November 13, 2005
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Airbus took its new A380 behemoth on a jaunt last week from France to Asia and Australia. The tour, which continues through this Friday, began with a 12-hour nonstop flight to Singapore. The crew checked the width of taxiways and runways and tested out a new passenger boarding bridge. Airport workers and officials got tours of the airplane. Singapore Airlines will be the first to fly the A380 on commercial routes, starting in late 2006. The airplane then flew into Brisbane and Sydney over the weekend, where it was greeted by crowds of thousands and helped to celebrate the 85th anniversary of Qantas. It will also stop in Melbourne, then fly on to Kuala Lumpur before heading back to France. The double-decker airplane also won a "Best of What's New" award from Popular Science magazine, and is featured in Robb Report's annual "Ultimate Gifts" issue. According to Robb Report, for just $363 million you can have your own personalized A380, complete with a formal dining area, a Jacuzzi for two and beds for 22 overnight guests.
Meanwhile, Boeing established a new world record for distance traveled nonstop by a commercial airplane last week, in its new 777-200LR Worldliner. The airliner flew 11,664 nautical miles -- more than halfway around the world. It took off from Hong Kong the evening of Nov. 9, and landed at London Heathrow Airport 22 hours and 42 minutes later, at 1:30 p.m. local time. The airplane traveled eastbound, flying over the North Pacific Ocean, across North America and then over the mid-north Atlantic Ocean en route to London. "The performance of the 777-200LR during the record flight was exceptional," said Suzanna Darcy-Hennemann, the project pilot leader for the flight. The trip was flown by a team of four pilots who took turns resting and flying. The record was previously held by a 747-400 that flew 9,200 nautical miles nonstop from London to Sydney in 1989. In service, the 777-200LR can carry 301 passengers and baggage up to 9,420 nautical miles. The first 777-200LR will be delivered to Pakistan International Airlines in early 2006. To date, 43 airlines around the world have ordered more than 700 777s, according to Boeing.
Boeing also is hard at work on its new 787 Dreamliner, which takes composite construction to new lengths for airliners. And following that lead, upstart Spectrum unveiled its all-composite bizjet project at NBAA's big shindig last week in Orlando (if you missed our BizAvFlash coverage on Friday, check it out online...complete with exclusive interviews). The company, headed by ex-Beechcraft honcho Linden Blue, already has secretly constructed a prototype of its Model 33, and expects to be flying by the end of this year. The entire airframe, the control surfaces and even the rods that connect the sidestick controller to the ailerons are all constructed entirely of advanced new proprietary composite materials, the company says. Spectrum is using a proprietary composite material branded as FibeX, a carbon-fiber/epoxy laminate that, similar to the material used in the 787, features "grid stiffening" rather than the honeycomb core stiffening common in most aircraft composite materials. The result is a light, simple, strong and durable airframe manufactured to precise tolerances, according to the company's Web site. The lightweight construction means the Spectrum 33 will complete a typical 1,000-mile flight using 40 to 50 percent less fuel than its nearest competitor, the company says.
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At the Aviation Nation air show in Las Vegas over the weekend, Veterans Day was honored with a special tribute to those who served in Vietnam. Saturday's show featured a Vietnam-era air power re-enactment with an AC-47 Spooky gunship and the simulated rescue of downed pilots by three UH-1 Huey helicopters. Shows by the F/A-22 Raptor fighter-attack jet and the red, white and blue F-16 Falcons of the Thunderbirds also were dedicated to the veterans. The show attracted crowds of over 125,000 over the weekend. On a much smaller scale, two pilots from the Missouri National Guard's 1st Battalion, 135th Aviation, at Whiteman Air Force Base, flew an AH-64 Apache helicopter to the Mineral Area Elks Lodge, where the annual Veterans Day dinner was being held. And in California, a group of Vietnam vets near Fresno are working to create an aviation museum devoted to the era. They have obtained a surplus Huey helicopter and are working to build a hangar for it and create the Army Aviation Museum of the West.
Meanwhile, a group of volunteer GA pilots in Ohio is working to help the aging veterans of World War II travel to Washington, D.C., to see the memorial in their honor. Making the trip to the capital can be a hardship for many vets -- due either to infirmity or finances, or both. Honor Flight, which started last year, flies veterans from Ohio to D.C. in GA aircraft, for free, once a month. So far the group has flown 132 veterans, and there is a waiting list of 257 more. Earl Morse, a retired Air Force captain who started the project, recently quit his job to work on it full-time. "You get bitten by this, and you can't think of anything else," Morse told The Associated Press. "The window itself is good for another five to 10 years. After that, it's going to be a moot point because they're all going to be gone. This is their last hurrah." Of the 16 million Americans who served in WWII armed forces, 3.5 million are still alive. An estimated 7 million people have visited the WWII Memorial since it opened in 2004. Honor Flight volunteer pilots have come from Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and North Carolina.
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It may be tough for some aviators to get their minds around the concept that somebody out there considers the FAA a model for how a bureaucracy ought to work ... but to the Homeland Security Committee in the U.S. House, making the Transportation Security Administration look more like the FAA seems to be the way to go. The operational side of the TSA -- the screeners -- should be separate from the policy and regulatory side of the agency, just as the operational side of the FAA -- air traffic controllers -- is separate, Adam Tsao, a committee staff member, said at a meeting of the Regional Airline Association last week, according to Regional Aviation News. The TSA needs to operate more like a business, Tsao said, and try to be efficient and create a climate that would encourage investment from the private sector.
Martin Halstead has loved aviation since his first flight at age 6, and now that he's 19, he has his own airline. "I was joking with a friend that as my chances of getting a job in the airline industry were almost nil, I might as well start my own airline," he said. The regional carrier, Alpha One, flew for the first time last Monday, and will start twice-a-day trips between Southampton and the Isle of Man later this month. So far the airline consists of one 18-seat BAE Jetstream 31, with plans to lease another one. Halstead will work as a pilot as well as CEO, and says he has lots of experienced staffers on his team to make up for his own lack of years ... but he's relying largely on his own financing skills. He financed the start-up after selling off a flight-simulator software company he started at age 15. He's been dubbed the "Baby Branson" in the British press, and says he is honored by the comparison ... but he intends to be not the "next" Richard Branson, but the first Martin Halstead.
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When Kitfox kit manufacturer ETG Corp (Skystar Aircraft) declared bankruptcy last month, Kitfox builders were stuck. Some had already ordered and paid for their Rotax engines through the company, but that money never made it to Rotax. Now the chances that they will ever get that money back, or their engines, are slim at best. To help, EAA says it is working out a deal with a Rotax distributor and Sport Plane, of Idaho, to assemble a one-time bulk purchase of engines at a special price. While paying more money to buy an engine they've already paid for may be frustrating for builders, this discount deal may be the best option they have if they want to complete their projects, EAA said. "We knew that several members had received most of their kit and were well along with construction but were being held up waiting on deliveries of parts that Skystar purchased from vendors, typically the engine, landing gear and tailwheel," said Charlie Becker, director of EAA aviation services. "No one likes what happened, but this can at least soften the blow." Under the plan, Sport Plane will serve as the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) supplier for Rotax, place the bulk engine order through Kodiak (the Rotax distributor) and pass along the preferred pricing to the customers, based on the size of the order. For more details, go to the EAA Web site.
The folks at XCOR Aerospace, who built the one-of-a-kind EZ-Rocket -- a modified Long-EZ powered by two liquid-fuel rocket engines -- are planning to break a cross-country flight record -- by flying for 10 minutes. The EZ-Rocket will launch from Mojave on Dec. 3 and fly to California City, all of 11 miles away, Space.com reported last week. But apparently that's far enough to set a new record for aircraft in Class C1b Group IV -- a vehicle that is launched from the ground and flies with its rocket engines under control throughout the flight. The EZ-Rocket is a technology demonstrator designed, tested and built by XCOR. It flew at Oshkosh in 2002 and at the Countdown to the X Prize Cup held last month in New Mexico. Dick Rutan is slated to pilot the aircraft for the record attempt. After reaching California City, it will go into a hangar, then fly back to Mojave around Dec. 10. After that, the company plans to retire the ship.
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BAE Systems and Northrop Grumman have been working to build systems that could defend airliners from shoulder-fired missiles, and last week both companies successfully tested their designs in flight. An American Airlines 767 outfitted with BAE's Jeteye system flew from Fort Worth, Texas, while Grumman's Guardian system was tested Wednesday on an MD-11 that took off from Mojave Airport in California, The Associated Press reported Friday. Both systems use lasers to jam the guidance systems of incoming missiles. Government contracts call for the systems to cost less than $1 million each and to be easier to maintain and more reliable than military versions now in service. The impetus to develop the systems has come from Congress, while the airlines are less enthused, concerned about cost and maintenance issues. "It's a huge expenditure of resources to deal with one type of threat," John Meanen, executive vice president for the Air Transport Association, told the AP. "We have to ask, 'Are there better ways of doing this?'"
Large flocks of migrating geese are suspected of causing a breakdown in the radar at the St. Louis air traffic control center last Wednesday morning. About 7 a.m., radar screens showed about 3,000 blips, which the system interpreted as 3,000 aircraft. The Airport Surveillance Radar model 9, or ASR-9, became overloaded and crashed, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported last week. Air traffic controllers in Kansas City took over the airspace for about 15 minutes, until St. Louis controllers were able to switch to a backup system. Similar flocks of birds are believed to have caused radar crashes in ASR-9 systems at Kansas City on Nov. 2 and at Boston on Oct. 10. ASR-9 comprises a primary antenna that detects when airplanes have entered the airspace, and a secondary radar that sends signals to the airplane transponder so it can identify the aircraft.
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It was just a publicity stunt, but the concept of drive-thru fast food from the comfort of your cockpit has stirred a lot of wishful thinking. In Atlanta last Thursday, the captain of an AirTran Airways 737 taxied up to the window of a specially designed Wendy's drive-thru. An honorary "air-food controller" passed carry-on bags of food and drinks through the 737's cockpit window. The stunt launched a promotion offering frequent-flyer mileage credits for soft drinks bought at Wendy's. "If drive-up pharmacies and drive-in wedding chapels can work, the idea of an airplane drive-thru just might take off," said Tad Hutcheson, AirTran Airways vice president of marketing.
An Indiana inventor on Nov. 1 received a U.S. patent for his design of an antigravity space vehicle, which would theoretically be powered by a superconductor shield that changes the space-time continuum to defy gravity, Nature reported last week. Engineers and physicists have objected to the patent for what they say is an impossible design...
NASA is testing a 12-foot-wide scale model of its blended wing body aircraft design in the Langley wind tunnel in Hampton, Va. During tests, pilots "flew" the 12-foot wingspan, 80-pound model in the tunnel's wind stream, constrained only by a tether cable. The flying wing is the biggest model ever free-flight-tested in the Full Scale Tunnel, NASA said...
Garmin last week announced four-color digital weather radar that interfaces with Garmin's G1000 avionics suite and the Garmin MX-20 MFD...
Spirit Airlines is offering a fare sale with prices as low as $9 for trips out of Dallas, but the sale ends tonight...
A N.J. man pleaded guilty to pointing a laser beam at an airplane; sentencing will be in February...
New Airbus A318 Elite will serve as an entry-level aircraft to the Airbus ACJ family, with space for up to 18 pax.
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From The CFI #10: What Type Are You?
Ready to move into a jet? No matter how big, all jets require a type rating if you want to fly one. You might think that means they're hard to learn and harder to fly, but usually that isn't true. AVweb's Linda Pendleton explains what it takes to get a type rating.
What's New -- Products and Services
This month AVweb's survey of the latest products and services for pilots, mechanics and aircraft owners brings you floats for all Cessna 172s, panel design software for experimental aircraft, a new Husky aircraft and much more.
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AVmail: November 14, 2005
Reader mail this week about the definition of General Aviation, the future of GA, fuel prices and more.
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