AVwebFlash - Volume 20, Number 19b

November 13, 2013

More Ready-To-Fly RV-12s From Van's

Van's Aircraft is now taking orders for its second batch of ready-to-fly RV-12 airplanes, the company said this week. Van's, which has sold more than 8,000 kits around the world, offered a dozen S-LSA versions of the RV-12 last year, and sold out the first day. The new batch of 12 sells for $123,000 each, fully equipped, or $115,00 for the base model. The aircraft components are built by Van's and assembled into an S-LSA by Synergy Air, of Eugene, Ore.

The RV-12 is powered by a Rotax 912 ULS, and equipped with a Dynon Skyview EFIS, LED lighting, an upholstered interior, ergonomic seating, and more. The fully equipped version comes with ADS-B, autopilot, and wheel fairings -- and the signature of Dick VanGrunsven, company founder, on the fuselage. Deliveries are expected to take about four to six months. Wally Anderson, of Synergy Air, told EAA he expects the production rate will eventually ramp up to about 50 airplanes per year.

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Doolittle Raiders Offer Final Salute

Three of the four surviving members of the 80 crew members whose 1942 attack on Japan made them Doolittle’s Raiders met for the last time publicly at the National Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio, last Veterans Day weekend. The men held a pact that the last survivor among them would open a 1896 vintage bottle of Hennessy cognac gifted to the raid’s leader, Jimmy Doolittle, and drink to his lost comrades. But the four surviving men resolved last year to break the bottle’s seal and share a drink together at one final public meeting. One of the men is 98-year-old Dick Cole, who was in the first B-25 to leave the aircraft carrier USS Hornet, flying as Jimmy Doolittle’s copilot. “The story has run its course,” he told NBC news, “It’s about time to tie things up and ride off into the sunset.”

Cole was joined by fellow raiders David Thatcher, 92, and Edward Saylor, 93. Robert Hite, 93, was unable to attend due to his inability to travel. The other men met at the National Air Force Museum and visited a memorial erected there in honor of their mission. Cole recalled his desire to serve following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. “I wanted to be one of those guys who go after the bad guy,” he told NBC News. He got that wish, flying the first B-25 off the deck of the USS Hornet on its mission to bomb mainland Japan. For 68 years following that raid, the men gathered to toast those comrades who died either in the raid or in the lives each man lived thereafter. Cole recounted his memory of learning that he would fly with the already legendary Jimmy Doolittle. “I was awestruck to begin with,” he said. “He didn’t fire us, so it worked out fine.” He also recounted parts of the mission. “We didn’t find out where we were going until we were two days at sea. There was a lot of jubilation. After a while it sank in and people became quiet.” The root of the problem, said Cole, was that another country had encroached upon ours, “doing a lot of damage and killing a lot of people.” Of his role, he said, “In our book that was a symbol that it was war and it was our job.”

Aviators Honored On Veterans Day

At museums and parades across the country, aviators and their contributions to the U.S. military were remembered over the Veterans Day weekend. The Air Museum In Palm Springs, Calif., introduced its newly renovated Vietnam-era Republic F-105D Thunderchief bomber. In Mesa, Ariz., four U.S. Navy veterans from World War II, all in their 90s, went flying aboard a restored B-17G at the Arizona Aviation Museum. In San Antonio, Texas, the nonprofit Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation gave free flights to veterans in a 1942 Boeing Stearman. And one veteran, a retired Air Force colonel, asked for aviators from the Cold War to be remembered, too.

"In one aircraft alone, the B-47 in which I served, nearly 1,000 perished in fatal training accidents as part of the force that made the Soviets think twice before launching a nuclear attack on the U.S.," Louis J. Malucci, of Fairport, N.Y., wrote in an online op-ed. "But who remembers?" In Washington, D.C., the American Veterans Center featured two aviators among its 2013 honorees, who were feted in a gala awards event over the weekend. Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr., the first African American aviator in the Marine Corps, and USAF Col. George "Bud" Day (posthumous), who flew in the Korean War and Vietnam, both were recognized for their contributions.

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Small Aircraft Lands Aboard Cargo Ship

The deck of a cargo ship in the English Channel became a landing site recently for the pilot of a Foxbat Xtreme STOL airplane. The landing, caught on camera from several angles, was a carefully planned stunt by Dutch pilot Jaap Rademaker. "The ship was sailing at 9 knots speed over ground, the true windspeed was 14 knots, just about the full flap stall speed with just myself in the plane and full long-range fuel tanks," Rademaker wrote at his YouTube site. "What is misleading is that control is perfect at several meters above the deck, but as soon as you get a meter or two above the deck to land, 1) there is curl-over turbulence coming off the bow and sides, 2) you have only some visual reference, like the mast in front. I won't do it again." Rademaker took off safely, but only with help from crewmembers who held the airplane struts steady while he powered up, because the tires were slipping on the deck.

The Oct. 17 landing was planned by Rademaker to promote the shipping company, in which he is an investor, according to AOPA. The captain of the ship prepared the deck by filling in recessed eyelets used to lash down cargo, and trimmed the bow as low as possible. Rademaker told AOPA that after he landed, the ship was pitching and rolling, and crewmembers grabbed the struts to keep the airplane away from the rails. He was accompanied by a Cessna 172 chase plane and a rotorcraft with video cameras onboard, and crewmembers on the ship also contributed video.


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Terrafugia Seeks New Small Investors

Federal rules that limit how people can invest in startups recently were changed, making it easier for small investors to buy shares, and Terrafugia has taken advantage of that by posting a new investing opportunity on the funding site Wefunder. Terrafugia launched the Wefunder page in late September, CEO Carl Dietrich told AVweb on Monday. "To date, Terrafugia has been entirely funded by large 'angel investors' who have been in a position to write pretty large checks, but there are a number of accredited investors who are interested in investing smaller amounts," Dietrich said. "It has not made sense in the past to allow very small investments (for logistical/voting reasons), but Wefunder groups lots of smaller investors into one fund which then gets one vote -- minimizing the logistical overhead for us."

According to the Wefunder site, "accredited investors" are wealthy individuals with assets over $1 million and high incomes. "Crowd investors" are everyone else. Currently, only accredited investors are allowed by federal law to invest in startups, but a new law that takes effect next summer will allow everyone to invest. Crowd investors will be limited to risking no more than 10 percent of their income. Both types of investors can use the Wefunder site. "The Wefunder page is an experiment to find out how significant such a source of 'crowdfunding' might be for us," said Dietrich. "We are optimistic about the potential, but unsure about the reality." The Terrafugia offer so far has garnered more interest than any other offer on the site, Wefunder founder Nick Tommarello told CarTalk blogger Jim Motavalli. Dietrich said so far no money has changed hands, "So the jury is still out!"

Click here for a video of Terrafugia's first flight at AirVenture 2013.

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Gulfstream Moves To Stop G650 Market Speculation

Gulfstream has taken extraordinary measures to prevent speculation in the market for its flagship G650 long-range big cabin business jet. As we reported in October, an early position holder of the $65 million aircraft, Formula One luminary Bernie Ecclestone, sold his almost-new G650 at a $7 million premium to the owner of a soccer team. According to NBC, there have been a few deals since and a few more are pending and Gulfstream has had to plug loopholes in its sales agreements to prevent the aircraft from being sold before they're actually delivered. "Customers cannot sell the aircraft before they've physically taken delivery of it. This prevents speculation, which isn't good for the market," Gulfstream told the network. 

Some would-be speculators tried to get around the policy by setting up dummy companies to buy the jets and then selling the company to a new buyer, effectively transferring ownership of the future order. Gulfstream has quashed that gambit by requiring the person who signs the sales contract to be personally involved in the final delivery of the aircraft. Oprah Winfrey and Ralph Lauren are among those drumming their fingers waiting for a G650, according to NBC.

Reaper Drone Down In Lake Ontario (Corrected)

A Reaper attack and surveillance drone has gone down in Lake Ontario during a training mission about 1 p.m. local time. The Reaper belonged to the Syracuse, New York-based 174th Attack Wing of the Air National Guard, which trains Air Force pilots to fly them all over the world. The flight originated at Fort Drum north of Syracuse and the aircraft was operating in designated airspace on the eastern side of the lake. It was not armed and no injuries were reported. 

The Coast Guard and personnel from Fort Drum were searching for the wreckage late Tuesday. There was no word on what might have caused the crash. The Reaper looks like its surveillance-only predecessor, the Predator, but it has considerable offensive capability. For one thing, it has a 950-horsepower turboprop rather than the 115-horsepower piston engine on the Predator. It can carry thousands of pounds of munitions from missiles to smart bombs.

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Space Thrill Rides: Shuttle or Gemini?

That faint humming sound you hear is the media-industrial complex gearing up for the first commercial space tourism flights, which Virgin Galactic seems likely to pull off next year, if not sooner. On NBC news Friday, I saw an advance story on Virgin Galactic with an interview with Richard Branson. It’s pre-promo; NBC has signed a deal to broadcast the first flight live on the Today show. It promises to be quite the spectacle.

Right behind Virgin is another company, XCOR, which also intends to compete in the space tourism business, but its longer term goal is a reusable orbital vehicle. The two companies are offering very different rides indeed. XCOR, you might remember, is the company that developed the engines for the Rocket Racing League, one of those terrific, holy-cow-cool ideas that just never seemed to jell, although they did some spectacular demo flights at AirVenture.

It’s not much of an exaggeration to say Virgin Galactic is offering the Space Shuttle to XCOR’s Gemini. Virgin’s space craft is a Burt Rutan-conceived eight-person design—six passengers and two pilots—that’s air launched from 50,000 feet from a purpose-built aircraft. XCOR has the Lynx, a two-person spacecraft that’s not much larger than a Cirrus SR22. It’s uncompromisingly optimized for altitude, not payload, and it’s ground launched from a runway, not an aircraft in flight. Virgin’s Space Ship Two has a hybrid solid-fuel/oxidizer engine while the Lynx uses four liquid fuel rockets.

Quite a difference in ticket prices, too. Virgin Galactic, which claims to have 600 passengers signed up, is charging $250,000 compared to $95,000 for the XCOR ride, at least as of now. The Lynx hasn’t flown yet, while Virgin Galactic’s Space Ship Two is well into testing.

Reading about these two approaches to space rides—Michael Belfiore wrote an insightful article on Lynx in the November Air&Space magazine—got me to thinking which one I’d pick if I had that kind of money to toss away on an afternoon joyride. A quarter of a million bucks is a lot of money, but you and I both know people who can afford it. Question is, would they decide to?

Money aside, the Virgin ride sounds more bus like, promising the group dynamic of training together for a couple of days, a longer overall flight because of the air launch phase and, best of all, the opportunity to unstrap and float around the cabin for a bit in zero G. That sounds like fun, but you could do it for a lot less through Zero G Corporation’s parabolic flights. Of course, the view’s not nearly as spectacular.

In the Lynx, it’s just you and the pilot. No air launch claw for altitude and maybe not the same anticipation of what’s about to happen, either. The thing is towed out to the runway, cleared for takeoff and it’s one eyeball-squashing, ears-pinned-back grand swoop from rotation to the top of the arc at 330,000 feet. You get the zero G, but you have to stay strapped in the seat. Like Virgin’s Space Ship, Lynx returns to the departure runway as a glider.

So which would it be? Tough call. Since I’m basically an anti-social grump, I have no overwhelming desire to “share” this experience with five other people. I’d just as soon sit next to Rick Searfoss and beg for some Lynx stick time. I’d exchange floating off the seat in zero G for the raw sensation of pointing straight up and reaching Mach 1 and 2.5 Gs in about a minute, all from the front seat. Not bad. You could do two of those flights and have change left over for a small yacht.

Either way, it’ll be great to have a choice in space thrill rides, even if I never get to make one. How about you? Shuttle or Gemini?

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

Video: Pilatus PC-12NG Flight Review

With a cruise speed of around 270 knots and a price tag of nearly $5 million, the 2013 Pilatus PC-12NG isn't the fastest or the least expensive single-engine turboprop on the market.  It is, however, arguably in a class of its own.  That's because it has a cabin that can carry 1,200 lbs. of payload while carrying over 400 gallons of fuel, the ability to operate from unpaved runways, and a huge 53x52-inch cargo door.  In this video, Aviation Consumer's Larry Anglisano takes a look at the airplane.


Video: Experimental Lighter-Than-Aircraft Rally (XLTA) 2013

At an annual fly-in in Connecticut, pilots who design and build their own hot-air balloons gather to fly their aircraft, learn from each other, and try out new ideas.