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The B-29 "Doc" will return to the air on July 17, the warbird's restoration team announced Friday. The Superfortress' first flight is slated to take place at McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, adjacent to the restoration hangar where volunteers worked for years to rebuild the four-engine heavy bomber. Doc's Friends spokesman Josh Wells told AVweb the flight is subject to favorable conditions, including a southerly wind with no rain. It will take place in the early morning before the heat of the Kansas summer builds up. While security at the base will be tight, information on the timeline and public viewing options will be provided as the flight day nears. There also will be a live webcast, Wells said.

The organization recently received official approval from the military to fly out of McConnell as crews conducted ground tests on the tarmac. The restoration project had gained momentum in the past year thanks to successful fundraising efforts to support flight testing. "Hundreds of volunteers have spent thousands of hours working to restore this national treasure,” Doc’s Friends said in announcing the first flight. “After 16 years of hard work, sweat, tears and tireless attention to detail, we are ready fly.”

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A British pilot could face criminal charges in the crash of a Hawker Hunter vintage jet at the Shoreham Air Show in August of 2015. Andy Hill, 52, survived the fiery crash into a busy highway that killed 11 people on the ground. Although he has not been formally charged, the Daily Telegraph is reporting that he has been told he is being investigated for manslaughter by gross negligence. Hill failed to pull the Cold War fighter out of a loop during his routine at the airshow. Hill, an ex-military pilot who was also a British Airways captain, was severely injured in the crash, which happened on the first day of the show last Aug. 22.

In addition to the criminal charges, Hill is also being investigated for endangerment under the U.K.’s aviation regulations. A hearing will be held later this month to decide if data recorder information, video footage and reports from experts can be released to the Sussex Police for their investigation. Meanwhile, the local coroner is pressing for a full inquest that she estimates will last eight weeks. It could be held next March. It was the second worst airshow accident in the U.K. A crash at the 1952 Farnborough Air show killed 31. After the accident, the British government restricted vintage jet displays to flypasts and banned aerobatics. It also temporarily grounded civilian Hawker Hunters.

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For the first time since the Second World War the Air Force is training enlisted personnel as pilots. The Air Force recently selected 10 enlisted Airmen to learn to fly the RQ-4 Global Hawk drone. They will train alongside officers starting in October and are expected to graduate in 2017. "We're opening the RQ-4 career field to enlisted pilots for the first time," said Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James. "We'll take this important step in a deliberate manner so that we can learn what works and what we'll need to adjust as we integrate our highly capable enlisted force into flying this weapons system. The intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance mission continues to grow in importance and our enlisted force will be central to our success.”

The enlisted folks will undergo the same training as the officers and have the same duties and responsibilities when they go to work. The Air Force eventually plans to train 200 enlisted personnel as drone pilots and the head of the enlisted force has is confident they’ll do fine. "There has never been a doubt that our enlisted corps could step up and accomplish this mission for our Air Force," said Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James Cody. "We'll certainly see that as the first enlisted Airmen go through the training. They will set the tone for the future of the RPA enterprise."

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A Delta Air Lines flight from Atlanta to Denver was diverted to Tulsa Saturday after up to 15 of the 150 passengers got sick. The passengers displayed symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning including headache, nausea and dizziness. Firefighters later reported finding elevated levels of CO. Tulsa Fire Captain Stan May told reporters that once the passengers in distress were moved to fresh air and given oxygen, they improved immediately. They were taken to hospital where tests confirmed elevated levels of CO in their blood.

It took several hours for Delta to get a replacement aircraft to Tulsa to take the rest of the passengers to Denver. The passengers were quarantined in the airport until the cause of the illness became clear. The aircraft will be flown to a Delta maintenance facility to see what happened.

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The BAE Typhoon will fly at Farnborough.

Two of aviation’s biggest events are coming up soon, with the Farnborough Air Show next week in the United Kingdom, running July 11 to 17, and EAA AirVenture arriving soon after, July 25 to 31, in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Among the most anticipated debuts for Farnborough is the first flight in Europe of Lockheed Martin’s F-35B Lightning II stealth fighter jet, and a possible flight demo by the enormous Airlander hybrid lighter-than-air cargo vehicle. Boeing will celebrate its 100th birthday on July 15 with a major display showcasing the company’s achievements, including a dynamic flight routine with the 787 (see video below), and Embraer will bring its new KC-390 jet airlifter. Farnborough will feature 22 international pavilions, with more than 1,500 exhibitors from 45 countries. Friday is set aside as Futures Day, with more than 7,000 schoolchildren expected to attend. 

At AirVenture, the huge Martin Mars water bomber will make its debut, on display all week at the seaplane base. The airshow will feature the Canadian Forces Snowbirds on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and the popular night airshow returns for two performances. JetBlue is bringing an Airbus A321 aircraft, and Alaska Airlines and Boeing have partnered to bring a Boeing 737, operated by an all-female crew, to WomanVenture, on Wednesday, July 27. Also on the schedule — a commemoration of the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, a salute to veterans, the 2 millionth Young Eagles flight, and as usual — 10,000 airplanes, 1,000 forums and workshops and more than 800 exhibitors.

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Founder and CEO of Icon Aircraft, Kirk Hawkins, spent his formative years in a way many pilots would envy—motocross racing, skydiving, flying little airplanes and ultralights and mucking around with boats. In the process he picked up a private pilot certificate and acquired an understanding of the wide appeal of motorsports, including recreational flying, across our population.

After college, Hawkins went to Stanford where he earned a master’s degree in product design and manufacturing. Stanford’s program heavily emphasized “humanizing” design—looking at the human side of the interface with the product as a primary objective. It integrated human factors (even the most brilliant humans make mistakes, the product shouldn’t kill them for doing so), user friendliness, ergonomics, attractive appearance and making it fun to use. In any conversation with Hawkins it becomes obvious that the philosophy of Stanford’s program closely matched his own and heavily influenced his company’s product, the A5 S-LSA amphibian.

Hawkins’ next step was into the Air Force where he flew F-16s on active duty and, subsequently, with the Air Guard. Following his active duty years, he became a pilot for American Airlines flying the Boeing 757 and 767. He returned to Stanford for business school about the time the FAA put out its NPRM proposing Light Sport Aircraft and the sport pilot certificate. His intense interest in motorsports and the idea of flying purely for fun—the recreational side of aviation rather than the transportation side—focused him on exploring the business potential of Light Sport Aircraft designed for those who wanted to fly because it is a hell of a lot of fun.

Light Sport Aircraft as a Stanford Case Study

Stanford’s business school utilizes the case study method in its program. The business potential of LSA became Hawkins’ case study, leading to an intensive focus and market research into the level of demand for purely recreational aircraft. Hawkins told us that his market research showed that there were a lot of people in the U.S. who wanted to learn to fly each year—his numbers showed 60,000—but that were blocked by barriers to admission. One of those barriers was the needless complexity of the private pilot rating. As Kirk pointed out, a private pilot has to demonstrate the ability to safely fly into the busiest of controlled airports in the country, day or night, yet pilots who want to fly for fun have no need to do so. He pointed out that pilots can legally and safely use 98 percent of the airspace at lower altitudes in this country without having to talk to ATC. He goal was to build an airplane that was designed for pilots who wanted to use that 98 percent of the airspace, would be easy and safe enough to fly for the lowest time pilots and would give them the information they needed to fly safely and stay out of airspace that required contact with ATC.

Hawkins told us that his research indicated that there was a significant level of latent demand for fun flying and that the sport pilot rating would be the ideal entry point for those who wanted to fly for recreation. Plus, if they found that they wanted to continue to add ratings—maybe even fly for the airlines—because they had learned to fly and spent their formative hours as pilots in a world that emphasized stick and rudder flying, they would be much more competent professional pilots than those that started out staring at a screen and using only wide, long runways. Hawkins told us frankly that, in his opinion, the sport pilot certificate is “The safest way to move into transportation flying.”

In our conversation, Hawkins detailed what we saw as a three-prong philosophy of building airplanes for what he described as the pilot who says “Where are my scarf and goggles?” The first level is to make it fun with such things as windows that can be removed easily, for the arm on the windowsill experience that attracts pilots to Cubs. Plus, make it an amphib; allowing some of the most fun flying there is.

The second, more buttoned-down, cautious prong of his philosophy is safety. He recognizes quite frankly that a certain proportion of those who are attracted to pure fun flying are from the “Hey! Watch this!” school of aviation or simply are very inexperienced. They are at risk of either aggressively doing something foolish or innocently making a bad mistake—and getting themselves into trouble at low altitude and low speed. That often means a loss of control event without time or altitude for the pilot to sort out what he’s done wrong before things stop abruptly. Hawkins wants his aircraft to be forgiving enough that even when a pilot messes up at low altitude, the windshield fills with ground and the pilot reacts by pulling the stick back to try and get the nose up, he will have a good chance of surviving. His approach is to design for that error and create an airplane that has a strong chance of safely climbing away from the encounter. 

Angle of Attack

An integral part of Hawkins' safety prong is to reduce the risk of landing accidents through the use of an Angle of Attack indicator for all maneuvering flight and landings. It was something he was exposed to as an Air Force pilot. He explained to us that the military learned more than 50 years ago that using airspeed when landing was an invitation to problems with loss of control, especially during landing rollout, often from flying too fast on final when the pilot was worried about stalling. The AOA indicator tells the pilot precisely what the wing is doing and corrects for weight and flap deployment. 

The third subsection of Hawkins' safety prong is to use tricycle gear. He told us that while there is the macho factor for tailwheel flying, the reality is that even very high time pilots lose control on landing in tailwheel airplanes at a rate two to three times higher than in nosewheel airplanes.   

The fourth subsection of the safety prong of Hawkins' discussion with us about design was to assure, as much as possible, that the pilot receives high-quality flight training geared specifically for the airplane. 

Closing out Kirk Hawkins' approach to aircraft design and manufacturing is his strongly expressed belief in taking responsibility for actions as a method of a manufacturer approaching the issue of product liability exposure. He has courted controversy by insisting that buyers of Icon aircraft sign an involved purchase and operating agreement. In it, the buyer is required to make a number of guarantees regarding who will fly and instruct in his or her airplane. To say it has caused a great deal of comment within the aviation community is to make the understatement of the week. Hawkins said that he and his company will be responsible for things they do wrong in the design of their airplane and training of pilots who fly it, and he expects that pilots who fly it will take responsibility for their risk management and operational decisions when flying.

As we wound up our conversation, Hawkins said, “An airplane is the ultimate metaphor for freedom." We agree. We think his vision for human-machine interaction based on his background in product design at Stanford is a step beyond what has been done previously in general aviation. His insistence on contractual agreement between Icon A5 buyers and the company has gotten the industry’s full attention. We’re going to be watching how the market responds to the offspring of Hawkins' vision, the Icon A5. Hawkins told us that 40 percent of the depositors are non-pilots—and he wants to bring more people into general aviation. We’re hoping he can. 

Rick Durden holds and ATP with type ratings in the Douglas DC-3 and Cessna Citation, is a CFII and seaplane instructor 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.


Heard on a recent flight

ATC: Skymaster 12345 clear to land

12345: I don't know about a "Master" but my instructor thinks Im a pretty good pilot. Clear to land thanks.

Greg Mills


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Now that the summer ditching season is in full swing, it’s time for my periodic public service announcement to remind you about beach landings. The last couple of weeks saw a bumper crop of unplanned water landings, three off beaches and one on a beach near Galveston, Texas. As I’ve said before, I’ve taken it on as my duty to apprise you of the actual risks of landing in the water compared to landing on the beach so if you’re ever confronted with the latter, you won’t put beachgoers at risk because you’re afraid of the water.

We reported on only one of these events. Last week, the pilot of a Cessna 206 in use for skydiving put the airplane on an unoccupied beach off Galveston, Texas, after the engine quit at 3500 feet. No injuries and no damage. Kudos. Evidently, the pilot was satisfied the beach really was clear of people and he chose it for his landing site. Two others occurred in Rhode Island and there was actually a fifth in Idaho, but it was a land-gear-down accident in an amphib and not exactly relevant to this discussion, but not irrelevant, either, as you’ll see.

The pilot of a Bonanza, Alexander Piekarski, 62, had an engine out in the V-tail on June 18 and successfully put the airplane in the water off a Rhode Island beach. State authorities said this: "The pilot made an attempt to head toward the Westerly Airport but as a result of a loss in altitude, he elected to make an emergency landing into the water to avoid people on the beach." No need to say anything other than well done. He suffered a bump on the noggin for his trouble.

In Texas, on July 2, a recent-model Waco YMF-5 biplane appeared to suffer an engine out over Lake Travis and the pilot put it in the water. Many pilots worry about the airplane flipping on touchdown and the Waco did. See the video here. But as is the outcome in the overwhelming number of such cases, the occupants got out anyway, with only minor injuries. The fourth accident also occurred in Rhode Island on July 4 when a banner tow airplane went into Narragansett Bay for unknown reasons. It’s not known if the airplane flipped, but whether it did or it didn’t, the pilot escaped harm and found his way to dry land. In the fifth incident, the aforementioned amphib mishap, the airplane also flipped as is almost always the case with land-gear-down landings on floats. Still, the pilot egressed and survived. Worth noting is that not all amphib flips are so agreeable; they’re very violent and fatals aren’t unusual. But they also aren’t really ditchings.

Like the broken-record nag I have become on this subject, the PSA moment is that all of these occupants survived, further reinforcing the fact that in controlled water landings, the survival rate is more than 90 percent. And that’s true whether the airplane flips, floats, catches a wing of skips like a stone. If you’ll just remember that single fact, you’ll be properly armed if you ever have the misfortune of staring at a crowded beach through a windmilling propeller and you’ll be able to do the right thing without fear. Watch for a rerun of this message next year.

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At Super Bowl 50 in February, the Blue Angels made the briefest of appearances with a fast flyby with smoke. The team shot some terrific cockpit footage and we're featuring it as this week's AVweb featured video.

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Gas balloons are relatively rare in the U.S., but a group of pilots has banded together to form the Aero Club of America and make this silent form of flight easier to access. This training flight launched from Akron, Ohio, last year. Photos by Noah Forden.

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