AVwebBiz Complete Issue: Volume 11, Number 11

March 13, 2013

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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AVflash! Aviation Safety back to top 

FAA Approves Testing For 787 Fix

The FAA has approved flight testing of what Boeing hopes will be a permanent fix for the lithium ion batteries on its 787 airliners. Two test aircraft have been cleared for flight to test a three-part solution to the issue that has grounded the fleet since the middle of January. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the aircraft won't carry a passenger until the fix is proven through a "comprehensive series of tests." "We won't allow the plane to return to service unless we're satisfied that the new design ensures the safety of the aircraft and its passengers," LaHood said in a statement. It appears Boeing has opted to fix the existing setup rather than recertify a new system and it involves a reworking of the internal workings of the battery.

The FAA said Boeing's plan calls for "redesign of the internal battery components to minimize initiation of a short circuit within the battery, better insulation of the cells and the addition of a new containment and venting system." Quality control on the batteries will be tightened and the charging system tuned to tighten the voltage range. FAA inspectors will be present for the testing, in contrast to initial certification of the electrical system, which was handled in-house by Boeing. It's not clear when the test flights will begin or how long they will last but airlines that were counting on 787s for the busy summer travel season are making other plans. Leasing companies report brisk business for 767s and A330s.

NTSB Issues Five Safety Alerts For GA Pilots And Mechanics

The NTSB issued five safety alerts on Tuesday that aim to highlight the five most frequent errors that cause general aviation accidents. "We see the same types of accidents over and over again," said NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman. "What's especially tragic is that so many of these accidents are entirely preventable." The alerts remind pilots to develop effective risk-management strategies, pay close attention to maintenance issues and always conduct a careful diagnostic flight after leaving the shop, be vigilant when flying at night or in reduced visibility, and be sure to understand stalls and how to prevent them. One alert, aimed at mechanics, reminds them to carefully follow procedures when conducting inspections and maintaining aircraft.

The safety board is creating short videos to complement each of the alerts, which will be available online within the next few months. The videos will feature regional air safety investigators sharing what they learned from the many accident investigations they conducted, and offering advice on how pilots and mechanics can avoid tragic mistakes. "GA is essentially an airline or maintenance operation of one, which puts the responsibility for sound decision making on one person's shoulders," Hersman said. "We are promoting and distributing the alerts to reach pilots and mechanics who can benefit from these lifesaving messages." The five safety alerts issued today, as well as others that have been issued since 2004, are posted online. The PowerPoint presentations that investigators made to the board on Tuesday also are archived online. Video of the board meeting will be posted online for 90 days.

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(Another) End of the Line for 121.5 back to top 

FCC Wants To Phase Out 121.5 ELTs

The FCC says it wants to get on with the process of phasing out 121.5 MHz emergency locator transmitters and anyone with comments or concerns has until April 1 to make them known. On Jan. 7 the commission issued its third Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (PDF) on the topic, calling for an end to the import, manufacture or sale of 121.5 ELTs a year after the rule becomes effective. In 2009, the FCC amended its rules to ban the ELTs immediately. Since ELTs are required equipment, that would have left hundreds of thousands of aircraft owners with illegal devices on their aircraft. After hearing from the FAA and various groups about the impracticality of such a move, the FCC backed off. The phased approach appears to be causing little concern among the groups or authorities.

Many organizations, including the Civil Air Patrol and Coast Guard, are strongly in favor of the elimination of 121.5 ELTs. Search and rescue satellites stopped listening for 121.5 signals in 2009 and now the only way to detect one is from airborne or ground-based radio receivers. The receipt of a 121.5 signal triggers a search even though most are the result of accidental triggering. New 406 MHz ELTs embed contact information for the aircraft owner in their signals and authorities can usually verify if there is a true emergency by phone.

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USAF Contract Still Divisive Issue back to top 

Embraer, Beechcraft Spar Over Air Force Contract

Beechcraft and Embraer are engaged in a public relations battle over the Air Force's choice of Embraer's Super Tucano for a $427 million contract to provide a light air support (LAS) platform. The Air Force made its selection on Feb. 27 and within a week Beechcraft announced it would formally protest the award, suggesting there might be irregularities in the process and noting the Super Tucano will cost significantly more than the AT-6 it offered. Within hours, Embraer and its primary contractor on the project, Sierra Nevada Corp. (SNC), issued a joint statement defending their successful bid and expressing disappointment that Beechcraft is challenging the choice of the Super Tucano a second time. The Embraer/SNC consortium won 2011 competition for the contract, which then-Hawker Beechcraft successfully challenged and overturned. The earlier challenge uncovered irregularities in the consideration of the bids by the Air Force, and Beechcraft CEO Bill Boisture said in a statement that he doesn't think the second bid was handled properly either, particularly since the Embraer aircraft will cost significantly more than the AT-6. "Given our experience of last year and our continued strong concern that there are again significant errors in the process and evaluation in this competition, we are left with no recourse other than to file a protest with the GAO," he said.

Boisture said the Super Tucano will cost the Air Force 40 percent more than the AT-6 even though he said the Air Force rated the Beechcraft entry "exceptional." "We simply don't understand how the Air Force can justify spending over 40 percent more –- over $125 million more –- for what we consider to be less capable aircraft," Boisture said. Embraer and SNC didn't dispute Boisture's math but they did say the Air Force made its choice based on mission capability, past performance and price in that order. "The U. S. Air Force determined that the price they are paying for the superior A-29 aircraft was part of the 'overall best value,'" the bid winners said in their statement. The combatants did agree on one point. Both are hoping for a quick decision by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on Beechcraft's protest.

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Aviation Law back to top 

FAA Settles With Denver Crash Victims

The FAA has paid millions of dollars worth of settlements to 65 people who were on a Continental Airlines Boeing 737 that was blown off a runway at Denver International Airport on Dec. 21, 2008. KMGH-TV reported that the agency was facing a lawsuit for its role in the accident, in which several people were severely injured but no one was killed. The NTSB report said controllers failed to warn the pilots of 40-knot crosswind gusts before they took off. The aircraft captain was among those who accepted a settlement from the FAA.

The NTSB report also blamed the captain for not using rudder to counteract the crosswind. Many of those who sued the FAA had already received a settlement from the airline. The aircraft ended up on fire in a ravine next to the runway. The NTSB credited the work of the flight attendants in evacuating the aircraft for the fact that everyone survived. The board was also critical of the crosswind training received by pilots, noting the simulator-based training couldn't properly duplicate actual crosswind conditions.

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News Briefs back to top 

CSeries Offers 160-Seat Version

Bombardier says it will fly its first CSeries passenger airliner by the end of June and it's already making changes to the original design by squeezing more seats onboard. The company unveiled its first flight test article last week and announced that the larger version of the airplane, which was initially envisioned with 130 seats, then 150, will also be available with 160 seats. The bigger version needs an extra set of emergency exits over the wings. During the unveiling, Mike Arcamone, president of the company's commercial aircraft division, touted the clean-sheet design. "It is not a re-engineered aircraft to put in the market. It is totally a new aircraft," he said in reference to Boeing, Airbus and Embraer who are revamping existing aircraft in the same size range. Bombardier is also the launch customer for Pratt and Whitney's new geared turbofan engine, which is expected to be 20 percent more efficient than existing engines. However, there are some analysts who suggest that potential customers may be waiting for the CSeries to prove itself before committing to orders.

Bombardier has just 148 confirmed orders for the $60-$70 million airliners, although airlines hold options on another 200. Arcamone told the media that attended the opening the order numbers are meeting company projections. He said the company wants 300 orders from 20 customers by the time first deliveries happen at the end of 2014. The aircraft unveiled last week was supposed to fly by the end of last December but supplier problems delayed it until the end of June. Arcamone dismissed the delay and inconsequential. "Five or six months late is not late," he said.

And The Collier Goes To -- Curiosity

The NASA/JPL Mars Science Laboratory/Curiosity Project Team will receive the 2012 Robert J. Collier Trophy, the National Aeronautic Association announced on Tuesday. In choosing the project from a field of seven nominees, the committee cited the "extraordinary achievements of successfully landing Curiosity on Mars, advancing the nation's technological and engineering capabilities, and significantly improving humanity's understanding of ancient Martian habitable environments."

Curiosity took second place in AVweb's online poll, attracting just over half the votes given to Felix Baumgartner and the Red Bull Stratos Team. The other nominees were Lockheed Martin's unmanned aerial cargo system, the NASA/JPL Dawn Project team, the Gulfstream G650, and the U.S. Air Force MC-12 Project Liberty Team. The trophy will be formally presented at the annual Robert J. Collier Trophy Dinner on May 9, in Arlington, Va.; information about tickets for the event can be found at www.naa.aero.

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Who's Where back to top 

Palmertree Joins US Aviation

Billy Palmertree

Billy Palmertree has joined US Aviation in Denton, Texas and is running the avionics department and FAA Part 145 Repair Station. He was formerly general manager of Tomlinson Avionics.

Who's Where? You Tell Us

Get a promotion or a new job? Your colleagues want to know about it, and AVwebBiz can get the word out. Drop us a line about the staff appointment, with a nice recent photo, and we'll do our best to include it in our new section, "Who's Where." The items will be permanently archived on AVweb for future reference, too.

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The Top Reporter on Our Crack Staff ... Is You! back to top 

AVweb's Newstips Address ...

Our best stories start with you. If you've heard something 255,000 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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AVweb Video: Look, Listen, Laugh and Learn back to top 

Video: Total Eclipse Flight Demo

Original, Exclusive Videos from AVweb | Reader-Submitted & Viral Videos

Eclipse is touring the country with its Total Eclipse, a factory re-do of the original EA500. But the airplane is a good stand-in for new production airplanes, which will be called Eclipse 550s. AVweb recently took a flight demo in a Total Eclipse and prepared this video report.

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If that doesn't work, click here to watch on YouTube

Names Behind the News back to top 

Meet the AVwebBiz Team

AVwebBiz is a weekly summary of the latest business aviation news, articles, products, features, and events featured on AVweb, the world's premier independent aviation news resource.

The AVwebBiz team is:

Tom Bliss

Editorial Director, Aviation Publications
Paul Bertorelli

Russ Niles

Scott Simmons

Contributing Editors
Mary Grady
Glenn Pew

Kevin Lane-Cummings

Ad Coordinator
Karen Lund

Avionics Editor
Larry Anglisano

Have a product or service to advertise on AVweb? Your advertising can reach over 225,000 loyal AVwebFlash, AVwebBiz, and AVweb home page readers every week. Over 80% of our readers are active pilots and aircraft owners. That's why our advertisers grow with us, year after year. For ad rates and scheduling, click here or contact Tom Bliss, via e-mail or via telephone [(480) 525-7481].

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