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The FAA on Monday posted a correction to its rule on ADS-B requirements for the general aviation fleet, which should offer more choices to owners of experimental and LSA aircraft. The notice reads that the final rule, posted in May 2010, required that ADS-B equipment must meet the requirements of certain TSOs; however, the FAA says it should have stated that the equipment must "meet the performance requirements" in those TSOs. The change is substantial, since equipment may be available in the experimental market that hasn't gone through the expensive TSO process, but can deliver the same performance at a lower price. The requirements for type-certificated aircraft are unchanged, according to Ric Peri, vice president of government and industry affairs for the Aircraft Electronics Association.

EAA said on Monday the change was a "good first step" to finding solutions for experimental aircraft to meet the 2020 ADS-B mandate. "Currently, the lowest-cost purchase and installation for such [TSO'd] equipment is an estimated $5,000," EAA said. "Historically, builders and owners of experimental aircraft have been able to install avionics that meet the performance standards of certified equipment but are not specifically approved by the FAA. EAA seeks to preserve that historical precedent for ADS-B equipment installation as well."

The FAA correction, however, raised some questions because it doesn't specifically state that the change affects only experimental and LSA aircraft. Peri, of AEA, told AVweb it's stated elsewhere in the regulations (FAR 21.9 (a) (2)) that devices installed on type-certificated products must be produced under an FAA production approval (TSO). "This is what leads most manufacturers of products for certified aircraft to the TSO (when available) and PMA (when not) for avionics and electronic systems," Peri said. The FAA has not yet responded to a query from AVweb seeking clarification.


Beginning in 2017 any aircraft, GA included, with ADS-B Out transmitting at 1090 MHz will be automatically tracked and the precise location of its last transmission anywhere on earth recorded. At last week's ICAO High Level Safety Conference, Aireon LLC, which is launching the first space-based global air surveillance system, announced that the headquarters for its Aircraft Locating and Emergency Response Tracking (Aireon Alert) will be at the Irish Aviation Authority's North Atlantic operations center in Ballygirreen on the west coast of Ireland. Once the Iridium constellation of satellites carrying the ADS-B receivers is complete, any airline, search and rescue organization or any other group needing "last known" information on a flight can get it for free from Aireon. VP of marketing Cyriel Kronenburg told AVweb it will work for all aircraft equipped with 1090 MHz ADS-B, and that the mystery of Malaysian MH370, a Boeing 777 which hasn't been found since it disappeared a year ago, prompted the ALERT service. It wasn't however, the reason Aireon was created.

The initiative was taken by Nav Canada, which has responsibility for air traffic control over vast areas with no radar coverage in the polar region and North Atlantic, and satellite company Iridium. Traffic in those areas now operates without surveillance and must be kept far apart for safety. The space-based ADS-B system will allow Nav Canada to space aircraft much closer in those areas, saving fuel and making the system a lot safer. Kronenburg said Aireon, which will eventually be 51 percent owned by Nav Canada, will sell its surveillance services to airlines and ATC authorities that want to take advantage of the big leap in efficiency. The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore signed a deal at the conference to look at how space-based surveillance could be implemented over the areas of airspace it monitors that don't have radar coverage. Other authorities have also expressed interest.

An earlier version of this story contained inaccuracies about Nav Canada's role and the memorandum of understanding with Singapore.

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When a LAN Chile DC-3 went missing in the Andes in April 1961 with 24 people on board, rescuers found the tail section, but then abandoned the recovery effort. It was clear there were no survivors, and searching on the steep, remote, glacier-topped mountainside was dangerous. This week, a nine-member expedition team announced that it has found the main part of the fuselage, at nearly 10,000 feet ASL. The climbers traveled two days on horseback, then another two days on foot to reach the site. "You could feel the very potent energy of the place," said expedition leader Leonardo Albornoz. "You could breathe in the sadness."

The airplane carried among its passengers eight members of a top-ranked Chilean soccer team, whose symbolic funerals drew enormous crowds in Chile at the time. Mountaineers said the site where they found the wreckage was not where official publications indicated it should be, but they declined to identify the site, to protect it from looters. This crash was not the widely publicized Andes crash that inspired the book "Alive," which occurred in 1972 and involved a rugby team.

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DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, has posted a video online that illustrates how it expects to deliver payloads of up to 100 pounds into orbit for less than $1 million, within 24 hours of call-up, using a conventional jet fighter plane that can take off from ordinary runways. In a news release last week, DARPA said it plans to conduct the first flight test of the system by the end of this year, and the first orbital launch test in the first half of 2016. The airplane would fly to a high altitude -- DARPA doesn't say how high, exactly -- and release a low-cost expendable launch vehicle that would carry the payload into orbit.

"We've made good progress so far," said Bradford Tousley, director of DARPA's Tactical Technology Office. "We're moving ahead with rigorous testing of new technologies that we hope one day could enable revolutionary satellite launch systems that provide more affordable, routine and reliable access to space." The project will be testing a new high-energy monopropellant, which aims to combine fuel and oxidizer into a single liquid. If successful, the monopropellant would make it possible to use simpler designs, and would reduce manufacturing and operation costs compared to traditional designs that use two liquids, such as liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, DARPA said.

The project, which began in 2011, aims to provide a cheap, fast alternative to today's satellite technology, which relies on launching via rocket from a limited number of ground facilities. Rocket launches are expensive, require a month or more of preparation time, and risk delays due to weather and flight rules. Richard Branson also has reported plans to deliver satellites using VirginGalactic's WhiteKnightTwo. In 2012, he said the goal was to carry up to 500 pounds at a price of $10 million. Recently, Branson said he plans to launch a constellation of 2,400 satellites into low-earth orbit to expand broadband communications around the world.

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More than 2,500 people took part in the creation of a Zenith 750 Cruzer in seven days at EAA AirVenture in 2014.  AVweb's Russ Niles recently took a flight in the One Week Wonder.


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I've been covering and writing about businesses of various kinds for a long time and I'm trying to recall if executives always coveted buzz phrases they way they do now. Probably they have, but I just found it less obnoxious when I was younger. (Now, everything is obnoxious. Didn't I warn you about being on my lawn?)

One buzz phrase making the rounds a decade ago was "voice of the customer." It gave businesses cover for shoving products out the door under the guise of listening to what their customers supposedly wanted. OK, that's an unfairly cynical view, but I warned you about my lawn.

Now, there's a new phrase making the rounds, which Mike Kraft told me about when I was at Lycoming last month. It's DITLOC for—wait for it—a day in the life of the customer. Actually going out and flying with some customers is how Lycoming learned that even though the industry had convinced itself that single-lever power levers were the coming rage, reality in the field showed that this was secondary to users who want less maintenance and more reliability.

I'll look at that later in a future blog, but for the moment I'm thinking it applies to Sporty's idea of what it's calling the Cessna172Lite. It's another version of a refurbed Skyhawk, but one that's pitched at the low end to represent an affordable trainer for flight schools. Affordable by Sporty's standard is renting for $99 an hour, with adequate margin for the school to turn a little profit and keep the airplane maintained.

Just for reference, a recent survey I did of the flight school rental market revealed Cessna Skyhawk rental rates between $99 and $225. Newer airplanes command higher rates as do airplanes based in urban areas. By their own admission, flight schools say those $99 to $110 Skyhawks aren't exactly queens of the fleet, if you get my drift. They're neither expensive to buy nor maintain. Some schools told me they have newer re-start Hawks on the line and a few had G1000 models.

The schools were ambivalent about wanting more glass panel airplanes for two reasons: They're more expensive to buy and many instructors don't want to start students in glass airplanes. That makes sense to me. More telling, when I asked these schools what their upward limit for an airplane purchase was, almost all of them gave me the same number: About $150,000.

That will buy an older G1000 Hawk; just. Sporty's has one on its rental line, a 2005. They told me the economics aren't favorable to replace that with a newer one so they tacked in the opposite direction. The 172Lite is a mid-1970s Skyhawk with a fresh engine, spiffed up paint and a new interior. The panel can be described as austere—like even below Greek austerity austere. It's got a six pack, a comm radio and a transponder and enough unused panel real estate to make a Garmin sales rep break down and weep. The asking price is $138,000. Here's a picture of the panel.

But will it find a market sweet spot? We'll see. I'd certainly have no complaints about instructing in it, although I'd bring along a tablet with GPS and a moving map for position awareness in those areas where airspace is a concern. Otherwise, it's just like a Cessna 150 with more leg and shoulder room. I've long since given up pondering whether incrementally lower prices will attract more would-be pilots and it's not entirely clear to me that higher prices drive them off. I do know that flight schools like to have four-place airplanes on the line that double as trainers and rentals. It provides flexibility.

My thing is the questionable notion of plopping a new student into a glass cockpit for the first, oh, 10 or 15 hours. Several instructors told me they don't like doing this much, although some said it really doesn't matter what you put new students in. If they're going to stick with the training, they adapt to the complexity and push on. I don't think there's any useful data on this. One instructor I know in Naples said he basically insulates new students from the G1000 for five hours before introducing simple tasks, such as tuning the radios.

To me, this is evidence of conceptual failure and that DITLOC I was talking about earlier. If your customers have to seriously adapt what they do to suit the machine rather than the other way around, you have a problem. And I'm wondering if at least some segments of the training world aren't coming full circle and reacting to this.  I'm not going all Luddite here, but to me, simpler-to-operate avionics are a desirable thing for new students. And that doesn't rule out glass, it just rules out big, expensive, complex glass of the type experienced owners seemed drawn to like moths to a bug zapper. Come to think of it, the odor after a few years of ownership—faint whiff of burnt cash--is kinda similar.

Knees in the Breeze

In a moment of hyperactive motivation or irrational exuberance—not sure which—I did something aviation related over the weekend that I haven't in six years: a skydive. I was sidelined by a shoulder injury in 2009 and meant to get back to jumping after I recovered. One year led to another and…zap. Six years?

I think long layoffs from any activity affect you in different ways and as you get older, maybe those effects are unpredictable. I wasn't quite prepared for how emotional it felt. Any skydive is a blend of intense excitement, anticipation and a little fear, too. After more than half a decade of not feeling that, sliding the Otter's door open and sticking a foot over the sill brought back an intensity I hadn't expected. It reminded me of why I got into the sport in the first place. (Forty two years ago this summer.)

Most of the skills in skydiving are all but autonomic. I'm not gonna forget where the handles are or to cinch down my helmet. But just to dust things off, I did a hop and pop and immediately learned not everything is baked in. My leg straps were just a tad too loose and I slid down in the harness an inch too far on opening and oops—chin hits the chest strap. Note to self…

My only immediate concern was landing the damn thing. No worries about getting killed, mind you, or even injured. I just didn't want to look like a complete tyro. I needn't have worried. I did a perfect standup, stumbled on some mushy ground and crashed to my knees. It looked vaguely intentional and was far enough from the spectator line not to reveal the divots.

Landing a parachute is both similar to landing an airplane and nothing at all like it. You set up an approach into the wind, time the flare with brakes and gently touch your Nikes. But you only get once chance; there's no go around opportunity and no instructor to mutter helpful tips. My second landing required a Usain Bolt runout, but no stumbling this time. Not enough brake. I'll dial in the third one.

My long-time friend Mike Woods suggested I join his group for a 17-way formation in the afternoon. Hey, why diddle around with any more baby jumps. I'm back! Sensing my hesitation, he said, "Dude, same air as always. Just do what you always did." Right he was. The skill to scoot around the sky to get where you want to be must be autonomic. I slid into my slot with no drama.

A six-year layoff was long enough to allow some DZ disruption to take place. For manifesting on a load, we used to buy paper tickets and hand them in at the ticket window. Now it's all done with a smartphone app from the comfort of the packing mat or the snack bar. Kinda cool.

Second, GoPro cameras. When my hiatus started, GoPros were barely out there; few used them for skydiving. Now everyone has one mounted on a helmet. Where the old-school way of evaluating a skydive was a single camera flyer above the formation, now there are five or six inside it. So the debrief is looking at five different camera angles that tend to be chaotic with none a complete picture. I liked the old way better. But I'm still putting a GoPro on my helmet, if just to catch my next face plant landing. 

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Picture of the Week

Susan Birrell Post of Noblesville, IN kicks off our latest batch of reader-submitted photos with the right attitude. Click through for more pictures.