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Airbus and Bombardier announced Monday that the European aerospace giant will assume a 50.01 percent interest in the Bombardier CSeries jet program. To keep it afloat, the CSeries program required a $1.25 billion investment last year by the province of Quebec, which will continue to own 19 percent, with Bombardier owning the remaining 31 percent.  Bombardier shares rose as much as 26 percent the day after the bombshell announcement. Airbus CEO Tom Enders told a news conference that some airlines had been reluctant to buy the CSeries jets because of fears the program would collapse. With the resources of Airbus behind it, Bombardier and Airbus expect big gains in what had been lagging sales of the jet. Airbus did not have to put up any cash or assume debt in the deal.

The biggest hiccup yet for the CSeries had been a series of rulings subjecting sales of the jets to a 300% tariff in the U.S., which, if upheld, would have effectively closed off one of the largest markets for the airplanes. Those ruling came out of complaints made by Boeing that Bombardier was dumping the aircraft in the United States at below-market prices. Airbus has said they will set up a second production line at Airbus’ Mobile, Alabama, facility, which would likely protect the CSeries from U.S. tariffs. News of the deal was not warmly received by Boeing. "This looks like a questionable deal between two heavily state-subsidized competitors to skirt the recent findings of the U.S. government. Our position remains that everyone should play by the same rules for free and fair trade to work," said Boeing spokesman Dan Curran. 

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WACO Aircraft announced the debut of the amphibious version of their radial engine biplane yesterday—the YMF-5F. The company says the “F” designation is for both “float and fun,” not to suggest that the tailwheel gear version isn’t fun. Powered by a 300-HP Jacobs R-755 radial engine, the YMF-5F will have a standard useful load around 725 pounds and a 94-knot cruise at 14 gallons per hour.

The $600,000 open-cockpit three-seater is being marketed with VFR equipment, but WACO does make an IFR version of the tailwheel airplane, leaving open the possibility of IFR equipage. While the same airframe is approved for basic aerobatics up to +5.1G and -2.1G, WACO told AVweb they don’t intend to certify the amphibious version for aerobatics, though a landing gear conversion kit is available for $28,600 for buyers willing to pay for the flexibility.

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A commercial balloon pilot’s “pattern of poor decision-making” led to his balloon striking power lines and then crashing to the ground in Texas in July 2016, killing all 16 on board, the NTSB concluded in its final report, issued on Tuesday. It was the deadliest balloon crash in U.S. history. Contributing to the accident were the pilot’s medical conditions and medications that likely affected his decision-making, the board said. Alfred “Skip” Nichols, 49, the owner of Heart of Texas Balloons and the pilot on the day of the accident, had Valium, oxycodone and the antihistamine Benadryl in his system on the day of the crash, the board said. The combined effect was enough to mimic "the impairing effect of a blood-alcohol level" of a drunk driver, said Dr. Nicholas Webster, a medical officer with the NTSB.

“The pilot’s poor decisions were his and his alone,’’ said Robert Sumwalt, NTSB chairman. “But other decisions within government, dating back decades, enabled his poor decision to fly with impairing medical conditions, while using medications that should have grounded him.” The board said the FAA should require commercial balloon operators to carry an aviation medical certificate. Had a medical certificate been required, the board said, the FAA also would have had an opportunity to identify Nichols’ history of drug- and alcohol-related traffic offenses. Nichols was being treated by a psychiatrist for depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and had been prescribed 13 medications.

The NTSB also concluded Nichols should have cancelled the sightseeing flight because of deteriorating weather conditions and, once in the air, should not have climbed above the clouds. His decision to then attempt to land in reduced visibility conditions diminished his ability to see and avoid obstacles. The board also called on the FAA to find better ways to provide oversight of balloon operators. “Today’s recommendations, if acted on, will help to bring the safety standards closer to those that apply to powered flight,’’ Sumwalt said. “Balloon pilots, their passengers, and their passengers’ loved ones deserve no less.’’ The abstract of the NTSB’s final report (PDF) is posted online. The complete text of the final report will be released publicly later this week. The webcast of the board meeting will be available online for 90 days.

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American Airlines is taking their turn in the hot seat over an incident last week where a pilot intervened to have a passenger removed. Prior to boarding her flight from Miami to New York, Tamika Mallory had a disagreement with the gate agent over whether she was to be seated in a middle or aisle seat, but thought the dispute was behind her as she walked down the jetway with her boarding pass in hand. Mallory says she was stopped by the pilot who reprimanded her over a conversation with the gate agent. “Then he said to me, ‘Can you get on this flight? Are you going to be a problem on this flight?’ I said ‘No, I’m not. Actually, I’m fine. But I will write my complaint down. He looked at me and said, ‘You’re going to get yourself a one-way ticket off this plane.’”

After taking her seat, Mallory’s name was called and she was asked to come up to the front of the aircraft where the captain identified her, and she was removed from the flight along with a person travelling with her. Mallory says she has been told by airline representatives that the pilot mishandled the matter: “He had no business getting involved in a seat dispute,” said Mallory on Twitter. American Airlines has not been forthcoming with an apology or alternative course of events. Although lacking video, Mallory’s ejection from the flight has been getting media attention in part because she is a well-known gun control and civil rights activist.

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Our best stories start with you. If you've heard something the flying world might want to know about, tell us. Submit news tips via e-mail here. (Or send them direct to Newstips at AVweb.com.)

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It was Saturday afternoon some years ago at our mid-sized, midwestern airport.  Things were hopping; Air Guard jets were shooting landings on the long runway, airliners were arriving and departing, two or three aircraft were in the pattern practicing, transients were coming and going, and then there was my friend and me in a 1945 65-HP J-3 Cub doing touch and goes. After four landings, blissfully unaware of the consternation our extremely slow speed was causing, we asked the tower on our handheld radio, 

Us: "Cub 843 would like a right turn out of the pattern."
Controller (exasperated): "Right turn, left turn or straight out approved. I don't care.  Just please, please get out of my way!"


James Hartley

 

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If I were an airplane salesman, I would starve to death. Airplanes that I think have no prayer of selling fly out of the factory almost faster than they can be produced. One of these was Diamond’s DA42, which I thought was a long shot. The DA62, one of the best GA airplanes ever, in my view, is also selling briskly, despite a price point well north of $1 million.

On the other hand, considering the price of new airplanes, I thought that with retrofit avionics matching the capability of new stuff, refurbing or remanufacturing older airplanes to new standards would be a can’t-miss industry. Well, not exactly. Several remanufacture projects are established with varying degrees of success, but there’s nothing like the volume I figured would materialize.

The latest of these projects is from Premier Aircraft, a well-known brokerage and mod house in Fort Lauderdale. They’re doing a spinner-to-tail remanufacture of the Piper Dakota and I flew the first one on Friday. I’ll have a full video report on it in a few days. The Premier Edition Dakota is exactly what you’d expect it to be. It’s an older airframe stripped to bare metal, painted, fixed and tarted up with the latest in avionics, plus a new leather interior, so it smells new. It doesn’t have Garmin’s G1000 NXi, but the G500 Premier offers functionally similar capability. Prices of this vary with avionics and options selected, but range between $259,000 and $329,000. Premier’s Barry Rutheiser told me Friday that the company has gotten a lot of nibbles on this project.  

The Dakota is an interesting choice. When Piper launched it, it replaced the 180-HP four-cylinder Lycoming in the Cherokee with a six-cylinder O-540, boosting the power from 180 to 235 HP. The result is 1100 to 1200 pounds of useful and a cruise speed of up to 140 knots. For owners who want to haul a lot of stuff and want a low wing to do it, the Dakota is a perfect fit. It’s also a niche. Piper built some 32,000 Cherokees of various types, but fewer than 3000 are the PA-28-235/236 that constitute the six-cylinder line.

So far, other remanufacture products haven’t hit impressive strides. Premier did a Skyhawk with the Continental diesel conversion and found little traction. Redbird did better with its Redhawk conversion, the same basic idea, but they now won’t say how many they’ve sold. My guess is around 20. Africair, another Florida company, has converted about 60 Skyhawks to diesel, but they’ve been at it for more than 10 years, so that’s an airplane every couple of months. Yingling Aviation did a nice job on its remanufacture of the Skyhawk called the Ascend 172. Sales have been sluggish.

If I knew why, I wouldn’t be a candidate for becoming a starving airplane salesman. These airplanes are typically priced at about $250,000 or $150,000 less than a new version. Even though I’ve always felt this to be a good value against new, maybe the price delta isn’t enough. Maybe it needs to be half the price of new or maybe the people selling these need to have Kenny Ditchter’s view of where value resides in airplanes. Or maybe they’re worried about or don’t understand how paying two-thirds the price of new for an airplane that’s 30 years old will depreciate or how banks will loan on it. Maybe “nearly new” just isn’t quite good enough as actually new.

Or maybe no one has hit the sweet spot of asking price against some unique capability or performance. New, used or remanufactured, a Skyhawk is just a Skyhawk and Cessna is still building them. But Piper isn’t building Dakotas and if they did, they would probably cost every bit of $500,000, if not nearer to $600,000.

We’ll see how Premier makes out with its Dakota project. With a few minor exceptions, it presents as new. If I liked low wings and needed to fill the seats and the tanks, I’d certainly give it a serious look.    

Got a Blog in You?

As most of you know, this blog casts a vast and influential shadow over general aviation, if not the western world in its entirety. I’m often told that hardly an executive in general aviation starts the day without consulting the penetrating and insightful analysis found on these pages and fortunes have been won and lost by heeding or ignoring its advice. I’m pretty sure none of this has to do with the psychotropic medications I’m on.

Nonetheless, in the coming weeks, you’ll see more voices writing in this space as other staffers contribute their own analysis of events in aviation. I’ll continue to lend a hand from time to time. We’ll also be opening the pages up to guest blogs, so if you have your own commentary or analysis, fire off a message to the newsteam and let us know what you have in mind. We’ll get back to you.

Two years ago, GE's Business and General Aviation group announced a clean-sheet engine called the Advanced Turboprop or ATP. The engine will run later this year and GE is already building the manufacturing technology. In this AVweb video shot at NBAA-BACE 2017, GE's Paul Corkery explains how many of the engine's major components will be laser printed, potentially radically resetting manufacturing economics. 

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Picture of the Week
Picture of the Week

Thanks to Daniel Valovich for this great shot of a Pitts. We're getting great pictures but some of the descriptions leave a lot to be desired. Set the scene for our readers. Tell us the type of plane, name of the pilot, if you know, where the photo was taken and what was going on at the time. You'll have a much better chance of getting your photo published.

Electronics International 'Aviation Alert! Short video on how EI saved this pilot's life

That distant cry you hear is airlines pleading for pilots, so it's time to turn dreams of flight into cash by displaying that aeronautical grit needed to live above it all and simultaneously ace this quiz.

Click here to take the quiz.

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