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Volume 25, Number 23b
June 6, 2018
 
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GippsAero GA10 Destroyed In Test Flight
 
Mary Grady
 
 

A GippsAero GA10 turbo Airvan was destroyed after a test flight on Monday when it crashed in the Mojave Desert, in southern California. Both pilots on board bailed out at about 5,000 feet AGL and landed safely under parachutes, according to news reports. Earle Boyter, a spokesperson for Mahindra Aerospace, the parent company of GippsAero, told AVweb he couldn’t confirm any details about what went wrong. "This is in the early stages of an ongoing investigation, so no more details are available at this time," he said. Although the GA10 is a certified airplane, the aircraft that the crew was flying was an experimental, Boyter said. “It was being flown in various configurations to expand the envelope,” he said.

The airplane had taken off from Mojave Air & Space Port and crashed about 15 miles west of Edwards Air Force Base. It was owned by GippsAero, which is based in Australia. Boyter said Mahindra will be working with the NTSB and the FAA in their investigation to determine exactly what happened.

Diamond Delivers First DA62 MPP
 
Mary Grady
 
 

Diamond’s special-mission version of its DA62 light twin, the MPP (multi-purpose platform), which was introduced last year at the Paris Air Show, has been delivered to its first customer, the company said this week. DEA Specialised Airborne Operations, based in the UK, will use the aircraft to provide airborne-sensing services, such as surveillance and surveys. With a full-fuel payload of 1,000 pounds, the all-composite DA62 can fly missions up to 10 hours, while providing more space for crew and equipment than Diamond’s other multi-purpose aircraft. The surveillance technology has been “field proven” and benefits from continuous improvement during more than a decade of operations, said Mathias Hutterer, head of the airborne sensing department at Diamond Aircraft Austria.

The MPP is equipped with turbocharged Austro Engine AE330 powerplants that burn jet fuel at 7.4 gallons per hour at loiter speed. The passenger version has room for seven seats, so the repurposed cabin provides plenty of room for mission equipment. The MPP version also has a satellite antenna pod, camera turrets and a strengthened nose assembly to accommodate up to 220 pounds of surveillance gear. Diamond provides all necessary training for pilots, equipment operators and maintenance staff. The MPP will be on static display at the Farnborough Airshow in England, July 16 to 22.

What Are Hybrid Electric Airplanes Good For?
 
Paul Bertorelli
 

When I drive around town, I never fail to see some kind of hybrid car, say a Toyota Prius or maybe a Ford Fusion and the occasional Nissan Leaf. This tells me that hybrids and electric vehicles are now dominating the automotive market and airplanes are soon to follow. And here, let me welcome you to Paulie’s Moment of Magical Thinking. The reality is electric vehicles—both hybrids and pure electrics—command less than 2 percent of total market share in the U.S., although it’s greater in other countries. Even in the U.S., electric vehicle sales are on the upswing. Still, tap the brakes here and pitch the nose up for application to airplanes.

Some perspective is needed, especially following the announcement this week that three companies, Tecnam, BRP Rotax and the giant German electrical concern, Siemens, are developing a hybrid drive for aircraft. But read carefully between the lines and you sense what they said—“the project will allow broadening the horizons of knowledge in the field of parallel hybrid propulsion systems”—is describing not a market entry, but a technology demonstrator. I think these companies are smart enough to know that market potential for an aircraft piston hybrid drive is thin at best, non-existent at worst.

Consider the technical points. In a car, a hybrid drive like the Toyota Prius has marginally better economy than the equivalent best-case internal combustion model, but its life cycle costs may actually be more than the equivalent ICE, depending on what you pay for gas and how you drive. If CO2 emissions are a thing for you, hybrids are marginally greener.

What about airplanes? The only hybrid close to fruition is the Euro-sponsored HYPSTAIR, a video of which you can see here. This is a serial hybrid design that has a Rotax 912 or 914 engine powering a generator to charge batteries carried in the wings. The prime power is a 200-kw (270-HP) brushless DC electric motor. The typical operating cycle is to take off on batteries, cruise with ICE while charging the batteries, then complete the trip with theoretically charged batteries. It hasn’t flown yet, so it’s yet to be proven if the claims will pan out There’s also a weight penalty. The hybrid drive system is comparable in weight to a diesel power plant of similar output so useful load will take a hit. Range might or might not be better.

There are some of realistic plusses. One is that the battery-driven motor is unaffected by density altitude, so the full 270 HP is available anywhere, even if max prop efficiency is not. Second, reliability. Although the electric motor is a low probability single-point failure, the ICE is at least there to keep the batteries alive. I would call this a sort of redundancy. Overall efficiency is simply an unknown. While it uses a smaller engine to charge the batteries, there's a conversion penalty over simply throttling back a larger gasoline engine for similar performance sans the hybrid drive. Don’t forget noise. That‘s huge in Europe, a little less so in the U.S.

The Tecnam/Rotax/Siemens project is a parallel hybrid, not HYPSTAIR’s series design. They haven’t revealed details, but this means it uses an electric motor as a kind of helper or torque booster for the gasoline engine. FlightDesign fooled with this idea a few years ago by adding a parallel motor to a Rotax engine. It was sort of a giant starter motor on top of the engine and could be engaged for takeoff—relying on battery power—and in standby mode for emergency power. Of course, to be an effective standby, the electric motor has to have a mechanical path to the prop that won’t be tanked if the crank breaks. Again, there’s a weight penalty here in motor and batteries against the benefit of added takeoff performance.

That’s the market entry challenge. Try this thought test: Does a hybrid drive solve a significant shortcoming of gasoline engines, such as poor takeoff performance, low efficiency and lack of reliability? And if the hybrid does these things, will it attract buyers in sufficient volume to make the juice worth the squeezing? For now, I doubt it. I’m not even seeing a future where it makes much market sense at all except one: where a hybrid is used as a range extender in an electric aircraft that uses distributed power to leverage the advantages of electric motors, say the Volocopter, for example.

Pure electrics are different. Entirely. As Pipistrel is showing, there may be just enough early adopter interest to make airplane BEVs practical. As battery capacity inches upward, the curve will eventually advance to the point that schools can look at the numbers and make a business case for a mix of electrics and gasoline airplanes. Some are almost there now, but we don‘t have enough operational data to verify cost and performance claims for electrics. In the U.S., there are approval details to sort out, but this is just bureaucratic noise. It’ll eventually get done and electrics will carve a share.

At AVweb, we do a lot of coverage in the electric, alternative power and autonomous flight fields. Casual readers may assume that such technologies are gaining increasing momentum and practical market entries are just around the corner. “Much sooner than you think,” as I’ve been told by more than one electric airplane enthusiast. Depends I guess I what they think I’m thinking, which is usually a decade or two.

Still, Tecnam et. al. are pushing this technology hard because they have no choice. If they don’t, someone else will and even in the stodgy backwater of piston general aviation, things don’t stand perfectly still. Only the companies pursuing blue sky initiatives that may go nowhere in the short term will be competitive in that decade or two I’m thinking about. We should all be happy to see such things.

Pole to Pole (in a Lancair) - Part 1
 
Bill Harrelson
 
 

The flashlight is on only for a few minutes to check and record the readings from the sight gauges on the cockpit fuel tanks. Now off, it’s dark...really dark. The flight schedule had been planned many months ago to put this, the North Pole leg, at the full moon. Reality intervened to put me two weeks late, now at the dark of the moon. I cup my gloved hand to the Plexiglas to shield the light from the instruments. Polaris really is straight up.

I’m staying pretty busy. Getting position reports off to Gander on the HF takes a lot of time. In between reports I’m adjusting valves for the 10 fuel tanks, trying to keep the center of gravity somewhat in balance. Every hour I take 18 readings and transmit them to the ground crew via satellite text: fuel state, engine parameters, angle of attack, heartbeat and blood oxygen, cockpit temperature, and more. The readings are fairly routine. Only one has kept my attention for several hours...oil sump temperature.

I’ve crossed the North Pole and am now heading south over Ellesmere Island in far northern Canada. The OAT should be warming...it’s not. At the Pole, I record an OAT of -18.4° F (-28° C) at FL 120. I’m four hours south of the Pole and the OAT is still falling, now reading -36.4° F (-38° C) with the oil sump temperature at an uncomfortable 75.2° F (24° C). I’m worried about the oil freezing in the oil cooler, even though I’ve had that airflow closed since just after takeoff in Fairbanks 12 hours ago. A burst oil cooler could ruin my evening. There are occasionally a few unbusy minutes during which I can’t help but reflect on this trip. The North Pole in January in a little homemade single-engine airplane...how the heck did I convince myself that this was a good idea? What am I doing here? How did this trip come about?

Planning

The planning for this series of flights began over 10 years ago. My wife Sue and I had enjoyed some long flights in the Lancair 320 we had built. We flew it from the U.S. to Kemble, England, for the PFA (Popular Flying Association) rally in 2003, and from there, on to Germany and Holland. That opened our eyes to just what is possible in a little airplane. What about an around-the-world flight? The more we looked at this possibility, the more we found that the 320 could carry adequate fuel or two people, but not both at the same time. A four-place airplane built specifically for long distance would be a much better choice. So, at Sun ’n Fun in 2004, we ordered a Lancair IV kit.

The airplane was completed in 2012, and after the normal testing, we embarked upon a series of long-distance tests. These tests culminated in an attempt at the world record for distance in our weight class. That flight was from Guam to Jacksonville, Florida, a distance of 7051 nautical miles (13,059 km) and took 38 hours, 39 minutes, non-stop. With six gallons left, I landed in Jacksonville and was able to claim the record.

Shortly after the distance record, we (even though it is a single-place airplane in this “expedition” mode, there is a team of people working hard on this project, hence the “we”) made our first attempt at the world record for Speed Around the World over both of the Earth’s poles. That attempt was unsuccessful. We made it to Punta Arenas, Chile, and waited eight days for acceptable weather to cross the Southern Ocean to Antarctica. It was late March and too late in the season. A long flight back to the U.S. ended that first attempt.

An official World Record sanctioned by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, keeper of aviation records since 1905, requires following a strict set of requirements. For this particular record, these requirements include:

  1. The aircraft must be officially weighed at the maximum weight that it will be flown at during the record attempt.
  2. The flight must fly directly over both the North and South Poles.
  3. The northbound and southbound equator crossings must be separated by a minimum of 120 degrees longitude.
  4. All declared points must be reached in the order that they were declared.

Speed is computed by dividing the total great circle distance between declared points by the total time. Total time is computed from the first takeoff to the last landing back at the starting point. Flying other than directly between declared points is allowed, but is not counted in the total distance.

The Journey Begins

We chose Kinston, North Carolina, KISO, as our start/end airport. Kinston has a long 11,500-foot runway (needed at our extreme weight), a tower (needed to attest to takeoff and landing times), and an excellent FBO (thanks, Kinston Jet Center). Kinston is also geographically situated such that we had a clear route through the warning areas that exist all along the U.S. East Coast.

Since we needed to fuel to maximum for weighing at Kinston, we planned the first leg to be our longest, east to cross the equator at 44 degrees west longitude, and then south across Brazil to Montevideo, Uruguay, SUAA, a distance of 5286 nautical miles and planned for 28 hours. At our max fuel weight, takeoffs are always a challenge. Normal rotation speed for this airplane would be around 65 knots. At max weight rotation is 105 knots, and the wheels leave the ground at 110–115 knots. Once off the ground, climb rate is 100 fpm or less until an airspeed of 160 knots is reached. Then it can maintain perhaps 400 fpm until 8,000 feet or so, when it will climb no further until fuel weight is burned off. The aft CG makes the airplane divergently unstable. The Lancair IV, normally a pleasant-to-fly, responsive aircraft, is an ugly, difficult-to-fly, poorly performing pig at this weight and CG. Use of the autopilot is out of the question for the first five or six hours. After this, the CG is such that, in smooth air, the autopilot can be engaged. This is always a major relief. Now more attention can be devoted to weather avoidance, navigation, fuel management, communication with the ground crew, and perhaps a moment or two to eat, drink, exercise, and think.

Landing at the Angel S. Adami airport, SUAA, in Montevideo was a great pleasure. Adami is a wonderful little general aviation airport with quick and easy customs, self-serve avgas, and best of all, the friendly face of Gualdemar Gutierrez. We had been communicating with Gualdemar for many months prior to our arrival. He had arranged everything: fuel, transportation to the hotel, customs, etc. He had agreed to accept a package that we had sent ahead (clean underwear, PowerBars, oil, CamGuard, etc.). Since our next leg would be a relatively short leg to Punta Arenas, Chile, we could afford to carry some supplies from there.

The weather the next morning was acceptable and the short hop (1329 nautical miles, 7 hours) to Punta Arenas went quite smoothly. Argentina ATC was competent and friendly as we passed this leg almost entirely over their country. Good weather prevailed for landing in Punta Arenas, Chile.

Good News, Bad News

After clearing customs, the next stop was the met office. I had found on my previous flight to Punta Arenas that the meteorologists here were first class. They had up-to-date equipment and were extremely knowledgeable, especially concerning Antarctic weather. They had good and bad news for me. The flight from Punta Arenas to the South Pole the next day should be during a rare window of excellent weather and only moderate headwinds. There was, however, bad weather over the Southern Ocean on the way from Antarctica to New Zealand. Since the weather from South America to the Pole looked unusually good, the decision was made to take advantage of the good weather and depart for the Pole the next day.

For years I had known that this leg from South America across the South Pole to New Zealand would be the most critical and dangerous leg of the entire project. The Southern Ocean is infamous for extreme and rapidly changing weather. Weather reporting stations are few and possible landing sites almost non-existent.

A maximum-weight takeoff with the full 361-gallon fuel load and a very slow climb over the Strait of Magellan toward the mountains of southern Tierra del Fuego started this leg. With excellent visibility, the mountains and glaciers at the southern tip of the continent were soon visible. Monte Sarmiento at 7,175 feet was the highest obstacle in my way. I was able to hold 10,000 feet as I passed just to the west of this spectacular mountain. In the words of Charles Darwin, “the most sublime spectacle in Tierra del Fuego.”

Once past Tierra del Fuego, it’s over the Drake Passage toward Antarctica. Hours pass with the open ocean mostly obscured by low clouds. Just a few higher cumulus are visible on the southeastern horiz...wait a minute...those aren’t clouds. They’re the mountains of the Antarctic Peninsula! The first view of this magic continent while still 200 miles away is something that I’ll never forget. The view gets more spectacular the closer I get. My route takes me over Mount Stephenson on Alexander Island. This is the fourth highest peak in Antarctica and probably the most visually impressive since it rises directly from the sea in one unbroken 60-degree slope of rock to 9,800 feet.

I continue following the 71-degree west meridian toward the Pole. Passing over the peninsula and then over the western edge of the Ronne Ice Shelf, I find myself in stratus clouds. The temperature is well below -4° F (-20° C) and I encounter no ice. Once out of the stratus, I can see the Sentinel Range far to the west and Vinson Massif, the highest point in Antarctica at 16,067 feet, impressive even from a distance.

Antarctica

The interior of the Antarctic continent is surprisingly featureless. Hundreds of miles pass and it looks as if I’m flying over a smooth cloud layer. Only occasional crevasses and rock outcroppings show that it’s snow and ice. The GPS units are now showing a maddeningly decreasing groundspeed. The headwinds are stronger than forecast—considerably stronger. By the time I reach 85 degrees south latitude, I’m 1 hour and 1 minute behind flight plan and worse, below flight plan fuel. This leg is a 5383-nautical-mile flight into increasing headwinds, questionable weather, a high probability of icing on the second crossing of the Southern Ocean, and no place to land, short of New Zealand.

It’s decision time. The ground crew and I reach the frustrating conclusion that to continue past the Pole toward New Zealand would put the flight into a far too risky and uncertain situation. We decide to continue to the Pole and then return to Punta Arenas. It’s 2,220 nautical miles from Punta Arenas to the Pole, the distance from New York to San Francisco...and another 2,220 miles back, but still shorter than continuing to New Zealand. I work out a flight plan for the return and advise ATC on HF of our decision.

Finally, over the nose, I see Amundsen-Scott Station, the U.S. research base at the South Pole. It looks like a junkyard at the end of the earth. A few circles around the Pole, snap a few photos and I’m on my way north back to Punta Arenas.

Airframe Icing

Antarctica is known for rapidly changing weather. It did not disappoint. Even over the same areas that I had flown over just a few hours ago, I notice more clouds. Over the continent I’m not worried about airframe icing since the temperature is well below -4° F (-20° C). Over the Southern Ocean, however, just 100 miles short of South America, with warming temperature and increasing cloud cover, I encounter ice. Just a little at first, but on the thin Lancair airfoils, it’s enough to appreciably degrade performance. It soon becomes obvious that I cannot remain in this situation for long. I’ve been descending to remain below the clouds. I’m at FL 140 now. I check the OAT and calculate how low I need to descend to find above-freezing temperatures—6,000 feet should do it—but it doesn’t. At 5,000 feet the ice finally starts melting...slowly. But now, I’m getting close to Tierra del Fuego and the mountains there. I need to get back up to at least 10,000 to clear the rocks. Luckily, as I continue north, the temperature continues to increase and I’m able to climb back to a safe altitude free of ice.

Back in Punta Arenas I now have a new set of challenges to face. I need to do the oil change that had been planned for New Zealand. Julio Sopik, my friend and handler in Chile, is able to find a case of oil. We do an oil change on the cold ramp in a 40-knot wind which is pretty normal weather in this part of the world.

I have made it to the Pole so as far as the official record is concerned—I do not need to return there. Since Hamilton, New Zealand, has been declared, I still have to get there somehow. The most direct route will take me well back into the Southern Ocean into 50- to 60-knot headwinds and, very likely, icing. Although we keep looking at this option, we explore what other possibilities are available.

Easter Island would be a great stop, if only they had avgas. They don’t. We could arrive at Easter Island with some tanks still full of avgas. Would car gas be a possibility? We could take off and climb on avgas and then at low power cruise start burning the car gas. Consultations are made with engine experts back in the States, and it is determined that this would probably work...probably...not a comforting thought when flying thousands of miles over open ocean.

How about Raratonga? Pretty far, but might be possible. Tahiti could work. We search for avgas there and find none. Then, Ewan Smith from Air Raratonga contacts the team and finds three barrels of avgas in Tahiti. Super! We file the flight plan for Tahiti. But just before departure a message arrives that Tahiti has refused our flight plan. Seems that they require 72 hours to issue a landing permit...no exceptions.

On to Part 2

This article originally appeared in the November 2015 issue of Kitplanes magazine.

For more great content like this, subscribe to Kitplanes!

The flashlight is on
only for a few min
-
utes to check and record the readings
from the sight gauges on the cockpit fuel
tanks. Now off, it’s dark...really dark.
The flight schedule had been planned
many months ago to put this, the North
Pole leg, at the full moon. Reality inter
-
vened to put me two weeks late, now at
the dark of the moon. I cup my gloved
hand to the Plexiglas to shield the light
from the instruments. Polaris really is
straight up.
I’m staying pretty busy. Getting posi
-
tion reports off to Gander on the HF
takes a lot of time. In between reports
I’m adjusting valves for the 10 fuel
tanks, trying to keep the center of grav
-
ity somewhat in balance. Every hour
I take 18 readings and transmit them
to the ground crew via satellite text:
fuel state, engine parameters, angle of
attack, heartbeat and blood oxygen,
cockpit temperature, and more. The
readings are fairly routine. Only one has
kept my attention for several hours...oil
sump temperature.
I’ve crossed the North Pole and am
now heading south over Ellesmere Island
in far northern Canada. The OAT
should be warming...it’s not. At the Pole,
I record an OAT of -18.4° F (-28° C) at
FL 120. I’m four hours south of the Pole
and the OAT is still falling, now read
-
ing -36.4° F (-38° C) with the oil sump
temperature at an uncomfortable 75.2° F
(24° C). I’m worried about the oil freez
-
ing in the oil cooler, even though I’ve had
that airflow closed since just after takeoff
in Fairbanks 12 hours ago. A burst oil
cooler could ruin my evening.
There are occasionally a few unbusy
minutes during which I can’t help but
reflect on this trip. The North Pole in
January in a little homemade single-
engine airplane...how the heck did I
convince myself that this was a good
idea? What am I doing here? How did
this trip come about?
Planning
The planning for this series of flights
began over 10 years ago. My wife Sue
and I had enjoyed some long flights in
the Lancair 320 we had built. We flew
it from the U.S. to Kemble, England,
for the PFA (Popular Flying Associa
-
tion) rally in 2003, and from there, on to
Germany and Holland. That opened our
eyes to just what is possible in a little air
-
plane. What about an around-the-world
flight? The more we looked at this pos
-
sibility, the more we found that the 320
could carry adequate fuel or two people,
but not both at the same time. A four-
place airplane built specifically for long
distance would be a much better choice.
So, at Sun ’n Fun in 2004, we ordered a
Lancair IV kit.
The airplane was completed in 2012,
and after the normal testing, we
embarked upon a series of long-distance
tests. These tests culminated in an
attempt at the world record for distance
in our weight class. That flight was from
Guam to Jacksonville, Florida, a distance
of 7051 nautical miles (13,059 km) and
took 38 hours, 39 minutes, non-stop.
With six gallons left, I landed in Jack
-
sonville and was able to claim the record.
Shortly after the distance record, we
(even though it is a single-place airplane
in this “expedition” mode, there is a team
of people working hard on this project,
hence the “we”) made our first attempt
at the world record for Speed Around
the World over
both
of the Earth’s poles.
That attempt was unsuccessful. We made
it to Punta Arenas, Chile, and waited
eight days for acceptable weather to cross
the Southern Ocean to Antarctica. It was
late March and too late in the season. A
Report: FAA Needs Better Drone-Safety Plans
 
Mary Grady
 
 

The FAA needs to do more to improve its management of the safety risks of drones in the national airspace, according to a recent report (PDF) by the federal Government Accountability Office. The report said the FAA needs to collect better data on drone safety, and also needs to focus on risk management. “FAA officials told us that they are aware that the agency’s data on potential unsafe use of small UAS have limitations,” says the report, though the agency said it is “making efforts” to improve the quality of information. The FAA officials said small drones are often not recorded by radar, and it’s difficult for pilots to identify them definitively. “Such data limitations impede the agency’s ability to effectively assess the safety of small UAS operations,” according to the report.

Since 2014, pilots and others have reported to the FAA more than 6,000 sightings of UAS, often flying near manned aircraft or airports, but FAA officials told GAO they cannot verify that small UAS were involved in most of the sightings. Officials explained that small UAS are often difficult for pilots to identify definitively, and typically are not picked up by radar. The GAO found the FAA’s drone activities regularly followed only two of their own five key principles for safety-risk policies — (1) defining appropriate roles and responsibilities for safety risk management and (2) describing the aviation system under consideration. FAA partially followed the other three principles: (1) analyzing and assessing safety risks, (2) implementing controls to mitigate the risks and (3) monitoring the effectiveness of the controls and adjusting them as needed. The GAO recommended that the FAA should establish a mechanism to ensure that their management of small UAS safety risks follows all applicable principles and requirements in the agency’s policies. The FAA agreed with GAO’s recommendation.

Red Bull Pilot Celebrates Hot-Air Balloon Day
 
Mary Grady
 
 

It might have escaped your notice that June 5 is officially National Hot-Air Balloon Day in the U.S., but Red Bull made the most of it, enlisting air-race pilot Kirby Chambliss to fly in and out of a row of four balloons as if they were race pylons. The flight took place at dawn, close to Chambliss’s home airfield in Phoenix, Arizona. After the balloons launched, Chambliss “got a bit more creative,” according to Red Bull, performing aerobatics above, around and between them. Flying around the balloons is different from flying around pylons, Chambliss says, “because you can’t hit the balloons.”

Chambliss and the rest of the Red Bull Air Race competitors will make their annual U.S. appearance on Oct. 6 and 7, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The Speedway held its first-ever event on June 5 in 1909, hosting the launch of a hot-air balloon race. National Hot-Air Balloon Day marks the first public launch of a hot-air balloon, in June 1783, in Annonay, France. The unmanned aircraft, designed by Joseph and Etienne Montgolfier, rose to about 6,000 feet and flew for about 10 minutes.

Drone Demonstrates Morphing Flight
 
Mary Grady
 
 

Researchers in France have developed a drone that can reorient its arms in flight to alter its profile, enabling it to reduce its wingspan and navigate in tight spaces. The “quad-morphing” design comprises two rotating arms, each equipped with two propellers, for helicopter-like flight. A system of elastic and rigid wires allows the robot to change the orientation of its arms in flight so they are either perpendicular to or parallel to its central axis. It adopts the parallel position, halving its wingspan, to traverse a narrow stretch and then switches back to the perpendicular position to stabilize its flight, all while flying at a speed of about 5 knots, “which is pretty fast for an aerial robot,” according to the institute’s news release. The researchers at the Ettiene Jules Marey Institute of Movement Sciences said they drew inspiration from birds. 

The precision of the quad-morphing autopilot mechanism determines the robot's agility, the researchers said. The autopilot activates arm reorientation when the robot nears a tight passage, as determined by a 3D localization system. The researchers have also equipped the robot with a miniature camera that can take 120 pictures per second. In the future, this will enable the drone to independently assess the size of the gap before it and fold its wings accordingly if necessary. Flight testing with the new camera will begin this month. The goal is to create large drones that can move through complex spaces for use in exploration, mapping, or search and rescue missions. The researchers have posted a video that shows the drone morphing to fly through narrow passages.

Top Letters and Comments, June 1, 2018
 
AVweb Staff
 
 

Duo Bails Out Of TBM Avenger

I wanted to clarify some apparent misinformation on what I have heard and read:

(1) The .50 caliber machine guns in the wings are FORWARD facing. One in each wing. They were simulated, not real. The gun receivers with ammunition feedways, barrels and barrel jackets were modeled from the real specs, but the internal parts were designed with a complex computerized oxygen and propane mixing firing system. No rounds, no bullets. Only air pressure and noise.

The gun firing to the rear is of the same type, but is mounted in a revolving turret located in the aft position behind the middle seat.

(2) In the news interview, I had indicated that I was “on the instruments.”  My reference was to my focus was on the “power indication dials,” mainly special attention being paid to the oil temperature, oil and fuel pressures, and cylinder head temperature gauges.  When in more vulnerable positions, most pilots pay double attention to those instruments in order to get as early a warning as possible if there might be any trouble developing. The instruments were all in the green when the engine malfunctioned.

(3) This airplane was re-registered and re-certified in the “LIMITED” category after we took possession in the United States. One of the limitations was no night flights and no IFR, whether the pilot was rated or not. I am a instrument pilot with heavy practical experience in extreme conditions from my expeditions to the high Arctic and other remote places.

Lastly, it was devastating to lose this aircraft. Of course, now after this event, I have gone over and over and over in my mind if there was anything else I could have done to save this ship. This was sudden and catastrophic, and we had immediately lost most of our thrust, even before pulling the throttle back to try to bring down the smoke and fire.

It would’ve been suicide to try to land in the trees. Most are 100- to 150-foot-high Ponderosa Pines closely spaced on rugged these mountain slopes.  I did consider a right base to final to a possible landing spot in a wet marsh / swamp. With my DeHavilland Beaver, I may not have given it a second thought, with those high wings and large floats under me. I had practiced extensively and had actually successfully executed it once for the wet tundra of the high arctic before. But with heavy increasing smoke coming into the cockpit, and knowing that these wings are low, gear up, there was a good chance of a cartwheel. I had done my “what if’s” already, way ahead of time before taking my first flight in this airplane. I had played it out -- where I would land -- and -- where I would NOT land, if I ever had a problem. So I had already preemptively ruled this out.

Putting that all aside, if I had decided to try it in this particular marsh, if I came in short, or came in long, it would be over immediately. There would have been no room for error. And if I may have risked it myself, there was no way that I was not going to risk the life of my friend and crewmate.

That said, the loss of this airplane is devastating not only for myself, but for the world. We had put so much work and passion into her. There was and is a huge connection. She was a flying museum, a marvel to look at.  A privilege to fly. I always felt like it was all a privilege, so this is especially tough.

But now reflecting back on what is really important -- I am alive. My friend is alive.  -We are not maimed. We still now both get to see our kids finish growing up, getting married, and all the other great things we all hope for. I'm glad I didn't gamble that away.

-        Ron Carlson

No Help For EU Pilot Shortage

Airlines, corporations with active flight departments will have to invest in the training market to ensure a steady flow of trained pilots. The trucking industry has learned that lesson well. The most successful trucking companies subsidize or pay for in its entirety, training new drivers in exchange for a contractual, mutual agreement which the driver guarantees several years of service with said company. Pay, benefit packages, sign on bonuses, etc., are mutually worked out so the prospective driver knows what he will be paid during training, knows his pay scale once hired and has a paid experienced mentor who rides with the new driver integrating them into the company's system. The companies who do not want to make that investment are revolving doors of employment with very little, if any, driver retention. The professional pilot world will have to make the same or similar commitment staring with an applicant as a student pilot, not waiting to pick off the next 1500-hour newly minted ATP from Brand X flying school saddled up with $50K-65K in debt. The problem for all of this is the financially precarious positions the airlines operate in with just a hiccup of fuel prices, and said airline is BK or being absorbed by someone else who is only a few steps from bankruptcy themselves. To get and retain properly trained professional pilots will require an airline to invest themselves in the training market from solo to ATP. It will take a Vashon Ranger to a King Air in Delta livery as an example of training from student to ATP ... with the sponsoring airline taking on the responsibility of training and retaining enough qualified piloting help.

-        Jim Holdeman

New Trainers: Less Likely Than Ever To Be Cessnas

I've said it here many times, that the future of single engine GA aircraft does not lie with Cessna/Textron. The 172 and probably the 182 will meet a similar inglorious end as the TTX in the not too distant future, leaving only the commercial haulers like the 206 and Caravan in production. Textron is only interested in turbine-based equipment because the profit margins are more to their liking. The future of GA lies with smaller companies that are working to innovate designs and engines that will fit an evolving market. AVweb's recent highlighting of the Vashon Ranger seems to make more sense now than ever, except for the engine choice. Convincing the FAA to update the rules for the LSA category is also more important than ever if America plans to remain relevant in small aircraft design. Europe may be in love with electrics and hybrid designs, but the distances involved in North America make those options doubtful until better battery technologies emerge. A 145-HP Rotax engine could easily support an 1800-pound LSA with the added benefit of not needing the EPA's unleaded avgas which may or may not ever appear.

-        John McNamee

Perception vs. Reality

I think that minority-focused organizations are probably necessary until the minority population reaches a certain critical mass. Maybe 25% of the whole group. Having been to a number of aviation-focused events (Oshkosh, Sun 'n Fun) and working in the industry, I can tell you that I still observe that about 80% (or more) of pilots are white men. I think non-white males have an edge over female pilots in terms of becoming more common. It's worse out in the maintenance hangar. The rate of female A&P technicians hovers around the 1% mark. Definitely plenty of room for growth there. A support group for those brave individuals is (in my opinion) entirely appropriate. I think a clever name for the group helps. Something like "The 99s," which doesn't toss the minority name or designator into the title.

-        David Bunin

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