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After nearly a nine-year production run, Garmin announced a replacement for the G600/G500 retrofit flight display systems and it's called the TXi series. The TXi line includes the G500 TXi, the G600 TXi and the G700 TXi, the latter of which is intended for Part 23 and Part 25 aircraft. The touchscreen TXi systems (which also have function knobs for users not sold on a total touch interface) are available in three display configurations, including two versions of 7-inch displays in portrait and landscape orientation. The systems have internal backup GPS capability and can be paired with an optional PFD control head for adjusting the heading bug, baro setting and altitude bug separate from the display, to name a few functions.  

The 10.6-inch big-screen version can operate as a PFD, MFD and also integrated as an optional engine instrumentation system, or EIS. The EIS—for both Lycoming and Continental four- and six-cylinder engines—can operate with new Garmin engine sensors or utilize some existing third-party sensors in aircraft already equipped with aftermarket engine monitors. Additionally, the 7-inch TXi display can be used as a dedicated and standalone engine monitor screen.

When the EIS TXi is paired with a GTN 650/750 and Flight Stream 510, the Garmin Connext wireless data hub automatically downloads engine and flight information to the Garmin Pilot app on an Apple tablet or smartphone. Like the G600 system it replaces, the G600 TXi has Garmin SVT synthetic vision software as standard, but it's optional on the G500 TXi. All systems support a wide variety of Garmin weather and traffic detection systems, including ADS-B, ship's weather radar and SiriusXM datalink. The displays are also compatible with terrain avoidance functionality and TCAS and TAS active traffic alerting, including Garmin's TargetTrend and TerminalTraffic technology.

The TXi displays can be configured with integrated AHRS and an air data computer that can mount to the rear of the display. This can substantially save installation effort. Moreover, the TXi displays are compatible with most of the wiring that exists with the older G600 and G500 systems. Garmin is also offering a trade-in allowance for the older systems. 

The first interface of its kind, there's no need for backup flight instruments when multiple TXi displays are installed with an optional backup standby battery. Much like the G500 it replaces, the G500 TXi is intended for Part 23 Class I/II aircraft that weigh under 6000 pounds, while the G600 TXi is for Class III aircraft weighing up to 12,500 pounds. Garmin says the new TXi systems—which are ground-up, redesigned displays that have similar styling to the GTN-series navigators (and share similar operating logic)—will have a broad AML-STC (over 600 models, Garmin says) that's expected to be finalized by the end of 2017.

The entry-level G500 TXi with 7-inch display starts at $11,995, while the 10.6-inch version is $15,995. The ESI engine display system is $4995. The G600 TXi with 7-inch display is $18,995 and $24,995 with the 10.6-inch display. A standalone EIS engine display system for twin-engine, six-cylinder piston aircraft starts at $17,995. Pricing for the G700 TXi—which can support the highest tier Level A certification software (making it a player in commercial and transport aviation applications—will be announced at a later date. 

Visit www.Garmin.com and look for a future detailed inflight report in sister publication Aviation Consumer magazine.

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Damaged rotor blades on the UH-60. (Photo: FAA)

The NTSB is investigating the collision between a civilian drone and an Army UH-60 helicopter that took place in New York on Sept. 21, the board said on Thursday. “The NTSB is investigating the incident because the drone was a civilian aircraft,” the board said in a news release. The Army also is conducting its own investigation. The NTSB’s investigators already have begun the work, and are reviewing radar data from ATC, flight data from the helicopter, flight data logs provided by the drone operator and FAA documents regarding airspace and temporary flight restrictions.

The collision took place at about 7:20 p.m., east of Staten Island. The Army helicopter was flying at about 500 feet, providing security for the U.N. General Assembly. The aircraft sustained damage to its main rotor blade, window frame and transmission deck. A motor and arm from a small drone, identified as a DJI Phantom 4, were recovered from the helicopter. The NTSB was notified of the incident the day after and began its investigation. In the following days, investigators identified and interviewed the drone operator, who provided the board with flight data logs for the incident flight.

Zunum Aero, a startup based in Seattle that plans to build a family of hybrid-to-electric regional aircraft, released details of its initial design on Thursday. The aircraft, the company said, will seat up to 12 passengers, and will be ready for flight tests in 2019 and first deliveries in 2022. The company also announced the opening of a development center in the Chicago area, where they plan to add more staff, expand the work on their electric propulsion technologies and start ground tests. “This is a first step toward our vision of bringing fast, affordable regional travel to thousands of communities, transforming the way we live and work,” the company said in a news release. Zunum, which was founded in 2013, is funded by Boeing HorizonX, Jet Blue Technology Ventures and the State of Washington Clean Energy Fund.

Zunum says it plans to develop hybrid-electric aircraft with a range of up to 700 miles that will efficiently serve regional networks, using underutilized secondary airports. The company is aiming for a cruise speed of about 300 knots, takeoff distance of 2,200 feet, 80 percent reductions in emissions and noise and low direct operating costs of about $250 per hour. The aircraft will be driven by quiet electric propulsors with variable-pitch fans, enabling a 40 percent reduction in runway needs, the company said. Wing-integrated batteries will enable quick swap or recharge at airports. The company also plans to develop a control platform that provides real-time flight energy optimization, power management, fault detection and recovery. “We believe that the regional transportation industry is ripe for disruption,” said Bonny Simi, president of JetBlue Technology Ventures. “We’re excited to support Zunum and its efforts to help introduce a new era of aviation.”

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Boeing announced on Thursday it plans to acquire Aurora Flight Sciences Corporation, a technology company that specializes in autonomous systems and robotic aircraft. "The combined strength and innovation of our teams will advance the development of autonomy for our commercial and military systems," said Greg Hyslop, chief technology officer and senior vice president of Boeing Engineering, Test & Technology. "Together, these talented teams will open new markets with transformational technologies." Leveraging autonomous systems that include perception, machine learning and advanced flight control systems, Aurora has designed, produced and flown more than 30 unmanned air vehicles since the company was founded in 1989. The company also is a leader in developing electric propulsion for aircraft.

During the last decade, Aurora has collaborated with Boeing on the rapid prototyping of innovative aircraft and structural assemblies for both military and commercial applications. Once acquired, Aurora will be a subsidiary under Boeing Engineering, Test & Technology known as Aurora Flight Sciences, A Boeing Company. Aurora will continue to operate from its headquarters in Manassas, Virginia, as an independent entity, Boeing said, “while benefiting from Boeing's resources and position.” The terms of the agreement were not disclosed. More than 550 people work for Aurora, in six states, including an R&D center near MIT in Cambridge, offices in Ohio, California and Switzerland, and manufacturing facilities in Connecticut, West Virginia and Mississippi.

AVweb spoke with Aurora CEO John Langford in April when he was attending the Uber Elevate conference; click here for that interview.

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Citing the growing global pilot shortage, the University of North Dakota on Wednesday announced it has established a $1.5 million scholarship endowment for high-achieving students to earn their wings. The endowment is funded by $500,000 contributions from the nonprofit UND Aerospace Foundation, UND Promise Scholarship Program and the James C. Ray Foundation. The scholarships will go to incoming freshmen. “We are constantly looking for ways of attracting the best and brightest students to UND,” said UND President Mark Kennedy. “Endowments like this will help us by providing scholarship dollars specifically for recruitment.”

The school offers majors in aviation/airport management, commercial aviation, air traffic control, flight education, aviation technology management and unmanned aircraft systems. Students can earn private pilot, commercial pilot and certified flight instructor certificates, and are often employed as flight instructors on-site. “UND Aerospace soars far beyond training and educating qualified pilots,” said UND Aerospace Foundation chairman Larry Martin. “We prepare students for leadership positions in government, business and industry. Our graduates fly for major U.S. and international airlines and enter highly challenging careers working for corporate flight departments, aircraft manufacturers, NASA and the FAA, among many other organizations.”

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Bell Helicopter’s V-280 Valor prototype is ready to fly and on track for its first flight this November, the company said this week, and is now completing ground-run tests at the Bell assembly center in Amarillo, Texas. The V-280 is a clean-sheet next-generation tilt-rotor designed for military use. It will be simple to operate and affordable, Bell says. During the ground tests, the engineering team will check all the aircraft systems and flight controls before the first flight. 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 Defiant also was scheduled to fly this fall, but Boeing said in April they don’t expect first flight until early next year. The new designs will be evaluated by the Army to replace its fleet of Boeing AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, as well as Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk and Boeing CH-47 Chinook helicopters, which are used for utility and cargo. Bell says the V-280 will provide up to 800 NM combat range at speeds up to 280 knots, more than twice the speed and range of the current helicopter platforms. It can carry a crew of four and 14 troops, with a total payload of 12,000 pounds.

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When I trained for my private pilot certificate, §91.103 was drilled into my head. “Each pilot in command,” it says, “shall, before beginning a flight, become familiar with all available information concerning that flight.” The core of that is straight from the Boy Scouts: be prepared.

Now, as an air traffic controller, it concerns me when pilots aren’t aware of major issues affecting their flight. Sometimes we controllers have to be the voice of reason, preventing a pilot from doing something that may not be in his best interest. Other times, we have to hold his hand and walk him through a new situation.

Thankfully, the vast majority of our operations are routine. It’s the remainder that can make things interesting. Facing an underprepared or overzealous pilot can test a controller’s knowledge of his rules, his airspace, and his ability to think outside the box to find a safe, legal solution.

Hitting a Wall

One morning, a Cessna 210 on a photo mission came into our Approach airspace with a few sites to hit. His client was a shopping mall developer who needed some aerial shots of their properties. Of course, those palaces of commerce aren’t displayed on our radar scopes. I asked him for each target’s range and bearing from our main airport so I could visualize where he needed to go.

He listed a trio of locations. I sighed when I wrote down their details. Apparently, the Centurion pilot had not checked his Temporary Flight Restrictions. We had an air show underway at our airport, starring the six F-16 fighters of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and a bunch of other performers. All three locations were within a mile of the field. Not a good place to be.

“Sir, unable those locations. We have an air show TFR in place over that airport, five-mile radius and up to 16,000 feet. It expires in four hours, at 4 p.m. local time.” I paused to let him digest the bad news. “Say request.”

In 1969, psychiatrist Elisabeth K bler-Ross published the “Five Stages of Grief” model. All five played out on my freq, starting with denial. “A what?” Anger came next. “This is ridiculous. We’d be done in 15 minutes!” I told him there was nothing I could do, and he continued. “I’ve got the client in the back and we’ve just flown a hundred miles to get here. We need to get these shots.” He progressed to bargaining. “What do we do now? Can’t we just sneak in there?”

“Sir,” I said, “I can’t tell you where to go. I’m just telling you where you can’t go.” I almost stated that the TFR was issued weeks ago, but I opted not to pour avgas on the fire. “Again, say request.”

Depression kicked in. “Alright. I just talked to my client. We’ll just have to put it down and wait it out.” At last, he reached acceptance. “What’s the nearest airport where can we grab some food? May as well make use of our time.” I gladly gave him some vectors to a nearby non-towered field I’d heard had a great lunch. Hopefully, next time, he would check for TFRs and cross-reference them with his photo locations.

Altitude Antics

TFRs aren’t the only invisible barriers in the sky. ATC’s got to contend with equally transparent regulatory floors and ceilings.

There was a Maule M7 driver who filed IFR to a local turf strip. The field had no instrument approaches, but he was hoping to snag a visual. Upon arriving overhead, his optimism was checked by a thick overcast. According to various area sensors, the ceiling was between 1200 and 1400. Complicating things, some nearby antennas made our local MVA (minimum vectoring altitude) 2500 feet.

We were at an impasse. He kept begging for lower so he could try and get the field in sight. I couldn’t legally descend him below 2500 feet, nor clear him for a visual approach unless he saw the airport. He was getting desperate. As my wife can attest, mindreading is not a skill I possess, but I had a bad feeling Mr. Maule might cancel IFR and try to drop through the clouds, illegally.

So, I offered a suggestion: I could vector him for an approach into the nearest equipped airport, about 10 miles south. The field was showing 1400 feet overcast—i.e. it was VFR. Flying the approach would safely and legally get him underneath the clouds. Once beneath the deck, he could shoot a low approach, report cancellation of his IFR clearance, and proceed VFR to his original destination.

After some consideration, he went with it. Following an ILS and some scud running, he arrived at his destination, all regulations intact. If you know the rules, you can figure out ways to work within and around them to still get what you want.

Going Nowhere Fast

Both pilots we’ve met so far knew where they wanted to go. They just hit some speed bumps along the way. What happens when a pilot is really behind the curve? Those situations can feel like you’re simultaneously playing dentist and detective, pulling teeth and hunting for clues.

One quiet morning, I was working ground and clearance delivery up in the tower. A nervous-sounding Cherokee pilot reached out. “I need an IFR clearance.” Did he have one on file? “No, I’ve never actually filed one; my instructor always did it. Can you help me out? I’m on my instrument checkride. The examiner’s in the briefing room and I’m on my handheld.” On his checkride and he’d never filed before? That was a new one.

I put on my figurative Dr. Sherlock Holmes, D.D.S. hat and went to work. What did he need to accomplish on his checkride? “Practice some VOR holding first, and approaches.” I listed off the VORs in our area, and asked which one he wanted for holding, at what altitude. “The first one at 4000.” Which approaches, and where did he want to do them? He stated one outlying field and our main airport. I told him that there were GPS, VOR, and ILS approaches available at both fields. “Let’s do a VOR at the first one, and a GPS and an ILS full stop back here.”

I built a flight plan for him using our clunky Flight Data Input Output (FDIO) computer. The route led from our main airport direct to the VOR (with a half hour delay for holding), on to the non-towered airport, and then back here. In the remarks, I noted his holding and approach requests to give Departure a heads up. I then issued the clearance to him. A half-hour later, he was up in the air. He did his holding, shot his approaches and came back in.

The next day, after work, I stopped by one of our FBOs to get a close look at a P-51 Mustang warbird I had cleared to land earlier. There was a younger dude and his girlfriend there, also looking over the vintage hardware. We struck up a conversation about aviation—as pilots do—and, in its course, I mentioned I worked in the control tower.

“Oh, man,” he said, “you guys helped me out big time yesterday. I was on my instrument checkride and…” Yep—by sheer coincidence, it was the same guy. Everything had gone smoothly and he’d indeed gotten his instrument ticket. We controllers don’t often get to meet our “customers” face to face. Seeing his excitement and relief about the whole thing really made my day.

The Road to Nowhere

Professional pilots are just as human as their less-experienced student comrades. The pros can throw ATC for a loop too. I walked upstairs into the tower one afternoon to relieve the Tower controller. A speedy Citation 750 was sitting on an unused taxiway, engines turning. “Maintenance issue?” I asked. Nope. Due to weather, they wanted us to put in a new route for them to their destination, Tampa International Airport (KTPA), down in Florida.

Controllers must be intimately familiar with the airspace under their jurisdiction. This includes all the approaches, fixes, STARS, SIDS, navaids, and more that they use on a daily basis. Outside of our immediate area, things get foggy. Sure, we know general geography; Los Angeles is where the sun sets, London’s where it rises, and so forth. However, ask us about procedures at an airport outside of our airspace, and we’ll have no idea. That’s where you—the pilot—are supposed to step in with an accurate flight plan.

Ground had entered the crew’s new route into the computer. It was a series of VORs and airways, followed by a STAR, then their destination, Tampa (KTPA). The computer didn’t like it, saying the last VOR wouldn’t merge with the STAR. The crew gave him another combination of VORs and airways, then yet another, all with the same result.

Now, these kinds of issues aren’t usually that difficult to resolve. A STAR is a pre-determined route made of either navaids or GPS fixes that guides high-flying aircraft down from the flight levels to a major airport. To connect your route to a STAR, the last fix on your route should also be a fix on the STAR, kind of like an on-ramp to a freeway. Otherwise, the computer has no idea where you’re going to join the STAR.

To fix this, we usually just have to find a navaid or fix on the STAR to bridge it with the route. I loaded up KTPA’s listing on Skyvector.com via the tower cab computer. “Hey,” I asked Ground, “How d’ya spell that STAR?” He yelled back, “PIGLT4—Papa India Golf Lima Tango Four.” Weird. The Tampa STAR list didn’t have any “P” entries.

Confused, I looked east of Tampa on the Skyvector chart. Suddenly, it hit me. I typed fast, and seconds later I’d confirmed my suspicions. “Well, no wonder it’s not freaking working. He’s giving us a STAR into the wrong airport. PIGLT is Piglet, from Winnie the Pooh. He’s got Disney on the brain. It’s an Orlando International Airport STAR,” pointing at KMCO’s listing, “not a Tampa one.”

Ground diplomatically told the crew about their Goofy-up. (Sorry—couldn’t resist.) They apologized and were embarrassed as they looked up a good STAR for KTPA. None of us there had seen an issue like that before. The crew of the fastest civilian jet currently flying had confused one airport’s procedure for another and left us all scratching our heads. If we ever have another STAR-related issue, now we know another possible solution: double-check that it actually belongs to the destination airport.

Aviators of all skill levels can find themselves in a bind. Together, pilots and controllers can sort through the confusion, troubleshoot the problem, and arrive at a workable—if not always ideal—solution.

For Tarrance Kramer, playing Detective Troubleshooter is all in a day’s work while he keeps the planes apart out in the Midwest.

This article originally appeared in the October 2015 issue of IFR magazine.

For more great content like this, subscribe to IFR!

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After a fashion, airplanes are toys. No, not all of them, because an Air Tractor earns its keep applying chemicals and Caravans haul skydivers and boxes. But if you own an old taildragger or a beater Cherokee, it’s a recreational toy.

With that in mind, I’ve noticed some new developments in the toy market and some of them have to do with aviation. The Icon A5 is certainly a toy and so is this new multi-rotor contraption we reported on this week. It’s essentially nothing but a manned drone with commercial pretensions that are well over the horizon if they’re likely to potentiate at all.

One that blurs the line between boat, submarine and airplane is a personal watercraft called the SeaBreacher. Here’s a video of it that someone sent me a link to. It doesn’t fly in the conventional sense nor is it a true submersible. But it does dip below the surface and it does hop at least partially out of the water. The instant I saw this I thought it appeals to the same potential buyer as the Icon does: an expensive toy for just fooling around in the water or in the air. No other purpose than that.

Is there a sustainable market for such things? We’re about to find out. We’ve explained the Icon business idea of expanding general aviation into the recreational motor sports market. In a way, the Icon is incidental to traditional aviation. It has no other purpose than a fun activity that happens to be an airplane. There’s a lot of wealth in the world and probably plenty of people with enough disposable cash to buy such things. Unknown is whether there are enough of them to constitute a profitable business.

As part of our AirVenture coverage, we reported on yet another entry into the expensive toy market, the Kitty Hawk piloted multi-rotor. The day I showed up to watch it fly at the seaplane base, it was too windy so I interviewed the aircraft developer, Todd Reichert, in this video.

As a would-be expensive toy that offers nothing but the potential to buzz around a lake at 10 feet, I like the concept. Reichert eschews comparing the Kitty Hawk to a scaled-up DJI drone, but that’s what it is. It uses similar technology and identical flight dynamics. Because it can be auto-stabilized, you could learn to fly it—operate it, really—in mere minutes. It thus offers the potential to attract new entrants into what will be part of GA’s future: autonomous and semi-autonomous aircraft.

What would such a thing have to cost to be viable? Kitty Hawk won’t even venture a guess, nor in an annoying counter to the spirit of AirVenture’s show and tell, would they let us even examine it at close range. For that, I’m giving their Silicon Valley specialness a big razz, even if I like the idea. I ran the idea by a couple of electric aviation experts and we came up with prices of about $40,000 on the low end and a little over $100,000 on the high end. My guess is that if it’s over $200,000, it’s a non-starter. That SeaBreacher PWC sells for about $100,000 or five times the price of a typical Jet-Ski type vehicle. I can’t tell from the company’s website or news reports if the thing has real potential or is just click bait, even if I like that idea, too.

The Kitty Hawk has some ground to cover in battery technology and endurance and probably in refinement of the basic technology, but the basics are certainly there. Assuming a large enough market exists to make it viable, there are two potential barriers, one minor, one major. The minor one is licensing. Kitty Hawk is planning to operate under ultralight rules that require neither licensing nor certification. But they’ll need to keep the empty weight under 254 pounds and keep the FAA from throwing any yeah-but exceptions to the rule because the regulation never foresaw stabilized multi-rotors.

The other gotcha is noise. Multi-rotors emit an insect-like buzz that’s impossible to effectively suppress. I can just imagine a lakeside dweller sipping his morning coffee on the deck only to have the solitude shattered by some nimrod whizzing by on a multi-rotor. Or an Icon, for that matter. To forestall the shotgun solution, the nascent multi-rotor industry will have to address this. Or lakeside communities will.

The next decade will be interesting to watch as this technology either sinks or swims on its merits and marketability. I wouldn’t invest in it myself, but I give it an eight in 10 chance of succeeding as the next big thing in toys.

Cirrus has begun shipping its long-awaited SF50 VisionJet and as part of a two-video series, AVweb recently flew the jet from the company's Duluth, Minnesota, factory to the East Coast. In this long-form video, AVweb takes a deep dive into how the airplane performs and how it compares to other small jets.

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Picture of the Week
Picture of the Week

The classic lines of the Nanchang CJ-6 and the beautiful background sold us on this lovely image. Colin McGeachy is the windblown pilot and John Weir took the photo near Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

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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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