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After more than a year of speculation, the chairman of the powerful House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has formally announced his intention to separate air traffic control services from the FAA. In a speech to the Washington Aero Club Monday, Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., chairman of the committee, said he wants to create a federally chartered non-profit corporation funded by user fees. That's like the system in Canada, where NavCanada has been running the airspace for 15 years. Like NavCanada, the new company would have a board of directors made up of industry representatives and the key element would be the funding structure. Political interference would essentially be eliminated by a corporate structure responsible for its own revenue and Shuster said user fees will be the method to raise it. 

It's only been about five years since the main aviation groups were united in a fight against user fees but that campaign has dwindled. AOPA, whose leadership went to Ottawa a year ago to learn about NavCanada's operation, says it still opposes user fees and wants to make sure GA is protected under any changes to the system. “We appreciate Chairman Shuster’s efforts to bring needed reforms to the current FAA structure and we look forward to continuing to work with him and the committee. Although we have yet to see details of the proposed legislation, AOPA believes the current method of collecting revenues through a tax on aviation fuel is not broken,” said AOPA Senior Vice President for Government Affairs Jim Coon, reiterating AOPA’s longstanding opposition to user fees for general aviation. “Moreover, we believe any air traffic system must preserve GA access to airports and airspace on a first-come, first-served basis, like we enjoy today.” Shuster said he expects the initiative to come to a vote in July.

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United Technologies Corp., the parent company of Sikorsky, said on Monday at the Paris Air Show it plans to spin off or sell the helicopter company. "Our strategic review has confirmed that exiting the helicopter business is the best path forward for United Technologies," said Gregory Hayes, CEO of UTC, in a news release. "Separation of Sikorsky from the portfolio will allow both United Technologies and Sikorsky to better focus on their core businesses." A decision whether Sikorsky will be spun off or sold is expected by the end of the third quarter, the company said, subject to final approval by the board. Interest in acquiring the helicopter business already has been expressed by Airbus, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Textron, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Sikorsky, founded in 1925, builds a variety of helicopters for military and civilian use, as well as a few fixed-wing aircraft, and is based in Stratford, Connecticut. The company's value is about $8 billion, according to Reuters. Earlier this month, the company announced it plans to cut up to 1,400 jobs, or about 9 percent of its workforce. Bob Leduc, president of Sikorsky, told Reuters the company is robust and has been strengthened by a recent restructuring. "We will be the last man standing," he said.

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DeltaHawk Engines, based in Racine, Wisconsin, has sold a controlling interest in the company to the local Ruud family, and plans to start production on their four-cylinder diesel/jet-A engine design sometime this year. The investment enabled the company to immediately hire seven engineers and make plans to hire 100 workers by the end of 2016. The amount of the Ruuds' investment was not disclosed. The engine has been in development since 1996. The company says that compared to competitors, the engine delivers 8 percent lower fuel burn and 45 percent longer range.

Doug Doers, founder of DeltaHawk, will remain with the company as chief technology officer. Alan Ruud will take the CEO position. "Our experience in transitioning innovative ideas from R&D to full-scale production is a perfect fit with DeltaHawk," Ruud said. "This company has great business potential and a keen focus on the pulse of the industry and their customers." Ruud was the founder of Ruud Lighting, which was sold in 2011.

Boeing is mulling a new airplane to replace the highly successful 757, which went out of production 10 years ago but soldiers on for airlines all over the world. At the Paris Air Show on Monday, Boeing sales chief John Wojick told the Seattle Times that the market is there for a "medium-sized" airliner to bridge the gap between the 737 MAX and the 787. “A year ago, we weren’t convinced the market was large enough to be of that much interest,” Wojick said. “What we’ve determined over the past year is that it’s larger than we thought." The plane would hold 220 to 280 passengers, with a range of 4,500 to 5,000 miles.

“That’s larger than a 757 and flies farther than a 757,” Wojick told the Times. “It’s a domestic and a regional airplane. It would be very efficient operating domestically in the U.S. or China, and regionally as well in Southeast Asia and Europe. It could fly from the East Coast of the U.S. to many destinations in Europe.” The plane is a long way from being approved by Boeing and work might not start for four years but the discussion is significant. Airbus is dismissive of the idea. CEO John Leahy told the Times it's a too-late reaction to his company's A321LR.

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Sleep apnea is an ongoing issue for the pilot population, with the FAA requiring medical examiners to check all pilots for symptoms, but a new device that promises to simplify the treatment could help some of those pilots who are afflicted. The small device, about a cubic inch in size, plugs directly into the user's nostrils and pumps in a steady flow of air during a full night of sleep, potentially providing an alternative to the bulky full face mask and pump systems now in use. The device debuted on a crowdfunding site Monday morning, and within two hours, the developers had reached their goal of $100,000. Within seven hours, that number had more than doubled, with more than 2,000 contributors. The company founder, Stefan Marsh, says the disposable "Airing" device will cost about $3, and most of the cost will be covered by insurance for most users.

Aviation medical examiner Dr. Brent Blue is taking a wait-and-see approach to the new technology. It might not work for those who need a full face mask that covers the mouth as well as the nose, he told AVweb on Monday, "but for those who do not, it could be pretty useful." Dr. Blue also noted that the mask and pump is not the only option. "Many folks can have their sleep apnea resolved by weight loss and/or a dental appliance which forces their jaw forward," he said.

Information at the Indiegogo crowdfunding site says the product will require approval from the Federal Drug Administration before sales can begin. The company is exploring whether the device might be eligible for a fast-track approval process because it's not really a new treatment, just a miniaturized version of the current technology. The site also says the device can deliver the same pressure as today's pumps. If all goes well, the company hopes to have the device on the market by mid-2017.

Garmin today introduced D2 Bravo, the second generation of its D2 pilot watch that debuted in 2013. New features in the Bravo edition include altitude alerts, with preset alerts for altitudes requiring supplemental oxygen, and easy access to current aviation weather information. The new watch has a slimmer design, faster GPS fixes and longer battery life than the original version. It also can be connected to your smartphone. Aviation routine weather reports (METARs) can be displayed on the face of D2 Bravo in plain language and are color-coded to indicate visual or instrument meteorological conditions. The watch will be available in July and sells for $699, the company said.

Other features include exclusive direct-to and nearest airport functions, complete with a worldwide airport database. Pilots can quickly navigate direct-to airports and create Mark on Target waypoints for easy navigation to customized locations. Similar to Garmin portables, customizable data fields display GPS ground speed, GPS track, distance, altitude, estimated time en route, bearing, glide ratio and more. Other D2 Bravo features include an altimeter with an adjustable barometric setting, compass with an HSI, moving map display, and simultaneous display of date and Zulu/UTC time. Information such as speed, altitude and time en route are recorded and stored for each flight. D2 Bravo also features the option to set up vibrating alerts as a reminder to perform time-sensitive operations such as switching fuel tanks while in flight.

The dirigibles created by Brazilian aviation pioneer Alberto Santos-Dumont inspired a sculptural project now on display at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, in Los Angeles. The exhibit is the first presentation of the work, completed after a decade of research and construction by the late artist Chris Burden. The kinetic sculpture, modeled after Santos-Dumont's 1901 design, is powered by a small aft propeller, and flies in a circle around the exhibit space once every 15 minutes. The Los Angeles Times reviewer Christopher Knight described it as "a lyrical, even ethereal sculptural poem to disembodied flight … 'Ode to Santos Dumont' can easily be seen as a melancholic but fully reconciled song from an artist who knew that mortality was approaching." Burden died of cancer in May, at age 69, shortly before the exhibit opened.

Santos-Dumont experimented with many lighter-than-air designs, but the 1901 airship was considered the most successful, winning a prize for making a flight from Parc Saint Cloud in Paris around the Eiffel Tower and back. He also designed several fixed-wing aircraft and a helicopter. Burden's design is powered by a quarter-scale version of a 1903 De Dion gasoline motor, handcrafted by machinist and inventor John Biggs. The exhibit is open daily through Sunday, June 21.

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Does anybody not have a smartphone these days? Actually, some people don’t. I ran into a guy in an airport the other day using the old standby flip phone with what looked like a mono screen. Imagine! He’s probably better for it, not feeling the need to constantly fill every idle second fiddling with what’s really an electronic pacifier. Not for nothing were they called Crackberries.

How long has this smartphone obsession been going on and why? Scrub your mental tape back to 2005—a decade ago—and you wouldn’t have seen many people riding the bus obsessively stroking their phones. But three years later, there we were—a nation of phonebots and there are ever more of us. The why relates partially to Apple’s iPhone, which was by no means the first of a class of products we’ve come to call smartphones. Apple just cleverly morphed a niche/geek market into a mass market thanks to a prescient leveraging of a simple, robust operating system, new display technology, small capable processors and a clever little thing called a MEMS device—micro electrical mechanical system. These are basically miniature motion sensors we often think of as “solid state” gyros, but aren’t exactly that, to be perfectly accurate.

The iPhone's signature screen-flipping capability wouldn’t be possible without MEMS technology, nor would apps that act as crude compasses, g-meters and AHRS utilities. (Emphasis here on crude; like the dancing ant, that an iPhone can do such things well is less amazing than that it can do them at all.)

Products you use routinely have MEMS devices. Your car has them for the airbags; for on-the-fly suspension changes and ride stability; motorcycles have them for traction control and ABS; game controllers have them to sense the player’s hand position and movement; cameras use them to stabilize image recording; your coffee maker probably has one. Since these things are now made in the millions, the market is competitive and prices are at the commodity level.

The impact on aviation is most visible in EFIS displays and the AHRS or ADAHRS that drive them. Inexpensive MEMS-based rotational sensors and accelerometers have ushered in a cottage industry of AHRS products that display accurate attitude on either tablets or dedicated displays with remarkable accuracy and at a price most of us wouldn’t have thought possible a decade ago. An example? Just five years ago, a single-axis MEMS automotive gyro cost about $15; now a two-axis gyro is $1.80 and prices are still falling.

If it weren’t for FAA certification requirements, I think you’d see far more affordable EFIS displays than are out there now. Then again, there are a lot of them out there, many built by Seattle-based Dynon Avionics, which formed more than a decade ago for the very purpose of leveraging this kind of emerging technology into the experimental and light sport segment. Dynon has a complete range of affordable EFIS products, including comm radios, and this quite naturally spun off their D2 product, a compact, battery-operated EFIS intended as a backup or basic reference gyro in an airplane that might have no attitude instrumentation at all, like our Cub. I toured Dynon’s factory in Seattle to shoot a video on the D2 recently and got good a look at the innards of the device.

Not that there’s not much to see. The largest component is the color display and the rest is given over to a sizable Li-ion battery that will run the D2 for up to eight hours. The actual working electronics is a package smaller than a credit card and containing the aforementioned MEMS chips, plus GPS and a processor to make it all work. Once they’re assembled, powered up and given some initial testing, the D2s are plunged into a freezer for cold soaking and later into an oven for a heat session. That this is necessary has less to do with your D2 working at McMurdo Station than it does with what economics gives, economics also taketh away.

The inexpensive MEMS that make something like the D2 saleable for about $1100 aren’t, shall we say, aerospace-quality devices; they’re automotive-quality products, so what they sense as motion drifts and requires massaging in the software. Note that the second M in MEMS is mechanical, which means that these chips sense motion in one of several ways, but all are based on the effect motion has on tiny vibrating parts etched into a silicon substrate. Depending on the sensor type, these can be nano tuning forks, oscillating wheels or nano pendulums. For rotation sensing, Coriolis effect acts on these small parts, creating a tiny voltage that can be interpolated to measure rate of movement.

But even the best automotive-grade MEMS sensors drift and are affected by temperature changes that might otherwise be interpreted as physical rate change. One of Dynon’s design engineers, Ian Jordan, told me that even from the same manufacturer and the same lot, each MEMS outputs differently in response to temperature, hence the cold and heat soaking to more or less sample each device’s personality. After the cold soak, the devices are placed on a mechanical turntable to expose them to known inputs. Each one gets the equivalent of its own little database of temperature-related output and that's what the system’s software uses to smooth out and correct for drift so the sensor’s understanding of what’s up and what’s down corresponds to reality consistently.   

Tablets, which may or may not always have rotational sensors, generally don't have this level of sensor output conditioning. Nor do they have the processing horsepower to deal with it, since a tablet's hardware is hardly dedicated to attitude sensing, as an EFIS is. This is noticeable, too. Some tablets don't do well in sensing rotational movement if they're placed in an odd attitude. Side by side with the D2, the difference in the fluidity of motion sensing is noticeable. The D2 doesn’t have airdata—it’s an AHRS not an ADAHRS—so it uses just GPS for positional aiding. The algorithms that run these little gadgets can get complex, using GPS or airdata as another truthing source to compare with what the MEMS sensors think they're detecting. Even without the air data aiding, the D2 doesn't get airsick easily. I wrung out the previous version, the D1, to try to invoke its version of gimbal lock, but it always seems to reorient itself. I haven’t tried any aerobatics, but the D2 is good enough to have its own dedicated G-meter page for just that purpose.

MEMS devices seem to get cheaper and more capable every year as designers find more ways to use them. The really high-end MEMS are orders of magnitude more expensive than automotive-grade products and come with their own controllers to sort out errors and drift rates. But they’re still not up to the accuracy of fiber optic and ring laser gyros, whose drift—what engineers call angular random walk—is 1000 times less than high-quality MEMS.

Then again, that a $500 iPad can do what it does with 50-cent MEMS is remarkable and that the D2 significantly improves on that in a package you can fit into a shirt pocket is more remarkable yet. Kudos to Dynon for engineering such a thing and to Toyota, Ford, GM, Chrysler and Apple for making it possible at a price you can afford.

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The Carbon Cub is CubCrafters' most popular seller, by far.  Slap a pair of Aerocet floats on it and head for the nearest lake, and it's easy to understand why.  AVweb's Paul Bertorelli did just that and prepared this video report.

The D2 Pocket Panel from Dynon Avionics || A Little Attitude for Everyone

Although Continental gets all the press for its diesel program, Lycoming also has a diesel engine, which is it now beginning to produce in small volume.  The engine will eventually be certified.  In this video, Lycoming's Michael Kraft gave AVweb a briefing on the DEL120.

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Picture of the Week
Picture of the Week

Victoria and Povl Toft of Ringkøbing, Denmark take flight in our latest "Picture of the Week." Click through for more photos from AVweb readers around the world.