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Jonathan Trappe, who has flown his custom cluster-balloon systems across the English Channel and the Alps, is now in Caribou, Maine, assembling a huge system that he plans to fly across the Atlantic, launching sometime Thursday. Col. Joe Kittinger, the last balloonist to cross from the U.S. to Europe, in 1984, is on site to provide support, and Don Day, the same meteorologist who advised the Red Bull Stratos launch, also is working with Trappe. Close to 100 volunteers, comprising fellow pilots and balloonists as well as trained local residents, are standing by to help assemble the 370 small helium balloons that will carry Trappe and his gondola -- actually, a small boat -- across the ocean. AVweb's Mary Grady was traveling to the launch site Wednesday and expects to be filing reports from Caribou.

Trappe has been preparing for the flight for two years, and has been based in Caribou for several months, waiting for the best possible weather system. "Two years of work, and years more of dreams," Trappe posted on his website on Wednesday morning. "The Atlantic Ocean has been crossed many times, and in many ways, but never quite like this. … An expedition of a scope and scale spanning countries, continents, and thousands of miles of open ocean -- the big blue deep -- as traversed from the big blue sky." Trappe expects the flight will take three to six days; his progress can be followed on his Facebook page and via satellite tracker. AVweb spoke with Trappe in June as he undertook preparations in Maine; you can listen to the podcast hereAVweb first ran across Trappe at EAA AirVenture in 2010; click here for the video.

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Photo courtesy of Cirrus Aircraft

Cirrus Aircraft will work with Lake Superior College, in Minnesota, to develop and implement a job-skills program in aircraft assembly, the company announced on Wednesday. The program is aimed at recruiting, training and preparing low-income individuals for jobs at Cirrus. "To keep up with production demands, we are projecting the addition of 60 to 80 new assemblers by the end of the year," said Cirrus President Pat Waddick. Students who successfully complete the program will get a chance to interview for a job at Cirrus. If hired, they will get paid training on-site.

The college program is supported by a state-funded grant, said Patrick Johns, president of LSC. "This project highlights how higher education, government and industry can work together to develop a workforce for the region's emerging aviation and manufacturing sector," he said. The school, with about 4,500 students, is the biggest two-year college in northeastern Minnesota.

Helicopter pilots on their way out of the military into civilian life got a boost last weekend when the Military Officers Association of America teamed up with Helicopter Association International to offer their first-ever career-transition seminar. The event, held in Alexandria, Va., provided seminars on interview techniques, job-search strategies, transitioning to civilian helicopters, and differences in the civilian work culture compared to military protocols. Twenty transitioning military officers attended the seminar, HAI said. The free workshop will be held again on Sept. 20, in Fort Belvoir, Va.

Several of the speakers at the event were former military pilots who had made the transition to civilian jobs themselves, HAI said. These professionals, some of whom have been in hiring positions in the industry, urged the pilots to practice in the smaller, less-powerful ships that are typical in the civilian industry, so they would be prepared for a pre-hiring checkride. The speakers also stressed that civilian pilots must make more independent decisions than they may be used to in the military chain-of-command. HAI said it "is convinced that the helicopter pilot and mechanic shortage is real and is here … [and] this offers real opportunities to military aviation professionals."

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The prototype fully rigid Aeroscraft airship produced by Aeros Corp has hovercraft landing gear and operates with a buoyancy system similar to that used by submarines and this week it received its experimental airworthiness certification from the FAA and began flight testing at Tustin, Calif. Aeros' prototype is 266 feet long and 97 feet wide. It is powered by three engines that provide both thrust and control (by swiveling), augmented at speed by aerodynamic control surfaces. First flights of the airship have been tethered, but untethered flights are expected to follow early next month, and possibly sooner. The test vehicle is ultimately expected to carry loads up to 2,000 pounds, but the final vehicle is expected to carry much more. And that has attracted the interest of the U.S. government. 

The Aeroscraft is being developed to lift more than 65 tons of cargo and deliver it efficiently (if slowly) over 3,000 nautical miles. The U.S. government has already funded the project to the tune of $35 million. Loading and (particularly) offloading 65 tons from an airship presents a buoyancy problem that Aeros believes it has resolved. That final vehicle is expected to have a body that is more than 400 feet long and contain within that structure fabric pressure tanks as part of a system the company calls COSH, or Control of Static Heaviness. COSH works by compressing the vehicle's lifting helium gas into the pressure tanks, making the gas heavier than air. The system allows the vehicle to alter its buoyancy without dumping expensive helium overboard. In theory, that system, complemented by the airships rotating engines, also means that the vehicle can takeoff and land on any suitable open area, and offload or load cargo without requiring extensive ground crew or gear.

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The blatant oversimplification of basic aerodynamics displayed in a new video implies we'll soon learn what agency, what company, or what individual has decided that showing a paper airplane steadily thermalling over a stove would be a good marketing concept. But, until then, let the debate rage. The video's own description claims it teaches viewers "how to make a paper airplane fly endlessly." It then shows a high-speed version of someone folding a paper airplane before initiating a seemingly perpetual flight. It also notes one very important step along the way. And that, for many pilots, may be where the questions begin.

At a pivotal juncture, the builder creates elevons and folds them to keep the airplane in a turn over an electric stove. The idea promoted here is that, with the burners on, the plane will turn left over the stove ... and maintain continuous flight in the lift created by rising currents of hot air produced by the stove's burners. Pilots might be more inclined to buy into the idea if the builder did not proceed to fold the airplane's elevons in a manner that would cause a traditional aircraft to bank to the right. Of course, the fact that the video is posted by ViralVideoLab may have its own implications. Have a look for your amusement at the video titled "Infinity Paperplane" as it appears to engage in autonomous dynamic soaring over an electric stove.

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Are you subscribed to our weekly newsletter devoted to business aviation? Delivered mid-week on Wednesday mornings, AVwebBiz focuses on the companies, products, and industry leaders that make headlines in bizav world.

Add it to your AVweb subscription by visiting the AVweb profile center and clicking on "Update E-mail Subscriptions."

Just in case you're not taking advantage of AVwebBiz, here are a couple of the stories you missed this week.

Six aviation groups, including AOPA, EAA and the National Air Transport Association, have asked the FAA to publish the data and analysis that led to the agency's proposal to require thousands of aircraft owners to inspect and perhaps replace certain ECi engine cylinders. The letter also requests that the FAA either withdraw its NPRM until that information is provided, or extend the comment period 120 days from the time additional information is provided. "To date the FAA has provided no supporting or substantial data of any kind to the docket to back its proposed action," says the letter (PDF).

The letter also notes that the FAA's own AD manual states that the AD docket "must contain any documents that support the 14 CFR part 39 action." The proposed AD would affect about 6,000 aircraft, requiring repetitive inspections and the replacement of many cylinders. It would cost operators an estimated $82.6 million. "The early retirement of cylinders goes well beyond the February 2012 safety recommendation of the National Transportation Safety Board," says the letter. The letter was also signed by representatives of the Cessna Pilot Association, the Twin Cessna Flyer, and Savvy Aircraft Maintenance Management. As of Monday, 361 comments had been posted to the FAA docket.

Seawind says it has overcome the final major technical roadblock to certifying its amphibious touring aircraft. In a news release Tuesday, the Pennsylvania company said it will be the first to certify a Part 23 aircraft with a stall/spin prevention system, clearing the way toward what CEO Dick Silva called "probably the longest certification of a general aviation aircraft in history." The unusual design of the Seawind, with its tail pylon-mounted tractor engine, prevented it from passing a key element of the flight test certification program. To be certified, an aircraft must recover from a spin in one turn without power. Because the prop blocks airflow over the tail, there isn't enough rudder authority to break the stall/spin. So, in conjunction with Canada's National Research Council, which is doing the flight test program, Seawind developed a combination stick shaker and pusher system to prevent the aircraft from ever entering a stall. "If an aircraft won't stall, then you can't put it in a spin," Seawind said in its news release.

All that's left for the certification is documentation of the performance figures for the aircraft. "They will be outstanding for an amphibian," said Silva. Seawind began as a kit aircraft but the company announced it would certify the design in 1993. It attracted more than 100 advance orders and throughout the long and sometimes frustrating certification process to date, there are still 50 orders on its books. “Production is poised to start and our production financing efforts are underway," said Silva.  "We owe a lot to our 50-plus order holders and especially those who became investors in addition to ordering a Seawind."

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At AirVenture, the really cool airplane wasn't from an airplane manufacturer but from Redbird, the guys who build motion simulators.  They showed off a nicely refurb'd Cessna 172 with a diesel engine from Continental, and they invited us to come fly it at their San Marcos, Texas Skyport.  So we did.  In this video, we offer a detailed analysis of the Redhawk, along with a closer look at the airplane's performance and cost figures.

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With a massive AD against ECI cylinders in the offing, we would like to know reader experiences not just with ECI cylinders, but other brands as well. If you've got five minutes to spare, you can tell us about your satisfaction--or lack thereof--with aircraft cylinders you've been flying behind. Just click here to take the survey.

We're asking specific multiple choice questions about cylinders, but also soliciting open-ended comments about reader experiences with cylinders. And yes, the proposed AD against ECI cylinders for head-to-barrel separation is definitely covered in the survey. This is your chance to tell us about these kinds of failures, not just on ECI cylinders, but for others as well. We'll publish the results in future AVweb news coverage.

Our best stories start with you. If you've heard something the flying world might want to know about, tell us. Submit news tips via e-mail here. (Or send them direct to Newstips at

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Picture of the Week

Robert Gahs of Boonsboro, MD tops our latest crop of reader-submitted photos.

AVweb is the world's premier independent aviation news resource, online since 1995. Our reporting, features, and newsletters are brought to you by:

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AOPA’s surprise announcement that it’s abandoning the annual fall Summit show came as quite a surprise, although anyone who’s been paying attention could have seen it coming eventually. From my point of view, it’s a welcome development and newly installed AOPA president Mark Baker deserves some props for making a decisive move barely days into his tenure.

So what’s the matter with Summit? Perhaps nothing, other than context. Given the size of the aviation universe and the fact that it’s in decline means that there are simply too many shows for vendors and attendees to keep up with or perhaps the frequency is just excessive. AOPA’s show never benefitted much from being renamed from Expo to Summit and its attendance has struggled, depending on the venue. A couple of years ago, during a dreary, rainy day in Hartford, I recall spending a solid hour in the press room by myself. Not a soul came or went. The exhibit floor was similarly sparsely attended.

I don’t know whether Expo/Summit is a cost center or a profit center, but I suspect at a dismal show like Hartford, it’s more likely the former. More important, I’ve always felt the show is marginal for both attendees and some vendors, who’ve already ground through a long, expensive show season starting at Sebring and culminating in AirVenture, not to mention a handful of smaller regional shows. Vendors I’ve spoken to in the past have been split; some find Summit a show worth the expense, others not so much. Late in the year and heading into winter, not many companies used Summit as a marketing springboard in the way that they use Sun ‘n Fun or AirVenture.

In cancelling it, perhaps AOPA is signaling that Summit is just an expensive distraction. Its press release on Tuesday said it will divert resources to grass roots events. Now grass roots is a much hackneyed description and I’ll confess I don’t even know what it means. But if it means a focus on more frequent, smaller shows, promotions and events and a clear emphasis on affordable flying for what passes as the masses—as suggested in the press release—that’s the right direction indeed. And if the market shifts, the association can always bring the show back or revert to a biannual format. 

But the most telling message in Baker’s decision may be this: Don’t count on business as usual. And that could be a good thing.

Join the conversation.  Read others' comments and add your own.

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While old airframes may keep soldiering on, the instruments and radios in the panels usually don't.  At AirVenture this year, Electronics International rolled out a new instrument designed to replace older instruments, including tachometers, engines instruments, and other indicators.  In this video, EI's Tyler Speed gives us a quick product tour of the new CGR-30P.

There's a need for affordable audio system upgrades for basic aircraft.  PS Engineering attempts to answer the call with the PAR200 -- a three-in-one system that combines an advanced audio panel, a stereo intercom, and a remote comm radio.  In this video, Aviation Consumer's Larry Anglisano takes a look at the unit during it's introduction at AirVenture 2013 at Oshkosh.