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The acting chairman of the NTSB has expressed concerns about a proposal to abandon the third class medical but he hasn't expressly opposed it. According to Roll Call, Christopher Hart told a hearing of the Subcommittee on Government Operations: "We're very concerned about pilots flying without adequate medical standards," but he also noted he doesn't really have data to support that concern. "We base our policy based on what we see in accidents and so far we haven't seen enough accidents to warrant an agency position on," he testified. "But we are very concerned about [pilots] not only having to have a medical, but then in addition to that, if you don't have a medical, you're less likely to pay attention to the FAA's list of prohibited drugs." He was testifying about a bill put forth by Reps. Todd Rokita, R-Ind., and Sam Graves, R-Mo., that would force the FAA to end the third class medical requirement for recreational GA flying.

Last week at AirVenture 2014, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) changing the third class medical provisions will be published by the end of the year. He's already signed off on a draft and it's now making executive review rounds. Meanwhile, Graves and Rokita's attempt to give legislative support to the medical certification changes may backfire. After listening to Hart at the hearing, Roll Call said Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, D-Va., urged Hart to formalize the NTSB's opposition to the medical changes. "I cannot believe that (the Rokita-Graves bill) could come to any good."

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"It was a tremendous week," EAA Chairman Jack Pelton said on Tuesday, as the organization released its final figures for this year's show. "We filled Wittman Regional Airport with aircraft for the first time in several years, with both aircraft camping and parking areas completely full at mid-week." Pelton credited the first appearance of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds for bringing in crowds, and said exhibitors reported "outstanding business" for the week, with some selling out of product. Attendance reached above 500,000 for the week, Pelton said, representing an increase over last year of 5 to 6 percent. Saturday and Sunday attendance was up 20 percent compared to the same days last year, and more than 10,000 airplanes flew into the area. The number of show planes was 2,649 -- over 300 more than last year. Pelton also offered a preview of what's in store for next year.

"Legendary aircraft innovator Burt Rutan indicated he would like to return to Oshkosh in 2015 to share some innovations with the aviation community," Pelton said. Also, he said EAA is working to bring the soon-to-be-restored B-29 "Doc" to the show as part of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. AVweb's editorial director Paul Bertorelli was on the grounds all week, and offers his own analysis of why the show seemed to be on such an upswing this year.

image: EAA

Over the seven days of EAA AirVenture, more than 2,500 volunteers pitched in to build an airplane, and on Tuesday morning they got their reward -- the Zenith CH 750 Cruzer N140WW "One Week Wonder" took off on its first flight. "The flight was great," said Jeff Skiles, EAA's VP for community, who took the controls for the first circuit around the pattern. "The Zenith Cruzer has a lot of performance, and lifts off very fast. Like a rocket ship, really." It was Skiles's first maiden flight of a new aircraft, EAA said. He was thoroughly checked out on Monday in another Cruzer as well as a 750 STOL. The airplane had taxied before the airship crowds on Sunday, the last official day of the show.

"It was built in a week, and it is a basic airplane," said Sebastien Heintz, president of Zenith. "But it also has a state-of-the-art engine [a Rotax 912 iS] and a touch-screen Dynon panel." Charlie Becker, EAA's homebuilt community manager, said the project achieved its purpose to show that building your own airplane is an attainable goal. "This airplane has touched a lot of lives and will continue to touch lives by showing it can be done," he said. AVweb's Rick Durden kept an eye on the project through the week; here's his report from day six.

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A Piedmont Airlines pilot who lost his ATP and his job after he flew extra-low over his house on his way to a landing in Maryland in 2012 now has his certificate back, USA Today reported this week. Edmund Draper's Dash-8 flight, scheduled as US Airways 4343, was en route to Wicomico Regional Airport when it descended within 500 feet of a shopping mall close to Draper's home on the approach path, according to records obtained by the Daily Times of Salisbury, Maryland, in a Freedom of Information Act request. "On or about December 21, 2012, [Draper] operated an aircraft with reckless disregard for safety during a Part 121 flight with 24 passengers on board at an excessive speed and dangerously low altitude when not necessary for landing," according to an FAA statement. "Your acts endangered the lives of your passengers, fellow crewmembers and people and property ... You have demonstrated that you are unable or unwilling to comply with basic regulatory requirements."

"Everyone knows about the Draper One arrival," Piedmont First Officer Christopher Quillen told the FAA during its investigation, USA Today reported. "Ed has a house right off Highway 13 and he likes to fly over his house on the way into Salisbury. I hear he usually does it at 1,500 feet but I hear that on the 21st he did it at around 400 feet. Man, that's crazy being that low, and over the mall, all those people. That's like the busiest day of the year for shopping there." Quillen was not on board during the incident, and said Draper would only execute the maneuver when he had a young or less-seasoned pilot in the right seat. "I have been around and would not put up with that," he said. In February, Draper was reissued an ATP and an instructor certificate from the FAA.

An "over-confident" salesman intentionally put a Cirrus SR22 into an aggravated stall before he lost control of the airplane and had to pull the parachute handle, according to an Australian Transport Safety Bureau report (PDF) released this week. The salesman, also a flight instructor, told investigators he routinely flew a similar flight profile to demonstrate the aerodynamic and electronic safeguards built into the aircraft to prevent an out-of-control spin. On May 10 of this year, the aircraft beat all those systems and ended up in an unrecoverable spin. The chute deployed with about 2,000 feet to spare. The aircraft landed in a flat attitude in the back garden of rural home, with a rattled salesman and two apparently less-than-impressed sales prospects able to walk away uninjured. The Cirrus POH clearly warns that the aircraft is not certified for spins and the only approved recovery is pulling the chute. The salesman said he'd done the same sort of demo at least 30 and as many as 50 times in the previous six months and thus may have been over-confident in a successful recovery.

The salesman had already flown with the left-seat passenger the day before and the ATSB said the prospect had expressed concerns about the stall-spin characteristics of the aircraft. After reaching about 6,000 feet MSL, the salesman had the prospective buyer try a wings-level stall from which he recovered normally. Then, the salesman said, 'Watch this,'" according to the report. "He selected 50 percent flap, rolled the aircraft into a left turn at about 25 degree angle of bank, reduced the power to idle, and raised the nose of the aircraft," the report says. "As the aircraft approached the stall, the [salesman] pointed to the vertical speed indicator. As he did this, the right wing dropped rapidly and the aircraft entered a spin to the right." The instructor said he tried his normal recovery routine but the aircraft continued through three rotations before he said "I'm sorry" and pulled the chute. The salesman has since promised never to try those maneuvers again and to properly brief his passengers. That was the extent of the safety action called for by the ATSB.

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My wife keeps a detailed diary of her daily life, but I lack the discipline so I'm guessing about how many times I've been to Oshkosh. I think it's 27 years or thereabouts. For me, personally, this year's show was among the most interesting, vibrant and energetic. I finished up on Sunday morning exhausted, but oddly buoyant. For a hard-crusted cynic like me, that's saccharin-sweet praise indeed.

What the hell is going on? Are we witnessing the leading edge of the great recovery we've all been hoping for? Frankly, I doubt it. My theory, which I discussed with Jack Pelton in this podcast, is that two things are at work. First, it has been six dreary years since the economy crumped in 2008 and, as Pelton observed, maybe people have gotten their heads wrapped around the fact that the economy and things in general have settled into the new normal. They're tired of denying themselves simple pleasures for worrying about what's going to happen next. The general economy is performing acceptably if not exceptionally well, but consumer confidence and the general mood, according to recent Gallup polls, are unremarkable.

Second, I think AirVenture lives in and creates its own ecosystem within the larger aviation economy.  If it has ever been a reflection of everything else in aviation, I think it's less so now. It's a thing unto itself and as other shows contract, AirVenture becomes more important as a must-do marketing outlet for many companies.

And frankly, EAA just did an exceptional job with the show this year. The mix of the Thunderbirds, the One Week Wonder, the Valdez STOL pilots and the usual top-flight aerobatic performers may have come together to create the perfect attractive mix at the perfect time. EAA's pre-show promotion, I think, has been a beat or two better.

I surveyed the vendor hangars on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and every single one reported a better year over last year. The Aircraft Spruce booth was mobbed two deep as late as Saturday afternoon and people were buying everything from headsets to brake parts. The same was true of avionics vendors and companies selling refurb parts.

When I polled the man on the street, no single thing stood out, not the MVP flying bass boat, not AOPA's rebuilt Cessnas, not the product intros from Garmin and BendixKing and not Cessna's diesel 172. No one had an extra special thing worthy of comment and neither did I.

On the other hand, I'm not so sure aircraft companies had a better year than average. I ran into Darin Hart on Sunday morning and he said this year's AirVenture was typical. A few leads to follow and some tire kickers, but no great burst of airplane sales. American Champion said the same. That's why I think we're not witnessing anything other than a great show year for sharply contained reasons. I don't see underlying market forces that suggest a robust turnaround. We'll see what develops over the next 12 months. Meanwhile, a tip of the hat to Jack Pelton and EAA for effective, professional organization and promotion of a show that hasn't always had that.

While I'm at it, some recognition and thanks to the exceptional AVweb staff. This year's AirVenture turned out to be the most intense any of us have seen in years and maybe ever. Thanks to Russ Niles, Rick Durden and Larry Anglisano for hard work on the show grounds and to Mary Grady who did our off-site reporting this year. Ashley Anglisano debuted admirably as an editorial intern. My wife, Val Oakley, stepped in when needed for factotum duties. Although you rarely see his name, Scott Simmons, our webmaster, stitches things together against difficult daily deadlines and is the only person I know who can operate for a week with two hours of sleep. And thanks to publisher Tom Bliss for ad sales efforts, without which you wouldn't be seeing any of this. Also, a nod to EAA's press meister Dick Knapinski for his assistance and remaining far more unflappable on a 21-press conference day than I ever could.

Here are some other voices.

Although I don't have the hard data to back it up, my impression is that AirVenture was bigger, better attended and more productive for the vendors than it has been in a while. Those attending seemed happy to be there and I saw lots of people carrying purchases made at the booths. Although there weren't many big announcements, there was enough news to show some forward momentum in an industry that's been basically cannibalizing itself for the past few years.

It's good to see Mooney back and while the news on the engine and fuels front was positive, the move to diesel has become another cost for an already-prohibitive market for those who work for a living. A $435,000 Cessna 172? Seems otherworldly to me but it's not out of line with its competitors and that's the rub. Still, dreamers dream and they all seem to end up at AirVenture. It's when they stop coming that we'll have to really start worrying. --Russ Niles, Editor in Chief

This year's AirVenture just felt better to me than recent years. Perhaps it was the comfortable weather, but both exhibitors and visitors had a noticeable spring in the step and folks seemed to smile more. For some, there was plenty to smile about. For instance, all eyes were on Avidyne, which showed up with a fully certified IFD540 GPS, a product that was stalled in the development process for a few years and nearly cost early adopters some money and the company its credibility. It was the same for Bendix King and the now certified KSN770 GPS, a product that perhaps set the record for the longest time in development. 

While I didn't see any products that I consider game-changing, there were plenty of hits on my radar to watch over the next year. This includes the 10-buck-per-hour Sun Flyer solar electric trainer, AOPA's Reimagined Cessna 152 refurb program that attempts to offer a familiar alternative to high-priced LSAs, and a noticeable presence of Mooney Aircraft that hinted of better times and a market in an upswing. I'm not letting my guard down, but I walk away from AirVenture 2014 with enough evidence that the shrunken market is at least stabilizing. --Larry Anglisano

 

I was struck by two things this year. First the airplane camping area filled up--that hasn't happened in at least five years. That's a positive data point, I think. A friend who drove his RV in was directed to a camp site a half mile further away than when he arrived on the same day last year. He told me he was amazed at the number of drive-in campers this year. Second, even though there was a striking number of empty vendor spaces, both indoors and out, there was a sense of optimism among people I spoke with that I had not felt in recent memory. They liked what they saw and they were optimistic about new technology, although they didn't believe any of it would cut the cost of flying.  

One vendor did tell me that sales have continued to drop in his niche of aviation, so he probably won't be back next year. Nevertheless, at times the excitement around me was palpable, particularly when I was in the North 40 and an airplane would taxi in, shut down and the occupants emerge fired up to be at AirVenture as well as on Saturday afternoon as I marveled at the throngs coming in the main gate headed for the flight line to watch the airshow. And, the curmudgeon in me was pleased to observe that some pilots still just don't get the briefing. One guy had his charcoal grill happily smoking away directly under the wing of his airplane and the 172 that departed ahead of me on runway 27 promptly turned left (the NOTAM calls for continuing directly west for five miles) and flew down the railroad tracks that define the Ripon/Fisk arrival against arriving traffic. Where is a dope slap when you need one?--Rick Durden

 

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You've been watching, listening, and reading our coverage of AirVenture 2014 at Oshkosh all week, so we sent AVweb's bright-eyed intern Ashley Anglisano to the flight line, to the exhibits, and to walk the grounds to hear what some of this year's attendees have to say about the show, why they came, and what they like best.  If you attended, let us know what you have to say.

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At AirVenture 2014, Continental Motors introduced its latest diesel powerplant, the CD300.  Rhett Ross told AVweb how the company intends to manufacture and market the new engine.

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A company dedicated to providing a supply of general aviation aircraft refurbished in accordance with a standard protocol announced its formation at AirVenture.  Triple R president and AVweb publisher Tom Bliss sat down with AVweb's Rick Durden to describe how the company intends to reach its goal of providing like-new airplanes at half the price of new.