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Pilots should be wary when operating close to the boundaries of Class B airspace, the FAA said recently in a Safety Alert for Operators. Flight crew who are on a visual approach may sometimes stray outside the boundaries of the designated airspace, the FAA said. In addition, the published approaches may sometimes take an airplane temporarily outside the airspace. At the same time, GA pilots may be operating close outside the boundaries without talking to ATC, as they depend more and more on inflight navigation aids such as GPS moving maps. That proximity increases the risk of a near-midair collision, the FAA says. The solution is for all pilots, whether flying inside or outside the Class B space, to become familiar with the vertical and lateral boundaries, the FAA said.

In addition, the SAFO notes, during busy times, pilots and flight crew might follow a controller’s instructions that cause them to exit the Class B airspace, but the crew is not aware of the excursion because the controllers are too busy to advise them. All pilots should “maintain external vigilance,” avoid distractions, and apply see-and-avoid practices anytime they are operating near Class B airspace boundaries, according to the SAFO. Class B airspace surrounds the nation’s busiest airports.

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Uber has gotten a lot of media attention for its experiments with autonomous cars, and now it’s ready to explore the potential of moving people around urban areas using electric-powered VTOL aircraft, creating a new project last year called Uber Elevate. NASA engineer Mark Moore, who has been with the agency for nearly 30 years, has been hired to lead Uber’s effort, Moore said this week. “My position at Uber will be to knock down the barriers,” Moore told AVweb in an email on Tuesday. “Key among the goals is to achieve at least a 10 to 15 dB reduction in community noise from what helicopters achieve today … Also achieving at least an automobile level of safety right from the start.” 

Moore said new VTOL designs now in development will be able to operate with one-tenth the energy consumption of traditional helicopters, using distributed electric propulsion. The vehicles also will be cheap to maintain, and if they fly as part of a fleet with high utilization of up to 2,000 hours per year, they can drop operating costs to one-quarter that of helicopters. “Altogether it seems clear that compared to helicopters operated today, the costs can drop by a factor of 4x and put electric VTOL into the realm of mainstream transportation when you account for the value of time saved,” Moore wrote.

Uber’s objective is not to develop their own vehicle, Moore said, but to bring the entire urban electric VTOL community ecosystem together, “to make this market real at a much faster pace than could otherwise be achieved by each of these companies working alone,” he said. “It’s an incredible, exciting time because of the rapidly developing technologies.” Moore's new title at Uber will be director of engineering for aviation. AVweb’s Mary Grady talked with Moore about NASA’s emerging technologies last year; you can listen to the podcast here.

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When two hikers recovered debris from the 1985 crash site of Eastern Airlines Flight 980 in Bolivia last year, including some recording tapes, the find raised hopes that a cause for the 727 crash might finally be identified — but the NTSB said on Tuesday its investigators have determined the materials “do not contain any [useful] data.” Some of the metal parts that were recovered “were consistent with parts related to the flight data recorder pressurized container assembly,” the NTSB said, and one metal piece was identified as a cockpit voice recorder rack. However, the magnetic tapes that were recovered were not from a cockpit voice recorder or flight data recorder.

The materials provided to the NTSB consisted of several metal fragments, one damaged spool of magnetic tape and two additional off-spool sections of magnetic tape. The magnetic tape on the spool was three-quarter-inch U-Matic videotape, and NTSB staffers found it contained an 18-minute recording of the “Trial by Treehouse” episode of the 1960s TV series “I Spy,” dubbed in Spanish. The tape segments were not the quarter-inch-wide tape that would have been used in a CVR or FDR at the time. The materials were examined in the NTSB’s recorder laboratory at its headquarters in Washington, D.C., following a request by the General Directorate of Civil Aviation of Bolivia.

The FAA on Tuesday published an emergency Final Rule that requires the operators of certain Piper twins to check the wiring for defects. “This AD [Airworthiness Directive] was prompted by a fatal accident where evidence of thermal damage in this area was found,” the FAA said. The AD requires the initial inspection within 30 days after Feb. 22, and repetitive inspections at intervals not to exceed 12 calendar months. This differs from the compliance time specified in the service bulletin issued by the manufacturer. Also, the service bulletin specifies the use of a 10X magnifying glass; however, the FAA says the inspection space is very confined, and it is difficult to use a magnifying glass in the area. Therefore the AD requires the use of mirrors, a suitable light source, and other equipment (small cameras, borescopes and magnification, etc.) as needed to complete a visual inspection of the area.

The AD went straight to final rule, without any opportunity for comment or discussion, because the FAA says it “involves requirements affecting flight safety.” The action was prompted by the crash of a Piper in November during a medevac flight, in which four people died. However, the public is now invited to comment, and the FAA will consider and respond to any written data, views or arguments about the AD. The annual inspection should only take an hour, the FAA says, at a cost of $85. If the inspection finds that wires, fluid lines and/or terminals need to be replaced, that would cost about $270. The rule affects Piper models PA–31T, PA–31T1, PA–31T2, PA–31T3 and PA–31P–350.

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Lightspeed has further refined its Zulu headset line with beefed-up design features and a more comfortable fit. The company unveiled the Zulu 3 on Tuesday and along with the technical refinements it added a seven-year warranty. In a news release, Lightspeed called it "the most comfortable, most durable headset Lightspeed has ever made."

The Zulu 3 has tapered ear seals that fit better and a 50 percent bigger cup cavity than competitors to give ears more room and avoid pinching. Surrounding those ear cavities are ear seals that are 20 percent bigger than competitors and provide a better seal around glasses. They are also designed to minimize side pressure. Cables have a Kevlar core so they’re lighter and more durable, and extensive use of magnesium in the structure of the headset makes it light and durable. 

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Before beginning a flight, FAR 91.103 commands that each pilot in command shall become familiar with all available information concerning that flight. Tall order that, but you're halfway to compliance when you ace this quiz.

Click here to take the quiz.

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AVweb Insider

In today's Avweb VLOG, Paul Bertorelli asks President Trump to make good on his promise to reduce government regulation. 

At the 2017 Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring, Aerokprakt was showing the A22LS and AVweb's Geoff Rapoport took a demo flight in it.

Picture of the Week
Picture of the Week

Getting away from pavement and controlled airspace seems to be the theme of contributors to this week's Picture of the Week and we can't think of a better place to get away from it all than the back country of Utah. Our winner this week is Ted Waltman, who took advantage of tundra tires and perfect light to make us all a little envious.

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