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Volume 26, Number 15a
April 8, 2019
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Boeing Trims MAX Production
Paul Bertorelli

Boeing said Friday that it will reduce the production rate on the 737 MAX by 10 airplanes a month, from 52 to 42 by mid-April. The company said it has also appointed a special board committee to review the development of new aircraft.

“We’re adjusting the 737 production system temporarily to accommodate the pause in MAX deliveries, allowing us to prioritize additional resources to focus on software certification and returning the MAX to flight,” Dennis Muilenburg, Boeing CEO, said in a statement.

Earlier Friday, Boeing also revealed that it has identified a second problem in the MAX software that will need to be fixed before a revised software package is sent to the entire MAX feet, which remains grounded in the wake of two hull losses that killed 347 people in Indonesia and Ethiopia. Boeing didn't offer any details on what the software problem was.

TruTrak Autopilot Update at Sun 'n Fun
Larry Anglisano

TruTrak Flight Systems set out to deliver a budget-based retrofit autopilot for certified aircraft with the Vizion system and has been delivering the system for installation in a variety of aircraft. Aviation Consumer Magazine Editor Larry Anglisano caught up with TruTrak's Andrew Barker at Sun 'n Fun 2019 for an update on approvals and interfacing.

Sun ‘n Fun Highlights Flight Training Trends
Kate O'Connor

Sun ‘n Fun has come and gone once again, leaving me a little sunburned, a bit tired and quite content after a week spent surrounded by airplanes and the folks who hang around them. This was my third year dropping by Lakeland and it’s becoming clear that the more things change at these big airshows, the more they stay the same—for the most part, anyway.

For anyone who hasn’t been to a show like Sun ‘n Fun, it’s generally big news when a longtime vendor moves spots on the show grounds. Ask for directions to a company’s booth and you’ll get responses like “Them? They’re in Bose’s old spot. You know, right by Sporty’s.” Three years in and I’m beginning to get a handle on where everybody used to be. By 2020, maybe I’ll even have where they are now sorted out.

This year started out much like the last two. As is Sun ‘n Fun tradition, I got thoroughly rained on as I was dashing to my first video shoot, raincoat sacrificed to protect the camera bag. (Next year, for sure, I’ll remember that the umbrella doesn’t get discarded the moment the suitcase starts to get full.) That shoot was the first lead on what was different about this year’s event. Talking with Sun ‘n Fun president Lites Leenhouts before things officially got underway, he framed the event as being a fundraiser for something much larger—a movement aimed at mentoring and training the next generation of aviators.

Beginning five years ago, the Sun ‘n Fun organization shifted its focus from the weeklong fly-in and expo to becoming an educational institution with an eye on the future of the aerospace industry. They’re now teaching STEM to thousands of students—starting at the elementary school level—each year in the region between Tampa and Orlando. In addition to using aviation as a vehicle for lessons in science, technology, engineering, math and even art, Sun ‘n Fun is training local teachers to do the same.

The Aerospace Center For Excellence, which handles the scholarship aspect of Sun ‘n Fun, is handing out about $450,000 a year in flight training scholarships for young people at this point. Numbers-wise, Lites said they’re typically giving two or three students a month $12,000 to learn to fly. Some 91 students have gotten their private pilot certificate so far through the program and another 50 are currently in training. So that’s not nothing.

The focus on training continued to crop up this week, and I don’t just mean Piper’s new Pilot 100 trainer or their next giant Archer/Seminole fleet sale. Everywhere I went, it seemed like people were talking about how to provide more effective training, how to make it efficient and bring cost down, and, perhaps most interestingly, how to develop the kinds of communities that are capable of welcoming and supporting young pilots. The discussion ranged from aircraft and scholarships to flight gear and teaching methods.

EAA’s Ray Aviation Scholarship is an interesting example. It launched in February, in part, I’m told, as a follow-on and bridge for programs like Young Eagles. The scholarships are administered through EAA’s chapter network, with individual chapters first having to qualify and then nominating students. Scholarship recipients are also required to do two hours a month of volunteer work with their local chapter. As I understand it, the hope is that working with the chapters this way will give students a closer connection to the aviation community in addition to providing local mentorship and support. A few scholarships have already been given out and about 240 chapters have applied for nomination rights. EAA is expecting to distribute about 90 $10,000 scholarships over the first year.

Circling back around to Piper’s show announcements, I find their latest move to be an interesting concurrent indicator of the training expansion trend. Big flight schools are substantially growing their fleets and I doubt Piper will be the last manufacturer to start once again testing the waters to see if there’s a market for a slightly cheaper trainer for the smaller schools. I know “cheap” is something of a joke at this point, but still, the Pilot 100 does knock about $130,000 off of the Archer’s 2019 list price.

Looking back, the seeds of most of these programs have been around for a while. The difference I saw at Sun ‘n Fun this year was one of attitude. In the past, discussions of training generally dead-ended into the expense and poor retention rates for new flight students. This year, not only were folks hopeful that they were seeing an upsurge in the number of young people learning to fly, they’re also starting to have the numbers to prove that some of these initiatives are working.

Note to Readers: No, it's not something you said. Because of persistent denial of service attacks against AVweb, we're moving the site to another platform. The commenting section will be unavailable for a time. We apologize for the inconvenience, but the site will be better for it in a week or two. In the meantime, if you have a comment, email us and we'll append it to the blog.

Podcast: Rust Remover For CFIs
Russ Niles

Hand flying is a major safety focus in the drive to reduce loss-of-control accidents and CFIs are being urged to sharpen their own stick and rudder skills and pass that on to their students. Society of Aviation and Flight Educators spokesman discussed a new initiative with AVweb's Russ Niles at Sun 'n Fun 2019.

Sun 'n Fun Rebrands
Russ Niles

The just-wrapped Sun ’n Fun Fly-In and Expo will have a new name in 2020 that better reflects the event’s mission. From 2020 on it will be the Sun ’n Fun Aerospace Expo. "Renaming this iconic aviation event reflects our mission to engage, educate and accelerate the next generation of aerospace professionals,” said CEO John “Lites” Leenhouts. “Our focus on preparing the next generation to be inspired and trained as job-ready candidates to address the demands of today's aerospace industry will be reflected in our new name, Sun 'n Fun Aerospace Expo, starting in 2020.”

From a well-attended EAA fly-in at its roots, Sun ’n Fun has evolved into the main fundraiser for a year-round effort aimed at attracting to and educating young people about the opportunities that await them in aviation through the Aerospace Center for Excellence. The new branding pays homage to the past while looking forward, said Board Chairman Harley Richards. “As we look to the future and where aerospace technology is taking us, we want to ensure that we're best positioned to continue to be a part of it.”

Pilotless Octocopter Flies With Passengers
Russ Niles

Ehang flew its autonomous octocopter with two passengers for the first time in public in Austria on Saturday and the company said the aircraft is now ready for mass production. The Ehang 216 hovered briefly in a soccer stadium Apr. 4 in Vienna with a small contingent of press in attendance. “This is not a drone,” a company spokesman said in a video release. “It’s an AAV, an autonomous aero vehicle." Nomenclature notwithstanding, the aircraft was pilotless but it’s not clear if it flew on internal guidance or whether it was remotely controlled.

In practice, passengers would climb aboard, punch a destination into the panel and their work would be over. Using 5G wireless technology, the aircraft would fly itself to the destination and take care of separation from other aircraft and objects. There will be two navigation systems on each aircraft, each capable of taking over from the other in case of a failure. The 216 will sell for about $350,000 and the company is claiming “thousands” of orders, most of them in China.

'Secret' Airplane Stops At FBO
Russ Niles

One of Scaled Composites' (formerly) most secretive projects was on full display at a Kentucky FBO over the weekend, on its way to NAS Paxutent River from Mojave. The stealthy model 401, one of two that are flying, stopped for fuel at Bowling Green in the middle of a clear day and the pilot wasn’t shy about the striking plane having its picture taken. Even the customer for the aircraft hadn’t been made public but the flight tracking services that plotted its route to Pax River are a dead giveaway.

The 401 has a dorsal air inlet, trapezoidal "Lambda" wings, chined edges and a big V-tail and was an attention getter at Bowling Green. What, exactly, the Navy plans to do with the plane is, of course, classified. The best guess, according to, is that it will be some sort of optionally manned surrogate for testing combat drones. The aircraft flew at a leisurely 230 knots for just under two hours to get from Bowling Green to the Navy base.

Picture of the Week, April 4, 2019
My son Joe last summer at Spokane Felts Field. Shot with my iPhone. Photo by Joe Dory.

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Lycoming 'When can an engine give you 200 extra flying hours?'
Short Final: Truck Traffic

A few months ago, we heard this on Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Approach as we were flying through the area:

Controller: “Cessna 123, traffic three o’clock, two miles.”

Cessna 123: “Looking.”

After a couple of minutes the controller came back with: “Cessna 123, disregard traffic advisory; that was a truck.”

As I’m doubled over in laughter, the controller explained that sometimes the radar will pick up trucks on the hill as targets, especially if they’re almost as fast as the slow airplanes. That must’ve really hurt.

Harold Lanfear
Newark, DE
Brainteasers Quiz #254: Flying Is So Easy ...

... It's the other stuff that interferes with slipping surly bonds of reality while attempting to touch the face of the insanely glorious notion that humans -- and a few dogs -- can fly, provided they can ace this quiz.

Click here to take the quiz.

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