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In an April 5 report on its ADS-B rebate program for general aviation, the FAA says it has processed 5,008 reservations for the rebates, and 14,910 rebates remain to be claimed by the end of the program on Sept. 18. That’s much slower than the FAA’s planned rate for reaching its goal, which projected 12,000 reservations by April. The report also notes that the “fly and validate” phase has 3,707 participants, 3,620 have filed a claim, and 1,064 reservations that were made have expired without further action. Also, the report states that 35 rebate applicants who originally planned to install NavWorx systems have switched to install an “eligible avionic unit.” The FAA “de-certified” certain NavWorx units last November, an action that NavWorx has disputed. EAA and AOPA also raised questions about the action.

The FAA’s rebate plan offers a $500 rebate to help owners of general aviation aircraft equip now with the ADS-B Out avionics that will be required Jan. 1, 2020, to fly in most controlled airspace. The program will run until Sept. 19, 2017, or until all 20,000 rebates have been claimed. To qualify for the rebate, avionics must be certified to FAA Technical Standard Orders and meet the program rules (software upgrades of existing equipment are not eligible). Aircraft also must complete a flight test. The FAA report is posted under "Related Files," below.

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The NTSB has released a special report based on its investigation last year into the effectiveness of pilot weather reports. The report concludes that pilots need better training and procedures, and air traffic controllers need to do more to be sure the pilot weather reporting system enhances aviation safety. One key to a safer system is better handling of the reports when they are received by ATC, says NTSB Acting Chairman Robert Sumwalt. “Even with the many advances that have been made in weather modeling and forecasting in recent years, there’s still nothing that can replicate the value of pilots’ reports of the weather conditions they encounter,” Sumwalt said. "As a longtime general aviation and air carrier pilot, I can’t overemphasize the importance of Pireps. They provide pilots of all types of aircraft with critical real-time information that can enhance safety for everyone in the skies.”

To create the special report, NTSB staffers investigated several recent incidents and accidents and engaged in discussions with members of various Pirep user groups. This research revealed deficiencies in the handling of Pirep information that resulted in delays, errors and data losses. The report details numerous factors that make it hard for air traffic controllers to solicit, collect and disseminate Pireps, including a lack of consistent best practices, insufficient automation capabilities and a lack of scenario-based training.†Some of the positive actions that could improve the system, the NTSB concludes, would be to emphasize the importance of Pireps during pilot training and create standard criteria for reporting weather conditions. Also, the FAA needs to address pilots’ concerns that they could be targeted for enforcement action if they report about encountering adverse weather conditions beyond what they or their aircraft are rated for.

The 68-page report is posted online.

image: Twitter, NJaffurs

A UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter was on a routine training flight with three crew on board when it crashed on a golf course in Maryland Monday afternoon, killing one pilot, CNN has reported. One survivor was in critical condition, and the other was in serious condition, according to the U.S. Army. The flight had launched from Davison Airfield at Fort Belvoir, in Virginia. One witness said pieces fell from the aircraft while it was in flight, and another said it was spinning before it went down, according to The Associated Press. The cause of the crash is under investigation, the Army Military District of Washington said in a statement. The aircraft was assigned to the 12th Aviation Battalion.

The helicopter was the second military aircraft to crash in the area recently. An F-16 jet from Joint Base Andrews on a training flight crashed April 5 in Clinton, Maryland. The pilot steered the jet toward a wooded area and then bailed out. He was treated for minor injuries and released. Nobody on the ground was hurt but the jet was destroyed.

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Metro Skyways said on Monday they plan to develop a four-passenger, hydrogen-powered, autonomous VTOL flying car, the CityHawk. The vehicle will initially use jet fuel, but eventually will be converted to liquid hydrogen and then to compressed hydrogen, the company said. Development is expected to take about five years. The company plans to use a standard FAA-approved aviation engine, the company said, with an independent fuel system. Metro is a subsidiary of UrbanAero, which developed the Cormorant VTOL, on which the CityHawk will be based. The Cormorant has logged more than 200 hours in flight test.

Although the CityHawk will initially be piloted by a human pilot, the vehicle's flight-control and flight-management systems will be capable of a high degree of autonomy from the outset, the company said. As the technology and regulations mature, CityHawk said, they will eventually transport passengers robotically. The CityHawk also will include a ballistic parachute.

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Thinking of an avionics upgrade? Wondering what the latest cockpit technologies are? What's new in the field of avionics and instrument systems? How do the aviation regulations affect how you operate and maintain your aircraft? You can find information on all of these topics by reading Avionics News, the monthly magazine of the Aircraft Electronics Association. And, best of all, it's a free publication for U.S. residents. Subscribe today by visiting AvionicsNews.net.

A Southwest Airlines pilot was arrested in Albany, New York, on Monday for trying to board his plane with a loaded handgun in one of his carry-on bags. TSA officers spotted the .380 caliber gun during a routine X-ray scan, the agency said in a news release. The gun was loaded with six bullets. The pilot said he was unaware the weapon was in the bag, a Southwest spokesperson said. He was taken into custody by the local sheriff and charged with criminal possession of a weapon. The pilot’s name was not released. The flight, bound for Chicago-Midway, was delayed for about four hours.

Firearms, firearm parts and ammunition are not permitted in carry-on bags, but they can be transported in checked bags if they are unloaded, properly packed and declared to the airline, according to the TSA. Travelers who bring firearms to a TSA checkpoint are subject to criminal charges from law enforcement and civil penalties from the TSA of up to $12,000, the TSA said.

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When your imagination grasps the challenges of flight, the sky becomes a 3-D canvas across which dreams come true. OK, that cheesy metaphor is a bit too Disneyesque, but it should inspire you to ace this quiz.

Click here to take the quiz.

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What a difference a year makes.

A year ago, almost to the day, we were excoriating Icon for its lopsided buyer contract that made draconian sound like an upgrade. In the midst of a beat down by the press, Icon circled the wagons at Sun ‘n Fun, conducted tight-lipped interviews, if any at all, and finally re-engineered the buyer agreement.

The year-to-the-day part came two weeks ago when the company had its first accident, or least the first significant one that we know about. Operating in Biscayne Bay off Miami, the aircraft had a hard landing and either shipped water or breached the hull and sunk up to the wings. No injuries. What’s different is that Icon reached out to us with a brief statement explaining the accident so we wouldn’t have to chase them down for the inevitable no comment or the usual enervating spin. Or be tempted to quote an Icon-hating source.

Note to companies: If whatever you do is about to hit the news cycle or already has, that’s the best way to tamp it down and get it out the news cycle as quickly as possible. United Airlines, take note.

In the news comment section, someone cracked: “So much for Icon training.” Tough crowd. Icon said the accident was its first in about 3500 hours of flying. So what does it mean? Absolutely nothing, other than this: If you fool around in boats that fly, you’ll eventually screw up a landing, hit an obstruction in the water or otherwise spooge something and you’ll sink one. Welcome to reality. No amount of training, no matter how perfect, will change that. When the type has 10 times as many hours, we’ll know more about its accident pattern. For now, it looks like par.

Is it news? Of course it’s news. In the same way we covered the early rash of Cirrus crashes was news. When a company throws down and says it’s going to change everything, we’re going to pay a lot more attention than if they just introduce another “exciting” white-painted airplane with a panel full of virtual reality. Once Cirrus beat back the accident rate, we covered that, too. Now we don’t cover Cirrus crashes unless there’s video of the CAPS deployment, and even that has become passť.

On a darker note, it has now been 631 days since I have not been allowed to fly in an Icon A5.

Gyrocopter Guy Two Years Later

What a difference two years makes.

Yes, it has been two years since the whacky postman, Doug Hughes, caused another Washington &^%fit by landing his gyrocopter on the Capitol lawn, thereby becoming a graying American Mathias Rust.

At the time, I was outraged that he was so self-centered as to risk damaging the entire aviation community for his own narrow interests of highlighting political dysfunction by delivering 535 letters lamenting the infusion of big money into politics. Like many, I thought that maybe he shoulda just mailed the stupid letters. On the other hand, this sort of theater has been a durable feature of American politics and, in a way, is what a pluralistic democracy should be about. It occasionally features harmless civil disobedience.

Aye, I’ve mellowed. A recent story in Politico updated the Hughes story and noted that he was sentenced to four months in a federal slammer and served three, followed by a stint in a halfway house to ease his reintegration back into society. If that part sounds just slightly risible, consider this: When a fellow inmate asked Hughes what he was in for, he replied “illegally parking of a gyrocopter at the Capitol building.” Well, it was a little more than that, but not much more. That it came to that shows how paranoid we’ve become about terrorism juxtaposed with things that fly.

Why the United Story Won't Die

What a difference a week makes. Or doesn’t.

The United Airlines story about removing a passenger by force did not, as many predicted, die overnight. It remained above the fold all week and we’re running yet another story today. Predictably, the third, fourth or fifth evolutions now have United disowning Republic Airways, which operated the flight under United’s flag. This week, ALPA fired off a press release rightfully deploring the fact that a passenger was treated so poorly, but couldn’t resist a “but it wasn’t us” rejoinder, noting that neither United nor its ALPA-member pilots were involved.

In my view, this is the sort of buck passing that tends to keep the ember of such stories smoldering. My view is that the sooner you own it unconditionally, the sooner you can mend the PR damage. (See Icon, above.) It took United CEO Oscar Munoz four days to get there, but he eventually did and said it should never have happened. Period. And that it won’t again.

In my view, that this story continues to reverberate is emblematic of the frustration people feel in being treated so poorly as customers, and not just by the airlines. Modern business is festooned with scam offers, bait-and-switch pricing and fine-print contracts with hidden charges. The airlines’ usurious $200 change fee is just a visible example.

To sample public opinion on this, I read news columns and blogs until my eyes glazed over. One feature of these was consistent and especially dispiriting. By my rough score keeping, between 10 and 20 percent of people think the passenger deserved the beating he got. In other words, failing to give up his seat was righteously paired with a concussion and a broken nose. I suspect you’ll see a similar percentage in the AVweb poll we’re running this week. Pardon me, but that lack of perspective strikes me as being worse than the event itself. I’d hate to see the punishment these folks would dole out for something serious.

Still, I think United actually has an opportunity here. It consistently rates at the bottom or near the bottom for customer service and this sort of traumatic event can serve as a pivot point to turn things around. Judging by reaction and notes from United employees, they are proud, dedicated people rightfully appalled by what happened on that aircraft. If Munoz is smart—and he’s supposed to be—he’s got a rare opportunity to forthrightly lead in the right direction.

Now we can wait to see if a year makes any difference.

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At Sun 'n Fun 2017 in Lakeland, Florida, Maule Air was showing updated versions of its M-series aircraft, including the M4-180V S2, which is equipped with a 180-HP Lycoming O-360 engine, has Maule's signature cargo doors and is priced just shy of $200,000. In this video, Aviation Consumer editor Larry Anglisano took a look at the aircraft with Brent Maule.

Picture of the Week
Picture of the Week

Our friends at FLYER Magazine in the U.K. earn honors this week with a beautiful glassy water landing by Chester Lawson's Grumman Widgeon on Lake Ashby in Florida. Joe Fournier took the photo, which we expect will be in the magazine later this year. Nice shot.

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