AVwebFlash Complete Issue: Volume 13, Number 18a

April 30, 2007

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
 
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Top News back to top 
 

Eclipse Aviation Obtains Production Certificate

The FAA on Thursday afternoon issued a production certificate (PC) to Eclipse Aviation, allowing the manufacturer to issue standard airworthiness certificates for production Eclipse 500s. Representatives from the FAA presented the production certificate to Eclipse COO Peg Billson at the company's Albuquerque, N.M. headquarters. Before receiving the PC, Eclipse was previously required to submit every aircraft to the FAA for approval before delivery. "Earning our FAA production certificate means we have successfully built a reliable, high-quality manufacturing process, and are well positioned to expedite aircraft deliveries,” said Billson. 'This is a critical milestone in our journey to become a high-production aircraft manufacturer." Eclipse received its type certificate for the Eclipse 500 on September 30, but will have delivered 11 customer aircraft by the end of this weekend. It plans on delivering at least 400 Eclipse 500s by year-end, which if accomplished would be unprecedented in the civil aviation industry.

Foul Play At FAA Over Eclipse 500 TC?

Recent evidence suggests that managers at the FAA might have rushed the issuance of the Eclipse 500 type certificate (TC) last Sept. 30. A grievance filed on Oct. 20 by National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) aircraft certification representative Tomaso DiPaolo and posted this week to a blog site alleges that aircraft certification engineers and flight test pilots assigned to the Eclipse 500 program had identified "several outstanding safety/regulatory issues" before Sept. 30 that would have precluded issuance of the TC. DiPaolo told AVweb that the unnamed engineers and test pilots were unaware until coming into work on Monday morning that FAA managers issued the Eclipse TC over the weekend, adding, "Who's ever heard of the FAA working on a Saturday?" Eclipse Aviation director of communications Andrew Broom told AVweb that his company did not influence the timing of the TC issuance: "We did not use any political connections to push for acceleration of the Eclipse 500 type certificate." DiPaolo also said he was not aware of any influence on Eclipse's part; instead he believes that the FAA's push might have had something to do with the agency's new "pay for performance" mandate.

Curiously, Sept. 30 is the last calendar day of the federal government's fiscal year. And since the FAA now ties bonuses and pay raises to performance, it's entirely possible that agency managers could have very well pushed the Eclipse TC through on the last day of fiscal year 2006 to meet a specified performance level for a pay raise and/or bonus, according to DiPaolo. He further said it is because of this pay-for-performance structure that the certification engineers and test pilots were not identified in the grievance, for fear that they would be denied any pay raises for speaking out. FAA spokesman Roland Herwig told the Albuquerque Journal that he couldn't comment specifically on the grievance, while adding that the FAA had no safety concerns with the very light jet. AVweb was unable to reach designated FAA certification office public affairs officials on Friday for comment. Meanwhile, DiPaolo said several of the certification engineers and test pilots have had meetings with the DOT Inspector General's office, though DOT Assistant IG for Legal, Legislative and External Affairs Brian Dettelbach would neither confirm nor deny such meetings or any investigation whatsoever into the matter.

Diamond DA42 Engine Fix: Engine AD in the Works?

Diamond Aircraft said on Friday that it’s continuing its investigation into the dual engine failure of a diesel-powered DA42 Twin Star last month in Germany, and the fix might be a backup battery for the engine’s electronic control units (ECUs). In meantime, AVweb has learned that an Airworthiness Directive for the airplane’s two Thielert 1.7 Centurion engines is pending. Diamond North American president Peter Maurer told AVweb on Friday that Thielert -- the engine supplier -- and Diamond aren’t working at cross purposes, since the problem obviously needs to be corrected. Maurer said that both of the Twin Star’s engines quit immediately after the pilot retracted the landing gear. Activation of the gear retraction system caved the electrical system voltage and knocked both ECUs offline. When the engines quit, the props immediately feathered and the airplane’s dual alternators, which are supposed to provide failsafe power to the ECUs, also died. The airplane landed with the gear partially retracted and was significantly damaged. Fortunately, the crew survived.

According to Diamond, the pilot found the aircraft with a dead battery, then took off immediately after starting it with ground power, without completely charging the battery. Although the airplane has dual alternators and dual buses, it’s unclear how independent the two buses actually are, since they’re connected through a battery isolation relay. In any case, neither alternator was delivering power because the offline ECUs stopped both engines. The ECUs are designed to reset after a failure, but will do so only if provided with sufficient operating voltage. One fix -- although it hasn’t been decided yet -- is to provide each ECU with its own independent backup battery or to isolate the dual buses more effectively, as some all-electric aircraft do. Diamond’s single-engine diesel, the DA40tdi, has a backup battery and Diamond has also discrete batteries for improved starting and for instruments in its two-seat DA20 C1 model. Another approach, says Maurer, is to use capacitors to bridge momentary voltage transients. Diamond and Thielert have yet to decide whether the proposed fix will be an engine or an airframe mod. Either way, says Maurer, airplanes will be retrofitted in the field, once the fix is developed.

 
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News Briefs back to top 
 

Controller Hiring Push Creates Class Struggle

The FAA's unprecedented recruiting drive for air traffic controllers has caused bitter division between the new recruits and those who've taken the college route to the console. Pat Forrey, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, told AVweb in an interview that controller trainees who have gone through college, often amassing large student loans, are now training side by side with people who have almost literally been pulled off the street and into the program. "It's causing a rift amongst the new hires," Forrey said. Ironically, though, Forrey said it's unlikely the off-the-street trainees are at any significant competitive disadvantage against their college-trained classmates. Although the college program trainees get a grounding in aviation to prepare them for the controller training, the advantage is short-lived. Forrey said succeeding as an air traffic controller depends more on innate talent than academic training. "Bottom line is, this job as an air traffic controller really comes down to your aptitude, just your inherent ability to work airplanes," he said. Forrey said the hiring push is coming years too late to avoid staffing problems that could lead to major delays and air traffic tie-ups as the industry enters its busiest season. "It's going to be an ugly summer for the traveling public this year," he said.

Aircraft Shipments Still Strong

Cirrus and Cessna continue to battle it out for supremacy of the piston single market, and the airplanes with a parachute still have the edge. According to the General Aviation Manufacturers Association's quarterly report on aircraft shipments, Cirrus delivered 144 aircraft over three model types in the first quarter, bringing in a little more than $64 million in revenue. Cessna delivered 133 piston singles (total value not broken out in the GAMA table), across a product range of six models. Diamond Aircraft delivered 73 singles and its diesel twin, the DA42 Twin Star, was by far the most popular piston twin with 42 shipped. Columbia delivered 47 aircraft and Piper shipped a total of 43 airplanes, of which 21 were piston singles. Overall, the industry is mostly maintaining the very busy production levels of the past three years. According to the report, the light single sector has slowed perceptibly with a drop from 600 units last year to 554 this year, or 7.7 percent. A surge in business jet and turboprop sales brought the overall deliveries to 842 in Q1, just five shy of last year's total. But because growth occurred in the highest value sectors, the value of the shipments was up 11.3 percent to more than $4.5 billion.

 
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News Briefs back to top 
 

Anti-User Fee Chorus Grows Down On The Farm

The National Farmers' Union (NFU) has joined the juggernaut of opposition to the FAA's funding proposal, saying it's nothing more than a bailout of airlines on the backs of small-town America. In a news release, NFU President Pat Buis said the plan to more than triple the existing general aviation fuel tax will have a direct impact on rural residents. "Local airfields often provide the fastest and most efficient means of transportation because the big corporate airlines concentrate most of their service at only the nation's largest airports," Buis said. "The FAA proposal to impose user fees and tax increases will deal a heavy blow to farmers and rural communities who depend on general aviation—for this reason we are strongly opposing user fees and new taxes in any form." Also joining the chorus is the Alaska State legislature. The Alaska House unanimously passed a resolution opposing the proposal and the city of Cordova has also chipped in with its own resolution. Alaska has more aircraft and pilots per capita, by far, than any other state and AOPA spokesman Andy Cebula said the state's actions send an important message to Washington. "This sends a strong message from an important aviation state and a local community within that state that user fees and a near quadrupling of aviation fuel taxes is a bad idea," said Cebula, AOPA's executive vice president of government affairs. "It comes at a critical time as Congress is drafting its version of the FAA funding bill."

Eclipse Names Training Partners

On Friday, Eclipse Aviation announced its new team of partners -- Flight Simulation Company of The Netherlands and Higher Power Aviation of Dallas -- who will train Eclipse 500 pilots. These organizations join Eclipse's previously established simulator vendor OPINICUS of Lutz, Florida. United Airlines and Eclipse last month severed ties under which United would have trained Eclipse 500 pilots. Under the new arrangement, FSC will provide Eclipse's FAA-approved course content and oversee the very light jet manufacturer's overall pilot-training program. Under its Part 142 certificate, HPA's flight instructors and training personnel will conduct FAA-approved flight training and administer the Eclipse 500 type rating curriculum in the U.S. "We take our responsibility to train our customer pilots very seriously," said Eclipse Aviation President and CEO Vern Raburn. "We have assembled an outstanding team of experienced instructors and administrators to deliver our FAA-approved, scenario-based training curriculum to our customers." The Eclipse 500 training program is comprised of a multi-phase curriculum, including an initial flight skills assessment and supplemental training if required, self-paced computer-based study, emergency situation training, a type-rating transition course, post-certification mentoring and recurrent training.

 
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News Briefs back to top 
 

Long-Standing FBO Changes Hands

One of the oldest family businesses in U.S. aviation is changing hands at the end of June. It was announced Thursday that Executive Beechcraft, which was started by Dan Melsinger Sr. in 1938, is being purchased by BBA Aviation. Terms haven't been disclosed, but the deal gives BBA 100 percent of the capital stock of Executive Beechcraft Inc. Members of the Melsinger family have continuously owned the business since its inception (when an executive Beechcraft was a Staggerwing) and grew it to include a diversified enterprise with four bases of operation. The FBO chain's headquarters are at Kansas City Downtown Airport (MKC) and there are full-service facilities at Kansas City International (MCI), New Century Air Center (IXD) and Spirit of St. Louis Airport (SUS). The company is a Hawker Beechcraft dealer and service center and is also a designated service center for Cirrus and Mooney aircraft. BBA Aviation also owns Signature Flight Support, Dallas Airmotive, Premier Turbines and several other aviation companies.

Viking To Build New Twin Otters

A Vancouver Island company has committed to resurrecting one of the most popular passenger/utility aircraft ever built. Viking Air of Saanich (near Victoria) British Columbia intends to begin building DHC-6 Twin Otters this year. Parts will be built at the Saanich plant for assembly in Calgary. The company hopes to build nine aircraft this year, 12 in 2008 and 18 in 2010 to start satisfying a pent-up demand for the rugged, STOL-capable fixed-gear turboprops that has forced prices on the used market to skyrocket in recent years. "It's a terrific opportunity," Viking vice president of finance John Morrison told the Peninsula News. "In the aviation world the Twin Otter is a very cherished icon, much like the Beaver, and that we've been given the opportunity to bring it back into production is exciting." Viking, which for decades has been one of the leading repair and modification centers for de Havilland products, obtained the type certificates for six de Havilland products, including the venerable Beaver and Otter bush planes and the Caribou, Buffalo and Dash-7 transports, but it identified the Twin Otter as the most viable for production. A meeting of potential customers for the new Twin Otter last fall suggested a worldwide market of 400 aircraft over the next 10 years. De Havilland built 844 of them until production stopped in 1988, and more than 600 Twin Otters are still in service. The new aircraft will include updated engines, avionics and other systems, but will retain the rugged versatility of the 19-passenger unpressurized original. The aircraft can operate on wheels, floats and skis.

 
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News Briefs back to top 
 

Travolta Upsets The Neighbors, Environmentalists

Actor John Travolta has caught the ire of the London's Daily Mail and the retirees of Owl's Head, Maine, in recent days for his flying behavior. On the U.S. side of the pond, the folks in Owl's Head wish he would abide by the voluntary curfew at Knox County Regional Airport. According to airport manager Jeff Northgreaves, only one airplane routinely busts the 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew, and that's Travolta's Gulfstream. "He has the loudest aircraft we see here," Northgraves told the National Enquirer. "The area has a lot of little old ladies and retired people…Travolta should have some heart." When Travolta goes overseas, he breaks out the big iron, however, something that didn't escape the notice of the British media. On a recent trip to promote his latest movie, Wild Hogs, Travolta and his entourage took his Boeing 707, which is outfitted for a maximum of 34 passengers, each of whose carbon footprint for the trip would cover a city block courtesy of the 1960s-era kerosene guzzler. Travolta might have escaped notice for the contribution to global warming if he hadn't told reporters he believes everyone should "do their bit" to keep the polar ice caps frozen, while explaining that he needs his five aircraft because he's famous and it's a hassle flying commercial. But his environmental profile was likely the last thing on his mind on the trip home. Unspecified technical problems with the airplane forced an emergency landing in Ireland.

Cause Of Airplane Crash Unknown

In most cases, the investigation of a fatal accident reveals an all-too-familiar chain of events leading up to the crash that may include pilot error, weather and, sometimes, mechanical malfunction. But a crash on a calm clear day in Hawaii on Dec. 15, 2005, gave investigators nothing to go on except the smoking wreck of a Cessna 172S buried six feet in a mountainside at the 2,300-foot level near Hana Airport. According to the Honolulu Advertiser, Alan Gerow, 58, of Salt Lake City, a commercial-rated pilot, rented the 172 at Maui Aviators at Kahului Airport and said he intended to fly to Hana Airport and return later in the day. The Adverstiser said Gerow was vacationing in the area and had flown for 30 years before stopping and then resuming about three years before the crash. Although the wreck was close to Hana Airport, its position and direction of travel weren't consistent with arrival or departure procedures at the airport. A helicopter pilot doing aerial spraying in the area spotted the flaming wreckage but no one saw the crash.

 
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News In Brief back to top 
 

On The Fly

USAF's U-2 spyplane will make a return visit to EAA AirVenture this year as part of the Air Force's 60th Anniversary celebrations. The aircraft will be on display in Aeroshell Square...

The Dassault Falcon 7X received EASA and FAA certification in a ceremony in France on Friday. The aircraft is expected to begin service in June...

Frederico Fleury Curado has been elected CEO of Embraer by the company's board of directors. Mauricio Botelho will stay on as chairman of Embraer's board of directors.

The National Business Aviation Association is moving its annual convention back to Orlando after it became apparent that New Orleans Lakefront Airport will not be able to handle the large static display that goes along with the show. The 2005 convention was to have been in New Orleans but was moved because of Hurricane Katrina, the aftermath of which is still hampering Lakefront Airport...

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association says a funnel cloud passed directly over the Tulsa Airport last Tuesday but, because they don't have weather radios, controllers didn't even know it was there. One of their wives phoned to see if they were OK and that was the first they heard of it.

AVweb's Newstips Address ...

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AVwebBiz: AVweb's Business Aviation Newsletter

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New On AVweb back to top 
 

Leading Edge #4: Checklists and Flows

Checklists sometimes get relegated to the backseat once the before-takeoff checklist is complete. Do yourself a favor and add flows, mnemonics, and lists that check what you did.

Click here to read.

What's New

WHAT'S NEW
This month AVweb's survey of the latest products and services for pilots, mechanics and aircraft owners brings you a glass-cockpit retrofit for Cessna 300- and 400-series, portable cabin air conditioning, training DVDs and much more.

AVmail: Apr. 30, 2007

Reader mail this week about FAA budget myths, clothslining blimps, FSS closures and more.

Click here to read this week's letters to the editor.

 
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AVweb-Exclusive Audio And Video News back to top 
 

AVweb Audio News

AVweb posts audio news on Mondays, plus a new in-depth interview each Friday. In last Friday's podcast, you'll find part one of an interview with Rich Schrameck at Epic Aircraft. And AVweb's podcast index includes interviews with Cessna's Jack Pelton; Embraer's Ernest Edwards; LAMA's Dan Johnson; Piper's Jim Bass; DayJet's Ed Iacobucci; AOPA's Andrew Cebula; Hawker Beechcraft's Jim Schuster; Avfuel's Craig Sincock; Comp Air's Ron Lueck; and VistaNav's Jeff Simon. In today's special podcast, hear Pat Foley of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association on controller hiring. Remember: In AVweb's podcasts, you'll hear things you won't find anywhere else.

Exclusive Video: Our Ride-Along with Aerobatic Pilots Michael Mancuso and Matt Chapman at Sun 'n Fun 2007

Recommend a Video | VOTW Archive

AVweb (and you) ride along with Michael Mancuso as he flies his precision formation routine with Matt Chapman. The video includes narration by Mancuso, who briefed us after the show.


Don't see a video screen?
Try disabling ad blockers and refreshing this page.
If that doesn't work, click here to download the video directly.

To take a ride with Mancuso (and without dramamine), see also Glenn Pew's article, "The Day I Saw the Light."

Would you like to see more original video content from AVweb? Do you an idea that would make a great video? Let us know.

 
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FBO Of The Week back to top 
 

FBO Of The Week: Atlas Aviation

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

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Atlas Aviation at KTPF in Tampa, Fla.

AVweb reader Armand Bendersky says the FBO went above and beyond.

"I contacted them before flying to Sun 'n Fun, and they were friendly on the phone and went above and beyond in obtaining hotel reservations, printed directions and the right rental car. Their facility is clean and the staff is friendly and helpful to a fault. I highly recommend this small, but very convenient operation for anyone going into the Tampa area. Fuel prices are probably less than others in the area, and they treat you like they appreciate your business."

Keep those nominations coming. For complete contest rules, click here.

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

 
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Video Of The Week back to top 
 

Video of the Week: Australian TV Cockpit Spoof

Recommend a Video | VOTW Archive

This week's flying video comes from an as-yet-unidentified Australian comedy troupe who take us inside the cockpit of flight simulator to talk to airline "pilots." (Did we mention how thankful we are that this is just a simulator?)


Don't see a video screen?
Try disabling ad blockers and refreshing this page.
If that doesn't work, click here to download the video directly.

Don't forget to send us links to any interesting videos you find out there. If you're impressed by it, there's a good chance other AVweb readers will be too. And if we use a video you recommend on AVweb, we'll send out an official AVweb baseball cap as a "thank you."

 
The Lighter Side Of Flight back to top 
 

Short Final

Overheard in IFR Magazine's 'On the Air' Section
Overheard in IFR Magazine's "On the Air"

Overheard between a Cessna 310 driver and Chicago Center.

Chicago Center: Cessna One Two Three Five Bravo, I’ll bring you in a little high so I don’t lose radar contact while vectoring you to the ILS. Do you think you’ll have any problem losing the necessary altitude to make the approach?

Cessna 1235B: No problem Center, this baby comes down like a Bonanza full of doctors!

 
Names Behind The News back to top 
 

Meet the AVwebFlash Team

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 Contributing Editor Russ Niles (bio) and Editor In Chief Chad Trautvetter.

Click here to send a letter to the editor. (Please let us know if your letter is not intended for publication.)

Comments or questions about the news should be sent here.

Have a product or service to advertise on AVweb? A question on marketing? Send it to AVweb's sales team.

If you're having trouble reading this newsletter in its HTML-rich format (or if you'd prefer a lighter, simpler format for your PDA or handheld device), there's also a text-only version of AVwebFlash. For complete instructions on making the switch, click here.

Aviate, navigate, communicate.