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Santa Monica Airport will close in 2028 and the runway will almost certainly be shortened to 3,500 feet. The FAA announced Saturday that it had reached an agreement to end decades of legal wrangling over the airport, which is surrounded by urban development and has been targeted for closure by local politicians since the 1980s, citing safety and environmental concerns. Under the terms of the deal, the airport has to be maintained in “continuous and stable” operating condition until Dec. 31, 2028, and allows the city to chop almost 1,500 feet from the runway. The airport has 270 aircraft and about 450 landings and takeoffs a day. It’s likely the short runway will curtail itinerant operations and may force some of the aircraft based there to move. Until the runway is shortened, the FBOs and flight schools at the airport can stay in business but after the bulldozers are finished the city can assume services at the airport. The deal is significant because it mentions local land use decisions as a factor in making decisions about aviation services and EAA Chairman Jack Pelton was quick to point that out. It's also clear that none of the aviation groups were in on the discussions.

"It is certainly a disappointing development, first concerning the immediate ability to shorten the runway, and the ultimate ability to close the airport in 2028," Pelton said in a statement. "While we can only guess at the inside discussions to reach this settlement as to our knowledge, the airport’s stakeholders were not a part of it, the founding principles of FAA grant assurances are to maintain stability for an airport and its users as part of the national airspace system, above local political maneuvering.” 

NBAA and AOPA both suggested they'll fight the agreement. NBAA President Ed Bolen said they're still analyzing the agreement but on first blush it has concerns. “We are disappointed that the government decided to settle this case, especially given that NBAA has long been committed to aggressively supporting business aviation access to SMO, through every legislative and legal channel available. If there are further avenues available to us, we intend to explore them.” AOPA President Mark Baker said his group is also studying the agreement but opposing the decision. "Our main goal—to keep this airport permanently open and available to all general aviation users—remains unchanged. We are not done fighting for Santa Monica” 

Meanwhile, Santa Monica officials were quick to trumpet the news, saying the airport will be turned into a park. “The agreement ends a longstanding legal battle and secures, with absolute certainty, that the 227 acres of aviation land will be returned to the residents of Santa Monica,” the city said in a statement. The FAA and the city have been in a pitched battle recently over the city’s attempt to effectively evict airport businesses with a goal of closing the airport in two years. FAA Administrator Michael Huerta called the agreement “a fair resolution for all concerned” in a statement released Saturday. “… It strikes an appropriate balance between the public's interest in making local decisions about land use practices and its interests in safe and efficient aviation services,” he said.

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Swift Fuels says it’s pushing hard to market its 94UL unleaded aviation fuel to more airports and that the infrastructure is in place to refine and distribute it virtually anywhere in the U.S. At this week’s Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring, Swift’s Chris D’Acosta told AVweb that UL94 can be burned by about 65 percent of the U.S. general aviation fleet. The remaining aircraft require 100-octane fuel.

In this podcast recorded at the show, D’Acosta said about 40 airports are selling Swift’s UL94. “We’ve got lots of places that are taking the fuel. One of the issues about the fuel is the availability of spare tankage. So there are private users or airports that have taken steps to put tankage in place to allow people to buy the fuel,” D’Acosta said.

Currently, UL94 is produced and distributed from near Swift’s Lafayette, Indiana, headquarters, but the company says it can be refined by many refiners and production could be ramped up quickly. Swift’s UL94 appears to retail for a price between what mogas typically sells for and the current price of 100LL. About 100 U.S. airports offer mogas, but because there’s pressure on refiners to absorb ever more ethanol production, the availability of so-called E0 is threatened. D’Acosta said this might represent an opportunity for Swift if the tankage becomes available.

“Pilots who are flying it really love it. We have consistently good reports,” D’Acosta said of 94UL. “There’s things about our fuel that autogas can’t compete with. So we just have to make those things clear. The mechanics who have torn down engines and looked at them have all said very positive things,” D’Acosta said.  

Meanwhile, Swift continues to work with the FAA’s Piston Aviation Fuels Initiative to complete testing on its 100LL replacement fuel. Swift, along with Shell, has a candidate fuel that’s supposed to be ready for market after 2018. Engine and airframe testing is scheduled to last through the end of 2018 and some 20 engine test cells are also collecting data on the two replacement fuels. A dozen aircraft have been selected to carry on the flight testing.

D’Acosta said he believes PAFI is on track on deliver a fuel by 2018 or shortly thereafter. “Working in a broad program … it’s understandable to expect there to be some slowdowns or periods where deadlines might be missed. But I think everyone is working with passion and diligence. We speak to the FAA and regularly to the OEMs all the time,” D’Acosta said. 

What a difference a year makes. At last year’s Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring, the drone display was imprisoned in a large hangar and the demos were contained inside a netted area. This year in Sebring, for the first time, the show, in conjunction with a drone racing league, is conducting open air racing of drones, with spectators protected in a netted area.

Todd Wahl of FPVlive.com and MultiGP, a drone racing league, told AVweb on Friday that the event at Sebring is a full-up sanctioned event and part of a nationwide racing network. He said it’s the first time drone racing has been conducted on an airport without having the machines caged in a netted area. “Most of these have been contained in a netting situation mainly because of the fear factor … worried about one flying away or a pilot going rogue,” Wahl told us in this AVweb video shot at the show on Friday.

Wahl said in addition to be a sanctioned race, the drone event was meant to promote the sport and bridge the gap between the drone industry and a skeptical public, especially pilots. Last, drone racing and the associated technology is intended to be a STEM platform to attract young people interested in aerospace.

At the Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring this week, we spoke with several manufacturers of light sport aircraft (LSAs) about their expectations for the newly announced FAA BasicMed rule. Behind some enthusiasm for any relaxation on restrictions to flying, some commentators have expressed concern that pilots who were buying LSAs so they could benefit from the driver’s license medical rules that are currently applicable to LSAs would move on to more capable aircraft. The people who spoke to us for this AVweb exclusive podcast acknowledged that there are buyers for whom avoiding a medical is the key criterion and who might prefer a larger aircraft but felt most of their buyers were pilots who wanted a safe and modern two-seat aircraft.

Paul Randall, a representative for Pipistrel, is excited that BasicMed could lead the way for the return of middle-aged pilots to general aviation, “A lot of people have been waiting in the wings, and they think they might get into an old aircraft, but in their heart, they want something new and different and fun. That’s what light sport offers,” he said.

Shannon Yeager, director of sales for Tecnam US, stressed that pilots are buying Tecnam LSAs because they want modern two-seat airplanes. “The current buyers that I’ve seen that are looking for viable two-place aircraft, there is not an offering that is less than 30 years old in the regular market space. My competition for what would be a two-place aircraft is something like a Cirrus SR20. An SR20 still has double the cost,” he said.

Chip Allen, a distributor of Cub Crafters aircraft, worried about the market for LSAs in general but believed the Cub Crafters aircraft exist in a short-takeoff and rough-field performance niche that would exist independent of the LSA category, “We found that most of our customers have bought our airplanes because of their performance. What’s the impact of all this going be on light sport business, especially the guys that are making these little two-seat, plastic airplanes? It may get real interesting,” he said.

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A 59-year-old Maryland pilot was treated for non-life-threatening injuries after he jumped from his burning Tri-Pacer during the roll-out of an emergency landing at Sussex County Airport in Delaware. Donald Byrne had just taken off from a fly-in at the field when he reported smoke in the cockpit. He turned back toward the airport and flames erupted in the cockpit just before he touched down. He shut down the aircraft and bailed out while it was still moving. The plane came to rest on the infield where bystanders with fire extinguishers initially tried to put out the fire.

The aircraft burned to the frame and was doused by foam but not before it caused bigger problems. The wind whipped up and the burning Piper touched off a grass and brush fire that consumed up to 10 acres. It took more than an hour to put out the brush fire and crews from four local departments were called to deal with it. Cause of the fire hasn’t been released but photos taken by the local sheriff’s department show the cockpit fully involved but the engine compartment untouched by the flames.

Authorities are investigating Thursday’s fatal crash of a twin-engine seaplane in Perth, Australia. The crash into a river in front of thousands of spectators gathered for an Australia Day event was captured from multiple viewpoints on witness videos. The pilot and passenger on board the Grumman G-73 Mallard were killed about 5 p.m. when the aircraft was seen flying low and banking to the left over the Swan River, then suddenly plunging nose-down into the water, according to various news reports. By Friday, crews had recovered the tail of the aircraft and the bodies of the 52-year-old owner pilot and his 30-year-old female passenger.  Most of the wreckage remained in the water. 

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority said the 1948 Mallard was one of the aircraft flying under approvals for aerial demonstrations for the Australia Day City of Perth Air Show 2017. The show was to precede other event celebrations and a fireworks display, which were cancelled immediately following the crash, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. The Grumman and its pilot were listed on the air show’s website as part of a 5 p.m. seaplane display that included a Cessna Caravan. The pilot had purchased the rare Mallard in the U.S. in 2011 and flew it to Australia in 2012 after it was restored, according to PerthNow.

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The pilot killed in the crash of Cirrus SR22 last week was an Air Force test pilot who was training to become an instructor. Maj. Lee Berra was the only occupant of the aircraft, which he used to commute to Joint Base San Antonio from nearby Stinson Airport. Berra was on his way from San Antonio to Stinson when the crash occurred. He was an operational B-1 pilot before completing test pilot school at Edwards Air Force Base last July. He’d been training at San Antonio for three weeks. Meanwhile two Canadian air force pilots are safe after they ejected from their training aircraft on Friday.

Royal Canadian Air Force officials say the instructor and student were on a routine training flight when something went wrong with their CT-156 Harvard II trainer and they abandoned the plane about two miles south of the training base at Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. Both pilots suffered non-life-threatening injuries. One was airlifted to the hospital. Their identities have not been released.

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The FAA has clarified the upcoming ADS-B Out rules regarding aircraft without electrical systems, elaborating on the current FARs regarding transponders. The ADS-B rule, which takes effect on Jan. 1, 2020, to mandate position-reporting equipment in airspace where transponders are now required, will not apply to “aircraft originally certificated without an electrical system but which have subsequently had batteries or electric starters installed,” the FAA said in its recent letter of interpretation (PDF). This exemption includes many models of vintage airplanes, along with balloons and gliders. The letter clarifies questions about what defines non-electrical aircraft and states that those “would not be required to equip for ADS-B Out.” According to an AOPA report, the interpretation clarifies that those aircraft now exempt from having transponders to fly in areas including beneath classes B and C airspace will still be exempt when the ADS-B Out equipment rule goes live.

“The concern was that the exception expanded the types of aircraft required to equip with ADS-B Out beyond those required to equip with a transponder,” said Justin Barkowski, AOPA director of regulatory affairs. “AOPA has received several inquiries about what types of aircraft fall within this exception, and has been tracking this issue with the FAA for some time now. This is a favorable interpretation.” Part of the confusion stemmed from the FAA’s wording in the transponder regs that mention aircraft “not originally certificated with an engine-driven electrical system,” and the reg for ADS-B Out, which exempts “aircraft that was not originally certificated with an electrical system.” The agency indicates in its letter that it “may consider a technical amendment in the future to remove any confusion” between the two phrases.

In the years since Savvy Aircraft Maintenance Management (SAMM) (see the January 2009 issue of our sister publication Aviation Consumer) brought managed aircraft maintenance from the turbine to the owner-flown piston world, the company’s practice of analyzing the engine monitor data of its clients has resulted in the collection of a massive database. According to company founder Mike Busch, it has the engine data from more than 1,500,000 flights. That massive amount of data has allowed SAVVY to provide ever-improving service to its clients by comparing their operating experience to that of similar aircraft, most recently in the form of “report cards,” warnings of potential exhaust valve failure and alerts sent to owners immediately upon receipt and analysis of engine data that shows a potentially hazardous condition.

Although engine monitors were originally developed to help pilots lean their engines in flight, the parameters they collect include extensive information on the operational health of the engines. SAMM has been using the data to diagnose problems in its customers’ airplanes—to catch developing issues before they become expensive.

Background

SAMM began looking for a computer tool to do engine monitor data analysis more efficiently. Chris Wrather, who had been involved with SAMM from its early days and holds a Ph.D. in operations research, took the lead and developed analysis tools that work in fractions of a second.

Initially, the analysis tools were only used in-house, however, as they proved effective, the decision was made to make them public and free. Thus, Savvy Analysis was born to further the mission of SAMM—to help aircraft owners do a better job of operating and maintaining their aircraft—as well as to add to SAMM’s database for its ongoing research. SAMM and Savvy Analysis do not share the data they receive with anyone; however, the person who uploads data may share it with others.

Free Service

Users can upload data from any type engine monitor. The Savvy Analysis software opens and displays it in graphic format, sorted by flight. The user can then sort his or her flights as desired and take advantage of the analysis tools on the site. There is what we consider to be a user-friendly operating guide that helps the user get into and understand the graphically displayed data. Moving the cursor along the data provides a digital readout of each parameter—including temps, fuel flow and time—in what is referred to as a dynamic data box. 

The software allows the user to look at the behavior of just the odd- or even-number cylinders to see if the mags are timed the same and can choose intervals in the data to find differences and rates of change.

The GAMI lean test has become the standard for checking the balance of the fuel injectors and to identify problem cylinders. When a user has conducted a GAMI lean test during a flight, the software will automatically calculate the GAMI spread for each test. 

Savvy Goes Pro

After six months, Savvy Analysis offered a “Pro” service—after paying $129 ($199 for twins)—a price that hasn’t changed—for an annual subscription, a customer who uploads data can have as many flights as he or she wishes analyzed by one of Savvy’s analysts—within reason (at some point there is no added value and the cost to Savvy becomes too high). The Savvy analyst then generates a two-page report on the engine health on each flight. (The Savvy Analysis Pro service is included in the price of the managed maintenance service offered by SAMM.) Full disclosure, I own part interest in an aircraft that is a Savvy Analysis Pro customer.

Both Wrather and Busch recommend having the engine monitor data from a flight analyzed just before the airplane is going into the shop for engine work—to identify any problems so they can be fixed on that shop visit—and after work has been done on the engine, ignition, mags or induction system.

They also recommended that the flight to be analyzed not just be a routine cross country, but a test flight made according to the protocol on the website—essentially a GAMI lean test at less than 65 percent power and a lean of peak mag check to check the ignition system when it’s under the most stress.

Doing a test flight before a shop visit, uploading the engine data to Savvy Analysis and then clicking on the little “Sigmund” icon requests full analysis of that flight and generates a printed report that can be provided to the mechanic who is about to work on the airplane. It’s a fast diagnostic tool and much cheaper than trying to uncover such things as incorrect fuel flow, exhaust and induction leak, and mistimed mags when the airplane is sitting on the ground.

FEVA

Next, Savvy Analysis added an automatic service for its Pro customers (which includes all managed maintenance customers of SAMM)—Failing Exhaust Vale Analytics (FEVA). When you upload your engine monitor data, Savvy’s system automatically scans the EGT temperature readout and uses a proprietary algorithm to look for a signature that is indicative of a failing exhaust valve. If the characteristic pattern exists, the software flags it and starts the process that results in a warning to the owner and recommendation to borescope the cylinder.

FEVA came about as a result of observations Mike Busch made of engine monitor data more than 10 years ago. He noticed that for as much as 150 hours of engine operation prior to the time an exhaust valve fails, it generates a distinctive EGT pattern—an approximately one minute-long cycle over a 30- to 60-degree range.

He noted that the rotator cap that sits on the top of the exhaust valve stem—between the rocker arm and valve—and rotates the exhaust valve a fraction of a degree every time the valve opens and closes, causing about a one RPM rate of rotation of the valve. The purpose of the rotator cap is to spread the heat load on the exhaust valve around its circumference so one spot isn’t always being exposed to maximum heat. Rotation also helps inhibit buildup of exhaust deposits on the valve seat. (There is no rotator valve on the intake valve as it is not exposed to the same heat or exhaust deposit potential and the exhaust valve.)

As an exhaust valve starts to go south, becoming a burned valve, it develops a hot spot where it is not sealing perfectly with the seat—very hot gases from a combustion event begin to leak past the valve. Metal erosion begins and the valve can warp—causing the hot spot to get hotter and more gases to leak. Once it starts, the valve progressively goes downhill.

Ultimately, the valve will fail and a chunk of metal from the area of that hot spot breaks off, the cylinder goes to zero compression and stops combusting—the little piece of metal departs through the exhaust system. If it’s a turbocharged engine, it’s the luck of the draw whether the piece processes through the turbocharger, doing further damage, or the waste
gate directs it harmlessly out the tailpipe.

Borescope It

Burned valve damage is typically visible through a borescope between 50 and 150 hours prior to failure. A compression test is far less reliable, according to Busch, giving too many false positives. The borescope is the gold standard for determining impending valve failure—and the engine monitor is the early warning system that says when it’s time to do the borescope exam.

The picture that a failing exhaust valve paints on the EGT graph of engine monitor data is a slow, perfectly rhythmic oscillation of the EGT for the affected cylinder. Busch said, “The pattern is easily distinguishable from EGT data ‘noise.’ There isn’t anything else in the engine that can oscillate that slowly. Normally the amplitude is pretty small. We normally look for an oscillation of 30-60 degrees from peak to peak. When we see it, we know the valve is failing.”

Busch and his team developed an algorithm that spots this pattern in engine monitor data. As part of the subscription price for SAMM or Savvy Analysis Pro, a customer’s engine data is automatically put through the FEVA algorithm when the engine monitor data is loaded.

If the algorithm finds a failing exhaust valve, the analysts at Savvy are notified immediately. If they determine that there is a risk of a failing exhaust valve, one of them contacts the customer. Wrather says that the plan is for the system to automatically notify the customer in the future—right now they’re tweaking the algorithm and it’s tweaking itself through the process of machine learning, so they’re keeping an analyst between the computer and the customer.

The customer is advised that Savvy has detected what they believe is a failing exhaust valve, and which cylinder is involved. Savvy recommends to the customer that he or she have the affected cylinder borescoped. Savvy also requests that the customer send copies of any images made of the affected valve to Savvy, both for feedback to fine tune the algorithm and to let Savvy personnel look at the condition of the affected valve.

Busch said that Savvy will never recommend that a customer pull a cylinder based on FEVA alone—the borescope is the final diagnostic instrument for that decision. If the borescope reveals a valve that is exhibiting the characteristic asymmetric appearance and discolorations (green is bad) of impending failure, Savvy recommends that the cylinder be pulled and revalved.

Busch noted that few A & P mechanics have been trained in using a borescope and interpreting what they see. He strongly recommended—and we concur—keeping a copy on hand of the full-color poster put together for the Air Safety Foundation by Adrian Eichhorn and Dr. Peter Wu that shows healthy and deteriorating exhaust valves.

Alerts

Once a customer, either using the free service or Savvy Pro, has uploaded enough data for the system to have a solid operating history of the airplane, the system will automatically generate alerts that are sent to owners—Wrather said Alerts focus on conditions that Savvy believes warrant an owner’s attention such as high CHT or low oil pressure. The Alert advises of the condition, why Savvy feels that warrants the owner’s attention and what could be causing the condition so that it can be troubleshot and corrected.

Report Cards

The newest service from Savvy Analysis—for Pro Customers (again, we’re impressed that the services available have expanded and the price has stayed constant) is the issuance of a report card for the owner’s airplane. Once the owner has uploaded enough data to be statistically significant—Chris Wrather makes that decision, he’s got the Ph.D. and statistical analysis was a major part of it—the system generates a report card that is emailed to the customer. The report card reports on and analyzes 10 to 12 critical flight parameters related to performance, efficiency and engine longevity. It compares those parameters to those generated by other aircraft of the same type that provide data to Savvy.

Using a “thermometer” each parameter is mapped to show the maximum, minimum and median (not average, because outlier data tend to throw off averages in these circumstances) for the subject airplane. That line is then overlain on the low to high data generated by all of the airplanes in the cohort into which the customer’s airplane fits (for example, all Cessna T210Ls).

Going through the various parameters (and Savvy has added additional parameters in the last six months), the owner can rapidly see where his or her operations place the airplane compared to a stated number of flights made by a stated number of airplanes. More specifically, the owner can tell that if her median power setting is 66.9 percent, where it fits in with the power settings selected by other pilots in their airplanes of the same type. In an example we looked at for 4657 flights of a cohort of 413 Cessna 182 Skylanes, that power setting was right at the average for all of those flights.

The Report Card goes on to compare how the speed generated by that power setting matched with speeds of the other airplanes using the same power setting as well has how the CHTs, oil pressures, oil temperatures fuel efficiency and even amount of inactivity of the airplane matched with its cohort. The Report Card also includes a comment on the specific airplane versus the overall data generated by its cohort for each set of performance data—and can be a warning of developing problems. In the Cessna 182 sample we looked at, the airplane’s power setting, cruise speed and average CHTs were right in the middle of the data for all of the airplanes in the cohort, but maximum CHT spread was in the 96th percentile, which may warrant examination into a cylinder that is running hot.

Upload the Data

Savvy is working to get its clients to upload engine monitor data regularly—just as they send oil out for analysis at every change—not just when they think they have a problem. 

Busch and Wrather also recommend a flight test, data upload an analysis before the annual inspection, before any engine work and after engine work. Having a printout of the engine’s health to hand to the mechanic who’s going to be head first into your airplane’s cowling can, in our opinion, save money by letting him or her fix small problems before they become large.

One of the side effects collecting data on what will soon be 2 million flights is that Savvy is publishing the overall results (not individual aircraft data, that is kept private) so that the general aviation community as a whole can learn more about how our airplanes are being operated and how they respond in operation.

We like the Savvy Analysis concept—the FEVA and new report card program is, to us, additional protection at no extra cost. We also like the fact that the basic Savvy Analysis program is free, so owners can upload data and do their own analysis using the tools on the site.

Savvy Analysis is at www.savvyanalysis.com.

Rick Durden is a CFII, holds an ATP with type ratings in the Douglas DC-3 and Cessna Citation and is the author of The Thinking Pilot’s Flight Manual or, How to Survive Flying Little Airplanes and Have a Ball Doing, Vols. 1 & 2.

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Sometime between mid-January and mid-February, the tourist hordes descend on Florida to escape the winter miseries of the northern tier. They’re often disappointed to learn how sporting a winter cold front can be in Florida, sometimes all the way to Key West.

Great news this year, though: The 13th annual Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring had only a mild front, as opposed to one that has blown over tents and skidded tied-down airplanes in recent years. While Expo lacked the front, it also lacked the hordes, but that’s always been true of this show. It’s what I like to call… relaxed. The crowds are just thin, matching the light sport market the event is supposed to support. It’s never going to be anything other than that, so I’ve stopped pretending otherwise. Attendees should come in knowing that and take it or leave it.

This year, of course, the show has competition in the form of a new light sport event at Deland, the Sport Aviation Showcase. Perhaps in response to that or just the natural evolution of these things, organizers made some improvements at Sebring. The forum venues were better and centrally located and the show itself was moved onto the ramp area centered on the airport’s modern terminal building. This provided three immediate benefits. First, the car parking access was a little easier—at least for press and exhibitors. Second, the flightline, using a parallel taxiway for Runway 1/19 as a runway, was more easily accessible for display aircraft to fly flight demos. 

Last, shattering the almost universal truth that airshows have crappy food served by indifferent vendors out of trucks and booths, the airport restaurant provided breakfast and lunch. Sebring’s airport eatery is reliably good and for the two days I was at the show, it did an admirable job of serving customers without unreasonable waits. (It helps that there just aren’t that many people about.) One last thing: The indoor vendor booth was a step-up and even had carpet on the floor, thus pegging my fun meter.

For me, the highlight of the show was the drone presence. Last year, what drones were there were pathetically caged up in a hangar, all but assuring that their capabilities would be hidden from the view of the curious. As I pointed out in this video, this year the drone community had several acres of display tents and open-air, uncaged racing that was fun to watch. (This year, the solution was inverted; the spectators were protected by netting.) Anyone mildly interested in what this new sport is all about could get a good feel for it by watching the pilots race and seeing the FPV footage live. It’s a highly videocentric activity well in keeping with the Facebook and YouTube universe. 

There is still some risk, of course. Without containment, one of these palm-sized drones could get away and hit something or someone. Organizer Todd Wahl told me they have two levels of failsafe: a manual kill switch that drops them to the ground and an automatic kill that activates with loss of signal. Still, nothing is foolproof, least of all getting through those race gates at 60 MPH. I looked at a race through the FPV goggles and it’s scary as hell—but also alluring. Every race had a satisfying number of crashes and spinouts and these seem to make a loud thunk against the gates. Sometimes the drone is wrecked, sometimes not. In a bit of irony perhaps misplaced, the pilots had to fly a tight hairpin around a parked Cessna under the horizontal stab and main wing. It was an old, unairworthy beater and it got nailed plenty by the drones.

I give the FAA, the airport authority, the show organizers and the drone racing league kudos for getting this to happen and not just shutting it down out of irrational fear. As you’ve seen from the comments on this blog, there’s a persistent resentment and fear of drones in the GA community, much of it centered on the fact that the pilot—or operators, if you prefer—don’t undergo the same training requirement as pilots of certified aircraft. Face it; they’re a bunch of self-centered 20-somethings with face metal and baggy pants.

Although I don’t share the fear factor, I get why people worry about this. Reasonable regulation and oversight is not a bad thing. On the other hand, it’s a little like buggy owners complaining that horseless carriage drivers didn’t have a clue about feeding horses. In the end, I’m OK sharing the airspace with these kids. They’re the new, vibrant face of aviation—and yes, it is aviation—and I say welcome aboard.

Seguing here to airspace, the temporary tower this year at Sebring was an FAA operation, not the contract deal it has been in previous years. Previously, a private operator called AirBoss did the ATC duty. This show is so sparse that it’s barely needed, but it’s there for pilots who feel more comfortable being directed around the airspace and airport by radio. I’m not one of them, but the tower adds a layer of risk reduction.

To be kind, the FAA operation lacked a certain flexibility. I was out demoing a CTLS for this video early Friday morning returning from the south. There was one other aircraft in the area actually heading away from the airport. Sport Expo has a published procedure that requires flying in from Lake Jackson, about six miles away, then entering the pattern. It is an amusing shadow of the Ripon arrival. With the airport deserted, we asked for a straight-in for Runway 1. Nope, said the controller, you have fly all the way north to the lake, then south again to the airport. From where we were, it added about 12 totally unnecessary flying miles. We told him we could do the demo pattern instead.

Obviously, at AirVenture, you’d expect to see more accommodation in a situation like this and if people like me point that out, maybe we’ll get it in the future.

At the Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring, Florida, Flight Design showed off the new CTLS with Dynon's HDX avionics package. AVweb took a demo flight in the new airplane.

Swift Fuels says it’s pushing hard to market its 94UL unleaded aviation fuel to more airports and that the infrastructure is in place to refine and distribute it virtually anywhere in the U.S. At this week’s Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring, Swift’s Chris D’Acosta told AVweb that UL94 can be burned by about 65 percent of the U.S. general aviation fleet. The remaining aircraft require 100-octane fuel. In this AVweb podcast, D'Acosta gave us additional details about both UL94 and Swift's efforts to field a replacement for 100LL.

At the Sport Aviation Expo is Sebring this week, we spoke with several manufacturers of light sport aircraft (LSAs) about their expectations for the newly announced FAA BasicMed rule. The people who spoke to us for this AVweb exclusive podcast acknowledged that there are buyers for whom avoiding a medical is the key criterion and who might prefer a larger aircraft but felt most of their buyers were pilots who wanted a safe and modern two-seat aircraft.

Belite Aircraft, as the name implies, for many years has focused its energy on producing extremely light aircraft designs. At the 2017 Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring this week, company president James Wiebe announced a new model constructed of a material common in the aerospace industry but little used in light general aviation: aluminum honeycomb.

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Picture of the Week
Picture of the Week

Rainbows abounded in a shower at Orange County Airport. Gregg Erickson, of Poplar Grove, Illinois was waiting to take off and in the right place at the right time. Colourful shot, Greg. Click through to see it full size and a few others, too.

Providence Approach: King Air 1234 contact Bradley Approach on 123.95.

Providence Approach: King Air 1234 contact Bradley Approach on 123.95.

Providence Approach: King Air 1234 - contact Bradley Approach on 123.95

King Air 1234: (Scratchy static)Here,  you reply from your seat. This PTT is a POS.


 

Graeme Smith 

 

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