AVwebFlash Complete Issue: Volume 19, Number 19a

May 6, 2013

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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AVflash! Classifying the Icon back to top 

FAA Wants More Information On Icon Weight Exemption

The FAA says it needs more information before it can decide whether to exempt the Icon A5 from the upper weight limit restriction for amphibious light sport aircraft and allow it to weigh 1680 pounds. As AOPA reported last week, the agency wrote a letter (PDF) to Icon President Kirk Hawkins that due to "the complexity, extent and precedent-setting aspects" of Icon's request it needs time and more documentation to process the petition. In the letter, Earl Lawrence, manager of the FAA's Small Plane Directorate, said the agency normally tries to process requests in 120 days. Icon filed the request in July of 2012, saying the 250-pound weight increase is warranted because it's required to make the aircraft spin-resistant.

In the original petition Icon said the larger wing and the attendant structures necessary to make the aircraft spin-resistant are a reasonable compromise in making the aircraft safer. In his response, Lawrence said the FAA wants details on how Icon tested the spin resistance of the heavier aircraft and it wants a signed statement by someone in charge saying the aircraft meets FAA spin resistance criteria as laid out in 14 CFR 23.221 (a)(2). Lawrence did not say how much longer the FAA will need to assess the information before it makes a decision.

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Out with a Boom back to top 

Final X-51A Scramjet Flight Exceeds 5.0 Mach

An unmanned X-51A WaveRider aircraft reached 5.1 Mach, Monday, pushed to more than 3,000 miles per hour over the Pacific Ocean near Point Mugu, Calif., by a scramjet engine. The Air Force said Wednesday that the WaveRider was carried aloft from Edwards Air Force Base by a B-52. It was released over the ocean at about 50,000 feet and accelerated to 4.8 Mach in 26 seconds by way of solid rocket booster. The aircraft, which is designed to ride its own shockwave, then lit its air-breathing scramjet engine and accelerated to 5.1 Mach at 60,000 feet, covering 264 miles in just over six minutes. The effort follows an early program success followed by two less fruitful attempts.

A first success in 2010 took an X-51A test vehicle to 5.0 Mach. The effort was followed by two failures. A June 2011 test was shut down early due to a disruption in airflow to the engine. An August 2012 test failed when, 15 seconds after the vehicle separated from its boosters, vehicle control was lost. Wednesday's attempt ended when the X-51A broke up in the Pacific. The flight was the fourth of its kind seeking to establish the viability of high-speed scramjet propulsion with an air-breathing engine. It produced 370 seconds of data collection and is the culmination of an estimated $2 billion spent on hypersonic technologies over the past decade by the Pentagon. No further flights are planned for X-51A aircraft, but it is expected to serve as the foundation for future hypersonic research chasing the long-term goal of practical hypersonic flight.

A scramjet uses fuel to cool the engine, which in turn heats the fuel that ignites when injected into the engine's supersonic flow. Ramjets operate similarly, but the airflow through the engine is subsonic. Aside from its longevity, the X-51A scramjet's flight still operated in the Mach 3 to Mach 6 regime shared by ramjet engines. Watch Boeing's explanatory video here.

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Following the Sun back to top 

Solar Impulse, California For Phoenix (Updated)

The Solar Impulse team sent their solar aircraft out from Moffett Airfield near San Jose, Calif., Friday at 6:12 a.m. Pacific time, for Phoenix, Ariz., on the first leg of a transcontinental U.S. flight. It landed in Phoenix at 12:30 a.m. Saturday. The aircraft is powered by four 10-horsepower electric motors that draw energy from 12,000 photovoltaic cells on its wings and lithium-polymer battery packs that store excess solar energy for use in darkness. Six hours into the roughly 550-nm flight, flying at roughly 40 knots in climb, the aircraft had collected more energy to power its motors than it had stored at takeoff. Even before that, pilot Bertrand Piccard was chatting with family and taking calls from reporters, espousing the benefits of solar power -- but not for practical manned flight.

The Solar Impulse team is not shy about their mission to deliver an "important political message" regarding the use of solar energy. Piccard said that the solar flight across the country was intended to bring attention to the possibilities of solar power for buildings, houses and other applications. Piccard believes that integration of solar power is now proven technology that could make a "huge impact on energy consumption." As for aviation, Piccard concedes the technology must advance beyond current capabilities before solar power can be practically applied. The Solar Impulse HB-SIA does fly on solar power but weighs 3,527 pounds, carries one, and generally cruises at less than 50 mph at 20,000 feet. Piccard said flying the aircraft required managing a great deal of inertia due to the aircraft's dimensions (its wing spans more than 200 feet). Though light, the moments increased the piloting workload on rudder and stick, Piccard said.

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Aviation Safety back to top 

Spokane Crew Likely On Crashed Tanker

It appears the three crew members lost in the overseas loss of a KC-135 tanker were from Spokane, Wash., but the aircraft was based in Kansas. Two of the three bodies have been recovered after the loaded tanker apparently exploded in flight and crashed in Kyrgyzstan. The aircraft was on its way to support the mission in Afghanistan but that's about all military authorities are saying. The aircraft, which was based at McConnell AFB in Wichita, was deployed to Manas, a U.S. military base leased in Kyrgyzstan.

Witnesses quoted by numerous sources said the aircraft exploded in flight. Wreckage was scattered over a grassy area in the mountainous area. "I was working with my father in the field, and I heard an explosion. When I looked up at the sky I saw the fire. When it was falling, the plane split into three pieces," Sherikbek Turusbekov told an AP reporter at the site.

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News Briefs back to top 

Harvard Launches Robo-Fly

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Harvard University researchers have demonstrated a fly-sized UAV that actually mimics insect flight. The researchers spent 12 years developing the robo-fly, which uses piezoelectric devices that contract and release when power is switched on and off, allowing it to beat its tiny wings. "We get it to contract and relax, like biological muscle," Dr. Kevin Ma, one of the scientists, said in a news release. The researchers released a video of the device in a controlled hover and envision it being used for search and rescue, where it could fly through the tiny spaces of a debris pile to locate survivors. It might even take on jobs normally done by insects, like pollination of crops.

To reach that point, however, there are some daunting technological challenges. The little robot doesn't yet fly with an autonomous power supply. It's tethered. Also, a raindrop or stiff wind can do it in.

AirVenture Lands Jetman

Jetman Yves Rossy, the man who flies strapped to a small wing powered by four small turbines, has been scheduled for flight displays at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2013. Rossy previously flew in the U.S. back in 2011 when he made a successful flight over a section of the Grand Canyon (video), but the flight was not made available to public viewing. For that flight and his AirVenture appearance EAA worked with Rossy to acquire an experimental exhibition special airworthiness certificate. "I am excited to share my project with fellow enthusiasts," he said, "and be a part of aviation's biggest gathering in the world." AirVenture isn't Rossy's only planned U.S. public appearance in 2013.

Rossy's flights are sponsored by Breitling. He flies using a tapered wing made of Kevlar and carbon fiber that is literally strapped to his back along with a parachute that he deploys for landing under canopy. He has flown demonstration flights that include formation flights with aircraft, aerobatic flight (video) and several flights involving famous landmarks. Rossy controls thrust with a hand-held throttle for the engines and controls his flight path through body movement. Earlier this year, the Jetman said he's planning to open a school (video) to teach students to become pilots of an unpowered version of his wing. Following his appearance at Oshkosh, Rossy plans to fly at the Reno Air Races in September.

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

AVmail: May 6, 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: Dangers of Rearward C of G

Regarding the speculation that shifting cargo caused the crash of Boeing 747 in Afghanistan, I have some experience with flying an aircraft with rearward center of gravity.

Years ago, I was flying a C-47, and the urinal in the head froze up. The co-pilot and several other people were trying to thaw it out with cigarette lighters. The head on the C-47 is in the tail end of the aircraft.

In all of my years of flying, this really scared me. I asked them all to slowly back out of the area one at a time, and to leave only one person in the head. We would always load the aircraft with as far aft CG as we could. In doing so, we could get another 10 to 15 knots of cruise speed out of the C-47.

The controls on a DC-3 are rather heavy. In this case, with all of them stacked in the tail end of the aircraft, all I had to do was touch the yoke, and the aircraft went into wild gyrations, nose up and down. The aircraft was no longer statically stable.

I knew if we should hit turbulent air we would be toast and the accident investigation board would want to know why so many people were in the toilet. I can just imagine the different theories on that one.

Vern Childers

While there has been speculation that a load shift may be to blame for the crash of the National B-747 at Bagram Air Base this week, clues from the video cause me to wonder if an engine failure may be to blame.

From what I've read online, aircraft departing Bagram use an intentionally steep climb profile to avoid small arms fire, likely leaving the aircraft with little airspeed margin should an engine failure occur. In the video, the aircraft banks slightly to the left, as the pilot might do to aid in directional control upon the loss of an engine on the right wing.

Soon after, the aircraft begins a yawing rotation to the right, as if driven by asymmetric thrust. This was truly a tragic crash, and I extend my sympathy to the families of the victims. It will be interesting to read what the accident investigation reveals.

Charles Dickinson

I'm a big fan of AVweb. I read it on my tablet every morning before I even get ready for the day! But I did want to share some reader feedback. That 747 video crossed a line into inappropriate.

Dissecting a crash as a learning exercise is very useful. Running graphic video of a plane crash that cost seven lives, with no lesson attached, is sickening. I would like to see AVweb stay away from promoting such video in the future.

As an aside, I witnessed a plane crash in a landing incident that happened 50 yards from where I was standing. My last memory of the three individuals alive was the look of sheer horror on their faces just before the explosion. My next memory was three dead people, frozen in a sitting position, completely shriveled and blackened — and the stench that went with that. I hope the families of the people who perished never see the video you ran and begin to imagine what I just described.

Cathy Ahles

Everybody's Aviation Association?

Regarding EAA interim president Jack Pelton's column about the make-up of EAA: I have thought for some time that EAA, the Experimental Aviation Association, is a long way from what it was at its beginning. I think it would now be more appropriate for EAA to stand for Everybody's Aviation Association.

John King, Ovid, NY

I beg to differ with Jack Pelton. EAA has a label. It's "experimental." It was for people who build their own airplanes. Trying to be everything for everybody just isn't what my EAA was all about.

After many years of being a member, I've had enough of the direction EAA is headed so I've let my membership lapse.

I can still build my experimental aircraft without the "new" EAA. The organization should either accept the label or change the name.

Linn Walters

Advancing as a Pilot

Regarding the "Question of the Week" on advancing myself as a pilot: I plan on completing a phase of Wings under the FAA Safety Team program. The advantage of this is it also counts as a flight review!

Cary Grant

I will continue to fly Pilots-N-Paws rescue missions. They are emotionally rewarding flights, creating great scenario-based missions to build time and competency.

Christophe Masiero

While I plan on and have been doing more flying this year, my more significant commitment to flying is a complete refurbishment of my P-210, including a full panel upgrade, new paint, and interior. This, I believe, is the wave of the future, considering the passing of limited product liability and that LSA certification failed to lower the cost of new aircraft as promised.

Steve Biggs

I am a casualty of the prohibitively high cost of flying. Unless I win the lottery, I'll never exercise my license again.

Phil Potter

My wife has promised that as long as I don't do anything stupid, like buy another Corvette, I can resume my flying lessons this summer. They have been on hold since our son was born 25 years ago.

Michael Clow

Girl Scouts Discover Aviation

Junior Girl Scout Troop 25066 and Brownie Troop 25160 in Lakeville, MN had a special aviation lesson in April. This was special because less than six percent of all pilots are female.

This unique experience exposed them to a wide range of career possibilities not normally sought out by women. Four local flight instructors presented the science of flight, famous women aviators, practical knowledge on obtaining a private pilot license, and how to plan a flight. Girls rotated through the stations armed with questions and eager faces.

The day was the first event that will help the girls earn a Discover Aviation badge. The second activity will take place on May 18 at the Airlake Airport, where the girls will get an opportunity to go on an airplane ride, learn to pre-flight a real plane, and have conversations with representatives from the 99s, Civil Air Patrol, Red Tail Squadron, and others. Space is still available for other young females to take flight. Visit PenguinFlight.net/girls-aviation-day for more information.

Kjersti Kittelson

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

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New on AVweb.com back to top 

Brainteasers Quiz #183: Fly Your Priorities


If a control tower closes in the wilderness, does it make a sound? Politicians may diddle FAA budgets until the skies are porcine black, but we'll fly ... provided we keep our priorities upright by sequestering this quiz.

Take the quiz.

More Brainteasers

AVweb Insider Blog: Aerodiesels -- Progress, But Not Thriving

The aerodiesel market appears to exist in a parallel universe to LSAs: making progress but not setting sales records. At Aero Friedrichshafen, Paul Bertorelli encountered a couple of new entries to the market, but he also noted some that have shown up in the past were MIA. He shares his observations on the AVweb Insider blog.

Read more and join the conversation.

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Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Honaker Aviation (KJVY, Sellersburg, IN)

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

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Honaker Aviation at Clark Regional Airport (KJVY) in Sellersburg, Indiana.

AVweb reader Charles Black recommended the FBO:

Kevin Happel and crew proactively removed a bird nest from the engine compartment. It could have led to an in-flight engine fire. I never suspected it was there. Profuse thanks for noticing the bird activity.

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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The Lighter Side of Flight back to top 

Short Final

I had a buyer from Argentina for my unfinished home built aircraft. For tax purposes, the Argentine government required the aircraft not be registered by the FAA. I sent a letter to the FAA requesting a letter stating that the aircraft had not been registered.

The FAA's reply:

"Your request for the FAA to notify Argentina cannot be accomplished as the aircraft has never been registered."

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.

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