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Lycoming issued a Mandatory Service Bulletin on Monday that requires owners and operators of its engines to check them for connecting rods that contain bushings that do not meet Lycoming Engine’s specifications. The bushings were manufactured between specified date ranges from November 2015 to as late as February 2017. The service bulletin specifies the dates and part numbers. Lycoming said Tuesday that it didn't have an estimate of how many rods and bushings are impacted.

The SB contains a warning to owners: “You must complete the ‘Required Action’ in this Service Bulletin. If you do not complete the ‘Required Action’ in this Service Bulletin, and the connecting rod bushing moves out of place, the connecting rod can fail and cause un-commanded structural engine failure.”

The first step in the SB requires operators to check their engine serial numbers to identify affected engines. The SB applies to all engine models Lycoming makes, including factory-new and overhauled engines and, potentially, those overhauled by field shops. However, only a fraction of these have the suspect bushings. Lycoming estimates that about 1300 factory engines will require inspection, but a much smaller number will require bushing replacement.

If the engine is affected, the Lycoming parts source must be contacted to review all the engine paperwork to determine whether the engine could have one or more of the suspect connecting rod bushings or connecting rod assemblies. If the suspect parts are found, cylinders will have to be removed and the parts replaced. Lycoming is manufacturing a special tool to assist in this process. It estimates the work could take 12 hours for a four-cylinder engine and up to 20 hours for an eight-cylinder engine. The work may be covered under Lycoming's warranty, but it's unclear if field shops are expected to cover the costs of such work. 

Continental 'Factory new CM Magnetos at near-rebuilt pricing'

With less than a week to go before the start of AirVenture at Oshkosh, Garmin announced two new retrofit autopilot systems—the budget-based GFC500 for basic airframes and the higher-end GFC600 for high-performance singles, twins and turboprops. 

The GFC500 is priced at $6995, comes from Garmin’s experimental avionics line (it will have STC approval) and has been proven in the G3X integrated avionics suite. The new interface is built around Garmin’s recently introduced G5 electronic flight instrument, which has onscreen autopilot mode annunciation and provides cross-check of the autopilot's own self-contained roll and pitch sensors. The G5 flight instrument is also used for data input and for arming the altitude preselect, setting the heading bug, vertical speed and target airspeeds, plus it displays autopilot flight director command bars. 

The GFC500 can be expanded with optional automatic electric pitch trim, which requires the installation of an additional trim servo, but installations on lighter and more basic airframes will make use of the system's standard trim prompting, where the system prompts the pilot to manually trim the aircraft. This saves installation time, cost and complexity.

The GFC500 uses a dedicated autopilot mode controller, which can be mounted in the radio stack and has a control wheel for setting pitch, airspeed and vertical speed select. As with Garmin's integrated GFC700, the GFC500 has envelope protection with a level button that returns the aircraft to straight-and-level flight if the pilot loses control.

The GFC500 has full instrument approach coupling when interfaced with compatible GPS and VHF nav radios, including raw nav (VOR/LOC and ILS) and has GPS LNAV/VNAV glideslope capturing. An optional nav interface adapter might be required to interface the G5 and the autopilot with select Garmin GPS or VHF radios. Buyers will likely want the capability because the automation is far more advanced than other dated entry-level autopilot systems on the market. There’s an external go-around button that commands the flight director to display the appropriate pitch attitude required for flying the missed approach procedure and it automatically activates a loaded missed approach when paired with a Garmin GTN 650/750 GPS navigator.

Garmin says the initial STC for the GFC500 is expected to be completed on the Cessna 172 in the fourth quarter of 2017 and STC approval for the Cessna 182 and Piper PA-28 models will follow. Total system price including the G5 flight instrument will be less than $10,000, before installation. 

Garmin also announced third-party autopilot interfaces for the G5 EHSI/DG, which provides heading and course data to existing S-TEC, Century and BendixKing autopilots. This requires the new GAD29B adapter.


The higher-end GFC600, which starts at around $20,000, is designed as a standalone system with built-in pitch and roll sensors, but it integrates with Garmin's G500/600 primary flight display for autopilot mode display, heading command and for displaying flight director command bars. It can also interface with Aspen's Evolution PFD, plus a variety of GPS navigators and VHF nav radios for full approach coupling. The system hardware was designed to meet FAA TSO standards and unlike the G500, is a ground-up fresh design that doesn't come from the company's experimental avionics line. 

The GFC600's mode controller can be mounted in the radio stack and has backlit keys and a sunlight-readable digital display. There's also an optional remote autopilot display for putting mode data within the pilot's primary view.  Using brushless DC motors and a gear train (instead of mechanical slip clutches), the GFC600's servos are environmentally hardened—which means they were designed for the airframe's harsh operating conditions where water, dirt and other contaminants can shorten service life.

The GFC600 is a three-axis system when expanded with optional yaw damper. Worth mentioning is that both the GFC600 and GFC500 autopilots come standard with Garmin's ESP electronic stability control and have underspeed and overspeed protection. 

ESP works in the background even when the autopilot isn't engaged. If predetermined pitch, roll or airspeed limitations are exceeded, the system provides gentle nudges on the flight controls to reduce the aircraft’s pitch attitude or bank angle. The correcting force becomes stronger if the exceedance worsens and the autopilot will ultimately engage with the flight director in level mode, bringing the aircraft to level flight. For maneuvering flight, ESP can be disabled.

Garmin has already earned FAA STC for the GFC600 in the Beechcraft A36 Bonanza and B55 Baron and said it's working on more applications.  For an inflight video report of both systems, click here.

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ForeFlight is now offering an ADS-B In device that’s compatible with its flight-planning app for $199, the company said this week. The unit, developed in collaboration with uAvionix, is small (about 3 inches by 1 inch and weighing less than an ounce), easy to set up and use and provides weather and air-to-air traffic data. However, “Customers should keep in mind that if their aircraft is not equipped with ADS-B Out, then they will have a limited view of traffic on ForeFlight,” the company says. The product goes on sale next week at EAA AirVenture at the ForeFlight exhibit, or via Amazon starting Saturday.

“We are excited to bring Scout to market in collaboration with uAvionix,” said Tyson Weihs, ForeFlight co-founder and CEO. "We want every pilot flying with the benefits of ADS-B In. The combination of an ADS-B In solution with ForeFlight makes flying safer and we believe has led to a meaningful reduction in weather-related incidents and accidents. We are delighted to now offer – for those pilots and operators on a limited budget – a low-cost option that will increase the number of pilots who can fly with this essential safety-enhancing capability. Inflight weather and traffic delivers better situational awareness and leads to better decision-making."

The device won’t help those pilots hoping to comply with the FAA’s ADS-B rules, which mandate that airplanes using certain airspace must be equipped with ADS-B Out by 2020.


The Global Super Tanker, a converted 747 designed to fight wildfires, has been grounded in California even as fires rage, and its operators say it’s because of “red tape” imposed by the U.S. Forest Service. “We just happen to be the biggest, fastest fire truck in the air,” said Jim Wheeler, CEO of Global SuperTanker Services, which owns and operates the airplane. But the company said in a news release on Friday the U.S. Forest Service said its contract limits firefighting aircraft to 5,000 gallons of fire suppressant. The 747 carries up to 19,000 gallons. Wheeler says he protested the contract and asked for an explanation for the rule. An agency spokesman said in an email the agency couldn’t comment, because of the company’s protest. “Why is the United States Forest Service keeping [the 747] grounded?” asked Global SuperTanker in their news release. They haven’t gotten an answer.

The Associated Press looked into the dispute in a story published on Saturday, but didn’t find much clarity — the Forest Service declined to comment, repeating that it couldn’t because of the company’s protest. The airplane was certified by the FAA last September, and has been used to fight fires in Chile and Israel. "The frustration factor is exceptionally high," Wheeler told CBS News. "It's very hard to watch property burn and lives lost, and we can't get in and help." The airplane’s firefighting advantage is not just the size of the tank, says CBS, but the new technology used — a pressurized system atomizes the water as it's released, rather than just dumping it, like a bucket. "It doesn't break down tree limbs, it won't crush cars or buildings," Wheeler told CBS.

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Pilot Vlado Lenoch, 64, of Illinois, and his passenger, Bethany Root, 34, of Kansas, died about 10:30 Sunday morning when the P-51 Mustang “Baby Duck” they were flying crashed in Kansas, news outlets have reported. Lenoch had flown the classic airplane on Saturday night at the Atchison airport, in an airshow that was held as part of the Amelia Earhart Festival. The airplane was owned by the Warbird Heritage Foundation. It was a P-51D-25-NA, the foundation said, built in 1944. Lenoch, who worked at Boeing for many years, had been flying since age 17. He had an ATP certificate, more than 17,000 hours of flight time and a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering.

The airplane had reportedly been flying for only 10 or 15 minutes before the crash. Root was the general manager at the airport, and had a passion for aviation, according to the local fox4 website. "Very enthusiastic, very energetic. She loved to fly; she loved aviation; she wanted everybody else to love aviation," said co-worker Jacque Pregont. "Find something that you're really passionate about and do it, and that's what she was doing. It’s a horrible, horrible loss.” Investigators are en route to the scene, local officials said.

image: Warbird Heritage Foundation

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This week’s news feed produced the disturbing and surprising announcement that Missouri’s Rep. Sam Graves will vote in favor of ATC privatization, otherwise known as HR 2997, but in real terms the biggest public giveaway to the airlines since the depression.

Graves, you probably know, is head of the House general aviation caucus and has been a reliable, stalwart supporter of the industry since his term began in George W. Bush’s first term. In supporting the 21st Century AIRR Act, as it’s called, Graves said he flipped from opposing the bill to supporting it because a provision has been added prohibiting user fees for general aviation. (Read the text here.)

Seriously? Rep. Graves has been around the houses enough times to know that the once the large hill of privatization is climbed in the first place, the nettlesome clause about user fees can be dispensed with by subsequent revisions. I wonder if he believes the GA community is naļve enough to accept his assurances. But I wonder even more what he traded for that vote because good public policy it ain’t.

The bill also has a provision that prohibits the ATC corporation from denying airspace access to non-fee-paying entities. I believe that will stick like I believe in the Easter Bunny. Once the door is open to privatization, the airline-dominated oversight board will reconfigure the system ever so slowly to optimize it for its own needs. As I’ve said before, I’m less worried about fees than an erosion of easy and routine access to all ATC services. I’m just contrarian enough to go against the alphabets on this issue, but I just can’t see an argument that this structure is of any conceivable benefit and I’m not willing to give it a chance. So, sorry Sam. I’m not buying it.

Bouquets and Brickbats for Southwest

Hardly a week goes by, it seems, that we aren’t running news about some airline mistreating customers or some customers running off the rails and having to be forcibly ejected from an airliner, with cause. It’s a jungle out there.

So it was cheering to hear this story about Southwest turning a departing flight back to the gate and removing a woman passenger. The reason was that the airline had been notified that the woman’s son had become comatose. They rerouted her travel plans so she could join her son at bedside. They tended to her luggage and even packed a lunch at one of her connections. The son recovered and so far, everyone is living happily ever after.

Oddly, this didn’t happen last week or even last month, but more than two years ago. It was covered contemporaneously. It recently resurfaced because, well shucks, it’s just so heartwarming. And it is. Southwest went above and beyond, even if it actually happened two years ago. I’m a regular customer of Southwest and a beneficiary of its exceptional customer service. But as you’re dabbing that tear from the corner of your eye, let me hurl this imaginary brick through the Southwest storefront.

Last week, I got an email from the airline urging me to call my representative to support HR 2997. Say it ain’t so, Southwest. And not just no, but hell no.

Fly SAM STC Approved

Nothing says Cub like the iconic yellow-with-lightning-bolt paint scheme of the J-3 but some buyers of Cub derivatives are looking for something a little more distinctive. CubCrafters' John Whitish showed an especially dynamic design at Sun 'n Fun earlier this year.

Lightspeed || Meet Zulu 3 A new and better choice in headsets

Bob Withrow, VP of Engineering at Scaled Composites, in Mojave, California, says the company will offer 40 forums during EAA AirVenture on all aspects of homebuilding, plus insights into the company's unique aircraft designs. 

JP International 'Checklist for JPI

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