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Sir Richard Branson, who financed many of Steve Fossett's adventures, told CNN on Wednesday that he is "obviously worried" about his friend, but remains optimistic. "If he's landed and he's not too
badly hurt, he's the one person in the world who will be mentally and physically equipped to get out of it," Branson said. But he added that Fossett was wearing a Breitling watch capable of emitting
an emergency distress signal when manually activated, and he's concerned that no signal has been sent. Meanwhile, as of Wednesday afternoon, the search continues across 600 square miles of desert
south of the private airstrip where Fossett launched Monday morning in a Citabria Super Decathtlon, planning to fly for a few hours to scout locations for a land speed record attempt.
Maj. Cynthia Ryan, of the Civil Air Patrol, said the desert search is challenging, covering terrain cut by ravines and thick with sagebrush. Bumpy wind conditions are hard on airborne searchers.
"It's a very large haystack," she said. "And an airplane is a very small needle. No doubt about that." CNN has posted its interview with Branson and other updates at its online video site.
The Government Accountability Office made a concerted effort this summer to figure out what's up with very light jets -- will swarms of them overwhelm the National Airspace System? Will they rain from
the sky, ineptly piloted by untrained amateurs? Does the FAA have a plan to handle the costs of dealing with them? And what they found out is what we could have told them -- for the most part, we'll
have to wait and see. The GAO report (PDF) did determine, however, that safety issues are unlikely to arise, since the aircraft
and pilots must be FAA certified and insurance companies are keeping a close watch on proficiency requirements. Also, the report concludes that the FAA and the airspace system are prepared to
integrate the jets, and that since they will mainly use smaller airports, they shouldn't add to congestion problems.
The study found uncertainty over how many of the jets will be produced, with estimates ranging from 3,000 to 7,600 over the next decade or two. Another uncertainty cited in the report is whether
the air-taxi market for VLJs will materialize. Several experts told the GAO that there is nothing new about air taxis. "They argued that if the point-to-point on-demand air-taxi business model were so
attractive, it could have become popular already using similar existing business jets and propeller aircraft," the report says.
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A passenger taking her first ride in a 1959 Piper TriPacer jumped from the cockpit as it bounced down the runway during the third emergency landing of the day, the Modesto (Calif.) Bee reported on Monday. Witnesses told the Bee that pilot William Supan, 57, landed at Modesto Airport on
Saturday afternoon with smoke curling from beneath the cowling, and fire trucks responded. Supan reportedly went to Wal-Mart to buy a clamp, installed it on the airplane, and took off. Smoke now
poured from the cowling, and he immediately came around and landed again. The fire trucks returned, Supan replaced part of the exhaust hose, and launched yet again. When he landed for the third time,
hard, the wings were wobbling, smoke trailed from the bouncing fuselage, and passenger Jinhua Lin, 43, alarmed by the intensity of heat radiating through the floorboards, jumped. The airplane ran off
the runway, the pilot escaped, the fuselage caught fire, and the flames were put out by firefighters.
Lin suffered a broken leg and scrapes and bruises, while Supan was treated for smoke inhalation. The TriPacer's fabric skin and interior were charred and ruined. But airport manager Bill Latham
told the Bee that all in all, it was a good day. Gesturing toward the houses west of the airport, he said, "When you think of what might have been, we were all very lucky."
The FAA has authorized DayJet to use Eclipse 500TM very light jets in its operations, the company announced on Wednesday. DayJet is preparing to use
its fleet of VLJs to launch "Per-Seat, On-Demand" jet service. "This milestone is the culmination of more than five years of dedicated work to develop the world's first fully automated fleet
operations system," said Ed Iacobucci, DayJet president and CEO. In the coming weeks, DayJet says it will begin taking online reservations. The company, based in Boca Raton, Fla., operates under Part
135 air charter rules. Customers can schedule flights online according to their own schedules. The more flexible the passenger can be for departure and arrival times, the lower the price of the
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In the continuing fallout from a 2002 midair collision in Swiss-controlled airspace in which 71 people died, four air traffic control managers on Wednesday were convicted of manslaughter, Reuters reported. The judge said the managers were responsible for ensuring that at least two
controllers were on duty at all times, and the collision could have been averted if any one of them had acted to prevent the second controller on duty from taking a coffee break. That left just one
controller working at the time of the collision. The lone controller was later killed by a Russian man who lost his wife and two children in the crash. The four managers, who are employees of
SkyGuide, an air-traffic company, were given suspended prison terms and fines. Francis Schubert, Skyguide's interim CEO, said the company has "learned the lessons from this tragic event and has done
everything to ensure that an accident of this kind cannot happen again."
The design for New Mexico's Spaceport America, unveiled on Tuesday, will incorporate the natural landscape, with a low-profile,
100,000-square-foot building that mimics a sand dune. A rolling concrete shell will act as a roof, with massive windows that open to a view of the runway and spacecraft, the designers said. A team of
U.S. and British architects and designers, along with officials from the New Mexico Spaceport Authority and Virgin Galactic, are working on the project, which they billed the "world's first space
terminal." The terminal and hangar are projected to cost about $31 million, and will include space for Virgin Galactic's pre-flight and post-flight training facilities and lounges, as well as the
maintenance hangar for two White Knight Two and five SpaceShipTwo aircraft. Construction is scheduled to begin next year, with completion expected in late 2009 or early 2010.
Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Galactic said, "Next year will see the first test flights of SpaceshipTwo and it is fantastic that we will now have a permanent home to go to, which will be every bit
as inspiring for the astronauts of the future as Burt Rutan's groundbreaking technology. ... This vision for the world's first purpose-built private spaceport is truly out of this world." The project
aims to be environmentally friendly, using passive energy for heating and cooling, with photovoltaic panels for electricity, natural lighting, and water recycling capabilities.
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There's no lack of demand for their services -- in fact, the need seems to be growing -- yet the crop-dusting profession is a graying one, and new pilots ready to enter the field are scarce, Forbes.com reports. The work is dangerous, and the bar to entry is high. Costs for equipment and insurance, and the
hours required before pilots can start, have all risen over the years. Yet this summer in Iowa, crop-dusters were noticeably abundant, according to Radio Iowa News. It seems that Iowa farmers are battling soybean aphids and also are being
very protective of their corn crops, which are attracting high prices created by the global demand for ethanol. Elsewhere, aerial spraying has been widely used against mosquitoes that carry West Nile
virus. Andrew Moore, executive director of the National Agricultural Aviation Association, told Forbes that finding the next generation of
crop-dusters will be tough, but doable. Both aviation and agriculture face recruiting challenges, he said, as the professions require a big investment of time and money, and other options may be more
appealing, with less hard work and less risk. "The aviation industry has this challenge before them, agriculture has this challenge before them, we just happen to have components of both of those
industries," he said.
While the Light Sport Aircraft getting the most attention tend be those like Flight Design CT and Cessna, which are selling well in the $100,000 range, more models are coming online at lower costs.
The latest is the Sport Hornet, a tandem fixed-wing airplane with full three-axis control, for sale as a Special-LSA at $49,995,
reports LSA expert Dan Johnson. "With a 100 hp, four-cylinder Rotax, that's really quite a good deal," Johnson told AVweb on Wednesday. Other
lower-cost models include the EuroFox, available with tricycle gear or as a taildragger for $59,950, and the Sky Arrow, an all-composite tandem pusher that goes for $66,000.
Johnson also noted that there are plenty of LSAs ready to fly at even lower costs, at prices $20,000 and under, if pilots want to try a trike or a powered parachute. The trikes have been very
popular, he said. "Lots of fixed-wing pilots, once they give them a try, find out they're really fun to fly," he said.
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LISA Airplanes, a French aircraft manufacturer, has successfully launched the first flight of its Akoya design, a two-seat amphibian that can
land on the ground, the snow, and the water. Test pilot Gérald Ducoin flew the prototype for about 15 minutes on Aug. 22. "This maiden flight confirmed the very healthy general behavior of the
Akoya," Ducoin said. The next tests will evaluate the various functions of the versatile aircraft -- skis, hydrofoils, flexible flaps, a swiveling wing for storage, a parachute, and more. The design
phase for the airplane began in January 2006, and the company said first deliveries will take place within 16 months, at a price point of about 300,000 Euros.
LISA Airplanes was founded in 2002. The Akoya will have a range of 620 nautical miles and a maximum speed of 168 knots, the company said. The engine is a 100-hp Rotax 912S.
The FAA should require that all emergency locator transmitters in general aviation aircraft must be upgraded, the NTSB said (PDF) on Wednesday. The newer 406 MHz transmitters have significant advantages, the NTSB says, including longer range, better accuracy, and the ability to encode identification
information, so rescuers know exactly what airplane is in distress. The safety board cites two accidents: In one airplane equipped with an older ELT, 16 hours elapsed before rescuers found the
survivors, and when an airplane with a 406 MHz ELT crashed, the wreckage was located within an hour. The FAA should require an upgrade to the 406 MHz units before February 2009, when a change in
satellite services will make the older units even less reliable, the NTSB says.
"This [change in service] will necessitate U.S. search and rescue authorities reverting to older, less effective search methods and techniques, which would greatly decrease the likelihood of
finding downed aircraft in a timely manner," the NTSB said. AOPA has opposed mandatory ELT upgrades, citing costs. The
new units can cost from $1,000 to $1,500. The 406 MHz units activate in about 81 to 83 percent of crashes. The older units, which operate on the 121.5 MHz frequency, have an activation rate of 73
percent in actual crashes, AOPA said.
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AVweb reader Christopher Dean heaps praise on the service team in Henderson:
We spent eight days out there going up and coming back daily. The line crew simply rocks -- they are thorough, efficient, professional and safe. The customer service teams on all of the the shifts are
friendly, and know how to take care of the customer. And the icing on the cake -- the fuel prices can't be beat! From the second we arrived to eight days later, everyone there at the FBO who dealt
with us left us with a positive and warm impression. We will make this FBO our choice FBO for our trips to Las Vegas. Thank you to everyone who works there!
AVweb is actively seeking
out the best FBOs in the country and another one, submitted by you, will be spotlighted here next Monday!
Diamond DA40 A Fleet Favorite
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Have an idea for a new "Question of the Week"? Send your suggestions to
NOTE: 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.
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Each week, we go through dozens (and sometimes
hundreds) of reader-submitted photos and pick the very best to share
with you on Thursday mornings. The top photos are featured on
AVweb's home page, and one photo
that stands above the others is awarded an AVweb baseball cap as our
"Picture of the Week." Want to see your photo on AVweb.com?
Click here to submit it to our weekly contest.
*** THIS WEEK'S WINNERS ***
Picture submissions dropped off a bit this week, but
that's turning out to be a mixed blessing at "POTW" headquarters.
You see, we've had far too many pics that went unseen over the last
couple of weeks, so we'll be dusting off a few of those and changing out
the "POTW" slideshow on AVweb's home a couple of times this week.
We're going to try to squeeze in an extra 40 pics this week that were
just too good to go unseen, so be sure to bookmark AVweb and
check back on Friday and Monday for some good bonus pictures. Who
loves ya, baby? (Hint: It ain't Kojak!)
We may catch some grief for running another helicopter photo as our
"Picture of the Week," but honestly check out the color and contrast
on this shot from Dianne Cooper of
Tucson, Arizona and then tell us there's no room for a whirlybird or two
in our weekly contest.
Our old friend Don Parsons of St.
Peters, Missouri is back with a slightly smaller-scale photo than
we're used to seeing from him. (We know you sent in some cool
ultralight pics recently, Don, but even you have to admit this is a
different breed of flight altogether.)
Putting together AVweb week after week, we've heard some really
good UFO stories but who'd have thought the first irrefutable UFO
image we'd publish would come in through "Picture of the Week"?
Hope the President is paying attention to his AVwebFlash this
morning ... .
Wait. What's that you say? It's a remote-controlled disc
flying over a model airplane gathering?!
Thanks to Gary L. Jones of Clovis,
New Mexico, anyway. (For the pic and for letting us have a little
fun with it around the office.)
Hey, it's old home week!
Daniel Valovich of Hot
Springs, Arkansas, is another long-time friend of "POTW" he
never fails to step up to the plate when we're having a light
submission week. Today he treats us to a little bit of
double exposure photography, indulging in a rare bit of trickery
to see us out for this week's edition of "POTW."
Be sure to join us next Thursday morning for even more flying fun.
In the meantime, we'll drop some bonus pics into the "POTW" slideshow on AVweb's
home page for to
keep you occupied. :)
A quick note for submitters: If you've got several
photos that you feel are "POTW" material, your best bet is to submit
them one-a-week! That gives your photos a greater chance of seeing
print on AVweb, and it makes the selection process a little easier on
us, too. ;)
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,
send us an e-mail.
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AVweb has an opening for an able and experienced aviation writer and editor with proven experience in both print and web publishing, although we're willing to train the right person in the finer
points of massaging content for the web. This position requires relocation to our Sarasota, Florida office. If this description fits you, contact email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. You're a part of our team ... often, the best part.
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Business AVflash focuses on the companies, the products and the industry leaders that make headlines in the business aviation industry. Business AVflash is a must read. Sign up today at http://www.avweb.com/profile/.
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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.