AVwebFlash - Volume 13, Number 31a

July 30, 2007

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
 
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Top News back to top 
 

FSS Feedback Line Initiated

The FAA has opened a toll-free line specifically to gather information on the performance of Lockheed Martin-managed Flight Service Stations. Dialing the number (888-358-7782) will allow the caller to record a message describing the experience he or she had with flight services. AOPA President Phil Boyer said the phone line was his group's idea after fielding hundreds of complaints from disgruntled pilots. Pilots can leave messages as long as three minutes and should provide all the detail they can, along with contact information for followup by the FAA and Lockheed Martin. Boyer said the goal is to provide Lockheed Martin with the data it needs to fix the problems created by the transition to its system. It's an issue that has FAA Administrator Marion Blakey's attention.

She told those attending a "Meet The Boss" session at EAA AirVenture on Thursday that Lockheed Martin "went through a rough patch" in the transition, and the agency was fully aware of the inconvenience it caused. "We have been all over Lockheed," she said.

EAA AirVenture 2007 by the Numbers

"This year was the best ever EAA AirVenture," noted EAA President Tom Poberezny on Sunday afternoon, just hours before the airshow came to an official close. "I say this because there was an upbeat attitude this year, plenty of innovation and technology announcements and several new aircraft unveiled during the event." He added that the last day "is sad because those who have come to visit the show really don't want to leave, nor do those running the show want to see them leave."

Preliminary data shows that the numbers are up this year. There were 2,617 showplanes for judging; broken down by category this includes 985 homebuilts, 1,014 vintage airplanes, 365 warbirds, 136 ultralights and 117 seaplanes. While no attendee estimate is yet available, there were 784 exhibitors, 40,000 campers (EAA spokesman Dick Knapinski joked that all of them were happy ones) and nearly 900 members of the media representing about 375 outlets.

According to Poberezny, AirVenture has outgrown the current site, prompting plans for expansion of the show grounds. "We will announce plans in the fall to start an expansion project using about 200 acres of adjacent land that EAA owns," he said. "The project will start next year and will take between three and five years to complete." While the show grounds will be bigger, "the culture will remain the same," Poberezny promised.

Adam Aircraft Gearing Up for A700 Production

Rick Adam, CEO of Adam Aircraft, provided an update on the A700 very light jet program status for the press corps here at AirVenture this week. "The first two A700 prototypes have accumulated over 800 hours of risk-reduction testing," he said. The interior has been upgraded to include higher-quality leather seats, new carpet, improved fit and finish around the windows and a relocated lavatory that provides more aft space in the cabin. Discussions are under way to partner with an international training provider, Adam said, and to provide a full-motion simulator in addition to the computer-based training developed for the A500.

Once the A700 very light jet is certified and starts production, Adam expects to turn them out at a rate of 10 or more per month. The company will announce its plans for international service centers at the NBAA Convention in October.

 
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News Briefs back to top 
 

Glasair Spins Off Two Weeks to Taxi, Adds Vans RVs

The Two Weeks to Taxi program that was launched by Glasair a few years ago to help builders make progress on their kits has been spun off into a separate company. Mikael Via, who will be president of both companies, at EAA AirVenture said the two-week program will now be available for the Vans RV-10 and RV-7, in addition to the Glasair Sportsman 2+2. Builders can buy their Vans kit directly from Two Weeks to Taxi, spend two weeks at the assist center in Arlington, Wash., and take home a substantially completed aircraft. "It's not ready to fly," said Via, but the builder should be able to finish it up in a month or so. The program will evolve to focus on the parts of the project that builders need the most help with, he said, so the two weeks can be most productive. Easier tasks that the builder can handle alone will be left for later. The Sportsman two-week program has been popular, Via said, with 70 airplanes delivered so far and slots booked up into next year. The Vans program will be available early next year and reservations are being taken now.

Via added that the new company is in talks with other kit manufacturers and may offer other programs in the future. The basic RV-10 program will cost about $190,000, including the kit and the two weeks of support, and the RV-7 will cost about $140,000. Various options and avionics packages are available.

Update on the Scaled Composites Explosion at Mojave

Thursday's fatal accident at Scaled Composites, in Mojave, Calif., occurred during a test of the flow of nitrous oxide through an injector, the Los Angeles Times reported on Friday. Two workers were killed at the scene and a third died later at a hospital. Three other workers remain hospitalized with serious injuries, and several others escaped injury. The testing was part of the development of a new rocket motor for SpaceShipTwo. The chemical was at room temperature and under pressure, Burt Rutan, president of Scaled, said at a news conference. "We felt it was completely safe. We had done a lot of these [tests] with SpaceShipOne," said Rutan, looking tired and shaken. He added that "we just don’t know" why the explosion occurred. Rutan said the suspected culprit, nitrous oxide, normally is "not considered a hazardous material," and said this was the first time in Scaled's 25-year history that anyone has been hurt in a test. The three who died were Eric Dean Blackwell, 38, of Randsburg; Charles Glen May, 45, of Mojave; and Todd Ivens, 33, of Tehachapi. The three who were injured have not been identified. They suffered shrapnel wounds and are in stable condition.

Virgin Galactic president Will Whitehorn expressed sympathies to the families and declined further comment until Scaled completes its investigation. Officials at the under-construction New Mexico spaceport, the expected launch site for Virgin Galactic flights of SpaceShipTwo, said they will closely scrutinize the causes of the accident but at this time don't see it as a setback for their plans. Peter Diamandis, founder of the X Prize Foundation, said the accident should not ground the SpaceShipTwo project. "This was an industrial accident. This has nothing to do with spaceflight," he told the Associated Press. "I have complete confidence that they are building a safe and robust spaceship." Northrop Grumman had announced last week that it plans to increase its stake in Scaled from 40 percent to 100 percent, while leaving all the current management team in place. It's not clear if this week's accident will have any effect on that deal.

More Trouble at Sino Swearingen

Sino Swearingen Aircraft on Friday laid off 77 employees from the company's Martinsburg, W.Va. and San Antonio plants this week, according to the San Antonio Express-News. Sino Swearingen Vice President of Marketing and Sales Mark Fairchild termed the move as a restructuring. After faltering to bring its SJ30 production line up to speed in the year-and-a-half since the business jet obtained FAA certification, earlier this month the company hired a new president, Butch Hsu, to turn the company around. The Taiwanese government has invested more than $600 million in Sino Swearingen and is currently under heavy political pressure to liquidate its stake. The company delivered the first SJ30 jet in November, but has so far failed to ship any more.

According to Fairchild, the company is poised to deliver its second twinjet in the coming weeks to a European customer. The SJ30 program has been ongoing for 18 years and has had its share of financial and technical problems along the way.

 
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News Briefs back to top 
 

Alliant System Goes On a Conquest

Avidyne and S-TEC this week at AirVenture said they are working on an FAA STC to retrofit the Alliant Integrated Flight Deck into Cessna 441 Conquest II twin turboprops. The Conquest II installation will become the third airframe to offer the Avidyne Envision avionics and S-TEC IntelliFlight 2100 digital flight control system package. As with the STCs for the Beechcraft 90- and 200-series King Airs, the Alliant allows the panel to be updated with state-of-the-art situational awareness and safety tools at a relatively low cost. "We were approached by a Conquest II owner who had seen the Alliant package in a King Air and wanted the same high level of reliability, capabilities and redundancy for his aircraft," said S-TEC Vice President of Sales and Marketing Greg Plantz. A Conquest II is currently being retrofitted with the system and the FAA STC paperwork is being handled at S-TEC’s headquarters in Mineral Wells, Texas.

The Alliant package for the Conquest II includes dual Avidyne EXP5000 10.4-inch primary flight displays (PFDs), Avidyne EX500 multifunction display (MFD), S-TEC digital autopilot and two-inch standby instruments. It has the capability of interfacing with most traffic, terrain, lightning, radar and radar altimeter systems.

Avemco Cuts Rates, Expands Coverage

Aviation insurance underwriter Avemco says it's able to loosen its corporate tie and undo the top button of its shirt when it comes to some new types of airplanes. Executive Vice President Jim Lauerman said at EAA AirVenture that rates for Columbia, Cirrus and certain Diamond and homebuilt aircraft will be reduced, as will the experience requirements for those transitioning to more advanced and complex aircraft. He said insurance companies necessarily take a conservative approach to insuring new aircraft until they have enough data to accurately determine loss rates. In this case, the loss data wasn't as bad as the company assumed and the rates can be adjusted. The company is also making passenger liability insurance available on one category of homebuilts and allowing liability claims from family members in cases where another family member's negligence is involved. Avemco has also been writing insurance for light sport aircraft and is building a data base on those types of claims. Lauerman said the participation of Cessna and Cirrus is part of the "maturity of the marketplace that we're ready for." Avemco continues to support human-factors studies on the personality traits that might place some pilots at higher risk for accidents than others. The Airmanship Education Research Initiative will compare the traits of safe, professional pilots with those of more accident-prone pilots. "It's an attempt to quantify the traits of good and bad pilots," he said.

 
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News Briefs back to top 
 

New Tower by 2008 AirVenture?

The FAA says that if contractors can finish Wittman Field's new air traffic control tower in time, it can be ready to use it for next year's EAA AirVenture. FAA spokesman Tony Molinaro said that if they can occupy the building by the end of next February, that will give technicians enough time to install all the new gear that is going in the taller, modern facility. However, the EAA isn't counting on having the new tower.

In a meeting with reporters on the final day of AirVenture, EAA President Tom Poberezny said the facility will be complete by the 2009 event for sure. Even though the existing tower could remain and not disrupt the new tower's sight lines, the plan is to demolish the old building. No decision has been made on the use of the space.

Duck a Winner

Beauty might be in the eye of the beholder, but perhaps the most ungainly looking aircraft at AirVenture (or anywhere else for that matter) was the people's choice. A 1939 Grumman Duck, which looks something like a biplane in an unnatural relationship with a submarine, in the first National Aviation Hall of Fame's Best of the Best competition. It was chosen over four other lovingly restored vintage aircraft. It was up against a 1943 Piper L-4H army surveillance plane, a 1948 T-6 Texan, a 1927 Waco Model 10-T and a 1939 KR-21 Challenger.

The Duck, an amphibious surveillance plane, survived the attack on Pearl Harbor only to sink in a lake in the Bahamas in 1955. It was pulled from the lake in 1991 and restored. Grumman lovers Chuck and Bev Greenhill bought the plane in 1998 to complement their collection, but it's not their favorite Grumman. Chuck told reporters that his twin-engine high-wing Grumman Goose is his favorite because he can see out the front in level flight and it has better utility. The Duck gets flown about 10 times a year.

 
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News Briefs back to top 
 

Add Motion to Flight Sim

A Canadian company has come up with a nifty way to add motion to your favorite flight simulator. Kelowna, British Columbia-based Dreamflyer is perfecting a virtual cockpit that "moves" in concert with control commands. By mounting up to three LCD screens to a "cockpit" suspended and balanced on a frame, the virtual pilot uses a realistic control stick to fly the simulator and simultaneously pitch and roll the cockpit. Sensors and integrated controls transmit the motion information to the computer so the simulator software matches the motion. It adds a new dimension to flight simulators and the potential of the simple, non-motorized rig has been noticed.

Spokesman Rahul Lakhote said it's been featured on the Discovery Channel and a National Geographic film crew was at the booth during AirVenture. There were also visitors from simulation software makers who took great interest in the device he said.

Boeing Blended Wing Body Flies

Boeing's Blended Wing Body (BWB) research aircraft -- designated the X-48B -- made a 31-minute first flight last Friday at NASA Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California. The 21-foot wingspan, 500-pound unmanned quasi flying wing climbed to 7,500 feet during the inaugural jaunt. "We've successfully passed another milestone in our work to explore and validate the structural, aerodynamic and operational efficiencies of the BWB concept," said Boeing Phantom Works Program Manager Bob Liebeck. Up to 25 flights are planned to gather data in low-speed flight regimes, after which Boeing will explore the BWB's noise characteristics and handling characteristics at transonic speeds.

The composite research trijet will be able to fly up to 10,000 feet and 120 knots in its low-speed configuration, though modifications will needed to enable the aircraft to fly at higher speeds. Boeing does not envision a BWB passenger jet in the next 20 years, but the company's integrated defense systems division believes the BWB would be a "flexible, long-range, high-capacity military aircraft."

 
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News in Brief back to top 
 

On the Fly ...

Cessna says it's taken more than 570 orders for its light sport aircraft, the SkyCatcher. Based on the projected $109,000 sticker price, that's $60 million in orders ...

Software release 7.0 for Avidyne Entegra EXP5000 primary flight displays and EX5000 multifunction Displays will ship in the third quarter. The update will add support for WAAS instrument approach procedures...

The NTSB released its preliminary report on the July 7 crash of a Cessna 310 in Sanford, Fla. ...

Certified flight instructors with at least 250 hours of instruction given can now earn a full scholarship to attend the Columbia Flight Institute (a $2,500 value) when a student that they recommend purchases a new Columbia aircraft ...

Liberty Aerospace added several new options for 2008 models of its XL2 light sport aircraft, including an S-TEC dual axis autopilot, redesigned exterior decals, new lightweight interior layouts, entry steps and wheel pants.

AVweb's Newstips Address ...

Our best stories start with you. If you've heard something that 130,000 pilots might want to know about, tell us. Submit news tips via email to newstips@avweb.com. You're a part of our team ... often, the best part.

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New Articles & Features on AVweb back to top 
 

CEO of the Cockpit #72: A Perfect Day

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What does a cynical airline captain do when everything goes right?

Click here for the full story.

Defensive IFR

Sure, controllers work for the FAA. But that doesn't mean all clearances and directives have to be followed. Here's how to refuse a bad clearance.

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AVmail: Jul. 30, 2007


Dwindling Pilot Population

EAA President Tom Poberezny is to be admired for his lobbying for the LSA regulations and support by the aircraft industry (AVwebFlash, Jul 22). However, one need not look any further than your fuel price report of $4.51 per gallon for a reason for a declining pilot population.

There is a point where the rock of oppressive regulation and fees on one side and the hard-place of fuel-price gouging -- as well as insurance and maintenance costs -- on the other will get to be just too much discouragement to bear.

Those of us with larger and older aircraft are seeing their values plummeting, and costs rising, leading to reduced flying.

What's more, Cessna's delay until 2009 for deliveries of the 162 suggests to me that they are really hedging their bets. They could have been in business this year or 2008 if they were really committed. What's more, Cessna selected the O-200 as their powerplant, but I'm wondering whether the cost advantage of MOGAS might drive people to look elsewhere for their LSA ride. MOGAS in the ancient Continental and Lycoming technologies will always be a kludge at best.

I've been a pilot for 45 years, but I have a hard time believing that AOPA's recent video series on flying in Europe is anything other than a pretty good indicator of where we are headed.

Sailing anyone?

David MacRae


Eclipse ECJ

Someone needs to actually say it out loud: The Eclipse ECJ is a marketing masterpiece that will keep the hard questions regarding the shortcomings of the Eclipse 500 from being asked at Oshkosh (AVwebFlash, Jul. 26).

I think the illusionists call it "misdirection."

Mr. Raburn has already moved on to the next "challenge." I'm sure in his mind that he has already solved all of the issues with the 500. Only time will tell if his dream or any of the others will be a true success. The concept of air taxi is still incredibly far from a certain thing and he and many of the other manufacturers are betting the store on the concept.

Keep up the good work.

Rich Gritter


Flight Service

I began working for FAA FSS in 1976, continued through Lockheed-Martin's (LM) takeover and quit about eighteen months later when I saw what a big mistake had been made. A pilot's interaction with a FSS specialist has always been a crapshoot. Some specialists and management are good, others are horrendous. And now with LM, the odds are stacked against the pilots.

Even the good specialists and management are struggling with what use to be routine, simple tasks. When a pilot contacts FSS, he has started a scary game of chance. His call may be routed, rerouted, and rerouted around the U.S. The term LM uses for a call being passed around is it "waterfalls" or “cascades.” What that means is a call, if completed, can end up anywhere in the FSS system. Specialists, who had been doing the job efficiently for 20, 30, or more years, are now scrambling to field request from who knows where.

LM is approaching another anniversary of running FSS. It is still not unusual for FSS nationwide to go down. Hardware and software failures are common. The result is a system that is patched together, propped up, and worked around. LM is having difficulties staffing even the three major hubs, let alone the lesser facilities. Some employees who have had long careers are quitting rather than put up with LM's mess. New hires are getting a fraction of the benefits that specialists had once expected. All of this turmoil is making for a tense, unhappy workforce.

There is no going back. Bridges have been burned. The FAA will not entertain turning back the clock. That will not happen. After working in an FSS system that ran safely and efficiently, I saw it deteriorate to become dangerous. If I were flying, I would try my best to not rely upon FSS for anything. I have seen the confusion on the FSS side of the telephone and microphone. I have worked daily beside some unbelievably bad specialists, supervisors, and management. Why would one risk one's life in LM's game of chance?

Glenn Baker


Question of the Week

Hey, I don't like Blakey either (I gave her an "F" too), but with the participation in this Question of the Week poll (QOTW, Jul. 19) drastically outstripping other weeks, it looks like there's a bit of ballot stuffing going on!

Tom Stepleton


Read AVmail from other weeks here, and submit your own Letter to the Editor with this form.

 
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AVweb's Audio News — Are You Listening? back to top 
 

Oshkosh Podcasting Round-Up: Our Complete Audio News from EAA AirVenture 2007

It's been a busy year for everyone here in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. From product roll-outs to the ongoing fight against user fees, AVweb's audio news team was onhand (with microphones) to get reactions and exclusive commentary from the industry's biggest players. In case you missed any of our daily audio coverage, here's a quick recap of the stories we covered at this year's EAA AirVenture fly-in.

Bonus! Three Kit-Driven Podcasts from Our Sister Magazine, Kitplanes

 
FLITELite™ Reinvents Light ... Once Again
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AVweb's Video News — Watch This! back to top 
 

Oshkosh Video Round-Up: Complete Video Reporting from EAA AirVenture 2007

This year, we shot quite a bit of original video at Oshkosh. While we didn't have time to publish everything we captured, we did put together a dozen or so videos to give you the flavor of the show and highlight a couple of interesting products we found in the exhibitor hangars. Here's a complete list, just in case you missed any of them.

 
Mike Busch Is Coming to a Town Near You!
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Your Favorites FBOs back to top 
 

FBO of the Week: TAC Air (KAPA, Denver, Colorado)

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

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to TAC Air at KAPA in Denver, Colorado.

AVweb reader Scott Brooksby raves about the service at TAC Air:

"These guys were great; their self-serve fuel prices were great, and they loaned us a crewcar to go to dinner. When we first arrived, they took us to our hotel. When we left two days later, they had the airplane near their door, ready to go. Awesome."

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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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"

Heard on ground frequency at Oakland-Pontiac (Mich.) Airport (KPTK):

Oakland Ground: Ground vehicle one, we’ve had a report of a hawk and a fox fighting at the approach end to 9R. Please investigate.

Ground One [minutes later]: Oakland Ground, this is ground vehicle one. The fight is over. The hawk won.

Oakland Ground: Yes! Once again, a demonstration of the clear superiority of air power.

 
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 Editors Glenn Pew (bio) , Mary Grady (bio) , and Russ Niles (bio) and Editor-in-Chief Chad Trautvetter (bio) .

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.