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Golf legend Arnold Palmer, one of business aviation’s most prominent cheerleaders, died Sunday in Pittsburgh at the age of 87. Palmer, who became one of golf’s first superstars, was also a tireless promoter of the use of private aircraft to boost productivity. He was a frequent speaker and guest at the National Business Aviation Association conventions and lent his celebrity for the promotion of NBAA causes. "For 50 years, the single most productive thing I've done is business aviation,” he said in a TV spot for NBAA in 2009. In 2010, he was awarded NBAA’s Meritorious Service to Aviation Award, the organization’s highest honor. EAA Chairman Jack Pelton, a longtime friend, said Palmer was one of the "greatest gentlemen" he's met.

As effective as he was as a spokesman, Palmer was also a highly accomplished pilot. He logged more than 20,000 hours, an unusually high number for a private aviator. He had owned 10 aircraft, starting with an Aero Commander and ending with the Citation X he flew on his final flight in 2011 when he voluntarily stopped flying. He also set speed records and flew around the world in 57 hours, 25 minutes and 42 seconds in 1976 in a Lear 76.

Palmer was well known among the aviation advocacy groups and late Sunday, EAA's Jack Pelton commented on his passing. "So sad to hear today we lost a golf legend, one of the greatest gentleman I have ever known, and an advocate for general aviation. Arnold Palmer was a supporter of EAA. More importantly for me he was the hero and role model for all the things our country was founded on. Thank you Arnie," Pelton said.

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NavWorx says it is working to resolve an issue with the FAA, which is refusing to process $500 rebate reservations for two models of transceivers the company makes. The agency is telling those who bought ADS600-B 200-0012 and 0013 models that they don’t qualify for the rebate because they are not fully in compliance with FAA TSO 154c that covers certification of ADS-B Out devices. The more expensive devices with model numbers ending in 0112 and 0113 do qualify. The difference appears to be that the GPS receivers in the non-qualifying devices are not TSO’d. NavWorx has told customers it’s entering discussions with the FAA. “We are aware of the issue with some of our products not being listed in the FAA Rebate program,” NavWorx said in a statement to customers. “The rebate team has been making contradictory and false statements about our company and products. We have begun to reach out and communicate with the responsible FAA personnel to rectify the issue. We ask that you give us a week or two at the most to get it resolved.”

For its part, the FAA has told those who have applied for rebates for the non-qualifying equipment that it has told NavWorx to stop putting the TSO C154C stamp on those transceivers. It also issued an unusual warning to customers who might be tempted to fudge the paperwork. “The FAA cautions that you may be subject to civil or criminal penalties for any knowing and willful misrepresentation in the reservation request or in any other matter or representation related to the reservation,” the agency said in an email to an AVweb reader who applied. The FAA has also said that it will extend the reservation application for those who plan to buy a qualifying system “allowing you additional time to identify a new product and complete the rebate process.”

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Three people were killed when two aircraft collided in North Collins, south of Buffalo, Sunday morning. The aircraft, a Cessna 120 and a Piper PA-28, had just taken off from Hamburg Airport. A 60-year-old man in one of the aircraft and a couple, both 69, in the other died in the resulting crash, which occurred about 9:30 a.m. local time. The aircraft were among a group of six heading off for a fly-in breakfast in St. Mary’s, Pennsylvania.

Erie County Sheriff’s Office Chief Scott Joslyn told the Buffalo News that there were several witnesses who saw the collision and subsequent crash. Both the FAA and NTSB are investigating.

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The F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter may be the latest example of the U.S. military resurrecting a retired aircraft type. The website theaviationist.com is showing video apparently shot in July of two of the bat-wing fighters flying together at the Tonopah Test Range in Nevada. The site says it has previously documented that the Air Force kept their options open when they were officially mothballed in 2008. One was spotted flying in 2014 but the most recent video, shot by Sammamishman, shows apparent differences between the two aircraft being flown.

The website is reporting that the fleet is being stored at near flying condition and can be put back in the air within 30 to 120 days. The site says it’s possible the aircraft are being used as test beds for new technologies. In the last couple of years, the military has gone to the boneyard to bring F-18 Hornets out of retirement for the Marines and the Navy refitted some OV-10 Broncos for counterinsurgency work against the Islamic State.

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The ground explosion of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket Sept. 1 was likely caused by a “large breach” of the helium system, the company said Friday. SpaceX, NASA and the FAA, among others, continue to investigate the cause of the fiery incident at Cape Canaveral that destroyed the rocket and its payload as it stood at Launch Complex 40 during a pre-launch test. “At this stage of the investigation, preliminary review of the data and debris suggests that a large breach in the cryogenic helium system of the second stage liquid oxygen tank took place. All plausible causes are being tracked in an extensive fault tree and carefully investigated,” SpaceX said in a statement.

The incident, which sent black smoke overhead and loud booms across the area, has no connection to the airborne explosion of a SpaceX rocket last summer, when a faulty part caused an upper-stage oxygen tank to overpressurize, the company said. Meanwhile, investigators have catalogued the recovered pieces from this month’s burnup and are inspecting them in a hangar. SpaceX said it hopes to pinpoint the cause of the fault soon enough to resume its rocket launches in November, and is already busy preparing the nearby Launch Complex 39A. The explosion occurred a day before SpaceX was to send an Israeli-made communications satellite into orbit for use by Facebook.

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The rapid growth of the commercial satellite-launch industry has the FAA moving ahead to take over some safety oversight duties from the Department of Defense. Someone has to be responsible for overseeing collision avoidance for objects in orbit, and traditionally that has been the military’s role. But the FAA and the Pentagon appear to be ready to discuss moving that oversight to civilians, according to a Wall Street Journal report this week. The FAA already is in charge of airspace and flight approvals for space launches, which have increasingly been conducted by private enterprises such as SpaceX working with the agency and NASA to send commercial satellites into orbit. Above the Earth, the Pentagon uses data gathered from radar, satellites and other equipment, along with information from other nations, to watch the thousands of satellites and other objects, including natural debris, to aid in collision avoidance.

The FAA could use that data to do the same thing and work with other nations without the military’s direct involvement, an agency official said in the Journal report. “It will be a lot easier for the United States to have conversations about safety with the rest of the world,” said George Nield, the associate administrator for commercial space transportation. The change would take congressional approval to move that authority from the DOD to the FAA’s overhead agency, the Department of Transportation, and officials there have already indicated to Congress the FAA’s suitability for the job, according to the report, which notes that while there are about 1,400 commercial satellites in orbit, neither the FAA nor the DOD has any official authority to regulate them once they’re in space, which could become part of the discussions in Congress.

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ForeFlight is warning subscribers that it will discontinue support for old iPads and iPhones on Jan. 3, 2017. The company, which offers the most widely used mobile navigation and aviation data app, said in its notice that iPhone 4 and first generation iPad 1 devices will cease to function with the app on the first business day of the new year. “We strongly encourage you to make sure your primary device is at least an iPad Air, iPad mini 2, or iPhone 5,” the letter said. The company later clarified that iPhone 4s models will continue to be supported.

ForeFlight recently launched version 8, which incorporates improved chart functions. The app is pretty hungry for storage so the list of iPad options favored by ForeFlight (Christmas is coming) defaults to the devices with at least 128 GB drives. The app itself uses at least 15.5 GB of storage and Canadian users need another 11 GB. Tablets with cellular service can use the moving map functions while Wi-Fi-only devices need external GPS receivers, some of which add other capabilities via ADS-B.

Our earlier version of the story didn't make the distinction between iPhone 4 (not supported) and iPhone 4s (which will continue to be supported).

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JAX Approach: American 123, airport 11 o'clock, 8 miles. Report in sight.

AA123: (obviously, the co-pilot) The man says he has the airport in sight.

JAX approach: Tell the man he's cleared to the airport, expect a visual runway 8.

AA123:  I'll break it to him gently.

 

 

In our series on refurbishing airplanes, we’ve examined what’s involved with updating all aspects of your airplane as well as helping it age gracefully. In this article, we turn to breathing new life into an existing airframe by adding more power to get more performance. We’re looking at one of the more exciting upgrades currently in development—Blackhawk Modifications, Inc. of Waco, Texas is flight testing its upgrade to the King Air 350 that’s designed to give it cruise speeds that will match a number of jets.

When our editorial director Paul Bertorelli was researching his article on PT-6 overhauls that appeared in the October 2015 issue of our sister publication Aviation Consumer, he was repeatedly advised by PT-6 operators, sales professionals and shops to look at the engine upgrade conversions Blackhawk offered for King Airs, Piper Cheyennes, the Cessna Conquest I and Caravan. What he found was that customers brought in their run-out PT6 engines and exchanged them for factory-new ones that with more power and greater efficiency. The new engines are flat rated to the same SHP as the old engines, but are able to deliver that power to much higher altitudes, providing faster climbs and cruise speeds.

That approach is behind what Blackhawk is calling the XP67A Engine Upgrade. It’s hanging a pair of Pratt and Whitney Canada PT6A-67A engines on the standard King Air 350 in place of its current PT6A-60A powerplants. That means increasing thermodynamic shaft horsepower from 1050 to 1200 per side. The -67A engines will be flat rated to 1050 SHP to match the airframe limit of the airplane, however, because of flat rating, they will be able to maintain that 1050 SHP to much higher altitudes boosting rates of climb and cruise speeds.

The prototype airplane is presently undergoing flight testing, with Blackhawk predicting that it will receive the necessary Supplemental Type Certificate for the mod from the FAA by the end of June 2017. Blackhawk is reporting that performance to date has exceeded expectations with climbs demonstrated from sea level FL350—the maximum operating altitude—in as little as 18 minutes, less than half the time required by the unmodified King Air 350. Blackhawk is also reporting that cruise speeds as high as 340 knots have been observed to date. Blackhawk’s president Jim Allmon said that the “XP67A will attain jet-like speeds, can carry twice the payload much farther, and will burn a fraction of the fuel while lowering maintenance, operating and acquisition costs. It reintroduces the King Air 350 to a larger group of private, business and commercial operators as well as the special missions area.”

To convert the additional power into thrust, a five-blade MT prop with a 102-inch diameter has been married to the PT6A-67A engine. The prop blades have an unlimited life, are field repairable and have nickel alloy leading edges for erosion protection. A part of the mod involves removing the ground RPM restrictions and the ground idle solenoid to provide smoother taxi operations. Blackhawk said that the MT props add to the performance gain from the higher horsepower engines and reduce overall noise emissions and vibration. We’ve observed those results with MT propellers on other aircraft mods. Blackhawk said that it is also working to certify a five-blade Hartzell composite propeller with the STC and that Raisbeck Engineering is working to upgrade its four-blade aluminum propeller to be compatible with the XP67A upgrade.

Blackhawk is planning to obtain the STC for the XP67A upgrade for all King Air 350s equipped with Proline II with round gauges and is working with Garmin to include G1000-equipped airplanes as well. It is pursuing a separate certification program for a gross weight increase to 16,500 pounds with extended range fuel tanks and to include the Proline 21 avionics package.

We’ll be following the development of the XP67A mod with interest to see if it proves as successful in increasing the King Air 350’s performance as other Blackhawk upgrades have been on PT6A-equipped airplanes.

Rick Durden is the features editor of AVweb and 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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Further apropos of our slow flight yammering of last week, I put the skill to use on Thursday. After 119 days or so of not flying as I recover from an injury, I took the Cub up to knock off the rust. I flew down to a nice little county grass strip south of Venice called Buchan. It exists solely for the Cub’s use.

On the return flight, the Venice pattern was busy and fitting the slow-as-hell Cub into this sometimes causes a lot of panty twisting. Here’s the setup: I was approaching from the south and planning to enter the left downwind for Runway 5 from over the top of the airport. Behind me a couple of miles out is a 182 doing 100 knots and planning the same entry. (I’m doing 55.) In front me on the downwind is a 172 doing touch and goes. I can see the Skyhawk is going to fly the typical insanely wide pattern, but not as bad as most. If I follow him and turn my base just as he passes my left wing, the guy in the 182 will turn final feet wet over Cancun.

The solution: Slide on the carb heat and pull the Cub back right into the pre-stall burble and keep it there, essentially parking it on the downwind. I’m close in to the runway on the downwind and I can already see the following 182 far outside me on the downwind and overhauling me by 40 knots. I let him know what I’m doing on the CTAF, but he had already figured it out. I turned a continuous shallow-bank base by keeping the 172 at the same point in the left quarter of the windshield.

Formation-trained pilots know this as a line of constant bearing. By the time I rolled out on base, the 172 is right off the Cub's nose and I’m set up for a 1/8th mile final. I’m so slow that when I finally turn final, the Skyhawk is still pulling away from me.  After I landed and turned off, the 182 just touched down. As Dan George once said, sometimes the magic works. It was a textbook example of efficient use of pattern airspace.

And by the way, counter to current FAA guidance, the Cub’s stall warning was activating sporadically. Cub pilots will know that as the lower clamshell door floating up off the fully open position, although it does that more reliably in ground effect than not. This technique is not limited to a docile staller like the Cub, by the way. I’ve done it in Mooneys, Bonanzas and Cherokees, albeit not quite so aggressively. But a burble is a burble. Anyone can learn this, too, if they want. That’s why us old geezers are so opposed to dumbing down slow-flight training. Without it, the Venice pattern would stretch out beyond the horizon. On the other hand, it is pretty over the Gulf this time of year.

Triton AeroMarine is on the brink of getting FAA approval for its Chinese-built SkyTrek light sport airplane. The company’s president and chief engineer, Thomas Hsueh, hopes the aircraft will not only help GA grow in China, but become an affordable training and personal aircraft in the U.S. He told AVweb at AirVenture 2016 that he’ll want U.S. dealers who will offer strong product support for the SkyTrek, which features a patented nosewheel assembly and an extra-strong composite airframe that can withstand 7.5 Gs.

 

Picture of the Week
Picture of the Week

Michael Kussatz, of Olathe, KS, captures the essence of grass roots aviation with this image of a Luscombe just waiting to go flying at a grass strip in Kansas. Click through to see our other submissions.

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