March 9, 2005
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Aera Corp., of Temeculah, Calif., announced on Monday that it has signed a "Commercial Space Operations Support Agreement" with the U.S. Air Force that will allow it to launch its seven-seat rocket-powered spacecraft from a launch pad and land it horizontally on a runway, both at Cape Canaveral. Aera said it will unveil its spaceship, Altairis, this spring at the Planetarium in New York City, in an event the company is calling "The Altairis Adventure Rollout," and will be flying paying passengers into space by the end of next year. Virgin Galactic, which is building a fleet of spacecraft based on Burt Rutan's SpaceShipOne, has said it expects to be flying in 2007. Altairis will take six passengers and one "mission commander" on a 40-minute suborbital ride flown entirely by computer, the company says. Aera's five-year agreement establishes the ground rules for Aera's access to launch facilities and launch-support services at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
Aera Corp., formerly American Astronautics, competed for the X Prize with plans for a ship that sounds much like Altairis, but the company never got enough capital together to make it happen. Company founder Bill Sprague told MSNBC that the success of SpaceShipOne has meant an infusion of venture capital that has encouraged him to move forward. The ship will use off-the-shelf technology, he said. Aera has not yet released details of its plans, but the X Prize spacecraft consisted of a capsule that would ride atop a booster rocket to about 119,000 feet, then separate and coast into space. The booster returns to the spaceport, and the capsule deploys a parafoil to slow its descent, then glides back to the spaceport for a landing cushioned by pressurized bags. "We employed 30 years of proven technology and improved upon it with modern capabilities to develop Altairis, our first-generation spacecraft," Sprague said in a news release. The company says that once its first spaceship is built, it can build more copies at the rate of one a month. The simplicity of the design makes the short time frame feasible, the company says.
Aera Corp. also says that three-day orbital vacations should be available within a few years. By the time they get there, Bigelow Aerospace, of North Las Vegas, Nev., may well be ready with orbiting hotels where those passengers can stay. Bigelow expects to launch its Genesis Pathfinder spacecraft early next year, Space.com reported on Tuesday. The launch will be a shakeout of systems to be used on a full-scale inflatable space structure dubbed the Nautilus, which is aiming to be ready for commercial use by January 2010. Start saving your pennies now, because the estimated price for visitors is about $8 million apiece.
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When the TT62 Alekto from High Performance Aircraft made its first flight last month, in Liechtenstein, it was also the first flight for Thielert's new Centurion 4.0 V8 diesel FADEC engines. "For both companies, it represents another important milestone in the introduction of the state-of-the-art technology into general aviation," Thielert said in a news release last week. The TT62 is a five-seater all-composite aircraft. The two engines are installed inside the fuselage behind the cockpit. They power two five-blade propellers connected to the fuselage via pylons. The Centurion 4.0 engines, as well as the shaft drive to the propellers, are certified in accordance with European Aviation Safety Agency requirements and are fueled by kerosene. The engines make the TT62 a powerful cruising aircraft with very low consumption values and a long range, Thielert said. The flight took place on Feb. 22. Now the prototype is continuing flight tests. Production of the first airplanes is expected next year.
Construction of the Javelin jet demonstrator prototype is undergoing final assembly and it will be ready for its first flight soon, Aviation Technology Group (ATG) said Monday. In the last couple of weeks, the main landing gear and the rudder pedals were installed. Wing flaps and ailerons are awaiting final installation. Technicians have completed bench testing of avionics in preparation for instrument panel installation and final avionics functional testing. They have also successfully integrated the avionics and aircraft instrumentation in preparation for preliminary engine runs. About a month after the first flight, ATG says it will unveil the Javelin prototype to the world. More details about this event will be released in weeks to come, the company said. The Javelin Demonstrator prototype will be used to evaluate aircraft performance, handling qualities and selected system installations.
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New Piper was hit hard by the hurricanes that stormed through Vero Beach, Fla., last fall (not to mention hand-me-down crankshaft complications compliments of Lycoming ... or Interstate ... depending on whom you talk to) but the company is back to full production and all of its laid-off workers have been recalled, spokesman Mark Miller told AVweb yesterday. "We're on track to deliver more airplanes this year than we did in either 2004 or 2003," he said. The sprawling 80-acre site sustained heavy damage to several buildings, but the main tooling and assembly equipment was spared and moved into intact space. The company lost some staffers due to attrition during its recovery, so it now is hiring and hopes to gradually build back up to a full workforce of about 1,000, Miller said. So far the staff is up to about 830. Construction crews are still hard to find in Florida, Miller said, so rebuilding is proceeding slowly. Some roofing crews are working now, and insurance money is coming in to fund the work. Miller said the company is also taking advantage of the opportunity to make improvements as it rebuilds, both in structures and in manufacturing systems.
TSA chief David Stone took some heat last week from a congressional panel for being late with a report on reopening Washington's airports to GA traffic. During a budget hearing on Thursday, U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) asked about the status of a progress report on the airports (Reagan Washington National and the three small GA fields known as the "DC-3") that was due on March 1. Stone said a draft of the report had been submitted to the Department of Homeland Security but the recent changes in leadership there had meant a delay. Another TSA report that's supposed to provide updates on the need for the ADIZ around Washington is already months overdue, according to AOPA. "AOPA hasn't forgotten about all the pilots whose access to the nation's capital is limited by the ADIZ and airport restrictions, and we're making sure that lawmakers don't forget them, either," said AOPA President Phil Boyer, in a news release. Rogers told Stone that he'd like to see the report about Reagan National by April 1.
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An Air Transat Airbus 310 was about 30 minutes into a flight from Cuba to Quebec City on Saturday when the rudder became partially detached. The airplane returned safely to Cuba. Three other Airbus airplanes were grounded for inspection but returned to service after no problems were found. Reports that the Airbus was denied permission to land in Florida by U.S. air traffic controllers seem to have been false. U.S. controllers said they were never told about an emergency, and Air Transat said the crew chose to return to Cuba because they had maintenance crew there and were never refused permission to land in Florida. The aircraft involved was put into service in 1991. It had an inspection on March 1, and its next major inspection is scheduled for 2006, Air Transat said.
The Navajo Nation has opted out of a partnership with Utilicraft Aerospace to build a new twin-prop freight hauler. The project was announced in December, but then two state agencies in New Mexico reviewed the proposal and warned the tribe to proceed with extreme caution before putting any money into the project, IndianCountry.com reported on Tuesday. The tribe decided it would take too long to see a return on its investment, and backed out of the $34 million deal. Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. said the memorandum of understanding agreed to in December had noted that the deal would have to clear such hurdles before being finalized. ''It was a good-faith effort on behalf of the Navajo Nation,'' Shirley said in a written statement, Indian Country reported. ''But there was an understanding with the company that this had to go through the Navajo Nation Council, and the first step in that process is the Economic Development Committee, and they've made their decision.''
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FAA officials said on Monday they plan to charge British Airways with "careless and reckless operation of an aircraft," because the airline flew a 747 from Los Angeles to London with one of its four engines shut down, the International Herald Tribune reported on Monday. A British Airways spokesman said the flight crew did nothing wrong. "The 747 is fully certificated to operate on three engines. There is no requirement to land," said Steve Shelterline. The 747 ran low on fuel as it crossed the Atlantic at a lower-than-usual altitude, declared an emergency and landed in Manchester.
For years, the FAA has been building up stacks of useful information on its Web site, but trying to find that information (if you even knew it was there to be found) could be cumbersome. A fresh new redesign that went online last week aims to make it easier for pilots to find the info they need. The home page has a list of links for pilots that lead to graphic TFRS, NOTAMs, weather, and a downloadable pilot certificate application. A couple of clicks on the "aircraft" tab will take GA pilots to links about registering an aircraft and flying a vintage or surplus military aircraft, as well as an outline of information available from the Small Airplane Directorate. We do wish those tabs on the home page came with drop-down menus, though, for easier navigation. Maybe next time.
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A new GPS arrival procedure should make it easier for pilots flying into AirVenture at Oshkosh this summer...
Boeing CEO Harry Stonecipher resigned after violating the company's code of conduct by pursuing a romantic liaison with a female executive at the company...
Boeing's Worldliner, a long-range version of the 777, flew for the first time on Tuesday in Everett, Wash....
The NTSB wants the FAA to require modifications to Honeywell Flight Management Systems to prevent errors due to incorrect data entries...
Registration is open online for the 2005 Air Care Conference on public-benefit flying, to be held April 29 and 30 in Asheville, N.C....
The FAA will spend $500,000 for a plan to install safety barriers at runway ends in Teterboro, to prevent airplanes from skidding off the airport into local roads, as happened last month to a corporate jet.
Drop us a line. If it caught your attention, it will probably interest someone else, too. Submit news tips via email to email@example.com.
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What's New for March 2005
This month AVweb's survey of the latest products and services for pilots, mechanics and aircraft owners brings you a book on night flying, a density altitude thermometer, vortex generators for Stinsons and much more.
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*** PREVIOUS RESULTS ***
Last week, an AVweb reader suggested the U.S. government return some of the public-use airspace it's been confiscating as Military Operation Areas (MOAs) and we asked our other readers for their opinion on the matter.
Not surprisingly, most AVweb readers were unhappy with the current state of MOAs. 15% of you agreed with our reader, who suggested the military should return an equivalent amount of space for every new MOA it sets up. Another 34% wanted to forget the "equivalent airspace" business and get some sky back for GA. And 27% of you suggested locking down the current MOAs as much as possible in order to reduce the number of surprises pilots have to deal with.
Only 23% of readers were in favor of (or, at least, not agitated by) the loss of GA airspace to MOAs. Of that group, two out of five pilots thought it best to err on the side of national security and give up the airspace when the U.S. military needs it. The other three pilots didn't see why we were making such a big deal after all, you can fly through MOAs.
As usual, our "Question of the Week" provoked some interesting responses from AVweb readers. A couple made it into Monday's AVmail, including one commentary from Chris Citchley of the U.K., who made us appreciate just how much airspace is available for GA here in the States.
*** THIS WEEK'S QUESTION ***
Several weeks ago, one of our readers asked, "Have you ever had a near-mid-air and didn't report it?" We thought it was a good question, and (now that we finally have a chance) we're putting it to you:
Have you every had a near-mid-air?
(Click to answer)
Have an idea for a new QOTW? Send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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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Submit a Photo | Rules | Tips | Questions
Current POTW Winner | Past POTW Winners
This was a light week for "POTW" submissions, but almost every entry this week was a serious contender for one of our top three spots. So, despite a slight drop in submissions, we're going to run an astonishing seven pictures this week headlined by a colorful, exciting air show pic from Bob Harrington.
Bob, like all our weekly winners, will receive an official AVweb baseball cap to keep his eyes shaded during this summer's air shows. To get an AVweb cap of your own, submit your photo here.
Due to privacy issues, AVweb does not publish e-mail addresses of readers who submit photos.
copyright © Robert C. (Bob) Harrington
Bob Harrington of Seattle, Washington dug this one
out of his scrapbook for us. According to Bob, this is
Art Scholl in his Super Chipmunk N114V at the Lynnwood
Rotary Paine Field International Air Show in July of 1979.
here to view a large version of this image
Click here for a medium-sized version
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 larger versions.
"Great Blue Heron"
Although we loved this image at first glance,
Raymond Woo of Palo Alto, California pointed out
"how the paint scheme on the Skyhawk kind of
abstractly resembles the plumage of the heron."
Used with permission of Wayne Dippold
"Charley - 1, Mooney - 0"
Wayne Dippold of Alden, New York reminds
of the devastation left behind in the wake of last
year's Hurricane Charley. As Wayne puts it,
"This poor little Mooney got beat to a pulp."
Do you like the bonus pictures
we've been sneaking into "POTW"?
If so, you'd better get those submission numbers
back up, or we may be forced to cut back!
Used with permission of George Mock
"Flying Over an Old Warrior"
George Mock of Windsor, Ontario (Canada)
explains that what we're seeing here is a
Lancaster FM212 placed in the Lancaster Rose Gardens
as a memorial to over 400 Windsor-area airmen who made the
ultimate sacrifice during WWII. George tells us the Lancaster is
being moved into temporary storage at the end of May, where
it will await a new permanent home at the Windsor Airport.
Used with permission of Kenneth C. Budd
Kenneth C. Budd of Atlanta, Georgia
gives us a glimpse of the new tower under
construction at ATL, as viewed from
Concourse E at the airport.
Used with permission
We were tempted to change the caption on this photo from
Sven Borger Fiedler of Oslo, Norway to "Figure 8."
Sven writes, "A friend and I landed on the ice ... on a
remote Norwegian lake. At the nearby cafe, we had
this view from the window. I wonder what they were
talking about?" We could venture a guess ... .
copyright © Don Parsons
"Flying a Classic"
Sherri Alexander of St. Peters, Missouri
took this photo of Don Parsons
in his F-24 from her Cessna 172.
Interestingly, St. Peters is now the most common city name we're seeing in "POTW" entries. Any particular reason it's become a destination for amateur aviation photographers? Tell us.
To enter next week's contest, click here.
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, consult the POTW Rules or send us an e-mail.
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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Today's issue written by News Writer Mary Grady:
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Fly it till every part stops.
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