AVwebFlash Complete Issue: Volume 19, Number 17a

April 22, 2013

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
 
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Jet Updates back to top 
 
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Cirrus Owner Eyes 2013 Jet Rollout

The chairman of the Chinese company that bought Cirrus Aircraft says the next version of the company's SF-50 Vision Jet will be rolled out before the end of this year and certification flight testing will begin in 2014, Meng Xiangkai told the South China Morning Post. Meng also said China Aviation Industry General Aircraft (CAIGA) plans further acquisitions and expansion to become a world force in GA. "We have more acquisition plans but our globalization push isn't just limited to mergers and acquisitions," he said. "We also aim to set up overseas centers for research and development, marketing and client services." Cash-rich CAIGA bought struggling Cirrus in 2011 and soon after announced a $100 million investment in reviving the largely dormant jet project.

Although the terms of the purchase have never been disclosed, CAIGA's boss seems to think he got value for the money and boasted to the newspaper about Cirrus's increased market share and relatively strong order book (511 aircraft in 2012). Meng was coy about which company might be his next target but said its acquisition plans are aggressive enough to force postponement of an initial public offering on the stock market. "We had a relatively aggressive plan targeting a public listing by 2015," he said. "But the plan looks a bit remote now. We would like to focus on business development first," he said.

Cessna Light Jet Production Stalls

Cessna has again cut back production of its light jets including the Mustang, CJ2, CJ3 and CJ4, potentially by up to 30 percent, citing a first-quarter loss and weak sales. In June of 2010, the company briefly stalled production of the Citation Mustang, largely as a result of issues in the supply chain. At the time the company also said sales had been softer than expected. This time, the company is entering the second quarter fresh off an $8 million loss suffered in the first quarter. The Wichita Eagle reported that during a conference call with analysts, Wednesday, Textron CEO Scott Donnelly speculated that small business owners were putting off purchases due to concerns over higher taxes and uncertainty about the direction of the economy. But there were additional complications in the small business jet market.

Cessna believes that the value of many small jets has been impacted by the bankruptcy of Hawker Beechcraft and the restructuring that has led to Beechcraft Corporation. The value of used Hawker jets has fallen, and that has dragged down the value of used Citation jets. The company believes that depressed pricing deters some potential buyers from upgrading to new jets. Whatever the cause, reduced market demand is leading Cessna to slow production. Cessna is now forecasting that sales will be down in 2013 by $200 million, in part because of a dragging light jet market. On the upside, Cessna is sitting on a $1 billion backlog and has seen strong used aircraft sales. However, it has also spent $25 million in severance packages for employees who accepted voluntary buyouts of their salaried position to match with a projected drop of more than 25 percent in light jet production.

 
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Tower Tensions back to top 
 

IROPS The New SOP?

The U.S.'s largest pilots union is warning its members that "irregular operations" (IROPS) could become the new normal as the FAA pushes ahead with its plan to furlough employees, including air traffic controllers, for a day every other week. The Airline Pilots Association International (ALPA), which filed suit against the FAA Friday, along with industry trade groups, to try to halt the furlough plan's implementation says the FAA itself is saying the furloughs could be more disruptive than a summer cold front barreling into the Eastern Seaboard. "The FAA has told airlines that on average, the furloughs could delay twice as many flights as during the most heavily storm-disrupted days last year," an ALPA memo says (PDF). It also says the reduced staffing could routinely delay 6,700 flights daily at the country's 13 busiest airports, which, of course, can spread to every corner of the air transportation system. It also notes that others are predicting relatively minimal impact on the system as a whole.

Nevertheless, airlines are keeping their IROPS plans within easy reach as the furloughs began Sunday. "The bottom line is that you should plan for possible IROPS starting Sunday," the memo said. "The extent of the impact from the spending cuts is unknown, but given the statement from the FAA above, you should be prepared, especially if you commute."

Pilots And Airlines Sue FAA

The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) joined by two airline trade groups Friday filed a lawsuit against the FAA hoping to stop air traffic controller furloughs scheduled to begin Sunday. The FAA believes the furloughs will save $200 million of the $637 million that sequestration requires the agency to cut before November. ALPA, Airlines for America, and the Regional Airline Association believe the cuts will lead to delays that will ripple through the system. The FAA doesn't necessarily disagree.

Once implemented, controllers would lose one workday every other week. The FAA has said it expects maximum delays for some flights to be more than three hours. But it predicts that those delays would be suffered by a minority of flights operating at the nation's busiest airports at specific times of the day. The FAA has roughly 47,000 employees of which almost 15,000 are air traffic controllers. Under its plan, all employees will be subjected to furlough. The groups bringing the lawsuit believe those furloughs will effectively reduce the capacity of the national airspace system. It is not likely that a court will address the suit before next week. The FAA's annual budget is $16 billion and the groups contend that the agency could find less impactful ways to save the required $637 million.

 
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Dreamliner One Step Closer to Flying Again back to top 
 

FAA: 787 Battery Redesign Approved

Friday, the FAA approved a redesigned battery system for the 787 Dreamliner created by Boeing to protect the aircraft from potential battery fires, meaning the airliners may soon return to service. The 50 jets in service have been grounded since January, when two 787s suffered fires. Boeing must now issue a service bulletin that details the design changes that carriers will need to apply before their Dreamliners are approved for flight by the FAA. The FAA is expected to publish the information next week and foreign regulators are expected to follow the FAA with their own approvals. Meanwhile, the NTSB is still trying to determine why the aircraft's lithium ion batteries failed.

Beginning the week of April 22, the NTSB will hold meetings in which senior Boeing officials and representatives from two companies (France's Thales SA, and Japan's GS Yuasa Corp) that produce the battery and its larger systems for Boeing will testify. The company operated two flights (the last of which took place on April 5) to test the fix. The new battery system employs additional insulation and spacing for parts within the battery. Boeing had halted deliveries of the airliner while seeking resolution for the problem. The jet is currently operated by eight different airlines worldwide. Both JAL and All Nippon Airways in January operated Dreamliners that suffered battery fires during revenue operations.

 
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Historic Trio Convenes back to top 
 

Doolittle Raiders Share 'Last' Public Meeting

Of eighty men, three of the four surviving members of Doolittle's Raiders, all now living their ninth decade, met publicly -- and, they say, for the final time -- during the week of April 15, at Eglin Air Force Base, to commemorate the 71st anniversary of their April 18, 1942, one-way mission to bomb Japan. The three members present were 97-year-old Col. Richard Cole; 91-year-old Staff Sergeant David Thatcher; and 93-year-old Lt. Col. Edward Saylor. The fourth surviving member, 93-year-old Lt. Col. Robert Hite, was unable to attend the reunion. All of the men had trained for the mission at Eglin in the winter of 1942. And this year Cole was afforded a flight (and reportedly flew a good portion of it, including the landing) in a B-25 owned by Larry Kelley. The men say they toast each year to the comrades who shared their mission and have since passed. But they have decided a special toast will now come sooner than originally planned.

Over the years, the men have made and kept a case of 80 silver goblets. Each goblet is inscribed twice with the name of a raider. One inscription is upright, the other upside-down. Each year, the surviving men toast to the comrades they've lost and turn upside-down the goblet of any man lost that year. But they have also kept a bottle of Hennessy cognac from 1896, the year their leader James Doolittle was born. The bottle was meant to remain untouched and saved for the last two surviving members. But they have decided to change that. According to a story filed from the gathering by The Associated Press, the men have decided that later this year they will meet together privately and, all four, share a drink from that bottle. Find more information about the Doolittle Raiders, here.

 
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Electric Skies back to top 
 

Battery-Powered Ultralight Attracts Attention At Sun 'n Fun

New airplanes were scarce at last week's Sun 'n Fun show in Lakeland, Fla., but a new electric ultralight motorglider held center stage at the new LSA Mall, attracting a constant stream of curious visitors all week long. The ElectraFlyer ULS was first seen last summer at EAA AirVenture, just a few days after its first flight. At Sun 'n Fun, its creator, Randall Fishman of the Electric Aircraft Corp., said he has accumulated about 30 hours of flight time in the airplane and he's ready to offer copies for sale at $59,000. Fishman said the lightweight carbon-fiber aircraft cruises at about 40 mph, flies for up to two hours on a single charge, and can stay aloft longer for those who like to soar and choose a folding prop. "People are very interested in electric flight," Fishman told AVweb. It's nice to fly with less pollution, he said, but people also like that "it's just really nice to fly quietly and without vibration."

Fishman, along with a roster of other innovators in the electric-aircraft community, will be speaking at the CAFE Electric Aircraft Symposium (PDF) coming up April 26 and 27 in Santa Rosa, Calif. The annual event convenes authorities in technologies such as energy, aeronautics, propulsion and safety to share ideas about the future of electric-powered flight. Speakers will include Bertrand Piccard of SolarImpulse, Tine Tomazic of Pipistrel, Greg Cole of Windward Performance, Dennis Bushnell of NASA, Adam Bry from MIT, and many others. AVweb's Mary Grady will be there to report on the event; visit AVweb.com for news reports, podcasts, photos, and video.

Video: Randall Fishman's Electric-Powered Ultralight

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

Randall Fishman first exhibited this lightweight new design at EAA AirVenture in 2012, shortly after its first flight. At Sun 'n Fun in April 2013, the prototype had about 30 hours of flight time, and Fishman was ready to sell copies under Part 103.

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Try disabling ad blockers and refreshing this page.
If that doesn't work, click here to watch on YouTube

 
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Opinion & Commentary back to top 
 

AVweb Insider Blog: FAA Budget Cuts -- Go for the Paper Clips

If you're a student of the First Amendment's right of redress, aviation gave you a good week last week, with a lawsuit to stop the FAA from furloughing controllers. But if you're a deficit hawk? Not so much. On the AVweb Insider blog, Paul Bertorelli observes that by the time all the special interests get their piece of the pie, the FAA will be back where it started: no budget cuts at all. Maybe those people who say we're doomed have a point.

Read more and join the conversation.

AVweb Insider Blog: Jack Howell's Worthy Cause

Post-traumatic stress disorder is well-known for soldiers returning from combat, but less known is that it affects the children of soldiers killed or wounded in battle. Jack Howell is doing something about that, offering free flight training for the offspring of wounded or deceased military members. On the AVweb Insider blog, Paul Bertorelli explains why he sent Jack some money — and why you should, too.

Read more and join the conversation.

 
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Reader Mail back to top 
 

AVmail: April 22, 2013

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: Managing the Message

I planned an FAA Safety Team seminar on the subject of non-towered operations at towers closed by sequestration. The speakers listed would be FAA Safety Team members, local ATC controllers, and FSDO inspectors.

The document was released to 8,000-plus pilots in the Tampa Bay area by FAASafety.gov around April 1. On April 3, I got a phone call from FAA Safety Team management advising me to revise the notice and remove any mention of FAA involvement. I expressed my extreme displeasure with that direction, but I revised the notice. Two days later I got a call from the same manager telling me that FAA HQ wanted me to change the title and remove any mention of the word "sequestration." In addition, I was advised to not discuss budgetary items or sequestration with pilots.

I cannot detail here what I said to the manager because a censor would redact them. I refused to change the title. I also threatened to resign as a Lead Team Rep (been one for 25 years) because I will not let the FAA trample on my First Amendment rights. The manager asked me not to resign, especially when I told him the next call I was making would be to the media.

The FAA is not paying a penny for the countless hours I have devoted to the FAA Safety Program. I refuse to be intimidated by faceless Washington HQ types who cannot stand the heat brought on by their total disregard for aviation safety.

The title of the seminar was revised without me. It was held last week with 66 pilots attending. We discussed everything that the FAA told me not to discuss.

This attempt by FAA HQ to manage the story cannot be tolerated. That's why I am writing this letter.

Jack Tunstill


The Real Price of Fuel

It's a well-written article, and there are some thought-provoking concerns in your article about FBOs vs. sponsor fuel sales, but some alignment of facts is in order.

Phil Solomon's concern regarding the FAA's minimum standards and government entities operating under different rules misses some points. First, minimum standards for an airport are not written by the FAA. They're written by the airport's sponsor (town, city, county, or authority) and reviewed by the FAA. And yes, the sponsor is required to live up to those same rules, although enforcing that requires going back to the same FAA office that approved the rules. So, it's a little convoluted, but in the end, it depends on a strong and vibrant airport community to act in concert to ensure everyone is working to the benefit of the community as a whole.

Another issue impacting this problem is the lack of familiarity with aviation on the part of airport sponsors. Most local governments don't have any idea what makes an airport tick, so again, it's the aviation community that needs to pull together to keep things headed in the right direction. I'm familiar with the challenges of Solomon's home airport, as our former airport manager started his career at that field. We as aviators need to understand that we have unique infrastructure requirements that are not part of the typical skillset in a county or town public works department.

At the end of the day, however, Phil's basic premise is correct and merits discussion. Each individual airport sponsor will act in its own best interest and it may not be to the benefit of general aviation as a whole. It's incumbent on the GA community to stay involved in local government issues so that these things can be addressed.

Dennis Boykin
chairman, Leesburg (VA) Executive Airport

One observation: The difference in fuel prices in my area between my full-service FBO and a smaller, close-by city-owned self-service fuel dispenser is not 20 cents as the article suggests; it is $3.25. For me, that is a $200 premium to use my FBO on a fill-up.

I already pay my FBO about $200 a month just to park. My FBO, which is currently charging $8.23 a gallon, does not offer rental aircraft, maintenance services for my aircraft, or flight instruction. Therefore, I simply do not accept the premise of the article the author is presenting.

Gavin McMillan

It's an interesting point of view, but flawed. Wanting the aviation community to pay for someone sitting at a desk on a rainy day with nothing going on is not going to revive general aviation. That does not improve the flying experience, only adds to the cost, just like so many FAA regs.

FBOs need to offer services pilots want at a price they can live with if they want to thrive. More rental airplanes will not revive GA either, at least not if the rentals are 40-year-old Cessnas and Pipers that look and feel like 40-year-old airplanes and cost $150 or more per hour to rent.

You can rent a $30,000 car for $100 per day and put unlimited miles on it. Why should a fully depreciated airplane that can be bought for the same money cost $300 for a two-hour flight?

Peter van Schoonhoven

I read with much interest your story about fuel prices and unfair competition. While I can certainly empathize with Solomon's concern, it would not drive me to pay higher prices for fuel just to save his business.

I am based at KPDK, and for years we had to buy fuel on our way back into the area because our only choices on the field were $7-8 per gallon fuel from large FBOs. Now we have a self-serve pump selling fuel for $5.60 a gallon. I don't know what Solomon's mark-up on fuel must be, but when one retailer can apparently make money selling for nearly $2 less per gallon than his full-service competitor, I find it hard to believe that Solomon cannot be competitive and still make some money on fuel.

One thing is certain through all of this. If fuel costs do not abate, there will be fewer and fewer pilots as a consequence. Correspondingly, there will be a reduction in demand for fuel, and I would expect an increase in its cost due to a commensurate reduction in supply infrastructure (i.e., fewer pumping stations and fuel trucks).

I think it's in everyone's best interest to find a way to keep pilots flying. While I empathize with Solomon's dilemma, I don't think the solution is to ask pilots to continue paying more for fuel than is really warranted in order to subsidize the FBO's operations.

Eric Davis

Several years ago, I made a fuel stop, and when I entered the ramp area, the first thing I saw was a large sign directing me to self-service fuel. So, wanting to save a bit of money, I steered over to it and filled up.

Meanwhile, my wife went over to the very nice FBO and asked for directions to the ladies room. She was told that it was outside, right next to the fuel pump I had just used.

Not understanding the message, I went to the FBO to ask why my wife had been directed to a very small mobile home, which contained a very smelly toilet. The FBO attendant told me that was the one that the airport authority made available for pilots who purchased fuel from them. That's when I learned that I had not purchased the fuel from the FBO.

I sent a letter to the airport authority expressing my opinion on the unfairness of them competing with one of their tenants. I got a telephone call from them that I thought was shockingly indifferent. Needless to say, your article is right on target as to what customers can expect in the way of service from public fueling operations.

Marv Donnaud


Medical Impact of LSA

With articles such as "Light Sport Counts Up Its Impact," the chances of easing the third-class medical become more and more distant. The number one rule of any FAA/AOPA decision (hopefully after safety) is "follow the money."

Maurice Link


Tower Alternatives

The FAA could lessen the potential for negative affects from contract tower closures by providing a substitute for those towers. In my view, the biggest benefit of having a control tower is the ability for the controller to convey pertinent traffic information to the pilot.

The FAA can mitigate this loss by enabling more widespread use of ADS-B traffic information by changing one agency policy. The FAA currently has ADS-B ground-based transceivers (GBTs) configured to broadcast traffic only when an airplane with a qualified ADS-B Out system is detected. Those "qualified" systems are still very costly to install; however, portable ADS-B receivers are becoming very common, at much less cost than the installed systems.

The FAA could change policy and "throw the doors wide open" to participation by allowing portable systems, with both in and out, to participate. The FAA technical types will say, "Absolutely not! A portable system can't be guaranteed to be as good as ASR" -- but it could be done very easily, at least for VFR participants.

So what if the positioning isn't "certified"? My Garmin 496 provides a level of accuracy more than sufficient for the pilot in another airplane to discern relative position and yield an improvement in situational awareness. Is a portable system more accurate, with better integrity than ASR positioning? Maybe or maybe not, but it's certainly an improvement over basic see-and-avoid.

Mike Werner


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

 
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.

 
Your Favorite FBOs back to top 
 

FBO of the Week: Harrison Aviation (KGKY, Arlington, Texas)

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

AVweb's latest "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Harrison Aviation at Arlington Municipal Airport (KGKY) in Arlington, Texas.

AVweb reader Carol Goldberg found warm Texan hospitality awaiting her here on a recent diversion:

Due to weather, we diverted to Arlington, Texas on our way home from Las Vegas to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The entire staff went out of their way to assist us in obtaining hotel reservations, driving us to the hotel, recommending a dinner place, assuring us the jetprop would be hangared if the winds increased, and having snacks and hot drinks.

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 Lighter Side of Flight back to top 
 

Short Final

Maybe this is only funny to those of us who live here, but here it is anyway. The other day, I was buzzing around over the east side of Wichita when I heard this:

Wichita Approach:
"Bizjet 123, maintain 3,500. Departing traffic from Jabara and Beech Field."

Bizjet 123:
"3,500 for 123. You guys sure have a lot of airports around here!"

Wichita Approach:
"Well, Wichita is known as the Air Capitol."

Bizjet 123:
"Really? I didn't realize that!"

My Co-Pilot:
facepalm


John "Dizzy" Phunt
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:

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

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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