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The budget proposed by the Obama administration this week omits an earlier plan to impose per-flight user fees on general aviation, the National Air Transportation Association said on Monday. However, NATA protested a provision that would change the way business aircraft purchases are taxed. The change "adversely impacts aviation businesses that are known for creating highly-skilled, good paying jobs at a time when we must continue to build economic momentum," NATA said. Specifically, the White House proposes to change the depreciation period for certain GA airplanes, including corporate jets, from five years to seven years.

Ed Bolen, president of NBAA, said "it doesn't make sense to single out one industry, as [President Obama] does in his latest budget, without the benefit of careful analysis of the impact his proposal would have. We will not let the president's decision to target business aviation -- whether in this budget proposal, or any other venue -- go unchallenged." The budget also proposes significant increases in spending on FAA operations, system modernization, and research, according to NATA.

With FAA reauthorization in play, and a new Republican Congress in Washington, flight-safety advocates met on Monday in Buffalo, N.Y., to express concern that the new rules for airline pilots enacted last year might be rolled back. Chesley Sullenberger, best known as captain of the "Miracle on the Hudson" flight, and Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., met with families of those who died in the 2009 Colgan Air crash that prompted the call for new rules. Schumer said some regional airlines are advocating for changes in the new safety standards, including the requirement that first officers must have an ATP certificate and 1,500 flight hours. The relatives said they will fight any effort to change the new rules.

"After all of the hard work that went into passing new airline safety regulations in the wake of the crash of Flight 3407, it is unthinkable that some in the aviation industry would even consider trying to scale back these safety standards," said Schumer. Sullenberger added: "Because of the tragic crash of Continental Connection/Colgan Air 3407, we have learned important lessons and Congress has mandated crucial safety improvements. We owe it to those who lost their lives on that flight, their families, and to the flying public, not to allow these critical safety rules to be weakened or rolled back." Schumer also urged the FAA to finalize and implement two rules required by The Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010 that are still outstanding -- a pilot records database, and a rule focused on mentoring, professional development and leadership for pilots.

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The NTSB on Tuesday opened its public online accident docket for its investigation of the fatal crash of a Boeing 747 cargo aircraft in Afghanistan in April 2013. The docket contains factual information including documents and photographs. The accident investigation is still underway, and analysis of the data, along with the determination of the probable cause, will come at a later date. The airplane crashed shortly after takeoff on its way from Bagram to Dubai, and all seven crew members, who were all from the U.S., were killed. The airplane was destroyed by the impact and fire. The Afghanistan Civil Aviation Authority led the investigation until last October, when the NTSB took over.

The factual report describes in detail the cargo that was loaded onto the airplane, and the loading procedures. Five large military vehicles were loaded on the main deck, including three Cougars, weighing 18 tons each, and two all-terrain vehicles weighing 12 tons each. Each vehicle was secured to a pallet. Investigators looked closely at the kind of straps that were used and other details of the cargo restraint system. The cockpit voice recorder transcript shows the crew discussing a broken strap in the cargo hold, and whether the straps were tight enough. The load manifest for the flight showed that weight restrictions and center of gravity limits had not been exceeded.

The NTSB says a pilot's distraction while taking a selfie with a cellphone may have contributed to the crash of his Cessna 150, killing him and a passenger in May of 2014 in Colorado. Amritpal Singh, 29, and a passenger who has not been identified, died when the aircraft likely entered a spin at low altitude and crashed in a field near Watkins, Colorado, just after midnight last May 31. Investigators found a GoPro camera near the wreckage and the files showed Singh and various passengers taking selfies, using the cellphone's built-in flash, on a brief flight that immediately preceded the crash flight and on several the previous day. It theorized that it was a continuation of that behavior that led to the crash. There was no video of the crash flight. "Based on the evidence of cell phone use during low-altitude maneuvering, including the flight immediately before the accident flight, it is likely that cell phone use during the accident flight distracted the pilot and contributed to the development of spatial disorientation and subsequent loss of control," the report said. It cited "the pilot's distraction due to his cell phone use" as a contributing factor to the crash.

The weather was 300 overcast with visibility seven miles and the report says radar data showed the aircraft reached an altitude of 740 feet AGL before turning and descending at 1,900 feet per minute into the field. The wreckage was consistent with damage from a stall-spin. The report said the pilot's logbooks did not show that he met currency requirements for IMC or for a night flight with passengers. The aircraft took off for a six-minute flight around the pattern and the GoPro recorded Singh and the passenger taking selfies on the takeoff roll, during initial climb and in the pattern, using the flashes in their cameras. On the second flight, the aircraft left the pattern before crashing.

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The National Aeronautic Association on Tuesday released a list of seven aviation and aerospace projects that will compete for the 2014 Robert J. Collier Trophy. The trophy, which has been awarded annually for 103 years, aims to recognize "the greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America." The nominees this year are: Alan Eustace and the StratEx team, Embraer Legacy 500, F-16 Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance Team, General Aviation Joint Steering Committee, Gulfstream G650, Orion Exploration Flight Test-1, and the Orion UAS Team. The winner will be announced on Wednesday, March 11.

Past winners include the crew of Apollo 11, Scott Crossfield, Howard Hughes, the B-52, the Boeing 747, the Cessna Citation, the Gulfstream V, and the International Space Station. The 2013 Collier went to Northrop Grumman, the U.S. Navy, and the X-47B Industry Team for developing and demonstrating the first unmanned autonomous air system operating from an aircraft carrier.

Each week, we poll the savviest aviators on the World Wide Web (that's you) on a topic of interest to the flying community.

Visit AVweb.com to participate in our current poll.

Click here to view the results of past polls.

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Continental is moving into the turbine overhaul and repair business with the acquisition of United Turbine and UT Aeroparts, of Miami. United Turbine is a major center for repair and overhaul of Pratt&Whitney Canada PT6 engines, which are used on most light-to-medium-sized turboprops. In its news release, Continental said the two businesses are similar except for their product focus and will be complementary as a single company. "We believe that United Turbine and UT Aeroparts are the perfect partners to aid Continental Motors in expanding into the turbine market," said Continental Director Rhett Ross. "By combining the skills and capabilities of these companies, we will better serve the needs of the general aviation community." 

Continental has been expanding its footprint since its acquisition by AVIC, of China, several years ago. It bought diesel aircraft engine manufacturer Thielert and is now producing updated versions of those engines. The United Turbine deal was made through the company's MRO subsidiary Continental Motors Services Inc. All the United Turbine employees are being retained.

Embraer flew its entry into the military transport world Tuesday when the KC-390 flight test aircraft made its first flight from San Jose Dos Campos, Brazil, on Tuesday. The aircraft, which will be competition for the C-130 Hercules, is a twin-engine jet with a high wing and rear ramp. It can carry a little more than a Herc and fly significantly faster. The 85-minute flight reportedly went well and begins the regimen of certification test flights aimed at having the aircraft ready for delivery in about a year. Embraer CEO Fredrico Curado said the fly-by-wire transport and refueling platform "is most likely the greatest technological challenge that the company has ever encountered in its history."

The project is being done jointly with the Brazilian air force, which is buying 28 KC-390s. Other countries have said they'll buy a total of 32 more. "The KC-390 will be the backbone of transport aviation for the Brazilian Air Force," said Air Force Gen. Nivaldo Luiz Rossato. The company had hoped the aircraft would fly before the end of 2014.

Dr. Brent Blue, a senior FAA medical examiner, was one of the many who critiqued the FAA's proposed sleep-apnea policy for pilot medical exams when it was released in late 2013.  AVweb's Mary Grady asked for his take on the revised policy the FAA announced last week.

Beringer Aero brings its motorcycle racing brake technology to aircraft with a complete line of lightweight wheels and brakes, including an anti-skid device.  In this video, Aviation Consumer editor Larry Anglisano takes a look at the product line with Claire Beringer at the 2015 U.S. Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring, Florida.

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I think most of us follow aviation record attempts with interest varying from not at all to enough dedication to bookmark the inevitable website tracking the breathless progress across the heavens. It has always been thus. I suspect a lot of people opening newspapers on May 21, 1927, wondered why the editors were bannering the fact that some lunatic had flown the Atlantic in an airplane. What's the point?

This is the context in which to view the weekend's record helium balloon flight from Japan to near the coast of Mexico, a new distance record. We ran the story in our news columns because it is an aviation event, it's interesting and other outlets will have it—all the things that make a news story a news story. Personally, I might or might not have followed it otherwise.

What's more interesting than the flight itself is that such attempts now have their own means of reaching audiences that essentially self-select—websites, social media, live streaming. Conventional news coverage is thus superfluous, although the balloon story got play on the network news shows Saturday evening by dint of good timing and a slow news day.

Circling back, what's the point? Just as soon as I find myself saying this one was a waste of helium, I realize that it's the nature of man to undertake such things, for the sake of exploration, to do the higher, faster, farther thing and, hell, just for the spectacle. To say it has to have some higher commercial purpose or scientific import is to define the word buzzkill.

For the purposes of my own taxonomy and sanity, I sort records into three groups: Wow, kinda cool and ho-hum. The balloon record I rank as kinda cool. As we saw when Kevin Jorgeson and Tommy Caldwell climbed El Cap's Dawn Wall last month, technology has evolved to the point of involving the audience closer and closer to real time. So we had live reports from the balloon flight and lots of photos and video. If you can't embark on such a flight yourself—and face it, most of us can't--you can at least participate vicariously and appreciate the technology and skill required to complete such a flight and bring it right to your desktop or flat screen in the den. Those two balloon pilots--Troy Bradley and Leonid Tiukhtyaev--are, after a fashion, sportsmen at the top of their game, like champion bass fishermen or F1 drivers. Looking over their shoulders is engaging, at the least.

Achievements in aviation have always occupied and still occupy a spectrum, from the exciting and incremental to the entertaining to the mundane, but nonetheless interesting. They always return some new bit of knowledge, technology or technique. So yeah, by my lights, it was worth the helium.  

One small thing, though. The Coast Guard's motto is semper paratus—always prepared. I would like to think we could say the same of some of the people who embark upon the adventures described above, but we know it not to be true. The balloonists appeared to have thought of everything, but they still could have required a mid-ocean rescue.

It's the Coasties' job to fish people out of the drink for whom things have gone wrong and it doesn't matter if that's at their own hand or the vagaries of nature. Or if they're engaged in merchant shipping or pleasure yachting. And there's real risk in doing those rescue jobs, not to mention expense. That occurred to me when we were reporting on those two fuel exhaustion ditchings last Sunday. Can we fairly say the pilots were as prepared to make the flight as the USCG was to rescue them? Semper quaestio.

What Do You Mean It Won't Open?

Have you seen that funny Geico spot where the guy is pulling on the door and the Salt-N-Pepa girls show up to urge him to push it? I couldn't help but think of that when the skipper of Delta 1651 got locked out the cockpit by a balky door and had to sit in the back during the arrival and landing in Las Vegas. And I really thought that when the cause of the lock-out was given as a piece of string. String?

And I can think of a joke that applies, too. Years ago when the Boeing 727 was still mainstream in the airline fleet, a flight was inbound to JFK when the captain keeled over dead; heart attack. The engineer, visibly shaken, asked the first officer: "Now what are we going to do?" Without missing a beat, the FO said, "The first thing we're gonna do is get that son of a bitch out of my seat!"

Har-har. But wouldn't the FO actually have to switch seats to get at the MD-90's tiller? If so, interesting upgrade path.

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During its 85 years of building aircraft engines, Lycoming has seen vast changes in the market.  Today, it has to survive building a fraction of the engines it once produced.  In this video, AVweb's Paul Bertorelli gives a detailed video tour of the plant and explains how the company has reinvented itself with modernization.

Garmin Pilot

Re-presenting an AVweb original video about the SiriusXM Aviation SXAR1 satellite broadcast weather receiver.  The unit offers streaming weather data, and its Bluetooth receiver is compatible with modern tablets (including the iPad) and with WSI's PilotBrief Optima app.  It's portable ADS-B weather packed with power.

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Flying the Feathered Edge is the culmination of a passion project, a documentary about aviation, innovation, ruggedness, precision, testing, excellence — and getting it right.  Machines alone could not have pushed the airplane forward. It took courage, and out of the box thinking. This film, about the authentic life of a dedicated American and our greatest living aviator, R. A. "Bob" Hoover, shows how by pushing the edge of the flight envelope, a handful of pilots enabled aviation to be safer for others — indefinitely.  Directed by Kim Furst (One Six Right) and available now on DVD.

57th Annual Cactus Fly-In || March 6-7, 2015 || Casa Grande, Arizona
Picture of the Week
Picture of the Week

Shadows, fog, exotic landing locales, amusing signs, a gorgeous historical photo, and the ever-photogenic "Aluminum Overcast" await you in our latest batch of "PotW" submissions — headlined by Tony Fletcher of Alexandria, VA. Let's go!