NewsWire Complete Issue
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
Blame ... And Nearly $100M In Damages
In a stunning verdict (the effects of which could ripple through the aviation world for years to come) a Texas jury has found Textron Lycoming entirely to blame for crankshaft failures in
high-horsepower engines between 2000 and 2002. What's more, the Grimes County jurors found that Lycoming's investigation of the crankshaft failures was fraudulent and incorrectly put the blame on the
manufacturer of the crankshaft forgings, Interstate Southwest, of Navasota, Texas. In fact, the FAA also accepted Lycoming's version that Interstate had improperly heat-treated the forgings, which
weakened the steel and led to the failures. What the jury found was that the crankshafts were under-designed for high-horsepower engines, and that Lycoming changed the recipe for the steel alloy used
in the cranks by adding vanadium (to make the metal easier and less expensive to work with) and that that weakened them. According to court
documents obtained by AVweb, the jury found that the "sole cause" of the crankshaft failures was Lycoming's design. "The jurors found the combination of poor design and vanadium pushed
these crankshafts beyond their limits," said Interstate attorney Hal Walker. The jury awarded Interstate $9.7 million in actual damages and $86.4 million in punitive damages. Interstate launched the
suit in April of 2003. A month later, Lycoming answered with a suit filed in Pennsylvania claiming $173 million against Interstate. According to Interstate's lawyers, the Texas verdict effectively
stops Lycoming from pursuing the Pennsylvania suit. "This is a total victory for our side," said Marty Rose, another Interstate lawyer.
Now, the legal wranglings have undoubtedly just begun (Lycoming will almost certainly appeal) but the Texas decision raises some practical and potentially disquieting questions about the whole
crankshaft issue. These are questions we'd like to pose to Lycoming but we were unable to receive a response before our deadline. According to Interstate lawyer Marty Rose, the forging company's
investigation revealed that the design of the crankshafts used in the brawny turbocharged 300-plus-horsepower six-cylinder engines in question was based on 40-year-old designs for four-cylinder
engines with much lower horsepower. Rose told AVweb that their investigation revealed that even though the vanadium problem was fixed in replacement cranks installed in 1,400 engines recalled
in 2002, the cranks are still under-designed for the stresses created by the big engines. "The [replacement] crankshafts don't have any safety margin," said Rose. "The normal operating stresses are
right at the limit." Rose said Lycoming's conduct during the investigation and the trial will be the focus of hearings scheduled over the next couple of weeks. He said evidence heard in the jury's
absence raised questions about Lycoming's handling of the crankshaft problem and hearings have been called to examine that evidence separately.
The decision also raises questions about the FAA's handling of the crankshaft problem. From the outset, the agency appears to have gone along with Lycoming's conclusion that Interstate was to blame
for the weak cranks. The original Emergency Airworthiness Directive grounding Cessnas and Pipers with TIO-540 and LTIO-540 engines cites "a variation in the heat treatment process" (the jury did not
agree) used during production of the cranks. FAA chief spokesman Greg Martin said the agency is studying the court decision and there's no word yet on further action. The AD and the resulting recall
was one of the largest and most expensive ever undertaken. Lycoming tore down and repaired more than 1,400 engines over about eight months. The recall left owners without their planes for weeks or
months while Lycoming paid for airline tickets and rental aircraft as part of a "Customer Care" package.
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New Aircraft Shipments Third-Highest Ever
We sensed it at last year's Sun 'n' Fun and felt it strongly at AirVenture, and the General Aviation Manufacturers Association has now confirmed it: 2004 was a recovery year for most plane-makers and
the future looks strong. "Bonus depreciation, coupled with the continuing growth of the U.S. economy helped make 2004 a turning point for our industry," said GAMA Chairman Jim Schuster. According to
GAMA, industry billings totaled $11.9 billion, the third-highest ever, representing a 19.1-percent increase over 2003; the total number of airplanes shipped jumped 10.3 percent to 2,963. The 2004
total was a 20-year high for piston single sales. Business jet sales increased from 518 to 591 (14.1 percent) and piston single sales went from 1,896 in 2003 to 2051 in 2004, an 8.2-percent increase.
In sharp contrast to previous years, turboprops recorded the heftiest increase in sales with an 18-percent jump over last year (272 to 321 sales).
Although the resurgence is being felt in every corner of the industry, there's one place in particular that is welcoming the news. Wichita-based companies accounted for the lion's share of the 2004
deliveries, shipping 1,277 airplanes (or about 43 percent) of the worldwide total. However, the hangover from the post-9/11 slump will likely be felt for years to come, particularly by rank-and-file
workers in the industry. Thousands were laid off and, despite the recovery, not many are being rehired. Cessna will add about 600 people to its workforce this year but Raytheon and Bombardier,
Wichita's other big manufacturers, won't be adding any. "The jobs issue will be an important one," Bombardier's Peter Edwards told The Wichita Eagle. "As we're raising rates of production, we're
trying to improve the profitability of the industry as a whole." (We think that means building more planes with fewer people.)
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A private airport in San Antonio is seeing the effective length of its runway being whittled away by housing developments the FAA is powerless to stop and the local city council seems to endorse. Like
so many urban airports, Twin-Oaks Airport was on the outskirts when it was built in the 1950s. Now, it's an island in a sea of chock-a-block development and the final straw may take the shape of a
modest single-story house poised for construction less than 400 feet from the end of the runway. Despite its low profile, the house will encroach 10 feet into the approach path, cutting the useable
length of the strip to 1,885 feet, too short for many insurance companies. Airport owner Bill Fowler claims he's tried to buy up land surrounding the airport for decades but the development kept
coming. The FAA says it lacks the power to stop construction, even though the house is a safety hazard, and the city just keeps approving building permits even though it knows the new houses are
potentially in harm's way. Last year, a two-story home was built off the end of the runway, encroaching four feet into the approach path. About 20 pilots keep planes at Twin-Oaks and some openly
wonder why anyone would build a house that close to the runway. The answer may lie in figures uncovered by the Express-News, which found the owners of the new house paid 12 percent less than market
value for the home.
As technological achievements go, the new Boeing 777-200LR may set a new standard for range and efficiency. Using lighter materials and more efficient engines, Boeing engineers were able to create a
plane that can fly more than 10,000 miles nonstop. Now, they just have to come up with passengers and crew that can take 20 hours or more of confinement in the aluminum tube. The new plane is expected
to be used by airlines to service less-important long-distance routes, such as Edinburgh to Perth, Australia, and Manchester to Shanghai. The busier routes are expected to be dominated by the new
Airbus A380, although it won't be making many stops in the U.S. anytime soon. The 555-to-800-seat behemoth is simply too big for most U.S. airports. So far only JFK, Miami, San Francisco and Los
Angeles are working on accommodating passengers from the super jumbo. Anchorage and Memphis want the cargo version to land there. From an airside perspective, the main problem is the wingspan of more
than 250 feet, which will overlap runways and taxiways. Concerns also exist over runways, taxiways, bridges and support structures that might not stand the weight, either. Once it gets to the gate,
terminals will have to be renovated to accommodate the burst of traffic.
British researchers say they have the answer to minimize the impact of air travel on global warming. Imperial College scientists say contrails should be a major consideration in determining the
environmental factors at play as air travel increases by up to 5 percent a year. The council wants aircraft manufacturers to design planes that can fly lower but still burn the same amount of fuel or
less than if they fly at the higher contrail-producing altitudes. They're even suggesting onboard sensing devices be installed on aircraft to alert pilots when they're creating that big plume of
vapor. The scientists say contrails are currently overlooked as environmental hazards and that needs to be fixed. Even though lower-flying aircraft use more fuel and therefore create more emissions,
the Imperial College professors say there's less environmental damage done that way. A Wisconsin climatologist's work seems to back that up. David Travis found that on the two days after 9/11 when all
flights in the U.S. were grounded, there were larger temperature fluctuations at ground level. The contrails act like a blanket, dampening the fluctuations all over the country. However, other
scientists say air travel has a minimal impact on climate compared to industry, vehicles and power plants.
The first on-ramp to the Highway In The Sky opens June 5. That's when NASA's Small Aircraft Transportation System (SATS) undergoes its first demonstration at Danville Airport in Virginia. While Boeing
and Airbus work on bigger planes that can fly fatter ... and farther ... SATS is dedicated to creating infrastructure for point-to-point air travel that bypasses major airports and allows convenient
and reliable access to thousands of small airports all over the country. SATS manager Jerry Hefner told graduateengineer.com that 93 percent of Americans live within 30 minutes of an underused rural
airport (just don't try to find hangar space there). The challenge is to increase the use of these uncontrolled airports without increasing the number of midairs and weather-related crashes. The June
demonstration will feature a GPS-based onboard anti-collision system that allows pilots to track nearby traffic. SATS will also use GPS to create predetermined routes from airport to airport (the
aforementioned highways) and employ enhanced vision systems to allow pilots to land safely in bad weather. Hefner is a frequent flyer on NASA's fleet of bizjets and knows well the advantages of
point-to-point travel over the airline hub-and-spoke system. "You don't have to do that more than once or twice to appreciate the advantages. It reduces the hassle and saves time," he said.
SWIM WITH THE MERMAIDS!
Or Manatees, the animals that are attributed as being the source of the mermaid legend.
In the winter, hundreds of manatees follow the warm water to Crystal River, Florida. You can escape the cold and swim with them too. Read all about this great winter escape (and other great
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Is the nondirectional beacon (NDB) going the way of the Dodo? Well, not quite, but its extinction is closer with an FAA program to weed out underused NDB approaches around the country so it can spend
more money developing GPS-WAAS approaches. Now, there are some airports that still rely heavily on NDB approaches and the FAA isn't going to mess with those, according to AOPA. However, it is going to
try and find those NDBs that dutifully send their signals to nowhere because there are better alternatives available. "Most new aircraft aren't even equipped with an ADF receiver," AOPA notes in its
release. AOPA says it has polled its members and most have no problem with NDBs being shut down where alternatives exist. The FAA recently sent letters to 430 airport managers asking if they have
redundant NDBs and noting that it can't afford to add more GPS approaches unless it gets rid of some of the old stuff. "To meet the public's demand for WAAS-capable RNAV procedures, the FAA must
manage the growth in the number of instrument approach procedures by eliminating redundant ground-based procedures," AOPA said.
In the chicken-and-egg world of aircraft design, it's not often a turboprop is copied from a pure jet. But that's exactly what the fertile minds at Aerocomp have come up with for their next homebuilt. The Comp Air 12 uses the same fuselage, wing and empennage as the Comp Air Jet, currently undergoing initial flight tests. But
instead of a jet engine in the back, the new plane as a 1,400-horsepower Lycoming turbine up front. The $449,000 kit (including engine but minus avionics) will have its first flight by summer and
should be available early next year. The jet kit should also be available about the same time. The turboprop version is expected to cruise at 275 knots over a range of 2,800 nm. Cabin configurations
will vary but the first airplane will have seating for eight (nine if you include the enclosed lavatory). "The Comp Air 12 is a natural extension of our full line of turbine aircraft, which have been
growing in size and passenger-carrying capabilities over the past several years," said a company release.
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Are UFOs finally getting the respect they deserve or is it all part of the ratings game? We'll let you be the judge as TV news icon Peter Jennings examines the topic in a two-hour special on
ABC Feb. 24. Jennings denies it's a ratings thing, saying that the 80 million Americans who say they've seen a UFO "deserve a serious hearing from a serious reporter." Uh-huh...
As Steve Fossett prepares to go around the world in 80 hours (the flight is postponed to at least Feb. 21), The History Channel has announced a documentary on less-known but still-pivotal aerial circumnavigation. First Flight Around The World, which airs March 6, looks at an air race held in 1924 that took
competitors around the world. Actual footage and re-enactments are used to tell the story...
Eight people died in the crash of a Cessna Citation in freezing drizzle in Colorado Wednesday. The plane went down five miles from Pueblo Airport. The plane was owned by electronics chain
Circuit City and four of those who died were employees.
Drop us a line. If it caught your attention, it will probably interest someone else, too. Submit news tips via email to
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The Savvy Aviator #15: The Annual Inspection Trap
Your airplane is undergoing its annual inspection, and the shop tells you the aircraft needs some costly repair work. You disagree, but the IA says he's unwilling to sign off the annual until the work
is done. What are your options?
HAVE YOU SIGNED UP yet for AVwebs NO-COST twice monthly Business AVflash? Reporting on breaking news, Business AVflash also focuses on the companies, the products and the industry leaders that
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*** PREVIOUS RESULTS ***
Last week, AVweb asked what you thought about the
privatization of FSS specifically, Lockheed-Martin's
scheduled takeover of the system in October 2005.
The biggest segment of you (38% of respondents)
thought the move would bring us "one step closer to user
fees." Another substantial slice of our readership
(30%) described themselves as "cautiously optimistic"
about the move.
11% of you expected a bumpy transition with the
potential for big problems, and 6% expressed excitement
at the possibility of modernization and change.
Only 2% of you thought this was the best thing to
ever happen to FSS, and 13% are preparing for the End
*** THIS WEEK'S QUESTION ***
The Lycoming verdict. A jury has
decided Lycoming must pay nearly $100 million as a
result of crankshaft failures, plane crashes, and
subsequent litigation. What do you think this
bodes for Lycoming (and the aviation community)?
Click here to answer
Have an idea for a new QOTW? Send your suggestions to
This address is
only for suggested QOTW questions, and not for QOTW answers or
this form to send QOTW comments to our AVmail Editor.
Submit a Photo |
Current POTW Winner |
Past POTW Winners
Hot dog! It's time for another installment of
AVweb's "Picture of the Week"!
We hope you'll forgive our enthusiasm, but this week's
batch of submissions are something to get excited about.
(And we promise, there's not a dead animal to be seen this
week.) After much deliberation, we're giving this
week's winning baseball cap to Lorraine Morris. Watch your
inbox, Lorraine the hat is on its way.
Due to privacy issues, AVweb does not publish e-mail addresses of
readers who submit photos.
*** THIS WEEK'S WINNERS ***
Used with permission of
"T6 by Mt. Rushmore"
Lorraine Morris of
Poplar Grove, Illinois
submitted this patriotic image of Mt. Rushmore.
For those old enough to remember when television
stations didn't broadcast 24/7, we were tempted
to save this one for our "sign-off" ... .
AVweb continues to receive a large number of excellent images for our
POTW contest. Here are some of the runners-up. Click on the links below to view
with permission of C.J. Anthony
"Off-Centerline But Sweet"
C.J. Anthony of
took this high-energy shot during
a landing at Scottsdale Airport.
His caption pretty much says it all.
Used with permission of
"Evening Balloon Flight in Arizona"
Who says we don't give enough time to balloonists?
Gary Kegel of Burns,
Oregon takes us back to
Arizona for a slightly more subdued photo ... .
"POTW" submissions are pretty strong,
considering that the long winter months
have set in firmly. We know it's too cold
to go outside, so how about emptying out
those pictures from last summer and
sending us some warm-weather snapshots, eh?
Used with permission of
"P3 Prop and Iceberg"
Robert Shearer of
Auckland, New Zealand
sends us this photo "taken by one of our crew
on a patrol in the southern oceans just north of
Hmmm just what line of work are you in, Robert?
Used with permission of
Instead, we decided to let
of Windsor, Ontario (Canada) take us out this
week, with dual shots of Lighthouse Cove (near Windsor),
where the Thames River enters Lake St. Clair.
"Very busy marinas in the summer time," writes George,
but "all that changes in the winter."
To enter next week's contest,
A Reminder About Copyrights: Please take a moment to consider the
source of your image before submitting to our "Picture of the Week" contest.
If you did not take the photo yourself, ask yourself if you are indeed
authorized to release publication rights to AVweb. If you're uncertain,
send us an e-mail.
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|THINK YOU CAN SPIN WITHOUT FEAR? FIGHTING THE WAR ON RUNWAY INCURSIONS?|
WAAS? Know what to do with a pitot-static failure? Is FAA ever going to fix the NOTAM mess? Don't think you need a wx briefing? All these questions (and many more) are answered in the upcoming March
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