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Volume 24, Number 48b
November 29, 2017
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Textron Unveils New Twin Turboprop
Mary Grady

Textron will build a new clean-sheet-design large-utility twin turboprop, and have it ready for delivery by 2020, the company announced on Tuesday. The new airplane was developed with launch customer FedEx Express, which has long depended on Cessna Caravans for its delivery fleet. The Cessna SkyCourier 408 will have almost twice the cargo space of the Caravan 208 and will add a large cargo door to support container operations. “The aircraft will fulfill a gap in this market segment,” said Textron CEO Scott Ernest. The 408 also will improve “fuel efficiency, reliability and operating costs” over the current fleet, according to FedEx Express CEO David Cunningham. FedEx Express, which currently operates 300 airplanes in 45 countries, has signed on for 50 airplanes, with options for up to 50 more. The airplanes sell for $5.5 million.

The aircraft will be driven by two Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-65SC turbines, with a cruise speed of up to 200 knots and a 900-NM range. The cockpit will be equipped with Garmin G1000 avionics. The flat-floor cabin can handle up to three large shipping containers, with 6,000 pounds of maximum payload. The passenger variant will accommodate up to 19 seats. Both configurations will offer single-point pressure refueling to enable faster turnarounds. The company sees a broad market for the new airplane well beyond FedEx. “We see the whole freight industry as something that is going to double in the next 15 years, so we are investing in that market,” Ernest told CNBC.

Continental Motors || Angle Wave Cylinders for Lycoming
What's True
Mary Grady


There’s been a lot of talk lately about “fake news” and “alternative facts,” and the aviation world can’t escape the discussion. We were reminded of this recently when Bruce Landsberg, a well-known GA safety advocate for many years, faced some tough questioning during a hearing before Congress, where he was seeking approval for his recommended appointment to the NTSB.

The nomination might have seemed a shoo-in, given Landsberg’s long resume and decades of work on behalf of aviation safety at AOPA and the Air Safety Foundation. But the tough questioning centered on one issue — does Landsberg support the 1,500-hour rule for pilots? The senators on the panel cited several times over the years when Landsberg had questioned the rule’s usefulness. 

The rule was passed in the wake of the 2009 Colgan Air crash. "It's been safer since the 1,500-hour rule was put into effect," said Sen. Tammy Duckworth, a former military pilot. There have been no fatal airline crashes in the U.S. since the law was passed, Duckworth said. 

This is a classic example of confusing correlation with causation. Senator Duckworth has the facts correct. But can the one incident — the passing of the new rule — really explain the outcome — an accident-free stretch? 

Landsberg had expressed a more nuanced take on the problem — "Pilots should be hired and trained by solid criteria, not arbitrary numbers,” he wrote in 2010. He noted that the Colgan Air pilots had more than 1,500 hours in their logbooks, yet still were not up to handling the situation they faced on that fatal night. 

What matters are skills and judgment. Hours in the cockpit count too, but we all know there are pilots out there who are never going to learn, no matter how many hours they have. Others are ready to do the job on day one. 

So is the long accident-free stretch due to the Colgan rule? Or are there a million other factors and variables at work, including dumb luck (see SFO)? Does it make a difference to require 1,500 hours of flight time for a right-seat pilot? Or is the rule just an arbitrary requirement that makes people feel better and more secure while causing major headaches for airlines and new pilots? Those are complicated and useful questions to explore.

But to declare that the matter is settled — proven by the accident record — doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. It ignores a bedrock truth that (hopefully) is taught in high-school science class. Correlation is not causation.

Hooley And Harris' Cool Jet Eze
Geoff Rapoport

The really cool thing about the experimental aircraft field is that you can build anything you want. And that's exactly what Lance Hooley and Robert Harris did with their GE58-powered composite single-seat canard design reminiscent of the famed Rutan Long-EZ. AVweb's Geoff Rapoport spoke with Hooley and Harris about this unique airplane for this original AVweb video.

New CubCrafters Models
Russ Niles

CubCrafters has announced the latest upgrades to the experimental versions of its Carbon Cub adventure aircraft and they include an entirely new engine and a useful load equal to the plane’s empty weight. The new EX-3 (amateur-built experimental) and FX-3 (builder assist) models are significantly different from previous models. They look pretty much the same as earlier models but under the cowl and Ceconite, there are major upgrades. Powering the new aircraft is the new CC363i engine that was developed by CubCrafters with Superior Air Parts and Aero Sport Power, which makes 186 horsepower and features weight-saving and performance-enhancing features unique to this engine The fuselage and wings have also been redesigned internally and the useful load is now 997 pounds.

“The Carbon Cub has a well-earned reputation as the performance leader among adventure aircraft, and now, with the introduction of the new EX-3 and FX-3 models, we are raising the performance bar even higher,” said CEO Randy Lervold. “In fact, the thrust generated by the new aircraft is 20 percent higher than any previous Carbon Cub!”

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Electric Airliner Demonstrator Announced
Russ Niles

Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Siemens are partnering to build a partially electric-powered airliner demonstrator intended to provide the initial data toward developing a fully electric-powered passenger aircraft. The high-powered partnership hopes to have a modified BAE 146 regional airliner, dubbed the E-Fan X, flying with one of its four engines running on electricity instead of kerosene by 2020. “The E-Fan X is an important next step in our goal of making electric flight a reality in the foreseeable future,” said Paul Eremenko, Airbus’ Chief Technology Officer. The two-megawatt electric motor will be powered by a gas turbine generator located in the fuselage and the aircraft will be a test bed for all the parameters of flight for a fully electric plane. “The objective is to push and mature the technology, performance, safety, and reliability enabling quick progress on the hybrid electric technology,” Airbus said in a news release. After tests with one electric motor, the plan is to install a second one, which likely means all-electric test flights with the jets as a backup.

Under the deal, Rolls-Royce will supply the gas turbine generator and associated electronics and help Airbus adapt the engine nacelle for the ducted fan. Siemens will provide the motor and all the controls and systems that support it while Airbus will be responsible for putting it all together on the airframe. The three companies will throw their combined R&D horsepower behind the project with an eye on the 2050 target by the European Commission’s Flightpath 2050 Vision for Aviation to cut CO2 emissions from aviation by 75 percent, nitrous oxide by 90 percent and noise by 65 percent. “These cannot be achieved with the technologies existing today,” the news release said.

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Clutch Failure Eyed In Bugatti Crash
Russ Niles

Although the NTSB has yet to offer its own judgment, the builders of a replica of the Bugatti 100p that crashed in 2016, killing its main proponent, say they’ve concluded a clutch failure on the forward propeller assembly of the unusual aircraft led to its crash. Scotty Wilson, 66, died when the aircraft crashed shortly after takeoff from Burns Flat, Oklahoma, on Aug. 6, 2016. It was only the third flight of the aircraft, which was a replica of a plane designed and built for racing by famed car designer Ettore Bugatti but never flown. The aircraft had two engines behind the cockpit, each driving single counterrotating props with shafts on either side of the cockpit. The NTSB issued a factual report on the crash this week noting one of the engines revved to nearly redline during the takeoff.

The pilot reduced power to that engine and the aircraft first banked left, then right less than 100 feet above the ground before banking left again and crashing inverted in a field. The wooden aircraft was consumed in a post-crash fire. On its Facebook page, the people behind the unique project said their analysis of the data assembled by the NTSB points to only one possible explanation. “The only reasonable conclusion is that the power failure in the forward engine drivetrain was the result of a clutch failure in the forward engine," the group said in a post.

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Wingsuiters Jump Into Airplane
Russ Niles

Thousands of people jump out of airplanes every day but a couple of wingsuit experts have managed to jump into an aircraft in flight after leaving the ground. The stunt was pulled off by Fred Fugen and Vince Reffet, known as the Soul Flyers, in Switzerland recently. The duo BASE jumped from Jungfrau Mountain, one of the highest in the Swiss Alps at about 13,000 feet, and flew in formation with a Pilatus Porter down the steep mountainside before flying through its side cargo door. They apparently didn’t do it on the first attempt, however.

The video showing the stunt includes a couple of sequences in which the wingsuiters bounced off the door frame and tumbled away from the aircraft before regaining aerodynamic control. They called the effort A Door in the Sky and spent months practicing with more than 100 jumps in Spain before completing the flight. 

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Picture of the Week
Every region has its unique aviation circumstances and dodging storms is a fact of life in Oklahoma. Dee Ann Ediger captured the spirit perfectly. Nice shot.

See all submissions

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Short Final

My friend was flying his Mooney 201 around the world. Needless to say, it was way over gross weight, flying with ferry tanks under a ferry permit. 

On departure from an Australian airport on a hot morning, he was only able to manage about a 200 FPM climb to his initial altitude of 5,000 feet.

Controller: “Do you want to continue your climb, or would you like to stop there and rest for a while?"

Lars Perkins


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Meet the AVweb Team

AVweb is the world's premier independent aviation news resource, online since 1995. Our reporting, features, and newsletters are brought to you by:

Tom Bliss

Paul Bertorelli

Russ Niles

Contributing Editors
Mary Grady
Geoff Rapoport

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Kevin Lane-Cummings
Paul Berge
Larry Anglisano

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Karen Lund

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