AVwebFlash Complete Issue: Volume 19, Number 16b

April 18, 2013

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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AVflash! Debugging the Dreamliner back to top 

Dreamliner Battery Tests Complete

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta says Boeing "has completed all required tests and analysis" of fixes for battery problems suffered by its 787 Dreamliner, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday, but no decision had yet been made to clear the jet for flight. Huerta also noted that the FAA has not yet determined whether it will allow the airliner to fly over-water routes beyond three hours' flight time from a suitable landing site. Regulators grounded the jet in mid-January after two of the jets experienced battery fires. The events have levied new scrutiny on the FAA's certification process.

The GAO has warned that budget constraints may challenge the FAA's ability to keep pace with the development of emerging technologies. The FAA has not seen an increase in government spending for certification programs and has not shifted more funds toward certification. In the case of the Boeing 787 (and other aircraft), the agency often relied on company representatives for information and component testing. The DOT's inspector general's office (DOT IG) has criticized the FAA for failing to ensure that company personnel designated by the FAA to perform such tasks receive clear guidance. Boeing flew a test flight of a 787 equipped with its modified battery system on April 5. It is now waiting for the FAA to approve the new system for installation.

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Dealing with Tower Closures back to top 

FAA Discusses Safety Issues Surrounding Tower Closures

It appears the FAA is backtracking on an earlier directive that forbade at least some of its FAA Safety Team (FAAST) representatives from talking about pending tower closures. On Wednesday the FAAST Safety Team issued a general note of advice about operating at non-towered airports (the FAAST Team doesn't like the term "uncontrolled") and touched on all the points covered by myriad other sources on the topic since the closures became a real possibility. (Click here for a PDF of the e-mail.) Closures of 149 towers were supposed to start April 7 but on April 5 the FAA delayed that until at least June 15 citing the spate of legal challenges to the closures. Also on April 5, a regional FAAST assistant manager on the East Coast told his safety team that any discussion of tower closures was off limits. (Click here for the PDF.)

Of course, since he sent it via email, it instantly appeared on forums and media inboxes all over the country (despite the FAA's stern boilerplate directive at the bottom of the email that forbids this kind of wanton dissemination of information) and was a lively topic of often-cynical observation. The directive read, in part, that "until further notice, there are to be no stand-alone seminars on non-towered airport operations. Additionally, at all seminars, discussions/topics regarding furloughs or contract tower closures are not permitted." So far, the FAA has not responded to requests for elaboration on the rationale for the communications strategy on tower closures.

The latest FAA communication on the topic does contain a kernel of advice that we haven't seen elsewhere, and it's worth passing along. Since pilot certification requires some exposure to "towered" airports, the remaining towered airports will have increased student traffic. The FAAST team recommends "diligent planning on the part of training providers, instructors and students," not to mention those encountering the unaccustomed touch and goes by 152s at busy airports.

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A Longer Look at Renewable Fuels back to top 

USDA Extends Biofuels Project

The USDA is extending for five years a 2010-2012 program that joins the FAA with partners from the commercial aviation segment to develop biofuels for the aviation industry. Participants include the USDA, the FAA, Boeing and a trade group called Airlines for America. The program will focus on evaluating feedstock and supply chains with the goal of creating a viable domestically produced drop-in replacement for Jet-A derived from renewable sources. As for production, the USDA says the coalition hopes to support the annual production of one billion gallons of drop-in aviation biofuel by 2018. The program is not without its critics.

The program has seen opposition from livestock producers and fuel refiners. And last week, legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives that aims to remove a requirement for renewable fuels to be blended with diesel and gasoline supplies in the U.S. Critics contend that the program's use of agricultural resources has contributed to a rise in food prices and that blending requirements could affect gasoline prices. That position is contested by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsak, who told Reuters, "There are industries and folds who are deeply concerned about the progress that is being made, who want to slow that progress down."

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The New Socata back to top 

Socata Introduces 2013 TBM Model

Daher-Socata brought the newest model of its popular TBM 850 turboprop to Sun 'n Fun last week. The 2013 Elite version features integrated electronic solid-state standby instruments by L-3 Avionics, the Trilogy ESI-2000, to replace the previous electro-mechanical instrument version. The unit has an internal battery and a 4-by-3-inch active matrix liquid crystal display. Interior enhancements include a new perforated seatback design that improves comfort on hot days, the company said. The company is also offering a special interior upgrade package, and an extended maintenance program good for five years or 1,000 hours.

Additional safety options in the 2013 Elite package are a GPS-linked emergency locator transmitter and a pulsed light system that alternately flashes the landing, taxi and recognition lights 45 times per minute to increase the aircraft's visibility. Socata also has extended its recommended maintenance intervals on new production aircraft from 100 hours to 200 hours or 12 months. To celebrate 150 years since the founding of Daher, the company is working on a film about the history of aviation in France that will debut later this summer at EAA AirVenture.

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Today's Losses, Tomorrow's Pilots back to top 

Teens-N-Flight: Helping Kids Through Aviation

Wounded military veterans -- even those with wounds that aren't visible -- get far less attention than they deserve and their families get even less. Jack Howell, a retired Marine colonel, is actively doing something about that. He's established a non-profit called Teens-N-Flight whose sole goal is to offer cost-free flight training to the children of soldiers killed or wounded in combat.

In an interview at Sun 'n Fun last week, Howell told us the country has been slow to recognize that post traumatic stress disorder doesn't affect just the military members themselves, but also the families and especially the children. "I really want to use aviation as a conduit for these kids to help them overcome their PTSD," Howell says. "The wizards in Congress have finally acknowledged that the entire family suffers from PTSD, but there's no funding to do anything. Well, I'm not waiting. I've been doing this five years now," he adds.

As a 501(C)3, Howell runs the organization entirely on donations, including his own funding. Howell has training sites at three locations: Colorado Springs, Jacksonville and Palm Coast in Florida. Teen-N-Flight finds candidates through schools and service organizations.

Podcast: Helping Kids with Flying

File Size 4.0 MB / Running Time 4:48

Podcast Index | How to Listen | Subscribe Via RSS

Retired Marine Col. Jack Howell didn't wait for the government to look after the needs of the children of war veterans. He talked to AVweb's Paul Bertorelli about how aviation can help them cope with the changes war brings to their lives.

Click here to listen. (4.0 MB, 4:48)

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AVweb Audio — Are You Listening? back to top 

Podcast: Flight Design Adds Deluxe Model

File Size 2.4 MB / Running Time 2:35

Podcast Index | How to Listen | Subscribe Via RSS

It's been 25 years since Flight Design started delivering airplanes, and they celebrated with a sold-out special edition. AVweb's Mary Grady talked to Flight Design's John Gilmore about the new model based on the limited-edition aircraft.

Click here to listen. (2.4 MB, 2:35)

Podcast: World of Warplanes Preview

File Size 4.2 MB / Running Time 4:35

Podcast Index | How to Listen | Subscribe Via RSS

This is no flight simulator. Fight for your life and work your way from a piston fighter to a jet in the game previewed at Sun 'n Fun. AVweb's Mary Grady found out more about the game's pending release.

Click here to listen. (4.2 MB, 4:35)

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What You Missed in AVwebBiz This Week back to top 

FAA Eases Process For Some Medical Exemptions

The FAA has expanded the list of medical conditions that can be evaluated by an aviation medical examiner instead of requiring a special issuance and an FAA review, EAA reported last week. Under a new FAA policy, applicants with arthritis, glaucoma, hypertension, pre-diabetes and several other common conditions are eligible for the simplified process. Further diagnoses are expected to be announced in the coming months, EAA said. Dr. Greg Pinnell of the EAA Aeromedical Advisory Council will explain the changes in an online webinar scheduled for Wednesday at 7 p.m. Central Time. The webinar is free to all; you need not be an EAA member. The video will be archived on EAA's site for later viewing. Meanwhile, the leaders of both EAA and AOPA have said recently that a proposal last year to the FAA that would have eliminated the third-class medical requirement for many private pilots has stalled.

As AVweb reported last week, EAA chairman Jack Pelton said the outlook is "pessimistic" for the exemption to get passed, but he will continue working to change the third-class requirements. Later in the week, AOPA President Craig Fuller also said support for the exemption is flagging. "High-level FAA staffers told us the exemption was not a priority for the agency," he said. More than 16,000 pilots and organizations have filed comments online about the proposal.

U.S. Companies Explore Asian Markets At ABACE

The airplane industry is eager to push into emerging markets, and that's evident this week with robust attendance at the Asian Business Aviation Conference & Exhibition, taking place in Shanghai Tuesday through Thursday. Organizers said they had registered a record 6,284 people to attend the event, with more than 180 exhibitors on site and 34 aircraft on static display. "The record numbers signify the excitement surrounding business aviation in the region," said NBAA in a statement. Cessna officials announced at the show on Monday they expect to be ready to start building jets and turboprops in China by the end of this year, though it may take longer for the government to approve the start of operations.

Cessna said they are "making excellent progress" toward beginning operations in China to assemble Citation XLS+ business jets in joint ventures with CAIGA. "The construction of facilities is complete and we expect tooling and equipment to be in place in Shijiazhuang by June and in Zhuhai before the end of the year," Cessna spokesman William Schultz said at ABACE. Cessna is also working with AVIC on plans to build Cessna Caravan utility turboprops in China. The aircraft from both operations are intended to be sold in the Chinese market. The joint ventures are also expected to develop customer support capabilities to meet aftermarket needs in China, Cessna said.

Continental Extends TBOs, Certifies Diesel

For years, we've heard that the technology exists to extend engine TBOs beyond the normal 2000-hour recommendation and now Continental has done just that. It recently announced that it will extend the TBOs on many of its popular engines by 200 hours and, for frequently flown engines, by 400 hours. According to the company's Bill Ross, who we interviewed at Sun 'n Fun, this might not immediately mean much to Part 91 operators who aren't required to adhere to published TBOs, but for for-hire operators who are, the cost savings amount to as much as a 20 percent of the overhaul price, a substantial savings.

So how'd they do it? In this podcast, Continental's Ross told us that improvements in technology have allowed the company to achieve tighter and more consistent parts tolerances and that coupled with statistically proven results from engines in service convinced the FAA to approve the higher TBOs, effective immediately. Moreover, no special trend monitoring is necessary during the extended TBO period. As for the 400-hour extensions on engines flown 40 hours a month, Ross said that research on representative engines conclusively showed that they experience less wear when flown frequently, something owners and operators have seen in the field for years. The specifics of the extended TBO program can be found in Continental's Service Letter 98-9 (PDF).

The longer TBOs will apply only to engines manufactured during 2012 and beyond, including new production and rebuilt engines built to new quality standards Continental has established. "Each year we move more toward the digital age with very sophisticated CNC machinery that's able to streamline processes and improve quality," Ross said. Continental also revealed that it has certified its TD300 turbo-diesel engine, although the news of it was kept low key. Continental bought its basic diesel technology from the French company SMA, but has pursued its own developmental path to improve and certify it. Ross said Continental also has a launch customer for the engine but he declined to name it. We're told to expect more information at AirVenture.

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Opinion & Commentary back to top 

AVweb Insider Blog: Sun 'n Fun 2013 -- Drifting

With Sun 'n Fun 2013 now history, what was the mood of the show? To Paul Bertorelli, it reflected the industry in general: drifting along with no particular impressive direction. Show attendees said as much. But that doesn't mean some companies aren't trying -- and suceeding -- in making flying an airplane more accessible.

Read more and join the conversation.

Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Kimble County Airport (KJCT, Junction, TX)

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

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Kimble County Airport (KJCT) in Junction, Texas.

AVweb reader Sid Tolchin learned the value of a friendly face on his recent stopover at JCT:

During a long flight in a small experimental plane from San Diego to New Orleans, almost any out-of-the-ordinary stop is a pleasure. This one was different. Billy Davis lives on the airport and was outside in gusting winds to help me tie down. He suggested I stay because of the weather and the lateness of the day before proceeding to New Orleans. After being certain that the aircraft was safely parked, he called the motel, recommended a good place to eat, and drove me to the Best Western, where they honored his recommendation with a discount. The short trip was filled with his stories.

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

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.

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].

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