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The NTSB has completed its first investigation into an accident involving an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and on Tuesday, the board issued 22 safety recommendations and expressed concern about
operating these vehicles in the National Airspace System. NTSB Chairman Mark Rosenker said the high number of recommendations reflects "a wide range of safety issues involving the civilian use of
unmanned aircraft." On April 26, a turboprop-powered Predator B operated on a surveillance mission by U.S. Customs and Border Protection crashed in a sparsely populated residential area near Nogales,
Ariz. No one on the ground was injured, but the remotely piloted 66-foot-wingspan aircraft was substantially damaged. The board found that the pilot, who was not proficient in the performance of
emergency procedures, inadvertently shut off the fuel while dealing with a console "lock-up" problem, causing a total loss of engine power. The NTSB cited several areas of particular concern,
including the design and certification of the unmanned aircraft system, pilot qualification and training, the integration of UAVs into the air traffic management system, and the lack of audio records
of UAV operations-related communications.
"This investigation has raised questions about the different standards for manned and unmanned aircraft and the safety implications of this discrepancy," said Rosenker. He said the pilot's console
had been known to "lock up" in the past, but this issue was not resolved. "Such conditions would never be tolerated in the cockpit of a manned aircraft," he said. "We need to make sure that the system
by which pilots are trained and readied for flight is rigorous and thorough. With the potential for thousands of these unmanned aircraft in use years from now, the standards for pilot training need to
be set high to ensure that those on the ground and other users of the airspace are not put in jeopardy." The complete UAV accident report can be accessed online.
PowerLink FADEC Certified on Liberty XL-2; Is It Right for Your Aircraft? Liberty Aerospace is the first certified piston-powered aircraft with PowerLink FADEC as standard equipment. PowerLink FADEC is now also available for several additional
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When the Sport-Jet prototype crashed during a test flight in 2006, it wasn't due to any flaw with the aircraft or a mistake by the crew, says Excel-Jet in a suit filed against the FAA. It was because air traffic controllers cleared the jet to take off behind a large commercial aircraft
(a deHavilland Dash 8) in violation of mandatory separation requirements. The company on Wednesday said it filed the suit in an effort to prove that its airplane and pilot were not at fault. On June
22, 2006, the Sport-Jet rolled aggressively to the left immediately after liftoff and crashed. The company has long contended that wake turbulence was the cause, but the NTSB report, completed in April, found "it is most likely that the wake vortices were neither strong enough nor
close enough to the Sport-Jet to cause the violent roll to the left." The NTSB cited "a loss of control for an undetermined reason" as the probable cause of the accident. Excel-Jet now says it has no
option but to initiate legal action against the FAA in an effort to prove that there was no fault with the aircraft or pilot.
"Test pilots James Stewart and Ron McElroy had accumulated 24 hours of virtually flawless flight testing," Bob Bornhofen, president of Excel-Jet, said in a news release. "The Sport-Jet had explored
the majority of its flight envelope without problems." Stewart, who was flying at the time of the crash, survived the crash without injury. The company is at work on a second prototype, which it
expects to fly sometime next year.
Indian business tycoon Vijay Mallya says he intends to build Epic's line of turboprops and light jets in India to serve the Asian and
Middle Eastern market. Mallya bought a 50 percent stake in Bend, Ore.-based Epic earlier this year and says he wants to bring the operation, or at least part of it, home. Once the certification
process of Dynasty, Victory and Elite is done in the US, I want to manufacture them in India. The manufacturing base in India will largely target Middle-East and Asia besides the domestic
market, he told The Economic Times The Times story also says that as part of the deal, "Epic Aircraft also got access to Airbus resources to accelerate the certification of its new VLJs
Elite and Victory." What effect the planned manufacturing plant in India will have on Epic's plans in North America isn't known. However, the story does say that building the planes in India is
expected to be cheaper than building them in North America.
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Sir Richard Branson said this week that he knows his friend, adventurer Steve Fossett, probably will not be found alive. "I think the chances are that he's no longer with us," Branson told Matt Lauer
on NBC's Today Show on Monday. "I think everybody involved has pretty well given up hope, sadly." Fossett was last seen on Sept. 3 when he took off from a private airstrip in Nevada for a short flight
in a Super Decathlon. Branson said Fossett's wife, Peggy, plans to return to Nevada soon for "one final search," but her husband's loss is beginning to sink in. Lauer's interview with Branson is posted online. Continuing efforts by the Civil Air Patrol and privately funded searchers have failed to turn up any sign of Fossett or the airplane he was flying. New analysis of
radar traces earlier this month pointed to a 100-square-mile area southeast of the Hilton ranch that Fossett took off from, but ground searchers found nothing.
Authorities have said they will continue the search if new leads arise. Meanwhile, the private search continues with various kinds of
imaging and field reconnaissance.
On the heels of Boeing's announcement that its latest design, the 787 Dreamliner, will be delayed six months, Singapore Airlines (SA) is expected to fly its first Airbus A380 next week for the very
first time. The carrier has gone the luxury route and outfitted its double-decker Airbus with sleeping cabins that can be converted to flying offices. Those flying economy class on the jet will at
least enjoy their own 10.5-inch screen. SA's configuration has room for 471 passengers instead of seating for the 800 or more passengers the aircraft is capable of confining.
"It sets new standards in luxury and comfort," Singapore Chief Executive Chew Choon Seng told TheAge.com. The aircraft's cabin is said to be extremely quiet in the air, too, no matter how much you
paid for your seat. Qantas will soon be sending competing A380s into service, with a maximum seating capacity of 450, showing that the jet's 800-seat potential is (for now) being set aside for other
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A pilot previously made famous for stripping to his underwear to protest airport security rules has now been fired from MyTravel Airways after allowing a soccer player to fly as a passenger in the
flight deck jump seat. Captain Pablo Mason has a (relatively) popular following in the U.K. for his efforts to cure hundreds of passengers of their fear of flying. Mason acknowledged that he may have
broken a rule by using the jumpseat, but did not admit to being aware of the rule. He told the Times Online, "I don't accept that I compromised safety, prejudiced the good name of MyTravel or
neglected my duty." Mason added, "Rules are for the guidance of wise men and the obedience of fools."
Passengers touched by their positive experiences with Mason have spoken up on his behalf.
India is turning away American pilots over age 60, in spite of a need for qualified pilots. The country is currently seeing an aviation boom (civil aviation, there, is enjoying a 37-percent growth
rate) and a pilot crunch, but that doesn't mean they want to fill the ranks with American pilots over the age of 60. The country has made a regulatory decision to stop issuing certificates to
American pilots over the age of 60 -- Indian pilots may fly to age 65. India expects 350 million air travelers by 2020 (the number was closer to 75 million in 2006) and has the fastest-growing
number of air passengers in the world.
As a result, the decision to turn away qualified pilots is viewed by some as not in India's own interests.
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Australia's Regional Express airline is warning that a pilot shortage will within 12 months become a crisis and is calling on the Australian government to come to the rescue with cash for training.
The airline estimates the country will need 900 new pilots per year for the next two years, and says ATPs are being produced in Australia at a rate of less than 400 per year. As a result, those new
pilots who fly first for regional carriers are being swept up by national carriers at a rate that exceeds supply, leaving both regional and national carriers wanting.
Regional Express says the large airlines' demand for pilots and historic expansion plans at Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin Blue are behind the pilot shortfall and are already leading to cancellation of
flights due to a lack of available crews. Regional Express expects the situation to get worse before it gets better.
The FAA's recent action to suspend operations at AMI Jet Charter was
"driven more by arrogance and a failure to understand how Part 135 is different from Part 121" than by any concerns about safety, according to James Coyne, president of the National Air Transportation
Association (NATA). Coyne, in a letter to
NATA members dated October 15, said he was "extremely angered" by the FAA's "shocking" action. AMI operates about 10 percent of the top-of-the-line Gulfstream, Falcon and other large corporate
jets in the U.S. charter market, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Tag Aviation owns 49 percent of the company, and it is the issue of ownership, or "operational control" -- and who is responsible for the safe operation of the airplanes -- that is the basis for
the FAA's action. AMI filed an appeal last week with the NTSB, arguing that no "emergency" situation exists to justify the FAA's action, and provided a declaration countering many of the FAA's claims
against the carrier. AMI's appeal and their response to the FAA's charges are posted at the NATA Web site. AMI CEO Chuck McLeran said he hopes to work with the FAA to resolve the issues. "We are confident that we can demonstrate AMIJC's outstanding safety record to the
FAA and our continued commitment to full compliance with all applicable regulations and procedures," he said in a statement.
National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) President and CEO Ed Bolen said the FAA action should be viewed as a wake-up call to all charter providers. "This significant action was taken against
a company that is among the most highly regarded charter providers in the country," Bolen said. "NBAA urges the
charter members within our association to take note of the FAA's recent action and ensure that their operational control practices are in order."
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For pilots who have experienced waiting for things to happen on an FAA time scale, the thought of waiting behind bars for the FAA to act could be daunting. One pilot in Virginia faces that situation,
as a judge says he's not willing to let him out until the FAA revokes his pilot certificate. The FAA says it can't do that until it completes its investigation, and how long that will take, nobody can
say. Pilot Ronald Davis Jr., 50, of Naples, Fla., is in this fix because he's charged with flying under the influence, which is a felony in Virginia. Davis was giving $10 helicopter rides to the
public at the Suffolk Peanut Fest last Sunday when passengers complained that he was flying erratically. Police said Davis failed a field sobriety test and registered a blood-alcohol concentration of
0.116 on a preliminary breath test, the Virginian-Pilot reported.
Davis told the judge several times he would voluntarily surrender his certificate to get out of jail, but that proposal didn't fly. Jim Deuel, one of the Sunday passengers, told WAVY-TV that the four-minute ride felt unsafe. "It was a smooth takeoff and then all of a sudden he just shot up into the
air and shot back down and turned to the left real hard," Deuel said. He said the pilot banked sharply left and right throughout the flight, and did not interact with his passengers. "The whole time
he just looked straight ahead. He didn't even look at us. He just looked straight ahead," Deuel said.
Among all the sports videos on the Internet -- from CBS, ESPN, and more, about football, and car racing, and scandal -- it was AVweb's behind-the-scenes coverage of the San Diego Red Bull Air
Race that ranked number one in a worldwide online poll. The web site WeShow lets viewers around the world choose their
favorite videos from more than 200 channels. Once a month, the ranks are posted, then the competition starts over. AVweb videographer Glenn Pew combined dramatic aerial shots, hangar talk with
the pilots, knowledgeable narration, and deft editing to beat out the competition.
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Our sister magazine, Aviation Consumer, is conducting a research project on diesel aircraft engines. If you're flying one, we would like to know what your impressions of it are. Has the
performance been what you expected? How about the economy? We would also like to know about service history. For a questionnaire, e-mail email@example.com. The editorial staff will get right back to you.
Rarely do we find that AVweb readers are all of one mind on an
issue but there was clear consensus on the answer to last week's
Question, Should passengers be allowed to use their cell phones on
airliners? That consensus, of course, was absolutely not.
A full 70% of AVweb readers said there are enough indignities
in airline travel today without having to listen to other passengers'
private phone conversations.
For the actual breakdown of responses,
(You may be asked to register and answer, if you haven't already
participated in this poll.)
THIS WEEK'S QUESTION ***
With Cirrus and Cessna both bidding on the assets of Columbia
Manufacturing, the race is on! Whom do you predict will win the
bankruptcy sweepstakes and get to put their name above Columbia's on the
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 ***
"POTW" submissions tapered off a bit this week, with
only 65 new photos finding their way to our submission box but with a
backlog of fantastic photos from the last three weeks that we're still
trying to sneak into our home page slideshow, there's no shortage of
oohs or ahhs.
Jeff Randall of Clyde, Texas is a
semi-regular contributor to "Picture of the Week," and if there's one
thing almost all of his photos have in common, it's this: Jeff
knows how to put himself in the right place at the right time to catch
folks doing what comes naturally and make it look stunning.
Oh, all right we couldn't resist this photo (and its caption) from
Brad Marzari. The context here
is the Swiss Air Force's Fliegerschiessen Axalp, a day-long military
demonstration and air show. Brad points out that the F5 is firing
("note the gunsmoke") at a target "7,000 feet across the draw."
David Lumgair of Craddockville,
Virginia flies us out this week. Sorry to put you last on
the ramp again, David, but you know what they say about "saving
the best" ... .
O.K. folks, that's all! But we're far from done we'll have to do
it all over again next week, so please: Don't forget to
send us your
photos. They really are the best part of our week.
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.
AVweb reader Ray Stratton gave us a little history:
Starting with a C-150 and using the airport motel lobby as an office, [AFI] ... has grown to a fleet of eleven aircraft and over seven instructors. Still owned and operated by the same family, it has
accomplished over 250,000 hours of flight instruction.
AVweb is actively seeking
out the best FBOs in the country and another one, submitted by you, will be spotlighted here next Monday!
Understanding Your Airplane's Mechanics Could Save Your Bank Account Light Plane Maintenance is the monthly magazine for aircraft owners who aren't satisfied with just flying. Aircraft repair can be simple when explained in concise, step-by-step details.
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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.
HAVE YOU SIGNED UP yet for AVweb's NO-COST weekly business aviation newsletter, AVwebBiz? Reporting on breaking news,
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/.
AVwebFlash is a weekly summary of the latest news, articles, products, features, and events featured on AVweb, the internet's aviation magazine and news service.
The AVwebFlash team is:
Publisher Timothy Cole
Editorial Director, Aviation Publications Paul Bertorelli
Editor-in-Chief Russ Niles
Contributing Editors Mary Grady Glenn Pew
Features Editor Kevin Lane-Cummings
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.