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The new BasicMed FAA rule took effect on Monday, and according to AOPA, 1,354 pilots already have completed all the requirements to qualify for the program. Those pilots are now eligible to fly under the BasicMed rules. Another 3,897 pilots have completed the online medical education course quiz, and 2,412 pilots have begun the course, AOPA said. Besides taking the online course, pilots must complete a medical exam and checklist, possess a U.S. driver’s license and have held an FAA medical after July 14, 2006. The FAA said it is working on an updated BasicMed Advisory Circular (AC 68-1), which should be posted online on the BasicMed page sometime this week.

Pilots flying under BasicMed must fly aircraft with a maximum certificated takeoff weight of 6,000 pounds or less, and are authorized to carry no more than six occupants, including the pilot. They also must not fly above 18,000 feet MSL, and are limited to speeds not exceeding 250 knots. They also cannot fly for compensation or hire. The education course must be passed every two years, and the medical exam must be completed every four years. More details about the rule are posted at the FAA’s BasicMed webpage.

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Officials from the FAA visited Cirrus Aircraft in Duluth, Minnesota, on Tuesday to award the company with a production certificate for the Cirrus jet. The certification means that FAA staffers no longer need to check each individual jet before delivery, which will help the company to ramp up its production. "We are just reaching one a week production rate,” Cirrus operations president Pat Waddick told the local ABC News. “And later this year, we'll be increasing our rates even higher, and to do this we're adding new team members every day.” The company has 600 orders in hand for the jet, Waddick said, and he expects to add 100 jobs by the end of the year, at Cirrus facilities in Duluth, Grand Forks, and Knoxville, Tennessee.

The single-engine jet, which sells for about $2 million, was certified by the FAA in October, and deliveries began in December. The jet is designed to be owner-flown, with a Cirrus Perspective Touch cockpit by Garmin that’s similar to the avionics that Cirrus piston pilots are used to, and single-lever FADEC engine control. It also includes an airframe parachute system.


Bell Helicopter’s new tilt-rotor design, the V-280 Valor, is about 95 percent complete and will likely fly for the first time in September, the company says. Bell displayed a full-size mock-up of the V-280 last week at the Army Aviation Mission Solutions Summit in Nashville, Tennessee. The V-280 is designed to fly at speeds up to 280 knots, carry a crew of four plus up to 14 troops, and cover a range of up to 800 NM. It’s under development at the company’s facility in Amarillo, Texas. The company is competing against Sikorsky/Boeing’s SB-1 Defiant for a military contract to produce the aircraft. The Army is expected to select one of the two designs by 2019.

The Sikorsky/Boeing team recently released a new video about their project, revealing that it will have an airspeed of up to 250 knots and carry up to 11 troops. First flight is expected next year. Bell also is working on an autonomous tilt-rotor design, the Bell V-247 Vigilant. The Vigilant will have a 65-foot wingspan and will be capable of carrying a payload of up to 6.5 tons of fuel, armament and sensors.

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Flight Design has been the leader in sales of light sport aircraft since the category launched in 2004, but data recently compiled for sales through 2016 shows that CubCrafters has taken over the lead spot, with a total of 382 aircraft delivered, compared to Flight Design’s total of 378. Third place goes to the Cessna Skycatcher, which is no longer in production, with 269 in the fleet. For sales in the year 2016, Czech Sport Aircraft took the lead spot, with 30 airplanes delivered.

For total sales since 2004, Czech Sport Aircraft and American Legend fill in the top five spots, with total sales of 261 and 211. For deliveries in 2016, the top slots after Czech Sport Aircraft were filled by CubCrafters (17 aircraft), Pipistrel (14), Icon (13) and Tecnam (11). Total sales for the year in the category were 184. The numbers are compiled by Jan Fridrich, director of the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association in Europe, and reported at The data includes all Special LSA airplanes in the U.S. fleet, as reported by the FAA’s registration database. Cessna scrapped about 80 of its unsold Skycatchers, some of those might have been registered to Cessna in the FAA database.

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A monument to the helicopter crews of the Vietnam War will be placed at Arlington Cemetery, after a long uphill fight by advocates. It’s hard to think of that war without thinking of helicopters, whether your experience of the war was firsthand or from news, documentaries and movies like Apocalypse Now. But when a group of veterans approached Arlington National Cemetery about installing a monument to those crews, they met obstacles. The Army’s Advisory Committee for the cemetery deadlocked 3-to-3 on the proposal in March 2015. John McHugh, then the Army secretary, told Time magazine the monument would take up too much space, which is fast being used up. “The prime directive for the cemetery is to do everything it can not to initiate an action that would displace an otherwise-eligible veteran,” McHugh said. “On a very tough decision, that philosophy and unwritten rule was the determining factor.” The monument occupies about 6 square feet.

The Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association took their case to Congress, and gathered thousands of signatures on petitions asking the government to allow the monument to be installed. “Helicopters played a major role in Vietnam,” the VHPA said in a statement issued on Monday. “It is estimated that about 40,000 served as helicopter pilots during the Vietnam War. This monument honoring the sacrifices of helicopter crews in Vietnam is long overdue and much deserved.” About 5,000 helicopters were flown during that war, according to Time, and 42 percent of them were destroyed by enemy fire, bad weather and other problems. More than 2,000 pilots and 2,700 crewmen and gunners were killed. They helped to rescue more than 90,000 victims of war. Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Bob Hesselbein, who flew AH-1 Cobra gunships in Vietnam as an Army pilot before moving to the Air Force, helped spearhead the campaign for the memorial. “People need to create memorials and monuments to honor those who give the ultimate sacrifice,” he said.áThe monument will be placed in Section 35 along Memorial Drive, not far from the Tomb of the Unknowns.


photo: US Army

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Companies like Boeing, Cessna, Piper, Garmin and a handful of others rarely complain openly about the cost and delays of FAA certification. One reason is that through decades of experience, they understand the process and have in-house staff who know how the game has to be played. And they still spend a lot of money on certification work.

And then there are the drone guys who have, perhaps, not had the benefit of having their eyes de-scaled. The reason I think this is because of an article I read in The New York Times headlined, Silicon Valley Takes on the Flying Car. It appeared just as Uber was launching its airborne taxi conference last week. My colleague Mary Grady wrote about it here.

One of the quotes in that report caused me to nearly spew my morning coffee on my keyboard. It was from Sebastian Thrun, a technologist and self-driving car pioneer. He said this: “We have been in contact with the FAA and we see the regulators as friends.” You don’t need me to explain the na´vetÚ in that statement, but I’ll offer an observation or two anyway.

To think of regulators as friends is to fundamentally misconstrue the purpose and reality of the process. It’s not that the individuals in the FAA are enemies bent on destruction of whatever certification project you place before them, although comments on these pages have occasionally suggested that. What causes certification to spiral into the black vortex of frustration and maddening delay is the process itself, when those well-meaning FAA technocrats interact with each other, with higher headquarters and with the applicant to produce test requirements and data collection that seem patently unnecessary and unreasonable. Sometimes that’s true; often it is not.

While the industry could and should expect a cooperative attitude from regulators, that’s not the same as being a “friend.” Regulation is, by its nature, somewhat adversarial. If it weren’t, there would be no reason to have it. Certifying aircraft to carry people for hire has always been a steep hill to climb and at least partially for that reason, modern commercial aircraft might be the safest machines man has ever built to convey himself from Point A to Point B. Certifying autonomous electric aircraft, despite what the Silicon Valley techies may think, will be far more difficult because there’s no paradigm on which to draw and complexities of software and control with the outside world will be challenging to certify. The valley dwellers know how to write the code. They will be surprised that even though they think they understand the hoops they’ll have to jump through for certification, the FAA will be far more creative than they might imagine.

I’ve heard this spiel before. I once interviewed Vern Raburn when Eclipse was coming out of the ground around 2003. At the time, the VLJ—remember that term?—was the next big thing and it was going to darken the sky with airplanes in just the way autonomous air taxis are promised to do now. I can’t remember the words to this song, but the melody is familiar.

I remember Raburn saying the company had hired a highly experienced certification engineering lead and that it intended to view the FAA as its most important customer. At the time, I thought this clever, but rather odd. Customers are the people who buy what you make; regulators have another job. Eclipse obviously went the way the flying car or autonomous air taxi might very well go. But it wasn’t really certification that did Eclipse in, at least not entirely. In the end, it was poor management and a grandiose view of the market that didn’t comport with reality.

I think it could be same with the air taxi idea. There are definite parallels here. Recall that a core part of demand for the Eclipse jet was to be DayJet, an on-demand, short-range air-taxi service for people with more money than time. Sometime around 2006, I interviewed DayJet’s principal, the late Ed Iacobucci, and he laid it all out for me. As a software guy, he had a sophisticated model that showed how a network of efficient little jets would shuttle people around on short routes, generating economic activity and profits. DayJet was to buy 1400 Eclipse jets. When I asked how he was so sure this could work, Iacobucci said it was because his model said it would. I replied with a query to the effect that, what if the assumptions are crap? He smiled and acknowledged the point.

DayJet failed in 2008 after 11 months of operation. Iacobucci said at the time that it depended on certain traffic, demand and aircraft density. Eclipse couldn’t deliver the airplanes and DayJet couldn’t raise the $40 million in capital it needed to carry on. In September 2008, finding capital was all but impossible. But Iacobucci felt the concept had been proven and his projections validated.

I prefer to think it was neither proven nor disproven. It simply failed prematurely. Air taxi with multi-rotors will face the same challenge and many more related to certifying new things, convincing communities to allow them, planning routes and landing points and on ad infinitum.

The technology is essentially there, or will be. If enough patience and money is thrown at these things, I really think they can be certified. It may take quite a while, but I think it’s figure-outable. But as Eclipse and a handful of others discovered with the self-constructed mirage of the VLJ, there was no there there. The demand they imagined never reached the minimum critical mass because people have an annoying way of concluding that ideas you think are great really aren’t. Fifty-fifty the same thing happens with the autonomous air taxi.

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Hey, admit it: You'd own a P-51 Mustang if you could. In this AVweb video shot at Sun 'n Fun, P-51 owner Louis Horschel explains what's involved in P-51 ownership. If you think it involves money, you're right.


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Picture of the Week

A nice red airplane looks good just about anytime but Mike Bargman worked a little magic with this image of Jason Noll's Pitts S-2B to make a spectacular image. Noll owns Dream Scheme Designs so the airplane is a beauty, all right.


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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