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Boeing has created its own in-house avionics shop, called Boeing Avionics, to develop and produce its own avionics, the Seattle Times reported on Monday. In a memo to employees, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said the move is a “strategy to build targeted vertical capability.” Boeing had created its own in-house avionics until 2003, when it launched the 787 program. Creating the new unit is “tantamount to an admission that Boeing made a mistake,” according to the Times. Boeing currently outsources its avionics to Rockwell Collins, Honeywell and United Technologies.

Boeing said it has 120 employees in the enterprise avionics organization, with plans to go up to around 600 by 2019. The unit will focus on avionics for the Boeing fleet, but could sell to other aircraft manufacturers eventually, according to Reuters.

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With day after day of sunny skies and low humidity in Oshkosh last week, the crowds at EAA AirVenture had nothing to hamper them, and EAA this week reported record-breaking attendance numbers of 590,000, an increase of 5 percent over last year. In his closing news conference on Sunday, EAA Chairman Jack Pelton said, “It was an incredible week. Ten days for us, if you count the early arrivals, and certainly each day had its own truly unique venue or feature. It was hard to really pick what was the best.” Parking and camping spots were filled to capacity for five days, a first for the show, Pelton said. Extra parking and camping were prepared and opened in the middle of the week to accommodate the increased attendance.

Hangars A, B, C, D and the Main Aircraft Display were all completely full with exhibitors. The number of showplanes was up 5 percent compared to last year’s show. More than 17,223 aircraft movements were recorded through the 10 days from July 21-30, which broke the record set last year, and qualified Wittman Regional Airport as the busiest airport in the world for the week. Pelton said highlights of this year’s show that helped to boost attendance were the Apollo gathering at the Theater in the Woods, Stan Lee’s visit and the Blue Angels performance. “We’re already talking to people about the possibilities for 2018 in all areas, from aircraft anniversaries to new technology and innovations," he said. 

The show even got to AVweb’s resident cynic, Paul Bertorelli — in today’s blog, he dissects why this year’s show was “the best AirVenture. Ever.”

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

While travelers have complained for years about shrinking space aboard airline flights, the FAA has elected to ignore the problem, saying it has not been shown to affect safety. But a federal court on Friday told the FAA they must “adequately address” issues raised by the advocacy group Flyers’ Rights. The petition said that since the early 2000s, the average seat width has narrowed by about an inch and a half, to 17 inches. The distance between seat backs, or pitch, also decreased, to as little as 28 inches. The petition also noted that during the same time span, American adults have grown larger, by an average of 24 pounds for women and 25 for men. The tight space could make it more difficult for passengers to evacuate in emergencies, according to Flyers’ Rights.

Flyers Rights petitioned the FAA in 2015 to place a moratorium on shrinking seat sizes and to create seat-size standards. The FAA has not conducted, or alternatively has not released, any tests, whether computer simulations or rehearsed evacuations, that demonstrate that planes with modern seat sizes and modern passenger sizes would pass emergency evacuation criteria, the petition states. The FAA does require airlines to prove they can get everyone off a plane in 90 seconds in an emergency. The judges gave the FAA six months to provide documentation to show why it shouldn’t regulate seat size. The FAA also was given 60 days to appeal the decision.

In a brief statement, the FAA said it "does consider seat pitch in testing and assessing the safe evacuation of commercial, passenger aircraft." The statement concludes: "We are studying the ruling carefully and any potential actions we may take to address the Court’s findings."

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Flying air taxis from Germany are ready to “conquer the world,” Volocopter announced on Tuesday, thanks to 25 million Euros invested by Daimler and a handful of others. “Using this fresh capital, Volocopter will further expand upon the leading technology in its purely electrically driven VTOLs, speed up the introduction process of the Volocopter serial model, and conquer the market for flying air taxis,” the company said. Florian Reuter, managing director of Volocopter, added: “The strong financial commitment of our new investors is a signal as well as proof of the growing confidence in the newly emerging market for electrically driven VTOLs put to use as personal air taxis. We deliberately sought a mix of investors with strategic and entrepreneurial backgrounds and were able to implement this perfectly.”

Together with its partners, Volocopter said it will use the new funding to develop the Volocopter up to production maturity and secure commercial licensing through aviation authorities worldwide. The engineering staff will be expanded, adding specialists in the development of flight systems, software and electric propulsion. Funds also will be invested in marketing and promotion, including the development of a new website, which launched on Tuesday. Volocopter said that by the end of this year, it will conduct initial demonstrations of an autonomous air taxi, in partnership with the Roads and Transport Authority in Dubai. The first fully certified Volocopter should be on the market next year.

BREAKTHROUGH! - Cubcrafters

NASA F-18

NASA plans to fly an F-18 at supersonic speeds above Florida’s coastal waters later this month, producing sonic booms for a test program. The aircraft will fly at or above 32,000 feet when it goes supersonic. The flightpath is designed to keep the strongest-sounding sonic booms away from residential areas, while still producing booms above Kennedy Space Center, where the sound will be collected by 32 microphones on the ground. The booms will be loudest on the beaches north of KSC, and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station will hear quieter booms. Residents will hear a sound resembling “the rumble of distant thunder,” said NASA, in areas including Port Canaveral, Cocoa Beach, Port St. John, Titusville, Mims and Scottsmoor. People in those areas may hear an occasional "muted" sonic boom, NASA said.

The F-18, which is based at the NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, in California, will take off from Kennedy's Shuttle Landing Facility and fly off the coast of Cape Canaveral. The F-18 will fly a designated flight path where it will exceed Mach 1, the speed of sound, and produce a sonic boom. Meanwhile, NASA also will fly a TG-14 motorized glider equipped with a wingtip microphone, at an altitude between 4,000 to 10,000 feet. At the test point, the TG-14 will temporarily shut down its motor and glide. This will enable the wingtip microphone to pick up a clean, accurate sonic-boom signature before it travels through any turbulence. NASA said it expects to fly the F-18 two to three times per day, starting Monday, Aug. 21, and continuing until the end of the month or early September. The research plan calls for at least 33 sonic booms.

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A solid-gold replica of the Apollo 11 lunar landing module that had belonged to Neil Armstrong was stolen from the Armstrong Air and Space Museum in Wapakoneta, Ohio, late Friday night, according to local police. Three of the 5-inch-high 18-karat-gold lunar module replicas were created by Cartier, in France, on a commission from the Le Figaro newspaper, which raised the money through a subscription drive. The replicas were given to Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins during their world tour in 1969. In the museum, the replica was part of an exhibit showcasing that world tour. “We’re incredibly disappointed in the event, that somebody would take an item like this and would rob a museum, and would take cultural items away from the public,” Armstrong museum executive director Chris Burton said Monday. He said he couldn’t put a monetary value on the artifact.

“We don’t really deal in monetary value, we deal in historical value,” Burton said. “So, the historical value is great. In terms of the monetary value, that’s not really something that we’re concerned with.” Security cameras show that an individual broke into the museum near midnight. A security alarm summoned police, but when they arrived, the thief was already gone. “Our greatest concern is that the object is returned in as near-perfect condition as can be at this point, so that future generations can get an opportunity to enjoy it,” Burton said. Several other items from the exhibit also were taken, including award ribbons and commemorative coins and medals. Armstrong, who died in 2012, was from Wapakoneta.

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Given the rules of idle conversation, I'll be asked this week: How was AirVenture? Or, if by pilots, the universal shorthand that identifies the world’s most important airshow by its venue: Oshkosh. (The locals invariably call it “EAA,” with the vowels drawn out in that nasal Scandinavian-influenced lilt of Wisconsin.)

I have an answer. It was the best AirVenture. Ever.

That’s bold talk for a pixel-addled, bleary-eyed cynic with a penchant for complaint, a refined sense of contrarianism and a bull^%$# meter that’s been stuck on off-scale high for at least a decade. But I have my reasons and they won’t be the same as yours.

I am long past the misty romanticism of flight and, to be blunt, I don’t care to be the leather-jacketed acolyte trying to entice the next generation into the world of airplanes. Here it is kids. Take it or leave it. This year’s AirVenture framed for me why I got into journalism in the first place. And that was mainly because I love a spectacle and for one shining week in July, AirVenture is a spectacle like no other.

My reporter’s notebook—and now a camera and a recorder—have served as a ticket into the world of surprisingly common unapologetic excess and, even better, the existence of less common uncompromised excellence. That’s the part of AirVenture I most admire: a crazy, unlikely thing done almost as well as it’s possible to do. 

Any judgment of AirVenture has to be extracted from the background noise—the informational kind and the psychic kind, if not the acoustic variety that more or less defines the thing. The food is expensive, but at least it’s terrible. This year, the crowds were stupefyingly large and for a guy who basically hates being around people, this requires the discipline of a monk. I make do. And EAA managed to cram so much into the programs that it had trouble, at least from our perspective, of promoting everything that was available. We never did get an advance view of what the Apollo astronaut program was about or who would be there. Even our colleague, KITPLANES editor Paul Dye, who is a genuine NASA rocket scientist—engineer, really—was in the dark. Same for the Lindbergh anniversary flight and a few other events that would have made good stories.  

But the core around which all this was built was the airshow and static displays in Boeing square. The days tend to run together, but I think it was Wednesday that I’d set up a 360 camera in the square and skulked away to hide under the wing of an A10 so I wouldn’t be in the footage. While I was standing under the wing looking east, pummeled by the screech of a power unit somewhere, there was an unending loop of aircraft streaking by. I swear I saw what looked like three Mig 17s trailing smoke go by in a perfect finger three sweep. Or were they F-86s? If such things exist in the wild and three pilots had the time and resources to actually practice, Oshkosh is the only place you could expect to see it. In the distance, a gaggle of bombers were flying in the opposite direction.

Against perfectly painted clouds, it looked like one of those 1940s war photos printed on Velox. In masterful understatement, I heard a voice in the crowd say, “This is %^&@ing awesome.” And it sure enough was. Far beyond any other AirVenture show I’ve seen. Completely oblivious to my camera in the square, two people walked right up to it and talked for a few minutes. I wonder what they said. I’ll know when I review the clips.

The bombers pushed everything over the top. A formation of B-25s? It was here. A B-29 two-ship? That, too. A B-1 and a B-52 nearly old enough to qualify for Social Security? All there and surrounded by people in funny hats and tasteless slogan t-shirts. Where the hell else are you going to get a selfie in front of a C-123 named Thunderpig?

I think the presence of the Blue Angels also kicked up everything a notch; or maybe 10. You haven’t seen these acts much at AirVenture for the very good reason that these teams require massive logistics paid for by the hosts and at Oshkosh, many houses have to be evacuated during the show. Oshkosh Corp., a 24/7 major defense contractor, had to shut down entirely for 90 minutes. EAA Chairman Jack Pelton said the association doesn’t like to wear out its welcome with these cooperative folks.

The restored B-29, Doc, left an indelible impression on me for the care and skill lavished on its restoration. I didn’t even have to imagine what it must have looked like right out of the factory at Wichita in 1945. It almost looks like that now. I got into the cockpit three times and never expected to find any chromoly tubing to mount a camera. But there it was, running vertically inboard of each pilot station. I’ll publish that once I get caught up.

For many who attend and participate in AirVenture, the passion for flight and airplanes is the animator. For me, it’s less that and more the richness of telling their stories and trying to explain why the CAF would raise and devote millions to restoring That’s All Brother, the C-47 that led the Normandy airborne operation in 1944. Keegan Chetwynd, the CAF’s curator, let me into the airplane for 15 minutes of shooting and then showed his profoundly deep knowledge of World War II history during the interview that followed. I’ll post that soon, too.

At AirVenture, these stories flash by like an express train, more so this year than in any other that I can remember. It creates an event intensity that’s exhausting and exhilarating at the same time. I collapse into bed every night, but I’m up at 4 a.m. to start the cycle anew. I should probably take up crack instead. It would be less addictive.

While AirVenture is considered a commercially important venue for showing new products and technology, we in the press tend to overstate how much this matters. Or how crowds in the booths somehow measure GA's rocky health. Buyers find out about things through the web, social media and smart marketing. Only a small fraction of people see it at Oshkosh and it’s an illusion that those who don’t attend hang on every online news item. We know they don’t. Still, anyone who is anyone waves the flag at AirVenture, just to show they’re players.

I’ve already written about the avionics trends and while these are significant and commercially important, they’re not game changers, to revert to the marketeers' hackneyed all-purpose adjective. They push the ball another few yards forward but don’t spike it through the uprights, if that’s even possible in an industry as mature as ours. Dynon’s Skyview announcement may be the most significant of all the avionics developments. It seems to confirm that the trend for less expensive avionics is gaining ground and has legs. But throttle back your enthusiasm. Things like this won’t change the face of aviation. They enhance its survival and for that, be grateful. I thought the most important avionics innovation was one that got the least attention: uAvionix’s self-contained ADS-B Out product. More on that later. You can see the video here.

Engine and airframe wise? Meh. I wasn’t expecting much so I wasn’t disappointed. For those who relish complaining about the high cost of airplanes, delve into Vulcanair’s four-place trainer/cruiser. It costs $150,000 less than the Skyhawk it would purport to rival. It’s faster than a Skyhawk and it’s refreshing to see a company make selling price a key goal. But Cessna retains the advantage of momentum and nameplate. Flight schools will pay for this because they’re less constrained by price and more worried about support and dispatch reliability. As soon as the airplane is available in the U.S., we’ll take a look. And stand by for absolute eye-glazing detail on all these new autopilots, plus all the stories we simply couldn’t get published during the week.

AirVenture 2017 will, I think, be a hard act to follow. EAA deserves big props for pulling it all together without the scars of its birth showing, thus further assuring that Oshkosh will remain the center of the known aviation universe.

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AirVenture 2017 hosted possibly the most extravagant flying display ever mounted on Bomber Day. AVweb's Russ Niles was there and filmed it all.

Mooney’s Chino, California-based design center, which did much of the work on the emerging M10 line, will move its operations to the Kerrville, Texas, factory headquarters. “We’re going to be consolidating efforts,” says Mooney’s Lance Phillips.

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