AVwebFlash Complete Issue: Volume 18, Number 18b

May 3, 2012

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
Pilot Input Needed || Spend Five Minutes to Take the AVweb/MIT GA Survey
Tell MIT Researchers About GA's Challenges,
Your Ideas and Concerns

The International Center for Air Transportation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is conducting a study of general aviation trends. Let them know what you think about fuel costs, how to advance general aviation and why you fly. It takes ten minutes or less. AVweb will publish the results — so will MIT.

To take the survey, click here.
AVflash! Keeping Up with Gordon Boettger back to top 

Watch Boettger Chase A Record Today (Maybe)

AVweb received word late Wednesday that Gordon Boettger, who was honored by the NAA this year for his 2011 sailplane flight of 1,321 miles surfing a mountain wave, plans to aim for a record downwind flight, today (Thursday); and if he's up you can watch his progress online. The flight is weather-dependent and if it cooperates, Boettger will depart Minden, Nev., at 05:30 local time with his sights set on "somewhere east of the Rockies." According to Boettger, "Rapid City, S.D., would be fantastic." It would also cover more than 900 miles as the crow flies. If he's up, you can follow his progress online, here. Altitudes, which can get significant on Boettger's flights, will not be shown on that display. They will be shown at FlightAware.com -- just type in N55LK in the appropriate field on the left side of the screen. Boettger hopes the weather and his planning will one day conspire to allow him to reach his goal of achieving overnight flight in a glider, by "parking" in the lift from a mountain wave.

Related Content:

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Tomorrow's Airplanes back to top 

Boeing-Led Hybrid Concept, The SUGAR Volt

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While there are obvious drawbacks in carrying heavy batteries as a power source on long-haul flights, Boeing has taken up the challenge of designing a concept hybrid-electric-powered commercial aircraft. Boeing calls the project the Subsonic Ultra-Green Aircraft Research aircraft, or SUGAR Volt. Much of the vehicle relies on technologies that would require further development to bring the concept aircraft to reality, but it is intended as a forward-looking project. That said, Boeing engineers targeted 2030-2050 as the timeframe that could see such an aircraft built and target a 70-percent improvement in fuel burn as a primary outcome. Along with powerplant innovations, Boeing's design also incorporates aerodynamic innovations.

Because battery weight is expected to pose a challenge for electrically powered aircraft for the foreseeable future, the Boeing team has worked to offset that load with improved aerodynamics. The SUGAR Volt uses a high-aspect-ratio wing long enough that it would be strut-braced and have to be folded to allow the aircraft to fit at a standard airport gate. The aircraft also seeks to offset weight with savings in structural weight. Ideally, a more efficient wing, structure and powerplant could lead to the targeted fuel savings. And that fuel might also come in another form. The team has also considered the possibility of liquefied natural gas. However, that fuel would require significant changes in fuel-tank engineering and the fueling infrastructure. According to comments from the team's report, hybrid electric engine technology "is a clear winner." The SUGAR Volt study is being funded by NASA and led by Boeing's Marty Bradley. Bradley says the design incorporates some technologies for the sake of making sure they are developed enough to become viable options at some time in the future.

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Aviation Safety back to top 

727 Crashes For Cameras

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A team from the Discovery Channel purposely crashed a Boeing 727 in the Mexican desert last week and filmed it for a TV show. The airplane, packed with crash-test dummies and dozens of cameras, was flown into the ground at a shallow angle. A single pilot flew the jet until it was set on its final course, then parachuted out moments before impact. The 727 then was controlled by a remote operator in a chase plane. Amateur video (right) shows the 727 breaking apart as it hits the ground in a cloud of dust. "We hope to provide new information about how to improve the chances of survival while providing scientific results on passenger safety and new technologies, including new 'black box' flight data recording systems," said Eileen O'Neill, president of the Discovery Network.

According to Sanjay Singhal, executive producer for the project, the last time a full passenger jet was crashed for science was 30 years ago. "Now, with the improvements in filming and remote control technology we felt that the time was right to do it again," he said. "We want to use this as an opportunity to provide scientific data that might help to improve passenger safety." The crash will be used in the season premier episode of a series called "Curiosity."

In 1984, NASA and the FAA crash-tested a remotely-flown 720 in the California desert. Click here to view a video montage of that fiery wreck: MPG video file.

Report: ATC Error Covered Up

A mistake by an air traffic controller put two jets on a collision course as they approached Honolulu in January, and the incident wasn't reported to FAA officials as it should have been, according to an investigation by Hawaii News Now. The close call involved a Japan Airlines 767 and a UPS MD11 when both airplanes were about 15 miles from Honolulu and approaching to land. The JAL pilot told the controller he received a TCAS alert. The 767 descended and the UPS crew climbed to avoid a collision. (Click here for the audio.) ATC employees interviewed by Hawaii News Now gave different explanations as to why the incident was not properly reported.

The FAA learned about the incident from pilot reports, and five FAA officials traveled to Hawaii in February to investigate. They found that the controller on duty was relatively new, and had told supervisors he wasn't ready for certification and requested additional training. After the incident, he was not disciplined but received more training and is back on the job. The facility supervisor, who has since retired after being placed on administrative leave during the investigation, alleges that union members at the tower "started making stuff up" about a "culture of fear" at the facility. An FAA memo said the supervisor was heard "yelling obscenities" at his managers after meeting with them, but the supervisor has denied it.

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The Long Arm of the Law back to top 

Pilots Face Jail Over Bird Disturbance

Prosecutors in Iowa hope to charge two pilots for flying two aircraft low on November 16, 2011, and disturbing migratory birds, in a case that is not only drawing the attention of bird lovers, but also constitutional lawyers. The pilots, Paul Austin and Craig Martin were flying a Fly Baby and an Aeronca at an estimated altitude of 20 feet on two passes at Saylorville Lake reservoir north of Des Moines. Each pass reportedly scattered masses of birds. The men were photographed in the act by a nature specialist and in February, found themselves indicted by a grand jury for violation of the Airborne Hunting Act. The lake does not appear to be charted as a wildlife refuge and the two pilots weren't hunting. But the Act makes the harassment of animals with an airplane a crime punishable by up to one year in jail. A judge will soon rule on the Act's constitutionality and perhaps, as the pilots' lawyer told the judge, whether anyone can determine "if the bird is pleased or annoyed to have taken flight," when in fact, "flying is what birds do." The lawyers also invoked Sully Sullenberger.

According to defense attorneys, hero pilot Sully Sullenberger of US Airways Flight 1549, might also be indicted because he "likely 'harassed' the flock of birds" that he smashed into with his plane, and "he probably 'harassed' fish when he arrived in the Hudson." The defense attorneys hope to make an issue of the law as unclear in its definition of illegal behavior. In a court filing, they argue the possibility that animals may not have the emotional capacity to experience harassment. And, if they do, they question how a pilot can be expected to observe that emotion. Prosecuting attorneys have argued through papers submitted to the court that it should be reasonable to expect that flying an airplane at low altitude over "6,000 migratory birds" should be considered harassment. The law applies a ban on harassment of wildlife and makes it a crime "to disturb, worry, molest, rally, concentrate, harry, chase, drive, herd, or torment" animals. A ruling on the constitutionality of the law is expected in the near future.

FAA Warns Passenger Over iPad Use

A passenger on a Delta Air Lines jet shot video last month of a flock of birds flying into the engine minutes after takeoff from New York's John F. Kennedy Airport -- which was good -- but he took the picture using his iPad -- which was bad. The passenger, Grant Cardone, said this week that after his video was made public, he received a stern letter from the FAA saying they wouldn't take enforcement action against him, but would keep a record of the incident for two years. After that, presuming that Cardone refrains from further infractions, "the record will be expunged." Cardone told CNN he thinks the FAA reaction is "ridiculous."

"If truly these devices, phones, iPads are that dangerous, the FAA has a responsibility to ban them from planes," Cardone said. "If these electronics are dangerous to the American public, ban them from the planes today." The FAA said in its letter that Cardone's failure to comply with FAA rules requiring that electric devices be turned off "could have affected the safe outcome of the flight." After the bird strike, the airplane returned to JFK and landed safely on one engine, and nobody was hurt.

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News Briefs back to top 

Seaplanes Boost Local Economy

A small town in Florida has found that investing in aviation infrastructure can pay off for taxpayers. In 2010, the city of Tavares, with a population of just 14,000, spent $8.3 million to build a seaplane base. Since then, traffic at the base has attracted 26 new businesses, including eight restaurants, and now two boutique hotels are under construction. "This all happened in the toughest of economic times," the city's economic development director, Bill Neron, told the Orlando Sentinel. "We are the contrarians. When times were booming, before 2007, Tavares had empty storefronts."

The city created a 3,000-foot landing zone on Lake Dora, and built a ramp, marina docks and an aviation fueling station. The city also upgraded its waterfront park, adding electrical facilities for festivals and a snack shop. A seaplane business is based at the lake, offering tours and flight training, and Progressive Aerodyne, which builds the SeaRey amphibian, has set up shop there. A fly-in at the base last weekend attracted 30 seaplanes and a crowd of about 500 who came to watch the flying events. Since it opened, more than 3,400 seaplanes have visited the site. "Seaplane pilots are always looking for weekend adventures and destinations that will cater to them, so those areas and businesses that do cater to them will see a tremendous amount of economic benefit," Steve McCaughey, executive director of the Seaplane Pilots Association, told the Sentinel. "Tavares has become a destination."

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What You Missed in AVwebBiz This Week back to top 

Eclipse Clarifies Sikorsky Relationship

Sikorsky remains a key partner in Eclipse Aerospace's plan to resume production of the very light jet. In a podcast interview with AVweb, Eclipse CEO Mason Holland said comments attributed to Greg Hayes, the CFO of United Technologies Corp. (UTC), the parent company of Sikorsky, that there would be no further investment in Eclipse by UTC may have been misconstrued by some. "We haven't asked for any more money from UTC or Sikorsky," Holland said. "We do have a funded plan for production." He said Sikorsky continues to take an active role in that process, particularly in supply chain management and manufacturing. In fact, the airframe will be built at Sikorsky's PZL plant in Poland. Final assembly will be in Albuquerque.

Holland said the first new production aircraft, designated the Eclipse 550, will roll out in 2013. He said the company intends to build 50 to 100 aircraft a year and that the backlog extends to 2014. A group headed by Holland took over the assets of the former Eclipse Aircraft for pennies on the dollar in 2009 and initially focused on supporting and finishing the fleet of 267 aircraft that were sold by the original company. In 2010, Sikorsky bought a 42 percent stake in the company. Sikorsky CEO Jeff Pino is an Eclipse owner. Eclipse announced the return to production at the 2011 NBAA convention.

Hang Glider Pilot Charged With Swallowing Camera Card That Recorded Fatal Fall

A Vancouver-area hang glider pilot and business owner has been arrested and criminally charged in connection with the death of one of his clients in a weekend accident. William Jonathan Orders, 50, of the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby, was charged with obstruction of justice for allegedly swallowing a memory card from a camera that was mounted on the aircraft to record the tandem flight. As we reported Monday, the woman, since identified as Lenami Dafne Godinez, 27, fell about 1,000 feet just after she and Orders launched from a mountain about 80 miles east of Vancouver.

Orders an experienced pilot and instructor owns Vancouver Hang Gliding, which, in addition to instruction, offers "hang gliding experience" flights to first-time flyers. Godinez and her boyfriend bought that package to celebrate an anniversary. She slipped from Orders' back and tried to cling to his feet before one of his shoes slipped off and she fell onto a logged-out area of the mountain. Police arrested him shortly after the incident and took him into custody undoubtedly to see what passes....

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Opinion & Commentary back to top 

AVweb Insider Blog: Regulation as a Field Leveler

If regulations can't spark innovation, is it just as good that they can spread the misery around? Paul Bertorelli contemplates that uncomfortable consolation prize in his latest post to the AVweb Insider blog.

Read more and join the conversation.

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

Question of the Week: The Third Class Medical Reform Petition

A few days ago, Thomas Boyle wrote to us, "Only 876 people have commented in favor of the AOPA/EAA Medical Exemption proposal. Which means almost none of the readers of AVweb have. I suggest asking why, in the 'Question of the Week.'"

Why haven't you commented to support the AOPA/EAA medical exemption petition?
(click to answer)

Last Week's Question: Results

Want to see the current breakdown of responses? Take a moment to answer the question yourself, and then you can view real-time results.

What's On Your Mind?

Have an idea for a new "Question of the Week"?
Send your suggestions to .

NOTE: This address is only for suggested "QOTW" questions, and not for "QOTW" answers or comments. (Use this form to send "QOTW" comments to our AVmail Editor.)

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

Video: William Rankin, the Man Who Rode the Thunder

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

The story of William Rankin's ejection at 47,000 feet and 500 knots is legendary, not only because the fall took him 40 minutes, but also because he lived to talk about it. There are other and more recent cases of people who have been drawn into thunderstorms under canopy and not every one ends in survival.

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Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Meisner Aircraft (KBUU, Burlington, WI)

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

AVweb reader Gordon Kirsh reminds me that a little trust goes a long way in his recommendation of our latest "FBO of the Week" -- Meisner Aircraft at Burlington Municipal Airport (KBUU) in Burlington, Wisconsin:

I had business in the area but had not visited the FBO previously. I was flying in on a Saturday. I called for the availability of a courtesy car and was told that the FBO was not manned on weekends. They gave me the code to the door and the location where they hid the key to the car. They never met me or asked me to sign or do anything. Fuel was $5.15 a gallon for self-serve 100LL. To have that level of trust in people was terrific.

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!

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"The Best Way to Predict the Future Is to Create It"

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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].

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Comments or questions about the news should be sent here.

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