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ADS-B is now installed nationwide, the FAA said on Monday, although services won't be available at all air traffic facilities until 2019. "The installation of this radio network clears the way for air traffic controllers to begin using ADS-B to separate equipped aircraft nationwide," said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta in a statement. "It will also provide pilots flying aircraft equipped with the proper avionics with traffic information, weather data and other flight information." Of the 230 air traffic facilities across the country, 100 are currently using ADS-B to separate traffic, according to the FAA. All aircraft operating in controlled airspace must be equipped with ADS-B Out avionics that broadcast the plane's location by Jan. 1, 2020.

With the upgraded system now in place, once aircraft are equipped with ADS-B Out transponders, aircraft positions on controller screens will update almost continuously, compared to every 4.7 seconds or longer with radar. ADS-B also enables more accurate tracking of airplanes and airport vehicles on runways and taxiways. The new system significantly improves surveillance capability in areas with geographic challenges like mountains or over water. Airplanes equipped with ADS-B In, which is not currently mandated, will give pilots information through cockpit displays about location in relation to other aircraft, bad weather and terrain, and temporary flight restrictions. The FAA said last month that of an estimated 157,000 aircraft that will need to install the ADS-B equipment, fewer than 3,500 have done so.


As the revision of aircraft certification rules gains momentum, both the Flight Design C4 and Pipistrel Panthera will benefit from less onerous cert requirements, according to GAMA. At last week’s Aero in Friedrichshafen, Germany, GAMA’s Greg Bowles, who’s based in Brussels, told AVweb that the regulatory revision, known as CS23 worldwide, will directly benefit the Flight Design C4 and the Pipistrel Panthera, allowing them to install substantially less expensive avionics. 

“Regulators are not waiting for the rules but are embracing the coming change and saying they can do things now that they couldn’t before,” Bowles told AVweb at Aero. “The example of the C4 is one of those. It’s a product that has a lot of innovative solutions and it will have a lot of innovative safety solutions that will be a step ahead of what we’ve been able to do before,” he added. At Sun ‘n Fun, Flight Design announced that it will use the Garmin G3X, an uncertified avionics suite, for the C4 and in the Panthera, Pipistrel may use either the G3X or Dynon’s Skyview. The Pipistrel will also have a full airframe, ballistic parachute which the company believes may require less expensive certification testing than Cirrus had to undergo for its SR20 and SR22 series.

Bowles said the regulatory agencies are currently involved in heavy debate about the exact language in the new cert rules and the first drafts are expected out next year. He said one new revision, called primary non-commercial, may or may not be part of the revision. The so-called PNC would allow owners to place their aircraft into a status similar to the experimental category so that uncertified equipment could be installed inexpensively and owners could do their own maintenance. Although this proposal came out of discussions about the FAR 23/CS23 revision, it’s not part of that rulemaking procedure and is governed by FAR Part 43. Bowles said he didn’t know whether the idea was gaining traction inside the FAA or not. For more, listen to AVweb’s podcast with Bowles recorded at Aero last week.


In the U.S. we know it as Part 23, but the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is concerned with revisions to what the rest of the world knows as CS-23.  AVweb's Paul Bertorelli caught up with Greg Bowles form GAMA at Aero in Friedrichshafen to get the lowdown on changes to the rule and what they may mean for aircraft manufacturers like Flight Design.

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Textron Aviation doesn't agree but AOPA apparently thinks the Cessna 152 may be the trainer of the future and it has embarked on a "non-profit" project to see if it's right. AOPA Monday confirmed widespread rumors that it's refurbishing "several" 152s (we've heard three) by an undisclosed shop to see if affordable training aircraft can be pulled from the existing fleet and presumably have at least some of the modern bells and whistles available in modern aircraft. Here's what AOPA's Steve Hedges had to say in response to our inquiry: "AOPA is working on a project that will demonstrate the practicality of refurbishing legacy aircraft that will be reliable, and most importantly, affordable. A special focus will be on demonstrating to flying clubs and flight schools how refurbished aircraft can be used to grow the pilot population and reduce the cost of flying. AOPA is not looking to profit from this demonstration, rather we want to provide a proof-of-concept and viable template to refurbishment shops and potential owners around Cessna 152s. AOPA’s project will include the refurbishment of several C-152s by an experienced builder at their location. This project complements several others currently in progress in the GA marketplace that aim to refurbish existing aircraft and provide affordable ownership and rental options to pilots everywhere. We will have more details coming this summer!" 

AVweb has fielded numerous inquiries about the initiative and we've been told AOPA's target price for a spinner-to-tail refurbish of a 152 is $85,000, which would place it well below the cost of most ready-to-fly light sport aircraft, which were presumed to be an important factor in attracting new pilots. Meanwhile, Textron has been quoted as saying that it has no plans to restart the 152 line, which ended at 7,584 airframes in 1985. Textron recently left the LSA market by ending production of the $150,000 162 Skycatcher. Textron's training aircraft is the Cessna 172, which is nudging $400,000 these days.



Police in Springfield, Ohio, said a drone operator who was shooting video of a car crash on Saturday refused to give way to an approaching medical helicopter, and arrested him on a felony charge of obstructing official business. Authorities said firefighters and a sheriff's deputy both asked Kele Stanley to stop flying the drone because the helicopter was coming and he refused, according to The Associated Press. Stanley denies the charges and said he would have landed immediately if he knew the helicopter was en route. He said he was flying the $4,000 drone as a hobby and planned to give the video footage to the local TV news. The helicopter landed safely at the scene.

Stanley was flying the hexacopter about 75 feet above the scene, where a pickup truck had hit a tree, according to the Columbus Dispatch. "If I had known that Care Flight was on the way, my helicopter would have come down immediately," he said. "There wouldn’t have been any dispute ... I am not an idiot." Stanley was released by police after posting $425 bail, and pleaded not guilty to the charges in court on Tuesday.

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Gulfstream set the tone for the Asian Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition Tuesday with the formal announcement of a $3 billion, 60-plane deal to supply G280, G450, G550 and G650 aircraft to Minsheng Financial Leasing. The deal was actually cut in late 2013 but a signing ceremony was held as ABACE got underway in Shanghai. The deal is for a mix of firm orders and options but the breakdown wasn't released. Gulfstream says it's one of the biggest deals it has ever done and will enhance the company's position as one of the bizjet leaders in the emerging Asian market. "Minsheng has quickly become the largest fleet owner in China and has been a leading visionary in the business aviation market," said Gulfstream President Larry Flynn. 

There were a few other sales-related announcements on opening day, including Textron's announcement that it sold a King Air C90 GTx to Beidahuang General Aviation Company, of Harbin, China. Textron's Bell Helicopter announced the sale of five of its recently introduced Bell 505 JetRanger X helicopters to Aerochine Aviation, a Bell dealer in eastern and southern China, Hong Kong and Macau. Meanwhile, Nextant Aerospace, which "remanufactures" Beechjets and King Air 90s with modern engines and avionics, has announced Avic International Aero-Development will be its exclusive sales representative in China and Taiwan.


Greater China's business aviation fleet almost doubled to 371 aircraft from 2011 to 2013 but even that world-leading growth rate has been severely hampered by government and regulatory roadblocks, according to a leading Asian aviation company. Asian Sky Group issued its annual report on bizjet activity in the region at the Asian Business Aviation Conference and Exhibition and says demand will continue to be for mainly large intercontinental business jets used to fly to and from China rather than within the country. "As China continues to ease its airspace flight regulations, more opportunity for smaller sized business aircraft mainly used for domestic flights should appear in the future," the report said. "However, the current preference to large cabin is expected to remain strong in the short term." 

That's reflected in the current numbers of business jets now based in China. Gulfstream has 142 aircraft in the country, accounting for 38 percent of the total, while Bombardier is a close second at 111 (30 percent). Dassault has 31, Cessna 27 and Hawker 19. In the airliner-based bizjet category, Airbus has 18 aircraft in Chinese service while Boeing has seven. The report says there is a market shift away from new aircraft to greater acceptance of pre-owned aircraft with almost as many used aircraft being purchased in 2013 as new airplanes. About two-thirds of the aircraft are based in Mainland China while a quarter operate from Hong Kong and the rest are distributed between Taiwan and Macau.

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Winding up my Aero coverage this week, I spent the day and a morning at Pipistrel, in Slovenia. If you don’t have a map handy, Pipistrel’s factory is located at Ajdovscina, just east of  Trieste on the Italian border. It’s in a beautiful broad valley with a Mediterranean-type climate and a population that seems to be the most creative in the region. It must be; Pipistrel practically runs on imaginative aircraft development  and the factory is absolutely overtaxed with production. It’s relatively small and there are airframes abuilding in every corner of it.

I had come to take an initial demo flight in the new Panthera and also get a detailed look at the Alpha, developed from the popular Virus ultralight as a low-cost trainer. First, the Panthera. With no exceptions that are even close, the Panthera strikes me as the most beautiful civil aircraft I’ve laid eyes on. From any angle, its lines look carefully considered and proportioned and other than the top of the wings, there’s not a straight surface on the thing. It looks every bit its namesake.

But does it fly that way? It seems to. We took a brief demo flight from Ajdovscina’s 1000-meter grass runway, which is directly behind the factory. The Panthera has a 210-HP Lycoming IO-390 which propels it along at cruise speeds of about 170-ish knots on 10 gallons. Yes, that’s slower than was originally envisioned, due mainly, says Pipistrel’s Tine Tomazic, to external antennas which Pipistrel hoped to bury in the fuselage. He said regulators had other ideas. There’s also a pair of underwing steps that add to the drag load and the company is looking at making them retractable.

Along with finding the right prop, Tomazic thinks there’s another 20 knots in the airframe. Maybe. Looking at the thing from the front, it’s hard to see where there’s much drag. The airplane appears to be impossibly slick. the inlets are small and I'd guess that the engine isn't overcooled. But I’m wondering if the Panthera really needs much additional speed to succeed in the market. It already meets the Pipistrel holy grail of economy. That 170-some knots it's delivering is happening at 10 gallons an hour, or 17 MPG. I haven’t run the comparison numbers yet, but I think the only airplanes that deliver that kind of economy and speed are Diamond’s diesel twins. More on that later.

As we’ve reported, the IO-390 will be replaced by an IO-540 and the additional horsepower will give the Panthera a little more punch on the runway and in initial climb, which it could use. Tomazic said Lycoming worked intensively to get the IO-390 to deliver full-rated power on mogas, but couldn’t, hence the switch to a mogas-approved IO-540. I think it’s a good choice. Although mogas gets the cold shoulder in the U.S,, it's embraced by the rest of the world, even by potential owners of a $600,000-plus airplane.

Pipistrel says the Panthera’s 65 orders are from 20 different countries, many of them with high and hot conditions. The larger displacement engine will give better takeoff performance and initial climb. With the IO-390, the Panthera reminds me of a Mooney Ovation. It accelerates well enough, but it takes time to gather itself up into a fast climb once the gear is retracted. The 540 should improve that while boosting the climb rate at all altitudes. But most of the cruise speed increase, if Pipistrel finds it, will come from the correct prop and drag cleanups. Because the airframe doesn’t need brute power in cruise, the 540 will be loafing, so fuel burn will be only a half gallon more per hour, say Tomazic. The additional power will bring some flexibilty. 

The Panthera has a couple of big hatches for ingress/egress of the front occupants and a Diamond-style hatch for the rear seats. It’s surprisingly wide and very comfortable, with a center stick perfectly positioned between the knees. Visibility out the side hatches is breathtaking, if slightly restricted toward the front, as the glass tapers down to meet the nose shape. Still, you never lose sight of the runway in the landing flare. An approach speed of 80 knots worked well, but given the airplane’s slow stall speed, I’d be comfortable with five knots less.

For avionics, the test aircraft I flew had a Dynon Skyview, which it may or may not have in the production version. Pipistrel hasn’t decided yet, but seems likely to offer the Garmin G3X and/or the Skyview as options. In the center pedestal, Garmin a GTN 650/750 combo handles the navcomm chores.

Regardless of where Pipistrel gets with the speed, one thing is certain about this airplane: It is pure, undiluted sex appeal of the type we haven’t seen since…well, hell, I’m not sure we ever seen it. Cirrus airplanes come close, but they don’t have quite the sinuous, cat-like lines of the Panthera. I’m looking forward to where this project is two years from now. Pipistrel has a good start on it and they’re always cranking out new ideas. One of those is an intriguing hybrid drive that I’ll report on in more detail later.

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At Aero 2014 in Friedrichshafen, the big new is Piper's introduction of the new Archer DX, its first diesel-powered aircraft.  The engine uses Continental's Centurion 2.0S.  In this overview of the show, AVweb's Paul Bertorelli and Thomas Borchert from the German fliegermagazin give an overview of the show.


At Aero 2014 in Friedrichshafen, Germany, Piper introduced its first diesel, the Continental Centurion-powered Archer DX.  AVweb talked to Piper CEO Simon Caldecott and Continental's Rhett Ross about the new DX.

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At Aero 2014 in Friedrichshafen, Germany, the Italian company Vulcanair announced a new model called the V1.0 that's meant to be positioned between light sport aircraft and the Cessna 172.  At a $250,000 projected price, it's far less expensive than the Skyhawk.  Vulcanair's Remo De Feo gave AVweb a briefing on the new model.


At Aero 2014 in Friedrichshafen, the Italian manufacturer Tecnam introduced a new aircraft model equipped specifically for disabled pilots.  The company's Fabio Russo gave AVweb a peek at the airplane.

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At Aero 2014, a German company called E-volo drew lots of attention with its unique Volocopter, a multiple rotor electric helicopter design that flew unmanned last fall.  The next step is to improve battery capacity and perhaps design a hybrid version.


Yeah, Aero is way different than AirVenture or Sun 'n Fun, and that alone makes it worth attending at least once.  In this video, AVweb's Paul Bertorelli takes a humorous look at how you know you're in Friedrichshafen and not Oshkosh.

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European pilots will be able to download the popular Garmin Pilot app by the end of May.  AVweb's Paul Bertorelli filed this report with Garmin's Jessica Koss from Aero Friedrichshafen.


The European Aviation Safety Agency is moving quickly on aircraft certification reform, and the the FAA is falling behind.  AVweb's Paul Bertorelli spoke with GAMA President Pete Bunce at Aero Friedrichshafen.

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Continental Motors' Rhett Ross isn't ready to commit to an all-diesel future, but the presence of the company's powerful new Centurion 2.0S at their Aero display is an unmistakable sign of the rise of diesel engines.  Paul Bertorelli spoke with Ross in Friedrichshafen, Germany.


After a couple of years of tweaking training, Cirrus says the fatal accident rate for its models is now below the average for all of GA.  Travis Klumb brings AVweb up to speed on the numbers.

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Martin Abud of Sainte Jeanne D'Arc de Matane, Québec (Canada) shares the culmination of months (years!) of dreaming in our latest "PotW." Click through for more reader-submitted photos.