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Jack Pelton, chairman of EAA, says AirVenture 2017, the 65th edition and the 48th consecutive show held at Whitman Regional in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, is likely to be the biggest ever. Last year, the show reached a new attendance record, but a modest one—up 1% over 2015. This year, advance purchase tickets are up 12% over last year, and aircraft parking was 85% full by Sunday night, said Pelton. Over 8,000 aircraft had already arrived by the time of the Monday news conference. Unusually lovely weather may be playing a role in robust attendance. Forecasts all week call for highs in the high 70s to low 80s.

Pelton expressed considerable excitement for the 50th anniversary reunion of the Apollo astronauts. (The number of years depends on exactly what you take to be the start of the Apollo program.) Some of the surviving Apollo astronauts have taken to calling this their “final reunion,” according to Pelton, who seemed to briefly hold back tears describing the event. This year also marks the 75th anniversary of the Doolittle Raid, the 40th anniversary of the Christen Eagle, and the 90th anniversary of Lindberg’s Atlantic crossing, all to be honored at the show. Pelton also bragged about work done on the airport grounds in the off-season. Repeat AirVenture alumni will note improvements to the Theater in the Woods, a homebuilt meeting area inspired by the Triple Tree Airport and a new Quonset hut for the Warbird Area. A considerable portion of Pelton’s remarks and questions from the media were dedicated to concerns over ATC privatization, which continue to loom over the show.

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.

The entire fleet of Piper M600s has been grounded following the discovery of a single, non-conforming aft wing spar from Piper’s component supplier. The non-conforming part was discovered to be below minimum thickness in one region, prompting a mandatory service bulletin. Piper CEO Simon Caldecott told members of the media at AirVenture Monday, “Our first priority is the safety of our customers and their passengers, so in an abundance of caution, we have taken the conservative route,” requiring inspection of all 38 of the M600s that have left the factory—32 in the hands of customers.

Caldecott told AVweb that the inspection is a straightforward, single-day operation. The M600 uses a wet wing, so the fuel tanks must be drained, and inspection panels removed. Some sealant will have to be stripped to measure the relevant section of the aft wing spar, then reapplied. Caldecott says he doesn’t expect to find any additional non-conforming parts, and has a personal theory about how the single bad part made it to Piper, but declined to speculate until Piper’s engineering team has had more time to investigate with the benefit of data from customer airplanes.

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For pilots who are still not sure about how the BasicMed program works, or if it’s right for them, the FAA’s latest Safety Briefing magazine aims to answer all of your questions. The issue, available for free download online (PDF), includes a Q&A, an infographic that walks you through the procedures and advice on how to talk to your doctor about the options. It also features a listing of all the FAA safety forums scheduled for this week at the FAA Safety Center at EAA AirVenture, which cover a range of topics, including what you need to know about over-the-counter drugs, visual flight illusions, fatigue, stress and more. Updates on the FAA medical are offered at the Safety Center on Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. and Friday at 10 a.m.

The new BasicMed rules took effect in May. Under the rules, private pilots can choose to fly without a medical certificate, under most conditions. The details of how the rule works can be found at the FAA website. The FAA has also posted a video and a checklist online to help pilots navigate the new system.

Icon Aircraft hopes to deliver 15 aircraft by the end of this year and ramp up to 200 for 2018. In an interview at AirVenture 2017, CEO Kirk Hawkins said six aircraft have been delivered to customers who have so far been pleased with the aircraft. “Customers love it,” said Hawkins, who added that resumption of deliveries is a significant milestone for the company. The company suspended production 18 months ago when it became apparent that its production goal of 200 a year from its Vacaville, California, assembly plant was overly optimistic because it was plagued by supply-chain problems from third party suppliers, particularly in composite parts. “We took that back in-house,” he said. A new 300,000-square-foot composites facility in Tijuana recently came online and the first airplane using parts from the Mexican plant will be delivered in September.

Along the way, the company has identified small design modifications that make the aircraft easier to build. The new aircraft will be designated as 2018 models. He said the company has a backlog of 1800 orders but will increase production based on new demand from the market. He said it’s gratifying to finally have some revenue coming into the company instead of it pouring out and he’s pleased with the reception from customers. While waiting for the production facilities, the company focused on training position holders and has put 125 customers through the course. "We have an airplane factory and a pilot factory," Hawkins said.

CubCrafters announced Monday at AirVenture that it's offering Garmin's top-selling G3X Touch in its Part 23 certified XCub, making it the first company to amend a type certificate to allow non-certified or non-TSO'd avionics. The G3X Touch is a favorite among homebuilders and light sport manufacturers and has a full-featured primary flight display plus an autopilot with envelope protection. 

The announcement is significant because, according to CubCrafters' Randy Lervold, it represents the first example of the FAA approving a Part 23 type certificate amendment under the new risk-based criteria it had pledged to follow. Mel Johnson, deputy director of the FAA's just announced Policy and Innovation division, told reporters and editors that the roadmap CubCrafters used is available to any company that wishes to use it.

CubCrafters' iteration of the glass panel includes the Touch, a GTR200R comm radio and GTX335 transponder, all from Garmin. The transponder has ADS-B Out functionality. The new suite will be available in the 2018 XCub models as a $27,000 upgrade over the standard steam gauges the airplane is equipped with. The XCub has proven to be a strong seller for CubCrafters since its introduction a little over a year ago. The airplane is approved for floats and can be flown day and night VFR. Lervold said he wasn't certain if the XCub would achieve IFR certification. 

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Superior Air Parts, holder of 3,500 PMAs for general aviation aircraft, celebrates 50 years in business with the publication of Engine Management 101, a compendium of years of experience building and selling replacement engine parts. Well-known to mechanics and owners, Superior is the only supplier of many replacement engine parts other than the original equipment manufacturer. Superior takes great pride in keeping prices for replacement parts competitive.

“Superior has been built on the simple goal of producing engine parts that deliver unbeatable performance at a reasonable price,” says Scott Haynes, vice president of sales and marketing. “Publishing Engine Management 101 is another way we’re continuing that commitment. Too many owners just don’t understand what they can do to get more life out of their engines.” Bill Ross, vice president of product support and the author of Engine Management 101, will be giving out copies of his book for free to attendees at his AirVenture forum sessions this week.

BREAKTHROUGH! - Cubcrafters

At AirVenture 2017, Cirrus announced a bold new approach to training pilots new to Cirrus aircraft—including new and used SR22 and SR20 models. Called Cirrus Embark, the complimentary transition training program applies to any new Cirrus owner (including all partners in shared ownership situations) whether the aircraft was purchased directly from Cirrus or from a third party.

Cirrus Embark was designed as an add-on to the company’s CirrusApproach program to address the operational differences in stepping up to a Cirrus from other aircraft models. If it sounds too good to be true, there are a few catches. To qualify for the program, owners must have at least a private pilot certificate and must enroll in the program within 30 days of purchasing the aircraft, plus the training must be completed within 60 days of program enrollment. The aircraft must also be in airworthy condition and the training must be accomplished in the customer’s own aircraft. Up to three days of training is included, plus the program also includes a free one-year membership to COPA, the Cirrus owner/pilot association.

As part of the Embark program, every new pre-owned Cirrus owner will receive a login to the Cirrus Approach Learning Portal on the company website, plus a copy of the Cirrus flight operations manual (FOM), the aircraft pilot's operating handbook (POH) and a redemption code for the electronic iFOM, which is accessed via the Apple iTunes store. The program includes one-on-one Cirrus transition training with an authorized Cirrus training provider, which is tailored to the pilot’s previous experience. Once enrolled in the program, a Cirrus flight training advisor contacts the customer to discuss specific training needs and connects them with a Cirrus standardized instructor pilot (CSIP) or Cirrus training center (CTC).

The Cirrus Transition training course focuses on mastering aircraft control, engine management, the use of integrated avionics and emergency/abnormal situations. Completing the course generally satisfies many insurance company requirements, plus the checkout procedure for pilots new to the Cirrus aircraft. 

For more on the Embark and Cirrus training programs, visit www.cirrusaircraft.com/embark.

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Although I’m the walkin’ and talkin’ personification of jaded and hard-bitten, even I was dazzled by what I saw in Boeing Square at AirVenture on Monday afternoon. First, the place was jammed with humanity; more people than I ever remember seeing in the gazillion years I’ve been coming to this show.

But it was the range of aircraft EAA shoehorned into the square that was simply stunning. Two B-29s, a B-52, a C-123, a C-47 in Normandy livery—the actual airplane, not a stand-in—and after a crazy cool flyby, a B-1 whistled into the square with its APU screeching to add to the over-the-top din. Behind that, they dragged in Scaled’s wonderfully weird Proteus. On a scale of 10 for holy s&^t moments, it was an 11.

It wasn’t by happenstance, either. At his press briefing, EAA chairman Jack Pelton said the association had, by design, tilted toward a multi-theme format this year. Heretofore, the show has generally been focused on one idea, say warbirds or tributes to homebuilts or that sort of thing. As Russ Niles and I mentioned in our golf car tour, this year, the interest areas are more diverse.

Because we love aviation anniversaries so much, more are being celebrated here than I ever remember seeing. It’s the 80th anniversary of the Piper Cub, the 75th of the Doolittle raid on Japan in 1942, the 40th of the Christen Eagle, the 90th of Lindbergh’s flight to Paris and I’m sure a few others. As a nice promotional touch, EAA dusted off its Ryan NYP Spirit of St. Louis replica, made it airworthy, and will launch a Lindbergh look-alike at the same time the original lifted off—7:52 a.m. Thirty-three hours and 30 minutes later—the actual time of Lindbergh’s crossing—the airplane will land somewhere on Wittman field. In a nice touch that would do a Hollywood publicist proud, Pelton declined to say where the NYP will land. Cameras in tow, us news hounds will be on an Easter egg hunt.

Later in the week, we’ll have a cockpit tour of the B-52 and here a shout out to Maj. Keith Vandagriff. A B-52 instructor pilot, he was our tour guide on the Stratofort and he couldn’t have been more accommodating or done a better job of explaining an airplane that’s both a relic and a cutting edge weapons platform. We find that in many cases, the people the services send to show off their expensive hardware don’t really get AirVenture and don’t understand why they’re here. But Maj. Vandagriff certainly does, so he gets a tip of the editorial hat.

In today’s video feed, look for some 360 footage of Boeing square. You gotta see it to believe it.

The immaculately restored B-29, Doc, arrived at AirVenture over the weekend. AVweb got a tour of the airplane and prepared this video. If you're at AirVenture, make sure to get a good look at this aircraft.

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Many years ago we were on the ramp at Augusta Bush Field tuned in to ground frequency about to call for our clearance and heard this.

Cessna XYZ:  Ground, Cessna XYZ requests taxi.

Ground:  Cessna XYZ, do you have Charlie?

Cessna XYZ:  Uh, no. I'm solo today.

Ground:  No, no, Cessna XYZ, do you have ATIS information Charlie?

Cessna XYZ:  Uh, Ground, I'm just a country boy. I don't know about that big city stuff.

 After that, Ground just chuckled, gave him the information and cleared him on his way. 


 

John Tensfeldt 

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