spokesman. "We recognize how this will affect the lives of the highly skilled men and
women who work here." Over the last five years, programs in Wichita have come to a close or are winding down, the company said, and now defense budgets are declining and there is no new business on
the horizon to justify future investments. The plant is the base for the company's B-52 and 767 international tanker programs and also provides support for flight mission planning and logistics.
Job cuts will start in the third quarter of this year, Bass said. Maintenance, support and engineering work will be transferred to facilities in Texas, Oklahoma and Washington. Boeing has had a
plant in Wichita since 1929, when it bought the Stearman Aircraft Co., according to The Associated Press. Employment peaked at more than
40,000 during World War II, when the production line built four bombers per day. In 2005, the company began to move its commercial operations to other states, and the Wichita plant has faced multiple
rounds of layoffs. Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer said the city will recover. "This is not the first time we have had something of this magnitude," he told the AP. "We have had other challenges and we have
always managed to work through it and been able to survive."
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A group of divers accidentally found the mostly intact wreckage of a World War II-era aircraft lying upside down on the sandy sea bottom off Jupiter, Fla., late last month. The airplane has been
tentatively identified as a relatively rare Curtiss Helldiver SB2C. "There is only one left in the world that flies," said Randy Jordan, the dive-boat operator who found the wreck, which appears on
video to be in nearly intact condition. "Nobody knew it was there, we just stumbled upon it," he told the local CBS12 news. "It's like finding a treasure."
The airplane is lying upside down in about 200 feet of water, deeper than recreational divers normally go. Jordan told ABC News that on the day he discovered the wreck, he was with a group of
highly trained "technical divers," who are qualified to explore at such depths. The aircraft probably flew in 1943 or 1944 from a Florida flight school. It's not known if the crew escaped, and divers
have been unable to see into the cockpit, which is buried in the sand. The landing gear is retracted and the propeller blades are bent, according to the Palm Beach Post. The wreck is the property of the Navy and divers are not allowed
to disturb it. It hasn't been determined if the airplane might have had live ammunition on board, which could still be dangerous. Aviation museums in Daytona Beach and Key Largo have expressed
interest in recovering and restoring the airplane, according to Jordan. However, if the Navy finds that the aircraft wreck is a gravesite, he said, they may choose to leave it in place. Another
Helldiver was found off the coast of San Diego in 2009 and was successfully recovered in August 2010 by the
Navy. Another wreck was found in Oregon woods in March 2010.
Six retired military airplanes have been transformed into "monumental works of art" for the Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson, Ariz., the museum announced this week. The "Round Trip" exhibit, set
to open on Jan. 28, will feature former Air Force aircraft that had been stored for years in desert "boneyards." Aircraft used as canvases include four DC-3s, a Beechcraft C-45 (a military version of
the Beech 18), and a Lockheed VC 140 Jetstar (a 1960s-era twin jet used for military transport). The cockpit from a Boeing C-97 also was used as a canvas for the show. More than 30 artists from around
the world took part in the project.
The show is part of an ongoing Boneyard Project, which launched last summer in New York with the "Nose Job" show, which gave
the nose cones from about two dozen military aircraft to artists to use as "canvases." The Arizona exhibit will include some selections from that show along with more than a dozen new projects that
have not been previously exhibited. The Pima museum maintains a collection of more than 300 aircraft and spacecraft from around the globe and
houses more than 125,000 artifacts. The Round Trip show is open to the public from Jan. 28 through the end of May.
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USAF Drone Contract a Different Kind of Bidding
The U.S. Air Force is down to two designs for its next drone project -- one from a military contractor, and one from a class of seniors at the Air Force Academy, the Air Force Times reported this
week. The 2008 design by the cadets is still in the running because it's so simple and should be cheaper to produce, said Steve Brandt, a professor of aeronautics at the academy. "The cadet design has
survived a lot of subsequent development and is still pretty much in its original form," he said. The design is "stable and sleek," according to the Times, with a 24-foot wingspan and two T-38
engines. Cadets are still involved with the project, managing the wind-tunnel tests for the design.
The drones are needed for target practice. The Air Force now uses F-4s that have been modified as drones, and plans to replace those soon with modified F-16s. But those drones aren't "stealthy,"
Brandt said. "All U.S. weapons systems have to be tested under realistic conditions before they're fielded, and if we really think that other countries are going to have stealthy fighter airplanes,
then testing those missiles against QF-4s and QF-16s may not be adequate," he said. The target price for the new drone is $3.5 million. No definitive timeline has been set for its production, Brandt
The National Association of Flight Instructors (NAFI) and Avemco have teamed up for an insurance program that targets the specific needs of instructors. The program will offer CFIs greater
flexibility in designing a policy that meets their specific needs in terms of limits and even specific aircraft coverage. "We have been working hard over the last year to find improvements in
non-owned aircraft insurance, including professional liability coverage, for our members. We believe that as of today, the new NAFI CFI Insurance Program, available exclusively to NAFI members, is a
much improved plan," said Jason Blair, Executive Director of NAFI.
Avemco President Jim Lauerman said instructors have special insurance needs and the new program reflects them. "We worked closely with NAFI to develop this program with the knowledge that
professional flight instructors need the right insurance when they're actively giving flight instruction to their students," Lauerman said.
A report from Florida suggests Hawker Beechcraft was out-politicked in its failed bid for a $1 billion contract to supply the Air Force with light attack aircraft. Sunshineslate.com says an
aggressive effort by Florida Gov. Rick Scott along with other state, federal and municipal leaders resulted in the selection of Embraer's Super Tucano over Hawker Beech's Texan II. Embraer will
assemble the Super Tucanos in Jacksonville, creating about 50 jobs. Meanwhile, Hawker Beechcraft has attracted some after-the-fact attention from a Kansas congressman who wants the Air Force to
explain the decision.
Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., says he's "deeply disappointed" by the deal. "Several weeks ago, Hawker Beechcraft -- the only American competitor -- was eliminated from this important competition without
explanation," Pompeo said in a statement. "Since then the Air Force has been secretive and evasive, leaving countless questions unanswered." Hawker Beech is taking the federal government to court over
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The Air force is acting strangely about its decision to go with the Super Tucano for a light attack aircraft, but it's not the first time this type of airplane has caused controversy. In a tag
team blog post to the AVweb Insider, Russ Niles and Paul Bertorelli speculate on the USAF's rationale.
That's the subject of Paul Bertorelli's latest post to the AVweb Insider blog. It's a night flight over the Sierras in IMC above the freezing level. Tell us what you think, and in a couple
of days, we'll expand the discussion. (There's no right or wrong answer here; just opinions.)
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This is an unusual story. The jet you're looking at is an F-106 Delta Dart. A storied interceptor in its day, it was built to exceed an Air Force requirement for 1.9 mach and
continuous flight at 57,000 feet. It did both. And in December 1959, it set a speed record, of 1,525 mph, or about 2.3 mach, while flying at 40,000 feet. Its pilot at the time, Major Joseph Rogers,
claimed the record might not be accurate. He was still accelerating, he said, at the time.
But this particular jet is famous for a different reason.
As the story goes, the aircraft you see here on February 2, 1970 flew itself into the ground -- a snowy field in Montana, where its engine continued to run for another hour and 45 minutes.
Grounded, pilotless and still under power, with its radar still sweeping, the jet sometimes crept forward foot by foot through the snow as a small collection of onlookers watched. Its pilot, 1st
Lieutenant Gary Foust, had ejected roughly two hours before that show was over. Foust's trip was just as interesting. He'd lost control of the jet while flying a mock engagement that led his and two
other jets into harsh maneuvers in the thin, unforgiving air at 38,000 feet. Attempting to match a high-g reversal by another pilot, Foust's jet bucked. He entered a flat spin, and the jet fell,
spinning slowly like a model on a turntable. The flight's two other pilots came to his aid, calling out recovery procedures. But by 15,000 feet the result seemed certain, and an instructor in one of
the other jets ordered Foust to eject. Foust obeyed.
But for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction, and it could be it's that law that saved the jet. As Foust shot up, the jet's condition changed -- just enough for it to recover on
its own and head off for the horizon. Legend has it that one of the observing pilots said on frequency, "Gary, you better get back in."
In the end, the jet was recovered, rebuilt and put back to work as tail number 80787. But it was forever known as the Corn Field bomber. Delta Darts were phased out in the 1980s.
Many of us dream of a gleaming gray expoxy-coated hangar floor illuminated by the glare of bright lights. But most of us actually have oil-stained concrete, dingy from years of abuse.
If your floor is stained badly, a product called ReKrete can help improve it. Aviation Consumer's Paul Bertorelli demonstrates the product in this brief video.
AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Walker Aviation at Henry Tift Myers Airport (TMA) in Tifton, Georgia.
AVweb reader Cres Wise wrote in to explain who the FBO's owner went far above and beyond to help a traveling stranger:
My student and I were on a night cross-country (on a Friday night). On our third taxi back, we had a flat nose tire. The FBO was closed for the day, but there were phone numbers. Within a short
time, Mr. Walker came and got our airplane back to the ramp. But then he opened up the facility and took care of us like family. He was over and above friendly and gracious. The next morning, his
staff assisted our mechanic. The cost: zero dollars. The service: Priceless!! I'll be back to buy gas on future trips (during normal business hours).
AVwebFlash is a twice-weekly summary of the latest news, articles, products, features, and events featured on AVweb, the world's premier independent aviation news resource.
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