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Declaring its seriousness to expand in the global aerospace market, Embraer on Monday cut the ribbon on its new engineering and technology center in Melbourne, Florida. The center will eventually employ about 200 people, Embraer officials said, and will carry on engineering projects across all three markets Embraer is active in. The center also represents the first time the company has moved primary engineering and development out of its headquarters in Brazil. The 75,000-square-foot facility will perform work for Embraer's business jet, airline and defense segments.

Embraer already has a manufacturing facility at Melbourne Airport where it assembles and completes the Phenom 100 and 300 bizjets for customers all over the world, except South America. It shopped a location for its new engineering facility all over the world but settled on Melbourne as the best choice, primarily because of a rich skill base created by the nearby Kennedy Space Center and related industries. Furthermore, Melbourne's Airport offers plenty of green space for future expansion, which Embraer says it's clearly interesting in doing as it aggressively sells to the global market. The company worked with Space Florida and the Brevard County government to complete the center on a fast track. Construction was started only last fall and with the hiring of about 70 employees, the center is ready to open and will be hiring additional workers.

"We will have research and development, not only products, but also technology for three business areas for Embraer. The initial assignments here will be on executive aircraft interiors," said Mauro Kern, Embraer's vice-president for engineering and technology. Why the U.S.? "Embraer is becoming a global company, so we have industrial initiatives in many different places. One of the most important is here in Melbourne. We have assembly facilities and a big center for executive jets. So it was only natural to have this center here. This area was one of the best we could find," he added. "We have already hired some engineers from NASA. It's amazing the availability of talent we have here, structural engineers, electronics … it's just great."

In Melbourne, Florida, Embraer opened a new engineering and technology center, the first outside of Brazil.  AVweb attended the grand opening and interviewed the company's Mauro Kern about Embraer's plans.

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AVweb has confirmed that Kevin Gould is no longer the president of BendixKing. Staff members were told Gould had "moved on to other opportunities" at a meeting Monday, according to an employee AVweb spoke with briefly who was at the meeting. Exact circumstances of Gould's departure could not be confirmed by our deadline on Tuesday. Gould was hired in 2012 to reinvigorate BendixKing in the general aviation and light business aircraft market. The iconic company was once the brand leader in the avionics industry but it lost significant ground to Garmin, Avidyne and Aspen Avionics in the wholesale shift to glass cockpits. Gould was hired to stop the decline and turn the fortunes of the still-respected but struggling brand.

Gould was essentially given a clean-sheet start at a new standalone BendixKing facility in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to resurrect the company. The first offering from the new iteration of the company was the myWingMan tablet app, which met a lukewarm response. It was discontinued in March of 2014. The company also got its retrofit FMS, the KSN770, certified in 2014 in a collaboration with Aspen. The company also released an angle-of-attack indicator and ADS-B compliant Mode S transponder in 2013. It's not clear what Gould's departure signals for the future of the company but we're expecting more details in coming days.

Our earlier story said the KSN770 went to market in 2013. It was not certified by the FAA until mid-2014.

Taking another step forward in the ongoing effort to find a replacement for 100LL, the FAA said on Monday it has selected four unleaded fuels that will undergo testing. The FAA has chosen two formulas from Swift Fuels, one from Shell, and one from Total. The fuels will enter a yearlong Phase 1 test regime starting this fall at FAA's William J. Hughes Technical Center in Atlantic City, New Jersey. "We're committed to removing harmful lead from general aviation fuel," said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "This work will benefit the environment and provide a safe and available fuel for our general aviation community."

The FAA said it expects to select two or three fuels after Phase 1 that will go on to Phase 2 testing in engines and aircraft. By the end of 2018 at least one new unleaded fuel should be approved that will be suitable for much of the general aviation piston aircraft fleet. EAA and AOPA released statements on Monday applauding the progress. "This is another important milestone in the collaborative effort between the aviation community, fuel producers, and the FAA to find future replacements for 100 low-lead fuel for GA aircraft," said EAA chairman Jack Pelton. AOPA President Mark Baker concurred. "We appreciate the collaborative efforts of everyone involved to keep the process moving forward," Baker said, "while ensuring the needs of the aviation community are considered at every step along the way." 

AVweb's Paul Bertorelli took a look at the candidate fuels and the FAA process in July. Shell's Rob Midgley spoke about his company's plans for a new fuel recently, at EAA AirVenture.

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Veteran pilot Lee Behel was killed in a crash at Reno on Monday afternoon during a qualifying heat for the National Championship Air Races. Behel, 64, from San Jose, California, was flying an experimental GP-5 racing airplane. "This was a single-plane incident and no other pilots or spectators were injured," the race organizers said in a statement on Tuesday. Behel was one of the founders of the Sport Class and its current president. He also was a retired U.S. Air Force pilot. The accident is under investigation by the FAA and NTSB.

"Lee was a very talented pilot but, more importantly, an enthusiastic and compassionate friend, and the entire Air Race family will miss him deeply," said Mike Major, chairman of the Reno Air Racing Association, in a statement. "This is a difficult day for all of us, and our thoughts and prayers are with Lee's family and friends." Behel had been involved in the races for more than 20 years and won a championship in the Sport Class in 2008. The air races will officially open on Wednesday and continue through Sunday. During the 51 years of racing at Reno, 19 pilots have been killed, according to the Reno Gazette-Journal.

In the video below, Behel talks about his airplane with a reporter from Press-Gazette Media at EAA AirVenture in July 2013. 

UPS Flight 1354 crashed at the Birmingham, Alabama, airport in August 2013 because the crew continued an unstabilized approach, the NTSB said on Tuesday. "The crew failed to monitor the altitude and inadvertently descended below the minimum descent altitude when the runway was not yet in sight," the NTSB said in a statement. Factors contributing to the accident, the board said, were the flight crew's failure to properly configure the on-board flight management computer, the first officer's failure to make required call-outs, the captain's decision to change the approach strategy without communicating his change to the first officer, and flight-crew fatigue.

The airplane, an Airbus A300-600, crashed in a field short of Runway 18 at 4:47 a.m. The captain and first officer, the only people aboard, were both killed, and the airplane was destroyed by the impact and a post-crash fire. The flight originated from Louisville, Kentucky. "An unstabilized approach is a less safe approach," said NTSB Acting Chairman Christopher Hart. "When an approach is unstable, there is no shame in playing it safe by going around and trying again." A synopsis of the NTSB report is available online. The full report will be available on the NTSB website in several weeks.

Broken Dreams: The Boeing 787, a documentary by the Al Jazeera investigative unit, alleges that workers in the company's South Carolina plant "have little faith in the Dreamliner." Unidentified workers allege that the schedule takes precedence over safety and quality; some say they believe other workers are taking drugs while at work, and several say they wouldn't want to fly on the airplane. "They're short-changing the engineering process … they're not even allowing quality control to do their job," says Cynthia Cole, a former Boeing engineer. "I would definitely avoid flying on a 787." An analysis by the Seattle Times business staff says the documentary produces "more heat than light." However, the Times adds, "The documentary does raise troubling questions and leave some matters unresolved." The program is scheduled to premier on Al Jazeera America on cable and online Wednesday night.

The Times says a memo cited in the documentary as "proof that quality is being sacrificed to meet production targets" had been reviewed by Times staff earlier this year. The Times analysis "concluded [the memo] was not proof that safety was being compromised for production's sake." Boeing so far has not commented publicly on the documentary, and according to the Times, they don't have much of a say in the program. "The company's 787 chief, Larry Loftis, makes a brief interview appearance with the documentary makers before his PR manager stops the discussion, after the allegations of unnamed employees are brought up," according to the Times.

In a statement posted online Wednesday afternoon, Boeing said the documentary "is neither balanced or accurate" and added: "We have not been afforded the opportunity to view the full program, but the promotional trailer and published media reviews suggest that what has been produced is as biased a production as we have seen in some time." Boeing said the documentary's producers "have fallen into the trap of distorting facts, relying on claims rejected by courts of law, breathlessly rehashing as 'news' stories that have been covered exhaustively in the past and relying on anonymous sources who appear intent only on harming The Boeing Company." The company also called the program a "disservice" to Boeing's employees and suppliers. The company said it won't provide any further comment on the matter. The full text of Boeing's statement is posted online.

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When I was at the Pipistrel factory in Slovenia last April, the techs were patiently amused while I wrapped a wing-mounted GoPro camera with a safety layer of duct tape. I'd stuck the thing under the wing with the standard GoPro 3M pressure sensitive base. "You know," one of them said, "we never do that. The adhesive holds them fine. They never come off." They were right, but when it comes to crap falling off airplanes, I go the belt-and-suspenders route.

This came to mind recently when we published an action cam review in Aviation Consumer and a couple of readers asked about the legalities of externally mounted cameras. It surfaced again this week when our video comparing cameras appeared. I figured that when I revealed how I mount these cameras, it would stir up some trouble. I was right.

I'll get to the legalities in a moment; first the mechanics. Action cams like the GoPro and Garmin's VIRB are usually equipped with footpads that will attach in various ways, including 3M pressure adhesive, suction cups and clamps. If you want it attached to the outside of the airplane, there's always a way. My way, as shown in the video, is to use the pressure-sensitive adhesive. When possible, clean the area first with alcohol, set the pad, and let it cure overnight. Then it's ready for the camera.

To the amusement of my Solvenian friends, I backstop the pad with tape. First, I lay down a layer of painter's tape to protect the paint. Then I wrap the duct tape entirely around the surface and join it to itself, top end facing downstream. I fashion a small tether out of tape and wrap it around the base of the camera mount. The end of the tether's flat section of tape goes under the wrapped layer. This lash-up is hell for strong. It's simply not going to break under the normal loads conceivably imposed on the camera. It's also overkill. But I don't want to lose a $300 camera or dent someone's noggin or windshield.

There are all kinds of commercial mounts for GoPros. Sporty's has one that attaches anywhere there's a number 6, 8 or 10 screw on the airframe. They say it's for experimental aircraft only signaling, at least for public consumption, that they believe such mounts are of questionable legality on certified aircraft. Here's another mount for a strutted aircraft. I haven't tried it, but it looks well designed for a reasonable price.

Among the many mounts used for action cams are suction cups. Lots of people use these on the outside of the airplane, but I wouldn't consider it. A slight leak in the seal or a good shake or oil-caning and the cup can part company with the surface. In that case, a strong, but short tether of some kind is a must. The tether shouldn't allow the camera to flop around, but merely to tip over.

When I use a suction cup inside the airplane, usually stuck to the glass, I try to tether it even then. I've had them pop loose more than once. I made myself a selection of bungee tethers with snaps on both ends, so I can wrap them around available attachment points. GoPro sells its own small adhesive tethers, but I haven't found a use for them yet. I also tether the cameras when I use them on motorcycles.

Now the legalities. My general response to this has been don't ask, don't tell. But our hand got forced when a couple of readers asked about the legalities. The operator of a skydiving aircraft was about to be violated for some claimed infraction related to an external camera mount. So we asked the FAA at the local and national level. My colleague Larry Anglisano, editor of Aviation Consumer, got this internal guidance memo from the FAA: Here's the PDF. It's short and to the point, so I suggest reading it.

Basically, the memo says camera mounts aren't major alterations since they don't appreciably change flight characteristics, performance, weight and balance or basic airworthiness. They also don't represent changes to the aircraft's basic type certification, so no STC is necessary. The memo suggests reviewing them on a "case-by-case" basis. In the reality of the modern regulatory world, that means one FSDO inspector might have no problem with a temporary camera mount installed using no tools, while another may clearly see a violation of some FAR he would have to cite. Which inspector you get is the luck of the draw, but I think the FAA's memo gets it right: case by case and use common sense.

The memo further says the FAA doesn't support such attachments and should one come loose, the ever-present FAR 91.13 cudgel—careless or reckless operation—is available for use. And that's as it should be. The act of mounting the camera is not, of itself, careless or reckless; losing it because you didn't do it right might be. Again, case by case.

Without looking too hard, you can find language in the regulations that might define one of these mounts as illegal on a certified airplane. If that's your wont, have at it. But my view is just the reverse; I'm looking for a way to get it done with reasonable safety and practicality without spending a fortune to film a lousy three-minute video. I think it's a paranoid absurdity to argue that a GoPro taped to a strut will alter the flight characteristics of an airplane in any way, much less meaningfully. (Then again, that's not true of everywhere you could put a camera. See this discussion.)

On the other hand, if you mount the camera to a control surface or where a detachment could jam a control or damage the aircraft, you're not using good judgment. Anyone who's really nervous about this either shouldn't do it or should take the trouble to have an A&P do an inspection and a logbook entry. Otherwise, just mount the camera, do your flight, and remove it when you land. Keep it simple. This is supposed to be fun and recreational, remember? And be mindful of speed. Strut mounts on a 172 are one thing, the top of a turboprop wing something else. (Pipistrel had cameras all over the Panthera, which cruises at 180 knots.)

If you're anticipating doing a lot of video work or doing it professionally, check out this product, the Eagle 360. It's a nicely made camera belly pod and is fully STCd and approved for at least 50 airplanes and will accommodate up to five cameras. If you want to do serious aerial video right, that's how.

Wednesday P.M. update: I've been getting calls and emails on this subject in the background. One reader, with extensive experience in mounting GoPros on wings and other structures, had two suggestions I hadn't considered. One, the 3M patch will degrade with time. So it shouldn't be left to weather on the wing for more than a few days. Just use a fresh one. They're cheap. But do let it cure overnight. 

Second, use so-called high speed tape--this stuff--to protect the paint under the 3M pad. You can use another wrap across the top of the camera for extra security. Polyken tape is actually intended as an aviation product, albeit no specifically for this purpose.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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These days, there are dozens of POV or action cams to challenge the market-leading GoPro, including Garmin's VIRB.  AVweb did an extensive comparison of both of those cameras and prepared this video report.

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