AVwebFlash - Volume 18, Number 8a

February 20, 2012

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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AVflash! Sizing Up NextGen Efforts back to top 
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GAO: FAA Behind Schedule, Over Budget On NextGen

The FAA needs to improve its management practices to ensure that the NextGen air traffic system is implemented without further cost overruns and delays, the Government Accountability Office said in a report released this week. The GAO reviewed 30 major programs involved in NextGen and found that half of them were behind schedule and costs had increased from initial estimates by a total of $4.2 billion. The delays ranged from two months to more than 14 years behind schedule, and averaged four years. The FAA didn't comment on whether or not it agreed with the GAO analysis, the GAO said, but the FAA did send a statement to AVweb. "The GAO report includes air traffic programs that are not part of the NextGen portfolio," FAA Public Affairs wrote in an email. "However, from 2004 - 2011, the FAA was 0.8 percent under budget across all major system acquisitions."

The GAO report cited four ongoing challenges that it says have led to cost increases and schedule delays: (1) additional or unanticipated system requirements, (2) insufficient stakeholder involvement (such as controllers' input) throughout system development, (3) underestimating the complexity of software development, and (4) unanticipated events including funding shortfalls or work stoppages. "These challenges, if they persist, will impede the implementation of NextGen," said the GAO. To do a better job estimating the cost and completion dates for major acquisitions, the report said, the FAA should require cost and schedule risk analysis, independent cost estimates and integrated master schedules. In its statement to AVweb, the FAA said it has already adopted a majority of the GAO's cost estimation best practices, "and looks forward to reviewing the GAO's recently released scheduling best practices."

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Don't Try This at Home back to top 

Pipistrel Pilot Lands In Antarctica

It's not every day that a light sport aircraft lands in Antarctica, but on Thursday, Matevz Lenarcic touched down there in a Virus SW 914 Turbo, marking the first time a Pipistrel has landed on the continent. His aircraft has been modified with an Intercooler unit to be able to withstand temperatures as low as minus-60 degrees Fahrenheit, Pipistrel said in a news release. Lenarcic is about one-third of the way through a round-the-world flight that launched on Jan. 7 from Slovenia. He plans to fly over all seven continents and take photographs of more than 120 national parks. He'll also fly above some of the planet's tallest mountains, including Mount Everest. Lenarcic also is collecting atmospheric data for research during his flight.

Lenarcic will return to South America from the Antarctic, and then launch on another challenge -- crossing the Pacific Ocean. "This leg of his flight will include several ocean crossings in excess of 4,000 km [2,500 miles] without a possibility of landing," Pipistrel said. "Extreme distances and severe weather above the Pacific will be by far the toughest challenge for the pilot and his Pipistrel aircraft, only weighing a little over 300 kg [662 pounds], but we have no doubt that Matevz's Virus will perform as well in the continuation of his flight as it did up to now," Pipistrel said.

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Another Milesone for Icon back to top 

Icon A5 Meets Elusive Spin-Resistant Standard

The Icon A5 amphibious light sport aircraft has met a spin-resistant standard beyond what is required for its certification, the company said on Thursday. Under the LSA standards, aircraft must be either "spin recoverable" or "spin resistant." The A5 has met the criteria for "spin resistant," which are spelled out in Part 23, the rules that apply to certified aircraft. "This milestone will make the A5 the first production aircraft in history to be designed to and completely comply with the FAA's full-envelope Part 23 spin-resistance standards, developed from NASA's work on the topic," the company said. Icon engineers met the standard by creating a cuffed wing design that uses multiple proprietary airfoils across the span of the wing.

"Other production aircraft have attempted to achieve spin resistance to the Part 23 standard, but no conventional production aircraft without canards has ever completely succeeded, due to the sheer complexity of this problem," said Matthew Gionta, Icon Aircraft VP of engineering. "Although there are other aircraft that have incorporated some spin-resistance characteristics, such as the Ercoupe, Jetcruzer, Cirrus SR20/22, and Cessna Corvalis, the A5 will be unique for being the only production aircraft in history to be designed to and completely comply with the full-envelope Part 23 spin-resistance standard." The Part 23 criteria for spin resistance can be found here, under "(2) At the applicant's option, the airplane may be demonstrated to be spin resistant by the following ...". Details of Icon's spin-resistance testing can be found here.

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U.S. Pres Fights Crime — Very Indirectly back to top 

Note To Drug Runners - Check TFRs Before Flight

A Cessna 182 that violated a presidential TFR in southern California on Thursday morning posed no threat to President Obama, officials said, but the pilot faces prosecution because authorities discovered 40 pounds of marijuana inside the airplane. Two Air Force F-16s scrambled to intercept the Cessna after it strayed into a eight-mile-wide TFR where Marine One was carrying the president. The 182 landed at Long Beach Airport, where the pilot was questioned by Homeland Security and Secret Service investigators. They determined that he intended no harm to the president, and turned him over to local police. Investigators declined to say how close the 182 was to the Marine One helicopter.

The Air Force was notified by air traffic controllers, who had tried to contact the pilot but got no response. The jets were deployed from March Air Reserve Base in Riverside County. According to the Los Angeles Times, the airplane was manufactured in 1961, and is registered to a student pilot who lives in southern California. President Obama was on his way to Los Angeles International Airport after attending a fundraising event in Orange County.

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Coming Soon to an IMAX Theater Near You back to top 

Reno Races IMAX Film Coming To U.S.

Air Racers 3D, a 40-minute-long IMAX film about the Reno National Championship Air Races, will be coming to U.S. theaters in April, the filmmakers said recently. It's the first film about the races ever shot completely in 3D, and "unprecedented access" to the course was granted, according to the filmmakers. The film will be shown at the National Infantry Museum in Columbus, Ga., and the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Fla., starting April 5, with other theaters to follow. The Reno footage was shot in 2009 and 2010, and has been in production for two years. The film also features many airshow performers, including Canada's Snowbirds, the late Greg Poe flying his MX2, and Kent Pietsch, known for landing his Cub on top of a moving truck (Click here for an exclusive AVweb video of this stunt.)

The filmmakers used new stereoscopic technologies, including  a helicopter-mounted gyro-stabilized aerial 3D camera rig, a custom wing-mounted camera and 3D cameras placed inside the cockpit. All six classes of racing aircraft -- Biplane, Formula One, Sport, T-6, Jet Class and Unlimited -- are featured in the film, which cost about $5 million to produce. Appearing in the film are Bill Destefani's 1944 North American P-51D Mustang, "Strega" (pilot: Steve Hinton Jr.); Rod Lewis's Grumman Tigercat F7F-3, "Here Kitty Kitty" (pilot: Stewart Dawson); "Rare Bear," a Grumman F8F Bearcat (pilot: John Penney); Raju Mann's 1969 Aerovodochody L-29 Delfin, "Raju Grace" (pilot: Heather Penney); Marilyn Dash's 1974 Aerotek Pitts Special S-1S, "Ruby" (pilot: Marilyn Dash); and many others.

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

Aviation Consumer Engine Cylinder Survey

Cylinders are the big ticket item during an engine overhaul, and the market has changed substantially during the last five years. Our sister publication, Aviation Consumer, is surveying owner experiences on engine cylinders.

If you'd like to participate, click here to take the survey.

The results will appear in a future issue of Aviation Consumer. For subscription information, click here.

AVweb's Newstips Address ...

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 newstips@avweb.com. You're a part of our team ... often, the best part.

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Sojourn in the Past back to top 

AVweb Insider Blog: Collings Comes to Town

For 23 years, the Collings Foundation has been touring with its bombers and fighters, giving vets and their relatives a rare glimpse of the aircraft that won World War II. The tour hit Venice, Florida, where AVweb Insider blogger Paul Bertorelli helped with the details.

Click through for his observations and thoughts.

Video: P-51C Mustang Flight Demo and Cockpit Tour

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

There's only one P-51C Mustang in the world with dual controls, although a couple of D-models have the spare stick, too. In this video, AVweb's Paul Bertorelli takes a hop in the back seat of the Collings Foundation's Betty Jane, and pilot Mark Murphy gives us an in-depth cockpit tour.

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

Podcast: This Year's Collier Nominees

File Size 9.6 MB / Running Time 10:24

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Every year since 1910, the National Aeronautics Association has awarded the Collier Trophy for the "greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America." This year's nominees were recently announced, and AVweb's Mary Grady spoke with Jonathan Gaffney, the president of NAA, about the choices and the selection process.

This podcast is brought to you by Bose Corporation.

Click here to listen. (9.6 MB, 10:24)

Video: Gippsland Airvan Flight Trial

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

Australian-based Gippsland has sold its GA8 Airvan all over the world, and now it's got a follow-on model, the GA8TC, with a turbocharged Lycoming TIO-540. AVweb got a crack at trialing the airplane recently, and here's our video report on the model.

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New on AVweb.com back to top 

Forty-Seven Years in Aviation: A Memoir; Chapter 10: Strategic Air Command, Part 2

Assigned to a like-new KC-97 Stratotanker at MacDill AFB in 1956, Dick Taylor learned much about the plane just from flying it in front of thirsty B-47s: from the trivial (it never spent much time in its namesake, the stratosphere) to the essential (take lots of engine oil on a long trip).

Click here to read the 10th chapter.

During the 1950s, the Strategic Air Command (SAC) was the ultimate deterrent to nuclear war, the keeper of the peace and no doubt had a quieting effect on the rattle of Russian nuclear sabers. Considering SAC's world-wide responsibility, security was a huge player in day-to-day operations at every installation, and access to flight lines was very limited. Chain-link fences topped with barbed wire and warning signs that couldn't help but get one's attention delivered a strong message: It was not only against the rules to enter these highly sensitive areas without being checked in, it was potentially dangerous.

We didn't see much of the animals and their handlers during the day but these "stealth dogs" were on patrol all night, moving silently in the shadows, ready to do serious damage to anyone who shouldn't be there. Every pedestrian and vehicle entrance to the ramp was guarded by armed Air Police personnel who checked flight-line badges, perhaps one of the first large-scale applications of photo ID confirmation. Random checks were carried out by highly trained penetration teams whose mission was to gain flight-line access using phony ID badges, the most outlandish of which was an individual who managed to get through a gate with the image of an ape on his badge ... you can bet a head or two rolled when that break in security was discovered. There were stories of bodily injury (and some live-fire incidents) sustained by pseudo-infiltrators who pushed their entry attempts a little too aggressively.

The first KC-97s, fresh out of the factory, were delivered to the 306th Air Refueling Squadron at MacDill AFB in 1951. When I climbed aboard one of these tankers in 1956, it was as close as I ever got to flying a brand-new military airplane; it smelled new and looked new, inside and out. The flight crews and the maintainers had obviously taken very good care of their new charges.

Most of the line training for new tanker pilots was OJT, acquired in the process of flying refueling missions, the occasional training flight and a lot of personal advice and suggestions from our Aircraft Commanders. Crew assignments were most likely made at random because the officers who made the selections didn't know much more about us than our names. Shortly after I returned from the KC-97 simulator course at Palm Beach, I was assigned to the flight crew commanded by Captain Jimmy Stewart. Lt. John Umstead was our navigator, M/Sgt "Flossy" Johns was our flight engineer, T/Sgt Floyd Gambel was the radio operator, and T/Sgt Jack Whisnant flew the boom. We flew together for about a year and a half, including two 90-day deployments to Morocco.

The KC-97 was, for its time, a rather large airplane. Its wings spanned 141 feet, it was 117 feet long and the vertical stabilizer topped out at a little more than 38 feet. (Not all hangar doors could accommodate that height, so the vertical tail was hinged and could be folded onto the horizontal stabilizer so the airplane could be moved inside when necessary.)

A direct descendant of the B-29 Superfortress, the KC-97 might be best described as a B-29 with an upper deck, larger tail surfaces, more powerful engines and a refueling boom. The "double bubble" two-deck shape is apparent in this photo of a KC-97 in flight:

Conceived as the C-97 Stratofreighter and intended to transport cargo and troops, the addition of large cylindrical deck tanks and a boom pod in the tail changed the airplane to a tanker and changed the designation to KC-97.

All the jet fuel in these tanks and four more in the lower compartment plus all the avgas in the airplane's wing tanks could be transferred to a bomber if necessary ... does the phrase "expendable crew" come to mind?

The pilot seats were accessed by walking around either side of the engineer's station and the "front office" was well-arranged so that the two pilots and the flight engineer could work together as a team to operate the airplane. One set of throttles was handy to both pilots, and the engineer had a duplicate set at his left hand. Notice the steering wheel in front of the left-hand pilot seat -- no more throttle-jockeying or delicate braking required to keep the airplane straight on the ground -- Boeing had incorporated nosewheel steering in the KC-97. All the command radios and autopilot controls were located on the wide, center console.

The engineer sat sideways, behind and between the pilots, facing to the right side of the airplane. He had a panel full of instruments, switches and knobs in front of him, a panel to his left and overhead (circuit breakers and engine controls), and another sub-panel for managing the aerial refueling systems; all told, the engineer was responsible for 200-odd indicators, valve positions, switches and the like. The small, round, analog, engine instruments critical to takeoff were placed in groups of four in the engineer's direct line of sight (left center in the photograph at right) and were installed so that when full power was being generated all the needles pointed straight ahead, i.e., to the engineer's left; the FE could tell at a glance if any of the four engines was not pulling its weight.

Another unique component of the engineer's panel took the guesswork out of managing the KC-97's fuel system (there were two independent fuel systems, one to deliver avgas to the tanker's engines, the other for offloading fuel to a receiver airplane). At the extreme lower left of the FE's panel are the four fuel-valve selector switches that controlled fuel flow from the airplane tanks to the engines; by rotating the knob until the red lines on the switch indicated the desired routing through the valve, the engineer had a clear picture of where the fuel was coming from and where it was going.

The KC-97 was powered by four Pratt & Whitney R-4360 engines, the largest air-cooled radial engines ever put into production. (One R-6000 was built as an experimental engine, but the power-to-weight ratio was so unfavorable the project was abandoned ... goodbye, big radials; hello, lighter and much more powerful gas turbine engines).

Truth be told, the R-4360 was four 7-cylinder radial engines bolted together in a spiral pattern around a common crankshaft -- no wonder it was nicknamed "the corn cob."

It may have looked rough on the outside, but when this engine was properly set up and managed it ran smooth as silk ... 28 cylinders on a common crankshaft provided a lot of power impulses. It was not uncommon for the engineer to pull the props back to 1100-1200 RPM in a long-range cruise configuration; at that rotational speed, you could see the nuts on the prop domes turning.

If there had been a prize for the airplane engine with the largest number of moving parts, the R-4360 would have won, hands down.

At 2700 RPM and 60" manifold pressure (normal takeoff power settings), the R-4360s developed 3500 hp each, but the supercharging that almost doubled sea-level atmospheric pressure would have caused detonation, very high cylinder-head temperatures and eventual engine failure; the problem was solved by injecting a water-alcohol mixture into the cylinders to cool the engines when they were operating at full power. (See sidebar above-right about the B-47's water-alcohol injection system.)

Its virtues were many, but the KC-97 had two weak points, both of them involving the propellers. The original blades were steel with hollow cores filled with neoprene, but over time centrifugal force compacted the neoprene in the outer extremities of the blades. The resulting imbalance and heavy vibration occasionally caused a blade tip to separate, sometimes resulting in the entire prop assembly breaking loose and taking an adjacent engine or propeller with it ... disaster guaranteed. The problem was exacerbated by the long, slow, climb profiles that required abnormally high power settings for extended periods of time.

Applying an abundance of caution, SAC dictated that each and every KC-97 prop blade must undergo a dye-penetrant inspection for cracks at the conclusion of every flight and a visual inspection by the flight crew using magnifying glasses as part of each preflight inspection procedure. The problem was eventually resolved by refitting all the tankers with solid metal blades.

The second serious problem showed up in the propeller pitch-control system, which was prone to a malfunction that would permit the blades to go -- without warning -- to flat pitch in a matter of seconds ... the dreaded "runaway prop." This was a double whammy; not only did the affected propeller stop producing thrust, it was now generating roughly the same amount of drag as a solid disc 17 feet in diameter. There was precious little a crew could do except fly as slowly as possible to reduce drag and hope the engine held together until they could get the airplane on the ground. The eventual fix for this problem was the installation of a pitch-lock system that recognized the onset of an overspeed condition and slammed the door, so to speak, on any further increase in RPM ... and KC-97 crews breathed a bit easier.

The Stratotanker (a rather euphemistic name for an airplane that seldom flew higher than 15,000 feet) was designed to operate at a maximum takeoff weight of 155,000 pounds, but on occasion we loaded the airplanes to the SAC-decreed maximum of 175,000 pounds. These missions called for large offloads to the bombers, even if we had to dip into our onboard supply of avgas. The J-47 jet engines on the bombers didn't care much which type of fuel they were fed; they probably could have burned olive oil if push came to shove. (However, the R-4360 certainly did care; see sidebar at above-right.)

It was easy to identify a taxiing KC-97, even when it was out of sight: The brakes had a distinctive, high-pitched squeal that simply couldn't be mistaken for any other airplane. And when a taxiing tanker was visible, the trail of light-blue oil smoke gave it away. The R-4360s were great engines, but they were known to leak a bit of oil now and then; my AC, Jimmy Stewart, would chide me (tongue in cheek) now and then if he couldn't find a fresh oil stain on my cap, a clear indication that I hadn't ventured into the main wheel wells during my preflight inspection. An anonymous mechanic once said, "The R-4360 didn't leak oil; what you saw was nothing more than the normal functioning of its outstanding external lubrication system."

In any event, our engines consumed a lot of lubricant; we seldom changed the oil, we just kept refilling the tanks. Each engine had a built-in 40-gallon oil tank (that's not a typo; big engines require big oil tanks) and with great foresight, Boeing had equipped the KC-97s with a 100-gallon reserve tank from which the engineer could pump oil to any of the engines in flight. If that weren't enough, when we flew across the pond we carried an additional 55 gallons of oil in a steel drum strapped down on the upper deck ... and at the end of the flight most of it had been used.

[Continued next month.]

To send a note to Richard and AVweb about this story, please click here.
More articles, stories and fiction about the joy of aviation are found in AVweb's Skywritings section.
// -->

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Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Baxley Air (KBHC, Baxley, Georgia)

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

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Baxley Air at Baxley Municipal Airport (KBHC) in (you guessed it) Baxley, Georgia.

AVweb reader Krista Miller recommended the FBO after making an unscheduled stop last month:

These guys are lifesavers! My friend John talked me into a 400-nm January ultralight trip from South Carolina to Florida. By mid-Georgia, my feet were frozen! [The staff at Baxley] recognized a damsel in distress and went to work with plastic bags and gorilla tape to cover my sneakers. Thanks to them, the rest of the flight was in comfort! Friendly, helpful, excellent!

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!

The Lighter Side of Flight back to top 

Short Final

Overheard while listening to an area radar center in England during the early '80s. Two United States Air Force Europe fast jets climbing out of a low flying area were trying to locate each other to join formation.

"Ratch 13":
"Ratch 12, where are you?"

"Ratch 12":
"Ratch 13, one mile south of Chester."

"Ratch 13":
"Ratch 12, say again."

"Ratch 12":
"Chester! Chester!"

An undentified voice, in a strong Western Drawl:
"I'm a-comin', Marshall Dillon!"

Readers of a certain age will remember "Gunsmoke"!

Gary Brindle
via e-mail

Heard Anything Funny on the Radio?

Heard anything funny, unusual, or downright shocking on the radio lately? If you've been flying any length of time, you're sure to have eavesdropped on a few memorable exchanges. The ones that gave you a chuckle may do the same for your fellow AVweb readers. Share your radio funny with us, and, if we use it in a future "Short Final," we'll send you a sharp-looking AVweb hat to sport around your local airport. No joke.

Click here to submit your original, true, and previously unpublished story.

Names Behind the News back to top 

Meet the AVwebFlash Team

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.

The AVwebFlash team is:

Tom Bliss

Editorial Director, Aviation Publications
Paul Bertorelli

Russ Niles

Contributing Editors
Mary Grady
Glenn Pew

Scott Simmons

Kevin Lane-Cummings
Jeff Van West

Have a product or service to advertise on AVweb? Your advertising can reach over 225,000 loyal AVwebFlash, AVwebBiz, and AVweb home page readers every week. Over 80% of our readers are active pilots and aircraft owners. That's why our advertisers grow with us, year after year. For ad rates and scheduling, click here or contact Tom Bliss, via e-mail or via telephone [(480) 525-7481].

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.

If you're having trouble reading this newsletter in its HTML-rich format (or if you'd prefer a lighter, simpler format for your phone or handheld device), there's also a text-only version of AVwebFlash. For complete instructions on making the switch, click here.

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