World's Leading Independent Aviation News Service
Volume 25, Number 14b
April 4, 2018
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Jet And C150 Collide, Two Killed
Mary Grady

Two people died when a Cessna 150 collided with a Cessna 525 Citation jet on the runway at Marion Municipal Airport in Indiana on Monday afternoon, the FAA has reported. The C150 was attempting to take off to the southeast, at about 5:09 p.m., when it struck the tail of the Citation, which had just landed from the north. The tail of the jet was shorn off, and the C150 crashed and caught fire. The pilot and passenger in the 150, both from Indiana, were killed. The jet is registered to Avis Corporation, according to the local NewsChannel15. Five people, including the crew, were on board, and none were hurt.

The airport, about 50 miles north of Indianapolis, has no control tower, and pilots coordinate via CTAF. The NTSB will investigate.

Update: Officials identified the victims as Kyle M. Hibst and David Wittkamper, both 31-years-old from Elwood. They had served as volunteer firefighters at the Pipe Creek Fire Department out of Madison County.

FedEx Express Expands Pilot Outreach
Mary Grady

FedEx Express is joining a recent trend in the industry to develop a pipeline of pilots to fill seats in its larger jets, by creating clear pathways for new hires to get the training and opportunities they need for a productive career. The “Purple Runway” program is designed “to assist two of our feeder operators with the recruitment and retention of pilots who wish to develop their skills and experiences to eventually qualify for pilot opportunities at FedEx,” said CEO Fred Smith. FedEx Express will work with Mountain Air Cargo and Empire Airlines to create “a collaborative outreach and engagement program,” the company said in a news release. The outreach program, beginning with Delta State University, in Mississippi, will aim to promote student interest in aviation careers. 

The program has three main objectives, FedEx said: to promote the career development of pilots during their employment with the feeder; to assist the feeder operator in its efforts to recruit high-quality, well-trained candidates; and to provide FedEx Express with an early opportunity to evaluate feeder pilots as potential applicants for jobs at FedEx Express. Earlier this year, FedEx announced the purchase of 30 ATR 72-600F aircraft with the option to purchase up to 20 more for the company’s feeder fleet, along with a purchase agreement with Textron Aviation to purchase 50 Cessna SkyCourier 408F aircraft, with the option to purchase up to 50 more. FedEx said it plans to work with universities and aviation colleges around the country to educate students interested in an aviation career about the opportunities and development programs available to them at both the feeder operators and at FedEx Express.

NASA, Lockheed Martin To Build Supersonic X-Plane
Mary Grady

NASA has awarded a $247 million contract to Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works to build a piloted quiet supersonic technology demonstrator, with first flight planned for summer 2021, officials announced at a news conference on Tuesday. The testing is intended to be the first step toward changing international regulations that prohibit supersonic flight over land, and enabling private manufacturers to move forward with the development of supersonic business jets. Peter Coen, manager for the project at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia, said the key element in Lockheed Martin’s design is “a brand-new shape.” The rest of the airplane is “off-the-shelf” technology, he said, and will require no new development. The X-Plane will be 94 feet long, and fly at 1.4 Mach at 51,000 feet, Coen said.

NASA plans to complete a critical design review of Lockheed-Martin’s plans in September 2019. Testing of the aircraft will take place through September 2022. Then it will begin its main mission, flying at supersonic speeds above a variety of urban, suburban, and rural areas to test the response of people on the ground to the noise signature. The design of the airplane is intended to reduce the “sonic boom” to a thump or a double-thump by the time it reaches the ground. The noise tests are expected to take place 2023 through 2025. NASA said it received three inquiries in response to its request for proposals for the demonstrator, but Lockheed Martin was the sole bidder for the contract.

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Guest Blog: Selling The Fun, Not The Gewgaws
Jason Baker

Life as a full-time news editor and marketing dude can get a bit boring. Did you know that company XYZ has developed product A, or expanded service to now include B and manager Joe Little and CEO Frank Big both think it’s the most amazing thing since dinosaurs walked on earth? Oh, and don’t forget to read the About Us tab. It’s been the same for nine years. Yawn.

Missing the audience and failing to convey a message that departs the norm and veers off the beaten path seems to have become the norm. People like me now make a living telling aviation companies that canned news releases and newsletters as well as Facebook and Twitter hashtags and other social media storms are short-lived vehicles to convey what we do with those we wish to reach. 

Pictures are great, videos are great, but they don't make people jump up and drive to their local airport to take flying lessons. Maybe we have to be more human in how we communicate, so that we reach more humans with what we have to offer. Language is powerful and—seriously folks—people on the outside just get blurry vision and then click on something that "gets them." 

Even those who exchange ideas, concepts or thoughts among their fellow pilots through forums and discussion groups appear to be a bit tired at times. Discussions have turned stale and repetitive. There's always one person who can one-up the other, either financially or with the number of toys owned. The tone often turns negative towards the very future of what we love and wish to sustain for future generations to come. 

Our fraternity feels discriminated against by regulators who don't understand what general aviation is all about, mistreated by the press and media, which often shows its bias and lack of knowledge, and bugged down by politicians who can't tell an airplane from a hole in the wall. Senator Schumer could have just zipped it, rather than involving himself in the tiresome helicopter debate. Rah, rah.

We live and operate in a complicated and highly technical environment that has mastered unique and tremendous challenges in its past. No question, we have huge challenges in front of us. Over the last two years, my own thinking has changed and these days I wonder if our focus for selling general aviation should be shifting to how we communicate about general aviation. I believe that how we communicate has much more impact than what we communicate. What is general aviation? First and foremost, it’s fun. It’s the freedom to discover and explore and experience truly endless beauty. 

So here we are, 10-plus years into the LSA and Sport Pilot movement with the heavily relaxed BasicMed process to get people back into the mix and yet our growth appears relatively stagnant. Again. Nothing seems to catch on. The old guys don't think it's worth jumping back in and the youngsters are so involved and focused on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and staring at their smartphones, that having a conversation at the dinner table isn't possible without functional Wi-Fi. We middle-aged people are no better, mind you. When was the last time you completely unplugged?

My new Bose A20 reads me my messages and emails on demand and I can watch my favorite movie right on my SVT HUD while clipping along at 210 IAS on the new S-TEC AP with the A/C on. Ever since I got that STC'd STOL kit and the 2850 XLs, her Vx and Vy is like ... Can someone from the general populace follow us when we talk about ADS-B, XPDRs, 14 CFR Part 91, certification standards, G1000XLi, EFBs, SBs and ADs? You get the point.

Having gotten nearly all the fancy badges on my own FAA certificate listing, I distinctly recall an examiner who stated that there are two kinds of pilots out there. There are those who chase bigger metal and more technology and those who chase adventure and fun and the flying contraption they use is simply a tool to experience and share just that. 

I always enjoyed and embraced the small airplane stuff much more than the information about Boeing's newest wide-body or Branson's plans to shoot people across the globe at warp speed for close to a trillion dollars per seat. I do appreciate the development in technology and all the crazy gadgets, really, but what I really want is stick-and-rudder, low-and-slow VFR flying fun.

Frequently, I hear that general aviation is competing with other, easier-to-learn and finance leisure activities like boats, Jet Skis, ATVs and motorcycles. And even RVs. Just like sport flying, all these things bond families together and provide endless fun. They all convey just that message in their marketing and advertising. Are we really competing? Can you fly a boat, Jet Ski, ATV or depart planet earth and climb above the clouds on a motorcycle without a notarized will? None of our competitors is free of risk, liability or cheap to insure. Each come with challenges of their own. 

We may need to relax on the mundane numbers and abbreviations based on highly technical BS nobody needs or wants to see and focus on what makes sport and general aviation flying unique and priceless. And why anyone not involved or caught by the virus is missing out on a lifestyle and passion that is simply impossible to match. Please don't let it be an autopilot. 

Is there hope for radical change in how we portray sport and general aviation to the public and among our peers? Would doing so change things? Hope springs eternal and we have to start somewhere.

Jason Baker is a marketing consultant and editor. He lives in Germany and edits

Concept Vehicle Uses Wing in Ground-Effect Technology
Tim Cole

If speed, load-hauling and range represent the trifecta of motorized flight, many would argue you’ll find that sweet spot in wing-in-ground-effect technology, which has been kicking around for almost half a century. The Soviets tried it with their eight-engine Black Sea behemoths. Variations on the Alexander Lippisch-designed reverse delta single-engine skimmers have been spotted in coastal and riverine settings from China to Australia.

Now, a London-based company, Exclin Ltd., has announced a next-generation, fuel-efficient concept WIG called the Vertex Recreational Vehicle. The company says the vehicle will “offer pilots an exhilarating, low-altitude flight over sea.”

They claim a “patented Vertex Lift System” technology will give the vehicle the ability to take off vertically from a ground surface while still offering the flexibility of conventional takeoff and landing on ground or water.

The Vertex vehicle will be able to fly at high speeds within meters of the water's surface; altitudes are typically only half the total wingspan. They say the Vertex vehicle will be easy to fly and require only limited training compared to an aircraft operating in the system, giving it a low barrier to entry. To meet the specific needs of recreational pilots, it will be possible to separate the main wing from the body, allowing the Vertex Recreational Vehicle to be towed behind a car. Classified as a "WIG type B" maritime vehicle, Exclin says “the Vertex Recreational Vehicle will be competitive to fly, operate and own.”

For more information about Exclin or the Vertex Recreational Vehicle, click here.

The Royal Air Force Turns 100
Joy Finnegan

On April 1 the Royal Air Force celebrated its 100th birthday. The event is being celebrated by special events and activities across the UK running from April to the end of fall 2018. The main celebration event of RAF100 will take place on July 10 with a service in Westminster Abbey, followed by a parade in The Mall and a flight over Buckingham Palace.

A breakfast reception held at the site of the former Hotel Cecil, the first headquarters of the newly formed RAF in 1918, started events on April 1. A message from Her Majesty the Queen was read by 16-year-old Aircraftsman Adam Wood, the youngest serving member of the RAF. This was followed by a Founders’ Day Service at the official church of the Royal Air Force. Guests were then encouraged to watch the launch of the RAF100 baton relay. The baton, designed by RAF apprentices to represent the RAF’s century of service to the nation, will visit every region of the UK and several overseas locations from April 1 to July 10, 2018.

Long March survivor and veteran of the RAF, Air Commodore Charles Clarke, had the honor of being the first person to pass the baton to Aircraftsman Adam Wood. “I’m really proud to have been chosen to read out the message from the Queen and then, as one of the youngest airmen in the RAF, to receive the baton from Air Commodore Clarke,” said Aircraftsman Adam Wood, who played a major role in the day’s celebrations.

The April 1 events begin a series of celebrations called RAF100, a national campaign that will feature events, activities and other initiatives running throughout the UK from April to the end of fall 2018.

Airshow Pilot OK After Crash
Mary Grady

Airshow pilot Rob Holland was able to walk away after a forced landing that destroyed his custom MXS-RH aerobatic show plane last week. Holland said in a Facebook post last Wednesday he had taken off from the Naval Air Station in Kingsville, Texas, about 4:30 p.m. on March 25, heading for Shreveport, Louisiana. He was about 15 minutes into the flight, at 11,500 feet, when the airplane “had a catastrophic engine failure” and lost all power, he wrote. The canopy was immediately covered with oil and he had "zero forward visibility.” Given the terrain, he determined an off-airport landing was not a good option, and high winds at the surface ruled out a parachute. Depending on his EFIS system, he was able to find a nearby runway, and aimed for it.

“There was a low scattered-to-broken cloud layer around the vicinity of my landing site, which obstructed my view of the runway,” Holland wrote. “I glided through an opening in the clouds.” The runway, at an abandoned airfield, was only about 30 feet wide and 1,650 feet long, Holland wrote. He touched down at a normal landing speed of about 90 knots, but with a 20-knot tailwind. About 200 feet down the runway, the landing gear hit a large piece of stray debris — part of a roof blown there by Hurricane Harvey, Holland wrote. The left main landing gear was torn completely off the plane. The plane skidded on its belly down the runway, coming to rest about 30 feet off the right side of the runway. “The plane remained upright and straight the entire time,” Holland wrote. Holland was unhurt, but the airplane is damaged beyond repair, he said. He is already working with MX Aircraft to build a new airplane, he said.

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NASA Super Computers Aim At Aircraft Noise
Paul Bertorelli

On an airliner, engines are a source of noise heard on the ground, but so is airflow over landing gear, flaps and slats. Using massive supercomputers to model airflow, NASA is seeking ways to reduce such noise. This AVweb video explains the project.

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Short Final: Bugs in a Jar

Spring brings with it the beginnings of rough air season, especially in mountainous terrain. This recent PIREP near Jeffco Airport in Colorado puts it in vivid terms.


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