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AVmail: Jan. 7, 2008

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APAME Electrical Flight

While not denying the accomplishments of APAME, their Web site claim of the first electrical plane flight is a little over the top. Go here for a link to a story about flights as early as 1980 in the Gossamer Penguin. There may have been others. For some, just taking off and landing is 90 percent of the joy of flight. Lack of range is less of a concern for them. David MacRae

Australian Engine Failure Report

I read through the 269-page report with interest, remembering John Deakin's columns on this subject. Instead of some exotic theories about "systemic feedback failures," there are some very practical things that CASA/ATSB could do themselves to prevent future such failures. These are the kind of things that conscientious aircraft owners do themselves. Forthwith, the operators of the 200 or so commercial aircraft that were the major focus of the engine study would have to do the following:
  1. Install multi-probe engine monitors (EDM-760 or equiv.) with data logging, teach the pilots how to use them to diagnose and avoid detonation, and download, analyze and retain the data from these analyzers. These data would be part of the aircraft maintenance record and would be available to CASA on demand.
  2. Do routine borescope inspections, with digital photography of the cylinders and piston crowns at each 100-hour inspection. The goal would be to look for evidence of detonation-induced damage. If the photographs in the report are accurate, it should be possible to identify engines that have been abused before there is another detonation-induced failure.
  3. Require oil and filter analysis, looking for evidence of incipient front-main-bearing delamination failures, among many other things. I can't believe that this isn't already required, but the report doesn't say so. These analyses should also be part of the permanent maintenance record for each engine.
  4. CASA inspectors should routinely review these three items on a random basis (random drug tests for engines).
These steps wouldn't solve every problem, but it's better than whining about feedback failures. Jim Grant

Picture of the Week

Regarding last week's POTW -- "It's Lonely On Top": It's a beautiful photo, of the clouds and of the airplane, but it looks like a Photoshop job to me -- the shadows are all wrong, as is the sunlight on the canopy. Nothing wrong with being creative, but if it's an altered image, I wish the photographer would say so! Jane Carpenter

AVweb Replies:

You weren't the only one who took us to task for choosing Bob Burns's Big Beautiful Doll pic as last week's winner, Jane.

While we've softened a bit in our stance toward "doctored" photos, I have to admit (a little sheepishly) that the final order for last week's "POTW" column was decided from looking at thumbnails rather than the full-size submissions, and I overlooked a few of the more obvious signs of compositing. Had I realized it at the time, I readily admit, we may have had a different winner.

Nonetheless, Bob's been a semi-regular contributor to our weekly contest for a couple of years now, and he's always been upfront about digital manipulations on his photos in the past. I have no reason to doubt his intentions, and based on the dozens (maybe hundreds) of Robert Burns pics I've gawked at in the last couple of years, I think he's more than earned his hat.

For the record, we do prefer that contestants acknowledge any digital manipulations in the "comments" field when submitting their photos ... and starting today, we're including a note to that effect on the submission form. Selecting photos for the "POTW" feature is a time-consuming job as-is, and I doubt we could afford to keep doing it if we had to check the authenticity of every single photo we considered for publication. "Picture of the Week" is a team effort between our editors and submitters, and one of the few features where we all get paid in the same currency: good, old-fashioned fun.

Keep 'em coming!

Scott Simmons
Webmaster

Biggest Story of 2008

Editor's Note:

Two weeks ago, in our Question of the Week, we asked AVweb readers for their suggestions on the biggest aviation story of 2007. This time we asked what would be the biggest story for 2008, and again our readers responded in force.


The world demand for commercial pilots is growing (while the supply is shrinking?). Besides the regional- and large-airline demand for pilots, the government (civilian and military) is using ever more civilian pilots to control its UAVs. In India, there is a critical shortage of left-seaters, but an excess of co-pilots. Flight schools can turn out the co-pilots rapidly but there is no way to turn them into left-seaters quickly. My vote for the big story of 2008 is this growing shortage. I think 2008 might be the year the general public starts to become aware of this situation due to flight cancellations and general inconvenience in public travel. Paul Mulwitz
The coming disaster, when an overworked (six-day workweeks, mandatory OT, short to non-existent breaks while on duty) controller, possibly one of the FAA's so-called "new" controllers with too little experience, puts two aircraft together either in the air or on the ground. I just hope that none of my family or friends is involved. It will happen, it's just a matter of time. Don Craig
Cessna will announce a pressurized, retractable version of the Columbia. It will fly at FL250 and cruise at 250 knots, giving it the unquestionable lead in piston airplanes. Colyn Case
The price of fuel. Adam Hunt
[and] Thomas Rudolf

Further curtailment of aircraft use and ownership due to high costs/prices: 100LL $5.00+ and LSA $125,000+. Phil DeRuiter
Actually, I have two guesses ... one for GA and one for the airlines:
  • Rising fuel costs putting the brakes on flight time and student starts (will also affect airlines); and
  • A major airline merger, with possibly a second, before the November elections.
Of course, if my crystal ball was any good, I'd be driving a Ferrari and vacationing in the Swiss Alps. John DeWald
It's going to be the merger/buyout of at least one and maybe two "legacy" air carriers into other major air carriers, further consolidating the airline industry and reducing overall competition. The reason this will be significant is that it will signal the demise of all of the legacy carriers eventually. David R. Overly
First flight and delivery of the Boeing 787. This airplane is a major advancement in design and efficiency. Robert Murphy
Biggest story may be the effects of the public's general turning away from conventional, commercial air travel in the wake of intolerable handling by airport "security." Possible emergence of more mass travel via rail, road, on-demand and scheduled piston, turbine, and VLJ-style air service. Joe Stamper
By the first quarter, there will be at least 200 VLJs zipping around to and fro. What kind of impact does this have the system? What kind of impact do the resales have on the existing fleet? Could airports choose the market they wanted to serve by eliminating 100LL? Presumably the well-healed and business users will be looking more and more for Jet A. This will be exacerbated with single-engine VLJs. Justin Cutler
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