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The FAA may be considering some kind of extension on the 2020 deadline for equipage with ADS-B-Out but it's not been confirmed by the FAA whether it's in fact being considered and what form it might take. If some relief is in the works, it will be at the request of the airlines. Aviation Week has published a story quoting various airline officials as telling an April conference that a five-year "grace period" on full compliance with the ADS-B mandate had been proposed by the airlines and was now under active consideration by the FAA. AVweb contacted the FAA to see if similar consideration might be extended to GA if the airlines are successful. An agency spokesperson promised us a statement on Monday but we didn't hear back from the FAA before our deadline late Tuesday. AOPA spokeswoman Katie Prybil said the organization is aware of the airline request and prepared a response.

AOPA's statement reads: "The airlines will be required to meet the 2020 mandate for ADS-B Out. That has not changed. Discussion on a “grace period” applies to the position source for early GPS installations on some Part 121 certified aircraft that do not have WAAS receivers. Those early-generation GPS receivers may experience brief outages of the required performance for ADS-B Out. Airplane manufacturers are upgrading GPS receivers across airplane models, but have said the upgraded receivers will not be available until 2018 to 2020. Airlines for America has requested an exemption so airlines that equipped with earlier versions of GPS (without WAAS) can transition to the upgraded equipment over an additional five-year period. The airlines are proposing that the FAA could use backup radar (if available) or an airline could reschedule a flight if GPS outages are too frequent. The FAA is currently reviewing A4A’s petition and will consider all public comments before determining whether to grant or deny the petition."

What's ironic about the airline request is that they think it will be impossible to get the 4,000-6,000 non-compliant airliners still expected to be in service in 2020 up to standard in time. There are many times that many GA aircraft facing the same deadline. At Aviation Week's annual MRO conference on April 14 in Miami, Bob Ireland, the Airlines for America (A4A) managing director of maintenance and engineering, said the issue for the old airliners is that the non-WAAS GPS source components are too old to meet the 2020 requirements and replacements are not expected to be available in time. The airlines are proposing that they install the transponders, hook them up to the old GPSs and promise to have the approved source avionics installed by 2025. The organization did not have an estimate on how many of the non-compliant airliners might still be in the air by 2025. There was another interesting note in the AvWeek story regarding the FAA's enforcement posture on ADS-B compliance. It paraphrased FAA Avionics Maintenance Branch Manager Tim Shaver as soothing the airline executives by saying the FAA "won't initially enforce the ADS-B Out rule with a 'hammer.'" Whether GA aircraft will get the same consideration was one of the questions we had hoped to have answered by the FAA.

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Pilatus flew its PC-24 twinjet for the first time, about 10 a.m. Monday morning, from Buochs airport in central Switzerland. The airplane flew for 55 minutes, and the company said "the flight went exactly as planned with no problems whatsoever." The jet used less than 2,000 feet of runway for takeoff, and climbed to 10,000 feet, where the two-pilot crew completed a series of tests. The PC-24 is the first business jet built in Switzerland. "It's an emotional moment for sure, and another major milestone in the Pilatus and Swiss aviation history," said Oscar Schwenk, company chairman.

Throughout the flight the PC-24 was accompanied and monitored by a PC-21. "Twelve flight test engineers watched the flight from the ground as they kept an eye on a stream of real-time flight data received from the PC-24," according to the Pilatus news release. "Had the need arisen, these experts could have given the pilots crucial decision-making information: another means of ensuring the safest possible conditions for the entire maiden flight." Pilot in command was Paul Mulcahy, with Reto Aeschlimann in the right seat. The test regime will comprise three prototype jets, which will fly for 2,300 hours over the next two years, the company said. Certification and first deliveries are planned for 2017.

Click here for video of the first flight take-off and return.

On May 11, 2015, Pilatus flew its new PC-24 jet for the first time. This brief video captures the action.

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Cessna has been working for a while now on offering diesel power for its 172 and 182 single-engine aircraft, with certification of the JT-A variants expected maybe last year, then maybe this year, but this week the company said the certification timeline is "undefined," at least for the 182, and production on the avgas-powered 182T will resume. "The company is committed to offering customers options for their aircraft needs across the Textron Aviation family," the company said in a statement sent to AVweb on Monday. "While the certification timeline for the Turbo Skylane JT-A program remains undefined, Textron Aviation has resumed production of the avgas powered, normally aspirated Cessna Skylane 182T, powered by the Lycoming IO-540, at the company’s Independence, Kansas, facility."

Deliveries of the avgas Skylane are expected to begin in the second half of this year, the company said, adding: "Textron Aviation remains committed to innovation within the piston product line and to Jet A technology." The company has not delivered any gasoline versions of the Skylane since late 2013. Cessna introduced the diesel-powered Skyhawk 172 last year at AirVenture, offering the Continental CD-155 diesel powerplant. At the time, the company said the Turbo Skylane JT-A, which was introduced at AirVenture 2013, would be certified "soon." The Skylane has been in testing with an SMA diesel engine.

image: NASA

Commercial supersonic flight, alternative fuels and autonomy rank high on NASA's first 20-year road map of research priorities for aeronautics, released on Monday. The draft plan (PDF) covers 15 fields of research, including space exploration, robotics, nanotechnology and information technology. NASA first issued a research road map in 2012; this is the first update, and the first roadmap to include a section devoted to aeronautics. The document notes "the dynamic nature" of the aeronautics field, and states the material in the road map will be updated regularly. Specific challenges to be addressed include improving the aerodynamics of commercial aircraft, introducing low-carbon fuels, and developing automated system-wide safety monitoring.

The plan also notes that "autonomy, applied to a broad spectrum of activities, promises to be one of the most transformative technologies of the future." NASA's main focus regarding autonomous systems will be how to help enable UAS operations in the national airspace system. Research efforts also will focus on the development of autonomous emergency landing systems for conventional aircraft. Each item in the road map includes detailed analyses of the challenges, and NASA's timelines for reaching specific technical goals. Public comments on the draft plan will be accepted until June 10.

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The Super Legend HP, the new top-of-the-line model for American Legend's stable of Cub aircraft, now is available with a 180-hp Titan O-340 engine, the company said on Tuesday. The engine expands the Cub's performance, producing a ground roll on takeoff of 35 feet and climbout at 2,000 feet per minute. Distance to clear a 200-foot obstacle is 200 feet. The four-cylinder, 340-cubic inch Titan engine is a stroked derivative of the Lycoming O-320. It weighs 245 pounds, which is 20 pounds less than the similar O-360, according to American Legend's news release. The Super Legend HP was introduced recently at Sun 'n Fun.

The HP is an upgrade of the Super Legend, which was introduced four years ago. It features more carbon-fiber components and expanded avionics options. It's available as an LSA, with certain restrictions to comply with the rules, or as an experimental kit airplane.

Deliveries of general aviation airplanes in the first quarter of this year were down by 15 percent compared to the same period last year, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association reported last week. Helicopter sales fell even more, with a drop of 18 percent. The numbers reflect difficulties with U.S. export rules, according to GAMA. "Our industry is focused on regaining momentum, but we need the U.S. Congress to be a strong partner and reauthorize the Export-Import Bank before the June 30 deadline," said GAMA President Pete Bunce. "It is time to stop playing political games with industry jobs."

The numbers (PDF) show that, while the GA industry has been gaining traction over the past few years, it faces "renewed headwinds" in several regions of the world, including Asia, parts of Europe, and Latin America, said Bunce. "Congress needs to move ahead and pass reauthorization [of the Export-Import Bank] quickly to ensure a level global playing field and provide needed stability in a difficult market," he said. Deliveries of piston aircraft were down 20 percent from last year, while turboprops fell just 8 percent and business jets dropped by 13.6 percent. The sales trends were up overall in 2014.

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Kitplanes magazine recently flew the SubSonex, the world's only currently available single-seat personal jet.  In this video, Kitplanes editor Paul Dye talks about what it's like to fly this unique aircraft and air show veteran Bob Carleton describes the engine and airplane development.

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Cessna’s admission this week that it now has no definite timeline for its diesel 182 JT-A invites speculation. Or maybe I’m the only one who can’t resist asking what’s going on in Wichita.

Earlier this week, we got an email from a reader trying to snag some hangar space at Independence, Kansas, where Cessna builds piston singles. None available, he was told. Cessna has them temporarily occupied, breaking down new airplanes and replacing diesel engines with gasoline powerplants. Moreover, the diesels were being shipped back to the manufacturers. 

A check with Cessna yielded no confirmation or denial of that, merely the non-committal statement that the company has no definite timeline for the 182 project. But they are aiming for approvals on the 172 by the first quarter of next year. And by the way, it’s also resurrecting the Lycoming-powered Skylane 182T, which it discontinued in 2012 when it announced the Skylane JT-A diesel at AirVenture.

This is a curious turn of events on multiple accounts. First, while missing promised cert dates by months, if not years, is a grand tradition in aircraft manufacturing, Cessna doesn’t play that game much. If the company pronounces that the newest Citation will fly in the third quarter of next year, it’s a good bet that it will. Multiple queries about the status of the Skylane JT-A always yielded a reply of “in a few months.” Now, it’s no definite timeline. Are we looking at a soft cancellation here? Cessna isn't saying specifically, but after I wrote this blog on Tuesday, the company phoned back to say the 172 has a definite projected schedule of next spring. It insists it's still committed to the idea of diesel piston engines.

Textron is unlikely to favor us with any detail about why this decision was made or, more accurately, why these two projects appear to be in drift mode and what thresholds will trigger more aggressive development and date-certain deliveries. Does Cessna just see market softness that makes the 182 a short-term loser?  Is the erosion in fuel prices, admittedly minimal for avgas, causing them to rethink diesel economics? Are the engines just not robust enough for Cessna’s standards? Or is it some combination of these factors? I invite you to offer your own speculation. I’m quite certain I don’t have these answers.

One concern, however, is the engine choice for the 182 JT-A, the SMA SR-305. I first clapped eyes on this powerplant in a surprise showing at Sun ‘n Fun, probably around 1999 or so. It was then flying on one wing of a Piper Seneca and it looked real enough. Yet 16 years later, the engine still lacks significant industrialization and has nothing like the installed OEM base of Continental’s diesel line originally developed by the now-defunct Thielert. Does this lack of traction indicate a latent developmental snag in this engine that even Cessna can’t solve? It certainly raises doubts.

Whether Cessna is in or out of diesel--and it says it's still in-- the fact that it’s non-committal on timing is not a good thing for the market. It’s kind of a reverse overhang when a major airframer—the major airframer—gets into diesel, cancels it, gets back in and then waffles on deliveries, at least on one model for three years. It’s bound to send a chill into buyers although, in my view, the diesel market will ultimately shrug it off. Diamond Aircraft long ago established the viability of Jet-A piston aircraft and although the market has never shown signs of explosive growth, it has been steady and poised for more solidity now that Continental is investing in new development for existing engines and new higher-horsepower variants. In Austria, Austro just announced delivering its 1000th AE300. Nope, they’re not exactly setting the world on fire, but who in general aviation is? Cessna is still the big dog in new training airplanes, but it’s no longer necessarily the lead dog in the sense that it drives and owns markets.

I know from a source selling new and converted Cessnas that demand for the Skylane JT-A appears to be good, with 50 to 70 orders booked. Almost all of that is offshore business, which confirms what everyone in the diesel segment has learned: Europe, Africa and Asia are the drivers. With relatively cheap avgas, U.S. buyers aren’t feeling much love for diesel yet. I suspect uncertainty at Cessna won’t change that much. Let’s see if the diesel conversion market steps intro the breach.

P.M. Revision: Cessna spokesperson Lindsay Adrian phoned to say that while the diesel Skylane timing is indeterminate, Cessna is still committed to delivering diesel Skyhawks sometime next year. I've rewritten the blog to reflect that statement. 

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Not to be left behind in the disruptive wave of unmanned aircraft, Sikorsky Aircraft has developed a kit to convert its UH-60 Black Hawk to pilot-optional flight.  At the AUVSI show in Atlanta this week, AVweb took a look at the new hardware.

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CNN has talked the FAA into letting it use a tethered drone to shoot news footage almost wherever it wants, up to an altitude of 400 feet.  At the AUVSI show in Atlanta, AVweb got a look at this intriguing machine.

What Everybody Ought to Know About the CGR-30P from Electronics International

There were dozens of UAVs at this year's Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International show in Atlanta.  AVweb took a few minutes to capture some on film.  (Well, pixels, anyway.)

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Picture of the Week
Picture of the Week

Maybe it's the rainy weather outside "PotW" HQ today, but we just have to kick off our latest selection of reader-submitted photos with one from Thomas Dorough of Oakland, TN. Click through for more photography from AVweb readers.