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An alternative means of compliance is in the works that might help ease the impact of an FAA airworthiness directive (PDF) affecting about 6,000 general aviation aircraft with cylinders from Superior Air Parts, AOPA said this week. "Superior is working to develop and submit an alternative means of compliance that, if it can be successfully implemented, will minimize the amount of time affected aircraft are grounded," said Rob Hackman, AOPA vice president of regulatory affairs. "The FAA will evaluate Superior's alternative means of compliance upon submission and make a determination regarding its implementation." In the meantime, AOPA said it encourages affected owners to delay any action on their engines for now.

The AD took effect last week, despite opposition from Superior and the maintenance industry. It affects aircraft with Continental 550, 520 and 470 engines with SAP cylinders that have been in the engine for more than 12 calendar years. Aircraft with affected engines that have cylinders older than 750 flight hours must complete an inspection within the next 25 flight hours, the FAA said. It will take about 15 hours per engine to inspect the cylinders, and five hours to replace a cylinder. The FAA estimated the total cost of compliance with the AD at $14.2 million for U.S. operators.

Dreadnought, a heavily modified Hawker Sea Fury race plane and a Cessna 210 were flying together when they touched over San Francisco Bay on Sunday. NTSB spokesman Howard Plagens told local media the accident happened in a "passing maneuver"  and that the unidentified Sea Fury pilot felt a "thump" and saw the other aircraft fall away. The 210 crashed. The Sea Fury continued on to the home base of both aircraft at Eagle's Nest Airport in Ione, Calif. The wreckage of the 210 was found in San Pablo Bay, near the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge but authorities continue to search for the pilot of the aircraft.

The occupants of the Sea Fury were not injured but the extent of the damage to the 1950s-era aircraft, a Reno Air Races champion, was not released. Both aircraft departed Eagle's Nest Airport earlier in the day to participate in the Pacific Coast Dream Machines show, an annual event at Half Moon Bay Airport south of San Francisco. The two aircraft were returning to Eagle’s Nest when the accident occurred. 

Eric Johnson, owner of the Point San Pablo Yacht Harbor, told KTVU that his wife saw the two aircraft collide and the two immediately dispatched a boat to assist. “It clipped a wing, probably lost a wing, spun violently and hit the water,” Johnson told KTVU.

image: GlobalNews

As the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 370 continues, the International Civil Aviation Organization said it will convene a special meeting next month to discuss global tracking of airline flights. Government officials and industry experts from around the world will meet May 12-13 in Montreal to explore the specific aircraft and satellite-based capabilities needed to create a global system, ICAO said. The agency also is researching new means to expedite the location of accident sites, including deployable flight recorders and the triggered transmission of flight data, and also is reviewing the requirements for the transport of lithium batteries. Also, on Tuesday, an Australian company told CBS it may have mapped the wreckage of an airliner off the coast of Bangladesh while surveying for minerals.

The company, GeoResonance, said a review showed the anomalies were not present on March 5, but were present in data from March 10. MH370, with 239 people on board, has been missing since March 8. An unnamed U.S. official told CBS he was "very skeptical" of the find, since searchers have strong data, including satellite pings, that point to a likely search area hundreds of miles farther south.

In Malaysia, the investigation into the missing flight is ongoing, and on Monday, the government for the first time played the audio of the cockpit ATC exchanges, at a meeting to update the families of the missing. The Malaysian prime minister told CNN last week that an official report on the investigation has been sent to ICAO and would be released to the public soon. Australia said this week it has suspended the aerial search for debris, on the theory that any floating wreckage would have sunk by now. The Australians will expand their underwater search in the coming weeks as more private contractors are brought in.

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The NTSB is focusing on why a Piper Lance that hit a wind turbine blade in South Dakota on Sunday was flying lower than 300 feet AGL. Four young cattlemen returning home from a sale in Texas were killed when the aircraft hit the blade and crashed at the South Dakota Wind Energy Center, which operates 27 turbines near Highmore, S.D. "Was the pilot having problems? Was it the weather? Was the airplane having problems?" NTSB Investigator Jennifer Rodi said to ABC News. "We haven't ruled anything out at this point." The wind turbines are 213 feet tall plus blade length. 

Weather was reported as being foggy with low cloud and limited visibility and the pilot, Donald Fischer, was instrument rated but was not in contact with air traffic control. It appears he'd flown about 800 miles without a fuel stop. The Lance's range is about 1,000 miles.

Video has emerged of the "aborted takeoff" of a King Air B200 that almost wiped out the chief executive office of an Indian state in late March. Jagannath Pahadia, governor of Haryana, a state in northern India, was among nine or 10 (reports differ) passengers and crew aboard the twin when it took off from Chandigarh Airport March 27 bound for Dehli. The aircraft rotated and rose about 20 feet before crashing beside the runway in flames. One of the pilots told Indian media the crash was actually a "semi-controlled" landing after an aborted takeoff. "The plane had taxied out for takeoff at 11:37 a.m. for Delhi and as it was in the process of taking off its control system got jammed," an unidentified spokesman, quoting the aircraft's pilot Wing Commander B. Nanda, said.

Despite the post-crash fire, everyone aboard, including Nanda and his unidentified copilot, the governor's wife and six staff were able to escape without injuries according to the governor's office. Pahadia was checked and released from hospital the same day. The takeoff run appeared normal but right after rotation the aircraft banked about 10 degrees to the right before yawing sharply left and impacting the infield left wing first. Both engines separated. It's not clear whether there's an investigation or whether Indian officials are accepting Nanda's account.

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AOPA held the first in its series of new regional fly-ins on Sunday, at the San Marcos Airport, midway between Austin and San Antonio, Texas. Thunderstorms and IFR weather in the region reduced the number of arrivals, AOPA said -- they had expected about 700 aircraft to fly in, but only about half that number arrived. Many of those landed the day before, and took advantage of fuel discounts offered by Redbird Skyport. Some pilots drove instead, and attendance reached about 2,500, AOPA said. Events during the day included a pancake breakfast, pilot seminars and a Pilot Town Hall meeting with AOPA President Mark Baker. Weather cleared in the afternoon, and a pair of V-22 Ospreys flew by in formation, and EAA's B-17 Aluminum Overcast gave rides from the field.

The event didn't provide the wide variety of industry exhibits that were a big part of the annual Summit, which has been replaced by the regional events, but there was an exhibitors' tent with booths from vendors, and a static display included a range of about 35 GA aircraft. AOPA also offered a free "Rusty Pilots" program the night before the fly-in, which attracted about 90 pilots. Commenters on AOPA's website expressed disappointment that AOPA hadn't tried harder to invite in new people from the region to discover aviation, but AOPA said its goal was not to recruit new pilots but to spend a day interacting with its current membership. The next fly-in will be held at Indianapolis Regional Airport on May 31.

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One thing I like about Florida is that summer comes early, marked by two events—the snowbirds go home and take the traffic jams with them and the weather gets warmer. Eventually, it’ll get hot, but I’m reptilian by nature and the weather suits my clothes, as the old bluesmen say. It’s Cub weather.

With less road traffic, there’s also—for at least a period until high summer—less air traffic. And that suits my sensibilities for, in addition to being reptilian, I’m not all that much for chit-chat. A deserted airport is my idea of an industrial-age idyll and maybe a nice little pot to cook up something perfect. And that’s what happened yesterday. Quite on a lark, I was driving near the airport, had my hangar keys and headset with me, so I dragged the Cub out for a little toot.

Once a month, to get topped off in pathetic envy, I fly north up the beach, gawking at the million dollar houses on Casey Key. I’d buzz them, but the Cub is so quiet, no one would notice. Plus, the numbers are painted bold as Dallas on the bottom of the wing.

Back at the airport, I found the pattern empty and the frequency dead, including our sister airport over in St. Pete, Peter O. Knight. I meant to land and put it back in the barn, but after a nice three-pointer, I firewalled it for a touch and go…and another, and another. Seven landings later, I finally taxied back.

It was perfect day for such fooling around in a taildragger. Ten to 12 knots of wind out of the south and dry for the past couple of days so the grass was just that right consistency—not dry enough to raise dust, but not wet enough to stain up the gear legs and belly. When the wind’s out of the south here, it favors 23, but 13 works too if you don’t mind a little crosswind. Remember Pattern A and Pattern B from your instrument training? I like to do a runway version of that with a takeoff from 23 and then a right turn into the downwind for 13, which has right traffic. A takeoff from that runway intersects the downwind of 23 and so forth and so forth and so forth.

The Cub’s natural altitude for such machinations is about 300 feet, so if I have my druthers, that’s what I’ll fly the pattern at. And “druthers” means there’s no one around to whine over the Unicom about the damn Cub flying a low, tight pattern again. Three hundred feet is high enough to be safe, but low enough to see the geckos chasing bugs on the taxiways. It also makes for nice, tight carving turns to final that are way more interesting than a half-mile drag-in.

Repeated, unmolested landings in any airplane—but especially a taildragger—are the great teacher of polished technique. In a perfect three pointer, the Cub stick does an unmistakable give-up aft as the wheels touch just at the stall, plainly declaring there’s not enough energy for it to fly anymore. There’s no fear of a bounce and you could stop on a dime, if the Cub had brakes. It doesn’t, but who needs ‘em?

When crosswind shopping, I’ll usually pick one from the left, maybe because I’m left handed. But with a south wind, the cross blows from the right so I took the opportunity to plant one wheel on the grass and fly it along the runway. A little bouncy at first, but once you get the bank and rudder matched to the speed; perfection. I did a couple of those just for the challenge. Stay on your game with exercises like that and crosswinds hold little fear.

Into this communing with ancient aviation, I allow only one technological intrusion, other than the radio: an iPhone Bluetoothed to a LightSpeed Zulu headset for music. That’s the other good part of no radio traffic; no broken squelch to mute the music. I have a special Cub mix playlist, equal parts of blues, jazz and a little Motown. Wheel landings are better with a soundtrack. 

I’m sure I’m not alone in saying I grow weary of discussions about the extinction of avgas, how we’re regulating ourselves to death and the cost of new airplanes. Sometimes I just gotta clean my head out by actually flying an airplane just for the hell of flying an airplane. Y’all can solve those other problems, because I’m about to head out the door to do it again.

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When Cessna introduced the Cardinal in 1968, it was, by the standards of the day, quite leap. Sans the familiar struts of the 172/182 line and with its rakish windshield, the Cardinal could fairly be called sleek. It was large doors that allowed easy access to the both the front and rear seats, the Cardinal proved popular with owners, even if it didn't sell huge numbers.

Forty six years later, that's still true, as proven by this nice restoration project submitted by Marc Martin who, along with his father and brother, restored a 1978 Cessna 177RG. Here's a summary of the project:

"My father, brother, and myself own N8778Z, a 1978 177RG.   Since purchasing it a few years ago with original paint, we have had the paint redone, and we’ve just completed a panel project, installing new panels and replacing all engine gauges with an EI MVP-50 engine monitor. With a Garmin GNS430W, STEC-30 AP with altitude hold, GPS roll steering, full engine monitoring, and current paint, we feel we have a quality airplane with close to new capabilities, at less than a quarter of the cost of new."