AVwebFlash - Volume 18, Number 34b

August 23, 2012

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
 
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FAA in the Hot Seat, Part I back to top 
 

Pipistrel Back In Business In U.S.

Pipistrel Aircraft is back in business in the U.S. after the FAA re-examined its position on the manufacturing site of the speedy composite LSAs and ended an import ban on the aircraft. As we reported in Wednesday's AVwebBiz, Pipistrel spokesman Michael Coates said the FAA imposed the ban after a staff member was unable to verify the location of Pipistrel's Italian factory on Google Earth. After a late-night inquiry by AVweb on Tuesday, the FAA issued the following statement Wednesday:

Earlier this year, Pipistrel's Italian-based light-sport aircraft subsidiary submitted an application to the FAA for special LSA airworthiness certification on a Taurus 503 motor glider. The FAA wanted to ensure that the application included sufficient proof the aircraft were built in Italy. We now believe we have sufficient evidence that the aircraft are manufactured at the Italian facility. We will contact Mr. Coates of Pipistrel to resolve the remaining issues. In describing the various aspects of our inquiry, staff anecdotally indicated that the Pipistrel LSA SRL facility was not visible on Google Earth, but that was not an official factor in considering the application.

Pipistrel's home base is in Slovenia, a few miles from the Italian border. Because Slovenia does not have a bilateral agreement with the FAA on aircraft certification, it cannot send aircraft from its main factory to the U.S. To get access to the U.S. market the company built a factory in Italy, which does have a bilateral agreement with the U.S. Coates told AVweb the FAA has been invited on numerous occasions to visit the plant but has never done so.

 
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FAA in the Hot Seat, Part II back to top 
 

FAA Misses Drone Deadline

The pressure is on for the FAA to allow drone operations in the National Airspace, and this week a major unmanned systems advocate complained that the agency is already behind schedule. The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International wrote to the FAA that legislation (PDF) passed earlier this year set a deadline of Aug. 12 for the FAA to designate six test ranges where certification standards and air traffic requirements could be developed, but the deadline has passed and the FAA doesn't have a program in place. "This is a critical step in the process toward the safe and responsible integration of UAS into the national airspace by 2015," wrote AUVSI President Michael Toscano.

Toscano said demand to use the vehicles is strong in both the public and commercial sector for uses such as police surveillance and crop monitoring, and delaying the use of drones will cost the economy more than $100 million in lost wages each year. In May, the FAA said it was making progress in its site selection process and expects to name the sites in December. "These sites are important because they will provide valuable data to us safely integrate UAS into the nation's airspace by 2015 as required by the 2012 FAA reauthorization," the FAA said.

 
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Research & Development back to top 
 

MIT Drone Navigates On Its Own

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A research team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has designed an autonomous airplane that is able to follow an internal map through a parking garage and navigate successfully, avoiding obstacles, without the use of GPS. The airplane, which has a wingspan of about 6 feet, has to determine where it is on the map in real time, using data from sensors it carries on board -- a laser rangefinder, gyroscopes and accelerometers. It also has to deduce its orientation, velocity and acceleration. To keep track of its position relative to the map at any moment, the airplane has to calculate 15 different values, according to MIT.

Aeronautics professor Nick Roy, head of the research team, said they chose to work with a fixed-wing aircraft instead of a helicopter because it can fly longer and farther, but also because it presents "a more complicated and interesting problem." The airplane is going much faster than a rotorcraft, it can't go sideways or hover, and it can stall if it goes too slow. The researchers now plan to develop technology that will enable the airplane to build a map of its environment on the fly. "There are definitely significant challenges to be solved," says Adam Bry, a graduate student working on the research. "But I think that it's certainly possible."

Sikorsky Issues Entrepreneurial Challenge (And Reward)

The Entrepreneurial Challenge is a competition organized by Sikorsky Innovations to promote emerging revolutionary technology in the advancement of rotorcraft, and the application period ends this fall on Oct. 10. This year's challenge comes in the form of five questions, all of which address increased efficiencies or new technology that leads to higher or more reliable performance in flight or production. To be considered, only one of the questions need be addressed by any given applicant. The winning entrepreneurial team will earn one year's utilization of space at Sikorsky's Stamford Innovation Center, its mentoring programs, and business services and educational resources. It can also lead to "follow-on investment" by Sikorsky.

Whether or not Sikorsky will back a winner is a determination that will be made following the winning team's evaluation and after a maturation period. Challenge questions range from asking entrepreneurs to address the concept of safe, high-speed manned and unmanned vehicle operations "in complex, obstacle-rich environments" to seeking cost savings and lead-time reductions through the use of 3-D printing. Initial applications will include a five-page business summary. Advancing proposals will be asked to create a 10-minute presentation before a panel, leaving at least five minutes for a question-and-answer period. All the details are available online here.

 
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Add It to Your Wish List back to top 
 

A Hover Bike?

A southern California company has gained new attention after posting video clips that show manned flight testing of its proof-of-concept VTOL vehicle, which it says could lead to "personal flight as intuitive as riding a bike." The vertical takeoff and landing vehicle employs no artificial intelligence, or electronic flight control, or software of any kind. Its design leaves the pilot "naturally in command with little prior training," according to the company. The pilot's movements are translated into control via two bars mounted at knee level. Aesthetically, the vehicle shares some similarities with another dual ducted fan VTOL design that first flew in 1958, the Piasecki VZ-8 Airgeep (video). That aircraft suffered from stability problems that Aerofex hopes to resolve. The Aerofex version is more compact, features a motorcycle-rider type flying position and is intended for first-responder, border patrol, or field drying duties, according to the company.

The Aerofex design, like the Airgeep before it, implements ducted fans facing downward. The design offers certain advantages over helicopters. For example, it helps minimize recirculation of airborne dust and debris by  isolating the fan blades from airflow beyond the duct. That prevents the formation of tip vortices and greatly reduces the recirculating flow of helicopter rotors that can lead to "brownout" during low-level operations in dusty environments. Several somewhat similar concepts exist in seemingly similar stages of development, including the Air Mule (video) and Hummingbird flying platform (video). Aerofex says it will focus on development for unmanned applications first. The company's prior work includes contributions to spacecraft programs and approved flight structures for the air-transport and motion picture industries. Its contributions also include development of "commercially successful products in the action sports industry," like parts for snowboards.  In January, the company participated in the Future Vertical Lift Aircraft Design Conference sponsored by the San Francisco chapter of the American Helicopter Society, International. There, it made a presentation titled "Thrust Augmentation & Control of Ducted-Fan VTOL Air-Vehicles." Aerofex has a flightlog here.

 
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Training and Safety back to top 
 

SAFE To Expand Pilot Proficiency Project

At EAA AirVenture last month, the Society of Aviation and Flight Educators debuted a series of forums and simulator sessions it calls the Pilot Proficiency Project, and this week SAFE said it plans to expand the project to other venues. SAFE said based on its analysis of feedback from participants, the effort was a "resounding success." More than 700 people took part in the project. SAFE is now looking for funding and sponsorship to expand the effort. At AirVenture, participants attended forums and took part in training scenarios in Redbird simulators that addressed safety of flight topics.

SAFE reported on its analysis of feedback from about one-third of the participants at Oshkosh, and created a list of areas where it could improve. For example, SAFE could provide more capacity and larger monitors for the forums, and give pilots more information about the simulator experience prior to taking part to help them get more out of it. The next venue for the Pilot Proficiency Project will be announced soon, SAFE said. AVweb's Mary Grady visited the training venue at Oshkosh; click here for the story and a podcast.

IMC Club Adds New Chapters

IMC Club International, Inc. will be opening additional chaptersin the next few weeks at: CP Aviation in Santa Paula, CA Aug. 25; RedBird Skyport in San Marcos, TX Sept. 13 and MotionAir Aviation in Midlothian, TX Sept. 14 for the inaugural meetings. Also, new chapters and meetings are planned for North Carolina, Nevada, Michigan, Alabama and Nebraska all of which will bring the total number of IMC Club Chapters to more than 36. Prospective members will be given the opportunity to meet and interact with IMC Club founder and president Radek Wyrzykowski at each of these opening meetings.

The IMC Club is an organization dedicated to promoting safety and proficiency among its instrument-rated members. The IMC Club encourages creation of local communities of pilots who meet to discuss topics and share information specific to instrument flying. Members call it "organized hangar flying" which promotes sharing of experience and encourages more and safer instrument aviation. The IMC Club acts as a network of pilots who share their knowledge and experience while learning from one another. "We are building on our momentum and success from Oshkosh. I am so pleased with the pilot community's reception and enthusiasm that we received at the 2012 AirVenture. I am certainly looking forward to our participation in future aviation events and gatherings,"said Wyrzykowski. He said one of the primary goals of the IMC Club is to increase pilot confidence and proficiency by training in actual instrument conditions and then discuss their experiences in the environment of a chapter meeting. The club was established as a learning resource for instrument-rated pilots and for students pursuing their instrument ratings. To accomplish this, monthly meetings are held at local chapters around the country to help pilots and students build and maintain their IFR skills, and to share stories and tips from their fellow pilots.

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

Question of the Week: How's Your IFR Confidence?

Pilots are flying less these days, and among the most important skills that might be eroded are those involving IFR flight. The IMC Club is trying to address that with "organized hangar flying" meetings, but what's your own assessment of your IFR currency?

How comfortable are you on the gauges?
(click to answer)

Last Week's Question: Results

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What You Missed in AVwebBiz This Week back to top 
 

Embraer Wants 30 Percent Of Bizjet Market

Embraer, which only really got started in the business jet industry five years ago, says it wants up to 30 percent of the market and it's most of the way there. "We don't want to be greedy," Ernie Edwards, head of Embraer's executive jet business, told Reuters in an interview at LABACE last week. "Twenty to 30 percent would be healthy market share," Edwards said. The Phenom series of light business jets has made significant inroads in that market segment but it's the higher-margin mid-sized realm that is next on the Brazilian company's agenda.

The first Legacy 450 is now under construction and Embraer is hoping for first flight of the Legacy 500 by the end of 2013, but it's taken a gamble with the two mid-sized aircraft, a gamble that might pay off in a serious challenge to Cessna's dominance of that market segment. Both are fly-by-wire designs, technology not previously available in the $15-$20 million price range. Like all manufacturers, Embraer is waiting for the world economic situation to sort itself out and Edwards said there are positive signs in the U.S., if not in Europe.

Cessna Boosts Latitude Range

When Cessna introduced the mid-sized Latitude at last year's NBAA convention in Las Vegas, much of the hallway discussion was about its relatively modest range of 2,000 nm. Cessna apparently heard that chatter and a few months after the convention boosted the range to 2,300 nm, matching that of the Embraer 450. At LABACE in Sao Paulo last week the company added another 200 nm to the Latitude's range, making it among the most long-legged in its segment.

"As we talked with more customers, getting to 2,500 nautical miles was imperative," said Bob Gibbs, Cessna's VP of sales for South America. The Latitude is a direct challenge to Embraer's entry into that category of bizjet and much of the attention was devoted to cabin features that include a six-foot ceiling and 77-inch width, which Cessna says is the widest it has ever built. There is also a stand-up lav with sink and closet.

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Opinion & Commentary back to top 
 

AVweb Insider Blog: Runway Chicken Revisited

One way of preventing the sort of opposite-direction loss of separation that occurred at Reagan National in late July is to just shut the airport down for a while. That's essentially the gist of a new order from the FAA. On the AVweb Insider blog, you can hear how it works out with live audio from Los Angeles tower.

Read more and join the conversation.

Video: PlaneDriven's Roadable Airplane

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

The problem with flying cars is that it's a lot harder to make a car fly than it is to make an airplane drive. That's the thinking behind Trey Johnson's roadable Glasair Sportsman, which we filmed at Oshkosh. He flew it in and drove it around town a couple of times. We're not sure what kind of demand there is for this sort of thing, but it's fun to watch it come together.

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AVweb Insider Blog: What Is It with Flying Cars?

Maybe we should blame Popular Mechanics for all those magazine covers featuring — artist's conception only — a flying car in every garage. The idea has never worked, and it's probably never going to work, yet it persists and draws more interest than a lot of practical designs that just aren't as sexy. Or, as Paul Bertorelli surmises on the AVweb Insider blog, maybe they just don't have that edge-of-sanity dingbat factor. Just because people won't buy crazy doesn't mean they don't want to watch people try to pull it off.

Read more and join the conversation.

 
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Your Favorite FBOs back to top 
 

FBO of the Week: Hangar 9 (Aberdeen Regional Airport/KABR, South Dakota)

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

AVweb readers often discover great FBOs on their individual journeys to Oshkosh for AirVenture. This year was no exception, as we received quite a few nominations during the weeks after the show.

Our latest "FBO of the Week" is one of these, recommended by annual patron Les Smith - Hangar 9 at Aberdeen Regional Airport (KABR) in Aberdeen, South Dakota. Les had high praise for H9 and its staff:

Hangar 9 greeted our arrival with a lineman ready to marshall us in. Free refreshments (a variety of drinks and snacks) were available. An Oshkosh special price for fuel was in effect [during our visit]. Owner Darryl Shook was very hospitable. He provided a late-model loaner vehicle and hangared our Cardinal overnight against potential storms — not forecast, but hey, this is South Dakota — and offered recommendations for both food and lodging. KABR is a natural stop for our Seattle area trip to/from Oshkosh, and Hangar 9 is a natural for a friendly, helpful FBO.

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!

 
Reader-Submitted Photos back to top 
 

Picture of the Week: AVweb's Flying Photography Showcase

Our latest winning photo comes from Brian Breighner of Cumberland, MD. Click here for the rest of this week's submissions.
 
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:

Publisher
Tom Bliss

Editorial Director, Aviation Publications
Paul Bertorelli

Editor-in-Chief
Russ Niles

Webmaster
Scott Simmons

Contributing Editors
Mary Grady
Glenn Pew

Contributors
Kevin Lane-Cummings
Jeff Van West

Ad Coordinator
Karen Lund

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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