June 22, 2005
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Imagine a supersonic airliner that flies almost three times faster than Concorde did, uses less fuel and is much quieter. Well, that's what engineers in a cooperative effort between French and Japanese aerospace industry associations envision as the next incarnation of supersonic travel. "Three-year research activities are planned for technologies related to composite material structure, reduction of jet engine noise and other areas which can overcome the difficulties unique to supersonic flight," said a Japanese government statement. The collaboration between France's Aerospace Industries Association and the Society of Japanese Aerospace Companies was announced at the Paris Air Show. The Japanese say they have the manufacturing expertise and the French believe they have the supersonic know-how to defeat the two basic problems that helped sink Concorde -- engine noise and fuel consumption. A consortium of Japanese companies is reportedly working on engines that operate at Mach 5.5 (Concorde poked along at Mach 2) and the country's engineering Research Association for Supersonic Transport Propulsion System (ESPR) is tackling noise, efficiency and environmental challenges. There's no timeline for a first flight.
And while supersonic travel for the masses (relatively speaking) is getting a fresh look, Mach 1 or better for the privileged few is looking increasingly viable. Reno-based Aerion says there are enough deep-pocketed (and time-short) customers for its Mach 1.6 (over the ocean) bizjet that it can move forward with the project and potentially have aircraft in service by 2011. Before Aerion can tackle the sound barrier, however, it has to overcome the significant regulatory, technological and financial challenges of launching such a project. It's looking for "risk-sharing partners" among suppliers and manufacturers to get the plane to certification and production. Aerion is likely saving itself a lot of trouble by saying the plane will be subsonic over land and supersonic over water (although we don't know how that limitation can be enforced). Its only competitor in the supersonic GA market, Supersonic Aerospace International (SAI), is aiming for a "low-boom" design that it hopes the FAA will allow to fly supersonically over land. Lockheed's Skunk Works is a partner in the Quiet Supersonic Transport project. Aerion estimates development costs at up to $1.4 billion while SAI says it expects to spend up to $3 billion to develop aircraft for which there might be a market for only 300 to 400 planes. However, according to one industry analyst, money is no object to those who will buy the planes. "There's an extreme top end of the private aviation market," Richard Aboulafia told Composites.com. "They'll pay any price for that speed."
And while others dream of fast airplanes, a test bed for future innovations in that direction took flight in a unique collaboration between government and the private sector in Mojave, Calif., Tuesday. As AVweb told you last month, NASA and one of its most high-profile critics, Burt Rutan, have teamed up (along with the Defense Department and Boeing) to test the X-37 space drone. Those tests took flight on Tuesday as Rutan's White Knight, the mothership for SpaceShipOne in last October's successful completion of the Ansari X Prize competition, carried the X-37 aloft for the first time. The mated pair had been running up and down the runways at Mojave for weeks in preparation for the first flight, which appears to have gone off without a hitch. Drop tests of the unpiloted plane are expected later this summer. The X-37 is to be used to study re-entry and approach of suborbital and orbital spacecraft and the data will help in the design of vehicles that could be used to repair satellites and do other odd jobs in space as well as for the creation of future reusable spacecraft. There will be a break in the test schedule, however. White Knight and SpaceShipOne are due at EAA AirVenture the week of July 25.
RECONDITIONED 20XLs AVAILABLE FROM LIGHTSPEED AVIATION
The wireless wave has hit the cockpit with at least two manufacturers now offering headsets that aren't tethered to the panel. Both use Bluetooth technology to free you from cords that inevitably get tangled in shoulder straps, wrapped around the yoke or otherwise get in your way. But that's where the similarity ends for these out-of-the-gate headsets from Panther Electronics and Peltor. Panther's is an earpiece (in your ear) system that claims 46 dB of passive noise reduction and weighs only 1.5 ounces. Peltor's is a conventional (over your ear) headset that claims 25 dB of passive noise reduction. Panther says it achieves the high noise reduction through the use of molded earpieces (a video included in the price shows you how to use your ear, a syringe and a few other essentials as an injection-molding kit). All the weight (nine ounces) is in the controller, which hangs from the panel and has the volume and gain-control adjustments. Most models come with a boom mike. Peltor's headsets are self-contained ... except for the Bluetooth adapter mated to the radio.
Convenience always comes at a price but, for the Panther models anyway (Peltor's Web site doesn't list prices), the cost is in line with many other top-of-the-line headsets, ranging from $464 to $777. Panther's earpiece can also be used with cellphones while Peltor says its device works up to 50 feet from the adapter/transmitter, meaning you can start monitoring traffic or get the ATIS before strapping in ... so long as the radio is on. Both manufacturers claim crystal-clear reception and transmission. The companies say their wireless headsets are compatible with a wide range of radio models (read: check their compatibility lists).
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Eclipse Aviation is strongly denying a report in at least two Russian publications that it intends to build airplanes there. The stories, one in the Izvestia Daily and one in MosNews quoting the Izvestia report (our Russian's a little rusty and we couldn't find an English version of Izvestia), claim to quote the president of Aviastar, which makes Tupolev airliners, as saying that the plant will be up and running as early as next year. "We will be able to re-equip the plant in six months," Aviastar's Victor Mikhailov is quoted as saying. Despite the matter-of-fact nature of the stories and the widespread use of attributed quotes, Eclipse claims there's not a shred of truth to the reports. "This story is completely false," Eclipse spokesman Andrew Broom told AVweb. "Eclipse Aviation is not and never has been in any discussions or negotiations with anyone relating to Eclipse 500 final assembly or producing sub-assemblies for the Eclipse 500 in Russia." According to Izvestia, Eclipse is ready to spend $80 million on the Tupolev plant and already has orders for 100 aircraft in Russia. Broom says Eclipse is mystified about the source of the detailed reports. "We do not know how this story was generated, as we have never talked to or been contacted by the publication," Broom said. "While we are working to determine this, I hope this clears up any confusion that this erroneous article may spark." Broom said the company intends to build the airplane at its plant in Albuquerque, N.M.
Security workers at Westchester County (New York) airport watched early Wednesday as beer cans fell from the cabin of a stolen C-172 as the 20-year-old student pilot and his two 16-year-old passengers extricated themselves from the cabin following a 4:15 a.m. taxiway arrival. While the 20-year-old does not hold a valid pilot's certificate he did manage a blood alcohol level of .15, according to the New York Times, and so nearly doubled the legal limit (for piloting an automobile). Authorities collected the "pilot" and charged him with reckless endangerment, resisting arrest and possession of the aircraft stolen from a Danbury Municipal (Connecticut) airport flight school. The Westchester County District Attorney is considering adding a flying-while-drunk charge, which apparently may be covered by the state's general business law. The charges so far could tally up to 22 years and 90 days.
Questions surrounding how the man acquired access to the aircraft and his total flight time remained outstanding at the time of our deadline -- and a focus of local officials who conjured theoretical outcomes should drunken "20-year-old" be replaced with "terrorism-inclined evil-doer." The student has held his student pilot certificate since August 2002 and a flight school confirmed he had at least one flight lesson at that time. Officials believe the student pilot may have had at least seven hours total flight time. Calls for more security at small airports have sprouted. While Westchester mandates boots or wheel locks, aircraft at Danbury may be more accessible. (This event not to be confused with the story about the 14-year-old who stole the 152 ... that happened last week.)
Congress appears to be loosening the purse strings for the cash-strapped FAA. The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Treasury, Housing and Urban Development has approved $14.4 billion in spending for the FAA for the 2006 fiscal year. That's up $877 million (about 6 percent) over last year. Whether it's enough to quell the numerous funding-related issues that cropped up during the past six months or so is another matter but initial reaction seems hopeful. The National Business Aviation Association notes that $25 million has been allocated to hire 600 new air traffic controllers while the General Aviation Manufacturers Association is cheering the restoration of staffing and budget levels in the seemingly always manpower-short Aircraft Certification Service. Most of the $14.4 billion goes to day-to-day operations of the massive bureaucracy, to the tune of $8.2 billion. There's also $3.6 billion in the airport improvement program, some of which, we assume, will be somewhere other than Chicago. As encouraging as the bill seems to be, it has a long way to go before those checks are in the mail, however. The Senate subcommittee must also submit its bill, then both houses have to agree on its final form and they have to pass it before the president signs it into law. A lot can happen (and has happened) along the way...
LANCAIR COLUMBIA 400 NOW CERTIFIED TO FL250
Canada's Transportation Safety Board suggests poor lighting, tired pilots and the wrong autopilot selection were behind a near-disaster at Edmonton International Airport on Feb. 25, 2004. The TSB, which investigates, but does not pass judgment on, aircraft mishaps, said in its report that the crew of the First Air Boeing 737 landed beside the runway instead of on it, in part because they had only runway edge lighting for guidance in deteriorating visibility. The plane ran beside the pavement for 1,600 feet before the pilots steered it back on the runway, taking out a runway light, four taxiway lights and a sign along the way. No one was hurt but the plane was damaged. As a result of the mishap, Transport Canada is updating its regulations for runway lighting and approaches in poor visibility and First Air has revised its crew scheduling to ensure that pilots switching between day and night schedules get enough rest in between. The company has also modified its operating procedures to ensure that pilots select the appropriate autopilot mode for approaches in poor visibility.
There was a get-acquainted session of sorts at AOPA headquarters in Frederick, Md., earlier this week and those who shook hands and traded business cards hope that GA will be stronger because of it. Airplanes that are, or will soon be, registered as Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) were flown to Frederick so that AOPA staffers could meet the people, kick the tires and fly the airplanes that some say will revolutionize (and revitalize) GA. The event was coordinated in cooperation with the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association. LSA airplanes can be flown by those who qualify for a Sport Pilot certificate, which only requires a driver's license as proof of medical fitness for those who have not been denied medicals in the past. AOPA President Phil Boyer said the current GA world and the emerging light aircraft sector have a lot in common -- and a lot of reasons to cooperate. "It's clear that pilots who fly light sport aircraft have critical interests in common with every other GA pilot, like access to airports, airspace and air traffic services," Boyer said.
A NEW RELEASE OF THE BEST AVIATION WEATHER SERVICE FOR CELL PHONES
There's nothing like a good tailwind to help you get in the record books. But what's interesting about this speed record was that a record was set in both directions. The National Aeronautic Association has formally recognized the March 20 round trip, by David Riggs and Jeff Acord, from Los Angeles to Phoenix in an L-39 "Wild Child" as record-setting on both legs -- even though the return trip took 60 percent longer than the outbound portion. The still-air maximum speed of the former single-engine two-seat subsonic Soviet bloc trainer/fighter is about 450 mph but Riggs and Accord made the eastbound hop at 561.2 mph in a time of 39 minutes, 58 seconds. On the way back, against the wind, it took them 1:01:24 at a speed of 365.3 mph. Looks like an average speed of 463.25 mph (and we don't know if that's a record). The jet record vaulted both pilots into a select category of pilots who are record holders on multiple types of aircraft. Riggs already held a piston record and Acord had previously set marks in piston and helicopter categories.
There are not many low-level-approved aerobatic pilots who didn't start flying until they were in their mid-30s but Michael Hunter had a good reason for starting late. As an insulin-dependent diabetic, he wasn't allowed in the cockpit -- any cockpit -- until the FAA relaxed its medical regulations in 1997. Hunter, now 41, is on the show circuit in his Laser 230 but he needs some high-tech help to ensure his blood sugar is correct during the rigors of a performance. An on-board system continuously checks his glucose levels and administers insulin every three minutes. Hunter is using his profile to encourage young diabetics to pursue their dreams through Flight for Diabetes, the group he started to inspire young people. "I'm here to inspire kids," he told the Akron Beacon Journal. "But I meet so many kids that inspire me." He was in Akron to perform at Aero Expo 2005 but not all of his most important flying is done in front of air show crowds. "I took my children for their first airplane ride recently," he said.
LAKE AIRCRAFT IS LOOKING FOR A NEW OWNER DURING AIRVENTURE!
The HondaJet will make its public debut at EAA Airventure. The jet, with Honda engines mounted on above-wing pylons, is said to be more efficient and roomier than comparable bizjets...
The pilot of a U-2 spy plane died in a crash somewhere in the Middle East Wednesday. The Pentagon refused to say where the plane crashed but it was reportedly returning from a mission over Afghanistan to its base in the United Arab Emirates...
EADS has chosen Mobile, Ala., to build tanker aircraft if it wins the contract from the Air Force. Mobile was chosen over prospective sites in South Carolina, Mississippi and Florida. It's up against Boeing for the multibillion-dollar deal...
Pilots are being encouraged to take part in an EAA/FAA online survey on light sport aircraft. Deadline is June 27...
Liberty has received type inspection authorization for IFR flight in its XL2 two-seat tourer. The plane was restricted to day and night VFR.
Drop us a line. If it caught your attention, it will probably interest someone else, too. Submit news tips via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You're a part of our team ... often, the best part.
SERIOUS SURVIVAL KITS FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE SERIOUS ABOUT THEIR GEAR!
Say Again? #51: Lost Communications -- NORDO -- Part 2
You've made it almost all the way to your destination, in the clouds and lost comm ... what now? How do you get down, and how does ATC figure out what you're going to do once you decide? AVweb's Don Brown is as confused by the rules as you are.
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PILOT GETAWAYS YOUR FLIGHT PLAN FOR ADVENTURE
*** PREVIOUS RESULTS ***
Last week, AVweb asked about pilots and insurance.
We were please to learn that most of our readers (58% of those who responded) have coverage on both their planes and their lives.
20% of respondents had insurance for their aircraft, but not for their lives while 13% were the mirror image, having life insurance but no aircraft insurance.
Only 9% of those who responded had neither life nor aircraft insurance.
*** THIS WEEK'S QUESTION ***
This week, it's the beginning of summertime. We could burden you with deep-reaching thoughts, or we can give you a question to set you free. So here goes: There are as many reasons as there are shades of blue, but if you had to pick between these ... why fly?
Click here to answer.
Have an idea for a new QOTW? Send your suggestions to email@example.com.
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.
SEE CLEARLY METHOD IMPROVES & STRENGTHENS VISION NATURALLY
Submit a Photo | Rules | Tips | Questions
Current POTW Winner | Past POTW Winners
Submissions dipped just a tiny bit this week but quality certainly didn't. Of 52 pictures submitted to this week's "POTW" contest, 37 were in our "final contender" pile. The happy side effect is a fantastic crop of pictures to share with AVweb readers.
As always, our first-place winner (Lee Wonnacott of Crystal, Michigan) takes home an official AVweb baseball cap for his efforts. To get a shot at the top spot (and one of those nifty caps), don't forget to submit your own photos.
Due to privacy issues, AVweb does not publish e-mail addresses of readers who submit photos.
copyright © Lee Wonnacott
"Are We Still in Formation?"
Lee Wonnacott of Crystal, Michigan
captured this incredible B-25 image from
the ground at the Michigan International
Speedway just a few days ago.
Click here to view a large version of this image
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.
Used with permission of Brian Fox
"Nice Day in Arizona"
Brian Fox of Higley, Arizona
brings us this striking Cessna 150
approach from the Estrella Sailport
in Maricopa, Arizona.
Used with permission of Joseph Avila
Joseph Avila of Edgewood, Washington
assures us, "No, I didn't fly this young man
in the cargo compartment. He just wanted to
see the rest of the airplane after his ride."
Used with permission of Ryan Lunde
"Luck in Sidney"
Ryan Lunde of Laramie, Wyoming
tells one of many great stories we heard
this week: "My friend Eric (pictured) and I
were ferrying this Stinson 108 from Green Bay to
Denver when our tailwheel went flat on takeoff from Eureka,
South Dakota. We continued on to Sidney, Nebraska, where
we were lucky enough to have a grass runway pointed directly into
the 25-knot wind and landed safely after a very nervous flight.
To top it all off, Sidney Aviation is American Champion dealer
and had a new tire and tube on hand. Eric is an A&P and changed
it quickly. After all, there need to be a few A&P-at-work photos on
'POTW' every now and then."
AVweb hopes that our A&Ps will note how
graciously we side-stepped the obvious joke.
Especially when it's time for our annuals.
copyright © Lassi Tolvanen
"C-170 Enjoys the Last Rays of Winter Sun"
Lassi Tolvanen of Helsinki, Finland
reminds us that cold weather isn't gone forever,
with this image of Esa Korjula sailing over a frozen
lakebed at dawn near the end of winter.
And finally, two widescreen images to take us home this week:
copyright © Skot Weidemann
Used with permission
"Warbird Historical Formation Flight"
Skot Weidemann of Madison, Wisconsin
grabbed this terrific shot at this year's Sun 'n Fun.
As Skot points out, this formation represents a range
of military planes from WWII through the present.
Used with permission of Ted Gado
"Sunset over Kiowas"
Ted Gado of Cortlandt Manor, New York
sees us off this week with another widescreen
photo from the military operations in Iraq, courtesy
of friends who are stationed in the area.
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 Russ Niles:
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Clean-side up for landing.
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