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Amazon, which recently began basic package deliveries via drone, is taking the airborne logistics idea further the with the concept of a mobile floating distribution center. The online retailer has received a patent for a system that includes an “aerial fulfillment center” in the form of an airship and unmanned aerial vehicles to carry items to and from it. As CNN reported on Thursday, it’s unclear whether Amazon is actively developing the floating warehouse, which patent papers show as a high-altitude blimp with smaller airships it calls “shuttles” flying back and forth to transfer goods, personnel, delivery drones and other equipment. One potential use would be large sporting events, where a floating warehouse could park overhead as small delivery drones deliver food and other items to the crowds below, according to the report.

Amazon also envisions different shapes and sizes for the airships, which “may be hundreds of feet long and capable of carrying several hundreds of tons.” The company has been ambitiously pursuing its drone delivery concept, working around airspace and other UAV limitations as it continues to test its delivery drones, which recently began dropping off small items to customers in a rural U.K. community. According to a CNBC report on the airship idea, Amazon has been obtaining patents for other drone-related concepts, such as inter-drone communications and recharging stations atop lampposts and other structures.

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Two Army National Guard crew members on board an Apache helicopter were killed when the aircraft crashed in the waters near Galveston Bay in southeastern Texas. Coast Guard divers entered the waters southeast of Houston Wednesday afternoon after reports of the helicopter breaking up in flight, according to an Associated Press report. The Houston Chronicle reported Thursday the AH-64 was on a training mission from its base at Ellington Airport. The circumstances are still under investigation and crews are retrieving the wreckage from the water, the newspaper reported.

News videos show Coast Guard rescuers in the water and responders at a cruise ship terminal, along with what appear to be an aircraft floating inverted in the water and a piece of a rotor blade on land. Witnesses reported seeing the helicopter flying low before hearing a noise and seeing the aircraft break apart, the AP reported. Debris was seen in the bay as rescuers dropped from helicopters into the water. The Apache, a twin turboshaft attack helicopter with a two-pilot crew, was flying on a mission for the Army Air National Guard and is based at Ellington Field near Houston.

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The FAA has issued a Special Airworthiness Information Bulletin for some Piper PA-31Ts and similar models, warning of a potential fire hazard in their floor-mounted circuit breaker panels. The SAIB, published earlier this month, is recommending that operators of PA-31T, PA-31T1, PA-31T2, PA-31T3, and PA-31P-350 aircraft inspect wiring conditions in the area for chafing or other damage. In addition, the bulletin, available here (PDF) recommends that reworking wiring be done to ensure wires and hydraulic lines are properly separated and electrical connections checked in the area using inspection and repair guidance from Advisory Circular 43.13B. Owners who find any issues during the inspections are asked to send details and photographs to the FAA.

The agency cited the July 29 crash of a Piper Cheyenne in California that killed all four on board after reports of smoke in the cockpit. The NTSB found signs of thermal damage in the fuselage of the aircraft, which was on a medical transport flight. The SAIB states that “reviews are ongoing” but so far the issue hasn’t resulted in an unsafe condition that warrants and Airworthiness Directive. Inspections of several PA-31T aircraft showed chafing between wires and hydraulic lines in the circuit breaker panel areas, which can lead to arcing and ignition of the flammable liquids, the FAA said.

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image: Orlando News6

An Epic LT turboprop crashed about 6 p.m. on Tuesday into a front yard of a home near the runway at Spruce Creek, a fly-in community in Port Orange, on Florida’s east coast. Two people in the airplane were killed, but nobody on the ground was hurt. A witness told police he saw the airplane fly into the fog, and when it emerged it was “in an inverted flat spin.” The airplane was on approach to Runway 5, according to the FAA. An automated weather observation from Spruce Creek at 5:55 p.m. indicated visibility of 2.5 miles, with no wind and 100 percent humidity, the National Weather Service in Melbourne told the Daytona Beach News-Journal. News video from the crash site shows low fog in the area.

The airplane is believed to have been flown by a resident of the air park who was returning from a holiday trip to the Midwest, according to the News-Journal. One witness said the airplane had tried to land “multiple times” before the final approach. The FAA is investigating.


AVweb’s search of news in aviation found announcements from Bearhawk Aircraft, Wilco Inc., Pilot Partner and FlightServ. Bearhawk Aircraft announced the first flights of two Bearhawk LSA aircraft built by customers from Quick-Build kits. Owner/builders Bruce McElhoe of California and Bob Way of Alabama completed, certified and flew their Bearhawk LSAs, the first two completions, in November 2016. Bearhawk Aircraft offers a Quick-Build (QB) kit of the two-place tandem-seated Bearhawk LSA. Wilco Vice President Mike Hattrup announced FAA approval of its modification of STC SA01827WI to convert Cessna Aircraft single-engine aircraft built in 1972 and after, with factory original style wingtips, to Whelen Orion LED Nav/Strobes via a kit developed by Wilco. SA01827WI permits the replacement of the existing Nav Light or Nav/Strobe with a Whelen Orion LED Nav/Strobe utilizing a mounting plate developed by Wilco.

Pilot Partner announced that on Jan. 1, 2017, customers will receive an email with their automatically generated year in review summary. This summary will read from their electronic logbook and display interesting statistics of their flying in 2016. Each pilot will then be able to easily share this image on Facebook and show their friends and other pilots what 2016 looked like for them. FlightServ—the new independent FBO on the KTTN field—will open its doors to guests on Jan. 1, 2017. Founded by a team from the FBO’s sister company, Aviation Charters, FlightServ personnel uniquely understand the needs and desires of flight crews and their passengers. Their years of experience traveling around the country—from the perspective of both the pilot and the scheduler—has given the team insight into what makes for an exceptional FBO experience.

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Did you get a drone for Christmas? I know some of you did and I know a lot more people will be interested in the video I’m publishing in today’s blog. I predict a range of reaction from slack-jawed wonder to spittle-spewing high dudgeon that people like this are now invading our sacred airspace. (Better get used to it.)

The FAA would have apoplexy if anyone tried this in the U.S. because it would want the operator to have an ATP, a current medical and a filed flight plan. So they did the thing in Finland, were drone regulations are much more liberal. Next time you think to complain about the social democracies in Europe stifling innovation, know that drone development is often more creative there than here. Having said that, I believe the drone was designed and built in the U.S. and it’s a piece of work.

First, a little background. Unless you’re a YouTube aficionado, you’re not likely to know who the protagonist is, Casey Neistat. Short description: He’s a high school dropout from Connecticut who built a multimillion-dollar fortune by becoming among a handful of YouTube stars with millions of subscribers and views. He’s done more than 500 daily VLOGs, many shot on a booster board sluicing through Manhattan traffic. Drones figure prominently in his productions. Yet he’s not even in the top 10 YouTube stars. Not the top 20, either.

The man-carrying drone project produced several videos, this being the main one. (Short version.) But the more interesting one is the version I’ve placed in the viewer, in which Neistat explains how it all works. I think it’s better on several counts. First, it shows him in his shop and based on the many videos I have seen, he’s a skilled and creative builder of things. This video also shows his manic but engaging style which shouldn’t work, but does. I’ve made enough YouTube videos myself to understand the technical challenge and stylistic brilliance of what he does—like three camera angles for a two-second shot. It’s a kind of filmmaking that’s perfectly suited to YouTube and looks easy—until you try it.

What I like about this drone project is its unfettered creativity marked by the marriage of two technologies—emerging drone tech and burgeoning online media. The aircraft itself is a tour de force, but there’s no point to it other than the entertainment value of the video. That’s enough.

Shortly after this appeared, barely a week ago, the conspiracy theories claiming it was faked popped up almost on cue. Neistat explains how the film was shot and you can decide for yourself what parts you think may be faked. Looks real enough to me. I’m standing by to be corrected.

The specs on the drone itself are staggering if they’re correct. It’s a hexadecacopter (16 rotors) or, if you prefer, an octocopter with dual rotors. Total horsepower is just over 100, with a 165-pound gross weight and 1050 pounds of thrust. According to Neistat, the total lifted vehicle weight for the video was about 365 pounds. (In some of shots, he’s wearing a lift web.)

I realize some in our pilot audience will hate the very idea of what’s going on here. Something involving flying done purely for spectacle. But really, how’s that any different from an airshow? I’ll admit to being enthralled by the fascinating intersection of two technologies in a creative and entertaining way, showing once again that we live in an age of wonder.

Casey Neistat's wild drone ride.


Tecnam has been selling the Astore LSA for a while now and long enough for it to have become a best seller. In this video, AVweb's Paul Bertorelli took the airplane for a flight trial.


Heard anything funny, unusual, or downright shocking on the radio lately? If you've been flying any length of time, you're sure to have eavesdropped on a few memorable exchanges. The ones that gave you a chuckle may do the same for your fellow AVweb readers. Share your radio funny with us, and, if we use it in a future "Short Final," we'll send you a sharp-looking AVweb hat to sport around your local airport. No joke.

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