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General aviation manufacturers have been talking for years about revising Part 23, the rule that regulates certification of small aircraft, and a draft new rule was recently released by the FAA. This far-ranging rule will affect almost everyone involved in general aviation, especially aircraft buyers and aircraft manufacturers. Tom Peghiny, president of Flight Design USA, has been keeping a close watch on the rulemaking process, and told AVweb at Sun 'n Fun today that "from our immediate position, regarding two- and four-place aircraft, it all looks good ...There's more options for bringing more light aircraft to the market."

What the rule changes mean, for example, Peghiny said, is that it might be possible for aircraft now sold as light sport aircraft to be certified, under the new rules, to fly into IMC, or to offer higher gross weights, or to offer increased performance in the two-place category. It will make it easier for manufacturers in Europe and elsewhere to offer their products for sale in the U.S. market. "It will also make it easier for entrepreneurs in the US to make simple four- and six-place airplanes," he said. "It really opens things up again. I think it's exciting, and it's a move forward for general aviation." Peghiny added that one thing the new rules won't do is to offer a pathway for certifying electric-powered GA aircraft.

Flight Design's C4 design has pushed against the limits of the current Part 23, coming out last year with a plan to use non-certified avionics, which is not currently possible. "This was critical for the C4," Peghiny said. "We really couldn't move forward that much … it's very positive that the NPRM came out and now it can move forward." The proposed rule is long and complex, and AVweb will be talking with more GA manufacturers, advocates and experts here at Sun 'n Fun for more reaction to what it will mean, and opinions about how it might change before coming a final rule — and how long that process might take.


The rules that determine how airplanes are certified are changing. Tom Peghiny, president of Flight Design USA, talks with AVweb's Mary Grady about the impact.

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Just in time for Sun 'n Fun, the NTSB has issued a new Safety Alert aimed at pilots planning to fly in to an aviation event. "Arrivals at major fly-in events … pose unique challenges for pilots (and air traffic controllers)," the NTSB says, "including extremely high-density traffic, special flight and communication procedures, a rapidly changing environment, and changes to air traffic control separation standards." Accidents have occurred, the NTSB says, when pilots were too slow and used an excessive bank angle (resulting in an accelerated stall), or overshot the runway when turning to final from a base leg or downwind leg (resulting in a cross-control stall).

Other issues that have contributed to accidents in the past include a lack of adequate preparation in reviewing the FAA's NOTAM prior to the event. "These NOTAMs are critical to ensuring flight safety because they contain special operational procedures, including arrival and departure routes, communication procedures, and other crucial safety information," the NTSB says. In addition, the environment of a major fly-in event, with crowds of people watching, may create pressure for pilots to continue an approach they are uncomfortable with rather than go around. "Several preventable loss-of-control accidents have occurred on arrival to such events because pilots have inadvertently exceeded their own performance limitations or those of their aircraft while operating in these unique environments," the NTSB said. The Safety Alert includes several tips to help pilots ensure they are prepared, as well as links to additional information.

Pilots can review and download the entire text of the Safety Alert here (PDF).
The Notam for Sun 'n Fun is posted here (PDF).


An original Wright brothers patent application that had been missing since 1980 was found in Kansas last month, in a limestone cave used to store records, the Washington Post reported this week. The packet of papers was supposed to have been kept in a vault at the National Archives in Washington. But when officials looked for it in 2000, to display at a special event, it was missing. Curators have been looking for it ever since. William Bosanko, COO at the National Archives, told the Post the documents had simply been misfiled by mistake. "Unfortunately, with billions of pieces of paper, things sometimes go where they shouldn't be," he said.

The Wrights had filed the patent application for their airplane on March 23, 1903, less than a month after they started building it. Nine months later, on Dec. 17, 1903, they flew it for the first time, at Kill Devil Hills. The application file, kept in a fat manila envelope, contains letters, affidavits, fee receipts, drawings, photos and examiner's notes, and more, according to the Post. The patent was granted in 1906. Mitchell Yockelson, an investigative archivist, told the Post he was "stunned" by the discovery. "If I had to pick one [crucial] document . . . that's missing, this was it . . . It's the holy grail." Parts of the file are scheduled to be exhibited in the National Archives Museum's West Rotunda Gallery in Washington starting May 20.


Alaska Air, based in Seattle, has agreed to acquire San Francisco-based Virgin America for $2.6 billion, the companies announced this week. "With Alaska Airlines' strong foundation in the Pacific Northwest, and Virgin America's California hubs … [the combined airline will offer] more than 1,200 daily departures to destinations across North and Central America," Alaska Airlines said on its blog. Both airlines have scored high with customers — Alaska Airlines ranked number one in The Wall Street Journal's annual airline scorecard for the last three years, and Virgin has ranked second for the last two.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the new airline might not please all travelers. "Passengers used to the opulent interiors of Virgin America Inc. planes with their recessed mood lighting and white leather seats up front might feel a bit let down to wind up on a less lavish Alaska Airlines plane," the Journal wrote. Virgin America launched just nine years ago, while Alaska Airlines has been flying for 84 years. The deal still must be approved by shareholders and regulators before it's finalized. The merger will create the No. 5 U.S. airline by traffic.

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At Sun 'n Fun 2016, Garmin introduced a new portable GPS called the area 660. Here's AVweb's first look at the new product, which will be on display at the show.


At Sun 'n Fun 2016, Just Aircraft is showing off its new Titan-powered SuperSTOL XL. Harrison Smith took AVweb's Paul Bertorelli for a half-day demo flight in the new airplane, and here's AVweb's video report.


At Sun 'n Fun 2016, ForeFlight is introducing some new features for its popular iOS application. Here's a review of what's new.


The Commemorative Air Force is at Sun 'n Fun with one of airplanes it's been flying the longest. The B-17 Texas Raiders is a must for warbird buffs who want to experience the sights, sounds, and smells of a true-to-life war machine.

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One of my least favorite things to do in covering shows like Sun 'n Fun is flying airplanes. Yeah, no kidding. The reason is that shows are just too hectic. The demo period is often compressed to less than an hour and if I get a lousy, rushed video out of the experience, I'm doing a solid. But that's the reality of modern journalism, I'm sad to say.

So what did I do Monday? I flew an airplane at Sun 'n Fun. But adhering to my new rule that will probably last until I'm up against the next tight deadline, I took a half day to get the job done right. Harrison Smith of Just Aircraft and I spent the full morning charging around between Plant City and South Lakeland in the company's new, Titan-powered 180-HP SuperSTOL XL. I got enough landings and takeoffs at both airports to get a real feel for this unique experimental. As you can see in the video, the SuperSTOL is a design uncompromised to do one thing well: short takeoffs and landings and, if that's your thing, stooging around at 500 feet at helicopter speeds.

The SuperSTOL has all the hardware to do this and that makes it unique to fly. It has retractable slats that pop out on their own when the angle of attack gets high enough and a pair of barn-door-sized Fowler flaps that add a ton of lift and drag. It has two other unique things: spoilers in front of the ailerons and landing gear with about a foot of compliant travel. These two things taken together mean that it has unusually crisp roll control at anything above taxi speeds and with all that gear travel, you can slam it onto the runway like a dead bug and it stays put without a hint of a bounce. I can't think of any other taildraggers that perform like that and in retrospect, I'm sorry I didn't try a wheel landing.

As you'll see in the video, the airplane is happy to be manhandled--practically abused--and because it has a locking tailwheel, it's far less likely to bite back. Smith encouraged me to land the airplane tailwheel first, followed by cramming the mains onto the runway. Sounds awful; works great. It's altogether one of the most forgiving and fun taildraggers I've ever flown. It's a little too heavy to be either an E- or S-LSA so if you want one, you'll have to build it. But if landing in a parking lot is your idea of a good time, the SuperSTOL is just the airplane for the job. Check it out this week at Lakeland.

What's Cooking? A Light Meal

Judging by the press conference schedule, we're not expecting the mother lode of new products at Sun 'n Fun this year, although there's some activity in gyroplanes and light sport. Garmin is stepping on the gas with a torrent of new stuff, including a new portable GPS I reviewed in this video and they're also showing the new G5 gyro for experimentals and LSAs, plus a line of new transponders with wireless and ADS-B capability. Dyon will be showing a new EFIS system, again for experimentals and LSAs, and Avidyne will unveil its own cockpit wireless products.

If there's any pronounced trend in avionics, connectivity seems to be it. If owners aren't absolutely demanding iPads that talk to transponders and ADS-B receivers and panel navigators, these companies seem determined to provide same. All of this is making my colleague, Larry Anglisano, editor of Aviation Consumer, a little nuts. In fact, we're both going a little nuts trying to keep up with all the wireless and ADS-B options. Even with the chart matrix in front of me, I get a little confused. I can imagine how buyers wanting to install this gear must feel. But if you want to see it in person before pushing the button, Sun 'n Fun is the place to be this week. More later.

Great Debate

Dan Johnson, head of LAMA, invited me to participate in a panel discussion on Wednesday, a reprise of a program he did at the Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring in January. He calls it the Great Debate and has invited other journalists including Robert Goyer of Plane & Pilot, Pia Bergqvist of Flying and Ben Sclair of General Aviation News to discuss salient issues of the day. (A tip of the hat here to Robert for mentioning my blog about Icon in a Facebook posting last week.)

The debate will be held Wednesday at 1 p.m. down in Paradise City. If you simply can't get enough of my outgassing in this space, feel free to attend. Security will be light, so you can probably sneak through that bag of rotten tomatoes you've been saving for a worthy occasion. There are two other debates, one on engines on opening day and a third on avionics.

While you're down in Paradise City, there are some LSAs worth checking out including one that isn't really an LSA at all, the ELA Eclipse 10, a Spanish autogyro being brought into the U.S. by Rob Rollison of Aerotrek. As I've reported before, autogyros in the U.S. live in a kind of regulatory backwater. The light sport rule doesn't have a slot for them, but if flown in the experimental category under the 1320-pound weight minimum, you don't need a medical to fly one. Go figure. It's too bad they can't find a spot in the U.S. They're crazy popular in Europe and I think they'd find buyers here, too. Read more about these in Dan Johnson's preview of light sport for Sun 'n Fun. 


While symbolism alone might win in the presidential-campaign circus, pilots who understand what's behind aeronautical iconography will impress hangar neighbors and have no trouble acing this quiz.

Click here to take the quiz.


Each week, we poll the savviest aviators on the World Wide Web (that's you) on a topic of interest to the flying community.

Visit to participate in our current poll.

Click here to view the results of past polls.


When the vast majority of American pilots want to go flying they rent an airplane from their local FBO, flight school or flying club. That means they have to go through some sort of a checkout with the aircraft provider before they can take the aircraft on their own. Whether the checkout is in a type the pilot hasn't flown before or with a new-to-the-pilot rental facility, there is a certain amount of uncertainty and discomfort for the pilot—after all, it's effectively a checkride. Plus, there usually aren't published guidelines for an FBO airplane checkout; unlike having the PTS to study when you're getting ready for a checkride for a rating. What should you expect? What will the instructor want to see?

Stripped to the basics, first, the FBO wants a new customer. It wants your checkout to go smoothly. Second, it also wants a customer who isn't going to do something foolish that costs the FBO money because the airplane can't be rented and/or has to be repaired because of damage that may or may not be insured.

With all of the above in mind, let's go through a checkout from the eyes of the person who is going to say yes or no to you becoming a customer, the CFI. I'll use "we" to refer to CFIs because this is based on not only my years of giving checkouts and taking FBO and flying club standardization checks, but also many, many hours of talking with other CFIs and FAA inspectors about checkouts and self-preservation when flying with someone I've never met before.


Whether it's a new airplane checkout for the pilot or a pilot checking out at a new operation, we greatly appreciate it when you come to our first session with an idea of what to expect of us and what we'll be expected of you.  We want you to come to the session prepared. Frankly, we don't like having to spoon-feed you all of the details about the airplane, from usable fuel to V-speeds because it's too much to retain in one session, especially if it's your first time in a glass cockpit. It also will take so long that, unless you've booked a very long time slot, there won't be time to go flying. By showing up prepared, you'll save money because you won't be paying for as much time with the instructor on the ground—it will probably take less time in the air as well.

We would like to get to know you a little before the checkout, because, believe it or not, every sane instructor is a little nervous about flying with a pilot he or she has not met. That's because virtually every one of us has had at least one good, solid scare at the hands of a pilot during a checkout. So, before the flight, arrange to call or exchange emails with us. That let's us get to know you and start making plans as to how to tailor the checkout for you. It also allows us to arrange for you to fill out any forms that are going to be required, including the company quiz on the airplane details, and make sure you have access to the POH data so you can study it before the checkout.

If you want a flight review and/or instrument competency check as a part of the checkout, say so ahead of time. Not all airplane/new FBO checkouts meet FR or IPC requirements, so the CFI will need to make sure the session includes what's needed for a FR and/or IPC endorsement. One way to really anger an instructor is to bring up the FR and/or IPC subject for the first time as he or she is signing your logbook after a successful checkout.

We want you to know what you will have to demonstrate for us to consider your checkout complete. After all, there should be measurable definitions of success. Let's establish objective standards for airspeed, altitude and heading. Your level of comfort with the objective standards helps us understand if you're a rusty pilot who may need a little time to flake off the rust or if the transition to a faster airplane than you're used to, or both, means that the checkout may take more than one session to complete.

If you're checking out in an airplane that has a minimum number of hours of dual required by the FBO before you can go off on your own, we'll talk about that and how to structure a syllabus that makes those hours as valuable to you as possible.

Have a current charts, either electronic or paper, and a way to take notes or record the session. There's going to be too much to memorize. You're going to be buried with local knowledge and FBO procedures as well as the informal gouge we've picked up over the years for operating the airplane. Much of what we're going to be discussing isn't written down in the FBO materials or the POH, so at least taking notes is essential.

As a side note, if you are going to record the session, your state law may require that you have the permission of those you are recording. No matter what the law, it's basic politeness to get your CFI's permission to record and, if you intend to share on social media, get permission for that as well. CFI's vary in their eagerness to be featured on the Internet.  

At the Airport

Arrive early. If you are new to the FBO, immediately get to know the person behind the counter. He or she will be the one you'll contact to schedule airplanes (if there isn't Internet-based scheduling) and who you'll call if you have a problem away from base. It's wise to turn that person into a friend.

If you haven't gotten the forms needed previously, get them from the receptionist and start filling them out. Your instructor may not be available yet (you're early, remember), but that's OK, you're taking care of the stuff that doesn't require an instructor's presence. Have a copy made of everything, especially the airplane checkout sheet, as it will be a good reference for you in the future. The more you have done and have ready to go when the instructor shows up, the less time the checkout will take.

Another side note, many airplanes have optional fuel tanks, make sure you know which tanks are in the airplane you are to fly and how much fuel it can carry. It's embarrassing to fill out a form regarding endurance with long-range tanks and subsequently experience that loud silence when you discover the airplane actually has standard tanks.

Once we sit down together, at a minimum expect to review FBO procedures, aircraft systems and speeds and FARs. We expect you to have a good working knowledge of the FARs and airspace. That's pretty basic—if it's not there, it's a caution flag for us and it will extend the time it takes to complete your checkout. We also want you to ask questions. We know that what you don't know can hurt you and your passengers. We're always concerned that we may omit something important during your checkout. When you ask questions it allows us to not only answer the specific question but also identify an area where you might be rusty so we can bring you back up to speed.

Installed avionics, especially on older airplanes on FBO flight lines, can vary all over the map. We'll take some time to go over what is in the airplane you're about to fly and make sure you're ready to handle all of avionics, including the autopilot.

Into the Airplane

We'll take our time during the preflight so you can start getting to know the airplane and/or local procedures regarding how the FBO handles preflights, obtaining fuel and what to do if there is a major squawk uncovered on the preflight. We want you to know the local etiquette for startup so you don't blow dirt all over other airplanes or into open hangars. Once in the airplane, we're going to be watching for good cockpit organization and practice—stuff you should know, regardless of the type of airplane you're flying—and that you know how to use a checklist.  

Once you've started the airplane and are moving, we want you to have time to begin getting a good feel for the little things that matter for smooth operation of the airplane and at this airport, such as the overall sight picture, blind spots, steering and brake responsiveness, how things look when you are on the taxiway centerline. We'll point out areas of concern on the airport such as blind or confusing intersections, where not to do a runup and noise-sensitive areas.

On takeoff, we expect you to do a reasonable job of tracking the centerline, or at least trying hard if it's a new-to-you airplane. If there is a crosswind, we expect that you'll have the ailerons deflected into it during the takeoff roll. Once in the air, we'll be watching to see that you use the trim and work to hold desired airspeeds as you are getting a feel for the airplane. We know that you will be busy, but we expect you to be aggressive in watching for traffic and making sure you take care of things that need to be accomplished after takeoff such as gear and/or flap retraction, turning off the aux fuel pump, setting climb power and handling needed communications.

We are wide-awake right now. We're paying full attention to what you are doing and how you are flying; it's self-preservation. Smooth, precise flying will go a long way toward causing us to relax and decide the checkout isn't going to take several hours.

Once at altitude, we're watching to see that you go through the cruise checklist and make sure you understand how to set the power to get what you want per the POH. We want to see that you can lean the mixture appropriately (ROP or LOP), then take care of any of the other systems that require attention while you work on getting the feel of the airplane and the area.

We want you to take the time you need to feel the airplane and see what it takes to hold altitude within plus or minus 100 feet and to set the trim so it flies hands off or close to it. See what is involved in changing fuel tanks and how the detents feel as each is reached.

Once in the practice area we'll have you do airwork to see that you can make the airplane do what you want it to do as you do. Plan on doing, at the very least, steep turns, slow flight and stalls. We want to see that you can get comfortable flying the airplane slowly as that it a common problem area we observe. We want you to slow the airplane down and change configurations to see if there is a pitch change with gear and/or flap extension and to see what it takes to fly it at five knots above stall speed and trim it to fly hands off. How much rudder does it take to keep the ball in the center? What is it like to make a go around from that configuration—similar to well into the flare on landing? What is involved in transitioning into a climb? This is your chance to fly the airplane near the edge of the envelope and learn what it's going to do while you have someone right there to catch you if you slip.

If this is a new airplane checkout, we understand that getting the maneuvers nailed down may take a few attempts as you sort out control forces, coordination and trim.

If this is a new FBO checkout, we are going to expect that you can do all of the maneuvers reasonably well the first try. We came into a "new to the FBO" checkout assuming you know how to fly the airplane; this is not the time to disabuse us of that notion. Nevertheless, if it does turn out that you are demonstrating evidence of rusty technique, we'll switch gears and work with you to bring your performance up to scratch.

The emergency procedures will be the ones you've done forever: engine failure, fire in flight, jammed controls, system malfunctions, emergency gear extension and the rest. We want to see you handle the initial "memory items" of each emergency correctly and smoothly and then pull out the checklist when time allows to make sure you took care of everything. You'll be expected to follow the old simple rule of emergencies—fly the airplane, deal with the problem, fly the airplane, communicate.

Back to the Airport

As you return to the airport, we want to see that you plan the descent, run the checklist (printed or oral) arrive in the pattern on altitude and on speed and communicate appropriately. The whole process should be smooth and reflect your ability to plan ahead. In a new airplane it may take a while to get a feel for the speeds involved so that you do arrive at pattern altitude where you want to and with the speed where you want it.

Plan on doing a series of landings. In a new airplane we'll work with you on establishing a routine in the pattern.

We are looking to see that you can fly the airplane on speed, are ahead of it in planning each part of the pattern, can handle a crosswind, know where to flare and can keep the airplane straight on landing and rollout. We are not going to be hypercritical regarding how smooth the landings are—control of the airplane is far more important. We will ask you to demonstrate a short field takeoff and landing and should work with you on developing a feel for how much runway is required for the normal takeoffs and landings. We'll also work with you on handling any quirks of the airport location that affects approach and landing.

In many higher-performance airplanes, a forward c.g. and full flaps cause the control forces in the flare to be fairly high (the further forward the c.g., the more stable the airplane, so it resists your attempts to slow it down). We'll want to make sure you have the airplane trimmed for the appropriate approach speed on final. However, if you have to make a go around, that can have the effect of pitching the nose up significantly—we'll also work with you on go-arounds so you can see what you have to do to retrim while making needed changes in flap deployment.

Two of the big things we're watching for on landing is that you fly the airplane on speed on final—too fast is a major cause of landing accidents—and that you can handle a crosswind and keep the ailerons into the wind throughout rollout.

If this is just a new FBO checkout, you'll probably be doing the above in an abbreviated fashion. The more precise you fly early in the flight, the more likely it is that we are going to keep the checkout short and sweet (read inexpensive) as we can see you are perfectly capable of flying the airplane and have done so before.

After the landings we'll watch to see that you taxi in with aileron deflection for the wind and shut down per the checklist. We'll outline the procedures for securing the airplane per the FBO preferences. Once inside, plan to sit down and go over the flight; what went right and what you need to work on. Again, make notes, as this is often the time that we give you some very useful operating tips based on what we just observed. If you have met the measurables we agreed upon prior to the flight you can plan on being signed off and you'll walk away with that good feeling that you didn't scare us and become one of those stories we tell other instructors over adult beverages.

Rick Durden is a CFII and holds an ATP with Douglas DC-3 and Cessna Citation type ratings. He has been instructing for over 40 years and is the author of The Thinking Pilot's Flight Manual or, How to Survive Flying Little Airplanes and Have a Ball Doing It, Vols 1 & 2.


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