NewsWire Complete Issue

September 19, 2004
By The AVweb Editorial Staff

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Live From Reno...

The Power And The Speed...

People who haven't been there ask what the Reno Air Races are like. The truth is, they're not "like" anything else -- but to compare, say, Oshkosh to Reno, you might think of the relationship between the Detroit Auto Show and the Indianapolis 500. The drama this year was heightened by the first public appearance of the Nemesis NXT, perennial Formula One winner Jon Sharp's brainchild, a kitplane designed to race in the Sport Class. The Nemesis NXT, with its twin-turbo Lycoming 540, puts out a reported (and believable) 600 hp and posted a third-best (in class) 324 mph without really trying. But last week's gear failure on landing means we'll have to wait to see how fast it can go. The aircraft should be repaired and on its way home in about two weeks.

...Sport Class (Airplanes You, Too, Could Fly ... Sort Of) ...

The fastest Sport Class plane to date came out of forced retirement on Wednesday and broke the 350-mph barrier. John Parker's V-12 powered Thunder Mustang, Blue Thunder, qualified at 349.507, and ran a reported 354 in the heat race Thursday. Making things interesting were the friendliest of deadly rivals, Lee Behel and Mike Jones. Behel flies a Lancair Legacy with a Continental 550. Jones got stuck in traffic in qualifying, and posted a disappointing 291 mph, to Lee's 312, but as Behel said, "You won't find two more closely matched planes out here." "Most innovative" award in the class has to go to the quick White Lightning of Will Mathews. In the back-seat area, Mathews has installed a 60-hp two-stroke engine, just to run the supercharger. It's unusual ("and it's really noisy in there," Mathews told us) but effective.

…Some Reno Firsts: Red Bull Race, Biplanes Beat T-6s

Something that has never been seen in the U.S. happened at Reno: the Red Bull Air Races. This is a concept developed by Hungarian aerobatic ace Peter Besenyei, infamous for (among other things) flying inverted under Budapest's famed Chain Bridge. The course consists of three laps around a tight course, close to the crowds. Aerobatic pilots perform different maneuvers on each lap, maneuvers that include vertical rolls, passes through 60-foot-tall inflated gates (some are knife-edge! ... and some get hit, by mistake), and a touch-and-go on a 7-foot chalk stripe, all against the clock. Fastest wins. Plus, biplanes are historically the slowest class at Reno, but that changed this year. Tom Aberle ran his Phantom and qualified fastest in 2004, running over 241 mph, noting that the fastest T-6 (Alfred Goss in Warlock) went just over 238.

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AVweb's Expanded Reno Coverage

Images From The Pits, And The Unlimited Upset!

AVweb's Expanded Reno Coverage (by contributing writer, Tim Kern)

People who haven’t been there ask what the Reno Air Races are like. They’re unique; they’re not "like" anything else – but to compare, say, Oshkosh to Reno, you might think of the relationship between the Detroit Auto Show and the Indianapolis 500. If that doesn’t help, just come to the races, and you’ll understand.

Sport Class

The drama this year was heightened by the first public appearance of the Nemesis NXT, perennial Formula One winner Jon Sharp’s brainchild, a kitplane designed to race in the Sport Class. Unfortunately, Sharp didn’t even try to go fast in the first qualifying (yet posting a third-best 324 mph), so we won’t know how fast he can go, because he had a minor gear failure on landing, and skidded to a sickening halt at the end of the session.

"I expected to see the gear legs out on the desert when I climbed out of the plane," the unhurt Sharp told me, "but when they lifted the airplane up, the first thing somebody said was that both gear were in the wells. I said, 'YES!’"

The Nemesis NXT, with its twin-turbo Lycoming 540 putting out a reported (and believable) 600 hp, went back to the paddock, where it will be repaired, and flown home, in about two weeks. The original special scimitar Hartzell prop won’t fly again, but Sharp says the prop-maker has him taken care of. Obvious damage was to the port wingtip, oil cooler, and prop. Lycoming and Sharp’s team changed the engine, and the original is on its way back to Williamsport for a look-see. A Lycoming engineer said it will never race again, "but we will run it a lot, probably in the [test] cell."

The fastest Sport Class plane to date came out of forced retirement on Wednesday and broke the 350-mph barrier. John Parker’s Thunder Mustang, Blue Thunder, qualified at 349.507, and ran a reported 354 in the heat race Thursday. Parker, who didn’t fly last year due to a ban (now resolved), was happy to show off his gorgeous V-12 machine, and to beat Darryl Greenamyer, last year’s class winner, in his first heat. Greenamyer had a problem in the heat, though, even as he was (some said) catching the screaming Thunder Mustang. "Prop governor went away," the master told me, shortly after he landed his snarling Lancair.

On Friday, supercharger guru Rick Schrameck loaned Greenamyer’s team the prop from his own airplane, and Darryl used it to blow past Parker, registering one unofficial lap at 363 mph. Parker, for his part, had three gallons of oil outside, and only something over five inside. "We lost oil out of a plug on the PSRU," he revealed. He expected to have everything cleaned up and shipshape by race time. "We’re going to do some more forensics, but we’re not too shabby."

Making things interesting on the normally aspirated side of Sport Class were the friendliest of deadly rivals, Lee Behel and Mike Jones. Behel flies a Lancair Legacy with a Continental 550; Mike’s Glasair has Lycoming factory support for his 580. Jones got stuck in traffic in qualifying, and posted a disappointing 291 mph, to Lee’s 312, but as Behel said, "You won’t find two more closely matched planes out here." Unlike the hyper race planes in front of Behel (Parker, Greenamyer and Sharp), he points out that his and Jones’s planes are closer to "real-world" airplanes. A look at their scimitar-blade Hartzells, though, shows that both pilots are looking for speed – and they’re finding it.

Behel’s plane reveals many non-stock tricks, too, just like on Greenamyer plane. "Look here," Andy Chiavetta (of Aero Chia) said, pointing near Lee’s exhaust tips. The floor of the cockpit had been modified to accommodate Aero Chia’s carbon cowl flaps. Further inspection of the cowl revealed a bigger than normal spinner with smaller "and more efficient" inlets, products of Chiavetta's hand. Inside the cowl, there is a special plenum box, too. Chiavetta’s set of speed mods could go on just about anybody’s Lancair, but he hasn’t yet figured out how much to charge for them.

"Most innovative" award in the class has to go to the quick White Lightning of Will Mathews, who won Silver in 2002 and sat out 2003 while he was getting a new liver. This machine is the only "twin-engine" entry in the Sport Class. In the back-seat area, Mathews has installed a 60-hp 2si (the brand name) two-stroke engine, just to run the supercharger. It’s unusual ("and it’s really noisy in there," Will told me), but effective.

It pays to have experience with the rules. On Saturday, Mathews' two-stroke didn’t work, and Mathews, thinking any finish in his heat race was better than a DNF, ran very slowly. So slowly that he lost his spot in the Silver race. (Had he DNF’d, his old time would have qualified him, and he would have raced Sunday.)

Going really fast, quietly, was Craig Sherman’s Glasair III, who qualified at nearly 304 mph. The Zivko Edge 540 was represented twice at Reno: once by aerobatic champion (and Red Bull series racer) Kirby Chambliss, and in the Sport Class by Roger Claypool, who ran his Brain Damage at 280.231, not bad for a "stunt plane." Two Swearingen SX300s went plenty fast, too -- and a Reno is likely the only time you’ll see two of these still-advanced birds together.

Unlimited, Last Week

The two top guns in Unlimited, Skip Holm in Dago Red and John Penney in Rare Bear, again took the top two qualifying spots, with Skip less than 1 mph faster, at nearly 491 mph. Penney took Lyle Shelton’s Bear back to the hangar for… something. It wasn’t in evidence in the paddock. Holm, too, had his share of problems. "On August 20," Holm said, "with maybe 8 or 9 hours on the engine, we had a look at the fuel filters. One was clean, one was filled with metal – bronze, from the main bearings. It needed a new crank, and all the rest – crankcase, blower – had to be cleaned." After that, going into Provo, Utah, Holm had an engine failure while there happened to be an airplane that had ground-looped stuck on the runway, with more airplanes waiting to take off. Holm had to look for an alternate, fast.

"It doesn’t coast very good," he revealed. "I had to use all my concentration to get over this dike." It was close: "I dove at the dike and then put the flaps in and pulled the scoop up. I just got over that dike and got the tailwheel down, then the mains. I got into the gravel, and it peppered the outside of the airplane." (Dago Red sported numerous patches, nearly invisible from a few feet away, that testified to a rough summer.)

Then, flying an F-100 to Reno for exhibition, Holm had another event. He blew a tire on landing, and "I put a wheel off" the runway, Holm said. It had been a rough month for the reigning champ. "I’m all dirt-ed out," he said, and looked forward to greeting the throngs of Young Eagles that he invites to every appearance.

Penney’s problem turned out, after many hours of head-scratching, to have been a supercharger that committed suicide. Once that was diagnosed, the Bear’s 3350-inch engine was cleaned out, the supercharger was replaced, and the crowd favorite was ready to race, for a whole day. On Friday, the team replaced the #9 cylinder, which had demonstrated a leaky exhaust valve. One team member noted that, "Still, we’re in much better shape than last year," when the Bear qualified first and finished second in the Gold.

Stewart Dawson, flying his Sea Fury, Spirit of Texas, had a loose valve guide on Friday. "I was smoking a little out of the right side of the engine," he said. He elected not to start in his heat, and so was bumped from the Silver to the back of the Bronze heat. In order to get back into Silver, he had to win his Bronze heat, from the back, and he did it. His speed in that race made him third-fastest in Silver (where the rules still make him start from the back). If he were to win the Silver, he would have the option to abandon his Silver placing (and title, and prize money) to get into the Gold race (where he would start -- you guessed it -- from the back). When he won the Bronze, he was automatically bumped; if he were to win Silver, he would have the option.

Also having exhaust valve trouble was Dreadnought, twice-champion in the 80s, back and ready, albeit some 20 mph slower than in her prime. Chuck Cabe, legendary wiring guy, is the crew chief. "We had a little piece of, probably the spark plug, break off and get stuck between the exhaust valve and valve seat." After a cylinder change early in the week, Dreadnought ran like a clock. A very big, very noisy clock, that is ready to capitalize on any mistakes in the very front.

Sherman Smoot, flying the (for sale) Yak-11, Czech Mate, qualified fourth and ran over 440 all week. His strategy for the race? "Just run the best power setting, and fly the best course I can … and stay out of the bad air." Czech Mate is the smallest airplane in the Gold field, but it’s pretty trouble-free, running a "tiny" 2800 up front. "I don’t look at the engine instruments much" during the race, Smoot admitted. "It doesn’t do much good; they’re all up there," close to the red zone.

Sunday's Unlimited Racing -- And the Big Upset

Dago Red was first across the line at the Reno Air Races, but pilot Skip Holm didn’t win. He cut pylon #4 early in the race, and the 16-second penalty was too much to overcome, even if he knew he had cut it (a fact which is not known at press time).

That meant that Rare Bear, with John Penney at the controls, was the winner. In fact, if Mike Brown (September Fury) had been two seconds quicker, Holm would be have finished third.

Holm and Penney led the whole race, and Brown was by himself, alone in third. As the eight laps unwound, the quick pair were never more than two seconds apart, and they ran away from September Fury, which itself was pulling away from the smallest Unlimited in the race, Czech Mate. Just a second behind the little Yak was two-time winner Dreadnought, a huge Sea Fury. Nelson Ezell, in his Sea Fury, led three Mustangs: Brent Hisey’s Miss America, Curt Brown’s Voodoo, and Daniel Martin’s Ridge Runner III, which was never in the chase, and was lapped on the third lap, and twice more. The first five machines were so fast that they all lapped the back four.

Rare Bear, with six wins, is now tied for overall wins in Unlimited, with Dago Red, which first won in 1982, and Strega, which won in 1987 and five times in the 1990s.


Biplanes are historically the slowest class at Reno, but that changed this year, as Tom Aberle, who didn’t race his Phantom last year after qualifying fastest (due to a propeller problem), again qualified fastest in 2004, running over 241 mph. Noting that the fastest T-6 (Alfred Goss in Warlock) went just over 238, Aberle, a former biplane champ, said, "Well, now the T-6s are the slowest class at Reno. We’re even faster than all but four of the Formula Ones. We’re 20 mph faster than last year."

Lining up for Saturday’s race, David Rose (Rose won last year, and was second-fastest qualifier this year) commented on the cold temps and high winds. "It’s a bit chilly." A fan nearby said, "That should be good for four more horsepower." Rose, heading for his airplane, responded, "I’ll need a lot more than that."

Tom attributes that speed increase to two main changes: He sawed off the exhaust pipes ("We had ten-inch stacks last year. They weren’t tuned anyway, so why have them out in the air?"), and he has a new, three-blade prop. "Paul Lipps offered me two props to try, provided we’d give back good performance parameters. Then he’d build one, optimized for the machine. I fed him the data, and in a week and a half, he had a design." Paul, who cruises over 200 mph in his stock-engine Lancair 235, has some unusual prop design ideas, but they seem to work for him, and for Aberle. "Last year," Tom said, "we were turning 3550 rpm, and went twenty mph slower. Now, we’re turning just 3300. Once the wheels are off the ground, it’s like a slingshot."

Both David Rose’s crew and Aberle agreed that they would have to pass Norm Way. "He’s got the hole shot," one crewman said. The "tall gearing" on the really fast bipes does cut their takeoff and climb performance a bit, but there is a lot of horsepower, too. Aberle operates out of a 2165-foot strip "… and I’m not using half the runway," he said.

In a windy Saturday-morning heat, Norm had that hole shot, and it helped him. "I was dealing with my canopy [it had come loose just after takeoff], and I didn’t know where I was," Norm said to David Rose, "so I just followed you." Rose, naturally, was happy to lead, but neither man could catch Tom Aberle and Phantom.

Rich Beardsley, who made a dramatic pass in his Rich’s Brew to win his first heat race, and also won his second, commented on Aberle’s so strange, so fast machine: "It’s magic, that’s all," he explained. (Note: Aberle’s machine may be "magic," but Norm Way’s is Magic.) When Beardsley tried his come-from-behind trick in the Bronze race for the third time in a week, though, it didn’t work; he finished 1/6 of a second behind Cark Gruber’s Eightball.

Formula One

The smallest and least-expensive machines at Reno present the smallest cockpits, smallest (O-200) engines, and some of the closest racing at the event. With the fastest machines lapping over 250 mph, they scoot, too. Last year, Steve Dari (former Tomcat pilot and Pitts driver) ran one for the first time. He said "It’s like a squirrel on Dexedrine, that you set on fire." Steve was flying a biplane in 2004, as his formula ship is getting some mods.

So, they’re little, fast, and exciting. This year, Gary Hubler and Mariah topped the qualifying at 255.380, with Scotty Crandlemire and Outrageous right behind, at 250. Charlie Greer (Miss B Haven) was the other plane to watch, just a tick off that pace, at 248.737. Formula One and the T-6s are arguably the tightest groups at Reno, sharing parts, tools, advice (good and bad!) and stories, and their heritage is legend. Close as they are, though, in the paddock, when they start the race, the competition is intense.

Saturday morning’s final heat saw these three good friends finish as they started, but Charlie had cut a pylon, so the penalty dropped him to fifth place to start the trophy race.


The L-39 Albatros field perked up considerably from last year’s unexciting four-bird group, as ten entries qualified this year, all of them at over 400 mph. Astronaut (and Unlimited class Voodoo) pilot Curt Brown smoked the field in qualifying, at 452.622 mph, with Lancair (Sport Class) and Yak (Unlimited) driver, test pilot Dave Morss, second, and Skip Holm (current Unlimited champ, in Dago Red) right behind. San Jose-based land developer Sal Rubino was next, followed by Lancair guy, Porsche dealer Lee Behel; John Bagley (who owns and races the former Bob Hoover P-51, Ole Yeller) was just ahead of fast-pedaling Rick Vandam, Space Shuttle commander Robert "Hoot" Gibson, attorney Cliff Magee, and last year’s winner and T-6 star (Two of Hearts), Mary Dilda.

History doesn’t repeat itself in this class, though. Mary, fierce competitor that she is, qualified last and finished last in her heat. She didn’t make the race on Sunday.

Red Bull

Something that has never been seen in the U.S. happened at Reno: the Red Bull Air Races. This is a concept developed by Hungarian aerobatic ace Peter Besenyei, infamous for (among other things) flying inverted under Budapest’s famed Chain Bridge. The course consists of three laps around a tight course, close to the crowds. Aerobatic pilots perform different maneuvers on each lap, maneuvers that include vertical rolls, passes through 60-foot-tall inflated gates (some are knife-edge!), and a touch-and-go on a 7-foot chalk stripe, all against the clock! Fastest wins.

The Red Bull Air Race is invitation-only, and the cast is top-drawer, including Kirby Chambliss and Mike Goulian from the U.S. When I talked about this concept with Besenyei, I admitted that "I still think you guys are crazy." He replied, "Yeah, we are," and added, "but we’re safe."

I heard Michael Goulian, who had never done this before, ask Edge 540 pilot Kirby Chambliss, who has won the first two events (held in the UK and in Hungary), "What’s it like to hit one [a pylon]?" Chambliss replied, "It’s just like hitting wax paper – just ‘WUMP!’ and you’re through it."

Goulian wasn’t sure. "Do they make a funny sound? I thought I got one – there was just this funny sound – then the next time through, I heard it again." Chambliss calmed him down. "You were probably just getting close," he said.

Every course (there were three events in this inaugural year; Reno is the final venue) is different, and incorporates different trials. At Reno, the pilots fly through a set of pylon gates, each of three laps having something different to do. There are straight pylon passes, knife-edge; there are vertical rolls and point rolls; and a touch-and-go, on a 7-foot chalk stripe.

Some of the hand-picked pilots had never flown this type of event; others had, but the newbies learned fast. By the time Sundays "championship" race field was set, only Peter Besenyei was not from Camp USA. British champs Paul Bonhomme and Steve Jones, and American David Martin, would sit this one out.

Mike Mangold, exploiting his higher-horsepower Edge 540, was top qualifier, nearly nine seconds quicker than deadlocked Chambliss and Besenyei; and Mike Goulian was nine seconds back, in his CAP 232.

Race Results: Because of filing deadlines, not all of Sunday’s final results were not available. They can all be found at

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FAA To Trim Budget...

Equipment And Facilities Face 12.6-Percent Cut...

The FAA is defending a proposed 12.6-percent cut in its equipment budget days after a radio failure caused numerous flight delays and (depending who you talk to) up to five instances of loss of separation in California last Tuesday. Under the proposed budget, the money spent by the FAA on equipment and facilities would drop from $2.62 billion to $2.5 billion (maybe the Bush administration just likes round numbers). So far, the Senate and House have apparently agreed with Rep. John Mica, chairman of the House Aviation Subcommittee, who told The Miami Herald that the FAA spends too much money trying to invent technology. "By the time they change it, the private sector comes up with off-the-shelf technology or new technology that does a better job," he said. Those who work with the equipment have a different view. "Cutting the budget by almost 14 percent [sic] is insane," said Tom Brantley, president of the Professional Airways Systems Specialists (PASS), which represents the technicians who fix the equipment. "Seventy percent of the systems out there are in need of upgrade or replacement." FAA chief spokesman Greg Martin disputed that view, saying equipment is constantly being upgraded and there is nothing more than nine years old in the system. Ruth Marlin, executive vice president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), predicted there would be more equipment failures. "Air traffic control modernization has got to be constant," she said.

...Humans (Not Equipment) Blamed For Radio Failure...

Meanwhile, there was apparently nothing wrong with the equipment involved in the radio failure at the Los Angeles Air Route Traffic Control Center last Tuesday. The FAA said a technician neglected to reset an internal clock in the system's computer and it automatically shut down. The emergency backup system then failed, also due to an unspecified human error, and the radios were silent for three hours. During that time, pilots and controllers claim there were at least five "near misses" but the FAA's Martin said "the union's claims were wildly overstated." In two of the cases the FAA is willing to talk about (the other three are under investigation) NATCA and the agency disagree on just how close the aircraft involved came to each other. The union says a Gulfstream and a Northwest Boeing 757 came within .8 miles and 900 feet of each other while the FAA says it was more like .9 miles and 1,400 feet. NATCA says a UPS 757 and a Cessna Citation missed each other by 1.7 miles and 1,000 feet while the FAA says 1.9 miles and 1,100 feet. Martin noted that in neither case would the incidents have violated Reduced Vertical Separation Minimums (RVSM) ... the ones that will go into effect in January, anyway.

...Radars Get New Backup, Though

And while the agency works on fixes to prevent a repeat of the radio failure, a new backup for the radar systems at the country's 20 air traffic control centers is on the way. The Enhanced Backup Surveillance (EBUS) system will get its first run in Denver. It's supposed to be more reliable than the current system and "averts total system loss if there are hardware or software problems." And EBUS has already achieved something a lot of the FAA's technology programs don't always do well in. "This milestone was achieved under target cost and five weeks early," J.C. Johns, the FAA's EBUS program manager, told Government Computer News. The Denver system should be up and running in March of 2005.

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Hartzell Says Prop Not To Blame For Crash

Hartzell Propeller Inc. says it disagrees with Denmark's Air Accident Investigation Board over the role of one of its propellers (model HC-C3YK-1BF) in an Aug. 6 crash just off the coast of Denmark. As AVweb told you Aug. 26, four people died in the crash. Danish authorities concluded a pitch change knob on one of the blades broke, contributing to the crash. In a news release, Mike Disbrow, Hartzell's senior vice president of marketing and customer services, says all the evidence Hartzell has seen to date indicates the knob broke when the Socata TB10 impacted water -- not before. "As a result, we believe that the TB10 accident in Denmark does not have any flight safety implications for pilots who operate aircraft with similar type propellers," Disbrow said. The Danish authorities said in their report that Hartzell had issued a Service Bulletin requiring modifications to the pitch change knob on this type of propeller at the next overhaul. The prop involved in the crash wasn't due for overhaul for another 18 months. Disbrow said pilots using this type of propeller had contacted the company expressing safety concerns. He said the company is "actively assisting" the Danes in their investigation.

Alien Student Pilot Rule Published

The Transportation Security Administration has released its alien flight training interim final rule (how an interim rule can be final only red tape can explain). At any rate, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) is applauding the publication of the rule, which is mandated by the Century of Aviation Reauthorization Act passed by Congress last year. Although the rule raised hackles when it was first proposed, its final (cough) form seems to suit GAMA. The rule transfers responsibility for background checks of aliens seeking flight training from the Department of Justice to the TSA. It also doesn't require the checks (there's an as-yet-undetermined fee for them) until the student actually climbs in the left seat. Ground school and demonstration flights are exempt. Recurrent training is also exempt from the background-check requirement. "This action by TSA is good news for our industry," Ron Swanda, GAMA's interim CEO, said in a news release. "The United States trains most of the world's pilots and we want to ensure that this can continue safely and securely." GAMA says the rule strikes an appropriate balance between security and the practical concerns of the industry.

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Renaissance Goes Missing

Questions abound about the future of Renaissance Aircraft LLC and probably no one is more concerned than the city council of Cape Girardeau, Mo. On Oct. 1, Renaissance is supposed to start paying $21,000 a month in rent on a $2.1 million building the city built for the company so it could manufacture an updated version of the venerable Luscombe 8. Cape Girardeau sold bonds to put up the 60,000-square-foot building but now the facility is locked up tight and the phones have been disconnected, according to the Southeast Missourian newspaper. Company owner John Dearden's Cape Girardeau residential phone number has also been cut off, according to the paper. For almost a decade, Renaissance was embroiled in bitter lawsuits over the acquisition of the type certificate and manufacturing rights. It won those battles and a countersuit for damages. The company had booths at EAA AirVenture and Sun 'n Fun and Dearden told AVweb he was optimistic about the future of the firm. Drop us a line, John. We'd love to get caught up...

When The Sky Falls

Sometimes what goes up doesn't necessarily follow the rest when it comes down. Nancy Morgan, of Hartselle, Ala., went outside her home to investigate the "whoomp" she'd heard and found what looked like the door of an airplane. Stoney Powell, the owner of the FBO at nearby Rountree Airport, confirmed her suspicions and has begun knocking on hangar doors. "I'm checking around to see if anyone knows of a pilot who's missing part of his airplane," Powell told The Decatur Daily. Near Chicago, kids are collecting bits of an MD 80's engine after a mishap last Thursday. American Airlines Flight 1374 had just taken off from O'Hare when it ran into a flock of geese, at least one of which met its end in the left engine. The turbine shattered, raining mangled metal chunks over Chicago's Northwest Side and suburban towns. The plane, with 112 on board, made it back to O'Hare safely. "There were metal pieces all over the lawns, sidewalks and street," Chris Boldt told the Chicago Sun-Times. There were no reported injuries on the ground but falling debris may have claimed a "large black bird" found dead outside a residence. The homeowner heard a thump on her roof and found the bird outside. Any bird that went through the engine would not likely have made a thump of any sort, authorities opined, but they took the dead bird away anyway.

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Rutan Goes Weightless

The odds-on favorite to win the private race for space has gone weightless. Burt Rutan took a spin (and probably a whole lot of other maneuvers) aboard Zero Gravity Corp.'s modified Boeing 727, which recently received FAA approval to provide NASA-style parabolic flights that give passengers up to 30 seconds of weightlessness. "It was really amazing. Unbelievably cool," Rutan -- who may hope to pioneer space tourism -- is quoted as saying in press release issued by Zero Gravity. Rutan is no stranger to the founder of Zero Gravity. Peter Diamandis is also the founder of the X Prize Foundation, which is putting up the $10 million prize for the first privately funded, manned suborbital space program. Rutan's SpaceShipOne is scheduled to try and claim the prize with at least two consecutive flights to 100 km in altitude within two weeks at the end of September and early October. "Now he (Rutan) is ready for his suborbital flight," Diamandis said.

The Red Baron, A New Theory On How And Why

A team of researchers has determined that Baron Manfred von Richthofen wasn't himself when he followed a British plane behind enemy lines and was shot down in 1917. Researchers Daniel Orme and Thomas Hyatt claim von Richthofen was exhibiting the classic symptoms of the aftermath of a head wound he suffered nine months earlier. In their paper, the researchers claim that the Red Baron's behavior changed after his injury, saying he was moody, disinhibited and exhibited "target fixation" when he chased the British plane into a virtual shooting gallery in enemy territory. "He clearly should not have been flying," said Orme, who added that the real credit for the downing of the Red Baron was the machine gunner whose "lucky shot" had creased the Baron's skull.

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On The Fly...

Hurricane Frances damaged the dream of dozens of veterans at Merritt Island. The Vietnam-era Huey helicopter they'd restored was all but wrecked when the pedestal hoisting it 15 feet in the air broke under the strain of the winds. It'll cost $10,000 to fix, money the veterans say they don't have...

Only the pilot was aboard a plane used to take children on flights to reward their academic achievement when it crashed at Kill Devil Hills Friday. Mark Guthrie was preparing for Youth Aviation Day Sept. 25 when his Cessna 172 came down short of the runway. He was seriously hurt...

The last active-duty C-141 Starlifters left McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey Thursday on their final flights to the military boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona. The C-141 went into service in 1965 and has served in virtually every conflict involving the U.S. since. Brand-new C-17 Globemaster III transports will replace the Starlifters...

Apparently, the world's second-busiest airport can handle the world's longest airliner. At least it did last Wednesday, when Iberia Airlines had to use a stretched A340-600 for a trip from Madrid to replace the smaller plane normally used. Controllers have opposed allowing the plane into O'Hare until taxiways are widened to accommodate its turning radius.

AVweb's Newstips Address ...

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Belvoir's aviation division is looking for an editor to oversee one of its publications. The successful candidate will be an experienced pilot, preferably a CFII, with writing and page layout experience. Send a resume with cover letter by fax (941-929-1726) or via e-mail to

CMax™ Approach Charts, which can be displayed on Avidyne's FlightMax EX500 or Entegra/EX5000 MFDs, provide geo-referenced approach charts and airport diagrams.  CMax reduces the amount of paper in your cockpit and allows access to critical chart data more quickly and easily.  CMax overlays your flight plan and aircraft position for optimum orientation. CMax even shows runway incursion hot spots and improves taxiway awareness, reducing the need for "progressives" at unfamiliar airports.  With CMax, you'll know exactly where you are on the approach or on the field.  For more information, go online to

AVweb's Business AVflash

HAVE YOU SIGNED UP yet for AVweb’s NO-COST twice monthly Business AVflash? Reporting on breaking news, Business AVflash also focuses on the companies, the products and the industry leaders that make headlines in the Business of Aviation. Business AVflash is a must read. Watch for a Business AVflash regular feature, TSA WATCH: GA IN THE "SPOTLIGHT". Sign up today at

New Articles and Features on AVweb

As the Beacon Turns #81: Of Mice and MMC
How could something with a brain so small wreak such havoc in a hangar? How can something so large squeeze into a quarter-inch gap between fairing and fuselage, or scale the slickest tailgear of an airplane? AVweb's Michael Maya Charles wonders these things and more in this month's "As the Beacon Turns."

Reader feedback on AVweb's news coverage and feature articles:

Reader mail this week about Rep. Weiner's GA screening bill and AVweb's Reno coverage, and more comments about the letter from controller "Jane Doe" and NATCA President John Carr's rebuttal.

"Dry Tanking," running your tanks bone dry and topping them off, is the only way to know how much gas is really aboard. The results may surprise you. But there's a right way and a wrong way to do this. Here's how to do it right. PLUS: "Circle to IPC" reviews the circling approach; "Surviving an Interception," if you stray, here's what to know!; "Avionics 401," TFRs are not part of your Garmin 430/530 database, but they can be; "Touch and Go's," all you need to know; "Handheld IFR?" here's what can happen; plus a continuing series on what makes a good IFR platform and much more. If all of this seems important to you, order an Aviation Safety subscription at

Short Final...

I was eagerly awaiting t/o clearance while holding short of the runway in FLL. There were several aircraft on approach, including a Shorts 360. After several requests for t/o, I intervened one more time. The response was a bit of a surprise...

Tower: Sir, just give me a moment while I get my Shorts down.

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AVflash is a twice-weekly summary of the latest aviation news, articles, products, features and events featured on AVweb, the Internet's Aviation Magazine and News Service.

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Fly it until each part stops moving.

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