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The FAA took action Wednesday to ground the U.S.-registered Boeing 787 Dreamliner fleet, which the agency certified just 17 months ago, stating that a "corrective action plan" is needed to address
"a potential battery fire risk" before flights are allowed to resume. Europe, Japan and India joined the flight ban late in the day. An emergency airworthiness directive is expected. The only carrier
affected is United Airlines, currently the sole U.S. operator of the Dreamliner, and follows a fire event aboard an All Nippon Airways jet earlier Wednesday in Japan. That event led to an emergency
landing. Inspection of the aircraft later found burn marks and damage related to a leak from the aircraft's main lithium-ion battery, which is mounted below and behind the cockpit. Boeing will now
work together with the FAA to develop the plan to return the aircraft to the air -- timeframe unknown.
The plan could produce anything from simple improvements that see the aircraft returned to flight, soon, to extensive changes that could delay deliveries. There are approximately 50 787s
currently in service with more than 750 more of the airliners on order. ANA grounded its fleet of 17 Dreamliners and Japan Airlines did the same with its seven following concerns that developed from
Wednesday's and earlier events. The aircraft has been involved in several incidents that so far appear to trace back to the jet's electrical systems including its circuitry and its use of lithium-ion
batteries. The chief engineer for the 787 program, Mike Sinnett, stated last week that "failures of the battery won't put the airplane at risk," CBS News reported. Sinnett said the plane's batteries,
which are the suspected in at least two events, have operated through a combined 1.3 million hours without an internal fault.
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Early reports say the pilot and one person on the ground were killed when a helicopter hit a construction crane on top of a 50-story building during rush hour in central London Wednesday morning.
The AgustaWestland 109 helicopter fell straight to the ground and exploded, and the fire spread to nearby cars in the busy traffic. Thirteen people were hurt. Witnesses said they thought it was a bomb
going off, especially since it was so close to the Parliament building. Reportedly there was fog in the area. Pilots had been warned about the crane, but a witness told The Associated Press that fog
and mist were covering the building, and he didn't see any lights on the crane.
The pilot, Peter Barnes, 50, was an experienced pilot whose career included flying in Hollywood films, including "Saving Private Ryan" and the James Bond movie "Die Another Day," according to the
AP. Barnes had requested to divert and land at the London Heliport, close to the crash scene, because of the weather. "He was a very highly skilled pilot, one of the most experienced in the U.K., with
over 12,000 flying hours," said Philip Amadeus, managing director of RotorMotion, the executive helicopter charter business that operated the flight. "We are devastated by the loss of a highly valued
colleague and very dear friend."
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The FAA Tuesday published a proposed rule that would ban flight crews from using personal electronic devices in the cockpit (job-related tools excepted), but the same day a press release from
industry representatives pushed for approval of use of the devices in the cabin. The panel, hosted by the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) and the Consumer Electronics Association
(CEA), met at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Jan. 10. On the whole, the group "largely favored the looser restrictions that exist in other regions in the world,"
according to a press release from APEX and CEA. They offered an opinion poll conducted by Amazon.com in support of their position. And noted that their interests also economically based.
The Amazon poll asked customers about their feelings regarding FAA regulations. The results indicated to Amazon that customers were frustrated with the rules and skeptical about their benefits.
Aside from the feelings of passengers, the APEX/CEA press release suggests potential economic benefits. "Airlines and vendor companies could benefit" from looser restrictions affecting use of personal
electronic devices on airplanes. The panel meeting was attended by "more than 70 people," according to APEX/CEA, which said its panel proceeded to "pick apart" current U.S. policy restricting use of
personal electronics. A video, "Taking Flight: New Approaches to the Use of Consumer Electronics on Airplanes," was presented at the meeting
offering arguments in support of looser regulation and noting the potential for job creation if rules are loosened, allowing for entrepreneurial development of onboard services.
It seems odd that based on one incident -- those two pilots who flew right past their destination while absorbed in a discussion and looking at their laptops -- the FAA wants to ban all airline
pilots from ever using personal electronic devices while in the cockpit -- ever. On the AVweb Insider blog, Mary Grady wonders if there's any way such a ban could work.
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A new variety of rigid airship is under construction in Tustin, Calif., and this week the prototype successfully completed its first float tests. A series of maneuvers was conducted inside the
ship's immense engineering hangar. The Aeroscraft vehicle will be able to take off and land vertically without a ground crew or runway, the company says. It also has a system that will enable it to
carry cargo and offload without having to take on ballast, simplifying ground operations. The project has attracted financing from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Department of
Defense and NASA.
The prototype is about 230 feet long, but a full-scale version is expected to be about twice that size. The full-scale version will be able to carry 66 tons of cargo and use about one-third less
fuel than conventional aircraft, the company says. Aeros CEO Igor Pasternak told Gizmag that the company's next
step will be to build a full-scale prototype for FAA certification. He said he doesn't plan to sell the ships, but will lease them out, providing trained crew and maintenance.
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The Steamboat Springs Airport in Colorado has been getting plenty of snow this year, and the airport operators say they've successfully tested a new method for dealing with snow that's safer and
more economical than just plowing it out of the way. Crews have instead been compacting the snow and using it as part of an arresting system that slows and supports airplanes that overshoot the
landing strip. The new process also eliminates the abrupt snowbanks, up to 20 inches high, that in the past could flip airplanes that ran off course.
Airport manager Mel Baker told SteamboatToday.com that it's "pretty
common" for airplanes to run off the runway at the airport, due to the weather and the challenges of high-altitude mountain flying. Baker recalled an incident in 2009 when a airplane exited the
runway, hit a snowbank, flipped over, and was totaled. An airplane that ran off the runway in the same spot in December was not damaged at all. The tilled and compacted snow slowed and supported the
airplane until it stopped. "I was amazed," said pilot Stephen Textor. "I was ready for the nose to drop and the propeller to hit the ground ... I thought the plane was going to be a total loss.
Somebody had a really good idea and I'm glad." Baker said he believes his airport is the first to use snow as part of an arresting system.
Share-a-Training-Practice Promotion Extended through March
The latest winners in our monthly promotion have been announced, and Mike Franz received the US$100 top award. For more information about all of our winners,
With glass everything the rule rather than exception, the lowly navcomm hasn't seen much market push lately, but Garmin changed that this week with a series of new VHF navcomms. The GTR and GNC
series will replace the aging but still popular SL 30 and SL 40 radios, which were developed more than a decade ago by the then UPSAT. Garmin bought that company and its product line in 2003. Although
the SL series had digital and frequency storage and monitoring features that buyers liked, the GTR and GNC products offer features not seen thus far in navcomms. The GNC is the follow-on for the SL 30
navcomm while the GTR is a comm-only radio, addressing the same market space as the SL 40.
Like modern glass suites, the new radios will have displayed frequency databases, meaning pilots can find frequencies associated with named airports or navaids, and there's also a reverse lookup
feature. Data such as nearest control tower, terminal radar or center can also be accessed and as with the SL series, one frequency can be monitored while another is in use. The radios will store the
20 most recently used frequencies, plus up to 15 of the most used frequencies, such as the home tower, ground and radar freqs.
For the upgrade market, both series will include a built-in voice-activated intercom and the GNC series will drive displays including Garmin's G500, G600, G500H and the G3X, which is popular in
experimental and LSA aircraft. The GNC will also drive the Bendix/King KI208, one of the most popular indicators in the fleet. However, the new radios are not pin-compatible with the SL product line
and will require new installation kits and hardware.
The transmitters also pack more RF punch than the SL series did. Both are available with 10- or 16-watt transmit power, compared to eight watts for the SL series. The radios meet the 8.33 kHz
channel spacing requirement just put in place by the European Union. Prices for the series start at $1995 for the comm-only version. For more, see Garmin.com.
There's still plenty of demand for traditional navcomm radios. The new Garmin GNC and GTR line of navcomm radios bring smart features and advanced interfacing. Larry Anglisano from
Aviation Consumer magazine gives a product tour of the new radio on the test bench at EXXEL Avionics in Connecticut.
Enstrom Helicopters, a small but growing company based in Michigan, has been sold to Chongqing Helicopter Investment Co. "This is a major step in moving Enstrom to a new level," said company
president Jerry Mullins. "This strong ownership will allow further growth of our business in Menominee, Michigan, to meet the demands of the increasing markets around the world, especially Asia."
Enstrom has increased its workforce by 50 percent over the last 18 months, and plans to expand its facilities in Michigan to support higher production rates.
The new ownership will provide funding for new product development and increased marketing, the company said. Enstrom manufactures a three-seat piston-powered helicopter for training, sport and
light commercial operations, and a larger turbine-powered model available with three to five seats as a trainer, executive transport or patrol aircraft. More than 1,100 Enstrom helicopters have been
sold around the world. The company has changed hands several times since it was founded by Rudy Enstrom in 1959; most recently it was owned by Swiss investors.
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AVweb reader Harry Shannon recommended told us how the fuel prices caught his attention but the service brought him back to Walnut Ridge a second time:
Moving a Caravan amphib from Florida to Washington state, good fuel prices prompted a stop at Walnut Ridge. The service was great, leading to a planned stop on the return trip to Florida. As often
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