AVwebFlash - Volume 12, Number 33a

August 14, 2006

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Bizjets Looking Good Again

If there can be any good news out of a terror scare like the one last week in Britain, it's that those who can afford alternatives to the airlines start thinking that way again. Industry observers expect increased interest in the full range of business aircraft in the wake of the discovery of an alleged plot to sneak peroxide-based explosives on up to 10 airliners flying between Britain and the U.S. The fallout of enhanced security has considerably ratcheted up the inconvenience factor for airline passengers, delaying and canceling flights and creating massive lineups, any of which is bound to push the time-is-money limits of those more endowed with the latter than the former. The added impetus comes at a time when business jet sales are already on pace to set a sales record. In 2001, the bizjet industry set a record with 784 deliveries. We all know what happened then but the recovery began in earnest a couple of years ago and the General Aviation Manufacturers Association reported 415 bizjet sales in the first half of 2006.

How Do VLJs Figure In?

As they say, timing is everything and the heightened interest in personal air travel that will likely result from the latest developments coupled with recent and very public announcements -- particularly from Eclipse (with its provisional certification) and Honda (with its plans to certify the HondaJet) -- could have an impact on the burgeoning very light jet sector. Critics of the phenomenon have said the air taxi industry, on which so many of the predicted 3,000-plus sales of VLJs will depend, just won't offer enough in terms of convenience and frequency to lure the type of traffic needed to make it fly. Whether being able to take your toothpaste along in the cabin (or waiting while security agents fill garbage cans with your shaving cream, makeup, contact lens solution, denture cream, suntan lotion, etc.) will make the unfamiliar and more expensive air taxi process more appealing remains to be seen. There are at least six major players in the VLJ market but only Eclipse, which can legitimately lay claim to starting it, has a saleable aircraft (with provisional certification granted in July). Cessna's Mustang will likely follow by later this year and, because it's based on proven designs from a company well-experienced in the process, may yet give Eclipse a run for its money on full certification status. Diamond's D-Jet was originally conceived as a "personal" jet but has attracted interest from air taxi operators. Adam's A700's certification depends largely on full certification of its A500 piston twin (with which it shares about 65 percent of its components), both Embraer and upstart Honda are closer to the beginning end of their programs, and Cirrus is still holding its cards very close to the vest.

GA Not Affected -- Yet?

As British authorities were swooping down on the suspects, AOPA was announcing an updated Airport Watch program, which it developed with the TSA. As AOPA's Chris Dancy told AVweb in our Friday audio news interview, the revised program stresses each pilot's role in prevention and protection of his or her aircraft from use for nefarious purposes. Dancy also told AVweb it's vital that pilots remember to report any suspicious activity, something that might spike in the wake of the British arrests. Meanwhile, EAA is reassuring pilots that, in practical terms, nothing has changed since last week. "To the best of EAA's knowledge, none of these developments directly affect general aviation, and the heightened security procedures are not directed at GA operations," said an EAA news release. "However, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) did issue target="_blank"> an advisory to GA operators (charter, air cargo, corporate, and GA) that reiterates established security measures." The threat level for airliners flying to and from Britain is at red, the highest, and for domestic flights it's at orange.

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Metal Fatigue Prediction

As the FAA wrestles with how to address the issue of keeping aging aircraft in the air (and also wrestling with the groups representing those flying old airplanes), the answer, as it so often does, may come from the military. A military-funded research project, called Prognosis, at Carnegie Mellon University is attempting to predict metal fatigue by studying how cyclical stress affects the crystalline structure of metal. "Once you've got this three-dimensional picture of a structure inside a metal along with the impurities, you can then run an engineering model where you apply a cyclic stress and figure out where in this microstructure the stress or strain will concentrate," researcher Dr. Anthony Rollett told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Rollett and his team have fertile research ground to assess their theories in the Navy E-6B Prowlers that serve as a test bed. The pounding the Prowlers take in their life aboard aircraft carriers compresses the fatigue cycle and they therefore undergo constant inspection and maintenance. Program Manager Leo Christodoulou, of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, told the Gazette that the goal is to equip aircraft with sensors so that the knowledge gained by Rollett's research can be used to accurately predict when fatigue problems might be imminent. He said the military now errs on the side of caution and requires periodic inspections of the airframes. However, the inspections only yield one problem for every 1,000 aircraft taken out of service for inspection. "So we've taken 999 planes out for no good reason," Christodoulou said. "Wouldn't it be best to know enough to take the bad guy out and service him and leave the good guys alone? In a sense, we want to walk up to an aircraft and say, 'How do you feel today?'

UAVs Invited To Alaska

While aviation groups and politicians in the Lower 48 worry about the increasing use of unmanned aerial vehicles, Alaska officials can't get enough of them. John Madden, who's in charge of homeland security for the Alaska area (and has not recently hosted televised football), told a Senate commerce committee hearing the skies over Alaska should be filled with UAVs because its wide-open airspace is an ideal testing area for all the ideas governments and companies are coming up with to use them for. "Only in Alaska can we test the full range of potential missions of UAS without immediately confronting the complex airspace found in most of the rest of the country," he testified. Madden told the senators UAVs could be used to help in search and rescue, scientific projects, pipeline patrol and a host of other missions that will test their capabilities. Alaska weather will also test the durability and reliability of the aircraft and equipment. In fact, weather has been the main problem with the relatively few UAV tests that have been tried there. Fourteen of 21 tests have been cancelled.

Search and Rescue Proposed

As the military uses its UAVs, it finds ever more uses for them and sometimes that involves flying them over civilian airspace. The FAA and the Air Force now have a protocol agreement on allowing the use of UAVs when lives could be at stake. "Now, we have a process to receive approval to fly Predators within hours as opposed to weeks," Tom Thibodeau, a civilian consultant to the Air Force's Air Combat Command, told Blackanthem Military News. The military could have put the drones to good use in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to help identify and locate survivors. "We couldn't fly because we didn't have the authorization, and there wasn't a sufficient amount of time to accomplish the necessary coordination," However, don't expect to see the skies filled with UAVs if hurricanes strike again this year. All the military's Predator UAVs, except for one training unit, are in Afghanistan and Iraq at the moment.

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The People's Turbine Makes Another Showing

Our last update on the 188-pound turbines that put out 165 to 255 horsepower, with a TBO of 5,000 hours and price tag of between $26,500 and $34,500 was this past January. Innodyn LLC announced last week that the first customer-delivered turbine engine had flown in that customer's RV-8 (renamed an RV-8T). Innodyn didn't name the customer, nor did it provide much detail about this "first" flight, but says more information will be posted by the customer himself. "The turbine worked great, and we were up about 15 minutes and reached an altitude of about 9,000 ft," Innodyn quotes its customer as saying. Further flights from the customer's home base in Colorado are planned. A photo of the turbine-equipped RV and "additional images, video, and comments from the builder/owner will be posted in the near future," according to Innodyn. Innodyn has previously installed a turbine in an RV-4 and regularly flies a turbine-equipped Super Cub replica to air shows. Last January, Turbine Cubs of Wyoming announced it had purchased Smith Aviation, a Cub replica manufacturer, and installed an Innodyn turbine in one of the former manufacturer's PA-18 replicas, which it said had been inspected by the FAA and was set to undergo ground and flight tests. There's been no update on the Web site and we weren't able to reach anyone on the weekend.

NATA Wants Landing Distance Order Delayed

Fallout from a Southwest 737 accident in Chicago last winter continues. The National Air Transportation Association says the FAA is fudging the regulatory process and creating confusion and uncertainty with its new requirement that the operators of jet-powered aircraft do detailed stopping-distance calculations just before landing. It wants the agency to delay implementation of the orders for at least 60 days to deal with the concerns. In a letter to FAA Administrator Marion Blakey, NATA says the new requirements are being issued through "operation specifications" or "management specifications" instead of going through the formal rulemaking process, with its opportunity for public comment. "To impose such a specific and detailed new process on operators without following the mandates of the Administrative Procedures Act is unacceptable to the association," the letter says. What's worse, however, is the order doesn't take into consideration the conditions under which many of the operators covered by it must work. The order will require pilots to calculate stopping distances based on weather, temperature and runway conditions and then allow a 15-percent safety margin. Charter and air taxi operators often go into airports that don't have some of this information available. "The FAA policy notice does not provide clear guidance to operators and flight crews as to how to determine braking action under these circumstances and whether a landing is permissible given these facts," says the NATA news release.

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Airline Pilots "Too Tired To Fly"

Security delays at the airport can't be helping, and a British study has concluded that most British short-haul airline pilots are running on empty at the end of their shifts, according to a report in The Scotsman. The study, done by the University of Central England, says one of the 160 pilots interviewed reported being so tired at the end of one day that he couldn't drive home without pulling off the road and taking a nap first. The pilots told researchers that airlines are forcing them to work longer days by getting them to fly in the "discretionary hours" that are supposed to be set aside for coping with weather and equipment delays. About 80 percent say they've flown when they believe their judgment has been impaired by fatigue. However, the British government and at least two airlines seem to think the researchers found an unusually bleary-eyed bunch of pilots. Roger Wiltshire, secretary general of the British Air Transport Association, told the Scotsman that work-hours regulations are very conservative compared to other occupations and he believes the airlines take fatigue issues "very seriously." An unnamed EasyJet spokeswoman said the airline has studied the issue thoroughly and revamped its scheduling and roster systems accordingly. A British Airways spokesman noted that BA's pilots get to pick their flights and if they don't feel up to taking one they don't have to.

Promising New Ultralight Engine

Not all the innovation is taking place in the very light jet and other ivory-tower sectors of aviation. One of the great things about EAA AirVenture is that recognition is given those whose more homegrown tinkering can result in technological advances for those whose flying is a little less complex than some. Take, for example, the Custom Power Plant Award winner at the 2006 fly-in -- the Big Twin. Valley Engineering, of Rolla, Mo., has come up with what appears to be a viable four-cycle alternative to the noisy, smoky two-cycle engines in the 30- to 50-hp range that power a lot of ultralights. The company adapted a 990-cc V-Twin motorcycle engine for aircraft use and came up with a package that weighs a maximum of 117 lbs. (depending on configuration) and puts out a maximum of 38 hp. It's available as a direct drive setup or with a reduction drive. The company claims the engine "will virtually eliminate all the problems associated with two-cycle engines and still deliver the same performance."

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CAP To Patrol Border

The Civil Air Patrol has been pressed into service to conduct "reconnaissance" missions along the border between Arizona and Mexico. Three CAP Cessna 182s and pilots from Nevada will head south to fly the missions, which will be in support of government border-patrol efforts. The CAP crews have no authority to try and stop anyone trying to sneak across the border but they will be acting as eyes and ears for the feds. CAP volunteers often have lengthy military and law enforcement experience. The duty will rotate among Nevada CAP units, which have a total of 450 volunteers and 10 aircraft between them. CAP spokesman 1st Lt. Scott Lilley told the Reno Gazette-Journal that there's a difference between surveillance (which they're not doing) and reconnaissance (which they are). "Surveillance is following one individual or specific group," said "Reconnaissance is nonspecific. We don't look for a car. We look for the car wreck."

Thunder Mustang Comeback?

A Canadian company is considering resuming production of the kit-built Thunder Mustang, a three-quarter scale replica of the P-51 that's been turning heads at the Reno Air Races. The original company closed its doors several years ago but Mike Paller says it wasn't because of the airplane. Paller said there is demand for the $285,000 kit-built plane, which is actually faster than a real P-51 (when flown below 10,000 feet). He's working to acquire the tooling and intellectual property from the existing owners in Oregon and hopes to resume production in Abbotsford, B.C., where he flew it in front of tens of thousands attending the Abbotsford International Airshow on the weekend. The Thunder Mustang is powered by a Falconer V-12 engine that puts out 640 hp, normally aspirated. That pushes the little fighter to a 75-percent cruise of 300 KIAS at 22-25 gallons per hour. Paller said he believes up to 2,000 hp is possible out of the engine, which is a scratch-built adaptation of a GM V-6. The engine was initially designed for marine use but adapted well to aircraft applications. The proposed kit price includes the engine and firewall-forward gear but no avionics.

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Public Benefit Flying Awards

The National Aeronautic Association and the Air Care Alliance have chosen the 2006 Public Benefit Flying Award Winners. Ted Ruscitti, of Sewickley, Penn., gets the Distinguished Volunteer Pilot award for his many efforts in public benefit flying from 9/11 to Hurricane Katrina. Distinguished Volunteer Award goes to Jubel Caldwell, the director of maintenance for Med+Flight in Texas. The Teamwork Award went to Remote Area Medical and Wings of Hope for their joint projects in 40 countries. Thomas Holcom, of Kansas City, Mo., gets the individual award for organizing cooperation between volunteer groups. Air traffic controllers in general and Continental Airlines will both receive the Champion of Public Benefit Flying Award. Presentations will be made Sept. 11 at 6:30 p.m. in the Lyndon B. Johnson Room of the Capitol building.

On The Fly...

If you're tired of the traditional fly-in or $100 hamburger, there's Burning Man. This free-form collection of artists and whatever in the desert near Gerlach, Nev., is busy enough that it rates a temporary tower for the airstrip. Bring food, water, a dust mask and your free spirit...

A landing floatplane ripped the fiberglass roof from a 22-foot boat in a collision near Craig, Alaska. No one was hurt on either craft and the plane, a Beaver with a damaged float, was able to land at the airport at Ketchikan...

The FAA has proposed an airworthiness directive to fix the fix of an AD on the front seat tracks of some Cessna 172s, 182s and 206s. The locking mechanisms previously installed to prevent the seats from unexpectedly moving backwards are wearing and cracking and need inspection and/or replacement.

AVweb's Newstips Address ...

Drop us a line. If it caught your attention, it will probably interest someone else, too. Submit news tips via email to newstips@avweb.com. You're a part of our team ... often, the best part.

Find all of today's stories in AVweb's: NewsWire

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New Articles and Features on AVweb


The Pilot's Lounge #103: The FAA As Customer -- Good Business?
Somebody has to rent planes to FAA personnel so they can maintain currency. And with the government backing them up, you shouldn't have to worry about collecting the fees, right? AVweb's Rick Durden has a cautionary tale from the Pilot's Lounge this month.

Reader feedback on AVweb's news coverage and feature articles


AVmail: Aug. 14, 2006
Reader mail this week about too few student pilots, accident causes, user fees and much more.
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Audio News

Online Now: Listen to, or take AVweb's no-iPod-required audio news with you. We post fresh audio news issues each Monday and in-depth interviews, Friday.

Find exclusive interviews featuring Cessna's Jack Pelton on his company's LSA, TCM president Bryan Lewis, NATCA president John Carr, New Piper CEO Jim Bass, Hal Shevers for Sporty's Pilot Shop, Light Sport guru Dan Johnson, Excel Jet's Bob Bornhofen, Adam Aircraft's Joe Walker, FAA administrator Marion Blakey, Cirrus Design's Alan Klapmeier and more. AVweb's Podcast index, is online, now. You'll hear things you won't find anywhere else.

FAA-Approved Flight Instructor Refresher Clinic (FIRC) from ASA
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FBO of the Week: Pegasus Aviation, Raton, NM

For local prices, enter your U.S. ZIP Code or Airport Identifier:
Fuel prices provided weekly by AirNav,
based on prices from the past 2 weeks.
Changes are relative to last week.

Nominate an FBO | Rules | Tips | Questions | Winning FBOs

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Pegasus Aviation at KRTN, Raton, NM.

Offering up Pegasus, Peter Hochla told us, "The friendliest, most helpful FBO within 500 miles. Competitive fuel prices, consciencious service, clean and neat facilities, GREAT food."

Keep those nominations coming.

Click here to nominate your favorite FBO and here for complete contest rules

AVweb is actively seeking out the best FBO's in the country and another one, submitted by you, will be spotlighted here next Monday!

Pilot Journey, Your Learn to Fly Headquarters, Offers New Toolbar
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AVweb's Business AVflash

HAVE YOU SIGNED UP yet for AVweb’s NO-COST twice monthly Business AVflash? Reporting on breaking news, Business AVflash also focuses on the companies, the products and the industry leaders that make headlines in the Business of Aviation. Business AVflash is a must read. Watch for a Business AVflash regular feature, TSA WATCH: GA IN THE "SPOTLIGHT". Sign up today at http://www.avweb.com/profile/ .

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Short Final

Flying in Essex county in England, one day:

Southend ATC (having radio trouble): G-ABCD, Southend, radio check.

[no response]

Southend ATC: G-EFGH, Southend, radio check.

[again no response]

Southend ATC: G-IJKL, Southend, radio check

G-IJKL: Roger Southend, your readability, 4.

Southend ATC: Well... One outta three ain't bad.



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Attention, Cessna Owners and Pilots!
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AVweb's Flight Explorer 5.0 Available at Same Low Price!
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Power Flow Is Now FAA-Approved for the Diamond DA40
The Power Flow Tuned Exhaust System is now standard equipment on all 2007 Diamond DA40 aircraft. Benefits include: Speed increases of up to 8 knots; 15% more climb; or, go the same speeds and save up to 1.2 gallons per hour. Starting in October, existing DA40 owners can retrofit their aircraft. For complete details, go online!

Pilots Comment After Reading IFR: A Structured Approach:
"The GPS chapter alone is worth getting the book. It's the best instrument flying book I have ever read," states Fred Scott. "If one book could help you make the leap from a bit player to a skilled conductor of instrument flight, this is probably it," reads a November 2003 AOPA Pilot review. With the help of this book, you will establish your personal standard of IFR operating practices, including incorporation of checklists, flows, callouts, briefings, and the "fly by the numbers" method of aircraft control. Order online.


AVwebFlash is a twice-weekly summary of the latest news, articles, products, features, and events featured on AVweb, the internet's aviation magazine and news service.

Today's issue was written by news writer Russ Niles (bio).

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