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The FAA published Airworthiness Directives this week that affect certain Piper Cherokees and turbo Bonanza airplanes. The proposed Piper AD (PDF) was prompted by reports of corrosion found in an area of the main wing spar that’s not easily accessible for inspection. The AD would require installing an inspection access panel in the lower wing skin near the left and the right main wing spars, if there’s not already one there, which would cost about $685. Also the left and the right main wing spars must be inspected for corrosion, at a cost of about $170, and all necessary corrective actions must be taken. These actions must be completed within 12 months or 100 hours flying time after the effective date of the AD, whichever comes first. The AD is expected to affect 11,476 airplanes registered in the U.S. The FAA is accepting comments on the proposed AD until Dec. 22.

The FAA also this week published a revision (PDF) of an earlier proposal, published in April, that affects turbo Bonanzas, adding more models to the list of airplanes affected, and adding a visual inspection of the exhaust tailpipe. The FAA has reopened the comment period, until Dec. 26, to allow the public a chance to comment on these changes. The proposed AD was prompted by a fatal accident in which the exhaust tailpipe fell off during takeoff, the FAA said. The NPRM proposed to add a life limit to the exhaust tailpipe v-band coupling (clamp) and, if the coupling is removed for any reason before the life limit is reached, require an inspection of the v-band coupling before reinstalling. The FAA estimates the AD will affect 731 airplanes and will cost about $500 to $800.

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The Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum opened 41 years ago on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and is the most popular museum in the U.S., with about 8 million visitors a year. Now the NASM is due for its first major upgrade, the museum has announced. The seven-year project, which begins next summer, will transform the exterior of the building, and all 23 galleries will get a makeover. A new “We All Fly” exhibit will introduce visitors to the many different forms of general aviation, from aerobatics and air racing to gliders, ultralights, business aviation, agriculture and firefighting. Interactive elements will put visitors in the cockpit. Other new exhibits will focus on the Wright brothers, early flight, engineering and air travel. The museum will remain open to the public through the entire project.

“Transformation of exhibitions begins a new era for the museum,” said the director, Gen. J.R. “Jack” Dailey. “We’re developing innovative ways to experience America’s favorite museum through exhibitions that merge modern technology and design to highlight legendary aircraft and spacecraft.” Dividing the work into two stages, with part of the building operational at all times, will allow the museum to remain open. “A lot of people come to Washington once in their life,” Christopher Browne, deputy director of the museum, told Smithsonian Magazine. “They’ve got one trip on the Mall, and we want to make sure we can provide them with an experience. Granted, it won’t be the full museum, but certainly the half of the museum that will remain open at any given time will showcase some of our most iconic artifacts.” The total cost of the upgrade will be about $1 billion, raised from federal funding and private donations. More than 350 million people have visited the museum since it opened July 1, 1976. Admission is free.

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A restored C-97G Stratofreighter, owned by the Berlin Airlift Historical Foundation, made its first flight in more than 15 years on Tuesday. The aircraft was restored by the foundation at Floyd Bennet Field in Brooklyn. On its first flight, the crew flew the aircraft to Ocean County Airport in New Jersey and back. The aircraft was delivered to the U.S. Air Force in 1954, so it didn’t participate in the Berlin Airlift. But it now is painted as YC-97A 45–9595, which flew in the airlift in April 1949, working with the 1st Strategic Support Squadron. That airplane suffered a landing gear accident at Rhein Main Air Base and by the time it was repaired, the Soviet Blockade was lifted. It was the only C-97 used in the Berlin Airlift, according to the foundation. 

The foundation’s airplane was delivered to the U.S. Air Force in 1954, and flew for 20 years from several U.S. bases. During this time, it was converted to KC-97L standard with the addition of two J47 turbojet engines under the outboard wings. The airplane was auctioned off in 1986, converted to a C-97G, and in 1988 it was seized by federal agents and auctioned to a firm in Texas, according to the foundation. It was used for humanitarian missions to South America and to carry fish in Alaska. The foundation bought the airplane in 1996, flew it from Washington to Wyoming in 1998 and added its current paint scheme in 2000. It then was flown to South Dakota and Millville, New Jersey, in 2001, and was on static display during the 2002 Wheels and Wings Airshow in Millville. It then was flown to Floyd Bennett Field. The foundation says it plans for the airplane, which is the only one of its type now flying, to act as a traveling exhibit dedicated to the Berlin Airlift and the Cold War.

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The Red Bull Air Race World Championship will return to a U.S. venue next year, with an event to be held Oct. 6-7 in Indianapolis, the organizers announced this week. The popular series will also make a stop in France for the first time, with a race at the seaside resort of Cannes, April 21-22. The season will start in Abu Dhabi, in February, then Cannes, then another European location yet to be announced, in May. In June, the racers will return to Budapest, Hungary, then head to a yet-to-be-determined site in Asia in August. Next stop is Kazan, Russia, before heading to the U.S. The season will wrap with a final race in Asia, at a location not yet announced.

"The 2017 title went down to the wire, keeping the world in suspense up until the final run of the final race,” said Erich Wolf, Red Bull’s general manager of the races. “And now the teams are using the off-season to make their raceplanes even faster. The best pilots in the world just keep getting better, and the destinations that will welcome them next year are spectacular. I can't predict who will win the 2018 season, but I guarantee it'll be one to watch."

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As winter looms on the horizon in the Northeast, rehabilitation facilities stock up on supplies and increase staffing levels to be ready to help sea turtles, caught too far north when the cold weather arrives. Hundreds of endangered and threatened turtles wash up every year along the beaches of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, stunned by the cold waters, and in need of medical care to survive. For the last few years, general aviation pilots have volunteered to transport the turtles from the Cape to sites around the country where they can be cared for. “Using flights instead of ground transport reduces travel time and, consequently, stress to these sick turtles, thereby increasing their chance of survival and ultimate release back into the wild,” says Leslie Weinstein, of Idaho, who has organized the GA flights.

Weinstein says the effort, now branded as Turtles Fly Too, is recruiting more GA pilots who can pitch in for the coming cold season. “The GA community has been amazingly generous in donating time, fuel, and planes to transport sea turtles to rehabilitation facilities for long-term medical care,” he said. “We hope to continue to recruit new ‘Turtle Fliers’ and welcome back our generous pilots from the last few years.” Weinstein added that the organization has teamed up with several universities and high schools to use the turtles that don’t survive to help train pre-veterinary and science students in turtle anatomy. Pilots who are interested in helping out in the effort can contact Weinstein via


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Sooner or later, Icon was going to get tested and the test came this week, probably sooner than any of us might have expected. The fatal crash of an Icon A5 owned by retired baseball star Roy Halladay dwelled above the fold on some newscasts and websites. It’s a big deal in the sports world because of Halladay’s exceptional pitching career. It’s a big deal in aviation because yet another celebrity has died in the crash of a GA airplane.

And it’s an even bigger deal for Icon, both because it’s just ramping up production to deliver the much-buzzed-about A5 and because, as is its wont, it promoted Halladay’s purchase with a slick, expensively produced marketing video. I’ve never been impressed with celebrities promoting or being involved in aviation, but the attraction persists. 

Ignoring for the moment the cause of the Halladay crash—we don’t have enough detail yet—I think the tests facing Icon are multifold. First, how will it respond to the immediate bad press? Will it look inward and examine its training program for potential oversights? Just as the company announced large price increases on the A5 (now $389,000 fully loaded), will sales be affected? The really interesting test will be how Icon’s iron-clad sales agreement that’s supposed to protect it against litigation holds up against a legal challenge. And I’m betting it will be challenged, just as Cirrus was after the Corey Lidle crash in New York in 2006.

Recalling how Icon responded to the furor over the sales contract two years ago, I don’t expect a circle-the-wagons mentality. The company has too much at stake. I’ll be surprised if they don’t figure out a way to thread the PR thicket. The A5s are equipped with cameras and data recorders so it won’t be long before the cause of the crash is known. The first fatal crash of an A5 occurred only last May, and by August, the NTSB determined the cause to be pilot error. So give it a few weeks.

I encounter a lot of negativity about Icon in the “established” aviation community. Much of this relates to Icon being a self-declared change agent intent on “democratizing” aviation. To be fair, Icon has been long on promotion and short on delivery. It seems to be getting there, albeit slowly. As I’ve said before, I don’t share the negativity because I like the concept of drawing new participants into aviation through non-traditional channels, specifically high-dollar motorsports and extreme sports players.

I’m not skeptical of the business thrust, but I’m also mindful of the fact that human factors complicate it. Is it realistic to train people from zero time, give them low-altitude hazard awareness doctrine and turn them loose? Is the Halladay crash a leading indicator that this is iffy, or just an unfortunate one-off? No one knows.

The closest paradigm I can imagine is a look at the Searey, lately an LSA amphibian but a kit built before that. I can see no reason to believe the A5 shouldn’t have a similar accident pattern as the Searey because they are similar aircraft. The A5 has the benefit of a stall-resistant design.

I swept 17 years' worth of Searey accidents and found 46, only five of which were fatal. That’s about 11 percent, which is well below the GA average of about 21 percent. Based on these numbers, my impression is that the Searey is quite crashworthy and I have no reason to believe the A5 would be any less so.

Common patterns? You can guess. Pilots land in the water with the gear down. The airplanes generally don’t flip and the occupants are rarely injured. But they always get wet because the airplanes sink as result of structural damage. Next up, pilots submarine the things by landing in seaways the airplanes can’t handle. Same results: a swim to shore or a boat ride. The rest of the accidents are a mixed bag of hitting things in the water, loss of control or engine failures.

What may separate the Searey accidents from the A5 future accident pattern is low-flying incidents, or lack thereof. I only found a handful of Searey accidents in which low flying was implicated, and one of those was a wire strike on landing, another a tree strike on takeoff. Those sorta don’t count, right? So if Icon really encourages low flying by giving low-time pilots enough training to think they understand it, will that result in a different accident pattern? Dunno. Check back in five years.

For the time being, Icon’s two fatal crashes are too few to support any judgments. Recall that Cirrus had a similar rocky start and although it took the company more than a decade to figure out training, it eventually did and now Cirrus has a remarkably good safety record. Icon may get there, too. We just have to give them the chance to prove it.

Almost forgot. For 837 days, I have not been allowed to fly an Icon A5. 


Texting is the preferred method of communication for many so David Gray decided to bring it to the cockpit with a low-cost satellite system that uses the Iridium constellation that will offer worldwide coverage. It's called AirText.

Picture of the Week <="229879">
Picture of the Week

We had a few to choose from this week so we were able to restrict the images we displayed to aircraft in the air, which is our favorite subject matter. There were some nice airplane portraits and detail shots and they may show up late but for this week we celebrate the beauty of flight. Regular entrant Daniel Valovich caught this T-6 at the right moment for this week's winner.

Continental Motors || Angle Wave Cylinders for Lycoming

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