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Mooney Restructures For Less Debt…
Last week, Mooney Airplane Company announced a new financial restructuring deal that may help balance the books. President Nelson Happy said the agreement gives Mooney “less debt and more cash,” as investors recognized the company needed more working capital and less debt. Specifically, the company changed the holdings of convertible debentures, which are basically credit notes, into share holdings, therefore making the investors interest more of an ownership stake. Happy said the result is a relatively small amount of debt and $5 million of working capital. While the financial restructuring is underway, Mooney’s personnel roster and facilities continue to grow. The company’s workforce has grown to about 175 employees, a 10-percent increase in workforce since the beginning of 2003. Happy said a large influx of orders could bump the workforce up to 250 employees.
…A New STC For The Cessna 206H…
This week, Soloy Corporation announced FAA certification of the Soloy Turbine Pac-powered Cessna T206H/206H. The Washington-state aircraft modification company has already delivered more than 60 turbine 206G model conversions over the past few years. The company claims the new package offers a host of improvements over its last mods. It says the major system advantages include the reliability of the Rolls-Royce Model 250-C20S engine, superior climb/cruise performance, international fuel availability and a particularly low noise/vibration signature. In addition, Soloy claims the engine installation equipped with the inlet/compressor facing aft provides maximum protection to the engine from foreign object damage.
… And Raytheon Scraps The Starship
While things seem to be looking up at Mooney and Soloy, Raytheon is preparing to eliminate the remains of a failed project. The company is planning to scrap the 40 remaining Starships in its fleet. The canard-design, twin-turboprop pushers were built from 1988 to 1995. It also owns the three planes built as prototypes. While the airplane’s debut initially made for a lot of hoopla and head-turning, its sales were dismal. The company said the leftover planes were only collecting dust, so Raytheon will now scrap and salvage components of the planes and add them to its parts inventory. To date, six aircraft — three prototype planes and three production planes — have been decommissioned. This decision was partly based on the cost needed to support such a small customer fleet. So, what’s the future hold for the few Starship owners out there? Raytheon is currently in discussions with the individual owners of the 10 aircraft not owned by the company.
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Unmanned Aircraft Seen As “The Hope For The Future”…
While unmanned aircraft, for obvious reasons, are an increasingly popular option for the military, drone builders are now expanding their horizons to the civilian market. This became apparent at last week’s Paris Air Show, a venue traditionally known for exhibiting the best specimens of manned aircraft. With the success of drones — like the Global Hawk — in recent military conflicts, the recent buzz seems to concentrate on the use of this technology for commercial purposes. We needn’t go far to see non-military drones already in use. The Helios, an unmanned solar-powered flying wing, shattered the world altitude record for non-rocket-powered aircraft in 2001. The aircraft successfully flew to 96,863 feet, powered solely by silicon solar cells mounted on its wing. The aircraft is now being prepared for another major milestone — the world’s first multi-day fuel-cell-powered flight in the stratosphere. NASA is looking into developing this technology as a test bed for the possibility of using these types of aircraft for commercial purposes.
…But How Safe Are They?
So, how safe would our skies be with a fleet of unmanned aircraft flying around? The U.S. government has asked NASA to research advanced collision-avoidance technology. You may remember AVweb‘s recent reporting on this program, which detailed this equipment and the role it may play in future development programs. One such system, ERAST, gives remotely piloted aircraft the ability to detect “incoming obstacles” at a range of six nautical miles. In theory, this would give the drone time to signal its ground-based pilot, who would follow up with necessary corrective action. In the meantime, it’s not likely drones will replace manned aircraft anytime soon but as more unmanned aircraft enter the airspace it will be interesting to compare the safety records of each category.
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State governments seem hell-bent on adding a hefty price to the cost of flying and AOPA has recently stepped up its fight against such measures. For starters, the Ohio House has inserted a previously deleted measure into its version of the state budget that would hike the registration fee for general aviation aircraft a whopping 800 percent. AOPA President Phil Boyer called on Ohio Gov. Bob Taft to exercise his line-item veto and eliminate the drastic jump. “That pilot has been paying about $12 to register his single-engine four-seat aircraft,” said AOPA President Phil Boyer. “He’s now going to have to pay $100; exactly the same as a major airline would for a 747 or an Airbus 340.” In New Jersey, the organization is concerned about a bill to require identity background checks for flight students. AOPA Senior Vice President of Government and Technical Affairs Andy Cebula sent a letter to the speaker of the Jersey General Assembly, arguing against the bill. “Using ‘watch list’ databases maintained by the CIA, FBI, and other intelligence agencies, the list of licensed pilots is thoroughly reviewed by federal officials to look for persons of interest who may be impacted by this rule,” Cebula wrote. In both cases, the original legislation had been deferred, only to resurface in new bills, keeping legislators and groups like AOPA on their toes.
The wildfire season is upon us and small aircraft are playing a more prominent role in putting them out. Because of the rash of accidents involving heavier firefighting aircraft last year, this season will see more use of smaller, single-engine airplanes fighting the blazes. This is mainly due to the U.S. Forest Service’s and the Bureau of Land Management’s restrictions on several larger models of fire tankers, including the C130A. The Baltimore Sun reported the big iron will have to carry 15-percent lighter loads to reduce wing stress. A fleet of Single Engine Air Tankers (SEAT) will take up the firefighting slack. SEAT aircraft, usually crop-duster variants, normally have a capacity of 500 to 800 gallons. While these small tanker aircraft have been around for a numbers of years, they were overshadowed by the larger aircraft. According to Bernie Post, who oversees firefighting operations for the Colorado State Forest Service in Fort Collins, last year’s fire season in Colorado brought a number of SEAT pilots to the skies flying 194 sorties against 61 wildfires. Post said 51 were brought under control in short order using the smaller aircraft. The Bureau of Land Management has leased SEATs for California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana and Nevada. In addition, the Bureau of Indian Affairs has contracts in Arizona, Minnesota and Washington.
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What do Oracle CEO Larry Ellison and the San Jose SaberCats have in common? They are combatants in the ongoing battle against San Jose’s airport curfew. Ellison won his battle, but Horta LLC, which owns the Boeing 727 used to shuttle the arena football team, is just starting its fight. It has filed a lawsuit against the city of San Jose to allow the use of the jet during the restricted hours of 11:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. City Attorney Rick Doyle claims the plane is louder than any aircraft allowed to use the airport during the curfew but Horta’s attorneys dispute that and want permission to use the jet during the season, which runs from February to June. James Chadwick, attorney for the company, said the 727 meets the criteria for an exemption under San Jose’s law. According to him, the requirements include that an aircraft be used in general aviation operations and that it be designated as Stage 3 compliant. Chadwick said the aircraft meets these qualifications and cites previous exemptions offered to jets, namely the Gulfstream used by Larry Ellison. The city fired back by citing its requirements that aircraft weighing 75,000 pounds and above need an exemption to take off and land late at night. So, is it a question of weight or noise? The court should straighten that out in a case that is already underway. Stay tuned.
A U.S. Air Force crew’s quick action may have prevented a South Pacific ditching by the crew of a Canadian cargo aircraft. The Kelowna Flightcraft Convair 580 was on a delivery flight from the company’s base in Kelowna, British Columbia, to Palmerston North, New Zealand, when the crew, two Canadians and a Kiwi, realized they were far off course. On the last leg of the flight, from Pago Pago in American Samoa, the crewmembers realized something was out of sync when their navigation gear said they were over New Zealand but there was nothing but deep blue sea under them. That’s when the Air Force came to the rescue. A U.S. Air Force C-141 Starlifter crew overheard an emergency call sent out by the Convair crew. After some initial calculations, the Air Force crew plotted a course to the signal, where the military jet intercepted and led the now very worried Convair pilots to safety. The aircraft, due at Palmerston North at 3 p.m., landed safely at Gisborne two hours later with almost no fuel in the tanks. Transport Canada is now investigating the navigational snafu and speculation seems to center on a programming error before the plane left Canada.
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Now that Boeing has a name for its new jet — the Dreamliner — the race is on to build a manufacturing facility for the ambitious project. To date, about 24 states have submitted bids to host the new assembly plant. All kinds of incentives — from tax breaks to favorable zoning — are being offered with the hefty proposals. The deadline for submittal was Friday the 13th, but Boeing declined to say how many states had actually submitted proposals. “Now the hard work for us begins,” Mike Bair, senior vice president of the 7E7 Dreamliner program, told the Associated Press. A Boeing team will evaluate the proposals against a set of criteria the company published in May and will announce a decision by the end of the year. Washington state is hoping to keep Boeing’s new jet business at home. Washington Gov. Gary Locke made a special visit to Renton to schmooze with Boeing execs and push for this opportunity to revive the ailing aerospace market in his state. In the meantime, Michigan offered up to $300 million in incentives over a 20-year period but analysts say the bid may not be enough to entice the company to build its new plant in the state. All this hoopla doesn’t seem to impress the company that will compete against the new airliner on the world market. The Dreamliner “is more a marketing tool than an engineering reality,” Airbus VP John Leahy told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. “It is more a PR threat.” Time will tell.
As the mystery of a missing African airliner lingers, more details of its disappearance, and a U.S. connection, are surfacing. The missing plane has been the subject of an international search since it vanished after departing Angola on May 25. The last known flight of the Boeing 727 was recorded shortly after it had been repossessed from Angola Air, which failed to make payments on the jet, according to the South African news service News24. A Florida family now claims a relative of theirs was the pilot hired to retrieve the aircraft. According to them, 51-year-old Ben Padilla had been contracted by a Miami-based firm to repossess the jet. They discount suggestions the aging airliner was stolen for criminal purposes. The family fears the jet crashed somewhere in the African continent. Stay tuned…
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The battle over Meigs is not over yet. The Friends of Meigs is asking for financial donations to support the ongoing legal battle for Chicago’s lakeside airport. The organization is raising $75,000 to pay the legal fees that will be needed if the Illinois Supreme Court rules in the group’s favor and orders a full, accelerated appeal hearing…
Eight passengers were slightly injured while evacuating an airliner in Tampa on Monday. The pax, who were apparently alarmed by seeing flames coming from an engine, inflated emergency slides and evacuated the Delta 757. The airline says the jet was pushing back from the gate when it experienced a “hot start.” The aircraft was not damaged…
Government officials from Taipei claim pirate radio signals are affecting area airports. Officials are said to have evidence proving that air traffic control communication channels of both Taipei’s Sungshan Airport and Taoyuan’s Chiang Kai Shek International Airport are adversely affected by signals from pirate radio stations during weekends. Telecommunication professionals doubt the telecommunication authority’s suspicions…
The EAA reports new regulations are helping those pilots who served to protect the U.S. The FAA is replacing an existing Special Federal Aviation Regulation (SFAR) to allow Flight Standards District Offices (FSDOs) to accept expired flight instructor certificates and inspection authorizations for renewals from individuals assigned outside the United States in support of U.S. Armed Forces operations. SFAR No. 100 is effective June 20, 2003 to June 20, 2005…
After months of investigation, NASA officials have set their sights on a new shuttle launch. The space agency is planning on reinstating the shuttle program in the first quarter of 2004 and expects to announce a launch date in about six weeks. The agency had previously targeted December for the launch of Atlantis on a flight to the International Space Station.
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*** PREVIOUS RESULTS ***
We received over 90 pictures last week. Congratulations to this week’s winner, Jim Parker, of Lutz, Fla. His photo, titled “VW Convertible” is certainly one of the most unusual we’ve seen so far. If you’re wondering what the structure is hanging from the aircraft’s wing, just take a look in the background. You’ll notice a “convertabalized” VW van sitting on the ramp. This is what happens when aircraft and automobiles hit. Great picture Jim! Your AVweb hat is on the way.
To check out the winning picture, or to enter next week’s contest, go to https://www.avweb.com/potw.
**Due to privacy issues, AVweb does not publish e-mail addresses of readers who submit photos.
*** PREVIOUS RESULTS ***
We received over 300 responses to our question last week on the Paris Air Show. The largest group (39 percent) of those responding felt the American boycott of the event was necessary and it was time for the U.S. industry to show its collective power. Following behind, 30 percent thought the holdout did the U.S. more harm than good, while 4 percent felt the American aerospace industry’s image was tainted in the process.
To check out the complete results, go to https://www.avweb.com/qotw.
*** THIS WEEK’S QUESTION ***
This week, we would like to know your thoughts on cellphone use in airplanes. Please go to https://www.avweb.com/qotw to respond.
Have an idea for a new QOTW? Send your suggestions to email@example.com. Note, this address is ONLY for suggested QOTW questions, and NOT for QOTW answers.
AVweb’s AVscoop Award…
Congratulations and an AVweb hat go out to Read Meban, this week’s AVscoop winner. Submit news tips via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Rules and information are at https://www.avweb.com/contact/newstips.html.
New Articles and Features on AVweb
Say Again? #25: Beating the System
The more pilots try to beat the system, the more work controllers have to do to keep everybody safe. AVweb’s Don Brown had a recent difficult week when Atlanta ARTCC was understaffed, under-radared, and overstressed. This kind of week will only become more common as both traffic levels and ATC retirements increase, unless everybody goes back to following the rules.
Set Up For Success
Sure you fly the gauges. The trick is to flow the entire panel with a procedure in mind. (This article originally appeared in the July 2002 issue of IFR Magazine and is reprinted here by permission.)
Sponsor News and Special Offers
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