AVwebFlash Complete Issue: Volume 18, Number 41a

October 8, 2012

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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AVflash! Not Your Average Flying Gig back to top 

Podcast: Shuttle Transport Pilot

File Size 18.3 MB / Running Time 20:02

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Podcast Index | How to Listen | Subscribe Via RSS

AVweb spoke this week with NASA Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) pilot Bill Brockett about his experience transporting Space Shuttles atop NASA's modified Boeing 747, from flight characteristics to emergency procedures. Brockett said NASA's SCA climbs at about 800 fpm with a Shuttle strapped to its back and the aircraft's handling is different in a number of respects. Takeoff distances can exceed 11,000 feet. The fixed vertical stabilizers added to the tail offer significant increases in yaw stability but also encourage good pilots to "cheat" with asymmetric thrust when turning the aircraft to keep the ball centered. A Space Shuttle can weigh anywhere from roughly 165,000 pounds to 230,000 when its transported, depending on the mission, and if an SCA loses an engine, the situation becomes critical, quickly. That happened once.

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Click here to listen. (18.3 MB, 20:02)

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Drones Dominating Headlines back to top 

Israel Says It Shot Down Drone

Israel says it shot down a drone invading its airspace on Saturday and the big question still appears to be to whom it might belong. The video released by the Israeli government shows a missile blowing something to pieces and a fighter jet turns sharply just shy of the debris cloud. Media reports immediately implicated Iranian-backed Hezbollah for the airspace incursion, which Israel said came from the Mediterranean and ended in a puff of smoke over the southern desert.

It's been six years since Israel has responded to an airspace violation that deep in its territory and it's not happy about the incident. There were suggestions of retaliation and some tough talk from Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who said in a statement that Israel views "this incident of attempting to enter Israeli airspace very severely and we will consider our response later."

DARPA Steps Toward UAV To UAV Refueling

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has announced that two modified Global Hawk drones have demonstrated they can "safely and autonomously operate under in-flight refueling conditions," but challenges remain. The tests actually took place several months ago, and DARPA researchers have been poring over data acquired during those tests to reach their conclusions. Researchers expected low success rates over multiple attempts because Global Hawks are designed for endurance, not refined control authority in formation flight. But DARPA this week said data analysis shows that close formation flights show that "60 percent of the attempts would achieve contact." And that could eventually lead to changes the mission profiles and capabilities of unmanned aerial systems.

The tests flew the aircraft in formations that kept a refueling probe and receiver at distances of 100 feet or less over hours at a time at altitudes above 44,000 feet. They applied different breakaway scenarios and contingencies and found that the aircraft successfully avoided potentially hazardous conditions. The latest tests were the ninth in a series that have advanced since 2007. In those tests, DARPA and NASA teamed to show that high-performance aircraft operated with human observer pilots could perform automated refueling from conventional manned tankers. Fitting Global Hawk aerial vehicles with air-to-air refueling capabilities would allow the aircraft to carry heavier payloads at takeoff and prolong mission times. The FAA is currently working to formalize regulations that would dictate the operation of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) in the national airspace.

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Unusual Flying Tech back to top 

Were Those Aliens Or Just Canadians?

The Air Force recently declassified documents that detail a plan to contract a Canadian company to build a flying saucer capable of flying at Mach 4 and landing and taking off vertically. According to CNET, Project 1794, as it was known, had a development budget in 1956 of $3.168 million (about $27 million in 2012 dollars) and envisioned a strike aircraft that could still operate without the runways that would presumably have been destroyed by nuclear strikes from Russia. Avro Canada apparently came up with the idea. "It is concluded that the stabilization and control of the aircraft in the manner proposed -- the propulsive jets are used to control the aircraft -- is feasible and the aircraft can be designed to have satisfactory handling through the whole flight range from ground cushion takeoff to supersonic flight at very high altitude," Avro said. Since the declassified drawings look so much like the alien spacecraft that were rampantly reported about the same time, it begs some questions that are there for the answering by enterprising historians and/or conspiracy theorists.

The truth is that Avro did build a little flying saucer called the Avrocar in a contract for the Army, which was looking for a low-flying VTOL aircraft. The Avrocar didn't work very well and the project was cancelled in 1961. As for the more ambitious Project 1794, the details of its demise are in the National Archives in Washington, D.C. The Archives has only gone through a couple of boxes of the flying saucer files but the rest of them are available.

"Jetpack" Sets "Record"

The president of Jetlev Southwest, Dean O'Malley, flew (tethered to a floating powerplant and not without stops) over 26.2 miles of open ocean from Newport Beach California to Catalina Saturday, Sept. 29, to promote the company's jetpack product. The promotional stunt aimed to set a record for longest jetpack flight. Jetlev manufactures a jetpack that uses water pressure for thrust. The water is pumped from a floating power unit through a hose to two downward-facing nozzles attached to a backpack worn by the pilot. The system handled the trip in about four hours but its 200-hp four-stroke marine engine emptied the craft's 22-gallon fuel tank twice along the way, with varied results.

The second time the craft ran out of fuel, O'Malley was roughly seven miles from his destination at Catalina. Unfortunately, the crew didn't have enough fuel to top off the tank. O'Malley was within a few yards of the beach and flying at about 15 feet when the jetpack ran out of fuel for the last time, dropping him into waist-deep water. From there, O'Malley collected himself and walked to shore. Jetlev Southwest sells its jetpack for about $100,000. It also offers membership packages that offer up to 40 minutes of flight time per month. AVweb first introduced its audience to the Jetlev product with an early YouTube video produced in 2009. Advances at YouTube have since desynchronized the audio and video portions of that video, found here.

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Honoring History back to top 

Aerodynamics Pioneer Whitcomb Honored

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The Whitcomb area rule, the supercritical wing, and winglets changed supersonic flight, modern jetliners and aircraft of all kinds, and are attributed to Richard T. Whitcomb, who will be posthumously inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame Saturday, Oct. 6. Whitcomb died in 2009 at the age of 88 after a 37-year career at NASA's Langley Research Center. Lesa Roe, director of the center, said of Whitcomb, "His practical solutions led to three of the most significant and practical contributions to aeronautics in the 20th century." Whitcomb's application of the area rule earned him the Collier Trophy in 1954 and has been applied to nearly every U.S. supersonic aircraft ever designed, according to NASA. The latest honor adds to a long list bestowed on Whitcomb while he was still alive.

Whitcomb received the Exceptional Service medal from the U.S. Air Force in 1955, the Distinguished Service Medal in 1956 from the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics and NASA's Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal in 1959. He won the National Aeronautics Association Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy in 1974 and was inducted into the National Academy of Engineering in 1976 and the National Inventors' Hall of Fame in 2003. The area rule was made famous by the Convair F-102 Delta Dagger's pinched fuselage and greatly reduced transonic drag on nearly every supersonic U.S. aircraft designed since.  It had been previously considered by German researchers as early as 1943. Whitcomb's supercritical wing delayed the onset of increased drag at near-supersonic speeds and was first applied to airliners in the 1960s. And the winglet further improved aerodynamic efficiencies on a wide range of aircraft from gliders to heavy jets.

Firecat Goes To Museum

A piece of aerial firefighting history has flown its last mission and will become the newest display at the Canadian Museum of Flight in Langley, British Columbia, about 30 miles east of Vancouver. Conair Group Inc., which pioneered the conversion of military surplus aircraft into air tankers, is phasing out its fleet of Firecats, modified Grumman CS2F Tracker submarine hunters. It donated the airworthy aircraft to the museum. The twin-radial-engine aircraft were carrier-based patrol aircraft used by the Canadian and U.S. Navies in the 1960s. Conair converted more than 35 for use as firefighting aircraft.

The museum's new plane spent its operational history aboard the Canadian aircraft carrier HMCS Bonaventure. Conair raised the floor of the aircraft and installed an 867-gallon tank where the torpedo bay once was. The result was a relatively maneuverable and powerful air tanker suited to the mountainous terrain of B.C. and the western states. Langley was a natural choice for preservation of the aircraft because it was the location of Conair's predecessor company Skyway Air Services, which pioneered aerial firefighting. Conair is now a major air tanker contractor and modifier based in Abbotsford, B.C., 20 miles east of Langley.

Copperstate Fly-In || October 25-27, 2012
The Southwest's Premier Aviation Event, the Copperstate Fly-In & Aviation Expo will take place October 25-27 in Casa Grande, Arizona at the Municipal Airport. This, the 40th annual event, will include over 500 aircraft of all kinds, airplane rides, aviation exhibitors, fly-bys, vendors, a food court, and the Ford "Go Further" Tour. Adult admission: $15. Children 12 & under: no charge. No-cost parking. See Copperstate.org for more information.

Come and enjoy an aviation experience at its best!
Opinion & Commentary back to top 

AVweb Insider Blog: Discovery Channel's Plane Crash

The Discovery Channel aired its much-hyped Plane Crash program on an ambitious project to crash an old 727 into the Mexican desert. It was billed as a research project and might very well have been, but it also made for some interesting television. If you saw it — or even if you didn't it — check out Paul Bertorelli's review on the AVweb Insider blog and let us know what you think.

Read more and join the conversation.

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New on AVweb.com back to top 

Brainteasers Quiz #176: Free Yourself from Restrictions


Between summer and winter, when reason begins to lower, comes a pause in a pilot's occupations that's known as Presidential campaign season, imposing TFRs that threaten your wings. Defend yourself with this quiz.

Take the quiz.

More Brainteasers

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

AVmail: October 8, 2012

Each week, we run a sampling of the letters received to our editorial inbox here in AVmail. One letter that's particularly relevant, informative, or otherwise compelling will headline this section as our "Letter of the Week," and we'll send the author an official AVweb baseball cap as a "thank you" for interacting with us (and the rest of our readership). Send us your comments and questions using this form. Please include your mailing address in your e-mail (just in case your letter is our "Letter of the Week"); by the same token, please let us know if your message is not intended for publication.

Letter of the Week: Going Clubbing

Regarding the "Question of the Week": I am a firm believer in flying clubs. I started flying in the early '70s [and] belonged to an active flying club in South Africa, and it was a marvelous and supportive experience aviation related. I emigrated. The club scene there continues to flourish, but here in the States there is little if any such involvement, and I think it is a great pity. Flying overseas is far more expensive than in U.S.A., but there is more enthusiasm and activity [abroad], and that proves the point.

Dr. Peter Foox

I participate in these questions almost every time they come up. And this is a good question, no doubt. Being a member of a flying club can have its benefits, but it is not necessarily going to help very much as the costs are getting out of control. At my airport, for example, they charge $100 per hour for a Cessna 150. If you are a club member, you get that same airplane for $90 per hour. Fuel costs are around $30 per hour.

General maintenance of aircraft has not gone up as much as the basic operating cost of fuel and oil. A mere eight years ago, aviation fuel cost about $1.60 per gallon. At my airport in Southern California, it has topped $6. Sometime soon, if these costs are not brought to a manageable level, we will lose general aviation, and flying clubs will be a thing of the past.

Paul Bern

Yes, flying clubs would be great. At most airports in my area, there are no airplanes to rent after one gets his or her private pilot certificate. That deters many from making the initial investment in flight training. Flying needs to be happening at all airports, not just the bigger ones with controlled airspace. Flying clubs would help more people take lessons and fly without having to buy an airplane as sole owner.

Sam Parker

A Tragedy in All Ways

Regarding the crash of the de Havilland Dragon: I observed this aircraft on several occasions during its rebuild and attended its unveiling. It was beyond a restoration. It was a truly magnificent work of art. Never have I seen such a truly beautiful restoration in over 40 years in aviation.

The owners were lovely people dedicated to preserving a historic plane. It's a tragic loss of six people and the destruction of a masterpiece of workmanship.

It would have had pride of place in any aircraft museum in the world on the quality of the workmanship. Two brothers spent several years painstakingly restoring it to what anyone would consider as close to perfection as any plane has ever been. The fact that six friends died in it made it a truly tragic loss.

Name withheld

AVweb Replies:

AVweb has agreed to withhold the letter writer's name for personal reasons.

Russ Niles

Read AVmail from other weeks here, and submit your own Letter to the Editor with this form.

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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Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Gulf Air Center (KJKA, Gulf Shores, Alabama)

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

Once again, we've had a bumper crop of nominations to our weekly FBO contest — and this time, many of them came from members of the Beech Aero Club, which apparently had a terrific annual get-together at Jack Edwards Airport (KJKA) in Gulf Shores, Alabama, where Gulf Air Center served as their host FBO. Among those who nominated Gulf Air is the club's founder Cloyd Van Hook, who writes:

I am the founder of the Beech Aero Club, the type club for the Beech Musketeer farmily of aircraft. We recently had our annual national fly-in at JKA in Gulf Shores. Gulf Air Center served as our host FBO. They provided us with hangar space and equipment for our maintenance clinic and provided excellent service to our members. I look forward to visiting KJKA and Gulf Air Center again soon.

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

Video: Super Legend Flight Trial

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

American Legend gained success with its popular Legend Cub, and now it's followed up with a new Lycoming-powered version of the airplane. If you like the Super Cub, you'll like the Super Legend, too, because its performance is quite similar. AVweb ventured to Legend's Sulphur Spring, Texas, homebase to fly the airplane, and here's a video report on the flight.

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Video: The Last Flying B-24 Bomber (Collings Foundation)

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

The B-24 was the most widely produced bomber in world history. This video shows the sole surviving regularly flown example, from roughly 18,000 B-24 Liberator bombers produced. This is the Collings Foundation's B-24, Witchcraft.

During World War II, at peak production, factories put out roughly ten of these aircraft per day. Each was driven by four supercharged turbocharged radials putting out 1,200 horsepower each. Flying with greater range than the B-17 Flying Fortress, the B-24 Liberator bomber could drop about 8,000 pounds of bombs from high- or low-altitude attacks. When WWII's most widely used big bomber went down, it often took all ten crewmen at a time. It was notably involved in the infamous Ploesti raid, in which more than 50 aircraft and 660 crewmen were lost. The surviving men who flew in the bomber and the men and women who produced these historic aircraft are becoming few. Talk to one if you get the chance.

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The Lighter Side of Flight back to top 

Short Final

We had lost our autopilot and advised the local ATC controller in the Kyrgyz Republic that we were not RVSM-compliant. This prompted the following exchange:

Aircraft 1234 (us) :
"Aircraft 1234, Osh control. State nature of the problem?"

Osh Control:
"Osh Control, Aircraft 1234. We have lost our autopilot."

[long pause]

Osh Control:
"Aircraft 1234, which pilot doesn't work?"

Karl Vogelheim
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

Scott Simmons

Contributing Editors
Mary Grady
Glenn Pew

Kevin Lane-Cummings

Ad Coordinator
Karen Lund

Avionics Editor
Larry Anglisano

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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