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The first Pilot's Bill of Rights, signed into law in 2012, is in need of an update, Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., said this week, so he's working on new legislation to expand pilot protections. "The goal of Pilot's Bill of Rights 2 is to continue to address unfair practices and regulations towards the aviation industry," Inhofe said. The proposal would expand the third-class medical exemption to most general aviation pilots and curb searches of GA aircraft by agents of Customs and Border Patrol. “We can once again thank Senator Inhofe for bringing key general aviation issues before Congress," said AOPA President Mark Baker. "This new version of the very popular Pilot's Bill of Rights comes at a time when the GA industry is actively engaged in actions aimed at protecting pilots' civil liberties and freedom to fly."

EAA also welcomed the effort. "This legislation would further enhance the pilot and general aviation reforms in the first Pilot's Bill of Rights," said Jack Pelton, EAA chairman of the board. "We are pleased to have worked with Sen. Inhofe and his staff to identify several key issues that are addressed within this bill, which would ease burdens on average Americans who participate in flying." Inhofe will host a briefing on the proposed legislation during EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, at 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 2, at Forum Pavilion 1 on the AirVenture grounds. Details about Inhofe's proposals, and a request for input and comments from the aviation community, can be found at a dedicated website he launched this week. Among other provisions, Inhofe's proposal would allow local airport officials, instead of federal workers, to manage the use of private hangars at airports, and would promote changes in certification rules to make it easier to install new safety-enhancing equipment on older aircraft. The deadline for comments is Aug. 8.

If you have an opinion about allowing the use of commercial unmanned aircraft systems in the national airspace, the FAA wants to hear from you -- and soon. Comments will be accepted until mid-July regarding a recent petition from six companies in the movie and TV industry asking for exemptions that would allow them to use small UAS in their businesses. "The agency expects to publish a broad proposed rule for small UAS (under 55 pounds) later this year," the FAA said in its statement. "But the rulemaking process can be lengthy, so the FAA has been working for several months to implement the provisions of Section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 and move forward with UAS integration before proposing the small UAS rule."

The requests under consideration now "may set a precedent for future commercial UAS exemptions," the FAA said. That's why they are asking the public to weigh in on whether or not to grant them. Other companies previously have filed for exemptions to perform precision agriculture, aerial surveying and flare stack inspections. The FAA has been working to define what exactly is a UAS, what is a model airplane, and what is considered commercial use.

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United 737 file photo

A United Airliners 737 en route from Chicago to Los Angeles landed in Wichita Sunday night after an emergency evacuation slide inadvertently inflated inside the cabin. The aircraft was in cruise flight at FL 380 when the incident occurred, according to Reuters. The aircraft, a 737-700, was carrying 96 passengers plus five crew members. 

"The flight diverted to Wichita ... no one was injured and the flight landed safely," United said in a statement. All the passengers were seated when the slide inflation occurred and the airline said that early reports that a passenger attempted to open the cabin door in flight were incorrect. 

According to KWCH-TV in Wichita, the aircraft descended from FL 380 to 11,000 feet due to loss of cabin pressurization. But it's not clear if this happened before or after the slide deployed. Mike Schroeder, a passenger aboard the 737, told KWCH that he heard a hiss and a pop, then saw the slide expanding. United said the aircraft would be inspected Monday to determine why the slide inflated. 

Although inadvertent slide inflations are rare, they're hardly unheard of. In November 2013, we reported on a slide extension in an Embraer ERJ-190 en route from Fort Myers, Fla., to Boston's Logan airport. In 2008, a chartered MD-81 suffered a tailcone slide inflation that compromised the aircraft's pitch control and returned to St. Louis, its departure airport. 

More common are slide malfunctions in actual evacuation events, according to a study done (PDF) by the National Aerospace Laboratory in the Netherlands in 2006. The study found that in nearly half of the evacuations studied, slides didn't inflate automatically and in 28 percent, they couldn't be inflated manually or automatically. In 6 percent of cases, the slides inflated inside the cabin, rather than extending, as they are designed to do. The study concluded that the industry has not effectively addressed shortcomings in slide design and maintenance.

A Cirrus pilot may have been confident that he could land safely on a private rural airstrip on a dark moonless night, with help from the headlights of a relative's car pointed at the runway, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau said in its final report (PDF) last week, but the flight ended in a fatal crash. The SR22 was on final approach to the unpaved strip, in Boxwood, Victoria, on June 27, 2013, when it hit a tree, and the pilot, who was alone on board, was killed. Several other airports with lit runways were available nearby, the ATSB said. "Likely influencing the pilot was a degree of self-imposed pressure to get home after a series of business commitments and prior to a one-month period away from home," the ATSB said.

The pilot called the relative on a cellphone to ask for the headlight approach aid, and stayed on the phone during the approach. The car was parked at the far end of the runway, with the headlights pointed down the centerline. On final approach, the relative warned the pilot over the phone that the aircraft's landing light seemed to be getting too close to the trees, but got no response. "The pilot appeared to continue the approach until the aircraft collided with a tree adjacent to the airstrip," according to the ATSB. The pilot had landed at Boxwood before, but always in daylight. The aircraft was destroyed.

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Mike Slack founded the law firm of Slack and Davis, headquartered in Austin with offices in Dallas and Fort Worth, which provided much of the background information for the controversial USA Today story that examined general aviation safety a couple of weeks ago.  Slack, an IFR-rated pilot and owner of a turbo 182 and a T-6, told AVweb's Russ Niles that rather than shoot the messenger, GA should be looking at meaningful changes to the way airplanes are built and accidents investigated.

The Farnborough Air Show doesn't start for another two weeks but the order contest between Airbus and Boeing that often grabs the headlines from the show has already started. In fact, Euronews is reporting that Boeing CEO Ray Conner has emailed employees urging them to claw for every sale possible as the company fights to increase market share. To that end, it may have pulled off a coup by winning a 30-plane order for 737 MAX airliners from the U.K.'s Monarch Airlines, an order the European press had widely speculated would go to Airbus's A320 NEO. Boeing is also said to be in the final stages of negotiation with Emirates Airlines for a massive 150-aircraft deal for Boeing 777X aircraft. Airbus isn't exactly idle, however.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is visiting China next week and on her to-do list is an announcement about the sale of "several dozen" A320s to one or more Chinese carriers. And at the show itself, Airbus is expected to announce orders for hundreds of airplanes, including the 3,000th order for the new A320. Airbus is also considering a NEO-style revamp of its A330 wide-body, which Virgin Airlines says it might buy.

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I’m sure you saw the dramatic footage of the Marine AV8 Harrier landing on the deck of the U.S.S. Bataan with a stuck nosegear. If you didn’t, here it isMy initial reaction was twofold. First, the pilot, Captain William Mahoney, was really on his game in hovering that airplane prior to committing to the landing, then making a perfect spot touchdown.

Second, someone on that ship, or several someones, was really thinking presciently in constructing that stool and having it ready when it was needed. That’s not something you can whip up in the carpentry shop while an airplane spins in marshall. Either this has happened before or it happens a lot. Turns out, it appears to have happened before. But it didn’t go quite so swimmingly well.

According to a report in The Blaze, a spokesman at MCAS Cherry Point confirmed that in the previous incident, the Harrier was landed on a stack of mattresses hastily assembled when the aircraft couldn’t get its gear down. And since the Navy and Marines obsessively film everything, they’ve got the pix to show that it seems not to have ended well. The Blaze quoted another Marine Harrier pilot as saying that idea “was wrong on so many levels.”

I guess I’d have to agree. It’s hard to see how mattresses stacked two high would do much to cushion the impact of a 15-ton jet squirting out a gale of superheated exhaust straight down. Any port in storm and you fix what you can with what you’ve got, but that idea was as bad as the stool concept was good. One wonders if the former inspired the latter. Either way, it made for interesting video.

Kudos, too, to whomever shot the video and put the story together. It tells the tale in nice, tight fashion with all the detail you need to understand what happened. I admire Mahoney for both his piloting skills and for admitting his knees were shaking. He could have easily decided to jettison the airplane and take his chances with an ejection. The Marines now have a fixable Harrier because he decided no to.

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Zulu PFX from Lightspeed || The Quietest Aviation Headset Available

Lithium-ion batteries, which have three times the power of lead acid aircraft cells, are starting to find their way into new aircraft.  Mid-Continent Instruments and Avionics has formed a new division called True Blue Power to serve this market.  In this AVweb video, MCI's Todd Winter discusses the new battery products.

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At its Gunskirchen, Austria, factory, Rotax celebrated both 25 years of producing the 912 series engine and the 50,000th engine in the series.  AVweb was there and prepared this video report with the company's Francois Tremblay.

Learn more here.

Kansas Aircraft Corporation || Extraordinary Service, Exceptional Aircraft

An extensive report on general aviation safety in USA Today this week doesn't convey the whole story, says GAMA President Pete Bunce.  He took a break from his work in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday to talk with AVweb's Mary Grady about ongoing efforts to build safer airplanes.

KLR 10 Lift Reserve Indicator || Now Available for Certified Aircraft || BendixKing by Honeywell

Cessna 172s may be not be fast or sexy, but there are plenty of them out there and prices reflect that supply. There are also lots of aftermarket mods for these airplanes. Larry Gettleman of Louisville, Ky., put that to work in his refurb of this month’s Refurbished Aircraft the Month.

“I have owned this 1977 C172N Skyhawk since 1983 and refurbished it in 2012. New clear windows, headliner, new wingtips with strobes, complete strip and Imron repaint. I used the red and black design from an AOPA holiday card that I send out: ‘Final Approach on Christmas Day,’ by Nixon Galloway.

"Mechanical restoration was by Lance Bartels of Cherryhill Aviation in Seymour, Ind. Paint/detailing was by Hangar 6 in North Vernon, Ind., and decals by Higher Graphics of Tampa Fla. The airplane has 1700 hours TT and 1100 hours on the engine. Radios are 1983-vintage BendixKing. 

"I wish that I had more time to fly it.”

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Picture of the Week
Picture of the Week

Sometimes a simple sign takes on a much more serious tone, as evidenced by this week's prize-winning snapshot from Mark Goldstein of Wichita, KS. Click through for more reader-submitted photos.