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A Chinese conglomerate has bought majority control of Diamond Aircraft's London, Ontario, factory, the company confirmed today. Wanfeng Aviation, a subsidiary of a larger holding company, completed a deal on Dec. 13 that conveys 60 percent of Diamond Aircraft Canada to Wanfeng. Diamond's Austria company remains unaffected by the agreement, except some production will be moved from Austria to Canada.

Peter Maurer, Diamond Canada CEO, told AVweb Tuesday that the new DA62 twin and DA40 single--both the diesel and gasoline version--will be moved to Canada in their entirety. Heretofore, the aircraft components have been manufactured in Austria and shipped to London for final assembly. Maurer said the factory in London will expand its production capability and workforce to manufacture those aircraft. The DA20 single will continue to be built in Canada.

Meanwhile, Diamond Austria will continue to build the DA42 twin and other aircraft in its developmental works. The company's service networks will remain in place, Maurer said. Significantly, Diamond Canada will retain rights to the suspended single-engine D-Jet, which has been under development since 2005. Maurer said substantial work has been done on the project and that it will be reviewed for possible resumption. 

Wanfeng is based in Zhejiang and includes aircraft manufacturing, robotics and financial services in its business portfolio. Diamond currently manufactures aircraft in China, but the Wanfeng deal has no bearing on that operation.

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A publication for antique car buffs is reporting the Environmental Protection Agency is intent on ending the production of ethanol-free gasoline, known in aviation as Mogas. Hemmings Daily said the Renewable Fuels Standard issued by the EPA a couple of weeks ago sets eliminating ethanol-free gasoline as a goal. It quotes the EPA as saying it plans to “continue incentivizing the market to transition from E0 to E10 and other higher level ethanol blends.” While the EPA doesn’t set ethanol levels in fuel, it is mandated by law to set the amount of ethanol and other renewable fuels that must be blended into the U.S. fuel supply. A powerful lobby of U.S. corn producers maintains constant pressure to increase ethanol volumes.

For 2017, the EPA increased the amount of ethanol that must be used in gasoline sold in the U.S. by 6 percent to 19.28 billion gallons, or about 10.7 percent of the total gasoline supply. Most automotive gasolines have slightly less than 10 percent ethanol and all modern vehicle engines are designed to use those fuels. Manufacturers can void warranties if a higher concentration is used in their vehicles. But there are blends that have 15 percent or more ethanol and can be used in so-called flex fuel vehicles. The threat to Mogas comes with the theory that as ethanol volumes required by the EPA increase, there is less room to allow production of ethanol-free gas because of the so-called 10 percent “blend wall” that refiners are reluctant to breach in their mainstream fuels. That means more flex fuel blends will have to be sold to absorb the increased ethanol volume.

Marine and off-road vehicle engine manufacturers are leading the battle against the demise of ethanol-free fuel because their engines and operating environments make them more susceptible to alcohol-related damage. The EPA claims ethanol-free fuel is a preference rather than a requirement for virtually all other engines, like those in old cars and airplanes, even though the FAA specifically bans the use of ethanol-blended fuels in the automotive fuel STCs it issues for certified aircraft. “With the exception of the oldest engines, essentially all vehicles and engines currently in use have been designed to be compatible with E10,” the EPA says in its response to comments opposing the increased use of ethanol. There are about 110 airports selling Mogas in the U.S., according to the website flyunleaded.com. Many more aircraft owners buy Mogas at gas stations and fill their tanks from jerry cans at considerable cost savings.

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The Harvard School of Public Health says 12.6 percent of pilots surveyed may have clinical depression and 4.1 percent reported having suicidal thoughts within the two weeks prior to completing the questionnaire. The study, the first to probe pilot mental health directly rather than through information gleaned from accident investigations, was conducted anonymously and the mental health questions were mixed with other general health inquiries to encourage honesty and reduce the chance for bias. It raised the eyebrows of Alex Wu, the grad student who was the first author on the resulting paper. “Our study hints at the prevalence of depression among pilots—a group of professionals that is responsible for thousands of lives every day—and underscores the importance of accurately assessing pilots’ mental health and increasing support for preventative treatment,” Wu said. The study was released a year after a depressed first officer intentionally crashed a Germanwings A320 in the French Alps, killing all 150 on board.

A total of almost 3,500 airline pilots took the survey and 1,848 did the mental health questions. Of the 1,430 who had worked in the week previous to taking the study, 13.5 percent (193) met the criteria for depression. Pilots who took sleep aids or who reported sexual or verbal harassment were the most likely to be depressed. Among the symptoms reported were loss of interest, feeling like a failure, having trouble concentrating and believing they would be better off dead. More men than women reported having one or more of those feelings “nearly every day.” Joseph Allen, assistant professor of exposure assessment science and one of the paper’s senior authors said a complicating factor in the depression levels is the “veil of secrecy” around mental health issues in the cockpit. “We found that many pilots currently flying are managing depressive symptoms, and it may be that they are not seeking treatment due to the fear of negative career impacts,” he said.

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Gulfstream’s new G600 flew for the first time Saturday, taking off from Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport at 1:50 p.m. for a flight that lasted almost three hours. First flight was slightly ahead of schedule and kicks off the flight test certification program. Two more flight test aircraft are in final preparation for flight and will join the program in early 2017. Gulfstream hopes to begin deliveries in 2018. “This flight went exactly as anticipated, thanks in large part to the investments we have made in our ground-based laboratories,” Burns said. “This flight is the perfect way to wrap up 2016 and set the tone for a successful 2017.”

Like all big Gulfstreams, the new model goes fast (.925 Mach maximum speed) and has plenty of range (up to 6,200 nautical miles) but it’s the ride that the company is crowing the most about. Twelve hours in even the most luxurious aircraft takes a physical toll so Gulfstream is touting the low cabin altitude and 100 percent fresh air pressurization as selling points. It also has larger windows than other aircraft along with high-speed satellite internet.

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The FAA on Friday finalized new aircraft certification rules for general aviation that are expected to help the industry bring new designs and technology to market more quickly and cheaply. The new Part 23 rules, first proposed in March, will go into effect in August 2017, changing the FAA’s traditional prescriptive design requirements to performance-based standards. The long-awaited revamp of Part 23 creates certification levels based on size and performance for airplanes with a 19 or fewer seats and a maximum takeoff weight of 19,000 pounds. The changes are expected to help reduce the costs of certification while getting safety-related tools such as angle-of-attack indicators into new aircraft more quickly. During the FAA’s announcement Friday, manufacturers stressed that they need their new products to keep up with technology while being cost-effective. “It’s going to make aircraft more attractive to the customer base,” said Joe Brown, president of Hartzell Propellers. 

The new rules also will more closely match certification requirements of other entities, namely the European Aviation Safety Agency, which is rewriting its CS-23 regulations to streamline the import-export processes for new aircraft. The General Aviation Manufacturers Association said such measures will “promote the acceptance of airplanes and products worldwide.” GAMA President and CEO Pete Bunce called the finalization of Part 23 a “landmark day” for GA. “This rule is nothing less than a total rethinking of how our industry can bring new models of pistons, diesels, turboprops, light jets, and new electric and hybrid propulsion airplanes to market, as well as facilitating safety-enhancing modifications and upgrades to the existing fleet,” he said. The new approach to GA airplane certification will likely apply to future reforms for other aircraft such as transport category airplanes and rotorcraft, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said. “We do see this as a template,” he said. “This is not the last of these you’re going to see.”

The Navy has grounded its fleet of F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets and G model Growlers after some kind of accident involving a Growler canopy injured a pilot and his or her backseater on Friday. The canopy on the aircraft is jettisoned in an ejection by explosive bolts and small rockets but the Navy hasn't said the ejection system was a factor in the accident.

The mishap occurred about 11 a.m. at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island and involved a Growler. The incident was referred to as an “on-deck emergency.” The pilot and electronic warfare officer were hospitalized. Navy spokeswoman Cmdr. Jeannie Groeneveld said the Navy and Boeing, which makes the planes, are investigating the problem. Although a significant portion of the Navy fighter and electronic warfare fleet is grounded, senior commanders can order the planes back into the air if they’re needed.

The FAA is hoping to avoid millions of laser strikes this holiday season with a warning about seasonal laser projectors. “The FAA’s concern is that lasers — regardless of the source — not be aimed at aircraft where the beams can threaten the safety of a flight,” the agency’s Eastern Region offices said in a statement. “Consumers who buy laser light displays should take precautions to make sure that the lights are hitting their houses and not shining off into the sky.” 

The projectors, which have exploded in popularity this year, use an array of low-powered multi-colored lasers to project a pattern of bright spots on the outside of buildings and trees. The devices are inexpensive and easy to set up so they’re showing up in neighborhoods and commercial areas all over the country. Even though they’re too weak to trigger any sort of regulation, they are nonetheless bright enough to distract pilots, the FAA says.

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AVweb’s General Aviation Accident Bulletin is taken from the pages of our sister publication, Aviation Safety magazine and is published twice a month. All the reports listed here are preliminary and include only initial factual findings about crashes. You can learn more about the final probable cause in the NTSB’s web site at www.ntsb.gov. Final reports appear about a year after the accident, although some take longer. Find out more about Aviation Safety at www.aviationsafetymagazine.com.

September 9, 2016, Wickenburg, Ariz.

Cessna 310N

The airplane struck a refuse transfer trailer at about 0700 Mountain time, shortly after takeoff. The airline transport pilot and three passengers were seriously injured, and the airplane sustained substantial damage. Visual conditions prevailed.

Witnesses observed the airplane take off, then veer to the right of centerline shortly after rotation. The airplane climbed no higher than about 75 feet agl, and flew toward an adjacent industrial park. A few seconds later, the airplane rolled almost 90 degrees to the right and its right wing struck the trailer. The right wing separated from the airframe, and the main fuselage came to rest about 75 feet downrange.


September 10, 2016, Anchorage, Alaska

Polar Cub Experimental

At about 1630 Alaska time, the float-equipped airplane was destroyed following a loss of control and subsequent impact with tree-covered terrain. The pilot was fatally injured; a post-crash fire incinerated the airplane. Visual conditions prevailed.

Witnesses observed the accident airplane complete two, low-level, high-speed, 360-degree right turns over a neighborhood. The first 360-degree turn was accomplished at between 150 and 200 feet agl, but the second pass was much lower. The witnesses also reported the accident airplane’s bank angle increased significantly in the second 360-degree right turn. As the airplane completed the second turn, its nose pitched down and it began a rapid nose-down descent. The wings rolled level just before impacting a stand of tall trees adjacent to a home. The airplane came to rest inverted; a post-crash fire erupted about 30 seconds after impact and quickly engulfed the airplane.


September 11, 2016, Reno, Nev.

Piper PA-28R-201T Arrow IV

The airplane collided with vehicles in an airport parking lot at 1813 Pacific time, shortly after takeoff. The private pilot and two passengers were fatally injured; the airplane sustained substantial damage. Visual conditions prevailed; an IFR flight plan had been filed.

Witnesses observed the airplane climb to about 200 feet agl before leveling off. It then began to veer right of the centerline. About 90 seconds after giving the takeoff clearance, the tower controller asked the pilot, “...are you okay?” The pilot responded, “Negative; we got ah, we got a problem.” The airplane then began a descending right turn back toward the airport. About 600 feet before reaching the main terminal ramp, its right wing struck a lamp post in a long-term parking lot. The outboard section of the wing separated and the airplane immediately rolled right, striking parked automobiles and the ground.


September 16, 2016, Lancaster, Penn.

Cessna P210N Pressurized Centurion

At 1105 Eastern time, the airplane was substantially damaged following collapse of its main landing gear during landing. The flight instructor and pilot receiving instruction were not injured. Visual conditions prevailed.

As the training session was ending, the pilot receiving instruction lowered the landing gear as the airplane entered the traffic pattern. Both pilots twice confirmed the landing gear was in the down and locked position. During landing, the airplane touched down, then momentarily lifted off again. As it did so, the landing gear warning horn sounded. The flight instructor then took the controls and set the airplane down on its right main landing gear. As the airplane decelerated, the nose wheel touched down and a right yaw developed; the left wing settled onto the runway and the airplane slid to a stop. Examination revealed the airplane came to rest upright on its left wingtip, fuselage and nose wheel. Both main landing gear were collapsed and near their respective “up” positions. The nose gear was in the down position and canted to the right. A set of two tire marks about 350 feet long was found on the runway extending west from the airplane toward the approach end of the runway.


September 17, 2016, Broadus, Mon.

Beech Model 95-B55 (T42A) Baron

The airplane impacted terrain at about 1300 Mountain time. The airline transport pilot and two passengers were fatally injured, and the airplane sustained substantial damage.

All major components were identified at the accident site. Both the left and right fuel tanks had been breached but the odor of 100LL fuel was evident. The left propeller blades had displayed light chord-wise scratches. The right propeller blades had no such scratches.


September 17, 2016, Gilbert, Ariz.

Cessna Model 182P Skylane

At about 1918 Mountain time, the airplane was destroyed when it impacted a residential structure following an inflight fire. The commercial pilot was seriously injured; the four skydivers sustained minor injuries. One of the two occupants of the house sustained a minor injury. Visual conditions prevailed.

The airplane was participating in an aerial pyrotechnic display with skydivers. As the airplane arrived at the planned jump area, there was a loud noise and damage to the airplane’s left wing. The skydivers jumped out of the airplane as its left wing became engulfed in flames. The pilot radioed a distress call and then egressed. The airplane subsequently impacted a residential area. The airplane struck the house’s roof. Fire consumed a majority of the airplane and the home’s interior.

This article originally appeared in the December 2016 issue of Aviation Safety magazine.

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As I was flipping through the depressing photos of those Cessna Skycatchers being reduced to so much scrap metal, I felt a certain immune response kicking in. I’ve seen this before, so let’s not get too maudlin about it.

The time frame was 1995. The Air Force had bought a fleet of 113 airplanes from the U.K. called the Slingsby Firefly. It was designated the T3A and replaced the T-41, a militarized Skyhawk. They were intended for use in the service’s new Enhanced Pilot Screening Program to see if the incoming kids had hints of the right stuff before the Air Force invested a million bucks in training them. It was a bad idea to flip would-be pilots through high-G aerobatics before they had even completed basic flight training. The program itself lasted just two years. It cost $62 million for the airplanes alone.

The T3A had a fuel line and distribution problem that caused some engine stoppages and whether related to that or not, the T3A suffered three fatal accidents in which unrecoverable spins were mentioned. At the time, Slingsby said it could fix the fuel issue and knowledgeable people in GA told me an experienced homebuilder could have figured out the problem on the back of an envelope.

Whether that was true or not and probably thanks to the Byzantine internal politics that infect the services, the Air Force declared the T3A no longer had a mission, but refused to surplus them to the civil market. Instead, after sitting for nearly 10 years, the airplanes were crushed in place at the Hondo, Texas, airport where the screening program was based. Hondo is near Mooney’s Kerrville factory and I flew down there once to gawk at all the airplanes marooned in their sun-shade hangars. Surely the scrapper would have recovered engines, radios instruments and hardware for repurposing. Surely not, I was told at the time. Everything was pulverized.

Round two is the Skycatcher’s inglorious end. The one photo that ultimately got to me was the one I’m reproducing here, the image of a factory new airplane reposing like a squashed bug on the bottom of a dumpster. I’m trying to resist the urge to say that photo is a metaphor for the very industry it was supposed to revive, but my immune response proves too weak to the task. What the Firefly and Skycatcher have in common is not that they were both bad airplanes, but that they got snagged in coldly impersonal organizations whose calculus is insensitive to the utter waste of human effort smashing new airplanes represents. It’s not just metal crushing, it’s soul crushing.

I’m not trying to make a romantic or even a moral argument, but a practical one. An industrial economy is capable of such massive, efficient output that trashing small bits of what it does isn’t even a rounding error in the coffee budget. It’s a lost paper clip or a missing pen.

In the context of both of these crushed airplanes, the liability tail they represented seemed to outweigh any perceived value their owners could see for a few hundred customers. Goodwill in the marketplace has long since ceased to mar the thinking of U.S. businesses obsessed with the next quarter’s bottom line. So little worth did those airplanes have that I suspect no one could be bothered to even think of doing something useful with them, perhaps like donating them to a school maintenance program or, heaven forefend, putting them somewhere where they might actually fly. Am I the only one who hungers for at least a shard of encouragement once in a while?

If an aviation leader like Cessna has so little regard for its own products, little wonder the rest of an entire industry feels the same. About everything.        

With action cams becoming ever more affordable, it's easy to shoot great aviation video. But you'll need some equipment to mount the camera and in this AVweb video, Paul Bertorelli reviews the top mount options.

 

On a recent flight from San Antonio to Fort Stockton the center frequency got very quiet.

Me: "Center you still there?" 

Center (after a few seconds): "Yeah, it's slow but they won't let me go home"


Jack Ogle

 

 

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