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The FAA has reorganized its certification division, scrapping the familiar Transport, Small Airplane, Engine and Propeller and Rotorcraft Directorates in favor of a new “functionally-aligned organizational structure.” Effective July 23 all certifications, whether on airliners or light aircraft, will flow, as is appropriate, through new organizations named Organizational Performance, International, Policy and Innovation, Compliance and Airworthiness, System Oversight and Enterprise Operations. The goal is to reduce the amount of time spent on certification so more emphasis can be put on known areas of concern. 

“The agency expects an effective realignment to produce an incremental reduction in involvement during the certification program,” the agency said in a fact sheet issued late last week. “In turn, freed resources will be refocused on areas of high safety impact and areas that the service does not currently have the capacity to support, such as fleet safety activities, new technology, or working with emerging foreign airworthiness authorities.” Although the titles and office door signs will change immediately, the practical implementation of the changes will happen over time. “Streamlining its regulations and policies will help the industry move products to market faster and retain competitiveness,” the FAA said.

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On the pre-opening day of AirVenture 2017, Dynon Avionics surprised early showgoers with a new program allowing the installation of its popular Skyview HDX EFIS system into certified aircraft. Initial approvals cover the Skyhawk and Baron lines, but Dynon's Michael Schofield told AVweb on Sunday that approvals will be expanded to other models.

The Skyview is a complete EFIS system, offering a primary flight display, multi-function display with moving map, ADS-B In and Out options, traffic and transponder and a backup D10A electronic gyro. For the time being, Dynon's comm radios are not included in the package, but Schofield said they eventually might be. The real eye opener is the price: about $20,000 installed, to include an autopilot with limited envelope protection. In Dynon's AirVenture booth, the company has on display the HDX installed in a Skyhawk and a 58 Baron.

In this AVweb video shot at the show on Sunday, Schofield said the HDX will allow owners to rid their airplanes of vacuum systems in favor of the proven reliability of glass panels. "We think it's going to be a fantastic new era for general aviation," he said. The Cessna on display at AirVenture has a single HDX with a D10A mounted on the left side of the display to provide backup. But an owner with sufficient budget could also choose to install dual displays.


Image: EAA

Every summer, when July rolls around, the aviation world begins to lean toward Oshkosh, and by this weekend, the flow into Wisconsin was nonstop. EAA has worked hard as ever to be sure there are new things for pilots to enjoy, and two of the biggest will be at Show Central at Boeing Plaza — the B-29 “Doc” from Wichita, and the Blue Origin rocket, New Shepard, a reusable rocket developed by Jeff Bezos’ space company. Also from Blue Origin, a full-size mockup of the crew capsule, with room for six astronauts, will be on display. Events will showcase the 50th anniversary of the Apollo program and the 75th anniversary of the Doolittle Raid. And plenty of folks will be on hand to talk about the big issue of the day, ATC privatization.

It’s the 65th annual fly-in, and everything that flies, from hot-air balloons to warbirds to jets to rocket ships, has a place here. Every manufacturer who has a new product will showcase it here, and we’ll bring you the news every day with newsletters, video and podcasts, delivered to your inbox. We’ll be searching every corner of the show to find what’s new, what’s interesting and what’s important to pilots. And we’ll be posting on Facebook and Twitter too, so look for us there. The show officially opens Monday morning and runs through next Sunday.


Owners impacted by the recently announced Lycoming connecting rod bushing service bulletin will be on their own to pay labor charges, the company told AVweb this week. However, Lycoming will provide the necessary parts. Customers who bought factory engines still covered under warranty will be afforded a labor allowance, according to Lycoming.

As we reported earlier this week, Lycoming Mandatory Service Bulletin 632 requires owners and operators of all Lycoming engines—regardless of model—to check them for off-spec connecting rod bushings within the next 10 hours of flight. According to the SB, the bushings were shipped from the factory between Nov. 18, 2015, and Nov.15, 2016. In addition, Lycoming also shipped defective connecting rod assemblies during periods between Nov. 20, 2015, and Feb. 2, 2017. These are also subject to the SB. The FAA is considering whether to issue an AD requiring the inspection and replacement of the problem bushings.

Lycoming says it doesn’t yet have a count on how many individual bushings and rod assemblies are affected. This week, AVweb polled three engine shops who were reviewing their records to see how many engines might be impacted. All three shops told us they’ve received many calls from customers seeking clarity on the SB requirements and thus far, none had heard from Lycoming concerning factory support for defective parts and labor charge reimbursement.

The suspect bushings are improperly machined and allow the piston end of the connecting rod to move side to side, potentially causing rod failure. Lycoming says there have been engine failures and two of the three shops we contacted said customers had experienced complete or partial engine failures as a result of the defective bushings. In December 2016, the New Zealand CAA issued a continuing airworthiness bulletin warning of the problem bushings after at least two failures were reported.

The SB provides a long list of serial numbers and models that must be checked. For many owners, this will be a paperwork exercise to rule out or in the use of problem bushings. Engines equipped with aftermarket PMA bushings from other sources aren’t affected.

If the engine’s bushings fall within the specified serial/date ranges, the SB describes an involved inspection process that requires removing the cylinders and using a special, Lycoming-provided tool to determine whether the bushing’s dimensions allow side-to-side movement. Lycoming has been manufacturing the tools for field distribution. The SB specifies that the piston not be removed from cylinder assembly to avoid additional labor and parts requirements.

If bushing movement is detected, the rods have to be removed and returned to Lycoming for replacement. If the bushings don’t move, the engine can be reassembled and returned to service. Lycoming will supply the required replacement parts, but labor is up to the customer or field shop unless the engine is covered under factory warranty. Lycoming told AVweb earlier this week that customers should contact their engine shops to inquire about warranty performance from the shop.

For factory warranty purposes, SB 632 allows 12 hours of labor for a four-cylinder engine and 16 hours for a six-cylinder engine. If problem bushings are found, owners should expect some downtime to allow for the rods to be shipped back to Lycoming for replacement and processing. With labor billed at at least $80 an hour, shops or owners not covered by warranty can expect charges between $1200 and $2000 on the low side and as much as twice as that on the high side, according to one shop owner we spoke to.  

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North American pilots swept the top three places in the Red Bull Air Race stop in Kazan, Russia, on Sunday. Kirby Chambliss, of the U.S., flew one of the few penalty-free runs of the Russian race to claim his second first-place finish in a row in a time of 58.378. Canada’s Pete McLeod managed a second-place finish at 59.125 that included a two-second penalty for not flying correctly through one of the pylons. American Mike Goulian was third at 59.650.

"I'm super excited, I was honestly just hoping to get in the Final 4. I didn't think we'd get the top spot,” said Chambliss, who was coming off a win in Budapest three weeks ago, his first in nine years. McLeod was the fastest pilot all weekend in Kazan and would have been the clear winner but for the pylon penalty, which, ironically, he considered his finest moment on Sunday. “I knew I had the penalty and I think the best piece of flying I did all weekend was missing that pylon; I'm still amazed I didn't hit it,” McLeod said. “It helps to be fast enough to take a two second penalty and still be in second place, so it's a great weekend.” It was Goulian’s first podium finish in years and he did it by smooth, conservative flying. “So even though it was conservative, it was what we wanted to do and it played in our favor,” he said. Next race is in Porto, Portugal.


AOPA awarded its Sweepstakes Cessna 172 to its new owner, Gary Walters, at Henderson Executive Airport this week. As in past years, the sweepstakes winner was lured to meet his new airplane under false pretenses, sort of. In Walter’s case, he was expecting to meet a potential home buyer at the FBO for a possible real estate transaction. Mark Baker, AOPA president, was there to present Walters with a set of keys to a very large poster. The actual Sweepstakes 172 will be spending next week on display at Oshkosh for AirVenture 2017.

The Sweepstakes 172 has become a bit of a demonstration airplane for many of the best Supplemental Type Certificate upgrades available for the classic Cessnas. Walters’ plane began life as a 1978 Cessna 172N. After decades of use it was refurbished to like-new condition by Yingling Aviation and received a new 180-HP motor from Lycoming, but with an electronic ignition system from ElectroAir replacing one magneto. The panel is decked out with Garmin avionics: G5 attitude indicator, GTN 650 navigator, GTX 345R transponder and GI 260 angle of attack indicator. AmSafe seatbelt airbags replace the old three-point harnesses. Comparably equipped Ascend 172s refurbished by Yingling sell for about $250,000.

Walters, a pilot for Allegiant Airlines, hasn’t flown a Cessna 172 in about 25 years, but says he’s looking forward to flying to visit family in Southern California soon.


The Stratos 714 VLJ (Very Light Jet) will be making its public debut at AirVenture 2017, as promised by company officials earlier this year. Carsten Sundin, the CTO and chief designer, said, “It has been a long road, with extensive designs and tests. The time invested has resulted in a true business jet performance that is within reach of an owner-operator for the first time.” The 714 is designed to carry six people up to 1,200 NM at 400 knots, which, if realized, will make the Stratos 100 knots faster and slightly larger than the Cirrus Vision Jet—though the Cirrus has the considerable benefit of being for sale now.

Since the first flight in November 2016, the Stratos 714 has flown 37 times for flight testing and refinement. “We have been very pleased with the results of the initial flight test program,” said Stratos CEO Michael Lemaire. “We were able refine the flight controls, improving the feel, and the pilots who have flown the aircraft have given us great feedback.” Fans attending Oshkosh can see the jet fly on Tuesday afternoon (scheduled for 2:45 p.m.) or visit the aircraft on static display at space 370 (between the Grand Entrance and Building D).

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Airbus is now 100 days in to its helicopter-for-hire experiment in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and says the Voom project is already having a “significant impact.” The routes take travelers between the city center and the outlying airports, cutting an “unbearable” three-hour ride in heavy traffic down to just 11 minutes by helicopter. “This is just plain awesome,” says Voom CEO Uma Subramanian in a blog post, “since it could conceivably take double the amount of time to find a parking space in downtown São Paulo.” The project has been developed by A3, the Silicon Valley outpost of Airbus, the same outfit that has been working to develop aviation technology that could solve the Bay Area’s traffic problems. The flights cost less than one-quarter what a traditional air-taxi service would charge.

Voom users can access a simple-to-use app that makes it easy to find and book a flight “within seconds.” Travelers then arrive at the helipad just 15 minutes before scheduled boarding time. The service partners with accredited RBAC Part 135 taxi operators that operate a variety of different helicopters. According to The Wall Street Journal, a taxi to the airport would cost about $55 and take at least an hour even in light traffic. A traditional helicopter charter for two would cost about $1,000, and the Voom trips cost about $100 to $200, depending on demand and availability. Subramanian told Reuters the company plans to expand operations to Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, in Brazil, and Mexico City, by the end of the year.

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For at least the last five years and probably longer than that, the retrofit autopilot market has been moribund. Autoflight systems have gotten so expensive that only the most dedicated buyers were willing to part with $20K or north to install one.

AirVenture 2017 seems determined to turn that trend around in more or less one day. As of the opening day of the show, we count no fewer than six new autopilot systems; seven if you consider Dynon’s announced approval of the Skyview HDX for certified aircraft. Counting up here, that’s two systems from Garmin, one each from TruTrak and Trio, one from BendixKing and one from Genesys Aerosystems, formerly STEC. These are in various states of approval for certified aircraft. You can read our coverage and videos on these systems for the technical details, but all of the products are aimed at the retrofit market. Surveying this embarrassment of riches, one might be forgiven for concluding there’s suddenly a vast unsatisfied demand for autopilots.

Excuse me, but fat chance. Flight activity continues to decline and although there may be a pulse in student starts, I don’t sense a latent desire for autopilot systems among our readers and viewers. So what’s going on? A couple of things. The big driver is what happened at Sun ‘n Fun in 2016 when EAA and Dynon paired up to announce STC approvals for the Dynon D10A EFIS, a heretofore experimental- and LSA-only product. That opened the door for TruTrak and Trio to follow the same path for their autopilots, products that are perfectly capable and cost a fraction of what certified autopilots have traditionally cost.

Second, without the onerous burden of overly restrictive FAA cert requirements, these companies could effectively leverage their close-to-the-bone development economics into the world of certified airplanes. TruTrak doesn’t have Garmin’s team of engineers, it has Andrew Barker’s determined creativity. The same is true for Dynon, which competes against Garmin with a smaller development team. Garmin, by the way, had no choice but to respond in kind, thus its announcement last week that it will pursue AMLs for its experimental line and add to that a mid-level autopilot for higher-performance airplanes.

Whether all these companies will find demand worthy of the R&D effort is an unknown, but my guess is they’ll find some. Today’s question of the week asks this very question, so you tell us.

Demand or not, however, this is a huge plus for anyone who has been shopping for an autopilot system or even considering it. A year ago, you had not a single choice for under $20,000. Now you’ve got a fat handful.

There’s another interesting development emerging from this trend. We didn’t make much of it, but Garmin also announced third-party autopilot support for its hot-selling G5 electronic gyro for a long list of older autopilots, including some real museum pieces. That means in addition to having the choice of several new autopilots with envelope protection, you can now nurse along an older one with a spiffy new e-gyro.

Think of it. That old 182 with the faded paint and bald tires you’ve been thinking of selling can be upgraded with state-of-the-art digital avionics. Won’t help the paint much, but at least it can fly itself with precision you never thought possible. 

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At AirVenture 2017, Dynon announced that its popular Skyview HDX system will be approved for installation in certified aircraft, beginning with the Cessna 172 but eventually extending to other aircraft as well. In this pre-opening day AVweb video, Dynon's Michael Schofield explained the new program.

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