AVwebFlash Complete Issue: Volume 19, Number 20b

May 16, 2013

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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AVflash! Solar Weather Concerns back to top 

Solar Flares Could Disrupt Some Communications

The sun this week unleashed a series of X-flares, classified among the most intense solar activity, that each became the most energetic of the year until the next one; none were directed toward earth but that may change next week with possible effects for aviation. The Space Weather Prediction Center is watching the activity for potential disruption of space-based communication systems and ground-based electronics. Aviation activities most susceptible to the flares include aircraft communication. If affected, scientists say we would see it first with aircraft flying near the poles. The increase in solar storm activity was predicted years ago and AVweb sat with a specialist to talk about its affects on GA.

Back in 2010, AVweb's Glenn Pew interviewed Joseph Kunches, a scientist at NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center. Kunches said solar storms can cause position errors and problems acquiring signal form GPS and satellite-based services. He said that users could encounter problems with ADS-B and GPS and other satellite-dependent technologies. Kunches noted that solar activity has resulted in observed errors in GPS receivers in the range of about 20 meters. Ten years ago, in late October, the FAA curtailed the ability for pilots to use WAAS precision approaches because the system could not be considered reliable due to solar activity. Kunches noted that engineering solutions were in the works and many satellites had specific qualities meant to reduce the possibility of disruptions due to solar storms. Ground-based systems like VORs historically haven't suffered during solar storms, said Kunches, but higher-precision applications like GPS could lose lock on some satellites or suffer other consequences. He did believe it was a tractable problem. Listen to Joseph Kunches in his own words here. Visit SpaceWeather.gov for more.

Question of the Week: How Dependent Are You on GPS?

There might be a big solar flare that could affect GPS later this week.

If it happens while you're flying and knocks out your wonder boxes, what will you do?
(click to answer)

Last Week's Question: Results

Want to see the current breakdown of responses? Take a moment to answer the question yourself, and then you can view real-time results.

What's On Your Mind?

Have an idea for a new "Question of the Week"?
Send your suggestions to .

NOTE: This address is only for suggested "QOTW" questions, and not for "QOTW" answers or comments. (Use this form to send "QOTW" comments to our AVmail Editor.)

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Where Do New Pilots Come From? back to top 

ATP Rule Change Affects Career Choices

A new law that will require first officers in regional jets to hold at least an ATP certificate is not yet official, but it's already affecting aviation careers, Kent Lovelace, chair of the aviation department at the University of North Dakota, told AVweb this week. The law will take effect this August, whether or not the FAA has completed its proposed rulemaking process, Lovelace said. The regionals already have started to reject applicants who aren't likely to log the minimum 1,500 hours total time by this summer, and the change also has caused some students to choose a different career track. The regionals' applicant pool has shrunk "to where some carriers, the usable applications they have on file are virtually nil," says Lovelace.

Lovelace said in one recent survey of aviation students, with more than 1,600 respondents, about 8 percent said they had abandoned plans to fly for the airlines because of the rule change, and 32 percent were rethinking their career choice. These changes will likely contribute to a projected shortage of up to 35,000 pilots over the next 20 years or so, starting two or three years from now, he said. The full text of the analysis and forecast of the pilot supply, to which Lovelace was a contributor, is posted online (PDF). Lovelace spoke with AVweb about his research; click here for the podcast.

Podcast: Prof. Kent Lovelace on the Pilot Pool

File Size 8.5 MB / Running Time 9:13

Podcast Index | How to Listen | Subscribe Via RSS

It's not an easy road from first solo to an airline left seat, and new rules now in the works are making that journey even bumpier. Kent Lovelace, chair of the aviation department at the University of North Dakota, talks with AVweb's Mary Grady about the impact of new rules that raise the bar for that first job, how airlines and students are adapting, and some new programs that aim to address some of these issues.

Click here to listen. (8.5 MB, 9:13)

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Aviation Safety back to top 

FAA Calls For GA Safety Improvements

With the busy summer flying season upon us, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta on Tuesday met with leaders from EAA, AOPA, GAMA, NBAA and others in the general aviation community to discuss actions to enhance safety and reduce accidents. The GA fatal accident rate has remained flat over the past five years, Huerta noted. "We cannot become complacent about safety," he said. "Together, we must improve the safety culture to drive the GA fatal accident rate lower." The group agreed to set short-terms goals to raise awareness on the importance of basic airmanship and to promote a positive safety culture. Huerta also asked the aviation community to commit to several longer-term goals.

Huerta called on the aviation community to install life-saving equipment in older airplanes, such as angle-of-attack indicators, inflatable restraints, and two-axis autopilots; to improve data collection and analysis; and to improve airman certification testing and training. To meet these goals, the GA community and the FAA agreed to work together and move forward as quickly as possible on three key initiatives -- an overhaul of airman testing and training standards, an expedited rewrite of Part 23 that will make it faster and cheaper to install new technology in airplanes, and more industry-wide efforts to collect and analyze safety data. More details about the proposals are posted at the FAA web site.

Flyers' Group Seeks Limit On 787 Flights

Flyers' Rights, an advocacy group for airline passengers, said on Tuesday the FAA should restrict 787 flights to within two hours of an airport "until the safety of its lithium-ion batteries is proven." The restriction wouldn't affect flights over the continental U.S. or most flights to Europe, but trans-Pacific and transpolar routes would be off limits. "Our proposed actions are both urgent and necessary," said Paul Hudson, president of the organization. "Adequate testing of the batteries haven't been done and the fire investigation is not finished." United Airlines, the only U.S. carrier flying 787s, plans to resume domestic flights with the airplane next Monday, and will start flying the Denver-Tokyo route on June 10.

With an FAA-approved fix for the battery problem in place, Boeing said last week it has increased its production rate for the 787 from five to seven airplanes per month. The company plans to be building 10 per month by the end of the year. Meanwhile, the NTSB is continuing its tests and research to try to determine a cause for the battery problems. In a letter to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Flyers' Rights also asked him to create an ad hoc advisory committee of independent battery experts and open a public docket for comments on the battery fix.

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News Briefs back to top 

Navy Carrier And Liquid Hydrogen Drone Milestones

The U.S. Navy this week announced it has -- for the first time -- successfully launched the X-47B combat-capable aerial vehicle from an aircraft carrier and, separately, set a new record for flight endurance with a fuel cell-powered UAV with the Ion Tiger. The X-47B's testing Tuesday saw it launch from the deck of the USS George H.W. Bush during flight operations in the Atlantic Ocean off the Virginia coast. The launch was followed by several low approaches and a flight mission to the naval base at Patuxent River, Md., that also demonstrated a ship-based to land-based transfer of control. Also this week the Navy reported that its Ion Tiger unmanned vehicle set a record for endurance, flying 48 hours and one minute on liquid hydrogen fuel.

The Ion Tiger is a surveillance drone that used a new cryogenic tank to hold fuel, which it converted to electric energy to drive an electric motor. Using a fuel cell-based energy source for the electric drone allows it to operate more efficiently, improving endurance while lowering its heat signature. According to the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), fuel for the aircraft can be made from water on site rather than fuels that would otherwise need to be delivered. While the Ion Tiger set its own record, the British QinetiQ Zephyr holds the overall endurance record for drones, flying for 14 days at the U.S. Army's proving ground in Yuma, Ariz., back in 2010. The Zephyr is a high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle that uses solar power and rechargeable batteries to collect and power its electric motors.

See the Navy's video report of the X-47 launch here.

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Sonex To Offer Transition Training

In a study of amateur-built aircraft completed last year, the NTSB cited a need for transition training to help new owners safely fly their airplanes, and this week Sonex said it has developed a training program for its fleet. Sonex said the FAA has authorized the company to provide flight training for pilots who are building, buying, or considering a Sonex design. "Preparing to fly your Sonex with the proper training and type-specific flight time is just as important as building the aircraft properly," said Sonex CEO Jeremy Monnett. The training is offered by Sonex staff CFIs at the company base in Oshkosh, Wis.

"We are not a flight school, and we do not see this service as a revenue stream," Mark Schaible, Sonex general manager, told EAA. "This is purely intended to make our customers comfortable with the transition to our sport planes and increase safety." Joe Norris, Sonex chief flight instructor, said the process of dealing with the FAA to get the approval to offer the training went smoothly. The whole process took about three weeks, he said, "which I thought was incredibly fast." Sean Elliott, vice president of advocacy and safety for EAA, said he hopes the transition training program and others like it will become models for the industry. "EAA is very excited that Sonex took the initiative to create its own highly tailored training program," Elliot said. "This is a significant enhancement to safety for the kit manufacturer community." Sonex also said it is establishing a national type club to promote safety and education among owners.

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What You Missed in AVwebBiz This Week back to top 

Twin Turboprop Flies By Remote Control

Two pilots sat in the cockpit of 16-seat BAE Jetstream 31 and did nothing as it flew for 500 miles from England to Scotland in civil airspace, controlled by an operator on the ground, according to news reports this week. The flight reportedly took place sometime last month. The on-board pilots handled the takeoff and landing, according to the BBC. The test was done by Astraea, a research group funded by the government and commercial companies, in cooperation with the National Air Traffic Services. In an online video, Astraea official Lambert Dopping-Hepenstal says the company has been working with authorities to develop a process for certifying and operating an unmanned Jetstream in the civil airspace.

A representative of BAE Systems, one of the companies involved in the project, said the flights were part of a series of tests helping flight regulators and NATS to understand how these flights work, and what they need to do to put a regulatory framework in place for manned and unmanned aircraft to share the airspace, according to the BBC. "It's still very early days in terms of that regulation taking place," the official said. Dopping-Hepenstal said he expects to see unmanned aircraft used in a variety of applications by the end of this decade. "In 20 or 30 years' time, we won't refer to unmanned aircraft, they will just be aircraft," he said.

Flight Services Adds SpiderTracks Monitoring

Pilots and operators who use SpiderTracks satellite monitoring devices in their aircraft can now register their device with the AFSS system to enable real-time tracking of their flights. In a news release Lockheed Martin, which operated the AFSS system, said by registering their SpiderTracks device, pilots can ensure that their flight progress is monitored from takeoff to landing and if the device stops moving, stops transmitting or sends an emergency signal, the system is instantly alerted. "As a result, the system is able to initiate search and rescue procedures with more precision and speed than previously possible," said Lockheed Martin. The service is free. The SpiderTracks system currently plots aircraft progress on a website that requires a login. The SpiderTracks partnership seems to be the test bed for a system-wide real-time monitoring system.

Lockheed Martin says the plan is to add other monitoring devices to the system and to ADS-B equipped aircraft in the near future. "Lockheed Martin is committed to improving safety, efficiency, and convenience for the general aviation community," said Jim Derr, director of Lockheed Martin Flight Services. "Look for more features later this year including our Next Generation Briefing capability that includes automatic summarization of text-intensive information and enhanced graphics that help pilots understand their briefings faster."

AVwebBiz: AVweb's Business Aviation Newsletter

Have you signed up yet for AVweb's no-cost weekly business aviation newsletter, AVwebBiz?

Delivered every Wednesday morning, AVwebBiz focuses on the companies, the products and the industry leaders that make headlines in the business aviation industry, making it a must-read.

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Opinion & Commentary back to top 

AVweb Insider Blog: B-29 Connections

Although its service life was short, the B-29 remains one of the most fascinating airplanes ever produced -- not so much for the airplane itself but what it took to get it flying. On the AVweb Insider blog, Paul Bertorelli recounts his own experience in his first job: taking these magnificent airplanes apart and melting them into scrap. He also observes that every serious book on World War II in the Pacific carves out a chapter or two on the SuperFortress.

Read more and join the conversation.

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Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Sonoma Jet Center (Santa Rosa, California)

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

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Sonoma Jet Center at Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport (KSTS) in Santa Rosa, California.

AVweb reader Austin Kalb told us about the FBO:

Wow. Either I'm really a VIP, or the people at the Sonoma Jet Center in Santa Rosa, California just made me feel that way. When I arrived in my Mooney, I was immediately swarmed by staff unpacking my luggage, loading the rental car (that was brought to the airplane), hooking up a tow, [and] handing us some cold waters. Then Josh said hello. He owns the place — and when I found out he was a Mooney driver, I stepped out of the airplane to chat. A couple of minutes later, I was offered hangar space with the big guys. Nice! That night, my rental car experienced a flat tire. [The rental company] was less than helpful — they left me pretty much on my own. I called the FBO. They simply took care of the issue. I left my car at the B&B in the morning, and when I returned later that day, a new rental was sitting where the old one was. When we left Santa Rosa, Josh showed up again to see us off. Last time I visited Santa Rosa, Joyce at the front desk was exceptional. Now I get why — it starts at the top. Great job, guys!

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 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.

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"The Best Way to Predict the Future Is to Create It"

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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.

Aviate. Navigate. Communicate.