December 5, 2004
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Earlier this year, a Pennsylvania company called Affordable Turbine Power attracted some attention when they turned up at air shows with a turbine-powered RV-4 and said they would soon be selling their little engines to the experimental market. The company now has changed its name to Innodyn, and is also flying a turbine-powered RV-6. President Chuck Nearhoof told AVweb on Friday they are on track to start production of the turbines next month, with first deliveries in February. Each of the four models weighs less than 188 pounds and delivers a range of maximum power from 165 to 255 hp, at costs ranging from $26,500 to $34,500. Nearhoof says they have a "substantial number" of orders to fill. For now, they are focused on the experimental market, with no timeline for developing a certified engine. "Certification is not a short-term goal, but it is a long-term goal," Nearhoof said.
Nearhoof said the fuel system uses a patented technology called "pulse width modulation" to control fuel flow to the engine. The system not only reduces operating and purchase costs, but also simplifies the use of the turbine. "This is light years beyond FADEC," Nearhoof said. The engine spins at 61,000 rpm and the computer that controls the fuel flow can make three decisions for each rotation. "It gives new meaning to the term 'full authority,'" Nearhoof said. The company is now working with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) on a test regime to determine the efficiency of the system, and Innodyn is not talking about fuel flow till those results are in. At Sun 'n' Fun, in April, the company was reporting 13.3 gallons per hour in the RV-4. "We [are] completing assembly on sophisticated equipment to precisely determine fuel flow versus horsepower," the company says now on its Web site. "Until we have completed this detailed testing, we are hesitant to boast about our fuel flow rates. ... We will make this information available as soon as possible." The engine can burn diesel, kerosene or Jet A, and Innodyn says it expects to conduct tests with biodiesel in the near future.
The engine by itself is of very little value without firewall-forward support, Nearhoof said. Innodyn had been working with Rivers Aeronautical, of Greenville, S.C., to develop firewall-forward kits, but announced last month that it will provide that support in-house instead. "Innodyn believes that they can supply the kits to the consumer at a more affordable price and Rivers Aero supports them in their endeavor," Rivers says at its Web site, and Nearhoof confirmed that. He said Innodyn is trying to meet a price target of $6,000 to $7,000 for the kits, though it will vary depending on the airframe. That doesn't include a prop. Nearhoof said kits and support will be in place by the time deliveries start.
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FAA Administrator Marion Blakey was at a Flight Service Station in Mississippi last week, to talk with the staff about the current bidding process that could change federal employees to contract workers. "It's going to be a challenging time," Blakey told the Greenwood (Miss.) Commonwealth. "We don't know whether it is something that ultimately will be staffed by federal specialists or something that would be staffed by specialists in the area but under private contract. That decision will be made in a couple of months," Blakey said. Bidders for the contract include the agency's own employees in partnership with Harris Corp., Computer Sciences Corp., Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon. The FAA wants the bidder to cut costs by at least 22 percent from the current $502 million annual tab. Blakey said a decision will be announced between Jan. 1 and March 17. The FAA could also decide to continue to operate the FSSs itself.
The FSS is a primary source of official aviation weather, and provides other flight-planning services to pilots. FSSs coordinate VFR search-and-rescue services, provide orientation service to lost aircraft, maintain continuous weather broadcasts on selected navigational aids, and issue and cancel Notices To Airmen. The general aviation community makes up the lion's share of traffic at these facilities; however, military and commercial pilots are also frequent customers. The lucky bidder would operate 61 automated Flight Service Stations in the U.S., but Alaska is not included in the package.
The union representing the FSS staff, the National Association of Air Traffic Specialists (NAATS), is opposed to the bidding process. "Flight Service Controller duties will be sold to the lowest bidder with no system announced as of yet to monitor safety and security," says the NAATS Web site. NAATS has also disputed the FAA's contention that each contact with a pilot costs $25. "Flight service cost an average of $12 per contact until you factor in the cost of all the technical and administrative support costs. These support personnel are not included in any privatization or job elimination study," says NAATS. AOPA has taken the position that aviation weather services are critical to public safety and should be provided by the government without fees. "However, AOPA recognizes that the current FSS system is in serious jeopardy and that there may be better ways of doing business," according to the group's position paper. "AOPA would actively oppose any measures that would remove responsibility for flight services from the federal government."
JA AIR CENTER YOUR GARMIN SOURCE HOT HOLIDAY GPSs IN STOCK!
The FAA needs to change its rules to encourage pilots to totally clean frost from their aircraft's wings before takeoff, rather than just smooth it out to remove the bumps, according to a safety recommendation from Britain's Department for Transport. The recommendation was prompted by the investigation into the crash of a U.S.-owned and operated Bombardier CL-600 that crashed in the U.K. in 2002, under circumstances similar to last week's crash of a CL-600 in Colorado that killed three people. FAR Part 91.527 says pilots must remove frost from the wings and other aerodynamic surfaces "unless that frost has been polished to make it smooth." The British report says it's not clear exactly how pilots should "polish" the frost, and that the rule may give the pilots the impression that some amount of frost is acceptable. "The concept of 'Polished Frost' is particularly inappropriate and potentially dangerous to modern aircraft types and detracts from the importance of strictly observing the clean wing principle," the report says. A safety recommendation was issued to the FAA, suggesting that they should delete all reference to "Polished Frost" in the regs and ensure that the term is expunged from operations manuals.
Meanwhile, the publicity from last week's Colorado accident has apparently alerted not only pilots but commercial air passengers to the dangers of icing. An American Connection flight out of Columbia, S.C., was delayed last week when passengers complained to the flight crew that they could still see ice on the wings, after a crew had finished cleaning them and the airplane was preparing to depart. The wings were re-cleaned before the flight took off.
Friday, Chicago officials sent off a 43-page legal brief in response to the FAA's concern that the city diverted $1.5 million from O'Hare's federal airport development funds to pay for the destruction of Meigs field. The FAA has already ordered the city to pay a $33,000 fine for insufficient notice (not telling anyone at the FAA 30 days ahead of time that the city intended to close Meigs field). The city's brief defends both actions. The text says that the city did give notice of closure and also that the city did spend the O'Hare money, plus another $1.3 million, to destroy the field, according to a report in yesterday's Chicago Sun-Times. But in an epic twist of lay-logic, the brief contends it's legal to use "development funds" to destroy an airport. (... Bless the lawyers, every one.) There is precedent, set in both Denver and Austin, and therefore the ... act ... was legal, according to the brief. The Sun-Times caught Law Department Spokeswoman Jenny Hoyle saying, "We make the point that these costs are related to the removal of airport infrastructure and environmental remediation. It's not in the public interest for a municipality to leave behind an abandoned airport. ... We used the revenue carefully. It was not used for redevelopment or urban renewal."
NOT SURE WHAT TO GIVE A PILOT? WANT SOMETHING FOR YOURSELF?
China's economy is the fastest-growing in the world, second only to the U.S. in overall production, and it seems to be ready for GA. Organizers of the 4th Annual GA Forum in China, set for March 2005, say that "yesterday's potential has turned into today's reality," and now is the time to enter the market. Diamond Aircraft is already making inroads there, and CEO Christian Dries says he expects the growing Chinese aviation market to "potentially become a very significant portion of our future business." Diamond announced last week that it now has Chinese certification for its DA40 four-seater, and will begin deliveries there this month. The DA20-C1 two-seater received its Chinese certification in July. Diamond says it has purchase agreements for fleet sales of both aircraft models with several Chinese customers. The first DA40s in China will be flown in the Beijing PanAm International Aviation Academy's Commercial Pilot Training Program. "This initial contract with Beijing PanAm is significant in that it is the first introduction of state-of-the-art composite aircraft with all-glass cockpits to China," said Dries. "These initial deliveries are the tip of the iceberg and we expect to make additional exciting announcements regarding Diamond Aircraft and China, in the very near future." PanAm Beijing has placed orders for 41 DA40 Diamond Stars and 19 DA42 Twin Stars, both featuring Garmin G1000 all-glass cockpits, Diamond said. The first Ultralight Expo is set for Beijing in May 2005. "The Expo will provide unprecedented opportunity for international ultralight aircraft manufacturers to show their aircraft to the world's largest recreational aviation market," organizers say.
A Cessna 340 that exploded on the ramp at Lafayette (La.) Regional Airport last week apparently had a slow fuel leak in its left wing tank, investigators say. The pilot of the airplane had reported fumes in the cockpit on its last flight, about three weeks ago. It sat on the ramp until a mechanic went to check it out last Tuesday morning, and when he turned on the master switch, the explosion occurred. No flames or fire were reported. The mechanic suffered minor injuries and was treated at a hospital and released. The explosion rattled windows and knocked pictures off walls at nearby businesses, but nobody was hurt (we're not real clear on how the mechanic managed that, either), and traffic at the airport was not affected. The twin-engine airplane was destroyed.
DON'T BLINDLY RENEW YOUR AIRCRAFT'S INSURANCE WITHOUT SHOPPING
Lights are fine for marking towers, except when they're not working, and those big orange balls help in spotting power lines, except when visibility is poor. To help prevent collisions, the FAA in Fort Worth, Texas, is testing a radar system that would continually scan the area around power lines or antennae for nearby aircraft, and trigger a strobe light to warn pilots (as opposed to just having a strobe running all the time on every tower), The Dallas Morning News reported last week. The Obstacle Collision Avoidance System could also broadcast a warning over the aircraft's radio. Two recent accidents highlighted the dangers of low-level obstacles -- a Gulfstream jet in Houston that hit a light pole on approach, and an Army helicopter that hit the support cables of an unlit tower in Texas. In Australia, helicopters were grounded recently, after three separate incidents of power line strikes. There have been more than 1,000 aviation accidents in the U.S. involving power lines since 1990, including more than 300 that have caused a fatality, according to the FAA, the Morning News said. The radar system would be solar-powered, making it more reliable and less likely to be affected by storms or power failures, and could be available as early as next year.
A Finnish 757 pilot who was apprehended by police in August during his preflight and failed a breath test for alcohol was sentenced on Thursday by a U.K. court to six months in prison. A blood test had shown his alcohol level was twice the limit allowed for air traffic in the U.K. The pilot, Heikki Tallila, 51, admitted to being drunk in the cockpit of the chartered airplane, which he was scheduled to fly from Manchester to Turkey, with 225 passengers on board. He was employed by Finnair, but was suspended after his arrest and later resigned. He was the first pilot to be sentenced under a new law, introduced in Britain in March, that gives the police authority to administer breath tests to flight crew members who are suspected of trying to fly under the influence of alcohol. Tallila reportedly had several glasses of wine the day before the flight, but had not violated the company policy of 12 hours bottle-to-throttle.
NEW AIRCRAFT HOLIDAY SPECIAL! FRACTIONAL AIRCRAFT OWNERSHIP
Garmin announced Thursday that it has received FAA certification to add Terrain Awareness and Warning System (TAWS) capability to its GNS 530 and GPS 500 units. The system can provide pilots with graphical and audible alerts of potential terrain and obstacle conflicts along the flight path, Garmin said. "TAWS technology represents a significant advance in flight safety and its widespread adoption could dramatically reduce the number of terrain-related accidents -- one of the leading causes of fatalities in aviation," said Gary Kelley, Garmin's director of marketing. New TAWS-certified units start at $20,500, and upgrades for current owners cost $8,000, Garmin said. The addition of TAWS enables the GNS 530 and GPS 500 to graphically display the surrounding terrain and obstacles in bright yellow and red, relative to the aircraft's current altitude, Garmin said. Yellow is used to depict conflicts 1,000 to 100 vertical feet below the aircraft. Red is used to depict conflicts 100 vertical feet below the aircraft's current altitude and above. Audible and graphical alerts include forward-looking terrain avoidance, imminent terrain impact, premature descent during approach, altitude loss after takeoff, 500-foot callout and excessive rate of descent. The GNS 530 is an integrated system with IFR oceanic-approved GPS, VHF navigation with instrument landing system, and VHF communication on a five-inch color display. The GPS 500 is an IFR oceanic-approved GPS navigation system with a five-inch, color moving-map display.
A 1940's-era Convair CV-340 cargo plane sporting "EELECT (sic) GEORGE W. BUSH" down the length of its fuselage Saturday departed Opa-Locka airport in Florida, reportedly suffered engine trouble and ditched in nearby Maule lake. The crew of two avoided densely populated Miami-Dade suburbs (excepting vast expanses of open water) and escaped unhurt. The aircraft and its cargo of baggage were afloat but slowly sinking, though there were plans to bolster the aircraft with the support of gaseous sacks...
The da Vinci Project, a former X Prize contender, has completed a huge helium balloon for launching its spacecraft...
Ballistic Recovery Systems (BRS) has hired Larry E. Williams as president and chief operating officer...
Checklist for infant and child safety for general aviation pilots now free online at Flyguides Pilot Travel site...
Hurricane-damaged airports in Florida got another $4.5 million from the Department of Transportation on Friday...
New IMAX film, "Fighter Pilot: Operation Red Flag," debuts Saturday at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Virginia, and will play at other IMAX theaters soon...
Tycoon Toys: Fighter Jets," airs on the National Geographic Channel Dec. 15 at 10, featuring the Electric Lightning, MiG, Starfighter, F15, Cobra helicopter and more...
A Cessna 414 crashed shortly after takeoff at Dinwiddie (Va.) Regional Airport on Thursday, hitting another airplane on the ramp, which caught fire, and came to rest at the fuel farm gate. Nobody was hurt...
AOPA's 2005 Karant Awards for GA journalism now accepting entries of stories in non-trade media.
ASA'S AIRCRAFT FLIGHT LOG IS EASY & COMPLETE
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From the CFI #4: Some Advice on Movin' On Up!
If you're thinking about moving up to a faster, more complex airplane (or if you're wondering how piston-pounding pilots are going to transition to those very light jets), AVweb's Linda D. Pendleton has some advice: Brush up on the basics.
FLIGHTMAX EX500 COMPLIMENTARY RELEASE 2.0 SOFTWARE UPGRADE THROUGH DECEMBER 31, 2004
Reader mail this week about Presidential TFRs in Canada, the Age 60 rule, doctored photos and much more.
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NO-COST RESOURCES FOR STUDENT PILOTS!
Submitted to our "shouldn't you have better things to do" file...
Tower: L39 N###, Did you guys get that contract with the post office?
L39: Say again Ellington Tower.
Tower: L39, We heard that the mail was going to be in the Czech.
L39: ... Slow day, huh.
Tower: (laughing) Sorry.
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. http://www.avweb.com
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